Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At the mall during the 1980s

Gizmodo recently had an article featuring black and white photos taken at a shopping mall during the 1980s. The 80s were the height of American mall culture and the scenes in the photos were very familiar to me, having been a teenager during that time and having spent a lot of time hanging out at malls.

Many of the photos were great, but the one below haunted me a little. The kid wears the accessories of many teenagers of the time. The large sneakers, the headband, a Members Only jacket. And of course, the huge boombox. (I have no idea what's around his neck. Earmuffs?) (I also just noticed that someone is actually using the stall behind him.)

I have the feeling that a lot of people then, and even today, would see in this picture a punk. A loud, obnoxious, troubled teen who they would think was probably a criminal.

I see a confused kid trying to fit in. I see a kid, wearing the uniform of his peers, trying a little too hard to express to the world who he is. I wonder how long it took him to save up for that boombox. Or maybe his parents had money and it cost him nothing. I wonder how long he carried that thing around until he tired of its weight and started leaving it at home. I wonder if this look made him happy. I think he looks a little sad and lost. I wonder what ever happened to him.

The picture makes me sad. I hope he's okay.

Ipecac Eats Burgers #16 - Cuban Burger

When we went to visit Rachel in Harrisonburg a few weeks ago, we ate at a new burger place, Cuban Burger, which is very near our usual Harrisonburg burger place, Jack Brown's.

Nice-looking burger.

The burgers at Cuban Burger are 80% beef, 20% pork and always topped with homemade matchstick fries. I got the El Original.

Yet another good burger. The fries didn't detract and the beef/pork combo was interesting. I would go there again.

Seems about right

Zach Weiner's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  Click to embiggen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Empathy not really their strongest suit


Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Republicans running for Congress were all "EBOLA IS GOING TO KILL US!!" and "WE NEED TO SEAL THE BORDER SO EBOLA DOESN'T KILL US IN OUR SLEEP!!"

Ahhhhh, good times.

But now, thanks to the government (and no thanks to the panicky media and Republicans), the disease has been successfully contained in the United States and NO ONE has it. Great!

Of course, thousands of people are still infected in Africa and they desperately need our help. Plus, if the disease is not contained in Africa, it could return to our shores. So spending resources to end it there is not only in our own selfish best-interest, but it's also the moral, right thing to do for our fellow human beings. Since they were so worried  couple of weeks ago, I imagine Congressional Republicans are looking to step up and spend some money for this incredibly important cause.

What? They're not? They're not talking about it any more? They're probably going to oppose President Obama's request to fund relief efforts? They've already turned to the next "scandalous outrage," the President's unprecedented deal with China on climate change?

Gee, what a shock.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The answer is no.

In a great article in Vanity Fair, Kurt Eichenwald asks, "Are conservatives ever right?"
The question isn’t meant to suggest that liberals are never wrong. But reviewing the last few decades of conservative policy initiatives—or their objections over that timespan to policies they hate—shows a consistent pattern of failure: predictions never pan out, and intended results turn to catastrophic flops.
This was one of the reasons I left the Republican party. Not only were they constantly and consistently wrong, but they made things worse by never, ever, admitting that they were wrong. I've heard President Obama say that he's made mistakes and take responsibility. George W. Bush never did either thing.

From "Tax cuts pay for themselves", to deregulating the thrift industry, to Iraq, to Obamacare, over the past thirty years, conservatives have been demonstrably, empirically, disastrously wrong.

And American voters just gave them control of both houses of Congress.

Read the whole thing here:  30 Years of Conservative Nonsense, An Explainer

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Halloween 2014

We had another great Halloween this year. I don't think we had quite as many trick-or-treaters as usual, but they were very enthusiastic and appreciative.

Normally I like to leave the decorations up for a few days and turn them back on at night, but Saturday morning it looked as if it was going to rain, so I took them all down.

Here's a short video showing everything up during the day and then again at night.


And a couple of pictures.

Fun with Signs - This one is for Carol

Went up last night.

