Monday, December 29, 2008

Clarity In The Middle East

The nerve of Israel.

Attacking the peace-loving, innocent people of Gaza. Don't they know that Hamas only wants peace on Earth and for everyone to treat the Palestinian people as well as they have historically treated the rest of the world?

Those poor 300+ Palestinians who have been killed over the past three days by Israeli aggression are heroes of the innocent struggle for Palestinian statehood. Surely, Israel's behavior is deplorable, and these awful attacks should be cause for Israel to be destroyed.

How awful.

This, of course, seems to be the tone I encounter when I read about this latest episode between Israel and one of its neighbors. The last time, it was Sadr's militia in Lebanon that was targeted, and this time, it's Hamas. The pattern is always the same: attacks on Israel are regarded as commonplace and almost acceptable, and the media only wakes up and begins its reporting when Israel defends herself from rockets randomly fired into Israeli territory.

Invariably, people will decry Israel's actions as deplorable and disgusting, and the Hamas/Palestinian PR machine will go into full effect, showing bloodied elderly women and children and bodybags showing the death of the innocent.

The problem, of course, is that Hamas -- an admitted terrorist organization, which has participated in the bombing schools, buses, cafes and civilian airliners -- is now the ruling class of the Palestinian people. Known terrorists running a government -- and they, somehow, seem apathetic when their constituents randomly fire rockets into their neighbor. The only time they seem to react in any adverse way is when the country which their brothers in arms have targeted fight back.

About five or six years ago, a business associate of ours, in an off-hand way, suggested that he thought Israel was, in effect, a terrorist country. Being that said associate wasn't addressing me directly with said commentary, I didn't respond. However, I frequently regret not responding. I wanted to advise said associate that he is a perfect example of why the Palestinian people spend as much time lobbying their cause to the internation media -- CNN, in particular -- as they do building bombs and suicide vests. The reason why is that anyone with any unbiased view of the situation -- this one, as well as Lebanon, et al -- would surmise that Israel is defending itself from being the target of random rocket attacks with these attacks on Gaza, and that if the Palestinian people don't realize that Israel was provoked into defending itself -- which is their right as a nation -- they shouldn't be entitled to their own nation or their own land. Further, it would seem that if the Palestinian people are satisfied with Hamas's treatment of other nations -- condoning or ignoring attacks on neighboring countries -- they should expect similar treatment from their neighbors. Essentially, the next time some shitbird with a rocket launcher decides to point it at Israel and let fly a bunch of rockets, that attack will result in the deaths of 20 Palestinians. As those attacks escalate -- whether with Hamas's blessing or not -- the Israeli response will increase exponentially.

Is this wrong? Is this mentality inappropriate? Is it appropriate for some random assholes in Gaza to fire randomly into Israel and then decry the Israelis' response thereto?

If you're part of -- or believe -- the Palestinian lobby, then yes, Israel has absolutely no right to respond militarily. Israel should instead talk to Hamas -- an organization that talks out of both sides of its mouth -- and Israel should allow Hamas and the other terrorist entities operating in the Middle East to attack it without response. After all, Israel has no right to declare "all-out war" on Hamas or the terrorists in the region; the right of "all-out war" only applies to Palestinians and other Arabs intent on wiping Israel from the map.

Shame on the Israelis for not playing by the rules.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Chill In The Air and Elsewhere

The last week or so has been an interesting one, and not simply because the weather has been incredibly cold, windy and filled with snow. That's part of it, naturally, but mainly the excitement factor sees me running around trying to get everything addressed and wrapped up before this week ends.

Every year, the Christmas holiday is a pleasant one for me. Usually the weather isn't this terrible, but even with the weather being downright awful, the weather rarely plays a factor. This year, however, it has; I've had to spend a lot of time outside the office at various City agencies, as well as meeting with several big-time clients for end-of-year face-time.

So with temperatures, including wind chills, that approach the single-digits, it's not a lot of fun carrying ten pounds of files and paper through a subway station filled with cranky, overeager shoppers ready to not work for a few days.

Moreover, while we're on the subject, since the economy has tanked and many people are extra-desperate, it seems like I'm getting 150 e-mails a day offering sales, last-minute savings, free shipping and extended hours. Normally that's a minor irritant; however, 90% of those e-mails are, essentially, stuff I ignore, and the other 10% is repetitive in a major way. I get e-mails from so many different stores, companies and/or entities that it's hard to determine if I've seen the same one sent to three different addresses or if there's something new, so invariably I don't bother ignoring them and check 'em out. Problem is when you've got eight e-mail addresses synced to a Blackberry and your hip vibrates every 41 seconds, it's sort of hard to get anything done beyond checking quasi-spam. And to add insult to injury, most of these e-mails have all sorts of pretty graphics that look like crap on Blackberry e-mail.

I'm hoping that next year's Christmas economy isn't this balls-to-the-wall desperate, because if it is I'm shitcanning every single company's e-mails starting November 15th and, if I'm amenable, I'll re-up with them somewhere around February 1st. It's not like I'll really miss the e-mails, but every so often I see something therein I want to pick up for my other half or for my parents or a friend, so it's sort of a Catch 22 -- if I dump the e-mails I'll retain my sanity, but lose a lot of opportunities to score goodies for people about whom I care. Oh well...such are the woes of the US consumer.

The one nice thing about this year's holiday season, of course, is that both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on a Thursday, which pretty much guarantees that the weeks during which these holidays fall are cupcakes. Monday and Tuesday are work-days, but Wednesday is a half-day in both cases, and Friday in both cases is an off-day. So it's a half-week in each case, and I'm sure that most, if not all, people celebrating these holidays (or celebrating not working on these days) already had their heads wrapped around the upcoming holiday(s) and are barely there, mentally (if not physically). I've got lots to get done before Kaia gets here early next week -- prep, wrapping, cleaning, laundry, organizing, etc. -- so the extra few days off will come in mighty handy. Plus I'm bringing home a shitload of work to get done via our newly-fangled remote office network, so I'm pretty jazzed about being able to make progress without having to log miles in commute time in the great, chilly, windy, snowy outdoors.

In either case, I hope each of you and your families has a great holiday -- no matter what your beliefs -- and stays safe, happy, healthy and warm. I'd include the term "Peace on Earth" but, thankfully, my penis is still attached and fully-functional, so you'll understand my reticence to do so.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

F*cked At Birth

Invariably, we Americans -- whether we're entitled or not -- deem ourselves an intelligent bunch. Regardless of the fact that we consume junk food at alarmingly high rates, purchase (and consume) beverages -- coffee, soda, sugar-flavored juices -- in gallon-size containers, and make celebrities out of people like Jeff Foxworthy, Larry The Cable Guy, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle, we are -- on many levels, relatively speaking -- an intelligent nation.

So what if a large chunk of Americans can't find North Dakota on a map? So what if more Americans vote for an American Idol than the US President? So what if most Americans weigh more than their IQ?

These factors alone neither confirm nor contradict the issue of our nation's stupidity.

This story, however, makes it official: we should be proud we have some of the dumbest people on the planet as fellow Americans.

Incidentally, if you've ever seen the movie "Idiocracy" and thought to yourself "That could never really happen here," think again. And keep in mind that by doing so, you could one day -- soon -- be in the minority.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When In Baghdad...

Invariably, the world has managed to continue to get increasingly stranger than even I'd have predicted. Frankly, there are some things out there that are just plain weird. This year, we had an election which would have produced either a black President or a female Vice President. As for the Vice Presidency, if Dan Quayle could be Vice President, I'm sure Sarah Palin could have handled that office as well. However, let's just be glad things turned out the way they did.

Meanwhile, speaking of "weird," who hasn't seen the video of Muntadhar al-Zaidi. hurling his shoes at President Bush? And who among the people who have seen it didn't laugh out loud at some point either during or after Mr. al-Zaidi's footwear flinging? I can say I chuckled, although there was weirdness on several levels.

First and foremost, when I saw the video, my first thought was that, somehow, this dude was connected to Richard "The Shoe Bomber" Reid and this was his way of attacking the President. Second, after it was made clear that hurling a shoe (or two) at someone is among the highest insults in the Iraqi culture. Personally, I think whipping out a 9mm and shooting someone in the leg is a bigger insult, and of course there's the ever-popular whipping "it" out and letting 'er rip on someone's leg or another part of their anatomy -- perhaps even their shoes.

But nonetheless, Mr. al-Zaidi's actions were both odd and humorous; except that is, of course, if you're an Iraqi.

Does -- or should -- it surprise anyone that the Iraqi population not only supported al-Zaidi's actions but also came out in support thereof en masse?

When I initially discussed this incident with Kaia, she and I both agreed how unbelievable it was that the Iraqi people so proudly turned on George W. Bush, who essentially gave them freedom. And to do so in such a bold, proud way, not only shed some light on who Arabs are but about the Arab culture.

This is not the first incident which has reminded me how of the disparities between Eastern and Western culture. This isn't even an issue of Islam and Christianity; it's really just an issue of sovereignty and dignity. To Iraqis, regardless whether Bush's actions -- and his alone -- rid Iraq of a tyrant who saw fit to killing hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, the presence of American troops in Iraq was more of an insult than anything meted out by Saddam Hussein's machines of torture. It's insignificant that Saddam was the Middle Eastern answer to Stalin; Bush's actions and presence in Iraq was the deplorable, inexcusable offense.

