Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, people.

Point of View
by Shel Silverstein

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
Christmas dinner's dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fair warning for the squeamish: this video includes Sarah Palin. Oh, and turkeys being killed on live television. The combination of the two is enough to make one ill...

Clearly, the handlers who scripted her appearances during the campaign are long gone. But you'd think that someone would have looked at the setup for this particular "presser" and stopped things to rearrange. It's a stunning moment of stupidity. And hopefully, a reminder for some folks of how turkeys make it to their tables. :)

p.s.- this clip is spreading like absolute wildfire. i love it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Congratulations to Dustin Pedroia, American League MVP for 2008. Another honor well deserved, to go along with the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. I think I speak for many when I thank the baseball gods for finally giving the Red Sox a world class second baseman.

And also a congratulations to Yooooooooouk, who finished third in the MVP voting and was (in my opinion) only kept from another Gold Glove because he kept having to move from first to third and back to first, and back to third.

If I may speak for just a second specifically to Theo Epstein: Theo, you've got to pay these gents whatever they ask. Pay the men!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today wasn't the most red letter of days. I'll just leave it at that. And to add to the increasing mound of evidence that I'm not a young man, I self-medicated by watching multiple episodes of How I Met Your Mother and some Boston Legal. Ah well.

But it could be worse. Citi layed off 52,000 people today. This on top of 17,000 earlier in the year. Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA holds 68,746 people. In other words, the former Citi employees will not be able to rent out a football stadium in order to hold a reunion. That's a little crazy, don't you think?

Anyone else waiting to hear their other shoe drop?

Man, I could use a drink.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

While I'm interested to see the new James Bond movie that opened this weekend, I have to admit, what I'm really excited to see is the new Star Trek movie trailer that's premiering with it (as I write this, only the teaser is available on the website- the trailer will be online officially 11/17). The idea of re-imagining the Star Trek mythology is, I think, exciting. I'd felt for a while that the series had seemed to run its course, at least where the movies were concerned. TNG didn't seem to carry the same energy it had as a TV series into the movies, and none of the other TV series seemed to me to be worthy of a stand alone movie. So maybe this will be the kick in the pants to get things moving again. We can hope, right?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nationwide, thousands and thousands of people turned out today to show their disgust with the removal of the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California, and the preemptive limiting of the civil right to marry of gays and lesbians in other states. Here in Champaign, about 100 people gathered in Campustown to lend their voices to the protest. It was a cold, windy day, but there was a great energy, and I feel a great hope that this event is the beginning of a change in attitudes. This is change we want, change we hope for, change we can most definitely believe in.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I am, most certainly, running out of steam as it relates to NaBloPoMo. Which makes me sad, a little. But things have been so busy, or hectic, or worrisome, that the urge to blog hasn't possessed me much. I took my math assessment test last night, and while I'm certainly not on the path to being a mathematician, I'm happy with the results, and I can now register for class, and get things moving on that front. I'm still employed, which is a good sign, for now. There's a slight chance of snow showers for tomorrow, but if the precipitation holds off, I should have some pictures to post tomorrow from the Champaign-Urbana Join The Impact protest, which I'm hoping gets a good turnout (go here to find the protest nearest you!). But right now, I'm going to wrap up that work day (ha!), and go get me a beer. Or two. Big ones.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seeing the Forest actually beat me to what I was going to post about today, but I'll go on anyways.

I was struck as I was reading about venerable credit card company American Express declaring itself a bank in hopes of getting a piece of the federal bailout plan. Does anyone else see the absurdity of this? A credit card company- a company that built its business by convincing ever increasing numbers of people to spend ever increasing amounts of money they didn't have; a company that had a division of financial advisers who worked knee deep in the complex financial derivatives that everyone now understands caused this mess we're in- all of a sudden, weeks after the bailout plan is passed, decides that it wants in. Not only is this unethical, all it's going to do is dig a deeper hole; just as with all the other banks, American Express will horde the cash to allow it to increase its share value, to please its shareholders, which now includes you and me. Ironic- I can't get an American Express card, yet I'll soon be a shareholder, like it or not.

The conventional wisdom that the government is putting forth is that by propping up banks and companies like AIG, these companies will in turn do the "right thing" and push that money out to the (and you'll forgive me for this, i hope) "Joe Six Packs" of the world, thus keeping the economy moving. The problem? Companies have no incentive whatsoever to do this "right thing"- not now, not ever! By definition, companies have to take care of their shareholders first, and then their stakeholders. They are not moral actors, because moral actions do nothing for them- the pleasure of a job well done means nothing if the share price doesn't go up. The only reason companies do anything in the public good is because the government tells them to. How? Cover the children's ears- by regulation! To ask them to do the right thing is foolhardy, and Hank Paulson knows it- that's why we're saddled with this plan to begin with- his buddies get rich, and the rest of us are screwed as we're told to wait for the "trickle down" effect.

It's simple- the average person's discretionary money is disappearing, if not non-existant at this point. Because wages in the office are stagnant, families can't go out to dinner every Friday night. Because families aren't going to dinner every Friday night, restaurants are being forced to cut back on staff, and eventually close. And if those waiters don't have tip money to spend at the box stores, the box stores see their revenues drop and the holding companies that own them shut them down. Which means that all those employees won't be able to go on vacation to the beach, because they're on unemployment. Which means that the high school kids working at the beach front resort will be laid off because of lack of customers, so they won't be able to pay to go to college. And it goes on, and on, and on... And it's all because the companies are watching their bottom line so that their shareholders are happy and hold (and hopefully buy more of) their stock.

And so we've created this massive imbalance in the economy. And smarter people than I (hopefully the fine folks on President-elect Obama's economic team) are coming up with ideas on how to restore the balance. I certainly hope they hurry, because I sit at my desk every day, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'd rather it didn't.

