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For those of you I’ve told:

The thing they carved out of him was, in fact, a mole. An ugly thing, but just a mole, and nothing else.

Let the rejoicing begin!

Spare Oom in my War Drobe

I came upon an unexpected windfall the other day. Won’t say where from, but it was enough that, after tithing a nice fat donation to Planned Parenthood, I decided to go out and buy some new clothes.

My wardrobe’s been getting closer to desperate lately, as I’m at the top end of my usual weight, and most of my pants don’t currently fit well. I tried to avoid buying new pants to encourage myself to lose the weight faster — I have tons of nice pants one size smaller than my current weight, see — but then I spilled tea in the lap of one pair, and the other is just too raggedy. And my shoes are starting to get to that “unnacceptable for work” stage, as well, and finding shoes at the thrift store and Ebay is so time-consuming as to be almost not worth the monetary savings.

So, on my lunch hour, I went out and bought two new pairs of shoes, a brown and a black. Same basic style of largely unadorned slip-on loafer that I hope will go with everything, business and casual. I like ’em.

After work, Paul and I hit Old Navy and Kohls, and I found Jeans That Fit, as well as a few desperately needed flattering blouses in nice springy colors. These are overdue because I’m doing some spring library talks, and need something decent to wear. I’m hoping that the lilac, sea green and light blue will translate well into summer, because they’re a long way away from my usual intense color palate. I also went through my dresser and closet and threw out eveything that didn’t fit or hadn’t been worn in ages, and will compile a box for donations shortly. It was a good feeling to get rid of some of the skaggy old stuff I’d been holding on to for no real reason.

Still, I spent more money on shoes and clothes in one day than I have in the last calendar year. It was heady and scary and I’m feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse.


Another argument in the defense of the UAE. Definitely worth reading.

My heroes have always been sidemen.

I had a long, late-night drive home yesterday (Thanks for the caffeines and the foods, Mot!) and to help keep awake, I started going through my ipod looking for stuff I hadn’t listened to for a while. I wound up settling on both Liz Carroll’s Lost in the Loop and Lunasa’s eponymous first album. Those are the kind of albums best listened to in a fast moving car, with the volume turned all the way up. You don’t listen to an album like that with your ears, rather with your sternum and your fillings and the soles of your feet.

As I was listening, I tried to decide what made me pick those two albums over the other ten thousand songs on my ipod. The answer was simple: the guitarists, of course.

See, in Trad music, melodic virtuosos are thick on the ground. You can find a hotshit piper or flautist anywhere, and sometimes you can’t swing a dead cat at a session without clocking at least three respectable fiddlers. Getting a strong melody player to front your band — not usually the most troublesome issue. But ah, the rhythm section.

A good, strong, inventive guitarist can slide and pull the beat along, adding more lift and draiocht to the melody players than they ever had by themselves. Profoundly good guitarists like Dennis Cahill, Tony McMahon, John Doyle or Donagh Hennessey are hard to come by, and when you place one of them by the side of a virtuoso like Liz Carroll or Martin Hayes, the beauty of the music increases tenfold. Throw one of them into a band of such talents as Lunasa, and you’re making music to rival that of the spheres.

Lunasa’s got a new album out, their sixth. Donagh’s not on it. He got hitched and moved on to solo work. I don’t know if I’m ready for a Lunasa without Donagh’s chugga-chugga guitar in it, regardless of how good his replacement is. To me, the true Solas died the instant that John Doyle left, no matter what singer they got to front the band.

Don’t get me wrong, here. There are few things more soul-stirring to me than to hear John McSherry’s pipes lock harmonic step with Sean Smyth’s fiddle and Kevin Crawford’s flute, so perfectly in time and tune with each other that they may as well be chords struck by the same otherworldly instrument. But place Donagh Hennessey and Trevor Hutchinson together behind them, and the sonic alchemy derives pure gold.

