Friday, April 02, 2004

Powell talks to German Kids

An interesting article that sadly shows how knowledgeable German (and other European countries as well) kids are regarding world affairs as compared to American kids. I saw this when I lived in Germany in the summer of '68 and again when I spent a semester in Germany in '71. Believe me, there is no comparison. I guess that is what comes with the thought of being the most powerful country on Earth and a long ways away from other countries. Unfortunately, both of those are rapidly diminishing in this new "global" world and kids in this country (and their teachers and parents) had better wake up and start learning about the world. Makes me think of a comment I heard by James Olmos on Charlie Rose last night, who mentioned that kids up till the age of 12 can learn to speak, write and think in 4 languages simultaneously with no difficulty. How many American kids can speak another language? Pathetic few.

A mini-series worth watching
Speaking of James Olmos, tune in to PBS this Sunday night at 7 p.m.(check the web site in the following link for exact times in your area - I get local PBS and it happens to be on at 3 p.m in my area) for American Family, the first drama series ever to air on broadcast television featuring a Latino cast, and the first original primetime American episodic drama on PBS in decades, first premiered in January 2002. Episodes from the first season currently air on Sunday nights (check local listings), leading up to the April 2004 premiere of the second season. “I wanted to do something different with AMERICAN FAMILY this year,” said series creator, Academy Award® nominee, writer/director Gregory Nava (El Norte, Selena). “Instead of doing an episodic series, I wanted to tell one epic story that unfolds like a mini-series over 13 parts. The topical story lines will be based around events of the Iraq war, and will show how the Gonzalez family came to America during the Mexican Revolution. AMERICAN FAMILY will depict all the sacrifices they have made through the years to achieve the American dream. In every household in America, there is an epic story – this year AMERICAN FAMILY will tell that story.”

Television has some fine offerings, unfortunately you need cable to see most of them, with the exception of PBS that comes along now and then with outstanding programming, such as the one mentioned above. If you live in an area where you can get Direct TV, Dish, or cable, and you're sick of the crap on TV, do yourself a favor and sign up, but make sure to get HBO and Showtime where some of the best TV is being produced.

Quote of the Day
"I have witnessed the softening of the hardest of hearts by a simple smile."
Goldie Hawn

Odd Summary
Reuters - A German cat weighing six times the normal weight is so fat that it cannot take more than four steps without getting exhausted, officials at a Berlin animal shelter have said after receiving the six-year-old feline. Mikesch, a black and white house cat weighing in at 18.5 kg (nearly 41 lbs), was taken away from his elderly owner on Thursday. The man, who was himself taken to a nursing home, had been feeding the cat two kg (4.4 lbs) of mince each day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Become a Gas Spotter!

Want to know the price of gas at stations in your neighborhood? Want to help out by checking gas prices and adding them to the data base? Well, here's an interesting and unusual site that will help you get that information. Then, when you get ready to go out to get some gas, you just have to enter your zip and a radius and up will come all the gas stations in your area with prices and when they were updated. They've got some 82,000 spotters now - of course, it's only as good as how frequent these spotters report back. Heard this guy talking about it on CNN this morning, so suspect they will quickly have more spotters (like me). Of course when I checked in the boonies where I live, none of the gas stations were even listed, so I added them. You can do the same. If you're in the big city, this is a nice way to find the cheapest gas quickly. If nothing else, interesting to see what gas prices are like across the country. So go check out

Quote of the Day
"If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm."
Bruce Barton

From the Odd World
BERLIN (Reuters) - A German hamster called "Teddy" has sparked a police rescue mission after he climbed inside a computer printer and got stuck because he was too fat to get out again. "Contrary to his normal habits, Teddy climbed inside a PC printer and was unable to get out because of his corpulence," police in the northern city of Flensburg said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that they initially thought it was an April Fool's joke.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German man has been arrested for credit card theft after trying to buy 76 euros (51 pounds) worth of beer and cigarettes at a gas station with a stolen card that belonged to the cashier. "When I looked at the credit card I saw it was my name," the 33-year-old named Heiko told Berlin's B.Z. newspaper. He locked the man inside the shop and called the police. He said he had recently ordered a credit card but it never arrived in the post

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

SAT Scores - How important are they in the Grand Scheme of Things?

There isn't much I usually agree on with David Brooks, but this might be the exception. I can't find a whole lot to disagree with in this article. Worth a read and some reflection if you're one of those poised on the brink of "collegehood". Since the admissions process has gone totally insane, it's worth reminding yourself that this is not a particularly important moment in your life. You are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you once you leave higher ed.

