Saturday, September 22, 2007

What About the House?

A few people have asked how the renovation project is coming along on my house. Very well! The outside looks stark right now because we removed most of the old decrepit plantings and had the trees professionally pruned:

We don't want to put in any plantings until after all of the interior construction has been completed, otherwise it will get trampled. The front yard is on a busy street, so we won't be using it for lounging or entertaining, but we do intend to have a very nice walled garden to provide something pretty to look at from inside and out.

Inside, the front half of the house, the old carpet has been removed, several layers of ill-advised window treatments have been taken down, and new electrical wiring is being installed in every room. That's the dining room:

The extensive woodwork throughout the house is marvelous, though a bit dull. After the cosntruction is over, the floors will be refinished in every room, and the walls and paneling cleaned. The wood is the color of dark honey, a rich amber with delicate graining. The floors are 3/4" oak hardwood.

At the back of the house, the kitchen and two bedrooms have been gutted and are being redone from the wall studs in and the floorboards up. New plumbing, new electrical, repaired original windows, a second bathroom and a kitchen to die for:

We very deliberately are staying away from current trends like granite counters, cherry wood cabinets, and travertine marble all over the place. Instead, the cabinets are painted, the counters are ceramic with Arts & Crafts accent pieces, and the bathroom is being done in an old retro-California Bungalow style. We've even got Marboleum for the kitchen floor!

It's daunting, but we have a great contractor and the work is moving along without a hitch. If everything continues to go this well, we may be moving in over the Christmas holidays.

Shrill and Unholy Madness

For when you need your ancient gods to lighten up:


It will drive you insane, but in a happy sort of way.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yummy and Easy Summer Meal

This dish has become one of our favorites. I whipped it up when the weather was so hot a few weeks ago. It's easy and allows a bunch of substitutions, plus you can scale it up or down depending on how many people you have to feed.

Couscous and Garbanzos

1/4 cup dry couscous/person - use whatever kind you like best
enough hot water to soak your couscous (generally a 2:1 ratio water:couscous)

Set couscous to soak until tender. Times will vary depending on whether you heat the mix.

1/2 cup canned garbanzos/person
2 Tbl minced red onion/person (or to taste)
1/2 finely diced red bell pepper/person (or to taste)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes/person (or to taste)
1 oz finely crumbled feta/person (or to taste)

Mix all of the above together. I like to crumble the feta very fine so it coats the other ingredients, but you can leave it chunky if you like. Fold in soaked couscous and mix gently until thoroughly blended.

1-1/2 Tsp olive oil/person (or to taste - I like less oil)
1/2 tsp lemon juice/person (or to taste)

Blend in oil and lemon juice.

Spices: Add any of the following or adjeust for your own taste. Amounts below are for a 2-person meal:

1 tsp cumin (generous)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardomom
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (Basil works, too)

Ad spices, blend in. Put dish into fridge for an hour or more to let flavors blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature. These proportions are for meals, cut in half if being served as a side dish.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clark Endorses Clinton

Wes Clark endorsed Hillary Clinton for President:
Today, I am proud to announce my endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton as President of the United States.

Senator Hillary Clinton has earned the support of millions of Americans in her campaign for president -- and today I am pleased to count myself among them. The world has reached a critical point, and we need a leader in the White House with the courage, intelligence and humility to navigate through many troubling challenges to our security at home and abroad. I believe Senator Clinton is that leader, and I whole-heartedly endorse her for President of the United States. Senator Clinton and I share a worldview in which diplomacy is the best first-strike tool in our arsenal; in today's complicated global system, the United States should be making more friends than enemies.

Never before have so many Americans had our well-being so closely tied to world events. Our economic and national security has become more complicated than ever before, and we deserve a leader who draws on wisdom, compassion, intelligence and moral courage -- in short, we need Hillary Clinton. She is tough but fair, a rock-solid leader equal to the many weighty challenges ahead of us.
I have to applaud Wes for stepping up early and putting his support behind Hillary. International relations - trade and diplomacy - are going to dwarf domestic policy for the next president. This doesn't mean domestic issues aren't important, but it means that there is going to have to be a division of labor between the Democratic White House and the Democratic Congress for the next decade. Pelosi and Reid are going to be responsible for keeping the Rethuglicans' paws off the nation and giving President Clinton some breathing room to get the utterly messed up international situation straightened out. She's going to need people in the administration who come with international credibility and standing. Wes Clark is one of those people.

