MsGeek.Org v2.0

The ongoing saga of a woman in the process of reinvention.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Here's the message we need to run with, in the wake of George W. Bush and his contempt for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama:

We have no President.

The USA is a Failed State.

When 9/11 happened, George W. Bush was sitting with school children reading an inane rhyming story from Open Court Reading, "My Pet Goat."

Remember this bon mot: "We're going to do everything we can to git the terr'ists. Now watch this drive."

George W. Bush is AWOL. Again.

Contrast that to what a real leader does in a crisis. When a big hurricane hit during the Clinton administration, he immediately dropped whatever he was doing and came back to lead. Exempli gratia: his actions when Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina back in 1999. President Bill Clinton would always be there quickly in case of crisis. People mocked his "I feel your pain" touchy-feeliness, but the fact is that his presence at the scene of crisis let us know he cared.

Dubya doesn't care, it's fucking obvious. Let me refresh your memory:

Monday, Hurricane Katrina hits...

Tuesday, the full extent of the damage in NOLA is known...

Here is the criteria that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has been using to determine whether or not a country is a Failed State:

Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states—and not merely poverty—increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal, or ineffective, also figured prominently. Facing this condition, people often shift their allegiances to other leaders—opposition parties, warlords, ethnic nationalists, clergy, or rebel forces. Demographic factors, especially population pressures stemming from refugees, internally displaced populations, and environmental degradation, are also found in most at-risk countries, as are consistent human rights violations. Identifying the signs of state failure is easier than crafting solutions, but pinpointing where state collapse is likely is a necessary first step.

We have no President.

The USA is a Failed State.

Here's more information on the concept of the Failed State.

Updated 8:43pm. Crossposted at DailyKOS and My Left Wing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And the outrages just keep on comin''s yesterday, the day Katrina blew ashore, but LET THEM EAT CAKE! When are people going to wake the hell up????

This photo was taken today. Today, while everyone was waking up to the fact that New Orleans and Biloxi are history. Someone impeach and remove this guy and all his buddies. Please.

Oh shit, part deux.

It's weird how it took 24 hours for the news to actually get out about how badly Louisiana and Mississippi were fux0r3d by Hurricane Katrina. When the Northridge Earthquake happened, it seemed like everyone knew how bad we got hit almost instantaneously.

An unlikely hero of this situation might be Presidente Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Apparently the Citgo refinery -- check out the proximity to the projected path of the hurricane on this map -- was spared major damage and can start up again soon, and Chavez has promised tankers full of oil and food aid to the people of the stricken area. Imagine what kind of predicament G. W. Bush will be in if he refuses such a gift! Bravo, Senor Presidente. Way to show some class in the face of official US scorn for Venezuela and the terrorist threats of Bush family pal Rev. Pat "Radical Cleric" Robertson.

Basically all the "bowl of gumbo" predictions about what would happen to NOLA if hit by a huge hurricane have come to pass. The city might not have been hit head-on by the eyewall, but it might as well have been. The vaunted pumping system that was supposed to be able to pump out water from NO city streets has failed, and so have the levees. KTLA's Kurt Knutsson was caught in NO after doing a "Cyberguy" assignment, and he had a scary tale to tell this morning on the Morning News about how people were literally going nuts stuck in a ruined hotel. Food was being rationed, tempers were flaring, and you could look out the window and see looting.

The Louisiana Governor is now flailing around trying to make arrangements to evacuate the shelters that had been hastily set up in the path of Katrina. There had been projections for days about the path of the hurricane and its strength. Why nobody thought of getting people evacuated in advance of this storm is yet another one of the many SNAFUs that have led to what's shaping up to be the biggest natural disaster in US history. A great deal of blame for the severity of the problem can be laid at G. W. Bush's feet. The gutting of FEMA, shipping half of the Louisiana National Guard to Iraq along with their water rescue gear, the cutting of funds to the Army Corps of Engineers' Louisiana district...sure, you can't blame the weather on him but he should be held accountable for the response after the fact.

However, this is no time for schadenfreude. Unfortunately a minority of my fellow Liberals are actually rubbing their hands in delight over the fact that this is a disaster which happened in some very, very Red States, and that no doubt the response won't reflect well on the G. W. Bush administration. Wrong tack to take, folks. It's right to point out Dubya's failings during this time of national crisis, but it's wrong to take delight in the suffering. Please, stop this. You're making us all look bad. Traditionally when there has been a national emergency, it has been Democrats who have been most generous in helping people through the bad times. The people we want to convince to "come home" to Blue America will not take kindly to the gloating, much as we hated the gloating of Wingers after 2004.

Oh yeah: for those who are going to the Sherman Oaks, CA, US vigil on Wednesday Night, 7:30pm to 8:30pm, someone bring an American Flag, wave it proudly and be respectful of it. I am sure it will turn into a vigil not only for Casey Sheehan and his mom Cindy, but also for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. It is important to show the flag at these events because we need to drive home the fact that we ultimately believe in America, it's our country too, it's our flag too, and that we are just as patriotic, if not moreso, than the "Move America Forward" assholes. I can't make it to that event because Woodbury University rescheduled one of my classes for Wednesday nights. I hope some people show up, though. In some respects it's more important now than it was a couple of weeks ago.

Update 10:26pm: Shirley Laska at University of Colorado at Boulder saw this coming back in November of 2004. We probably couldn't have done much to shore up NOLA and environs if this warning had been heeded when it was published, and Ivan only had happened two months prior. But people have been talking about what would happen if a big hurricane of Camille-like proportions hit NOLA since Camille hit in '69. Much could have been done if concerted effort had started then.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A quick one before my first class starts...

The Woodbury experience is definitely quite different from the LA Valley College experience. Usually when a classroom is chosen for a given class and the building and room number are notated in the LAVC course catalog for a given semester, it never changes. However, classes seem to be in flux here, moving from one place to the other and one time to another. It's quite frustrating. Thankfully this is a small campus.

Back in a bit...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oh Shit.

Yeah, I'm marooned in the apartment again because it was another triple-digit day. But it could be worse...way worse.

Hurricane Katrina is shaping up to be the Big One, as far as natural disasters go. The last Category 5 storm to hit the US was Hurricane Andrew. It hit in 1992 and was only matched in financial impact on the United States by the Northridge Earthquake.

Katrina could be way worse, and here's why.

The coast of Louisiana is dotted with refineries. There's oil platforms off the coast, a LNG station, and not just one, but TWO of the Strategic Oil Reserve storage facilities.

Here's the BIG picture.

And here's another picture which not only shows two of the Strategic Oil Reserve storage facilities, but also its two neighbors which will be getting an indirect hit from Katrina.

