Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You May Already Be A Loser

My wife received a mailing the other day from something called "Sweepstakes Clearinghouse". The accompanying "Official Prize Award Directive" informed her that she had been awarded a consolation prize in a multi-million dollar giveaway. A voucher for $500.00 was enclosed which, according to the letter, could be applied to any one of six prizes listed; a digital camera, a gold and diamond watch, a luggage set, a digital camcorder, a desktop computer and a laptop computer.

Since she has been interested in a laptop she asked me if I thought the offer was a deal or not. It only took a glance for me to realize this was a good deal like buying a Rolex from the homeless guy behind Lexington Market is a good deal.

The laptop listed a "National Reference Retail" price of $879.95. It came with Windows XP operating system, a Pentium 3 processor, a 10 gigabyte hard drive, 256 megabytes of memory, a fax modem and indicated "CD-ROM included".

Now one needn't be a computer expert to see something was wrong here. To provide contrast I showed my wife the ad in last Sundays Parade magazine. This displayed, for $479.00, a Dell Inspiron laptop, complete with Windows Vista, the latest operating system; a Pentium Dual-Core processor (many times faster than the ancient Pentium 3); a 250 GB hard drive (25 times the capacity of the other); 4 GB of memory (40 times the power of the 256 MB); and a CD and DVD recorder (oddly, the other said "CD-ROM" which describes a CD disk but does not mention an actual CD player/recorder.

I concluded that the "fully-loaded, ready-to-run, multimedia laptop" Sweepstakes Clearinghouse was hawking was in fact a refurbished 5 - 7 year-old machine, the type of starter system one might purchase for a very young child for under $100.00 at a flea market.

What worries me is how many people sent in their voucher with a check for the difference (including a hefty shipping and handling charge).

Sweepstakes Clearinghouse is the clear winner here. If you get this "You may already be a winner" garbage in the mail, my advice is to shred it, burn it and toss it out.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Merry Seasonal Celebration #12

There's a move afoot in America to change the Christmas holiday. There are people who love to engage in the festivities and gift giving and parties and days off but don't want to acknowledge the purpose of the holiday, which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

These folks prefer to refer to Christmas as "Xmas" or the "Winter Holiday". They feel that those who don't accept Jesus are offended by having to associate Him with the holiday that commemorates His birth.

There is a certain logic to this. Holidays are entirely too specific. I propose we sanitize all holidays.

Events like Memorial Day, a holiday dedicated to the memory of American war dead; Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776; and Veterans Day, honoring all men and women who have served America in its armed forces; are all days associated with war. What's more offensive to a liberal-minded American than war? And think about all those people who were victims of American wars; Japanese, Germans, Vietnamese, Iraqis, Southerners. How can we continue to offend and belittle those people by celebrating these holidays each year?

Now I'm not proposing that we discontinue the celebrations themselves. Like Christmas we can still have the day off. We can have the cookouts, parties, even parades associated with those summer holidays. We just need to leave out the objectionable identifying icons, like flags, military uniforms, armaments and such.

Likewise we need to neutralize events like Mothers Day and Fathers Day, which are offensive to those who either don't know their parents or abhor them. Labor Day is a slap in the face of the unemployed and Columbus Day has to rub some Native Americans the wrong way.

Even the word "holiday" is questionable. Its etymology is the Middle English for Holy Day. HOLY day? Sounds like government sponsored religion to me. What happened to separation of Church and State?

How about "Free Day". Or "Seasonal Celebration". We could number them, from Seasonal Celebration #1 on January the first to Seasonal Celebration #12 on December the twenty-fifth. That way no one is offended, the stores can still have their big sales, we get our days off and a good time is had by all.

I'm really looking forward to the Day Following the Third Day of the Month Following the Sixth Month. We're having a big barbeque.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bright Lights of B-More

Dateline: Baltimore, Summer, 2005

City Spotlights Help Stop Crime

(AP) Baltimore, MD Police have put 30 large spotlight towers in neighborhoods in Baltimore to discourage drug dealers and crimes on dark street corners.
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Police say the lights have been placed in areas where a high number of homicides or other crimes have occurred on poorly lit streets.

