Saturday, April 30, 2005

On The Mark -- Movie Formula

A lazy Saturday movie formula for you (based on a preview I saw recently):

Seabiscuit X Rocky = Cinderella Man

the upcoming movie (opening June 1) starring Russell Crowe and Rene Zellweger. I like Ron Howard films (the director of "Cinderella Man"), but my immediate reaction was: oh brother, could it possibly be more obvious?

I'm hoping the movie trailer isn't true to the movie.

Don't know what it is, but I have the cure.

My wife pointed out this weird word on her hand cream -- what is "crepiness"? No dictionary I have checked includes the word. Googling it brings up a couple of skin product websites that mention the word without actually defining it; is this a new made-up beauty word?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Put down the sandwich, and come out with your hands up!

Someone called authorities yesterday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High in New Mexico. The police put armed officers on rooftops, closed nearby streets and locked down the school.

The "something" turned out to be a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.


G.I. Jew

Listen and cringe. And laugh. And plotz.

Lyrics include:
The Catholics blame him for murdering Jesus (G.I. Jew is there!)
He cuts the skin off the tip of your penis. (G.I. Jew is there!)
[Thanks, Mike, for pointing me to Silence of the Lambs: The Musical; that's where I found it.]

Urinal Selection Strategy

This is going to rock your world... if you're a woman. Here's the thing: when guys walk into a public bathroom, we draw on gaming theory to determine which urinal we will use. And almost every guy will pick the same urinal, given the same set of circumstances. Even stranger, this jockeying for position requires virtually no conscious thought -- in fact, thinking about it too much can disrupt the process.

Rather than try to prove this with the strength of my prose alone, I am providing a visual aid and scenario role-playing; guys, tell me if I stray from the true (and ladies, you can ask your man about this; he may try to avoid the question, but we can't deny our instincts).

Scenario 1
Guy walks into the bathroom. It is unoccupied.

Urinal choice
Any urinal is acceptable, as long as no one else is there. And if someone else comes in, there is always room for an empty urinal between the two guys.

Scenario 2
Guy walks into the bathroom. Urinal #1 is occupied.

Urinal choice
#4 is the first choice, and #3 is acceptable if #4 has not been flushed. Guys will not choose #2.

Scenario 3
Guy walks into the bathroom. Urinal #2 is occupied.

Urinal choice
#4 is the only acceptable choice.

Scenario 4
Guy walks into the bathroom. Urinals #1 and #3 (or #2 and #4) are occupied.

Urinal choice
There is no acceptable urinal. Wash your hands for a while and wait for an opening, or use a seat. Or just hold it until you get home.

Scenario 5
You're the only one in the bathroom, and you're standing at #1 (as is appropriate). Some guy walks in and, though #4 and #3 are both clean and available, he steps up to #2.

What do you do?
Halt the flow, zip up, wash, and get out; don't look back.

Try a Little Cleanliness

Half of the secret of resistance to disease is cleanliness; the other half is dirtiness.

People are always washing their hands of this or that. I don’t care what they wash their hands of –- I just want them to wash their hand WITH SOAP. I admit it; I am a germ-a-phobe. I won’t touch handrails on escalators and stairs. I use a paper towel when possible to pick up the nozzle of the gasoline pump. I didn’t like using Los Angeles’ subway system because it seemed to me it was an underground Petri dish of seasonal viruses (I also didn’t appreciate the overzealous traffic cops on my way to the transit system).

In the third grade, our teacher would single kids out for not covering their mouths when they yawned, coughed, or sneezed. I will usually say something to the person who coughs or sneezes and does not cover their face, but there are too many yawners to make an issue of that. Certainly their dentists may appreciate the clear view of their teeth and dental work, but I don’t.

During these informative years, most kids were supposed to be taught to wash their hands with soap. However, I am sure parents didn’t set a good example. It only takes a few seconds, so I am always appalled at the people who brazenly leave the restroom without washing their hands. It does not matter their status in the corporate world nor their financial standing; I have seen all stripes exit the lavatory sans washing and thus leaving the bacteria firmly ensconced within the grooves of their fingerprints. Then they go about their business of tapping on keyboards, opening doors and shaking hands. I wish we just bowed like the Japanese.

The other day, I warned a friend about someone who does not wash his hands nor uses soap if he does wash, no matter the bathroom function. My friend was introduced to him for the first time as this notorious non-washer walked out of the restroom. When the coast was clear my friend immediately ran back to wash again.

Through observation and conversation, I have concluded that there are four types of bathroom hand washers:

Non-Washers. Through my observations, this is the largest group. These people will simply relieve their intestines small or large and not wash their hands. In an office environment they will run water over their hands if they have to, but mostly they just dash out. In a public restroom they will just leave and not care if you spy them skipping out because most likely you will never see them again, unless you end up next to them on the plane.

Pre-Washers. This group belongs to the “nothing I do is foul” self-centered species. Their genital area is clean to them, therefore they must wash their hands because of everything they have touched prior. They don’t want another’s germs on their package.

Double-Washers. This is a rare tribe in my book. A DW is someone that encompasses the pre-washer mentality as well as being a bit of a germ-a- phobe. If they are willing to wash, I salute them.

Routine Washers. They wash their hands after using the facilities, but it seems for naught because they open the door with their bare hands after Non-Washer used the same door handle to exit. I turn on the faucet to wash my hands, upon completion, I grab three paper towels, two for drying and one to turn the water facet off. I use the same two towels to open the bathroom door, and then I fold it over again to open the hallway door and then toss it into a nearby trashcan.

Many acquaintances and friends think I have gone overboard. To me, an extreme is an old supervisor who used baby wipes on her dog’s paws after letting her dog out back. I just don’t allow our dog in the house.

Think about this the next time you skip soap. According to studies done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Only about two thirds of American adults wash after using the toilet - women significantly more often than men. Fecal matter carries a variety of serious infectious diseases.
  • One of four adults does not wash after changing a baby's diaper - creating a high risk of giving the caregiver and other children infectious diarrhea and other diseases.
  • Fewer than half of us wash after handling our pets or cleaning up after them.
  • Just one in three wash after sneezing or coughing.
  • Not even one in five wash after handling money, a major carrier of disease germs.
  • In one study, children who washed their hands four times a day missed 51 percent fewer school days due to upset stomach and 24 percent fewer days due to respiratory illness than those who washed less.
  • One in three E.coli outbreaks is caused by poor personal hygiene (hand washing) by food handlers.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

When Church Marketing Goes Bad

Wasn't this also the sign at the entrance to Jonestown?

On The Mark -- On the Streets of Tehran

I had coffee with an acquaintance of mine who was born and lived most of her life in Iran. She just returned from a trip to Tehran, her first visit in the past 10 years. She was amazed at the changes she saw on the streets.

“It used to be that you saw lots of old people walking the streets or in the café’s,” she said. “Now you hardly see anyone over 30 on the streets.” What are they doing? I asked. “Just standing around…all these kids standing around with nothing to do.” They don’t have jobs? I asked. “No, there are no jobs for the younger generation.” Sounds like Russia, I said, from what I saw during my last two trips there…and it was winter.

I asked her what they thought about the war in Iraq. “They’re furious,” she said immediately. I thought I knew why…get those damn imperialists out of the Middle East…but to keep the conversation going I asked her why that was the case.

“They’re furious because the U.S. didn’t go into Iran, too. They’re furious because they know the opportunity is lost now, that if the U.S. would have kept the peace after the invasion they would have turned their attention to Iran. But that won’t happen now.”

Surprised, I said, “So they would have been OK with a shock and awe campaign in Tehran – the devastation, the lost civilian lives?”

“They were waiting with great hope for it,” she said. “Even that would have been better than how they’re living now. I know it's ironic, but it would have given them hope.”

I asked her if she thought Iran had a nuclear bomb. “I don’t know,” she said. “But if they do, I have no doubt that Israel will immediately try to take it out with precision strikes as soon as they find out where it is.”

President Bush's Energy Plan

If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy long ago.
George Porter, chemist

President Bush presented a plan on Wednesday to offer federal risk insurance to companies that build nuclear power plants and to encourage the construction of oil refineries on closed military bases in the United States, according to the New York Times.

What about risk insurance for the people that live around these areas? Will we protect the nuclear power plants any better than we do our ports and current nuclear sites?

Interpreting the Constitution (Nu?)

It seems that we Americans will always struggle between the opposing poles Constitutional interpretation: strict and loose. Depending on who you ask, you can get a variety of opinions on the framers of that revered document; either:
1. They were so forward-thinking that they were able to create a document which could bend and stretch and adjust to meet the country's changing needs as it grew into the entity it is today.

2. They were so forward-thinking that they were able to codify laws and regulations that were needed in their day and in are still primary in ours, without alteration; their ideals and goals are still relevant today.