This makes sense on some level; this mentality -- nationalism coupled with pride -- caused the resurgence of Germany and fueled Adolph Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930's. However, in this particular sense, it's a bit unclear as to why this nitwit -- al-Zaidi -- was so angry at George W. Bush for addressing troops which have risked their lives so that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- like al-Zaidi -- could be free from Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

There are some legitimate responses to this Western reaction. The United States' "occupation" of Iraq is insulting to Iraqis on some level; unfortunately, if the US withdrew its troops almost immediately after the initial expulsion of Saddam Hussein's government, the country would have imploded and it would have resembled Somalia or any other lawless, tribal warlord wasteland. Another response is that many Iraqis have had their lives turned upside down on Bush's "whim" -- although in the long run, Iraqis will be better off. They'll be able to represent themselves, speak without fear of oppression or death, and if they want to throw their shoes at someone, they won't be hanged on the spot.

As Kaia mentioned, and I fully agreed, I don't think al-Zaidi is stupid. However, I wonder if it occurred to him that had Bush -- the guy at whom he threw his shoes -- not decided to plant Saddam Hussein six feet under and al-Zaidi felt like throwing his shoes at Saddam Hussein, it's likely that instead of the Iraqi population chanting for his release, it's more likely that they'd be mourning him after he was hanged within five minutes of throwing his shoes.

The irony here is pretty engaging: Bush's actions led to the freedoms of Iraqis -- like Mr. al-Zaidi -- to throw shoes at people with whom he was irritated -- like George W. Bush.

This is another example of how stupidity and culture collide. I wonder how many of the nameless throngs of people demonstrating for Mr. al-Zaidi's release have stopped to consider that his actions -- and his freedom of expression -- are a direct result of Dubya.

I don't think very many, judging by the repeated examples of crowd mentality and groupthink that pervades Arab culture.

I wonder if Arabs in the Middle East know why the West thinks of them in the way they do. Although, after this particular incident, I do know one thing: they probably never bothered to wonder why.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Inevitable No-Win Pass-The-Buck Buy-Out

Most people in this country agree that there are some things that are wrong and some things that are right in the current economic roller-coaster we're riding. That we as a nation rarely agree on anything -- to wit, look at the popular vote from last month's Presidential Election -- is not shocking but it is somewhat disconcerting.

There are major issues which are addressed -- and sometimes resolved -- during election years. Abortion, gay marriage, nationalized health insurance -- topics like these inspire extreme opinion, belief and passion among our nation and yet, polarize the masses like two similarly-charged magnets.

So where do we as a nation stand on the auto bailout now being finalized in Congress and the White House?

There's certainly no real way to answer that question; however, most people with whom I've discussed this topic are, like me, divided. On one side, there is the opinion which suggests that GM, Chrysler and Ford have been doing the wrong things for so long that they don't deserve bailout monies. American cars are, without a doubt, inferior to import vehicles in almost every possible category. They are not built as well, their performance is -- generally speaking -- inferior, and the prices for "comparable" vehicles isn't enough to justify the mass-defection of Americans to imported cars and brands.

What's telling is the fact that Toyota has managed to build quality vehicles (the Camry and some other high-selling, high-rated vehicles) in America (I believe their factory is located in Lexington, Kentucky) whereas GM and other American auto manufacturers have farmed out auto production on some models to Mexico, with results similar to cars built on US soil. Why is it, then, that Toyota and other non-American car manufacturers can somehow assemble quality automobiles on US soil but American car manufacturers seemingly cannot?

Makes one wonder -- if not entirely doubt -- Ford's slogan "Quality is job one." Clearly, it isn't.

So why should the US taxpayers be responsible -- in part, if not in full -- for a $15 billion bailout of an American auto industry that has shown disinterest for self-improvement and for surpassing other auto manufacturers? Let's face it; there are some iconic designs in America's auto portfolio that are still manufactured today. The Mustang and the Corvette are two that come to my mind; and while both are nice-looking vehicles, I doubt anyone -- with a straight face -- could tell me either vehicle was especially well-made or a good example of a quality automobile.

The American auto industry has dropped the ball and ignored quality standards to which other companies around the world aspire. Assuming that statement is accurate -- and frankly, I believe many people agree with that statement (regardless of its truth) -- if the US bails out the Ford, GM and Chrysler, won't these policies -- and the downward spiral -- simply be delayed until Federal dollars are no longer there?

Well, according to the details that have been leaking forth from Capitol Hill, there are some strings that will tie the hands of the bailed-out Big Three. Similar to the bank bailout, the government will insure that executives aren't compensated with huge, ridiculous EOY bonuses. Further, from what I understand, these monies would be contingent on some policy restructuring (ie developing more energy-efficient vehicles and electric/hybrids).

So should we as a nation support this bailout? It's clear that we probably don't have much choice. If it doesn't happen and the big three are allowed to implode, what would be the problem?

The most obvious problem is that all the jobs that these companies provide would be lost. That would put one hell of a dent in the unemployment figures for this and next month. Moreover, in an instant, American's final manufacturing component would evaporate. In years past, this nation's manufacturing supremacy -- in steel, items like TV's, typewriters, sewing machines, etc. -- has abated and deferred to the Japanese. Assuming the American auto industry disappears, so too would this aspect of manufacturing. The problem isn't that we should be so concerned that the Japanese have superior manufacturing; the problem is that we would have none. Part of the problem with allowing this to happen is that in years past, ie World War II, Korea, et al, American car companies suspended -- for better or worse -- their production of consumer automobiles and shifted production to mechanized hardware like tanks, troop transports, planes, etc. If the auto industry disappears, that's yet another thing America would have to buy rather than produce on its own.

And whether we're talking about a household or a country, when things are tight economically, it's far more efficient to produce in-house than to go out and buy what could be self-made.

I think that there are serious consequences with bailing out the American auto industry; first and foremost, why invest billions in companies who show no sense of remorse or understanding that they have created their own problems? Clearly, by showing up to the hearings this and last week in DC in private planes, neither GM nor Chrysler nor Ford show very much understanding of waste management and scaling down operations to fit the economic climate. Second, while it's clear these companies have never needed to show any sense of the dangers around them, they similarly show little, if any, ability to shift with the times. While the world seems intent on producing smaller, more efficient hybrid-powered cars, what the world seemingly needs less now is larger, bulkier, SUV-type vehicles (hello Escalade, Hummer). According to the reports from this past summer, car dealerships were so frantic to sell SUV's (during the so-called "gas crisis") that they were selling them below cost. And to show how little GM and the others get it, do we really need a hybrid-powered Escalade?

No one should expect GM to shift gears in an instant and become more like Subaru or other environmentally-conscious auto manufacturers; however, without supervision, it's clear that GM, Chrysler and Ford know very little about change or adaptation to the economic and environmental times which are no longer on the far horizon but are here now and today.

Finally, the other -- and perhaps, most pressing -- concern we should have regarding this impending bailout is not that the monies as offered will not save these manufacturers. It will -- at least for the short term. And to answer what should be our secondary concern, ie how do we know this will save these companies long-term, the government will focus on preventing these companies from maintaining their typical, sloth-like behavior -- in essence, they will supervise or nationalize these companies.

My problem with that is that the government is the last entity I'd want at the helm of a company. To wit, I choose to deal with Fedex or UPS rather than the US Postal Service because the bureaucracy is minimal with the aforementioned choices. So how can a monolith like GM get better, be more streamlined and increase its efficiency if it's operated like the IRS or another Federal entity? The answer, of course, is it cannot.

So while supervision will insure these companies don't continue their race towards obsolescence -- like many of their products -- by supervision, they will be directed towards safer financial and efficient operation.

The only question remains: how long will this supervision last, and if these companies are worth saving, why would they require anything beyond an influx of capital to insure it happens?

The answer is it's a no-win situation; of course, none of these companies is truly worth saving. Their products have consistently been inferior to their foreign competitors and the only superior aspect of American auto manufacturing over the past thirty -- if not more -- years is the benefits and security of American auto union employees. Of course, now that the unions have successfully placed and hammered home several nails in the coffins of these companies, their security has evaporated along with their employers.

My recommendation, in a nutshell: contribute the bail-out/influx of capital with the government a ten-year board member on each of GM, Chrysler and Ford; insure that 70% of those products destined for consumers of each of the three be hybrid or eminently fuel efficient (30 MPG or better); mandate a realistic and rigorous timetable for the repayment of these monies; insure that each company build new factories which are environmental bastions of efficiency, including solar, wind and/or renewable energies; and finally, restructure auto unions' grip over a complacent, head-in-the-sand mentality that has plagued the executive branches of these companies.

Also, have each of them start driving Toyotas to and from work, and ban them from ownership of private planes, yachts and anything not produced by their own employees.

And finally, buckle your seatbelts and strap in -- no matter what, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Comments From The Peanut Gallery

Last night, Barbra Streisand was honored at the Kennedy Center for her contribution to the arts. The more interesting angle (not referring to the photographing of her nose), however, was that she appeared at the White House, the one occupied by George W. Bush, the President who she has claimed should be impeached.

The CNN article describing these facts is not interesting in its description thereof, but instead because of the myriad comments from what seem to be among the many morons we refer to as our fellow Americans.

Enjoy, if you can.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wherewithall and Without

While Kaia naps away the tiredness resulting from a combination of late-night and early-morning festivities with an out-of-town friend, I've been chipping away at the various items on my personal to-do list. The sink is yet again clear of dishes, the apartment is cleanish and vacuumed, the homemade PC is humming along at a crisp, cool 26 degrees Celcius, and I'm listening to one of several new Led Zeppelin concert recordings that streamed to my PC courtesy of other like-minded mongo Zeppelin fans out there on the good ol' InterWeb.

