Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Disaster Relief

Do what you can to help the helpless. National, state, and local charitable agencies need cash donations as they prepare for what will doubtless be a long and difficult relief period. Here's some of the better ones:

American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

Catholic Charities, USA: www.catholiccharitiesusa.org

Salvation Army: www.salvationarmy.org

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: www.pcusa.org/pda

Watch out for scams. You can check the veracity of non-profits and charities by directing your browser here.

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- but how's Brett Favre holding up?

Hurricane schmurricane. It's football time again, fellow red-blooded Americans, and there's some pressing questions being asked in the news media; namely: How's Brett Favre's family doing? The Louisiana Tech grad's folks were mercilessly targeted by Hurricane Katrina when the storm swept through three Gulf Shore states the past few days, but word has come in ... and they're fine. Kudos to the print and TV media for covering this whopper of a story.

In other newsbites -- New Orleans is a hellscape of early-'80s Salvadoran proportions. Mahalo.

John DeFazio


I just can't get enough of this Picture

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fowl-mouthed

I know. You're thinking, I'm on the fence here: On the one hand, I love fast-food chicken parts lightly breaded and squeezed like toothpaste into french-fry molds until they've lost both the taste and shape of earthly nourishment ... but can I possibly pay for these without benefit of a creepy ad campaign featuring a moronic blowjob gag? Well, put aside those fears, hypocrite reader, because the people who brought you this and also this now present this.

Burger King had fallen on some hard times before hiring its latest ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, to market its digusting hamburgers. The fast-food dollars were flowing to rival McDonald's, especially in the crucially lucrative breakfast sandwich market. Wendy's was scoring big with their "dollar menu" and late-night drive-through service. Even my mom was giving the King a run for his money. So BK did what any self-respecting restaurant would do when faced with such a daunting uphill battle. Did they lower prices? Expand menu choices to grab a new customer niche? How about combating the "super-size" fad with healthful salads and low-fat sandwiches? Nah, they said. Instead we'll just dress up grown men in shoulder pads and chicken masks and have them jam McNugget-like meat sticks into the mouths of febrile blondes, all to a rockin' hair-metal soundtrack! There's been some controversy surrounding the "content" of coqroq.com, of course, which Burger King has acknowledged and agreed to change. (Something to do with the Web site's photo gallery section.) They're even being sued by a crappy, over-the-hill nu-metal circus act.

But you know what? Business will probably be great for Burger King. The word-of-mouth campaign impelled this site to do exactly what it was intended to do: annoy us to the point of recognition. Not-so-heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Visions of Dorothy



"The New Sheriff's a ________"

So the Blazing Saddles quote doesnt work for this... but I like it.

Sheriff Pete DeFazio is a dirt bag. That anyone is surprised this scion of the old Democratic Party is being targeted in a federal probe is laughable... its only a matter of time with these people. Thank God County Council's Tammany Democrats are bent on preserving DeFazio's completely redundant and unnecessary job... Otherwise, citizens wouldnt get the opportunity to see an elected official strutting about in self-styled military regalia like a Bolivian Dictator in heat, and no one would be around to teach 4 year olds how to safely ride a bicycle for $80k/year.

Best part of the story wasn't the fact that Capt. Frank Schiralli ordered Sheriff's deputies to work in his lawn on the county dime... though that bit of hubris was delicious, the all-pervasive curruption that insulated the Sheriff is the most grotesque part of the story. Union Lawyer Joe Chester promising to find out, "...who the snitches are," rooting out those in the Sheriff's office ratting on DeFazio. Yeah, those are the people the Union is supposed to protect.

Good thing Pete can lean on his big (in size) brother Jumpin Joe, a high-ranking member of the Steelworkers Union and member of County Council. Not only does he safeguard his brother from Council's votes, but he smothers any dissent from the union using his high position there. When his powerful positions arent enough, Joe vaporizes his opponents with his super laser goggles.

Though County Democrats promise to block any move to rid us of Pete DeFazio, the Fed might do the job for us. What sweet justice that will be, when the Sheriff is led off to jail by his own deputies.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Reasons You Know CMU is Back In Session

The following tee shirts have made their annual appearance in the East End, ushering in the Fall of Despair for CMU's crop of freshmen:

Front: "MIT Was My First Choice"
Back: "Byte Me, CMU"

Front: "What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?"
Back: "I don't know and I don't care."

Front: "My shirt is an infinite loop"
Back: "My shirt is an infinite loop"

Next Stop, Selma Avenue at Bergen Belsen

When PAT moved to extend the East Busway across Braddock Avenue into Edgewood, residents of this affluent East End neighborhood took up arms. Edgewood residents wanted light rail, and justifiably so. Light rail in Pittsburgh is significantly cleaner, faster and smoother than any PAT bus, and today's Edgewood riders bouncing along the Busway with a seat spring up their ass would have happily waited for the upgrade. But Mike Seate, columnist for the Tribune Review, saw a more nefarious plot behind Edgewood's protests. Edgewood residents didn't want the East Busway's predominantly black ridership into the neighborhood, theorized Seate in 2002. Had he only waited, he would have seen what real transit-racism looks like.

Residents of posh, URA financed Summerset at Frick Park development are fighting ANY busses in their neighborhood, even if it is just an extention of the 61C. Summerset at Frick, which by design is completely insulated from the violent ghettos of Jewish grandmothers and CMU students in Squirrel Hill, wants nothing to do with being a real city neighborhood. The differences between the arguments against busses in Summerset and calls for light rail in Edgewood are starkly Black and White:

"Our children like to play in the streets, they'll get hit by busses full of black people," screamed a concerned mother. "And no one can answer to me what happens then when one of Them jumps out and offers to help?"

When PAT officials tried to show that public transit offers options to every member of society, residents were quick to respond. "One of the small pleasures in having a maid is driving past her as she walks home at night in a driving snow," offered E. Pritchard Gaul Esq., formerly of Wexford-upon-Thyne. The crowd nodded in agreement.

