Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all the very best in the coming year.


I just downloaded via eMusic - and am listening to - Joanna Newsom's Ys. I'm utterly intrigued, and yet I can't figure out if I like it or not. I think I will like it, maybe even love it, but right now I just feel disoriented and foggy. Perhaps her music is something that takes some getting used to, like a new language or new car.

To my aging ears her voice is utterly odd: it cracks and splinters, wobbles and threatens to go to ground, but then unexpectedly soars and explodes, like sonic fireworks, making the head spin. And her music, how to describe it? It's not really tuneful, as much as majestic, some kind of barely-restrained hybrid of voice and harp and lush orchestration, sounding a little like Bjork and Coco Rosie and Kate Bush, and yet not really at all like any of them. It's something altogether other-worldly, something that cannot be absorbed in one sitting or ten, something that cannot be enjoyed as much as appreciated, something to be wrestled with, like Jacob and the Angel.

This is Difficult Music, but I have the notion that if I visit and revisit it, I will be rewarded. But I'm not the only who thinks so. Read the following from Uncut's review of the album:

All classic records deserve their own creation myth, and Joanna Newsom’s second album has a pretty good one. The story begins, for our purposes, in a small studio in Los Angeles. Steve Albini, working with characteristic crisp precision, has been hired to record Newsom’s voice and harp, to capture the movement of air and her callused fingers across the strings. Newsom has brought five songs to the sessions: the shortest, "Cosmia", lasts for seven minutes and the longest, "Only Skin", stretches to nearly 17.

None of the five have choruses as such. Instead, they are great fervid torrents of words that elide close nature observations with a visceral sexuality – recalling, perhaps, Walt Whitman’s epic 19th Century poem, Leaves Of Grass. The exact meanings may be cloaked in allegory and metaphor, but these are intensely personal songs that have been given an intimate, focused treatment.


Certainly, "Ys" is a lavish album, and it’s easy to assume that Newsom has been excessively decadent herself. Conceived on such a vast scale, the potential for self-indulgence is massive. There’s a risk, too, of prog folly: Pre-Raphaelite homages loaded with obscure symbolism can easily look like Marillion covers; a brisk Googling reveals Ys to be the name of an online fantasy game.

But for the 56 minutes that "Ys" lasts, all the doubts evaporate. Every elaboration has a purpose, every labyrinthine melodic detour feels necessary rather than contrived. Tempting as it is to fixate on the gilded reputations of her associates, this is unequivocally Newsom’s album. It’s her ambition, her saturated images, her bloodied stamina behind it all. Uncut’s editor compares "Ys" to Nico’s "Marble Index", for its astonishing single-mindedness, the sense – notwithstanding those collaborators, that orchestra – that this is a hermetic, determinedly personal trip.

NME was a little more direct:

An album title taken from a mythical Breton city; songs that last 20 minutes; string arrangements by brainy Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks; cover art depicting Joanna Newsom as a Druid priestess; at least one lyric ("spelunking") that'll have you reaching for the nearest dictionary; bassoons. Yes, the second album from this puff-sleeved, 24-year-old harp pixie is not exactly one designed for the Fratellis fan in your life. But, over the course of 'Ys''s five songs - five very long songs - Newsom establishes herself as one of the few true visionaries currently working in American music.

Comprising a set of adult fairy tales bedded in Fuzzy Felt orchestral soundscapes so lush and ornate that they have more in common with Walt Disney's Fantasia than anything else around at the moment, 'Ys' is a record unafraid to use 12 violins when only one will do. Despite all of this, though, Newsom has managed to lessen the twee factor of her last record (roping in gravel-voiced type Bill Callahan of Smog helps, as does singing in a way that sounds less like a five-year-old), in the process crafting an album as bewitching as it is odd. If you claim you've ever heard anything like it before, then you're a liar. And if you're looking for an album to lose yourself in over the winter hibernation period, you've come to the right place.

So, anyway, I think I may have downloaded my last album for 2006, one that may well end up being one of my favorites of 2007. It is destined for my iPod, and many repeated listens.

Metacritic's Top Albums Of 2006

From Metacritic:

01 - Savane - Ali Farka Toure
02 - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards - Tom Waits
03 - Hell Hath No Fury - Clipse
04 - Modern Times - Bob Dylan
05 - Ys - Joanna Newsom
06 - Return To Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio
07 - Fishscale - Ghostface Killah
08 - Destroyer's Rubies - Destroyer
09 - The Town And The City - Los Lobos
10 - For Hero: For Fool - Subtle

Read the whole list (with reviews) here.

MW's 2006 Words Of The Year

From Mirriam-Webster:

Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year 2006

As expected, there were a few surprises in store for us as we pored through your submissions for our first Word of the Year online survey. Either the vast majority of you out there in the Merriam-Webster online community are big fans of The Colbert Report, or Time Magazine was right on target when it honored the show's host Stephen Colbert earlier this year as one of the most influential people of 2006. By an overwhelming 5 to 1 majority vote, our visitors have awarded top honors to a word Colbert first introduced on "The Word" segment of his debut broadcast on Comedy Central back in October 2005. Soon after, this word was chosen as the 16th annual Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society, and defined by them as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true."

Merriam-Webster's #1 Word of the Year for 2006 based on votes from visitors to our Web site:

1. truthiness (noun)

1 : "truth that comes from the gut, not books" (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," October 2005)
2 : "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true" (American Dialect Society, January 2006)

Read the whole list here.

Paint Like No Other

Sony Bravia's Fall 2006 Ad:


And how they did it:



From Breitbart:

Woman Charged With Malicious Castration

Dec 29 9:18 PM US/Eastern

A woman was charged with malicious castration for allegedly attacking a man during a Christmas party, police said. Rebecca Arnold Dawson, 34, is accused of grabbing the genitals of a 38-year-old man during a fight that erupted early Tuesday morning at a party hosted by the man's girlfriend. All three were heavily intoxicated, Lillington Police Chief Frank Powers said.

"I believe he needed more than 50 stitches to repair the damage, but he is back home at this point," police Cpl. Brad Stevens said Friday. "All we can tell you is that the injury was done with her hands. There were no weapons used."

Read the rest here.


More here.

Saddam: Death Penalty, Novels, Beach Towns and Playing Cards

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was executed this weekend for crimes against humanity, stemming from his role in the torturous murder of some of the hundreds of thousands who died during his reign . I must say, I have shed no tears over his passing, but I remain unshaken in my (general) objection to the imposition of the death penalty as a punishment for capital crimes. When the certain guilt of the accused can be determined - as appears to have been the case with Hussein - perhaps an execution can be considered just. But while a good number of those put to death are, indeed, guilty of the crimes they are accused of committing, all too often the death penalty is levied against those who are, in fact, *not guilty*, and are simply unable to mount a vigarous defense. OJ Simpson could afford to hire the best legal team, but the average Schmoe cannot. Don't misunderstand: I am not saying I think the majority of those accused and/or executed are innocent, only that some of them are. And that's enough for me to believe that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is punishment enough. At least when a mistake *is* made in the case of life imprisonment, it can be somewhat rectified, but in the event of an execution, there is no possibility for futher review, down the road. So, count me as one conservative-libertarian who stands philosophically against the death penalty, though I admit in the case of the Butcher of Bagdahd I am find myself wavering a bit. (Christopher Hitchens offers his take on the subject in Slate.)


