Monday, August 31, 2009

Free Fall - Book Review

"Free Fall" is just the latest in my obsession to read all the Robert Crais that I can. One of his earlier works, not yet up the standards of what he'd later be capable of but still a good detective yarn with the backdrop of Los Angeles in the early 90s. Amazing what has passed since then - no one has a cell phone yet so there's a lot of stopping off at pay phone to make a call. Didn't know how the invention of the cell phone could both help and hurt a writer. The plot is inspired by the Rodney King incident - remember that? - and then takes a few twists and turns, with lots of fist fights and shout outs and other macho posturings. Crais' bad guys are getting a little predictable though: did you know that there are corrupt cops out there? Yep. Surprising, I know.

There are a couple more early Crais' books I'd need to read to be complete but I'm moving on to some more recent stuff. I'm having to rely on what's available at the library, which is an entire post to itself. To summarize that potential post: other people's books. Yeesh.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Foxfire Bugs

My IT guy says there's absolutely no reason why I should run Foxfire instead of Explorer. I'm beginning to think he may know what he's talking about. The latest Foxfire update I loaded has made the "Send To" function on my mouse's right-click a little buggy. The menu comes down, I click to send the page to Blogger, and nothing.


I'll give a chance for a while but every day I'm more tempted to switch back. Get it together, Foxfire!

Everglades Holiday Park To Change

It's rare you get a chance to witness the government in the early stages of committing folly but here's your chance: like Tom Sawyer's Aunt Polly, Broward County intends to "sivilize" Everglades Holiday Park.
The amenities aren't much at Everglades Holiday Park: weathered boat ramps, chickee huts and wooden benches. The rustic souvenir shop sells bait, beer and toy alligators.

There are no color schemes or elaborate park maps, only a welcome sign with a sketch of where to park: airboats to one side, guests to the other.

It's a slice of Old Florida, much the same scene that has greeted visitors for more than two decades. And that's the way the regulars -- hunters, fishermen and bikers -- like it.

``The Everglades is one of the last places that's untouched by man, and we should keep it that way,'' said park manager Clint Bridges.

Broward County officials don't share that sentiment.

They want to take it over and make it over, including providing more parking, walking paths and a learning center in place of the campsite.

Oh my, yes. A learning center. As if a few hours spent at the park isn't a learning experience in itself. Just not the kind of learning the government wants you to have.

I'm sure Broward County operates some very lovely parks. But Everglades Holiday Park is one of the last remnants of old Florida, an original. See it in its natural state while you still can.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I Love Peggy Noonan

Lots of people have lots to say about the passing of Ted Kennedy and Peggy Noonan is no exception. Oddly, though, her latest column has more to do with John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan's speech about JFK than it does with Ted. Or, more accurately, Ted's graceful note he gave to Reagan after Reagan delivered his speech.

But as the writer of Reagan's speech, Noonan is at her full power and the speech is a prime example of why I love reading Noonan. What caught my eye in this speech was an idea that Noonan has brought up many times since:
Everything we saw (JFK) do seemed to show a huge enjoyment of life; he seemed to grasp from the beginning that life is one fast-moving train, and you have to jump aboard and hold on to your hat and relish the sweep of the wind as it rushes by. You have to enjoy the journey, it's unthankful not to.

(Emphasis mine.)

It's easy to forget that we have multitudes of blessings in our lives; it's easier to forget to be grateful for them. Noonan reminds us, in Springsteen's words, that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive. In fact, it's our duty.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 12 Most Annoying Types of Facebookers

Hey, you talkin' 'bout me?
Facebook, for better or worse, is like being at a big party with all your friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers.

There are lots of fun, interesting people you're happy to talk to when they stroll up. Then there are the other people, the ones who make you cringe when you see them coming. This article is about those people.

What follows is the lazy writer's standard of dreaming up an arbitrary list of the writer's peeves or praises, and working its way to the article's required word-length, signifying nothing.

Facebook - heck, Blogger, Twitter, any of these marvels of technology that allow for easy self-expression - is by its very nature a self-pleasing endeavor. You do it because that's what you want to do. Invite friends? Up to you. Annoyed by the that Facebooker/Blogger/Twitterer? Exercise your freedom and choose not to follow or friend 'em. Ain't no big thang. But don't complain.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Woody Guthrie Boxed Set to be Released

You don't have to be a fan of folk music to find this interesting:
"Those are the leftovers of my husband's business," Irene Harris ­explained to her neighbor Luria Sutera in 1999, describing the heavy cardboard storage barrels, cordoned off by wood and wire, stacked in her Brooklyn tenement storage space. "He was in the record business. When I die, I am going to leave you my collection of records in the basement, and there is some Woody Guthrie down there that no one has ever heard."

Guthrie, a towering singer and activist whose "Dustbowl Ballads" and ubiquitous "This Land Is Your Land" form the bedrock of modern American songwriting, would have turned 97 this summer. Huntington's disease all but silenced him in the late 1950s, eventually claiming his life in 1967, at age 55.

The barrels, holding some 2,000 nickel-plated copper discs, had stood unperturbed for decades, abandoned by ­Herbert Harris, owner of the long-defunct Stinson Record Co. In 1944 Harris, with partner Moe Asch, bankrolled the holy grail of American folk ­music—a series of Woody Guthrie sessions resulting in hundreds of recorded masters, a cultural watershed that ­reverberates to this day.

It's rare you get a chance to hear musical history preserved.

