April 30, 2005

Radio Talk

While I'm glad we finally get Air America in my neck of the woods, I sure wish it were broadcasting with a more powerful signal. It is impossible to listen to indoors, just about, certainly next to my computer, and driving around, the signal vanishes with any hint of interference (e.g. nearby power lines). What's more of a shame is that another sports talk radio station in the area recently went belly-up. They're broadcasting something like 50,000 Watts while the Air America affiliate (formerly a hispanic station) is blasting about 1,000 Watts. I wish Air America could move to a better signal. Would be a great investment for some rich liberal donor, more effective than a campaign donation I'll bet.

Because the whole point is that ok, yeah, we can also match the right on financing campaigns, but the real key (discussed very well here) is that without an objective, balanced, aggressive media, we haven't got a chance. The right has developed their own integrated media noise machine, from Fox News Channel (which now broadcasts annoyingly loudly in just about every waiting room in most red states) right on down to the bottom-feeding leftover "Arkansas Project" apparatus, and it works. Evidence enough is the success the shameful and pathetic "Swift Boat Veterans" had against Kerry, a group that is among the most successfully debunked charlatans in recent American history (see Media Matters or The Daily Howler's archives, for example).

So it's important that there's an alternative network of media sources out there to truly balance the information "meal" that people are getting on a daily basis. Something loud and prominent that can "work the refs" in the mainstream media just as well as the conservative apparatus has been doing for twenty years now. Air America is a good start, but it needs work. Al Franken's show is ok, kind of like what NPR would sound like if it really *did* have a liberal bias (James Wolcott has talked about this and I have, too, in the past).

The "problem", if it can be called that, is that Franken's show is just interesting. There is the occasional rabble-rousing let's-get-bad kind of segment, but a lot of the time, Al spends his time educating people and basic things like why the estate tax is a good thing or why we need better health care, etc. That's all well and good, but I would like to hear the occasional liberal flamethrower who spends his or her day just blasting all of the incredibly easy conservative targets out there. You could spend hours just chronicling the career of Tom DeLay. Or picking apart the latest White House press gaggle to find all the lies.

Part of the liberal side of the spectrum needs to be some entertaining shots fired. Randi Rhodes does that with some success, but she's an acquired taste. She has the kind of show I like, but I don't always connect with her personality and her voice. She does a good job of hammering home her points, especially when she's really got the goods on a caller or an interviewee. She doesn't act all respectful of their hate-filled opinions like Al does. She tells them they're full of shit, hangs up on them and then spends the next hour picking apart their faulty logic and stupidity gleefully.

It sounds negative, I know, but it needs to be part of the message, because sometimes that's what you want to listen to. That's what motivates the troops. That's what brings a lot of know-nothing Moron Americans around to your side, because they want to be on the side that's having fun. They don't want to be on the "polite" side, they want to be behind the ones making fun of the losers. They may not want to go out and chant "Sore Loserman", but they wouldn't be caught dead being among the crowd all the mocking fingers are pointing at.

Sometimes that means she goes a little bit over the line. Like a recent bit making news where a fake character kinda sorta fired shots into another fake character who was a representation of the president. Stupid. But, hey there's stupid and then there's right wing stupid:

The right-wing blogs are worked up about a bit on Air America that included what Drudge calls "an apparent gunshot warning to the president." [...]

Kind of a dumb thing to put on the air. But the question is: What should happen to Randi Rhodes as a result?

How about what happened to this guy during the Clinton years?

Ray Appleton, a host on KMJ in California's San Joaquin Valley, ... promoted a bumper sticker reading, "Lee Harvey Oswald: Where are you now that we really need you?" (L.A. Times, 4/28/95)

And what happened to him? Apparently nothing -- he's not in jail and he's still on KMJ.

(And I do believe G. Gordon "Go for a Head Shot" Liddy is still walking around free after urging the murder of ATF agents, as is radio commentator turned senator Jesse "Mr. Clinton Better Watch Out If He Comes Down Here" Helms.)

Lots of good links I didn't paste over are at the original source. Thanks to The Sideshow for the links.

Posted by Observer at 09:00 AM | Comments (2)

April 29, 2005

Filibusters and Tribal Council

"Survivor" surprised me this time, because I really thought Steph was going to make it to the final four. But the tribe stuck to its guns and voted her off, and Steph took it pretty well. She's had a few days now to accept her fate, so she's resigned to it. She did so poorly in the immunity challenge that I almost think she was holding back after the first round so others wouldn't perceive her as such a threat. Her only chance would've been for Tom to revert to their original final four, but I guess Tom liked the odds better with Gregg and Jenn as part of a group of five, so that he could get from 6 to 5 by voting off Caryn, then 5 to 3 by getting rid of Gregg and Jenn.

Poor Caryn is just not good at this game. I'm sure she's very smart in the real world and very good at what she does, but whew. She says that she's not in any alliances but she promises to be Tom's friend. If at this point in the game you "aren't in any alliances" that means you are pretty close to next, if not next. Doesn't she watch the show if she intends to play the game?

The reward challenge this time was a food auction. Nobody got the donkey behind door #3 that host Jeff was offering as a trade once in a while a la Monty Hall. Almost everyone got letters from home. I assume sometime in the near future will be the episode when family shows up and participates in a challenge, and then after that will be the reward challenge for the car, probably when it gets down to four.

Next week, I think the most interesting thing will be seeing what Gregg and Jenn do, because they have to know that once Caryn is gone there will be five left and they make a natural minority of two. I wonder if they'll try to plan for it. When alliances aren't cemented, it's always fun when there are an even number of people left because the outcome seems much more uncertain with the possibility of a tie vote and the difficulty of getting a true majority.

Speaking of majorities and voting, I guess we could classify Steph's marathon performance in last week's tribal council as a filibuster. She successfully thwarted the will of the majority and convinced Janu to just give up. It didn't work in the long run, but at least she slowed things down and gave herself another shot, etc.

Posted by Observer at 06:33 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2005

Real Questions

Via Atrios' commenters, here are some good questions that should've been asked at the press conference but weren't. Some serious, some not:

Is there a deficit level at which you would be willing to consider rolling back the tax cuts enacted in your first term?

I'd say "Fuck you, you fucking fuck!" Oh, wait, that's not a question.

Mr President, can you say something more about your plans to land a man on mars?

Will you ask the new pope to support the war in Iraq?

When is the last time you attended a regularly scheduled church service?

How old do you think the Earth is? Ballpark.

What do you suppose the current health care crisis and our looming energy crisis both have in common?

Where is Osama Bin Ladin?

Why can't you close your legs when you sit down with world leaders?

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, would you sign federal legislation making abortion illegal, and what minimium mandatory federal sentences would you propose for doctors and women? Would minors be tried as adults? Would you support the death penalty for this crime since you ahve taken the position that abortion is the same thing as murder?

