MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
Visit me at my new blog, MsGeek.Org v3.0

Heard the Word of Blog?

Thursday, September 30, 2004

They're not going to follow somebody who says 'this is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.'

Oh yeah, George?

Thank Goddess almighty, Kerry won. This was definitely a big win, along the lines of Bill Clinton vs. George Herbert Walker Bush or maybe even JFK vs. Nixon.

Bush looked like he'd rather be reading My Pet Goat.

Holy schadenfreude, Batman, if Kerry keeps this up, he might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

From "t3h l33t" department:

I now have my $24 eBay LaserJet 4P printer up and running on my "daily drive" Linux desktop machine, and I'm loving it. For all the money I've spent buying ink cartridges for my trusty old DeskJet 810c, I could have bought a new laser printer years ago. It's times like these you actually start personally relating to Homer Simpson.

Hopefully, since I'm running Linux here, I'll be able to share this printer around to the other machines here in my lab. Most operating systems can send a print job to an LPR queue, and that's in essence what CUPS is, with a bunch of fancy stuff added.

I even went so far as to order a dustcover for it. My apartment is above a row of garages so people's cruddy exhaust tends to blow in. This results in an icky "superdust" that is way hard to remove from things. I will be temporarily putting a towel over the printer when not in use but after I receive the dustcover I'll use that to protect it. I want this printer to last me a while.

Boy, I'm now sounding like freakin' techie Martha Stewart. Which leads us to the second station on my train of thought for today. Apparently Ms. Stewart isn't going to spend her sentence in a fashionable Connecticut minimum security prison. She's not going to Federal Pound-Me-In-The-@$$ prison, either. She's off for a West Virginia vacation at 'Camp Cupcake,' a minimum security "prison camp for women." She gets out in March and will be under house arrest for 5 more months.I don't have much sympathy for her, but I kind of admire that she's going to take her medicine and "put all this behind (her)" rather than engage in protracted legal warfare.

Tomorrow's the first of the three Presidential debates. I'm not sure whether I want to sit through it or not. There's not going to be any "real" action to these debates...they are locked down and 100% controlled. We're not going to see any fireworks. But I might watch anyway. It depends on what I'm doing at the time.

Oh yeah, this weekend I'm coming up to Santa Barbara to get the updates done on my laptop. I've finally gotten to the point where yeah, I'd better have some gurus there to help me get the work done on it. Also I haven't been up to see my buddies there in a while so this will be nice. A change of scenery will do me some good.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Talk about reinvention! When I gripe about how hard it is for a 40-year-old woman to get through College after being away from it for so long, I need to remember Granny D., aka Doris Haddock, who is running for the Junior Senator seat from New Hampshire at the tender age of 94.

She's a major underdog candidate in this domain of rock-ribbed New Hampshire Republicanism, but she's got a surprising amount of support in a campaign which should have been a cakewalk for the incumbent.

I found out about her candidacy at subscribe to their newsletter, but the site pretty much has the same stuff as the newsletter plus a bit more. They are worthy of your interest whether you get their emails or visit their site.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Proposition 71, The California Stem Cell Initiative: wrong way to fight for liberalization of Stem Cell research.

As I have mentioned here before, I am totally against the "Borrow and Spend" economics of Bush. One of the things I have also mentioned here is my absolute hatred of hypocricy, so I'm going to strike a blow for consistency here.

A bond issue is the wrong way to fight the national restrictions on Stem Cell research. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that the Feds need to untie the hands of our medical scientists and allow research on human stem cells, even if those stem cells come from aborted blastocysts or surplus blastocysts created by fertility treatments. A California initiative written simply to show defiance of the Federal ban and to explicitly allow privately-funded research using fetal stem cells in this state would have sufficed. However, putting up an almost $3 Billion bond over 10 years to fund fetal stem cell research is the wrong move. California is servicing a shipload of bonded indebtedness as it is. We shouldn't place California in further debt for anything but a very, very good reason. And even though Stem Cell research is a good reason, it doesn't rise to the level where busting the budget is required.

If this had been a bond issue to, for example, fund putting all Californians who cannot afford medical care into the MediCal program, I would be supporting it, big time. That would head off any attempt to balance the State or Federal budget on the backs of the poor and disabled. If this had been a bond issue to fund a Shinkansen "bullet train" to service the route now taken by the Coast Starlight between San Diego and San Francisco, providing a real alternative to driving the route for millions of Californians, I'd also be supporting that.

The fact is that there is plenty of private funds available for Stem Cell research, if only they could be used for that purpose. Do you think that Big Pharma wants to pass up the possibility of more treatments they can patent and sell? Do you think they enjoy sitting out this very promising research??? They want in, but George W. Bush has them hogtied thanks to the "limited stem cell line" regulations. If California gave the legal OK to pursue this research with a ballot proposition affirming that in this state we allow such research, we'd have more bioresearch jobs and growth in the biomedical sector.

California has led the way before with progressive decisions before the Feds get around to the same conclusion. California women got the vote on local and California State elections in 1911, nine years before women got the vote nationwide. California was one of the first US States to allow "compassionate use" of Marijuana for those patients who would benefit from its many applications to ease pain, restimulate appetites for food ravaged by AIDS and by Cancer Chemotherapy, and to lower intra-ocular pressure in Glaucoma patients. We can lead the way again if we just approved a simple ballot measure to explicitly allow fetal Stem Cell research. We just don't need to approve $Billions in bonded indebtedness in the process.