So, why all the fuss over Guthrie? Besides his being from Oklahoma? Well:
Still, Guthrie was never one to back away from a withering indictment of society's injustices: A compassionate moralism runs through every note he played. "There's a musical legacy that—simply stated—you can write what's on your mind," Ms. Guthrie observes. "Not too many people did that before Woody. So that has branched out, and that's a whole story and a legacy in and of itself. It's a really, really big tree," she says, citing acolytes like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bono and a cast of thousands.

"Now I'm getting email from students in Iran," continues Ms. Guthrie, "saying 'Woody's been a great influence to us, and we're gonna write our own songs, and stand up for what we believe in.' It seeps through, and it takes on new faces and new names and new languages, and just keeps transforming. So in that sense, like [singer/songwriter] Billy Bragg once said, 'Woody's not a link in the chain. Woody's the stake in the ground.'"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Through the U's and Into the V's - iPod Shuffle Update

Less than two hundred tunes to go. (What am I up to? Click here for an explanation.) I'm in the V's and I shouldn't be there too long - quick, think of all the songs you can think of that begin with V. I'll wait. . . See? If it weren't for the curious titling tendencies of iTunes which puts all of the violin concertos and Vivaldi in one place, I don't think I'd have any tunes to listen to.

Anyway, still enjoying myself as much as I was when I started this project. But I will be glad to have my freedom restored to listen to whatever I want to listen to.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Citizen Vince - Book Review

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter is a genre spanning story of Vince Camden, a criminal sent to the witness protection program who's trying to make a go of it in the normal world but not having any luck. Set in Spokane during the days leading up to the Presidential election in 1980, Vince finds redemption in the voting booth. No, really.

I say genre spanning because this is both a crime novel and a literary novel, well-written, well-paced, and immensely satisfying. Walter comes to me by way of Nick Hornby, though I don't recall if it's from this list or this ill-fated one. Doesn't matter. Hornby was spot on with this recommendation. I'll be looking for more of Walter.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Is it possible to write the word without an exclamation point? I didn't think so. Though a more accurate title for this post would be "Beer Brewing!" but then the exclamation point wouldn't work and without it would you read further?

Why indeed? For the exciting pictures to follow!

A quick note - I homebrewed beer a few years back but gradually gave it up. Something I was doing wasn't right and I'd run out of the supplies that came with the kit so I set it aside. A month or so back, I'd come across how homebrewing was on the rise due to hard economic times. Well, I don't think it's any cheaper than just going out to Wal-Mart and picking up a six-pack of your favorite brew but I think it's a whole lot more fun. No, really. Like baking your own bread. That's fun, too, right? Right?

Somewhere along the line I must've tossed out my old kit because I couldn't find it anywhere so I had to put together a new one. That's okay. I wanted to do it right this time.

So, first up, the boiling of the water:

Bucket sanitization:

I'll spare you the mixing and then the two week fermentation process. Fast forward to bottling day. The bottles. And caps:

Bottled and ready for carbonation:

Fast forward another two weeks. The finished product:

Does it look cloudy to you? It looks cloudy to me. Part of that is condensation on the glass and another part of that is, well, it's cloudy. But that's okay! Tastes good - it's a pale ale so plenty of hops - and it's smooth with no after-taste so it looks like it turned out just fine.

Ready for the next batch. Working on an Octoberfest style in anticipation of cooler weather. Full report in another 4 weeks or so.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Week of School

First full week of school over and behind us. For the most part, everything went well. Rachel was out sick on Monday and Wednesday but ain't no big thang - she had to jockey her schedule around anyway and by Friday afternoon, her Fall semester schedule was locked into place. Emily's week was unbroken, coming home to homework, except when their wasn't, and flute practice. A hard little worker, that one.

So, buckle up. We're ready to go.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August Sunrise

Not to be confused with "February Sunrise."

Posted by Picasa

Much of what's said in the earlier picture applies here: the early morning-going-to-school routine affords a chance to witness some spectacular sunrises. Good thing I've got my Blackberry to catch some of 'em.

This was last Friday, the second day of school. Taking the trash to the curb. Even in the mundane things, there's beauty to be found. All you have to do is look for it.

Jim Caviezel: How Being a Dad has Changed his Life

In an interview, Caviezel reveals his feelings about his children:
You and your wife Kerri have become adoptive parents to an orphaned boy, Bo, and girl, LeLe, from China. How has becoming a father affected you and your faith?

I don’t even know who I was before (laughs). Dennis Quaid told me a long time ago when he had his son Jack, 'You’ll have emotions in you that you didn’t even know existed before you had a child.' I now know what that feels like. Even though they’re adopted, it’s as strong as any instinct. That’s what blew me away. I always thought if I adopted that I wouldn’t have the same feeling [as I would] if they were genetically my own children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Exactly. Clara and I often say about the girls that the fact their adopted both never enters our mind and is constantly there. We couldn't love them any more or differently if they were ours biologically and we thank their birthmothers every day for their loving decision to entrust us with the daughters' care. And it helps, immensely, that the rest of the family - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - all feel the same way. We're living proof of God's boundless love.

Pull the Plug on ObamaCare

Whether you think understand the healthcare debate or don't, it's clear the process has derailed. Peggy Noonan has an idea why:
Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age. Medicare: People over 65 can receive taxpayer-funded health care. Welfare: If you have no money and cannot support yourself, we will help as you get back on your feet.

These things are clear. I understand them. You understand them. The president's health-care plan is not clear, and I mean that not only in the sense of 'he hasn't told us his plan.' I mean it in terms of the voodoo phrases, this gobbledygook, this secret language of government that no one understands—'single payer,' 'public option,' 'insurance marketplace exchange.' No one understands what this stuff means, nobody normal.