Ipecac Eats Burgers #15 - Z-Burger

I'm still finding places to eat burgers.

This one is near my current office, which I stupidly didn't realize until four months after we'd moved. Z-Burger is a local DC chain with just six locations so far. They specialize in burgers, fries and shakes.

There's that huge firewall of lettuce again.

I thought this was a nice, juicy burger. Lots of vegetables, which is okay but not my favorite thing. But still, very good. And the fries were excellent. I'll be returning here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Predictions 2014+

Not unexpectedly, it was a good night for Republicans who, come January, will control both Houses of Congress.

Here are my predictions.

For the next two months, Senate Democrats will push forward executive branch and judicial nominees to fill the many, many open appointments that have remained unfilled because of Republican obstruction. This will, of course, cause Republicans to go apeshit. Once the Republicans take control, we'll be lucky to have any nominations filled for federal positions for the next two years.

Almost immediately, President Obama will use his Constitutional and statutory powers to reform civil rights and immigration regulations as much as he can without Congressional support. This will, of course, cause Republicans to go apeshit.

Over the next two years, Republicans will investigate the President, looking for some excuse to impeach him. They will pass crazy stupid law after crazy stupid law and then, when President Obama vetoes them, will go apeshit.

The Republicans will try to cut taxes for the wealthy but will do nothing that will actually help the economy like raise the minimum wage. Then when the economy doesn't do as well as they imagine it should, they'll blame the President.

And to those states who reelected assholes like Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker, you deserve what you're going to get.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Voting Matters

2014 Midterm Voting Guide

According to the polls, it looks likely that the Republicans will retake the Senate in a few days. Despite a plurality of Americans identifying as Democrats, the extensive Gerrymandering the Republicans did after the 2010 election as well as voter suppression laws designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters, continues to give Republicans control over the system. It's unAmerican and just plain evil, but the Supreme Court doesn't care and the Republicans obstruct everything Congress could do, so nothing is being done about it.

The Republicans have made their agenda clear should they take both Houses of Congress. Most of their ideas won't actually become law because the President will veto them. But Republicans have said their strategy will be to put poison pills into must-pass bills, forcing Obama to veto the must-pass bills. This will undoubtedly lead to more government shutdowns.

As you go to the polls, if you are interested in the following issues, you should vote accordingly.

Global Warming  - Just this week, another scientific report stated that if we don't act on climate change immediately, some of the effects will be irreversible. But Republicans will do NOTHING about it. In fact, they'll do the opposite and approve any pipeline or drilling proposal that comes their way AND move against renewable energy initiatives. Republicans are going to screw over ALL humanity for political gain.

Healthcare - Republicans hate Obamacare and have already said that if they retake the Senate, they'll vote yet again to repeal the entire law. It won't work, but if it did, this would deprive upwards of 20 million people of affordable healthcare. And raise healthcare costs. And increase the deficit. Apparently Republicans want all of these things to happen. If Democrats had both Houses, they would actually pass some fixes to make the law work even better.

Immigration - If you're interested in treating other human beings like, well, human beings, forget it. Any chance at actual immigration reform or giving a break to children immigrants who have been in America for most of their lives will be gone. Republicans won't pass immigration reform and won't help Dream Act kids. Democrats would do both.

ISIS and the Middle East - Want ground troops to intervene in Iraq and Syria? Vote Republican.

Social Security and Medicare - President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security but couldn't find the votes in a Republican congress. This Congress will be far more to the Right. Want to risk Social Security on the stock market and privatize Medicare to boot? Vote Republican.

Minimum Wage and Fair Wages for Women - Interested in boosting the Minimum Wage, a win-win that would help tens of millions of American families make ends meet AND boost the economy? Want to help women make equal pay? Then don't vote Republican. Republicans won't pass either of these common sense, fair, much-needed laws. In fact, they may vote to get rid of minimum wage laws altogether.

