Friday, October 31, 2008

Governor Palin Says She's Got First Amendment Rights, Dang It

Seventeen-year-old Pearl met "met a handsome, smooth-talking gambler with a reputation as a con man and layabout. " The two ran off together, and a fast life began for Pearl Hart. She later left husband Hart, who was also a mean drunk, and went on to a life involving robbery, and running a ring of criminals. Pearl's story of life in the fast lane, circa 1900, is presented in an article by Kimberly Matas in today's Arizona Daily Star.

Pearl Hart loved the cowboy lifestyle, and even did a stint in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, writes Ms. Matas. She was "a bawdy, hard-drinking woman who could cuss with the best of the cowboys, but she loved her mother." Guess Ms. Hart didn't merely put cracks in the glass ceiling.

Pearl Hart followed her own path.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Director/Actor Ron Howard and Friends for Obama

Has everyone seen this yet? If not, here goes:

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


After a period of technical problems with our Internet Service Provider, this blog is back in business. ( A shout-out to the those heroes in tech support; and a Bronx Cheer to the sales side - or as they call it the 'business side'.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Preparations for the Spanish Student

Here is a handy Spanish phrase for Halloween: La mujer chilla al ver el vampiro.

Shades of Brian Regan!

Not every spider is scary. This one is pretty cool.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The photo above was taken in Spring Green, Wisconsin, near Taliesin. Frank Lloyd Wright could have enjoyed this view, too.

It's Sunday. Read, rest, relax and enjoy!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Gone Fishing

Might be a good day to go fishing, what with the global stock markets all messed up and Lute Olson suddenly retiring as coach of the Arizona Wildcats. At a minimum, an afternoon off is warranted, particularly if you consider yourself to be a liberal. Representative Robin Hayes (R. N.C.) says that "liberals hate real Americans who work", the LA Times reports. So heck, why put in a full day at the salt mine yourself, liberals? Reminds me of that Hoyt Axton song, "Work your fingers to the bone whadda you get? Boney fingers."

Representative Hayes and the slate of Republicans running for office this year, including Senator McCain, Governor Palin and Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota, have been saying and doing a lot of wacky things in the past week. For those who are hard working, patriotic, pro-American and totally offended by and opposed to the rantings of these folks, here is an idea: Put up the 'gone fishin' sign, take the afternoon off and, if you haven't already done so, go cast your early ballot for Senator Barack Obama for President, and then go have a long lunch with friends.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Political Party Symbols

Almost every American knows this about the major political parties: Democrats = Donkey. Republicans = Elephant. So, what's wrong with this picture? Link

Food and Drink

Some recommendations on inexpensive wine from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Use this list cautiously. One recommended wine is Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay and, in the past, I've found Lindemans wine to be not so good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recommended Reading: "The Runner" by David Samuels

In September 2001, The New Yorker published an article by David Samuels called "The Runner". In that article, Samuels wrote about impostor and thief Jim Hogue, who is most famous for creating a phony identity that fooled the Princeton admission committee into accepting Hogue as an undergraduate. That story is the core, and perhaps the best written part, of Samuels' short book The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue.

The Runner is thought provoking. Why did Hogue live as he did? As described by Samuels, Hogue appears to be intelligent, personable enough to create social networks, and a real athlete - a talented long distance runner. He graduated from high school in 1977, an A and B student and a star athlete, and attended the University of Wyoming.

Hogue appears to have had the skills to follow a conventional path to success. Instead, the wheels fall off the bus. In 1985, Hogue enrolls in Palo Alto High School. He later turns up in Colorado claiming to be a member of the faculty at Stanford. He moves on to Aspen to plan his effort to obtain admission to an Ivy League institution. Admission to Princeton was the result of that idea. Periods of incarceration occur, as well as subsequent gigs involving more misrepresentation, and a continued career as a thief.

We are left to ponder why he choose his path. Samuels wrote this book without much cooperation from Hogue. For material, Samuels turns to Hogue's 'marks'. As a result, much of The Runner illustrates various fundamentals about social interaction: (1) People generally expect to be told the truth; (2) People have "a finely developed ability to detect those who cheat in social exchanges." ( (3) People will tolerate a certain amount of what they suspect is baloney.