They are expecting crude oil prices to go up $1 per barrel tomorrow, and that's a very conservative estimate. I suspect that if the worst case scenario happens, a $1/gallon surge for gasoline wouldn't be out of the question. We've been bracing for $3/gallon here in the Los Angeles area, but $4/gallon or maybe even $5/gallon would be suddenly in the picture.

And of course, there's a Dubya SNAFU to factor into the picture. The current budget cut $71.2 Million from the Army Corps of Engineers for the New Orleans district. Do you realize how huge that is?

A quote from the linked article:

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.

And it's not like this was unexpected...New Orleans has been there before. Submitted for your approval: Hurricane Camille, 1969.

Suddenly, a heat wave in Los Angeles doesn't seem so bad. "Too much bloody perspective," as Nigel Tufnel would say.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ms. Geek held hostage by the heatwave, day 2.

108 degrees today at The Hellmouth, otherwise known as Woodland Hills.
108 degrees today in the pr0n production capital of the US, Chatsworth. Now you know why people like to get naked there.
101 degrees at Van Nuys Airport.

It's still 94 degrees right now. They say it will drop to 69 degrees overnight, but I don't believe them. I don't think it will get out of the 70s.

Tomorrow, more of the same.

I don't have the luxury of hunkering down with the air conditioning on come Monday, because it's my first day of school at Woodbury U. Yes, it's on. Hopefully I'll make it out of there in 2 years, because even though I can't afford it now and I'm going to be bent over for tons of student loan debt, I can't afford more of it. That's why I'm taking 15 units this semester, then 15 next semester, then 15 next semester, then 15 next semester. I was able to bring 64 units in from LA Valley College.

Monday night is SFVLUG meeting. Kewl. I think I'll bring my new lappie friend and try some wireless cards out. Yes, I do have multiple wifi cards now. I know the Orinoco works, or at least it works under kernel 2.6. I have a 2.4.x kernel now on BlueTank, so hopefully that won't be a problem. I also have a Linksys Prism2 based card, and a Netgear 802.11b/g that supposedly has a Prism54 chipset, which is supposedly Linux friendly.

I am not very eloquent today. The brief exposure to the heat from walking to Rincon Taurino and back cooked my brain. Better luck tomorrow, I hope.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Have I mentioned that hot San Fernando Valley days suck???

I hate being a shut-in when the heat gets going, but I really can't do anything else. We cracked the Century mark here, and then some, today. The high over Utah is basically parked there, and will stay there over the weekend. The high sends hot desert air over the inland areas of the LA area, and cranks the temperature up.

Well, one thing that might be accomplished this weekend...a little bit of cleanup. This place is a big mess and I've allowed inertia to keep me from doing the work that's been needed to be done around here. Richie's cleaned up some stuff but he's wary about doing any cleanup near my cyberlair. Understandable, I think.

Oh yeah, I'm going to have to keep away from ABC's network News. Now that Peter Jennings is gone, they are starting to sound more and more like Fox News Network. Can you say showing lots and lots of bias? I knew you could. :P

Thursday, August 25, 2005

She's back in Crawford, TX, USA...

Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

-- New Testament, KJV, Matthew 5:11-12

Paging Representative Howard Berman (D-RIAA/MPAA/BSA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-RIAA/MPAA)...

Guess what? It's not so-called "Piracy" that's killing the movie business. It's the fact that movies being produced nowadays are crap, and people have gotten to the point where they have added up the annoyances of going to the movie theatre to see a first run movie that is likely to be crap anyway and decided that waiting for the DVD is a better deal. Put that in your pipes and smoke it.

The New York Times, which long ago ceased to be a source for reliable hard news, is right on the money with this entertainment news article, which explains even to the most brainless simpleton the real reason why the movie business is hurting. People simply wait for the DVD and rent or buy it.

My husband and I go one better: we wait for the rental copies of a DVD to go on sale. For the price of a single ticket, or at least for a price that's less than two tickets at matinee prices at Mann's The Plant multiplex, we can buy the DVD, watch it anytime we want, and the MPAA is denied their cut. Like the not-so-ambiguously gay elderly duo in those stupid "Secure Horizons" commercials, we can grunt "good deal" to each other as we watch a movie that we own the media of* in peace, without squalling babies and people yammering to each other about the movie. We don't have an ultra-modern "home theatre," we have what we call our "Ghetto Home Theatre" which consists of a 20" stereo TV we bought at Le Target for $88, a DVD player, and an Advent 2.1 computer sound system which sounds better than most blown-out, badly maintained sound systems you hear at your local multiplex. It's not a perfect experience, like going to, say, the main theatre at the Mann's Chinese (the big one) or to Disney/Pacific Theatres' El Capitan or the Arclight Cinerama Dome, but we'll take it over the hassle and expense.

I think Robert Iger's idea of short-circuiting the Santee Avenue/Canal Street vendors of bootleg DVDs by immediate release of first-run Disney movies on DVD is a stroke of genius, and bodes well for Iger being able to turn Disney around. People buy camcorder/fly-by-night dub copies or download crappy DivX/XviD copies of first-run movies because they want to see first-run movies but don't want to deal with the hassle of going to the theatre. They have added up the hedonic calculus of seeing a movie at home and of seeing a movie at the local multiplex and prefer the at-home experience to the movie theatre experience. However, they still want to see that movie when it first comes out.

The movie theatre owners and their NATO trade group are screaming bloody murder over Iger's statements, but they brought it on themselves with overpriced admission, crummy presentation, and overpriced refreshments. Now they are basically in the position of carriage manufacturers when faced with the Model T. Time to find a new business, guys. Alternately, provide the value-added experience we want when going to the movies and do it at a fair price. Make it worth our while to go to the movies.

We are reaching an economic turning point in the movie business. It is quite likely that if movie-going changes from the first-run, "see it in the theatres" model to the Original Video Movie model (a model that has been profitable in Japan for a couple of decades, BTW!) we'll see budgets go down and belts tighten at the movie studios. But eventually things will sort out. Hopefully people will have the good sense to let the change sort itself out without harebrained legislation and yet more ill-considered restrictions on the content consumer. However, I don't see the RIAA/MPAA's "when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" strategy changing anytime soon.

* No you don't own a movie you buy. You own the copy of a book you buy because of a doctrine called "right of first sale" that should also apply to movie DVDs but doesn't, because of stupid Digital Rights Restriction measures on the DVD that are going to get worse when we move to the next generation of movies on disc.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Arnold Schwarzenegger is in deep, deep trouble. Really deep.

Check this out:

KTLA/LA Times: Non-profits Cloak Donors to Governor

Read it. Carefully.