American Infrastructure - America needs badly to invest in itself. We need to spend to rebuild bridges and roads, power plants, airports, public transport, dams, and all the other infrastructure that allows us to live and prosper. Oh, and this spending would boost the entire economy. Republicans don't want to spend for any of it. They would rather sell off our public parks and lands to private interests. And America will continue to crumble around us.

Voting Rights - Think that all Americans have the RIGHT to vote and shouldn't be subject to poll taxes? Think that voter suppression is not only unAmerican but immoral? Then vote for Democrats. If they're in charge of both Houses, they'll pass meaningful election safeguards. Think it's all right to deprive Americans of their Constitutional right to vote? Vote Republican.

On issue after issue, the Republicans are on the wrong side of the American people and they are on the wrong side of history. They serve only the wealthy and corporations.

Republicans deserve to lose every election until they stop being the stupid crazy party. The ONLY way this gets better is if Democrats win control of both Houses of Congress.

Please, help that to happen.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Fun with Signs - We Do!

This has been up for the past week. Pretty sure not too many people figured it out.

Tomorrow's Highways, Today!

Every now and then this Disney film, "Magic Highway, U.S.A.", which aired on the Disneyland TV show on May 14, 1958, pops onto my radar. The animation, soundtrack and narration are just perfect. I absolutely love this retro-future stuff. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Imagine dealing with this every day (Men only - Women already know what it's like)

Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, which recently teamed up with the video marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative to show what it’s like to walk down the street alone as a woman: totally exhausting, reliably demeaning, and occasionally, terrifying.
To film the video, Rob Bliss outfitted a backpack with a hidden camera and walked across New York City streets for ten hours in front of actress Shoshana B. Roberts, who was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and holding a microphone in each hand.  Link
I found this to be pretty chilling.

This is not men "being friendly" and it is not giving another person a compliment. It's harassment, it's scary for women, and it's vile.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stop Kiss at JMU

Note: I sent this on Saturday from the event but it didn't make it. Resending now. 

The family is visiting JMU in Harrisonburg to see Rachel in the play Stop Kiss. We all saw the matinee and now Ben is back at the hotel while Carol and I see the evening show. 

Great job by Rachel and the entire cast and crew. Good show. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reading Update - Breakfast of Champions and Starship Troopers

I finished Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” a couple of weeks ago and followed up by reading “Breakfast of Champions” last week. I didn’t like BOC nearly as much as Slaughterhouse Five. BOC is a lot more “experimental” and was probably considered pretty edgy in its time, but it doesn’t have a lot of plot and seems to be written from the perspective of someone explaining humanity to aliens. That’s interesting, but ultimately didn’t lead to much. It got better as it went on, once the plot kicked in, but that’s about all I can say about it. Plus, Vonnegut uses the N-word A LOT and I wasn’t sure if it was meant satirically or not. (On balance, I think so).

This week I started Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”. I read it in Junior or Senior High (30+ years ago) but didn’t remember much of it other than a few scenes. I know that the book has a reputation as being a polemic in favor of fascism and, of course, I remember Paul Verhoeven’s movie which I really love. My impression before re-reading was that the movie, described by many as 90210 in space, was nothing like the book.

Boy was that impression wrong. I’m about halfway done with the book and so far it has tracked the movie pretty well. Johnnie Rico starts out in high school, joins the Federation forces on a whim, goes through basic training and is now involved in the disastrous invasion of Klendathu, following the destruction of Buenos Aires. Many of the same characters are in the book and a lot of the high school and training scenes from the book are in the movie. They did add some characters in the movie, played up the romantic entanglements, took out the power armor completely, and moved a few things around, but all in all I am shocked at how similar the two stories are.

I also hit the first jarring notes of libertarian/fascist philosophy this morning as Heinlein devotes a chapter to the glorious societal benefits of corporal punishment and how 20th century Democracies failed because they stopped beating their kids. Yeah, that was charming, and not at all a strawman argument, and stupid and wrong.

Still, that aside, I’m enjoying the book and finding my love of the movie enhancing the read.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Internet Wins - Amazon reviews

Gizmodo had a post today on humorous Amazon reviews. One of the comments suggested the reviews of the product below.


