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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday Bike Ride

Today was a busy day. First, a trip to the store for some clothes and some Mother's Day gifts. I also hooked the boys up with some new shoes (yeah, they were cheap) and got some BBQ implements.

Later, we took a side trip to the library to pick up some reserved books and visit with the lovely ladies who work there. I have to say, going to the library is great, but when there's eye candy, it's even better.

Afterwards, we went on a long leisurely bike ride. First, we cut up to Colfax to pump air in our tires, then rode through the neighborhood to the new Stapleton redevelopment.

Some of the old-timers might remember that Stapleton used to be the international airport in town before DIA opened out in the boonies. Now it's being redeveloped into a nationwide model of new urbanism. And I have to say, I'm very impressed, although I wish they would make more of an effort to connect the nice neighborhoods still being built with my neighborhood, which has been here for fifty years. My neighborhood is older, poorer, and yes, browner, but we shouldn't be isolated from the affluence springing up around us. And they shouldn't be isolated from us.

As for the bike ride, it was fabulous. Beautiful skies, comfortable temperatures, great surroundings, and of course, the boys. I know that today's ride, which probably worked out to about five miles, was the longest Justin has ever ridden before, and may be one of the longest for Scott as well. We made a lot of diversions, at the rock climbing wall, at the playground,the sand pit, Taco Bell, but other than that, it was pure trail riding, with a little new urbanism thrown in.

Now I'm feeling that post-ride comedown, with every muscle in my body worked to the extreme, tired but not sore. I should do this every day. But before I do, I need to get a new bike seat. Ouch.

In other news, Gnomey G is in town this weekend. Unfortunately I'll miss the opportunity to tip one back with her, but I hope Gnomey has a great trip. I highly recommend her book reviews. As you can see, Gnomey's very well read. Have one for me!

Later tonight, I'll work a little on my Flash Fiction Friday. I'm looking forward to my friend Amy's entry. She's trying out this writing thing and might even try and take a more serious stab at it. My entry this week is a bit grand...so stay tuned.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Joe Scarborough Rulez!

I love Joe Scarborough.  I really do.  If he ran for office again, I’d vote for him.  I have to say this man has earned my respect after initially coming off as yet another Republican stooge when I first read him.  What impresses me about Joe is that he has principles and he sticks by them.  In the world of political punditry, that’s a rare thing indeed.

I know I said I wouldn’t say anything else on the phone records story…so I’ll leave it to Scarborough.  Take it way, Joe.

(Uncle Jim, you need to watch that vid.)

Garage Sale

Today, there was a garage sale over at Uncle Jim’s house and I was recruited to do some heavy lifting.  I spent most of the morning hanging out with my Aunt Nat and little cousin Drew.  (My other cousin, Cori, was in school, where a good girl should be.)  It wasn’t a good day for garage selling as we had a lot of gawkers, but not too many takers.  One lady almost balked at paying a buck for a little clown puppet thingy.  Come on, it’s a buck.  A measly buck.  She coughed it up, but there was a moment when I seriously thought the cheapskates had taken over the world.

As it turns out, I brought home an orphan today, a new addition to the household.  Meet Blue, an Ibanez S-470 guitar with a floyd rose and whammy bar.  Blue has a storied history, going all the way back to his first owner, a deadbeat dad who pawned ole Blue off to Chris, one of Uncle Jim’s neighbors, to avoid repossession of his car.  

Chris is a reformed guitar player and unfortunately wasn’t able to give Blue the love and care he deserved, so when Chris brought him over as part of the inventory of the garage sale, I knew something had to be done.  Just one look in Blue’s steely eyes, and I had to take him home.  I won’t say how much I paid for Blue, because then I will be indicted on charges of grand larceny, but suffice it to say, it was a bargain!

And yes, I did get some sun, hence the rosey cheeks.  

Also it seems like I was wrong in a previous post about Qwest.  Joe Nacchio was the one who rebuffed the NSA, so Qwest’s refusal didn’t stem from their by-the-book post-Nacchio approach.  So guess what?  I’ll shut up about it.  