Mike Seate, who irresponsibly discounted Edgewood's demands for light rail, can finally bite into some real red meat. If there were ever a time to paint a racist as a racist, especially a racist living in a subdivision financed by millions of dollars of City funds, now is that time.

Move it or lose it

Will my roommates and I fight over the dishes and the paintings on the wall and end up angry and aggressive? Will Celanie find a nice journalism grad student and leave me to my sleazy world of advertising and booze?

I spent most of this weekend in Ohio, or on my way there. It's finally getting to that time where Celanie and I pack up the remainder of our crap, and sojourn to our respective haunts for the next year. Grad school for her, more work for me, but now living with my buddies. How will it all turn out?

It's bittersweet to leave the shoebox we've shared for the last couple of years. With an inch of grime covering every surface and the tangled remnants of our belongings scattered about, it's not the kind of place you want to visit right now. We sat perched on the edge of the bed last night to eat our dinner. It was either that or we would have each had to pick a pile of clothes and hangers to sit on. But though we are "movin' on up," each to a bigger house, we are moving apart for a year. Which sucks.

In the coming week, I have to deal with the end of the month at work, buy a bed, organize my room, do some laundry, and a host of other little things. Will I organize my books? Will I go meet up with Mr. Turian and recover whichever belongings of mine he had? Will I buy a new wallet to replace the old one? The world is my mussel.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday Porn: Bollywood Edition

India's great: fabulous food; hot broads; and an enormous, publicly-unverified nuclear stockpile. They also have a vigorous movie industry, churning out hundreds of films every year. Somebody's gotta star in these pieces of garbage, right? That's where Bollywood actresses like Bipasha Basu come in. She's a big draw in the south Asian nation, and her popularity, like many of her fellow Bollywood stars, is starting to rub off here in the United States. Also, she's apparently a huge Phillies fan.

Oh, and don't think we forgot about you, ladies! Here's Suneil Shetty flexing for the cameras after winning the Fourth Annual Arm-Hair Pro-Am earlier this week. So open your mind and expand your tastes by checking out some Bollywood films at your local independent theater or video store. Or go watch The Dukes of Hazzard for the eighth time with your boring friend from work. Whatever.

Cannibalism and the City's Budget Deficit

Gene Riccardi, who is fleeing a contentious City Council to adjudicate drunk & disorderly conduct citations as a South Side Magistrate, proposed a bill that would require non-profits to donate $5 Million annually to the city's coffers. The argument goes 'these institutions use city services, they should pay for them.' A tax by any other name is still a tax, Riccardi, and this one is going to get shot down.

The saddest part is that this conversation is even happening. Non-profit institutions like hospitals and universities provide a multitude of benefits to the region without cost: free healthcare for the indigent, for-profit spin-off employers, thousands of students and employees that enliven the city's business districts and keep young people local... the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, for as much as these institutions do for the REGION, the CITY is required to pick up the tab. As tight-wad suburban districts thumb their noses at the city's budget crisis, the starved city is left with little recourse but to turn on its own best assets.

When rats begin to run short on food, larger rats kill and eat the smaller ones. It seems like on the eve of his departure, Riccardi has quite the appetite.

Not off to a good start

I just rolled into work today, running a little slow, but at least not late. I spent an inordinate amount of time this morning looking for my wallet, which never turned up,, so Celanie has kindly agreed to pick me up, and I'll have to bum lunch off Russell or another of my unsuspecting co-workers. You'd think I would be able to keep track of my wallet, living in an efficiency, but alas that is not the case.

My morning has also been brought down by a couple of other factors, not the least of which is being to fat to fit inside the first suit I picked to wear. With Atkins in bankruptcy, and the whole country falling over each other to have heart attacks, I'm going to have to come up with a better solution to my girth dilemma that is spiraling out of control. These pants I have on are pretty tight themselves in the thighs.

And then there's the pile of emails waiting for me in my inbox, which is going to cut this post off in about 5 seconds. I will be happy when I can leave today, go put on some clothes that fit just right, and watch the Simpsons with Celanie. And then it's off to Ohio to take some of her stuff there.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

This legislative payraise thing has got some serious legs. The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Allentown Morning Call and Pittsburgh Post Gazette just arent letting it die. Week after week, column after column, Brian O'Neill, Bill White, Ted Williams and John Grogan turn the big guns towards the Cesspool on the Susquehanna. Keep in mind, these are just columnists. This doesnt even take into account the daily news stories: the comical interviews with DeWeese & Veon, the pathetic legislative press releases justifying their raise, comparisions to cheaper, effective legislatures in other states, and the daily litany of state legislators who got religion and repented their payraise.

Pennsy's big presses are ensuring this debacle won't soon be forgotten...

John Grogan of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Brian O'Neill of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Bill White & Ted Williams of the Allentown Morning Call.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who Would Jesus Assassinate?

Christian funnyman and foreign-affairs expert Pat Robertson, who on Monday called for the death-squad targeting of Hugo Chavez, issued a heartfelt non-apology today following calls that he should probably stop saying insane stuff like this.

Robertson's ridiculous urging that the US get back into the assassination business joins conservative radio hack Michael Graham's labeling of Islam as a "terrorist organization" as the two stupidest things said this week. But, hey, it's still only hump day, right? Maybe we'll all get lucky and Michael Savage will allege that FDR was just too lazy to walk or something. Here's hopin'!

The Bitch is Back

Well folks, Maureen Dowd is back from vacation.

Synposis of today's Dowdy column:

"I'm angry. Not so biting remark. Not so witty allusion. Texas. OUTRAGE! Bush."

Tossing fitfully about atop a stack of 16 goose-down mattresses, sipping her Diet 7-UP from a golden chalace through a bright pink twistie straw, Dowd had some fire to throw. Agonizing over Bush being out of touch with the common man, and her spotty complexion which shows up so clearly on the NYT website, Dowd unleashed her fury! Even her pigmy slave Toto, strutting about on her sore back in his fancy new pearl-studded collar, couldnt quell this RAGE. Her gigantic feather quill furiously flashing across the page before her, she... she... DAMNIT! She broke a nail.