P.S.- there's a fantastic article at Portfolio that follows some of the people on Wall Street who knew the house of cards built on C.D.O.s and bad mortgages, and bet against it. It's a really long, in depth article, but it's well worth the time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just who is Horatio T. Kitty?

I was feeling unwell today- not well enough stay in bed all day, but unwell enough that the prospect of curling up on the couch was far more appealing than being in the office. The problem with working from home is, the guilt is too great. So I tried to balance the two. Horatio was in his standard napping position, as seen above; at first, he was annoyed by my presence, but then he seemed concerned. I told him my troubles and he gave me a supportive pat on the hand. He offered to tell me a story; I gladly accepted. I have no idea if any of the following is true (as cats are well known for their stretchings of truths), but I'll let you decide for yourself.

We've always wondered why Horatio gets so wound up as we are going to bed, yet takes no notice of us as he naps through the day. It turns out, he's no ordinary cat. No, at night, he becomes El Gato Misterioso, famed forensic accountant!

You might say to yourself, as I did, "Wait, forensic accounting has always seemed to be a pretty boring job. And why would he be doing it at night?" It turns out, the public perception of forensic accounting is nothing but a clever ruse. The real job is as dangerous as 007, as hair raising as a ride at Rocky Point, and as cool as Shaft.

Horatio told me about the night when he discovered that Enron's dirty little secret. He was sneaking around their accountants' headquarters, doing a routine check on their SEC compliance work, when he came upon a room filled with triple-cut shreddings. Never one to turn down a good time, he began to dart around the room, diving and rolling in the shreddings, as he is wont to do. He was cleaning himself of the paper afterwards when he realized that he was standing on an unsteady pile of as yet unshredded reports. And right on top, he found the evidence that the books had indeed been cooked.

At just that moment, several three ring binders lalden with 10-K backup came flying through the air, and Horatio had to duck out of the way. Papers went flying everywhere as the pile he had been sitting on collapsed to the ground. He bolted past the late shift accountants who were trying to grab him, and darted out the fire escape door just as the staples began to fly through the air. He then stopped at a ladyfriend's house on the way home, but discretion forbade him from giving me the full scoop on that.

I was shocked, to say the least. First, that my opinion of forensic accountants had been changed so dramatically, and second, that my cat, my dear friend, was engaged in such a high stakes game of, um, cat and mouse? Whatever you want to call it, I begged him to be careful; to wear those little nubby finger things when turning pages so as to avoid paper cuts; to wear a staple proof vest; to do everything possible to keep harm from befalling him. But he would hear none of it. For the life of El Gato Misterioso is one of living on the edge; because that is the only place to find the evildoers.....

To be continued???

(thanks, gladcow. ;))
Keith Olbermann, as usual, has words far more powerful than I for those who supported Prop. 8 in California. Feel free to have a hanky handy.

And I quote:

You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

That's exactly what it comes down to. We are so often counseled to lift up our fellow man or woman; why would we do the opposite when it comes to love?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A list. And a request.

So, ten days into NaBloPoMo, and I'm struggling for ideas. So I need your help. What are you burning to know about me? Or about anything? Seen an interesting meme lately? Help me fill some space!

brixton wants to know what my favorite (or least favorite) aspect of living in the lovely Champaign-Urbana area is.

Well, there's an answer for both. My favorite aspect thus far, I think, has been the people. I've met a lot of cool and interesting people, both within the university community and without. For all my grumbling about being stuck at home all day, it's been nice to meet a bunch of folks who I enjoy spending time with when I can get out of the apartment. I mean heck, I've even joined a bowling league! It's made this adventure a lot easier on a day to day basis.

Least favorite thing? Driving. It seems strange to complain about driving in a town where no one on TV or radio ever gives a traffic report, but it's true. And I'll be honest, a good bit of it can be laid at the feet of the university students. They either drive poorly or recklessly, and they walk as though the combustion engine hasn't been invented yet. And then there's the people on bicycles. And I say this as someone who is a big advocate of bicycles. On a daily basis, I watch bicycle blow through red lights, attempt to pass me on the right (at speed) at intersections when I'm turning right, and my personal favorite, ride on the sidewalk. It's no wonder that when I'm on my bike, I see drivers watch me with a combination of fear and annoyance; they can't anticipate that someone on a bike will act as though they are a part of traffic. All things considered, I'm much happier when I can walk somewhere here in town.

So thanks for the question, brixton! Who's next?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Knitting. And algebra.

Some weekends are full of football and beer; naps on the couch and comfort food. Not this weekend, although the weather certainly called for all of these and more. No, this weekend I took a different tack.

That's me, knitting (MEtC couldn't resist taking a picture...) Regular readers will remember when I bought this yarn, more than a year ago. Well, after a few fitful starts, I finally got a few rows done, and was working along happily when we realized that I was not knitting the rib I thought I was doing, but was, in fact, doing a seed stitch. Which led to a complete frogging and re-imagining of the project. Instead of trying to do a three-in-one balaclava combination, I've decided to just do a two in one hat/neckwarmer combo. We'll see how this attempt goes. Maybe next year, you'll get to see a finished product. :)

I spent a good part of the rest of the weekend studying algebra, so the first time in 15 some odd years. See, I've developed an ambition to go back to school, to study economics. I love the subject, and enjoy dorking out about it endlessly. The hiccup in the plan from the beginning has been the mathematical component. I've never been what you would call a "math person", and in fact my last math class was a trigonometry class with Mr. Ossman back during my junior year of high school. I had not, until recently, ever looked back. Well, that's got to change, so I've decided to put my toes back in the water by taking a math class or two at the local community college. In order to do this, I've got to take a math assessment test. It was in reviewing the materials for the assessment test that I realized just how out of practice I was. So I spent several hours at the library today, trying to stretch out the math muscles. We shall see what sort of outcome I come up with...

