Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Sunday, 2020.07.12
Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.



The Culture Of Pure Fantasy

Bad enough we have Senator Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska) exposing his profound ignorance by claiming the Internet is “a series of tubes“. Now we are blessed with Representative David Wu (Democrat, Oregon) spelling out the difference between “real” and “fake” Klingons for us:

Fantasy, my friends. Scary, scary fantasy. These guys wouldn’t know a terrorist if it blew up in their face.

[Edit History]


Something about this video really bugged me, but didn’t put my finger on it until last night. Rep. Wu is reading from a prepared statement. He actually thought this through, if you could call it that. When you put your ideas to paper, actually write them down, you give them their first audience and from there you begin to think about a wider audience. Good writers consider how their ideas may be perceived and what the audience reaction might be. Good writers seek to provoke the reaction they originally intended – outrage, humor, debate, edification, etc. So Rep. Wu is either a brilliant orator and knew his congressional audience will enough to craft his SiFi message or he is an idiot.


“Natural” – The New “New And Improved!”

I’m not surprised the marketing mavens interested in pushing as much bilge water and the like at the least possible cost for the highest possible price would slap the word “Natural” on their products:

Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal shelter and advocacy organization today criticized the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “natural” label as misleading and meaningless. The organization submitted comments to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA opposing the “natural” label on products from animals raised on industrialized factory farms or “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.”

People want to trust the producers of their food stuff and are easily assuaged by soft, fluffy and friendly words like “Natural”, “Wholesome” and “Enriched”. The producers know this and exploit it to maximize profits.

A nationwide Zogby International poll of 1,013 likely voters, conducted from January 5 through January 9, 2007, found that 73 percent consider it “inappropriate” to label meat, milk or eggs from animals kept confined indoors, crowded in cages, and standing on metal or concrete floors as “natural.” In addition, the poll showed that consumers prefer to purchase foods labeled as “natural” over those without such a label.

Well, “Fie!” to the likely voters. The large food factories think such ways of treating animals so as to maximizes profits is quite natural. It must be, after all, consumers keep buying without complaint or apparent concern. All’s well in the all natural market economy. So naturally, they put “natural” on the packaging. Thing is, they’re not to be faulted. They’re doing what large businesses do. They are doing what the market (that just might include you) demands.

Words like “natural” are highly subjective nominalizations. It means to consumers what they want it to mean. Many consumers may not care if their food was “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.” Maybe all they want to know is that it’s carbon based and, like the famous Powdermilk Biscuits, good for them mostly. So the word “natural” on the package will give the consumer a warm fuzzy about buying the product. And unless the word “enriched” is followed by the word “uranium”, that one is likely to make them feel like the food producer really cares about them.

What’s a consumer to do? More laws that end up being gutted or ignored? I think the better approach is to express yourself by where you put your dollars. Read beyond the label and make more informed choices about the food you buy. Read Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food”, as a start. It’s not hard and actually not much more expensive. Certainly not when you factor in the long term issues of better health and attitude. Demanding and seeking better quality food is less expensive in the long run. But it’s a choice you have to make and a responsibility you have to take.


A Dog Needs A Dog

Somewhere buried in this new techo-widget I got several weeks back, beneath the MP3 player, the still camera, the video camera, the web browser, games and the manual only knows what else, there is a phone. Once I figured out how that worked the rest became so much cruft to be ignored. A few days back, an almost need arose for a camera in an unanticipated situation. So it was time to learn how the camera feature worked. Pretty simple and the quality was better than I expected. Here’s the old lady:

Jasmine 1Jasmine 2

Since Mac Duff’s departure, Jasmine has been slowly sinking. She’s a fabulous companion for me, but alas I’m wholly unqualified to be a good dog. On walks where we encountered other dogs, Jaz would light up. Clearly, she needs a companion dog. It doesn’t help that most of the sidewalks around here are pretty much buried under ice and snow. That makes it difficult to walk a small dog, especially and old, slightly arthritic one. Hence the search began more than a month ago for a buddy to Jasmine. Happy to say, it looks like I have one lined up.

The criteria were fairly straightforward. No large dogs and no nano dogs. Most of my experience is with terriers so to minimize the learning curve as well as insure the greatest compatibility with Jasmine, my skills and the house/yard configuration, the choice came down to either a Silky terrier, a Cairn terrier or a West Highland terrier.

I looked at all the rescue organizations for each of the breeds, but the wait was too long or the expense was too great once travel/transport was factored in. Some of the dogs also had behavior problems which would not have worked with the combination of Jasmine’s age and me not being able to be at the house 24/7. A puppy would be easier to work with in this regard, but they rarely show up on the rescue dog circuit – at least not for the breeds I was looking for.