The Main Issue on the Main Line

SEPTA's R-5 rumbles through West Philadelphia at a healthy clip, carrying its affluent passengers to and fro from Center City to the famed "Main Line" neighborhoods bordering her tracks. Developed in the 1910's and 1920's, the red brick and granite homes, interspersed with golf clubs, horse farms and the lush campuses of exclusive colleges, exude wealth. Ardmore, a small town center that grew up around a train station on the Main Line, features tidy streets of cute boutiques and restaurants. With a median income of $61k, and a median age of 38 yrs, Ardmore is significantly wealthier and younger than most... a BoBo paradise.

So how does Lower Merion Township get off declaring a large swath of the business district 'Blighted,' a legal precondition for using eminent domain. The Economist points out just how ridiculous Kelo V. New London can be in light of Lower Merion's heavy handed decision to simply send out eviction notices in absence of any form of public process, or even warning. In essence... "its a bitch folks, but our vision for your property is better than your vision."

That an arrogant government is convinced it can design a higher and better use for an already successful business district is an old and painful tale: reference 1960's East Liberty. What should concern people is the open-ended power of that arrogant government to declare what it wants "Blighted," be it a tidy business district or a farmfield along Route 28. The Blighted designation opens a war-chest of financing tools, legal exemptions and expanded government powers that are unduly brought to bear in the name of 'Progress.' Sadly enough, 'Progress' is as poorly defined as 'Blighted.' Lower Merion sets its sights on a tidy historic business district based on a little chipped paint and a low-brow Chinese buffet. Allegheny County provides tax increment financing for a new mall on a 'blighted' farmfield, called so because of one bad crop of alfalfa in 1984.

If one follows the money, the primary beneficiary of 'Progress' isnt Joe Taxpayer... its Mr. Real Estate Developer. As Mr. Developer reaps in millions of subsidy granted by a developer friendly government through a blighted designation, Joe Taxpayer foots the bill. Eminent Domain, as Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, gives powerful citizens undue power over their lessers. If she had speculated beyond the loss of property rights, the true perversity would surface: Joe Taxpayer will not only lose his property to Eminent Domain, but he'll likely pay for its subsequent replacement.

Top 10 reasons to get Google Desktop Search

1. The new version plugs into Outlook.
2. It's easy to find passwords by typing your username into the search bar.
3. It speeds document searches.
4. Google searches brings up entire projects if you put in the right keywords, including emails, Web pages, documents, etc.
5. You don't have to pay Bill Gates.
6. It's easy to find phone numbers (try area code and name).
7. You don't have to open a Web browser to initiate a search.
8. Your blinding productivity impresses your boss.
9. The new version searches mapped network drives.
10. It's free!

Blogging at work

The recent media blitz of articles about the perils of blogging at work hasn't slowed me down one bit. I imagine only a stupid person, or someone in the midst of a stupid moment, gets themselves canned for blogging at work. A few ground rules people might consider for blogging at work:

1) Blog at or around your lunch hour. This gives plausible deniability to slacking charges.
2) Don't blog at work if you aren't secure in your job. Blogging may not be a good reason, but it's a great excuse.
3) Don't bad mouth your co-workers, company, or policies.
4) Don't post anything with company equipment that might be embarassing to your firm.
5) Be aware that blogging anoymously isn't anonymous when your network admin controls your gateway to the Internet.

"One Google, Under Google For Which It Stands"

The geeks of Silicon Valley are revolting! Is Google the new Evil Empire?

The Drug War Rambles On In Baltimore

A well told story in today's NYT about a Baltimore police commissioner, who is too familar with the perils of heroin addiction. The commissioner is making a pitch to inner-city youth: get a job or go to jail. Will the working world prevail over thug life? It's too soon to tell, but let's hope his plan to combat urban decay is more than idealism and empty promises.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Save Dorothy

In the mid-1980's, US Steel ordered the mammoth blast-furnaces of the once-proud Duquense Works cooled and closed. Towering 7 stories over PA 837 in Duquense, the blast furnaces, named Dorothy after the chief engineer's daughter, once epitomized the strength of American industry in Pennsylvania. Now their carcasses stand as a stark reminder of just how far we as a region have fallen: shuttered, rusted and collapsing under their own massive weight.

In today's Post Gazette, a poorly written column by Jerome Sherman unveils Allegheny County's brave new plan for the Mon Valley. Dorothy will be demolished. "Everybody wants them down. They're a hazard. They're not in great shape," says Dennis Davin, director of Economic Development for Allegheny County. What Sherman missed was the story behind the story. Why the hell werent these things torn down with the rest of the site in the late 1980's? Well Sherman, you piss poor reporter, here is the reason.

When the county first proposed clearing the site, angry steelworkers and historic preservationists lined up behind the blast furnaces. The furnaces, like the inclines or the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, are an integral part of Western Pennsylvania's history. Homestead Works and Bethelehem Steel Reading, both newly minted McSteeltown USA's, are examples of how history can be washed away in the name of economic progress. Currently, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is working to save Bethlehem Steel's first mill in the Lehigh Valley in the name of preserving our industrial heritage.

Davin's cavalier attitude towards demolishing Dorothy evidences a complete lack of appreciation for the clear memory and honored pride of the Mon Valley. These visions define Pittsburghers, these stories were repeated to their children. Dorothy's fire and sulfer ripped through the night sky as if an abyss in the earth had ripped open, unveiling the fury of hell. Molten steel flowed from her gut like lava, fire crawling across its surface as it flowed down the channels towards the caster. The night sky was day, the day sky was night: Pittsburgh showed her scorn for the sun by creating her own, blotting out the true one with soot and ash. What awesome power, that man built a temple not to a God, but to himself. To better his own existence. Those towers, the genius of Henry Bessemer and Andrew Carnegie in physical form, is why mankind isn't crawling under bushes hunting rabbits with a club. Who we are, engineers and architects, boilermakers and visionary financiers, the proud steel workers and coal miners of Pennsylvania, is embodied in that edifice.