Speaking of Saddam Hussein, I found the following on Amazon:

Zabibah and the King

WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Zabiba and the King is an allegorical love story between a mighty king (Saddam) and a simple, yet beautiful commoner named Zabiba (the Iraqi people). Zabiba is married to a cruel and unloving husband (the United States) who forces himself upon her against her will. This act of rape is compared to the United States invasion of Iraq.

DOES SADDAM HUSSEIN RECEIVE ANY MONEY FOR THIS BOOK? Not a dime. The translation is owned by the editor.

WHY TRANSLATE THIS BOOK? The editor, an American businessman, had the book translated into English to satisfy his own curiosity. He also felt it would be interesting and a beneficial tool for the curious, the patriotic, the educator, the historian, etc., as well as for the friends and families of servicemen serving in Iraq.

The publisher, a strong supporter of U.S. troops, felt the book was an interesting read. While the allegory is controversial and, at times, unsettling, it gives the reader an opportunity to "play detective" and attempt to decipher any hidden meanings.

WHAT IS THE SETTING? The stomping grounds of a young Saddam Hussein near Tikrit, Iraq.

WHAT IS THE TIME PERIOD? The era of the story is the mid-600's to early 700's A.D., due to the clue the main character, Zabiba, is a devout follower of Islam, yet the king still worships the idols of his forefathers and is ignorant of some of the fundamental traditions of the Islamic faith.

DID SADDAM HUSSEIN REALLY WRITE THE NOVEL? While it is no secret that the release of this book in Arabic was an overnight best seller in Iraq and even became an on-stage musical production in Baghdad, the book promotes the establishment of a quasi-democratic form of government that the editor and others believe would not have been allowed to be published in Iraq unless Saddam were intimately involved in its creation. Many Iraqis firmly believe it was penned by Saddam Hussein.

Who knows? It *could* be a good read.


And this, from Wikipedia:

Saddam Beach is a fishing village in the Malappuram district of the Indian state of Kerala. The village is made up of a two kilometre (1¼ mi) coastal belt between Puthenkadapuram and Kettungal in Parappanangadi. The village is named after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in an act of solidarity during the 1991 Gulf War.

The village used to be called Tipu Sultan Beach after the Mysore King Tipu who took an aggressive stance against the British colonial forces during the late 18th century.[1] Since the Gulf War of 1991, the villagers have decided to rename the village to its present name, expressing solidarity with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The villagers, mostly Muslim, claim to be inspired by Saddam and his fight against the "imperialistic policies" of the United States.[2] The new name was accepted by the Government of India, and is presently in use for all official proceedings.[1]

Read the rest here.


Finally, this:

Pod People

Having made only about a half dozen posts in the past week and a half, I know I've been neglecting this blog recently. And I know it'll sound like a lame excuse, but I've been so busy with Christmas Holiday stuff that I just decided to take a bit of a break. Yes, it really *has* been that busy. There's been something going on nearly every night for the past ten days, with out-of-town relatives, house guests, and various gatherings with family and friends. What's more, I've been feeling a bit punk, on and off, as if I have been coming down with a cold, and have been generally just feeling worn out.

But, I readily admit that the teeming dozens who read this blog don't care to hear about my petty problems. They want to read scintillating copy, and be pointed to the best stories on the net. And, in the coming year, so they shall. In the meantime, lean your ear this way, and allow me to regale you with a tale of Pod People:

Santa brought me an iPod this year. Well, more to the point, Santa brought me a 30 gig white iPod, with the understanding that I could trade up, if I so desired. I did. So, I am now the proud owner of an 80 gig black iPod. I also received a device that allows me to recharge the iPod in my car, as well as play tunes thru the car stereo. Additionally, I bought a hard-shell case for the 'Pod, but one of the latches broke off after only three days, and I'm trying to decide whether to return it. In any event, I gotta say, the iPod is even more impressive than I thought it might be. I'd seen them many times in stores, but wasn't fully aware of many of the device's features; I was especially impressesed with the quality of the image of the videos. I've managed to upload 120 hours worth of tunes, and another 120 hours of video, mostly things I've snagged from Guba, and I still have 12 gigs left to fill. In any case, it's a VCT (Very Cool Thing). I'm most impressed with it, and I offer a hearty thank-you to Apple, Santa and Mrs. Muzzy.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam Hussein Hanged

From MSNBC News:

Saddam Hussein executed

Deposed Iraqi dictator hanged for deaths of 148 Shiites in 1982

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Three years after he was hauled from a hole in the ground by pursuing U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein was hanged Saturday under a sentence imposed by an Iraqi court, al-Hurra TV, al-Arabiya and Sky News TV reported.

Read the rest here.

Iraq The Model comments earlier in the day.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Eve

Okay, I don't host alot of downloadable music on my blog - although I'm considering digitizing some of my old Brazilian out-of-print vinyl and posting them here - and I don't link to too many other downloads these days, but I saw the following intriguing collection on Embiggen Your Mind, and thought you should see it, too. The compilation is called 'Blips, Beeps & Farts' for a reason. If you don't know these artists already, check it out the following tunes and I think you'll understand.

Oh yeah, here's the track list, to entice you further:

01 - Radiohead - Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box
02 - Zero 7 - Today
03 - Faithless (feat. Dido) - One Step Too Far
04 - Frou Frou - Shh
05 - Kings of Convenience - I Don't Know What I Can Save You From (Röyksopp Mix)
06 - Phoenix - If I Ever Feel Better
07 - Lily Allen - Oh My God (Kaiser Chiefs Cover)
08 - Gorillaz (feat. MF Doom) - November Has Come
09 - Thom Yorke - Black Swan
10 - Lenny Kravitz - If You Can't Say No
11 - James Figurine - All The Way To China
12 - Air - Universal Traveler
13 - The Postal Service - Against All Odds (Phil Collins Cover)
14 - Slow Runner - Streamlined
15 - Portishead - Glory Box
16 - Dntel - Last Songs

All the tracks are here. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday Night Videos - Christmas Edition

'Silent Night'
All Angels


'Come All Ye Faithful'
Twisted Sister


'Merry Christmas'
The Ramones


'Merry Christmas (War Is Over)'
The Corrs


'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
Parts One and Two


Monday, December 18, 2006

Remembering Keith

Late in the evening of the 17th of December, 1981, my best friend Keith M was killed in a car accident. And it was just about this time, at about 7 pm on Friday night, the 18th of December, that I found out the news of his death.

I had wanted to write something this past weekend about him to post here, but I was crazy-busy with Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, kiddie Christmas pageants, and various family gatherings, and just didn't find the time to write anything. I posted the following entry last year on December 17th, and I'm reposting it today, slightly modified.


Keith and I had lived together during our freshman year in college, but I had not formed a very close friendship with him until after we had both graduated. What brought us together the summer after graduation was, of all things, soccer: Keith and I would often attend Minnesota Kicks soccer games together. Although I had a car, Keith was gracious enough to come pick me up, which saved me the cost of gasoline. He owned a beat-up Camaro which he drove way too fast, and I was often terrified of riding with him, but it was nice to have a friend, and a ride.

