Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A very happy new year

I'd like to wish all of you Sinister readers a very happy New Year. Let's hope 2009 brings the kind of change we really need.

And now, a special video message:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oooh..Phantom sequel due out in 2009

Andrew Lloyd Webber is announcing that a sequel to the iconic musical Phantom of the Opera is set to open in 2009 - if he has his way, simultaneously in three cities: London, New York, and Shanghai. Evidently, the sequel takes place at Coney Island ten years after the original story ends.

I'm not sure whether to be excited or horrified at the idea. I know I'll be buying the London Cast Recording as soon as it comes out...

Question of the day

Did you know that CNN is the best political team on television?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

War in Gaza

Israel has struck Gaza with an unprecedented series of attacks, killing nearly 200 people, most of whom were Hamas operatives. The attacks have sparked massive protest among Palestinians and Palestinian sympathizers living in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Obviously, this situation is too complicated to just lay down a blanket judgment on either side. If this operation doesn't lead to any concrete progress toward eliminating Hamas or driving them from power, but instead leads to an exacerbation of tension and an increase in terrorist recruitment, which I fear it will, then clearly it will have been a mistake. If this operation leads to high civilian casualties, then that is a tragedy that must be recognized and condemned.

But let's think about it from Israel's perspective for a second. Israel has been bombarded by homemade rockets from Gaza for years now, even after Israel completely pulled out of there and allowed the Palestinians to choose their own government. Unfortunately, since the Palestinians chose a group of murderous, hateful, extremist thugs to rule them, peace has not been forthcoming. Palestinian and Israeli civilians have been caught in the middle, and really, it was only a matter of time before the whole situation blew up like this. I'm not at all convinced that a massive invasion was the answer, but Israel did have to respond somehow.

We'll have to wait and see how this all shakes out. War is never something you want to see, especially when civilians are caught in the middle.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Completely random, but

I discovered a new web comic this week (well, it's new to me, but it has apparently existed for several years), and it's really funny and engaging. I recommend checking it out. You have to read it from the beginning. It's about these snarky 20-somethings. I won't get too much more into it, but I will tell you that there's an amusingly demented robot called an AnthroPC involved.

Interesting. Oklahoma Lefty and FGO are both wrong.

Oklahoma Lefty has this as a "Quote of the Day:"

“If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”
-- Pope Benedict XVI

and follows that with an "AMEN!"

Fried Green Onions responds with this little gem of insight:

If people would look out for their own interests. [sic] The world would be a better place.

Pope Benedict's seemingly altruistic quote hides a viciously bigoted agenda that equates the "threat" of homosexuality with the threat of rainforest depletion. So, by looking out for interests beyond himself, he's actually looking into my personal life and telling me I'm a threat on par with the destruction of thousands of acres of rainforest.

FGO's quote, which boils down to "mind your own business," is not one that FGO is fond of following. In fact, much like Pope Benedict, FGO enjoys peering into my bedroom window and telling me I'm an abomination. If he truly were "minding his own business," then surely he wouldn't be so concerned about what rights my partner and I should have, since we don't know him and aren't connected in any way to his life.

I guess it's just interesting that both of these bloggers profoundly misunderstand the reality of their respective quotes.

Happy Friday

And now, a friendly video to teach you about maths:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The death of Launchcast

For quite a few years, I've been building a Yahoo! Launchcast Plus Internet radio station. Launchcast is a service that allows you to rate artists, albums, and individual songs, along with genres of music, so that your custom radio station plays what you want it to play. You can also filter your station into "moods" so that it plays only a certain range of music. It's the most customizable and intuitive of all streaming Internet radio products out there, and the commercial-free Plus option is a bargain at $3.99 a month. Over the years, I've rated about 5,000 things, and my station is just about perfect.

When I first stumbled onto Launchcast, I think it was like eight or nine years ago, it wasn't owned by Yahoo!, and it had a convenient desktop player that you could launch without going to a specific website. After a time, Yahoo! bought it, removed the desktop player, and began to require you to go to their website to launch your player. The player also ONLY works in Windows, using Internet Explorer. Still, I bought the Plus! service, and I built my station.

If I've had my Launchcast Plus station for eight years, which I think I have, then I've given Yahoo $383.04.

Yahoo! has now decided, out of the blue, to partner with CBS Radio, and radically change the Launchcast service. They're going to eliminate custom stations completely and remove the commercial-free Plus option. I find this unfair and more than a little bit upsetting. I know it sounds like a minor thing, but I've cultivated my Launchcast station for at least eight years so that I can turn it on at any time and hear something I want to hear. Losing it is going to hurt a little bit.

I guess I'm just a little miffed that I didn't get any more explanation than an e-mail telling me that it was going to happen in January. Yahoo! is making this change because the RIAA are being dicks about royalty fees for streaming radio. Streaming radio is a great way for people not only to enjoy music that they know and love, but also to discover new music and new artists. If streaming radio is stifled by unreasonable fees, then I don't think anyone wins.

If Santa exists, he's dead now.

