Sunday, October 31, 2004

Politics

I'd considered keeping this blog politics free past Election Day -- maybe a woot! or two if Kerry does actually manage to eke it out and my escape clause says Tom DeLay is always a fair target -- but then Rocky* pointed me to an interesting essay Alara Rogers posted in her Livejournal, and it's possibly the most articulate essay on the contradictions within the Republican party I've read. The comment which provoked Alara's response is here and Alara's two-part response is here and here.

Also, observers from the global community will be monitor this year's election. How has it come to this? That this country, this country that holds itself as the beacon of all that's good and fair and right has fallen to such levels we cannot even be trusted to elect our own officials? And if it's the case we cannot be trusted with our own democracy, the democracy we've invented, how are we to be trusted to bring it to other parts of the world? How do you do advance democracy through the world when all credibility has been stripped away?

Some people would argue that given the global situation, why change course? Why not keep the man who gave us this mess, this lack of credibility, in the first place? After all, why change horsemen in the midst of the Apocalypse? But I think that's exactly why we need to change. We need someone who can see clearly, who can process information, can shift through various opinions to come to the right conclusions and isn't so blinded by advisors who have their own agenda.

It's too late to pull out from Iraq; there's no way we can do that now. The question is, do you want the guy in charge who pushed everyone away and said, "We and our Brit buds can do it on our own, hell with the rest of you,"** or do you want someone who is the choice of the European Union -- the second largest, if not largest -- economy in the world? Of course, most people would say they don't want the EU or the rest of the world making choices for the US, but just think about what it means if the EU endorses Kerry; it signifies their willingness to talk to him and perhaps there will be progress made on advancing the 'War on Terror'***.

As much as it pains me, I believe George W. Bush will declare victory Tuesday. I believe he will win this election because of a steady diet of mis-information, of obscuring the issues that matter to the regular American Joe -- health care, jobs, economy. He has drawn his support on social issues that rarely affect the mass majority -- abortion rights, gay marriage****, to name two -- but have a great polarizing effect on the country. I believe people think the 'War on Terror' can be won if you are dogmatic and refuse to admit you may have made a mistake by taking your eye off the prize, Osama Bin Laden. When you consider how many people still think there's a link between 9/11 and Iraq, it's no wonder Bush will win Tuesday. He's got the psychology of the American electorate down -- he says we can win against terrorists, he says he can keep us safe, he drapes himself in the American flag and values. And on Tuesday, 51 percent of the nation will believe him.

The one thing I share in common with W is my desire to never admit any mistakes I may have made. I especially abhor having to correct this blog. But I say now, if I have to rescind this entry on Wednesday, Nov. 3, I'll be more than happy to apologize to all of you for being wrong about the outcome of this election.

But not Tom DeLay. Never for Tom DeLay.

* This post is All Rocky's Fault (tm)
** Oops! I forgot Poland!
*** I really, really, really, really, really despise the term 'War on Terror'. It's like nails on the chalkboard. It hurts me, preciousssss, it hurts me as much as, if not more than, 'weapons of mass destruction.'
**** It's ridiculous to blame the very people who can't get married for the fact Britney Spears can get married/annulled on a lark or J. Lo who has single-handedly boosted the wedding economic sector. I challenge you to show me a couple whose marriage is less sacred because two men or two women got married in Massachusetts; in which case, I say to you, that's a man and woman who ought not have gotten married in the first place.
The calm before the storm

I've reactivated my NaNoWriMo account and will be participating this year. My original intent had been not to do so, but the truth is, I have a lot of fun with NaNo, and this year I don't feel as stressed to actually make the 50,000 word mark. That's not to say I'm not going to aim for it, but it's not like last year, where I was determined to make up for falling short in 2002.

My favorite part of NaNo is the forums, which I highly recommend checking out, even if you aren't participating. By mid-November, they go completely wacky and I love some of the ideas people put out for stretching their novels to that magical 50,000-word mark. My tactic, some of you may have noticed, is food. The first year I participated, my original character became a gourmet cook and cooked, cooked, cooked her way through the novel; needless to say, with all of the cooking there was, there was also lot of eating (also a random singing of "Moon River", but, whatever, desperate times call for desperate measures). Last year, I did a fanfic novel, X-Men, and there wasn't quite so much eating; fanfic, I think, is easier to do for NaNo -- it really does write itself.

