Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why would it matter?

So there is a new issue coming up soon that we in PA have to be aware of (if we aren't already). You know that the BWH stole the Ohio election and others partially because they found ways to get the Gay Marriage amendment on the ballots. Well, that didn't happen in PA, but it's about to. The Gay Marriage debate is underway here and it's talked about (among other places) here in this article. The headline of the article is :

If marriage isn’t defined as only a union between one man and one woman, state Rep. Arthur D. Hershey believes people will want to marry animals

You know what? I was thinking about this and getting ready to say something like Hershey was a stupid fuck and that nobody would want to marry their cat, but then I started to think more. Why would I care if someone did? I won't engage in a debate about whether it is right for homosexuals to marry and I won't debate about how marriage is defined in law and the bible. The reason I won't is because it's simply stupid to.

The facts are that it is totally acceptable for two people in love to decide to marry. The facts are plain that marriage in today’s society brings many legal benefits like tax status changes, shared health insurance, rights for spouses in health matters, etc. Everyone (and I really mean everyone) believes that this marriage right should be allowed for all couples. The problem is that puritanical bible-thumping Red Staters hate gays plain and simple but they cannot go out and say it. They have to frame the debate in a way that allows them the same result (no marriage for gays) without them looking like small brained follower scumbags.

In some ways I respect the Red State lawmakers in that they really have outsmarted quite a number of people in America and have used that advantage to do whatever they want. In other ways I don't respect them because they don't come out and say what they really believe and in some ways that's worse. But they are politicians and that's what they do for a living so overall I think they are doing a wonderful job.

That last sentence doesn't seem right does it? Well, it is. I totally respect Karl Rove and his minions and I would want them to do no different. Who I am really pissed at and who I think is really failing the nation are 3 groups:

First are the Democratic politicos. They are supposed to be opposing the Republicans at all times, holding them back at all costs. They may not have the numerical advantage, but they do have the ability to fight and to make the overall war as close as possible. They aren't doing that at all on the federal or state level. All they are worried about is keeping their jobs "so they can fight another day". My question is when? Let re-election take care of itself and fight you jackasses!

Second is the media. They really are letting us down. It is the medias job to say the kind of things I'm saying here. To find the truth and expose it to the people. But of course they don't for any number of reasons. The media actually is doing us a disservice my purporting to give us news when all they give us is propaganda. I would argue that if they don't want to give us real news they should simply admit that they are entertainment companies and give up the false pretenses.

Third is the easy one. We still can elect whoever we want in this country and all of these problems ultimately come down to you and me. We are lazy, ignorant and clueless. We don't think, we don't question and we don't make good decisions because all we really care about is American Idol. The next big election is coming up and we'll have a chance to change things. I'm not asking you to vote Democratic. I'm asking you to make your vote count. I'm asking you to study the candidates you have available to you and choose the one that you really feel would best represent you. If we did that, we would really be taking a step in the right direction!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why I don't watch Local News

Philadelphia is in the top 10 media markets which means that there are s lot of viewers for the local news. Now, after seeing this story tell me what the people at our local news care about. Public television, which shouldn't care about viewership (but has to anyway since th govt. barely funds them) should focus 100% on good string local news. I bet they could change the tide.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Network yet again!!

Wow.. this movie sure came at an amazing time for me. Aaron Brown who you may know as a former anchor at CNN told a group Tuesday that cable news essentially has nothing to do with finding truth. Furthermore he alluuded that it was all about ratings:

When NewsNight spent four hours covering the arrest of actor Robert Blake for the murder of his wife, Brown received thousands of e-mails criticizing the amount of time the show spent on the story. Nevertheless, that show, which aired in April 2002, received the highest ratings of any program since NewsNight's coverage of the November 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587.

"Television is the most perfect democracy," Brown said. "You sit there with your remote control and vote." The remotes click to another channel when serious news airs, but when the media covers the scandals surrounding Laci Peterson, the Runaway Bride or Michael Jackson, "there are no clicks then," the journalist said.

Not so Fast Google!

Interesting. Last week I had praised Google for not giving in to the US government. This week it seems that while they may have been fighting the good fight in that respect, they were falling over themselves to help the US government in another.

According to the sources attending last week’s conference of intelligence professionals, Google is working with a US intelligence agency to provide much more detailed information on its search engine users than that being requested by the Justice Department. The contractor said three employees of an intelligence agency he declined to identify are in Mountain View, Calif. where Google is based, working with the company to leverage the search engine company’s user data monitoring capability in the interests of national security.

from HuffingtonPost - Rober Schlesinger.

I'm not a milk fan

I'm not a milk fan but let me get the straight, PETA is against cow milk? Here is a whole media campain that is apparently against cow milk. There is a part on the website where you can 'click the nipple' and get a faq on why milk is bad.. here's one part:

So let me get this straight: It really sucks if I buy dairy products, right?
That’s right. Here’s why:
It perpetuates a life of misery and suffering for cows who are raised for the dairy industry.
It’s bad for your health.
It contributes to the devastating effect that factory farms have on the environment.
Oh, and one more thing: The hormones in milk can give men breasts. Uh huh.

