Sunday, August 31, 2008

Feel the excitement!

According to the Los Angeles Times, many GOP stalwarts aren't showing up to the Convention in Minneapolis, which may or may not be postponed due to Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast. I mean many as in "fish in the sea" many. Here's a partial list.

Texas governor Rick "Good Hair" Perry and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal are staying put to deal with the aftermath of Gustav. These are the most believable reasons.

Retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel is in Europe, but he kind of hates McCain, so this isn't a big surprise.

Larry Craig has decided not to visit his favorite airport restroom one more time for old times' sake.

Ted Stevens is concentrating on his re-election campaign. He may have some other things on his To Do List, though his spokesmen declined to state what they are.

Pat Roberts of Kansas is way too busy campaigning. He has a double digit lead and Kansas hasn't had a Democratic senator since 1932, but still... busy, busy, workee, workee!

Other too busy senators include John Sununu of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

Richard Lugar of Indiana has given his support to Joe Biden, so no trip to the Twin Cities for him.

Maverick McCain has also pissed off his party pals in Colorado by support of a bill to re-negotiate how much water Arizona gets to siphon off from the Colorado River, so retiring senator Wayne Allard and the GOP candidate to succeed him Bob Schaffer are also sending their regrets.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has stay in California to obstruct passage of a budget.

Who else? Any other big names missing from the list?

Oh, yeah. Bush and Cheney are pulling out. Bush has to be the Hugger In Chief this week down on the Gulf Coast. It completely slipped Cheney's mind that he's now three weeks behind on sacrificing puppies to the Old Ones he serves.

This gives the rest of us just that much more time to enjoy Sarah Palin Fever. Catch it!

Baby mama drama

I have been openly critical of Sarah Palin's decision to return to work three days after giving birth to a special needs baby last April. The story gets odder the more you look into it.

Ms. Palin first let her constituents know about the pregnancy when she said she was seven months along. This picture is from the day when she announced. When she announced, no one on her staff had heard a thing. It's one thing to be seven months pregnant and not show, but not to tell anyone on your staff? Why would anyone do that?

And then there's the story of the day of delivery. Palin was in Texas giving a speech and she told people that her water broke. She gave the speech. She decided to fly from Texas to Alaska, eight hour flight with a stopover in Seattle, while allegedly in labor. She did not tell the airline about her circumstance. The flight landed in Anchorage, but she did not go to the hospital there. She drove forty five minutes to a small clinic just outside of where she used to be mayor. Why do all these counter-intuitive things after her fluid has broken? Here's her husband's answer.

"You can't have a fish picker from Texas." said Todd.

This is a photo from late 2007. The daughter who is not smiling broadly is Bristol, now age 17, who had a long absence from school, reported to be anywhere from five to eight months long. According to the family, she had mono. It usually takes a few weeks to recover from mono.

For my money, I would be happier with her if she's the grandmother rather than the mother. If she's the mother, she made dozens of crazy stupid decisions, and she's had four babies before this. This kind of lack of judgment in a mother would be inexcusable.

On the other hand, if she's the grandmother, it's a political nightmare for the McCain camp. She's a liar and they are incompetent in vetting and hypocrisy about out of wedlock babies looks very, very bad. You can get more of the story at The Daily Kos. I don't know what the mainstream media will do, but this sounds like a story The National Enquirer will knock out of the ball park, like they did with John Edwards' infidelity.

Also, a boatload of Republicans are not showing up to the convention. Bush, Cheney and Schwarzenegger are all too busy. I'm sure it's just coincidence.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The All American Summarizing Proust Contest

The name of McCain's VP pick reminded me of Monty Python's Michael Palin, so I went with this title for my post discussing the introduction of Sarah Palin. For those of you who are familiar with Monty Python, the punch line of this sketch explains why McCain and his secret cabal of handlers made this choice. If you are not familiar, you can watch on You Tube or just read the script, scroll down and check out the last line. I am not publishing it directly because my mom reads my blog.

McCain and his handlers went with this stunt pick to cut into the 24 hour news cycle that would otherwise have been dominated by reaction to Obama's speech, which was watched by more than 38,000,000 people. He couldn't trot out Tim Pawlenty and get any splash at all, so instead, McCain, whose advisors really seem to think this is about celebrity, bring out the cute girl. I turned on C-SPAN just before the announcement and saw the Wright State cheerleaders trying to pump up the little crowd by chanting "We love McCain! We love McCain!" This is the true value of women in the Republican world view.

Besides smacking of desperation, there is more than a little cruelty in making this move. This woman and her family are about to be thrown into a meat grinder unlike any other in the known world. Forget ideas about a left wing or right wing press. The press loves controversy and newness much more than they love any ideology, and Sarah Palin gives them both. After her political views on abortion and the teaching of creationism and climate change having no human cause are made fully public, the next thing the press will go after is her family life. She had a baby in April. Due to genetic testing, she knew before the boy was born that he has Down's syndrome. The pro-life crowd cheered her because she did not have an abortion. She was back at work three days after the birth.

This poor little kid is a metaphor for Republican policy. Before he knows anything other than some nipples give milk, he gets to learn the lesson of Republicanism. You're on your own, kid. Mommy has bigger fish to fry. Right to life is an absolute. Quality of life... that's negotiable and you don't have any cards to play.

McCain had more experienced women he could have put on the ticket, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Christine Todd Whitman to name just two. But instead we get the oldest presidential hopeful in American history, a multiple cancer survivor with many other health problems related to his grueling military experience, with a running mate totally unready to fulfill the duties of president at one of the most difficult times in our history. This show of horrible judgment is based on the idea that she will help with both the PUMA vote and the Raw Meat Republican vote.

I wrote "secret cabal of handlers" because I'm not even sure who really made this decision. McCain met with this woman either once or twice, depending on the news source. Lindsey Graham, the Log Closet Republican in McCain's inner circle, admitted he had only spoken to her on the phone. McCain has some Karl Rove clone, or maybe Rove himself, pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Whoever this supreme cynic is, that person didn't do the political math very well. Maybe, just maybe, there is a female voting bloc who will switch from voting Democrat to support their gender instead of their favorite issues, because Ms. Palin will disagree with anyone who still votes Democrat all the way down the line. The downside is this. McCain now loses a large chunk of the traditional family vote, which he had wrapped up. A lot of men and women who will agree with Palin politically will also believe that women should submit to their husbands and instead of running around the country trying to gain a job she is not qualified for, she should be home taking care of that helpless little baby, barely one hundred days old. These people will not vote for Obama, but they very well might stay home and in an election like this, that is something McCain cannot afford.

