Saturday, March 31, 2007

Faster Than Falling

If you fall from a sufficient height, you will reach terminal velocity in just under five seconds. Terminal velocity is the top speed (for a human, it's about 120mph) of a body moving through a fluid (usually our atmosphere) and varies by the density of the liquid and the mass and cross-section presented by the falling body. By "cross-section presented" I mean how UN-aerodynamic can a falling body make itself in order to present as large a surface area as possible to the atmosphere? This is why cats regularly survive falls from great heights. Even above 30 floors, the mortality rate is only about 10%. Cats, you see, upon reaching terminal velocity, relax. This causes their legs to spread, and their skin spreads out rather like a flying squirrel's. This is mostly why their terminal velocity is half of a human's. Granted, 60mph still means a sudden stop, and cats usually don't walk away from these falls without a bit of a limp as a souvenir. I had a cat once that fell four stories down an air shaft. Of course, the cat can't reach terminal velocity in such a short time, so she didn't have time to reach the relaxed phase of the fall and was still experiencing the "oops" response. Had she fallen six stories instead, she might have relaxed, let nature pull the ripcord and walk away unharmed. Instead, her foreleg was broken. And she was, already, in the opinion of our vet at the time, "easily in the top three" of the most difficult animals he'd ever had to treat. No matter what you did to her at the vet, she made sounds that hell's hoariest demons must make when Satan is flaying their skin for the 12,234,844th time. You would have thought the vet was trying to saw her in half with a broken bottle, when, in fact, he was only trying to stick a piece of smooth, sanitary piece of glass up her ass.

All that is a long way to say that this guy is going 151mph! On skis.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Rift Widens

According to new data from the IRS, the income gap -- the ratio between the top 1% of earners and the rest of us -- is at its widest since 1928. I've long felt there is a widening chasm between the rich and the middle and working classes; simply put, the upper class train is leaving the station, and if you're not on it by now, you'll be left behind with the Wal-Mart greeters and the counter help at Starbucks. I think this bodes ill for our country as a whole, for history is filled with the chaos that comes when too few have too much and the too many will no longer settle for too little. As the economist who analyzed the data said, “If the economy is growing but only a few are enjoying the benefits, it goes to our sense of fairness. It can have important political consequences.”

I'm a large fan of free markets, but I also think it's to our benefit as a society to prevent (or at least slow) a burgeoning oligarchy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Bit of a Stretch

When your yoga practice gets to this level, let me know. A prize is waiting for you.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Will someone please tell Ian Paisley...

...that Talk Like A Pirate Day isn't until September. I'm glad he and Gerry Adams sat down with each other and decided to share power in Northern Ireland, but if you heard his soundbites, all that's missing is a few "Arr, me hearties" and the clunking of a peg leg.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Angry Elephants

If you read my post last year about the increase in acts of elephant-on-human violence, you won't be surprised to read this. Our relationship with the animal world seems broken on some basic level. How long before the geniuses of the animal world, the cetaceans, rise up in revolt?

The Trigger Finger is Itching

Bush has been looking for an excuse to invade Iran, and this may be just what he's looking for. Finally, he must be thinking, a chance to mess with a charter member of the Axis of Evil.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kissing Update

The Kansas City Star updates its story on the lesbian kiss. Mostly unsatisfying, as it has turned into a "he said, she said," face-off. IHOP says the public displays of affection were "bold displays," and took place in several locations in the restaurant, the women continue to insist their kisses were chaste. Guess we'll never know the truth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Garrison Clarifies

A few days ago I linked to a column by Dan Savage, as he took Garrison Keillor to task for a column he wrote for Salon. Here, he responds to the kerfluffle.

Great Gift Idea

It's not graduation time yet, but Travel Essentials has a fantastic solution: the Timbuk2 "design your own bag" card. $100 and your recipient gets a package that allows them to design a Timbuk2 messenger bag (Timbuk2 being a very cool bag company in San Francisco's hip Hayes Valley), choosing their own colors and options. Timbuk2 assembles the bag and ships it to your recipient's door step in a few days.

This would also make a great business gift, for people in the right business (architects, designers, yes. accountants, patent attorneys, not so much).

"I'm Trying to Help You, Bitch!"

And you thought YOU had a crazy boss. Check out this video of director David O. Russell going simian on Lily Tomlin on the set of "I Heart Huckabees."

"Don't Fuck With Me, Fellas!"

Our President is pulling a Joan Crawford on Congress, telling them they better shut up and accept his offer to allow White House aides to speak to a Congressional committee -- but not under oath or on the record. Watch this one, this could be a real Constitutional crisis brewing. Bush has already shown to whom he feels the President should answer. Hint: it's a non-corporeal Supreme Creator with an unlisted number. It's certainly NOT a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Bush claims he's avoiding an investigation being pushed solely for political reasons -- which is interesting, because the issue we want to get to the bottom of is whether or not he (or his team) fired US attorneys for political reasons. If White House aides were constantly under subpoena, I could see the President's point, but when has Karl Rove EVER testified under oath (not that I'm sure his oath means anything, given his record).

