Thursday Thirteen Ed. #56

by Steve, August 30th, 2006

meHey, you’re a human, right? And chances are, you live in a neighborhood. So here are Thirteen Ways to be a Good Human in Your Neighborhood.

1. Send your kids to the neighborhood pulic schools. Get involved with the parent/teacher organization. Start one if there isn’t one already. Give money to the school if you can afford to. If you would consider prvate school, instead consider donating a fraction of what you would pay for tuition directly to your children’s classrooms. Encourage your neighbors to join you in sendng their children there, too. You’ll be amazed how much a school can improve with parental involvement. Find out where your children’s classmates live. Organize a “walking schoolbus”.

2. Grow a garden. Share the bounty with your neighbors.

3. Get to know any old folks in the neighborhood. Check in on them once in a while, or at least say hi when you see them on the street. When the zucchinis start going wild, make them some zucchini bread and take it to them. Ask them about neigborhood history.

4. Learn all the kids’ names. Find out how old they are and where they go to school.

5. Use organic practices in your yard. Think of yourself as a steward of the land, not an owner. Care for it with the next residents in mind, be they human, animal or plant.

6. Compost. Make dirt. Recycle grass clippings and food scraps into rich, luscious soil to grow nutritious, environmentally beneficial food.

7. Have a block party. Or a progressive party. We keep talking about doing a progressive party on our block, but it we haven’t pulled it off yet.

8. Mend fences. Literally. We love our neighbors and the privacy fence between us.

9. Well, we don’t love all our neighbors. Like the ones on the other side. We wish they’d let their dog piss and poop in the yard instead of on the patio. Even if they can’t be persuaded to let the dog off the patio to do his business, maybe they could hose down the patio once in a while? So anyway, if you have pets, treat them well, and don’t let them be a nuisance to others.

10. If you have a conflict with a neighbor, try to be the bigger person about it. Don’t call the city on their ass, except as a last measure, and only if you’re sure the city will cite them. Call the city. A friendly public employee will tell you something like, “If there’s more than six piles of dog shit, we can write them up. Anything less, there’s nothing we can do.”

11. Don’t hold a grudge. Hose the damn patio down when they’re away. Use their hose and water. When the octegenarian granny who lives there asks what you’re doing, explain it to her. Take her some of that zucchini bread later.

12. Take walks around the block after dinner when the weather’s nice.

13. On May Day, make May Day baskets. Leave them on people’s porches, ring their bells, and run away. (I like May Day. It’s International Workers’ Day.)

Happy Thursday, one and all!

For Jenn (and race fans)

by Steve, August 29th, 2006

photosSome of you, like Jenn, may have been put off by my seemingly anti-NASCAR comments a while back. So here I am trying to make it up to you. I took Himself Jr. to the local dirt track Saturday night for an evening of stock car racing excitement. I must say, it was everything I remember, with the addition of Budweiser (I was too young to drink last time I went to the races).

early fans

We got there early, and so did these guys.

Old Glory

Here’s something you don’t see at a hockey game: Old Glory proudly flying off the back of a Trans Am. And unlike at hockey games, the crowd did not go wild at the line “o’er the land of the free….” I’m not sure if it is out of respect for the song, or just a lack of enthusiasm. Could it be that hockey fans have a more libertarian bent than race fans?

pure stocks

After time trials for the late models, the racing got under way with the “pure stocks”, cars with virtually unmodified engines and chasis. Predominant stock models are Camaros, Trans Ams, Novas and Monte Carlos. (Sunset Speedway also runs street stocks, with souped up engines, modifieds, which are Frankenstein’s monsters built on passenger car frames and with open wheels on the front end, and late models, purpose-built dirt track racers.)

race fans

Race fans pretty much fit into the same demographic as hockey fans, i.e. working class. Fun for all ages. If you think NASCAR Democrats are rare, try being the only socialist in the crowd. But no problem. The fans were all really nice. We talked to a couple young boys whose Dad drives a modified. I asked how he was doing in points, and they said, well, not so good. His car keeps losing parts and he keeps crashing, they said. Sure enough, in the first heat race in the modified class, their dad slammed into the wall on the first corner of the first lap.


