Ever audiobook? You know, listen to a recording of a book being read.
I was never a big fan, but my iPod - Boris the Black - has helped make a fan of me. Boris likes the idea of just playing for long periods of time without me messing about with him to pick different stuff.
Anyway, Boris and I have been on a bit of an audiobook spree of late. We've been through Robert Ludlum's, The Ambler Warning, and Neal Stephenson's, Snow Crash, of late. The Ludlum book would have been better to read - it would have taken me a third of the time - but it was entertaining.
Snow Crash, on the other hand, was great. Snow Crash is a great book to start with. My friend Josh gave it to me to read a long time ago and it took me forever to get past the first chapter. Once I did, it was amazing. Hearing it read reminded me how truly groundbreaking some of the ideas in it were for when it was written. He really nailed a lot of our current technology and computer trends. If you haven't read it, you can't really be considered a cybergeek and we all know how cool it is to be a cybergeek.
I've also been listening to Immersion German off and on. It's just German conversations done at normal speed and then slower and then normal again. The only English is a brief introduction at the start of each one to set the scene - basically, 'Gunter and Heidi are at home. Gunter is watching the end of a soccer match and they are trying to decide what kind of food they're in the mood for and what restaurant to go to...' Of course, I can't understand much of it, but that's sort of the point. You just listen to it over and over and it begins to make sense. A bit like learning language as a kid.
Anyway, the other day I downloaded another cool book, The Areas of My Expertise. It's free at Audible.com right now and is pretty darn funny - in an offbeat sort of way. It's by John Hodgman. You probably know him as PC in the 'get a Mac' commercials.
I got the link from my good buddy Neil Gaiman who said, "You need this free audiobook. If you think you don't, you are wrong. Trust me. It's funny. Also, it's free."
Okay, that's sort of a lie. I don't even know Neil Gaiman - I've only been to his website. He is responsible for the bold statement though and he's right about the audiobook. You can follow this Boing Boing link to the audiobook on iTunes.
Anyway, the audiobooks have been keeping me entertained during the long hours of work tedium and boy does that make me happy. And, it's keeping Boris happy too which is always a bonus. But, I do have the hankering to sit down and do some reading. I'll never get tired of flipping through real pages in the wee hours of the morning and not getting enough sleep because the book was just too good to put down.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Ever audiobook? You know, listen to a recording of a book being read.
Posted by Shawn at 2:10 AM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
One thing about the information super highway is - well - there's a lot of information out there. Some of it is amusing. Some of it is deep and though provoking. Some of it's both.
I found one that's sort of both here. Frankly, it would be more amusing if it didn't have such a real impact on most Americans (those who aren't blessed with multi-million dollar fortunes that is). It's a look at how the Democrats and Republicans stack up on the economy, size of government, expenses of said government.
Keep in mind while you're trolling through this that it is dealing with the modern era, but doesn't include the current Bush administration's fine stewardship. The numbers run from Kennedy through Clinton.
By the way, the numbers were originally compiled on this guy's blog, which looks like it's full of some interesting thoughts - or spotlighting of some interesting facts and tidbits, at least.
Posted by Shawn at 6:27 AM
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Been playing with a 3D program a bit. It's fun to mess about with, but it's a resource hog. To really have some 3D fun you need to have a blistering quick machine with tons of memory. Until that happens, I'm contenting myself with sticking to making some still pictures.
Posted by Shawn at 6:15 AM
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Do you want answers or do you want questions? The answer to this will say a lot about you. All of us, at one time or another, will want one or the other but most of the time will seek one more than the other.
Take the internets and some of the things found in its tubes - things like wikipedia.
A while back, wikipedia came under attack by some who said that it was full of errors and that a system that depended on a group of people to write collectively of about such a huge range of subjects could never be trusted. Most of the argument was centered on the biography of an individual who was erroneously dipicted in a harsh light. Later, several studies were conducted and it was found that wikipedia was actually more factually correct than a certain, highly-respected encyclopedia.
The argument continues, but I think that ultimately it comes down to a difference between those who wish to have only answers and those who wish to face questions.
Stepping back a bit, I should explain that this whole thing started with a few minutes on Dbackdad's blogsite. He's got a little 'what I'm reading now' section and I followed the link of one of the books, Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid to a wiki on the book. From there I clicked over to a wiki on Zeno's paradoxes. They're a series of paradoxes proposed by Zeno that mathmaticians and physicists believed were resolved, but it turns out that on a quantum level it is impossible to resolve them.
My favorite is Zeno's arrow paradox.
"In the arrow paradox, we imagine an arrow in flight. At every moment in time, the arrow is located at a specific position. If the moment is just a single instant, then the arrow does not have time to move and is at rest during that instant. Now, during the following instants, it then must also be at rest for the same reason. The arrow is always at rest and cannot move: motion is impossible.
Whereas the first two paradoxes presented divide space, this paradox starts by dividing time — and not into segments, but into points. It is also known as the fletcher's paradox."
My second favorite is the dichotomy paradox.
"Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.
This description requires one to complete an infinite number of steps, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility. This sequence also presents a second problem in that it contains no first distance to run, for any possible first distance could be divided in half, and hence would not be first after all. Hence, the trip cannot even begin. The paradoxical conclusion then would be that travel over any finite distance can neither be completed nor begun, and so all motion must be an illusion."
Zeno - it turns out - is fun to ponder. Fun, if you like to find questions and ask them. Not so much fun if you like answers. How can you - if you like answers - like something that says that there might not be an answer?
It's probably not hard to see that I fall into the seeking questions camp.
Anyway, it occured to me that there is something at work that runs through our society itself. It is these two different world views. Those who crave answers and those who crave questions.
To simplify it, some people want - in fact need - to have the world boiled down to simple answers. Uncertainty creates tension and anxiety in these people. Uncertainty is to be avoided, explanations need to be found, and order imposed.
On the other hand, are those who need to question. Uncertainty is part of life for these people and often the idea of arbitrarily imposed order runs against their nature. For them, paradox is understandable because it is not understandable. Order isn't bad in itself, but applying it simply for it's own sake is.
I think this root difference is the basis for our current culture clash, particularly as it being played out in the religious arena. It's nothing new. Take the early Jews who were divided into several groups with different worldviews - the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes for example. Without going into much detail, it could be argued that these three groups provide excellent examples of answer people and question people - the Pharisees and Sadducees being the answer folks and the Essenes being the question people.
And to generalize a bit more, the Pharisees and Sadducees (who were extremely order and rule concious) are the rough equivalant of today's Evangelical right. For these people, specific rules are more important than general concepts. The contemporary counterpart to the Essenes would be those Christians who believe that the general concepts of Christ's teachings are more important than specific rules.
When the statement is made that Christianity is under attack today is made, it is really more that the worldview of the modern Pharisees is what is being attacked. Presenting a paradox to a Pharisee is the same thing as attacking their worldview.
The same scenario can be seen on the political stage as well.
The Bush administration can easilly be seen as answer people - Pharisees. They have proposed rules or maxims and those rules are more important than generalities. For these answer people, to even question the rules is to question their worldview. Their rules must be defended because their worldview depends upon it. In fact, defending these rules is part of their worldview and has become an ingrained principle.
They have counterparts on the other side of the political spectrum too. There are those with politically liberal viewpoints that will defend their rules just as staunchly.
A fun aside, at this point, would be to ponder a little paradox I like to call Shawn's Hippy Uniform Paradox which asks:
"If wearing a uniform makes one part of the establishment, then does the fact that hippies dress alike make them part of the establishment?"
More on this paradox on a different day.
In the mean time, ponder - if you will - whether you fit into the question or answer camp. I believe that most people fall somewhere in between and sometimes lean one way or the other, perhaps depending on the circumstances or the facet of life being considered. I also believe that we all tend to lean one way or the other to varying degrees.
As I've said, I know I tend to lean pretty far towards the question camp. Paradoxes interest me and I believe that life itself is a paradox of sorts. I seek answers, of course, but to me it's the asking of the questions that's important.
Posted by Shawn at 1:22 PM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Posted by Shawn at 6:41 AM
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Okay, what's the greatest computer program ever? It's a tough question, but on a personal level I think Photoshop is pretty much tops.