So after trying original novel in 2002 (still unfinished), fanfic in 2003 (also unfinished), this year I'm going for historical fiction. I've decided to throw research out the window and just write the parts I know off the top of my head; post NaNo is for accuracy. I just feel that I will never write this story unless there's some kind of deadline and I should go for it while the enthusiasm for it still exists.

Anyway, good luck to everyone trying NaNo! Happy writing to you! Remember, you only need 1,700 words a day to make it through! (p.s. Ignore the AIs who come out every year and have word-counts of 25,000 on the first day; no dbubt, their characters are doing nothing but reading menus and cookbooks to each other).

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Hello, Pot!

Some people just don't get it:

"I've never had a campaign where the entire nation has tried to destroy my name," [Tom DeLay] told the Houston Chronicle. "They are going after me in the most personal and vindictive way. It's gutter politics."

I'd have sympathy for DeLay, if the guy himself didn't excel at "gutter politics." We're talking about someone who's got three ethical violations under his belt, and has made some very blatant and aggressive power grabs in the last couple of years, in an attempt to disenfranchise Democrats in Texas and increase Republican control of Congress.

Full article here.

Friday, October 29, 2004

I am weak

I know Rocky is going to read this post and say, "I told you so!" and sometimes, I think I do this just so she can have that honor (why isn't it that I never get the chance to tell people "I told you so"?). I've said over the past month that I wasn't planning to go through NaNoWriMo again -- that alternate rush and agony of writer's block/flow, you pick. Last year, I hit the 50,000 word mark in less than two weeks and that unfinished story still sits on my harddrive; I was too exhausted to make it to the 50,001st word. My goal in NaNoing last year was to accomplish what I failed to do the previous year: finish. In other words, it was like climbing Everest or running a marathon -- something you do once just to say you have done it.

However, in the last couple of days, my brain has been eaten by a story idea, this time based on Anne Neville (interesting article here on both Isobel and Anne).

The literature on Queen Anne Neville is few and far between; she and her much maligned spouse, Richard III, for some reason don't capture the imagination like the Tudors, for whom novels exist aplenty. Of course, there is the Sharon Kay Pennman's marvelous The Sunne in Splendor and I also enjoyed The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy. Both cover Anne Neville impressively, and usually I'd be content to just re-read over and over again, but for some reason, I have a nagging urge to write a story myself set in this time period. jemima points out that there's actually a market for historical fiction as well.

The key to being successful to this endeavour however is needing an outline of dates and events. I know enough just off the top of my head to hit the highlights, but I'd like to do more than that. Now, the question is, do I write Anne Neville's story from her perspective? Someone else's? At any rate, research is required, and unfortunately, a few of my history books which I require are not with me. But hey! No one said a 50,000-word novel written in 30-days with a Thanksgiving holiday in there had to be accurate!

Something to think about; I think it'd be sad, actually, to let November go without NaNoWriMo eating the brain. So if all goes well this weekend and I can get an outline of dates and events put together, sign me up.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Blimp Kind the Third

The Blimp Kind (first seen here and here) returned to our smoggy skies today (along with a helicopter gunship, probably taking aerial footage of any of the 80 gazillion CEO trials going on in this city). Today, it was a MetLife blimp, and my fascination with the Blimp Kind dissipated quickly as once again, the Blimp Kind just didn't see us and I was sure that I was going to meet my end at Snoopy's paws.

We all stood there at the windows, yelling at the Blimp Kind, and gesturing wildly. The problem is, our windows are tinted and while we can see the Blimp Kind, they cannot see we the people (obviously, as it doesn't seem as they can even see our 50-story tall building surrounded by other Very Tall Buildings (tm)) and so I suggested perhaps I should whip out the whistle from my emergency kit as a last resort.

People, you have no idea how many things go fly in your friendly sky during a day. I mean, until you are up in the sky with those fly sky things, you just have no idea. And every now and then, just when we've settled into a sense of calm, an Apache helicopter or F-14 buzzes us, probably just to remind us that they are out there, our tax dollars at work. I feel safe immediately when a helicopter gunship roars by, especially after the windows stop rattling.

Admittedly some parts of this city are a war zone, but I didn't think it was so much so that we needed heavy duty artillery. Meanwhile, while the Air Force is circling downtown, the Blimp Kind lurch in our direction in a manner that can only be described as 'drunken' or 'near sighted.' But for what it's worth, I'm glad the Blimp Kind are up there; they serve as a nice speed bump for the roarin' Tomcats.

