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Rating Books and Music

Typepad gives me the option of assigning ratings of 1 to 5 stars to books and music that I write about. I don't bother. If I like a book or album enough to recommend it, I consider it a 4 or 5. Otherwise, why would I waste my time and yours. Life is too damn short to listen to mediocre music or read so-so prose (or eat overcooked burgers, but I'll save that discussion for another day).

iTunes is currently playing: Wonderful! Wonderful! from the album 16 Most Requested Songs by Johnny Mathis.

Burgers and Bytes

I just got back from Las Vegas, where I spent a few days exploring some of the newly-built master-planned communities that are springing up in all directions out there.

One of the best things about visiting the western portion of the country is that I get to visit my favorite restaurants and stores -- places I grew to love when I lived in L.A. and made frequent visits to Vegas. Sadly, many of them are not found on the East Coast :(

Here are two of my favorites, which I was (happily) able to visit while I was there:

In-N-Out Burger

(I hit two different In-N-Outs in three days!)


This new Fry's Electronics seems bigger and brighter than the L.A. stores -- at least bigger and brighter than they were several years ago. I bought a game while I was there -- an animated Hearts game on a PC/Mac hybrid CD. It's really cute!! But I haven't played Hearts for so long that I can't remember how to play. Yes, boys and girls, that is what happens when you hit the big FIVE O!! Your brain turns to mush.

iTunes is currently playing: Promise Land from the album Hearts And Flowers by Joan Armatrading.

As if I needed more reasons …

... not to vote for the "hair guys" (that would be Kerry and Edwards, of course)... Drudge came up with the final straw, so to speak.

Click here and get ready to retch.

oy vey ...

iTunes is currently playing: BEHIND THE MASK from the album FAKER HOLIC / Disc2 by Yellow Magic Orchestra.
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Gang Colors

Dan has got me reading Ann Althouse's blog every day. In a recent post she said, "Slate's "Election Scorecard" map shows Wisconsin in solid red now." which reminded me how I can never remember which party is red and which is blue (or which is the donkey and which is the elephant).

I have trouble remembering how to pronounce certain words, too. I lived in L.A. for about 15 years before I could say "La Cienega" without sounding it out in my head first. That probably explains why it doesn't bother me when President Bush mispronounces "nuclear". His people can correct him until they are blue in the face but it just doesn't take with people like us.

I think these little ... quirks ... make us more interesting... don't you?

iTunes is currently playing: One Of The Things I Do So Well from the album Life Is Good by Livingston Taylor.

Wired Magazine piece: “Rebooting Iraq”

The October issue of Wired has an interview with Rashad Mandan Omar, Iraq's Minister of Science and Technology in which he says:

Before the collapse of the regime, average monthly salaries were $10 to $15. Now, in less than a year, the average salary is 10 times that, and inflation is down. Previously, no Iraqi was allowed to have a cell phone or an Internet connection. But now there are no restrictions, and our markets are full of computers and electrical appliances.

Assuming he is not making this stuff up and that many Iraqis are considerably better off financially since we showed up on the scene, why do we not hear this sort of thing from the media? To read the news, you would think that no good has come from our presence, wouldn't you.

iTunes is currently playing: Life During Wartime from the album Fear Of Music by Talking Heads.
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Who says English degrees are useless?

Yesterday I read about this cool website called "Opening Hooks: A Collection of Literary Beginnings". As of this moment it lists over 700 opening sentences/paragraphs from books. (Most, but not all, are fiction.) You can rate them and add openings of your own. Instead of working on Spearit Software business, I spent hours perusing this web site. I love dynamite opening passages and I was in pig heaven.

The most interesting thing about this experience, however, was that I came across a book written by someone I know that I didn't know had written a book. I had heard of the book ("The Contortionist's Handbook") but had no idea who wrote it. Turns out the author is Craig Clevenger, a guy I went to school with at Cal State Long Beach. I don't know if he would remember me (I never expect anyone to remember me and am always surprised when someone does) but I remember him. I didn't know him very well, but he was a good writer and a nice guy and I am really happy for him.

(His book, by the way, has a great opening sentence: “I can count my overdoses on one hand.") You can read a tantalizing excerpt from the book here.

iTunes is currently playing: I Can Do That from the album A Chorus Line by Wayne Cilento. ("I got to class and had it made and so I stayed the rest of my life ... ")

Early Morning Fright

A few minutes ago I looked up from my computer to see a police officer coming up the walk toward our front door. I ran downstairs to find out who was injured or dead (the main reason cops make house calls) but he was there to find out if we had vaccinated and registered our dog.

We don't have a dog.

My heart is still pounding.

iTunes is currently playing: While My Heart Is Still Beating from the album Heart Still Beating by Roxy Music.

Billie Holiday Fans: Deal of the Century!

This ten CD boxed set "Billie Holiday: Portrait" (German Import) includes 170 or so recordings from the 30s and 40s plus a 40 page bio booklet for the amazing price of $26.69 plus $2.49 media rate shipping. I ordered my set from HTF Imports through Amazon Marketplace and it arrived nine days later.


What a voice. Highly recommended!

iTunes is currently playing: Solitude from the CD set Billie Holiday: Portrait .

Antenna Car ??