I can't spell but the rest of the net is a mess with text

I've been around the Internet for quite some time. I've played online games, I've gotten tons of spam, I've seen crazy websites and bizarre eBay auctions, etc. The one thing that I've always wondered is how people compose strange text messages. The first example of this strange text was in the early 90's on IRC (which is the original chat application.. pre AOL). This was back when all we had was text and the neat thing they added was ANSI text which was essentially text with color. So, people would come up with these macros that allowed them to spit out pre-written text. They
would use the colors to make text where each letter was a different color or the really creative ones would compose complex graphics with characters and symbols and color (like roses and the oringal smilies).. it was a really interesting time and in some ways it made sense.

Since the old IRC days I've been witness to all kinds of odd text incarnations. Most annoying is a form of chatting in the online game world that at first I thought was simply a small group of idiot children typing.. Their text at first was shorthand like skipping apostrophes or using a synonym of a word that was quicker to type but no nessisarily grammaticly correct. That soon gave way to text that was strangely complex in composition with capitals mixed in and wrong letters that looked correct like "h3y dOOdz wHa7$ gOiN oN" .. I wondered at the time how they did it.. was it simply random? Did they have tools to automaticly alter their text? For instance, that example took me like 2 minutes to type where it should have taken 3 seconds.

Turns out the the language was a combination of leetspeak and just plan goofy PK slang (like adding in pwn varients). By the way, it's little known, but google has a UI written in Leetspeek. Even Microsoft has a parents guide on hacker chat.

Of course there is spam writing which simply is strange. I believe they have tools to obfuscate their words so filters can't find them as easily.

But the stuff that is the most odd to me is web site text that is strangely composed, either with cryptic text or bizarre random font changes. I mean, do people actually write this way? Or do they take the extra time to make their writing fucked up? I can't figure it out at all. Maybe it's just some goofballs who think that they really need to underline every other word to make them more important?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Coincidence

Its interesting that in Attytood today they were referencing Network and comparing the BWH of today to the Nixon White House of the mid 70's. Check it out and then go rent the damn movie!!

Buddakan and Morimoto

When I lived in NYC all I wished for was The Continental. I looked all over the place for somewhere that was cool and cozy with amazing food... no luck. I had lots of pretty good food there but nothing was as perfect as the Continental. Well, NYC won't be getting a Continental any time soon, but they will be getting 2 of my all time favorite restauraunts any day now.. both (suprisingly Steven Starr joints). Buddakan and Morimoto.

Buddakan and Morimoto are simply 2 of the greatest restauraunts I've ever been to and I have been to many restauraunts all around the world expensive and cheap. It will be really interesting to see how well they do in NYC. I wonder how different they will be up there. The spaces seem like they are going to be really cool, but the key is the food, and the food here in Philly has never slipped. I wonder what will happen in NYC.

Can you tell I'm having a slow morning?

I find this web page simply incredible for a number of reasons. First is that I think it would be pretty cool if we indeed filled this guys room with legos. Second that this guy is making close to a dollar each time a lego gets donated... I can only assume that he has a case of them that he bought for like $10 from someone. Third, that I didn't think to do this. Fourth that I (and 575 other people so far) have actually given this guy a dollar. Simply fucking incredible what the internet can do isn't it?

Black Bush

I was never a real fan of Chappelles Show but this clip from his new show is really funny. Picture the entire BWH as black guys from the hood.

Network

So.. about a month ago I was in my girlfriends car listeneing to Air America on her XM. I miss Air America, it's my favorite overall radio network. I used to listen religiously when it was on Sirius. And I'm still pissed that the AA folks signed an exclusive deal with XM but that's another post from another day. The point is that my gf has XM so I get to hear when I'm in her car.

Anyway so I'm listening to my favorite show on AA which is the Randi Rhodes show. If you haven't heard Randi then you really can't consider yourself a pissed off liberal. Her show is simply awesome to me. So I get into the car and hear something vaguely familar to me :

Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there's a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?

It wasn't Randi talking, she was playing a recording. As soon as it was over I had placed it from the movie Network which I had seen probably 10 years or more ago. She said something that made sense in light of what I had just heard. She said "that film is more pertinent today than it was in 1976 when it came out". I put it on my netflix list. I had to watch it again.

It came a few days ago and I watched it last night. Now as I watched it, I'd realized that I'd seen it like 20 years ago and even then I hardly cared about it. Watching it today I was amazed at the message it had in it. Now the affair and love scenes to me are simply crap now, but the scenes where Howard Beale rants/preaches are simply brilliant commentary of what is happening today in the media world. What was simply conjecture then is now reality. Well, mostly.. I don't think our networks would allow al-queida to have it's own 1 hour show every week.

