Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's!

Hope everyone is up to fun festiveness or a lazy ring-in of the new year, as suits personality and circumstances. Myself, I'm going with the torpor, accompanied by some nice wine and a movie. It's like a siren song.

See you in 2008!

Almost Ten Grand: A Steep, Steep Price to Pay for Richard Marx

The new frontier of the RIAA battle against music sharing: personal use.
Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."
Wow, you've got to admire that ambition.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What I'm Doing on My Christmas Vacation: A Book Report

In addition to shopping the sales, eating way too much, trying some really lovely wines, anticipating using my new baking pans, and scraping bathroom woodwork, I picked up a stack of books from the library. Perusing through nonfiction in a vain attempt to locate the Omnivore's Dilemma, I picked up Sick, by Jonathan Cohn. I've read his healthcare-related articles before, and I've been impressed with his ability to distill complicated elements into a simpler, easier-to-understand larger picture.

So, I've been pretty steadily tearing through this book, which illustrates the myriad failures of our healthcare system, using examples of individuals for whom the system has failed. He also nicely provides historical context throughout, which gives a good background understanding without overwhelming the larger narrative or turning the book into an eye-popping treatise on the history of health policy in the United States.

It's depressing but illuminating reading. And from the Chicago perspective, it's quite enlightening to read about the strong-arm collection tactics of nonprofit Catholic hospitals, which seem to have bought out a lot of the remaining hospitals around here. You know what seems like a bad move from a PR perspective? A Catholic hospital suing a destitute former nun for unpaid hospital bills. Just one illustration of how we're living with the best healthcare system in the world, baby!

I should add, a point that he stresses throughout is that people with insurance tend to assume that there is a safety net available for the most needy (a perception shared and reinforced at high levels of government). This turns out not to necessarily be the case.

Good News for Those of You Coming to Stay with Me in the Near Future

I've clipped three claws on the cat! Seventeen more to go, and you'll be safe as houses from the scratching, at least.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It Looks Like That Race for the Craziest GOP Advisors and Supporters Continues

A "designated surrogate" for the Giuliani campaign declared, on video:

He's [Guiliani's] got I believe the knowledge and the judgment to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history and that is the rise of the Muslims, and make no mistake about it, this hasn't happened for a thousand years. These people are very, very dedicated and they're also very smart, in their own way. We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves -- or in other words get rid of them."

When asked later if he stood by his comments, he responded:

"I most assuredly do. I've been very concerned about this Muslim thing for quite awhile. The average American does not know beans about what the Muslims are about. I am talking about the Muslims in general. I don't subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims. They're all Muslims."

Deady added, "When I say get rid of them, I wasn't necessarily referring to genocide."

Well, I for one am glad he clarifed with the "not necessarily," aren't you?

Friday, December 28, 2007

What the Discriminating Feline Is Playing With This Holiday Season

Hours of amusement. Although, for some reason, any toy's coolness factor increases exponentially when it's provided by my mother.

It's Friday, It's Snowing, I'm Home, the Pandas Are Sleeping, I Have New Music

Yes, everybody is on vacation or otherwise engaged in pre-New Year's suspension of normal activities. I myself am pausing with coffee before launching on sundry cat-related errands (not all for mine, believe it or not; the catsit collective has many obligations and rewards). Anyway, it was with great anticipation that I queued up the random ten: what exciting goodies would turn up?

1. here comes the summer, the undertones
2. pitter patter goes my heart, broken social scene
3. love more than pride, laura lee
4. sometimes i remember, the pernice brothers
5. garageland, the clash
6. death valley ’69, sonic youth
7. moonage daydream, david bowie
8. being for the benefit of mr. kite, the beatles
9. warsaw, joy division
10. both have to pay, the mystery meat

More of a retro feel here, but trust me, I got all sorts of new music for Christmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scenes from the Season

Opening of goodies, day the first.

Opening of goodies, day the second.

And a little something to display my photographic talents.

My god, we killed the dog. Possibly, if we toss her in with the used gift wrap, no one will notice.

Slightly Good News about Health Care, at Least in California

I'm sure Dick Cheney will have something to say about this (as he does everything, because he has self-provided godlike powers and infallible judgment, Hail Caesar) but a state court in California has recently put limits on health insurers' ability to cancel policies after policy holders get sick:

Health insurers can't wait until a policyholder is sick or injured to investigate the person's medical history and then abruptly cancel the policy on the grounds that important information was left out of the original application, a state appeals court has ruled.