And when normal people don't know what the words mean, they don't say to themselves, 'I may not understand, but my trusty government surely does, and will treat me and mine with respect.' They think, 'I can't get what these people are talking about. They must be trying to get one past me. So I'll vote no.'

If there's a crisis - and despite the hardship of many, there's no evidence we're at a crisis level yet - then a hurried fix can only make things worse.

We've got time to take deliberative steps. Let's do so.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paul McCartney in Tulsa

How did Paul McCartney come to Oklahoma and me not know about it?
Paul McCartney does not sell out stadiums simply because he's Paul McCartney. Sure, he could roll out a little over an hour's worth of effort and generations of fans would be perfectly happy hearing a handful of Beatles classics and standout solo hits from his 45-year career, then go home and tell their friends and family that they had a nice, pleasant time with a legend. Instead, McCartney put his seemingly endless reservoir of energy to work ensuring that no one will forget the three hours they spent with him Monday night at Tulsa's BOK Center, a concert that celebrated the venue's first anniversary.

Gah! Like this'll ever happen again.

'School of Rock' Set to Open in Oklahoma

When I told Rachel about this she said to sign her up!
For five years, Chris Schaefer worked as a disc jockey and he'd studied nightlife enough to know he wanted a career in the music industry.

The 25-year-old Oklahoma City man had his immediate future planned out: He'd move to Great Britain and attend the award-winning Academy of Contemporary Music, a school noted for developing industry professionals, and use what he learned as a springboard into a music-related job.

Then he found out he could do the same thing in his own backyard.

Last year, the ACM partnered with the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond to open the music school's first U.S. venture. Known formally as ACM at UCO and informally as the "School of Rock," the school will offer two-year degrees to students wanting to enter the music industry and opened its doors to about 160 students on Monday.

Yay for us!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Kopp-Etchells Effect

For an explanation of the Kopp-Etchells effect - in short, it's static electricity - and more awesome photos and reporting from Iraq, click on through to Michael Yon's site.

Chasing Darkness - Book Review

Chasing Darkness is the latest novel by Robert Crais in his Elvis Cole series and the last of his stuff in my stack. I'll be on the search for more because this was another great entry in his Southern California noir style. It flirted with the danger of veering off into yet another corrupt-police-are-the-bad-guys kind of scenario but a deft twist took it down an unexpected path with the inevitable show down with the bad guy. A draw back of the genre: the journey is more fun than the destination but things gotta wrap up somehow, don't they? Crais is fast becoming a favorite.

District 9 - Movie Review

District 9 is a not-bad sci-fi entry that turned out to be more splatterific than I bargained for but it had it's moments. I liked the premise of what to do with aliens who turn out to be not dangerous but more a nuisance but then the political allegories started and, well, ho-hum. Sure, there was apartheid but that's so 1982. I don't think the movie's makers are as bold as they'd like to think. The second half turns into a standard shoot 'em up, with the bad guys suitably bad - hey, are they big business? Racist - er, alienist? Of course! - and they meet their end as they deserve. The FX are top notch and it's hard to believe that most of what you're seeing exists solely inside a computer. The lead actor - no, I can't be bother to look him up - carries his load very well, moving from a naive, somewhat goofy government bureaucrat to a desperate man, trying to hold on to his humanity.

Better than Transformers but it deserves more praise than that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown

Bob Dylan gets stopped by the New Jersey police for no other reason than wandering around:
The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

''What is your name, sir?'' the officer asked.

''Bob Dylan,'' Dylan said.

''OK, what are you doing here?'' the officer asked.

''I'm on tour,'' the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as ''Like a Rolling Stone'' and ''Blowin' in the Wind'' said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

How unlike Professor Gates' reaction when confronted by the police! And how differently things turned out!

Glenn Reynolds picks up on the Ray Bradbury tie in.

More On The Whole Foods Boycott

Ann Althouse joins the fray over the Whole Foods boycott:
What delusion! I'll bet the liberals and progressives keep going to Whole Foods, which is about a high-quality selection of goods sold in a pleasant, slightly posh environment. I don't think people are going there to make a political statement, and I don't think people will boycott it to make a political statement — or at least not to make a statement about their support for health care reform, which, you may note, people are not fired up about. People are fired up against the legislation, and Whole Foods may gain some new customers, but we longtime Whole Foods shoppers go there for personal benefit and indulgence (which may include a smidgen of feeling good about greenness and "fair trade").

(Althouse's post is really about The Moderate Voice's less than moderate voice when writing about the Whole Foods boycott so click on over and read the whole thing.)

I haven't come across anything so far about this boycott's affect on Whole Foods but it's probably too early to tell. But if we had one here in Oklahoma City and I wasn't already shopping there, I'd start. (I didn't blog about it but we visited the Whole Foods in Orlando and had a great time there. Came away with a delicious take-home Cuban meal we ate in our hotel room.)

Why Drug Companies and Insurance Providers are Backing ObamaCare

Obama pounds away pretty good at big insurance and big drug companies - his reasoning is that they're sure to lose money should health care reform be passed. Well, not quite:
Although President Obama and big-government activists demonize health-insurance companies, the companies "are still mostly on board with the president's effort to overhaul the U.S. health-care system," the Wall Street Journal reports; and ...

Although the activists criticize Big Pharma, "The drug industry has already contributed millions of dollars to advertising campaigns for the health care overhaul through the advocacy groups like Healthy Economies Now and Families USA. It has spent about $1 million on similar advertisements under its own name," the Times reports.