Oh yeah, one more thing that should be in such a bill or ballot measure: a clause reading "Nothing about this law can be construed to allow the cloning of humans for reproductive or other purposes." Cloning humans is wrong. Hell, the current experiments with cloning animals has shown that they live shorter and more painful lives, and I believe that, for the sake of humane treatment of animals, the research into the process should be stopped. The companies that are racing to allow the cloning of Kitty or Fido for pet owners who can't bear to think of losing their pets are taking advantage of our attachment to our pet animals. They are also showing their total disregard for the products of the cloning of pet animals...the cloned creatures themselves. Is it fair to bring an animal into the world who will have a shorter and more disease-ridden life when there are so many other alternatives, like adoption of a Shelter kitty or puppy in memory of the dead pet? And if animals suffer as a result of cloning, it is clear that cloned humans would suffer and die young as well.

Anyway, here are links to official pro and anti Prop 71 sites. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.

Pro-Prop 71:

Anti-Prop 71:

Saturday, September 25, 2004

From the "Jon Swift votes for truth" department...

I know I have spoken in the past about how much of a willful ignoramus I think that George W. Bush is. Note I did not say stupid, or chimp-like, or anything like that. I believe that W. is not stupid. I believe his lineage is 100% H. sapiens sapiens. I think W's problem is that he has made a choice to sound stupid when he speaks. I think he has also made choices to be willfully ignorant on a large swath of issues that would require real research and soul searching to reach an informed opinion on.

It is disturbing, also, how this "playing dumb" appeals to a certain portion of the electorate. Despite public information about just how wealthy the Bush family is, and how far away they really are from the interests of middle and working-class Americans, somehow or another people have the weird funhouse mirror image of the Bush family as "just plain folks," and contrast the faux-folksy image with that of people they believe to be "elitists" like Al Gore, and now John Kerry. The fact of the matter is that the Bush family are indeed fabulously wealthy, and George W. Bush himself has admitted that he does not understand the needs of the poor. Yet George W. Bush and the rest of his fortunate family seem to be seen by a large swath of America as being in touch with the common folk. Let me quote you something from the article which inspired me to write this post you are currently reading:

Kerry doesn't know what the working-class people do; he hasn't done any physical labor all his life....Bush's values are middle-class family values....

These are the words of Sharon Alfman, a 51-year-old cook in New Lexington, Ohio, as quoted by a New York Times reporter. Well, I have something to ask you, Ms. Alfman: do you think that George W. Bush has done any physical labor in his privileged, pampered life? I don't mean clearing brush on his private ranch. I mean, do you really believe that George W. Bush has ever had to take a job digging ditches or tarring roofs or jackhammering out damaged concrete to make ends meet? Not bloody likely. Certainly John Kerry hasn't had to either, especially after marrying into the fabulously wealthy Heinz family. But let's get real, folks: no construction worker, McDonalds fry cook or Wal*Mart greeter has the wherewithal to run for the highest office in the land. It's a rich person's game, it's still by-and-large a rich White man's game, and no amount of putting your hands over your ears and screaming "La La La I can't hear you...La La La America is Classless...La La La middle-class family values..." will change that.

Class is indeed the Elephant in the Living Room of America. While our society still has some semblance of upward mobility, and we do not have the same sort of ossified social stratifications that still plagues the UK, we definitely have classes in America, there are definitely haves and have-nots in America, and poverty is a fact of life for a disturbingly large portion of our society. In fact, downward mobility is a real part of our existence now, and has been since at least the Reagan era.

Political cartoonist and writer Ted Rall has suggested, in his column, that perhaps people who don't know about the issues should not be allowed to vote. I am hoping that he doesn't mean this in anything other than an absurdist, Swiftian sense. I've been known for indulging in that kind of political humor myself in these, I really don't think that we should nuke the entire Middle East, nor do I believe that George W. Bush is the Antichrist.

If he was being serious, however, I cannot support this, no matter how tempting the idea of a political literacy test being used to winnow out those unworthy of the Franchise. America was not originally a place where everyone could vote, and my grandmothers were alive during a time when women were denied the vote. I'm sure everyone remembers that, in the beginning of this country, only White property-holders could vote. (at least I hope so.) In the early 1800s, "manhood suffrage" gave the non-propertied White male the right to vote. Black men have been able to vote, in theory, since the end of the Civil War, but in practicality they were barred from the polls, particularly in the South, for a long time after the US Constitution gave them the right to vote. Just as I don't support a Constitutional amendment denying gays the right to marry, and just as I believe that the Constitutional Amendment that instituted Prohibition was a bad idea and it was right to repeal it, I think that any real action to deny people the vote on grounds of political illiteracy would be repugnant and downright evil.

However, I don't think Rall is being serious here. I think he's simply pointing out a fact of life about America...there's a disturbing rise in anti-Intellectualism afoot. Arguably, it's never gone away. Yes, America was founded by a cadre of guys I take pride in describing as "political geeks." But some of the first European settlers in The New World were strongly quote one of the Puritan Fathers, John Cotton: "The more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee." It is theorized by British educators that one of the reasons why boys in school in Britain are having problems with language arts is what is characterized over there as "laddism." Laddism is the view among boys that being successful in school is somehow less than manly. Anyone who has lived in this culture knows that America is like that too, and American children are socialized to not be "eggheads." We pay lipservice to honoring academic achievement, but achievement is sports is often more lionized.

