Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Advisers' 2¢ ain't worth 2 much

Who do I vote for?

Some fellow stopped by a few nights ago, just as we were sitting down to dinner. Peter answered the door and confused the man with a comment about not being able to vote. Delightfully, the first response was an offer to help get him registered to vote. The questions were referred to me, as the household's designated voter.

"Who am I planning to vote for [president]?" was the simple question. Wearing a bright "Ellison" t-shirt, there wasn't really any question about who he wanted me to vote for. However, considering our neighborhood is so blue as to be ultraviolet ... I was wondering why he was asking.

Honesty compelled me to state that, were the elections held today, I would cast my ballot for Obama. Honesty further compelled me to add, "since my favorite candidate, and my 2nd favorite are no longer on the ballot".

He also inquired about the U.S. senate seat and our representative. With far more assurance, I indicated my plans to vote for Franken & Ellison. He left with a smile after offering me a yard sign, which I had to refuse. I doubt my Republican landlords would approve. It's not as if there's a shortage of them in this area.

After watching the debate Friday night, I was left with a further positive impression of Obama compared to McCain. I voted for McCain in the primary in '00. (I figured Gore would get the Dem. nod, and wanted to limit the idiocy from any other party. Forlorn hope, that.)

The best rationale for picking a candidate is to look at his/her support team. After all, the president might be the ultimate arbiter of executive power, but the knowledge available to him will be from his picked advisers. Does he have the wisdom to pick them well? They'll be the ones driving national policy as much as the Big Cheese in the White House.

"Then there’s the frightening Mr. McCain — more frightening now [i.e. after the debate on Fri.] than he was a few weeks ago.

We’ve known for a long time, of course, that Mr. McCain doesn’t know much about economics — he’s said so himself, although he’s also denied having said it. That wouldn’t matter too much if he had good taste in advisers — but he doesn’t." - Paul Krugman, NYTimes

Apparently, Mr. Gopher is not alone in his value of staff advisers. I suppose I could point out how insane some of the politicians are (can you say "Katie Curick"?). But you already know. Thank god, it's almost over.


The Secretary of State has set a goal to get at least 80% to actually turnout and vote on election day.

As of last Friday, 3.13 million people are registered to vote here in Minnesota. The total eligible voters are 3.7 million. So, at the moment, 85% of the population is registered, with another 5,000 every 2 weeks.

Considering that we're allowed to "register" at the polls, it's expected that the state will pass the 77% turnout in '04. I think they're trying to keep the "highest percentage turn out in the country" title here.

On my way to school today, there was someone getting out the vote. "Excuse me! Do you know if you're registered to vote?" occasionally followed by "at your current address" and once "are you eligible to vote?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chaotic anniversary

Well, we made it to #5.

2 weddings, a trip to Greece, Green card hassle, travel just to visit relatives totally sucking up vacation time & disposable funds, moving to Minnesota, having 2 children, switching jobs once, balancing graduate school & children, and moving again. Yup. Nice quiet transition to the new phase of my life. I think this was the first time I completely failed to notice my other anniversary when it passed (a pleasant realization that it isn't much of a factor in my life any more).

Graduate school & moving into Minneapolis rather much prevented the celebration our April anniversary. So, since we conveniently have two of them, we just figured we'd celebrate in September. Saturday was the actual date. We decided to go out to a nice restaurant & movies. Since the movie we wanted only had a 9:05 showing, we called our older babysitter (hereafter referred to as #1), figuring a 16 year old is better off waiting till 11:30 p.m. than a 13 year old (hereafter referred to as #2). We scheduled her two weeks ago.

I hadn't heard from #1 by Thursday. I couldn't get her on Friday afternoon. Or Saturday morning. Or Saturday afternoon. Dinner time was rapidly approaching for the boys, which should have coincided with feeding the two demons previously acknowledged as our sons. Thankfully pasta is a reliable pacifier at the dinner table.

I tried reaching our #2, despite the late night we had planned. She wasn't answering her cell phone. Well, it's not as if she expected me to call. I called her home, to find out that she's busy. Her mom, however, said if we got desperate, she'd be willing to take the boys if we brought them to her house.