Now, if you don't mind, I've got to get back to my Nature special on monkeys.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Well that didn't take long...

8 days in, and I already missed a post! Well, I'm not giving up. I will operate under the assumption that I can eek in by making 30 posts (or more!), regardless of the calendar. :)

We saw Zack and Miri Make A Porno last night. Up front, I'll admit that Clerks is one of my favorite movies of all time. However, like most people, I'd worried that Kevin Smith had gone a bit soft in his old age. Well, Zack and Miri have disabused me of that notion. I walked in expecting a Judd Apatow- style movie, and walked out having seen the movie that I wish Judd Apatow would make. It was hilarious, raunchy, sweet, and dorky. Oh, and raunchy. Also, one of the best uses of music in any film I've seen in a while. I give it two enthusiastic big toes up.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Not my America.

My America does not pass laws, or amend their constitutions, to prevent people from participating in a state-sponsored institution just because of who they love.

My America doesn't preach smaller government and personal responsibility out of one side of their mouths and turn around and tell 18,000 couples in California that they are now divorced, or tell thousands of kids waiting for foster homes in Arkansas that they're going to have to keep waiting because the loving couples that want to take them in aren't married; many of them because the state won't allow them to.

My America made a huge step forward by electing Barack Obama. But my America is sliding down a slick path of intolerance again, and it needs to find some traction quick and head back up the regain the real moral high ground. We all remember the founding fathers saying that everyone is created equal, right? The pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? Just checking. Now let's get on it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cop out post

Exhausted. Bowled terribly tonight. Not two brain cells to rub together to make a coherent post out of. Promise to do better tomorrow.

Wow. Seriously. I'm agog. Way to go, America.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Twelve more little hours.

I had this long winded post dreamed up to explain to the world why I voted for Barack Obama on the first day of early voting here in Illinois (yay early voting!), but sitting here, with twelve hours until the polls open, I know you don't care- there will be plenty of time for the analysis after the election.

But I can't make a completely election-free post here. Just a little while ago, Obama gave his first rally since news broke that his grandmother passed away. Here's a video:

I'm going to be completely honest; I cried like a baby watching that clip. My grandmother passed away in August, and the hurt still hasn't completely faded. I can only imagine his pain at this time when I'm sure every nerve is rubbed raw. My thoughts are with he and his family.

I implore you to do your research and get out and vote tomorrow. I don't really care who you vote for (well, I do, but you know what I mean), just that you vote. Even if you don't think your vote matters in the presidential election, remember that there are referendums and locall races that will effect you on a daily basis for years to come. Your vote does matter there- every single vote matters there. The political process as a whole can't be changed unless people like you stand up and speak.

So please vote- and don't come bitching to me about politics and politicians if you don't. I don't want to hear it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Hallow's

Last night was costume night for MEtC and I. My costume? A slight re-imagining of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space:

See, Bill was fired after Milton set the building on fire and ran off with the money. So now he's the part-time afternoon Assistant General Manager at Chotchkie's, and, mmm, yeah, he does have to work on Saturdays. But he does wear more than the minimum amount of flair.

There was an alarming moment, when I went to put on the pants that went with the costume, pants that I'd worn just a couple of months ago, and they didn't fit- clearly my chubby butt needs to be in better shape. Now that I've admitted this to the world, I may actually follow through on that. :)

I know, I know, I need a pithy political post before the election- that'll come tomorrow.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Eeep- I haven't the time!

I've been quite busy today putting together my costume for the big party tonight, so I haven't got the time to do a complete blog post today. I promise a big, full post tomorrow, hopefully with pictures!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ooooooh- it's coming!

Hey kids! NaBloPoMo starts tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited! Especially since I've been a terrible blogger lately, and have fallen behind on my Street Art Thursdays, and political rants, and Albums You Should Own, food pron, and strange and interesting videos. It's all coming back with a vengeance, so watch this space!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Street Art Thursday returns!

It has been far, far too long!

Today's work comes from FilthyLuker :

I like thinking that the trees, they watch out for us. :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

New favorite radio station.

So last weekend was the Taste of Champaign-Urbana- despite a nearly complete lack of vegan options (I sampled some hummus and a samosa, which pretty much covered it), it was a pretty enjoyable afternoon out.

Something struck me as we wandered the business vendors though- at one tent, there was one radio company represented, with all of their stations' promotional vans behind them. You had the country station, the classic rock station, the "alternative" station, and the top 40 station. Across the lawn was the area's other major radio company, with their vans parked behind their tent as well- and you guessed it, there was the country station, the classic rock station, the "alternative" station, and the top 40 station. This seemed to me to be the most perfect illustration of why I hate commercial radio with a white hot passion.

To this end, I've been playing around with Pandora a lot lately. I've got an indie/shoegazer station, an early 90's college radio station and a Pixies-inspired rock station.

But one of the ones I've been working on the most is a station that combines some folk, some "no depression" country, some classic Cash/Williams country, and bluegrass. This is what I consider to be my "summer music"- it always reminds me of being at a really good festival, sitting on the grass somewhere. But it's a pain, because Pandora keeps trying to sneak some bullsh*t pop county in there. So it requires a lot of skipping and disapproval.

Fast forward to yesterday. I gave MEtC a ride to the airport in Bloomington, as she was headed off to the big ALA conference in Anaheim. And yeah, I do miss her already. :) Anyways, on the ride home, I was scanning the FM for something decent to listen to, since I was a good half hour out of the range of my normal C-U non-commercial stations. And then I happened upon something strange and wonderful. I happened upon WWHP.

