Best Paul Simon Tune

I’ve always liked Paul Simon (and Garfunkel); I’m (barely) too young to have appreciated them when they first came out, but I heard – but didn’t fully understand – the music when it first came out. Took a few years to understand it; but Simon & Garfunkel songs were part of my youth.

But I have a bunch of S&G; CDs, as well as Simon’s solo efforts.

Understand that Simon was the writer; Garfunkel was the singer. No ding on either, but just the facts ma’am…

There are a lot of votes for best Paul Simon song – I’d guess including “Bridge Over Trouble Waters,” “Sounds of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson” (maybe the solo “Graceland”), but my vote goes elsewhere.

The Paul Simon tune I like best is from his second solo album: “American Tune.”

Just resonates for me, both the lyrics and the music. Haunting.

I play this often.

His BEST song? I dunno. My personal favorite, however.

And I dreamed I was dying, I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying, and high up above my eyes could clearly see
The statue of liberty, sailing away to sea, and I dreamed I was flying

Bite of a Sour Apple

As I have pointed out previously, the update from Itunes 6.x to 7.0 didn’t go so well for me, and it appears that is isn’t going too well for others, as well.

The graphic on the left is taken from a MonkeyBites blog entry. As the article and graphic indicate, the new iTunes 7.0 is so problematic – on Windows, at least – that the older version is getting more downloads that spankin’ new, hot release.


So it’s not just me…

Torture Bad

How can one support torture?

Let’s even leave out the ethical/legal issues – and just focus on one fact many military/CIA officers agree on: torture doesn’t work. Start prying off my fingernails and I’ll confess to kidnapping the Lindberg baby or leaking nuclear secrets to the USSR/Stalin…

However – again, leaving out the ethical/legal issues – most Amercians support torture to some degree. Disturbingly, this includes a great deal of Catholics – who, according to one study, are more inclined to support torture.

We’ve come a long way from turn the other cheek, no? Abort a zygote; bad. Make a prisoner think you’re drowning him…hey, he might divulge secrets.

So I guess I don’t represent the majortity opinon, even though the ethical and – currently – legal frameworks are on my side. (The practical viewpoint, as the poll reveals, is the framework I’m backing the wrong pony on.)

Which makes me ashamed, as an Amercian and a person, that the U.S. Congress is actually engaging in debate over whether or not to give the Executive Branch carte blanche to torture, operate secret prison, exempt from any judicial oversight or prosection anyone engaging in torture and so on.

Is this the type of democracy we hope to bring to the Middle East? And we wonder why they really aren’t embracing same…

One question I’d like the pollsters to ask people who give the thumbs-up to torture: “What if your wife/husband/mother/father etc. was whisked away in the middle of the night because she/he is suspected to be terror mastermind. Is torture, with no judicial oversight, no charges placed (i.e. no habeus corpus) and no information about that relative – including no confirmation/denial about this relative’s apprehension to anyone outside the CIA (for example), still OK? Are you good with the torture of your relative?”

Because that’s what’s already happened to a lot of relatives, and – should the new torture conventions the Executive Branch is pushing for become law – could well happen to a lot of other relatives. This is not an abstract arguement – Americans have been plucked out of our sight and squirreled away, not just some guy in a beard spouting the Quran. (That doesn’t make it any better/worse for me, but many folks – understandably – care more about their families than unknown families in some Third World country.)

Think about that. Your relative/co-worker/best friend just suddenly gone.

Imagine that moment.

Imagine that confusion.

Imagine your reaction to discover this person has been detained – with no charges – in some secret prison in some unknown country and is being treated in a manner that, if you treated your dog similarly, you’d be fined/arrested. With no recourse.


What Am I Missing???

I like Mighty Girl; I don’t read her often but Maggie’s often a good read.

However, she has written a book, and I just don’t get it: No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas For Your Blog.

The book – as the title implies – is things you can write about on your blog (Dooce has picked up one of these suggestions and blogged about, basically, when you realize this relationship is going nowhere…).

But isn’t this book sort of backwards? Don’t – shouldn’t – one have a blog because one has something to say, as opposed to having a blog because it’s the hip thing to do but you’ve no clue about what to say?

