Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lucky ENoB 7

I think it's time to lighten up the ENoB discussion for a bit. Let's talk Christmas. ;-) Everyone celebrates it in one fashion or another. The religious go to church and rejoice in the birth of their savior. The secular spend time with family and celebrate their blessings. The pagans have Yule. The Jews get together and go out for Chinese food. Fact is, the country more or less closes down and so people take time out from their normal grind, even if it is just for a couple of days. So, which is your preferred method of observance? Do you like to stay local and enjoy friends and immediate family? Do you like to travel and see those distant from you? And by travel, I mean spend at least one night sleeping away from home. Or do you prefer a combination? Split your celebration time between remote and local? Either, neither, or both?

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Monday, December 19, 2005

The Most Famous Reindeer of All

So, we picked Josh up at school on Friday. He had some paper reindeer antlers on his head and his nose had some bright red face paint on it. "Who are you supposed to be?" I asked him, even though I knew the answer. He stuck his chin out proudly and told me. "I'm Redolph the rude nosed reindeer!"

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Friday, December 16, 2005

The Difference Between Christmas and Hanukkah

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be serious. I realize there are real and substantive differences between the two holidays and faiths. I also realize some people are sensitive about this sort of thing. If you are offended, I apologize. If you are mock-offended, I mock-apologize.

1. Christmas is one day, same day every year, December 25. Jews also love December 25th. It's another paid day off work. We go to movies and out for Chinese food and Israeli dancing.

Chanukah is 8 days. It starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that falls. No one is ever sure. Jews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks when Chanukah starts, forcing us to consult the calendar so we don't look like idiots. We all have the same calendar, provided free with a donation from the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher, the local Sinai Memorial Chapel (especially in Florida) or other Jewish funeral home.

2. Christmas is a major holiday. It's easily in the top 5 in Christianity.

Chanukah is a minor holiday that probably wouldn't crack the top ten. It has the same theme as most Jewish holidays. They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.

3. Christians get wonderful presents such as jewelry, perfume, stereos.

Jews get practical presents such as underwear, socks, or the collected works of the Rambam, which looks impressive on the bookshelf.

4. There is only one way to spell Christmas.

No one can decide how to spell Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc.

5. Christmas is a time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their partners expect special gifts.

Jewish men are relieved of that burden. No one expects a diamond ring on Chanukah.

6. Christmas brings enormous electric bills.

Candles are used for Chanukah. Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to the energy crisis.

7. Christmas carols are beautiful...Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful.

Chanukah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the hora. Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren. And don't Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?

8. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful. The sweet smell of cookies and cakes baking. Happy people are gathered around in festive moods.

A home preparing for Chanukah smells of oil, potatoes, and onions. The home, as always, is full of loud people all talking at once.

9. Christian women have fun baking Christmas cookies.

Jewish women burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkas on Chanukah. Another reminder of our suffering through the ages.

10. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

The players in the Chanukah story are Antiochus, Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. No one can spell it or pronounce it. On the plus side, we can tell our friends anything and they believe we are wonderfully versed in our history.

11. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth.

Jews think, "Yossela, Bubela, snap out of it. Your woman is pregnant, you didn't sleep with her, and now you want to blame G-d? Here's the number of my shrink".

12. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercialized.

The same holds true for Chanukah, even though it is a minor holiday. It makes sense. How could we market a major holiday such as Yom Kippur? Forget about celebrating. Think observing. Come to synagogue, starve yourself for 27 hours, become one with your dehydrated soul, beat your chest, confess your sins, a guaranteed good time for you and your family. Tickets a mere $200 per person.

Better stick with Chanukah!

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Injustice Department

Courtesy of the Washington Post comes this story about more of the administration's political appointees at work. Apparently, they have been stripping dissent out of voting rights issues that have come before the DoJ. States with a history of discrimination have to get voting rights legislation precleared before they can even vote on it. The DoJ is supposed to look at it and determine if minorities would be disenfranchised. Under the DoJ's watchful eye, the
Texas redistricting was allowed to move forward, as was a Georgia law requiring voters to show driver's licenses to be allowed to vote. These were sharply criticized by many DoJ employees who investigated them. Their dissent was stripped out of the final report, and the appointees OKed them. Fortunately, the courts have declared the Georgia one unconstitutional. Let's hope the judiciary committee takes up the Texas redistricting.

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Back To The Front

I have returned from the wedding in Florida and caught up on work, e-mail, and blog reading. It was unseasonably cold and the wedding was outdoors, but a ood time was had by all! I'll write it up at some nebulous unspecified date. Which means you'll never see it. ;-) Now I can resume my personal War on Christmas. Sorry. I know I need to let it go. It's just become so pervasive. I'm tired of being told that I have some secret agenda to stomp out Jesus. Well, in another month, it'll all be over. Then we'll need a new reason why the Christian majority is being marginalized. Until then, Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 09, 2005

ENoB VI - Six neithers laying

Well, I'm off for the weekend and may or may not have any posts until Tuesday. I'm going to Orlando for my good friend Allen's (Rabbi Moyshe) wedding. No, he's not really a rabbi, but we have been know in years past as "The Rappin' Rabbis", so it fits. Feel free to keep the comment threads going and I'll weigh in when I can.

In the meantime, here is this week's ENoB... It's inspired by a somewhat scary bumper decal that I saw on my way in to work this morning. It had the silhouette of a cross and the words "Pray. Obey. And Trust." surrounding it. I searched the web for an image to no avail. It didn't scare me because of the cross. I have no problem with people displaying their faith or beliefs. There's nothing wrong with being proud of who you are. This is different however. By putting this on their car, they are hoping you will read it and somehow be transformed to their way of thinking. And this particular sentiment is creepy. Pray to God, obey those with authority over you, and trust unquestioningly. It's mindless sloganeering and more of the whole dissent is treason pap.

Now, it's not scary to me because I think it will convince someone. I don't. As a good friend once said, "You can't convince anyone from the back of your bumper." If you see it and agree, you'll likely honk in support or at least have a warm feeling inside. If you disagree, it'll make you mad or disgusted or somesuch. It's just another easy way for the puppeteers to foment division and polarization.

So, the question this week (which is not as well formed as I'd like it to be) is: Bumper stickers and window decals; Divisive? Entertaining? Either. Neither. Or Both.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

More Toilet Humor

Quite literally this time. I did a major bathroom cleaning over the weekend. Josh's accuracy still leaves a bit to be desired so I find I have to clean more often. I decided to make things a little easier on myself and got one of those in-the-tank cleansing tablets. I plopped them in the tank right before we went out and forgot about it.

When we got home I heard a shout from the bathroom. Maya came running out. "What happened to the toilet?" she asked. She ran to the other bathroom and flushed. "What happened to our toilets!" She was a little panicked. "What do you mean?" I asked her, having forgotten my cleaning activities. "The water," she began, "is all blue!" I barely managed to keep a straight face. "It wasn't." I lied. "What did you do to it?" She was frantic. "I didn't do anything, Daddy!" Her mother likewise kept up the ruse. "Oh my goodness! It wasn't like that when we left."

Maya looked from one to the other of us with real concern on her face. The toilets were blue. "Wait a minute," she said. She walked over to the sink and slowly turned the handle, peering very closely at the spout. Clear water came out. "Whew!" she said. I couldn't hold it any more and laughed. "What's so funny?" I motioned her over to the toilet and took the lid off the tank. "I put that blue tablet in earlier. It helps keep it clean."

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Religious Conflicts Start Early

I used to have hope for the future. I used to believe that much of the intolerance and hate was from the older generation and that as the younger generation came into their own, it would star to go away. I am less certain of that nowadays. Children seem to be indoctrinated into intolerance at an early age. Perhaps it is just another part of children establishing social hierarchy. Dunno. I'm seeing it more now because Maya is in public school. When she was homeschooled, she tended to be around children whose parents had a somewhat different mindset. Some of the encounters with her schoolmates have been amusing. The latest one has been very upsetting to her, though...

She was at school last week when a girl named Lynnette asked her if she believed in God. She knew Maya was Jewish. Maya said that she did. Lynnette asked, "Well, do you believe in Jesus Christ?" Maya said no. "Then you don't believe in God." Lynnette replied smugly. Maya insisted that she did, but Lynnette just reiterated her points.

When Maya told me about it, she was practically in tears. Having been picked on for a variety of reasons including my faith when I was a child, my heart went out to her. She was upset because she didn't like how Lynnette was treating her, but also because she had nobody there to stick up for her and she didn't know what to say. I had a few suggestions. "Tell her 'I don't poke holes in your mythology. Don't criticize mine.' or how about 'You are using an unproven premise to support your conclusion. Circular reasoning is a very ineffective debate technique.' " My wife stepped in with a less antagonistic suggestion, "Just ignore her. You don't need her permission to believe in God."

I hope that works, but I was struck by how young the proselytizing can start. I have no problem with anyone believing in their religion. However, just because YOU believe it does not make it a fact. And trying to control other people based on religion is why the world is as screwed up as it is right now. I think that is why I'm so reactionary to majority religions displaying symbology on public property. It's just one more thing to make kids want to conform. Now, a Christmas tree is a far cry from a frieze of the crucifixion, but how do you define the line?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's another silly meme quiz!

