Thursday, November 30, 2006

Newly Recommended

Try R World at

Mostly serious stuff. Some interesting takes on a variety of subjects.

Killing By Any Other Name

As I start this post, I'm not sure if I am going to attack the Administration, the Media or both.

The Media is agog at NBC's announcement that "[a]fter careful consideration [it] has decided a change in terminology is warranted." Henceforth, whatever is going on in Iraq will be called a "civil war" by NBC.

Tony Snow says, not so fast, what we have is "sectarian violence that seems to be less aimed at gaining full control over an area than expressing differences and also destabilizing a democracy, which is different from civil war, where two sides are clashing for territory and supremacy."

President Bush: "[W]e've been in this phase for a while....It's tough, no question about it." In his opinion, it was "sectarian violence" by people seeking reprisal for attacks by al-Qa'eda. Poor aim by those people.

Ok. Now we have it straight. If the Sunnis and Shiia were slugging it out (which last I heard, they were) for supremacy (which I thought was their purpose) and for territory, rather than mis-guided reprisal against the wrong people, we would have ourselves a civil war. No battles for territory, no civil war. Nope, what you got is your garden-variety sectarian violence. Been there. Done that. Just something we have to expect in "this phase." It's tough. Yeah, your killing always is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Annoying Add-ons

I travelled to the not so frigid north for Thanksgiving. I was happy to see that they still have stars in the sky out in the country.

When I got back to Atlanta I had to bail my car out of the off-airport parking lot. The bill came to $31.00 which seemed to be an odd amount since the lot doesn't have hourly charges - if you park over 24 hours you pay for the full next day.

When I got home and looked at the receipt, I found out that I had the privilege of paying a $1.00 "fuel surcharge." I guess it makes some sense given the fleet of shuttle buses eating gas; but, it's still annoying.

A year or so ago I got hit with a daily $1.15 "security fee" at a Myrtle Beach La Quinta. When I asked the clerk what that was for I was told it was for the safe that I didn't know was in my room.

This spring I went to Tucson for a weekend of golf at Loews Ventana Ranch Resort. Each day I was charged $12.00 for "resort services."

A number of years ago there was a steak place in Atlanta that gave the customer the task of grilling their own steak. If you wanted the steak delivered to your table ready to eat, they charged an extra $2.00.

I'm waiting for McDonalds to add a quarter to the price of a Big Mac for "wrapping services."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tryptophan and Thanksgiving


"Does turkey contain a natural sedative that makes you feel sleepy after eating a lot of it?

In this instance, lore almost intersects with science. Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid which is a natural sedative. But tryptophan doesn't act on the brain unless it is taken on an empty stomach with no protein present, and the amount gobbled even during a holiday feast is generally too small to have an appreciable effect.

That lazy, lethargic feeling so many are overcome by at the conclusion of a festive season meal is most likely due to the combination drinking alcohol,...overeating a [solid-food] carbohydrate-rich repast, [and] increased blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract."

I have been to many Thanksgiving family feasts over the years. With or without the aid of Tryptophan, they invoke a warm, lazy, comfortable memory.

In the early years they rotated among my parents', an uncle's and an aunt's house. In the pecking order of cousins and brothers I was mid-level. Four older, two younger, plus my two younger brothers. In my childhood and teen years I never graduated to the big people table. There were just too many people with seniority.

Just before family started arriving, or just before we got to the relatives' house, my father would lecture us on proper behavior. In my young world there was no functional difference between a father or mother and an aunt or uncle. Any adult trumped any child. Woe to the child that didn't understand that. We were not to run, there was no yelling. You could not ask for anything. If offered, you could say yes. As a sullen teen I fantasized during the lecture, still given for the benefit of my younger brothers, about the permissability of asking for emergency life-saving treatment if I had a run-in with the carving knife.

While sitting on the front porch, a cousin taught me to tie my shoes on Thanksgiving Day. I went to my first non-drive-in movie, The Old Man and the Sea, on Thanksgiving day. I was introduced to the wonders of Kool Whip (the look on my mother's face told me all I needed to know about asking my Aunt for another dollop). White meat turkey slices with salt and mayo on white bread (a starch source I have out-grown) and cold stuffing, mid-evening is actually better than the feast during the day. Choking down a teaspoon of yellow or green Jello with stuff in it is an acceptable price for the rest of the day, though no one should have to eat canned cranberry sauce.