The Governator is history now. More than likely, we've won the Special Election, too. Ah-nold is getting all Sgt. Schulz and insists he "knows nuffink" about the fancy chicanery his "people" pulled with donations. OK, give him the benefit of the doubt and say he doesn't know what was going on, that he was "uninvolved," to use his own words. Then he's an imbecile. The steroids shrank his brain as well as his wiener. However, I think it's pretty damn disingenuous of him to say he was "uninvolved." He knows if he's staying in a $6,000/month hotel suite on his dime or on someone else's dime. He knows who's footing the bill if he goes on a junket to Japan to push California products, him, the State, or campaign donors.

Why the hell is he taking all this fsckn money??? Schwarzenegger is RICH. Crazy rich. Rich enough to where he could be paying off all the student loan debt I am going to have to take on by the time I finish at Woodbury and wherever I go for my MA, plus the credit card debt I'm carrying, with his fsckn pocket change. He doesn't need millions of dollars from people with vested "special" interests to run his campaign. He can do it himself and write off the losses.

It's time to send him packing. I have a suggestion...a town in his native Austria.

As in go know the rest...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Radical cleric declares a fatwa against a sitting President, world reaction universally negative.

OK, what did you think I was talking about? If you thought this had anything to do with Iraq or Iran, you'd be 100% wrong. Then again this story has been all over the news, so probably your next guess would be Pat Robertson.

Anyway, Pat Robertson has got to be one of the most evil sons of bitches on the whole benighted planet. Let me refresh your memory as to what he and Jerry Falwell said on 9/13/2001:

Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
Robertson: "Well, Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror, we haven't begun to see what they can do to the major population."
Falwell: "The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."
Robertson: "I totally concur, and the problem is we've adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government, and so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do, and the top people, of course, is the court system."
Falwell: "Pat, did you notice yesterday that the ACLU and all the Christ-haters, the People for the American Way, NOW, etc., were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress, as they went out on the steps and and called out to God in prayer and sang 'God bless America' and said, let the ACLU be hanged. In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time, calling on God."

Spooky? You bet. Replace Falwell and Robertson with a couple of Muslim surnames, change the Christian references to references to Allah, and it sounds like the venomous hate speech pouring out of some quarters of the Middle East. This is for real. These people are dangerous. These people want a Christian version of Iran and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan right here. And being a woman and a non-Protestant non-Evangelical non-Christian, I'm on their hit list.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"I don't want to work, I just wanna bang on the drum all day. I don't want to play, I just wanna bang on the drum all day."
-- Zen philosopher Todd "Runt" Rundgren

There is nothing that pumps the adrenaline more than hearing a Taiko drum troupe bring down the thunder from the Great High Plains of Heaven. Really. It's awesome. Today Richie and I spent a belated 18th wedding Anniversary listening to a bunch of really, really good drummers of all ages and both sexes rocking out. Little Tokyo was shaking, although it wasn't the kind of quake that Caltech can measure.

Richie and I are seriously debating whether to go out scouting for an old wine barrel to build a Big Bad Drum of our own. Our dear friend and brother-in-all-but-blood M. Segal is an old hand at dealing with the kind of rawhide skins that you see on a's the same density of skin that Congas use. However, the skins cut for Congas are way smaller than what you need for a wine barrel.

Most of the time a Taiko has two heads, one on each end. But one of the troupes today had a single-headed drum they referred to fondly as "The Cannon." It was brand new, they hadn't put the other skin on, and they now were debating whether to go the traditional route and put the other skin on, or leave it the way it is. Plus to leaving it the way it is: it's LOUD. Another plus: less rawhide would probably mean less cost. Minus to leaving it the way it is: you lose the rich thunderous resonance that two heads give a Taiko.

There is another alternative to trying to build something that probably is best left to experts: Remo Percussion has jumped into the Taiko-building business. No, their stuff isn't pretty, and it's all made from various and sundry types of plastics, but it will probably be 1.) inexpensive compared to some of the hand-crafted masterpieces we saw in use today, and 2.) pretty damn tough and not likely to need replacement of the heads anytime soon, and when the heads need replacement they will be easy to find and won't require automotive tools or soaking in water overnight or a few strong friends to do the replacement.

Anyway, it was fun, hope to experience it again sometime.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

OK, the BlueTank, my ThinkPad 600x, is up and running happily. The only adjustment necessary seems to have been adding a few words to XF86Config-4, which sets video to 16 bits by 1024 x 768. Debian frowns on editing the XF86Config by hand, but screw it, it did the job.

If you have been following this journal, you know that my 600e has given me fits over the years with regard to sound. There are no less than three chips that can be used as sound chips on a ThinkPad 600/600e. However, there is only one that IBM intended operating systems use. Microsoft has none of the problems that Free/Open Source operating systems have installing on this model. Why? IBM and Microsoft shared a lot of data about the ThinkPad 600 and Windows 2000, respectively. The ThinkPad 600 was one of the testbed machines for Windows 2000. I am still unclear as to the reason why other operating systems than Windows get confused about which chip is which. But one thing I am clear about is that Windows 2000 knows which chip to address for sound, which chip to address as a modem, and which chip's sound capabilities are to be totally ignored.

The 600x, on the other hand, is completely unambiguous in regards to what chip is what. So there were no problems. After the XFConfig stuff was fixed, I was also able to play an unencrypted DVD (Revolution OS, natch!) without any skipping or stuttering. My 600e was not able to play DVDs without dropping frames. The Screamin' Sindies (SIMD instructions) seem to make a big difference. Hopefully I'll be able to use the VGA out to play DVDs and VCDs with a projector.

I'm very excited. This is a nice machine. It is almost in as good of condition as my 600e was when I got it...and that was rated as a "A" grade off-lease product. And this was an eBay find. Rock on, dude.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Voting no on everything...maybe not...

There is one item coming up on the wasteful, shameful special election ballot that perhaps deserves some positive attention. It's Proposition 79, the CalRX PLUS proposition. Big Pharma has already sounded off about Proposition 79 by fielding Proposition 78, a confusing counterfeit measure, and is now blanketing local airwaves with commercials touting Proposition 78 and condemning Prop 79.

My thoughts are these: if Big Pharma is so scared of Prop 79, we should be supporting it.

Prop 79/78 factsheet from Health Access.

Also, it looks like SB840 is not a dead issue, and is on its way to being passed by the Assembly after having sailed through the Senate. Of course, it will probably be a dead issue once it shows up on Der Gropenfuhrer's desk, but we can dream. SB840 would set up a single-payer health care system for California. Of course this is abhorrent to Ah-nold and his Chamber Of Commerce Repugnican buddies, but the fact is that SB840 is designed with full funding built in, and would actually solve several problems dogging California:

  • The uninsured and its impact on trauma care networks;

  • The continued rise of Workers Comp Insurance costs in spite of punitive Workers Comp reforms which seem to be only causing misery for those who get legitimately injured on the job and doesn't seem to be stopping the fraudsters;

  • The continued pressure on businesses from rising health care costs;

  • The danger to public health and homeland security that an uninsured underclass poses -- suppose Al'Qaeda started an epidemic and a whole swath of the population couldn't get treatment for it?