Commenters across the blogosphere are tossing his name around for VP, which is cool by me, but don't lose sight of the value he can bring to the NSA post. National security has been shit on since C+ Augustus got installed, after all. I'm happy to see Clark in any significant position in the Hillary administration.

So, I'm sorry that this means for certain he's not going to run himself, but it's great to hear that he has endorsed the candidate I'm supporting. The netroots whiners who hate her for specious and psychopathic reasons won't care, but people who have not yet decided and aren't dupes for right-wing talking points now have another reason to give her their support.

Thanks, Wes.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not Work Safe, But Oh So Beautiful

Incredible models sporting nothing but body paint (nipples and pubic hair observable, but not offensive, imo) and showing off the zodiac. I really can't pick a favorite.


Laugh or Cringe?

I sat in this meeting today...

Yes, this really is what Web development is like.


What Bush has Done in Six Years

Courtesy of Eric Alterman on Altercation:

"September 11, 2007: "How I Spent the Last Six Years," A brief list that might easily have been written by George W. Bush.

Regarding the attacks:

  • Ignored persistent warnings of an imminent terrorist attack.
  • Continued reading The Pet Goat ...
  • Went up in Air Force One after having been informed it was a likely target.
  • Spent the day in a panicky runaround, leaving it to others to reassure and inform a shocked nation.
  • Later sold photographs of self on same day for purposes of Republican fundraising.
  • Purposely misled rescue workers and volunteers about the safety of the air quality around Ground Zero.
  • Declared, like Wyatt Earp, to capture Bin Laden "dead or alive."
  • Told the rest of the world either they were "with us or against us," like Superman or something ...
  • Ignored the fact that most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia; pretended they were from Iraq.

Regarding Afghanistan:

  • Refused the help of NATO.
  • Squandered numerous opportunities to capture bin Laden, allowing him to escape at Tora Bora and elsewhere.
  • Rejected a more effective strategy of police work and targeting killings for mass bombings that helped alienate the population.
  • Allowed the Taliban to regroup and rebuild.
  • Allowed Al Qaeda to regroup and rebuild.
  • Allowed heroin production and exports to increase.
  • Allowed country to lapse back into chaos and threaten nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Regarding America:

  • Insisted on the right to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely without right to habeas corpus, thereby invalidating virtually the entire Constitution.
  • Kidnapped individuals for the purpose of "rendition" and certain torture, violating national laws at will.
  • Opened secret torture prisons in former police states and lied about it.
  • Wiretapped American citizens without warrant or lawful authority.
  • Monitored the actions of loyal patriotic organizations without warrant or lawful authority.
  • Attacked patriotism of everyone who questioned mindless path to self-destruction and attacked media sources who informed Americans of the actions of their government as having "blood on their hands."
  • Set up ineffective, scandal-plagued Department of Homeland Security.
  • Failed to protect obvious targets like nuclear and chemical power plants, ports, and the like.
  • Hyped phony arrests of unserious nutcases as victories in war on terrorism.
  • Refused New York City sufficient funds to protect itself from future attack.

Regarding Iraq:

  • Lied about evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Lied about ties to Al Qaeda.
  • Lied about Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
  • Lied about infamous "Prague meeting."
  • Lied about lying about all of it.
  • Attempted to destroy reputation of loyal government servant, Joe Wilson.
  • Lied about willingness to fire anyone involved with doing so.
  • Failed to provide troops with sufficient body armor, vehicular protection.
  • Insisted on repeated stop-loss orders.
  • Cut medical spending for wounded veterans, resulting in substandard care for the wounded.
  • Refused to allow photographs of honored war dead.
  • Refused to attend funerals of killed soldiers.
  • Refused to give a military recruitment speech.
  • Told Americans to go shopping; offered further tax breaks to the wealthy, asking sacrifices of no one but soldiers and their families.
  • Opened and maintained a prison at Guantánamo that violated U.S. and international law, branding the United States as a rogue nation.
  • Misled Congress for purposes of securing war authority.
  • Failed to send sufficient troops for post-invasion occupation.
  • Failed to heed any postwar planning recommendations.
  • Failed to ensure restoration of order, post-invasion.
  • Failed to secure weapons sites, post invasion.
  • Failed to reach out to population.
  • Refused to count numbers of civilian dead and wounded.
  • Failed to set up functional government, police force, etc.
  • Arrested innocent individuals for the purpose of torture.
  • Lied, once again, about ties to Al Qaeda.
  • Failed to re-assess failed strategy, refused to replace incompetent subordinates.
  • Failed to heed message of 2006 congressional elections to draw down war, escalated it instead.
  • Failed to heed both Iraqi and U.S. population's repeatedly polled preference for withdrawal.
  • Squandered sympathy of entire world, drastically sinking global opinion of the United States.
  • Squandered hundreds of billions -- and, ultimately, trillions -- of dollars, destroying a functioning nation.
  • Strengthened Iran.
  • Strengthened Syria.
  • Strengthened Libya.
  • Weakened Israel.
  • Weakened Jordan.
  • Weakened Egypt.
  • Killed more than 3,000 Americans.
  • Wounded nearly 30,000 Americans.
  • Killed and wounded untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
  • Provided recruitment material for terrorists the world over.
  • Continually attacked the patriotism of those who suggested alternatives that might have avoided much of the above.
  • Redoubled "determination," "strength," "grit," etc., every time any of the previous disasters was discovered.
And perhaps most amazingly of all: Got most of the mainstream media to go along with almost all of it ..."

So much destruction in only six years. Breathtaking in its own way. We are weaker, poorer, less safe, on the verge of several disasters (economic, environmental, military), and yet a morally and intellectually retarded rump group in this country has just enough power at the polls and in the media that we cannot impeach this bastard.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is it True?

This is a fascinating (and well written) tale of deception. Is it true? I really don't know and it doesn't matter. The telling is everything.

Wanted: Gullible Lawyers

I've been in a position like this, down and with no prospects, so it has a certain attraction. I do know of scams this big in the IT industry, though none inspired by quite this odd of a motive. So read and enjoy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Nietzsche Family Circus

The title says it all. Just go look.

Riverbend and Her Family Are in Syria

Back in April, Riverbend, author of the Baghdad Burning blog, announced that she and her family were going to leave their home in Iraq because it was not possible for them to remain:
There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.
Since that post, I have checked her blog every few days, hoping to see a post that showed she and her family had not become part of the death statistics. This morining, I saw a post. It deserves to be read in its entirety:
Leaving Home...
Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.

We waited… and waited… and waited. It was decided we would leave mid to late June- examinations would be over and as we were planning to leave with my aunt and her two children- that was the time considered most convenient for all involved. The day we finally appointed as THE DAY, we woke up to an explosion not 2 km away and a curfew. The trip was postponed a week. The night before we were scheduled to travel, the driver who owned the GMC that would take us to the border excused himself from the trip- his brother had been killed in a shooting. Once again, it was postponed.

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

We didn’t sleep the night before we had to leave because there seemed to be so many little things to do… It helped that there was no electricity at all- the area generator wasn’t working and ‘national electricity’ was hopeless. There just wasn’t time to sleep.

The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk- the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away- but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over- the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away.

I knew then as I know now that these were all just items- people are so much more important. Still, a house is like a museum in that it tells a certain history. You look at a cup or stuffed toy and a chapter of memories opens up before your very eyes. It suddenly hit me that I wanted to leave so much less than I thought I did.

Six AM finally came. The GMC waited outside while we gathered the necessities- a thermos of hot tea, biscuits, juice, olives (olives?!) which my dad insisted we take with us in the car, etc. My aunt and uncle watched us sorrowfully. There’s no other word to describe it. It was the same look I got in my eyes when I watched other relatives and friends prepare to leave. It was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, tinged with anger. Why did the good people have to go?

