Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Web Stats Say What?

I usually don't pay much attention to the web stats on my site but recently they've shown a couple of anomalies that are fun to speculate about. One is dog related so I'll put that in the Training Blog, but the other one is amusing me while it's mystifying me. There was a bump in traffic on this blog this week. Really? What about? Absinthe? Google Earth Moutaineering? Sub-Prime Borrowers ? Oh no, nothing so relatively informative. It was on Xmas day of all things. The 'I'm mellowing on the "I hate the Holidays" routine' entry.

That's too funny, as it probably means that people were googling on "I hate the holidays" or they were googling on Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. I suspect it was the former. I'm having visions of someone storming over to the computer in frustration and entering that into google. I just tried it though and the page didn't come up in the first couple of pages. This is good news as I would dread all the "Aw F.. off" comments to an entry about hating the holidays less from people who really were looking for holiday hating fare.

I just tried a google on Kung pao Kosher Comedy as well and the page didn't show up in the first three pages. And I tried googling on nondogblog and only got results pointing back to myself, so I'm pretty befuddled.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Words that you don't know you know

I just heard from one of my cousins who I haven't heard from in a long time. It is great to hear from her as I've been wondering how she's doing. It will be great to reconnect.

What I found funny is that she now works for a non-profit called Altamaha River Keeper. Turns out the Altamaha is a river in Georgia. I was sure I'd never hear of Altamaha and was puzzling out how to say it - sounding it out and verbally trying to say it. al-ta-ma-ha as soon as I started trying to pronounce it, I started hearing whispers in the corner of my mind. Paying attention, I started hearing my grandmother talking telling me something. The sound came and went - the more I tried the harder it got - which I always find so strange. As soon as I stopped trying so hard I heard it: ottamaha ri-ver
They must be the same. I knew how to say it even though I had no clue I did.

What's weird is that I don't have any specific knowledge about that river. It was just a part of a story that my grandmother was telling about someone she knew. What was funny is that I though the word started with an O which is not a bad assumption as a lot of things there start with O. (Okefenokee Swamp and a lot of the other river names

What's also funny is the "l" in Alta disappeared, but the l in Atlanta remains - it's not ottanta.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The tough part about playing poker anonymously

is that it's anonymous. It's the good and the bad.

Yoshi's avatar is now recognized at the tables he frequents. The players can chat back and forth and we do so a fair bit, which could get awkward for a dog. Most of the regular players are also on MySpace and Yoshi was asked tonight if he was on MySpace. (Answer was: not really) And he was encouraged to sign up. Which of course would end the anonymity. Yoshi is perceived male which is very convenient as women do get harassed sometimes. In fact the person that was asking Yoshi about MySpace was someone that he defended from some stupid loser who likes to type weird insulting things to pictures (avatars).

Thing is, they already have this image of Yoshi in their head (whatever it is), and I'm not sure I want to impose reality on that image as it would really mess with their heads, and they might think I didn't trust them. Never mind it's just that I had to come up with a login and Yoshi's was available and it worked very well.

I don't owe these folks "the truth" but in a way I almost feel like I do. As far as I can tell the main people involved are being honest. It's a strange position to be in as I lead a very transparent life (heck, I'm a blogger for one thing), so even though it's not, it feels duplicitous. In a way I'm messing with my own head.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sub-Prime Borrowers - my solution

Sometimes (ok often) I wish I had a foundation like the Bill & Melinda Gates or John D & Katherine T. MacAuthor foundations where I had a lot of cash to help solve some of the world's problems.

I've been ranting here on and off about predatory lendors and what has now become known as the the sub-prime loan crisis. The problem is not that these are bad properties that people have gotten themselves into - it's bad loan terms. Now granted, they probably got talked into buying more house than they could afford, but many are working hard to try and keep their house (let's set aside the issue of speculators and just limit this to people who are trying to keep their primary residence).