Link of the day: Create your own terror alert.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Endorsement

This blog officially endorses John Kerry for president. Yes, I do know it's a vanity for a two-bit blog such as this to make a bold statement of endorsement, but I feel it's important to stop dilly-dallying and say it: I want John Kerry to be our new president because America needs change and I believe John Kerry is the man who will effect that change.

Former President Clinton summed up the differences between the two main candidates perfectly when he said, "If one candidate's trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to get you to think, if one candidate is appealing to your fears and the other one is appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope." John Kerry wants us to think about what he can do for us, and he offers us hope that things can be better, that we do deserve better than what we've been given in the last four years. Fear should not be the deciding factor in this race, but rather the qualities of a man who has devoted more than 20 years to public service.

John Kerry is a man of strong character and intelligence. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran, who risked his life when others avoided service. He speaks clearly, intelligently, coherently and is a skilled orator. He is a man who values information and many opinions in order to make his decision; he revises his thoughts, not because he's inconsistent or 'flip flops' but because he knows there are no black and white answers, that gray areas do happen and changing information requires revising approaches and agenda. Contrary to George W. Bush's claim, Kerry is not, in fact, the most liberal senator in Congress. According to factcheck.org, a non-partisan site dedicated to uncovering the truth about all of the spin in the campaigns, Kerry is actually just left of his party's center. Also, according to FactCheck, Kerry has also been consistent on his Iraqi war stance.

Kerry supports not only the social issues important to us, he also will work hard to make sure we are taken care of on the financial and educational issues as well. Kerry proposes health care reform -- including coverage for all Americans -- as well as protecting a woman's right to choose. He will work to create new jobs and opportunities here in the United States, rather than shipping them overseas. He will work hard with our allies overseas to stabilize Iraq and reduce the threats posed by North Korea and Iran. He believes in protecting the environment and energy independence and has plans for education, including tax credits for college tuition. You can read more about the specifics Kerry's "Plan for America" on his site. John Kerry believes strongly in one America, not one for the rich and certainly not a separate one for the poor. He and John Edwards will work together to create that one America; they will work together to renew the hope lost in jobs, wages, health care -- the financial issues that really matter.

President Bush may be a man of strong conviction, but he does not deserve a second term in the White House. During his four-year tenure, Bush has started two wars in an attempt to make us feel safer. The war against Afghanistan was justifiable; we were going after Osama Bin Laden, the man directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. As of yet, however, Osama Bin Laden has not been captured, and there are not enough troops on the ground in Afghanistan to finish the job there properly.

Iraq started the doctrine of pre-emptive war and the war itself was based and sold to the frightened American people on a false premise. There is absolutely no link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein; as such, George W. Bush lied to the American people when he implied there was one, and in this war, the reasoning for which shifts daily, over a thousand US soldiers have died, and the Iraqi civilian death toll is between 13,909 and 16,033 at this writing. In addition, Bush developed no plan to secure the peace; our presence in Iraq will continue for years now, at a cost of billions. Despite the heavy cost in financial and human resources, it's impossible to say whether the United States is any safer now than it was prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Bush also produced the following results:

  • 1.6 million private sector jobs lost since Bush took office; 800,000 net jobs lost.
  • 4 million more people living below the poverty line;
  • Healthcare premiums up 55 percent, while more than 5 million people have lost their health insurance
  • $89 billion worth of tax cuts awarded to the top 1 percent of income earners
  • A $236 billion surplus turned into a $422 billion deficit

Those are the highlights; you can read more here, along with the appropriate citations. Some facts also from this Salon article.

There are many reasons why people cite Bush as their candidate of choice. For instance, there's a perception Bush will be strong in his response to terror; we are, after all, talking about a President who did initiate two wars in less than four years. A new pro-Bush suggests electing Kerry will benefit the terrorists because Kerry allegedly cut intelligence expenditures; these statements are misleading, as it seems Republicans, including CIA Director Porter Goss proposed even more stringent cuts than Kerry ever has. The President even opposed the creation of a Homeland Security Department for 9 months or so after 9/11, before 'flip flopping' and agreeing such a department could be created.