(As the blogosphere breathes a collective sigh of relief)

How to Beat a Dead Horse by James Pearce

Some people are blooming idiots.  Howie Kurtz linked to a clown named AJ Strata.  AJ says:
USA Today just tipped off the terrorist how to avoid detection and put the people in Qwest's areas in danger because now it is known those areas have the least protection and should be targeted! What are these people THINKING! Someone needs to go to jail.
AJ is deranged.  Plain and simple.  Deranged.  

For one, AJ assumes that the “terrorist surveillance” program actually works as intended, that by mining through the phone records of millions of (seemingly innocent) Americans, you will locate previously undetected terrorist cells operating in the United States.  That’s quite an assumption and perhaps the only good reason why this surveillance program should exist.  Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t pan out.  As reported by the Washington Post months ago (and mentioned on the blog here), the NSA surveillance program is practically useless!  If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t provide any protection, so AJ’s asinine remarks are rendered inoperative.  

Poor AJ (and others) is so enthusiastic to support the President and his policies that the limit of his thinking goes to how best to defend them, not whether they deserve to be defended.

Billions in Liability? Yeah, right

More on the phone story here.  I’m a genius, but I’m not a lawyer, so I have no way to know how reliable the Think Progress blog’s legal assessment is, but in theory it sounds good.  I seriously doubt the government will hold phone companies liable for releasing their phone records to the NSA, especially considering how vigorously the agency pursued them.  The NSA reportedly told Qwest, who refused to play along, that they would even pay for the records.  

Of course, the real reason Qwest didn’t cooperate is that the NSA couldn’t assure their legal department that the request was lawful.  And trust me…after getting into all that trouble with fiber swaps and “creative” accounting after the telco implosion, Qwest makes sure that what they do these days is on the up and up.  Their days of bending the rules ended when Nacchio resigned.

Let’s not forget that the NSA is an intelligence agency, the largest one, too.  And we can’t exactly trust those guys.  They operate in a morally gray area and sometimes forget who, and what, they’re working for.  That’s why we have laws to keep them in check.  It’s also why we have an executive branch, to make sure those laws are being followed.  Oh, wait, my bad.  That’s why we used to have one.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Like Ma Bell, I Got the Ill Communication

So remember all the times I was bitching about NSA spying and the government tapping my phone and all that? Well, it was all for naught. As it turns out, they couldn’t do it if they tried…and they tried, oh, how they tried. The company I used to work for, Qwest, refused to turn over the records, even when the bogeyman of “national security” was brought up. So if you live in the following states, you’re probably safe: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, or Minnesota (that’s you, cat). In Qwest territory, your phone company is looking out for you.

Anywhere else, you’re on your own. The government thinks you’re a terrorist and your phone company is a rat.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Setlist

One of the things you do when you’re a dork is make a mixed CD which you then call a “soundtrack” to the book you’re writing. If you’re a really big dork, you make a CD for a specific chapter.

That’s what I did to assist in the writing of the current chapter of my book, el capítulo cinco. I often write with specific music in mind, which is strange because when you read, you don’t hear anything. It’s not like a movie, where music is an important aspect of the experience. Narrative writing relies on a completely different part of the brain, so trying to write to music is pretty much impossible.

But leave it to me to try the impossible. I haven’t posted it yet, but the next chapter of my book takes concerns the events surrounding a show by my imaginary all-girl rock band, the Heartbreakers, so what I did was compile a set list, so to speak, of the songs they would play.

I even tried to arrange them in a sort of coherent logical way, 80s hair metal first, then a few unconventional picks that would be unexpected but recognizable, then to prove their rock credentials, they rip into some heavy stuff you would never expect a girl band to play, followed by some post-punk stuff that you would. And then at last, the encore, a fan favorite and their signature.

Here’s the songs I picked. Can you spot the pattern?
Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil
Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin Bout Love
Guns N Roses – You’re Crazy
Skid Row – 18 and Life
The Doors – Roadhouse Blues
The Cure – Fascination Street
Motorhead – Ace of Spades
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
Metallica – Sad But True
Pantera – Mouth for War
Weezer – Hash Pipe
Green Day – When I Come Around
Foo Fighters – Everlong
AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie
None of the songs have anything to do with the plot of the novel or even the emotions of the characters. It’s all about feel. It’s about making the musical choices somewhat reflective of the Heartbreakers as a band. They’re willing to stretch themselves musically and they’re not afraid to try something (like covering a Pantera song) they probably have no business doing.

