Friday, December 22, 2006

2006 vs 2005?

It was recently brought to my attention that I had erred in my "Top Ten Albums" list for 2006. Admittedly, it wasn't a top ten list at all because I had insisted on including eleven titles. However, it turns out that it was in fact a top ten list after all.
Last night a DJ pal of mine noted that he had been playing the "Elbow" disc on heavy rotation about this time last year. I checked their web site, and sure enough, Elbow's "Leaders of the Free World" came out in 2005. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because even though I have to retract the album from the list, I can plug their 2004 release "A Cast of Thousands" instead. For me, "A Cast of Thousands" is their best release to date, and a must have for any music fan.
Thus, all is right again in the world - the list becomes a real Top Ten, and I get to plug one of my favorite albums.
For those of you who missed it, here's the (now updated) list:
Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)
The Black Angels - Passover (Light In the Attic)
Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
Yo La Tengo - I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Beck - The Information (Interscope)
Wolfmother - Wolfmother (Modular/Interscope)
Earl Greyhound - Soft Targets (Some)
Kelley Stoltz - Below the Branches (Sub Pop)
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Interactive Christmas Greeting

Hello There, and Best of the Season to you!

In this extremely impersonal age, I'm adding an exclamation point to it all by using this blog entry to pass on my not-so-personal Christmas greetings.

So, first off, please click on the following link to get in the mood, er, I mean spirit. (You've heard of Bad Santa, how about Even Worse Elf...?)
Isn't that absolutely enlightening? I'm sure you're now more than ready for whatever this season has in store for you. ("Thanks" to Judy R)

On with the greetings.
If you happen to be in Vancouver this December 23, please drop by for a little Festive Cheer at Dave's Christmas Eve Eve Celebration (CEEC). Not quite a party, not exactly an open house, just an opportunity to gather around, down a yuletide cocktail and wish you were going someplace warm for the holidays.

If you're unable to attend, and we will not be able to exchange Season's Greetings in person, then at least you have my "elf" doing my part for me!

(If you're at all insulted by my using a greeting that has religious undertones, please, for the love of god [oops, did it again] - LIGHTEN UP!)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dave's Top 10 Albums of 2006

I'm tired of people saying "There's no good new music out there today".
People who say that are just trying to cover for the fact that they are old. Now, don't get mad if you feel like I've categorized you, because there's a way to prove me wrong. Old has nothing to do with age. It is a frame of mind. People who can't be bothered to put forth an effort to discover new music should not go around saying that there isn't any good new stuff. It is a sign that they are lazy and, well, old.
So, in an effort to help you from feeling old this Christmas, I present to you my top 10 list of new albums for 2006. Feel free to use this list and name drop at your next Christmas party. You'll be amazed how young it makes you feel.
(2006 was an incredible year for music. Keeping the list down to ten albums was quite a chore. The following entries are in no particular order.)

Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)
The Black Angels - Passover (Light In the Attic)
Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Elbow - Leaders of the Free World (V2)
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
Yo La Tengo - I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)
Beck - The Information (Interscope)
Wolfmother - Wolfmother (Modular/Interscope)
Earl Greyhound - Soft Targets (Some)
Kelley Stoltz - Below the Branches (Sub Pop)
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)

Now, to those of you who actually made it this far, congratulations, because I'm going to let you in on a little secret: This was not Dave's Top 10 list!
It was in fact Dave's Top 11 list. I simply couldn't delete any one album from the list. From Neko Case's haunting voice to Jack White's screechy vocals, from Elbow's understated brilliance to Wolfmother's full on wall of sound; the styles represented in these 11 albums are considerably varied, yet the quality is incomparable.

Merry Christmas Everybody! Happy listening.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Went to see Wolfmother last night at the Commodore. The show was as expected - spectacular. They're a little more polished and perhaps a tad road weary since their show in Vancouver last year, but man those boys can play. The keyboards were mounted on a sort of giant slinky, so the bass/keyboard player could bend them all over the place, twirl them around and generally rock out while blasting out riffs that would make Deep Purple proud. Guitar, drums - it was all good. The crowd knew every word and sang along in excruciatingly bad falsettos. I haven't seen that many crowd surfers over a swirling mosh pit in quite some time. (New rule - only women are allowed to crowd surf.) And, as the show let out, you knew there would be traffic jams at all the bridges and tunnels heading out of town. Who knew there were that many ball caps and flannel shirts still in circulation?
The buddy I went with was a little "off" last night, as his wife had ordered a dog on-line and they picked it up yesterday. It's some tiny "Piramima" or something (I know I got that wrong, as Piramima is a wine from Australia, but it's something similar). It's your basic yappy lap dog, the sort of thing Paris Hilton used to carry around, but she's over it now. I guess the world's Paris wannabees are just catching up, and my buddy is suffering the consequences. Mind you, apparently all the ladies in Cafe Calabash were swooning as they walked by with it, so maybe there are some fringe benefits?

Friday, November 24, 2006


In the wake of another bombing in Baghdad, this one claiming 144 lives, I felt it appropriate to draw your attention to the essay "The Logic of Disengagement" by Edward Luttwat, first published in the January/February edition of Foreign Policy. It is one of the best summaries I have read on the intricacies of the conflict in Iraq.
Interesting how this essay was published almost two years ago, yet it is more relevant today than ever. Perhaps not exactly Thanksgiving weekend fare, but then again, do we really need to carry on with our bellies full of turkey AND our heads in the sand?
(requires a free NY Times online membership)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Diggling Labels!

Hi All,
You'll notice a new feature here on the Digglings. I've added "labels" to all of the entries. Now you can search past entries by subject, instead of obscure (and often misleading) things like date or title.
Choose from such exciting topics as:
Fun - everything from jokes to cartoons
Go Outside - often humorous tales resulting from my fruitless attempts at extreme sports
Me - when I can't think of a category, I file it here
Politics - how can I resist? Politicians provide such an abundance of subject matter!
Rants - true, almost all my entries are rants. That's why it's often a second, or sub, category.
Religion - almost as entertaining as politics, and often inextricably intertwined...
Science - usually as in vs. religion, but sometimes just plane interesting stuff from the world around us
Travel - everyone's favorite pastime

Friday, November 10, 2006

What Took You So Long, America?

Now that the dust has settled and the giddiness has subsided in the wake of this week's mid-term elections, can we talk? Because, there's one thing I just don't get. It's all fine and dandy that the American voters have finally awakened and exercised their ability to put in place some potential resistance to the Bush Administration's free rein. But, why wait until now? Did the voters have any new information this week that wasn't available two years ago when Bush was re-elected? Did some event occur to sway the vote? What's up America?

The foreign media claims that the people of America have finally started paying attention to the opinions of the rest of the world. I think they're kidding themselves. The average voter in the US doesn't think about much that's outside of US borders, let alone outside his or her daily commute. According to the US Office of Central Statistics, only 18% of Americans even have a passport! Nope, the rest of the world isn't on their radar screen, and I don't buy that any foreign opinion influenced this election. Americans didn't listen last time, and they weren't listening this time.

Others have suggested that the American people are reacting to being lied to by their government - WMDs and all that. Yet again, that's nothing that wasn't already being trumpeted as Bush was campaigning his second time around. The majority of the voting public seemed quite content to let the lies slide. The same goes for the suggestion that Americans are fed-up with a mismanaged war, or a war with corporate intent. The plan was flawed from the beginning, yet to the voters it didn't (and doesn't) seem to matter.