We became quite close and spend a great deal of time together. Like all of us, Keith had a few rough edges, but he recognized his flaws, and was slowly working on becoming an even better person. He was generous with his time and possessions, and would likely give someone the shirt off his back, if he thought they needed it.

Keith had been out of town on a winter camping trip to a State Park a couple of dozen miles away, but had come back into town on Thursday morning, December 17th. We spoke by phone that afternoon, and made plans to get together the next evening. He was going to stop by my place to pick me up after work, and I think we were going to go out to a movie.

That Friday evening I was late getting out of work. I ran into the downtown Dayton's and quickly bought a Murphy's Law calendar to give to Keith as a Christmas present. It seemed appropriate, since we were always joking about how everything seemed to forever go wrong for us. I rushed out of the store, and barely caught my bus home.

NCB and I were living together at the time. I had met him when he and Keith were roommates, and we had formed a close friendship. NCB was already in the apartment when I got home, fixing dinner with a girl named LP, and just the sight of the two of them together made me kind of upset. I had met her first, and had tried to go out with her, but she had started dating NCB. Although she had shot me down, I still kind of had the hots for her, and was mad at him for dating her behind my back.

I rushed in the door and NCB told me to sit down, that he needed to speak with me about something. I told him I was in a hurry, and rushed past him, into my room. I didn't want to speak with him while LP was there, but he summoned back out to the living room. NCB insisted, again, that I sit down, which I finally did. He looked me in the eyes and told me, plainly, that Keith was dead. I asked him how it had happened, and he told me: Keith had been killed the night before in a car accident. I asked him if he would BS me about something like that, he said no. Researchers and pshychologists say the first two stages of grief are shock and denial. While doubtless I was in schock, I experienced no denial. I knew instantly that Keith was, in fact, gone.

It seems that on Thursday night, December 17th, Keith had gone into town to the U of M to play basketball with AR and some other friends. On his way back home, at about 9:45 pm, he was travelling in the westbound lanes of what was then State Highway 12 in his new red Ford Fiesta when he was struck head-on by a large sedan travelling Eastbound in the same lanes, against traffic. The driver of the other vehicle was legally drunk but was not severely injured. Keith was dead on impact and, as this happened on a slight curve, probably never even saw what hit him. I recall hearing that the damage to Keith's small car was so severe the cops could not even tell if there had been tinted glass in the vehicle.

Keith's parents paid me what I feel was a huge honor when they asked me to be one of the Pall Bearers for Keith's coffin. I was there with DL, Keith's cousins and Keith's brother. At a time when I felt rather lonely and friendless much of the time, and being asked to participate in the funeral in such a capacity validated one of the few friendships I had managed to establish and sustain.

It's hard to say exactly what effect that Keith's death had on me. Certainly I was saddened. That is only to be expected. But I believe it went much deeper than that. I never fully or properly grieved my little sister's death - the one who drowned when I was nine years of age - and I suspect there are, to this day, quirks in my personality that are the result of unresolved grief from that event. Keith's death just added to confusion in my heart and soul, and I spent the years following in a series of depressions, which have only in recent years begun to abate.

NCB and I patched up our differences over LP - well, she and he broke up - and we went on to become even closer friends. We have played a big part in each other's lives: I introduced him to the woman he has been married to for over twenty years, and he was the best man in my own wedding. He and his wife are godparents to my children, and we try to stay in touch as much as our schedules and lives allow.

Every year for the past 24, NCB an I have gone out the Maple Plain cemetery to lift a Mountain Dew in a toast to the memory of our good friend. And most years we have managed to squeeze in a visit with Keith's parents, as well.

It's strange: for the first few years I thought people might think it morbid that we visited the gravesite, and I never mentioned it to anyone, let alone Keith's parents. But one day I let it slip that we'd been out there, and they seemed genuinely touched that anyone still remembered to do so. Keith is our fallen comrade and we remember him fondly, and his family appears to appreciate it. I do it, then, for me, and for them.

Unfortunately, this year NCB is living out East, and will not be able to join me, so I am going alone, for the first time since Keith died. I will call NCB on my cell phone from the cemetery, and he and I will raise a Mountain Dew each to Keith's good name, and then I will stop by Keith's parents' house for a visit.

A last note: I've come to the reasonable conclusion that it is wrong to become obsessed with death and those who have died. Life really does go on. But it is equally wrong to go on with one's life without taking time to reflect and remember those who have passed. I don't consider my trips to Maple Plain's cemetery as a duty, but a privilege and a kind of responsibility, to honor the memory of someone who was dear to me. As I get older, there will be more and more of such times, but trust and pray I am able to do right by each of them.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: please, please, please don't drink and drive.


25 years on, and I miss him still.

(BTW, NCB expects to be back visiting in Minnesocold over the holidays this year, and yes, we plan to try to squeeze in a trip to the cemetery together to toast a Mountain Dew to Keith. We will both dress extra-warm, as it is pretty much the coldest spot on earth.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Night Videos - Grab Bag

'La Vida Loca'
Ricky Martin


'Santa Baby'
Kylie Minogue


Chico Buarque


'Sweet Surrender'
Sarah Mclachlan


Jose Gonzalez



From Yahoo News:

French maids lure diners to cartoon-inspired cafe

By Julie Mollins

Friday Dec 15

TORONTO, Dec 15 (Reuters Life!) - A tiny eatery decorated almost completely in black and white is creating a big buzz in Toronto but it's not the decor getting attention -- it's the servers, who all wear French maid outfits.

With servers in black mini-skirts, long socks and white aprons, the cafe is believed to be the first in Canada to mimic the cartoon-inspired restaurants devoted to "costume play", or cosplay, that first appeared in Japan a few years ago.

Owner Aaron Wang, 24, who opened the iMaid Cafe this summer, got the idea for the theme after seeing a piece about a maid cosplay restaurant on the television news in China.

"I call them maids not waitresses," said Wang, who moved to Canada from Beijing six years ago.

"They smile a lot and they are cute. I want somebody cute like the characters from cartoons -- big eyes, long hair and young."

Read the rest here.

New JibJab: Nucking Futs

Interesting Cancer News

From Science Daily:

Study Explains How NSAIDs Halt Cancer Growth

December 15, 2006

Scientists have discovered that induction of a gene known as MDA-7/IL-24 is the molecular mechanism that enables nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to halt the growth of cancer cells, a finding that could eventually lead to the development of targeted cancer treatments.

Led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), in collaboration with scientists at Columbia University Medical Center, the new findings provide the answer to the long-puzzling question: How does this popular class of pain killers protect people from developing this deadly disease" The study appears in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Read the rest here.

Found On Flickr

Strategy 29 - Take Small Bites

The 33 Strategies Of War

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Strategy 29

The Fait Accompli Strategy

"If you seem too ambitious, you stir up resentment in other people; overt power grabs and sharp rises to the top are dangerous, creating envy, distrust, and suspicion. Often the best solution is to take small bites, swallow little territories, playing upon people's relatively short attention spans. Stay under the radar and they won't see your moves. And if they do, it may already be too late; the territory is yours, a fait accompli. You can always claim you acted out of self-defense. Before people realize it, you have accumulated an empire."

Hitler employed this strategy in the build-up to WWII, hoodwinking Neville Chamberlain in the process.

