They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
-James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
-Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"
Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I got a Blu-Ray player for my birthday yesterday. I did a lot of research and picked the Panasonic DMP-BD35K. It is a platform 2.0 player, which means it has BD-Live, picture in picture and a few other things. It got a good review on CNET, which convinced me to pick it over the equivalent Sony. Among other things, the Sony needed a firmware upgrade for platform 2.0, and this one was already there. So far I am very impressed with it.
I had some issues in setting it up, but that is half the fun. Things have progressed a lot since the days when you would hook your antenna or cable up to your VCR, run another cable to your TV, tune your TV to channel 3 or 4 and there was your system.
After hooking it to the TV with an HDMI cable, it worked right out of the box. The audio at this point was coming through the TV. I had also attached a network cable, and when I did the connection test it passed, and showed my the IP address that it had obtained. When I hooked up the optical digital audio cable connected to the receiver I got no sound. I screwed around with this for a half hour or so, trying different settings, etc. The issue with audio is that it can output the latest audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD) to receivers that can decode them if you are sending data to your receiver with HDMI. My receiver is a couple of years old and lacks both HDMI input and the ability to decode those formats. The manual implied that it would send old style Dolby Digital and DTS along in that situation but I was getting nothing. Finally I checked out the cable and saw no red light emitting from the end that would connect to the receiver. That meant it wasn't passing data. I found another cable and tried it and it worked! I have no idea why the cable went bad, as it had been working in another hookup last week. Ironically the bad cable was a Monster and the replacement was a cheaper Radio Shack cable. The lesson here was that the default setting worked.
On to video. My TV is a two year old 720p Pioneer plasma. It came out just when 1080p started making its appearance. It had the unique offering of accepting both 1080p input and 24p input. Film cameras work at 24 frames per second but most video is 60 images per second. Blu-Ray videos can be 24p which makes for smoother more realistic images. My TV can handle and properly process both 1080p input and 24p input, which is not the norm for a 720p monitor. Anyway I wanted to get the setting such that would allow these things. I was looking at something and pushed the button that made the monitor tell me what it was displaying and it said 1080i. The setting for resolution was set to Auto which means let the player figure out what the monitor can handle. Figuring that this was wrong, I switched it to 1080p. It warned me that that might not be a good idea and that I would have to hold down a couple of buttons for 5 seconds if things did not work out. The screen went black. Holding down those buttons yielded an error message that suggested I had a bad HDMI cable. I had to hook up a composite video cable to again see the screen to get out of the mess. Once again able to see the screen I set it back to Auto. I then messed with settings for a while. At one point it was only outputting 480p. Eventually I set things back to the default. Then I tried to play a movie and checked the monitor and it was in fact 1080p. I turned on 24p on the Blu-Ray player and that worked too. The lesson here is that the player, at least with the Auto setting, puts out either 1080i or 1080p depending upon the content, and that the default settings worked for me.
The remote also provides some issues. I have a Panasonic DVD Recorder/VCR. It has a nearly identical remote. So the remote turns on both players, etc. The solution is to change the "control code" on one of the units, which defaults to "1", to "2" or "3". That works just fine but the Harmony software only seems to understand code 1.
Finally, I am underwhelmed with BD-Live, at least with the one disk that I have looked at, Wall-E. I should start by saying that the internet connectivity works fine and I was able to update the firmware from version 1.1 to version 1.5 fairly effortlessly. It is set to automatically watch for updates. When loading the disk you get a message that says something like Network Connection Started. The first time I started Wall-E, I got another message saying that it needed to update my system (!?) in order to do BD-Live on the disk. I answered OK and it displayed a progress bar for about 10 minutes. The next time I started the disk the same thing happened, but the firmware update was in between and it has not done it again. Still it was painful. Whatever updates it is making must be things stored on the SD card, which is required for BD Live. I got a 4GB card for $9.99 at Fry's. So then after some time spent loading it asks you to log in, directing you to a Disney website to get one. After doing that you learn that there is a verification process via return email AND that your screenname will be approved at a later date. (They rejected "pbenjamin" for some reason, by the way.) Finally armed with an account I logged in. The interface to type in userid and password is cumbersome AND it fails to remember you the next time. After about 30 minutes of work I finally gained entrance. This disk provided 4 options. Two were mail and chat with other people who have managed to register, sounds about as promising as Twitter turned out to be. A third was games, which seemed like a good thing except that the private games had yet to be implemented and the public game that was offered would start in 15 minutes. The final option involved redeeming points (obtained by registering Disney Blu-Rays) for valuable gifts. Wall-E (the movie itself) is highly recommended.
The player itself is wonderful. The picture quality is on par with the best HD that I've gotten from cable, better than most of it given the trend towards broadcast subchannels and compression by the cable companies. So far I own 4 disks: Goodfellas and American Gangster, which I got as birthday presents, and From Russia With Love and Thunderball, which I bought for myself. Wall-E came from Netflix, as will Hancock (which is a BD-Live disk -- second try) tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
I look at it a little differently. I grew up in Detroit, my brother worked for Ford all of his life and my cousin Bob did the same trick at Cadillac. Half of the people I knew there either worked for one of the Big Three or worked in a company that was dependent on them. A couple of my friends from high school met me in Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago for a road trip to Key West. Chris was retired from a GM plant and Itura worked for a company that did drafting for Chrysler. Itura lost his job in May. They say if one of the Big Three goes under the job loss would be between 2 and 3 million.
