December 28, 2005

Happy Holidays!

I don't know why people have stopped saying "Happy Holidays" after Christmas passed. They now simply use the "Happy New Year" greeting. Don't they know some of us are still celebrating? I mean, hello! Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are still going on as I type! Isn't that the whole reason they had to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in the first place? The majority of the holidays that take place during this time are only happening now, and nobody is wishing "Happy Holidays" to anyone anymore. I, for one, am offended. After December 25, people asked, "So how was your holiday?" but shouldn't they have asked, "How was your Christmas?" Because really, that was the only holiday that has been completed so far. I find it insulting that it is assumed by strangers that I might have possibly celebrated Christmas! I mean, the nerve of those people! Christmas is only one of only how many holidays people?! Bottom line: Never ask a stranger how their holiday "was" in the days after Christmas. In an America where we celebrate diversity, it is quite disrespectful of everyone to assume that it was Christmas they celebrated. The proper time to ask strangers about the "holidays" would be sometime in the first week of January. By then, all holidays (December holidays, anyway) would have passed, and one can respectfully ask this question. So, please fellow Americans, do not ask me or anyone else about "the holidays" until then. However if you only want to ask about Christmas, just go ahead and do that.

December 21, 2005

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

Interesting op-ed by Bruce Feiler in the New York times today.

Here's the closing paragraph:

The extremists talk about religion - and spew messages of hate. Religious moderates must denounce this bigotry and reclaim Scripture as the shared document of all. When flamethrowers hold up Scripture and say, "It says this," moderates must hold up the same text say, "Yes, but it also says this." The Bible is simply too important to the history of Western civilization - and to vital to its future - to be ceded to one side in the debate over values.


Click here to read the whole thing.

December 13, 2005

Commander in Chief?

Ok, so the Golden Globe award nominations were announced today. Why in the world is Commander in Chief nominated for Best Drama? Did the voters actually watch an episode before voting for it? I know that The West Wing is not in the middle of its own creative peak, but this season has most certainly been its best one in the past 3 years (where it was previously nominated) and is far superior to "the other White House show." I don't know if the voters were making a political statement with the nomination, but it certainly wasn't because it is a quality show.

Religious Coalitions in American Politics

Here's an interesting article I came across today.

Here's a clip:

American politics is the politics of coalitions, and religious groups are not exempt from the need to build alliances. Indeed, religious coalitions have often been the subject of hot debate by observers and activists alike. Ever since the presidential election a year ago, the media has been full of reports about "new religious coalitions," at the very same time that battles over abortion, same-sex marriage, and judicial nominees have revived some old ones. The controversy over the current state of religious alliances slides almost imperceptibly from empirical—how do religious groups cooperate in contemporary politics?—to prescriptive: how should religious groups coalesce so that appropriate values shape public policy?


Click here for the rest.

December 12, 2005

What a Weekend in Sports

This was a great weekend for my sports teams! It's nice to watch a game to see your team win at the end.

The Redskins beat the Cardinals
! In order for us to have a post season, we HAD to win yesterday. There are only divisional matchups for the reason of our season so every win is currently a must win for us to have any hopes of getting that wild card slot. Or who knows, maybe the Giants will collapse and we will win the division. (It is possible. I mean, many things are possible.)

The Maryland soccer team won the national championship! I saw the second half on TV yesterday as we cruised to our first championship since 1968. Crazy! Great day for Maryland sports fans!

The 17/21 ranked Terps beat No. 6 Boston College in our ACC opener
! A nice win after the loss to GW last week. Welcome to the ACC Boston College!

December 8, 2005

O'Malley's Running Mate is Brown

The gubernatorial race here in Maryland has had a new development--a running mate has been chosen. As you know, Governor Ehrlich will battle the victor of the Martin O'Malley/Doug Duncan battle which sure looks like it will be fierce (although O'Malley is currently trouncing Duncan, and is ahead of Ehrlich if they were to face off).

Well, Martin O'Malley announced today that Delegate Anthony Brown of Prince George's County will be his running mate. This can't really be seen as surprising because we all know that now, thanks to Governor Ehrlich's leadership, the lieutenant governor position is now the minority slot. It was a forgone conclusion that O'Malley would run with an African American, as will Duncan whenever he fills his number two slot (rumor is state Senator Gwendolyn T. Britt is a top choice).

Here's my question: When Governor Ehrlich chose Michael Steele as his running mate in 2002, there was mass hysteria that the only reason he was chosen was because of the color he added to the ticket. Shouldn't those who support affirmative action actually have be pleased with this selection? And is there any question that the white male Democratic candidates for governor were going to select black lieutenant governors?

You hear it time and time again. When Republicans select African Americans for positions, it is always because they are used as window dressing. Plus, they really aren't black anyway, right? But when Democrats do the same exact thing, there is absolutely no problem with it.

Hypocrisy is quite common in politics. Your opposition does something shameful and you call him out on it. But if somebody on your own side does the same exact thing, you don't really point finger unless you have to. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this. I think its just embarssing that the party of the minorities shows this trait when it comes to race.

I have not officially decided who I will be voting for in the governor's race next fall. I am quite satisfied with Governor Ehrlich's handling of the job despite not having voted for him. However, I am waiting to see what his plans for the next four years are, and to find out if what the Democratic nominee has to offer is better. This race will certainly be one to watch.

Customer Service Numbers--My Christmas Gift to You

Don't you hate it when you call up a customer service number only to discover you get to talk to a computer that talks back to you and asks you questions? And when you answer, it doesn't understand you? And you keep getting sent back to the same menus over and over? And then you call the computer voice mean, vicious things, only to provoke a non-response, or the far better, "I did not understand that"? Maybe that last one is just me...

Anyway, if you haven't heard about it already, some guy who apparently had too much time on his hands (oh, I'm not complaining!) has compiled a large list of companies' customer service numbers and has the "codes" you can punch to get directly to the human customer service agent bypassing the most likely Windows-based computer.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, instead of giving you a fruitcake, an ugly sweater, or pants that look like they were in style in the mid 80s which I was otherwise planning on sending you, I thought I would give you this--something you could actually use year round saving you time and stress. And really, can you place a value on this? I didn't think so.

Without much further ado--Merry Christmas! That's right...Christmas!
http://paulenglish.com/ivr/

So just bookmark the page in your browser, and whenever you need to call the dreaded customer service department, use it. And think of me. All throughout the year. It's just a token of how much I care.

Oh, and feel free to regift this one. I won't be offended.

December 7, 2005

Having the Usual

Today was a special day in my life. When I made my occasional morning stop at Sizzling Express on 23rd Street for a muffin and a smoothie, I was asked my the lady behind the counter, "Hawaiian smoothie?" to which I nodded in affirmation. So now, I have one more place I can include on my "places who already know what I'm getting" list.

At my old job, whenever I went out to lunch with my boss, we always ate at the same place. And no matter who the server was, they didn't need to bother with menus because they already knew what request to send to the kitchen.

People used to know their neighbors. Store owners knew their customers. Strangers were strangers because those were those few people in a community that were unfamiliar. Now, the few are the people you actually do know. And sometimes even these people can be thought of as strangers.

Many advances have been made in the past couple decades. Socially, politically, medically, and technologically, we have seen many gains. However, there have been costs as well. The greatest of these, I believe, is the diminished value of human relationships. This is obviously not a deliberate action, but simply a by-product of our current society. We grab some fast food for dinner, stop by the big box store for personal items, have our cars serviced at centers where we are merely a number, buy groceries with self checkout, and buy things online to avoid crowds at the mall just to rush home and watch Must See TV. Have things become more convenient? Definitely. But at what cost?

Generally speaking, who gets the best service anywhere you go? The answer is simple. It's those who know with whom they are dealing. You get better service if you know your mechanic's name. If you know your pharmacist name. If you know the server at your restaurant. If you know your kid's teacher. If you know the guy hiring.

Nowadays, you need to make an active effort to get to know people outside your tight knit circle. The benefit of this is one of those things whose value cannot be given a dollar amount. And maybe, just maybe, places where you can have the usual, whatever that "usual" might be, will not be a rarity but the norm.

December 2, 2005

My Weeks in Brief (or not)

So it has been more than two weeks since my last post! I know your life has almost ceased to exist these past few days. For that, I'm sorry. I won't ever do it to you again. Well, I'll try not to, anyway.

Here are some of the things I might have talked about in the last couple weeks:

- I missed my traffic court date!
I got stuck in traffic two weeks ago and missed my hearing on my speeding ticket from back in June. I was apparently doing 100 on I-270 and missed my chance to explain to a judge why. There was a huge traffic jam on the Beltway, but luckily, I was granted a postponement. Four months until round two.