One of the light towers -- similar to ones used by highway departments in construction zones -- stands near a vacant lot near Greenmount and Whitridge avenues in North Baltimore, surrounded by orange cones.
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Scenario: Big Willie, arguably the most notorious crack dealer on the mean streets of Baltimore, is visiting one of his most profitable distribution points, a seedy apartment, two stories above Jaspers Liquors/ Deli/ Check Cashing Store one block south of Greenmount Avenue. Flanked by a pair of strapping and strapped bodyguards, Big Willie is angrily confronting P-Money, his top lieutenant in the North Baltimore corridor.

Big Willie: Yo, P-Money, you got some serious explaining to do, sucker. My profits have dropped drastically over the past month. Whatchu doin' up in here? Huh?

P-Money: Big Willie, it ain't me, dawg. My peeps be out there working they tails off, right? Same as always. It's those lights, man. The cops, they put those super bright lights up on the corner and now nobody wanna come score no stuff 'cause they be under those lights. It's killing our bidness, man.

Big Willie: Dang! Those diabolical S.O.B.s. They driving me outta bidness. Have you tried shootin' the lights out?

P-Money: Yeah. We did that twice. They just brought in some new ones. Those cops are smarter than I thought. It looks like we in big trouble.

At this point, one of Big Willie's bodyguards, a fellow known as Mo Skillz (who happens to be the only member of the drug gang who graduated high school) clears his throat to get Big Willie's attention.

Mo Skillz: Uh, Big Willie, I have a idea. How 'bout if we move operations up a block to where they ain't no lights?

Big Willie: You mean, instead of trying to sell our stuff under those lights at Greenmount and Whitridge we move up to Greenmount and 27th where they ain't no lights? I woulda never thoughta that.

P-Money: See, we smarter than them cops after all.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


July 2005 will long be remembered for the knock-down, drag-out fight between me and WindowsXP. I had purchased an XP installation disk with the intention of removing my five-year-old WindowsME operating system, wiping my hard-drive clean and rejuvenating my computer with 21st century technology. If I'd know how tough my opponent was going to be I'd have hired a manager and gone into training early.

Round 1- My system wouldn't boot from the XP disk. I didn't know if that was because the disk I had was a Reinstallation CD rather than the new install I thought it was or if the boot sequence I set in my BIOS was wrong (ATAPI CDROM, IDE-HDD, Floppy, ARMD-FDD, ARMD-HDD). I ended up booting to Windows, installing XP from there, and selecting the NTFS format. This, of course, did not wipe my hard-drive as I had intended.
Me-0 XP-1

Round 2- I managed to get my cable modem and network router installed and running. I loaded MS Works and downloaded and installed AVG Antivirus. Each time I rebooted I had time to go into the kitchen, fix a ham and cheese sandwich and grab a cold soda while that ugly blue-on-black Dell splash screen, the "Windows is starting" screen and the Welcome screen each sat on my monitor for long, interminable minutes.
Me-1 XP-1

Round 3- My Taskbar (and Start button) disappeared. It wasn't hiding beyond the borders of my screen; it just vanished. Ctrl-Esc could not retrieve it. It appeared when I booted to Safe Mode, but not otherwise. A Microsoft Knowledge Base article suggested the problem might be the result of a faulty driver and instructed me on "How to perform a clean boot in XP" in order to locate the recalcitrant file. After several tries and lengthy reboots I finally got my Taskbar back.
Me-2 XP-1

Round 4- While attempting to load my printer software, my CD-R and DVD drives disappeared. In My Computer and Windows Explorer, F: and E: drives were no longer residents. At that point I succumbed to frustration and, knowing I couldn't afford to buy a new computer were I to vent my emotions on this one, I shut everything down. I was floored but not out.
Me-2 XP-2

Round 5- Slightly refreshed, if not confident, I returned to the scene of the XP debacle. Since I had already done a virus scan, I downloaded SpyBot Search & Destroy and ran a spyware scan. I cleaned out the dozen or so miscreants unearthed, r- e- b- o- o- t- e- d, and checked My Computer to find my missing drives had returned (I didn't check for them when I first logged in so I don't know if they were back before the spyware scan). On a subsequent reboot, I was greeted with a log-in screen which read: "To begin, click user name". I looked everywhere but under the monitor and there was no user name to click. After puzzling for a few minutes I resorted to my old standby: Ctrl-Alt-Del. This brought up a log-in window with my name and a request for a password. I had never established a log-in password so I clicked OK and it let me in.
Me-3 XP-2