At the exact moment I tuned in, they were playing the first half of Luther Wright & The Wrongs' Rebuild the Wall, a song for song bluegrass-y reinterpretation of Pink Floyd's The Wall, in its entirety. I was frankly a little stunned. What sort of station was this??? Well, it was exactly the station I'd been trying to program in Pandora, that's what. A country station whose idea of country was more Hank Williams and Hank Williams III than Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn. And for good measure, they throw in blues, bluegrass, folk and gospel. And all from a little old station in the middle of Farmer City, IL. What's not to love?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Despite all my posings, I'm at heart an optimist. Which means that despite the fact that the wingnuts of California recently got a "Marriage Protection Amendment" onto the ballot, I feel like yesterday's pictures of overjoyed couples celebrating their love have got to penetrate even the most homophobic hearts. I mean, how can you not look at this picture and go "awwwww", I ask you?

It's my fervent hope that California and Massachusetts are the future- a future where two adults who love each other can get married if they want to, regardless of age, sex, or race.

Funny enough, I was flipping through my copy of the Intellectual Devotional- American History yesterday afternoon (it's excellent bathroom reading, highly recommended), and happened upon the page about a letter written by George Washington to the head of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI, who had written him in 1790 to congratulate him on his selection as president. The two men exchanged excitement about the great American experiment, and a belief that this new nation represented a new highwater mark in religious freedom- a country where other religions were not just tolerated, but embraced as being part of its fabric.

There is one passage in the letter that struck me like a ton of bricks- although it is referring directly to religious freedom, it seems to me to be more sweeping than that- it's a statement of what liberty in the new United States meant, and what it should mean to all of us now as well, whether we're talking about religious freedom or equal rights:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens. (emphasis added)
This is a founding father speaking- he saw no reason to deny any one law abiding citizen the rights accorded to another citizen (putting aside the narrow definition of citizenship at that time). It blows my mind when wingnuts and Repugs invoke the founders, and their religion, and try to extrapolate their "intentions" to suit their purposes, when the concept of "natural rights" Washington invokes here is written right into the frickin' Declaration of Independence- "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", anyone? The founders intended all American citizens to have the exact same rights.

So in the end, the judges that have seen discrimination in the treatment of marriage in California and Massachusetts are not "legistlating from the bench", as some would have you believe- they're channeling the true intentions of the founders of this country. And I for one thank them. We are, as a society, finally moving away from just "tolerating" differences in sexual orientation, and towards embracing the rights of all of our citizens. George would approve, I like to think.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

If I had $400...

I'd buy me one of these! It's a pipe dream, to be sure, but it seems like the ultimate tool to convert your bike into your everyday vehicle. And dig the accessories page- it has an optional bicycle powered blender attachment! Insane.

Anyhow, back in the real world... Ordered a new helmet and the slicks that Cycho Librarian suggested- waiting for the rack I want to be in stock, and still shopping for panniers. I had put off fenders, but after having no choice but to go through a couple of puddles yesterday (we got absolutely dumped on the other night), I'm reconsidering at least a front one. Oh, and I got a kickstand! It's the little things that make me happy. :)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rube Goldberg Friday

We have found the only suitable use for a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Where would the world be without engineering students, I ask you???

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My name is Steve, and I'm a Vegan!

I can't believe I've never posted this video before! Crazy! Anyways, enjoy!

from the good folks at Olde English.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How lazy can you be?

I admit, I've gotten lazy over the past six months. Sure, I've been carpenting, yogaing, hanging out with friends, and working, but the lazy part is that I've been driving to do almost all of that. And it finally struck me like a brick to the forehead the other day- in no small part because I saw a gas sign with the numbers $3.89 on it.

In taking a look at my regular trips, only two- going to the scene shop and the "regular" (read: non co-op) grocery store actually necessitate a car. The rest can be accomplished on foot, by bus, or on bike. As much as I like my bike, it's a mountain bike, not built for practicality. So I'm going to have to ugly it up a little. The to-do list:

Kickstand. Although I appreciate the aesthetic look of no kickstand, it's a real pain in the ass when you're chaining the bike up, or even just parking it in the house.
Storage unit. I'll wear my backpack if I have to, but it's impractical for a co-op trip, for example. Probably just get some sort of double basket on the back wheel.
Fenders. I don't mind riding in the rain, but I'm not enamoured of getting soaked from below in the process.
Tires. I'm torn on this, because the knobby tires I have are nice in the wet. But I'm not riding off road, so when it's dry, they're really more of a hindrance than anything.

Not that any of you care about any of this. :) I just want to make sure that I've got a reminder out there somewhere of the stuff I need to get done. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Omnibus Cultural Post

This was originally going to be a street art post about the amazing Blu, but I got to thinking about all the other neat-o artsy stuff I always tell myself I should post about, but don't. So join me, won't you, as I go careening through the art appreciation portion of my brain. Hands and feet inside the cart, please!

Street Art:
The aforementioned Blu has just released a mind boggling new animation:

Also, I've posted some of Mark Jenkins' stuff before, but I happened across his Storker project when I was looking at some other stuff, and I was thoroughly amused.

Through Smile Politely, I became aware of Jane Boxall, marimbaist extraordinaire, and I'm just enthralled. Spend a few minutes on her page, and you'll get what I mean. The sound she gets out of it is so mesmerizing. I haven't caught her live yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

No matter how deeply I get into the Sonic Youths and Broken Social Scenes of the world, I've always got a soft spot for folksy sounds (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) and traditional instruments. And it just so happens that occasional commenter Andrea Simms-Karp from No More Decorators plays such music! Her homepage has some sample tracks that are really, really good- I love me some banjo, but it takes a skilled hand to make it sound as gentle as she does. I finally got around to ordering a copy of her debut album, which I'm looking forward to immensely!

Recently, my friend Molly, of Emma's K-9 Kitchen, has started the Vegan Etsy blog, a great resource that aims to simplify Etsy shopping for those of us who try to live cruelty-free. Another occasional commenter here, chaifae, is the current featured member interviewee for her shop, Bees Knees Jewelleries. She makes some great one of a kind custom made pieces- I've bought several from her, and the recipients love them dearly.