3. They were good men with good intentions, and two hundred years ago the Constitution made a lot of sense, but the challenges we face today are so dramatically different, and the world so changed, that we must reinterpret (if not abandon) certain outdated portions of the Constitution.

4. They were so backward that they created a system of laws that were not even relevant in their day, much less ours, and really the government should just get the hell out of my life and leave me alone (except for its job of protecting the country from enemies).

The assumption following the first opinion is that we must constantly look to the Constitution to see how it should be interpreted to maintain its relevance. Freedom of speech is great, after all, but you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater. For example, the second amendment's guarantee of a right to bear arms was relevant for a country which was fighting for its freedom against a colonial power, but does not mean that individuals in a time of peace should be able to wear concealed weapons. This is a right which must be reinterpreted in light of our current situation, allowing certain citizens to possess certain types of weapons in certain situations with certain permits.

The second opinion leads to what we tend to call a "strict" interpretation of the Constitution, in which rights and responsibilities set down in the Constitution are followed to the letter of the law. For example, the second amendment means you, as a citizen, have the right to buy, own, and carry any weapons you want. And you can't be burning no flags, you hear?

Those who believe the third opinion might say to hell with you, Mr. Heston: no guns for anyone! Ever! Those deer are our brothers!

And that fourth opinion? Libertarians (nuff said).

But you know this, right? After all, you're reading blogs, and you probably have a blog yourself, so we assume you have just enough education to be dangerous (like me, skewering the Constitution in full view of the entire world). So why am I bothering with this exegesis? Because I had a stunning revelation the other day about Americans and our battle with the Constitution. Ready for it?

Written Law and Oral Law

As a Jewish American, I am astounded at the similarity between the thousands-of-years-old discussions around the Talmud, and the hundreds-of-years-old discussions around the Constitution. The Talmud is, very briefly (and my wife could do a much better job with this, but it's my blog, so you're stuck with me), the oral law of the Jewish people. It's how Jews, represented by their rabbis, interpret the Torah (some of you may know this as the Old Testament). For thousands of years our tradition has poked and prodded at the word of God, trying to figure out exactly what the Torah means and how we're supposed to act in our role as The Chosen People (cue orchestral music in a minor key). There's a story:
Moses is at the top of Mt. Sinai, and God is dictating the entire Torah to him. God has just gotten to the part where he tells Moses, "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk."

"God," Moses interrupts. "Do You mean we shouldn't cook meat with milk?"

God repeats: "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk." Moses is a little unsure.

"Oh, I think I've got it," he says, "You mean we shouldn't eat meat products with dairy products?"

God repeats: "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk."

Moses tries again: "So, we should have separate dishes for milk and meat meals, and then another two sets for Passover?"

God repeats: "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk."

Moses, pretty sure now: "Got it -- we should have two separate dishwashers so the meat and dairy dishes never get even close to each other, and we shouldn't eat chicken with dairy either because chicken sort of looks like beef. And we should wait two hours after a dariy meal before eating meat, but wait eight hours after eating brisket before having a nice piece of cheesecake." Moses pauses, waiting for confirmation from God, and then hears God's voice coming from above:

"Fine, do it your way."
We Jews have a lot of experience in reading into things, and not only trying to figure out what some guys said two hundred years ago but even what God thinks!

So now when I listen to the Supremes talking about which way to swing on a particular judgment, or folks on talk radio debating whether the Federal government has the right to levy taxes, I admit to you that I chuckle a little. It sounds so very familiar, and I think that's a good thing. Debating the meaning of laws, making sure we think we know what we're doing, is a great way to stay relevant (or, should you prefer, "keep it real") and stay on track. B'hatz'lachah, America -- good luck in your continuing adventures.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

On The Mark -- Bad Bosses

There are a lot of good reasons to reject John Bolton for the U.N. ambassador job. They’ve been well defined by bloggers and the media. But one reason that seems to be emerging is his management style as a boss. I understand that it’s probably the Dems’ strategy to focus on this in an attempt to connect with the general public because, let’s face it, everyone has had a bad boss (or two).

If you ask enough people, just about every boss in any industry will find someone who didn’t like their style or thought they were ineffective. It’s possible to be fair, to provide good leadership, to recognize achievers, to listen to problems and issues and try to fix them, to provide your team with an environment that they enjoy working in. It’s possible to be consistent in how one rewards and punishes. It’s not possible to keep everyone happy.

It’s defining a bad boss that’s the problem. Many people believe that a demanding boss who isn’t warm and fuzzy and primarily focuses on results is a bad boss. As a consultant, I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times that business managers have been shocked when they review employee survey results and find that morale isn’t so hot.

“Nightline” recently predicted the emergence of bad boss advice books, and I’m sure we’ll start seeing more “experts” on television shows (reality and news) and in newspaper columns and magazine articles. I’m sure it’s a huge untapped market.

However, there are plenty of good, valid reasons to keep Bolton out of the post. Being a bad boss (as being defined by the media) is not one of them. If so, do we then evaluate all candidates for all governmental posts on their staff management skills as well? If so, what are the criteria?

If so, why is Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court?

Tired of John Kerry Emailing Me

I'm on Kerry's distribution list, apparently -- it must be the stuff I was involved with leading up the election. But this is starting to annoy me, epecially when I see cleverly-couched missives that include phrases like the following:
No, I'm not running for mayor. But, my good friend, Antonio Villaraigosa is.
Your average Joe, I imagine, would now believe that Kerry and Villaraigosa are good friends and, presumably, this would be a reason to vote for the latter (presumably). But look at those commas -- most folks don't bother to note them, but what they tell me is that John Kerry's automated email is addressing me as "good friend," and not writing "my good friend Antonio Villaraigosa."

Am I wrong? Is it not intended to mislead? Right-wing fans of Toner Mishap should feel free to submit their two cents.

Janie’s Gotta Gun (So Does Tom, Dick and Harry)

My, my, my. Such a lot of guns around and so few brains.
Humphrey Bogart (1899 - 1957), actor

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Democrat, may see her political career shot out from under her. She had the nerve to veto a bill that would have let people bring their guns into bars and restaurants as long as they were not drinking.

Supporters of the law complained that their guns are at risk of being stolen if left in the car or pickup. It’s important tote your gun when driving in Arizona, you’ll never know when you have to pull out your gun on the highway for a shootout.

California is another story; here the freeways resemble the OK Corral.

It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

If there were no poor, how do you think rich men would live?
Rosa Guy, writer

Well, we can rest easy now. The number of Americans without health insurance may have been overstated. Instead of 45 million Americans, in the richest country in the world with the most advanced medical technology, there are only 36 million without the ability to be seek medical attention for what ails them.

Whew, now President Bush can point to an achievement for the common folk. Oh, wait. I nearly forgot he wants to cut Medicaid, which will push the numbers back upward. This president and the members of Congress should all feel embarrassed and ashamed of the abundance of this country (see B2’s Conspicuous Consumption... and Disposal ), but yet we are so greedy and selfish.

Cleaning Up Your Toner Mishap

Many visitors to the hallowed digital halls of Toner Mishap arrive looking for tips on how to clean up spilled toner, usually out of carpet or clothing. With that in mind, I took it upon myself to gather all relevant source material on such toner mishaps and to make it available to you, and the rest of the infobahn, here at our blog.

Click here to find out what you can do in the event of a toner mishap, and make note of the new link on the sidebar -- we'll keep it up there for the hapless seeker of cleanliness.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Justice in Jordan

It's one thing to respect the cultural beliefs and traditions of another person, or group, or nation -- but it's another thing entirely to stand by and let this go on without comment:
A Jordanian man shot dead his divorced sister after seeing her photo on his friend's cameraphone, officials said Monday. The unidentified man shot the 31-year-old mother twice in the head Sunday night and then turned himself in to police saying he committed the murder to "cleanse his family's honor." The incident is the fifth example of a so-called honour killing in Jordan this year. Those found guilty usually face sentences of a maximum of one year in jail under Jordanian law. [Source]
For those of you who missed the "justice" part of the story, let me reiterate: he shoots his sister dead, and will likely get a year in jail.

On The Mark -- Dwindling Middle Class

The middle class is dwindling in more places than our society. It’s also dwindling on our freeways here in Southern California. It most be due to the gas prices. Until recently, when traffic is flowing (which is infrequent here) there are usually cars that go in the 80 MPH range, while other cars drive in the 70-75 MPH category. A few stragglers follow the 65 MPH speed limit. This mixture usually made for a good flow and known expectations.

Now, however, what we see are drivers that continue in the 80 MPH range, but the 70-75 MPH drivers have disappeared into the 65 MPH speed limit followers. The combination of fast drivers with the rule-abiders makes for a very dangerous roadway. It’s like playing bumper cars in fast-forward. Plus, now when a car zooms past at 80 MPH it seems like 100 MPH.