Here's a fact sheet about SB840, also from Health Access.
Here's the Health Care for All site.
And here's a post I did last month which talks about how Toyota decided to build a car plant in Canada instead of the US in large part because of Canada's National Health plan vs. the cost of providing health insurance privately in the US.

I mean, "Vote NO on everything -- tell Ah-nold NEIN!" is a really nice soundbite and a really cool frame. However, Prop 79 complicates things considerably. It's a good bill. And if it frightens Big Pharma to the extent it seems to, it would look like it's worthy of support. So now I'm torn. Tell people to Vote NO on the special election, or tell people to Vote NO on everything but Prop 79 which you should vote YES on? What should we do here?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

One of the group of bloggers (including myself) who was at the Sherman Oaks vigil has put up a beautiful (except for my own pic) slide show on the event here:

Here's some from the bigger vigil in Studio City:

Thanks so much Alicia Morgan and JWo for taking these pix. I would have brought my own digital camera but considering that my hands were very full most of the time it would have been a problem and a risk of losing something I can't replace right now. I have put a link up to Ms. Morgan's blog, "Last Left Turn Before Hooterville" as well as Maryscott O'Connor's "My Left Wing" in the's good to have some local San Fernando Valley bloggers in there. I need to track down Shockwave's blog and put a link up there.

One of the really nice things about the vigil was the fact that the age range of the folks there was so spread out. It wasn't just old people who were activists back in the '60s there, it wasn't just High School and College age people, it was every age from babes in arms to toddlers to school-age kids to young adults to people raising families to old folks. I kinda wish it was a little less caucasian persuasion out there but this is Sherman Oaks, which is unfortunately still very Water Bagel. (the Jewish answer to White Bread) It was like that when I grew up there back in the '70s too.

I can't believe that the Wingers are getting any traction with their slime attacks on Cindy Sheehan. I'm Jewish by birth (not by persuasion) and I do believe that Israel has a right to exist, but I am 100% sympathetic to those who are pointing out that factions of the Israel Defense Force, the Likudniks, the Haredim and the other Wingers there are behaving badly and have been behaving badly for decades now. Albert Einstein was asked to hold the largely ceremonial office of President of Israel in 1952, but turned them down because he did not believe Israel should be a mono-cultural Jewish State, but a democracy where Jews and Arabs could live together. To be fair, Einstein was also in very poor health at that point too, and probably his more pressing consideration was his health.

I really can't be very sympathetic to the Jews who had to be thrown off their settlements in Gaza kicking and screaming. Gaza isn't too much to ask's a teeny sliver of land squished between Israel and Egypt. I'm sure the Israeli government offered fair prices for their land and had very generous relocation plans for displaced settlers. I think that returning to pre-1967 borders save for part of Jerusalem is fair and necessary. The Haredim have wet dreams about a "greater Israel" or a "Biblical Israel" stretching from the confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates to the Mediterranean and encompassing not only Palestinian lands but Jordanian, Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian lands, but that's simply not doable. The Jordanians should have been more welcoming of Arab refugees in the late '40s and during the '70s but that's water under the bridge now.

I think Jerusalem should be "internationalized" and maintained by a world body of some sort to ensure access to all who hold it sacred to all the holy places there. The Palestinians want Jerusalem as its capital, the Israelis have claimed Jerusalem as its capital, and the three Abrahamic Monotheisms all have sacred sites there. The original plan for Israel and Transjordan had Jerusalem under UN control. I think that the UN has enough tarnish on it to where a different body would have to be constituted to watch over Jerusalem.

I have said it before and will say it again: questioning the strategy and tactics of the Israeli Government and the Israeli Defense Force does not mean you are a freaking Anti-Semite or a "Self-Hating Jew." A lot of the trouble we have brought on ourselves during the Iraq War has had a lot to do with the influence of IDF tactics on the modern US Armed Forces. As shocking as Abu Ghraib and Gitmo is, Israel has been doing this to Palestinian prisoners for decades now.

If Cindy Sheehan actually said what she is credited to have said about Casey "dying for Israel," she didn't mean it as a dig or a diss against Israel's right to exist as a nation but against the policies of a nation that should know better. Israel became necessary after the Holocaust. Arguably it was necessary sooner, in light of Pogroms throughout the centuries after the Romans kicked the Hebrews out of what became their province of Palestine but which had been their home for millenia. I hold Israel to an even higher standard than that of any other country because it was founded as a haven for the persecuted. For Israel to adopt tactics that smack of those used against the Jews throughout history is almost...dare I say it?...sacrilege. Chillul ha'Shem. Profaning The Name.


Anyway, the fact that thousands and thousands of people got together all over the United States and practiced their first-amendment "Right of the people to peaceably assemble" without a single incident of violence is a triumph. We should build on this victory by keeping the pressure on the G.W. Bush administration. We have history on our side. Look at Gandhi's victory in India. Look at the Solidarnosc uprising in Poland. Look at the "Velvet Revolution" of Czechoslovakia. Look at Yeltsin standing up to the coup plotters who had Gorbachev in their custody and were preparing to turn the clock back in Russia. Look at the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine. If it takes mass civil disobedience to bring down Dubya, then dammit, let's do it. There should be demonstrations the size of these we participated in yesterday every freaking day and night until Dubya, Dick Cheney and their evil minions are out of office and at Den Haag awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

We will know by the results of the 2006 mid-term election. If a Dem majority takes over the House and the Senate, there still are the remnants of the Democratic Process left in the US. If by some reason the Repugs can either keep their majority or build on their majority, we will know that the system is irreparably broken and that there is no choice but to proceed with means other than electoral means. I do not mean violence here. Read the paragraph above this one again. India, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Ukraine. All of these had despotic governments that did not represent the people nor rule at the consent of the governed. All of these were toppled by strictly non-violent means. Satyagraha. Truth-Force. Ultimately even South Africa, which had a guerilla force (Umkonta we Sizwe) fighting the Apartheid regime, yielded not to force of arms but to Force of Truth, in the person of Nelson Mandela.

Think back on what the world was like in 1979. Think back on where it is now. The Warsaw Pact is broken. The Soviet Union does not exist anymore, and the reign of terror instituted by Lenin, perfected by Stalin, and sustained by faceless bureaucrats in the Politburo was broken by the beginning of the '90s. South Africa is a free country...a troubled country, true, but under majority rule. In 1979, could anyone have predicted that the Communist Bloc in Europe would have "withered away" and South Africa would be run by Africans instead of the descendents of Dutch settlers?

