30 November, 2008

Cedar House Bed & Breakfast

Located above the town of Captain Cook, this was the place that I selected after my usual many hours of internet investigations. I read a million websites, and check all the reviews, and base decisions, on price, how the place looks, nad especially what people say about it. I don't like to select places that have really mixed reviews, even though they might be completely fine. One place I'd been considering was called the Rainbow Plantation. It seemed tempting, and the location was very good. But half the reviews were very positive, and half the reviews were very negative. People described things like outdoor bathroom facilities that had a different assortment of creatures in them every day, and extremely loud farm noises all night long, rendering it impossible to sleep. Now, it is entirely possible that these reviews were written by extremely uptight people who have no idea what it means to go on a tropical vacation, and they should have been staying at the King Kamehameha Resort a few miles up the road. But you never know. And when all you have got is reviews, and there are a lot of them, you kind of have to pick the place that does not have bad reviews. And Cedar House had all positive reviews.

So, we drove 25-30 minutes from the airport (bypassing Kailua-Kona proper) and heading toward Captain Cook. Then we took a left (mauka, our inland toward the mountain, I think is the proper term, as opposed to makai, which is toward the beach, but I might be completely wrong about one or both of those terms) and headed up up up to approximately 2000 feet of elevation, on a tiny one-lane road, through coffee plantations. Eventually winding up to Bamboo Road, where Cedar House is located.

We were greeted at the 10pm hour by one of our hosts, a Korean woman, who looks to be about 45 years old. She is the aunt of the other host, "Mark", with whom I did all of the reservation communications. Neither Mark nor his aunt speak enough English to have a comfortable conversation with us, and making reservations was (though not as sketchy as I feared) still a bit challenging. Not sure if, when we arrived, if they would actually be expecting us. But they are both extremely nice. It appears that they are either newly owning, or newly managing (most likely the latter?) the Cedar House, because all the information on the internet seemed to indicate an older Caucasian couple, and Mark indicated that he'd only moved to Kona a few months ago.

The Cedar House is a very big, beautiful cedar house, amidst 4 acres of their coffee plantation, and palm trees, with a view (from high above) of the ocean. There are, I believe, 4 guest rooms (one of which is a cottage), and our room is very large with a king size bed plus an additional bed that we don't even need. There are sliding glass doors with a view out in the direction of the ocean. Two old cats live here, and it is not clear to me if they came with the management, or with the house, but I guessing the latter.

One of the things that I most enjoy about a bed and breakfast, especially a tropical one, is the breakfast. Unfortunately, it's a little bit lacking here. They're trying, but I am not sure they really get it that people would like to have something memorable. It's not bad, but just not too inspiring. Would like to have more fruit, and all they seem to have is some papaya and apple.

Still, being up here, above it all, is beautiful, and I am not sure I regret it. I do regret the fact that our room seems to be directly below their television room, where they are watching movies or whatnot until fairly late. And also not sure I am thrilled with the fact that they don't seem to include replacing towels, or toilet paper, in the standard procedures. But like I said, I am just not sure if they "get it".

So, here's a case where reading the reviews can tell you something, but not everything. The reviews that I had read may very well have reflected the kind of service that the previous managers were providing for this establishment, and now there are new caretakers, and things are not up to that same notch. I might still recommend it, but maybe not for first time visitors to the Big Island who want to a) be wowed, or b) have a host who could talk to them about the many things to do here on the island. The communication barrier at this point is probably prohibitive.

Still, to end on a positive note, it's very nice, and quite secluded.

Chapter 1: Seattle to Kona

Traveling almost always has some challenges associated with it. Getting from Seattle to Kona was just about the easiest trip I've had in a long time. There were no delays, no turbulence, no offensive airplane odors, no headaches from the cabin pressurization, no glitches in transfers, no problems with car rental, no difficulties finding the bed and breakfast where we are staying. It was largely uneventful.

But not completely uneventful.

As we made our way down the aisle of the airplane (Northwest Flight 805, a Boeing 757), and approached our row, we saw that a rather heavy, older man was sitting on the aisle seat. I had previously agreed to give Denise the window, since it had been a long time since she'd flown anywhere, let alone someplace worth flying. So this meant that I had (unknowingly) agreed to sit next to whomever was on that aisle. This guy was one of those people whose lower body is normal-sized, but his upper half was big-belly. And he was clearly of the mindset that whatever space his body needs to occupy, well that's just the way it's going to be. So he decided (apparently) that he owns both armrests, and then an additional inch of space into my seating area. This forced me to lean in Denise's direction. Now, I do not mind being in Denise's personal space, of course, but when you're on a long flight, you really don't want to be fussed with by anything. The matters were made significantly worse by what seemed to be either a technical difficulty or complete ineptitude regarding the functioning of the headset for listening to the television. I say this because this guy (who was from Duluth) spent at least 3 hours of the 6 hour flight attempting to adjust the volume of his headset. He could not figure out which buttons he needed to press, and he also could not figure out how to press them. And each time he attempted to press these buttons, he would put his hand all the way around the armrest that contained the controls (which meant his hand and his entire arm and elbow were in my seat), and he would start lifting and grabbing and fussing with this armrest. After 5-40 minutes of messing around with it, he would eventually give up and unplug his headphones, and then complain to his wife on the aisle across, who would offer him helpful suggestions for how to get it to work. Then he would plug it back in, and do the whole thing again. And when he finally did seem to get the headphones temporarily working, he proceeded to fall asleep, with his arm in my space (because his big fat belly was forcing his arms into my space). It was at this point that I needed to pee, of course. And I did not feel like communicating with him. I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode, where Elaine is so mad at the guy next to her, that when he finally falls asleep, she leans over to him and shouts "Hey!" So this guy really ruined my trip, though I should not call it "ruined" because it wasn't really that bad at all.

Then we arrived in Maui, where our plane stopped for 1 hour, and were disappointed to find out that there was absolutely no food for us, and since we had not bought the 10 dollar ham sandwich on the plane, we were starving. I could go on another rant about the airplane food thing, and am tempted to do so. I want to know why they don't just charge $10 more for the flight and keep serving meals? I am convinced it is for two reasons: 1) They want to demoralize us and make us feel as much like prisoners or vermin as possible, and insisting that we need to buy a shitty meal, after we've been fleeced for our tickets is the best way of ensuring that we have low expectations, and 2) Ever since September 11th, I think that airlines have decided that flight attendants are no longer on the plane to make our flight as comfortable as possible - flight attendants are now on the plane to make sure that don't attempt to use any electronic devices or box cutters while the plane is in the air. They are essentially short-term prison guards.

We arrived in Kona, on time. Caught a quick shuttle to the Thrifty car rental place. I had reserved an economy car, so of course they gave me a Dodge Caliber. This car is a piece of shit. It has more road noise than a lawn mower. It is larger than most mid-sized cars, but apparently it is Thrifty's "economy" car. I wonder what fueleconomy.gov has to say about it? Hm... actually better than I expected. 23 city, 27 highway. In fact, the more I look at it, it sort of looks like the same car as my Mazda 3 was before I got rid of it. But it's just horribly poor design. Every direction you try to look, the vehicle has a strategically implemented blind spot, including (my favorite) straight in front of you if you're going up over a hill! Yes, the dashboard and car front are designed such that if you go over a slight uphill, all you see is sky. I guess they figure that the road is not that important.

But they got us out of there quickly and we arrived at our destination on time.

The Cedar House Bed & Breakfast, in the town of Captain Cook, HI.

The value of things

The surest way to become annoyed, baffled, or both, is to set some expectation that the price of things will in any way reflect the value of things.

The Shell station at 12th and Cherry, for example, was $1.95 per gallon last week. At the same moment, the Shell station at Madison and Lake Washington Boulevard was $2.35 per gallon. These are stations run by the same oil corporation, located in the same city, approximately 2.5 miles apart from one another. The difference is that $1.95 is located on the edge of "the 'hood", whereas $2.35 is located at what could be referred to as "the last pit stop for the yuppies on their way to The Land of the Golden Handcuffs". The latter being code words for the road that leads from the rich part of town, to the highway that takes said rich people to their jobs at Microsoft. The question on that one is "Is this about market value?" I don't think so. Because it is not about supply and demand. Or maybe it is. To me, it seems it is about price-gouging, and milking people for their laziness and poor planning. But 40 cents is a 20% premium for the same product. Seems to me that there should be something regulating that. But then again, I am a communist, so why listen to what I say?

Sun tan lotion, $10 in a hotel gift shop, and $5 at a convenience store. Probably $3 at the supermarket. Again, "supply and demand" being defined as "demand based on laziness or lack or proper planning".

A coconut shell belt buckle, $4 at a gift/crafts "tourist trap", and $1 at the convenience store. Same item, 3 blocks apart. This must be getting boring for you by now.

Any number of varieties of parrotfish or triggerfish or butterflyfish, $10's or $100's of dollars at a "mainland" aquarium store, but swimming around completely free in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and inches away from your face when snorkeling in Hawaii. This was the point I really wanted to make here, and I probably lost most of my readers by now, but I was trying to illustrate something. Denise, who has worked in aquarium stores in the past, was so amazed by the fact that all of these exotic fish, that she had previously only seen with huge price tags (or completely unavailable in any store), are abundant here. They are obviously not for the taking, but it's interesting that something that exists in nature could be worth so much for that opportunity to possess it in your own home. I suppose the same could be said of many things, including The Rolling Stones, opium, prostitutes, diamonds, and enriched uranium.

But I think you know what I am saying.

