Saturday, November 27, 2004

Coming Soon: Planet Hollywood, Kabul 

Here's a course Tiger has yet to tame. Picture from The Survival Guide to Kabul Posted by Hello

OK, so Kabul won't be able to compete with Vegas as a travel destination anytime soon, but I did enjoy reading about the suprising bits of normalcy returning to the capital of what was recently the most repressed country on the planet:

For the golfing aficionados out there who are looking for a unique golfing experience, the Kabul Golf Club has reopened its course.

Not Pebble Beach. Picture from The Survival Guide to Kabul Posted by Hello

Hope you don't mind "greens" that are made of oiled sand. Pretty much makes those Scottish links courses look like a lush green paradise. At least all the land mines have been cleared. Three Soviet tanks also had to be cleared off the course, because the Rules of Golf are less than clear about whether a player could take a drop shot off the tank or had to play the lie.

After a round of golf, why not head over to Kabul's Thai restaurant, run by the enterprising Lalita Thongngamkam:

Ms. Thongngamkam, a 52-year-old divorcee, first visited Kabul last fall,

traveling here from Kosovo, where she had opened a restaurant after the U.N. took charge of administration in 1999. Increasing stability in Kosovo had begun to cut into her principal competitive advantage -- the absence of competition. "Everything became fairly settled, so I started to look for a new place," she says.

Kabul "looked like a good place for me." It had a plethora of U.N. agencies, a wrecked economy, enough violence -- sporadic rocket attacks and bombings -- to keep most rivals away but just enough security to allow the lifting of an after-dark curfew. Curfews are death to the restaurant trade.

She previously set up shop in places like Somalia, East Timor, and Cambodia, where there was ample business feeding UN officials, reconstruction workers, and charitable organizations. And yes, she has been eyeing Iraq. Maybe she could set up a food cart at Detroit Pistons' games.

Thanksgiving Leftovers 

I'm still in Fresno, blogging off old creaky dial-up (one of the things I'm thankful is my switch to speedy Broadband). In the post-Thanksgiving tradition, instead of a full meal, here is a group of links, ect.

Ukraine is still a mess. I don't have anything to say about the disputed election; I forget which candidate is the good Viktor and which is the bad Viktor.
Seeing Ukraine in the news does remind me to again share one of my recent favorite links: Motorcycle chick does Chernobyl. The story of the restricted zone around Chernobyl told through words and pictures. Some people have insisted the site is a hoax. As with many things on the internet, people will have to make up their own minds.

Michele is ugring a backlash to the Black Friday backlash.
Black Friday is the Day After Thanksgiving, when retailers' bottom lines are supposed to go from negative red to positive black. Buy Nothing Day is the backlash to Black Friday shopping insanity.
As an answer to Buy Nothing Day, Michele proposes Buy Me A Golden Goose Day, in honor of Veruca Salt (the spoiled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character, not the band. Read a book people!)
I want to start Buy Me A Flatscreen TV Day. Any objections?

Rebecca's Pocket links to the Matrix in Haiku.

Caltechgirl links to the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year voting page, where one of the nominees is Pat Tillman. Can you think of a more deserving nominee? Click the link and vote for him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Predictable Thanksgiving Quiz Time 

242 x 161 pixels - 20k
You are all about family and love getting full with
them. You enjoy spending quality time with
them, and to you, that's what Thanksgiving is

Awww. What a nice sentiment. I'll try to remember this when I want to hurl a turkey leg at my cousins. Heh Heh.

Blessings to everyone in the USA and overseas too. Now go stuff yourselves.

Which thanksgiving food are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Anti Anti-American 

Here's an article I've been meaning to post for awhile. Especially timely since Thanksgiving is tomorrow: Ten things to celebrate/ Why I'm Anti-Anti American.
This was my favorite part of the article:

...I asked him, "Why are you so eager to come to America?" He replied, "I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

Tomorrow is a time for everyone to take that opportunity to get fat. But hopefully not too fat.

Hat Tip: Baldilocks.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Eternally Christmas Kitsch 

Christmas Season has made itself known, not by the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center, but by the Clapper. Retch.

I just saw the first of those tacky commercials this season, and its eerie how they remain unchanged for years and years on end, as if Christmas kitsch exists in some ageless quadrant of the universe. I believe the Clapper jingle was one of the music bits that US troops blasted over loudspeakers to get Manuel Noriega to surrender. The Clapper's tasteless twin, the Chia Pet, should be showing up soon on televisions as well.

Obviously, there is a market for these things. Maybe as a gift for that annoying co-worker, or relative who would always pinch your cheeks when you were young.

