Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day memories

What a weekend. We made it out alive and in one piece. Still have this stomach thing bothering me, although yesterday it seemed like it was all gone. Probably just the adrenaline kicking in, but at least gave me a glimpse of feeling better in the future. In other words, for the first time, there appears a way out.

I don't remember too much of what I did Saturday, aside from clean the garage, right when the heat starting ramping up. Then played some golf. Played again Sunday morning and then cut the grass. In other words, I nearly offed myself from heat exhaustion, all the while, not being able to eat or drink much without upsetting me tummy... . Monday was the big day though.

Have you ever held a picnic at Glenwood Park? According to the city ordinance, the pavilions are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Monday was my daughter's birthday, and we were expecting about 50 people for a Memorial Day/Birthday Picnic. The last couple years, we've held it in the backyard, but for some reason, I've got it into my head, I want to hold the thing once at Glenwood Park. Being it was Memorial Day, I expected it to be busy, but then I started hearing stories about people showing up at 5 or 6 in the morning to secure pavilions. On Saturday, we even went and scouted the place out and found some kid who had slept there!

I started to get worried. I didn't really want all those people at my house. So, I decided, I would sleep at the park. I was too tired to go over immediately when we got back Sunday night from a friend's backyard cookout, so I pulled out my sleeping bag, foam pad, and camping pillow, and set the alarm for 3 a.m. Sure enough, it went off and I found myself driving to the park with a car full of goodies, including a Dora pinata, to place on the tables. I also borrowed some yellow caution tape and wrapped it around the pavilion.

I was the first one there. The place was empty when I got there. I got all set up, laid down on a table and fell asleep. It was really a beautiful night. It was like 65 with a cool breeze, and I could hear the stream lapping in the background. It reminded me of nights I've spent camping in the Adirondacks. Of course, before going to sleep I did have a passing thought of some Jeffrey Dahmer-like character cutting me to pieces, or some crackhead mugging me for my cellphone, but this is Erie... and I wasn't delivering pizzas. Anyway, I comforted myself by remembering many of the dumber and more dangerous things I've done in my life that clearly had less of a payoff. And I fell quickly asleep. I woke up with the sun around 5:30 a.m. and found I was still the only person there. So, I guess maybe I didn't need to sleep there after all, but it sure was a nice night's sleep... People started showing up around six, with the last picnic grove taken around 7:15 a.m.

Our party went great. Lots of cold beer, water, and pop on a hot day and some charcoal-grilled yaps and burgers. Mariah and the kids had a great time running around the playground, heading to the zoo, and doing all the other fun things a kid can do at a park. Yes, that Glenwood Park is quite a place to have a holiday picnic.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Katrina aftermath

You all should know that I'm not the biggest Bush fan in the world - but I very much agree with this conservative editorial that appeared in today's Erie Times. It pretty much discusses how the Bush administration has been given undue blame and how the media has exaggerated a lot of what went on with Hurricane Katrina. I'm also reading an article in the current issue of Vanity Fair that kind of vindicates Brownie for his performance and calls him a scapegoat. Here's the thing: How many times have you been warned of a storm that never developed as badly as predicted? Happens in the winter here all the time. What if you never left your house every time they said a "blizzard" was coming?

The Vanity Fair article even recounts how the famous N'awlens drink "The Hurricane" was invented by some revelers waiting out a hurricane. Obviously, they didn't evacuate and lived to pass their drink recipe on to millions... I would say that 90% of the time, the best thing you can do with storms is wait them out. And after all, this is the "Big Easy" we're talking about. I think that nickname means that people there don't get too worked up about things. Truthfully, I think I would have reacted the same way the mayor of New Orleans did, who has received criticism for not wanting to ruin the tourist trade by shouting "hurricane" too early.

Okay, having said all that, there was a fuck-up with the levies. But that had nothing to do with emergency management. That was something that should have been fixed well in advance, because it's always better to prevent a disaster than manage one well once it happens. If Bush was responsible for not fixing those levies, than fuck him. But, I think that problem may predate him.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


The timelessness of baseball is a mysterious and wonderful thing. I'm looking out my window and I see my son and his friends playing a game of pick-up in the backyard. Something I would have done 30-some years ago. I've tried doing other things I did when I was a kid with my son, playing certain board games, but really, they all pale in comparison to today's video games and come off as dated. But baseball, well, it never really changes. It's still pitch and catch, and bat. I remember the catcher's gear and the mitt were favoriates of mine as a kid - we always used my neighbor's dad's old softball equipment. I picked my son up some old stuff at a sale and on eBay, and he's wearing it right now. Yup, I guess, some cliches are true.