It's certainly not for the best for little Trig Palin, but it might be for the best for this country, because it will be clear to many that McCain and his ridiculously poor judgment are something this country cannot afford.

Friday, August 29, 2008

My top five Mills alumni

As of this week, I am teaching a statistics class at Mills College in Oakland. I've met the class once and I look forward to the semester. In honor of the new gig and another event, I give you a top five list of my favorite folks who have degrees from Mills, a school that has been open since 1852 and has been in Oakland since 1866. Mills' history is as long or longer than any of the East Coast all-female schools, known collectively as the Seven Sisters. In 1990, the trustees voted to allow undergraduate males, but the student body voted it down, and the undergraduate population remains all female.

#5 Sofia Copolla Ms. Copolla has now directed three feature length films, The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I have only seen Lost in Translation, and I liked it very much, which gives her a spot in my top five.

Of course, Ms. Copolla's family connections are a major contributing factor in giving her an opportunity to succeed, but a Mills education definitely informed her sensibilities, and the school has every reason to be proud of her, and she of her alma mater.

Go Cyclones!

#4 Dave Brubeck Wait a second, Matty Boy! You said Mills was an all female college. Is there some secret about Dave Brubeck we don't know?

Read more carefully, hypothetical question asker, and stop spreading weird rumors. The undergraduate student body is and has always been all female, but graduate degrees have been given to men for some time now, and especially in music, there are a lot of Mills men who have gone on to important careers, including Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead and composer Steven Reich.

I chose Brubeck from among these guys because I still loves me some smooth West Coast jazz.

#3 Barbara Lee Barbara Lee is my congressperson, and I couldn't be happier with her. Barbara Lee is the only member of congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan, which puts her on a par with Jeanette Rankin, who voted against the United States' entry into World War I and World War II. Personally, I would have voted for war in WW II and Afghanistan if I had been given the option, but I admire the courage these women showed at a time when passions ran so high.

Ms. Lee's objections were not against the Afghan conflict in particular but in the wording of the resolution. Here is what she said at the time.

"It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events -- anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long- term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.... The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action."

Good call, Ms. Lee.

#2 Laurie Anderson The words "performance artist" usually conjure up odd acts involving throwing chocolate syrup at the audience. This isn't Laurie Anderson's modus operandi. She is a singer and songwriter and musician and storyteller who uses multimedia and modern electronics to say whatever is on her mind, and she has a lot on her mind. While I decided to become a blogger in response to reading Princess Sparkle Pony and Padre Mickey's Dance Party, my ideas about "What can I write about?" come from the eclectic choices that Ms. Anderson shows in her work.

Ms. Anderson is also the longtime companion of singer and songwriter Lou Reed. They married earlier this year.

I've never seen Lou Reed live, but I have seen Laurie Anderson. Back in the early '90s, she was giving a multimedia performance in Wheeler Auditorium, a classroom that accommodates a few hundred. My friend Kevin and I were walking to the show, when we saw a huge line snaking down Bancroft as far as the eye could see, waiting to get into the Zellerbach.

"Who's playing tonight?" I asked a person in line.

"Noam Chomsky." came the reply. Yes, in Berkeley, a socialist professor of linguistics can get a line around the block of people waiting to hear him.

During the question and answer part of her show, someone in the audience asked her if she had ever been on stage with Noam Chomsky. "Oh, yeah, we're touring together this year." came her deadpan reply. "He's going to be opening for me, except in Berkeley, where obviously I will be opening for him."

#1 Holly Smith The top of my list of Mills graduates belongs to a young woman who is now studying to get a graduate degree in fashion at The Academy Of Art in San Francisco. Like others on this list, she is bright and engaging and confident and talented. Unlike others on this list, she is my niece. Also, her engagement party is this weekend, and I'm invited.


It would be remiss of me not to mention that Ms. Smith is also just about as cute as cute can be, even when sporting a pencil thin gigolo mustache caused by drinking some caffeinated beverage, shown at the bottom right of the picture.


Friday means Random 10!

What’s Goin’ On Marvin Gaye
All I Have To Do Is Dream The Everly Brothers
Coolsville Laurie Anderson
La Gran Seduzione Nino Rota
Into The Mystic Van Morrison
I’m Afraid of Americans David Bowie
Have A Little Dream On Me Fats Waller
Cantata #174 "Ich Liebe Den Höchsten Von Ganzem Gemüte" - Sinfonia (J.S. Bach) Max Pommer: Neues Bachishes Collegium Musicum
Soulful Wind Nick Lowe
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Part. 1) James Brown

Strong Random 10 today. If you click on the Marvin Gaye track, you may not do anything else all day but listen to it. The band is super tight, with Mr. James Jamerson on bass. All I can say is... Damn!

Laurie Anderson gets a video shoutout. David Bowie sings about being afraid of Americans; knock wood, David, I hope we will be less scary next year. Then we get some J.S. Bach, can't be bad, and we close with Mr. James Brown, because no one in their right mind wants to get up on stage after James Brown. He will knock you down, you will get back up and he will knock you down again.

And you will like it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Maybe you heard about this, maybe you didn't. A guy on Fox Noise went on a riff about how Obama/Biden sounds like Osama Bin Laden, and asked if it was coincidence. Lemme 'splain something to this guy.

1. Yes, they sound alike if you have been DRINKING A LOT.

2. Yes, it's a complete coincidence.

Thanks for playing.

Of course, this guy can't be an idiot, because he's white and wears a suit and tie. Moreover, he couldn't be fired for being an idiot, which of course he isn't, because he works on Fox Noise. Without idiots, they'd have Chris Wallace's show on Sundays and the rest of the time they'd be running infomercials.

This truly remarkable level of stupidity reminded me of Professor Griff, one of the many people who would be up on stage performing with the political rap group Public Enemy. He went on an anti-semitic riff many years ago and asked the interviewer if he had ever noticed that "jewelry" began with "jew". Coincidence?

Yes, Griff, it's a coincidence. More than that, Public Enemy fired his candy ass because rappers have standards, while Fox Noise does not.

Of course, Griff maintains that Public Enemy fired him because of the international Jewish conspiracy against the black man.