Contrary to theory, big corporations hate competition. It's in their best interests to make sure their interests are protected and that they can sit on their fat rear-ends while small start ups try to compete fairly. So, no, Obama's wrong, or should know he's wrong, when he makes his argument about big insurance and big drug companies. Either he's lying or he's cynical, neither of which, while not a suprise, is a good thing in a politician.

Another Reason Why I Like Tax Prof Blog

I subscribe to the RSS feed for Paul L. Caron's Tax Prof Blog because he's the go-to guy for tax law news. No doubt, he's a great tax law professor but he's also a great dad, which is another reason I subscribe to him. Here's an example of what I mean:
My excitement today in teaching our Introduction to Law course to a section of our eager and talented 1Ls is tempered at having to bid farewell to my son Reed, who has left home for his freshman year of college.

Reed, it was a gut-wrenching and poignant weekend, as we hustled to get everything in order for your trip. I will never forget our sweet and tender conversations, as we relived the past 19 years and looked forward to your future in college and beyond. My heart aches that I will no longer know the daily joy of living in the same house with you, but I am comforted by Ecclesiastes 3:1:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

It is time for you to move on to the next season of your life. You are ready -- emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually -- to take on the challenges of college. I am delighted that you are only nine hours away, and I am counting down the days until parents weekend and your first college soccer game.

Although I am bursting with pride at your many academic and athletic accomplishments, I am prouder still of simply who you are and the man you are becoming. Remember always that your mother and I love you beyond all measure. And that God loves you infinitely more. Being your father has been the great honor and privilege of my life.

Tax people are such softies.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

School Days

The report from the front lines of the first day of school: things went fine.

Well, after the trouble Emily stirred up, things went fine. The cute skirt she took such care in finding, pestering Mom to buy, laying out the night before, carefully adjusting, and matching with leggings turned out to be too short for the nay-sayers at her school. Look, I'm all for a reasonable dress code and if Emily's skirt was too short for the rules - hey, she was wearing leggings for crying out loud, showing no more leg than the other kids wearing Daisy Dukes or slashed jeans - then it shouldn't be allowed. My gripe was this was the first day of school. Use some judgement. Kindly notify her of her violation and request she not do it again. Believe me, Emily's a rule follower, not a rule breaker, though I have to admit I think she may have enjoyed playing the rebel for a bit. Halfway to work ,we got the call that she needed some jeans so we turned back around, stopped by home, stopped by school and gave 'em to her. Then her day could commence.

We're two days into now, in full compliance with the rules. Things remain. . . fine, or so that's the report we're getting. I'm sure things'll stay that way.

Lileks and His Old School

James Lileks makes his annual trek to his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota and visits his old elementary school:
I don’t think I’ve been inside since I left sixth grade. Last I heard, one of my favorite teachers was the principal; I had an odd idea I might run into him. The door was open. Inside everything from the rooms was heaped in the hallway: renovations, cleaning, painting, preparations. I checked the office, explained my mission: I’d missed him. By a year. Could I look around, take some pictures?

Sure, said the nice lady. This was Fargo, after all.

Click on over and read the whole thing. He's got pictures, too.

Woodstock: But How Was the Music?

I started watching VH-1's program about Woodstock last night but didn't get to finish it. Looks interesting but I wondered, despite the hoopla, if the music was really any good or are the rose-colored granny glasses we use to view the event changing our perception?
As a music festival, Woodstock was pretty much a bust.

The promoters couldn't get some of the artists they wanted—John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck Group, the Doors and Roy Rogers among them. Managers insisted on booking their unknown artists as the price to get their famous clients. Iron Butterfly didn't show up. Not enough talent was contracted for three days and nights. Hired to perform with his band the Fish, at the last minute Country Joe McDonald was asked to do a solo set to fill time. Paul Butterfield, a Woodstock resident, was an 11th-hour addition.

Drugs diminished the musicians' skills. Tim Hardin was too disoriented to open the festival. John Sebastian, also pressed into service to fill an empty slot, couldn't remember some lyrics. Expecting to perform hours later than he actually did, Carlos Santana took a hit of mescaline that kicked in while he was on stage. The Who were unaware their drinks had been dosed with LSD; Roger Daltrey called their set "the worst performance we ever did." Jimi Hendrix, already hampered by a new, under-rehearsed band, seemed a bit wobbly.

Despite heroic efforts by engineers and stage personnel, at times the sound equipment failed. Amplifiers buzzed, guitar cables crackled, microphones cut out. The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir were jolted with electricity when they approached their mikes. Ten Years After had to stop their opening number twice before they could continue. Stephen Stills, whose guitar was out of tune for Crosby, Stills & Nash's nine-minute opening number, complained about the monitors. So did Blood, Sweat & Tears. Sly Stone told the audience that some of the equipment wasn't working properly.

Often considered the start of a musical revolution, Woodstock celebrated music that would soon be thought of as part of pop's past: The opening day was dedicated to folk, which, four years after Bob Dylan went electric at Newport, was on its way out. A snippet at the very beginning of Mr. Stone's set in which he, guitarist Freddie Stone and bassist Larry Graham toy with a little funk is the rare nod to the emerging changes in soul and R&B. And in a year in which James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters and Stevie Wonder were active, African-American music was woefully underrepresented.

Is US Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra a Phony?

Could be:
Is US Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra a Phony?

This is the sort of question you might ask after trying to actually verify his supposed MS in Information Technology from the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The registrar has no record of it. After initially posting this article the degree has cropped up apparently at the nearby University Campus in 2001. This was found by Nextgov.Com. But his degree in biology has yet to appear as his record shows a degree from College Park Campus for Psychology and nothing more.

