January 2006 Archives

For your amusement...

Sactown Royalty :: The Supreme Court of the National Basketball Asoociation
I try to keep up with current events. After all, I am a journalist by day.
With that said, I present the following: The Supreme Court of the National Basketball Association. I envision it as an educational device for judicial clerks who want to learn about the NBA and basketball players who want to learn about the Supreme Court.

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Microsoft still sucks

In case anyone still doubts it...

MSFT: Our DRM licensing is there to eliminate hobbyists and little guys
Cory Doctorow: A Microsoft spokesman has described their DRM licensing scheme as a system for reducing the number of device vendors to a manageable number, so that the company doesn't have to oversee too many developers. ... I was pretty surprised to hear an executive from Microsoft describe his company's strategy as intentionally anti-competitive and intended solely to freeze out certain classes of operators rather than maximizing its profits through producing a better product and charging a fair price for it.

Isn't that why the Justice Department and the EU went after Redmond in the first place?

Another line item for GWB's tombstone.

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Exxon Mobil screws all of us

I like that the lede of this Tribune story links obscene oil profits to Republican control of Congress. Of course, I'd be pretty surprised if anything actually was done to ameliorate the facts

Largest. Profit. Ever.
Oil giant's record gain refuels political debate: Exxon Mobil Corp.'s announcement Monday that it amassed a stunning $36.1 billion profit in 2005--the biggest single-year profit ever for a U.S. company--could complicate Republicans' efforts to maintain control of Congress because of their longstanding ties to the oil industry.

With the cost of gasoline rising again and industry analysts warning that the coming summer could see $3-a-gallon prices similar to last year's, Republicans face a Democratic opposition committed to making it a campaign issue in November congressional elections and the prospect of voters angered by higher fuel costs.

The president's energy-industry background, as well as that of Vice President Dick Cheney, have led White House critics to accuse the administration of favoring oil industry profits at the expense of consumers.

Democrats sounded that theme Monday in the wake of Exxon Mobil's earnings statement as well as those of Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which reported large profits last week.

“The president thinks what's good for Exxon Mobil is good for America,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a teleconference with reporters. “Most Americans, when they saw $3 gas, didn't. Energy prices will be a metaphor for the president, for why people want Democrats over the Republicans.”

In the same teleconference, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) took aim at congressional Republicans.

“What did Congress do? Give $14 billion in taxpayers' subsidies [to the oil industry] to drill for oil, to execute their business plans. At the same time we have cut student aid by $14 billion.”

Democrats were clearly trying to claim the issue of higher energy prices for themselves. But Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said he foresees rising energy costs contributing to increasing populist rhetoric, even among Republicans.

Besides the energy issue, the ongoing trial of former executives of energy giant Enron and concerns over diminishing pensions and health-care costs will also play a role, he said.

“It's not going to be just Democrats, just the left,” he said. “It will be the kind of populism we had in the late '80s, early '90s with the center and the right as well. If you go back to 1988 and 1992, we had Ross Perot representing the populist center and Pat Buchanan representing the populist right. Plenty of conservatives out there are not particularly pro-big business.”

and when Douglas Adams, of the essential iTunes/Applescript site, ventures away from his usual topic to mention his outrage, you know this is an issue that has resonance.

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James Dolan is not well liked

by many folks in New York (or elsewhere for that matter. I've complained about him on my micro-soapbox for several years). Harvey Araton doesn't seem to be any more fond of dorkweed Dolan than Selena Roberts, though a bit more blunt.

HARVEY ARATON: When Grace Was Needed, Dolan Fumbled - New York Times
In the now-explosive case of Anucha Browne Sanders, the recently fired Knicks marketing executive, against Thomas, the embattled team president, the most gripping question beyond who is telling the truth and who isn't is why any of this had to become public knowledge in the first place.What could James L. Dolan, the Garden's chairman, have possibly been thinking when he, the person with the last call as the holder of the golden checkbook, instead signed off on the dismissal of Browne Saunders after she filed a complaint within the company against Thomas? Did his high-powered lawyers really advise Dolan that Browne Sanders had no case in court and could be vanquished without negotiating a suitable severance that would, as the lawyers say, make her whole? Or was Browne Sanders another Jets stadium to spurn, another perceived infidel to slay, another chance for the son of a rich man who wanted to be a rebellious rocker to smash his toy basketball team all over the stage?
...Wedging his [David Stern's] way between James Dolan and his father, Charles, is another story. Those who have operated inside the Cablevision empire speak of a strange relationship fraught with family complexities, of the wildly unpredictable and contrarian son being granted the independence to do as he pleases with the part of the company the father has little interest in.

Even, apparently, when he misses the basket by 10 feet on what should have been a layup and winds up making everyone on the court with him look like a loser. Dolan, who for years has been sending checks to former players and coaches all over the country, is still a good bet to wind up writing a hefty one to Anucha Browne Sanders.

And what will have been the purpose of the circus that came three months early to the Garden this year, starring Thomas on the high wire and Dolan as the clown?

I suppose owning a team obliviates the need for competence. I mean, look at the Texas Rangers and GWB.

Athenae on Obama


Athenae over at First Draft has a pretty good handle on the unfunny joke that is also known Senator Barrack “One-Term” Obama. Politics in the 21st century isn't a genteel sport (if it ever was in any century), but Obama lucked out in 2004 by running against an Illinois Republican party in disarray.

First Draft - A Series of Post-Cloture Thoughts
First of all, I've been screaming about hitting them with the chair for so long, you don't need to read an open letter to Obama telling him to stop deploring the uncivil tone of politics and realize he is, in fact, a politician and should either do the job with all its indignities or, if he truly considers it beneath him, get the fuck out.

(And just between him and me, when you win the race he won in 2004, I can see where you think all it takes is statesmanship and decency to beat the GOP. What he doesn't seem to realize is that, in facing first Jack Ryan and then Alan Keyes, he wasn't running against the real GOP. He ran against the GOP's drunk uncle. He and Max Cleland should sit down and Max should explain to him what it's really like when they come after you. Maybe then he could lecture us about moral courage with some credibility. As it is, thank you for voting against cloture, Barack, and as for the rest of your career, try saying this shit behind the scenes and not to the pretty sparkly cameras, okay?)

I'd be very surprised if Obama ever lives up to his pre-election promise. Bleh.

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John Fahey

Yes, I know I've blathered about being a music snob already this year, but couldn't let an article about one of my musical heroes pass without at least mentioning it.

Dance of Death
Dance of Death album cover, scanned, ink stain-doodle and all.

The Rock Snob*s dictionary omitted mention of John Fahey for some reason. I debated throwing the book at the wall, but since David Kamp and Steven Daly do say nice things about the Flaming Lips and the Small Faces, I reconsidered.

Anyway, John Fahey should be worshiped as a god - even if you don't like his mix of dissonance, distemper and melody - because he created his own Indie record label, one of the very first, so he could record what he wanted to record without kowtowing to the musical tastes of the moment.

How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life (John Fahey)
“How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life” (a memoir by John Fahey)

Granted, this memoir might have been the basis for John Frey's bout with truthiness, but is a hell of a lot more interesting than anything vomited up by Oprah.

The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death (John Fahey)
“The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death” (John Fahey)

village voice - John Fahey by Andy Beta ...Coming to prominence in the early '60s, at the dawn of folk's re-emergence and the rise of the hippie counterculture, John Fahey revolutionized steel-string guitar playing by wedding the fingerpicked blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the structuring prin-ciples of classical composers like Sibelius and Brahms to craft something wholly American. Or as a 1959 article (included in the recent Fonotone box set) noted: “[Fahey] never fully grasped the meaning of Heidegger's angst until he heard it expressed in its supreme articulation on a 78 rpm record by Blind Willie Johnson.” Ignoring the segregation of high and low culture, Fahey found something endemic to both, creating a body of work that hangs in the halls of American genius somewhere between Coltrane and Whitman.

Fahey passed from this world some five years ago during a septuple bypass, so it's funny now that these nascent recordings he made as Blind Thomas for Fonotone, the 78 rpm label of collector Joe Bussard (think Steve Buscemi's Ghost World character times a thousand), have come back to light alongside Vanguard's release of I Am the Resurrection. A tribute album featuring indie luminaries (Sufjan Stevens, Devendra Banhart, M. Ward) pays reverent homage to the man. And why not? Fahey, aside from his astounding music, set an example with one of the earliest independent, artist-run record labels, Takoma. He released the debut albums of Leo Kottke and George Winston. Fahey also rediscovered Skip James, the malevolent Depression-era master, traversing a brutally segregated Mississippi to find him in a hospital bed; it strangely presaged Fahey's own rediscovery in a Salem, Oregon, men's center in 1994 by Spin's Byron Coley.

Soused and spiteful at shows, misunderstood by an audience wanting peace, love, and his old songs, Fahey loathed both his hippie followers and his imitators. Will Ackerman and the whole New Age neutering of Fahey's guitar style that cropped up in his wake were anathema to him; his true progeny were the tetchy alternative noisemakers, like Sonic Youth and Wilco. The tribute [album?] makes this clear, recasting his iconoclastic solo pieces with winsome arrangements from its participants. And yet reverence to the song was never his own agenda, as Fahey often disavowed his past discography outright.

I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey
“I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey” (Various Artists)

Rock Snob's Dictionary
Rock Snob's Dictionary

Dude Where's My Party

village voice > news > by Ward Sutton

Dude, Where's My Party?
Ward Sutton-Wheres my party
(click for readable version)

Damn good question, Mr. Sutton, damn good question.

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A False Balance

The phrase, fact-esque, would be an intrinsic part of any study of modern American media. Perfectly describes the phoney balance loved by pundits and talking-head blabber-dolls.

Paul Krugman: A False Balance
There's nothing bipartisan about the tale of Jack Abramoff, which is all about the use and abuse of Republican connections.

“How does one report the facts,” asked Rob Corddry on “The Daily Show,” “when the facts themselves are biased?” He explained to Jon Stewart, who played straight man, that “facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda,” and therefore can't be reported.

Mr. Corddry's parody of journalists who believe they must be “balanced” even when the truth isn't balanced continues, alas, to ring true. The most recent example is the peculiar determination of some news organizations to cast the scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff as “bipartisan.”

Let's review who Mr. Abramoff is and what he did.

Rock Snob

Had a lot of fun yesterday consuming the

Rock Snob's Dictionary

Rock Snob's Dictionary

in one sitting. Well, I did jump up a few times and add tunes to my new iTunes playlist, Rock Snobs. I guess I am bonafide, as the playlist has several days worth of material already, and I'm not done adding yet.

A few excerpts from the book at posted at snobsite.com. Fun stuff.

Haven't managed to see Cocksucker Blues nor Eat the Document, yet. Though apparently, some of the footage from Eat the Document made its way into No Direction Home

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Obama, not sure if he is a Democrat

Sen. Obama Criticizes Filibuster Tactic
To more effectively oppose Supreme Court nominees in the future, Democrats need to convince the public “their values are at stake” rather than use stalling tactics to try to thwart the president, said a senator who opposes Samuel Alito's confirmation. ... But Obama joined some Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Charles Schumer of New York, in expressing his unhappiness with the filibuster bid.

“There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that's to win elections,” Obama said

Umm, Senator Obama, I thought you were a Democrat. I haven't heard anything from you convincing me, the public, or anyone else for that matter, that my 'values are at stake.“ So, instead of wringing your hands, and half-heartedly opposing Alito, why don't you act? Are you already lining up your DLC consultant gig because you are bored of being a Senator?

Update: apparently, Atrios and Josh Marshall second this opinion.

I get very tired of Democrats using their very limited TV time to say things like ”we need to do better“ or ”we need to do a better job explaining our views to the America.“ Just do it! Start explaining! Do better!

and Josh Marshall:

Sen. Obama (D-IL) said this morning that Democrats need to focus on convincing voters that ”their values are at stake“ in cases like the Alito hearings rather than relying on procedural gambits like the filibuster.

But I'm not sure I understand why it has to be either/or.

The fundamental challenge for Democrats on the judicial front is that these debates are too drowned in technical jurisprudential debates to really resonate with the public. So I think Obama is certainly right on that count. I would add that confirmation debates like this one tend to be focused on too narrow a set of issues. There's an elemental of Mark Schmitt's 'policy literalism' in play here.

But again, why does it have to be one or the other? I don't get that.

The nomination is a sop to the president's rightwing base. The man is a rightwing ideologue. He doesn't belong on the court. There's nothing to be ashamed of in doing everything possible to prevent his being seated if there's any chance of success.

Dick Durbin, on the other hand, has been vocally and publicly present. Thanks Senator Durbin. As I've probably said before, of the two, in my opinion Durbin is far, far more effective of a Senator than the mealy-mouthed Obama.

Beer Codes deciphered

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Extremely important information about our beer - which should not be confined to Saturday WSJ readers only. I happen to have a bottle of Anchor Steam in the refrigerator: the code is 6JC. Translated - Jan 3rd, 2006. Not bad. Recently I got some Bass Ale, and haven't thrown the empty bottle out yet. 11F5 3SK. Translates into June 11th, 2005. No wonder it wasn't the best tasting Bass Ale. Not quite skunk beer, but close. I think I'm going to print the graphic, and keep it in my wallet - unfold it whenever I purchase beer. Well, maybe.

WSJ.com - The Search for Fresh Beer
To identify when bottles and cans need to be yanked from the shelves, many brewers imprint them with cryptic letters and numbers that distributors can translate. The trouble is they look more like hieroglyphics to beer drinkers, and most makers don't decipher them for consumers. But with the help of industry insiders and analysts, we cracked the codes, studying bottles purchased across the country to determine the key dates for 18 big brews.

t turns out there's some pretty old beer out there. The suspect suds reared their not-so-foamy heads at a wide variety of stores. We decoded an Anchor Steam bought in New York and found it to be 10 months old -- the same age as a Bass Ale we purchased in Salem, Ore. In Phoenix, though, we picked up a Dos Equis barely two weeks from the brewery.

