Saturday, May 14, 2011

More than 50 lines about 25 computers in 25 years

Monday, August 14, 2006

25 computers in 25 years or less: what I think of PC World's list.

OK, PC World joined the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the first IBM PC (Five-slot, 5150) with their list of the 25 Greatest Personal Computers.

When you put the word "greatest" on any list, you are begging to have people take pot shots at you. So here are my shots at their list.

First off, I agree with their number one. The Apple II was the first practical personal computer. The Apple I came as a kit. The rest of them (Altair, Imsai, etc.) were basically geek toys, at a time when most geeks were either HAM Radio enthusiasts, model train buffs, electronic kit builders or in Fandom. The Apple II came into its own because it had a "killer app" -- VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program. This is what got it in the door in businesses where other less capable, more toy-like computers were stopped at the door.

The Trash-80 Model I is on the list too even though it was not a very capable machine. It was the first personal computer I spent quality time with, although I never had one. In fact, although my first encounter with a PC was in 1978, it took me 9 frustrating years to have a computer of my very own. Which turned out to be an IBM PC 5150 that my uncle didn't want to move to his new office because it was broken. "Fix it and it's yours." He threw in a brand new Tandon amber-screen monochrome monitor. What a guy. A PC for $200 in 1987 dollars. SCORE! W00t! The tough little guy wound up getting a replacement power supply, a serial mouse, a hard drive, a 1200Kbps modem, an Epson 9 pin dot matrix printer, a Hercules Monographic Card (Graphics! Yes!) and lots of time on BBSes. It eventually got passed on to a battered women's shelter eight (yes eight) years later.

My first experience in geek lust was for the Macintosh, though. Somehow the world of DOS and GEM and all the kludgy ways you did graphics in DOS-land was pretty grim compared to the effortless nature of graphics and sound on Mac. It took me until 1995 to have a Mac of my own, and to compensate I began to collect vintage Macs. I have a ton of them that I am going to clear out in the not too distant future because I know now I don't have the time or the skills to get them in fully functional order. I'm going to pare down to just the ones I know I will have some use for. The rest go out the door. I have to get a handle on this clutter and this is the only way.

The one Mac that should have been in the top 5 but wasn't was the Mac that saved Apple: the Rev A iMac. The Bondi Blue gem that looked like nothing that had existed up until the time, was often imitated, surpassed only by each further iteration of iMac. I am the proud owner of a Lime Rev D 333MHz and an Indigo 500MHz 2001 edition. I mean, I liked iLuxo when it came out. It was striking and beautiful and a wonderful re-imagination of the concept. Even iMac was an evolution and not a revolution: it owed its "DNA" to first the original Mac, then the other all-in-one Macs that followed, from the sublime to the ridiculous. They tip their hat to the "gumdrop" iMac in the honorable mention list, but it deserves better.

They also missed the iBook/MacBook completely. OMGWTFBBQ? O RLY? YA, RLY. The PowerBook made an appearance with the PB100, but that was it. They honored the eMate but not the "Clamshell" iBook, a real masterpiece of form and function which was "nigh invulnerable" ala The Tick. (A necessity for a computer designed for K-12 students) The "Clamshell" had two drawbacks: its weight and the intricate way the innards were engineered to protect them from harm. You would think the second drawback wouldn't be a drawback: again, designed to take punishment. However, it makes the machine a nightmare to work on, a fact revealed when I went looking for someone to upgrade the one I got from my Aunt Karen after she "upgraded" to a Sony VAIO laptop. I found intrepid souls willing to take the machine on, but they are in South Carolina. The work was done with the help of FedEx and DHL.

Not to make this article too Mac-centric, I will turn my attention to an entry I largely agree with, but only have little quibbles about. The Thinkpad, at least while it was still an IBM product (yeah, I know that Lenovo was one of the companies they outsourced manufacture to a few years before Lenovo bought the Thinkpad and other Think* lines from IBM, but hear me out...) was the Ne Plus Ultra of x86 notebooks. Built like tanks but often light enough to forget you have one in your backpack, they just plain rocked. The story of the Thinkpad is pretty neat, here's the link.

Anyway, the initial release Thinkpad, the 700, made it on the list. While it's a good choice, I can think of a better choice and a best choice. Here's what I wrote about the choice on Slashdot.

The 600 series Thinkpad, released at the height of the Dot-Com Boom, has got to be the epitome of Thinkpad-dom. It was light, (5 pounds!) it was versatile, it could run as a "3 spindle machine" (HD, Optical and Floppy) if you put the Floppy Drive in an external case that connected to a proprietary connector by a cable. During the Dot-Com Boom, the 600 series Thinkpad was a status symbol. It was the laptop the Big Dogs carried, unless they were Mac fans in which case they'd have a "Wallstreet" PowerBook.

The 600 series was the first to have official instructions on the IBM website on how to install Linux. (Red Hat, for the curious.) There was always a problem with the quirky sound chip, and it took IBM years to put out a driver (F/OSS, to their credit) for the MWave modem chip. Red Hat actually "certified" the 600 series Thinkpad, in spite of those problems.

The 600 "DNA" was transfered to the T series of Thinkpads, a series still in continued manufacture by Lenovo. Whether the T60 is a worthy member of the line is something the jury's still out on, but the T4x series remain classics.

Yes, the 700C was first. The 701C with its "butterfly keyboard" had more panache, and might have been a better choice for the Thinkpad niche. But the 600 series would have been the best choice of all, because it's the beginning of a continuum of perhaps the "best of the best" of the whole line.

It's getting late (or early, whatever...) so I'd better wrap this up with my additional OMGWTFBBQ what were they thinking? list.

1.) MIA: the White Box/Frankenbox/Homebuilt PC Compatible. It wasn't IBM or Apple or Compaq or Commodore or even Dell who opened PCs to the Great Unwashed. No, it was the shop around the corner run usually by a Mom and Pop of Asian extraction who could put together a computer for you from mostly Taiwanese and Chinese parts. And if you were sufficiently geeky or had geeky friends, you bought your parts from said Mom and Pop and did it yourself.

The advent of this new era of "homebrew" computers didn't come on all at once. It was an extension of the upgrade trade. Just as you can go into a shop specializing in Volkswagen aftermarket parts and build yourself an entire old-school Beetle, eventually it got to the point where you could build the whole thing out of aftermarket upgrade parts.

Microsoft has a major hate going for the screwdriver shops and for computer fairs/swapmeets. Their BSA goon squad is not primarily geared towards stamping out "piracy" among either casual users or in offices...this "piracy" has helped gain Microsoft their Goliath-like market share of both operating systems and Office suites. And they haven't even made a dent in places in the Third World where less-than-legal copies of their software glut the market. But the biggest target for the BSA is the Mom and Pop screwdriver shop.

The screwdriver shops have fought back, after a fashion, by going online. NewEgg, the mecca for gaming geeks looking to trick out their systems, started off as a screwdriver shop. So did PC Club. These big operators now can go toe to toe with Microsoft and get the special rates the big manufacturers get on OEM copies of Windows XP they provide with systems. But the little guys are getting busted again and again, sometimes for specious, questionable reasons. Hence the screwdriver shops are closing down left and right, and the once mighty computer fairs are shutting down.

However, as the screwdriver shop fades into history, something the homebuilt computer is not bloody likely to do until and unless really onerous, legally mandated DRM finishes the job, we must acknowledge its contributions to the universalizing of the x86-based PC of these humble entrepreneurs. Screwdrivers high! Salute!

2.) Where's the Osborne? Putting the Kaypro into the article and not Osborne is like putting the cart before the horse. Osborne got there first. The luggable never would have had its moment in the sun had it not been for little Osz. Yeah, Osborne stole its idea from Xerox PARC. So did everyone else. Next!

3.) The MITS Altair 8800 was NOT a personal computer. It was a GEEK TOY. A personal computer allows you to do useful things. The Altair just sat and flashed lights and beeped. Period. End of line.

4.) VAIO. Good god, man, Toshiba was there first with the Libretto in 1996, and there have been more stylish little lappies before and since. Sony is NOT a PC company and never should have become one. They also spoiled their home electronics line, which was the envy of every other manufacturer by buying first CBS Record Group, then Columbia Tri-Star Pictures, then the Bertlesmann Group, then MGM Pictures. Sony became Big Media and they acquired an endless thirst for DRM everywhere like the rest of Big Media. The desire for more DRM everywhere has led to the scuttling of promising technologies like MiniDisc, and has made the geek community more suspicious about new Sony technologies like Blu-Ray.

