My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You finish the line

Let the government build roads? Are you nuts? That’d be socialized transportation!

Let the government raise and army? That’s crazy! That’d be socialized warfare!

Let the government create national parks? Why, that’d be socialized recreation!

Let the government deliver the mail? Insane! That would be socialized communication!

Let the government fight fires? That would be socialized public safety!

Let the government manage health care? That would be __________

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tax Investments

The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance -- Thomas Jefferson

Are Democrats going to raise taxes? Yes. Are Republicans going to raise taxes? Yes. The question is: what would you rather pay for? A war and tax relief for the upper class or healthcare and education? I have a feeling that most Americans will easily choose investing in our nation’s health and future over a war that we can’t quite explain and relief for our richest citizens. With Republicans recent history of spending large amounts of money without increasing the amount coming in (they haven’t been fiscally conservative in decades); the Democrats must take the path of responsible and convince Americans that taxes are a necessary burden to any civilized society.

Homework is burdensome too, but you have to do it if you’re going to learn anything. Exercise is burdensome, but you have to do it if you’re going to be in good physical shape. Taxes are necessary if we are going to make wise investments in our national infrastructure that will pay off for all of us years and years in the future. That includes investments in things like education and healthcare for those who can’t afford it. Education and healthcare are investments in people. They are wise investments because they give us an educated citizenry, and educated workforce, and a healthy and efficient workforce. Those are the practical reasons for taxes. Other reasons for taxes are public services -- like police and fire, disaster relief, and so on.

Those are the practical reasons for taxes, but there are moral reasons as well. Education and health are important factors in fulfillment in life, and this country is about fulfillment in life. There is a reason why the Declaration of Independence talks about the pursuit of happiness and links that to liberty. The reason is that they go together. Without liberty, there can be no fulfillment in life. Thus there are practical reason why it makes sense to understand taxation as paying your dues in a country where you can pursue happiness because there is liberty and freedom.

The Republican argument to this over the last decade has been to say taxes are bad, a national debt of $9 trillion is easily forgettable, and if we just give the rich a tax break, maybe they’ll spend some of it on the rest of you. So when you hear them talk about tax cuts, it’s not about tax cuts. They are about getting rid of social programs and regulations of business because that is where that money most come from. Do not buy into this taxes hype. Be proud of the country that you live in. Invest in our future. Pay your taxes and demand that your country spends your money in the way that you want. Tell them that you would rather pay for healthcare and education over the war and tax breaks for the rich.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Favorite Porridge

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, so I thought that my cold morning breakfast staple was worth a mention with the colder months knocking at the door.


1 tablespoon butter
½ cup milk
1 cup hot water
¾ cups old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
Frozen blueberries
Fresh strawberries
1 Banana
1 tablespoon honey

Dice 3-4 strawberries and ½ of the banana and combine with about 20 of the frozen blueberries in whatever bowl that you plan on using for your porridge. Add the tablespoon of honey, stir to evenly coat everything, and let it sit while you make the oats.

In a 2½ quart or larger pan (nonstick work great) heat the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add the oats and as dash of salt and stir them every 30 seconds for about five minutes or until the butter has been absorbed and the oats smell nutty.

Add the half cup of milk, followed by the one cup of hot water, a dash of salt, and bring all of it to a slow boil, before reducing to medium heat. Stir every minute or so until the liquid is gone or until the oats have reached a texture that you like.

Pour the oats into the bowl with the fruit and stir to combine. Let sit for 2-3 minutes and dig in.

This is both an incredibly nutritious and filling breakfast that has always brought a smile to my face.

Friday, October 26, 2007

In Defense of Words

I have measured out my life in the etherized words of others.

Our language is intentionally flexible. It has grown, evolved, expanded, and become a force for social, political, and environmental change. Nothing is more powerful then the written word. That is why I get so upset when I see people attempting to stretch certain words to their breaking point, destroying their original meaning without either context or ability to justify the change.

Case in point: Torture. The original word the Latin tortura and dates back almost 2,500 years and means “to twist”. For most of that time it has been defined close to our current definition of:

  1. anguish of body or mind, something that causes agony or pain.
  2. the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.

Now without getting into the argument that torture, no matter how it appears on TV, is extremely ineffective and gives the impression that we cannot stay within our own laws, has become tortured itself. The current administration continuously says that we “don’t torture”, yet does not define what they believe the word “torture” means. In the beginning we were left to assume that we did not torture as it was defined in the Geneva Convention or how we understood it in our common vernacular. Then something strange happened, we found out that we do actually torture and have gone way beyond the current definitions. To add insult to injury, the word was continuously used until it had lost almost all meaning. We can now safely say that we torture, but don’t torture.