Understanding Mother Earth (Part Two)

This entry is a reply to one of Ralph's comments posted to "Understanding the Earth" from May 24. Here is what Ralph said:

I personally am at a loss on how to fight pollution. While all your suggestions are good, do you think they'll be adopted by enough people to make a difference? Or is there a ying and yang factor at work here. As you remove pollutants, somebody else adds them back? My final thought on this is that despite all these pollutants and cancer causing agents, people are actually living longer now than they were a couple hundred years ago. It's evolution, baby, you just need to accept it or perish under its power.


Your argument actually proves my point: Humans, once they recognize a particular need, can change their behavior and address that need in order to find a solution...and quite often they do.

So, you say that humans are living longer. It's true. We are living longer because we realized--at a collective level--that we needed to take action to provide better healthcare for everyone. As a result, much attention has been devoted over the past 150 years to caring for people. We have thousands of hospitals and doctors offices across the country. Healing is big business.

It's a huge priority...and now people know what foods to eat/not eat and they know they shouldn't smoke cigarettes. These are corrective actions taken in light of information gained about a certain situation, namely, that we’ve been polluting our bodies for many years.

And once we realized that diseases like Polio and Smallpox needed to be eliminated, the right people came up with the right cures.

To toss your hands into the air and say, "Screw it. Pollute the environment. We'll grow specialized gills someday to deal with it" strikes me as blatantly irresponsible because it goes against the natural ability of humans to recognize a problem and take steps to correct the problem.

So we have to continue to follow this traditional model. We have to realize--at the collective level--that we need to take steps to correct a pollution problem that we have created. And Stan is absolutely correct: little things make a huge difference.

Do you return your blue plastic bags to Wegman’s for recycling or do you toss them in the trash? It’s a small change, but it can make a huge difference if more people participate. Many people participating in an effort leads to phenomenon, and phenomenon transcends pattern limitation.

Do you remember when America didn’t recycle? I do. All that glass, metal, and plastic went into the dump. Then we realized that not only did we NOT want those materials in our landfills, we also could reuse much of that same material. There are actually niche companies that sort and re-sell all kinds of recyclables.

Now, I realize that some glass, metal, and plastic still go into our landfills, but we’ve also made tremendous progress in the last 20 years—all due to public awareness.

Hell, I can remember when the median strips of this nation’s highways were used as garbage dumps. It was nothing, back in the 1970s, to see garbage on the side of the road. Today, you rarely see garbage on highways...only old tire treads and the ocassional McDonald's cup.

Public awareness.

Remember DDT? It was a nasty pesticide that they used in commercial farming. After studying its effects, biologists told farmers and the government that DDT was taking its toll up and down the food chain, so its use was curtailed. Now eagles and frogs and other animals have largely recovered for this environmental horror.

Public awareness.

Once upon a time, people didn’t know or care about “garbage dumps.” Today, however, pretty much everyone in Erie County knows that there is a mountain of garbage just south of I-90 at the State Street Exit. And the mountain is getting bigger every day (in his book on Erie, Matty Walker said it’s one of the highest points in Erie County).

So, as these problems build and people become aware of them, it is possible to take steps to correct—or at least diminish—the problem.

And remember my opening point: the reason we are living longer is directly related to the fact that humans have tackled the problem of health care at the collective level. This has been accomplished over time with education and increased public awareness. We didn't just say, "Oh, well. This Smallpox thing really sucks, but there's no point in tackling the problem because we're just going to die anyway."

So, Mr. Wolf, if you want to take a “who cares” approach because the patterns that dominate our lives are too big to change, that’s your option. But I think the rhythms of our lives—and I know quite a bit about rhythms—take various shapes and sizes. We can affect some of the rhythms that fall within our sphere of influence (even as I acknowledge that other patterns remain outside our personal purview).

However, occasionally, the larger, more difficult patterns can be tackled by groups that create energy which achieves its own intention, that intention creates an attraction of its own, and that’s how communal problems are solved.



Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bobbo's Blog

I went over to Bobbo's Blog today to see what he had posted recently and I found a video of the artist "Pink" singing a song called "Dear Mr. President".

The video is kinda sappy, but I like all kinds of music, so I thought it was pretty cool. It's definitely worth watching.

Now I'm wondering how to post video to Ralph's Place.

Have you made any progress down this path, Ralph?