No, I believe that two years ago they still thought they could "win" the war (when they weren't cringing at the thought of two men kissing, that is). They didn't really have a clear vision of what "win" meant, but they figured that at least the US couldn't lose. Now, however, they realize they're not winning anything, and their troops are dropping like flies. Those troops who aren't dead are either returning home maimed, or are going bonkers. Four years of "stay the course" was somehow reasonable, but six years has finally pissed off the American public.

The most important fundamental that the Bush Administration seems to have misunderstood is that Americans don't just love their country, they love their people, too. They can only put up with seeing so many body bags returning home before they react. And react they have.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Rummy's Life

Wow! The emails have been fast and furious in the wake of Rummy's step down/firing. I've heard opinions ranging from "hang him right next to Saddam", to "he was a victim of the administration". I don't agree with either of these extremes, and have enjoyed plenty o' banter over the last few days discussing where in the middle the truth lies.

The best summary I've read so far was posted in Slate this morning. You can read it here: Thanks to Judy for passing it on.

One reoccurring theme we've been discussing since Rummy's announcement (or since 9/11 for that matter) is learning from history. The newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates faces quite a task. Time will tell whether he ponders mistakes from the recent past as he moves America's military forward. Mind you, as a former head of the CIA and pal of Bush Sr., I'm sure we can count on him to stay the course.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting's a Bitch

While pedaling my way to work on a blistery wet morning here in Vancouver, my thoughts began to wander south – not way down south to the beaches of Mexico and Central America, but a little closer to home. It’s mid-term Election Day in the US of A, and by all accounts, it looks like the American political landscape is in for a bit of a change. The Democrats are expected to make significant gains in the over 500 races for house, senate and governor. Just how much of a change is, of course, yet to be seen.

Cycling provides ample opportunity for contemplation and reflection. Quite frankly, other than trying to avoid SUVs and their maniacal drivers, there’s really not much else to do when commuting by bicycle.

Today my thoughts drifted back to recent political conversations I’ve had with friends from the States. In similar fashion to the last presidential election, everyone seems quite passionate about the state of the country, regardless of their political leaning. People have strong opinions on Iraq, immigration, stem cell research, and a seeming endless number of other issues. Through it all, however, there remains one consistent thread – everyone wants change.

But, no matter how enjoyable the process of mentally repeating these discussions may be to me, and regardless of the varying opinions of the voters, the real question facing the nation is this: How much real change, if any, can be expected? If the Democrats somehow miraculously sweep the house and the senate, will things in the US change, even perceptibly? If the Republicans maintain their stranglehold on all levels of government, will the republican voters see the changes they are hoping for? After all the slander campaigns and all the promises, what can Americans, and the rest of the world, expect from the great US democratic political machine?

More of the same, of course! What else would you expect? We have history as our guide, and every indication suggests that whether there are donkeys or elephants at the helm, the ship ain’t turning around. It may veer slightly to port or starboard, but it will continue heading in precisely the same direction.

So, what are the voters who want real change to do? Perhaps a good start would be to get fed up with the two political parties currently claiming to offer “choice” to the American people. I think this option is best summed up by some design students in Georgetown who were recently witnessed by a pal of mine hustling t-shirts on the swanky corner of M and Wisconsin that read: Quit Bitching. Start a Revolution! It’s not a new idea, but it may just be a timely one.

Killer Clap?

Bono is at a U2 concert in Ireland when he asks the audience for some quiet.
Then in the silence, he starts to slowly clap his hands.
Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone..."Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."
A voice from near the front of the audience pierces the silence..."Fookin stop doing it then!"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Horror

Happy Halloween everybody. Greetings from the Vancouver International Airport, October 31, 2006 at about 6 AM.

I have a very scary story for you today kiddies, as I’m off on another sojourn into the deepest, darkest nether regions of America. That’s right, for the second time this autumn I’m off to Orlando.

And, as if the prospect of returning to this bastion of Disneydom, frightenly situated in the center of the Floridian jungle, isn’t terrifying enough in its own right, it appears as if I’m going to spend my day today surrounded by airline and airport staff dressed up in Halloween regalia. Oooh, isn’t that scary kiddies? Ha! You have no idea.

It started with the ticket agent, dressed up as an overly helpful, flamingly gay fellow who was sure to touch each passenger tenderly on the shoulder. Next came the gruff disposition and jangly jowls of a middle aged man posing as a US customs official. I’m still shaking from that encounter. Soon afterwards I was confronted by a large group of East Indians dressed in black, posing as security agents. They weren’t very convincing, however, as they seemed far more interested in laughing together about Diwalli than acting in character. Hell, they forgot to make me take my shoes off, which had the guy behind me (pretending to be a businessman) particularly chuffed. Most recently, I encountered the best costumes so far, a gang of crazily efficient, loudly chattering Asian women in Starbucks uniforms. That was particularly unsettling; as everyone knows that Starbucks only hires young kids with lots of facial hardware.

So there you have it. 6:44 AM, the dawn only beginning to lighten the eastern sky, and my brain is on fright alert sensory overload. Either that or the venti quad latte is kicking in!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Job Satisfaction?

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so?
There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
--Drew Carey

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

But Don't Take My Word For It...

Movie star jumps into clean-water effort

LOS ANGELES — Movie star and Oscar winner Matt Damon wants to help bring clean water to Africa, according to an October 17 Associated Press story from MSNBC.
Damon has created a charity, H20Africa, along with the filmmakers of "Running the Sahara," a documentary narrated by Damon that focuses on three men attempting to run across the Sahara; the documentary will also feature the actor's upcoming mission to Africa, according to the story. The goal of H2OAfrica is to raise awareness and support for clean-water programs, the story said.
During a trip to Africa, Damon said in the article, he "saw firsthand the effects of one of the largest public health issues of our time — the world water crisis which is at its worst in Africa."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What I Do

A friend sent me an article today that described how many of the world’s major cities are sinking due to pumping of water from the ground under them. He asked if this was related to the work I do. This got me thinking. I wonder how many of my friends actually know what I do, or what a hydrogeologist does? So, I’ve posted my response to him in hopes of shedding a little light on the subject.
(For those of you that I know through work, please feel free to ignore this and head over to the Comedy Central site to watch video clips from the Daily Show.)

Subsidence is only a symptom of a much greater problem. The world today is facing a shortage of fresh water, and we as humans aren't going about addressing this crisis in a very intelligent fashion.
The above photo is from the San Joaquin Valley in California, and is quite famous amongst we hydrogeology types. It shows the elevation of the valley surface at various times over the last century. It's an incredible change to the area's topography in a very short time period.
The reason for this rapid subsidence is groundwater pumping. Downhole water pumps were only invented a little over a century ago. Before that, our choices were to lower a bucket down a well, or use surface water. As a result, we tended to live and farm where there was plenty of surface water.
Downhole pumps revolutionized how we manage (or mismanage) our water resources. They were initially used for agricultural irrigation, enabling crops to be grown in previously unsuitable locations. (I've got a great idea. Let's grow cotton in the desert!) The volume of pumping carried out far surpasses the natural recharge and we end up with dropping water tables.
That's the story of the inland valleys in California. They have pumped down the water table so far that the ground compacts, thus subsidence like in the picture above. Imagine that kind of subsidence in an urban area, and you see how various cities around the world are "sinking". It's potentially devastating, because the subsidence tends to be very uneven, resulting in buildings toppling over and so on.
Now, groundwater pumping isn't necessarily responsible for all of the "sinking cities" discussed in the article. Many of those cities are coastal, and are at least partially built on mud flats. For example, New Orleans was sinking while they were building it. (Who would build a city on a muddy delta below sea level anyway?) And Venice has been sinking for centuries, long before we knew how to get water out of the ground with anything but a bucket.
However, in many cases subsidence is still a striking indication of how our use of fresh water is out of balance. We're using far more than nature can replenish.
And, there's a lot more to it than just pumping of groundwater. Man has created other complicating issues, only one of which is dams. In feeding our ever increasing energy needs, dams have been constructed on almost every major waterway in the world. Dams prevent flooding and restrict water flow; both crucial to the natural recharge process. Dams, water rights and groundwater pumping are why today the rivers in Los Angeles are made of sand.
The bottom line is simply that there's not enough fresh water for the earth's population unless we drastically change our way of doing things. Even Canada isn't safe. Our water is primarily surface water that comes from glacial run off. Last I checked, the glaciers aren't going to be around for much longer. What then?
The US is experiencing a major population shift as more and more people move to the southwest. But how sustainable is that? There are no rivers to speak of in any of the southwestern states, and the supply of groundwater is diminishing at a rate that resembles George W's popularity rating. Yet, the southwest boasts the 5th largest population center in the US (Phoenix), and the fastest growing city in the US (Las Vegas). Both are located in the middle of the desert for crying out loud! So, not only do we have a shortage of water, but we're further complicating the problem by setting up shop in places where there really is no water in the first place.
From sinking cities to population shifts and global warming - it's all connected to fresh water, our most precious resource. Trying to manage the world's water is an incredibly complicated task. But hey, if it wasn't complicated, I wouldn't have a job!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fear of Flying?

