mercredi, janvier 31, 2007

Global Warming; the Irretrievably Dumb; Little Potato

Yesterday at the State capitol, a group of informed citizens gathered to encourage our Minnesota Legislature to take action against global warming.

They took as fact (as they should have) that carbon emissions trap greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, ultimately increasing the temperature and leading to a profound and negative impact on our environment. Their argument, in effect, was that the state should act instead of waiting for the federal government to act.

That’s probably wise. In spite of his remarks during his State of the Union Address*, Bush is not likely to take action anytime soon. He’s too focused on troop surges and war against Iran. He learned absolutely nothing from the midterm elections. He is never going to get it, but I’m about to go off on a tangent, and I’m working myself into quite a lather, so…back to global warming:

Local action against international issues is not an easy point to sell, but I admire the effort.

This morning, NPR reported that two kinds of protesters were on the scene to oppose the rally.

One set argued that there is no global warming – they cited yesterday’s temp as their case in point (it was around 10 degrees yesterday). Brilliant! Say, what about all those melting glaciers?

The other set argued that global warming is good for Minnesota. They wore shirts that read lawn chairs instead of snow shovels.

The reporter covering the story suggested both protestors were sincere. I find that hard to believe. The first group proves that the half-wise are everywhere. I have to believe that the second group was being sarcastic much like the wonderful Billionaires for Bush.

At least I felt that way until I googled “global warming is good.”

You should do it if you need to validate the existence of the profoundly stupid, the irretrievably dumb, or the ridiculously idiotic.

If you’re feeling cynical about things; if you’re on the verge of losing hope about mankind; if you’re worried that we’re doomed to fail as humans, as earthlings, then don’t google “global warming is good.”

Instead, turn on the sound for your computer and click on this. My friend FB put it on a mixed-CD she burned for TinyE, and it became an instant favorite of mine.

*This is what he said, he said:

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change. (Applause.) **

**If you go to, they have the text of the entire State of the Union Address, and they add the "(Applause)." I understand that on the teleprompter, but when you're reading it online, you'll find it difficult to clap when you're also trying to scroll down.

lundi, janvier 22, 2007

Even Your Emotions had an Echo; or: My Five Favorite Songs of 2006

5. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley

First and foremost, Cee-Lo Green is one of the coolest men in music. Did anyone deserve success more this year? Did anyone deserve more success this year?

Second – best lyric of all time:

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place. Even your emotions had an echo in so much space.”

I thought about that lyric about six gazillion times. It's better than anything Cee-Lo did with the Goodie Mob, and he did some amazing stuff with the Goodie Mob.

Third – you can’t deny a song that led a revolution in music.

4. Southtown Girls – The Hold Steady

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, half of what I adore about this amazing song is the Twin Cities references, but the other half is how completely it closes an amazing album by continuing the brilliant lyrics and offering the best coda I could imagine for this wonderfully expressive compact disc.

3. Dimension – Wolfmother

When I need to speed the transition from work to home, when I need to shake it all off, when I need to inspire a primal scream, when I need to revisit the 70’s and channel Zeppelin, Sabbath or even Styx, when I need to giggle about falling down in the dessert and needing to write something down, then there is no song that will work like this song. If you haven’t heard it, hear it. If you don’t like it, then join Al Qaeda or something – you’re damaged.

2. Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio

“When the moon is round and full, gotta bust that fox, gotta gut that fish.”


“Gonna teach you tricks that’ll blow your (mongrel) mind.”

Even TinyE sings it.

Anyway...convinced? Ready to be a werewolf?

Hmmmm…okay…then check this out.

1. Born Secular – Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

Apparently Jenny Lewis was “born secular and inconsolable.” In a year of songs and albums paying homage to artists of yore, this disc, which conjures up Dusty Springfield, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and gives a nod to the Traveling Wilbury’s, is easily the best of the bunch. On an album of phenomenal songs, this is the pinnacle. The lyrics on this song are so amazing, so representative of a different time, that I was convinced it was a cover. The music is simple – as is often the case in country music (even alt-country), but the emotion is so pure and sincere that it moves me (purely and sincerely) every time.

dimanche, janvier 21, 2007

Face It: The Man is Amazing

So this morning, I was listening to WeeSun (like all good progressives) when they had an interesting piece about the banjo.