It's not just fun to play with, but it's extremely powerful too.
I'm always amazed at what can be done with just a few clicks. It would be hard for me to even imagine not having Photoshop on my computer. There's always The Gimp for those who can't spring for the big dollar Photoshop. The Gimp is open source software, so it's free to download and use. The Gimp is nearly as potent as Photoshop is, but it's a slightly different interface and I've been using Photoshop for a lot of years. So, for me it's Photoshop.
Anyway, it's fun to play around with cool programs.
Posted by Shawn at 6:00 PM
Monday, December 04, 2006
Warming but not warm sunshine, faded blue sky, pale patches of clouds like bleach stains on well-worn Levis, a brown, strong coffee and Ottmar Liebert's guitar coming from the speakers of my computer.
Leafless trees ouside my window stand as quiet obseververs of the world, only the barest hint of a breeze moving them.
Snow is piled up by the roadsides. A newly painted garbage truck rolls through the neighborhood gathering the piles and bins of recyclables.
This is my morning.
Forty minutes - forty miles - away my Dad is lying in a bed under the same old-Levis sky. The beeps of the monitors sounding nothing at all like flamenco guitars, evoking no thoughts of Spain and summertime.
While I sip my coffee and savor the flavor, he may be coming out of a slumber and hoping that today they will remove the plastic tube from his throat and he might be able to speak. Worrying around his bed, my Mother has no thoughts beyond the hope that her husband will soon be coming home.
I'm torn between talking about my Father and talking about the many times that Liebert's 'Nouveau Flamenco' has played the part of background soundtrack in my life.
Maybe both, or maybe they're the same thing - even though they're not at all the same.
I first remember hearing Ottmar Liebert at a little restaurant and bar a couple of friends ran in Bend, Oregon, called Monet's Garden. Gene and Jane spent countless hours remodelling and painting before they were ever ready to open the doors. It was their dream to serve nice, light fare, good wines and have live music on weekends. My Dad was helping them as a consultant - setting up their books and setting up business accounts.
Gene was the music fan - or fanatic. He loved most music, but saved a special place for reggae. Nice enough, but Gene was the prototype for the credit card hippy - a guy who wore the trappings of the Woodstock generation but put his bar tab on a gold card instead of paying with change dug from the seats of a ratty VW bus.
Jane was different. She was an artist. Beautiful, tall, blonde - a girl who you could either imagine twirly barefoot in a field or floating into the sitting room to welcome you to the family manor house.
While Dad coached Gene as best he could, Mom became friends with Jane helping her with the menus, decoration and hanging Jane's paintings. I was, of course, dragged in to help pound some nails and frame some of Jane's stuff. That's when I first heard Liebert - helping out at Monet's Garden.
Then, when the place finally opened, Jane would often play Liebert's music in the afternoons. I would stop in and have a wine with her and we would listen to the music and fold napkins for the dinner rush.
It was nice.
I enjoyed just being around Jane. She was one of those rare, ethereal souls that seem ill-made for the real world and belong in a novel, a poem, or a song. I think she welcomed the break from the looming clouds of a marriage doomed to fail.
Occasionally, over the years, Ottmar would come out and I would listen. It always soothed, but rarely transported me to a better place anymore. Gene and Jane were divorced and Monet's finally closed it's doors. Liebert was quiet memory tucked in the back of my mind.
Until I met Stephanie that is.
Steffi was another soul out of place when I met her. In the heat of a sunny California day at a yoga ashram in the Sierra foothills, Steffi appeared like a dream. She took shape slowly, from the edges of my sight - a warm glow that finally focused when we found our way into the same room to watch a video about the place.
We started talking, tentatively at first, like shy schoolkids. Soon though, the video was forgotten and the words tumbled out. She was stranded it turned out - or nearly stranded to be more exact. She was travelling by car with a couple who were feuding and making life miserable. All she wanted was to get back to Los Angeles, pick up her bags and go home to Germany.
Sometimes you meet people and know it will be okay. I guess this was one of those times. I knew I had to help her and she knew that she was safe with me.
She stayed at my bare place in Grass Valley. I had just moved there for a newspaper job and almost everything I owned was in storage. We bought food and wine for dinner and I snuck utensils up to the register, unwilling to let her know I didn't even have forks or spoons at home.
We spent one night and one day together - twenty four hours that changed my life for the better. She both healed and broke my heart.
Later, when I went to see her in Germany for the first time, she played Ottmar Liebert while she cleaned the vegetables we had bought at the local market. The same album I had listened to several years before. It became part of the tapestry of that trip. We listened to it a lot. Food, wine and Ottmar Liebert colored everything for two weeks in Bavaria.
Like a familiar smell that returns me to childhood or a sight that sparks a thought or memory, Nouveau Flamenco has gained the power to move me somewhere not here, not now. We all, I think, have things that do this for us. And, sometimes, we need to have them - need to be not here and not now.
Outside the pale blue sky has turned dull grey and large flakes of snow are falling and rising and floating sideways in the air.
And in these moments before the sky starts to really release its white bounty, I can't help but wonder if my Dad would like Ottmar Liebert. Back again in the here and the now, I wonder whether I'll have the chance to ask him and hope quietly that I do.
Posted by Shawn at 12:49 PM
Friday, December 01, 2006
On days like this, it seems like a good idea to just drink some coffee. These are the kind of days that are best spent with a warm java and a good book. Reading and getting snowed in - sounds pretty good.
Sadly, I'm going to have to go out in it later this afternoon. I had a morning job, but it was thankfully moved to later in the day.
Funny thing is that a couple of days ago the temperature was up to nearly 60 degrees. It was warm and nice.
I should write down my predictions because I knew the temperature was going to plummet and it would start to snow in two days. Well, I was right about the cold and about six or eight hours off on the snow. Not bad, eh?
Anyway, it's still coming down outside. The world seems very quiet too. Not many cars out on the road, the plows aren't scraping by and the snow has been muffling most of the sound out there anyway. This is the best part of a good snowfall - the quiet that puts the world on pause for a little while.
Posted by Shawn at 11:00 AM
Thursday, November 30, 2006
What's more amazing than life itself? Nothing really. The world - the universe - is so big and so wonderful that it can hardly be imagined. And yet, for some reason, we go through our days - our lives - without even looking.
Just think of the breeze on your cheek.
On a good day we might stop and think that it feels nice to feel that breeze. But even on the best of days, we seldom think past that - we seldom stop in wonder at the combination of events that caused that moment.
The earth spun and the sun appeared to rise in the sky. That sun sent rays of light and energy through a vastness of space and they hit the earth causing the temperature to rise.
The temperature rose at different speeds and the warmer air rose quicker, displacing air that was in it's place and the movement of that air caused more air to move until someone, somewhere felt a breeze or saw a branch sway.
And that's just a fraction of the things happening around us constantly. Every instant is the result of countless other instants and will, in turn, become the cause of a following instant.
Our lives are made up of these millions upon millions of instants and we seldom look closely at any of them.
Today's assignment - should you choose to accept it - is to take one minute to stop and think about something. It can be anything.
Stop and wonder about how it got the way it is, or how it got where it is. What caused it? How does it work?
One minute - anything.
Think about something - yourself, your computer, the universe, a bird, a rock, a snowflake, a pen, coffee, whatever...
How hard can that be? It's easy. Try it and tell me or don't tell me. I'm okay with people just thinking quietly to themselves.
Today, for one minute, remember to feel some wonder.
Hubble telescope images
Microbes and organisms deep in the sea
Sunday, November 26, 2006
My friend Eileen was in town visiting her parents, so we went and tipped a few back in the almost-too-lovely Cedarburg. Found a great brew house on the river and a completely seedy dive on the main drag.
Drama occurred. It was fun.
We also met a cat who was freaking out a couple because it was following them. He turned out to be a very nice cat and not scarey at all. He had a crazy curly tail too, which is always a clue that you may be dealing with a rather extra-ordinary cat indeed.
Eileen's friend who used to work in Cincinnati but now works at the Journal-Sentinel here in Milwaukee came out and met us. Fun was had.
Last night, I watched 'Finding Neverland.' I've had it sitting on the shelf for a while and never got around to putting it in the DVD player. I love J.M. Barrie and 'Peter Pan' so I knew I would like it. Plus, it features Johnny Depp. How can that be bad? Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors.
