Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve Bomb Blasts Rock Bangkok

The problem isn't the Muslim Arabs, the problem is Israel.
The problem isn't the Muslim Chechens, the problem is Russia.
The problem isn't Muslim Pakistan, the problem is India.
The problem isn't the Muslim Al-Qaeda, the problem is American imperialism.
The problem isn't British Muslim bombers, the problem is Britain.
The problem isn't the Muslim Moros, the problem is the Phillipines.
The problem isn't the Muslim faubourgs, the problem is France.
The problem isn't Muslim Holocaust Denial, the problem is the Jews.
The problem isn't Muslim Indonesia, the problem is East Timor.
The problem isn't the Muslim Sudanese government, the problem is the Darfuris.
The problem isn't Muslim Thais, the problem is Thailand.

The problem isn't a religion that teaches Jihad, the problem is everyone else.

Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein, and Plato

Gerald Ford was reviled for pardoning Nixon. Saddam Hussein was reviled for killing and torturing tens of thousands, for oppressing millions. Ford was driven from office by the American voters; Hussein was driven from power by the American army. Ford died in his sleep; Hussein in a hangman's noose. In his last years Ford spoke well of everyone and everyone spoke well of him. Hussein died cursing "traitors, spies (i.e. the Jews), and the Persians". Ford's passing was honored with a dignified state funeral in Washington and a national day of observance. Hussein's execution was marked by his countrymen wildly shooting rifles into the air in celebration.

These results are not fortuitous, not luck. It has become customary to say, in spite of all evidence, that all people and all peoples are morally equal. Plato writes in 'The Republic' that only people with civilized souls are able to live under the rule of law. Barbarians must have kings to rule over them because they cannot rule over their own passions, and none can rule over the passions of barbarian kings.

Thus the public life of a nation is an expression of the inner lives of its people. The difference in the lives and deaths of Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein is a measure of the differences in the inner lives of Americans and Iraqis.

The ER

I had the misfortune to have half sliced off the tip of my little finger last night. I found neighbors who were home who not only provided me with a big band-aid and sympathy but also drove me to Alta Bates' emergency room. I spent seven hours there and in the end they glued the finger tip back on. It is not so much a treatment as a repair.

Nevada City in 2006

Nevada City has gone from a somewhat Bohemian old-fashioned Gold Country town to a fully-restored tourist destination, full of violently cute shoppes. The quiet fern bars have long since been replaced with loud music places so packed with tattoos as to have a cover charge. The buildings and trees in downtown are lined with lights which is a very pretty effect, but the resemblance to the town of memory is no more than fortuitous. Yet another of the slights of age.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Dead Pool 2007

One point for every year the croaker is under 100 when the big one is bitten.

Scenic Route -

1. George Bush I
2. Barry Bonds
3. Paris Hilton
4. Donald Trump
5. President Musharraf
6. Woody Allen
7. Ted Kennedy
8. OJ Simpson
9. Betty Ford
10. George Steinbrenner

Scorpion -

2007 Croakers

1. Kevin Federline
2. Ed Asner
3. Jimmy Carter
4. Aretha Franklin
5. Dick Cheney
6. Lisa Marie Presley
7. Anna Nicole Smith
8. Barak Obama
9. Mahmoud Abbas
10. Hugh Hefner

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Technical Superiority

I figured it out. For months my telephone did not ring. I heard from people only via voice mail. I was, with some justice, suspected of being a recluse, a pensioned derelict. I searched the Samsung site and the T-Mobile site to no avail. It takes a password to reset everything and I didn't have one. I eventually found the factory preset password in the manual. Yet another example of computer security keeping the intended user out of a system no one is trying to break into. That was the manufacturer's portion of the stupidity.

