December 31, 2009

The classic New Year's Eve song

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A rarity

Y'all know tonight's a blue moon, right?

Tonight's New Year's Eve blue moon is the first since 1990. Another won't roll around for another 19 years.


The most popular current definition of a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.

In its honor, here's Sam Cooke:

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End of year Random Ten

Big Girls Don't Cry -- Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Don't Stop To Watch The Wheels -- The Doobie Brothers
Windy -- The Association
War Of Man -- Neil Young
(I Like New York In June) How About You? -- Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney
Steal Your Heart Away -- Bonnie Raitt
A Case Of You -- Joni Mitchell
Faded Love -- Willie Nelson & Ray Price
No Quarter -- Led Zeppelin
Late In The Evening -- Paul Simon

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December 30, 2009

Irony of ironies or nefarious plot?

Headline from Honolulu TV station KITV: Limbaugh Hospitalized with Chest Pains

Limbaugh, 58, suffered from chest pains, sources said. Limbaugh was sitting in a chair in his ninth-floor hotel room at the Kahala when emergency crews arrived, sources said. He told medical crews that he was taking medication for a back problem, sources said.

Paramedics treated him and took him to Queen's Medical Center in serious condition. He will not be released from the hospital on Wednesday night, sources said.

The Kahala Hilton is one of the tonier hotels on Oahu; it's next to the Waialae Country Club, where the Hawaiian Open golf tournament is held. Limbaugh was seen golfing there earlier this week.

Hmm. Obama plays golf as some bumbling wannabe terrorist burns the hell out of his groin; the media howl and the Republicans scream that the Prez ain't taking it seriously. Limbaugh plays golf while the same things are going on yet no one is chastising him for his absence. Since Rush seems to think he's king of the GOP and he commands apologies from his errant subjects when they stray from his gospels, shouldn't he be held to the same standard?

Seriously, I hope he recovers. But what was he doing out here in the first place? Looking for Obama's birth certificate?

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Christmas food gift

I got a couple of 5-oz. Hickory Farms-like sausage sticks (kind of a tradition; it used to be chocolate-covered cherries, but they're harder to find than they used to be).

No fruitcake, though. Drat.

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December 29, 2009

Oddities of packaging

I was given six pairs of socks for Christmas, and they came in a resealable bag.


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December 28, 2009

Netbook setback

Updated below:

This little gadget doesn't have a CD/DVD drive, so how the devil do you load pre-owned software onto it? I went to look at external drives today and found nothing at Best Buy for less than $60, or roughly 20% of the purchase price of the entire computer. That seems a bit much.

The problem is with our scanner. It comes with the software to run it on a CD, and one of the reasons for the netbook was to enable us to scan photos. The naming, captioning and tagging of each photo is controlled from the PC. No drive, no loading the scanning software.

I've emailed Epson to see if I can just copy the folder with the software from the desktop to a flash drive and then run/install it to the netbook, but I've gotten no reply yet.

It's always something, isn't it?

Update: We'll see if the solution I found works. (Click on DVD drive under My Computer; click Advanced Sharing under the Sharing tab; click Share. The path is enabled.)

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December 27, 2009

Lost, the final season

February 2 it all begins to unfold. Hopefully we'll get enough pointers to figure it all out before the end of the program's run in May of 2010.

My question: If I were to declare myself dying of an incurable disease that was sure to take me before the final episode airs, do you suppose if I swore on whatever holy book they hold sacred Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse would take pity on me and tell me how the thing ends?

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Mom got an ASUS eee PC for Christmas, and I've been setting it up.

Who among you remembers the password you created when you set up your wireless router? Particularly if it was nine months ago?

I finally figured out how to access the security settings for the router so I could see the password, but it took a while.


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December 26, 2009

TR and American wilderness

I may surface at some point, but in the meantime I'm reading my big Christmas book: The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.

A few years back I was given Theodore Rex, which was a straight biography of the 26th President. Brinkley's book focuses on Roosevelt's efforts to save America's wild places. I'm really going to enjoy this, I suspect.

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December 25, 2009

It's Christmas Day!

And for your reading, I submit the text of the Christmas story in multiple languages, from Anglo Saxon to King James to Icelandic.

I exhort you to read some of the posts cousin Teresa links to in that entry, particularly Jo Walton's wonderful story of Joseph, the forgotten man of the Bible.

May you have a glorious day.