VAIO sucked before Sony became a content owner, though. They were prissy little things made to look good but not to last. They are almost as fragile as Dell's low-end line but sold at premium prices. At least when Apple makes a computer some"Metrosexual" they build it well, although some would say that this fact about Apple is changing thanks to explodey batteries, short-happy power supplies, and humming, mooing, and roasty-hot MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

I guess the rest of the list I can take or leave. And PC World came up with another list of the 25 worst tech products earlier this year that I cannot disagree with at all. They hit some of the real howlers, although they missed a few things here and there. (Road Apples, anyone?)

Wow, this article turned out huge. And it's almost freaking One AM. I'd better just end this article before this turns into an all-nighter. I'm sure I will do enough of those this school year, thankyouverymuch.

posted 12:55 AM

A little reminder of Bush-era attitudes towards deficits

Monday, June 12, 2006

Moving Backward vs. Kicking It Down The Road

I don't know why the new Schwarzenegger commercials piss me off so much. But they do. I guess we have Steve Westly to thank for giving Ah-nuld his first campaign meme. "$10 Billion In New Taxes." Never mind that every time Schwarzenegger has "balanced" a budget, he's either used accounting chicanery or borrowed money to do it. Never mind that he cared about the fiscal stability of California enough to impose a $90 Million special election on the state to attempt an end run around the legislature. We could have used that $90 Million in so many ways for so many other worthy things. But it was squandered.

In a lot of respects Schwarzenegger's stewardship of the public purse in California is a small-scale version of George W. Bush's stellar "borrow and binge" economics. Not only does Bush spend like a drunken sailor on a 3-day bender, he hands out tax cuts to his rich buddies like so much Halloween candy.

All throughout the Clinton Administration, there was a budget philosophy called "PayGo." It was short for "Pay as you go." To be fair, PayGo was established at the end of the Bush The Elder administration, but by a Democratic Congress. The concept was simple. If you want to put a new program into practice, find the funds for it. It was simple but effective. By the last three years of the Clinton Administration, the federal budget was running a surplus. Let me repeat that so it will sink in. We ran a surplus.

Then came Dubya, 9/11 (which maybe we could have avoided and maybe we couldn't have) and the completely unnecessary War in Iraq. (The war in Afghanistan was indeed necessary, however, thanks to Osama Bin'Laden's "special relationship" with the Taliban government of Afghanistan.)

Usually when we go to war, we ask folks to make certain sacrifices: cut down on consumption of necessary commodities, buy war bonds, have Meatless Tuesdays...if you weren't taught about what this was all about, watch a couple of wartime Warner Bros. cartoons and you'll get a dose of the humor going around with regard to what it was like on the Homefront during World War II. But the Dubya way you go to war asks for zero sacrifice, especially when it comes to what he calls "the haves and the have base."

During a time when the expense of the Iraqi and Afghani wars are costing us dearly, he gives welfare to his rich buddies in fat tax cuts, and welfare to Big Pharma with Medicare Part D (for disaster). And what is happening? The deficits are racking up. The New York City Debt Clock, which was decommissioned during the Clinton administration, will become obsolete in two years if the current deficits continue to accelerate as they have.

And what is the attitude in the Dubya administration with regard to all this?

"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter."
-- Vice President Dick "Darth" Cheney to former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, 2002

Deficits don't matter to Dubya, to Cheney, and they don't matter to Gov. Schwarzenegger either. Deficits? What deficits? Let's kick 'em down the road a piece with more bonded indebtedness and more cooking the books.

Former State Controller Phil Angelides is basically blowing the whistle on Schwarzenegger's cowardly way of handling the public purse. Yeah, he might have to figure out a way to raise revenues to get the budget honestly into balance like it's supposed to be. However, Angelides failed in framing the debate correctly, and he needs to correct that ASAP.

Here's how you do it. Phil, you are welcome to use this. For free.

"Unlike the current Governor, who has used creative accounting and bonds to paper over the deficit, I want to get back to the Democratic idea of Pay-as-you-go spending. Rather than the Bush-esque coward's way out, where you borrow and spend with California's credit card, you find revenue to match spending like we have to when we balance a business' books or a household's budget. Bill Clinton did it: when he left office there was a budget surplus. Let's close the tax loopholes and make businesses pay their fair share of property tax. Let's stop the free rides for the richest Californians. It's time to face our economic situation instead of kicking it down the road for our children and grandchildren to deal with."

That's how you counter the "Moving Backward" ads. Time to tap your rich developer buddy to craft an ad to respond.

posted 9:50 PM

Point/Counterpoint part Deux (and last)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Immigration debate, part 2 of 2

Point: Kara Wild

In response to your points:

1) I completely agree that political/economic reform has to happen in Latin American countries before the demand of their citizens to cross into our country will die down. I think that the United States ought to be giving aid toward their infrastructure, as well as the infrastructures of other undeveloped counties that send us a large number of illegal immigrants. It gives me hope to see democracy slowly taking shape in Mexico, where two of the presidential contenders have vowed to create jobs at home.

At the same time, we don't know how many years it would take for reform to set in, or how thorough it would be. Meanwhile, we are suffering from the effects now. Americans with a high school diploma, who once could count on working certain jobs to get ahead, are struggling to stay afloat. Do we just tell them, "Sorry. Gotta wait until social reform happens in Latin America"?

Moreover, in order to stay consistent, those who argue that people from impoverished countries should settle in the United States would have to advocate for open borders. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? When do you tell illegal immigrants that it is no longer enough that they are impoverished and desperate? I think a more realistic approach would be to acknowledge that while hundreds of millions of impoverished people would like to settle in this country, we can only accept a certain amount if we want to maintain not only a competitive wage, but our superior infrastructure. Even though we're not Europe, we still have an admirable social safety net; but if there is an unchecked number of low-income people vying to use our social programs, the system becomes so strained that no one, legal, illegal, or citizen, gets the help that he or she needs.

2) I agree that American history is dotted with unhealthy strains of nativism, but you need to be careful to distinguish between Confederate flag waving racists who want to build a white Christian America and the much larger group of Americans that supports diversity, but is also sincerely anxious about unfair job competition and the effect of illegal immigrants on our social programs. Concerns about unfair competition from cheap, exploitable labor can be irrational and unhealthy, but they are not inevitably so. For instance, in the years leading to the Civil War, a "free labor ideology... grew up [in the north] that celebrated the dignity of labor and the opportunities available to working men. Slavery was seen as unfair competition for men attempting to better themselves in life." It was largely because of this aversion to easily accessible, exploitable labor that the institution of slavery was toppled.

I'm willing to bet that quite a few people would back a program to legalize the millions already in this country (with penalty fees and an English requirement) if it could be guaranteed that millions more wouldn't sneak in and, ten years from now, demand the same treatment. Otherwise, we would just have the same problems, only the newly legalized individuals would be amongst those facing an uphill battle against exploitable illegal immigrants.

The Tom Tancredos and Minutemen would probably fade into obscurity overnight if just one rational middle-of-the road politician took these workers' concerns seriously. Instead, union workers receive lectures from John McCain about which jobs they will and won't do. Smug liberal activists inform them that concerns about illegal immigration are just distracting them from the "real" issues, as if we were all George W. Bush, incapable of considering more than one issue at a time. Editorials in the Los Angeles Times assure them that their anxieties are nothing more than narrow-minded reactions to economic trends, and that they should just get over it, because the trend will inevitably shift. If that's the case, why bother worrying about anything, much less the long-term effects of George W. Bush's policies on America, because in the grand scheme of things, it won't matter?

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is scared to take any position, except for Ted Kennedy, who compared the recent marches to the Civil Rights Movement. Certainly there's no real plan to stem the flow of illegal immigration, or provide relief to those who are adversely affected. It's this same mixture of blindness and political correctness that caused blue collar workers to flee the Democratic Party in the first place. Now that we have the chance to win them back, why would we want to alienate them all over again?

I think that a solution that takes their concerns seriously, while not hanging all 12 million illegal immigrants out to dry, can be reached. However, it requires politicians to risk the possibility that the most extreme red state and Latino voters will turn away from them because they won't get everything they want. So... I don't expect to see that legislation in the near future, especially given the bills being considered now.