I wouldn't mind a fruitcake as much. It might be edible, or I could use it to prop up the leg under that rickety table.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Sell! Sell! 

The San Francisco 49ers lost their game versus Tampa Bay. With the current state of the team, that's as shocking as a snowstorm in Colorado. Today's loss means the 49ers are the second-worst team in the league. Miami, tied with SF at 1-9 gets the worst-team "honor" due to tie-breakers. Both teams meet next Sunday to fight for the right to claim the number one pick in the next NFL Draft.

Speaking of the draft, I have an idea and I'm serious about this: The 49ers should take their first round pick and sell it.

Usually when a team wants to move down in the draft, it trades the pick for a couple of lesser picks, players from the other team, or some combination of the two. The 49ers problems are team-wide, so a top player won't be the fix. Since the 49ers are in "Salary Cap Hell," they would have trouble ponying up the money to sign a top pick anyway. By selling the pick, the 49ers would put the money towards their salary cap deficit and be able to sign better free agents sooner.

If the 49ers are lucky, a couple of teams would want their pick bad enough to ignite a bidding war. Hell, put the pick up on eBay and see what offers roll in. Bottom Line: Something creative needs to be done to break out of the mess the 49ers find themselves in. A lot of fans won't wait until 2006 for the team to be competitive again.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

One Advantage of Being Single 

Being able to eat cling peaches from the can without anyone bitching about it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Refuge No More 

Indiana Pacer Ron Artest fighting in the stands with Detroit Pistons fans (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)Posted by Hello

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Fists were flying. So were cups, plastic bottles and even a chair in one of the ugliest NBA brawls ever -- and Indiana's Ron Artest was right in the middle of it.

Artest and Stephen Jackson charged into the stands and fought with fans in the final minute of their game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, and the brawl forced an early end to the Pacers' 97-82 win.

I didn't have the intention of making sports violence one of my blog's ongoing themes, but it's sure turned out that way.

Fighting has always been part of organized sports. Indeed, a willingness to fight is an integral part of earning respect in ice hockey. However, the past couple of years have seen an escalation in an ugly dimension to this hostility: fan involvement, like tonight's incident in Detroit.

Is this another example of the coarsening of society? (No, I'm not being sarcastic for once.) Can it be solely blamed on alcohol at sporting venues? Is it, as some have suggested, a byproduct of the growing gulf between players and fans? Not being clairvoyant (or a sociology major), I don't have the answers. It just seems to be these kind of melees are breaking out at US sporting events more often than in the past. Am I mistaken on this point?

The end result of all this madness is likely less access to athletes at events, more security, and an earlier end time to alcohol sales during the games. We often get bombarded with so much negative crap in the world, and sports was supposed to be one of the last escapes from everyday worries. I would like to attend a sporting event without worrying if a riot will break out in from of me, as it did last September.

This past weekend, my buddy Sandro and I participated in a discussion on how to improve Major League Soccer. In his opening statement, Sandro said that a soccer game in Argentina banned opposing fans from the stadium for security concerns, and that he hoped never to see that in the US. Tonight, it looks like such measures are closer to becoming reality here. Sports is a refuge no more.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Beware of My Mars Moods 

You Are From Mercury

You are talkative, clever, and knowledgeable - and it shows.
You probably never leave home without your cell phone!
You're witty, expressive, and aware of everything going on around you.
You love learning, playing, and taking in all of what life has to offer.
Be careful not to talk your friends' ears off, and temper your need to know everything.

What Planet Are You From?

What's wrong with knowing everything?

Via Caltechgirl.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Holding Out 

Since the layoff, I've been taking it slow. Part of that has been a nasty bout of headaches lately, the rest is a conscious decision to relax, plan more for the long term, and wait to jump back into the job market.

It turns out I was tested yesterday.

I got a call from my previous job agency. A job opportunity, but hardly more information than that. I thought, "OK, I was enjoying my time off, but having steady income again would be a good thing."

The second call came: The position would start next week. Responsibilities would include washing glassware and keeping inventory of supplies.

Washing glassware?? Yes, washing glassware.

OK, so there was a good chance I could be a Manufacturing Associate, like I was before, in six months. My brain finished processing in a few minutes, and a polite call back from me sent the job off to someone else.

So now the bet is on. In a few months, will I be wishing I had taken the position? Don't be on it. One year ago, I was in nearly the exact position. I turned down a position, and got layed off. One year later I have experience necessary to assist in drug production.