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December 24, 2009

Santa's on his way

What could be more appropriate for Christmas Eve than this? From the 1942 recording available at Amazon as an mp3, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas -- Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians

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Senate passes health care reform

One step further along toward the United States joining every other industrialized democracy in providing health care for its citizens.

Brad DeLong has a nice compilation of reactions from the left side of the aisle.

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The classic song sung by its co-composer

I finally got my Grinch fix for the season this evening. Missed the last half of The News Hour to do it, but that was a small price to pay for the joys of Mr. Karloff, Chuck Jones's animation, and poor Max's facial expressions.

From Christmas Songs, The Christmas Song -- Mel Tormé (who co-wrote it):

Here's a wonderful anecdote about some youngsters singing this song with Tormé in the audience, in case you haven't read it before when I've linked to it.

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December 23, 2009

To all the Rs who complain

From the hourly NPR newscast: "Why are we voting on this so quickly," asks Senator Judd Gregg, speaking of the health care reform bill.

Er, Senator nitwit? Your party controlled the White House, the Senate and the House from 2001-2007. If you wanted to argue health care reform, you had ample time to do it. As I recall, your party never even brought the subject up for debate. In the only major domestic issue I think you guys proposed, you were more interested in converting Social Security into a private investment scheme. You had a shot; you didn't even try.

Side note: what in the hell was Obama thinking, offering this clown the Secretary of Commerce position earlier this year?

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Babs sings Christmas

For a nice Jewish lady, Barbra can certainly sing a good hymn.

From A Christmas Album, I Wonder as I Wander -- Barbra Streisand:

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December 22, 2009

30M people or ideological purity?

Once the deals got made to get Lieberman and Nelson on board for the health care vote, some of my lefty colleagues took up arms against the bill, saying it was horrid and gave too much to the insurance companies. Additionally they felt sold out by the Administration because there was no public option and no appearance that the Administration really fought for it.

Leaving aside everything else, I don't see what leverage the Prez or the Senate had to persuade Lieberman to go along with them, so he was in the catbird seat, and we've all seen that Joe's a "Me first, me last, me all the time" kind of guy for whom the greatest good of the greatest number is meaningless. That being the case, he had to be appeased, and removing the Medicare buy-in and the public option was his price.

Nelson was apparently bought off with sort of "normal" horse trading activity, so that was less smelly to me.

Is the bill perfect? Nope. Is it tolerable? Well, I'll take 30 million currently uninsured Americans getting health insurance as a result of its passage, thanks.

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More bells

I discovered Mary Chapin Carpenter as a result of her 2008 Christmas album. She and Rosanne Cash were my two new favorites of 2009.

From Come Darkness Come Light, Bells Are Ringing -- Mary Chapin Carpenter:

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December 21, 2009

Sesame Street does Christmas!

From a 1979 Christmas special called "A Christmas Together with John Denver and The Muppets," Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas -- Rolf and John Denver:

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December 20, 2009

Health care reform passes first Senate test

As expected after Senator Nelson's acquiescence on Saturday, the Democrats managed to get the health care bill past its first cloture vote at 1:00am Monday morning.

. . .the Senate voted on party lines to cut off a Republican filibuster of a package of changes to the health care bill by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.
The vote was 60-40, with all Dems and two Independents in favor and all Republicans against.

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Five big fat pigs

Anybody else got a local version of The Twelve Days of Christmas?

Here's the history of the song. Here are the lyrics.

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December 19, 2009

Krugman on deficit hawks

From a blog post entitled "The Insincere Center":

So did the deficit scolds, the people who preach the need to rein in entitlements and start paying our way, rally behind the cost-containment plans [in the health reform bill]? Um, no. As I said, they made excuses, whining that the bill doesn’t do enough . . .


And the lesson I take from that is that these people are insincere. They like posing as defenders of fiscal rectitude; they like declaring a pox on both houses; but when push comes to shove, their dislike of social insurance, their refusal to consider any government economy measures that don’t involve punishing people with lower incomes, trumps their supposed concern about acting responsibly.

Which we more or less knew, but now they've given us incontrovertible evidence that our belief was true.

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A boys' choir with extra sauce

Ordinarily I'd prefer my musical performances with no frills, but . . .

Here's The Holly and the Ivy in a traditional choral arrangement (well, traditional but for Torvill and Dean dancing to it):

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If you haven't put up your tree yet, it's time, it's time!