28 November, 2008

Capitalism at its best

Below is a photo crop from a FOX News story. The story basically tells the whole story. Think about it. People so urgently rabid for deals, that they trample a man to death like a herd of buffalo. In the past, you would hear about this type of thing happening at large general admission rock concerts, where drugs and alcohol were likely a factor. But this was a Walmart.

How desperate can you be to buy that Xbox or Wii?

-- Post From My iPhone

27 November, 2008

Kremlin Runny Noses

Kremlin runny noses
Rooskies wearing clotheses
Ice storms freezing socks off
as Koshkas lap moloko

Red Square white and glassy
Wind is stinging glazzies
Devotchkas bundled tight
as malchicks roam the night

Mishkas sleep in wood
as muishkas scrape for food
Babooshkas knitting parkas
as Ctareeks sip on vodkas

Winter takes its toll
On Moscovites young and old
Til spring brings fragrant roses to
Kremlin runny noses

Role model

I am sitting here and pondering whether I can even write this blog. Wondering if it is inappropriate, or what the consequences of publishing it may be. My guess is that the consequences are non-existent, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that I doubt it will ever get back to the subject of the blog that I have actually written it. And another reason is that my relationship with the subject is so limited, that I am not sure that writing this could make it any worse.

I am not even sure why I want to write it. But let me tell you what I'm thinking.

My brother is 18 years older than I am. We have the same parents. So he's not a half-brother. We never lived in the same house, though, other than for a few months in 1979 or 1980, when he moved back to Boston after a brief stint on the West Coast with his wife. In fact, my bedroom as a child was his bedroom, because he moved away to college just 1 month before I was born. Interestingly, we would go to the same college as one another, and we shared memories (separated by 18 years) of the same pizza place, run by the same old man, Mr. Bell, at Bell's Pizza in Amherst. One time, he came to visit me in Amherst, and we actually went to Bell's together. That stands as one of my fondest memories of my relationship with him, because it really brought to light how two people could be from different times, but still have this bond of shared experience through something as simple as a slice of pizza. I should note that pizza is so important to me, that I do not take the connection lightly!

The similarities between he and I do not go much deeper than the shared parents, and the love of Bell's pizza. Well, add to that a tendency to yawn loudly (which I am sure I learned from him), a good sense of absurd humor (which all three siblings share, and presumably acquired from our mother), a love of some of the same music from the 60's and 70's, and a flair for captivating an audience with dramatic storytelling. And I guess, also add to that a tendency toward depression, and the feeling that we don't know what we want to do with our lives, and possibly a disappointment and disillusionment that life is not easier than it is (no matter how easy it may be). But that latter topic will be something I come back to as we continue here.

Oh yes! And add to that the fact that we both made a trek across the country, at approximately the same age (28 or 29) to settle in Seattle. Heh. So perhaps there are many things we share in common with one another!

But we grew up in different generations, and I really think that had a massive impact on the way that our lives have gone. My brother grew up in the generation of JFK, and Vietnam, and the Beatles, and drugs and hippies, and free love. And I grew up in a generation of Ronald Reagan, and polo shirts and barracuda jackets, and Huey Lewis & The News.

Though we grew up with the same parents, we apparently grew up with different parents. Because Mom and Dad in their 20's and 30's were not the same people as Mom and Dad in their 40's and 50's. My brother recalled to me stories of my parents yelling at each other and arguing so intensely that he and my sister would hide in the closet together because they were scared. I am not sure if any of this is true, or if he is perhaps recalling one argument that stuck in his memory, and became the template for how he recalls his parents. My sister can't corroborate that story, but she also doesn't deny it.

My brother was 18 years old in 1968. And as you might imagine, this was the height of the Vietnam War. And as unluck would have it, he apparently had a very low number in the draft. And for those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a low number is not good. My brother had been very close with one of his first cousins (my Dad's sister's oldest son). This cousin was in Vietnam, and (if I am not mistaken) it was just a few months before I was born that he was killed when his helicopter went down. I cannot imagine what this tragedy did to his family.

One thing was certain. And it was that my brother was not going to Vietnam. No matter what. And I obviously don't know the details, but as far as I know, moving to Canada was absolutely an option being considered. But ultimately, many doctor appointments I think eventually led to some type of diagnosis, either flat feet, or migraines, or who knows (possibly hypochondria), leading to him being let off the hook from the draft. So he did not go to Vietnam.

And I don't blame him. I do not say this on the basis of it being fair that he not go while others did go. In fact, if I really think about it, I am not sure why I say it. But I just don't blame him. I don't know what to say about it. Is it patriotic to kill or die for your country? Probably. But is it virtuous to be patriotic? There's a different question altogether. And I don't profess to know the answer, though I suppose I betray a bias by asking the question.

I don't have a completely clear picture of what was going on in his life during my early years. Though I understand that he was in Amherst until at least 1972, and then I'm not entirely sure, but no more than a couple of years after that, he moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to work on a Master's Degree, in either psychology or social work. We visited him there once, when i was maybe 6 or 7 or 8. He was dating some girl named Marcia, and I remember not liking her because she had a perm. You could tell already that I was going to be shallow and superficial even at that young age. After that visit, my memories of him are few up until around the time he got married. I remember him owning a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. I remember him owning a baby-shit brown Volkswagen Rabbit. And I don't remember much else. I had no idea what he was doing for a living, though I guess at some point he was doing social work. I also seem to remember that he was a restaurant manager (maybe at a Victoria Station steakhouse?) and that at one point I think he worked in a plant store. I really don't know.

Then in 1979, I guess it was, he got married. Shortly after that, he moved with his wife to Seattle, where he was going into business with a friend. It was some sort of furniture sales. I am not sure why he decided to do that, or what was supposed to make it such a great opportunity. Maybe it was a desire to get 3000 miles away from home, which I can certainly understand. When he moved to Seattle, there was no Microsoft to speak of, in the sense that we know it to be now. And my guess is that the Eastside was probably total sleepy-town. The only "big business" in Washington would be Boeing. I don't remember if it was one year, or two years that he lasted here in Seattle before it didn't work out. I think it was partly his wife wanting to be closer to family and also something about the weather. It is funny, reflecting back, that when I was first thinking of moving out to Seattle, my brother was trying to describe it to me, and he said it was "just like a little Boston". And that's hysterical, because Seattle is so much larger than Boston, and more sprawling now, but I guess back in 1979, things were different.

They moved back to Boston, and it was at this time that they spent a summer, and then some, living in the downstairs of my parents' house. I only recall that this was not a great time. I don't think he was particularly interested in associating with me, and I seem to recall my parents telling me that I needed to give him space and show them privacy, or whatever. They didn't even have a door to their room, because it was the family room, so I can only imagine how awkward that was for everyone. Not sure what he did for next period of time, but I do know that he had his daughter in 1983, and that around that time, he moved to New Hampshire, and started teaching school - either high school or junior high school. That went on straight up to around 1990, with another child coming along in 1988. He was doing very well as a teacher, and was popular with kids, and from what I can tell, he was effective as a math teacher. The one thing I do remember was that he was not satisfied with the politics of the school and of the education system in general. He would talk about this with us at family occasions all the time. He did not think that "the powers that be" knew what they were doing, and he apparently had a tendency to make that feeling known. This, he undoubtedly got from my mother, because she was much the same.

Around 1990 or 1991, he got to a point where he decided he wanted to do something different with his life, and to some extent, I think he wanted to finish unfinished business. When he'd been younger, one of the things he'd considered was becoming an attorney, but for one reason or another, he did not do it when he was young. So at age 40 or 41, he decided it was time. So. The way he decided to do it (with a 7 year old and a 3 year old) was to go back to school, in Boston, full-time for 3 years. This was a huge challenge for his family, and a bit of a risk. But he did it. And he did quite well in school, and passed the bar easily. As I understand it, he'd never wanted to practice in a big law firm, but wanted to be self-employed, having his own practice. And this is what he did. And again, as I recall, he did primarily family law, and minor types of misdemeanor stuff like drunk driving, etc. Never criminal. And I am not sure if he did divorce or not. He did this for a short time - not sure if it was 1.5 or 2, or 3 years. But what I am sure of, is that he decided he did not want to continue in law, after this short time of practicing.

Not sure if there was any interim period, but he eventually went back to teaching high school again. And he did this for another big block of years. Not sure if it was 10 years, or fewer. He taught through my niece's graduation (from the school where he was a teacher). And he taught until just before his son's graduation, when things started to go wrong. I really know little of the details, but (again) as I understand it, he started needing more and more personal absence time, to the point that he at one point needed to take a leave of absence. Ultimately, I guess his employment was becoming unreliable enough that he either resigned or was asked to resign from his position. I honestly cannot remember when this was, but I could probably do the math. I am pretty sure his son is about to turn 21. And this probably occurred during his senior year of high school, so that would be about 4 years ago. And my brother hasn't worked since. The reason, I guess you would say is either depression, or inability to cope, or I don't know what. But it's certainly accurate to say that he has been depressed and he has been unable to cope during these years. Lots of different treatments, both pharmaceutical and psychological, have been attempted, but he just seems to slide from one treatment to another, always drifting between two states of existence: "The new medications seem to be helping" or "He seems to be having a really hard time lately". And it's always one of these two things. He stopped coming to most family events, or at best his plans to attend are not known or confirmed until the last minute. It got to the point that his wife was coming to our family events alone. Efforts to communicate with him via email have been largely unsuccessful. Recently, he somehow managed to be granted "disability" and receive money from the government. This, I think, is bad, because it is (as he put it, too) "a significant disincentive" to him actually doing anything resembling working again.

