Saturday, May 2, 2009

R.I.P. Newspapers

Andrew Sullivan titles this post "Dreaming of Blogging."

"Before this century shall run out, Journalism will be the whole press - the whole human thought. Through that prodigious multiplication which art has given to speech - multiplication to be multiplied a thousand-fold yet - mankind will write their book day by day, hour by hour, page by page. Thought will spread abroad in the world with the rapidity of light; instantly conceived, instantly written, instantly understood, at the extremities of earth, it will spread from pole to pole.
Sudden, instant, burning with the fervor of soul which made it burst forth, it will be the reign of the human soul in all its plenitude. It will not have time to ripen, to accumulate into the form of a book - the book will arrive too late. The only book possible from today is a Newspaper," - Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, 1861.
Still doesn't get the city council covered, though.

Shameless Self-Promotion Part II

I write it and I'll steal it.

Life in the woods just isn't the same with indoor plumbing and heat

SOMEWHERE IN THE WOODS, JEFFERSON COUNTY — When last my words graced this space on an irregular basis, I was an entirely different person.
I lived with a teenage girl whose opinions, habits and activities provided enough amusing material for daily commentary, had that been needed.
I also lived with an adult male whose nickname I have been forbidden to use again in print. (Nothing personal, his co-workers are relentless teases and read The Sun.)
When at a loss, I could always wrap some wry comment around his unassuming mechanical expertise compared to my technophobia.
We were homesteaders, sort of, sheltered in a tiny two-room cabin, half-finished and unconnected to either a power or water utility.
We owned a big, old, grimy, single-purpose Dodge truck. It held a big, blue plastic tank, which we took weekly to the county park or our friendly Cenex store to refill.
We drank that water, cooked with it, sponged ourselves off with it and took our showers in town at the marina.
After surviving the first winter on wood heat, I swore I'd never take my life in my hands that way again.
Survival had come down to trudging out onto our 3.4 acres to seek and fell likely alders, totally ignorant of chain saw etiquette and very lucky.
After that, we relied on propane and I don't plan to ever make a fire with wood again no matter how cozy it sounds to those who've never risen in the icy dark and tried to start green alder in a woodstove.
There were real three-dog nights. I jostled for position on the futon with Bill, Ajax and Pedal.
We owned a precious electric generator that kept the TV and lights running for five years before finally dying of fatigue.
It had been such a good friend that we considered burying it alongside first Pedal, then Bill. All three of us held a queer pride about our lifestyle, not exactly chosen, but the result, I used to joke, of bad luck, bad timing and bad judgment.
And, of course, all of it made great column material.
But I'm a different person now.
The former teenager, distressed and imagining wrinkles, pronounced herself "a quarter of a century old!" this year, and plans to drive to Alaska with her two new dogs as soon as she finishes college.
She lives in another city and another world.
I have reached a friendly agreement with the person-whose-nickname-I-am-forbidden-to-use, and he has the cabin all to himself.
For more than a year, I have inhabited — still stunned by the luxury — a brand new bungalow about 100 yards away.
We are "on the grid" for power and water.
When I come home, I do not have to fill a generator or kerosene lantern for light.
When Chew Doggie Dog, the Rappa Snappa, rolls in horse manure, I do not hope for rain to wash her off.
All I have to do is drag her into one of the two — count them, two — bathrooms, and let her have it.
For the first time in 12 years, I have a lawn to mow.
Some closets and cupboards still are empty because I haven't owned enough stuff to fill them with for so long.
It is all so mundane, so civilized.
Whatever am I going to do for column material now?
Sometime soon, maybe I'll think about new stuff longer than 140 characters.

Just Cool

Big O takes a little time with the U of Conn championship women's basketball team.
Somehow I can't get the image out of my head of W out there with the American beach volleyball beauties, awkward and clownish.

Friday, May 1, 2009

News O' Teh Week

It was swine flu all the time and while I was impatient with the skeptics and the alarmists at the same time, I was also bored. Tell me something I don't know, I thought.
So this morning "they" did.
Flu may have origins in California, which should make the border police happy. And no matter if it's a relatively mild strain and doesn't mutate in six months into something more virulent, it's still very disruptive (think of all the parents of the kids whose schools are closed but on a larger scale. I mean Mexico is shutting down business, for Gawd's sake.)
Feds reportedly ready to drop case against the AIPAC Two, the civilians who apparently trafficked in U.S. secrets to benefit Israel, because court cases in which no harm can be proven don't fare well. Hum. All that and Jane Harman, too.
Oh, and Souter of all people, is divorcing the Supremes. Souter of all people, not Stevens, not Ginsburg (sp?). Thank you NPR for being journalists. Well, Nina T, anyway.
Comment O' Teh Day: To Boost His Chances of Succeeding Souter, Arlen Specter to Switch Gender
Biden said something the airlines didn't like. Okay, I knew that. For airlines substitute anything. Could be a good drinking game.