It’s in the evolution of the words that we find their true meaning. And in certain people, who choose their words carefully, that the slow progression of the word still thrives. I don’t believe that it takes a Chomsky or Eliot to become an expert in such matters. I am lucky enough to know several people, one in particular, who does a wonderful job at selecting just the right words for the situation. I wish I knew what causes some people to work so hard on finding just the right word while other carelessly toss them in every direction.

But maybe a bit more history is called for. In the beginning of the twentieth-century linguists began to believe that there was a capacity in individuals to produce and understand utterances. Noam Chomsky famously characterized this as a conceptual shift from a historical preoccupation with ‘E-language’ (a set of externalized utterances) to an emphasis on ‘I-language’ (principles internalized by the language learner). This focus be modern linguists on individual capacity to acquire and use language (called ontogeny) led to a flowering or research, allowing the biological and neural underpinnings of language to be studied coherently, and opening the door to consideration of how the language faculty evolved biologically (called phylogeny). But this approach left behind the traditional questions of cultural evolution of individual languages (called glossogeny) that tantalized earlier generations of linguists.

So how words change and evolve is still being heatedly argued. This leaves the rest of us as part of the process. Or as Chomsky would argue, the underlying explanation for how words change comes down to the individuals who learn and use the language. It is in the fusing of the academic theoretical models of cultural evolution to experimental investigations of social learning in the laboratory that the understanding of what markers and idiosyncrasies are need to cause a change in language.

Above all else, one thing is certain: It is our daily use and misuse of words that sculpt the next generations’ vocabulary. We should, we must, focus not just on the way in which we say things, but in the specific words that we use. If we do not, our beautifully descriptive language will become nothing but sound and thunder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


TV News is split into two basic categories, Hard News and Infotainment. Infotainment refers to a general type of news media broadcast program which either provides a combination of current events news, entertainment programming, or an entertainment program structured in a news format. Hard news embodies two orthogonal concepts. Seriousness, meaning a focus on politics, economics, crime, war, and disasters along with certain aspects of law, science, and technology. And timeliness, including stories that cover current events like progress of a war, the results of a vote, the breaking out of a fire, a significant public statement, the freeing of a prisoner, an economic report of note. The less hard news coverage a station has, the prettier the girls reporting it seem to be. It’s like a sliding scale of news creditability. At the top of this infotainment scale is the hardcore NILFs over at Fox News. Megyn Kelly, one of the co-host of America's Newsroom on Fox News is on the right.

Moving up the Hard News vs. Infotainment scale is the women over at E! Online. The host of E! News is Giuliana Rancic and was ranked #94 on the Maxim Hot 100 Women of 2004. Sure she is both attractive and informative, but she is still at a level where her looks distract from anything that she is talking about. Double standard, yes. Reality, yes. Fair, no. But you know that life isn’t fair. Besides, who do you think that these women are for? Is the news that hard to read from a prompter? Are two hour interviews, edited down to about ten minutes, really that hard to pull off? Are there more skilled journalists who aren’t as attractive that would do a better job?

You know the answers to those questions as well as I and you know exactly why these pretty women are where they are.Further down the list is the wonderfully wide-eyed and jejune Katie Couric. This is what happens when a good idea goes too far. Sure she’s incredibly nice, attractive, and is always happy to smile at the camera. Just look at that picture. No matter what she’s talking about, she still has a smile behind it. It doesn’t matter if she’s talking about terrorists invading our daycares or how much puppies are cute; it’s still going to sound nice. And really, what more do people need? It’s the same as reading the news on the internet with one of those banners for a dating service off to the side. Look, Iran is getting the bomb, but check out the bomb in the over there on the side of the page.

Which brings us to CNN. Being the first with 24 hour news, they learned early on that there was a certain level of NILFness that needed to be displayed in order to maintain certain people’s attention throughout long stories or on slow news days.

Check out Heidi Collins of CNN’s Newsroom. Here you will find women who are attractive, yet business-like and professional. Sure they probably still qualify as NILFs, but it’s not overpowering or blatant as some of the other stations. This is about the level that you want to look for whenever looking for serious hard news without hardons. CNN has found a good balance of professional women who just happen to be NILFs.