However, here's an idea neither candidate will mention: the 'war on terror' is virtually unwinnable. Other countries -- Israel, Spain, the United Kingdom, Russia, for instance -- have been fighting terrorism for a lot longer than the United States has been. Taking on this global fight cannot and should not be a unilateral action. The only way to even make headway is to bring allies to the table, to treat them with respect and understand that they are sovereign nations with their own ideas on how to spend their valuable resources, both in financial and human terms. The Bush administration has made multilateralism virtually impossible; with John Kerry in office, there is hope some of the allies may come back to the bargaining table and perhaps, lend a hand to stabilize Iraq.

The next president may also have the honor of electing a Supreme Court justice. This is an issue that has virtually gone unnoticed, but the recent thyroid cancer diagnosis of Chief Justice William Rehnquist has brought the issue to the forefront again. Among the major consequences is the fate of Roe v. Wade -- a landmark ruling that surely could be overthrown if Bush is re-elected and able to appoint a justice. The potential nominees and consequences are listed here.

George W. Bush has had his four years in office and we've seen what he's done during that time. The American people deserve better, so much better. Vote for change, vote for hope, vote for John Kerry on November 2.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Flu Boo Boo

I was going to write about politics today, about some unpopular opinions re the presidential election, but instead, I thought I'd talk about the flu vaccine, which apparently is FUBAR, which roughly translates to: Only Members of Congress Qualify*. And I know you're reading this and saying, "Well, Seema, we knew this. How are you so far behind the times?" And it's true, and I apologize, but I was standing in line waiting for my flu shot all this time.

Well, before you beat down the HTML of my blog, I rescind that last comment; I actually haven't had a flu shot in years, if ever, due to my non-exclusion in a high risk category. Every year, I play that dangerous flu roulette -- will the bad little germies take me down or not? So far, knock on wood, I haven't been seriously ill since The Great Stomach Ailment of 1999, which was positively one of the most horrible experiences ever (you can thank jemima** for intervening and thus sparing you the gruesome, up-chucky details of the five-day long battle, but I can tell you a 24-hour "Seventh Heaven" marathon featuring "The Best of Ashlee Simpson" would be less traumatizing than enduring suddenly leaky orifices and achy joints I didn't know I had).

In the meantime, to put this post back on its original politicky and less disgusting bent, I say: Vote on issues that matter! We need someone who will be tough on the flu, who will stand up to that true Weapon of Mass Destruction! Vote for a candidate who will fight vaccine contamination wherever it is so we don't have to fight the flu in the streets of Phoenix or Atlanta! I'm just sayin'.

Link of the day: Man has bird flu.

* Congress update; fair and accurate, that's what this blog strives for (with apologies to FOX), and so I feel it's fair to let you know Congress did donate some of their vaccines. Also, update on the actual flu situation here.

** It's also jemima's fault you got the flu today and not the politics; the politics will resume tomorrow; feel free to hit the snooze button.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

First impressions

I've had many first 'encounters' lately. When I say 'encounters', I don't mean of the 'behind the grocery store hand-off at 3 am' type, but more of the email and phone variety. And just for the record, email can be just as creepy as a dark trash-strewn abandoned warehouse. At least, over email, you can't get your internal bits re-arranged quite so easily, however on email, one can be exposed to that dreaded bleeding eyeball syndrome.

Some of the emails I've received lately are badly spelled/capitalized/punctuated. As a writer, this tortures my teeth in ways my dentist hasn't even dreamed up. I haven't figured out whether these emails are being written in haste or is there a "we're just getting to know each other" attitude that makes it okay not even to capitalize the word 'I' or end sentences with a period. I think capitalizing 'I' and using a period are basic requirements; it's the khakis and button-down-shirt minimum requirement of "getting to know you."

At first I thought I was just being incredibly snobby because, some of you know, I seriously can be, but then I realized, few people will show up for a job interview in shorts and a muscle-shirt (well, unless it's an interview for Wrestlemania, I suppose) and in this case, the first email is akin to the first handshake and determines if I want to get to know a person better.

I'm not expecting Hemmingway, but I do expect people will take the time -- if they are truly interested and committed to getting to know me and want to make an impression -- to write a coherent, spell-checked letter; in this day and age of Micro$oft dictating grammar and spelling, there is no reason to send off a badly edited letter -- even in haste (and if you're boycotting Micro$oft, I understand, but let me direct you to dictionary.com or a nice paper copy of Webster's).

