Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A friend forwarded this to me. Unfortunately there is no attribution that I can share with you. Whoever it is who wrote it ... Nice Work!

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance.
My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Political interjection

A good friend of mine (and an excellent writer too) Linda Greene sent me the following political epistle from her home back in the liberal fortress of the Northeast.

You wanted Hillary. She didn't get onto the ballot. You're frustrated, hurt, and angry. You want to express how you feel. You have an absolute right to express yourself, but don’t do it in such a way that we end up with four more years of Republican rule.

These are the key points:

  1. Do not write Hillary in. Write-in votes NEVER win elections. All they do is steal votes from the major candidates. If you write Hillary in, McCain will win because Obama will get fewer votes. It's as simple as that.
  2. Do not put Hillary's name on the ballot in a comment or something of that sort, even if you do mark the checkbox for Obama. Republicans will welcome any excuse to throw out an Obama vote. If somebody writes a comment on the ballot, it may be seen as a joke or a crank or a double-vote, and it will be thrown out by those who seek an excuse to do so. And McCain will win.
  3. Do not vote for McCain just because he has a woman Vice Presidential candidate. Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have nothing in common except that they're women. If you vote for Palin just because you can't vote for Clinton, you're saying that all women are the same. This attitude is not a step forward for women, and it’s a slap in Hillary’s face.
So, how DO you express your support for Hillary?

First, vote clearly and directly for her party for President. She is a Democrat. Even in the hottest days of the primary battle, she did not want the Republicans to win. Do what you can to make sure that they don’t. That is supporting Hillary.

Then write letters and send them to Hillary’s Senate office. Or write letters to the editors of newspapers. Or start a “Hillary in 2012” petition after the election is over.

But don’t throw the election to the Republicans just because you’re upset. Then we’d all end up paying.

Linda added a note that she was nervous about sending it to me since she wasn't sure of my political persuasion ... which, as you might guess is unpersuaded if not downright suspicious and surly. I sent back a note.
I can understand why you might be confused about who I'd support ... people tell me I'm a liberaltarian ... but, as you probably remember, I dislike inconsistency and McCain is too inconsistent as he panders to the various special interest groups.

The funny thing is ... he used to be a man I could have supported, one with a sense of honor and responsibility. I still see flashes of it from time-to-time, but his political story has become too much like a blending of "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" and "Faust" for me to be comfortable having him in the presidency.

To which Linda replied:
Remember back when John McCain wouldn’t use his time as a POW for political purposes? He thought it would be sleazy to do that. Most of us agreed. We honored him for his service, and we admired him for his restraint.

Now we hear about McCain’s POW experiences every time we turn around. He and his handlers plaster it all over TV. He and his handlers rub it in our faces. He and his handlers won’t shut up about it.

And, yup, we were right. It does feel sleazy.

My question is this: Did John McCain decide that using this political tactic is ok? Or did he get dragged into using it against his will?

  • If the first is true, he has revealed himself to be comfortable with sleaze.
  • If the second is true, he has revealed himself to be easily manipulated.
Neither of these qualities is one I particularly want in my next President.
It's always nice to know that there are still a couple of people thinking ... and, thank goodness, thinking out loud.

I know that some people might consider this naive and too old school to be believed, but I think that it is a Good Thing for a politician to be an honorable person. That doesn't mean that he or she cannot change their mind or their strategy as long as they're honest about it.

I'll tell you what impressed me during this campaign ... Obama's refusal to distance himself from a pastor and friend whose opinions were disadvantageous to his campaign and his eventual capitulation to need and his full disclosure of it. After the Eagleton affair, after Nixon's dirty tricksters, after Reagan's long nap, after the elder Bush's sly pandering, after Clinton's proposing and disposing of friends during the early part of his administration, after Shrub's (if I may use an Ivinism) outright, blatant and unapologetic lies, I'm about ready to put someone in office who hasn't lied to us yet.

