Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blog # 138: Adventures in Slip-Sliding

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U. of Colorado Smoke Out

April 20, 2010 A mass exhale of marijuana smoke at the University of Colorado campus was timed to 4:20 p.m. as about 12,000 people rallied for legalizing the drug's use. Photo: Mark Leffingwell-Reuters

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Letting Things Slip-Slide Away

Isn’t it wonderful how easily you can let things slide? Why it’s no trouble at all. I have an embarrassing confession to make. I am not the most organized person on my block. In fact I might well be the most disorganized, I can’t say that for sure since I have not gone house to house asking my neighbors if I’m the most disorganized, or if perchance they are.

However, if I’m not the most disorganized, well I’m right up there with the best of them. For instance, in the year 2009 I somehow managed to misplace my IRS 1099 forms for two of my three sources of income for the year 2008. And I managed to let week after week go by in 2009, putting off calling the Hartford which pays me my monthly annuity, and the US Social Security, which provides the basis of my income. I was writing my blog during each of those weeks, an endeavor which manages to fill my time nicely and which brings me a lot of satisfaction, but which unfortunately does nothing to advance my income.

And then suddenly, before you know it, it is 2010. In fact it is blushingly April 2010, to be precise, and I got a letter from the IRS reminding me that I did not file a tax return for the year 2008, which was due in April 15, 2009.

It was a surprisingly polite, almost respectful letter, this ode alerting me of my delinquency, and telling me “What Should You Do?” (1) Prepare your tax return. (2) Sign the return. (3) Attach your payment for any tax due, etc.

Now I must say the aura of politeness surrounding the letter was a complete shock. I am sure this is a reflection of the Obama administration, for I cannot imagine the Bush/Cheney IRS operating with much respect for a delinquent citizen who is also a pauper. Only if the citizen was extremely wealthy did I expect the delinquent to merit Bush/Cheney respect.

What did the extremely polite Obama IRS letter get them, you might well ask? Well, it got me off of my nearly dead rear end, and had me finally contacting those two sources of income that I was delinquent with, the Social Security Administration and the Hartford which pays me a monthly annuity.

Guess what? Every company these days seems to have an automated telephone system which requires you to answer a number of questions before the system will put you in touch with a breathing, thinking human being. And computers seem to have a helluva hard time understanding me as I attempted to answer its questions. I kept wanting to tell them, what do you mean, you didn’t understand me? I used to be a radio announcer, for heaven’s sake. My enunciation is second to none.

The Social Security computer had a particularly difficult time with my answers, and repeatedly after the second or third try it would say something to the tune of, “well, we’ll let that one pass, and go on to the next question.” There must have been at least ten questions in all and it took more than five minutes to wade through them all, however when I was finally put on line with a human being I was able to conduct my business in far less time than it had taken me to reach the person in the first place.

The Hartford’s computer asked far fewer questions, however it took two human beings before I was able to reach the person who could access my files and send me the required 1099 forms. For good measure I had both send me the 1099 forms for the year 2009 also, and I just might well surprise the IRS by getting my 09 tax form in before 2011 rolls around. At any rate by the time I was finished with both calls I was ready for a long, uninterrupted nap.

Not that this morning’s effort will produce immediate results. Both 1099’s will have to be mailed to me, taking between five to ten working days I’m told. After I receive them I will have to get my tax forms prepared. But at the very least I have set things in motion, and hopefully within a week or so I can begin taking the steps that the most polite IRS suggested I take.

And just between you and me, I don’t mind paying taxes to the Obama administration. They are conducting the government in a manor in which I think it should be conducted, courageously plunging ahead with health care reform, and with much needed banking regulation, as they do their best to tone down the wars and seek to use diplomacy, rather than threats of the use of force, in foreign affairs. Unfortunately though, much of the negativity of Bush/Cheney has not changed. Nevertheless I see a glimmer of hope for our government.§

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A Good Old-fashioned Pie Toss

Saint Martin's University student Jennifer Hatfield volunteers as a practice target before a group of professors participated in a pie toss to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief. The event at the Lacey, Wash., campus brought in $2,300 and was organized by the school's engineering department. Photo: Steve Bloom-AP

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Regulating Wall Street

Different song, regulate the financial industry so that Goldman Sachs cannot make millions off of fractured derivatives again. What happened to the regulations which were put in place after the Great Depression of the 1930’s, you might ask? Well, as a Senator in the 1990’s that former economics professor from Texas A&M college, Phil Gramm managed to deregulate many of them after which he took a cushy job with the world’s biggest bank, U.B.S. It happened during the post Reagan era when Republican’s were crooning anti regulation songs, and even though Bill Clinton was president, he reluctantly signed them into law, which he admits these days was a mistake.

What the Republicans’ won’t tell you is that all of those regulations which were so carefully put in place after the Great Depression, were what has kept us from sinking into another economic hole like that. Regulations are not arbitrary rules put into place to frustrate budding capitalism. Regulations were put into place to keep bankers honest, and to prevent another Great Depression.

And so, after the bruising near depression of 2008-9, the Obama Administration, having succeeding in covering the American populace with a thin and torn health care blanket, finally turns its attention to curbing what amounts to actual fraud in banking.

And what do you know? Mitch McConnell is singing the same old tune. He meets with the bankers of the world, those gentlemen who paid, and rewarded Gramm for getting rid of certain regulations which were keeping them on the straight and narrow, and then Mitch returns to Washington singing that lovely Republican aria which sings of a multi-keyed “NO.”

His excuse this time, the Obama bill would guarantee continued tax payer “bank bailouts.” Even though he knows this isn’t true, McConnell’s real talent is in his ability to keep saying this or some other wild misrepresentation over and over again until some out there begin to believe him.

Think about it. If the bill truly called for tax payer funded bank bailouts in perpetuity Wall Street’s elite couldn’t be happier, and would support the bill in an instant. The bill does provide for banks to be funded if they are on the edge of bankruptcy, but their help would come from a fund monetized by the banks’ themselves. That’s why they oppose the bill, and McConnell is attempting to feed off the disgust of the nation’s taxpayers by claiming the bill funds bank bailouts with taxpayer funds.

The lesson to be learned from all of this, take Mitch McConnell’s declarations with a gigantic grain of salt. Sea salt preferred, but any old salt will do.§

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Mary Tyler Moore

At this point I would like to take my hat off to one of the most valuable tools in television, that visual introduction featuring several scenes from the drama, whose job it is to immediately catapult you from your seat on the sofa into the story line of the television series.

These intros are generally taken for granted by the viewer, although they are well thought out by the show’s creators. For an effective introduction is necessary to transport the viewer into the context of the story line. When they are at their best they are able to deliver you into the story with a few typical images. Two of the very best that I remember from my television watching days come to mind, both from many years back.

One of the more effective ones was the introduction to the Mary Tyler Moore show which showed Mary (above), the single working girl, doing a series of things typical of single women of the time. Particularly memorable was the clip in which she was shown holding up a package of meat in a super market, making a face at its price and tossing it back, and the intro ended with the view of her holding her arm on high as she smiled her way into yet another episode. (See above.)

