Memorial Day

This was a comment posted on The News Blog. I thought it worth repeating, and thinking about today:

Out of curiousity I spreadsheet the latest listing of American soldiers killed in Iraq to see their ages.

Ages 18-29: 1,240 (75%)

Ages 30-39: 315 (19%)

Ages 40-49: 85 (5%)

Ages 50-59: 13 (1%)

Age 60 : 1

Total: 1654

DPBandit 05.30.05 - 1:34 am #

So many young people, gone.


Self-Improvement, Part 3

In Self-Improvement, Part 2, I promised a monthly progress report on the diet/exercise program ("8 Minutes In The Morning") I'd begun following.

I began the program at a weight of 180 pounds a bit less than five weeks ago. When I weighed myself two days ago, I was...

...167 pounds.

Thirteen pounds in a month.


I think this program works.

Other effects besides the direct weight loss:

1) The exercises each morning have increased muscle definition and firmness, particularly noticeable in the legs and thighs. A lot of the waist fat has faded away, and while not quite there yet, looking in the mirror holds a hint, an anticipation, a lurking possibility of actually ending up, eventually, with... [he whispers the words]... six-pack abs!

2) Cutting way-y-y back on refined sugar, and a lot of the caffeine, seems to have almost completely eliminated the energy swings during the day that would occasionally have me close to nodding off at the wheel while driving. I use a spoonful of molasses on my morning oatmeal, Splenda for just about every other sweetening need. (With a few exceptions, like baking bread; you need that sugar in the mix to get the yeast working properly.)

I think the keys to a program like "8 Minutes In The Morning" being effective are: 1) that any such program should include both a reasonable diet plan and an exercise plan/schedule, and 2) that the participant needs to be in a mental and emotional place where he/she will follow the plan, and avoid cheating or giving up on the program. That last one is the toughy for a lot of people; even just a year ago, I would have been a lot more likely to have dropped out of the program before much progress. But now, at this point in time, I seem to be willing to make that effort and exercise that amount of self-control.

(Yes, I have had to play catch-up on the morning exercises a few times. And yes, I have cheated, a little bit, on the diet; I still let myself have a can of regular sugared soda about once a week.)

(But you know what the most dangerous menace to following the diet has been? Rotisserie chicken! You know, that "healthy" alternative to fried chicken? Except that the skin on those roasted chickens is so flavorful, so well-seasoned, so dripping with juicy, browned deliciousness that once you start eating it, you don't want to stop until it's all gone.)

If you should want your own copy of the "8 Minutes In The Morning" book, here are links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

(Having read a draft of this post, the spouse comments: "Won't it be hard to do your exercises with your arm in a sling from patting yourself on the back so hard?" Ahem.)


You Devil!

Foodie tip for the day:

I had to make up a large batch of deviled eggs (two dozen eggs) for a potluck yesterday.

One of the odd things about deviled eggs is that even though you take all the yolks from the hardboiled eggs, and then ADD extra ingredients to the mashed yolks, when you spoon the filling back into the whites' half-eggs, you run out of filling before you run out of eggs! Every friggin' time.

So there I was with an empty filling bowl, and eight half-eggs left over.

But... I happened to have a tub of roasted red pepper hummus in the fridge, so I filled the remaining eggs with a spoonful of the hummus, and added a piece of sliced olive on top. Tasty alternative, and they went over well.


Kill The Wa-a-a-b-bit...!

Working for the Postal Service, I get to skim the headlines on quite a few small-town newspapers.

One such I saw today was a front-page article about the local police being suspicious about a woman who'd visited several local businesses and tried to get them to put out donation cans to "Save Toby".

"Toby" is a rabbit. Supposedly, a kind-hearted person found the injured rabbit under their front porch several months ago and nursed it back to health. Wanting to give the cute little bunny The Good Life, the kind-hearted rescuer set up a website to raise $50,000 for the bunny's future needs.

If the kind-hearted rescuer hasn't raised the $50,000 by June 30th, 2005, however, Toby will be butchered and eaten by the kind-hearted rescuer.

Supposedly. There are a number of indications that the savetoby.com website is just a put-on, and it's been bandied about and linked to a lot; doing a Google search on "Save Toby" gets thousands of hits.

But what tickled me about the particular newspaper piece was that it reported Toby's injuries had come about via "being mulled by a cat".