You know, we really don't have enough time to shop in our lives.  It's so thoughtful of the airlines to provide us with some shopping options while they have us all strapped into those tiny seats with no means of escape.  After all, there’s no room to do anything else, why not flip through a Sky Mall magazine?
"Tired of trying to catch spiders way up high on your vaulted ceilings?  Have we got a product for you!"
Good god those things are absolutely full of just the sort of rubbish that’s perfect for "someone who has everything".  
Why would anyone buy anything from Sky Mall?  A friend of mine came up with this theory: “I think it's because crap looks significantly better thousands of feet in the air in dim lighting with pressure in your head. Really, you get a good strong pressure going between your ears and all of a sudden that hot dog cooker shaped like R2D2 looks pretty good!”
I especially like the section on Garage Organizers.  You're certainly going to need a great big one to store all the crap you buy from the Sky Mall magazine because you're inevitably NEVER going to use it!

The more I fly, the more I'm amazed that there is any independent thought left in America at all.  (Wake up Canada.  You’re part of this!)  It is truly a brain dead society, full of people wandering aimlessly through life, doing what they're told.  And nowhere else is it so obvious as in airports and on airplanes.

Waiting lounges are inundated with big screen TVs blaring out CNN.  And it ain't news they're showing, it's advertising dressed up as news.  "Condoleezza Rice plays classical music, but works out to Led Zeppelin!  What do you think of that?"  
What I think of that is "Who gives a flying f*ck?!?"  The woman is at the center of the carnage that is Iraq, and the TV is spoon feeding us human-interest drivel?

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has raised the terror level to ORANGE!  We're asked to be extra vigilant during this time of increased threat.  Perhaps we'd all be better off if we just listened to a few bars of "Stairway to Heaven"?

One would think that maybe people are too smart to buy all the crap that we're being fed.  One would be wrong.  All you have to do is listen to people's cell phone conversations (as if we have a choice because they insist on yelling into the damn things) to realize that the majority of the population has decided to disregard all of their cerebral capacity.  
"The plane just landed.  Now we're pulling up to the gate.  Now I'm walking off the plane.  Hey, there’s someone who looks like Brad Pitt.  Now I'm passing a Starbucks.  Now I'm walking into the baggage claim area."  
No wonder the telecom companies continue to make a killing.  They are simply taking advantage of our ridiculous need to broadcast inane facets of our petty little lives to anyone who will listen.  I swear at least half of these people are talking to their own answering machines.  No human being could possibly be on the other end, unless of course the recipient is merrily spouting his or her own gibberish at the same time.  

Even more flabbergasting was a small Asian woman sitting in front of me who spent almost a whole flight from Washington Dulles to Seattle trying to send text messages.  She seemed to get increasingly frustrated each time it didn't work.  There are so many things fundamentally wrong with that, I simply don't know where to start.

But maybe we’re just doing what’s expected of us?  Walk by the news agency in any airport and look at all the magazines and newspapers dedicated to peddling celebrity worship.  Whether it’s sports, fashion, Hollywood or even politics (“Oprah for President?”), we’re certainly being encouraged to get in line and join the homogenized society.  Even “The Economist” has updated its format so it looks more like “People Magazine”.  

Before we know it, we’re all mind-numbingly strolling through the airport with glazed eyes, humming the same tune and thinking about who’s going to win “Rock Star Supernova”.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a list of observations from a day of flying this past Saturday that would seem more appropriate in a movie about zombies:
- people unable to realize that coins will in fact set off the metal detector
- people who stand for 20 minutes in a line-up to get their ticket checked, then get surprised and flustered when they reach the front and they're asked to show their ticket
- people who try to bring coffee onto a plane when there are huge banners all over the airport saying "No Liquids on any Flight", and respond by screaming at the ticket agent  (maybe they should scream at Condoleezza?)

Yup, whether we’re buying our crap from Sky Mall or the media, it’s all still crap.  Unfortunately for us, the famous old saying applies here as well as anywhere, “Crap in…Crap out”.  

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Democracy At Its Finest

With all the attention being given to the US election slated for 2008 (which in and of itself is worse than Christmas decorations showing up in Wal-mart before Halloween…), why would anyone still want to look back at the 2004 election? Well, apparently some folks do, and they’re willing to take legal action to make it happen.

It’s not getting much media attention, but there has been a reoccurring headline (albeit squeezed between the obituaries and the classifieds) in a few newspapers across the nation that reads “Ohio to Delay Destruction of Presidential Ballots”. Essentially, several independent reviews looking at small portions of the 2004 Ohio election ballots have uncovered enough irregularities that a number of groups want all of the ballots preserved until a comprehensive review can be completed.

What sort of irregularities you ask? How about:

  • ballot tampering (applies to electronic, hand written and punch ballots)?

  • counties where significantly more votes were tabulated than the number of people who actually voted?

  • discrepancies of 5% or more between the people in the signature books and the “certified” results?
The majority of the abnormalities were seen in rural areas.

The groups spearheading the movement represent a surprisingly wide portion of the political spectrum, including a republican who is running for governor, the League of Women Voters, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

This strikes me as rather puzzling. I can certainly understand the motivation behind certain “liberal” organizations, as they are convinced of an election conspiracy. After all, Ohio was one of the swing states that solidified the Bush campaign’s narrow victory, and with the process of Electoral College the rural areas carry a lot more political weight than their population justifies. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of ballot stuffing in some small counties to turn the tide in an election that is neck-and-neck.

So, why would “conservative” groups be interested in preserving the ballots? The company line appears to be that they are either interested in “learning from the past to improve the future”, or in some backhanded way they want to prove that the election was legitimate. All I can say to that is "Be careful what you wish for, gentlemen..."

Regardless of the outcome, the underlying message is clear: in the most advanced democracy in the world, the election process is shabby and suspect. Last I checked, elections are the very foundation on which democracy is built. Need I go on?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Modern American Politics?

