29 May 2007

Unwanted Ads (I mean let's talk about traveling back to the Caribbean!)

Quoting this blog from 12 July 2006:

"Not biting the hand that feeds me or any hand (veg blog with meat ads)
Okay, so I'm new to blogging and new to having ads on my blog. And, hey, it costs me nothing and potentially earns me buckeroos. Still, it's interesting to see what gets generated in the ad space. In theory it's linked to what I write about. Yet, here I am, an avowed vegetarian, talking about vegetarian things now and again, and the ad du moment is for Hormel lunch meats. Kinda amusing. Makes me wonder if the software is picking up on the right words to successfully reach the demographic for their ads."

In the words of OK Go, "Here we go, here we go, here we go again, oh, here we go again".

I have been alerted that someone viewing my blog saw an ad for hunting and trapping and this is not the humane version, either. Sighhhhhhhhh.

I do not support or endorse or condone hunting or trapping.

Yes, I eat fish. Yes, I wear some leather. Yes, I am a hypocrite. All the same, I find that everybody is one to some degree and its just a matter of where you draw the line. This is why I don't tell other people what to do.

But I do express my opinion on my frickin' blog.

I personally am not for hunting or trapping and it irks me that an ad on my site is potentially making money off me in this way. I may have to look a little more closely at what my rights are in running ads. There may be a way to block this sort of thing.

In the interest of seeing what gets generated, let's see if we can push a different ad to pop on a favorite topic: Caribbean Travel. Hmmm...

Let's get in the mood... things I think of when I think Caribbean travel...

Cheap tickets, vacation, great deal, on-line aggregator, islands, packing, swaying palms, friendly people, ocean view room, watching the sunset from the balcony, tropical fruit, leaving on a jet plane, island time, island rhythm, sunshine, sandy beaches, Pina Colada, Lime Daiquiri, gorgeous pools, swim-up bars, fancy restaurants, tours, snorkeling, clear water, interesting history, fabulous jewelry, great local artisans, souvenirs, Aruba, Jamaica, oooo I want to take ya to Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty mama, Key Largo, Montego, baby why don't we go down to Kokomo, we'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow, that's where we want to go, way down to Kokomo... Martinique, I want to take a peak...

27 May 2007

Restaurant Review (Sort of): Laporta's

Laporta's Restaurant is at 1600 Duke Street in Alexandria. If you live in the area, you get coupons in the local flyer for Laporta's. We've been there twice. Both times with coupon in hand. Both times we've spent well over a hundred dollars, with coupons applied.

It's not a particularly large or fancy place though it's pleasant enough. The service borders on the gleeful. Both waitresses that served us had huge smiles plastered on their faces and were just two steps to that side of chipper. The food was inventive in a "I'll just be in the garage trying to invent something" sort of way. For example, my field green salad had a reasonable mix of greens plus raw corn, carrot spirals, and very sweet dates that were halved. This was served with a very heady sesame dressing. Interesting, in a "well, that was different" sort of way. My tutta mare (linguine with shrimp and clams) had lovely large shrimp and respectable clams but the pasta was drenched--as in wring it out and then wring it out again-- in thyme, oil, butter and garlic. Yes, yes, I knew what I was ordering but a little restraint is not a bad thing. Hubby's fried calamari appetizer was tasty but his encrusted cod was a pretty strange combination of flavors, again.

So why do we go to Laporta's. Not for the food. Not for the decor. Not for the service. Not even for the drinks, which were good and took up most of our tab, as we stayed for hours.

We come for the jazz. Laporta's hosts live jazz with no cover. How great is that?! You can eat in the small room to the left of the door and be front and center for the show but there's smoking as this is the bar area ,or you can eat in the somewhat more luxurious dining room to the right of the door and still hear the music, though to a lesser degree. Last night's jazz trio was nothing short of amazing.

So go. Bring a coupon. Get a drink or two. And listen and enjoy.

25 May 2007

Keira Knightey: Normal, Healthy Woman

Keira Knightley wins damages over weight slur
Thu May 24, 7:43 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - British actress
Keira Knightley, star of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film trilogy, won 3,000 pounds ($5,965) in libel damages on Thursday over a newspaper slur that she was excessively thin.