If you have nothing to say, don’t write anything that day/week/month. Wait until there is something you want to write about.

I just don’t get it, but … whatever.

Newspaper Be Gone

The Dish
Rob Sitch, director

This is not a great movie, this is not a classic – it’s just a really well made, beautifully filmed story about that time in our history when we raced for the moon.

The story is set in Australia, which was (and still is) home to the radio dish that handles spacecraft communications when North American dishes can’t see the object.

Quirky characters, a strong cast – mainly of unknowns – help elevate this tale of how Parkes Radio Telescope participated in the Apollo 11 program from a pretty boring premise to one that is a compelling watch. This is not The Right Stuff or Apollo 13 – it’s closer to October Sky.

All movies

Sometime in June I did something I never thought I’d do: I cancelled my newspaper subscription. I was going to write about it then, but I thought I’d wait a few months to get some perspective – who knows, at this point, I could well have decided to re-up my subscription.

Now, I’ve been reading at least one newspaper a day since I began reading. And I would subscribe to the paper during my lengthy period of poordom, when a newspaper (and magazines) was a very expensive luxury.

My tastes have changed – now I’ll hit the op-ed pages and business sections before reading the cartoons – but I still liked the variety a newspaper gave you, and all the news packed in there.

So why did I bail on newspapers?:

  • It’s not a money issue: I make enough now to justify a subscription without much of an issue.
  • Newspapers suck: In an effort to offset rising paper and gas prices (delivery), newspapers have been cutting back on the extras that made them special, and trying to target the audience that’ll get them the best bang for their buck. It’s understandable, but it’s a shame that newpapers have put business ahead of journalism to such a craven degree. (Don’t take just my word for it, read this Dan Gillmor entry; Gillmor was a newspaper journalist for over two decades.)
  • Not even the comics are funny: I always read the comics; from 6-46 years old. But each year, the pool of cartoons that are worth reading gets a little smaller. I miss The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Bloom County. Doonesbury is still doing some interesting things, but – for the most part – the cartoon page(s) are no longer “must read.”
  • I get my news on the Internet: Any questions?
  • I get my job listings at Monster, my classifieds at Craiglist or eBay: Any other questions?

This is a sad state of affairs to me, as I’m a big reader and long-time lover of newspapers. I still get the Sunday paper, but I find myself reading less and less of it, for the same reasons outlined above.

While sad, it is reality – sure, you missed having that horse you had for years pulling your cart, but isn’t a car really more practical??

iTunes Blues

As mentioned in my previous post, I updated my iTunes to 7.0.

Wow, does 7.0 on Windoze XP suck.

There is some sort of buffering issue, which renders songs unplayable. Put the pause on, the buffering (I’m guessing) catches up, and it plays fine.

I tried to roll back to 6.x, but it didn’t take. So I put 7.0 in but am not happy about it. Sucky release; looking forwad to the patch.

iTunes Update

I’m downloading the updated iTunes (for Windoze), so I can update from 6.x to 7.

A 34M download?? Holy download, Batman!

And – currently – very s…l…o…w download – not my connection, but Apple is (apparently) getting hammered since yesterday’s announcements.

Still: 34M? Ouch for dial-up users.

Five Years Since 9/11

I officially have no comment.

Too many conflicting emotions.

So it’s not passing unnoticed – this is a day that changed America, and, to a lesser degree, the world – it’s just that I have too many comments.

Officially, no comment.

So Much for the New Marshall Plan

OK, there is a lot of stuff re: the Iraq war and so on that I find disturbing, but this latest bit of news – from Brigadier General Mark Scheid, commander of the Army Transportation Corps (one of the early planners for the war in Iraq) – makes so much sense that it hurts:

Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said “he would fire the next person” who talked about the need for a post-war plan.

Eustis chief: Iraq post-war plan muzzled, Hampton Roads

This is from one of the military honchos in charge of the Iraq issue, and he’s saying the Defense Secretary forbade any post-war planning.

Huh? WTF?

Sure, Scheid could be lying, embellishing or fudging, but how often do Brigadier Generals do this? To this degree? And his comments certainly fit with the – to many eyes – lack of “exit strategy plan” we have in Iraq.

