Friday, February 8, 2008

The Clash, Ramones, and other songs as you've never heard them before

I saw this trailer last weekend for a movie called "Young@ Heart." I believe it will be in theaters in April 2008. I'll be first in line. Sit back and enjoy:

You can learn more about the Young @ Heart Chorus here.

Change of pace for a Friday afternoon: Let's talk about me, shall we?

I don't usually do "memes" because they remind me a little too much of chain letters/ emails. But you know what? It's Friday, and I'm sitting here on my lunch hour with nary an inspiration for a final post today. And there's a "4x4 meme" going around that I thought you might find remotely interesting; I've linked to many of my favorites to try to make it more so. If nothing else, you have some extra reading material. So heres goes (I promise I'll try to make it worth your while):

Four Jobs I Have Had
  • Typing dog tags for the tourists at the "new" (at the time) Smithsonian M*A*S*H exhibit
  • Receptionist at Sidwell Friends School
  • Managing Editor of a 4-color magazine for a big faceless banking association in DC
  • Middle School Special Education Teacher
Four Places I Have Been
Four Favorite Foods
  • That salad with mixed greens, granny smith apples, walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese (what is that one called?)
  • Waffle fries from Chik-fil-a
  • A most excellent Alsatian white wine blend, Dopff & Irion Crustaces
  • Peanut M&Ms
Four All-Time Favorites
  • Movie: Finding Nemo .... I really could watch this movie a million and one times. You know you could, too. Say it with me ..."Es-cape!"
  • Bands: Little Feat (the old stuff, with Lowell George -- remember, I'm a hippie!)
  • Plays: "On the Razzle" by Tom Stopppard, because I saw it at the National Theater in London while in college, it was the first "real" theater I had been to, and it starred Felicity Kendal. Not very highbrow reasoning, is it?
  • Singer: Eva Cassidy, gone too soon

Huckabee vows to continue campaign

Oh, this is gonna be good .....

Huckabee vows to continue campaign

(CNN) — Mike Huckabee said Thursday he will continue his quest for the Republican nomination, and directly appealed for support from backers of Mitt Romney’s now suspended presidential bid.

"As a true authentic, consistent, conservative, I have a vision to bring hope, opportunity and prosperity to all Americans, and I'd like to ask for and welcome the support of those who had previously been committed to Mitt," Huckabee said in a statement.

Hasn't he reached the "magic number" yet, where it's mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination?

I particularly enjoyed his statement, "I have a vision to bring hope, opportunity and prosperity to all Americans." "Cause you know, he totally means all of us -- except, of course, gays, lesbians, non-Christians, immigrants, and AIDS victims ... you know, basically anyone who's different from him and his followers.

In fact, this ironic headline from the White County News (Georgia) is just too awesome:

You know those annoying presciption drug ads? Turns out they're dishonest, too

In my household we have a joke about television's "dead hour," which is that period of time after the evening news ends but before the prime-time shows begin. If you're lucky, you can catch Jeopardy. But most often you have a choice of Entertainment Tonight, Wheel of Fortune, or Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.

Generally, this is when I go wash the dishes and put in a load of laundry.

But if you are watching t.v. during this time, you no doubt have seen the ads for various prescription drugs. You see that you can fix your blood pressure, insomnia, cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, incontinence, etc. with one simple pill. Such healthy, active people in those ads! They hike, they birdwatch, they garden, ride bicycles, they row. And you can, too! "Here's to men!" Just "Ask your doctor if [PRESCRIPTION DRUG NAME HERE] is right for you!"

Well, now it turns out at least one of those ads is a tad bit dishonest. From the New York Times:

Dr. Robert Jarvik is best known for the artificial heart he pioneered more than a quarter-century ago. Since then he had toiled in relative obscurity — until he began appearing in television ads two years ago for the Pfizer cholesterol drug Lipitor.

The ads have depicted him, among other outdoorsy pursuits, rowing a one-man racing shell swiftly across a mountain lake. “When diet and exercise aren’t enough, adding Lipitor significantly lowers cholesterol,” Dr. Jarvik says in the ad.

A Congressional committee, concerned that the Lipitor ads could be misleading, has said it wants to interview Dr. Jarvik about his role as the drug’s pitchman.

Some of the questions may involve his credentials. Even though Dr. Jarvik holds a medical degree, for example, he is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine. So what, critics ask, qualifies him to recommend Lipitor on television — even if, as he says in some of the ads, he takes the drug himself?