I called another girl recommended by our landlady, despite never having used her before. No answer.

I was willing to offer higher-than-normal rates due to the zero-scheduling time. "Hi, I'm willing to pay you extra if you can be here in 20 minutes," should have been a great inducement.

6:00 departure time passed. #1 is extremely punctual. At this point, I'm actually worried about her.

I call Sitter #2's mom. "Hi, Carolyn, this is Elizabeth Tobias. I'm desperate."

The boys went over to her house, where they apparently had a nice time. Despite, as Michael informed me this afternoon, being stepped on by the family dogs while he was asleep on the living room floor.

We went to an Indian restaurant with delicious food. I ate way too much. With a smile on my face the whole time. Apparently we and half of Minneapolis all showed up at the same time. Despite the very long wait (worth it), we had enough time to enjoy a leisurely meal.

This is point at which our celebration ceased to be chaotic.

Mongol was a good movie.

Hopefully anniversary #6 will be a bit less hectic. I'm not betting on it, though. It will probably be in September again, since I'll likely be getting ready for my thesis presentation in April.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

[movie review] Mongol

Mongol was a good movie. I could easily imagine the director/screenwriter was trying to create a visual epic poem, rather like Der Niebelungenlied or Táin Bó Cúailng or Beowulf (the real one, not the movie). The film's images are often figurative ( "the clouds covered the land until it was as dark as night" = film at night) or archetypical (wife waits for hero to return = happens repeatedly with great stoicism from her). There isn't really character development in the modern sense. Of course, in these epic poems, the hero is either sprung fully formed as a hero, or simply goes from abandoned, enslaved boy to hero in a few lines of poetry/scenes in movie. Don't get me wrong, I like the old hero-poems. Just don't expect declamations of motivation and thoughtful consideration of behavior by the characters.

It was grand. Everything was grand. The scenery was grand; the characters' relationships were grand; the fighting was grand; blood spurting was definitely grandiose.

Someone figured out how to make blood spurting look impressive. Then she wanted to make sure you knew just how impressive and really cool it was, or perhaps just wanted to justify the amount of money spent on people like my brother, so she did it over and over and over and over again. And again. It got a little old by the culminating battle.

Speaking of Mr. STFU's profession: everyone in the industry has obviously been impressed with LotR, since we keep seeing more epic battle scenes in movies. The advancing lines of Mongolian hoards was very reminiscent of the Battle of Pelinor Fields in RotK. Better strategy (attack enemy with 10,000 of your buddies, rather than a couple dozen), but equally impressive looking.

Basically, as an action movie, this was pretty damned good. As an overall assessment, it was good. It was violent with lots of blood, though little gore. It was visually stunning. Parts of the dialogue were pretty funny to a modern audience, e.g. Temudjin's father describing to his 9-year old son how to pick a wife. Some parts of the story simply went from point B to C to D to H without mentioning how. After falling through the ice, how did the hero wind up on shore? Being eyed by a rather curious wolf, why is he still not eaten? It's back to the stylized epic, don't worry about it.

This definitely put Ghengis Kahn in a rather favorable light. Oh, yeah - this is the story of how some young boy turned into the Khan of all of Mongolia ruling the largest empire ever seen on the face of the earth. Hell, maybe he was a really nice guy driven by a sincere desire to bring order to the Mongols and the desire for the love of his life. However, anyone bloodthirsty enough to create an empire stretching from Korea to Kiev is probably not someone you'd want as your kid's godfather, even if he was great to sit around a campfire and drink beer with.

Nominated for the '07 Foreign Film Oscar from Kazakhstan, it's the first film I've seen in Mongolian. The Conterfeiters won the Oscar that year. I don't really see that being such a better film than Mongol. I even rather suspect that Jews in a concentration camp resisting the Nazi war machine elicited a more positive response from a predominantly American judging population than a blood-thirsty not-white guy who conquered most of Asia in the 13th Century. I don't know much (read: nothing) about Mongolia then, so there's no opinion about the quality and authenticity of the costumes, mannerisms, or culture. It sure looked grand, though. It was interesting enough to get me to at least glance over the entry on Wikipedia to see how historically accurate the basic story line was. Compliment, I suppose.