5 AM ramblings...

I'm sitting in an airport in Orlando at this ungodly hour, starting an epic journey back to Vancouver.
Quite surreal, really. A bunch of Americans sitting like zombies in a waiting lounge wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
Oh, and not to be outdone, there's a scout group of about 20 boys and men, all dressed in their little tan uniforms complete with scarves and badges.
There are flat screened TVs everywhere, blaring CNN. Today's biggest headline? Apparently marijuana is being sold in schools disguised as candy. Yep, some bright soul is stuffing little round bubble gum with marijuana extract (I believe we used to call it 'oil'). The candies are marked with a happy face.
Isn't there a military conflict going on somewhere?
Good God people, stop drinking so much soda pop!
Ah, the perky flight attendants have arrived. We may actually be flying this morning. No pilots yet, however.
Ate dinner last night in a "beni hanna" style Japanese restaurant. Our traditional chef was named Pedro.
Hey, have you ever checked in online before? Super slick. No line up at the airport when you arrive, and if you're not checking baggage, you just head through security straight to the gate. Already assigned a seat, it's nothing but Starbucks and the waiting lounge. Brilliant, huh? Well, not if they happen to change aircraft on you. I'm now sitting in a middle seat from here to Houston.
Already been up for two hours. One more hour til take-off. Feel my pain...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Head Over Heels: How Not to Ride A Mountain Bike on the San Juan Trail

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of utter helplessness that overcomes you when you’re pitched head first over your handlebars and down a steep, rocky slope. Now, any experienced mountain bike rider will tell you that there are three simple rules you need to follow to avoid just such a situation. They are:

  1. keep your weight to the rear of the bike by getting your ass way out behind the seat,
  2. don’t use your brakes (especially the front ones) when working over the tricky bits, and
  3. be sure to maintain enough momentum so that you don’t unexpectedly stop and fall over.
These rules seem simple enough; yet, at the most inopportune times I inevitably forget at least one of them, resulting in the aforementioned cranium led launch into the abyss.

My latest encounter with some challenging downhill single track mountain biking occurred in the mountains just outside of San Juan Capistrano near the coast of southern California. My good buddy Mike has been attacking trails on a mountain bike throughout the west for a good ten years, and currently makes his home in Orange County. During a recent business trip to the area, he assured me that a ride on the famous San Juan Trail is a “must do”. He also insisted that anyone in possession of some basic riding skills (like those I mentioned above) should be able to do it “no problem”.

Now, far be it from me to doubt my buddy’s claims, but I know Mike to be one of those slightly crazed thrill seekers who fearlessly throws himself out of airplanes and thinks it’s cool to push the depth limits of his SCUBA gear. He’s a semi-pro skateboarder that likes to go surfing to “relax”. I figured I’d better get a second opinion.

According to an article in Singletrack Mind (, the San Juan Trail is “virtually 19 miles of exquisite single track through delightfully scenic and rugged wilderness with not a shred of intervening fire road or pavement.” So far so good. Unfortunately, it goes on to say that the trail is located in “California's most appealing yet unforgiving terrain”, and that “regardless of the distances traveled on the San Juan Trail, one's body and mind are completely drained by trails' end.” If that wasn’t enough to put the fear of God in me, the following description had me convinced my time would be better spent sipping beers in the stands at a baseball game. “The panoramic views are staggering. However, for those who take their eyes off the immediate trail ahead the penalty can be life-threatening, as much of the trail clings to steep hillsides and ravines.”

Still, far be it from me to show any sign of weakness (or sense), and by mid-afternoon this past Wednesday I found myself perched atop an unfamiliar, undersized mountain bike at the top of the San Juan Trail. The trail boasts some pretty large elevation changes, and can be done one of two ways:

  1. Really insane riders can start at the bottom and push like hell up 10 miles of steep switchbacks to get to the top, and then turn around and ride back down. This is how Mike usually does it.
  2. Slightly less cerebrally challenged riders can use the shuttle technique, where a vehicle is left at the bottom, and a second is used to ferry the bikes via back roads to the summit.

Since my conditioning is suspect, Mike opted to swallow his pride and we used option 2. All I can say about that is THANK GOD!! Using the shuttle option, it becomes an eleven-mile ride, with a total elevation drop of around 2,500 ft. Even so, there are numerous uphill grinds, including one climb that goes on for the better part of a mile. Oh yeah, and did I forget to mention the part about it being August in Southern California? We Canadians aren’t used to doing anything in that heat, let alone attempt to ride a bike up the side of a steep, sun-drenched slope.

Mike and I posed for photos at the top of the climb. He’s looking fit and happy. I look like I’m about to collapse.

Which brings me back to the subject of rather unceremoniously ejecting oneself from one’s bike. I was amazed at how skillfully Mike was able to guide his bike over, around, under and through some of the gnarliest mountain biking terrain I have seen. At the same time, I wasn’t at all surprised at how these same challenges regularly resulted in separating me from my bike – sometimes on purpose, other times… And sure enough, at one point fairly early on, bursting with confidence, I hit a rocky stretch at speed, completely oblivious of my neglect for at least two of the three simple rules. Leaning forward to get a better view of the trail I hit the brakes to avoid a big rock and there I went, over the handlebars and into the boulders. Needless to say, I dedicated some skin to the San Juan Trail.

Without a doubt, the San Juan Trail provides some spectacular views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California. At the same time, it presents riders with some ridiculously advanced mountain biking challenges. If you get a chance to ride it with someone like me, keep one thing in mind: make sure the dinner reservations are for really late, because it’s gonna take me a long time to get to the bottom!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Warner Lake to Tyax Lodge: Alpine Mountain Biking Mayhem

Imagine taking a floatplane up into a remote alpine wilderness area, then cruising back down on your mountain bike along miles of single-track alpine trails. Just picture the stunning vistas and flower covered meadows that abound as you gently glide by.

That’s basically what was going through my mind when I signed up for the Warner Lake flyout from Tyax Lodge. Three friends were planning to make the trip this past week and invited me along as the fourth. “How hard can it be?” I asked myself. “After all, I commute to work on my bike most days.” Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Words like “cruising”, “glide” and “gentle” most certainly did not apply.

Our group consisted of three old guys and one young one. My buddy Dave, his friend Daniel and I are all 40-ish. Dave’s son Ewan is closer to 15. Regardless of age, we were confident that we could handle whatever challenges the trip had in store for us.

Tyax Lodge is located on Tyaughton Lake in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia. My friends and I loaded down my Explorer with four mountain bikes and mountains of gear and set off on the five hour drive from Vancouver to the lake. During the summer, the best route is to head north to Pemberton, then over the Hurley River Forestry road to Gold Bridge. The forestry road climbs high into the Coast Mountains, providing some spectacular views. It’s a pretty rough trek, though, with enough washboard to test even the hardiest of vehicle shocks. Still, we were encouraged by the blue skies on our journey, as they seemed to contradict the weatherman’s prediction of rain showers.

A wide range of accommodation is available at the lake, from five star chalets at the Tyax Lodge, to a free provincial campground (carefully located out of sight from the lodge). We chose not to break the bank, and pitched our tents lakeside. The guys were wondering whether or not to bother using tent flies. The increasing intensity of rainfall as night progressed made me glad I did.

6:30 AM came early, and the low cloud cover and steady drizzle had us worried whether the plane would actually fly. Warner Lake is located at an elevation where hazardous weather conditions can occur any time of year. Our pilot said he’d fly up to the general area, but wouldn’t decide until we got there if wind and cloud would prevent us from landing. He also mentioned that he was quite surprised that we had managed to get permission to do this ride without having either a guide or previous experience in the area. None of us said anything. My confidence began to wane a tad.

The floatplane trip to Warner Lake is quite spectacular, and often one of the highlights of the day. We were treated to a somewhat dampened version, although it was beautiful nonetheless. Once above the lake, our pilot announced that we were lucky and he touched down through the rain.

Mind you, disembarking from a plane during a downpour in a remote wilderness area while looking up through your breath at fresh snow may not be what some people consider as being lucky.