I understand writing isn't everyone's forte, but if you tell me you're a doctor, you better well be able to spell the name of your hometown* or I'm not going want to be anywhere near your examining room because I'm going to worry you'll cut me open and then leave a sponge or scapel blade inside of me, because you were too busy to double-check. This is the first impression I received, despite the Ivy League resume and the income potential (actually, I was creeped out by the income potential; like in an interview, you never talk money on the first contact. That's just weird, dude).

Link of the day: E-Mail Etiquette.

*And for the record, it's C-H-A-T-T-A-N-O-O-G-A.**

**Thanks, Google!

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's coming around again

It's that time of the year: NaNoWriMo!. I haven't yet made a firm decision as to whether I'm participating or not this year; the last two years were brutal on the poor muse, but I cannot pimp this experience enough. It's a lot of fun, especially the forums, and you can meet some cool people along the way. Meanwhile, here's a link on how to blog your way through NaNo.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Wondering...

if anyone else has ever used a blender to make a cake? I'm just sayin'.*

And... whoa, Red Sox!

* For the record, the cake was super fluffy, super moist, and super chocolatey and yummy. But all the same, I think I'll invest in a mixer this weekend; as my co-workers pointed out, a blender is awfully difficult to clean.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

File under things that make you go hmm...

The reaction in Crawford after the local newspaper endorsed George Bush is rather surprising. Newspaper endorsements are still considered a big deal as evidenced by the candidates jockeying for them. You can read responses to the newspaper's endorsement over here.

What troubles me here is thenotion we will only subscribe to a media that prints what we want to hear and believe; in other words, solidifying our existing beliefs, without the possibility of listening to other perspectives. We complain of a biased media -- how can it be anything but biased when newspapers are threatened with loss of revenue or worse, bodily harm?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Thinking

Ninety degrees in October is just wrong, in so many ways.

... that those singing, jumping and playing bunnies in Disney's Splash Mountain ride are manipulative; a false sense of security before the inevitable wet plunge

... it's possible to support our troops but not the war

How much does it cost to fill up a Hummer now that gas is upwards of a $1.85/gallon?

... Putting ice-cubes in a plastic bag in an attempt for your groceries to not bake in the 90 degree temperatures and then putting the plastic bags into a brown paper bag means your groceries go splat all over your car

That the 'liberal' media has allowed President Bush to get away with a lot. A lot.

... I should probably invest in a cooler

Friday, October 15, 2004

With a spoonful of sugar

For various reasons, I missed the majority of the last two debates, but thanks to Jessi Klein, I've managed to get the full re-cap of all of the important issues covered in the debates -- like, how many times exactly did John Kerry say "I have a plan" and just how often did George W. Bush stare blankly into the camera, blinking faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings? You can find Klein's hilarious, equal opportunity take on the debates here.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Things that make you go hmmm...

Excerpt from What's the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank:

... we recall that the great goal of the [anti-liberal] backlash is to nurture a cultural class war, and the first step in doing so, as we have seen, is to deny the economic basis of social class. After all, you can hardly deride liberals as society's "elite" or present the GOP as the party of the common man if you acknowledge the existence of the corporate world -- the power that creates the nation's real elite, that dominates its real class system, and that wields the Republican Party as its personal political sidearm.

The erasure of the economic is a necessary precondition for most of the basic backlash ideas. It is only possible to think that the news is slanted to the left, for example, if you don't take into account who owns the news organizations and if you never turn your critical powers on the section of the media devoted to business news. The university campus can only be imagined as a place dominated by leftists if you never consider economics departments or business schools. You can believe that conservatives are powerless victims only if you exclude conservatism's basic historical constituency, the business community, from your analysis. Likewise, you can only believe that George W. Bush is a man of the people if you have screened out his family's economic status. Most important, it is possible to understand popular culture as the product of liberalism only if you have blinded yourself to the most fundamental of economic realities, namely that the networks and movie studios and advertising agencies and publishing houses and record labels are, in fact, commercial enterprises. (page 128-129)


Just a mini review of the book: It's a little hard reading at time, and I'm never quite sure where Frank is going. However, there are some very intriguing ideas and well-worth reading. It's a lot less angry in tone than some of the anti-conservative/liberal tomes out there, and the writing tends to be sharp and intellectual. Uh oh, an intellectual liberal! There goes the library...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Beyond the door my life will be

I'm all fested out. Yesterday, I went downtown and attended the art fest, which is a pretty big fest, apparently, and had all sorts of lovely artwork that took my breath away and carried big price tags. I fell in love, absolutely in love with one painter who combined iconography with Renaissance styles and then there was another artist who created beautiful, overtextualized, brilliantly-colored landscapes that fairly leaped off the canvas.

