Thursday, December 31, 2009

My New Favorite Blog...

From Balloon Juice:

9:45 12/28/09
@Johngcole:
"Now that Obama blamed systemic failure, watch GOP pivot and accuse Obama of demoralizing our intelligence agencies."

10:55 12/28/09
@newtgingrich:
"We do not need a wtch hunt in intelligence, we need a fundamental change in administration policies on terrorism"

"Not to break my arm patting myself on the back with my predictive prowess, because this just wasn't very hard to see coming. When you are dealing with the current GOP, you simply have to think of the most shamelessly cynical thing they could do or say, and realize that they will in fact do just that. They are completely unhindered by reality and show no allegiance to facts or recent history. They will say or do anything, they know they will not be held accountable by the media or their own party, and that the Democrats don't have the balls to hit them head on. And when folks like Grayson do, our beltway betters get the vapors.

"This is just the reality we have to deal with- one party is filled with shameless hypocritical liars who will do or say anything, they are aided by a lazy and corrupt media, and the other party must spend all their time reacting to yesterday's bullshit charges while new ones are launched their way today. It is what it is."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bruise


Bruise
Originally uploaded by BigMisterC
I donate blood as often as I can. It really is important. One unit of donated blood can save several lives. If you are able to donate blood, I urge you to do so. Don't assume that someone else will do it. I have been donating for years and usually have no problems, no ill effects. Hell, I've never even gotten nauseous or light-headed even. I have a one gallon pin that I have affixed to my ID badge at work but have probably donated much more than that - I never remember my donor card so I really don't know how much I've given.

This time however, the phlebotomist who took my blood did not do such a good job. She went into the vein at a bad angle and went through the vein. Of the three veins in the anti-cubital fossa (the fancy name for the inside of your elbow), the brachial vein (the one closest to your body running at an angle) is the worst of the three veins for any kind of phlebotomy. It isn't anchored in muscle like the other and has a tendency to "roll" under the skin. The cephalic vein vein (on the opposite side) runs parallel to the arm and is a bit hard to find isn't much better because of the angle of the needle as it rests against the arm - it would be hard to anchor the collection needle because of the curve of your arm in that area. The vein dead center is the best of the three and the one that is almost ALWAYS used for donating blood.

Well, my phleb chose the brachial vein... she went through the vein and had to pull back into it to get the blood to flow. But that caused bleeding below the surface, hence the bruise. The blood stopped flowing and they had to stop the donation. Now my arm is swollen and discolored. It feels like an over-inflated tire and will soon have a nice rainbow of colors...

Lucky me!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wierd Science

The "nature fakers" and "liberal media" rely on sound science, not science funded by the oil and coal industries. ...not statistics that lift a micro-trend of warming over a few years out of decades and decades of data that prove beyond a doubt there is indeed an indisutable warming trend.

The right forces the science into a mold that will support their political rhetoric and the rest of the science is suspect!? Only in a Bizzaro universe would that make any sense...

That'd be the same Bizzaro universe where de-regulation brings stability to the financial markets, tax cuts to the wealthiest benefit the poor and tort reform somehow provides health benefits for the uninsured...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Does Yahoo Condone Racism & Hatred?

IThere is a service on Yahoo called the buzz. It is kind of a poor man's delicious or digg. But unlike those two wonderful link sharing services, they also allow you to leave comments about the stories/links, etc., whatever. Which sounds fine, yes?

But here is the problem: it is not moderated in any way, shape or form. I mean, sure that have scripts that change swears to "f***" and "s***" but they are easy to get around and sadly, that is the only control they exert over the content that the users contribute to the site. There is a mechanism to flag an inappropriate comment but from my experience it seems like it's a stop-gap measure so that they can claim that the site is being policed.

For instance, take this story about a black, female politician from Ohio, state senator Nina Turner being portrayed as Aunt Jemima. Here are some choice comments:

Blacks need to perpetuate the myth of Racism as an excuse for their short comings and failures. No other race has been so dependent on misfortune in order to maintain the "you owe me attitude!" Historically, even to this day, they continue to fail because of themselves and themselves alone.
- C. W.

Well what stereotype should they use? A gansta? A crackhead? A muslim? A welfare mom who dont know who her babies daddy's are?
- Joe

BOO f***** HOO MONKEYS
Log Cabin tastes better anyway
- Will

This is about as silly as condemning Minstrels. What's next a remake of " Gone with the Wind, and making Scarlett the servent ? Or how about we fight the Civil War all over again and make the Negro free the White Man. After all, that's who the minority is in America today. The Middle Class, taxpaying American who signs the Welfare Check and keep[s Osama's Aunt in Public Housing until he figures a scheme to keep her here. By the way, Aunt Jemima was a Half-Breed. Her father was a Quaker Oat.
- Desederatta (Not only is this person the antipathy of the uplifting poem "Desiderata," he cannot even spell it correctly)

If it's not favorable to blacks, it's racist. Get off your PLANTATION mentality.
- Mark

This not about Aunt Jemima. Its about the fear Black Leaders have of losing Affirmative Action, quota's in hiring, preference in promotions and obtaining scholarships and precious college seats in Ivy League Colleges, Law and Medical Schools. Not to mention the lists of grants available to minorities. For every Affirmative Action a White Employee loses their job, A white Student loses their College money and seat. Millions of Whites have lost promotions, money, and retirement to promote Affirmative Action. Now, after Trillions of dollars and sacrifice of so many what is the result??
- JimmyFox

Funny stuff. These clowns are no different than monkeys in the trees throwing sh-t at each other. Let's all have a chimp out ! The black race is doomed by it's own stupidity,but it will limp around on the crutch of slavery for many more years untill they finally all shoot each other. There is nothing more brutal than black on black anger. I guess it's the law of the jungle,but these fools never figured out they're not still in the jungle. Maybe they want to bring the jungle here? Im so..... sick of these people.
- JOHNM

Black people continue to keep themselves segregated, not individually, but as a race. They still promote racism by refusing to speak proper English, by playing the race card every chance they get, by following racist bastards like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, by refusing to take advantage of free education, by not marrying and raising their children as a family, by committing the majority of the crimes and blaming white people for all their troubles. As a race, they need to hold themselves to a higher standard like everyone else does, and stop whining. That will lead to the end of all racism.
- Tim S

Aunt Jemima is NOT racist. Sounds like the blacks are ashamed of their herratige. They straighten their hair and lighten their skin by interracially breeding with whites...looks like they have serious issues. The blacks need to be proud of who they are and stop the whinning. Also, they don't like when they are called ni##er but yet they call each other ni##er.....now that is ignorant. They dress like clowns and complain when people make in fun of them. Like I said..they have serious issues.
- TakingBack

It amazes me. Blacks want to raise hell about Aunt Jemima. Her image makes just about everyone have good thoughts about great tasting pancakes. Blacks don't, however, seem to have a problem with: an 80% bastard birthrate, opportunistic theft, having children without being able to support themselves, rampant drug trafficking and use, a disdain for education, destroying community or rental property, violent behavior, perpetrating racism, driving with no license or insurance, grand theft auto, carjacking, home invasion, and 90% of all violent crime committed in this country. What they choose to get upset about is very telling. Maybe her image should sport a different colored bandanna and a Newport hanging from her lips.
- Donald

And I could literally go on and on... And this is just from one story on one day. If you didn't see the Yahoo logos all over the site you might be liable to think that you'd stumbled across a white supremacy website. I've complained to Yahoo numerous times and I have received absolutely no response. There is a Terms of Service that warns the user that they might be exposed to content that they may find offensive. BUT in the agreement it also states that user agrees not to "upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable." Well, that certainly isn't being enforced looking at the comments above.