There was no time for dilly-dallying. The plane departed, we were cold, wet and had a very long day ahead of us.

Our route would take us more than 40 km, from an elevation of 6100 ft at Warner Lake to 3300 ft back at Tyaughton Lake. And, if our initial several hundred yards were any indication, we were in for one tough slog. The literature describes the first 5 km as “technical”. We quickly learned that the definition of technical is “hike and bike”, which meant that we were carrying our bikes up and down over goat trails as much as we were riding them.

After skirting its way along the edge of Warner Lake, across scree slopes and through sparse forest, the trail begins to provide somewhat better opportunities for actually riding a bike. Our group fell into a pretty consistent pattern. Ewan, the fearless teenager, was our “litmus rider”. We’d send him down the sketchy bits, and if he crashed, the three of us would walk our bikes. If Ewan struggled, but still managed to make it without ending up head first in the rocks, then Dave and Dan were about 50-50 as to whether they’d have a go. If Ewan appeared to have any difficulty at all, my bike was on my shoulder until the next flat stretch.

The trail follows Gun Creek past a number of other lakes and through countless mountain meadows. There were several places where it was tough to follow, but Dave was well prepared and had some topo-maps that came in very handy. The views and vistas were indeed spectacular, even with cloud cover. Of course, one must never take their eyes off the track while actually riding. Any time I tried to glance up at a mountain peak or glacier while pedaling, I inevitably found myself tumbling down a rock face or up close and personal with a mud puddle.

At the end of this 40 km toil through the alpine wilderness, the track gives way to a dirt rode that leads back to Tyaughton Lake. If you were on a guided tour, this is the point where your day would end. You’d be met by a van and be cracking your first beer. Otherwise, you will need to pedal your way back to the lake.

The road provides a welcome change from the unpredictable surface of the dirt track. However, it also adds an extra 6 or 7 kilometers to an already grueling day. In addition, there is a three kilometer uphill section right in the middle that proved to be the end of me. Fortunately, Dave is in much better shape than me, and had plenty of time to get back to camp, down a beer, and bring the truck back as I reached the crest of the hill. If he hadn’t brought me a cold one, I’d have almost resented the fact that it took him so long.

Our bikes were muddy and our bodies were sweaty, scraped and bruised. We each took a turn at wading out into the lake for a little hose down and clean up before dinner. Each of us except me, that is. I chose to sit myself down in the lake and stare dumbfounded at the far shore, rain drizzling all around. I drank a beer in silence, and assessed the rather extensive personal damage.

It was too late in the day to head back to Vancouver, and we were all probably too tired for the drive. Instead, we had a wonderful meal at the Tyax lodge, complete with well deserved gin martinis. I slept soundly that night, completely unaware of the cacophony of snoring coming from our little group of tents.

Warner Lake trail is a challenge for both bike and rider. I was over the handlebars several times, and got close up and comfortable with a number of trees, shrubs and boulders. My bike is a Brodie hybrid bike, designed for light trail riding and street use. It was marginally up to the task. The pads of my rim brakes, which were relatively new, had been worn down to the metal.

Meanwhile, all six foot seven inches of Dan’s frame were on a full suspension bike with disk breaks. It seemed much more appropriate for the terrain, and while my brakes had all but quit half way through the day, he could stop on a dime (or before riding into a fresh pile of horse manure – another trail hazard that I found it hard to avoid) all day long. My advice to those without a good back country bike would be to shell out the few extra bucks and rent one in Whistler or Squamish. Either that or be prepared to have to wash off more than mud when your day is done.

The most common question that people ask after hearing that we did the Warner Lake trail is “Was it fun?”
My answer has become pretty standard.
“Challenging and rewarding? Absolutely. Fun? Well, not exactly…”

For more information, check out:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The 16 Rule

While the world sat back and watched Italy celebrate victory in the World Cup final (at the same time wondering “What in the world was Zidane thinking?”), I was commemorating a milestone of my own.  I have embarked on a new chapter of sorts in my life, which represents not so much a lifestyle change, as a lifestyle adjustment.  July 9, 2006 will go down in world history as the day the Italians brought home the Cup.  But in my history, it marked week one of adhering to “The 16 Rule”.

No, “The 16 Rule” is not some new dating regimen that I conjured up (I should be so lucky…).  It refers to the number of alcoholic beverages I am allotted per week.  That’s right, no more than 16 drinks, whether it’s a beer, a glass of wine or a G&T, in any given week.

People’s reactions to this idea are quite predictable.  When I tell them, they respond in one of two ways.  It’s either:
“16 Drinks?!?  You’re cutting down to 16 drinks?  Who in the world has 16 drinks in a week?”, or
“No way, man.  Impossible.  Give up before you start.  There’s no way you can restrict yourself like that.  It’s just not natural!”.
Either way, they inevitably arrive at the same questions – why 16 and why do it?

The number 16, I’m embarrassed to say, came from some TV program I happened to surf past several years ago.  I can’t remember much more than a perky host describing how a common plan for problem drinkers involves limiting themselves to 16 drinks a week.  When I started this self-imposed regimen, that’s all I knew about the reason behind 16.  The ensuing public ridicule has encouraged me to do some follow-up research.

But, before getting to that, there’s the other “why” question.  Am I a problem drinker or a raging alcoholic?  Is my life in ruins and in need of drastic measures?   Well, of course not! So why do it?  

Put quite simply, I’m a social drinker, always have been.  But, I’m also a very social guy.  This means going out for dinner an average of 5 or 6 times per week, and often having two different activities planned on any given night.  The common thread binding all of these is, of course, alcohol.  It’s such a natural aspect of social activities.  
“Let’s meet for a drink.”
“Come on over and we’ll have a glass of wine on the patio.”  
“I believe it’s your round, lightweight!”

The turning point for me was counting the number of drinks I’d actually consume in any given week.  Now, it’s currently summertime in Vancouver, and since it’s our only respite from 10 months of rain, alcohol consumption tends to go up when the sun shines.  Even so, count drinks I did, and I was surprised by what I found.  

On a Monday evening I’d have dinner on a friend’s back deck, followed by a round of disc golf at a nearby park.  Dinner was accompanied by two glasses of wine, we had a beer while golfing, and stopped off at a pub with a great deck on the way home.  Monday – six drinks.  Not necessarily excessive, but then along came Tuesday with the same total, and Wednesday, and Thursday…  Before the weekend had even started, I’d have consumed over twenty drinks!  Some week’s totals exceeded 40.

For even a social drinker, that’s a lot of alcohol.  In fact it’s too much.  I knew I needed to cut down, but my half-assed attempts to do so always failed.  I needed some way to gauge my intake, and a framework to enable me to realistically curb it.  Using a method that others had adopted seemed like a reasonable plan, so “Dave’s 16 Rule” was born.  

I've since looked into where the number 16 comes from, and it's loosely based on a "safe and healthy" alcohol consumption guideline.  Most agencies (Health Canada, CDC etc) encourage limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks per day, and never going over four drinks per day.  Consuming beyond these recommendations opens the door to a litany of potential illness.  The 16 Rule allows for those two drinks each day, and adds an extra on the weekends, without going over the recommended maximum.

Now, I'm not an angel, so I don't expect to never have over 4 drinks in a day again.  However, the process of counting alcohol consumption is a good one for me, and is going to contribute to my overall health as I muddle my way through middle age.  And, as an added bonus, I've already noticed a drop in my bra cup size!