So the next option was to look for a breeder. I looked at quite a few. Some had rather…um….extensive requirements and made adopting a child look like shopping at Wal-Babies. Agree to unannounced visits for the life of the animal? I don’t think so. First right of refusal for the life of the animal if I have to give it up? Nope, not after I paid for air transport. I want breeders to work to place their animals in good homes and I expect some level of checking. But once I’ve been cleared, the deal is done and I start carrying the bills, the breeder should be out of the picture except for any guarantees they may have offered.

I have found a dog breeder with whom I am comfortable doing business. I won’t mention the breeder until the puppy is home and settled, but so far so good. For a Silky or a Cairn, there would have been the added expense of air travel. But a Westie breeder with several recent litters was found within a few days drive. Close enough I can bring Jasmine along for the road trip. Around mid February, I’ll have my pick from two of the following three female puppies (shown at 3 weeks):

Trio - 3 weeks

Hmmmmmm. What to name the puppy…


Blog Haiku #12

Without a pen
the keyboard
scribbles upon the blogosphere.


The Duke 88 Nifong Themselves

Cathy Davidson of the Duke 88:

On the other hand, most of my e-mail comes from right-wing “blog hooligans.” These hateful, ranting and sometimes even threatening folks don’t care about Duke or the lacrosse players. Their aim is to make academics and liberals look ridiculous and uncaring.

I suppose posting this makes me a “blog hooligan” in the tiny mind of Ms. Davidson merely because I posted this post dissenting from her narrow little hypocritical rant. Ah well, little worlds, little worlds, little worlds…

My aim is not “to make academics and liberals look ridiculous and uncaring.” Rather, to point out that it is the Duke 88’s very behavior which makes them look ridiculous and uncaring. That would be the behavior which the Duke 88 thought up, which they committed and from which Ms. Davidson is now going to shrill strains to abrogate responsibility. It appears, for Ms. Davidson and possibly the rest of the Duke 88, this is more about their personal social agenda and not about the presumed innocence of the accused regardless their color.

The ad we signed explicitly was not addressed to the police investigation or the rape allegations. The ad focused on racial and gender attitudes all too evident in the weeks after March 13. It decried prejudice and inequality in the society at large. “It isn’t just Duke, it isn’t everybody, and it isn’t just individuals making this disaster,” the ad insisted.

Ms. Davidson and the Duke 88 cannot separate their exploitation of the Duke rape case for their own purposes that easily. If they are not for the presumed innocence of the accused and due process, then the “prejudice and inequality in the society at large” that has them fretting will be the prevailing character of society. Luckily for Ms. Davidson and the rest of the Duke 88, I will presume their innocence as well as their naiveté and lack of depth.

The Duke 88 have embarrassed themselves and they lack the humility to acknowledge that fact. This isn’t the Emperor without clothes. It’s the Emperor who’s underwear is showing.

[Sidebar: Ever since the Duke 88 came to light, I cannot help but envision some goofy team of whatnots along the lines of the Crazy 88’s from Kill Bill.]

[Edit History]


La Shawn Barber has the depth.


As does KC Johnson.


The Helping Hand

Normally, when eating an orange, I like to carefully peel the skin away and enjoy each perfectly portioned slice. Such was the goal when I sat down this evening to cruise a few favorite blogs and catch up on what’s been happening. What I happened to be reading as I started peeling the orange caused one of those nanosecond wince-flinches that resulted in the orange being torn near in half.


It brought forward some painful memories. I was reading one of Cathy Seipp’s posts in which she mentions a few of the ways people have endeavored to “help” her, but which have caused her to bite her tongue.

Since several years before Janet’s death, I’ve been taking notes on how a person might be helpful to someone fighting a life threating disease or injury. This will eventually be part of the book I’m writing to compliment Janet’s book. I do believe everyone means well, but for a variety of reasons, how they express their desire to help often ends up being…well, not very helpful. I made note of some to the goofy things people did in the name of “helping” as well as those things which others did that were exquisitely, even elegantly helpful. Inspired by Cathy’s post, I’d like to share a few of those notes here.

What you offer to do should save the person you are helping their most precious commodity: time. Time to spend how they see fit – alone, with family, friends – not necessarily you. If you are genuinely helpful, it will be appreciated if not always acknowledged, particularly if the one you are helping is in pain.

Think before you do. Is your help really helping? It may make you feel good to spontaneously empty the dishwasher. But when the person you were trying to help has to spend the equivalent amount of time looking for the potato peeler you stashed in a seemly logical place on the other side of the kitchen from where it normally lives, you have not helped. Worse, you have cost them valuable time and left them aggravated.

This leads to the notion of helping in a consistent manner. If the person takes the time to show you where things belong when unloading the dishwasher, then be the dishwasher helper person. Own that chore and do it consistently. The more you can be transparent in your help, the more helpful you actually are. Trust me, this will be noticed and greatly appreciated.

