Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Really News

Today, in the tradition of "Saturday Night Live" and "Not Necessarily the News," I bring you news and commentary from our mainstream media... Evan-Style

You're NOT Fired! (But it'll cost you)
Tara Conner, this year's Miss USA, has been the subject of speculation after being spotted frequenting bars while underage. Rumors have been circulating for days that she may be stripped of her crown, but such talk has been laid to rest today.

Donald Trump emerged from his office with his infamous combover slightly disheveled, accompanied by Miss Conner, who wore a blue dress with white stains. "I've always been a believer in second chances," said Trump as he zipped his fly.

A sperm tear-choked Conner thanked the Donald for the second shot.

Cannabis Cash-Crop
Jon Gettman, former head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (N.O.R.M.L.) released a report on Monday claiming that U.S. growers produce nearly $35 Billion (yes, with a "B") worth of marijuana every year. This makes the ganja America's biggest cash crop, worth more than corn and wheat combined.

"If this is so profitable, why don't we legalize it and tax the shit out of it," asked Gettman?

Tom Riley, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy retorted by stating "Uhhhh... because it's illegal. Duh!"

Alcohol Can Help People Survive Traumatic Head Injuries
Researchers in Toronto examined over 1100 patients who were treated for severe brain injury caused by blunt trauma and made a startling discovery. Patients who were admitted with a blood-alcohol level up to .23 percent were 24 percent more likely to survive their injuries than patients with no alcohol in their system when admitted. "Maybe this was because the patients were too pickled to realize that they were supposed to die," mused an anonymous E.R. nurse.

I wonder if hospitals are going to start serving shots to these patients. And if they charge $10 for a single aspirin, how much will a jigger of Jack run?

Speaking of Mind-Altering Substances
Some stupid crackhead in Hawthorne, FL complained to the cops that her crack cocaine "wasn't very good." Eloise Reaves walked up to a Putnam County deputy, told the cop that somebody sold her "bad crack" and dropped the rock on the deputy's car for inspection.

What's this world coming to when you can't trust a random crack dealer to give you good shit, and you can't trust a cop to help you get your five bucks back?

If You Think That was Stupid...
Cornell University researcher Valerie Reyna and Frank Farley of Temple University did a study to figure out why teenagers do stupid things. At the end of their study, they had spent a lot of money, produced a lot of psychobabble and justified their existence in their respective ivory towers for another couple of years. I must be one smart motherfucker, because I came up with the same conclusion within five second... It's because teenagers are stupid!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nerdy Christmas

Take a little Christmas Spirit, throw in a dash of ingenuity, add a few spare computer parts, and here's what you end up with... the perfect Christmas Tree for geeks. This tree was entirely conceived and decorated by yours truly.

If you click on the picture, you will be taken to a larger version of this picture, courtesy of Flickr.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gang Activity

Like many areas of the country, my little corner of the world has criminal activity, and these hooligans need to be stopped. The senselesness started several months ago, and things have continually escalated since then. The community is frustrated, resources are being wasted, law enforcement officials are ineffective and children are focusing on revenge instead of what really matters.

Like many parents, I once thought this sort of thing happened to others... that it couldn't happen here... that my children couldn't be involved in something so heinous as... I can't even bring myself to say it. How could they? After all, I've done everything right. We've had the "just say no" talks. We've given them discipline with love, guidance with affection, and respect with limits. This shouldn't be happening!

In retrospect, I guess I should have seen it coming. It all started with the kids staying up late. Next thing I knew, they were cranky in the morning. Then they started wearing black, especially late at night. They would occasionally leave the house after sunset, dressed like cat burglers and speaking in hushed voices. Before I knew it, things were starting to disappear from our bathrooms and kitchens. But I refused to see what was happening to my children before my very eyes.

It's too late for us. Our kids have already started down that slippery slope from which there may be no return. Under the best of circumstance, therapy and rehabilitation may be required. I hope that you can do better for your sons and daughters. Please, before it's too late...

Talk to your children about the dangers of harmless teenage pranks. Toilet paper can be thrown too high. Soap can be applied to windows too thickly. Cars can be plastic-wrapped too tightly. Please, stop the insanity before someone is truly inconvenienced.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

I had a Dream

I had a dream. It was an unusual, quirky dream with feats of derring-do, celebrity encounters, cops, bad guys and in keeping with true dream form, lots of unexpected plot twists. The dream started with an announcement that the Eagles were doing another tour - "Hell Freezes Over, Again." To make matters even easier and better, they were playing a concert right here in my home town, so sexy wife and I decided that it was too good of an opportunity to miss.

True to dream form, the concert started immediately after we bought the tickets, and we got front-row seats. The venue was a dream-combination of small theater and convention center... a small, intimate setting with seating for only 500 or so. Before long, the concert began, but we didn't really have a chance to get in the flow. The second or third song (Pretty Maids all in a Row) was interrupted by the sound of police sirens. I had a bad feeling about things and told the wife to duck. We ducked just as two women came bursting into the room with guns a-blazin. True to Hollywood form, people panicked and the stampede began. The women, focused on killing one another for God-only-knows what reasons, kept bustin' caps at each other, coming toward the still-concealed Mr. and Mrs. Evan.

When they got about a foot away from me, I siezed the momentary opportunity to take control of the chaotic situation. One of the women ran out of ammo, and the other tripped. I grabbed the gun from the woman who ran out of ammo while the other woman was off balance, and before anyone knew what was happening, I had the other woman in a choke-hold, with the (empty) gun at her temple, screaming for her to drop her weapons. My bluff worked. Either she didn't know that I had taken the other woman's gun, or she didn't know that said gun was empty, because when I put the gun to her head, she dropped her guns and raised her hands in surrender.

The dream takes a brief fast-forward here. The women are now gone (ostensibly in jail) and we are sitting in a hotel lounge at a table next to Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who are talking to a couple of guys who were in high school with me. (I didn't really like either of these guys in high school... they were both pretentious pricks, but that's another story.) Hot Wife and I walked up to the band members, thanked them for their shortened performance, told them that we understood why they were cutting the concert short, and I said that I hoped today's incident didn't permanently drive them away from our town.

We all finished our drinks and left the hotel, and that's where the dream ended. When it ended, it was almost like a spoof on a movie or TV show. As we walked off into the sunset, I asked my wife why the cops never barged in, possibly mistaking me for one of the bad guys. I noted that my blood pressure never went up, even when the bullets were flying, and that nobody was injured. I observed that nobody gave a second thought to the fact that I managed to subdue both of these villainesses. The cops never asked for a statement, nobody thanked me, and nobody told me that I was an idiot for what I did. Everyone knew that this isn't something that happens every day, but everyone looked at this as if it was something I was perfectly equipped to do, almost as if I did it on a daily basis. It was as if my subconscious figured out that I was dreaming and then decided to spoof itself.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thankful for Telling Him

You may remember me mentioning that my 20th high school reunion took place a couple of months ago. Shortly before the reunion, one of the organizers sent out a questionaire and asked us to complete it. The questions were kind of predictable... What kind of music did you listen to... Who was your favorite teacher... What kind of advice would you give your kid now... that kind of stuff.

The day before Thanksgiving, a CD containing everyone's completed questionaire arrived at my house, and I briefly looked at it as I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The first thing that surprised me was how few names and faces I recalled. In order to shorten things up, I decided to stop looking at the profiles of people I didn't remember. While reading through the short-list questionaire, I discovered that one of my favorite teachers had passed away.

Dale Harmon was my teacher for three different English classes. The first class, News-Oriented Workshop (N.O.W.) was a reading and writing class based on current events in the newspaper and in magazines. The class also encouraged critical thinking and discussion, because we talked about the assignments we wrote, which were based on these current events. I also took an advanced composition class and a world literature class because he was the teacher.

Mr. Harmon was a short, round, bald guy, with a personality that blended Danny DeVito and Santa Claus. He was witty and funny, but without the sarcasm. He was quick to laugh, slow to anger, and he constantly pushed his students to grow and learn. His love of teaching fostered a love of learning in countless students, and the world is a better place for his existence.

Some time after graduating high school, I was prompted to get back in touch with Dale. Whether my decision was a result of something I said or something I read isn't really relevant. What matters is that I decided to contact him and let him know how much his teaching impacted my life. Since he was an English teacher, I figured that a letter was the most appropriate method of contacting him, and in short order I had received a written response.

Over the course of the next couple of months we exchanged a few letters and briefly discussed several subjects. The relationship quickly evolved from student-teacher tutelage to one of mutual respect shared between peers, and I eventually decided to drop in and see him. On one of my summer visits to my hometown, I popped in and we chatted for a couple of hours. We talked about education, parenting, politics and life, and it's a day I won't soon forget. I walked away from his house very happy about stopping by, because I had the distinct sense that for all of his outward happiness, Mr. Harmon was a man carrying a lot of regret; I wasn't able to lift any of that burden - regret is something that only the owner can carry. I did, however, give him something to be proud of. I told him how much his teaching influenced my life, and I let him know that several of my high school peers held him in similar esteem. The visit certainly made the day for both of us.

