Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Worst Of The Worst

Donald Rumsfeld described the prisoners at Guantanamo as the "worst of the worst."

The first of these worst to be tried, David Hicks, received the following:

Nine months of imprisonment in Australia. The maximum sentence he was facing was life.

He is barred from talking to the media for a year.

He was required to admit that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict him of the charges that were brought against him (not that he was guilty of the charges).

He had to recant his allegations that he had been tortured and he can't sue the government for mistreatment.

Finally, if he writes a book, proceeds go to the Australian government.

I practice law with a criminal defense lawyer. I recited what is set out above and asked him what he thought. "He was tortured and they don't want him talking about it." That seems about right to me.

The stupid part about this deal from the Administration's point of view is that he will be out on the street in February of next year and in June 2008 he is free to talk about his torture, just as the '08 election campaigns are heating up.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My New World

I’ve just completed a complete renovation of my communication and media life (except for getting an HD flat screen that I can't make myself buy because I have two perfectly good, but now obsolete, TV's).

Being the born negotiator that I am, I’m especially pleased to have upgraded most things with about a twenty percent reduction in cost.

The biggest cost reduction was getting rid of the home phone line that I haven’t made a call on in years. Its sole purpose was to make a nightly call to DirecTv to update the pay per view menu. As I never bought pay per view, I was wasting money.

I also found out that Bellsouth has been ripping me off for a few years now on my business phone service. Finding the right person to talk to reduced the monthly bill by about forty percent.

I plowed my savings into broadband wireless Internet, which it turns out is faster than my office DSL and of course is completely portable. A word of caution if you are considering wireless, make sure you get a G3 connection. It is what gets you the DSL like speed.

Since Bellsouth wouldn’t let me use its Email domain on Cingular without paying it for dial up every month, I got a business and personal domain for a ridiculously low yearly price and will dump the dial up in a couple of months when I’ve gotten everyone using the new addresses.

There is one thing left that I could get, but I vow I will never get, one of those Bluetooth ear buds. Looks dumb. And if I got one, I’d have to go out and buy a complete new black on black wardrobe or go hip hop, getting a pair of sunglasses to wear indoors with a chain or three. Then I’d have to change the blog – Rather Than Working by DMC, no that’s taken, DaveMC. Peace Out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Our Arab Cousins

"In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war" said King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Arab leaders as reported in today's New York Times online.

The conference dealt mostly with a regional approach to Palestinian/Israeli issues. Maybe the quote is a throw away line; but, if Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are ending their silence and non-involvement in Iraq, I think it is a good thing. If the Arabs are serious about us leaving, they as a practical matter have to step up to the regional plate. Maybe this is a signal of a first step.

The Greening Of Atlanta

This is not a post about recycling, energy efficient use of resources or anything of the kind.

This is a post about about pollen.

People flying into Atlanta for the first time often comment about the tree cover. Other than the business districts that stick up into the sky and the connecting expressways, from the air, Atlanta looks like mostly untouched forest. Under the trees there are a lot of us living here. But again, this post isn't about us; it's a post about what all those pesky trees do when their sap gets warm in the spring and they see the other cute trees all around them:

They throw out pollen. Pollen by the billions and billions of particles. The trees started their mating dance a week or ten days ago. They do it in order, by species.

From the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic's website:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Today's Pollen Count: 3,905

This is the amount of pollen particles measured within the last 24 hours in a cubic
meter of air.

Major Pollens Present: Pine, Oak, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, and Birch
0-30 Low
31-60 Moderate
61-120 High
Over 120 Extremely High
The site then had a March calendar showing daily counts. The last two days they were over 5000. These readings will keep going for the next couple of weeks.
March Madness is big in Atlanta; but, I'm willing to bet that more people in Atlanta at this very moment are talking about pollen than are talking about Florida's chances this weekend.
Car washes here live for this time of year. There are lines at the full and self service places. A futile gesture it is, as a clean car in the morning is green by afternoon.
I used to have a car with teal paint. The green stuff blended right in. Now my car is black with a green sheen. Kind of like the old "candy coating" without the luster.
At least the trees are happy. All God's creatures should have their moments in the Sun. (Sorry about the lack of space between the paragraphs in the second half of this post. Blogger doesn't want them and doesn't pay attention when I hit Enter.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm Wireless

This post comes to you courtesy of a wireless Internet connection. I am a happy cyber-camper.