I have queried the White House for clarification and still have received no response. The internet has answered the MS question. But other issues remain. Regarding a number of interesting and questionable facts, most in regard to Kundra’s bio. The most ridiculous is his assertion that he was formerly a CEO of Creostar. While records for this company are hard to come by a small Dun & Bradstreet service did turn up the following information: there was indeed a Creostar in Arlington, VA. It was founded in 2004 with the contact being Vivek Kundra. The last record for the company (online) showed sales of $67,000 with one employee – apparently Kundra, the CEO.

Read the whole thing.

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

John Mackey, the hippy-dippy CEO of hippy-dippy Whole Foods has a plan to reform health care:
• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Just about perfect. Oh, but that hasn't made some people happy:
Joshua has been taking the bus to his local Whole Foods in New York City every five days for the past two years. This week, he said he'll go elsewhere to fulfill his fresh vegetable and organic produce needs.

"I will never shop there again," vowed Joshua, a 45-year-old blogger, who asked that his last name not be published.

Like many of his fellow health food fanatics, Joshua said he will no longer patronize the store after learning about Whole Foods Market Inc.'s CEO John Mackey's views on health care reform, which were made public this week in an op-ed piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Lent, another Whole Foods enthusiast in Long Beach, Calif., told that he, too, will turn to other organic groceries for his weekly shopping list.

"I'm boycotting [Whole Foods] because all Americans need health care," said Lent, 33, who used to visit his local Whole Foods "several times a week."

Hey, I'm all for free speech, on both sides of the argument, so boycott away to your heart's content. But the success of Whole Foods under the guidance of Mackey, who no longer accepts a salary because he doesn't want to work for money - thus, my tag of being hippy dippy - speaks more of the likelihood of the success of his ideas than the ideas of his boycotters.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lollapalooza 09 and the Music Business

It cracks me up when nutjob rock-n-roll types start talking like business people:
"The music business is upside down," said alt-country singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen. "You don't tour to support your record. You put out a record to support a tour."

"Do you see people going ­record shopping? No," said Perry Farrell of Jane's ­Addiction. "Downloading free music. Yes. Going out for live music. Yes. I love recorded music, but the best bang for my buck is the night I go out."

Mr. Farrell seemed to anticipate the changes in the music industry when he launched ­Lollapalooza as a multiact touring show in 1991. He helped it find a home here in 2003; the festival is committed to the city until 2018. Clearly, he doesn't believe the yearning among fans for live music will soon disappear.

I kid about the nutjob stuff of course but there's an important point to be made here: a lot of aspiring musicians spend time in their bedrooms, dreaming about their artistic vision without being aware that part of being an artist is getting that vision out there and sharing it with others. Just how you go about doing that is another question but it bears giving that part of your artistic career some serious thought.

Technology has changed how we access art and good artists find ways to exploit those changes. Sounds like Mr. Keen and Mr. Farrell are paying attention.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Day of School

Marking the day for future reference: first day of school for the 2009/2010 school year.

Rachel begins her last year - she's a senior! Goodness, me. Insert the obligatory where-does-the-time-go? comment here but, really, where does the time go? Wasn't it just a few years ago we were getting ready to take her to kindergarten?

Emily begins her year as an eighth grader and time hasn't moved any more slowly for her. Faster, if I think too long about it so I won't. Last year of junior high, too. A new high school opened last year, causing a re-allocation of students, and so now her school is transitioning to be a middle school.

I don't know when it began but the first day of school ritual will, of course, be a far cry from what it had been in the past. No crisp new outfits, no pictures to be taken, no hands held as they're walked to their new class. Just Rachel dashing out on her own and a dropping off of Emily, neither looking back.

That's the way things are supposed to be, right? Right?


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Two Minute Rule - Book Review

Robert Crais' "The Two-Minute Rule" was next up in my stack of reading and I think I've found a new author to follow. This one is a stand-alone - not part of any series character - but takes place in Southern California, which is part of the reason why I was attracted to his books in the first place. The two-minute rule refers to the length of time it takes for authorities to respond to a bank robbery - one you're' past two minutes, you'll likely be caught, just in case you're considering a change of professions. The hero's a bank robber gone straight after doing his time, who tries to track down his son's murderer. Plenty of twists and turns and exciting fun but solving the problem is the best part rather than the solution itself. That's usually the case with this genre, isn't it? But Crais does this sort of thing well and believably enough and I had a good time with it. A good enough time to move on to his next title in my stack.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Theologians? They Don't Know Nothing

I don't know about that but Wilco seems pretty sure:

They don't know nothing
About my soul
About my soul

I'm an ocean
An abyss in motion
Slow motion
Slow motion

Inlitterati lumen fidei
God is with us everyday
That illiterate light
Is with us every night

That don't know nothing
About my soul
Oh they don't know

They thin my heart with little things
And my life with change
Oh in so many ways
I find more missing every day


I'm going away
Where you will look for me
Where I'm going you cannot come

No one's ever gonna take my life from me
I lay it down
A ghost is born
A ghost is born
A ghost is born

I'm an ocean
I'm all emotion
I'm a cherry ghost
Cherry ghost

Hey I'm a cherry ghost
A cherry ghost

Working my way through the T's on my iPod. Theologians is a good song - I like its groove - and the lyrics are mysterious enough to keep my attention but what's all this stuff about a cherry ghost? I think it means that songwriting's a whole lot easier if you don't have to makes sense.

Anyway, the T's. Wilco. Enjoying myself.