Anyway, I watched it and balled like crazy. I was really glad that I watched it at home so it was easier to get all emotional about it. Don't know why it was so touching, but for some reason it was.
On the book front, I can't seem to read past the first 50 pages of anything I pick up lately. That's excepting the wonderful, 'The Anansi Boys' by Neil Gaiman. I read that one through in one long night. I love books like that, but I'm always sad to finish them so quickly.
Anyway, the characters are quirky and the story is crazy fun. So - of course - I loved it. Give me a quirky character, toss him into a weird reality and sprinkle on some god-like powers...and I'm sold.
I mean, how can you go wrong with a main character named Fat Charlie who turns out to be the son of an ancient god? Let me answer that for you. You can't go wrong with such a book.
I heard this on the radio and had to Google it...
It turns out that - shockingly, some say - Welsh Dragon Sausage doesn't actually contain any dragon meat at all. Thankfully, there was someone on the ball at one of the British agencies tasked with overseeing such things. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to order up some dragon sausage, cook it up with great anticipation, and then bite into it to find it was really just pork? That would be utter crap I tell you.
I'm just glad I wasn't one of those duped on this scam. Thank you 1996 Food Labelling Act and the Powry council for nipping this in the bud - I'm sure Brits are glad to see their tax dollars doing such fine work.
And this is no small story. It's been covered by many news outlets, including the BBC.
The lovely dragon-free Dragon sausages can be ordered online too...isn't this a wonderful world?
And...ummm...there's this too. I don't even know what to say. It's tragic, to be sure, but it's also a bit... Well, I'll just let you decide.
Who says that weird shit doesn't happen in the real world?
Posted by Shawn at 12:45 PM
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Sometimes you just have to go with a re-run. I like the gun-toting turkey and didn't have time to make a new, different one - so, here he is again...
Hope everyone has a great holiday. I'm going to go out to see my folks and family today, maybe buy expensive drinks for my friend Gregg tonight, and likely see my friend Eileen on Friday.
I leave you with my kind of turkey...watch your backs or he'll kick your ass.
Posted by Shawn at 11:00 AM
Monday, November 20, 2006
There used to be a show on television called "Thirtysomething." It was pretty good and a bunch of the older folk I was friends with really liked it. They were all thirtysomethings and such, so it made sense to them.
I was a young twentysomething, so it didn't really hit as close to home for me, but I liked it anyway.
Anyway, one of the things that has stuck with me was Timothy Busfield's character lamenting that he had become invisible to teenage girls. Not that he wanted to hit on them or anything - he was pondering a proven scientific fact. At a certain point in the life of a man, they become invisible to teenage girls.
It's not that hard to understand actually, since everyone knows that teenage girls live in a separate world that only occasionally allows for the presence of creatures that aren't other teenage girls. Even teenage boys have a hard time cracking the shell of the teenage girl world.
And all this leads to today's happy moment.
I dragged into Starbucks to get a triple grande two pump vanilla mocha and a half pound of Christmas Blend beans late this afternoon and noticed a trio of cute girls. Wow, were they cute. That made me happy - cute girls always do. Puppies, sunny days and cute girls always make me happy.
Anyway, I'm not sure if it was the sgraggly beardishness, the fact that I held the door for one of them on the way in, or the sweet Addidas beanie I had on, but I got checked out. Not just a quick girl glance either - I got a full-on check out from them all on the way out. To be honest, it was really a full-on check out from one, a pretty solid check out from another and a well I guess should look too from the third.
The point is - I'm pretty sure that shit like this is what makes life so darn much fun.
That's all I've got today. And it was enough to make me happy.
Posted by Shawn at 5:54 PM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Why is it so hard for people today to understand basic logic when making arguments and assertions?
I've just had another email from an aquaintance 'logically' proving that God must exist and evolution cannot 'logically' be true. Are you fucking kidding me? Hey, if that's what you believe and you want to make a point for it, fine. But don't toss up a load of pseudo-logic as your argument.
This most current email had some fine logic like this. I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning - therefore, evolution is not possible because that would mean life has no meaning.
A logically correct statement might be - I have found the Bible and that has given my life meaning, therefore it might do the same for you. Why is that okay? Because it makes no claims of certainty that can't be substantiated while asserting that the possibility exists for something that worked in one case to work in another.
A + B led to C.
I (A) added the Bible (B) to my life and that led to my life having meaning (C). That may be true, but that statement - or argument - is only certain for that particular I. If A is someone other than this particular I, then the argument may or may not be true.
For example, Shawn (me) has read the Bible and it has not given my life any more meaning than it already had. So I could argue that A + B did not lead to C. Nobody but me can disprove that statement. But, if I try to apply it to other people, it may or may not be true. Therefore it is not a valid logical argument to apply universally.
Let me go back to the original argument for a minute. In the original argument, the person bugging the crap out of me with their annoyingly faulty email uses the same argument to claim that evolution could not possibly be true.
Essentially, they were saying: A + B led to C, so therefore D cannot be true.
Give me a break.
Why is it so hard for people who evangelize to just say they don't know, but they choose to believe what they believe? Good lord, even Buddhists will tell you that they don't know and maybe it's all horse shit.
Personally, Buddhism works for me. It might work for others, but I don't know.
In fact, it probably won't work for most folks in America since most of us come from a Christian background and that's easier for us to understand. You'll never hear me pushing my beliefs on anyone else, although I'm willing to argue the merits. And I'm also clever enough to realize that although religion and philosophy may play a part in science, neither are suitable standins for science.
Anyway, if others want to believe that a luminous being with a long, flowing beard and blue eyes created the universe in six days, that's fine with me. Just don't come at me with an argument that is nothing more than - I believe it so it's true.
And don't use some ridiculous logic that there's no way for the big bang to have occurred because all this matter had to come from somewhere so therefore God must have done it. Because guess what? The question left in that argument is the same one left in the previous one - where did God come from? And I'm sorry to lay this on you, but it's pretty likely that none of us will get to know the answer - at least not in this life.
The world can be pretty uncertain. Deal with it however you choose, but don't pretend to speak for everyone when you find something that makes you feel more secure.
And please, please, please don't try and prove your point by making statements that have no logic to them.
Posted by Shawn at 9:15 PM
Monday, November 13, 2006
As if thundersnow wasn't enough to shock and awe the rest of the country, we've got Bigfoot too.
Yeah, that's right. We've got Bigfoot and it's even on the news. Because what could possibly be more important than someone thinking they saw Bigfoot?
So, while the rest of you are getting buried with boring news, we're hearing about another Bigfoot sighting in Wisconsin.
You're probably jealous. I can understand that. But don't blame us for being blessed - just go out and find your own Bigfoot.
Unless you live in California. In that case, find something different to steal from us. You already took the dairy producing title away from us. Don't think we don't remember that. We know your tricks. We'll find a Bigfoot here in Wisconsin and the next thing you know there will be two Bigfoots in California.
And the best part about Bigfoot being in Wisconsin? I'll tell you. Bigfoot isn't just in some far off part of the state. No sir - Bigfoot is right here in my county. I might get to meet him if I start wandering around the woods. That would be pretty sweet, but I don't think I would tell if I did meet him. Obviously, he values his privacy and who am I to trample all over that?
Bigfoot, you and your secret are safe with me. Now, can you make some coffee and clean up the mess in the kitchen? It's the least you can do dude.
Posted by Shawn at 10:00 PM
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Friday night we had some our patented Wisconsin freak-of-nature weather. It was 65 on Wednesday and still pretty warm on Thursday. Then Friday rolled out some wackiness.
We had a bunch of snow on Friday evening. It was weird too. One minute it's pouring and the guy on the radio is saying, 'good thing this isn't snow, huh?' and the next it is snow.
The best part - okay, the second best part because I didn't have to work - was that there was a lot of lightning and booming thunder.
I thought that was awesome and it deserved an awesome name. Lo and behold...it already had one. They call it Thundersnow.
There's no way to do it justice. You just have to believe that thundersnow is crazy cool.
Last night, I got a call from my friend Andy. It was just after 10 p.m. when the phone rang and I got hit with the age old 'what are you doing?' line.