That was the last time I saw, spoke to or wrote to Dale Harmon. I had always intended to get back in touch with him, and life always got in the way. When I found out that he had died I knew that I'd never see him again, and I was a little wistful about that; but I was thankful for telling him how much he meant to me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What's Happened to Thanksgiving?

I was watching Desperate Housewives last night, and they had a clip in the show where Bree and family listening to Christmas music, getting Christmas cards made, and generally preparing for Christmas. The very next commercial was a Christmas commercial. Now, I've come in to work and I'm hearing non-stop Christmas music on the radio.

Am I the only one that thinks we need to celebrate Thanksgiving before we get all fired up about Christmas? Don't get me wrong, I'm not a humbug or anything. In fact, I like Christmas. I especially like decorating the tree (which I do the weekend after Thanksgiving), wrapping gifts, watching the kids unwrap said gifts, and a couple of our family traditions, like buying a new ornament for my wife and each of my kids every year... something that uniquely represents my relationship with each of the ladies in my life. But man, this is nuts! Can't we celebrate Thanksgiving first?

I get the whole commercial aspect of Christmas. I've been talking about this for my entire adult life. But it really seems to get a little worse each year. The merchants are so worried about their precious profits that they completely overlook Thanksgiving, just as they have brushed aside the meaning behind Christmas. Both of these holidays are designed to remember God, but alas, it's all about the commercialism.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veterans Day

I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get this posted yesterday, but I was watching my daughter compete in a cheerleading/dance competition. (That's another story entirely.)

For those of you who aren't familiar with the origins of Veterans Day, it was originally called Armistice Day, and was created to honor the cessation of hostilities of World War I (which officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). Sometime in the 1950's the government changed the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans from all wars.

Many other countries observe some form of Armistice Day, and most observe two minutes of silence. Americans don't seem to do this, but before my daughter's aforementioned competition began, I asked for and received two minutes of silence. I figure that two minutes isn't much to ask, especially when compared to those who gave their lives during the Great War. Maybe we should start a campaign to get the two minutes observed nationwide in the U.S.

When I asked for the two minutes, I walked up to the emcee (sporting a Marine Corps hat and my denim jacket with a USMC patch on it) and asked her if she was going to observe the two minutes for Veterans Day. "Should we," she queried?

I didn't miss a heartbeat... "Yeah," I replied.

"Two minutes. That's a long time," she offered.

I was a little incensed over that comment, but I kept my cool. I was only slightly snide as I said "No it isn't."

A couple of minutes later, we observed the silence. I don't remember the last time I heard silence so utter in such a large gathering.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Tourist, Trapped

Today was my big tourist day. Up to now, Mrs. Evan has been diligently attending conferences. I've done a lot of walking and people-watching, and checking out the local scene, but I wanted to wait for the tourist thing until Mrs. Evan could join me. She took the morning off from lectures, giving us a brief but greatly appreciated opportunity to experience some of Seattle's attractions together.

We started our morning by walking downtown, where we could catch the monorail to the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle and Experience Music Project. Unfortunately, things didn't work exactly as planned. When we got to the monorail station, there was a big sign saying that it was closed for maintenance. We took the bus instead. The next grand disappointment was discovering that the Experience Music Project is closed on Tuesdays during the winter months. WTF, didn't these idiots know that I was coming?!? Apparently they missed the memo! With the morning starting off on a slightly disappointing note, we headed up the Space Needle. Since this is the grand tourist trap of Seattle, I had low to moderate expectations for the place, despite the fact that numerous people -- tourists and locals -- told me that I needed to do it.

I am happy to announce that the Space Needle is definitely worth the trip. Apparently there are days where it's too windy to go out on the outdoor observation deck, and there are (ostensibly rainy) days where the view isn't as good because you can't see as far, but we went on a calm, sunny day, and the view was truly spectacular. You can easily see Mount Rainier, Puget Sound and the city of Seattle.

Once I was in the Needle, and got my bearings, I was able to figure out how to find it from other locations after my trip had ended. This picture was actually taken a couple of days ago from the docks, but it should help you understand that it's a landmark that's visible from just about everywhere, except for the middle of downtown, because of all of the skyscrapers.

The Needle is full of cool facts about where the idea came from, how it became a reality, and about the engineering. For example: The Needle is designed to withstand 150 MPH winds, and a 6+ earthquake.

I also had a couple of misconceptions about the Needle. I figured that the whole thing rotated. That's not true. Only the floor of the restaurant turns. And not even the whole restaurant... only the area where the patrons actually dine. Despite the fact that the restaurant is one floor below the observation deck, I like the restaurant's view better. The observation deck has a safety system built in, chock full of safety glass and cables. (I suppose it's designed to prevent idiots from jumping.) The restaurant, with its large panes of (safety)glass offers a better view, despite being one floor lower. Add in the fact that it rotates, and the realization that the shape naturally keeps you from direct sunlight (no glare), and you should be able to understand why I like the restaurant's view better.

There were a couple of minor things that detracted from the restaurant. It doesn't open until 11:00 (so we got there too early to try it out), it's a little cramped (but not too bad) and the decor is a little tacky. (It seems as if it hadn't been updated since its original 1960'-era construction.) On the cool side, they start spinning the restaurant about an hour before they officially open for service. With all of this in mind, I recommend that you get there about an hour or so after they open, and catch an early lunch. Based on my understanding, they validate your elevator ride, so if you eat there, your elevator ride is free. (I can't speak for this firsthand though.)

Taking a minor detour back to yesterday's post, here's a picture of me in semi-grunge mode. Seriously, do I look like somebody that's looking to score some weed? Okay, maybe that wasn't the best question to ask, but for what it's worth, I'm going to reiterate that I was NOT looking to score any illegal substances.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program...

After we finished at the space needle, we went back downtown and hit the market. The market is nearly impossible to describe, but I'll try. The market is a multi-story, semi-open-air area that contains the most eclectic collection of shops I've ever experienced. The first floor and some areas on the other floors (located on lower levers) are covered, but they are open-air, meaning you can walk in from the street without opening any doors and there are no windows or walls. The main floor focuses on fresh, perishable items, mainly fish brought directly in from the Pacific, fruits and vegetables, and flowers. The other stores are either incredibly high-end collector-type stores, or giant garage sales crammed into the space of 200-odd square feet. There are also a couple of great restaurants, some super-duper high end, and some cafe-style, all facing the bay.

You may have heard of the Pike Place Fish Market. They were the subject of a motivational corporate-style video put out around ten years ago. The basic idea of the video is that you may have a crappy or difficult job, but your job (and your life) is really what you make of it, no matter what your lot in life. I got to see these guys in action, and I must admit that I was truly captivated by them. They love their job, and they have a great time interacting with the customer and gawkers. I'm so wowed by them that I'm still considering having them ship some stuff to me at home.

My last entry for today is discussing a personal pilgrimage. I mentioned earlier that I couldn't pay homage to Cobain or Staley, and that I missed the EMP. I did however, find out that there's a Harley-Davidson store in downtown Seattle. So I did what any loyal Harley owner would do... I dropped by and bought a patch to sew onto my jacket. I also snapped a couple of pics while I was there.

This will probably be my last entry about my trip to Seattle, unless you have any questions. We're heading home tomorrow. I hope you've enjoyed reading about my trip. I've certainly loved the experience, and enjoyed relaying it to you. Tonight we're going to hit a local restaurant that's famous for its fresh seafood and view of the Sound. Maybe I'll give you a review. I will be posting all of my pics on my flickr account soon. Oh by the way, speaking of restaurants... we hit the local Cheesecake Factory the other night. Their daily special was salmon. One guy in our party was thinking about getting it. He asked if it was local and fresh, to which the waitress sheepishly acknowledged that it was Atlantic Salmon. How tacky is that?!?

Are You Alright?

The exploration of Seattle continues. I've been doing more walking (I'm sure I've passed the 35 mile mark by now), more exploring and a lot of eating.

I must be really convincing with my Seattle grunge look... Walking around in jeans, a T-Shirt, a heavy wool button-down flannel, my leather trenchcoat and shades, and sporting a goatee plus several days of razor stubble. I've had one tourist ask me for directions... oddly enough, I knew how to get there, and I recommended that they put away their map, lest they be overrun by people begging for spare change.

What really convinced me that I must look local though, is that three people have asked me if I want to buy drugs. The first two, which occurred yesterday, were really subtle, and I didn't catch on until a little while after the second time. In each case, the guys started by asking me for some spare change and then asked me if they could chat after I said no. They chatted about nothing in particular, but they both asked me if I was shopping, and they both asked me if I was alright. A half hour or so later, I was walking through the pedestrian park and smelled that unmistakable scent of burning rope. Once I caught a whiff, I understood why those two guys were so curious if I was shopping and acutely concerned about my well-being. I couldn't help but laugh over the fact that it took me so long to get what they were talking about.

