February 28, 2010

Canada 3 - US 2 (OT)

I suspect I have never become a hockey fan because I've never lived anywhere cold enough for the sport to be played by kids or where a pro team played. Nonetheless, I can appreciate the skill involved ("I'm supposed to control this little rubber disc while skating at full speed? Are you crazy?"), so I thought that was one helluva hockey game between Canada and the US for the gold medal. Congratulations, Nanook of the North, you beat the big ugly neighbor to your south.

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February 27, 2010

Tsunami alert cancelled

The bugger came ashore with more of a whimper than a bang, reaching heights of about three feet.

This is startling:

Hilo Bay is continuing to fill and drain every 20 minutes, said warning center oceanographer Nathan Becker.
Hilo Bay is not exactly a small body of water.

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Chilean earthquake tsunami

As you all may have heard, there was an 8.8 earthquake in Chile overnight. At the moment (10:30am HST) we expect a series of waves to hit Hilo about 11:00am and Honolulu about 11:30am. We've got a homeless population that lives on beaches as well as a lot of people who live just across primary roads from the ocean, so that's the big concern out here. Here's the site for the Pacific Disaster Center which has the latest information as well as maps of evacuation zones.

We personally are about 1,000 feet above sea level and our hill is 1.5 miles long, so any wave that gets us probably inundates all of Oahu other than Punchbowl and Diamond Head, in which case most of the state is drowned. I don't expect that. We've got a bathtub full of water for flushing, a 5-gallon jug of drinking water, more smaller containers and canned food. What we're more concerned about than wave action is the potential loss of power and water.

We'll see. Thanks for all the good wishes we've been receiving on Facebook and in comments here.

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February 26, 2010

Dear Democrats

Here's a bit of unsolicited advice: Legislation passed with 51 votes out of 100 is called majority rule. Stop using the word reconciliation. Reconciliation is not as easily comprehended and your opponents are trying to make it into a bad word.

In the minds of the average busy citizen:

Majority rule = good.
Reconciliation = I don't know what that means.

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February 25, 2010

Whaddya mean "out of touch?"

Ezra Klein:

Sen. John Barrasso, for instance, just mentioned that a Canadian premier recently got heart surgery in Miami. Best health care in the world, baby!

But presumably that premier either could afford to fly to Miami and pay for the procedure on his own or Canada Health paid for it. How about the counter clerk in Elkhart whose company just stopped providing health insurance for its employees because it got priced out of the market?

People should ask themselves a very simple question: Do they think they are likelier to lose their job and fall into the health-care situation of the uninsured? Or are they likelier to become an influential politician and enjoy the health-care options available to the most powerful people in the world?
Another thing: the Senators and Representatives in that room, even if they lose their next election, can likely get a new job with health insurance as a lobbyist or corporate director; our fictional Elkhart retail clerk probably doesn't have those options. Oh, and he or she is probably not yet eligible for Medicare, whereas most Senators and many Representatives may well be.

I swear I have not been watching the coverage. I swear it! It's a coincidence that Obama just made the same point!

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February 24, 2010

Limerick challenge!

Mad Kane has thrown down a limerick challenge. Go over to that post, then start your limerick with the words "There once was a woman named Ann"

Remember that the limerick form is AABBA; the first two lines rhyme; the second two lines rhyme; then the last line should rhyme with the first two. I blew that on my first attempt:

There once was a woman named Ann
Whose life, it was said, had no plan
So she enrolled in a course
In economics, perforce
Then she got a good job on the Bourse!
but realized it and tried again:
There once was a woman named Ann
Who lived all her life in Milan
But then a man beckoned
And thus (who’d have reckoned?)
She found herself mushing in Ketchikan!

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February 23, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 5

Blurb: Hurley tries to persuade Jack to go with him on an unspecified mission; Jin has an encounter with an old friend.

We can surmise that the old friend Jin meets is Claire, since she appeared as Rambo in the last scene two weeks ago.


Alan Sepinwall

EW Preview

The bad news is that the show is up against the Women's Figure Skating short program and we don't have a DVR.