Thanks for playing, Griff. You got fired because of the worldwide, non-sectarian conspiracy against idiots. Anti-idiot sentiment still runs very strong even in this world filled with sensitive people.

But hey, it still sounds like fun. Let's see if my alter ego hypothetical question asker can go off on a pseudo scientific rant based on similar sounding words in English.

McCain... Mark of Cain? Is this a sign that God views the Arizona geezer as a murderer and not a war hero? Is it anti-Christian to vote for him because of God's clear displeasure or is it just coincidence?

Good one, hypothetical! Nice variation on a theme.

And by the way, it is just coincidence. You want to run something this weak by people, you'll have to get a job at Fox Noise, and if you do that, I'd have to let you go.

Even bloggers have standards.

Good news, everyone!

We can say with confidence the the barn door is now closed.

Are there any horses left? We'll have to get back to you on that.

Over the past few months, especially since last December, I've been reporting on the strength of the U.S. Dollar, or more accurately the weakness of the U.S. Dollar. This chart is the USD index over the past nine years or so, which measures the strength of the dollar against a mixed average of currencies, weighted strongly towards the euro, but including the pound, the Canadian dollar and others.

If I were a partisan hack, I might say "everything was peachy and then George W. Bush became president and things went to hell. The End." But that isn't true. The USD still looked good well into 2002, so the timing would be wrong to blame the steady decline on Bush or 9/11. It also doesn't correlate that well with the Fed rate changes. Whatever the market's long term disenchantment with the dollar is, it isn't easily 'splained with one single cause.

But as I said, there's good news, though it doesn't show on this chart because it has taken place mostly this August, and the chart only goes up through July. The dollar has gotten up off the floor. I noted that earlier this year, there were four currencies trading at more than a dollar, and the yen was worth more than a penny. Neither of those statements are true today. Here is the current situation with currencies.

British pound: just under $1.84, down from a high of $2.10
Euro: just under $1.48, down from a high of about $1.60
Canadian dollar: $0.955, down from a high over $1.05
Swiss franc: $0.916, down from a high of over $1.00
Japanese yen: 109.23 yen buy a dollar, down from a high of less than 100

Likewise, the precious metals, which all peaked at record levels in mid March, have retreated dramatically since.

The good news, of course, is relative and depends on the time scale. The USD is slightly lower than it was a year ago, but compared to the situation six months ago when it was under 71, the range now fluctuating between 76 and 78 looks great.

And then there's crude oil. On January 2, a barrel cost $99.33 and early this year, it looked like $100 a barrel might be a strong psychological threshold as the price retreated. But as the markets made everything that wasn't a dollar look good early in the year, even crude oil snuck along for the ride, and by the Ides of March was trading $110.15. This was a record high at the time, but it was overshadowed by gold busting through the $1000.00 an ounce threshold. Since then, with everything else falling back, people started noticing crude oil's rising price, and the financial news became front page news when crude flirted with $150 a barrel.

Then it fell back. Yay, market sanity! Right now, it trades $119.78 a barrel. It's hard to find any commodity or market index that has kept rising since March 15 except crude. Drilling now may seem like a solution to idiots, but I'm going to assume with cause that most of my readers aren't idiots. We don't just need more domestic oil. We need practical alternatives to oil, to break its status as a strategic commodity.

Did anybody tell us this before? Yeah, Jimmy Carter, thirty years ago. He was pretty smart for a peanut farmer, wasn't he?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Okay, who's picking the music at the convention?

President Clinton did a great job at the podium tonight, but what song do they play after he leaves?

Addicted to Love.

What? They couldn't get the rights to Baby Got Back?

Was Me and Mrs. Jones just a little too obvious?

Dude, that's cold blooded. A Rhinoceros Hornbill wouldn't be that mean. And I know this from bitter experience.

After that quick clinker, Joe Biden hit all the right notes. Great wife, great mom, great son, freaking adorable grandkids. Also, Joe can be the pitbull and Barack can do what he does best, being so fresh and so clean. McCain better start wearing stainless steel Depends or he is going to find teeth marks in his behind on a regular basis.

Wednesday Math, Vol. 36: The Chinese Remainder Theorem

'Splained with coconuts and a monkey.

You have a pile of coconuts. If you decide to split up the pile evenly into three smaller piles, there will be one coconut left over, which you will throw to the monkey. (Be careful, the monkey is a baby, and only slightly larger than the coconut.)

If you decide to split the pile into four equal piles, there will be three left over, which you will throw to the monkey. That's a lot of coconuts for a little monkey. I hope he has friends he can share with.

If you want to make five equal piles, there will be one left over, and I think by now you now what we do with the leftover coconuts.

What is the minimum number of coconuts that can be in the pile?

This problem is an example of the Chinese Remainder Theorem, a problem in number theory whose best known solution came from an ancient Chinese text, not surprisingly. The number of different ways we want to split up the original bunch is not a limiting factor. We could split the pile up into any number of equal piles, but the numbers have to be relatively prime, which means that if I pick any two of the numbers, the biggest number that divides them both is one. For example, since I said that there are three left over if I split the bunch into four piles, I know what would happen if I split it into two piles. I would lump two of the 1/4 piles together into the left pile, the other two 1/4 piles into the right pile, and throw one of the three leftovers into the left and one into the right and one to the monkey. Because the biggest number that divides into 2 and 4 is 2, they are not relatively prime, and that puts a damper on what we can do with the method we are going to use.

So let's solve this problem, starting with the piles of three and piles of four. since 3x4 = 12, we only have to check a few possible solutions.

Numbers that I can divide by 3 with 1 left over are 1, 4, 7, 10, ... etc.
Numbers I can divide by 4 with 3 left over are 3, 7, 11, ... etc.

The first number on both lists is 7. This means that if I divided the piles into twelve equal parts, there will be 7 left over. The numbers on that list are 7, 19, 31, 43, 55, ... etc.

Now we need to look at numbers divisible by 5 that will have 1 left over, but we only have to check up to 60, which is 5x12. That list is 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41, 46, 51, 56, ... etc. The number that is on both the five list and the twelve list is 31. That means that there were 31 coconuts in the original pile, because I asked for the minimum number. Any number you can divide by 60 with 31 left over would also work, so that list is 31, 91, 151, 211, ... etc.