Some people say race fans only go to see the wrecks (kind of like hockey fans who go to see fights). Stock car racing is a full contact affair (except in the pure stock division), with lots of bumping and occasional wrecks. This car was involved in a smash up coming out of the 3 turn and nearly rolled.

late models

Small boy enjoyed the show for a while. During warm up laps, when all four classes of racers were out on the track, he started naming them as they went by. “Late model. Late model. Modified. Late Model.” Unfortunately, we got there way too early, and by the time the heat racing started, he had seen enough cars and found a bug in the gravel under the stands. He played with that for the rest of the evening. We stayed for one late model heat, and then headed home.

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #55

by Steve, August 23rd, 2006

meThis one’s for all the mommy bloggers. Especially this one, who makes me feel like uber-dad. She’s used to tell me I should do a daddy blog, but somehow I got side-tracked into this wacky anti-war, pro-hockey etc. blog. Anyway here ya go, Wacky Mommy: Thirteen Ways to be a Better Dad (from the perspective of a working Dad of a 4 y.o. and a 7 y.o.).

  1. Love the mother of your children. She needs it and deserves it.
  2. Say goodbye to your children before you leave for work, even if they’re still asleep.
  3. Take them to a river and let them throw rocks into it.
  4. Teach your kids safe, creative ways to channel aggressive energy. Build a block village with them, let them play with it for a while, then tell them to destroy it.
  5. Be firm and consistent, not angry and impatient.
  6. Spend as much time with them as you possibly can, but…
  7. Take some time for yourself once in a while.
  8. Don’t sweat the difficult stages. Most don’t last more than 6 months.
  9. Tell your children about your childhood fears. Tell them if you wet the bed, or were afraid of the dark, or feared tornadoes or nuclear war.
  10. Sing them a funny naughty song or playground rhyme from when you were their age. (“There’s a place in France….”) Don’t overdo it. See #1.
  11. Teach them that with good manners, they can charm the pants off grown-ups and get exactly what they want.
  12. Turn off the TV.
  13. Put them to bed every night. Read them two or three stories.

An apology to Thursday Thirteed (Ed. #54)

by Steve, August 16th, 2006

meThis week, I apologize for my sarcasm, which evidently doesn’t always translate well. Last week I snarked about the 13 things I would never blog about (or somebody should shoot me), and went on to list some pretty worthy blog topics that a lot of you in the TT community hold near and dear, including one person who is a very near and dear to me. She knows I mean no offense, but to show my contrition to the rest of you, I’m blogging about all those things I said I would never blog about last week. So here is my Thirteen Great Things to Blog About:

  1. My Dog.dogThis guy. He’s gettin’ old.
  2. My Cat.PrincessShe hates everybody except me and Wacky Mommy.
  3. My Other Cat.HimselfThe original Himself. Efficient hunter. Follows me into the bathroom and chirrups until I turn on the bathtub to dribble on his head.
  4. My Health. I’m about 20 lbs. overweight, but in decent cardio shape. I’ll be in better shape when I go back to playing hockey three times a week in September.
  5. My Sex Life. Sorry, my wife is censoring this one.
  6. Cars. Um… I drive one. (Not sure where to go with this one.)
  7. Television. It is a very bad influence on society. I don’t think children should be exposed to it. (I’m watching TV as I write this, so you understand I’m not really all that dogmatic about this.)
  8. Pictures of My Children. Not going to do it. Sorry. I love the little nuggets, but I have privacy concerns.
  9. Football. I grew up watching it. Isn’t that enough?
  10. Basketball. I grew up watching NCAA but don’t care for the pro game.
  11. Beer. Some beer tastes good. I prefer liquor.
  12. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan (I hope I spelled their names correctly). I gather they are teen show biz queens. Well cool. I hope they have talent and they make people happy and feel good about themselves just the way they are.
  13. NASCAR. Look, I grew up in Iowa, and it was a regular feature of my youth to go to the Saturday night dirt track stock car races at the Muscatine County fair grounds in West Liberty. Ah, the smell of partially combusted gasoline, mixed with damp earth and oil, the roar of the engines and the smoke and moths under the lights and the wooden-spooned Frosty Malt from the concession stand under the grand stand. But NASCAR? Eh. Not so much. They’ve smoothed off all the rough edges and made it some kind of slick racing buildboards in a stadium thing.

So there: no war, no hockey and minimal snark-snark (I hope). Happy TT and Cheers to all.