Today's experience wasn't quite as subtle. A guy just walked up to me and asked if I wanted to buy some morphine. Ummm.... let me think about this... NO!!

Walking around town during the week is significantly different from early mornings on the weekend. The city was up and running before I was, and there was more of a businesslike atmosphere. People were a little more dressed up, more cell phones to the ears, and people seemed more focused. The market was up and running earlier too. Stay tuned for the next chapter of Seattle in Review.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

...Of Fellowship and Warmth

I'm not really sure where to begin with this... I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to organize my experience thus far into a coherent thought, and I haven't had much success. I guess it's time to give up on trying to formulate a congruent story and just go with a stream of consciousness approach. I hope you'll bear with me if things get a little disjointed, but I've seen a lot in a very short period of time.

Everything I've experienced up to now has been on foot, and it's all been downtown and at the waterfront. I haven't yet done the Space Needle or the Experience Music Project... that's coming later. The walking has been extensive. I haven't measured exactly how much distance I've covered, but based on my average walking speed and how long I was out and about, I estimate that I've covered roughly 25 miles since arriving. I'm a moderately active guy, but I wasn't quite prepared for this. My legs are sore as hell. I'm only here for a few days though, and I may not have another opportunity to see this incredible city, so I won't let a little thing like sore muscles slow me down.

Seattle is like a woman... beautiful, complex, enigmatic and a little bit self-contradicting. Seattle is also a very clean city, and people seem to take pride in that. Each morning I see workers emptying the garbage from the waste containers, and cleaning the sidewalks. Early mornings are quiet and peaceful, belying the vitality that the city shows later in the day. This picture was taken around 8:30 A.M. on a Sunday, in the middle of downtown, and Saturday was just as deserted.

There is a lot of money in this town, but little conspicuous consumption. The architecture is clean but not glitzy, the prices in the stores are urban but not outrageous, the cars are clean and well-kept, but not ostentatious, and people dress well but casually.

At the same time there is a lot of poverty in Seattle. There are many homeless here. Young... old... male... female... white... black. The poverty in this town is as diverse as the wealth, and it's interesting to watch the two groups interact. Yes, they interact. Those who are fortunate are compassionate towards those who go without. The destitute are not looked down upon with disdain. In return, the homeless are respectful and appreciative. They don't jump in your face and ask for things, and they express genuine appreciation for what they are given. Many even offer blessings to random passers-by.

I have seen my share of poverty, and I have seen my share of scams. I know that some of the panhandlers in this city actually make a decent living by begging. One guy had a sign asking for help for him and his dog, and both of them had enough extra weight on them that there was absolutely no imminent danger of starvation. Some vagabonds use humor to get their daily bread. One middle-aged guy had a sign that said "My father was killed by ninjas. Need money for karate lessons." I saw numerous people give him a dollar just because the sign was clever. These specific drifters provided me a strange sort of amusement. I know that they were living this way by choice to some extent. They were living hand to mouth, but they also had an air of freedom about them that almost made me envious.

Others tugged at my heart strings. I saw a group of four teenagers sleeping in a drained water fountain, huddling together to stay warm. I saw a man covered in a single blanket, next to a suitcase... ostensibly his only remaining possessions. I saw the man in this picture.

Giving directly to the homeless is an act of faith, done strictly on an emotional basis. Some I can look in the eye and feel nothing. Others, I gaze in their general direction and nearly end up in tears. I saw this gentleman from above, and nearly a block away, while taking pictures of the cityscape. Looking downward, he held his sign, imposing himself on nobody. After taking my photographs, I walked toward him. He didn't ask for money. With a slight shiver, he asked me for coffee. I had just taken a couple of sips out of my cup, so it was nearly full. Without batting an eyelash, I gave him mine. "What about you," he asked?

"Dude, don't worry about me." The guy is begging for coffee, and when I offered him mine, he asked what I was going to do. This is the kind of quiet dignity that moves me. Yeah, it's possible that he was playing the system, but I highly doubt it. The hobos and vagabonds have a different air about them... almost gypsyish. This man didn't ask for money, and when I offered him all of what I had, he expressed concern for me.

Shortly after this, I ran into another guy who did hit me up for money. We walked and talked. I don't give money as a rule, and I declined in his case as well. He asked if he could walk and talk a bit, and I agreed. We didn't really talk about much, just small talk. He asked where I was from, and if this was my first visit to Seattle, welcoming me when I acknowledged that I had just arrived. He said that he was released from prison a couple of years back and had trouble finding a job. Not much more, just a passing conversation. When we parted ways, he thanked me for talking to him. God touched me this morning. I felt that I was able to help two men in some small way. One man, I gave fellowship, and one man I gave warmth on a cold Seattle morning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Stop Playing Tag, You're Scaring Me!

I just finished reading a story stating that an elementary school in Attleboro, MA have "banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable." According to the principal, Gaylene Heppe, "recess is a time when accidents can happen." Fortunately, not everyone thinks this is a good decision. One parent lamented over the school's micromanagement of the kids and realizes that playing tag is part of being a kid. On the down side, Celeste D'Elia said her son feels safer because of the rule, and says that she's witnessed enough near collisions. These aren't actual collisions mind you, just near misses.

WTF!?! Let the kids play tag. If you're scared for your child, then send a note to the school saying your kid can't play, or compromise and get the kid a bubble wrap suit for playtime. Or maybe the school should send a waiver home with parents explaining that kids sometimes get hurt at recess. But come on, don't ban kids from playing.

This is absolutely assinine! For years we've been dealing with the expanding waistline of Americans, and the deteriorating health that accompanies our collective weight gain. This problem has been partially attributed to our lower levels of activity. So what do we do? We restrict our kids' activities even more. If this happens at my kids' school, I think I'll sue the district for contributing to my kids' poor health by restricting their physical activity.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teen Questioned for Online Bush Threats

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Upset by the war in Iraq, Julia Wilson vented her frustrations with President Bush last spring on her Web page on MySpace.com. She posted a picture of the president, scrawled "Kill Bush" across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense.

It was too late.

Federal authorities had found the page and placed Wilson at the top of their most wanted list, despite the fact that the dagger depicted a stab wound to the hand, an obviously non-fatal injury. “Any speech or action that doesn’t completely and blindly support the Bush administration is taken seriously,” an anonymous secret service staff member was quoted as saying.

They finally reached her this week in her molecular biology class. An uncited FBI spokesman was overheard saying “We’ve made tremendous strides in finding these dangerously vocal teenagers by hiring former representative Mark Foley, an expert at using the internet to find youngsters.”

The 14-year-old freshman was taken out of class Wednesday and questioned for about 15 hours minutes by two Secret Service agents. The incident has upset her parents, who said the agents should have included them when they questioned their daughter. “It’s our fault,” her mother said, “and if the Secret Service agents had questioned us as well, they would have known this. Our daughter is too young to make up her own mind. It was our fault for filling her mind with wrong-think. Mr. President, if you must take someone to the secret CIA prisons for more questioning, please take us.”

On Friday, the teenager said the agents' questioning led her to tears.

"I wasn't dangerous. I mean, look at what's (stenciled) on my backpack — it's a heart. I'm a very peace-loving person," said Wilson, an honor student who describes herself as politically passionate. Then, her eyes glazed over, her voice became strangely monotone, and she continued, saying "I'm against the war in Iraq. Er, I mean I was. Now, I totally support the administration’s efforts. I'm not going to kill the president."

Her mother, Kirstie Wilson, said two agents showed up at the family's home Wednesday afternoon, questioned her and promised to return once her daughter was home from school. “At least I think they were Secret Service agents. I don’t think they’re members of Mark Foley’s administration, because he’s a gay pedophile. Isn’t he?”

After they left, Kirstie Wilson sent a text message to her daughter's cell phone, telling her to come straight home: "There are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush. Run! Run, or we may never see you again!"

"Are you serious!?!? omg. Am I in a lot of trouble?" her daughter responded.

Moments later, Kirstie Wilson received another text message from her daughter saying agents had pulled her out of class.

“I can’t believe she was able to get that text to her mom with that black hood over her head and her hands tied behind her back,” the capturing agent stated. “We tried capturing her by offering her candy, but she was too smart for that, so we had to don the hoods and burst into her class with weapons drawn. You know how dangerous free-thinking children can be.”

Julia Wilson said the agents threatened her by saying she could be sent to juvenile hall for making the threat, and that she was a very naughty girl who needed a spanking.”

"They yelled at me a lot," she said. "They were unnecessarily mean, and their voices seemed a little creepy when they talked about spanking me.”

Spokesmen for the Secret Service in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said they could not comment on the case, but several of them had Wilson’s pictures as screensavers on their personal laptops.

Wilson and her parents said the agents were justified in questioning her over her MySpace.com posting. But they said they believe agents went too far by not waiting until she was out of school. “Mr. Bush, I understand that your enforcers needed to fix our wrong-think, but this task force isn’t supposed to exist, is it? When they burst into class like that, everyone in the whole school saw your ‘non-existent’ goon squad. Now, they’re going to have to do the same thing to everyone that witnessed it. Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

They also said the agents should have more quickly figured out they weren't dealing with a real danger. Ultimately, the agents told the teen “we were never here.”