I’ve typically been in the 80 MPH range. But I’m not crazy. I don’t cut cars off, nor do I switch lanes a lot, or ride someone’s bumper. Until now I’ve just gone with the flow. I think I’ve only had one semi-road rage reaction in the last 15 years. I just don’t have any patience for 65 MPH. But lately when I drive I find myself constantly coming up on cars in the fast lane, having to change lanes, but finding it more difficult because the flow has changed, etc. All of a sudden I’ve become a reckless driver (and I’m sure some will argue that I’m already in that category if I’m going 80 MPH).

At the same time, I still see most cars racing through neighborhoods, gunning from stop signs and lights, and exceeding speed limits on city streets by 15-20 MPH. (Contrary to my highway driving, I follow most city and residential speed limits very closely.) So these people probably aren’t finding much difference in their miles-per-gallon comparisons, especially the truck owners who especially like to gun from stop lights.

Please bring back the middle class drivers so we can have balance again.

Move over, Prince Harry -- someone else needs your Nazi costume.

A Russian circus plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War by having monkeys dressed as Nazis.

Anatoly Marchevsky, director of the Yekaterinburg circus, said he had first wanted leopards to be the Nazis but that it was easier to design and fit costumes for monkeys. "You can't dress a horse like a Nazi," Marchevsky also remarked.


Conspicuous Consumption... and Disposal

Thousands of people, their cars and trucks loaded down with all sorts of toxic materials, lined up this weekend in a fabulous display of conspicuous consumption -- the local "Household Hazardous Waste Roundup."

As part of my family's pre-Passover clean-up, this past Saturday morning I decided to finally rid our garage of a few items that had been stacking up with no safe method of disposal: an old paint can filled with used paint thinner and turpentine and a Macintosh Quadra from the mid-1990s. Here's the sort of pile that my computer ended up in:

There are plenty more examples of the enormous amount of disposable non-disposables, but let's first experience the event (if you're just here to see the big piles of junk, feel free to scroll down).

The roundup was scheduled to start at 9 am, but there were people lined up in their cars outside the community college parking lot at 7:30 -- anxious, no doubt, to avoid to the long lines of later in the day (which I had to endure). By 10 am, one thousand people had already been and gone, driving through the makeshift switchback lanes, set up in some sort of automobile amusement park-like line. By the end of the day, more than three thousand people would have taken advantage of this service.

The structure of the event was very simple. After making one's way through the back-and-forth froth, drivers pulled up into what I am calling "the gauntlet," where workers waited patiently, albeit menacingly.

This was an uncomfortable time for me; those white haz-mat suits just seem to bode ill no matter what the setting -- not necessarily in a "potential danger from chemical spills" sort of way; possibly in a "potential danger from deranged serial killer" sort of way.

Once in place, we drivers cut our engines and sat tight as the workers unloaded truck beds, back seats, and trailers in an attempt to quickly strip our vehicles of all that we carried.

Once the materials were downloaded, and as we drivers restarted our engines, a first-pass sorter quickly sorted the anti-freeze, asbestos, pesticide and fertilizer; the computer monitors, hard drive, televisions, and microwaves; the mercury thermometers, shoe polish, fax machines, and brake fluid.

This first pass was only the most minimal of involvement, and so the piles adjacent to the gauntlet were still mostly undifferentiated.

My wife said the following picture was one of her favorites, because of the accidental view of our valley in the background:

Another set of workers was stationed behind the initial screeners; their job was to more thoughtfully assess the nature of the discarded offal, and to start creating more focused groupings.

After this sorting, and after a lot of grunting and sweating, there remained nicely stacked groups of specific items -- a toxi-philic anal-retentive wet dream. Chemicals of all sorts, in tight little drums and cans (those last five words are sure to wind up as some perv's search string):

Flat screen technology made this pile of outdated computer monitors possible:

Old television sets? You are the weakest link!

You'd better not pout; I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming... to an end:

Last stop for all these unwanted, used up, dangerous materials is the c-container, which will get lost in transit to an official dumping site and one day turn up in an empty field somewhere:

And now, briefly, a little commentary (after all, it would hardly be Toner Mishap without some ranting, right?). I have very little to add to the message of these pictures; after all, it seems obvious to me that this kind of quickie consumption and disposal is not going to do our world any good.

I admit to the same obsession with new stuff -- one of those old computers is, as I admitted, mine. But we have a television from the early 1990s that still works fine; our microwave came with the house; our washer and dryer are hand-me-downs from the in-laws. Yeah, we go through computers every couple of years, but our recycling bin is full every week with glass and newspaper, which I defiantly (in spite of that old Dilbert bit in which the cleaning staff dumps trash and recycling into the same container at the end of every day) believe is on its way to being refashioned into new versions of itself.

I'm not sure we can overcome our desire to constantly replace the old with the new -- I'm not even sure I want to overcome it. If the economy (national and personal) could sustain it, I would much prefer to constantly have new stuff all the time and just blast the toxic leftovers into the sun, to be wholly consumed in a cleansing nuclear reaction and never to grace our planet again. But until that time, we're going to keep seeing the middle and upper classes going through goods like there's no poverty problem...

... and the rest of the world wondering why they can't get a computer to help their kids perform better in school or a microwave to simplify food production in their house.

In the meantime, if you live in the greater Los Angeles area and you need to get rid of some stuff that you know can't go into your trash can, call 888-CLEAN-LA and find out where and when you can get rid of it properly and safely.

"What's a matter? You deef or something?"

When I was younger, my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I would frequent the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Nuart in Santa Monica, California. The movie was always preceded by some previews (Talking Heads Stop Making Sense, Buckaroo Banzai, Repo Man) and one cartoon, "Rock-A-Bye-Bear." Two stills are below; click to hear a sound clip.

Check out all the Avery goodness at this Tex Avery tribute site (thanks, Drawn!).

Monday, April 25, 2005

Typical Bush Administration Reform

Unless drastic reforms are made, we must accept the fact that every four years the United States will be up for sale, and the richest man or family will buy it.
Gore Vidal, novelist and essayist.

Here is an ominous warning for the next elections. Buried at the bottom of page A8 in the Saturday New York Times is the story about the first chairman of the Election Assistance Commission who is leaving. The agency created after the presidential debacle of 2000 has not received any support. He said that they had to work without staff, offices and without resources. He should have been blogging with that kind of time on his hands.

Soaries, a Republican former secretary of state of New Jersey was the White House’s choice to join the commission created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. But, the White House just let the agency die by neglect. How would Bush reward the owner of Diebold that makes the voting machines with no paper trail if there was honest voting reform?

On The Mark -- Good News, Elaine, the Today Sponge Is Back

One of the greatest inventions of all time is the Today Sponge, an over-the-counter contraceptive that’s been unavailable in the United States for the past 10 years. The FDA forced it off the market when it found problems at the manufacturing plant. The safety of the product was never an issue. The manufacturer decided to stop production altogether rather than invest the millions it would take to fix the manufacturing problems identified by the FDA.

I call it a great invention because it provided great benefits beyond birth control. It allowed for spontaneity because it could remain inserted for a day. There was no discomfort for women and better yet, they didn’t have to deal with hormones and other yucky stuff from products such as birth control pills. The product also had an efficacy rate of 89% to 91% (100% for me).

I introduced two women to the product and they were ecstatic. I remember when it mysteriously disappeared and the great disappointment. Nothing else has compared to it since. It was the most popular female over-the-counter contraceptive in the country from 1983 to 1995, when 250 million were sold.

I also remember a very funny Seinfeld episode where Elaine desperately searches throughout all the pharmacies and supermarkets in NYC to buy every last box of the Today Sponge when she heard it was being pulled off the market. She then grilled each prospective partner to make sure they were “spongeworthy” because she knew she had to ration the product.

Welcome back, Sponge.

News Review

Nothing is news until it has appeared in The Times [or Toner Mishap].
Ralph Deakin (1888 - 1952), British journalist.

I am attempting to catch up and comment on some of the news items last week. This really is a parade of fascist, lying right-wingers succeeding in helping the rich get richer and stay rich. I have never seen a worse administration in my life. As Groucho Marx replied, to the woman who yelped, “I have never been so insulted in my life.” “Stick around.”

Statistics. Time Magazine had in its numbers column (an idea I think they picked up from Harper’s Index) this little tidbit: 14%. Proportion of mobile-phone users worldwide who said in a survey that they have interrupted sex to take a call. I suspect it was probably from their spouse.