I don't really know what the future holds. And I don't really understand why any of this happened. And I feel sorry for his wife, who (perhaps because of her beliefs, and perhaps because she's an incredibly decent human being) has decided to stick with him (and earn a paycheck) through all of this. I feel sorry for his kids who grew up in the presence of someone who I would say was rather self-centered, and not a fantastic role model. I feel sorry for him, because his inability or unwillingness to pull himself up by his bootstraps and do something productive has marginalized him into an existence than simply cannot be very much worth living.

And I guess I feel a little bad for myself. Because I really did look up to him when I was a kid. And I kept hoping that he would be my "big brother" but it never really happened. I know that he loves me, and I know that he's probably proud of me, deep down inside. But I never really heard that interest or concern from him, like I had imagined a brother would have. In fact, I often felt like he went out of his way to not ask me questions about many things in my life. My education, my relationships, my work, my music. Almost felt that he resented me, at some points. On one occasion, we'd been talking about music, and my brother (who had never, and still has never seen me play guitar) said to me: "I am sure that if I had just applied myself more, I could have been as good of a musician as you". And I found this strikingly hurtful and bizarre, because he didn't even know what "as good as me" means. And the sad fact is, the reason I have got what I've got (and I don't have particularly high self-esteem myself, but I am learning to accept what I've accomplished) is because I did apply myself. I did "do what's hard" at least some of the time. It's true that a lot of things came easy to me, and I feel fortunate for that. Maybe the same wasn't true for him. But I have made some choices in my life, so that I do not feel horrible about myself. And there are definitely times that I feel like I am teetering on the edge of "checking out". Sometimes the only thing that kicks me in the ass, and makes me come out of those lows is to think about my brother - and realize that the only difference between those of us who make the best of things, and those of us who give up is just one thing: NOT GIVING UP! It's that simple. There is no magic. No rocket science. No silver bullet. Life is not easy, but it's not impossible.

I feel like I still hope for him to get his act together and do something that makes him feel better. And I believed in my heart that it needed to be something like volunteering for a cause that he thinks is worthy. The best way to start to feel value in the world is to do something selfless and try to make the world a better place. But he's not done that yet. He's in a prison of his own making.

I am not sure if I will ever stop hoping for him to become my role model.

Thanksgiving menu preview

So, I went from having no plan at all for Thanksgiving, to having an entire meal effort underway on the Eve. Not sure why I became inspired, but I guess this is a holiday that you can't really help but enjoy. It was one of my favorites growing up, and I'll tell you about that in a separate blog entry.

So, here's what's on tap for the big day.
  • A 16 pound all-natural free range turkey, from "Top Foods". We did not do the Jennie-O or Butterball bullshit, because that's for peasants :) The preparation of said turkey began tonight. Doing a brining. In between 2.5 to 3 gallons of water, added the following: 2.5 cups of kosher coarse salt, 1 cup of honey, 1 tbsp fine powdered thyme, 1 tbsp fine powdered poultry seasoning, 1 tbsp black pepper. In the past, have added rosemary, but I don't think this brining will be of a long enough duration for the rosemary to have done a hell of a lot, and plus I didn't have direct access to a rosemary bush, and refuse to pay asinine supermarket prices for something that is essentially a weed in the Pacific Northwest. The brining will go about 16 hours. In previous years, I have brined over 48 hours. We'll see how it goes. My feeling is that something is better than nothing.

  • Stuffing, prepared by Denise. To the best of my awareness, what she did was the following: prepared small cubes of white and wheat bread which were then "speed-staled" at 170 degrees for about 2.5 hours in the oven. While that was going, she sauteed in a large pot, a pound of bacon, mushrooms, onions, fresh rosemary, an apple, and who knows what else, though I suspect that was the majority of it, minus whatever seasonings she added. The dry and wet ingredients were combined, sampled (delicious) and stored at 4 degrees C (i.e. the refrigerator).

  • Apple and Raspberry Pie! Yes indeedy. I decided, against my better judgment, to make a pie from scratch. Edna will surely smirk at this, since I am sure she recalls all too well the repeated tantrums that I would have when attempting to make the crust, or roll the crust, or apply the crust to the pie. I'm a perfectionist, but I am lazy and undisciplined. Edna was a perfectionist, and was actually willing to go to the effort to get it right. So the way our pie crust would always go is like this: I start making it. She offers "helpful suggestions". I lose my patience and become irate that it is not perfect, or it is tearing, or rubbery. She offers more "helpful suggestions" (translation: criticisms). I have tantrum. She storms out of the room, since my tantrum probably involved hurling insults at her, because she happened to be there. Then eventually, I apologize, and beg her to please make the crust come out right. In the interest of having a presentable pie, she would usually comply, and always make it look easy, and perfect. Usually with some decorative leaves of pie crust laid around the outer edges of the top of the pie, just to really rub it in what a crappy job I was doing :) But I jest. Sort of. So, the pie this time was based on 2 recipes that were available on my newest iPhone application, which is a recipe application called "Big Oven" or some such nonsense. I do not remember exactly what the recipes involved. But I did a half recipe of the crust, since I was only making one pie. The crust used 2 cups flour. 7/8 cup of shortening. 1/2 tbsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar, or maybe the salt and sugar were the other way around. Who knows? Then the wet stuff was 1/4 cup water (badly measured), 1/2 egg (um, whatever that means), and 1/2 tsp vinegar. Did the cutting with knives. Mixed the ingredients. Threw in fridge for an hour. Cut 5 large granny smith apples, which was a royal pain in the ass, because I cut slowly so that I won't remove a finger (I am a guitarist, you know?!), and I am all thumbs with the peeler. Then rolled the crust. First attempt, bad because I did not flour the surface or the rolling pin. And who the hell even knew that I had a rolling pin? When did I get it? I am thinking Ikea... but it's just bizarre that I have these things. 2nd attempt at rolling, with proper flouring, went better, but the dough wasn't as primo, since it had already been worked once. Nonetheless, no tantrum. Okay, truth be told, I had a silent tantrum, but nobody knew. Then threw in apples. Threw in 1/4 cup sugar. Threw on some frozen raspberries. Threw on more apples. Threw on another 1/4 cup sugar. Threw a few more raspberries. Added pats of total about 1.5 tbsp butter, then the top crust which rolled better than the bottom since it was not previously worked. Oven at 400 degrees, on convection. I am not sure about convection setting in my oven. It seems a bit suspect. Went for about 30 minutes like that. Then dropped temperature to 375 degrees. At 60 minutes, checked to see if apples cooking and they were still COLD! What the hell? So I dropped the temperature to 325 degrees and switched it to conventional oven, instead of convection. And went to a total of about 80 minutes, at which time the edges were a tiny bit toasty, and the filling was boiling some. Fruit cooked. All is well. Pie out. Was that too much detail for you?

  • Still to be done: Mashed Yams (Denise)

  • Still to be done: Cook Turkey (Denise; rumor has it she will cook it directly on the rack). In addition to the Denise cooking methodology and the Mick brining scheme, we bought a bunch more bacon that will be draped all over the entire turkey as a "self-basting" technique, which is way less work, and way more yummy than any other basting procedure you could imagine.

  • Still to be done: sauteed brussel sprouts (suspicious)

  • Still to be done: carrots (less suspicious)

  • Still to be done: eat
We bought a lot of white wine. Funny, the last five times I have typed white wine, I initially type "white whine" and then need to correct it. Is this a Freudian slip of some sort? We picked some Riesling because Denise likes that a lot. And I got a Gewurstraminer, which I have spelled incorrectly, but you know what I mean, so why bother looking it up on the internet?

It will definitely be me, Denise, Jeff, and Ozone (who might possibly be allowed the tiniest amount of skinless, unseasoned turkey). There is a possibility of one additional diner.

I would like to watch the movie "Amelie", and maybe see the Seahawks lose (they are playing tomorrow, aren't they?)

25 November, 2008

Commentary on French Press technique and instructions

This is a bit of an experiment to see if proper blog titling will get lots of traffic. However, I do want to talk to you about the French Press. I will resist the temptation to write a blog about newspapers in Paris, since I don't think that's why you're here. But that might be amusing.

So... The French Press.

Just a short year ago, I probably would have scoffed at the notion of my owning a French Press (I am going to cease capitalizing it, as of now, because I am not sure I need to do it, and because it's a pain). Just two short years ago, okay three, I didn't even drink coffee. And I'm 40. So I guess I was a little bit behind the curve, in terms of rituals and behaviors (resisting the urge to go on tangent to explain why I started drinking coffee).

So... I am not sure who it was that first popularized the french press in my life, but I think it might have been Denise, because I recall my french press purchase from Ikea occurring in her company. So it stands to reason that this is how it came about. Prior to that, I only had a vague sense of what one even was, or why one would want to use it. Denise gave me the basic lesson of how to do it, and she also told me about why I would want to grind the beans fresh, rather than buy already-ground beans (though I did not originally listen to her).

The instructions for the french press use were modified extensively by Mandy, who had been taught by her ex-boyfriend, "Jafar" (whom I refer to as "Babbar"). His procedure seemed ridiculously idiosyncratic. It went something like this:
  • Put the ground coffee in the press
  • Add the water
  • Stir
  • Wait exactly 3 minutes. Not 4. Not 2. Most definitely not 5.
  • With your spoon, break the surface of the film on top of the liquid
  • Wait another minute
  • Press
  • Pour immediately

Now, a lot of this procedure I can understand. The part that I think is flat-out superstition is the breaking the film with the spoon (not stirring again, mind you - it's all about disrupting that film). I suppose if this were some type of chromatography experiment, I could understand it, but this is coffee, for heaven's sake.

So, regardless, I carried out this nonsense.