Of particular note is Howards next to last speach at about 1:30 into the film. That monologue (and the one by Ned Beatty imidiately preceding it) is facinating since it is essentially an explination of what I believe our society to be: not about democracy or nations, all about the corporations and the ultimate decider of all things in all nations and across all people : money.

This film is a must watch. It's certainly entertaining and it is certainly germaine to what we are all clamoring about these days. Go rent it today!

R.I.P. Chris Penn

Wow.. this is sad. I really loved this guys work.. probably more than his brother.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

MAke your own Pinball Coffee Table

I thought this was really cool. I think I may build one.

Diebold in Alaska

Here is a really intereting article about Diebold in Alaska. Evidently there were a bunch of problems with the election results from 2004 that still haven't been settled. The state office of elections will only release a report of the election results, but not the actual file used to generate them. Apparently the file has the info the Democrats (in this case the people arguing election impropriety) need to proove that the system wasn't working correctly. But Diebold won't release the file. They are probably witin their rights here. The moral is that you really shouldn't allow an election to be run with a proprietary system that has no clear reporting backup system.. which we all know are hallmarks of the evil Diebold systems. Thank god we don't have them in Philadelphia.

The MPAA are a bunch of assholes...

...and I can prove it.. simply read this post. Also, the movie they are talking about looks like it could be quite interesting...

exerpt :

The Motion Picture Association of America was caught with its pants down, admitting to making unauthorized copies of the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated in advance of this week's Sundance Film Festival.

The Pentagon is Spying on us Too!

I found this link to a msnbc piece on the paradox blog but I think it needs to be read by my readers too. It's pretty amazing that this stuff is happening. What's incredible is how we as a nation really don't care!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What is a Terrorist?

It seems to me that the general policy for the BWH is that if someone is a terrorist or part of a terrorist organization, then we have carte blanche to spy on them, take them prisoner (with no chance of trial), torture them, and kill them with missile strikes no matter where they may be (this includes on foreign soil).

So, I've got a question for you. It's a simple one: "What is a terrorist?" I mean if we as a people are allowing our government this latitude (and I would vehemently argue that all of the red staters and a portion of us blue folks do in fact give this latitude out) we should know what we are allowing shouldn't we? I mean, the BWH considers Quakers terrorists!

Ok. I found two definitions of "terrorist" online and I would assume that in a paper dictionary I would find similar:

a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities


and

One that engages in acts or an act of terrorism

This leads me to a fundamental question. How does one know someone is a terrorist unless that person actually commits a terroristic act? Since we as a people and government seem to be most concerned with the "terrorists" of the major variety (i.e. the types that blow themselves up), I would postulate that they can only become terrorists after they are dead.

That would mean that the people that the BWH is targeting are simply potential terrorists. And it seems to me that when one doesn't have a strict definition (and I'm sure nobody does have a definition of "potential terrorist") there is a huge potential for abuse in the system. And indeed one could argue that all the examples I offered in the first paragraph are grey area abuses.

Look. I'm all for keeping Americans safe. I mean, I believe that this is a problem that the federal government is very suited to. The thing that I'm against is the fact that we are allowing the government to use this pretense to do whatever they want. By having no objective standards to follow, we are allowing everything and that is simply not right.

People! Think! Do something to fight this. Or I guarantee you that 1984 will be here sooner than we think.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Staircase - more props

This film is on 2 DVD's so it wasn't until today that we got to see the second one (with the last 4 episodes). This film is really good and you should totally rent it immediately.. I was on a murder case once as a juror and this really reminded me of the experience.. I won't say anything about the film since I don't want you to get any hints.. but trust me.. its really good.. So far I only see it on netflix, but I can't imagine you can't rent it somewhere else.. It was orginally realeased on the Sundance Channel so if you want to buy it, you may start looking there.

Good for Google!!

Fucking A.. At least someone cares about the governements continual invasion on our privacy and the constant erosion of our rights.. I think companies should fight the goverment at all times.. give an inch and they will take a mile..

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Campain Finance Reform? Bah.. Reform the Campains!

I was reading the February issue of Esquire, which is certainly the best magazine in existence today, and I came across a question posed to "The Answer Fella" (a monthly feature where questions are answered, duh) that read simply: "Why does America no longer produce political leaders?"

This question is certainly valid and one of the answers given was quite obvious to me and it triggered a memory of a couple of things I've been thinking about which I will go into here for you all. Yes, I know this is another political posting and yes I know that they seem to really change nothing in the world, but yet I still feel better once I write them, so deal.

The answer in the piece that I identified with was simply this (given by Doris Kearns Goodwin) "The whole process of running for a political office today is making some of our best people not want to enter the fray, party because of the exposure of private lives, party because of the necessity of raising so much money to do it."