From Harper's Index are these jems:
Average amount the Bush Administration has spent per year on contracts with PR firms -- $62,500,000

Average amount spend during the second term of the Clinton Administration -- $32,000,000

Ann Coulter. I never paid much attention to Ann Coulter I figured she was just a female Rush Limbaugh. After reading the cover piece in Time Magazine on her, I would say that she is also a racist or at least finds humor in racism. It’s one thing for her to do so privately, but publicly because she has a large audience further encourages hate. She made a joke that when her Muslim ex-boyfriend was in church with her that at least he was not out killing people. I suspect that Christians have killed far more in the name of God than Muslims, but I could be wrong. I know she is just trying to be funny with a dry sense of humor. I will simply go back to not paying attention to her.

Nuclear Option. I suspect that the Republicans are going to self destruct faster than the Democrats with all this preaching and saddling up to the religious right. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist praying and preaching politics on a broadcast to the unforgiving Christians before attempting to pull the trigger on the Senate’s nuclear option, which means doing away with the filibuster. Let’s just forget the separation of church and state, at least while George Bush is president. It will interesting watching the Republicans squeal like stuck pigs when the Democrats return to power and no longer have the filibuster option. The Senate is suppose to debate the issues and bills, which naturally the Bush administration is against. They want absolute rule.

Frank Rich has an excellent column in Sunday’s New York Times about the "Justice Sunday" judge-bashing rally. The co-producer of this nonsense is James Dobson, who has condemned SpongeBob Square Pants as gay.

Then there is John Bolton, who played loose and fast with the data for going into Iraq, now being rewarded by Dick Cheney / Bush by receiving the nomination for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Stick around and try and have a sense of humor, you’ll need it as we have three and a half more years of this administration.

You’ve Got Mail

Sirs, I have tested your machine. It adds a new terror to life and makes death a long-felt want.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1853 - 1917), British actor and theatrical impresario, referring to a gramophone.

Pope Benedict XVI is now online. The title Benedict XVI reminds me of the David Bowie song TVC15. I wonder if the pope will give blessings and absolutions online? Well, don’t count on anything. He has to get through 30,844 messages in English, 12,621 in Italian and thousands more in other languages.

You can find the e-mail address here.

I wonder what the Vatican's privacy policy is?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.
Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985), poet

Work. The day job has been incredibly busy of late and I have had no time or energy to write. My newspapers are stacking up, three a day, unopened. Well, I do pull the sports page out to look at baseball scores and stats. The last three days I have been very pleased to see the Dodgers lose, but they are still a strong team, which is unfortunate for me now that I dislike the Dodger brass so much.

Minor Blog Anniversary. Last Sunday was our six-month anniversary here at Toner Mishap. The numbers have been steadily going up. Why? Readers like comics and B2’s grocery shopping excursions. They like On the Mark’s always on target posts, and some of my rantings about various things. Together, if I do say so myself, we have an eclectic mix of items and a number of intelligent readers and whose comments all keep the page relatively entertaining and interesting. I’ll stop the self promoting, before I really start to believe it.

However, there have been days when I wonder why I do this and how long I can keep it up. Blogging is very time consuming. Toner Mishap has not skipped a day of adding new content since we started. Thankfully, B2 is very prolific and has many items in reserve for the days when I have nothing. On the Mark generally posts in the afternoon. Happy belated anniversary guys.

I just returned from the book store and picked up Charles Bukowski’s book “Shifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way.” The first poem called “so you want to be a writer,” which has a passage:

when it is truly time
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in

I don’t have the same passion as what is talked about above, but if I don’t write, I miss writing.

The Vic. On the Mark and I hit The Vic in Santa Monica Thursday night for the 10 p.m. show of jazz legend Sheila Jordan. The L. A. Times gave her an excellent review. I believe On the Mark thoroughly enjoyed it as well. I thought there were a few solid moments, but honestly, I enjoyed my chocolate bread pudding and cream sauce with a black cup of coffee even more. Jordan is a jazz purest and according to the article there were many singers in the audience watching her; she was just not my cup of tea.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wendy's Chili Does Not, In Fact, Contain Human Fingers

Since I wrote about this already, I figure I have some sort of responsibility to help undo the harm done by Anna Ayala to a certain fast food chain (but how do you "command-z" a public fiasco?).

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Ayala has been arrested on attempted grand theft in her false claims of finding a finger in her bowl of chili at Wendy's. Grand theft -- for the amount of money she would have sued for. Unfortunately, the damage to Wendy's reputation is probably irreparable, but I guess they can sue her for suffering and the business equivalent of loss of consortium (see also: John Wayne Bobbitt).

This is the only article on-line I can find that even hints at what is now taking place... so check your local newspaper for more recent details.

Sorry, Wendy's -- we done you wrong.

Is it really classical? Really?

For the last time, here's the difference between "classic" and "classical."
clas·si·cal (adjective)
1. Of or relating to the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially their art, architecture, and literature.

2. Conforming to the artistic and literary models of ancient Greece and Rome.

3. Versed in the classics: a classical scholar.
clas·sic (adjective)
1. Belonging to the highest rank or class.

2. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.

3. Serving as the established model or standard: a classic example of French Onion soup.
Incidentally -- I would argue that, truthfully, the French Onion soup at Souplantation is defined by neither of these two terms.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Little. Blue. Different.
And Kosher for Passover.

From Jewschool:
A leading Israeli rabbi has ruled that the anti-impotency pill Viagra can be taken by Jews on Passover; Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu said the pill can be swallowed if it is encased in a special soluble kosher capsule first.
My favorite part of the story:
Viagra's Israeli manufacturers said they sought an answer after receiving queries from worried religious men.

Schrodinger's Matzah

As Passover is soon approaching, I wanted to share some recent thoughts on the parallels between the Jewish tradition and quantum physics. (Because I feel like it -- that's why.)

The laws of quantum physics requires an observer to be present for the universe to function; watched quantum experiments have different results than unwatched experiments. The documented double-slit experiment shows that light behaves in two different ways, depending on whether it is observed, and the famous "Schrodinger's Cat" thought experiment is a wonderful example of an observer seeing the result of an experiment, which then triggers the cause -- yes, it's pretty much effect before cause, and the events in the experiment are suspended outside of time, only retroactively happening once the observer peeks. And now, an awkward segue.

One of the key elements of the Passover celebration is matzah, which represents the Jews' hasty escape from slavery to freedom. They did not have enough time to allow their baking bread to rise, and so it baked flat. The rabbis say it takes eighteen minutes for bread to rise, and so the flour used to make matzah for Passover is not allowed to touch water for longer than eighteen minutes.

To further prevent unauthorized wheat-related action that would turn it from unleavened matzah to leavened bread, to make sure the matzah is totally kosher, the matzah is tended carefully from seed to box -- from the time the wheat is planted, while it grows, when it is harvested, while it is baked... that matzah is known as shmurah matzah, or "guarded matzah." You could also translate it as "watched matzah." Or, alternatively, observed matzah.

The observation of the matzah is required to guarantee its adherence to the law, its kashrut. We actually have a similar (though less intense) process for all kosher foods -- in order to get that little O-U logo (or one of the many similarly-intentioned logomarks), you need your products to be prepared and packaged with rabbinic inspection, by someone trained in the art. It's not enough to be not treife (that's the word for unkosher food; it's also sometimes spelled trayf); you can buy some lingonberry jam at the store, and it may not be treife (it's probably lobster-free, for instance), but it's not kosher unless an authorized observer procliaims it kosher. So in this, too, the presence of the observer is essential.

Of course, quantum physics really only applies in the shtetl of sub-atomic particles -- not in your local winery or butcher shop. But it seems that the rabbis picked up on something very special when they hammered out the rules for kashrut and the need for an observer to make sure everything is kosher, and maybe they tapped into something tied to the very existence of our universe. Maybe.

And so I wish all Toner Mishap readers who are so inclined to have a happy and healthy Passover, a hag kasher v'sameach. Next year in Jerusalem!

I Am That I Am

In honor of Passover's imminence, a little Hebrew humor.

Moses cried, “When the slaves in Goshen ask your name, what shall I tell them?” and God said, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. I am who I am.”

“Are you sure?” asked Moses.

“You will say, ‘Ehyeh has commanded you.’”

Moses went and did the Lord’s bidding. He returned a short time later.

“No one really takes the name Am seriously.”

God said, “Did you use the word Ehyeh?”

“They already know that Ehyeh means Am. It’s our language. They think it’s a weird name. And not as pleasing as Osiris.”

“I wasn’t speaking literally. It’s kind of a play on words, like, I’m sort of beyond a name, because I AM. So for them, that’s all the identity I need. I am.”

“I think the problem is the verb being used in place of—”

“Okay, you know what? Tell them they can call me He Who Doesn’t Put Up With Shit Like This, or better yet, they can call me He Who’s Gonna Leave Them To Rot In Egypt. See if they like that name better.”