I cried as we left- in spite of promises not to. The aunt cried… the uncle cried. My parents tried to be stoic but there were tears in their voices as they said their goodbyes. The worst part is saying goodbye and wondering if you’re ever going to see these people again. My uncle tightened the shawl I’d thrown over my hair and advised me firmly to ‘keep it on until you get to the border’. The aunt rushed out behind us as the car pulled out of the garage and dumped a bowl of water on the ground, which is a tradition- its to wish the travelers a safe return… eventually.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.

We waited for hours, in spite of the fact that the driver we were with had ‘connections’, which meant he’d been to Syria and back so many times, he knew all the right people to bribe for a safe passage through the borders. I sat nervously at the border. The tears had stopped about an hour after we’d left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.

By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that’s been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.

It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, “It’s been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah,” he said cheerfully.

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?
This is what George Bush did - throw the lives of millions of people into chaos (at best) and death (at worst) so that he could get his war on. What he and Cheney did was a war crime. It was also the most moronic "foreign policy" I know of, directly in opposition to the interests of every nation affected. He has casually, selfishly destroyed the lives and livelihood of millions. At his command, normalcy was annihilated.

This is what Bush's War has done. It is little solace to anyone that he is the Worst President Ever, and that his name will never be said save with a sneer. How can reparations be made for what this man has done to Iraq? I don't know. I simply don't know.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Splitting the Difference

Freaking News is a great site where Photshop fanatics are asked to create wild and wonderful (and sometimes disgusting and borderline obscene - browse with caution) images that take their cues from something in the news that day. Turtles, Elvis, Osama Bin Laden, Sen. Larry Craig, airplanes - if you can think of it, they probably have a photo gallery on it.

I am utterly impressed by this one - Partial Face Transplants.

Just go look then come back and vote for your favorite.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Pandas are much cuter in pictures than in person, truth be told. We have a pack of them here in the San Diego Zoo, and they spend most of their time sound asleep. However, we've had the pleasure of seeing them being very active, such as one late night zoo trip where the male was romping around his enclosure and rumbling contendly to himself. Here is a YouTube video (very short) of how quickly these animals can move when the occasion calls for it.



Saturday, September 01, 2007

He's Gay. He's Also a Perv.

I'm rolling my eyes at the whining and kvetching by gay male posters across the blogosphere that somehow dipshit and general pervert Sen. Larry Craig was "set-up" or treated unfairly for soliciting sex in a public restroom.

Look, boys, will you put your dicks back in your pants and grow the fuck up?

  1. There is a difference between talking to someone over a drink in a bar and then going to find some cozy place to fuck and shoving your hands and feet into the bathroom stall next door while a stranger is trying to take a dump in peace, OK?
  2. No, you DON'T have a right to have sex in a public location. Really. It's called lewd and lacivious behavior. Getting away with it is not the same as having a right.
  3. We all know how proud you are of your ability to ejaculate, honest. We understand it feels, really, really, really good. But most of us learned sometime during adolescence and early adulthood that it's juvenile and more than a little pathetic to make jacking off the center of your existence. Your bleating that somehow it is "gay culture" to spend hours wandering around finding stangers for sex in public places makes most of us think "gay culture" is, well, dumb and in need of some change.
  4. There is such a thing as public decency. Someone who wanders around shoving his body parts into the next door bathroom stall to get the thrill of jacking off in public is a pervert. It has nothing to do with him being gay (or bi).
  5. It's like guys who rub up against women at sporting events or who cop feels on subways - yeah, some chicks get a thrill from it, but most of us just want to give you a swift knee in the nads. Nothing personal. THAT is the root of the revulsion aimed at Craig - he is trying to make someone else satisfy his desires. Don't underestimate how much of the sexual charge is coming from invading another person's boundaries.

While there's a shit load of homophobia surrounding Craig's case, I've got no problem with arresting perverts who solicit sex in public bathrooms. You don't want to get arrested for soliciting? Go to a bar. Don't be hitting on other guys of unknown sexual orientation in an airport bathroom for fuck's sake. Honestly, your pretty little balls won't explode if you don't get them off right then and there.