And, for that matter, what qualifies him to pose as a rowing enthusiast? As it turns out, Dr. Jarvik, 61, does not actually practice the sport. The ad agency hired a stunt double for the sculling scenes.

“He’s about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen,” said a longtime collaborator, Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute. “He can’t row.”


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gay Democratic voters in New York and California support Hillary

And apparently gay voters don't exist anywhere else.

O.k., whatever. I guess I'm glad the pollsters realized that we do exist and we do vote in these 2 states, anyway. I mean when you look at all the other questions asked in exist polls, sexual orientation seems like kind of an obvious topic.

From the Agenda:
Here in New York, seven percent of Democrats identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. They went for Hillary Clinton in a big way. She received 59% of the vote. Obama got 36% and Edwards 3%.

In California, four percent of Democrats identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual and Clinton’s margin was even larger. She took 60% of the vote while Obama grabbed 25% and Edwards 5%.

We’re glad the National Election Pool (a consortium formed by NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and the AP) that conducts the exit polls decided we existed yesterday, at least here in New York and in California.

However, I have a news flash for the National Election Pool. We don’t just cling to the two coasts in these two states. We’re pretty much everywhere so it would have been good to have the same question asked in every state’s exit poll this primary season and with both Democrats and Republicans.
I guess, Drama Queens that we are, some of us continue to hold out hope that John Edwards will come back to us some day .... (5%, California, really?)

Superdelegates down by one: Joe Lieberman stripped of status

It's kind of like an intervention.

Because he doesn't seem to understand that he doesn't belong in the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party doesn't want him, the Democratic State Chair has decided to strip Lieberman of his "Superdelegate" status.

From Firedoglake:

Thanks to Zell Miller, there is a rule to deal with Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman's endorsement of Republican John McCain disqualifies him as a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule, according to Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.

Miller, then a Democratic senator from Georgia, not only endorsed Republican George Bush four years ago, but he delivered a vitriolic attack on Democrat John Kerry at the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate. Lieberman will not be replaced, DiNardo said.

UPDATE: 3 Companies Indicted in Pet Food Case

This story got about 30 seconds on the morning news today, with no details given about the companies. As a pet owner, I think it deserves a little more coverage from the media. I remember all too well the anxiety of the pet food recall last year. And as a friend, I know several people who lost their pets to tainted food. Knowing that those who made money off the total disregard for the lives of our loyal companions are bring brought to justice is some small comfort.

From the AP:
Two Chinese businesses and a U.S. company were indicted Wednesday in the tainted pet food incidents that killed potentially thousands of animals last year and raised worries about products made in China.

Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co.; Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products Arts and Crafts I/E Co.; and Las Vegas-based ChemNutra Inc. were charged in two separate but related indictments.

The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received consumer reports suggesting 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating food contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine.

The indictments allege that Suzhou Textiles, an export broker, mislabeled 800 metric tons of tainted wheat gluten manufactured by Xuzhou to avoid inspection in China. Suzhou then did not properly declare the contaminated product it shipped to the U.S. as a material to be used in food, the indictment says.

It also says the shipment was falsely declared to the Chinese government in a way that would avoid a mandatory inspection of the company's plants.

"The defendants intended to deceive the Chinese government in addition to consumers," Wood said.

According to the indictment, ChemNutra picked up the melamine-tainted product at a port of entry in Kansas City, then sold it to makers of various brands of pet foods. The indictment alleges that Xuzhou added the melamine to artificially boost the protein content of the gluten to meet the requirements specified in Suzhou's contract with ChemNutra.

Wood said adding the melamine, which would allow it to pass chemical inspections for protein content, was cheaper than actually adding protein to the gluten.
UPDATE: The more I thought about that sentence in red above, the more I wondered how far-reaching this ChemNutra company's sales might be. Menu Foods buys wheat gluten from ChemNutra. The following brands are just some of the ones sold by Menu Foods. (Who by the way is suing ChemNutra.)
  • America's Choice
  • Companion
  • Co-Op Gold
  • Drs Foster & Smith
  • Food Lion
  • Giant Companion
  • Hill Country Fare
  • Nutro
  • Sophistacat
  • Wegmans

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Meanwhile: war, death, and corruption rage on

I cannot help but be distressed by the possible link between these two stories:

Fort Carson soldier dies six months after being wounded


Manufacturer in $2 Million Accord With U.S. on Deficient Kevlar in Military Helmets

You see, the Fort Carson soldier died of head wounds.