A Perfect Getaway - Movie Review

A Perfect Getaway is a perfectly serviceable thriller that'll get from one summer movie to the next with a few thrills and twists and turns along the way. Plus the scenery's great. Though we were disappointed to learn what we thought might be an extra bonus of a travelogue of Hawaii turned out to actually be a travelogue of Puerto Rico. Still, from what little we know of either location, we were convinced the action was in Hawaii so what does it matter? I liked Timothy Olyphant's character the best though Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are fine, too. The twist is pretty major and maybe even hinting at it gives it away but the movie chugs along pretty well on its own, leading up to a thrilling, and satisfying finish. How much more could you ask for this late in the summer?

Facebook Posting

I'd set up a Facebook account (I hope that's a good link; doesn't look right to me but, well, let's see if it works.) some time ago, checking it out as one of the many social media out there to stay in contact with family and friends and maybe clients. As these things happen, I neglected the care and feeding of the site but recently I've been drawn into it and, like here and over on Twitter, I'm having a good time with my very limited involvement. To clutter things up more, I've set up an RSS feed of this site over there so that these posts will magically appear. Super, no? And, heck, while I was at it, I went ahead and re-connected the feed to my Twitter account, so these posts will show up there and in the sidebar right over there on the right as a Twitter update. It'll be like some kind of an endless loop or an echo that never dies or some such thing. I dunno. Let's see what happens.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bob Dylan to Release Christmas Album

I'm not sure if the world needs a Christmas album by Bob Dylan but Dylan doesn't care; he has to follow his artistic vision so to heck with your ears:
Bob Dylan is set to release an album of Christmas songs, including "Here Comes Santa Claus" and the carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem," according to music websites.

Rumours of the album first emerged on Isis magazine website, which is devoted to Dylan. It later reported the songs had been recorded in Jackson Browne's studio in Santa Monica, California, in May.

David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, who played accordion on Dylan's chart-topping latest album "Together Through Life," is one of the musicians who took part in the sessions, it said.

Still, in a way, you have to admire Dylan's bravery. But you have to admire even more the bravery of anyone who'll listen to this album.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

The Beatles made their iconic stroll across the street.

Fans come together to the location and recreate the moment:
Hundreds of Beatles fans swarmed Abbey Road on Saturday, singing songs and snarling traffic to mark 40 years since John, Paul, George and Ringo strode across the leafy north London street and into the history books on iconic pop photos.

The famous photo graced the cover of the Fab Four's "Abbey Road," the last album recorded together, and shows the bandmates walking purposefully across the zebra-striped asphalt.

It remains one of music's best-known album covers, endlessly imitated and parodied. Although the shoot itself only took a few minutes, so carefully studied was the cover for signs and symbolism that some die-hard fans came to the conclusion that Paul McCartney — who appears barefoot and out of step with the rest — had secretly died.

Amazing that a simple thing can become such a moment in pop history.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Through the S's, Into the T's - iPod Shuffle Progress Report

It seems by far that the S's is (are?) the longest list of song titles on my iPod. With all of the suites and symphonies of the classical tracks - and some of them were quite long - it was quite a slog getting through them. A pleasant slog, mind you, but a slog nonetheless. I'm glad to get into the T's. First song of note: Everything But The Girl's "Tears All Over Town:"
Don't be unkind, for once be untrue -
can't pretend I care for her, only you
Just be on time, spare me your shame,
for once don't mention her name.
Now I cannot claim angel's wings,
but mention her name and I'll wreck everything

I saw things not meant for my eyes,
I was happy once and then twice.
I said things I shouldn't have said.
I told tales of days in your bed.
In love and war there's nothing sacred.

Just don't pretend, wherever you go,
there are things that only I know -
because I'm sure, when she's there,
that you tell a few of the secrets of yours
that I had kept for you.

I saw things not meant for my eyes,
I was happy once and then twice.
I said things I shouldn't have said.
I told tales of days in your bed.
In love and war there's nothing sacred.

Hello to my 3,000th Visitor

Looks like I passed that milestone a little past lunch yesterday. Here's the page that brought him here, which seems fitting enough. I hope whoever it was enjoyed the post and found a reason to come back often.

I'm still at the same pace I was before - 1,000 visitors or so every three months. Not bad for a blog that isn't really set out to be anything but blather.

Noonan and the Health Care Protestors

The Left has their talking points handy about the health care protestors rocking the world of legislators trying to pass the massive, and massively flawed, health care reform bill. Peggy Noonan makes a good observation about those talking points:
What has been most unsettling is not the congressmen’s surprise but a hard new tone that emerged this week. The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town hall meetings weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.

People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

Obama has a fight on his hands he never anticipated; his reaction is unsettling and really shouldn't come as a surprise; the man came up through Chicago politics. Let's see if those tactics will work on a national playing field.

Anglers Divided Over Florida’s New License Program

A new law in Florida requires a license to fish from shore. I, too, share the desire to fish where I want - which happens, oh, every 10 years or so - without fear of getting busted by The Man. The libertarian in me decries government control of this enjoyable, and often frustrating, activity, but, really, I don't mind too terribly much; it's close to a pay-as-you-go system, the cost isn't too high and the proceeds are supposed to be earmarked for a good cause: fisheries management. But I like this guy's priorities, too:
Fishing from the jetty at the southern tip of Miami Beach, Claudio Cruz, 60, said he supported the new license, too, on one condition: if it helped the authorities keep drunks and hooligans from where he fished, so as not to distract him from the bikini-clad women doing yoga.

I call that a good use of licensing dollars.