I. There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per house hold, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

II. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second -- 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional Reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional Reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" Reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them -- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second crates enormous air resistance -- this would heat up the Reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of Reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the Reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire Reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

V. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thoughts on Rick Warren

There have been a lot of developments in the Rick Warren fiasco recently. I'm glad to see that the outrage that the GLBT community felt when we heard the news of Warren's selection to give the invocation at the Inauguration got a great deal of media coverage and forced Obama to clarify his reasoning.

Since then, Melissa Etheridge, a great singer and an icon of the gay rights movement, has written a story about her own encounter with Warren and her view that:

Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.

The latest development is that Warren has scrubbed the explicitly anti-gay language from his church website.

So where are we?

I'm still infuriated at Obama for making the choice. Six million GLBT Americans voted for him, hoping that he represented change from the institutionalized bigotry of the Bush regime. Even in the face of Obama's victory, the GLBT community took a major blow with California's Proposition 8 and the other anti-equality measures across the country. Thus, our emotions were raw, and we were looking to Obama to come to our defense and fight for us. When we heard that Obama had chosen Rick Warren to give the invocation, a man who compared our relationships to pedophila and incest, and who had given major and vocal support to Proposition 8, it was like being kicked in the gut by someone we thought was our ally.

Now it looks like at least some kind of superficial progress might be happening. Warren is reaching out to Melissa Etheridge, who is giving him the benefit of the doubt. He's scrubbing anti-gay language from his church website. He's (sort of) repudiated some of what he said.

But is it enough? What's the trade off? What do we get out of having a far right preacher take one step back from the edge?

I just don't think we're going to get Warren and his ilk to move enough to our side to make the outrage of giving them a microphone at the inauguration worthwhile.

My husband has said that there are four things Obama needs to do during his Presidency to regain his support after the Warren pick:

1) Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
2) Enact hate crimes legislation
3) Enact the Employee Non-Discrimination Act
4) Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I agree with my husband's assessment. Obama needs to do these things anyway, but he especially needs to do them now to regain the support of those of us he betrayed with the Warren pick.

Since apparently nothing else is happening anywhere in the world,

CNN is reporting that there is still nothing to report in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

Really, guys? You couldn't find anything else to put on the front page? Seriously? How's Elian Gonzales doing? Anything new there? What about the Whitewater investigation? OJ's search for the Real Killers? Might as well report that there's nothing to report on those stories, either.

Quality reporting, CNN. That's the kind of thing that makes people sit up and pay attention.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Do you hear the people sing?

For some reason, embedding is disabled on this video. Still, click and watch. My wonderful husband gave me the original London cast for my birthday:

Les Miserables, whether as a novel or as a musical, with its message of revolution, of fighting a powerful and oppressive establishment, of justice, of compassion, is one that has always spoken to me.

Monday loldog

funny dog pictures
see more puppies

Happy Birthday

to me. I'm not in my 20s anymore.

In honor of this horrible reminder of my own mortality, here's this:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Explanation of the Sinister logo

I found the picture of a left hand holding a hammer during a Google Images search. I can't even remember what search terms I used, and I haven't been able to find it again since, but it seemed like a perfect image for what my blog was going to be about.

The reason for the left hand is obvious. I'm left-handed, and my viewpoint is on the left side of politics. I recognize that; that's why the blog is called Sinister. It's clever. Really.

But why a hammer?

Well, anyone who knows anything knows that hammers are actually used for building things, for hammering in nails, and putting up structures.

Sinister is a blog that builds arguments, that hammers in ideas, and puts up intellectual structures that, hopefully, stand up to the test of criticism. Sure, sometimes the hammer misses the nail and puts a dent in a wall. Sometimes I get things wrong. But the metaphor of a hammer is apt for what I'm trying to accomplish with this blog.

Hammers have also been used as a revolutionary symbol of the working class, used by communists and socialists for more than a hundred years. I don't shy away from admitting that I am influenced by such thinkers, and my specific choice of a hammer is, at least in part, a tribute to them.

The hammer is not, as some would argue, a symbol of destruction. Indeed it is the opposite - a symbol of construction, the idea that building ideas can lead to building a better world, one that is more just, humane, and free.

That is the explanation of the Sinister logo.

I love this. I love this a lot.

Happy Friday

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Well, here's at least one decent progressive choice...

Obama will nominate Rep. Hilda Solis of California as Labor Secretary. According to the AP:

Andy Stern, president of the 1.9-million member Service Employees International Union, the 51-year-old praised Solis for her deep roots in the union movement. He recalled marching with her in Los Angeles — well before she was elected to Congress — to seek higher wages and benefits for janitors.

A Kos diarist gives some more insight, quoting a source that described her this way:

Congresswoman Solis is an officer of the radical Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. According to the leftwing Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Solis votes with the left 100 percent of the time.

She's got a good pro-worker voting record:

Voted NO on promoting free trade with Peru. (Nov 2007)

Voted YES on assisting workers who lose jobs due to globalization. (Oct 2007)

Voted NO on implementing CAFTA, Central America Free Trade. (Jul 2005)

Voted NO on implementing US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. (Jul 2004)

Voted NO on implementing US-Singapore free trade agreement. (Jul 2003)

Voted NO on implementing free trade agreement with Chile. (Jul 2003)

No MFN for China; condition trade on human rights. (Nov 1999)

She'll be key to getting the EFCA passed next year and strengthening the rights of workers to organize.

