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Christmas in May

My college friend C, with whom I wrote a musical once, holds his Christmas celebration every year in May, His invitation summarizes his feelings about the celebration:

We will be making music, trimming the tree, sipping holiday cheer and so forth, and if you wish, you may bring an ornament and exchange it with one of your choosing from the tree. By all means bring instruments, songbooks, and song requests, and wear or bring anything that would help you create Christmas for yourself.
This party is dedicated to the idea that Christmas can be obligation-free. Bring no presents. Many of you may wish to celebrate this concept by not coming. If so, know that we hold you dear in our hearts.

C presides, in his colorful red "Merry Whatever" hat and Tony Bahama style black Christmas shirt with "hip" reindeer riding over his shoulder. The picnic tables are adorned with desktop trees and a sombrero with a wreath around the brim. I'd wear my Santa Hat, but as regular readers know, one of my heart meds makes me burn like crazy, so I have to wear a wide brimmed hat when I'm out in the sun. If only I could find a wide-brimmed Santa hat!

I brought ribs from Diablo Foods, which quickly disappeared. There was Quinoa salad and cut-up watermelon, but mostly there was fellowship and fun, as well as a little light rain. I come as often as I can to this annual event; it's a gas.

Stupid Safe

I was talking to an engineer friend the other day, and she mentioned that her engineer husband is familiar with the old saw, "Nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious."  So, he doesn't try to make his hardware/software foolproof; he tries to make it "stupid safe."

I love that phrase! Can we pass it around until it becomes viral, so that in six months or a year everyone who makes hardware or software or ladders or power drills talks about "stupid safing" their product? Let's go!

Ike, Losing Touch With Reality and Briefs

Cost Of Losing Touch With Reality

$1T (and a lot of soldiers) by the end of May 2010.

As a well-known pre-Rove, pre-Gingrich, pre-GWBush, pre-Cheney, pre-Palin Republican once said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?
-Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.
  • Obama Looks Backward
    In gross violation of his long-standing policy of not looking backward (as, for example, to enforce the law and investigate and prosecute those who committed war crimes, or torture, or enabled torture,or warrantless wiretapping), Pres. Obama, using one of the hoariest old style Washington/Presidential political tricks, has ordered a new Commission for an investigation of "the root causes" of the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon attack on American coastal and food supply security. If spokesperson Robert Gibbs' statements recently are any guide, Gibbs and Obama will attempt to evade and avoid any comment on the disaster for at least the next six months by saying they are waiting for the Commission report. Interestingly, Pres. Obama omitted from the scope of the Commission's work any inquiry into how he and his transition team came to select offshore oil drilling booster Ken Salazar for the position of Interior Secretary.
  • Stealing Social Security
    If at the end of a long week spending 45 hours digging ditches for a promised $15 per hour, your employer (backed up by the local sheriff who was bribed by your employer) told you the pay was reduced to $10 per hour, would you think you had been defrauded? Would you have difficulty differentiating between the effect of the action of your employer (backed by the bribed sheriff) and the action of a thief who walked into your home and took $225 out of your walllet?

    If at the end of a long work career spending 45 years digging ditches for an expected payment from Social Security (for which you paid with a payroll deduction every week for 45 years), the government told you that your Social Security payments were being reduced and you had to work another five or ten years in order to keep Merrill Lynch supplied with $1 million office renovations for the President of Merrill Lynch and to keep Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citicorp, Wells Fargo and a few other companies supplied with your low cost (or no cost) dollars so they could continue paying billions of dollars in "bonuses" to the people who managed to wreck the American economy, would you think you had been defrauded? Would you have difficulty differentiating between the action of your government and the action of a thief who walked into your home and took money out of your wallet?
  • Executive Perquisites Increased At Some Government Insured Banks
    "Marie Antoinette could fit into this crowd without missing a beat."

    This "illustrates the power of CEOs to dictate every term in their compensation agreement . . . If the CEO wants to go to Aspen, or the South of France for his vacation, and wants to fly on the corporate jet, well then, he should expend the vast sums of compensation shareholders have given him to do that."
  • Chris Mathews: Is Obama Merely A Vatican Observer?
    Mathews opines Obama does not want to take ownership of the foreign pillaging for profit (by British Petroleum) of America's environment. Obama has ownership of this issue whether he likes it or not. Obama's Interior Secretary approved (or failed to stop) the permit (without a statutorily required environmental impact statement) for British Petroleum to drill in over 5,000 feet of water (at which depth wells had been located only rarely or never before). Obama knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that Salazar favored more offshore drilling. Obama knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that people supported by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were still present at the agency which supervised the lease, the permit, and the drilling.

Reynolds checks in, Dern checks in, Peterman on School, Dalton on the Bay to Breakers, Dan Grobstein File

Craig Reynolds checkes in:

Daniel Dern checks in:

  • FYI, I'm now doing a few blog posts/week for InformationWeek/SMB (the site formerly known as bMighty).

Retired teacher, Herb Caen regular and my good friend, Kent Peterman, has some thoughts for the end of the school year and the start of summer:

I never did the countdown. Instead I would talk about what a great year we'd had and how I hated to see it end. Trying to inculcate in them the joy of learning and love of school.
I did the same thing on 3 day weekends, vacations etc. "I'm sad because we won't be together on Monday." Corny? probably but it worked in making school something to be enjoyed rather than to get out of. Oh damn there's that preposterous prepositional ending. I should have stuck the word cabbage or something there to prevent such and egregious error.
Another great teaching thought I heard years ago: Summer vacation is like a long weekend. June is Friday. July is Saturday. And August is Sunday.