Counterpoint: Michelle Klein-Hass

OK, first of your points first. What to do with the underprivileged who either don't have a diploma or have a high school diploma and nothing more? Education, education, education. Our priority should be making the good jobs available to our citizenry by educating our citizenry. Americans are more literate than they have ever been, ever, but the problem is that the good jobs require more literacy than ever before. I would like to point you to the website of Dr. Stephen Krashen, one of the best advocates we have for science-based literacy. (As opposed to the faith-based "literacy" programs imposed on schools by the No Child Left Behind Act.) Krashen was the first to point this out, something which would seem to be axiomatic but which isn't entirely obvious.

The living-wage jobs that are being created in America right now are not the kind that a person with "some high school" or a high school diploma can just ease into. They are professional jobs. They are jobs that require at the very least a BA. What exists for those who are not in that charmed circle? I'll give you four words: "Want fries with that?" And we all know that those kind of jobs are not living-wage jobs. We have a professional sector and a service sector. The manufacturing jobs that brought the generation who came home from World War II into the Middle Class do not exist anymore. That horse has left the barn for China and Thailand and South Korea and places like that, and no amount of locking the barn doors will do us any good.

Wage arbitrage is defined as pitting workforces in the Third World, with lower standards and costs of living, against workforces in the First World, which has a higher standard and higher cost of living. Many of the policies of the Reagan and Bush I administrations encouraged this flight of manufacturers from high-wage to low-wage countries. For a while, wage arbitrage helped, not hurt, the Mexican economy. For a time Mexican and Central American maquiladoras made for better lives for impoverished urban residents South of the Border. However, the race for the bottom continued, and the Mexican and Central American maquiladoras priced themselves out of the market when compared to places like China. The maquiladora boom went bust, and the tide of immigrants washed over the border once more.

Another thing that is pushing Mexicans across the border is the damage that NAFTA has done to Mexican independent farming. It mirrors the same process that is decimating family farms in the United States to enrich big agribusiness. Just as American family farmers are having to sell out and get out of the business, Mexican family farmers are having to sell out to large combines.

By the way, in some respects the Mexican social safety net is better than ours is. People are not leaving Mexico to get better health care or better social welfare. They could stay in Mexico and have a single-payer system that in a lot of respects works better than our own. Mexico has an infant mortality rate more like that in the United States, which is one of the worst in the industrialized world, than to the Third World that Mexico is still numbered with. No, Mexican immigrants are going where the money is. Their use of our horrifying medical system is just incidental: they get sick and have accidents here. It comes with the territory.

To address the exploitation issue, we needn't institute new laws that are punitive of immigrants themselves, but need only enforce laws against the hiring of undocumented workers that are on the books right now. The corporate exploiters who employ compliant, fearful "illegals," paying them less-than-minimum wages for hard, dangerous work or tedious, mind-numbing work need to be busted and busted hard. A stronger labor movement could be helpful, but 12 years of ReaganBush eviscerated the legal protections that were put in place in the 1930s with regard to unionization.

When Wal*Mart was caught with their hands in the cheap labor cookie jar, they were let off with a wagged finger in the face and slapped wrists. "Naughty, naughty!" The management people responsible for the decision to hire undocumented workers on cleaning teams should have gotten jail time, and Wal*Mart should have been fined a King's Ransom for the infractions. The laws to do this are on the books now. However, it comes down to the prime unspoken rule of the George W. Bush administration: It's OK If You Are A Republican. The rentiers who inherited the Wal*Mart empire after the death of Sam Walton are heavy GOP donors. So are the lords of the huge agribusiness combines who have built their businesses on the blood, sweat and tears of generations of undocumented labor. They loves them some Mexican cheap labor. If the laws on the books were enforced, they would have to pay higher wages to attract labor. They would have to play fair. And they don't like to play fair.

We need to attend to our borders. Both borders. The Al'Qaeda terrorists have used the open, almost non-existent Canadian border to get in to the US to work their deviltry. The guy who was stopped from bombing the Seattle Space Needle and the guy who was stopped from dynamiting LAX were both stopped from the Canadian border. The 9/11 hijackers and Zacharias Moussaoui came into this country from the Canadian border. However, unless Darth Cheney has a cloning facility on Planet Kamino to make new National Guard CloneTroopers, (tm LucasFilm) the current humans in the National Guard are sick, tired and battle-fatigued and stretched horribly thin. We are going to have to create a new infrastructure on both the Canadian and Mexican borders to make them less likely to be violated. And the government currently doesn't have the will to spend enough money to create this infrastructure. It's like the problem we have with our ports. They are soft targets for terrorism right now. Shoring them up would require real money and real hiring of people. That takes political capital and political will the Dubya Administration simply has not been able to conjure up with all their "Mandate" talk in November 2004.

The problem of stubborn unemployment amongst the underclass, the problem of porous borders, the problem of the nudge nudge, wink wink attitude towards employers, the problem of economies next door that need reform and development badly and have for a century, these are big and systemic and complicated and can't be legislated away or wished away into the cornfield. We need government to think big again, to think like FDR did when faced with the Great Depression. A works program would do wonders to accomplish a lot of the things we are both talking about. Take some of these anxious long-term unemployed and retrain them to police our borders. Take some of these people with high school educations and put them to work building a better and more controllable border system on both our northern and southern frontiers. Take some of these folks and give them law enforcement training so they can inspect companies for undocumented, underpaid workers. Allow them to trade their service in these works programs for free-ride scholarships in universities so they can move up into the Middle Class. Start a "Marshall Plan" for economic rebuilding of Mexico and the Central American archipelago.

This of course will take huge amounts of money we don't have. If we hadn't gone on our damn-fool adventure in Iraq and we hadn't given huge tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% of Americans maybe we could have done this, and still had money left over to convert our pitiful, expensive and broken health care system to a healthy single-payer system. Thank you, George W. Bush, for squandering the economy left to you by President Bill Clinton on adventure and cronies and bullshit.

I said it before, I'll say it again: this is a problem that is too big for simple solutions and pat answers. Really addressing it correctly is something nobody has the will to do. And by addressing it I don't mean jackboots and Berlin Walls and mass deportations. The wet dreams of the Tancredos, Sensenbrenners and Simcox-es and Gilchrists of this country are precisely the wrong answer to the problem.

Update 5/13/2006, 9:54 am: I was remiss in mentioning the worst anti-worker scam that has been perpetrated, which is the H1-B Visa scam against American tech workers. Both the Senate and the House bill jacks up H1-B Visas so that American tech firms can bring in compliant, docile workers from India, Pakistan and the Former Soviet Union to write code and do tech support for peanuts while ignoring the fact that THERE ARE STILL A WHOLE SHIPLOAD OF UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN TECHIES WHO NEED THE WORK. I am a refugee from the tech sector which collapsed under the combined weight of the Dot-Com bust and 9/11.

I left the tech sector because it became clear to me that American companies have taken advantage of the same wage arbitrage conditions that caved in US manufacturing to outsource as much as possible of the tech infrastructure to Mumbai and Moscow and Warsaw and Islamabad. For those jobs that can't be offshored, the companies cry "there are no qualified workers here" and whine for more H1-B workers. Bullshit, there ARE lots of chronically unemployed workers who need work in the tech sector.

I figured that counseling would be a safe professional job to have, in that you really can't offshore it. Whether it be as a school counselor or as a counselor in an assisted living facility or in a clinic for underserved people living with the hazards of life in the ghetto, these are one-on-one, face time, person-to-person kind of jobs. I can't see this being shipped off to Bangalore anytime soon.

The offshoring of vast swaths of the tech sector is a story that is not being talked about in all the furor about "illegals" from South of the Border. These H1-B workers are largely caucasian, from places we don't hear talk about anymore. India. Pakistan. Russia. Poland. Hungary. Rumania. They don't stir the blood as much as Indios from Mexico and Central America. You don't hear Chris Simcox braying for them to be ejected from the US. Because they look too much like Chris Simcox.

posted 9:50 PM


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Point/Counterpoint: Immigration

Point: Kara Wild

I read your most recent blog about the Minutemen and felt compelled to respond. Since the e-mail function only allows 300 characters, I'm responding via regular e-mail.

All right, I ain't for the Minutemen and I ain't against them. However, blogs like the one you've linked to won't convince me one way or the other, given how clearly biased they are to begin with. This is a case where looking at all of the information the mainstream press has to offer is more helpful. In any event, there are crazies in every movement, including the anti-war movement. Does that mean you would prefer not to be considered anti-war?

Me: I'm against illegal immigration, though I don't know whether I would be in favor of deporting 12 million people. However, those who claim to sympathize with illegal immigrants don't seem to have *any* solutions for very real problems in this country, to which illegal immigrants contribute, though they aren't the main cause.