Scotland and Ireland prize their castles, Greece her ruins. All are accomplishments that man looks to for inspiration: brilliance is within us if we seek it, and power is ours if we harness it. How does Pittsburgh scorn her Phonenix Towers for a Wal Mart. How does America demolish the crucible in which her strength was forged. How far, really, have we fallen?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Greedy Seniors, Taxes and the Governor's Race

Jeff Piccola, a Senate Republican vying for a chance to oust Gov. Ed Rendell in '06, proposed a plan to move the state away from regressive real-estate taxes and towards a flat consumer tax. Though the concept is good, the plan unduely targets real estate yet again. Consider the following:

Piccola bumps the Real Estate Transfer tax to 3%. Coupled with local transfer taxes levied at 2%, every house purchase will be taxed 5%. With average home costs around $100,000, thats $5,000 bucks.


Piccola makes the sales tax, lowered to 5.7%, cover professional services and necessities. Those of us in Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties will see the tax at 6.7%. An architect's invoice for $40,000 will cost $2,700.

These two items alone throw $7,700 onto the costs of building housing in urban Pennsylvania. An additional $10k in costs will squealch urban development, and severely impede suburban development... a huge employer in the Pittsburgh region. Coupled with increasing interest rates, Piccola's plan throws a bucket of cold water on housing sales, slowing a sluggish real-estate market. As for affordability of housing, current costs allow a family making $26k to buy a home in Pittsburgh. With Piccola's plan, the family better make over $30k if they think they're gonna buy a house. Future homebuyers, primarily young families, will be pushed into renting.

Methinks Piccola might be more worried about courting greedy seniors who hate to pay school taxes than young families that need every dime they can get. One thing is for sure, this plan will sell better on a Bocci Court at Silver Lake than it will in young working class neighborhoods. But what would you expect: tough shit kids, you don't vote.

And a Child Shall Lead Them

"There is also a problem with the generation of settler youth born in the West Bank after the 1967 war. Some members of that generation see the state of Israel and its laws as less valid than the words of their rabbis, and some of them were prepared to fight with the police and the army in ways the Gaza settlers themselves were not." -NY Times

On the fortified roof of a synagogue in Neve Dekalim, dozens of angry Israeli Settlers fought off the soliders and police surrounding the building. The rooftop defense, erected hastily by the Synagogue's defenders, included wooden fencing, sharpened pikes and barbed wire. Like Crusader Richard the Lionhearted facing off against Suliman the Magnificent, vats full of acid were dumped on soldiers attempting to scale the bulwarks of this House of Worship cum Medeival Castle.

Like their 14 yr. old Palestinian cousin given to blowing himself up on a Tel Aviv bus, many of the defenders on the roof that morning were teenagers. Behold, the product of fanaticism. The children of the Gaza Settlements, raised in a hyper-religious culture insulated from the cosmopolitan, moderating influences of a larger Israeli society, showed what insanity such places breed. When the big people can't be clear and rational, impressionable youth carry their parent's fanaticism to its illogical extreme.

America's religious zealots, who take great measures to insulate their spawn from American Society, create a dangerous third column in American Society. For decades, religious zealots have cloistered their children from Kindergarten to Graduate School, teaching them Noah had dinosaurs on the Ark and that Earth is only 10,000 years old. Is it any surprise America is the LAST CULTURE ON EARTH still debating Darwin.

Welcome back to school

If I were still a student, now would be the time I would be fresh from summer slacking, primed to attend every class for two weeks before I remembered how sleepy droning profs made me. On this week, in which all slacker students think this semester is going to be different somehow, I wish everyone the best. As for me, in the words of Dazed and Confused, and more recently Ryan, "I keep getting older but they stay the same age."

Read The Tartan. Advise those freshmen to eat at the trucks. And try not to pick up any new bad habits.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Leave Me Alone, Pennsylvania. I study.

That august body from Harrisburg - the Pennsylvania Legislature - is on vacation - in Seattle. But rest assured, dear citizen, our fearless leaders are there to work and learn.

Take North Side representative Don Walko, who is using the taxpayer-funded excursion to renew his law license.

From today's Philly Inquirer:

...Walko signed in for two seminars and stayed fewer than five minutes at each. And yesterday, Walko walked out of a course called "The Price of People: Combating Human and Sex Trafficking" after 10 minutes. He then headed to the large hall inside the convention center where companies and interest groups are exhibiting during the conference and handing out T-shirts, mugs, Frisbees and other trinkets.

Asked about his spotty attendance record, Walko said that he left sessions because he had to run to other meetings, and that, regardless, he had not yet decided which sessions he would seek CLE credit for. "Some of them, I'll submit for," Walko said. "I'll review and see which ones I felt I participated in."

And from the Irony File (as reported by the AP and other papers): No Pennsylvania lawmaker was spotted at a session entitled "Winning the battle without burning the battlefield" on how to combat negative press and political campaigns, despite the public outcry back home over the Legislature's middle-of-the-night vote to increase its members' salaries by 16 to 34 percent.

If you are on the North Side and see a chap wearing a "My constituents bought me a trip to Seattle and all I got was this lousy tee shirt" tee shirt, he sure to say hello to Don Walko, Esquire.