Do you believe that Treasury bills are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States or are they just meaningless IOU's?

How many times have you been arrested and what were you arrested for?

Are you willing to shake your finger at the camera and declare forcefully tonight that you have never had sex with that man, Mr. Guckert?

Would you be prepared at this moment to take a urinalysis test?

Posted by Observer at 08:08 PM | Comments (4)

Typical

Typical generic white conservaBorg Rush wannabee is interviewing a soldier just returned from Iraq: "There are two kinds of people in America these days, those who support this war and those who speak out against it. What do you have to say about these people who don't support you?" He went on to ask leading questions like, "Are these POLLS that show falling support for the war make your job over there harder?" Basically, he equates criticism of the war or the president with treason, wanting the troops to die, etc.

The guy is really full of himself, but the local guy sports station has been ragging him pretty mercilessly for being so generic. They parody him every morning now, and the guy is just going ballistic. His son recently returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq, and this idiot never stops talking about it. It's hard to argue with the idea that he's basically whoring his kid out for ratings. It's really funny to listen to. This ConservaBorg is turning into the Ted Knight character from Caddyshack (Judge Smails) getting angry with the Rodney Daingerfield character, throwing his putter in the air, making it helicopter over to the patio to hit some lady.

While it's nice to hear an idiot get his comeuppance, it reminds me of the sad situation of talk radio these days. In every city in America, there are at least two or three stations (sometimes, like here, there are seven) in which they bash liberals and support the Boy King 24/7. Someday, I'd like to hope when we're living in saner times, people will be able to look back and wonder how we allowed ourselves to be so completely overtaken by propaganda.

Posted by Observer at 08:25 AM | Comments (6)

April 27, 2005

Terror Numbers

So I guess the War on Terror isn't going so well. What a shock that the administration tried to suppress the new numbers that show terrorism doesn't exactly seem to be declining as a result of our shining example in Iraq. Oh, they try to blow smoke about how you can't compare this year's numbers to last. Right, whatever. You know if the numbers had gone down, the 101st Fighting Keyboarders would never stop trumpeting it, and anyone who brought up caveats would be damned as a traitor.

I'll admit that I can't tell how much to trust the numbers reported by this administration. I couldn't tell you based on all their nonsense (and the way it is reported) whether things really are getting worse or getting better. The point is: getting that data reliably should be the top priority. Otherwise, how can anyone ever know if what we're doing is working? I thought this was supposed to be a corporate-like efficient governing machine, the Accountability Administration, and all that?

What will it take for people to realize what a sham this war is? Why couldn't we have just settled for fixing Afghanistan, doing that right, and setting an example? Everybody supported that.

Posted by Observer at 06:38 AM | Comments (2)

April 26, 2005

Green Light

Michelle and I had our interview this morning at god-awful-early AM with Immigration. This was the final step in the process of adjusting her status to become a permanent resident, and it went smooth as anything. The only hitch beforehand was that we couldn't find my passport. We tore up the whole house and I tore up my office looking for that thing, but it never came up.

Turned out we sent in the passport with the original application, and there it was when the officer opened the file. He said we didn't need to include it in the application, but I swear that's what the instructions said. So now we found my passport, just a month before it was due to expire, and Michelle is legal. She can apply for citizenship in three years, and the kids will automatically become citizens at that time. Meanwhile, if the oldest kid, Justin (almost 16) wants to work, he'll have to just work for cash mowing yards or something or we'll have to get him legal with a work permit, etc. which would also require his own adjustment of status form and fee, etc.

I guess what they say is true about how it all depends upon who you get to interview you. Our guy was really nice and hardly asked us anything. We didn't really have anything to hide. The only thing we did wrong was we skipped the fiancee visa step. We just moved Michelle and the kids into the country, got married, then figured we'd clean everything up afterwards with the adjustment of status form, and that's what happened. From what we had read earlier, it looked like it was possible we'd catch some flack either for her coming into the country with the intention of moving here (she told the border patrol guy coming out of Canada that she was just visiting, which technically would've been true if we hadn't hit it off so great, I guess) or for working at times without her permit in hand.

After 3+ years and all the headache of trips over there, fees, fines and paperwork, it's a huge relief to be done. Michelle is now free to travel, and we have to seriously consider whether or not to head to Canada for a long road trip. I'd love to do it, but it would be a serious chunk of change to take all four kids up there. I'd probably rent some giant car just to avoid the wear and tear on our van. Still, it's one of those things I think we just have to do both for Michelle and the kids, so now it's just a matter of rationalizing our way into committing.

Boy, that would *really* screw up my posting streak, but I guess I already missed a day this year on purpose, so what the hell.

Posted by Observer at 11:26 AM | Comments (8)

Naked Pictures...

I recently read Jon Stewart's "Naked Pictures of Famous People". I'm a huge, huge fan of Stewart, but this just wasn't that funny. I'm sure it'll strike a chord with some people, but it was all over the place for me (mostly not funny). I was hoping for more of a stand-up routine in book form, I guess, and what I got were fake diaries of historical figures (or people present with historical figures at the time) or celebrities, past and present.

The potential was there, but it just didn't deliver for me. The first one was just blah and almost made me want to put the book down in dismay and confusion, but I plowed ahead. One of them is by the mom of the Hanson (boy band) family and is pretty funny. The highlight was definitely the fake transcript of the Larry King interview with Hitler. That was absolutely perfect but probably the only laugh-out-loud funny section of the book for me.

I guess a lot of people might not like it because it is offensive in places, but that didn't bother me at all. It just wasn't very funny for me. Though on the up side, the title of this post ought to garner me a whole bunch more search engine hits. Or maybe that's not such a good thing...

Posted by Observer at 09:25 AM | Comments (1)

April 25, 2005

The Crybaby Option

Here's a fun little project for you, just so you can see for yourself just how much in the can the media is for the Republican/corporate party. Watch for the phrase "constitutional option" in the mainstream media.

Let me explain... First, a quick backgrounder for those not paying attention to the news: Right now, Republicans are considering changing the Senate rules so that Democrats cannot block Bush's unacceptable judicial nominees using the filibuster tactic. It's not enough that they've approved 95% of the crappy judges Bush has proposed (while Clinton's judges got shitcanned all the time). No, they want 100% approval, the Stepford Senate.

They've tried accusing the Democrats of racism. Back when the Democrats criticized Miguel Estrada for attorney general (the guy who officially rationalized torture as American policy, among other things ... he's got a long and sordid history in Texas, too), the Republicans accused the Democrats of racism. (!!) It's funny that one of the Bush nominees is eligible for a post that is only open because Republicans blocked the nominations of two hispanics who were proposed by Clinton. Oh well. The racism charge didn't scare the Democrats into their usual cowering submission, but it was funny, I'll admit, in a sick, evil way that only Republican slimers could imagine.