Democrats: We must work together as one party to stop McCain

The danger of John McCain is that when compared with the others in the Republican Clown Car, he almost seems almost, meh, o.k. He's not! It is imperative that if you are a Democrat, you support whomever the party nominates, for the good of the country. The worst possible scenario for this country is that Democrats disappointed in their candidate's loss of the nomination simply sit out the election in November.

Think I exaggerate about disastrous effects of a McCain presidency? Here's a glance at some of his voting history:
  • Voted NO on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction. (Apr 2001)
  • Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools. (May 1999)
  • Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996)
  • Voted YES on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. (Jul 1994)
  • Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
  • Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001)
  • Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
  • Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)
  • Voted YES on rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals. (May 1994)
  • Voted YES on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions. (Oct 2007)
  • Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005)
In addition, McCain has received the following ratings:
  • Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
  • Rated 0% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
  • Rated 33% by the HRC, indicating a mixed record on gay rights. (Dec 2006)
  • Rated 7% by the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance. (Dec 2006)
  • Rated 45% by the NEA, indicating a mixed record on public education. (Dec 2003)
Please take the time to read John McCain's entry at Wikipedia. Oh, he's a class act, all right.
  • In the 1980s, rebuked by the Senate Ethics panel for his involvement in the Keating Savings & Loan scandal.
  • 1998 he made the following joke at a Republican fundraiser: "Why is Chelsea Clinton ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno!"
  • Until his presidential run in 2000 he regularly used the word "gook" and refused to stop despite repeated requests from the Asian American community.
And if he would please stay out of my bedroom, I would gladly stay out of his. But his anti-gay votes, promoting the conservative spin to "protect the American family" scream with hypocrisy.

No one questions his bravery as a POW during the Vietnam War, and returning to civilian life must have been an incredible challenge. But soon after arriving home, McCain admits to "numerous" extramarital affairs, culminating (I assume) with his affair with a young woman named Cindy. McCain proposed to Cindy, although of course he was already married to Carol. Carol had waited for John while he was a POW, but unfortunately
Carol McCain, once a model, had been badly injured in a car wreck in 1969. The accident "left her 4 inches shorter and on crutches, and she gained a good deal of weight."
So just to get this straight, McCain returns home to find his former beautiful wife now disabled and overweight. So he begins his string of affairs, ending with the lovely Cindy Hensley. Did you know that Hensley just happens to be an heiress to a liquor fortune. How convenient for a young man pondering a run for Congress!

So Democrats, whoever wins the nomination, stay energized!

Wednesday Poetry break

From On the Pulse of Morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.


— Maya Angelou

Obama wins more states, Clinton wins the big ones

So basically we're no closer to having a Democratic nominee yet. And that's a good thing. I think the longer this primary process continues, the more energized the Democratic party becomes. What is most important next fall is that the Democrats take back the White House, whether through President Obama or President Clinton. And I believe that a huge number of people are only slightly in favor of Clinton versus Obama or Obama versus Clinton. They could voter for either candidate.

In other words, the longer we have to campaign and lobby for our candidates, the more energized we, as Democrats, become. If John McCain is indeed the Republican nominee, we're going to need that energy next fall. It's going to be nasty, folks. He's not a nice man. More on that later ...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Physics of Tatiana

Okay, here goes. One more story about the tiger attack in San Francisco, but this time from a mathematical point of view. Researchers at Northeastern University have studied the physics of the attack to answer the question: What velocity do you need to launch a 350 pound object over a 12.5 foot barrier that is 33 feet away?

From the study:
"Using simple physics, we have shown a highly possible solution as to how the tiger was able to escape its enclosure. From our calculations it was shown that a tiger only needs a little over 26 miles per hour to cross the 33 ft moat and clear the 12.5 ft high wall. From the current data that is available, a tiger can attain a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour. Hence, the current dimensions of the enclosure are not enough to ensure that a tiger will not escape."
A good analysis of the researchers' findings is at Greg Laden's Blog. After discussing some problems he has with the findings, he concludes:
I have no problem believing that this is physically possible. This is for two reasons. One, I've seen some pretty amazing leaping in cats, including large cats, and I suspect the range of jumping capacities of the large cats is unmeasured but impressive. Two, it actually happened, so in my own naive way I assume it was possible.
Based on these calculations, it is obvious that the zoo enclosure must be higher. But the question remains: why did the tiger never try to escape before this event?

CNN rushes to report first Super Tuesday results: Obama a winner ... in Indonesia!

All I can say about that kid in the picture is: Buddy, I know how you feel.