Kos diarist explains why the Warren pick matters.

Less than two weeks ago, just miles from my home, a man was beaten with a baseball bat, his blood splattered all over the sidewalk, his skull cracked open. He died several days later. His attackers screamed "fag!" at him as they beat the life out of him. In reality, he wasn't gay, he was drunkenly leaning on his brother. But that's what standing too close to a same-gender person can get you in this world, a baseball bat to the head. I know because I've been there too. Ask the "gay friends" you reference, I bet they have been too.

Why does this happen? Because of people like Rick Warren. You see, it's ok to treat gay people that way, because, after all, as Rick Warren has said so many times, we're on par with pedophiles and child molesters. We are sinful and an abomination (you know, like shellfish). Rick and his ilk remind people all the time that not even God himself will have us. He'll send us to Hell to suffer for eternity. So, why should any ordinary man care a wit about us, if the Almighty himself does not?

So this is it. We're going to die.

In 2036. Maybe. If a huge asteroid hits us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ok, now I'm pissed.

Evangelical preacher and vocal supporter of Proposition H8 in California Rick Warren is going to give the invocation at the Inauguration.

Fuck, Obama, first it's Donnie McClurkin, and now this?

Can someone look at my back? I think there's something sharp sticking out of it.


Book Review: I Am Legend

Earlier this year, I watched the new Will Smith movie adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. I thought the movie was fun, enjoyable, and entertaining, and Will Smith was...Will Smith. He's not a bad actor, so much as he's a predictable actor. I enjoy watching his movies either despite or because of the fact that I know what I'm getting into when I watch them, whether it's Independence Day, Men in Black, or this one.

The movie, of course, explored the idea of the "last man on earth" trying to survive against a plague of mindless zombies bent on eating him. Clearly there had been some kind of global catastrophe, which we later find out was caused by some kind of disease, and the zombies abide by certain rules that vaguely make them seem sort of like vampires.

I won't spoil the movie for you except to say that it has very little in common with the story Matheson tells in his book. I will warn you, however, that the following review does contain a lot of spoilers.

Matheson's novel deals very explicitly with the disease as causing vampirism. The vampires come in two varieties: those who are still "alive," and have some limited independent thought, and those who are "dead," and who therefore stumble around mindlessly trying to eat the protagonist.

The vampires display all of the classic signs of being a vampire: aversion to garlic and crosses, not being able to see their reflection in a mirror, being killed by a stake to the heart, inability to go out in daylight, invulnerability to bullets, fear of running water, sharp teeth, etc. The protagonist, Robert Neville, who is immune to whatever caused the vampire plague, spends his days studying and trying to find a cure for the vampire plague, and his nights cowering in his boarded up house while vampires mill around outside.

Through his studies, Neville discovers a few important things about the disease. He learns that garlic contains a compound that reacts negatively with the bacteria. He then reasons that the constant need for fresh blood stems from the bacteria's need to survive in a host that can no longer produce its own fresh blood, especially in the case of the victims that are already "dead." He also finds that the bacteria can produce a powerful "body glue" that seals up bullet wounds before they can inflict fatal damage, but that a sharply driven stake, or another serious kind of injury, like slitting the wrists, can overwhelm the "body glue" and allow the vampire to be killed.

One of the most interesting things that Neville discovers is that a lot of what the vampires display is psychological. The fear of crosses, for example, is a psychological reaction of whatever is left of the rational mind to the perception of being turned into an evil creature. He also finds that Jewish and Muslim vampires have no fear of the cross, and there's an interesting scene where he describes driving back a Jewish vampire with a copy of the Torah. Hysterical blindness, again a psychological reaction to the horror of their condition, causes the vampires to be unable to see themselves in a mirror.

This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel: the attempt to break down and explain in scientific and psychological terms the nature of vampirism as a disease.

In the end, Neville finds a woman wandering in a field, chases her down, and brings her to his house. He is suspicious that she might be infected, having had no contact with uninfected humans for years. She reacts strongly to garlic, further strengthening his suspicions, although since he found her wandering in the daylight, he is not sure what to make of her.

Eventually, he does test her blood, and finds that she is infected. She hits him over the head, knocking him out. When he comes to, he finds a note. She is part of a "new society" of infected people who have learned to control the infection with drugs and are trying to rebuild society. She warns him that she was sent to spy on him, and that the group will more than likely come to kill him because he represents a threat to them as the only uninfected human left alive.

The book ends with Neville being captured by this new group of vampires. Ruth visits him in his prison cell and explains that he is to be executed publicly and brutally. She gives him pills that he can take to kill himself more easily and avoid the coming brutality. He realizes then that in a new world where infection is normal, he is now the abomination. The novel ends with him slipping into unconsciousness, laughing at his predicament, and realizing, as he dies, that, "I am legend."

Overall, it is a truly unique story, one that has a depth and intelligence that is missing from a lot of vampire novels, and was certainly missing from the Will Smith movie. The author's attempts to describe a scenario in which becoming a vampire is a simple biological condition, rather than something mythical, creates a certain brutal realism that works brilliantly in the context of the overall story.