Sun King
You scored 26 shyness, 13 bitterness, 62 moral, and 37 eccentric!
You are the Sun King, from Abbey Road! You are probably very popular within your circle of friends. You are calm, collected, and wise, but you also have a tremendous sense of humor. You party and have fun, but you don't neglect your responsibilities.
"Here comes the sun king
Everybody's laughing
Everybody's happy
Here comes the sun king"
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 0% on shyness
You scored higher than 0% on bitterness
You scored higher than 99% on moral
You scored higher than 46% on eccentric
Link: The Beatles Song Character Test written by medical_cannoli.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Chin up, lad

Just thought I'd post the latest in my health and fitness accomplishments. In addition to losing nearly 30 lbs, I am now able to do unaided chin-ups! In the past, I have needed to use a fitness machine that counters some of your weight so that you can do the exercise. I was only able to do three sets of two chin-ups, but I was able to do them. Never before in my life have I been able to do unaided chin-ups. So, woo hoo!

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Remember the time we...

I'm swiping this off Wombat's blog, but he told me to, so it's ok. Today's fun assignment is to post a memory of you and me. The catch is that this memory must be of something that never happened! :) So, yeah, it's a silly writing exercise and a lazy cop-out of a blog post, but that's what I feel like today. So there!

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Friday, December 02, 2005

ENoB V - One for the thumb

For this week's ENoB, we delve into that minefield that is the holiday season. We are living in a time when large groups of people are offended by the words "Merry Christmas" and an equal number feel oppressed by "Happy Holidays", yet both sides want to express good will and cheer. Quite a paradox. And it's pretty much everywhere. Check out this article in the Union Tribune. Now, in my mind, private businesses have the right to do whatever they want to do. The moment you bring government property or sponsorship into it, you are bound by the establishment clause. For example, my employer has a Christmas tree in the lobby of our offices. There is no menorah. No Kwanzaa symbols. And that is fine by me. It's his company. He can do as he sees fit. There is no law that says "wherever you find a Christian symbol, you must pair it with those of other religions". It does not harm me or my family in any tangible way. On the flip side, when the City of Encinitas holds a city parade, and calls it The Encinitas Christmas Parade, that is a problem. It suggests that Christianity has specific legal status over and above other religions. It uses public resources to celebrate a religious holiday. I think the problem is that we have two Christmases and they overlap. There is a secular one and a religious one, but it is impossible to separate them. But we need to narrow this phenomenon down to a single question. Tricky. I think secular, religious, or both is too easy. Let's go with the political angle. Are attempts to restrict the government's use of Christian religious symbology an "assault on Christianity"? A fair and reasonable enforcement of he separation of church and state? Either, neither, or both?

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

So, You Wanna...

It doesn't matter what you wannna do. Odds are there is some documentation somewhere on it. And that's kind of the motif of this site. It's like an abridged "For Dummies" collection that is free and online. The topics are all over the map. There are fitness related ones, such as SoYouWanna Tone and Flatten Your Abs and SoYouWanna Run a Marathon. There are bizarre ones like SoYouWanna Get a Ferret. There are even career practical ones, like SoYouWanna Get a Short Story Published In the ones I sampled, the advice was simplistic and straightforward. This is not a place to go if you have already read extensively on the subject. But it does look like a good jumping off point. It will get you mind going in the right direction and sometimes give you links to more.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Interesting New IM Network

It's called IMVU. I'm posting about it because it reminds me of something a friend from the past had come up with as a business idea. She had wanted to create an IM< network built on cartoonish avatars with different emotions and animations. We were going to start a company. I think I still have the shares of stock somewhere. :) This one looks like a glorified teenage style hookup network from the style of the animations and the ones displayed prominently on the home page. However, for the graphically inclined, it may offer the possibility of a little income as the developers "sell" instances of the skins to anyone who finds them appealing. I may check it out from this angle. I think I'm past the "hot inernet hookup" phase of my life, assuming I ever had one.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Duke's Denouement

Well, it's official. Escondido's Representative to Congress, the guy I voted against, has resigned. This resignation came on the heels of his guilty plea to a raft of political corruption charges. I may have mentioned him some time back. He's the guy who sold his house to a defense contractor for hundreds of thousands of dollars over market value. The contractor then sold it at a loss. In exchange, Duke got the contractor's company some defense contracts. The contractor has since sold the company, likely recouping the loss and then some. Duke is probably going to jail and it's about damn time. He's been getting away with this for years. And who always got outraged when people called him on it. I'm most amused by the comments I saw in my local paper. A variety of on the street comments. The Democrat and Independent both viewed this as a sad thing, but also an 'about time' thing. The Republicans were all impressed with his character in coming clean. They were disappointed in his actions and in some cases surprised, but at least he was acting honorably. So, this thing dragged on for over a year. Someone else could have been representing us in his stead. He has been vociferously denying his guilt. And now that he has seen exactly how much evidence they have on him, he is willing to make a plea. He may get a lighter sentence if he gives up his co-conspirators. Yeah. That's some impressive character. Thbbbbbbbt!

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Telling you more than you wanted to know...

We had an amusing exchange in the car with Maya last night as we drove back from a dinner party.

Maya: Mom? Dad? You know what I like about our family?
Me: What, honey?
Maya: When you fart, nobody makes a big deal out of it. Nobody says 'Ewwwwww! You farted.' And I think that's good.

This is what she likes about our family?!? *sigh*

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Friday, November 25, 2005

ENoB IV - The Goblet of Ire

For this week's ENoB, we are going to delve into everyone's favorite punching bag, the pharmaceutical industry. This time we aren't looking for an adjective, we are assessing blame. Ironically, neither of the two targets I am offering up for blame is Glaxo, even though they are the root cause. Back in March, Glaxo ran afoul of the FDA for failing to adhere to the GMP (good manufacturing practices). Paxil CR was taken off the market until Glaxo could resolve the manufacturing issues. The FDA issued a press release. The first indication for many taking the medication that something was amiss was that they went to pick up a refill and were told that the pharmacy didn't have any. In fact, none of the local pharmacies had any. What's more, they didn't know why. You now have a patient who needs anxiety meds anxious about the fact that they can't get them. Patient calls doctor. Doctor is surprised, too. So, whose responsibility is it to notify the consumer? The doctor and pharmacy both have information what medications their customers are using. Shouldn't one of them have noticed the press release and taken steps to notify the people who could be detrimentally affected? Or perhaps you think Glaxo is responsible. Or the consumer. In that case, your vote is neither. Pharmacy? Doctor? Either, Neither, or both?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The One With The Thanks

Since I won't be internet enabled starting at 4pm today and going until some time Friday evening, I figured I ought to do my Thanksgving post today. We are heading out to the mountains in Julian for what will be our second annual Thanksgiving holiday camping trip. Last year's is chronicled here. So, in no particular order, I am thankful for:

  • My wonderful family, both near and far
  • Great friends who have not forgotten me though I moved 3000 miles away
  • The loyal readers of my blog
  • An extra thank you to those who comment regularly.
    Your feedback helps spur me on.
  • The good health and prosperity we enjoy
  • Patio Playhouse, for giving me an outlet to get creative again
  • An excellent job at a great company
  • Weight Watchers
  • The capacity to realize how good my life is
  • The compassion to realize that others lives may not be so good and sometimes need my help
  • The fact that those I omitted unintentionally from this list are understanding enough to know I appreciate them even though I didn't by name.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Now THIS is cool

Check out this story from the New York Times. It appears Warner Brothers is going to launch an internet video on demand service for old and canceled TV shows. There is no mention in the article of whether it will be a free or a pay service, but one article I saw said that each half-hour show will have two minutes of commercials that will not be skippable. Some titles mentioned include "Welcome Back Kotter", "La Femme Nikita", and "Babylon 5". The alleged reason the network is doing this is because "It wants to use the Internet to reach viewers rather than depend on the whims of cable networks and local TV stations." I say it is because they want to make money. But this seems like a fan friendly way of making money, so I'm not opposed to it. Could this be the future of television? We here at BriWise are taking a hopeful, wait-and-see approach.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

ENoB III...in 3D!!!

We're going to tackle a more serious topic in this week's Either, Neither, or Both. Moderate Republicans have dealt the Bush Administration some setbacks of late. The ANWAR drilling has been put off as have budget cuts for programs targeting poorer Americans. Is this due to some newfound courage that has enabled them to stand up to the bullying of the exterme right wing of their party? Or have they merely realized that their seats are not as safe as they once thought they were? What do you think? Courage? Fear? Courage inspired by Fear? Either. Neither. Or Both.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Does Ecology Trump Economy?

Over at OmniNerd, there is a really good article on whether or not there is an economic savings to owning a hybrid vehicle. It turns out, if all you are interested in is saving money, an economy car like a Corolla is likely better. Even though you save money on gas per month, this is more than offset by the premium you are paying for the hybrid technology. If you assume 15,000 miles per year, then you can get the number of gallons of gas you would use. So, a Prius has an average mpg of 55 and a Corolla has 36. So, you are buying 273 gallons of gas per year with the Prius and 417 with the Corolla. This is actually plotted on the site for a range of gas prices from $2.50 per gallon up to $10. As you can see, if we climb back to the high watermark of $3 per gallon, you are saving less than $1000 a year. It would take you around 10 years to catch up to the difference in the sticker price. Possibly more when you consider that there are never dealer incentives to move the hybrids as they are on back order. I guess it comes down to your goal. Are you trying to save money, gas, or some combination of the two? A Corolla or a Scion xA seems like a good compromise. While mid 30s in gas mileage is not great, you are still decreasing your consumption. Mind you, I'm still probably going to get an Insight or maybe a scooter. For those advocating diesel, that's not yet and option for cars here in CA. We don't have low sulfur diesel yet and without it, cars can't meet the emission requirements necessary to be sold in CA.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Deeply Irresponsible

This post is inspired by James over at Aces Full of Links. In the linked post, he talks about how Dubya feels it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite history. And the words started echoing in my head. Deeply Irresponsible. Deeply Irresponsible. And the guitars started rocking out. And I found myself singing...

