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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bob Shrum trashes John Edwards

My friend Raj sent me this nasty piece that appeared in Time Magazine - an excerpt from Bob Shrum's memoir No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner. I don't see the point of smearing John Edwards now. And I've heard other bad things about Shrum - Rolling Stone's kickass political writer, Matt Taibbi, thinks he's a charlatan. Among other things, he gets a cut of the candidate's advertising budget as part of his consulting fee (something no Republican consultant gets), so he's stinking rich, but none of the EIGHT presidential candidates that he's worked for have won.

"Kerry's Regrets About John Edwards"


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kids' menus encourage narrow choices

I felt bad reading this - my son used to eat what we ate, but as he got older (he's 7 now), he prefers the stuff traditionally found on the kids menu and I haven't done much to discourage him. I'm going to male a real effort to encourage both kids to try what we're eating, or at least vary what they choose. But I'm happy to see that some restaurants are bucking the trend, though they seem to be mostly at the high end of the scale. Below is the link and an excerpt:


May 30, 2007
NY Times
De Gustibus
Don’t Point That Menu at My Child, Please

It seems like such a wonderful concept when you encounter it for the first time as a parent. You go to a restaurant as a family, are seated and given menus, and the waitress cheerfully turns to your children and exclaims, “And these are for you!” Their own special menus — kids’ menus! Sometimes these are little laminated things, peewee facsimiles of what Mom and Dad are holding. Sometimes these are placemats that not only tell you what foods are available but also contain mazes and word-search puzzles.

No matter what, the menu offers chicken fingers with French fries. And typically, as you go down the list, macaroni and cheese, a hot dog, a hamburger, grilled cheese and some kind of pizza.

Early in my tenure as a parent, I thought children’s menus were the greatest thing, a quantum leap forward in the human condition . . . my outlook on children’s menus started to change at some point — probably around the 102nd or 103rd time my children ordered chicken fingers with French fries. Even if the chicken fingers were good ones, made from real breast meat rather than pulverized and remolded chik-a-bits, I was disturbed by their ubiquity and their hold on my kids, who are 11 and 8 years old.


Friday, May 25, 2007


Just finished this book by "rogue economist" Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (orignally published in 2005 - I'm always right on top of the latest). The book was interesting and thought-provoking, but also frustrating. They say right up front that the book is random and has no organizing principle, and that's painfully true. The first chapter is an extensive discussion of the origins of the Ku Klux Klan. Interesting, but only related to economic analysis in a fairly marginal way. The most annoying section was apparently contradictory analyses - first of the key role schooling plays and a later analysis indicating the complete lack of influence that schooling plays. I never did figure out how those could coexist. My (totally brilliant) colleague Frank read the book on my recommendation and claims that a close examination of the footnotes (which obviously I didn't do) reveals that the conclusions that are drawn don't always follow validly from the data. In any event, the book demonstrates that conventional wisdom is so often wrong (and is very hard to change) and it also confirms that if you're open-minded - if you approach problems with a mind that is truly open to the data, you can learn a lot. It was worth reading just for that.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Creation Museum is a balm for believers

My friend Raj sent me this review from the NY Times of the new Creation Museum outside Cincinnati. Gag. The reviewer is far too gentle, IMO - they should have sent someone willing to be more assertive. This, from the review, sums up the whole undertaking:
For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the distortions of secularism and natural selection.

And this, the only statement in the review that approaches criticism:
But given the museum’s unwavering insistence on belief in the literal truth of biblical accounts, it is strange that so much energy is put into demonstrating their scientific coherence with discussions of erosion or interstellar space. Are such justifications required to convince the skeptical or reassure the believer?

For the full review:



Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rosie still holds her own on The View

Watching MSNBC tonight, I heard about a big feud (regarding Iraq) between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View, so went to You Tube to watch - both what happened today, and last Thursday's episode, that started the fuss. I can't believe the BS that comes out of Elisabeth's mouth - it's the Republican Talking Points, straight down the line. Can she possibly believe everything she says? Some of it, yes, but some of it - I can't believe anyone with a modicum of saavy could buy it. But I have to give her credit - Rosie and Joy Behar pound away from the left and she holds her ground. It's indefensible ground, but she holds it without blinking. As for Rosie, I love her, she's ballsy as hell, but she could be so much more effective as a spokesperson for a certain perspective (i.e., mine) if she didn't say such incredibly inflammatory things. But you have to applaud her willingness to do it, knowing the reaction that she gets, every single time.

Links to the two episodes (it's the opening segment only, about 9 minutes each), 5/23 first, then 5/17 (they're talking about Ron Paul, Rosie's comment about terrorists happens about halfway):




Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Celebrities Opening Hotels

This story was in the current issue of Newsweek. I have to admit, I find it pretty repulsive - of course extreme luxury hotels and inns are a growth business - the rich are getting richer and it's a profitable enterprise to create insanely expensive hideaways for your celebrity friends to visit. Like they need the money. Below is an excerpt and a link to the full story.