Understanding the Earth

I've been reading a lot of Earth-centered literature these days, including Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild, and random articles on sustainable farming and arguments against dolphin and orca captivity.

It seems that humans are evolving to a point where we understand that other life forms have a right to exist on their own--they are not for us to capture and imprison at places like Sea World.

Gary Snyder can really get it going, too. On page 181 of Practice, he writes, "There can be no health for humans and cities that bypasses the rest of nature."

He also writes in very moving and convincing terms about the similarities between bears and humans. I thought Ralph might like that part, in light of his uncanny relationship to wolves.

One report said that the federally protected orcas, living off the coast of Washington state, are legally toxic due to the number of PCBs that course through their bodies...and is there still any question where cancer comes from? It comes in regular doses from the synthetic chemicals that we ingest and are otherwise exposed to in our lives.

One professor wrote that male frogs in Midwestern states are beginning to produce eggs and he said that this could be connected to breast cancer in women...something about similar chemistry.

So, what to do? Clean House/Clean Planet by Karen Logan is a book that offers solid direction. She claims, as you might guess from the title, that eliminating the toxic chemicals from your house will help. It will change your world view as it relates to the environment.

Personally, I believe that soaps are way overused in America. Humans have lived on this Earth for tens of thousands of years and suddenly we need to scour everything in site with antibacterial soap? I don't think so.

Now, before my chef friends object, please know that I understand that foodservice is an entirely different matter, because of the threat of cross-contamination. However, everyday people do not need to use the detergents and soaps that we think we do. Go to Wegman's and look at the soap aisle, you know, the one with all the jugs of Tide and such.

Then think about taking all of that soap and dumping it into Lake Erie. Yup. Think about it. And that's only one Wegman's. All over the US, people are dumping soap, and bleach, and Clorox, into the water system.

While the water system can absorb an amazing amount of pollution--and while water treatment plants do a fantastic job making water "safe" to drink-- these efforts cannot absorb all of the chemicals, so we ingest them in our drinking water. And we shower in them.

All this, and I haven't even started talking about lawn fertilizers and other poisons that are being applied at this moment to thousands of lawns across the US.

Then there's commercial farming...

I hate to say this, but we're in big trouble as far as our water system goes. In order to have any chance, we need to stop the insanity. We need to stop dumping chemicals down our drains and we need to support political candidates who will act on behalf of the environment, unless we want our children to have increasingly poisoned water.

Enough for today, I believe.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Cancel Your Cable TV (for the good of your children)

I know this will never catch on, but I believe that people should cancel their cable TV subscriptions.

Excessive cable television viewing has created an entire generation of children whose brains are wired differently. They don't read books because their brains can't slow down enough to create a space that is quiet enough for reading. I see it all the time and it's not pretty.

Television also actively promotes deviance: violence in various forms, passive aggressive behavior, drug use, sex, sex, and more sex...and it's all depicted as glamorous in American culture.

Well, it's not glamorous. It's disgusting. The only rational response is to shut it off, permanently, and find other things to do.

I was scanning the TV schedule this morning so I could write this column and I found that "judge shows" are rampant. So, from the comfort of our living rooms, we can peep into the legal lives of others and learn the lurid details of their dysfunctional lives. "Peeping" is not healthy, yet we publicize it, celebrate it, and teach our kids how to enjoy it.

[Then, there are the "cop" shows. We live in a country where the prison population, the largest in the world, topped 2.18 million recently. During a one-year period from 2004 to 2005, we imprisoned an average of 1085 people per week. But instead of expressing outrage, we sit at home and watch the arrests on TV. That's pretty screwed up, if you ask me.]

Aside from the prison issue, the best response by American citizens to this insane peep show is not only to shut off the TV and send the kids outside, but to eliminate the incredible money stream that is pumped into the cable TV industry.

I cancelled my cable TV subscription a few weeks ago (because it reached the point where I seldom watched TV), and I've never been happier. During the evening hours, I read (Joseph Campbell, Mickey Hart, James Hillman, Gary Zukav) listen to/play music, or converse with friends and family.

All of these activities are far better than sitting on the couch watching TV.

Now, I know that absolutely nobody will cancel their cable TV as a result of this column, but you can't blame me for trying.

I think our culture and community would be a lot better off if we turned off our TVs and, instead, held evening community rituals, such as bonfires, sing-alongs, color with the kids, basketball, indoor bocci--any of those activities. We have lost our communities in many ways because we all sit inside during the evening hours watching Survivor.