One of the more involved introductions was that prelude to M*A*S*H, the tv series based on the film, which in turn was based on a novel, of doctors and support personnel in a mobile army hospital during the Korean war. It was a very involved lead-in which opened with helicopters flying wounded into the area, and nurses and medical personnel rushing to receive the wounded on a nearby hillside, ending with the doctors bending over their patients. All to the tune of Johnny Mandell’s haunting, Suicide is Painless, being played instrumentally.

However visual intros are also necessary for talk show programs as well. Used to begin, transition segments, and end the program they take the place of a curtain’s opening and closing during a stage presentation. And one compelling visual is that of msnbc’s Morning Joe represented above.

The picture above is not of the actual visual, for in the real one the coffee cup is seen from above, as it is being lifted up and a ring of coffee drippings becomes the o in Morning Joe. But the picture above does give you the idea, as the o in Joe looks like the stain of a coffee cup. All in all, a clever way to transition from one segment to another, and quite addicting since an overwhelming majority of their listeners are doing the same thing while they watch morning Joe while drinking their morning joe.§

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Celtic’s Paul Pierce Into the Game

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce celebrates as his team pulls ahead of the Miami Heat during the third quarter. The Celtics won in Boston, 106-77, to take a two-game lead in the first round of the NBA playoff series. Photo Charles Krupa-AP

Life is Barren

Without a Team in the Playoffs

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Well, the Rockets’ season is over. There are NBA playoffs all over cable this week, but the Rockets didn’t make the cut. They had a reasonably good season, with spurts of being really effective matched with occasional lapses of them just being there. However a brief spell which saw almost the entire starting team benched due to injuries for several games, is what really put them out of the playoffs. Ironically, if they had been in the East with their record they would have made the playoffs.

Aaron Brooks, NBA’s Most Improved Player

The team is well-poised for next year, however, with some players filling their positions very well. Aaron Brooks, the young point guard that general manager Darrell Morey relied on when he traded Rafer Alston, has more than delivered and will probably be an all star next year. As it is he won Most Improved Player of the Year Award after the season was over. And new shooting guard Kevin Martin joined Brooks in averaging 20 points per game. And there for every game was Argentinian Luis Scola who also averaged 19 points a game, come what may, and in one game he managed 44. Essential for defensive purposes were Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, although when Yao Ming comes back next year Hayes will undoubtedly go back to coming off the bench.

And the Rockets’ bench has been particularly strong this year. Kyle Lowry came in to turn many a game around with his brilliant play. And Chase Budinger, and his recently added buddy from Arizona, Jordon Hill made positive additions coming off the bench.

But what I can’t understand is how we can get so attached to our professional sports teams, where players are bought and sold much like slaves used to be in earlier times or cattle these days. I admit I can’t explain it, but it is absolutely true.

In an earlier age when I was living in New York at the University Settlement House at Rivington and Eldridge Streets, I once knew a young man of Russian Jewish ancestry who was a dyed in the wool communist. He could talk for hours about the corruption of the capitalist system, and how it enslaved the working class. But simultaneously he was a completely unmitigated New York Yankees baseball fan. In spite of the way baseball teams, and particularly the Yankees bought and sold players like cattle, he actually came to life when discussing the nation’s favorite pastime.

I picked up my Rockets’ addiction one year when the Rockets were going to the finals and my son Joel was going to Europe for a summer to travel and see the sights. I told him I would watch the playoffs for him, and let him know how the Rockets did. It was the first time I had ever followed a sports team on television, and I hate to say it, but even though the Rockets lost that finals to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, after a few short weeks I had become hopelessly addicted, and have remained so ever since.

What is strange about this addiction is how closely your own spirit can be affected by the teams’ ups and downs. After a really bad loss your mood is dark indeed, and people who know you had best avoid you. On the other hand, after a solid win, especially over a team which was much better than the Rockets and which the Rockets should have lost, your spirits are very high, and basically you would have thought that you were on the team the way you celebrate the victory.

And so the playoffs press on, although having no dog in the hunt means my interest is strictly academic. And for us Rocket fans, it is dreams, not about what might have been this year, but what might be for next season that gets us by. General manager Darrell Morey is the man who puts the team together. Yao Ming should be back, and hopefully be well for the season. And new players, Trevor Ariza and Kevin Martin, plus future all star point guard Aaron Brooks should make for a high scoring team which should be able to easily make the playoffs as is. But will Morey be able to snag a major free agent like Chris Bosh over the summer? Such an addition would once again make the Rockets championship contenders.§

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99 Year Old Loves Her iPad

A 99-year-old Lake Oswego woman stars in a YouTube video that's gone viral. — Virginia Campbell sits on a sofa in her apartment in Mary's Woods Retirement Community. — She is so captivated by her new toy she never even looks up at the camera.§

Mt. Katahdin – Teen Camp’s Ultimate Trip

This week as I turn back to my memories of children’s camps I want to describe what was the crowning trip of the Blueberry Cove Teen Camp season, the hike along twenty-five miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine’s Baxter State Park ending with a climb up Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain.

As seen below, from a distance Mt. Katahdin is a very impressive sight. But seeing it head on gives little indication of it unique properties. For from the south it slopes up at a fairly normal angle, but from the north side it slopes at a stark angle, its backside having been shaved off eons ago by some ice age glacier.

Mt. Katahdin from a distance

Our Katahdin trip actually began with a twenty-five mile hike down the Appalachian Trail. From the National Park Service comes this description: the Appalachian Trail is a 2,175-mile long public footpath. Conceived in 1921 and completed in 1937, private citizens built the trail and thousands each year volunteer to maintain its footprint.

From Maine’s Mount Katahdin to Georgia’s Springer Mountain, this footpath traverses scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild and culturally resonant lands through 14 of the eastern United States. There is a spritely YouTube video celebrating one hiker’s walk of the entire trail. Clicking on the arrow below will bring you the video.

Of course to traverse the entire trail would take many, many months and would be completely impractical from a camp’s point of view. But we thought that taking the campers along a twenty-five mile long section of the trail would give them a useful introduction to following a trail’s blazes, as well as make a nice prelude to the climb itself.

Our group was split into two parts for the trail walking part of the trip. Half of our group was ferried across a lake by boat, so they could walk away from the trail’s end. Two days later they would cross paths will the rest of our group, which would be walking towards the trail’s end. This group would end up at the lake the other group left from, and arrangements had been made for them to be picked up by the very boat that left our other group on the trail side of the lake.

Meanwhile when they reached the truck, the group walking away from the mountain would load up and be driven to the point where the boat would deliver the rest of our troop. Then it was motoring on to the campground, where we would set up our camp and have a nice, hot meal and a good night’s rest. The following day we would make the climb, which we would do altogether as one group.

The first part of the climb was in woods which was shaded, breezy and made for comfortable climbing. But the views were few and far between. Occasionally we would come across a small clearing with a view which offered a good place for a short rest. Below the tree line but demanding attention was a waterfall which you encounter as you climb the Cathedral Trail. But soon we were past the tree line and the spectacular views began.