They were a couple of blocks away and heading downtown. So, I threw on some jeans and grabbed my coat.
The Jeep was full. Becka, Andy's wife, was there and I couldn't see the people in the back. I hopped in a realized that it was Renee and her hubby.
I haven't seen Renee in ages. We used to hang out a lot, so it was nice to see her.
The pub was filled to capacity and an annoying new guy at the door was pondering impeding our progress. I gave him the look and he whithered. All of West Bend was out it seemed.
Fun was had, much drinking was done, and at some point karaoke occurred...but don't worry, I sang not a peep.
Got home in one piece, didn't get sick and got up before noon. I would call that a successful night.
Posted by Shawn at 11:27 AM
Thursday, November 09, 2006
*Note...I'm being lazy, but I'm tired. This is a from the other day. I originally posted it on a certain left-leaning blog. In the mean time, I need a nap and to find some humour. Cheers till then.*
There's good reason for much of the world to feel a bit safer as Wednesday dawns. The Democratic congressional landslide has changed the terrain of politics in the United States.
For many people in other countries, that's a relief.
While a lot of there's a lot of talk of ethics and other reform from Democratic leaders, for much of the world the results of this election mean that George W. Bush will find his power reined in. And that, many believe, will make this a safer world.
The BBC hasn't gone too far into what the changes might mean, but they've given the U.S. elections prominent play. They do point out some interesting firsts and notes from some key races.
BBC International story is here.
Reuters International, surprisingly, gives no play at all to the U.S. elections. But they do have a story on Ortega's return to power in Nicaragua.
Deutsche Welle has only a short blurb on the results of the elections. They will likely have more later.
Die Zeit has a much more lengthy look at the elections, but it's in German. The quick rundown is that they realize the elections were very much a referendum on the Iraq war and that the President no longer has carte blanche to bull on ahead without regard for what the American people want.
It goes a bit more into the elections in that vein and shows that even around the world, people understood that the elections were largely about Iraq.
It also talks about the polarizing effect Bush's presidency has had so far and that this is a clear sign that the American people want to see co-operation and a less divisive Congress. Democrats have a great oportunity to take the center of the spectrum and leave the Republicans holding to the extreme right.
The International Herald Tribune in Paris has several articles. One talks about the voter discontent that swept Republicans out of office. Another urges a cautious outlook on what the elections might mean for the strained relations between the United States and much of the EU.
Le Monde has a special section on the elections, but it's in French and I'm not enough of French speaker to translate.
The U.S. congressional elections also lead the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. It's in German, but one of the stories talks about the changes that might occur in U.S. policy making. The main headline says that Bush faces some radical relearning - in other words, he needs to make some radical changes.
Asian newspapers aren't showing much yet, but their cycle hasn't fired up yet.
If you want a great site with links to newpapers around the world, check out thepaperboy.com.
Pravda in Russia has an English language version that has a Russian take on the election. Their story brings up some interesting points and talks about how disappointed Bush is by the results.
Posted by Shawn at 5:31 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I wonder if this is how Republicans felt when they swept into control of Congress? I'm guessing they were pretty giddy when they won in a landslide...I know that, as a Democrat, I feel pretty good about the outcome of this set of elections.
Unlike the spirit of gloating that Republicans rolled out however, I get the sense that the majority of Democrats around the country are looking to extend an offer to work with Republicans to fix some of the many problems facing our country. Despite suffering through years of an arrogant and out of touch Republican leadership, most Democrats want their fellow Democrats to move to the center to attempt to work out some bi-partisan solutions.
I also get a pretty strong feeling that there are a lot of Democrats that - although they want to see a Congress working together and a President working with them - won't have much patience for a continuation of the extreme partisanship of the Republicans. If the President comes out defiant and unwilling to listen to the people's vote, or if Republican congressional leadership quickly begins to derail Democratic efforts to clean up the mess that Congress has become, there will be a loud and strong call to play hardball.
American's want to see oversight taking place and they want to hear solutions to the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq. The President should come out and show a real willingness to work with congressional leaders to come up with a plan that goes beyond 'staying the course.'
There's a lot of talk that Democrats haven't shown a plan - but the reality still remains that the President led us into this mess and even now hasn't presented a plan. And he's the commander-in-chief. He remains that, but he would be wise to show some ability to compromise.
All I hope for is the return to some sanity in the federal government. This election was a rejection of the course we were headed - now it just remains to chart a positive course forward. There are plenty of rocks and shoals to avoid, but if we begin to head in the right direction then most Americans will be show themselves willing to help man the oars.
***And in some personal races***
There were a lot of races that I was interested in and most fell the way I had hoped. Over the course of the campaign, I was able to learn about some great candidates and even sent several of them some money. In a way, it gave me a small stake in the outcomes of their races. It also made election night a lot more fun.
Sadly, the guy I was doing a bit of stumping for, Bryan Kennedy, was soundly defeated by Wisconsin's most embarrassing politician, James Sensenbrenner. It's really not a big surprise to me as it was a long shot race all along, but there were some openings in the last month that Kennedy was unable to take advantage of.
It wasn't a perfect campaign - that's for sure - and this was a race that could have only been won with a perfect campaign. Lack of experience in the political arena and in generating the kind of publicity needed to move forward really cost Kennedy on this one. And there wasn't even the satisfaction of seeing the numbers come back much higher than the last time around.
Well, at least I can say that I felt like I put in an effort to change something that I believed needed to be changed. Sensenbrenner still needs to be removed - I wish it had been this election year, but you can't have everything.
The national races I was into were:
Bryan Kennedy here in Wisconsin - I had great hopes, but not such great expectations.
Patrick Murphy out in the Philadelphia area - Murphy's a big proponent of net neutrality and that caught my attention...I for one don't want my tubes tied.
Larry Kissell in North Carolina - how can you not like a guy who set up a gas station to sell gas at a buck something a gallon, the price it was when his opponent took office not that long ago? And, the guy sent out personalized 'thank you' letters for every donation I made. That's frankly awesome and how it should be.
Scott Kleeb out in Nebraska - he's just a down-home sort of guy and young. Hell, he's so good looking I would do him...wait...um...I mean...he's got some pretty good ideas. Actuallym, I was impressed with him when I read a couple of posts he made on DKos where he stuck around to answer questions in the comments. It was very cool how he took the time to not just talk, but to listen.
John Tester in Montana - talk about a real Westerner, Tester ran a clean and admirable campaign. He's the kind of guy who isn't going to play political games, he's going to do what he thinks is right.
Webb in Virginia - mainly because I felt that Allen ran a sleazy campaign and deserved to lose because of it. Also, Webb is highly qualified. The fact that he was a good writer also weighed into it for me.
And because I met some people that worked really hard for her, Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
Anyway, all of them - with the exception of McCaskill - got a few bucks from me and that makes me feel good.
Cheers...and may the numbers stop bouncing around in my head.
Posted by Shawn at 1:47 AM
Saturday, November 04, 2006
As part of my daily ritual of wasting large blocks of time sitting in front of my computer, I sometimes like to click on the 500,000,057 bookmarks I've saved and don't remember why. Sometimes. (not very often mind you, or I wouldn't have 500,000,057 bookmarks would I?) I even take a bit of time to whittle them down a bit.
Don't worry, I didn't do any cleaning today. I did, however, come across this little gem and it made me laugh. Maybe not laugh but at least chuckle...
Posted by Shawn at 3:06 PM
Friday, November 03, 2006
I was so going to keep my mouth shut for the last few days before the election, but I just couldn't resist. This has been a week that could only be called bizarre.
First, John Kerry makes a gaff in a speach and seems to insult American troops. Despite the fact that it's obvious that he meant no such insult, Republicans jumped back on their soapboxes, eager to grab hold of anything they could use to stay afloat in a sea of anti-Republican sentiment.
And, it worked - for a couple of days. Until Kerry apologized.
Now it's some Evangelical high priest that's in the spotlight. It appears that will he's been banging away at the sin of gay marriage, he's been busy banging a gay man behind his wife's back. Guess what's getting a lot of play in today's news?
While I do believe that it's another example of a hypocritical church leader using his position to push forward a message of hate and intolerance, I don't think it deserves to be a top-of-the-fold, lead-the-newscast kind of story.