People are going to buy and drive cars. If they stop making them in the US, we will just buy them from other countries. Automobile manufacturing is one of the few manufacturing industries that remains in this country. We have to produce something, we can't all make a living selling services to each other. We have to figure out how to keep the industry alive.
Are they guilty of making gas guzzlers while they should have been planning for a day when gas stopped being cheap? Absolutely. But who helped them get there? Take a look on the road at your fellow citizens with their big ass pickups, their Hummers, Navigators and Suburbans. Think about the government that stopped increasing CAFE standards in 1990 and kept the standards for light trucks (which includes SUVs) much lower. Detroit might have screwed up be we helped them royally.
Give them money to stay alive but make sure that they retool to make more fuel efficient vehicles and invest in the techology for electric, natural gas and fuel cell. Use the economic mess as an occasion to shake things up and improve the industry. Things will get better, even the Depression ended eventually, and when they do, do we want to be buying our cars made by people in Japan and Korea, or people in Michigan and Ohio? Most Americans would buy the better car and not care so much. Let's insure that the better cars are made here.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
And so it comes down to this. A day that will mark the most important election in my lifetime and certainly the most consequential since 1932. The polls show Obama leading and yet... One wonders how wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III, standard bearer for the Party that Wrecked America, could have even 41 percent support, much less higher, much less be, perhaps, competitive in Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia.
This support for a candidate who wholly represents the ruinous governing philosophy of conservatism -- a set of ideas so discredited, exhausted and out of step with the values of most Americans that McCain's only strategy was a dishonorable campaign of despicable attacks on his opponent and riling up a hateful "base." The man who claims "Country First" picked -- or was forced to pick -- the most unqualified and dangerous vice presidential candidate in American history. Who are these supporters and what are they thinking? Has ignorance, television-induced brain damage and Republican hate finally pushed us past the tipping point? And election fraud, that determinative agent of the 2000 and 2004 elections, is an ever present danger. And the confluence of moneyed interests that fears Obama.
And yet, we have this moment, this last chance. John Adams reflected the realism of the Founders when he said democracies always eventually commit suicide. Decades later Lincoln rightly called this an experiment, not a fixed or secure order in human events. Now the American generations living will be tested at history's fulcrum.
Americans never have the "perfect candidate." I can imagine what today's Republicans would do to Lincoln; his adversaries at the time likened him to an ape or worse. Franklin Roosevelt was seen as a lightweight, a dilettante, despite his testing and suffering in the aftermath of polio. Eisenhower was slimed by the conservative attack machine, just gaining its training wheels in the form of Joe McCarthy. Behind the winning smile, Ike did McCarthy in -- and Tailgunner Joe never saw the lethal round coming. Each of these imperfect men and many more like them led America to a sunlit future that we baby boomers witnessed -- and have seen slipping away, especially through the past eight years.
George W. Bush rightly hides now. He presided over the debasement of the Constitution, the enshrinement of torture as American policy, an unnecessary and dangerously costly war waged on cooked intelligence, the failure to capture or kill bin Laden, the lethal federal incompetence in New Orleans and the worst financial collapse since the Depression -- caused by the deregulation and oligarchy he championed. As bad are the opportunities deliberately lost, especially on global warming and the limited world oil resources that even Bush admits. America has lost its moral compass, squandered precious moral capital in the world, wasted precious time. The Justice Department and federal judiciary have been poisoned, not only for the theocrats, but to give big business and monopoly an unbreakable hold on power. And John McCain would depart from these policies not one bit, except perhaps to open a new war in Iran.
All of this can be reversed. It will take sacrifice and hard work that Obama rightly said little of during the campaign. A nation living off the sacrifices of previous generations has been living in a haze. President Obama will give clarity and vision, courage and strength, the ability to articulate (!) our vast challenges and opportunities. The president can't and shouldn't do it all. But the past eight years have taught us just how much a president can do, and the danger of another George W. Bush.
For now, we have this moment. God help us that it will be enough.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Television is clearly an integral part of the current political scene. Many believe that Lincoln's homeliness and FDR's wheelchair would prevent either of them from succeeding in the TV age. But the debates and the endless advertising are only part of the deal. Regular programming on TV, far beyond the news shows, has also been a part of the process. In 1968, Richard Nixon did a cameo on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Laugh-In was a variety show that spent a great deal of time with endless cuts to clips of people telling jokes, doing mini-skits, reciting catch phrases, etc. "Sock it to me" was one of those catch phrases. The cut to Nixon saying "sock it to ME?" was hilarious and helped soften the humorless bastard's image. Bill Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall Show, donned shades and played sax.