A waterfall as seen from the Cathedral trail up Mt. Katahdin

At this point there is something I ought to explain. I am afraid of heights. So what business have I climbing mountains, you might well ask? None, I would answer, except that the climb remains much more of a challenge when you make it with a major handicap like an inherent fear of heights.

However, on my first Katahdin trip, made with older campers from the children’s camp, we climbed the mountain but avoided coming down by way of what is called the Knife’s Edge, a trail which is from four to six feet wide, but with sharp drop offs either side.

On that trip I talked to a park ranger about the knife’s edge, and he said it should be no problem for campers of most any age. So on the trips with Teen Camp we decided to take the Knife’s Edge down. And the ranger was right, if you look straight ahead and refrain from looking down on either side, the walk was a piece of cake, perfectly safe and easy. But it is a scary sight when look at it for the first time, and especially if you have an ingrown fear of heights.

The Knife’s Edge on Mt. Kathdin. An alternate trail down the mountain after experiencing the summit. Although it looks menacing from a distance, the trail itself is never less than four feet, and is usually at least six feet wide.

You find that the summit of any mountain, and particularly one as high as Katahdin, weather can be markedly different from what it was as you left for the climb up. On one of our trips I photographed the sign at the mountain’s summit as it was ringed with snow. And this was in late August. Large mountains have characteristically different weather than the surrounding countryside as large mountains have been known to make their own weather. In fact Park Rangers discourage mountain climbs after September unless the climbers are equipped with the proper cold weather gear as blizzards can come up with little or no warning.

The day of the climb is a long and physically taxing one, and we usually would only eat a light meal after coming down. An after dark soap off in a stream, and then it’s time to snuggle into our sleeping bags for a bit of R & R, rest and recuperation.

We would spend the morning after the climb at the Sliding Rock, a local phenomenon which consisted of a slide on a water smoothed rock over forty feet in length, the slope was at a 45º angle, and the slide ended up in a pool five to six feet deep. Usually the rock was deserted which meant we could spend the entire morning skinny dipping to our heart’s content, as time and time again we would each slide down what was one of nature’s true wonders.

On our last trip to the Sliding Rock evidently a bridge to the outside world had been replaced by Baxter State Park, and the place was filled with the local people spending the morning. They came armed with all of the accruements of today’s picnickers, barbecue grills smoking away, coolers stocked with beer, and boom boxes turned up loud. And what was worse, trash including many empty beer cans and bottles, littered the area.

Reluctantly we donned bathing suits and took a few slides down, but somehow the activity had lost much of its appeal. However, before we left our campers on their own initiative picked up much of the trash scattered around, trash which we deposited at a trash station next the park’s exit. We left the slide that day noticeably dejected by the locals’ cavalier treatment of what should be characterized as a true national treasure. What should have been a high point of the trip ended up as a real downer.

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And so another Little Eddy Blog spins out of control, and runs off of its rails. Our feet are still hurting after our climb of Katahdin, but at least we managed to stay on the knife’s edge, rather than slip, sliding our way into oblivion.

We’ll spend next week thinking, writing, and collecting, and come Saturday morning, Google willing, we’ll upload another blog. We hope you’ll join us any day next week. And until then, as the union movement used to counsel us, take it easy, but take it. Bye, bye.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blog # 136: Where Twixt Meets Tween

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The Rages of Fear

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Republican Meeting No Tea Party

Last Sunday Republicans finished their latest strategy meeting in New Orleans. As usual they seem pumped to the max over their election chances come this November.

Should they be optimistic? Behind the leadership of Mitch McConnell (Senate) and John Boehner (House) as one man/woman they have put what they perceive as their party’s political interests ahead of the interests of the American voting public. Example: They have circled the wagons and stood steadfastly saying not no but “HELL NO!” to virtually everything that President Obama and the Democrats have proposed.

However, underneath the overlay of bravado that both McConnell and Boehner are projecting, I sense an undercurrent of fear. Perhaps they are having a premonition that, like Newt Gingrich back when he tried to shut down the government but blinked and Clinton was subsequently reelected, just perhaps the masses aren’t echoing their opposition as they so boldly presume. Just perhaps instead Messrs. McConnell and Boehner are presiding over the death throes of all things Republican.

House Minority Leader John Boehner

At this moment there can be seen the slightest fissure on the Republican horizon. As interviewed this week by Dana Bash on CNN newly elected Senator Scott Brown announced that he was breaking ranks with the GOP hard line and voting with the Democratic majority for the extension of unemployment insurance.

When Bash pointed out this comes in the face of initial GOP glee at his election to fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s vacated seat which of course undid the Democrats filibustering breaking 60 vote majority, Brown reminded Bash that he represents the people of Massachusetts and not the Republican Party.

But as they have blindly marched in lockstep with their leadership the Republican politicians have forgotten one little fact. They ran on a platform of conducting the nation’s business, not forsaking it while conducting a strategy that they perceive to be in the interests of their party. Undaunted by either reason or restraint, they have become the party of NO. And it doesn’t take an Einstein to note that in the mathematical scheme of things, NO equals NOTHING, ZILCH.

And so in their mindless opposition to All Things Obama, Republicans have added absolutely nothing to the American agenda. Not one iota. And they blandly assume that the American voter is going to be so pleased with their resistance to Obama that a grateful nation will overlook the past eight years of the Republican’s autocratic and bankrupting misrule and fling themselves over the line to vote the GOP a majority in both houses of Congress.

They might well be correct. It wouldn’t be the first time that the American voter has defied his own best interests and blindly followed one feckless Republican fantasy after another.

Do people really learn from past mistakes. The pessimists among us cry “no!” and point to countless times in the past where Americans continued to vote again and again for concepts like deregulation which have been proven disastrous time and again.

The optimist is an admitted dreamer, as he fondly predicts that this time around people will have learned from their past experience and return Democrats to power in November, albeit without any past history to back up this claim.

And so McConnell and Boehner appear shrouded in qualm. Is the voting public massively behind their hard-nosed dedication, or will a rebounded economy and the public’s increasingly favorable perception of health care reform hearken a massive return of Democrats to power in the fall.

National Democrats are celebrating the results of Tuesday's special election in Florida's 19th Congressional District, which Democratic State Sen. Ted Deutch won handily. According to unofficial results from the Florida Secretary of State's office, Deutch won 62 percent of the vote, with Republican candidate Ed Lynch grabbing 35 percent and the remaining three percent going to third-party candidates.

This area has a large elderly population, which Republicans had been claiming are dead set against Obama’s health care reform. So many questions, so few answers.

What do you think?

Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman discusses what Mitch McConnell is up to these days in his column Fire Next Time here! §

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Check Out the Cost of War

To give yourself the proper perspective as you enter this week’s blog go to: and check out the money we’re flushing down the tubes every second of every day and night. What is even more frightening, the figures you see are based solely on budget allocations so do not include “black” budget security expenses, etc. Aaarrrgh!§

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Miners’ Wives

Should Mine Hearings Be Open?