Elizabeth’s rating: 2

The cinematography just begs to be seen on the big screen

1 - Go see it on the big screen at full price.
2 - Go see it on the big screen, at matinee prices.
3 - Buy your own on video.
4 - Definitely see it on video.
5 - Well, if someone else it paying for it ...
6 - Go get your teeth cleaned.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Week

We've got to protect Freedom of Speech ~ how else will we know who the assholes are?

just got back from the total chaos of celebrating our anniversary. literally. I'm waiting for Mr. Gopher to get back from a short jog to the bank - part of the longer story. And, god knows, if you know me, that means a looooong damn story. Later. Good Night from Minnesota!

Phallus Fights & Other Strange Traditions

Title of a new series of articles from Der Spiegel. It's in English.

[running of the bulls in Pamplona] ... one of those festivals that make the saner among us scratch our heads in confusion and wonder, "How was that ever a good idea?" But just because it is Europe's most famous oddity certainly doesn't make it an isolated case.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The view from the other side

"It's the rhetoric of Sept. 11. … But this crisis actually has much larger dimensions than the attack against the twin towers and collapse seven years ago. Why? Because, this time, the attack on all-American doctrines is not the work of some foreign enemy. It comes from within, from the depths of the system. Largely unobstructed by its own state controls, American capitalism has created its own suicide bomber whose explosives -- derivatives -- have had an even greater effect than the flying bombs of the jihadists. The whole world -- and not just New York -- has a new ground zero now -- Wall Street." -- quoted from the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (a center-right paper)

As I sit, taking a lunch break at our local left-wing, progressive, so-totally-not-republican cafe, the constant theme of conversation seems to be "are you going to watch the debates tonight?" Now, if only they'll listen to the debates for reasons other than self-justification.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Mr. Healthy Gopher looked stunned the other day when it dawned upon him he's been living in the US for longer than he was in Sweden. (his last place of residence before coming here. I don't think the good ol' US of A will ever supplant it in his fond memories.) We had been discussing what to do on Saturday to celebrate our anniversary. #5. Or 10, depending on how we count. :)

Movie & dinner is on the schedule. Although, with the advent of Autumn, it is likely our plans to eat on top of Stella's Fish Cafe (i.e., outdoors) will come to naught. I find it annoying, if not down right aggravating, that movie theaters don't publish weekend schedules until Thursday. I want to make reservations for dinner. Can't do that unless I know when the movies are showing. We have the flexibility to go to a later show this time. We've got our older babysitter coming and don't need to worry about getting home late (well, sort 0f - she still needs to be able to drive home without worrying about the county-wide curfew). Aaargh.

This morning, while getting Michael dressed, he raised his arm and said "look at this". Wondering what prompted such a request, of course I looked. 4 year old armpit. He points at his armpit and tells me "I'm getting hair there. Almost!"

A couple weeks ago we were making our Sunday post-lunch walkabout in the cemetery up the street. It's from the turn of the last century, and in mild decay, being unused now. Michael kept running from headstone to headstone demanding to know, "who's this?" "why did they die"? An unfortunately apropos activity, since Peter's uncle Josef died that weekend. Michael never met him (neither have I), so we didn't mention it to him. While wandering around the graveyard, it was painfully obvious how many graves were for children. So many children under 2 years old. So very, very many tiny headstones.

My first exam is Friday. Epidemiology is soooo much fun! Go back to school! You too can take a course on how to define populations and calculate mortality rates!

Well, the only mortality going on in our family right now is our financial security. We could put our 4 year old son in charge of the Treasury and have greater confidence of our long-term financial stability.

Gotta go study for my exam. I want to be able to watch the Red Wings play tonight without guilt. Actually, I just want to be able to watch it. They're not playing the We-Sold-Our-Team-to-Texas-and-Are-Stuck-With-a-Dorky-Team-Name-Now, so it's not going to be on local TV. Not that our TV is working anyway.

