Archive for December, 2008

Mine are few because I never seem able to keep them anyway. But just in case God is making a list of good intentions in preparation for paving the road to Hell, here are a few.

  1. This is both a look-back and a look forward vow. I am never going to read those ubiquitous summaries of the events of the past year. And if one suddenly appears before me on a television show, I’m switching immediately to The History Channel for a refresher on Sex in World War II.
  2. I will speak kindly of those around me, except politicians, Big-3 CEOs, Wall Street Bankers, Joe the Plumber, and George Brash. Oh, and put Dick Cheney on the list. However, I’m speaking kindly of Sarah Palin because she deserves a little respect even if it is pretense. Besides, she’s good looking and we all know good looking people deserve our attention.
  3. I plan to spend a lot of time talking about Jerry Brown to the exclusion of other pretenders to the California Governor’s Chair. Jerry is just plain fun to listen to. And what’s life all about if we can’t have a funny governor now and then?
  4. I am going to purge my Facebook Friends list of politicians, at least the ones who flood the Facebook News Feed with gobs of items. Oh, and henceforth, any politician who fails to respond to one of my Comments on his or her page is out automatically. I resent people who resent being called jerks. Besides, I have a hunch politicians aren’t directly involved in their Facebook pages anyway. Some low-level unpaid aide probably spends 24/7 scouring the internet for names to make it seem the politician is popular despite common knowledge to the contrary.
  5. Finally, I resolve that I might think about relocating to Nevada, to a place like Fallon or Fernley or Paradise Valley. These are tiny, isolated communities perfect for someone like me who craves the relationship between man and reptile, a man who loves the heat and numbing cold under a Western sky. Paradise Valley is especially alluring. It’s listed as a Nevada Ghost Town, but apparently somebody around there votes. The town is a Humboldt County Polling Precinct. Ghost voting isn’t unusual in the world of hardball politics, especially in That Toddlin’ Town. But I have a hunch some real live humans, along with a whole lot of cows and horses live and vote in Paradise Valley despite its classification as a ghost town.

Those are just a few of my favorite resolutions for the year 2009. This list may be changed at my option.


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Servicemen and women often spend Christmas away from their families. Some are away from home a couple of Christmases in a row, depending on the state of the world at any point in time as viewed in Washington, D.C.

I understand the feelings of longing of those serving in foreign countries. I’ve spent my share of time away from my own family because I happened to be assigned overseas over the span of two holiday seasons.

I don’t regret those years at all because I was doing what the men in my family had always done, proudly wearing the uniform of a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman. Still, I missed my family.

Today, American men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan proudly wear their uniforms just as I did.  Like me, they feel the pain of separation from their families, pain which becomes more acute during the holiday season.

But not all of today’s service people are in Iraq or Afghanistan. The last time I bothered to count them, there were more than 300 American overseas military bases. Some are large bases but most are small.

No matter. Whether a serviceman or women is assigned to a large base or a small one, each is away from home through no wish of their own (a slight variation of a line from the Bobby Vinton oldie, Mr. Lonely).

And someday, ages and ages hence (Robert Frost), today’s generation will look back at their own Christmases elsewhere and wonder.

Is it world peace, or a piece of the world that lies behind a nation’s foreign policies?

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…don’t let the bedbugs bite…

Bedbugs are sadistic, pandemic little creatures from the Cenozoic Age or something like that.

Bedbugs viciously attack and leave little red bite marks all over the most 122308-2010-sleeptight1.pngsensitive parts of the human body. And like the cowards they are, they waylay you when you are in a defenseless state of deep slumber. In fact, I’m convinced that REM sleep is merely the brain’s attempt to process the pain of bedbug bites and preserve human sanity.

But bedbugs aren’t the only hazards of sleeping in a bed. A person can actually be killed just laying there. Take my own record of attempts to survive a full eight hours of sleep in a bed.

A couple of nights ago in a deep state of REM, I split my forehead and removed about an inch of outer skin from my forearm.