Deeply Irresponsible
(with apologies to Robert Palmer)

How can he be the President
When he is barely sentient, yeah yeah
Incompetence so mythical
Is anything but typical

He can beat a dead horse, he'll compel you with force
And he can't change his mind so he'll just stay the course
He used to just make me ill, now I find him

Deeply irresponsible
Deeply irresponsible

His leadership is questionable, huh
It's simply inexcusable
The truth is irrefutable
The man is so impeachable

We can't count all his flaws, though he's given us cause.
And he wants some applause, which makes us all drop our jaws.
He used to just make me ill, now I find him

Deeply irresponsible
Deeply irresponsible

(Deeply irresponsible) It's a crime,
he's just runnin' up a deficit
(Deeply irresponsible) Such a slime, I wish that he would just go

He's unethical, he's dragged us all to hell
He gives me ulcers and post traumatical stress
He's trashing the country, we'll be cleaning his mess
He used to just make me ill, now I find him

(Deeply irresponsible) It's a crime,
he's just runnin' up a deficit
(Deeply irresponsible) Such a slime, I wish that he would just go

Do not misunderestimate
His syntax is not all that great, Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
I wish we didn't have to wait, huh
For him to move out in '08

He's a friend to the rich, should be digging a ditch
And I think you'll agree he's a son-of-a-bitch!
He used to just make me ill, now I find him

Deeply irresponsible
Deeply irresponsible

It's a crime, he's just runnin' up a deficit
(Deeply irresponsible) Such a slime, I wish that he would just go
It's a crime, he's just runnin' up a deficit
(Deeply irresponsible) Such a slime, I wish that he would just go

Deeply irresponsible

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Here's a Bad Idea

Check this out. There's a traffic congestion problem in Southern California. You may have heard about it. Well, it is particularly bad between Riverside and Orange counties. Here is one of the proposed solutions. They was to dig an 11 mile long tunnel through the earthquake prone mountains! The tunnel would start within a mile of a fault that produced a 6.0 quake recently. Haven't they been saying that we are due for another big quake soon? I'll pass on that tunnel, thanks. And the best part? It's going to take something on the order of 25 years to build. Anyone want to lay odds on whether or not we'll have a damaging quake in that time frame? Perhaps mass transit, telecommuting, and remote offices would be better solutions.

(Hat tip to Robin for the link.)

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Just found a couple of cool blogs

You'll never guess who they belong to. Don't you hate when people say "You'll never guess"? Of course you won't. In those situations, there are far too many parameters. And how are you supposed to respond. Do you guess? You've just been told you never will. So, are you a glutton for punishment? Or do you just resent the implication? Other people might guess, but you, never. So, you start guessing. Once in a blue moon, you get it right, but usually, you just end up giving in. So. Sorry to put you all on the spot like that. Do NOT guess. I beg of you. I'll just tell you and we'll pretend I never said "you'll never guess"...

One of these blogs I just found. The other was sent my way by Robin, proprietor of Hearding Kittens. Robin found a blog called The Boy Who Heard Music. It appears to be a work of serial fiction written by Pete Townshend of The Who. I've started to read it an it looks bizarre and interesting. If you like The Who, this is probably worth a read.

I found Dilbert creator Scott Adams' blog on my own. His looks to be the more typical journal style blog, but imbued with his humor. I laughed out loud at both posts I read. I particularly liked his post on immortality.

I'll be adding both blogs to the roll.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Either, Neither, or Both II

In this weeks ENoB, we are turning to a new habit that my wife has developed. She actually asked me if it was cool or just annoying? And I wondered. Is it cool? Is it annoying? Is it both? I will of course wait for your views before weighing in. My wife has been learning Spanish, and is getting pretty good at it. She is trying to work with the kids on their Spanish so they can be fluent as well. Then they can talk about me without my understanding. ;-) At any rate, from time to time she will translate what I said, just after I said it, to the children. This translation occurs almost as soon as the words are out of my mouth. I understand some of what she says, which I should, since she is translating, but some of it I can't seem to grasp. So, playing interpreter for people who don't need it; annoying or cool? Either. Neither. Or Both.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Please Clean Up After Your ____________

Fill in the blank. You know you want to. No, this is not another BriWise interactive quiz. Just giving you a chance to mentally fill it in before I tell my tale. You're thinking "Dog". Some of you might be thinking "Child", but dog is probably the more common answer. If I added context to it, such as "I was rollerblading on a paved path in a public park", dog would be reinforced. That's because of all the signs on the trails say "Please clean up after your dog." Why then, are there no signs reminding people to "please clean up after your horse"? After all, their mess is much larger and less likely to fall in some out of the way place. A dog will try to find a grassy spot to do his thing. A horse won't even stop walking...

You're putting it together, aren't you? I'm using some foreshadowing here. Rollerblades. Paved trail. Horse droppings. This can't be good. You may even think you know how all the pieces fit together, but wait! Let me tell you how it happened.

We had decided to go to the park for a little family exercise and picnic. My wife went earlier in the morning as the park was having a program to promote their horse trails and hiking trails. So, she went on a hike. We were to meet her there later with bikes and rollerblades where we could all exercise together. The park has a nice paved loop that goes around a lake. The loop is only three quarters of a mile, so it is manageable for the kids. My wife stayed with the kids since her legs were tired from the hike while I did a little blading. Their pace is somewhat slower than mine and she wanted me to have a chance to really exercise.

I set off down the steeper path the to trail. It's not super steep, but it is steep enough for someone not very coordinated. Someone like me. I didn't die. I didn't even fall. I wobbled a little and made my wife nervous, but that was all. I did a couple of miles solo and then helped Maya roller blade for a lap and a half. No injuries and only one minor fall for Maya. As we skated, she asked about my wrist guards. She had elbow and knee pads, so they were no mystery. But she didn't understand why I had the wrist guards. I sagely explained, "A lot of times when you fall forward or to the side, you use your hands to break the fall. The wrist guards help reduce breaks and scrapes. The protective gear covers the areas most likely to be injured in a fall. You can still get hurt, it's just a lot harder."

Josh rode his bike for a bit and then had a meltdown. Seemed like a good moment for a lunch break. Have you ever tried to rollerblading up a hill while pushing a bike with sized for a four-year old. Now imagine the bike has training wheels. This is more challenging because they get in the way of your rollerblades. Now imagine the fit-throwing four-year old is trying to climb onto the bike while you are doing this. And yet, I still did not get hurt. I am pointing out all the challenging situations in which I did not get hurt because I want to underscore that I do have good balance and am reasonably capable with my rollerblades. I can't skate down railings or stairs. Nor can I do flips or other fancy tricks. But I can't do the most important trick. I know how to NOT FALL. This is important to the story.

Incidentally, the horses are important to the story as well. It may not seem that way yet, but stay with me. I can tell you, in a bit of foreshadowing, that the paved trail was dotted with horse piles here and there. My thought at the time was how annoying they were. They were easy to steer around and provided only slightly more of an obstacle than joggers or child bicyclists. I say slightly more because they always seemed to be right in the middle of the path.

But, for now, back to lunch. Once Josh served his time-out sentence, lunch was a pleasant affair. We picnicked in the grass under a tree, enjoying the beautiful southern California fall weather. For those not familiar, that often means warm, but not hot, temperatures and sunny blue skies with lazily drifting clouds. We digested as the children played in the park fountain. The fountain activates a few times a day and runs for fifteen minutes before draining back into the system. As fountains go, it's pretty sanitary. Once that was over, Josh decide it would be fun to play in the sand. I thought that, perhaps, it was time to go. "Aren't you going to go back out and do a few more laps?" my wife asked. "I'm kind of tired and stiffening up. I think I'll call it a day." I decided after some half-hearted consideration. "No, don't. Go out for another half hour. Just do a few more laps."

And that's how I find myself strapping my pads and helmet back on and getting ready to brave the steep slope back to the loop. "Go the other way" she requested, "that way's too steep. You'll hurt yourself." Now, as I have already mentioned, I have done nothing during this day to suggest that was true. But I didn't want her to worry, so I went the other way, the safer way. This had a hill, but was not as steep. It's main drawback was that you had to step over a railing attached to a gate onto some dirt and down off a curb. For some reason, she felt this was less dangerous, probably because you could use the gate to keep balance as you stepped over the railing. "Don't kill yourself," she commanded as I rolled away. And that is when I made my fatal mistake. "I haven't fallen all day!" I retorted. Everything else was preordained once the words escaped my lips. I think I knew it on some level, too. And yet, I pressed on.

