30 March 2008

Travel hell.

The Houston Airport is much like the city of Houston itself: it sprawls all over with little sense or embarrassment at its ridiculous situation.

24 March 2008

4000 and counting

George Bush's legacy has reached ever more tragic levels, as the US death toll in Iraq hit 4000 this weekend. How many lives must be expended to satisfy the impotent hubris of Bush the Second, our very own idiot king?

However, he and Cheney's oil company and mercenary and private war supply firms are doing all right, thank you very much.

23 March 2008

Are you kidding me?

Davidson beat Georgetown.


I am feeling out of the loop with no NCAA tv watching going on right now, and all I know is what I catch on snippets walking through the dining pavillion at Curry Village in Yosemite.

20 March 2008

Amazing and sad.

I'm sitting in the Houston airport waiting for a connection and I'm trapped watching -- or rather listening to -- headline news, where apparently so little is happening in the world that no less than three talking heads (and not the "Burning Down the House" kind) can sit around and burn five minutes "analyzing" an encounter between singer Seal and some paparazzi in LA...

So no longer are we in the realm of the celebrity being fodder for the paparazzi; we have entered meta-star-stalkerdom, where the paparazzi are themselves the story...though not nearly as good as Fellini's.

19 March 2008

I meant to do more here...

It's been a few days of big speeches. The first, Barack Obama's, was monumental, though it's hard to say if it's monumental for its content or simply monumental as a media event. The second, George Bush's, was simply more of the same "State of Denial" speech he's issued more or less since he opened the Iraq Boondoggle.

We're entering our sixth year of Iraq. Six years. U.S. involvement in WWII lasted less than four years.

Bush got up and blathered out -- against all facts to the contrary -- several moronic statements:
"For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out."

For the record, any PoliSci 101 graduate could have told Bush that al-Qaeda held most power with Sunnis and didn't cotton to Shiites. But then again, John McCain couldn't keep that straight either...aren't they all "A-Rabs"...well, actually no, except to your base.
Bush said critics of the war -- such as Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- "can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq, so now they argue the war costs too much."
Maybe Bush is finally hearing the long-time criticism that the Iraq War is costing too much. Maybe he's once again showing his out-of-touch daft doddering self who wasn't aware of the predictions of $4 a gallon gas....because it would take a hermit or a FOX News viewer to be unaware that war critics have been calling attention to the cost since day one.

Jesus. Now I'm too pissed off to talk about Obama's speech. Except I will say that anyone who references Faulkner is making a hell of a speech:
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past."


17 March 2008

Kill Your Television

I don't watch much television. I'm not saying that to brag or condemn those who do watch a lot of television. I'm just stating a fact. I'd love to watch The Office or more college sports or Masterpiece Theater.

We have a twenty or maybe twenty-two inch television tucked into an old wardrobe that we turned into a "media center." It's mainly a place to keep the television where we can shut the door on it so we don't have to stare at the unblinking eye everytime we're in the living room.

We haven't had cable since 1995, mainly because all those channels and a lack of scholarly discipline lead to never doing any work. Especially during college basketball season, when you've got Big Monday, Super Tuesday, etc. coming at you all week long...three games a night...oh my. So no cable. No Columbo. No classic movie channels.

I'm not sure what the problem is, but I don't miss it. I suppose if I were involved in conversations at the office about the latest episode of a particular tv show, I'd feel obliged to watch that show to keep current, but in the absence of that stimulus, I just don't.

I have, however, been subject to about thirty viewings of Madagascar, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story 2 over the past month.

15 March 2008

No such thing as a free lunch. Or a free market either.

Just remember the next time some neo-con or libertarian (and they aren't always the same thing, mind you) starts spouting off tripe about the "free market" (and trust me, you run into these morons occasionally), we don't actually live in a "free market" economy (the hard core libertarian probably won't disagree with that assertion: any government oversight or regulation of commerce rubs them wrong). This week provided a pretty vivid example, as Bear Stearns, a firm whose poor decision making led it to insolvency, was bailed out by the government, and, by extension, all the taxpayers who are now footing more directly the bill for Bear Stearns' overpaid executives.