My generation is somewhat scattered over the Country. Me in Atlanta. A brother in Phoenix. A cousin in Florida. My youngest brother and some of my cousins are still close enough to each other to carry on the tradition.

My last family feast was in 1999 when I traveled not for the holiday but to attend my mother's funeral a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was held that year at one of my cousin's son's house. Tradition was turning full circle. My brothers had daughters. They had cousins. I was disappointed to see that the kids were not at card tables. Long tables had been borrowed from the church and everyone sat together. At least I got to sit at the big people table.

I'm going back this year to my youngest brother's house. There are a few more kids and no more of the original generation. I plan on eating dark meat, lots of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie. I'm going to dollop on all the Kool Whip I want, which won't be much. I am not going to eat any Jello or cranberries, sauce or whole. I plan on smiling more than I did when I was sullen teen.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Guy Can Write

Surfing blogs results in a lot more chaff than wheat. Here's a whole acre of wheat:

The name of the blog is Niagaran Pebbles. Well worth your time.

Me and My Computer

Back in the mid-eighties I bought my first computer, an Osborne, one of the first "portables." It was about the size of an overnight suitcase. It had a four inch screen and two 64k floppy drives. It was loaded with WordStar, dBase III, SuperCalc and Space Invaders.

One day I had composed a letter and told the computer to tell the printer (dot matrix) to print it. It did; but, it added a little gift. On the bottom right of the page it printed an *. I went back to the file. There was no asterick on the screen. I printed again. My letter with its asterick printed out.

I did a lot of things, none of which got rid of my new friend. I resorted to reading the manual. No luck.

Finally, I moved the cursor to the right of my name on the screen and hit enter maybe ten times. I printed the letter and it and the asterisk appeared; but, now the little bugger was safely by itself on a second sheet of paper. Mission accomplished.

I have upgraded my computer equipment substantially since then. My current system cost less than a third of what I paid for the Osborne and has what, a million times the capacity?

Yesterday, I was doing some research on-line. I told the computer to tell the printer to print a .pdf file I had found on a website. The computer and/or the printer decided that the old way of fulfilling my wish was boring. They decided to involve a friend of theirs.

A couple of months ago I bought a scanner. A wonderful invention. Mine, a Xerox Documate 510, comes with Paperport software which apparently had been cozying up to Windows and the HP printer software since it had moved in.

The three of them got together and decided that Windows would hand off the print job not to HP as it had been doing for the three and a half years I've had this system. Yesterday morning Windows woke up Paperport. Paperport stretched and "scanned" the .pdf file into its temporary file. There was my .pdf on the screen.

I asked Windows again to print the .pdf file which was still in my browser. Paperport, now awake, quite quickly told me the .pdf was resident in its temporary memory, why should it scan it again? What to do, what to do?

I hit "file" in Paperport. The drop down menu, like most others, had a print option, which I exercised. Pleased, Paperport told Windows to display a print dialogue box, just like it had been doing for the last three and a half years. I hit the print button. HP printed my .pdf.

Not having time to mess with the new division of labor established by my software friends, I continued working. A bit later, I need to print another file from the Web. Same result. Windows woke up Paperport, .....

Last night I got to thinking about the new full employment plan my software had enacted and remembered my problem with the asterisk.

This morning, I enlisted the aid of another piece of software. I called up Windows' Wayback Machine. You may know it as System Restore. I told it to go way back to Sunday.

System Restore then restarted the computer. I told Windows to print a web page. It left Paperport snoozing and got HP on the job, nicely printing the web page.

Somethings don't change.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Greeting Protocol

Walmart has announced that it will use the phrase "Merry Christmas" in its advertising this year. Though I can't verify it, I heard a caller on a radio talk show say that the leader of some group had decried this position as violating constitutional separation of church and state doctrine (this makes some sense as I recently read that Walmart is the fifth largest exporter of Chinese goods, with those above it on the list being countries).

Sovereignty aside, the following is my proposed protocol (who would have thought one was needed till recently) for year end greetings:

"Merry Christmas" to those I know to be Christian.

