August 30, 2003

Jon Lee Anderson And Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim

Prior to and during the war in Iraq, New Yorker reporter Jon Lee Anderson offered what I considered the most balanced, insightful, and prescient on-site reporting of conditions in Baghdad and the region available. Last February the New Yorker published Anderson’s account of his interview with Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, the Shia cleric killed in Friday’s Najaf car bombing (al-Hakim was in exile in Tehran at the time), and they have just re-posted the article on the New Yorker site. I read the article in February and found it extremely insightful, and given the increasing conflict in the Sunni triangle it’s even more so now. I offer it as recommended reading to all who visit this site.

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Dining Review: Fuji-Ya

Sometimes life serves up an experience that violates your expectations in all the right ways. Take Minneapolis, for example: snow, ice, domed stadiums, Lutherans who say “ohh, dat’s sooper, don’tcha know, honey,” and … sushi.

Yes, sushi. At Fuji-Ya, a Minneapolis tradition for locals and a surprising find for out-of-towners. The sushi is fantastic, fresh, and extremely well prepared by the best fish-cutters the Twin Cities have to offer. (As my guest for the dinner said, there are only so many places in Minneapolis one can get paid to cut fish, and the best of the best invariably end up at Fuji-Ya.) The beer quotient is top-notch, as are the sake and wine selections, although if you order the “Mountain Man’ sake expect a pour that not only fills the glass, but the saucer as well. (One of these, tops, fair traveler, unless you’re taking a cab back to the hotel.)

The setting exceeds expectations as well: In the sushi bar the Rolling Stones are on the house PA and the trans-gender waitress who, though clearly a he that prefers to be called “she,” offers prompt service, as do the chefs at the sushi bar. Don’t spend all your time inside, though: the Uptown district of Minneapolis has changed a lot since I was last there (11 years ago or so) … it now has sort of a “Greenwich Village Meets Garrison Keillor” vibe, and it’s a district of bars, restaurants, galleries and shops in which you can easily invest an entire afternoon.

Final rating: Three out of four stolen crab forks.

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Good News All Around!

Paying a bit more for gas lately, hmmm? Well, you should love this commentary from AME in the United Arab Emirates:

This week the Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi lands in Moscow to sign a historic energy pact and to forge a new relationship with the kingdom’s main rival as top oil producer.

It has to be said that Mr. Al Naimi is gaining considerable weight in many circles. Independent observers credit him with keeping the oil price at least $1 per barrel higher in recent years than it would have been without him.

High oil prices of the past three years leave Mr. Al Naimi with a personal prestige perhaps unrivalled since Sheikh Yamani in the 1970s. Now the winning of new friends and influence in Russia is on the agenda.

This is a typically clever move by Mr. Al Naimi. In order to keep Opec oil prices towards the top of their $22-28 per barrel range then more than a little cooperation from Russia will be required.

Pragmatic Russia may heed this call from Saudi Arabia. Russia pays around $7 per barrel in oil production costs, compared with Saudi’ $1-2 a barrel, and would be financially crippled if oil prices fell to $10 per barrel as they did in 1998.

But no sign of that today, as mounting resistance to US rule in Iraq is keeping world oil supplies tight. Indeed, if the tentative US economic recovery blossoms this autumn, oil prices could head much higher.

History never quite repeats itself, but the situation in today’s financial and commodity markets does bare more than a passing resemblance to the mid-1970s.

Of course, we're all hoping for a return to the petroeconomic conditions of the mid-1970s. But wait … the outlook gets even better:

For readers of this column who have business interests in the Middle East, and that is the AME Info target audience, this is very good news. The late 1970s were a golden age in the Middle East and we are seeing a repetition of this scenario.

Conversely for Western markets this means inflation, a property crash, possibly another stock market crash and anemic growth.

Now it is possible that the many manifest geopolitical problems of the Middle East serve to undermine such a golden scenario. But there is nothing that says economic expansion can not happen under unstable conditions.

So are the happy hopes of AME and its Editor-in-Chief, Peter J. Cooper.

Interested in Mr. Cooper? Here's his AME bio:

Peter J. Cooper was the launch editor of Gulf Business magazine in 1996, and is an award-winning British financial journalist with 15 years' experience. He returned briefly to the UK last year to complete his first book, Building Relationships, The History of Bovis 1885-2000. An Oxford graduate, Cooper studied politics and economics with William Hague, now leader of HM Opposition. He was also a trainee in the European Commission in Brussels as a specialist in the economics of developing countries, and speaks French and some German.
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August 28, 2003


Good morning from Minneapolis. The press on the close approach of Mars has been voluminous, but I did come across two items I thought were especially cool. The first is this page at which offers the two of the best composite Hubble photos of Mars I’ve seen (when you get to the page, click the pictures to see them full-size). The second are these snaps that friend Matt forwarded, along with this email:

Here are some photos of Mars from last night. I shot them with my Fuji S2Pro, a Nikon 200mm 2.8 lens, and a TC-200 2x Tele Converter. The top 2 are short exposures, while the bottom 2 are 10 and 30 seconds respectively. It was interesting to see how fast that little orange ball was moving, or rather how quickly we (the earth) is rotating.