Not that beer shoppers would be able to tell. Take Sapporo, a Japanese beer we purchased in Los Angeles, which was imprinted with "K1205FL" on the bottom. Lost in translation? Well, the code indicates the beer was made Oct. 12, 2005. In the case of Sapporo, the first letter represents the month of manufacture: "A" for January, "B" for February and so on, through "M" for December. (As if the system weren't complicated enough, this one, like many of these codes, has an extra twist: The month code skips over the letter "I" and uses "J" for September.) The next two digits, "12," refer to the day of the month, and the two numbers after that, "05," are the last two digits of the year.

...Why make it so complicated? Most brewers don't really want consumers to know when their beer was made. "We believe in competing on the basis of the taste of our beer, not its age," says Fritz Maytag, owner of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. The Anchor Steam brewer, which uses cryptic three-character codes like "5NV," says consumers can look for the key on the Web. "We don't go out of our way to tell everyone how old it is."

...Because temperature and motion can also affect the rate of oxidation, there's no simple answer to how long it takes a beer to go stale. Some makers, like Asahi, say their beer tastes just fine for up to a year. Sierra Nevada, on the other hand, recommends drinking it within 90 days of bottling. Most work with a range of four to six months, and few go beyond nine. Some beer-industry experts say this is especially challenging for imported beers, many of which travel to the U.S. market on ships on which cargo is not refrigerated.

Each brewery specifies when its beers should be pulled from the shelves. Most retailers, such as grocery stores and liquor stores, actually have little to do with this. The job falls to locally based distributors, which usually fall into two categories -- companies that carry Anheuser-Busch products and those that don't.

For these distributors, pulling old beers off store shelves is a big job. Makers say they require these distributors to follow strict procedures, and have their own inspectors to spot-check the work. Distribution-company employees are taught how to translate the codes into dates. Most cases of beer carry the same information that appears on individual cans and bottles, whether it's a code or an explicit date. Beers that are too old are to be removed from the shelves and destroyed.

Word cloud Tshirt


B12 Word Cloud Tshirt

Sure, why not.

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Nearly Beer o'clock


Apparently, one of my old hangouts is home to an organization called, Draught Beer Preservation Society, according to New City:

The Draught Beer Preservation Society is an open, Chicago-wide organization propagating the notion that, since the allure of tap beer draws us out of our homes and into each other's company, bars solidify a community. Critical Mass veteran John Greenfield leads this, the club's Ukrainian Village arm

from the Manifesto

Yak pobachu pyvo, ne proidu mymo.

“I will not walk past a beer, when I see it near.”

The Ukrainian Village Draught Beer Preservation Society will work to support taverns in Chicago's Ukrainian Village community. There are 29 bars in the neighborhood, liberally defined as the area bounded by Division St., Ashland Ave., Grand Ave. and Western Ave. To pursue the goal of drinking in every bar in this (roughly) square mile, the Society will meet sporadically at various watering holes.

Link via Gapers Block

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The Great Cocoa Standoff

Blommer Chocolate Factory spews chocolate for miles

The Brooklyn Pier Battle Escalates - January 27, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY Newspaper
The cocoa standoff in Brooklyn escalated into a frenzied exchange of accusations yesterday following word that the city had backed off yet another deal that would have kept $25 million worth of chocolate in New York.

Three companies have been negotiating with the city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to unload nearly 15,000 tons of cocoa beans into Brooklyn warehouses. The standoff started two weeks ago, after the Belgian ship Freeway entered New York harbor and was not given a place to deposit its cargo on the crowded Red Hook port.

Company officials said the city had offered early yesterday to let the Freeway unload its cargo onto a Red Hook pier on an emergency basis, and then use another pier at 39th Street in Sunset Park for future cocoa shipments. But last night, the president of the city's Economic Development Corporation angrily denied making that proposal, lambasting the Red Hook port operator, American Stevedoring, for incompetence

“They're not being good partners, and I don't understand why anyone would want to do business with them,” the corporation's president, Andrew Alper, said. Mr. Alper said he was “baffled” by American Stevedoring's mismanagement of its port, and accused the company of running a disinformation campaign and “squatting” on another pier that it doesn't control. The city never offered the emergency use of the Red Hook pier, Mr. Alper said, and its earlier proposal for the 39th Street pier, which won't be available for another week, remained on the table.

Meanwhile, the Stevedoring company unloaded some of the Freeway's cocoa onto one of its piers yesterday, but the owner of the cocoa, Blommer Chocolate, expressed impatience with the city and said it was ready to take the rest of the shipment out of New York. The city killed a previous deal for the company to unload its cocoa at another Red Hook pier earlier this week.

A director at Blommer, Karl Walk, said the offer of the 39th Street pier was not acceptable.

“Thirty-ninth Street is not a short-term option, and I will be moving that ship,” Mr. Walk said. He said the Freeway could sail for another East Coast port by Friday night, and that the cocoa shipments behind it would also be rerouted.

On a tangentially related note, for some reason, folks who don't live near the Blommer Chocolate factory universally adore the smell pollution. We live within a mile, and sometimes wish to smell air that doesn't reek of over-roasted chocolate. Apparently, this makes us terrorists, or 'stupid liberals', or other vitriol. Whew, got that off my chest.

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Pfizer Awaits FDA Approval for Exubera

There's a joke here, but I'm too busy (re)lining up text in InDesign to make it at the moment....

Pfizer Awaits FDA Approval for Exubera
Pfizer's shares rose in early trading in the wake of a premature announcement from the company that the FDA approved its drug Exubera, an inhaled human insulin powder.


When Reality Runs Parallel to Accusation

Selena Roberts has a few thoughts about Isiah Thomas, and his prior history with 'truth'. I would venture to say Ms. Roberts doesn't believe Isiah Thomas to be an honest man in general. For myself, I don't have enough facts about the sexual harassment case to form an opinion as to the case's merit.

Selena Roberts: When Reality Runs Parallel to Accusation - New York Times
How can Isiah Thomas cast Anucha Browne Sanders as a lying opportunist when he has been a known practitioner of deception at every whistle stop along his career?

THE ruthless strategists who routinely push dissenters over the balcony at Madison Square Garden would like you to take a leap of faith with them.

Believe the Garden variety truth, and Isiah Thomas is, as he defiantly described himself on Wednesday, a “pawn” being used for the “financial gain” of Anucha Browne Sanders. Believe their virtuous version of events and Browne Sanders's scurrilous accounts of sexual harassment and retaliation at the hands of Thomas are the vindictive rants of a fired executive.

But how can Thomas cast Browne Sanders as a lying opportunist when he has been a known practitioner of deception at every whistle-stop along his career? It was Thomas who whisked into New York in his tailored suit and Crest smile two years ago, offering this glimpse into his tactics as the new Knicks' president: I will lie if I have to.

And how can the Garden protectors of Thomas mouth workplace integrity and character without looking so karaoke? It was the Knicks' owner, James L. Dolan, who once flayed a lowly subordinate to tears for serving him a stale Diet Coke and aired his daddy issues in public when he feuded with his Cablevision pop.

The problem for Thomas and the Garden isn't Browne Sanders, but their inability to discredit the accuser when they have no credit references. They have tried to sully her, but to their profound disappointment and probable shock, she has had the gall to stand her ground.

FDA and mercury - best friends

The Tribune is polishing their Pulitzer again: more tales of FDA 'wink-and-nod' corruption and collusion with the fishing industry.

FDA tests show risk in tuna
U.S. agency finds high mercury levels in some cans and in samples of Chilean sea bass

Newly released government data provide the best evidence to date that some cans of light tuna--one of America's favorite seafoods--contain high levels of mercury.

Just how much mercury might be in a single can of tuna is unclear. That is because the FDA does not test individual cans. Instead, it removes small pieces of tissue from 12 cans and mixes the tissue together. The agency then tests the mixture, masking any extreme amounts of mercury in a single can. This is done with other fish species as well

In the FDA's recent testing, one sample of light tuna showed mercury levels of 0.72 parts per million--a high amount but still within the 1.0 legal limit. But because this result was a composite of 12 cans, it is likely that some of the individual cans had higher levels.

It is impossible to know whether one of those cans tested over the legal limit.

The FDA said it tests a mixture of cans rather than individual cans partly to save money.

“It would cost 12 times as much to test 12 separate cans and then average the data, which is what we would have to do,” said the FDA official who requested anonymity.

That methodology troubles some doctors.

“I find that incredibly disturbing,” said Jane Hightower, a San Francisco internist who treats patients with mercury-related ailments. “That is falsifying data as far as I am concerned.”

Hightower also said the FDA should do a better job of informing consumers about high mercury levels in Chilean sea bass and other fish.

“This information should be made available to the public in a user-friendly format and not buried in the depths of an Internet Web site,” she said.


The FDA also found high mercury levels in samples of Chilean sea bass, which is often sold in high-end restaurants. Previously, the FDA had tested only one sample of the fish. High levels were detected in big-eye tuna, a species sold as ahi tuna and served in sushi.

No federal warnings exist for either fish, even though the average mercury level detected in the FDA tests was above the average in albacore tuna, which the government tells pregnant women and young children to limit eating.

In all, the FDA released testing results for more than 25 kinds of fish, sampled between 2001 and 2005. The findings were not released until now partly because the analysis wasn't complete, the agency said.

While a few species, such as tuna and Chilean sea bass (also known as Patagonian toothfish), were tested frequently in the latest round of sampling, many were not. Only one catfish, one flatfish, two mahi-mahi, four crabs and seven sardines were tested, the FDA data show.

On Thursday, the agency said it would not take any action based on its newly released results, which come at a time when the FDA has been under fire for not adequately policing mercury in seafood, particularly canned light tuna. Most light tuna is made with skipjack, a relatively low-mercury species. But a Tribune investigative series recently reported that the U.S. tuna industry often uses a high-mercury species, yellowfin, to make some cans of light tuna.

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Department of No Duh

Wiretapping is topic dejour:

New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps

Americans are willing to tolerate eavesdropping without warrants, but are also concerned about civil liberties.

In a sign that public opinion about the trade-offs between national security and individual rights is nuanced and remains highly unresolved, responses to questions about the administration's eavesdropping program varied significantly depending on how the questions were worded, underlining the importance of the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms.

Yeah, no shit? So, if the poll question is worded, “Do you support wiretapping of bin Laden's personal phone”, the answer is a resounding, “but sure, officer”. And if the poll question mentions that the wiretaps might have a broader target, including lots of innocent folks with absolutely nothing to do with terrorism (or drugs, or criticizing our Incompetent-in-Chief), suddenly, not so popular. Hmmm.

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at “Americans that the government is suspicious of;” they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at “ordinary Americans.”

Does anyone who pays attention believe that the GWB assministration is smart enough, competent enough to 'aim' surveillance at 'terrorists' when they still don't have enough Arabic translators to even keep up with the data already collected?

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Department of probably useless info

As noted by Logan Browne

macosxhints - Get the most from X!

Display last-connected-iPod's serial number in iTunes... use the following command [in Terminal]:

defaults read com.apple.iPod
The plist includes information not only about the last iPod connected but all the iPods and their most recent connection dates.

Teflon chemical on EPA hit list

Conspiracy to block me from eating an omelette ever again. Though, the omelette has been around longer than teflon. How did they used to make them?

Teflon chemical on EPA hit list
Ingredient set to join lead, other pollutants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to list a toxic chemical used to make Teflon alongside such well-known persistent pollutants as mercury, lead and PCBs, signaling increasing alarm about its potential effects on human health.

EPA officials also are increasing pressure on companies to stop using the chemical, called perfluorooctanoic acid, by asking DuPont and several other corporations to voluntarily eliminate PFOA and similar substances from plant emissions and products by 2015.

Regulators still are reviewing potential health risks of such chemicals, which have been used for more than half a century with virtually no government oversight.

A top EPA official said Wednesday there is no reason for people to doubt the safety of products made with the chemicals, which are key ingredients in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, coated food wrappers, rain-repellent clothing and stain-resistant carpets and clothing.

But environmental and health regulators are concerned about PFOA because it is turning up in people and animals throughout the world. Last year, the EPA's independent science advisory board concluded PFOA should be classified as a “likely human carcinogen.”

Ever so happy that 'likely human carcinogens' have been allowed to be used for over a half century, without significant governmental oversight. The egg-in-a-strainer trick only really works with scrambled eggs, not omelets.


A President Who Can Do No Right

Lieberman has no friends 'round these parts, but even he is getting frustrated with the Incompetent-in-Chief:

Bob Herbert: A President Who Can Do No Right - New York Times
... Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat who is by no means unfriendly to the Bush crowd, said this week, “There has been a near-total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do.”

Once again the president has, in effect, flipped the bird at Congress. He's amazing. Forget such fine points as the Constitution and the separation of powers. George W. Bush does what he wants to do. He won fewer votes than Al Gore in 2000 and then governed as if he'd been elected by acclamation. He dispensed with John Kerry in 2004 by portraying himself — a man who ran and hid from the draft during Vietnam — as more of a warrior than Mr. Kerry, a decorated combat veteran of that war.

This guy is something. Remember his “Top Gun” moment aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln? And his famous taunt — “Bring 'em on” — to the insurgents in Iraq? His breathtaking arrogance is exceeded only by his incompetence. And that's the real problem. That's where you'll find the mind-boggling destructiveness of this regime, in its incompetence.

Fantasy may be in fashion. Reality may have been shoved into the shadows on Mr. Bush's watch. But the plain truth is that he is the worst president in memory, and one of the worst of all time. Many thousands of people — men, women and children — have died unnecessarily (and thousands more are suffering) because of his misguided and mishandled policies.


If anyone is interested in laughing at Lynne Cheney's cheeseball Old West lesbian novel, Sisters (notably reviewed by Gen JC Cristian, Patriot at Amazon), as mentioned in a recent MoDo column, Googling Past the Graveyard, Diana Pauls points out:

Just FYI… you can download “Sisters” for free at http://www.whitehouse.org/administration/sisters.asp ... Pass it on!!

Thanks, Diana - I will, and am!

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Crime down, mostly

I could resort to wry humor, or whine, but really, what's the point.

Chicago crime dropped in 2005
Reported crime in Chicago fell in every category except burglary, according to final police statistics for 2005 released Tuesday.

Numbers for the most serious crimes were about the same as 2004, with 447 murders in 2005 and 448 the year before. Aggravated batteries, a category that includes non-fatal shootings, was down 2.4 percent.