Open borders? A billion people want to come here. How many people do you think this country can sustain?

They take the jobs Americans won't do? Tell that to African Americans with a high school diploma, with their 10% jobless rate. Tell that to a resident of New Orleans who was denied the opportunity to rebuild his or her city because the contractors hired illegal

On a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, they mocked the fears of lower-income Americans by claiming that illegal immigrants only took really trivial jobs like handing you towels in the bathroom. God, what elitism... toward *both* groups.

Target the employers? With what, the laws already on the books? After initial sporadic enforcement, the enforcement level has been nil for the past several years, until recent attempts to utilize racketeering laws. And in spite of the fact that the feds are going
after the employers, there is still an outcry from some illegal immigrant supporters that it is unfair to them. Some employers have even claimed that cracking down on their hiring of illegal immigrants is racist, because it might make them more hesitant to hire Latinos in the future.

Then there are the employers who actually *do* mean to hire only legal employees but have never been trained properly to spot forgeries. To punish them would be unfair, yet right now, too many employers get away with claiming that they "just didn't know."

Repeal NAFTA (as one Kossak suggested)? Um, sure... and in 20 years, when that's accomplished, what will the illegal population be?

Raise the minimum wage and enforce the minimum wage laws? Great idea, except that if there is always a surplus of labor in a given market, unscrupulous employers will find a way to hire more under-the- table illegal employees. Big Business is the Republican base and they thrive on cheap labor. They won't surrender it easily, even if the Democrats win a majority in Congress.

Everyone against illegal immigration is a racist? I guess there are a lot of black, brown, and yellow racists, too, in addition to white. Whereas Latin Americans with their "day without gringos" aren't racist at all.

My points aren't aimed strictly at you; rather, they are responses to the various arguments I've heard on the Dailykos and Mydd. Respondants in the immigration threads tilt toward pro-illegal
immigration, but there is quite a sizeable group that is opposed, filled with many respectable members of the Kos community, many of whom are immigrants themselves, and many who are fighting hard to stop all exploitation of people. As for me, I feel as though in this country, we are so strained as is, with a social safety net in tatters and so many citizens who need help, that we *can't* absorb unchecked numbers of foreigners, especially low-skilled, low-income people. At least legal immigration allows for the process to take place in a somewhat orderly fashion, allowing for communities to anticipate and prepare for the growing population. With illegal
immigration, you never know how many will be coming, and therefore communities cannot adequately prepare.

I feel like I'm invisible to both liberal bloggers like Markos and to big media news sources like the Los Angeles Times. To them, those who oppose illegal immigrants are racist Confederate flag-loving baby eaters who gladly exploit illegal immigration, then claim that they need to be deported. Meanwhile, the "sympathetic" L.A. Times features exclusively Latino (mainly Mexican) illegal immigrants, doing its part to further the stereotype that all illegal immigrants
are from Latin America. I'm just so fucking sick of their self- congratulatory hypocrisy. I'm so sick of reading that people who think our country is so fucked up under Bush that the next generation is doomed, yet that we can magically absorb unlimited numbers of people and everything will be A.O.K. I'm sick of those sympathetic toward illegal immigrants screaming racism toward anyone with a different opinion, yet always being the first to trot out "Mexican
power" or Mexicans' "right" to claim part of or even all of the U.S. due to a misguided notion that having *some* tribal blood means that you are related to *all* North American tribes... something that many tribes in the U.S. would dispute.

I don't think militias like the Minutemen are helpful or wise, but they do attract attention to a real problem in this country, one that both parties have been trying desperately to ignore.


Counterpoint: Michelle Klein-Hass

I just can't go through this point by point. So I'm going to have to respond generally. My grandfather was an "illegal." He was supposed to emigrate to Canada from the Ukranian SSR in 1922. Instead of staying in Canada, he went across the (open) border and eventually wound up in Chicago. And I will raise the ante even further: he got the only "job" he could as a person who barely spoke Russian and for whom Yiddish was a first language: he ran rum for the mob. Remember, this was Prohibition. Hotels and restaurants all had their "speakeasy" downstairs. They needed a steady flow of the illegal hooch. Guess who supplied a lot of them.

By 1933 and Repeal, my grandfather made lots of connections with hotels and restaurants, so he went into the institutional food business. By then he also spoke fairly good English, and lost a lot of his Russian. By 1946, he and his family took the trip on the Super Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles and settled here.

The issue of illegal immigration is big and tangled and complex and cannot be solved by extremist attitudes on either side. No, we cannot absorb everyone. But we cannot just ship every single one of them back. The solution that dare not speak its name is economic development and economic justice for Mexico and Central America. The recent events in Bolivia and Venezuela suggest that there exists now a will to beat back globalization by the people who actually can and should do it: the people of these respective countries. It is they who will eventually see that NAFTA and CAFTA was a sucker's game and only enriched the elites of their countries. There is a similar movement to our attempts to be the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party down there in
Mexico. These folks are not happy with globalization and the rule of elites in Mexico...they want the pie made larger and they want more people to get a slice. They will inevitably be branded as "leftists" and "Marxists" by US interests. The US government might even find it necessary to move against them. But they are the hope of the impoverished many in Mexico.

Until there is social justice in the countries from whom the majority of so-called "illegals" are emigrating, the tide will continue. Any effort short of turning the stretch of land from San Diego to Brownsville into an armed, turreted Berlin Wall with "shoot on sight" orders will be like King Canute and his vain attempts to command the North Sea. Do we really want to descend to that level?

If we don't, we are going to have to come up with an intelligent, fair plan to reunite families and turn honest immigrants, with papers or without, into taxpaying, contributing American citizens. The status quo means that unscrupulous business people can exploit a permanent underclass perpetually in fear of La Migra, and strain the financial resources of state and local
governments because these unscrupulous business people never pay for things like health insurance. The status quo is not the answer, nor is a draconian "head 'em up and move 'em out" push, which would require the resources and the precision of a Final Solution. We are talking a projected 10 to 14 million immigrants here without papers.

Every generation has its nativist movement. It usually occurs at low points in the business cycle, but the last one came during the '50s and the height of Cold War paranoia. That was a rare time when the nativist movement did not coincide with financial ruin or a hot war. There was a big nativist push during the Civil War days in the North: watch the movie "Gangs Of New York" for a taste of it then. There was huge anti-Immigrant movements during the economic panics of the Turn of the Century. The KKK moved North, to where they were able to gain political representation in Indiana, during the time of and immediately after World War I. And during the Great Depression there were attempts to deport "Mexicans" of all statuses, some even Chicanos who
were second-generation Americans. There is a great Woody Guthrie song called "Deportees" about that period.

We are going through bad financial times and some of the worst, most disempowering political times ever. It's not the Great Depression again...not yet. But the cycle has come around, and the rough beast of nativism slouches towards California to be born anew. However, this time there is a push back. If only we had the same resolve as those who have been protesting en masse on the streets! If we had the same resolve and cohesion we could tie up the streets and close the shops until George W Bush, Dick Cheney and their whole machine were brought into the dock to answer for the High Crimes and Misdemeanors that have been woven, warp and woof, into the fabric of their administration. But we don't. What a pity.


posted 12:00 AM

Happy New Year, Richie & Michelle...

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Well, that geeky 2005 wrapup is going to have to wait, because we had yet another weird incident with cars.

New Year's Eve might be a bit more interesting than you expect....
-- Rockie Gardiner, Scorpio Forecast, this week's Rockie Horoscope

Interesting. As in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Tomorrow is New Year's Day. We are still going to Little Tokyo to enjoy the food and serene good times. But we aren't going to be driving part of the way, because Midori-chan, our 1993 Japanese-designed, Mexican-built Ford Escort station, is now a partially crushed, non-street legal car.

We had gone to 99 Ranch Market for some last minute fixings for the noodle soup for tonight's dinner. I also went to Office Depot to get some more fliers made for Anime Los Angeles. I made 50 foldy fliers and 100 flat fliers. I figured the foldy ones would be easier to leave around at the New Otani Hotel during Oshogatsu festivities. Richie was unable to find a parking space in the little mini-mall that houses Office Depot, 99 Ranch, Sam Woo's Barbecue and 20/20 Video, so he parked the wagon on Victory Boulevard, across the street from the mall.

When we were getting ready to cross the street, we saw a huge commotion near where we parked the car. An ambulance, fire engines, and a couple of cop cars.