Ulysses Made Undaunting

I never made it through James Joyce's "Ulysses" but Mike Potemra says a new book should help me get through it if I should want to tackle it:
I am delighted by Declan Kiberd’s new book Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce's Masterpiece, because it puts into words better than I could why I’ve always loved Ulysses: It’s a poetic celebration of ordinary life as it is lived. Writes Kiberd: “For all their radical newness, Joyce’s methods were a return to the aims of the romantic poets in the aftermath of the French revolution: as Coleridge said of Wordsworth, the hope was to awaken the mind from the lethargy of custom to deal with persons from common walks of life and ‘to give the charm of novelty to the things of every day.’” Ulysses, he says, is “an epic of the bourgeoisie. . . . One of the most attractive features of [the book’s protagonist Leopold] Bloom is his blend of imagination and practicality. . . . He sees no contradiction whatever between bohemian and bourgeois. . . . [The book] may be unique in the history of modernism because it suggests concord rather than eternal enmity between poet and citizen.”

I like that last part - concord between the poet and citizen. Isn't that what I've been talking about?

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Poets & Poetry

I've tried to bring poetry to this blog in my own small way but I know most people - heck, everyone - doesn't really have time, or the inclination, to enjoy it. Well, now a new book, “On Poets & Poetry” by William H. Pritchard attempts to correct that and make a case for the pleasures of poetry:
Most readers of poetry will credit a gifted critic or teacher who first led them through an ode by Keats or a sonnet by Shakespeare. Such careful guidance, often line by line, reveals marvels of imagery here, musical flourishes there, and a deepened sense of the poet’s concerns. What’s more, it ­encourages readers to discover poetry’s enriching and pleasurable effects for themselves. “The elucidation of works of art,” T.S. Eliot wrote, is half of the critic’s job; the other half, he said, was “the correction of taste.”

William H. Pritchard has been elucidating works of art for his students at Amherst College for more than 50 years—and, for almost as long, correcting (or ­guiding) the taste of readers at the Times Literary ­Supplement, the Hudson Review and other literary publications. In the preface to ­“On Poets & ­Poetry,” he extols the ­c­lassroom as “the only place where ­something like a ­conversation can be started” about
literature. “One doesn’t expect to have such a conversation,” he sighs, “when dining at a friend’s or even when passing the time with a ­professional colleague.” If even English professors can’t chat about their reading, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Hey, poetry is easy to read so why not find a way to work in some to your reading. As you know, my favorite poet right now is Billy Collins; his work is easy accessible, wryly funny, rewarding if you choose to dig a little deeper but enjoyable enough if you don't. Find your own favorite. It'll be worth your time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Oklahoma City Mystery Solved

I remember when this happen. Looks like they've finally found the perp:
At an emotional news conference, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater announced that a DNA match had identified a suspect. Kyle Richard Eckardt, 44, was charged with first-degree murder in Engle’s death.

A case that had long been as cold as the grave is now red hot.

About dusk April 23, 1986, Engle — a 41-year-old married mother of two — parked her Dodge Colt outside the mall. Before she could go inside, two men approached. One struck her on the back of the neck before both pushed her into the back seat and drove off, a witness said.

Twenty-eight hours later, the car was found at a Shell truck stop about 390 miles away in Tucumcari, N.M. Police found Engle’s ripped clothes in the blood-smeared car, along with cigarette butts and a soda bottle.

On April 30, oil-field workers discovered her bound, nude body in a rural Beckham County field. The remains were badly decomposed, obscuring the cause of death, but the manner was ruled a homicide.

Good deal.

F-word in Cobain Quote Sparks Controversy

The F-word has some folks hepped up:
The late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is igniting a new controversy in his hometown of Aberdeen, Wash. This one involves one of the quotes attributed to him on a new granite marker at an unofficial neighborhood park honoring him.

Aberdeen city officials are upset about the quote that says, "Drugs are bad for you. They will f--- you up." The marker contains the full F-word.

This was going to be a post about how people these days can't seem to express themselves without the frequent dropping of the F-bomb - followed by an urging to get off my lawn - but then I thought better of it when I realized Cobain's right. So it's a pretty good quote. But not something that should be put out for the general public. I'm a firm believer that young kids don't need to be exposed to the coarser aspects of culture any sooner than necessary and this is one of those times.

Oho, you say, you're in favor of censorship. Not at all. I just don't mind a little touch up to quotes to make them a bit more palatable to the general public. Who thinks that "Nuts!" was the original response given by General Anthony Clement McAuliffe when the Germans demanded the surrender of the 101st in Belgium during the siege of Bastogne in World War II? Yeah. You get the idea. Just as you'd get the idea if you left off a few letters from Cobain's quote. No big deal.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lack of Donors Put Culture on Hold in Colorado

Wah! The economy is in shambles and culture
The economic downturn is making it harder for Denver's cultural institutions to raise money for planned expansions and scheduled events.

As a result, organizers delayed the groundbreaking of a new art museum that will display the works of Clyfford Still. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is still judging just how ambitious a redo of Boettcher Concert Hall it should ask donors to help pay for. And the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has a multi-million-dollar hole to cover to pay for plans for a new education wing and collection storage facility.

Hmmm. Sounds like what's really suffering is everything but the culture itself. Curators and caretakers seem oblivious to the fact that culture can thrive quite well without them. In fact, it's their over-inflated sense of self-importance that allows artistic silliness to survive when in the free market of ideas they deserve to wither and die on the vine.