In the meantime, the apartment is chilly and winter is out there just waiting to arrive. Granted, it's early December and the weather hasn't been awful thus far -- thank you, global warming -- but it would seem to be inappropriate to lament winter's impending arrival even though that's, more or less, what I'm doing.

I also have been doing some homework and research for work; now that we're a remote network, I can VPN over to our server without having to plug in, unplug, pray, or wait with anticipation. Everything is pretty much instantaneous. Granted, there are some miscellaneous delays, but they're largely transparent and insignificant. I 'spose we could increase bandwidth on the network -- by both upping the speed on the network and on each of our remote PC's -- but thanks to the 'Net, the technology is heavy on the upside with little or no downside, other than the cost involved. But even then, the TCO is pretty reasonable given the aforementioned upside.

In the meantime, on non-PC matters, as I indicated via FaceBook, I was disappointed that tonight's fiesta had to be postponed. I'm still putting some finishing touches on where, when and how (much), but for the most part, the pieces are fitting together, albeit slowly. It looks like it'll be a January bash, and most of the likely attendees are cool with that, but I'm sure some of the out-of-towners will not be able to swing it. In the past -- at least the last two or three years since I've been re-actively doing these parties every three or four months -- the main obstacle has been the date(s) of the parties. Peoples' schedules fill up really quickly -- even months in advance, natch -- and finding a date is hard enough. But now, considering all the economic issues everyone's facing these days, and accounting for airfare, hotel reservations and the other ancillary NYC-related costs and you've got a pretty tough sell for a weekend in NYC just for shits n' giggles.

Guess we'll see how many people actually manage the trip, especially given how many people near and far are interconnected via Facebook and all the other social/viral techno-connections out there.

More later.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pass The Remote

After a load of research, review, consideration and deliberation, we finally went ahead with a project we've been looking to move on for quite some time: getting our office server behind a bona-fide wireless firewall and simultaneously making all our data accessible outside the four walls of our office.

I can hear the collective yawn from deep within cyberspace.

It's not too big a deal, and I'm sure within a week or ten days I'll be yawning alongside each reader that mistakenly finds his or her way through these parts. But for right now, it's pretty fargin' sweet seeing the data come alive as if I were sitting in front of my office PC. Moreover, it's nice to know I'll be able to access client data from there whilst here.

I think what gets me off about this capability is not simply the notion that I'll be able to get more done more efficiently; it's also the aspect of technology working with us rather than against us that does the trick. With one or two small software loads, I can be in two or more places at once, and methinks that's pretty awesome.

Granted, remote PC access isn't quite a new technology. It's been around, for better or worse, for twenty or so years. PC Anywhere has been selling its wares to the masses for as long as I can remember -- so long, in fact, that they were originally handcuffed by the lack of speed inherent in dial-up modems. Feh.

So now, with the myriad options available to us, together with the monster security we implemented, I can not only sleep at night knowing my data's secure, I can actually get out of bed and go check on it with a matter of steps rather than having to traverse the City to hit the office.

This, of course, doesn't mean I'll be spending my days confined to the Casa de Boogie. What it does mean, however, is that nights and weekends won't be rife with me doing work and leaving some left for the next morning/Monday. That may not excite many people about their jobs, but knowing I'll be able to get done what I need to without walls being in my way is a nice little perk.

The fact that Kaia's been doing this for the past four years with her work doesn't get lost on me, but now I sorta-kinda understand how she can do her work from anywhere in the world and not need to be confined to a desk lit by flourescent lights.

Next on the agenda: T1.

I won't hold my breath. But then again, I doubted we'd ever be able to get remote access to be a serviceable, cost-effective reality.

So I'll wait to exhale for just a bit ;-)

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Apart from the weekly celebration that is NFL Football, today signaled, for me, a bittersweet arrival -- that reality's return is imminent and, tomorrow, work begins anew.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the only one who formerly approached Sunday nights with a bittersweet melancholy that abruptly melded into complete melancholy once True Blood, Entourage (and soon, Dexter) take their annual hiatuses (hiati?). It's not that I hate working -- just the opposite -- but if the weekend is the cake, Monday morning is the boiled liver with lima beans.

So these past four days -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today -- really were great. I saw friends, I celebrated with my family, I had endless time to tinker with the new box, and I had no real constraints of any kind. I did work, I cleaned the house, I did some random food prep, and I got ready -- mentally -- to prep a big potful of chicken soup. On that last part, I've settled on leeks, carrots, some onion, barley, mushrooms and orzo.

However, especially now that the real world is imminently making its return to disturb the last four days of vacation, I suppose it's like summer vacation's end for kids. The last four days were great and yet, they sped by incredibly quickly. Hence the bittersweet melancholy, regardless of whether True Blood, Entourage and Dexter signaled the end of the week and the beginning of the week, all within a 150-minute metamorphosis.

I think it has more to do with having to wake up early than the whole "work" thing. After all, I did a bunch of work stuff -- and even hit the office for a bit on Friday -- but the real core of my being deplores having to wake up at a particular time. If I could roll out of bed, hit the shower and the office, and do my thing at my own pace and on my own schedule, I think things would be really different. Monday morning -- and Sunday night -- would have far less significance in this lexicon of the death-knell of the weekend by 12AM Monday.

But then, I suppose, I wouldn't appreciate the weekends as much; in fact, it occurs to me that the whole "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" has Monday morning written all over it.

I suppose we'll know tomorrow morning. For better or worse. Okay, for worse.

Happy Monday.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

'Tis The Season

Okay, so the title of this post seemingly glosses over today's Thanksgiving holiday and dives straight into the crass commercialism of Christmas. However, I'd be remiss if I allowed the body of this post to do the same. So, on that note, I hope any and all reading this have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To those to the North and South, Happy Thanksgiving-in-law.

I'm going to be celebrating this holiday in mellow fashion; Kaia's in Cali so we're going to do Thanksgiving at a restaurant here in NYC. It's never the same as being home for this particular holiday, and while we don't celebrate Christmas, I can't help but recall with fond nostalgia spending Thanksgiving in NJ with the parental unit and the rest of the family. But as holidays go, this one, as they all are since 2004, is a happy one, and one that is far more serious than it was prior to 2004. I'm not sure if "celebrating" it is per se the right term, but its arrival marks a passage of time that reminds me of the past and the future and the art, and the beauty in, savoring and being thankful for what you've got and what you don't. For some, this holiday is mostly about the food -- and Thanksgiving, as far as food-related holidays, is a biggie -- but it's -- rightfully so -- become so much more than that on many different levels.

In either case, I've got some PC upgrades and installations to attend to so I won't spend much more time herein, but I did want to make sure the day didn't pass with mentioning the recent violence in Mumbai. I could speculate, lament, mourn and/or deplore along with the rest of the world on that particular horror, but I suppose that whole situation implores us, more than ever, to be thankful for what and who we've got in our lives, and also, on a more general scale, reminds us that the world is changing, and not necessarily for the better. We can spend our too few days on this Earth reminiscing about this change, and recall the "good old days" with wistful melancholy, or we can simply work to insure the changes we're facing aren't permanent and in fact begin to go in the right direction. I'm not sure about that second part, but I do know and believe that all is not lost.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been directly affected by the events in Mumbai, and I hope this incident -- or series of incidents -- serves to remind us how precious life is and how to appreciate whatever it is we do have. It's always easy to take these things for granted, until they are no longer there.

Again, a happy thanksgiving to you all.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans

Last time I was here was "pre-PC build."

It's now, I'm happy to announce, the "post-PC build" era in the HoB.

Having said all that, I am not unhappy I went in this direction -- in fact, like many advised I would be, I am proud and pleased that I opted for a from-scratch PC rather than some soulless lawn mower from Dell or some other company.

And I now understand why people get off on talking about their "rigs," "boxes" and/or "setup." It's sort of like getting a bunch of car parts -- internal, external, etc. -- and doing all the work yourself. However, inasmuch as I'm glad this machine's homemade, I didn't do it myself. A good friend did about 75% of the work. For the most part, I didn't have him come by to do the work for me, I had him come by to help me figure out what's actually going on with the wires, cables and lights that connect the case, the motherboard, the components and, ultimately, the actual machine.

One of the major issues with most of these homemade PC's isn't that they don't work; the problem is that they invariably wind up sounding like jet engines (even when safely ensconced inside their cases). The main problem is that when you buy your own components, you typically choose the highest-end components possible in order to maximize performance. Example: whereas most store-bought business machines are typically equipped with 200-watt power supplies, most home-built machines are powered by 500 watt models. However, the norm is even higher; some go over 1000 watts. That means, assuming you leave your PC on 24-7, you're running an appliance that, conceivably, uses more electricity -- constantly -- than a hair dryer. All of a sudden, your electric bill exceeds your car payment. Joy.

Actually, that's not entirely true -- the ratings indicate capacity, as opposed to normal usage, which in most cases, is far less. But neither here nor there: the bottom line is that these setups rarely are designed for efficiency.

However, I tried to make sure mine was sensible, and got a motherboard with high ratings for efficiency. Like Kaia says, my desk area is as lit-up as mission control at Nasa, so the less heat and power emanating from that area, the better. And the nice thing is despite the fact my case is perforated (lots of mesh exterior for venting of heat) and I am working it hard, there is little, if any, noise from fans or the other cooling acoutrement stuffed into that box. Of course, the fact that the case I purchased is bigger than most infant car seats helps. The nice thing is that it looks good, doesn't make a lot of noise under my desk, and everything seems to work -- for now.