The 16 rule isn't easy, but I am comfortable with where the motivation comes from and know it's the right thing to do.  That makes it easier to switch to water after a glass of wine or two.  In the end, that’s exactly what I want – to enjoy alcohol in moderation.  The last thing I want to hear is some doctor telling me I can’t even do that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Halliburton Rules

The headline says it all, and just in case you’re interested, I’ve included a link to the actual article where you can learn more and really get your blood boiling.  Here it is:
Army Plans to End Contentious Halliburton Logistics Pact and Split Work Among Companies
The pact paid Halliburton more than $15 billion to do jobs like deliver food and fuel and construct housing for U.S. troops around the world.

When is it going to end?  I mean, there have always been political shenanigans going on behind closed doors, but this has been the most flagrant conflict of interest I have ever seen.  There’s nothing “back door” about it.  The Bush administration, led by the anti-christ himself – ex Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, has been flaunting this one in front of the cameras for years!  They haven’t made any attempt to keep it from public view, which in my mind is the brilliance of the scheme.  It’s the only way they’d have been able to get away with it.

The premise is really quite simple.  We’re at war (aren’t we?), and that calls for drastic measures.  But wait, it gets better.  We’re not at war with an actual enemy; we’re at war with a concept!  It’s not a war on Iraq; it’s a war on terrorism.  And, as long as we’re at war, we can ignore things like rules and regulations and the Geneva Convention.  Well, the jury’s still out on the last one, but you get my drift.

So, the war on terror not only gives the Bush administration (and any US administration that follows) the right to march around invading foreign nations, it apparently also gives them the right to give their business cronies buckets and buckets of money.  Dick Cheney was instrumental in building the construction division of Halliburton, and now his administration (oops, I mean the Bush Administration) has been giving that very division billions of dollars worth of no-bid government contracts.

But why stop there?  Surely there’s other human suffering to profit from?  Hey, that’s it, target suffering and terrorism!  Why not give Halliburton billions more dollars to “help” reconstruct New Orleans?  It was a natural disaster, after all, and that calls for drastic measures.  (Note the reoccurring theme here.)  There’s surely no time for accepting bids from other contractors.  May as well just give a blank check to someone we trust.  Of course, our buddy Dick has arranged to give that check to a company that still pays him dividends and bonuses, and whose stock he happens to own in amounts measured by the truckload.

(Halliburton may not escape the New Orleans debacle, however.  Those numbers are being watched, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some Halliburton heads will roll.  Certainly not Dick’s, though.  He’s a federal politician, and has acted as best he could given these trying times.  No, Dick will come out smelling like a rose.)

Why haven’t we been screaming about this for the last five years?  Moreover, why hasn’t the press been hounding Dick Cheney everywhere he goes?  I realize that the anti-christ may be a somewhat foreboding character, but he should still be held accountable, right?  But here’s the brilliant part, and it’s beautiful in its simplicity:  You can’t be held accountable if you’re not doing anything wrong!  There’s nothing to punish if no crime has been committed.  So, harkening back to lessons learned in Nazi Germany, the Feds have been feeding us the “Great Lie”, and we’ve been eating it up.  Whether it’s illegal prisons, wire-tapping or unjust wars, as long as it’s being done right in front of us without an air of secrecy, we accept it as not only legal, but reasonable and necessary.  And, our blind faith has resulted in Dick and his buddies becoming very, very rich.

When will it end?  Probably never.  All I can say is that I bought Halliburton when it was at $32.  Lots of it.  Suckers!!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Italy vs Germany

During today’s World Cup match people were asking me whom I was voting for.  Since I really didn't have a favorite, my response was "Let's see now, the Renaissance vs. centuries of repeated attempts at world domination.  Hmmm...  I'll have an Espresso!"

However, my favorite line of the day was from a friend Kathy who, when one of the Italian players had been hit in the head and was rolling about the pitch in apparent agony, suggested that the doctor "Just pour some water on it and make him take his shirt off!”  Spoken like a true fan of the game.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Love Thy Neighbor

I was rather surprised to hear that a Scottish buddy of mine wasn’t going to be cheering for England in this weekend’s World Cup match against Portugal.  So, in an effort to change his mind, I tried to convince him that the friction between the Scotts and the Brits is nothing more than a friendly rivalry between neighbors, much like Calgary and Edmonton.  My argument follows.  He has yet to reply, which I interpret to mean complete agreement.

Yeah, but I was cheering for Edmonton in the Stanley Cup finals, and I'm from Calgary!!!  That was in complete deference to the historical "Battle of Alberta"!
At some point one must put aside petty differences that have festered for years (ten's of years in Alberta, thousands in the UK), and have involved pain and suffering (bar brawls in Alberta, thousands tortured and slaughtered in the UK).  Yes, it's time to band together with your neighbors for a cause that rises above these trivial (hey, it happened to someone else) concerns.  It's the World Cup dammit!  Join with your English brethren.  Stand arm in arm, swilling warm ale, and cheer on your fellow islanders.  You can get back to hating each other in mid-July!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rapture Wrap?

As a follow-up to my recent post on those who feel the impending apocalypse is sufficient reason to ignore the environment, I offer the following bumper sticker, recently spotted in California:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Today's Moments of Zen

It was reported that lobbyists had once provided former (now imprisoned) Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham with free limousine service, free access to hotel suites, and the services of prostitutes; it was also reported that the limousine service that was used to ferry the prostitutes had received a contract worth $21 million from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Louisiana state senate approved a bill that bans abortion except when the procedure can save a woman's life; an amendment to allow exceptions in the cases of women who have been raped or are victims of incest was defeated.

A Liverpool, England, man was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for getting drunk and singing "YMCA" on a flight from Florida to Manchester while his wife wept and comforted their three children. "He makes no excuses," said the man's lawyer, "for his loutish, idiotic behavior."


Good heavens people! What in the world is going on here? Those have to be some of the odder stories from the past week, or the past year for that matter. Indeed very odd, yet when you think about it, strangely related...

So, you may be wondering, how exactly are philandering federal bureaucrats related to tragically misguided abortion laws or drunken British louts? Well, bear with me here. It's actually quite simple.

It seems ironic that our mostly male law makers will go out of their way to write up and support legislation that restricts a woman's right to make decisions about her sexuality and her own body, while at the same time they cruise around in limos with prostitutes and charge it all to the tax payer!! No, that's not ironic, it's shameful. In fact, it's downright inexcusable. It's enough to drive a sane man to excessive drinking and acts of idiotic behavior in public, like singing YMCA at full volume on a transatlantic flight, maybe...

See? I told you they were related.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Flying By Numbers

Some stats from a recent day spent flying from San Antonio to Vancouver (via Dallas):

5:30 – time of scheduled wake-up call
never – actual time of wake-up call
6:00 – time at which I happened to roll over and look at the clock
6:30 – time of arrival at check-in counter for flight to Dallas
7:26 – scheduled departure time
45 – number of minutes in security line-up
5 - number of seats by which flight was oversold
30E – number of my assigned seat
30E – number of seat assigned to and occupied by a sharply dressed Hispanic businessman
2 – number of other seats I was directed to sit in prior to occupying my final seat
550 – estimated combined weight (in pounds) of the two individuals on either side of my middle seat
0 – number of available arm rests
1 – number of opportunities I was given to relocate to a less “crowded” seat, but was prevented from doing so because the obese gentleman to my left refused to stand-up “yet again” (I’m not kidding!)
39 – number of minutes that gentleman snored through the flight
40 – duration of flight to Dallas, in minutes (thank God!)
2 – number of hours scheduled for layover in Dallas
1 – number of oil leaks discovered in left hand side engine of Vancouver destined aircraft, after all passengers were loaded
5 – number of times engine was restarted in hopes that the leak would “go away”
0 – number of successful attempts
2.5 – number of hours “de-planed” passengers waited for a replacement aircraft
55 – number of minutes that passengers were further delayed, once loaded on the 2nd aircraft, waiting for food services to stock the galley
4.5 – total number of hours behind schedule that I arrived in Vancouver