Parting Shot


Cartoon courtesy Cox&Forkum

More On The Story From C&F

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gotta Love The Net

From Yahoo News:

Man in Germany stops Brazil robbery via Internet

Wed Dec 13

A Brazilian businessman traveling in Germany watched by live video as a burglar robbed his house on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil.

He alerted the police, who rushed to the house and arrested the robber as he was trying on his clothes.

Read the rest here.


Found on the web:


Release 2.5

By Michael Coleman

In the Beginning the Project Manager created the Programming Staff.
The Programming Staff was without form and structure.
And the Project Manager said," Let there be Organization;"
And there was Organization.
And the Project Manager saw that Organization was good;
And the Project Manager separated the workers from the supervisors, and he called the Supervisors "Management", and he called the workers "Exempt".

And the Project Manager said," Let there be a mission in the midst of the Organization, and let it separate the workers, one from another."
And the Project Manager created the mission and he called it "The System".
And the project Manager separated those who were to benefit from The System from those who were to build it.
And he called the former "Users", and he called the latter "Programmers".

And the Project Manager said," Let all the Programmers in the Organization be gathered together into one place, and let a Chief Programmer be brought up to lead them."
And it was so.
And the Project Manager saw that he was competent.

And the Project Manager said unto the Chief Programmer," Create for me a schedule, so that I may look upon the schedule and know the Due Date."
And the Chief Programmer went among his staff and consulted with them. And the staff was divided into two parts, one part called "Analysts" and the other part called "Application Programmers".
And the Analysts went back to their desks and estimated, as was their custom.
And it came to pass that each Analyst brought his estimate to the Chief Programmer, whereupon he collected them, summarized them, and drew a PERT CHART.

And the Chief Programmer went unto the Project Manager and presented unto him the estimate saying," It shall take ten months."
And the Project Manager was not pleased and said," I have brought you up from the depths of Staff; you have not grasped the "Big Picture"."
And the Project Manager hired consultants and authorized overtime, and he said to the Chief Programmer," Behold, see all that I have done! The Due Date will be in FIVE months!" The Chief Programmer was much impressed and went from before the Project Manager to implement The System.

And the Chief Programmer sent his Analysts to the Users and said, "Let Specifications be written!"
And there were meetings, and lunches, and telephone calls.
And the Specifications were written.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, one month.

And the Chief Programmer examined the Specifications and saw that they were too ambitious.
And he separated the mandatory features from the optional features;
And he called the mandatory features "Requirements", and he called the optional features "Deferred", and the Users called him names.
And the Chief Programmer gave the Specifications to the Analysts and said," Let the Requirements be analyzed and let the Files be designed."
And it was so.
And the Chief Programmer said," Let the Software Houses put forth their Salesmen, and let us have a Data Management System."
And it was so.
The Software Houses brought forth all manner of Salesmen who presented their packages, and claimed wondrous things for them, each according to his own file structure.
And it came to pass that a Data Management System was selected;
And the Chief Programmer saw that it was good.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, a second month.

And the Chief Programmer said," Let the System be divided into parts, and let each part become a Module. And let programming teams be formed and let each be assigned to write a Module."
And it was so.
And the Chief Programmer created the programming teams with two levels, a greater and a lesser; and he called the greater the "Senior Programmers" and he called the lesser the "Junior Programmers".
And he gave the greater dominion over the lesser.
And the Chief Programmer saw it was good.
And the Senior Programmers saw it was good.
And the Junior Programmers saw it differently.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, a third month.

And the Chief Programmer said," Let the programming be started and let much overtime be consumed, for there is but two months left."
And the Programmers, both the greater and the lesser, were much afraid and they strove to please the Chief Programmer.
And they flowcharted, and they coded, each in his own fashion.
And the Chief Programmer looked upon the work and liked it not.
And the Chief Programmer said," Let there be a Standard;"
And there was a Standard.
And the Programmers looked upon the Standard and liked it not.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, a fourth month.

And the Chief Programmer said," Let there be Progress Reports, so we can monitor and control;"
And there were Progress Reports.
And the Chief Programmer looked upon the Progress Reports and saw that the Due Date was not to be met.
And the Chief Programmer arose, bought a suit, shaved his beard and went unto the Project Manager, and groveled.
And the Chief Programmer pointed his fingers, and caused Blame to issue forth upon all manner of creatures who sold Hardware and Software.
And the Chief Programmer asked for an Extension.

And the Project Manager was exceedingly angry, and cast doubts upon the Chief Programmer's ancestry, and did utter a multitude of threats. But it came to pass that an Extension was granted;
And the Chief Programmer took the extension back to the programming teams and there was much rejoicing.
And the programming of the Modules was completed.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, the fifth month.

And the Chief Programmer said," Let the Modules be integrated, one with another, so that System Testing may begin."
And it was so.
Two by two, the Modules were integrated, one with another.
And great difficulties were experienced, and many hours of overtime were used, and many cups of coffee were consumed.
And it came to pass that System Testing was completed.
And there was a Payday and the Happy Hour, the sixth month.

Then the Chief Programmer did go unto the Project Manager and said," Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will come to all Users; for on this day The System is completed."
And suddenly there was with them a multitude of Users praising the Chief Programmer saying,

"Glory be to The System in the highest, but can you make this one small change?"

Rings true.


From All Headline News:

Husband Brands Wife's Rear On Wedding Night

December 8, 2006 6:50 p.m. EST

Joanna Wypior - All Headline News Staff

London, England (AHN) - There's nothing that says 'I do' more than having your rear end forever marked with your husband's initials on your wedding night. Officials are questioning a 54-year-old man who forcibly used a cattle brander on his 22-year-old wife the night before their wedding.

Read the rest here.

Strategy 28 - Give Your Rivals Enough Rope To Hang Themselves

The 33 Strategies Of War

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Strategy 28

The One Upmanship Strategy

"Life's greatest dangers often come not from external enemies, but from our supposed colleagues and friends, who pretend to work for the common cause while scheming to sabotage us and steal our ideas for their gain. Although in the court in which you serve, you must maintain the appearance of consideration and civility, you also must learn to defeat these people. Work to instill doubts and insecurities in such rivals, getting them to think too much and act defensively. Bait them with subtle challenges that get under their skin, trigerring an overraction, and embarrassing mistake. The victory you are after is to isolate them. Make them hang themselves through their own self-destructive tendencies, leaving you blameless and clean."

Saudi Zakat


Cartoon courtesy Cox&Forkum

More On The Story From C&F

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ten Years Ago Today

Today is an important day in my life history. I've written of it before, in more than one context, so if you're a loyal reader I suppose you could be forgiven for just tuning out. And, in the name of brevity, I suppose I could just do what I often do when such things come up, and reference some previous post, but I feel the urge to re-tell the story.

Everyone has days in his or her life when something monumental happens, and the world shifts on its axis, and fundamental changes ensue. From that point on, good or bad, better or worse, things are never quite the same. Ten years ago this very day was one of those for me. But all good stories have a preface, and this story starts the day before:

Monday, December 9, 1996:

My Mother usually watched my brother's two little kids on Mondays while he and his wife worked. He had called me the week before, asking me and my wife to watch his girls that day. It was Mother's birthday, and he felt Mother should have the chance to go out to a Birthday Tea with her sister and friends.