Richard Dalton noted my Bay to Breakers coverage last week:

Your description brings back many memories (as an observer/photographer).  Linda and my daughter Kristen ran that circuit any number of times.  I would perch myself under a large tree in front of the Tulip Garden and click away.  Some of the photos are hilarious.  Like the year when Ray Charles played at the apres-run festivities.   Four stunning gay black men dressed in skin-tight. sequined sheaths and matching platform heels strutted (only word for it) the entire course.  They were, of course, a reasonable facsimile of the Raelettes.

A few years ago. Linda and I flew back to SF and she did the course with some friends.  At that time, a police official had warned that the city was going to crack down on nude runners.  A newscaster asked the inimitable Willie Brown what the city should do to these runners.  He responded, "We should honor them."  Bay to Breakers is one of the best memories I have of my favorite city.
Dan Grobstein File

Bay to Breakers

My wife and two of her good friends walked the ING Bay to Breakers 12K "run" in SF on Sunday (time: around 2 hours); my daughters watched it from a perch near the Golden Gate Park panhandle, and the San Francisco Chronicle posted a bunch of pictures. I have not looked at all 93, but it's a newspaper, so the nudity and sexual innuendo is probably minimal.

Me? I met Vicki and her friends along with one other husband out at 48th at Kirkham. We worked hard to get to the north side of SF (all the crosstown streets were closed for the race), only to find out that the Chinese restaurant we were headed for (Eliza's on California and Divisdero) was not open. So we ended up waiting a half hour for a seat at Yank Sing at the Rincon Annex. They serve in the courtyard on Sunday, and they have a reasonable selection for vegetarians like my wife.

We took Bart home. It was a good day.

Time To Hold "The People Who" Accountable

What Obama needs to demonstrate now is a profile in courage. The courage to fire the forces on the right who he has allowed into positions of responsibility in his Administration,

The courage to stand up to the forces on the right who sold materiel to the enemy during World War II, who illegally encouraged the South Vietnamese not to end the war before the 1968 election, who encouraged the Iranians to hold Americans hostage until after Reagan's Inauguration in exchange for weapons, who illegally supplied weapons for use by the Contras in Nicaragua in exchange for illegal drugs imported with Reagan's help into the United States, who were unable or unwilling to focus on the bountiful information available prior to 9/11 which, in the hands of any competent Cub Scout troop would have stopped the events of that day, who wrongly for their own political ends falsely told the world that there were WMD in Iraq, who grossly mishandled the fight in Iraq, who willfully ignored the opportunity to capture Osama Bin Laden at Tora Bora, who have mishandled the fight in Afghanistan since the prior regime fell in December 2001, and who now want to continue to maintain (at an expense in excess of $125B per year) over 200,000 U.S. and foreign troops and contractors in Afghanistan instead of trying to speak with, and perhaps successfully negotiate a political settlement with, all of those who live in Afghanistan.

Iron Man 2

3.5 stars out of 5

Robert Downey Jr. does it again; this is an entertaining, fast-paced summer blockbuster. Sam Rockwell, the villain, also gets another chance to strut his amazing stuff. If only he would catch on (and catch fire), American films would be enriched by his greater visbility. The reviews of this film have been all over the place, with generous portions of tongue-lashing for director Jon Favreau. And I admit, this does seem to be two films in one: a clever, witty character study and a transformers film full of CGI effects. I am included to agree with the Salon reviewer; wouldn't it be great if we could have a big summer movie about a raging narcissist billionaire defense contractor, without the iron suit? Still, to deride Iron Man for not being a character study is like deriding a chicken for not being a fish. It is what it is, and for what it is, it is good.


4 stars out of 5

Well, it isn't Look Who'sTalking because the babies don't talk. And it isn't March of The Penguins in the narrated American version either. Instead, I guess Babies is more Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance, from way back in 1982. Beautiful pictures, well-selected music. It follows four children, in San Francisco, Tokyo, Africa and Mongolia. If you've seen the preview, you've already seen one of the most precious moments, when the goat drinks from the Mongolian child's bath water. The temper tantrum by the Japanese baby is also precious. In fact, the movie is a series of precious moments, reminding us of our common humanity. There are, of course, some cringe-making moments as we watch the hippiest parents the filmmakers could find taking the San Francisco child into the hot tub, or to a baby class that is so granola you can hear the crunch. And you cold make a big deal out of the freedom to roam of the low-income children and the restrictions placed on the high-income children, but why bother. If you can stand 90 minutes without someone telling you what to think, see this.

Robin Hood

3 stars out of 5

I believe the phrase I am looking for here is a dog's breakfast. For starts, two and one half hours? I mean really. This is not a Gandhi biopic. And as for Russell Crowe's accent--well, you may have heard he walked off a BBC Radio 4 program on which the interviewer was questioning his accent for the film, calling it a little Irish. Seems fair to me. I don't know what accent Robin Hood was meant to have, but I doubt Crowe's was it. The plot was utterly confusing for the first half hour, although it did gradually resolve itself into a lace curtain of plot holes. Some interesting performances, lovely scenery, and a handful of (no doubt) somewhat historically accurate battle scenes.


The one bit of cleverness was that it turns out the entire film is back story--Robin Hood does not become an outlaw until the last scene


So, unless you love Crowe, or well done historical CGI battle scenes, you won't be missing much if you take a pass on this film. I know Oscar will.