On Monday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana called a halt to a practice that lawyers for policyholders claim is widespread. Known as "post-claims underwriting," it has led to numerous lawsuits - mostly unsuccessful so far - and state enforcement actions against insurers.

It doesn't go as far as it might, and the measure's a drop in the bucket given the systematic absuses, but still, this is good news. And yes, I did just watch Sicko.

I May Have to Bust Out a Can of Black-Eyed Peas This New Years

An ex's mother, being a Southern belle from Georgia, used to be really adamant about doing this.

What do black-eyed peas have to do with good luck and prosperity?

Everything or nothing, depending on what you believe.

According to Southern folklore, those who eat the little beige-with-a-black-spot legume on New Year's Day will have good luck the rest of the year.

She also firmly believed in not doing any housework on New Year's Day, because what a person did on that day represented what they would be doing the rest of the year.

Why not? I need some good karma this year.

Less Cuddly Side of Zoo Animals in California

A tiger at the San Francisco Zoo inexplicably escapes and mauls three people, killing one. Ewww, further details:
Police sources said a footprint had been found on a metal fence, suggesting that someone had climbed the fence to get closer to the big cats. Authorities were looking into whether the tiger escaped by latching on to a leg or body part.
Good god. Are people really that stupid?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Holiday Miscellany: My Peops Are Important, Cool Places to Find Your Cards

When people tell you that they're related to Santa Claus, don't believe them. Unless these people making outrageous claims are related to me.

Nothing says the holidays like Santa plus the space race, as expressed in vintage Soviet Christmas cards. Thanks, Erik!
Now I'm really on my way out of here. Happy Holidays. Peace around.
Laura, taking the express lanes to Michigan.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Did Someone Say Feats of Strength?

Little-seen footage of Toby back when he had larger sideburns.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

This is for Toby.

'Tis the First Day of Christmas!

Last workday until January! Woo!

1. sound of silver, lcd soundsystem
2. all i could do was cry, etta james
3. like eating glass, bloc party
4. identity, x-ray spex
5. loving you could never be better, george jones
6. shotgun, southern culture on the skids
7. auf achse, franz ferdinand
8. poor skeleton steps out, xtc
9. compliments, bloc party (duplicates! but it's bloc party, so i forgive)
10. the gash, the flaming lips

See? I have other stuff in there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Know This Is Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

But more wisdom from Rush Limbaugh, by way of incisive political analysis. Lots of people think it, but a few brave souls have the courage to say it out loud. Regarding Hillary Clinton:
There is this thing in this country that, as you age -- and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yay or nay, in the box office...

We know that the presidency ages the occupants of that office rapidly... But men aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished.

Sadly, it's not that way for women, and they will tell you... Look at all of the evidence. I mean, I've just barely scratched the surface with some of the evidence, and so: Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

My god, no. I don't even want to watch myself age. My plan is to spare us all and start wearing a hood once I hit 45.

Hey, I Spoke Too Soon!

What can't you find on youtube, I ask you? And, bonus: My favorite, Blue/s Forms!

UPDATE: Alas, she doesn't play the last movement, which is the best part.

Something for the Holiday Gift List

Genius, people. Genius.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Here's a Holiday Classic for a Reason

One of my coworkers reverently brings this up every year. Then he cackles like mad, until we think he's having a coronary.

I Need to Not Read Newspapers

In this subprime meltdown, we totally have to feel the pain of the lenders ("predatory," so you say) who were so so abused in this whole process.
The troubles arose because banks and finance firms offered mortgages to millions of people who, despite their imperfect credit histories, yearned to buy homes. The loans generally start out with a low interest rate that, after a couple of years, rises substantially. Some home buyers now discover that the reset payments are more than they can handle. On top of that, falling real estate prices mean some can't recoup by selling, because the home is now worth less than the mortgage.

