Archive for August, 2011

I’ve talked about him before (see here and here for examples), but my middle child (and youngest son), Jared, continues to provide me with excellent material for this here blog.

We attended a small school carnival over the weekend and my daughter, Ophelia (also written about earlier), wanted to have her face painted.

The activity was done and my seven year-old girl had a pink and white unicorn now adorning her right cheek. My wife started musing about face painting and began to wonder aloud that this activity seemed mildly pointless.

“What good is face painting,” she said, “when the person who has it done can’t see how good it looks. It’s really only the people who didn’t pay for it that get to see how cool it looks.”

“It just seems so odd,” my wife concluded.

To which, Jared, coolly asked her, “Then why do you wear earrings? Same idea, isn’t it?”

Not much can stop my wife in her tracks, but this question literally (and yes, I mean the literal sense of literally in that she really did stop to think about it…ppfffttt) did just that.

As of this writing, she still has no answer.

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Once is odd, twice is showing the hallmarks of a trend.

Following on the heels of this blast from the past courtesy of a whiff of nearly-forgotten perfume, comes this tidbit of synchronicity.

My middle child, Jared, comes up to me with his mother’s iPod in his hands and earbuds…well, in his ears (duh!)…comes up to me and casually informs me that he is listening to my “type of music”. I ask him what he is listening to and he says “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths.

The Smiths…a band that I was introduced to by K, a female friend from eons ago in my past.

To be reminded twice in one week of someone I have not thought of in many a year is downright odd.

So my follow-up question is this…

What’s next?

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Though I am away from my home in the Old Free Colony (my nickname for the Virginia-Maryland-District tri-state area), I like to keep tabs on the old homestead every once in a while.

Yes, it was fascinated to hear stories about the earthquake that rattled the nation’s capital and the rest of the East Coast. As a former inhabitant of Southern California, I am glad that I missed that 5.9 tremor because that’s the type of strong quake that’ll make you wish you had built that emergency preparedness kit.

However, moving on, I wanted to write today because of the news I read recently, courtesy of the Cable News Network (known to all other people as CNN) that a small little town near where I live in Loudoun County was ranked as on the Top 100 Best Places to Live 2011 (Small City edition).

Ranked at Number 4 (there’s your number for the day) is Leesburg, Virginia, which just missed out on being the top spot which was taken by Louisville, Colorado.

Congratulations to Leesburg as CNN may rank this town as a great place to live, but as I’ve noted before, don’t volunteer if you do decide to live there.

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Had a strange experience yesterday afternoon.

I was going to one of the various governmental buildings here in Paris to do one sort of bureaucratic headache or another that is common after moving from one country to another (really, the details of this trip are not the crux of this vignette).

As I was entering the elevator, a woman got out. When I entered the elevator, her perfume still lingered in the air. It was a scent I had not had the pleasure of experiencing in quite some time…twenty-five years to be exact.

It was a perfume called Kristal (or perhaps Krystal?) and it was the scent worn by a female friend of mine, K, who I have not seen in over twenty-five years.

I have heard and read that the sense of smell is a huge trigger for memory and I have no doubt of that now. As I rode up the elevator to my destination, I was awash in memories nearly three decades old. The smell was so powerful that I could actually remember and taste (yes…taste) how she kissed.

To be stirred by such strong memories of a girl I had not thought of in over twenty years solely on the basis of a whiff of a long-forgotten perfume shows the power of the scent.

The elevator doors opened and I left the confines of the past and came back to Paris circa 2011.

Like I said, a strange experience.

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Happy Birthday and other words of celebration to science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, who turns 91 today.

In other Ray Bradbury news, I was excited to see that Jonathan Eller has written a biography of this author in the book, Becoming Ray Bradbury. This tome is now at the top of my birthday list.

I certainly Amazon doesn’t have a problem shipping to France.

I would also like to this opportunity to share my brush with greatness with the genius behind Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

I was living in Southern California at the time when it was announced that Mr. Bradbury would be at a mall signing copies of his latest collection of short stories entitled The Toynbee Convector. I had never been to a book signing before but everything that I had seen on television and movies regarding authors and book signings told me that I would have, at most, 60 seconds with this legend.

When my time came to be at the front of the line, I presented my book for Mr. Bradbury to sign and I told him that I had a bet with my friend. My friend said that it was Issac Asimov who appeared in a Stan Freberg commercial for Sunsweet Prunes and I claimed it was Mr. Bradbury.

Mr. Bradbury smiled at me and said, “You win”. He then signed my book with the tagline from that commercial, “Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles.