"Happy Hanukkah" to those I know to be Jewish.

"Happy Kwanza," actually, I've never said this though I probably would if I knew someone who would appreciate it or would be offended by another greeting.

"Happy Holidays" to everyone else.

On second thought, I'll probably avoid using any of these phrases and go with my usual "hey" or "what's up" upon seeing someone and "see ya," "take care" or "later" when departing.

And to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving and an early Happy New Year!

Friday, November 10, 2006

I've Been Linked

The pressure is on. While definitely not working, I went to to find that two, if I may say, fine bloggers have linked to me.

For a good time try: (distinctly styled, somewhat oddly structured posts that often loop within themselves to make a point) (the continuing saga of a group of wayward wastebaskets)

While I'm at it, I also recommend: (mostly political, well written) (usually pithy one panel cartoons) (irreverent, twenty-something, usually funny) (adult-themed stripper stories as vehicle for pretty good writing)


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Which Lie Is Worse?

"I did not sleep with that woman."

"[T]hey're going to stay on."

President Clinton went on to quibble about the meaning of the word "is."

President Bush yesterday was much more forthcoming when he announced Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation: "I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and get you to move on to another question was to give you that answer."

Both Presidents lied for political gain. Clinton, to hide his sexual escapades which would not have gone over very well in the heartland. Bush, in an inept attempt to save Republican seats in the House and Senate.

So, is either lie worse? Are they equally culpable?

I hate when people lie. I'm not talking about "Oh, what a beautiful baby." I am talking about a lie that is intended to deceive the listener for the benefit of the liar (though I know at a low level my example of a benign lie does that).

From a practical point of view, for the most part, lying is counter-productive. I 'm a lawyer. Most people are not very good at lying. Try this. Ask a person you think isn't telling the truth the same question three different ways. Only a consummate liar won't trip themselves up. In a trial I love for an adverse witness to lie. When the witness is found out, it is very damaging in the eyes of the judge and jury. Lying to friends and family creates distrust, cheapening and eroding the relationship.

Don't lie. If you must, do it well. Or, follow the advise of Henry Ford (I think the Second): Never complain, never explain.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blog Surfing Tip

Though Blogger/Blogspot (I've never figured out why there are two domain names) has tons of blogs to randomly surf, the incidence of quality blogs per click of the Next Blog icon is awfully low, especially given my inability to read foreign languages, other than Spanish at a snail's pace.

I have discovered It is at heart a blog link exchange. Downside: it is non-intuitive, clunky and it doesn't follow through, at least so far, on its promise to refer a surfer to your blog for each blog you surf on it. Upside: more of the blogs you are sent to randomly are pretty good.

I have surfed on it a couple of times over the last week and found four or five blogs worthy of my blog favorites list. It's worth a try.


Having scanned the title, and given the date of this post, you think it will be about yesterday's elections. Nope.

A friend's grandmother died on Saturday. Another friend's father died yesterday.

Both people were in their late eighties. That predicates the cliche that they led long and full lives. From all I know, that is true. Both were members of the shrinking "great generation." One was a World War II naval veteran. The other was the wife of a WWII naval veteran. One left a spouse. The other has gone to join a spouse. Both left large, extended families.

To mark the first passing, I and friends sent flowers. For the second, contributions to a church's building fund were requested. Now I go back to my life. My friends, more slowly, return to theirs.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fair and Balanced?

I've had an idea for a post for a while and decided to do some research last night.

For the most part, I can't stand watching either the CNN or Fox evening news shows as both don't seem to me to be "fair and balanced." Each tends to spin a lot of the news their own way.

So, last night I started watching both at 6:00 p.m. I switched between them when a commercial came on. I didn't count bias when commentary was clearly being presented, only when it was shown by an anchor or reporter.

Here are my notes:

CNN reporter: "out of control corporate interest" in story about minimum wage debate.

Lou Dobbs (CNN): "anti-Republican sentiment running wild" when describing Senate race in Ohio.

Dobbs: "with as much integrity as can be managed" referring to election workers in Ohio when talking about a piece on problems with electronic voting.

Dobbs: "we wish the Nation the best" in a sarcastic tone when wrapping up the electronic voting story.