Assistant Principal Paul Belluomini said the agents gave him the impression the girl's mother knew they were planning to question her daughter at school. There is no legal requirement that parents be notified. “And even if there is, this is the President. He’s not subject to the laws of the land.”

"This has been an ongoing problem," said Ann Brick, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco. Former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis vetoed bills that would have required that parents give consent or be present when their children are questioned at school by law enforcement officers. A similar bill this year cleared the state Senate but died in the Assembly.

Julia Wilson plans to post a new MySpace.com page, this one devoted to organizing other students to protest the Iraq war... “er, I mean, devoted to our beloved President.”

"I decided today I think I will because it (the questioning) taught me that our President is totally right," she said.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tired of the Bush Republicans

That's it, I've had it! I've had my fill of George W. Bush trying to whittle away my rights. I'm sick of him ramming legislation down our collective throats under the banner of fighting terrorism, and I'm even more disgusted with how the idiots surrounding him blindly parrot the party line and insinuate that people who disagree with the Bush power grab are somehow unpatriotic and trying to coddle terrorists. The most recent example is an Associated Press article I read today, summed up as follows... (My summary, not the author's)

-The House of Representatives recently approved a bill giving President Bush authority to wiretap without a warrant, but with restrictions.

-Though it wasn't directly stated in the article, I have inferred that this bill was passed very much along party lines, with Republicans voting for the measure and Democrats opposing it.

-After passing the bill, Republicans actually called this a test as to whether the Democrats want to fight, or would rather coddle terrorists.

-One legislator basically said that the Democrats were always coming up with excuses why they couldn't support various pieces of legislation and claimed that this speaks volumes about which party is tougher on terror.

Now, after all of this crap, the whole point is made moot, because the bill the House passed won't become law anyway... at least not until after the November elections. Why? Because the Senate and House do not have a united bill to send to the White House. The whole basis of this article was that the House was patting itself on the back through posturing. The House Republicans were trying to make themselves appear tough on terror, and parroting the party propaganda while actually doing nothing.

I'm tired of being silent about this. If I disappear, you will know that it's because what I said was a little too close to home for the Bush Reich.

-Opposing warrantless wiretapping is NOT coddling terrorists.

-Opposing the status quo in Iraq is NOT cutting and running, and it is not coddling terrorists.

-Speaking out against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and the other Bushies is NOT unpatriotic.

-Trying someone without letting them know what they're being charged with is WRONG.

-Trying someone without letting them see all of the evidence is WRONG.

-Trying someone without letting them face their accusor is WRONG.

-Holding someone indefinitely without reasonable evidence that they did something wrong is WRONG.

-Expecting the people to spend whatever you want on this war, for however long you want, without any justification, cost accounting or fiscal responsibility is WRONG.

Now, by the same token...

-Leaving Iraq now is WRONG. I like Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn" analogy... you break it, you bought it.

-Expecting to fight a war without casualties is WRONG. This is going to sound calloused, but in war there MUST be such a thing as acceptable loss. Our current death toll, while unfortunate, is a very small number.

-Assuming that violence is never the answer, and that negotiations will always yield results is WRONG. That mentality is what allowed the Nazis to march into Paris, and it's why Tibet is now part of China!

-Fighting a war without expecting to have to tighten your belt domestically is WRONG.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Tough Being a Parent

Parenting has got to be the most fulfilling job in the world. When it's good, it's really good, but when it's bad, it's really bad. I guess that's what makes it so rewarding. You take delight in seeing your children grow and evolve, and you know you make mistakes. It's the roller-coaster ride that makes it rewarding. Today was a mistake day.

My kids were fighting, as kids often do. Per my usual routine, I kept tabs on it and allowed them to fight it out on their own. After a quick shower, I discovered my younger daughter laying in my bed sobbing. While I was in the shower, they started hitting and kicking each other. They can yell at each other, call each other names, say they never want to speak to each other again, and I'll let that slide. But I don't allow them to hit and kick each other. Last time they did it, I said I'd punish them next time it happened, and I followed through with my promise this morning.

They both seemed completely unfazed when I told them they'd be grounded, so I upped the stakes and told them it was for a week. After all, it's not really punishment if the punishment doesn't bother them. That got their attention, but it's also where things got bad.

My younger one wisely quieted down. My older one, being a teenager who possesses all of humanity's knowledge and wisdom, decided to challenge my decision. Here are some of the highlights...

Round 1:
"Dad, you said that we can stand up for ourselves at school and with friends and that you'd back us up. Why can't we do that here?"

'Fine, you can't stand up for yourself at school now either."

Round 2:
"Dad, how come you can raise your voice, point, cut me off and yell, but I can't?"

"Because I'm the boss. The boss has privileges that others don't. Get used to it, because that will never change."

Round 3:
"Dad, you can't ground me. I've got a school function."

"You're not going."

"It's for student council." (Ouch, that one hurt me!)

"I don't care, you're still not going. You don't tell me how I can ground you."

"Well you're going to tell the teacher then."

"I don't think so. That's just become part of your punishment. You can now tell your teacher that you won't be able to attend Friday's function, because you got grounded for being a smart-ass."

"Can I say it like that?"

"If you must, but if you get into trouble for saying it that way, that's your problem."

Round 4:
Dad's decided it's time to try to calm things down a bit. My younger daughter was present during this whole argument, but wisely remained silent. The closest she came to getting involved was sighing during round one. I figured I'd hold an olive branch and reduce how long they were grounded (but offset the length of their sentence by making them do extra chores while they were grounded).

"Kids, come here." (The younger one was already in the room.)

"I don't want to," replies the older one.

"I don't care what you want, get in here."


'"Get in here, NOW!" She then opened the door, and came in, but kept her eyes closed, refusing to look at me. I really don't remember what she said immediately after that, but I responded...

"I had planned on saying that you don't need to be grounded for a week, but your behavior is telling me otherwise. Younger kid, you're grounded just for today. Older kid, you're staying grounded for a week."

"What?! Why!?! See, this is why I told you 'No' when you said to come here. How come I have to come when you call? How come you can yell and I can't?" Mind you, she's yelling at me hysterically during this whole thing. That was it. I went drill instructor on her, getting right in her face, hovering over her, pointing at her, and yelling loud enough that she occasionally had to wipe the spit from her face.

"I am the boss! You, not being the boss, have to listen to me! When I say 'Come here!' you come. You don't ask why! You don't say no! You don't talk back! You don't tell me you don't want to! You don't give me smart-ass answers! I am the boss."

"Why don't you fire me?"

"I wish I could." (Oops, wrong thing to say.)

Round 5:
Yeah, that "I wish I could" was the exact wrong thing to say, and I didn't get it right away. By the way, I should mention that during the previous four rounds, she worked her way up from being grounded for a week to being grounded for two weeks.

"I'm leaving."

"If you leave, you're grounded for three weeks."

"No, I'm not coming back. You want to fire me."

"Get back here!"

"NO!" she exclaimed, walking out the door.

I darted after her, still in my bath robe, hoping that I wouldn't have to chase her down the street dressed only in a bathrobe. She didn't run. I caught her, grabbed her arm and said "Get in the house now. If you give me any lip, I will bend you over my knee and spank you in front of God and the neighbors."

Round 6:
This is where I started getting how much I messed up with my little "I wish I could" comment. She got into the house, grabbed the phone ran into the bathroom, locked the door, and called her mom, sobbing. I respected her privacy, but I heard her say "He doesn't want me. He said he wanted to fire me." She was sobbing uncontrollably, and I felt like crap. That's totally not what I intended.

I intended to relay that she was being a pain in the ass. She heard that I didn't want her anymore. I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut, and I suspect my daughter felt the same way. In fact, based on her sobs, I knew it. It was time to calm things down. I waited until she got off of the phone and came out of the bathroom herself. I walked up to her and gave her a hug.

"I don't want to talk to you."

"I understand. You don't have to. I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings. You know I love you. I love you as much as I love your sister, and I love you as much as I love Mrs. Evan. When I said that I wanted to fire you, I was trying to say that you're being a pain in the ass. I get that you heard me say I don't want you, and I understand why you heard that, and I'm sorry. That's not what I wanted you to hear."

After she calmed down a bit, I said that we should talk about cutting back on the grounding a bit, because part of her sentence was due to me grounding her out of anger, not out of punishment. We still need to work that out. I'm thinking either two weeks in her room, or one week of grounding with extra chores.

Yep. It's tough being a parent. I still feel like crap, I still don't know exactly how to punish her adequately. I know she feels like crap too. Ugh. I hate days like this!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Smiling Bob May not be Smiling Much Longer

We've all heard of Smiling Bob, and the alleged product he represents -- "Enzyte, the once a day tablet for natural male enhancement." I've already provided my thoughts on Enzyte, so we won't rehash that one. Imagine my surprise though, when I got a link to this Associated Press (AP) article today.

