Friday, October 31, 2008

Four More Days

We interrupt scheduled posting about NOLA for this brief message.

The election is only four days away. While the presidential race takes center stage nationally, there are several statewide propositions that have the potential to dramatically affect the lives of Californians.

WeezerMonkey has written an excellent piece on why you should vote no on Prop 8.

Inspired by that piece, here are five reason to vote no on Prop 5 as explained by the CDAA. My personal observations are in italics. As someone who used to handle narcotics cases, I fully believe the passage of Prop 5 will be a gift for criminals and a disaster for communities.

  1. Proposition 5 proponents want voters to think this proposition is about keeping non-violent drug offenders out of the prison system, but thats based upon a false premise. Today, no first-time offender arrested solely for possession will be sent to prison ever. The real beneficiaries of Proposition 5 are drug dealers and those accused of crimes such as domestic violence, child abuse, identity theft, mortgage fraud and others. (The bolded section refers to the fact that first-time users are already regularly given Prop 36 terms as part of their probation. Prop 36 doesn't mandate jail or prison time. It requires rehab and counseling instead. Users receive multiple opportunities to continue in Prop 36 programs, even if they slip up during their probation. Custody time in county jail is usually the last resort for first-time users, unless they opt to do jail time instead of rehab.)
  2. Proposition 5 could provide, in effect, a get-out-of-jail-free card to defendants charged with crimes. For example, domestic violence, child abuse, mortgage fraud, identity theft, vehicular manslaughter, insurance fraud and auto theft, letting them effectively escape criminal prosecution altogether. If a violent offender is granted a hearing using the drugs made me do it defense, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to prove that the defendant should be held responsible for his or her crimes. (While the burden is always on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors have never been asked to disprove a defense theory. For example, in cases where a defendant claim that he/she is not guilty by reason on insanity, the defense carries the burden of proving that to the jury. Shifting the burden in the way Prop 5 suggests is unprecedented.)
  3. Proposition 5 goes far beyond the drug-dependent individual; it also applies to drug dealers. For example, those found with up to $50,000 worth of 'meth' would be treated the same as an individual user. We need to keep focused on helping those who are drug-dependent, rather than dealers profiting off addiction. Prop 5 treats meth dealers the same as an individual drug user. (Most street level dealers have far less than $50K worth of drugs, but are dealers nonetheless.)
  4. Proposition 5 undermines successful rehabilitation. Current rehabilitation and drug courts are set up with defined goals and consequences; these two elements are critical to effective rehabilitation efforts.
  5. Proposition 5 spending will continue forever, and can only be restricted by a future multi-million dollar voter initiative campaign. The Governor and Legislature cannot adjust Prop 5 funding, even in times of budget shortfall or state crisis.

Other propositions in CA (again with my thoughts) worth taking a closer look at are:

  • Proposition 2 (yes): humane treatment of farm animals
  • Proposition 4 (no): requires parental notification before a minor could get an abortion
  • Propositions 7 (no) & 10 (yes): alternative energy
  • Proposition 9 (no): victim involvement in court proceedings. I know it seems counterintuitive that I'd vote no on this one, but it would require victim involvement and consent at every stage of a criminal case. I think it would be incredibly burdensome on prosecutors and would unduly hinder the plea negotiation process. Besides, most prosecutors already contact victims on serious and sensitive cases prior to any major developments in the process.

You may not agree with me on everything. And that's okay with me as long as you have researched the issues. Except when it comes to Prop 8. There is no excuse for denying someone a fundamental right.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hurricane, But You Can Call Me Sluricane

Most Tuesday nights I'm at home catching up on my tv shows. Last Tuesday, however, I was here:

The purpose behind the trip was to celebrate the 40th birthdays of Eddie and two of my co-workers, Fraggle and Emcee. While we were in the planning stages of the trip, we consulted another one of my co-workers, The Southerner, who was born and raised in Louisiana and had spent several years in New Orleans. After talking to us so much about his favorite place, he decided to make the trip out as well. Then Fraggle's niece decided she wanted to join in on all the fun. And then my dad revealed how it was one of his lifelong dreams to eat real gumbo and jambalaya in New Orleans (now you know where my eating gene comes from), so my parents flew out to meet us as well.