I'd love it if I could set up a fund where the foundation buys the property for what they owe the bank (regardless of what it's worth) and then either rent back the property to them or setup some sort of lease to own arrangement. If the previous owners decide to walk away the foundation still has the property. Property values were inflated and are resetting to a more correct level, but we're still talking real estate and over a decade or two the properties will likely go up in value so it's not a completely losing proposition for the foundation, you just have to have the resources to weather out downturns.

I hope some foundation, or organization or some government program is doing something similar.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I'm mellowing on the "I Hate The Holidays" routine

For years (like about 9 of them) I was a enjoying hating the heavily Xian oriented holiday season. It's everywhere and it's easy to resent (just ask any Jew). But the emotional charge seems to have leaked out of it for me and that is very welcome indeed.

I think for me it was learning winter skills like skiing and snowshoeing so I had good reasons to anticipate the season, but other major factors are of course Terri and her emotionally healthy family, the dogs, and a learned deafness to commercials or at least a learned apathy towards them. I still hear them but don't feel the emotional tentacles that they extend. Also the only thing I do is ski more, socialize, go to parties, occasionally bake things, and try to make notice of Winter Solstice and wish the Sun a safe journey back to us in that Pagan-lite sort of way.

I haven't volunteered at Kung Pao Comedy for a couple of years and I miss it and hope to do so again. I owe the Jewish community (let's hear it for overly vague phrases) a lot for helping me through the tougher times of the more recent holidays. And for realizing that you don't have to be or act a certain way during this time. and that Chinese food tastes really good at this time. :)

We'll go to Terri's brother's today and I'll just try to enjoy watching the kids have fun. Oh and I'll train my dogs too.

I just got this spam dated Dec 25 7:27am. Subject: Summer is almost here, be ready!
Well at least it's after Winter Solstice. Barely.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I love telemark skiing but...

I went skiing at Sugarbowl yesterday and took my new telemark gear.

I love it - it feel so natural to have my heel loose. The boots that I had custom fitted to my feet are excellent. The skis that I converted are just fine. My only complaint is that the telemark cable binding technology is so, well, 1970's, and these are new bindings (see the pictures.)

They're not step in. They're not releasable. If you get buried up to your waist in an avalanche you are stuck until you or someone else digs you out.

These days there are releasable bindings but they're a bit heavy and awkward and they're not step in. Step in telemark bindings are being worked on but the one's out now would require buying new boot and telemark boots are really expensive so there's no way I'm going to replace my still new boots.

I just googled for step-in telemark bindings are there are quite a few matches like the one called the TeleBulldog in this link - not the picture - that's my binding):

There is a 2006 review of bindings here (including my G3's):

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Google Earth Mountaineering

I love Google Earth I'm just shocked that it's free and it just keeps improving. It used to be that the city views are great but the mountain views were relatively low resolution and you couldn't use the images to do actual planning of a trip. Now for trips to Mt Shasta and Mt Whitney you can take a complete virtual trip if you tilt the view so that you can see the elevation.

The only problem? It's a huge time black hole.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Absinthe - a dubious tradition

Let's hear it for Alameda. Respecter of history and tradition, and who finds the nation noticing it at really odd times. We now have the questionable honor of having the only legal Absinthe distiller in the country: St George Spirits.

Absinthe has the highly checkered reputation of causing hallucinations, violence, and urges to slice off one's body parts (all apparently untrue). Detailed here:

Today is the first day of sales and even though I don't (ok rarely) drink, I really have to try this, even though I know it's going to taste horrible, but I'm realizing the extent that I will go to to get a good story is a touch further that most folks I come across. Does this make me a writing slut or some equivalent? What's odd is that I'm not a journalist nor ever had much compunction to be one.

Back to Alameda assisting with the downfall of civilization...
NBC ran a story not too long ago showing lines of a couple hundred people:

Diane went but decided to leave after seeing how slow the line was going.

We're going at 5:30pm and it will be interesting to see how long the line is. Will report back...


The line wasn't as long, but there was still a line.

It most certainly was fun and I didn't even have to pay for it since it was clear that they were going to run out of $75 bottles before they got to us so they were handing out free samples.