The death recently of 29 coal miners once again proved one of the seamier sides of American life, that is it is cheaper for a mining company to pay the fines assessed it for faults in the mine than it would be to spend what would be necessary to correct the situation that brought on the fine. That is evidently what happened here.

According to the Huffington Post, Ken Ward, Jr. who writes the ‘Coal Tattoo” blog in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, argued on Monday that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration should break from its long history of conducting secret hearings when it probes the recent deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.

West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, argued on Monday that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration should break from its long history of conducting secret hearings when it probes last week's deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine. The reasons for this are painfully obvious, although it will be in a freezing day in hell before it happens.

The paper rightfully points out that although the testimony is taken in secret, lawyers representing the coal mining companies are allowed to sit in on the testimony. Lawyers for the mining companies, but no newspaper reporters or other representatives of the general public.

Why, you might ask? Well, in truth the mining companies are very profitable, so much so that they find it far cheaper to pay the fines they have levied against them for unsafe conditions in their mines rather than take the steps necessary to correct the situation which brought on the fine.

For instance, Upper Big Branch is owned by Massey Energy Company, which operates 47 mines in central Appalachia. According to the Los Angeles Times, it employs nearly 6000 and in 2009 reported revenues of $2.3 billion, with a net income of $104.4 million.

Although the cause of the explosion, which killed 29 people, hasn't yet been determined, it's probable that a buildup of either methane gas or coal dust was to blame. Indeed, federal regulators have issued 124 citations on that mine so far this year for safety violations, including some related to improper ventilation of methane.

What's clear from the Upper Big Branch disaster is that tough new rules put in place following the deaths of 12 miners at the Sago mine in West Virginia in 2006 didn't go anywhere near far enough, and penalties imposed on mining companies that get citations are too easy to evade. Pay the fine and move on has become the way of life in the coal industry.

And this works out fine until a disaster like the explosion at Upper Big Branch mine happens. However, if the hearings were allowed to be covered by the press, or televised by some non-profit C-Span type entity, you can bet your sweet bippy that the public would be so horrified at such a cavalier attitude on the part of mine management that they would insist on change.

So don’t hold your breath. The mining company plus life insurance companies will pay out a relatively small amount of their huge profits to the families of the departed miners. And for awhile they will change their tactics and make a big show of taking the steps the investigators call for to correct the problem.

But you can just bet that after a few months they’ll go back to paying the fines just like nothing had happened. At least until the next mine disaster brings the matter front and center once again. §

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The Vatican calls The Beatles, a “precious jewel”

Vatican Blesses Fab Four

Well, what do you know? According to the Associated Press in a copyrighted story which you can find here, the Vatican, spiritual leader of millions of Catholic faithful the world over, has finally made its peace with The Beatles.

The Vatican newspaper says the members’ “dissolute” lives and John Lennon’s boastful claim that the band was more popular than Jesus are in the past, while their music lives on.

The tribute marked the 40th anniversary of the band’s breakup.

It is not the first time the Vatican has praised the legendary band from Liverpool. Two years ago, it praised the “White Album,” and last month it included “Revolver” in its top-10 albums.

Would you class this under the heading of “miracles never cease” or one that the Vatican knows a good thing when it hears it, finally, and in this day of public outrage at the Church’s silence in the face of it’s repeated toleration of its Priests’ sexual abuse of children, the Holy See has decided to hide in the shadow of The Beatles? At any rate it does show something that is still unproven among American politicians. It shows the Vatican can change its mind, which after all is a definite step in the right direction. §

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Looking Good

Last week we published two photographs of Apple CEO Steve Jobs as he visited an Apple store on the day of the iPad launch. He is still among the nutrition deprived, looking not unlike one of those skeleton thin Nazi Death Camp survivors on the day of their liberation. But at least his skin has a more normal color, a bit on the gray side, perhaps, but not the violent jaundice look his skin had before his kidney transplant.

A venture capitalist named John Doerr wrote a guest column for Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch website. He had some colorful descriptions of the Computer industry and the iPad. We would like to bring you a few of them, and for the full post you can go here!

It’s hard to imagine that once there was no Internet. Just 15 years ago there was no browser, no web point-and-click. It was 1994, and Steve Jobs had left Apple. Steve was making Toy Story, and object-oriented software for Next.

Then one day Bill Joy showed me a beta version of Mosaic, the FIRST web browser. It was magic. Bill said “John, I have NO idea where this is going. You just better dive in.”

The rest of the 90’s were a ONCE-in-a-lifetime experience. Entrepreneurs created the Web, and great ventures – Netscape, Amazon, Ebay, Google, and others. And they changed our lives. Silicon Valley became the Florence of the New, Networked Economy.

The advent of the iPad feels like deja-vu, like it’s happening all over again. Not once, but TWICE-in-a-lifetime. Newsweek put it best… “Steve has the uncanny ability to cook up gadgets we didn’t know we needed… but suddenly can’t live without.” Steve showed us what computer legend Alan Kay told us… namely, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

The original PCs in the early 80’s were pretty crummy, that is, until 1984 when Apple introduced the mouse and the Mac… Back then Alan Kay, inventor of the Dynabook tablet, said “The Mac is the first PC worth criticizing.”

Fast forward to 2007. When Steve introduced the iPhone, Alan Kay told him “Steve, make the screen size 5 by 8 inches and you’ll rule the world.”

On Saturday (April 3) the iPad arrived. We believe it will rule the world. I’ve touched it, held it, and caressed it. It feels gorgeous. It feels like touching the future.

It is not a big iPod. But it IS a very big deal. Instead of WYSIWyg – what you see is what you get – it is WYTIWis. What You Touch… IS what IS. Instead of holding a MOUSE, you’re holding MAGIC.

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Don’t Think Too Different

Mark Fiore, who draws animated political cartoons online, got his app rejected when he submitted it to Apple’s App store in December because it included cartoons that ridiculed public figures. Cartoons, it turns out, can violate Apple’s license agreement with developers, which states that apps may be rejected if the content “may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

On Monday Fiore became the only online cartoonist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Speaking of his previous app store rejection he said he had not heard of “the whole concept of getting rejected for ridiculing public figures. That’s what I do. That’s my life!” he said. “That’s a tough one to get around if you’re a political cartoonist.” On the bright side he got an invitation from Apple to resubmit his app.

Apple needs to forget attempting to censor apps on the app store. Is it planning to block adult apps for the iPad? Nudity and porn helped build the VCR industry, and its substantial presence on internet certainly has helped in its growth. Apple doesn’t need to identify with racy apps, it just needs to leave well enough alone.

Two postcripts as we prepare to upload our blog to Google. In an email to a concerned customer, Steve Jobs himself in one of his rare emails said, “This was a mistake that’s being fixed.” Full story here! And the Daring Fireball’s John Gruber takes a major stab at trying to explain Apple’s app store secrecy policy here! §

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CoCo Goes Back to Basics

Conan O’Brien

In typical self-deprecating fashion, in a release accompanying the announcement of his talk show to be aired on cable channel T.B.S. Mr. O’Brien said: “In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.” §

And now we present:

Conan's Basement Talk Show from The Daily Beast Video on Vimeo.