All of us from The Agency were on the same flight out. But we were staying at different hotels. Our home away for home was The Monteleone.

The Monteleone was a favorite of many authors. From their website: "Designated an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association, the Monteleone has been immortalized in works by Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Rebecca Wells, Richard Ford, and Eudora Welty and was frequented by Truman Capote and William Faulkner."

Our room had a view of the southeastern portion of the French Quarter, as well as the Mississippi River.

After unpacking and putting our feet up for a bit, we met up with our friends at Pat O'Brien's. Legend has it that The Hurricane was created at this bar.

Was there anything else we could have ordered? I didn't think a fruity cocktail could really have an effect on me. I was wrong.
There was a cool fountain in the courtyard.
After finishing our hurricanes, we headed down Bourbon St. in search of food. My initial impression of Bourbon St. was that it is far seedier than I imagined, specifically on the western side of the Quarter, the first 2-3 blocks heading east from Canal St. There were strip clubs galore with sad, scary strippers standing in the doorways trying to lure in the convention groups. Eddie, Fraggle and Mr. Fraggle all said that there weren't so many adult establishments previously. Maybe they started up after Hurricane Katrina? Boobies are supposed to cheer people up, right? Although considering that some strippers were literally chasing after old men down the street, attempting to drag them towards the club, perhaps business is not really bumping and shaking a whole lot. We ended up eating at a streetfront restaurant within the Royal Sonesta hotel. [Brief tangent: THANK GOD I did not book this hotel for us or my parents despite all of the deals Expedia tried to throw my way. It's located on a very busy section of Bourbon St. The noise would have driven us crazy and the four strip clubs across the street may have given my mother a heart attack.] Desire is a casual bistro that serves all the traditional fare that one would associate with New Orleans. There should have been pictures of the dozen oysters I shared with Eddie, my fried green tomatoes with crab claw remoulade and my shrimp & grits, but I was a good 3/4 of the way through my meal before Eddie nudged me and said, "Didn't you want to take pictures of that?" D'oh! I told you those hurricanes were strong.
I got a kick out of the abbreviation for the New Orleans Police Dept. since at times it did feel like there were no police officers around despite all the misdemeanors being committed right and left. I'm easily amused like that.
After our late dinner, Eddie and I headed back to the hotel in order to meet up with my parents and get them checked in. After chatting with them for a while, we headed off to our room in order to rest up for the next day. We were going to get an early start on sightseeing the next day.

Back From the Big Easy

It was a wonderful trip. I wish I were still there. * deep sigh* That made this Monday even more difficult than most other Mondays.

Tons of pictures and commentary in the coming days. But for now I'm off to catch up on some R&R -- who bothers to sleep in the Big Easy?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

They May Need to Roll Me Back

This time tomorrow night we may be part of of a crowd like this:

For the rest of the week, I plan to eat these every morning:

Accompanied by a cup of this:

Later in the week we may visit a business belonging to him:

Our only agenda for our vacation? Eat, eat, drink a bit, then eat some more!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

America's Best Dance Crews

(Note: My apologies for the lack of personal pictures. I was the stupid law abiding attendee who actually heeded the "no cameras" sign. I won't be making that mistake again.)

Thursday night Eddie & I headed out to Nokia Theater to watch America's Best Dance Crew Live Tour. We've been hooked on the show since Season 1. We were pleasantly suprised to find out that we were not the oldest people in attendance. The crowd was in fact quite diverse, spanning many generations and ethnicities.

The tour featured the winning crew from Season 1, the Jabbawockeez.