For more, drop in on the front page of Talking Points Memo.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chill, Please

Even though I'm guilty of getting on the flu pandemic bandwagon early on, I had good reason.
But the story has deteriorated. Look, it's the lead story tonight that there are six cases in Washington.
Every year 35,000 Americans die of the effects of the ordinary, yearly flu. Most are old feebs like me who get complications — pneumonia — because they're feebs and their immune systems are compromised.
What they need to tell us over and over is what pandemic means, the history of such viruses and the potential for either fizzling out, staying the same, or skyrocketing into a global threat.
Instead we get this horse race thingie going. I admit it, I would be reporting the first case in Kitsap County, too. But I'd get that other stuff into the second paragraph.
I'm looking for the AP story on this, just to see who's going for the throat.

Mark This Date

Today is the day Twitter died because....She's on it.
Link is to Mudflats, by the way, a highly respected Alaskan political blog.
And no, her spokesman wouldn't say if she is still getting per diem to work from home. Heh.

Future Of Journalism

A former colleague thinks so anyway. Yeah, but who keeps the city council honest? Not that we actually do all that often, but you know.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hunched Over, Snarling Bitterly

Who, me? No, FOX News, I guess.
A reader at TPM made me laugh.
We may not get one good vote out of Arlen we weren't gonna get anyway, but today has already been worth it to watch GOP commentators take on that hunched over bitter snarl they all have now.

Hope Against Hope, UPDATED

Taplin hates Krugman, but I forgive him. Actually, I kinda hate Krugman once in a while, too. But not since the primaries.’s a mission that will fail and within a year we will see Mr. Cheney reluctantly raising his right hand and swearing to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  

I'm looking to see if there's anything we can do to support Leahy's quest for a Truth Commission.

UDPATE: Here's the petition.

This Just In

Arlen Specter will no longer be doing the balancing act between party and conscience. He's facing almost certain defeat in the Pennsylvania primary, and is switching parties.
A commenter points out that when Franken gets seated, the Dems will have a safe if narrow majority in the Senate.
I've had a soft spot for Specter ever since the anti-choice people went after him — he's pro-choice — and he barely survived.
Now they wingnuts are out in force to get him again, more proof that the R's are trapped and chewing off their own feet.

UDATE: Universal health, here we come. Climate change bill?

Besides, It Doesn't Work

I always found that argument especially offensive to my intelligence and what remains of my heart.
It's wrong on the face of it, period. There are few absolutes, but the destructive nature of torture goes far beyond the object of torture, the perpetrator. It rots everything.
Andrew Sullivan writes well on this:
Torture, when used, is like Tolkien's ring, when slipped on. It becomes its own power and its own rationale because it can coerce its own results. This is why civilized societies have placed the torture option off limits - way off limits with a wide berth in law and custom. Because it destroys the core elements of truth, freedom and fairness that are foundational for Western civilization.

Tweet, Anyone? Anyone? Crickets.

I went out on a limb last week and jeopardized my always shaky credibility by issuing the opinion that Twitter was a flash in the pan. Now Neilsen backs that up. People aren't staying with it, something I didn't know for sure, but suspected was the case.
Once again, Julimac was right. Or maybe not, whatever.
Maybe we’re jumping the gun. Twitter is still something of a fledgling, and surely some other sites that eventually lived up to Twitter-like hype suffered from poor retention in the early days. Compare it to the two heavily-touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out. Doing so below, we found that even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high. When they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.

Entirely unrelated — or is it? — hits on White House videos have gone through the roof since Obama's tech savvy administration took over and the biggest audience? You, contrariennes, you. Actually, the men first, women second. Another Neilsen gem.

Swine Flu

Besides the three precautions — handwashing, skip crowds, seek treatment — the most important thing to know is that  this is apparently the first wave. It's the second wave, in about six months, that will be fully adapted to its hosts. Supposedly by then there will be a vaccine. Fingers crossed.
I know, I know, I'm old and I scare easily.
BTW, the link is to John Barry's column in the NYT. He wrote the definitive book of the story of 1918. I haven't read it, but I read Gina Kolada's book, a really fun read.
The story is terrific. The mayor of Seattle was run out of town for closing theaters and other public places. To this day, definitive death counts are hard to come by because they were kept secret.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Box Cat Is Back

He even has his own blog.
For previous videos, context if you will, go here.

Susan Collins, You're No. 1!