So, the bottom line is if Yahoo makes it a violation of the terms of service to post hateful, obscene, racist remarks and then does nothing to enforce those rules, isn't that a tacit approval of such behavior? Hypothetically speaking if I put up a sign that tells people to stay off my lawn yet sit on my porch and politely nod to people who cut through my property and give them a knowing wink isn't that actually condoning that trespassing of my property? If so, then Yahoo is condoning the hateful, racist behavior of its users? At what point does not enforcing the rules become a tacit approval of ignoring the rules and has Yahoo crossed that line? I think so...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sarah Palin doesn't care about you

Do you use twitter? I do. Twitter is about communication, about dialogue. It's about the exchange of ideas.

Well, maybe I am being a bit too lofty. It can be about keeping up with your favorite celebrity. It can be about keeping in touch with distant friends and relatives. It can be used in any way you want.

But there are some people who use it only for self-serving purposes. Their twitterfeed is a non-stop litany of self-promotion. It's like listening to a needy, unsure of themself four year old clamoring for attention. "Mommy! Look what I can do!" There are others, worse still, who think that they can use it as a blunt tool solely for making money. How the hell they would accomplish that is beyond me. I get a few of these as followers from time to time. Very often, I block them. To me, Twitter is a social tool; being associated with their ilk makes it a bit creepy and dirty. Yuck.

Sarah Palin falls into the first category. How do I know? Look at the image from her Twitter profile. She doesn't follow a single person. Not even Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin... Hell, not even P. Diddy and it seems like the whole twitterverse follows him (2.3 million followers)! Basically, where Sarah Palin is concerned, all communication is one-way: I speak, you listen. She doesn't want to hear from you and doesn't care what you have to say as long as you buy her book and you think that she's a "real American." Please don't ask her about her views on foreign policy (it's in the book) and when you address her make sure that you address her as Governor Palin and please... no photos (unless you want to purchase an "autographed" one at one of her book signings - only $30.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Disappointed

I know that there were not a lot of good options that were present to President Obama concerning Afghanistan and the course we should pursue there. One of the options that I pretty sure were never put on the table for discussion was complete and immediate withdrawal of all of our troops. What is most disappointing is the way that the president is embracing the Bush doctrine; it may not be a full-on, twenty second, bromance kind of hug. It's more like an awkward, uncomfortable embrace with your aging great-aunt who smells funny, but it's an embrace, none the less. Tuesday's night's speech was probably the most un-inspiring, flat, lifeless speech that I've ever heard President Obama deliver. I would like to think that his heart wasn't really in it and that deep down inside that he didn't really agree with the orders our military are about to carry out. I don't know if this decision is the product of pressure being exerted by the pentagon and our military leaders. If so, this decision flies in the face of George Washington's ideal of a civilian commanding our military; the armed forces are supposed to answer to the president, not the other way around.

What really would be immensely disappointing is the idea that this decision was made to give political cover to the Democratic party in the upcoming elections in 2010 and 2012. If the president were to order a complete withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan to begin immediately, the Democratic party would be vulnerable politically. The GOP would portray us as soft on terror, unwilling to make the hard decisions to keep America safe, unwilling to listen to the advice of our military's generals, etc. I am not ready or willing to embrace this idea. I do not think that President Obama, while a shrewd and polished politician is willing to sacrifice the lives of young American men and women and add billions upon billions of dollars to the deficit for sheer political gain. My cynicism hasn't plunged to that depth yet.

One thing I must say though is that while I am disappointed with this decision, I am not at all surprised. I am very much a liberal and Obama was not my choice for president during the primaries. The two candidates who I was most willing to vote for were Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They had both dropped out of the race when we were voting the primaries in Connecticut. I voted for Hillary Clinton. Obama, I thought was always too much of a centrist; he's not really a liberal. He always said he would, as president, defeat al Qaeda and give the war in Afghanistan the attention it deserved, that this was the region that should be our focus in the war on terror and not Iraq. So while I do not feel that this is the decision that the president should have come to in his deliberation on the situation in Afghanistan, and by proxy Pakistan, I cannot say that I didn't see it coming. And I still voted for him, in spite of this fact. He was a much better choice than Senator McCain - I cannot and don't want to imagine the mess the country would be in if Barack Obama had not been elected. I hope that we stick with the withdrawal schedule the president has come up with for 2011. It's not as soon as I'd like to see the troops come home, but if we stick with that timetable, hopefully the cost of this war, in both monetary and human cost, will not be too high.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Going Rogue

I just read this. Someone tweeted a link to it and I thought that I would go take a look. I have to admit that my reading and sources of information are rather insulated. I think everyone's natural tendency is to gravitate to views that reinforce your own views. While this may make us feel better and gives us a sense of validation the tunnel vision that comes as a byproduct, in reality, does neither us nor the country any real favors. In fact it has the potential to be extremely harmful. Is it any wonder that, according to some statistics, over 40% of Republicans do not believe that President Obama is a natural-born citizen and therefor illegible to hold office. This is in spite of the fact that the contrary has been proven by the cable news networks, the White House, factcheck.org and plenty of other sources. The more you read information that only supports your preconceived ideas and opinions the more polarized your views are bound to become.

Which is what makes this blog post so refreshing. Following a link to a conservative site to read a review of Sarah Palin's book, I didn't expect such an honest and frank assessment, especially after conservative pundits have been falling over each other to praise it. Rush Limbaugh actually said that it was the best book on policy that he has ever read. But this was review was written by someone who evidently has been a supporter (and defender) of Governor Palin but was honest enough to allow themselves to be subjective in reading the book. Unlike a lot of conservatives who say that the discrepancies in the book that were found by the AP were nothing more than liberal media smear campaign, this reviewer saw the errors in the book and took them for what they are: errors.

"Her publisher did not fact check this book well (if at all). She was badly served by her publisher and editor. People who criticize me for nit-picking her use of quotations miss the point. I am a fan . . . though now a weary one . . . and I found the errors. The publisher had to know that her critics would check every fact.

"How can I in a single day with no help find error after error when I am no writer, no editor (as this blog post indicates), and no specialist?"

It's refreshing to see someone, anyone, take off the rose-colored glasses and take an honest look at the people that they look up to. It's rare. I think that may be part of the reason I admire Glenn Greenwald so much.

Christmas


029
Originally uploaded by BigMisterC
I put our tree up today. Rather than procrastinate like I usually do and stretch it over two weekends, I figured I'd just get it done. All the Christmas decorations are out, the boxes are actually put away. I feel a nice sense of accomplishment if I do say so myself.

We have a new camera as well (the old is on its last legs - the zoom works only when it wants to along with quite a few other functions.) One of the most fun features of the new camera, for me at least, is its macro function. I took a whole bunch of super close-ups of some of the ornaments and posted them here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

GO(W)P

Sorry for the blogging diarrhea but I've had a lot ricocheting around in my noggin and not a lot of time to sit down express it....

....anyway...

I saw this editorial on CNN.com, which I find myself reading less and less, but that's another blog entry. It's very true what the writer points out: that Sarah Palin is almost going out of her way to avoid minorities, people of color and urban areas on her book tour. I realize that she is not running for office nor in public office at the moment, but the feel of the book tour, the timing of it all, her involvement in the election in upstate NY all reek of a thinly veiled campaign of some kind. If she were truly on a book tour, where the objective would be to expose as many people as possible to the book, meet as many people as possible to get your it marketed and eventually sold to the greatest number of people possible?