Well, that was unexpected. Jacob's reappearance was perhaps predictable, but Claire's alliance with dead Locke certainly surprised me. So did Jin's sudden lie to Claire about Kate and Aaron.

Jack having a ten-year-old son was also a head-swiveler; either he's been married and divorced to someone other than Sarah or there was more time in that marriage than we previously knew.

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February 22, 2010

It was thirty years ago today

Herb Brooks brought the band to play. But how miraculous was the Miracle on Ice?

A hedge fund manager and a psychotherapist try to determine what the real odds were on the US hockey team defeating the Soviet hockey team that day. After much modeling, they conclude it might have been as low (!) as 17-1.

I don't know about you, but odds of approximately 6% success don't compel me to bet.

I remember that morning (here); everybody in the house was watching that game, and not one of us was a hockey fan. We all yelled along with Al Michaels, although he had a better line than we did.

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February 21, 2010

Library Acquisitions people, I beg of thee

Please, when purchasing books for your systems, take note whether the new purchase is part of a series and budget for the remaining books as they appear. Also budget to acquire the backlist.

I'm reading Alan Steele's Coyote books, but the library has no copies beyond the first two. Here I am midway through the lives of the colonists of an Earth-like planet 46 light years away with no prospect of finding out what the hell happens to them in the subsequent books (Coyote Frontier, Coyote Horizon, and Coyote Destiny).


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YouTube sharing

Ever wonder why some YouTube videos have embedding disabled? Here's part of the explanation, albeit from a band's perspective, not a label's.

Essentially, the labels want a cut every time the video is played. A deal was cut giving them a small fee, but the catch is that they only get the fee when the video is watched on the YouTube site. Thus, no embedding.

The bandmember who wrote this Op/Ed explains what's happened to the volume of the group's videos as a result. It ain't pretty.

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February 20, 2010

Tape delayed Olympics

Apparently people on the West Coast are vastly annoyed that they're seeing the Olympics on tape delay from NBC.

Welcome to my world. It wasn't until ESPN took over Monday Night Football in 2006 that the game was shown live in Hawaii. When on ABC it had been delayed until 6:30pm local time.

Now, I don't blame people in Seattle (who rightfully say "It's a few hours up the road; why do I have to wait till prime-time?") for being upset about this, but trust me, NBC is not going to change its broadcast practices just to make you happy. In fact, they'll likely point to their ratings and say "What's the problem?"

I sympathize with you folks, but you'll have to live with it.

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February 19, 2010

Olympics playlist

The Olympics motto is "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." Here are songs from my iTunes library which have those words, synonyms, or root forms in their titles:

  1. Fast Company -- The Eagles
  2. The Fast One -- Linda Ronstadt
  3. Life In The Fast Lane -- The Eagles
  4. Higher And Higher -- The Moody Blues
  5. I Want To Take You Higher -- Sly & The Family Stone
  6. Feelin' Stronger Every Day -- Chicago
  7. The Man's Too Strong -- Dire Straits
  8. Strong And Wrong -- Joni Mitchell
  9. Strong Enough -- Sheryl Crow
  10. Strong Hand -- Emmylou Harris
  11. Strong, Strong Wind -- Heart

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February 18, 2010

On watching figure skating

I have a hard time doing so. It's my empathy gene, I think; I feel so badly when somebody falls and four years of work goes down the tubes in a split-second that it's nearly unbearable.

But, you say, don't you feel that way about skiers, too? And yes, I do, but somehow it's not quite the same. Maybe it's because skiers are all bundled up and I can't see their faces. The skaters are wearing more-or-less regular clothing (not you, Johnny Weir) and their emotions are right up front with the crowd and the viewing audience.

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What? No blog post yesterday?

Bad blogger!

My neighbor was cutting branches of his avocado tree, and since it's huge we were concerned that some of those branches might fall on our roof. None did, but now we have a sackful of yet-to-ripen fruit, which will undoubtedly all be ready to eat at the same time. Can you make guacamole and freeze it?

How about Shaun White! Don't anybody tell me snowboarders aren't athletes, not after watching that gymnast in flannel do that final trick.

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February 16, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 4

"The Substitute"

Locke goes in search of help to further his cause.