The Daily Mail had run a story with a picture of her in a bikini, headlined: "If Pictures Like This One of Keira Carried a Health Warning, My Darling Daughter Might Have Lived."
"The article could be interpreted to have asserted that the claimant bore personal responsibility for causing the tragic death of Sophie Mazurek, a 19-year-old, who battled with anorexia," Knightley's lawyer Simon Smith told the High Court.
The 22-year-old actress had been embarrassed by the "entirely false" and "deeply offensive" suggestions.
He added the story could be taken to mean that the actress had set out to lose an excessive amount of weight by failing to eat properly and by over-exercising inappropriately because she wanted to become unnaturally thin.
Three days earlier the paper had published an article under the headline "It's Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Keira Knightley" in which it referred to her denial that she suffered from anorexia.
Smith told the judge, Justice David Eady, that Knightley accepted that she had undergone weight training for roles in action films and that this had involved muscle toning which did alter physical appearance.
However, he said her weight had never fluctuated more than a few pounds through her adult life, and remained at an acceptable level which took into account age, gender and height.
"The claimant is not a fitness fanatic, as she considers it more important and has spoken of her opinion of the need to be healthy and happy," he said.
"The claimant found the suggestions all the more offensive as she has freely admitted publicly in the past that a member of her family suffered from anorexia and she is well aware of the devastating effects eating disorders can have."
Kate Wilson, lawyer for the paper's publishers Associated Newspapers, said they apologized for the distress and embarrassment caused by the article and accepted that the actress bore no responsibility for Mazurek's death.
Knightley's mother, Sharman Macdonald, who was in court, said afterwards that her daughter was adding another 3,000 pounds to the awa
rd and donating the money to a charity called BEAT which helps people with eating and mental disorders.

Rather than run the risk of being sued myself by Ms. Knightley, I'll simply offer a different picture of her and let you be the judge as to whether this looks like a normal, healthy person:

24 May 2007

The Problem with Being Out of the Office

Due to the combination of the holiday on Monday and my being on travel Wednesday through Friday, I am only in the office one day next week: Tuesday. So what does this mean? I now have seven--count 'em, SEVEN--meetings on Tuesday.

Yeah, that'll be fun. I may be able to have a cogent thought by the fifth or sixth meeting--NOT.

23 May 2007

Beach Beds

Am I the only one who doesn't find the beach bed trend appealing? Everywhere you look at the glitziest of beach resorts there are beds out in the open. On the beach, on bar terraces, by the pool. Jeez. Is a lounge chair insufficient for what you want to do at these places? Just what IS going on behind those curtains on the beach bed? I don't want to think about it. Doesn't it make it all just way too tawdry when it's so obvious?? Ew. Guess I'm a prude. Okay, I can accept that but most people I see on vacation don't even look good on lounge chairs. Do we really need to imagine, not to mention hear, more? Again, gotta go with: Ew.


We got us a groundhog. A pretty brave one, too. He's got no trouble strolling the grounds. And from reading the Wikipedia entry below, we likely have more than one in a burrow under our shed. I'm not at all sure how I feel about this. Oh, sure, they're cute, but they're a heck of a lot bigger than squirrels and those claws look a whole lot stronger than a cat's. On the plus side, he's eating a lot of the whirlybirds falling off the trees. So, that's nice.I guess this is part of the joy of living near a woodland habitat.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Species:M. monax
Binomial name
Marmota monax(Linnaeus, 1758)

The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as the woodchuck or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Most marmots, such as yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. In the west it is found only in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia and northern Washington.