Enjoy the snaps; click to see them super sized.

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August 27, 2003

Straight Sense

Some people have taken the whole Queer Eye For The Straight Guy thing absolutely the wrong way. This guy gets it absolutely right.

Now, a few gay critics have complained that the show dwells too much on homosexual stereotypes of neatness, cooking acumen, and knowledge of couture.

But Queer Eye actually alters sexual politics, says University of Washington psychologist Doug Haldeman (who is gay). “The show puts gay men in positions of power, helping straight men,” he said. “And gay men are allowed into bedrooms and bathrooms - the inner sanctums of straight men, where the gay men are very much in control.” …

… But just as important, Queer Eye lets narrow heteros confront their gay discomfort, and demonstrates how two disparate camps could get along, given the chance. It teaches fraternal acceptance, along with the occasional shaving tip.

Yep. Read it all.

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August 26, 2003

Blue Light Special

My mother forwarded this email today:

Assume you have all see the reports about how Sears is treating its reservist employees who are called up? By law, they are required to hold their jobs open and available, but nothing more. Usually, people take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up… Sears is voluntarily paying the difference in salaries and maintaining all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for all called up reservist employees for up to two years.

I submit that Sears is an exemplary corporate citizen and should be recognized for its contribution. Suggest we all shop at Sears, and be sure to find a manager to tell them why we are there so the company gets the positive reinforcement it well deserves.

Pass it on.

My mother forwards things like this from time to time, and each time I check it out on Snopes and, somewhat disappointed, inform her that the item she's sent along is false.

Except when it's true, like this item about Sears. Been to Sears, lately? Tomorrow might be a good day to go, eh?

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I blog this from one of the new WiFi-enabled McDonald’s, and it’s very cool. Like the WiFi Starbucks, but with better lunchtime smells.

The subject of this post: service personnel and their treatment. Last night I ordered room service at my hotel, a Hyatt in Chicago I frequent. After my meal arrived I realized I’d forgotten to order a beer, so I called room service and asked, if they had a meal coming up in the near future, if they’d bring me a beer in the same trip. This exchanged ensued:

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

“No, only if someone’s coming up … I don’t want to anyone to make a special trip.”

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

And that was that. When room service arrived they did so with two beers, not one, on the house. The waiter refused the tip, and then thanked ME for being a wonderful guest, one the staff is “always happy to serve.”

It is astonishing to me that people don’t treat service personnel with more humanity. I don’t receive service like this … or like the free upgrades I get on flights where I don’t have elite flyer status … or like complementary valet parking … or like the complementary shuttle service I’ll get around town (rather than a cab) … or like a cab at my beck and call when I need one … because I’m a big tipper. I receive great service because I treat service personnel like human beings, like my equal, and like people with whom I have something more than a transient relationship.

So, in the interest of providing benefits to you, my fair reader, I offer the following advice regarding how to always receive fantastic service:

  • The most important rule: treat all service personnel as if they, and their time, are more important than you and your time. You are no better than those who serve you. Indeed, given what they face in a given day, they may be better than you.
  • Exercise patience and say thank you. I guarantee that whatever type of day you’ve had, the person behind the airline counter has had a tougher day than you. They’ve certainly dealt with more assholes, and you shouldn’t be the next. So remain patient, ask how you can help them, and say “thanks” when they’re done.
  • Call service personnel by name, and remember those names. Strangers can’t build relationships of any quality. Call Bob “Bob” and encourage him to call you by your first name as well … even if he won’t.
  • Tip well, but not too well. If you’re over the top with your tips you suggest a status difference—that you’re better than whomever you’re tipping. But an extra buck or two, depending on the service, every time, says you really value the service that person is busting their butt to provide. My rules: $2 for a car (sometimes at drop off and always at pick up), $1 per bag for valet plus one or two bucks extra, 20% ALWAYS for meal and cab service (unless it’s awful, and then 15%), and an extra buck or two on top of the room service charge. And always tip in cash. Then they get the gratuity, not Uncle Sam.
  • Never ask service personnel to do something you’re not wiling to do yourself. If your car us just across the lot, ask for the key, tip the valet, and make the short walk to get it yourself. If you want a beer from room service that you forgot to order, don’t ask someone to make a special trip, ask for someone to bring it on the next room service trip to your floor (after all, if YOU were willing to make a special trip you’d go down and get one from the bar). Again, it’s about status, and suggesting that you and the staff are equals.
  • Spread the benefits of your status. Whenever I check into a Hyatt, I’m offered an amenity of some food snack—cookies, fruit plate etc.—and some drink—two beers, a split of wine, etc. Every third time or so I ask that the kitchen send my food amenity to the folks at the front desk, or in housekeeping, or the valet. Because nobody ever rewards these folks in an intangible way, other than tips, and it’s a very sincere way of saying “thanks.” Frequent travelers have a lot of perks: spread some of that love to those keeping your room clean or foot hot.
  • Finally, build ongoing relationships with people you know you’ll see often. Learn about their family. Ask about where they’re going to school. Help them with a resume if you can. And for fee-for-service providers, like cab drivers, give them a franchise: find one you like, and tell them you’ll call them every time you’re in town and need a ride. Then you’ll always have one, it will always be someone you trust, and you’ll be able to call in a favor when you need to.

