Stray Thoughts That Stuck in Andy's Brain in 2005

"Science is a search for basic truths about the Universe, a search which develops statements that appear to describe how the Universe works, but which are subject to correction, revision, adjustment, or even outright rejection, upon the presentation of better or conflicting evidence. Science is a discipline that yields frequently while attempting to closely approach that elusive goal called 'truth,' but knowing that any conclusion it can arrive at is merely the best one of the moment." -- James Randi's definition of science

Dang! I just missed it! Someday I'm hoping to find a copy of a little booklet distributed by Betty Crocker in 1963, called Baking's Believing: Authentic Magic Recipes. ("Perform feats of oven wizardry! Table Sorcery! Eating Enchantment! ") Well, a copy of this was apparently included in a collection of dozens of vintage cooking pamphlets & cookbooks from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, which were sold last week eBay. The 40-piece collection only got one bid and sold for just $6.99! I wish I'd noticed it before December 11th!

A year ago, I started taking Texas Hold 'em seriously, and I've been playing once or twice a week, keeping careful track of my overall winnings and losses. I've played 71 games this year (all in person; the only games I play online are Homeworlds and Martian Chess) and I've lost a grand total of $75.29. (I usually play either $1 or $5 games.) I'm gradually improving... my all-time low was back in September, when I was down $110.68. And the more I learn about Hold'em, the more I realize how much more there is for me to learn about playing Hold'em...

The Japanese version of Fluxx has been nominated for Best Japanese Game of 2005! "The texture was both waxy and filling-looseningly chewy. This this? ... was the sweetmeat that led Edmund to betray his siblings and doomed Aslan to death on a stone slab? Watching the movie last week, I cringed watching Edmund push piece after squidgy red piece into his drooling mouth, shuddering to think that children in theaters everywhere were bound to start yammering for the candy and that on Christmas morning or Hanukkah nights, their faces would crumple with disappointment as their teeth sank into the vile jelly they had thought they wanted." -- Liesl Schillinger, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Really Foul Candy: In pursuit of Turkish Delight" [I too was terribly disappointed by Turkish Delight after a decades-long wait to sample it, when I bought some in England in 1993.]

I was pleased to see the American Pavilion from Expo '67 featured this week on the Amazing Race. I've long been wondering what remained of the structure, after hearing it had been damaged by a fire; apparently the skin burned off, but the skeleton of the Biosphere is still standing, and it looked wonderful. I'm really looking forward to visiting Montreal someday...

I believe someday, future politicians will praise the leaders of the anti-prohibition movement, using words very much like those President Bush used to describe the legacy of Rosa Parks on December 1st. The War on Drugs is yet another institutionalized evil, and more and more of us are seeking to hold the cruelty and humiliation of the drug war up to the light. But sadly, like so many other Americans, the President continues to support this particular institutionalized evil. So who will be the Rosa Parks of the legalization movement, and what will be the public act of defiance that eventually leads to reform? "Five Mickey Mouses, three Tom and Jerries, six geese a-laying, ten fat old women, one Brazilian conjurer, four fugle horns, one Union Jack, seven little men in bowler hats, one Florence Nightingale, some admirals (a rear admiral, a front admiral, a red admiral and a vice admiral), two framed masterpieces painted by Van Dyke's mother-in-law, four elephants, two Chinese policemen, one photograph of Battersea Power Station, three typical British housewives, a rugby team (complete with umpire), the Norfolk Broads, three Widow Twankies, the Empire State Building, eleven performing seals, an abyssinian fire-eater, a chocolate wristwatch, a first aid kit (complete with fretso) and a jar of stick-anything adhesive glue." -- Contents of the Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit (which I remember very fondly but haven't seen in 30 years) as quoted in an online description of the film
"By refusing to give in, Rosa Parks showed that one candle can light the darkness. Like so many institutionalized evils, segregation ultimately depended on public accommodation. Like so many institutionalized evils, once the ugliness of these laws was held up to the light, they could not stand. Like so many institutionalized evils, these laws proved no match for the power of an awakened conscience -- and as a result, the cruelty and humiliation of the Jim Crow laws are now a thing of the past." -- President George W. Bush, Comment on the Signing of H.R. 4145, to Place Statue of Rosa Parks in U.S. Capitol