In closing, let me say that I have no hope that anyone will follow this advice, so I must resign myself to teaching another batch of children who suffer from ADHD and who have not read an entire book in their lives. It seems to me that these are the sad outcomes of a nation of children raised on cable TV.

Carry on.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Starbuck's Part Two

I went to Starbuck's the other day and ordered a Grande Mocha. It was good, but there was something missing. It seemed like there was no whipped cream at the top.

You know it: It's when you get that first delicious taste of coffee, mocha, and whipped cream (and if it's done right, you even taste the chocolate syrup that they drizzle over the whipped cream, at least initially).

But as I drove along, I truly thought that--in their hurry--someone forgot to load the whipped cream. I was a little miffed, because Grande Mochas cost $3.45. Oh, well.

Today I went there again, and ordered the same drink. I even asked the girl at the drive up window whether they would put whipped cream in the drink. She said, "Yes."

And she was not lying...I was able to actually watch the guy make the drink through the drive up window and--it's true--he skimped on the whipped cream. And he didn't include any syrup at all. I was getting no love for my money.

So, why should I make such a big deal about such a minor thing like whipped cream? Because the coffee business is quite nuanced. Starbuck's is selling me more than a drink; they're selling me a delicious and pricey coffee experience. Skimping on ingredients and hoping people won't notice is a good way to send me to Tim Horton's, Romolo's, or Boston Bean (in North East).

I don't know whether this is an issue with a single worker or whether it's larger than that, but I wanted to post this comment so that word might reach Starbuck's (at the Mall) so that they could sharpen the quality control. I don't want to lose them as a espresso source.

Dr. Java

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush the Moderate?

I read an AP report this morning that covered President Bush's address to the nation last night concerning the Mexican immigration issue.

In part, the report said, "[Bush's] measure includes tougher border security provisions, a guest worker program and an eventual path to citizenship for nearly all the estimated 12 million immigrants in the country illegally. The bill also includes steps to make sure employers don't hire illegal workers."

Wow. This sounds like the position of a moderate to me. Is Bush finally thinking for himself--or is his position more related to the fact that he has lots of people telling him what to do on this one, including American businesses who actually want to keep the Mexican workers in the US?

In any event, his position is clearly centrist. Something Bill Clinton would dream up.

I thought, when I heard Bush was going to address the nation last night, that he was going to invoke the military option once again by simply sending Guard troops to the boarder because it makes good politics to "crack down on illegal Mexican aliens." And Bush's poll numbers sure need a boost.

But he didn't go in that direction. It seems that there might be some finesse at work in the White House. If only we could have used this kind of finesse with Iraq, instead of wasting so much money and spilling so much blood. Maybe we can use some of this finesse with Iran...wouldn't that be amazing?

I will predict one thing in closing: Bush's poll numbers will improve as he moves away from his persistent radical agenda to a more centrist position. Maybe Karl Rove is finally realizing that while radical positions can get a person elected, good governance comes from the center.



Speaking of good coffee, I realized last night--to my horror--that my home was bereft of chocolate. Coffee and chocolate is my favorite dessert, so I had to take action.

I decided to take a drive to Romolo Chocolate on West 8th Street (across from Frontier Park). Romolo's has the best chocolate in the city, as far as I'm concerned (and, yes, I've had Stefanelli's and Pulakos).

Plus, Romolo's also has an excellent coffee bar. This place is heaven.

So, there I was last night, sitting in the coffee shop, watching the rain, sipping Romolo's World Bean coffee while eating a chunk of their dark chocolate. Wow.

If you're looking for something to do on a rainy evening--or any other evening--Romolo's is the place to go.



Monday, May 15, 2006


For something that is likely owned by Satan, Starbucks is a really nice place. I know I did my whole Tim Hortons addiction rant a few days ago. TH's coffee is good, but the atphosphere is pretty stuffy. Starbucks, for being a chain, does an amazing job with atmosphere.

I'm currently at this place in Philadelphia's Historic District (3rd and Arch) - right down near Independance Hall, Ben Frankin's grave, and the Franklin mint. There's been killer music on, as usual, for the last hour. The building itslf is also amazing. It's across the street from the Real World Philadelphia house. It's this really old buildng with a tremendous brick/stone facade, and these long, high windows that let in great light. They've modernized inside, but kept it pretty Spartan. There's like an aura, a breath to this place, like there is in all old buildings and I really enjoy it. It's got good air.