I must admit, I was a bit annoyed at the prospect, if only because it was my day off, and I'd promised my wife that we would do the Christmas cards that day. I didn't want to take the time to drive across town to babysit, but it sounded like something Mother really wanted to do. I asked my wife if she would come with me, and we could write and address Christmas cards at my brother's house. She agreed, and off we went. As it turned out, the girls spent the afternoon napping anyway, and we were able to get our cards written and addressed, after all.

My brother and his wife came home around 5 pm, and Mother showed up a little while later. We all sat around chatting for a few minutes, but by the time Mother was ready to leave, she commented that she was concerned about driving the few short blocks to her house, on account of her night-blindness. My wife offered to drive Mother in her car, over to the house. I would follow behind, pick my wife up there, and we'd head off for home.

Mother apparently had sensed that I was feeling pressed for time, and apologized profusely to my wife at the house for not having a garage door opener in the car. Mother got out of the car to open the garage door from inside so my wife could park the car for her, and I stayed in my car, out on the street, waiting for my wife to finish up.

Mother disappeared into the house, and just a few moments later I saw my sister - with whom Mother shared the house - at the door, motioning frantically for my wife to come into the house, and then motioning to me, as well. I assumed my sister had something she wanted to show us, but I wanted to get going, and had no intention of getting tied up for another hour or two. But since my wife had already gone into the house, it seemed likely that I should, too.

As I came in the front door I was utterly unprepared for what I found: Mother was lying on the floor, face-down in a pool of blood, lying on her right arm, with her right leg askew. My wife is a nurse, and was trying to get some information from my sister, who was in hysterics, and from my mother, who was moaning in obvious shock and pain. I told my sister to get some hand towels from the closet, and to call the Emergency Paramedics.

I tried to make sense of it all: my Dad's Mom had died just a few weeks before, and my Mother had gone to California to assist my Auntie in settling up Grandmother's estate and effects. Several boxes of books had been sent to Minnesota, and had just arrived that same day. It seems that when Mother came rushing through the door, she didn't see the boxes, and had tripped over them, going to the floor. For most people it would have been nothing more than an embarrassing tumble, but my Mother had extremely brittle bones, and had broken her leg, arm and nose in the fall.

My wife and I set about using the towels to try clearing the rapidly coagulating blood from Mother's face. At first I was sure that her teeth had been knocked out in the fall, but then realized the blood was coming out through the nose, which turned out to have been broken. It may have been a bad idea to turn Mother's head, but I was concerned she might aspirate the blood she was lying in, so we gently turned her head, and got a blanket to cover her. The Paramedics arrived within short minutes, loaded her into the ambulance, and set off for the same hospital where Mother had done her nurse's training 40 years before, with us following in our own cars.

We spent the rest of the evening at the Emergency Room, appealing to the doctors for some morphine or something similar, but none was immediately forthcoming. Eventually an orderly gave Mother something, though it was several hours later before the x-rays were taken. Mother was in and out of consciousness, but was mostly lucid, apologizing profusely for having ruined everyone's evening. The doctor told us she had to be admitted to the hospital, and when we finally got all the paperwork done, it was well after 1:30 AM. Surgery was scheduled for the next day to repair her broken femur, and we finally left for home, shaken and exhausted.

Tuesday, December 10, 1996:

I woke up the next morning with one of the most brutal migraines I've ever experienced. It was so intense I could not even keep down the Midrin I often took when such episodes would strike, and I ended up spending nearly the whole day in bed. I'd wanted to be at the hospital while Mother was in surgery, but I simply couldn't manage it. I figured I'd go down to see her in recovery, later in the day, once I was feeling a bit better.

I knew there were dangers to any surgery, to be sure, but I wasn't prepared for the call I received that afternoon: Mother did not appear to be coming out of anesthesia as expected, and while it was too early to tell, the doctors suspected she'd suffered a massive stroke.

In fact, she was non-responsive and in a coma for the next few days, and it was only later in the week that the extent of the damage was known: Mother had, indeed, suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, which left her unable to speak, and had paralyzed her completely on the right side. Over the next two weeks, we visited the hospital every day. It seemed Mother was making some strides, but wasn't responding to therapy as had been hoped, and the Social Workers began discussing what should happen next. It was obvious that she couldn't be discharged to home, but she couldn't stay in the hospital indefinitely, either.

Monday, December 23, 1996

It had been nearly two weeks since Mother's accident, and she was somewhat responsive, but as the days went by, it was more and more clear that she would probably never be whole again. The question was how much function she might regain. The doctors didn't have any clear indication of what we were in for, but only that the prognosis was not rosy.

On Monday I received a phone call at the office that disturbed me greatly. The hospital had decided Mother could no longer stay there, and was to be discharged the following day to a Nursing Home. If we had a Home in mind, we were welcome to make suggestions, otherwise the staff would arrange something for us.

I was angry. Here it was the day before Christmas Eve, and they wanted to boot Mother out of the hospital during the holidays. I understood all the reasons why, but I was feeling so drained already that the notion of having to arrange a Nursing Home for her at that point then felt overwhelming.

Ironically, over the past year I had asked Mother several times, in the event something horrid might happen that required she be placed in a Home, where might she wish to go? She had always begged off, saying it was too depressing to think about. But it Mother did have a friend who lived at one of the Walker Methodist retirement communities, and Mother seemed to think highly of Walker. In fact, my sister told me Mother had remarked to her just within the prior weeks that maybe Walker wouldn't be so bad.

We considered taking her into one of our own homes' but Mother required 24-hour per day skilled nursing care, and we simply couldn't provide that. With heavy heart, I hesitantly called Walker, knowing full well that the better Nursing Homes around can have waiting lists that are months long. I was stunned when I was told that a private room could be made available to her the next day. We were not happy that Mother should have to be in a Home at all, but given the circumstances, having a spot open up a Walker at that point felt like a ray of sunshine on a stormy day. Mother was transported by ambulance the next day, and we gathered in her room on Christmas Day.

Over the following months Mother had daily therapy, and she did make a partial recovery, but she spent the rest of her days either in bed or in a wheelchair, and was never again able to utter more than 'Ai' and 'Oi.' She did learn to sign her name with her left hand, but she didn't learn to write more than that. Although the parts of her brain that controlled speech were damaged, the parts that processed music were not. She still loved to sing along with us, even if she couldn't manage any of the words to the songs.

After the first few days, it was patently clear that Mother was in for the long haul, which in turn meant the rest of the family was, too. Initially we'd all been visiting her daily, but we collectively decided to rotate visitation duties amongst the siblings (four of us) and the spouses (three). So for the next two and a half years, I drew up a monthly calendar which indicated who would visit Mother on which days, and but for maybe a half-dozen times, one of us *did* visit her daily, until the day she died.

In all this it seems crass to speak of money, but as an aside, please indulge me this digression:

Medicare only pays for rehabilitative Nursing Home care, and even then, only for a maximum of 100 days, and only *if* the individual is expected to recover to the point where they can be discharged to the community. Initially it was uncertain that Mother would have even the 100 days paid for, as it was not clear that she would be able to go home, but since no one could tell for sure, they decided to authorize payment. In any case, after the first 100 days, if Mother was to stay in her room, she (we) would have to self-pay.

