Friday, December 31, 2004

Friday Morning Cordial Blogging

Framboise, Baccarat & Cent Cinquantenaire Grand Marnier

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Friday Night Wine Blogging on a Thursday (New Year's Eve Eve special edition)

Longoria - Pinot Noir 2000

I guess it's the oak. I wouldn't buy it again; I'd buy the 2001 and let it age - Ginger Haired Yank

Bi-continental blogging!

Very happy to have a co-blogger now. Having made a vow to produce a blog entry every day, I've grown to appreciate more the effort & ability of the professional bloggers, so happy to have someone to share the load.

My Dutch co-blogger will blog in Orange in deference to his ruling house. Don't be surprised if you periodically see bi-lingual entries.

Several reasons to watch "la reine Margot"

1. The movie tells a very important part of French history. Especially because the events have a huge impact on the Dutch history. The slaughter of the protestants is the reason for a large exodus of huegenots to the Netherlands. Their fresh input and knowledge has been one of the bigger contributions to the forming of the "golden century" of the Netherlands. Without the slaughter artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Fabricius would probably never have gotten a chance.

2. It is discomforting to think that nowadays the back room meddling, politics and backstabbing is still taking place. Two nice examples are the poisoning of the Ukrainian president candidate with dioxin, the killing of a Ukrainian minister in his dacha and the fabricated reasons for starting a war with Iraq. Nothing has changed.

3. Isabelle Adjani. She only seems to play characters who are complete humorless and borderline hysterical. I hate watching those types. Adjani, however is such a good actress and has such screen presence that I forgive her for it.

4. The movie is more French than the french. Which is good. It is very refreshing to watch a non US type movie from time to time.

What do you know. My first contribution to the Blogging universe and still in 2004.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Storyblogging Carnival - forming an idea

I read about the latest Storyblogging Carnival VIII over on asmallvictory, and wondered what story I could come up with, and then it struck me - some modern story about 12th night (Zagmuk). In BABYLONIA the winter solstice was accompanied by a festival called Zagmuk, which commemorated Marduk's battle with the monsters of chaos & was supported by the Mesopotamians holding a 12 day party to assist Marduk in his struggles.

To work, the story would have to take the myth seriously. The festival of modern folks would actually have to help Marduk return from the darkness of chaos - Spring would not occur if the festivities were not properly held.

According to, the structure of Zagmuk is:

1) Nisan 1-4: Preparations and Purifications
2) Nisan 5: Day of Atonement for the king - the people descends to the suffering god. Increasing commotion of the city during the search for Marduk
3) Nisan 6: The gods arrive by barge at Babylon, among them Nabu, the son and avenger, who takes up residence in Ezida, his chapel in the temple of Marduk;
4) Nisan 7: Nabu, assisted by other gods, liberates Marduk by force from the mountain of the Netherworld;
5) Nisan 8: First determination of Destiny. The gods assemble and bestow their combined powers on Marduk who thus obtains "a destiny beyond compare";
6) Nisan 9: Triumphal procession to the Bit Akitu under the king´s guidance. This represents the participation of the community in the victory which is taking place in Nature and renews Marduk´s destruction of Chaos.
7) Nisan 10: Marduk celebrates his victory with the gods of the Upper and Underworld at a banquet in the Bit Akitu and returns to Babylon for the Sacred Marriage Rite in the same night;
8) Nisan 11: The Second Determination of Destiny. The gods assemble once more in the Chamber of Destinies to determine the destiny of society in the ensuing year. This was the last act of deities, bringing auguries and omens for the prosperity of the land.
9) Nisan 12: The visiting gods return to their temples, and life returned to its everyday normalcy, and the business of plowing and sowing and trading for the new crops was taken at hand.

It looks like the first 6 days are all preparation. Day 7 is the battle. Day 8 starts plans for the upcoming year. Days 9-10 are all fête. Day 11 is more planning for the new year, and day 12 is return.

Stories only work on conflict, so the monsters of chaos would have to try to sabotage Zagduk to make winter permanent. Stop purifications? Descent to the suffering god? Could not have them poison the fête - even monsters of chaos enjoy a good fête. The planning phase or the Gods arriving by barge would work best. Also would have had the monsters of chaos having won previously for some of the great calamities in history.