In the interest of fairness:

From Time Magazine

But to call the United Arab Emirates a country “tied to 9/11” by virtue of the fact that one of the hijackers was born there and others transited through it is akin to attaching the same label to Britain (where shoe-bomber Richard Reid was born) or Germany (where a number of the 9/11 conspirators were based for a time). Dubai’s port has a reputation for being one of the best run in the Middle East, says Stephen Flynn, a maritime security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Dubai Ports World, which is a relatively new venture launched by the government of Dubai in 1999, has a number of Americans well known in the shipping industry in its senior leadership. It operates port facilities from Australia through China, Korea and Malaysia to India, Germany and Venezuela. (The acquisition of P&O would give them control over container shipping ports in Vancouver, Buenos Aires and a number of locations in Britain, France and a number of Asian countries.) “It’s not exactly a shadow organization for al-Qaeda,” says Flynn. Dubai, in fact, was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to join the U.S. Container Security Initiative, which places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports to begin the screening process from a U.S.-bound cargo’s point of departure.

More on that Dubai port thingy.

Okay. Further investigation shows that DP World (the company who has purchased the London-based company P&O and is poised to start running six of our international ports), is not in fact a private company, but run by the government/royal family of the UAE. (Side note: The UAE refuses to recognize Israel.) In January, Bush also nominated a DP World board member, Dave Sanborn, to serve as Maritime Administrator a key transportation appointment reporting directly to Norman Mineta the Secretary of Transportation and Cabinet Member. A Florida port, one of those six to be affected by this deal, sued last week to block the deal in a Florida state court. It said that under the sale, it will become an “involuntary partner” with Dubai’s government and it may seek more than $10 million in damages.

But — what ho? Bush claims not to know about it until recently?

While Bush has adamantly defended the deal, the White House acknowledged that he did not know about it until recently.

“He became aware of it over the last several days,” McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, “That’s correct.” He said the matter did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a congressionally-mandated review process and was determined not to pose a national security threat.

Add to this the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he was not consulted about the deal until after it was done — yet he is a member of Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. As such, he was one of the people who, according to the Treasury Department, unanimously approved the sale on February 13.

It’s also reported that the US once knew of Osama bin Laden’s location, but did not act — because he was hanging out with several members of the UAE Royal family (please note this info comes directly from the 9-11 commission’s report and isn’t just a bunch of hysterical liberal blather). It’s also also reported that the Bush Administration Failed To Conduct a Legally Required Investigation before approving the deal.

After all this — Bush is threatening to use his Very First Veto Ever to make sure that this is going to go through, even though the opposition has enough votes to overturn it.

I gotta say … this whole setup seems a little hinkey to me.

Separated at birth?

Wash and Wembley. You be the judge.

Ah, the joys of homeownership.

I had the day off yesterday and was a busy bee — got many onerous tasks completed and managed to paint half a page as well. As I started cooking dinner, I noticed the water pressure was much lower than usual. Paul arrived home and reported a gurgling, watery sound outside. We ran to the back of the house, and sure enough, there was the sound of rainfall in the little shed under the outside stairs, and a growing puddle seeping out from the second apartment’s door.

It seems that the coupling between the garden hose’s pipe and the pipe up from the basement had split, or burst, or something. Suffice it to say, it was showering water over the inside of the shed. We ran downstairs and shut off the water to that specific pipe, then went to assess the damage. A little bit of water had seeped into the basement, but it appears that the excellent craftsmanship of the house has saved us from further destruction. When they built the outside stairway, they poured the concrete slab on which it sits at an angle away from the house, so the water just rolled downhill, out and onto the flagstones. There was very little standing water, all things considered, inside the shed.

We definitely got off lucky. Once it’s warmer, we’ll have to disassemble that pipe and see if it’s something we can fix with a new joint, or if we’ll have to call in the professionals. Note to self: next year, turn off the water to the outside hose and drain the pipe before the winter freeze sets in.

North to Alaska! Go north, the rush is on!

I did it! I bought the ticket! I’m going to Alaska over Memorial Day! I’m apparrently only able to conclude sentences with exclamation points! YAY!

Layla’s proposing that we go car-camping in her Suburban at points along the Yukon! I think I may explode with glee!

Note to self: Bring home two pieces of mammoth, one for me and one for Pam!

Oi! Detroiters!