And one thing I repeatedly noticed about my coffee was the following: It was always bitter, and it was always extremely opaque-looking, and the addition of milk or cream did not nearly change the color as much as it would at any coffee shop I have ever visited.

And there lies the issue about the coffee beans and grinding. When I bought my coffee, it was ground too fine. It was ground for drip, where it will be in a filter. And this is NOT what you want for french press because the press does allow things to get through, so-to-speak, if they are too small. And that explained everything that was going wrong with my coffee.

So I decided it was time to graduate to the next level, which was to buy a grinder. And I did some reading online, and discovered that there are "blade grinders" and there are "burr grinders" and that if you want your coffee to be fabulous, you need to use a burr grinder, which will cost you between $80 and $200. If you want your coffee to be like the peasants in France would drink, well, then you can use a blade grinder. I quickly decided that I would do the blade grinder for a few logical reasons. First, whatever I bought would be better than the current process of buying it pre-ground. I could now control the degree of grinding. And I also will benefit from the "freshness" factor that the coffee snobs also talk about in all their blogs and websites. I kid you not, I have seen people say that if you do not get the ground beans into the liquid within five seconds (i.e. if you can smell the coffee) then it is too late, and your beans are spoiling. To that assertion, I say that if you can taste that difference, you have some serious problems for which there are plenty of medications out there.

The other reason I decided to do the blade grinder is because I figured it makes more sense to spend $20 on a Hamilton Beach (that matches my stainless steel and black kitchen appliances!) and see if that makes me coffee that I can live with before I go out and drop $200 on some sort of Bosch or DeLonghi nonsense.

I'm happy to report that I now have coffee that turns the correct color when you add milk, and does not cause instantaneous colon explosion. However, I do need to work on the "how long to let it sit before pressing" issue, because now that the grind is less fine, the coffee is not nearly as strong. I've already upped it to 7 minutes, without ill effects, and am not sure if I've gone far enough.

Also remaining is the decision about how much ground coffee to use. My 1 Liter press actually produces only about 28-30 ounces of coffee, if you fill it to the 1 inch from top level. That's two nice big cups. I have found that 10 level tablespoons of ground coffee seemed to be about the right amount. The instructions out and about seem to suggest 2 tbsp per 6 ounces, which would be about the same 10 tbsp for the full press. So that seems about right.

I think the next thing I might need to do is get a better french press, because I suspect the Ikea one may not be mechanically optimal in terms of the tolerances and the mesh quality.

All of this is centered around a money-saving effort to not stop at the bakery or cafeteria every day and waste money on coffee that isn't as good as what I can make at home. But the question remains: How much will I end up spending as I become more and more obsessed with the process of making the perfect coffee? And in the end, will it be more money than buying coffee? I kind of doubt that. And there was also the benefit of supporting local businesses by giving them my patronage. Especially in this economy. But every time I went there, I would inevitably spend even more money on fattening things like scones and muffins (Edna, do not write a comment telling me that those are tasty treats!).

Okay, I've said all I can say about french presses.

If only I was a cat...

...I would not know that the proper grammatical expression is "If only I were a cat"

And therein lies the rub. White kitty at my feet. Blissfully unaware of the nuances of nothingness. He had his food. He had his insulin. And in a few short minutes he will have his snuggly time with a cousin species (me), and that will be basically all it takes for him to achieve enlightenment.

But I need to sit here and wonder about the meaning of life. Is evolution the governing force that dictates all? Are genes the currency of existence? Or are they merely one way of counting the beans? Is everything about everything? Or is everything about me? Or is everything about nothing? And is it drunkenness that is causing me to repeatedly put my g's before my n's in every word that ends in -ing? Or is it fatigue? Or is it magical pixies that are restraining my pinkies from striking the keyboard properly? I had to think about it to realize that the pinky is never involved in a g or an n, unless you are a seriously horrible typist.

All these things I need to worry about. And I am still self-conscious (I almost typed self-couscous, which is another story altogether) about the fact that I occasionally end a sentence with a preposition. Apparently that's no longer inappropriate. I guess that marks another notch in the deterioration of Western Civilization. Nobody cares where we put our prepositions at. How sad is that?


I have a kitty to snuggle.

So fuck all y'all.

24 November, 2008

Aging cats, dying cats, sick cats


They're everywhere. On the street. In the pound. In the front window of the local bookstore. On the beaches of Hawaii. And, of course, in the homes of so many people around the world. One might be tempted to say that the same is true of dogs, but it really isn't. At least in many Western countries, dogs cannot just be outside wandering around. And one big difference between dogs and cats is that people will very often own a cat or cats, and sort of just have them around, largely ignored, other than occasionally tossing down food, water, and possibly a change of litter. Dogs, you can't get away with that. If you neglect a dog, you will have a very unpleasant situation on your hands quite quickly. I am not sure if this means that a cat's social status is lower than that of a dog, or if it simply means that cats are far more self-sufficient.

At the moment, I am taking care of a cat that was once mine. But now he's somebody else's. That's not that I gave him up for adoption. Let's say that he was the victim of a feline parental separation. He's very old, and requires special and bizarre care. His meals consist of fresh chicken breast mixed with wet food, and he receives a miniscule amount of insulin twice a day. And he lives on. And on. And on. None the worse for the wear, actually. I've seen cats who were 20 years old, and were blind, and pissing themselves, and unable to eat unless fed by a baby bottle. But this one is different. He will still play chase, with the proper stimulus. And though it is clear that he's got arthritis, he'll still run up and down the stairs to be in the same place as the humans are.

I have selected a cat four times in my life. Twice with Luisa. Once with Sarah. And once with Edna. And on each of those occasions, the cats ended up staying with someone else. Eventually, I did not keep them. Luisa gave hers away to some sort of farm, and who knows what happened to them after that. Sarah presumably kept hers (it was actually her cat, but I was present for the selection process). And the one that I chose when living with Edna ended up being the pet of an old Russian woman. I like to spread them around, you see.

Not sure what it says about me, that I keep divorcing my pets. Maybe it's a metaphor for my relationships with humans?

When I think about the commitment of cat ownership now, it seems so overwhelming to me. The same cat. For 20 years. And they might be difficult personalities, through no fault of my own. They might be sickly. They might destroy things in my home. They might puke all the time. They might pee on things. They might require constant medical care. I might get bored with them, and wish I had another cat. Or a kitten. They will eventually get old, and not be that much fun anymore. And I'll still need to feed them, and clean up after them. They will eventually become a massive burden, preventing me from planning vacations without making special arrangements for them. And I'll have to worry whether I can trust the people caring for them. And I will have to worry if the people caring for them are going to accidentally leave my house unlocked. Or burn my house down. Or let the cat outside by mistake. If I decide to go out for the evening, I will need to worry if the cat is going to be hungry. And then, eventually, they will be so weak and sick, that I will need to decide if they live or die. It sounds like a lot of responsibility, for a 9 pound creature that occasionally sits on your lap, and once in a great while chases the laser pointer around the room.

This is definitely seeming a bit like a metaphor.

JFK 45 years later

This weekend marked the 45th anniversary of JFK's assassination. I hadn't really thought about it, and I guess that 45 isn't really a special number. And I guess that you shouldn't really use the word "anniversary" to refer to bad things. And I guess that it's really kind of irrelevant to anything, other than that today I looked at the calendar and realized that it was yesterday. Actually, I thought it was today, since my memory said it was the 23rd. But my memory was incorrect.

I guess I am glad that I was not yet born in 1963. I am glad that I was not an adult in 1963. My brother and sister were 13 and 10 years old. I cannot imagine they really absorbed much of it. But to be an adult - a supporter of Kennedy. And to have had the joy of seeing him become President. And to have had the hope of what his leadership might represent for the future. Then to see him killed. That must have been incredibly deflating, and crushing to the spirit of so many in this country. We've devoted so much of our energy, in investigation, theorizing, contemplation, about "what really happened". And as I said in an earlier blog, it doesn't matter in the end, so much, who did these misdeeds. It only matters that they were done. Whether it was Lee Harvey Oswald, or some sharpshooter from who knows where. It's ultimately irrelevant. I suppose if it were our own government behind it, that would be something to cause us great mistrust and disillusionment. But let's be honest here. There is enough in American history, and honestly, in human history, for us to already be sufficiently mistrusting, and disillusioned regardless of the veracity of one more conspiracy theory.

This shit has been going on for a long, long time.

I don't understand why it seems to be in our nature to be violent. And I don't know why it seems to be in our nature to not want "good" to come for all all creatures on this planet. But that certainly seems to be the way it is.

To think about an elected leader, though. In this country, or elsewhere. In modern, or past times. And to think about that leader being slain by opponents. It really does not reflect favorably on humankind. But then again, there have been leaders whose eradication was possibly perceived as being for the betterment of the world. And there are leaders whose slaying brought an end to oppression or war. So who is the judge of this?

Just thinking about JFK, whom I never knew, obviously. It seems like a shame to subvert the democratic process and erase someone because of who they are, or what they represent. It does not do any real justice for anyone. Even his opponents lost something. Because it indicated a lack of willingness to accept democracy. A willingness, a need, to override it.

Unless, of course, it was merely a crazy, desperate, communist Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.

Yeah, right...

Jill Sobule and Melissa Ferrick at The Triple Door, Seattle

The Triple Door is probably the most upscale place in Seattle that one can see a "rock show". It's located at the corner of 3rd and Union, and "belongs" to the restaurant Wild Ginger, at least as far as I understand it. It's a theater, more than a rock club, to be certain. In fact, I should probably say it is a theatre, not a theater, just because that's what I should say.