This spectacle has brought forth recriminations from politicians who picture the lenders as James Bond villains, cackling at the chance to toss hard-working families out on the street. In fact, this course is almost as bad a deal for lenders as it is for borrowers. They typically lose up to half the value of the mortgage on foreclosures.
Those poor lenders, helplessly exploited by those greedy, stupid people, who with the power of yearning, were able to secure precarious loans.
It's true that if lenders have committed fraud with phony information about their loans, they deserve to be separated from their ill-gotten gains. At the same time, honest ones shouldn't be punished for offering creative terms just because the loans sometimes go bad.
Punishment for creativity is indeed unfair. If only people appreciated true innovation, we wouldn't have any of this hand-wringing for borrowers, living on the streets as they may end up doing. Priorities, people.

I Knew There Was a Reason I Didn't Like That Guy

Lieberman endorses McCain. Pampered Pols Who Support All War All the Time, Unite!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hippo Birdie

To me. Whee! To celebrate, a song I really like.

And I got this song from someone to mark the occasion:

And this one, just because.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Wonder if She Knows The Vet Who Wanted Me to Bring the Cat in for Weekly Weigh-Ins?

As a part of my action-packed birthday-centered festivities, I went to the dentist this morning. And, despite my decay-resistant teeth and good flossing habits, she found something.

I have uneven tongue calluses, for which I am to visit an oral surgeon. Mistaking my look of incredulity for one of concern, she rushed to assure me that it was not something urgent. Thank god. I can sleep now.

I just knew she wasn't going to live up to the standards of my dude who retired.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last Working Friday Until 2008!

One of the many benefits to where I work, apart from the Crab Rangoon, is a good vacation and time-off policy. And now, for my high-energy, my iPod-is-obviously-equally-enthused-about- the-time-off-work random ten.

1. of angels and angles, the decemberists
2. staring at the sun, tv on the radio
3. sticky sue, mickey murray
4. heavy metal, clap your hands say yeah
5. she's a sensation, the ramones
6. my my metrocard, le tigre
7. (i got a) catholic block, sonic youth
8. waiting for the universe, pernice brothers
9. the sporting life, the decemberists (but of course!)
10. me and the major, belle and sebastian

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Four Separate Bars, I Tell You!

Things we may or may not be
doing at the holiday office party.

I have it on good authority that the office holiday party I will be attending today will have a fantastic spread including, but not limited to, a Tex-Mex bar, a Thai bar, Crab Rangoon, and a dessert station with fondue. There will also be imported and domestic beers, wine, and champagne.

Now to just avoid a repeat of last year's spectacle whereby, in front of the boss's boss, I got the tights of one leg caught on the zipper of my other boot. After almost landing on my face when I tried to walk away, I tried unsuccessfully for many minutes to free myself. My friend M had to do emergency rescue, which I'm sure looked . . . interesting, as she was bent over my legs and we were both laughing hysterically. And this is why I'm on the career fast track.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Minion Playlet in One Scene

My friends, picture, if you will, your humble blogger slogging away at her mountain of work and past-due projects. Further picture that, for its first time in 15 years (obviously, since long before her arrival), she single-handedly gets her main product on schedule, by doing more than twice the normal amount of work this year. Impressive, isn't it? And, to add emotional depth and the proper sense of triumph to this moment, I give you another fictionalized minion playlet.

Scene: office. Various office minions (OM), the uber muckety-muck (UMM), and quasi-muckety-mucks (QMM) gather to talk.

OM1 (to QMM): So, I wanted to let you know that I just sent out X, Y, Z, and am getting A, B, and C from Dr. Whosit. These things will all ship out at the end of the month, and as soon as I get A, B, C to OutSource U, we'll be set. Everything done, on time, like clockwork for 2008, and the back log gone. Woo!

QMM: This is fantastic! That's wonderful! Good for you! We need to celebrate! Hey [UMM], did you hear this?

[Meanwhile, UMM is in conversation with OM2, at the other end of the room.]

UMM: Wow, [OM2], that's great how you did that performance on your free time. I wasn't aware that you did interpretive dancing. Hope next time more people than just me and QMM will show. Thanks so much for inviting me! Um, did everyone else know about it?

OM2: Ohhhh, I told the important people. Thank you for coming! [fits of giggling] Have I mentioned I love your outfit?

[QMM gestures UMM over to his conversation.]

QMM: Hey, OM1 just hit her targets, and sent out the last thing today!

UMM: That's my girl! [high fives OM1] We'll going to hijack the office-wide holiday party to celebrate this.

[OM2 scowls.]