Thursday, April 21, 2005

On The Mark -- Blowing Smoke

Headlines such as “White Smoke, Black Past” (this one appeared in a newspaper in Israel) regarding the announcement of the new Pope are yet more examples of sloppy journalism, runaway headline writers, and uneducated journalists. Or, worse yet, an attempt to paint all people of a religion or country black. (A blogger’s note: I’m a latent Catholic who dislikes organized religion, so these comments are not in defense of the Pope.) The headline was referring to the fact that Pope Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth.

Wrong because most high school youth in Germany were in the Hitler Youth. They had no choice. It wasn’t like joining the Boy Scouts. I have a friend who doesn’t like to talk about this time in his life. He escaped from Germany with his mother at the age of 14 in the middle of the war. He wasn’t a Jew; his father had been killed in the war and his mother knew that what Hitler was up to was all wrong. She saw disaster ahead.

He told me, very briefly, about how kids were forced to join. It started when he was 11 years old. How, in class before a student could answer a teacher’s question, he had to stand and shout Heil Hitler while giving the Nazi salute. “We got a really good smack on the nose with a ruler if we forgot to do this or if our salute was wrong,” he said.

He told me how most of his friends hated every second of it, and didn’t really understand it. They only understood the fear. How he and his friends were hit relentlessly if they stepped out of line. How they feared for their families if they tried to fight back. How the war was going so bad that rumors were flying that 14-year-olds were going to be sent to the front.

Maybe Pope Benedict XVI learned something from this experience that will help make a difference someplace.

Two Conversations at Starbucks Involving Nazis

I found myself working out of a Starbucks Wednesday morning. Conversation number one is between me and Kenneth Mars.

Me: Mr. Mars? Just wanted to say that I'm a big fan of yours. It's cool seeing you in a Starbucks.

Kenneth Mars: Oh yeah, we actors... we hang out in here, the supermarket, shit like that. Thank you.


And the following is conversation number two, between three Hollywood-type writers (one of whom had previously claimed credit for some episodes of "Perfect Strangers," and may have been Tom Devanney):

Writer 1: So what's the hierarchy?

Writer 2: Bishop, cardinal...

Writer 3: There's an arch-bishop in there.

Writer 2: Bishop, arch-bishop, cardinal, arch-cardinal...

Writer 3: There's no arch-cardinal.

Writer 2: Bishop, arch-bishop, cardinal, pope.

Writer 3: And then Nazi pope.

My Computer has Been Drinking

A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader.
Charles Olson (1910 - 1970), poet

I have taken the liberty of sharing something I wrote a few years ago, which for lack of any real knowledge of poetry, I will call a poem. This is what happens when the day job keeps you busy.

My Computer has Been Drinking (Not Me)
I’ve been drinking, but I’m not thirsty
I’m thinking, but it’s not making sense
I’m making money, but others are profiting
The public can’t read, but they can spell
The editor doesn’t write, but he can sing
It is such a hollow feeling that I wonder why I’m here
My heart beats, but the blood doesn’t flow
I am looking for the meaning and there is no purpose
I know a lot of people, but I have no friends
It’s such a sad sorry state, but I’m happy
Inspired by Tom Waits

My favorite real poem by one of my favorite poets John Keats.

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

O SOLITUDE! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

More Poetry

The Misanthrope isn't the only cultured guy at this blog; On the Mark and I are both fairly well-read. With that in mind, and with The Misanthrope as inspiration, here are two of my favorite poems, Perhaps, if you ask nicely, On the Mark will share with us as well.


E.E. Cumming's "she being Brand"
Note that Cummings didn't use the lowercase conceit that his publishers do.

she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.



Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool"

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

On The Mark -- My Turn

I am a big fan of the “My Turn” column in Newsweek. I’ve always liked that every week a common, everyday person gets published like a George Will in a national newsweekly. I typically like the subjects and find them in the Studs Terkel class of getting into the heart of the country.

But the column in the April 11 issue really ticked me off. It’s written by Nicole Kristal, a struggling musician who wrote term papers for public and private high school and college kids. It’s a “I was a bad girl and I admit it” piece, so she’s not bragging, but it doesn’t deserve to earn publication in Newsweek. Here’s how she opens the column:

“For three years, I was an academic prostitute, I ruined the curve for the honest and ensured that the wealthiest, and often stupidest, students earned the highest marks. I was a professional paper-writer.”

The operative words are “for three years.” That’s a long time, a lot of papers, and piles of deceit to finally wake up. And now she gets the prize of being published in this exclusive column, I’m sure hoping to be discovered by a music producer, or perhaps there’s a book on the way.

Sure, she attacks herself with phrases like, “by a self-loathing nerd like me,” and “Despite my intellect, I handed over my self respect to rich losers. I allowed myself to be blinded by privilege and the hope that some of it would rub off on me and help my flailing music career. Ultimately, trading my morals for money cost me the confidence I needed to turn my dreams into reality.” At the same time, she says, “I put up with it because I feared working in an office for $12 an hour again.”

Give me a break. We’ve all run into these people who talk with such sincerity when it’s really – well, she said it – self loathing. What she’s really all about is how she’s described in the caption below her picture: Writer for Hire.

This story should not have gone any further than her blog, and I’m sure she has one. Certainly not Newsweek.

One term would have been enough for us.

Seems like an opportune time to mention these shirts again... and for those of you who don't parlez vous, dayenu is Passover Hebrew for "enough."


I also need to point out the Pillage Idiot's Four Stages of Kitniot. It's a bit long, and you may want to skip down through the definitions... but once you get to the Kubler-Ross parody, it's laugh-out-loud funny.

What Did You Teach Today?

The schoolteacher is certainly underpaid as a childminder, but ludicrously overpaid as an educator.
John Osborne (1929 - 1994), British playwright and screenwriter

This journal entry shows the hurdles a teacher has to leap in order to impart knowledge upon her students. Roxanna is a special education instructor in Los Angeles.

Journal Entry #8
My husband asks me every day after I come home from the job that I love: "What did you teach today?"

I tell him about how I got the big kids to stop throwing water at the little kids in the bathroom. I tell him how I spoke with a student's father about a report I had to file. I tell him about how I had the students stand in line with their hands behind their back so they don't push each other, when they go to lunch. I told him how I have to stop my students from talking at lunch because it gets out of control, and it is a school rule that they cannot talk during lunchtime. I tell him there are more than 200 students at lunchtime - can he imagine them all talking at the sometime? I tell him how once again I tried to call a parent's telephone number because she sent me a note that I had to urgently speak with her - and I find that her phone is still disconnected. I tell him how the administration told me that a special education meeting starts in half an hour at another school that is more than an hour away from my school, and I needed to figure out what teacher could possibly work in my class on such short notice. I tell him that to do this; I have to provide a lesson plan and give guidance about how to work with my students. I tell him how a student's father suddenly appeared at the school, and wanted to urgently speak with me, even though I had just spoken with him 10 minutes ago on the phone and he never mentioned he was coming. I tell him how the literacy coach said I have to prepare a bulletin board for computer lab tomorrow, so my students have to do it today. I tell him how I had to make copies on two photocopiers that never work. I tell him how a mother came to complain because she said her son had no breakfast, even though he came 40 minutes late after breakfast had ended - and he lives right in front of the school. I tell my husband about a student who is sleeping three hours a night at home, so that when he comes to school he is so irritated that he starts kicking and shouting when I get near him. I tell him how one student keeps says that others are pushing her, although they are not even in the same room with her.

My husband listens to all this attentively, and gives me a look that says he loves me. He waits, and then waits some more. Then he asks, "So, what did you teach today?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Who washes the Washmen?

Not sure how long this will remain available... so order now and don't tell Alan Moore.

On The Mark -- Krispy Kreme on the Rocks, Please

If you’re playing the stock market, you may want to consider buying McDonald’s, Burger King and Krispy Kreme first thing in the morning. Here’s the latest “whoops, we got it wrong” medical study (this one released by the CDC):

From Associated Press: “Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC…Based on the new calculation, excess weight would drop from the second leading cause of preventable death, after smoking, to seventh. It would fall behind car crashes and guns on the list of killers…The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.”

So go ahead, have another quart of ice cream. It’s good for you! “They” just said so!
OK, I ask yet again, who sponsored this study…the snack food association?

By the way, the CDC put out another study today that basically said: oops, we were wrong, it’s actually not such a good idea to have two drinks a day. It doesn’t help prevent heart disease after all – sorry about that.

So, throw away the Jack Daniels (which has no carbs by the way), and have yourself another pizza, thick crust, extra cheese.

Here’s to your heart…

Long Live the New Pope

They've picked a new pope, and I'm sort of surprised at the choice. John Ratzenberger is better known as an actor (you may remember him as know-it-all Cliff from "Cheers" or as the voice of the dinosaur in "Toy Story").