From The Christmas Song, Deck the Halls -- Nat King Cole:

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December 18, 2009

Int'l climate accord = US health care reform

Both are extraordinarily difficult, because each member of the voting body (193 countries in Copenhagen; 60 Democrats in Washington) has his own view of what should be done and has way too much pride to agree with anyone else's ideas.

I have every sympathy with the Tuvalu delegate to Copenhagen, who said the other day:

It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly. It is an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the U.S. Congress.
Now that's a distressing thought. Imagine if your fate hinged on people like Tom Coburn and James Inhofe.

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A lovely seasonal medley

The video is somebody's idea of Dickens's London, but Karen Carpenter's voice is true.

From Christmas Portrait, Winter Wonderland/Silver Bells/White Christmas -- The Carpenters:

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December 17, 2009

Frustration with Obama

In William L. Shirer's Berlin Diary he leads off a chapter of journal entries in June of 1940 with the sentence "France did not fight." I think that's part of the reason many liberal bloggers are upset with Barack Obama and his Administration; they feel about Obama and health care reform as Shirer did about France after it fell to Germany's Blitzkrieg. There's a perception that there was no concerted public effort to sway public opinion, to twist Senators' arms, to demand a public option; there's a sense that Obama has remained above the fray, implying he'd be happy to accept whatever the Congress comes up with, as long as there's a bill that can be called "reform."

One of Josh Marshall's readers feels that way too:

They wanted to see Obama push the public option and say that it was crucial, important part. His broad outlines of "cuts the deficit, improves coverage" is too bland and not something people can rally around, and he gives the impression that he's ceding power and leadership to a less capable bunch in the legislative branch.

They wanted to see news stories about how "staffers close to the majority leader" say that chairmanships and other perks were on the line for any Democrat who talked about filibustering this crucial bill.

They wanted to see congressional leadership and the president campaign hard for an "up or down vote on healthcare" the way the Republicans did so effectively for the judge appointments.

But none of that happened, and the things that people care about died with a whimper.

I think the change Obama campaigned for was worth a fight, and it didn't and doesn't appear that he's been fighting as hard as he could and should. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the impression I have.

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He may have left the building, but the music remains

It's probably sacrilegious to call Elvis "the King" at this time of year, so I'll merely present you with one of his Christmas songs.

From a compilation of his Christmas albums If Every Day Was Like Christmas, If Every Day Was Like Christmas -- Elvis Presley

For you language geeks, take note that the composer apparently wasn't familiar with the future subjunctive.

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December 16, 2009

Everything old is new again

The John Birch Society was one of the nastier right-wing groups of the 1950s and 1960s. It was famous for parading around with signs reading "Impeach Earl Warren" and seeing Communists under every bush. After it accused President Eisenhower of deliberately aiding a worldwide Communist conspiracy even William F. Buckley got fed up with them and disavowed them as members of his conservative movement. They were a pretty unsavory bunch.

Why do I bring them up? They're back. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, they are cosponsoring the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in February.

Not that CPAC members listen to me, but I'd remind them "if you lie down with dogs you'll wake up with fleas."

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New Age/New Wave Christmas music

When Mannheim Steamroller's first Christmas album appeared in 1984, it was a surprise hit, and it's still in demand (it's currently #377 on Amazon's list of bestsellers). It featured all-instrumental versions of familiar carols, but its instruments were often synthesizers. No soaring violins on this album.

From the Christmas album, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen -- Mannheim Steamroller:

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December 15, 2009

Opera meets Christmas

To take the taste of Lieberman's "principled" stand out of our mouths, here's a nice French Christmas tune. Back at Thomas Jefferson High in Virginia my French teacher taught us this song. Mr. McConnell accompanied us on his autoharp.

From The Wonder of Christmas, Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella -- Renee Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

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December 14, 2009


In my lifetime I don't think I've ever seen a Senator behave the way Lieberman has behaved over the past few days. Not three months ago he was all for expanding Medicare to people 55 and older. Sunday on "Face the Nation" he said he would vote against health care reform if that plan was included.

And why? Well, if you believe Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" it's partly payback to the Democratic grassroots for their temerity in supporting Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate primary in 2006.

FINEMAN: The other half is it's personal with Joe, not with Obama, 'cause don't forget that Obama, the President, supported Lieberman in the fight in the party in Connecticut. It's the grassroots left of the Democratic Party ...

MATTHEWS: That enjoyed his torture.