Round 6- My minimized windows were sitting atop the Taskbar instead of on it. I accessed the Taskbars properties and affirmed the settings were correct. Most peculiar. When the computer booted it displayed the "found new hardware" alert for my printer, but when I inserted the printer disk, a window popped up, informing me I needed to check for compatibility with XP. My Epson is five years old, so I visited the Epson website and downloaded and installed drivers for XP. I went to Printers and Faxes in the Control Panel and selected Add Printer. An alert said a printer could not be added as the "printer spool service" wasn't running. After a bit of Googling, I found some information concerning the printer spool service so I went to Run, typed in "service.msc", found Print Spooler/ Properties/ Automatic/ Start. That sequence was supposed to activate the printer spool service but my printer stubbornly refused to work.
Me-3 XP-3

Round 7- Let's see; at that point I had no printer function (I was afraid to even try to install my scanner), Search wasn't working (I clicked it and clicked it, nothing happened) and the Taskbar was back to playing hide-and-seek; my minimized windows were sitting at the bottom of the screen like so many birds on a wire, so I had to minimize all open windows in order to open another. I decided to take my black-eye, fractured ribs and bruised ego, throw in the towel and return to WinME.

Footnote: I did eventually get XP properly installed, after considerable research. Hey, I never claimed to be a computer guru.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Eat Must Be First

My wife (whose palate is clearly more refined than mine) loves Chinese food and likes to order from any new joint that comes to her attention. She has an extensive collection of menus, one of which recently caught my eye, not for its colorful list of Asian delicacies, such as Cold Noodles w. Hot Sesame Sauce (2.99), Jin Jun Pork (5.29) or even it's highly recommended Baby Shrimp w. Cashew Nuts (6.79), but instead for the name of the establishment: Eat Must Be First. Eat Must Be First

I'm hopelessly drawn to inventive eccentricity and I fully intend to inquire into the genesis of the business' name. But the strange name did bring to mind a similarly structured phrase of wider purview: "All your base are belong to us".

That curious phrase haunted the Internet a couple of years ago like a benign Trojan, turning up in the most unexpected places. And like many phenomena spawned in cyberspace, once the mainstream media latched onto it, the life was slowly sucked out.
All your base are belong to us

For you readers who aren't familiar with the "All your base are belong to us" sensation, the Website, provides comprehensive information on the history of the phrase and contains some very amusing video widely shared during the height of the "All your base..." craze.

I got quite a kick out of revisiting the madness.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pond of Consciousness...

Minds are peculiar things. Well my mind is a peculiar thing; I can't speak of other minds as I've only experienced the peculiarity of mine.

I just recently realised how my mind parallels the Internet (in a microcosmic, tangential sort of way). I've always noticed how my mind tends to wander from place to essentially unrelated place. For instance, I might be reading an article about something reported on Fox News... I don't watch Fox News that much... in fact, all I really watch on Fox is "24"... Kiefer Sutherland isn't a great actor but the show demands little of him... I couldn't stand his father, Donald... the movie, "M*A*S*H" with him and Elliot Gould was so inferior to the TV version... Alan Alda was the perfect Hawkeye... Mobile Army Surgical Hospital... funny I remember that... I wonder if they still have MASH units... I read an article in Time about how new medical techniques are saving the lives of soldiers in Iraq... am I going to renew my Time subscription... man, I have more magazines than I can keep up with... maybe I'll dump Smart Computing and New Yorker... I think the reason I don't read as many books as I used to is because I get so many mags... I remember I used to run over to the library every day at lunch and load up on the sale books... sometimes they'd be like a dollar a piece or even two for a dollar... I'd have a trunk-full... that's how I discovered Stan Lee's "Dunn's Conundrum", that was a book ahead of it's time, with it's super-secret "Library" and electronic audio and video surveillance... Nixon might have got some of his ideas from that book... ummm, I never read "All the President's Men", I wonder why... I'll have to look for it... it's probably being reprinted because of Felt's revelation... I don't think the guy's a snitch, like some say, but he isn't quite a hero either... who would be considered a hero... even soldiers are just doing their job...

And then suddenly I would wonder, How on earth did I get to heros from this totally unrelated article about Fox News? Sometimes it'll be fun to backtrack, to find the random mental links that lead me from that place to this.

I recognised the parallel when I realised that I do the exact same thing on the Internet. From one Web page I'll click an interesting link, then from that page I'll click another, and another from there, until, sometimes hours later I have no idea where I started or how I got where I was.