Let's see some transparency, George. If your guys were on the up and up (while they were doing OUR business, by the way), then you have nothing to fear.

The Night Larry Kramer Kicked Me

This is not a call to action. It is depressing, angry, a bit over the top...and true. But in this opinion piece from the LA Times, playwright Larry Kramer comes off as resigned. Angry as ever, but resigned. As though he is saying, "I have done all I know how to do. And it's still awful."

I have some issues with Kramer's tendency to exaggerate, ("There is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us." Really? How about Gavin Newsom? How about Barney Frank, for that matter?) and I don't agree with him entirely on free speech ("Do you consider it acceptable that 20,000 Christian youths make an annual pilgrimage to San Francisco to pray for gay souls? This is not free speech." And just why not?), or the reason we don't have equal civil rights ("Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple." More like fear and/or ignorance.) but on the main, I'd say he's striking a vein. When he lays it out the way he does here, it's hard not to feel a little assaulted.

PHOTO: Larry -- on a day he didn't feel so resigned.
p.s. Sorry to be such a one-issue blog lately -- I'll get back to the golf and the theater and the odd bits of things you ought to watch or read or do soon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Intolerance on Parade

If you'd like to see what Middle America really thinks of gay people, read the comments associated with this column from the Kansas City Star. Seems an IHOP in Grandview, Missouri tossed a quartet of lesbians because one kissed the other -- affectionately, not sexually. "It was a kiss I would share with my uncle," one of the women said.

I guarantee if you read through the comments section, you will be amazed at the level of hatred, ignorance and intolerance you find there. One guy even asks to be able to put us all back in the closet and lock the door himself. Others want a return to criminal prosecution of gay people. Plenty of others fall back to the old saw that homosexuality is being "shoved in their face" -- as if the millions of chaste straight kisses one sees on the street don't amount to heterosexuality being shoved in people's faces. I don't like public displays of sexual affection, gay or straight, but what I really hate is self-righteous intolerance in the name of God.

UPDATE: I wrote a quick note to IHOP, asking what they knew about this situation and received a reply that read, in part, "The guests were asked to refrain from bold displays of public affection as guests had found it offensive. They were not asked to leave, they were asked to refrain from bold displays which included open-mouthed kissing and caressing. They elected to leave the restaurant about 20 minutes after the request to refrain was made."

Then I wrote the writer at the Kansas City Star to ask why the stories don't match. He replied that an update is coming in tomorrow's paper. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Here's something few candidates would say...

"So what if it's risky, it's the right thing to do."

That's from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, after being confronted about the potential political fallout from his signing a bill to provide medicinal marijuana for 160 ill people who have had pain significantly alleviated through the use of the herb.

I generally support the repeal of many drug prohibitions (but especially marijuana), but my larger point is Richardson's willingness to actually stand on principle. Why should that be so rare among candidates as to be notable when it happens? My friend Amy, after my earlier post in which I wrote of how impressed voters might be with Rudy Giuliani's management skills, especially in comparison with The Chimp's, suggested I take a look at Bill Richardson. I will. He's low on the radar at the moment, but given the current climate, that might be the right place to be for the moment. It's a long campaign. But having someone who is willing to actually believe in something he feels is right, as opposed to what the polls tell him he ought to believe is quite refreshing, and could resonate with voters as the election draws nigh.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alan Simpson Lays It On The Line

My friend over at The Salinger Hotline alerts me to an excellent column in today's Washington Post. The author is Republican senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson. In it, he lays out an excellent case for rescinding the policy of "don't ask, don't tell," which he had voted in favor of during the Clinton administration.

His logic goes that first, Americans -- even those in the military -- are more accepting of homosexuality in years past and that a majority favor allowing gay Americans to serve openly. Second, that 24 other countries allow open service. Third, that the armed forces are, according to Colin Powell, "about broken." He continues, saying,

"My thinking shifted when I read that the military was firing translators because they are gay. Is there a "straight" way to translate Arabic? Is there a "gay" Farsi? My God, we'd better start talking sense before it is too late. We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war."

I'd like to think gay Americans ought to be allowed to serve openly because expanding equality is the right thing to do, and not merely the most expedient. That whether or not a majority agrees, it is the right thing to do, and that just because other countries have implemented a policy, it is not necessarily incumbent upon us to follow suit -- we should do it because it is STILL the right thing to do.

But since it doesn't look like it will happen simply because it is, in fact, the right thing to do, I think the obtaining of another measure of equality is worth the reasons given to justify it, at least in this instance.

Dan Savage...

...may be my new hero. This guy wields a keyboard that's sharper than a scalpel. His current target is the hypocritical Garrison Keillor.


The following is an excerpt from a column on a major conservative web site, talking about the recent Ann Coulter dust-up over the use of "faggot.":

Here's what [Coulter] should do immediately:

1. Start a website called 'Global War on Fags' today.

2. Begin writing essays calling for the cleansing and purification of society via the mass murder of homosexuals.

3. Distribute videos on the website showing the actual murders of homosexuals.

4. Circulate instructions on how to bomb gay bath houses in San Francisco.

5. Circulate a 'battle dispatch' to give people specific information on America's most notorious bath houses.


You can read the full column here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How long can they last?