Testing the connection showed that it is faster than my office DSL by about double on downloads and about the same speed on uploads.

As an aside for those who read my unhappy posts last month about DHL's incompetence, I should note that it delivered the wireless card this morning on time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's Time To Get A Domain Name

I started out with a Mindspring Internet account in the 90's. Earthlink bought Mindspring, but let me keep my Mindspring Email address. I had to dump Earthlink about five years ago because I needed high speed Internet at home at the time and Earthlink didn't offer it in my area.

I signed up with AT&T Broadband for cable TV and internet. AT&T promptly sold that division to Comcast, which wouldn't let me keep my Email address. So I switched to Bellsouth for internet and cell phone service, the latter division called Bellsouth Mobility. Then Bellsouth and SBC combined cell operations and called it Cingular. Bellsouth then sold itself, and its share of Cingular, to AT&T. A flow chart is available for those that need it.

I'm getting an express/air card for my new laptop on Monday (if DHL delivers it when they say they will) so I stopped by the Cingular store this morning to see what I had to do to set up a Cingular wireless account, cancel Bellsouth dial up and transfer my Bellsouth Email address to the new wireless account.

I discovered that the "New AT&T" is a confederation not a republic. Cingular won't do anything with my Bellsouth Internet account. Worse, Cingular says that Bellsouth won't let me transfer its Internet account to Cingular. The only way I can keep my Email address is to pay a monthly bribe to Bellsouth and then use the Bellsouth Email address on the Cingular wireless account. One account for the price of two, what a deal.

So, I think it's time to get off the ISP merry-go-round and get a domain name. Then when AT&T tells its Bellsouth customers, and I know it will, that they can't keep their Bellsouth Email addresses, I won't care, because I won't have one.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

No Mr. Gates, I'm Not Guilty

I don't let Windows automatically download updates. I let Bill tell me he has something for me by displaying the little yellow shield. After a few days or weeks of annoying pop up dialogue boxes telling me again that there are updates available, I go to the "Update Center" where it is recommended that I let Microsoft automatically download whatever it has cooked up for me. I decline and choose "Custom."

A couple of weeks ago, Custom told me it had two "Critical Updates" for me. I usually download these. One had a vague description that didn't give me a clue as to what it was, nothing new there. The other had to do with a "security issue in blah, blah, blah." I said OK to both downloads.

When they were ready to install, the two updates were described again and the little box told me I would have to restart Windows after installation. The vague description had changed to "Windows Genuine Advantage Notification." There was a link to get "more details." Clicking it, I learned that Bill was going to put a little "camera" in my computer that would tell him if I installed bootleg Microsoft software. Nothing was said about what would happen then. Plague of locusts on my motherboard probably.

I cancelled the download, went back to the update center and downloaded and installed the blah, blah, blah update.

Now every other day or so, Bill tells me he still wants to put the camera in my computer. Balls that man has, brass balls.

This is really a great ploy. Everyone remembers the periodic pawnshop stings that every local police department runs. Set up a shop, buy the swag from the bad guys, record the transaction and then invite everyone to a party where they are arrested.

Microsoft doesn't make people come to it, it comes to them. It gets everyone, honest or not, to put a camera in their computer and then busts the bad guys with little muss or fuss.

I don't and won't buy counterfeit or bootleg software. But I'll be damned if I'm going to download an applet to give Microsoft even more information about me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'll Write You A Prescription For That

Minnesota has a law that requires drug companies to disclose payments they make to doctors.

From a NYTimes online article today about such payments, I offer you these tidbits:

From 1997 to 2005 drug companies paid in excess of 5,500 Minnesota doctors (20% of the doctors in Minnesota) more than $57 million. One of them a Dr. Grimm, was paid $798,000.00. He said the lectures he was paid to give were unbiased.