In a civilization where intellectuals are scorned, the rise of George W. Bush to the role of 43rd President of the United States is predictable and oh so sad. The stultocracy reigns, and we only have ourselves to blame.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Two articles just recently crossed my transom, and I think they are worth noting on this hot, sweaty afternoon leading into Yom Kippur. (My mom is laughing in Heaven right now...yes, we're having a heat wave during the High Holy Days.)

The first one is pretty damn scary. I really love Plastic.Com because it's really one of the most intelligent places on the Internet to talk politics. Yes, it skews Left because of most of the participants but we also have some really good (big and small "l") libertarian voices and even a few on the Right who are worthy opponents. Often times things you see here were originally stories or quick links by Plastards of all stripes.

Anyway, a woman whose son was killed in Iraq was arrested a couple of weeks ago for wearing a T-Shirt reading "Bush, you killed my son" and attempting to cause a commotion at an appearance by First Lady Laura Bush. She then gave an interview to the Counterpunch website, and now the shit has really hit the fan for her. She made a few choice remarks, and now she might face prosecution for terrorist threats.

She is not the only one to have to deal with this kind of official harrassment for expressing dissent against the current administration in picturesque terms. Such disparate individuals as a poster on Kuro5hin, and a 15-year-old kid, too young to vote, venting his frustration with the current Administration in a sketchbook have both been visited by agents of the US Secret Service.

Note that all this is wildly unconstitutional according to a Vietnam War-era decision of the Supreme Court, but that was a long time ago, alas. One suspects that the current court would rule more like the dissenting opinion recorded in the decision. And of course, the thought that something is "wildly unconstitutional" never stopped the administration of Bush The Younger in the past.

I am sure if Bush is re-elected I and others in the blogosphere might find ourselves dragged off to Camp Reagan in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (gratuitous Frank Zappa reference) for expressions of frustration in picturesque, sometimes even Swiftian terms. When Ari Fleischer said:

Watch what (you) say, watch what (you) do....

right after 9/11, we had no clue of just how dead serious he and the Administration he was speaking for was.

In lighter news, Jon Stewart managed to get Bill O'Reilly to hoist himself on his own petard on his own Faux News cable TV show. The punchline of this is that the transcript of this incident, which I'm linking to here, is hosted on none other than the Faux News Channel website. Boo. Yah. You got served, O'Reilly. Punk'd in public. Gotta love it.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

From the "smells like...victory" department:

I said that I'd believe I was getting financial aid when it arrived in my did. Glory be.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I haven't written lately because I have a big burst of classwork to do. I'll do some updating when things calm down. I want to say one thing, though, before I go...l'affaire 60 Minutes has got Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. CBS News and the Kerry campaign got set up and knocked down...a pro-class con game. I hope I'm just being a nervous nelly but this looks really, really bad.

Let's just hope that in 2008 we have a candidate and a political team that knows how to fight dirty and has the stomach for it too. That is, if before 2008 W doesn't pull a consolidation coup to make him el Presidente por vida.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

From the "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" desk:

Wonder no more why it seems Bush is gaining traction in the polls: it seems like the Gallup Organization has their thumb not on the pulse of the public, but on the scales. God bless the DailyKOS...the Blogosphere is leading the way on this story and I'm waiting for the press to has been revealed that the head of the Gallup opinion research organization is a GOP donor. Furthermore, The Left Coaster is revealing the down-the-rabbit-hole kind of methodology that Gallup is using to "cook" the numbers for Bush.

There might be a November 2nd Surprise after all. Please, please, let there be PLEASE!!!

Friday, September 17, 2004

More stuff finally falling into place:

1.) Math is starting to finally make sense to me. The intensive work I did over the summer has paid off in that I seem to be able to assimilate mathematical concepts better. I'm also finally getting the names of mathematical properties (distributive, commutative, etc.) straight too. Finishing off the remaining tests on Math 112 at the same time I'm working on Math 113 and trying hard to not get too far behind on that seems to work very well. I have scheduled Math 112 tests a week from Monday and two weeks after that. The next two tests will then be taken sometime in late October to the month of November. Hopefully, since I will be knee-deep in Algebraic concepts by then in Math 113, the Algebraic topics in the last two chapters I have to test on in Math 112 will be easier.

2.) I ahould have my financial aid money by the end of the month.

3.) I am now unofficially Dr. Rosow's aide for Education 203. I'm not being paid or anything but hopefully I'll get a glowing letter of recommendation from her by the end of the semester. She suggested I should make an appointment with Dr. Brossman in Academic Counseling so that we could discuss my plans once I finish my BA in Psychology at Woodbury...Doc Rosow believes that I'd make a really good school counselor. She thinks my game is a little weak for actually being a teacher (not hopeless...she just thinks I need to learn more about presenting to and managing groups of people, particularly groups of kids) but she thinks being a school counselor would be something I would have natural aptitude for. I also found out something quite scary from one of the Edu 203 students who's actually working in LA Unified: there is currently a glut of student teachers. Apparently my decision to go into teaching as a profession is a decision a shipload of other people have made too. However, there *is* a shortage of school counselors and related personnel, and this is a shortage not very likely to be remedied in the next few years.

4.) I've finally received a working USB2 card, complete with little power supply to give an extra boost to the USB powering circuitry. I'm going to try it and the CenDyne-badged Lite-On USB2 CD-RW with my ThinkPad sometime this weekend. Burnination on my laptop! W00t! Hopefully the card will be supported under Linux too. I still haven't gotten up the courage to install the HD. That's something I should do, but since I have an already functioning version of Windows 2000 on the ThinkPad trying out the USB2 card should be my first move.