There you go. From me to you, no charge. And if you happen to be among the many service personnel that keep our economy chugging along, thanks for working a tough job—one that most of us would not do by choice—and for wearing a smile most of the time. If we run into each other, the beer’s on me.

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August 25, 2003

Happy Birthday To Michele!!

She's a blogging inspiration, she's my rock-steady blogging partner, and damnit, she's just one cool Long Island honey.

Happy birthday to Michele! May she cavort naked about the house for hours, and may she post photos.

Oh, and it's her one-year wedding anniversary as well. So pay a visit, and offer congratulations in her comments. Consider it virtual paper.

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Windy City

Hello from Chicago. Running this morning, but I thought you might want to read what historian H. W. Brands has to say about the United States' founding fathers and adoration (here, via the Atlantic Monthly).

Oh, and be sure to check out the new Chicago webcam (click the camera icon in the “Dispatch” line below). Blog you soon.

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August 23, 2003

Rain After The Drought

Tonight if you pause, close your eyes, and listen closely, in the far and cool evening air (and on ESPN) you will hear the sound of college football.

The long drought is over; all may drink deep from the well, beginning tonight with peaking drams of Cal v. Kansas State. (10-7 K. State at the end of the first, BTW.) Of course, those with an insatiable passion for the game are likely on our second round, given that the high school football season in many towns began last night.

I certainly had a glass, as I spent three quarters in the Salt Lake loaming watching the Skyline Eagles destroy the (hated) Brighton Bengals. (I coached at Skyline for three years in the pre-Philadelphia days, and played there as a kid … I know: grow up … but damn, I love high school football. 99 times out of 100, the kids simply want to play, and they desperately want to win. The game is never as pure as on the gridiron of the American high school.)

So drink up. The NBA season will be here before you know it to spoil the buzz.

In other sports linkage, Wife forwarded this very cool link today: Travels With Stanley, the NHL’s official page tracking the day-to-day movements of the Stanley Cup (held, incidentally, by Wife’s favorite NHL franchise, the New Jersey Devils). Most recent stop on the Cup Tour: A family breakfast at the Bob Evans Family Restaurant in Brunswick, Ohio, hosted by Devil Michael Rupp. Also worth reading in the site: the account of the Stanley Cup passing through airport security in Prague.

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The Early Light

I'm already into a morning of packing up and heading to the airport, with a flight to Philadelphia to follow. I made time for a brief post, however, when I arose this morning to this view of the Brighton cirque, emerging from the blue light of the early dawn. Simply thought I should share. Blog you from Philly.

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August 22, 2003

Read Amongst Yourselves

I'll be away from the PC all day, and have very little time now, so I thought I'd post some reading you might enjoy:

  • Howard Dean has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, which you may read here. The title: “We Can Do Better.” The lead: “I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.”
  • One of my favorite online essays of all time: Bill Whittle's Courage.

Have fun.

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August 21, 2003

Bill Whittle And Locus Of Control

Bill Whittle posted his latest essay, Responsibility, yesterday. A vast oversimplification of his argument is that the willingness to take personal responsibility for one’s choices is the key discriminator between one’s positions on many of the issues that define the traditional camps of “conservative” and “liberal.” In Bill’s words:

Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering – all of it – will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility.

What many people don’t know is that there is psychological construct that I believe effectively describes—and predicts—the willingness to take personal responsibility. It’s called Locus of Control, and it was first published by Julian Rotter in Psychological Monographs (80, 1, Whole No. 609) in 1966.

In layman’s terms, Locus of Control describes the extent to which people believe the outcomes they get in life result either from their personal actions or from events outside their personal control. Very simply, people with an “external” locus of control believe things happen to them, while people with an “internal” locus of control believe things happen because of them.

I’ve wondered for some time how Locus of Control and political ideology correlate; I’ve found no extent research on the topic through a quick online search, but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there. If the Whittle Principle is correct, the correlation between Locus and Control and political ideology should be relatively high. Maybe I’ll design a quick on-line survey that measures both scales, run the stats, and let you know what I learn.

In the meantime, if you’re curious about your own Locus of Control, there are several self-assessments online which are reliable, short, and consistent with Rotter’s research.

  • You can take Rotter’s original assessment here.
  • Discovery Health has a more recent assessment online here.

And if I decide to create the online survey relating Locus of Control and political ideology, you’ll see it in this space first.