Only burglary increased—by 3.1 percent.

Police Supt. Philip Cline said he hopes a new grant-funded program to use palm-print scanners will increase the department's ability to catch burglars.

The department received a $675,000 grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority and a $225,000 matching grant from the city to buy 35 scanners to create a palm-print database, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Of the prints left at crime scenes, 30 percent are palm prints, she said.

Actually, there was a big palm print on the passenger side of our car when the windows were smashed. Of course, multiple phone calls to the Chicago Police were not enough to actually get somebody to show up to take a look. After about a week, we gave up. I guess catching repeat offenders isn't really very interesting to the CPD, especially because we burned a DVD of the guy entering our building and all.

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Peja for Artest consumation


From my venerable archives (11/14/04)

Hmm, the Kings need to shake something up, obviously, and Ron Artest is a quality player, but seems a little 'tightly wound' to fit in to the vaunted (or previously vaunted anyway) Kings clique. On the other hand, Brad Miller and Artest played together on the Chicago Bulls for a season or two, and were traded to Indiana together, so who knows? Seems like Miller and Artest were good friends. Could be interesting.

From the Detroit FreePress: Artest is ridiculous, but so was ESPN - 11/14/04:
The Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings have been talking about a straight-up Artest for Peja Stojakovic trade. Stojakovic, unhappy and feeling alienated by his teammates in Sacramento, is merely going through the motions, averaging 13 points. The Kings are in the same position as the Pacers. They know they are going to have to trade one of their All-Star players.

Expect this trade to happen fairly soon.

Took the Pacers a while (over a year), but apparently the deal has gone down today.

Stojakovic has been 'mailing it in' nearly all year, for whatever reason (missing Vlade Divac's jokes, injured, whatever), so I'm not surprised this trade happened (if it in fact does happen). I had thought Adelman would lose his job first though.

Or not. Terry Porter just mentioned in a live interview that perhaps Ron Artest aka Tru Warior (sic) doesn't want to play in Sacramento because they have too free-flowing of an offense. Negotiations continue however. Marty Burns concurs.

But then, of course, it turns out the agent of Ron Artest (Mark Stevens) was the road block, and after consulting directly with Artest, and much fulmination in the sports media/sports blogs, the deal was consummated with Cohibas for all.

Patriotism as marketing tool


Patriotism doesn't really apply anyway - all those years of screwing workers out of pay, pension, job security, health care, while shifting around production to other countries to avoid paying taxes - Americans remember that as well. Waving a flag when your business is in trouble is no solution.

Patriotism doesn't sell cars today

When domestic automakers had their backs to the wall 25 years ago, they could count on a “Buy American” sentiment to keep some customers from defecting to fuel-efficient foreign cars.
For one thing, it isn't even clear anymore what “Buy American” means when it comes to cars and trucks. Many of those new models from Toyota and others are built in places like Kentucky, Indiana and Alabama, while the Chevrolet Aveo is imported from South Korea. Meanwhile, some Dodge Ram pick-ups are built in Mexico. Dodge, of course, is a domestic brand, but it's owned by Germany-based DaimlerChrysler.

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Soon to be scrubbed


Does anyone believe that a version of a report that criticizes the never-wrong White House will ever be released? Me either. I'd wager a rather large sum that by the time this report is finally officially made available, the Iraq reconstruction program will have somehow been better executed than the Marshall Plan, and everyone will get cold-fusion generators in their basement swimming rooms. Or something.

Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled, U.S. Report Finds

The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft.

The document, which begins with the secret prewar planning for reconstruction and touches on nearly every phase of the program through 2005, was assembled by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and debated last month in a closed forum by roughly two dozen experts from outside the office.

and, wait for it....

“It's incomplete,” said a spokesman for the inspector general's office, Jim Mitchell. “It could change significantly before it is finally published.”

Worst President Ever

(image courtesy of freewayblogger.com/

Washington Post

Looks like the Washington Post has outsourced their comments to this page.

Open Letter to the Washington Post
Since the Washington Post won't reliably keep their blog comments open, we have created this web site for individuals to comment on the work of the Post.

Interesting technological development - we'll be paying attention as to how it all plays out.

Thanks to Firedoglake for fighting the good fight.

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The Cellar Door Sessions


New Miles Davis release, from his love-it/hate-it electric funk years. Personally, in certain, err, introspective moods, I like the style a lot. If your mind can wrap around polyrhythmic layers of sound, you might like it too.

village voice > music > Miles Davis's The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 by Francis Davis
First the arithmetic: six complete sets on as many discs, recorded over four nights at a D.C. jazz club in December 1970, bits and pieces previously released in altered form on Live-Evil. Featuring Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, and John McLaughlin (last two discs only), The Cellar Door Sessions is like a companion volume to Live at the Fillmore East from the previous March—but this time it was a jazz audience that must have been wondering what the hell was going on.

The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 Miles Davis
“The Cellar Door Sessions 1970” (Miles Davis)

a little rich for my blood, but we'll see how February's budget goes. A parenthetical note:

Bitches Brew
Bitches Brew

had a direct influence upon me finally purchasing a CD player. I was browsing through the used album selection at the great Waterloo Records' Vinyl Annex, and overheard two employees talking. One said to the other, “Over the weekend, I bought a 6 CD changer, put in Bitches Brew, hit randomization and repeat, and dropped acid. Man, that music just crawled out of the wall. Sometimes, we'd forgot it was even on, and then: Bam!!”

I got my first CD player soon after, about 10 years after everyone else.

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Favorite music 2005

Music I liked, in no particular order, from no particular time period, other than 'added to library in 2005'.

High Court Won't Hear BlackBerry Appeal

Ru-roh. Doesn't look good for our crackberry....

High Court Won't Hear BlackBerry Appeal

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from the maker of the BlackBerry in the long-running battle over patents for the wildly popular, handheld wireless e-mail device.

The high court's refusal to hear Canada-based Research In Motion Ltd.'s appeal means that a trial judge in Richmond, Va., could impose an injunction against the company and block BlackBerry use among many of its owners in the United States.


attorney Herbert L. Fenster, who represents RIM, said the company is fighting the injunction. But he said an injunction would not end BlackBerry use among at least 1 million of its 3 million users in the United States.

Fenster said he believes federal law prohibits U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer from cutting off BlackBerry service to federal, state and local government users and others who rely on the devices to communicate during a public emergency.

Spencer has set a Feb. 1 deadline for filings on the injunction issue.
The case is RIM v. NTP, 05-763

some background on the novel patent claim here

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Kobe Bryant


Ok, Kobe Bryant is an amazing player, no doubt. Watched the second half of the game where Bryant scored 81 points, albeit against a lottery-bound team.

One caveat: while 81 points is apparently second best in NBA history (according to the game-side announcers - I haven't found a list yet), Elgin Baylor didn't have the luxury of the three point shot when he scored 71 points (nor did Wilt Chamberlain for that matter). Pistol Pete Maravich, for instance, seemed like he probably would have scored more than 68 points if the three point shot existed.

Up until the last 2 or 3 minutes of the game, the Raptors were still trying to play defense, Bryant was just that good

Kobe Bryant as the White Witch

Coffee - the bean side

Intelligentsia Coffee is trying to change the lives of coffee farmers, for the better. Making $6,000 is a good year, according to Snr. Arauz - the difference between $1 a pound and $1.49 a pound doesn't seem like much to me, apparently it is.

I really want to go on the tour of their coffee roasting factory in the West Loop.

The grande bazaar:
Coffee buyer Geoff Watts travels the globe looking for a few good beans

The taste on Geoff Watts' tongue was chocolate with a hint of tangerine, very sweet with a full body and “nice acidity.” In other words, delicious. He surveyed the two dozen work-calloused men and women around him and wondered who had put those flavors in the coffee he sniffed, sipped and rated on his clipboard that morning as if it were fine wine.

For the bean buyer from Chicago's Intelligentsia coffee roasters, the mission was to coax these Nicaraguan farmers into producing something he travels the world to find-that consistently excellent cup.

Most of the growers had never tasted their own coffee, which is still unprocessed and unroasted when trucked down the hill from their Las Brumas cooperative. Until recently, they had little idea where it went, who was drinking it, how good it was or how much people in big-city coffeehouses were paying for it.

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I love coffee


I mean, I really love coffee, but even I think buying a $450 coffee grinder for home use is a little excessive.

Wake up, get taste of coffee lovers' nirvana
The coffee situation at my house got out of control gradually. ... Thankfully, the Internet cured it. There I stumbled across a caffeine lover's nirvana, an encyclopedic site called CoffeeGeek.com. It listed hundreds of reviews of espresso machines, grinders and accessories. A comprehensive milk-frothing guide offered tips that start at the cow. (“The feed of the cow, the type of the cow, the state of lactation, etc.,” would result in subtle yet potentially noticeable changes in the foam's quality.)

By the time I got to the espresso glossary, which defined a portafilter sneeze as “the instant release of pressure in the brewhead,” which occurs on a pump and piston machine that doesn't have a pressure release system, I knew that here I would find the definitive answer to any coffee query.

I phoned Mark Prince, the site's founder and most prolific reviewer, to learn which espresso machine I should buy as a backup. But he promptly persuaded me to buy a grinder instead.

“A good grinder is far more important, but people always skimp on it,” Prince said. “I've made far better espresso with a $300 grinder and a $250 espresso machine than with a $50 grinder and a $2,000 espresso machine.”

and I thought everyone knew to grind their own beans, right before brewing your nectar:

“What's so important about having the right grinder?” I asked.

“When you grind beans, within the first minute they lose roughly 80 percent of the CO2 stored inside, and CO2 is one of the major flavor transporters between coffee and the cup,” Prince said. “The CO2 released inside of ground coffee will carry the oils and aromatics right inside the cup.”

IntelligentsiaCoffee.com is the best; we buy it too.

His grinder recommendations (be warned, most of these are counter-space hogs):

- The Bodum Antigua ($69.99 at WholeLatteLove.com) is the cheapest grinder he recommends, better-suited to grinding for a press pot because “the grind is too inconsistent for espresso.”

“Bodum 5671-57USA Antigua Burr Grinder, Matte Chrome Finish” (Bodum)

- Solis makes three good grinders at higher prices, including the Maestro Classic ($99 at Kitchen-Universe.com and “a good all-around grinder to even use for espresso”), the Maestro Plus ($149 at AabreeCoffee.com and “a little better built, with a weighted base and with more grind settings”) and the Baratza Virtuoso ($199 at 1st-Line.com, it has “a DC motor for better torque and a much beefier burr set”).

Solis Crema Maestro Classic Coffee Grinder
“Solis Crema Maestro Classic Coffee Grinder” (Solis Crema)

Maestro Plus Conical Burr Coffee Grinder Red
“Maestro Plus Conical Burr Coffee Grinder Red” (Solis)

- The Rancilio Rocky is “legendary in terms of home espresso grinders, one of the first consumer-built grinders that uses commercial parts,” he said. “It's like buying a Viking stove for your home.” It costs $295 at 1stInCoffee.com.

Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder
“Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder” (Rancilio)

- The Mazzer Mini is “the epitome of home espresso grinders, looks beautiful, built like a tank and has a stepless grind adjustment that no other brand offers at that price point.” It costs $429 at 1st-Line.com.

“Mini Mazzer -Timer” (Vaneli's Espresso Machines)

Given our affectations, my husband and I probably would have gravitated immediately to the Mazzer Mini even if Prince had not described it, after “a very long-term evaluation,” as “the best possible grinder for home espresso.” A tape measure determined the Mini would fit under our cupboards with half an inch of headroom to spare.

After ordering the grinder from 1st-Line.com (free two-day shipping is standard), I ordered Black Cat espresso beans from IntelligentsiaCoffee.com, which ships beans right after they have been roasted.

(article apparently from the NYT, but I couldn't find it online, or in my dead tree edition, while I drank my morning pot of espresso)

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Gold digging part three

Third article this week about the changing landscape of media. I have enough grey in my hair that nobody would mistake me for a 20 year old, but I think this phenomena applies to a wider swath of the population as well. Also advertising is so pervasive that any method for removing some of it is welcomed (Tivo, web ad blockers, using iPods instead of commercial radio, yadda yadda). Simply identifying where to reach potential consumers isn't enough - you have to have compelling content.


A Generation Serves Notice: It's a Moving Target
Many people in their 20's are abandoning traditional media channels, posing a challenge to marketers trying to reach them.

...Advertisers and media and technology companies, mindful that young consumers have migrated away from the traditional carriers of their messages, have begun to find new ways to reach them. They are creating advertising and short videos for mobile phones, for instance, cell networks with dedicated game channels, and $1.99 TV programs to download to iPods and PC's.

And while the emerging generation's deftness with technology is a given, researchers say the most potent byproduct may be the feedback factor, which only accelerates the cycles of what's hot and what's over.

“We think that the single largest differentiator in this generation from previous generations is the social network that is people's lives, the part of it that technology enables,” said Jack McKenzie, a senior vice president at Frank N. Magid Associates, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the news media and entertainment industries.

“What's hard to measure, and what we're trying to measure,” Mr. McKenzie continued, “is the impact of groupthink, of group mentality, and the tendency of what we might call the democratization of social interaction and how that changes this generation's relationship with almost everything they come in contact with.”

Among those with access to the Internet, for instance, e-mail services are as likely to be used by teenagers (89 percent) as by retirees (90 percent), according to Pew researchers. Creating a blog is another matter. Roughly 40 percent of teenage and 20-something Internet users do so, but just 9 percent of 30-somethings. Nearly 80 percent of online teenagers and adults 28 and younger report regularly visiting blogs, compared with just 30 percent of adults 29 to 40. About 44 percent of that older group sends text messages by cellphone, compared with 60 percent of the younger group.

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Googling Past the Graveyard


MoDo is batting .500 this week. Free advice to Ms. Dowd, stop with the Gore bashing already. It wasn't very funny when Gore was actually in power, and now it is just a waste of your time. There's plenty to write about the current gang, like in today's column....