Today they all want part of the action. Fred Thompson declared his candidacy on Leno. Hillary Clinton was on Letterman multiple times. They all seem to make it to Oprah, Ellen, etc. Additionally, Saturday Night Live has experienced an unprecedented revival, not only having guest spots but doing some spot-on impressions (Tina Fey's Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton).
One of the biggest impacts, though, has been a cancellation. John McCain's non-appearance on Letterman has been the topic of Dave's monologue pretty much daily since it happened. It has gone beyond the running joke phase into clear criticism of McCain. McCain is scheduled to appear tonight. I am hoping that it will result in some probing questions. "Just what were you thinking when you suspended your campaign?" and so forth. Don't miss it.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Proposition 100 - bans any new sale or transfer tax on real property transactions.
I had a hard time with this one. On one hand the last thing that needs to happen today would be to do something that would further depress the housing market. On the other hand, this is an amendment to the state constitution that would last forever, it may be appropriate in the future to slow down growth or otherwise finance needed infrastructure items, education, etc. The pro arguments came from a list of people which included not only the usual suspects, Farm Bureau, Contractors, Cattlemen, Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Tax Revolt, etc., but also a few people I respected such as our state Senator Ken Cheuvront, Rose Mofford and Eddie Basha. The only con arguement from a source that I had heard of came from the Arizona Education Association. Ultimately I voted NO, worried about future handicaps to raising funds.
Proposition 101 - "freedom of choice" in healthcare.
This sounds like something that would ultimately be used as a roadblock for universal healthcare. The supporters included a bunch of people in the healthcare field, the Arizona Restaurant Association and State Treasurer Dean Martin. The opponents included more healthcare folk plus the Green Party, WESTMARC (a west valley coalition), National Organization for Women, and the Republican Party. I voted NO, it was Dean Martin that convinced me.
Proposition 102 - defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
This is hateful and unnecessary. NO
Proposition 105 - "let the people decide act"
This is ridiculous. It requires that a majority of REGISTERED voters vote yes on any initiative that would raise taxes or cause an increase in spending. Looking at the turnout in previous elections, that means that you would need at least 75% of the vote. In the 1998 general election the turnout was 45.8% which would mean that nothing could pass. With this nonsense in place no initiative that would raise taxes or spending could possibly ever pass. NO
Proposition 200 = Payday loan reform
This came from the payday loan industry. These people are blood suckers. It is not reform, it is license. NO
Proposition 201 - Homeowners Bill of Rights
Supported by unions and consumer groups, opposed by the usual suspects including the Home Builders. YES
Proposition 202 - Stop Illegal Hiring
This is opposed by Russell Pearce, the state legislator who succeeded with all of the anti-immigrant stuff 2 years ago. YES
Proposition 300 - Raise legislators' salaries from $24K to $30K
It should be $100K. This is a full time job if done right. You get what you pay for. YES
School District Consolidation
If you live in an elementary district that is proposed to merge with a high school district, you get the opportunity to vote yes or no. In our case, Phoenix Elementary, along with something like 16 other districts, would join Phoenix Union High School District. There is all sort of boo-hooing about loss of local control and having to raise teacher salaries in below average districts but that has to dwarf the benefit of getting rid of all the unnecessary administrative costs. YES
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We will sign a contract tomorrow to have the patio, etc. rebuilt. The insurance appears to be taking care of everything except the lost trees. We went to Baker Nursery today and bought 5 trees. The spot near the house where the big pine tree was will have a Sissoo tree, which Mike recommended. The back of the yard will have two She Oaks, an Australian tree that looks sort of like a drooping pine tree. A Japanese Privet will be on the side of the house by the neighbors' driveway. A Mastic tree will go by the pool where the Cork Oak was.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Thursday, June 26. Susan flew to San Francisco. The plane was late. She and John had dinner reservations at Foreign Cinema. She ended up having to take an expensive cab from the airport to make it in time for dinner. Apparently the meal was very good.
Friday, June 27. Susan and John pack up his stuff, pick up a rental van at SFO, and with help from a friend of John's (Nightcarl?) they load up and leave. Traffic is bad getting out of the Bay area and I-5 is full of smoke from forest fires. They spend the night in a Best Western in Pasadena, where Susan and I have stayed before.
Saturday, June 28. They arrive here about 3:30. Mike, Lori and Kaelyn come at 6:00. We have dinner on the back patio, Kaelyn uses the inflatable pool. After Mike and his family leave we swim in the big pool for a while.
Sunday, June 29. I help John repack the van, adding some things from here along with my suitcase, camera bag, etc. We leave about 8:30. I-17 to Flagstaff, then east on I-40. Lunch at Subway in Gallup, NM. It was raining heavily when we went through Albuquerque, although the view of it was impressive. Stopped for the night at an Econolodge in Tucumcari, NM. Dinner at Denny's.
Monday, June 30. We continue on I-40 thru Amarillo, TX. Lunch at a McDonalds somewhere.