As of today, she goes to the top of the list of people I love to hate. Punch in the mouth? Not so much. Nothing she does rivals Cheney, Bush et al.

Well, as it turns out, volcano monitoring wasn't the only worthwhile public safety program that was deemed extravagant in the stimulus package, funding for pandemic preparation was axed as well. And playing a critical role was Susan Collins -- for whom the necessity of obtaining her vote is in inverse proportion to the intelligence she shows in policy making:
Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill No, we should not."
Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.

Foodie Alert: Chocolate Cake Anytime You Want

I had mine for breakfast. Thanks, BW.
Oh, and three minutes was a little long in my old microwave.


4  tablespoons  flour
4 tablespoons  sugar
2 tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
1  egg
3 tablespoons  milk
3 tablespoons  oil
3 tablespoons  chocolate chips  (optional)
A small  splash of vanilla  extract
1 large  coffee mug (Microwave  Safe)

Add  dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.  Add  the egg and mix  thoroughly.
 Pour  in the milk and oil and mix  well...
Add  the chocolate chips (if using)  (if  you want “death by chocolate”  J)  and vanilla  extract, and mix  again.
Put your mug  in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000  watts.
The  cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't  be alarmed!
Allow  to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if  desired.
EAT!  (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly  more virtuous).

And  why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the  world?
Because  now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate  cake at any time of the day or  night!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Last Week It Was Secession

This week it's HELP!
Gov. Rick Perry Saturday asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile as a precaution after three cases of swine flu were confirmed in Texas.

Flu Update

This latest variant is a brand new mixture of human virus, bird virus, and pig viruses from all over the world. Experts say it's particularly worrisome because people are getting sick without any encounters with pigs. Even worse, young, healthy people (ages 20-40) are dying at a striking rate, a telltale sign of the worst flu epidemics.
Ben Sherwood for Huffpo with three key points of advice. Wash your hands. Stay away from groups/crowds. Seek help at onset of symptoms. It is treatable.

Uh, bookmark this. For me, so I don't worry about you. I'm old and I scare easily.


I've been a little paranoid about earthquakes and flu pandemics ever since I began writing about them. I even went so far as to begin stockpiling a little food in case we're cut off. I know, I'm old, and I scare easily.
But with the Mexican swine thing hitting the news plus the continuing bird flu deaths in exotic locales, it suddenly occurred to me this sunny Sunday morning — what if we got, not pandemics at first, but two epidemics at once? Better ask DemfromCT over at dKos about this, I'm thinking. He's a health professional on the flu beat.
BTW, don't buy the border thing when it comes up. We're a plane ride away now, which is how our state got its first West Nile death a few years back.

What Nasty Side of Pot?

Andrew Sullivan is providing lots of material today.
This from Science Daily:
"The War on Drugs has hit very close to home," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Last year, scientists found that our skin makes its own marijuana-like substance. Now, we see that our brain has been making proteins that act directly on the marijuana receptors in our head. The next step is for scientists to come up with new medicines that eliminate the nasty side of pot—a better joint, so to speak."

The 4-Minute Book

Yeah, but what about Kindle?
And is this cheaper?
On Demand is releasing a new model of the machine, version 2.0, which will print books faster--roughly four minutes for a 300-page book as opposed to eight minutes--and be offered at a lower price point. Neller added that the Espresso machine can now be leased as well. The 2.0 model will be on display at the London Book Fair.

Eye Candy

I'm going to try to check up on the links to the right this week, clean up what's dead, etc.
The Sartorialist is alive and well, I'm happy to report.
This just in from Paris. 

Sunday Bible Studies

Andrew Sullivan turns this up at The New Yorker today, David Plotz, the guy who read the Bible and then wrote about it.
Makes me want to read the book.
The overarching theme of the Bible, particularly of Genesis, is real estate. God is Trump-like, constantly making land deals (and then remaking them, on different terms). When Sarah dies, for example, there are two verses about her death, and a whole chapter about Abraham negotiating to buy a burial site for her in Hebron. It’s not just land that the Bible is obsessed with, but also portable property: gold, silver, livestock.
My own feeling is that the Messy Bible—with its ambiguous (or worse) heroes and its erratic and wrathful God—is a lot more interesting, and more true to our ugly world, than the Sunday School Bible. But the Sunday School Bible is easier to teach.
And one rich vein in the Bible is the tension between church and state, as God and His prophets are arrayed against a series of kings who aggrandize themselves and try to keep God out of the public sphere. The Bible, naturally, comes down on the side of church supremacy. My own sympathies are with the kings, who are always being undermined by meddling prophets. But I didn’t find a Biblical Obama.