MAUREEN DOWD Googling Past the Graveyard - New York Times
I don't like the thought of Dick Cheney ogling my Googling.
Because what I'm Googling, of course, is Dick Cheney. I have to constantly monitor how Vice Voyeur is pushing the federal government to constantly monitor millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls, e-mail notes and Internet searches.
If you want to know why the Grim Peeper is willing to turn this country into a police state to take his version of democracy to other countries, just do a Google search under “antiterrorism,” “government snooping,” “overreaching” and “fruitcake.”
It was hard to know which story yesterday was scarier: Osama bin Laden, still alive and taunting the U.S., or the Justice Department's trying to force Google to turn over a suspiciously broad array of information on millions of users' searches and Web addresses, supposedly to investigate online crime involving pornography.

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My favorite record so far this year is the funky, over amplified thumb piano record by Konono No. 1. Almost reminds me of Maxwell Street in its prime, but more melodic, and not really related to blues. Quite, quite good.


I'm copping some of Steve Leggett's Allmusic review, because it's beer o'clock, and I'm feeling lazy, even while I'm dancing in my chair.

This amazing record is the product of utility, coincidence, and accidental discovery as much as it is a product of academic deliberation, and it manages to sound old and traditional even as it is refreshingly (even radically) new and avant-garde. Konono No. 1 was formed in the 1980s by a group of Bazombo musicians, dancers, and singers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to play traditional likembe (thumb piano) music in the streets. They soon discovered, though, that they needed amplification to be heard and -- this is where the story of this album really begins -- they took a DIY and utilitarian approach by building their own amplification systems out of junked car parts, magnets, and other flotsam. Once assembled, the system produced a huge hum that Konono No. 1 embraced as part of the sound of the group. At the center of everything were three amped-up thumb pianos tuned to three different registers, and coupled with all manner of pots, pans, whistles, and brake drum snares for percussion and with the vocals blasting through megaphones, all embedded in the huge buzz and hum of the homemade PA system, the group accidentally created a sound that was at once both ancient and traditional and yet eerily akin to experimental 21st century electronica. ... it sounds wonderfully live and immediate, as if the dozen members of the group were standing on a busy street corner like some Congolese version of a second-line Mardi Gras band, only with thumb pianos instead of horns. Musical themes emerge and reemerge in the various tracks, and what sounds initially chaotic and random is revealed to be nothing of the sort, giving the whole album the feel of a ragged, joyous suite. Part traditional, part African rhumba, part smart avant-garde electronica, Congotronics is the sound of an urban junkyard band simultaneously weaving the past and the future into one amazingly coherent structure, and not only that, you can dance to it.

If you aren't convinced yet, here's the Amazon review:

Here's truly remarkable music from a streetcorner band that hails from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. “Discovered” by awesome Dutch avant-punk act the Ex during a tour in the embattled region, Konono #1 makes hypnotic, beautiful, heavily rhythmic dance music with an often heavily-distorted electric thumb piano as the lead instrument. Fans of Fela and the Ethiopiques discs will dig this, as will fans of the Notwist, Prefuse 73 and Aphex Twin. Thankfully, Vincent Kenis' production allows the music to sound truly live, with plenty of distortion, frenzied call and response, and shambling percussion. Most of the instruments (including the twelve-piece group's renowned sound system itself) were scrounged ingeniously from scraps while microphones were carved from wood, so it's really important that the rough edges do show through. That's not to say there isn't inventive grace throughout, just that it's rad there's no candy-coated Daniel Lanois-type sheen here. In fact, it sounds like the whole studio was dancing up and down while making this awesome document.


NBA Salaries

2005-06 NBA Team Salaries

The Chicago Bulls organization is either doing something right, or something extremely wrong: according to this list, the notoriously frugal LA Clippers have a higher payroll than the Bulls. In fact, only Atlanta, New Orleans/Oklahoma, and the expansion franchise Charlotte Bobcats have lower team salaries than Chicago. Now, nobody has ever accused me of being an expert in Salary Capology, but sounds like Reisendorf will have a few pennies available this summer or next. And that's even factoring in overpaying Tyson Chandler, and the $14 million wasted on perennial under-achiever and fugazi-wanna-be Tim Thomas - who isn't even with the team.

Tim Thomas is making $14 million this season for the Chicago Bulls. If he never makes another shot, never grabs another rebound, even if he never suits up for another game. And considering Bulls GM John Paxson essentially told him to stay away from the team and just worry about cashing checks the rest of the year, there’s a pretty good chance his season stat line will end just like this: 3 games, 4.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 37.5% shooting.

Or not: maybe Reisendorf took Sterling's seminar - How to Avoid Ever Spending Much Money on Your Sports Franchise, Yet Remain Profitable, as advertised on late night infomercials on NBA-TV?

(thanks to Detroit Bad Boys for pointing out the salary page)

Arrested Development

We don't subscribe to Showtime, but we would make that phone call a second or two after any announcement about Arrested Development being added to Showtime's lineup.

Television Article | Reuters.com
Showtime president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt confirmed recent reports that Showtime was in negotiations with producer 20th Century Fox Television to pick up the low-rated Fox comedy but warned that no deal has been reached.

“I always thought it was a better fit for a cable network than a broadcast network,” Greenblatt said of “Arrested.” “It really does fit in with a lot of things that we're doing.”

While Greenblatt declined to get into the specifics of the negotiations, he noted that one crucial deal point hinged on the involvement of Mitch Hurwitz, creator and executive producer of “Arrested.” Hurwitz has not decided whether he wants to continue working on the show given, as Greenblatt put it, the “emotional roller coaster” the series has been during its three-year run.


Small benefits

I may not have a 401(k) or a pension, but glad I don't have to commute today!

Snow Globs

Chicago Tribune | Incoming storm's greatest snow risk: 6-10 hours Friday night
Friday night's fast moving storm presents forecasters with real challenges while threatening January's first significant Chicago snowfall. Above-freezing temperatures as precipitation begins late Friday afternoon are likely to promote rain initially. But, it's a situation likely to change quickly as the atmosphere cools. The area may ultimately be subjected to as many as 10 hours of snowfall. Since temperatures in the lower atmosphere will hover at or just above freezing during the storm's “snow phase”, a very wet breed of snowflake is likely. Flakes such as this often adhere to others as they fall. The combined flakes which result can grow quite large. Computer projected storm “dynamics”--those aspects of the system which create lift and cool moist air to produce clouds and precipitation-- appear likely to be strongest for nearly 6 hours--commencing near 6 p.m. and continuing just past midnight (though flakes may continue falling until 3 or 4 a.m.). A series of computer precipitation projections averages 0.33“ over the city, enough to produce 2-4” of snow.

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More Gold Prospectors

More on the growing confluence of large companies and blogs, as a follow up to an earlier thought.

Advertising: Science Blogs as a Vehicle for Upscale Ads
A new blog network from the science publisher Seed Media Group is a sign of growing interest in using new media for an old purpose: selling.

Seed Media, which produces science publications in print and online, is seeking to broaden its audience - and its appeal to advertisers - by introducing on Monday a network of blogs, or Web journals, devoted to science and science-related subjects. The network is to be made available on a Web site, scienceblogs.com, that is now operating in beta, or test, mode.

The Web site will initially bring together 15 blogs bearing names like Adventures in Ethics and Science, Cognitive Daily, Living the Scientific Life and Stranger Fruit.

Seed Media will sell advertising on scienceblogs.com as it does in its magazine, Seed, which is published every other month, and on its Web site (seedmagazine.com). The idea is to not so much to carry ads for beakers, test tubes and centrifuges as to attract ads from marketers wanting to reach bright, curious consumers who buy products like automobiles, books, cellphones, computers, liquor, music and watches.

The blog network is a sign of the growing interest among media companies and advertisers in using new media for an old purpose: selling.

and my friend Eliza gets quoted:

“This intersection between science and culture is something we've been very interested in for clients at our New York office such as Pfizer, Unilever and Estée Lauder,” said Pilar Cortizo, the planning director at JWT New York, which is part of the JWT unit of the WPP Group. JWT New York and Seed Media are collaborating on a study exploring the relationship between consumers and science.

The research has identified about 20 million Americans, 7 percent of the population, who are labeled in the study as “Leonardos,” named after da Vinci for their avid, Renaissance-style interest in science as well as subjects like art and politics.

Leonardos are mostly male, in their 30's and middle to upper class, said Eliza Esquivel, a planner at JWT New York who is working with Ms. Cortizo on the study.

One big difference between then [1970's and 1980's] and now is the increasing pervasiveness of technology in everyday life, Ms. Esquivel said, a trend that leads people “to feel more than ever they understand a bit more about science” and towant [sic] to learn even more about it. That can be seen in an announcement yesterday by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. that a commercial it will run during Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5 will be devoted to a hybrid version of the 2007 Camry.

Another important finding from the survey, Ms. Esquivel said, is that consumers say they “want to be more involved with how products are made, and want to know more about ingredients and how things are packaged and advertised.”


Anti-competitive behavior

From a Rupert Murdoch Company? how could that be?

Crain's Detroit Business: Valassis vs. News America
Valassis Communications Inc. filed suit in federal court Wednesday alleging various antitrust practices by its No. 1 rival, News America Marketing Group of New York City.

The suit alleges that News America threatened to raise prices to manufacturers on in-store coupons and advertising unless they also agreed to exclusive contracts to use News America for newspaper-insert coupons.

...Valassis claims it is illegal for News America to use pricing on one line of the coupon business to get customers to agree to contracts on the other line.

Valassis also claims News America has offered contracts for the freestanding newspaper inserts at below cost, “with the intent of driving Valassis, their only significant competitor in the FSI market, out of the FSI market.”

In November 2004, Valassis (NYSE: VCI) disclosed that the Federal Trade Commission was investigating it for “unfair methods of competition or unfair acts and practices.” That investigation is ongoing, said Sherry Lauderback, Valassis' director of investor relations and communications.
The brief in the case begins with a description of a sales meeting led by Paul Carlucci, News America’s chairman and CEO. That description was used as the opening of a profile of News America on Forbes.com on Oct. 31.

Carlucci showed a clip from the film

The Untouchables

The Untouchables

where Al Capone beats a man to death with a baseball bat. “This message is obvious and irrefutable,” said the Valassis suit. “The News’ employees will operate in the business world with unbridled aggression.

”The selected scene is a perfect metaphor for the business practices both expected and in fact being employed by the News’ defendants.“

Phone and e-mail messages to Laura Richards, News America’s vice president of marketing, have not been returned.

...News America recorded $1.1 billion in sales for the year ended that June 30, up 9 percent, and is one of the most profitable pieces of Murdoch’s $24 billion media conglomerate.

In October 2004, another in-store marketer, New Jersey-based FLOORgraphics Inc., filed a federal suit in New Jersey alleging that News America offered to pay retailers not to do business with the company [FLOORgraphics].

, such as Safeway and Winn-Dixie.

This suit we've heard of. Note: we personally know employees of all three of these companies.

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Wilson Pickett Dies

Wilson Pickett Dies of Heart Attack at 64
Wilson Pickett, the soul pioneer best known for the fiery hits “Mustang Sally” and “In The Midnight Hour,” died of a heart attack Thursday in a Reston, Va., hospital, according to his management company. He was 64.

I can't say I was the biggest

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett

fan, having only 4 Pickett songs, plus the Commitments cover version of Mustang Sally, in my iTunes library, but still - the man could sing. I mean, really sing, and not in some fake, over-dubbed pansy-ass manner.

Note to self, buy more Wilson Pickett songs!

NYT obit

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There's Gold in them thar hills

I haven't really read much about BuzzMetrics or Intelliseek, but it doesn't surprise me that GM, P&G and the like are becoming more interested in monitoring blogs, people who blog, topics mentioned on blogs, yadda yadda. Quantifying is the first step in shaping/controlling/making a buck off of whatever new media is created.

Blog Tracking Services Agree to Join Forces - New York Times
Two services that track the readership of blogs and other forms of consumer-generated media for clients like General Motors, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble are joining forces.

BuzzMetrics in New York, partly owned by VNU, is acquiring Intelliseek in Cincinnati for undisclosed terms. The combined company will be 50.1 percent owned by VNU, which also owns companies like Nielsen Media Research, and will operate under the Nielsen BuzzMetrics name with offices in Cincinnati and New York.Jonathan Carson, chief executive at BuzzMetrics, will continue in that post at Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Mike Nazzaro, president and chief executive at Intelliseek, will be president and chief operating officer at Nielsen BuzzMetrics. The acquisition was announced after a consortium of investment firms made an $8.9 billion buyout offer for VNU.

BuzzMetrics says this about themselves:

BuzzMetrics transforms the incredible mass of consumer word of mouth into actionable research findings and strategic plans — giving you precision-guided tools to help meet your business and brand goals.

For years it’s been clear that person-to-person opinion sharing impacts consumer behavior more dramatically than either editorial or advertising. But word of mouth has historically remained a fuzzy medium – difficult for businesses to reliably capture or deploy.

With millions of people now flocking online to share their experiences, everything has changed. The conversations people have – on message boards, listservs, blogs and chat rooms – represent the largest collection of consumer insight that has ever existed. And because these conversations happen online, where they are recorded and archived, we can help you listen in and participate.

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Albertson's Bidders Revive Deal Talk

Business briefs: As we heard from an in-store vendor earlier this week, the Albertson's deal is back in play again.

Albertson's Bidders Revive Deal Talk
Albertson's was sent a fresh bid from a private-equity group and Supervalu, with a new structure aimed at easing antitrust worries.

Left for dead just three weeks ago, a $9.6 billion deal to purchase grocery chain Albertson's Inc. has been revived, according to people familiar with the matter.

A consortium of private-equity investors and supermarket chain Supervalu Inc. have submitted a new bid to the board of the nation's second-largest traditional grocery-store chain by revenue, according to these people. It includes a new structure designed to lessen antitrust worries, which had derailed a deal that was just hours away from completion in December. The new offer for the Boise, Idaho, retailer is valued a few cents above $26 a share.
...Under the deal expected in December, drugstore chain CVS Corp. was going to buy Albertson's pharmacy business for as much as $4 billion; a group led by private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP and Kimco Realty Corp. was going to buy groups of poorly performing Albertson's stores for the value of their real estate; and Supervalu was going to swap stock and cash for hundreds of Albertson's better-performing stores, including its Jewel stores in the Chicago area.

