Thursday, March 31, 2005


It is with heavy heart that I have to admit that I was unable to resolve a malware infection on my laptop. In all the years I've been computing last night was the first time that I had to restore the factory settings. However, IBM (Praise them with Great Praise) made it simple, painless and relatively quick. They also had a wonderful utility which allowed me to save the important files off my hard drive--so I was able to save all the pictures I took in Florida over Christmas.

In my own defense, I tried my best--I followed the fixes I found in the forums--but when I tried to reboot, the Windows splash screen came up and stayed there. It wouldn't continue to the desktop (even in safe mode). Without the ability to use Windows to solve my problem I was lost at sea. I don't have the command line savvy I had when DOS 2.11 was the hottest new thing.

The first thing I did when I got my laptop up and running again was download fresh anti-virus updates from Norton. I also made a system restore point on my desktop computer because it's running like a top and I don't want to risk the same thing happening there--if it had, it would have been a disaster. Tonight, I'm going to back up all of my user files to DVD.

And what was this all about? Oh, yeah, trying to find a way to convert files into MP3s. Well, there may yet be a solution. What Audible doesn't want is for people to trade their files peer to peer--a totally reasonable position. So they encrypt their downloads so that they can only be converted into WAVE files. However, you can only do that when you're burning to a CD. There's a program called Goldwave which has the ability to convert Audible files into Wave files (Audible doesn't like that but there's nothing they can really do about it). So if that works, after I have created the WAVE version of the Audible file, I can use my DART CD Creator software to break it up into manageable parts. I think that's the next avenue to try. But first--the backup.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Lying down with Dogs

There's an old adage that Jeb Bush might be thinking about these days: "When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

The neocon governor of Florida was riding high just a few months ago, enjoying an international spotlight as his brother's emissary to the tsunami ravaged areas of the southern Asia.  Now, however, Terri Schiavo has come back to separate the feeding tube from his political corpus.  Two years ago, Gov. Bush inserted himself into the affair, strong-arming the Florida state legislature into passing "Terri's Law" which kept Schiavo on life support despite her (purported) wishes.  Utterly unconstitutional (the equal protection clause), it nevertheless earned him accolades from his evangelical "base" and not just the nut-balls who send their ten-year-olds out to get arrested.  He held himself out as their champion, their savior, their god.  Once a god, always a god.  If he did before, why can't he now?

Just a week ago, the evangelicals were still firmly behind Gov. Bush--but how times do change!  Now, my father tells me that the editorials and the conversations in Florida have altered.  Bush's base seems to think that he could, with a stroke of the pen, save Schiavo's life.  They are so nuts that they believe Jeb Bush should break the law, kidnap Schiavo, and effectively end his political career by being impeached.  That was the position stated last evening by Randall Terry, rabid anti-abortionist, who has positioned himself in front of the cameras as the Schindler's spokeschristian.  With a base like that, a loyal opposition is superfluous.  Again, it shows how evangelicals place their faith in their own collective temporal powers above spiritual concerns.  The First Commandment might as well be written on toilet paper. 

As for Gov. Bush and the rest of the neocons, just two weeks ago Tom DeLay & Co. were meeting in emergency session to send the issue to the Federal Courts and mandate a result.  What do we hear from Capitol Hill now?  Crickets.  It metamorphosed from a win-win into a fiasco as the nation woke up to their reprehensible grandstanding hypocrisy.  Prez. Bush's numbers are down in the low 40s again.  Their movement has seen its heyday, and they have only their base and their base values to blame.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Those Evil Bastards

Growing up, I was told that I had to obey the law, even those laws I disagreed with--even those I didn't know existed. 

As it stands, every single court that Terri Schiavo's parents have appealed to, have rejected their arguments.  I sympathize with them and the tragedy of their situation and I completely understand their desire to seek any avenue of protection for their daughter, whom they believe could be restored to health.  However, they've now lain down with the dogs: the conservative movement in the United States.  The Republicans used to be a law and order party.  Now, however, they choose to obey only those laws with which they agree, contradicting the good civic values I was brought up with by Republican parents.  All of that changed I guess around the time of the Nixon administration, when breaking and entering and burglary, illegal in all contexts, was deemed by the President to be appropriate courses of action to achieve his political aims. 