How to Avoid Huge Ships

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Saturday Night Live - All Star Team

Last week, Dennis Perkins, the AV Club reviewer, in his review of the Bill Hader episode, talked about his all-star SNL cast.
Longtime SNL fans, like longtime fans of other generations-spanning organizations like the Justice League or the X Men, make all-time all-star teams. (I know I’m not the only one—let the comments show…) My own rules are pretty strict—seven members only, no featured players, members judged only from the time they were on the show—and subject to constant changes of mind, but Bill Hader has been a consistent (Not Ready For Prime Time) player since his second year on the show.
I've actually thought about this before, and, like Perkins, I thought about it in the context of Bill Hader being one of my choices. Hader was a great and versatile SNL cast member and absolutely belongs on any SNL all-star team.

Who else would go on my list? Only two others come immediately to mind.

Phil Hartman - The most versatile player ever to grace 30 Rock's stage. Man of a thousand voices, Hartman could do anything, play any type or mood. His early death was a huge tragedy.

Will Ferrell - One of the biggest successes ever to come out of SNL, he had a huge range and could be goofy, overbearing, serious, or absurd. Plus, he wrote the Cowbell sketch.

Beyond those three, I'm not sure. Eddie Murphy is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful SNL alums, but I'm not a big fan of his time on the show, even though he pretty much single-handedly saved it during the eighties. Dana Carvey was great on SNL while Darrell Hammond, the longest-serving cast member, took over the Phil Hartman versatility role during the 90s and well into the 2000s.

Of the women, Amy Poehler would probably go to the top of many people's list, but like Murphy, she's not a personal favorite of mine. Kristen Wiig would be on many people's list and I think current cast member Kate McKinnon is very close to making it on mine. Some people on the AV Club said that the recently departed Jan Hooks would make their list.

Speaking of current cast members, I love Taran Killam and if he continues as he has been, he'll eventually be on my list. I also really like Cecily Strong.

Here's a complete list of all the casts of SNL.

Who would make your list?

Ipecac Eats Burgers #14 - Red Robin Burger Works

I work across the street from L'Enfant Plaza in DC. The shopping area at L'Enfant Plaza has a newly renovated food court and they've recently started opening new restaurants. One of the newest is Red Robin Burger Works, which offers many of the usual Red Robin burgers in food court form.

When it first opened a few weeks ago, they were training staff and offering meals for free. The enormous line kept me from taking them up on that.

Gourmet Cheeseburger, no cheese

I got my usual Red Robin burger and it was very similar to its sit-down restaurant cousin. A little overdone, though not nearly as bad as the last time I ate at Red Robin. As you can see from the picture below, only the edges were really overdone.

All in all, the usual Red Robin goodness. I'm sure I'll eat here often.

Chris Christie: Won't someone [not] think of the children?

Wow! Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie eavesdropping on Carol and me?
"I've got to tell you the truth, I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying 'you know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.' Is that what parents aspire to for their children?"  Link
Zing! He so has us pegged. I can't tell you how many times we've said, "Gee, I am SOOOO glad Rachel isn't making too much money. Someone paying her more would be horrible!" I mean, what possible reason could we have to want her to make more money?!?

To be fair, I'm pretty sure Christie is being truthful about being tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I'm pretty sure nearly all Republicans are sick of it.

Of course, teenagers aren't the only ones making minimum wage. The average age of the minimum wage worker in America is 35 years old. Lots of actual adults, with families of their own, make minimum wages too. And since working forty hours a week at minimum wage still puts you BELOW the poverty line, raising the minimum wage would actually allow some families to be, you know, NOT so poor as to need government assistance.

But then their children would be better off, so I guess Chris Christie would be against it. Pesky kids!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ebola Perspective

Here's some perspective on the Ebola crisis from (shockingly) Meet the Press.