But what do I know? It's not like I was ever a journalist or anything. Oh wait...yes I was.
As much as I would personally love to see the smarmy bastard buried under a pile of the kind of hate he helped create and perpetuate, I would never argue for the huge play this story has received.
On the other hand, I would shine a spotlight on some of the real stories that have been lost in the last week.
First of all, why is our government posting top-secret information on nuclear weapons programs online? If this isn't the stupidest thing I've ever heard, it's definitely high on the list.
The administration, in a rush to prove - well, I'm not sure what actually... - posted a whole bunch of technical papers gathered after the invasion of Iraq on a government website set up for the purpose. They were spurred by pressure from fellow Republicans.
Problem is, they never went to the trouble of even checking them out before they did it. Call me a worry wort, but it just seems less than bright to put nuclear weapons information online - in Arabic even - while claiming that you're making the world safe from those crazy Muslem extremists.
I'm also pretty sure that further evidence joins the mountain of evidence of war crimes committed under the orders of the president - the decider in chief. This came in the form of foreign journalists digging into the secret torture facilities run by the U.S. in Europe and other countries and the complicity of those countries in the crimes.
The big story appeared in the German weekly 'stern' but was in German. Deutsch-Welle had a story about the story in English. It chronicles the U.S. torture program and identifies one of the bases as being located in Bosnia.
Going along with this story is another that chronicles the lavish lifestyle that the pilots of the planes and the men charged with transporting these terrorist suspects to torture facilities. The Guardian ran a story on the extravagant spending done by the CIA agents operating the torture transfer program. All on our dime, by the way.
Or, perhaps I would top the page with a story about the missing U.S. soldier abandoned by the administration and high command in Iraq.
I wonder what his family thinks when they know he was just left behind and the top story being covered is a sleazy high priest of the temple of Evangelical or a tongue-tied bumble by a former presidential candidate.
All I can say is that not all of us who have ever been in the journalism field would make such bad calls.
I would, if I were an editor at a major metro paper, run a copy of my friend Josh's excellent scientific explanation of his dragon bones theory. Risking the wrath of flat worlders and anti-science creationists, he explains in simple terms one of the world's most mysterious...um...mysteries. Thank god there's at least one sane voice in this wilderness of babble.
Posted by Shawn at 2:51 PM
Monday, October 30, 2006
In the vast scheme of things, a few dollars from a few individuals barely scratches the multiple millions poured in modern political campaigns every election cycle. But, maybe that's not really the point anyway.
At the beginning of the month, I decided to get a bit more involved in the Congressional race here in my district. I was supporting a decent guy - Bryan Kennedy - a man who loves his kids, cares about his country, and wants to see everyone in America receive a decent opportunity to succeed. He's running against one of the most loathed politicians in Washington - James Sensenbrenner - an heir to the vast Kimberly Clark fortune.
I started an ActBlue page and did some plugging on a website called DailyKos. I hoped to raise $100-500. Realistically, I figured maybe a bit over $100. Well, thanks to a lot of people kicking in a bit - including someone here who gets nothing in return for their donation but my thanks and the knowledge that maybe those few dollars will help elect a good person - the total is now $576.58 for Bryan Kennedy's campaign and another $45.01 for Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund.
Along the way, I've discovered other little campaigns that could and was able to donate a bit to them. Larry Kissell out in North Carolina, Scott Kleeb in Nebraska, and Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania.
Maybe it will help, maybe not.
But, on a personal level...that's not even the important thing. The important thing is that it allowed me to reconnect to the system that is increasingly pushing people away. And that feels great.
Democracy only works when people are part of the process.
So, in a week and a day from now - please, just go out and vote. Drop the apathy for a day and take part in the process. Vote however you want - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Librarian, Green, whatever - but vote.
**Back to regularly scheduled rants, smart-assichness, and observations later**
Posted by Shawn at 1:22 PM
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Well, there's some good news and some bad news...
The bad news is that apparently the earth's magnetic field is weakening much more quickly than it was assumed to be weakening. That's an indication that the field is heading toward a flip. Don't worry, it's not going to happen tomorrow. But, it has happened in the past, quite a few times it turns out.
Yup, the north becomes south, south becomes north, dogs and cats living together...
See, apparently the magnetic field - which is believed to be created by the spinning, molten core of the earth - isn't as perfect as we were led to believe in school. It's mostly pretty even, but there are a lot of pockets, or anomalies, where the polarity is off a bit. These spots move around a bit too. Not real fast or anything, but they move around. It seems there a lot of them in the southern Atlantic Ocean area.
Anyway, they move around and come and go.
As time goes by, there starts to be concentrations of these spots and when enough of them gather in one half of the field, the field weakens. When the field weakens, poles form around the concentrations and the field becomes unstable. Eventually, the poles arrange themselves back into the nice and tidy bi-polar arrangement that we all know and love.
Unfortunately, while all this is going on, the magnetic shield that surrounds the earth isn't blocking nearly as much of the solar wind and radiation that comes with it. Sorry dudes, but some people are gonna get a bit scorched. Not cooked so much, but more blasted with double to triple the amount of the bad rays that cause cancer.
Better stock up on the SPF 57,000 lotion.
Fortunately, the big shift can happen pretty quickly - as in less than 200 years and even as quickly as several years. There will probably be some instability for a while, but things should be okay - except for the whole maps being backwards thing.
Anyway, that's the bad news.
The good news is that the earth is only about 8,000 years old - so none of this can be true.
Tonight, I shall celebrate the pagan holiday of All Hallows Evening - albeit a few days early. There will be costumes, drinking, and hopefully some debauchery.
Learn more about the impending doom here.
Posted by Shawn at 2:59 PM
"Mischievous people often use religious faith for their own interests and create conflict. We have to look at the real message of all these traditions."
- The Dalai Lama
Someday, I hope I become as wise and understated as the Dalai Lama is. So, while others may choose to follow the way of the warrior and select hate as their mantra, I'm going to try to follow the example of the guy in the red and yellow robes who says, "My religion is kindness."
Posted by Shawn at 3:54 AM
Monday, October 23, 2006
I love it when I learn new stuff. It makes my brain happy - especially when I can make connections between stuff I knew and new stuff I now know.
I was thinking that this guy I work with looks a lot like a character in a Grant Morrison comic book. So, the other day, I busted out my stack of The Invisibles just to check. The Invisibles is one of the weirder books created. Which, since it was created by Morrison, makes a lot of sense.
Anyway, the character I was looking for was King Mob. He's the leader of the Invisibles and a bit of an anarchist. Actually, he's more that just a bit of an anarchist, but that sort of raises the question of how can one be the leader of a group and also an anarchist. Wouldn't being part of a group go against the whole anarchist grain? But I digress...
The guy I work with looks a bit like King Mob - without the edginess, multiple piercings, cool shades, allure, and - well - the smarts. But, other than that, he looks a bit like him.
Okay, he's got a shaved head and it's pretty much the same shape as King Mob's - whatever.
That's not the exciting learnin' part though.
The learnin' comes in when I tell you that King Mob's name is actually taken from an anarchist group from the 70s. King Mob, the group, was an offshoot of the Situationists and the Motherfuckers.
"They derived their name from Christopher Hibbert's 1958 book on the Gordon Riots of June 1780, in which rioters daubed the slogan His Majesty King Mob on the walls of Newgate prison, after gutting the building." - wikipedia
Anyway, that ties into The Invisibles anarchic fight against the fiendish "archons of the Outer Church, interdimensional alien gods who have already enslaved most of the human race without their knowledge."
Truly excellent stuff - but weird.
There's a bunch of blowing things up, time travel and crazy allusions. One story arc includes the Marquis de Sade. Imagine a fat de Sade transported to the London club scene and you'll sort of get how bizarre this comic is.
A lot of it is - once you do some digging - based on chaos magic.
In one story arc, King Mob channels John Lennon to divine the future. When he comes out of his psychedelic trance, Ragged Robin asks why he didn't at least have Lennon write him some lyrics.
Anyway, I love following where the ball bounces. These crazy internet tubes are great for that kind of thing.
That's it. That's all I've got. Peace out.
Posted by Shawn at 5:47 PM
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Went out to my fine little pub downtown last night and had a tastey Newcastle, or two...