I guess my sentient wanderings might qualify as "stream of consciousness" but the often circular, non-progressive manner of my thoughts might be more accurately called a "pond of consciousness".

What, then, would we call the random connections of hyperlinks as we click from the known to the unknown? As we venture into a vast galaxy of Websites with little idea of what to expect. Are there as many Web pages as there are stars in the galaxy... I read somewhere that the number of Web pages was approaching 100 billion... how would anyone even know that... oh, I just noticed the other day on a McDonald's sign, it said: "Billions served"... I remember back when they used to count the number served by the millions... I saw in the newspaper that Ronald McDonald now has a new "healthier" image... I wonder if other food related icons might be going on a diet... how about the Pillsbury Doughboy, lean and mean... it seems everything is about make-overs these days... I know who could use a make-over...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Can you hear me now?

I think it's finally time for me to wade into the roiling sea of the ongoing cellphone discord. There seems to be a legislative wave sweeping across the country intent on limiting cellphone use while driving and in public places.
So many of the inventions of the past thousand years or so have proven to be both boon and bane to society that pundits are almost always evenly split on their yea or nay with regards to... oh, excuse me...

Hello? Oh, hi, sugar. Uh huh, no, you know I hate going there; the lines are always so long. Can't you... huh? Okay, okay. What? A half pound of Spiced Ham, a pound of Peppered Ham, a pound of Provolone. WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING, IDIOT!! Guy driving like he's nuts. Sure, I got it. What if they don't have the Peppered Ham? No, I'm just saying... but they might not... okay, okay. Right, see ya.

Where was I? Oh. When we look back in things like gunpowder, firearms, automobiles, even electricity, we see that, while these things may have caused the loss of a few lives, they also have saved many lives. Cellphone opponents like to point to accidents that occur while drivers are on the phone. Well I say, cellphones don't kill people, drivers kill people. I once saw a lady putting on lipstick, looking in her rear-view mirror, while driving. What, are we going to ban lipstick?

Sometimes we just need to take a step back and consider the balance... oops, hold on a minute...

Hey Jeff, how're you doing buddy? Nah, nothing important. HEY, YOU JERK. I GOT THE RIGHT-OF-WAY HERE. Man, some people. Hahaha, right. Oh man, did you catch the game last night? Can you believe they blew a ten point lead? Oh, you were over Ralph's, huh? He's got that new big screen TV, right? No kidding. That sounds nice. Yeah, cool, I'll catch you later.

So I was saying, I mean, I agree that some people can't drive and talk on the phone at the same time, but, come on; some people can't drive and breathe at the same time. You know what I mean? Why penalize those of us good drivers because of a small number of folks?

The same thing with people who talk loud on their cells in restaurants and other public places. The law ought to be for them. If I'm over in a booth, talking quietly, not disturbing anybody, why should I be banned?

See that's my problem with most laws; everybody has to suffer because of a handfull of bad apples. Oh, well, what can you do, huh? Go with the flow. That's it for me.

Hello? Hey sugar. Uhhh, they didn't have any Peppered Ham...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Saddam Shame

A photograph of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his underwear has been appearing in newspapers around the world since first exposed in the London Sun. Saddam in shorts

Representatives of the U.S. military were barely able to contain their chagrin at the publishing of such unauthorized pictures. The Pentagon issued a statement which read, in brief:

"These photos were taken in clear violation of DoD [Department of Defense] directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals."

The former Iraqi strongman, who was stripped of his dictatorship in July 2004, shortly after the U.S. "shock and awe" attack on Iraq, is shown in one photograph holding what appears to be an item of clothing. Speculation has arisen that Hussein was preparing to iron the item.

When pressed, the Pentagon refused to confirm or deny the availability of on-the-premises dry cleaning for war-time captives.

Muslim leaders expressed naked rage at what they felt was the mistreatment of Hussein.

Rumors that Fruit of the Loom has signed Hussein to a six figure endorsement deal are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Transaction to Die For

Have you heard the one about the death-row inmate who wants to delay his execution so he can donate his liver to his dying sister?

Here's the punch-line: Dr. Mark Fox, chairman for the ethics committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing is concerned about the donor's ability to give "informed consent".

Dr. Fox said, "The lives (of prisoners) are constrained in ways that yours and mine are not. Free, informed consent involves the freedom to either accept or to reject treatments that are being proposed."