14 March 2008

File Under: Duh.

Sure, it took billions of dollars and countless lives (well, some lives are counted...3987 U.S. military lives at this time; the U.S. "doesn't count" the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion and ensuing domestic chaos), but the Pentagon has finally figured out what millions of people worldwide knew back in 2003: There was no link between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al-Qaeda.

It bears repeating: the Pentagon, in their own study, have found no links between former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's pet project, al-Qaeda.

I'm willing to bet somewhere in an undisclosed location, Cheney's trigger finger is getting itchy for some Pentagon ass.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Bush Administration's complete contempt for analysis and planning, along with a docile collaborationist Congress (including the Democrats, let's not forget, who were very quick to beat the war drums), we find ourselves preparing to enter our sixth year of "Operation Destroy America's Economy and Prestige."

13 March 2008

Three things I've learned the hard way.

Thanks to Lonnie Bruner for tagging me on this one. Of course, he did that back in February, and here we are nearly to the Ides of March and I'm finally catching up. Learning things the hard way is often the only way to learn some lessons, because they simply don't sink in properly until the time for recovery is past.

1. Sit your ass in the chair and just write. Seriously. You will not finish your dissertation/novel/autobiography as long as you continue to do "research." You simply can't know it all, and besides, you will never end up going where you think you were going in the beginning. Only the writing will tell. It took me seven years to figure that out.

2. You are only young once. Apparently as you age, your bones aren't as resilient and things like tendons, muscles, and joints fail with disappointing ease. While I've learned this lesson quite often over the past few years, it's a teaching I have mostly ignored as far as basketball is concerned. So maybe you could say I haven't learned it the hard way yet, with the hard way meaning a broken leg or jaw. Maybe. I have broken my ankle, though. And then sprained it severely a few months later. The sprain was worse.

3. Don't do crack; it's a ghetto drug. Um, OK, that was a lesson from Bob Roberts. Never mind.

3. You should never, ever try to apply rational arguments to middle-school disputes. In middle-school, you only look like a fool trying to explain or analyze situations. As Homer Simpson argues, the "law of the playground" rules the day, and fists speak louder than words. However, you can still talk your way out of a fight if you claim that "My mother told me never to throw the first punch. Just the last one."

12 March 2008

A Backward Glance.

I've been combing through the detritus of a decade and wondering where some of the flotsam and jetsam come from. I puzzled over the bizarre longevity of Lenny Kravitz's career...I mean, has any other cover band outside Dread Zeppelin had so long a time in the limelight?

Today, I turn my attention to Pauly Shore. Is there any explaining this cretin's run as a VJ for the once-music oriented MTV channel? Or better yet, his ability to cash in on that improbable tenure with starring roles in several forgettable and regrettable films of the mid-1990's: Encino Man (1992), Son in Law (1993), In the Army Now (1994), Jury Duty (1995), and the execrable Bio-Dome (1996).

Pauly Shore's tenure at MTV coincides with the network's turn from a music-oriented format to a gimmick-laden, boob-heavy purveyor of "youth culture," a formatting change that saw the network go from popular to mega-popular. Having seized upon the formula of showing scantily clad young bodies during spring break, MTV execs could not look back and here we are today...

But enough of the large picture. Pauly's moment in the sun ended long ago, but the real question is not why it ended, but how it began in the first place at all (even knowing that he is the son of the founder of LA's "The Comedy Store")....

11 March 2008

And now a message from Governor Spitzer.

Hmm. Well. I know what a lot of you must be thinking, I mean, I would have thought it myself if it were some other governor or senator or president getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, but I'm telling you it's different with me.

No, bear with me.

As most of you no doubt know, I was Attorney General before I became Governor of this great state. As AG, I prosecuted several high-profile corruption cases. I went after the gun lobby. I took on tobacco. I stood up to the mafia. And some of those cases involved breaking up prostitution rings. By all accounts, I was a highly successful prosecutor.