Call me a romantic, but I still consider myself patriotic enough that I'd like to see some honor in our administration. Don't get me started on the legislature ... just don't ...

My Kettle Runneth Over.

On the deck of my new home in suburban Seattle I was enjoying the sunshine and low puffy clouds (strato-cumulus if memory serves), when I noticed some specks of black against the clouds' puffy white.

As I watched, I realized that there were about 15 to 20 birds wheeling in various circles in and out of the cloud mass. They seemed to be having a good time, and as the cloud moved off, they moved with it.

Had the clouds been lower, I almost would have thought them to be crows (since they took so much joy in flying) but they were too high and their glides too long and stable. I suspect that they are raptors of some type, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and Cooper's hawks are most common here, but I have never seen a group as large and so obviously playing with a cloud. I dropped a line to Laura Erickson who informed me that the swirling dance of a group of raptors is called a "kettle" ... a singularly appropriate and evocative name.

It was hard moving here and away from my Massachusetts garden, but there are compensations. The crows here are a rowdy crowd, and a group of them in a park by Lake Washington have made me an honorary member of their murder. (I do love my terms of venery.) I suspect that their motives have much to do with the fact that I have hands and a wallet and can provide them with an ongoing diet of snack foods.

I miss Pat and Pat The catbird pair, and the blueberry thieving bluejays ... but not those damn depressing mourning doves with their melancholic bubbling.

On the upside ... there is a Steller's jay that likes the evergreens in the postage stamp that they try to pass off as a backyard here. He comes visiting almost every day ... and a handsome chap he is too.

I am hoping that once construction stops in this area (houses are being built on three sides of my little plot) there will be more in the way of discernible avian neighbors.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Whoopee Tie Yie Yo

I have no problem with rodeos.

Watching the partnership between a horse and rider can be a beautiful thing. On the whole the cattle at rodeos are treated a damn sight better than those at feed lots. My preference in the events are the working activities like roping and bulldogging. I'm not so much a fan of the bucking and bull-riding competitions.

So ... I was at the rodeo in Ellensburg, WA recently, at the invitation of my son-in-law's family. I haven't been to a rodeo in years, and I was bemused by the experience.

Oddly enough the first rodeo I went to was near Montreal. About all that I remember of it is that the parade was led by a fancily dressed cowboy who rode a palomino while brandishing two shiny six-shooters. I was told at the time that he was a Canadian cowboy star named (I swear to God) Bang Bang Bertram. I have conducted a desultory search for this person and can find no proof of his existence, and it would be entirely in my father's character to have made up the most ridiculous name he could think of as a kind of joke.

Here are some impressions of the Ellensburg do:

I knew there would be some culture shock involved when the announcer made a big deal about one of the contestants being from New Jersey, and I turned to the person next to me and said, "Roy Rogers was from New Jersey," and she said, "Who?"

It was odd to see how many bright, new, straw cowboy hats were being worn. The biggest booths were for these hats and it seemed like everyone was buying them. I finally realized that some were being bought as souvenirs, but others were the once-a-year replacements for the old and battered working hats. I was tempted to buy one myself since my old straw fedora has become sanctified (too holy to be worn), but my style is more fedora than ten-gallon and I was mindful of the old adage that God created cowboys to establish a style that would make Jewish men look ridiculous (Kinky Friedman is the only one I know who can carry it off).

All the Misses Rodeo of various types ride their horses at full gallop as they lean forward, right arm extended (the one closest to the audience for their counter-clockwise dash around the ring) with a kind of metronomic back and forth handwave.

No matter how drunk they get, the ladies in back of you have an expert opinion on the cowboy's capabilities (and not just in the ring).

The outlying riders get little credit and do most of the work.

The clown and announcer banter isn't that funny, which is why a good portion of it seems to be directed toward the section where drinking is allowed.

The recitation about Native Americans was embarrassingly paternalistic and demeaning. It's probably a good thing that they weren't armed for their jaunt across the ring.