I guess congratulations are in order... it just seems a little weird to me. But what do I know? I'm not Catholic.

For the Love of Teaching

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.
Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777 - 1855), mathematician and astronomer

A friend and co-worker’s wife is a special education teacher in a part of Los Angeles that I would not drive into unless I absolutely had to because it is not the safest area. I am so impressed by her unselfish and complete caring for her students that I have to share two of her daily journal entries that were kindly shared with me. Thank goodness there are people and teachers like Roxanna.

Journal Entry #7
One day Student X did not do his homework. This was nothing new. In fact, Student X had not done his homework for many days. I sent multiple notes home to the parents. I spoke to Student X's brother. I called his home. I sent notes, I spoke to Student X again, and I spoke to Student X's brothers again. I did everything in my power to help Student X do his homework. But it did not get done.

One day I was finally able to speak with Student X's mother. She had barely braked in front of the school, driving a car that cost three years of my salary. Rather than stop the car, park, and speak, she rolled the window down partway. She did not turn off the motor or the radio. She shouted several things over the radio, including that Student X still had the little pencil I had given him several months ago so he could his homework. But one comment in particular stood out, and made me feel something no teacher should feel: "Mrs. Teacher, my son cannot do his homework because we do not have a pencil sharpener! And, we did not sharpen the pencil you gave us because we cannot fine a sharpener. So he has nothing to write with. You understand."

I did not understand. I did not understand, especially for one very powerful reason: Student X loves schoolwork. When I give him work to do, his face changes, his eyes get big, he smiles, he wants to start immediately. He gets excited when I give homework. He loves to color, draw, and trace. He even loves to help other students with their work. He recognizes the letters in his name, and he loves to trace his name. Whenever he sees the letter that begins his name, he blushes with pride. He acts as if that letter is his and only his. To him, no other name begins with that letter. He acts as if he created that letter and added it to the alphabet!

No, I do not understand. I shouted this over the radio. I also shouted directions to the nearest 99 Cents store, explaining that a person can buy four pencil sharpeners for less than a dollar. I told his mother this. I told her, Student X could use the pencil sharpener in the classroom to sharpen the pencil I gave him three months ago. She had nothing to say, or couldn't hear because of the radio.

So today, I see that letter in the alphabet, and I wonder whose it is. It is an orphan letter. Student X can't have it today; he can't trace it at home, because he does not have a pencil sharpener.

Tomorrow Journal Entry #8

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ben Grimm Goes to Seder

Nuff said.

[Thanks, Jack!]

Cardinals Play their Version of Survivor

You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye!
Anne Robinson, television host of Weakest Link

The Catholic cardinals will need several days and repeated votes in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to reach the required majority to pick the sole survivor to carry the most common title of pope as well as the secondary titles of vicar of Christ; successor of Saint Peter; supreme pontiff of the universal church; patriarch of the West; primate of Italy; archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman province; sovereign of the State of Vatican City; and servant of the servants of God.

The winner will be the one most out of touch with modern culture. One of the possible front-runners to survive and be sent to the throne of papacy is Joseph Ratzinger, 78. He has as taken hard lines against feminism, secularism and Islam.

Reasons for be voted off the island of the Vatican include being considered too intellectual, which may get Angelo Scola, 63, voted off early. Another disadvantage is youth. Norberto Revera Carrera is 62 and his lack of maturity is a major downside.

As these men of God go about their important duty of selecting the servant of God, they are frisked, sworn to secrecy and because they still cannot be trusted, numerous anti-bugging and jamming devices are used to keep these godly gentlemen honest.

The Odds Are Stacked Against Her

Pamela, Loni Anderson called. She wants her hair, breasts, screwed-up personal life, and faded career back.

The Madam and Her Whores

There's a lot of favors
I'm prepared to do
You do one for Mama
She'll do one for you.
Matron Mama Morton as sung by Queen Latifah in “When You're Good to Mama” from the movie Chicago

The National Rifle Association acts as the madam of a bordello overseeing all her whores otherwise known as politicians. The ethically void House Majority Leader Tom DeLay after having run to the safety of zealous Christians during the Terry Schiavo matter now takes refuge with Big Mama NRA.

Saturday DeLay ran into the arms of Big Mama, who takes care of her ladies – the politicians – by supplying an unending line of johns to support them, who then in turn scratch big mama’s back. DeLay was greeted with a standing ovation and his lack of ethics was blamed on democrats. It is rather surprising that during the NRA convention held in Houston that guns are not into the ceiling of the convention center since the attendees want to return to the days of the wild west and have everyone strap on a gun or tote a rifle in the cab of their pick-up truck.

Make no mistake Big Mama is generous. Gun rights groups have given more than $17 million in individual, PAC and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989. Nearly $15 million, or 85 percent of the total, has gone to Republicans.

While all the politicians of ill repute happily take the money from Big Mama, they look the other way at all the toys that the johns line up to buy. Exhibited at this gathering of whores and johns are such devices designed to reduce recoil on semiautomatic rifles, flash suppressors, and collapsible stocks for M-15 and AR-10 rifles that allow people of small stature to handle a weapon or hide one, high-capacity magazines to ensure assailants don’t run out of ammunition when high school students or gang members start shooting.

As NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre to the crowd, “Let the enemies of freedom (anyone opposed to arming to the teeth) take notice, we in this room have beaten you and beaten you and beaten you for 25 years,”

Sadly, LaPierre is right. When very few politicians are willing to stand up to this organization of ill repute and myriad johns vote the way Big Mama tells them to this country will continue to see such statistics as the following from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

In 1998, 30,708 people in the United States died from firearm-related deaths - 12,102 (39%) of those were murdered; 17,424 (57%) were suicides; 866 (3%) were accidents; and in 316 (1%) the intent was unknown. In comparison, 33,651 Americans were killed in the Korean War and, 58,193 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.

Guns don't kill people; bullets do.

So, as The Misanthrope recounts above in "The Madam and Her Whores," the NRA is Big Mama and we are her Johns... or something like that. Here's my two cents, which are shiny enough (in my mind) to merit a separate post, and not just a comment.

I heard audio from DeLay's appearance at the NRA show this weekend in Texas (is anyone surprised by the location?), and he said that if more law-abiding citizens carried weapons, there would be less crime. Really, Tom? I thought about that for a while, and here's what I came up with:
1. Law-abiding citizens do not commit crimes, so they wouldn't use their guns for crimes. (One point for DeLay and Heston.)

2. Criminals are less likely to attempt to rob (etc.) someone who's packing heat. (Another point for the gun-toting masses.)
Now here's where I start to catch up on the tote board.
3. Most people don't know how to operate their DVD players correctly; most people would have as much knowledge about the usage of their new "in self defense only" device. I mean, come one -- no one reads manuals anymore, and I don't see the government mandating gun usage education for gun purchasers; we can't even figure out how to educate people about getting pregnant and raising children.

4. People with guns tend to use them. You hear a strange noise in the middle of the night, or someone suspicious-looking is peering in through the bushes, or that guy on the freeway cut you off and didn't even put his cellphone down when he gave you the finger!

5. The last time people could carry whatever weapons they wanted whenever and however they wanted we had murder, vigilantism, gunfights at the OK Corral, and Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven." (Then again, the OK Corral gunfight took place in a town that had banned guns within town limits... and I really liked "Unforgiven.")
Here's what it comes down to -- when people have guns, people get shot. Just because criminals obtain them doesn't mean we all should start carrying them; you don't eliminate the threat of an illegal activity by making it legal (except for marijuana and prostitution?). I don't want the government to tell me what I can and can't do, unless my actions in the particular area to be regulated affect my fellow citizens -- and gun ownership is one of those areas. Don't give us all guns; just keep them out of the hands of criminals.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

No sooner is it a little calmer with me than it is almost too calm. As though I have a true feeling of myself only when am unbearably unhappy. That is probably true, too.
Franz Kafka (1883 - 1924), writer

Super Heroes. I got the biggest kick out of watching our numbers spin upward similar to the dollars signs on the gas pump. I have not been into comic books since I used to read Archie, Richie Rich, and Sad Sack. However, B2 has given me an appreciation of the graphic novel. I appreciate it, but I still can’t get into it. But, I am happy as hell that 9,000 others still enjoy comics. However, I have to admit that the Rifleman cover below is a crackup.

Modern Day Vultures. I drive 40 miles each way to work and traffic is always an issue. The other morning, the traffic reports had no mention of any accidents before I left the house, but when I spotted four helicopters hovering and one airplane circling over a stretch of freeway coming up, I knew I was in trouble. There was an accident and the airborne reporters were filming every inch of what was happening. A deadly accident happened Thursday morning when some clamp fell off a truck on the overpass to the highway below tragically killing two people. The freeway I take was shut down and traffic was a mess, thankfully, I was one less car diverted off the nearest exit that morning.