To those still pissed off by the midnight pay grab, check out grassrootspa.com. Join the good fight against Bully Bob Jubelirer (R-Altoona), Billy DeWeese (D-Waynesburg) and the rest of the porkers.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Try Our Anti-Semitic Waffles

Strange, one would never expect this level of hopeless classlessness from the Garden State. It seems two diners at a Jersey shore eatery had their check marked "Jew couple" by the restaurant's friendly waitstaff. The offending (offensive?) establishment, The Waterfront Grill, responded by explaining that it's restaurant policy to label tables by diners' characteristics rather than numerical designations, because it's ruder that way. So how exactly did the waitress know her customers' particular religion and ethnicity, resulting in the preceding "Jew couple" comment? In the Waterfront Grill's defense, the table in question sent back its pastrami sandwich three times, complained about the air conditioning, and remarked of the menu's ala-carte prices, "For this I should pay seventeen-fifty? It's a shande." I'm here all week, folks!

The perils of cutting your hair

When you live your life with a Jew-fro the size of your home state of Texas, your co-workers will be sure to notice a new haircut and make a variety of comments, ranging from "Now I can take you home to mama" to "I like it u-lottt." I guess that's just the way things go -- I did my best to sneak into my office before anyone said anything. Thus far, I've spoken with 7 people and they've all had two cents. Soon, I will be rich.

In other morning news, while I was in the kitchen getting my morning cup of coffee, I stirred my coffee up well, but failed to add the sugar, or anything else, prior. I was distracted because Rachel was telling me about her breakfast, which she called a "one-eyed egg." This little morsel consists of a piece of buttered bread with the middle cut out, with an egg to replace it, then fried in a pan. I was told that you are also supposed to toast the piece of bread you cut out.

Rachel likes to scramble her egg before she puts it in, but on my way back to my office, I stopped by the IT kitchen where Jennie, Dave, and Chris were congregated. After I told them about the "one-eyed egg," an argument ensued over whether or not you should scramble the egg, or cook the yolk to where it's runny, thereby giving yourself dipping material for your extra bread. They also disagreed as to what such a thing is called. Jennie called it a "gas houser", and Dave called it a "bird in the nest." They also each had comments to make about my new lack of hair, as we might expect.

But this whole egg thing is as ridiculous as the hair comments. Why can't you just make an egg and make a piece of toast? I'll call it "egg and toast."

Word of the day - "eleemosynary."

Eleemosynary means charitable. I learned this word form Supreme Court nominee Roberts, who I don't trust one bit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In honor of 5,000 hit day at www.darnnews.com

Here are some of the many things that have occured in quantity of or greater than 5,000 in my lifetime.

1. Hits on The Darn News.
2. Things I have written.
3. Dollars I have received in a single check.
4. Days I have lived.
5. Songs I have on my computer.
6. Miles I have driven in my car.
7. People who my tax dollars have contributed to killing.
8. Number of Magic (or baseball) cards I have owned.
9. Altitude to which I have been elevated.
10. Neurons I have killed with irresponsible behavior, including but not limited to, alcohol & drugs, holding my breath, inhaling Helium, and living in the city.

Can you guess which of these things I am hoping for another 5,000 in?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Best. Film Review. Ever.

Here's Roger Ebert destroying the new and awful Rob Schneider movie. Not that you need Ebert's column to tell you that this flick blows, but his take on it helps you to understand exactly how hard.

Beirut on Thames

Shocked into action by the recent terrorist attacks on London's Underground, the British Government is finally tossing dozens of militant muslim clerics to the curb. Historically, homeless politicals from Marxists to the Polish Government in exile were welcome to call London home. Civil Rights groups, Muslim Organizations and other wholly unreasonable groups see the Jihadis in the same light, saying West-hating clerics deserve the protections of a culture they are dedicated to destroying. Syrian cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who begins his day teaching jihad to preschoolers, offers introductory classes in wiring car-bombs, and falls to sleep watching replays of the September 11th attacks, is apparently the sort of model citizen our culture should work hardest to protect. Britain should also continue to close off streets in Kensington so militant muslim youth can spend an afternoon cheering on images of bloody terror attacks like Joe-Bluecollar cheers the Stillers on Monday Night Football. Something gotta give.

I am not wholly unsympathetic to the arguments of civil libertarians who are dedicated to keeping our societies open and safe for all diversities of thoughts. Open societies with open discourses are the best at dispelling competitive ideologies through inter-ideological discourse. However, concepts of liberty must always exist within the reasonable thresholds of sanity. And these jerks have to go.

Another libertarian question quickly follows this, in that Britain is currently only booting non-citizens. Treating non-residents with dramatically different rules and regulations, such as expelling them for their ideas or opinions, might be the first step down a slippery slope of limited liberties for citizenry. What happens with the militant cleric, newly minted citizen of Britain, who continues the fiery rhetoric of his deported colleagues in thick Saudi arabic. Britons will doubtless not see him as a citizen of equal standing, yet there he is. This will doubtless be a long legal process.

Either way, today's actions are welcome: The status quo had to change, and Omar's quick departure is a welcome start.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Just The Way You Look Tonight.

In today's Morning File (MF), Peter Leo affirmed his role as the PG's resident cynic with the topic of inconsiderate neighbors. NeighborsFromHell.com, Leo offers, gives advice, voice and support to an entire sub-group of Americans suffering from their close proximity to the likes of Junker the Iron Maiden Roadie or Judge David Wecht. Addressing the existential question of wicked neighbors, the site ventures into the historical, social and philosophical raison d'etre of the Jerkus Inconsideratae. It blames close proximity of housing in an urban society, no-so-soundproof Ryan Homes, the steady decline of respectibility in our culture, and the strong presence of jerks in pop-culture.

Sitting in Mardi-Gras, the smartest saloon (or salon... 'ching) in Shadyside, The Capitol Man decried the decline in men's fashion. The Spirit gushing forth from the depths of his whisky sour, Brad ardently prayed for the resurrection of the sharp-dressed man in a 3 piece suit. Describing Frank Sinatra's crisp lapels with the passion of an envious Queen gawking at the feathers and frills of a mummers parade, Bradley defended his right to play dress up. As a proud wearer of unfashionable hats, I know the feeling well.