I never knew that Spandex was the traditional buffalo hunting costume of the Northwest tribes. (Nor did I know that they hunted buffalo.)

The parade of riders carrying the flags of advertisers and sponsors of the rodeo made me snort. I mean ... good for them but still.

Just like in Pro-Wrestling, rodeo now comes with a soundtrack. It's disconcerting to see a rider catapulted off a bronc to the dulcet strains of ZZ Top's 'Sharp-Dressed Man'.

All-in-all I had a good time, so don't take this as a list of complaints ... they are just bemused contemplations.

A New View

I am sitting in a room that overlooks the short steep driveway in front of my oldest son's house in Kirkland, WA. I am house-sitting while he and his family spend a year in Austin, TX.

Kirkland is still booming with the overflow population and technology companies from Redmond and houses are being crammed in like sardines in a can (a comparison made more appropriate by the fact that across the tiny side street from where I sit is a gray three story building that was originally a salmon cannery.

The contractor whose crew is digging out our foundations to waterproof the lower floors of the house told me that, and said that his grandmother had worked in the plant.

So, as I said, the buildings here are being crammed in tightly. Any house with a substantial yard seems to be in the process of being transformed into two houses with postage stamp lawns. The house to the left of the salmon cannery, for example, had a wonderful yard. The house was set back from the street about 40 feet. Now, however, only a tiny corner of the building is visible beyond the half-finished third of three houses that occupy the erstwhile expanse of trees and grass.

These mansionettes with their tiny yards are going to sell for at least 800K USD and probably much more. It is a boom time in this small town across Lake Washington from Seattle.

So for a small town ... this is a damn noisy place. In addition to the contractor digging around this house, there is the construction crew at the house across the street, another at the salmon factory refurbishing it into an apartment house (or so I surmise), the house directly to the east of where I sit is being refurbished too. Last but not least, directly behind us is what used to be a parking lot and storage building. For the last week or two an extremely squeaky and ancient backhoe has been in nearly constant use as the foundations are laid for yet another new home.

I've noticed something odd here. All the houses in the area have decks. Most have more than one. This house is built on the side of a hill and comprises three floors, The two bottom floors have decks, the upper forming a kind of roof for the lower.

I spend a lot of time on the upper deck. It's near the kitchen (and therefore the French press) and doesn't require me to channel Sir Edmund Hillary when I realize that I left my reading glasses in my bedroom.

The odd thing is that, with all the time I've spent out there, I have yet to see anyone on the deck of any of the houses in sight ... never ... no barbecuing, no drinking a beer, no smoking ... it's as if the deck is a decorative addition like the superfluous shutters that bracket the windows of newly constructed houses uselessly. Front porches are likewise deserted.

I can't blame the noise. Late in the afternoon when the crews go home, the decks stay vacant. You'd think that with the ubiquitous WiFi networking out here, that there would be at least one or two other people out on the deck with their laptops like the old goofy ads for Grant's Scotch. You know, with the man sitting in a chair on the patio with a portable typewriter in his lap, a single sheet of paper rolled into the platen, saying to some one outside the frame, "While you're up, get me a Grant's."

But everybody seems to wander down to the coffee shops in the downtown area. It is an odd kind of socializing where folks are packed in at little cafe tables talking on their cell phones or tapping at their keyboards, and ignoring those around them while, I imagine, taking some comfort in the fact that everyone else is ignoring them.