Let me go back about 10 years. I was talking with a really smart person who knew a lot of people in local Philadelphia politics and I posed the question to him: "Why don’t you run for mayor? And if not you, why won't X run for mayor, he’s incredibly qualified". (I don’t remember the name of the person, but they really would have made a great mayor). In either case, this person told me the following things:

1) Nothing could get done by an outsider since to get anything done required political capital and you needed to be in the system from the beginning to have a shot. (In other words, the system was totally gummed up by political connections than the city charter had laid out).

2) Nobody sane wants to be scrutinized 24 hours a day for everything they do, political and personal

3) It is impossible for a non-politically connected person to win an election They would need the blessing of one of the 2 party leaders to even have a shot. (People on the average don't vote and most of those who do, vote for who the party chooses for them and…)

4) The biggest factor is money. You need exposure to get the voters to even think about you and it is incredibly expensive to get that exposure. Television, radio, mailings, phone banks, staff all cost a ton and its hard to raise it outside of the political circles.

That conversation stuck with me and has always bothered me a lot, but I knew then and I know now that it is still true. And that is on the local level. Imagine how things ramp up as you move to the state and then the federal level.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about campaign reform on the federal level. With all of this lobbyist crap going down, it's really in the public eye. First off, let me defend the job of a lobbyist. Imagine yourself as a US Senator. There are two major difficulties that you face in that job. First is that certain issues you may have to vote on are really complex and hard to understand. Second is that with all you have to do, you may not be aware of issues that are not as well publicized (hard to be aware of duck migration patterns or the issues of a group of ski area owners when you are spending most of your time dealing with budgets and the military and foreign policy). Lobbyists help in both of these cases. For the complex issues, they educate the legislators and for the small issues, they are able to get the legislators ear. The problem is that to get a lobbyist to care about your cause, you have to pay them. I really don’t know if this is a problem or not. I mean, we do live in the land of capitalism.

My problem with the federal government is two fold and both issues are related to campaign finances. First is that a regular joe has a really hard time getting elected, second is that special interests (read : corporations) can influence politicians with contributions (ostensibly for their campaign chests).

Now, what reason other than a campaign would a company or entity need to give a politician money? There isn't one that I can think of at all. My solution is simple, make elections free. This would eliminate the contributions and would allow anyone to run for office. Let me expand on this for you.

Campaigns cost money. They cost because candidates need to gain exposure, they cost because candidates need to dig up dirt on their opponents, they cost because they need to finance focus groups and polls. What if we cleaned up the process and made it so those things weren't needed anymore? As I like to say, problems can be solved, what we need is to define the problem and sometimes that requires us to think different. (And no, I don’t use a Mac).

I say that we try to make elections free. That is the problem we need to address. Lets think of some ways. First off, television ads. The airwaves are essentially free. The federal government rules the airways with the FCC. Lets say that the FCC mandates that for a given election, all the broadcasters in a given region (the region affected by the particular race) give a certain amount of free airtime to the candidates. The airtime is equally distributed and all ads are shown at the same time (relatively). We also mandate that the production of the commercials is done by the stations for free as well. Perhaps set a budget for each spot and keep it even for all candidates. Further political advertising is banned. Hmn.. that was hard.. TV advertising for a campaign is now free. Next?

Staffing. The government could create a new department, say its totally staffed by political campaign people and for a given election they are randomly assigned to work on a given campaign. Staffing.. free.. next?

You can see where I am going here. We need to find a way to make campaigns and elections more about the issues and more about the people and less about advertising and corporate interests and party affiliation. We need to make elections more democratic and free. Maybe once we do that, more people will be interested in the process and the really smart people will actually participate instead of going into corporate management and profiting from the process.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Long Now

I'm not sure I posted about this before, but I think what Danny Hillis is trying to do with his clock and its foundation is simply awesome.

I first became aware of the Long Now prject in an article in Wired magazine (back when the magazine was really good) and have since seen a bunch of press in more mainstream places like Discover Magazine.

For those of you who don't like to click through, Danny Hillis is an amazing engineer who I admire greatly. In his previous life he was a desinger of parallel computing architecture and then became a Disney Fellow (back when they were cool). Now, his lifes work is on a clock that will keep time and last over 10,000 years. The clock will be massive and be carved into the side of a mountain. People will be able to walk inside of it and see it work. It will click very, very slowly so for instance every year one of the main gears will move one notch and eery 100 you may hear a gong. These events will be exciting for two reasons. The obvious first one being that they are so rare, but the second because they will give us a sense that the world and the universe is all about long time spans.. that we've been alive for a microsecond in comparison to the time the earth has been.. and that's pretty cool stuff.

Support the project if you can. If you can't, make others aware of it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A good video

I agree fully with my Senator... especially the last part..