Will be tough to complete by Saturday night, but will make a goal of having the base outline by then, and be ready for the Storyblogging Carnival IX.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Back in High School, I read Michener's Hawaii which included a tidal wave scene; he made mention of how out at sea the wave was so small that sailors didn't even notice it. Did not understand at the time, but the papers have given a good description (NYTimes has a way cool simulator) of how the Tsunami moves at 500 mph & is up to 100 miles wide. I still have a very hard time grasping anything that large moving that fast & why its energy doesn't dissipate quicker.

The death toll is mind-boggling as well. 68,000 off the latest news reports & that's sure to rise to over 100,000 with secondary effects such as disease, starvation & thirst. Does make me once again feel fortunate to live in the West with all its technology & wealth to guardband us against natural disasters. Hopefully Japan & others will help set-up some Tsunami (the english of 'harbor wave' loses much in the translation) system for the Indian Ocean.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Updating 2nd term Bush criteria

UPDATE: The ginger haired yank thought this posting was too disheveled yesterday, so am revising.

I had previously given my criteria to judge Bush's 2nd term:

Trade: Approval of the Doha Round
Deficit: Keep the promise of cutting the
deficit in half ($220B)
War: Less than 20 deaths per month for a 3-month
moving average
Today's WSJ had a good editorial The Bra in Your Wardrobe (subscribers only unfortunately) By JAGDISH BHAGWATI and ARVIND PANAGARIYA. Their bottom line is that 'free trade' prospect aren't looking good given the lead-up to the end of the Multi-fiber Arrangement (MFA) & the administration's response

...the Bush Department of Commerce has slapped these
so-called 'special safeguard' quotas on imports of Chinese socks.

The non-transparency of this administration make sthe Clinton era look like a model of free information


Instead of imposing import restraints, the rich countries had used pressure to force exporting countries into restraining exports: a phenomenon hilariously called 'voluntary'


And now China has announced that she will impose an export tax on textiles, which is of course a 'voluntary export restraint' (VER)"

Will post more tomorrow on 'free trade'.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Disappointing Getty exhibit & 1/8th review of JS & MN

Off the Wall Street Journal's recommendation, we saw Cézanne in the Studio at the Getty. There's a reason why water colour is viewed as a lessor art form to oil painting. Just no comparison between Cézanne's water colours vs. the (few) oil masterpieces at the Getty such as Jeanne Kéfer (a spitting image of the ginger-haired yank) or Cézanne's oil work. Worse, the Getty with acres of display space placed Cézanne exhibit in a small cramped room so folks couldn't wait to leave the exhibit - a true disservice to the artist & WSJ should have mentioned the poor presentation.

Some authours just have that ability that makes you want to get back to the novel to find out what happens next. Susanna Clarke completely has that ability. Her footnote technique annoyed at first, but now I'm enjoying the little side story told through the pseudo-documentation. Off the first 100 pages, would call JS & MR very clever & well put together.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

3 movie reviews & 3 gift receiving sessions

The Aviator - probably will win Oscar for best film. Amazing the budget Scorsese has for his night club numbers, incredible attention to detail for period dress & hair styles. Loved Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner. Amazing that Hughes could produce what he did given his obvious mental illness & self-destructive behaviour.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - director was given too much money for too many needless scenes like the silly rescue at the end. killer soundtrack though & loved hearing all the old Bowie songs from Hunky Dory & Ziggy Stardust song in Portuguese with just acoustic guitar backing. Skip the film - download the Seu Jorge Bowie covers.

Gospel According to St. Matthew - Best film i've seen yet by Pier Paolo Pasolini. The Decameron and Medea were both disappointing, and I have not been able to obtain Salo so cannot evaluate his most famous film. This version had Judas betray Jesus with a hug & some odd anachronistic armor for the Romans, but otherwise conveyed the spirit of the Gospel. Do wish there had been an Italian with subtitle option instead of dubbing - absolutely no extras on this DVD!

Drained by 3 gift giving sessions. Some nice stuff, but nothing quite matches last year's iPod - guess hard to top. Anxious to use the $200 from grandmother-in-law to purchase Remy Martin Louis XIII in the mini Baccarat decanter.

Friday, December 24, 2004

On the first day of Christmas...

Off to 2 days of Christmas with the in-laws now, so posting light today-tomorrow - if i were not so obsessive compulsive, i probably would not be blogging today, but made a vow to produce a daily entry.

looking forward to amazon gift certificate & new VCR & new graphic novels & $200 to buy Remy Martin Louis XIII with!

best to all

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A review of the first half of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

Once nice thing about blogs is you can review a portion of a book. Eric Muller did a 7 part review of In defence of interment when he was a guest blogger with the Volokh Conspiracy, so I'll credit him with being an inspiration.