"Shit! That's where I parked!" shouted Richie.

We dashed across Victory and saw the disaster before us. A car was rolled over onto its roof in the street. And there was a big fucking dent across Midori-chan's roof, and an indentation on the hood. The windshield was reduced to glass powder in places, and warped in a weird way. It was as if King Kong stepped on the car. Or Gojira. Or something.

"The car, it flew, and landed on the other car. Then it fell off." -- an eye-witness account of the demise of Midori-chan.

We didn't see it happen, and I feel gypped. According to the LAPD, the culprit car, a silver Honda Accord, went out of control and leaped the curb. Somehow or another, the car -- this is weird, folks -- went up the guy wire used to keep the telephone/power pole steadied for a few feet, then fell off this high-wire directly onto Midori-chan. The car flipped over and landed upside down on Victory. It's like a car stunt from a bad '70s redneck movie, only there was no stunt director choreographing the action. Someone should have been rolling film, or tape, or something.

The Speed Racer (Go Mifune) wannabe actually seemed only shaken-up, not harmed. His Mom picked him up to take him to the hospital just in case, and she alternately yelled at him and was in tears, glad that he was alive after that bad of a crash. The police and the guy's mom assured us that they were insured, and that we wouldn't have to pay for fixing (doubtful) or replacing (likely) the car. However, we can't do anything about it until Tuesday, when everyone gets back from their day off on January 2nd.

At least this is not like what happened when Chibi-Caru, the Chevy/Toyota we had prior to Midori-chan, bit the dust. If you remember, Richie got hit by a woman who was clearly at fault, but had no license, no insurance, no ID, and spoke no English. She got away with it. At least this time the guy had a driver's license, ID, and insurance that checked out when the cops ran a check on it. And there is a police report on file about the incident. He will not likely get away with it. We might have to get "lawyered up" to get our due, but there are records about the incident now.

Damn. What a way to end the year.

posted 8:39 PM

John Lennon, Dimebag Darrell, and RFK

Friday, December 09, 2005
The dream is over, and has been for 25 years.

Here I am, trying to get it together enough to finish this godawful writing task I have to accomplish for Family Systems, and I'm thinking about John Lennon, Dimebag Darrell and RFK.

I don't remember watching the moon landing live, but I think I might have witnessed the RFK assassination live on the local TV news. I remember the news being on, and RFK making his speech. Then a horrible noise and a tussle. My mom cried out "OH MY GOD!" and began sobbing...she was a big RFK supporter and had voted for him in the primary that day. My dad, however, was nonplussed. His dog in the fight in '68 was Nixon. And he was never huge on public or even semi-public displays of grief.

Now I'm thinking about how I heard about Jim Morrison being found dead in Paris 3 years later. I was on a summer camp schoolbus with my trusty transistor radio. They were playing "Riders On The Storm" on Boss Radio 93 KHJ. It was raining that day, so the song really affected was actually creeping me out. We were in the middle of a storm in Agoura, and Jim Morrison is singing about a storm and a killer on the road. Is that killer anywhere close by? Would the bus driver pick him up? Were we all going to die? I really allowed my mind to run away with me. What do you expect? I was 7 years old.

Anyway, after the song faded out, I think it was Machine Gun Kelly who said "We've just received word from Associated Press that Jim Morrison was found dead today in his Paris hotel room. I repeat, Jim Morrison is dead." Incredibly vivid memory. The killer on the road was nowhere near Agoura, California that day...he was in Paris to steal Jim Morrison's last beer-perfumed breath.

I think there isn't a coincidence that Reagan was President-elect when John Lennon was shot. I remember how bummed I was that Reagan beat Carter, who in spite of being a soul perhaps a bit too gentle to hold the office of President of the United States was not necessarily the worst President we had. I couldn't vote this time. I was too young. My first Presidential election would be 1984. I would reach my 18th birthday in a year.

Anyway, I was in a foul mood already that night. I was watching stupid television after a stupid fight between my mother and me over her stupid boyfriend. I was sitting there alone in the house when I channel-surfed over to the football game. Just in time to hear Howard Cosell announce the death of John Winston Ono Lennon. You made my night, Howie. Thanks for making my evening complete.

Update 10:22: Wow, that was certainly an unfinished post that makes me sound awfully petulant and blaming Howard Cosell for my misery of that night. No, I don't believe in shooting the messenger. Let me continue. Anyway, the announcement of the horrible news was the cherry atop one of the worst days of my life. I was walking around like a zombie for days after that. Why couldn't someone else other than Lennon bite it at that point?

However, what I'm saying here is that Lennon was making a big comeback at the same time Ronald Reagan was getting ready to assume control of the United States. It is not tinfoil hat territory to say that Lennon was already under FBI surveillance and there were people in our government who viewed him as a threat. It wouldn't be a very long stretch to assume Reagan would be one of those people who would think that way.

And of course George Herbert Walker Bush, former CIA chief, was his VP. I would imagine it wouldn't be a very long stretch to assume Bush The Elder would have independently regarded Lennon as a threat as well, but that's not necessary in this tinfoil encased scenario. Reagan was President-elect, Bush The Elder was Veep-elect. If Reagan said "frog" Bush would jump, that's the way stuff like that goes. get the idea. Like I said, it's pure tinfoil and conspiracy gobbledygook. However, it's also one of those "things that make you go hmmm."

Wrapping this up: Dimebag Darrell was shot on the same day as John Lennon, 24 years apart. In a way it was even more disturbing of an incident because the bastard who shot Dimebag actually shot him on stage. My husband is a musician. Being on a stage, the focus of attention, is actually a very precarious place. If someone wants to turn your performance into the finale of Phantom Of The Paradise, it would be quite easy for them once they got their weapon of choice past security. Certainly at Corporate Rock events where everyone is wanded and patted down that's not going to happen.

But at a little hole-in-the-wall club? Dear Goddess, that's vulnerability. Ever since Dimebag bit it, when Richie has to go play an out-of-town gig I'm not comfortable at all about it. To a lesser extent, local gigs are sources of anxiety too. It was a horrible incident. Not epochal like Lennon, but horrible nonetheless. Here were my thoughts on that day. Look towards the end of the post.

posted 4:45 PM

Thoughts on sucky, pointless movie remakes

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Anyone want to know the secret of why the movie industry is in such deep doo-doo? It's really not a secret...sucky, sucky movies.

I'm going to hold forth on one of the main reasons why movies today suck. Pointless remakes! We had a lot of them recently. Let's recap:

War of the Worlds
The Island (Parts: The Clonus Horror)
The Fog
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Longest Yard
House of Wax
Lords of Dogtown (Dogtown And Z-Boys)

I would like to add, for dishonorable mention, the remake of The Stepford Wives.

What's distressing about this list is that many of the movies were not good movies to begin with, and the remake was no improvement. A few were really good movies that got bad remakes. But ultimately all of them were totally, absolutely pointless.

This trend started with George Romero, who by a fluke of copyright law had the original Night Of The Living Dead end up in the Public Domain. Of course, that was before the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Sonny Bono Act, etc. Romero made a shot-for-shot remake, with the only change in it being that the heroine stops screaming after 5 minutes of Zombie attacks and becomes Rambette. Gotta change with the times, right? More like "gotta nail those Intellectual Property rights down."

Then came Psycho, the remake. Aside from a questionable scene where you see Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates masturbating, the movie is a shot by shot remake. Again, totally, unquestionably pointless. Gus Van Sant is permanently on my shit list for that.

OK, here are a few suggestions for pointless remakes. Don't blame me if someone takes me up on it.

Don't Look In The Basement.(On IMDB as The Forgotten)
One of those "so bad it's good" movies. A nurse starts work at a small "asylum" (more like a board-and-care) for the mentally ill. Of course, you know it's not going to end up well. The classic Fun Boy Three song "The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum" would be a dandy theme for the pointless remake of this Dadaistic classic.

KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park. Of course, let's not have KISS as the rock band, even though theoretically because they are all in heavy makeup their advancing age would not be obvious. No, let's do it with another band...something "the kids" will love. Yes! It's obvious! Franz Ferdinand Meets The Phantom Of The Park! Scottish dance-poppers with superhuman powers foil the plans of a masked theme park saboteur! "And I would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for you meddling haggis-eating kids!"

The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Is Michael Jackson looking for a comeback? Have I got the vehicle for him. He wouldn't even need makeup...he's a living, rotting corpse as it is! It would be perfect! Hoo hoo hoo! Oww!

posted 5:45 PM

(Note: this was written in 2005. Michael Jackson would die 4 years later.)