It is a treasure of my collection as it is one of the three signed books I own.

We chatted for a bit and I went far over my allotted sixty seconds. Turns out, Mr. Bradbury, being the nice and lovable man that he is, took the time to exchange a few words with everyone who stopped by to buy his book.

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury.

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I’ve written about him before and my quest to have the actor who played Dean Hodes on Weeds selected as the replacement for Charlie Sheen on the television program, Two and a Half Men.

While, sadly, my campaign was not successful (some other guy was selected), I was pleased to see this news that Mr. Milder will appear on the show Criminal Minds.

It’s not Two and a Half Men, but it is CBS.

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This weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the theft of the painting that goes by the official name, La Joconde, but is more commonly known as Mona Lisa.

To celebrate, I was planning to take the family to the Louvre to see this famous painting. I thought it would be appropriate to pay homage in front of the painting that spawned a song and countless parodies of that enigmatic smile (here and here).

Sadly, my visit to the Lady will have to wait as my oldest son, Christopher, came down with a mid-grade fever. So, we stayed home rather than wear him out. So, he recuperates and there will always be another chance come a subsequent weekend.

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Back in January of this year, I made some predictions of how I thought the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) would rule on nine cases. The results are in, and since I have often turned my lens of veridiction (my word for the practice of verifying predictions) on others in this blog, it is time to turn the tables on myself. So how did I do?

I broke down the outcome of my predictions into three categories…

1) Incorrect ruling – I predict Side A would win, but Side B wins;
2) Correct ruling, but incorrect tally – I predict Side A would win by some margin, and Side A wins but by a different margin; and
3) Correct ruling and tally – I predict Side A would win by some margin and Side A wins by that margin.

So, again, how did I do?

There are only a pair of cases in Category 1 (incorrect ruling). They are…
Williamson v Mazda Motor of America, which I thought would go 6-2 in favor of Mazda, but instead went 9-0 for Williamson; and
Schwarzenegger v Entertainment Merchants Association, which I had predicted would go way Schwarzenegger’s way 6-3 but the EMA won the case 6-3.

With only two predictions incorrect, that means I batted .666, but let’s see how many judge’s tallies I correctly divined.

In Category 2, where I predicted the winning side, but not the number of judges who voted that way, there were four, which were…
NASA v Nelson, which I correctly predicted would go NASA’s way by a ruling of 5-4, but instead was a unanimous decision;
Bruesewitz v Wyeth, where SCOTUS ruled in favor of Wyeth 6-2, where I predicted a ruling of 5-3;
Skinner v Switzer, where I said that Skinner would prevail by a vote of 5-4, but he won by 6-3; and
Connick v Thompson, where Connick won the case 5-4 and I thought he would win 6-3;

So that leaves a trio of cases in Category 3 where not only did I predict which side would prevail, but also predicted how many justices would vote their way. Those were…
Snyder v Phelps, won by Phelps 8-1;
Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v Winn, where ACSTO won the case 5-4; and
Chamber of Commerce v Whiting, where 5 justices agreed with Whiting and 3 dissented.

All in all, if I may so, not a bad track record.

(Author pats self on back)

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I read the news today (oh, boy) and what caught my eye was this story about the protests in India over corruption, and more specifically, the protests over the arrest of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.

According to the Wikipedia article, Hazare started a fast in April of this year to protest the Indian government lack of movement on the Jan Lokpal Bill, a piece of anti-corruption legislation. The Indian government announced the bill would be re-introduced into Parliament and Hazare ended his fast.

However, when the Indian Parliament introduced a watered-down version of the bill, Hazare, in a symbolic gesture of protest, set the bill on fire and stated his intention to start another hunger strike. It was before this latest act of non-violent opposition that Hazare was arrested and why protests are happening around India at the moment.

It seems as if the work of a reformist is never done, which reminded me of this ceditra entry that I wrote on June 1 of this year. Its start is the following quote from the English writer William Hazlitt


It is essential to the triumph of reform that it should never succeed.

How frustrating it would seem to engage in an endeavour that is never completed successfully. Similar to Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill eternally only to see it fall all the way down just before making the top, it would appear that Hazlitt’s quote condemns the reformer to the same frustrating fate.