For the summer before 6th grade, Huck Finn was required reading, and even as a 10 year old, I could tell it was a better novel than Tom Sawyer. Years later at the U.S. library in Bukavu (hope it still exists) I read the intro blurbs to most of Twain's novels. One blurb stated that of all Twain's writings, only the middle half of Huck Finn could be considered art.

Having now finished 3½ tapes (out of 7) I'm not sure I'd agree that it should be called art. Far too much extraneous material. I remember the Duke & King of course, and the Tom Sawyer ending, and even Huck being caught in his girl disguise, but I had no recollection of the separation of Huck & Jim after the ferry boat crashes their raft and Huck takes part in some ersatz Hatfield-McCoy feud. Side 1 of tape 4 ended with some long section about a lynch mob being faced down by a murdered standing on his roof with a shotgun. Completely extraneous to the plot & not sure what it adds as character development or insight or social commentary. One of the critiques of Tom Sawyer I read back in Bukavu was that 'everyone's on vacation including the authour'. That often seems true with Huck Finn as well. It almost seems that Twain's ideal life would be just floating down the river on a raft, so that's what he enjoyed writing about.

The critique also stated that Twain started Huck Finn shortly after finishing Tom Sawyer and quickly knocked out ~9 chapters, and then had writer's block, so he set the novel aside for ~9 years. It also opined that Twain didn't know how to end the novel, so he ended it in a farce by reintroducing Tom. I assumed that the Duke & King must be the art section, and sure enough, they enter near the end of tape 3, those 2 characters enter. Will review the rest after listening during my rides to work next week.

While I'm not that impressed as an adult by the novel, I have to comment on the bizarre 1960 film version of the novel starring Tony Randall. While it had been many years since I read the book, I knew that the movie was an incredible bastardization of the novel. The King & Duke do not end up tar-and-feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. There's no Tom Sawyer appearance at the end of the book, or the fake escape with Jim from the Tom's relatives - huge section not there at all. Reading the cast on IMDB, I see that Tony Randall was the King - huh?? That makes absolutely no sense. Mickey Shaughnessy looks like the King, not Randall. Too bad Twain's heirs couldn't stop such an insult to the book. Also bizarre that the director of Casablanca would film such dreck. Best leave the last word to thesyxxpac on IMDB:

Pure Rubbish
This is yet another fine example of how Hollywood can take a great story and destroy it. ...When not getting the events out of order or changing them altogether....the screen play invents them...... The worst thing about this movie is the completely fabricated ending. Anyone who has read the book will quickly recognize the discrepancies between the movie and the book. The movie is filled with great scenery and the cast does a fine job. However, it should be against the law to use Mark Twain or Huckleberry Finn's name in this movie.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Harder week than it should have been

My best boss at Boeing once told me never to burn vacation on easy days. Since my first 3 employers shut down for Christmas, never knew what he meant. Since my last 2 employers have not shut down I've worked for Christmas & realized how easy these between days are.

Last year was great - super easy drive & easy days at work. This year is different - maybe because we don't get Thursday-Friday off, the commute's been worse than it was last year in the evening. Also we're so short handed at work, the days are not as easy as they should be for this time of year.

All that to say that blogging about Medical Marijuana or inventions that need to be created or review of Huck Finn (not that impressive so far) or Clarke's tome will have to wait for another posting.

Oh, did learn again about trolls. What kind of life do folks have that they're obsessed with entering snarky comments on blogs - don't get it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Long awaited book arrived!

Love the L.A. library system, but ever now & then there is a glitch. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell finally showed up at the library after 2--3 month wait only to be sent back before my 10 day wait was done. Fortunately the reference librarian was a champ & put my name back on top of the list. Book arrived today (made sure to pick it up the first day possible), so i'll have a good and long awaited book to read between presents & dinner on Xmas day.

Will be curious if the description "Harry Potter for grown-ups" holds to be true. Obviously a good pedigree if Neil Gaiman was an early supporter. Crooked Timber gave it a good review a few months ago, so that's another plus for it.