If I weren't such a misanthropic SOB I'd pretend to be confused by all this.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred

The Very Good Taste blog has a list of the 100 things to eat before you die. I know that some of my readers would rather die than eat some of the things on the list. The list is below. Foods that are in bold face are those that I've eaten. Those crossed out are those I would never eat. The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred
  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile
  6. Black pudding
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses (But it's hard to find.)
  17. Black truffle
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Steamed pork buns
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Foie gras
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
  33. Salted lassi
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float
  36. Cognac with a fat cigar
  37. Clotted cream tea (Mmmmmm)
  38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (Blecch)
  39. Gumbo
  40. Oxtail
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects
  43. Phaal (Whooo ... )
  44. Goat’s milk
  45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
  46. Fugu
  47. Chicken tikka masala
  48. Eel
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer
  55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
  56. Spaetzle
  57. Dirty gin martini (Once was enough!)
  58. Beer above 8% ABV
  59. Poutine
  60. Carob chips
  61. S’mores
  62. Sweetbreads
  63. Kaolin (Not as a result of any of the other entries though.)
  64. Currywurst (Didn't realize it until I read the definition.)
  65. Durian
  66. Frogs’ legs
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  68. Haggis
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. Louche absinthe
  74. Gjetost, or brunost (Feh!)
  75. Roadkill
  76. Baijiu
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie
  78. Snail
  79. Lapsang souchong (Almost every day.)
  80. Bellini
  81. Tom yum (A favorite especially tom yum kung)
  82. Eggs Benedict
  83. Pocky
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
  85. Kobe beef
  86. Hare
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate (Don't know)
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shell crab
  93. Rose harissa (Gotta find some, it sounds great.
  94. Catfish
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  100. Snake
So that would be a score of 92.

Here’s what to do to beat my score:
  1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
  2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
  3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
  4. Optional extra: Post a comment here and at linking to your results.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The following list comes from LibraryThing, DirtyLibrarian turned it into a challenge and my daughter posted her response. According to DirtyLibrarian:

"What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read."
I have added a few additional flourishes. Asterisks indicate books that remain on my shelves though read, Italics indicate books I found distasteful or obtuse and did not finish.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Anna Karenina
  • Crime and Punishment*
  • Catch-22
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion
  • Life of Pi : a novel
  • The Name of the Rose*
  • Don Quixote*
  • Moby Dick*
  • Ulysses
  • Madame Bovary
  • The Odyssey*
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Tale of Two Cities*
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies*
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Iliad*
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Great Expectations*
  • American Gods
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  • The Canterbury Tales*
  • The Historian : a novel
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man*
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Brave New World*
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum*
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein
  • The Count of Monte Cristo*
  • Dracula
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King*
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Poisonwood Bible : a novel*
  • 1984*
  • Angels & Demons
  • The Inferno*
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray*
  • Mansfield Park
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist*
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Mis√©rables
  • The Corrections*
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay*
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Dune
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  • The God of Small Things
  • A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  • Cryptonomicon*
  • Neverwhere*
  • A Confederacy of Dunces*
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Dubliners*
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-five
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon*
  • Oryx and Crake : a novel
  • Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • On the Road*
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • The Hobbit*
  • In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island*
  • David Copperfield*
  • The Three Musketeers*

Friday, April 11, 2008

On being short a Penny . . .


Springtime is the wrong season for a dog to die. 

I know this. I said it about a week ago to Penny as I lay on the floor next to her for most of the day, holding her, massaging her legs, hoping that her inability to get to her feet was a cramp and not paralysis, comforting her through her obvious embarrassment at having to void bladder and bowels on the bed that she used in our bedroom closet.

I woke up that morning ready to plunge into a day of writing. My wife, Deni, was still asleep as I made myself some coffee. Penny usually gets up with me and barks to be let out into the backyard, so when I didn't hear her, I left the coffee perking and went back into the bedroom. She was awake, lying on her side as usual but her eyes were alert. I knew something was wrong immediately. When I thought back later, I realized that when she saw me, there was no motion at all from her tail.

She lifted her head and neck attempting to twist her legs under her and get to her feet, but she had no control of her body.

Let me back up a minute.

Penny was my youngest daughter's dog, but for the last 6 years or so, she has been my companion. She is a small white English setter with large round spots that were the source of her name. She came to us as a puppy. a tiny thing that wanted so much to be with us that she would bark and whine until we helped her up onto the sofa.