Just west of Oklahoma City, we nearly had a bad accident. There were signs indicating that the left lane was going away so I got in the right lane and slowed down to 55 as the signs indicated. We were following a medium sized truck at a safe distance. We could not see around or over the truck. Suddenly he jumps onto the shoulder, revealing a line of cars at a dead stop straight ahead of us. I hopped into the left lane, which had not gone away yet, but fortunately had no cars right there. If I had reacted 2 seconds later we would have smashed into the line of cars at 55 MPH.
An exit or two later we got on a bypass toll road that took us around to I-44. From there though Tulsa (more impressive skyline than Phoenix, or so it seemed) and finally into Missouri, where we stayed in an Econolodge in Springfield. We settled our still-shaken nerves in a country and western type bar and then grabbed dinner at a Subway.
Tuesday, July 1. On through St. Louis, lunch at a Quizno's in Illinois, to Indianapolis where we got on I-70. Continuing the spirit of the Simpsons tour we stayed at a Super 8 in Springfield, OH. We ordered pizza from Domino's and watched I'm Not There on John's laptop. This was the dumpiest of the road motels.
Wednesday, July 2. Through Columbus, then Wheeling, WV, then south of Pittsburgh picking up the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Lunch at a turnpike service plaza. These places used to have Howard Johnsons restaurants but now they have food courts. We ate at Roy Rogers. Continued on the turnpike into the Philadelphia area, where we got off on US-1. That took us into Trenton, NJ and on into Princeton. John had a CD of music from the Sopranos that we played a lot while driving in NJ.
Route 1 is an odd beast in that part of New Jersey. Some of it looks like a freeway with exit ramps, etc. Then some of it is a regular old road with driveways and stop lights and the oddest part is there is no turning left and no u-turns and major intersections have elaborate ramps or even traffic circles. This combined with Google Maps' total lack of understanding of the area separated our arrival in Princeton from our arrival in the hotel by about an hour. The hotel was a Homewood Suites on Route 1, somewhat isolated from the town. The room had a separate bedroom with a convertible couch in the living room, where John stayed. By the time we got situated we decided to eat at the Ruby Tuesday's next to the hotel. We went to the indoor pool for a bit, and you could see fireworks from the town while we soaked.
Thursday, July 3. First task was to take the van to Tom's apartment to unload. Tom will be John's faculty advisor and had kindly volunteered space in his garage for John's stuff. He was very helpful, took charge of the task and we were soon sitting in his kitchen drinking espresso. Then we spent a few hours checking out the town and the campus. We saw John's apartment complex as well. The campus is beautiful and the town is quite nice too. Had lunch in an interesting design-your-own-burrito place. We got a call from Susan. She was on the plane at DFW. Her flight to Newark was delayed because of congestion at Newark. But we had run out of things to do and went back to the hotel and watched some TV and eventually a Simpsons episode.
Then we were off to the Newark airport. Conceptually it was simple, take Route 1 north to the NJ Turnpike and the turnpike to the airport. This was a situation where a map would have helped though. We were not sure just where we would get on the turnpike. Eventually we saw a sign that said that the turnpike was the next right. But the exit sign just referenced NJ-18. John said "I'm not buying it" and I agreed. Sadly we soon figured out that it must have been right because there were no more references to the turnpike. We stopped at two gas stations and gained little knowledge of what to do, the proprietors not being well versed in either directions nor English. Finally we saw another road leading to the turnpike and grabbed it. The van, while costly, did not exceed the original estimate. We took the skytrain to the terminal from Budget and then sat for about an hour watching the Yankees losing to the Red Sox on the TV in TGIFridays. Susan finally arrived, and then after a fashion her luggage as well. Skytrain back to Hertz where we piled into the rented Prius. The only hitch on the way back was that John managed to lose the toll ticket that I handed him. I had to pull over in the area just prior to the toll gate and turn on the lights in the car. Fortunately he found it. It was so late that Ruby Tuesday's had our business for a second night.
Friday, July 4. We went into town, essentially repeating yesterday's campus and town tour. We found the house that Albert Einstein had lived in as well as the Institute for Advanced Study, where he had worked. We drove to the battlefield park where the Meg Ryan/Tim Robbins film I.Q. had its climax. When we got there we found 4th of July festivities with people firing cannons, dressed up in revolutionary costumes, etc. After walking around there for a while we got back in the car and drove to the Washington Crossing State Park, where George Washington crossed the Delaware, about a half hour away. Then back to the hotel, and out to dinner at Blue Point Grill, a trendy fish and vegetables restaurant on Nassau Street (Princeton's main drag) where you bring your own wine. Then we walked around in the rain and looked at shops, restaurants etc.
Saturday, July 5. Drove around Princeton a little more, particularly interested in finding a grocery store. John will live a distance from the nearest stores, and lacking a car, things like bus schedules, whether a store delivers, etc. are important. Back to the airport to drop off the car and then a taxi into Manhattan. The taxi was a hoot. We had 3 large and one small suitcases plus a guitar and a camera bag. As it did not all fit in the trunk, John had to sit in the front seat. The driver handed John some things from the front seat to hold which included his odiferous lunch. The windshield wiper blades were falling apart and it was raining heavily. He had a bunch of random stuff stored above the visor that kept falling down. When he uncovered his EZ Pass gizmo for the toll booth the bracket that held it to the dashboard fell apart. We got to the hotel just about the time the rain subsided.