---Begin Original Article---
CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) -- The maker of dietary supplements that claim to improve everything from sexuality to memory defrauded thousands of customers and banks of at least $100 million, federal authorities say.

A federal indictment names Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, its owner and president, Steven Warshak, and five other individuals, including Warshak's mother, on charges that include conspiracy, money laundering, and mail, wire and bank fraud.

They are accused by federal authorities of luring customers with free-trial offers and money-back guarantees, then billing their credit cards without authorization.

Warshak, who has 107 counts against him, denies the accusations and will continue to operate the company, his attorney said Thursday.

The company, which recently said it has 5 million customers worldwide, is known for its "Smiling Bob" ads that depict a man whose life gets better after he uses the company's Enzyte for "natural male enhancement."

The company markets nationally a variety of other products claiming to help everything from night vision to memory to female libido.

False advertising alleged

The company, based in suburban Forest Park, Ohio, also used false advertising, the indictment charges.

In one example, Wednesday's indictment cited ads placed in Penthouse and other male-oriented magazines that claimed Enzyte was developed after years of study by two doctors, one at Harvard and the other at Stanford.

"The company president and others made up information in their advertisements, such as endorsements by doctors that did not exist, and results of customer satisfaction surveys that had never been conducted," U.S. Attorney Greg Lockhart said.

Customers with complaints were told to write to a director of customer care who did not exist, the indictment alleges.

The Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Service, postal inspectors and other agencies participated in the investigation.

The indictment says at one point, Berkeley marketed a supplement called Rovicid as a prostate health product for men, but later relabeled old stocks of Rovicid as a cardiac health supplement for men and women.

A court appearance for the defendants was scheduled for September 28. Martin Weinberg, Warshak's attorney, said he will plead not guilty and "vigorously assert his innocence to all charges."

Charges carry 30-year sentence

Several charges, including conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, that Warshak faces each carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison with conviction.

"We believe the government converted what in its essence is a civil and regulatory issue into this broad criminal indictment," said Weinberg, who is based in Boston.

In March, Berkeley agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle allegations brought by the attorneys general in Ohio and other states that the company engaged in deceptive practices in the sale of its herbal products. As part of the settlement, Berkeley and Warshak did not admit any wrongdoing.

Five of the company's former executives have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to defrauding customers through a product giveaway program that led to unauthorized billing of their credit cards.

Federal authorities have frozen $25 million in assets held by Warshak and members of his family, and Lockhart said authorities will continue to try to recover money to give victims.

Berkeley generated about $250 million in sales in 2004, mostly from telephone orders spurred by TV ads.

In a recent advertisement in The Cincinnati Enquirer, Berekley said: "We have invested heavily in major improvements designed to overcome our early growing pains. The net result of these investments is that today we have more than 5 million customers worldwide, and our customer service is better than most of the Fortune 500 companies."

The ad included a coupon for a free 60-day sample of any Berkeley product.

---End Original Article---

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Dread Pirate E-ron

The family celebrated the younger kid's 10th birthday yesterday. Per her request, the party had a pirate theme, with her taking the role of Captain Jack Sparrow. There was a slight variation on this idea, as little 'un decided that she wanted to remain female, so "Jack" was short for "Jackie."

E-ron was definitely ready for the party, especially considering that she and Mrs. Evan started planning and preparing for the party months ago. By the way, thanks to the Oriental Trading Company for providing us with several ideas for the party. We ordered several things from them, and they gave us a lot of additional ideas.

These pics are shots we took before the party. E-ron, Mrs. Evan and I dressed up for the party. Little 'un's older sister dressed up too, but being a teenager, she did so with her own flare.

Some highlights of the party were the treasure hunt, the opportunity for all of the guests to dress up like pirates (with bandannas, eyepatches, scimitars and pirate make-up),

the treasure hunt, eating like heathens (only finger food like chicken nuggets and so forth), and the cake. We had two cakes. One was "delicious dirt," which was cake crumbs, topped with chocolate mousse, covered with crumbled oreos and garnished with gummy worms.The other was a red velvet cake with a black pirate flag for the frosting. The idea was that cutting the cake would reveal blood. It worked out incredibly well.If you're interested in seeing all of the pics from her party, check out the slide show.

Note to Chief Slacker. The stuff I'm wearing is the stuff I bought when we were at the Renaissance Festival this year. You probably remember me buying the tunic and trousers. For the sashes and bandanna, I bought a few strips of cloth at Wal-Mart... a lot cheaper, and a much better selection than the Ren Fest offered.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Of Baubles and Bobbles

I've been trying to NOT prattle incessantly about my new toy, and in all honesty I think I've done pretty well so far. (My wife may disagree with me, but cut me some slack... I've got to discuss my new obsession with someone.) Just because I haven't been talking non-stop about it though, doesn't mean that I haven't been out enjoying my new purchase at every opportunity. (This means double kudos to Mrs. Evan, because I'm around less, and when I am around, I'm talking about the bike.)

In all fairness to myself though, I think I've been pretty good. I haven't quit my job and ditched my family for a life on the road, and I haven't blown my life savings on chrome accessories. In fact, I've only put about 1300 miles on it in just about two months, and I bought my first bauble only yesterday. This means that I've done some riding for pleasure, but only when the rest of the family is gone, and I've been incredibly responsible in my accessorizing.

But like I said, I finally broke down yesterday and bought something non-functional for the bike. I got a chrome and gold-colored medallion cap for my gas cap, as shown in this picture. Since the bike is black with a few chrome accessories, I think that the gold and chrome accessories will go a long way in adding some color and individualization to my new ride.

Speaking of baubles, I also had my first close-call bobble today, and it was reminiscent of when I dropped my first bike almost 20 years ago. I am proud to announce though, that today's close call had a much more favorable outcome.

While going around a corner, I hit a patch of gravel, causing the front wheel to momentarily lose traction. Fortunately, I was being cautious, traveling at a reasonably slow pace, and had recently taken my motorcycle safety course. I sincerely believe that it was the combination of all three aspects that kept me from dropping my bike. Unlike twenty years ago, I realize that I'm not invincible and therefore take a little more care in my riding.

Speaking of the bike... I usually don't make a habit of naming my vehicles, but I'm thinking of naming my Harley. It's generally accepted that boats and cars are given female names, so I think my Sportster should be named accordingly. I'm thinking Sophia. Any input?

Monday, September 11, 2006

What Do You Remember?

I’m a little reluctant to write about 9/11, but I’m going to anyway. My reluctance comes from the belief that nothing I write could adequately express the importance of that day or those events, and from the knowledge that everyone else will spend a lot of energy reading and writing about that life-altering day. I’m doing it anyway because I feel that I must honor and observe the significance of that day, inadequate as my attempt may be.

Some of the events are indelibly seared in to my mind; others have undoubtedly faded with time. I remember getting to work and settling in to my chair for the day’s work, when one of my co-workers asked if I had heard the news.

“We’re at war,” he said. “Someone just flew a plane into one of the twin towers.”

“Are you sure it was deliberate? Maybe it was an accident,” I answered hopefully. I somehow knew that he was right, but wasn’t quite ready to accept the fact. We had a TV in the general area and decided to power it on. The reception was poor, but after a few minutes, we got a static-filled reception. The signal cleared up just in time for me to see the second plane hit the other tower. “Oh God,” I said, dumbstruck.


“You’re right, we’re at war. Another plane just hit the other tower.” We stared at each other, speechless. It felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, and we both knew that everything had changed. After standing there dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity, we agreed to move the TV so a location where everyone could watch. We knew that no work would be accomplished that day.

From that point on, I don’t recall very many specifics. I remember talking to certain people, and I know the conversation was about the day’s events, but I don’t know what was said. I remember sitting in a restricted-access room in my office building, listening to the radio, watching streaming internet media, and reading articles. I remember being so numb that I had no reaction when I heard about the third plane hitting the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashing in the field. I remember watching the lines form at the gas station across the street, and seeing the prices rise as the lines grew progressively longer. I remember deciding that I’d go ahead and pay the higher prices the next day rather than stay in that line.

I remember the subsequent outrage at the price gouging over gas and other emergency supplies. I remember all planes in the nation being immediately grounded and thinking that was a great idea. I remember finding out that some of my friends were stuck at a conference because of the planes being grounded, but my company got them home by chartering a bus.

I distinctly remember being numb, and noticing that everyone else appeared to feel the same way. I remember the worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy, exemplified by candlelight vigils. I remember our collective sorrow, and the global outpouring of love.

I remember watching the firefighters raising the American flag above the rubble of the towers, and seeing the irony in the flag being flown upside-down (a sign of distress). I remember how well Giuliani handled the situation, and how united we were behind our Commander in Chief. I vividly remember President Bush’s “sage” advice, telling us to fight terrorism by supporting our economy and rolling my eyes thinking “This is the best he’s got? Fight terrorism by spending money?” For the most part though, I remember instantly knowing that everything had changed. I remember America being united like I have never experienced before and probably will never experience again.

