Miscellany11 Jul 2008 12:41 pm

Corn starch, water, a cookie sheet, and a sub-woofer. Enjoy!

News & Culture09 Jul 2008 11:47 am

I really enjoyed today’s blog posting from Steve Friess, the perpetrator of one of my favorite podcasts, The Strip Podcast.

Steve is an incredible freelance journalist, writing for many major publications (New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, etc.) from his home base in Las Vegas. His husband Miles is also in the news biz, as a producer for the news hour at the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas.

In today’s blog posting, however, Steve tackles an issue that is a huge peeve of mine: the irrational loathing of Las Vegas. Case in point: some twerp who edited a major travel industry publication, who bad-mouths Vegas but hasn’t been there in ages.

I am so sick of people whose first reaction to a mention of Las Vegas is, “Ugh, I hate Vegas!” When you probe further into their dislike, you almost always find that they’ve, a) never actually been there; b) went there once about 15 years ago; or, c) are total cheapskates and think the steak house at Circus Circus is an indefensible splurge.

It takes particular chutzpah to criticize a place that you have never been, or haven’t been to in nearly a generation. With its incredible pace of change and vibrant growth (even in these difficult economic times), five years in Las Vegas is like 20 in many other major cities.

Vegas today is an entirely different animal. It has more Michelin Guide-rated 2 and 3 star restaurants than Los Angeles, and some of the most luxurious hotels and spas anywhere in the world. It remains one of the world’s top travel destinations for people from all over the globe.

And there’s tons of fun to be had even if you never set foot on a casino floor.

I commend to your reading Steve’s dismemberment of the dufus former editor of Budget Travel magazine, and the general trend of irrational Vegas-hating.

Politics03 Jul 2008 09:47 am

Here’s one for your McCain supporter buddies. This week he took credit for the new GI Bill, despite having opposed it. He was for it… after he voted against it? Sounds like John Kerry. (Was there something in the water in Vietnam that makes presidential candidates flip-flop later in life?)

Below is a summary of two dozen glaring flip-flops on major issues. You can see a video review of it, including notes on sources here:


Over the weekend, Senator McCain said, quote, “this election is about trust and trusting people‘s word and, unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted.”

Our third story tonight: Judging candidates based on their consistency. You see where I’m going with this?

The signing of the G.I. Bill not the only time Senator McCain was against something before he was for it, or vice versa or both. You may want to get pencil and paper and write these down.

On political reform, McCain last January opposed a grassroots lobbying bill he once supported. In 2006, the New York Sun reported that his presidential ambitions led McCain to reverse his support of a campaign financial bill called… “McCain-Feingold”.

Last October he said he would vote against the “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Miners Act” that he co-sponsored and then said he would vote against an immigration bill that he introduced.

In 2006, he said on Hardball, quote, “I think that gay marriage should be allowed.” Then after the commercial break he added, “I do not believe that gay marriages should be legal.”

On abortion, 1999, publicly supporting Roe v. Wade, privately opposing it in a letter to the National Right to Life Committee. In the 2000 debates, he would change the GOP platform to permit exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. May 2008, no he won’t, ABCNews.com reported.

Storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain? Flip.

Military action against rogue states? Flip.

Negotiating with Kim Jong-Il? Not acceptable… until President Bush did it last week.

With Fidel Castro? Acceptable in 2000, not 2008.

With terrorists? Appropriate when Colin Powell went to Syria and in 2006 when McCain said, “sooner or later we’ll talk to Hamas,” but not appropriate now.

Unilateral action against suspected terrorists in Pakistan? “Confused leadership” when Obama suggested it, but not when Bush did it.

Warrantless wire taps? Six months ago, presidents had to “obey the law,” …not anymore.

Torture detainees? No way! …Except for the CIA. Hold them indefinitely? Wrong in 2003, the “right move” in 2008.

The Iraq war? “The right course” in 2004, “stay the course” 2005. Today: McCain has “always been a Rumsfeld critic.”

Tax cuts for the rich? In 2001, he “could not in good conscience” support them. Now he can.

The estate tax? 2006, “I agree with President Roosevelt” who created it and who had passed away. In 2008, “most unfair.”