I must say, the coverage today has been fantastically bad. So let's take a look around the newsrooms, shall we?

CNN offers us "Obama the choice of Democrats in Indonesia" because, you know, it's such a good indicator of the results to come: "Seventy five percent of the nearly 100 votes cast by expatriate Americans a minute after midnight Indonesia time (12 p.m. Monday EST) went to Obama. The rest were cast in favor of Clinton, said Arian Ardie, country committee chair for Democrats Abroad .... Ardie said that Obama's time in Indonesia was part of his appeal among expatriate voters in the southeast Asian country."

Ya think?

The top story in the banner over at Huffington Post: "Hillary Coughing Fit Cuts Short Live Interview" because ... it's relevant? I could do a whole section here on the irrelevant stories being posted at Huffington Post. I don't know what's going on over there. I expect to see Billy Bush and Mary Hart writing OpEds soon.

The New York Times rightly wonders about the wisdom of having Super Tuesday on, well, Tuesday, in "Super Tuesday & American Idol."

Forbes keeps it real, with "Tuesday Morning Not So Super On Wall Street." I know the primaries are exciting and all, but please don't forget that the economy is in the toilet at the moment.

Salon takes that sentiment and runs with it in "Super Recession Tuesday."

But my personal favorite story so far today has to be the one about some ultra-enthusiastic voters: "Uh, No Super Tuesday in Wisconsin" in which a dozen or so Wisconsin voters thought all the hype about Super Tuesday meant they'd better get out and vote. Two weeks early.

Women: Working twice as hard to get just as far?

Do you think that's a sexist statement? There seems to be some truth in it if we look at the records of the Senators on the presidential campaign trail. They're all basically holding down two jobs: campaigning for president and being a Senator. But only one seems able to do both jobs effectively. Surprise. It's the woman. From The Washington Post:
Going into today's huge slate of primaries and caucuses, three senators remain in the thick of the presidential race. But since this session of Congress started last month, only one - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) - has found the time to do any actual legislating.

While neither Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) nor Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a single bill so far in 2008, Clinton has managed to introduce four. One would revise the boundaries of the Martin Van Buren Historic Site in upstate New York; one would require the Environmental Protection Agency to create a new task force to study the effects of pollution on minority and low-income groups; a third would establish a program to evaluate the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS programs.

Just sayin .... jokes about Bushes and Clintons aside, it really just might take a woman to clean up the mess we're in.

In other news, Bob Knight resigns

The surprising news this morning from the world of college basketball is the resignation of legendary coach Bob Knight. Of course, his legendary status is based on his temper, verbal abuse of players and general obnoxiousness just as much as it is for his winning career (902 games -- more than any men's coach in a major college program). The news got me to thinking about my own brief coaching career, and the lessons on winning that I learned.

I've been a sports fan from an early age, with a particular fondness for basketball. My uncle Neil was a star center for the Philadelphia Warriors during the 1950's. And when I say star, I mean it. He was leading scorer in the NBA for 3 years, and was posthumously elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990. He coached Wilt Chamberlain. He was a natural athlete.

I am tall, and relatively well coordinated. So I played basketball as a kid, because it was the only sport around for girls in pre-Title IX Virginia. I was by no means a star, but I enjoyed it. To this day, I still enjoy shooting hoops to relax.

My own coaching career was thankfully brief. For 2 years I coached an 8th grade girls basketball team while working as a special education teacher. I never ever appreciated coaches or phys ed. teachers the way I have since those 2 years.

On the face of it, I was a good fit to coach this team. The first year, most of the girls had only dribbled a basketball in P.E. class and had never played a sport competitively. There was, however, a core of 3 players who had played either on an organized team or with the boys at the outdoor courts. So they had good basic skills and were fairly confident. (They were also the ones who gave me a heart attack before my first game, all starters, missing in action just 3 minutes before tip-off because they were shaving their legs in the bathroom.)

Most of my coaching consisted of teaching fundamental skills -- no fancy plays. I had a wonderful high school student as an assistant, and by mid season we were able to play a zone defense and have a couple of very simple plays to execute. The girls felt really good about that, and worked really hard in practice. However, we only won 1 game. We came close to winning several other times, and we "won the half" a lot of times. But we played teams that were more experienced, and it showed.

I constantly asked myself, "How can I inspire my players? How many times can I gather this team in the locker room and tell them that losing makes them stronger players?"