May the Force (of Truth) be with us all.

(modified 11:54am PDT)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I didn't get to doing the install today...I've been sort of bleah today, not really motivated to do much. However, tonight I will be a part of one of the 1,500 vigils for Casey Sheehan.

I'll blog about the experience tomorrow.

OK, this couldn't wait...this was off of Shockwave from DailyKOS' cell phone camera. This picture kind of sums up everything about the experience tonight. Goddess bless Cindy Sheehan, Goddess bless America, the Republic is alive and well in spite of the worst efforts by G.W. Bush and his Junta.

Yes, protesting the War in Iraq is patriotic!

Photo by Shockwave 8/17/2005.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Got the Sarge disks, so I'm going to try doing an install on the BlueTank (600x) tomorrow. Just have to exchange the optical drive from BlueTomato (600e) with the one on BlueTank. This will be its final resting place, of course. It will be sweet to have a DVD drive in a lappie that might actually have the cojones to run a DVD.

I got Shelby a full set of Sarge CD-Rs but Chad is not happy with the notion of swapping through 14 CD-Rs. So? It's not so bad. It's not like installing Windows 95 from floppy like I had to do with my first ThinkPad, Little Blue, a 365x.

I wish Chad lived closer by here. For one thing, he'd be a very good influence on SFVLUG. I am one of the tent poles holding SFVLUG up now, along with Brian and Kurt. However, with him involved it would be a lot better. And he is a master Linux tuner. With him involved I'd probably get this machine up and running just right the first time. With me, though, it's going to be whack whack whack until it sort of runs right. :P It would be fine for me but Shelby's getting BlueTomato and I want it to be "just so" for her.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Not very articulate today either.

I wanted to write something about how people who blindly, unquestioningly support Israel and ignore some really nasty policies that shock us when they rub off on us (Abu Ghraib comes to mind) do Israel no favors, and actually give aid and comfort to her enemies. I wanted to write that even someone who likes the idea of Israel like I do (we yids *did* need a place to call our own) but who also questions their policies and tactics is not a "self-hating Jew" but someone who rightfully expects Israel to follow a higher, not a lower, standard for political ethics.

I wanted to write something on how with every passing day Cindy Sheehan's moral stature climbs and G.W. Bush's dives. I will be at a candlelight vigil on Wednesday in Sherman Oaks in support of what she's doing and in memory of her son.

I wanted to write about how this friend of mine who's in his 40s got his orders to ship out to the Sandbox on October 1st. He might be going to Kuwait, he might be going to Qatar, he might be going to Bahrain, but the way it seems like the Armed Forces are handling things it's quite likely either Iraq or Afghanistan is his destination. Fuck. The guy has a teenage son. No fair.

I wanted to express further schadenfreude over Ah-nold's reversal of fortune. Will he pull an LBJ and not run for reelection? Certainly the salacious revelations about his jailbait gal pal and how he managed to pull his weight with American Media to keep it off the Enquirer's front page have basically killed his chances at being the first foreign-born US President. But will it keep him out of the race in 2006 and assure that the next Governor is True Blue? It's looking more and more like that's the case.

I wanted to also mention I have my class load all lined up and all but one book purchased. OK Woodbury, bring it on.

Well...I guess I actually did write what I wanted. Whether it's eloquent or not is questionable. It's late. I'm tired. I have Stuff To Do (tm) tomorrow. Zzzzzzzzzz.....

Sunday, August 14, 2005

499th Post!
Holy cow, 500th Post!

Too bad I really don't have a hell of a lot to say. I was hoping to hit this when I had something a bit more momentous to write here, but I guess this will have to do.

You can link to an unedited screen shot if you click the photo, but just a's a big .PNG graphic. However, you can get a better look at the screenshot, which showed that the post before this was number 499.

Hopefully I'll be more articulate tomorrow. Ciao.

Thank heaven for little girls....

If you've ever seen Wag The Dog, you know what I'm talking about.

It's too bad nobody can unearth G.W. Bush cavorting with "young stuff" because that might be the only thing that could convince some people that he needs to be impeached. However, this is the cherry atop the whole case against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To quote another song:
"Uh oh take a second take
Uh oh it's a mistake
Uh oh I'm in trouble
Uh oh the little girl was just too little
Too little, too little, too little"
-- "Little Girls" Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ubuntu tanks on The Blue Tank...time to try REAL Debian.

Good news: I now have 384MB RAM and a 30GB HD in the Blue Tank, my 600x.

Bad news: Ubuntu installed but froze at the desktop. I didn't think to try the Live CD like I should have before I tried installing, but I wanted to see how the new HD works. Great idea, Michelle. :P

Anyway: hard disk works, RAM works, it booted Knoppix 2.6 again happily, and the fact that it installed suggests that Blue Tank just doesn't like Ubuntu. That's ok, I don't like GNOME much either. Kubuntu might work, but I'm not going to chance it. I want to Debianize Blue Tank, and soon.

So Shelby will get a 40GB HD in BlueTomato instead of the 30GB drive I intended. Good, live it up, put some more tunes on the HD. A swap of optical drives and a reinstall is all that is needed to get it ready for her. w00t.

Friday, August 12, 2005

What can I say about Cindy Sheehan that hasn't already been said?

She's a Satyagrahi...a living example of what Gandhi did 60 years ago. Every right wing twit who disses her only builds up the force of her will. Gandhi was a little guy who swept the British Raj out of India. Ms. Sheehan, diminutive and unassuming, might do much to bring down the G.W. Bush administration.

Every day G.W. Bush refuses to meet with her, the question begins to build. What is the most powerful man in the world afraid of? What is so threatening about a housewife who buried her son? What is so threatening about her? The fact of the matter is that she has already won, she will win if she meets with him, she will win even bigger if she goes home after Bush finishes his vacation without seeing him.

G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their rogues' gallery are classic bullies. They live to smack weaker people around, live to make them afraid. When someone stands up to a bully, their cowardice becomes obvious. You go, Ms. Sheehan. This California grrl is 100% behind you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Looks like The Rolling Stones are Sweet Neo-Cons themselves. Or at least their sponsors are. Their "A Bigger Bang" tour is sponsored by Ameriquest, the mortgage lender. And the first night of their tour, in Boston, is being used as a fundraiser for Der Gropenfuhrer, thanks to Ameriquest who have been big donors to the Schwarzenegger campaign in the past.