The story of "I Am Legend" ends about halfway through this edition of the book. The rest of the book is filled with some of the author's vignettes and short stories. I haven't read through all of them, but the ones I have read are definitely interesting. Some tend to be mere sketches, scenes, that contain a mystery that isn't fully revealed. Others are short horror stories - one in particular is a precursor of the Child's Play movies in its depiction of a killer fetish doll that attacks a woman who bought it at a flea market. Through these short stories, we get a better idea of Matheson as an author whose writing style is dark, witty, and sharp.

I highly recommend picking up I Am Legend and reading it on its own merits. Don't try to compare it to the Will Smith movie, because they share very little in common. Matheson's story is complex and intelligent, whereas the Will Smith movie displays a somewhat disappointing but inevitable Hollywood predictability.

President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama Jr.: Time's Person of the Year

Not a surprising choice, but definitely a good one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reaction to the "shoe incident" from an American student living in Germany

Someone I know who lives in Germany sent me this:

I am an american, a white male, not an arab, etc. and I cannot praise Zaidi enough for what he did. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever watched; one is tempted to use the word Catharsis, in its modern sense, because he finally acted upon what the world feels towards Bush. No matter how Bush may spin it, the Iraq War has destroyed so many lives, destroyed human rights as we understood it, disregarded all international law, etc. while the Western Governments did nothing to stop him. In many ways, studies and reports show, Iraq is a humanitarian wasteland. Those heavy boots flying across the room were the world ripping Bush out of his Neoconservative padded office and into the reality of what the majority of the world feels and will never be able to express. This rage and anger at Bush it was causes people to organize and attack, but for that brief second as the boots were in the air, there was a tangible sense of release and satisfaction. Also Mr. Zaidi, who has evidently been mistreated, will put a spotlight on the corrupt and inhumane penal and justice system in Irak: nothing more than a continuance of the Sadam status quo. I do fear greatly for the life of Mr. Zaidi in the hands of the Iraqi police/militia and think that if Bush or more accurately Maliki, it is hard to tell the puppet from the puppetier, must release him or their credibility as leaders and reformers of Iraq and its newfound western ideals of personal rights and freedoms will be completely invaliated.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adopt your pets!

I decided to flesh out my last post criticizing Joe Biden. I posted this to DailyKos.

Joe Biden just got a new puppy. It's a German Shepherd, it's adorable, and I'm sure his family will be happy with it.

But he got it from a breeder!

When so many millions of dogs and cats are sitting in shelters awaiting execution, getting a dog from a breeder is not an ethical act.

My partner and I have two pets. We have an adorable one-eyed Tonkinese cat named Cosette, and a goofy but loveable Jackabee named Wendy. I'll post pictures of them below.

We got both of our pets from rescue organizations. We didn't even think of going to a breeder. And both of our pets have been wonderful additions to our family.

Cosette had clearly been badly neglected by her former owners. I think the story was that she had been kept in a garage with a bunch of other cats and basically ignored. Her eye was lost through some kind of respiratory infection. When we got her home, she hid from us for a week. After some persistent coaxing, we gained her trust, and three years later, she's still the sweetest cat I've ever met. She has this "squeak" that she does to get attention - not quite a full meow, but a squeak. Sure, she'll do a full meow, but the squeak will melt your heart.

Wendy was dumped by her family after she got pregnant, and was found by an animal rescue group and fostered until she had her puppies. The puppies were weaned and adopted out, and we got Wendy. Almost a year later, we can't imagine life without this goofy, funny-looking dog whose head is too small for her body. We're pretty sure she's a Jackabee - a Jack Russell/Beagle mix, but that's just a guess. But it doesn't really matter - she's family now, and we love her.

Here's a quote from the Humane Society:

Many pets at your local shelter are waiting for new homes because they were obtained by someone with unrealistic expectations of the time, effort, and money required to sustain a lifelong relationship with their pet. National figures indicate that about half of the animals in shelters must be euthanized for lack of homes. Animals at your local shelter are eager to find a new home and are just waiting for someone like you.

(emphasis mine.)

If you want a new furry friend in your life, don't go to a breeder. There are a million dogs and cats waiting in shelters for someone just like you to come and make them a part of your family.

Petfinder is a great resource for finding your next best friend. You can search by type of pet, gender, age, and breed, and all the animals listed come from shelters or rescue groups.

As promised, here are pictures of my furry friends:

Wendy as a ladybug for Halloween:

Wendy at the dog park:


Cosette being cute:


Criticism of Joe Biden

I know he wanted a German Shepherd puppy, which is fine. They're cute. But did he have to get it from a breeder?

Here's a list of German Shepherd puppies available for adoption from rescue organizations in D.C.

I hope Obama gets his dog from a rescue group...

Today is election day.

Today is the day that the people who actually get to choose the President actually do so. It's Electoral College day! Yay!

Who throws a shoe? Honestly.

Thousands of Iraqis have demanded the release of a local TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.

Crowds gathered in Baghdad's Sadr City district, calling for "hero" Muntadar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody.

Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, called for the release of their journalist, saying he was exercising freedom of expression.

