Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Took So Long?

Today, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that expands the federal hate crimes law to include crimes against a person because of his or her sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. The bill was originally proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives in 1998, when a gay college student in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, was found brutally murdered by a group of young men who had seen him in a bar earlier in the evening. Their defense included the statement that Shepard had tried to "come on" to one of them.

For more than ten years, conservatives in Congress have blocked this bill and only now have there been enough votes to pass it. Conservative groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition said the legislation would turn "homosexual behaviors as well as cross-dressing, transvestism, and transsexualism into federally-protected 'minority' groups." Come on, really. You don't have to like gay people, you only have to admit that they have a right not to get murdered.

Matthew Shepard's mother Judy attended the signing ceremony. USA Today quoted her as saying that she never dreamed it would take 10 years for the new law to become a reality. Well said, Mrs. Shepard. My apologies to you for this country taking an unconscionable amount of time to pass a law that gives hate crime status to the murder of your son, who was killed because some people hated him for his homosexuality.

All or Nothing

I have this application on my computer called a "Network Repair Wizard". Although I have never asked it for anything, it helpfully pops up when I start the computer and attempts to evaluate my connection to the internet. Instead of a DSL or cable connection, which is always on, I use broadband, which must be manually turned on after starting up the computer. When I start my computer, my Network Repair Wizard busily goes to work and informs me that, woefully, I have no connection to the internet. Yes, I knew that; I haven't turned it on yet. Sometimes, after I have connected the broadband, it decides to re-evaluate the connection and informs me that my connection is just fine, and what did I think was the problem? The thing is just determined to constantly evaluate my network connection and let me know how things are going. And its news is always either all good or all bad.

It reminds me of the way people sometimes act. If things are going well, all is perfect and wonderful and nothing could go wrong. But when things are going badly, everything is woe and nothing will ever be good again. It's okay for a computer application with a one-track mind, but human beings really ought to have more perspective, and throw in there some shades of gray.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's What We Do

Another commute story. Oh, come on. Stop groaning. You know you love them.
If you've never seen law enforcement's swerving, unnerving maneuvers to begin and implement a traffic break you're really missing a basic wonder of Southern California freeway driving. I've previously described the lights flashing patrol car beginning its 'S' turns in front of traffic to eventually slow the cars and then stop them right at the exact spot required. It's pretty amazing.
This morning this feat of daring precision was performed by an officer of the California Highway Patrol on a motorcycle. No protection of steel and seat belts. And right where the officer needed traffic to come to a complete stop we did. A wreck farther down the freeway had left a debris trail. The officer got off the motorcycle and simply started clearing the lanes, tossing this and that to the side of the freeway. Five lanes of traffic waited until eventually the officer mounted the motorcycle and sped away thus giving traffic permission to resume.
I am always astonished at the precise bravery of those people who can do such a thing.
On the other hand, if perhaps five lanes of traffic ever watched me convince a person experiencing psychiatric crisis to at least for today not commit suicide perhaps one of those drivers would say 'Wow!' too.
And then I'd go back to the mountain of paperwork patiently waiting on my desk because that sort of thing is what we do.
Here's to us. All of us and all of you. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Empty Is Just A State Of Mind

I am deeply offended by the fact that my Jeep requires fuel. Taking the few required minutes from my day to fill its tank with the fifteen or so gallons of gasoline necessary for forward motion seems like such a waste of time. It is also an expensive endeavor.
I often wait until the last possible mark on the fuel gauge to give into the Jeep's needs.
Yesterday I may have pushed this delightful quirk of mine (and of my Jeep's) to the limit.
You see, a new Chevron station just opened at the corner of Foothill and Garey in Pomona. Anytime a new business dares to give Pomona a try speaks of either foolishness or bravery. Friday on my way home from work I couldn't help but notice that once again the Jeep was getting low on fuel. So low was it getting, in fact, that I wondered if I wouldn't have to back up the final hill home just to give that amazing two hundred nineteen thousand mile engine enough fuel to make it to my parking space.
Nevertheless, since I had to go back to Pomona yesterday to work, I decided to try and make it to that new Chevron just to show support for brave foolishness.
I didn't make it quite to that station. I figure the glide ratio for a Jeep just out of fuel is not very far. On Foothill I could almost see that new station. I was that close. But the sputtering coming from the engine convinced me to coast into the Shell and abandon the day's folly.
It's important to know your vehicle. It's also important to know the location of every service station along your route.
Somewhere tucked in the importance list I'm also sensing that it may be important to know when to change plans.
I'll have to give that one some more thought.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Day at the Opera