"The fact that the donation could prolong his own life," the good doctor continued, "could compromise an inmate's decision-making ability.

"Neither (the inmate nor his sister) may feel they have the complete freedom to make the decision that is appropriate for them," Fox said.

It sometimes amazes me how people, especially educated people, can take a simple issue and analyze it to death; twisting it and turning it until it is no longer simple, no longer recognizable.

The inmate is going to die. Offering his liver serves two purposes: it prolongs his life by a few weeks and it saves his sister's life. What does it matter which of those is his primary motive. And how much informed consent must one have to make such an offer.

Are organ donations accepted only if the givers' motives are purely altruistic? This is a deal on which the most pragmatic of observers can agree.


In 1998 a Texas death row inmate's request for a stay of execution in order to donate a kidney was denied. One of the concerns was that the inmate might die during the operation.

Only in Texas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On the Warpath...

I have a problem with the Cleveland Indians. For those of you who are not sports enthusiasts, the Cleveland Indians are a Major League Baseball team which has been in existance for nearly 100 years. And my problem isn't with the team, per se, but with the team's logo, a red-skinned, large-grinned, hook-nosed, solo-feathered cartoon character named Chief WahooChief Wahoo

My displeasure with the logo is not a unique stance. Folks of one stripe or another have been protesting it privately and publicly almost since it's inception.

Spokespeople for the Cleveland Indians organization insist that Chief Wahoo "was not created to offend American Indians, but to honor them". The team reps say the team's nickname and logo were designed to pay homage to an early baseball player, Louis Sockalexis, one of the first American Indians to play professional baseball.

To me that's akin to the old Brooklyn Dodgers renaming themselves the Brooklyn Negroes and choosing as their mascot a grinning, nappy-headed, thick-lipped black face to honor Jackie Robinson. How long do you imagine that would stand? blackface

Lest I be mistaken for a whiny, nit-picking advocate for political correctness, let me assure you I am generally repulsed by the mindless promotions of that media-powered social calamity.

PC aside, however, we are a society that, for the most part, tries to avoid openly denigrating and insulting our neighbors simply because they comprise a cultural or ethnic minority.

It's unfortunate that the political and economic influence of Native-Americans isn't powerful enough to effect the kinds of changes that African-Americans have become accustomed to over the years.

And please, don't get me started on the Washington Redskins.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

(Is) All That Jazz?

I love music, particularly instrumentals, though I'm not a hard-core Jazz fan. When I'm working on the computer, or driving, or just chilling, I enjoy listening to soft, peaceful, unobtrusive music.

I've fallen in love with a fairly recent style of music called "Smooth Jazz". This sub-genre is usually characterised by cool rhythm-and-bluesy style melodies emanating most frequently from a deftly handled saxophone or piano. I was initiated into that sweet other-world by the dulcet sounds of two late saxophonists; Grover Washington and George Howard. I found their music perfectly attuned to my sensibilities.

I've lately learned that those who do consider themselves Jazz aficionados are often inclined to look down on Smooth Jazz. These purist tend to cleave to the legends of the form, like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, et al. They insist that radical departures from the works of those pioneers fall short of qualifying as Jazz.

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines Jazz as "American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre." I have no musical education so I'd be hard-pressed to translate some of those terms, but certainly one of the key components of Jazz is it's improvisation, which one would imagine must lend itself to expansion and change.

Oddly enough, few music styles have given rise to as many spin-offs and permutations as Jazz. lists several categories of Jazz on it's music pages, including:

* Acid Jazz
* Avant Garde & Free Jazz
* Bebop Jazz
* Brazilian Jazz
* Cool Jazz
* Jazz Fusion
* Jazz Jam Bands
* Latin Jazz
* Modern Postbebop
* New Orleans Jazz
* Smooth Jazz
* Soul-Jazz & Boogaloo
* Swing Jazz
* Traditional Jazz & Ragtime
* Indie Jazz

My preferences run along the likes of Eric Marienthal, Boney James, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, Dave Koz, Paul Taylor and Kirk Whalum, to name a few. I enjoy this music and I have no reluctance to calling it Jazz.

But I do have a problem with one form of "Smooth Jazz".