I 'spose we'll see if anything goes wrong over the next few weeks, though, strangely, I highly doubt it will. I'll be posting pictures of the finished product when I can, as well as a list of the items we got and the overall results of the assemblage.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breaking and Entering

Well, the last week or ten days have been interesting on many a level; certainly, my absence has decried this observation, but the main issue with these pages laying fallow isn't completely my fault. It's the damn PC's fault.

Awhile back, I had done some basic upgrades to my home PC, a Dell Dimension something-or-other. It's a mid-size tower, which means that it's not a gargantuan beast but it fits neatly under my desk, albeit with a nest of wires, cables and other acoutrement filling out what little space lurks behind it. The upgrades involved a new internal hard drive and a video card.

The problem is that Dell, like many of the more mainstream PC manufacturers out there, builds machines for the masses, sort of like how Chevrolet builds their vehicles. They're meant, by and large, to be used for a finite number of years (roundly speaking, anywhere from 24-36 months) before they unceremoniously crap out like an epilectic on a garish lit-up disco dance floor.

My home PC, fortunately, didn't spasm uncontrollably as in the above example, but after losing two hard drives due to a combination of dust and heat -- the latter being the main culprit -- the PC went belly up all at once.

That means that everything in the mid-tower is toast.

Now that's not to say that's such an awful thing. I had virtually everything on the machine backed up in several places, knowing this day may come, so the only real data loss was stuff about which I really didn't care very much. But on the other hand, it meant I had to lug my notebook back and forth to do testing on the stuff inside to see which, if any of it, was salvageable and, more importantly, worth salvaging.

On top of that, I had to keep up with the work that I typically handle at night; work-related stuff that I don't always finish between working hours (ha!) and the miscellaneous other random minutiae that keep me in front of the computer when I'm not doing something I particularly enjoy.

On top of that, I had to find a new machine to replace this one, as most of the problem with this box was that the case was far too small to allow air to be circulated properly. The quick version: today's multi-core processors (Intel's Dual and Quad-core processors are under the model name "Xeon") essentially do twice (dual) or four (quad) times the processing in the same essential space that Pentiums (the prior model of Intel's PC-based processors) handled. That means they give off twice/four times the heat thereof. Add to that the higher capability of modern video cards and you have a lot more power -- both consumed and under the hood, so to speak.

In other words, it's like saying that a modern-day V8 is far more powerful, but uses shitloads more gas, than a Honda four-cylinder from the early '90's.

The problem is all that heat melts everything around it if not properly addressed. Thus: enter a new PC.

Problem is that I didn't want to buy another Dell; I've always used Dell for both home and office PC's but over the last several years, they've become as poorly-built and -designed as Gateways, Compaqs and IBMs. Before anyone gets offended by my description of their machine(s), please note that -- except for Dell -- all of the other companies I've mentioned above, for the most part, no longer manufacture PC's (yes, Gateway still does, but their stuff is awful and whereas they used to be #1 or #2 they're now #20 or lower in all PC categories).

Anyhoo, to make a loooong story short, I decided to build a PC. So I basically collected a list of components -- motherboard, case, CPU, RAM, storage, DVD drives, sound card, et al, and reviewed it with a friend who is even more of an uber-geek than me. He made some minor changes, and then between us we confirmed everything would work with everything else (both in terms of compatibility and in terms of physical space limitations). Sho'nuff, everything was/is good and once the goodies arrive, he'll swing by and we'll spend a couple hours getting everything together. That means we'll unscrew every part, put everything where it's supposed to go, screw everything back together and then hope nothing explodes.

I never did auto work when I was in high school; in fact, my high school never offered a "shop" class so there were no "grease monkeys" floating around those hallowed halls. But I've been tinkering with PC's for so long I can't remember back to when I was without a PC.

But that doesn't change the fact that building a machine is a lot different than tinkering with one. In any case, a good friend of mine will swing by and between us we'll connect the 25-30 case, power supply and motherboard wires together, get the motherboard/circuit board updated, and then we'll power everything on and hope for the best.

If you hear a loud boom sometime in the next few days, you'll know it didn't go so well.

More to come...hopefully ;-)


Monday, November 10, 2008

US Military to The World: We Love A Challenge

Another example of shit rolling downhill, and yet another simple lesson for those who want to attack US fighters in foreign lands: use civilians and/or civilian structures -- eg houses, religious structures, schools, etc. -- as human shields as the US will back off. Go here for more.

After reading this, it gives you an entirely new perspective -- and, perhaps, respect -- for the job that Israeli soldiers have been doing for sixty years.

Friday, November 07, 2008

One Day In The Life...

I held off commenting about this past Tuesday's results for several reasons of varying significance. Most importantly, I expected Obama to garner 348 electoral votes, and the fact he wound up winning 364 means that this was no shockfest. It was pretty clear which direction this election would go from a few days after Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's choice for VP nominee.

That isn't to say she cost Jonny Mac the election -- in fact, I think she's going to be the scapegoat but hardly the reason why Republican dreams of momentum were flushed down the proverbial toilet. No, I think the reason why McCain lost the election is because his "vision" was as limited as the people who supported him. I truly doubt most people considered Obama's race to be a factor in this election, or at least I hope so. But the truth is, McCain -- and I respect the guy -- just didn't present a case for how he knew he could bring the US out of the massive shits we're in as of this particular moment.

What's interesting is that Obama didn't necessarily present a complete solution to the entire crisis we're experiencing: he did mention that he intended to lower taxes for those making below $42,000, and he did mention he intended to raise taxes for those making above $250k. But he also was fairly straightforward in his approach and didn't bullshit, sideswipe or circle the wagons. He was -- apparently -- honest and direct and trustworthy.

McCain, while not the opposite of the above-listed qualities, didn't really give anything close to a meaningful, genuine road map to guiding us anywhere. Frankly, I think he spent more time calibrating negativity towards Obama than he did in fomenting his own future. People like negative campaign ads on some level; there's nothing like turning on Channel 10 in Oklahoma City at 6:45PM and hearing "And the incumbent Senator has spent $31,000 on hookers during golfing trips over the last 18 months!" It's worth a giggle or two.

But what any negative ads do -- aside from confuse, irritate and/or (sometimes) entertain voters is they guide us into territory that has little to do with anything relevant. I don't mind the fact that McCain told a fellow Senator to go fuck himself. I'm sure I would do the same thing if given the opportunity. The projector screen criticism that McCain used towards Obama -- during two debates, if I recall correctly -- sounded petty and kind of weak.

If you're going to attack Obama, you mention that he's been a member of a Church whose pastor associates with known anti-Israeli speakers, academics and groups and who has decried the US over his tenure at that position. You cite the fact he has a long-time friendship with Ayers, the former domestic terrorist. And you cite the fact that he's not spent any real time at the helm of anything except a seat on the Senate.

Having said all that, it would have been a waste of words -- and, turns out, it was.

People didn't vote en masse for Barack Obama because he seemed to have a better handle on the economy. They grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's call for victory in Iraq -- which echoed George W. Bush; they grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's suggestion that, given time and more offshore drilling, things would work out -- which echoed George W. Bush; and they grew suspicious and weary of John McCain's demeanor as negative to Obama's inspirational, poised, confident optimism.

Put another way, people didn't want answers -- they just wanted to know whoever was at the wheel knows exactly how to get us to where we need to be. Same thing, incidentally, applied to Bill Clinton (and to Ronald Reagan as well). Politics is not facts, politics is perception...and people perceived McCain as old-guard and negative and Obama as the young new politician with optimism and confidence in his pocket.

I do have some questions about Obama's inexorable road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I'm not worried like some people I know. They suggest Obama is a dangerous choice because he has connections to Islam and to radicals. They worry that his theories and concepts bear extremely close ties to Marxist philosophy -- which in some aspects they do -- and they believe the US will become a welfare state. And I think they are worried about the fact that some of the social plans will become permanent rather than temporary.

All of these concerns may be valid, if not overstated; but the fact is, whether or not they or anyone else likes it, come January 20th, we've got a new Senior Executive, a new Commander in Chief, and a new President.

And I give him ten days before people start bitching.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Morning Has Broken...

Despite the onset of winter and another dreary Monday morning intertwined, I can say I am still fairly optimistic...about what, I'm not exactly sure.

This week begins with more work being done in my apartment; the last time I had work performed in my place was to do some work in the closet, which ended up being a good thing. Since the building owner arranged to have my closet broken out and repaired, I've been keeping that space as organized as if I haven't been living here -- which means that it looks like a photograph in one of those closet organization people (California Closets, NYC Closets, etc.). Put another way, everything is organized, arranged properly, and it doesn't look like the entryway or portal to the Netherworld (or to some secret computer lab like in "Real Genius").

Not that there's anything wrong with either of those options, of course.

But relatively speaking, this time they needed to break out the ceiling in my bathroom -- not the entire ceiling, mind you, but just a third of the ceiling above the shower. The tenant above me moved out -- Kaia and I had heard about this a couple months ago when we were looking at apartments in this very building -- but due to timing, it was a non-issue. But apparently they screwed something up with the tub/shower upstairs and everything had to be checked out -- from the bottom. So that's where I come in.

What wound up happening was a couple guys came in and drop-clothed my shower area and banged out part of the ceiling, did what they had to do, taped up the hole, and split. This morning, the second and final half of the process is being done as we speak. I've got access to my notebook so getting work done isn't a problem, but it's sort of aggravating. And for those of you who live in houses as opposed to apartments, you can attest to the fact that this crap -- having to wait on repair people to come by and do work at your abode -- happens whether you pay rent or a mortgage.