Who throws a shoe? Honestly. That really hurt!

(bonus points if you get the movie reference)

Gov. Paterson criticizes SNL skit

NY Governor David Paterson is criticizing Saturday's Weekend Update sketch that portrayed him as a bumbling, blind idiot. I agree with his critique. Blind folks deserve the same protection from discrimination as does anyone else, and that sketch was just in bad taste. SNL needs to apologize to Gov. Paterson.

Monday loldog

Made it through the night and still have electricity - that's a good thing.

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more puppies

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hoping for the best

but there's an ice storm happening right now, and we're exactly 52 weeks since last year's Ice Storm...if I lose power for another week, I won't be happy.

We went out and bought a bunch of canned food items tonight...surprised that I didn't see more crazed Tulsans packing the stores - it was actually pretty empty. Do people have that short of a memory?

Ice coming down hard and fast now...hope to God the electricity stays on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Friday

Sorry this is late...

Best Rube Goldberg Ever - Watch more free videos

I'd like to wish everyone who reads this blog

a very Happy Chanukah.

(hey, that's the holiday I celebrate, so that's the one I'm going to greet you with, even if you're not Jewish.)

Happy Friday video DELAYED

Yes, I know, you're missing your Happy Friday video. I'm sorry - since my partner and I started carpooling in the mornings, it's really made it more difficult for me to remember to post it before I leave for work.

Fear not, dear readers. Your video will be posted this evening.

Meanwhile, here's a poll. I haven't really had a solid direction for my Friday video posts; I've just been posting whatever is on my mind at a given moment. But since, dear readers, these videos are for your benefit as much as mine, please tell me what you prefer to see.


The economic crisis is hitting everyone. Millions of people lost their jobs this year, and if we don't fix this, millions more will lose their jobs next year.

My partner and I have been lucky thus far, both being in jobs that don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Mine is probably more precarious, as the telecom industry is certainly not recession-proof, but I know I could find another job pretty quickly if this one went away.

The problem we're having, and I know this is a really minor problem compared to what everyone who has been laid off is going through, is that we are planning to move halfway across the country in January. Doing so successfully requires us to find jobs there. With everything that's happening to the economy right now, I just don't know how possible that's going to be. We've both put in dozens of applications, and we've gotten barely a nibble. I have a couple of good prospects, and a couple of interviews set up with staffing agencies when we get there. Once we get there, however, we have approximately two weeks to solidify everything.

I hope we can do it. Moving to Portland will really improve our quality of life, allow my partner to go to a decent school, and allow us to get a legal domestic partnership and have legal protections against discrimination. It'll also improve our health, because we'll be walking more and taking public transportation.

But if we can't find jobs, the move won't happen, and we'll be stuck.

That's how the recession is affecting us. We haven't lost our jobs, but we also might just be stuck.

And if the auto companies fail, then we'll probably be stuck for quite some time to come.

Call the White House. Demand that before they leave, the Bush regime do at least one thing right, and bail out the damned auto industry. The failure of the Big 3 will devastate an already badly damaged economy, and that's not good for anyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Look, you mouth breathers...

President Barack Hussein Obama Jr. will use his middle name at the inauguration. It's his middle name. Can we move on?

The level of stupid on the right wing and their buddies at CNN is just simply astonishing. How do you people manage to put your socks on in the morning? On your head?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Newsweek tackles marriage equality

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

from Newsweek's cover story on Marriage and the Bible. I recommend reading the whole article.

"Day without a Gay"

If I had PTO available and I wasn't going to risk being fired from this job, I wouldn't go to work today. Call me a coward, but I don't need to be fired from a job a month before I leave the job anyway to move halfway across the country. It would cause...complications.

Still, I think it's a great idea, and I applaud those of you who have the ability to participate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Victory for Sit-In Workers

MSNBC is reporting that the workers who staged a sit-in at a window factory in Chicago have won an agreement from Bank of America to loan the company money to cover severance and vacation pay. Good for them!

Why didn't someone tell me

that Boston Legal was ending? I like that show. Last night's series finale was just great. I won't spoil it for you if you have it on your Tivo or whatever, but definitely watch it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Michael Moore is spot on

Michael Moore has a plan to save the Big 3 by nationalizing them, firing the management, and forcing them to make alternative fuel vehicles, along with buses and other public transit systems.

I support this plan, and I encourage the readers of Sinister to sign on to it. Click the link in the post title to go to his site, read his proposal, and sign on to it. All signatures will be sent to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Workers occupy factory

Workers are staging a sit-in at the Republic Windows and Doors after being laid off with only 3 days notice in contravention of labor laws. The workers, who are represented by the United Electrical Workers union, are demanding that they receive the severance and vacation pay to which they are entitled.

Obviously, I support the workers and applaud them for stepping up. But I think they need to go further - if they can't get an agreement from the management, they should stage a full takeover of the business and start running it themselves.

As a wise man once said - we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Monday loldog

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Friday, December 5, 2008

More about political quizzes

Since so many of us are jumping on the Political Compass / World's Smallest Political Quiz bandwagon (you know, I've never known what a bandwagon is, or how one actually jumps onto it), I thought I might offer my own opinion of these quizzes.