Now you can shop at the Anti-Wal Mart.


I’m listening to a very interesting book today, Under the Banner of Heaven, by John Krakauer. It’s both a look at a sensational trial of a Fundamentalist Mormon (not to be confused with the mainstream LDS church) who killed his sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter, and a brief history of the Mormon Church from its genesis in upstate New York through to its colonization of the Utah Territory.

I confess to not knowing all that much about the LDS church prior to ‘reading’ this book. I attended grade school with a few Mormons, I knew bits and pieces of the faith (golden plates, migration to Utah, etc) but I really had no idea of the kind of events that originally spawned the church. Rather than do a recap on the faith, may I present this Wikipedia link… if you’re not familiar, you may want to go browse this, then come back.

I think what’s struck me the most about the book is the ending, where Krakauer focuses his attention on the details of Lafferty’s trial. Lafferty’s defense lawyer tried to get him off on an insanity plea, but a psychologist for the prosecution claimed that Lafferty’s oddball religous beliefs were no more insane at their heart than any other fervent, non-logical religious beliefs. Strange, yes — Lafferty at one point claimed that the Angel Moroni was attempting to take over his body by entering him through his anus — but in structure, no more crazy than people assuming that the holy spirit would enter them and cause them to speak in tongues, or that the devil was an actual being that could both posess human beings and then be cast out.

There’s quite a bit of interesting speculation on what makes someone a faithful follower, and what makes him outright insane. Lafferty’s fervent prayer for guidance is compared to Ashcroft’s daily prayer meetings with his staff, for instance. It got me thinking of the basic similarities between Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church, and George Fox, founder of the Quakers.

Both men were charismatic leaders who challenged the religious dogma of their day with radical new ideas, and each thought his religion was the restoration of the true Christian church after centuries of apostasy. Both claimed they could communicate directly with God, and encouraged their followers to do the same, though Smith later had a revalation that his were to be the only revelations. Both men strongly denied the authority of any earthly government or king; each answered only to the commandments of his God. And both faiths, under great persecution (Smith was tarred and feathered at one point, Fox was imprisoned repeatedly), chose to strike out for new lands — though Fox’s flock was eventually led to their haven by William Penn.

Often, I will worship silently in a Quaker Meeting to still my inner chatter so that I may hear the voice of the Divine, as have Quakers for nearly 400 years. It is strange for me to think that both Joseph Smith and George Fox did the same — removing self that they could hear the will of the Divine — and felt that they were communicating directly with God on a regular basis, yet received such wildly disparate revelations.

Fox seems to be the odd duck amongst religious founders; he never seems to have taken on the narcissistic, messianic role favored by so many, including Joseph Smith. Instead, he denied his own authority over the Divine, and refused to be its sole mouthpiece or prophet, rather putting that power into the hands of his followers. Fox also believed that women, slaves and Native Americans had souls, (at a time when they were seen by most to be “subhuman”) and could therefore vote, have equal rights and even give ministry when divinely inspired (go George!). Smith on the other hand, claimed to be God’s only living Prophet, thought that Blacks belonged to a race cursed by God, and that women should always be subservient to their husbands; his later revelations stated that a man could take multiple wives, though after Smith’s death, the LDS church repudiated the practice under great pressure from the US Government.

It’s very interesting to see these two faiths side-by-side. Doing so opens some very interesting dialogue about what part of our private revlelations are Divine, and what parts are interposed, however subconsciously, by our own will. Thoughts, dear readers?

I’m a wuss.

It was about 10F today, with a windchill of -10F. The sun was shining, it was beautiful. I wussed out and did not go for a walk, choosing instead to stay inside and paint. Layla, feel free to mock me.

NYTimes: Dubai Company Will Help Run Ports in NYC

… I don’t even know what to say to this. Stupidity on this level almost gives a little credence to the tinfoil hat brigade’s theory that 9/11 wasn’t entirely an accident. Almost.

What the hell are they thinking?!


An old buddy correctly took me to task in the comments, for coming off sounding like I’m discriminating against Dubai just for being a Muslim country located in the Persian Gulf. My initial shock and horror came from the fact that we are letting ANY country have access to our ports. Currently, the NY ports are being run by a London-based company. I happen to think that this is patently insane; letting companies based in other countries have authority over screening what comes into our ports.