This leaves PBS and journalists like co-anchor of the Nightly Business Report Susie Gharib (pictured on the right) in the all hard news category. Strong, independent, still attractive in a woman-who-knows-what-she-wants kind of way, but it is by no means distracting. Now there are some abnormities like Nancy Grace, who probably placed where she is to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now I know what you are saying, Nancy Grace isn’t a NILF. She looks like someone beat-up a bulldog, gave it the voice of an angry blender, and the personality of a disgruntled carnie with a raging case of gout, but she is the rare exception. For the most part, the women on news channels fairly depict the seriousness of the news being covered. So when you are flipping through the channels trying to find out about the latest story, don’t be so easily distracted by the pretty NILF on the screen. Instead, look for one that is just attractive enough to give you the news without making you want to move on to the story about bras and knee-highs.

Friday, October 19, 2007

You are someone else's "they"

I would like to take a minute to clear something up:

“They” are not out to get you and it is not “their” fault.

But let me explain: I have been known to travel in several political circles, have dabbled in politics occasionally, and have really been trying hard to ignore the increasing “us vs. them” mentality, but I can’t. So here, let me say something once and for all, no one cares.

* There is no culture war between liberals and conservatives
* The government does not have a secret plot to hide, promote, discourage, or kill anyone
* You are not the center of any great or epic battle for all existence
* The world is not dying
* No one is coming for your morals, holidays, culture, or children

I’m sorry, but you are boring.

Anyone, anywhere, who attempts to place the blame for anything on a faceless “they” is simply trying to scare you into believing something fantastically obscured. This is especially true of the government and both political parties. All of them barely function most days and have to struggle to come to even the smallest of agreements. Pretending that there is a scientific agenda, past some general ideas, is sorely mistaken.

So please, stop it with the gross exaggerating. If you want to be that interesting, and to deserve that kind of coordinated effort, do something besides just sitting on your ass imagining your special -- because frankly, you’re not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Longevity & Self-Reliance, a rant

I enjoy good things that last. Unfortunately, those things are becoming harder and harder to find. We are constantly pressed for time, pleased with things that do a single purpose for a short lifespan, and buying things we know are crap because we know that we can buy another when the first one wears out. This is not something that I do well.

For instance, I own several Old Navy shirts (both button-up long-sleeves shirts and t-shirts). These things are disposable and inexpensive enough not to really hurt the wallet. But they seem to sap my dignity and are just another thing that I am going to end up adding to the world’s landfills sooner than I would like. Moreover, what I find strange is that there are better options out there that last three times as long for just a little more money, and we completely ignore them because their price tag is a few dollars more. So I have decided that I will no longer buy clothes for myself from places like Old Navy.

Let’s look at t-shirts. Now you can buy a decent t-shirt at Target (sorry, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart) for around $7.50, but for an addition five bucks you can get a Land’s End Performance t-shirt at Sears. What’s the difference? Well, the Land’s End resists fading, pilling, wrinkling, and shrinkage while most stains are either repelled or wash out very easily. It also has covered neck seam, reinforced shoulders, sewn side seams, and is tapered down the sides to make you look thinner. So not only is it a better shirt, but it will last you many time more than the cheapy one that you saved a measly five buck on.

This is also true with groceries. I have no idea why someone would buy produce, canned products, frozen vegetables, or meats that are of substandard quality just so that they can pretend that they’re eating well. If your tomatoes have no flavor, your bargain brand soups taste like dishwater, and your frozen dinner is as appetizing as the box it came in, then why the hell are you buying it? I guess the argument here is that sooner or later you will just get accustom to crap and think that it’s normal. This is both sad and an insult to your life.

Before you scold me for telling you the obvious choice of buying good quality over cheap crap, please remember that I’m doing so for sheer lazy reasons. Because along with having clothes that stay looking new and clean easily, I also think that we should all invest in products that give us more time to enjoy life on a higher level. An example? Okay, take my Roomba. It is a robot vacuum cleaner that vacuums and sweeps the floors when I’m not home. The air cleaners keep the house relatively dust-free and the Tivo records the shows or movies so that I can watch them at my own leisure. Add these to things like my dress shirts that are stain-resistant and wrinkle-free, and the little things in my life take care of themselves.

All of this is more important when you look at the bigger picture. Sure my two current vehicles have a combined mileage of almost 600,000 miles (now I’m bragging), but it is the investment in things that leads to a tendency to spread to the rest of life. When you start to look at things from a longer term perspective, you habits change. You will start to see objects as investments meant to make your life easier and better. Friends will be something you cultivate so that you can keep them for decades. And your mind, your beautiful mind, will not be wasted on things as mundane as housework. Most importantly, you will view the earth as something to leave better off than you found it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I was rereading some older Dawkins this week and wondered why no one ever talked about sex in our evolutionary process. I’m sure that almost all creatures here on earth enjoy sex in some way or another, but there are very few creatures that seem to do the act solely for pleasure. So I wonder when in our evolutionary process we humans learned to enjoy it and if it one of the reasons that we are the dominate creatures here on earth?