I started down the safer hill leaning slightly on my brakes. The hill had a wooden bridge on it. I hadn't forgotten that. The slats paralleled the edges of the hill. All I had to do was steer myself onto the slats instead of the slight indentations between the gaps and I'd be fine. Well within my abilities. And then, as I expertly maneuvered myself safely onto the slats, I saw it. A horse pile. It stared at me from across the too short expanse of the bridge. It was right in my path. Right in the middle. It mocked me from its spot on the bridge. Five feet further away and I'd have been able to steer around it on the smooth pavement. I could think of any number of maneuvers that could have worked there. Five feet closer and it might have been in my field of vision as I was focusing on my approach to the slats. I couldn't go through it. That would almost certainly cause a fall AND be nasty to clean. I had only two options. Or rather, I could think of only two options. No, not the brakes. I am not good enough with them to stop that quickly while going downhill. I either had to do a lane change while speeding down the hill or jump over it. I didn't have much time to consider. In the split second I had to decide, I figured that taking entirely to the air was what I was trying to avoid. I went for the lane change. My left foot connected with slat. So far so good. My right foot hit slat, too, and then swerved. I got into the groove, and not in the good way. This wasn't bad in and of itself. It was bad combined with the groove meeting the slightly higher pavement as I was swerving. I started to topple forward and shifted my weight to compensate. I made a beautiful baseball slide. On coarse blacktop. Wearing shorts.

The road rash was impressive. It was about the size of a grapefruit. An oozing grapefruit. It was spectacular enough, as I suppose was my cry of "Dammit!", that the few walkers nearby felt the need to see if I was all right. I assured them that aside from the burning pain, I was great. I wasn't ready to face the I-told-you-so awaiting my cocksure self at the top of the hill, so I drowned my pain in endorphins. I raced around the three-quarter mile loop for about forty minutes. In that time, I managed to cover six miles. Six to go along with the four from earlier in the day. Then I dragged by burning grapefruit and my fatigued legs up the hill. That's when I saw the sign. "Please clean up after your dog."

Damn horses.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Either, Neither, or Both

I'm stealing this bit from a sports radio show I heard on the way to work this morning. This will be a new feature on BriWise. Unless of course nobody participates, in which case it will die the painless death it deserves. Anyway, the idea is that I throw a two non-exclusive choices out there and you tell me if you think either on or the other will occur or is true, if neither of them are/will, or both. You with me? On sports radio, they did it with two individual player performances on a team, but I'm going for a broader appeal. So, today's premise comes from my Brother-in-law Daniel's blog, which incidentally, is a very good read. They are building a transparent walkway that will loop out over the Grand Canyon. It looks like half a racetrack type oval. You'll be able to look four thousand feet STRAIGHT DOWN. So, your choices are: Incredibly Cool? Incredibly scary? Either, neither, or both?

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Someone Explain This to Me

The judge in the Tom DeLay money laundering case has been removed from the case. "DeLay's lawyers repeatedly said during the hearing that they were not accusing Perkins of doing anything wrong, but that there should not be a public perception of partiality in the case." This in spite of the fact that the judge in question has never been accused of bias in 30 years on the bench. They are also pushing for a venue change. The trial is set for Austin, "one of the last enclaves of the Democratic Party in Texas." So, a Republican can only be tried fairly by other Republicans? Perhaps the trial should be moved to DeLay's home district and jurors should be questioned on whether or not they donated to his campaign. Perhaps that means that defendants should be asked for their party affiliation and have the venues set accordingly. After all, we want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety when trying someone who has done been giving off at least the appearance of impropriety for years. And yet, he and his cronies had no problem defending the administrations right to conceal energy task force records, even though some were concerned about ethical issues there. They also disagreed with the calls for Scalia's recusal or removal when the energy task force case came before the Supreme Court, even though he had been on a hunting trip with Cheney and some other oil men. Cuz that doesn't appear biased at all. Arrrrrrgh!

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

You Know It's Time to Stop Trick or Treating When...

You have finished your neighborhood and just gotten in the car to drive to see a couple of friend's. You put the car in gear and you hear your four year old making repeated spitting noises in the back seat. Not choking noises. Definitely spitting. You turn to look back and notice his lips have a phosphorescent glow. There are also splotches of green glow on his costume and on the car set. And then you realize it. He's chewed through his glow stick. "Everyone out of the car!" Mom shouts, "Trick or Treating is over." The door is locked, so we send Maya in through the garage to let us in the front. We can tell exactly where in the house she is by following the shouts of "Call poison control! Call poison conrol!" We can't tell by other means because she is not letting us in.

"Maya. Open the door. Everything is going to be fine."

"Call poison Control! Call poison control!"


"Call poison Control! Call poison control!"


Finally, the door opens. We hustle Josh inside and Mom begins rinsing his mouth. Not with soap, though she is tempted. I walk calmly over to the light stick package. I'm sure it is non-toxic. I can't imagine them being allowed to market something to kids that would be poisonous. Sure enough, non-toxic, minor skin irritant. "It's all right," I announce, "The worst that can happen is some mild itching where it touched his skin. Oh, and some staining on fabric. Into the tub with him."

And so Josh is carted off by Mom to the tub, but she can't resist one parting sho as she goes by. "Way to not lose your cool, Maya."

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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Truth About Harriet

There's a comic out there that you should be reading. It's called The Boondocks and it is biting satire on the government and the life of urban youth. Yesterday's entry was particularly spectacular. Click on the imae to go the the ucomics web site and see it full size.

October 30 Boondocks strip

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Scalito Tee-ball

So, the new nominee has been announced and it is Samuel J. Alito, nicknamed Scalito and Scalia-lite for his judicial philosophy which is said to mirror that blight on American Jurisprudence, Antonin Scalia. And I think it is safe to call Scalia a blight. After all, this is the man who felt it unnecessary to recuse himself from a case where some of the principals had invited him on a hunting trip. He even uttered a mocking 'That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack' after being pressed on the issue. Not exactly the person you want to be compared to in these times of political turmoil. But we aren't here to talk about Scalia, we are talking about ScaliTO, but it is interesting that the right supported Scalia's decision to stay on the case, but want the judge in the DeLay case to step aside for contributing money to Democrats. He hasn't had any personal involvement with the principals. But, read on for the liberal, conservative, and baseball viewpoints of this nomination. Yes, I said baseball....

The reaction thus far is predictable. The liberal blogs and groups are decrying the nomination:

Daily Kos
Al Franken

The conservatives love it:

Little Green Footballs
The American Thinker
Blogs for Bush

So, what does that mean for you, dear reader? The liberals are for and the conservatives are against. Do you only have your ideology as a guide for which side to be on? Well, there are quotes from our elected officials and influence peddlers. The Democrats are preparing for a fight and are suggesting that this is a divisive nominee. Harry Reid appears to be the most sensible of the Democrats. He has not directly attacked Alito, but rather questioned the President's selection process and the fact that Democrats were not consulted at all this time. Charles Schumer called Alito "a nominee likely to divide America". Ted Kennedy was likewise harsh, "President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not strength." The Republicans are now offering glowing praise and cautioning against dissing Dubya's nominee. Apparently only they are allowed to do that. "I commend the president and congratulate Judge Alito on this nomination", says Sam Brownback. Bill Frist was even happier, "Judge Alito is unquestionably qualified to serve on our nation's highest court." Wow. 'Unquestionably'? Shouldn't we wait for the hearings to vote? Gary Bauer, of the conservative American Values Coalition called the nomination "a grand slam home run"! Wow. I didn't even know the Republicans had the bases loaded. And who knew Dubya was such an accomplished hitter? How about someone who know Alito? Adam Ciongoli, a former law clerk for Judge Alito and former counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft had this to say "The president has repeatedly said that he is looking for someone with strong intellect, temperament and reverence for the Constitution to replace Justice O'Connor. Judge Alito is a triple play."

Wait a minute. A triple play is bad when you are the batting team. So is Dubya batting or pitching? And how could it be a grand slam and a triple play? Well, that didn't help either. It seems we have only two choices; ideology and baseball metaphors. Allow me to dabble in both for a moment. I believe this was a grand slam home run for Bush. The problem is, he was batting in a little league field. And this was that stage of little league where your own coach pitches meatballs to you to help you get your confidence up. AND the visitor stands had been blown down by a hurricane, so there was only a home crowd present. Or, better yet, it was Tee-ball. In Tee-ball, everyone bats in every inning and runs to first no matter how the play turns out. The last batter clears the bases. Bush is the last batter. And he's clearing the bases even though he hit a dribbler that didn't even reach the mound. He may even score legitimately as the ball is lost in a scrum as all the fielders converge on it, finally retrieving it and throwing it to first, even as Dubya is heading for third. Yes. The more I think about it, the more I think this nomination is like a Tee-ball game.

But that didn't help you, did it? Sadly, I don't think it is possible to get unbiased information any more. I don't believe in the myth of "the liberal media", but enough people do that information there is not likely to be considered any more credible to those that don't want to believe it than that words from a liberal pundit. You are of course welcome to peruse these links which appear to be attempting to provide an objective view of the man. I particularly found the link to some of his past positions interesting. He does not appear to be the great Satan that the left is making him out to be or the second coming that the right is touting. He is undoubtedly a strong conservative who questions a woman's right to an abortion. He also believes a Christmas display is not religious if it includes Santa, but read or yourself.