Plus I can get wi-fi. Starbucks does a great job mering the past with the present. It's really a place of wealth and taste.



Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day, y'all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Orchids Show

This is the best I could come up photo-wise at the Orchid Fest. Not that there weren't plenty of opportunities. Awesome display of flowers. About 15 arranged exhibits, maybe, that were stunning. The variety, color, texture, wonderful things. This is my daughter standing in front of the orchids she selected as her favorites.



Alexandre Dumas and nothing

I got really nothin' today. I've been pretty busy with my day job. Got a big trade show coming up that I'm trying to prepare for. Hope to get some pics at the Orchid show today.

Only interesting - somewhat I hope - anecdote I have, has to do with Alexandre (I like the French spelling) Dumas and his book "The Man in the Iron Mask." My mother-in-law found an abridged copy in her house and brought it over recently for my son to read. It's a bit old for him, but the pictures and title intrigued him. It also intrigued me, as I remember seeing the movie a long time ago, when I was probably 12. I liked it. It was about a French king who had a half-brother that he kept locked up in this iron mask, because the brother was actually the true heir to the throne.

The events took place around the time of Louis XIV, which was about 100 years before Dumas lived. But like a lot of great writers do (Shakespeare comes to mind), Dumas based his story on a historical legend and then embellished it. I found a great entry in the Wikipedia on the true identity of the "Man in the Mask." It turns out, it really is a mystery based on a historical person. One interesting thing is that the mask was not really iron, but cloth. How or why it was changed to iron in the legend, even before Dumas got ahold of it, is open to conjecture. Similarly, there seems to be little proof that the Man in the Mask was related to the king, of course, it has not been disproved either.

Dumas managed to tie the story of the Man in the Iron Mask together with his successful "Three Musketeers" serial. The Three Musketeers was another movie I saw as a kid and enjoyed immensely. I also have fond memories of the cartoon version of the Count of Monte Crisco (Not to be confused with the old Giants' pitcher John Montefusco, whose nickname was "The Count.")

When I was in college (about 15 years ago), this one-time affinity I had for video adaptions of Dumas' work motivated me to attempt to read the Count of Monte Crisco. It has some great stuff in it, but was definitely written in a such a style (it could have been the translation) that I could not have sustained reading the 500 pages in the book. I think I made it through the first quarter. The beginning, however, did include a fascinating account on torture and executions - like only a Frenchman could put together. And then, the last scene I read had this amazing account of a hashish or opium induced trip (I don't remember which) brought on by some after-dinner treats at a feast one night.

It turns about Dumas himself was quite a party animal. Here's the wikipedia entry on him.
I guess he was like a rock star in his day. From all accounts he was very famous, made quite a bit of money, but "spent it even faster than it came in." One account specifies that most of his expenses were related to "friends, mistresses, and art." Not a bad way to go through cash, especially if you're a writer. Keeps the karma on your side I think.



Thursday, May 11, 2006

Some Wins Last Night

Amazingly big night for me as a sports fan yesterday. Don't know that there has ever been a night in which the Clippers and Sabres both won playoff games - each in the second round no less. On top of that, the Yankees scored a comeback win at home against Curt Schilling and the Bosox.

The Yankees' win although regular season, was as big as the other ones, because they had lost to the Red Sox twice in two tries already this year. The Yanks were down 3-1 and I told my son to go turn the front light on - it was getting dark and the Yankees flag was out - and their fortunes turned. The biggest hit of the night was A-Rod's tie-breaking solo homer. A-Rod has been just having an awful year, hitting like .250 and he made two errors - one very key - in the 14-3 rout by the Sox the night before. This, of course, follows on the heels of his terrible playoff performance last year. But I think things are going to start turning around for him. He has it rock bottom, done some searching, and perhaps discovered a game that will carry the Yankees through the playoffs this time around.

I remember Barry Bonds always used to struggle in the playoffs with Pittsburgh, but right before he left, he got a couple big hits and that carried through to some really impressive clutch performances with the Giants. A-Rod is kind of like Bonds.