Either way…ouch…

How to Save Social Security

United 93
Paul Greengrass, Director

I almost passed on watching this movie, simply because the subject matter – a fictionalized account of the 9/11 hijacking that crashed due to passenger intervention – seemed to recent and real to be anything but exploitive or painful.

But I watched, and – while painful – it was very well done and extremely powerful, and not at all in an over the top way.

The use of no-name actors was the key, to me: If one of the stewardesses was Julia Roberts or a passenger was Al Pacino, it would have broken that illusion of something terrible happening to real people.

Not a comfortable movie, but very well done.

All movies

Guess what? I don’t know how to save social security – and, if I did – why would I tell you (gentle reader)? However, hear me out for some insights.

I guess I just had an epiphany recently when both Ford and General Motors posted dire financial news. Lots of articles about the fall of two of the Big 3 American automakers (the third, Chrysler, is now part German…), but the one fact that stuck with me is the following: Germany/Sweden/Japan can better compete in the auto market because those countries of some degree of a national health plan.

The U.S. doesn’t.

Let’s leave aside the whole issue of medical litigation in the U.S., and just agree that – in general – health care costs have skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past decade or two, and employeers with huge labor forces – especially a largly blue-collar workforce – are hurting keeping up with their part of these premiums. The workers are affected in a similar manner, so there is pressure from the unions/employees etc. to raise salaries to help workers pay for their portion.

Etc etc…….

Not so in countries with national health care.

So what the hell does this have to do with social security?

Well, social security is basically on the road to bankruptcy. If current trends hold, just about the time I’m due to retire, I won’t be able to collect.

All gone…

This is basically true for all entitlements: welfare, medicare/medicaid, social security.

And entitlements are a huge portion of the federal budget. Overwhelmingly large.

Yes, we spend a lot on national defense (20%), but more on social security – and if you add all entitlements together, you get a vast majority of federal outlays:

  • Social Security – 22%
  • Income Security (various welfare programs) – 14%
  • Medicare – 12%
  • Health (mainly CDC and security issues, but some entitlement programs) – 10%

(Fiscal Year 2005 figures)

OK, so we spend a lot on entitlements, but let’s take a look at some of the reasons we have to shell out these entitlements:

  • Unemployment
  • Securing – assuming – pensions for companies going out of business
  • Foodstamps for those unable to gain work

And so on.

Basically, if everyone was able to work, entitlements pay-ins would increase and payouts would drop (perfect case scenario, obviously – there will always be those gaming the system in one way or another). We still might have a crunch, but it would be more manageable.

To me, however, the biggest change we can make to this country is to have some degree of national healthcare. Perhaps make it portable – there can be competition for which program you select, much as there is competion for the bank you select.

But when I change a job, I just fill out one form and tell the new employer where to deposit my check. I still pay the same checking fees at my bank if I work at IBM or the local 7-11. I don’t have to change from checking/savings to checking only and so on.

Why can’t I just tell my new employer where to send my health insurance co-pay (if necessary) or have it none of the new employer’s business (I may pay all, which would be a small fraction of today’s total)?

I don’t have to change my bank or bank program when I change jobs, so why should I have to change my doctor? Or dentist? Or level of coverage? Isn’t that sorta absurd? Isn’t that a lot of paperwork/processing/postage for nothing?

This’ll never happen because it cuts out a lot of powerful middlemen (health insurance brokers and, to some degree, insurers) with lots of PAC money, but it might just have to come to this. It’ll keep costs down, which will make it easier for those employers to keep you on its payrolls. Less unemployement, greater productivity, less entitlement outlay for the federal and local governments, and greater payments into those programs (if I’m unemployed, I’m not paying into Social Security…).

I have not presented this well, and it’s just starting to gel in my mind, but here is the bottom line of what I’m thinking: Fix health care, and you’ll have made an enormous stride toward fixing Social Security.

And improved the life and finances of the care-givers (hospitals, doctors) and the care-receivers (patient).

But it takes money away from insurance companies and insurance brokers. That’s the battle.

Rather, one of the many battles.