Anyway, so the time is coming when they have to decide if they want to do it. Some Republicans are against it, not because it would go against history, tradition, the intentions of the founding fathers, etc. Oh no. It's just that they're afraid of the payback when the Senate and the presidency ultimately switches back to the Democrats (which it inevitably will if elections aren't fixed).

So, to the exercise: watch for any articles in which they talk about eliminating the filibuster as a tool to oppose judicial nominees. In the past, as Atrios points out here and here, the Republicans themselves coined the term "nuclear option" for this idea of changing the rules. Hell, I've heard it on conservative talk radio all the time (not that I listen much).

But apparently, some focus groups have told them that this sounds like the Republicans are all mean, so they are pushing a new term: "the constitutional option". They are saying "nuclear option" is something the *Democrats* cooked up to make Republicans look bad, and they're accusing any media outlet using the old stuff of bias. So look for the NewSpeak outlet near you and watch the change happen right before your eyes. The NY Times had a syndicated article on the issue this morning and carefully managed to avoid using either term (after regularly using "nuclear option" since this issue first surfaced), which is the first step toward a Brave New World.

Remember, points for every use now of "constitutional option" and bonus points for linking Democrats with "nuclear option" in a negative way. As Josh Marshall's reader says, they should call it the "Crybaby Option", as in "Oh, boo-hoo, we only got 95% of what we wanted so we're changing the rules. Waaaaah!"

And don't forget to thank your hopelessly liberal media, k?

Posted by Observer at 07:05 AM | Comments (1)

April 24, 2005

Shatterpoint

I'm reading the Del Rey novels dealing with the Clone Wars (between episodes II and III) in chronological order. Except that I skipped the first one, because as much as I'm willing to swallow my expectations and generally higher standards in return for a trip into the Star Wars milieu, I stopped reading novels with titles like "Republic Commando: Hard Contact" ... well, actually, I never started reading novels like that. Also, I think that book is just a video game tie-in.

So the first one I'm reading is "Shatterpoint", which in retrospect probably has a plot similar to the Commando book. This novel opens with Mace Windu (and for better or mostly worse, I cannot picture him without Samuel L. Jackson's voice, and that's annoying) learning that his old padawan, a female Jedi named Depa, has been involved in some unethical warfare (e.g. torturing and slaughtering civilians) on Mace's old home planet, a jungle world.

Depa has sort of morphed into the guy from "Heart of Darkness", driven mad by the jungle and all that she has had to endure, so Mace goes to find out what is going on and extract her. He lands in the middle of an insurgency. The local government is trying to suppress the native population with the help of Dooku's Confederacy, and Depa has gone native with the help of Kar Vastor, a force-using warrior who viciously leads the insurgency. Vastor's ability is explained by the fact that the natives of Mace's world are descendants of a ship full of Jedi that crashed there hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Eventually, Mace finds Depa and has to confront her and Vastor while also trying to resolve the ongoing conflict between the insurgents and the local government. The author (Matt Stover) is fairly inventive in the things Mace does, showing off new ways the Jedi can use the force, and the battle scenes are pretty good. The characterization is pure pulp and actually pretty embarrassing. And this book really doesn't advance the overall plot of the saga at all, other than to demonstrate the things Jedi are now having to go through thanks to their participation in the Clone Wars.

Posted by Observer at 04:06 PM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2005

Ranger Baseball

The Rangers have been doing pretty well so far this season, back to .500 with a 5-3 win over the Yanks last night. It's always such a heartbreak to see Kevin Brown lit up (and booed by the home fans), you know? Heh. He's still not as bad as Chan Ho for Yankee fans because he doesn't eat up nearly as significant a percentage of their payroll. I don't know whether to keep hating him or to love him because he inflicts so much suffering on Yankee fans.

I would like to see Chris Young get through the order three times once or twice. I had a knot in my gut with the way the fourth inning started. After a good first run through the order, Young started the fourth with a four-pitch walk, then gave up a double with the heart of the order coming up. Would've given even odds that the Yanks come out of that inning tied or in the lead with us going to long relief, but he got out of it.

It's too bad Kenny Rogers was used up on a crappy loss to crappy Tampa Bay on Thursday. We could really use a solid, reliable guy in this series. The bullpen did ok, but it would've been nice to see Cordero get another night's rest. Seems like he's pitched just about every night for the past two weeks, and despite struggling early in the season, he looks like he is back in effective form. I'd hate to see him get the rag arm.

And we got five walks to New York's two! I'd be happy with a split in this series, to be honest. Well, hmmm, I guess it is only three games, so one more win would be nice. We would end the opening stretch from hell right near .500 and definitely within a game or two of first. A couple more wins, and we could be in first when it's all over. Reminiscent of the unexpectedly strong start last year (which included a surprising sweep of the Red Sox).

It's nice to be optimistic in late April, a time when so many other Ranger seasons are already in the shitcan.

Posted by Observer at 07:57 AM | Comments (4)

April 22, 2005

Meddling Jeff

I guess Janu woke up the day after last week's "Survivor" and realized that she isn't on anyone's team because she didn't know everyone was going to vote out Coby. It's the old saying that if you can't spot the sucker at the poker table, then the sucker is you. Janu decided to get up out of her Hammock of Suffering and get mad, but because alliances are so delicate, various people had to try to kiss her ass in front of the others rather than just shrug her off.

They split the eight people into two teams for the reward challenge, and shock of all shocks, Tom's team won, so they get a feast and a party. But they got to bring all of the leftovers back to the rest of the tribe, so that was kinda lame. In the immunity challenge, it was a test of endurance and nerves, so of course, Katie won. Ha ha! No. In the real world, Tom won again and looked like he could've sat there for another hour.

Janu quit first and for some reason, they decided to send the first loser to spend the night alone on some other island to try to recreate Steph's experience as the sole survivor of Ulong. She was fine with it, glad to be away from everyone. I was a little surprised that everyone was laughing at her when she quit first. Host Jeff was, too. He seemed pretty irritated, in fact, and I think it showed later.

Any time there is an even number of people with a vote coming up, it's the most interesting. People want to be sure they aren't in the minority, because after a successful vote, the odd number that is left is vulnerable to getting picked off one by one. It looked like Tom, Ian, Katie and Steph were a solid final four and that Janu was going to go, but for some reason Tom let Gregg talk them in to voting off Steph. I guess that makes sense for Tom because that would get him through three even numbers.

If Tom, Ian and Katie make three and they recruit Gregg and Jen, then it is 5 on 3. So you get rid of Steph, then Janu, then Caryn (who is now officially the next sucker at the table who doesn't seem to know what's going on). Now there's five left, and Gregg + Jen are in the minority, so they get picked off, and Tom makes the final three. I still think, though, that Steph will rejoin Tom's three and make the final four.