[edit] Anatomy and behavior
The groundhog is the largest sciurid in its geographical range, typically measuring 40 to 65
cm (17 to 26 in) long (including a 15 cm tail) and weighing 2 to 4 kg (4.5 to 9 pounds). In areas with fewer natural predators and large quantities of alfalfa, groundhogs can grow to 80 cm (32 in) and 14 kg (30 lb). Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws. The tail is only about one-fourth of body length, much shorter than that of other sciurids. Suited to their temperate habitat, groundhogs are covered with two coats of fur: a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs that gives the groundhog its distinctive "frosted" appearance. Groundhogs, like other sciurids, have exceptionally dense cerebral bones. These bones make them able to survive direct blows to the head that would cripple other mammals of the same body mass. The spinal structure of the groundhog is curved in a manner that resembles a mole rather than other sciurids.
Groundhogs usually live from two to three years, but can live up to six years in the wild, and ten years in captivity. Their diet consists of grasses,
clover, Plantago, garden vegetables, leaves, twigs, apples, berries, and dandelion (Whitaker and Hamilton, 1998). They are not as omnivorous as many other sciurids, but will also eat grubs, grasshoppers, bugs, snails and other small animals.

A nearly-motionless individual, alert to danger, will whistle when alarmed to warn other groundhogs.
Groundhogs are excellent burrowers, using burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and
hibernating. The Wall Street Journal quotes wildlife expert Richard Thomas as calculating that the average groundhog moves approximately 1 m³ (35 cubic feet), or 320 kg (700 pounds), of dirt when digging a burrow. Though groundhogs are the most solitary of the marmots, the same burrow may be occupied by several individuals. Groundhog burrows generally have between two and five entrances, providing groundhogs their primary means of escape from predators. Burrows are particularly large, with up to 45 feet of tunnels buried up to 5 feet underground, and can pose a serious threat to agricultural and residential development by damaging farm machinery and even undermining building foundations.[1]
Groundhogs prefer to flee from would-be predators, and usually retreat to their burrows when threatened; however, if the burrow is invaded, the groundhog will tenaciously defend itself with its two large incisors and front claws. Additionally, groundhogs are generally antagonistic and territorial among their own species, and may skirmish to establish dominance.
Common predators for groundhogs include
wolves, coyotes, bobcats, bears, large hawks, and owls. Young groundhogs are often at risk for predation by snakes, which easily enter the burrow.
Outside their burrow, individuals are alert when not actively feeding. It is common to see one or more nearly-motionless individuals standing erect on their hind feet watching for danger. When alarmed, they use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony.

Groundhogs feed on a variety of plants such as grass, clover, Plantago, and berries.
Usually groundhogs
breed in their second year, but a small percentage may breed as yearlings. The breeding season extends from early March to middle or late April, following hibernation. A mated pair will remain in the same den throughout the 28-32 day gestation period. As birth of the young approaches in April or May, the male will leave the den. One litter is produced annually, usually containing 2-6 blind, hairless and helpless young. Young groundhogs are weaned and ready to seek their own dens at five to six weeks of age.
The groundhog prefers open country and the edges of woodland, and it is rarely far from a burrow entrance. Since the clearing of
forests provided it with much more suitable habitat, the groundhog population is probably higher now than it was before the arrival of European settlers in North America. Groundhogs are often hunted for sport, which tends to control their numbers. However, their ability to reproduce quickly has tended to mitigate the depopulating effects of sport hunting.[1] As a consequence, the groundhog is a familiar animal to many people in the United States and Canada.
Groundhogs raised in captivity can be socialized relatively easily; however, their aggressive nature can pose problems. Doug Schwartz, a zookeeper and groundhog trainer at the
Staten Island Zoo, has been quoted as saying "They’re known for their aggression, so you’re starting from a hard place. [Their] natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. You have to work to produce the sweet and cuddly."[3]

22 May 2007

Spoiled by the Caribbean

I've been thinking lately that it would be nice to explore other beachy parts of Mexico. I was in Acapulco 20 years ago but aside from that, I've traveled to the Yucatan peninsula exclusively. So I look at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan and they all have things to offer but they don't have this:

or this:

and I wonder how happy could I be without that gorgeous, calm, clear Caribbean blue-green-turquoise water? The Cabo surf is so rough people don't go in it for fear of drowning. It'd be different if I was into sports fishing. And no doubt we'd have great fish and seafood there. Still, the part of vacation that calls to me is looking out on magnificent views... standing neck deep in water and still seeing down to my toes... seeing the pretty fishies congregate... After trips to St. Lucia and Jamaica and Playa del Carmen and Puerto Rico and Cozumel and Nassau, how can I settle for frothy, dark crashing waves?