Oh, thanks, ABC.

What the hell is his cause, at this point? And he's not Locke now anyway; Locke's dead!


Alan Sepinwall

Entertainment Weekly preview of tonight's episode. Link to the post-episode post will be there, I imagine here.

O-o-kay, so someone (Jacob, as dead Locke says? Why should we trust anything he says?) has been writing names on the interior walls of a cave (anyone else think of Lascaux?), and some of the names correspond to the names of the original plane-crash Losties (why was Kate's name not there?), and there are numbers assigned to each name. That moves the story forward a little, I guess.

But. Then we have the mysterious blond boy who sounds pretty authoritative telling dead Locke about the "rules," whatever they may be. That sends us off on yet another track. The writers are messing with us.

I loved Frank's "Weirdest damn funeral I've ever been to" line; it was right up there with Miles's "We'll be in the food court" last week.

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Clinton v. Starr

A new book purports to be the definitive history of that calamity.

Terry Gross interviewed the author today, and he says he tried to be neutral and balanced.

Well, maybe. I don't think this is exactly balanced:

The decision to move from Whitewater to Lewinsky, Gormley says, "altered Ken Starr's legacy as a prosecutor."

"There is no question that [Starr's office] had lost perspective," Gormley says. "Their job was not to get a person — it was to investigate. And there was such a lack of restraint on both sides, which ended up being bad for the country."

I don't recall the Democrats being particularly unrestrained, other than to say that the Republicans were demonstrably crazy. If he's lumping Larry Flynt's investigations in with the Democrats, he's in error.

Ah well, looks like an interesting read. My library doesn't have it yet, unfortunately.

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February 15, 2010

Senator Bayh abruptly retires

Evan Bayh, two-term moderate (Blue Dog) Democratic Senator from Indiana, announced today that he won't seek re-election this fall. Why?

In his remarks, Mr. Bayh expressed frustration at what he described as an increasingly polarized atmosphere in Washington that made it impossible to get anything done.
Well, that sounds very high-minded. On the other hand, it sounds almost, um, Palin-esque:
She said leaving office is in the best interest of the state . . .

Bayh leaves doing maximum collateral damage to the Democrats, too:

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said that if no one met Friday’s deadline to file to be on the May 4 primary ballot — and that’s a steep hurdle, requiring someone to collect 4,500 signatures of registered voters, 500 from each congressional district, and get them certified in each county by noon tomorrow — the state central committee would choose a nominee.
So the Republicans will get to say that the Democratic nominee was chosen in back rooms rather than by the will of the voters, and they'll be absolutely right.

Thanks, Senator Bayh. You're a true public servant and a good party man. Not.

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February 14, 2010

R.I.P., Dick Francis

Mr. Francis, who wrote 38 mystery novels, a collection of short stories, and an autobiography, has died at 89.

He spent nine years as a jockey before retiring in the late 1950s and published his first book in 1962. I don't remember how I first came across him, but I've been a fan since the mid-1960s. I bought or was given every one of his books until his first retirement in 2000. I was very happy when he returned to writing in 2006. His last three books have been co-written with his son Felix; I've read the first two. The first was so-so, the second showed signs of the old Francis, and I'm anxious to read the latest to see if the younger Francis can carry on the style.

His stories nearly always had racing as a backdrop for crime, and they gave the reader a window to that world. If I were to recommend ones to start with, I'd say Nerve, Dead Cert, Break In, and the Sid Halley quartet beginning with Odds Against.

I'll miss knowing there will be a new Francis book every November. Thank you, sir.

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February 13, 2010


In the lead-in to the Opening Ceremonies, there was no need for NBC to show that horrific accident which killed the Georgian luger three times. Nor was there any need for my local TV station to do the same.

I liked the ceremonies. The cynics always say these things are hokey, and maybe they are, but I like 'em anyway. Hearing Joni Mitchell sing a re-arranged version of her "Both Sides Now" was fun, and k.d. lang nailed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," as usual.

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February 12, 2010

That time of year

No, not the advent of spring training, but the annual car inspection and subsequent payment of registration fees to the City & County. $155.33 this year for a 1997 Geo Metro with 52,000 miles on it.