Beyond the sharp appearances of the bygone 1940's, I think what Brad, Leo, and myself truly wax nostalgic for is a sense of respect and responsibility. When a clutch of girls from Northwestern showed their toes to the President, people reaffirmed their mental connection between respect and dress with an outpouring of indignation. Pinstripes and Fedoras, theoretically, were expensive ways to show someone you think they matter. The Jerk, whose life-purpose extends little beyond selling gas, eating and shitting, thinks nothing of spending an afternoon on the front lawn drinking malt liquor in his smiley-face boxers. As if to accentuate his presence, the radio blares Thag-Death's latest record, "F**k her in the Eye Socket." Unfortunately for those of us wishing to transform our shitty culture via a crisp button-down and a little mellow Jazz, our mission will fail. The inward self bubbles forth in the outward apparel, and we are a casual culture: Casual in dress, relationships, responsibility and in respect towards eachother.

In short: You can dress the Jerk up, but you can't take him out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Death of Outrage

I love it when conservatives use terminology like, "Slouching Towards Gomorrah," or "Liberals Eat Babies," to paint their particular bugaboos in the darkest possible hue. Typically the message is hyberbolic in the extreme: Ann Coulter proclaiming the End of Times because 5 withered old hippies were passing out flowers at a peace rally in front of the White House. The recent Highway Appropriations Bill is deserving of such hyperbolic language. Regardless of the extremity of the language, it will never fully reflect the extremity of this Congress' extravagant self-enrichment vis a vis this bill. I want to know why the hell Republicans aren't pissed off that their party of 'Fiscal Responsibility' is reponsible for one of the largest pork-laden bills in history.

Where the Hell is the Outrage?

Rolling out of bed this morning after an evening of excessive drinking, the soothing voice of NPR's commentator massaged my aching brain with the morning news. A story from Missouri's cattle country talked about an earlier than usual drought plaguing midwestern farmers and forthcoming 'federal aid' to bail them out. "We gonna hafta buy feed to keep the cattle fed this year, and I mighta hafta sell my extra acreage ta do so," said Farmer Joe. "Its not like we need help all the time. Just enough to make it through the dry season." 'Dry season'... as in seasonal... as in yearly. Ironically, the same people who bitch about their high taxes going to welfare queens in St. Louis are looking for a seasonal, yearly handout. "The gov'ment needs to get out of our business," is common parlance for the rural Missourian bitching about zoning or some other reasonable restriction on their 'God Given Rights.' They blithely refuse to address this hypocritical love-hate relationship with Uncle Sam. Cut taxes, cut programs, but cut me a check while you're at it.

Grover Norquist, commentator, political theorist and pile of steeming dogshit, said the government should be shrunk to the point he could, "...drown it in the bathtub." A popular theory goes Republicans allow the equation of one-time expense spending binge + tax cuts so the Fed will run out of money and cut back on permanent yearly programs like farm aid or welfare. Considering the 'everybody wants, everybody gets' culture we have today, permeating every strata of society from the St. Louis welfare queen and the Missouri Farmer, its more likely that we'll just raise taxes again to make up for the shortfall: and we'll probably do so during a Democratic Administration. Republicans will howl like hell that taxes are already too high- the current GOP spending binges long forgotten.

Outrage is Dead- There's nothing left but prostitution and political chess.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Super Arlen and the Commerce Clause

Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's senior senator in age, tenure and intelligence, will question John Roberts on the application of the Commerce Clause (CC) and his respect for Congressional authority. Specter's rationale is solid: Roberts' interpretation of the CC, the broadly interpreted bedrock for every expansion of Federal Authority since 1932, is the REAL issue facing this nomination. Liberals have used the CC to impose harsh penalties on wife beaters: Abused women, "...can't effectively participate in the workforce, thereby harming interstate commerce." Conservatives use the CC to exorcize their favorite societal peeves too: "A fetus whose brain has been sucked through a straw cannot participate in the workforce...." Roberts position will have far-reaching applications, and we need to know now.

Dovetailing this issue, Specter rose an equally compelling, and not wholly unrelated, issue. He is angry at the Supreme Court's derisive tone towards Congress. Though I can sympathize with anyone's frustration over the Congress of 'Terri's Law,' I likewise respect Specter's frustration with the smug Ivory Tower intellectualism on the Court. Equally smug Brad Grantz argues a court stacked with legal scholars is a good thing, but that Scholars are often ideological and dogmatic is evident on any college campus. Practicality and pragmatism, with a healthy respect for public will, are critical to good judgement and good judges.

The past 100 years of CC rulings reflect the court's willingness to stay in step with the public rather than holding too closely to the exact wording of the Constitution. Ironically, doing so seems the best method of keeping the Constitution a functioning document. When the Court struck down several provisions of the New Deal, popular opinion nearly permitted FDR to stack the court, thus dangerously expanding Executive power. The Warren Court, considered radical at the time, fostered 30+ years of divisive cultural infighting that percolated to the surface in the form of Jerry Falwell. Holding the Constitution too closely smothers its ability to be a "...living & breathing document," that reflects the changing nature and needs of our Republic.

The Court needs to be pragmatic and assess the climate of the nation. However, the Court must maintain itself as a bastion of impartiality immune to the fickle winds of public opinion. It can neither be a bulwark of fringe special interests nor rule on abstract legal principle alone. It must remember it is an institution of the people, not a college of Oracles. Sandra Day O'Connor struck this balance more than any other justice. Where Roberts falls on the Commerce Clause will provide insight as to whether he is able to do so as well. One opinion about frogs, written on behalf of another Judge, is simply not enough to know where he stands.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

"Its the Schools Stupid."

In front of 400+ urban developers at a banquet hall in Philadelphia, McCormack Baron Corp's President Richard Baron pointed out the true impediment to Urban Redevelopment: bad schools. Developers target the empty-nester, gay and single yuppie as the core buyer in urban markets. However, the mobile and transient nature of these groups makes them unstable. They do not form the community-transforming roots nuclear families do. McCormack Baron Corp, America's largest for-profit affordable housing developer, invests millions in money and expertise fixing schools in their developments. As a result, the developments, the schools and the neighborhood succeed.