- I testified before the Prince George's County Council
My church is currently trying to build on our land, but before we can go forward with some plans, we need to have a category change for water/sewer. We'll see what happens. My testimony was basically, "I support our County Executive's position on this issue, and it is an honor to speak before you today in a county I've lived in my entire life."

- I saw the Redskins lose against San Diego
Going into the game, my record was 1-0. So, honestly speaking, every game I had seen the Skins play in person, we had won. And since this was a critical game in the season, I felt compelled to be there just so we could pull off a win. But, alas, this wasn't to be. Another disappointing "lose it in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter" game that we have had for the past three weeks. How nice.

- Mark Warner is on fire!

How many news commentators in the past two weeks, when talking about the 2008 presidential nomination, have said it looks like it will come down to a Clinton/Warner battle? Too many to count. I know, I know...there are a couple years until any such comment acutally matters, but it sure is nice to hear that kind of stuff about your guy!

- My pastor had an article in section A of the 'Washington Times' last week
Click here to read it.

- I have a clothing schedule for work

After it was both admitted to after questioned, and then later stumbled upon by somebody using my computer, I feel it is necessary to have a public disclosure of this issue of critical importance. I have a two week clothing rotation for work, and in order for me to stay organized and not wear the same clothes the same week (apparently, some aren't fans of that), I just have a list of my "work outfits" and I simply cycle through them whenever I go to work. I don't see a problem with that for a guy who can't remember what he wore to work yesterday. Plus, it shows how much I care about the rest of the world. That's right. I do care.

- My 'Apprentice' people are doing great
Early on in the tv season, I picked my favorite candidates on each of the Apprentice shows. Yes, I do watch the Martha Stewart edition as I have announced previously. Both are still in it to win it. Rebecca on The Donald's version has made it to the final two, and Ryan on Martha's version has made it to the final five. Still fans of each.

- 'Lost' is excellent this season
I started watching Lost season one, but got slightly distracted midseason with some slow storylines as well as the conflict with the results of my West Wing addiction. However, I did eventually catch back up and have been faithfully watching every episode this season. It is most definately one great show. Unfortunately, there are six weeks until the next new episode! Why, oh why, oh why!

Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for my next post regarding this holiday season. I started talking about it in this post, but when I had two paragraphs, I figured it could be its own. Plus, I'm starving right now and lunch sounds a lot nicer than typing. Sorry to cut this one short. It's not right, but it's okay... you're gonna make it anyway!

November 16, 2005

November 14, 2005

Brit Overcomes AIDS With No Treatment, Doctors Astonished

File with the "how come I didn't hear about this from the American media" file.

After being diagnosed with the disease, Stimpson began taking a daily cocktail of supplements in a bid to keep as healthy as possible though he knew a cure was impossible. Because he was in the early stages of the disease he did not need to take special medication. Throughout the year, he underwent routine blood tests every other month and had check ups on his liver, heart, and immune system. Doctors were astonished at his continuing excellent health, unusual for an HIV sufferer. In October 2003, Stimpson was offered a repeat HIV test — and the result came back negative.


Click here for full article.

Quote of the Day

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, adn the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." - Ellen Goodman

November 11, 2005

Warner Gets Boost In Run for President

So I guess this is it...

RICHMOND, Nov. 10 -- While working feverishly to help elect Timothy M. Kaine as his successor, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has been assembling a team to prepare for his own political future, which supporters said is likely to include a bid for the presidency in 2008.

Warner is preparing to hold a final fundraiser as governor at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner next month, but next week he will formally launch his federal political action committee and unveil its Web site, and make his first political trip to New Hampshire, site of the nation's first presidential primary. There, he will host a luncheon for Democratic activists.


Click here for the rest.

November 9, 2005

The Morning After

Here's some news about yesterday's huge win for Tim Kaine and Mark Warner!

The New York Times -
Democrat Wins Race for Governor in Virginia
After a lengthy introduction by Mr. Warner, who called the outcome a triumph against negative campaigning, Mr. Kaine told a raucous crowd at a downtown hotel that the results proved that Mr. Warner's victory four years ago was not a fluke.

"We proved that people are more interested in fiscal responsibility than ideological bickering," Mr. Kaine said. "We proved that faith in God is a value for all and that we can all share regardless of our partisan labels. And we proved that Virginians want a governor who has a positive vision for moving this commonwealth forward."

The comeback victory by Mr. Kaine, who trailed for much of the campaign, provided a big boost to Mr. Warner, who had anointed Mr. Kaine his successor and is considering running for president in 2008.


The Washington Post -
A Triumph For Warner, And a Guide For His Party
Virginia's quadrennial search for a governor featured neither charismatic personalities nor dominant policy initiatives. But Democrat Timothy M. Kaine's resounding victory over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore nonetheless provided important political lessons for the commonwealth, and maybe the country.

The outcome marked what feels like a dramatic strengthening of Democratic appeal in Northern Virginia, the state's richest and most populous region. It showed that Republicans can no longer depend simply on the power of their party to win statewide and demonstrated the dangers of a negative campaign. It presented an intriguing campaign model for Democrats, in which religious faith plays an important role. And most of all it demonstrated the appeal of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), for whom this could become the first stop of a presidential campaign.

"The real asset that Kaine had was this rather astonishing popularity of Warner," said Merle Black, a professor who studies Southern politics at Emory University.

George Mason University professor Mark J. Rozell agreed. "I think to a large extent [the story] is the Warner influence," said Rozell, who has closely followed the race. "He created the circumstances for a Democrat to win in a Republican-leaning state in the South."


Bloomberg.com -
Virginia's Election of Kaine Lets Democrats Stand Up to Bush


At about 9:05 p.m., almost simultaneously, CBS, ABC and the Associated Press call the race for Kaine. His supporters press forward en masse to get closer to the screen, roaring ``Tim Kaine, Tim Kaine!'' They boo a live shot from the Kilgore campaign, then cheer when the newscaster says the mood there is downcast.

Bruce Springsteen's ``Born to Run,'' pumped up, begins to play. The younger Kaine backers dance. Amid the Kaine signs waving in the ballroom is a solitary hand-drawn sign saying ``Warner in 2008.''

``I want Mark Warner to be our next president,'' says Charles Goin, 38, an engineer from Richmond, waving his poster. ``You can't win the presidency without the South and what's more southern than Virginia? And we didn't just win, we clobbered Kilgore.''


USA Today -
Dems shut out GOP in 2 closely watched races

Democrats scored victories in this year's two governor's races, keeping the seats in their party and denying Republicans a measure of comfort in a tough year.

Democrat Tim Kaine rode Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's soaring popularity to success over Republican Jerry Kilgore, adding cachet to Warner's expected 2008 presidential bid. Virginians generally vote Re-publican for president — they gave President Bush a 9-percentage-point victory last year — but for the eighth time in a row, they chose a governor from the party that doesn't hold the White House.


MSNBC -
Democrats win Virginia, New Jersey races
Kaine, Virginia's lieutenant governor, had fashioned his campaign around the theme of continuing the state's economic growth, which he said was fostered by incumbent Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, a man with 2008 presidential ambitions.

The victory was buoyant news for Warner, who campaigned far and wide across the state for the 47-year-old Kaine.

Standing side-by-side with Warner at his victory celebration in Richmond Tuesday night, the governor-elect alluded to Warner's presidential ambitions. "I'm looking forward to standing next to you at your next victory party."

November 8, 2005

Victory!

Tim Kaine will be the next governor of Virginia!

Democrats and Iraq

Check out the roundup of Democratic prospects in 2008's presidential race and their current positions on Iraq courtesy of Chris Cillizza of The Fix, a blog on washingtonpost.com.

Click here.

Election Day

If I were a Virginian, I would be voting for Tim Kaine today! So if you happen to be a Virginian, pretend you are me. Or just be you, and vote for him.

November 7, 2005

Interview with the Gov

Yesterday, Governor Mark Warner was on C-SPAN's Q&A. It was a great interview. You can read the transcript here. Here are some excerpts:

---

LAMB: If you were to leave office today, you would leave with an 80 percent popularity rating. The poll I read just before this one came out was 74 percent of the Mason-Dixon poll, the highest of any governor they‘ve ever rated. How is this – how did you do this? I mean, they say you never can raise taxes and survive. So how did you do it?

WARNER: Well, Brian, you know, one of the things I found in Virginia is a little bit of truth goes a long way. We told the truth. We said, here you go, we put in place things that seem to rational to me as a former business guy but maybe weren‘t so rational in politics.

We put a requirement for a six-year financial plan. And I did 50 town hall meetings, I even went straight to the people and said, all right, here‘s where we have cut and now remember, we started with cuts, we didn‘t start on the revenue side. We started with cuts, then we went to reforms.

And then we said we‘ve got to end up with a way that says we can either lose our triple-A bond rating, not meet our minimum requirements to public schools, or we can end up with tax reform that‘s going to have us pay a little more.