That has to be the most unique, complex alcoholic beverage I've ever tasted. first you get hit with the 120 proof (60%) alcohol, then a whole series of different tastes come over you in waves. The oils in it coat your tongue but it doesn't cover up all the various herbs that are in it. The most curious sensation was that I could feel it cascading down my throat all the way down to my stomach while at the same time I had this uprising feeling of my brain being slowly pickled. And I only had 3 sips, but that was plenty.

While the anise was strong (you could smell it out in the parking lot.) it did not over power all the other ingredients which I was not expecting.

A very unusual, fun, and unique experience. Glad I did it.

Postscript: It's the next morning and I slept the whole night comfortably. This is unusual for me after I've had alcohol. Usually I have a less than fun time while the alcohol works it's way out of my system. I've been noticing that distilled alcohol doesn't really have this effect unless I have too much of it (which is not much in my case). Terri's thinking that it may be the fermentation that my body's sensitive to and distilled spirits are not fermented.

So the conclusion is obvious. I can have small amounts of alcohol, but it has to be really expensive. :)

Immigration - some thoughts

It amazes me what a hot button illegal immigration has become.

Compared to other issues it seems like such a non-issue to me, but I grew up in an environment where most of the orchard pickers (we had an orange grove) and house cleaners were likely undocumented. My family had the attitude that this is the land of oppertunity and why wouldn't they come? And I think that's the point. They are going to come. The human capacity to dream of a better life for their family is not something you can stop or fence out. Putting up more obstacles and increasing enforcement is only going to make them try harder (and at great risk to themselves).

So what is the solution (assuming there's a problem with paying someone below the minimum wage to pick your lettuce.)? Well let's back up and look at a larger picture. There is a huge economic gap in between Mexico and the US (we could include other Central and South American countries, but for simplicity let's just talk about Mexico.) As long as that dichotomy exists, people are going to come no matter what you do. They will find a way - bet on it. I think a real solution would be to improve Mexico's economy. Make life in Mexico more desirable so there isn't the giant incentive to brave El Norte.

Too expensive? Look what we're paying for border enforcement. What if we were to put our money into making Mexico a better, more humane, more hospitable place?

But why should we do such a thing? Well as you are no doubt aware we are 6% of the world's population and consume considerably more that that percentage. I think this is one way to give something back.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Freedom requires what??

I keep coming up with blog snippets and I keep thinking that they're not really long enough to make a blog entry. Then they become less relevant but they still bug me so I'm going to try to write about them even it they're short...

I just heard Mitt Romney (who a New England friend calls "Mittens" :) on the radio and he finally addressed (in his mind, the rest of us are baffled) the issue of his religion (Mormon). He said in this voice that is supposed to reflect profundity:

Freedom requires religion
Religion requires freedom

Say what? That's dead wrong on both counts.

Freedom requires religion. Er, how? Maybe for some, but it's not like a free person is required to have any mystical or faith-based beliefs.
Religion requires freedom. Well. Gee. I can think of the most repressed people in the world and many of them are/were quite religious. Jews (multiple instances of slavery, and genocide), African slaves brought to the US. a friend brought up Burmese Gov't and the Buddist Monks. those stuck in Guantanamo. Many of those have said that their religion is what got/gets them through their hellish life.

So what was he thinking? I'm sure by now he's come up with some clever (well he thinks clever) explanation, but I'm not sure I want to hear it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sexuality is a Many Splintered Thing

I likely have written about this before (but maybe not here), but I find it a fascinating topic that comes up again and again in so many contexts (sorry for the mind in the gutter pun).

Just to put things in context, I'm bisexual and am attracted to both men and women, but it's women who sweep me off my feet and though I've dated both men and women, it's women who I get into long term relationships with (oh and I'm monogamous which may be a minority in the bi community but we're not sure as mong. bi's are a quiet bunch we're discovering.