End scene.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Toby's Passed-Along Observed Principle Holds True

You know how those stupid ads online just clutter your screen and taunt you, and you ignore them? While surfing merrily along, I saw an ad with this picture:
I chuckled to myself, thinking "ooooh, kitty!" And reflexively, I clicked the accompanying ad. Thus proving this:

Don't Make Me Bust This out Again.

The holidays should be all happy and shit, right? Is it too soon to expect some of that jolly?

Hello Kitty Writing Implements Part II: In Which I Am Outsmarted

I picked up a Badtz Maru pen I bought, which I had previously used, and proceeded to write out a post-it note. Lo, to my confusion, I realized I had inexplicably bought a pencil and not noticed it. But wait! Closer inspection confirmed that it is both a pen and a pencil. Fiendishly clever!

Aren't you glad to be tuned into the minutiae of my life? Shall I go on about these new socks I bought?

But hey, look at this, you can buy a Badtz Maru bass guitar!

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm Told, By Reliable Sources

That the cheese and caramel "mix" of this is the way to go. I've always been a fan of caramel, but good to know. Also, another reason to visit me. Hint.

Disappointment Is

Not being able to find any more colored, scented Hello Kitty pens (specifically, Batz Maru) for fun, ironic, editing purposes. Then, finding out that the pens you bought instead are like trying to write with a leaky highlighter.

Am I asking too much?

Signs You're (Okay, I'm) Getting Older

When I was little, I loved the Police. Synchronicity spoke to me, and I whiled away long hours plugged into the stereo system, listening to it on headphones. It goes without saying that in my preadolescent haze I thought Sting was all kinds of dreaminess. He would marry me one day!

So, having Lynette point out that Sting not only has progeny,

but adult musician progeny, kind of was a little depressing to hear. I mean, look at that. Spitting image, or what?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Summary of Old Grey Whistle Test, Volume 3

Lots of guitar rock, accompanied by fur vests.

UPDATE: Plus The Jam!!

A Thought on Product Purchase

A point of much family contention is that, as a child, I was sorely deprived of my own legos. Yes, I was forced to play with my brother's, until my mother finally found the proper girl-themed set--a bathroom (my mother swears it was pink legos, but I do submit to you that the bathroom set is emblazoned, for obvious reason, on my memory).

A day of shopping at ground-zero for commerce, however, brought us to the Lego Store (cool!), where there were many many fun-looking sets. Of course, there was snark about the need for us to locate the pink legos.

I would like to suggest that girl children (dancing or otherwise) do not actually need this, per seBut can, like boys, have a lot of fun with this:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Random Ten, Needy-Needy Themed

1. giddy stratospheres, the long blondes
2. then you left me, the bee gees
3. hold me my daddy, xtc
4. brothers on a hotel bed, death cab for cutie
5. fake palindromes, andrew bird
6. two-headed boy part 2, neutral milk hotel
7. separated by motorways, the long blondes (sigh.)
8. i cried last night, junior kimbrough
9. the morning after baby let me down, loretta lynn
10. some mother's son, the kinks

Happy Friday, everybody! Hope you too will be having excessive amounts of fun experiencing holiday commerce. While holiday sales have increased for big retailers this year, it's the smallest increase in five years. Do your part, people. For America.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

And Here I Am Thinking I'm At Least an Original Cubicle Monkey

The latest craze sweeping the nation? Office bingo. Well, not really, but my version features said monkeys' predictable behavior. The woman running for the free food in the lobby? Square. One square for the esoteric subject-specialist discussions and assorted geekery. And of course displays of martyrdom get a square.

Fun fun fun, plus drinks for the winners. Because we need them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

While We're Checking All the Toys This Christmas, How About We Add More to the List?

I saw this bit of cheery news while I was on the bus. A recent report says that the FDA is critically underfunded. Among the "plethora of inadequacies":
•Inadequate inspections of manufacturers, noting that foodmakers, for example, are inspected about once every 10 years.
•A "badly broken" food-import system and food supply "that grows riskier each year." In the past 35 years, FDA inspections of the food supply have dropped 78% due to soaring numbers of products and inadequate FDA funding.
•A depleted FDA staff, which is about the same size as it was 15 years ago despite huge growth in agency responsibilities. Instead of being proactive, the agency is often in "fire-fighting" mode.
•A workforce with a "dearth" of scientists who understand emerging technologies. Turnover rates in some scientific positions at the FDA run twice that of other government agencies.
•An "obsolete" information-technology system.
In case you weren't picking up on the general theme here:
William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner who supports the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, says the report stands out because of the "intensity of the feelings" expressed by the subcommittee.