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Children’s Summer Camps and Growth

I spent 22 summers working in three outstanding children’s camps in New England. In recent times I have made some of my camp reminisces a part of this blog, because to me that was the place where I got to study life and human nature up close and first hand. And it was the environment which in me fostered the most growth.

Children’s camps bring groups of children usually of similar backgrounds together in situations that allow them to develop relations with each other, and also with their counselors. Because the children are away from their homes and their usual habits, they get to develop new skills in interpersonal relationships which will help them immensely as they grow and travel down life’s road.

Girls’ Soccer at Killooleet

Of the three camps I worked for, only one of them, Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, is still active. Since it has been forty eight years since I last worked for the camp, and it’s original owners have passed on, I wrote to the camp’s current director, Kate Seeger, daughter of John and Ellie Seeger, who ran the camp when I worked there, to get some details of what the program offers these days. Below I quote from an email she sent me in reply to my inquiry.

We are still a small camp - about 100 campers - where everyone gets to know everyone else. First time campers have the option to committing to just the month of July, with an option to stay through the end of camp if they want. Most new campers take that option, and most stay.

We have about thirty counselors (three per cabin) and sixteen other staff – nurses, chef, maintenance, and former campers back to work in the kitchen and laundry.

We have the arts of an arts camp, plus sports (team and individual, horseback riding and waterfront) and hiking and overnight trips. We are accredited members of the American Camping Association.

We visit prospective families at their homes if they live in the Northeast (Washington DC to Maine) and often in other places. (This weekend I head to San Francisco where we have 6 camper families).

We also visit in person, or sometimes by telephone, all returning campers each spring to tell them who is in their cabin, a bit about their counselors, and find out about their ideas and goals for the summer.

Horses are most loved of camp animals

Children’s summer camps are not cheap. But for those of you that can afford it camp remains one of the best investments you can make for the development of your child.

One of the perks of writing this blog and telling of my remembrances of the Children’s camps I worked for has been in the emails I have gotten from former campers and counselors I once knew.

The following email, which came out of the blue after one of my blog posts, illustrates perhaps an extreme example of how camp can add to the growth of a person. Certainly not all campers will get as much from their experience as did Michael Brandon, but sheer chance gave him a summer at Killooleet and as you read his email you will see that it had a most positive effect on his life.

I had been working with Michael’s mother on a project in Houston and she told me she was to spend the upcoming summer in Middlebury, Vt. and needed a place for her two children. So naturally I suggested Killooleet, just a short distance away in Hancock, Vt. And Mrs. Brandon suggested I drive up to the camp with her and the children.

Brandon, Michael to me: Do you remember driving to Killooleet in the early sixties, with the Brandon’s (Mom-Elizabeth, daughter-Anne and me, son Michael (Tex).

Hope the years have been kind to you. The ripple effects of your talking to my mom about camp have been life long, 5 summers at camp and another year as a kitchen aide. Went on to school at Colorado Rocky Mt School outside of Aspen. Ended with a 30 year career as a child psychologist.

You never know the extent of folks who cross our paths. I’m glad you crossed ours.

All the best, Michael Brandon, Ph.D.

District Psychologist-Pearland I.S.D., Child-Clinical Psychologist, Licensed, Specialist in School Psychology & Registrant - the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Whereas no one can promise that a summer in camp will have such a life changing effect on the future of your child, without hesitation we can promise an intense experience that he or she will probably never forget.

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And so we reluctantly leave this week’s blog. We bask in warm encouragement at the results of the first election since health care reform passed, with the thought that perhaps the American voter, and especially elderly ones, are far smarter than Republicans and Tea Party types give them credit for being.

Our thanks to Daniel Badeaux of Bothell, Washington, for the URL on the cost of the wars. We were properly impressed, and trust you were too.

Meanwhile kudos to President Obama for pressing on with his most vital agenda, particularly the reduction and future elimination of nuclear weapons. Their eventual elimination will not make us less safe as the war-happy and the paranoid would have us believe. Rather it will make our world a far safer place in which to live, mate, and raise our children. Which is, or should be, our true mission in this life. If any genie ever needed to be put back in the bottle, this is the very one.

But enough of this incessant preaching. If you find you want more then bookmark our blog and return again anytime next week, and the Good Lord Google willing, you will get more. Meantime, bye bye, and don’t swallow any of those Republican or Tea Party delusions. They will have a massive effect on your digestive system.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blog # 135: A Smoking Tea Party

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Greetings, internet surfer. Welcome to my blog. You who wander here, what can you expect? An occasional touch of humor. A bit of a rant on this or that. We like to think of ourselves as being of a progressive bent, the only tea party we espouse is the kind you roll in papers or pack into your pipe or bong.

In spite of our advanced age, 84 this March 20th, we like to think of ourselves as youthful in spirit and technology friendly. Our iMac computer is our lifeline to the world, we use it to troll for news, to write our blog, and the collect illustrations for it, not to mention emailing friends and family and watching video.

We write our blog using Pages, Apple’s crackerjack new word processing application. We use Photoshop to tweak our photographs to their limit. We daily read for its Tech Blog column, and we regularly comb these sites:,, the washingtonpost. com, and the to name a few to try and keep ourselves abreast of what’s going on in the world.

Our blog is uploaded Saturday mornings usually around 8 a.m. C.D.T., just before I have my breakfast. It stays up for a week, while I go about collecting stuff for next week’s blog.

What kind of things are you likely to find on this page? A bit of news, though obviously it won’t likely be all that timely. We try to find videos that you might not have encountered. Also photographs. We occasionally have guest commentary, mostly humor, from an occasional outside contributor. The Borowitz Report makes frequent appearances, and Joe of Arizonaland comes to mind as of last week and again this week.

Steve Jobs appeared at an Apple store on iPad launch day, hobnobbing with awestruck customers, or so we read, and we had to include that.

I spent 22 of my working years as a counselor in three children’s camps in New England, and I frequently include my memories from those days, usually trying to prove this point or another from the stories.

But enough of this boring introduction, let us





right into this week’s offering. §

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Two Steve Jobs Sightings

A happy Steve Jobs was seen visiting an Apple Store and mingling with the customers the day of the iPad launch. Not pictured were his wife and daughter who were reported to have accompanied him. §

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(To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here! )§

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And now for a word from one of our favorite

political definition creators:

What is Conservatism?

By Joe of Arizonaland

Graphics and Layout by Little Eddy

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1. Conserving power for the few.

2. Conserving wealth for the few.

3. Conserving and preserving wars and the military industrial complex.

4. Conserving 'traditonal American values' such as racism, intolerance, and elitism.

5. Conserving control of Christianity by fraudulent pseudo-Christians who promote wealth accumulation and gun fanaticism, while suppressing honest Christians who promote a Social Justice that is based on the Biblical views of Jesus.