The conservative movement has embraced Terri Schiavo for one reason only and that's because it's an opportunity to embarrass the opposition.  Even if they lose the court battle, which they have to date and will in the future, that doesn't matter to them.  Terri Schiavo doesn't matter to them.  They simply want to appear to be concerned so that when she does die, liberal democrats are tarnished and the democrats can be called "the party of death," which I've actually heard said.  They want to recast this legal battle as a struggle between good and evil--rather than the wrenching, intensely private family horror that it is.  The conservatives have positioned themselves so that no matter what happens, they win.  They are nothing short of grandstanding opportunists, the evil bastards, and some day the American electorate is going to wake up to that fact.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ebbers Convicted

Bernie Ebbers, the Donald Sutherland lookalike who founded WorldCom was convicted today of 9 counts of fraud for his role in engineering an $11 billion accounting overinflation that brought about the company's downfall and rendered the stock in most of the employee's retirement plans (401k) completely worthless.

While this news brings cold comfort to the retirees whose golden years he effectively destroyed, it's good for the economy, and good for America.  Still, there's more to come.  Next there's Ken Lay who, we hope, will end up in prison gray for his role in the collapse of energy behemoth Enron.

These folks need to be held accountable to the very highest, strictest standards.  I'm glad that the government has taken such an active and decisive posture in combatting this type of fraud the commission of which has repercussions throughout the fabric of American society.  Still, the GOP's continuing efforts to redistribute wealth away from the lower and middle class and into the pocketbooks of the wealthy presages more to come.

Last night I heard a scenario on the radio which was truly frightening.  Not only will Social Security be stretched to the limit by the retirement of the Baby Boomers, so will the stock market once those very same boomers start cashing in their 401k plansThe conspiracy theorist went on to state that the real reason for the President's plan for personal retirement accounts in lieu of guaranteed Social Security was to shore up the stock markets themselves, now that the vast majority of American corporations have been absolved of the responsibility of providing pension plans for their employees in favor of stock market speculation.  Iceberg!  Right ahead!

In fifty years the only people who will be able to retire as we currently understand it are government employees--who still have their pension plans, courtesy of us, the taxpayer.

Monday, March 14, 2005

James Ellroy - Maestro

I've been listening to The Big Nowhere on audiotape again.  I'm following the labyrinthine plot with much more ease this time around.  The killer still seems to come out of nowhere--but it's the story of Danny Upshaw which amazes and humbles me.  When I first read the novel, which is an epic reimagining of the LA police culture circa 1950, I considered it to be the most racist, homophobic pile of shit ever collected between two covers.  Then it grew on me.  Writers of the stature of James Ellroy and Joyce Carol Oates inhabit their characters' skins, they dream their dreams and experience their traumas.  Their characters live and make choices.  Ellroy and Oates aren't afraid of large, operatic gesture, because they're always connected to their characters' inner lives.  Thus, when (*spoiler alert*) Danny Upshaw first puts a gun in his mouth and gags on the taste of oil and then decides not to go out that way, but takes a serrated kitchen knife and slices his own throat ear to ear, rather than come out of the closet as a gay man, it is an act which is firmly rooted in character.  It is also literary hyperbole.  I hated James Ellroy for it.  But that's because I confused the attitudes of the characters with the attitude of the writer.  And the more I meditated on the issue, the greater the divide between the two grew.  Ellroy exposes the mendacity and horror of the 50's, the age of hysteria, nuclear weapons, communism, the birth of sexual politics, with his characters.  He doesn't preach from the point of view of an omnicient narrator.  As a result, his impact is far, far greater.  Danny Upshaw commits suicide because he too greatly fears the truth about himself.  Who among us does not know somebody, somewhere, who has done the same?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Best Reason to Read William F. Buckley, Jr.