I know, for example, that the World's Smallest Political Quiz is set up by Libertarians, and as such, it is biased towards their views. I think the Political Compass might also be a Libertarian construct, but I don't know that for sure. Now, the current economic meltdown, caused largely by a severe lack of regulation on Wall Street and bad management in Detroit, should give anyone considering joining the Libertarian Party, which advocates for less government intervention in the economy, significant pause. Indeed, I would argue that the current economic crisis is one more nail in the coffin in which lies the discredited idea of laissez-faire capitalism championed by the Libertarians.

Both of the political quizzes referenced above, especially the "World's Smallest Political Quiz," define "freedom" as "lack of government intervention," whether in economic affairs or social policy. In an era where lack of government regulation has taken away so many people's livelihoods and prevented them from enjoying the freedoms they're supposed to have a right to enjoy as Americans, such a definition of "freedom" is not valid.

Lack of government intervention on Wall Street has caused thousands of Americans to get sucked into untenable and predatory mortgages, eventually causing them to lose the American dream of home ownership that they had worked so hard to achieve. Lack of government intervention in Detroit has allowed the inept management of the Big Three automakers to drive those companies into the ground, and may lead to the loss of millions of jobs and spiral our economy deeper into recession. Lack of government intervention in health care has meant misery and premature death for millions of Americans without insurance coverage.

These realities don't sound like the freedom that America promises. These realities simply sound like the freedom to fail, to be crushed under the weight of impossible economic realities, to find yourself penniless and destitute, without even a bootstrap to pull yourself upright.

That's the "freedom" that unregulated capitalism has given us.

And yet these Libertarians still insist that government is the opposite of freedom. What a joke.

The truth is that capitalism, left to its own devices, will always have high peaks of economic prosperity followed by deep troughs of economic misery, and the working class will always be hit the hardest by such fluctuations. Sensible, comprehensive, government regulation of business and trade is the only way to both put a ceiling on the peaks and a floor on the troughs, helping to ensure that prosperity is spread to the most possible people. In times of economic crisis, government must take an aggressive role to shore up whatever is failing. In this case, fully nationalizing the banking and auto industries wouldn't be the worst idea, and might actually be cheaper in the long run than throwing billions of dollars in bailout money at these two sectors. Nationalization would allow the government to fire inept and corrupt management, impose new rules and regulations to improve business practices, preserve jobs, and keep the industries from collapsing and driving the economy further into decline. When the economy improves, and the banking and auto industries are solvent again, the government can sell them back to the private sector, thus recouping the costs incurred through nationalization. The key is that the regulations that the government put in place during the economic crisis must remain in place once the economy improves, so as to prevent another crisis.

The point is that government is not the opposite of freedom. Quite the reverse is true. Whether it's the police force keeping you safe in your home, the highway department keeping your roads in a safe and driveable condition, the water board ensuring you have clean tap water, or the SEC imposing sensible regulations on Wall Street to root out corruption and prevent economic chaos, government is the only real guarantor of freedom.

Brought to you by your friendly neighborhood social democrat.

Rather bold prediction from Ed Schultz

He predicts a "Worker's March on Washington" next year if the economy doesn't improve.


Question of the day

So the automakers want something like $34 billion for a bailout. Yet I keep hearing on the news that anyone could actually BUY the "big three" for a whole lot less than that. So, um,

Why don't we just nationalize them, fire their inept management, and force them to start making good cars?

Anyone? Anyone have a good answer? Bueller? Bueller?

Hey, the Onion is funny, but not when it's making fun of ME

"Moving to a New City to Solve all of Area Man's Problems"

ATLANTA—All of area resident Brian Shepard's problems, including his fear of commitment, lack of personal direction, and inability to learn from past failures, will be instantly solved this week when the 29-year-old packs up his belongings and moves to a new city. "Moving to Portland is going to make all the difference in the world," said Shepard, who, just by putting 2,500 miles distance between himself and years of destructive behavior, will suddenly turn his life around. "It won't be anything like Chicago, or Boston, or San Francisco. This is exactly what I need right now." Shepard also plans to completely eliminate his dependence on self-denial by ignoring his dependence on self-denial.

Hey - that's not nice...

Actually, it's kind of a hilarious coincidence...

The fundamentals of our economy

um, suck.

533,000 jobs lost last month - the worst in decades. Unemployment nearly 7%. Can we just do an emergency order to just throw Bush out of the White House now and get Obama in there so he can get to work on this mess?

It's a little worrying...

Happy Friday

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jumping on the bandwagon

Here are my test results from The Political Compass:

Economic Left/Right: -8.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.79

Thanks to the good folks at Blue Oklahoma

for promoting this humble blogger's post about chain restaurants to the front page.

I'll be totally honest here. I mock this state ruthlessly, and I do it quite often. And sometimes Oklahoma deserves to be mocked ruthlessly.

However, I will say this. For all its faults, its political stupidity, its religious extremism, its sterile suburban sprawl, its terrible roads, and all the rest of it, Tulsa really is a pretty easy and comfortable place to live. There are a lot of good people here, doing good things, leading good lives. The fact is that no matter how far I travel from this city, it'll always be the place where I was born and have spent quite a bit of my life, and as such it'll always feel like home.

