Saturday, February 27, 2010

American justice

Maybe it shouldn't, but this from the Houston Chronicle really shocks me:
Behind armed guards and locked doors — in a secret hearing of judicial privacy not even given to some 9/11 terrorists or East Coast mafia dons — Osiel Cardenas Guillen, one of the most feared drug lords in history, was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday.

Read it all here. What has happened to the concept of open trial in this country? Just because the principals want something kept secret, the public should be able to know what is happening in our courts. At least the paper put up a fuss about this. Osiel Cardenas's lawyer was Mike Ramsey, who defended Enron's Ken Lay and the nutso real estate heir Robert Durst, among other eminent accused.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Try to behave like a decent dog

In a post on the Scientific American Web site, a discussion of dog morality:
Every dog owner knows a pooch can learn the house rules—and when she breaks one, her subsequent groveling is usually ingratiating enough to ensure quick forgiveness. But few people have stopped to ask why dogs have such a keen sense of right and wrong. Chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates regularly make the news when researchers, logically looking to our closest relatives for traits similar to our own, uncover evidence of their instinct for fairness. But our work has suggested that wild canine societies may be even better analogues for early hominid groups—and when we study dogs, wolves and coyotes, we discover behaviors that hint at the roots of human morality.

Read the whole thing here.It's an interesting synthesis of things any attentive dog person has observed about the furrier packmates.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Naked guys dancing

But it's not what you would expect. Click here. It's Swedish guys dancing, dressed only with large loaves of flat bread. Go on … it's a scream.

Cranks I can get

John Paul Roberts is a vintage right-winger, but a guy I sometimes find sympathetic.
Social Security, formerly an untouchable “third rail of politics,” is now “unsustainable,” while the real unsustainables--a pre-1929 unregulated financial system and open-ended multi-trillion dollar Global War Against Terror--are the new untouchables. This transformation signals the complete capture of American democracy by an oligarchy of special interests.

Read all here. I worry about Social Security. The gummint as presently constituted seems to need the money to siphon off for big banks and the likes of Goldman Sachs. I'm finding a blurring between what constitutes right and left in the U.S. today. It was Ron Paul who proposed letting the Wall Street bankers fail and said that we should just leave Iraq.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Heroic heeler

Wife found this story about a dog saving a little girl in Arizona. We have suggested to our little blue dog that she might pursue the heroic life on some modest scale beyond trying to herd children and smaller animals. Once again, dogs prove that dogs are the best.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Austin plane crash

From an old and dear who works near the building that got hit:
'Not too close, but a little close for comfort! Not the FBI office, as earlier reported, but bldg next to it. My friend Patrick's cousin said he saw the plane flying very low and then suddenly bank into the bldg.'
And that's all I know, except what's on the TV. This story from local Austin TV station.
Later: Ahhh, now we got a likely perpetrator. Here's his catalogue of grievances. Mad as hell and wasn't going to take it any more. Apparently aiming for the IRS office.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

For better Internet advertising

Guy who sends me stuff sends me this:
HEMA is a Dutch department store. The first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam . Now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands .
Take a look at HEMA's product page - just wait a couple of seconds and watch what happens.
DON'T click on any of the items in the picture, just wait.
This company has a sense of humour and a great computer programmer, who has too much time on his hands.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dog days of Feb