Surely the enjoyment of sex has lead to more procreation, but it is the other aspects that seem to really have a more salient root in the argument. Think of a young you, about 13, and how you dealt with the feelings budding inside of you. Were you uncomfortable? Sacred? Confused? Distant? Was it because of love, lust, or just a general sense that something was going on and you weren’t sure how to deal with it?

Now I would like to be a romantic and say that it was purely love, but I think that evolution would have mixed love and the need for sex together. That is to say, how often do you yearn for a love that is not physical? Is not touching, kissing, holding, caressing, and sex one of the main driving factors?

So where does that leave us? Is love and sex to thank just as much as our opposable thumbs and larger brains? Could they be an outcome of our desires? Are we a deeper evolved species because we yearn for the emotional and sexual gratification of each other? And does our continued progress in intellectual evolution come from our desire to show that young 13 year old us that we have the will to understand the cosmos, if just to prove that we might someday have the potential of understanding those who we are attracted to?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Intolerance of Dissent

We live in a time of extreme divisiveness, where individuals feel the need to categorize themselves by a color code and freely allow their views to become severe in one direction or another. Our spokespersons no longer preach to the choir, but throw Bibles at them. This absolutism makes us all us exceedingly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with our positions, so much so that we do not listen to their arguments. Where the damage is the greatest is not in our inabilities to argue to the center, but in the fact that if we do not listen to others because we are assuming that our own arguments are perfect. Creating assumptions of argument perfection through increased intolerance of dissent will only end in tragedy as none of us are perfect. It is the middle ground, moderation, listening to others, freedom of open dissent, which holds back from an implosion of self justification.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

John Donne - Elegy XX: To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy;
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe ofttimes, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing, though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopp'd there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th' hill's shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet, and show
The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
Off with your hose and shoes; then softly tread
In this love's hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
Revealed to men; thou, angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven-like Mahomet's paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite;
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd,
My mine of precious stones, my empery;
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee;
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's ball cast in men's views;
That, when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul might court that, not them.
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus array'd.
Themselves are only mystic books, which we
—Whom their imputed grace will dignify—
Must see reveal'd. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to thy midwife show
Thyself ; cast all, yea, this white linen hence;
There is no penance due to innocence:
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then,
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

Friday, October 05, 2007

I Love Good Food, a Plea

At any given moment you can find fresh breads, smoked meats, fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, and fruits, and wines all over my kitchen. My cabinets are full with nuts, homemade jerky and dried fruits, cereals, and more teas then any rational person can justify. Inside the fridge is a selection of good beers (I am going through a phase of the Stone beers), locally grown produce, rice and beans, fresh guacamole, hummus (make your own tahini, it’s worth it!), rotisseried chicken, pulled pork, some wonderful organic milk and juices, meats form the local butcher, and a selection of cheeses. What really makes me happy is that a large percentage of it was all made fresh in my kitchen or comes from local farms. As an example, I know that there are no preservatives, good quality ingredients, and fresh herbs in my pulled pork and BBQ sauce because I made it from scratch yesterday!

I don’t believe that people, especially Americans, eat well anymore. Now I admit that I weigh more then I should, but I eat good food, have very low cholesterol, and walk a couple miles a week with the dog. That being said, instead of eating what is good and good for us, we fill up on crap for as much as we could pay for ready-to-assemble foods and that makes us unhealthier then weighing more than we should.

Take a look at my pulled pork (the last thing to come out of my oven). It is better then anything that you’ll get in any restaurant and comes out cheaper per serving then what you would pay for if someone else made it. The whole three pounds of meat and accompanying sauce cost me a total of $12. That food will easily feed 4 hungry people, which breaks down to $3 a person. Can you buy a value meal at McWendys King for that? Sure, but what kind of quality and ingredients do you think you are going to get once they pay overhead, staff, business expenses, designated farms, cooks, cleaners… Chances are you’re eating something that is barely edible, of low quality, and not nearly as healthy as any doctor would recommend. And you know that!

So why, why do we do it? Why do we sacrifice our health and happiness for garbage? Are our schedules so important that our own wellbeing must take a backseat to email, TV, jobs, kids, and commuting?

What do you think is more important in your life? And if it is not your health and happiness, why do you continue to neglect them?