Two of the 9/11 bombers came from the UAE. I know that the government / industry of a country does not necessarily reflect the views of its people, and vice versa, but the mere fact that the UAE is a sometime haven for terrorists — both physically and financially — makes me wonder if they should be allowed any sort of jurisdiction over our ports.

Harvey Kneeslapper

Paul and I lost three hours of our lives to this site last night*. We were up till 2am watching Jim Henson take a pratfall down stairs holding cream pies, a purple muppet mock an orange muppet over shapes (“Do you know what a square is?” “I know who a square is!”) and my Favorite Sesame Street Skit Ever, “Ernie Breaks the Cookie Jar“.

If you poke around, you’ll also find Ten Tiny Turtles on the Telephone, the Yip Yip Martians, and such nearly-forgotten greats as “The Golden AN”. What other show could make high drama out of a little kid not getting a bottle of milk, a hardworkin’ dog, or lifting a gigantic letter “R” to the top of a building?

* I claim no responsibility if you get nothing done for the rest of the day.

Go Sweden!

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but here’s a nice little commentary from MoJo on the Swedish goal of energy independence by 2020.

The Compact

How cool is this?

From the SF Gate:

About 50 teachers, engineers, executives and other professionals in the Bay Area have made a vow to not buy anything new in 2006 — except food, health and safety items and underwear.

“We’re people for whom recycling is no longer enough,” said one of the members of the fledgling movement, John Perry, who works in marketing at a high-tech company. “We’re trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world.”

Ooooh, Shiny.

And in a veer away from more stupid gloom and doom stories, here’s some shiny new tech to drool over. The rumor is that it may be the Next Big Thing that Apple is persuing.

Paul and I were absolutely salivating when he started resizing the pictures. Guh.

Aaaahhh, crap.

Hokay, this is not good. Looks like the replacement for our creaky old gas stove may be an electric one. Gorrammit. I really love gas stoves; the one that came with my house is the first one I’ve ever owned and I am really, truly impressed by the difference, even as beat down and crappy as it is.

Yeah, and the gas dryer may eventually be replaced by a friggin’ wooden clotheshorse in the basement, too. Poopie.

Brown Smear

You know, this guy’s weasel-dick nature may actually turn out to serve the country some good after all.

Freeways, Cars and Trucks

An interesting pair of articles, this time on cars and — surprise! — Oil independence.

GM shows reporters fake Hybrid prototype

Senior VP of Exxon says energy independence is impossible

I suppose I should comment on Bush’s recent SOTU address, wherein he makes a call for renewable energy. Honestly, though I risk having to hand in my Anti-Bush Card, I agree with him — albeit not without reservation. Sour grapes, I’m sure some will say, but here’s the thing — he left out the single most important part of the equation: Conservation. He never once talked about reducing our intake, only finding new ways to supply the ever-mounting demand for energy.

I’m on board with the Apollo Alliance — a movement that is demanding we begin a nationwide push on the scale of the Kennedy Apollo Program, the one that put a man on the moon in only a decade. If we can fly Neil Armstrong to the surface of another planet using computer technology less sophisticated than a TRS-80, I’m pretty sure we can come up with a semi-efficient hydrogen transportation system (vehicles that run on hydrogen, and the system by which to transport hydrogen nationwide). I also think that unless the vast majority of people start conserving on a larger scale, we’re hosed, no matter how many windmills we erect, nor how much switchgrass we grow.

Yes, it’s admirable that Bush is finally making a push for renewables. I applaud. I just wish he’d made the same push on September 12, 2001. We’d be a hell of a lot further ahead, and I’d bet we’d be persuing the program with much more vigor. Think what we could have done towards that end — both in R&D and actual implementation of plants and energy farms — with the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve already spent in Iraq? Hell, even a fraction of that money. We could have put a sizeable windfarm in every state for that kind of money, or several solar farms in the southwestern desert.

Ah well. I’m just a wussy liberal dreamer.

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