Just days before Christmas, the deal broke down in part over last-minute disagreements as to who would shoulder responsibility if regulators tried to block the deal because of antitrust concerns, said people familiar with the matter. One of the concerns was the overlap between Albertson's Chicago Jewel stores and Supervalu's grocery stores there, where Supervalu operates under the Cub banner.
... Supervalu is now offering to sell its own Chicago stores to Cerberus and operate the Albertson's stores, people familiar with the matter said. The buyout consortium is also planning to pay slightly above $26 per Albertson's share. ... CVS would keep its previous role in the plan.

Yes, I bet Supervalu would love to exchange the 200+ Jewel-Osco store for the 15 Cub stores.

A deal would also transform Supervalu from a largely regional grocery retailer into a much larger national grocery player. The Eden Prairie, Minn., wholesaler and retailer is the nation's eighth-largest food seller by sales, according to a Supermarket News rating based on 2004 sales.

Supervalu has become one of the nation's most successful grocery chains by opening small-box stores stocked with lots of store-branded goods that are priced even cheaper than food at Wal-Mart. Albertson's has tried to imitate that concept without much success.

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Note to self

Wednesday nights aren't really the best days to drink Ketel One and fresh-squeezed citrus juice, even though that is a delicious combination. There's a lot of work to be done today ( I just made a list - almost 20 items pending), Thursday, and I'd rather not even get out of bed. You'd think I would know my body's limits by now....



Who Will Stand Up for the Constitution?

Bob Herbert wonders why Bush the lesser hasn't been arrested yet

Bob Herbert: Who Will Stand Up for the Constitution?
Why wouldn't we expect the administration to deceive the public about the illegal spying of the National Security Agency?

Yoosdabee, the Rethuglicans were all for 'rule of law'....

Whole Foods on North Ave

The parking lot for this Whole Foods location (which is the closest to us, unless you count the mini-store on Huron, or the soon-to-be-store on Roosevelt, not scheduled to open until 2007) frequently gets super crowded. I welcome a move to better digs. I haven't yet been to the new (there was a recently built flagship store on Lamar and 6th, but I guess it wasn't swanky enough, and has been replaced) flagship store in Austin as I skipped going home for the holidays this year (work overload).

As Crain'sCrain's Chicago Business
Bigger Whole Foods near North-ClybournWhole Foods plans to open what could be one of its biggest stores in the U.S. in the shopping district at North and Clybourn avenues, people familiar with the situation say. The Texas-based grocer has been negotiating with owners of two properties on the west side of Kingsbury Street just south of North Avenue, where it would build an 80,000-square-foot store, roughly the same size as its Austin, Texas, flagship. “We're always looking for quality locations,” a Whole Foods spokesman says, declining to confirm plans for the site.

I feel a certain kinship with Whole Foods as we both arrived in Austin in the same year (1982).

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Easy 100 bucks

As noted by Tom Tomorrow, idiot conservatives are apparently offering $100 to UCLA students if students rat out their professors as being 'radical', which probably translates as meaning a professor mentioning something about Bush being a moron.

UCLA Alumni Group Is Tracking 'Radical' Faculty - Los Angeles Times
A fledgling alumni group headed by a former campus Republican leader is offering students payments of up to $100 per class to provide information on instructors who are “abusive, one-sided or off-topic” in advocating political ideologies.

The year-old Bruin Alumni Assn. says its “Exposing UCLA's Radical Professors” initiative takes aim at faculty “actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom, whether or not the commentary is relevant to the class topic.” ...it has named an initial “Dirty 30” of teachers it identifies with left-wing or liberal causes.

Oh, I wish I was in school again: I would report every professor I ever had, especially the right-winger ones. Why not? If the Bruin Alumni gets inundated with so many reports, phoney or not, that it cannot even process them all, perhaps this inane idea will die a quick, painful death.

Update, Tom is on the case:
The Young Republican who’s running a witch hunt to expose the rampant liberalism of the UCLA faculty has a website, here. His email address is bruinalumni@bruinalumni.com

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Netflix Hires Former US Postmaster


Netflix Hires Former US Postmaster
Netflix named a former postmaster general, William Henderson, as chief operations officer. He replaces Tom Dillon, who will retire in April.

Netflix, Los Gatos, Calif., said his experience with large volumes of mail was one of the reasons why he was chosen.

no word on whether this will decrease the number of 'damaged in transit' Netflix discs.


Press releases

(test post - to be deleted).

Press Releases may not be of the same use as previously, but they certainly exist in an altered environment. However, if you do text searches on phrases from press releases, you will find them on various blogs. And as long as the traditional media uses press releases as the basis of stories, there will be a need for PR. Some companies release them on RSS enabled feeds (like Apple, for instance) so as to get wider audiences.

From boingboing:

R. Crumb's “The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick”

Crumbs Dick

Larry Carlson says: “Robert Crumb did a feature about Philip Dick's ”Valis“ experience, published in Weirdo comic #17 from summer, 1986.

You will find all 8 pages of this story here. The file sizes are rather large (120-140K each) so that the text is readable and the detail visible.” (Note: I highly recommend that you order Weirdo #17 from the publisher, Last Gasp. It's only $3.95. All 28 issues of Weirdo are terrific -- it's where I first learned about The Church of the Subgenius and Stanislav Szukalski, too.)

Cool stuff. It has been a few years since I've read



but I recall it being quite a trip. I also had a book of PKD's so-called exegesis, where he analyzed, rambled and philosophized his experiences in great detail. Foolishly, I lent this to someone, and never got it back. Now it lists for $75 bucks, used. Youch.

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Umm no comment

NEWS of the WEIRD - Current News
With an Oakland Tribune reporter and 20 people looking on in November in a parking lot in Fremont, Calif., Tu Jin-Sheng, 50, “grandmaster” in one of the Chinese arts of Qigong, pulled a rental truck several yards using only a piece of fabric tied to the base of his genitals. Jin-Sheng is supposedly a leader of the branch of Qigong known as “Iron Crotch,” whose 60,000 adherents worldwide believe that strengthening the genitals increases energy. To warm up for the pull, Jin-Sheng had an assistant kick him hard between the legs. [Oakland Tribune, 11-23-05]

Ok, one note: D studied Qigong for a while, and a close friend of ours is a Qigong instructor. However, I've never heard of the school of Iron Crotch, but then again there are several hundred styles of Qigong to choose from.

my friend writes that her partner:

...knows of both Senior Crotch and Son of Iron Crotch. There was an article about the son in the last issue of “Kung Fu” magazine... There have been many new forms introduced the last 3 decades. My favorite is XMA the musical form that combines break dancing and Capoeira with Wushu. Progress.

Our MBA President

Yet again, our so-called MBA President (Harvard and Yale educated) has another program/initiative that was incompetently handled, and yet nobody was fired. Seems to be a theme: gross incompetence of the Bush White House, and no penalty for failure.

Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends
A steady stream of personal information sent by the N.S.A. to the F.B.I. often led to innocent Americans, officials say. In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.
But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

“We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed,” said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. “After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration.

Several of the law enforcement officials acknowledged that they might not know of arrests or intelligence activities overseas that grew out of the domestic spying program. And because the program was a closely guarded secret, its role in specific cases may have been disguised or hidden even from key investigators.

Still, the comments on the N.S.A. program from the law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, many of them high level, are the first indication that the program was viewed with skepticism by key figures at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for disrupting plots and investigating terrorism on American soil.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. It is coming under scrutiny next month in hearings on Capitol Hill, which were planned after members of Congress raised questions about the legality of the eavesdropping. The program was disclosed in December by The New York Times.

The law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said the program had uncovered no active Qaeda networks inside the United States planning attacks. ”There were no imminent plots - not inside the United States,“ the former F.B.I. official said

Zero is a number.

Update: the ReddHedd has more swipes at our incompetent-in-chief and minions at Firedoglake

Meetings are Bad For You

Jeez, no kidding. The amount of time spent in meetings is inversely related to productive moments.

Slashdot notes:

Meetings are Bad For You

“Though this is obvious to most of us, your PHB's might benefit from knowing that meetings are bad for you. Two psychologists have found evidence that the number of and the time spent in meetings has a detrimental effect on mood. ”...a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found“, write the authors after conducting a diary study.

more from the
Guardian UK

Luong and Rogelberg used those and other discoveries as a basis for their own innovatively broad theory.

They devised a pair of hypotheses, educatedly guessing that:

1. The more meetings one has to attend, the greater the negative effects; and

2. The more time one spends in meetings, the greater the negative effects.

Then they performed an experiment to test these two hypotheses. Thirty-seven volunteers each kept a diary for five working days, answering survey questions after every meeting they attended and also at the end of each day. That was the experiment.

The results speak volumes. ”It is impressive,“ Luong and Rogelberg write in their summary, ”that a general relationship between meeting load and the employee's level of fatigue and subjective workload was found“. Their central insight, they say, is the concept of ”the meeting as one more type of hassle or interruption that can occur for individuals“.

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An unfortunate side effect of our modern society's reliance upon credit cards: D had her American Express card cloned/stolen. She was shopping at the Marshall Field's on State Street, specifically in the Merz Apothecary to purchase herbals/homeopathics, gave her card to the clerk who said, 'This register isn't working, I'll ring you up on another one.“ Apparently, the guy swiped the card into a cloned machine, and then made a fake card somehow, and I'd assume, a fake ID.

Later that day (Jan 11th), purchases were made at Jewel ($78), Home Depot in Oakbrook Terrace ($742), Apple Store Oakbrook ($916), Dick's Sporting Goods Lombard ($320), and then at a Wal-mart ($950). Since neither D nor myself has ever purchased anything from Wal-Mart, Amex called to confirm this purchase. They are going to reverse all these charges (over $3,000!!), luckily, I'm pretty sure, and send us new cards, plus Marshall Field's is opening an investigation as well. D may have to go to a police lineup.


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borrowed from the back of the Tribune magazine:

Mlk West Side


Is Abramoff the New Monica

Frank Rich wonders if the Abramoff scandal has staying power.

Frank Rich: Is Abramoff the New Monica?
The Jack Abramoff scandal may metastasize from a cancer on Congress to a cancer on the Republican Party in general and this presidency in particular.

Wine Spodeeohdeeoh

Wine baby
DaVinci Wine (or Whine, depending)

Let the wine flow
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that states couldn't discriminate when it comes to selling and shipping wine directly to consumers. If a state allows wineries within its borders to sell wine to consumers over the phone or Internet, it must accord the same privilege to out-of-state wineries. To do otherwise is an unconstitutional infringement on interstate commerce. ... The best choice for consumers is to allow the wine to flow. If Illinois residents want to buy wine over the Internet, through catalogs or telephone sales from wineries located anywhere in the country, they should be allowed to do so. That competition will bring the best price and selection.

But that's not the favorite solution of Illinois beer and wine distributors. They want to put a cork in your ability to get the widest choice for wine purchases.

Illinois beer distributors--fearful that the court ruling means they will eventually be threatened by new competition--want state lawmakers to get even more restrictive on alcohol sales. Under one proposal, wineries would be allowed to direct-ship only two cases of wine each year to customers, and only after the customers had made a purchase in person from the winery.

The state's wineries have a different solution. They want each winery to be permitted to operate up to 10 shops for wine sales. (Current law allows two.) They also want the legislature to require out-of-state wineries to get an Illinois license and pay an annual fee. Out-of-state wineries could ship up to three cases of wine a month to customers in Illinois, provided their home states allowed Illinois wineries to do the same. Yes, they want to re-create a system of reciprocity.

What a crock.

Illinois wine and beer merchants, from the Capone era of bootlegging, until now, have entirely too much clout in the Illinois legislature. That the liquor distributors are even getting their monopolies consideration is a travesty. Let the wine flow, as the Trib says. What's wrong with a little healthy competition? Isn't that capitalism defined?

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Sun was fleeting

Yesterday's sunlight was brief.

Winter, Oh Winter

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Hey, now I know that this construct ( blank, you're doing a heckuva job) is called a snowclone.

tiny bubbles in Millennium Park pre-opening night

One Salient Oversight: Heckuva Bubble for Bush
US Presidents are often tagged with lines uttered in public that go down in history as expressions of their incompetence or political failures. With Bush Sr, it was “Read my lips, no new taxes” spoken clearly and concisely some months before he raised taxes. With Clinton, it was “It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is” as he testified lamely before the Grand Jury.

George W. Bush certainly has a bit of time left to come up with similar gems. At the moment, however, one of his more popular phrases is “Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job”, as he assessed the work done by FEMA director Michael D. Brown in helping the people of New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina. Given the obvious incompetence of FEMA at the time, and the reports of suffering going on in the Superdome and other places, this phrase is now used quite ironically by Bush opponents to ridicule and criticise him - “You're doing a heckuva job (insert name of incompetent Bush-appointed offical)”.

Read rest here, noted via Gilliard

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Poetic description

For some reason, this particular Google search cracks me up:

Search Engine google.co.uk Search Words myrtle beach poetic description

which led the searcher to this page about Salvia Divinorum and the Myrtle Beach City Council considering a ban on it. I guess I'm at the top of that particular list.

I know, I know, I should get out more, but the thought of somebody searching for poetic descriptions of Myrtle Beach, and landing on a page about the Drug War makes me giggle. Even funnier (to me anyway), the searcher apparently is an employee of the Nottinghamshire County Council.

Ok, back to work.

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Gale Nettles convicted

In followup to an earlier posting, Gale Nettles was convicted for allowing the FBI to help him plot to blow up the Dirksen Federal Building. The man is obviously ill.

Chicago Tribune | Would-be courthouse bomber sentenced
A 67-year-old ex-convict will likely spend the rest of his life in prison under a sentence handed down today for plotting to blow up the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago.

Prosecutors labeled Gale Nettles, a lifelong criminal with a history of mental problems, a terrorist bent on mass murder.

Nettles used the nickname “Ben Laden” as he pursued a plot to detonate a truck filled with fertilizer outside the courthouse, at 219 S. Dearborn St.

But his plan was tracked all along by FBI agents, and everyone who assisted him, including a man he believed to be a member of Al Qaeda, was in fact a government agent or informant.