George Bush doesn't care about Black people...

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Bush don't care about Black people" -- Kanye West, tonight on the NBC telethon broadcast

No shit, Kanye. No shit.

I didn't hear that line of Mr. West's impromptu speech when it aired here on the Left Coast. It was edited out. However, someone on the East Coast had the presence of mind to roll tape, then encode it to AVI with XviD compression. It perhaps was not the most articulate statement, coming right from the heart, but it was a REAL statement. West is usually quite articulate. He must have been really, really mad tonight.

Perhaps he knew about this?

(from the American Red Cross site, reprinting in its entirety to save it from the Memory Hole if the Bush Administration forces them to take it off)

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

* The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.

* The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

* The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

* The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.

* As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.

Jesus H. Christ on a stick!!! This is genocide!!!

Here's another view...apparently it was not the LA State Homeland Security Department...this order came down from the DHS Director, Chertoff.

I said it before, I'll say it again: The United States Of America IS a Failed State. Bush might have finally made it to the Gulf Coast and actually got out of his aircraft today. But he is still AWOL. And the people in his administration are making positively ghoulish decisions. Another forbidden analogy is Bush as Hitler. Well, I would call keeping the Red Cross out of New Orleans to "encourage people to leave" a Nazi-like decision. What about those who are too weak, too sick or too frail to leave? ARE THEY BEING LEFT TO DIE??? WTF is this shit?

This is either a Failed State, or this is villainy of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot proportions. Either way, it sucks. Bowie was right: This Is Not America. And he has every right to be afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of certain Americans right now.

Update 12:03am Sept. 3rd: Kanye West speech transcript is up at Crooks and Liars. I wish I could host the XviD file but I don't want to have to tangle with NBC/Universal and MPAA goons.

posted 11:30 PM

Katrina's footsteps on the stairs...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oh Shit.

Yeah, I'm marooned in the apartment again because it was another triple-digit day. But it could be worse...way worse.

Hurricane Katrina is shaping up to be the Big One, as far as natural disasters go. The last Category 5 storm to hit the US was Hurricane Andrew. It hit in 1992 and was only matched in financial impact on the United States by the Northridge Earthquake.

Katrina could be way worse, and here's why.

The coast of Louisiana is dotted with refineries. There's oil platforms off the coast, a LNG station, and not just one, but TWO of the Strategic Oil Reserve storage facilities.

Here's the BIG picture.

And here's another picture which not only shows two of the Strategic Oil Reserve storage facilities, but also its two neighbors which will be getting an indirect hit from Katrina.

They are expecting crude oil prices to go up $1 per barrel tomorrow, and that's a very conservative estimate. I suspect that if the worst case scenario happens, a $1/gallon surge for gasoline wouldn't be out of the question. We've been bracing for $3/gallon here in the Los Angeles area, but $4/gallon or maybe even $5/gallon would be suddenly in the picture.

And of course, there's a Dubya SNAFU to factor into the picture. The current budget cut $71.2 Million from the Army Corps of Engineers for the New Orleans district. Do you realize how huge that is?

A quote from the linked article:

There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now.

And it's not like this was unexpected...New Orleans has been there before. Submitted for your approval: Hurricane Camille, 1969.

Suddenly, a heat wave in Los Angeles doesn't seem so bad. "Too much bloody perspective," as Nigel Tufnel would say.

posted 6:05 PM


Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Dot com, dot com, dot com" -- Jon Wahl "Southern California Dreaming"

The Dot Com boom came at just the right time for me. I came down with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome in 1991, a year after I had gone in for emergency gall bladder surgery. I'm pretty sure I got exposed to whatever Factor X causes CFIDS in the County Hospital I wound up in for the surgery. However, by the end of 1994 I began a period of remission that continues to this day. Occasionally I feel like crap, but it's nowhere near how I felt when I was truly flat on my ass sick. Oh yeah: during the period I had CFIDS, I never got colds or flu. Now I do on occasion. I am a big believer in the theory that CFIDS is basically the immune system kicking into high gear to fight something and only gradually getting kicked back down to normal. For some people, that immune system never gets kicked back down. Those are the folks who get laid low by CFIDS indefinitely. Thank you Goddess for my fate not winding up like theirs.

By Spring of 1995 I had recovered enough of my strength to where I could think about going back to being a freelance journalist again. Somehow or another I wound up with a group of people who were starting a magazine called Anvil Anthology. It was going to be the American answer to Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant, and featured the work of primarily Animation people who wanted to get in on the comics boom. It didn't make it, but two things came out of it that are helpful to this day: I met Michael Swanigan, who started Toon Magazine and Toon Magazine Online, and I learned to build websites. The website I used to learn my trade was Animation Nerd's Paradise, which existed from late 1995 to mid-1999. The reason why I had to shut it down will become clear later. The lovely people at Animation World Network have been kind enough to let me keep ANP archived. AWN is an amazing survivor of the Dot Com Boom/Bust. They just keep on keeping on. Good.

In 1996 I hooked up with a networking group for women who were working on the infant World Wide Web called "Webgrrls LA." There I met Deborah Howard, who ran a very small ISP in her Venice, CA living room called 2 Cow Herd Internet with her then-husband, networking geek Tom Carr. We got to talking and she decided to take me on as a contract web designer.

I worked with 2 Cow Herd and with the ISP Consortium, a non-profit she had helped found, until I got a call in June of 1999. "Listen, I have gotten a great offer to work at a bandwidth startup run by a competitive long distance carrier. I want to bring you aboard as webmaster for this new company's sales and marketing division. 2 Cow Herd is being sold. Are you with me?"

For years, I had observed the Dot Com Boom from afar, hoping to get that tap on the shoulder to join something just blowing up. This was it. However, there was one consideration.

"Umm...where are they located?"

"Bay Area. Peninsula. Burlingame."

"I can't pick up and move..."

"No need, we'll set you up down there in your home office. You'll visit up North every few months. It will be cool. We've done the virtual office thing successfully for years, I can't see why we can't do it with them."

Opportunity knocking? Hell, it had kicked the door down and it was sitting in my living room.

One thing for certain: hopping aboard the Dot Com Boom in 1999 meant one thing looking back at it in hindsight: I wasn't going to get rich. If the offer had come a year or maybe two years earlier, maybe I would have done as well as an acquaintance of mine who got tons of Yahoo stock when his company got bought by them. The stock vested, he turned around and cashed it in, and bought a house with cash in Austin, Texas. Some guys had all the luck. I just wound up with a Mac G3 Blue-And-White, a ThinkPad 365x, a bit of office furniture and a bunch of 1999-2000 vintage software.

The company, which eventually got called Onyx Networks, lived for a little less than a year after I started with them. Nobody knew that the boss at the parent company was busy hollowing out the company and burning through the venture capital as we worked to set up new fiber conduits across the Pacific. We wanted to be the Pacific Rim answer to UUNet's domination of the trans-Atlantic bandwidth trade. We never got the chance.

March 2000 happened.

By June 2000, I was part of the second wave of layoffs. Deb would be part of the third wave. We had to part company at that point...she was established in the Bay Area, I was down here in the San Fernando Valley, and no opportunity to bring me onboard and set me up as a virtual employee was conceivable in the post-crash aftermath. I was on my own. I got exactly one Dot Com job after that, which lasted about 3 months. Pacific Gateway Exchange went bust in January 2001, and was liquidated by May of that year.

After that ended, my almost 5-year tech sector career ended too. I had retrained in 2001-2002, hoping to get a job as an assistant Windows sysadmin somewhere. Everyone needed computer support. so I thought. However, 9/11 happened towards the end of being retrained. What was left of the economy crashed. The stupid MCSE I earned was less than worthless. It had been a total time sink of the period between Spring 2001 to New Year 2002.

By the middle of 2003, I realized there was no way out of going back to school and getting my degree. Not having a sheepskin was holding me back, and dooming me to a lifetime of McJobs until I dropped dead. Now I have the AA I was supposed to get in the mid '80s. I'm on my way to getting my BA in Psychology. And I'm going to probably have to get my MA before all this is over. I should have been in process on this two decades ago. But I didn't. I got sidetracked in '85 when the LA Community College District started charging fees, and my mom refused to part with her precious personal info so I could try getting financial aid. However, if I hadn't, I don't know if I would have met Richie and I don't know if I would have experienced all I had experienced. Lennon was right: Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.