I give Torre credit for enabling A-Rod the space to work out his game and re-adjust to a Yankee style of play - meaning teamwork and winning is placed above individual glory. Torre's style was evidenced in his playing Melkey Cabrera again last night a day after the recent call up (to replace the injured Sheffield), dropped a fly ball in right field. Torry never panics. He knows full well it is a 162-game season and plays it that way. Players respect that and feel comfortable playing for a guy like that. That's why A-Rod will take a chance, try, and work through new things that will eventually help out the Yankees - I hope. We are paying enough after cal.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Iran letter

It appears the Erie Times has created something it calls its "electronic edition." I can't find too much info on it, but I did find a link earlier to an ad for it, but that seems to have disappeared now. All I can find is the log-in page, which asks for $10 per month to view the paper, which from what I can tell actually looks like a paper, on your computer. Some of the stories in today's paper are still available on goerie.com, but certain ones, like this one I wanted to link to about Condy's reaction to the letter from the president of Iran, are not. I'm sure we'll see more on this in the days to come - the e-paper thing that is.

As far as Condy and the whole U.S. government's reaction to this Iran letter thing, I find it disturbing, but also fairly typical. It seems the Iranian president has taken some serious time and effort to put together this 17-page letter that contains a laundry list of complaints about the U.S., and some other stuff as well. But, it doesn't sound like the letter was overbearing, and I got the impression it was rather politely constructed. The U.S., of course, has immediately dismissed it as a con job to distract us from the nuclear questions at hand.

Have these people (our gov.) no cooth whatsoever? I don't get it. To me, it seems the letter should be regarded as an open invitation to diplomatic discussions. An introduction, of sorts, and can't we move forward from there? No, but because we're the big bully with all the guns and power on our side, and the letter doesn't say exactly what we want it to, we're ignoring it - and ignorance is bliss, at least as far as the Bush administration is concerned. Didn't we also ignore WMD reports on Iraq because they didn't say what we wanted them to either? Look where that has got us.

Can't we just respond diplomatically to these people, the Iranian president in this case, and work things out like civilized human beings? Oh wait, that would require some sort of compromise, and heaven forbid a man-child like Bush get involved in any compromise. He'll just takes his guns and weapons and invade you unless you totally give in to his demands. We're fucked as long as this fool remains in office. Thank God, and I use that term loosely, the American people are finally losing confidence in this guy, I just hope it's not too late to avert WWIII.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

War on Drugs

A couple days ago (Sunday), I had the opportunity to spend some time in the courtyard - out back of Wegman's on Peach. It was a sunny day and these flowering trees were in bloom all around me. My wife was shopping and the kids were in the playroom. It was about noon. I grabbed a copy of the Buffalo News, mainly for some inside scoop on Buffalo sports, and a latte and headed out back. After reading the sports, I delved into the local page and came across this interesting editorial advocating the legalization of all drugs.

It involves a discussion with the Erie County Executive (Buffalo is also in an Erie County), who had this to say: "We declared the war on drugs 30 years ago, and it's not working As long as we see this as a criminal issue and not a public health issue, we'll have bloodshed on the streets."

A good point. This County Executive has also allied himself with a former cop, whose name is "Christ" (pronounced like ironic "twist.") "We didn't end Prohibition in 1933 because alcohol was great stuff or a wonderful drug," Christ said. "We ended it because as dangerous as alcohol can be, letting people like Al Capone run the marketplace made the problem worse. Yet we're doing the same thing now."

Another good point. But, and a pencil in a huge BUT here (I like big BUTTS after all), there was one major flaw in this article. The event that motivated the county executive to go public with his view on drugs was a nun being murdered by a crackhead she tried to help. This story was on the Front Page. The point that the county exec, Christ, and the columnist are trying to make is that dealers are the cause of violence and not users, BUT in this case, which was the very event that brought these guys out - the murderer was actually a user seeking money to support his habit. So, if drugs had been legal, he still conceivably would have committed the crime. The columnist, to his credit, recognizes this flaw in logic and scrambles to cover it with the following:

"Dealers shoot each over over turf, not because they're high. Most thieves don't heist stereos or - in the case of Sister Karen's killer - a cell phone to cover the rent. They sell the stuff to pay for their next fix.

"Legalize and regulate drugs, like we do with alcohol, and dealers go out of business, addicts get treated and the violence mostly goes away. "

I am not quite sure I agree with that because I think most treatment programs fail - at least from the people I know. However, I don't necessarily think legalizing drugs would increase their use- if you want to try it now, you can probably find it whether it's legal or not.

In conclusion, I think this county exec, who seems to be in some political hot water at the moment, may just be doing some grandstanding and trying to re-invent himself, ala Marion Barry. Nonetheless, it made for some interesting and thought provoking copy. I doubt Marky D. will be coming out soon with any such position.