Best autumnal wishes from all of us here in Minnesota!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just so much fun ...

As Mr. Healthy Gopher observed, the longer Palin is in the race, the funnier she becomes. Funny like bizarre.

Palin: "community organizer? what's that? who cares? I am a governor"

Jesus Christ was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor.

The following observations are from one of the news blogs here during McSame/Palin's shindig up in Blaine yesterday:
  • This woman scares me, I don't see how any foreign leader can take her seriously. I'd buy Avon from her, but not vote for her for serious office. It's like the Ketchup couple woman on A Prairie Home Companion running for office. Maybe I need some ketchup with its mellowing agents to calm down.
  • When this over so I can turn my radio back on? I really find it annoying to listen to someone this stupid. It's like listening to Bush speak.
  • Gov Palin says "We'll never forget we're there to work for you. It's about you. I've never forgotten who I'm accountable to." ... As long as 'you' and 'the rule of law' aren't the same things.
Placard/protest signs from Alaska Women Reject Palin protest in Ancorage, AK last Sunday. Which, if the head-count of 1,500 is correct, means that 1/4 of a percent of the entire state population was there.

Bush in a skirt
McCain/Palin - Unstable & Unable
Real Leaders don't have to Cram for the Interview
Pittbulls make poor Diplomats
Wrong Woman, Wrong Message
Hocky Mom for Obama
Sarah Palin: Fundamentally Wrong
Bristol Got to Choose: Why Don't We?
I Support My Choice (very pregnant woman holding sign)
Another Bush We Can't Trust (now, I'm not 100% sure how to take this, but I'll assume the artist was willing to be subtle, and consider this awfully, awfully damned funny)
I'll Need Reproductive Rights One Day (8-yr old girl holding sign)
I Don't Like Hockey! Figure skating Moms 4 Obama

Potential amendment to my Election Rules:

A multi-partisan commission will be established.
It will review advertisements and speeches.
The accuracy of claims will be established, regarding what the candidate claims to have done or what the opponents have done.

The commission will awards points for false statements. It will aware more points for each time the statement/ad is repeated after the first issuance of points.

For every 10,000 points you get, your side loses one electoral vote.

The above amendment is from bigalmn at MPR's blog, who added: "If we did this today both sides would likely be in the negative electoral votes overall and the Independence Party would win by default since they have no money to spend on advertising and get no press attention."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pearly whites

this is like watching gangrene spreading; missiles descending upon your position; that slo-mo transition as the pick-up fails to stop at the rail-road crossing. It's so god-awful you just can't take your eyes off it. Our own lunatic in Washington. Well, not directly my lunatic. I've got the rabid Muslim-devil-Bush-hater as a representative.

The “Bachmann Smile” is a like a scary secret weapon. For folks accustomed to following MN politics this is not news. In fact, it is very old news. But for others like CP, who keep headphones on their ears all day listening to MC/VL and The Hold Steady, this could be new. Though we doubt it. The Bachmann Smile is like The Eye, searching for something like a ring to give it ultimate power. And if we want to go deeper into this meta-nalogy, her DFL [i.e., Democrat] opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg sounds like a name poached straight from the Shire. Let’s just hope Tinklenberg has a forthright buddy helping him along the campaign trail, as it seems like Bachmann could sum up the power of a million Orcs at any moment.

Or, as she puts it herself, while being shot down on L.King, “She’s proven herself to be a strong leader in Alaska, taking on pork barrel spending and making fiscal responsibility a top priority”. I'm not sure if Bachmann realizes the "taking on ... spending" does not mean "accepting it".

"Bachmann has yet [8/28/08] to hold an open public meeting for constituents in her district since being elected in 2006." Now that truly blows me away. oh, no! was I misled by the evil "independent" media? She has a permanent, standing "town hall" meeting! It's at: michellebachmann.townhall.com

Her "secret" RNC soiree / schmooze cruise / pow-wow to kowtow was on the river. I suppose it might be considered part of her district, since the boat dock is.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gotta Re-name my Dog

Allegedly, someone with a group called "anonymous" posted the password to Palin's Yahoo account (gov.palin@yahoo.com) on a bulletin board last night, "and a field day ensued," the blog said. Another member of the group said he changed the password to "avoid further damage."

a comment was made about the pathetic lack of awareness of technology security. For example, not choosing one's zip code as a password.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Study Finds That 35 Percent Of BlackBerry And PDA Users Would Choose Their Device Over Their Spouse

87 percent said they bring their devices into the bedroom.