In either case, it's frustrating having to sit around and wait for someone else, but as indicated above, it is what it is (my shot at philosophy on an otherwise random Monday morning). The positives are that the Giants routed the Cowboys yesterday afternoon and I got enough work done over the weekend to be in a position to not drive myself crazy over not having access to a file I need. I'm glad some data I need is available online -- thank you, -- but even without that access this AM, I'm just kicking back and not worrying too much about what I can't do and instead focusing on what I've done and what I can do.

I hope this optimism doesn't continue...I'm not used to being so positive, especially on a (feh) Monday.

Ah, that's better...

Happy damn Monday.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Relatively speaking, because I live in New York, I've grown a bit jaded to the point that encountering people wearing costumes -- whether on Halloween or any other day -- isn't unusual. Whether marketing mascots in the shape of sandwiches, hot dogs, Disney characters or the occasional fruit or vegetable -- bananas seem to be very popular, incidentally -- dressing up in crazy costumes isn't something that shocks many of this City's residents, myself included. In fact, depending where in the City you live, it's the antithesis of eyebrow-raising, if at all -- especially in the Village and Chelsea.

Having said all that, the first thing that pops into my head when I think of Halloween is going trick-or-treating when I was a wee lad in my hometown; to this day, the lure of candy -- whether it's of the bite-size variety or a full-blown king-size bar of chocolate, etc. -- isn't about the chocolate itself but of the salivating over someone dropping some free treats into an orange-colored plastic bag bearing a decorative pumpkin design. These days, having to buy the bags of candy around Halloween to make sure I'm ready should any little tykes come a-knockin' is a bit of a mixed blessing, but once the tykes approach with their giddy shouts of "trick or treat!" I'm right back there with them, somewhere around seven or eight years old, sporting a batman costume and an irrepressible urge for chocolate.

Growing up, the night prior to Halloween was a somewhat precarious affair. Most Halloween mornings meant broken eggs, toilet paper and other similarly-pleasant surprises in store for houses that were left unguarded. Had I been faced with a night before Halloween in the suburbs alone, it's not like I would be sitting on the stoop with a shotgun and a proactive sense of vigilante justice emanating from my trigger finger(s). But it is nice to consider, even for a moment, impersonating Albert Belle or Charles Bronson, even if the fantasy is far more palatable -- and realistic -- than the reality itself.

In any event, now that I'm ensconced in a quiet, cozy apartment building, I'm looking forward to the arrival of this year's crop of trick-or-treaters. I've got some things to pick up at a local Duane Reade, so I'll be sure and score some candy -- mini Three Musketeers, Snickers, Milky Ways and Twix bars. And I'll be sure and score more than necessary, just in case ;-)

After all, you don't outgrow your irrepressible urge for treats in only one lifetime ;-)

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Silly Rabbit: Sports are For Kids

Most mornings, I find myself reviewing the prior day's sports news to make sure I didn't miss some obscure story about, as an example, Oksana Baiul puking on the Prime Minister of Japan while they were both attending a launch party for Blackberry in Australia or some other time zone-affected bit of news. I'm not sure why, but between morbid curiosity and my strange thirst for knowledge, pulls me in like a tractor beam.

In any case, over the last 24 hours I hit the jackpot -- I encountered not one but two juicy nuggets which combine the best and worst of non-sports sports news.

The first concerns one of the more entertaining sports figures of our time, pro golfer John Daly. The story, published here, indicates that this past Sunday morning -- as in before noon -- police in Winston-Salem went to the local Hooters on a medical call. Apparently, a male was -- consecutively -- drunk, beligerent, then unconscious. Turns out the aforementioned male was John Daly.

I'm not sure which of these facts is the most entertaining: that his choice of locales was Hooters; that he was drunk in the morning; or that he passed out and was, therefore, not combative with police. Of course, the story has a happy ending: he was carted off to a detox center for a 24-hour stay for the purpose of achieving (drumroll, please) sobriety.

Inasmuch as this story seems, on its surface, humorous and patently entertaining, I can't help but feel badly for Mr. Daly. Here is someone with an obvious talent for the game of golf, yet his notoriety, at least for the past several years, is for his off-the-course exploits and his penchant for alcohol imbibed to excess.

John, if you're reading this -- and even somewhat sober -- get some help, man.

Of course, we all know that won't be the case.

As Henny Youngman once observed, "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."

Another equally bizarre story concerns a minor-league pitching prospect out of the Chicago Cubs organization.

The pitching prospect, 21-year-old Julio Castillo, incited a brawl between his team, the Peoria Chiefs, and the home team, the Dayton Dragons. Apparently, Mr. Castillo decided to throw a baseball into the Dragons' dugout but instead of nailing one of his opponents, he missed the mark and instead clocked a fan in the crowd.

I've been to many an entertaining baseball game. I've been to big-league games, I've been to little-league games, and I've played a load of games (on many levels except for the former). I don't recall -- ever -- seeing a guy get so angry at the opposing team that he attempted to hit someone in the dugout with a ball.

Why this story is so entertaining is that this shitbird was so beyond control he actually opted to try and hit someone with the ball. Sure, pitchers have thrown at guys facing them in the batter's box; but doing what this guy did is downright stupid and he, as a result, should be expelled from the game -- and I mean the game of baseball.

Of course, what is disturbing is that he could have killed someone -- especially a child -- in the stands. That the only injury was a slight concussion to one unlucky fan is fortunate. But personally, knowing that no one was seriously injured, I think the follow-up to this story is not his indictment, but should he be allowed back on a minor-league field, I think that the entire crowd should, armed with baseballs, throw them at him simultaneously. That would probably remind him that he's an asshole who has no business -- and doesn't deserve -- being on a baseball field.

Duck and cover, and cover.

I hope these stories remind any yoots who visit this space with regularity that they should avoid alcohol, never attempt to injure their competitors and should always carry themselves with respect.

Be like Kobe ;-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More, and Less, Economy

Somewhere, somehow, the Coen Brothers as well as Dick Wolf are reading this story and snickering simultaneously as neurons deep within the recesses of their collective brains begin snapping to attention and the blood begins flowing just a little faster.

And presumably, once they finish reading said story, they, like me, are laughing their asses off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Should I Begin?

Not sure what this is, exactly, but why not?

Be sure and turn up -- or mute -- your volume, depending on where you are and what you may be or may not be doing.

The Economy of One-Word Posts


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

The last few days have been hot and cold, and fast and slow. The duality is striking, no?

First and foremost, I've spent way too little time keeping this space populated and I've let the weeds and the grass get way too overgrown, so -- launch hackneyed apology -- I feel badly for letting you, the reader, wilt without some measure of irritating, opinionated bullshit observation (at least penned by yours truly).

However, with work deadlines, the flaccid Presidential race, winter's random but rapid approach and the incoming Halloween holiday -- not to mention far too much time spent interacting with friends via Facebook -- and my time here is next-to-none. Fortunately or otherwise, there seems to be some measure of entertainment before and after visitors reach this site, so I'm not exactly losing sleep over my absence, mind you, but there is lots to say and I do feel badly not having been the one to be saying it.

Now, in no particular order, I'm still pretty much aligned with Obama. I've gotten some material via e-mail -- both from friends and from strangers -- suggesting everything from Obama is a muslim, a communist, hates America and hates Israel. Truthfully, I don't believe any of them. I think he's probably the right guy for the job at this point in time. I'm not getting an "Obama '08" tattoo, as I'm not a "believer." Personally, I know and have seen far too much with regard to American Presidential politics to be "inspired." It's not that I'm jaded; it's just that no candidate seems to be blowing my skirt up, and even if Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and the zombie corpse of Abraham Lincoln opted to get their names on the final ballot for November 4th, I'm pretty sure I'd still vote for Obama, and I'd still have an overwhelming sense of "Meh" as a result.

Neither here nor there, part of this political malaise is the country is inching towards recession. Because we're a buy-now, pay-later nation, when we can't buy now and pay later -- ie during times like these -- we need to find ways other than spending to occupy our collective thirty-second attention span. Unfortunately, the reality is that we're going to have some tough times ahead, but if I'm reading the situation right, we should be in good shape by March. And by good shape I mean we'll have forgotten that the entire world economy is in a clogged-up toilet with no plunger in sight.

Another aspect of this overall malaise is the onset of winter; it's technically fall, but -- as per usual, it seems -- the temps went from low 70's to low 50's in about a ten-day span. I'm digging a new barn jacket I got from Land's End, but other'n that, I still wish we had some high 50's/low 60's in between sweaty post-summer September and Freeze-Your-Balls-Off Pre-Winter. Then again, even I don't have any say with respect to the weather; ask Willard Scott, although don't come crying to me when he doesn't have a clue and only wants to talk about Welch's jams and jellies.

Further down the line, my home/desktop PC is slowly unraveling like Margot Kidder from the late 90's, except my PC hasn't upped and vanished, only to appear a few days later, toothless and haggard, in some shrubbery in the middle-class suburbs. However, having said all that, much like if I were casting a film I'd skip Margot's name in the audition checklist, I do need to get a replacement for the home PC stat. And as I've been considering for some time, it's pretty much now or never -- meaning I'm going to be building a new PC from scratch. That means I need to nab me a case, a motherboard, a graphics card, an audio board, hard drives, DVD-ROM drives, memory, a Pentium, some thermal compound (basically high-end silly putty) and a variety of miscellaneous other goodies.