The Police State approaches

Not only one interesting pig stoty but 2 in todays Huffington Post :

First is the one that makes me sick (by the way, I'd never have given my id):

...Quinn was crying hard enough already. He didn't need to hear that the cop was accusing his mom of being a potential shoe bomber. That phones in America are being tapped. That we are living in what's beginning to feel more and more like a police state.

Second is just sad but I'm sure it happens every week in our once great land :

It starts with a bomb threat, or the threat of a bomb. A homeless man, a flashlight found on the street and left in the bathroom at the Starbucks on Van Ness...It finishes in the jail.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PGW

This is the second month we've gotten a non-normal gas bill. Last month the bill was $200 and the average temperature outside was 60. Needless to say I became terrified at how high the bill would be in the coming month (as winter sets in and temperatures drop). It was already colder at this point so I went into war mode.

First thing I did was measure our gas usage. Every day at 9AM I logged the meter reading. Last month (the $200 month) we averaged 3CF a day. Beginning this month, I found, we were already at 6CF a day! That would mean a $400 gas bill.

I needed to get back to at least 3 and maybe lower. We bagan to light the fire in the fireplace, but that was averaging us close to $5 a day and lowering us to 4CU. That wasn't worth it at all. We then bought a ton of wood and lowered our average expenditure to $2 a day. We had to do more.

What did we do? Oh man. Before this all started (and for pretty much most of my life), I used to like to keep the house at 68-70 during the winter. Warm enough to never have to think about the temperature. I spent 2 weeks experimenting with temperatuires and heating schedules untiil I came to the solution that we have now. 60 all the time and 64 from 6pm to 11pm. Our average is now 3CF a day and we don't need to do the fire as much (we have run out of wood anyway).

This generally sucks since I work at home and now I spend my day in long underwear and sweats. I sleep with a hat on at night, my hands tend to freeze up by about noon, and when friends come over we reward ourselves and set the temp to 66!

We got our bill just yesterday, average temp for the month was 40, our bill? $400. That was mostly due to about 25 days of experimenting and playing around with stuff. I anticipate next month to be about the same cost even though the temp will be going down.

So who's fault is this? First off it's our landlord. This house is a house that if I owned, I would be compelled to rip the walls to shreads so I can install better insulation. I would replace the 20 year old windows and sliding doors (very inefficient). I would replace the over 20 year old HVAC system that has the vents all up in the ceiling. In short, this house is far from efficient and in my book, there is nothing more important that having an efficient house.

Second, it is PGW. There has never been a better example of a poorly run monopoly ruining peoples lives. This company is our only choice for natural gas. This company is one if the worst run companies in America. Over the years there has been dozens of articles in our media about how poorly the company is run.. Here's a great one from todays paper.

Of course there are others, many like this one. All I can say is this. Between my girlfriend and I, we make a pretty good living. If we're cold every day and terrified of our gas bill, we can only wonder how bad it is for others less fortunate than we!

Whole Foods Rocks

Yes I live near a Whole Foods and I do like shopping there for produce (we use Genaurdi's Home Delivery for the bulk of our grocery needs) and the occational sushi lunch, what I really like about the company is that they actually believe in what they are doing.

For those of you who don't know, WF is a supermarket that carries mostly organic products and generally is very left leaning in their politics. Now you could make an argument that any evil company can pretend to care about the world and the environment and healthy foods just to make money (hmn.. Ben and Jerries?), but Whole Foods practices what they preach as evidenced by this amazing, amazing post on market watch:

Whole Foods Market Inc. said Tuesday it has turned to wind power for 100% of its electricity supply, buying wind credits to offset all its U.S. and Canadian electricity use.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Staircase

Watch this dvd. It's called "The Staircase" and it's not really a film, but a 2 DVD set of 8 episodes of a documentary that was on Sundance. It was done by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade who won an Oscar for "Murder on a Sunday Morning". Essentially there were 2 documenary crews following both sides of a high profile murder trial. One crew follwing the defense and one the prosecution.

This film is so well made you almost can't believe how perfect it is. Even if you aren't a fan of courtroom dramas, you should see this becasue it is a perfect commantary about how capital cases are tried and what goes into them. Also it's just sad how this case was prosecuted so vigourously mostly becasue of the type of man that was the defendant (I'm trying not to give anything away).

Just rent it. It is facinating and infuriating..

Howard

Well, I was worried that Howard would fuck up his format and it's still insanely early, but I have to say that the show today was impressive. He apparently is keeping his old format entirely and not intentionally cursing and testing the limits of what he can do. Essentially it seems like it will be his usual show w/o any stress over censorhip. So if an occational "fuck" or "shit" happens, nobody freaks out. It's actually quite refreshing since it's a lot like regular converation.

I have a while before I get a feel for the other content on Howards 2 channels but I have to say, things look really good going forward.. Stock is still below $7 if you've been delaying buying it...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Nice work Dave!