In the previews for next week, they show Steph trying to rally the remaining women into an alliance against Tom, but there's no way. Katie knows Tom is protecting her (Tom wants Katie with him in the final two because no one would vote for Katie, though Ian wouldn't be a bad choice either because he's just Tom Jr.), and Jenn isn't going to ally against her boyfriend. I think Tom will get to Steph, explain to her that he had to put on an act like they were going to vote for Steph in tribal council so that Gregg wouldn't suspect anything until he was already in the final three, and then the next three weeks will go like clockwork.

If only Tom had known that Janu would quit. And she wouldn't have quit unless Jeff goaded her into doing it. I've never seen Jeff interfere so much in the tribal deliberations. He personally stepped in to ensure any plans they had that didn't include Janu going home were going to be ruined, and he talked Janu into quitting. Steph was very relieved that her emotional appeal seemed to work, but I just don't think it was necessary. I think Janu was going home all along.

Posted by Observer at 09:00 AM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2005

Perfect Example

The canonical stupid right wing nutball talking point these days is: "Of course the media is still liberal! Hell, do you think Dan Rather wasn't liberal what with trumping up that fake memo, etc.?"

Look, even if Dan Rather were a flaming liberal, he wouldn't offset the entire remainder of the corporate media, including the entire Faux News apparatus, the political reporting of every major newspaper (I'm looking at you, NY Times and Wash Post), 99% of talk radio, etc.

Besides, if you actually care to examine the record, Rather is no liberal. He's a sloppy, jock-sniffing, corporate stooge with occasional flashes of independence or idiocy.

Posted by Observer at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2005

Answer of the Day

Work-sensitive enough that I decided to delete it. Sorry.

Posted by Observer at 09:07 AM | Comments (11)

Smoke and Mirrors

From Tom Toles:

Posted by Observer at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2005

Labyrinth of Evil

Another Star Wars book I read over the weekend is the new Episode III prequel that is out now by James Luceno called "Labyrinth of Evil". I'm not going to read Stover's book treatment of Episode III, certainly not before I see the movie, so it is hard to see just what plot developments in here are significant. I'll be interested to see just how much is used of the set-up here which occurs immediately before III begins.

This book pretty much stays on Anakin and Obi-Wan is they try to hunt down Dooku and also try to find clues as to head bad guy Darth Sidious' real identity (which if you don't know is Palpatine by now, then you're not a fan anyway, so what do you care if there are spoilers here). There are also some scenes with Yoda, Mace Windu and the Jedi Council on Coruscant as they try to track things down on their end. Probably the most interesting part of the prequel trilogy so far for me has been how Palpatine has used political manuevers to gain power, and that continues in the most well-written part of this book.

Amidala has very little time here, except to establish how much she has the hots for Anakin, who is always off on some Clone War related mission. There's also some good stuff in here on the clones, how they think, how they are ethically dealt with, how they fight, etc. I haven't read the other five or so Clone War books (published by Del Rey) or any of the Dark Horse comics that follow Boba Fett, so I'm not sure what else has been officially established as "canon" since Episode II ended. This is the first I've seen of the cyborg General Greivous, who is apparently a big player in Episode III. He's a military genius brainwashed to serve Palapatine and Dooku (Sidious and Tyrannus), and his mechanical body makes him a good fighter. He likes to collect Jedi light sabers and hang them from his belt as trophies. Nice touch.

Of all the books I've read that take place just before or just after one of the episodes, this is probably among the best, but that may be because I didn't know the end boundary conditions before I read the book. I think Luceno was given some freedom by Lucas to advance the plot incrementally in some areas, and it definitely adds a lot to the read. My guess is that the best time to read this book is during the next month before Episode III comes out. After that, most of the book's developments will be spoiled.

I'm going to read some of the other Clone Wars novels now, starting with "Shatterpoint", and see how it goes. I'm not normally such a voracious reader of Star Wars books, but I have read a few per year for the last ten years. And with the upcoming movie, I'm interested in getting some more of the backstory, something that really hasn't been possible with any other Star Wars episode.

Posted by Observer at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2005

The Apporaching Storm

I've read a couple of prequel books lately, the first one of which is "The Approaching Storm" by Alan Dean Foster. Part of the reason I picked this up at the library is because I still remember Foster's "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" fondly (reviewed about a year ago here), one of the first (if not the first) books set in the Star Wars milieu, outside of the movie books. I still don't know if the book was all that great, but I read it as a kid sometime shortly after it came out when I was starved for anything Star Wars (first LP I ever bought was the Star Wars soundtrack, 2nd was the actual movie sound, with dialogue and everything), so my memory is probably very biased.

Anyway, there are two books out right now that take place between Episode I and II. One is Greg Bear's "Rogue Planet", which I'll probably pick up at some point, just because Bear has some great stuff to his credit, and I would like to see what he does with this material. The other is "Storm", which takes place about 6 months before events in Episode II. In this book, Anakin and Obi-Wan are sent off to the planet Ansion to try to prevent it from seceding from the Republic.

Of course, the bad guys want it to secede, because it will trigger a bunch of other planets to secede and the ensuing war will give Palpatine a reason to centralize more power, take away more rights from people, build up the war machine, bypass the legislative process, etc. Just as an aside, doesn't this all sound familiar to real life? Well, Anakin and Obi-Wan are accompanied by another Jedi and her female padawan (Luminara and Barriss), but there are no romantic sparks or anything because they're all Jedi or Jedi-in-training and that's verboten. The other Jedi are ok characters, no complaints.

While on Ansion, the foursome has to overcome the usual incredibly dangerous obstacles by the skin of their teeth, etc. In that sense, this is true to the Star Wars spirit, but still, what comes off good and makes an exciting movie gets a little boring and predictable when spread out into book form. I could do with about half as many amazing escapes and so forth because I could really feel my suspension of disbelief start to weaken.

The four has to negotiate a peace treaty between the urban and the nomadic cultures on this planet to convince them to stay in the Republic. Convincing the city-dwellers is pretty quick work, but convincing the nomads means finding them first. And high-tech methods are a no-no. They have to ride around what are essentially high-speed llamas with native guides, so that results in many adventures and trials.

Basically, if you can get around the boundary conditions in the book (whatever happens must allow the plot points in Episode II to proceed correctly, which means a lot of things are kinda spoiled), it's not bad mind candy. I found it about on par with Perry's book I reviewed yesterday, in the upper half of what I've read in the genre.

Posted by Observer at 07:14 AM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

Crap USA

In the continuing quest to squeeze more usable life out of my G3/300, I went looking for a dual-drive IDE cable today. We were close to Comp USA and really far from Frye's, so I peeked inside. THIRTY FIVE BUCKS?!?! For a stinkin' IDE cable? I don't THINK so. How can a place like that survive when you can buy everything in the store for half the price online without paying sales tax? Stupid people, I guess.

Crap, so now I have to order online, where I can probably get one for less than $15, including shipping, but I have to wait. Blech.