Do some of the unpleasant chores, like empty the trash or clean a bathroom. When ever Janet was feeling particularly bad, there was no want for people willing to rub her feet, massage her hands, read her stories and such – all things I wanted to do because they were enjoyable, things we did normally together and, most importantly, time spent with Janet. Not once did anyone ever pick up a clue and offer to pick up the dog shit in the backyard. No special skills needed for that one. There were a couple of offers to weed Janet’s rose garden. One actually followed through, the other bailed when Janet died before the promised weeding date. Er, that was helpful.

Cooking is a risky way to help someone who is ill. If you are unfamiliar with the ill person’s dietary needs, it’s almost guaranteed to be a miss. (H/T to friends Angie and Bruce who pulled this one off with perfection. But then again, they are each skilled in the ways of paying attention to the details.) If you must, bring canned or otherwise non-perishable food (i.e. it can be kept in a box in the basement for 5 years.) And make sure what you bring is high quality. It may be fancy for your tastes, but show you care enough to see they are eating good when they feel like eating. That 5 pound can of Ol’ Slim’s Genuine Campfire Stew from Costco says “doorstop” and not “I care.” Go ahead and visit that high floutin’ organic food store and buy some quality soups.

Offer to help only in ways you can complete. Leaving a chore half done is most often worse than having never started it. This also implies offering to help only with things for which you are qualified. If you think the Internet is made of tubes, keep your hands off anything electronic. If your experience with cooking doesn’t go much beyond vending machines and a can opener, stay out of the kitchen. And even if you are qualified to practice medicine, perform an aura balancing, read tea leaves, preach the gospel or exercise The Devil, keep your yap shut unless the person you wish to help specifically asks for your help in this regard. It’s near certain you will upset them on some level, even though they may be polite to your face.

If they do ask for help, be attentive to when they have had enough of what you are offering. Tune your senses to recognize when they are tired or increasingly uncomfortable. Then look for other ways to help that get you out of the way. Running errands is a good way to help. You are saving the person time and energy while staying out of their way.

That’s about it for now. Rule of Thumb: If how you are contemplating helping has you feeling a nagging sense of uncomfortable doubt, it’s best to reconsider and cast around for another, simpler way to help. “Thinking of you” cards with a personal note are a good thing.

So this post is for you, Cathy Siepp. Thinking of you and hope this helps.


2007 – Let’s Light This Candle

For the past two years I’ve had my own private Festival of Lights on the eve’s of Christmas and the New Year. That makes it a tradition. And it’s one of my own making. Building a new life, it turns out, rests on paying attention to the little things and building from there. Here are a few pictures from last night’s festival. In all, there were 68 candles this year. There were more last year, but this year I hadn’t bothered to find lamp oil for the oil candles. The music for the hours leading up to midnight: Eva Cassidy and Keola Beamer.

Table Center Piece

The tree is lit by magical Festival of Lights fairies. Either that or electricity, I can never remember which.


Music and candlelight. Together, they make something much more than just the parts.


Even the bearded lady shows well in candlelight. About as well as she does in bright sunlight.


The wine was a bottle of a favorite I’d been holding for a while – Turnbull Merlot, 2003. It was excellent.

Turnbull Merlot

All set, the evening was spent thinking, remembering, planning and writing. I’m ready for 2007.


Blog Haiku #11

Silent blogosphere.
A blogger posts.
Sound of nothing.


Ding, Dong The…What Ever It Was Is Dead

Not sure I can say I’m glad Saddam Hussein is dead (executed by hanging) and yet be against death penalties, but I don’t see any other way this could have played out. Perhaps “glad” isn’t the word. It’s not what I feel. It’s more like a resolved sense of relief. Executing him puts him in a position to be martyred by the zealots who still follow him. Yet, allowing him to live would have allowed him to continue spewing his twisted beliefs about leadership. Given how life seems to be so cheap in that part of the world, had he been allowed to live, I could see a path to a day where Saddam Hussein might be released either because the fragile Iraqi democracy failed or he was “rescued” in some fashion. Ringing the bastard’s neck has certainly erased that possibility.

In a perfect world, he would be incarcerated at Supermax under 24/7, 8 X 8 isolation – no fresh air, no blue sky, nothing but concrete walls and a toilet. Just see that he has air and three square meals a day and leave him to his thoughts. No interviews, no letters, no access to the prison library, no knowledge of the outside world. In such a place, he wouldn’t have been a martyr and he wouldn’t ever be free to work his malice unless the very roots of democracy were dead. If that were to happen, it wouldn’t really matter whether Saddam Hussein was alive or dead.

All this is speculation and what-if’s. He’s dead. The little minds will clutch onto the speculation, what-if’s and what was. Those of true greatness will learn the lessons and move forward. Time has yet to show us what is in the Iraqi national heart.