Juan Cole on the “stupid war”

by Steve, August 16th, 2006

I know I say this too much, but you really should read Juan Cole every day if you have any interest in what’s going on in the Middle East. Here’s his take on the Israel-Hezbollah war:

It was such a stupid war. It was thick-as-two-blocks-of-wood strategy on all sides. It was moronic for the Israelis to plan it out last year. It was idiotic for Hizbullah to cross over into Israel, kill soldiers, and take two captive. It was brain dead for the Israeli officer corps and politicians to think they could get anything positive out of bombing Lebanon back to the stone age and making a million people homeless. It was dim-witted for Hasan Nasrallah to threaten Israelis with releasing poison gases from Haifa chemical plants on them. It was obtuse for the Israelis to confront a dug-in guerrilla movement with green conventional troops marching in straight lines. It was dull of Hizbullah to fire thousands of katyushas into open fields where they mainly damaged wild grass. The few times when the rockets managed to kill someone, it was often an Arab Israeli civilian. Stupid.

Less Hockey More War

by Steve, August 15th, 2006

hockeyIt’s been a long offseason, in which war has flared up in a most grotesque way in Lebanon. Israel has the obvious edge in civilian kills, but there is no clear military advantage coming into the first intermission:

non-combatants killed:
Israel: approximately 1,000 Lebanese civilians.
Hezbollah: 43 Israeli civilians.
combantants killed:
Israel: unknown number of Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah: 114 IDF troops.
source: BBC

A sickening first period, and that’s just the dead. Are the Lebanese dead are better off, considering the literal and figurative rubble the nearly million displaced living Lebanese are coming home to? How many more children and old people will die horrid deaths in Lebanon due to destroyed infrastructure and leftover ordnance? No matter who “wins”, it is Lebanese civil society that is the biggest loser. In many ways, this has been a war on democracy and pluralism, to the extent that that’s what Lebanon represents in the region.
Beirut in ruins (BBC)(See more pictures here) Politically, the war criminal Hassan Nasrallah has won a huge victory in the Muslim world. Hezbollah has stood up to the previously invincible Israeli millitary machine like no Arab army before. The IDF was unable to take and hold small villages a short distance from their own border, much less destroy Hezbollah. The war criminal Ehud Olmert, with the blood of 1000 unarmed men, women and children on his hands, is facing a gathering political storm in his own country. Armed with the most modern millitary technology available, in overwhelming quantities, Olmert was unable to stomp out a small militia, armed with WWII era anti-personnel rockets, anti-tank weapons and small arms. Instead, he has emboldened Hezbollah as a mass popular movement and left its military wing intact.

As thousands of dirt poor, rural Lebanese make there way to pick through the shattered remains of their lives, the truce looks highly questionable. I fear the potential for a gruesome second period, with peasants killed by bombs from 30,000 feet as they dig up and re-bury their dead, and Hezbollah launching more Katyushas on Israel. The US is already saying the French-led UN force will not disarm Hezbollah. The Lebanese army is politically and militarily incapable of doing so. Will Israel be willing to walk away with Hezbollah intact? What will Israel have accomplished, other than inflaming its enemies and destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure?

Meanwhile, did anybody notice that 3,400 civilians died in Iraq in July? I am really, truly ready for More Hockey and Less War. Bring it on! Drop the puck!

Arundhati Roy on bombing for feminism

by Steve, August 15th, 2006

It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple the Taliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being asked to believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission. (If so, will their next stop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?) Think of it this way: in India there are some pretty reprehensible social practices against “untouchables”, against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan and Bangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women. Should they be bombed? Should Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka be destroyed? Is it possible to bomb bigotry out of India? Can we bomb our way to a feminist paradise? Is that how women won the vote in the U.S? Or how slavery was abolished? Can we win redress for the genocide of the millions of Native Americans upon whose corpses the United States was founded by bombing Santa Fe?

—Arundhati Roy, Come September (speech), Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 2002

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #53

by Steve, August 9th, 2006

meWell Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, last week I irked some with my anti-Mel list, so this week I’m reverting to my usual sweet and mellow self and making it up to y’all with a two-fer. First, a list of 13 things I will never blog about (and if I do, somebody please shoot me):

1. My dog.
2. My cat.
3. My other cat.
4. Any health issues I may encounter.
5. My sex life.
6. Cars.
7. Television.
8. Pictures of my children.
9. Football.
10. Basketball.
11. Beer.
12. Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan. I don’t even care if I spelled their names wrong.