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Bullwinkle, A Test, And Dennis

Back in Brighton on an unanticipated trip to Utah to attend a funeral service. (Note to well-wishers: a very dear friend of the family, but not an immediate family member; I’m fine, sad this person is gone, but glad she’s found relief.) Came in late last night, and with the exception of nearly slamming into Bullwinkle J. Moose on the canyon road (mooses are very comfortable ambling down the middle of the road, it seems), arrived without incident.

It is, as always, beautiful here. This morning I chose a hike to Catherine Pass as my morning physical (as my sweet Swedish grandmother would have said), but today decided to make the hike a bit of a test. When I first made this hike in June, I was shredded for a day; two weeks ago, I made the trip with much greater ease; today, I wanted to see how quickly I could make the hike round-trip.

The results: Up in 56 minutes, down in 27 (I ran down) … 3.8 miles and 1,450 vertical feet round-trip in 1:23, a time I’m quite proud of. Oh, and I snapped this along the way: Mt. Millicent reflecting on Lake Mary.

Finally, a warm moment from last night: While making my way through SLC International I passed a crowd of 25 or so people waiting for someone to exit terminal security. At first I thought it was a crowd of Mormon well-wishers welcoming a missionary home from the field (a very common site in SLC International … “Welcome home, Elder!!”), but looking closer I noticed first flags on shirts, then flags in hands, then a large flag (with the lyrics of “God Bless America” sewn along the stripes of white) held between two folks, and finally, a large banner stating “Welcome Home Dennis” held between two other folks.

This was a different kind of welcome home. This was a welcome home for a soldier.

So I stood and watched for a moment, hoping to witness the singular scene of a mother embracing a son returned from battle. I didn’t wait long, as only a moment passed before I heard a woman shriek “There he is!!” And here came Dennis, moseying off the escalator, jar-head haircut and broad shoulders, around which his mother immediately wrapped herself. And the crowd collapsed upon him.

Country. Family. Maternal love. Duty. Honor. A safe return. It was the highlight of my week.

Welcome home, Dennis. Thank you for rushing into the breach.

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August 20, 2003

Cause And Effect

From the world press (headlines are chronologically-ordered):

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August 19, 2003

Sergio Vieira de Mello

If you're curious about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the senior UN representative in Iraq killed during today's bombing of the UN HQ in Baghdad, visit his UN bio here. The UN News Centre has also posted a story on the explosion here.

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Making Light

The New Yorker has posted a slideshow of New Yorker Cartoons related to blackouts old and new. Quite funny, and well worth the visit … see it here. My favorite:


Posted by Avocare at 08:59 AM | TrackBack

August 18, 2003


Arachnophobes be warned: Saturday night Wife called me to the driveway to see “something incredible.” “Something” was an oval-shaped spider web the size of hula hoop suspended between our driveway and an overhanging rhododendron. It was a remarkable piece of natural architecture, and we marveled at its size and beauty.

And then we marveled at the architect: a brown spider about the size of a quarter, resting easily in the upper-left-hand margin of her creation. And with her, making a tentative approach, was her much smaller male counterpart. Witness a photo of what I can only describe as a very delicate dance (as always, click for a larger pic).

Being both voyeurs and naturalists by disposition, we decided to watch what would happen next. Let’s just say that she ultimately had her way … sort of a “have your cake and eat it too” conjugation … but all told, I suppose there are worse ways to go.

The next morning the whole tableau—spider, web, and mate—were gone.

Posted by Avocare at 08:20 PM | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Phul Of Phil

I’m sorry, but after visiting Phil Mickelson’s official web site, I simply must offer additional comment. After perusing the page I was left with two questions:

1. How stuck up IS Phil?

2. When will he realize he needs to fire his publicist?

Behold the pretension of Phil Mickelson’s Official Home Page:

What separates Mickelson from his peers is there truly is more to this young man than his smooth swing, silky putting stroke, booming drives off the tee and creativity around the greens. He represents a link to the past, a link to the greats who have made the game what it is today …

… There are many players who have come along since Watson that have displayed tremendous skill and accomplishment on the course, adding their names to the record books. Of these, few, if any, have matched the off-course respect from his peers and business community and personal respect for the game more than Phil Mickelson …

… Entering his 30's, Mickelson has grown from the All-American boy into a well-rounded role model and family man …

… Perhaps nobody in the game dedicates more time to the fans than Mickelson …

… Golf is game for gentlemen, and Phil is truly a gentleman …

… Phil Mickelson understands. He has made it his mission to carry on the legacy set forth by the landmark players before him.

But don’t think he’s self-absorbed! No sir! This tsunami of ego-fulfillment leads up to this paragraph:

But winning with class, humility, integrity and a true respect for one's place in history is what moves one from greatness to legendary.

See! Humility … THAT’S what Phil has!

Phil Mickelson: As great a man as St. Francis of Assisi, with as many major championships to boot.