I have been thinking of fictionalizing my story, tweaking a whole bunch of details, and writing a book. Since I seem to have no problem ranting here on my blog, I might just do the writing here, through Blogger and Blogspot. Eventually I'd pack all the stuff up and self-publish it.

I think I have the title. Pyrite Rush. Pyrite is fool's gold. The Dot Com Boom was a Pyrite Rush, a run on fool's gold. The current real estate mania in Los Angeles is like that too. Another Pyrite Rush. When it will crash, I don't know. But it will. And we will be even more fscked than we are now. When the real estate bubble bursts, it will also run headlong into Peak Oil and the aftermath of the Iraq debacle. A recipe for a disaster that will make the 1930s seem like good times.

I picked a good time to get back to school, I think. No matter what happens in the world, you can't take a degree away from someone because they are dead flat broke. No amount of economic privation will change the accomplishments I achieved this year and am on the road to achieving in the next four or five years.

posted 11:11 PM

Sale of a dead man...musing about Willie Loman, Alzheimer's patient

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

When I started this blog entry at 11:30am, I should have been finishing my test on Death Of A Salesman. However, there I was, in the LAVC Lion's Den cybercafe, blogging about how angry I was. I was ready to take the test. (Thank Goddess for "Save as Draft" in Blogger!) But Dr. Roth didn't show up. At the time, I wondered if there was a daytime Dodgers home game today. After checking the Dodgers website, I found out that there's a home game but it starts at 7:10pm. Dr. Roth is a freak for baseball, and often conversations about baseball have cut into lecture time. If there had been a 1pm game he would have been so busted. I would have gone to the Academic Senate and complained. Seriously.

The way Dr. Roth does a test is pretty screwed up. English 103 is supposed to be English and Critical Thinking. However, a test in Dr. Roth's English 103 class is not about critical thinking at all: it's about regurgitating Dr. Roth's views on a given text in a 50 question, true-false format test. I think I understand why he's so popular on RateMyProfessor.Com...most students love the way he tests because they don't have to even read the frickin' text...all they have to do is commit to memory every single blessed thing he says in a lecture and the handout. Oh yeah, and it helps to watch the movie too. He always shows a movie version of the plays. (All four texts are plays.) This time it was the great Dustin Hoffman/John Malkovich version that was made for TV. I must say, ever since I saw it when it first aired I see Hoffman as Willy Loman. He made that part his own, and so did John Malkovich as Biff Loman.

However, I'm a freak. I want to do essay tests on each text. I want to be able to make my argument about what the text means and what my views are. I actually read, and I actually draw conclusions based on my reading of the text. This actually has worked against me on the two tests I have taken.

What do I think of Death Of A Salesman? For one thing, it hits a bit close to home. I'm not a self-obsessed jock like Biff Loman but 1.) I have watched family members die of Alzheimers and Alzheimers-like conditions, and it is clear to me that Willy Loman was dying from some sort of dementia; and 2.) I'm 41 years old and, as the subtitle of my blog puts it, I'm back in school trying to reinvent myself. I haven't quite found myself yet so far. So I feel a fair amount of kinship with Biff at this juncture.

I also can feel a lot for Willy Loman, even though he's an asshole who hurts everyone in his life and may or may not truly love them. There are times when I feel as broken-backed as he does; and the aspect of going back to school I hate the most, that of incurring more and more student loan debt, makes me sometimes think that if I died it would be better, that Richie would be released from the joint obligations we have in regards to my loan debt. Of course, I have spoken of this before in the blog, and I always come to the same conclusion: if I cannot live for myself, for my own sake, at least I can live for the sake of beloved family and friends. I don't want to model suicide as acceptable, and I don't want to hurt the ones I love. I have had family and friends die at their own hand, and it's the most cruel thing a person can inflict on their loved ones.

In Willy's diseased, damaged mind, he thinks that if he kills himself, his family would get the insurance money and he'd finally be able to provide for them at last. Of course, he has made previous attempts on his life, so a pattern has been established of suicidal ideation. There is no way in hell that the insurance company will pay on the claim. His last act on earth, like all of his others, is an act of futility.

My view that Willy Loman has Alzheimers is something Dr. Roth disagrees with. He thinks Willy suffers from "insanity" but isn't a dementia a kind of mental illness? I watched my maternal grandfather die of Alzheimers, and saw my paternal grandmother deteriorate from a dementia resulting from "mini-strokes." I saw what happened to their personalities, and recognized Willy's symptoms from theirs. Both of my Great Uncles on my mother's side also have gotten Alzheimers, and my Aunt and Uncle are both fearful their number will come up. The thought that maybe I'm due for it in the future is one that has crossed my mind more than once. If I do, I hope someone puts me out of my misery quickly.

Roth also disagrees with me about another aspect of the play: I think that "Ben Loman" is a figment of Willy's imagination, a composite incarnation of all the "self made man" mythology he has swallowed and the Horatio Alger pulp juvenile fiction he doubtless devoured as a boy. There seems to me to be some sort of weird ambiguity about who Ben really is. Is he Willy's elder brother? Is he Willy's uncle? Is he a family friend? He doesn't seem to really fit in with the rest of the family. The Lomans all seem to have a black cloud hanging over their heads, even though Hap Loman does a great job hiding his despair in sex addiction and substance (alcohol) abuse. Ben is sort of a Gilded Age Uebermensch, a combination of Teddy Roosevelt and the Robber Barons of the turn of the 20th Century, couched in the splendor of a Kipling hero. In the Hoffman/Malkovich version, the actor who portrayed Ben was about a foot taller than Hoffman and as robust and overfed as Hoffman was stunted and nebbish-like. You couldn't see Ben as part of the Loman gene pool.

Anyway, I read the material and I thought about it, and I came to different conclusions than my professor. However, I dare not let those different conclusions affect how I answer the test, which is probably now pushed back to Monday. No, I need to regurgitate the canned answers with all the critical thinking of a Clone Trooper. Some course in critical thinking this turned out to be. I'm glad I took Philosophy 20, Ethical Philosophy, so that I got a chance to flex my mental muscles in an environment where critical thinking really was valued.

posted 3:30 PM

Dying for a lie

Sunday, December 26, 2004

(This is a Letter to the Editor I sent to the Los Angeles Daily News this afternoon. In case the Daily News hasn't the guts to print it, I'm reprinting it here on my blog.)

They gave their lives for us? No, they gave their lives for a lie.

I cried when I saw the cover of the Sunday Daily News today. (12/26/2004) The much-suppressed picture of the flag-draped coffins was front and center, along with the names of Valley-area soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. Dead boys and girls. And the banner headline read, "They gave their lives for you."

No. They did not.

They gave their lives for a lie, concocted by the Neo-Con cabal who has had an obsession to unseat Saddam Hussein since well before September 11th, 2001. They gave their lives for the lie that Hussein had awesome weapons of mass destruction...nuclear, biological and chemical...and that they were ready, willing and able to project those weapons to Israel and Europe.

What did we find when we stormed into Baghdad? Nothing. Sure, there were conventional weapons, and lots and lots of explosives. Explosives that we didn't keep track of, and which now are being used against us by Al'Qaeda cells that streamed into Iraq after we invaded. Were these Al'Qaeda cells there before we arrived? Nope. Osama bin'Laden's pointman in Iraq is a Jordanian citizen who could not have entered Iraq while Hussein was still in power.

The foreign fighters have succeeded in radicalizing a good chunk of the disaffected young Sunni Islamic male populace, who are more than happy to fight on their side because they have a reasonable expectation that they have no future in a Shia-dominated future Iraq. They have made places like Fallujah deathtraps not only for American military units and the units of the dwindling "Coalition Of The Willing" but also for their fellow Iraqis. Yes, we managed to smoke Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, and eventually there will be a show trial. George W. Bush can then turn to his Poppy and say "I got him for you!"

Eventually this war will end for the US, not with a bang but with a whimper. Iraq will be left in a state of chaos, with Shia fighting Sunni endlessly. The Iraqi oil that might have been one of the main motivating factors of the invasion will probably be off limits to us Yankee Imperialists. The Shias will have Iran on their side, the Sunnis Osama bin'Laden and his Al'Qaeda machine. The unstable, war-torn Iraq would be a threat to the stability of the entire region. Nobody wins, everybody loses.

