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Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's the fanatic cult of green meets Jim Jones, encouraging your kids to drink the Kool-Aid. Warren dissects it here. I don't have the stomach for giving it the treatment it deserves. I gotta wonder, thought, if there's a kid out there in Oz who will take this a little too seriously.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rule of Life #462: Never, EVER, buy a plastic pepper mill. Just trust me on this. I know, I know, it did seem like a good idea at the time, but it's not. I learned my lesson the hard way, so you don't have to. I don't want to talk about it. Lets just say that if the dog gets into the garbage to go after my uneaten eggs today, he'll learn his lesson, too.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Now.

It would have been nice if he'd lived to see the result of Heller. Either he could have seen a basic right affirmed in the Supreme Court, for whatever that is worth anymore, or, given the opposite decision, he could have responded appropriately.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

So, three days in, and things are already looking up. With a strict 20 grams (or less) of carbs each day, cravings have been intermittent, but not serious - and more importantly, I can feel an obvious difference between hunger and appetite again. They didn't used to be distinguishable.

I was dead to the world today, but that's typical withdrawal symptoms now that the crap is clearing out, plus I think I got a bit dehydrated. I do live in a desert, after all, and less food means less water. Gotta watch that.

The really interesting thing is the physical improvement. I said I was dead to the world today, but at the same time, I had more energy. Previously, sluggishness was inescapable, it was an effort to get off the chair or couch, even simple physical activity like picking up clutter around the house or doing dishes felt like I had to drag myself through it. Now, tired as I was, those activities have started to happen without conscious effort to make my body move.

I also noticed that I've been walking very stiffly, due to general aches and pains that I had grown so accustomed to that I didn't even notice them. Today, I suddenly caught myself still walking that way and wondering why. The aches and pains are basically gone, and I didn't even notice right away. My mind is even clearing a bit. That burst of writing here yesterday would've been too much bother last week, as evidenced by the scarcity of new postings here lately.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'm just starting up on Atkins again. Actually, I'll do the Atkins induction for a while to kick-start things and take control of my appetite back, then probably transition to a more paleo-EF mode, maybe even with intermittent fasting.

But one thing I noticed from previous rounds of Atkins, that I think is very significant. When I'm eating a lot of carbs, I can't stand the taste of broccoli. But once I get that crap cleared out, I love the taste of broccoli. Not because I feel so deprived that I'll desperately grab at anything that has the slightest trace of sugar in it, but because the taste of the trace amounts of sugars in it becomes unmistakable.

Most diets, especially the ones recommended by the insulin-deniers, (who are the intellectual kin to global warming catastrophists and young-earthers), pit your body against your mind. High carb diets, even moderate carb diets, put your body in revolt against your nature. Your attempts to reign it in with low fat and cereal grains is oriented at fighting this revolt head-on. The collateral damage of that battle is enormous, and ultimately fatal.

A low-carb diet, with moderate or even high fat pacifies that revolt, allows you to work with your metabolism to create balance. The collateral rewards of a body whose appetites are fully satisfied - rather than rapaciously endless - is that you get to eat broccoli like candy without having to pretend it's something else, without having to talk your body into accepting it in lieu of what it really wants. It turns out that it is what your body really wants, and what it has wanted all along.

Breakfast this morning was 4 eggs, sunny side up and really runny like I like 'em, and a thick slice of Canadian bacon. But no butter. I fried them in lard.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My friend Bill Bonanno died this morning in his sleep, at his home here in Tucson. For those of you that don't recognize the name, he was probably the last major figure from the "golden" age of the Sicilian mafia in the US. He was the son of Joseph Bonanno, once the most powerful head of the Five Families that ruled New York city.

I met him late in his life, when my girlfriend and I began selling his father's memorabilia for him and his wife on eBay. Whatever his past, I knew him as a decent and immensely interesting man. He loved to tell stories, and I loved listening to them. They weren't stories that would interest a mob fan; they weren't stories of gun battles, hits, or crime capers. They were stories about people.

Not all the people he told stories about were involved in the things most people want to hear about from mobsters. Some were, but what made the stories interesting is that they were always about the people, not the events, and about history.

The mafioso - "man of honor" in Sicilian - tradition goes back 800 years. For centuries, Sicily had been invaded and re-invaded. Everyone from the Pope to the French to the Bourbons to the Moors to the fascists controlled the island at some point. The one constant were the men of honor, the heads of families, local leaders, who kept some sense of order and stability. They were in a sense a shadow government whose traditions remained while a succession of foreign conquerors came and went.