5.) Sometime this weekend I also want to take Richie to see Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. I don't give a tinker's damn whether it is currently showing as "rotten" at RottenTomatoes.Com, I was absolutely blown away by it when I saw it. It's an evolution far beyond the original movie, with the deep philosophical concepts shown visually most of the time rather than the narrative stopping dead in its tracks like it did in the original GITS movie for expository dialogue.

I finally got to see Belleville Rendezvous, known more commonly here as The Triplets Of Belleville after a run to 20/20 Video in Van Nuys to look for movies I need to watch for Sociology 22. I had to see it on DVD. Richie saw it on a vaguely larger screen, on a plane flying to and from London where Saccharine Trust played at All Tomorrow's Parties this Spring. I want Richie to see the movie in its full glory on a big screen, not just wait for the DVD or try to download an XviD of it. (not that I have ever done anything like that but I know the rip is circulating) Yes, I will be giving Sony Pictures Entertainment, an MPAA signatory, some money. Yes, I normally shy away from MPAA movies because of my disagreements with them. I even try to buy used DVDs to avoid giving the MPAA any money. But this is one hell of an experience. If Innocence is playing anywhere near you, drag your ass to the theatre and SEE IT.

6.) And finally, speaking of the MPAA, the RIAA and people who are thoroughly 0wnz0r3d by them, I am working on an open letter to Congressman Howard Berman, Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein which I will post here when finished. To sum up the message I will be conveying: I do not support what they are doing to the Right of Fair Use, the Right of First Sale, the terms of Copyright and giving special rights to Big Media to control what you do with sold media like DVDs and media devices like Computers. I believe the current rules governing copyright, patents and other intellectual property matters tilt the table too far away from the rights of the user and too far towards the rights of corporate media.

However, to quote Jello Biafra, "We Have A Bigger Problem Now." That problem is President George Walker Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the neo-Con cabal that is currently running US foreign policy. Failing defeating W at the polls, we need all the Democrats we can get in the House and Senate in order to hamstring the W agenda and perhaps to even look at Impeachment and Removal for willfully misleading the public and Congress into the Iraq War. No less an authority than John Dean believes there is grounds for Impeachment and Removal under this theory, and this and other grounds are enough, according to former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, to charge Bush and his cohorts. The latter link is to sample Articles of Impeachment drawn up by Mr. Clark, Esq. detailing the charges he would bring against them if he had the power to do so.

To accomplish this, the lock the Republicans have on the House needs to be broken, and the Senate needs to continue to be a tossup between Republicans and Democrats. Better still would be a return to Democratic control of both houses of Congress. To that end, I am no longer advocating voting against Berman or either of the two California Senators, in spite of disagreements over IP issues. Hell, I had even taken out the domain to provide those opposed to Berman another venue to campaign against the bastard. However, we don't have that kind of luxury now. While it is not likely that Berman's safe Congressional district, further made safer by gerrymandering, will be up for grabs; the campaign against Senator Barbara Boxer is fizzling like a dud firecracker; and Senator Dianne Feinstein doesn't have to stand for reelection this year, it is still a must that their seats be protected in case of a move to impeach and remove. We need all the Democrats (real ones, not Democrats In Name Only like Zell Miller and Joseph Lieberman) we can get to make this happen, or at least to hamstring a re-elected W enough so that he cannot do any further damage to our country.

Senator Kerry's slow-mo self-destruction is distressing and annoying. It is as if Karl Rove himself picked W's opponent. Face it, four more years might actually happen. I hope that Kerry's reputation as "the Comeback Kid" holds, because four more years of W is pretty damn scary. So scary that I'm going to get a Passport for the first time in my life in case I have to bail on the country I love.

If we can't defeat this slimy, willfully ignorant bastard, we need to make his next four years a living hell. There is no luxury of voting a third party candidate for the next four years. A vote for anything other than a straight Democratic ticket is a vote for George Walker Bush. So I will have to put my parochial, geeky concerns aside for the foreseeable future, and I hope more US Citizens of goodwill do the same. Vote Democrat as if your life and freedom depends on it, because it might.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

From the "Inscribed in the Book of Life?" department:

OK, it's Rosh Hashana. Am I going to go to shul today? No. Am I getting together with family? No, but I'm going to make some calls tonight after getting back from school. However, I'm doing a lot of thinking about Rosh Hashana related stuff thanks to an odd coincidence.

There's now only one remaining original member of the Ramones left. Johnny Ramone died yesterday. It's weird...first Joey dies, then DeeDee, then Johnny. Leaving only Tommy Ramone, the drummer. It seems like quite a few people from the original Punk Rock wave have died...Joe Strummer of The Clash also comes to mind. End of the Century indeed.

I have been aware of the impermanence of life pretty early on. My father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis when I was 8 years old. People tried to hide it from me, but it's hard to hide facts from a precocious little girl with a voracious appetite for reading. I knew what happened to Lou Gehrig. He got sick and died. I had no idea who Stephen Hawking was so I had no reason for a slim hope that my father could live for decades after the diagnosis, albeit in an inert, useless body. (Stephen Hawking was diagnosed in 1963, the year of my birth, and is still among the living. Some dispute whether or not his affliction is ALS because of his continued survival.)

The references in the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur liturgies to "The Book of Life," and being inscribed therein, had a frightening edge after that. Would my dad be inscribed in the Book Of Life, or would he be taken this year? Would my mom? Would I be? There was a point where I had very real anxiety during the whole stretch of one year's High Holy Days whether or not I'd have my name written in God's magic book. I might have even had the first panic attack I ever experienced during that time.