This month not for privatizing Social Security, never has been. In 2004, he didn’t see how benefits will last without it.

In February, promised a balanced budget in four years. By April, make that eight years.

In May, “glad to look at” the windfall profits tax. By June, “that was Jimmy Carter’s big idea.”

In 2000, no new off shore drilling. Last month, it would take years to develop. This month, “very helpful in the short term.”

The Bush fund-raisers McCain called “coyotes,” were breaking the law in 2000. By 2006, they were co-chairing McCain fund-raisers.

Buddy Jerry Falwell, “an agent of intolerance” in 2000. [Video of McCain receiving honorary degree from Falwell in 2006.] The Reverend Hagee in, then out, this year alone.

In 1983, opposed Martin Luther King Day. Today, not as much.

In 1986, opposed South African divestment. This month praised it.

And in 2000, defended South Carolina’s confederate flag as “a symbol of heritage.” Two years later, McCain calling it, quote, “an act of political cowardice” not to say the flag should come down. Quote, “Everybody said, look out. You can’t win in South Carolina if you say that.”

McCain’s campaign says his positions… “evolve.”

Ironically, in 2005, McCain said alternatives to evolution should be taught in school… “evolving” the opposite position he had taken in 2000.

Gay Rights & Law & Privacy28 May 2008 12:26 pm

If you’re a straight person who thinks that the gay marriage issue isn’t really relevant to you, you should take a moment to consider one thing: The same people that have a big problem with what gay or lesbian people do behind closed doors have just as big a problem with what lots of straight people do behind closed doors.

I’m not talking wild and kinky stuff, like anything other than the missionary position. No, long before the religious right got up in arms about queers, they were trying to stop straight people from having non-procreative sex. And they were so successful that they had succeeded in banning the use of birth control in several states.

In Connecticut, there was a law that said: “Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned.” Further, any doctor, pharmacist or other person who “assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit” the offense could be prosecuted and punished in the same way.

In 1965, in a landmark case called Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there was inherent in the U.S. Constitution a core of rights around which glowed “penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”

Although a right of privacy is not explicit in the Constitution, a broader right of privacy exists in the penumbra of rights like freedom of association, quartering of soldiers, prohibition on search and seizure, etc. In the judgment of a 7-2 majority of the court, the right of privacy extended to making decisions about whether or not you could attempt to control whether having sex resulted in reproduction.

On June 7, 2008, the 43rd anniversary of the Griswold decision, the religious right is working to mobilize a nationwide protest called “The Pill Kills Babies.” And just in case you had any question about whether they are talking about the famous “Morning After” pill, the logo on their website — http://www.thepillkills.com — includes the familiar round pill case containing one month’s dosing of the regular old standard birth control pill.

According to their website, every prevented pregnancy is an abortion, meaning more than 11 million “chemical abortions” occur each year, with more than 324 million “chemical abortions” — nearly the entire US population! — since 1973.

So, in case you think the fight against gay marriage isn’t relevant to you, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the forces of religious morality have in store for us all.

Please remember that when you talk to your friends and family about what those crazy queers are doing out in California.

Miscellany14 May 2008 10:31 am

I received this in my email today from the nitwits at United Airlines…

From: United Mileage Plus [mailto:email@info.united.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:55 AM
To: ray@*****
Subject: New policy for flights less than 500 miles

United Mileage Plus(R)

Please note our new accrual policy, effective July 1, 2008

Dear Mr. Raymond Everett,

To ensure that Mileage Plus miles earned toward elite status
and award travel on United are aligned with actual miles
flown, we are revising our base accrual policy. Beginning
July 1, 2008, for flights of less than 500 miles, passengers
will earn redeemable miles equal to the actual miles flown.
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) will also be awarded based on
actual miles. Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) are not

This new mileage accrual structure will apply to travel on
or after July 1, 2008, regardless of when the travel was
ticketed. Flights of less than 500 miles flown on or before
June 30, 2008, will accrue Mileage Plus miles under the
previous policy of a minimum mileage accrual per individual
segment flown.