So to you Progressive Okies fighting the good fight against seemingly insurmountable odds, I wish you nothing but the best, and I'll be keeping my eye on you when I'm in Oregon.

I'll be making some changes to this blog's layout when I move to Oregon in about a month, and of course I'll ask the editor of BNN to move me to the Oregon page, but I plan to continue blogging about Oklahoma issues from time to time. Stay tuned.

Extra special Thursday loldog

just cause this is too cute to pass up.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In praise of local restaurants (or how I learned to stop going to chains and love eating out again)

The earlier post I wrote mocking the Tulsa World for reviewing a chain restaurant like Western Sizzlin' has prompted me to lay out my argument in favor of eating locally.

I'm sure a lot of people really do enjoy going to Applebee's. It's easy, it's cheap, and the service and food are safe and predictable. It's the same quality of service and food you'll get at Chili's, and at TGI Fridays, at the Olive Garden, and any number of the other chain restaurants dotting the city. Waiters and waitresses are bubbly and friendly, they wear cute outfits, and they always have an extensive menu of easily recognizable and non-threatening food.

The problem is that none of it is actually good food. The food lies there, limply on the plate, telling you, "Some kid making $8 an hour has made 100 of me during today's shift, assembling products from a menu designed by a corporation hundreds of miles away." Sure, the food is fine, and it won't kill you, and it'll fill your belly, but does it really excite you? Are you positively engaged in the dining experience, or are you just eating food?

It's been my experience that local restaurants, like the Brook, or Arizona Mexican Restaurant, or White River Fish Market, or Mario's Pizzeria, or Mekong River, or Lanna Thai, all offer a higher quality, more delicious, and frankly more personal dining experience, for the same price or cheaper than the national chains. Maybe it's because the owners are close by, and the employees have more of a stake in what they're cooking and presenting to the customers. Maybe it's because family-owned restaurants by their very nature take more pride in what they serve. I don't know what it is, but I have yet to eat at a chain restaurant that can match the quality and innovation of service and food that I've found at local restaurants.

A few weeks ago, my partner and I were down in the 71st and Memorial area, and we decided to check out this steak restaurant we saw. As soon as we walked up, we knew we were at a chain. We walked in, and we were greeted by a bubbly hostess who handed us one of those vibrating coasters. We asked to see a menu, and we were presented with one that, had I not known the name of the restaurant, would have looked identical to a million menus I'd seen at chain restaurants all over the country. And yet, people were lining up to eat there. I wanted to ask them all - what makes this restaurant any different or better than any of the other chains? What makes it unique? We handed back our vibrating coaster and menu, and we left. We ended up having an absolutely delicious dinner at Mekong River, a locally owned Vietnamese restaurant with delicious food and wonderful service at prices significantly lower than they were at that steak restaurant. And yet Mekong River was nearly empty. Why, Tulsa? Why would you rather go to a soulless, unidentifiable chain, than an absolutely delicious local restaurant where the food is prepared with care, and it's cheaper than the chain?

I'd like everyone reading this to try an experiment for me. Go to any one of the myriad chain restaurants in town and have a meal. Pay attention to the service, to the food, and ask yourself whether you're actually enjoying your meal because it's tasty and interesting in your mouth, or whether you're just enjoying the meal because it's filling your belly. Ask yourself what makes this particular chain restaurant unique and different and better than any other chain restaurant. It can't just be superficial stuff like, "Well, this one has southwestern eggrolls, and that other one doesn't," because that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the overall experience. I think you'll find that where it counts, your dining experience will be basically identical at any given chain restaurant.

The next night, I'd like you to go to a local restaurant. I will define a local restaurant as one based in Oklahoma with fewer than, say, 10 locations in the city. Ideally, I'd like you to go to a restaurant with no other locations, but there are a few local chains that are quite tasty.

Earlier in this post, I named a few local restaurants that I enjoy. I'll give you some more details on those:

The Brook - a Tulsa institution - delicious burgers, sandwiches, and a full bar. On Brookside between 41st and 31st and Peoria.

Arizona Mexican Restaurant - Several locations throughout the city. Serves authentic homestyle Mexican food in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. The staff is friendly, the food is delicious, and the margaritas are huge. My favorite location is at 66th and Lewis.

White River Fish Market - this local fish joint is in North Tulsa, and it has actually been reviewed nationally as one of the best places for fish in the country. Cheaper than Bodean's and just as delicious, in a relaxed and casual atmosphere, White River offers broiled, fried, and grilled fish and the best gumbo you can get in the city.

Mario's Pizzeria - authentic New York style pizza and sandwiches. Quite possibly some of the best pizza in the city. Also try the pepper & sausage hot sub.

Mekong River - Vietnamese restaurant at 71st and Memorial behind Toys R Us. Dishes you won't find anywhere else. Try the French style steak - you won't find a better, more delicious, or more uniquely prepared steak dish somewhere like Outback.

Lanna Thai - Just south of 71st and Memorial, this Thai restaurant also offers live music and great cocktails. Their curries are hard to beat, and the service is superb.