Posted by Observer at 07:44 PM | Comments (3)

Shadows of the Empire

I've been reading a bunch of Star Wars books lately, filling in gaps in the timeline where I haven't read. One of them was "Shadows of the Empire" by Steve Perry, which supposedly takes place between "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi". This follows the actions of Luke, Leia, Lando and Chewbacca while they are searching for Boba Fett and Han's frozen body. Well, actually, Leia and Chewie are looking for Han. Luke goes back to Tatooine and hangs out at Ben Kenobi's place, building his new light saber that he sports in "Return".

Meanwhile, a criminal overlord named Xizor is trying to cozy up to the Emperor by stepping all over Vader. Xizor gets wind that Vader is hunting for Luke and so Xizor tries various things to kill Luke while also trying to make Vader look bad. Besides Xizor, two new characters are Dash (a Han Solo type who helps out/bails out depending on the occasion) and Guri, a almost Jedi-like humanoid/droid female fighter who helps out Xizor. Neither character really goes anywhere, but then, how could they become major players when the boundary conditions on this novel are so firmly set in stone?

As Star Wars books go, I would say this is in the upper half. I liked most of the X-Wing stories better, and the Clone Wars pre- and post- Episode III is an era that interests me more anyway.

Posted by Observer at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2005

Culture of DeLay

The great Joe Conason has the goods on the disgusting Tom DeLay and just how much he believes in the "culture of life":

Still uglier than the Indian gaming affair—and more directly implicating Mr. DeLay—is the story of Mr. Abramoff’s clientele in the northern Marianas Islands. The Pacific commonwealth serves as a haven for garment sweatshops that evade U.S. labor and immigration laws while legally labeling their products "Made in the U.S.A." Nearly every big name in the American rag trade has dealt with factories there.

Several years ago, the gross abuse of the laborers in the islands—mostly young women imported from China and Thailand—drew unwanted attention from the federal government. When Clinton administration officials proposed to crack down on the Marianas sweatshops and labor contractors, the commonwealth’s ruling elite hired Mr. Abramoff to protect them. He sponsored dozens of luxury junkets to the islands for Republican politicians and commentators, spread around plenty of campaign money, and soon had Mr. DeLay pledging to defend the Marianas factories from modern labor standards.

The conditions endured by the women workers in the islands ought to have shocked any religious conscience. Swindled, starved and overworked, many of them were ultimately forced into prostitution—and when they got pregnant, they were forced to endure abortions. Young women who arrived expecting to work in restaurants found themselves suddenly hustled into topless bars, where they were coerced into drinking and having sex with customers. And they often were deprived of the money paid by the johns.

Promoted by Mr. DeLay and Mr. Abramoff as a libertarian utopia, the islands were actually a sinkhole of indentured slavery and sex tourism. Enchanted by all the easy money and free vacations, however, those Washington worthies and their friends disregarded the suffering.

With sweatshops, whorehouses and casinos as the commercial underpinnings of their little empire, and with their thuggish approach to campaigns and debates, the DeLay crew seems reminiscent of the old Cosa Nostra. Yet such unsavory parallels don’t disturb the right-wing establishment. Rallying behind Mr. DeLay are the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, the American Conservative Union and the rest of the "movement," with everyone fervently declaring, amid displays of piety and indignation, that his defense is their next great crusade.

I know it's hard for the right-wing nutball to process information like this, the tacit support of the Republican party for a policy of forced abortions. It goes right along with their refusal to pass a bill outlawing abortions with an exception to preserve the life of the mother. It goes right along with their social policies that have resulted in an increased number of abortions under Bush after years of decline under Clinton.

Why the Dems don't hammer this message home is beyond me.

Posted by Observer at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2005

Catty Scratched

I installed the new RAM into both Macs today. I don't know about Michelle's, but mine is noticeably faster. It was taking about 30 seconds to open a small text file with AppleWorks before, and now it's only about 10. I'm sure that will vary. I can't install the new hard drive yet, because my G3 is apparently a "Revision 1" Mac, which means the cable that connects the hard drive to the mother board only has one hard drive connection. Michelle's is a "Revision 2" Mac, so the cable already was set for an extra hard drive connection. So apparently what I need is a dual-drive IDE cable. Next stop: Frye's.

Oh, and another weird thing. For two weeks, I've tried various things to get my Firewire drive to appear on my Mac. Works fine on other Macs but not mine. After monkeying around with my Mac's innards today (including a pretty good dust-removal routine), though, the drive suddenly decided to reappear upon restart. Or maybe it is because I ran Disk Utility (which couldn't see the firewire drive either) and that flipped some kind of internal switch upon restart. Whatever. It's nice because now I can back up my hard drive regularly to the external drive again, for all of our computers.

Anyhoo...

Probably the best episode yet on "Survivor" last night. They gave Catty Coby a whole lot of screen time, which is such a death knell. But he was so funny that I guess they figured it was worth it. If they ever do another All-Stars, I'm sure Coby, Steph and Tom from this version are going to be offered slots. I cannot wait to see Tom's comments next week about voting Coby off. He's cocky, but unlike Boston Rob, you find yourself wanting him to win, and I almost think the rest of the tribe feels the same way. He's still my pick to win it all.

I kinda figured last week that they wouldn't make Steph sit out on her own for more than a night, and sure enough, she was very happy to get a map and instructions on going over to Koror. Once she got there, Coby basically narrated the rest of the episode. Some locals came to teach the tribe how to fish, and it was amazing how successful they were. Why did they bother to reward the tribe earlier with a fishing spear that seems so useless now? A cruel joke? Regardless, Koror is already one of the best-fed tribes in "Survivor" history, even without rice, it seems like.

The immunity challenge was great. I love the endurance challenges and all the mind games. I'll bet Coby feels pretty stupid now for jumping off for a couple of donuts. Looked like that may have caused some resentment, which Katie voiced, and that would explain why Coby got nearly all the votes at the end (except for his and Janu's). Janu will probably be next, and then there will be seven. Tom, Ian, Katie and Steph would seem to make the natural final four. I'm trying to imagine a situation from this point forward in which Tom would lose an immunity challenge. I guess maybe a mental puzzle or something, but the only standout at that kind of stuff was Coby.

Posted by Observer at 08:15 AM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2005

Up Is Down

Supposedly, the big argument in favor of Social Security "reform" is that it will go "bankrupt" in 2017. By which, the ConservaBorg mean that at that point, the system will begin paying out more than taxes put in. That completely ignores the trust fund that has been built up over the decades, a fund the president considers to be "meaningless IOU's" because of the common practice of the government to dip in to the trust fund when spending. I seem to remember a presidential candidate who promised to put Social Security revenue into a "lockbox", not to touch it, thus with only small changes, the system would last into the forseeable future. I wonder what happened to him.