In other words, whenever I used to fly from San Francisco (SFO) to Las Vegas (LAS) on United, the actual air miles are 418. But to make things simple, United — and most domestic airlines — would round things up and give an even 500 miles worth of frequent flyer points. So on SFO to LAS, I was getting a bonus of 82 measly miles.

However, in United Airlines constant quest to alienate customers and generally behave in the most dickish manner possible, suddenly those 82 miles have become a bridge too far.

United used to be my favorite airline, now they’re just an absurd mockery of all that is worst about US-based airlines.

I will once again renew my call for the mass resignation of the brainless morons who run United Airlines. I am also renewing my call that foreign air carriers be allowed to offer domestic service within the US. I doubt ANA or Singapore Air would begrudge me those 82 miles, and they’d probably do it on time, in better quality, and without a chip on their shoulder.

Until that day, I need to check but I think Southwest and Virgin America will still spot me those 82 miles. I wouldn’t be surprised if other airlines would as well. If so, you can guess which airline will not be my carrier of choice for short flights!

Miscellany23 Apr 2008 11:23 am

Breville 4-Slice Toaster Regular readers of my blog know that I’m a sucker for improvements on everyday items. A few years ago, I gushed praise on an alarm clock that my partner bought for me. True to form, my quest to buy a new toaster has resulted in a choice that I’m really happy with so far. Thus, I introduce to you the Breville 4-Slice Toaster.

There are a couple of nifty features that our decrepit old Proctor-Silex toaster didn’t have.

    * Snazzy LED readout that counts down the toasting time.
    * Settings for defrosting, bagels, and regular toast.
    * You can lift up the toast to check its progress without disturbing the cycle.
    * You can pull the lift handle a little more and it raises things up higher, for easier retrieval.
    * The long slots hold 4 regular slices of bread, or even the extra long slices of my favorite round sourdough bread.
    * It beeps when it is done, in case you don’t hear the ejection.

It also looks nice on the counter. Especially next to our favorite other Breville product, their electric hot water kettle.

Breville Electric Kettle

Spam22 Apr 2008 10:40 am

After years of tweaking anti-spam filters on my personal email server, I have all but banished Nigerian dictators ads for “viagkra” from my mailbox. But almost every week I find dozens of emails, allegedly from various friends and business colleagues, exhorting me to join every new social networking site under the sun.

As if the thicket of companies out there trying to build the next MySpace or Facebook weren’t annoying enough, each new venture seems to have gotten even more aggressive than the next in making its users crack open their email address book and launch invitations to everybody they got business cards from at a cocktail party in 1997.

The earliest social networking sites learned the hard way – by being blocked as spam and reviled by would-be customers as pests – that aggressive viral marketing can cause explosive growth, but can also blow up in your face.

To read more, click here.

Miscellany14 Apr 2008 06:58 pm

Howdy dear readers. I apologize for my lack of posting in recent weeks… ok, months. Due to some work and personal issues, I’ve been swamped. And then my decrepit old version of WordPress got hacked by some script kiddie who was running some sort of viagra spam advertising scam from one of my hacked pages.

But with an upgrade to WordPress, hopefully the script kiddies will scamper on to more fertile grounds. Anyhoo… I’m going to get back to blogging more regularly, and I do even have some backlogged items that I’ll get put up here shortly.

Thank you for your patience and I hope you will enjoy!

PS: Thanks again to the folks at WordPress for making their upgrade process very smooth and easy!

News & Culture14 Apr 2008 10:47 am

Morcheeba performs at the FillmoreMy love got us tickets to see Morcheeba at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco. I had only heard a few Morcheeba songs before that night, but those that I heard were pretty good. But after a fantastic concert in an equally fantastic venue, I am now a big fan. You can hear a couple of my favorite songs of theirs at these YouTube links: "Run Honey Run" and "Enjoy the Ride", and their biggest hit "Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day".

Tech03 Jan 2008 09:18 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

Privacy and Piracy at Odds in Oregon

Remember, you can always download the audio of this hour, or any hour, from David Lawrence’s website for a micro-payment of 25¢. You can also subscribe to them via iTunes at David Lawrence Unplugged and have them automatically downloaded to your computer.

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