Compliments. Toner Mishap received a few compliments during our short but fun run up of hits. I have to say it is always nice to hear those things and it is my pleasure to share the blog with two intelligent and clever guys. I am getting too soft here; I need to complain about something. The neighbors behind us have been rather quiet so far this spring. I figured out how to calm the wooly mammoth next door. I only pump the pellet gun a couple of times and the sting from the pellet shuts him up. Just kidding. Wife would take aim at me if I ever did anything that mean. I don’t own a pellet gun, not even a squirt gun. I just yell quiet a few dozen times and he eventually calms down.

Dodgers. I hate the Dodgers this season because the owner is such a louse and what happens? The Dodgers have the best record in baseball thus far. I don't care if they don't lose another game all season, I will continue to root against them.

On The Mark -- And the Winner Is...

Not that everyone was jumping out of their seats to play along...

The winner of "Name This Story" is Johnna, who offered "Crouching Biker, Hidden Dumplings" as the title for the short story.

"We have great expectations," is what the executive director said when asked about the upcoming Charles Dickens amusement park scheduled to open outside of London in April 2007.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Zero Mostel times anything will still give you Zero Mostel.

A few little tidbits that I think you'll enjoy:


The Propaganda Remix Project
Parodies of the government public works projects of decades past are used to address certain contemporary issues of concern, such as privacy rights, unbridled patriotism/jingoism, and the wonderful economic benefits of war.


Pinky and the Brain
A collection of "are you pondering what I'm pondering?" moments. Example:
Binky: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Pinky: Uh, I think so, Brain, but we'll never get a monkey to use dental floss.

Unintentionally Sexual Magazine Covers
Got wood?


The Guy Who Played "Biff" In "Back to the Future" is Now a Painter
Tom Wilson's interpretations of pop culture icons are really pretty swell!
[Thanks, Drawn!]

Patented Marijuana Will Lead to Legalization

Marijuana is...self-punishing. It makes you acutely sensitive and in this world, what worse punishment could there be?
P. J. O'Rourke, writer and humorist

Cannabis sativa is how botanists know it, but many others know it from its Mexican colloquial name Marijuana. In Africa it’s known as dagga, in China as ma in northern Europe as hemp, in India as bhang, ganja and charas. I bring this up because this week, I have seen two articles on the medicinal benefits of marijuana regarding tests on mice and that the active ingredient in the drug is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which may have a role in combating heart disease and strokes, according to a in the last week’s Nature by Sabine Steffen of Geneva University Hospital.

These articles in The Economist and The Los Angeles Times as well as the in-depth article in the book “Reefer Madness, Sex Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market” by Eric Schlosser author of Fast Food Nation, inspired this post. According to Schlosser’s book (which is well worth reading and most of what follows is from his book), there is a lot of racial prejudice behind laws against marijuana, and surprisingly not because of black jazz musicians, but because of Mexican immigrants during political upheaval in Mexico in 1910.

Hemp goes all the way back to the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who grew the crop on their plantations. The plant’s fibers were used to make sails and riggings, and its byproducts were turned into oakum for the caulking of wooden ships.

In the latter half of the 19th Century marijuana became a popular ingredient in patent medicines and was sold openly at pharmacies in one-ounce herbal packages and alcohol-based tinctures, as a cure for migraines, rheumatism, and insomnia. Dr. Browns’s Sedative Tablets contained marijuana, as did Eli Lilly’s One Day Cough Cure.

President Richard Nixon appointed a bipartisan commission to study the health effects, legal status and social impact of marijuana. The commission found that possessing small amounts of marijuana in the home should no longer be a crime. Growing, selling, using in public or driving should all remain criminal. Nixon felt betrayed by the commission and rejected its findings and privately blamed the agitation of marijuana law reform on the jews.

President Ronald Reagan endorsed the view that marijuana “is probably the most dangerous drug in America today.” He appointed Carlton Tuner head of the White House Drug Abuse Policy office. Turner thought that marijuana use linked to anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business demonstrations. He also thought that smoking pot could turn young men into homosexuals.

Today drug manufacturing companies are rolling in cash as they charge high prices for drugs that often help us, but also have some terrible side affects – such as death – just ask Pfizer about the deaths linked to Celebrex.

Although the misuse of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and antihistamines kills thousands of people every year, not a single death has ever been credibly attributed directly to smoking or consuming marijuana in the 5,000 years of the plant’s recorded use.

There have been few large-scale studies about marijuana because and this is a huge reason – the marijuana plant cannot be patented. Therefore, corporations that back research are more interested in establishing the drug’s harmful effects rather than helping people find an economic cure.

Friday, April 15, 2005

On The Mark -- Drink 'til You Drop

Here we go again. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how a new study revealed that taking too much Vitamin E can actually hurt more than help you, as had been reported over the past 15 years or so.

Now it turns out, supposedly, that drinking too much water or sports drinks when running or working out in hot weather is actually detrimental to your health, causing death among long-distance runners in some cases.

A study just released in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a marathon runner, for example, could seriously dilute the blood with an overdose of liquids, resulting in a coma or death.

Because we’ve been taught for so many years to give water or a sports drink when it appears someone is suffering from heat stroke (after a long summer hike, for example), we actually could be giving them the poison to kill them.

Or so this study says, anyway. In 20 years’ time there will be another study that says thousands of people have died because they didn’t get enough water due to their fear of being over hydrated, based on this new study.

It seems to me the best remedy is: drink when you’re thirsty. Eat when you’re hungry. Avoid anything chemically manufactured unless there’s no choice.

But, then, I’m not a doctor…or a researcher…or better yet, one who funds these kinds of studies (and their built-in biases).

So now I’m confused, when I go on a long hike in the canyon this hot weekend, should I drink lots of water, or should I fight the urge to drink?

OK, I get it. Soon there will be a major marketing campaign undertaken by the companies that make instant tests that you can take while hiking or running where one can instantly determine their sodium levels to see if they need more or less water in their system.

Now I’m beginning to wonder who funded this study?

The Chewbacca Defense

When more than 5,000 people hit your blog to see what you found at the supermarket, you go through seven distinct phases:
1. Shock
"WTF?!? I was shopping, for crying out loud!"

2. Denial
"There must be some mistake; maybe they're looking for porn."

3. Bargaining
"OK, if these numbers keep going up, I'm going to start posting about Chewbacca every day."

4. Guilt
"Did I make this sound more interesting than it really was? Should I apologize?"

5. Anger
"What's up with those bogus comments that are really just ploys to get me to visit other blogs? Who do they think they're messing with?!?"

6. Depression
"I suppose this means I have to start posting about Chewbacca every day."

7. Acceptance
"Well, there are worse things in life than having to post about Chewbacca every day."
So here goes:

The Chewbacca Defense

From that episode of "South Park" in which Johnnie Cochran comes to town to try a case against Chef. Here's his speech:
Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed jury, Chef's attorney would certainly want you to believe that his client wrote "Stinky Britches" ten years ago. And they make a good case. Hell, I almost felt pity myself!

But ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider: Ladies and gentlemen, this [pointing to a picture of Chewbacca] is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk, but Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now, think about that. That does not make sense! Why would a Wookie—an eight foot tall Wookie—want to live on Endor with a bunch of two foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense!

But more important, you have to ask yourself, what does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense!

Look at me, I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca. Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense. None of this makes sense!

And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberating and conjugating the Emancipation Proclamation... does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense.

If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
Later in that same episode, Cochran has a change of heart and defends Chef when Chef sues the record company. Again, he uses the Chewbacca Defense, although with some minor changes.
Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, you must now decide whether to reverse the decision for my client Chef. I know he seems guilty, but ladies and gentlemen... [pulling down a diagram of Chewbacca] this is Chewbacca. Now think about that for one moment -- that does not make sense. Why am I talking about Chewbacca when a man's life is on the line? Why? I'll tell you why: I don't know.