Going to the opera has always been an expensive undertaking. After you pay for all that scenery, costuming and make-up, soloists, choruses, extras, orchestra members and everything else, it's a wonder anyone can afford it. In fact, opera attendance all over the world has been waning because many people don't have the price of a ticket.

There is nothing quite as wonderful as dressing up and going to an opera house, but there's something almost as good. The Metropolitan Opera in New York has started to do simulcasts of its Saturday matinees and showing them in HD at movie theatres around the country and the world. During the intermissions, a famous opera singer serves as MC and conducts interviews with various members of the cast and crew, and you get to see the backstage area as the techies set up for the next act. Not just any movie theatre may do this - they have to have a sound system that passes muster with the Met, so that you can enjoy the quality of the voices as much as those sitting in the expensive seats in New York.

So, today at 10:00 a.m. I paid my $22 at the Edwards Renaissance theatre in Alhambra, California and took a seat in the third row to enjoy Verdi's Aida. I sat in the third row because everything behind it was filled. My friend Alice, who has been attending these showings since they began last season, said that the theatre used to be only about 40% filled. Word is spreading. And what a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning--and half of the afternoon, given the length of this particular opera.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wasted Advice

Anonymous and I presented wonderful ideas for trading baseball staff for supreme court staff. Perhaps the Angels will pay more attention than did the Dodgers who, after all is said an done, are the Dodgers. Any other team and tonight's excuse for a play off game would have been surprising. Alas!
Hopefully in the spring the team will have jettisoned both Manny and Broxton.
Don't give up hope, Sonia.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trade Time

Here's a thought. In these waning days of the Dodger's Almost Glory Season, Joe Torre ought to make a quick trade with the United States Supreme Court. Closer Jonathon Broxton for Justice Sonia Sotomayor. At least she can throw a strike.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Telephone Revisited

On November 19, 2008, the co-founder of this blog posted a hilarious entry on dealing with the phone company about repairing her land line. Now, I am living in the home with that land line and now it's me who is dealing with the phone company. It was much funnier reading about it than it is doing it.

First, it took me quite a while to wrest the repair phone number from the phone company website. The phone company makes it hard for you to talk to them by phone. No wonder they are in trouble. Then, the recording - I never did speak to a living human being - asked me to choose a date when I could be at home from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. "We're sorry," said the recording, "We do not have a four-hour time slot available on this date". Yeah, I'll just bet.

On the Laugh-In show, Lily Tomlin, used to play a character named Ernestine, a telephone operator. One of Ernestine's routines included the phrase, "We are the phone company. If you don't like us, try using two dixie cups with a string (snort of laughter)."

Ah, but that was the 1970s. I lived in New Jersey for six months last year with nothing but a cell phone, and it was just fine. If the phone company wants us to keep paying them for our land line, they'd better start acting as if they do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Man's Best Friend

For several years, Randy has been rescuing man's best friend. He seeks out abandoned and homeless dogs and has rescued over 5,000 animals successfully finding homes for each of them. He loves what he does. When he arrives home after a day's work, he is greeted by 5 or 6 loveable family dogs who treat him like he's a rock star. He feels inspired by his love of animals and feels he's a better human being.

The world dearly needs more people like Randy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Feeling Swinish

It seems as if fear of swine flu has affected the habits of the public in Southern California. On a shopping trip today which took me to three establishments in two different shopping centers, I observed cashiers wearing latex gloves and, at the supermarket, a mob around the sanitary wipes dispenser next to the shopping carts. The religious school at which I teach sent out a memo to remind students to cough and sneeze into their elbows, and to wash their hands frequently. An article in this week's L.A. Times discussed steps that churches are taking to make it safer to take communion without infecting or being infected by other congregants.