Ungrateful talk from someone who just posted about enjoying the local art museum? Maybe so. But we paid our entry fee to enjoy the art we viewed; if the price had been higher because the exhibit wasn't underwritten, well, that's an economic decision we'd have to make. Just as the museum makes its own economic decisions. I have a feeling we'd find a way to enjoy art just the same without the benefit of tax free donations. Which, come to think of it, is another way we all pay to sustain the culture.

Anyway, at least one benefactor in the linked story has its priorities straight:
We normally try to give in the area of education and health care, but we gave a grant this year to help feed seniors because it's hard to be healthy if you can't eat,' said Roxane White, director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation.

Hard to enjoy culture, too, if you're hungry and sick.

Coraline - Movie Review

Coraline is a delightful stop-motion animation movie which, though aimed at children, like all movies of this type generally are, is just fine for adults who enjoy imaginative story-telling. Not destined to be a classic like the director's "Nightmare Before Christmas," it's nonetheless a sturdy entry that tells the story of a young girl who discovers another world that's not quite as perfect as she thinks it is. The attention to detail is painstaking, the voice-talents are, well, talented; I was surprised to learn the voice of the Russian acrobat was the tough Ian McShane, late of "Deadwood." A good one to rent. Note - we watched the 2D version; there's a 3D version on the flip-side of the DVD.

Special bonus: we used a discount card at the Redbox so we saw this for free. Not that that makes me biased or anything. No, really.

Oklahoma City Art Museum - The Impressionists

There were no movies we wanted to see this past weekend so went to the
Oklahoma City Art Museum's Turner to Cezanne showing of Impressionist artwork. The girls didn't want to go so we were whine-free the entire time.

(Learn more about Cezanne here. Turner, here.)

Beautiful collection. I like the Impressionists because I get a sense of true emotion from looking at their pictures and not in the I'm-angry-because-I-don't-get-it sense when we wandered over to the abstract collection afterward. And in no small stroke of serendipity, Cezanne was one of Hemingway's favorite painters; read Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" and look at Cezanne's work and tell me if you don't get the connection. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

We strolled through the other collections - we'd seen most of them before and, as I said, the abstract stuff for us is a waste of time. It's the triumph of marketing over good sense. Come on, admit it. You don't like abstract art, either.

But the Chihuly glass is well worth seeing again. Here are the obligatory shots of the Dale Chihuly Glass collection that you're required to take when you visit:

Cell phone camera. Looking straight up. Could be better but, hey, not bad.

So, a great afternoon. I hope we have more Saturday's with movies we don't want to see.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Color Change

Mellowed things out a bit, colorwise. Kept everything else. Just thought I'd change things up a bit.

If you're new to this site, this won't mean anything to you. But I'm glad you dropped by.

Rockin' The Hard Rock Cafe

We've got a Hard Rock Cafe in Oklahoma:
Just sticking the name “Hard Rock” on the former Cherokee Casino Resort could raise revenue 25 percent.
“And that’s not from me,” said Randy Kwasneiwski, chief executive of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino of Las Vegas. “That comes from third-party analysis.”

David Stewart just smiles when asked about such expectations for the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa, not offering any projections.

It would seem easy to hold such optimism on a grand-opening day like Monday, with people crowded shoulder to shoulder throughout the grand entrance, many of them women on their tiptoes straining to catch a glimpse of country music star Toby Keith.
But with the uncertainty of this economy, Stewart appeared determined to not get sucked up into the hype – which makes for an interesting twist, since he’s CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, the firm that first sought to bring Hard Rock to Cherokee Catoosa Resort four years ago.

As I've tweeted before, the commercials for the resort are full of driving guitars and hot chicks. Promises, promises. But I think it's a smart touch having Oklahoma's own Toby Keith run the restaraunt portion of the resort. You can't get that in any other Hard Rock in the world.

Monday, August 3, 2009

White House: No Guarantee Taxes Won't Go Up

Yikes! Hold on. Things might get bumpy:
President Barack Obama's treasury secretary on Sunday said he cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit and his chief economic adviser would not dismiss raising them on middle-class Americans as part of a health care overhaul.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Some of us have been warning about this very thing for some time, now. You can be sure that after this trial balloon floats, and if no one shoots it down, tax increases will be on their way so get ready.

Storm Approaching

While I was squirting pictures from my cell phone to my laptop, I came across a shot I'd taken last Tuesday of the approaching thunderstorms that blew through here that evening.


Taken on the run while on our way to the Y.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Existing Law Sufficient to Regulate Preparers

Glad to see the AICPA is on board with me about the IRS' push to register all tax return preparers:
The IRS already has authority to regulate currently unlicensed tax return preparers without additional legislation, the chair of an AICPA tax committee told the Service in a public forum Thursday in Washington.

Michael P. Dolan, chair of the AICPA’s IRS Practice and Procedures Committee, made the remarks during a panel presentation that heard from other tax professional groups, with an earlier panel focused on consumer and low-income taxpayer groups. This forum was the first of several planned open meetings held by the IRS as it formulates proposals to regulate all paid tax preparers.

Licensed preparers—CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents—should be exempted from any new federal regulatory regime covering currently unlicensed preparers, Dolan said. Licensed preparers are already subject to Circular 230 regulations governing their practice before the Service, as overseen by the IRS’ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). CPAs and attorneys also are subject to requirements of state boards of accountancy and state bars, respectively. And if they are members of professional organizations, they may be subject to those organizations’ codes of conduct, such as the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct and Statements on Standards for Tax Services.

Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%

Think we ougghta tax the rich more? Well, they're already paying more than anyone else. The difference has only become more stark:

Which means the most effective way to raise money to pay for more government programs is to increase taxes on the middle class. Which is how it's always been.