These traditions were brought to America by those, including Bill's father, who fled here from Mussolini. Many say that these traditions were corrupted by the interaction with America's freedom, immense wealth, and opportunities. Bill himself has written about how the old ways were changed by it. But he and his father lived by those values, and tried, futilely in the end, to keep them alive in the new context. In part, it was this resistance of the "mustache Pete's" to the new breed of American born mobsters to whom those traditions were nothing more than show that helped end the Senior Bonanno's hold on power, and with it, Bill's aspirations.

It is the stories of those traditions and values that Bill told me over dinners and lunches. Having come from a family where traditions and heritage were not major influences, I was fascinated by these first-hand accounts. I enjoy the freedom of making my own way, finding my own values, and would not want to live the kind of life he did, but I can see the value and appeal of knowing where you come from in such an immediate way, of knowing what you and your family are all about.

Critics accused Bill of twisting his stories for his own purposes, for self-aggrandizement or the minimization of things he's not proud of. I can't say whether this was justified or not, because those criticisms pertain to his public stories, to his public image. What I heard were the personal stories. Sure, they too could have been embellished to polish his image, but for the most part, they weren't about him, and their meaning remains however the details were presented.

Bill made his way later in life as a writer and occasional expert source for documentaries (the first time I'd ever heard of him was seeing him on the History Channel). He was planning to write a history of La Cosa Nostra - "our thing". It wasn't going to be the history of the mob, but the history of the men of honor dating back to the founding of the Sicilian Kingdom in the twelfth century. As a history buff, I told him I couldn't wait to read it, and offered to help him edit his drafts, mostly so I could get a look at it sooner. That history will now likely never be written, at least not from the perspective he would have had to offer, and that's a loss to the world. But me, I'll miss the stories, as well as the man.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thanks to Billy for this link, a rare feel-good bright spot in the whole sordid morass that passes for culture these days.

So, imagine you're Simon Cowell, and it's the first round of the British version of American Idol, in Cardiff, Wales. This dumpy cell phone store manager with a bad haircut, bad suit, bad teeth and a cleft palate comes on stage and announces that he's going to 'sing opera'. You'd roll your eyes, too - or at least barely stop yourself from visibly doing so.

Then he opens his mouth...



I'm no expert, and not very familiar with the either the form or the specific piece, but it looks to me like he blew a high note at the end there. Can you blame him? That's his life's dream about to smack him full in the face, right there in front of the TV cameras, thousands of people in the audience, one judge whose breath is coming in hitches, and Simon sitting there like he doesn't know what just hit him. I know I wouldn't be able to hold it together that well.

UPDATE: In the least surprising news of the day. He won.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Needless to say, there's spoilers in here. If you've been waiting to see the Sopranos final episode on PPV, then stop reading now.

First, a lot of people are saying the ending was crap. I thought so too, but it's been growing on me, and now I think it just might be the best ending since "Hi, Bob!" - which was just about at the theoretical maximum for how good a series ending can be.

The Sopranos ending wasn't as good as that, but it got in the ballpark, and in a sense, it was a similar kind of ending.

One thing the show was about was futility. These people lived massively dysfunctional lives, on many, many levels. And for all they went through, nothing really changed - except for one thing. Their sphere of influence is shrinking. Hell, starting in Little Italy, you can't even finish a walking phone call without ending up in Chinatown. Even the FBI doesn't really care anymore, except for the office betting pool. They have bigger fish to fry.

It's a small and shrinking world Tony inhabits. And within that world, for all the Machiavellian maneuvering, all the blood, all the fear, not only does nothing change, but they can't even see out.

Sure, Tony worries about terrorism, but in the end, his "help" to the FBI on that score was just a bargaining chip. Let his son join the army, try to make things better? No, too dangerous. After all, there's a war going on. Safer to remain at home in separate safe houses while his family fights their own war of their own making.

In the last ten minutes, you're sure something has got to happen. Tony sits in a diner as he and we watch the crowd. That guy there, he looks suspicious. Now Carmella comes in and the tension heghtens. Will she get caught up in the looming hail of bullets? Another guy looks really suspicious, and now AJ is in the line of fire. Meadow, the one least affected throughout the series by all the psychopathy around her, is delayed getting into the diner. Maybe she'll escape the carnage. If anyone deserves to, it's her. Anothe suspicious guy goes into the bathroom, surely something must be up now. Two black guys walk in, and they look a little thuggish. Maybe they're the ones. And now Meadow is inside, too.

Fade to black.

It doesn't matter if they all got whacked while the credits were rolling. It doesn't matter, because none of it mattered. The climax of the series was no climax for Tony. It was just another in an infinite series for him. Not the end, but the beginning of a new cycle of paranoia and watching his back. But for Tony, many of the familiar people gone, replaced with new interchangable people, it's a brand new day.

The song says "don't stop believing", but believing in what? Tony's got his life for another day, maybe, but what for? Never mind, it doesn't matter.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Would you believe that until last week, I had no idea any of these people even existed?