However, I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to get beyond the dry facts of the law and try to understand what made these criminals tick. I wanted to penetrate -- hey, no laughing in the back -- the private world of crime. So I devised a very deep cover: I ran for governor of the state of New York. And it worked.

Now, no longer the state's top lawman, I was free to play the role of corrupt politician, and I've seen enough corrupt politicians in my time to play the role very, very well.

Fellow citizens of New York, you must believe me when I tell you that I was within a few months of cracking wide open this high-level prostitution ring when the FBI blew my cover. "Kristen," as I called her, was close to giving me the information I needed -- she had provided everything I'd asked for in the past, and I had every belief she would continue to be cooperative in the future -- to identify "Mr. Big" and put him behind bars for a long, long time.

Thank you. No questions now, because you'll jeopardize what remains of my investigation.

10 March 2008

Building the new teaching machine. Part 1.

I'm really getting into the idea of virtual reality as the new distance education. Back in the old days, you had correspondence courses, which I won't knock since Ben and Jerry got their start with a correspondence course from Penn State. Then came the internet and interfaces like Blackboard, that provide for real-time chat and more of a sense of being in a semester-like situation -- you can actually interact to an extent with your students and/or your classmates. But it's all textual. It's like the web back in the days of Lynx and Gopher.

Second Life changes all that. Now you've got visual and with advances in graphics, the visuals will only get more lifelike and will ultimately be customizable to be more true to life, if you so desire -- your avatar can be based on a scanned photo for instance.

In my opinion, that leads to a paradox: I believe virtual worlds are so very popular these days mainly because you aren't yourself. You may think you are yourself, and anonymity does lend itself to comments like, "I can be myself in Second Life [because no one knows who I am, because I can be less inhibited, because I control my interactions]. And that precisely is why you aren't who you are. So Virtual Reality has its limitations as far as reality is concerned.

Official situations, like class situations, would require a certain consistency as far as identification is concerned, and while your classmates may never know who you are in real life, your instructor will, and for proper credit, your institution will as well. So the absolute freedom we've come to expect from hiding behind avatars and anonymous accounts goes by the wayside.

But the possibilities for something coming close to live in-class interaction can only grow stronger, at least until peak oil crushes us by making it too expensive to run the massive server farms we need to be virtual.

07 March 2008

I can see my x-ray vision paying off in daily ways.

Here's your view of oncoming traffic at the intersection of Ontario Road and Florida Avenue NW. For the past week or more a large storage container (the grey box in front of the truck) has been illegally parked, making it difficult to see traffic. Today, it was joined by this large Security Storage truck. These two items, both illegally parked, belong to Security Storage, which is located to the right of my camera shot.

Third District Police HQ is located about a block and a half away, but no officers seem to mind this safety hazard.

06 March 2008

Like looking for a particular piece of hay in a haystack.

Reminiscent of the old anti-war activities of the Vietnam era, the military recruiting station prominently placed in New York City's Times Square was bombed early this morning (3:45 a.m.). Much like the Weather Underground bombings of the 1970's, the intent seems to be damaging infrastructure/sending message without causing casualties. Of course, back in those days, the WU sent communiques and ran a newsletter...

Anyway, the bombing itself isn't really what I'm interested in. Apparently in this blast and in two others in the past three years in NYC, a bicyclist was seen nearby. The response by the brilliant anti-terrorist minds has been to stop and question bicyclists. Not a bicyclist on a red bike, or a mountain bike, or anything like that. In New York City, that's kind of like stopping all cabs because a cab was spotted in the area.

Or stopping all Black men because a Black man was a suspect. Oh, wait. You mean that happens?

05 March 2008

A post mainly to reassure my legions of readers that I haven't been run over by a truck. Yet.

Just when you thought I might have given blogging up to go join another cult, I'm back with a question for the ages:

How do you explain the music career of Lenny Kravitz?


p.s. I realize too that I've been tapped to participate in some meme...I promise to work on that.