Problem is, if I buy one wrong thing or make one small mistake, the entire thing -- literally -- could blow up in my face. Oh, goodie. And what's worse, to keep the currently unbuilt PC cool means I'll need a power supply of about 750 watts. Put into perspective, that's about a third of what most hair dryers consume; the difference, of course, is that most modern hair dryers are operated each day for about ten or so minutes. My PC is operating 24-7, pretty much all the time. No wonder I pay more to Con Ed then most people's monthly car payment.

I suppose there's more in the tank, but I've got shitloads to address tonight and my mind is quickly finding the other items on my indelibly incomplete to-do list, but one of those items which I intend to keep checked more often is to keep coming back here and harassing and/or assaulting the sensibilities of you, the reader, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon these pages and stays for the pretty colors.

One final note: the more I watch the swill being broadcast on The Food Network -- with Alton Brown's stuff being the obvious exception -- the more I was impressed by a Tony Bourdain Travel Channel special called "At The Table." It was, essentially, an hour of Tony eating dinner and asking/answering questions with four guests, including Bill Bruford (author and world traveler) and Ted Allen (formerly of Queer Eye, currently of The Food Network).

Great show -- go find it and spend the forty or so minutes watching it. If you stay awake and want to see it again, that means you're a foodie. If you fall asleep or lose interest, get thee to a McDonald's and make sure you get an XL vanilla shake to wash down all that carbo-mattic goodness (and the after-dinner mint, aka 1000mg of Lipitor).

Ciao fer now.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Tis The Season

We humans have established seasons in all aspects of our lives: tax season, holiday season, the varying seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) and hunting season; so why should the political climate in the US fail to accede to this classification as well?

I've refrained from commenting on the forthcoming election on November 4th for various reasons, but mostly because I wasn't entirely sure for whom I'd be voting. Initially, I believed that I would support Jon McCain. I'm a Republican for the most part -- which makes me a "moderate" Republican, I suppose -- but because I tend to vote on what's in my head and my heart rather than a card carried in my wallet, I tend to think before I agree to support the Republican party or their leftist counterparts.

To clarify my position, I am -- for the most part -- a firm supporter of Republican financial policies. I believe in capitalism and I know, given the opportunity and a hands-off government, it works. Further, in typical times, I believe -- on some level -- in trickle-down economics because the theory has merit, on several levels. However, there are some caveats in connection with the theory which I won't go into here; I will, however, remind the reader that these are not typical times.

With respect to the economy -- which we can all agree will be getting worse before it finally improves -- it's clear that the teetering mortgages doled out since the late 90's have finally come due. People have been given far too generous loans by banks looking to make far too much money and the government has, unfortunately, been far too willing to bail out the institutions whose greed essentially caused all of this. Between the failure of many financial institutions (on a small, medium and large scale), the rising unemployment rate and a guaranteed inflation increase, the proverbial shit has and will continue to hit the proverbial fan.

Or, as the old-timers might say, these are the "rainy days" for which you were saving up those pennies. Except hang onto them as long as possible because there's plenty of cloud cover still up in the sky, and no one knows when they'll pass.

With respect to the election, I've spoken to quite a few people, some of whom are more dedicated supporters of either McCain or Obama, all of whom have relatively legitimate reasons for their positions. I say relatively because in many cases, there are ambiguities which confuse potential voters almost as much as those inherent in the massive blue collar support of Ronald Reagan in the 1980's.

I've been told that Obama will negotiate with terrorists (ie Iran and fringe groups). I think he will open dialogue with Iran and other hostile states, which is something that has never been done by a US President. The problem is that inasmuch as I disagree with this strategy, we cannot ignore the fact that it did bear success in working with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. Those talks weren't unilateral at first, but they did show some meaure of success. With respect to Iran, however, having a leader that calls for the destruction of Israel -- or any other nation -- is far in excess of Kim Jong Il's lunacy. The problem is that nuclear weapons make diplomacy a far better option. The problem is how can a nation negotiate with another nation whose admitted goal is to revel in the destruction of its neighbors?

Personally, I think the whole concept of dialogue with Iran is distasteful and destructive, and not in a good way.

Further, this policy suggests, to me, that Obama has less regard for Israel than he should. He says all the right things in front of cameras and microphones, but anyone willing to sit down with Iran and discuss these issues -- specifically, nuclear centrifuge and refinement -- and not publicly suggest that any Iranian nuclear program will result in a large crater in the Iranian desert is going in the wrong direction in my view. The problem with the Iranian mentality in this regard is this: refusing to enter into dialogue with them provides their leadership with the sense that America believes it is better than they are, which in turn spurs their nationalistic pride to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. On the other hand, capitulating to Iranian leadership and discussing these issues publicly provides their leadership with the sense that America has capitulated because it is weak, spurring their nationalistic pride, this allowing them to continue on whatever path they've decided to pursue. There really is no "winning" because no matter which direction we decide to go with respect to Iran, they'll do whatever they want to do and we -- and our allies in Europe and the Middle East -- will be left to pursue other options, hopefully before it is too late. And by too late, I mean once Iran has realized its desire to manufacture nuclear weapons. Simply put, talking with people who publicly advocate the destruction of another nation is not only foolish and a waste of time, it permits said nation to make further progress on a path which we -- and the world -- cannot afford to permit.

The other significant issue with which I have vis-a-vis Senator Obama is his immigration policy vis-a-vis Mexico. He has suggested that he will consider granting citizenship to illegal aliens living in the United States. I have a problem with that decision in several regards. It's not that I am xenophobic or dislike Mexicans or other foreigners, unlike what CNN's Ruben Navarrette Jr. seems to suggest. My problem with Obama's immigration policy is that granting citizenship to illegally-resident individuals is like legalizing heroin. It's easier to do it than address and resolve the issue properly, true, but it suggests to anyone considering illegally migrating to the US that they too will be able to achieve citizenship despite the fact their actions to do so are illegal.

So in essence, this policy suggests that anyone who wants to come here should break the law, ignore our constitution and our sovereignty, and we'll happily welcome you.

That's the antithesis of our Constitution, the same Constitution that many illegal aliens can't read unless it's translated for them into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian or some other language.

Now -- if I haven't tickled your xenophobic funny bone yet, let me press harder.

Many left-wing liberals who respond to my displeasure with Obama's intended immigration plan scold me, advising me that this nation welcomed many European immigrants in the 30's and 40's as Hitler was attempting to gerrymander the map of Europe. And that's true. However, Ellis Island is far from the Rio Grande. Moreover, when Eastern European Jews migrated to the USA before, during and immediately after World War II, many of them had little to nothing and spoke various dialects, but adopted the Constitution, learned English and assimilated into the culture of the United States. How many modern immigrants -- legal or otherwise -- can be described that way?

It seems to me -- and the fact that every state in this country offers written drivers exams in languages other than English -- as proof that immigrants today are not asked to become Americans, nor do they have any interest in doing so. In the 30's and 40's, people came here to become Americans. Today, people want to come to America to make money to send home to their families, to whom they'll return as soon as they've struck gold in the land of opportunity.

The problem is that then, opportunity meant to make this land one's own and to make one a member of this nation. Now, opportunity means take advantage of what's being given away for free and use it up.

To me, that's the very antithesis of the concept of citizenship, and I think Senator Obama's suggestion that these people be given citizenship -- rather than earn it -- is repulsive.

Other things about Senator Obama bother me. He has only recently begun to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the big discussion about his unwillingness to wear an american flag pin on his lapel were discussed ad nauseum for months. Clearly, he doesn't show patriotism like many of his peers do. Is that troubling? Yes. Is it a fatal problem? To me, no. I am not concerned about the beliefs of a surgeon about to perform surgery to save my life, my wife's life, or my son's or daughter's life. I just want to know that he or she is competent. Is the pledge of allegiance/lapel pin stuff a tad disconcerting? You bet.

However -- and there is not a big enough capital letter to precede this sentence -- my main concern is the economy. Abortion is another issue which needs to be addressed once and for all.

As a "moderate" Republican, it irritates me that no thinking Republican has come to the floor of the House or the Senate and said "We as Republicans should be ashamed of ourselves. Women should always have the right to make the choice vis-a-vis abortion unless their choice could endanger their lives, in which case their physician should consult and/or be involved in their decision." The fact that the Republican party has pandered to the right-to-life nitwits who believe the Bible, not the Constitution, is the supreme law of the land is ridiculous. And inasmuch as I typically agree with the Republican sense of small, unencumbered governmental interference, I think their stance on abortion is equally, if not moreso, repulsive than the notion of Obama's "open-door" immigration policy.

And frankly, criminalizing abortion is the worse of these two evils.

Mainly, with respect to the economy, it's relatively simple: for most people (not "folks"), both candidates will be in a position to relieve some of the tax burden. However, while Senator Obama's tax cut for those who make below $250,000 is, I believe, genuine, so is his intent to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000. On some level, I believe this is fair. If we intend to strengthen the middle class of this nation rather than have cities filled with homeless people and people driving Mercedes and Bentleys, then increasing the tax burden on the wealthy is appropriate. Jon McCain's policy seems to be keep taxes where they are or lower them across the board and hope the rich get everyone richer, not just the rich.

Personally, that is a great idea -- if our goal as a nation is to triple our President George W. Bush-strengthened deficit. If insuring the future of this nation and reducing our deficit is the main issue with respect to taxes and the economy as a whole, I can't see how Jon McCain will have a positive effect as President.