Well, I've kept you long enough. If I've done my job, you feel a little more enriched, and have spent some money. We here at guppybork are big believers in the stimulation of the economy (and lining the pockets of our friends), so get out there and stimulate, damn you! Stimulate.....

Friday, May 09, 2008

Republicans Hate Mothers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you House Resolution 1113 of the 110th Congress:

H. Res. 1113

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

May 7, 2008.

Whereas Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of each May;

Whereas the first official Mother's Day was observed on May 10, 1908, in Grafton, West Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

Whereas 2008 is the 100th anniversary of the first official Mother's Day observation;

Whereas in 1908, Elmer Burkett, a U.S. senator from Nebraska, proposed making Mother's Day a national holiday;

Whereas in 1914, Congress passed a resolution designating the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day;

Whereas it is estimated that there are more than 82,000,000 mothers in the United States;

Whereas mothers have made immeasurable contributions toward building strong families, thriving communities, and ultimately a strong Nation;

Whereas the services rendered to the children of the United States by their mothers have strengthened and inspired the Nation throughout its history;

Whereas we honor ourselves and mothers in the United States when we revere and emphasize the importance of the role of the home and family as the true foundation of the Nation;

Whereas mothers continue to rise to the challenge of raising their families with love, understanding, and compassion, while overcoming the challenges of modern society; and

Whereas May 11, 2008 is recognized as Mother's Day: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives celebrates the role of mothers in the United States and supports the goals and ideals of Mother's Day.
    Now, the Congress spends a lot of time on seemingly meaningless stuff like this- resolutions honoring someone's golfing buddy, naming post offices, etc. If you've ever watched C-SPAN after 5pm, you have an inkling of what I mean. And they pass by overwhelming majorities, making everyone feel good that Congress has some sort of idea of what the American people are for. The resolution above is no different- there's one done for every major holiday, and they always pass unanimously. Ah, but not this time...

    The vote was initially Roll Call Number 274- a nice clean unanimous vote. But then, Minority Leader Boehner and his minions asked for a reconsideration of the vote, and another vote was taken on the exact same measure, and the original vote was rescinded. Take a look at the no votes cast on Roll Call Number 275- I'll give you a quick translation; Republican names are in italics. Why, you ask? What would cause them to make such a cold hearted decision? Pure politics.

    I understand that the Repugs are all in a tither because the Dems were obstructionist before the balance of power shifted, but come on- Mother's Day? You really want to play politics with the mothers of America? How is this supposed to make those vaunted "soccer moms" feel?

    I have two quick theories:

    1. Some industrious staffer got on the Wikipedia and discovered that in the U.S., Mother's Day was started as a way to unite all mothers against war. And we all know how much the Repugs hate people who hate war...

    2. It's part of their wider campaign to reduce the role of women in society, by removing any acknowledgement that women care for and nurture many of the country's children. Pretty soon, they'll have women reduced to birthing vessels and nothing more, which is just how the wingnuts want it...

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    Street Art Tuesday

    Geek on this:

    Bonus points to the reader who figures out the stencil (click to enlarge) before reading the article over at Torontoist. Who says taggers aren't intelligent? Definite bonus points for originality.

    Spotted via Wooster Collective.

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    I nearly forgot!

    In all of my rantings and ravings lately, I almost forgot the single most important food related development in my life in the last six months!

    I found bagels!!!

    Kafe K (sadly, they don't appear to have a real website) in Champaign, a few short blocks from where I sit right now, serves honest to goodness east coast style water bagels, with many different choices of schmears, including my favorite, peanut butter.

    I am one happy camper.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Update: Obama knows what's he's talking about

    An article on the Washinton Post's website today shows that Senator Obama is the only one of the three presidential candidates who has seen first hand what repealing a gas tax for any amount of time can do. As an Illinois state senator, he helped pass a six month repeal of the state's 5% gas tax in 2001. During that six month period, the state lost $175 million in revenue. The overall average price of gas only fell 3% during that time, which means that in real terms, the gas prices still went up 2%. The tax repeal just didn't work.

    This puts Obama on even more solid footing when it comes to opposing McCain's foolish plan. Illinois is suffering from a major budget crunch all around, but especially when it comes to infrastructure. That extra money that the gas companies ended up keeping back in 2001 would be mighty helpful right about now. Let's make sure that we as a nation don't end up with the same problem.

    Interestingly, last night NBC Nightly News began a series of reports on the nation's crumbling infrastructure. You can see the video here.

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    How about rolling back the stupidity tax for the summer?

    John McCain has said multiple times that he doesn't understand economics as much as he should, and after reading about his latest economic plan, I'm inclined to agree. A cornerstone of the plan is a three month repeal of the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon (and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel). There's a great article over at Wired that highlights the economic issues that this would create- it would short the government $9 billion in revenue (in a department which already has a $3 billion shortfall in funding), therefore killing highway improvement projects, which in turn means that even more people would lose jobs.

    Wait- I see the genius of this plan now- more people out of work means fewer people on the roads, thus reducing the demand for gasoline, after which prices will naturally fall! My god, it's brilliant.

    Sarcasm aside, this is one of the most ridiculous ideas to come out of Washington in some time. It provides no real tax relief to the average person, and as our transportation systems fall further and further into disrepair, it ends up creating more problems than it solves. Surely, no self respecting Democrat, representing a party that has said that fixing our national infrastructure should be a top priority, could support this entirely impractical political scheme? Right?

    Not so fast, my friends! According to the Wall Street Journal, Senator Clinton indicated just the other day, “I would also consider a gas tax holiday, if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund.” Of course, there's no chance that Congress would support increasing revenues in one area to fund a temporary tax cut in another. McCain has indicated that he would pay for this by increasing the debt, a measure Clinton would theoretically oppose.