FINEMAN: That enjoyed his torture and this is payback to them. Obama, excuse me, the President's caught in the middle here. That's my take on it.

MATTHEWS: So he wants Markos Moulitsas to take a hit.

FINEMAN: He wants Kos, he wants Firedoglake, he wants all those people who rode around on the bus of the challenger, who defeated him in the Democratic primary.

And screw the 46 million people who desperately need health insurance.

Lieberman's quite the man, isn't he?

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Another Carol

From one of Bells to one of Coventry.

From Noël: Christmas at King's, The Coventry Carol -- The Choir of King's College

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December 13, 2009

The boogeyman will get you

And to Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, that boogeyman is single-payer health care.

From Face the Nation via the Omaha World-Herald:

“I'm concerned that it's the forerunner of . . . the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option,” Nelson said.

I do wish some enterprising reporter would follow that up and ask the Senator just what the hell is wrong with a government-pays insurance system. The docs and nurses and hospitals could still all be private. The overhead costs would drop dramatically if there was only one place where bills needed to be sent, rather than a bunch of different insurance companies. Here's an example of the current system's inefficency: in an article about the Cleveland Clinic in the December 7 issue of Newsweek,

whatever else a government-run health-insurance system would accomplish, it would impose a uniform billing system on the current one, in which [the] clinic's 2,000 doctors require 1,400 clerks to handle their billing.
A ratio of nearly 1:1 doctors to clerks? That's insane!

Senator, please think harder.

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There were bells, on a hill

Oh wait. That's from The Music Man; that's not right. Okay then, try this:

From A Christmas Celebration, Carol of the Bells -- Celtic Woman

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December 12, 2009

College football TV Bowl Schedule

Navy's defeat of Army today (yay!) clinched the final bowl berth for UCLA, so here's the definitive TV Bowl Schedule for the next three weeks.

(In case anyone feels that vegetating in front of the tube on the couch is a perfectly acceptable pastime.)

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Winter night's dinner

Via The Splendid Table: Potato Hash with Bacon and Melted Onions

Partial technique:

Meanwhile, square off the sides of the potatoes to give them a rectangular shape and cut into ˝-inch dice. They may not all be perfectly square, and a bit of skin left on the cubes is also fine.

Add half the potatoes to the hot oil and cook for about 8 minutes, until tender and a rich golden brown; they will not be crisp. Remove from the oil with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp.

Okay, the potato method is one I've used before; it's just twice-cooked potatoes. I've never heard of cooking bacon in water. This looks really really good.

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For the snowbound

If you know Colorado, you'll appreciate this. From All On a Wintry Night, The Blizzard -- Judy Collins:

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December 11, 2009

US Border cops gone mad

Ladies and gentlemen, your country remains safe from Canadian science fiction writers.

The victim, Peter Watts, says:

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

But that is not this universe.

Aren't you proud of your lawful representatives, guarding us from somebody who was heading back to Canada at the time?

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Dreaming of snow -- NOT!

All y'all in the Midwest and the East probably don't want to think of the white stuff. Maybe this will give you a laugh.

Animated cartoon with the 1954 single White Christmas -- The Drifters

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December 10, 2009

Things which deserve one another

I'd heard about this but forgotten it. Three weeks ago the much-reviled-with-good-reason Bowl Championship Series hired Ari Fleischer to flack for it. Presumably the sports plutocrats hope he'll be able to stonewall the cries for a college football playoff system as well as he did the Washington press corps when working for George Bush.

"Up is down-ism" probably won't work as well with nasty sports reporters as it did with access-hungry political ones, I'm guessing.

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Let the music begin!

Amazon has put together a list of 2009 Christmas music releases. It includes albums by Bob Dylan, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, David Archuleta, Michael Buble, Barry Manilow, the Irish Tenors and Mannheim Steamroller.

I had a lot of fun posting Christmas music last year, so I'm going to do it again. To start this season's musical extravaganza, this seems appropriate:

Christmas Time is Here -- Vince Guaraldi's composition from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," on a harp!

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December 09, 2009

Street to yard instead of door-to-door?

Some guy just stood out in our driveway yelling "Hello? Hello?" I looked out the window and said "Yeah?" He asked me if we wanted to have our trees trimmed. Since we just had it done about two months ago, I think that insulted our friend Mark the tree surgeon. I told him "No thanks," and off he went.

But what the hell? You can't be bothered to come ring the doorbell or knock on the door trying to sell your services? It's enough just to stand out on the sidewalk?