Monday, May 08, 2006


So, is anyone planning on going to this Orchid Show scheduled for this weekend at the Glenwood Ice Rink? I became intrigued by orchids a couple years back when my brother sent me the movie Adaptation - another movie about a writer. Nick Cage, and Glenn Close, and someone else is in it. It's about Charlie Kauffman and his struggles to write a screenplay based on this book titled, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. There's some interesting writing stuff in there, but there's also some very interesting orchid lore. Apparently, people are really into orchids. In fact, here's a link to the New Yorker by Orlean that she used as the basis for the book. Very well written and fascinating article that addresses the orchid culture. I'm looking forward to heading to this weekends show and checking out the scene.


Weekend, Weather, Golf

Great weekend, huh? Anybody else enjoy the wonderful weather. Sure, it was a bit cold, but this sun thing energizes me. On Saturday, I finally got out of the house long enough to join the newly remodeled Erie Golf Club. They've done a great job so far. I think the wonderful new bar and restaurant, known has Happy Gilmore's, is what finally sold me on joining there. Now, I am not a big fan of the movie by the same name, but I am a big fan of good draught beer, and the restauranter told me has was going have four different types of draft. When you add this to the wonderful view you get from the top of the hill up there, especially at sunset, well I need to a good place like that to drink. That's not to mention the golf course, which has been renovated as well. They've added some new holes, which gives it some more length, put in an irrigation system, and hired an excellent greenskeeper, who even used to make J.C. Martin an enjoyable place to play - when it had no irrigation. I plan on doing a full review of the course itself after I've had a chance to play it a few more times. I've heard there have been some complaints about a couple of the new holes being too tight, but they are also fairly short, and I think they can be managed well with some iron play, but we will see.



Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wonder Boys

I finally got around to watching Wonder Boys. It's marvellous. One of the finest pieces of writing I've seen in a very long long time. Bravo.

The movie was based on the novel by Michael Chabon, who also wrote a book called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which is sitting in front of me right now. It was a gift from Stephen Hardy, editor of a magazine called Lightwave.

I used to work for Stephen years ago. I believe he enjoyed the book, which gives me good energy going into it.

I did take a crack at it once, but I've never given it a proper chance. I guess I just had to wait till now.

Here's the first line: "At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business..."

Sounds promising; I'll let you know how it goes. I'll pass it along to you when I'm done, Ralph.

Happy Sunday,


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Great City or What? (Stress on second part)

I know last week there was something in the paper about this Keep Erie Wierd movement... but has anyone seen the front page of today's Erie Time-News? The main story is about the exciting horse racing that people will be able to gamble on soon - and how the purses will be driven by the slots revenue. There's even some comment about people being able to drink, play slots, and gamble on horses at the same time- the whole she-bang!- and this is presented as a positive thing. Then, there's a a story about our horribly mismanaged County Fair, which is teetering on bankruptcy. Apparently some of the "best of fair" winners haven't even been paid. There's also a story about low-income neighborhood healthcare clinics closing down. Finally, there's a story about a "shocking" drug bust in a trailer park near Taki's.

And, that's the front page ladies and gentleman, in your fabulous city. One note I will make - hats off to Mark DiVecchio for his work to seemingly keep the county fair on track for this year. This may all be a little political grandstanding - as the guy from Northwest Bank seems to keep insisting they had no plans for foreclosing on the fairgrounds, but at least DiVechhio is doing something that looks good for a change. Hell, I never thought Phil English would make much of a politician in his early years, but look at him now! There's hope for ole' Marky D. yet.

Finally, I love this part in the drug bust story about neighbors copying down the licenses plates of the 30 or so cars that were showing up a night at this trailer to buy drugs. Why do people care if other people use and buy illegal drugs? Never understood this.



Thursday, May 04, 2006

Annex Mexico

The United States should annex Mexico.

It would solve the current Mexican immigration problem and US employees whose jobs are Mexico-bound could cross the border and begin working without losing citizenship.

How do you say Steris in Espanol? I'm not kidding. Bring on the pesos.

Either that, or let's announced USMC. UnitedStatesMexicoCanada. We could have free borders between countries and focus on guarding the entire land mass instead. An attack on one country would be considered an attack on all.

That might confound (or at least confuse) Al-Quaeda.

Speaking of loonies, we should be free to spend lots of those north of the border, as well. They take lotsa loonies at Tim Horton's, don'tcha think, Ralph? So their profit would be our profit. Brilliant, eh? And who doesn't love the maple leaf?

How about the North American Treaty Organization, NATO?...doh! That one's already taken.