As a result I think I am a little more comfortable with gray areas that my gay and lesbian bretheren. Though it doesn't stop me wanting to talk about them and probably why I've run BiFriendly for 15 years.

But enough about me, let's look at a gray area I've been watching for a while now.

To my surprise, I find I watch the completely contrived Reality TV show Survivor. This I find odd as Survivor is not my thing, The Amazing Race and its simplicity very much is. I start watching a Survivor season just because I want to see the scenery and the puzzles (I'd love to be a puzzle designer for them), but sure enough, I get sucked into watching the people and their interaction (or lack of it).

During this season, there is a woman named Denise who would totally read as gay in my world, but who is married and has a daughter. Now queer folk who get married to members of the opposite sex (MOTOS - really old, old term) are not uncommon and sometimes find themselves in heartbreaking situations later on it life, but Denise had the opportunity to have her husband visit the island and she genuinely looked content. When she was cuddling with him, she had the involuntary smile that many truly happy people have. She could be bi, but who knows. I'm sure the lesbian community is dead sure she's gay, but I think we should just get a bit more comfortable with the gray area.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Methodist is Jewish-Lite? Huh?

I was idly listening to Randy Rhodes on Air America and she made the passing comment (in a vastly different context) that "wasn't Methodist Jewish-Lite?" (paraphrased). This totally got my attention and I missed the rest of the on-air conversation while I called Terri to see if she could explain the connection. Neither of us could and we both got quite a bit of amusement out of it.

You see, even though I'm no longer a Christian, I was raised Methodist, and I briefly considered converting to Judiasm (I'll explain more below). If there was someone who would have understood the comment, I would have, and I was completely befuddled as I didn't see a connection at all beyond an attachment to doing rituals exactly the same way each time. I was very much waving my hand in the air: "Excuse me. I have a question." Or as Terri put it "If this is on a need to know basis, I NEED TO KNOW."

I think we'll be forever in the dark on that one. Randy Rhodes doesn't do email for her show and I don't think fast enough on my feet to call her. I even tried Google and got precisely no where. Ah well, it was funny in that hurt brain sort of way.

What I love about the Jewish community that I'm familiar with is the willingness to laugh about familial dysfunction. My family is Southern (I'm the only Californian) and I see plenty of parallels between dysfunctional middle class Southern families and dysfuntional middle class Jewish families. The obsession with appearing happy and successful, heavily matriarchal (and the matriarch doesn't like to be disappointed), some powerful people in the family assuming that you just know what they want without them having to spell it out, oh and you must fit in and not be different.

But I realized that though I'm plenty spiritual, I'm not religious in the traditional sense so converting to Judaism didn't seem to be right for me. When asked I just say that I'm more a Jewish-Identified Gentile.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bush: I don't care what the facts are

Yesterday the US Intelligence Estimate stated that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and hadn't done anything on it since (a reference from the IAEA is here:

President Bush responded by saying "My opinion hasn't changed." "I still don't trust them" (I heard it on the radio but I'm sure you could look it up - I'll pass myself.)

I believe the proper term for this is Mule-headed Dufus-brain, but that is insulting to mules.
I'm wondering if he was talking off script as I'm hoping he has a handler that is still around who would encourage him to say "We are encouraged to hear this news." And this is the administration that is facilitating peace talks between Israel and Pallestine? Some God help them please - they need it.

But all this is just redundant as left wing radio had a field day with it yesterday, but there is one observation by a caller that I'm hoping doesn't get missed and it's well worth repeating.

Bush said "We don't want them to have the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb."
But that knowledge is easily available. in fact I just googled for: nuclear bomb construction and got plenty of hits here:

The knowledge is not secret and as the caller very astutely pointed out: you can not bomb knowledge out of someone (unless you kill them all and the draconian (and highly illegal) odds of that are remote indeed - there are almost always survivors.)

A caller to the Stephanie Miller show said that her and her colleagues often talk about the fact that Bush fits the diagnostic criteria for a sociopath. While I haven't run down the specific details of this I most certainly believe it.