Now, here's where I confess that I'm not a terribly enlightened fellow. The banjo is not, nor has it ever been one of my favorites.

The radio story this morning celebrated the release of a new banjo album featuring duets and trios including some of America's more recognized banjo players.

In the studio at NPR were the primary artist on the album: Tony Trischka. Bela Fleck was also there. Completing the trio was Steve Martin.

Read and listen here.

And then it occurred to me:

Actor (stage and screen no less*)

I mean, c'mon, the man has done it all!

*And yes, there have been some clunkers.
**They played his song "The Crow" as part of the WeeSun story.

Post Script: Sorry I have not posted very much. Work is very busy, and there's been a recent dustup over blogs and myspace at work. So, I've had to be cool. For the record, I usually write blogs at home and then upload them at work (after a quick edit - and maybe some links). But now I'll post from home so that I can visit with y'all more than once a week.

mardi, janvier 16, 2007

You Know Who I'm Jealous of...?

Kids who grow up in bilingual homes. Do they even know how lucky they are?

lundi, janvier 15, 2007

Notes on an Execution

A friend who knows I don’t support the death penalty asked me how I felt about Saddam Hussein’s execution (and no, Saddam is not in their league).

The classic question: can we change the hypothetical enough to reverse your policy?

Saddam ranked high among the ne’er do wells of the world – not so high on the all-time rankings, but high enough. He was executed for the retaliatory murders of more than 150 people. Most suspect he was directly or indirectly involved in the deaths of many, many more.

So the question is really a variation on the “what about Hitler?” or “what about Stalin?” question that is often put to opponents of capital punishment.

My answer may not surprise, but I feel that Saddam’s execution advanced very little and may actually lead to declines.

The world is not safer.
Tyrants and dictators will not be less likely to torture and kill their citizens.
Those who grieve will still feel the void of a love one gone too soon.
Questions remain about the quality of his criminal trial.
He is, within some communities and ethnic groups, remembered as a martyr.
He was executed for the retaliatory killing of 150; before he could stand trial for the killings of more than 100,000 Kurds.

And, on top of it all, even with all the media attention, it all kind of came and went with very little sound and even less fury and… as a result…seemed to signified nothing. In fact, if there is a lasting legacy from the execution, it is a legacy of a botched hanging.

Saddam, a Sunni, was hanged by Shias. They mocked him. They asked God to damn him. They shouted “Moktada” over and over. Saddam asked if they felt like men, he lost his temper. And in the end, the trap door was sprung in the middle of a prayer. It all happened on the first day of high holy days. The Sunnis start the celebration on one day (that’s when Saddam was hanged). The Shias start celebrating the next. Not the best day to hang the man.

One aspect of Saddam’s execution fascinates me quite a lot. The fact that the execution can be seen on the world wide web*. Some attendee recorded it with a cell phone video camera and posted it for all to see. I wish someone had done the same at the recently botched Florida execution.

I think executions should be televised in America too. And I won’t hide the trick. My ultimate goal is to build the case against capital punishment. It’s too easy for proponents to support it – to override all the concerns about inadequate counsel and bias and cruelty and execution of the young and the mentally ill and those who are below average in intelligence. Let’s expose this heinous practice for what it really is – one significant part of our national hypocrisy and our national shame.

And yes, some people will cheer – just as people cheered and jeered Saddam. But the majority of people, people of maturity, reasonable people, will react differently.

Proponents of the death penalty, in order to salvage its constitutionality, must prove that it is neither cruel nor unusual (and, of course, this is the biggest indictment on the state of affairs in our country – our highest courts crafted an argument to essentially say that killing a person by lethal injection or by gas or by electrocution is not cruel AND most of all, not unusual). And if executions are neither cruel nor unusual, then they ought to be televised. Plenty of cruel stuff is on TV. Plenty of unusual stuff is on TV.