For my part I was curious how to avoid this problem in the future. I finally found it in the T-Mobile site. One presses the mute button to toggle the ringer on and off and have it vibrate silently instead. Mute button? It has a mute button? Yes, one presses and holds the # key and the phone is muted. Worse, in addition to the # sign, the key actually has a tiny figure of an X-ed out speaker. That is the very icon that stubbornly refused to leave the tiny screen all these months. Like Poe's raven, it sat above my door and would leave, 'Nevermore'. What is so sad about this is that the icon on the button is recognizable if I hold it at just the right distance and am trying to focus on it. But this phone, and all phones, is designed for the youth market, people to whom that icon looks the size of a baked potato. Like they say in those movies about death row, "Ancient crock walking!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Moral Superiority

I was in the checkout line at Rite-Aid yesterday. At the front of the line was a tall fat pimply young woman who was being held up while the clerk incompetently checked her ID to see if she was old enough to buy a bottle of flavored vodka. One could not doubt that her object was to get wasted and with any luck debauched. The Mexican ahead of me in line had a box of condoms, presumably to get debauched without even bothering to get wasted. I was shaking my head over the apparent moral decline of the citizenry of El Cerrito. Then it occurred to me that I was also in line and I was buying a CD mailer with which to send a friend a pirated copy of Adobe Photoshop.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Arab Problem

Pierre Heumann is a writer for the Swiss Weekly, Die Weltwoche. He interviewed the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Jazeera, Ahmed Sheik, a Palestinian. The following is the conclusion of the interview.

Die Weltwoche: You sound bitter.

Yes, I am.

Die Weltwoche: At whom are you angry?

It's not only the lack of democracy in the region that makes me worried. I don't understand why we don't develop as quickly and dynamically as the rest of the world. We have to face the challenge and say: enough is enough! When a President can stay in power for 25 years, like in Egypt, and he is not in a position to implement reforms, we have a problem. Either the man has to change or he has to be replaced. But the society is not dynamic enough to bring about such a change in a peaceful and constructive fashion.

Die Weltwoche: Why not?

In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.

Die Weltwoche: Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.

Die Weltwoche: Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Die Weltwoche: Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

Die Weltwoche: In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.

Pierre Heumann is the Middle East correspondent of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. His interview with Ahmed Sheikh originally appeared in German in Die Weltwoche on Nov. 23, issue 47/06. The English translation is by John Rosenthal.

A Recipe

Faux Oeufs au Jacques

1. Chop half a large onion to smithereens. Do it under the stove hood with the blower on to keep from blinding yourself. Wear glasses.

2. Saute the onion in one tablespoon of air. For richer flavor, lean over the non-stick pan and say in a low voice, "olive oil".

3. While the onion is "carmelizing", crumble in up to half a pound of ground turkey breast.

4. Stir aimlessly until the bits of turkey are not pink enough to endanger your life.

5. Pour in up to one and half cups of packaged egg whites. Do NOT use real egg whites or you will be appalled by the non-color and yucko texture. If you do use real eggs, feed the yolks to your dog or cat. It will make the pet's fur glossy and make her roll over clutching her chest.

6. While cooking on medium heat, sprinkle on large quantities of every spice you can find. Garlic powder, hot sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper are all winners. I like lots of celery seeds and carraway seeds, for crunchiness if nothing else. Get big containers of spices at Costco. Three pounds each should be about right.

7. Stir on medium heat until it looks done or you lose interest, whichever comes first.

8. Serve on disposable plastic plates so you don't have to wash anything afterwards. Safeway has some with crennelated edges so you can press on a second one to make a lid for the refrigerator and then the microwave. Plastic forks may be pushing the envelope but what the hell, who cares?

9. Season liberally with the most expensive balsamic vinegar you can find.

Other Diet Tips

When seized by the munchies, a glass of seltzer or skim milk is good. A glass of red wine is better. A glass of Trader Joe's scotch is better still.

Sound Advice

From a Nikon camera user manual :

"!! When using the Viewfinder -
When operating the viewfinder adjustment with your eye to the viewfinder, care should be taken not to put your finger in your eye accidentally."