We stayed at the Hotel Giraffe, on Park Avenue South at 26th St. In the maps in the taxis, we were in an unnamed district south of Murray Hill and north of Grammercy Park. In at least one book this was called the Flatiron District but the NY Cabs considered it nameless, the only region south of Harlem without a name. The hotel was very nice, a "boutique" hotel, 73 rooms, in a quiet (for Manhattan) area. We had a small balcony facing 26th St. John stayed in a friend's apartment in Harlem, 20-30 minutes away by subway.
We got sandwiches at a coffee shop nearby. Then we set out with John to take his luggage and guitar to Scott's apartment. We were a little more nicely/heavily dressed than normal as we planned to end up at Patsy's, a restaurant that Susan had heard many things about, for dinner. Our first introduction to the subway was not good. It was hot and muggy on the platform and seemed to take forever for the train to come. Then we had to change trains and go through it again. At least the subway cars themselves were well air conditioned. Then we got out and were on the main drag in Harlem. We only had to walk one long block but passed many colorful scenes, people selling various things, music playing on boom boxes, a rasta-looking guy selling CDs, a produce market, etc. Then we got to Scott's door and John couldn't open it. Another tenant was leaving and she showed him how to do it. Scott was back in California and had given John the keys. After dropping off the stuff, we figured out how to lock it back up and were on the street again. Past the subway station we could see the Apollo Theatre, but I was not wanting to walk that far.
We wanted to stop short of Time Square and walk to Rockefeller Center, but John misjudged the stops and we were south of Time Square with little choice but to pass through. Susan did not like the crowds and did not want to come back. We went over to 5th Avenue and saw St. Patrick's Cathedral and then Rockefeller Center. Susan was getting tired of walking so we found an (amazingly quiet) bar and sat for a while. I wasn't sure of the precise location of Patsy's, I had been there once before, so John got the address and phone number. I suggested he call to see if we needed a reservation. He got a recording that said that they were closed, for precisely the days that we were in Manhattan, and would reopen the night we would arrive back in Phoenix. We were devastated. So we walked over there anyway, just to look at it. We passed the Ed Sullivan Theatre along the way. Then we took a cab to a restaurant that we had heard of near Greenwich Village that was coincidentally also called Patsy's, although very different, where we had dinner. It was very loud, mostly an NYU crowd in there with thumpathumpathumpa music. We walked back to our hotel from there, one of the longer walks of the trip.
Sunday, July 6. Susan had enjoyed Little Italy in Boston and had similar hopes for New York's. We took the subway there and at first glance it was very cool but on further analysis it was just a tourist trap. We did not see a grocery and there were tons of souvenir shops. We stopped for coffee and a cannoli. The filling got an A but the shell a C. I had an Italian rum cake that was very good. The waitress was Puerto Rican or Dominican we thought. Then we headed for the subway which was on the line between Little Italy and Chinatown. We had little interest in Chinatown as we were vary familiar with San Francisco's, but if the crowds near the subway were any indication, we do not want to go there. This was the most intense crowding we had seen other than Time Square.
We went to Ground Zero. Today it is just a big construction fence around the spot where the towers were. We walked from there to Wall Street. There is intense security around the New York Stock Exchange. We saw the spot where George Washington was first inaugurated. Then cab to subway, subway all the way uptown to Central Park West and a look at the Dakota, the site of John Lennon's murder, where Yoko Ono still lives. Then over to the park and then a cab back to near our hotel and pizza for lunch. We then found a place called Organique that had design-your-own-salad and -sandwich items. We had them put together some salads to have for dinner later (dressing on the side). Bought wine, pops, chips, etc. at a couple more nearby shops and walked back to the hotel.
We had tickets to The Lion King, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary on Broadway. Everyone had told me how wonderful it was but I was not particularly excited. I am not a big fan of musicals and on my first trip to Broadway I was passing up some big names in some more serious endeavors. I was somewhat familiar with the story, having watched the videotape of the movie with the kids years ago. The taxi could not get all the way to the theatre, so we got to once again fight through the crowd at Time Square. Once inside, it was relatively calm. When the doors opened we found out that we had great seats, 13th row center. I have to tell you that I was amazed at just how good this show was. The costumes and the production were unbelievable. You would have to see it to appreciate it.
After the show, Susan was the hero, managing to flag us a cab in the midst of the mob that emitted from the theatre. Before we knew it we were back at the hotel.