At any rate, this ignores the fact that Social Security could easily be "saved" simply by getting rid of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 1%. Or by upping the cap on income for which you pay into the social security system. And the "bankrupt" argument is particularly dishonest, because by their logic the Medicare system is *currently* bankrupt, and they're not proposing any fixes for that. Even when the system runs out of all reserve funds, sometime around 2040, it will still be able to pay out at a rate that depends on incoming revenue, around 70% or so.

Given all this, you may wonder why Republicans are making it all so confusing. Why would they act like there's a crisis when none exists? Why get all mad at Democrats for not having a plan to save Social Security (they've proposed several different plans, actually, but Bush has yet to propose one)? Why all this talk about IOU's, trust funds, bankruptcy, etc?

Simple. Remember that all Republican rhetoric and action is geared to one of those three goals I mentioned the other day. This is #1: giving away more money to rich people. In this case, the ultimate idea is to get reform on the table, a process Republicans will totally control, then slip in various provisions that amount of giveaways to the financial industry. That's all this is about. Giving money to rich people.

Just keep that in mind. Makes it so much easier to follow the discussion.

Posted by Observer at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

Weird Stats

Well, the start of the season hasn't been pretty. Losing 4 out of 5 to ALACAALA (Anaheim Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim and Los Angeles) has been very frustrating, because I just don't think the Angels are that good of a team. They sure crush Texas pitching, though. If we could salvage the last game of the series tonight, I'd be more hopeful, but I think we're about due for another turn for Park in the rotation, so... blech.

Also, I was looking up stats today. I'm really glad to see that after a slow start Hank Blalock has been on fire. He's doing quite well, and the team as a whole has been very good at drawing walks. I would've bet a million dollars against this, but the #1 OBA team in the American League is your Texas Rangers (enjoy it while it lasts). This despite having a middle-of-the-pack batting average. Of course, the Yanks have the best OBA - AVG difference, but not by much.

The Texas Rangers blog has been a great source of info and insights so far this season. A must read (even before the paper, but not before the box score) for any fan. Someone needs to get that fella a locker room pass. Then again, maybe the best coverage comes from people who are removed from the team and don't have to kiss anyone's ass to get a quote for their column.

Posted by Observer at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)

April 12, 2005

Understanding the News

You know, it's pretty sad when we've come to the point that the loony Wall Street Journal editorial page suddenly becomes a voice of reason (regarding conspiracy theories and Sandy Berger). Hell, they were even willing to admit that maybe Tom DeLay has a bit of an ethics problem that should be looked into. Perish the thought!

Oh, and EJ Dionne has a good column on the estate tax and the Social Security "crisis":

What we are having is not a real debate on the future of Social Security but a sham discussion in which the one issue that matters to the governing majority is how to keep cutting taxes on the wealthiest people in our country.

Those who vote to repeal the estate tax this week will be sending a clear message: They see the "crisis" in Social Security as serious enough to justify benefit cuts and private accounts. But it's not serious enough to warrant a minor inconvenience to those who plan to live on their parents' wealth.

It really helps you understand what is happening in Washington these days when you realize that pretty much every Republican talking point is geared toward one of three goals: (1) tax cuts for the wealthy, (2) spinning the War on Terror (it's either Bill Clinton's fault, definitely not Bush's fault, or it's all coming up roses and stop talking like a traitor, you) or (3) throwing a bone to the Church Lady crowd.

Posted by Observer at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2005

Faire Weather Fan

We kinda decided at the last minute Saturday night to check out Scarborough Faire. I looked in to the weather, and it looked great, and we had the day (mostly) free. So Sunday morning, I rousted the kids at 8am and told them we were getting them ready for a busy day of yardwork! Actually, I couldn't keep a straight face when I said that. They were pretty excited when they found out what was up. We managed to get going in good time, and we got to the Faire a little too late to get a good view of opening ceremonies but early enough to walk right in when it opened.

It was drizzling when we arrived and had been raining on and off during most of the drive there, but within about 10 minutes of our arrival, it stopped, so we ended up lugging two umbrellas around all day. The weather was the best ever. I've gone every few years since I was in high school, except for a six-year hiatus when I went to grad school in Seattle, and it has almost always been just baking hot. Even if it has only been 85-90 degrees, wind doesn't come easily to that place, and when it is crowded and hard to find shade, it can wear you out quick.

But yesterday, it was mostly cloudy and about 75. A little breeze made it kinda cold during the morning, but it was nice to have a lot of energy for the whole day and not have to worry about the heat and sun on little Daniel and the rest of us. We ended up seeing 4-5 little shows. My favorite two were probably the Scottish music concert and the mud show. The kids really seemed to like the living chess match, the mud show and the knife throwing. We also saw a juggling act that was all right. Crowds were really low, probably because of the clouds/drizzle in the morning and the fact that this was only the 2nd day of the event. So we had no problem getting good seats at every show. Daniel could see everything just fine from stroller level, and he had a great time.

We ate a lot of good food. I love fried peasant bread. I had sausage on a stick, which was scrumptious, and steak on a stake, which was just ok. I had tastes of a lot of other things, too. I told the kids they could pick a reasonable souvenir, and they all decided on pvc-pipe-covered-with-insulation swords. I've seen my fair share of fake weapons for bashing from my IFGS days, and I have to say these swords seem very solidly built, totally safe and quite reasonably priced (16 bucks for a short sword). Too bad they weren't selling plywood-with-foam-covering shields. I might've bought one. They had some double-ended staves and various lengths of both types of weapons.

They did a great business, too, based on how many kids I saw toting those swords around during the day. I hope they're back next year with a bigger variety of stuff. By then, we'll know how long the weapons withstand daily swordfights in the backyard. The kids climbed the castle tower, went through a maze, lost some (of my) money on silly games of skill and generally had a blast. Justin said it was better than "Sea World" but I wouldn't go *that* far, thanks. I imagine we'll be back next year if only because we probably only saw about half of the good shows and weren't able to get to some of the more far-flung areas of the fair on one side. Plus Michelle will want more of those yummy candles and the kids will want to go back just because they don't have to pay for the whole deal.

Lots of pictures will be up over on Michelle's blog later today or tomorrow, I imagine.

Posted by Observer at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2005

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Time for a grand day out.

Posted by Observer at 07:27 AM | Comments (4)

Good Game

A neat 7-6 win over the Mariners yesterday. The Rangers were up 3-2 going into the bottom of the eighth, thanks to some unlikely pitching quality from Pedro Astacio (enjoy it while it lasts). They fell behind 6-3 thanks to a(nother) bullpen meltdown, but that doesn't really worry me ... the bullpen is about the only thing I'm optimistic about this season. But wow, two two-run homers in the ninth off Guardado, including one by Hidalgo (and if he's back to his 2000 Astro form, that's an incredibly lucky/skillful signing by Ranger management), and Cordero closes it out for his first (shaky) save.