Some 250 Minnesota psychiatrists got $6.7 million.

A number of doctors said that lectures they were paid by drug companies to give to other doctors were "gentle marketing pitches." Former drug company sales reps said they hired doctors to make speeches to influence prescribing habits. "The vast majority of the time that we did any sort of paid relationship with a physician, they increased the use of our drug" said a former Bristol-Meyers-Squibb and Johnson & Johnson rep. "[I]t all comes down to ways to manipulate the doctors."

A 2004 government sponsored advisory panel recommended that more people should take cholesterol-lowering drugs. Eight of the nine members of the panel had financial ties to drug companies.

I don't think physicians purposely mis-prescribe because of drug company bribes. But I'm less sure about over-prescribing and prescribing a more expensive drug than I was before reading the article.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Living Up To The Blog's Title

When I logged into my Blogger account yesterday to publish a post, I noticed that it was my 99th. I then looked back to figure out how long I'd been doing this. Friday will be six months.

That's 16.66 posts a month and a post every 1.3 days. Those professional people have it easy.

I don't have anything significant to say on this important occasion, so I'm going to steal from a comment I left to a post on Ron Davison's site, He did a post about bloggers not taking over the media world. I agree we won't. I said this:

I think bloggers are like softball league players. We've thought, read and written most of our lives. In school and then to make a living.

We've read the "home run" by a Sy Hersh in an article or in a novel by say, Thomas Russo. Can we write a home run? No, the Hershes and Russos nail it. But we enjoy the swing and take pride in a solid double.

Why softball and not Single A baseball? The latter is full of young'ns trying to make the Bigs. In the world of writing, they're working for a regional newspaper or at Fox or CNN, behind the cameras, waiting for the break through.

Though we think, read and write, we aren't trying to make it thinking, reading and writing. But we do like the occasional bow to the applause of the crowd, our fellow bloggers that read us. Same thing as a solid double on Sunday afternoon at the park in front of friends. Given the medium, the only thing we are missing is meeting for a beer at the neighborhood bar after the game.

So, today's softball game is over. Join me for a toast at the cyber-bar. Here's to you, those I read, who kindly read me. I'm looking forward to more of the same over the next six months.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Letters. I Get Letters.

My previous post gets the award for most responses. In addition to the six comments on the blog, I got three by Email and one in person. Only about forty people have read the post so far, so that's almost a 25% response rate.

I was struck by life hiker's comment. I think he rightly asserts that people don't need guns for two purposes that advocates promote, protection from rogue government and bad guys. He goes on to say that most gun related deaths are in the criminal on criminal and suicide categories. There's probably little sympathy for the "victims" in these categories.

There is a third category that I touched on in my post. Accidents and friend/relative confrontations. The three year old and domestic violence scenarios in the post. If guns weren't available the accidents don't happen. If guns aren't available domestic and friend violence will take fewer lives.

Banning guns and/or assigning civil liability for their wrongful use to manufacturers and owners will never fully deprive criminals of weapons. But over time it will reduce unneeded death. There is of course a trade-off among the remaining sympathetic victims. A homeowner will be shot by an intruder on occasion and a few three year olds will grow up that otherwise wouldn't.

Moving on, Eric and Ryan raise two other points.

Eric hunts and points out that it serves the purpose of culling herds of deer. He notes that he has thirteen rifles and shotguns (I don't know how many are too many, but you're bordering on it Eric). Maybe the way to deal with the issue is to greatly increase the level of proficiency and stability that needs to be demonstrated to get and keep a long-gun registered (something along the lines of getting a pilot's license) and provide a mechanism for the manufacturer/owner/user to pay the cost of the accident regardless of negligence (here, something along the lines of demand toll pricing for vehicles that is underway in Japan and being considered here). You have the right, but to exercise it, you must agree to pay the cost incurred by others. This mechanism would address Ryan's concerns and Tom seems willing to go along with it, though grudgingly.