Thing is, if an individual is indigent - with assets depleted to the last $3000 - they can become eligible for Medicaid, which *does* pay for Nursing Homes, but Mother had been diligent about saving for her retirement. As a consequence she had enough of a nest egg as to preclude her receiving Medicaid benefits for a long, long time. As I said, she would need to self-pay, and indeed she did. As her Authorized Representative, over the next thirty months I wrote a check from her funds to the Nursing Home for increasingly large sums of money, towards the end over $7000 per month, to pay for her private room and skilled care.

When confronted with such a fate, most of us would probably shudder - as I do, even now - and assume that one's quality of life would be so bleak as to not be worth living. And many times, when I'd come visit Mother, I'd let out the deepest sigh as I arrived. I'd walk past the bird cages at the entrance, take the elevator up to the third level, try to adjust anew to the smells and sounds, and I'd always be bit depressed by the time I got to Mother's room. But then I'd see her face light up when she'd see me, and I'd be reminded of the humanity in all of us, and I'd feel ashamed that I might allow myself to feel anything but gratitude for all the good that I had in my life.

Mother couldn't speak and couldn't read, couldn't walk, couldn't even really sit on her own. But her mind was still there, and she loved to sing, loved to watch 'Wheel Of Fortune,' and loved to play cards. We made her a rack where she could place her cards, so she could play Hearts with us. It took some doing, but we would have long conversations, as long as I would make sure that everything I asked her could be answered with a nod or shake of the head. I made a point of reading to her every time I visited, mostly from the 'Chronicles of Narnia.'

Over the months she would make progress, but she also regressed. Several times she contracted Urinary Tract infections, from having to wear diapers. She had small strokes (TIA's) and more than once was rushed to the Emergency Room for medical attention. In time it became clear that not only was she not going to recover, but that she was declining.

Mother had been a nurse, and had always been adamantly pro-life. She insisted she never wanted to be labeled DNR (Do No Resuscitate), and each time the quarterly staff-family conference would approach, I'd put the question to her once again, since I knew the staff would ask us to confirm her status. But at one point, about 18 months into her ordeal, she equivocated, shrugged, and sighed when asked. I pointed out to her that I was asking only because the staff wanted to know, and that we wanted to make sure we were carrying out her wishes.

Trouble was, as a nurse, she knew full-well what it meant to Run A Full Code on a patient. If someone was in cardiac arrest, staff would do everything possible to bring them back, including pounding away to the chest. But her bones were so brittle that more than once she suffered a mild fracture just being moved from her bed to her wheelchair. What might a Full Code do to her, in her fragile condition? Her heart might be revived, but at what cost?

As we talked - well, I talked, she responded - it was clear that she had reached the point where she was at least questioning her prior decisions. She indicated clearly - to my relief - that she would not want to have food or water withheld, but that she was ready to change her status to DNR, should it become necessary. It was an emotional meeting with the staff that quarter, but we realized that it was probably for the best. In the end it was not an issue.

Over the final several months of her life she would decline, stabilize and decline again, to the point where it was clear that she would not going to be with us than a few weeks, maybe a month, or two, or three. My wife was pregnant with our first daughter, and Mother had been so pleased to hear she was going to have another grandchild. I believed then - and now - that part of the reason she held on so long was to be able to see AE, but the little one did not cooperate. She was two weeks overdue, and wasn't born until April 13, 1999. Mother died on April 3rd.

Friday, April 2, 1999 - Saturday, April 3, 1999

The last few days of Mother's life she was so sedated that she couldn't really interact with us. In predawn hours of April 2nd, we received a call from the Nursing Home staff that she was not likely to last the morning, and that we should come down as soon as possible. We all assembled at the Home, only to find that Mother's breathing had improved a bit. Someone stayed with her throughout the day, but I went on in to work by mid-AM. Then, another call came in the evening, saying that she would not last the night. We arrived late that night, and took turns sitting in her room, saying our goodbyes, though I don't know if she could hear us, or not. Several of us decided to go home, but my brother and sister were going to spend the night in her room. Sometime around three in the morning of April 3rd, she passed away.

The next morning I wend down to the Nursing Home to begin the process of taking down all the cards and photos that had been tacked and taped all over her room. My siblings were exhausted, and had all gone home to sleep, so I was the only one there for most of the morning. At one point I heard a knock on the door and looked up to see a friend of Mother's who hadn't been by to see her in several months. She had brought a little figurine for Mother's dresser-top collection, and was crest-fallen to know she's missed her by hours.

A large Memorial service was held at the church where Mother and Dad had met, where they had been married, where I'd been baptized, and where my Father's Memorial service had been held over thirteen years earlier. Mother was buried in the family plot at Lakewood Cemetery, next to her own Father and Mother (and her widowed father's first wife, who preceded him in death) and where eventually her sister was buried, as well. I make a point to visit Mother's grave each Memorial Day.

We all live under the curse of Adam, knowing in our bones that we are born to die, yet a many of us spend a lifetime trying to deny the inevitable. For most of us, our parents have always been a part of our lives, and we try to block out the fact that they will die. And of course, one day, they will, and they do. If they are fortunate, they die quickly and/or painlessly. Others experience unbelievable agonies. Mother was one of those who suffered slings and arrows, yet even in the face of horrid circumstances, she found quiet joys, and reasons to smile. In the midst of her personal nightmare, she gave and received affection and love, and while I'm sure she questioned her affliction, like Job she never cursed her God.

And so, in closing, to the woman who gave me life, I wish to say 'thank you' for the final lessons she offered me by her example: how to find life's pleasures in the most dismal of situations, and ultimately, how to die well. It is my wish and prayer that when it is their turn to say goodbye, my daughters will be able to say the same.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Night Video - Ladies Night

'Bad Reputation'
Joan Jett


'Sweet Temptation'


'My Idea Of Heaven'
Leigh Nash


'You Had Me'
Joss Stone


'My Prerogative'
Britney Spear


'Mother Mother'


Glenn Beck's Politically Correct Christmas Carols

From Glennpedia:

Christmas is a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. Many people take offense to any reference to Christmas whatsoever, so Glenn has made a special effort to make non-offensive, politically correct Christmas carols. On December 3rd, 2002 the first censored carols were played. These were simply original Christmas carol recordings with Stu's voice inserted at various places. On November 28th, 2005, much better re-recorded tracks of the censored carols were debuted.

List of Politically Correct Christmas Carols

Heh heh.

Sad Story

From Models Blog:

Ana Carolina Reston killed by a diet of apples and tomatoes?

Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston was killed by a diet of just apples and tomatoes. The 21-year-old was buried in her native Brazil yesterday. She died earlier on Tuesday weighing just 39 kilograms/88 pounds (we reported) after being hospitalised for kidney failure - and a relative has revealed she only ate the two fruits in the months leading up to her death.

Cousin Geise Strauss says, “She liked apples and she adored tomatoes as well - but that was about it.” Published reports reveal the model received treatment for anorexia, but bosses at one of her main agencies, L’Equipe, insist they had no idea she was ill.

Read the rest here.


Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick

(November 19, 1926 – December 7, 2006)

The Ghost Of Christmas Presents

From Ananova:

Boy arrested for opening present

A 12-year-old boy has been arrested for opening one of his Christmas presents early.

The boy, from Rock Hill, South Carolina, was taken to the local police station after unwrapping a Nintendo Game Boy Advance.

They charged him with petty theft and he now faces a court appearance reports the Sun.