Swine flu may turn out to be as pandemic and dangerous as the media is predicting it will, or it may be yet another in a series of flu scares which don't live up to their billing. However, we'll all stay healthier if everyone keeps up with the healthy habits. I'm all in favor of swine flu precautions if they keep us from being pigs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Cat's Approach to Water Rationing

This just in from witsendblogger Marnie who suggests that we all try to multitask when it comes to conserving water.

Dumb Cat Can't Figure Out How To Drink - Watch more Funny Videos

So noted, Marnie. And thanks.

By the way, the folks who prepared this video chose to call the cat dumb. I disagree. There's no such thing as a dumb cat. Many people, however, are too stupid to know this. Marnie, had she been able to post this herself, would definitely agree.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2007 Sangiovese

Here's what the folks at the Maurice Car'rie have to say about this particular wine: "A distinct cherry nose introduces you to this medium-bodied dry red wine. Cherry and cranberry flavors are maintained through the mid palate, with a slight crispness typical of a good Sangiovese. It pairs beautifully with a rare to medium beef steak."
Here's what I have to say about it: "Wow! That is a really good wine."
They go on to say that it is 15.3% alcohol, was in the barrel 18 months, and is 2% Cabernet Franc Blend.
Okay. Whatever.
I'm hoping to become one of those wine snobs. You know the kind. We still enjoy Two Buck Chuck but only privately. This 2007 Sangiovese from the Maurice Car'rie Vineyard definitely is a public wine.
The Maurice Car'rie Vineyard, established in 1968 on 46 acres, was one of the first in the Temecula Valley. The owners, Buddy and Cheri Linn, and winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, focus on wines ready to drink at an early age. After all, it's kind of hard for a vineyard less than fifty years old to compete with the centuries old European vineyards.
The on line wine magazine,, tells us that Italian immigrants from Tuscany probably introduced the Sangiovese grape to California in the late 1880's. Sanguis Jovis, the Latin origin for the grape's name, literally means 'blood of Jove'.
Which is why I say, when I'm trying to be snooty, "By Jove! That's one good wine."
Also, forget the steak. Our bottle paired beautifully with a plate of spaghetti.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Mistake Anyone Could Make

The Other Family Human and I were driving around this afternoon when she saw a truck with a sign on its side which read, "We Deliver AAA Batteries". The OFH commented that she wondered who was lazy enough and wealthy enough to have triple-A batteries for their appliances delivered to their home, and how many would a person need to require delivery, and why just triple-A and not double-A or C or D, not to mention 9-volt.

I reflected upon the problem and suggested that AAA stood for American Automobile Association, that the truck probably delivered car batteries, and the reason that they needed to be delivered is that if your car won't start you can't get to the store to buy one. The Other Family Human agreed that that was probably the explanation, although we both preferred her first impression. But you must certainly agree that it was a mistake that anyone could have made.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Out Smarting The Recycling Regs

We can help save the planet by recycling our stuff. I totally believe that to be true.
However, the city of Glendale, California, doesn't exactly make it easy to recycle. The city provides wheeled containers and that's really neat. The city sends out lists of acceptable things to recycle and the numbers on plastic containers that can and cannot be put in the containers. All of that is well and good. What they make tough is the amount to be put in the containers before said containers can be wheeled to the curb and emptied by the trucks which come around each scheduled day of trash pick up. The containers have to be filled to or above a certain line. If there is less than the stated level, the container is not emptied and worse than that a huge note is permanently affixed to the top of the container marking that resident forever in violation of the container level rules. My next door neighbor got one and each Thursday morning the entire street is reminded of her shame.
Needless to say, I live in fear of violating accidentally the container level rule. I have even destroyed perfectly good cardboard boxes just to make my mark. I have ordered merchandise I didn't need just to have more cardboard to put in the container. Of course, I then give the merchandise to Good Will because I'm also trying to lighten the personal possession load under which I've found myself feeling crushed. I've subscribed to newspapers and magazines in which I have no interest and which never make it into the house.
Clearly I've complicated significantly the recycling issue.
This morning, though, I came up with yet another plan.
I'm going to buy a bunch of large paper bags. I'm going to gather in the open ends, blow air into them and quickly tie the ends off with string which I have woven from the shredded bills and stuff. That way my recycle container will always look full even if it isn't.
If that plan proves to be too much trouble or too stressful, I may consider just putting out my recycle container every other week or so and let it fill up with the stuff I've actually used.
I don't know, though. That seems like the coward's solution to the situation.
I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Things Aren't Always What They Seem