Now Virginia is still a very low-tax state. We‘re somewhere between again – how you slice it dice it, between 38th and 41st in the nation in tax rate. But I think the reason why I‘ve got these approval ratings is not necessarily the tax reform plan, but I think it has been more the approach.

One, I‘ve got a very bipartisan administration. I remember when I got elected, about a third of my cabinet, a quarter of my cabinet was Republican. That made the Democrats mad because I wasn‘t putting just Democrats in. It made some of the hardcore on the Republicans mad because it was peeling off a lot of the moderates.

Most of what we‘ve tried to do in Virginia, whether it‘s our education reforms, our revitalization in our rural communities, hadn‘t been Democrat or Republican, it has been what is in Virginia‘s best interest?

And every time that we‘ve that appeal people in both parties have stepped up and we‘ve managed to work together. And the thing that I feel best about in Virginia, you know, those numbers may be ephemeral about whether they go up or down, but there‘s not a day that goes by that people don‘t come up to me and say, you know, Governor, I‘m proud of where Virginia is at now, or, I‘m proud of where Virginia is headed.

That‘s a very different feel than most folks would say about where our country is headed at this point. And I think that is because it has been about the state‘s interest first and not mine or the particular party.

People want government to deliver and they want it to do it efficiently and they like when actually your elected leaders don‘t spend all their time fighting each other.

---

LAMB: Where are you on the Iraq war?

WARNER: Where I am on the Iraq war is I think Democrats ought to spend less time re-fighting how we got into the war and more time figuring out where we go from here. I think the president has a responsibility as our commander-in-chief to be more forthcoming about his plan about how we finish.

But I think a couple of things. I think, number one, you know, I don‘t believe an arbitrary deadline should be set. I think we, regardless of whether we like how we got there, we need to finish the task.

Two, I think we need to continue to put pressure on the Shias and the Kurds to include the Sunnis so that we don‘t have a division in that country.

Three, I think we need to move more of the rebuilding resources into the hands of the Iraqis as opposed to the American contractors there where we‘re spending 30 cents on every dollar doing security for the outside contractors. The more we can get Iraqis actually involved in the reconstruction of their country, the more they‘re going to have a stake. And remember, this is a country that did function for 40 years.

And four, let me just – and this doesn‘t have as much to do with Iraq, but I think it‘s a debate that we need in this country. I mean, our American military – and Virginia has got the highest concentration of military of any state in the country, our military is so superior to everyone else in the world that we can take out the command and control functions of the bad guys so quickly, and that‘s good news, because it makes these conflicts very short, not just Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, Somalia, Bosnia, all of our recent incursions.

But one of the things that we have to grapple with is how do you reestablish civil authority? And on that piece our record has not been as good. And where is that role of reestablishing civil authority, turning on the water, turning on the power, whose job is that going to be?

The military understandably I think is reluctant to take on that role. But we‘ve got to have a discussion about that because what we‘re doing right now by not having that fully thought through and having this long deployment I see as commander-of-chief of our National Guard that unfortunately we are in many ways really harming our National Guards and Reserves because not only in terms of lack of equipment and training, but more importantly – or equally important, we‘re seeing these members, who are great patriots, serve and proud to serve in Iraq, but they‘re not re-upping.

Because if you‘re mid career, you know, you can be deployed once, but being deployed two and three times and having that in your future, you just can‘t do it. So we are going to have to have, I think, a real, honest debate in this country about the force structure of our military as well as how do we control these incursions after we take out the command and control of the bad guys?

---

November 4, 2005

To Vote For or To Vote Against

With another election day quickly approaching, and seeing a daily barrage of advertising in the Virginia's governor's race (vote for Kaine!), the issue of voting principles resurfaced in my mind. Specificially, the concept of voting for someone versus voting against someone. There is a difference.

Last November, when Americans were given the choices of Kerry and Bush at the ballot box, I believe the majority of voters who voted for Bush were voting for Bush whereas the majority of those who voted for Kerry, were voting against Bush. Any election that includes a candidate who is running for reelection to the position basically boils down to whether people think the politician did a good job or a bad job in their post. However, a candidate's campaign fuel cannot solely be based on hatred of the opponent. When there is a huge scandal with the office holder leaving in disgrace, sure it could work. However, especially in a close election like we knew the 2004 presidential election would be, a different strategy should have been employed. If a piece of broccoli had been the Democratic nominee, I bet the percentage of the anti-Bush vote would have been pretty close to what it was for Kerry.

In order to be a good American, you must vote. You may hate the candidates. It may be picking the lesser of two evils. But you must vote.

Here comes the challenge. Since you are voting regardless, never vote against somebody. That's right. You read me. Only vote for somebody. Instead of picking the candidate who is "not as bad" as the other, vote for the good, however little, in the candidate you select.

You may think they are boring. They may not have the proper grasp on the issues that you think they ought to have. They may have gone to a rival college (unless that is a dealbreaker in your candidate selection). But find something that you genuinely like about the guy or gal. There may be 99 bad things about them. But find the one. And vote for them because of it. Everyone has at least one good thing about them, right?

The simple swich to voting affirmatively for a candidate makes the whole process more enjoyable--with citizens voting for good charactistics of their candidate instead of against the bad qualities of the other. And if everybody started voting for candidates instead of against them, maybe we wouldn't be bombarded with the typical candidate's campaign ad which, if the disclaimer of "this ad was sponsored by..." were removed, you would only see attacks upon the other candidate without any mention of the guy actually paying for it. A bit idealistic on humanity and campaigns? Maybe. But I think it's worth a shot.

November 2, 2005

A November Smorgasborg

Today I had a couple topics I considered posting about, and after much deliberation, I decided to post them all (albeit briefly). That's right. Four for the price of one!

1. Samuel Alito

During my daily online newsbriefing, I saw this article in the Los Angeles Times that talks about how many Democrats actually like Alito. They say that he is not one of those conservative idealogues who have a particular ideology and when deciding cases, make sure that they do whatever it takes to reach that goal. He considers context and uses reason in arriving at his decisions. He even ruled against some "driving while black" cases. This sure doesn't like the maniac who is on a mission to take the rights of women and minorities away! Or at least the judge that MoveOn.com wants me to think he is.

Here's a clip:

"I grew up in New York City, and I'm a political independent. But I liked Judge Alito because he was a judicial conservative, someone who believed in judicial restraint and was committed to textualism," he said. "His approach leads to conservative results in some cases and progressive results in other cases. In my opinion, he is a fantastic jurist and a good guy."

Some of Alito's former Yale Law School classmates who describe themselves as Democrats say they expect they will not always agree with his rulings if he joins the Supreme Court. But they say he is the best they could have hoped for from among Bush's potential nominees.

"Sam is very smart, and he is unquestionably conservative," said Washington lawyer Mark I. Levy, who served in the Justice Department during the Carter and Clinton administrations. "But he is open-minded and fair. And he thinks about cases as a lawyer and a judge. He is really very different from [Justice Antonin] Scalia. If he is going to be like anyone on the court now, it will be John Roberts," the new chief justice.


2. Michael Steele

The more the Democrats hate Michael Steele, the more it makes me like him. And the more I hope he wins. I am very moderate politically, here supporting a Republican for Senate, yet supporting a Democrat (Mark Warner) for president in 2008. (Do people like me still exist?) Anyway, here is an editorial from the Washington Times on the whole hoopla over Steve Gilliard's racist blog posting about Steele.

Here's a clip:
The slurs are unfit for a family newspaper and cannot be reprinted here. But they are the same old sludge Democrats have been throwing at Mr. Steele for years -- attempts to equate Democratic talking points with the black agenda and suggestions that Mr. Steele isn't authentically "black." It's telling that Mr. Gilliard, a black New Yorker whose popular site gets an estimated 15,000 hits a day, is a newcomer to Maryland politics, since that confirms what practically everyone already knows: Mr. Steele unnerves liberals and Democrats everywhere simply by being a black Republican.

This has been going on since before Mr. Steele was elected as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's running mate. In 2001, Maryland State Senate President Mike Miller Jr. called Mr. Steele "an Uncle Tom."

In what must rank as one of its most shameful moments, the reliably liberal editorial board of the Baltimore Sun wrote during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign that Mr. Steele "brings little to the team but the color of his skin." It has since had to eat those words. Mr. Steele has gone on to be a leading member of Mr. Ehrlich's administration, as the Sun itself acknowledged Thursday in an editorial on Mr. Steele's Senate bid.

The political rabble has shown its ire in ugly racial terms, too. In 2002, during a campaign debate with then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Steele-bashers threw Oreo cookies at him.