Philadelphia has been a true testing grounds for Urban Schools. The University of Pennsylvania's Sadie Tanner Mossel Elementary School has literally rejuvinated sections of West Philadelphia in it's catchment area, as parents fight to get their children into America's first Ivy League k-5. Edison Schools, a private for-profit corporation that operates dozens of schools citywide, has mixed results. The bottom line is, Philly is aggressive, and Pittsburgh is slacking. Sitting in the shadow of Peabody High School with a market plan detailing the building of large single-family housing units (read: family nests), the impact of bad schools is all too clear. There are only so many seats at Taylor Alderdice and Schenley, and everyone buying our $200k houses will want their kids in them. That is something we can't promise.

Mark Roosevelt steps into a contentious school district, facing contentious school closure issues, and stagnant performance. Entrenched unions, disporportionate numbers of poor students, questionable parent support and decades of bad reputation stand between Roosevelt and the finish line. Though unproven, he is affiable, intelligent and dedicated. I hope for his sake that there are sharp teeth in that pearly white smile.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Bob Novak Loses Mind

Sometimes the pressures of ruining other people's lives can really get to a man. Bob Novak, a deep, cold abyss stuffed into a three-piece suit, finally let his emotions get the better of him yesterday on CNN's "Inside Politics." If you've ever watched Novak all his years on "Crossfire" and "The Capital Gang" wondering, Is this man really so genuinely miserable?, the answer to that question is a full-throated Yes. The incident occurred as Ed Henry was about to ask Novak a question regarding the Senate race in Florida, which is the first story coming out of that state in two months not involving insane weather, alligator attacks or insane people generally (c.f. Highland Ave's post). Seems Novak's sparring partner, James Carville, said something flip and the prince of darkness stormed off, but not before letting fly a choice word for the ragin' Cajun and the audience playing along at home. This is great.

Man Screws Girlfriend, then Beats her to Death with Claw Hammer

I couldn't make this one up, folks.

Brahim Wacks a Birdie on the 7th Hole.

The Post Gazette reported an incident at a Murrysville Golf Course, in which a young man beat a Canadian Goose to death with a golf club. The poorly written story, which repeatedly refers to Canadian Geese and Canada Geese, doesn't assign any blame... as it shouldn't. This Web Log, however, is not known for its mercy.

The story reports that Brahim 'accidentally' ran over the bird, then beat it to death after the goose started to drown in a water hazard. The compassionate club-wielding clod simply wanted to "...put the goose out of its misery." Though I credit the Post Gazette for giving us this bull-shit laden story to fill our office-life day with self-righteous rage, I think they would have done better to report the following:

Jason Brahim, a strapping sporting chap from Murrysville whose weekend activities involve bible study, competitive bocci and shoving lit firecrackers up the asses of chipmunks, ran down a goose on a golf course with his golf cart. When the goose fled for its life into a small pool of water, the golfer-cum-hunter hopped out of his Sport Utility Cart and pummled the damned thing to death with his golf club. All for sport, eh? (I mean really, how the hell does a goose drown?) Fresh from getting his jollies off, Brahim licked the victory blood off of his golf club.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Helping no one, offending the femmes

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050803/photos_ts_afp/050803142758_tgybi2sk_photo0;_ylt=AsFEwy39pds1cD8j31C9QWdPXLoF;_ylu=X3oDMTBia2Jza2VjBHNlYwNnYWxsZXJ5

Joke of the day

A woman decides to have a facelift, for her birthday. She spends $5000, and feels pretty good about the results.

On her way home, she stops at a newsstand to buy a newspaper. Before leaving she says to the clerk, "I hope you don't mind my asking, but how old do you think I am?"

"About 32," is the reply.

"Nope! I'm exactly 47," the woman says happily.

A little while later, she goes into McDonald's, and asks the counter girl, the very same question.

The girl replies, "I guess about 29."

The woman replies, "Nope, I'm 47."

Now she's feeling really good, about herself. She stops in a drugstore, on her way down the street. She! goes up to the counter, to get some mints, and asks the clerk, this burning question.

The clerk responds, "Oh, I'd say 30."

Again she proudly responds, "I am 47, but thank you."

While waiting, for the bus to go home, she asks an old man, waiting next to her, the same question.

He replies, "Lady, I'm 78, and my eye sight is going. Although, when I was young, there was a sure way, to tell how old a woman was. It sounds very forward, but it requires you, to let me, put my hands under your bra. Then I can tell you EXACTLY how old you are."

They wait in silence on the empty street, until curiosity gets the best of her. She finally blurts out, "What the heck, go ahead."

He slips both of his hands, under her blouse, and under her bra, and begins to feel around, very slowly and carefully. He bounces and weighs each breast. He gently pinches each nipple. He pushes her breasts together! and rubs them against each other. After a couple of minutes of this, she says, "Okay, okay,..how old am I?"

He completes one last squeeze of her breasts, removes his hands and says, "Madam, you are 47.

Stunned and amazed, the woman says, "That was incredible, how could you tell?"

The old man replies, "Promise you won't get mad?"

"I promise I won't." she says.

He replies, "I was behind you in line at McDonald's."



From:

It's a war of ideas

And I think the capitalists are finally starting to beat the terrorists. You see a shift in tone from the Muslim world nowadays. Arabic news outlets are shifting their language on describing terrorist acts, and various Islamic councils are issuing fatahs condeming terrorism. Where once there was complicit silence, now there is cooperation in this war of ideas.

If we ever do live in a safe world again, it won't be because America has big guns and uses them. It own't be because we tap free citizens' phone lines, monitor libraries, or arbitrarily sweep dictatorships our of the middle east. It will be because we won the war of ideas, in the media, in the churches, and in the schools.