As the author, points out, "Palin's curious tour schedule takes me right back to some of the more disturbing displays during last year's campaign, when people at some campaign rallies at times made racist remarks." He then goes on to say that he does not believe that Palin herself is a racist. That's okay; I'll do it for him.

I don't think that she's an overt racist. She may not even be aware that her actions are racist. But during the presidential campaign, every time someone would shout out a racial epithet or a death threat, etc. about then Senator Obama she said or did nothing to address those actions. Rather than speaking out and trying to keep the campaign focused on issues and differences in policy, she instead allowed it sink into the mire. It got to be so bad that the mood of the campaign became bigger news than the actual campaign itself. We all remember when that seemingly addled woman stood up at a McCain rally and said to him that she said, "I don't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's an Arab." John McCain was finally forced to stand up and address the madness that his campaign had been inciting. I think John McCain is, at heart, a decent man. I don't know if anyone else got the sense that I did from that moment, that he was sorry for opening the Pandora's Box of populism and attempting to appeal to the far right, super conservative base of his party by nominating Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin has yet to address the fact that when given the opportunity to repudiate the hateful and/or racist comments shouted out by people in the crowds at her campaign events. She has yet to comments on her divisive, offensive comments that did nothing but encourage the xenophobia and racism of the people who attended her rallies: "He's not one of us." He "pals around with terrorists." Maybe she is a racist, maybe not. She is, without a doubt, a self-serving and self-centered individual who does not care what kind of destruction or damage to the American political landscape she leaves in her wake.

Salon.com Redesign

To quote Mr. Horse from Ren & Stimpy, "No sir, I didn't like it."

I tried to give them feedback on their website about the redesign, which is still in beta but the form didn't work. So, Ms. Walsh, here is what I would have told you had the site functioned properly:

If I were grading the design team or designer a letter grade for the new layout it would be a D. Looking at the code, it's a mess. If, in the future, you decide to redesign again it would be a nightmare for the person doing the redesign. It would be easier to scrap it all and start from scratch. The HTML & CSS is much more complicated than it needs to be. The beauty of doing a layout with CSS is that it is simpler, lighter, etc. I could understand if this were a site that utilized dynamic pages (JSP, ASP and the like, but they aren't.)

Moving beyond the mechanics of the pages, the layout is awful. Nothing flows, everything is disjointed, and the scale of elements and their relationship to one another is completely out of whack. The War Room for instance, the logo is cut off on the left hand side (which a new reader would not notice but is a bit of a shock to people who been visiting the site for a while) and is smaller than the headlines of the stories. Having all the navigation and links to the right side of the page is a good choice, but they are all over-sized and awkward. The advertising comes between the content and navigation, placing, perhaps, too much emphasis on the ad over the content. On some pages there are huge gaps of empty space between the content and the navigation at the bottom of the page. On most pages the ad comes between the top navigation and the content of the page - awful... why interrupt the flow of the page to place an ad there? It makes the top navigation, which I like seem separate from the rest of the page.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our two biggest problems

So, our country is at something of a crossroads; we've been standing here for quite a while, being pulled one way and another trying to find direction. We're facing a number of crises but it's not all grim news. Just like JFK said, "When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters-one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." We are faced with a financial crisis, the magnitude of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression in the 1930's. We are mired in two wars that have bankrupted our nation, financially and morally. We have, for the first time in our history, and much to the surprise of the rest of the world, elected a man of color to the highest office in the land, giving us hope to move into a post-racial America.

But what are the two things holding us back?

Partisanship and Populism.

The election of Barack Obama was supposed to signal an era of post-partisanship. In his first hundred days he regularly invited GOP members of congress to the White House on a regular basis. In a Gallup poll taken during his first 100 days in congress, 66% of Americans felt that he was making a sincere effort to reach bipartisan solutions for the problems that we face. In stark contrast, only 38% percent felt that Republican congress were making the effort to reach across the aisle in the same poll. Many liberals, myself included, were banging our head against any available hard surface wondering why the hell he was even bothering. All the while the Republican party, in spite of the fact of naming members of the GOP to cabinet level positions, ambassador posts, etc., still cry foul - that the administration is incredibly partisan.

Like I said previously, we are facing daunting challenges. But we're not all doing the most we can to fix the problems. There is no denying that healthcare in our country is nowhere as good as it should be. It is safe to say that the inefficiencies, inequalities and the unethical practices that the insurance companies use are pushing this country closer and closer to the edge of an economic as well as moral crisis. ...unless of course you are so rabidly partisan that you think the white house is using the term "crisis" only so they can grab more power for themselves. We're never going to solve our problems if half the people working in government spend most of their time obscuring and distorting the facts, opposing any action taken by the majority, slow walking and delaying action, nominations, etc all in the name of political gain.

But our elected officials aren't the only ones to blame for all this. As long as the electorate is willing to be spoon fed utterly insane conspiracy theories, thinly-veiled racist hatred, off-base political commentary and accept it as "news" or "facts" we're going to be stuck in this mess. News companies, journalists, newspapers that lean to one side or the other keep on putting out sensationalist tripe in an effort to outsell their competition at the expense of neutral, factual, substantiated journalism. And as long as we are willing to allow them to do this the national conversation about the most pressing issues of the day will never rise above the most common denominator; no real progress will be easily made. If members of congress are able to gain political capital by telling lies about healthcare rationing, death panels, forced abortions any progress made will be hard fought and hard won. Much harder than it need be. If populism is allowed to have the upper hand over intelligent discourse, we become the biggest impasse to real progress in this country. We need to find a way to rise above the bitterness and bickering that has dragged our political process down into the mud.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Obstructionism is NOT the side of history you want to be on...

So, let me lay my thoughts out; spread them out on the table and get them organized.

For the majority of the last thirty years, the Republican party has held the reins of government. Most of our presidents have been Republicans and they have had more often than not a majority in Congress. Since the beginning of the 21st century, they have led the country down a rather ruinous path. Our economic health as a nation has not been this poor since the Great Depression; we are embroiled in two different, un-winnable wars against enemies that we cannot easily find or identify; we have lost our moral high ground by torturing and unlawfully detaining our enemies, spying on our own citizens and rolling back or trampling upon rights guaranteed in our constitution. Our standing in the world has been diminished and tarnished by a foreign policy of unilateralism and belligerence; we have gone from being the nation that helped found the U.N. and the failed League of Nations to a country whose leadership felt that tact and diplomacy has made us weak.

Understandably, the people of this nation decided that enough was enough and voted a Democratic majority into congress in 2006 and two years later added to that majority as well as electing a Democratic president: only the third Democratic president to be elected since 1968. It's not only a indictment of the mismanagement of the country by the previous administration, it was indicative of the changing demographics within the nation. Whether anyone likes it or not, we are a much different nation than we were at the end of the 20th century. The United States that walked tall and alone in the world no longer exists. While we are certainly the sole, remaining military superpower but after years of intertwining our economy with the world economy we are on our way to being on a more even playing field where trade and commerce are concerned. The face of the nation is changing; we are a little less white, a little less Christian, basically a little less like anyone who has held the power in our country since its founding.

In my opinion, it is plainly evident that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We have to define our goals in Afghanistan and Iraq; the banks need to be reeled in, placed under greater scrutiny and regulation; unemployment needs to be addressed; something has to be done about the inequality and inequity of the ever-widening gap between the richest and the poorest in our country; our education system is outdated and failing; for a wealthy, industrialized country we have an abysmal healthcare system in comparison to our peers; on and on and on goes the list.