Ebola is not an existential crisis requiring us to close the borders, quarantine Africa, impeach Obama and elect Republicans. Sheesh.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Low pay is a feature, not a bug

You remember a few years ago, during the unjustified austerity push that delayed our economic recovery, when they froze federal salaries? The lie pushed by conservatives, still being pushed today, is that federal workers are overpaid. And our salaries are still frozen.

Yeah, big shock, it was all bullcrap.
White-collar federal employees on average earn 35.2 percent less than private-sector workers in comparable jobs, an advisory council announced Friday in the latest report in a years-long back and forth over how salaries stack up.
The Federal Salary Council announced that figure based on data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which under federal pay law follows a methodology that has yielded a large “pay gap” figure in favor of the private sector for two decades.  Link
Conservatives like to say that they're good at business, but, of course, if you want high quality, motivated workers, you need to pay them what they're worth. Even in government. Duh.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rachel & Cinderella

I'm working on editing some home movies and put together this short clip of Rachel meeting Cinderella at Walt Disney World in 2004. We were in the lobby of the Cinderella restaurant in Cinderella's castle waiting for our table.


This was taped on my MiniDV camcorder, so the quality isn't great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall TV Season

Just a couple of quick notes on the fall season of 2014, wherein I've been watching considerably fewer shows than usual.

Doctor Who has been incredible. The new Doctor, Peter Capaldi, is a very different Doctor from his recent predecessors and, in addition, very funny. The show has been answering some of the recent complaints about how it portrays women and the plots have been fantastic without the heaviness of past seasons' overarching story arcs. This season so far has just been fantastically written.

The Walking Dead season premier was Sunday night and to my utter surprise (spoilers) they dealt with cannibal-run Terminus in a single episode. Filled with action and Carol's ass-kicking, the episode also had the most gruesome and horrifying sequence I've probably ever seen in a television show. I'm looking at you, Trough. Yeesh, that was way too intense. I'm still kind of shaken up over how brutal it was.

And that's all for now.

False Equivalency Strikes Again

I think that it's no secret that I love the Daily Show and its sister show, the Colbert Report. For years, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been a breath of sanity among the increasing chaos of American politics. I don't know how I would cope without their humorous take on current events.

But Stewart suffers from "false equivalency" syndrome from time to time where he apparently feels he has to go after Democrats in order to balance out how much he goes after Republicans. Of course, if the Democrats are being stupid and deserve it, I have no problem with him ripping them a new one. But oftentimes he criticizes them for trivial inconsistencies, while the Republicans are pushing policies that are actually getting Americans killed. (See Medicaid expansion).

Last night was one such time. The clip below is the opening from last night's show where he mocks the Democrats, suggesting that they're hypocrites for outspending Republicans in the upcoming midterm election.

Now here's the thing.

The conservative Supreme Court created this mess in the Citizens United decision which opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign contributions from anonymous sources. Republicans hailed the decision and still support it, while Democrats, in Congress and the Administration, have made it clear time and again that they believe the policies created by the decision are undemocratic and hurt American democracy. The Democrats have made it clear that if they controlled both houses of Congress, they would pass legislation to counteract the decision. Some Democrats are even going so far as to sponsor a Constitutional amendment. Stewart then mocks them for outspending their Republican opponents and *gasp* fundraising!

But, really, what choice do the Democrats have? Unilateral disarmament? Citizens United is the law of the land and while the Democrats could take a principled stand and NOT spend any money during the election, the result would be the loss of both houses and any chance of campaign finance reform. It would be suicide by purity test. How can Stewart not see that?

Maybe he doesn't care. He often falls back on the "It's just a comedy show" excuse. The thing is, this segment wasn't funny because it didn't have that kernel of truth. Believe it or not, you can be in favor of campaign finance reform and still need to spend money to get elected in order to pass campaign finance reform.

If the Democrats took both houses of Congress and THEN did not kill Citizens United, they would have earned Stewart's sarcastic scorn. But until then, the only way they can succeed in getting rid of the undemocratic law is to spend money during elections. Duh.