Monday, July 7. One goal of the trip was to avoid long lines. The Statue of Liberty is a problem in that regard, from what I have heard. An alternative is the Staten Island Ferry, which is free. It takes you past the statue and there are no lines involved. So we got a cab to the ferry terminal. Along the way we saw the waterfalls. They are a temporary public art installation in the East River this summer. Water is pumped from the river and then cascaded down, resembling waterfalls. There are four of them. The ferry was loading as we arrived, so there was no wait. We sat on the side of the boat that faced away from New Jersey and the statue, looking instead at Brooklyn. The ferry terminals were clean and modern. On the Staten Island end we looked outside for a minute, there is a minor league baseball stadium (Staten Island Yankees) and just waited or the next ferry back. This time we sat on the side facing the statue. This was not as good a view as you would have if you paid for the the tour, waited in line, etc., but it was quite pleasant.
Then a cab to a subway station in Brooklyn. The area that we got left in was quite UNpleasant, looked downright dangerous. The subway took us to Greenpoint, a Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn where John wanted to go. We found a Polish restaurant. The food was pretty good, I liked the kielbasa.
Then subway to the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the bridge back to Manhattan, which was way cool. There is a pedestrian walkway that is above the traffic. Subway back from the Manhattan side of the bridge to the hotel. Wine and cheese reception in the lobby of the hotel. John left to go back to Brooklyn to see Caitlin and Daniel. We walked around our nameless district, primarily on Lexington Avenue, then had dinner at a Ray's Pizza outlet and went back to our room.
Tuesday, July 8. I got tickets online for the Empire State Building tour. This enables you to skip the first line, which is the ticket line. There is still a bunch of waiting in line, which apparently can be bypassed if you buy a more expensive package. We spent most of the morning standing in line for the tour and ultimately taking it. Then we walked over to Macy's. After Macy's, John and Susan bought some souvenirs at some shops on 34th Street. From there we took a cab up to north of the Theatre district and had lunch at the Carnegie Deli, a famous place with celebrity pictures on the wall. A sandwich could feed three people easily. Then walked north past Carnegie Hall and into Central Park. Walked around, exited at southeast end and walked past some of the high end shops in that area. Then we found a Yankees team shop, where John bought a hat (and one for his future father-in-law) and I bought a shirt. Then subway back to the hotel.
John had warned against how awful the subway would be getting back from the Yankees game -- add rowdy drunks to an already hot crowded place -- so I bought us tickets on the Yankee Clipper, a boat that would take us from fairly close to our hotel to right next to Yankee Stadium. We took a short cab ride to the 34th Street pier and waited for the ship. It was a 20-30 minute ride up the river, passing the UN building and Harlem on the left and Brooklyn, Queens and eventually the Bronx on the right. The entrance to the Stadium was about a 10 minute walk. We went up several escalators and found our seats. We were in the upper deck and the angle was so steep that the backs of the seats in the row in front was level with the floor in our row. The floor in front of the seats was so narrow that I was almost afraid to go -- stepping in front of already seated people -- to our seats. Susan was more scared even than I was. We sat through the first inning or so afraid that we would never have nerve to move to get food or use the bathroom. Then in the second inning somebody came and told us that we were in their seats. We had been confused about location. Our seats were actually much lower down. The people next to us had made the same mistake. We all got up and went down. Not only were our seats much closer to the field, there was a railing in front of our row. It was smooth sailing from there. The game was great. The Yankees were (are) in third place and they were playing Tampa Bay who were (are) in first. The Yankees played like the Yankees of old, Derek Jeter got key hits and they won impressively. The Stadium was nearly full, the crowd was into it, it was a great experience. You could see the new stadium over the left field wall. The ride back was fun. The boat was a good plan.
Wednesday, July 9. Last full day in Manhattan. Walked to the Farmers' Market at Union Square. It was great. With the possible exception of Paris this was the best one we have seen. You would not want for fresh produce if you lived near there. Walked on to Greenwich Village, had bruschetta and coffee/tea in a coffee shop at the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal. Walked on to Soho, saw a bunch of trendy shops, etc. Decided we had had enough and took cab back to near hotel. Got sandwiches and went back to hotel. Maid was cleaning room so ate in the lobby. I really liked the lobby of the hotel. Windows to the street on two sides. Espresso/Capuccino machine available at all hours as were cookies and coffee. Wine/cheese 5-7. Jazz piano in the early evening. This is also where the continental breakfast was served. After eating, John and I went to the NBC Studio tour and Susan hung out in the room and then walked out and scouted a restaurant for us. The tour was OK, not outstanding. It was not as good as its counterpart in Burbank. We did get to see the Saturday Night Live studio. Back to the hotel for wine/cheese. Susan had found us a great Italian restaurant on Lexington Ave. where we had a wonderful last dinner. Back to the hotel and then said our goodbyes to John.
Thursay, July 10. Cab to Newark airport, plane left on time, plenty of time for connection in Dallas. Plane left Dallas about 10 minutes late but got into Phoenix about when planned. House was still standing. The neighbors' cat who has adopted us was at the door within minutes of our arrival. John sent text message that night after boarding his flight for Warsaw.
Overall, this was a great trip/adventure/vacation. We took tons of pictures, some of which can be seen on here.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Imagine for a minute, just a minute, that someone running for president was able to actually tell the truth, the real truth, to the American people about what would be the best — I mean really the best — energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country. I realize this is a fantasy, but play along with me for a minute. What would this mythical, totally imaginary, truth-telling candidate say?