"These people were horrified by what they found," he says. While the subcommittee was supposed to look ahead to where the FDA needs to be, Hubbard says it came away concluding that "it cannot even do its job now."

Sundry Holiday-Themed Notables

Though I check sometimes hourly for updates (as I'm sure you do too), I love this.

And for a really catchy holiday tune, go here, to the second mp3 on the page (Mike Viola).

FURTHER: If you listen to the above, a debate has ensued. Is the narrator a creepy, possibly violent stalker, or is he a loveable goof whom she obviously misses, hence why she's crying?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

You Know What I Love?

When it takes me 2 hours to get home from work. I love public transit sometimes, really. Plus, more snow. Can you tell I'm having a bad week?

But, wow, I see that people in the Baltimore-Washington area are getting snow too! Some people are going to be pleased, I suspect. I hope you enjoy your time off when the city shuts down. Heh.

Between Bouts of Bafflingly Odd Questions and Being Left on Hold While The Person Who Called Me Bitches in the Background About My Unreasonable Demand

This is hilarious. Pet solidarity, man.

Man Finally Put in Charge of Ailing Feminist Movement

This should have been done years ago:

"It's about time," McGowan said upon returning from a golf game with several "network honchos" in which he brokered a deal to bring a variety of women's sports to prime-time television. "These ladies should have brought me on years ago."

McGowan claimed that one of the main reasons the movement enjoyed so little success in the past was that the previous management was often too timid and passive and should have been much more results-focused.

"You can't waste time pussyfooting around with protests and getting all emotional about a bunch of irrelevant details," McGowan said. "If you want to enjoy equal rights, you have to have a real man-to-man chat with the people in charge until you can hammer out some more equitable custody laws."

"And don't get me started on how disorganized and scatterbrained their old fundraising methods were," McGowan added. "Let's just say the movement never really had a head for numbers."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dancing Genius? Quite Possibly.

I hear that in spite of setbacks and tears of co-performers, she insisted that the show go on.

Heroes: "And You and Linderman Wanted to End the World. Doesn't Sound Like You've Changed Much, Mom"

If only I had a dollar for the number of times my mother and I have had this exact conversation.

"Adam is my friend! We're destroying the virus." Yeah, you just keep believing that, Peter. When Maya is lapping you on deductive reasoning, it is time to reassess.

How much do I love Hiro, though? And Nathan? Notwithstanding his horrible hair. Really, he needs a haircut. And Parkman doing his crazy power, craning his neck and all? He looks like an idiot.

For obvious reasons, one cannot take as a given that a dead hero is really a dead hero. But Niki surely seems to be gone.

I can't handle the hanging in space until we may or may not get back to our Heroes storyline, though. I support the writers, but this is all just too difficult for me personally. Does no one factor in my feelings?

Shit, I was distracted. Who was buried alive? And further shit, speaking of no one caring about my feelings, what the hell! Not Nathan! NO, NOT NATHAN! I have nothing to watch for now.

Signs of Winter

Remarked my friend K:

You know it's cold when cta [Chicago Transit Authority] workers have to salt the urine in the turnstyles and on the platform.

And my personal observation of today as I stomped into work and caught my reflection in a building: when I pull out ye olde vintage coats as I'm wont to, and behat and bescarf, I'm looking about 1 dalmation-puppy stole away from being Cruella Deville.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday Gospel, What I'm Working on These Days

I'm researching for a web piece on these guys, the Soul Stirrers. They influenced the creation of soul music, friends. Good good stuff.

Good Question. What Does Santa Bring You When You've Been Good, But the World Has Been Bad?

Membership in the Michigan Militia? A Unabomber hooded sweatershirt? No, silly, a sleek and lovely 50,000-volt taser.

Perhaps I'm overreacting. A Taser could make a fun fun Christmas gift, especially the pink one. And a U.K. study shows they're "unlikely to harm human hearts"!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Depiction of the Despair Detailed Below

Send Help.

It is an ice storm outside, and there's a pledge drive on PBS. And I am out of wine.

See, This Is Why I Hate Winter with a Fiery Passion

I have to shovel!