Why Celebrities Are Opening Hotels
By Michelle Jana Chan
May 28, 2007

As the growing ranks of celebrity inn-keepers are learning, personality sells rooms a lot better than any plasma TV or Thai spa treatment ever could. At Turtle Inn, the Francis Ford Coppola Family Pavilion—which features pieces from his personal art and antiques collection—starts at $2,000 a night in peak season, triple the price of comparable villas. It's never been more popular. Other well-known personalities, including Giorgio Armani, Clint Eastwood, and Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, have also lent their names to high-end hotel projects. Bill Gates recently bought a major stake in the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain. U2's Bono and the Edge saved Dublin's old Clarence Hotel from demolition in 1992, and in the process turned it and the whole neighborhood around. Indeed, in today's celebrity-obsessed culture, there seems to be no shortage of well-heeled travelers willing to pay a premium to stay at Robert Redford's place in Utah or the Versace palazzo in Australia.

For the high-profile owners, it's easy to see the appeal: hotels have become a richly profitable investment, as well as an exercise in vanity. According to Smith Travel Research, global hotel occupancy for 2006 hit 65 percent, which is considered good in the industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers says that in the United States, occupancy was the highest it's been since 1997, and that the lodging industry made an aggregate profit of $25.3 billion, up almost 12 percent from 2005. This year hotels and resorts stand to profit on average by more than $6,000 for each available room. "It's very hard today for a hotel project not to be successful and make money," says industry analyst Bjorn Hanson. "Hotels certainly benefit from the influence of a personality." Adam Weissenberg, another analyst, says celebrity hoteliers are an extension of the celebrity-owned-restaurant trend that peaked a few years ago.


Monday, May 21, 2007

More evidence of water on Mars

This story is extra cool, b/c it's an example of serendipity - they discovered the evidence b/c the rover's wheel is broken! Below is an excerpt and link to the full story.

NASA Rover Finds Surprising Evidence for Mars' Watery Past
May 21, 2007

The strongest evidence yet that ancient Mars was much wetter than it is now has been unearthed by NASA's Spirit rover.

A patch of Martian soil kicked up and analyzed by Spirit appears to be rich in silica, which suggests it would have required water to produce.

Chemical analysis performed by the rover's robotic arm-mounted science instruments measured a composition of about 90 percent pure silica -- a material commonly found in quartz on Earth -- for the bit of Martian dirt, said mission scientists, who first heard of the find during a teleconference.

"You could hear people gasp in astonishment," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for NASA's twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "This is a remarkable discovery."

This discovery came about unexpectedly as the result of a mechanical failure.

Both Spirit and its twin rover Opportunity completed their original three-month missions in April 2004, and are aging. One of Spirit's six wheels no longer rotates, gouging a deep impression as it drags through soil. That scraping has exposed several patches of bright soil, leading to some of Spirit's biggest discoveries in its Gusev Crater exploration site, including the most recent find.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

I couldn't say it better myself

My friend Raj made this spot-on observation today:

Right wing pundits love to complain about out-of-touch liberal "intellectuals," but their guys (like Wolfowitz and Kissinger) have little good, real world results to show for it, in my opinion.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Poor Paul Wolfowitz (NOT!)

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy! I liked what Bill Maher said on his show, Real Time - Wolfowitz insisted that the World Bank make a statement that he did nothing wrong because he wanted to preserve his reputation as the architect of the Iraq War.


Friday, May 18, 2007

"Opting Back In"

I enjoyed this article by the same woman who wrote the controversial New York Times Magazine article called "The Opt-Out Revolution," which has been widely discussed, and widely refuted by statistics. Below is the link to the full article, and an excerpt.


May 17, 2007
NY Times
Life's Work
After Baby, Boss Comes Calling

Neither the refresher course, nor the ease of finding contract work, existed when she left the field five years ago. That is because she "opted out" just as the issue came to a head — a result, I confess, of a magazine piece I wrote for this newspaper — and caused a nasty and noisy debate about whether privileged and educated women were abandoning the workplace, or the workplace was abandoning them.

But now it is time for another phrase, "opting back in," a term that not only describes Ms. Stepnowski's decision to return, but also reflects the growing acceptance by business of a nonlinear career. It's a movement that's still in its infancy. And it is hard to separate lip-service by companies from true commitment for the moment. But should it take hold — should the stopping and starting, the ramping down and revving back up of a career become the norm — it would transform the workplace.