An article entitled 'Party trumps race' for Steele foes, talks about the liberal double standard in politics when it comes to racial issues:

State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a black Baltimore Democrat, said she does not expect her party to pull any punches, including racial jabs at Mr. Steele, in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

"Party trumps race, especially on the national level," she said. "If you are bold enough to run, you have to take whatever the voters are going to give you. It's democracy, perhaps at its worse, but it is democracy."

Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.

"Because he is a conservative, he is different than most public blacks, and he is different than most people in our community," she said. "His politics are not in the best interest of the masses of black people."


The article goes on to describe one of the "big" issues that some have with Steele:

Still, Mfume spokesman Joseph P. Trippi said Mr. Steele opens himself to such criticism by defending Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for holding a Republican fundraiser in July at the all-white Elkridge Club in Baltimore.

"The facts are the facts. Ehrlich went to that country club, and Steele said it didn't bother him," Mr. Trippi said. "I think that says something ... and should be part of this debate."

Several club members told the Baltimore Sun that, though blacks are welcome as guests and there is no policy banning blacks from membership, the club never has had a black member in its 127-year history.

Democrats also have used the club for various events, including Peter O'Malley, brother of and adviser to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democratic candidate for governor. Peter O'Malley held his wedding reception there in 2003.


So it's okay for Democrats to use the same facility but not for Republicans? Or only if a black person joined the country club in Elkridge, it would make it alright for people to hold events there without being called racist? So, let's say that there is a country club somewhere and membership is solely whites and blacks, but no Asians are members. Would it be okay for me to say the members are racist because there are no Asians? I guess it would be okay!

And for all the talk that supposedly Steele was only chosen for his race, how does that figure into the equation for supporters of race based affirmative action? Wouldn't that then be a huge victory for AA supporters? And whoever is left standing after the Martin O'Malley/Doug Duncan battle for the Democratic nomination for governor, I think it is a forgone conclusion that his running mate will be black. So if a Democrat picks a black running mate, it is not racially motivated, but if he marks the box one inch over on his voter registration card and marks (R), it makes it so? I just don't understand.

3. Gene Weingarten

One of my favorite columnists for the Washington Post is, without a doubt, Gene Weingarten. He definitely has made many of those real life observations that once he says them, you see how true they are as they play themselves out over and over again, but before he writes one, you simply don't even think about it.

Here is a great article from last year which is extremely funny and true.
A Course in Wife Sciences: In the game of marriage, there are players, and there are men

4. John Kerry

One of my biggest regrets of 2004 is voting for John Kerry. Although I did hold my nose, close my eyes, and ask for forgiveness when voting for him, whatever respect I did have for him at the time has diminished each and every time I have seen him make a television appearance or read one of his emails.

The latest email sent to his enthusiastic "johnkerry.com community" is about his goal to "Help bring 20,000 troops home over the holidays." Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not opposed for troops being reunited with their families. Once they are no longer needed in Iraq, they should be brought home. But while there is stuff for them to do, it would make sense for them to be there to do it.

During his campaign, one of Kerry's pledges was to increase the number of troops on the ground in Iraq because according to all accounts that he heard, more help was needed. President Bush, after all, didn't know how to listen to the officers on the ground and their pleas for help. We were overextending our military, I thought.

But now, here we are with Kerry now saying we need to bring 20,000 troops home. I wish he'd just explain the significance of the number, and why he thought if less than a year ago we needed far more troops, and now we don't, if he wanted to either concede that the troops were making good progress or he was wrong in his initial assessment or if he was simply being Cindy Sheehan's voice in the Senate. With Kerry, you really don't know. It could be all or none of the above.

November 1, 2005

Some Mark Warner articles

So there have been a few articles about Mark Warner in the past couple months which I failed to read when they first came out so I could share them with all of you, faithful readers of my blog.

Chasing Bubba - The Mark Warner 2008 prospectus

A Chance Peak at Warner's Ambitions
- Talks about the significance of Warner's PAC website.

House Democrats Hitch Wagon to Warner
- Talks about the long, beautiful coattails of Governor Warner in Virgina

Netting an Elusive Breed - by Mark Warner last fall. Talks about education.

My Profile

1) Your name: Ryan Abel

2) Location: Washington, DC by day, Silver Spring, Maryland by night

3) Age: 23

4) Job: Somewhere deep inside the pharmaceutical industry

5) Horoscope sign: I'd have to look it up... December 15 is my birthday

6) Eye color: Oh so chocolately

7) Original hair color: Black

8) Current hair color: Black with a smattering of silver

9) Smoker: Fortunately, no.

10) Favorite food:
Anything with grilled chicken, green peppers, and onions (i.e. chicken fajita from Chipotle)

11) Favorite ice cream flavor: Edy's Double Fudge Brownie

12) Favorite drink or beverage: Lemonade

13) Favorite restaurant: Chi Chi Chi Chipotle.

14) Favorite color: Orange

15) Favorite actor: Tony Shaloub

16) Favorite actress: Dakota Fanning

17) Favorite TV Show:
Monk, The West Wing, Lost

18) Favorite Movie:
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

19) Favorite song: Currently, "Wholly Yours" by the David Crowder Band.

20) Favorite musician or group: I love some good music, so I can't just go with one. My top six: Donnie McClurkin, Shaun Groves, David Crowder Band, Israel & New Breed, Fred Hammond, and Shawn McDonald.

21) Favorite animal: The Diamondback Terrapin

22) Favorite subject:
God, government, and politics

23) What are you listening to right now: The ice I'm crushing in my mouth.

24) Day or Night?
Depends on what's happening. Definately not much of a morning person, but I do like the sunlight of the day and the relaxation of night.

25) Summer or winter? Summer, most definately.

26) Beatles or Elvis? Both. Or Neither.

27) What brings you the most joy: The moment you realize you have a true friend.

28) What’s your greatest fear: Winning the lottery.

29) Who/where do you go to for advice: God, my buddies MD or RC, or somebody depending on the need.

30) One word that describes you best:
Ummm.. nice?

October 31, 2005

On Harriet Miers

Now that the whole Harriet Miers fiasco is over, and a replacement Supreme Court nominee has been put forward, there were two things that struck me.

The first was that as soon as Miers withdrew, all of the people who initially came forward issuing statements expressing disappointment were Democrats and liberal groups. Generally speaking, the theme of the comments dealt with the fact that President Bush's decisions were being dictated by the extreme right of his party. Specifically, Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Minority Leader stated, "The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination."

Now, with the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito, who Reid had previously warned President Bush not to pick said, "I think it would create a lot of problems."

That should tell you something. All issues aside, politically speaking Miers obviously was not a smart choice. People from the opposing political party were on your side and members of your own are against you. Bad decision. And now, with the new guy nominated, the leader of the opposition party opposes your decision and your own party supports it. Good decision.

If your party has a solid majority in the Senate, your really shouldn't need to condede anything. If the tables were turned, and we had a Democratic president with the Democrats controlling the Senate and the Republicans were significantly opposed to the president's selection, should the Democrats care or cave to Republican concerns? Would it be nice in terms of bipartisanship and political unity? Yes. Is it necessary? No.

The second thing that struck me was James Dobson's (founder of Christian evangelical Focus on the Family) initial glowing support of Miers, but after her withdrawal, his expression of reservations of her sitting on the bench.

Should he have waited until after she withdrew to express this? No. So this leads to the question of whether his leadership is truly about the issues or if it is merely the maintence of a Republican voting bloc. There is a great article I read this morning that examines this issue precicely by W. James Antle, III called: Dobson's Choice: Values Voting or Evangelical Identity Politics.

I believe that Christian voters should support candidates whose values that they share. And leaders of Christian organizations have a responsibility to make it clear that they actually support the issues instead of merely endorsing a candidate for political purposes.

The upcoming battle over the Alito (a.k.a. Scalito) nomination will surely be an interesting one. Let's see how it turns out.

October 28, 2005

The Sensible Center

A red-state Democratic governor explains how Democrats can win again with a positive agenda for the future.

By Mark Warner


Let me tell you about life in today's Washington.

In today's Washington, a fiscal conservative is someone who thinks the deficits can go on forever. He thinks that you can make the cost of the war go away by using Enronesque budgeting tactics of simply taking the costs off the balance sheet.

In today's Washington, politicians work deep into the night to try to write laws to interfere with the family of Terry Schiavo and ignore the fact that there are 45 million Americans with no health care at all.

In today's Washington, politicians refuse to unlock stem-cell research that could change the lives of millions of Americans with potentially curable diseases.

In today's Washington -- we see it day in and day out -- the heroes are political operatives whose only goal is to find the nastiest way to ruin their opponents, even if at the cost of our national security.

In today's Washington, it's all about the issues that divide us and about settling the scores of the past.

Yet in the heartland, in states like Virginia, folks are looking for something else, something I call the sensible center. The sensible center is wide open for any Democrat who can credibly make the case.