But wait! There’s more! You also get: 13 things I should blog about, but haven’t yet!

1. The election debacle in Mexico (I’m soliciting a guest author with better knowledge than I for this one).
2. Portland Public Schools politics. I could devote an entire blog to this.
3. Reviews of books I’m currently reading. Right now it’s Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte.
4. Indian software developers in the US, US software development offices in India, and the politics and economics of high tech immigration and offshoring.
5. My anti-libertarian manifesto, which has been stewing about in my brain for a while now.
6. My marinara recipe.
7. My guacamole recipe.
8. Places I’ve traveled.
9. A critique of the high tech work world and the nerds who inhabit it.
10. My previous life as a rock musician and the inadvertent comedy therein.
11. String theory and the higher dimensions it describes.
12. Evangelical Christianity’s eschatological view of the wars in the Middle East.
13. The narcissism inherent in blogging.

Happy TT everyone!

Time well spent

by Steve, August 8th, 2006

politics“…this has been time that’s been well-spent over the last couple of weeks.”Condoleeza Rice August 7, 2006

Yes, over the last few weeks, entire villages in Lebanon and neighborhoods of Beirut been bombed to dust. All major highways have been bombed in all parts of the country. The economy is crippled, the environment despoiled. Fully one quarter of Lebanon’s population is displaced. A fourth of a nation! As Juan Cole points out, this would be like 70 million Americans displaced. The US and Israel are wilfully destroying a nation, against all reason (strategically, this is breeding more support of the extremist and criminal Hezbollah, not isolating it).

The Bush administration, fronted by the offensively pugnacious John Bolton and the dangerously incompetent Rice, refuse to talk to any party to the conflict save Israel. They call it a breakthrough when they manage to negotiate an absurdly pro-Israel plan… with France! Memo to Bolton and Rice: France is not a party to this conflict! You need to negotiate with Hezbollah by way of Syria or the Lebanese government! They want to talk to you! They are willing to agree to a cease fire!

But their mission really seems to be the destruction of Lebanon, the only multi-ethnic democratic bastion in the Arab world. I thought neocons were all about spreading democracy, not destroying it.

Meanwhile, I continue to be disappointed by the so-called “left” in the US, and their tepid response to the rape of Lebanon. Take, for example, Norm Ornstein’s harsh words for the UN online and on the air with Al Franken yesterday. He’s sounding an awful lot like a neocon apologist for Israel. He takes great pains criticize Hezbollah for their civilian attacks (as do I), but then dings the UN for saying nothing of it. Well, the UN has had plenty to say about atrocities on both sides. Ornstein gets in a tizzy about Katyushas packed with ball bearings (these are anti-personnel weapons, designed to inflict maximum carnage in a small package), but he’s got little or nothing to say about Israel’s wholesale destruction of towns and villages, except that Israel warned the people to leave first. (Franken at least pointed out that many people are too old, sick or poor to leave, and that many have been killed trying to flee.)

It is useful to note that we (the US) stand alone in the world in backing Israel.

Subject for another day: evangelical Christians, the apocalypse, and Israel.

Edited 8/8/06, 3:04 Pacific:I forgot to mention, while Condi and Bolton fan the flames of Israeli aggression, Bush plays war at his ranch. Steve Holland, who accompanied the president on a bike ride writes, “Bush does not ride quietly…’Air assault!’ he yelled as he started one of two major climbs….” Shit. This is our president?

Thursday Thirteen Ed. #52

by Steve, August 2nd, 2006

meI am not known for my celebrity dish. I pretty much don’t give a rip about famous people. But since Mel “Watch me, I’m a train wreck” Gibson went and followed up his anti-semitic Passion play with a drunken Jew-hating tirade, I just can’t resist. After letting the Jewish community stew over the weekend on his non-apology, Mel’s publicist released a statement that owned up to the anti-semitism while maintaining that Mel is not really anti-semitic—maybe he just plays one in real life?—and asks the Jewish community to help him make it all better. That, my friends, is chutzpah!

The Jewish community was generally warm to the apology. But Monsters and Critics reports “Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center…cautioned in a statement that, like substance abuse and alcoholism, anti-Semitism ‘cannot be cured in one day and certainly not through a press release.'”

You could read Mel’s mealy-mouthed apology, or you could read my translation here (patience, TTers, by TT list follows):

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