I came across this car as I walked through the parking lot at the Corning Glass Museum. I can't imagine why the owner attached this complicated antenna to his roof. Ideas, anyone?

Antenna Car

iTunes is currently playing: Driving from the album The Language Of Life by Everything But The Girl.

My Aiptek 4100M Digital Video Camcorder

My last post includes a picture of my new digital video camcamcorder, posed next to my iPod so you can see how tiny it is. Here is another shot of the 4100 in action.

Aiptek 4100M Digital Camcorder

You can get it for under $100 at Sam's Club. Very small, very light, can also be used as a still digital camera, a web cam, and a voice recorder. The videos are not professional quality, but they are not bad at all.

Don't have money for an expensive digital camcorder? Or do you have one that you don't carry around because it is too heavy/bulky or you are afraid you will lose/break it? Want to give your kid a real video camera that is priced like a toy? Check out the Aiptek 4100M. I love mine!!
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The “carry everywhere” camcorder

It's about 2/3 the size of my iPod (and 1/3 the price). For details, see my next post.

iPod and Aiptek 4100M

(Yes, I admit it. I am a major gadget freak!)
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Long time, no talk to!

I can't believe it has been over two months since I posted here. For me, writing is like exercising. I either do it every day or I end up going months (or longer!) without doing anything at all. I'm pathetic, I know.

So today is Labor Day. To me, that means the Jerry Lewis telethon. I never cared much for his movies (slapstick is just not my thing) but the man is a saint as far as I am concerned because of the work he does to fight muscular dystrophy.

This year the show was dedicated to Mattie Stepanek who lost his battle with that wretched disease in June. Unfortunately, this was the first year that the telethon failed to raise a dollar more than the year before. It didn't help that large portions of Florida are under water or without electricity this weekend due to Hurricane Frances. But whatever the reason, I am feeling very sad tonight that we didn't come through for Jerry.

If you want to do something that will make you feel good about yourself, why not surf over to the MDA web site and donate a few bucks in Mattie's memory.

iTunes is currently playing: The Meaning of the Blues from the album Miles Ahead by Miles Davis.

People with too much time on their hands

A guy named Earl Vickers has created a web site called the Museum of Conceptual Art. Among the "art projects" Mr. Vickers claims to have created is the first Pig Latin translation of the Bible. Available for your enlightenment are the Book of Genesis, the Book of Job, and the Gospel according to John.

I hope that the author found a Pig Latin translation program someplace and didn't really "translate" this stuff himself. (The end result would still be "art", wouldn't it?)

iTunes is currently playing: In The Time It Takes from the album You Hold The Key by Beth Nielsen Chapman.

I am SOOOO in love with my Mac!!

I've discovered the most amazing OS X app -- Konfabulator! It's a javascript "engine" that runs cute little applets called Widgets that do anything and everything. I'm testing a blog posting widget right now. If this post appears, it works!

“Remember to play after every storm.”

The L.A.Times published a lovely obituary today that included some of Mattie Stepanek's poetry along with snippets from interviews he has given in the last few years.

"We all have life storms," he told Chris Cuomo on "Prime Time Thursday" in December 2001, "and when we get through them or recover from them, we should celebrate that we got through it. That's what my life's philosophy means: to remember to play after every storm."

iTunes is currently playing: The Sheltering Sky from the album 1996 by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Cool Canadian Coin

New Canadian QuarterIsn't this the cutest thing?? According to blogger site radio daisy pad, this new Canadian quarter was designed by an 11 year old. We should all be so creative, eh?

iTunes is currently playing: I Can Do That from the album A Chorus Line (1975 Original Broadway Cast) sung by Wayne Cilento.

R.I.P. Mattie Stepanek, Age 13, Poet and Activist


Writer and Advocate Mattie Stepanek Dies at 13

In his 13 years, Mattie Stepanek became nationally known as a “peacemaker and poet” whose story of living with a rare neuromuscular disorder led to five published books, numerous television appearances and a friendship with former President Jimmy Carter.

Read the story on

iTunes is currently playing: Goodbye from the album Lost In Translation by Kevin Shields.

Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”

Hanks is great fun as a man "without a country" stuck in a NYC airport. His three airport employee sidekicks are good, too. (The character played by Catherine Zeta Jones is majorly annoying!) It's pretty amazing that they built that entire airport on a soundstage in lovely (HA!) Palmdale. I'd probably rate it 2.5 or 2.75 out of 4, mostly because it was a bit too long. This will be a good rental in a few months.

iTunes is currently playing: All Around the World from the album Affection by Lisa Stansfield.

Cool Photos @ Swedish (?) Blog

I stumbled upon this cool blogger site today: Snap Happy. Most of the text is in Swedish (I think) but (interestingly) its single photo album (called "Snap Happy Impressions") is annotated in English. Go figure. Anyway, the single photo album on the site has some great shots. Enjoy!

iTunes is currently playing: I Drove All Night from the album The Essential Cyndi Lauper by Cyndi Lauper.
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R.I.P. Paul Johnson, Jr.

What broke in a man when he could bring himself to kill another?

- Alan Paton, "Cry, The Beloved Country", 1948

iTunes is currently playing: Belfast to Boston (live version) by James Taylor.