So far the first few pages definitely put it in the 'page turner' category. Some folks have that ability, so will be curious how well it holds my interest, but happy the timing worked out so perfectly. TANGENT: 3 Christmases ago, i tried reading Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, but it didn't hold my interest. Too much "this character did this. this character did that" but without much narrative to hold my interest. Skipped to the end - the authour is back in England asking folks in some government office if all the shenanigans was worthwhile (seemed like he got alot of blank stares). If the efforts only piffled away Britain's strength for little gain, then what's the point?

Back to the LA system. Overall wonderful. Can log on & put a book on hold to be delivered at any library branch i wanted. At one time, i had the goal of visiting all 69 branches, but think after i hit the 15-20 most convenient, my ardor for that task died. Top notch selection of Books-on-Tape & Books-on-CD. Listening to Huck Finn now as an adult. Will give review next week since i'm through 2 of 7 tapes (shorter than i remembered) & should be done by the year is out.

Well time to get back to Clarke's tome.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Thanksgiving dinner photo

Thanksgiving dinner

This is the photo that was supposed to go with the Thanksgiving posting. I had included family photo picture, but just read a post from Crooked Timber about privacy in the age of blogs. As the ginger haired yank had pointed out, I posted people's photos without their permission.

This shot of pumpkin creme pie is more appropos!

A Blogger's Christmas Card!

Live Christmas Tree!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ignominious end to a season w/movie review

Watched "Wonderland" about an uphappy older couple & their 3 daughters + 1 son
  1. single mother - father is irresponsible reprobate leaving son alone, so son goes off to get mugged
  2. pregnant daughter - husband quits job but doesn't tell her. then he goes off & leaves her for a bit while having motorcycle accident.
  3. single scene daughter - goes off on b.s. dates from single ads, but black guy next door who has crush on her maybe asks her out at end of movie.
  4. son doesn't have much of a role - basically has sex with new wife & leaves a Vmail.

Same director as "24 hour party people' but way way too much hand held camera work & no redeeming comedic performance by steve coogan. Not much redeeming music or zeitgeist feel either. Winterbottom has improved with age - very much enjoyed Code 46 & the claim - so maybe he just needed some seasoning.

p.s. got the snot beat out of me in the playoffs. Disappointing end to a season that had looked so promising as i waltzed into the playoffs just 2-3 weeks ago.

More FF

amazing the emotional committment i have to Fantasy Football. if i lose today in the playoffs, i'll be bummed all day & be kicking myself all during the off-season for not starting Duckett last weekend instead of Pittman.

decided to get my daily blog out of the way before kickoff because i'll be so...distraught? tied in knots? once the triple header gets underway.

Go SPC - kick BIG BOY's ass!

iPod, FF & 80th B-day

Just back from 80th birthday dinner down in Laguna (Expensive & worth it - studio restaurant in the Montage resort) so short blog.

Down by 11 or 13 points in FF after the defences have played. Bummed.

Upgraded my iPod software so now I can drag-drop purchased tunes from iTunes (pretty amazing that they iTunes & iPod softwares are synchronized - each version does not always work properly together - but happily back to purchases. Took a chance on a Weezer song that ASV had recommend "Only in Dreams" - worth the 99¢. Also purchased "Hash Pipe" that michele had played for us last New Year's Eve. Also worth it.

Well still agonizing over Horn vs. Patten. Still a bit bummed that I didn't start Duckett instead of Pittman last week (cost me 22 points). Can only hope that BIG BOY's team doesn't have much other pop tomorrow - would hate to lose to my ex-roomie.

"so there's no theme to this one, you're just rambling" interjected the Ginger-haired Yank - must be time to boot down.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday Night Wine Blogging

2002 Zinfandel - Cline

"better than Vick's vapour rub" sez the Ginger-haired Yank

Thursday, December 16, 2004

2nd attempt at posting "A conservative's criteria to judge Bush"

Hopefully no HTML errors this time - i'll skip linking to - decided to post criteria from a conservative & a liberal this time.

Our criterion for Iraq are not identical, but close. If our death toll is really <20/month, href="">~40 through the first half of the month. Will certainly cost him a chunk of political capital when he goes to Congress asking for $100,000,000,000 to fund the war. Well let's hope my link to works this time (went up 1 level in their hierarchy) - if not, then I'll be seriously ticked off by a 2nd failed goes...

1 Iraq: success would be Iraqi's take over their own security and US Troops reduced to under 50,000 by end of Bush's Second term. Stable democracy (more aggressive then my bet with Kirk).