This was pretty amazing actually. The other day David Letterman took it to Bill O'Reilly on his show. It's not really common to see Dave get political or even for him to rail against a guest. Like Anderson Cooper back in the Katrina days, it's amazing to see our media figures fighing back.. The tide is turning indeed!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to go to Sleep

My girlfriend has been dealing with Insomnia for a little while and I have this set of guidelines and techniques that I came up with a number of years ago when I went through my own terrible bout. My stretch lasted off and on for about 6 months and I tried everything I could. Eventually I learned how to fall asleep and luckily it has stuck with me ever since. I can go to sleep at night perfectly every time.

There are a few keys to my technique. First, it is important to be committed to sleeping. Second is that it seems to me that to fall asleep, the best way is to emulate being asleep as much as possible.

You have to be committed to falling asleep. You have to be convinced that the time you allot for sleeping is for that and that alone. You have to know that sleeping is the top priority, not thinking about your past or future days. All of the steps and techniques I have here are predicated on this.

My steps (outlined below) all focus on emulating sleep. This is done for 3 reasons. First, I believe that if you convince your body that you are asleep, it will eventually let you fall asleep. It’s almost like your body is confused about your intentions so it keeps you awake. By pretending you are asleep your body will get the message and allow you to. On the same parallel, I believe that when you believe something you manifest reality. This is an affirmation of sorts. You say to yourself “I am asleep” and soon enough you are. Thirdly, if for whatever reason you don’t actually sleep, by following my steps you will be the closest you can be to being asleep and so you will at least maximize your relaxation (physical and mental) during your sleep hours. It’s illogical to do anything else (i.e. Worry, get up, move around, read, etc.)

So, here are the steps. They are sequential. To accomplish a given step, you need to have accomplished all the previous steps. Please note that all of these steps may prove difficult at first, but with practice you will see that all are accomplishable and soon enough you will see that this technique works.

  1. Never, ever look at your clock – Looking at the time can only make your brain more active. You will see the time, compute the hours left in the night, worry about hours slept, think about going to work, etc. The train of thought will begin there and you will have a hard time stopping it. Your alarm is set, when it goes off it’s time to wake up, until then, there is no need to know the time. It can only make things worse. Personally I don’t even look at the clock at all unless the alarm is going off. I have a general idea about what time it is when I’m going to bed and that’s really all anyone needs. Think about it for a second. If it’s too late what will you do about it? Get nervous? The plain fact is that the time you have to sleep on a given night is fixed from the moment you get in until the moment your alarm goes off – your job is to maximize your sleep in that window. Knowing the amount of time can’t help you one bit.

  2. Close your eyes – This one seems simple but everyone seems to mess this up. When you are ready to go to sleep, close your eyes and don’t open them until you hear the alarm. If you wake up in the middle of the night, there’s no need to open your eyes, that can only add stimulus to your brain. Keep them closed as much as possible.

  3. Get Comfortable and then don’t move – Take your time to find a comfortable position and then stay there. Force yourself if you have to, but I found that moving around is simply an excuse for your body to stay awake. You really never need to move when you are trying to fall asleep. If you have an itch of some kind you shouldn’t scratch it. Instead focus on that itch and only that itch. It will help you stop thinking of all the other crap that was floating around in your head for the day. The itch will go away sooner than you think. What I usually do here is take a moment to focus on my muscles, one at a time and imagine them un-tensing and relaxing and falling asleep individually.

  4. Breathe regularly – This is hard to do at first. It seems simple but it’s tough because you usually don’t think about your breathing. What we are hopefully getting to here is a full emulation of a body at rest and regular, even breathing is a hallmark of this. Concentrating on breathing is a wonderful way to let your brain let go of everyday thought (step 4). You want to start off taking controlled and even and full breaths into your nose and then out of your lips. Eventually you will easily fall into a very regular breathing routine.

  5. Stop Thinking – This is the key to everything. You have to tell yourself that it’s ok to let go and then do it. This is your sleep time. It’s not time to think about your day, or worry about tomorrow. Don’t be fooled by “Important Thoughts!!” I’ve found that if something is important enough, it will pop into your head tomorrow morning. Just let it all go. Your brain needs to let go of conscious thought in order to allow you to sleep. It needs to relax. This is easier said than done I know, but once you learn how, it gets to be very easy, almost reflexive. When I am ready to let go, I just turn it all off and the next thing I know it’s morning. Here are some techniques I’ve used successfully:

  6. a) Counting Sheep. Sheep are simple beasts that in most cases won’t stimulate you onto other thoughts. I’ve found that you simply imagine a simple fence and you watch and count them jumping it one by one. No need to worry about timing just let them jump. I’ve done this a ton of times and I am yet to remember the count at all in the morning. Yea, I know this sounds silly but it works for a number of reasons. First off, your brain is on a mindless task that is just hard enough to keep it from thinking of other things. Secondly, your eyes will roll slightly as the sheep jump the fence which is very much like what your eyes do when you dream. It is a signal to your body that you are asleep. The more you act asleep, the more you become asleep.