The music box needed feeding so I popped my dollars and tapped the touch zcreen a few times. Miraculoulsy, a few moments later, it began playing music. Is this the same awe that ancient man must have had when he learned to harness fire? I think yes.
In honor of my friends Josh and Eileen, I played some music they might have picked and pretended that they were there. I stopped short of talking to them or buying them drinks though. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't buy them drinks even if they were there, so that part was pretty realistic.
For Josh, I played Method Man and some Biggie. Eileen got some Billy Bragg. And the bar got a bit educated. A good night, all around.
Posted by Shawn at 12:33 PM
Friday, October 20, 2006
Sometimes it's the little things. That's why I love this internets thing. There are always lots of little things.
I stumbled onto this little exchange on a rather large political blog I've been known to frequent:
* Off topic to khereva
"And he'll never drown, for he was born to hang."
Where do you have that expression from? I've not seen it in English before.
In Norwegian it's "He drowns not, who was meant to be hanged." Often used
to shrug off what could have been a life-threatening situation.
* It's an old sailor's myth...
...that a man destined to hang could die by no other means before meeting his destiny. It shows up in Shakespeare's Tempest, Act 1 Scene 1, Gonazalo (speaking of the Boatswain):
I have great comfort from this fellow. Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him, his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his hanging, make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage. If he be not born to be hang'd, our case is miserable.
Stuff like this reminds me how much I miss hanging out with my friends.
Posted by Shawn at 1:26 PM
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Last night, as I was scrolling through my Boris' offerings - Boris the Black is my iPod in case you were wondering - it occurred to me that I haven't listened to any jazz in a while.
So, to correct that little flaw in my recent listening habits, out came some jazz. New jazz wasn't going to cut it at all, so old school it was - a return to the classics. Bust out some root jazz.
I started out some Miles Davis. I like Miles just fine. He's cool, he's smooth and a bit of a dick - but I never knew him so that last part doesn't bother me much. Anyway, it was a set from the Plug Nickel.
It was getting on my nerves actually. Sometimes you're not in the mood for good, seminal, legendary stuff. But, sometimes you are and you just don't realize it.
Looking for something else, I stopped and thought about a performance that I haven't heard in a while and decided that I just had to hear it. I quickly scrolled down to the 'D' section and there it was.
Duke Ellington - Live at Newport.
The concert was and is a musical legend. Rain had been drenching the grounds all day, but the crowd that remained was still in a rare mood. Duke and the boys took the stage and played like crazy - crazy I tell ya, those cats jammed. The crowd, the band, the confluence of events leading to this one night - in short, everything - clicked together and the place went nuts.
There was nearly a riot when the authorities got worried and tried to shut the Duke down. On the re-release of the recording (which is a return to the fully live recording) you can hear the Duke offstage telling 'the man' that the place will riot if they shut him down, but if they give him a few more songs he'll bring the boil down to a simmer.
Legendary stuff indeed.
But there was one song - one performance - that I wanted to hear.
The rest is great stuff to be sure, but the pinnacle has to be Paul Gonsalves' incredible solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. If ever there was a time when one man went beyond the limits of ordinary and transcended earthly bonds, this was it.
Gonsalves was a good player - a solid performer - but not a stellar name at the time. He was part of the band - an important piece of the puzzle, but not the big star. Anyway, the Duke had a couple of pieces that they had been working on putting together, spliced with a bit of a blues inspired solo by Gonsalves in the middle. The Duke had given the greenlight to Gonsalves to let 'er rip on the solo and on this one night in Newport, Gonsalves did just that.
Forty seven choruses - a six-minute, legendary solo effort. That's 47 choruses on the fly, just improvising and making it wail.
Starting up about 3:50 into the song, Gonsalves starts up his solo. The band has been going good, but this brings it up. As the solo builds - about a minute into the solo - the band starts catching on that this is some crazy shit happening and starts cheering Gonsalves on.
Three minutes in and they're all just going nuts. You can hear the individual band members cheering and yelling, you can hear the Duke egging him on too, with a great 'oh yeah!' at about five minutes into the solo. And it keeps building until Gonsalves after a bit more than six minutes of soloing kicks it back to the piano, clearly spent by the effort.
The crowd has been driven into a frenzy by this point.
Part of the legend is a mysterious platinum blonde in a black who starts dancing like crazy during the solo. The rest of the crowd just goes nuts.
This performance marked the return of Duke Ellington to the top of the jazz ladder and rejuvenated the swing jazz scene for many years to come.
And, holy crap, is it great! I listened to it twice.
Posted by Shawn at 3:44 PM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've been on a bit of a music frenzy lately. I don't want to bore you with the details, but it's been one of those buy one, find five more artists to check out kind of weeks.
It all started with Jimmy Buffett's new album, Take the Weather With You. Not that really led me to anything new, but it did open the floodgates. It's not a bad album, by the way. You kind of need to be a Buffett fan to appreciate it though.
That's the thing about Buffett, it's not so much a bunch of great music as it is a conversation with a good friend. A good friend who brings over beer - good beer. He's been background music for so much of my life that listening to him is like putting on a pair of perfectly faded Levis 501 jeans.
Anyway, that led me to the guilty pleasure buy of the Stick It Soundtrack. Laugh if you want, but it's gotten me through two late nights of work in the last couple of days. And it introduced me to some artists that have me very excited, Panjabi MC and Talib Kweli.
Panjabi MC is some crazy-ass Indian (dot) hip-hop. I don't even know how to describe this crazy cat's music. You'll either love it or hate though.
Talib Kweli is just pretty much awesome. He's the guy all the guys that everyone likes like. Not a supernova on his own...but more talented than most out there. Now I'm looking for as much of his stuff as I can find.
Oh yeah, last week I picked up Method Man's, 4:21...The Day After. It's good. I like it better than Judgement Day, but not as much as Method Man and Redman's, Blackout!
I'm too lazy to link.
Posted by Shawn at 3:13 PM
Friday, October 13, 2006
I know there's irony in this...I just know it.
Today, I had to drive out to lovely Ripon, Wisconsin - home of 'Ripon Good Cookies' and also 'the birthplace of the Republican party'. It's got a cute downtown and some nice people.
On the way into town, I nearly took out an old lady, a blind guy with a guide dog, and a Cub Scout pack as I swerved to the side of the road, lept from the truck and snapped the picture above.
Anyway, there it is.
The real deal.
The actual house.
'The birthplace of the Republican party.'
I'm too tired to even write something humoruous like - if they can't even be trusted with the house you were born in, how can they be trusted with the big House on the Hill in Washington, D.C., or that spiffy White House down the street from it? I'm too tired to go for a cheap chuckle.
Oh, wait...I guess I'm not.
Posted by Shawn at 11:25 PM
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
As some of you may know, I spend a bit of time over at DailyKos. It's the most-viewed blog on the internets. It's actually grown into a collection of blogs (they're called Diaries over there), but that's not the point. Conservatives hate it. I love it.
Anyway, it's all about the using the power of the internet to help shape the government. It's hard to be heard in traditional ways without a truckload of money. Blogging and the internet balances that out a bit.
There's a newish site - actually it's two years old - called ActBlue out now that was started up by a group of liberal bloggers. It provides a clearinghouse for net-based campaign donations to Democrats across the country. It's brilliant and it's working.
A quick look there shows that there has been nearly $11 million dollars raised for candidates since 2004. All of those donations come from individuals too, not big corporations and special interest PACs.
The site is not for profit. That is, they simply collect money for candidates and send them a check every month, or more frequently if there's a lot of donations to that candidate or the candidate needs money quickly. ActBlue doesn't take a cut, but they do offer donors the opportunity to leave them a 'tip' to help pay for maintaining and hosting the site.
This all leads to the real point.
My Representative to Congress is perhaps one of the most abrasive, out of touch, right-wing radicals out there. And I do mean 'out there.' Lucky me, I've got James Sensenbrenner 'representing'...um...well...corporate interests and filthy rich people.
Running against him is an intelligent, down-to-earth, decent guy - Bryan Kennedy.
Kennedy is actually within striking distance of unseating Sensenbrenner. That's something that most people considered impossible a year ago. And Kennedy's done it the old fashioned way, by knocking on doors and asking for votes. With little support from the national party and little money, Kennedy has rocked the comfortable, insular world of Wisconsin's most embarrassing politician.