As for Biden's notion of The United States of Iraq...Three separate states with shared national defense? That sounds familiar. Think it'll fly in the Arab world?

Bet not.


Tim Hortons

There seems to be an odd, and somewhat disturbing development occurring in the Erie coffee drinking scene: an addiction to Tim Hortons coffee. Have you tried it? It's taken me probably about a year of on-and-off drinking before I finally became hooked. But, I've had it like five times in the past week and can't seem to face going back to anything else. Even Starbucks, which I used to swear by, seems to either pale in comparison - for regular coffee, or be overkill - for lattes, when compared to Tim's. The disturbing part is that my wife has also become addicted- to decaf, as she's preggers - but addicted nonetheless. Then, I was having beers with two guys the other night and they also claimed they were addicted. The one guy was actually running late for a meeting recently, but did a U-ee on Peach Street when he noticed he was passing Tim's before getting on the highway. Is this some sort of Canadian conspiracy to bring down the U.S. ? I don't know because it seems Canadians have the same problem-as I found some Canuck-centric chat boards and other posts on this very topic. There's even a Muslim-centric forum on the topic. I would like a Congressional investigation.

Speaking of which, it seems the two biggest stories in the news these days are gas prices and the continuing war in Iraq. What is the relation between these two events? Are they only tangentially connected, or are they directly related, i.e., did the war directly lead to $3 a gallon gas? Or, was the war started because the neo-cons knew there would be $3 per gallon gas on the way, and if the war had gone well, it would have prevented the price increases - or delayed them? Or has this $3 per gallon gas made the Bush's and bin Laden's allies even richer and the war was started as kind of distraction to all that? Can we get an investigation on all this, instead of whether oil companies, who last I checked were in business to make money, are actually just being really successful at what they do?

Right. Also, if you get a chance, check out David Broder's column on Joe Biden's plan for a new Iraq. It involves dividing the country up into three states: one each for the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. It's pretty much what I've been saying should have been done since we ripped apart Saddam's regime. Now, I'm not an expert, but from what I understood, Iraq was kind of kludged together by the Brits after World War II, and it has always required force to make all these people get along. The reasons for tying it together in the first place, I'm not sure of, but it probably had something to do with making it large enough to defend itself vs. the Turks. Clearly, though, these three factions are not going to co-exist in a peaceful democratic government. Hell, we even had a Civil War in the United States 75 years after it was founded, and our North and South populations had a lot more in common than Kurds and Sunnis do.

Come to think of it, didn't the Canadians pull out of Iraq? Maybe they're planning on cutting off our coffee and invading us while we're too asleep to defend ourselves.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Krauthammer, Clippers

Charles Krauthammer does a great job in his column today addressing some of the issues behind the recent spike in gas prices. K's theory is, he says, the same one he pushed forward 10 years ago when people were panicking as gas hit $1.50 per gallon. It's supply and demand, stupid. He cites the SUV boom as increasing demand, along with the industrialization of China and India. Supply, of course, is down because of some worldwide crises (didn't we start one in Iraq?) and the damage to the Gulf refineries because of the hurricane. He also blasts Bush for his "investigation." (Funny, how all the conservative columnists are now turning on Bush. It seems to me even Michelle Malkin was taking some shots at Bush's immigration policies yesterday. All I can say is, what took you all so long to turn on this flim-flam man?) There was also an interesting cartoon depicting an American trying to pay an Arab at the pump for his gas. He had these little tiny dollar bills that were supposed to represent the falling price of the American dollar - which, of course, would also contribute to the gas spike. At least I live on a bus route.

On a lighter note, congrats to the Clippers, who had advanced to the second round of the playoffs. (Or as they used to be called in the old Gil Thorpe comic strip - the play-downs.) It's been a long-time coming - since the mid-1970s in fact, since the Clips, as the Buffalo Braves won a playoff series. I was less than 10 at the time and don't barely remember it. Guess who they will get to play next? Likely, the Lakers - their current crosstown rivals. As for the Lakers, I think ole' Phil Jackson is finally proving once-and-for-all that he doesn't get enough credit for his nine, count them, nine, NBA titles as a coach. Everyone says he had great players. But, the fact is, none of those great players, not Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, or Kobe won any, count them, any, titles without Dr. Phil on the sidelines. Of his great players, only Dennis Rodman won a pair of titles with Detroit - and that about sums up the NBA!



Monday, May 01, 2006

Field of Dreams

After the 'Wolves game yesterday afternoon. (Photo by my lovely wife Maggie.)