So, tonight was "lesbian folk night" at the Triple Door. And I say that in the best possible way. Melissa Ferrick hails from the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, much like some other well known artists, including Juliana Hatfield, Donald Fagan (Steely Dan), Melissa Etheridge, Aimee Mann, Branford Marsalis, Steve Vai, and others. Jill Sobule did not go to the Berklee College of Music, but was the shining star in tonight's bill.

My reason for attending tonight's show was my long standing love of all things Jill. She is an incredibly inspirational lyricist, writing songs about a plethora of topics ranging from religion, to politics, to shoe stores, to shoes, to statutory rape, sexuality, drugs, wrestling, the death penalty, war, popularity, depression, anti-depression, with a healthy salting and peppering of love and relationships, Jill-style.

As usual, Jill delivered, with sparkling intense vocals, tasteful guitar parts (on her trusty mini-acoustic), and engaging stories, not to mention a smattering of over-the-top distorted guitar solos (this time on her brand new "Big Muff" pedal, of which she was quite proud).

The one regret of Jill's set is that it was not longer. Seems she only got about 45 minutes, but maybe it was longer. I am not sure. Also, because of the double-bill with Melissa Ferrick, and the high density of lesbian audience, Jill did slant her set list a bit lopsidedly toward the gender-related subject matter. While those are certainly good songs, I felt that it narrowed her a little bit, compared to sets she's done on other occasions (for instance, with she played with Eliza Gilkyson a number of years ago in Seattle).

Melissa Ferrick, of whom I knew absolutely nothing prior to the show, put on a technically adept, musically moving, if lyrically trite, performance. She gets spectacular sounds out of her acoustic, and she has an amazing right hand. Many of her songs included impressive intricate riffs that definitely showcased her musical ability. And her vocal skills are equally impressive, with explosive dynamics, and a smooth, yet powerful voice.

But... again... those lyrics. She's a singer-songwriter, and many of her songs are about love, loss, self-discovery, introspection. But she only rarely said anything in a way that made me feel like she had something new to say. And that made me a bit sad. I hesitate to call it a "waste" of a great voice, because I absolutely enjoyed her tones, but I feel like it was just a lot of bubble gum and Kool-Aid to feed into mainstream garden variety lesbian angst. I also felt there was just a smidge of disingenuousness about her. On the one hand, she took the time to talk about how wonderful her childhood was, and how accepting her parents were. But on the other hand, she rambled self-indulgently about her failed relationships, serial monogamies, substance abuse, recovery, therapy, and general fucked-up-ness, in a way that contradicted the rosy picture she painted of her past.

Perhaps this is not atypical, and I certainly do appreciate when people wear their hearts on their sleeves. But I felt that her show almost felt a bit like a front for a possible hook-up with an "audience member of the night" who falls sucker to her vulnerability, and availability.

So, who knows. I could, and probably do have it all wrong here.

Melissa Ferrick's voice had moments of sounding like another famous (lesbian) Melissa (actually, probably technically superior). And her guitar playing had moments of Ani DiFranco.

If only she had something more original to say.

In the end, tonight's show left me wishing for more Jill, better lyrics from Melissa, and for the two women sitting behind us to shut the fuck up, so that I could enjoy some special, mellow moments.

22 November, 2008

Hugh Jackman is the sexist man alive!

This is what makes me sick about this world. Why is this news? Why does People magazine choose to glamorize this type of behavior? We have spent so many years striving toward gender equality and fairness for women in all walks of life. And in one swell foop, People is derailing all of the ground that has been broken.

The fact is, there are six BILLION people in the world. Many of them in third world countries that People most certainly did not consider. And many of these countries have far more oppressive views toward women than the US or UK or even Australia!

So it is mind boggling to me that they could declare Hugh Jackman the SEXIST MAN ALIVE! How do they know?

And why should we even be recognizing such things? It's really disgraceful.

Oh, wait...

I just took another look.

It was SEXIEST man alive. Not SEXIST.

That's very different.

Never mind.

-- Post From My iPhone

19 November, 2008

The recession may be more protracted?!

"Wall Street hit levels not seen since 2003, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling below the 8,000 mark, as the fate of Detroit's Big Three automakers and the economy disheartened investors. A cascade of selling occurred in the final minutes of the session as investors yanked money out of the market. For many, the real fear is that the recession might be even more protracted if Capitol Hill is unable to bail out the troubled auto industry."

This was the asinine headline on Yahoo Finance today after another bloodletting on Wall Street. I am considering making an archive of all the headlines they use, since they often try to tie the day's market activity to events in an overly simplistic manner. Sometimes the market changes because the market changes. This volatility is no longer beholden to the day's news.

So my amusement is with the statement "the recession might be even more protracted" as if we've been in a recession for a long time, and this might make it longer.


The reality is, the recession has BARELY begun. We've been in a recession for 5 minutes, and these prognosticators are talking as if they know something about anything.

But I could be wrong. Perhaps the government will bail out the big three automakers, who will quickly begin doing business smart, and investing in future technologies and energy saving, and make cars that compete with Japan and Germany. Perhaps our financial industries will realize the error of their ways, and the CEOs will stop taking fat salaries and bonuses, and some type of responsible business practice will emerge. Perhaps hedge funds and day traders will stop playing the yo-yo of the world economy for extreme greed, and think about the long term prosperity of entire nations on the globe.

And.. after all that has occurred... I will gladly conduct a celebration for the first monkey that spreads his wings as he pokes his head out of my ass.

Why the fruit cup is such a buzz kill

The fruit cup is a buzz kill.

I know that seems hard to believe, because everyone loves fruit. And I do too. But I think that the "Demoralization Police" here at work, whose every move is designed to swiftly, covertly, and completely vaporize my will to live, have figured out how to take fruit and turn it into a weapon of mass depression.

It's quite simple to explain this one, and I am not going to be long-winded about it. Fruit cup. Simple. But one thing that is essential to a fruit cup is variety. One wants to have a little of this, then a little of that. It's more of a fruit medley, than a fruit cup, when done correctly. Alas, it is not the case here. Let me explain to you the construction of every fruit cup here:

Take cup.
Insert cantaloupe (40% of entire volume)
Insert honeydew (25% of entire volume)
Insert watermelon (20% of entire volume)
Insert grapes (15% of entire volume)
Install lid.

So, you can obviously see the problem, can't you?

Everyone knows that the worst possible way to eat is from order of most favorite to least favorite. Because once you've consumed all the "good stuff", the will to finish dwindles rapidly. And this fruit cup is packed with my most favorite items on top, and least favorite on the bottom. Completely separated from one another, save for the occasional grape that burrows into the depths of the melon undersoil.

So, when I start my day with a fruit cup, I have effectively crushed my own will to live, by the time I get through the last bite of watermelon.

It is truly adding insult to injury that, not only do I not really like the melons, but I am slightly allergic to melon, and furthermore, they almost always serve underripe melon, which I consider to be a human rights violation.

The only other fruit alternative (in a cup, that is) would be the apple slices. These used to be good, until recently, they began putting so much lemon juice on them, to prevent browning, that they taste horrible. This did not used to be necessary because they had a crisper type of apple that didn't seem to brown much. But now, they've of course switched to some shitty apple that nobody likes.

Goodbye cruel world.

Don't bore me!

Does it mean that I have an attention deficit disorder if I easily lose interest in things? That I need to constantly have bright shiny spinning objects dancing up and down before my eyes? See, I am starting to think that's what the problem is. For some time now, I have had a negative mood about my work. Dreading coming, and not really feeling like I was as productive as I should be. And now, this week, thanks to a lab study that has generated a large amount of interest in our department, the attitude seems to have flipped around to the positive again. Maybe that's the problem. Some people are perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done, and motivating from within. I cannot do that. I need that motivation to come from the exterior. If people are excited about what I am doing, then I am motivated, and I want to maintain that excitement level for all. I think it is mostly that I am a performer, so I need an audience. But it is also mostly because I want to please people (there are only like 5 people in the universe that are going to get my humor reference to "also mostly", and if you post a comment on here with the correct attribution, I will buy you a drink of your choosing).

So that's the trick, then, is it? What it comes down to is: "Don't bore me!"

I guess I have a very low tolerance for it. But this week's lab study at work proves that my boredom is not irretrievable. So perhaps there is hope.

16 November, 2008


I covet that guitar. I covet those pedals. I covet that amplifier.

Though I have so many guitars, and so many pedals, and so many amplifiers... I still want that one. And that one. And that one. There's one that is just like two that I have. Just the same. But I want that one. Then I'd have three that are almost the same. But I want it. To you, there's not really any difference. There's a white one. A red one. But I want that blue one. Why.. Why... Why do I want it so badly?

And yes. That black one! I covet that black one. It's just like one of my red ones. But it's black.

And I want it.

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's gear!"

Oh, but I cannot help it. I must have it. I must. I must. Let me tell you about mine. Wait, but first you tell me about yours. You have that green pedal that is just like mine. But mine's different. Mine is different because I replaced some parts inside of it. Nobody can tell by looking at it. Only I know. But now I am telling you. I tell you because I want you to covet it. Everyone has one. But nobody's is like mine.


Because I didn't just read on the internets how to make mine. I did everything they said on the internets, and then I did something else too. I did something else that they didn't say on the internets. And I will tell you about it. And you will think I know more about more than I actually do. And you will covet it. Secretly. You won't say anything. You'll nod your head while I explain this to you. And you'll think I am smart. And you will covet my green pedal.