Today, I went to the Greek Fest just a couple miles down the road from me. Lunch was spanokopita and as they were out of baklava, I ended up with something they recommended to me as 'the cookie baklava.' There was also some lovely Greek folk dancing by the children of the community and then I took a tour of the Orthodox cathedral, which had some lovely icons once again.

If you haven't guessed, I'm rather into icons, and have loved looking at them since my first exposure to them at the Cathedrale St. Nicholas -- a Russian Orthodox church -- in Nice, which has just stunning and marvelous iconography inside; apparently, it's the most elaborate church of Orthodoxy outside of Russia.

Because of the crowds at the Greek fest, I had to park four or five blocks away. When I parked I noticed one Kerry/Edwards sign at the house across the street from where I parked. As I returned, I noticed nearly every other house had a Kerry/Edwards sign. I nearly flipped. People, we're talking less than a couple of miles from the financial center of one of the most conservative industries in the world and for the record, I live in a 'red' state so any show of support for a democrat is akin to saying, "I eat babies for breakfast and drink their blood for dinner. And oh, I worship Hilary Clinton and Hollywood." I'm just sayin' that's the definition of 'Democrat' or 'liberal' in my neck of the woods.

I believe people in my neck of the woods want regime change, but the chutzpah to display Kerry/Edwards sign is becoming more and more prominent. I see more bumper stickers on a daily basis -- I have even ordered a replacement for the one I had snitched off my car. All in all, I feel like I'm seeing more people supporting Kerry/Edwards here than I saw supporting Gore/Lieberman in 2000. And that says a lot. A lot.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

What lies beneath

Mt. St. Helens is still bubbling, but apparently, not in danger of erupting anytime soon, according to the People Who Know These Things. I've always been a rabid fangirl of things that go boom and shake, preferably in a very dramatic and explosive way but without minimal property damage and no loss of life. For the record, I feel same way about thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

While I've always considered myself a wee bit of a volcanologist*, I didn't know until Mt. St. Helens started to spew, that 'she' actually had 14 siblings in the Cascade Mountain range. That's right, 14 active volcanoes dotting the Pacific Northwest. Now, I always knew the Cascades were part of the famed Ring of Fire, but I never really thought there were more volcanoes in the PacNorthwest than Mt. St. Helens.

And certainly not 14 of them!**

Talk about sibling rivalry! Gorgeous peaks, all of them, but since Mt. St. Helens went and blew her top so explosively and decisively back in 1980 and has continued to bubble at various times since then, it's not surprising that none of the other peaks get quite the same level of attention -- especially since some of them haven't erupted in over a thousand years or more. Yes, the word 'active' is used very, very loosely here.***

The other volcanoes in the area, all of them bubbly to varying degrees, including Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and the other most recently explosive sib -- Mt. Lassen, gone volcanic back in 1914-1917. You can read more about the formation and explosive history of the 'active' Cascades volcanoes here and also, some lovely snapshots and a peak-by-peak rundown here provided by the folks currently camping out on the flanks of the unruly sister.

* Is this even a word?
** I've heard estimates of as many 20 volcanoes in the Cascades and as few as 12. Check here for a list of volcanoes; I believe Crater Lake used to be a volcano that went totally ballistic and literally imploded on itself.
*** An explosion once every 500 years just doesn't seem to cut it as 'active'; blow your top every 10 or 15 years or put out an Old Faithfulesque stream of ash and lava on an hourly basis and then we'll talk active.



Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The game is on!

It's all jemima's fault (tm); she introduced me to Nation States today, an online political simulation. While it's nowhere near as addictive as my other addiction, Civilization, it has the potential to get verrrrrrrrrrry interesting. Already I've applied to join the UN and have joined a new region, other than the default and oh so romantic South Pacific.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Letter from Baghdad

Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi wrote an email about current conditions in Iraq to 40 of her friends and without her permission, it's been circulated on the Internet. You can read the original letter -- which I highly recommend for its simple eloquence and human quality -- here.

There's been some controversy over the content of the letter, what it means to Fassihi as a reporter and you can read about more here, here, and here. Another reporter backs Fassihi's account here.