For years, the right wing of the Republican Party has asked its candidates to take socially extreme positions that are outside the mainstream. For the most part, those candidates took those positions, but once elected they only paid lip service to them. Some of that changed after the 2004 elections. They said, hold it: We control the White House, the Congress, the courts, the majority of the statehouses. Why aren't we getting our due? So now the right wing is asking for its pound of flesh -- on Terri Schiavo, stem cells, and a whole new series of litmus tests. Combine these actions with a failed fiscal policy and America's damaged reputation in the world, and that means a whole lot of moderate Republicans who consider themselves part of that sensible center are looking for a home. We Democrats can bring them back.

This is not some esoteric theory. I'm living proof of its accuracy. I'm very proud of the fact that I had a united Democratic Party behind me. But I would not be governor of one of the reddest states in America -- Virginia -- if I also hadn't been able to get support from a lot of independents and moderate Republicans. If Democrats are going to become the majority party in America again, we've got to do that all over the country.

How do we do that? We start by simply telling the truth; by being straight with people on issues from fiscal matters to America's role in the world. We do it by recognizing that in 2005, the issues in this country are no longer left versus right or liberal versus conservative; they are about the future versus the past. The Democratic Party has always been at its best when we've looked to the future. It's been our heritage. Roosevelt led us through the Depression and the Second World War. Kennedy challenged us to put a man on the moon. Clinton led us through the greatest economic expansion in American history. That is our Democratic record. We've done it before and we can do it again.

Sensible solutions. It's that legacy that inspired me. I came into office after a winning campaign that included a lot of folks in rural Virginia who hadn't voted Democrat in a long time. I've had some success in governing Virginia because we've focused on sensible solutions that look to that future.

When I was elected following a Republican governor, we first of all had to get our fiscal house in order. Virginia was a state in the red. My predecessor, who had been the chairman of the Republican National Committee, left me a budget shortfall six times greater than he publicly stated.

But we also used that crisis as a chance to totally reform Virginia state government.

We then went about reforming our tax code with a Republican legislature. That allowed us to make historic new investments in education, the key to our future. We kept the focus on making our academics more rigorous, and we made sure that those new dollars were held accountable in how they were spent in our schools.

Virginia today has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole country. Virginia has a booming economy. And after a two-year independent study by Governing magazine, Virginia was named the best-managed state in the country.

We did all this by focusing on what's important for the future of Virginia, not what's politically expedient. We did it with support from legislators of both parties. We found common ground in the sensible center. Imagine if that was the way it was done in Washington.

We live in an extraordinary time in America. Our challenges are enormous. American men and women in uniform are deployed around the globe on dangerous missions, in dangerous places, raising valid questions about the strength and size of our armed forces. We're in a struggle with a new enemy that can strike anywhere at any time, in a war unlike any that we have fought before.

Here at home, economic change is happening more rapidly than any of us thought possible. We feel like we're paying too much at the pump. We feel like we're spending too much time away from home. We worry that our jobs may be outsourced to Bangalore.

As a nation, we're getting older. Our social safety nets -- Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security -- need attention. Medicaid will bankrupt most states by 2020. Increasingly, there are going to be fewer workers responsible for more older Americans.

We actually run the risk of being the first generation in American history to leave behind a country weaker than the one we were born in.

A few months ago, I led a trade mission to India. I saw a number of things there that speak to me about where we need to be as a nation. I was struck by the crushing poverty. But I also saw something incredibly hopeful and inspiring. There was a project called the Hole in the Wall. Computers were literally placed in a hole in a concrete wall with a little tin roof over it. They turned on the computers in the morning; they turned them off at night. No teachers. I met a kid named Samir. He asked me how to spell my name so he could Google me. And these young people were emailing and instant messaging. They were doing exactly the same thing that my own daughters do with their computers at home.

The kids were remarkable. This experience said to me that the race is on for the future. Who's going to own it? Who's going to get there first? This is America's next great challenge, and we must start preparing right now.

I don't think we're prepared. Consider this: at a time when a commitment to education, technology, and research and development has never been more important, American R&D as a percentage of GDP has fallen to one-sixth in the world. The United States ranks 11th in the world in broadband deployment. Less than 15 percent of our high school students take enough science and math to qualify for any kind of engineering or advanced science in college. India alone produces four times more engineers each year than the United States. Our 15-year-olds now rank 28th in the world in math scores.

These are stark realities. We've got to face them. In Virginia, we have put down 700 miles of broadband in our rural communities so folks don't have to leave home to find a quality job. Even though our economy is booming, we still have 700,000 working-age adults -- nearly 20 percent of Virginia's workforce -- without a high school diploma. These people worked in jobs like textile, furniture, and tobacco. We partnered with NASCAR and started a "Race to the GED" program, encouraging people to go back and get a certificate so they can qualify for 21st century jobs.

In our high schools, no matter how rural, no matter how urban, we are offering the opportunity for students who are college bound to earn one semester's worth of fully transferable college credits -- get a jump start on college. We're saving parents $7,000 off the cost of higher education.

For non-college-bound students, we're saying, "Work with us." We'll guarantee you not only a diploma, but also an industry-recognized certification: computer technician, auto mechanic, nurse's aide. If that requires courses at the community college beyond high school, as part of our K-12 deal we will pick up the cost. We'll make sure you've got industry certification so that you can go out and get a good paying job as opposed to a minimum wage job.

We're also starting to reduce the perverse incentive that puts our least experienced teachers into our most underperforming schools. We're recruiting highly successful teachers and paying them a $15,000 bonus to go into our underperforming schools for three years.

Our goal is nothing less than to make the Virginia workforce the best educated, most innovative, best connected one in the country. We want Virginians to compete against anyone in the global economy. We should be doing it all over the country.

We don't have the luxury of waiting.

The last few years have seen the virtual elimination of time and space between Boston and Bangalore, between Shanghai and Chicago. These changes are affecting how we live, where we live, how we educate our kids, how we deliver health care, how we protect and preserve our national security. The rate of change is now on steroids. It's accelerating in an ever-quickening pace.

America no longer has the luxury of business as usual in Washington where they study, debate, disagree, go home, and put things off until the next Congress. The status quo is not going to cut it.

America is a country that was born of revolution, and Americans' best values are hard work and innovation. Our country has always been at its best when we've given everyone a fair shake and their own shot at the American dream.

It's always been Democrats who have always been able to see a little bit farther down that road. We are ready to shake things up. The time is right for us to lead again.

(DLC | Blueprint Magazine | October 21, 2005)

October 27, 2005

Rising Kaine

Yesterday, I was reading blog posts across the internet about the Michael Steele announcement when I stumbled upon a blog which was extremely racist. The News Blog is operated by some guy named Steve Gilliard (apparently he is a somewhat well known blogger). There was a post regarding Steele's announcement where there is a doctored picture of him with the caption, "I's Simple Sambo and I's running for the Big House." You've got to see it to believe it.

Obviously, Gilliard is a liberal democrat.

So today, Tim Kaine's campaign (Democratic nominee for governor in Virginia,) requested that the site stop running ads that they had previously paid for. No reason was given as to why they wanted to stop running the ads but it is a bit obvious. But according to Steve Gilliard, Kaine is a coward.

Gilliard is miffed that the Kaine campaign didn't ask him to explain his actions before pulling the plug on the ads. Because if they had actually engaged him on the issue, they would surely change their minds! It was merely satirical after all. How could the Kaine campaign be so rude?

I've read some comments about the picture from people from both sides of the political spectrum but something jumped out at me. Gilliard is (apparently) black. One of his defenses was that people didn't take the time to find out that he was black. So does that make it ok? So if he was white and made the same racist picture, would it then be wrong? What if the tables were turned and it was a white conservative blogger who made the same picture for a black Democratic candidate for office? No doubt there would be a huge uproar by liberals everywhere slamming how insensitive the blogger was being. Apologies would be demanded. Politicians would be required to denounce the remarks. But luckily, it is a liberal making the racist statement and the victim is a black Republican. Those types of blacks are sell-outs to their race anyway, right?

Tim Kaine, I am so glad that your campaign no longer advertises on that racist site. Too bad you couldn't have quit sooner, or rather simply not advertised on there in the first place.

The sad part is unlike skinheads who are knowingly racist, this new generation of racists simply can't understand how racist they are. And they actually think that their actions are good!

Sometimes actions are all you need. It doesn't matter how you feel you need to explain what you have done and why you think it is okay. Wrong is wrong. And you, Steve Gilliard, are wrong. Once the campaign withdrew their advertising, instead of realizing, "Hmm... maybe, just maybe I have done something offensive" he goes on the defensive saying the problem is with Kaine. Um, sorry buddy. It's jerks like you that are the problem.