And of course it gives me something to listen to while I’m writing.

Don't Swat that Fly

A little contrarian thinking today…

President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who was one of the guys behind the hostage crisis in the 70s, says that Western concern over its nuclear ambitions is a “big lie.” And you know, he’s absolutely right. It is a big lie. And it’s not because we’re worried what kind of calamities Iran can create with a nuclear weapon, either sending one to Israel or selling one to Al Qaida, which is a very real but remote concern. No, that’s not it at all.

We’re worried because a nuclear-armed Iran would have to extended a certain amount of respect. They would have to be dealt with on a more serious level, not as some rogue third world nation, but as a society capable of destroying the planet, which means they’re a society you have to listen to.

So, Mahmoud, you’re right! We do want to hold your society back. We would prefer if Iran remained the fundamentalist pariah it is, the laughing stock of the middle east, rather than a “player” on the world stage because of your nuclear arsenal. And, really, considering the last thirty years, can you blame us?

(And not to skip over Iraq, but if I had a dollar for all the bodies found in Baghdad last month…)

*

America is known as the land of opportunity, right? Well here’s an immigrant story that might reshape that perception. From émigré entrepreneurs to penniless refugees…to émigré entrepreneurs. All of this without stepping foot on American soil.

I don’t think that’s a commentary on our country at all, but instead an incredible compliment to the immigrant soul. (It’s a humanity thing.) And to me, there’s just something inherently “American” in the idea that you can flee your homeland, work hard, and create a new, better life for yourself and your family.

We should keep it that way.

*

Got a blog? Got a Myspace page? How about an internet dating profile? Be afraid, be very afraid. In case you’re just joining us, shit that’s posted on the internet is, in theory, available to everyone.

Although, here’s a creepy story from a college stalker digitally altering some publicly available photos. An no, he’s not just e-mailing them back after checking out their Facebook page. He’s mailing it to them, sneaking them under the wipers of their cars, and even putting his little valentines on their own front door! It’s enough to send chills down your bones. If it’s a joke, it’s not very funny.

*
In the why bother category for today, twelve species of Hawaiian flies (yes, those annoying creatures always buzzing about) received federal protection under the ESA. Protection from what? Fly swatters?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rollins Does Coulter

Henry Rollins has a new show on IFC, and though I haven’t watched it, I watched some clips on the official site.  Rollins, in case you didn’t know, isn’t just a meathead in a band.  He’s also an author, stand-up comedian/spoken word performer, actor, and activist.  He’s a modern day renaissance man.

And his show looks promising, too.  As guests, he had the incredible D, Public Enemy Number One, five-o said freeze, and I got numb….woah, sorry, I meant to say Chuck D.  Other guests have included the inimitable Werner Herzog (aka the Man) and Bill Maher, so it’s right up my alley.

The letter to Ann Coulter in episode 3 is classic Rollins.  Bitterly sarcastic, twisted, and very funny.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Will the Real Abby Please Stand Up?

I’m not going to lie. I love my computer. It’s a little Frankenstein I built myself, a P4 motherboard, 160 gigs of space on two hard drives, a video card, sound card firewire, DVD and the whole thing. It’s not pretty, but it makes a lot of noise.

Noise is good. Especially when it’s coming from a 5.1 surround sound speaker system.

Earlier today, I was listening to Be Quiet and Drive by the deftones and it hit me, not just the power of the song, but also how it sounds through my speakers. It’s a little left-heavy at first, as it would be in plain old stereo, but the effect is heightened when it’s not just coming from one speaker, but one half of the room. When the song opens up into the main riff, flooding all five speakers (and the subwoofer) with sound, the whole room starts vibrating, not enough to break glass just enough to feel how alive music really is.

Speaking of music, I’ve been working on Chapter Five of Poets Row, which features a live appearance by Abby Jeunet, and for inspiration, I snagged a few pics of the real-life inspiration for my fictional character. Amazingly enough, her name is Abby, too. Abby Gennet, that is. (I stole my Abby’s last name from Jean-Pierre.)