Heck the state I live in has a coastline. Doesn't mean I want to look at it.

Spoiled, that's what I am.

I know I'm incredibly fortunate, too.

21 May 2007

I know I know: TV (Switch It Off Part II)

I know, I know. I was the one saying we should all walk away from our televisions. Yes, I'm still watching. Aren't you?

Let me offer rationaliza--er, explanations for the counter argument:

  • Since the number one topic around the water cooler is American Idol, maybe TV is what will ultimately re-create community, not destroy it. People connect over their shared TV experience. Even if its not shared in the moment. Maybe TV can be used for good as well as evil.

  • Maybe watching guilty pleasures like American Idol and Celebrity Fit Club keep us from indulging in more disgusting habits. Perhaps this level of schadenfreude is sufficient to meet most people's crueler needs.

Yeah, let's go with that.

Tangential topic: Not only have we been experiencing this colossal reality TV movement, we have these reality commercials to contend with, too. I, for one, HATE both the Volkwagen "experience the crash" commercials and the OnStar "hear the panicked, desperate cries for help" ads. This is a level of stress people shouldn't have to experience unless they are the ones in the situation. I don't need more adrenaline surges, thank you very much. Foy!

Anything Light and Humorous Must Be Beaten to Death (Geico Cavemen)

The Geico Cavemen series of commercials have been funny and clever in a lighthearted sort of way. Now, the powers that be have taken what is funny in a 30 second venue and expanded it to a 30 minute sit-com. Not only that but they swapped out the actors that could make you laugh with just a look.

This has horrible written all over it.

Have we learned nothing from the "take a good SNL skit and stretch it to an unbearable 2 hour movie" example?

I anticipate a Geico gecko TV show next. Perhaps a Saturday morning series or an Alf-like effort where the gecko interviews a variety of people. It's got to be just around the corner.


18 May 2007

Movie Review: Notes on a Scandal

Saw "Notes on a Scandal" last night.

It stars Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchette as two teachers each struggling with their issues around loneliness, age, expectation, isolation, taboo sexual attraction and incredible neediness. It's a strange movie and I got a little tired of Cate's character not realizing how creepy Judi's character was, despite obvious clues. Then, again, Cate's character does some creepy things, herself. At one point in the film, Cate's character overhears her mother referring to her as lacking substance. But can lack of substance really explain it?

Still, they both delivered solid performances as did supporting actor Bill Nighy, as Cate's husband.

A special kudos to the make-up people for making Dench look so ghastly and unglamourous to match her character.

I did like the sets of the school and the school yard and the evocation of the class war that transpires there.

The movie held my interest but not in an "Oh my god what a great movie" kind of way. I give this slightly disturbing bit of psychological drama 2.5 jujubees out of 4.

17 May 2007

10 Things to Remember on the DC Beltway

1. If the city is to your left, you're on the outer loop. Think geosynchronous orbit. If you don't know where the city is, you don't belong in DC.

2. People will always telegraph their intent unless they are on the phone, reading directions, putting on mascara, fiddling with the radio, yelling at their kids, flirting with the girls in the next car, checking stock prices in the paper, etc. Watch for telegraphing where it occurs.

3. Don't confuse a telegraphed intent (car begins to drift left) with a turn signal. Trust what the car is doing more than what the signals are indicating or not indicating.

4. It doesn't matter if a driver shouldn't be doing what they're doing by law. The only law on the beltway is survival. Yours. So get mad all you want but don't expect them to change.

5. Corollary to #4: The left lane is only the fast lane if people get out of your way in the left lane. Otherwise, any lane is the fast lane.

6. Go to the bathroom before you get in the car, make sure you have gas before you get on the beltway and keep a snack in the car because you will get stuck in unexpected traffic.

7. Just because there's no visible reason for a backup doesn't mean there won't be a backup.

8. Just because the traffic jam clears, doesn't mean the traffic in front of you will suddenly realize this and pick up speed.

9. Bob and weave. Nuff said.

10. Don't play chicken with the merge lane. People are crazy here and they'll kill you if it means they can get on the beltway. This doesn't mean they understand the concept of how to properly merge. See #4.