While I am not a Virginian who can vote in their election, I would most certainly cast my vote for Tim Kaine. Not only because he is Mark Warner's Lt. Governor and actually has a positive message and results to back them up, but because he makes racists like Steve Gilliard angry. Now, if only I could find a t-shirt that said, "MAKE A RACIST LIBERAL MAD. VOTE TIM KAINE."

October 26, 2005

Antiwar Brit Funded by Saddam?

The US Senate is currently investigating whether anti-Iraq war British Parliament Member George Galloway received funds from Saddam Hussein via the UN Oil-for-Food program.

Here are the five allegations from the Senate subcommittee:
1. Galloway personally solicited and was granted oil allocations from the Government of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The Hussein regime granted Galloway and the Mariam Appeal eight allocations totaling 23 million barrels from 1999 through 2003;

2. Galloway's wife, Dr. Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received approximately $150,000 in connection with one of those oil allocations;

3. Galloway's political campaign, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000 in connection with the oil allocations granted to Galloway and the Mariam Appeal under the Oil-for-Food Program;

4. The Hussein regime received improper "surcharge" payments amounting to $1,642,000.65 in connection with the oil allocations granted to Galloway and the Mariam Appeal; and

5. Galloway knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath before the Subcommittee at its hearing on May 17, 2005;


Click here for the complete article from Vcrisis.

Here's an article from the British newspaper The Independent.

You can find a lot more information on this simply by searching for Galloway's name on Google. It would be quite interesting to find out if this is true, and if it is, whether it is an isolated incident or if there are other European leaders who were similarly anti-war whose special interest groups included Saddam Hussein.

Control Me

A friend sent me this article today. It is quite freaky.

Here's a clip:

The technology is called galvanic vestibular stimulation — essentially, electricity messes with the delicate nerves inside the ear that help maintain balance.

I felt a mysterious, irresistible urge to start walking to the right whenever the researcher turned the switch to the right. I was convinced — mistakenly — that this was the only way to maintain my balance.

The phenomenon is painless but dramatic. Your feet start to move before you know it. I could even remote-control myself by taking the switch into my own hands.

Remote Control Device 'Controls' Humans

October 25, 2005

Michael Steele for Senate

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele today formally announced he will run for the U.S. Senate, recasting the successful political partnership that enabled him to become the first African American elected to statewide office.

Article here.

Today Michael Steele made it official... he's running for Senate. Not that today's announcement was a surprise to anybody. But this race surely will be an interesting one, and one that I will follow closely.

I, for one, think that he will make a good addition to the Senate. Check out his website for today's announcement speech. The site really could use some work, though. I think even I could have made a better one...

All politics aside, every once in a while a politican comes around that seems like he or she is actually a decent human being. Mike Steele is one of them.

October 24, 2005

What is a Friend(ster)?

After years of deliberately not joining online communities, a few months ago I caved and joined Friendster. Previously, I regularly received those email invites to join and reassure somebody of our friendship, but I just wasn't having it. I just saw it as too much work to keep a personal page updated. Yes, I can be that lazy.

After finally giving in to joining, I decided it would be fine because since "everybody" was on it, I could at least maintain some sort of contact with old friends from high school, those who have moved away, as well as just people who I am connected with but just don't get a chance to see that often.

When I signed up, I was sure that everyone on my Friendster list would be people I personally knew. Or rather, those whose first names I knew and could pull out of a lineup if I needed to. But I learned with Friendster, this isn't really the case. It is possible to have a Friendster whose personality you couldn't describe or face you couldn't identify even if your life depended on it.

I learned that there is a difference between a friend and a friendster.

Here are some of the post-joining dilemnas that I currently face.

1. The Friendster rejection.
Often I have received buddy requests from people who I don't know. People who maybe I should know, but for some reason I don't. Or maybe they know me, but I don't know them. Whatever the case may be, once you receive one such request, you have to decide either to reject them or simply ignore them. Both of which seem to be rather mean responses to these purported friends of yours. And being mean is just, well... mean.

2. Insanity
Whenever you have a "community" where people are connected by keyboards and monitors instead of face to face contact, you are sure to find a higher than normal percentage of oddballs who want to be your friend.

Here is a message I actually received on Friendster:


Date: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 15:14:00
Subject: Join the Ryan Revolution!
Message: Hey. My name is Ryan. I notice yours is also. This
is not, as you may be thinking, a coincidence.
How, you may ask, is it not?

Well, I put your name into the search engine, for a
start.

Heres the deal. Last year I was insufferably bored.
So I amassed an army of Ryans well, 60 or so -
off the Friendster database. It was fun to watch
them all join me, and to look at their profiles, and
go: Oh, he seems interesting, for somebody who
shares my name. But then they wanted to know
where I was going with it. And I didnt know. So I
skulked off and pretended I never did anything.

But now, I know!

And alas, I return to Friendster to find that half,
maybe more, of my militia have not signed in to
their account for at least six months. The truth is,
in the absence of firm leadership, my namesakes
have deserted me. So, it has come to this I need
new blood.

I call on you, as a new recruit, to join the growing
ranks of Ryan, and participate in a creative project.
Every month Ill come up with a new task, and as a
collective group we Ryans will show all those other
names just how damn inventive we can be. Ill try to
keep this going for a year, and itd be cool if you
could help me do it.

Interested? Then join us. Add me as a friend, and
Ill return the favour.

Faithfully,
Ryan


I seriously considered changing my name after reading this. Maybe something like Horace? or Alpern?

3. Creativity
I have no creativity to make a cool looking profile. It makes me feel inadequate as a human being. People have professional looking pictures where they wear nice clothing and stare off to the distance. Or look at the camera seductively. I go with webcam pics that make me look like an alien. Life doesn't get much harder than that!


4. Friendster mongerers
I know I have been asked to become Friendsters with people only because they need to win the "I have the most friends" award. When getting such invites, I wonder to myself if I should be a participant in their game, or this obsession that the inviter has. Its kind of like getting with a player fulling knowing you are getting played. I mean, who wants to be one of 500 other friendsters on a list? I mean, you are nothing but a conquest to them. But yet, you go along with it anyway. And you are getting played online for goodness sakes, without any of the in person benefits.

5. The harm of cancellation

Every now and then, I think about cancelling my Friendster membership. But I don't go along with it simply because now that I have made contact with some people, it would be a shame to cut those ties. Even though they are online ties. But prior to joining Friendster, connections were lost but now that some have been regained, it seems a shame to lose them once again. Or what if by once being a friendster and then not being somebody's friendster later, the individual thinks that you don't want to be their friend anymore even though you are just sick of Friendster? Quitting is rough...

My conclusion is this: Friendster is a cult. Where else can you meet up with folks from the looney bin who obsess over the perception of themselves by others, fear rejection, who go all out with their membership, and keep you locked in the fold?

Don't join, because once you're in, you are stuck.

And you become a friendster. You feel a strange tingling and then it's done.

Save yourself. It's too late for me...I'm one of them now.

And don't worry. We can still be friends, but not friendsters. Being friends is cooler, anyway.

October 23, 2005

DC is No. 1 in Daytime Population Increase

As I spent about 1/3 of my weekday commute time driving into work this morning, I realized how great it would be if every day could be like today. Very few fellow suburbanites coming into town on a non-workday.

There is some news this morning about how certain cities see their daytime populations significantly increase as commuters come in to work. DC ranks #1 in this category (unsurprisingly).

Here's a link to the article.

Top Three Inventions of All Time

1. The wheel.
2. The steam engine.
3. TiVo.

October 21, 2005

Martha's Apprentice

I am an avid Apprentice watcher - both Martha and Donald.

Rebecca is my fave with the Donald.

But now, I have a favorite on Martha - Ryan. No, not because he and I share the same name, but because he really shined on this week's episode (I only saw it last night on CNBC... I have no idea when the first run of the episode is!). He really was easily the most effective project manager I've seen on that show, and quite possibly in recent all-around Apprentice history. He is one of those few apprenti who can connect with the customers crazily well (i.e. wedding cake sale) as well as lead a team of enthusiastic members without the backstabbing and footdragging others tend to create.

He's great. If only there were more Ryan's in the world... oh, wait a minute.

October 20, 2005

The Winter Olympics

I just realized today that the next Winter Olympics is less than 4 months away! For those of you who don't know, I live and breathe the Olympics - both summer and winter whenever they're on. I count down the days, and always toy with the idea of actually attending events. But for these Olympics, I guess I had just let them slip. I guess my focus on the 2008 Beijing summer games just consumed me.

So today, I will be looking at how much it would actually cost to fly to Italy, find a hotel this late in the game, and then find some tickets for a halfway decent event. Actually, any event would be great. (I am a PROUD curling fan!)

Worst case scenario, I can just tape hours upon hours of coverage on my newly working TiVo!