Abby Gennet is the lead singer of a band called Slunt, a band I had the fortune to see at the Ogden when they opened up for COC and Motorhead. (Editor’s Note: Motorhead will make your ears bleed. Attending one of their shows is not recommended unless COC is the warm-up act.) As you can see, she’s incredibly hot. I would say beautiful, but that seems too sentimental for a girl in tight leather pants and a ripped up half shirt.

I could have swore that she was eyeing me throughout the whole concert, but maybe that’s just part of what makes her a rockstar. (I found out today that she’s married to Brett Scallions, the dude from Fuel. So much for the “she was checking me out” notion.) Anyway, after the show, my imagination was firing. I have to make her a character in something, I thought.


It just so happened that I had this franchise PI idea kicking around too. That’s how it happens sometimes. You take these pieces you have in your head and put them together, trying to make something unique and fresh out of it.

Abby the character takes her name and her good looks from Abby the rockstar, but I think of it more as like casting a movie in my head. Abby Gennet, whether she can act or not, would be my choice, and I am the director, to play the part of Abby Jeunet.

When You Back the Wrong Horse...

If you have fifteen spare minutes, read this, a mea culpa from a former Bush supporter. If you don’t have the time, here are some great snippets:

The President says we have to stay the course but what if it’s the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.

And another one:

Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initiatives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms-- this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American’s lifetime.

But he’s not just another America-hating lefty. Oh, no, not at all.

None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. Again, historically speaking, its times like these when America needs a vibrant opposition to check the power of a run-amuck majority party. It requires it. It doesn’t work without one. Like the high and low tides keep the oceans alive, a healthy, positive opposition offers a path back to the center where all healthy societies live.

As for the political picture as a whole, McIntyre nails it:

We’re being governed by paper-mache patriots; brightly painted red, white and blue, but hollow to the core. Both parties have mastered the cynical arts of media manipulation and fund raising. They’ve learned the lessons of Watergate and burn the tapes. They have learned to divide the nation for their own gain. They have demonstrated the willingness to exploit any tragedy for personal advantage. The contempt they have for the American people is without parallel.

My favorite quote, though, brings up Sammy Sosa:

If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the Cubs, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

Ouch.

Swallowed by the Whale

Jonah Goldberg does some thinking out loud here, which allows one to get an inside glimpse of his intellectual bankruptcy. Goldberg is responding to a point made by Andrew Sullivan, that the Bushies aren’t the intolerant homophobes the “God Hates Fags” crowd would like in office. (The evidence is anecdotal, but, I have to say, pretty convincing.)

Goldberg’s thought: I wonder why so many academics are getting sex changes….

Of course, he lifts up his own skirt when he admits:
I have no idea if this is objectively true or simply a result of media coverage.
He might as well have said, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Because, let’s be honest, media coverage can be somewhat misleading.

If we were to only use the media to shape our perceptions, then we might all be living in fear of the mold living under our carpet, or we might be under the impression that only attractive white women suffer mysterious disappearances. We might still think Iraq had WMD and Bush is a “regular guy.”

In other words, watching TV is no substitute for thinking. And if Goldberg thought about it a little more, he’d see that “a disproportionate number of the people who undergo sexual reassignment” are not academics at all. They’re drag queens.

And what does Goldberg know about transgendered people? Apparently nothing. The “impulses” that he feels are “overly intellectualized” are not impulses at all, nor are they intellectualized. They are viscerally felt, in a very raw and confusing way. As for impulse, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to go through sexual reassignment. It’s not like buying a car. It takes a lot of planning, and bravery.

As for the cost, fuck the cost. They feel the same as barren soccer moms who sell the farm for in vitro fertilizations. They will find a way to get it done, no matter what the cost. I’m not aware of any health plans, academic or otherwise, that will pay for sexual reassignment surgery. It’s an elective surgery not required by any medical need, so come on, Jonah. Let’s not get swallowed by the whale here.

Are universities around the country encouraging their staffs to get sex changes through their generous health plan? Or is Jonah Goldberg just making stuff up?

I think we’ll let the man have the last word on that one:
Anyway, there's much I don't know here. But I think it's interesting.
- Jonah Goldberg

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Son of God

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally won a race this year.  I don’t follow NASCAR, but this reminded me of a joke in Bill Maher’s very funny, very slim book New Rules