We can make ourselves temporarily safer by giving up privacy, but the war will never be won until we convince people to stop killing us. The terrorists are doing a good job of losing that war of ideas right now, by blowing up everything that moves. Briton, American, Arab, journalist, Jew, Muslim, diplomat, teacher... death to all say the crazy extremists.

It's tough in the desert.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Genesis of Intelligent Design

Sally Kalson is really mad! She is so angry that her rambling column about 'Intelligent Design' managed to criticize Sunoco, Rummy and Tom Cruise. How clever, playing on the "intelligent" in Intelligent Design to show how un-intelligent everyone else is. Look in a mirror, curly.

As bad as her column was, Kalson is on to something. As the PA State Legislature debates teaching Intelligent Design, hastening PA's great race to the bottom, a small school district in Dover, PA is actually attempting to teach this junk in the classroom. In 1925, the modern world thought we had finally laid the issue of creationism to rest. Apparently Central PA is stuck in 1895.

Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, submitted a column to the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 3 regarding the Dover School District's apparent insanity. Dawkins outlined the primary defense of Creationism: Ignorance.

"If Evolution Theory fails in some particular, Creationism must be right! Creationists leap to the default God conclusion without even looking to see if it fails in the same particular. Intelligent Desing is granted a charmed immunity to the rigorous demands made of evolution."

The bafflingly complex, the completely misunderstood, the undefinable. These are the things that keep scientists working late into the hours of the night searching for discovery. The ever shrinking realm of the unknown might be the playground of the ambitious scientist... unfortunately it is also the primary defense of Creationist.

"Gaps by default are filled by God. You don't understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Good! Photosynthesis is a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don't go to work on the problem; just give up and appeal to God. Don't squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God's Gift to Dover."

Amen, Professor Dawkins.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thomas Doswell

Free at last, free at last.

I encourage you all to send some sort of donation or letter to aid this man in rebuilding his life after 18 years of unjust incarceration.

http://www.postgazette.com/pg/05214/547399.stm

Send to:

Thomas Doswell
c/o James DePasquale, Attorney at Law
Grant Building, Grant Street
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219

I Love Harry Potter!

I love Harry Potter. I wish I was a wizard. Look at this funny take on J. K. Rowling's excellent prose. Some Indians think Harry Potter is all sexed up. Harry Potter sex could be the next big fetish.

But really, I'd like to cast a few spells on Hermione with my wand if you know what I mean...

Come now!

Tell me the Old Old Story...

There's nothing I like more than opening the "Most E-Mailed Articles" in the NY Times and seeing something about freaky evangelicals trying to push their values on poor, unsuspecting children. From Swarthmore to Stanford, e-mails hearld in the latest red state injustice: "Hindu and Jewish children in rural Mississippi forced into Christian Madrasses." This time, it's Texas. Schools in Odessa, Texas are teaching an 'elective' course on the Bible.

Teaching religious texts in classrooms might not be a bad idea, especially since they're used to justify blowing up everything from Iraqi Markets to Abortion Clinics, and Americans should understand the basis for the insanity around us. However, that liberals are surprised conservatives are trying to manipulate public schools system is itself suprising. Taking a nod from Berkeley-ites, who train 4th graders a 'how-to' for putting condoms on fellow classmates with their mouths, conservatives realized what Hippies and Mullahs realized long ago. The next natural battle-ground for America's culture war is the classroom: Don't surrender schools to the left.

Sadly, there is no neat resolution to this little problem. Imagine if everyone were permitted to have their own schools where they could incubate all manner of insanity into the minds of impressionable youth. Within two generations, lynching gays would be legal in Alabama and Texas would become a break-away republic. At least when the schools are public, wackos can be forced back into their caves by public opinion, civil law, and that pain-in-the-ass Constitution of the United States.

Public schools were always the great guarantor of America's melting pot of cultures and ideas. They might not accomplish the education part of the mission, but at least they provide a good platform for this message: You speak English, you're an American and You have Rights. For everything else cultural, there are churches, coffee shops, and weeknights with "The OC."

Monday, August 01, 2005

How do people search there way to the Darn News?

Well, the top searches that get you folks here are "susanna goihman" and "Larissa Franka." Others include variations on "Spiders of Pennsylvania," "Celanie Polanick," "Brad Grantz," "emminent domain," "Elias/Savion," and off of Technorati its a bit different. Searches there include "getting glasses" and "John MacKinnon."

An unfortunate agglomeration of words has also sent us a couple of hits for people looking for "fourteen year old porn." Shame on you!

Others:

litigious customer
strawbridges perverts
nazi 33333333
"Debra Fields" "columnist"
27 men arrested in allegheny county

The characteristics of a good Web site search

I'm writing this little post in hopes that someone who is charged with coding the search function for a Web site will read this and not cause me the undue pain that certain other sites have.

Starting with the basics, here's an example of a Web site that was coded by an IT monkey who didn't put much thought into how people might use it. Supply & Demand Chain Executive's search function, like their magazine, doesn't do very much for the average user. The search results get spit out in alphabetical order, by headline. And to find out the date of the article, you either have to click it, or hold your cursor over the link and look at the 4-digit ID number for the article, and deduce the date. Since I search this site for a few keywords every month, I have gotten pretty adept at judging the numbers, but it's still a pain in the neck.

And you would think that CNet news, of all news sites, would let a user put in a quoted string and churn up results on an exact phrase. Alas, no... if you put in the phrase "Sesame Street" you're going to get hits that have just one of the words.

Other sites, like the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Web site, don't do fuzzy searches. This search is easily tricked by people who under- or over-punctuate words, when a little simple logic would return much better results that could account for someone not putting an apostrophe in the right place.

I won't pull out any more examples, but searches should have some way to disclude words, they should have AND and OR functionality, they should be sortable by date, headline, or key word relevance. I can't stand it when a Web site imposes its own arbitrary metric for evaluating the goodness of your results, and the measurement was designed by some half-baked intern with an attitude problem.

People who can't write good search functionality should just buy Google search for their site.