(Note: This concept is tied into the idea of modulo arithmetic, which I 'splained way back in November in Volume 5 of Wednesday math.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inventions that transformed society

When I was in high school, there was an assignment in history class to write about what three modern inventions had the most impact on society.

The automobile.

This one seemed obvious. Technically, when I was in high school, the up to date picture of a car should be a Camaro or a Mustang or a Firebird, but I still like the look of the 1957 Impala.

Sue me.

The telephone.

Again obvious, and putting it in era appropriate perspective, it has to be a dial phone.

The birth control pill.

I wouldn't have thought of this, but I talked to my dad and this was his recommendation. It made a big difference in society for women to have reproductive choice, as we have seen over the past fifty years.

The computer.

This wouldn't have been an obvious choice in the the early 1970's when I was asked the question, but if we asked modern day high schoolers the same question, the computer would definitely be a top ten choice.

The container ship.

Like the birth control device, this is not an obvious choice, but listening to UC Berkeley professor Richard Walker on iTunesU giving a lecture on dispersed production in his Economic Geography class, this is more important than you might think. Container ships are one of the most economic ways to transport goods over long distance, and without this innovation in the mid 20th Century, the era of globalization would be impossible.

Do you have any inventions you'd like to add?

p.s. I have a new and unrelated essay up at The Smirking Chimp today.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dumbass Design™: The Rhinoceros Hornbill

Visiting the San Diego Zoo, or as I call it The World Famous, last weekend, I was struck by the appearance of the Rhinoceros Hornbill, a creature found in tropical southern Asia and the nearby islands, a range that includes parts of Malayasia, Java, Sumatra and Borneo. The large hornlike object on its head, present both in males and females is called a casque. Eye color is the easiest way to tell the sexes apart, with males having orange eyes and females, like the one pictured here, having whitish blue eyes.

Wondering about the evolutionary advantage of this large and apparently extraneous appendage, this reporter was fortunate enough to get an interview with a Rhinoceros Hornbill to discuss the creature's most striking feature.

Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do: Hello. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Let's get right down to it. What's up with the casque?

Rhinoceros Hornbill: What's it to you? You writin' a book?

LS2D: Actually, I write a blog.

RH: Ooh, a blogger! What's it like getting out of your mama's basement? I guess I should consider it a honor you decided to put on pants!

LS2D: Nobody told me hornbills were so sarcastic.

RH: And nobody told your mama to stop dressing you funny. I agree to an interview, hoping it's like some behind the scenes stuff for a high class nature show, and then I find out it's for a blog feature called Dumbass Design™. How am I supposed to feel?

LS2D: It's not an insult to you. It's a comment on the idea that evolution is some kind of purpose driven...

RH: Yeah, terrific. Not listening! Tell me something. Are you a male or a female?

LS2D: I'm a male. Sexual dimorphism in humans is easy to spot...

RH: Fascinating. Still not listening. So you're a male and you have nipples but you don't produce milk. Why don't you 'splain that, 'Splainer Boy!

LS2D: You make a valid point, though this is common among mammals...

RH: HELLO! Maybe you haven't noticed, but I DON'T CARE! Jeez Louise, are you sure you're at the top of the food chain?

LS2D: Well, I'm starting to get a few ideas for recipes for hornbill.

RH: Ha, ha! Good one, Monkey Boy! Guess what? This interview is over.

LS2D: I'm sorry if I wasn't who you expected.

RH: You're sorry? I thought at least you'd bring one of those fancy cameras for the HDTV market. I'd look great on HDTV! I thought I might meet Sigourney Weaver! Instead, I get a blogger! Somedays, it isn't worth the trouble to roll out of the nest in the morning.


This concludes the post on the Rhinoceros Hornbill. Whenever the next post in the Dumbass Design™ series is written, it probably will not include an interview with the creature.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Compare and contrast

Typical American sports: Big sweaty guys trying to beat each other up.

Typical Olympic sports: Beautiful young people doing bendy things.

Which do you prefer?

Yammering versus thinking.

Yesterday, because of the vice presidential nomination, Keith Olbermann was supposed to have a special Saturday edition of Countdown, so I tuned in to MSNBC. Instead, it was Chris Matthews. I really can't stand Chris Matthews. Someone on the Think Progress website postulated that Matthews looks like Tweety Bird. I really don't see it, possibly because I have some underlying affection for Tweety Bird.

Matthews is a former Democratic Party operative, so I guess we are supposed to agree on the issues, but that isn't even close to true. He's been in Washington D.C. so long, he doesn't even smell the odor anymore. He is a bully and an idiot much like his fellow Irishman Bill O'Reilly, though he doesn't have O'Reilly's unquenchable need for self-congratulation. He just yammers. Any lamebrain notion that flickers through his head will likely pass through his lips. He was speculating on the possible Republican V.P. choices, and he rhapsodized about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice for a few moments because she has had run-ins with Biden when she has testified before Congress. It's an immensely stupid idea, but that was no reason why he couldn't waste time on it. Here are five reasons it won't happen, which I could think of more quickly than the time it took this ill-conceived blather to pop into Matthew's head then blurt out of his mouth.

1. She's not a politician.
2. As National Security Advisor, she earns plenty of the blame for the war in Iraq.
3. As Secretary of State, her only accomplishments are agreements with the Czechs and the Poles that bring us back to a near state of war with the Russians.
4. She is a never married woman in her early 50's and lives in a home she owns jointly with another unmarried woman.
5. She is pro-choice, and if the Republican base is just about getting comfortable with McCain, this would be another reason to be uncomfortable with him.

So it's an idiot idea, and when he's on the air, his panelists have to discuss his idiot ideas. Listening to him for a half hour makes me lament the chances for humans surviving, and makes me wonder if human survival is actually a good thing.

On the other hand, when I went down to Santa Barbara, my friend Alan Ponder had some YouTube spots of a recent appearance by Anne Korin on C-SPAN. She was speaking in front of the Young Americans for Freedom, an arch-conservative group. (Note: Alan is not an arch-conservative, but he found the talk interesting, as did I.) Ms. Korin is obviously a big fan of the free market, but in her talk, she postulated that the problems we face might best be solved by government intervention, at least in this special case. The audience asked questions at the end, and they were even more in love with the free market. There was a lively and mostly civil exchange of ideas, though she had to smack a few people down in a quiet, C-SPAN sort of way.

I will give links to the talk below, but the basic ideas are these.