Don't get me wrong; I love this country. I know that it is a blessing to be born in the United States and be a citizen of this nation. I don't want to live anywhere else. But my eyes are open. I know that racism is still prevalent in our day and time. I know that there are people born into poverty in our inner-cities whose lives are so bleak and barren of any promise that they turn to gangs, violence and drugs.

So, in the face of some of the greatest challenges in our country's history and as we move towards a future that is quickly evolving before our very eyes, what is the GOP doing?

Nothing.

Actually, worse than nothing. They are opposing each and every initiative being taken up by their Democratic counterparts. Slow-walking nominations of sorely needed government positions: several months into our swine flu pandemic they had to be shamed into confirming the president's nominee for Surgeon General. Doing everything possible to cloud and confuse the issues with misinformation and divisive, populist rhetoric: death panels, socialism, czars. And this is coming from the mainstream members of the party. I won't even go into the fringe elements like the birthers and 3%ers.

They complain that they "want their country back." I think that they have had it for long enough and I don't think that they deserve to get it back. They are like a poorly behaved child who was given a precious family heirloom. Their parents (the voters) came into the room one day and found them beating the family dog with this precious family treasure and took it away from them. They chastised them and in turn gave it to their quieter, more cerebral and considerably more compassionate sibling and entrusted it to their care. The horror of a child is now pointing out the flaws of their sibling and making up a few for good measure (socialist, weak on national defense, not "real Americans") in an attempt to persuade their parents to give them back their plaything.

If the parents are smart, they'll tell the brat to shut up, go to his room and to leave their sibling alone...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best of the Decade: Music

The first decade of the 21st century is winding down and just like every other decade cultural commentators and people who make a living following the entertainment industry are going to start compiling lists of the best off and the worst of and the most influential and blah blah blah... Well, to hell with them. I am going to compile my own damn lists and don't give a rat's ass how comprehensive or diverse my list is. These are, in no particular order, my favorite 10 albums of the 00's:

1. Is This It by The StrokesThe Strokes were hopelessly over-hyped before they ever released a single track or CD. For me, that usually doesn't bode well - I usually do not wind up liking those bands no matter how much music critics in hip magazines tell me how much I should like them or how important they are. The Shins and The Flight Of The Concords are two good examples of that. But the under-produced sound of the CD, Julian Casablancas's lazy easy vocals, the very, very New York club feel of the disc, the way it feels fresh and new and a throw back all at the same time made me fall in love with this album. I'm not one for straight up rock either, so this disc really took me by surprise.


2. Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens
I think that I, like most people I talk to who know his music, first heard about Sufjan Stevens on NPR. This is something that truly defies categorization. It's folky, it's sometimes like a high school band, it's poppy at times, it is at times evocative of Vince Guaraldi's music for the Peanuts TV specials, it's whimsical, it's sentimental, inspiring and heartbreaking, all in one bold stroke of genius. The song titles border on the insane, "To The Workers of The Rock River Valley Region, I have an idea concerning your predicament, and it involves an inner tube, bath mats, and 21 able-bodied men." This is the second album in what is a very lofty goal: to write and record one album for each of the 50 states in the U.S. All the songs revolve around the state of Illinois and cover a wide spectrum of subjects: from UFO sightings to a dream visit from Carl Sandberg to the serial Killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr. To give you an idea as to the power of his songwriting and lyrical originality, halfway through the John Wayne Gacy song you start to feel for him, he becomes something of a sympathetic character; he's able to make you see yourself in the man and feel some of the pain that drove him to those unspeakable acts. The song is beautiful and heart-breaking.

3. Timeless by Sergio Mendes
Sergio Mendes is something I heard all the time when I was growing. My parents had Sergio Mendes and the Brasil 66 LP's so this sound was immediately familiar. Hearing the opening track of "Mas Que Nada" was like stepping out of a time machine, but it became quickly evident that this wasn't my Dad's Sergio Mendes. The album was produced in close collaboration with Will.I.Am and is almost as much a Black Eyed Peas album as it is a Sergio CD. It's still very, very much a Bossa/Samba album but so much more at the same time. The artists that pitch in on the album are amazing: The Black Eyed Peas (of course) but also Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Q-Tip, Jill Scott, John Legend, Justin Timberlake (channeling Marvin Gaye), india.arie, Black Thought of The Roots and a whole host of Latino artists who I got to hear for the first time on this album.


4. Suzuki by Tosca
This is a group that most people have never heard of. Tosca is two DJ's/musicians from Vienna name Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber. I stumbled upon them because I am a big fan of Kruder and Dorfmeister (another of my strangely eclectic favorite artists). Suzuki is like the soundtrack to a trippy, relaxed stupor-induced dream. The tracks float along and meld into one another as the album progresses. It's a strange concoction of electronic music, hip-hop, jazz and ambient music with a healthy dash of bossa-nova thrown in. It is an album that you can leave in your CD player for a month and not get sick of. It's laid-back hypnotic and relaxing and most of all highly addictive. It's an aural sedative...


5. The Way I See It by Raphael Saddiq
This is like a blast from the past. It's not just Neo-Soul; this is straight-up soul music. It sounds like it straight out of Motown in the early 60's. Not to say that it feels dated; it's not. Great music never feels dated. You can reach into your bin of oldies, pull out Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, fire it up and it still feels fresh, new and relevant. The lyrics and emotion that pours out of these songs are universal even if it feels like you're taking a step back in time in listening to it. Raphael and Joss Stone are instantly evocative of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Keep On Loving Me, Honey;" and his duet with Stevie Wonder will make you want to pick up the CD to make sure that it came out in 2008 and not 1968.


6. The Renaissance by Q-Tip
Where would Hip-Hop be without the influence of A Tribe Called Quest? Twenty years after tribe first emerged their influence is still felt in any Hip-Hop/Rap act that isn't mindlessly obsessed with rims, gun, money, etc. (i.e. a good deal of the crap that's forced on listeners by the recording industry.) With his first solo album in over nine years he truly is trying to spark a renaissance of hip-hop. He sounds as good, the rhymes are as inventive, the originality is as stark and astounding as the height of ATCQ. It's a jolt meant to re-awaken the best of hip-hop and a love song to it as well. His unique collaboration with Norah Jones on "Life Is Better" is truly a genuine love song to hip-hop itself.


7. The Power Of Suggestion by Karminsky Experience
Again, this is an album that has a unmistakably retro feel to it it yet feels so new and unique at the same time. I don't know very much about this pair of DJ's at all other than that they are from London and are on Thievery Corporation's Eighteenth Street Lounge label. Their music sounds like it was torn directly out of a ne'er-released Austin Powers soundtrack, or a movie from the hip sixties scored by Henry Mancini on ecstasy. The songs themselves are diverse in feel and have a distinct Middle-Eastern influence to it. Not a single song is disappointing on the whole disc. It might be a bit of a shock to the system at first listen but definitely grows on you.


8. The Mirror Conspiracy by Thievery Corporation
This is an album that would appear on each and every "best of" list that I might ever write. It changed the way I listened to music, honestly. It's sexy and savvy and international. It's diverse and worldly. The music pulses and throbs, insistently and seductively drawing you closer and closer. The mood it evokes is spacious and expansive, laid back and relaxed; it takes you to a place where the sun is warm, the air is heavily perfumed with spice and smoke the sounds of distant shore lazily caressing the sands. It's beyond a "chill-out" album; it's international without all the pretense and preachiness that comes with "world music." It's alien and foreign and simultaneously warm and inviting. If you do not know about Thievery Corporation, buy this album. I can easily guarantee that you will not be disappointed.


9. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips
Maybe I just miss concept albums, maybe The Flaming Lips are the most under-appreciated band in America, or maybe, just maybe this is simply the pinnacle of pop music and exists in a place so elevated that the air is too thin and rarefied for the average music listener to tolerate. It is, indeed, pop music; every song has an unmistakable pop sensibility and approachability. But under the happy, upbeat veneer of the songs lie an expansiveness that embraces the tenor and feel of acts as diverse as Bjork, Radiohead, Yes, and Neil Young... And of course, there's the amazing song "Do You Realize??" that I cannot listen to and not tear up just a little bit... The album is worth buying for that song alone but is so much more than that one song.

10. The Shepherd's Dog by Iron and Wine
I always kind of liked the lo-fi, alt-country sound, bluegrass, etc., so when I read the reviews of the album (I had never listened to any Iron and Wine) I thought to myself that it's probably not half bad. Then a few years back, Pepsi was running a promotion where you could accumulate Pepsi points and use them on Amazon.com. I quickly began hoarding bottle tops with the intention of expanding my musical horizons with MP3's from the site, gratis. I downloaded "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" and was blown away. The music is distinctly American to its core, raw low-fi slide guitar, organs and at the same time so atmospheric and dreamy. Couple that with Sam Beam's rich, whispered storytelling and the result is simply amazing and inspiring.

I never thought I would say this...


...but Sarah Palin is right. The photograph of her on this week's Newsweek is inappropriate. It's sexist; forget about it being partisan, sarcastic or snarky. This is an article that is supposed to talk about her influence on the GOP, her divisiveness, political ambitions, etc. Would Newsweek use an image of Hillary Clinton or Condeleeza Rice with either of them appearing in short shorts for a story about the difference in their impact at the State Department? No.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Love Defeats Voldemort


Love Defeats Voldemort
Originally uploaded by Jeffrey
Jeffrey Zeldman's daughter's drawing is, as one poster on flickr said, a mountain of awesomeness

The Right's textbook

Glenn Greenwald's article The Right's textbook "surrender to terrorists" is, as usual, excellent and insightful. The GOP, Limbaugh and Beck are the greatest enabler of terrorism in this country, NOT the president, NOT the Democratic majority in Congress, NOT the speaker of the house, NOT the Senate majority leader. It is the ones who spread fear and foster this mentality that there is something something going on behind the scenes that give the terrorist the toehold they need in our society to strike fear into the hearts of those who are weak-willed and weak-minded enough to follow or listen to the crap that they peddle.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I am a horrible blogger...

I haven't updated in quite a while...

Duh!

When I logged in I had to agree to all kinds of new user agreements, got a notification that my login is now tied into my Google ID or some such nonsense. Interesting thing happened though. I can now access my old blog, which was somehow lost for quite some time. That one is pretty old, the last entry is from 2002! I think that it was tied into my old domain, bigmisterc.com.

If you're curious what was on my mind seven years ago, go check it out. I know I'm going to go look it over, myself...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hope vs. Fear

It's been hard for me to write. I've been so frustrated and a bit afraid. This is a time in my adult life, like never before, where I have had hope for the country and the direction in which it is headed. A liberal (often a bit too centrist for his own good)president, a congress controlled by the Democrats... An ambitious agenda, a busy 100 days... a president who is, let's just admit it, cooler than shit, a beautiful first lady, history has been made with the U.S. electing its first African-American president...

But I have had, for quite some time, had an awful sense of dread. And it's not about the resistance from the G.O.P. It's not about the misinformation and lies that are being spread by right-wing pundits. I expected that. It's not about the outrage from the right.

It's the crazies...

It's the nut who showed up at the president's town hall in NH with a gun on his hip and a sign referring to Jefferson's quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." It's the people who are disrupting the town halls. And while I know that there is quite a bit of is planned, people are bussed in. But some of the fear and the desperation that these people feel, that they express is genuine. It's Glenn Beck on his show joking about poisoning Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Beck is a schmuck and may actually believe some of the idiocy that makes it out of his mouth. But there are some people who live and breathe by his every word and those people truly believe, in their heart, that the President is a danger to this country, that he will lead this country down a path that will lead to the absolute, utter destruction of our way of life.

Fear and desperation lead people to do horrible, desperate things. And seeing the coverage of Senator Kennedy's life and the life of his family I cannot help but think of his two brothers, their lives cut short. I am really, really afraid that with the hysteria that is in the air that history might repeat itself. Too many liberal icons, people trying to bring about change for the country that they love, every bit as much as any conservative does. We've lost Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy to assassination in the. I don't want to lose another.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crrrrazy!

For a while now I have been spending quite a bit of time on Yahoo's Buzz feature. The way it's supposed to work is that people who use the site, "buzz up" news articles and other users can comment on them, buzz them up more, buzz them down, reply to other people's comments, yadda, yadda, yadda... It's basically a news-driven social networking site. Not a bad idea in theory. But, with the political discourse being what it is today, the Buzz has turned into a very nasty place. So, I am taking an indefinite break from going to, contributing to or commenting on anything on that site.

It's an ugly time in American politics at the moment, nastier than I've ever seen in my lifetime. The site is a reflection of that. Here are some direct quotes from things that people are actually posting on that site. Believe me when I say that I wish I was making this stuff up:

About Justice Sotomayor:
"God, what an ugly whore. She and Ruth Ginsburg are the ugliest whores in America. Congress obviously hates America to approve this bltch. I would like to see a list of names of those that voted her in, so I can help vote them out."
About Rush Limbaugh:
"He should be arrested immediately and sentenced to prison for inciting violence on a public official. Period. Republicans are very violent hate-filled people."

I don't see myself going back any time in the foreseeable future...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Vacation

I am currently on vacation. When I go on vacation it's usually a very low-key affair and this one has been no exception. Aside from a few appointments, (got my rear differential services, wifey had an OB/Gyn appointment that we cancelled) the highlight of the week was a July 4th cookout at a friend's house, where I served as grill-master and chief pyromaniac. We cooked five pounds of hamburgers, two kielbasas, half a dozen chicken breasts, two or three pounds of chicken tenderloins, a gang of hot dogs and about a dozen chicken thighs on the bone. There was corn on the cob, potato salad, rice, chips, and a big, old, mean apple pie with ice cream. There were only about eight of us there so there were leftovers aplenty. We've been living off of them for the past few days.

We bought about 40 dollars of fireworks which were ignited with much enthusiasm except our friend Ita's son. Poor little Elisha was scared to death of them. He would sit in his mother's lap as she covered his ears for him. In Connecticut, the laws prohibit fireworks that do anything than make a little noise and emit sparks, so I think that his fear was considerably countered by his fascination with them. When they were all gone he kept asking me if I was going to light anymore.

He's about three years old. I love kids that age. The world is still so full of wonder for them; I would love to see the world through their eyes for a day.

Now, there is a reason why my vacations are so low-key. It's not because I have a fairly stressful job (I do) and don't want to add any stress on vacation, worrying about itineraries, airline tickets, long car trips, etc. It's not because wifey and I cannot get time off from our employer's at the same time (she's a stay-at-home mom). It's not because the boy is involved in a summer sports program or anything like that that forces us to stay close to home. The reason we don't do anything extravagant while I am on vacation is simple: we can't afford it.

I would love to drive down to Florida and see Liz and my mom and finally meet both of their husbands. I would love to fly to Texas or Arizona to visit my sister or my friend Donna.