    b) The Stop Thinking Mantra. This is my current technique that I use when I have a hard time falling asleep. I try to let my mind go blank entirely. It happens pretty quickly but inevitably I get a thought about my day or tomorrow or whatever. No matter how interesting or pressing the thought is, I yell to myself “Stop Thinking!”.  If it persists, I repeat it over and over to myself “Stop Thinking, Stop Thinking, Stop Thinking”. It’s sometimes a small battle with the thought but if I persist, I usually win. Eventually your brain gives up and you are asleep without knowing it.

    c) Breathing Mantra. This technique is all about giving your mind something useless to be distracted enough from conscious thought. You can do this in one of 2 ways. First is to simply focus intently on your breathing. Just focus on the technique and getting each breath perfectly identical to the last. The second way is to actually mutter a non-sensical sound on your out breath through your mouth. It’s important that the sound isn’t a word that you know since it will end up triggering regular thoughts.

    d) The Transient Noises. This one is odd and hard to describe. If you are able to clear your head of thoughts and remain awake you will notice (if you are really aware) that your brain will be resonating small snippets of sounds. Words, daily sounds, tiny bits of songs, short snippits of mocie lines. Nothing will connect. It seems to me that these sounds are just random firing of synapses or something that your brain usually filters out as noise but if you try to “listen” for them you will find your brain going along with you quite naturally. It will remain clear so you can hear better. The longer your brain remains clear like this, the greater your chance of falling asleep.

Do Not Call

Is it me or has the Do Not Call list become useless? All of a sudden I've noticed a huge jump in solicitous phone calls from companies. I've been on the list since April 1 and things were quiet for a while and now all of a sudden starting about Novemeber, we started getting one or two calls a night. What the fuck? Is the FTC not enfocing things? I know there was one major fine imposed on someone reciently, but still, what is going on?

I try and report the calls and you should as well. This is getting really annoying!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Guest Post

It’s time for Bush to resign. There are many reasons for this but Bush should spare himself and the country the agony of having to go through an Impeachment and trial to force the matter.

There are many reasons why Bush should be out of office. Some that I may have mentioned before...

- Fiscal ineptitude: Blindly forecasting non-existent future surpluses to fund mis-focused tax cuts. The result is a long-term spiral of fiscal decay.

- Converting the universal sympathy, cooperation and solidarity that the rest of the world had for us after 9/11 to one of growing suspicion and distance. Abu Grahab, Guantanamo and secret detentions and renditions will have a long-lasting effect on our place in the world as the "Beacon of Liberty". (Try this if you will. Pick an online English language newspaper anywhere in the world and read the postings on some subject that has to do with the U.S. and get a sense of the kind of attitude there is toward the U.S. and Bush in particular. Recently, on the BBC World Service, I would estimate the responses were 9 to 1 against our actions on renditions and of the 10% in favor most of those were Americans giving back the party line. Same result in Sydney, Moscow and the London Times. Our peace and security shouldn’t be based on a beauty contest but we are also not an island and we will need friends when Iraq is over.)

- Corruption reaching the highest levels of government: Already, the Texas mafia of Tom DeLay is being brought to ground and if Jack Abramoff "flips", the political fallout could create a nuclear winter in Washington possibly directly involving Bush (referring to the $9 million that was sought by Abramoff from the president of Gabon to set up a meeting with Bush. The meeting was later arranged).

- Ineptness in managing the War on Terror: Four years later and first responders can’t talk to one another. Ports and chemical plants are scarcely monitored yet just now we discover that toe nail clippers don’t represent a security risk on an airplane. Homeland Security money is used to air condition trash trucks because Congress won’t give up pro-rata allocations in favor of risk based allocations. Turf wars between sub-committees cause them to work at cross-purposes and promotes duplication of effort. Some of his "strong leadership" here would have gone a long way.

- Of course I have to mention the entire issue of the conflict in Iraq starting with the manipulated intelligence (see the Downing Street memo) and the gross incompetence shown in the original planning for the war and its aftermath. Disbanding the army; light and mobile forces; looted infrastructure; unprotected munitions dumps; appeasement of the militias. I could go on and on about Iraq alone.

Unfortunately for the causes of liberty none of these things without clear evidence of some crime and a sympathetic Congress would constitute Impeachable offenses but there are a few more matters to consider. The Appeals Court has touched on one already (the Padilla reversal that will possibly return to rear its ugly head) and the latest act of imperial hubris is just now reaching the boiling point.

No president has the right to imprison CITIZENS incommunicado and without the opportunity to answer the charges against them. It is understandable that this process should sometimes occur in secret if necessary to protect "sources and methods" and that the President be given the widest latitude in times of emergency. But for the President to unilaterally deny Habeas Corpus without congressional approval and then to continue a shell game with people to avoid Due Process is UN-AMERICAN. Every American should be concerned that our government has crossed that threshold.