Thanks to YouTube, I'm starting to see what I've been missing since I started paying less attention to new music in the last several years. There's an enormous amount of crap out there, but I deeply regret missing these two for so long.

And yes, it's been a long time without posting, and even this isn't my usual fare, but I've been thinkin' on things, so hopefully more soon.

UPDATEYouTube has removed the second video, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", on Letterman last summer, for copyright violation.

UPDATEThere is another version that was up, with more Letterman filler. Perhaps this is the "official" version, and the other was pulled for that reason. In any case, I've embedded that one so you can still enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Billy points up a disturbing subsection of the "designer baby" trend that first appeared a few years ago when a lesbian couple who were both deaf chose to have a child by a deaf surrogate father, specifically so the child would be deaf as well.

Billy's conclusions are just about right, and it is indeed sick for any parents to want such a thing. The blather about "culture" is just another manifestation of the cancerous moral and cultural relativism and aversion to judgement that allows for much more horrific things than this.

But what about the child? In the outrage a few years ago, the implication seemed to center on the damage done to the child by this choice, and Billy is not entirely clear on whether this factors into his outrage as well. But the truth is that the child is not damaged or diminshed in any way, and this is important to remember.

The specific child that results from this choice (assuming no actual genetic manipulation) could not have been born any other way. The choice here is not for this child to be born either deaf or hearing, but for this deaf child to be born or not. And unless you subscribe to the belief that it is possible to be harmed by being brought into existence, that anyone could be better off if they were never born, then the only conclusion is that this choice is an unmitigated good for this particular child.

(Note that there was some mention of the parents in such cases whitholding corrective measures for the child once born, and I could make an argument that this aspect of it is child abuse)

For the "normal" baby that might otherwise have been born, it's not such a great outcome. And for the parents who prefer crippled children to whole ones, (and the society that produces such people), well, they are damaged almost beyond repair. It's they I feel outrage for.

The child will have an uphill battle for a decent life - in part because of his disability, but mostly because he will be brought up by parents who see him as some kind of trophy, or worse, a living political statement - but for him the opportunity to live at all is the best thing that ever will happen to him.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Pardon my French, but what a bunch of fucking pussies. All it takes is some fireworks or construction noise to throw a major government office building into a blind, screaming panic because somebody thought it was gunfire.

OK, it is pretty entertaining to hear about some of the most powerful people in the world being laid low by a backfire. (I wonder, did the real-life Manchurian Candidate suffer flashbacks and dive to the floor, frantically scanning the room for Charlie?). And, it's great news that a third or so of the House was rendered ineffective for a day, but I'm sure they'll get caught up soon.

They didn't even wait for evidence that there was actually gunfire, or even independent confirmation. They simply accepted some random report from some unknown somebody about something that might be a gun, and ran for their lives - because of course a Gun is the most powerful, irresistable force in the universe, and simply being in the same building with one means imminent, unavoidable death and disfigurment.

The only injury was not a gunshot wound, but some staffer who collapsed from a panic attack. A goddamn panic attack, over phantom gunfire that she didn't even hear herself. This is what y'all have put in charge of this country? No wonder they don't trust any of you to defend yourselves, they're so afraid of their own shadows that they run screaming like little girls over a rumor of gunfire someplace in the general vicinity.

Congressional staffs were told to lock themselves in their offices and not to open the door for anyone who didn't give the secret password. And it would appear that they all timidly obeyed, though probably in part because it was too embarrassing to go out in public after pissing themselves.

Now, these were gummint folks, so it's not surprising that they, being among the lowest forms of life on the planet, are lacking in all human self-respect and dignity, not to mention self-preservation instincts. They aren't interested in self-preservation, they prefer to leave their preservation up to others. Did any one of them even have the common decency to grab so much as a pistol out of a desk drawer and vow that nobody without the password will get through that door without a few fresh holes in them? Yeah, right. Even the thought of lifting a finger to defend themselves would make them no better than the psychotic madman running around the building with a g-g-guunn!

No, instead, they immediately turn into sheep when they get a little frightened and men with guns and badges start giving orders. These people look at the world and all they see are things to be afraid of. Is it any wonder that they expect everyone to be just like they are, or else they're a threat? Is it any wonder that when they are given such enormous power that they will use it to try to make the rest of us just like they are? Should any self-respecting human being voluntarily let himself be ruled by people who look out on life from under a desk?

UPDATE It gets worse. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.): "I have no confirmation of gunfire. We have confirmation of a loud noise,". A loud noise. That's all it takes to spread terror across a city.