"It can actually ruin relationships," said Dr. Susan Bartell, a psychologist and relationship expert. Bartell said couples should be interfacing more, but with each other. "People are so focused on their PDAs, they're not focusing on what might be going wrong in their relationships," Bartell said.


I know a fellow who has a BlackBerry and who uses it compulsively. Of course, watching his relationship with his wife, I'm left wondering if it's simply "I gotta have it" or whether it's "If I'm focused on this, she won't bother me or at least I can pretend not to notice her ragging on me".
Die Industrie wächst überdurchschnittlich, die Milliardeninvestitionen zahlen sich endlich aus.

Industry is growing , the investment of billions is finally paying off.

Investment in industry = money. Wow, now is that a concept someone ought to consider here. What has American economy been investing in? Mortgages. Credit.

Nothing has amused me so much as Lehman and AIG screaming as their credit rating goes flushing down the toilet. Hee hee hee hee hee. They spent years buying things (mortgages and other investments) without adequate consideration of the long-term consequences. Just like the American idiot-Citizens (houses, credit cards). They spent decades without considering the consequences to their credit rating. Just like the American idiot-Citizens (buy more more more). Basically, they spent years underwriting the stupidity of American financial choices. People's credit goes down the tubes .... and now theirs does.

Welcome to the junk-bond neighborhood of modern America, Mr. investment bank owner. Oh, but that includes the Savings & Loan business, as well.

Perhaps more people ought to realize that the best choice for their kids' foreign-language immersion schools (really popular here) ought to be Chinese. Since they're going to wind up owning most of America, if they don't simply drown us in cheap plastic junk.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Photos

Kitchen last night. We had chocolate sauce with desert.

I missed this. I was asleep too.

Tea party in the garden.

Josie, Michael & Gregor having a tea party.

Michael writing his name.

Breakfast this morning.

We just came home from dinner out. Sitter put the boys to bed. Almost.

Gravity: weaker than weak

hee hee hee
Science Geek Rap
the new whiz-bang nuclear gizmo in Switzerland all over the news.

Friday, September 12, 2008

News Cut Quiz of the Week

Question 5:

What happens if you actually try to put lipstick on a pig?

* They break out. Pigs are allergic to lipstick.
* You can't. Pigs don't have lips.
* They look kinda sexy, in a political kind of way, of course.
* They have a sudden urge to drive their piglets to hockey practice.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bloated pustulant bodies

August 8, 2000 Republican National Convention, Philadelphia, theretofore known as the city of brotherly love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


More from Minnesota

Gregor & Josie (our neighbors' daughter, who is also MIchael's best friend)

If you've been in a Catholic church, or seen much older European art, all of the saints have a standard symbol that goes with their images/icons, for all of those folks who pre-date photography. E.g Catherine has a wheel, George has a staff/spear. St. Albert the Great, appparently, has a frog. Really.

Sunday afternoon lunch @ Falafel King: Michael & Mr. Giraffe

Michael (blue hat) & the kids & Frau Anna from German pre-school at the GAI Family Day

Gregor @ GAI Family Day

Gregor's daycare group. He's in the foreground. The photo was taken on the day the kids had gotten a pair of guinea pigs ("Heavy Duty" & "Duke"), and were enthralled with them. Gregor, apparently, was more interested in disassembling the outdoor fence for the little critters. If you come visit (hint, hint), you'll notice this is our front yard. Gregor's daycare is in the other half of our duplex.

[movie review] Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

I, as it happens, have time to waste and cannot do better than to quote from my review of "The Mummy" (1999): "There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

[def.] Lapel Pin Patriots

Now this is the lapel pin I recognize as patriotic.