1. Petroleum as a fuel for trucks and cars is a strategic commodity, which is to say there is no alternative that currently competes with it in a meaningful way. Ms. Korin brings up that there was a time when salt was a strategic commodity, when it was the only option for preserving meat, but refrigeration and other techniques changed that.

2. The petroleum market is not a free market, because of the cartel OPEC. Here, Ms. Korin states several facts at different times in her talk, and if she put them together, she would realize that OPEC is acting correctly in its own long term interests and market forces still work, just not to the benefit of the consumer. This is a weakness of many free market proponents. Friedman distrusted people acting in concert because his parents' business was destroyed by a strike, so Friedmanites think any concerted action as anti-market, and they tend to think all actions must maximize profits in the relatively short run.

3. Ms. Korin believes that the most important step in bringing fuel prices down is creating a market incentive for alternatives and against her principles, she proposed that the government step in and mandate American car companies to make a significant percentage of their fleet mixed used gas/ethanol vehicles in a short period of time.

The question and answer session is illuminating. Some of the true believers in the audience are true believers in Republicanism and not conservatism, and Ms. Korin brings them up short. She has little respect for the Drill Now political theater the GOP is now performing. She is willing to call for government intervention in this case because she believes we are at war. She makes a point I have heard elsewhere that the drop in the value of the dollar and rise in oil prices we have seen this decade is the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. This is the true legacy of the Bush-Cheney years, though Ms. Korin does not say it out loud.

I bring both of these things up because of my very different reactions to them. If politics is a one-dimensional left-right spectrum, I'm supposed to agree with Chris Matthews most of the time, but I don't and I have no respect for his intellect. I do disagree with Ms. Korin on many fundamental principles, but at least she thinks, and I agree with her diagnosis of the strategic commodity problem. That's why I could watch her for an hour and a half, while fifteen minutes of Matthews seems interminable.

Link 1 to Ann Korin's talk.
Link 2.
Link 3.
Link 4.
Link 5.
Link 6.
Link 7.

That's lotsa 'splainin'. Glad it's a Sunday.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's not repeating a joke, it's refining my act.

I first wrote this gag a year ago June, when a lot less people were reading my blog. I have a lot more readers now, and I also know how to create a lolz using I Can Has Cheezburger technology, so here is the gag updated 2008 style.

Don't think of it as proof that I'm running out of ideas. Think of it as a remix. Hey, it works for R. Kelly!

I don't want anyone to think I am taking Putin's side in all this insane posturing. I'm just sick of an administration that is willing to push everything to the brink of war or past the brink, and has found idiot allies like Georgia and Israel who are willing to do the same. It's not good for the world and it's not good for the pocketbooks of American taxpayers, especially since the Republicans don't think that corporations should have to pay taxes.

While I'm not in love with the McSame meme, in this instance it is 100% true. A vote for McCain is a vote for more wars, and he is proud of it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New blog waiting and chomping at the bit

I'm going to be running yet another blog during the NFL season called The Unified Football Theory, which will be keeping a new statistic on the game based on the idea that a football team is comprised of six squads, and giving squads credit for scoring points or blame for giving points up. I know some of my blog buddies are fond of the NFL, and they might like to keep track of how their favorite teams do this season. This statistical package will help 'splain why a favorite team shines, or for those of us in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area, why our favorite team sucks eggs. Hard boiled eggs.

Just sayin'.

p.s. The website is now just set up. It won't be updated on a regular basis until the first games are played.

The requirements of faith some were born with.

Bill Maher has a movie coming out called Religulous. Directed by Larry Charles, who also directed Borat, the idea is to let the camera record what religious people do and make them look like idiots. Wacky hilarity ensues!

I understand how Bill Maher feels, so I have some sympathy. I felt like he felt.

When I was twelve.

While he has something like the trademark on the phrase, if I could say something to his face, what I would say is "Get over yourself."

Some people in this country on both sides of the issue want to turn the debate about faith and doubt into a war. I'm an American, and so somewhere down in my cultural memory/DNA is the phrase Don't Tread On Me. That's how I feel about this topic. Whatever form my belief or lack of belief takes, I am most deeply interested in being left alone. If this were just a democracy, it could turn into a tyranny of the majority, and my views are not in the majority. But it is also a nation of laws, and in our supreme law, the Constitution, it says the government cannot make an official national religion. Thanks, Founding Fathers! Good thinkin', pals!

I made a good faith effort to join the faith when I was an adult. I did so with the help of my good friend Michael Dresbach, who was studying to become Padre Mickey back then. I was baptized when I was 36 and attended church regularly for several years. The glib answer I give to people who ask why I left the church is "too much unsupervised Bible study." The more honest answer is that outside of the Dresbach family, I met people few people in the church with whom I could actually say how I really felt.

I took the title of this post from a lyric by the very underappreciated band Madder Rose, a song called Mad Dog. I know this song because Padre Mickey turned me onto this band. My musical tastes would be a lot more vanilla if I didn't know the padre and his clan. His relationship with God is very different from mine, but that doesn't change the history we share and our long friendship.

When I say I felt like Bill Maher until I was twelve, I mean it literally. I had no use for the religious. The most devout folks I knew were cruel idiots, with the exception of some nice old ladies, but I knew non-religious nice old ladies, too. I distrusted people who told me they were religious. Then I discovered that Johann Sebastian Bach, my favorite classical composer, was very devout. That changed my view. Other historical people I admired were also religious, and of course, the civil rights movement had strong ties to the black churches. My own personal connection with the devout was still awkward, but that also changed over time.

Some people have made a hero out of Richard Dawkins, the excellent British evolutionary biologist and outspoken critic of faith. Maybe it's because I'm a Californian and a mathematician, but I have more respect for Donald Knuth. Knuth, now retired from Stanford, is the author of the now four volume classic textbook The Art of Computer Programming. Dr. Knuth is also a devout Lutheran and a deacon at his church. On his website, he lists his speaking engagements chronologically, and so a talk at a math conference will be followed by his next visit to the pulpit at his church, discussing Bible verses.

Some people consider me damned for eternity. I was offered the gift of eternal life and I refused it, in their view. I really do not give a fig what they think. There are requirements of faith that some were born with, and others were not. I know what feeling I should have in my heart to consider myself a Christian, and I know it isn't there. But I do not feel I a need to proselytize my lack of belief or the logical underpinnings of my doubts. I'm not going to buttonhole Padre Mickey or Dr. Knuth and bring them to the One True Path, because just as I have doubts about the nature of God and the universe, I have doubts about the One True Path, even the one I decided to travel on.