They not only shut down the capitol, but the surrounding schools. Whole swaths of a major city shut down because maybe there was a gun around somewhere.
a spokeswoman for the school system said. School officials wanted to err on the side of caution
It's not just that they "wanted" to, it's that erring on the side of caution has become the guiding principle of this country. A final quote sums up nicely the future we face under such a principle:
Finally, at about 2:45 p.m., SWAT officers entered [Representative Hoekstra's] hearing room. "Hands on your head," they said, and everyone did just that.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A new job in a new neighborhood means new places to go for daily necessities. One of the basic necessities in my line of work is caffeine, so I run out the the Circle-K for the biggest tub of it I can find.

Today's cheerful woman behind the counter, who I'd encountered for what is likely to be the first time of many, offered me a parting thought that I'm not likely to respond to very cheerfully if she keeps it up. "Have a safe day."

Let's see. What should I do if I want to take her advice? I suppose the best thing would be to go straight home and curl up in bed. Surely that offers the best chance of safe passage through the remaining hours. I won't starve, at least.

But then, I'd have to drive home. That's about ten miles of pretty unsafe streets out there. Perhaps I should just curl up in the seat of my truck in her parking lot? No, there's a lot of unsavory types there who might decide I'm easy prey. Or worse, she, or her relief sometime after dark, could suspect me of vagrancy and dial up some even more unsavory types to roust me.

Maybe it'd be best to leave my truck there and walk, very carefully, the few blocks back to work and stay there all day? My boss might go along with it if I promised to work all night.

Instead, I might think of taking the long view. "Have a safe week" might be what she really meant. I'll go home, a little danger there, but then I can remain snug and safe under my blanket for a whole week. I'd lose my job, but I'd survive the week, and most importantly, do it safely.

But then the next week would be a problem. I'd start running out of food, and my joints would be prety stiff from a week of being curled up in a nice safe ball. So maybe I should widen the context further. Have a safe month? A safe quarter? I'd need to find some kind of home-based job - one with no physical risks. No stuffing envelopes, that might get me a paper cut.

But that might not bring in enough money. What if I couldn't pay my mortgage? I'd lose my house and be out on the street. That's not very safe. And I'd still have to go to the grocery store at some point. Assuming I even had enough money to stock up, I could go to Sam's Club and by months' worth of groceries (and to Home Depot for a really big freezer for all that food). It's a big risk going out in traffic, and it's more likely I'd be mugged in the grocery store parking lot than at home, but if I limited the trips...

Since we're widening the context, lets go all the way. Look at it in the widest possible context - full context, if you will. "Have a safe life"? That has a nice ring to it. Ooops, there's a flaw there, too. The final measure of succeeding at having a safe life would only be known when it is over, when I'm dead. I'd be on my death bed thinking how grateful I was that I had a safe life... well, up until this point anyway. Still, I could die in the peaceful knowledge that I didn't die sometime prior to this. Yes, that's the goal of a safe life, the point where I could look back on my life and know that I survived it... Well, not really survived, but survived this much of it...

No, if I go back there tomorrow and she offers the same wish, I'll politely decline. Maybe I'll even wish her a good day. I'll leave it up to her to decide what that means.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When the whole sunlight/skin cancer panic burst on the scene, I mostly pooh-poohed it. Sure, severe sunburn or spending 10 hours a day on the beach in a bathing suit for your whole life will probably have some negative effects, but the mass hysteria that led to SPF numbers higher than most people's IQs and parents afraid to bring their children outside without a protective tent was laughable and pathetic. People were quite literally afraid of their own shadows.

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. It turns out that sunscreen causes cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Well, indirectly, at least.
A daily dose of vitamin D could cut the risk of cancers of the breast, colon and ovary by up to a half, a 40-year review of research has found. The evidence for the protective effect of the "sunshine vitamin" is so overwhelming that urgent action must be taken by public health authorities... the increasing use of sunscreens and the reduced time spent outdoors, especially by children, has contributed to what many scientists believe is an increasing problem of vitamin D deficiency.


I find this hilarious. This is what people get when they substitute somebody else's judgment for their own. This is what happens when government sets about trying to make value judgments and risk assessment for a whole bunch of people at once.

Let's just sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the masses frantically flocking to the beach and the tanning salons, all gloriously sans cocoa butter, and then the dire warnings, a few years from now, about a new increase in skin cancers. Does anybody understand the concept of moderation anymore?

But at least maybe now the term "healthy tan" will no longer be on the semi-official PC banned list. I'm looking forward to the re-emergence of tan lines.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

An interesting thing happened to me last week. I was attending eBay's developer's onference. It's a two day educational / networking function for those geeks like me who don't just trade on eBay, but write software to automate the process of putting up listings and doing all those other pesky things you need to do to manage hundreds of auctions each week.

The interesting thing that happened was that I got a job offer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

You know who you are.

You've never met anyone who thinks like I do.