Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some1 gots a computr

I am living in the World Wide Web these days. My waking hours, and sometimes my dreams, revolve around building web pages, uploading files, and trying to decipher little bits of code and the lingo of the Uber Nerds around me.

Along the way, one can collect some entertainment if one tries. Case in point, the offerings here, contributed by people from all over who carry the exalted title of Webmaster for some public agency. These are some actual emails from actual citizens that were actually sent to some actual public employee somewhere in this great land of ours. I think you will find them inspiring.

"When is some1 comin to cut my grass? I bought this house and the grass is gettng tall. My neighbor says if I wait long enuf the city will cut it for me." (Now that's what I call good old American ingenuity! Of course, this same person will complain loudly when the City sends a bill for cutting the grass after a bunch of complaints and time-wasting paperwork, all burning up the taxpayer dollar.)

"My trash was not picked up today. My trash needs to be emptied NOW." (As if often the case with the loudest, most demanding complaints, this citizens gave no name, address, or return email.)

"How much does it cost to get married?" ( If you have to ask, you can't afford it.)

"Ii gots me a warant for my arest for not cumin too coorts. can I post bail from my computr?" (Note that "post bail" is spelled correctly.)

"I searched the City website and didn't find this info. Is there a City Noise Ordinance for loud motorcycles in my neighborhood constantly up and down the streets as late as 3:00 A.M. in the morning? How do I apply for a gun permit?"
(If more citizens would take the initiative to resolve these little neighborhood problems on their own, we'd all benefit, don't you agree?)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Endlessly answering questions

If you are familiar with the myspace bulletin, this will make sense. If this does not make sense, well, you know, it's Friday and it's been a long week so get off my back!

1. What is the status of you and the last person you kissed?
still married as far as I know

2. What's bothering you right now?

3. What is in your wallet?
i don't have a wallet, I carry everything in my hands all the time

4. Wallpaper on your computer's desktop?
i don't have wallpaper but the desktop is freshly painted

5. Background on your cell phone?
well, it's a Razr and I bought it at the mall. It's black.

6. What do you want in your life right now?
bowl of cereal but there isn't any

7. Listening to?
the voices in my head, always the voices

8. Have you ever kissed anyone named Billy?
actually yes, which might be embarassing but he's 14 months old

9. Eating/chewing?
i am in favor of both.

10. What's your favorite thing to have on your bed?
a canned ham

11. Do you believe in a soulmate?
yes, a soulmate is like coffeemate, something to add to your own soul that makes it better. But also there's a lot of chemical additives so not too much.

12. What do you wear to bed?
wetsuit, just in case there's a tsunami

13. Do you remember your dreams?
why, did I do something wrong?

14. Who will you sleep with tomorrow?
my soulmate. Or my coffeemate.

15. Have you ever been gambling?
does betting on the pig races at the fair count?

16. What's something you wish you could understand better?
why i'm writing this

17. What did you do last weekend?
spent a lot of time visualizing world peace. Didn't help.

19. Who is the last person you hugged?
winston churchill. Or that may have been a dream.

20. Orange or apple juice?
a little splash of orange, please, but don't dilute the vodka

21. Who was the last person you went somewhere with?
my soulmate and I went upstairs, and later we came back down

22. What was the last text message you got?
Sarah said she was fixing dinner and then she bailed

23. Have you ever kissed anyone on your top 8?
yes, but I have not kissed the movie "300"

24. What was the last thing you drank?
wish i could remember, need to cut down on that

25. Whose house did you go to last night?
Ask not whose house I go to, ask what you can do for the houses!

26. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital?
sarah like a year and a half ago

27. Are you bored?

28. What is the last movie you watched?
the last king of Scotland - which is not about scotland at all so don't be fooled...

29. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink:
coffee (with coffeemate), lemonade, wine - sometimes all mixed together

30. What are you excited about?
world peace. or world war, I forget

31. Do you want someone you can't have?
yes, i want a butler and a maid

32. Who was last to slap your butt?
some Senator in the men's room at the Minneapolis airport

33. Where was the last place you went?
the kitchen, physically, but my spirit recently visited the planet Gondar in the purple universe.