The rest of the line-up included Season 2's winners, Super Cr3w, Fanny Pak, BrkSk8 and ASIID. After a brief appearance by Randy Jackson, the show kicked off with each crew doing a short piece of original choreography, followed by each crew introducing themselves as well as each member. Jabbawockeez definitely received the most applause during the intros, but the individual dancer who received the most applause was Joey from ASIID. He has a very substantial fan base; he could probably go solo if he wanted to. In fact, after seeing him live, I think he is the strongest dancer on his crew. After all of the introductions were made, each crew then performed a compilation piece of all their most memorable moments and performances from the show. Even though we had seen all of these numbers before, it was still fun to see them again live. While it was no surprise that Jabbawockeez and Fanny Pak received very loud applause, I was suprised to hear all the tween girls shrieking for the boys of BrkSk8. Personally, my tween self would have been shrieking for Rynan of the Jabbawockeez. Don't judge.

The host then announced a special guest performance. Eddie and I hoped that it would be Kaba Modern. OC isn't too far off after all! Alas, it was Fysh n' Chicks instead. While they have improved since their days on the show, they were still a bit blah in comparison to the other crews. Except Taeko:

She's awesome. I have always thought that she needs to swim away from the other fish and join Kaba Modern instead. After getting our hopes up (and then dashed) the first time, you would think that Eddie and I wouldn't dare do the same again when the host said that another special guest was getting ready to take the stage. You thought wrong! We were out of our seats before the announcement was complete. Kaba Modern turned out to be the second special performer!
Next there was an extended old school inspired group number involving all of the crews. I enjoyed this number a lot since it took me back to my high school days. One of the most memorable parts of this number was when the boys of Fanny Pak, along with Joey from ASIID, let their bodies go with the flow to Madonna's classic "Vogue". After taking it back to the old school, the Jabbawockeez took the stage for a futuristic themed number. It was wonderful to see them dance for minutes instead of seconds. They are truly a great group of performers and I love how effortlessly they can infuse humor into their routines.

Post intermission Big Boy from Power 106 came out to introduce yet another special performance. Unfortunately it was not an encore from Kaba Modern. Instead, this dude came out on the stage with a microphone.
He lip synched badly to two songs. Very badly. Like so bad that when he actually sang a phrase or a line for real it was jolting. In fact, he didn't even bother lip synching along to all of the words of the first song he performed. He just strutted between stage left and stage right for most of it. Eddie and I just looked at each other and shrugged and eye rolled. The teen girls seemed to adore him however.

The second half of the show was comprised of each crew doing their favorite performance from the televised show. I'm sure you are all capable of using Google and You Tube, so I'm just going to list them:

  1. Fanny Pak -- "When I Grow Up"
  2. BrkSk8 -- "Closer"
  3. ASIID -- "Dangerous"
  4. Super Cr3w -- "Ninjas"
  5. Jabbawockeez -- "Red Pill"

The final group performance was a tribute piece to the Jacksons -- Michael and Janet. This was followed by a faux battle between the crews. Despite the fact that it was obviously choreographed, it was nice to see all the crews having a good time with each other. The crowd certainly had a good time watching them.

"And to discriminate only generates hate ..."

" ... Can you practice what you preach
Would you turn the other cheek?
Father Father Father help us
Send some guidance from above
Cause people got me got me questioning
Where is the love? "-- The Black Eyed Peas

I grew up in the liberal bastion known as San Francisco. I realize that San Francisco politics are not at all representative of most other places in the country or even other parts of California. But during the past week I was repeatedly hit over the head with reminders that I'm certainly not in Kansas anymore.

Earlier this week a local Republican group made headlines with its depiction of Barack Obama on a fake food stamp. The full article regarding this, including the illustration, can be found here. I couldn't bear copying that offensive image onto my blog, but it can be described as follows (from the article):

The latest newsletter by an Inland Republican women's group depicts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama surrounded by a watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken, prompting outrage in political circles.