As I wrote at the time:

Terrorism sting begs the question: would Gale Nettles, with his history of mental illness, have gone as far as he did without the assistance of the FBI? Probably not, which is why sting operations are a bit troubling. I mean, nobody wants buildings to blow up, but when you enable mentally ill people to accumulate information and materials in pursuit of terrorist acts or violence, you run the risk of letting events escape from your control. Luckily, that didn't happen in this particular instance

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False Spring

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Inevitably, in our modern industrialized age, there are a few days every winter where the sun actually makes a token appearance, the snow (and slush) all melts, and temperatures climb into the 50's (F). Today was such a day. We worked late last night (9:30), consequently took a two hour lunch (China Grill), and got a much-needed dose of vitamin D, stumbling around downtown. The lunch wasn't really the plan, feeling sun on our faces was.

I actually met D at her dentist, so I got another mile walk in (she cabbed it). I think 4 miles in all, for me, and 2.5 for her. I managed to squeeze off over 100 photos, here are a few that I've had a chance to look at.

Incident on Randolph Street
Incident on Randolph Street

hinted at, yet subtle. Pointed to nothing my eye could ascertain. About knee height.

Window on the World
Window on the World

view from the above-mentioned dentist's office. He actually said that on Mondays, he gets to the office at 6:30 am, and suggested we come to look at the sunrise. If my slacker ass can ever get up that early, I'd love to do so. One of the nicer dentists I've met (Dr. Matsumoto). Another shot from his office window is below the fold.

Windy Day Just Like Any Other Day
Windy Day Just Like Any Other Day

Lobby of building in the loop. No wind at all today, must have been there for a while.

Trying to disappear
Trying to disappear

at the China Grill (which actually wasn't very good - my long beans were over-cooked, the black cod had a hint of 'fishyness', ie, wasn't fresh, fried rice was very oily, yadda yadda. Not going to be on my top ten list for 2006)


Drink Up
Drink Up

and I did, yet with great moderation....

Angular View Self Portrait
Angular View Self Portrait

(actually taken last year, during a similar 'must be outside' walk. Just happened to Flickrize it yesterday. Consider it a bonus)

(For all photos, click for larger versions, if interested). A few more below

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The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office

Bob Herbert slices up Bush, and his penchant for breaking the law, like he was brush.

Bob Herbert: The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office - New York Times
The country has set the bar so low for the performance of George W. Bush as president that it is effectively on the ground.

No one expects very much from Mr. Bush. He's currently breaking the law by spying on Americans in America without getting warrants, but for a lot of people that's just George being George. Forget the complexities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or even the Fourth Amendment's safeguards against unwarranted (pun intended) government intrusion into matters that we have a right to keep private.

On his frequent trips home to his ranch in Texas, the president likes to ride his bicycle. He's not studying the Constitution.

Queen I Want to Ride my bicycle single

Oh, be kind.

(I almost used this graphic, so be thankful)

Realistic Idealist for Leo

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Leo's catch-phrase for the new year.
Realistic Idealist > B12 Partners online | CafePress


Hey, I want one of these

Not outrageously expensive, like previous things I've seen, but still, sort of hard to justify while I maintain my 'amateur' status.

In Photo Prints, Perfect Color In Means Perfect Color Out
A new device from Pantone sets your monitor to color standards, so that color photos will look the same as they do on your screen.

Pantone, which makes color accuracy systems, has a new device called Huey that will set your monitor to Pantone standards, which are often used by photo printers as well.

The device is a light sensor the size of a fountain pen. After it is attached to the monitor with suction cups, the included software displays bars of color. Huey reads the bars for accuracy, then adjusts the monitor. Once this is done, Huey goes into a stand on your desk to continuously check room lighting and adjust the screen settings.

Huey by Pantone

Pantone Huey Monitor Color Correction (Win/Mac)
“Pantone Huey Monitor Color Correction (Win/Mac)” (Pantone, Inc.)

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Thomas Hawk victory

Thomas Hawk 1, Price Rite Photo 0.
(backstory here and here, for instance).

In a Flash, Camera Dealers Feel the Web's Wrath - New York Times
Envelopes marked Price Rite Photo are stacked by a door. No one has picked up the mail since the business quit the premises two months ago, said Robert Colon, the handyman. Telephone calls to the company go unreturned.
The proprietors of Price Rite are a subject of complaints to the state attorney general, the city Department of Consumer Affairs, the county district attorney and the Better Business Bureau. The company is only one of several online camera dealers in Brooklyn that have gained nationwide notoriety for hard sales tactics and bait-and-switch advertising, but when customers suddenly began rallying against the dealers, Price Rite was the center of attention.
What began late in November with a disputed order for a Canon EOS has led to prank calls and attempts to cripple Web sites, police reports of death threats, intervention by global Internet companies, a new city investigation and, all the while, spirited coverage by technology news Web sites. ... Many of the camera retailers documented in consumer complaints operate in the gray market, a broad term describing generally legal practices such as importing products packaged for sale outside the United States. Whether for its immigrant population or its ports, Brooklyn has gained a reputation as a center of the gray market for cameras, especially since an investigation by PC World magazine in 2003 focused on Brooklyn dealers.

The companies promote products on their Web sites and submit offers to online services like Yahoo! Shopping, which searches prices on more than 100 million products from more than 100,000 merchants, according to Yahoo!

Price Rite Photo

Complaints submitted to investigative agencies describe tactics like promising low prices but canceling orders or making threats when customers decline to add batteries and other accessories to their purchases.

His Web page is a gallery of shuttered warehouses, mailbox stores and apartment buildings. The address, at donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/, is known among serious camera consumers, but its fame grew when it was mentioned in an online rant by Thomas Hawk of Piedmont, Wash.

On Nov. 29, Mr. Hawk posted a 2,333-word complaint about Price Rite Photo on his Web site, describing hard sales tactics and threats. By 2 a.m. the next day, this dispute over a $3,000 camera was an enormously popular topic of discussion online, casting Mr. Hawk in the timeless role of the outraged underdog.

After reading Mr. Hawk's complaints, Yahoo! Shopping blocked Price Rite from its service, according to Sabrina Crider, a spokeswoman for the company. Mr. Hawk quickly declared victory, and online discussion forums with names like Digg filed the story under headlines like “Digg Users Take Revenge at Bad Online Store.”
But the episode was not complete for Mr. Wiss, whose photographs of Brooklyn buildings had been mentioned in Mr. Hawk's rant under the headline “Update #20.”

On Dec. 14, Mr. Wiss said, he received several calls accusing him of putting stores out of business and threatening him with death. He said the threats were all bluster, but he reported the calls to the police and adamantly refused to allow photographs of his face for this article. He said he hopes to trace the calls if they continue.

At the warehouse in Sunset Park, Mr. Colon, the handyman, had his own ideas about the whereabouts of Price Rite and its proprietor.

“He owes me money,” Mr. Colon said, explaining that he was never paid for moving an air-conditioner. “That's why he doesn't come here to pick up the mail.”

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Strangled with their own words

Billmon has collected a 'few' quotes on the

Whiskey Bar: A Bipartisan Scandal

A Bipartisan Scandal.

...depending upon your definition of 'Bipartisan' I suppose.

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Prison Term of 55 Years for Drugs Is Upheld
A federal appeals court has upheld a 55-year prison term imposed on a Utah man with no criminal record who was convicted in 2003 of selling several hundred dollars worth of marijuana on three occasions.

The case of the man, Weldon H. Angelos, a record producer from Salt Lake City who was 22 at the time of his crime, has become a benchmark in the debate about sentencing rules and justice. The trial judge in the case complained in issuing the sentence, which was required by federal statutes, that he thought it excessive, and 29 former judges and prosecutors agreed, in a brief filed on Mr. Angelos's behalf.

But a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision issued here late Monday, rejected those arguments. The sentence properly reflected the will of Congress, the court said, and was not cruel or unusual punishment.

..The appeals panel did conclude that the police, in searching Mr. Angelos's home, had exceeded the limits of a search warrant as they looked for the source of a strong marijuana smell.

As I said somewhere else, it is too bad the puritanical strain in our society decided that only alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee are acceptable means of altering one's brain.

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Madman's Honey

If I don't see some sun soon, I may sink into a morass...

These photos cheer me up, however.
Madman's Honey

Pablo Picasso

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

It is so obvious

Both taken at the Garfield Conservatory

(click for larger versions)

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Impeachment detail number 5461

Just add this disgusting factoid to the Articles of Impeachment.

Gaps in the armor
The U.S. has been at war for almost three years in Iraq. But American troops still may not have the kind of body-armor protection they deserve.

Again and again, this issue has flared. At first there was a shortage of the advanced ceramic armor that could stop bullets fired from assault rifles. Then the problem evolved into replacing those ceramic plates with thicker, more resistant models that could withstand certain munitions that insurgents had begun using.

Over the weekend, the latest vulnerability came to light in The New York Times: A Pentagon study found that as many as 80 percent of the Marines killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor that covered more of the torso.

About a quarter of the 401 Marine combat deaths between March 2003 and June 2005 were caused by torso wounds, the study said. In many of those cases--at least 74 of 93 fatal torso wounds--bullets and shrapnel hit in the shoulders, sides or parts of the torso where the plates didn't reach.

Often the fatal wounds in the chest or back were so close to plates that simply enlarging the existing shield “would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome,” according to the study produced by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

The armor has reportedly been available since 2003. The Marine Corps began buying additional plates to cover the sides of troops' bodies last September, ordering 28,800 sets, the paper reported. Army officials announced Tuesday they will order side-panel inserts for soldiers' body armor. There are about 130,000 Army troops in Iraq.
...The new Pentagon report dispels any lingering doubts. Expanded armor can save soldiers' lives. Moreover, some soldiers in Iraq complain that insurgents are growing increasingly adept at exploiting the gaps in their armor.

The debate's over. This country asks much of its soldiers. They deserve, in return, the best protection they can get.

Impeachment is actually too good for the criminals who are in charge of our country. How about we 'get a rope' instead.

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Google Earth for Mac finally

About freakin' time. There is a PC in this office, about 10 feet from where I'm currently sitting, but it is really too slow of a machine to run Google Earth comfortably.

Google Earth in a Mac world (PC too) ... we have a brand new member of the family -- Google Earth for Macintosh. We're happy to finally have some good news for the, ahem, vocal Mac enthusiasts we've been hearing from. Let's just say that we have gotten more than a few “requests” for a Mac version of Google Earth

Download it here (for Mac or PC)

Google Earth old data
Looks like the data is a couple years old already. Of the three restaurants listed on Randolph, 2 are gone, and one has changed twice. The Haymarket Riot isn't installed yet, nor is Crane's Alley re-cobble-stoned. Oh well, still cool.

oh, and this hack is apparently (hopefully temporarily) disables

Dan at Geobloggers, who writes in with a new service which displays the 50 closest Flickr photos near a place you’re viewing using Google Earth.

Overlord meme

I finally had to look this phrase up, after hearing it for the umpteenth time (today, on a mailing list, in re: the new Intel enabled MacBook's, as pictured here)

Overlord meme - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Overlord meme The Overlord meme is a snowclone using the following template: I, for one, welcome our new X overlords.

It is used to express mock submission, usually for the purpose of humor, and became popular in the early 21st century, on internet forums such as Slashdot. Here X describes (often in a humorous or overgeneralized fashion) some (often corporate or government) entity that is making a power grab.

The original quote is from the 1994 episode of The Simpsons, “Deep Space Homer”, when news announcer Kent Brockman believes the Earth to be under invasion by giant space ants. Fearing for his life he announces his willingness to collaborate with the invaders:

Ladies and gentlemen, uh, we've just lost the picture, but what we've seen speaks for itself. The Corvair spacecraft has apparently been taken over- 'conquered' if you will- by a master race of giant space ants. It's difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume the captive Earthmen or merely enslave them. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

A related template, also popular, is
I, for one, welcome our new X masters.

Deep Space Homer

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Poached Scrambled eggs


First off, about 4 years ago, we threw away our Teflon coated cookware, for similar reasons as Mr. Patterson, not to mention little pieces of the Teflon flaked off in our food, and were being ingested. Not healthy. However, after years of making beautiful omeletts with Teflon, suddenly, everything started to stick to the pan. Thus, we were excited to read about this new method.

Food: The Way We Eat: Which Came First?
A seasoned chef goes back to basics, starting with the perfect breakfast. ...At first I made scrambled eggs and toast every morning, but that was before Alexandra, my fiancée, had me throw away our Teflon pan. An environmental lawyer, she cited the lawsuits, fines and nasty press that DuPont has incurred in connection with its nonstick pans. "DuPont claims its cookware is perfectly safe," she said with the practiced disdain of her profession, "but if the fumes can kill birds when the pans are overheated, then it's probably not good for us either." This from a woman whose dinner conversation often swerves into apocalyptic territory, like the high mercury levels in tuna or how perchlorate from rocket fuel has shown up in organic greens in California....

This method requires a degree of blind faith. After all, pouring cold liquid into hot liquid promises to yield little more than murky yellow water. Following a lot of trial and error, I came to a few basic steps that lead to perfect eggs every time.

The most important factor is using only the thick whites and the yolk. At first I could get this technique to work only with very fresh farmer's-market eggs, whose viscous whites are high in protein (the main bonding agent). As eggs age, the thick part of the white erodes, and the thin, watery part increases, which is why fresh eggs (less than one week old) are best for eating, and older ones are better suited for meringues. This flummoxed me until a quick e-mail message to my friend Harold McGee, the food scientist and author of "On Food and Cooking," solved the problem. He discovered that using supermarket eggs is just fine if you start by cracking each one into a slotted spoon (or sieve) and let the thin white drain away, then work with the remaining thick white and yolk.

Next, beat the eggs with a fork, but don't add salt. (The grains of salt will tear the structure of the eggs, causing them to disintegrate on contact with the water.) Let a covered pot filled with about four inches of water come to a low boil over moderate heat, then remove the cover, add a little salt and stir the water in a clockwise motion. After you've created a mini-whirlpool, gently pour the eggs into the moving liquid, which will allow them to set suspended in the water rather than sink to the bottom of the pot, where they would stick...
After saying a quick prayer and adding the eggs, cover the pot and count to 20. Almost instantly the eggs will change from translucent to opaque and float to the surface in gossamer ribbons. This all happens very quickly, and by the time you lift the lid, they should be completely cooked.