35. Have you cried recently?
i'm crying right now

36. Whats on tv?
many wonderful programs chock full of enlightenment, but I'll be watching something else

37. Is taking a shower a daily habit?
yes, and I sure wish I could remember to do it BEFORE i get dressed

38. What's your favorite song?
i love to hear the birthday song sung to me because it reminds me that I am just a little closer to dying

39. Do you like the town you live in?
Well, let's just say we're more than friends...

40. Height?
Yes, I have some, but I'm more into width these days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hey! Hey, look at me! Over here! Look!

It's a little marginal for a person with a totally voluntary, non-profit blog to suggest that some people are crying out for attention, but I always say if you're going to be a hypocrite, be a big, fat, in-your-face hypocrite, so here goes. (OK, I've never "always said that" but I'm going to start saying it now.)

There are two stories in the news this week that have a whiff of "gimme some attention." Story 1 is the case of this kid from the University of Florida, Andrew Meyer. He's the one who got tasered and dragged off at a John Kerry appearance. (John Kerry - he's still alive?) If you haven't seen the video...

There are a couple of indications that Meyer was planning to make some kind of a scene. For one, he handed his video camera to a stranger and asked them to record him asking his question. Then, according to the police reports:

"As (Meyer) was escorted down stairs (at the University Auditorium) with no cameras in sight, he remained quiet, but once the cameras made their way down stairs he started screaming and yelling again," Mallo wrote.

Mallo was one of two officers who actually rode in the vehicle as Meyer was escorted to the Alachua County jail...

Mallo also wrote in her report that he asked, at one point, if cameras would be present at the jail.
Hmmmm....just politically passionate, or trying to get his name known? Either way, there are two meaningful suggestions I will make.

1. When the cops have decided they're arresting you, yell all you want but it's probably better to lie down on your stomach and let them cuff you. You probably won't talk them out of it once they put their hands on you. Unless you like the feel of the electricity shooting out of your fingertips.

2. If you are a Senator, a supposed statesman, a man of power and influence, and the cops start arresting a college kid because he's asking a question, it would be a good thing if you walked out there and tried to stop the whole thing, rather than just keep talking like nothing's happening.

Story 2 in the "Hey, look at me!" files is OJ. If I never saw this guy's face again it would be too soon, but here he is again. Don't you think if you were this notorious, if three out of four people who passed you on the street were thinking "there goes a cold-blooded, remorseless murderer" that maybe you would sort of lay low, and not take part in activities involving guns and stealing? I know some people are claiming this was a set up. I don't care. Seeing some of the smirking photos that have been taken of Simpson this week just makes me think he's happy to be getting all the attention.

Look, I've got to run. Now that I've posted to my blog I need to go stand by the freeway in my underwear, and later I'm planning to glue a lot of little plastic toys to my car. I hope nobody notices.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why we are in Iraq and why we need to stay

One of my dad's many expressive figures of speech was describing someone as a person who "woke up in a new world every day." This, surprisingly, was not a compliment. It was a way of indicating that a person did not have any wisdom, mature judgment, ability to remember what came before and act accordingly. In short, the person in question was a simpleton - unable to grasp the complexities of life.

On 9/11/07, I wrote: "In my next post, I will explain in the simplest terms exactly why we are in Iraq and why we need to stay." I address this to those who believe they are thoughtful about geo-politics and US foreign policy, but in fact, seem to wake up in a new world every day.

1. The war between Islamic fundamentalism and the US did not begin with the invasion if Iraq in 2003. It began in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place and the US hostages were taken. For those who forget, the Ayatollah Khomeini was a bad guy of the first order in our view, and his assumption of power in Iran can be compared now to Hitler's "beer hall putsch" - the rise to prominence of an individual who would have far-reaching impact.

2. For more than twenty years, we tried to ignore all the signs. The Islamic fundamentalists were at war with us but we didn't acknowledge it. In retrospect it's hard to understand how we could have just walked away after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. A court ruled in 2003 that Iran was responsible for that bombing.

3. The first Gulf War didn't have anything to do with our war against Islamic fundamentalists. As we all know, Saddam Hussein was not a fundamentalist - he was secular, western-looking Sunni - and all he did was over-estimate how far the US would let him go. It was in our interest to make sure Iraq was strong back then, but not too strong. Iraq was our ally as a counter to Iran.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, we looked the other way, or retaliated in small, politically-safe ways, when Muslim fundamentalists took over governments and Americans were attacked in other parts of the world. It was only in 2001, after the 9-11 attacks, that we committed to the inevitable war against the Islamic fundamentalists.