Kerry starting to trail?
The latest CNN poll had Kerry falling behind Bush. The Bush "money" juggernaut is beginning to roll. Time to gear up for that $25 donation to the Democratic party! I still continue to find it amazing what the appeal is to those 50%+ of Americans who voted for Bush and would vote for him no matter if he annihilated every country on earth, let the planet sizzle from overheating, and even drove a big Caddie around with a mini oil derrick as a hood ornament. Do they think that represents "values"??? How can one continue to listen to the litany of lies and still keep the faith? Is it because he claims to be religious? How important does that need to be in the running of our country? It certainly hasn't prompted him to be compassionate (wasn't that anywhere in the Bible?). Nothing worse than a hypocrite. Or is it that he just promises not to raise taxes (while he gives every fat cat a huge tax break and runs our country into trillion dollar deficits)? Seems like this country did pretty well under Clinton - no deficits and a rip-roaring economy. But then the puritans were out in force back then making sure that the ONLY issue in America that mattered was what your sex life was like and frowning disaprovingly while doing God knows what in their own bedrooms (or someone else's). Check out Krugman's article today - This Isn't America

Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."
So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Getting more than you Bargain for in that Tuna Sandwich?

Yep, it's the ol' mercury problem surfacing again (not that it ever went away!). Getting worse all the time. One of the big culprits? - coal-fired power plants - yep those babies pump the stuff out and it plops down nicely upon the sky-blue waters, the little "Chicken of the Seas" of the world's oceans suck it down and grow up to be big fat tunies with lots of Hg just waiting for our tummies. Of course, our leaders in Washington are doing everything in their power to get this under control. From Arriana Huffington's column - Without getting shrouded in a toxic cloud of technical mumbo-jumbo, the bottom line is that current technology offers a way to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent over the next four years — but the Bush administration has opted for a plan that would, at best, lower the noxious output by just 50 percent over the next 14 years, while setting no meaningful limits on the tons of mercury released by the chemical industry. All of which will save the power, coal and chemical industries billions.....Choke on that for a minute: Big Power gets a tasty multibillion-dollar treat, while everyone else is served up a Toxic Tuna Surprise

And make note of this. This is where the world of Washington lets off it's own noxious odors: It turns out that two of the key EPA regulators overseeing the development of the mercury guidelines, Jeff Holmstead and William Wehrum, used to represent utility industry clients before Bush tapped them for high-ranking posts in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. They were both attorneys at Latham and Watkins — a high-powered D.C. law firm that’s been lobbying the administration to adopt the less stringent mercury standards, and which authored one of the memos cribbed in the EPA proposal.

To write to the EPA and your congressman, please take a moment to fill out the form from It only takes a second and the more voices that speak up the more powerful the message. I would prefer to eat my wild salmon, knowing that it's chances of absorbing mercury, are diminishing, rather than increasing.

Want to get more involved? Check out Move On's "50 Ways to Love your Country"

Something to think about

From Al Gore: (from an introduction to the section entitled "Every Vote Counts" of the book 50 Ways to Love Your Country .

Woody Allen has famously said that 90 percent of success is showing up. That’s true of democracy too. I’d argue that the other 10 is making sure you’re registered beforehand.
It’s easy to be cynical about politics and to believe that one vote barely matters. But consider these facts: John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory over Richard Nixon—a victory that ultimately led to sweeping changes in civil rights laws, the first great wave of space exploration, and the creation of Medicare—was decided by just 100,000 votes nationwide. In 1994, the year Republicans won both houses of Congress, the redistribution of about 10,000 votes nationally would have kept Congress in Democratic hands. One of my former House colleagues, Connecticut Democrat Sam Gejdenson, won reelection by twenty-one votes that year. (“All you need is one,” he remarked; “the rest are for your ego.”)

The democratic political process isn’t perfect. Winston Churchill once said it’s the worst system for governance “except for every other system that has ever been tried.” Often, you may find no candidate who completely reflects your views. But as voter participation has declined—from nearly two-thirds of eligible voters in 1960 to less than half in many national elections today—strong and decidedly undemocratic forces have stepped in to fill the void.

In a democracy, the future isn’t something that just happens; it’s something we shape for ourselves, together. Special-interest lobbyists get the government they pay for only when we stay home from the polls—only when we abdicate the electoral power that is mightier than any soft-money check, more decisive than any million-dollar ad blitz or corporate misinformation campaign.

Word of the Day
perfidy Deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; treachery: The act or an instance of treachery. Usage: "Stories of Al Jazeera's perfidy now circulate among the troops with the tenacity of urban myths" ...... "And yet Gibson has seeded his film with images of Jewish guilt and perfidy that will fall on fertile anti-Semitic soil around the world"

Quote of the Day
"On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does."
Will Rogers (1879-1935)