Eat, eat well. Enjoy and extend you life. Cook, it’s cheaper and better for you. Eat good food.

The value of identity is that it comes with purpose

A couple things are bothering me this morning:

1. I’ve had it with cowardly Democrats that have earned that title. Most of our Democratic Leadership, including those running for President, know damn well that 50 years ago the Democrats motto was “The national government has a central and positive role to play in bettering the lives of all Americans”, yet act today as if a suitable Democratic motto is, “We’re gonna pretend we’re moderates until we remember who we are”.

When you visit the Democratic Policy Committee’s Website there is a watered-down version about maintaining a “balance between too much government” and “too little government”, as if immediately conceding that they are prone building government as much as the Republicans were prone (past tense) to stripping government past reasonable functionality. By declaring themselves moderates from the outset, they have no where to bargain to. Instead, any points that they argue will fall between their moderate stances and where the Republicans are located on the right. This is not a recipe for success or balance.

2. What the hell is wrong with the Conservatives in this country? I am referring to just about every poll that I’ve read lately that places economic concerns down on the list of priorities below abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. Where the Democrats have given up and become middling, the Republicans have become a special interest completely at odds with their former selves. Government control over other peoples bodies and actions? Believing that economics isn’t a driving factor in our political, social, and moral environment? WTF?

Add to that the fact that since 1776 the US accumulated a national debt of $9 trillion dollars. Over half of it as incurred when a Bush was president. If you include the Regan presidency, 70% of the national debt ($6.3 trillion dollars) was created by three Republican Presidents. Of the 19 submitted budgets, only two were balanced.

Maybe the loss of the Republican goals of fiscal responsibility and individual rights with little government intervention has confused the Democrats to a point where they no longer no where to stand. Maybe the Democrats didn’t understand the economic boom of the 90’s that gave way to a majority feeling of financial comfort that elected the then Republican majority. And maybe the Democrats forgot all of those who died before them in the name of equal rights, balance of power, and freedom for all as the horror that was 9-11 descended upon the country. But none of these is forgivable if they do not find their way soon. I can only hope that they do so before the Republicans realize that they are no longer conservatives and move to eliminate the wavering Democrats for being almost useless.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All Id

I've been doing a lot of research lately and feel the need to use Freud, which is rarely my first choice, to compare some of the current societal directions in the hope that I can explain some of our countries current trends. First some basic Freudian background:

The Id is an undifferentiated pool of energy directed at one of a number of gratifications and is driven by the pleasure principle. From the Id the Ego grows and it is the Egos job to direct the Id to situations where the Id will get gratification. To achieve its goal, the Ego must be the part of the psyche that understands basic reality. The next level to the mind is the Super Ego and it understands societal constraints as it is the final part and has become internalized in the inner mind. It is the reason that we behave in a moral fashion. And it is the different balances of these three parts of mind that are the reasons for all of the varying types of people, according to Freud.

You can see examples of people with more Ego than Super Ego because they are the ones that believe that they are justified in their actions because it gives them the gratification that they desire. Those with a ruling Super Ego will generally seek civility at their own discomfort. This leaves those with a majority Id as the few lone individuals whose actions are solely dominated by their desire for personal gratification.

What I see as a current trend in our society is the movement from a dominate Super Ego to a majority Ego, Id combination. We are increasingly confrontational, frustrated, and ego-centric. Empathy has taken a backseat to personal desire.

Now I know that it is always the case for people to view their own moment in time through either rose colored glasses or abject pessimism, but I believe that current trends do show an unconventional rise in the overall population of people seeking nothing more than instant personal gratification.

The process, as I see it working with Freud's theory, shows that there is always an initial desire for security to seek that gratification. When and if that need for security does abate, it leaves comfort in its wake when a natural convenience to that gratification is found. This newly obtained convenience, if left sustained for long enough, gives way to complacency and comes with a yearning to feel above the others who have obtained that same level of convenient gratification. When this cycle is left alone for long enough, the comfort level manifest itself into exaggerated trends and audacious personal amplification. This is when the combination of the Ego and the Id overpower the Super Ego and where I believe that we are now.

History teaches us that there are only a handful of recorded times in which life was easy and comfortable for a great percentage of the society. In each of these times the end of the trend has come from either an implosion under the weight of the attempt to sustain easy and readily available gratification, circumstances in which that culture was not able to adapt, or a combination of the two. And it is in this vein that I see the recurring rise of our ruling Super Ego. So if anyone needs me, my Super Ego has demanded that I help to speed up the process bringing us back to civility. To do this it has recommended to my psyche that I skipping all of the other parts and just go all Id.