I do not covet your green pedal. Because it is like all the others. It is dull. It will not sound as good to you, as mine does to me. Even if it sounds exactly the same to you, it will not sound as good to me, because I know mine is different. But now that I have told you about mine, yours will never sound the same to you again. You will want mine. Or another one. You will keep getting more and more pedals. Green, blue, purple, red, yellow, orange, white, black, gray, brown, silver, magenta. And you will fill your entire closet, and your entire studio, and the entire stage, and the closets of all of your bandmates. You will keep buying more and more and more. Some of them you will loan to people and not even remember that you bought them. All to get "that sound". You will not even remember what mine sounded like. But you will always want better and better and better. It will break your spirit, and you will no longer even desire to play. Only to covet. To stockpile. To fill a giant empty sonic hole.

But I still want that blue guitar. And the black one too.

14 November, 2008

"Safe Haven" - what a bizarre and chilling concept

Nebraska has a problem with people abandoning unwanted children. They address this problem by establishing a safe haven program, where people can bring the children to the hospital, rather than abandon them, or neglect them. There's a good and a bad side to this concept. First, it's sad that people don't believe in a woman's right to choose, and the result is that people end up with children they don't want. It's sad that our standards of living, and values are such that people do not feel a deep obligation to provide for the offspring that they produce. But, I suppose it's good that Nebraska is offering a means for these children to possibly be adopted to families who would like a child but cannot have one. Maybe.

Just one problem with the Nebraska law.

They failed to set an age limit for the safe haven program. Oops!

So now, we have people from all around the country, traveling to Nebraska to dump their TEENAGERS at hospitals! Apparently, someone in the Nebraska legislature didn't learn in law school that you need to dot every t and cross every i, or someone's going to abuse the law. As of this moment, 28 out of 34 children that have been dropped at hospitals are older than ten years. So Nebraska is frantically trying to "fix" this rule so that people stop dumping their unruly teenagers in Nebraska.

It's kind of funny. But it's mostly kind of sick.

12 November, 2008

Dangerous people are everywhere

I want to be somewhat veiled about this, because it should be discreet. If it were my private blog, which I no longer update, I would "tell all". But I want to give you a sense of what is on my mind, and therefore need to be a tad tactful.

That said... Dangerous people are everywhere.

You might ask yourself what I mean by "dangerous". And it's quite simple. I consider it dangerous when people have either power, or influence, without having knowledge, understanding, or restraint. And we see it in all kinds of ways. And I have very little tolerance for it (though, more than some people, for sure). I do not profess to know all, and I do not profess to have the best way of doing anything in this world. But when it comes to leaders, I think I have a reasonably good idea of who I am willing to follow. What's that metaphor? About hitching your something to that star? I can't remember the wording.

Anyway, I will say that one thing I not only admire, but for which I have an ever-growing admiration, is people who are "wise". Wisdom is being able to see the playing field, and make the right calls because you can think a few moves ahead, or because you know the pitfalls and are prepared for the consequences. You don't get blindsided. You are not oblivious. You are not ignorant. To be wise is not necessarily to always do the right thing, though! By no means. In fact, one could be quite wise, knowing exactly all the potential pitfalls, and still choose the perilous path. But the wise person is at least prepared for the eventualities.

It's one thing to see this lack of wisdom (i.e. the "dangerous" people) out there around me. But it's another when it's pushed up against my world, and I need to reconcile with it. When you have your progress, or your reputation tied to the outcomes that are not in your control. And then the problem gets complicated when you consider that, for example, in the workplace the main goal is the success of the product, or the team, or whatever. So, while the wise thing might be to just steer clear of those situations with dangerous people, it would be selfish to turn one's back, when there is an opportunity to maybe positively impact a situation. But to do that, you need to be willing to subject yourself to the very uncomfortable dogma, and illogic of the dangerous people. And be positive. And keep a level head. And strive toward consensus.

Anyway, there has probably never been a single place I've worked that there have not been people that I'd consider dangerous. And some of them have been very powerful, and highly respected in their field, and still dangerous. And others have been more like little rabid chihuahuas nipping and yipping, trying to please, or to gain recognition. They're everywhere. And I guess there are a few lessons that are probably worth learning:
  1. You cannot avoid them, so you need to learn how to not be owned by them.
  2. If you are interviewing for a job, you should probably watch for telltale signs among prospective colleagues and decide a priori whether you want to subject yourself to them.
  3. You want to be happy, so don't let them ruin your life - maybe try feeling privately sorry for them. Sympathy makes tolerance a lot easier than resentment.
  4. You want to be successful, which means you need to find very constructive, positive, and probably subtle ways, of bringing about a good outcome for everyone, while not burning bridges. Sometimes you cannot just blurt out "Your idea is stupid, and here's why, and we're not gonna do it". That's from Chapter 1 of "How to make friends and influence people".

Now I will shut my self-righteous trap, and go to the gym before it closes.

11 November, 2008

Seattle Proposition 1 - Reconciling the two sides

I just got done reading a P-I article, and the associated comments that readers had contributed, regarding the Sound Transit Proposition that just passed least week for Seattle. The story of Prop 1 and its proponents, and its opponents, is quite the epitome of Seattle infrastructure, and Seattle/Washington attitude in general. To take it at the highest possible level, I'll say this: "Washington is a strange state". It's a mixture of:
  • Very liberal, educated, moderately-to-highly affluent people (Seattle)
  • Very liberal, multicultural, not-affluent people (Seattle, plus non-Eastside suburbs)
  • Socially liberal, educated, fiscally conservative, highly affluent people (Eastside suburbs)
  • Socially conservative, fiscally conservative, less educated, rural, blue-collar people (other)

And I am probably missing a bunch of categories. But the big thing is that this state gets most of its tax dollars from the Puget-Sound area, because of the businesses that are here. People who live outside Seattle do reap the benefits of the state's wealth. People who live outside of Seattle like to come to Seattle to enjoy culture and (especially) sporting events.

But when it comes to ponying up for the pleasures of Seattle, in the form of taxes and infrastructure, people want to explain in a million different ways, why they shouldn't have to pay for Seattle to have public transportation.

Okay, that's one side of the story.

The other side of the story, unfortunately, is that (as far as I can tell) Washington state government seems to be highly ineffective, especially when it comes to matters of infrastructure. Money comes, money goes. We vote. We vote again. Initiatives are passed. Deadlines aren't met. Projects do not succeed. And then more voting, more money, and more projects get approved. A long time ago, when other West Coast cities were planning for the inevitable future that there would one day be a shitload of people living here, public transit came to places like Portland, and San Francisco. And if we look to the east, places like Chicago, and New York, and Boston established their elaborate transportation systems so long ago that those systems could practically be considered revolutionary engineering feats, when you consider that Seattle has accomplished little more than the SLUT (laughable), the Monorail (very laughable), and the light rail system of which I have seen and heard so little, that I am not even sure they've got trains to go on the few tracks they've built!

So, the people who have lived in Washington for a long time, and have learned to expect poor, or zero results from these projects, are getting tired of seeing each new bullshit project get approved by the young and hopeful liberals of the day.

There are criticisms that it's funded by sales taxes, since that is considered (by one opponent in the article's comments) to be unfair taxing of the lower income people. Here, I do not dispute. Sales tax, as a primary means of revenue, is a completely backwards system. I have blogged previously on how regressive Washington is (the most regressive in the entire nation!). But I don't think we'd be hearing the opponents changing their tune if we taxed income instead of sales.

The fact is, public transit is probably going to be an eternally sore issue in Washington due to the repeated failures to deliver on an agreed upon project. On the one hand, why should anyone want to fund projects with such a poor track record? On the other hand, how can we stop having the hope that we can improve things, when population continues to increase?

What really needs to be done is to find planners/contractors who have delivered excellent work in other parts of the country/world, and employ these people to oversee, or execute the project. While we would probably like to keep the tax money going to local planners and local contractors, the bottom line should be results. I don't know how these planning and bidding processes have gone in the past, and perhaps I will investigate that, and write further at another point in time.

Worrying about the well-being of our new leader

I want to be careful about how I even word this, since I realize that there are probably Google-Bots constantly trolling the web to find things that they can investigate. So forgive the veiled terminology. But I wanted to say that I am concerned, and I suppose perhaps you have wondered as well, about the viability and longevity of the guy who we just elected, in the face of forces that might want to bring ill-will upon him. We've already heard a couple of stories about (albeit bungled and asinine) plots to do damage to him. And that's before he even won. We saw, during the speech, that there appeared to be what one might call "significant plexiglass reinforcement" around the stage. This is not something that I ever noticed in a previous instance of a similar event. That's not to say it's never been there before. But I'm just saying, I've never seen it. And if they're adding those reinforcements, it must be for good cause. Threats.

And it's still two months until the term begins.

So what's going to happen? I just think about all of the people in this country that are probably not thrilled about this outcome. All of the ignorant, narrow-minded individuals, who see nothing more than a skin color, and hear nothing more than a name that sounds surprisingly not like "Jefferson" or "Madison" or "Washington" or... "Bush". And I think about the hate that is exacted upon everyday people just for their beliefs or their origins. And now, we are about to be led by someone who will bring many of those stereotypes and fears into the forefront of those minds.

There were a few people in this country's history who stood for, and embodied major forces of change. These people were different, they were powerful, and they had the ear of the people. Some people, that is. And they were around at a time where their voices needed to be heard. And in at least 4 of these cases, those individuals were erased. One of them was named John. One was named Robert. One was named Martin. And one was named Malcolm. I might also add that there was another one named John, many years later, who could be argued as belonging to a similar category of change-makers.

And it doesn't really matter so much, who did it. Or whether they were sane or crazy. It doesn't matter what the stated reasons were as to why they did it. What matters is only one thing.