Tilt the pot over the strainer while holding back the eggs with a spoon, and pour off most of the water. A few bits may escape, but the strainer will catch them. When the rest of the water has drained, gently slide the eggs into the strainer and let them sit there for a minute while you get bowls or remove bread from the toaster.

Poached Scrambled eggs in the pot

Poached Scrambled eggs in the strainer

Poached Scrambled eggs plated

very happy with these: extremely fluffy. Just needed salt, and a dollop of butter.

High court to weigh DNA in death row case

How noble of the Supreme Court, to actually deign to involve themselves in determining if an innocent man is scheduled to executed....

High court to weigh DNA in death row case
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When the US Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow in the case of convicted killer Paul House, it will be the first time a death row inmate has brought DNA evidence before the high court to prove his innocence. ... House, 44, has been on Tennessee's death row for 20 years, convicted of murdering Carolyn Muncey, a young mother who lived near him in rural Luttrell, about 25 miles north of Knoxville, in 1985.

There were no witnesses to the crime and House maintains he did not do it.

The high court will hear arguments on whether DNA evidence and other new claims in House's case are so compelling that he deserves a chance at a new trial.

The prosecution found semen on the victim, and experts suggested at the time that it came from House, but new DNA evidence showed it was from Muncey's husband.

The prosecution also found the victim's blood on House's pants, but DNA analysis suggested that a forensic sample of the blood may have been spilled on the pants after the slaying.

...House's defense team has produced several witnesses who say that the victim's husband, Hubert Muncey, was known to have hit his wife and confessed to killing her. Muncey, who still lives in Union County, has maintained his innocence.
...House has said he has no confidence in the judicial system.

''I didn't kill her,“ he told The Associated Press last year in a prison interview. ''I haven't studied law books and all that crap. I'm not interested in the law, not after I've been burned by it. I couldn't care less.”

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Eroded Civil Liberties

Truly scary story below. Soon after 9/11, I suspected I was on some list as every time I flew, I was pulled aside and given increased scrutiny. I never missed a flight, but still after 12 straight occurrences (6 flights), I started to worry. However, in my case, (knock on wood-related object), apparently, they cleared me off of the 'suspect' list, as I haven't been searched for the last several flights.

Mr. Moore's trouble sound a lot worse....
Bush's Brain
James Moore

The Blog | James Moore: Branded | The Huffington Post:

...This week last year I was preparing for a trip to Ohio to conduct interviews and research for a new book I was writing. My airline tickets had been purchased on line and the morning of departure I went to the Internet to print out my boarding pass. I got a message that said, “Not Allowed.” Several subsequent tries failed. Surely, I thought, it's just a glitch within the airline's servers or software.
I made it a point to arrive very early at the airport. My reservation was confirmed before I left home. I went to the electronic kiosk and punched in my confirmation number to print out my boarding pass and luggage tags. Another error message appeared, “Please see agent.”

I did. She took my Texas driver's license and punched in the relevant information to her computer system.

“I'm sorry, sir,” she said. “There seems to be a problem. You've been placed on the No Fly Watch List.”

“Excuse me?”

“I'm afraid there isn't much more that I can tell you,” she explained. “It's just the list that's maintained by TSA to check for people who might have terrorist connections.”

“You're serious?”

“I'm afraid so, sir. Here's an 800 number in Washington. You need to call them before I can clear you for the flight.”

Exasperated, I dialed the number from my cell, determined to clear up what I was sure was a clerical error. The woman who answered offered me no more information than the ticket agent.

“Mam, I'd like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List.”

“I'm not really authorized to tell you that, sir,” she explained after taking down my social security and Texas driver's license numbers.

“What can you tell me?”

“All I can tell you is that there is something in your background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for.”

“Well, let me get this straight then,” I said. “Our government is looking for a guy who may have a mundane Anglo name, who pays tens of thousands of dollars every year in taxes, has never been arrested or even late on a credit card payment, is more uninteresting than a Tupperware party, and cries after the first two notes of the national anthem? We need to find this guy. He sounds dangerous to me.”

“I'm sorry, sir, I've already told you everything I can.”

“Oh, wait,” I said. “One last thing: this guy they are looking for? Did he write books critical of the Bush administration, too?”

I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year. I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.

My friends tell me it is just more government incompetence. A tech buddy said there's no one in government smart enough to write a search algorithm that will find actual terrorists, so they end up with authors of books criticizing the Bush White House. I have no idea what's going on.

I suppose I should think of it as a minor sacrifice to help keep my country safe. Not being able to print out boarding passes in advance and having to get to the airport three hours early for every flight is hardly an imposition compared to what Americans are enduring in Iraq. I can force myself to get used to all that extra attention from the guy with the wand whenever I walk through the electronic arches. I'm just doing my patriotic duty.

Of course, there's always the chance that the No Fly Watch List is one of many enemies lists maintained by the Bush White House. If that's the case, I am happy to be on that list. I am in good company with people who expect more out of their president and their government.

Hell, maybe I'll start thinking of it as an honor roll.

found via Tom Tomorrow
home of this great sticker:
Nixon V Bush - available at www.thismodernworld.com


Since the summer, my building has had periodic, episodic of break-ins and graffiti. After enough occurrences, we decided to suck it up, financial-wise, and install surveillance cameras (and change out all the locks).

closed circuit

Even the Faux Walls have eyes

After nearly a month without incident, we thought we were safe, so took our car to have the rear window repaired. Our car guy gave us a loaner car (mid 90's Honda Accord). We were supposed to pick up our car last weekend, but then my back went out, so we didn't make the trek out to the suburbs. Tuesday morning, at 10:50 AM, some jerk smashed in the back window of the loaner car (which of course, had absolutely nothing in it to steal).

We haven't yet been able to extract a good screenshot of our perpetrator, and we didn't think of installing a camera in the garage, so we only have video of him entering, and leaving via a side alley. The weirdest thing is that he appears to have a key. [Update: upon closer inspection, he has a small metal item, and pops open the lock. Hands are too high to use the key] We are a small building, there aren't many residents, so are still befuddled about this aspect. We had to change all the keys again, this time, restricting access so that Waste Management, ComEd meter-readers, etc. no longer have access to as many doors.

Still, what a freaking pain in the neck.

The movie is below (quicktime), if you are curious.

How retro

such a throwback to even bother with 'deciphering' alleged back-masking lyrics. I think the mind seeks to create patterns out of the chaos of the universe, even when patterns don't exist.

WSJ.com - Behind the Music: Sleuths Seek Messages In Lyrical Backspin
When Jeff Milner installed software on his Web site that could play digital songs in reverse, he tested it with a snippet of Led Zeppelin's “Stairway to Heaven.” The song, heard normally, refers to “a bustle in your hedgerow.” Played backward, says Mr. Milner, the line sounds like: “Oh, here's to my sweet Satan.”

Today, Mr. Milner's Web site plays parts of songs from the Eagles, John Lennon, Britney Spears, Eminem and others -- both normally and in reverse. Mr. Milner, a Canadian college student majoring in new media, offers interpretations of the reverse-plays. A line in Ms. Spears's “Baby One More Time,” played backward, becomes “Sleep with me, I'm not too young,” Mr. Milner claims. What sounds like mumbling in Pink Floyd's “Empty Spaces,” Mr. Milner says, becomes more intelligible in reverse: “Congratulations, you have just discovered the secret message.”

At least Milner doesn't believe in the 'evils of Rock and Roll'

Years ago someone told me that if you played Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven song backwards that you could make out “satanic messages”. It is not my opinion that Led Zeppelin and the other artists here were given some kind of evil power to make these backwards sounds have a satanic message. And, no, I did not create this to show the evils of Rock and Roll. Instead I made this flash piece for two reasons: 1. I was new to flash and wanted to be better at it and 2. The reverse files sound cool.

from the WSJ again:
More conspiracy-minded practitioners believe that messages are deliberately placed in music. Some even contend that such messages are conveyed subliminally when the recordings are played normally....During the first round of secret-message hunting more than three decades ago, some parents, social psychologists and other critics worried a diabolical effort was under way to corrupt children. Some religious groups feared satanic messages had been inserted. Musical satirist Weird Al Yankovic seemed to toy with the critics in his song “Nature Trail to Hell” which includes a clearly audible backward message: “Satan eats Cheez Whiz.”

The revival of message hunting has spawned new critics. Joseph Wasmond, president of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Freedom in Christ Ministries, says he is concerned about secret messages because it has become so easy to share music files over the Internet. “There is the potential for manipulating people's behavior based on subliminal and subconscious music,” says Mr. Wasmond.

But James Walker, president of Watchman Fellowship, a Christian group that studies religious movements and subcultures, sees the hunt for messages as harmless. “You could take a Christian hymn, and if you played it backwards long enough at different speeds, you could make that hymn say anything you want to,” he says.

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This outrage always seemed manufactured to me as well, perhaps because I've been watching the superlative serial drama, the Wire, recently.

“The Wire - The Complete First and Second Seasons” (Daniel Attias, Alex Zakrzewski, Elodie Keene)

If drug dealers (albeit fictional) from the projects of Baltimore knew in 2002 that cell phone conversations could be monitored, how can President Bunnypants declare with a straight face that 'security was comprised' by revealing the extent of warrantless wiretaps?

The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight - New York Times:

ALMOST two weeks before The New York Times published its scoop about our government's extralegal wiretapping, the cable network Showtime blew the whole top-secret shebang. In its mini-series “Sleeper Cell,” about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Los Angeles, the cell's ringleader berates an underling for chatting about an impending operation during a phone conversation with an uncle in Egypt.

“We can only pray that the N.S.A. is not listening,” the leader yells at the miscreant, who is then stoned for his blabbing.
If fictional terrorists concocted by Hollywood can figure out that the National Security Agency is listening to their every call, guess what? Real-life terrorists know this, too. So when a hyperventilating President Bush rants that the exposure of his warrant-free wiretapping in a newspaper is shameful and puts “our citizens at risk” by revealing our espionage playbook, you have to wonder what he is really trying to hide.

Our enemies, as America has learned the hard way, are not morons. Even if Al Qaeda hasn't seen “Sleeper Cell” because it refuses to spring for pay cable, it has surely assumed from the get-go that the White House would ignore legal restraints on eavesdropping, just as it has on detainee jurisprudence and torture.

That the White House's over-the-top outrage about the Times scoop is a smokescreen contrived to cover up something else is only confirmed by Dick Cheney's disingenuousness. In last week's oration at a right-wing think tank, he defended warrant-free wiretapping by saying it could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Really? Not with this administration in charge. On 9/10 the N.S.A. (lawfully) intercepted messages in Arabic saying, “The match is about to begin,” and, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” You know the rest. Like all the chatter our government picked up during the president's excellent brush-clearing Crawford vacation of 2001, it was relegated to mañana; the N.S.A. didn't rouse itself to translate those warnings until 9/12.

Given that the reporters on the Times story, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, wrote that nearly a dozen current and former officials had served as their sources, there may be more leaks to come, and not just to The Times. Sooner or later we'll find out what the White House is really so defensive about.

Atheism - topic of the day


Don't ask, it didn't make it onto these pages....

Luis Bunuel

“I'm still an atheist, thank God.”

Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel


Insane first quarter

Jeez, if this pace had continued, Miami would have scored 100 points, and lost by 88! Who needs the shot clock anyway. At the beginning of the telecast, Bill Walton mentioned that in last years game between these teams, Phoenix scored 40 points in the first quarter. Hmmm, can't wait for 2007.

Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat
Steve Nash and his Phoenix teammates were flying high at newly renamed U.S. Airways Center on Friday night.
Nash dished out 12 assists in a 47-point first quarter and the Suns raced past the depleted Miami Heat 111-93.

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Harry Reid - Italian hater?

I've been engrossed in Gus Russo's book about the Chicago mob, The Outfit

The Outfit (Gus Russo)

“The Outfit” (Gus Russo)

Written in journalistic fashion (copious amounts of research, broadly described events, but no flights of purple prose), the book repeatedly sketches how upperworld corruption was an essential part of The Outfit's business operation. Bold face names like Tom Pendergast and his protege, Harry Truman, guys like Richard Nixon, Joe (and Jack) Kennedy, various Chicago mayors (Daley the elder, Cermak, etc.), movie moguls like Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn, and so on all pop up as equal partners in various criminal schemes.

Surprisingly though, was a minor tidbit about Harry Reid while Gaming Commisioner in Nevada (pgs 347-349 in the paperback edition). Apparently, in the late 1950's, after Nevada had been turned from a sleepy, two-bit cowboy town into a Rat Pack mecca by ambitious gangsters, the Mormon power-brokers decided that Italians were not to be welcomed anymore. Hence, in 1959 the Gaming Control Act which encouraged licensing to 'savory characters' only. However, in the first year of the act, licenses were approved for several convicted WASP bookies, gamblers, tax cheats, bribers, and murderers (such as Charles “Babe” Baron, twice arrested for murder). Italians need not apply - even squeaky clean ones like the gourmet chef, Joseph Pignatello.

Soon the Board instituted

the infamous Black Book, which listed “unsavory characters” who not only could never be licensed, but were barred for life from setting foot in a Las Vegas casino. The introductory remarks noted that the list had been devised so that certain individuals “not discredit the gaming industry”. Discredit gambling? This is the same pastime that the board's Mormon dogma prohibits and labels immoral. All those listed were so included without formal notification, hearing, or appeal. And the reasons for their inclusion could be mere hearsay. Of the initial eleven placed in the Black Book, eight were Italian, and most had been implicated or convicted in the same sorts of crimes as the WASPs who were licensed:bootlegging and bookmaking.

...Over the years, 62 percent of those placed in the Black Book have been Italian, dwarfing the numbers of the runners-up, Anglo-Saxons (15 percent)...“The mere Italian sound of a man's name generated considerable suspicion.” In a candid moment, board chairman Harry Reid once said, “The reasons for their being singled out are not important as far as we're concerned.”