2 Taxes: elimination of the income tax in favor of either a value added or flat tax

3 Social Security: at least 2% of payroll taxes are allowed to be diverted to private accounts.

4 Health Savings accounts become law.

5 Non defense spending held to under 2% growth/year

6 Iran's nuclear facilities are either verified to be shut down or taken out militarily

7 North Korea holds multinational talks with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the US. Agrees to verifiable shut down of nuclear facilities or taken out militarily.

Environmental issues.
How much erosion of our existing environmental protections does he manage to implement.
Does he back down from his anti-Global Warming / anti-Kyoto protocols stance.

Social issues.
How badly does he screw up Social Security.
How badly does he screw up health care.

Taxation / Fiscal issues.
How drastically does he distort the tax system to favor the wealthy.
How much further in debt are we. What deficits are we running.

Economic issues.
How many net jobs have we lost/gained in his two terms.
How badly does the dollar slide.
How high are our trade deficits.

International issues.
How badly does our international reputation suffer
Do we have any real allies left at the end of his term.
Are we out of Iraq, and is it a stable popular democracy.
Does he make any attempt to promote peace between Israel & the Palestinians.
Is any progress made in resolving the North Korean problem.
Is any progress made in resolving the Iranian problem.

Human Rights & Civil Liberties issues.
How badly are our civil liberties compromised in the name of security.
Does he make any effort to effectively promote human rights internationally.

Governmental issues.
How badly does he distort the U.S. governmental system to advance his own ends and those of his party.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

2nd Anniversary Wine Blogging

Chandon Blanc de Noirs

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Nixon's Secret Honor

Altman's Secret Honor: The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon finally came out on DVD so saw it tonight. Over the top & stagy with annoying camera angles, but still drives home that painful period in American history. Wonder whether Nixon will still hold the same fascination decades hence, but this year - 30 after his resignation - there's a new book about what movies Nixon watched in the White House. Pretty amazing how successful & self-destructive tricky dick was.

The DVD has some of Nixon's speeches as an extra. Listening to them now, you can only conclude "He was a crook".

This was supposed to be "A conservative's criteria to judge Bush" but HTML errors intruded

just spent 30 minutes composing a post, but my link to gave HTML errors 3 times & then my post was blown away. too drained by work to even try to repost. I guess that's an expected frustration of blogging sometimes, but given what a draining day (6 more folks bailed last week) too ticked off to try again.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Koufax Awards & Favourite campaign postings

Could never figure out why a Blogger would win an award named after the great southpaw pitcher Sandy Koufax, but now I'm enlightened. The awards are for bloggers from the left - guess my predictions of a plethora of blog awards is proving to be a reality. I put in my nominations:

Best Blogger: Kevin Drum
Best Group Blog: Crooked Timber
Most Humorous Posting: Fafblog's hilarious interview of a 1970 IBM Selectric.
Best Writing: Riverbend

During the campaign season, I had 3 favourite postings:

During the campaign itself, my favourite posting was Kevin Drum's "Bush lies more than Kerry....Film at 11" giving weight to the lies told by the candidates in the 2nd "townhall" debate. The 2 big whoppers from Bush were that he was more fiscally conservative than Clinton & how Kerry had raised taxes 98 times.

Just before the election, it was James Wolcott's "96 hours of mope-and-dread". That became my mantra for the November 3rd-5th, a rough time for those of us on the left.

Finally just after election, it was a posting from the right, ASmallVictory's morning after. Her best paragraph
"What does the (presumed) election of George Bush mean to you, as a member of the left? It means you and your party have four years to get yourselves together and figure out exactly what you stand for. It means you have a couple of years, max, to come up with a viable candidate who represents the majority of you and doesn't pander to every knock off group of your party. It means you have time to get your act together and decide once and for all what you stand for and produce a leader who will stand up for your ideals. It means you better find a candidate who is someone you can vote for with conscience, and not just vote for out of hatred for his opponent."

In the end, I could not vote for Kerry in good conscience, so voted for Badnarik as a representative of the Libertarian Party. (side note: found it amusing that janegalt didn't vote for him because she was worried that his 0.317% of the popular vote might make a difference & she didn't want a gate crasher to give the LP too much attention).