Here endeth the lesson.


Friday means Random 10!

King UB40
Valzer de Pupe Nino Rota
Roam The B-52s
Doctor Robert The Beatles
Crows in the Garden Rafael Boguslav
Mad Dog Madder Rose
I Shall Be Released The Band
Fell On Black Days Soundgarden
How Can I Sing Like A Girl? They Might Be Giants
Stupid Girl Garbage

I found a lot of live versions of these songs on the You Tubes and I have to say the tightest live band of this crowd is... Garbage! I don't have links to Madder Rose and the song whose lyrics gave me the title of this post, which is a damn shame. Also, no Nino Rota or Rafael Boguslav, which are two more darn shames. Soundgarden plays my favorite song they ever recorded, and just to keep with the religious theme, if we ever come to a "Jesus is back and boy, is he pissed!" moment in the future, Pissed Off Jesus is going to look a lot like Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lolz dog levels... dangerously low!

So I present this most cutest cute overload in over a month.

Giantesses in videos. UPDATED

As I wrote in a previous post, there have been movies this decade with cameo appearances by giant women, but over the past twenty years or so, the most common use of giantesses or shrunken men in mainstream media have been in commercials and music videos, which are really the same thing when you get down to it. Here's my Top Five list, from worst to first.

Number 5.

1994. Love Is Strong The Rolling Stones. I'm not that keen on this song, but the video has scenes of giant old geezers playing a tune while wandering around a New York City that is the home to giant hot young women. This song suffers from what my friend The Curator calls the penalty of Too Many Men On The Field.

Number 4.

1999. Miserable Lit. Again, I'm not in love with the song, but it does have a giant Pam Anderson letting the band wander around on her body, and she eats them at the end. Some of My People are really into the idea of being eaten alive, and this sub genre is called Vore. Others really like the idea of being crushed underfoot. Neither of these options is particularly appealing to me, but who am I to judge?

Oh, yeah, that's right, I'm Matty Boy, arbiter and 'splainer! I judge stuff on my blog all the time!

The special effects in this video are pretty good. It's hard to maintain the illusion of size difference with a moving camera, but that's what is done in a lot of the shots here. Like the Rolling Stones tune, this is here because of the video. The song I can take or leave.

Number 3.

1991 Do You Feel Like I Feel? Belinda Carlisle. Here's a video from the ex-Go Go's lead singer where she plays the giantess. Usually, the giant women in videos are hot chicks being exploited by the bands and/or record labels, but Belinda decided to go for it herself.

Belinda's post Go-Go career was heavy on the synth pop sound, and I like a tune like Vacation or We Got The Beat better than this, but this one does make the cut and ends up in third place.

Number 2.

2000 So Fresh, So Clean OutKast.

This is the only tune I own a copy of on this list. Unlike the other videos, the giant woman angle is only part of the story, a dream sequence of a giantess on a spaceship.

Number 1.

1998 She Will Have Her Way Neil Finn. This song and video by the songwriter from Split Enz and Crowded House uses footage from two of the classic (though not good) Giant Woman Movies of the 1950's, The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and The Thirty Foot Bride of Candy Rock. The second film starred Lou Costello without Bud Abbott. This video has more gentle giantess stuff, which is the stuff Matty Boy likes. Also, the tune is nice and catchy, so it gets the top position on this top five list.

Update: several of My People have stopped by to comment and mention other videos as well. There is a good one with Kylie Minogue which I mentioned last year, but of all the nominees, there is one I will add here as a bonus track.

Bonus track: I Love You (But I Don't Like You) Right Said Fred
The biggest hit from Right Said Fred was I'm Too Sexy, but the British band did keep recording, and their record company had enough money to put together videos with some production values, hoping the lads might capture lightning in a bottle again. The tune is nice enough, and I love the break when we have a chorus of whistlers carrying the tune. The model who plays the troublesome giantess is very pretty with a lovely smile and the interaction is nice and playful. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but this is one of my favorites and it was just an oversight that I didn't put in on the original list.

There have been other giantess videos since this time, but I don't watch MTV and VH-1 that much any more, so I haven't kept up.

Not watching videos? Could this be a sign that Matty Boy is finally growing up?

Oh, please, hypothetical question asker. I think it's pretty obvious that I have merely moved on to other ways of being immature.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My mom loves your blog!

Last weekend when I was away, minding my own bidness, Padre Mickey saw fit to give me a Kick Ass Blogger award. I like getting awards, but the part about giving out awards myself... not so much. It's kind of like playing favorites and I get enough of that at work. What I want is for my students to learn and what many of them want is to get a good grade. The two things aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but they are definitely different priorities.

So instead of me choosing people to give a Kick Ass Blogger award to, I talked to my mom about what blogs she makes part of her regular reading. All blogs mentioned here can consider themselves winners of the Kick Ass, which means you can add your name to the roll call at this website, and put the picture up top on your blog, if it fits in with your decor.

(p.s. This isn't my mom and I. This is a picture of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and his mum, taken before his eyebrows grew to the size of windshield wipers. Still, it was my favorite picture of a mom and her son I could find on the Internets given short notice.)

My Mom Loves Your Blog #1: Civic Center. My mom has excellent taste. Of all my blog buddies, sfmike is unique in his position as a skilled photojournalist. He writes about whatever he wants to write about, including the arts, local politics and the stuff that goes on in his neighborhood, the Civic Center of San Francisco, home of City Hall, the opera, the symphony and the ballet. I check in every day.

My Mom Loves Your Blog #2: Chez NamasteNancy. My mom's health has been a problem for several years, and she doesn't get out much. Still, she is a fine painter and almost always has a new canvas she is working on. She loves to see the art that NamasteNancy puts up on her blog and through links on her blog, which help inspire my mom in her work. Good stuff!

My Mom Loves Your Blog #3: (parenthetical). Of all my blog buddies, CDP is the one who almost always works without the net of a picture to go along with her text. She uses that stuff... oh, heck what's it called again? Oh yeah, prose. She paints pictures with prose. My mom asked me if she was a pro. I don't know, but I know she could be. Anyone who makes my blog a regular visit who doesn't do the same with (parenthetical) is making a mistake.

Also, it's one of the coolest names for a website evah!