You don't have to believe me, here's the skinny:
SF Gate: Rolling Stones benefit for Schwarzenegger

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New battery torture time. A new battery for my 600-series laptops arrived...actually it's a repacked battery...and I am working on my second drain cycle.

As far as the surgery goes, it's been postponed. I'm going to try to do it next Summer. I would like to lose some weight before I go in for it, and I want to make sure that I have enough time to recuperate in case there are complications.

I'm getting really excited about school. I don't want to miss it. I didn't want there to be any chance I might be unable to attend on the 29th. The last bits of financial weirdness have been dealt with, and actually there is some money from the grants/loans package that can be applied to books and other necessities.

I still have been wussy about getting the SO-DIMM into the 600x. I need to get over that and soon. Tom needs to send feedback on the chip, and he can't until I tell him it's kosher. I wish this was a regular DIMM slot in back here because I have no probs with those.

Oh yeah: gotta remember to put the *old* battery in when I'm on "the mains." This battery needs to be kind of babied if I want to keep it working. Here's a primer on batteries from ThinkWiki.Org...ThinkWiki.Org is one of those places that ThinkPad owners need to have bookmarked, particularly those who run Linux on ThinkPads.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

New link in my links list I want to bring to your attention: The Stop Arnold Blog. It's run by the California Nurses Association and has some juicy tidbits about Herr Gropenfuhrer and the hideous, wasteful election he's throwing on November 8th. You know my views on it: just say NEIN.

There's scuttlebutt that he may not run for reelection. Part of me hopes he does so he can get a thorough spanking, but part of me hopes he doesn't so we can be sure he'll no longer be sleazing around Sacramento for another 4 years.

I'd like to see Dianne Feinstein run for Governor. Get her out of the Senate where she's doing damage left and right (yes on PATRIOT II, yes on the Bankruptcy Bill, etc. etc.) and get her in the State House. She would thoroughly pummel Ah-nold if she ran against him. Hasta la vista, baby indeed.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The hidden reason why Things Are Really Fouled Up in America: U6 and the true measure of unemployment.

Supposedly, the unemployment rate is only 5%. Supposedly, the US is in recovery. Supposedly, there's good times just around the corner...if you trust the numbers the GW Bush White House is feeding the Mainstream Media.

However, at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where the other set of books are kept, there are different numbers.

Try this on for size: in July 2004, if you counted the total numbers on the unemployment insurance rolls, plus "Discouraged and Marginally Attached Workers," (which means those who have given up on their job searches because they consider the search futile) plus those employed part time due to economic reasons, you get this number: 9.5% unemployed. In July 2005, this number dropped to 8.9%. This number is called, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U6 unemployment rate. If you don't believe me, here's the link.

To give a little perspective: in 1930, a year after the Great Crash that launched the Great Depression, the unemployment rate, which was measured in a more U6-like manner, was identical to the U6 rate we saw in July 2005. Of course, it was all downhill from there after 1930, and nothing brought unemployment rates down until World War II.

For those of us alive during the 1970s, this picture all seems quite familiar. And it is. Anyone remember the term "stagflation?" Stagnant economy, rampant inflation. And what caused the "stagflation" of the 1970s? The energy crisis. Oil prices are spiking again in the realm of adjusted-for-inflation 1970s prices. The historical high point for oil prices was $24 a barrel in 1974, which when translated into current US dollars would be something more like $75 a barrel. OK folks, the current price of oil is $64 in current US dollars. $75.01 isn't too far away from that mark.

No matter how much smoke and mirrors are applied to the numbers, $64/barrel oil is going to cause inflation to skyrocket sooner or later. Oil is the lifeblood of manufacturing, whether here or in China. Oil powers tractors and trucks that get food out of the ground and to market.

So, let's repeat. The true (U6) unemployment rate is 8.9%, not 5%. Oil is getting close to its historical value high when adjusted for inflation, having left the nominal rate behind long ago. And I haven't even mentioned two scary words together in this article yet: housing bubble.

In this article on DailyKOS, Stirling Newberry applies his economic wizardry to the current situation. His view of current real inflation and real unemployment figures are a bit less than I am talking about, but in regards to basic stuff he's right on the money. This is why we're feeling like we're in so deep.

This bumpy ride is going to get bumpier.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Damn, I had a really good post and lost it because there was something on the ABC News site that made Firefox cough up a hairball. Oh well.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, RIP Peter Jennings. One of the last real journalists on TV is gone. In his wake are blow-dried, telegenic actors who read other people's copy and look good doing it. Or ex pundits, or wannabe pundits. Everyone but journalists.

Peter Jennings is dead, Walter Cronkite has been in retirement for more than a decade, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather have also retired, and Bill Moyers is in semi-retirement. In their place is the nightmare of infotainment that Paddy Chayefsky envisioned in Network and John Brunner envisioned before him in Stand On Zanzibar. I suppose, in my capacity as staff on ToonMag.Com and in my years of writing about such insubstantial stuff as rock music and animation, that I am "part of the problem" in this case.

There's a song from the '80s I can't remember the name of or the artist, but I remember a lyric: "You read the entertainment papers every night, and you think that that's the news." (Someone email me with the info -- the link on this page works!) It was getting to that point back then, the trend was already well on its way in 1976 when Network came out. Now "the news" is basically an infomercial with the occasional spice of a car chase or two, a forest fire and a propaganda piece or two. If you go beyond local, to national news, the added local flavor of the car chases and forest fires are factored out unless they are sufficiently titillating to go nationwide. And with the advent of CNN and Fox News Channel, the infomercials and propaganda and occasional titillating chase or fire get played wall to wall, 24/7, with the "all 10 of the hits, all the time" heavy rotation grace of your local ClearChannel-owned pop station.

Bye bye Mr. Jennings. Au revoir. Don't forget to file that report from the Great Beyond.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Dot com, dot com, dot com" -- Jon Wahl "Southern California Dreaming"

The Dot Com boom came at just the right time for me. I came down with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome in 1991, a year after I had gone in for emergency gall bladder surgery. I'm pretty sure I got exposed to whatever Factor X causes CFIDS in the County Hospital I wound up in for the surgery. However, by the end of 1994 I began a period of remission that continues to this day. Occasionally I feel like crap, but it's nowhere near how I felt when I was truly flat on my ass sick. Oh yeah: during the period I had CFIDS, I never got colds or flu. Now I do on occasion. I am a big believer in the theory that CFIDS is basically the immune system kicking into high gear to fight something and only gradually getting kicked back down to normal. For some people, that immune system never gets kicked back down. Those are the folks who get laid low by CFIDS indefinitely. Thank you Goddess for my fate not winding up like theirs.