My next season was even worse. A new teacher and I decided to co-coach, because it really is time-consuming to do it as an extra duty, and she was actually a really good basketball player. She had actually played in college. (Only later did she tell me she partied herself out of her scholarship.) I do not recommend coaching with another person.

To make matters worse, this team had no talent. If we had had the players from the year before, we could have been really good. I wished halfway through the season that I had videotaped the very first practice so that I could watch it and see how far the girls had come. "Look -- they know how to dribble with one hand now! Ha ha! Remember when they used to run with the ball? Remember when their shots couldn't even hit the backboard?" My co-coach became frustrated at the knack of athleticism of most of the girl son the team.

We won no games that season. I don't even think we won a half. The girls really got down on themselves. They started to question why they should work hard in practice. I tried everything I could to spin the positive. I wrote thrilling game summaries to be read over the morning announcements ("In a hard fought contest, the Lady Eagles came up just short. Leading scorers were ...." I stopped giving their points because the leading scorers usually only had 2 points.)

At halftime of one particularly humiliating game, my co-coach told the team she was disgusted with them, and didn't want to talk to them. She walked away. (Note to self: Apparently we're doing good cop - bad cop now.) But the team was devastated by what she said. Try as I might to say, "Look, it's a brand new game now, 0 - 0. You're as good as any of those other girls. Go out there and play the way you do in practice. Let's have fun!" They looked at me like I had two heads.

We went out for the second half, and were crushed. We lost by something like 40 points.

The bus ride home was silent. I kept second-guessing myself, wondering what I could have done differently. A couple of the girls cried. I thought, "I am the world's worst coach."

But the next morning, I saw a couple of the girls in the hallway. They were wearing their jerseys, and they were laughing and holding their heads up high. They were proud to be on a team, with a sense of belonging (not a small thing in middle school.) They asked me could we have practice before school, too. They told me they had an idea for a cool play we should try.

They had moved on from the loss the night before, much more so than I had. I realized that --trite as it sounds -- it really isn't about winning, and that losing really does make you a stronger person. I don't know if any of those girls remember how to set a pick, but they taught me the lesson of a lifetime.

Happy birthday to Christopher Guest

Genius, pure genius.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What were you doing in college?

Don't worry, I'm not about to go all-Hillary, all-the-time on you. But I did think this was an interesting speech that Hillary Clinton gave as the student commencement speaker at Wellesley College in 1969. Many of her detractors like to say she's stretching the truth to say at she's been involved in the issues for "35 years." But in this speech it's clear that she's already been very busy learning the issues and getting involved as a college student. And by my calculation that's 39 years.

From the introductory remarks:
... she is a major in political science and a candidate for the degree with honors. In four years she has combined academic ability with active service to the College, her junior year having served as a Vil Junior, and then as a member of Senate and during the past year as President of College Government and presiding officer of College Senate.

Hat tip to Amy for sending me the link. If anyone has a similar insight into Barack Obama's early years, please send it to me, too, and I'll post it here. (But please note, I'm not looking for a memoir of his early years, such as his bestselling books. I'm looking from something he said at the time.)

Hillary Rodham Clinton's student commencement speech 1969

Voters react to one Democratic nominee: What does it tell us?

Well I got my feet wet Saturday morning, jumping into the political pool. I signed up to help with the Hillary Clinton campaign in Maryland for a "statewide bumper sticker visibility" day. A group of us stood outside a local supermarket with a dual purpose of handing out "Hillary for President" stickers and getting volunteers for a phone bank this week. I will tell you right off that we sucked at getting any volunteers. I guess none of us were the right people for that job, as we all agreed that (a) we hate calling, and (b) we hate even more when we are called by phone banks.  But we did give out massive numbers of stickers which many many folks slapped ont0 their coats and jackets to increase the visibility of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Most interesting to me was the response we got from voters. Of course this is completely unscientific, and based on anecdotal evidence, but my conclusion and prediction for the Democratic nomination is ... anybody's guess!

You see, any preconceptions I had about who would be receptive to the sticker was thrown out immediately. Middle-aged white women often responded with a comment about Monica Lewinsky, or some such silliness. A lot of African Americans, of all ages said, "Sure, can I have two?" A middle-aged white man said "Yeah, sure, I like her. She's all right!" And plenty of young white women just made a smirky face and walked on by.

So if you think you know who's going to win the nomination, good for you. (Put some money on it if you're so sure!) But here in Maryland, it's still anybody's game. We vote next Tuesday, Feb. 12, so I'll be watching tomorrow's Super Tuesday results, but no longer with a feeling of irrelevance.