When the Station fire burned through the Angeles National Forest a few weeks ago, you heard a lot about people who defied a mandatory evacuation order and had to take shelter in a hot tub, where they suffered serious burns. Governor Schwarzenegger chastised them, and they were held up as an example of what not to do during a fire by TV reporters on every channel. Living near the fire zone, I overheard and partook in a number of supermarket checkout line conversations which all agreed that, if told by the police to evacuate, we would not hesitate to do so.

Well, now it turns out that things may not have been what they seemed. Julius Goff, who has recently been released from the hospital, told the Los Angeles Times that, when he was ordered to evacuate, he first went down the road to check on a neighbor who uses a wheelchair, and helped him get out. When he tried to go deeper into the canyon to inform other neighbors who had not received the evacuation order, sheriff's deputies stopped him. He asked them if they were going to inform those residents that the evacuation order had changed from voluntary to urgent, and they told him that they were leaving. He checked on those neighbors, and when he returned to his own home, parts of the property were already on fire. A new resident was still there, crying and terrified. Having no other choice, they immersed themselves and their landlord's dog in the hot tub. Goff spent 1 1/2 hours in the tub, with a dog on his chest, and was badly burned. If he had evacuated when he had been ordered to do so, ten people, a dog, and a coop full of chickens (which he opened to release the birds inside) would be dead. He is not a defiant homeowner; he doesn't even own the property on which he lives. He is the Paul Revere of the Station fire.

It's hard to remember this, but there are at least two sides to every story. When a situation appears to be too simple, it probably is.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not a Leg To Stand On

Have you ever felt that you have absolutely no support whatsoever?
Years and years ago on the ranch of my childhood a man claiming to be a distant or shirt tail family cousin arrived to tell my father of his plan to fill the Grand Canyon with water and then freeze the whole thing. He would then corner the ice market. His plan involved a shit load of refrigerators with the doors open, as I recall. Judging from my father's expression, it was clear that the guy's presentation did not win the endorsement or support of my father. In other words, the guy's logic left him without a leg to stand on.
No offense to those of us truly lacking actual legs on which to stand. I'm making a point here.
A good wine always has a leg to stand on.
That's my point.
Ever notice anyone swirl the wine in their glass? Ever done it yourself? No, I'm not talking about swirling the wine with the straw you've been using or even shaking up the box really well. I'm talking about gently swirling the wine, raising it towards the light, and watching the wine's legs appear on the glass. Legs indicate the wine's quality. The more legs, the higher the quality.
The legs actually are more a factor of physics than vineyard.
Wine is a mixture of alcohol and water. Alcohol has a faster evaporation rate and a lower surface tension than water, effectively forcing the alcohol to evaporate at a faster rate. This allows the water's surface tension and concentration to increase, pushing the legs up the glass until the surface tension pushes the water into beads. Finally, gravity forces the liquid to tear down the glass in an almost magical streak.
Still and all, swirling the wine around in your glass is a really fun thing to do and it impresses the hell out of your friends who are still shooting their straw wrappers at each other.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Temecula What?

No. It's true. Temecula, California, is wine country. According to some, it's almost perfect wine country with its warm days and night time ocean breezes. Vineyards along Rancho California Road offer tastings and clubs. Wilson Creek serves great lunches along with a Zinfandel so rich it can be a meal in itself. South Coast's spa is magnificent and its rooms amazing. Earlier this evening a friend remarked that the Hart Vineyard looks like nothing more than boards across saw horses. The staff seems surprised to discover they work in a vineyard but offer a sampling guide excellent in scope and selection. Wilson Creek, in addition to its amazing lunches, boasts of Golden Retrievers who wander freely throughout the facilities with the only rule that they can't tussle in the tasting room. Probably a good rule for every one.
Really. Temecula Wine Country.
Give it a try.