May We Relieve You of Law Enforcement, Anyone?

6. Conserving the power to trash the Constitution by packing the Supreme Court with right wing radicals who pretend that they will protect the Constitution, but then enable the corporate takeover of our nation by ruling that corporations should not only be given rights, but that they should be given rights greater than that of individual citizens and should be allowed them to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. §

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A Question for Space and Time

Intercepted in cyberspace: Q:How many members of the U.S.S. Enterprise does it take to change a light bulb?

A:Seven. Scotty has to report to Captain Kirk that the light bulb in the Engineering Section is getting dim, at which point Kirk will send Bones to pronounce the bulb dead (although he'll immediately claim that he's a doctor, not an electrician).

Scotty, after checking around, realizes that they have no more new light bulbs, and complains that he "canna" see in the dark. Kirk will make an emergency stop at the next uncharted planet, Alpha Regula IV, to procure a light bulb from the natives, who, are friendly, but seem to be hiding something.

Kirk, Spock, Bones, Yeoman Rand and two red shirt security officers beam down to the planet, where the two security officers are promptly killed by the natives, and the rest of the landing party is captured.

As something begins to develop between the Captain and Yeoman Rand, Scotty, back in orbit, is attacked by a Klingon destroyer and must warp out of orbit.

Although badly outgunned, he cripples the Klingon and races back to the planet in order to rescue Kirk et. al. who have just saved the natives' from an awful fate and, as a reward, been given all of the light bulbs they can carry.

The new bulb is then inserted and the Enterprise continues on its five year mission. §

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Cruising Down Memory Lane

At this point in my blog I usually stroll down memory lane back to the days I worked at three of the finer children’s camps in New England. Several weeks ago I began reminiscing about the Teen Camp that I dreamed up while working as associate director of Blueberry Cove, Tenants Harbor, Maine, and was able to run for two or three years, until I began to spin off of the deep end and flip out under the strain.

As I said in the beginning the Teen Camp was conceived to get teenagers in the habit of living comfortably in the woods on platforms which they themselves built, eating meals that they had planned and prepared themselves (taking turns, of course,) and generally getting themselves prepared to go off on trips in a more relaxed manner.

Two weeks ago I told you about our summer’s first trip, Tumbledown Mountain. (Yes, that’s the Maine name for the mountain, as well as the camp name. We had the U.S. Geological map with which to prove it.) Last week I reminisced about our Island trips, which were the second planned trip of the summer.

One Happy Canoeist!

Moose River, Canoe Trip Extraordinary

This week I would like to tell you about our canoe trip to the Moose River, a really rich trip, which had us beginning and ending on a pond, and in between we even had a mile long portage (carry of the canoe) between Holeb and Attean ponds, much of it along a Canada railways railroad track. Since none of us on staff had ever canoed before, the first time around we sought out a guide for the Moose River canoe trip.

It turned out to be a very exciting trip, one which really put us in really close contact with nature. The cares of the world were left far behind and it was a time for us to completely immerse ourselves in the wilderness experience and in our interaction’s with each other.

When we arrived at Holeb Pond, our starting point, we first off partnered into twos. Campers chose one another, and those who were left over partnered with a counselor. Once we had our partners we packed our gear, plus we divvied up the food supplies which were wrapped in plastic bags between campers and packed them into their respective backpacks. Mostly we cooked in our own messkits, which we also had in our packs. We had one one big pot, useful for making stews, etc. I hooked this pot onto the back of my own pack.

We got to the first pond around noon on the first day. After dividing up in our groups we started out. We traversed the pond until around six in the evening when we found a nice flat area which we make a good first night campsite, and so we pulled our canoes onto the shore and set up camp. The night was clear, with no sign of rain, so we dispensed with setting up tarps and proceeded to dig our campfire site and ring it with stones. This requires care because camp fires have been known to cause fires when care is not taken.

The next morning we started out after breakfast. We were looking for that part which required the one mile portage from Holeb to Attean ponds which would then lead us onto the actual Moose river. We found it around noon and it was around two o’clock that we hit Attean Pond. My partner and I were the first to arrive, and there was just time for a short skinnydip before the others caught up, and we began paddling the pond until we came to the river.

On one of our Moose River canoe trips, one of the campers selecting the menu for the trip had chosen crêpes for the third day’s breakfast meal. It seemed that we had a proper crêpe pan we had picked up for pennies at a local garage sale. It also turned out that this camper was a specialist making this dish back home, and so the rest of the kids on the trip approved of it only if she would take on the cooking duties on that meal. She agreed and assembled the necessary ingredients for one of the breakfasts.

Imagine for a moment the problem of making authentic tasting crêpes in a proper crêpe pan deep in the woods on an open campfire. Crêpes demand an even heat, which is the devil to maintain on any kind of open campfire. I for one was anxious to see how she was going to solve this problem. Well, damned if she didn’t use a frying pan under the crepe pan, which successfully evened the heat situation.

The campers who weren’t cooking picked blueberries which were growing wild around our campsite, and we had the crêpes smothered in blueberries with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top. It took half the morning, the pan made four crêpes at one time, we were each served two, and since these were hungry teenagers on the third morning of a trip deep in the woods and crêpes are light and fluffy, well you can imagine there was a gnawing hunger lingering after the meal. But out there in those woods those crêpes tasted simply superb. They were a real culinary masterpiece served out in the open air on the third morning of a canoe trip. And not surprisingly, it turned out to be the most memorable trip breakfast I can ever remember experiencing on a trip.

Blueberry Crepes

Deep in the Woods

As we canoed the Moose River itself we found ourselves even more deeply in isolation. At one point on the river we got to the part containing the waterfall which was definitely not navigable, and which again required our pulling our canoes ashore and portaging them a short distance around and below the waterfall. This made another logical stopping point, and so after portaging our canoes around the falls we made camp for the night.

In spite of the extreme isolation one year we had no sooner pulled up and portaged our canoes around the falls when we heard an explosion of some significance. We rushed around a bend just in time to watch two men dressed in army fatigues scooping up dead fish floating on the surface of the river. They were men of a new breed of technological fishermen, harvesting the crop of the river by setting off explosive blasts which killed all of the fish in an area. It was an ugly sight representing the height of selfish greed, as it killed not only the edible fish, but also all life in that portion of the river as well.

We had breakfast, and before we started out for the day’s paddle we heard at least two other explosions, each a little further upstream, which meant the gentlemen were killing even more of the life in a substantial portion of the river. But soon we were paddling off away from the blasts and on to the next stage of our trip.

The fourth day of our trip took us back to Holeb Pond, the original pond we had started on. And after a several hour paddle we were back at the place where we had started.

There’s nothing quite like reentering the world of civilization after a five day foray in the wilderness. All of a sudden, after days of isolation during which in addition to your fellow campers, you had only an occasional moose or loon sighting for company, suddenly you find yourself back in the world of gasoline powered vehicles, and soon you are speeding your way back to camp.