I'd always rather be broke and happy, rather than miserable and stuck in a rut.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

New Amazing Race 

It never ceases to amaze me how The Amazing Race can make going to the airport and map reading look so dramatic.

Friday, November 12, 2004

LaLa Land and Blocked Arteries 

I'm off to LA to visit college friend and eternal soccer nut Sandro. The trip is also a great excuse to satisfy my Tommy's chili-burger craving. I highly recommend a trip there, even if one burger has enough grease to case an elephant's arteries to harden. I still think it's worth it. After all, I did get the exercise bike for a reason, right?


I saw the Incredibles last night, and I must admit it did match the hype. I didn't find too many political messages in the movie, other than trial lawyers suck (but we all knew that). Disney should have backed up the money truck in order to extend its partnership with Pixar (but we all knew that too).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Peddling Nowhere 

I now have one less excuse to exercise, damn.

I bought and assembled an exercise bike today. Now I can exercise even with the torrential downpour passing through Fremont right now. I won't use it today, since I got a better cardiovascular workout putting the stupid thing together. The upside is that now I can blame any rambling and incoherent posts I write on exercising and blogging simultaneously.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Back From the Dead 

I decided to finally stick my head out of my spider-hole and post. My seven day hiatus was part intentional, part unintentional. After the election, is was in a mood to do some cocooning, where I ignored much of the news and spent my time doing laundry, sleeping in, and trying out my copy of GTA: San Andreas.

I was feeling more than a little guilty about the layoff, and I even had a couple of inquiries asking if I had fallen off the planet (thanks for those). I've spent the last day or so catching up on all my primary blog reads, and I now feel completely vindicated with my decision to play hermit.

Apparently, I'm not the only one burnt out on politics, red vs blue, and trying to figure out what the hell the term "moral values" means. As Michele can tell you, many people are taking grief from both political extremes:

...So here we have the left engaging in mockery and ridicule, further alienating themselves from the rest of the world. That the two memes swarming the left - Jesusland and the notion of them being reality-based (as opposed to what?) - tells you something of their attitude towards the rest of you.

But they aren't the only problem. Because now I'm suddenly a target not just for the left, but for the right. I'm being told I must fight the good fight, rethink my stance on gay issues, abortion, the definition of family and religion. I'm seeing the first hints of alienation. They got my war on terror vote. I was part of them for this whole election cycle, working side by side to get Bush elected. And now that the election is over, I've been given a put up or shut up demand. Bad enough to get the bullets from the opposing party, I'm now being eased out the door of my own.

First off, I find the whole Jesusland vs the United States of Canada meme obnoxious, simple-minded, and patronizing. I think there are much better models if you insist on splitting the US of A into separate cultures. I think Jeff Jarvis is more spot-on when he sees the Red vs Blue split is a difference between urban and non-urban (suburbs, exburbs, and rural) cultures:

...And I ended my day hearing an unnamed major media executive (unnamed because it was at an off-the-record event) talking about this very same phenom: Big media isn't so much liberal as urban, he said; there's a different world view and the election revealed that. New Orleans went for Kerry; Louisiana went for Bush; St. Louis went for Kerry; Missouri went for Bush; urban vs. ex.

I like this model, via Lex Communis a while back, that divides the US into ten voting regions that cut across state lines. It makes the point that most states are split between red and blue, and that not all red (or blue) states think the same anyway. Most importantly, we are not just simply two camps who are all about Us vs Them.

Personally, I straddle the line between red and blue both figuratively and literally (raised in conservative Fresno, live in the liberal SF Bay Area). The red vs blue talk is interesting to me at first, but it gets old very fast. To lose either would mean then nation would be incomplete. The election's over, and there is more to life than throwing stones at one's political opponents.

I think a lot of these hotheads need a more constructive outlet for their frustrations. They should do as I do: get Grand Theft Auto, cheat to get the tank, then run over or blast anything that moves. I find it very cathartic, and much easier than starting a secession movement.

Arafat Dies 

The deathwatch finally ended this evening (early morning French time). I know many will say a lot of the coming days about the man, the state of his people, and the Middle East in general. However one thought kept coming to me about his state funeral: How insecure must a place be if the official state funeral of the leader of its people must be held in another country (Cairo, Egypt)? Couldn't all the militants and others declare a quiet period long enough to allow a secure state funeral in the West Bank? I suppose that the Palestinian Authority lacks the resources to put on such a large gathering.