An interesting piece on Salon by Gary Kamiya, talking about the effect of right-win reactionaries on the conservative movement. Here's an excerpt:

"For this isn't really about Coulter at all. This is about a pact the American right made with the devil, a pact the devil is now coming to collect on. American conservatism sold its soul to the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world to gain power, and now that its ideology has been exposed as empty and its leadership incompetent and corrupt, free-floating hatred is the only thing it has to offer. The problem, for the GOP, is that this isn't a winning political strategy anymore -- but they're stuck with it. They're trapped. They need the bigoted and reactionary base they helped create, but the very fanaticism that made the True Believers such potent shock troops will prevent the Republicans from achieving Karl Rove's dream of long-term GOP domination."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

(Not So) Bleak House

I haven't finished all three DVDs yet, but I can tell you already that the Masterpiece Theater version of Charles Dickens's "Bleak House" is a winner. Almost all the performances are wonderful in their own way (my main quibble is with the scenery-chewing portrayal of Mr. Smallweed), and the story is, well, Dickensian: filled with rich characters (including consumptive waifs, imperious lords, common folk of both good and evil intention) and intricate plot turns. It's a ball.

It's also fascinating for the look it gives into English life of the period. Directors Justin Chadwich and Susanna White have done an incredible job of recreating all the worlds of 19th century England, from the lowest slums to the finest houses. (Or so it seems to me, being neither a historian nor a time traveler.) With night scenes seemingly lit only with candles and lanterns, the grime and offal of London's poorer quarters fully in evidence and the finery of the aristocracy muddied at the hems, the frame feels like it looks directly into 1838. When you see a messenger arrive with word from a neighboring house -- that must then be returned by yet another messenger -- it reminded me how amazingly different is a life where communication is ubiquitous and instant. For that reason alone, "Bleak House" is worth the seven or so hours it requires to take the entire journey.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Question for Mitt

I'd like to know if any reporter has asked Mitt Romney a question about alcohol use. As a devout Mormon, Mitt believes that imbibing is sinful. But if asked whether his religious beliefs would interfere with his ability to govern a country where alcohol consumption is not only legal, but a part of the cultural landscape, I imagine he'd talk about how he could keep his religious views separate from his civil duty. Once he communicated that stand, I'd like to hear a follow-up question: "If you are able to separate your religious beliefs from your civic duty, why do want to deny equal civil marriage rights to same-sex couples when the primary argument against such unions is a moral one?"

Epiphanies on the Range, Part 2

After being chained to my computer for the past few days, I finally got back out to the driving range yestereve. While I was warming up, I came up with a visual swing thought: I pictured myself as one of those robots that fight in "robot wars" -- a cylindrical device equipped with articulated arms holding a mace-like weapon. As the robot rotates in one direction, the mace and the arms are flung to the right. Then the arms and mace come back left hard -- but ONLY because the body of the bot has rotated back to the left.

It worked, especially on the three-wood -- I was spanking those babies out to 200 yards on the fly. Now all I need is the time to get out to the golf course and see what happens if I apply this epiphany in real life.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ann Coulter Backpedaling?

In the dust-up over Ann Coulter's remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, she has twice tried to reframe what she said. (In case you've been marooned in Mauritius, near the end of her speech she said: "I was going to have some comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you say the word faggot -- so I am kind of at an impasse.") Her first comment about the hotly-discussed demo diss was that she would never compare gay people to John Edwards, as that would be cruel to gay people. An ancient trope, and therefore not really very funny anymore.

Then, a day or so later, Ann comes out and says "faggot" has "nothing to do with gays," that "it's a schoolyard taunt meaning 'wuss,' and unless you're telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person." Really? And had you called Barack Obama a "nigger" do you suppose a claim that the word "has nothing to do with African-American people," that "it's a sign of brotherhood in urban cultures, almost a term of endearment, as in 'break that shit down, nigga!'" would have gotten you anywhere? Nigga, please.

Friday, March 02, 2007

All Doors Lead Out

This fascinating graph (click on the image to make it larger) tells us what we all know, but sometimes have a hard time facing: that the odds of dying are 1:1. We're all going. HOW we go is the important question. The graph is laid out in a nautilus-like spiral, with dots representing causes of death becoming larger the more common the cause. Many surprises lurk here. For example, you're more likely to be executed by the state than struck by lightning. Suicide is fifth on the list, taking almost as many lives as motor vehicle accidents. But I'm not sure why deaths by "flood" aren't included in the category "drowning." Isn't drowning how a flood kills you? Or is it a separate category when the water comes up and grabs you instead of you voluntarily going to it?


Sorry I've been away so long, leaving all eight of you nothing to read. I apologize for any boredom I may have either caused or failed to relieve. Today is brief:

Breathe. Look (or go) outside. Find something to appreciate. Appreciate it. Remember how mysterious is our existence.

Now back to our regular programming.