She was a runner. She'd dash across the backyard like a streak of doggie lightning in pursuit of squirrels, neighbor cats, birds, and any other invaders real or imaginary. Her favorite game was to chase a basketball as it was kicked across the backyard. I called her "The Hound of the Basketballs". With smaller balls the game played was not so much 'fetch' as 'just try to get it away from me slowpoke'.

She was a runner. She was an investigator. She was hard to take for walks since she would always be straining at the end of the leash trying to follow a scent trail, or seeing just one more movement deep in the shrubbery that she had to identify. I'm sure that some would say that we didn't train her properly, but I have always valued curiousity above obedience. Penny may have half-strangled herself trying to pass her limits, but at least she tried.

She featured in many of my essays about nature. She was my companion on walks, on the porch, in the yard, and as I worked at my desk. She'd curl up at my feet as I pounded away at the keys, every so often barking or whining me away from the desk for a romp.

She got yelled at a lot too: when she barked incessantly in the middle of the night, when she whined at the dinner table until Deni (the soft touch) would sneak her a tidbit from her plate, when, bored with her own food she shouldered the cat aside and feasted on Tuna Delite.

She got cuddled. She was afraid of thunder, of sticks, of water sprays, of other dogs, and of snaky things like ropes or belts. We could always tell when a storm was rolling in ... Penny would try to dig her way through the bathtub or cram herself into the smallest space whether it was a kitchen cupboard or under a bed.

She loved car rides. I'd tease her by saying "Want to go for a ride in the car?" and she would be panting and whining at the door before I even finished the sentence. She rode in the back seat with her head out the window. If I was running errands, as I walked into the store or library, she'd start barking foe me to come back. Sometimes she'd continue for so long that I'd have to cut the errands short.

She loved bones, much preferring them to dog biscuits. She was fastidious about her food. There was only one type of dog food she liked, and she would actually sort out pieces that she didn't want from the bowl and pile them to one side, but she wasn't as picky about other things she ate. She liked peanut butter sandwiches, butter, anything that had been on a plate on the table (I once watched her steal asparagus, another time found that she'd raided the trashcan for artichoke leaves), she also liked eating the occasional flower from the garden.

Her reckless eating habits may have hastened the end. Last summer she ate a large bee and, later that day, went into a series of full-bore grand-mal seizures. She frothed and drooled, her legs spasming and her eyes bewildered at her body's betrayal. Deni and I bundled her into a blanket and drove to the only place open, a distant animal hospital. She had come out of it by then, but was in the post-epileptic stage of constant walking and fear. They warned us at the hospital of likely permanent neurological damage and that the seizures might recur.

She had trouble with her back legs from then on. She could still run, but it was an effort for her to climb stairs and once again we had to help her up onto the couch so that she could be near us. She went from sleeping on the couch to sleeping on an old feather bed on the floor of our bedroom closet. Then came the day last week.

Throughout the course of the day, I lived in hope, I gave her some chunks of beef from some beef stew and some of the liquid. I had to use a shallow bowl and tilt it sharply to let her get at it since she could not raise herself up enough otherwise. I lay next to her, massaging her legs and hoping it would pass.

It was when she tried, desperately to get to her feet, and first whined and then moaned ... a sound I had never heard her make ... a sound of such distress, that it forced me to think. Here was a friend of mine, someone whose entire life is about movement. What could I do for her? It wasn't as if she were partially mobile. Except for spasms and quivers she was immobile below the neck. There was no option for scooter wheels or other partial mobility solutions. As humans we have other resources, we can internalize, creating a mental alternative to the freedom of movement.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am still tearing up as I write about it. Deni and I took the corners of the featherbed and lifted her up to the bed, where, once again, I wrapped Penny in a blanket and carried her to the car. I drove as my wife held Penny. The vet was waiting for us.

Springtime is the wrong season for a dog to die. Winter is finally over and the grass is coming up. The snow is gone, the peepers are back. Wildlife intrusions into the backyard will be more frequent.