Now, far be it from me to take on the mantle of a music elitist, I'm more of a live and let listen kind of guy. However, there is a huge entertainment conglomerate, Clear Channel Communications Inc. which is foisting upon the unsuspecting American public a fraud of enormous proportions.

This company owns hundreds of radio stations across the country, with over a dozen devoted to what it calls "Smooth Jazz". These "Smooth Jazz" stations stretch from KYOT-FM in Phoenix, AZ. to WJCD-FM in Norfolk, VA., from WRLX-FM in West Palm Beach, FL. to WDSJ-FM in Greenville, OH. Each of Clear Channel's "Smooth Jazz" stations is vigorously promoted, with give-aways, contests, community activities, all aimed at convincing a gullible public of it's good intentions.

The chicanery is based on what this conglomerate is trying to feed it's listeners under the heading of Jazz. The playlist for each of those stations is almost identical and includes artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Marvin Gaye, Genesis, Michael Mcdonald, Stevie Wonder, Hall & Oates, George Michaels & Wham and Michael Bolton.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not disparaging the singers; they are quite talented and some are even among my favorite vocalists, but they are to Jazz what chimps are to chickens; same group, different class. And I feel that by mixing genres and labeling them as one, they spread confusion among the masses.

I worry that some poor youngster, unschooled in the rich history of music, when hearing the word 'Jazz', will conjure up the sound of Michael McDonald's lifeless, listless, lackadaisical cover of Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears".

That would bring a tear to my eye.

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Apologies... those of you who have been checking Pathetic Peripatetic for new articles. I have been very busy lately, plus my Muse has apparently taken an unauthorized vacation.

Never fret though, I anticipate that opportuneness and inspiration will junture in time for me to post new material before the end of the month.


Friday, December 24, 2004

The Copy Cat Conundrum

There's been a lot of discussion in the news lately about a Texas woman who paid $50,000.00 to a California cloning company, (called Genetic Savings & Clone, for Heaven's sake!) for a cloned copy of her dead cat, Nicky. Most of the debate has centered around the moral and ethical issues that inevitably grow out of any story about cloning. My thoughts, however, meandered in another direction: I couldn't help wondering what the lady with the spare 50k was thinking.

Okay, I can certainly understand her grief after losing a beloved pet who had been a member of the family for 17 years. We had a cat, Bandit, who died after being with us for 14 years. It broke my heart when she died. But following a reasonable period of bereavement, we went out and bought another cat. She ain't Bandit- she has her own ways and mannerisms and preferences- but she's a nice cat and we're happy with her.

That's the way it's going to be with Nicky II. He may look like Nicky and he'll have Nicky's DNA but that's where the resemblance will end. This new cat, like most sentient creatures, will be shaped by his environments and experiences. He won't have Nicky's memories. He might even respond to things very differently than his predecessor. I can envision Nicky II turning his nose up at the fresh salmon that Nicky salivated over. (You can bet this isn't an owner who feeds her baby Meow Mix.)

As a matter of fact, I wonder what kind of documentation the cloning company provided that cat owner to authenticate Nicky II's true kinship to the late feline? Call me a cynic, but how difficult would it be to find a nine-week-old kitten resembling the dearly departed Nicky?

How can you trust a company called Genetic Savings & Clone?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


This little note is included in the Dec. 27 issue of Sports Illustrated. Could it be... is it possible... someone is actually listening???

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

What the Heck is a Pleonastic Redundancy?

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to talk about redundancy. Not quite like the one in the title of this article (a pleonasm is another word for redundancy, so the title is a pleonasm, get it?). The redundancies I'll be griping about today are those frequently misused with acronyms, initials and abbreviations.

Now, I'm a sensitive guy with more than my share of foibles, quirks and idiosyncrasies (look 'em up). For that reason I tend to be tolerant of the flaws and failings of others. So when I hear someone refer to an "ATM machine", for instance, I usually resist the urge to remind them that ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine, so what they are actually referring to is an Automated Teller Machine machine. That of course makes sense to no one, save for my friends who stutter.

Even the people who make ATMs are guilty; witness or

Likewise, I'm reluctant to chastise my associates when they speak of having too many Personal Identification Number numbers or "PIN numbers".

I know part of the problem is that people are inundated with so many acronyms and initials that they seldom think about the myriad of meanings of this avalanche of abbreviations.