We had Saddam bottled up in Iraq, unable to do any harm to his neighbors. His murderous sons and heirs apparent, Uday and Qusay, would be similarly bottled up when Saddam finally went to his grave. UN sanctions made damn sure of it. Instead of projecting sufficient force to smash Al'Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we went on this fool's errand in Iraq. Al'Qaeda remains a force to be reckoned with, and the hamfisted, brutal way we have prosecuted the Iraqi War has given Al'Qaeda plenty of recruitment propaganda.

And we did it all for a lie. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. He had no WMDs. Yet 51% of Americans bought the lie and gave Bush a second term. Clinton got an impeachment trial for a simple marital indiscretion. As the old liberal saw goes: "When Clinton lied, nobody died." One need only look at the cover of today's Sunday Daily News to see that when George W. Bush lied, hundreds of our boys and girls and thousands of Iraqis died. And continue to die. That's why I broke down in tears today. They died for a lie.

posted 12:30 PM

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kobe gets "get out of jail free" card.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

From the "You can get away with anything if you are a sports hero" department:

The Kobe Bryant rape case has been dismissed. Another sports hero will not see criminal justice for committing a crime. Why is it that sports heroes can get away with anything while other celebrities occasionally have to answer for their crimes?

It's like the last episode of the first season of the late, great animated series "Daria." Obnoxious cock-of-the-walk QB Tommy Sherman comes back to his Alma Mater, Lawndale High, to receive a special honor: a goalpost named in his honor. Sherman walks around insulting the current crop of football players and the less popular (including Jane and Daria) and propositioning the cheerleaders. A freak accident happens, and Sherman dies. All of the sudden, everyone's so freakin' bummed. Never mind that the guy was an asshole. Sports hero dies, everyone is bummed. It has always been this way. From Ty Cobb to OJ Simpson, people with remarkable athletic ability but who are also ethically challenged have been able to get away with just about anything.

Meanwhile, this is going to be just another reason for rape victims to be reticent about pressing charges against their attackers. I know about this from personal experience. I was raped on three different occasions. None of these rapes were especially violent...they were cases where other methods of coercion (one time I was drugged, the other two times I was under a verbal threat of my reputation being ruined one way or another if I didn't shut up and take it) were used to gain control of me. If a woman is beaten to a bloody pulp, then raped, she has a prayer of prevailing in court. If she had been drugged and the rapist's exploits been caught on tape, she could possibly prevail. In more ambiguous situations, the advantage has always been for the rapist.

I feel for the poor girl who got caught up in all this. She's going to live with this for the rest of her life. Some websites had gotten around the Rape Shield Law and published the girl's picture and name. Perhaps Kobe's defense team leaked the info, perhaps it was just the incompetence of the Eagle County DA and his staff. Regardless, her life is just about ruined. I hope she prevails in the civil trial. There is less of a burden of proof in a civil trial, and if there is any justice in the world Kobe will have to face a jury of twelve angry women there. It was in civil court that the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman got some measure of justice. Hopefully Kobe will be found responsible there.

This has nothing to do with Kobe's race. Just as the OJ trial should have been about a human being killing two human beings in a very brutal way, and race should have never been a part of the picture; if Kobe did stand trial he should have stood trial as a human being who might have violated another human being. I suppose the OJ trial was progress on one level: if it had happened in the Los Angeles of 1874 rather than 1994 OJ would have been rousted from his jail cell and hanged from the nearest lamppost by a racist mob. If it had happened in the South as late as 1964 it might have ended that way, with the football hero and movie star reduced to strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

But this is not Alabama or Arkansas or Mississippi in 1964, this is Eagle County, Colorado in 2004. And the person who got lynched there was a woman who dared accuse a sports hero of rape. Heaven help her, because humanity failed her.

posted 9:25 AM

Monday, May 9, 2011

A cinematic mystery is solved.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Repo Man: a mystery is solved.

Unfortunately it's too late to add to the Plastic Classic Movie: Repo Man story, but now that I have the DVD of the movie and am currently as I type this listening to the commentary track, I now know the earth-shaking truth of what was in the can of Generic Food. Apparently it was Ralphs' Supermarket Generic Corned Beef Hash. Yes, the stuff did indeed look like Alpo. It is an open question whether or not the stuff tasted like Alpo, because even if Ralphs' still had their generic line of products I am certain I would not do a taste test.

Many other mysteries are solved by listening to this commentary track. Universal Home Entertainment recently re-released the movie in their bargain line. Originally Anchor Bay had released it, and they were the ones responsible for the famous "License Plate Box" limited edition DVD set which now goes for hideously high prices on the collectible market. Only the limited edition Anchor Bay set had the commentary track, but the standard-issue version from Uni now has it. Note that I do not get a commission from this link. I should do something sleazy and money grubbing like that, perhaps I'd be less broke if I did that more. ;P

posted 5:51 PM

Dean Machine derails...

Thursday, February 19, 2004

From the YEEEEEEAAAAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!! department...

Well, Dean's out of the race. As Craig Kilborn used to ask on the Daily Show (when it was good) "What have we learned today?"

1.) The current US news media has pretty much finished slouching towards the direction of tabloid/Fox News Channel yellow journalism, and has shown signs of this all the way back to the 1970s. It's accelerated thanks to the concentration of the US media in the hands of an increasingly smaller and smaller number of companies. Issues? What's that? Oh, Janet Jackson flashed RAW TIT AT SUPERBOWL HALFTIME! Hey, that's news...SHOCK! HORROR! FILTH! BARE BREAST!

2.) A candidate needs to be 1000% on their guard while campaigning. Either they have to be beyond reproach and have a perfectly bland, "sanitized for your protection" personality, or they have to be George W. Bush or have his connections.

3.) When all is said and done, in a race between a quirky guy with ideas and a bland, safe guy who is telegenic but has all the ideas of a Rorschach blot, the bland, safe guy will win every time.

And yeah, this supermarket is still empty 7 years later.

posted by Michelle Klein-Hass @ 2:48 PM
Saturday, January 24, 2004

The sounds of silence...Panorama City style.

We went out to grocery shop today and we found that one of our local indie supermarkets, El Mexicano, is shutting down. Very, very depressing. This fucking supermarket strike means that we are extremely dependent on stores like the one that is going under.

There was no fresh fruits and veggies, the meat case was long ago cleaned out, and the place had a very "picked over" look to it. The store was running a 50% off sale on everything remaining, so we took advantage of it for canned goods and other staples. Like salsa. And hot sauce. Here, those are necessities of life.

It seems like there's been a wave of failures of businesses out my way since the December Shopping Season ended. KayBee Toys is on its way out now...the whole chain. Asahiya Bookstore in Little Tokyo is shuttering, as are other stores in the chain. The Asahiya in Gardena will stay open, but other than that one it looks like the rest of the stores are going bye-bye. Plaza del Valle, an attempt to replicate a Mexican/Central American style plaza market in what was once part of the parking lot of a decrepit shopping center here, is failing miserably. The small-scale businesses that were supposed to occupy the Plaza can't afford the rent that the company that runs the place is charging.

It looked, for a time, that Panorama City was going to revive itself. Oddly enough, when WalMart took over the old Broadway department store in the Panorama Mall there was a lot of motion towards opening more stores up here and sprucing up the neighborhood. But now, more and more, things are dying here. The Wherehouse at Van Nuys and Roscoe liquidated and moved out, as did a few stores right next door to them. The building formerly owned by Union Bank and then the County of Los Angeles is 100% vacant. The old Montgomery Ward store next to the Mall has been shuttered for years now...well, since Montgomery Ward went the way of White Front, Zody's and Nahas. (god I'm showing my age by listing those...) There was a SavOn Drugs on Chase at Van Nuys right next to a still-thriving Pep Boys a few years ago but that has been vacant even longer than Monkey Ward. And there is still a condemned high-rise, red-tagged since the Northridge Quake ten years ago, that is home only to ghosts and pigeons and maybe a homeless person or two. I think it remains up only because it's the high ground in our neighborhood and there is cell phone stuff up the wazoo on the roof.

It's all so damn depressing. But it's par for the course when you consider how the economy has been sputtering. Despite news reports and assurances by economists, the guy on the street can't see a recovery unless there's people getting jobs and stores opening for business, not closing up.

An anthology, you say?

My goal with this blog is to wade through all the crap I've posted since 1987 online (or before the Internet on Fidonet and so forth) and bring together the stuff that doesn't make me cringe.

Since much of my "blogging" has wound up on Facebook and Twitter lately, this way I'll be able to open up some of my writing there to a wider audience.

Think of this as a self-curated anthology.