Many are saying Arafat's death may give a breath of fresh air to the peace process, but I doubt it. Extremists on both sides have too much at stake in continuing the conflict, and it only takes a few of them to keep the conflict going.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Day After 

So last night I didn't nearly blog with the proficiency as I wanted. Blame too many distractions, and a sour stomach. Today I spent most of the day away from the World of Politics, playing host to old college friend Helen, and trekking through the rain at Fisherman's Wharf. I missed Kerry's concession speech, but I caught Bush's speech. I knew deep down that Kerry had the decency to throw in the towel for the sake of the country, and this alone helps remove any reservations about casting a vote for him. Thank you Senator Kerry.

As for the President, I hope he plans a more inclusive second term. I understand the need to push his agenda, but there are ways to fight the good fight and then put the nastiness aside after the fight is over. I am a bit of an optimist on this one, I think Bush will work on his legacy in the second term, and he doesn't want that legacy to include leaving behind a bitterly divided country. Those of us who did not support the President should do our part.

I'll leave up the political stuff on the sidebar for another week or so, since I've noticed people are still interested. Now what to talk about? The 49ers are awful, hockey is been frozen (not in a good way). How 'bout those Lakers??

Update, One Last Thought
: IMHO, graciously conceding the 2004 Election may very well prove be the first step on the journey for the Democrats to reclaim the White House. Can you imagine the animosity the non-Democratic base voters would have had over a Florida-redux? By throwing in the towel, the message is sent out that at least a few Demos are willing to put country over party. Sometime you must give up what you wish to have in order to claim it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Night 2004 

OK, can we end this already?

5:05 Starting the liveblog a little late, but it's no big deal. No real suprises. Only item of interest is the ease that Kerry took New Jersey. Kerry:77 EVs Bush:66 EVs.

5:52 Cooking dinner, talking with friends and trying to keep up with incoming data is harder than it looks. Bush slightly ahead in Florida. Ohio and PA without data yet. More states close in a few minutes. Bush 102 EVs Kerry 77 EVs.

6:04 No surprise: The strip of states from N Dakota to Texas goes Bush, NY goes Kerry.
Bush 136 EVs, Kerry 108 EVs.

6:13 WTF is up with "Too Close to Call" vs "Too Early to Call"? More confusion on election night, great.

6:19 Funny Graphic: MSNBC put up a Florida proposition result on teen pregnancy notification: Teen Pregnancy 65% Yes 35% No. Make your own jokes.

7:06 John Stewart on the Daily Show: "Its pretty much like last time, except the whole world is watching, and people in Iraq are saying 'You invaded us to give us this!'"

7:09 The Rockies come in: Bush 184 EVs, Kerry 112 EVs.

8:03 CA polls close. Lots of proposition results to come. Seems like Kerry got PA, but is trouble in Wisconsin and Ohio. If that holds true, Kerry is toast. Some are already beginning to say just that. Bush 199 EVs, Kerry 188 EVs.

8:08 Locally, KRON-4 is saying Prop 71 (The funding for stem cell research) has been approved.

9:51 Fox News calls Ohio for Bush. Along with his victory in Florida, that means unofficially game over for Kerry. Alaska would put Bush to 269, which would mean Kerry could tie at beat, and Bush would win via the House of Representatives. Looks like a close Electoral replay of 2000, but no uncertainties in individual states. No lawyers, no recounts, no BS.


I just hope Bush manages to put the country back together again.

Monday, November 01, 2004

It Figures 

It's gonna likely be a loooong Election Night if everything looks like Hart's Location, New Hampshire:

HART’S LOCATION, N.H. - The nation’s first Election Day votes were cast and counted just after midnight Tuesday in this mountain hamlet, with President Bush and John Kerry each receiving 15 votes. Ralph Nader received one.

Minutes later, the 26 registered voters in Dixville Notch, about 50 miles to the north, split 19 for Bush and 7 for Kerry.

The tiny communities since 1948 sporadically have been taking advantage of a state law that allows communities to close polls early if all registered voters have cast ballots.

Via Caltechgirl

One Day To Go 

The election is nearly here. In past elections everyone could look forward to all the noise being over once all the votes were counted. Of course now we know better. Like a tagline from a bad sequel, the election isn't the end, but only the beginning.

So Green Bay won their game yesterday versus Washington. That's supposed to mean the incumbent party gets voted out, and we all get six weeks more of winter. Naturally, in a year when the Red Sox are World Champions, all bets are off.

I plan to do liveblogging on Election Night, so I'll we a walking zombie on Wednesday. I think it will be worth it, since it will probably be closer than this year's Super Bowl. So take note, go vote, and let's make our choice before the lawyers get involved.

Oh, and whoever wins (or if nobody wins), the world will still be here Wednesday morning.

I think. Right??