My Mom Loves Your Blog #4: Padre Mickey's Dance Party. It's not like the Padre needs to be nominated for the Kick Ass Blogger Award, since he gave it to me after someone gave it to him. (Sounds like a study on infectious diseases, doesn't it?) But I thought he should know that my mom loves his blog. Like many of the Padre's readers, she is keen on the weekly segment known as Friday Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Gallito Mescalito Blogging, and she especially likes the song parody you can find by following the link.

So there are four Kick Ass blogs that also get the My Mom Loves Your Blog award. Let's count them off, shall we?

Uno... Dos... one-two-tres-CUATRO!

Watch it, now, watch it!

Wednesday Math, Vol. 35: The torus, or Asteroids meets Donuts

Some of my readers may remember the old vector graphics game Asteroids, a big arcade game hit for Atari back in the day, in the era after Pong but before Pac-Man. (Just to be clear, Pong was also an Atari game, but Pac-Man was produced by Namco.) In Asteroids, the screen "wrapped around", which meant that if you flew the spaceship off the left side of the screen, it reappeared on the right side and vice versa. Also, if you flew off the top, the ship would reappear on the bottom.

In a branch of mathematics called topology, a rectangle that is so connected is called a torus, and it can be thought of as the surface of a donut or an innertube. If I had a very bendy and sticky rectangle made of rubber, gluing the left side to the right would make an open ended cylinder, like the cardboard roll on which paper towels are wrapped. Now I would use the bendiness to connect the top to the bottom, and voilà, we have a torus, this shape with a hole in the middle. In topology, as in real life, the hole in the middle is a big deal, and a sphere is an object very different from a torus.

Being mathematicians, we can't leave well enough alone, and we technically call this a two dimensional torus, since we deal with the surface, which is two dimensional, though the shape takes up space in three dimensions. To think of a three dimensional torus, consider that you are in a rectangular solid of a room. If you could pass through the left wall, you would magically reappear on the right side of the room, and the front wall and back wall would also have the same magical connection. For the third dimension, you would also have the same property that you could pass through the floor feet first and come through the ceiling feet first. To be precise, when you do one of these magical passes through one surface and reappear on another, you should be the same distance away from the other surfaces you did not pass through. If you pass through the back wall four feet away from the left wall, you should still be four feet away from the left wall when you come through the front wall.

If that isn't confusing enough, how about a four dimensional torus? "No, Matty Boy, no!" I hear some of my patient readers scream. "Too much mathiness too early in the morning!" Well, let me at least try to 'splain, using a video game style diagram. Let's say we have a screen split into sixteen regions. If you use the joystick controller, you can move left and right and up and down in a single region, shown by the x in the second row and second column and the black arrows that surround it. To move to other regions, you press the "A" button and move the joystick, so now you move to the region that is up or down or left or right of the region you were in before, marked with the blue arrows. Without pressing the "A" button, you stay in a region and just "wrap around" that region Asteroids style.

This explanation shows why I am not still in the video game biz. I think like a 1980's programmer. I'm coming up with variations on themes thirty years old. Who knows, maybe thirty years from now, I will come up with a brilliant new concept based on Grand Theft Auto. I kind of doubt it, because I hate modern video games and almost never play them.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the land of Lawrence Welk and Ted Williams

The train ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego has some very nice scenery as well, though the passing scene is much more built up, especially through Los Angeles and Orange County. There was an incident on board this trip were someone was getting belligerent in the club car. I didn't see him up close and personal, but I did see a guy wearing no shirt taken away by the police, like some lack-of-dress rehearsal for an episode of Cops.

My friend Ken Rose, another science-y guy who acts as a fact checker on this blog, picked me up at the Oceanside train station, and we had dinner at a restaurant at the end of the nearby pier, where I was able to buy him one of the many beers I still owe him. The big news on the pier was that one of the many fishermen who drop their line off the side had caught a shark. I saw the shark. It fit it the palm of the fisherman's hand. The critter was still alive, although it was undergoing the tortuous agony known to fish as airboarding. The fisherman put his finger in the shark's mouth and down the little critter's gullet. The shark bit him. The shark wasn't strong enough to bite it off or anything, but it was painful and drew a little blood. So the shark got some small measure of revenge, though hardly in fair proportion.

We drove north from Oceanside to the Casa de Roses, where Ken and his wife Mishell live with their sons Nick and Nate. It's out on a country road, the nearest incorporated area being the small town of Falbrook. Besides two adolescent boys, the Roses also have several other almost domesticated critters, two outdoor dogs and three inside cats. The area around their house is kind of wild, so outdoor kittehs would be a very bad idea. I saw several coyotes from the window of the second story guest bedroom.

Two of the cats, TJ and Brain, behaved as cats should when confronted by an interloper, with mild curiosity greatly outweighed by disdain. But the third cat Houdini, a very handsome and friendly two year old orange cat (not actually pictured here), was more than happy to test the petting skills of the newcomer. With no false modesty, I has mad petting skillz. Houdini, or as he is known in the house 'Dini, jumped up on the guest bed and demanded affection. When I figured out just where on his head he liked to be scratched, 'Dini curled up next to me and began to purr in the oddest sound I have ever heard come out of a cat. For those of you familiar with outdoor hikes and bird sounds, 'Dini's purr is like the cooing sound of a dove. For my more nerdy readers, 'Dini sounds like a tribble. The orange cat is clearly beloved in the Rose household, but if any act of feline mischief is uncovered, Houdini is the prime, if not only, suspect.

On Sunday, Ken, Nick and I drove down to San Diego proper to visit Balboa Park. This drive takes us south, out of the sparsely populated area where the Roses live, past the Lawrence Welk Drive exit, past the Ted Williams Freeway (route 56) and into San Diego proper. There are many things to do in Balboa Park and we started at Nick's favorite, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. There are many rooms in the museum, and many different scale trains. Lionel has a room filled with their big scale trains, a whimsical little town with a Stegosaurus by the track and a shark in a model swimming pool. Nick's favorite area is the much more realistic small scale version of the train line from Bakersfield to Mojave. Nick works behind the scenes when his school schedule permits, so I got to see back stage, which was totally cool. There is a big generation gap among the enthusiasts. They are either a little older than I am or they are Nick's age or younger. They might bristle at the label, but I could see that though I didn't share their particular interest, I was among my nerd brethren.