Numbers are driving the trend. There has been a 6 percent falloff in labor force participation among married mothers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those women are not leaving permanently. They stay out an average of 2.2 years, according to research by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, whose book "Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success" (Harvard Business School Press) is just out. Then they try to opt back in. "Ninety-three percent of off-ramped women are trying to get back on track," Ms. Hewlett says, and while 74 percent do find work, only 40 percent find work they call satisfying.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point

I just finished this very disappointing book and found it not nearly as profound as I had expected. Almost all his examples amount to fads rather than a major shift in culture, and many focus on successful marketing, including the incredibly offensive success of a campaign that exploited youthful interest in the Free Tibet movement to sell $80 skateboarding shoes. How that illuminates "tipping" is beyond me, and I found it totally disgusting. I've read a number of insightful books about the dyanmics of culture and so far, this is the least informative, interesting, or worth reading.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Great quote

The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.
- Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable

Happened to catch the author of this book, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on Stephen Colbert tonight. It sounds very interesting, about how unexpected (even unbelievable) developments like the Internet can have far-reaching effects.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Early primaries mean different issues get attention

I heard an interesting analysis on NPR this a.m., containing quite a bit of good news for me, as a voter whose interests may be more represented by this shift in primaries dates - more larger states with more Democratic voters will be weighing in early, which means "our" issues (as opposed to the issues that are important to smaller, more rural, more conservative states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina) will be the focus of much more attention:



Sunday, May 06, 2007

Great quote

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to other animals as well as humans, it is all a sham. -Anna Sewell, writer(1820-1878)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Hippies Were Right!

Thanks to my Uncle Alfred for sending this great piece to me. The fact that this is a column in a web-based publication reminds me how silly it is to talk about the liberal bias in the media. Morford has a valid point, but you'll never hear this presented in the MSM. It would be laughable, especially in our current everything-conservative-is-good and they're the only ones with "values" political climate, to suggest that "hippies" had any kind of positive impact on American culture. Below is an excerpt, follow the link to read the whole column.


Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
The Hippies Were Right!
Green homes? Organic food? Nature is good?
Time to give the ol' tie-dyers some respect.

Go ahead, name your movement. Name something good and positive and pro-environment and eco-friendly that's happening right now in the newly "greening" America. I'm talking about, say, energy-efficient light bulbs. I'm looking at organic foods going mainstream. I mean chemical-free cleaning products widely available at Target and I'm talking saving the whales and protecting the dolphins and I mean yoga studios flourishing in every small town, giant boxes of organic cereal at Costco and the Toyota Prius becoming the nation's oddest status symbol. You know, good things.

Look around: we have entire industries devoted to recycled paper, a new generation of cheap solar-power technology and an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and even the soulless corporate monsters over at famously heartless joints like Wal-Mart are now claiming that they really, really care about saving the environment because, well, "it's the right thing to do" (read: It's purely economic and all about their bottom line because if they don't start caring they'll soon be totally screwed on manufacturing and shipping costs at/from all their brutal Chinese sweatshops).

There is but one conclusion you can draw from the astonishing (albeit fitful, bittersweet) pro-environment sea change now happening in the culture and (reluctantly, nervously) in the halls of power in D.C., one thing we must all acknowledge in our wary, jaded, globally warmed universe: The hippies had it right all along.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Apparently, I choose murder

I've had pro-choice bumper stickers on my cars pretty much non-stop for 20 plus years, all across this great country, including very red state Arizona. But this is the first time that I've gotten a note on my car, criticizing my stance - in the employee parking deck at Upstate Medical University. My current bumper sticker says "Against abortion, that's your choice." This is what the note said:

"For murder? That's your stupid selfish choice!"

I don't really object to the sentiment - everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm just surprised at being scolded after all these years of being ignored. Some passionate people in Syracuse.

P.S. That's pretty much what I think about people who support this stupid war.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Glenn Beck's "The Climate of Fear"

I was very disappointed to see CNN broadcasting a full hour of Glenn Beck propagating myths about global warming, with very little attempt at balance. Glenn Beck's global warming special on CNN Headline News, "Exposed : The Climate of Fear ," created a high profile forum for minority opinions on the issue. Of course there are dissenting opinions regarding global warming, but giving them this kind of prominence seriously misrepresents how limited this dissent truly is. I have always respected CNN, but I think this really damages their credibility and reflects very negatively on their judgement. Their audience deserves better and this issue deserves better.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New series on Showtime - Meadowlands

I have to admit, I think this is totally lame - Sopranos meets Desperate Housewives - it's so obvious that they're trying to find The Formula for success. Yawn. Here's the description from their website:

Starring British actors David Morrissey (The Deal, State of Play, Viva: Blackpool) and Lucy Cohu (The Queen's Sister, Becoming Jane), MEADOWLANDS focuses on a family trying to escape its past while confronting an even more uncertain future. The series picks up as Danny (MORRISSEY) and Evelyn Brogan (COHU) along with their two teenage kids enter a witness protection program and are moved to a bucolic neighborhood (Meadowlands) to begin a new life. Picturesque and crime-free, Meadowlands appears to be a suburban paradise where the Brogan family can begin to start a new life. But they soon realize that it’s not so easy to escape the past and their safe haven becomes a world of paranoia and psychological intrigue with surprises around every corner.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Poor George Tenet (NOT)

I'm getting pretty sick of George - I had to listen to his smug self-justification yet again this morning. I'm sorry his feelings got hurt and his words were taken out of context (he really is the victim here, not the 3000+ dead Americans fighting in Iraq thanks to him doing a heck of a job). He's taking a pretty high and mighty tone, considering his key role in the whole debacle. And he accepted the Medal of Freedom. Republicans don't have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but they sure take it to an art form.