Does this even matter? Somehow, to me, it does. Granted, politicians are as frequently racist, ignorant, jerk-offs as the rest of us, but I dream of leaders who have higher standards then the norm. I had halfway allowed myself to respect Harry Reid, especially after recent comments like:

in May of 2005 when he said of George W. Bush, “The man's father is a wonderful human being. I think this guy is a loser.”

Oh well, throw him back on the heap. I'm done with him.

Perhaps I'm just sympathetic to profiling, having been searched so many times at airports (12 straight times at one point, though that's better now, I guess I've been taken off the list, knock on wood-like object), attacked by drunken frat boys, or whatever. I still cling to my idealism, regardless of how delusional it is. Blame the hillbilly heroin my doctor recently proscribed for back pain....

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Death Penalty fiasco

TalkLeft posts on a story we've been following for a few years:

Gov. Warner Orders DNA Test for Executed Man - TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Roger Coleman was executed in Virginia in 1992 (background here.) Today, Governor Mark Warner ordered DNA tests in his case. If Coleman is innocent, it will be the first documented case of the execution of an innocent person in the United States. The first, but probably not the only one.

This was not a sudden decision on the part of Gov. Warner. He's been sitting on the request for years.

We are certain there have been other innocents murdered by the rusty justice-wheels of the US Courts, but this will be the first provable instance. In other words, the possibility is strong that Roger Coleman was murdered by the Justice Department. The willful ignorance of various Court officials (for instance, denying appeal because the paperwork was filed one day late, etc.) is criminal.

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USC is deluded

One final addition to the Rose Bowl victory, from Salon's King Kaufman:

Salon.com | King Kaufman's Sports Daily

So the Trojans are denied a second straight championship. Not a third. USC and its fans have been talking a lot about a “three-Pete” -- as in Pete Carroll, you see -- because the Trojans were No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll in 2003.

But the 2003 national champion was LSU. The Bowl Championship Series is a lousy system, but it's the system USC signed up for. You can't agree to play for a championship under one set of rules, then, when you don't win the championship, say, “Well, we won the championship under these other rules.”


Self portrait contrasty

Happy to be standing contrasty

Mirror, mirror, on the wall
who is the most contrasty of us all?

and, yes, I'm am growing a full beard, maybe for the first time.

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Wine tips

As sort of a follow up to this, Kottke links to another good list of 26 tips about ordering wine in a restaurant. Some good thoughts

9. DO NOT SMELL THE CORK! - When I see someone do this I know I’m dealing with a complete amateur. Guess what you’re gonna smell? Cork! You want to feel the cork to make sure it’s intact. Is the bottom of the cork moistened with wine? Good. That means it was stored properly. Make sure the name on the cork matches the name on the bottle. Sometimes unscrupulous bastards put cheap wine in old wine bottles and re-cork them! Is there mold on the cork? That’s a bad sign. But smelling the cork, in the vast majority of cases, tells you nothing. (Full disclosure – I used to smell the cork before I was a waiter.)
10. DON’T SMELL THE PLASTIC CORK EITHER!- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people do this. Lots of wine makers are moving away from natural cork to synthetics. Sniffing a plastic cork tells the world you’re a moron. Don’t smell the bottle cap either. (I never smelled the plastic cork before I was a waiter, so there!)

and yes, my back is mostly better. :) The vicodin haze is subsiding, unfortunately, but I do have some wine to replace it.

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The Cost of The War

Wars nearly always cost too much: life, limb and lucre. The Iraq boondoggle is worse than most because there wasn't a compelling reason to waste so many lives, nor an excess of finances to throw away.

TPMCafe || The Cost of The War
A new study by two leading academic experts suggests that the costs of the Iraq war will be substantially higher than previously reckoned. In a paper presented to this week’s Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Boston MA., Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes and Columbia University Professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz calculate that the war is likely to cost the United States a minimum of nearly one trillion dollars and potentially over $2 trillion.  

The study expands on traditional budgetary estimates by including costs such as lifetime disability and health care for the over16,000 injured, one fifth of whom have serious brain or spinal injuries. It then goes on to analyze the costs to the economy, including the economic value of lives lost and the impact of factors such as higher oil prices that can be partly attributed to the conflict in Iraq. The paper also calculates the impact on the economy if a proportion of the money spent on the Iraq war were spent in other ways, including on investments in the United States

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Essence of Sweet Potato, Sip by Sip


shochu iichiko

Essence of Sweet Potato, Sip by Sip
While sake may be better known abroad, shochu has been more popular in Japan since 2003, according to the Japanese ministry of finance.

While sake may be better known abroad, shochu has been more popular in Japan since 2003, according to the Japanese ministry of finance. It can be distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, cane sugar, buckwheat or even chestnuts. (Koreans drink a related rice-distilled liquor called soju, and say they originated the drink.) The taste varies widely: it can be a bland vodkalike mixer or a full-bodied spirit as sublime as a single malt Scotch.

Honkaku, or "the real thing," is where shochu gets interesting. This version, an artisanal spirit, is produced from a single ingredient distilled just once, so it keeps the character of its base. Perhaps the most revered honkaku is imo-jochu, Kagoshima's signature shochu, distilled from fermented sweet potatoes. This complex spirit radiates a powerful aroma like that of dried shiitake mushrooms. It's astringent but not neutral like vodka: you taste the sweet potato flavor. And at 50 proof, it doesn't overpower you with alcohol.

We prefer a crisp, cold sake like a Jinmo, but in a certain mood, I do like shochu. D only will drink it with pomegranate juice (which is damn good).


Jon Stewart to Host the Oscars

Jon Stewart to Host the Oscars
Jon Stewart, the Emmy-winning host and co-writer of Comedy Central's mock newscast “The Daily Show,” will be named Thursday as host of the 78th Annual Academy Awards, three sources familiar with the selection process said Wednesday, ending months of speculation about the show's next emcee.

As much as I love movies, and as much as I find Jon Stewart funny, I still don't know if this will be enough for me to sit through the fourteen hour treacle-fest that is also known as the Oscars. TiVo makes it bearable - able to skip the stupid parts, and distill the show down to 30-45 minutes, but still...

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organic Pizza and summer

what a perfect combo...

Organic Pizza Born from a Bistro

Michael Altenberg, owner of Bistro Campagne (4518 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-6100), is planning to open Organic Oven Works, a 200-seat pizzeria at the corner of Lincoln and Lawrence, in June. “We will be the first organic pizzeria in the Midwest,” says Altenberg. “We’re using a good percentage of organic flour from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in Wisconsin, and having a wood oven constructed in Tuscany then shipped on a slab of concrete.” His partner is Greg Kaminski, who graduated from Kendall College with Altenberg 20 years ago. And what about Bistro Campagne down the street? “It’s doing well,” says Altenberg. “We’re building a permanent, 50-seat gazebo outside, and the windows will come out in the summer to make it open air.”

can't wait

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Imperial President part 533

Seems as if the Senate is a little concerned about Bush's insistence that he is 'above' the law...

3 GOP senators blast Bush bid to bypass torture ban
WASHINGTON -- Three key Republican senators yesterday condemned President Bush's assertion that his powers as commander in chief give him the authority to bypass a new law restricting the use of torture when interrogating detainees.

John W. Warner Jr., a Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, issued a joint statement rejecting Bush's assertion that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against detainees to protect national security.

''We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees,“ the senators said. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration's implementation of the new law.”

Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ''and would go a little bit further.“
''I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified,” Graham said. ''If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations' leaders from doing the same.“

Really, power grabs are all well and good for dictatorships, but a President who consistently circumvents the legislative branch when convenient is scary. Is Bush planning on stepping down in 2008 or what?

Blagojevich reads the paper

We aren't too fond of our grandstanding yet ineffective governor, but at least he reads the newspapers, unlike certain other titular heads of our misguided country. Of course, Gov Bobbleheadevich is prone to the common politician's disease of “Talk Big, Act Small”, wherein all sorts of proposals get made, creating headlines, but nothing substantive actually gets done. So, we'll have to see.

Governor seeks 90% mercury reduction Coal plants would have to comply by '09

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is making an election-year push to force Illinois' coal-fired power plants to dramatically curb mercury emissions within the next three years.

Citing a recent Tribune series on mercury contamination in fish, the governor will call for new state rules Thursday that are far more stringent than limits the Bush administration is proposing for power plants nationwide.

Utilities would be required to cut mercury emissions from Illinois plants by an average of 90 percent by July 2009.

The utility industry, an influential lobby that in the past has dodged tougher limits on air pollution, will fight the Blagojevich plan. Power companies prefer the less stringent federal proposal, which would require coal plants to cut emissions by 70 percent by 2018.

If adopted, Illinois' rules would be among the toughest in the U.S. aimed at reducing the leading source of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults.

Apparently, cleaning up power plants has a rapid effect on the surrounding area:

Some recent research suggests that mercury levels in fish can drop significantly once emissions from nearby sources of the metal are reduced.

For instance, after Florida imposed tough regulations on waste incinerators, the top source of mercury in that state, levels of the metal in largemouth bass and wading birds in the Everglades dropped more than 60 percent.

The Blagojevich administration thinks the same thing could happen in Illinois, since about two-thirds of the mercury that falls in the state is estimated to come from coal plants and other sources within state borders.

Hook Em

Rose Bowl baby.

Easiest dollar I ever won, Aunt P!
(who held her nose to root for the University of Spoiled Children for some reason)

not like Ethan, who knows which team to root for...

The so-called paper of record cleans up some post game comments. I guess the word, “Baby” is too harsh for the NYT to print.

...it gave Texas its first national championship since 1970 and its fourth over all.

“Don't you think that's beautiful?” Young said of the national championship trophy. “And it's coming all the way home to Austin.”
With enough plotlines to fill a Hollywood blockbuster, this game had it all - star power, retribution and a few stunning twists.

And it all came down to one final climactic scene. With Texas trailing by 38-33 and facing a fourth-and-5 from the U.S.C. 8-yard line, Young took a shotgun snap, glanced into the end zone at his receivers, then ran untouched around the right end into the end zone. It capped a resplendent day for Young, who rushed 19 times for 200 yards and won the Rose Bowl's most valuable player award.

He also completed 31 of 40 passes for 269 yards and led Texas on a 56-yard touchdown drive in the game's final 2 minutes 9 seconds.

Consistency is for losers

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So far, I have yet to read any editorials suggesting that George Bush step down, not even after Bush proudly admitted to breaking the law.

Newspapers Urge President to Quit:
...Still, it amazes me when people make fun of the very notion that a president under a dark cloud might be asked to leave office, or given a push, in light of the very recent experience involving one William Jefferson Clinton. This seems especially poignant, in light of President Clinton leaving office with an approval rating over 60%, while the current occupant of the White House sits at around 40%. Then there's the perennial debate over the relative demerits of fooling around with an intern vs. fooling an entire country into going to war based on false evidence (and anything else you'd care to add on top of that).
... Here is that AP partial list of newspapers calling for Clinton to quit (other papers no doubt joined in later):

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My exile will certainly last less than 60 days, plus I am able to walk around every couple hours or so. There seems to be some human necessity to seek out groups worse off (or better off) than oneself. Boing Boing: 60 days in bed for space medicine study:

The BBC News reports on a recent study at the French space agency's Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology where volunteers spent two months in bed. The aim was to better understand how extended stays in space could impact the body, causing a loss of bone mass, fluid, and muscle

from the Beeb
The three-month experiment at the French space agency (CNES) Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (MEDES) in Toulouse was designed to look at the likely effects of space flights on the female astronauts of the future
Confined to bed for two months, she was forced to shower, eat and exercise while lying with her legs slightly higher than her head, a position that mimics the effects of the weightless environment of space.

But she described it as a strange and wonderful scientific experience.

“It does waken up your sense of adventure,” she told the BBC News website.

“You feel much closer to what it must be like in space.

”It seems really strange now thinking, 'Oh my goodness, I've been two months in bed'.“

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Night and the City

as part of my punishment for ignoring the needs of my body's musculature for years, especially my back/stomach, I've been confined to bed for several days now. There are worse things in life, I suppose. I've been able to watch a dozen or more movies while popping pain pills, so all isn't strum and drang.

One of the highlights has been

Night and the City,
even though I haven't yet watched the movie itself. Released as part of the Criterion Collection (when I make my first million, I'm buying the whole lot!), the movie includes an extremely interesting interview on French Television (1972) with the director, Jules Dassin. Discusses the Hollywood Star system, including working with Joan Crawford (which really meant working for Joan Crawford - Dassin was fired on the first day of shooting because he dared to yell, “Cut”. Rehired after having dinner with Ms. Crawford at her mansion, and agreeing to avoid using such 'harsh' words in the future.), dealing with Louis B. Mayer, and how his friend Elia Kazan betrayed him to the HUAC. Kazan apparently called all his friends the night before he testified, and reassured everyone. Once he got up on the stand however, Kazan ratted out all his friends. Most subsequently were blackballed, and couldn't get work for decades. I still am confused as to how the Academy could give a life-time achievement award to Kazan. I suppose money trumps all, and always will.


Music is what I say it is

and not what I say it isn't...

John Cage:
“If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.”

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Broken body

or at least damaged for a while. Saturday morning, after a shower, suddenly struck with so much pain that I couldn't stand, walk, sit or even sneeze without tears squeezed out of my clenched eyes. Neighbors gave me a bottle of hydrocodone (vicoden), and thus I've been bedridden all day, crawling to the bathroom when absolutely necessary.

Luckily, in this modern era, I can amuse myself with a WiFi connected laptop that conveniently also plays DVDs, or instead listen to my iPod and continue reading the fascinating book,

the Ornament of the World.

Missed my neighbor's New Years party, though D did bring me a bowl of chile.

It's been a weird week anyway; went to a funeral Tuesday (57 year old woman - good friend of D, diagnosed with cancer a year or so ago. The woman told her husband she wanted to travel - managed to make it to Italy and Ireland before taking a turn for the worse a month or so ago.) On the way to the funeral, we came inches away from getting in a car accident on the highway; at speeds over 70 miles an hour, in medium traffic, death is a probability. Life is too fragile to wallow in the nuance between almost and nearly. My back injury shouldn't last that long anyway. My main concern is that I'm almost out of painkillers.

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