So why invade Iraq if Iran is really the problem? If it takes more than a brief look at this map to get the answer, you're just not trying.

The fact is this: the Administration wanted to attack the larger problem; Iran is a powerful fundamentalist state that funds and inspires people who create the problem; there was no justifiable reason to attack Iran directly, but it was easy to trump up a case against Saddam; we needed strategic positions to isolate Iran; strong presence in Iraq on the west and Afghanistan on the east created that strategic position. I wish our national leaders had possessed the huevos back in 2002-2003 to come out and tell the American people the truth - this is what we need to do, and this is why we need to do it. We'd all be better off today to face up to the facts: we are an empire, and if we want to remain so we have to protect our interests.

Is it about oil? Yes. It's not only about oil, but oil matters a lot. The world economy needs oil, and the US economy needs the world economy, and your job and my job need the US economy, and what's for dinner tonight needs your job and my job.

If you step back and look at the map, and think about the way things work, it's all really simple - even if you wake up in a new world every day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We all need to grow a spine

This photo was taken in Iraq on 9 September 2003
by Baker Company, 7th Marines, 1st Battalion.

It takes a lot for me to be appalled, but that's the best word to describe the way I felt last week. I heard someone on TV or radio doing a tease for an upcoming segment along the lines of "9-11 remembrances - when is enough enough?" A few days later I read an editorial page item with the same tone - "I can't get too worked up over the fact that 9-11 happened six years ago."

Generally I'm all for living in the moment and not in the past, what's done is done, let bygones be bygones. Generally, but not absolutely. There's no statute of limitations on murder.

If you want to get back in touch with the emotions of 9-11 and all that has followed in these last six years, I recommend seeing HBO's Alive Day Memories. (If you don't have HBO, it says on their site you can watch the entire film online.)

This film is very simple. Ten people, male and female, who went to Iraq and got blown up in one way or another and lived to tell about it. Some are coping with it well, others not so well. As a film it works on many levels. Whether you are a hawk and think we should stay the course, or a dove who thinks we should get out today, you will be moved by these stories.

What's that? I hear someone shouting in the back....what are you saying? Oh, yes, I was expecting that question - "what does Iraq have to do with 9-11? Iraq didn't blown up the twin towers! Osama is not Iraqi! "

Tell you what. Today I will hold my tongue and keep my thoughts on the innocents who died six years ago today, and all those who have sacrificed life and limb in the days since. In my next post, I will explain in the simplest terms exactly why we are in Iraq and why we need to stay.

Fly your flag today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Osama explains it all for you

Bin Laden has a new tape out, and I'm a little disappointed. He says that all this fighting and tension can be over and we can all get along fine, if we just give up on capitalism and democracy and convert to Hinduism. Or maybe it was Buddhism. Anyway, one of those.

I'm disappointed because I think ol' Bin has been playing it passive-aggressive these past six years, trying to get us to read his mind - why does it take so long to just come out and say what you want? Binny, baby, don't be coy.

Now that we know what it takes to make everything right, I'm sure you will join me in renouncing those meaningless, shallow beliefs that seem to be causing all the trouble. Let's look at some pros and cons:

Pros: Any person with drive can get rich, and with drive and some brains, incredibly rich.
Cons: Most of us don't have enough drive and/or brains.
Verdict: Dump it. I'd much rather have a wise holy man in a beard tell me how many goats I can have. Then I can just sit back and enjoy life.

Pros: Any person can run for office and get elected.
Cons: Any person can run for office and get elected.
Verdict: It's so 20th century! We need a system for the future, like Hinduism! Or Buddhism or whatnot.

Pros: Sustaining faith of my ancestors; basic New Testament tenets of love answering all questions provides comfort and solace to billions worldwide.
Cons: Basic New Testament tenets appear to be plagiarized from The Beatles; not enough chopping off of hands.
Verdict: Time to try something different. Hug me, Osama, I am filled with the spirit of Hindu-ness!

So I am making a tape of my own. You'll probably see it on all the news soon. I will renounce all the bad stuff Bin's been pointing out, and profess my new beliefs, and I'm sure you will want to join me and stop the violence.