Judge Alito's Past rulings
Wikipedia Bio

Personally, I'm skeptical, but waiting for more information to come out. I'm not on the fence, but I'm no so far from it that I can't be nudged back on.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Harriet's New Job

As has been widely reported already today, Harriet Miers has withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). What few realize is that this action also makes her the defacto nominee for another Presidential appointment. She has, in fact, already begun the confirmation process for appointment to the Supreme Court Rejects of the Uninformed Monkey (SCROTUM). The first step in this process was to thank the Monkey-in-Chief for turning her name into a synonym for unqualified cronyism. Once confirmed, she will resume her ball-washing duties that have in the past included such gems as "You are the best Governor ever".

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good Weekend

Hooray! I didn't have to work this past weekend. And I made the most of that time off. Ok, maybe not the most, but I did use much of it well. I managed quite a bit of good family time and even managed to find enjoyment in the mundane...

Friday night, Maya had a show and Josh did not look like he was up to behaving in public. So, my lovely wife went with Maya and did some backstage parent duty. Josh and I had some fun at home. We read some books, played on the computer for a bit, and played his current favorite game. It's a Blues Clues card game. He's a little old for it, but we don't exactly play it the way it is intended. It's more of a silliness jumping off point. Each card has an action on it. On every turn, you are supposed to draw an action card and add it to the end of your row of already played actions. Then, you are supposed to do each action in order. The actions are things like "Rub your belly, like Slippery Soap" or "Smile like Shovel and Pail" with pictures of the characters doing the action. Well, we make the game extra silly by adding more than one card at a time, doing the actions quickly, and making a far longer line of cards than they probably intended. We each had a row of 24. I would end my turn by falling over from exhaustion to Joshua's giggling delight.

On Saturday, we decided to take in a couple museums and a puppet show. We went to the Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park, which is a AR cry from the Smithsonian, but was sill very interesting to us and the kids. This museum was a little heavier on the air and less on the space. It had a very good visual chronology of flight. Lots of good example of aircraft throughout history and some good lifesize displays from WW I and WW II. Maya and I had a discussion of how to differentiate between planes of those eras. It didn't take long to get through the museum, so we decided to take in a puppet show at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. We saw Big Joe do his original Halloween show "The Polka Dot Ghost". It was entertaining and engaging, but was clearly geared toward the younger set. Josh liked it, and Maya claimed to like it, but I have my doubts.

After that, we still had some time, so we went to the Fleet Science Center to play for a bit and take in an IMax show before Maya had to report for her performance. Maya played at the dolphin exhibit while Josh preferred the hands-on stuff. In particular, we spent most of our play time on the table where you roll the marble and it spirals inward until it goes into "the black hole". We didn't learn much, but we did have fun trying to collide the marbles. Then we moved over to a turntable which had metal discs of varying thickness. The goal here was to get the disk vertical and rotating in synch with the revolution of the turntable. Then you let it go and see how its rotation interacts with the turntable and you attempt to keep it from rolling off. We learned a bit more there, but nothing he could articulate. He did get good at spinning the discs or, alternately, laying them in such a way that they were flung off at high speeds as he attempted to sever my fingers. The IMax film was "Mystic India". It told the story of a young Yogi who, at age eleven, began a journey that lasted seven years and covered thousands of miles.

On the way home, we grabbed takeout for the kids so we could get Maya to the theater on time. We didn't stay for the show as we needed dinner as well. So, we went to the Mexican place next door. Josh ate more of his Chinese food there, though he topped it off with some chips and REALLY good salsa. I'd consider buying some if they sold it separately. I had a really tasty chipotle wrap and my wife had a shrimp salad in a tortilla bowl.

Saturday night was more of the same for Josh and I. We played on the computer, read books, and snuggled. This gave Mommy time to do some of her homework. He has insisted on the Dr. Seuss book "I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today" every night for almost the past week. It's really good, because we are both memorizing it in the process. When he 'reads' parts, I point to the words. Maybe he'll pick something up that way. One the kids were tucked away, my honey and I curled up on the couch and ordered "Hitch" off the OnDemand service. (Review to come later.)

Sunday morning, Josh got me up early. So, I made cinnamon swirl french toast or the kids, and eggs and whole grain toast for the gown ups. When everyone was fully awake and things were cleaned up, we piled into the car and went to Discovery Lake Park in San Marcos for a little exercise. Mommy and Daddy rollerbladed. Maya rode her bike. And Josh rode his big boy bike (with training wheels) by himself for the first time ever! Woo hoo! He managed to ride 1.5 miles. Maya and Mommy did 3, and I did 4.5. Good workout to say the least. Now that I don't weigh as much, rollerblading is enjoyable again. Neither my shins or back hurt from the weight, though my legs did feel the burn from the exertion.

We couldn't play as long as we liked because Maya had a matinee, so we got her back in time for that. I was the D.O.D. for Sunday's performance. That's the Director on Duty. It's a fancy way of saying usher. I took the tickets, gave out the programs, figured put how many seats we had left over, and helped people find seats together. The show was sold out, but some people didn't show up, so we let in folks on the waiting list. And I gave up my seat so we could get the last waiting person in. That freed me up to go to Costco. Shopping is normally not fun, per se, but I was quite pleased with the fruit and vegetable varieties that were available. I was able to pick up some really good Jonagold apples, for instance. Normally, my choices are Gala, Red Disgusting, Golden Disgusting, and Granny Smith.

Sunday night we just sort of caught up on stuff we needed to get done. It was low key and low pressure. This weekend should be another good one as I don't have to work then, either. In fact, my boss gave me Friday off as well as a comp day for my hard work.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Headlines That Make You Giggle

Sadly, this one is not online. It comes from my local free newspaper, Today's Local News. They have a web site, but it has pretty much no content. At any rate, there is a murder trial going on in which a routine traffic stop led to the slaying of a police officer. Here's today's installment.

Defendant described as 'Maniacal'; 'Courteous'

There was a main headline over it that tied it to the murder case. That one didn't stick with me. Still, this one was plenty big, even as the sub-heading. I realize that he was probably labeled thusly by different people, but come on. I the testimony conflicts, it should not be part of the headline. Why not "Conflicting testimony on defendant's character". I can just see the courtroom.

Attorney: So, you witnessed the defendant shoot the victim?
Witness: Yes
Attorney: And could you describe for the court the demeanor of the defendant?
Witness: He was like a maniac. He had a crazed look in his eye. He was ignoringthe world around him as he shot the officer repeatedly.
Attorney: You'd describe him as maniacal?
Witness: Yes, but courteous. He apologized to me for getting brains on my bumper and offered to pay for a car wash.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Goodbye, Rosa. And Thank You.

Goodbye, Rosa. And Thank You.
Originally uploaded by briwei.
At age 42, Rosa Parks caused an uproar by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She is considered by many to be the Mother of the civil rights movement. Fifty years later, she has left the world. She left it a better place than it was when she came in, but her work is unfinished.

Thank you, Rosa.

We will do our best to honor your memory.

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Happy Birthday Uncle Chuck!

Ok, I'm sure this is on some list of "Top Ten Things to Make Your Blog Irrelevant" or something like that, but if I can't use my blog to say happy birthday to one of my oldest and dearest friends, then what's the point? Chuck is the proprietor of Unbecoming Levity. Stop by his site today and give him a whole mess of hits. Wish I were there to celebrate more properly, buddy. Many happy returns!

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Tom DeLay's Great DeLusion

I've been following the Tom DeLay indictment saga with great interest. I'm sure that almost every blog left of center has had something recently. I'm trying not to overlap stuff on blogs in my circles, so I'm skipping the mugshot commentary. Aces Full of Links and Danspotting both have that angle covered nicely. I wanted to do my own take on things and then I thought, "Someone should make a parody blog and pretend it is DeLay's!". Someone did. A couple someone's did, in fact. 'The Daily DeLay' is a PAC based blog following the issue. 'From the Desk of Tom DeLay' pretends to be his personal blog. So much for that idea. Fortunately, while I was doing my research, I stumbled across DeLay's REAL site...

At last, something worthy of comment that I haven't seen anyone I read doing yet. On Tom's web page he prominently features the central component of his defense as well as links for how you can take action to stop this "partisan distraction". Here is the ceterpiece of the page.

Dear Friend,
As you probably know, the very partisan Travis County D.A. recently manufactured an indictment against me that is based on charges from the 2002 Texas State House elections.
These charges are groundless and false. I am completely innocent.
Just as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and other public officials have defeated similar attacks from this D.A., I will prove his allegations are baseless and without merit.
Despite this partisan distraction, I will continue to represent you and fight for the interests of our community.
I hope you’ll take a moment now to read more about exactly what is happening and why. Thank you for visiting and I look forward to keeping you up to date on our fight against this out of control DA.
Did you get all that? Poor Tom DeLay is the victim of baseless partisan attacks. I suppose it might even be true. But it's hard to muster sympathy for a man nicknamed "The Hammer" who uses threats against his own party members to get his way. I'm pretty sure he lost the moral high ground long ago.

The reason I say that it 'might' be true is that if you follow the link to "The Facts" you will find a large variety of reasons why the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, is just out to get him, but only one legal argument that seems to have any merit. According to the site, the conspiracy provision was added to the law in question in 2003. The actions he has been indicted for happened in 2002. That's all according to DeLay.