However, it can be argued (and I will) that true reform is not be measured by its completion, but by how much has been accomplished. Here, the Greek to use is Achilles, who in Zeno’s Puzzle, races a turtle but the animal has a 100-yard head start. A logical leap is made that Achilles can never overtake the turtle even though the human is ten times faster because…

Achilles runs 100 yards and reaches the place where the tortoise started. Meanwhile the tortoise has gone a tenth as far as Achilles, and is therefore 10 yards ahead of Achilles. Achilles runs this 10 yards. Meanwhile the tortoise has run a tenth as far as Achilles, and is therefore 1 yard in front of him. Achilles runs this 1 yard. Meanwhile the tortoise has run a tenth of a yard and is therefore a tenth of a yard in front of Achilles. Achilles runs this tenth of a yard.

…and so on and so on. The conclusion is made that the goal (overtaking the turtle) is never reached, but Achilles does continue to cover more and more (albeit shrinking) distance.

Such is the way with reform. Reformists, whether it be for worker’s rights, civil rights, public education, safety, etc., all start out and make gains that are monumental. Instead of resting on their laurels, these activists continue to press their case to make things even better for their groups. They don’t rest because they realize there is always more work to done. To claim victory is to become stagnant and complacent. To claim victory is to ignore the fact that the group that had been doing the oppressing does not rest and will work to overturn all the gains previously made.

Back to August and the above also reminds me that the person who starts the dream doesn’t necessarily see it through to its end…but that doesn’t mean they quit. Moses was never able to enter the Promised Land, but he still slogged through that desert for forty years.

Slog on, brave reformers.

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Today’s entry almost qualifies as ceditra (the term coined by the early 20th century Brazilian artist Abril Pajyaso to describe the process of creating any art through a random process), but since I did not use my ultra-rare-holo process to create a random topic, this entry will be filed under the “Number in The News” category.

I looked at my watch and the digital read out showed “12:32″. I entered “1232” into the “magic box” (the name the kids and I call Google) and this was the first hit I saw: an essay contest by the Pekin Daily Times (Illinois) for active military families. The contest is to write an essay explaining why the writer and their family should win a trip to the St. Louis Zoo. This contest is being sponsored by the Pekin Roy L. King VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1232 (there’s your number for the day) Men’s Auxiliary.

You may feel free to enter this contest, but I cannot.

I do not have a family member who is active-duty military or currently deployed somewhere in the world.

I, myself, have never served either.

As far as I can tell, I am the fourth male in a line of men who have, in one way or another, not served in the military.

My great-grandfather (on my dad’s dad’s side), so the family legend goes, fled eastern Russia at the start of the last century to avoid forced service to fight in the Russo-Japanese War. He sailed across the Pacific Ocean and landed in America in San Francisco, so I will never see his name at Ellis Island.

My grandfather (on my dad’s side) was not drafted when World War II broke out. Whether it was because he was a new parent of my father or because his number was never pulled, I never found out.

My father was not fit enough to serve in Viet Nam. Glasses and flat feet kept him out of serving.

As for me, how do I explain why I never served without sounding like an elitist bastard? Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the military option in the era of the volunteer army was the path taken by those who had limited career options. The Army is where you went if you needed straightening out or if you needed a way out. Yeah, I’m not proud of that mentality, but there it is.

I did well in school and I kept out of trouble. I graduated with a degree from a prestigious university in the Midwest and I began my life of employment. Desert Storm happened too quickly for me to make a difference (and truth be told [and damned], I didn’t agree with that war anyway) and I was far too old (and heavy) to be of any use after the attacks of September 11 (and truth be told, I didn’t agree with the decision to attack Iraq anyway).

Don’t let the above paragraphs fool you. I’m not anti-military just as I am not anti-teacher. Even though I appreciate the sacrifice and dedication teachers make every day and I understand how important education is to our country’s future, I did not become a teacher because it was not the fit for me. Likewise, I appreciate (but not fully experience) the sacrifice and dedication soldiers make every day and I fully understand how important the military is to our world’s future, but I did not become a soldier because it was not a fit for me.

I found my niche and (until my recent move) did my service to country by having a job, paying taxes, and helping to pay the salary of those who protect me.

I realize I was able to not join the military, enjoy my rights and responsibilities as an American, vote for elected officials, complain about those elected officials, and be blessed with the life I have because many other people saw that the military was right for them.

I am able to not enter an essay contest sponsored by a VFW Post in Pekin, Illinois, because some member of that post landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in 1945 and he gets my thanks.

Dear Pekin Times,
I know I am not able to enter your contest, but if I could nominate someone who should get to go to the St. Louis Zoo for a day, it would be that guy, with the gray hair and glasses who sits near the back of VFW Post 1232 thinking about all of his buddies who hit that French beach with him on D-Day and who aren’t with him anymore.
Nolan M.

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