Wow. First, get a big pot. Then some red wine. Then some spices. Then a heat source to get it all simmering and ready to toss the bunny in. Damn resourceful cat.

And for the final touch, the newspaper this was in was the HAGERSTOWN HERALD. If Harry Warner, Jr, were still alive, he'd die of embarassment.

(And I have just managed to write a post that mentions food, felines, and fandom. I think I hit the Trifecta!)


Surprisingly Not-So-Terrifying News

After many years of trying to get the project going, it now appears that, yes Virginia, downtown Phoenix will be getting a new 1,000 room hotel, in conjunction with a major expansion of the Phoenix Civic Plaza's meeting and function space.

What this would mean is that Phoenix will finally have enough hotel rooms and function space close together to be able to host some of the larger conventions and trade shows it's been missing out on.

Like, say... a Worldcon.

Oh-h-h-h, shit.

Phoenix had a Worldcon once before, in 1978. For most of the attendees, it was "a pretty good con." Behind the scenes, though, it was... ummmm... why don't we settle on the word "exciting"? It was very, very, very exciting. It was so exciting that I had, literally, nightmares about it for, literally, years afterward. It was so exciting that it's only in the last few years, after a quarter of a friggin' century, that I've gotten back onto a moderately cordial basis with some of the people who so angered and disappointed me back then. (And there were several people involved who, even now, I cannot think of a single polite word I would say to or about them. But it's only several, which is a great improvement over the immediate aftermath of That Hideous Summer.)

That 1978 Worldcon pretty much maxed out and strained all the then available hotel rooms and function space available in downtown Phoenix. And that, as well as the bad taste left in the mouth of Phoenix fandom, has been one of the major reasons there's never been another Worldcon bid from Phoenix.

But with the new hotel and function space being built, I can see one coming. I don't know when exactly, but probably sometime in the next five to ten years, someone will announce the start of a Phoenix Worldcon bid.

This is not necessarily bad news. (Why, yes, I am surprised to find myself saying that.)

In the years since the 1978 Worldcon, Phoenix has developed a core group of con-running fans who actually seem to enjoy and get satisfaction out of putting on decently run conventions. They've put on dozens of Leprecons and Coppercons (our annual local conventions), as well as a number of Westercons, World Fantasy Cons, World Horror Cons, and I think one NASFIC.

I find a fair number of those con-runners to be... okay, how do I put this politely?... "stodgy". This is not a bad thing, when stodginess is accompanied by dependability and competence.

So I think a Phoenix Worldcon, with the new facilities being built, might actually be a doable thing again. It would still be a stretch, and whoever was on the committee would find themselves strained and pressured by the task, but I think most of the current group of con-running fans in Phoenix could do it without the... "excitement"... that came so close to overwhelming the people involved in 1978.

So if a Phoenix Worldcon bid comes into existence sometime in the future, I'm offering a deal: If the Phoenix bid has the most boring bid parties, the dullest promotional literature, and the stodgiest people at its head, they'll definitely have my vote!

Notice How One Truck Is Sitting A Lot Lower Than The One Next To It?

(see post below)

This Is Why

The National Association of Letter Carriers, NALC, in association with the Pstal Service, has been conducting a national food drive on the 2nd Saturday in May for 13 years.

The Food Drive actually started quite a bit before that, on a local level right here in Phoenix. I believe the first year I started working as a letter carrier, 1978, was the second year for the Drive. It collects millions of pounds of donated canned and dry goods for distribution to food banks and charities across the US.

My current route, which encompasses a large seniors-only trailer park and an upscale neighborhod of large homes on half-acre lots, tends to get a lot of donations.

Most of this comes from the trailer park residents, a lot of whom are on restricted incomes themselves. Well over half the 350 residents of the park left out a bag of food, sometimes multiple bags, by their mailbox Saturday.

By contrast, of the 160 families in the upscale neighborhood, only about 25-30 left out donations.

And that was a better response from the upscalers than I've had in previous years.

And it was a lot better than the response I got from my previous route. That was mostly a very upscale, golf-course-outside-the-back-door gated community, a stone's throw from the million-dollar estates in Paradise Valley. The last time I collected from the over-300 residences there, I drove back to the station with a single plastic tray holding about two dozen cans.