That leaves Hedy and thomas. Hedy, you've had too much exposure to Chicago politics; but, seriously, my clarifications above might serve to sway you to full blown support for my views? Though, like my views, thomas's bullet control isn't going to fly, I like it. Simple, almost elegant.

Next surefire topic for the study group: bestiality - I'm agin it. I dare you to say I'm wrong.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Guns Again

I recently wrote a post about the Second Amendment and said that it did not allow people an unfettered right to have guns. At the end, I said that I’d do a post about why, regardless of what Law says, we should not let people have guns.

This is it.

First, some disclosure about my bias.

I grew up in a house with guns in it. All of them were long-guns. My father was a World War II vet. He had a rifle and a shotgun. When I turned about twelve he bought me a JC Higgins (Sears) .22 caliber rifle. All three of those guns are now in the custody of my youngest brother. As the eldest child, when my father died, the deal was, they were mine. In case my kid brother cares, I, hereby publicly, cede ownership to him.

When I was seven or eight, my father said “come over here David.” He had the rifle out and started to tell me about it before he taught me to clean it.

“Guns are made to kill. You only pick one up if you intend to kill something. All guns are loaded. I don’t care if you know it’s not loaded, it’s loaded. If you pick up a gun, until you are ready to shoot something, you never point it at anything. You point it down or up. Your finger is never on the trigger, until you are going to shoot something.”

I paid too much attention probably. Guns scare me. Literally. I think I have too much respect for what they are and can do to “things.”

All of the men in my family have guns. Most of my friends have guns. They collect them and shoot them on a regular basis. They talk about them, while I stare off into the middle distance.

Irony: I am a very good shot. Rifles, shotguns, handguns. Some years ago I went target shooting with a friend that was a state trooper. He lost, I won, the accuracy contest.

But, there is a difference, a big difference, between picking up a gun in a controlled environment, not pointing it at anything, until you decide to “kill” the target and pulling a gun deciding to kill someONE in a chaotic environment. My bet is that the best of us shots in the controlled environment will be utter failures in the chaotic environment, shooting the furniture, if we are lucky, and if not, someone that is innocent.

So there’s the bias.

As it stands, people die because people ­(not the military, the National Guard, police) have guns. If we take away guns from people, people will still die; but, I think less than die now, and over time, I think a lot less.

If we ban guns, in the short term, law-abiding people will turn in their guns (probably not all will, certainly not some of my friends). But, some kids won’t find the guns in the closet (tell me you never explored what was in those nooks and crannies when your parents weren’t around) and off themselves. A Columbine-type kid won’t have access to the weapon that kills the kids in his class because his law-abiding parents got rid of it. The dysfunctional family, otherwise law-abiding and having turned in their guns, won’t have them when events escalate. They’ll be left with fists and an odd knife or two. A bruise, a scar and a divorce. They and I can live with that.

“If we take away the our right to have guns, only the criminals will have guns.” Absolutely right – for a while. Over time, those criminals will have less and less access to guns. Think Britain and Japan. They have their problems, but firearm deaths are not high on the list.

If fewer normal people don’t have guns, fewer normal people will die. Short term and long term.

I haven’t asked a friend, a police officer in Atlanta, if he would prefer that citizens didn’t have guns. He’s one of my friends that collects them. Maybe he disagrees; but, I have a feeling that if you polled all of the police, using a secret ballot, you would find that they would rather not have to face their day knowing they may come across people with guns. They all would have the same stories of little old ladies that defended themselves with their late husband’s rusting Colt 45; but, they would have to, if pressed, tell you about their tears when they responded to the dead three year old that was just playing with something that was laying around the house.

OK. You don’t like my legislative agenda. How about this? Absolute liability.

You have the right to keep and bear a dangerous instrumentality. Let’s pass a law that says you will bear the economic consequences of that right. Starting with Colt and Glock. Ending with you the buyer. Oh, that bad guy burglar, he stole it and shot someone! Remember your slogan, “guns don’t kill people, people do.” He, a people, couldn’t have done it unless Colt manufactured it and you bought it. So why shouldn’t you, you’re a people, and Colt, a fictitious people (oh yeah, and its shareholders) get to pay the pain and suffering, reasonable value of the lost life, consortium, etc. of the little old lady or the three year old and their families? Sure, we’ll ding the bad guy shooter; but, what assets do you think he has? You and Colt, the enablers in this deal, jointly and severally liable, will just have to pick up the slack. What’s unfair about that?