There were a couple of other postings I wanted to comment on. One was addressed to "non-moonbeam Democrats" - can't remember the blog - that I found insulting & worse, it did not hold up to repeated readings. Basic argument boiled down to "be afraid. be very afraid if Kerry gets elected." One comment was from a reader who wanted to print out the posting & attach it to every Kerry/Edwards sign in their neighborhood. Wanted to respond "look. I don't get why you feel Bush makes you safer. You don't get why i don't feel Bush makes me safer, but giving someone a blog posting sure as heck isn't going to make me share your fears - especially a posting based on fear mongering."

A better written posting from the right was from the Belgravia Dispatch. His argument boiled down to

"George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating. He understands it deep in his gut, to his very core, and this is why I will be voting for him in November. ...I am confident and, indeed, proud of my vote because Bush's intellectual firmament has grasped this essential truth. "

"I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to the war on terror. "

This is the "bush gets it" argument - I would actually agree that this is a 5% truth. Bush was right that the status quo needs to change, but unfortunately he doesn't recognize what the status quo truly is or have much desire to change it. The status quo has long been that the US will support thugs when it suits our purposes - Papa Doc, Mobutu, The Goat, Somoza - and over throw them when they prove to be too much of an embarrassment or have outlived their usefulness - The Pineapple & Hussein.

The status quo we should be changing is ending ($2B/annum) foreign aid to benign dictators like Mubarak or support for thugs like the Uzbekistan rulers. If there is one change I would make in our foreign policy, it would be to end foreign aid. Israel can survive without our $4B/annum & totally opposed to giving anyone, much less Columbia drug fighting aid.

What's funny is the almost mystical beliefs Bush engenders. A president's job is to figure out who wants to kill us & protect us from the killers. Nothing mystical about it, and to a large extent what the government does to keep my family safe at night is largely independent of the president, or at a minimum, is irrelevant to who is president at the time - future post will cover 'the generic president'.

Enough ramblings for a Monday Night Football evening (kennison just caught his 2nd pass of the night - both for TD's!!), so as a final note, I'll give the last word to asmallvictory

And that's the great thing about waking up today. See, the world is still here. The sun has risen, there were no great floods or earthquakes or visits from Lucifer during the night. We have the future.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas shopping

More exhausting as i get older. thankfully internet shopping has been a godsend as yesterday at some mall in....West Covina? did me in for shopping for the weekend. Used to go shopping much sooner, so will have to try that next year.

Don't pay for Bridget Jones's Diary 2

Fortunately my director gave everyone in the department $20 AMC gift certificates. Unfortunately I blew mine on the BJD sequel - only because Wes Anderson's latest wasn't playing anywhere convenient & we were in one of those modes. Fortunately caught a little Art Bell on the trip home & found out that 1 of the 5 people you'll meet in heaven will be your favourite pet cat.

Friday, December 10, 2004

What do you smell?

Friday Night Wine Blogging

"Blackberries" said the Ginger-haired Yank. "I'd buy it again, but I'd decant it. It needs to breathe."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Creating a criteria to judge Bush's 2nd term

I've stated many times that Bush's second term would be less worse than his first, but never set-up a criteria that I could use to judge the truth of that statement. What are my criticisms against Bush? He's a protectionist, spend-thrift who got us into a quagmire.

There are other beefs I have of course: Executive Order 13833; his AG fighting to prevent a citizen from seeing a lawyer - we don't need to present any evidence, just trust us; his AG's vendetta against medical marijuana. In those cases I don't expect any improvement beyond what the Supreme Court will force, and when the next Democrat is elected president, he will rescind Executive Order 13833.

For the 3 issues at hand - trade, deficits and war - it's time to come up with a standard. Anti-Bush folks like to say, "Well he's not going to invade another country" and that's certainly true, but it's a cheap standard. Defenders on trade say that "oh steel tariffs were just the price to obtain 'fast track' approval, and Bush knew the WTO would give him the cover to get rid of the tariffs". That argument comes across as a bit too far thinking & I'm siding with the Foreign Affairs article that argued that Bush/Zoellick gave away too much too obtain FTA, though they argued that Bush/Zoellick had learned from their error. My brother (the only conservative who's also a Keynesian that i know) argued that Bush spent just to get us out of the recession. Given all those inputs & many many others, my criteria is:

Trade: Approval of the Doha Round

Deficit: Keep the promise of cutting the deficit in half ($220B)

War: Less than 20 deaths per month for a 3-month moving average

So far the signs don't look good. For trade, there's rumblings of a shrimp tariff on poor Vietnam, and believe it was the same Foreign Policy article (can only access the intro now) pointed out that regional trade blocks are actually counter-productive in the CAFTA case. We pool with small trade countries, while China forms regional trade blocks that block us out in part, and Europe does the same. Read one prediction that Doha would be approved in 2007, but sure don't see any momentum, and since the stated priorities of Bush's second term are Social Security & tax reform, then I just can't see the spare political capital for such a difficult, but useful task. I will give him credit that during the campaign he didn't pander to protectionism like Kerry did, but my gut feel is that the rhetoric was empty.