I mean, what are we fighting for anyway?...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Crazy like a frog

Just the other day some friends were talking about a new game they had developed in their office. More intellectual than wadded-paper-and-trash-can basketball, or the uber-nerdlinger four square that's now popular in Silicon Valley, this game is all about mixed metaphors. The objective is to come up with a combination that, while failing to make sense, is funny.

The oldest example of this kind of mixed metaphor that I can recall is "smokes like a fish," which combines "smokes like a chimney" (logical) with "drinks like a fish" (not really logical since it refers to alcohol consumption and I don't think fish really hit it that hard, except on weekends.) That one's been around a long time, and I have a feeling somebody came up with on purpose. Likewise, "that's not rocket surgery!" which always tends to get a delayed laugh, feels like a line that belongs to some stand up comedian.

Most of your most entertaining mixed metaphors just happen. This topic started cooking with gas on my front burner yesterday when I read somebody's reference to a "carrot on a rope." (Feasible, if not as conceptually pure as the more common "carrot on a stick." And honestly if you want to lure people, rather than horses, to some forward objective, you might be better off with a cheeseburger on a stick or rope, as the case may be.)

Once you start thinking about these linguistic gymnastics, you can get addicted. Here are few faves I found here.
  • A rolling stone is worth two in the bush.
  • Dirty laundry is coming home to roost. (Sourced to Ray Romano.)
  • He clams up tighter than a drum. (From a "Walker, Texas Ranger" script. That's a double MM.)
  • I can read him like an open can of worms.
  • I'm no Monday morning shortstop.
  • If you let that sort of thing go on, your bread and butter will be cut right out from under your feet. (Sourced to British foreign minister Ernet Bevin)
  • Now that the ball is in our court, let's go for the touchdown.
  • No use beating him over the head with a dead horse.
  • You buttered your bread, now sleep in it! (Jiminy Cricket)
  • You can take that to the bank and smoke it. (Stephen J. Cannell)
  • That fish won’t hunt.
  • That really hacks me to a crisp.
OK, I could keep this going 'til the cows turn blue in the face. But I'm as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in an ass-kicking contest today, and I've got to make hay while the iron is hot.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

John, Fred, and you-know-who

With a scant 14 months to go, time is running out and we will soon need to make a choice for our next President. The time has come to confront the most intriguing question of the campaign, the unspoken question that everyone is quietly pondering - is John Edwards bisexual?

No, sorry, that's not the question I meant to ask. The real unspoken question that everyone is quietly pondering is this - doesn't Fred Thompson look like he might just kick your ass?

Sorry again, so sorry, not where I was really going. Just a little distracted today. Let's get to the REAL unspoken question, the whispered query, the question even true believers hear inside their heads, the question my pal Big Tex actually gave voice to the other day - Hillary can get the nomination, but can she win the office?Face it, even the most die-hard Dems must be tussling over this question. After all, the 2008 election is a walk-over for their party, agreed? There's nothing the Democrats could possibly do in one year to fumble this chance away, right? Well, none of that is really true, but for sure they have a leg up on the GOP, what with the sitting President's approval rating approaching absolute zero. He's blown it, the Republicans have become the party of scandal, and so the Democrats walk into the White House.

But can it really happen with Hillary at the top of the ticket?

Seems to me we reserve a particular type of disdain for women like Hillary. They make the mistake of achieving success and positions of power by acting a little too much like men. Not deferential enough. Not concerned enough with hairstyles and Italian shoes. Too self-assured. Something fishy about a woman who doesn't seem like she needs to be rescued. "Iron Maiden." "Ice Queen." "Bitch on wheels." Strangely enough, other women are often far more harsh toward a woman like Hillary that men could ever be. And it says something about our progress toward "equality for women" that the unspoken question is more "can Hillary really win a general election?" than "could America really elect a black man?"

Granted, these are foreign concepts to a lot of the people I know here in coastal California. Hillary wins on both coasts, no contest. But can she carry the "heartland?" Can you picture her beating a white male Republican (insert any name here) in November '08 in Nevada? Arizona? Texas? Kansas? Kentucky? Florida? Need I go on? It has all the makings of another 50/50 election, even a repeat of the "popular vote winner-electoral vote loser" scenario we've already seen played out. And boy, that's just what we need.