They did it.

And that scares me.

Bush begins step one in (apparent) transformation from neocon icon to "human being"

Well, liberals will, for the time being, consider George W. Bush to be the "Worst President Ever". That's true, and presumably it will not change in the next 4 years, if not longer. There were many unpopular things in this administration's tenure. And as Bush leaves the White House, he's about to embark on life as a normal human being. Well, as normal as that can be for a former President. And today's interview, marks the beginning of that transition. Bush is acknowledging things he wishes he hadn't said. And things he wishes he hadn't done. And he's commenting on the character of Barack Obama (favorably). Well, maybe he's being sincere. Or maybe this is the all-important effort that the Republican Party must show to the left, and the middle, if they want to remain a viable party for the future. The voters told the administration just how strongly they disapproved of the policies of the past eight years, and now there needs to be some tail-between-the-legs moments, if staged.

I don't know if Bush is being sincere. And I am not sure I care. I have to say that it makes me feel somewhat good to hear him say the things he's saying. And this probably proves that I'm a sucker for propaganda. I am sure to the right-wingers, there's a mixture of people who are considering this to be just the kind of stand-up guy Bush is. And then there are probably some people who can't believe Bush is going to pander to the liberals, and how can he say that Obama is going to be good for the country? All that.

The right fucked up, and it knows it. But the sad reality is that "knowing it" doesn't undo any damage. Square one is not something that can be recovered. We are stuck where Bush's policies leave us. I really don't like to believe that an agenda could be based solely around greed, and class division, and world domination. I don't want to believe that. I want to believe that the right has a vision which is a wholesome one, and that it was the execution that failed, or that people were honestly mistaken. The right would have us think that's the case, and that the "liberal media" has created the distorted perception of malice where there was none. But either I'm stupid and ignorant, as are most of my friends, or there's a little more than honesty and naivete that drove us to where we are now.

This country has a history of a number of fairly unsavory things. And there are plenty of people who still exhibit the traits that made our "forefathers" not-so-stand-up guys. There's plenty of elitism. There's plenty of extreme nationalism. There's plenty of racism. There's plenty of sexism. And it would be truly naive to believe that those traits, in positions of explicit (governmental) or covert (corporate) power, would not attempt to bring about a future that fits their ideals. I will spare you the conspiracy theories, but I just don't believe that the extreme right has died, or will die that quickly. They're just going to have to go into a regrouping period. But the goals that they did achieve already are quite substantial.

And part of the regrouping, clearly, is to play nice. For awhile.

A final baffling evening footnote regarding dehydration

Tonight, I spent about 30 minutes on the god-awful "Stair Climber". I do not mean the one where you have two little pedals that go up-down-up-down (that one is called a "Stair Master"). I mean the evil "set of stairs on a wheel" type, where you are standing like 5 feet off the ground, walking up a (for all intents and purposes) real staircase, and if you go too slow, you will fall and fracture your jaw, and if you go too fast, you will trip and break your neck. This is the most evil and wicked of all exercise equipment and always makes my heart go up to 175 beats per minute, which is not fun.

So, the result of this exercise was dehydration. I finished my workout at 7:45pm, and when I got home I had cereal and a large quantity of milk. Then I drank more milk. Then I went to the show, and drank 3 glasses of water between 10pm and 11:30pm. And now it is ridiculously late, like 2am, and I have interestingly still not yet peed. That's how dehydrated I was.

Though I do need to pee really really badly right now.

Good night.

Rock-and-roll Jesus with a Cowboy Mouth

Tonight at The Tractor Tavern, in Ballard. Cowboy Mouth. Two parts rootsy, if syrupy southern rock, 5 parts self-indulgent revival.

Many years ago, perhaps in 1998, I was told "Go see this band! Cowboy Mouth! Best show ever!" It was in Boston, at The Paradise Rock Club. So, Edna and I went to the show, though we knew almost nothing about them, except what could be learned by listening to a CD bought the day before the show. And it was a phenomenal show. Amazing energy. Incredibly long set - so long, that we actually left before the end of the show. If I recall correctly, that was because Edna was feeling very sick and had barely been able to drag herself to the show, and after about 2 hours, it was really enough, already.

Well, 10 years and at least 3 bass players, and 3 rhythm guitar players later, Cowboy Mouth is not the same band that they once were. I am sure the lineup has something to do with it. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, they're on their FIFTH bass player. The two newest members do not appear to fit in at all - an anime-like pixie female bass player, Regina, seemed like she should be playing in a Japanese power-pop band, not a southern rock band. And the new guitar player, besides looking like he is about 25 (compared to the other members, who are probably well over 40), seemed more like a Seattle grunge player (and sure enough, his "claim to fame" is playing in a Weezer tribute band - A Weezer Tribute Band??).

Bizarre line-ups aside, Cowboy Mouth is, was, and will always be Fred LeBlanc. He's the drummer, lead singer, and primary songwriter for the group. And he's the strongest musician in the band, by far. It has always been somewhat bizarre to me that the other members of the band have had various "tragic flaws" - the most notable is their middle-aged lead guitarist John Thomas Griffith, who truly has the worst tone of any guitar player in a big name band that I have ever seen. Unless he is significantly hard of hearing, there can be no justification for the shrill shredding sound he gets (and he's always had this tone that I can remember, so he must actually like it). If you're a country-ish, bluesy, rootsy rock band from Louisiana, it just doesn't seem right to have shredding sounds. And to top it off, he writes lyrics that are about the same level of literary refinement as one would expect from a 12 year old boy.

Take, for example. This song, titled "Everybody Loves Jill":

Everybody loves Jill (x2)
She's got a red heart
She wears on her red sleeve
She drinks her red wine
With her favorite red cheese

And that's why
Everybody loves Jill
Everybody loves Jill
Everybody loves Jill

She's got a red house
To go with her red clothes
She's got a red dress
That she wears with her red coat

Sometimes the whole wide world did miss her
Even the people who can't stand her

She drives a red car
Rides in her red hat
She's got a red door
Plays with her red cat
She's got a red light
That lights up her red room
She eats her red cake
With my favorite red spoon

Everybody loves Jill
Everybody loves Jill
(I love Jill)
(I know I do)
Everbody loves Jill
(I love Jill)
(I know you do)

I'm not kidding. Those are really the words. No, really.

So, back from my digression, and to the show...

We apparently missed the entire opening band (Memphis Radio Kings) because they played earlier than we thought they would. The assumption was that "doors at 9pm" does not mean "music at 9pm". It is also possible that we did *not* miss them, but that we left before them, since Cowboy Mouth played from 10-11:30pm, and we left when they finished. But I don't think the headliner would play before the opening act, because it would violate the laws of causality.

So we probably missed a good band.

There's something you should know about a Cowboy Mouth show. Fred wants you to get involved. He wants you to jump, scream, sing, hug people, high-five people, get down on the floor, scream more, clap, be glad to be alive. And he wants you to do this a lot. And he wants to tell you exactly how he wants you to do these things. And he also wants to tell you exactly what the band is going to do.

A typical Fred moment will be something like this:

"On the count of three... on the count of three... on the count of three, I am going to yell 'NOW!!!!' and John's gonna play a solo... and when I say three and John starts his solo... I want everyone in this place to make as much noise as you possibly can... I want you to forget about all of your worries... all of your problems... all of the shit that you're holding onto inside... forget about your job... your boyfriend or girlfriend who is mad at you... your stockbroker... I want you to reach deep deep inside, on the count of three, and let ALL of that come out in one giant primal scream, like you've never screamed before. And while John's playing his solo, I want every single person in this place jumping up and down and screaming and waving your arms in the air like a 5 year old at an amusement park! Are you with me? I said... ARE YOU WITH ME?!?!?!?"

That is *a* Fred moment. And the remarkable thing is that this does not occur just once during the 90 minute show. This occurs 10-15 times. And occasionally he becomes a little bit dancing on the edge of "religious".

The first 6 times I saw Cowboy Mouth, I could handle it, because the band was great, and the songs were great, and I felt like Fred was taking energy that was already there, and just squeezing it out. But the last few times, more and more, I feel like the band is not there. And the crowd is sort of just doing what they're told to do. And those who have been to the shows know that you better do what he tells you, or else he'll bring out the wireless microphone, so he can literally walk around the audience and berate people into compliance.

All that said... it was a huge turnout at The Tractor, tonight. And people were really into it. The downside was that the band didn't seem to get it, which makes John Thomas Griffith's guitar playing more annoying, and Fred's antics a bit more trying. The newer material is a bit too glossy and snappy pop-rock, and not as "rootsy" as the older stuff, and that's a disappointment.

I am glad they're still going... I guess? But it does become a little sad when a band still keeps going even though the original members are half gone, and the spirit along with it.

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that show tonight. The club was really hot, and there were lots of tall people, lots of fat people, and lots of smelly people. Although I should note that there were also lots of short, clean, and normal looking people too. There were just a lot of people. And in a crowded room, the tall, fat, or smelly ones pose the largest problem.

I often say, after seeing a favorite band, "I'm never going to see them again, because they're not as good as they used to be". And usually, what happens is that a year or two goes by, and I forget that I felt that way.

So I expect this time will be the same.

The vertical lines have been eradicated. Fear not.

You asked, "Why is there a vertical line running down your blog?"

And I answer, "Actually, there were TWO vertical lines running down my blog, but one of them was at the left edge so you couldn't see it."