    Here's the thing though- despite her highly qualified support for McCain's idiocy, now she's attacking Obama for not throwing his support behind the idea. Obama, to his credit, is sticking to his guns:

    “We’re talking about 5 percent of your total cost of gas that you suspend for three months, which might save you a few hundred bucks that then will spike right up,” Obama said. “Now keep in mind that it will save you that if Exxon Mobil doesn’t decide, ‘We’ll just tack on another 5 percent on the current cost.’”
    To my mind, Clinton is starting to show her desperation. She's anxious to separate herself from Obama in some way, while trying to show Dems that she can draw in some of the same voters that McCain does. But she's picked the wrong issue here. For starters, it's something that Bob "Viagra" Dole tried to raise unsuccessfully during the 1996 election cycle against her husband, and then backed down from because it was so amazingly unpopular with Congress. Add to that the effect more driving has on our infrastructure, and the extra burden that a loss of federal revenues would have on the already strained and suffering budgets of public transit systems across the country, and this is a no-brainer. It's bad policy that's bad for America.

    I've been waiting to see some real separation in the views of the two Dems that makes me feel like we're not choosing between two automatons who agree with each other on just about everything. And I think we're starting to see it- she's gone negative like never before, and she's questioning Obama's electability, while at the same time endorsing the ideas of her potential November opposition.

    I still believe that Obama is the right one for the Dems, and the right one for the country. He's a leader, and he's not out there spouting the same old rubbish. I'm not sure what else we can ask for.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Street Art Thursday

    Just discovered the Dirty Third Streets site, which covers a lot of street art down south. I love this piece, from Austin, TX:

    Friday, April 04, 2008

    Flashback Friday

    Ladies and gentlemen, Superchunk.

    "Watery Hands" from the album Indoor Living

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    Oh jesus, not again.

    So in my ever growing quest to Get The Hell Out Of The Apartment, a few months ago I shot an email off to the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company offering my services as a volunteer.

    For the uninitiated, in one of my past lives, I spent a lot of time in the theatre; it was one of several reasons I dropped out of college, and then I served as Master Carpenter and then Technical Director for the Actor's Company of Pennsylvania (now part of the Fulton Opera House)waaaaay back in the mid 90's. Then there was a summer as Master Carpenter at Ephrata Playhouse In The Park, and an unsuccessful attempt to move to New York City. Anyways, long story short (and believe me, there's a whole lot of story there), I burned myself out. But I've always held a soft spot in my heart for theatre and theatre folk. Thus, to bring this full circle, I emailed CUTC and said I was more than willing to help.

    I was welcomed with open arms, as every community theatre loves a volunteer who has been around the block a couple of times. Then they told me what the first show was- Jesus Christ Superstar. I'm not one to throw words like this around, but I'll be honest, I blanched a little. You see, back in college, my big set design debut was a student production of JCS. And just like every other student production, it was a bit of a fiasco. We ran out of money, had a lighting designer walk out, and I managed to have a seven foot tall ladder caddy fall on my heel, hobbling me for the three days of production. It was SO bad that my assistant on that show wrote a play about it. Lordy.

    But enough about the past. This production has been quite a lot of fun to work on. The set construction was smooth as silk, and I got to stretch out my mad theatrical carpentry skills a little bit. Now we're ready to go live! The show opens this Thursday (April 3) at 7:30 and closes with a 2:30 matinee on Sunday (April 6). I was there for rehearsal last night, and I'll vouch for it- this isn't the easiest show to sing, but they've rounded up a really good cast that does it justice. I'll be backstage for the show, but if you get there early enough (doors open 1/2 hour before showtime), you might actually get to see me hamming it up. Tickets are available here or at the door. Come out and support local theatre!!!

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    On Ethics and the Workplace

    Late last year, the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued an opinion paper titled "The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine". This is well worth the read- it addresses some of the core issues of the "conscientious refusal" movement that is so popular with wingnuts who happen to have a "Dr." in front of their names these days. Most pointedly, it asks the question- is it right for a doctor to impose their personal beliefs on a patient who may not share those beliefs?

    Of course, the Bush administration couldn't resist being all buttinsky about the suggestion that doctors might have a greater moral obligation to put the well being of their patients before their supposed personal beliefs. HHS secretary Michael Levitt shot off a letter to the director of ACOG, stating in part:
    I am concerned that the actions taken by ACOG and ABOG could result in the denial or revocation of Board certification of a physician who -- but for his or her refusal, for example, to refer a patient for an abortion -- would be certified.
    In other words, the Secretary is concerned that a doctor who fails his or her duty to present all available options to their patient, and in the end do what is best for the PATIENT, might lose their license. These doctors, the Secretary is arguing, should be able to pick and choose what parts of their job they really want to do, and the big mean bossman shouldn't force them to do the other parts.

    Let's step into the real world for a minute. Let's say my company entered into a contract to buy a chain of steakhouses. Naturally, as a vegan and generally ethical person, I have a strong moral objection to this, so I mention my objections to my supervisor, and ask that I be allowed to not participate in this transaction. He'll sit there patiently, hear me out, thank me for my input, and then wish me luck in finding a new job. Michael Levitt would not write him a letter begging him to reconsider, I'd bet.

    The bottom line is, doctors (especially obstetricians and gynecologists) and pharmacists and their ilk shouldn't get a pass here. Their job is to operate in the public interest and in the interest of their patient, however personally distasteful they might find the patient's choice or the most logical treatment. If they don't find that the job suits their "conscience", they need to find another line of work.

    And yet, Congress continues to prop up this notion that health care workers are somehow different from the rest of us when it comes down to doing our jobs. The Hyde-Weldon Amendment, inserted annually into a budget appropriations bill near you (gee, how'd that get in there?) codifies the following statement:

    no federal, state, or local government agency or program that receives federal health and human services funds may discriminate against a health care provider because the provider refuses to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion.
    Oh, Henry Hyde. How we miss you- always hiding your anti-woman agenda in giant bills completely unrelated to the subject at hand. It's like a little easter egg hunt!