We, just like so many people these days, live week to week, paycheck to paycheck. It's not like we want for very much or are scrounging for food, but there simply isn't a lot of wiggle room financially. If something dire were to happen to any of us, costly medical bills could potentially bankrupt us. Thankfully I work in a hospital and anything routine is, for the most part, gratis. If something were to happen to me that would put me out of work for any extended period of time would spell financial ruin.

Vacations are not a luxury for me, they are simply a way to escape the stress of work for a very brief period.

...damn. I gave myself heartburn thinking about all this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

An ode to bacon

I just fried up a pound of bacon.

The house is now in the swoon of a heady bacon orgasm. It is altogether comforting, decadent, and wholly satisfying unlike anything else that comes out of the kitchen in the mornings. Just the act of standing over a hot frying pan watching those strips of smoke-cured pork belly brown, sizzle, and curl up into little strips of brown heaven is absolutely awesome. Since you really can't and shouldn't eat bacon every day cooking it is a rare, almost exotic while at the same time completely domesticated act. I love every part of it: the sizzle and pop as the meat renders the fat and browns; the smell that pervades the air, filling the whole house; the occasional pop of the grease that smarts my hand; even the film of spattered grease over the lenses of my glasses.

But cooking it is only a small part of the fun. With a mug of hot coffee in one hand a fork in the other who can resist taking one of the first pieces out of the pan after you've added the next set into the pan. The combination of slightly sweet, salty and greasy that wraps itself up in the intoxicating umami that just sits there on the back of your tongue.

I've started saving bacon grease like my mother used to, saving it for some yet unknown southern, cracker delicacy. I have a cookbook that I got for my birthday called The Cracker Kitchen that is filled with all kinds of recipes that call for bacon drippings, so many of them reminiscent of my childhood and the dishes my mom used to make us. And I guess there is also where part of the appeal of bacon lies: it is something that has survived the transition from my childhood into my adult life. It brings me as much pleasure now as it did then; it hasn't been diminished with the passing years.

I love bacon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vandalism

I know that I probably brought this on myself...

Wednesday I had a shitty day. Work was shitty, I was working alone; the weather was crappy; my back hurt. I could go on and on with a litany of reasons to curse Wednesday until I was blue in the face. Wednesday was so horrible that it refused to die. It laid in waiting, hiding until I had forgotten about it and came back to bite me in the ass this morning on Friday.

With the weather being crappy Wednesday, the pool here in our apartment complex was closed. If it's rainy, the management here just leave it locked. If the day starts out nice in the morning, rains at midday they lock it up and close it the rest of the day, even if the late afternoon's weather is flawless. But Wednesday, being a bad day, naturally had crappy weather to go with it. The pool was closed. Locked up.

As I am about to pull into my driveway, which is directly across from said pool, I see a teenage girl inside, in her bathing suit and a teenage boy climbing over the fence in his bathing suit. Having just finished an especially bad day at work and just being a miserable son of a bitch at that particular moment, I was overtaken in a wave of misanthropy. Normally, I would not care if some idiots were climbing a tall, wrought iron fence with sharp appendages atop, to get into 50 degree water. But I had just finished a day where it seemed that everyone around me did whatever they felt like with disregard to attendance policies, compliance issues or even just simple logic. Everyone around me at work was a mental case and I often feel like the only sane, responsible adult in the whole hospital. I was going to be damned if I was going to come home and be witness to the same idiocy at home as well.

Instead of turning into my driveway, I continued down the road and around the corner to the rental office. That's right; I ratted them out. I'm not proud of it, but I did it.

The property manager took off for the pool and surely lambasted those kids and drug them out of the pool and possibly even dragged them by their ear to their apartment and embarrassed them in front of their parents. ...she doesn't play around, believe me.

I had forgotten about the whole thing until this morning. I head out to the car, sit in the driver's seat and as I am looking at the building I see that someone had poorly drawn that stupid Bam Margera logo on the building in spray paint. Shaking my head, I turn over the car's engine, turn to my right to look over my shoulder and see that my back window had been spray painted. I get out to look and see that my tailgate has also received a touch of paint as well.

I look up and down the length of the parking lot. Mine was the only car vandalized.

Payback, evidently, for Wednesday. Next time I'll let the little shits freeze their asses off in the pool...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

hmmm

So, I have an idea for a book, or at the very least a short story. I have the whole arc of the tale mapped out in my head. I could sit down and bang out the outline of it in probably about 10-15 minutes. Writing it would be, I think, fairly easy.

But I am afraid to start it.

What if it sucks? And I mean really, really sucks. Would I know enough to know that it was complete and utter garbage and therefore save myself the embarrassment of actually sharing it with someone. I generally take criticism fairly well, but I don't know if I could take someone that I really care about that the story I've spent hours pouring myself into was a big, steaming pile of shit.

What if it was slightly mediocre? An amusing little ditty with serious structural flaws and a meandering narrative... a highly descriptive narrative with a charming voice whose story kind of falls on its face? Would I maybe feel good enough about it or fool myself into believing that it's not half bad and subsequently submit it to a number of publishers and be utterly crushed by rejection?

Maybe I might write it and never show it to a living soul (but you and I both know my ego is way too big for that!) I don't know... I've never been this chicken about anything creative before. As an actor, I've gone on stage in my underwear, broken down the fourth wall and gone out into the audience and interacted with them. I produced and directed a play in college. I've put my drawings into various shows. Why is this so different? Why is this so paralyzingly terrifying?

YIKES.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wingnuts Unite!

If you were wondering where all the the crazy-ass, right-wing, nut-bags are hanging out online these days, they are congregating here.

Yahoo! Buzz was probably envisioned as a site where people of similar interests can converge and have a conversation. ...Or even as a place where lively, healthy debate could be held in a public forum. I'm sure that's what it was until the crazies took over. But now there is never an article where somehow the discussion doesn't get distorted into a hateful denouncement of the Democratic Party and President Obama, no matter what the subject.

No, really...

Don't believe me? Here's an article about Jessica Alba. Here's one about the Octomom. Here's one about Donald Trump taking control of his casinos; you don't even have to scroll down the page for that one... And these aren't even political stories.

The political stories are the ones where the hate is served the same way I like my coffee: hot and bold. Don't get me wrong; I think that people should be allowed to say whatever they please and are entitled to their opinions. What troubles me is that the loonies that congregate to these pages are so off-base, uninformed and hateful that it's down right scary.

Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at this discussion about President Obama setting up a new regulatory agency to protect consumers. If you don't want to click over to that page here is one of the insane rants, posted by a person who calls himself "AMERICAN" whose avatar picture is the iconic Shephard Farey Obama image with a sniper sight superimposed over it:
"ARE YOU PEOPLE STARTING TO WAKE UP NOW !??!?!?!

YOU ELECTED AN ISLAMO FASCIST D!CKTATOR NAMED OBAMA.

A DEVIL IN WOLF'S CLOTHING, IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING.

OBAMA'S ONE GOAL IS TO ULTIMATELY RUN THE WORLD AS AN ISLAMIC STATE.

HE IS USING OTHER FOREIGN DICTATORS TO OFF THE RESISTANCE OF JEWS, CHRISTIANS, AND EVEN SOME ATHEISTS.
THIS IS WHY HE NEEDS IRAN'S REVOLUTION TO FAIL.

ONCE OBAMA HAS ELIMINATED REVOLUTIONS, HE WILL BGIN TO TAKE OUT CUBANS, KOREANS, VENEZUELANS, ETC WHO HELPED HIM BECOME THE NEW ONE WORLD LORD.