Apparently, I rose up in bed and swung my right fist at a bedbug, missing the little monster completely. The consequence were unexpected to say the least. The momentum of my swing twisted me around with such force that my head slammed into the shard edge of the headboard as my right arm grazed that same sharp edge.

I recoiled from the headboard with such force that I felt for a moment that an intruder had hit me with a plank or something. Only partially awake by now, I staggered into the bathroom to check for damages and saw my bloody forehead and arm.

In a mental fog, I wondered if I should call 911 but finally decided I preferred my bedbugs over emergency room bedbugs. Besides, the mishap went entirely unnoticed by my wife, which is a sign that she’d seen it all before and the world would be well with the light of day. I plastered the jagged cuts with a few Band-Aids and staggered back to bed.

My wife ought to know, of course. She also witnessed a split skull and a skinned knee one night when I rolled out of bed and banged my head into a steel workout weight on the floor at the head of the bed. Then there was the time I walked blithely into a wall and for a week or so sported a perfectly round black eye.

Not to mention the night I rolled off, knocked over a lamp, and landed on my back in a daze, looking up at the frightened face of my daughter who had heard the commotion from her bedroom.

These are all incidents to laugh about, but one of my bachelor cousins fell out of his bed a few years ago, broke his neck, and laid there undetected for three days until a neighbor found him. He passed away within days of the accident.

So, take these anecdotal incidents to heart. Replace your bed with a futon or a sleeping bag. But if you choose a sleeping bag, shake it out regularly. Centipedes love sleeping bags.

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Imagine my surprise the other day when, surfing through Google Earth, I discovered the house of my birth in Google Earth’s Street View. This is startling when you consider that this little town in The Old Country is off the beaten path, literally off the grid. What the heck is Google Earth thinking, cruising up and down the town’s streets and snapping photos?

I’ve also found pictures of two homes where we lived in Petaluma, an apartment in San Rafael, a house in Tracy, one in Rollingwood, and, traveling further back in time, a mid-childhood home in Norwalk. Sadly, I don’t recall the address of our apartment on Mission Street in Daly City (my cousin says San Francisco) but I am certain it still stands.

Some of the houses I’ve mentioned seem to have defied the aging process, some haven’t. The house I was born in was built in 1910 according to my granddad, who owned it along with a vacant lot next door and a house on the other side of the vacant lot where my two sisters were born. For some reason, the old house has stood the tests of time better than the ones in Petaluma, both of which seem a little ragged around the edges today.

But my perceptions are probably skewed by one foot in the Dark Ages and one in the modern world. The Neo-Confederate States of America are—well—in an alternate universe, a softer, more traditional world. The South reveres the past and places great value on historic buildings and classic pre and antebellum homes.

California, however, is afflicted with an acute case of Neo-Modernity, a condition causing the rapid deterioration of old stuff. Sure, California also treasures its history, but the state’s population exploded during and after World War II, with a corresponding need for new homes.

Vast tracts of once pristine golden hills were blanketed with cookie-cutter houses that originally sold for $15,000 to $30,000. New construction rather than renovation and preservation became the model of need and remains so today.

122208-0553-themanytrea1.pngThe overhead shot of a part of Pinole taken from Google Earth illustrates the proliferation of tract homes in but one small corner of the Bay Area. Why renovate when you could move on up?

Except that those $30,000 tract homes are no longer cheap. How about a half a million for one or, in a now-upscale community like Orinda, you may have to ante up a million or more.

Compare that to my birth house. The last time I checked, I could have bought the old homestead for $30,000, or less. The question is, would a person prefer to live in a small community inhabited by more snakes, chiggers, mosquitoes, and maybe migratory alligators than people or in a nice 400-square foot studio in the basement of a three-story building sitting next to a BART line for a measly $600,000?

The choice is clear. Isn’t it? Or maybe Minden, Nevada is worth checking out. Take a look at the town via Google Earth. Every inch has been photographed up close and personal. Try it. You might like it.