And this after Chan Ho had a half-decent start on Friday night. And, no, under no circumstances will I enjoy a Chan Ho start. If he sucks again this year, it's no surprise. If he's great, then screw him because he just *happens* to be kicking ass in his contract year. Well, guess what, Chan? No more free rides after this contract. It's going to be a year by year thing, and it damn sure better not be here.

I'll tell ya, though, it's sure fun to root for the Mariners. Just having Ichiro in the leadoff spot is so awesome. I've certainly never seen such a consummate leadoff hitter in my lifetime. Only the hated Rickey Henderson came close, and who could root for him and the A's? I cannot believe how automatic he is at slapping singles with runners in scoring position. Otherwise, he just plain gets on base all the time. He sure made it a nervous ninth. If the M's had told him to steal second on the first or second pitch, he would've tied the game when the next guy singled instead of just going to third and watching a 2-out pop fly fall easily into a Texas glove. With some better hitting this year behind him, Ichiro should score a zillion runs.

As for our hitting? Until the ninth, our entire offense was built around Sandy Alomar, Jr's 3-for-3 with 3 RBI performance. That's not exactly confidence inspiring for the remainder of the season.

Posted by Observer at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)

April 09, 2005

Coupons

Free beer coupons over in my wife's blog for those who register on their birthday.

Posted by Observer at 12:27 PM | Comments (1)

Mac Advice

I have a blue and white Powermac G3/300 with 256 MB RAM. I want to run Appleworks, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Safari, a random Classic application once in a while, and some graphics intensive games like Myst III Exile, Baldur's Gate, Heroes IV, etc. I also would like to run photo editing and sorting software once in a while.

If I wanted to limit myself to spending about $1000, what would be better: Should I upgrade my G3/300 by boosting the RAM to 512 MB or 1 GB? Should I upgrade the processor and/or video card? Or would it be cheaper to just plunk down money for something like a G4/800 + money to upgrade the RAM from standard 256 up to 512 MB/1 GB? I just wonder what is making OS X (and some games like Exile) run so slow right now ... is the RAM the limiting factor or the video card?

Is a Mac Mini with a RAM upgrade a good choice? What sort of video card does it have? Why the hell is it so cheap compared to a G5 anyway?

Posted by Observer at 08:07 AM | Comments (3)

April 08, 2005

Teaser

My wife will be updating about our 15-year-old Justin's first date tonight and tomorrow. You have to go register for her blog to find out more. Neener. :)

Posted by Observer at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

Koror Predictions

Not surprisingly, I guess, there is only one Ulong member left, and that's Steph. I'm assuming that they'll let her move in to the Koror camp rather than forcing her to spend her remaining time by herself, even competing in challenges by herself, etc. With there being eight Koror members, she should make for a critical vote.

Right now, it looks like Tom, Ian, Gregg and Jenn are on a team, but it's really just Tom and Ian doing all the planning and manipulation while Gregg and Jenn go snuggle on the beach. Of the other four, Katie and Caryn hate each other, Janu hates herself and wants to leave a week ago, and Coby pretty much hates everyone but it trying not to be catty. Tom said Steph has a loose alliance with his little group (which I think also includes Katie), so she'll probably come over about make it five on four or six on three.

My guess is they'll all agree to vote out Janu, then probably Caryn (because Katie wants her gone), then Gregg and Jenn are going to find themselves on the outside looking in along with Coby. It'll be four on three. Tom and Ian look good to be the final two, and then I can't imagine the jury giving the win to Ian over Tom. So there's my prediction. If Coby somehow can manage to convince Steph to join his group and also keep Caryn and Katie in line, then his only chance is to convince Gregg and Jenn to vote with them to make it five on four. That's too many things, and I don't see it happening.

Posted by Observer at 08:06 AM | Comments (1)

April 07, 2005

"Freedom Isn't Free"

Recently, many Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to photojournalists covering the Iraq war. But the 101st Fighting Keyboarders weren't happy, because the photos showed that the war isn't a happy place where Iraqis are enjoying their new freedom and American soldiers wrapped in flags are fighting off all the flowers being thrown at them. So, to the ConservaBorg, these photographers who showed bad things happening in a war (gasp!) are no better than ... wait for it ... traitors.

Athenae of First Draft responds with a kind of righteous wrath that is in short supply in the "liberal media" these days:

Freedom isn't free, you say, giving me the impression that whatever other xenophobic homophobic fundie whackjob tendencies you harbored, at least you understood that for your bravado somebody pays a price. I hope you got a receipt, because it sounds like freedom's a little more expensive than you counted on. In fact freedom's so fucking expensive you can't stand to be told what market price is these days.

Freedom isn't free, you miserable chickenshits. You cheer the war, you love the war, you love the troops, you support the troops. But to recognize their sacrifices would diminish your pleasure so you send the images away. You jackholes are the ones who are always bitching that the left "blames America first." You're the first to blame "the media," to blame "bias" when things don't look the way you saw them on the outside of the box. Why do you now blame the photographers who bring you images of the dead and wounded, of protest, conflict? Why don't you blame the terrorists? Why don't you go wave a little flag in the face all this carnage because certainly it's exactly the item you put your finger next to on the menu. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED. LOOK AT IT. Print out every single one of those photos and paper mama's basement with them, chickenhawks. Here's your war, in all its glory. Max your credit card out, because freedom isn't free.

You cocksuckers, if you didn't want to see the bill, you shouldn't have ordered the food. Quit taking out your anger on the waiter setting the check down in front of you. Schmucks.

Damn straight.

Posted by Observer at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

Bah

For some reason, MT isn't letting me delete duplicate posts, but I guess I can still edit one out of existence. I'll have to look in to this.

Posted by Observer at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

No Walks

Ok, it's nice that we won 3-2 last night, but geez, the team as a whole had 47 at-bats and ZERO walks. At least ALACAALA (aka the Angels) had 8 walks and 41 at-bats. We had to get bailed out by a couple of home runs, and it took 12 innings. 5 runs so far in the first two games doesn't bode well for this team. The pitching is only going to get worse. Blalock has started the season 0 for 8 (but with three walks!). We're not going to be able to rely on Richard Hidalgo hitting home runs all season, that's for damn sure.

Oh well, as others have pointed out, we started last year 0-2, so this is an improvement. Give us some big offense and a good outing by #3 starter Chris Young tonight, and I'll be optimistic about us breaking .500 again. I'll hold off on wishing for division titles by reminding myself that we still have Woody Woodward on staff.

Posted by Observer at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2005

Already in Last

I watched part of the game last night between Texas and the Anaheim Los Angeles California Angels of Los Angeles and Anaheim. Pretty frustrating first inning. Soriano leads off with a double (could he have stretched it to a triple?), then Blalock with a walk (first of three for the game, yay!), but they couldn't do anything against a very fat and unhealthy looking Bartolo Colon (who got lucky because he was outpitched by Drese). There are a lot of big names on this offense between Soriano, Blalock, Texeira, Young and the rest, but crap, we just can't seem to score runs. We lost 3-2.