Monday, September 8, 2008

of course, roasting the idiots

specifically 4:33 to 5:55.

okay, so I realized what would truly, truly be funny would be the All Inclusive Political Satire: include Obama in this as a 3-way comparison. Because I am positive all of this (other than the offer of admiration at the end) could be found with his speeches, too. Now that would have been funny.

Exercise does a body good?

Mpls school district discussions on making more kids walk to school ...

The report also highlights small changes. The number of bike-riding students at South High School quintupled with one action: The school installed new bike racks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Whatcha readin' ?

Some miscellaneous thing on the web solicited an answer to "What are you reading this month?"

I paused to consider ...

Essentials of Epidemiology in Public Health
Risk Assessment in Environmental Health
miscellaneous scientific articles on ethics and epidemiology
Essentials of Air Contamination
Mountains beyond Mountains (non-fiction, about public health)
Stalin's Ghost: M.C.Smith (fiction) - as soon as it's done, it will be the end of reading for my own pleasure

Put on hold, due to the beginning of school:
Chronicles of the Black Company
vol 12 of the J.Evanovich books

Last Fall semester, I was in the public health's student lounge, with my feet up taking a break from studying. Another student walks by, stops, does a double take, and walks back to stand in front of me. She tilts her head to look at the cover of the book I'm holding, and asks in a tone of wonder and chastisement: "Are you reading for pleasure?" Several of us noticed that we hadn't read anything 'for fun' since school started. Last week, a friend in my program told me she was tired because she'd stayed up too late, in order to finish the book she was reading. "I was almost done! If I hadn't finished it last night, I wouldn't have been able to read it until Christmas!" Same reason I'm "still" reading Stalin's Ghost - I'll finish it tonight if I finish my epidemiology homework - otherwise it will probably wait until Thanksgiving.

Graduation celebration might consist of
a) sleeping for a week +
b) big party +
c) spending a weekend retreat alone to read myself silly

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Protest signs

Favorite sign reported at the protests:
If we hadn't protested Vietnam, McCain would still be a POW.


Vor allem Schwarz und Weiß und Grau
vergesse ich manchmal
die bunten Farben in meinem Leben
Du bist für mich
weder Schwarz nor Weiß
sondern Rot und Blau und
meine Lust und Freude


Friday, September 5, 2008

My Eight Rules

From a reporter @ MinnPost.com, re: riots this week in StPl

Some of [the faux johnny-come-lately-I-wanna-be-a-reporter-and-say-I-was-at-something-cool] them are pretty interesting. Covering the protests in St. Paul this week, I saw a woman with a media card around her neck who was dressed neck-to-toe in army surplus, had a motorcycle helmet on her head and wore a mask like the Lone Ranger's. I saw a big silver-haired guy in a huge photo-vest with the pockets packed full, shooting a cell phone camera. I saw a two-person video crew, a small attractive young woman and a tall rangy young man, and when something was going on during a march, the woman would sit on the man's shoulders, and run the camera, while the man maneuvered through the crowd to give her best shot. The CBS crews could learn from those two.

But the problem is, a lot of these new guys don't know what to do in a riot.

My eight rules

So here's a list from a long-time riot aficionado, who would prefer not to see anybody get hurt. Especially media people. However off you are.

1. Always — ALWAYS! — know where the cops are and what they're doing.
St. Paul cops busted an AP reporter by accident a couple of days ago; he was pretty experienced, but he apparently lost track of where he was, exactly, and he wound up on his back. That happens if you don't take great care. They'll usually let you out of jail pretty quickly, though.

2. Don't mess with riot cops during a riot.
A San Francisco radio talk-show host did that, and she got busted. One of her associates described the arrest as brutal. I saw the tape and I'd call it "gentle." She got lucky. Cops don't have time to listen to windy explanations during a riot, and if you deliberately push into them, as she did, you're toast. Don't do that. Be polite. Smile. If you need to talk to them, look for a guy with stripes, or a silver bar or two. You gotta remember, the cops get scared and angry, too.