This email -- originally intended as private correspondence between friends -- paints a very different picture of what Iraq looks like, what it's actually like there now. It was no paradise under Saddam Hussein, that much is clear, but Fassihi writes I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad. Later, she goes on to say, I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

So there you have it. The Iraqis prefer Saddam over the Americans; Saddam might be the boogey man, but at least he's their boogey man. It's not exactly the desert oasis the Bush administration would have us believe in. Somehow, we're supposed to be believe 35 UN observers can successfully pull off an election in a country increasingly overrun by insurgents. They'd like us to believe the Middle East and the United States are safer places because of the removal of Saddam Hussein. The facts tell a different story.

George W. Bush started this war, and by all rights we have to stay the course and finish the job; there is simply no other choice now. However, staying the course does not perclude a change in leadership. You do not keep a CEO who has effectively squandered his relationships with the global community, who has impacted the bottom line in not only a financially costly way, but also in one that has cost human capital and has run the country into debt -- both in a financially measurably way but also in the loss of that intangible and most valuable asset, goodwill.

Clinton may have lied about a cigar and twisted definitions around, but his loss of goodwill -- intangible asset that it is -- did not affect the way this country was run and perceived overseas. You cannot say the same about this administration. You don't give a second chance to someone who cannot take responsibility for their own actions, who say even with the intelligence we know now they would make the same decisions; we don't need that kind of rigidity and blindness in the White House. For that reason, if for nothing else, it's time for Bush to return to Crawford, for Cheney to go back to making his millions as CEO at Halliburton.

Monday, October 04, 2004

In a perfect world

There would be no such thing as abortion, but since the sad reality is otherwise, here's some startling figures on just how many women unsafe abortions kill every day. The numbers speak for themselves. For that reason, I believe it is important to keep abortion safe and legal.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

My computer got SP2 and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

A good part of Sunday was devoted to Updating The Machine (tm). After about a week or so of downloads, SP2 made its apperance on my toolbar this morning, along with a nice little note from Microsoft saying, "Back up your files." Cue panic mode. Any program which requires a file back-up cannot be a good thing; in fact, given my past experiences with Microsoft, it's a Very Very Bad Thing (tm). So, I dutifully burned a copy of the contents of my hard drive to CD and then came the moment of truth: I clicked 'Install update.'

As far as I can tell, the 'back up files' was just a precautionary measure. Everything went smoothly, though the install itself took about 30 minutes and I couldn't really use the computer for anything else. There was one reboot, and when it came back, Microsoft was hammering home the 'automatic updates' (which I highly recommend if you don't already have it turned on) and also gave you the option of turning on the firewall; I'm now super double-protected from all the big bad things out there. Now if I could just get my antivirus to update, I'd feel a lot less like I'm surfing the internet superhighway* without a big red target on my back.

Link of the day: Get a real browser here.

* Doesn't that phrase just sound like nails on a chalkboard? ::shudder::
All dressed down and somewhere to go

I realized tonight I have absolutely nothing to wear to go 'out'. This is not to imply I run around naked, but rather that my staid, boring wardrobe (read: Casual Corner, Gap, with shades of Banana Republic and Ann Taylor) is no match for a night out on the town. Add a recent weight loss which leaves my pants sagging somewhere past my hips and given that many of my shirts are in the snug-fitting category, it's a little precarious: there's now a little gap of skin between pant and shirt and I spend an amazing amount of time performing the Picard Maneuver. Up pants, down shirt! It's an all around sad, sad -- if not energetically aerobic -- story. (mental note: buy a belt).

The old!Seema would have taken the lack of cool going out wardrobe as a reason to stay home and curl up with a good novel. The new!improved!Seema put on a pair of saggy pants (Gap!) and a rather boring sweater (Ann Taylor!) and went out. Of course, the whole time I was out, I was trying desperately not to stand up or move around as not to reveal the saggy pants situation. And I was also hoping for a dark corner, because yo, I'm still a wee bit sensitive about the hair.

But the night was warm, the plaza was full of people and the food filling, if not extraordinary. I talked the night away, and the company talked back to me. I found myself out of water, my throat parched, and somewhere between the time the waiter took my empty plate away and when the police said it was time to get going, kids, I realized the saggy pants and boring sweater didn't really matter; I was out and feeling like myself, more so than I have in a long time. It felt, in a word, good.