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February 11, 2010

Dinner musings

Linguica or Andouille? Scrambled or omelette? Frozen hash browns or home fries? Pepper strips or mushrooms or both?

(Politics is depressing me this week.)

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February 10, 2010

A shameless plug

Check out and become a fan of Bullet Proof Soul on Facebook. Scroll down to the Music Player section to listen to any of half-a-dozen tracks. I'm pretty sure you'll like what you hear.

Why am I plugging this, you ask? Well, the singer is married to one of my cousins, for one thing. More than that, though, the music is excellent. If you're in Phoenix, keep an eye on the band's website for performance info.

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February 09, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 3

Oh boy. I thought this was billed as the season where answers began to come out.

Hah. My questions in the extended entry. Meanwhile:

Ryan's take.

Alan Sepinwall's take.

Entertainment Weekly's take (not yet posted at 2115HST Tuesday night).

Claire appears in two timelines?

A new set of baddies thinks Sayid's "claimed" by something they don't like -- Jacob, you think?

And who the hell is/was Jack's sister? I've forgotten, but I know she turned up a season or two ago. Oh, yeah. Claire, of course!

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Down the drain

No, not the Democrats' legislative agenda. Alcohol.

We cleaned out the bottles and cans of material in our standalone bar. I watched as a dozen open half-empty bottles of wine, a bunch of jars of olives and onions (sell by date: 2005), and old canned sodas went down the kitchen sink.

Memories could have been made of those. Or possibly amnesia.

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February 08, 2010

Heard on the radio

One of the local art house theaters is screening So Long at the Fair, probably because it stars Jean Simmons, who died recently.

I've never seen the film, but the title made me think of this Bonnie Raitt song from 1976:

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February 07, 2010

Oh When the Saints

Saints 31 - Colts 17.

The crowd I was with decided that it wasn't a really exciting game until the interception in the 4th quarter. The word we kept using was workmanlike. No big plays, no big turnovers, just solid play from both teams. Then Tracy Porter picked off a perhaps-ill-advised throw from Manning, took it 74 yards, and the room exploded.

Congratulations to the Saints, their fans, and the city.

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Super Bowl XLIV prediction

It will be a high-scoring affair.

Head says Colts, heart says Saints.

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February 06, 2010

Mmm, the tried and true

I'm taking my usual Super Bowl Crab Dip to the game tomorrow, and I'm taking along Ritz crackers. It occurred to me that if I really wanted to impress, I'd find some upscale crackers instead, but I guess I don't care about impressions; I'm up for tasty. This may be why I occasionally like iceberg lettuce smothered in Thousand Island dressing, too.

I remember hating salads as a kid. Then, when I was 12, we left Los Angeles for Washington DC in a car (a 1962 Plymouth Valiant with push-button transmission on the dash, no less). On our first night out we stopped at a Howard Johnson's motel. I astonished my parents by eating every bite of the salad I was served with my burger. What sort of salad? Yup, iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island and a big tomato wedge.

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February 05, 2010

Roads I'd like to travel

The Karakoram Highway between Pakistan and China. There's bus service!


Pictures taken by a Finnish tourist in 2005-2006.

Google Images.

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Shelby's pork as payoff?

It sure looks that way.

The unusual “blanket hold” placed on Obama administration nominees by Senator Richard Shelby, represents an effort to support a firm that has contributed more than $100,000 to the Alabama Republican over the course of his long political career, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Shelby reportedly initiated the blanket hold in an attempt to back a $35 billion tanker contract for Northrop Grumman and EADS; the plane would be built in his state.


The fourth-term Senator has received at least $108,233 in PAC contributions to his political campaigns and leadership PAC from Northrop Grumman’s corporate PACs. This includes contributions, dating back to his first Senate election in 1986, from the company’s political action committee and from the PACs of companies that are now part of Northrop Grumman.

This is about as prime an example of Washington's culture of corruption as I can think of off the top of my head.

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February 04, 2010

Alabama Hold 'em

That oh-so-courtly Southern gentleman, Richard Shelby, has just put a blanket hold on all nominations to positions in the Executive Branch.