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps -- instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of "Obama Bucks" -- a phony $10 bill featuring Obama's face on a donkey's body, labeled "United States Food

As if that action in itself weren't ridiculous enough, the response of the group to its own, offended, African-American members left a lot to be desired. In the president's own words:

"I didn't see it the way that it's being taken. I never connected," she said. "It was just food to me. It didn't mean anything else."

In addition to the above incident, those stupid protestors are still out quite frequently. This morning I verbally sparred with a few of them at three separate intersections while on my way to pilates. I noticed that about half of those carrying signs and banners were young children and teens. Clearly they aren't old enough to cast a vote, but it greatly saddens me that there are parents out there encouraging hate and discrimnation amongst the next generation.

I will be contacting the local field office for the No on 8 campaign shortly. I will also not be voting for any local politicians affiliated with that local political group.

Part of me cannot wait for the election to be over already. My blood pressure can't take it much longer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Need To Win The Lotto

Preferably before November 7th.

Tickets are now available for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Tickets for figure skating events will run approximately $550 per ticket, per event. For comparison purposes, I have previously purchased all-event tickets for the US Figure Skating Championships for $750 or so. My all-event ticket for the 2009 ISU World Championships cost slightly more. So $550 per single ticket? Gah!

It only gets worse. I actually saw a perfect package that included events we would both enjoy: figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating and the closing ceremony. Price per person? Nearly $18,000. Kill me now.

Anyone have some lucky numbers they want to share? ;-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm A Vampire Lover

I first heard about the Twilight series at the beginning of summer. At the time I didn't plan on ever reading it, despite all the high praise it had been receiving. Vampires? Romance? YA Fiction? None of it sounded appealing. Besides I had been a devoted fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Been there, done that. Or so I thought.

Eventually curiosity and a lack of other reading material led me to check out Twilight from the library. (see, that's how much i doubted the lure of these books; i wouldn't even pay for them; well, at least not back then) And I got completely sucked in to the series. All four hardcover books are now on my very own bookshelves.

And that is how I ended up at brunch today with a bunch of other cougars obsessed with yummy vampires. (Peter Facinelli as Carlisle = SWOON!)

After brunch I took a drive down PCH from Long Beach to Corona del Mar. Yeah, the freeway probably would have been faster, but then I wouldn't have been able to enjoy lovely views of the ocean, the coastal breeze or the scent of the sea air.
The purpose of my little detour? Cupcakes from Sprinkles. For someone who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, Eddie absolutely loves the carrot cake cupcakes. Since the past few days have been a little rough for him, I thought a cupcake or two might make him smile a little bit. I bought a chai latte and peanut butter chip for myself.When I got home I opened up the gift bag that CBB had thoughtfully put together for all of the cougars. Young_Love had also given us copies of the Midnight Sun playlist.
There was one other stop I had made on my way home. I had stopped at Henry's to pick up a few things for dinner and couldn't resist picking up the following items for no other reason than they reminded me of the books:

I Wish I Had A Megaphone

Then I could have yelled back at the stupid "Yes on 8" protestors that were down the street yesterday. Instead, I had to settle for flipping them off when they tried to capture my attention while I was stopped at the light. I'm so glad I was in my car on my way to pilates, rather than walking Jack around the neighborhood. There might have been a tussle otherwise.

I suspect I am preaching to the choir here, but please be smart like this SmartCar owner and vow to vote NO on Proposition 8.

For more information visit the following website: Let California Ring

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pat Him on the Head

Jack is a crate-trained dog. I started using a crate from his first day at home. He took to it very well and it was an invaluable training tool. It wasn't long before he started heading into his crate as soon I grabbed my keys before leaving. A few months after that I was able to leave his crate open at nighttime, which gave him the chance to move around and stretch his paws as we slept (he liked to play at 4am as a pup). At the time I thought that was a sign that I could leave him uncrated during the workday, but that turned out not to be the case. Housebreaking wasn't the issue; chewing was. Jack had an innate ability to find the most inappropriate things to chew on. I wasn't worried only about damage to my belongings; I also worried about his potential to chew on things that would make him ill.