It may be a cliche, but the empirical evidence I've seen on the food drives does seem to suggest that the more money a household has, the less likely they are to donate to charitable causes.

Why is that? And what would it take to change that?


If You Can't Strike At Them In Their Own Country, Go Someplace Where The Security Sucks

Today's elections in Britain rouse strong feelings. And apparently someone felt that the best way to register his vote was to set off explosives in front of a United Kingdom governmental building.

Except that between decades of dealing with the IRA, and joining with the US in the invasion of Iraq, security in Britain itself is tight, tight, tight.

So, obviously, the best course is to go to some other country, some country where the security isn't as tight, and to set off your explosives at a British consulate or mission.

What country would you choose? What city would you go to?

How about the United States? How about mid-town Manhattan?

What's being described as "two small grenades" were set off in concrete planters in front of the offices of the UK mission in New York early this morning. No injuries, and the only major damage outside the planters was a foot-long piece of concrete being propelled through one of the building's plate-glass windows. (But if someone had been standing in the path of that piece of concrete....)

What struck me about the photo in this BBC news article, though, was that the heavy concrete planters were obviously designed and set in place as obstacles to vehicles attempting to leave the street and ram into the building.

You can also see, in the photo, that yellow tape has been put across the street to block access to the planters while police investigate.

So that physical security line stops at the curb.

Which means that if, instead of a couple of grenades, the person(s) responsible had decided to go for the spectacular, and loaded a truck up with ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, they wouldn't have been able to smash their way into the building before detonating (as in the Beirut Marine barracks bombing). They would have had to settle for parking at the curb. (Okay, it's NYC. Double-parking.)

Just. Like. Timothy. McVeigh.



Our housemate Kay came across this news item:
A Peoria woman who was found with nearly two dozen dogs and cats crammed inside her mobile home has been arrested on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

The stench from the home was horrendous and the animals were living in "deplorable conditions," Peoria police spokeswoman Shelly Watkins said Tuesday. "The animals were without water and many were deathly ill."

The suspect, Laura Yvonne Kuhn, 44, was taken into custody on Monday and booked on nine felony and 12 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, Watkins said.

It marked the second time in four years that Kuhn has faced such charges, Watkins said.

She was taken into custody in 2001 after 32 animals, including 20 dead ones, were found inside her house, Watkins said. Kuhn pleaded guilty in that case and was fined $1,300.

Nine of the animals had to be euthanized, Watkins said. The others accepted by the Arizona Humane Society for care and treatment, she said.

You hear about these animal hoarders from time to time. But usually it's not someone you know.

Laura Kuhn is someone we know slightly (friend of friends, basically). And in that 2001 incident, after her cats were seized by Animal Control and turned over to the Humane Society, she called around to everyone she knew, even us, crying and begging and asking us to adopt her animals from the Humane Society and then "please give me my kitties back!" on the sly.

Hilde and I looked at each other in the middle of that phone call, and said "Ummmm... I don't think so." If Laura couldn't take care of her animals properly before the 2001 seizure, there was no way we were going to help her get back her pets unless there was clear evidence they wouldn't be mistreated again. (Oh, and those "20 dead ones" found in 2001? Gosh, Laura never mentioned that when she spoke to us.)

With the new felony charges, Laura is looking at a possible three years in prison. And I can't really work up any sympathy for her. I know that animal hoarding like this is the sign of serious mental problems, but if prison time is what it takes to keep her from acquiring new dogs and cats to mistreat, I can't disapprove of it. I hope she gets mental health treatment, but keep her the hell away from any animals until then!

(What is WRONG with these people? Your animals are SICK! Your animals are DYING! You're living in FILTH! How much of a frigging CLUE do you need?)

Simple, Quick, Delicious

Here's something really good, from here, that I made a few days ago:
Tomato Bread Soup

1 tsp.....olive oil
1 Tbsp....small leek (white part only), chopped
4 Tbsp....cloves garlic, minced
2 Cups....chopped peeled tomatoes
1/3 Cups..chopped fresh basil
1&1/2 C...vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp...each salt and pepper
2 Cups....day-old cubed Italian bread
2 tsp.....freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook leek and garlic 3 minutes or until softened.

Stir in tomatoes and basil and bring to boil. Boil gently 5-10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Add 1 cup stock, salt and pepper; return to boil, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in bread. If necessary, warm remaining stock and add t reach desired constituency. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan. Serves 2.