Obviously the deficit peaked at $4xx,000,000,000.87, and will decline, but by how much. My prediction today is that Bush will get the deficit below $300B before he leaves office, but not down to his stated goal of ½. Also do agree with the Atlantic Monthly's description of Bush as a "supply-side Keynesian" - guess that means I agree with my sibling that Bush spent to get us out of a recession and it worked, so Keynes is now re-abilitated!

Iraq: I have a response to the administrations comments "it will be violent before the elections" "it will be violent before the turn over of sovereignty". True. It will also be violent after the turn over of sovereignty. It will be violent after the election. It will be violent period. Air America pointed out that November had the highest death toll of any month (136 vs. 135 last April), but that's to be expected during a Falluja offensive. What's more important is the death after the offensive - that tells you how effective you were strategically. So far through the first week of December, there's 23 US dead which means are steady-state death toll will continue to be 50-80 each month. At this rate, we'll have roughly 4,000 dead and 30,000 wounded by the end of Bush's second term.

I don't see an exit strategy today, or any sign that Bush's 2nd term will truly be less worse than his first, but ultimately it's events not bloggers that determine historical reputations.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The cost of outsourcing

Had planned a political posting, but too drained by today at work.

Can understand all the big picture arguments that outsourcing is good for the economy, but it's painful in the little picture reality. Our company is outsourcing to Puerto Rico & Mexico & Ireland. Understandably the company wants people to quit and has even coerced some out the door - helps to have an ex-sister company that's hiring. Unfortunately so many people are leaving, we have some very noticeable holes that either aren't being filled or "the req's open to replace them with permanent & temp workers".

The weakness in wanting folks to quit of course is that you can't fully select who you want to leave, so I'd be curious if some enterprising academic has ever studied the transitions costs of transferring production overseas. The lack of productivity when a product lines are leaving and the learning curve costs when the product lines show up overseas. Would also be curious to see the cost of added WIP. Previous company produced the components in the US --> Singapore produced the sub-assemblies --> US produced the final assembly. After several years (3-5) the entire line shipped over, but just can't believe the company saved much..any $$$ when shipping tons of inventory back-and-forth across the ocean.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Thanksgiving Dinner, Part II

Favourite dishes - seitan roast with vegetarian chicken sauce + sweet potatoes & apples

UPDATE: Here is link to desert photo. If I knew HTML better, i could probably edit in the photo here, but have only learned to load photo into a given post. Previously this post had a family photo, but had not asked permission before posting which is a violation of blog etiquette.

UPDATE a year later: the link above no longer works. Not even sure what the link was originally supposed to link to.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Office has a happy ending

The Office closes

After becoming increasing negative in its 2nd season, The Office actually has an upbeat ending - won't give details & spoil it for folks still waiting for their Netflix DVD. Everyone's favourite episode had to be the 4th in the 1st season with the outsider trainer for the group - we've all had to muddle through Diversity or Lean Sensei or 6 sigma or some similar waste of time (or at least marginal added value of your time). Not quite sure what companies are thinking, but they'd be better off telling folks to see a movie matinee, than to force folks through some busy work exercise on company time.

The 2-part ending movie also hit the raw nerve of dating while being a professional. Personally, do not miss the days of (they're great if you're new to an area) and blind dates and group dates and non-date dates. The restaurant scene in the Office finale reminded me too much of a date at some bakery - made me feel old when my date arrived, though I did enjoy the bakery & went back there often for their croissants.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Did you drink and dial?

Friday Night Wine Blogging

The Merlot shown above was smooth, but with little nose (our living room is 68°F so that may be part of it).