Lately, however, Jack has been mellowing out. He can walk around our condo complex purely on voice command. He comes when called. He was a star student in Petsmart's training academy. I was beginning to realize that I just needed to put some trust in him. So we took the plunge this past week and left him uncrated during the workday. I am happy to report that no shoe was damaged, no garbage was strewn about, nothing was scratched and the couch still has all its stuffing. He still instinctively heads to his crate when I grab my keys, but the evidence shows that he is actually spending his days sleeping on top of the sofa's lefthand pillowback cushion.

Our little boy is growing up!

A Brief PSA

If you are over the age of 30, do not see a mid-evening screening of a PG-13 movie. You will feel as if you are chaperoning a high school dance.

Apart from that Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist was an enjoyable, although somewhat predictable, film. The soundstrack is pretty good too. However, you may not want to chew gum again for a while.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Must Read For Dog Lovers

I think almost every person with a dog has looked at their pet at one time or another and thought, "I wonder what you would say if you could talk?" Well in this novel, Enzo, a labrador-terrier mix, is more than willing to share his thoughts with us.

Enzo is a cool, thoughtful dog. He is jealous of monkeys because they have thumbs. He plots messy revenge against certain people who were unkind to him. He loves watching television. He loves his family even more. Even as his owner Denny, an aspiring race car driver, goes through a painful period in his life, Enzo does everything he can to be supportive and caring, all the while wishing he could do more. He has interesting observations on human behavior, especially the way we treat one another.

One of the reasons Enzo pays such close attention to humans is because he is studying how to be good person. Sometime during the many years of his tv viewing, Enzo came across a documentary that stated dogs can be reincarnated as men. So in his old age, Enzo is not fearful of the inevitable. Instead he longs for the day that he can return as a human and hopefully find Denny again.

Yes, there are some cliched twists and turns to the story. There are also some passages about car racing that a non-race fan might be bored by (although Enzo's description of his first ride in a race car is fantastic!). Despite the book's minor flaws however, you will very likely be reaching for some tissue at the end. You will definitely be hugging your four-legged friend a little closer and a little tighter.

From the book's inside flap:
On the even of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, depsite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Paraphrasing Kathy Griffin

Charter Communications can SUCK IT!

Since November '07:
  • 1 change of channel lineup without notification which included moving Bravo to a higher tier.
  • 2 malfunctioning DVRs.
  • 8 hours of vacation time burned waiting for a service technician.
  • 10 days without service due to waiting for a Saturday apppointment slot, in the interest of not wasting anymore vacation time.
  • 9 hours wasted on a Saturday for a service technician who never showed up.
  • 2 hours wasted on a Sunday morning waiting for the guy who should have showed up the day before.
  • 1 hour spent on the phone disputing a bill that charged me for the 10 days we didn't have service.

And then tonight:

  • 3rd DVR breaks down or there is a wiring issue.
  • Talk to three service reps over the course of two hours.
  • All service reps insist the earliest time a technician can come out on a weekend is 9 days from today.
  • All service reps refuse to offer any type of credit despite all our ongoing difficulties.
  • We find out our downstairs neighbor is also having the same viewing issues. We are the only ones in the building experiencing problems.
  • Downstairs neighbor has a service technician coming out on Sunday, 3 days from now.
  • Call Charter back, advise them of what's going on and ask if that technician can be sent up one flight of stairs while he's here Sunday.
  • Not only do they refuse, but service rep dude actually yells at me, gives me attitude and tries to talk over me as I point out how ridiculous their business practices are. I demand a supervisor.
  • The supervisor clearly does not care.

We are now customers of DirectTV.

But they can't come out until sometime during the week or next weekend either. F it; can't win anywhere.

Perhaps it's all a sign from above that we watch too much tv.