OK. You don’t want to take the hit. Let’s take you out of the equation. Only Colt and Glock have to pay. How long do you think they will make guns, if they have to pay for every life that is taken by illegal use of one of their products? Let’s say they hang in there, NRA life members that their executives are. What price will they charge to pay for the economic consequences of their beliefs? Can you afford the real economic and social cost of your belief in the Second Amendment, as you interpret it? Gun manufacturers and owners are harming the rest of us, and getting a free ride. I think they should put up or shut up.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Newly Recommended

I've been reading Just A Girl In Short Shorts Talking About Whatever for the past month or so. According to Becky she is a "recovering attorney," a mother, a teacher, a libertarian, a neofeminist and some combination of bisexual, gay and straight. She's believable as all of those things. Whichever label she's donning for a post, she's a good writer.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Next Step For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Is To Go To Bubble Dialogue Over Cartoons

As some of you know, I live in Atlanta, Georgia. The home of the New South. The “city too busy to hate.” Martin Luther King, Jr. The financial center of the Southeast, unless you live in Charlotte, Orlando or Miami.

When I moved here there were two papers, The Atlanta Journal, as I remember was the afternoon paper, and The Atlanta Constitution, was the morning paper. They were, and are, owned by the Cox media conglomerate. Back then, they had different news and editorial staffs. Somewhere in the 90’s the papers hyphenated and began publishing only in the morning. The separate editorial staffs stayed on, and kind of stay on now. There are some knee-jerk liberals and their counterparts on the right.

What has always distinguished the local paper(s) has been its/their abiding mediocrity. They/it have always been pretty piss-poor when it comes to journalistic ability. The writers delve into news as far as the first point of resistance. On a regular basis they miss one of the “who, what, when, where, hows” in stories. There are exceptions to all of these criticisms of the paper; but, if you read The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune or one of several other papers on any kind of regular basis, you will notice the differences. I’m not talking about editorial point of view. I am talking about basic reportage. The “W’s” mentioned above. The AJC has never been very good.

But, it is the only game in town; so, I read the paper. My preference would be to hold the paper, be it while drinking coffee in the morning, or while eating lunch, or as a happy surprise when there’s nothing to read, before I hit the bed. Now, I read the AJC and the NYTimes online. Except on Sunday morning. Sometimes on Saturday. I hesitate to say it; but, civilization as I know it requires newsprint in your hand soon after you wake up on a weekend.

Though it has been coming on for awhile, the AJC has succumbed to joining the general dumbing down of America as a New Years resolution in 2007.

It started with the move of a fascinating daily feature called “Peach Buzz” from the second page of the “Living” section, the puff stuff, to the second page of the “Metro” section, which for the most part reports on local hard news. Peach Buzz reports on the comings and goings of Elton John (for those of you who don’t know, he has a two floor condo in a high rise here and is often sighted at local stores, he’s a really nice guy, spends a lot of money here and supports a lot of charities, as reported in the Buzz), who in the world of hip hop visited the currently trendy restaurant, bar or club (that has a publicist), you get the idea. The Buzz also tells us how old every celebrity in the United States is, starting with the oldest. I like that feature less and less each year as I age with the celebs. OK, that stuff is now hard news.

Last month, the AJC announced that it was cutting its newsroom staff by as much as sixteen percent by early retirement offers.

On Sunday, I read the final deathblow to print journalism in Atlanta. (As an aside, television news in Atlanta is and always has been abysmal. Radio news has pretty much one station, WSB, which is pretty much a local audio version of the old CNN Headline News before it hired Nancy Grace. No depth by format. As an aside rant to this aside, WSB has a morning reporter named Richard Sangster that has an annoying voice. He is relegated to breaking news. When he is introduced he invariably says “yeah [anchor name] the [cops, authorities, bad guys] are beside themselves on this one…yada, yada… Richard Sangster, WSB News, Live at yada, yada”).