Read the rest here.

Strategy 27 - Seem To Work For The Interests Of Others While Furthering Your Own

The 33 Strategies Of War

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Strategy 7

The Alliance Strategy

"The best way to advance your cause with the minimum of effort and bloodshed is to create a constantly shifting network of alliances, getting others to compensate for your dificiencies, do your dirty work, fight your wars, spend energy pulling you forward. The art is in choosing those allies who fit the needs of the moment and fill the gaps in your power. Give them gifts, offer them friendship, help them in need - all to blind them to reality and put them under subtle obligation to you. At the same time, work to sow dissension in the alliances of others, weakening your enemies by isolating them. While forming conveninent coalitions, keep yourself free from negative entanglements."

The Russians employed this tactic to great effect against Napoleon Bonaparte during Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812.

Then & Now


Cartoon courtesy Cox&Forkum

More On The Story From C&F

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kinda Evens Things Out

From Science Daily:

Antidepressants Associated With Increased Risk For Suicide Attempts, Decreased Risk For Death

December 7, 2006

Suicidal individuals taking antidepressant medications appear to have an increased risk of additional suicide attempts, but a reduced risk of dying from suicide or any other cause, according to a large Finnish study reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Free Software Wednesday

Adobe Acrobat 8

From Adobe's website:

Reasons to upgrade to Adobe Reader 8

Enjoy a new interface, new tools, and more options

View information more precisely and efficiently with the redesigned, easier to use Adobe® Reader® 8 interface. Choose the reading mode to fit more content on the screen or the two-up mode to view page spreads without excess space in the middle. Zoom in, pan over, or leverage the loupe feature in Reader 8 to take a closer look.

Launch an online, real-time meeting in seconds

Instantly collaborate with virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time. Use the Start Meeting button in Reader 8 to access Adobe Acrobat® Connect™ software and deliver online training and support or communicate with remote audiences in real time. Accelerate approvals with new Reader 8 features that include shared document reviews, a streamlined review tracker, and a simple RSS reader.

Realize more secure document workflows

Better protect documents, forms, and drawings by leveraging Adobe LiveCycle® Policy Server and the new Adobe Online Services Document Center. For the first time, use Reader 8 to digitally sign Adobe PDF documents, allowing recipients to more confidently view and verify the authenticity of PDF files.

Save valuable time working with Adobe PDF files

View, print, search, sign, and collaborate on PDF files. Leverage new timesaving markup and review tools in Reader 8, as well as customizable toolbars and combined search and find.

Work with 2D GPU acceleration

Work faster with Reader 8 using the most popular graphics processing units (GPUs), which enhance scrolling and zooming for the rendering of 2D graphics.

Use improved accessibility features

Reader 8 helps you meet the accessibility requirements mandated by Section 508 of the amended U.S. Rehabilitation Act. Try the improved read out loud capabilities in Reader 8 or change the reading order of pages or columns after PDF files are tagged to accommodate preferences.

Save trees and time

For large volumes of information, such as technical manuals, use Reader 8 to condense any type of PDF file into a single booklet for printing. Print only the desired pages on two sides of paper or in a smaller type size to save time and natural resources.

Access new learning resources

Immediately access help and product information. Use the new Beyond Adobe Reader start center in Reader 8 to review information, on demand, about how to use Adobe Reader more effectively. Also view regularly updated information about other Adobe products and services.

Lower your total cost of ownership

Quickly manage and control Reader 8 deployments using the Adobe Customization Wizard 8, IBM Tivoli, Microsoft Systems Management Server, Windows Group Policy Objects, or Active Directory. Centrally host Reader 8 using Citrix Metaframe Presentation Server or Microsoft Windows Terminal Server.

Get expanded platform support

Deliver a reliable experience across computing platforms. Reader 8 will support Microsoft® Windows Vista™*; Windows® 2000 with Service Pack 4; Windows XP Professional, Home Edition, and Tablet PC Edition; Mac OS X v.10.4.3; Solaris™ 9 and 10; AIX® 5.3; HP-UX 11i v1 and v2; Debian and LSB 3.1 Red Hat®; SUSE™, Turbolinux; and Asianux.

* Reader 8 has been tested with a beta version of Windows Vista, and Adobe expects a subsequent version of Reader to support the shipping version of Windows Vista.

Download it here.

How To Create A Sexy Pop Star

(From Before The Music Dies)

Flatulence Forces Plane Landing In Nashville

From WBIR:

Flatulence brought 99 passengers on an American Airlines flight to an unscheduled visit to Nashville early Monday morning.

American Flight 1053, from Washington Reagan National Airport and bound for Dallas/Fort Worth, made an emergency landing here after passengers reported smelling struck matches, said Lynne Lowrance, a spokeswoman for the Nashville International Airport Authority.

The plane landed safely. The FBI, Transportation Safety Administration and airport authority responded to the emergency, Lowrance said.

Read the rest here.

For The MOB

Modern Drunkard Magazine

Why Santa Didn't Answer Your Letter

Life Is What Happens While You Are Busy Making Other Plans

I posted the following here on December 7, 2004, which I reproduce today, slightly modified.

I don't remember why, but I had gone to bed early the night before Lennon was shot, and it was only as I stepped off the bus downtown, on my way to work, that I saw the headline in the paper announcing that he had been killed. I actually remember what block I was on when I got off that bus, and where the newspaper vending machine was located. I recall a feeling of deja vu, given that I had just purchased a brand-new copy of the Imagine LP the week before. I didn't cry, I wasn't in shock. But I did feel a wave of sadness and loss.

I had come to The Beatles a bit later than my peers. Sure, I'd heard many of their songs as a kid, but it was only at age 14, at boarding school, living away from home for the first time, that I heard Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road and the White Album. I was blown away. Listening to those albums for me was like the dope I never smoked, and the acid I never took: I would lower the tonearm - remember those? - onto the platter, place the headphones over my ears and disappear on an inner trip. Those albums became my habit and my drug; in fact, I believe that I listened to Abbey Road at least once a day, every day, for my entire 9th-grade year.

While I loved McCartney's tunes, I felt a greater kinship with John Lennon. His lyrics weren't necessarily very insightful, but they were poetic and powerful. They were more elemental, more sad, more depressing, more obsessive. John felt a great deal of pain and anxiety, things he couldn't hide in his later Beatles' stuff, and in his solo work. His lyrics connected with me, and affected me deeply. (My little sister had died in an accident only 5 years earlier, and the obvious depth of the pain that Lennon felt at the loss of his mother resonated with me.)

There was another thing that I liked about Lennon's music: I could play his songs. I once read a book by The Beatles' producer George Martin, in which he explained that most of Lennon's songs were written over a narrow range of notes, that John had a rather limited vocal range and, unlike Paul's tunes, John's tended to rely on rhythm and repetition as much as on melody. In short, they were easier to perform for the likes of a budding guitar player like me.

Anyway, on the anniversary of John Lennon's death, I remember and pay tribute to a man who was a bit of a flake, incredibly naive politically, but nonetheless a gifted musician and poet, and above all, one who touched his generation with his music and life. So, thank you, John Lennon, for the gift of your art. You're a superstar. That's who you are.

And we all shine on.

(Lotsa vids at the official site.)