There really is no "best" reason.  There is only one reason.  To increase one's vocabulary.  For example, Mr. Buckley has my enduring gratitude for teaching me a new word for masturbation: onanism.  According to, onanism can mean either coitus interruptus or self-stimulation to the point of orgasm.  Two bangs for one buck, as it were.  Another excellent word gleaned from Mr. Buckley's florid dissertations  is encomium, meaning: "warm, glowing praise."  Though I will never provide encomiums for the substance of Mr. Buckley's onanistic prose--I certainly will for his words.  Thank you, Mr.Buckley, for increasing my word power. 

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Mission of the Passion

Mel Gibson's pathogenic cash cow Passion of the Christ returns to the cineplexes today with six minutes of the most extreme violence excised so that you can feel free to take your pre-adolescent confirmands.  According to the IMDB, this Passion re-cut is slated to go into perennial release around this time of the year--much like The Greatest Story Ever Told in the 70's and Jesus of Nazareth in the '80s.  Unlike Passion of the Christ, those two former films actually feature some of the tenants of Christian faith, and depict the crucifiction in context.  Make no mistake, Passion of the Christ is not revealed truth as so many would have it, but a cynical money grab by Hollywood whores.  It's a movie for goodness' sake, not holy writ.  So, with no golden Oscars to show for itself, it returns to secure more lucre from evangelical fools who worship the appearance of faith and belief over its truth and substance: the essence of the golden calf.  Idolatry and blasphemy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cest La Vie

Michael Jackson--I hear that Paris is beautiful this time of year.  Time to start thinking about your emigre status and seek asylum in a foreign land which doesn't extradite and would leap at the chance to stick it to the Americans yet again.  That land of wine and cheese is France.  Next year at this time I imagine you will be sipping pernod at an outdoor cafe with Roman Polanski. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The High Road

When taking the high road. . .

traction tires are often required.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Suddenly Success

Oh, the horrors of trying to set up a wireless router.  The horror of DNS numbers and IP addresses and having to call India for support.  But with all of that behind me, I am able to connect to the internet as well as AOL and I'm happy.  There are still bugs in the system, but things are at least working and with a little tinkering, I'm sure I'll be able to get the home network ship-shape. 

Viewsonic.  Top of the line monitors.  However, there's something in my chemistry that kills them.  About a month ago my monitor at work gave a loud snap, something flashed at the vent on top, and then smoke started to pour out.  It had died extravagantly.  Then, this past Friday, my home unit gave up the ghost.  Blip!  And dead.  So I have a new Samsung SyncMaster 712n flat screen that was on sale at CompUSA and boy am I happy.  The Samsungs are the best.  The secret of great flat screen performance is to let them do what they were meant to do: take your resolution to the highest ratio in your Screen Settings.  Then the text will be crisp and clean and (small) but you get used to it.  It's so much better than the blurriness seen at higher resolutions even though the actual text is larger. 

If you want a larger font, you can always go into the advanced settings and click on 120 DPI--which I have done.  It makes text very readable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Tried As Adults, Part 3

Today the Supreme Court struck down the practice in 19 states of putting to death criminals who committed their crimes as juveniles.  Once again the split decision was a 5-4 with O'Connor swinging to the right end of the spectrum and joining the Scalia faction in opposition to the majority, which issued an eloquent and cogent opinion rendered by Justice Kennedy.  I have long been suspicious of the term "state's rights" and have considered it little more than an excuse for the Jim Crow laws that dominated the South in the first half of the 20th Century.  Later, it became the cri de cour of those who would defend and excuse the practice of throwing queers in jail for "unnatural acts."  But how times do change!  Nowadays, state's rights (Federalism) is the only thing that allows Massachusetts to legally recognize same gender marriage.  So it is a mixed blessing.  And in our contentious political climate, it's good that we have such staunch defenders of state's rights as Scalia and Rehnquist.  The inner cynic, however, believes that Scalia's thundering denouncement of today's decision: "The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards" offends Scalia only because he personally disagrees.  If the court's "moral arbitration" fell on the side of conservative entrenchment rather than enlightened progress, he would find no reason to object.