    Anyways, to wrap this lengthy rant up, the government should not be in the business of telling organizations what their ethics should be, and health care professionals should decide what's best for their patients based on communication and medical knowledge, not their fear of where they might end up in some mystical afterlife. It's that simple really. And if you agree, I encourage you to let your health care providers and government officials know how you feel at every given opportunity. You are paying for their Mercedes and third vacation homes, after all. :)

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Deep Thoughts.

    Not really deep thoughts, just some random stuff that I've been thinking about or seen lately.

    Spring training tests a sportswriters' ability to wring a story out of nearly non-existent material. Sometimes, just sometimes, they're on to something. A couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did a profile on first baseman Prince Fielder, who has evidently become vegetarian, but not in a bid to gain power; he's doing it for ethical reasons! Good on him. I'll be curious to watch him through the season- Prince is a big boy (6', 260 lbs.), and the longer he stays veg, he might just become a little more lean. (bonus appearance in the article by former Red Sox third base coach Dale "Go! Go! No, wait, stop!" Sveum)

    Manny Ramirez has always been hesitant with the media, and frankly I don't blame him. But, whether it's because he's in a contract year or he's just getting older, he's been a lot more open lately. There's a neat piece here about the changes he's made to his life and his off season preparations. Confession- I do get shivers thinking about a fully healthy Papi and a prepared Manny in the middle of the Sox order. :)

    I would frankly give my left arm to be able to go see the Dropkick Murphys and Ted Leo show tomorrow in South Boston. Holy crap, would that be a to-do. Oh, sure, I'd settle for the motherf**king Pogues (with Shane!) and Billy Bragg in NYC on St. Patrick's Day eve. Ugh.

    On a happier note, last night I went with friends to see a Harpcore4 show at U of I- great fun! Four harpists using their imposing instruments to pluck out very entertaining covers of everything from the Cure to Elton John to Leonard Cohen. I'm always impressed by harp players- their fingers are always flying so fast, in seemingly random ways, but making lovely sounds.

    I have no earthly desire to even think about politics at this point. Wake me when the conventions are over.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Albums You Should Own: Erin McKeown- Sing, You Sinners

    To continue our occasional series:

    I first became aware of Erin McKeown when she opened a couple of Nields shows that I saw back in the day (Nields bass player Dave Chalfant has produced several of her albums); her guitar stylings, jaunty and jazzy, instantly drew me in. Her voice was not of the times- she's always sounded like she should be fronting a jazz combo, not trying to make her way in the rock-folk world.

    Well, you can imagine my joy, then, when she released Sing You Sinners, an album of well known (and not so well known!) jazz standards. With herself on guitar (and banjo!), Todd Sickafoose on bass, Sam Kassirer on keyboards, and Allison Miller on drums, she creates the atmosphere of a tight combo playing their hearts out in a club for ten or fifteen people. Her voice is crisp and full as she takes old favorites like "Get Happy" and "Paper Moon" and owns them in such a way that you forget that anyone else has ever sung them. And as though to prove she's not just a pretty voice, her guitar work on "They Say it's Spring" is note perfect, but laden with emotion at the same time.

    But my favorite part is the dancing- oh, the dancing! The middle of the album, with "I Was A Little Too Lonely (You Were A Little Too Late)", the title track, and "Rhode Island is Famous For You", is so peppy, that I defy you to not want to get up out of your chair and dance around the room. I actually bought this album for my mom because of this part of the album- she wanted something that would lift her spirits on the ride home from work. Mission accomplished! Although I did have to warn her about dancing and driving...

    I recommend this album for fans of : smiling, dancing, having a good time, french cafes, nearly perfect sound mixes

    Side story: I had just purchased this album, and was listening to it constantly on my commute, when my car was broken into and the stereo was stolen, with the CD in it. This almost made me sadder than losing the stereo. When I got an iPod a couple of months later, I repurchased the album on iTunes, so as to make it harder for someone to take away from me a second time. :)

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    You may never understand...

    No, seriously, if you're not vegan (or lactose intolerant), you may not understand the excitement inherent in the following clip:

    (the librarians among you can argue whether the use of a live version of das Scorpions "Rock You Like a Hurricane" in this instance falls under fair use, but do it somewhere else. K-thnx :) )

    As a bit of background, the folks at Chicago Soy Dairy are the geniuses behind Temptation vegan ice cream, which is frankly the best product of its kind on the market. They've now taken on the challenge of a vegan cheese that actually melts easily and well. And I, for one, can't wait to taste the results.

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Wait, what?

    I just saw this story on the wire:

    Turkey Plans to Invade Northern Iraq

    ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The Turkish military said it is setting the ground work for a large-scale ground invasion into northern Iraq targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

    The military said the ground operation is the final strike against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish language initials of PKK. The operation follows airstrikes on the group in late 2007 and military officials said the operation is scheduled for mid-March, the English language Turkish daily, Today's Zaman said Monday.

    Military sources told the newspaper that the operation would be on two fronts; one along the Turkish border with Iraq and one inside Turkey in its southeastern provinces.

    Israel gave the Turkish military unmanned surveillance drones that military officials said will provide key intelligence about PKK activity.

    The Turkish military deployed about 50,000 troops along the border with Iraq and the newspaper said military officials will keep the same amount of troops in the region for the March operations.

    The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
    I'm sorry, did I miss something? Shouldn't the invasion by a sovereign nation of a country we are occupying be bigger news? I can't be the only one who sees a high likelihood that US or coalition troops will accidentally get in the way here. And incidentally, isn't one of our main missions in the middle east to defuse and keep under control sectarian conflict???