It is a week later and I am still putting food in her bowl, watching where I step, reacting to the barks of other dogs in the neighborhood. It is a week later and I've decided to leave the faded, half-deflated basketballs where they are under the tree and up against the weathered fence.

It is a week later and I just realized that I have my feet tucked under my chair so as to give Penny more space under the desk.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Like a Virgin

I have been reading some comments about Barak Obama having attended a church where ostensibly homophobic comments were made. I've also heard the snide comments about his not disavowing support from people that he didn't ask for support from. I'm particularly disappointed in the inability of Senator Clinton (whose intelligence and competence I otherwise admire) to rise above that level of pettiness.

I am confused about something. Just how far does a modern politician have to distance him/herself from an uncomfortable subject, to be free of its taint. It is, after all, nearly impossible not to come into contact with, or hear, or read, or see something that will offend someone ... just in the course of ordinary living.

It's odd that we have taken the old phrase "you are what you eat" to the extreme of "you are what you see/hear/read/etc.", because, of course, that just is not true. I eat bacon and digest it. My body changes it into something that I can use, modifying and absorbing the protein and nutrients letting me grow physically. I do not, by dint of eating bacon, grow a snout and trotters and become a pig. What I eat becomes me but only through the process of digestion imposed on it. There are portions that are indegestible and they are excreted.

Likewise, what I read or hear is not me. Just as meat must be digested, literature, music, even the cultural ecology is processed by the neural digestive juices of my mind disassembled to usable components. I take the nutrients I need and just as with food, excrete the rest. Unlike food, however, that which is intellectually indigestible is worthy of scrutiny. I may not stand gazing for hours into the toilet bowl, but I will return to something I've read that upset my mental stomach and try to figure out why. It is a kind of mental scatomancy. I am acting as my own allergist, trying to find out which ideas, words, attitudes are giving my brain hives.

But when I do these exercises, it is for my own being, not anyone else's. It does not always occur to me that I need to publicly announce or denounce. Maybe it is because I am a fairly private person, but it has never occurred to me to rise up in a crowded restaurant to announce the fact that "this fish is tainted". I may call the manager over and quietly complain, perhaps I won't eat there again, perhaps the manager will apologize and claim that it was an anomaly and Ill give the place another chance ... or two.

This is part of living. You meet, work with, enjoy the company of others with whom you agree, or you disagree; you taste, eat, enjoy different foods; you read, watch, hear different forms of media.

My hunter-mind makes it difficult for me to understand the pattern here. Has the fact that I have read Ezra Pound and not immediately written a position denouncing his anti-semitism make me unfit as a companion or a leader. If I attend a church service which uses the bible, a distinctly violent, legalistic document which espouses many positions with which I do not concur, is it immediately incumbent on me to write a position paper distancing myself from any passages in that tome that might offend someone.

... And to go back to the comparison with food ... just as I would have qualms about eating a meal of roast beef prepared by a lifelong vegan, I have qualms about politicians who do not know what they are talking about. Naivety is NOT a quality I want in a leader. A politician who rails against anarchy without having read Kropotkin, or against the failure of the Iraqi government to pull together without understanding that it wasn't even a nation until we forcibly stuck three separate and unwilling nations together, ... well they just make me tired. They're like a cook who puts a filet mignon in a microwave then complains that it's tough.

It's difficult enough solving the complex problems we face without being intentionally ignorant for fear that someone might say, "Oh! If you read that than you must agree with it." The only thing worse than an ignorant politician is a voter who thinks that the politician's obliviousness is a virtue.

I swear that sometimes I think people only want to vote for someone who has been kept in isolation for their entire life. They don't want to see any mistakes, any human failings.

I say to hell with that! You can't learn without making mistakes. (Of course, Mr. Bush has proven that you can make mistakes without learning.) When I see a politician with no flaws, I worry. Either he is too innocent, or too good a liar.