Why? He wants a couple of pet projects done in his state, and he thinks this is an ethical way to force that to happen.

Charming bastard, isn't he?

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Frank Fasi, R.I.P.

Frank Fasi, ex-Marine and former Mayor of Honolulu for 22 years, died last night.

Love him or hate him, he never bored you. One of my favorite stories, which I'd forgotten till I read about it again:

When City Council members objected to the loss of their parking spaces behind City Hall fronting Hotel Street, Fasi struck early one morning with a bulldozer and pulled up the asphalt, creating the mall that's now called the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center.
This is what the major building at the site looks like. It's surrounded by a lovely park area with lots of trees.

Frank loved to fight. He fought with the City Council, he fought with governors, he fought within his administrations. He was never happier than when he could get in front of a microphone and rail at his enemies. Whether you agreed with him or not, he was always entertaining. Here he is driving the backhoe which tore up that parking lot. That's vintage Fasi.

He'll be missed.

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February 03, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episodes 1 & 2

Oh my goodness. More "what-if" games (amusingly, what the showrunners are calling "flash sideways); suppose the bomb explosion did do what Daniel's theory suggested it would, reversing everything and allowing Oceanic 815 to land undamaged in Los Angeles from the beginning.

A-n-d . . . Cuse and Lindelof explain their idea.

Alas, poor Juliet. As much as Sawyer misses her, I miss her nearly as much. And I thought for a few minutes that the writers were pulling a Hitchcock, killing off multiple main characters midway through the first reel (see Janet Leigh in Psycho), but then Sayid somehow, someway comes back to life (as Sayid? As a reincarnation of Jacob? As one of Jacob's disciples? Stay tuned, I guess).

Ryan's initial take here.

Alan Sepinwall's take here.

Entertainment Weekly's take here.

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February 02, 2010

Lost, the beginning of the end

Here we go, locked into appointment TV again. I know we've been told that much will be cleared up this season, but I suspect there will be a lot we never learn, if only because there are so many outstanding unanswered questions.

Mixed feelings, that's what I have. I get antsy when I can't get up and leave the room once in a while, even in a movie theater, but with this show I can't do that. So I sit, mesmerized yet restless. Oy.

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More on the Haiti adopters

In comments to the previous post, my friend Juli provides a link to a blog post by a guy named Mike Doughney, who says about his work:

developing some kind of framework in which to make sense of the Biblical American flood of “purposeful nonsense” is a valuable effort. I think that if you want to start to get a handle on what the future looks like, take a look at what Biblical America holds to be true. In particular, watch closely when people who some call leaders, people who I describe more accurately as the dominant personalities of Biblical America, are teaching things that they believe are important to their kids.

In his post he points out the following from the "adopters'" own website:

The Plan:

Rescue Orphans from Port au Prince, Haiti

  • Friday/Saturday, Jan 22nd : NLCR team fly to the DR
  • Sun Jan 23rd: Drive bus from Santo Domingo into Port au Prince, Haiti and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages, then return to the DR
  • Mon Jan 24th: Bus arrives in Cabarete, DR at New Life Children Refuge

The obvious problems with this "plan" are numerous, from even just these few lines. The trip from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, as can be easily learned through a brief online search, is over six hours by scheduled bus under normal conditions. Were they serious about making a daytrip out of this run, it would have been little more than a snatch-and-grab of whatever kids they could have found on the streets over a few hours.

Read it. It's enlightening.

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February 01, 2010

Orphans from Haiti

I may be doing these Baptists from Idaho an injustice, but having just read Sharlet's The Family, I'm inclined to think their worldview is that American families are better than Haitian ones, so taking children from their home country before determining whether the kids were eligible for adoption is justified.

Sharlet spent a fair bit of time with ordinary fundamentalist Americans, not just with the leadership; he expresses a sympathy for them that I'd be hard-pressed to equal. In this case, I'm boggled by the arrogance of these folks. Even if the kids are orphans, your faith and nationality alone don't justify your swooping down into another country and attempting to "rescue" them.

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