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December 08, 2009

Huge surf at North Shore of Oahu

Live streaming of the Eddie Aikau Surfing Tournament. It's only held when waves are consistently 40 feet or greater. Because of that, it's only run seven times in its 24-year history.

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December 07, 2009

Return of the audiophile?

From the NYT:

Through late November, more than 2.1 million vinyl records had been sold in 2009, an increase of more than 35 percent in a year
I remember the days when you were judged on the quality of your stereo system's components. Owning a Garrard or Dual turntable meant you were more "serious" about music than if you owned one made by Technics or Pioneer. If you owned Bose or Klipschorn speakers you were perceived as a better judge of sound than if you owned ones made by Japanese companies. Even receivers/amplifiers had their class structure: Marantz was better than Sansui.

As far as I know nobody has ever worried about who made their CD/DVD player (I own a Phillips). I'm still using my 36-year-old Pioneer speakers. I have a two-year-old Audio Technica turntable and an Onkyo receiver/amp, both bought because they offered me record-playing capability (important when you still own 250-300 vinyl albums).

Bought any records recently?

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December 7, 1941

Sixty-eight years ago and about one and a half miles south of here, Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese planes from six aircraft carriers, precipitating America's entry into World War 2.

Here's the front page of the first Extra edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that day.

I see the Arizona Memorial every day as I drive down the hill from my house.

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December 06, 2009


Now that I have your attention, class, I can tell from your exhausted eyes and ears that you need free downloads of Christmas songs, one per day.

A site called FaLaLaLaLa is offering its own version of an Advent calendar. It specializes in older music and looks to be primarily string arrangements of familiar carols.

I'll be posting my own selections on a daily basis soon. In the meantime, you might give FaLaLaLaLa a try.

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December 05, 2009

Football hype

If I were to trust ESPN, the Alabama-Florida game today is the second coming of Super Bowls I-XL combined.

What it really means is whatever you want it to mean. What it means to me is that the runup to this game and one more (whatever Bowl game Florida goes to) will be the last times I have to hear grown men employed as sportscasters drooling in worship of a 22-year-old kid named Tim Tebow.

Guys, it's unseemly.

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December 04, 2009

High living if you're Raytheon

If entitlement costs are such a big deal (and they are rising, I'm not arguing otherwise), couldn't we look at defense "entitlements" too?

The United States accounts for 41.5% of world military expenditures.

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December 03, 2009

Somebody trying to tell me something?

Picture this: I'm at Longs Drugs with its 14 cash registers, four or five of which have racks of cigarettes. I ask for a pack of Marlboro Lights Kings (the regular size), and a search ensues. Eventually I get the only pack the store has on the sales floor.

Bad inventory management or a sign?

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December 02, 2009

Afghanistan, overnight

Other than being the wrong gender to deliver these thoughts, Juliet's line seems to fit: "I have no joy of this contract tonight."

This mess could have been resolved in December of 2001 at Tora Bora had Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld not been fixated on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Had bin Laden not been allowed to escape across the border into Pakistan, had American troops been sent to Afghanistan rather than into a massive ramp-up for an unjustified war against Iraq, and had there been some Congressional pushback from the Republican side (Bush was not going to listen to Democrats), the action the President proposed last night would probably not be necessary.

As it is, I don't see what else he could have done. Had he just said "we're pulling out tomorrow" I think the region would soon devolve into an even more unstable state than it is now. President Karzai of Afghanistan and President Zardari of Pakistan would be perceived by their domestic opponents as dramatically weakened by America's withdrawal. If Karzai's government fell I'm not sure it would matter, but if Zardari were to be replaced there's a pretty good chance that whoever came into power would do so as a vocal foe of the United States. Since Pakistan has nukes and a rising Taliban problem of its own, that could be disastrous.

I really don't know what else Obama could have done.

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December 01, 2009

Hobson's choice

That's what Obama's been looking at. Hobson's Choice, defined:

1 : an apparently free choice when there is no real alternative
2 : the necessity of accepting one of two or more equally objectionable alternatives

If I'd been facing that, I'd have taken several months to decide too.

It will be interesting to see whether more Republicans vote to fund this than Democrats. Will the party which believes in war and military might as the answer to every foreign problem offer more votes for this policy than the party which believes that war and force should be the last resort?

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Me neither


"I am not now, nor have I ever been, interested in writing about Tiger Woods."

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