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Pot vs. The Kettle, Mercantilism in 2006

I know, I know - two entries in one day!  Will wonders never cease?  It’s just that the material out there today is so good I simply can’t help myself.  But don’t take my word for it, read on…
The Bush Administration released a revised National Security Strategy last month that made a rather strong claim about China.  That country's leaders, the document declared, are "expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up, as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era."
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with economic policies that were developed as lords, vassals and fiefs became extinct, I offer you the following definition of Mercantilism:  A post-feudal doctrine of national economic health through protectionism, foreign trade and exports.  Basically, it means putting the interests of your country first by protecting national industries, while trading with any nation that has what you want, regardless of that nation’s political leanings or even alleged inhumane policies.
Bush Administration officials have repeatedly used the term mercantilism to describe China.  And, there are some indications that Dubya’s cronies are not far off the mark.
"They are buying long-term supplies wherever they find them, including in unsavory places like Sudan, Iran and Burma, where we won't buy," said Michael J. Green, a Georgetown University professor who directed policy on China at the National Security Council until late last year. "They say it is benign, because they don't interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. And we say it is anything but benign, because it finances these regimes' bad behavior."
Now, what does Mr. Green mean by all this economic jargon?  Well, consider a country like Sudan.  China has made deals with Sudan to firm up access to oil for years to come.  Sudan is a nation known around the world for incorporating insalubrious practices like genocide.  For that reason, the US cries, “Foul!” on the grounds of Mercantilism.  But China says 'Look, you know, we don't care about internal issues like genocide, we only care about the oil because we need the resources.'  And we’re not influencing how the Sudanese run their country, so why should it matter?
How about Iran?  In November 2004 China's state-owned oil company signed a $70 billion deal with the Iranians to develop an Iranian oilfield that could eventually produce 300,000 barrels a day.  Meanwhile, the Bush Administration wants the global community to put sanctions in place against Iran because they’re busy playing with Uranium.  But, China won’t cooperate.  China doesn’t want to threaten its oil interests.  Mercantilism rears its ugly head once again!
So there you have it.  China is doing business with unscrupulous governments and is protecting energy interests in other countries in spite of the apparent wishes of the world community.  Man, those Chinese sure are mercantilists.  Just look at them, parading around the world and muddling in the affairs of foreign nations, all in the name of ‘locking up’ energy.  How arrogant!  How just plain wrong!  Of course, no one else has been behaving like that on the world stage over the last, oh I dunno, 100 years or so, have they?
So, why are the Chinese so desperate for oil?  Could it be because they are an emerging super power with a population of around a billion people?  Sure, they can use their abundant coal reserves to create power, but hey, maybe they’d like to drive a car now and again?  For that, they’re certainly going to need some oil.
Right now China consumes about 6.5 million barrels of oil per day.  That’s a lot.  The Bush Administration predicts that that number could double in the next few years.  Greedy Chinese!  Why, they’re already second in oil consumption in the world!  Isn’t that enough?  How dare they even consider moving in on the world’s number one?  That’s right, we’re number one!  The US is currently the number one consumer of oil in the world, at over 20 million barrels per day.
Let’s see now:  300 million people at 20 million barrels per day vs. 1 billion people at 6.5 million barrels per day.  I’m not much of a mathematician, but something seems a little uneven here.  It’s a disparity that, given the world’s total oil reserves, may just need a little protectionism to maintain.  Perhaps the nation that has done such a good job “locking up” the world’s oil reserves for the last 50 years is feeling a little threatened by the new kid on the block.  And, there’s nothing more threatening when you’re on top than seeing the favored contender hot on your heels, playing the same game you’ve been playing all along, only better.
BTW – This entry unabashedly borrows from an article in today’s NY Times

Repent (or not)! The End is Near!

Hey Dave!
 I read an interesting article the other day of which the premise was that the Christian evangelicals do not care about global warming because they believe that it is part of the apocalypse and that global warming is a sign that the end is near.  In fact to hasten global warming would hasten Christ's return, so why bother going green?  Although there is a small movement of 'green' Baptists who are concerned.

Hey John!
Yes, I’m familiar with that sentiment you describe from the religious right.  I believe the first I heard of it was from the secretary of the interior in the US, who made some side handed remark to the effect that we don't really need to protect the environment 'cause we're all going to heaven real soon.  (I believe more of them are actually going to hell than they realize, but who am I to judge?  I'll be right there along side them...)  He was promptly removed from that position (and probably landed quite softly, thank you very much, as a lobbyist for some heavy industrial polluter), but the fact that someone at that level of government would even think that way astounded me.  Was it James Watt?  I can't quite remember.
Anyhow, I wrote it off as random noise from a religious wacko.  That is until more recent comments from larger groups in the US defending their "right to drive massive gas guzzling behemoths".  Their attitude is similar to that classic Far Side cartoon with the two guys sitting in a boat fishing while huge mushroom clouds appear on the horizon.  The one guy says to his buddy "You know what this means!  Screw the limit!"  That's right, I suppose since Armageddon is upon us, we throw all responsibility to the wind, and burn as many fossil fuels as possible!
What amazes me is this is the attitude of supposed Christians!  You know, "love thy neighbor as thyself", "turn the other cheek", "sacrifice your first born" (oops, old testament).  How do people that supposedly believe in love and caring for their human brethren get so morally twisted?  And surely some of them have children currently stationed in Iraq.  Don't they see more than a subtle connection there?  Their selfish religious dogma is contributing to the unnecessary extermination of their own sons and daughters.
Sure, the end is nigh, but I don't think it's the one they're praying for.  After their kids are all slaughtered in the deserts of the Middle East (or simply blowed up by car bombs), the world will be taken over by a pretty angry mob of Islamic zealots, who will make the religious right in America look almost sane.
Global warming?  Yep, it's pretty serious business.  So, just for practice, let's all go to Florida this summer and walk around completely covered in black wool blankets.  Hey, it's not that far off...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Iraq 'n roll, Iran 'n roll over?

This just in: The Bush Administration continued to plan a major air attack on Iran; a highly placed government consultant said that President George W. Bush believes that "saving Iran is going to be his legacy."

Wha?!?  Shock and Awe II?  Are they nuts?  Has Bush been talking to God again?
Isn’t anyone keeping score after the inaugural Shock and Awe?  How much is it currently costing America in terms of lives and $$$ to occupy a Middle Eastern country that, when attacked, had no military and an infrastructure crippled by sanctions and corruption?  Now they want to take on another Middle Eastern country, yet this one actually has military might and reasonable infrastructure?  And, lest we forget, all the while they’ll continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan?
Can any good come of this?  

I can see what the legacy is, and I'm afraid - very afraid.  I thought Presidents just wanted to leave behind libraries.  Mind you, I suppose that requires that the President has actually read a book.

I’ll leave you with the words of a friend of mine who has just returned from a six week “tour of duty” in some of the world’s smelliest armpits.  “Can you believe this stupidity?  It is fucking unbelievable.  Bombing another country...  Man this world is fucked up.  I am going back to Mongolia.”

Amen, brother.  Amen

Friday, March 31, 2006

I Hate Birthdays...

Friday, March 24, 2006

That's Really a Stretch!