For me the strangest return to civilization happened during our Moose River trip of 1974. We came out of the woods on August 8th, and returned to camp only to find out that President Richard M. Nixon was resigning the U. S. Presidency, stepping down at noon the next day. That news was greeted with cheers from our tired group of counselors, and that was certainly the most memorable return to civilization that I had had in my many years as a camp and trip counselor. §

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And so another edition of the Little Eddy Blog cruises over the falls and is swept away into cyber oblivion. We will spend the next week perusing here and down loading there, and we might even occasionally think of something clever to write ourselves. On Saturday mornings just before breakfast we upload our blog to Google.

We have sad news to pass along as we shut down this week’s blog. Russell Hoisington, erotica author extraordinaire and creator of the Wynter King series, died on February 16, 2010. Hoisington was a most sensitive and honest author, with a sense of character development which is only matched by that of his friend Wizard, and Hoisington’s Wynter King series remains the classic tale of growing up.

The series consists of five full length novels, Wynter, Wynter & Jimmy, Winter & Cinnamon, Wynter & Hailey, and Wynter & Brinkly and is best read in that order. Hoisington, aware that he might not live to finish the series, evidently wrote a Wynter King Obituary, to give his Wynter fans proper closure. It was posted by his friend Uncle Sky and is available on Russell’s page at If you have not yet read his Wynter Kings series, we warmly recommend that you read it in the order as listed above. His page requires registration which is free, and the Wynter Obituary may be accessed here! Goodnight Sweet Prince.

Friends, join us again any old time at all next week to see what mischief we’ll have been up to by then. And until then, remember tea is better smoked than drunk, or so we have heard. Bye bye, be good, and don’t forget come November to vote your real interests. Vote for the party that works for you, the party that spends your tax money on you, not on corporations and the rich. Go Democrats. §

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blog # 134: Through the Looking Glass

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The Court of the Queen of Quits

‘A Tea Party in Wonderland’

Lewis Carroll Meets Modern Day American Conservatism

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by Joe of Arizonaland

• This is the story of those who drink the Conservative Tea (‘DRINK ME’), the kind that makes your brain small enough to fit down the rabbit hole.

• Beyond the sleeping Dormouse, Michael Steele, you may see a sight to behold: dancers in bondage cheered by Young Republican Eaglets, or Tea Partying Caterpillars on mushrooms smoking hookahs.

• If you follow the White Supremacist Rabbit a little further, you may run into the delusional mad Hatter, Glenn Beck, reciting his favorite nonsense.

• Or the harpy-clawed Gryphon, Ann Coulter, trolling for easy prey.

• Or the smiling Cheshire fat cat, Rush Limbaugh, disappearing after an overdose of Conservative Cake (‘EAT ME’).

• Or the Dodo, George Bush, wondering where he went.

• Or the sad Mock Turtle, Dick Cheney, hiding in an undisclosed location, afraid that one day he will be made into soup.

• But most curious of all is the Quitter Queen of Hearts, Sarah Palin, who lost her tarts, and was seen shouting, "Off with their Heads! Off with their Heads! Don't Retreat. Reload!”, as the Grand Old House of Cards collapsed.

• But then our American Alice awakens and realizes that having this wacky pack of characters in charge of her land was just a bad dream….

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Behold! The Age of The iPad

Marco Grob for TIME

For reviews of the iPad from the leading technology writers, Walter S. Mossberg of the Wall St. Journal click here! David Pogue of the N.Y. Times views the iPad from 2 perspectives here! And finally Edward C. Baig of USA Today’s review lurks here!

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However if you read nothing else about the launch of the iPad and the reviews it has garnered, be sure to read Stephen Fry’s The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? in the current issue of Time Magazine. Fry tells of how in 1984 he and Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) were the first Apple Macintosh users in the UK, and how at the launch of the iPad he got to fulfill his lifelong ambition to visit what he calls the coolest address in the universe: 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, Calif., where Apple has been headquartered since 1993. He got to meet among others, Jonathan Ive and Steve Jobs. And as the climax of his day he got to play with a brand new iPad. To access his remarkable account of his day at 1 Infinite Loop click here!

And Finally, Stephen Colbert Has an iPad

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Gets a Free iPad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

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Pardon us while we salute President Barack Obama for his new found voice of strength. Nothing like pulling off a piece of legislation that virtually all the Presidents who preceded him had tried and failed to enact. Guess that puts him up on a new level. First President to stand up to Netanyahu. The Russians agree to agree. Behold our photo tribute below, Super Obama Speaks to Us From Cloud Nine?

Graphic from The Daily Beast

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Moscow Protesters Playing for Keeps

WTF? What’s going on? Two female suicide bombers blow themselves up on two Moscow subway lines, killing many innocent people in the process. It’s bad enough when men do this kind of shit, but women. They are our life givers, the propagators of the human race. WTF are they blowing themselves and their neighbors up? What is more important than ones’ own life?

Two Moscow Subway Victims

And we’re not a damn bit better off over here in the Good Ole U.S.A. Take those Michigan militia jokers, were they planning to protect us from intruders? No, they were going to off a police officer, and then at his funeral, off as many of his fellow officers as possible, in the fond hope that this would bring on Armageddon. They wanted to save us from our police forces, and from our federal, state, and local governments. Pathetic isn’t it? And they call themselves Christians. The ghost of Timothy McVeigh attempts to carry on in the most devious of ways.

Friends and relatives mourn Maxim Mareyev, a 20-year-old university student who was killed in Monday's suicide bombings in Moscow. Mikhail Metzel-AP

Folks, seriously what is happening to the human race? People weren’t doing this kind of bloodlust when I was a kid. Of course we had only recently come out of the caves and trees back then. But we didn’t take army-grade weapons to Middle School to blow away our classmates and teachers. Hell, we didn’t even have military grade weapons back then. The best we had was cap-pistols.

Society is taking a devious turn towards the worse lately, and it behooves us to stop and think about where the hell we are, and try to turn around some of those areas that are facilitating this mindless destruction. This means Russians need to begin serious Peace negotiations with Chechens, not just flex their muscles at them. Same with Netanyahu, who needs to forget further building in the occupied lands and begin substantive talks for peace in the region. And as for these home grown militia styled militants, who knows what in hell they are after? And what it will take to defuse them. But they can be ignored at our own peril.

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GOP’s National Chairman, Michael Steele

Can’t figure out where you want to invest your money? That’s a no brainer. Why invest it in the Republican Party, of course. Number one reason, the Grand Old Party sure as hell knows how to party.

According to FEC filings, Mister Republican Michael Steele (pictured above) travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,946.25 spent in Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

Never heard of the club? Here’s a Yelp testimonial: “The girl at the door sent us in right away and told us to go to a table by the bar and get some free Champagne. Seriously. This club is amazing. There are topless "dancers" acting out S&M scenes throughout the night on one of the side stages, there's a half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling and at one point I walked to the bathroom and pretty much just stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case.”