October 19, 2005

The Racist NBA

The NBA has a new dress code for this season.

On Monday, the NBA announced in a memo to teams that a dress code will go into effect at the start of the season. Saying players must dress in "“business casual"” attire, the league banned items such as sleeveless shirts, shorts, sunglasses while indoors, and headphones during team or league business.

The policy also requires players on the bench who are not in uniform to wear sport jackets, shoes and socks.


Necklaces worn over clothing have also been prohibited.

However, according to Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers, this is extremely racist and an attack upon a culture.

It seems lately that the race card has been played way too much. When people keep crying race every time something that they don't like happens, it will make people want to listen less when racially motivated actions actually do occur.

Please note that these rules only apply at team or league functions. If the NBA was asking for each player to have a certain dress code when they are at they are at their mansions, when they send their shopping lists with their assistants to get groceries, when they are getting in free at the hottest parties in town, then there would be a problem. However, this is not the case. It basically comes down to, "when you are on the clock, you dress by the rules." It's really not that complicated.

Then you hear the argument that the definition of "business casual" varies by profession. I guess that's true. But please don't compare basketball players with construction workers or limo drivers as to its definition. Why not go with the typical millionaire's definition? Or just the definition used by the average American? Oh, wait a minute.

What about personal freedom? These rules are a significant restriction on the liberties of basketball players. I mean, whenever doing something work-related, having to wear what your employer wants you to wear, not something that expresses the "inner you" is very dictatorial. Oh, please.

Welcome to the real world. It's not personal, it's just business.

Does the rule apply only to the black players? Yes. Even those who are even part black.

Do white guys wear sleveless shirts and shorts? Of course not!

Do Asians use headphones? No, they are too busy reading their math books to listen to music.

Oh, you are right Stephen Jackson. The rule is racist. Only items that blacks wear are on the list of banned clothing. My mistake.

You can argue that the NBA doesn't need a rule, or that the rule itself might not help move the league in the more professional direction that David Stern hopes. But stop using the race card. The entire civil rights movement can't be trivialized into something as stupid as this.

My TiVo Adventure

So, I was at my buddy's house on Sunday watching football on TiVo when I was reminded of the wonders of technology. I remember when I moved into my apartment, I was extremely interested in getting TiVo , but the phone line requirement completely threw me. We didn't set up a landline because everyone had a cell phone and used it as their primary line. There was no need to incur the monthly expense of a phone line that nobody would use. After all, there were VCRs to tape whatever shows that we may have been missing. So the TiVo became one of those impossible endeavors that I simply wrote off.

But on Sunday as I watched the game, the ability to easily tape shows, pause live TV, fastfoward through commercials, and replay memorable moments renewed the TiVo passion in my heart. Now, since I live somewhere where we actually do have a phone line, the TiVo option reemerged.

Since I am an extremely sensible person and never rush into things, I waited 24 hours and bought my own TiVo on Monday evening. They have a great rebate deal going on where you get $150 of the $200 purchase price back. Not bad.

So now came the fun part... the initial setup. The whole process was rather simple, with the only messup occurring when somebody accidentally picked up a phone receiver in the middle of the initial TiVo download through the phone line.

As I read about TiVo, I learned that I can hook it up to our wireless network so that the phone line wouldn't have to be utilized for future updates. So yesterday, I found the cheapest adapter that was TiVo-compatible and bought it from CircuitCity.com. I selected the in-store pickup so I didn't have to wait any longer for my TiVo setup to be complete. The hours of the workday seemed to drag by as I eagerly awaited for 5 o'clock to roll around to I could make a quick stop at Circuit City to pick up the adapter.

Finally, after a typical rush hour commute, I picked up the adapter and headed for home. Eager to finally have the entire system setup, the moment I arrived home, I hooked up the adapter to the TiVo and waited for it light up in recognition of the bonding of my two new favorite gadgets in life. But nothing.

I quickly did some research on the internet to discover that it didn't work because my TiVo software was version 5 and I needed version 7. A quick TiVo phone line connection would resolve that. However, the download took an extremely long time so I was unable to finish the setup last night.

This morning when I turned on the news I quickly checked to see if the TiVo software had downloaded. And it had. I was thrilled.

So, I once again attached the USB wireless adapter to my TiVo.

But once again, nothing happened.

Puzzled, I did some further research only to find out that the software on the adapter was not the TiVo compatible type. The make and model were correct, but the SERIAL NUMBER was one that did not work with TiVo.

So now I need to find a new USB adapter. I found one at Best Buy which should theoretically work, however, I cannot be sure. I will stop by there after work today to make sure it is compatible, but who knows.

This evening will be extremely similar to yesterday evening. I will eagerly rush to an electronics store hoping that what I buy from them will work with what I have at home. But hopefully tonight, there will be a happy ending.

October 18, 2005

You're So Vain

You're so vain, you'll probably think this post is about you.
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this post is about you.
Don't you? Don't you?

October 17, 2005

Michelle Kosinski

So on Friday, while watching the Today Show, there was an extremely funny moment.

Michelle Kosinski was reporting on flooding in the northeast while riding in a canoe. But then suddenly, two men walked right in front of her, through the water. The water was about up to their ankles.

For pics, click here.

Post report, Matt and Katie hassled her asking whether she had reached ground yet. Later, when Al was doing the weather, instead of a weathermap, he used the footage of the men walking in front of Michelle.

It was quite the morning news moment.

On Thursday's show, Michelle, once again reporting on the flooding stood in waist deep water. Maybe she should have done her story from there.

Or, not been so dramatic.

I guess thats why they call it "news and entertainment." Because I certainly got both.

October 12, 2005

Liars and/or Thieves

Back in May, I took my first child, or rather my car, to the Volkswagen dealership for an oil change. This was a part of the 70,000 mile check up to make sure all was running well on my car. I hadn't really experienced any problems except a squeaky belt whenever I started my car, so I didn't expect really much to be discovered during the physical.

So, it was a day off I had so I brought the car in, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. The longest oil change of my life. So finally, after the oil was changed, and the car inspected, I was informed of two HUGE problems with my baby.

The first one was that my break pads were in serious need of replacement. I was curtly informed that whomever I had put my pads in before had done a bad job. (At that point I gently reminded them that I had purchased the car from that very dealership as a "certified preowned vehicle" and asked why it wasn't discovered sooner, i.e. during their 70-point pre-sale inspection) I was then cautioned that my struts were bad. The service manager told me that normally, struts shouldn't be movable, but mine could be moved a quarter inch. He told me that if I didn't hurry up and get them replaced, he had seen cars brought in where the tire of the car had broken through the hood because of the problem that I apparently had.

Seeing that I had already wasted the entire morning there and had other things to do that day, as well as that fact that I just didn't have the estimated $900+ I needed to repair my car, I asked if it would be possible to have the work done the next time I needed my oil changed. I was told that they couldn't make any guarantees, and that the sooner I had the problems fixed, the safer I would be when I drive.

So May goes by, June, July. Time for another oil change. No cash so I just postponed the repairs and had my oil changed at the standard, far more convenient Jiffy Lube.

So then, here in October, I finally had enough saved up to use on car repairs (after making such life critical purchases such as a digital camera, mp3 player, and some new furniture) and make the appointment for the repairs.

I dropped off the car yesterday for the oil change, some recall work, and the brakes and struts. They didn't have a cost estimate for me when I dropped it off, but was informed that somebody would call me with how much everything would cost at some point later in the day. I waited for a call, but never received one. Late in the afternoon, I decided to call them up and see what the story on my car was. After having to leave a message for someone to call me back, I was called to be told my car was ready for pickup. Slightly nervous that I hadn't approved whatever cost of the labor would be, I asked what exactly was done to my car. I was told that the recall work had been completed, and the oil was changed.

And that my brakes and my struts were just fine.

So were they lying then or are they lying now?

I do know my brake pads will need replacing at some point soon as I do periodically hear a squeak or two. And when driving over potholes and rough roads, I do hear pops from my struts, so I can imagine that at sometime in the near future I will need to have something done to them as well.

But aside from the fact that the dealership, or the stealership as it is sometimes called, did not give me new brake pads when I actually had them listed on my service order just baffles me. First, I'm not planning to get them replaced and am told that I need to and am warned what would happen if I didn't. And then yesterday, I bring the car in for them to do it, and then they don't because apparently all is well!

My conclusion is that I will no longer take my car back to the dealership for service. Not because they are thieves and cost too much for work on my car (both time and money) since I already recognize that and still kept going back because I did appreciate the quality of the work. But no, I will not go back because they are liars.

And my belt still squeaks.

October 3, 2005

Same old story for Redskins, Gibbs

Terry Bradshaw has a great review of the Skins this year.