I am less forgiving, however, when these syntactic sins are committed in print. When news sites, from The Guardian (UK) and The Taipei (Taiwan) Times to The Daily Nebraskan and The Bradford County (FL) Telegraph refer knowingly to "PIN numbers", my diastolic number creeps up like the mercury in August.

On medical issues, why do so many otherwise apparently intelligent folks speak of the HIV virus. Guess what the V in HIV is. You got it. The dubious construction, Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus, is found so often I no longer cringe at the sight of it. I mean, I can almost understand it from The Xinhua China News, as that country has been slow to acknowledge the severity of the disease, but The San Francisco Examiner!? The New Scientist!? C'mon people!

This pleonastic problem has even spread into the tech community, where you'd think there would be a superior understanding of acronym usage. If you have a LAN, you have a Local Area Network. So there would be no need to write "LAN network", would there? Well, tell that to, of all companies, Cisco and ComputerWorld.

And finally, if you're interested in one of those new monitors, you know, with the Liquid Crystal Display display, you can buy one from or check out the new "DoubleSight" LCDD at which, ironically, claims to offer "stuff for smart masses".

I guess that's enough griping for one day. Time to shut down my PC computer and head to bed ASAP possible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

From Sporting News to Sporting Nudes

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I like looking at beautiful women. I'm sure God implanted something in the male DNA that causes palms to moisten, Adams Apples to bob and eyes to pop out like a Chuck Jones cartoon, when a guy sees an especially fetching female. And if that female is attired in something particularly revealing, many guys exercise about as much self-control as Wile E. Coyote at an ACME close-out sale.

I also like looking at sports. Not coincidently, a lot of guys- myself included- tend to react with the same lack of resolve when their favorite team's receiver pulls down a "Hail Mary" pass in the end-zone amidst a clutch of defenders with time running out in a tie game. Perhaps it was this parallel of passions, these siblings of sensations, that inspired Sports Illustrated to introduce their swimsuit issues.


The editors and publishers at SI might struggle to validate their decision to enhance their highly regarded sports magazine with scantily clad, partially nude women to the public. But in private there is neither quibble nor debate. As the rappers say: it's all about the Benjamins.

I heard one SI executive quoted on TV as saying the sales for that single, annual issue alone exceeds the total yearly sales of many other magazines. This is the periodical that has idolized gamesmanship, published articles that questioned integrity in various sports and generally held itself up as a paragon of journalistic purety. Once a year it puts itself in a position to identify with the most avaricious and disloyal of athletes.

The wisdom of turning a popular sports magazine into a nudie mag once a year has been hotly debated since the first swimsuit issue appeared in January 1964. Parents, teachers, librarians and pure sports enthusiasts are among those who've written countless letters of protest to SI. Instead of having the desired effect of at least tempering some of the more lascivious photos, SI has gone in the opposite direction; more bare breasts and behinds, more suggestive poses.

I'm sure SIs publishers are losing no sleep over the public outcry. From their perspective, for every parent, teacher, libarian and sports enthusiast who cancels their subscription, a dozen lustful men in the desired 18-49 demographic signs on. And the "cha-chings" make for a sweet lullaby.

My fear is this: for a magazine that will do almost anything for sales, how long before the first Sports Illustrated Kiddie-Porn issue hits the stand?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Superman vs Super-Ego

My wife subscribes to Oprah Winfrey's magazine, succinctly entitled "O". When she received her first issue, I noted, in passing, a nice picture of Oprah on the cover. Later, after she had received her second issue, I thought it rather peculiar that Oprah would grace the covers of back-to-back issues.

At this point let me pause to confess that I've never been regarded as the sharpest utensil in the drawer, so when it dawned on me that Oprah was on the cover of every one of the magazines, it was a slow, deliberate dawn, climbing laboriously over the distant horizon.

Help me out here, is this a text-book example of classic egocentricity? If Merriam-Webster were to convert to a strictly graphic interface, would the word 'Narcissism' be defined with a dozen pictures of Oprah happily smiling from the covers of her "O"?
Oprah Magazine Covers
To be fair, I tried to think if I had ever subscribed to any magazine which showed the same person on each cover. I was surprised to realize I had. It was "The Adventures of Superman".
That realization clearly elevated Oprah to new heights in my mind. It isn't so much that Oprah is conceited, I conceded; she's merely acknowledging that there's no one more dominant than her. "O" magazine is the "The Adventures of Superman" for the new millenium. Superman Covers

Think about it; where Superman has battled space aliens, criminal masterminds and various and sundry mutants, Oprah has taken on the Texas beef industry, cultural literacy and Phil Donahue. Where Superman was courted by the love-starved Lois Lane, Oprah's well-publicized paramour is Stedman Graham. The parallels fairly boggle the mind. And who is more open-armed and generous than Oprah? Superman, maybe, but certainly no one else.