3. Always — ALWAYS! — know where the Little Assholes are.
Most people in protest mobs are pretty sincere, and don't want to fight cops or break things. But there's a subset of most any anti-war mob, the LAs, who are similar to the football hooligans in Britain. They are there to break things for their own entertainment. They don't have much real interest in politics — they're just LAs. You can pick them out because they wear fashionable bad-ass street dress — black or olive drab, boots or heavy running shoes, bandanas, hoodies. They tend to pierce themselves a lot. The dress is usually pretty worn, and they tend to cluster; so look around the crowd and when you see a sudden darkening of dress, you've found the LAs. You need to know where they are, because when they start breaking things, that's your film-at-six.

4. Very important. Learn to walk backwards.
You'll notice that in the best riots, the real pros spend a lot of time walking backwards, but rarely run into anything. That's because they're pros. If you don't know what you're doing, you can walk backwards into a parking meter and damn near kill yourself.

5. All riots have their own geography, or shape.
When you find the LAs, watch their relationship with the cops, and find an angle where you can see both. When the trouble starts, you want to be close enough to see and hear, but not so close that you suddenly get cut off and find yourself with no place to run. You need the room to wheel. You don't want to be the first guy to arrive at trouble, before it has a chance to shape up — you don't want the cops to unexpectedly come in behind you. Be the fifth or sixth guy to arrive, after you know how things are shaping up. If a real fight gets going, people tend to run in the channels — the streets. If you're absolutely caught, get your back against a wall, your hands in the air, and looked scared. There's a good chance everybody will ignore you.

6. Listen carefully.
Breaking glass or sudden gusts of screaming means good photography. If you hear loud pops, that's probably flashbangs meant to frighten people, but it could be gas. Gas can mess you up, if you get too close. If you get gas, try to run out of it. It's usually pretty local, so if you can run 50 yards, holding your breath, you can often get out of it. It'll still burn your skin a little, but at least it's not in your lungs. Bandanas are useful for dipping in water and washing your skin, and for concealing your identity, but I can tell you, they're no damn good for breathing through in a gas attack. Of course, loud pops could mean shooting. If there's been shooting, then the photography could bring a Pulitzer, but it could also get you killed. That's decision time. If you're a true media, run toward the loud pops. Just don't be the first to arrive. (See rule 5.)

7. Dress right.
If you're really going to get your ass whipped, it'll more likely be by the cops than by the protesters, because the cops are better at it. Therefore, dress for the cops. I recommend khaki slacks and a golf shirt; something that sends a fairly respectable middle-class message. Neat jeans and a golf shirt or a collared shirt will work. You don't want to push it too far — if you wear really nice grey slacks, an oxford cloth shirt and a sport coat, some LA might throw a bottle of urine on you. You want to look exactly like a semi-intellectual media. Or would it be a medium? Also, listen — if you're going to be a media, you've got to get something better than a photographer's vest and a $59.95 digicam.

8. Given a choice, at a riot, it's better to be a reporter than a photographer.
A reporter can put his notebook in his pocket and impersonate an innocent bystander. A photographer is stuck with a lot of equipment, and if the mob turns ugly, that can get you in trouble. If you're a reporter, keep track of the photographers with flash units; they tend to attract attention to themselves, as do TV cameramen with their lights. Keep a little distance. If you're a reporter with a cameraman, and things get ugly, and he asks you where you're going, tell him you have to check something out. I'm not saying that photographers are dumber than other people, but they are the folks who walk around with brilliant white lights in nighttime riots.

Follow these simple media rules, and you probably won't get hurt, and you'll probably get the story. Best of all, you'll also look like a pro.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

no big surprise

okay, anyone who knows me will quickly realize that this is simply another method of expressing deeply held sociopolitical opinions. You are likely a member of the raving angry left (except for mom, who's so far left, she's right). You will likely find this simply amusing, if you bother to watch it at all.