This post's title is the best line from Sideways, the current road movie about a middle-aged wine trip in the Santa Ynez valley. Too many funny lines to remember them all, but the post title is the most memorable. Fun that the first winery they visited was one we had been to - also a bit funny that the wine pourer looked so stiff playing a wine pourer (guess he's not comfortable being in front of the camera). It's great to see a total schleep like Paul Giamatti get two such meaty roles as Harvey Pekar & Miles Raymond given that he's the complete antithesis of a leading man. Not a super memorable movie, but Payne's best to date. Only regret is that US theatres do not serve liquor, as I would have loved a class of Pinot Noir (the grape metaphor for our leading man) during the film & some Framboise by the closing credits.

When GJ took me to see lock, stock & 2 smoking barrels in Groningen, I was blown away that they stopped the movie 2/3 of the way through so you'd buy a Heineken (not a planned intermission by the moviemakers, but some odd Dutch habit). Still it is fairly enlightened of Holland to allow beer in the theatres - time for our theatres to follow suit & cater their concessions to the movie showing!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

So what do you want to blog about?

that's what the ginger-haired Yank asked me two days ago.
"well uh wa'...wa'...what do you mean what do i want to blog about? hmmm. well my initial topics would be:

Why blogging?

Two reasons come to mind. I'm a big fan of the blogosphere - addict may be a better word - so hey, if i'm already such a fan, why not join the fun? Also having been a member of a Yahoo Group "WWF" discussing the war that fell apart the need to publicly express myself is still there.

Blogosphere fandom: A couple of aspects of the blogosphere i enjoy are clicking on a link from a "blogroll" & then doing the same on the next blog after a quick read & then again & again until finally i come to a blog that does not have a blog roll. It's also neat to click "Next Blog" at the top of my blog here on blogspot. You come across folks from all around the world. Also, "You wouldn't believe what folks will put on line". Came across a blog about epilepsy with some fellow only has sex on a biannual basis because of his wife's illness - seems a bit too personal to be putting out there, but obviously he had that need to express himself. Not sure how "next blog" button works, but seems to be random selection as the ones I see today are completely different from last night.

Obviously a 3rd reason is the not-so-hidden desire to become an elite blogger. Read a month ago that there's 1½ million US blogs - don't think we'll all hit the big time, but also believe that 1,487,693 of us have that desire at some level. Fortunately, I'll never need the income so will never face the pressure to become a professional blogger.

It looks like there's 4 ways folks to become elite blogger: (1) be an established journalist - sullivan, TPM, Wolcott (2) be sponsored by a media entity - Wonkette, Calpundit, Kausfiles (3) have a specialty that is of interest to many - Volokh Conspiracy or Crooked Timber to a lessor extent (4) come from nowhere. Obviously professors like Drezner or Reynolds have a leg up though instapundit doesn't cover law much. Others like Atrios or DailyKos or Little Green Footballs or Digsby just came out of nowhere, so I have no idea how they reached their status. Wish I had saved the recent list of who the top bloggers during the campaign were considered to be, but was quite surprised to see Digsby & LGF on the list. Do not consider Drudge a blogger - never sure what he actually writes - he's more a 1 man Yahoo so would not put him in the blog category, but guess there's no other box for him.

Also have no idea how janegalt & ASV achieved their quasi-elite status, but it's nice to see the blogosphere look after it's own - specifically Instapundit having janegalt as guest blogger must have helped her profile & his link to ASV on November 3rd was probably the only way I would have come across her, though I did notice that she might win a blog award in....Best Social Blog(?) category. I can easily see the day when we'll have "People's Choice Blog Awards" "MTV Music Blog Award Show" - of course other regions will have to host their local equivalents at some point - but i'm not looking forward to the day when there's a monthly blog award event taking place, though that won't stop the award proliferation from happening.

well enough ramblings for now, it's time to get ready to see Sideways. Hopefully tomorrow I'll learn BloggerBot & be able to post my belated "Friday Night Wine Blogging" photo along with my review of Sideways.

Friday, December 03, 2004

test test test test

I clicked on blogspot's "create a blog" button expecting to find a fee list, e.g. 1 year vs. 2 year, how much it costs for extra HTML capabilities, instead, I'm now a blogger. Hmmm, a surprising start, but why stop now, though I'm still curious how this service makes any money.

It's friday & since I get a big kick out of "Friday Night Cat Blogging", "Friday Night Baby Blogging" & "Friday Night Orchid Blogging", I'll try to post "Friday Night Wine Blogging" - Columbia Crest Merlot (2001) - after we've finished imbibing. Photo taken, but too hungry to learn BloggerBot before dinner, so photo will accompany next post.

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