UPDATE: Jay Caruso writes on Lefty as well …

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Survey Says

In this post we wondered, and made predictions about, Lefty’s final position after leading the Peege in its first day. My prediction then: Tied for 13th. Final result: Tied for 23rd. Knew there was a 3 in there somewhere …

You knew I'd have to offer a snide comment here at some point, yes? And here it is: Follow the link above to Phil's website, and you'll read this …

What separates Mickelson from his peers is there truly is more to this young man than his smooth swing, silky putting stroke, booming drives off the tee and creativity around the greens. He represents a link to the past, a link to the greats who have made the game what it is today. Jones. Hagen. Sarazen. Nelson. Hogan. Snead. Palmer. Nicklaus. Watson.

Yes … a link to the greats … greats who won major tournaments …

Posted by Avocare at 07:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Beautiful day in Philly today; see for yourself by clicking the camera in the “Dispatch filed” line below this post … it links to a live web cam near our home in the Philadelphia suburbs. I've found similar “dispatch line” cams for other places from which I frequently post, including Detroit, Minneapolis, and Brighton, and you can find the cams in the categories list to the left as well.

And while on the topic of cameras, I took a snap of our flag in Brighton to serve as a desktop background … click on the thumbnail below and “save as” to download the file.

Posted by Avocare at 04:34 PM | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Illin, Not Chillin

Not feeling well, my fair readers. While the recovery continues, I'll leave you with this image from the Bonaire Web Cams:


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August 14, 2003

Is This The One?

Could it be? Mickelson Leads PGA Championship. Any predictions for his final leaderboard position on Sunday? Post predictions in the comments; glory to the winner on Sunday.

Posted by Avocare at 10:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

2004 Election Futures

For those who don't know, the University of Iowa B. School has managed an on-line electronic futures market for some time—a market that has proven extremely reliable in predicting future outcomes. (Learn more about the IEM here.)

Here's the latest Daily Prices Graph for the Democratic nomination. The leading candidate, “ROF” represents any candidate OTHER than Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman, or H. Clinton (ROF=Rest Of Field). Notice that Gephardt's price tends to fluctuate in tandem with interest in the rest of the field (ROF).


There is a market for the General Election as well, and here's its most recent price chart. Note that there are a variety of contracts: those for a particular Dem candidate (KERR represents a Kerry victory), and those for Bush winning over a Dem candidate (BU|GEPH represents a Bush victory over Gephardt). Also note that ODEM represents any other Dem candidate, and that current pricing reflects a near even heat between ODEM and BU|ODEM.


Posted by Avocare at 01:18 PM | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

Might As Well Have Pissed On The Rocky Statue

kerry.jpgI was in Detroit this week, so I missed the local press about John Kerry asking for Swiss cheese on his Philly Cheese steak — at Pat's, no less — and then nibbling on it daintily so as not to get any on his tie. Luckily I read Betsy Newmark's blog with some frequency, so I caught it there.

Let's see, regarding those cultural screw-ups that Kerry could have made in Philadelphia, in order from least to most severe, we have:

5. Stealing penny's OFF of Ben Franklin's grave.

4. Making a joke about Little Nicky Scarfo at the corner of 9th and Catherine.

3. Pissing on the Rocky Statue.

2. Wearing a Dallas jersey into section 723 at the Vet.

1. Asking for Swiss cheese on his steak at Pat's.

I did some poking around on the web to identify Kerry's advance person, but to no avail. It doesn't much matter, because that person should question if they are in the right line of work.

Then there was this fantastic piece of on-thy-fly spin bullshit:

Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the candidate was “not taking a dainty nibble” of the steak. “I suspect that Kerry was thinking about provolone cheese but became distracted by thinking of the more than 3 million jobs that have slipped through the holes of George W. Bush's economic plan.”

That guy should work for Leno.

Swiss on a steak … sheeze … on his next trip to the Bronx he'll probably ask when the Mets are in town.

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Primate Programming

Any of you who happen to be, or work with, IT professionals will appreciate this site. Tip o' the Akubra to A. E. Brain.

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You Mean Paul McCartney Was In A Band Before Wings?

I was reading this nice little article on nanotechnology from tomorrow's Christian Science Monitor (I'm on the editorial pre-release list), when I stumbled across this sentence:

“Whether something looks loopy or not is a function of your time horizon,” says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville who specializes in nanotech issues. Some ideas, such as self-replicating nanobots, “are not loopy at all if you look far enough into the future.”

A reference to Glenn Reynolds with no mention of his prolific alter-ego? Life is still full of little surprises!

Oh, and the article is worth reading, too.

Posted by Avocare at 06:44 PM | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

The Original Blogger

That's the tag line for Bob Graham's new blog, which you may visit here. In reading the comments for one post, I noticed this exchange, which I thought many bloggers would find of interest:

Love this new website! It's great to have this conversational format.

But what the heck is “original blogger”? A blog is short for “web log”. (I prefer weblog to blog, but whatever.) How can he be the original blogger when the web has only existed for 10 years? It's silly and makes you lose credibility.
Posted by: Steve D at August 11, 2003 05:50 AM

“original bloger” is just a harmless humorous remark
Posted by: Dave Hill at August 11, 2003 06:14 AM

I love the “original blogger.” Why? Because Bob Graham has been keeping a daily log for so many years, and I have no doubt it's a major part of his success. I only wish I could be so self-disciplined.