Remember, my parents were very assimilated and we attended first the Reform Jewish temple that my paternal grandparents were members of, and then later on the Reform temple that my uncle belonged to. None of us ever became members of any congregation for ourselves. We were classic "High Holy Days Jews"...roughly akin to the Christians who only attend Church on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve. Nobody on either side of my family were hardcore.

Looking at my life now, the season speaks to me more in Zen Buddhist terms than anything else...the awareness of the impermanence of life. It's the opening lines of the Japanese classic "The Tale of the Heike Clan" that speak to me more nowadays.

The sound of the bell of the shrine of Gion echoes the impermanence of all things. The hue of the flowers of the teak tree declares that they who flourish must be brought low. The proud ones are but for a moment, like a daydream in spring. The strong are destroyed in the fullness of time, they are but dust in the wind.

Come to think of it, there's a strain of Jewish thought that sounds an awful lot like that...Ecclesiastes comes to mind here. Nothing is permanent, everything is mutable, everything changes. To everything (Turn! Turn! Turn!) there is a season.

Anyway, I feel the impermanence of life acutely with everybody I lose, whether they are people I personally know or people who have touched me indirectly, like The Ramones and The Clash did. I'm going to be 41 in November...I should expect this. But you never get used to it, just as you never get used to a San Fernando Valley Summer and its raging heat.

My mom used to say that the hot Santa Ana winds were God's way of driving home the point of being totally serious about the reflection and self-assessment you were supposed to be doing at this time. The heat was, in her estimation, a preview of Hell. Never mind that Jews, particularly Reform Jews who are basically the Unitarian Universalists of Judaism, don't really believe in the Zoroastrian/Manichaean concept of Hell that became a part of Christianity. Some Jews believe in Sheol, a shadow-world where the souls of those found wanting and not admitted into Paradise dwelled until their souls dissolved into nothingness. Some actually believe in a species of Reincarnation...the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer spoke of it frequently. Some believe, like the Unitarian Universalists, that eventually all souls find their way into Paradise. (Save for those who were absolutely depraved and evil like Hitler whom God personally blasts into nonexistence at death.)

The uncanny thing was my mom passed away about 11 years ago, and ever since then I can't seem to recall a heat wave concurrent with the High Holy Days since then. There's still 9 more days to go, and we could have a heat wave yet before the sunset that ends Yom Kippur. Actually the weatherman is saying we could have heating up as early as Monday...hmmm...

I've got some more to say but I think I'll end this post here.

Oh yeah: Feliz Diez y Seis de Septiembre to everyone living in or with roots in Mexico.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It might be September 11th, but it's business as usual here at SFVLUG. We meet every two weeks or so, give or take, and today we are alfresco at the Village Coffee Roaster. They've got free bandwidth, which is sweet...that's something we usually don't get at our usual haunts at Denny's by the Van Nuys Airport.

It's sweltering out here in Calabasas...make no mistake. When Buffy The Vampire Slayer was still on TV I used to make the joke that the Hellmouth wasn't in Sunnydale, it was in Woodland Hills. But we've got some shade here and these guys supposedly have killer iced mochas (I think I'll get one later) so it's not so bad.

It's not like I haven't been thinking about what happened 3 years's inescapable. Anyone who saw it and didn't mistake it for some Jerry Bruckheimer flick has it burnt into their cerebrum. The Worst Thing In The World (tm) happened that day, and nothing can change that. People died. It sucked. I don't think that going after Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do in the wake of 9/11...we should have hunted Osama Bin Laden down like the animal he is and took him out, and we also should have held the Saudis feet to the fire until they coughed up every last supporter of Al'Qaeda in the realm. Of course, that was not the course taken. Not only is Al'Qaeda stronger than ever, but they certainly have a succession plan that will mean that if Bin Laden is finally cornered and taken out there will be any number of True Believers to succeed him.

Shed a tear for the lost. And then let's move on.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Bye Bye Michael...don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Michael Eisner has announced that he will retire from The Walt Disney Company in 2006. Never mind that the damage has been already done. Never mind that Disney's once mighty traditional animation division has been gutted. Never mind that the theme parks are in shambles. Never mind any of that. As of 2006, the witch will indeed be pushing up daisies, and the opportunity to rebuild will finally happen.

Eisner's succession pick is Robert Iger, current Disney President. This plan is not popular with the shareholders, nor at SaveDisney.Com, the site put up by Roy Disney's Shamrock Holdings to rally opposition to Eisner.

The MsGeek.Org pick? Think Different and bring Steve Jobs on as Disney iCEO. Disney would receive Pixar back as a vital part of its animation operations, with a nucleus of proven, story-driven artist/writers. Disney would also have a visionary back at the helm, a man whom Old Man Walt would probably recognize as being much like himself. They'd also get some real computers to sell, with or without mouse ears.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From the "Tax and Spend" vs. "Borrow and Spend" department:

Well, well, well...on the heels of the NatGuardGate revelations, all the Bush camp can whine about, aside from the typewriter the reports were written on (which IBM had been producing since 1941) is how much of "Tax and Spend" liberals Kerry and Edwards are.

Here's what a Bush operative in Maine said:

"It is clear to Mainers that the tax-and-spend policies of John Kerry and John Edwards will not grow the economy or stimulate job creation,"

Guess what? George W. Bush has created a whole new category of economic policy for himself. Let's call it "Borrow and Spend." After 8 years of disciplined spending and pay-as-you-go policies under Clinton, W has spent us back into deficits at an alarming rate.