OK, AJC. Sunday. The “Perspectives” section, which is the trendy name for the Editorial section.

“Free-trade effects: The good, the bad” is the title of the editorial. Those two words, good and bad, are important to remember because when you get done reading the editorial, beyond some disjointed factoids, I like that USA TODAY word, that’s all you are going to get. Some things are good others are bad. The editorial is like something done by a USA TODAY intern without supervision. Four charts and a picture of a car. An introductory paragraph and then four numbered sections with graphic arrows showing you which to read next (even though, remember, they are numbered). I quote from the first paragraph:

“President Bush wants to revive world trade talks – known as the Doha round – that were supposed to boost the economies of poor countries (good). The talks have stalled because the United States and Europe cling to protective farm policies at home (bad). Farm subsidies help:… A few large operators…Farm subsidies hurt:…Consumers[,] Taxpayers[,] Poor nations dependent on agriculture[.]”

There are more parentheticals with good and bad and other comments inside them. A few more facts, most without sources. NO analysis.

When I was in the fifth or sixth grade we had a unit in our English or Social Studies class on how to write and judge a news article or editorial. You were supposed to introduce your subject, lay out your facts and analysis and draw your conclusions. If the writer didn’t do that, you should discount what was written. If you were the offending author, you got a failing grade. To my mind the AJC gets a failing grade.

If the AJC doesn’t want to immediately go the way of the title of this post with bubbles and cartoons, it might want to take an interim step and use a :) rather than going to all of the trouble of typing the word good and a :( rather than typing bad in its editorials. That might increase its “readership.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Have A Problem With Labels. Thesis, Analysis And Conclusion To Follow.

My friends sometimes refer to me as a liberalcommiepinko. You have to say it fast, hence, no spaces. Beyond the problem that the three words mean different things, none of them, or all of them put together, describe me.

Those three words, or any other combination of words don’t describe you either.

Here’s the problem. Our senses take in too much. We have to pare down what is before our eyes, ears, nose and skin. To do that we filter. Scientists call it perception.

There’s danger ahead. Hair rises on the body. Nostrils flair. Muscles twitch. All these reactions are necessary to survival of people and lesser animals. Humans take it a step or a hundred farther.

Since I’m not qualified to describe the steps, I’ll skip to the result. We label. Threats, attractions, wants, desires. Biology becomes social prejudice. Yes, the same process allows us to think, talk, read. But as we do this we label what we perceive.

I’m a social liberal, unless being so costs more than “we,” the Country, the Americas, the world, can afford. So, does that make me a fiscal conservative? Not unless being one takes care of spending enough, public and/or private money to take care of the truly needy. So, I can’t be a libertarian because I want us all to put something in the pot beyond the minimum necessary to build roads, hire a few cops and defend our borders?

Liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, fascist. All six words are, words. We can add more. Baptist, Southern Baptist, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Buddhist, Moslem. Adjectives all, to describe, what?

Some more. Black, white, yellow. Caucasian, Asian. Nigger, Chink, Wop. Asshole.

Somewhere between necessary perception and resultant labeling, we took a step or two too far.

Ban adjectives.

Proposed new rule. If we don’t like something, we use full sentences, and paragraphs if necessary, to lay out the thesis, analysis and conclusion. No labeling short-cuts. Following this rule might mean that mid-process, we realize that the something isn’t something we have a reason to dislike and then label.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Second Amendment Update

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled yesterday that the Second Amendment did protect a citizen's right to personally keep and bear arms. In doing so it struck down a very restrictive DC gun law. You can access the NYTimes online story here Court Rejects Strict Gun Law as Unconstitutional

This makes the second Circuit Court, out of twelve to take this view of the Second Amendment. One circuit has not ruled on the issue.

If you're interested in my views on which side of the issue is right, scroll down to my post on February 22.