The Runner raises many interesting ideas about social interactions. If you aren't already worn out by the con artists and operators in your own day-to-day life, or want think about those folks in a fresh context, it is a good read.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Garrison Keillor on McCain - Palin

Feeling sluggish this Monday morning? Garrison Keillor's brisk and crisp opinion piece on the McCain - Palin ticket will kick-start "the little grey cells."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Highly Recommended Reading: Jamie Harrison

"Tumacacori Pony"
Amy Dixon

When working on the picture above, I kept thinking "edge of the crazies, edge of the crazies", which was not necessarily the way I was feeling, but is actually the name of a fun mystery book by Jamie Harrison.

In Edge of the Crazies, Ms. Harrison debuts Jules Clement, archeologist-turned -sheriff out of Blue Deer, Montana. The day-to-day work by Jules and his team, addressing the weirdness that is small town life, is ramped up when a murder occurs involving wealthy newcomers to Montana. The writing in Edge of the Crazies is first rate, the plot and characters engaging, and the author's combination of mystery and humor is just right.

All of Ms. Harrison's books featuring Jules Clement have been a pleasure to read; if only there were more of them. These "Jules" are scarce, but well worth your time.

Edge of the Crazies (1995)

Going Local (1996)

An Unfortunate Prairie Occurrence (1998)

Blue Deer Thaw (2000)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Washington Post Endorses Sen. Obama

Washington Post endorsement.

The editorial states in part:

"IT GIVES US no pleasure to oppose Mr. McCain . . .But the stress of a campaign can reveal some essential truths, and the picture of Mr. McCain that emerged this year is far from reassuring. To pass his party's tax-cut litmus test, he jettisoned his commitment to balanced budgets. He hasn't come up with a coherent agenda, and at times he has seemed rash and impulsive. And we find no way to square his professed passion for America's national security with his choice of a running mate who, no matter what her other strengths, is not prepared to be commander in chief.

. . .

But Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment."

Good News Baby Boomers

There is still time to become a genius. From The New Yorker, "[L]ate bloomers bloom late because they simply aren’t much good until late in their careers."

Perhaps late bloomers are instead entering a state of self-actualization, which Abraham Maslow defined as "the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc." Or as Sister Donna said to her sixth grade class at Holy Innocents Grade School, "Bloom where you are planted."

Moon over Madison.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Final Debate

The debates are over. Let's set aside the issues for a moment and consider something completely superficial: when did John McCain have cosmetic eye lift surgery? No 72 year old human has his wide-eye look without medical assistance.

Only a few more weeks until the election. I voted by absentee ballot last Tuesday - city hall was jumpin' with people registering to vote, filling out absentee ballots, and bringing in completed ballot materials. It was exciting!

Election day will be busy, so you may want to take a look at your calendar and consider whether or not completing an absentee ballot now makes sense for you.

Eye Up-Date: The Huffington Post also has a snippet about Senator McCain's eyes, but this concerns his frequent blinking. According to one study, "For eight U.S. presidential elections during the period 1960-2004, the rapid blinker during debates received fewer overall votes than his opponent. In seven of these eight elections, the rapid blinker also lost the electoral vote and was defeated at the polls." Dang - that piece of information takes all the drama out of who will win the election. Guess I should have added "spoiler alert" to this post's title.

Eye Up-Date II: Check this out and you be the judge:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Easy Rider - Mideast Style

From the Los Angeles Times today: Mideast anti-Americanism doesn't apply to Harley Davidsons.

Yeah; turn up the Steppenwolf:

Get your motor runnin'.
Head out on the highway.

Lookin' for adventure

in whatever comes our way.

Born to be wild.

My jacket from back in the day.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Recommended Reading: "Chasing Darkness" by Robert Crais

Private-eye Elvis Cole returns for the 12th time in Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais. In this volume the detective, with his partner Joe Pike, investigate whether justice went awry on a case he worked on some years earlier. At that time, Cole was employed by criminal defense counsel to investigate a murder charge against Lionel Byrd. Cole found evidence that cleared Byrd of the charge.