I'd rather see intelligent taxing and spending instead of the current borrow and spend, damn the deficits policies embarked upon by the Bush/Cheney administration.

You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.

-- Dick Cheney, to Paul O'Neill, 2002.

Welcome to another episode of GeekBack, where I gather up all the bits and pieces of news that interests me.

Item one: Science has confirmed something I have suspected for decades: my '70s-era exposure to smog while growing up has stunted the growth of my lungs.

The result of this, according to a report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests a whole laundry list of potential problems in the future. Great. The children in the study were followed from 1993 to 2003, after a lot of improvements in cars and diesel engines had also improved our air and reduced the number of first-stage or higher smog alerts. In the '70s, first-stage smog alerts were almost everyday occurances, and we got second-stage alerts every so often. If children exposed to the better air of '90s LA showed effects, what kind of horror awaits my generation?

Item two: my email inbox is under siege. I am not sure whether I've been Joe Jobbed or whether this is the result of an acquaintance with an unpatched Windows computer that's been owned by a spambot worm. All I know is that I'm getting tons of "bounce" messages, and the return mail address is a random grouping of alphanumeric characters

However, it all seems to have evaporated now. Maybe the dumbass with their "Typhoid Mary" computer took it down and patched it, or maybe Spam Assassin has gone into action against the spurious messages. Keeping fingers crossed that this is over, finally.

Item three: the W/National Guard story is yet another one that refuses to go away. And it shouldn't. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. If W was able to get into the National Guard and evade active service in Vietnam because of his privileged background, if W was able to get away with ducking out of his commitments to the Guard because he was a Fortunate Son, and then he turns around and sends over 1,000 brave men and women to their doom, damn right we should be talking about it.

The evidence is clear. George Walker Bush, the current President of the United States of America and Commander in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, weaseled out of service in Vietnam. John Kerry, on the other hand, volunteered for combat duty and served in a gallant and distinguished manner. It is for that reason that in the early 1970s, when he turned around and testified to the horror of the Vietnam experience, that he had the moral authority to do so. Kerry represented hundreds of his comrades who came home from the war racked with guilt over things they had done and needed to unburden themselves. The message he gave to Congress was one Vietnam revisionists would like to forget.

It is one of the ironies of history that Kerry, if elected President, will have to go to these families who have lost children in Iraq and try to console the survivors of those who, to use his youthful turn of phrase, "died for a mistake." I do not envy him his hard task.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

One of the things I do with my time when not in College is volunteer with an organization called Koreh LA. They're a literacy organization that goes into schools to help kids who need extra help in language arts. I started with them last semester, and I have two boys at Hazeltine Elementary School whom I read with. Most LA Unified Elementary Schools are on a "multiple track system" which alternates pretty much every two months. I'm reading with one kid now, and the other is on vacation until around Halloween. Then the kid I'm currently reading with goes "off track" and takes a vacation, then I work with the other kid.

However, it seems as if Hazeltine Elementary is not so enthusiastic about our presence. As many times as I have come to the school and had sessions with the students, it seems like there's been an equal number of times when 1.) the teacher has forgotten all about me, and 2.) the teacher is reluctant for me to drop in and work with a kid for fear I will take them away from their programmed activities for too long. I got a bit of both today. Nobody told the teacher in this one kid's class that I was coming, and she was horrified that I'd take the kid away from his math and Open Court Reading (ugh!) assignments. It was a tense situation and I felt 100% unwelcome.

The one thing I took away from Education 203 is a strong regard for the power of learning to read by reading and by being read to, and the power of learning to write by writing. No amount of fuh-fuh-fuh-phonics and fill-in-the-blank worksheets will help a kid become more fluent a reader and a writer if they don't have context and input. It is almost like these teachers perceive that I might "show them up" in front of their students by reading them cool books and having them make their own personal storybooks.

Today I had a "why do I even bother?" feeling walking away from the school. Hopefully reassigning me a time to work with the kid during lunch (he hates having to play on the playground...I suspect he's being bullied) when I'm not stepping on the teacher's toes (grr) might be best for all concerned.

Hopefully things will get better there. If not...oh well. This kid goes off track and the other kid goes on track around Halloween, like I said. And in his case, I know that I can keep his attention if I find him neat books about Dinosaurs.

Downtime finally explained.

I had been trying to post yesterday's post last night, and continued to have problems this morning. There was nothing on the Blogger status page about it, but apparently my blog and a whole lot of other people's blogs went down yesterday and only now went back up.

Here's what I was finally told, via email:

Hi there,

We apologize for the problems you have been experiencing with Blogger. We
had a simultaneous failure across multiple machines responsible for the
publishing of Blog*Spot blogs, but this issue has now been fixed. To
prevent this type of outage in the future, we are performing a full system
audit to ensure that proper redundancies are in place.

Blogger Support

OK, simultaneous failure across multiple machines, for a little less than a day. Certainly this was a noticeable thing that could have been reported on the Blogger status page. But there was nary a peep that something systemic was wrong until now. Not good form, guys. Not good form.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

What a difference a few days makes.

Apparently the Bushie Bounce is looking more like Kerry's post-Convention Dead Cat Bounce. Reports now say that the 11 point bounce Bush got from the NYC convention was more like 3-4 points. The Zogby poll still says that if the election was held today, Kerry would win more electoral votes than Bush. However, Kerry'd better get to kicking some ass and soon, or he's going to lose. And if he loses, we all lose.