By Spring of 1995 I had recovered enough of my strength to where I could think about going back to being a freelance journalist again. Somehow or another I wound up with a group of people who were starting a magazine called Anvil Anthology. It was going to be the American answer to Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant, and featured the work of primarily Animation people who wanted to get in on the comics boom. It didn't make it, but two things came out of it that are helpful to this day: I met Michael Swanigan, who started Toon Magazine and Toon Magazine Online, and I learned to build websites. The website I used to learn my trade was Animation Nerd's Paradise, which existed from late 1995 to mid-1999. The reason why I had to shut it down will become clear later. The lovely people at Animation World Network have been kind enough to let me keep ANP archived. AWN is an amazing survivor of the Dot Com Boom/Bust. They just keep on keeping on. Good.

In 1996 I hooked up with a networking group for women who were working on the infant World Wide Web called "Webgrrls LA." There I met Deborah Howard, who ran a very small ISP in her Venice, CA living room called 2 Cow Herd Internet with her then-husband, networking geek Tom Carr. We got to talking and she decided to take me on as a contract web designer.

I worked with 2 Cow Herd and with the ISP Consortium, a non-profit she had helped found, until I got a call in June of 1999. "Listen, I have gotten a great offer to work at a bandwidth startup run by a competitive long distance carrier. I want to bring you aboard as webmaster for this new company's sales and marketing division. 2 Cow Herd is being sold. Are you with me?"

For years, I had observed the Dot Com Boom from afar, hoping to get that tap on the shoulder to join something just blowing up. This was it. However, there was one consideration.

"Umm...where are they located?"

"Bay Area. Peninsula. Burlingame."

"I can't pick up and move..."

"No need, we'll set you up down there in your home office. You'll visit up North every few months. It will be cool. We've done the virtual office thing successfully for years, I can't see why we can't do it with them."

Opportunity knocking? Hell, it had kicked the door down and it was sitting in my living room.

One thing for certain: hopping aboard the Dot Com Boom in 1999 meant one thing looking back at it in hindsight: I wasn't going to get rich. If the offer had come a year or maybe two years earlier, maybe I would have done as well as an acquaintance of mine who got tons of Yahoo stock when his company got bought by them. The stock vested, he turned around and cashed it in, and bought a house with cash in Austin, Texas. Some guys had all the luck. I just wound up with a Mac G3 Blue-And-White, a ThinkPad 365x, a bit of office furniture and a bunch of 1999-2000 vintage software.

The company, which eventually got called Onyx Networks, lived for a little less than a year after I started with them. Nobody knew that the boss at the parent company was busy hollowing out the company and burning through the venture capital as we worked to set up new fiber conduits across the Pacific. We wanted to be the Pacific Rim answer to UUNet's domination of the trans-Atlantic bandwidth trade. We never got the chance.

March 2000 happened.

By June 2000, I was part of the second wave of layoffs. Deb would be part of the third wave. We had to part company at that point...she was established in the Bay Area, I was down here in the San Fernando Valley, and no opportunity to bring me onboard and set me up as a virtual employee was conceivable in the post-crash aftermath. I was on my own. I got exactly one Dot Com job after that, which lasted about 3 months. Pacific Gateway Exchange went bust in January 2001, and was liquidated by May of that year.

After that ended, my almost 5-year tech sector career ended too. I had retrained in 2001-2002, hoping to get a job as an assistant Windows sysadmin somewhere. Everyone needed computer support. so I thought. However, 9/11 happened towards the end of being retrained. What was left of the economy crashed. The stupid MCSE I earned was less than worthless. It had been a total time sink of the period between Spring 2001 to New Year 2002.

By the middle of 2003, I realized there was no way out of going back to school and getting my degree. Not having a sheepskin was holding me back, and dooming me to a lifetime of McJobs until I dropped dead. Now I have the AA I was supposed to get in the mid '80s. I'm on my way to getting my BA in Psychology. And I'm going to probably have to get my MA before all this is over. I should have been in process on this two decades ago. But I didn't. I got sidetracked in '85 when the LA Community College District started charging fees, and my mom refused to part with her precious personal info so I could try getting financial aid. However, if I hadn't, I don't know if I would have met Richie and I don't know if I would have experienced all I had experienced. Lennon was right: Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.

I have been thinking of fictionalizing my story, tweaking a whole bunch of details, and writing a book. Since I seem to have no problem ranting here on my blog, I might just do the writing here, through Blogger and Blogspot. Eventually I'd pack all the stuff up and self-publish it.

I think I have the title. Pyrite Rush. Pyrite is fool's gold. The Dot Com Boom was a Pyrite Rush, a run on fool's gold. The current real estate mania in Los Angeles is like that too. Another Pyrite Rush. When it will crash, I don't know. But it will. And we will be even more fscked than we are now. When the real estate bubble bursts, it will also run headlong into Peak Oil and the aftermath of the Iraq debacle. A recipe for a disaster that will make the 1930s seem like good times.

I picked a good time to get back to school, I think. No matter what happens in the world, you can't take a degree away from someone because they are dead flat broke. No amount of economic privation will change the accomplishments I achieved this year and am on the road to achieving in the next four or five years.

Friday, August 05, 2005

"SOAR" is finally behind me, and I can start looking forward to a couple of years at Woodbury University. I was treated surprisingly well. I could get used to good food, staff members who don't treat you like cattle, a nice little campus tucked away in the hills of Burbank, and some genuinely interesting classes coming up. (No, I don't number Math 149, the Algebra II class, in the "Interesting" category.)

What I am not looking forward to, not counting Algebra II and Stats, is the debt that I am incurring going there. I am getting a little less than half of my tuition covered by grants I don't have to pay back. However, a little more than half will be loans of some sort or another. I don't like that.

That aside, I think I'm going to enjoy Woodbury.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Today is the 91st anniversary of the beginning of the "Great War," aka World War I. In many respects, World War I was the most catastrophic of all wars. Nukes weren't in the global arsenal yet, but there were other horrors that made their debut in that war. Chemical weapons, aerial bombardment from planes and airships, tanks, plane-to-plane combat...they all made their big debut in that horrible conflagration. Submarines and machine guns, which had made their debut in the US Civil War, came lethally into their own in WWI.

If it weren't for the Great Flu Pandemic, it would have been likely that World War I, a conflict which had been thought at first to be "short and sharp and over by Christmas" would have been fought for years more than it was. Both the HG Wells novel "The Shape Of Things To Come"(1933) and the Aldous Huxley novel "Brave New World"(1932) contemplated a world in which World War I, or a war like it, had persisted until the total destruction of civilization. Interestingly, the book "1984" (1948) by George Orwell and the anime movie "Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise" postulated what life would be like in a society in which World War II, or a conflict like it, had not ended.