I really really really hate that opening night (and really opening week) is on the West Coast. We try to get to bed by 10 or 1030 most nights just because we get up so early for work (esp. when I have to take Justin in for track practice at the crack o' dawn), and the frickin' first pitch last night wasn't until 9:15. I would miss the rivalry with the A's and the M's, for sure, but I hope sometime soon to see the Rangers in some kind of Central division with teams like the Twins, Indians, Royals and White Sox. I wonder what the status of realignment is these days?

Posted by Observer at 03:51 PM | Comments (5)

A Kind Word and a Gun

From Tom Toles:

What's with Republicans linking violence against judges to opinions they don't happen to agree with? I feel like we're being governed by the Al Capone party. Senators are saying the equivalent of, "Hey, that was some decision in the Schiavo case, pal. By the way, how has your wife and family been doing? I heard some people got mad about your decision. It would sure be a shame if something happened to you or that beautiful family of yours."

Posted by Observer at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2005

Picture Update

My wife updated her blog about today at the doctor's office. It went fine, and for now, Daniel seems to be doing very well. I think he'll be on the mend very quick. We'll see how long he walks with a limp once he starts walking, but we're very glad to have our baby back out of that cast.

Posted by Observer at 01:59 PM | Comments (7)

Fingers Crossed

Today we take little Daniel to the orthopedic surgeon for the removal of his body cast. Here's hoping the X-rays look good and that he doesn't get too frightened when they saw that sucker off. We're really looking forward to getting him home and giving him a nice, warm bubble bath.

Posted by Observer at 08:28 AM | Comments (2)

April 04, 2005

No Feeding Tubes, Thanks

Via Atrios, who got the link from the LA Times:

He spent his final hours in his Vatican apartment, surrounded by nine members of his mainly Polish inner circle. Three doctors were present, but no elaborate hospital technology to help prolong his life.

Just before the end, the pope's longtime secretary celebrated Mass and began to anoint the pope's hands with oil, according to one account. John Paul gripped his secretary's hand, an apparent farewell gesture to a faithful aide who helped the pontiff fulfill his wish to die unencumbered by tubes and machines. It was 9:37 p.m. Saturday.

The cause of death was septic shock and irreversible heart failure, according to the death certificate made public Sunday by the Vatican. John Paul's decision last week not to return to the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital where he had spent so much time in recent years mirrored decisions made every day by severely ill patients and their families.

Where's the shock and outrage from Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Mission Accomplished, Randall Terry, and the rest of the Right-wing Nutball Brigade? I mean, if the Pope expressed a desire to die, he probably wasn't in his right mind. And after all, how can we be sure he really told his inner circle he wanted to die? Maybe that's just what they want us all to think! By their logic, the Pope's inner circle savagely murdered the guy and so the Catholic Church must not have much respect for the culture of life.

Some are trying to distinguish the Pope and the Schiavo case by saying Schiavo's wishes weren't made clear while the Pope was in a position to articulate the level of care he wanted. But saying that presumes that Terri's husband was lying when he said he knew what her wishes were. And it also presumes that the Pope's inner circle was telling the truth about the Pope's wishes. Why is one representative more trustworthy than the other?

Posted by Observer at 03:40 PM | Comments (8)

Comments Fixed

What happens when a blog on the Verve server gets attacked is two-fold, from what I can tell. First, they IP deny that address from the particular blog being attacked. Then they shut down all comments to that server by going in and performing "chmod -x" all of the cgi files that allow comments (e.g. mt-comments.cgi or whatever you name your comment file). So by the time I find out comments are broken, usually the attack is long since over, and I can just "chmod +x" my comment file myself instead of waiting for Verve to go in and fix it later. That's what I've done.

Not sure why verve shuts down all of the comment scripts like that, but I guess they have their reasons.

Posted by Observer at 09:54 AM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2005

First Rate

Ok, now that the first season of "Battlestar Galactica" is over, I have some things to say. I'm pretty familiar with many of the science fiction/space opera series that have been on. Among the best were "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Babylon 5". Neither of those two had a first season that remotely compares to how good "Battlestar"'s first season was. "The 4400" is the only thing that comes to mind that comes close, and it's hard to count that since it is just six hours. Just about every show improves during the first few seasons, and I hope that's the case again.

I am unfamiliar with some other cult favorites like "Quantum Leap", "Sliders", "Farscape" or any of the "Stargate" series. Maybe they were better than this, and if they were, maybe I need to get the DVD collections and watch them. My only criticism of "Battlestar" is that it seemed like they tried to jam too much into one season. There were so many plot lines that in the finale, they really couldn't give enough time to any of them.

I guess that's partly because the people responsible were really only guaranteed one season. With something like "Babylon 5", the network made a five-year commitment to the show, and so things could develop slowly. Maybe if the same had been done for "Battlestar", the first season wouldn't have been so hectic (and maybe not as good).

Michelle doesn't like Baltar or any of the plotlines associated with him. I don't really have a favorite plotline or any particularly annoying characters. I like Adama and the President the best among the characters, and I hope the writers figure out a way to keep either one from dying for a while.

Posted by Observer at 07:53 AM | Comments (7)

April 02, 2005

"No Bullshit" Award

Grading a lot of essay tests has me thinking. For a 14 point question (out 100 points), I'm thinking of just giving 2 points if they leave it blank. 0 points if they try to BS their way through it. Would this be a good idea, or would it just make people mad? I try to word my questions so that it is easy to tell who is BS'ing, and who isn't, just based on one or two key concepts that you can't just make up out of whole cloth if you don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by Observer at 01:43 PM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2005

And Then There Were Two

Well, one thing I'll admit about this version of "Survivor": at least the midgame wasn't (as) predictable. It's still kind of boring, because you just know from the beginning of every episode that Ulong is going to lose another member, and I'll give odds that Ulong loses again next week. I almost think Koror *wants* to lose a member (Janu) because she is so obviously struggling. I can't imagine any other reason why they would want her to participate in the immunity challenge.

Tom and Ian are so much fun to watch in Koror. I hope they stick around for a while because they're so goofy and likeable like Rupert was. I knew today about a minute before it happened that Tom was going to kill a shark. You can sense something big is going to happen when the quality of the camera shots starts to degrade. It means something not staged (but significant) is about to happen, and the cameras aren't ready for it. The camerawork has been pretty bad this time around, I think, because rarely do they get good shots of interesting and unexpected events.

Jeff Probst seems meaner this time, too. He doesn't miss an opportunity to make Ulong feel stupid. Maybe he's always this mean but it seems like piling on because Ulong keeps losing.

Posted by Observer at 07:08 AM | Comments (1)