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Every year the Christmas spirit comes over me and I do my level best to put aside the events of the past and look to the future with a bright and optimistic attitude.

Not everyone shares my philosophy. There are dissonant voices in the wilderness. One of them communicated his or her disagreement a few days ago.

“You are a fucking Asshole!” the commenter wrote.

The first thing I noticed was that he took the time and effort to capitalize “Asshole.” Boy, there’s a world of hidden meanings in that single capitalized word.

Unfortunately, the writer didn’t explain why she or he thinks I am a fucking asshole, and I have no desire to examine the possibilities. I merely include his observation here to illustrate a point.

Notice the sub-heading of this site: “When all around you are assholes, you are under no obligation to become one.”

That’s a philosophy I do my level best to follow, and so, in the spirit of peace on Earth and good will toward men and women, I will not respond in kind.

Instead, I wish the commenter a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I sincerely, fervently pray for Santa Claus to stuff her/his stocking with a tiny tome called The Elements of Style by William Strunk.

Chapter 11, Do not explain too much, is especially appropriate. Combining the adjective “fucking” with a capitalized “Asshole” is overkill, especially when punctuated with an exclamation point.

A simple “You are an asshole” is quite acceptable.

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Suddenly, Nancy Perlosi is going to get tough. With Raul Emmanuel. With Harry Reid. With Barack Obama. With George Bush.

Whoops. Scratch Bush. Nancy knows when to fold ’em and when to hold ’em. She’s folded ’em so many times with Bush, she throws her hand in automatically when he sits down at the table.

But now, she’s banking on Obama and his crew and the new Democratic Congress folding every time she ups the ante.

She may very well win. According to Politico, Nancy has set her own rules beginning in January. There’s a new game in town, boys, and one suspects that Bush’s Office Spouse is running things. Here’s the guts of the way it’s going to be.

  • No White House interference in the House Democratic Caucus.
  • The Obama crew must tell Pelosi whenever anyone from the Obama camp has contact with rank and file Democratic House members—and why.
  • Pelosi must be informed whenever Senate leader Harry Reid contacts any House Democrat.

All of this is somewhat puzzling. Where was Nancy’s backbone when Bush rammed the surge and other dictatorial measures down the throats of the Democratic controlled House and Senate?

Or when Bush just flat refused to budge on any matter whatsoever connected to the Iraq fiasco? Rather than call him, Nancy folded.

Now with friendly forces taking over the Oval Office, she suddenly wants to get tough. Why? Why establish rules of engagement to deter or complicate the establishment of programs and goals of the highly popular Obama? Aren’t these people on the same sheet of music?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is more to Democratic infighting than meets the eye. Perhaps that’s how the small cadre of Republicans in Congress has consistently managed to outmaneuver the Democratic majority, by just plain old outsmarting them and if that failed, calling them un-American traitors.

We’ll have to wait and see how relationships progress or regress when January 20th rolls around and Obama takes over the Oval Office.  One thing is certain, if the Democrats can’t move the country forward because of petty turf wars, the Democrats stand to lose it all the next time around.

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According to the latest news out of Iraq, the Iraqi journalist who threw a couple of shoes at George Bush during a news conference in Baghdad, has been arrested and beaten by Iraqi policemen.

President Bush seemed to derive so much glee from his ability to dodge the shoes that he ought to exercise his constitutional power of pardons and order the guy released before Iraq erupts in widespread demonstrations and riots. Already, demonstrations have occurred in Baghdad.

Compassionate conservatism demands action, Mr. Bush. Drawing on your vast experience and knowledge of the Middle East, do the right thing. Hire the Shoeman as a consultant on how to improve Secret Service screening procedures.

Speaking of experience, the power structure of the Republicrats is bemoaning Caroline Kennedy’s “lack of experience” for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary.

That seems ironic given the shape of the U.S. today, a condition caused by the actions and failures to act by the current crop of “highly experienced” Senators and Representatives in Congress. If their kind of experience is desired, I’ll take a 5th grader.

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