We took the nasty little rat dog in today to the vet's. He hadn't lost some of his milk teeth; when he snarled – not infrequent – he looked like a shark, what's with the extra teeth. He had three extracted, and it will no doubt improve his smile if not his disposition.
And, in the livingroom, herself is watching the Westminster Dog Show. I'd make some unkind observations about the Westminster. First, the little narratives about each breed must have been written by a press agent. It's a Lake Wobegon thing – they're all above average, intelligent, fiercely loyal, courageous, &c, &c. It always tickles me to see the dogs acting like dogs in the course of showing, wanting to stop and sniff, the game dogs jumping salty with each other. Makes one hope there's some genuine canine left in the poor, overbred beasts, and that they'd be happy to roll in dead hardhead catfish on the bayfront. The other observation I'd make is that most of the professional dog people are unattractive – many of the women dowdy or sour looking, the men prissy. I'm sorry. Like to hope that association with dogs would somehow improve our breed. Late news flash: The Scottie just won best in show. Wife is disappointed; she was cheering for the whippet. One of my all-time favorite stories was covering a border collie competition at Manor maybe 25 years ago. Border collies are simply amazing in their intelligence and focus.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Saint Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year, observed by many Asians. I'm sorry I had no way to wangle an invitation to the local Vietnamese social center for their Tet celebration. I went one year acting qua reporter but ate the great food qua guy who likes to eat great food. About a week ago, I was in a little Asian market in Rockport buying coconut milk and like that and the proprietor showed me a stack of little red envelopes, said she was selling a bunch of them because of the coincidence of New Year and Valentine's Day. On Lunar New Year, you're supposed to give gifts of money and gifts of money are supposed to come in red envelopes.
The best little gig I ever had was writing restaurant reviews for Third Coast mag in Austin. They gave us 150 bucks a month and expected about five reviews per month. We were expected to pay for the meals out of the $150. One year, we all got an invite to go to a big Chinese restaurant for the Lunar New Year celebrations. It was some fantastic food and a chance to get a little peek at someone else's world for a couple of hours. Lots of red envelopes passed out to the employees.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just stuff I had lying around

From some blog: "H.L. Mencken’s words come to mind: 'We must respect the other fellow’s religion but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.'
And a comment from Calculated Risk: "There would be no Quakers unless there were short tempered Baptists to protect them."
And I dunno where i got this one: "We assigned one of our most experienced investigators that I have the upmost faith in." Another one of those close-but-no-cigar shots at a word. 'Upmost' makes more sense to most people … What's ut, Doc?
And this little gift from a story on 1A of the Sunday Vicad: 'Though, she deflects the awes.' A sentence that makes me go 'Huh?'

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sea serpent?

Go to this posting on the estimable ScienceBlogs and watch the video of the oarfish, a creature that may grow to thirty feet and that lives in our very own Gulf. While you're there on Scienceblog, wander around and learn something you never knew. It's a cool place.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So ...

We got a nice little playground down on the bayfront. I mentioned it a few days ago. One of the features was a tetherball set-up. First day it was up, there was a young father swatting the ball around with his little girl. Pleasant thing to have here, nice to see them having a good time. People have always brought their kids down to the older swings a few hundred yards west on the bayfront park, but the new stuff was better. The ball was gone from the tetherball set within two days. There's a pretty sizeable set of people here that subscribe to the if-nobody's-watching-it's-up-for-grabs philosophy of property ownership. It's way beyond angering. Watching TV, I often get the feeling that the US has given itself over to acceptance – even admiration – of trashy people, and I suppose little towns aren't excepted. The rude, the coarse, the selfish are in the ascendancy in our world from top to bottom.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eases my mind

I'm not a real solid gummint hater. The gummint does a lot of things for me that I can't do for myself, and local-level govt is a real bargain, what's with roads and police and libraries and water and stuff like that. Notwithstanding, I find myself oddly cheered by the news that Washington, D.C., is totally shut down by snow. They won't be doing any mischief for a few days at least.
The SCOTUS made a bad ol decision with regards to corporation as person and in doing so went aginst the policy of stare decisis that says courts should leave alone past decisions. If corps are people, then let us invoke the death penalty for corps that are guilty of egregious sins against the public good.
A Brit columnist, Johann Hari, has some cogent thoughts on the subject:
None of the crises facing us all – from the global banking system to global warming – can be dealt with if a tiny number of super-rich corporations have a veto over every inch of progress. If Obama funks this challenge, he may as well put the US government on e-Bay – and sell it to the highest bidder. How would we spot the difference?