As to the definition of “blogger,” it's a new, made-up word, so it's really quite open to whatever it becomes. All new slang words are defined by their usage, and the concept of a blog is equally as related to a log as it is to the web. To me, it's just a log or diary that happens to be on the web. Since Bob has been keeping a log for longer than many bloggers have been alive, and he's now on the web, he's the original in my book.
Posted by: Laura Kinsale at August 11, 2003 12:28 PM

Laura Kinsale is a regular contributor to Graham's blog; you can read the full post and comments here.

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This Is Terrible News

Ladies and gentelmen, the fox is officially in the henhouse: 'Moderate' Utah Gov. Is Bush's EPA Nominee.

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August 10, 2003

Frivolous Post #127

A sneak attack: Regulars know that on Friday's Michele and I typically engage in Dueling 70s Song Clips. Given that I was on vacation last Friday, I launch this (may it serve her as inspiration for her book).

UPDATE: Fire salvo two!

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August 09, 2003

Alpine Desktops

Last March I posted some desktop backgrounds from snaps I'd taken during my vacation to the islands (you can see and download them here). Another vacation, another set of backgrounds, these reflecting an alpine theme. Click on the thumbnail, “Save As,” and enjoy.

Posted by Avocare at 09:18 PM | TrackBack

The Running Man

The first poll (conducted by CNN/Time) is out, and Arnold is in the lead:

The Time/CNN poll, released on the last day for candidates to file to run in the election, found 54 percent of voters would recall the Democratic governor and 35 percent would keep him in office. Eleven percent were not sure.

Of eight potential replacement candidates, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, got support from 25 percent of respondents. Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante got 15 percent.

The rest of the potential candidates were in single digits: 9 percent for state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks; 7 percent for GOP businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in November; 4 percent for former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth; 4 percent for columnist Arianna Huffington; and 4 percent for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

For those with the interest, visit the official Arnold for Gov site here.

Posted by Avocare at 08:16 PM | TrackBack

100 Turns Of Spin

Back home in Philly after a wonderfully disconnected week in Brighton. But broadband is like heroin, and with my first fix of the day I found this at Voices of Freedom: 100 Liberation Quotes. Read what the Iraqis have to say about the liberation, courtesy the Whitehouse Global Communications office. Examples:

“We as a council were chosen by the people. God willing we will work to achieve the hopes and wishes of the people.”
Mohammed al-Assadi, a representative on the new Najaf City Council, Associated Press, 7/07/03

“We were like a tightly covered pot which no one knew what it contained. Now that the cover has been removed, you can't imagine what you will discover.”
Majed al-Ghazali, who now dreams of setting up a children's music school in Iraq, Associated Press, 7/07/03

“We feel liberated. We're very very happy.”
Dana Mohammed, manager of a fast food restaurant in Suleimaniyah, Chicago Tribune, 7/05/03

“I can feel it inside. All Iraqis are feeling freedom. This is a good start of a new Iraq.”
Saniya al-Raheem, a 56-year-old housewife in Baghdad, Agence France Presse, 7/03/03

For the record, I supported (and continue to support) our action in Iraq. That said, the Whitehouse “Renewal In Iraq” site is my daily source for the best spin the Administration has to offer.

Posted by Avocare at 05:16 PM | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

Dining Review: The Cotton Bottom Inn

The Cotton Bottom Inn is a dark, relatively gritty hovel in the Salt Lake City suburbs that’s been around so long that many patrons’ parents used to drink there. It's small, with only a handful of tables, but there is a jukebox and pool table to serve as entertainment for those who can’t appreciate watching the bikers, skiers/hikers, college students, high school students with fake IDs, construction workers, models, baby boomers, and 70-year-old geezers who come and go at the bar. If the dark, smoky and dive-like interior isn’t for you, sit outside and enjoy the sun or stars (it’s first come, first serve on seating, and there are no reservations).

There are always a few beers on tap: the Bud standards, and two or three local microbrews (the favorite of the regulars is the Wasatch Beers Hefe-Weizen). I’m certain there’s a menu, but I’ve never seen it, and neither have 90% of the locals who eat here. This is because in reality there’s only one thing to order at the Cotton Bottom Inn: The Garlic Burger (yes, that’s a proper noun, as The Garlic Burger is so fantastic as to warrant the grammatical plumage a proper noun brings). It comes with a side of chips, and paired with one (or two, or three) beers, it’s a full meal. It's the best burger I've ever had, and I never come to Salt Lake without eating at least one.

And yes, you are supposed to enter through the kitchen.

Final rating: Four out of four stolen crab forks, unless you hate dives, can’t appreciate a place with character, or need the trappings of sophistication. If so, the food and beer are still four-for-four, but you’d hate the place anyway, so don’t bother going.