After stories of torture and secret detentions of citizens it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to now find that Bush has gone totally off the rails and approved the wholesale monitoring of communications. With shotgun precision Bush has admittedly violated both the letter and the intent of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act was specifically designed to deal with the need of the government to act quickly to respond to legitimate investigation needs. Since getting approval for surveillance is a virtual "slam dunk" and the law provides for after the fact approvals and requires court approval for U.S. surveillance, the only conclusions that can be drawn from Bush’s actions are that he knowingly violated the law, a felony, and for this he should be Impeached and removed from office.

Still, we don’t need another Impeachment and trial. We need solidarity to achieve our goals in Iraq but we also need new leadership. I propose that Bush should be encouraged to resign for the good of the country. If he doesn’t resign, a new Congress that is willing to proceed toward Impeachment should be elected and we should go to Plan B, Impeachment and removal. Sure, this would leave Cheyney officially in charge but at least you know what you’re getting with him and in the unlikely event that the CIA/Libby/Rove matter gets to Cheyney maybe McCain would have sold enough of his soul by then to be in the right place at the right time...

But one fantasy at a time.

My Uncle wrote this and emailed it to a bunch of his friends (including me). I wanted to post it here (slightly edited) since I agree with it fully.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Not important, no need to comment

Not that I get many comments to my posts, but I have noticed from the few that trickle in that people really don’t care much about the big fat posts I put up, its usually the silly, goofy ones that elicit response. That’s strange since I put the most time and effort into the long political/social commentary ones and I feel that they are the most important messages to get out. But it seems that nobody cares about them and that bums me out a bit.

Now understand that my analysis is purely based on comments. I really have no way of knowing what posts hit home to my readers more than others so that’s all I have to go on. Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

In either case, I’m not going to change anything I’m doing here either way. I just wanted to vent a bit.

One good, One Bad

Ok.. First the bad: I put "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" on my Netflix a while back and it showed up the other day. We expected to see a crappy but entertaining flick. Instead we got an implausible, laughable, stupid, pointless, no redeeming feature feature. Wow, it was really shit. From the first moment we were sitting there saying "huh?" and questioning everything.. There was only one supporting role (played by Vince Vaughn who probably hated the experience so much that he ended up hooking up with Jen to spite Brad).. Ugh.. I don't even want to talk about it anymore.. just know this, if you are planning on watching this film.. change your plans.

On to the good. A friend gave me a book to read: "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" by Chuck Klosterman. Last month in Esquire, Chuck wrote this article about juries (that I was planning on commenting on eventually) and I was telling my friend about it and he said "he's a genius" and then went to his car where he happened to have a copy of this book by Klosterman.

I started reading it last night and I couldn't put it down. It's really good. It's a book of essays on life and stuff. What makes it good is that Chuck is a Pop Culture maniac and everything is written around references to stuff like music acts and movies and tv shows. What makes it great is that Chuck is a great writer. Check out the book.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Lets go people!

Start your phone calls to your congressmen and start working on electing a better congress this year!

Uh Yea...

Parade Coverage

This post will not make any sense to my non Philly readers, so you guys can idnore it. For those of you from Philly, only the ones that are Mummers fans need continue.

See I'm a lifelong Philly resident. I grew up with the amazinf tradition of the Mummers parade on New Years Day. For years, I lived 50 yards from the main parade route and I went in and out of the house all day to watch on the street. It was wonderful. Then the parade moved to Market Street. Then I moved away for a while.

Now the parade is back on Bread Street and though I'm back living in Philly I am down the shore in AC every new years so I try to watch the parade on tv. And that is where all the problems start for me.

I've got two main problems with the parade coverage. First of all is the fact that the coverage is simply awful year in and year out. Second is that the Fancy Brigades are no longer a part of the parade. They used to be my favorite part of the parade. Now they don't perform on Broad Street and they don't even get covered on tv. I'm not sure why this is, but I hate it.

As for the coverage... Oh.. It's simply painful. First off, I love the parade and I 'get' it more than the average viewer. I can honestly say that if I didn't get the parade and saw it on tv I would be completely puzzled as to why it was on at all. The tv coverage is technically bad (sound, camera angles, etc), the entertainment value is terrible, the informational content is non-existant and the commantary (while being a strong point) is not as good as it could be either.

My point here is that if we are trying to make the parade more popular (or the city in general) we need to improve the coverage by a huge amount. The parade is a Philadelphia treasure and something that we should cherish and publisize, but we simply drop the ball every year and it's sad.

I used to be in tv production and I know that I could produce the telecast better than the goodballs at channel 17. That leads me to believe that the city could find someone currently working in the business that could do it better. Why aren't they?