Read it all here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sat night misc

And while we're staggering down Memory Lane, try this version of 'One Toke Over the Line.' Go on, click it.
And then, one joke over the line:
Dining Choices as We Get Older
A group of 40-year-old buddies discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen restaurant, because the waitress's there have low-cut blouses and nice breasts.
Ten years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again, and once again they discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen, because the food there is very good and the wine selection is good also.
Ten years later, at 60 years of age, the group meets again, and once again they discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen, because they can eat there in peace and quiet, and the restaurant is smoke free.
Ten years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again, and once again they discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen, because the restaurant is wheelchair accessible, and they even have an elevator.
Ten years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again, and once again they discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Gausthof zum Lowen, because that would be a great idea, since they have never been there before.

Grooooan. There goes that evil ageism. Most of the old-people jokes I get are sent by my contemporaries. A guy I used to know said that old is ten years older than you are. I have a friend who is 86 or 87. He is engaged with life, has friends and a dog that is dear to him, plays cards and wins, likes the company of family members (but not too damn much of it), fishes, cooks and eats with pleasure and drinks a little vino with his meals, and has considered opinions about the world. He's my hero, and I want to be him when I grow up.
Then, a nameless soul still mired in the morass at the Vicad sends along a piece in the Miami Herald on the problems of copy-editing as experienced at that paper: 'Today's copy editors are multitaskers who design pages, pick wire stories and process them for the Web -- all in addition to the traditional duties of line-editing, trimming to perfectly fill space and writing headlines.' Civilians don't understand how much work is done by the paper's copy editors. Read all that piece here. Copy editors are almost completely anonymous. You'll seldom read the names of copy editors, but good ones can shortstop a world of blunders and make smooth reading out of ragged writing. Unfortunately, bad ones can put in more errors than they excise, put misleading headlines on stories, or cut stories in a way that confuses the reader, even if the stories were written clearly.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Misremembering the Sixties

The Boomers and their worship of the Sixties can be remarkably grating. All the years I lived in Austin I listened to enough aging-out hipsters endlessly, tiresomely, rehashing the glory days. Apparently younger people are tired of listening to the recitations and have begun to suspect some of the stories. The Onion attributes the gaudier memories to Alzheimer's:
"I was washing dishes at Alice's Restaurant when Lt. William Calley ran in and shot Bobby McGee Kennedy right there in front of me," said 66-year-old Jacob Schwartz, a participant in the study who suffers from Alzheimer's. "It was the hottest Summer of Love on record, which was probably why all the blacks were playing in the fire hoses. They were having such a good time! We all were!"

Read it all here.

What is that?

The air had a strange tint today, kinda yellow, and the sky was a color I've almost forgotten. In other words, the sun finally came back and damn welcome. We have lakes in the yard. My village has built a little playground down by the seawall. It opened today and found immediate favor with local people. I'll download more pix from the camera later.
We got notice this week that the census wants us to work the big count. The media are promoting the hiring for the census as a big boost for the unemployment situation in this country. Given what they pay and the duration of the work, it's more like a couple extra bucks for a little trip or a crowned tooth. I've learned of three people working for the census, all backed into a corner by circumstances. It won't be a career for anyone, just a gap-filler.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Then, look at this

Noodling around, I stumbled onto this site with pictures of typical facial types from all around Europe. You can look around the pix for people who look like kinfolks. I'd have to say that the people who look most like my Upland Southerner tribe were the folks we saw on the streets in Ireland. I expect that I am more Scots-Irish than anything, so it's not surprising that the Celts of Ireland look right. Beyond the physical resemblance, the Irish have a way of communicating by kidding that is very familiar and comfortable. Their first response in any encounter was often a joke, and they responded nimbly when answered in kind. I love people who'll kid with you. Someday, we'll have go to Ulster to see if the people there are not even more familiar.