For those that like Red/Blue State analysis. Gun toters need to move to DC, or the Fifth Circuit, the other Appeals Court that says individuals can bear arms - Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi. The Circuit that hasn't weighed in yet is the Second - New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Some liberal/conservative schizophrenia going on if you think federal courts are political animals.

Iowa Isn't Flat

Driving from Up North in Michigan to Nebraska, Iowa is almost there. It’s the last state to go, but for the last state. Michigan of course, Indiana, the little bit of it, Illinois, and then Iowa.

This is it, your mind is thinking, it's the fourth of five states.

Leaving Illinois, as you drive along I-80, there are long rolling hills. As you pass over a rise, there’s a milo field on your left and a cornfield on your right. Move up onto the next rise, and you see corn on your left and milo on your right. Repeat as necessary.

I’ve seen Iowa during the day, but I remember it at night. Iowa at night has a lot of sky. A million miles of sky. Stars provide your light. On some trips, the moon helps out.

Radio comes in and out. Some clear channel station out of Omaha. But, the music isn’t right, so you tune. Then it fades and you tune.

Truck stops are visible miles and miles before you get to them. Towards the end of the trip, almost a mirage sort of glow off on the horizon, were there a horizon. Then you’re through the glow and past it. Stars and moon reclaim the sky.

You’ve been driving for a lot of hours when you cross the river into Nebraska. Fatigue fades and you look for landmarks through Omaha and the short hop to Lincoln before you turn north for the last twenty miles or so.

That was then, on trips to college. Now I fly where I go. I miss those trips.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I was using Google to get information about a Veterinarian and clicked on a website for a practice in South Carolina. Midway through a listing of services such as puppy kindergarten, I found "Ferret Medicine and Surgery." Note that there are actually two specialties here, medicine and the subcategory, surgery.

"The scientific name of the animal is: Mustela putorius furo; this is a member of the weasel family: polecats, minks, skunks, ermine, etc. The animal was domesticated before the cat, probably by the Egyptians. The animals were brought over [to the US] 300 years ago on ships. They are very skilled at killing rodents."

The guy in the small picture is a weasel and the guy in the big picture is a ferret, according to my Internet sources. They look awfully similar to me. Does the vet that specializes in ferrets refer sick weasels down the road to his weasel specializing colleague?

In the old Budweiser commercial, two iguanas, Louie and Frank, hired the ferret to kill the frogs in a pond. The ferret dropped the Budweiser sign into the pond, apparently electrocuting the frogs. But the frogs weren't in the pond, and one of the iguanas had the classic line, "never send a ferret to do a weasel's job." From extensive Internet research, quoted above, I know that the Budweiser ferret really is a weasel.

Did the ad writers know?

They obviously hadn't read the quote above or they'd have known the ferret was doomed to failure as it specialized in offing mice and rats (and later raising Louie's ire by being a chick magnet).

Again from the Internet: "[t]here are a wide variety of frog predators. Animals that eat frogs for snacks include snakes, lizards, birds, and various small animals like hedgehogs."

Whoa! Lizards? "An iguana lizard is a popular family reptile.... These creatures are not recommended to keep as pets, because they are not friendly and prefer to hide rather than being handled and petted. They are not attached to humans and are often aggressive. Adults grow up to 7 feet in length."

Two, as large as seven foot, lizards, mortal enemies of frogs, send a wimpy little ferret/weasel, who they should have known couldn't do in a couple of what, six or seven inch frogs? Send a weasel indeed!

This just goes to show you that the Vet in South Carolina is right - pick one thing, like ferret medicine and surgery (ok, two things) research them well (like I did) and do them well. Otherwise, you'll make all kinds of mistakes, create a series of totally unbelievable ads and be left with only one positive result - you've sold hundreds of millions of bottles of a fairly pedestrian beer making billions in the process.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Breaking News

Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein is a headline in today's New York Times online.

I have this strange picture in my head of a Mack Sennett inspired movie, directed by Mel Brooks, with elements of William Tell, and The Mouse That Roared, starring Buster Keaton, Curly (the original), Richard Dreyfuss and Richard Pryor in a cameo appearance as an American con man on the lam, hiding out along the border as the invasion gets underway.