I've been out doing some politicking for Kennedy. It's fun to involved somehow - even if it's only in a small way. It makes me feel far less helpless. I've been to a couple of fundraisers, done some literature drops around my town, and put up a sign yesterday.
It's all good stuff for sure, but the thing I'm most excited about is that I created an ActBlue page for Bryan Kennedy. It's a little thing, but it makes me feel like I can make a difference.
So far, it's raised $40. Not much, but I only started it two days ago. I would like to see it bring in $100 - $500 would be better, but I would be happy with $100 - before the election . That's not much time, but I'm hopeful.
I'm also hopeful that the November elections will mark a turning point for our country - the point where real debate begins again and honesty prevails over lies and secrecy. Maybe then real plans to bring about a positive conclusion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be made, actual protection of our ports, food supply, and basic infrastructures from terrorist attacks can begin, meaningful strides forward on education and healthcare reform can be made, and the mistakes and blunders of the last five years can be corrected.
Posted by Shawn at 2:31 PM
Monday, October 02, 2006
Giving a whole new twist to the term 'family values', the Republican party leadership has apparently known about the predatory nature of Mark Foley for years, but felt it more important to protect one of their own than to protect high school age pages in their care.
Come to think of it, it gives a whole new twist to the term 'stay the course'.
Posted by Shawn at 2:52 AM
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Car bomb explodes in Baghdad...six killed...two Italian soldiers injured by roadside bomb near Fallujah...Paris Hilton to be charged with misdemeanor DUI...
It's not so easy when we see photos of the carnage that is war. The destroyed lives, destroyed bodies, destroyed families - staring at us point blank.
Sipping on a Starbucks latte, we wonder why anyone wouldn't think we're doing a great thing for the Iraqi people. Trying to live on the war-torn streets of Baghdad, maybe they wonder why we're doing these things to them.
The Pulitzer prize winning series of photos from the war that remains nearly invisible to us here in the U.S. are eye opening and heart breaking. Anyone not moved by the images is perhaps beyond hope - beyond humanity.
War is terrible. It's not noble. It's not holy. It's not justified. It's a failure of humanity and mankind. Every time we wage it we've failed. War is never a success and it's never truly won.
As we argue and justify our actions in Iraq in the comfort of our own homes, with Desperate Housewives in the background, maybe we should stop and realize - actually realize - that there are desperate people living through hell. And no matter what our motivations, no matter our justifications and reasons, they are suffering in part because of us.
That's the reality of war.
There's blood and guts and bodies being shredded in Iraq today and yesterday and tomorrow. People are dying every single day. Some of them are American soldiers, or Italian, or British, but most of them are simply Iraqi. All of them are - or were - human beings...people we've failed.
We should all look hard at the images of this war. Look hard at them and then look hard at ourselves. And ask ourselves how we would face the parents of a dead child, or the children whose parents are nothing but pieces of broken flesh and what would we say to them.
What could we possibly say to them?
That's the reality of war and we should all face it.
Posted by Shawn at 6:59 AM
Friday, September 22, 2006
Okay...this might be a bit hard to follow, but that's just how my mind works.
Roughly speaking, it goes something like this... Start at iTunes, follow a link to a German music review podcast, hear some Charlotte Gainsbourg songs, realize she's the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg (which is awesome), go back to iTunes to find the album (it's not there), look up Serge Gainsbourg on wikipedia, read his bio, follow a link to a clip of Gainsbourg telling a young Whitney Houston 'I want to f*ck you' on a French television talk show, chuckle a bit about the irony of the previous scene, go back to wikipedia, follow a link to France Gall, read a bit about her career, follow yet another link and find this awesome bit of 60s goodness.
But it's not all about being cute, blonde, young and French. France Gall was certainly all of those things. She was top of the pop pile after bursting onto the French scene in the mid 1960s. Although she had already had a couple of hits before it, the song that put her on top was the little ditty above - 'Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son' - which was written by Serge Gainsbourg. She won a Eurovision award for it and found herself in the limelight as a teenager.
Gall had another hit with a Gainsbourg song about a girl who loved suckers. You can imagine the double entendre going on there. She didn't catch it until it was pointed out to her sometime later, much to her embarrassment.
She went on to do much more work over the years - becoming a French icon along the way - but the work that was most important had little to do with music and much to do with humanity.
Gall was a great advocate for the people of Africa, raising funds and awareness of the plight of starving millions. She was instrumental in the original Feed the World concert and several other large scale charity works.
People who extend themselves beyond the expectations of others are truly inspiring and those who extend themselves to help others in need are even more so.
Beautiful, French and blonde? You bet, but Gall's real beauty comes from caring about others. That's a beauty worth having.
I blame iTunes for causing me to waste a couple of hours. If they had only had Charlotte Gainsbourg's '5:55', I would have just downloaded it from there instead of getting sidetracked in the quicksand of French pop music.
But then again I wouldn't have found all the fun stuff I did...and I wouldn't have been reminded how much of a difference one person can make if only they care enough.
Posted by Shawn at 10:36 PM
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Not surprisingly, the Bush administration has been pushing hard for legislation allowing the use of torture. Most Republicans on the Hill are on board - McCain being a notable exception, which makes sense as a victim of such torture himself. The President really wants this - both to get around recent Supreme Court rulings and also to protect those who have been illegally committing these acts.
That's not even the point of this post...although a call to your Representative and Senators wouldn't be a bad idea. Okay, scratch that...would be a great idea. Do it today.
Anyway, the real point is actually just an observation.
I called the Washington offices of every Wisconsin Rep. and Senator and asked for their stand on the proposed White House legislation. Every Republican office told me that they couldn't comment on it but would send out a letter which would probably take four to six weeks. Weird...that's November isn't it? Every Democratic office directed me their website which had their position clearly spelled out.
Democrats don't condone the use of torture and don't believe in shielding torturers.
Republicans refuse to say what their stand is, even they will be voting to pass laws condoning the use torture and to shield those who commit torture. They will, however, send you a letter justifying their stand after the November elections.
Or, to be blunt...
Democrats don't condone the use of torture. Republicans do and they're not even brave enough to admit it.
Posted by Shawn at 2:51 PM
Friday, September 15, 2006
You know how some songs just do things to you? One of my favorite songs is "When the Coast is Clear" by Jimmy Buffett. It just captures the end of summer for me.
It really hit me when I lived in Oregon, since the town of Bend had a large tourist crowd. As summer ended, people left and things settled back down into a more thoughtful groove. A town like that makes you appreciate the friendships you have, when you have them.
People are constantly passing through our lives, but we often don't stop to think how soon they'll be gone. Everyone will be gone someday, we just don't like to think about it. Tourist towns speed up the process - the coming and going, the passing of people into and out of our lives.
How many cherished friends have moved on or moved away? Too many. At least, that's how it feels. Friends, enemies, lovers...so many people have passed through my life it's hard to even remember them all.
Anyway, as summer ends, you'll almost always find me listening to Jimmy Buffett with a coffee in one hand and a fistful of memories in the other. It's when I come down to talk to me...when the coast is clear.
This little video is dedicated to all the people who have blessed my little life and moved on and those who have blessed my little life and stayed.
Posted by Shawn at 2:29 PM
Hope it's not a Diebold voting machine. There have been numerous accusations that Diebold machines are too easy to tamper with and that the tampering can be undetectable. To make it worse, the machines are fully electronic meaning that there's no backup paper trail.
Well, the latest chapter is some Princeton folks proving how easy it is to tamper with the machines, load malicious code and steal an election.
Me...I'm calling the county here today. It will only take a few minutes and it's sort of my civic duty to stand up for fair elections. Anything less is unpatriotic...and remember, we're at war.
Posted by Shawn at 12:11 PM
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Cup of bad coffee in hand, I walked down the gray, wood steps. Above, the sky was blue and the sun beamed down in warm rays. Not a bad day.
Expecting to find a stack of soon to be recycled crap in the box, I was a bit surprised to see the tell-tale orange card left by mail carriers around America. The small cards either tell a tale of woe, or one of excitement and anticipation. Sign for the registered letter favored by lawyers and bill collectors, or sorry we couldn't leave the package but you can pick it up at the post office. No telling till you look.