The other stuff on the 'facts' page is slanted commentary and links to articles in such objective publications as "The Washington Times" and "The National Review". It calls these articles proof that this is "widely recognized as a wholly manufactured political accusation against Congressman DeLay". And yet, there are litereally hundreds of condemning quotes out there. One would think that Mr. DeLay would have posted everything he could in support of himself. And then there is his 'summary' on the DA. He lists other failed prosecutions in the past against Republicans and points out various criticisms of him. After reading that, how could anyone not thing the guy was a partisan hack?

So, I did what any responsible person would do. I went on a search for more information. I found several articles about Ronnie Earle. He has indicted 15 politicians prior to DeLay. Care to guess at the split? It was a 12-3 split. Pretty partisan, huh? Oh. Did I mention the 12 were DEMOCRATS? Everything I have found on Ronnie Earle suggests that he is a principled, ethical man. He was an Eagle Scout. He teaches classes on building community. Early in his political career, he filed a case against HIMSELF for filing papers a day late. He said he had done wrong and did not merit special treatment. He was fined $212 for the infraction.

So, DeLay's site appears to be designed to do nothing more than delude himself and the masses who support him. It has a thin veneer of credibility. Just enough to convince anyone who was lookin to be convinced, but not enough to convince the impartial or the skeptical. He'll probably beat the rap and resume his hateful ways. But maybe America will get lucky and there will be consequences or his actions.

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Another pointless blogthing

Your Monster Profile

Iron Terror

You Feast On: Jack and Coke

You Lurk Around In: The Backseats of Cars

You Especially Like to Torment: Hippies

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Bearable Lightness of Being...Lighter

This pretty little graph shows my weight since August 29. otice the steady downward slope. The red star is my first 5 pounds. The pink stars are additional fives. The line represents 10% of my starting weight. As you can see, weight watchers is going really well for me! I am now fitting into clothes that I have not worn in years. In fact, Wednesday is rapidly becoming my favorite day. I have my weigh-in, my meeting, and then tap class. I'm a lean, mean, dancin' machine! Ok, leanER. I think my target weight is 170 clothed. I have to talk to my doctor and get an opinion on that. In seven weeks, I have managed to halve my risk o heart attack and stroke. Woo hoo!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Funny Josh

Apparently, there was some excitement at Josh's school yesterday. While they drove, my wife asked him what he learned in school. "We learned about WORDS, Mommy."


"Yeah! Someone said the F-word. I don't know what the F-word is, but I'm not supposed to say it."

At this, my wife let out an involuntary laugh. This was, apparently, the wron thing to do.

"No, Mommy! It's not funny. Ms. Hope said it made her sad." He paused, reflecting. "Sad in an angry sort of way."

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bad Karma

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while realize that Karma is a recurring character around here. She is someone I am forced to work closely with and Karma is not her real name. I've given up on trying to communicate with her. My goal is just to survive her. This is hard as she is an excellent button pusher. That goal was tested again yesterday...

The testing actually began acouple weeks ago, but I've been avoiding it until now. You see, Karma has been unhappy at work for...well...as long as I've known her. She hates California. She hates her boss. She hates the company. Why doesn't she leave? Apparently, she can't. Not until she wraps up some mysterious, unspecified dealings. I think she is actually a zombie and is rooted to this spot. Ok. I don't, but it sure would make things easier. At any rate, she is stuck here being miserable and therefore feels it is right to make others miserable. Apparently, some of her hatred of me stems from the fact that I am doing work that she wants to be doing. The fact that I am more qualified to do the work and better at it is irrelevant. She wants to do it and it is unjust that she can't.

A few weeks ago my boss pulled me into his office. Apparently, he has gotten to the heart of Karma's problems. Well, two of them anyway. She had been unhappy about her cube placement and denied an opportunity to move in the past. He finally moved her. She was no longer on a busy corner. People had to work at it to look into her cube, now. The other issue was that she was not getting to do any automation work. She'd been relegated primarily to manual testing. This was just as well, in my book. I spend much of my automation time debugging her scripts and try to make then pass consistently. Anyway, he wanted to talk to me about the other half of her problem. He didn't phrase it this way, but I knew where it was comingfrom. He explained to me that his current budget only allowed for one full time resource for automation. Everyone else was supposed to script when they had the opportunity. Well, my boss had decided to split the 100% oer two people. I was to go from 100% automation to 50% automation and 50% manual. This really meant closer to 0% automation as once you are on a shipping project, it consumes your soul. He explained that she wanted to do automation and I had ben hoping for more laser knowledge. It was win-win. I don't think he really believed that, but the facade allowed him to keep the peace and offered me yet another opportunity to show what a team guy I am.

Of course, I seized the opportunity. I actually do want to get some laser knowledge. And I like to work on the shipping products from time to time. But I don't want her doing scripting. Every time she writes a big script, it means more work for me. I have resolved to show her up in every phase of software quality. Perhaps when they see that she really is not good at any of this, they will ofer her the opportunity to pursue other avenues of employment.

I thought for sure these changes would have cheered her. She got a better cube and she got to inflict some unhappiness on me. She got her way. Twice. In the same week. That had to be uplifting for her, right? No. She hated the cube. It was too close to a laser. And she now had too much work to do and not enough time. And besides, Minh (also not her real name) had gotten a better automation assignment than she had. This was especially galling to her as she had worked with Minh previously and had referred her for this position. "I've created a monster," she intoned fatalistically. Minh is Vietnamese. She is petite. She is demure. She has a great smile. She is many things. Monster is not one of them.

I rolled my eyes and gave up. I headed off to do some testing. Shortly into the testing, it became apparent that our test team was only going to have one laser. We were going to have to work in shifts. Split out hours. Karma immediately placed dibs on the afternoon/evening shift. She planned to come in at 2 and leave whenever. Rather than cause a stink, even though I am more efective in the evening hours, I offered to come in at 6 am so I could maximize usage. So, I would work 6-2, Karma would work 2-10, and Jim (which is his real name) would jump in wherever he could.

Well, that was all fine and dandy until the weekend rolled around. We all had testing we had to do and Karma took an informal poll of who would be around during the weekend. I asked about running the overnight test assigned to me. She told me not to bother. "Jim and I are both coming in over the weekend. The competition for laser time is going to be tough enough as it is." Well, I'm glad she decided that my priority was lower than hers. But I didn't push it. Team player. Remember? So, I worked on stuf from home and got a fair amount accomplished.

Apparently, Jim trumped her for their overlapping portions of the weekend and Karma came in Monday in a huff. He felt that she hadn't been making the most of the laser time she had, so why should he give her more? Fortunately, that didn't impact me at all as our shifts don't have much overlap. At least I didn't think it impacted me.

On Tuesday I discovered the error of my ways. Toward the end of my shift at the height of my cold, Jim and I received a pissy email from her demanding that we set a schedule for the weekend. She wanted to know EXACTLY when the laser was hers. I responded that I thought it might be better to wait until we were closer to the weekend. That way we'd have a beter idea of what tests still needed to be done and whose testing would have priority. Then I gathered my things to go home. It was 3, I had been here nine hours, and I didn't feel well. The lab door burst open and Karma strode in. "Can you come down to Jim's desk so we can take care of the weekend schedule." I told her about my suggestion and that we could address it on Thursday or Friday. "Some of us would like to have our weekend settlede so we can make plans!" she snorted in her huffiest voice. "Well, I can't do it now," I told her, "I was just heading out the door and I don't feel well at all." This was not the right thing to say. "It'll only take five minutes. I need to know whether or not I can make plans. I need to know whether or not I can go to Church!" Apparently, her Church does not offer services multiple times over the weekend. Or else she felt that her schedule would be a handful of one hour blocks, all coinciding with her Church times.

Ah. There it was. I don't think that was her real concern, but she was looking for the martyrdom in the moment. By not doing what she wanted, when she wanted it, I was oppressing her as a Christian. I felt a sudden rush of power. I was an oppressor. I decided to make use of it. "Well, it'll have to wait until tomorrow. I need to be someplace." She stormed out and immediately fired off another email. This one reiterated her point that things had to be taken care of right away.

On my way out, I stopped off to talk to Jim. He couldn't meet right then, because he had another meeting. I told him I'd check in with my wife and give him my availability in the morning. He found that to be more than sufficient. In the morning, I gave him my availability. Karma gave him her preferences. She wanted the prime aftenoon spots on Saturday and Sunday, 2-7 both days. These aren't what you'd call reasonable shifts. Neither Jim nor I could really come in after 7 since we both are in in the morning on Monday. She ended up getting 2-7 Saturday and 4-7 Sunday. I got noon-4 Sunday and Jim took 6am-noon. He also figured he'd come in Saturday evening and try to get some stuff done.

Karma looked at the schedule and said, "Oh, good. I can come in early on Saturday since nobody else is using that slot." So, her strategy was to take times she knew other people wanted and then come in on the open times that nobody wanted! Nice.

The weekend rolled around and Jim decided to come in Saturday around 4 to check some things and see if he could hop on the laser when Karma was done at 7. Problem was, she wasn't there! This ticked Jim off more than a little bit as he could have come in earlier and made it home in time to have dinner with his family. However, she had the laser to herself from 2-7 so, he had waited. This only added to his pique about her poor use of laser time.

I dare not hope it, but could this be the end of Karma?