The problem as I see it is that I agree with Jon McCain's principles on many levels. I think he's a good guy and I like him. Also, I respect him -- which I cannot say for the sitting President. However, that being said, as much as I agree with many of his policies, I dislike the fact he is against abortion and would be happy to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Assuming this is true, we can only suspect he'd nominate judges for the Federal and Supreme Courts who agree with this position, and that could have severe adverse, long-term effect on this nation. So too could Obama's stupid, dangerous immigration policy. So do we go with pro-choice and an open-door policy, or do we go with pro-life and an immigration lock-down? Obviously, with womens' lives at stake, the answer is a no-brainer.

But these issues, frankly, are irrelevant when juxtaposed with the economy. There is no doubt in my mind that the economy will improve and this nation will bounce back. This crisis is a world-wide crisis in part because of the hundreds of millions we as a nation have committed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other nations who have spent huge sums of money and resources in tandem. Once the other aspects of our economy have been addressed, and many Americans' fears allayed -- the latter of these will occur on November 5th, incidentally -- our nation will begin heading in the right direction.

Mainly, there are a variety of issues which are important -- gas prices, taxes, Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. -- but nothing at this point trumps the economy. And while I would prefer to vote for Jon McCain, I don't see how I can or will. I think that Obama has insured the "Lesser of Two Evils" approach is applicable for this particular election, however, with his admission that he wants to open a dialogue with Iran's demagogue, and his open-door immigration policy for anyone that would wants to earn American dollars to send home to be converted to other currencies.

I think this is an important election, and I hope that people are voting with their heads and not their hearts. This is an election about cold, hard facts, not whether someone is wearing a flag pin on their lapel or the cut of their suit. I spent a good bit of time listening -- rather than watching -- the debates and with the exception of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate -- which, frankly, borders on insulting and ridiculous, and downright unbelievable -- I cared what was being said as opposed to how it was being said. Sound-bytes and snippets are entertaining but the real truth is that Obama's beliefs don't sound appetizing but the truth rarely does. McCain says all the right things and has the right values -- for the most part -- but what we need is a good shot of reality rather than more slogans and feel-good rallying. Been there, done that.

November 4th and beyond, full speed ahead.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Before and After

Despite the fact these pages have been uninhabited for a week's time, I've been really busy and haven't had enough time to sit down and fill in the blank(s). Fortunately, I've got a bit of time before the fan hits the shit and I'm back to it 24-7. But before I resume my recitation of the various minutae that occasionally occupy my attention, there's something more important needing to be addressed herein.

Between last week and this week, I have been celebrating Rosh Hashanah and -- later tonight and tomorrow -- Yom Kippur, which, combined, represent the Jewish new year. Despite the typical American response to January 1st, which is -- in a word -- PARTY!!!! -- the Jewish new year is a strange holiday. As much as it is a celebratory holiday, it also is a time when jews around the world atone or repent for their sins/misdeeds/human behavior over the prior year. Inasmuch as the holiday is celebrated and ushered in in the context of optimism and health and happiness, there is a somber sense that some among us -- family, friends, colleagues, etc. -- will not survive through the year. I understand and respect this dichotomy, but it does puzzle me. Because we are conservative, we do much of our holiday service in hebrew. If I were authoring my own service, I would -- in very basic terms -- have each person write up a paragraph indicating what he or she had done over the past year for which he or she was sorry. There's lots that we do from year to year that -- intentionally or otherwise -- require or command repentance. The notions of regret and apology are part of this process, but in truth, the essential aspect of this process is acknowledging one has made a mistake (or several, or several thousand) and requesting forgiveness for same, both from the person or persons who were adversely affected by said mistakes, and by the big man upstairs (no, not Frank Sinatra).

In essence, this a very interesting period, not because it contradicts typical American celebrations on New Year's Eve/Day but because of the aforementioned duality thereof.

In either case, tomorrow will be a day filled with happiness and solemn self-thought, celebration and smiles and consternation and self-examination, and the ultimate duality, that of the daily fast set against the post-fast gorging. If there was any question, it's likely that no one ever lost weight due to a Yom Kippur fast; whatever weight one would lose by not consuming food during the day is decimated by the end-of-day pig-out session that occurs all over the world at sundown (local time).

In either case, for everyone who celebrates and/or observes these holidays, I bid you an easy fast and a healthy, happy new year.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Year Begins Again, now and January, 2009

Being that this is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish New Year, it's been a bit of a stunted, difficult week thus far, but today and tomorrow are days of celebration, so this week is one marked with contradiction. A day of full-on work coupled with an early exit, two days (today and tomorrow) of celebration, then two more days (Thursday and Friday) of full-on work.

For any and all of you that celebrate Rosh Hashanah this week (and Yom Kippur next week), hope you and your families all have a happy, healthy and wonderful new year.

For those of you who only celebrate the new year in December (and, in part, in January), I'll be checking back in soon.

One point of non-sectarian interest for the consideration of any and all interested parties: Kaia advised me that Aaron "Coke The Van" McCargo Jr. is, for the time being, off the Food Network schedule. However, this -- we agreed -- was simply to make room for the other crap the Network seems content to peddle, including another craptastic show from Guy Fieri (I think it's called "Off The Hook," although I think they should have probably called it "Off My TV Now").

However, fans of Mr. McCargo Jr. -- all three of you -- need not fret. Apparently they're filming more episodes or, at the very least, will be broadcasting a new season of Coke The Van (aka Big Daddy's House) sometime in January, 2009. So even many of us who remember Aaron's Greatest Hits ("Au poivre isn't just means pepper, baby!") will likely forget his ineptitude come January, 2009.

Let's hope that Mr. McCargo, Jr. returns so we can focus on his abilities -- or lack thereof -- and don't merely focus on the balance of the schedule (Bobby Flay, the Neelys and Sunny Anderson, as well as the aforementioned Guy Fieri) and lament the dramatic fall of the Food Network's standards.

I 'spose the only real question left is when will Alton Brown realize that it's a sinking ship and get out before it's too late? At once, my answer is both "Sooner rather than later, I hope" and "Never, I hope." See the contradictions?

A Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year to all...


Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul Newman, 1925 - 2008

There are have been many celebrity losses over the tenure of the HoB, many of which implore me to commit to this medium my thoughts and feelings and a desire to make official my remembrance of him or her.

In this case, with a man like Paul Newman, I'm not sure where to begin. As an actor, he was not only excellent but manifested his roles and made them, and himself in the process, icons of Americana and of Hollywood. His roles in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Slap Shot and The Sting are among the best Hollywood -- or the world of movies -- has and will ever see. But those are just five examples of who he was as an actor.

To demonstrate the type of man he was, all one would need to examine was his behavior off the screen. Whereas today's celebrities crave the spotlight and PR, Paul Newman avoided it. He was so meticulous in guarding his private life that he rarely appeared in anything outside his own films. Moreover, when he was finally awarded an academy award -- for his eighth nomination, as Best Actor as Eddie Felson in The Color of Money -- he wasn't even in attendance.

Beyond modesty, he took his celebrity and lived his life. His love of racing -- which he acquired after doing a film entitled "Winning" -- led him to get involved in racing. Rolex's Daytona chronograph was christened as the Paul Newman model.

But his real passion was helping people. When his son died of an accidental drug overdose in 1978, he created the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention. Ten years later, he established the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, which allowed children with cancer and blood-related illnesses to enjoy a typical camp experience, without cost to their families.

All of these were charitable contributions; but thereafter, he established Newman's Own, a food corporation that was completely non-profit. To date, the company has donated over $200 million to various charities and entities in need of financial assistance.

And to think, all he ever wanted to do was help people without having to endure the spotlight. If he is somewhere seeing all this in his honor, I'm sure he'd be a bit uncomfortable, as he was as modest a person as any of us will ever know. I never met him, but he was one of the few celebrities with whom I wish I could have sat with for an hour or two just to get a better perspective on the world through his eyes.

As for his modesty, because he was a great actor and a better man, he -- wherever he is -- will have to accept the fact that his actions and the way he conducted himself touched so many lives and -- without exaggerating and without question -- made the world a better place.

RIP, Fast Eddie. We'll Miss You.

Monday, September 22, 2008

85 Years: Death, Taxes and Memories of My Father

In 1923, Yankee Stadium opened with a Yankee victory; of the many nicknames Yankee Stadium has been unofficially given, the reason why many regard it as "The House That Ruth Built" in part is a result of the fact that Babe Ruth hit a home run in the first game played at the Stadium.

Tonight, the Stadium hosted its final game, a 7-3 Yankee victory over the Baltimore Orioles. It had been announced prior to the commencement of this season that this would be the old ballpark's 85th and final year, and the construction of its replacement, right across the street, was well underway. By the time September 1st arrived, the last of four All-Star games were well in the past, as was a good chunk of the season and the likelihood that the Yankees would reach the postseason for a 15th straight season.

Tonight, the final game was a bittersweet experience for anyone present or watching the ESPN broadcast thereof. I opted not to go, not because I'd failed to understand the significance of this night or the prohibitive price of tickets, but because I wanted a chance to see all the anticipated vignettes, interviews, photographs and sounds that permeated the broadcast. I loved every game I saw at the Stadium, but not simply because of the fact that this team -- the Yankees -- were my team unlike any other team on the planet. It was because, for the most part, I saw those games with my father and we spent more time there than any other setting outside the house(s) in which I grew up.

Some people might remember 1996 as the year they met someone special or did something noteworthy; my memory of 1996 was going to see my first Yankee playoff game, the game 1 between the Yankees and the aforementioned Baltimore Orioles. That game was special because a young fan sitting in the first row of the right field bleachers reached over the fence to grab a deep fly ball and it turned out that the hit was called a home run, even though it technically would have been a relatively easy fly ball out if not for the young fan's interference. That "Jeffrey Mayer" game was an incredible game and I remember my father and I being streamed down the stairwell as the throngs of fans celebrated their sheer joy over the victory.