I used a red onion instead of the leek, didn't bother to peel the tomatoes, used dried basil instead of fresh, and used some leftover garlic bread. Still came out wonderful. Add a bit of diced cooked chicken, or ham (maybe prosciutto?), and it's a full meal. Definitely a make-again recipe.


George Bush, Girly-Man of Mystery

(un-PC language may be encountered below)

Much has been made lately, and photos posted, and jokes told, regarding President George Bush's public walk, hand-in-hand, with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The gist of which has been that two guys holding hands together is... ummm... faggy.

The official White House line on this has been that holding hands is a sign of trust in Arab culture, so Bush and the Prince holding hands was really a sign of respect for the Prince's culture. Not something faggy, but something actually manly. (Manly, dammit! Manly!)

But still...

Okay, George Bush is a guy. Sowed some wild oats as a young man, drank too much, probably tried drugs (probably a, probably large, number of times). But he grew up, straightened up, married and had children, ran a number of businesses (badly, but hey, shit happens), ran the state of Texas (badly, but hey, shit happens), and is now running the entire US government (badly, but hey...).

So why did George W. Bush decide, in college, to let people think he was gay?

I grew up in the 50's and 60's, and the change in attitudes toward homosexuals since then has been... extraordinary. Simply extraordinary.

Back then, there were no "gays". There were just "queers", "fags", "homos", "sissies", "nancies", "perverts" and "cocksuckers". Back then, if teen-aged tough guys were broke, what they frequently said to their friends was "Let's go down to the bus station and roll some queers." That wasn't just talking tough, either; if you beat and robbed a queer, you got away with it, because the police of those days would look the other way, literally. Homosexuals, or people assumed to be homosexual, were not considered or treated as human beings; civil rights routinely granted to normal citizens were simply ignored if society identified you as queer. There was no public acceptance of homosexuality. None. Homosexuality was something closeted, hidden, denied.

This began to change with the Stonewall Riots, and with a few brave individuals like Merle Miller who openly identified themselves as homosexual. It was a new attitude of "We're here. We've always been here. We're not going away. Deal with it."

And, amazingly, a good deal of the public has learned to deal with it over the last forty years. In spite of incidents like the Matthew Shephard murder, or the anti-gay-marriage movement, the degree to which homosexual men and women are openly recognized and accepted as part of modern society is... flabbergasting... to someone who can remember what it used to be like. It's been an incredible, incredible, sea-change in societal attitudes.

But in the late 60's and early 70's, that change had barely begun. If you were a guy who did something regarded as "sissy" by most of the public, you could still find yourself labeled as a fag, even if that weren't the case. It wasn't fun, and it could even be dangerous. Sometimes just being a heavy book-reader, or not being a sports fan, was enough to get the label applied. And there were some activities that almost invariably would make others certain you were queer.

A male hairdresser? Faggot.

A male interior decorator? Pervert.

A male cheerleader? Oh, you betcha. In that era, you could be a hard-partying, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing frat boy in college, but if you put on that uniform and picked up that megaphone and pranced around on the edge of that football field, I guarantee you that at least half of the people in the stands would think of you as if you were wearing a big signboard with the words I'M A BIG SCREAMING HOMO written on it.

So why did George W. Bush become a cheerleader in college? Why did he choose to do something that he must have known would make many people think he was queer?

(You know, it must have been an interesting phone call home after making the cheerleading team: "Mom! Dad! I'm a cheerleader!" *thud* *thud*)

What was going through his mind back then? I really have a hard time trying to understand it.

Was he a straight guy just so dumb that he didn't realize what people might think? Did he think his party-boy reputation would keep people from thinking he was gay?

Was he, umm, "confused" about his own sexuality? Was cheerleading a "safe" way to act gay without actually going so far as to have sex with other guys?

Or... is George Bush actually bisexual? Is he attracted to both women and men?

I really don't know. But the cheerleading, and the public hand-holding.... these are no-brainers. They look faggy. And while homosexuals in general have made great gains in public acceptance, the American public in general doesn't want "sissies" to be their national leaders.

So why did the President (and why did his staff!) decide that the hand-in-hand walk would be a positive PR moment, a good photo-op?

What the heck is going on inside that skull?