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August 07, 2003

The Fine Edge

An interesting day yesterday, as Wife, her friend, and I made the hike from the Brighton trailhead to Sunset Peak, elevation roughly 10,700 feet. You can see the peak in the snap below (click the pics for larger versions), which was taken from Catherine Pass, which sits at 10,240 feet. (Noted for the record: 70-year-old Father made the trip to Lake Catherine, just below the pass, then tromped out another three miles or so exploring while we went to the summit. We should all be so fit at 60, let alone 70.)

In one way the hike was nondescript, save the grandeur of the wild around us. We made our way from the Brighton parking lot, past Dog Lake and Lake Mary, past Lake Martha and Lake Catherine, and up to the pass. (You can see pics from an earlier hike here.) From the pass we hiked the ridgeline to the summit, where we enjoyed a 360 degree panorama that defies easy description. The clouds broke, sunshine streamed down on the windy summit, and we took in vistas from Idaho to Colorado to the Aquarius Plateau to the Wasatch Range’s Mount Superior. We were very much on top of the world.

After enjoying the view, a sandwich, and the rush of adrenaline we made our way down the mountain, enjoying vistas and meadows of wildflowers that we’d missed on the way up. We linked up with Father, reached the trailhead without incident, and enjoyed a beer and lunch at the very special Silver Fork Lodge (dining review to follow).

Again, in one way, the hike was nondescript. In another, however, it was quite unique. We had heard on the news that since Saturday a hiker had been missing in Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Grizzly Gulch, which is on the opposite side of the Catherine Pass hike we’d just made … if we’d continued along the trail from the pass rather than headed to the summit, we’d have dropped into Grizzly Gulch and Little Cottonwood.

The hiker’s name was Micah Clark. He had hiked into Grizzly Gulch with photography equipment and a GPS, and it was clear to me that he must have been headed to Catherine Pass, the ridgeline upon which the Great Western Trail lies, and Sunset Peak. It is the photographer’s destination.

Evidence of his absence was immediate. We could see the search aircraft circling, and each hiker on the trail knew the story and talked of being just a bit more aware and observant than usual. And we were being observant when, just off the summit during our descent, Wife and I heard three short blows of a hiker’s emergency whistle. I went off-trail, working my way along the talus, first to the ridgeline, and then back along a short cliff line running East-West maybe 30 feet below the trail. As I did I looked for spots that would attract the photographer’s eye, vistas that would be right with the light of mid- or late-day. Many were along small promontories below the talus, points where a misstep would lead to a direct fall of 10 to 30 feet to a steep and rocky slope.

I called and whistled along the way, working my way along the talus, to the ridge, and back along the cliff line twice. Giving up, I rejoined Wife and her friend at the trail, and they explained that other hikers had told them of a rescue party working in the basin below us, and it would have been their whistle that I heard.

It was a strange thing, going into the Catherine cirque with the airplanes passing above us, knowing that their passengers, the other hikers on the mountain, and we were all tied by some thin thread to a shared and somber activity: We were all looking. Each of us, at some time, remembered or talked of Beck Weathers, or Aron Ralston, or some other individual who survived in the wild. And we all recognized, knowing that days had passed, that we were at least partly resigned to the likely outcome.

Yesterday afternoon we learned that they found Micah’s body about 1:00 P.M., about one mile from his truck at the trailhead, which would put his location at Catherine’s Pass and Sunset Peak. It’s very possible that the whistles I heard were the alert of the party, calling the others to note that they had found his camera and tripod. I suppose I won’t know.

Yesterday, at times, on the ridgeline trail, we were very close to the edge. While the trail itself is not dangerous, a slip could have resulted in easy tragedy. Somewhere along the way, either on the trail or just off it, Micah Clark slipped. He came prepared, walked where we walked, traced the same trails others had traced, and slipped where others did not.

For me there was a message in yesterday’s experience … not one of melodrama, but one of a simple reminder: Each day we walk the ridgeline, the margin between meadow and 800-foot exposure, the margin between fortune and misfortune. It is a fine edge.

Artists and authors have cast this message with greater justice than can I, but the message remains, and it was as tangible for me yesterday as it was 12 years ago when I absent-mindedly stepped off the curve and into Salt Lake City traffic, as it was the morning of September 11th, 2001, when I had the good fortune board a commercial flight that arrived safely at its destination. Each day we walk the fine edge. People slip. We should hold those whom we cherish close to our heart.

Posted by Avocare at 10:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003


Wife and I have enjoyed another day in the alpine wilderness just East of Salt Lake City. Today's adventure: After a morning of laying vinyl floor tile (what … that’s not what you do on your vacation?), we made the 3-mile hike to and from Brighton’s Twin Lakes.

The sky is a different color of blue here. It is a brilliant, crystalline blue, bordering on cobalt, the happy product of high altitude and low humidity (as in all my posts, click the pic for a larger image).

It literally throws sunshine at you, this sky, and brings all you see into sharp relief.

Under that sky lie the meadows around Silver Lake, which are rich with summer’s wildflowers, and the lake's wetlands, which offer a wholly unique and striking juxtaposition: the clear, bracing mountain water, lapping at the flowing texture of the cattails and grasses, which give way to the reaching greens of the evergreens and aspens.