What do you remember?

Friday, August 18, 2006

How Stupid do they Think I Am?

Ever since I've been a homeowner, I've been innundated with offers to refinance my home. I need to start off by saying that I originally bought the house when interest rates were very low, and I was wise enough to refinance when rates were at their rock bottom. Despite the fact that interest rates have consistently climbed since I refinanced, I am still barraged with "offers" from mortgage companies, where I am told that I can "save" money on my mortgage payment. How can they do this? It's easy, they're asking me to give up my low, fixed-rate mortgage and take on a variable-rate mortgage. In return, they'll give me a teaser rate for a few months, thus "saving" me money over the next few months, only to sock it to me later. How stupid do these lending companies think I am? Maybe a better question is, how many Americans really are stupid enough to fall for this sort of crap?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Idiocy and Lunacy Abound

Here are a couple of random thoughts for today.

Cynthia McKinney, the Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia who recently lost the Democratic Primary to her challenger, has just had her first news conference since losing. During this news conference, (according to the AP) she said that the black community needs to oppose electronic voting machines because they are designed to steal elections.
Ozzy's Two Cents: Ummm... maybe you lost the primary because of your whacky conspiricy theories, and/or because you smacked a cop! Basically, you're saying that your loss is everyone's fault but your own. This failure to take responsibility for your own thoughts, words and actions is a prime example of what's wrong with our government.

According to an article on ZDNet, Google is sending legal letters to media organizatons, telling them to quit using "google" as a verb.
Ozzy's Two Cents: Let me get a Kleenex to wipe my sympathy tears from my eyes as you try to Band-Aid this issue. You idiots! That's free advertising, quit fighting it.

And for my final factoid, it looks like Apple is really falling off of the cart. According to another article on ZDNet, Apple is sending a small business owner a cease and desist letter because her website and product have the word "pod" in it. A teeny excerpt from the letter from Apple to the business owner: "...Apple recently learned that you filed an application for TIGHTPOD ... Apple is concerned that the application for and use of the TIGHTPOD mark infringes Apple's trademark rights and dilutes its famous IPOD brand..."
Ozzy's Two Cents: What's next? Are you going to sue pea farmers? How about whales travelling in groups?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Random Thought for the Day

Cannibalism - Bringing a whole new meaning to "Buttering up the boss."

Monday, August 7, 2006

When the Student Defeats the Teacher

I've wrestled with my girls since they were old enough to walk. It started out with tickling them. When they got a little bigger, they started trying to tackle dad, and from there it became wrestling matches. I'd wrestle with both kids (at once) until they were tired, or occasionally, until one of them got hurt. As they got progressively bigger, more agile, more aware, and began picking up my moves, they'd ratchet up the intensity of the wrestling. For my part, there were several reasons for our wrestling around. It was partially because it was fun, partially because I don't want my girls treated like dainty, fragile little beings that will easily break, and partially because there's an aspect of self-defense in our wrestling around. We do flips, submission holds, and use pressure points.

Over the years, I've had to work harder and harder to make sure I walked away the victorious one. I've never had to give it everything I've got... in fact, I still "pull my punches" so they don't get hurt. Last night was a first though. They injured me. It's an inevitability of life that the young grow up and eventually become stronger than their parents. This weekend I began starting to see the signs of this happening to me. While wrestling around last night, they sprained my thumb. I didn't give in, but I did take the first opportunity to call it a draw. I'll be feeling this one for a week!

There's a teeny bit of injured pride here, but for the most part, I'm proud of my girls. I am watching them turn into confident, strong young women. Last night was a milestone... a little painful, but a milestone nonetheless.

Monday, July 31, 2006

You had Better Agree to this Ultimatum...

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know about the brouhaha with Iran being referred to the U.N. security council. Not too long ago, they gave Iran an ultimatum: Cease enriching uranium or face sanctions. The U.N. gave Iran until the middle of August or something like that to agree to the ultimatum, and Iran immediately told the U.N. to go to hell. The U.N. has now come back and said cease enriching uranium or face the threat of diplomatic and economic sanctions, and they have given Iran until August 31 to reply. Let me get this straight...

Iran is doing something the world doesn't like, so the world is saying "Stop it or else..." Iran is saying buggar off. Now that Iran has told us in no uncertain terms that it's not going to listen, the U.N. has come back and said "Ummmm, stop it or else we'll threaten you with strong language and the possibility that we may eventually threaten you with sanctions." It's a good thing that the U.N. is not a parent! These ass clowns have it all wrong.

When you have a child (Iran) who isn't obeying you, you punish them. You don't threaten them, and then back down when they continue to disobey, you punish them, and escalate the punishment until they listen. Here's a tip to the U.N. You idiots have lost all credibility. Every country in the world knows that you're a toothless, spineless capitulating bunch of French-imitators. Iran is never going to listen to you, because they know you're never going to do anything to them.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Racist or Not a Racist

Today’s post is an offshoot of Paulius' post, in which he stated there are idiots out there who seem to think that it’s racist to bait internet scammers, simply because the majority of scammers are Nigerian. Today’s entry will be a parody of a game show, where the host of the show will play out a hypothetical scenario and ask contestants to accurately guess whether main character is a racist or not a racist. If things work out correctly, you will get a laugh or two out of the story, and maybe one or two of those idiots will learn what constitutes racism and what doesn’t.

Moderator: Welcome to today’s episode of “Racist or Not a Racist,” the game show where contestants are given the chance to earn wads of cash and valuable prizes by correctly guessing if a given situation is racially motivated. I’m your host. Let’s meet today’s contestants. Contestant number one is Savannah Jackson, an unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson; Contestant number two is Alexander Duke, a distant cousin of Ku Klux Klansman David Duke, and contestant number three is Marcus Austin, a Methodist minister from Illinois. Welcome contestants, I assume you all know the rules. I will play out a hypothetical scenario, and the first person to buzz in will be given the opportunity to guess the correct answer. If you guess correctly, you earn $100. If you’re wrong, you lose $100. The first person to correctly guess three answers will win that $300 and earn the opportunity to play our grand prize round. Today’s grand prize is a used 1991 Ford Escort wagon, valued at over $250. The other two will have to get the word “LOSER” tattooed on their foreheads. Okay, let’s play “Racist or Not a Racist.”

Question one. A group of boys decide to go out to the highway, so they can throw rocks at the cars of black people. Racist or Not a Racist? Ms. Jackson, you buzzed in first, what is your guess?

Savannah Jackson: Racist.

Moderator: You are correct. Ms. Jackson now has $100. Question number two. A police officer pulls a car over for speeding, and the driver happens to be Muslim. Racist or Not a Racist? Mr. Duke, you buzzed in first, what’s your guess?

Alexander Duke: Not a racist.

Moderator: You are correct. Mr. Duke is now tied with Ms. Jackson, at $100 each, leaving Mr. Austin the only contestant yet to score. Now, following up on the last scenario. The officer steps up to the car, and when the driver rolls down the window, the officer sees that the driver is Muslim and says “Whoa. You were driving pretty fast. Are you late for an al-Qaida meeting?” Racist, or Not a Racist? Mr. Duke, you buzzed in first again, what’s your guess?

Alexander Duke: Not a racist, sir.

Moderator: Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Duke, the correct answer is Racist. Racist is the correct answer, taking away $100 from Mr. Duke. Next question. A computer nerd in South Carolina is tired of Internet scammers, so he decides to beat them at their own game. The vast majority of these scammers are Nigerian. Racist or Not a Racist? Ms. Jackson, you buzzed in first, what’s your guess?

Savannah Jackson: I say Racist.

Moderator: Oh, I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson, the correct answer is Not a Racist. Our panel of judges says that in order for an activity to qualify as racist, the scenario must require discrimination BASED ON RACE. In other words, RACE must be THE determining factor. In this case, the ACTIVITY was the deciding factor. Next question. A group of homophobes vandalize the vehicle of a homosexual in the neighborhood. Racist or Not a Racist? Mr. Austin, you buzzed in first, what’s your guess?

Marcus Austin: Well, this one’s kind of tricky, but I’m going to say Not a Racist, because they’re perpetrating these crimes based on his sexual orientation, not his race.

Moderator: Excellent guess, Mr. Austin. You are now in the lead with $100. As a disclaimer, “Racist or Not a Racist” does not condone discrimination against anyone based on race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, blah blah blah…Next question. A manager promotes a woman in his company based on his fear that failure to promote her will get him stereotyped as a manager who doesn’t promote women. Racist or Not a Racist? Mr. Austin, you were first again, what’s your guess?

Marcus Austin: This is another tough one, but I’m going to say Not a Racist, because this person was promoted because of her gender, not her skin color.