I finally got my Award Letter was to be mailed tomorrow but I was able to pick it up tonight at the Financial Aid office at LAVC. It's the bare minimum...just the Pell Grant, no work-study. "We have no more funding for work-study for anyone who does not have children to support." Swell. Well, at least I won't be penalized for taking the one class I need which does not appear on the new Education Plan that was drawn up at the end of Spring Semester. I won't be paid Financial Aid monies for it, but I at least won't get docked further for it.

And Tom Reed got good news from Florida...aside from a new leak in the roof over the kitchen Hurricane Frances didn't do any lasting damage. He's staying in Georgia, taking it easy after DragonCon and waiting out the cleanup from Frances and Charley. Hurricane Ivan looks like he is more interested in a vacation in Mexico than a trip to Florida, so we're all breathing a sigh of relief for him. I think maybe Tom should consider relocating to California...we're a Blue State and we only get cataclysms once every generation or so. ^_^

Monday, September 06, 2004

George W. Bush: Antichrist Superstar?

Amidst all the criticism of the Presidency of George W. Bush from the Left, there has also been a fair amount from the Right as well. Most disagree with Bush's policies, particularly his budget-busting federal spending, some have questioned the propriety of the invasion of Iraq. However, most stop short of saying what a small, tinfoil-headed few that I will highlight in this post are starting to say.

Before I continue further, may I just invoke the disclaimer that always ran at the beginning and at the end of shows like "In Search Of" back in the '70s, and say that this post is meant for entertainment (and political satire) purposes only and not to foster a belief in the supernatural. It suggests one of many possible explanations for the mysterious subjects we are examining here, but not necessarily the only explanation. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, sorry, Tennessee...

Hey megalomaniac
You're no Jesus
Yeah, you're no fucking Elvis....

-- Incubus, "Megalomaniac"

The Antichrist has been a figure of speculation amongst believing Christians since the author of The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ penned his words. Most historians and those who believe that the Bible was not meant to be taken literally suggest that the book was written as a "word of encouragement" for the early Pauline church, which had begun to be persecuted in earnest by the Romans during the reign of Emperor Nero. The name "Nero Caesar," when rendered in Hebrew, comes out as either 666 or 616, the two variants of the Number of the Beast found in various translations of The Book of Revelation. However, most who take the Bible literally look at the book as prophecy, and have played games throughout the millenia looking for 666 in the names of the powerful. In the 1970s, for example, it was widely suggested that Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist, and there were numerological schemes to back it up.

So now we come to our friend Dubya. At face value, he doesn't seem like a promising candidate for the role of Antichrist. For one thing, he makes an extremely big deal of being a "Born-Again Christian." When asked who his favorite political philosopher was in one of the Bush/Gore debates of 2000, without any sort of pause for consideration he said, "Jesus Christ." He has flaunted his belief in the literalness of the Bible and in Christianity seemingly every chance he gets. But perhaps...perhaps...he doth protest too much. For sinister reasons. Like a great author, contemporaneous with the compilers of the King James translation of the Bible did say: "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." I seem to remember also that the Book of Revelation says that even believers will be misled by the Antichrist and his False Prophet. How better for the Antichrist to mislead Christians than to say "I'm Christian too"?

The folks who have put up websites making the W/Antichrist connection seem to have in common a suspicion about the Skull and Bones society. In every link I've seen, the Skull and Bones connection is front and center. Nobody except initiates of the Yale secret society really knows what goes on in "The Tomb," their on-campus clubhouse. Satanic worship? Polysexual orgies? S&M? B&D? The ritual defilement of Geronimo's skull? Then again, Bush's opponent in the current election, Senator John Kerry, is also a Skull and Bonesman. The plot thickens and grows obese, indeed.

The most elaborate of these theories is found here. Initially, the author of the site intended it quite in jest, as this mirror of the first version of his site indicates. (It was initially modeled after a joke site declaring David Hasselhoff the Antichrist.)However, the guy seems to be dead serious now. He pulls together not only obvious parallels, but some non-obvious ones too.

Finally, it has been suggested that Pope John-Paul II is concerned about President George W. Bush's behavior, and furthermore concerned that he and some of his cabinet like Attorney General John Ashcroft are part of a "neo-Christian blood cult" that bears only superficial resemblance to the teachings of the man President Bush says is his "favorite philosopher."

I could go on like this for days, but I will just give you a link to a whole page of links, some in jest, some serious, linking President George W. Bush to infernal forces. And I'll leave it at that. I don't really buy what these folks are selling, let alone the whole concept that the Book of Revelation is anything other than a document written to encourage persecuted Christians during Rome's official persecution of the nascent religion, to say nothing about the religion of Christianity itself.

To conclude, here is a note of reality: it seems like someone in the Texas Air National Guard forgot to include some vital documents in Dubya's service file regarding those pesky gaps in his service record. The question of whether Dubya was AWOL during 1972 to 1973 seems to be one that does not want to go away. Is this behavior becoming of a person who currently holds the rank of Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces? We report, you decide.(tm)

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Running the numbers on George W. Bush:

This article breaks it all down very simply. No need to do the math, the figures speak for themselves.

In spite of all this, one more number which should snap everyone out of their complacency. The 13-point bounce W got from the GOP Convention. This compares to the 4-point "dead cat bounce" Kerry got coming out of the Dem Convention.

Kerry needs to do something dramatic to point out the myriad failures of George W. Bush's Presidency, or we need W to do something stupid between now and 11/2. Otherwise it's four more years of this crap. Or worse.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

From the Ask Dr. Science department:

Today I was actually in school, not sleeping in, not going out to do funstuff. Why?