Remember that scene in the movie Brazil where the main character’s mother is having yet another facelift, and when it’s finished she looks like some sort of stretched out ghoul?  It was absolutely frightening.  I found myself thinking “Thank God this is only a movie!”.
Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.  The old clichĂ© leapt into my world today.  
This morning I had breakfast in a small cafĂ© on the edge of Cal State in Berkeley.  The table next to me consisted of a group of seniors.  Pretty standard senior fare – lots of grey hair, conversations about bodily functions not going according to plan (I couldn’t help but overhear, they were right next to me and spoke really, really loud), and all sorts of indecision when it came time to order.  That sort of thing.
Yet, sitting among them was an imposter, no, more a freak.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am here before you to proclaim that the character from Brazil is alive and well and was last seen eating breakfast in Berkeley – by me!
I’ll spare you the details about eyes that can’t close or skin stretched back so far that her ears actually touched each other behind her head.  No, the whole scenario was too disgusting to put into words.  Mind you, I did get the sense that the group of them saw her as some sort of 1920’s carnival freak.  She looked like an alien, and tried acting like a, like, you know, college coed.  She kissed each of them as they left, and the collective cringes were priceless.
So, nothing earth shattering here, just a plea.  If you’re getting old, and I’m not that far behind you, just accept it.  Stay healthy.  Have fun.  Enjoy life.  But please, and I mean please, don’t go the freak route.  It won’t look good on you, honest!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hairless Perfection?

“I have some concerns about certain issues in the ‘pubic’ domain,” stated a recent email from a friend. She was referring to a spam strip-o-gram that has been making the rounds, showing an attractive Wal-Mart greeter “baring all”. I realize that there’s no such thing as a hot Wal-Mart employee of any kind, but hey, this is fantasy and she is indeed hot. I’ll send you a copy if you wish to do some research of your own.
But I digress. My friend’s point was with respect to the hairless nature of the woman’s body, below her head that is. This particular Wal-Martian had truly bared all, not just clothing. My friend wasn’t necessarily saying that she found it unattractive, but it just seemed weird. The following is my response to her question “What’s up with that?”

The "hairless" ideal has been creeping into our society for both men and women for some time. It wasn't that long ago (OK, the 70's) that a real man, and therefore a sexy man, was a hairy man. Just think of that poster of a nude Burt Reynolds wearing nothing but a cowboy hat covering his privates. He was a hairy monster, and apparently the ladies loved it. Or they were being told to love it. Either way, it was the male ideal.
How about women during the same period? Many were already expending more energy shaving their legs and armpits, so we have to look a little "deeper" to find the answer. And how deeper can you go than porn? The 70's were the classic days of porn, or so I've read. Back then the ladies differed from today's ideal in one striking way - bush. They didn't even trim their bushes, let alone shave them. That was the norm.
So in the 70's, we had men doing essentially no body hair grooming (except for maybe moustaches and beards), and women doing it away from their privates.

Jump ahead a couple of decades, and my how things have changed! Here's where I think a major shift in the psyche of Western society has occurred. In the 70's, the ideal was men who were men, and women who were women. Today, the ideal is men who are little boys, and women who are little boys. Hairless, and often featureless. The male ideal is waxed legs, arms and chests. The female ideal is Kate Moss. What happened?

My theory is that the cosmetic companies saw a huge market potential and they played it perfectly. Women were already spending billions of dollars on grooming products for almost every inch of their bodies. There was only limited potential for growth selling to women. Meanwhile, men were merrily cruising along "au natural", spending nothing on grooming other than the occasional bottle of "Hai Karate" after shave lotion. So, all the cosmetics industry had to do was continue to get women spending as much as possible on cosmetics and grooming products, while at the same time convincing men that they needed to spend almost as much. Brilliant in its simplicity, the market could potentially more than double!

But how to do it?
Step one would be to understand why women spend all that money. Then all they’d need to do would be find a way to get men to think and act the same way.
The first step wasn't so difficult. "Woman, thy name is vanity." It could be argued which came first, a woman's inclination to "beautify" herself, or society's telling her to do so. But either way, that was they key. Women were, and still are, obsessed with doing whatever it takes to help themselves look younger, shapelier, etc.
What had to be done to get men to think and act the same way?
It's no coincidence that it happened concurrently with the rise of acceptance of homosexuality in Western society. Homosexual men are well groomed and aware of all aspects of the fashion world. As these fit, handsome, style-conscious men became more prevalent in day-to-day life, straight men (and their women) started paying attention. And the sellers of products promising to make it all happen couldn’t have been happier.

Fast-forward to today, and it's been a larger success story than anyone could have ever expected. The male ideal is no longer the classic natural man, but the homosexual ideal of the hairless boy. And man does it cost a lot of money to keep up. At the same time, the female ideal has converged on the male, at least in as far as how it requires grooming and cosmetics to achieve that same hairless perfection.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Some European Leavings

Best British Tabloid Headline: D’OHLYMPICS

Most Important Thing that the British Can Learn Prior to the Inevitable Arrival of Bird Flu from Across the Channel: Wash Your Hands After Going to the Bathroom! (It’s a concept that seems to have been lost on the Brits)

Most Important Thing that the French Can Learn now that Bird Flu has Arrived: Chicken Really is Better Cooked All the Way Through! (It’s not steak, after all)

Most Important Lesson About Winter that the French Need To Learn: Turn On the Heat, Dammit! It’s Freezing in Here!

Most Shocking Sign of the Impending Collapse of French Civilization: Reruns of Night Rider (with David Hasselhoff) are one of the Most Popular Shows on French TV! (And Charmed Isn’t Far Behind)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Paris en Hiver

What better way to spend a rainy, cold afternoon in Paris than to wander through the labyrinth that is Pere Lachaise cemetery?

Or perhaps the museum of natural history is more your style?

Either way, best to end the day at Le Train Bleu in Gare de Lyon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More Heart Shaped Candy

Nice to see so many people standing up for Valentine’s Day. Well, sort of...
What follows is a quick response I sent to a friend who took me to task on the “Valentine Schmalentine” article.
Who me?
Far be it from me to express displeasure with a day dedicated to expressions of romantic love...
Nope. Not me. That article was written by some sarcastic sod on Craig's List. Nothing to do with my current state of thinking…

That said, I did find certain ASPECTS of the article interesting. Something about how the original idea of MUTUAL expressions of love between two people has turned into a rather one-sided ordeal (i.e. one side expects it, the other side digs deep and hopes it's enough to satisfy that rather indefinable expectation).

But seriously, my true feelings about Valentine's Day are similar to those I hold concerning New Years Eve.
People who go all out on New Years tend to be people that don't get out much. They are happy to spend $100 per person to go to some lame bar, watch the same band that played the previous night (for free!), and drink a complimentary glass of Baby Duck at midnight. It's a big night for them because they got to leave the kids with a sitter and play for a night in the big city. It wouldn't be such a big deal if they actually let loose once in a while.
Valentine's Day ends up being much the same. People who lead fairly mundane day to day lives attempt to rekindle something with their partner by spending lots of money at restaurants with inflated "Valentine's Menu" pricing. Or, they get all depressed because they don't do much of anything on Feb 14 and they wonder "where the love went".
I only say this because I think it’s better to maintain a healthy level of romance all year long. It's not a case of me thumbing my nose at a day of romance; it's actually quite the opposite. I say, why restrict it to one day? Why run the risk of having your love marginalized by yet another media hyped consumer cash grab? Instead, fill your year with as many nice dinners (Wild Rice works for me), romantic getaways (I know a great waterfront Inn in Port Townsend), and special treats (I honestly hope I don't need to make any suggestions here) as your budget can withstand. And most of all, it needs to remain a mutual thing. Money's not the equalizer here; it's effort and thoughtfulness.
And there's not a hint of cynicism intended. Well, not a lot, anyhow.