The stretch of track shown here is a scale model of the Carrizo Gorge bridge, which in real life is east of San Diego, heading out towards Arizona, and so not part of the Bakersfield to Mojave line.

Nick stayed at the Railroad Museum for the afternoon, and Ken and I wandered Balboa Park. There's a small free museum called the Timken, and cheap bastids that we are, Ken and I stopped by. It doesn't have a lot of floor space, but I liked what they had on display. When was the last time you got to see a Rembrandt for free? They also had a nice collection of Russian iconography and a room devoted to 19th Century American painters. Very nice.

After more strolling and chatting, Ken and I stopped in at the Museum of Natural History. Were there dinosaur skeletons? Of course there were! If there weren't, as a fully deputized member of the nerd community, I would have been allowed to lodge a formal complaint.

There were lots of cool exhibits, but our favorite was the collection of photographic prints from the work of John Shelton, who made a coffee table book back in the 1960's of black and white aerial photographs of interesting geological formations in North America. Most of the ones shown on the wall in this exhibit were from the American West, including some from Mexico and Canada. Besides this great shot of Monument Valley, there were pictures of exposed limestone deposits, ancient lava flows, glaciers and the valleys created by receding glaciers, and of course several pictures of the Grand Canyon and some of the other cool things carved over time by the Colorado River.

On the floor above, there were artistic color photographic prints for sale, all large wall sized as well as large wallet sized. "I liked the photos on the floor below better." said Ken.

"Of course." I replied. "These are pretty. The others 'splain stuff."

We picked up Nick from the railroad museum at 5 pm and moseyed off to the greatest attraction of Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, which I always call The World Famous. I made my first trip there when I was a tiny tyke, and back then they had a living two headed king snake, which my five year old brain thought was probably the coolest thing in the world. The two headed is long since gone, but for old times sake I wanted to look around in the reptile house. We divided the creatures into three scientific categories.

Category 1. Would not make a nice pair of boots.
Category 2. Would make a nice pair of boots.
Category 3. Looks better on the critter.

This green viper has brilliant coloring, but we agreed he was definitely Category 3.

It was getting dark, but we still had a few hours to wander around. The pandas were sleepy, aren't they always? Still, the youngest of the pandas had climbed a tree and was pondering a very poorly thought out scheme to go farther out on a branch than appeared to be safe. Nothing untoward happened, but you get the idea that some day, this young fellow will discover how grabby grabbity can be. The polar bears were also tuckered out, but we did get a terrific show from an over caffeinated little antelope called a dik dik. (No dik dik jokes, please. Young people read my blog and they probably have already heard these jokes anyway.) The birds of prey were spectacularly large and the flamingos and spoonbills were lovely. There was a Rhinoceros Hornbill, who may get a starring role in a future episode of Dumbass Design.

I want to thank the entire Rose family for being my hosts in the land of Lawrence Welk and Ted Williams, which when you get near the airport is also the land of Charles Lindbergh. I had a great time wandering around your bio-region, and if time and money allow, I would be glad to come back again real soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In the land of Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez

Last Thursday, I boarded a bus in Oakland and started my all too brief Southern California vacation. The bus took me to San Luis Obispo, where I boarded an Amtrak train that hugged the coast on a ride down to Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara where my buddy Alan Ponder lives. Goleta is the home of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and possesses a lovely beach and some spectacular views from the high ground ridges common in the area.

Alan is one of the several readers of my blog more science-y than I am, and acts as a fact checker for no monetary gain, a situation for which I am abundantly grateful. He was also my host in Santa Barbara, so my debt of gratitude is growing even greater.

While the calm harbor of Santa Barbara is a lovely city in its own right, the inland Santa Ynez Valley can also boast spectacular beauties of its own, such as the Cold Spring Arch Bridge. If I had a digital camera and even a sliver of the photographic talent of my blog buddy sfmike, I would have my own pictures from my trip, but since I have neither I must use pictures from the Internets. The eastern boundary of the Santa Ynez valley is the Coastal Mountain range, which is tall and rocky and craggy compared to the rolling hills of the same range I see every day in the Bay Area, but inside the valley are little foothills that are round and soft, and covered in lovely geometric patterns of vineyards, orchards and the occasional field of flowers. It is nearly impossibly picturesque.

In the heart of this lovely locale is the town of Solvang, which proudly proclaims the Danish ancestry of it founders. Solvang is the kind of place that gives "tourist trap" a good name. Alan and I walked around for several hours, but we only laid our money down in the bakery, where I naturally had to get a danish, and at a chocolate shop. This was money exceedingly well spent. Any non-diabetic visitor to the Santa Barbara area cheats themselves without cause if they fail to visit Solvang.

After snacks in Solvang, we went to a wine tasting room in Los Olivos, a town made more famous by the recent independent movie about wine lovers called Sideways. After visiting one of the wine tasting rooms - and honest to Lenny, we only visited one - we had lunch at a cafe that gave a suggested wine with the sandwich I ordered. I didn't take this picture, but this is very close to the table where Alan and I sat. I also ordered a red wine, which adds to the realism in this picture which I again must say I didn't take.

That was a very good lunch.

Friday evening, we wandered along State Street, a several block stretch of downtown Santa Barbara with numerous shops, restaurants, movie houses and bars, not unlike Shattuck in Berkeley, but with a lot less panhandlers. There was even a boardgame store, which I wandered into just as a browser, but was happy to see a good selection of recent German board games. I chatted with the owner, a very friendly and knowledgeable fellow with a British Isles accent that might have been Scottish. "When I saw where your eyes were scanning, I knew you were a nerd." He said to me. I took this as a compliment.

We had a bite to eat and finished the evening in a pub where we watched some Olympic coverage, including the phenomenal Michael Phelps, and more to my taste, the excellent athlete and sa-mokin' hawt American softball pitcher Jenny Finch. I know that at my age, I would have no chance to hit her fastball unless I bunted, but I honestly don't think I could hit a pitch of hers if she rolled it up to the plate. My eye would not be on the ball.

After a breakfast Saturday morning with Alan and his brother Stuart, Alan and I wandered the Santa Barbara beachfront for a few hours. Alan waited at the train station with me for my afternoon ride down the coast to San Diego, and he repeated a line of John Rhys-Davies from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a line Alan first said to me many years ago when I visited him in Macon, Georgia when we first met.

"Already I am missing you, my friend."

I know the feeling. Thanks for being my host, buddy. I'll never forget this trip.