Moderator: Correct. The manager in this scenario practiced SEXISM, because he promoted this subordinate based on her gender, not her skills. Sexism, however, is not racism. Mr. Austin, one more correct answer, and you will go on to our grand prize round. Next question. A man is awakened to the sound of an intruder in his home. The man grabs a gun and kills the intruder, who is of Hispanic descent. Racist or Not a Racist? Mr. Austin, you buzzed in first yet again.

Marcus Austin: Before I answer this one, I’d like to get a clarification. Did the homeowner kill the intruder because the intruder was Hispanic?

Moderator: Mr. Austin, this request for a clarification is highly unusual. Let me ask our panel of judges if we can provide this clarification. (Small pause while the host consults with the judges.) Mr. Austin, our panel has decided to clarify that the homeowner killed the intruder in order to protect his home. Racist or Not a Racist?

Marcus Austin: Not a Racist.

Moderator: Correct, Mr. Austin. The homeowner decided to blow away the idiot because he was protecting his home, not because of the race of the perpetrator. You are now qualified for the grand prize round. To our other contestants, the tattoo artist is in the back, waiting to put LOSER on your foreheads. Oh, we’re out of time. Mr. Austin, can you return tomorrow for the Grand Prize round?

Marcus Austin: I wouldn’t miss it.

Moderator: Excellent. Be sure to tune in to tomorrow’s episode of “Racist or Not a Racist,” where our new champion Mr. Austin will defend his title against two new challengers. A big thanks to today’s sponsors, the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation league, and common-sense viewers like you.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mission Accomplished

It's official. Sometime around noon today, I became the proud owner of a new Harley Davidson Sportster 883. To the right, you'll see the proud owner (squinting into the sun) and my younger brother in the background. After buying the bike, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing what any first-time Harley owner would do... I rode around until my butt went numb. Okay, not quite.

I rode around town for a half hour or so to get used to the bike, and then went to an empty parking lot, so I could practice quick stops and tight turns. After that, I rode home. I should mention that "home" was about three hours away from where I bought the bike. I bought the bike in the town where I grew up, mainly because the owner of that dealership is a friend of the family. I took my time coming home, making sure to take backroads until I got comfortable with the bike, and taking breaks along the way.

I'm looking forward to a long and happy relationship with my new toy. And yes, I wore a helmet! Oh, by the way, I'd like to thank my motorcycle safety instructors, Dave and Rex for the invaluable knowledge they shared with me during my motorcycle safety course last weekend.

Two-Party Politics

I read an article this morning on Yahoo News that talked about Dick Cheney's visit to Tampa, FL yesterday. The purpose for Cheney's visit was to stump for Gus Bilirakis, some state legislator who's trying to make it at the Federal level. The article in and of itself wasn't really noteworthy, until I got to the part where Cheney started talking about the war on terror. The point Cheney was trying to make was basically that it's all about the war, and if you vote the Democrats in, they'll cut and run from Iraq. My brain took the next available tangent, and I came to the conclusion that we really need more political parties. For starters, both of the existing parties absolutely suck! They don't care about you, they don't care about me, they don't care about gas prices, they don't care about Iraqis, and they don't care about the poor. All they care about is power.

You see, the Democrats and Republicans are the political power bases in America. If someone wants to get into policical office, they need to be a Democrat or a Republican. That's how you get the power. In return, once you're in office, it's your job to toe the party line, help get others in your party elected, and increase your political party's power. This is one big cycle, and the members of both parties fail to learn from history. The majority party passes laws in an attempt to give itself even more power while the minority cries foul. The public eventually catches on throws the majority party out, and the minority becomes the majority. Repeat as necessary.

A third party coming to power would short-circuit this process. When I say "come to power," I don't mean getting enough clout to single-handedly control the government. What I mean is enough representation to ensure that neither Democrats nor Republicans have a majority anymore. The result would be a coalition-style government. A coalition government would by necessity spend more of its energy truly compromising and finding good answers, as opposed to saying "I'm in power, so you'll do things my way." The end result would be more of a meeting of the minds, instead of this tug-of-war that we've been tolerating for far too long.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some Parting Words to an Old Boss

Though I've alluded to this before, I haven't directly mentioned it until now. At my old job, one of the higher-ups was gunning for my dismissal. While I was there, I never knew exactly what I did wrong, and I never was told exactly who was pissed at me, though I had my suspicions. I still keep in touch with some of my former co-workers, and I recently found out who had it out for me... though I still don't know why.

The guy is someone who's pretty high in the food chain. In all honesty, after finding out his identity, I'm surprised that I lasted as long as I did, especially considering that in January he specifically asked for my dismissal. Fortunately for me, this guy wasn't politically in the good graces of the other higher-ups, and my direct supervisors put their own necks on the line and vouched for me. Though I know this guy has nothing but contempt for me, and I understand that I'll never work for any company at the same time as him, I am not going to say his name. It's not because I'm worried about burning any bridges -- he's long since burned them. Indeed, I'm choosing not to mention his name because I am a bigger man than him. Of course, I'm not much bigger, because I'm making this blog entry... an open letter to a former boss.

Dear Mr. Higher-up-on-the-food-chain-than-me,

I really don't know where to begin with this letter to you, so I hope you'll pardon me if things seem a little disjointed. I'm sure you'll appreciate the fact that your displeasure with my tenure at "your company" doesn't warrant enough time to edit this blog post for typos, grammatical errors or clarity. I'm not writing this for your benefit, it's for mine.

I don't know what I did that was so horrendous as to earn your wrath, but in the end it doesn't matter. What matters is that I busted my ass for the company. I gave my all as a technician, as an employee and as a man. For almost nine years -- long before you came into the picture -- I was a devoted employee. The company gave me a chance when I was a neophyte technician, and I strived daily to show my loyalty to the company, specifically for that reason.

The funny thing is, I distinctly remember when you were hired. I remember being charmed by your wit, impressed by your intellect, and respecting your ability to read people. When you came to the company, I had high regard for you as an individual and high hopes for what your ability could do for the company. When you came on board, I spoke highly of you.

As time went on, your true nature quickly came to light. People quickly realized that you were a wolf in sheep's clothing, and a snake who could not be trusted. You became demanding, demeaning and untrustworthy. It's no wonder that you were quickly discarded from the "inner circle" of the other managers. Even they saw how slimy you were. Despite all of this though, I continued to think the best of you; I refused to let the truth sink in, and I continued to defend you in the face of your detractors.

Eventually though, even I saw that you weren't what you appeared to be. I understood that you weren't what you portrayed yourself to be. Despite the fact that you began showing your true colors, I still refused to be one of the naysayers. I did this partially out of loyalty to you, partially because I still believed there may be some good in you, and partially because I played the corporate game... refusing to partake in the rumors, and refusing to join the crowd and bash on my boss.

And time ticked on... I still don't know what I did. I still don't know what I did that pissed you off to the point where you actively sought my dismissal. I did realize that any prospect of a rapport with you was gone, but I still refused to bad-mouth you. I did this not out of respect for you as a man -- all of that respect had died -- but out of respect for your position.

Eventually, all of my respect for you had disappeared. I had nothing left for you but contempt. Despite my utter disregard for you as a "man," (I'm using quotes, because I now realize that you're not a man. You're a coward.) I still refused to play the game. I never disparaged you, based on the understanding that what goes around comes around. I chose not to belittle you because I realized that doing so could damage my career. In retrospect, I understand that this is probably the only thing that saved me.

Though I never knew -- until now -- who my main obstacle was, I knew that you (you as an obstacle, not you as a person) existed. Now, with all of this behind me, I've got to say this...

Dude, I'm horribly disappointed in you. I'm disappointed in you as a supervisor, and I'm disappointed in you as a man. I'm disappointed in you because you weren't good enough as supervising me to state your reservations in my shortcomings -- whatever you may have perceived them to be -- and I'm disappointed in you as a man, because you weren't enough of a man to come to me, man to man, and tell me about the defects you saw in me. You could have come to me, whether as a supervisor, or as a man, and told me what you didn't like. Instead, you chose to hide behind your title and play behind the scenes, hoping to undermine my career. You could have looked me in the eye and bravely told me how things were, but instead you hid behind your title and tried to get me fired behind the scenes like the coward you truly are.

Part of me wants to hate you. But I'm no longer in the situation, and quite frankly, you're not worth the effort. Instead, you have my pity, you petty, despicable, cowardly little excuse of a man. I wish you no ill, but I certainly hope that you don't propser. Cowards like you don't deserve to succeed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Plan in the Making

Once again I've been horribly remiss in my posting, but there's a method to my madness. You see, since April, I've been planning on getting a new Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. This weekend brought me one step closer to fulfilling my vision. I took a motorcycle safety class over the weekend. I used to own a bike, but it's been almost 20 years since I've ridden, so I figured a refresher course was in order. The big bonus to taking this safety course is that passing the course in Iowa pretty much guarantees that I get the license... I don't even have to take the test at the DOT (or DMV, depending on what state you're in). All I need to do is show the DOT folks my certificate, pay the fees (and not piss them off) and voila, I get the license. This week, I'll go to the DOT to get the license, and if all works out well, I will be the owner of a brand new Harley by next weekend. I've been wanting a Harley for about ten years, so wish me luck.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Grilling: Charcoal vs. Gas

On Thursday, Paulius posted a tasty-looking grilling recipe, and talked about charcoal grilling vs. gas grilling. (Paulius, you seem to be giving me a lot of material for my blog lately.) In his post, he said that grilling with gas isn't the same, because grilling with gas doesn't provide the same flavor that you get from using charcoal. I agree with his point, but only to an extent. I will say that grilling with gas is usually different, but it depends on the grill. I have a natural gas grill, which I use all the time, and I will put my gas grill up against charcoal any day of the week.