And I have investigated. And I have pounded my fists. And I have investigated more. And I have eradicated the offending visual blemish. Not that you care, because this is about as interesting as watching paint peel off the fender of a 1981 AMC Gremlin. But the cause of the transient offender was some sort of new "feature" that presumably was added by an author of the blog template that I have bastardized use. I think they thought it would be cool to have an accent border to the typing area. But, alas, I modified the template so that the typing area is 680 pixels instead of 485. And the result is that his fancy border doesn't line up with my border anymore.

The solution?

/* comment out the fucker */

And all is no longer rotten in the state of Denmark.

How am I expected to keep my readership happy with these distractions? Jeez!

10 November, 2008

Giving and Receiving

This story is about giving and receiving in relationships. And about which is harder, and which is easier. I've been in relationships where I have given much more than I have received, and I have been in relationships where I have received much more than I have given. I am sure I have probably been in ones where the balance has been just about equal. And in the interest of punctuating the anonymity, let me point out that it is not in any way obvious to the outside observer which was necessarily which.

There are plusses and minuses to both extremes. When you give a lot more than you get, you can feel like you're a good person. You can feel generous. You can feel like you're making the world a better place. You can feel like the karma of the universe is tilted entirely in your favor.

When things are good...

When things are bad, that often turns around into feeling like you're being taken for granted. Being tired of always being the one making the sacrifices, pulling the load, trying hard to make things right. Giving... giving... giving... and there's resentment. And there's jealousy of other people who are getting more.

Somewhere in the middle, neither good nor bad, there's "self-righteousness". I am not sure if that's a positive thing or a negative one. It can make you feel good, because it is validating, but it can also bite you in the ass because it can become justification for transgressions, dishonesty, and who knows what sort of other things, because you have the upper hand, being the one who's got all that karma stored.

The other extreme is the "getting more than you give" end of the spectrum. Well, the upside of that, of course, is that you get a lot! Having someone rain down love, caring, nurturing, gifts, kindness, support, assistance, and all those other wonderful things can certainly make you feel really good. How could there be a downside to that?

Well, leave it to human kind to find the shit lining to the silver cloud. Guilt. Well, if you aren't willing to, or can't give as much as you get, then you feel guilty. It's human nature. You know you're being treated really well, and you feel like you don't deserve it, so you feel guilty.

Being the one who is receiving more is actually a very "malleable" place to be, compared to the other way around, however. If you are receiving more, you can do lots of things. You could decide to give more! That's in your control, and would have a positive impact. You could decide to give less, and to take advantage, which would yield obvious selfish, short-term benefits, but would ultimately result in hurt, guilt, and (for the other person's sake) probably a certain end.

Being the one who is giving more is a bit harder of a place to be. Because your options are fewer, and none are really as fabulous. You can elect to give less. That probably isn't your nature, and will probably result in you detaching and finding some new person to give to, or maybe it will just amount to some type of resignation. You can keep giving more and more, hoping the other person gets the hint, and becomes inspired to reciprocate. More likely, however, is that they might start to feel guilty. Alternatively, you could ask them to give more, but then you'll probably feel bad for having asked for things.

It's a really bizarre dynamic, the givers and the takers.

The givers, I think, need to find someone else to direct their attention onto, to avoid themselves. And the takers, I actually think have some sort of self-punishing pattern of wanting to feel bad about themselves, and thus not doing the simple things that could make them feel good.

And interestingly, there can be weird situations where there is a perfect balance though the things that each person gives are radically different such that one person gives a whole lot of "A" and the other person gives a whole lot of "B" and it might be impossible to measure/compare/reconcile/believe in the conversion units between A and B, and yet somehow they're there. And that raises the interesting question... maybe there is ALWAYS a perfect balance of giving and receiving, but many times the A and B are completely different and incomparable. A might be entirely tangible, and B might be largely intangible. If the key factor is "Do they stay together?" then perhaps that answer hinges upon this complicated equation of A = B. So maybe the interesting thing to do in each relationship is to try to figure out what A and B even are!

I don't know. Maybe I don't know anything about relationships.

07 November, 2008

GM is running out of money... so... fucking... what?

General Motors is losing billions of dollars, and is claiming that they don't have enough cash. The government may be giving them billions to keep them afloat. This raises a lot of questions. Should the government be giving money to GM? It is true that GM is part of our financial crisis (via its GMAC financing component), but it is not just the financials that are losing money. GM is not selling cars! The fact that GM went from being an auto manufacturer, to being a company that could also loan you the money to buy your car, to being a company that can now loan you money to buy your house is another story altogether.

So I thought about this for a bit. And started to think, "Why should we bail out GM? FUCK GM! They've been making shitty cars for 25 years now, and have paid little heed to fuel efficiency. Let them go down as a result of their own poor management". But then, I realized, well the reason we probably want to bail them out is because of the fact that people will lose jobs if GM goes under. But then, I thought, "So fucking what? We're already losing 200,000 jobs a month! What's the difference if we lose another 40 or 50 thousand? It's just part of the pruning process of misapplied workforce".

So I Googled GM, to see how many people work there...

Any guesses?

As of 2008, the number was 266,000.

As of 2005, the number was 335,000. So they've already already dropped 20% of their workforce in the past 3 years (even though we weren't talking about how bad their situation was, during that time).

So, if GM goes under, that's a quarter of a million people without jobs. Is that still a "so fucking what" situation? I don't know. But why should this (non-socialist) government continue giving cash to private corporations, whose CEOs have been making big bucks. For instance, GM's CEO earned $2.2 million dollar salary this year. And apparently if Chrysler had bought GM, the CEO would stand to have made about $15 million in severance pay. How's that for a reward for running your company into the ground?

I am not opposed to socialism, as you probably know. But I would prefer that it start at the bottom and work its way up, rather than the other way around.

06 November, 2008

Sarah Palin is an insult to women in politics

The Republican Party attempted to gain "cred" as being progressive, by choosing Sarah Palin to be the first female on a GOP ticket. Well, progressive in the sense that she had 2 X Chromosomes. But the fact is, by choosing Sarah Palin, they have insulted women in this country, and the results of this election bore out that fact, at least implicitly. The exit poll numbers show that while McCain did quite well among men (1% difference), women flocked heavily to Barack Obama (13% difference). There is obviously more than one reason for this. Women, on average, may be more pro-choice and less pro-military than men. But an important factor must certainly have been that women did not want that one representing them in the second highest position of power in the country.

Any person who runs for office should, ideally, be a role model. We know that's not how it works, in reality. But Sarah Palin has to be the most anti-role model choice imaginable. I don't even really want to enumerate her "qualities" here, because it's become so hackneyed of a topic.

It's almost like they wanted to see if they could get away with something even worse than George W. Bush. Hmmm... what could that be? Let's find a redneck woman, and her five children, backwards views, and secessionist husband, and see if we can fly that shit through the fan and out the other side!

I don't think so.

And somehow, Republican strategists were thinking that choosing Sarah Palin might help win some of the Hillary voters? This is so insulting to women, it is almost unimaginable. Let's see. You ordered the prime rib, and we're all out, so let me serve you this rotting dead squirrel possum I have lying in the back yard. You probabaly won't even notice the difference! It's still meat!

05 November, 2008

Or... if you are not going to legalize gay marriage...

I've come to an alternative plan.

Why don't we just decertify marriage from being a "legal arrangement" entirely, and relegate it to the "religious ceremony" that it was actually intended to be? Instead, let us define all rights, privileges, and protections in society around the construct of "civil union" and then everyone is treated equally throughout the nation.

And we can leave it to the churches, synagogues, and mosques to decide whether their respective gods would smile or frown upon any particular union.

CA Prop 8: Since people understand law and justice so well...

LOS ANGELES -- California voters have adopted a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.

This is the thing about our system of government. We have the executive branch. We have the legislative branch. We have the judicial branch. And these were created to provide a system of checks and balances, to ensure that the interests of the nation are best served.

And then... we have... ballot initiatives.

Ballot initiatives can basically say "to hell with the normal 'representative' way of doing things, we're going to put this vote directly to the people". And what we end up with is a situation where the Supreme Court of California, based on vast knowledge and interpretation of laws and precedents, passes a judgment, which is then overturned by the will of the people. Some would call this democracy in action, because the majority spoke. But I call it sick and disgusting. The reason that we have government and a legal system is so that people who have presumably become knowledgeable and expert in matters of public interest can speak in the interests of the people, protecting our rights, while obeying certain guidelines. The ballot initiative subverts that process. Instead, a bunch of uninformed people vote their conscience about what they consider personally acceptable.

Any court that decides that marriage is between one woman and one man is a court acting based on a religious guideline. That is plain and simple fact. The reason why homosexuality is scorned can only be based on two things: (1) religious belief or (2) persecution of those who are "different" from what some majority considers the norm.

Let's consider the matter of gay marriage.

If gay people are allowed to marry, what harm is caused to society? Is there any?

If gay people are allowed to marry, what harm could an opponent assert is being caused?
  • Damaging the sanctity of marriage as it was originally defined?
  • Setting a bad example for our children?
  • Tacitly recognizing homosexuality as an acceptable life choice?
  • Further burdening our government and society with providing equal rights?

These are the only arguments I think one could make, and they are all patently asinine. Why don't we say that an Asian cannot marry a Caucasian? Why don't we say that a Jew cannot marry a Christian? Why don't we say that an African American cannot run for president?

Interestingly, I imagine that there's a sizeable overlap between those who oppose gay marriage, and those who would (at least privately) feel that each of the (equally absurd) ideas in the above paragraph would be acceptable.

Shame on California for even allowing people to vote on this amendment. Though, one good thing that could come from it would be that when Obama appoints a new justice, or two, to the United States Supreme Court, this matter may come again before the highest court, and perhaps gay marriage will be made legal throughout the nation.