All of these quotes came in the first 45 minutes of the 6:00 p.m. CNN news show. I couldn't find any bias during the same period on Fox (Britt Hume).

I decided that changing at the commercials might have resulted in me watching more CNN than Fox, so I stayed on Fox for the rest of the hour. No bias; but, most of the time was devoted to Fox's "Panel" giving commentary on various issues.

At 7:00 p.m. Wolf Blitzer came on CNN and Sheppard Smith took over on Fox. I lasted another half hour and found only one marginally biased statement on Fox by Smith: "this election is about the GOP holding ground rather than gaining."

Asides: Jack Cafferty on CNN is quite biased but also quite funny. I saw Al Gore on Fox, he's getting a little fat.

The research is admittedly not objective or scientific; but, my current conclusion is that Lou Dobbs is a biased, bitter non-journalist.

Next step, O'Reilly and Hannity and Colmes. I figure they will even out with Dobbs.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wedding Blues

I went to a wedding this weekend. Twice.

Saturday, I went to the office for awhile, met a friend for golf and stopped off with him for a drink. Had to leave early to get ready for the wedding.

On the way, I stopped off to get a card to go with the present and allowed too much time, arriving about 20 minutes early. The wedding was at a very nice country club. I told the man at the gate that I was there for the "Smith/Jones" wedding. He smiled and lifted the gate.

I parked and sat in the car. As I sat I saw no one going in other than people who had been playing golf. I sat. I saw no one I know. I finally looked at the invitation I had put in the car. I was a day early. Who gets married on a Sunday?

On Sunday the nice man at the gate didn't ask me why I was there. He lifted the gate and directed me to the valet. The club was every bit as nice as it was the day before.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stolen Humor

The following is stolen from an online magazine, The Spark, I think. Best line "you will not be allowed to talk to him."

In the days before the geek squads
(Matt note: I'm knee deep editing the restaurant guide, and you probably just want to skip to Holly's column about being married, so here's one from the column vaults. And as they used to say on summer TV -- it's new to you, anyway.)

I used to remember people's addresses and telephone numbers. Now I have the Blackberry. I used to leave my house to go shopping. Now I have the Internet. As soon as they invent a device with a sense of humor, I'll have no reason to use my brain anymore.

Computers run our lives. But unless you have a degree in computer science, you probably have no idea how they work. Gerbils on treadmills could be powering the thing, for all you know.
So how does it make sense that the computer is the only appliance in the house where, when something goes wrong, you have to dial an 800 number to get people who will try to diagnose your problem over the telephone and tell you how to fix it yourself?

Can you imagine if plumbing worked this way? "You say it's leaking? OK, so just where is the leak? Is it a slow leak, or a fast leak? OK, unscrew the whatzits to the right of the widget. How much water is coming out now? Hold on a minute, let me talk to my supervisor. Try the backstroke."

My problems started Monday night when we tried to install the new version of a popular Internet program on our computer. The installation went perfectly. Everything else on the computer immediately stopped working.

I called the technical help line. It is important to remember that there is someone on the other end of the technical help line who can solve all of your problems. You will not be allowed to talk to him.
Instead, you get a guy named John whose job it is to tell you, over and over again, to restart your computer.

Now, I understand where these tech folks are coming from. There are entire Web sites, designed by disgruntled techies, devoted to the people who call tech support in the middle of the night because they can't find the ANY key. Telling these people to restart the computer is like the plumber suggesting you start working on the problems with your toilet by flushing.
For some people, that's helpful advice.

I got past John, and the next techie couldn't understand why I was bothering him.

"So the installation worked properly?" he asked.


"Then what's the problem?"

"Everything else stopped working."

"So that sounds like there's a problem with the rest of the computer."

"But it started right after I loaded your software! I have a cable modem and ..."

"Oh, you have a cable modem? You need to be talking to our high-speed people. Hold on."

The high-speed people told me to restart my computer and then said I would have to call the tech support folks who run my cable connection.

The cable tech support folks told me to restart my computer and then told me that the problem was beyond their ability to fix over the telephone because the people who know what they're doing leave at 11 p.m. I don't blame them. If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn't be on the telephone after 11 p.m. either.

Two hours later, I gave up. One last time, on a whim, I restarted my computer.

It did nothing. But at least I know how to flush.