    I can't even begin to understand the vagaries of middle eastern politics, I admit it (and if some of our elected officials had admitted it seven years ago, we wouldn't be in this mess, but that's a whole other story). But I feel as though 50,000 troops amassing on a border aren't just poking their nose in to see if there's any naughty terrorists lying about. The secular Turks hate the Kurds, and the Kurds hate the secular Turks, regardless of whether they're part of the army or a "terrorist organization". And hate makes people trigger happy.

    We really don't need more innocent people killed in Iraq, or Turkey, or anywhere. I long for the day when we have a government who realizes this and has the moral fortitude to step in and mediate these disputes without guns and missiles.

    Wishful thinking, I realize.


    Monday, February 11, 2008

    I'm finally ready.

    A full week has passed and I'm finally prepared to face my feelings about Super Bowl XLII. But since I think cursing a blue streak in a blog is in poor form, I'll let Fitzy from Townie News do it for me:

    (TOTALLY NSFW, but f**kin hilarious and dead on)

    His last point is especially apt- no, not the part about "Go f**k yourself", before that- the part where he thanks the Pats haters for giving us a way to get back to our old self-hating, waiting for the other shoe to drop, chip on the shoulder, Aaron F**king Boone, Bucky F**king Dent, Ulf F**king Samuelsson selves.

    We're not winners by nature, see? Raised in a fickle climate, with soil inhospitable to farming
    and drivers inhospitable to pedestrians, there is something about a New Englander that loves the underdog, that needs to approach all situations from the position of being disregarded instead of favored. We're just not comfortable any other way. We like our wins to be pleasant surprises, not ho-hum forgone conclusions. I could go on, but you get my point.

    Anyways, Super Bowl XLII will go down in my memory as just another game. The same way Super Bowl XX, Super Bowl XXXI, game six of the 1986 World Series and losing to the Lakers in game six in 1987 are just games- filed away in the back, although you always know they're there.

    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Manny being Manny.

    This, friends, is Manny Ramirez lifting weights. Yes, that Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox outfielder. The one who wears uniforms fifteen sizes too big and is known for not hustling when it might be called for.

    And if seeing a picture of him lifting weights that big a few weeks before a contract year starts doesn't make you a little bit giddy, then you're probably not a Red Sox fan. :)

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Election ennui.

    I promised an election post on Tuesday, but to be frank, the whole night ended up being humdrum and boring. But I am excited about how the rest of the primary season will break out- it's not normal for the Dems to be in the state they're in- two candidates that their base can be excited about, running neck and neck.

    My only concern is about Clinton's electability; the Repugs are licking their lips at the prospect of bringing all the Clinton mud to the surface and scaring the hell out of the middle of the road electorate. I think Obama has a much broader appeal- if you watch him speak, he gives you (good) chills no matter how you feel about his policies. Don't hate me for saying this, but I feel like it's the same sort of charisma that Reagan had- you end up trusting his leadership skills and feeling comfortable without knowing any of the details. And I feel like the general public is ready for that feeling again. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I'd much rather someone with his charisma be on my side than the other.

    One thing I did come out of the Super Tuesday race realizing- not only is John McCain batshit crazy, but he can't read a teleprompter with anything approaching a natural style. This is a few minutes of his speech from Tuesday. If that was my first introduction to the man, I'd think he had just won an election for city comptroller, not a presidential primary. Yikes.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Because we all need a laugh.

    I know, I know, it's Super Tuesday. I've already voted, and I'll probably get something election related up later today. But more importantly, I'm still in grief after Sunday. So I thought I might post something to lighten the mood a bit. It's moderately NSFW- you might want to use headphones.

    I'll be honest, Sarah Silverman is very hit or miss for me. But this is comedy gold.

    I feel a little better now.

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Like a punch to the gut.

    There are few things that can be said after the Pat's crushing defeat last night. Few positive things, at least; few things that aren't loaded with expletives. But I'm taking two things, two things that I will cling to until the Pats can start on their next tear through the NFL:

    1. Now all the bandwagon jumpers who have only experienced the three Super Bowl wins and an undefeated regular season know what being a New England sports fan really feels like, felt like for all those years before 2002- you put all of your hopes and dreams on the backs of your team, and they inevitably, horribly, collapse under the weight. The days and weeks to follow will see an inevitable thinning of Pats fans in North Dakota, Nebraska, California. And that's probably a good thing. You've got to have strong stomach to put up with this stuff.

    2. As of this writing, pitchers and catchers report to Red Sox training camp in 9 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes. I'm ready for that.

    Oh, and Chili con Chocolate is amazing- we made some for our gathering. I'll post pictures later.

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008


    On my way to the coffee shoppe this morning, this song came on the radio, and as it did so many times back in the day, instantly got stuck in my head. So of course I wanted to share. Enjoy!

    Billy Bragg- Sexuality

    Monday, January 07, 2008

    News Flash: Politician admits to language faux pas, has a good laugh.

    How do you know when you're in the driver's seat as a political candidate? When you can make statements like this.

    "I've been campaigning a lot," he said. "And you know I say, 'The time for change has come.' The other day I said, 'The time for come has changed.' And I have to admit, everybody still clapped."

    I will say this- I've listened to quite a few of Obama's speeches on C-SPAN, and he is incredibly impressive. I may be alone in this, but back in the day, when Bill Clinton would give one of his more impassioned speeches, I would get chills, and feel very emotionally connected to what he was saying. Obama gives me a lot of the same feelings. My only real questions around him are his policy items. He talks a good game, but where does he actually stand? With a February 5th primary here in Illinois, I intend to find out soon.

    I'll say this- I really feel that if the general election comes down to Obama and McCain (as some have predicted), it's going to be like watching Clinton-Dole- you're just going to feel sorry for the old guy as the youngster runs circles around him.