Now, the Los Angeles police believe Byrd was a serial murderer; and that he caused two deaths after the previous charge was dropped. Cole and Pike leap into the action, tracking down old murder mysteries, examining new suspicious behavior, and fending off corruption and official obfuscation.

Chasing Darkness is well written, and Elvis Cole often has a touch of humor about him. The plot has some nice spikes in tension, and enough twists and turns to satisfy anyone looking to escape into a mystery.

A few small plot quibbles. First, Crais has his character devote significant time, money, and personal risk into an investigation that isn't supported by a paying client. This does not seem believable, but it can be ignored for the sake of a good story.

The second quibble is the author's incessant fixing of blame and guilt onto Byrd's defense team for the initial failed conviction. The police and the victim's family relentlessly blame the defense for "causing" subsequent murder; even Elvis Cole feels worried and guilty in the matter.

In a world where many people have at best a shaky understanding of how the criminal justice system works, this is so wrong to do. If the government wants to incarcerate someone, it is the government's responsibility to find sufficient proof to do so, the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The absolute duty of the defense is to test the government's case because wrongful incarceration destroys the the life of the person convicted, and denies real justice to the victims. When so much of popular media, such as Fox News, distorts how the criminal justice system works, it would be helpful if someone with Mr. Crais' popularity presented the accurate picture.

These matters aside, Chasing Darkness is an enjoyable read.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


It is a beautiful Sunday morning. A perfect day to read, rest and relax.

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Friday, October 10, 2008


It's been an ugly week on a number of fronts, including reports today about the behavior of McCain supporters at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. These folks are acting nasty and feeling angry.

How do they think I feel after eight years of George Bush?

It looks like the Republicans will be very unpleasant during the final weeks of the election. It would be much better if GOP leaders encouraged civility because the world economy remains in an up-roar and reading about crazy things on two different fronts is more than the rest of us care to deal with.

Next Monday is a regularly scheduled bank holiday in the U.S. It seems likely that many people in the financial sector will be working all weekend instead of enjoying any time off. For the rest of us, tomorrow is Saturday which means there is college football to enjoy.

With good weather in the forecast for my area, I plan to be outside, listening to a game on the radio, and perhaps enjoying a beer. I have a bunch of books going, including Chasing Darkness, a new Robert Crais book featuring his character Elvis Cole. We can't fix the world's macro problems, but we can seize the day.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

When to Apologize

The fall 2008 edition of the journal In Character examines the topic of forgiveness. In this edition, Theodore Dairymple writes about what he calls the false apology syndrome: today's public figures apologizing for events that occurred in the long distant past. Examples of the false apology syndrome, according to Mr. Dairymple, are Pope John II apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades, and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair apologizing to the Irish for the famine. (Note: 2008 is the international year of the potato).

Dairymple argues that apologies issued by individuals who did not commit the injury, and who are long removed from the acts and decisions that caused harm, are a perversion. A real apology, he contends, requires self-examination and evolution by an individual who was actually responsible for an action. He contends that expressing shame for these past acts is the correct and precise sentiment and not guilt, which is associated with apology.

It is an interesting argument. An official apology for starving my ancestors doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. However, expressing shame for a political culture's crimes is indeed appropriate. In fact, it is a more powerful sentiment than saying 'we're sorry', which is hollow when it doesn't cost the speaker anything to say it - we know the spokesperson didn't actually do the misdeed.

In contrast, stating, or even hinting that you are embarrassed or ashamed of your country's past acts can cost the speaker, as recent dust-ups and misunderstandings in this year's presidential election race have illustrated.

With respect to the Presidential race, the manner in which John McCain is running his campaign - the negative ads, his choice of language, the actions and inactions of his running mate - would make most of us feel ashamed were we the candidate. Apparently, Senator McCain has drifted far, far away from the anchors of dignity, honesty, integrity and reality. And I am wary about how low he will sink during the next few weeks, and how hard he will try to pull Americans down with him.

Fortunately, Senator McCain will have time for personal reflection after the campaign and an opportunity to apologize. Which leads me to recall a piece titled Public Apology written by Steve Martin for the New Yorker some years ago. It starts: "Looking out over the East River from my jail cell and still running for public office, I realize that I have taken several actions in my life for which I owe public apologies." For years I have, on various occasions, pulled this piece out of my saved articles pile and read it for a laugh.