It’s a wonderful, beautiful place, all the more amazing for its proximity, with these vistas slumbering only 20 minutes from the pace and commerce of Salt Lake City. I grew up here and visit often, yet with each return I’m surprised by the beauty … it’s as if the normal nature of memory is turned on its head, with the substance of the thing being more grand in reality than is the memory in reflection.

I’m always surprised, too, that more people aren’t swarming the hills, and with each visit I calibrate my internal barometer of usage: “Are there more people here now than the last trip? Is this busy or slow for a week day? How much trash did we retrieve?”

I know the rapidly growing population of Salt Lake will continue to find this place. It’s simply too near, too easy, and too beautiful, and Salt Lake’s birth rate is simply too high. But I also hope all those seven- and eight-year-olds I see tromping into Target and McDonald’s and down the Silver Lake trail will know a blessing of nature when they see one, and that they’ll offer proper stewardship of its resources. True, a part of me doubts they will, but Salt Lake seems to be doing well so far, and there are plenty of folks around who love the mountains to offer sound counsel.

But in the end, that’s the central issue. It’s a long way from Detroit, this place. I hope the people of Utah will keep it that way. In the meantime, we’ll continue to hike, taking all the sun the sky can throw our way, fingers crossed.

Posted by Avocare at 12:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

The Boy Can Blog

Take the time to visit Eric Caoili's redesign of In The Gray. It's always been an interesting blog, and now it's an even more beautiful site.

Posted by Avocare at 09:47 PM | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

Dining Review: The Bluebird Cafe

Wife and I are in Logan, UT for this year's paternal family reunion. Roots for us here, deep and wide, and many traditions … one of which is capping the night's dinner with ice cream at the Bluebird Cafe.

Some say Utah is locked in the 1950s; the Bluebird nests happily in 1924. A Logan landmark since the 1920s, The Bluebird retains every trapping of the old-style American cafe: mosaic floors, murals on the walls, high ceilings, and a marble soda counter. The ice cream: local, rich, scoops served deep. Also worth the visit are the hand-made chocolates, in the bottoms of which my sweet, Swedish grandmother notoriously poked holes with her pinky to sneak a peek at the flavor.

Three out of four crab forks, four if you’re a sentimentalist.

Posted by Avocare at 11:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Back in Utah for a working vacation. Wife and I awoke this morning for an early physical to Dog Lake. We enjoyed the morning vista (click the pics to see the larger size) …

.. and stumbled upon Bullwinkle J. Moose (and his son) along the way.

For an idea of the scale, his ears are about the size of your head. No sign of Rocky.

Posted by Avocare at 01:33 PM | TrackBack

August 01, 2003

It's Time To Return To The World

I've been traveling to Detroit on business for several years, and it always strikes me as does no other place. It is a city in decay, but if you've not been there, it's difficult to understand the level of decay.

No one lives downtown. No one goes downtown for entertainment, save to visit the casinos. Storefronts and buildings across the center of the city—not the fringes, not the margin where office buildings become row homes … the center of the city—stand shuttered, windows boarded, littered with graffiti, playbills, and notices.

And I’m always left asking, “How could this happen?” Not 40 years ago the city was grand. The architecture remains grand, a testament to the golden age of post-World War II American industrialism and commerce. Yet today, visit downtown and you're left to wonder how a populace could leave this building vacant, standing alone on an empty street, surrounded by razor wire and trash (click the pic to see the full-size shot).

This is the Hall of the Grand Army of the Republic. It is an extraordinary structure, built in 1897 as a meeting hall for Union Civil War veterans. It’s on the National Register of Historical Sites, and it’s been the home of rats and addicts for more than two decades.

Or why a business would vacate this building:

This is the Guardian Building, another National Register site, and one of the most extraordinary examples of Art Deco skyscraper masonry in the world. It is unique and stunning, and it stands in the very heart of Detroit, nearly vacant. (The primary tenant, by the way, moved here.)

For some time my trips to Detroit have had the slightest essence of reminiscence, tugging at some familiarity that I could never quite locate. This week I found it: visiting Detroit recalls this passage from the final pages of Atlas Shrugged—

The news of the continent’s severed artery had now engulfed the city, men were deserting their posts, trying, in panic, to abandon New York, seeking escape where all roads were cut off and escape was no longer possible. The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations—and that the lights of New York had gone out.

Detroit is a city in which men have fled and the lights have gone out. It is a city in which not only the people, but the possibilities, are absent. And it should serve as a lesson for every urban area in the country.

The city is striving for a “comeback.” The sports franchises have built stadiums downtown; Compuware is locating its new world headquarters in the city. Still, the answer is not to simply encourage the return of commerce. For Detroit to regain any semblance of vibrancy, at some point the citizenry must remember what a city can be, and begin to believe in Detroit’s return.

“The road is cleared,” said Galt. “We are going back to the world.”
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