So the next time you look up in the sky, if it's not a bird or a plane... well, you know who it probably is.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Are You Terrorized?

I was reading an article today about evidence obtained by the US government suggesting possible terrorist attacks at American schools and it caused me to recall how many other articles and news reports in recent months have warned us of imminent danger.

Who can forget the ruckus surrounding the discovery of detailed plans for an attack on several East Coast financial districts.

I certainly understand and advocate caution in these potentially perilous times, but consider these recent headlines from FoxNews Online:

FBI, DHS Offer Way to Protect U.S. Schools

FBI: Al Qaeda May Target VA Hospitals

Truck Bombs Favored in Terrorists' Arsenal

Feds: Copters, Limos May Be Terror Weapons

Sources: More Targets Cited by Al Qaeda

FBI, DHS Warn of Transport Threats

FBI: Al Qaeda May Recruit non-Arabs for U.S. Attacks

Coast Guard: Speedboat Attacks Possible

Feds: Al Qaeda Plans to 'Hit the U.S. Hard'

It seems to me if the goal of the terrorist is to terrorize, then how many of us are now terrified of speedboats, trucks, copters and limosines? How many of us are afraid to visit a VA Hospital or to send our children to school? Granted this is not a new argument but it does no harm to revisit it. The question is; at what point does the media saturation of every conceivable potential threat begin to serve no purpose save to increase our level of stress and fear?

And who, besides the terrorists, benefits from that?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Re: The Texas Air National Guard memo controversy:

"We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry." Dan Rather, in a statement issued 9/21/2004.

When Dan Rather said "I know that this story is true" and "(an apology or retraction was)..not even discussed, nor should it be. I want to make clear to you, ...if I have not made clear to you, that this story is true", he put his credibilty on the line. That credibilty is his commodity, his merchandise. Without it his shelves are bare.

Whether the error on the part of CBS News was a conscious reflection of their political bent remains unclear but the effect on their perceived integrity and veracity is unquestionable.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Rap is to Music... Etch-A-Sketch is to Art (Quote attributed to Anonymous)

Needless to say I am not a fan of that genre of noise known for it's glorious promotion of the "thug life", which includes the true pursuit of cash, drugs, sex, violence and tight rides. For the most part that doesn't bother me, however, except when one of the homies pulls up beside me with his volume ramped to the max. Then I'll try to drown him out with my Smooth Jazz or Classic R&B or Contemporary Christian. Usually it's a losing battle, though.

No, what really bugs me is rappers-turned-actors. Now, I know that Hollywood has historically sought singers to act in movies, mostly because they bring with them a smitten following. Guys like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra (who was actually a pretty decent actor), even the Beatles, automatically sold tickets regardless of the product on screen. So what is it about rap/actors that grates my sensibilities like a stuttering auctioneer? Is it the names? Like Ice-T, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Method Man, Mos Def, LL Cool J, DMX, Snoop Dogg? Ice CubeOr could it be that these guys just can't act?

It seemed for a time Hollywood was loathe to release any movie without Ice-T or Ice Cube Ice-Tgracing the screen with their scowling, stilted performances.

Before I begin painting with too broad a brush, let me acknowledge a couple of exceptions that validate the rule; Will Smith is a credible performer (with a real name) and Queen Latifah has the potential to grow in the field.

Not surprisingly, a few trained actors have taken exception to the proliferation of rappers on the silver screen. Samuel L. Jackson was quoted on a TV interview program expressing his chagrin:

"It seems that if you're a hip-hop artist and you're a rapper and you have a following, you are more likely to get a movie role than you are if you graduated from Juilliard, or NYU or the Actors Studio," Jackson remarked.

That's a sad commentary and an accurate reflection of the pitiful state of American cinema. Of course, from Hollywood's perspective, it's all about the Benjamins and as long as fans continue to line up to see their favorite rapper in the latest drama, action flick or comedy, Ice-T and Ice Cube will be able to stay in the bling-bling.

Okay, that's a rap.