THE WORLD IS HEADING INTO A NEW DARK AGES THANKS TO OBAMA...


IF WE DO NOT FIGHT BACK NOW"

It's just insane... what's even crazier than that rant is the fact that as I am writing this there are five people who are agreeing with this hateful windbag. There are over 300 comments in that thread and the overwhelming majority of them are along the same lines.

Esquire, my favorite magazine, had a great article that touched on this. In that article it talks about the board of county commissioner from Warren County in Ohio who turned down $373,000 of stimulus money that was supposed to go towards addressing trasportation needs in the county's rural communities. One of the commissioners was quoted in the story saying, "I'll let Warren County go broke before taking any of Obama's filthy money."

Wow!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dr. Tiller

Let me declare a few things if they are not immediately obvious:
  1. I am a left-wing, liberal nut of a Democrat.
  2. I am a Christian.
No, the two are not incompatible.

What the really fervent Christian pro-life (anti-choice really) people simply do not get is that no one actually wants to have an abortion. No one can come to the conclusion to have an abortion easily unless they are completely dead inside, emotionless. It is a decision that will haunt you for the rest of your life; it is as emotionally and morally painful as it is physically. It is an act of desperation. Anyone in their right mind would not want to see the number of abortions performed in this country to rise, no matter what their political or religious views might be.

Do I agree with the decision to have an abortion? No.

Do I think that a woman should have the right to choose to abort her unborn child? Yes.

Again, the two are not incompatible.

Abortion is ethically and morally horrific. But so are a lot of other things that are also legal in this country: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, the raping of our environment, slaughter of innocent animals (shooting wolves in Alaska...), and in some places prostitution and bygamy. All of them are equally abhorrent in the eyes of God yet not only are some of these act legal but sometimes condoned by the government on some level. But just because I or anyone else finds these things distasteful doesn't mean the government should be trying to outlaw them. People will drink themselves into oblivian, destroy their lives. Tobacco kills. Gambling destroys families and brings out disgusting behavior in people. And on and on...

And while I do not agree with abortion, I would never presume to take away someone's choice to have one. It's not my decision to make; it's theirs. And the decision will continue to be made even if abortion is made illegal. The criminialization of abortion will only force scared young girls into dirty alleys to be mangled with coat hangers which can result in serious infection, death, unintended sterilization. As well as the same feeling of despair and guilt that would hang over them if they were to have the procedure performed safely in a sterile environment in a clinic.

I would never presume to take conrtol over someone else's life, even if I think that they are making a bad decision. I do not possess the arrogance to dictate to someone else how to live their life.

Dr. Tiller's murder is domestic terrorism, pure and simple. He was killed in the name of the "sanctity of life." If that is not the stupidest, most hypocritical load of shit I have ever heard in my life I don't know what is.

George Carlin said it best:
"Pro-life, these people aren't pro-life, they're killing doctors, what kind of pro-life is that? What, they'll do everything they can do save a fetus, but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it?"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An AHA moment!

I was reading an article somewhere, it may have been at salon.com and I had a Eureka moment. I was thinking to myself, "Why are conservatives so outspoken? Why is there this constant, unending uproar about everything and anything from the right?" which got me to thinking about the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives. Now, I do not mean differences about ideology and policy; that's obvious. I got to thinking about behavior.

For instance, all this uproar about Sonia Sotomayor. Most polls I have seen show that about 70% of the general public approve of the president choosing her for the Supreme Court. And when I go on the political ticker blog on CNN.com or Yahoo Buzz about political stories there is this huge, loud vociferous protest in the comments. And it's disproportionate; the 30% disapproval translates into at least a 50% percent negative amount of comments on CNN. And let me tell you, Yahoo Buzz is overwhelmingly owned by the far right.

So I was thinking to myself, why is this? Here is my theory:
Conservatives have an almost pathological need to prove that their views are right; to prove to EVERYONE that they are right and anyone whose opinions vary from theirs in unequivocally wrong. And it's not just an ego thing, they're zealous about it. Now, I chose the word "zealous" very deliberately. It's almost religious and evangelical; like they are on fire to go out and tell anyone who is willing to listen about their views. They digest the talking points about different issues and repeat them as if they were gospel: 
  • Sotomayor will not be true to the Constitution because her empathy will cause to make rulings based on her feelings instead of the law
  • She's a reverse-racist because of the quote where she says, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
  • She's a liberal activist because she said that policy is made in the court of appeals.
And on and on... you've heard or seen them all, probably. In this instance and in every other instance, incidents and words are taken out of context and misconstrued to their advantage. 

Not to say that liberal politicians don't do the same thing; I would be remiss to say that it doesn't happen on both sides. It most certainly does. The difference is that the conservative "base" absorbs these distortions and disseminates them until they becomes pervasive. There are hard-core liberals who also do this, but not on the scale that conservatives do.

So, these distorted facts are accepted as actual facts. Those who disagree with these "facts" are more often than not painted as un-patriotic, socialist, immoral, etc. Even people within their own political party are suspect if their views do not fall into this narrow framework. They call them RINOs: Republicans In Name Only. ...I've never heard anyone ever referred to as a Liberal in name only.

This tactic was brought into their playbook and perfected by Ronald Reagan, the conservatives' messianic figure. For Reagan there was little to no gray area on subjects: right/wrong, moral/immoral, patriotic/traitorous. He spoke plainly and ground the issues down to their most basic essence and painted his views as right and patriotic; those who held an opposing view were wrong and at the very least, less than patriotic. It still echoes through the GOP platform to this day.

This has escalated over the last eight years to the point where the ultra neo-conservative movement really cannot sustain itself any longer. Republicans have fallen out of favor with the American people over the mishandling of the economy, the destruction of the environment, the bloating of the government on their watch, the nearly-botched war in Iraq, torture, etc, ad infinatum... If they had been more inclusive and governed from the center and with less arrogance, they would have led our country down a much better path. But they continue to disavow and belittle moderates within their party and as they do so they will have less and less appeal to the average American. It is going to be a long time before the reins of the party are wrested from their hands. The moderate wing of the party has to become much more vocal and find their own charismatic leaders who are able to drown out and eventually cancel the noise emanating from the far right end of the political spectrum.

Until then, we liberals will take care of the country for you...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Worst boss in the world

I have a fairly new boss and I hate him.

Now, I will admit that hate is a strong word and people bandy it about and it has a tendency to lose its impact as it is used more and more. So let me make this clear: with all possible vehemence and with the taste of raw spite in my mouth, let me say,

"I hate my boss"

Not to blow my own horn, but I am a good, productive, conscientious worker. I was stretched thin by my job for years working ten hour days for years without complaint and without help. I've done everything in my power to make myself indispensible to my coworkers. Less than a year ago, I finally got help at work and I am thankful. But that means that I had to, understandably so, cut back my hours. And now with the economic downturn, not one minute of overtime is allowed. So when the clock strikes five I have to be out the door no matter what. That means if I need to drop off paperwork in the lab (I'm now in a different building on the hospital campus) I need to go over to the lab before 5:00. 

Yesterday I to go drop off paperwork for the couriers, so I went to the lab on my way out the door. Unbeknownst to me a request for a housecall was faxed to the lab late in the afternoon. The office that faxed it to the lab never called to let us know that they wanted a last-minute request and sent an email and let a voicemail message on my coworker's phone to make sure that it was all set an hour after they faxed it... 

Needless to say, it wasn't taken care of. The next morning at 7 am, my coworker came in and saw the request, entered it to the system called the phlebotomist out on the road and the patient was drawn - no delay in patient care. At 8 am (after everything was taken care of) the office called and left a voicemail message on my phone to see if the request had been taken care of. If they had checked their fax machine they would have seen the confirmation sitting there in the tray.