Bonus: When everything else fails, pop in a CD and sing your heart out, complete with gestures. You'll enjoy the experience more and it'll look like your yelling at the people around you. :)

15 May 2007

Switch It Off (TV)

"Where have the TV viewers gone? "

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer Tue May 8, 4:36 PM ET

"Maybe they're outside in the garden. They could be playing softball. Or perhaps they're just plain bored.

"In TV's worst spring in recent memory, an alarming number of Americans drifted away from television the past two months: More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year, statistics show.

"Everyone has a theory to explain the plummeting ratings: early Daylight Savings Time, more reruns, bad shows, more shows being recorded or downloaded or streamed."

What would the world be like if we turned away from television all together? We have other ways of getting our news, of getting entertainment, of feeling connected to a larger whole, and of receiving advertising. How bad would it be if we were outside in the garden or playing softball?

Might be quite nice, really. Changing from viewers to doers. Understanding more about the people around us by being with the people around us. Developing perceptions by thinking for ourselves rather than hearing talking heads tell us what we ought to think. Choosing what images we wish to take in rather than letting them wash over us, unfiltered. Talking more to our neighbors, joining common interest groups, participating more in life rather than plunking down in front of the TV for hours on end. Realizing that reality really is better than reality TV.

Hubby talks about the rise in cruelty on radio and television--the concept that seeing/hearing someone getting punked or cranked has become entertainment. When did pissing someone off become hilarious? Maybe if we were there in person, we might feel a little more accountable and a little more empathetic. Heck, it might even put a stop to this kind of stuff.

Crazy talk, I know. And not a new idea in any of it. I just wonder if that's what we're seeing now--the massive wave of people turning away from television--either by design or default.

The King of Queens Haiku

As the end has arrived for The King of Queens, we bid adieu to one of the few comic respites from the workaday world. Okay maybe the show got a little weary and formulaic toward the end but these characters are old friends and like old friends we forgive them their irritating habits. Maybe we even laugh at them.

Thanks, KoQ, for making the world a little lighter.

Here, a few haiku's to try to capture the emotion...

(In the 5-7-5 format...)

Carey and Doug fight
Spense and Danny are in love
Arthur is insane.

(In the 7-9-7 format...)

He's sure Carey won't like this
Maybe Doug can keep it a secret
Will Doug's back ever loosen?

James is great at physical
Remini is a beauty at takes
Frank Costanza rides again.

14 May 2007

Chrysler/Cerberus: Buying American?

So now that Cerberus has 80% interest in Chrysler, is it once again an American company? If I buy a new Chrysler, am I buying American? Or 80% American?

I took pride in buying American cars. And it bothered me when Chrysler went German because that was one less American option. When Daimler struggled with the brand it made me wonder how much of Chrysler's market share was due to Americans buying American.

Buy American and Americans work. At least in theory. Now companies have plants all over the globe. Is it possible to buy purely American anymore?

Remember those "Look for the union label" commercials with all those happy people singing? That catchy tune ended with "it says we're able to make it in the USA!" Whatever happened to that concept? What does any of that mean at this point?

11 May 2007

Unkind thoughts

On Akon:
This business with Akon and the 15 year old gives new meaning to his lyric "Nobody want to see us together".

On Anna Nichole:
How sad for TrimSpa that they're gazillion dollar ad campaign died with Anna Nichole.

On Kirsty & Valerie:
With magazines like Shape and Fitness, I'm pretty sure they write their diary success stories a year in advance to make sure that they're reporting on truly successful people. It's okay to have a 1 month set back but nobody's going to read monthly installments by a failure. I wonder if Jenny Craig did this with Kirsty and Valerie and kept them "under wraps" until they were sure they were successes?

Also, 75 pounds is a lot but, still, is Kirsty really done?

On Paula:
If I had to sit between Simon and Randy, I'd probably drink a lot, too.