A moment of apprehension held my hand back - a moment to wonder what I had screwed up this time.
A moment of apprehension followed by an outward breath of air.
This was for a package. A package with an origin of China. The travelling soul in me mentally took flight at that simple word in the corner box of the card. China. So far away. Far away, and yet as close as my mailbox. Well, maybe not my mailbox exactly, but the post office isn't that far off when you think in terms of half the globe.
Up the steps I went. Up and changed. Changed into a clean tee shirt. It was the least I could do. When the world arrives from the other side of the planet, the least you can do is greet it in a clean tee shirt.
Into the Jeep and downtown. Down to the post office.
Of course it wasn't there. The carrier was still out and the package was with her. Try again at quarter to five if you want. I want.
Into the Jeep again. Killing time. Starbucks for overpriced coffee and a glimpse of the cute, new girl. Trying to stretch time. Enough time passed, so back downtown I go.
There you go sir. China? Wow China. Tibet actually, but now's not the time for a debate on international borders. The large tube is in my hands. Tibet to my hands in just over a week, what do I care if it says China?
Home again, and with wonder I pull a rolled image from a the large tube. I release more than a hundred years as I unroll the Thangka. Barely more than a week to arrive. More than a hundred years in a monastery. An afternoon of suspense. Mailbox, post office, Starbucks, rinse and repeat. What is time anyway?
Such is the power of a painting. Some pigment bound to cloth. Shapes, colors, nothing and everything. Another world rolled up and held in a tube.
Yeah, not a bad day.
Posted by Shawn at 1:05 PM
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I was going to comment on yet another Bush lie in the spotlight, but that just seemed a bit too tedious.
Which lie were you going to mention Shawn?
Me...oh...just the latest one - you know the 'we don't have any secret torture facilities in Europe or anywhere else' one.
Um yeah, that one.
Perhaps you don't remember that ruckous. It was several months ago and all.
Some evil, terrorist enabling journalists found out that the U.S., or more specifically, the Bush administration - don't count me in on this crap - was flying people on secret flights to secret torture facilities in places like Eastern Europe. There was a big to do and Bush and the bootlickers around him first denied, then hem-hawed, then sort of admitted there was maybe a bit of rendering goin' on...all the while castigating the press for daring to reveal yet another illegal action of this 'we're above all laws' administration.
Um, except for the fact that them thar journalists were again right and Bush was running a bunch of secret beatin' camps around Eastern Europe. Don't blame me for spillin' the beans...it fell from the fucktard's own lips. Yup we was doin' all that, but trust me...we was fightin' us some terrorists.
Hey, dumbass! Yeah you, you goofey-eared fuck... Why are you such a pussy?
It's like a den of rats that can do nothing right and certainly can't stand the light of day.
What? The laws of the country that you're sending boys to die defending aren't good enough for you to follow?
I was gonna go off about that, but I decided it's not even worth it. Those who idolize George, Jr. will still idolize him and those who didn't like him before will just get mad again. Why stir up all that?
So, instead...I'm just going to comment on the new supercomputer that IBM is building. It's going to be the fastest one in the world and we're gonna own it...USA! USA! USA! Not that we don't already have the fastest, we do. We've got a bunch of the fastest ones.
What's cool about this one - besides being crazy fast - is that it's going to be based on off the shelf technology. The frickin heart of this beast is going to be a bunch of Play Station 3 chips.
Shut up! PS3 chips? Frickin' parts from a game? Get outta here...
I will not get out of here. It's all true and very cool.
Posted by Shawn at 10:50 AM
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Question... Why is it that conservatives always like to accuse liberals of some weird, blind loyalty to Clinton?
The reason I find this so odd is that in my day to day, I see a lot of people's homes. I have never seen a picture of Clinton up anywhere...not even in the homes of the craziest lefties in Wisconsin. Yet, I see a lot of cheesy pics of Bush, Jr. in the homes of conservatives.
Usually, there are corresponding art prints with a bible passage and a whiter than white Jesus or pretty angels hanging on the walls. Now that is what I call weird. White Jesus and George, Jr. - what an unusual pair. Or maybe not so unusual at all, who knows?
Saw another one today. It's the more popular George, Jr. pic with him in combat greens - military George, commander in chief George. It was in the usual spot for said picture - the kitchen. It always seems a bit shrinelike and today was no different.
In all fairness, I should admit that I have a picture of Ronald Reagan on my wall. It's him talking to the National Secretaries Association (or some such thing) and my Mom took the photo. He gave her his My Name Is badge that he signed his name on as well. She was president of the association at the time and arranged the talk. She dropped her camera she was so nervous. He kindly picked it up for her. She said he was very nice.
I also have Gerald Ford and Betty Ford's autographs framed on the wall. My Dad met them on a plane back when he was travelling a lot. They were very gracious. Guess that's one of the perks of first class. He got me Jimmy the Greek's autograph too, but that's not on the wall.
In other countries, people put up pictures of leaders too.
Tibetans still carry images of the Dalai Lama and prize them very highly, despite the Chinese banning them. But then, the Dalai Lama isn't just a political figure, but a religious one as well. Tibetans aren't praying to him, but rather hold him as a figure worthy of emulation and deep respect.
What old Soviet home would have been complete without a picture of Lenin or other Party leaders? That could have more likely been a case of covering your ass than veneration though. I could be wrong, but from what I've heard from Iron Curtain friends, that was usually the case.
Anyway, my friend Gregg gets worked up about pseudo hippy college kids and their love of the iconic Che Guevera poster. You know the one...everyone does. As I tell Gregg, at least it's a strong graphic image. No denying that Che looks good on a poster. What Gregg doesn't like is that these kids have no idea who Che really was. Like him or not, he was a killer. A revolutionary yes, but a killer too. Is that kind of person worthy of veneration? I think that's a valid question. Whatever the answer given, it will speak volumes about the person answering.
I'm not going to make the leap and compare Che lovers to Bush, Jr. lovers...I'm only setting it up so you make the jump yourself. Once there, ask the same question. Is this a man worthy of veneration? You already know how I feel about it.
And while you're thinking about it, ask yourself why it is that conservatives feel the need to cling to the image of Bush, Jr. and treat him with such veneration - the same sort of blind idolization that they like to accuse liberals of?
Posted by Shawn at 1:45 PM
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Ah yes, the excitement that is my life just rolls along. I know, hard to believe that someone could have this much fun. It's true that my life is a non-stop stream of excitement.
Since I bought a new, cheap digital video camera a few weeks ago...
Without further ado, I bring you a new interactive video - 'Where's Shawn Going' - where you get to be part of the fun and tell me where I was going and give me the rest of the story.
The choice is yours. Go for the excitement and drama, or find yourself wishing you had.
And, as an update on the meet an impressive person project - I think I'm going to try and meet one of these people: George Clooney (not to talk about parks and forests though - sorry Melissa), Richard Gere (to ask him about his Tantra practice), and instead of the Dalai Lama (who would be very cool indeed) I'm going to try to meet another guy, the Venerable Lama Zopa.
A few weeks ago, I did meet Senator Russ Feingold. He was nice enough, but I was amazed by the fact that he's short. No, he's short. I was talking to a couple of ladies after he left and one was saying that she thought he could be elected President. I had to honestly disagree.
"He'll never be elected," I said.
"Oh, I don't know about that, people want change..."
"No, it has nothing to do with being a 'crazy liberal'," I said. "He's too short. He'll never be elected President."
"Well..." said the lady.
"Oh my god...you're completely right," said the other, with a laugh. "Have there been any short presidents recently? I don't think so..."
"Sad but true. But he makes an awesome Senator."
How sad is it that as 'grownups' we still base much of our opinions about people on their appearance? I'm not unconvinced that Bush beat Kerry as much based on the fact that Kerry was goofier looking than Bush as on anything else. It was urely worth at least a few votes.
In a side note...Feingold does have a presence that's unmistakeable.
Funny how some people have a magnetic quality when you meet them. Well, he's certainly got that quality. I'm guessing that Bush has it too when you meet him. Clinton definitely had it. I wonder if it comes first or if it develops along with a career in the spotlight?
Posted by Shawn at 2:42 PM