And, every other aspect of criminal justice takes place in broad daylight. Our courts are (relatively) open. Trials, judgments, sentencing, and even prison life can be seen on television. In some ways these phases are glorified, but for the most part they’re not.

So, if executions are not cruel or unusual, if they’re meant to deter, if we’re administering justice, then why not show it?

I really only have three reservations: first, steps must be taken to prevent children from seeing executions.

Second, the executed must consent – but I’d think a lot of them would consent.

Third, it may actually backfire. It may actually create a sensation and not only increase support for this barbaric practice, but also heighten my despair at the state of our union.

*I haven’t seen it myself. I don’t know if I will.

lundi, janvier 08, 2007

People Always Complain about the Weather, Duf Does Something about It

One of our wonderful Christmas presents this year was a weather station.

We have a central monitor on the main floor that tells you the temperature of the room you’re in, connects to two receivers (one in our bedroom (upstairs), one outside), has an atomic clock, reads barometric pressure, and tells you the weather trend (among other things).

The outside monitor uses lithium batteries and can keep going down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.*

The monitor in our bedroom tells us two strange things (one we knew, one we didn’t):

The strange thing that we knew about:

Unlike just about every house in the entire universe, our upstairs is colder than our main floor (factors: windows, not enough forced air pressure**) by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The strange thing that we did not know about:

The temperature in our bedroom is often (in fact eerily so) 66.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

When that happens, to stave off the costs of an exorcism, I usually turn on our ceiling fan (to lower) or a lamp (to raise) the temperature.

*This used to be necessary before Global Warming.

**Any HVAC experts out there? Holla!

jeudi, janvier 04, 2007

What I Did Over Winter Vacation, by Duf

Went to a house party that was visited by high-school carolers.
Played Wii Tennis (awesome) and Wii golf (average) with my nephews.
Reorganized our freezer. It took like five minutes.
Fixed the drawer on our LL bathroom basin. You know, the one with the bad handle.
Watched lots of A&E.
Wrote our holiday letter.
Did not ship (yet) our holiday letter.
Three words: Dance, Dance Revolution!
Ate tons and tons of homemade cookies (including the best cookie of all time).
Shoveled snow from the back walk, the front walk, and (just for fun) the driveway.
Went sledding with TinyE.
Spent it all up. All up. All. Up.
Lots of A&E.
BTW, I want one of those Wii things, and I’m not even a “gamer.”
Installed a new shower head in the LL bathroom. You know, the handheld kind.
Drank Veuve-Clicquot* like a upper-class Frenchman with a nasty, nasty bubbly habit.
Pre-diet binging and junking.
Watched the thrilling Boise State vs. Oklahoma game.
Took my iPod in for repairs (hard drive fried).
Took my winter coat in for alterations (sleeves were too long).
Perhaps too much A&E.
Read very little.
Slept very much.
Worked very little.
Vegged very much.
Rang out the old, rang in the new.

Re-learned, through the visage of a five year-old girl, the joy of Christmas and the capacity of little things to mean a lot.

*It’s so dang good.

mardi, janvier 02, 2007

Welcome Back, Duffer

Today was my last day of vacation; I go back to work tomorrow. I’m actually looking forward to heading back to the office.

I did not realize until the middle of last week how absolutely exhausted I was. I found myself sleeping in until past 8:00 on multiple consecutive days – I NEVER do that.

But my batteries feel recharged now (although my legs weigh a tone right now).

Today, when almost everyone returned to the office, I went sledding with TinyE.

It was a blast, but let me share this bit of wisdom from the hills:

What goes down must come up. The longer the ride down; the longer the walk up. Two hours of sledding is a mighty workout.

On a completely unrelated note: I listened to most of the Ford memorial service. I can’t really say why, but I always liked Gerald R. Hearing Bush’s story about how Ford stood up against segregation during his time at Michigan somehow confirmed the whole thing. But hearing Bush eulogize him and talk about his integrity and honesty also made me nostalgic for a simpler time*.

*And you know you’re in dire straits if you look back on post-Watergate/fall of Saigon days as “a simpler time.”