Kolam- Indian restaurant just north of 51st and Memorial. It's a small location, but the dishes are an innovative and unique blend of North and South Indian, and Indo-Chinese food. Their lunch buffet is quite possibly the best in the city, and their dinner menu is superb, and not that expensive.

One more reason I'm moving out of this state...

Tulsa's newspaper recently did a serious review of a local steak restaurant:

Western Sizzlin'.


What's next? Laudatory gushing over the all you can eat soup & salad bar at local favorite "The Olive Garden?"


Lesson for the day

When Republicans win a Presidential election by a razor-thin margin, and only win 55 seats in the Senate, that's a "mandate," and nobody talks about the failure of the Republicans to win a "filibuster-proof majority."

When Democrats win a decisive Presidential landslide, and win 58 seats in the Senate, and a huge margin in the House, that's not a mandate, and the Republicans "win" if they deny Democrats that magic 60 seat "filibuster-proof majority."

Apparently, 2+2 = swordfish.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cute joke for the holidays

Holiday Visit?

A Jewish grandmother is giving directions to her grown grandson who is coming to visit with his wife:

"You come to the front door of the apartment complex. I am in apartment 14-T. There's a big panel at the door. With your elbow push button 14-T. I will buzz you in. Come inside, the elevator is on the right. Get in, and with your elbow hit 14. When you get out I am on the left. With your elbow, hit my doorbell."

"Bubbe, that sounds easy, but why am I hitting all these buttons with my elbow?"

"Your're coming empty-handed?"

Received this in an e-mail update from the Temple.

The "Fair Flat Tax Act"

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, together with Rep. Rahm Emanuel, has introduced a "Fair Flat Tax Act" that claims to simplify the tax code in a number of ways. It collapses the tax brackets from six to three, and eliminates loopholes and giveaways to corporations. It also eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, and it would provide tax relief to middle and working class families by tripling the standard deduction.

According to Wyden's website, this tax program would allow people to file a very simple one page 1040 form, making the tax code "simpler, flatter, and fairer."

I'm intrigued by this proposal, but I'm not willing to jump on board with it without more information. I prefer a steeper, more progressive tax system, especially now, when we have an enormous national deficit and debt to pay down. I think we need to increase taxes on those making more than $200,000 - not just repeal the Bush tax cuts, but actually increase taxes on the rich even more. It's very simple - if we don't have the revenue coming in to pay for what the government needs to pay for, then we need to increase the revenue coming in. Cutting spending can only go so far, and doing so certainly won't pay down the national debt.

"Impeach Bush" ornament to hang on White House tree

When Deborah Lawrence got the invitation from the White House, the Seattle-based artist decided to make a lefty political statement.

But she never expected it would hang on the official Christmas tree.


"I was at first nauseated, then realized it was an opportunity," said Lawrence, 55, who frequently combines politics and satire in her work and saw this as the perfect way "to highlight Jim McDermott because he's a hero of mine."

The nine-inch ball is covered with swirly red and white stripes -- and, in tiny glued-on text, salutes the Democratic congressman's support for a resolution to impeach President Bush. (Also showcased: Washington state's 1919 labor strike, its suffrage movement and the violent anti-World Trade Organization riots of 1999.) Lawrence sent it off to D.C. in September and was very surprised it was accepted for the tree -- and that she was invited to this afternoon's White House reception for the artists, which she flew to D.C. to attend.

(emphasis mine)

I love it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A note to ZTruth (and others) - Islam isn't the enemy.

I've become increasingly disturbed and offended by the continual racism spewing forth from blogger ZTruth and others on the fringes of the political spectrum. It seems that every post written by Ztruth is some story about how Muslims are evil because of this anecdotal evidence or that incident or this connection between some Muslim somewhere and a guy who once made a phone call to someone connected to Hamas.

We have to be careful not to define a whole people by the actions of extremists. It's kind of scary that I have to even say that, but apparently folks like Ztruth don't get it. We had an enemy once about sixty years ago that tried to define people based on false stereotypes. Do I really have to say anything else here?

The vast, vast majority of Muslims want nothing more than to live peacefully and participate in society as equals. They want the right to worship as their faith dictates. They want the respect that an enlightened society affords all of its citizens regardless of religious, political, or other affiliation.

ZTruth - your racism is offensive and scary.

Islam is not your enemy. The enemy is ignorance, extremism, and the unwillingness to dialogue with those we don't understand. The enemy is racism, sexism, and xenophobia. The enemy is fear - fear of the other without the willingness to learn about the other.

Take it from a Jew who grew up learning about the horrors of the Holocaust. I've been to the camp at Auschwitz/Birkenau. I've seen the ovens. I said Kaddish over the frozen pond where the ashes of a million Jews were dumped.

Hatred of an entire people is a disease that spreads and leads to nothing but death and ruin.

Wake up, Ztruth. Please.

Find the humanity in those you fear.

The fundamentals of our economy

have been in a recession since December 2007.

I could have told you that in December 2007.


Hillary's official


Well that's a decision I don't agree with, but I'll give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Monday loldog

Sold my car this weekend...Portland just became a whole lot more real...

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