If you are new to the character and want to see more of her absurd, but true, exploits, check out these tales:

Karma on beauty
Karma on The South
Karma dictates breakfast law
I have fun at Karma's expense re:breakfast
I have more fun re:breakfast
Karma explains acceptable prejudice
Karma hates rice...and Asians

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A NEW Hell Meme

Well, we've created our own hells and populaed them with those we felt were deserving. Time to turn the tables! Answer a series of religion and 'morality' questions and see which layer of hell you will be dispatched to.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

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Monday, October 17, 2005

"Well Explained" Design

The Dover ID-ers got a scientist to testify on their behalf in the court case. For those who have somehow missed it, the Dover, PA school board is trying to force Intelligent Design into the science curriculum...

Michael Behe is a biology teacher at Lehigh University. UNIVERSITY! He has some very unscientific things to say. Here's a good excerpt:

evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force
Ohhhhhh-kay. Since evolution cannot explain something in its field, the ONLY other possibility is that it must be the work of an intelligent designer. Let me try that. Hmmmmmmmm. I was sitting in my room when the light went out. I checked the filament. It was intact. I checked the circuit breaker. It had not tripped. I checked the plug. It was plugged in. Oh my gosh! An Intelligent Designer must have removed the luminosity from the light.

Sheesh. You'd think that a college biologist would be quick to point out that gaps are being filled in all the time as people conduct more research and investigation.

And even if there is an Intelligent Designer, what does that have to do with Science class?

Honestly, I'd be comfortable with making sure that the science texts containing evolution contained language that explained what a scientific theory is. That evolution is a theory, albeit a strong one. And that there are holes in evolution that many people are studying in order to try to fill the gaps. There. Now evolution is not presented as all-encompassing. It is still presented accurately. And it is up to the listener to decide by whatever means they have at their disposal what should fill those gaps. No institutional religion. Just scientific method.

Another good section which I'm sure is not fully explained in the article is where:
[Behe] made a scientific argument that blood-clotting "is poorly explained by Darwinian processes but well explained by design."
Now, without seeing his scientific argument, it's tough to refute it. However, it likely falls back to my original complaint. If [well reasoned argument about why clotting doesn't work under Darwin], then [a miracle occurred]. It's very tidy to say something happens because it was supposed to happen, but it's not verifiable. And it discounts the more plausible "we just haven't ound the explanation yet".

And to the faithful out there, I am a religious man. I believe in Creation. But I do not believe it is literal. My religious beliefs and my scientific knowledge coexist reasonably harmoniously. That's because I do not let my faith contradict observable science. I am reminded o this Douglas Adams quote from Hitchhiker's:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

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Guess I Won't Be Making Meth

I don't know how it is elsewhere in the country, but if reports are to be believed, crystal meth labs are popping up all over Tijuana and San Diego. In an effort to clamp down on this, the local powers that be have passed regulations limited the sale of one of the more common ingredients. Some pharmacies are keeping it behind the counter even though it is an OTC med. I am, of course, referring to that evil chemical, pseudo ephedrine...

I ran face first into the new policy last night as I stopped off to pick up some Nyquil and Dayquil as my cold has persisted for over a week and I have a major deadline. So, taking time off is not an option. Can't rest? Medicate! Nyquil at night. Dayquil in day. Duh! I wanted to go to Costco and just buy the mega pack of gel caps, but they were already closed, so I went to my local pharmacy chain. I had my choice of the 40 count pack for $15 or two 20 count packs of the store brand for a combined $10. A tough choice. So, I grabbed two generic night time and two eneric day time and headed off to pay.

Boop. Boop. Boop. Bzzzzzt! The clerk looked at the item and then at the readout. "Sorry, hon, but you are only allowed three of these." I blinked. I wasn't sure what the next move would be. "It's the new crystal meth restrictions," she elaborated. I laughed. "So, I could have bought ANY three products that had pseudofed in them, but no more?" She thought about this for a second and nodded.

I could have bought three packs of forty, but I can't by four packs of twenty. In the former, I am an upstanding citizen. In the latter, I am a drug trafficking suspect. Even better, I could have bought three of the hundred count bottles of pseudofed if I wanted. All of them contain the same amount of pseudo ephedrine per dose. I'd imagine the chemical process to extract the pseudo ephedrine would be easier with fewer ingredient involed. (B.O.B.?) Plus, I paid with a credit card that matched my photo ID. If I was a criminal drug lord, I'd want to make sure there was no paper trail. I'd pay cash.

Then, it got better. She could see I was sick and felt badly or me. She said, in full view of the customers, "I can't override the computer, but if you just come around and go back through the line again, it will let you do it." Excellent. So, if I was trying to make meth, I now knew a couple of ways around the system. I can either go out and come back in. Have a few friends with me and go to different checkout lines. Or, easiest of all, just go to each of the dozen pharmacies along the 1 mile stretch of main road. Buy three hundred count bottles of pseduofed at each stop. Then, fill up my tub and start extracting chemicals.

I love intelligent deterrents.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

It's Against My Religion to Impregnate a Lesbian

At least, that's what these doctors said. They later amended their position that they wouldn't perform the artificial insemination because the Guadalupe Benitez was unmarried, even though she had been living with her 'partner' for 7 years. The doctors used religious freedom as their defense in the suit brought by the woman. The judge ruled that religious freedom could not be used as a defense. That, to me, raises an interesting point. If a business owner is not getting any government money, are they legally obligated to give their services to anyone willing to pay? Is their own personal morality allowed to come into play here? Personally, I don't think it was right for them to refuse to do an IVF on this woman. Fortunately, she was able to find another doctor to help. The only thing I can see going for her side, though, is the slippery slope argument. If we allow one practice to discriminate based on a protected class, there is nothing to stop all of them. And then, we could reach a point where services aren't available to Guadalupe, because everyone has some 'valid' reason why they cannot help her. So, I suppose I'm opposed to their attitude, but wondering what sort of relief exists for someone who is morally opposed to performing an action for some people, but not others. For example, would anyone be up in arms if doctors refused to artificially inseminate an 18 year old, unmarried woman?

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Thursday, October 13, 2005


Well, I got tired of the fact that Bloglines will only let me blogroll blogs that have an RSS feed. It's good in that it helps you avoid stale links, but it's bad in that many of my friends cannot be linked to through it. So, I've switched to Blogrolling. I can add any blog I want and attach to it a mouseover comment. Blogs updated within the last few hours will have an * next to them. So, rejoice Wombat, Kerri, Jocelyn, and NM! You are now rolled.

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How Many?

More fun with Dubya, courtesy of my friend, Jim.

Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing. He concludes by saying, "Yesterday, three Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"Oh NO!" exclaims Dubya, "That's horrible!"

The staff is stunned at this display of emotion and sit there watching the President with his head in his hands.

Finally, Dubya looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Wisdom of Dubya

Q: What's Dubya's position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He thinks they are both fine ways to get out of New Orleans.

Not sure where to credit this one. I read it somewhere but don't remember where.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Soup is Good Food

I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I made myself some tasty soup to take to work today. Non-creamy soups don't cost any points under the Weight Watchers core plan, so I've started to experiment with my own soup recipes. My first soup was a really tasty black bean that I think came out better than Panera's black bean soup, and I really like theirs. It's too bad I cook by improv. Next time I'll have to measure things as I add them so I can post a recipe. Today's soup was a chicken broth based barley soup. I combined broth, pearled barley, scallions, plum tomatoes, carrots, and minced garlic. The garlic and barley combined for some nice flavor. Mmmmmmmmmm.

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Bye, Bye Beef

A while back (over three months now), I gave up red meat. It happened right after my sigmoidoscopy. It was the health precursor to joining Weight Watchers. My colon was clean and it seemed a good idea to keep it that way. Plus, my cholosterol was just slightly on the wrong side of 200 and my triglycerides were higher than I would have liked. So, although I used to really enjoy a good steak or a burger, I decided it had to go. Now, every time I want one, I just try to remember what my friend Patti used to say. "Beef! It's what's in your colon."

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Organizational Excellence

So, I'm here at work at 4:30 in the morning and it's a bit chilly. So, I thought a cup of hot chocolate might be nice. (Sugar Free of course.) I go to the kitchen. No cups out on the counter. Plenty of lids, but no cups. No worries. I look through all the cabinets. More lids. No cups. I glance about the room knowing that there must be a box around somewhere. They often dump a box in the kitchen and wait for someone to empty it. Ah. There it is. A box. OF LIDS.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Things NOT to do when driving to Mexico

So, last Wednesday, we began our journey to San Felipe. We made a few mistakes along the way, though none of them ended up hurting us too badly. We didn't spend any time in a Mexican prison and we didn't have to bribe any Mexican officials. Still, it could have gone better...

Things didn't start all that well as we had not packed or arranged our supplies or secured care for Nala. My wife had not finished her homework and I had not proofread it. We did not have our car activities set out and I was still unable to copy an audio book to our device. Oh, yes, and Maya and I had a rehearsal from 7-9:30. Somehow, we got all the things done and even had the car loaded such that we just had to roll out of bed and go in the morning. This of course contributed directly to the first thing.

The first thing you should not do when meeting people at 5:30 am in a Target parking lot to caravan down to Mexico is to stay up until 1:45 am making trip preparations. Granted, they need to be done, but you really ought to start sooner. Six hour drives are not recommended on three hours sleep. This is especially true if you don't speak the language of the place you are traveling to.