For starters, he or she would explain that there is no short-term fix for gasoline prices. Prices are what they are as a result of rising global oil demand from India, China and a rapidly growing Middle East on top of our own increasing consumption, a shortage of “sweet” crude that is used for the diesel fuel that Europe is highly dependent upon and our own neglect of effective energy policy for 30 years.
Cynical ideas, like the McCain-Clinton summertime gas-tax holiday, would only make the problem worse, and reckless initiatives like the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep offer to subsidize gasoline for three years for people who buy its gas guzzlers are the moral equivalent of tobacco companies offering discounted cigarettes to teenagers.
I can’t say it better than my friend Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics, did in a Memorial Day essay in The Washington Post: “So Dodge wants to sell you a car you don’t really want to buy, that is not fuel-efficient, will further damage our environment, and will further subsidize oil states, some of which are on the other side of the wars we’re currently fighting. ... The planet be damned, the troops be forgotten, the economy be ignored: buy a Dodge.”
No, our mythical candidate would say the long-term answer is to go exactly the other way: guarantee people a high price of gasoline — forever.
This candidate would note that $4-a-gallon gasoline is really starting to impact driving behavior and buying behavior in way that $3-a-gallon gas did not. The first time we got such a strong price signal, after the 1973 oil shock, we responded as a country by demanding and producing more fuel-efficient cars. But as soon as oil prices started falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we let Detroit get us readdicted to gas guzzlers, and the price steadily crept back up to where it is today.
We must not make that mistake again. Therefore, what our mythical candidate would be proposing, argues the energy economist Philip Verleger Jr., is a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gasoline tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.
To ease the burden on the less well-off, “anyone earning under $80,000 a year would be compensated with a reduction in the payroll taxes,” said Verleger. Or, he suggested, the government could use the gasoline tax to buy back gas guzzlers from the public and “crush them.”
But the message going forward to every car buyer and carmaker would be this: The price of gasoline is never going back down. Therefore, if you buy a big gas guzzler today, you are locking yourself into perpetually high gasoline bills. You are buying a pig that will eat you out of house and home. At the same time, if you, a manufacturer, continue building fleets of nonhybrid gas guzzlers, you are condemning yourself, your employees and shareholders to oblivion.
What a cruel thing for a candidate to say? I disagree. Every decade we look back and say: “If only we had done the right thing then, we would be in a different position today.”
But no politician dared to do so. When gasoline was $2 a gallon, the government never would have imposed a $2 tax. Now that it is $4 a gallon, the government should at least keep it there, since it is really having the right effect.
I was visiting my local Toyota dealer in Bethesda, Md., last week to trade in one hybrid car for another. There is now a two-month wait to buy a Prius, which gets close to 50 miles per gallon. The dealer told me I was lucky. My hybrid was going up in value every day, so I didn’t have to worry about waiting a while for my new car. But if it were not a hybrid, he said, he would deduct each day $200 from the trade-in price for every $1-a-barrel increase in the OPEC price of crude oil. When I saw the rows and rows of unsold S.U.V.’s parked in his lot, I understood why.
We need to make a structural shift in our energy economy. Ultimately, we need to move our entire fleet to plug-in electric cars. The only way to get from here to there is to start now with a price signal that will force the change.
Barack Obama had the courage to tell voters that the McCain-Clinton summer gas-giveaway plan was a fraud. Wouldn’t it be amazing if he took the next step and put the right plan before the American people? Wouldn’t that just be amazing?
Sunday, May 04, 2008
McCain wraps up weekend with baseball game
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Sen. John McCain completed a weekend break from campaigning by attending Sunday's baseball game between the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee watched from the owners' seats near the Diamondbacks' dugout, sitting between team owners Jeff Moorad and Ken Kendrick. McCain's wife, Cindy, also attended.
McCain waved when he was shown on the giant Chase Field video screen. He was greeted with subdued cheers, and a smattering of boos, from the crowd.
McCain sat for a while in the announcers' booth and spoke on the radio about baseball and campaigning.
"We've been traveling, giving speeches, raising money, doing the campaign — it's a great time," he told KTAR. "We've got a tough campaign, but you've got to love it and like it, otherwise it's too hard."
McCain spent Friday and Saturday at his home in Sedona. He heads to North Carolina on Monday.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The time has come.
The time has come.
The time is now.
I don't care how.
You can go by foot.
You can go by cow.
Hillary Clinton will you please go now!
You can go on skates.
You can go on skis.
You can go in a hat.
I don't care.
You can go
You can go
On a Zike-Bike
If you like.
If you like
You can go
In an old blue shoe.
Just go, go, GO!
Please do, do, do, DO!
I don't care how.
Will you please
You can go on stilts.
You can go by fish.
You can go in a Crunk-Car
If you wish.
If you wish
You may go
By lion's tale.
Or stamp yourself
And go by mail.
Don't you know
The time has come
To go, go, GO!
Get on your way!
You might like going in a Zumble-Zay.
You can go by balloon . . .