Ultimately the reason why World War I started has been lost to history. Many theories have been posed, but none are completely satisfactory to explain everything. In many respects, World War I was prefigurative of both the Vietnam Conflict and our very own Iraq War. All three began under murky circumstances, all three had a strong component of a non-governmental insurgency being involved in one way or another, and all three dragged (or in the case of Iraq, drag) on a lot longer than was initially envisioned. World War I ended, not with a peace treaty, but an armistice treaty. In that respect, it was quite similar to the Korean Conflict. No peace treaty exists there either. The issues of World War I eventually had to be resolved in a second punishing World War. Some issues, like the fate of the former Ottoman Empire, still remain unresolved, and provided the foundation of the current Iraq War and the continued hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

World War I is rarely taught in history classes in the United States. It usually gets glossed over towards the end of both World and US history. It is only on the University level that there is any discussion of World War I, and at that point only in classes designed for History majors. It is a pity...even though its causes are lost to history, the consequences of the war have shaped the world in which we live in the present day. Perhaps we should all take a bit of time and remember the carnage of that time. Then perhaps we should steel ourselves to work towards the end of the current pointless conflict of our day: Iraq.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yes, it is official-official now! I got my AA!

Note: this image is clicky should you want to see more of it.

Anyway, it's now 100% official. I have my AA in Liberal Arts and Sciences. The good folks at Los Angeles Valley College actually sped up the certification process so I could give the folks at Woodbury unofficial proof of my degree. I'm going to have to order yet another copy of my "official transcripts" for them to have on hand, and I also suspect that I should get a copy or two to keep on file and keep under seal.

On Friday I have to be at Woodbury at 7:45am for my "SOAR" orientation. I'll learn a lot of things that day: my schedule of classes, how long it will take me to finish my BA, etc. Hopefully I'll also get a book list, so I can start poking around on eBay and Amazon for bargains. I will also have to do some more of the endless paperwork for my financial aid. Because of the fact that I will be coming in as a Junior instead of as a Freshman or Sophomore, I will be able to get a little more financial aid, so there's some money over and above the cost of tuition. Hopefully this will be enough to deal with books and other expenses. I'm not going to hope that it's enough to keep us alive and well during the school year. Our finances are going to suck really badly for the next two years, alas. Or maybe more. Bleah.

One thing that didn't cost me a dime: I was sent a completely unsolicited mailer from Universal Studios Hollywood with something completely unexpected: a coupon for a FREE yearly pass. Today I hauled my butt over to Universal to redeem the coupon before it expired. I didn't want to stay too long because it was horrifyingly hot, and I'm sure it will be too hot to visit there for another couple of months. No worries, though: the pass is actually good for a whole year. I don't know why they are doing this. I suppose they're gambling that people who get their free pass will bring paying customers in. Good luck, we probably won't. Richie really isn't interested in going. And we don't have kids. Perhaps if friends come in from out of town, and were going to visit Universal anyway, I might tag along. My pass expires on 8/3/2006. There are some significant blackout dates on it, but they aren't that bad.

Anyway, I think I got a little too much sun today. I am going to take it easy tonight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Testing 1, 2, 3...

I took the "Computer Literacy" exam today, and it was a fsckn joke. Do a formatted document in Word, build a simple budgeting spreadsheet in Excel, and send an email using a webmail system of your choice.

The conclusion is inescapable. None of these tasks were so complicated they couldn't have been done in OpenOffice.Org and FireFox. I mean, I'm fairly sure I passed the stupid little test. But what I'm saying is that if this is what Woodbury University thinks that their students will be doing with technology, then they can just as easily run Linux with OpenOffice.Org and FireFox and be perfectly equipped to do all their work that way. Yes, SPSS is also in the picture, but SPSS for Linux is coming.

I will be trying to persuade the school to allow Linux as a "supported" operating system for Woodbury students. When and if that happens, I will also start working with the Woodbury Connections center to set up a program where we'll try to get local companies to donate their aging but usable laptops so needy Title V students get free laptops with a preload of Linux. I think this could be a very interesting project. I hope that I'll get a chance to do this.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I have always been fascinated by Japan, at least as far back as the 3rd Grade. This was long before I was aware that cartoon shows I loved to watch like Speed Racer, Gigantor, The Amazing Three, and Kimba The White Lion were all Japanese in origin, and were actually known as Mach Go Go Go! Tetsujin 28-Go! W3-Wanda 3 and Junguru Taitei respectively.

I am also not much of a royalist either. I definitely agree with the peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who said:

Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. I mean, if I went round saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away.

However, in otherwise constitutional republics/democracies, a figurehead Queen, King, or Emperor is not a problem. Just as long as the monarch is kept as far from the reins of power as possible, it in fact can be quite a boost to tourism. In fact, if said Queen, King or Emperor was replaced by actors under the employ of the real government, it might even be better for the country in question. No messy scandals to bring the prestige of the "Royals" down, no huge royal allowances, no problem. Every night, the fictive "King and Queen" would go home to their real home and real life. They'd draw a modest salary from a new "Ministry of Pageantry." Sounds like a win-win situation to me...

Anyway, Japan is finally wrestling with the problem of no male heir to the throne after Prince Naruhito. Japan had Empresses early on in its history, but after The Shotoku Empress, who ruled from 749-758CE, abdicated, then reclaimed the throne from 764-770CE, the rules changed. Because of a royal scandal involving The Shotoku Empress, no woman has been elevated to the Chrysanthemum Throne since then. However, Naruhito was the last significant male born to the Japanese Imperial House, and no males at all have been born to any branch of the family since 1965.

So the Japanese are on the horns of a dilemma. What to do after Prince Naruhito? The American-written "Peace Constitution" that is currently the supreme law of the land in Japan forbids any but three of the former noble families of Japan to produce the next figurehead Tenno. As I mentioned before, none of them have had male children since 1965. However, they have had several daughters, including Naruhito's daughter Aiko-hime, born to a great media blitz three years ago. Aiko-hime is quite beloved by the Japanese people, and currently 80 to 92 percent of the Japanese population wants to see the succession rules rewritten to allow Aiko-hime to be next in line. A small group of conservatives (who are not coincidentally the same folks who want to see an absolute monarchy in Japan again) would rather see the office of Emperor opened up to the 11 families who were written out of the succession in 1947. Presumably there are male heirs in those noble families.

I'm not Japanese, so I don't have any say-so. However, I would think it awfully silly if the will of 80 to 92 percent of the Japanese population was ignored in favor of a small minority who also want to turn back the clock and give the Emperor absolute power again. Since the Imperial House has nothing but ceremonial power now, I suspect it shouldn't make a difference.

Then again, at this point we seem to have a Royal House of our own as absolute rulers of this country. sigh...