The New Yorker doesn't have Mr. Martin's article on-line, but if you go to this link at Amazon and scroll down through the page for his book Pure Drivel, it is reprinted in full.

Check it out. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Economy, Election, and Staying Sane Through It All

The economy continues to dominate the news. Other than remaining calm and ignoring the hysterical newspaper accounts, what actual steps can you undertake to deal with the situation?

Number 1: Keep working for the election of Barack Obama as President. There are only a few weeks to go. Number 2: Look forward to basketball season. Number 3: Avoid reading the details of the economic news and read a good book, instead.

Here is comedian Sarah Silverman doing her bit for the election. If you don't like salty language, you may wish to skip this video.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Special Section on the Environment in Today's Wall Street Journal

Today's Wall Street Journal has a special section on the environment. The print edition asks a number of environmentalists to identify useful reading. Couldn't find a link to the article on the WSJ web site, so here is a round-up of the titles:

An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore.

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

Global Warning: The Last Chance for Change by Paul Brown.

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. (Everyone should read this book sometime in their life).

The Rough Guide to Climate Change, by Robert Henson.

The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America by David Wilcove.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Something About Harry" by Gene Weingarten

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gene Weingarten's article in today's Washington Post, a tribute to his dog Harry and to the virtues of older dogs, is a fine piece of writing. Special note to dog lovers: have tissues at hand.

Bread Baking Revolution Continues

The world of home baking buzzed two years ago when Mark Bittman wrote a story in the New York Times about Jim Lahey's easy method of baking large, crusty loaves of bread at home. Here is the link to the original story, and a follow-up, from 2006. This method produces a great loaf that anyone can make. It is easy, does not require special baking equipment, and is absolutely worth the minimal effort it requires.

There is one issue with this method. It requires the baker to plan ahead because the dough must rest for 12 to 18 hours. This long rest is what Mr. Bittman seeks to avoid in his new variation on no-knead bread. This new method calls for a 4 1/2 hour rest.

Will this produce great bread, as the original method does? Only time will tell. But it is Sunday, and I am willing to give it a try.

Mushrooms slowly work on this tree stump.

McCain/Palin Lie to the American People During Their Campaign. Won't They Lie Again if Elected to Serve?

According to the Huffington Post, President Clinton was on the campaign trail for Sen. Obama, and doing a fine job. This improvement is noted.

Revised: Food, Drink and Two Recommended Readings

Due to the mysterious technical elements associated with blogs, Wednesday's post on Heirloom, by Tim Stark, and Population 485, by Michael Perry, became hopelessly scrambled this morning. I don't know why this happened and, at the moment, my intellectual curiosity on the matter is at zero. Accordingly, and under the operating principle of "forward forever, backward never", that post won't be recreated in full.

Briefly, in Heirloom author Tim Stark recounts his experiences in transforming from a New York consultant into a tomato farmer. Stark returned home to "his mother's backyard", fallow farmland in Eckerton, Pennsylvania, to grow heirloom varieties of tomatoes. His successful venture resulted in his 'ugly' tomatoes being served in the fanciest restaurants in New York City.

Similarly, in Population 485, author Michael Perry returns home to New Auburn, Wisconsin, to find success and personal happiness. In Perry's excellent book, he describes returning to the small town he grew-up in and reintegrating with the community by joining the fire and rescue squad. Population 485 and Heirloom share a similar feeling, with both authors adjusting to a return to their childhood homes to find happiness as an adult. Perry's book is particularly well-written.

With tomatoes on my mind and cooler temperatures on the way, Wednesday seemed like a good time to make soup. It still is.

Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania in the Electoral Mix

From Politico: McCain camp says that to win the election, it must win either Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Pennsylvania.

Up-Date: The Wall Street Journal reports that McCain is a "serious contender" in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Does Sarah Palin Read?

How hard is it to name, at a minimum, the leading newspaper in Alaska? What conclusions about Governor Palin can reasonably be drawn from the interview?