It does not make sense. If Chewbacca does not make sense, you must acquit!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pet Shop Boys Style Guide

Thanks go out to Beaucoup Kevin, who posted today about the Pet Shop Boys and shared with his readers the Pet Shop Boys style guide for song titles. It seems to be from this tribute to "Being boring" site, though he is somewhat unclear. So here's the excerpt, for all you language geeks to enjoy:
Long hours were spent trying to agree on consistent rules for punctuation, particularly in Neil’s lyrics. (The basic rule followed is that a new line begins with a capital letter when the previous sentence—which was often far from the same as the previous line—has finished). One of the many points of dispute in the text itself was Neil’s insistence that the Pet Shop Boys’ rules for how they write their song titles—in particular which letters should be printed in upper or lower case—should be formalised and rigorously followed. The rule is that, in this respect, all Pet Shop Boys song titles should be treated as if they are sentences: the first word should be capitalised, but subsequent words should only be capitalised if they are proper nouns. So it should be I want a dog but it likewise should be Dreaming of the Queen (as the song refers to one particular queen, the Queen of England). Most controversial was Neil’s insistence that—because the West End is a specific area of London— West End girls should henceforth appear like that. This rule only applies to songs the Pet Shop Boys have written, or to the Pet Shop Boys recordings, so it would be correct to write about the Pet Shop Boys number one hit Always on my mind whilst also noting that they were inspired to record it after hearing Elvis Presley’s hit version of Always On My Mind.

Daughter Returns Home

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen.

John Keats (1795–1821), poet

Finally the prodigal Daughter comes home from her study abroad program (The link takes you to her meeting with Bill Clinton). She has had the opportunity to see Ireland, Scotland, Prague, France, London, Spain, Switzerland and Germany. I have taken the day off from work to pick her up at LAX. I would never be able to concentrate today anyway. This is the longest period of time I have ever gone without seeing Daughter and I hope never have to go this long again.

Everyday was a constant worry about her. Each time the phone rang, I held my breath until she said everything was okay. I suspect the worse part was feeling so helpless, if anything required my assistance while she was abroad.

Well, now that she is home and safe we can go back to our quotidian arguments about everything from money to what words I use to describe her to when am I taking her to see the Dodgers (never because I hate them, but we'll go see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Supermarket Superheroes

Ran out to the store this evening to buy a few things -- and realized that any errand without the wife and kids can be an adventure, just waiting to be discussed in my blog! In this case, I was stunned by some promotional tie-ins...

Raisin Bran
First, is it really fair to make Chewie the poster boy for a Jedi mind game? He's not a Jedi, and he clearly is puzzled by the whole concept of a game played with one's mind. And what kind of mind game requires cards, available only on the back of a box of Raisin Bran? ("These are not the raisins you seek.")

What a fantastic idea! Four kinds of popsicles: one is stretchy, one is shaped like The Commish, one is invisible (how do you know where to lick?) and one is on fire! My wife points out that popsicles melt, and so she claims the Human Torch popsicle isn't as crazy as I think it is.

Honey Smacks
Jedi Master Mace Windu looks less than pleased to be promoting breakfast cereal... he looks downright psychotic contemplating the "made with real honey" slogan. In fact, with that menacing look in his eyes he looks a bit more like Pulp Fiction's Jules:
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish, and the tyranny of evil men... and I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers, and you will know my name is Dig 'Em, when I lay my Honey Smacks upon thee.

Frosted Mini Wheats
There's just something wrong about a frosted mini wheat wielding a light saber. Especially when he's wielding it against unarmed frosted mini-wheats.

No movie tie-in here; I just couldn't go without asking what kind of huge Goobers box preceded this "On the Go" version. Seriously -- was the old box so big that it could only be eaten where it lay? Or were the Goobers themselves so large as to require knife and fork, and hence a more stationary eating position?

On The Mark -- Speaking of Super Heroes....

For something with a little (Oliver) Twist, construction is starting in two months about 35 miles outside of London on "Dickens World," a $116 million theme park designed around the writings of Charles Dickens. Watch out, Disney World. You have serious competition.

I want to be one of the first in line to enjoy the Ebeneezer Scrooge ride, or to get lost in the Old Curiosity Shop. To enjoy some of the "naughty delights" of a Victorian music hall. To spin around crazily in a "Copperfield."

Dickens World is scheduled for completion in April 2007 in the old dockyards of the Chatham area.

When asked what he thought about the project, the chief executive said: (OK. all of you Dickens fans...fill in the blank; answer provided on Friday).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Few Songs on the iPods Around the White House

Alas! all music jars when the soul’s out of tune.
Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), writer

The press, as usual, afraid of angering the White House has neglected to report all of the songs on President George W. Bush’s iPod. Bush has a soft spot for some oldies. Here is one of his favorites:

If I Only Had a Brain
I could wile away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain
I'd unravel any riddle
For any individ'le
In trouble or in pain

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain

Oh, I would tell you why
The ocean's near the shore
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I'd sit and think some more
I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

Surprisingly Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also have some oldies on their iPods:

If I Only Had a Heart (Cheney’s fav)
(Tin Man)
When a man's an empty kettle
He should be on his mettle
And yet I'm torn apart
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be kind of human
If I only had a heart
I'd be tender, I'd be gentle
And awful sentimental
Regarding love and art
I'd be friends with the sparrows
And the boy that shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart
Picture me a balcony

(Snow White)
Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

(Tin Man)
I hear a beat, how sweet!
Just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion
And really feel the part
I could stay young and chipper
And I'd lock it with a zipper
If I only had a heart

If I Only Had the Nerve (Rumsfeld fav)
(Cowardly Lion)
Yeah, it's sad, believe me Missy
When you're born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mowess
If I only had the nerve
I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandylion
A fate I don't deserve
I'd be brave as a blizzard

(Tin Man)
I'd be gentle as a lizard

I'd be clever as a gizzard

If the Wizard is a wizard who will serve

Then I'm sure to get a brain

(Tin Man)
A heart

A home

(Cowardly Lion)
The nerve

I am sure you too probably know a few tunes that would be perfect for the administrations' iPods. I'd love to see them.

All songs written by lyrics by EH Harburg and music by Harold Arlen

Tron Guy

Yes, ladies, Tron Guy does have a website -- and he is single! You will be pleased to read that he has a variety of non-Tron interests, including computer consulting. (Hey, Tron Guy, if you're reading: what do I do when my computer digitizes me into little pixels and shoots me into a computer game?)

[Thanks, Accordion Guy!]

Losing Even More Ground

Workers, anti-fascists, and laboring people! Rise as one man! Prepare to defend the Republic, national freedom and the democratic liberties won by the people!
Dolores Ibárruri (1895 - 1989), politician and journalist

I have to say again that the House of Representatives is out of control. Who are they representing? Surely not the majority of the working class, unless that group as a whole naively believes parking tickets disqualify one from voting. The House is voting on Wednesday to ensure that the estate tax exemption continues to help the wealthy. As the Washington Post says in an editorial today:

Under the convoluted, dishonest plan Congress approved in 2001, the estate tax was to be gradually reduced and eliminated by 2010, only to spring back the following year to its 2001 level: a tax of 55 percent on estates of $1 million or more. Tomorrow the House is set to vote to keep full repeal in place after 2010.

This is unnecessary, irrational and unaffordable. Those who inveigh against the "death tax" point to the travails of family farmers and other small-business owners whose heirs are supposedly forced to liquidate enterprises to pay the tax bill. In fact, even if the estate tax were to revert in 2011 to its 2001 level -- and no one believes that the exemption will remain at $1 million -- it would affect the estates of only 2 percent of those expected to die that year. At $3.5 million (and $7 million for a couple) -- the level proposed in a Democratic alternative sponsored by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.) -- a mere three-tenths of 1 percent of estates would be covered. In other words, no one but the richest Americans would be asked to pay estate tax.

The true cost of repeal is far higher than $290 billion, an amount that covers only the first few years of making repeal permanent. The bill for a full 10 years without estate tax would be $745 billion -- close to $1 trillion if you throw in increased interest payments. In contrast, raising the exemption level to $3.5 million and setting the tax rate at 47 percent would cost less than a third of that; $21 billion in 2015 compared to $71 billion for full repeal. The effective rate would be far less than 47 percent, because the tax is levied only on the amount above the exemption and state payments and charitable bequests also reduce the tab.

As Paul Krugman said in the February issue of The Nation magazine:
Suppose that you actually liked a caste society, and you were seeking ways to use your control of the government to further entrench the advantages of the haves against the have-nots. What would you do?

One thing you would definitely do is get rid of the estate tax, so that large fortunes can be passed on to the next generation. More broadly, you would seek to reduce tax rates both on corporate profits and on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains, so that those with large accumulated or inherited wealth could more easily accumulate even more. You'd also try to create tax shelters mainly useful for the rich. And more broadly still, you'd try to reduce tax rates on people with high incomes, shifting the burden to the payroll tax and other revenue sources that bear most heavily on people with lower incomes.

On the spending side, you'd cut back on healthcare for the poor, on the quality of public education and on state aid for higher education. This would make it more difficult for people with low incomes to climb out of their difficulties and acquire the education essential to upward mobility in the modern economy.

And just to close off as many routes to upward mobility as possible, you'd do everything possible to break the power of unions, and you'd privatize government functions so that well-paid civil servants could be replaced with poorly paid private employees.

We, the working class, are in serious trouble.