Another memory I'll always cherish is watching the Yankees taking the field prior to the game's start and seeing my father's eyes well up and him bawling as the Star Spangled Banner blared from the Stadium's sound system.

I remember the occasional game with other people -- clients, friends, my mom and sister, and other family members, etc. -- but to me, the memories of the Stadium are as much about the time I've spent there with my father as I have spent watching the Yankees.

Our tickets, in section 252, were incredible -- we had a perfect view of about 85% of the field (the left outfield foul line was obscured over a few feet nearest to the fence) so the game was easily visible. Inasmuch as I love watching Yankee games in their crystal HD broadcasted brilliance, seeing the green grass as we came through the tunnel by home plate was an experience that never failed to give me a jolt. Just being at the Stadium -- or seeing it while driving to and from the City on the FDR -- was always something special.

I also have memories of spending time with friends in and outside the Stadium. The giant bat was a typical meeting place for my friends and I, and that was and will always be a part of my lexiconic memory of the "Cathedral of Baseball," but the truth is, despite the expense and the hassle of getting to and leaving the games, and the overpriced drinks, food and miscelleanous chazerai sold in and around the Stadium wasn't a deterrent. It was just that, for pure baseball joy, watching on TV made the experience a completely enjoyable experience. But going to the games -- especially at the Stadium -- was always something more than just about a baseball game.

About five years ago my father had a severe heart attack and was, frankly, near death. We've been back to the Stadium since, but not as frequently. One day he'll no longer be here, just like the Stadium will soon be gone, but like my memories of the Stadium, he'll always live on in my heart. I suppose that one day I'll take my son -- and/or my daughter, if/when applicable -- to the new Yankee Stadium and I'll try to impart my love of the Yankees and, perhaps, the new Yankee Stadium, to them. And if nothing else, I'll make sure they have as much fun watching games with me as I did as a boy and a man. And even if they don't and instead opt to root for the (feh) Mets, I hope they'll appreciate how things that seem to last forever aren't always around forever. The only way they live on eternally is if we don't allow them to ever die. And if I've learned anything from my dad, it will be to be sure and pass on my love for this game, for this team, for this place, and for the memories we'll share as a result.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Long(view) and Short

It's been almost a week since I've swung by these pages in an attempt to chronicle the last few days' activity, and having put this update off for this long has muddied some of my memories of the last week, unfortunately.

I can confirm that Kaia and I had a lot of fun running around and chilling out; seeing friends for drinks at the Hudson the other night (Tuesday, maybe); watching the Yankees season -- and the life of Yankee Stadium -- slowly, painfully, trickle away; keep up with the shitloads of work approaching my desk; and dealing with all sorts of miscellaneous happenings between.

Also, we ended up hanging out Friday night, just the two of us at home, rather than go out and blast off the night before Kaia headed back to San Fran. It felt a bit off not going to Balthazar or Mercer or York for Kaia's last night as a non NYC resident, because we've been doing this for so long, and this was the last "non-resident" visit she'll be making here. In the past, we've always done up the last night as it means a 45- or 60-day break, but this time neither of us really had much interest in doing anything but hanging out and spending time together. The fact that we got into bed early -- 11ish, for us, is early -- was great as we were able to hang out and just relax rather than schedule out every minute and cram as much activity into our days and nights as possible.

Of course, the biggest aspect of that is that yesterday evening she headed to JFK to catch a flight to San Fran. We have a pretty good idea as to which apartment she'll be taking, and the only issues are the date and the technicalities (ie the application process). Since the lease will be provided by a company with whom I have a business association (I'm in NYC real estate -- duh), we're not concerned by anything except whether she's thrilled with the apartment and whether she can afford the rent. And even those two items are relatively non-issues; just tying up loose ends before she starts disassembling her place and getting it ready to be relocated is, for both of us, both unusual and exciting, and while it's an end to her residency in the only city in which she's ever lived, it's a new beginning, both for her in NYC and for us for the rest of our lives. So even though it's just a lease and a move, we both know it's far more than that, as we knew our first time meeting in person could be just another swing and a miss or could be it.

In any event, as she was completing her packing once we got back to my place, it was, as per usual, bittersweet for us both for her to get back to San Fran. For her, when she heads back to San Fran after almost a month in NYC, it's like she's leaving home rather than returning to it. And for me, it's a sad, empty apartment without her nearby. When she heads out on her miscellanous excursions during her stays, me having an hour or two isn't a problem; it's not a co-dependency issue I'm addressing here. But when I know she won't be somewhere inside my place when I get up or come in from doing errands is as shitty a feeling as knowing she is there is a good feeling.

Either way, I think this visit -- and her return to San Fran -- is as momentous as was her first trip to New York. We both know this is it before we, essentially, pull the trigger on an apartment. I say we, although we won't be living together per se, because this is our first real step forward together. And the signficance thereof isn't lost on either of us; actually, I think we're both anxiously excited about the coming months.

Speaking of which, it was kind of strange that, as she was packing Friday night and Saturday afternoon to leave, the weather suddenly got much colder. It went from being in the mid/high 70's to the low 60's, and I suppose on some level it's very appropriate. I'm wondering how long it will be after she moves in before we'll have our first snow, and thinking about the fact that we'll have to go out and frolic like little kids again.

I think that's what this past week, and the past month, have reminded me about her: she reminds me, and makes me feel like, the kid I used to be, and the smiles we share are almost omnipresent. That's probably why we're as sad when she leaves to hit San Fran as we are. And then we're back together -- here or there -- and all is right again.

That's it, in a nutshell -- in both long- and short-term guise. I've had an increasingly difficult time segregating those two things, so if I'm mixing tenses, pardon me now or critique me later.

Onward and upward.

Monday, September 15, 2008

By Omission or Commission

Whether or not it was by virtue of the fact that we've been mongo-busy or simply due to a weird hiccup in this blog's server, it was a bitch getting back here over the last few days to keep this space updated.

It's not for want of activity on which to report, of course; we've been doing a lot of running around and, despite the opportunity, very little shopping. So, in essence, we've been seeing apartments, museums, neighborhoods and friends, and, overall, just spending time together and trying to avoid any major humidity. Of course, on that last one, being out and about over the past few days meant ultra-humidity so we didn't quite accomplish that last goal.

But beyond that, we had a blast over the weekend -- we spent time with friends and then hit the San Genarro festival in Little Italy on Saturday, at which time we ate surprisingly little (we tried funnel cake as Kaia's never had it before), but I wound up not getting sausage and peppers on a roll. It's not for lack of desire -- getting a sausage and peppers roll in Little Italy during San Genarro is one of those things that everyone (aside from vegetarians) have to do at least once in their lifetimes. Short version: they take huge coils of sausage -- typically "sweet" -- and grill them to get a good amount of fat out of the sausage. Simultaneously, they sweat green peppers and yellow onions until they're fully tender, then slather a few hunks of the sausage and the onions and peppers on a large hot dog bun and serve it up with some napkins. I'm sure salt and olive oil are added into the mix, but overall, that's the gist. It's not fancy, it's not high-brow, and it sure isn't healthy, but these festivals are rarely about healthy eats.

What we ended up doing was walking through about twenty blocks of sweaty people of all nationalities, not just Italian (duh). As far as food is concerned, I got a roasted corn on the cobb and Kaia got a kebab (really just small pieces of chicken fire-roasted). We later got Italian ice, popcorn and the aforementioned funnel cake (which, after one-third had been tasted by the four of us, found a garbage can) and we kept going through the throngs. I snapped a photo of a client's building on which I've been working and then we hopped a cab to Whitehall Street, the subway station which also concurrently links to the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry. We took a 5:00PM ferry across to (drumroll please) Staten Island and took a bunch of photos of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and a variety of stuff both land- and sea-based, then spent about 20 minutes hanging around Staten Island just to kick back and relax and then we headed back to downtown. Since we were still local to Little Italy I suggested a place to eat in Chinatown, so we walked (about ten or so blocks) and arrived, waited for five or so minutes up front and -- finally -- sat down. We had a nice variety of stuff -- spring rolls and vegetable dumplings, sweet and sour pan-roasted sea bass, shrimp with broccoli, roast duck buddha-style, and kung pao chicken. By the time we left the restauarant for a nearby bar -- Madame X in Soho -- we were just falling-down tired, so after a few drinks and an hour or so, we said our goodbyes to friends and headed home and landed in bed.

Yesterday: football.

By the time we landed in bed last night -- later than we'd planned -- we had fit an entire week's worth of activity into our weekend, so despite the fact it flew by, we both agreed that we'd had a lot of fun and that it went way too quickly. Alas, there's another one coming up in about five or so days, so I'll be sure and keep you posted when/if appropriate.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Patriot's Day

Typically, this date in American history -- especially during election years -- reminds us what transpired on this day in 2001. However, inasmuch as I acknowledge this day is a sad, somber one, I'm no more inclined to don an American flag on a cap, jacket, shirt or lapel than I would on July 4th or any other day.

It's true that many innocent people died on this day in 2001, and that same day we witnessed a despicable act against America. But I, at least today, believe the true measure of patriotism is what we do and say and how we carry ourselves on the days not specifically demarcated as measures of our independence, our freedom or our way of life.

I think this day should be an annual reminder of people we lost and things we witnessed in 2001, but it should not be an outpouring of patriotic love for America or what it means to be American. Those expressions, I believe, should be expressed each day, not simply two or three days highlighted on our calendars.