You can go by camel
In a bureau drawer.
You can go by bumble-boat
. . . or jet.
I don't care how you go.
I don't care how.
Will you please
I meant . . .
The time had come
So . . .
by Tom Hayden, The Nation
April 22, 2008
My wife Barbara has begun yelling at the television set every time she hears Hillary Clinton. This is abnormal behavior, since Barbara is a meditative practitioner of everything peaceful and organic, and is inspired by Barack Obama's transformational appeal.
For Barbara, Hillary has become the screech on the blackboard. From First Lady to Lady Macbeth.
It's getting to me as well. Last year, I was somewhat reconciled to the prospect of supporting and pressuring Hillary as the nominee amidst the rising tide of my friends who already hated her, irrationally I thought. I was one of those people Barack accuses of being willing to settle. I even had framed a flattering autographed message from Hillary. But as the campaign has gone on and on, her signed portrait still leans against the wall in my study. I don't know where she belongs anymore.
At least Hillary was a known quantity in my life. I knew of the danger of her becoming more and more hawkish as she tried to break the ultimate glass ceiling. I also knew that she could be forced to change course if public opinion was fiercely opposed to the war. And I knew she was familiar with radical social causes from her own life experience in the sixties. So my progressive task seemed clear: help build an antiwar force powerful enough to make it politically necessary to end the war. Been there, done that. And in the process, finally put a woman in the White House. A soothing bonus.
But as the Obama campaign gained momentum, Hillary began morphing into the persona that has my pacifist wife screaming at the television set.
Going negative doesn't begin to describe what has happened. Hillary is going over the edge. Even worse are the flacks she sends before the cameras on her behalf, like that Kiki person, who smirks and shakes her head at the camera every time she fields a question. Or the real carnivores, like Howard Wolfson, Lanny Davis and James Carville, whose sneering smugness prevents countless women like my wife from considering Hillary at all.
To use the current terminology, Hillary people are bitter people, even more bitter than the white working-class voters Barack has talked about. Because they circle the wagons so tightly, they don't recognize how identical, self-reinforcing and out-of-touch they are.
To take just one example, the imagined association between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers will suffice. Hillary is blind to her own roots in the sixties. In one college speech she spoke of ecstatic transcendence; in another, she said, "Our social indictment has broadened. Where once we exposed the quality of life in the world of the South and the ghettos, now we condemn the quality of work in factories and corporations. Where once we assaulted the exploitation of man, now we decry the destruction of nature as well. How much long can we let corporations run us?"
She was in Chicago for three nights during the 1968 street confrontations. She chaired the 1970 Yale law school meeting where students voted to join a national student strike again an "unconscionable expansion of a war that should never have been waged." She was involved in the New Haven defense of Bobby Seale during his murder trial in 1970, as the lead scheduler of student monitors. She surely agreed with Yale president Kingman Brewster that a black revolutionary couldn't get a fair trial in America. She wrote that abused children were citizens with the same rights as their parents.
Most significantly in terms of her recent attacks on Barack, after Yale law school, Hillary went to work for the left-wing Bay Area law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, which specialized in Black Panthers and West Coast labor leaders prosecuted for being communists. Two of the firm's partners, according to Treuhaft, were communists and the two others "tolerated communists". Then she went on to Washington to help impeach Richard Nixon, whose career was built on smearing and destroying the careers of people through vague insinuations about their backgrounds and associates. (All these citations can be found in Carl Bernstein's sympathetic 2007 Clinton biography, A Woman in Charge.)
All these were honorable words and associations in my mind, but doesn't she see how the Hillary of today would accuse the Hillary of the sixties of associating with black revolutionaries who fought gun battles with police officers, and defending pro-communist lawyers who backed communists? Doesn't the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Hillary attacks today, represent the very essence of the black radicals Hillary was associating with in those days? And isn't the Hillary of today becoming the same kind of guilt-by-association insinuator as the Richard Nixon she worked to impeach?
It is as if Hillary Clinton is engaged in a toxic transmission onto Barack Obama of every outrageous insult and accusation ever inflicted on her by the American right over the decades. She is running against what she might have become. Too much politics dries the soul of the idealist.
It is abundantly clear that the Clintons, working with FOX News and manipulating old Clinton staffers like George Stephanopoulos, are trying, at least unconsciously, to so damage Barack Obama that he will be perceived as "unelectable" to Democratic superdelegates. It is also clear that the campaign of defamation against Obama has resulted in higher negative ratings for Hillary Clinton. She therefore is threatening the Democratic Party's chances for the White House, whether or not she is the nominee.
Since no one in the party leadership seems able or willing to intervene against this self-destructive downward spiral, perhaps progressives need to consider responding in the only way politicians sometimes understand. If they can't hear us screaming at the television sets, we can send a message that the Clintons are acting as if they prefer John McCain to Barack Obama. And follow it up with another message: if Clinton doesn't immediately cease her path of destruction, millions of young voters and black voters may not send checks, may not knock on doors, and may not even vote for her if she becomes the nominee. That's not a threat, that's the reality she is creating.