Blue Skies Again

As if things haven't been grim enough lately here in LaLaLand, for the past several days it seemed that even the Dodgers had given up and lacked sufficient energy to claim what so clearly belonged to them. Finally, though, at if not the eleventh hour last night then certainly at the tenth and three quarters hour they shut out the Rockies and reminded us to at least try to remain hopeful even when history and current events insist hope is fruitless folly.
For the most part I am not a fan of professional sports primarily because most of the salaries could, if directed elsewhere, solve a lot of this country's and the world's socioeconomic problems. On nights like last night, though, I get it. A home team can guide us toward our finest possibilities if we only hang in long enough to follow.
Yay Dodgers.
Go Blue.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Crazy Cargo

Perhaps you recall a previous post in which I announced the designated days at least in California for odd driving behavior. In that post I referred specifically to the multiple Stupid Driver Days. I thought that was the only true designated day until a recent commute redefined the whole situation for me.
But first some background. One way, my commute each day is about thirty-five miles and about forty minutes. Naturally, I have a round trip commute but you get the picture. On the aforementioned recent commute, the first leg of the round trip took well over an hour because each vehicle behind which I quite literally found myself first off drove no more than thirty miles an hour and second off carried/contained/beheld an astonishing and inexplicable cargo.
I, for example, found myself in back of an old pick up truck loaded with rusty hand lawn mowers. Secured with what appeared to be twine, the load threatened to mow down anyone in its wake. I passed that precarious pile of scrap metal to find myself in back of a cargo van whose back doors had opened and were swinging open and shut. The cargo hold appeared to be empty but the swinging doors didn't promise pleasant outcomes. Down the road a flat bed truck escorted by a pick up truck transported a mobile home. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the home had ruptured and pink insulation dragged on the asphalt, blew in the wind, and cotton candied the freeway lanes.
This cavalcade of crazy cargo continued all thirty plus miles of my commute: Tree trimming trucks leaked leaves. An old Buick dragged its muffler behind as sparks threatened to send Southern California into yet another flamed, smoke filled fire storm. Rocking chairs swayed on flat beds. Tangled bicycle tires hung from the sides of wooden truck racks. An Andy Gump portable, industrial toilet transporting truck on its way to the Fairplex stopped suddenly and the plastic toilets slammed into the truck's cab.
Not even the normal and predictable city streets saved me. A cement mixing truck stalled at the intersection and I sat mesmerized by liquid concrete oozing from the spout. I wondered if I would be cemented onto Garey late forever to work.
Unbelievably and thankfully I did not wind up behind an ambulance nor did I find myself in a funeral procession.
That commute did end and I did park and I did walk uncertain steps into my office. My work day began and ended without unusual incident although normal incidents where I work are generally unusual incidents for others.
Even though I feared the drive home, the only unusual vehicle on the road appeared to be my own.
That's life in the fast lane, I suppose.

Letterman's Moral Obligation?

Yesterday while driving to work I briefly tuned in to a local news radio station to check on traffic. Too early to find out why motorists on the 210 east were sitting motionless with our engines running, I heard, instead, the latest Letterman drama. Unable to simply report recent events, the station interviewed people at some early morning coffee shop thing. Really. If I weren't curious about why I was going nowhere, I would have switched back to NPR or at least the Stephanie Miller talk show. Here's what I heard before I really did switch stations without ever knowing why traffic once stopped completely suddenly started moving again.
"David Letterman," said the outraged man, "has a moral obligation to his audience."
A moral obligation?
I thought he had a contractual obligation to entertain. Moral obligation? I think not. Legal obligation? Yes, definitely, but no more so than do all of us. Follow the law or risk arrest or fines or other unpleasant stuff. Moral obligation? Get serious. Which, of course, Letterman can't do because he's paid to crack jokes.
Here's what I think. The lines between entertainment and politics have become blurred to the extent that we actually believe actors can become competent state, national, and world leaders and political leaders should be constantly and consistently entertaining. At this point do the people in coffee shops being interviewed by radio staff even know the meaning of 'moral obligation'. If we expect our entertainers to be morally responsible, we must first decide whose morality runs the show. Should we expect basic morality from our political leaders? That's also a slippery slope because morality is not constitutionally defined.
So, coffee shop guy, have another cup of Joe and enjoy the show. After all, what could be more entertaining than a professional comic dealing up front and center with a blackmailer?
Now that's funny.