This office like to cut corners and do this sort of stuff all of the time, mostly because I've worked extremely hard to create a good relationship with this clinic, not to mention they are also part of the hospital. In spite of this, in spite of the fact that it was their cutting corners and submitting this request in a sloppy, irresponsible manner, they complained to my boss.

Now instead of talking to me about what happened after the complaint, my boss sent me an email saying "it has been pointed out that there was no one in the office between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00." 

He left the office at 3:15. He walked past my desk and in his usual, awkward way said goodnight to me! Not only was I in the office, so were the transcriptionist and one of the pathology secretaries! So I replied, with a dash of faint sarcasm, exactly what transpired and when and that there were in fact 3 people in the office at that time. I also told him that in spite of the fact that I left the office a few minutes early to go to the lab that I told the secretary where I was going and that I was punching out from over there, just in case someone did call for me.

It's like I am stuck in the movie "Office Space." If the job market were not so bad I'd be giving out resumes like they were on fire.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ennui

Is it wrong that I don't feel like working? That I don't feel motivated to work for a boss or organization that gives me the impression that they neither want nor care about my opinion? Less than 6 months ago I was excited to come to work, felt like I was making a difference here at work, that what I did made a difference. I don't feel like that any more. Now I feel like I could just not show up any more and no one would miss me.

I know that, indeed, that is not the case. I have worked hard and long to make myself indispensile and I know that there are a lot of plates that I and no one else in the lab keep spinning.

A while back I had the oppurtunity to change departments, to switch to I.T. and become a lab informaticist, an I.T. person who would work solely for the laboratory. It would have been more money, easier hours and less work. But I have been holding out for a supervisory position that is supposedly being created for my department. One of the techs in the lab took that position and here I am... a year later almost... still waiting for that position to materialize.

I am really running out of patience.

I really feel like I am being crewed over.

Friday, March 13, 2009

An end to flickr

So, I have been doing this project where I am doing a daily self-portrait with my camera, sometimes messing around with it in Photoshop and posting it to flickr. Well, when I started this little project I had a temporary flickr "pro" account because I am a DSL customer of AT&T/Yahoo, which owns the company. At the end of January, I got an email from flickr saying that my free "pro" status would be coming to an end because it was only an introductory free trial, seeing as I am a customer of their aren't company. The trial was to end on February 1st. February 1st came and went and I was still a "pro" user. March 1st rolls around... I am still a pro user. This is cool I think as I continue to upload my self portraits, pictures of family get-togethers, pictures I took going for a ride through Eastern Connecticut on a snowy day with my son.

I'm digging it; really enjoying it.

Last night as I was uploading the self-portrait for day twenty-seven of this 365 day project and there is the notification on the upload page:
my free "pro" trial is over and I have already used up 20% of my allowed upload capacity for the month. I am not going to be able to continue my 365 day project on flickr.

Now, even though the flickr pro account only costs 24.95 a year, I just cannot do it. I am the sole bread-winner in a family living in the most expensive state in the union. I do not own a cell phone. I have only the most basic cable. I buy used video games for my old PS2 (you know... the really old fat ones with no network hookup.) Eating out and splurging usually means take home Chinese food for about $30. I have a thermos I bring to work so I don't have to buy coffee. I'm not frugal; ask my wife... we live on the cheap because that's what we have to do to survive. The only real two luxuries we allow ourselves are Netflix and a DSL connection. So, $24.95 to be able to upload more pictures? No, thanks. So the project is on hold - maybe I'll start it up again if I can find a decent place to upload photos without too many limits.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The disaster that is work

So, we have a fairly new lab director at work. He's a nice enough guy probably, in spite of his habit of staring at his nails and biting at his cuticles during meetings (even meetings with client/physicians!). The previous director was a real policy guru and didn't have much of a personality to speak of, a little uptight with the fashion sense of a circa-1970's Wayne Newton.

But the old guy got things done. A lot of the changes are still being put into effect and have been long overdue - he got the complete renovation of the lab in motion... Another change he wanted to implement was a radical expansion of my department. When he took the job, I was the department. I was working 10 hour days to cover the actual office hours of 7:00 - 5:00 so that someone was always there to actually answer the phones and working beyond that and some weekends to catch up when I got behind. Jon's (the old boss's) vision for my department was a number of people, eventually as many as six full time client service representatives covering at least two shifts (7:00 am - 11:00 pm) of full time phone duty and office work with two supervisory level positions. One of these would be a full-time sales person who would also handle the marketing for the lab and traditional supervisor who would overlook clients services, the couriers and logistics, pathology secretaries and transcriptionists as well as possible the send-out and processing sections of the lab. He wrote a job description for the latter position with me in mind before he left in October. I even got help (after many years of the over-worked routine) under his watch for which I am very grateful.

Well, the new guy is saying exactly all the same things about the direction for my department since he has arrived but has managed to make exactly zilch happen about it since his arrival. In fact, instead of getting my new position approved, he instead (I'm sure at the prodding of our Pathologist, who is all about his own needs, the rest be damned) expanded the hours of the pathology secretaries and got approval for another pathology secretary. While, I might add, completely cutting out the possibility of any possible OT for me and the other client service rep, while approving any needed OT for the secretaries who read, do homework, surf the net, etc. on company time because there is not enough work for the two we already have.

I'm afraid it might be time to polish up the old resumé and get set up on moster.com again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Crackdown at Work

Now, I know that it may be a little less than appropriate to be online doing personal things (like say, balancing your checkbook), but I don’t understand how something as innocuous as Twitter should be blocked. It’s not like you can go on there and waste hours and hours of time there, unless maybe you have something like 2000 people that you are following and you respond to each and every one of them. I can see that they don’t want people blogging, updating their Facebook status and playing Mobsters on MySpace. I’ll give them that point with zero hesitation. But Twitter? Really? Especially when the Hospital itself has a Twitter account and one of the doctor tweets...

So now I am going through Twitter withdrawal. My friend Liz and I communicated through the site… I used to get breaking news stories from CNN and the local station here, WTNH. I miss knowing what is going on with Wil Wheating, Jimmy Fallon, and Ashton Kutcher.

Friday, February 27, 2009

...I am a horrible blogger (redux)

I'm sorry, blog. I have been so very unattentative... I've been meaning to speak to you about this actually. You see, I've met someone and their name is Twitter; you may have bumped elbows at the last office party? Yes, the new kid... I've been so consumed with what's fast and easy (and it is sooo fast and sooo easy). I promise it's only a passing infatuation. (I hope that sounded sincere enough)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Waiting for Pon farr...

There is a girl at work, whom I really just adore and have grown kind of close to, who has lost her damn mind.

She has fallen head over heel with a boy at work who doesn't feel the same way, which in and of itself is not so unusual. Unrequited love is as common as, well... the common cold. It hits everyone once in a while; we all go through it. In this instance though she just cannot let go of him.

He likes her as a person (I'd be hard-pressed to think of anyone who wouldn't) so he enjoys spending time with her. She and her posse will grab him to go with them at lunch time; they go to the movies and bars and just generally hang out together.

In every way that she is a passionate person, he is a bit more cerebral and maybe a bit too reasonable. Almost Vulcan in his thinking. He told her from the get-go that he simply will not date anyone with whom he works and has stuck to his guns about it. He probably does have feelings for her, but has remained true to his word.

If she can just hold out till he enters Pon farr, she might have a chance then...