Someone at Los Angeles Valley College had the bright idea to only hold Physical Science 1 on Saturday mornings, 9am to Noon. If you don't believe me, here's the link to LAVC's Fall Semester schedule. (Note: this link will probably not be good after December 2004.)

Actually, it's not a bad class. Like the dish that "doesn't have too much spam in it," this class doesn't have too much math in it, and you're encouraged to bring your calculator. I've always been fascinated by science, and loved taking after-school enrichment classes where I got a chance to do experiments back when I was in Elementary School.

This class is probably going to wind up being an easy ace for me. That is, if I can be awake enough on a Saturday AM to survive it. No more Friday night concerts for me, at least for the duration of Fall 2004 semester.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I felt a great disturbance in The Force...

Maybe not millions crying out, then silenced, but a disturbance nonetheless. When innocent kids die because of a bunch of grownups fighting amongst themselves, it's always upsetting.

Maybe the Russians will question the wisdom of Vladimir Putin and his policies now. I have always been nervous about him. It seems like his political philosophies are like a return to that of the Communists, without the free health care or the other perks of socialism. All the repression, none of the upside.

Actually, come to think of it, it sounds quite familiar to people living over here in the US...ah yes, here's that mental image that also comes to mind...

Heil me!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

From the "You can get away with anything if you are a sports hero" department:

The Kobe Bryant rape case has been dismissed. Another sports hero will not see criminal justice for committing a crime. Why is it that sports heroes can get away with anything while other celebrities occasionally have to answer for their crimes?

It's like the last episode of the first season of the late, great animated series "Daria." Obnoxious cock-of-the-walk QB Tommy Sherman comes back to his Alma Mater, Lawndale High, to receive a special honor: a goalpost named in his honor. Sherman walks around insulting the current crop of football players and the less popular (including Jane and Daria) and propositioning the cheerleaders. A freak accident happens, and Sherman dies. All of the sudden, everyone's so freakin' bummed. Never mind that the guy was an asshole. Sports hero dies, everyone is bummed. It has always been this way. From Ty Cobb to OJ Simpson, people with remarkable athletic ability but who are also ethically challenged have been able to get away with just about anything.

Meanwhile, this is going to be just another reason for rape victims to be reticent about pressing charges against their attackers. I know about this from personal experience. I was raped on three different occasions. None of these rapes were especially violent...they were cases where other methods of coercion (one time I was drugged, the other two times I was under a verbal threat of my reputation being ruined one way or another if I didn't shut up and take it) were used to gain control of me. If a woman is beaten to a bloody pulp, then raped, she has a prayer of prevailing in court. If she had been drugged and the rapist's exploits been caught on tape, she could possibly prevail. In more ambiguous situations, the advantage has always been for the rapist.

I feel for the poor girl who got caught up in all this. She's going to live with this for the rest of her life. Some websites had gotten around the Rape Shield Law and published the girl's picture and name. Perhaps Kobe's defense team leaked the info, perhaps it was just the incompetence of the Eagle County DA and his staff. Regardless, her life is just about ruined. I hope she prevails in the civil trial. There is less of a burden of proof in a civil trial, and if there is any justice in the world Kobe will have to face a jury of twelve angry women there. It was in civil court that the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman got some measure of justice. Hopefully Kobe will be found responsible there.

This has nothing to do with Kobe's race. Just as the OJ trial should have been about a human being killing two human beings in a very brutal way, and race should have never been a part of the picture; if Kobe did stand trial he should have stood trial as a human being who might have violated another human being. I suppose the OJ trial was progress on one level: if it had happened in the Los Angeles of 1874 rather than 1994 OJ would have been rousted from his jail cell and hanged from the nearest lamppost by a racist mob. If it had happened in the South as late as 1964 it might have ended that way, with the football hero and movie star reduced to strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

But this is not Alabama or Arkansas or Mississippi in 1964, this is Eagle County, Colorado in 2004. And the person who got lynched there was a woman who dared accuse a sports hero of rape. Heaven help her, because humanity failed her.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

From the "Technolust" department:


Apple just announced a new temptation...the iMac G5. It's ironic...I'm blogging from LAVC and this computer lab here has a whole slew of all-in-one P4 boxen that look a lot like the new iMac G5 but are not Oh yeah, and check out the price of that puppy too.

Here's the link to it...this is just too leet for words. Take a look at the price of it. Compare it with the remanufactured Gateway POS. For a little more money, a lot more style, eh? And a lot more zoom-zoom...particularly once Mac OS X.4 "Tiger" comes out and kicks that G5 into full 64 bit action.

Maybe someone would like to get me this for a graduation gift? Heh...

From the "more news of the Ugly" department:

The current Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert recently suggested on Faux News Channel that Dem financier George Soros got his money from drug cartels. And now GOPAC, the Republican fund-raising Political Action Committee, has seized upon the fact Soros is a Hungarian Jewish immigrant. In a very, very ugly fashion.

“No other single person represents the symbol and the substance of globalism more than this Hungarian-born descendant of Shylock. He is the embodiment of the Merchant from Venice,”

Well, we've heard slander of all kinds coming from the mouths of standardbearers of the GOP this year. But these two incidents suggest that the GOP has only begun to fling mud. I think that the time has come to start breaking out the lawsuits. Stuff like this should not be allowed to stand, and those who make these kind of irresponsible comments should be held responsible for them.