I love democracy. I love the 1st Amendment even more. But, god, I love Comedy Central. Um... the one on TV, not the one at 1600 Penn. Ave.

a little plug for Polinaut
We explore the universe of campaigns and politics. Join us in the search for intelligent life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Live-blogging the RNC

Tuesday's RNC Love-Fest

Generally, I like these guys @ City Pages (local weekly paper definitely not aimed at republicans). Not sure if you'd care about this, but if you didn't see/hear the RNC culture-war-love-fest last night, you might find this amusing. Did you hear that John McSame was a POW?

ah, well, gotta go buy textbooks and learn about epidemiology. or ethics. or risk analysis. or find my new lab.

No, really, come visit!

"Inviting as many as 20,000 guests to Minneapolis and St. Paul for the convention will have an incredible economic impact. People will stay in hotels. Go out to dinner. Spend money. Shop. And return home with wonderful stories to tell about Minneapolis-St. Paul."

Jeremy Hansen, spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak
September 28, 2006
After the Twin Cities were awarded the convention

hey, not the normal image of Minnesota, eh?
Yes, that would be tear gas outside of the Xcel Center, where the convention hoopla is going on.

and, yes, this sniper & his buddies & their tear gas are @ Mickey's Diner, which is a block or 2 away from the Xcel Center. At least they'll be able to get good food afterwards.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The little slaughterhouse who couldn't

Evil Incarnate.


in carnate

in carne

(carne means meat)

The U.S. Appeals Court ruled 2 to 1 that under a 1913 law, test kits that are used only after an animal is killed still constitute "diagnosis" and "treatment" — this for a disease that has no treatment and is 100% fatal — and therefore fall under the USDA's authority to regulate.


The little slaughterhouse who couldn't. They are prohibited by the USDA from testing 100% of their cows for mad cow disease.

Too bad.

Because then the folks up the road @ Hormel would need to do it, too.

Got mad cow?
Don't ask, don't tell.

This appears to be the government's approach to everything under the sun.

Beef processing
gay soldiers
pregnant teenage fundamentalist Christians
hurricane landfall
moral compass

Police State

Wonderful Police State of St. Paul


What a retard, part 1

Woods, who held up a sign that read "Tropic Thunder is insulting and hurtful to me and others," was eventually moved to tears by the whole experience. "I won't be quiet and let movies make fun of people," he told the manager of the movie theater and the arresting officers. "People who make money making fun of being retarded should be ashamed of themselves," he added.

So, where do we go from here? Are all of the good offensive words going to be gone?

If he won't let movies make fun of people, we'll just have to stop making comedies. Next time they have someone be the butt of a joke over having big ears, I guess the "I have big ears, and you're being mean to me" crowd will march on the Lagoon in Uptown. How about you just accept the fact that you're going to be offended occasionally.

Grow up. Be offended. Get over it.

What's with all of this happy "respect others' opinions" hypocrisy? doesn't that mean they get to respect my opinion that the use of the word 'retard' can be appropriate? Or is this a case of "I can call myself [insert offensive word here], but you can't"?

Why can't a word be used with two different meanings? Peter told me that some organization advocating the rights of the disabled was calling for a boycott of the movie. Of course, I asked why. "For using the R-word." I stared blankly at him, waiting.... Upon hearing the explanation, my immediate response was "what retard came up with that idea?" Did I mean to be offensive? Well, I suppose so.

Am I oppressive to the rights of the physically or mentally disabled? No. Are they mentally retarded? Yes. Is that a PC term anymore? Apparently not. Is it an accurate use of the English language? Yes. I remember the majority of the kids in high school calling Ronnie & Donnie retards. It was never meant "accurately"; it was meant as a derogatory term. Not necessarily of those two boys personally, but a derogatory opinion of those who are mentally limited below the norm (how's that for a 'retard' replacement?)

Maybe we can lobby to have "normal" removed from vernacular English. I'm offended, because I'm not normal, and everyone uses the word like it's a good thing to be normal. This is emotionally oppressing me into a false sense of self-worthlessness due to my inability to maintain some sort of arbitrary status quo implied by your use of 'normal'.

So I wrote this a week or so ago. Subsequent:
Action film parody "Tropic Thunder" held onto the top spot at the North American box office for a third straight week ...
I guess the rest of America is totally insensitive or perhaps oblivious to the cultural bomb of one word.