Here's a clip:

My point today is that we live in a world where we all want instant gratification. We want to jump on the Internet. We're on the cell phone going to work. Everything is now. We want everything now. Fast. Speed. Give me answers today. Right now. We have no patience.


Read the rest here.

October 2, 2005

Nick Novak

Proud to be a Terp, Proud to be a Redskin.

3-0

WOW

Hail to the Redskins!

Great game.

September 29, 2005

Chief Justice John Roberts

So Roberts gets the job of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Obviously, no surprise there.

It was a 78-22 vote, Democrats were 22-22, Republicans 55-0, and Independent Jim Jeffords voted yes.

Among those who voted against him were Clinton, Biden, Bayh, Feingold, and Kerry, a.k.a. 2008's presidential prospects.

If you want a complete breakdown, click here.

UPDATE 7:15 PM
Feingold actually voted FOR Roberts. The formatting on the C-SPAN page between a senator's name and vote was off causing a bit of difficulty trying to see how a vote was cast. Sorry! Thanks to Chris Matthews on Hardball when he actually asked about the same 5 senators I listed as the possible presidential candidates, and noted that only 4 of the 5 voted NO, with Feingold the one who voted YES.

David Crowder Band's Collision

Anyone who has seen my CD collection knows that it is quite large and diverse. And yes, I actually still do buy CDs. I don't download (legally or illegally). I just keep it very basic. I buy the vast majority of my albums through a music club, spending on average of $7 per CD. Normally, you have to wait about three to four months from an album's street date until you can purchase it from the club, but the savings are worth it.

However aside from the music club and my savings, there are a handful of artists whose albums I can't wait for, so I go buy them on their Tuesday release date, and then overplay them in my car for the next month or so.

One such artist is the David Crowder Band. The very first time I heard them was in March of 2002 at a youth conference I was chaperoning. They were extremely new at this point, their debut album having just been released the month before. They were great in concert, but, not ready to commit to a $10 "out the trunk" purchase of their CD, I waited for it to appear on my music club to save my 3 bucks. However, after I listened to it, I realized that I should have actually bought that CD right then and there. And would have been willing to pay more for it.

Since that first CD, they have become one of my favorite groups to listen to live or in the car, and several months ago when I got the first email that their new album would be coming out on September 27, I was already counting down the days until it was released.

Their new album is called "Collision." And this is what the cover looks like when you go out to buy it:



Having listened through it three times in its entirety so far (and several of the tracks having received repeat play), here's what I can tell you:

It is excellent.

This is definitely one of those landmark albums - a record that at the time of its release is unlike anything you've ever heard before, but in five years if you listen to it again, it will sound mainstream.

The songs are deep, lyrically and musically. Each song is crafted on multiple levels. Tracks are lush and rich sounding - and it's a rock album.

Usually, songs with a lot of stuff happening in them annoy me, sounding overproduced and like plastic (if plastic made a sound). Additionally, those little skits and other random banter between songs is annoying even more so. Surprisingly though, this album contains them. But they work. Normally, the high production level and interludes make for a truly artificial sounding album, and only rarely do they make a natural, organic sounding CD - this is certainly one of those rare occasions.

The theme of the album is "When our depravity meets his divinity, it is a beautiful collision." It is divided into three parts - A, B, C, and D. Each a unique step in the journey that is "Collision." Part A sounds like the normal David Crowder Band repertoire, with an edge, but by the time you arrive at part D, you have come through an experience of harder but relaxed, darker but hopeful, songs. There is a classic spiritual fused into a driving rock track culminating in some bluegrass. Sounds bizarre, but it actually works. There is a natural progression, both across the album itself, and by DCB as a band.

You can download a track or two from iTunes or buy the whole thing from Amazon. You can actually listen to three tracks in their entirety on the group's MySpace page. Whatever you choose to do, it is most definitely a worthy purchase.

It's great. You can take my word for it.

September 27, 2005

September 26, 2005

How to Survive a Freestyle Rap Battle

On my Google start page, I get a daily "'How To' of the Day." Normally, they are pretty basic... helpful, but not exciting. For example, you can learn how to grill steak, how to excerise on a plane, or even how to create a makeup kit with a fish tackle box.

Every once in a while, however, you get a really funny one. Today, at the top of the list is, "How to Survive a Rap Battle." It is quite a read, and I'm sure helpful for many of you wanna be rappers out there... you know who you are.

The best part was the final warning:

"Spit" as used in the context of this article is a synonym for rapping, not the forcible expulsion of saliva from the mouth. Please do not practice the latter kind of spitting; it does not make you look nearly as cool.


To read the whole thing, click here.

September 21, 2005

JetBlue Flight 292

So I'm watching LOST when during a commercial break, I switch channels to see what else was on when I went by Fox and they had a split screen between an airplane and the regularly scheduled program. There was no indication as to what was going on with the airplane so I switched it to MSNBC where I learned about the problem with the landing gear.

So here on live TV we are watching an airplane with faulty landing gear. There are ambulances, fire fighters, and other emergency personnel waiting along the runway at LAX. It seems as if there might be a chance that the plane could crash land and we can all watch it live at home. How nice. But I was hooked.

As I am watching the plane flying in preparation to land, my thoughts immediately shifted to the passengers on the flight and what they may be thinking. So is this it? Are these my final moments? What is going on here? Am I dreaming?

Fortunately, it was one of the most relieving moments ever. Watching a smooth landing was amazing. When the wheels on the front of the plane (which were twisted 90 degrees from where they needed to be) were dragging on the ground, sparking and burning, I was prepared to see other parts of the plans catch. But thankfully this did not happen. The plane just went straight down the runway until it came to a final stop.

All I can say is that JetBlue has one incredible pilot.

MSNBC's coverage wasn't too bad either... Just moments after the plane landed, and the passengers exited, one was on the phone with MSNBC giving a first hand account of what happened. None of the other cable networks really had coverage which compared.

I have no idea how big a news item this will be tomorrow, but it was quite the event today.

A story with a happy ending sure is nice for a change.

September 20, 2005

Redskins Win!

Late in the midnight hour, the Redskins turn it around.

I love Mark Brunell. I love you, Santana Moss.

What a game last night! I have to admit, I was extremely doubtful late last night as I watched Dallas leading the Skins 13-0 with just a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter. The commentators frequently reminded us that Washington was 15-1 against the Cowboys in their most recent matchups, and that the last time we beat them in Dallas was back in 1995. Bill Parcells had an undefeated record when leading by 13 points or more in the fourth quarter - seventy some wins. Other "all odds against the Skins" stats were mentioned. Even when the stats are FOR us, it seems that the Redskins find a way to lose.

But no, not this time.

When I saw Brunell connect with Moss for the first touchdown, my first thought was "Whoa! That was CRAZY!" My second thought was, "And why are we waiting this long to pull this kind of stuff?!" But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by the second Brunell-Moss touchdown.

I've seen many comebacks in football before. But never with the Redskins. Never in this manner. Usually when there is a late 4th quarter insane comeback, its usually the Skins who are the ones defeated. It was such a surreal moment to see it happen for us this time!

Monday Night Football normally provides us with the best games of the season. For the first three quarters, it seemed that the Skins-Cowboys matchup would be an exeception. Fortunately not yesterday. This will go down as one of the best games in our team's history.

A comeback for the ages.

September 19, 2005

Tony Shalhoub Wins!

Congrats to Monk's Tony Shalhoub for winning the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. I love that show!

In his acceptance speech, he said to the other nominees he was "not familiar with their work," and "I just want to say there's always next year, except for Ray Romano."

Funny guy.

September 13, 2005

Who's really to blame for $3-a-gallon gas?

Check out this very informative article by Jon D. Markman. Click here.

Interesting snippet:

Right now there is plenty of crude oil in the world’s pipeline, but a scarcity of gasoline. Katrina knocked a considerable amount of crude-oil production out of commission in the Gulf of Mexico, to be sure. But as a gesture of goodwill, and to make a buck, our allies in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, agreed to produce more than their usual allotments to keep world reserves stable. At the same time, the U.S. government agreed to release tens of millions of barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an energy piggy bank started 30 years ago after the Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors disrupted supply.

You can have all the oil in the world and still run short of gasoline, however, if major refineries are out of action. Refineries are large, smelly, unattractive plants that “crack” crude oil’s hydrocarbons into the stuff that makes modern life go, such as heating oil, kerosene, jet fuel, the feedstock for plastics, diesel and automotive gasoline. Few U.S. states have ever wanted these noxious beasts on their coastlines, so the ones built in loosely regulated Louisiana half a century ago make something like half of all the refined crude oil products in the country. When Katrina blasted through, her high winds and storm surge knocked these plants for a loop, and the partial shutdown caused 10% of the nation’s entire supply of gasoline to vanish in a weekend.