But we did that anyway and had to suffer the consequences. One of those consequences is also item number 2 on our list. If you need to arrive at 5:30 am, do not set the alarm clock to 5:00...PM! It might get you a little extra sleep, but it only annoys the people who got up on time and are waiting for your sorry butt. And if you do make this mistake, try not to sound like the ringing phone woke you up. Blame your children for the delay or something like that.

We were fortunate in that the people we were traveling with are really nice and overlooked our tardiness. By a little after 6 the wagon train pulled out. We were given the privilege of being the middle car. This is good because they would have lost us otherwise. Our little 4 cylinder engine was no match for the Sequoia in front of us and the Beemer behind. We were barely able to do 50 on the uphill parts in the mountains. Craig wrangled from behind and we kept in cell phone contact while we were on the U.S. side of the border. We brought radios so that we wouldn't have to use the phones once we crossed. Roaming charges, you see. That segues nicely into number 3.

We stopped at a McDonald's in Colexico which is the U.S. city adjacent to Mexicali, where we would be crossing. Craig and I took our cars to get gas and Mexican car insurance while everyone else went in for a bite. We came back and stopped in for something ourselves. I opted for lowfat milk which I added to the cereal I had brought. Then we piled in for an uneventful border crossing. Getting into Mexico is very easy. I don't think anyone even asked us a question. We just drove straight through. That's when thing number 3 occurred to us. "Where's Curt?", I asked. Curt is Joshua's favorite stuffed friend. He's a bear with a Red Sox World Series shirt. He was in the car when we got to McDonald's, but did not seem to be present now. "Where's my cell phone?", I added, as I looked around for Curt. "I didn't have either one," my wife informed me. "I left the phone right on the seat," I asserted, a mild note of panic mingling with the lack of sleep. "Josh brought Curt to the bathroom with him," Maya recalled. Bollix.

We signaled and pulled over to the shoulder on the main highway in Mexicali. We were still very much in the city part. Cars wooshed by as the Sequoia idled in front and the BMW behind. Craig hopped out to find out what was going on and relay the information to Maria, the lead driver. We searched the whole car and found the cell phone. In the trunk. "Oh. Maybe I moved that when I moved our warm clothes," my wife said unabashedly. We decided we had to do a trunk dive for Curt, Josh screaming and crying the whole while. Alas, Curt was not there. He had to still be at McDonald's, on the U.S. side of the border. Border crossing on a work day, which this was, at rush hour, which this was, is a challenging proposition. After our tardiness, nobody wanted to add another 1-2 hours onto the trip.

So, we did the only thing we could. We broke out the cell phones and ate some information and roaming charges. There were two McD's in Colexico. We asked for the one near the border. I called it. A man answered. "Ola." I explained that we were looking for a stuffed bear that was left behind and that we had just eaten there. Clearly, he knew, right what I was getting at. "Ola?" he replied. The mild note decided to kick it up a notch. "Look...ummmm....nosotros...uh...left...un pequna...ehhhhh....stuffed animal." You just know THAT is going to work. "Ola?" Argh! "Look, can I speak to someone else?" *click* He hung up on me. He hung up on me! How hard is it to figure out that you don't speak the same language as the person on the other end and get someone who does?!? I called back, hoping to get someone else. I did! And they promptly told me I wanted the OTHER McD's. At least they gave me the number. So, I called that one and was getting nowhere again, when my wife stepped up to the plate. She is not fluent in Spanish, but is significantly closer than I am. She used far fewer Ums and Uhs and more Spanish words. After five minutes, they determined that they didn't have the bear. They also determined that they were not the McD's right next to the border. They gave us the first phone number again. This time, my wife had the discussion with Senor Ola. He was willing to hand the phone off for her because he could almost understand her. Grrrrrr. Well, she talked to the other person. "Did you find uno osito? A little bear?" The woman on the other end was the manager. She gave an excited reply, "¿Osa Menor? Sí. ¿Es marrón y borrosa? ¿Tiene una pequeña camisa blanca?" That means, "A little bear? Yes. Is it brown and fuzzy? Does it have a little white shirt?" We found Curt! They agreed to put him in a bag for us with our name on it and hold onto it until Sunday. We couldn't go back, but we had found our wayward bear and were assured of his return. Granted, the phone charges were likely more than the cost of the bear, but there are just some things you have to do when you're a Dad.

By the way, number 3 on the list? Don't let your children take anything out of the car at any rest stops!

So, now we were in the unenviable position of having to explain to Josh that we weren't going to see Curt for the rest of vacation. He didn't take it well. I tried explaining that Curt was just having a sleepover. He was going to eat chicken nuggets and play on the playground. We'd pick him up Sunday and all would be well. He was still not very pleased, so I broke out the radios. Distract him, I thought. He liked them and it did distract him, although he couldn't get the hang of pressing the talk button. So, he had me talk to him. Then I got silly. To amuse him, I started saying, "Aieeeeeee! Los Federales! Ayuda me! Ayuda me!" in a kind of high pitched voice into the radio. This translates roughly to, "Aieeeeeee! The state police! Help me!" He laughed. He wanted me to do it again. And again. This led to thing 4. I did it one more time and the radio crackled to life. Someone with an official sounding voice said "Ola?" and then rattled off a bunch of Spanish. Thing 4: Don't bust on the police on an open radio.

We decided to stop playing with the radios at this point. At the next red light, we did a Chinese fire drill to get the second radio to Craig and Kat. That way we could communicate without roaming charges as we drove. Things went pretty smoothly for a while, even though everyone was tired and cranky. Maria set a blistering pace that we were not exactly comfortable with. The speed limit alternated between 60 and 80 km/hr. We were doing 120. Knowing that the Federales like to hassle gringos, we were more interested in toeing the line. Additionally, she liked to pass in non-passing zones and stay in the other lane for an extended period to pass more than one car. At least that is what we thought at the time. It turns out the whole 'staying in the other lane' thing is a caravan trick to let you know it is clear to get over. That enables everyone to know when it is safe to pass. Live and learn. We were still going too fast. We were ripe for thing 5. There were a few contributing factors to thing 5. The first was our speed. The second was the bright sun behind us which made it hard to see when the lead car's brake lights came on. The third was not braking slowly as we passed a Federales cruiser on the side of the ride while decelerating from double he speed limit.

As we passed by his position, we noticed his car pull out behind Craig. I dare say we were all a little anxious. He followed for a bit and then pulled alongside Craig. We had all slowed to within the speed limit. He stared out the window of the cruiser at Craig, daring him to look. To his credit, Craig stared straight ahead. After a while, he tired of this and pulled alongside us. My wife was driving and refused to look. I sneaked a glance from under my hat. It was covering my face so I could feign sleep. The trooper did not appear to be in a good mood. His stern expression was accentuated by his slicked back hair and mirrored shades. He didn't see me peek and my wife refused to look, so he moved up the column. He pulled in front of Maria and enforced the speed limit with his presence all the waedgep to the ede of the desert. He tired of the game and the heat and pulled off at the last chance saloon on the edge of the desert for a beer. Bullet dodged. Thing 5: don't jam on the brakes in front of the Feds, especially when you are speeding.

Given this travelogue, I'm sure you are expecting trouble in the desert. Wrong! The only interesting thing in the desert was the military checkpoint and the men with machine guns. They looked at us and just waved us through. We evenuneventfulan uneventul pit stop at a road side "rest area". It was a bit sketchy. There was a man there who attended the area and sold cold beverages. He also handed out napkins as you walked by. This was to make up for the lack of toilet paper. He spoke no English, so I exhausted my entire Spanish vocabulary conversing with him while the kids went to the bathroom. Then Josh needed my help. When I went in, I found an interesting place. The urinals had been removed from the walls such that you had to use one of the two stalls. The door to one of them didn't open. This turned out not to be a big deal as the wall between the two stalls was missing. I found out what Joshua needed my help with. Hopping from one stall to the other through the missing divider.

We got back on the road and made good time he rest of the way. We pulled into the resort at noon and it only took an hour to get our rooms and keys. From there, we went to lunch arestaurantl restaraunt for our final mistake of the day. We pulled together a bunch of tables on the patio to make room for the twelve of us. Some of us ordered in English and some in Spanish. We waffled on whether or not the water was purified there. The waiter told us he'd bring us a pitcher. But we still weren't sure, so I went to the room and brought back bottled water, instead of buying theirs. We also brought our own wine. We confirmed that this was ok before we did it. The waiter was very nice about it. He uncorked the wine and put both bottles in a bucket of ice on a stand. Then the food came out. Craig and Miriam had ordered carne asada quesadillas. Twice when repeating the order, the waiter had said 'tacos' instead of 'quesadillas'. So, I stopped and corrected him. He got very impatient and said, "Si. Si. I know!" He brought out two plates of carne asada TACOS. Then he insisted they were quesadillas. Maya ordered chicken enchiladas with rice and beans. He brought her chicken salad on lettuce on a fish shaped plate. He then insisted she said "insalata" and not "enchilada". He relented and brought what she ordered. Miriam ate her tacos. Craig did not. The waiter scowled at us the whole time. When we finally got he bill, there was a $12 charge for uncorking the wine that we had not been informed of.

Thing 6: Don't piss off a grumpy Mexican waiter.

Next time, I'll tell you about the actual trip itself.

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