Growing Up With Autism

From Newsweek:

What Happens When They Grow Up

Teenagers and young adults are the emerging face of autism as the disorder continues to challenge science and unite determined families.

By Barbara Kantrowitz and Julie Scelfo

Nov. 27, 2006 issue - Chicken and potatoes. Chicken and potatoes. Danny Boronat wants chicken and potatoes. He asks for it once, twice ... 10 times. In the kitchen of the family's suburban New Jersey home, Danny's mother, Loretta, chops garlic for spaghetti sauce. No chicken and potatoes, she tells Danny. We're having spaghetti. But Danny wants chicken and potatoes. Chicken and potatoes. His 12-year-old sister, Rosalinda, wanders in to remind her mother about upcoming basketball tryouts. His brother Alex, 22, grabs some tortilla chips and then leaves to check scores on ESPN. His other brother Matthew, 17, talks about an upcoming gig with his band. Danny seems not to notice any of this. "Mom," he asks in a monotone, "why can't we have chicken and potatoes?" If Danny were a toddler, his behavior would be nothing unusual. But Danny Boronat is 20 years old. "That's really what life with autism is like," says Loretta. "I have to keep laughing. Otherwise, I would cry."

Autism strikes in childhood, but as thousands of families like the Boronats have learned—and thousands more are destined to learn—autism is not simply a childhood disorder. Two decades into the surge of diagnoses that has made autism a major public health issue, a generation of teenagers and young adults is facing a new crisis: what happens next?

Read the rest here.

Strategy 26 - Deny Them Targets

The 33 Strategies Of War

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Strategy 26

The Strategy Of The Void

"The feeling of emptiness or void - silence, isolation, nenengagement with others - is for most people intolerable. As a human weakness, that fear offers fertile ground for a powerful strategy: give your enemies no target to attack, be dangerous but elusive and invisible, then watch as they chase you into the void. This is the essence of guerrilla warfare. Instead of frontal battle, deliver irritating but damaging side attacks and pinprick bites. Frustrated at their inability to use their strength against your vaporous campaign, your opponents will grow irrational and exhausted. Make your guerilla war part of a grand political cause - a people's war - that crests in an irrestible revolution."

The Russians employed this tactic to great effect against Napoleon Bonaparte during Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812.

Casino Fatale


Cartoon courtesy Cox&Forkum

More On The Story From C&F

Monday, December 04, 2006

Music Monday - Weird Al Edition

'White And Nerdy'
Weird Al


'Polka Power'
Weird Al


Weird Al


Weird Al's Myspace


2006 Christmas Tree At Muzzy's House

Strategy 25 - Occupy The Moral High Ground

The 33 Strategies Of War

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Strategy 25

The Righteous Strategy

"In a political world, the cause you are fighting for must seem more just than the enemy's. Think of this as moral terrain that you and the other side are fighting over; by questioning your enemies motives and making them appear evil, you can narrow their base of support and room to maneuver. Aim at the soft spots in their public image, exposing any hypocrisies on their part. Never assume the justice of your cause is self-evident; publicize and promote it. When you yourself come under attack from a clever enemy, do not whine or get angry; fight fire with fire. If possible, position yourself as the underdog, the victim, the martyr. Learn to inflict guilt as a moral weapon."

Martin Luther employed this strategy in his attempts at reformation of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Democracy Now

From Wikipedia:

Democracy Player (also known as Democracy and DTV) is an Internet television application developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF). It can automatically download videos from RSS-based "channels", as well as managing and playing the videos collected from these channels. It is based on XULRunner, and is free and open source software. Democracy Player is supported on Windows, [Mac] OS X, and GNU/Linux, and integrates an RSS aggregator, a BitTorrent client, and VLC media player (or Xine Media Player under GNU/Linux). Democracy Player is part of the Democracy TV Platform, which includes Broadcast Machine and Video Bomb.

and from Democracy's own website:

1. Play Anything

Play virtually any video-- Quicktime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, XVID, and more. Browse your collection, make playlists, stay organized. One homebase for all your videos.

2. Get Internet TV Shows

Subscribe to any video RSS feed, podcast, or video blog. Explore hundreds of free channels with the built-in Channel Guide.

3. Search YouTube

Download and save videos from YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, and other sites.

4. High Definition and Fullscreen

Your computer screen is a high-def display. Watch free HD videos in gorgeous fullscreen.

5. Torrent Power

Easily download any BitTorrent file. Fast. Then watch it in the same app. Simple.

Get Democracy here.

Return To Sender

From Yahoo News:

5 years later, WTC Mail Keeps Coming

By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press Writer
December 3, 2006

It's the kind of holiday mail that might have been tossed aside, discarded like any other piece of junk mail: a special offer for a facial at a local spa.

Only the address on the letter no longer exists. And the woman the letter is addressed to died more than five years ago in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Hundreds of pieces of mail destined for the former trade center still arrive every day at a post office facing ground zero — the relics of the unfinished lives of Sept. 11 victims.

Telephone bills, insurance statements, wine club announcements, college alumni newsletters, even government checks populate the bundles of mail. Each bears the ZIP code once reserved exclusively for the twin towers: 10048.

"I guess sooner or later they'll realize the towers aren't back up," said letter carrier Seprina Jones-Sims, who handles the trade center mail. "I don't know when."

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From Wikipedia:

Chrismukkah is the modern-day merging of the holidays of Christianity's Christmas and Judaism's Hanukkah as celebrated in interfaith households where one parent may be of Christian heritage and another parent of Jewish heritage. The word itself is a portmanteau arisen through the blending of the words "Christmas" and "Hanukkah". Chrismukkah is also celebrated as an ironic, alternative winter holiday, much like the Seinfeld-derived "Festivus."

The term has been used for many years by some in the Jewish community to comment on the commercialization of Hanukkah and the dominance of the commercialized Christmas in American culture. An exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Berlin (10/28/05- 1/28/06) called "Chrismukkah: Stories of Christmas and Hanukkah." sourced the origin of "Chrismukkah" to German-Jews in the late 1800s who called the holiday "Weihnukkah". Weihnachten is the German word for Christmas.

"A Christmas celebration with a tree, songs, and gifts became a symbol of being a part of German culture for many middle-class Jewish families in the 19th century. Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular "festival of the world around us" without religious meaning, or they transferred Christmas customs to the Hanukkah festival. This mixture was and is referred to as "Chrismukkah."

In the United States, Chrismukkah was the subject of a facetious press release that was widely circulated on joke web sites in the late 1990s. Chrismukkah gained pop culture notoriety on December 3, 2003, after being featured on the FOX television program The O.C.

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On This Day In History

December 3


Seven year-old AE is in second grade this year, and is a bit more advanced than many others in her class. In order to keep her challenged, and to keep her from being bored, her teacher has agreed to send her home with a list of 10 words each week. AE is responsible to learn their meaning, know how to spell them when drilled, and write sentences with them. The list this past week included:

  • monotonous
  • indulge
  • incompatibility
  • savory
  • achieve
  • scrutinize
  • outrageous
  • genuine
  • journey
  • travois

First I drilled her on spelling, and she got them all right. Then, after I'd seen the list, she ran the same drill on me. Let's just say that Dear Old Dad didn't do as well as his lovely daughter did. And let's just say that AE had a good giggle about all that. And let's just say I was more than cool with it.