[Edit History]


More reactions which echo my sentiments from See-Dubya (guest blogging on Hot Air) and Andy McCarthy (The Corner on National Review Online).

Also, edited grammar for clarity.

Geesh. Judging by the reaction from the unhinged Left and MSM, Saddam Hussein’s sentence should have followed these guidelines.


Colorado Winter

A second sizable blast of winter arrived today and Jasmine was wearing the storm’s vanguard late yesterday afternoon. Being a Scottish breed, she is built for cold weather.


So far, the chimes still sing, but the drift is building. There is less wind this go around.

Chimes VI

And for Buddha, nothing special…

Winter Buddha V

This is how I remember the winters of my youth – lots of snow and cold.


The Donald vs. Rosie

Pretty simple, actually. Bad hair vs…well, vs. bad everything else.


Kill. Worship. Repeat.

This is about as subtle as a pig farm in June (H/T: Classical Values):

Fundamentalist Islamists in Gaza have begun a campaign of bombing and arson against Internet cafes, pharmacies and pool halls.

A group calling itself the Swords of Islamic Righteousness issued a statement claiming responsibility for some of the attacks, denouncing Western, immoral behavior, such as unveiled women and loud music, a Times of London correspondent reported.

The group said it would continue “shooting rocket-propelled grenades and planting bombs at Internet cafes in Gaza, which are trying to make a whole generation preoccupied with matters other than jihad and worship.”

It’s pretty clear. But lets repeat it. Now, put down that Pinot Noir and paté laden cracker and listen closely: “…preoccupied with matters other than jihad and worship.”

No sense in picking up that wine and liver now. If you do, they’ll want you dead. If you aren’t busy worshiping or killing those who are not worshiping and killing, then what good are you? You’ll have to be killed. No compromise. No placating. No bargaining. No freedom. In fact, just make the word “No!” the lead word in all your self-talk. No!

The moderate Islamists might say it’s just an insignificant extreme faction promulgating this position. But the moderates are not speaking up because, duh, they’ll be killed for doing something other than worshiping and killing. Which means they’re not moderates at all.

Qui tacet consentit.


Crap For Tots

NBC affiliate AZ Central had a news bit about an apparent down-and-out mom complaining about the quality of the toys her children received from the Toys for Tots program The piece was rather condescending, perhaps even a bit mean spirited, in my opinion. Actually, it was down right snarky.

Talking Head One at the end of the piece accentuates: “Toys for Tots say they gave out 28,000 gifts in Flagstaff this year and only received…twocomplaints….I don’t know what to say about that one.”

Talking Head Two: Yeah.

I know what to say. Two complaints for 28,000 toys doesn’t mean what the Talking Head thinks. That doesn’t translate to near pure satisfaction among the recipients. I would say it is likely that the parents who suffered the humiliation of having made the decision to partake of charity, such as the Toys for Tots program, at this time of year particularly, would more than likely not compound that humiliation by complaining about what they received. I would venture there were others similarly disappointed as was “Jessie” in the news bite. It’s just that they didn’t speak up.

Where did they find “Jessie?” Did she come forward or did the news channel seek her out? Either way, I’d agree with Jessie. What she got was crap while the hand offering the gift was promising something better. The attitude of the well paid Talking Heads, as well as the prevailing sentiment in a thread on the news bit over at Hot Air, is that she’ll take her gruel and damn well better like it.

Wow. She’s returning the toys and going to buy her own. So, why didn’t she buy her own in the first place?

This says more about the Toys for Tots program than it does about Jessie. Is their program so shoddy that a down-and-out mom would rather scrape to find her own presents than accept the junk dispensed by Toys for Tots? To their credit, Toys for Tots will exchange gifts if a parent chooses. But again, what parent would choose to endure the same humilation twice? Perhaps they think all the toys are of such quality and an exchange would be meaningless. We’re not told by the Talking Head how many of the 28,000 gifts were exchanged.

My take on listening to Jessie is not that she’s complaining for herself but for her children. Working on the assumption that her children would receive something worth about $10 (still a paltry sum in today’s market), she likely didn’t shop for gifts. Now, at the 11th hour, she has to deal with the disappointment of her children. Speaking from experience, some free “gifts”, like free advice, do more harm than good.

I don’t know how the Toys for Tots program works exactly, but it seems to be a bit of a roll of the dice on what you get. Will it be age or even gender appropriate? What prevents the parents from knowing what is in the package? It would likely make for better matches between gift and child.

And what of the donor? If the value if the gift is supposed to be around $10, what the hell were they thinking by tossing $1 gifts in the donation bin? And why did the Toys for Tots volunteers event bother wrapping them when they could plainly see the value was a paltry 97¢? May the donor receive 97¢ worth of coal this Christmas.


Blog Haiku #10

The light of 68 candles
Warms the room.
But not the heart.


Free To Sing Again…

Chimes V

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