Obviously the Republican National Committee knows a thing or two about ferreting out topless entertainment. Of course, once the world learned about the sex club the person behind arranging for the visit got an immediate axe. It’s no wonder that for the first time in modern times the Democratic National Committee is ahead of the GOP in the funding race. With big time spenders like Republican Fund Raisers plowing through their take, there’s not likely to be a helluva lot left over to fund the candidates this fall. So hurry up and give now. L.A.’s finest in Sex Clubs are anxiously awaiting your donations.

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Taking Security to An Extreme

Perusing Google News coverage of the Technology section on Monday, I came upon a most interesting article. It seems that the company behind the Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox, has issued a most secure USB memory stick. In case you’re not very far into tech, a USB stick is a bit of technology which allows you to put extra technology onto your personal computer. It is like having extra memory you can plug into your computer.

Victorinox says the Secure is "the most secure [device] of its kind available to the public." It features a fingerprint scanner and a thermal sensor "so that the finger alone, if detached from the body, will not give access to the memory stick's contents." So it won’t do them any good to cut off your finger to try and get into the contents. If they want to get into the contents they have to keep you intact and in one piece, which is always good news for you.

The Victorinox Super Secure Memory Stick

And shades of Mission Impossible, there's even a self-destruct mechanism. Victorinox offers no explanation how this works, only saying that if someone tries to forcibly open the memory stick it triggers a self-destruct mechanism that "irrevocably burns [the Secure's] CPU and memory chip."

Victorinox says the device uses the Advanced Encryption Standard 256 to protect your data as well as its own proprietary security chip. And finally being a Swiss Army Knife, the Secure also comes with the usual other features, including an LED mini light, retractable ballpoint pen, 2 jackknife blades, scissors, nail file, screwdriver, and key ring. Truly a Swiss-Army Knife for the digital world.

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Fond Memories of Ma Bell?

Return with us to those chilling days of yesteryear, when lovable old Ma Bell ruled the world of the telephone with an iron fist. Rotary dialing was the way of life, and innovations like tone dialing and wireless phones were banned as they “might have an adverse effect on your telephone service.” Finally the courts broke ATT’s stranglehold on Alexander Graham Bell’s nifty little communication invention. And today’s wide variety of innovation stands as proof of ATT’s original collection of lies.

No one summed up the monopolistic world of ATT more succinctly than did Lily Tomlin, as the storied switch board operator on yesteryear’s Laugh In. Join us in this fond look back, courtesy YouTube and The Sunday Funnies.

To my mind, one of the true blessings of the post Ma Bell telephone era was the development of caller ID. At last the call receiver has a tool with which to check on the identity of any incoming caller. It wasn’t always accurate, to be sure, but it was sure as hell better than nothing.

However, imagine my surprise when I got a call this morning from a caller with the strangest Caller ID I had yet to see. The ID line simply read Do Not Answer. I have to admit that that was intriguing enough to tempt me to answer the call just to find out who had the balls to have so brazen an ID. In the end though I deferred to their request, and did not pick up the call. Now I’ll never know who it was who didn’t want me to pick them up. Damn! §

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Island Trip Second on Teen Camp Agenda

Maine’s oceanfront offered a truly unique trip experience on a Maine Island. Camp had permission to camp on either of two islands which we subsequently took trips to. High Island which as I remember as being the second island on the right after turning left while rowing out of Tenants Harbor, and Mosquito Island, which was a much longer row on the other side of Hart’s Neck unless we trucked our boats over to Martinsville Beach and rowed over from there. I remembered Teen Camp trips to both beaches with fondness, each had its uniqueness and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

The Island trip was the second planned excursion of the summer, following the Tumbledown Mountain climb by about a week. Unlike Tumbledown which was a tune up for the Katahdin trip which would end the summer, the Island trip had no over all accomplishment beyond rowing to get yourself there and later to get yourself back.

On the face of it, Island trips seemed lacking in purpose compared to trips with a definite accomplishment, such as climbing a mountain or canoeing a stream. But in some ways it was the more challenging of the trips as it caused campers to actually use their ingenuity to avoid boredom. It provided lots of time for individual introspection. And it provided a refreshing break from the usual trip which was guaranteed to more fully occupy your time.

Of course initial effort was expended in rowing to the island, and setting up the camp once you got there, but the only other compulsive efforts after that were in preparing meals on an outdoor campfire and cleaning up your gear thereafter. Whereas other trips over the summer were trips which required climbing or paddling, island trips were lazy in comparison. Leisurely bathing in the sun was high on our list. Exploring the island was also a highly favored activity, as was exploring for berries growing wild.

Ah, the salt air, the chill and humidity, and the constant crackle of the ocean surrounding us. However, the ocean could only be heard from the shore. Both islands were heavily wooded, and inside the woods each island had a strange quietness. This was because there were no insects on the island, and consequently no birds to eat them, other than sea gulls cruising the ocean surrounding us fishing for fish. And so, other than our campers there was no life in those woods.

Of course there were activities available on island trips which were unique to them. The most obvious was fishing, and rarely did we send out a trip where some were not anxious to spend hours in the boat patiently waiting for a bite. And on days when the fish were biting, the whole trip would get treated to fresh grilled fish for dinner. Rowing was also a popular activity, and hunting for clams and mussels was a fun alternative which for some reason wasn’t very often exercised.

Swimming was also a popular pastime on an island trip. The Atlantic Ocean wasn’t one bit warmer around the islands (the warming Gulf stream ran a hundred miles out to sea, or so we were told.) Because we were almost always by ourselves swimming was clothing optional. On sunny days swimming was an especially popular option, though on cold, cloudy days, dry land activities like exploratory trips around the island were a preferred alternative.

On the Island itself your time was your own. As a result there was a lot of lying around, sunning, swimming, and still more sunning. The island trip saw campers using their ingenuity in passing the time. Some decorated themselves by designing wreaths of flowers which they would wear on their heads as crowns, or their wrists as bracelets.

If the tide was low a few of the more energetic camperss would muddle, which was a camp activity consisting of playing in the mud at low tide and using mud and seaweed as decorations for the face and body. And campers with a penchant for sketching would spend time capturing the unique look of the island, not to mention capturing the apparitions that the muddlers became.

High Island and Mosquito Island were both tree covered islands with picturesque rocky coast facing the open ocean and secluded beaches on the lee side. High Island boasted a firmly constructed tree house high up between several trees. We weren’t allowed to sleep in it, but most campers would climb up to try it out at least once on a High Island trip.

Mosquito Island was in plain sight of the Martinsville Beach where the children’s camp used to sometime come and swim when the tide was out back at camp. There was a lot to be said for a leisurely Island trip which had no particular goal to accomplish. They made for a nice break in the routine.

– ☯ –

And so our journey through the iPad's Looking Glass onto two of Maine's lovely islands comes to an end. The row back should be brisk as the seas are rolling with Tea Partiers skinnydipping fore and aft. We promised not to look, though, so we won't. Besides who the hell wants to see a naked Tea Partier anyway?

We thank Joe of Arizonaland for his contribution to this week's blog, and hope you will surf your way back again anytime next week. Meanwhile, bye bye, and watch out for that collapsing conservative house of cards. It's falling all around us.

The Real Little Eddy §