10 May 2007

Queen Elizabeth, Snipers

"The GSFC Security staff and particularly Chuck Lombard did a marvelous job in planning and coordinating the efforts of at least six different security organizations and in supporting the Secret Service in keeping our guests safe. It is hard to overstate how complex an operation this was and how well it was executed." -Goddard's Center Director

No wonder the Queen's visit seemed packed with a variety of uniformed and plain-clothed but clearly undercover types. Glad I didn't look suspicious. According to a friend who's talked with people in the know, the snipers divide the field of view between them and then scan for anything suspicious. He said they look at people's hands, not, as we might expect, their eyes. Let's face it, if you're going to do something dangerous, it's gonna be with your hands. You almost expect to hear whoopwhoop sirens interspersed with loudspeaker announcements to "STEP AWAY FROM THE QUEEN... KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM..."

Yeesh. What a way to live.

08 May 2007

Coming Face to Face with the Queen!

I queued up early and the Queen walked right past me. Like two feet away. We made eye contact and I mumbled out a "Good morning" to her. I don't think I remembered to say "Ma'am" as the protocol people had instructed. No matter. She was right there, with that fixed smile on her face. I took these pictures-without a zoom! Big yellowish-green hat with flowers--that was her! This is totally freaky. Yowza!

Meanwhile, there was every type of law enforcement known to man including cops on horses, cops on motorcycles, cops in cop cars, cops in SUVs, cops on foot, cops in helicopters, secret Service, SWAT, even two snipers on the roof of the adjacent building. Between them and the media it was quite the circus! Still, it was an amazing moment in time. It makes me appreciate how much this 81 year old has to put up with just to be out and about. I guess there are a few perks to the job, too, though. ;)

07 May 2007

Restaurant Review: La Bergerie Restaurant

We had the pleasure of a late lunch at La Bergerie on North Lee Street in Old Town Alexandria. We enjoyed it from beginning to end. The ambiance was wonderful. Plush banquettes, fresh flowers, white tablecloths, special wine glasses, etc. We immediately thought this would be a great "special occasion" place; very romantic. So ambiance: 28/30. The service was outstanding, too: efficient and courteous without being intrusive. Even though we were dressed shabbily in t-shirts and jeans, we got first class treatment: 28/30. The food was marvelous: light sauces and great flavors. I had the farmer's salad and the bouillabaisse and hubby had the smoked salmon appetizer and the sea bass with parsley risotto. All of it demonstrated an expert hand in the kitchen: 28/30. They don't have much in the way of pure vegetarian options: 10/30. And though the cost could certainly be prohibitive, in fact they offer a great deal: Prix-Fixe. For $20, you get either an appetizer and main course or a main course and dessert. So one can't really complain about the price: 26/30. Add to it a glass of wonderful white burgundy and hot crusty french bread and sweet butter and you've got an experience fit for a king! Overall, I would heartily recommend La Bergerie and give it a 24/30.

Movie Review: Rocky Balboa

Rented "Rocky Balboa" over the weekend from Pay-Per-View. On the plus side, I only paid $3.99 to rent it instead of watching it for full price on the big screen. That's about it for the plus side.

In this, the 37th in the Rocky series, Rocky has become Ronald Reagan... old, doddering, recapturing his innocence through his senility, grandfatherly in his affections. This is a rehash of every Rocky movie with major cutting and pasting from the original. I'm thinking someone said to Stallone... "You know, if you could only write one like the first one, you'd really have something" and he said "Why write a whole new movie when I can cut and paste and make it as endearing as one of those great flashback episodes of the Golden Girls? Save time, save film, and we know the original film was a winner so why mess with it when we can simply sample it!?"

And so it goes.

I don't think I'm giving anything away by telling you there's a boxing match at the climax of the film. It's these kinds of surprises that keep the film fresh and hip. Yuh.

For this lackluster, shmaltzy rehashing, I give the film 1/2 a jujubee out of a possible 4. The 1/2 jujubee is for the fact that they also reused the best music from the original film for the soundtrack, including "Take You Back" and "Gotta Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)."

04 May 2007

Homeless? Part-time Job?