Here's the thing, typically speaking, a gas grill does give a relatively "sterile" taste as opposed to charcoal, but there's something that most people who use gas grills miss... "seasoning" the grill. You see, my grill has the burner and a layer of lava rocks over the burner. The lava rocks serve a dual purpose. The first purpose is to absorb the heat from the burner and redistribute that heat more evenly through the grill, preventing hot and cold spots in the grill. The second purpose is to absorb the grease, BBQ sauce, and other flavors from the meat. Over time, the lava rocks become "seasoned," which provides the same essential flavoring that you get from charcoal. Once the rocks are seasoned, the seasoning burns in a manner similar to charcoal, providing the flavor that you can only get from grilling. Furthermore, as the old seasoning burns over time, more is added with each grilling. It's kind of like recycling your extra grease and BBQ sauce.

I did replace my lava rocks one time, and the first couple of grilled meals immediately after the new lava rocks tasted more "flame-broiled" than grilled. But I quickly learned this, and over the next few meals, I intentionally put extra BBQ sauce directly on the lava rocks, and in short order, my lava rocks were re-seasoned, and I was back in business. The misconception about gas grills is that they all fall short of charcoal, and that's not quite true. The gas grills that fail to live up to charcoal are the cheap ones that don't have lava rocks.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

KFC Casserole

Last night I created a new culinary delight that I have dubbed KFC Casserole. A couple of days ago, we ate at KFC and ended up with some leftovers. Anyone who has ever had KFC understands that leftovers are not the same as eating it fresh, because the grease soaks into crispy stuff, and when you reheat it, you're usually left with a soggy mess. Not wanting to waste the tasty goodness though, I decided to make a casserole out of it, and in all humility I've got to say that I came up with a cooking masterpiece.

Here's the recipe:

-Leftover KFC Chicken
-Leftover KFC gravy
-1 can corn, drained
-1/2 package frozen hashbrowns, thawed
-2 cups shredded cheese

Separate the meat and crispy coating from the skin and bones. Discard the skin and bones, and throw the meat and crispies into a greased casserole pan. Drizzle the gravy over the meat. Layer the corn over the top of the meat and gravy. Put half of the cheese on top of that, and place the hash browns on top. Bake at approximately 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the hash browns start to brown. Then crank the heat to about 500 degrees for a few minutes, until the hash browns are truly browned. Pull the casserole out of the oven, spread the remaining cheese on top, and put it back in the oven for a few minutes... just long enough for the cheese to melt.

The end result is incredible! The crispies soak up the gravy, giving you a stuffing-like consistency. The original chicken and gravy are pre-spiced, so there's no need to add any additional spices. This dish is incredibly easy and it's sure to delight your taste buds. Try it. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Judge who can't Keep it Up, and a Man who couldn't Make it go Down

Today's entry is in honor of the penis, and the lenghts (no pun intended) men will go to to use it...

Story one is about a judge in Oklahoma who is on trial for indecent exposure, after being caught using a penis pump in the courtroom, during court sessions...

---From the AP---
BRISTOW, Okla. - Serving on the jury in an indecent-exposure trial unfolding in this conservative Oklahoma town has been a giggle-inducing experience.

Former Judge Donald D. Thompson, a veteran of 23 years on the bench, is on trial on charges he used a penis pump on himself in the courtroom while sitting in judgment of others.

Over the past few days, the jurors have watched a defense attorney and a prosecutor pantomime masturbation. A doctor has lectured on the lengths the defendant was willing to go to enhance his sexual performance.

The white-handled sexual device sits before the jury box for hours at a time. Occasionally an attorney picks it up and squeezes the handle, demonstrating the "sh-sh" sound of air rushing through the contraption's plastic tubing.

The jurors sometimes exchange awkward looks and break into nervous laughter when the testimony takes a lurid turn.

Thompson, 59, is charged with four counts of indecent exposure, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, he would also have to register as a sex offender, and his $7,489.91-a-month pension would be in jeopardy.

Thompson's former court reporter, Lisa Foster, wiped away tears as she described tracing an unfamiliar "sh-sh" in the courtroom to her boss. She testified that between 2001 and 2003 she saw Thompson expose himself at least 15 times.

"I was really shocked and I was kind of scared because it was so bizarre," said Foster.

She testified that during a trial in 2002, she heard the pump during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather.

The grandfather "was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump," she said. "It was sickening."

The allegations came to light after a police officer who was in Thompson's court heard pumping sounds and took photos of the device during a break in the proceedings.

Thompson took the stand in his own defense, saying the device was a gag gift from a longtime friend with whom he had joked about erectile dysfunction. He said he kept the pump under the bench or in his office but didn't use it.

"In 20-20 hindsight, I should have thrown it away," he said.

The R-rated testimony has produced occasional outbursts of laughter and surreal scenes. A man who once served as a juror in Thompson's court testified that he never saw the device, but figured out what it was based on movies he had seen.

The comment sent sidelong glances through the courtroom.

"It sounded like a penis pump to me," Daniel Greenwood testified. He said he had seen such devices in "Austin Powers" and "Dead Man on Campus."

Dr. S. Edward Dakil, a urologist called as an expert witness, repeatedly prompted laughter from the jury when discussion turned to the penis pump. Dakil defended use of the device after defense attorney Clark Brewster said it was an out-of-date treatment for erectile dysfunction.

"I still use those," Dakil testified.

Brewster paused.

"Not you, personally?" he asked.

"No," Dakil responded as jurors laughed. "I recommend those as a urologist."

The second story is about a man who got a penile implant and ended up with more than he bargained for...

---From the AP---
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A former handyman has won more than $400,000 in a lawsuit over a penile implant that gave him a 10-year erection.

Charles "Chick" Lennon, 68, received the steel and plastic implant in 1996, about two years before Viagra went on the market. The Dura-II is designed to allow impotent men to position the penis upward for sex, then lower it.

But Lennon could not position his penis downward. He said he could no longer hug people, ride a bike, swim or wear bathing trunks because of the pain and embarrassment. He has become a recluse and is uncomfortable being around his grandchildren, his lawyer said.

In 2004, a jury awarded him $750,000. A judge called that excessive and reduced it to $400,000. On Friday, the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed that award in a ruling that turned on a procedural matter.

"I don't know any man who for any amount of money would want to trade and take my client's life," said Jules D'Alessandro, Lennon's attorney. "He's not a whole person."

A lawyer representing both Dura-II manufacturer Dacomed Corp. and the company's insurer declined to comment. Dacomed maintained that nothing was wrong with the implant.

The implant consists of a series of plastic plates strung together with steel surgical wire, almost like a roll of wrapped coins. Springs press against the plates, creating enough surface tension to simulate an erection, D'Alessandro said.

Lennon cannot get the implant removed because of health problems, including open-heart surgery, his lawyer said. Impotence drugs could not help Lennon even if he were able to have the device taken out, because tissue had be to removed for it to be implanted.

Dacomed was later acquired by a California company whose sales dropped when Viagra was introduced on the market. The company filed for bankruptcy the following year.

Once again, fact is proving that fact is stranger than fiction. Hats off to the AP for covering the really hard stories. (Pun totally intended.)

But wait, there's more. I read this little gem from Reuters...

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Fateh Mohammad, a prison inmate in Pakistan, says he woke up last weekend with a glass lightbulb in his anus.

Wednesday night, doctors brought Mohammad's misery to an end after a one-and-a-half hour operation to remove the object.

"Thanks Allah, now I feel comfort. Today, I had my breakfast. I was just drinking water, nothing else," Mohammad, a grey-beared man in his mid-40s, told Reuters from a hospital bed in the southern central city of Multan.

"We had to take it out intact," said Dr. Farrukh Aftab at Nishtar Hospital. "Had it been broken inside, it would be a very very complicated situation."

Mohammad, who is serving a four-year sentence for making liquor, prohibited for Muslims, said he was shocked when he was first told the cause of his discomfort. He swears he didn't know the bulb was there.

"When I woke up I felt a pain in my lower abdomen, but later in hospital, they told me this," Mohammad said.

"I don't know who did this to me. Police or other prisoners."

The doctor treating Mohammad said he'd never encountered anything like it before, and doubted the felon's story that someone had drugged him and inserted the bulb while he was comatose.

I guess while AP gets to do the hard news, Reuters is stuck with the crap.