So, I travel the same route home from work most days. Last week, on Thursday, as I was waiting on a light to change before I could get onto the Beltway, there in the median was a man with a simple cardboard sign that read "HUNGRY". I don't know if other people do this but I looked at him and tried to determine if he actually looked hungry. How would I know, but that's how my brain works. He was working his way down the line of cars with his sign and when he got to mine I made a decision. I slid the window down and handed him a plastic bag with two golden delicious apples in it. He thanked me heartily, took the apples and kept walking with his sign. I couldn't help thinking maybe he wasn't so hungry after all if he didn't stop to eat at least one of the apples. Maybe food wasn't actually his priority, despite the crudely printed message.

Days go by and there are different men with signs there each day it seems. Then Thursday comes and the same fellow that took my apples is there with his "HUNGRY" sign and this time he's wearing a vendor's money apron tied over the waist of his jeans. I kid you not. You know, it's the kind of thing a vendor at a stadium or an outdoor newspaper vendor might wear. It's not a clean new money apron but, still, there it is. And I wonder where does a man who is supposedly in this desperate state get a money apron and why does he think it's going to help his cause to wear it? Is he raking in so much cash working this median that he needs a money apron? Do people say to him "I'd help you out but I only have large bills" to which he pats the apron and helpfully responds "No problem, I have change for whatever you've got right here"? I began to wonder if this was a part-time job. Perhaps he and the other fellows that walked the median shared the shift. Maybe they were in a union.

It reminded me of when I was a teenager and was warned not to buy flowers from people on the side of the road that had orange and red painted "ROSES" signs because these were Moonies and they were organized which is why all the signs looked the same and we didn't want to support a cult, now did we? I've no idea if this was real or an urban legend. Snopes.com doesn't seem to list it.

All of it's a little too bizarre.

03 May 2007

NPR Marketplace War Spending Story

I found this Marketplace story well-stated and thought-provoking:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Controlling war spending? Not accomplished
Something's been lost in the debate over emergency Iraq war funding and troop
withdrawal deadlines. The price tag for the war is approaching $500 billion — about 10 times the advertised price.

Congressional Democrats sent the president their version of the Iraq war funding bill today. Despite White House promises to send it right back with a veto attached, which the president did late this afternoon.There is some political symbolism in the timing of this whole thing. Today's the fourth anniversary of the president's "Mission Accomplished" speech. Marketplace's Steve Henn reports something's been lost in the debate over troop withdrawal deadlines. He says the price tag for the war is approaching $500 billion — just about 10 times the advertised price.

Remember Larry Lindsay?

I knew he was in the Bush administration, but I can't remember under what department.

Even people who work a few blocks from the White House can't remember. For the record, Lindsay was President Bush's first economic policy adviser. He was fired after he said the war in Iraq could cost more than $100 billion. At the time, the official White House line was this war would be a bargain at $50 billion. Today, we've spent nearly 10 times that.

Paul Wolfowitz actually said that the war would pay for itself.

The number half a trillion dollars is clearly a mind-boggling number. So without a war to pay for, what could you do with that kind of money?

For just a little bit more than $500 billion, you could have fixed the Social Security problem for the next 75 years. Or you could have doubled foreign aid to developing countries — not just aid from the U.S., but all development aid, period. But Robert Hormats, the author of "The Price of Liberty" — a new book on paying for America's wars — says in comparison to past conflicts, the war in Iraq is a steal. The Second World War cost more than $5 trillion when you adjust for inflation, and Vietnam cost about $650 billion.

We're definitely trying to fight the war on the cheap. And I think that's one of the things missing in this war — that Americans have not been asked to make any sacrifices.

Hormats argues the only ones sacrificing are the troops — who in some cases, despite this war's price tag, still aren't getting what they need.

To send troops into a war that was started on bogus information and not give them adequate resources is so wrong in so many ways. With each day we lose more credibility and compound this tragedy.

"Not one more body. Not one more dollar."

We must stop this war.

01 May 2007

It dices! It slices!

Ever noticed that there's a point in exercise infomercials where the announcer will say "...and it stores practically anywhere!" ? Then the exercise model will roll or slide the equipment either into a closet or under a bed. Have you ever seen so many empty closets and platform beds? Who's sleeping on these beds that you need a ladder to climb into? These beds are SO high, you could sleep under them. And if these people actually burned off energy cleaning out these now sparklingly vacant closets, would they really need an exercise machine?

Perhaps I'm a bit too literal.