It's that time of year again, when people ask me what I want for Christmas, but since I'm actively packing towards moving right now, I'm less inclined to receive more stuff than I usually am. So here's an alternative gift suggestion I'd always be happy to receive: a donation in my name to any of the organizations listed on the Stoner Fluxx Foundation Donation webpage. (If you're paranoid about sending a check to a group with the word marijuana in their name, how about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition?) "When the logic is in conflict with the law, we change the law. We don't chuck our compassion. We don't throw away our pragmatism. In this country, what we usually do is we recognize this doesn't make sense any more and we make the change. Eighty years ago the edifice of law said a female, as compared to a male, didn't have enough intelligence to vote. Was the law correct? Of course not! Just in the same way you'd have a hard time looking into the eyes of an eighth-grade girl today and explaining why women couldn't do all the things that they readily do today, people in the future will look back and say, 'These people were putting away people who were sick and dying for using medicine that is effective, using upon their doctor's recommendation?' " -- Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the NORML, seen quoted in an article called "Drug War Victory"

Lessons we've learned from 3 movies we saw last week: 1.) Wal*Mart is destroying America, 2.) Not even magical powers can ease the angst of finding a partner for the junior prom, 3.) It's a bad idea to use brain-washing to change one's opinion of vegetables and 4.) Cheese can save your life!     "Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people. Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important." -- Wampanoag speaker at a 1970 ceremony marking the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival in Massachusetts

I love my hair. How many other bald men do you know who can honestly say that? But it's true. Bald as I am on top, I've grown a handsome ponytail which I am proud to sport. I started growing it long in the back almost 15 years ago, when the drought up on top was first becoming obvious. My hair hangs down now as far as my watch!

I love my watch. (I was reminded of this by seeing it in the close up photo of our snake included in the new Gazette article about us.) It's a Timex digital watch from the mid-eighties and true to the old slogan, it has taken quite a lickin' and yet kept right on tickin' (if, that is, a digital watch can truly be said to tick). I've been wearing this watch on a chain around my neck for 20 years, and it's been bumped and bashed thousands of times in as many different ways during that time. And although it's a bit worn and does have some minor cracks in the glass, it's still doing great and serving me well. Someday I suppose it will suffer some sort of catastrophic failure... hopefully before then I'll have lined up an identical replacement via eBay.

"President George W. Bush has suddenly shifted rhetoric on the war in Iraq. Until recently, the administration's line was basically, 'Everything we are saying and doing is right.' It was a line that held him in good stead, especially with his base, which admired his constancy above all else. Now, though, as his policies are failing and even his base has begun to abandon him, a new line is being trotted out: 'Yes, we were wrong about some things, but everybody else was wrong, too, so get over it.'" -- Fred Kaplan, "I Was Wrong, but So Were You"
  "As elected and consecrated bishops of the church, we repent of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the face of the United States Administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent. We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated. Although we value the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the military, we confess our betrayal of the scriptural and prophetic authority to warn the nations that true security lies not in weapons of war, but in enabling the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized to flourish as beloved daughters and sons of God. We confess our failure..." -- A Call to Repentance and Peace with Justice, signed by a majority of the bishops of the United Methodist Church (GW Bush's own denomination)

"Men from all sides, whom mere minutes ago had been trying to kill each other, now rose from the trenches, cut down the wires that separated them, and hugged each other, shook each others hands, shared food, drink, alcohol, cameradery. Three languages flowed from their tongues, and whether or not a man understood German or English or French didn't matter. The message was clear. The war is over. We are alive. Let us celebrate together and fight no more. 87 years have passed, and that message is nearly lost. In the US, where I am, we celebrate today as 'Veteran's Day', celebrating those that served in the military. The 'old name', of Armistice Day all but forgotten." -- Buddha Buck, "The War is Over, We Live, Let Us Celebrate and Fight No More", 10 November 2005, 11:20pm EST

"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he's supposed to be doing at that moment." -- Robert Benchley, quoted in the Montreal Gazette, re-quoted in The Week, 10/7/5

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." -- Mark Twain, quoted in the Marshall, Mo., Democrat-News, re-quoted in The Week, 10/14/5

"I've often thought that the chromosomal creators in this world are a little narrow-minded. Much of our society seems to be bent on literal children as a path to immortality, while practically ignoring creations in general. But why limit yourself to physical reality when the creation goal itself (becoming a god, gaining immortality, or leaving some of yourself behind) is really metaphysical? In my view, ideas and art and inventions go just as far as the physical graffiti of biological procreation -- sometimes even farther. Who knows whether or how much of Shakespeare's dregs of DNA are still around? Yet his poems and plays live on, and have had many child-poems through the inspiration of other creators." -- John Cooper, from an email conversation about game design between us and some guy named Kory, back in 1999, recently rediscovered in my logbook

"Colorado authorities promptly announced their intention to ignore the collective will of the state's largest city.  Because the ballot question creates only a city ordinance, Attorney General John Suthers said Denver police would still go after pot smokers by bringing charges under state law.  Mr.  Suthers labeled the vote 'unconstructive' and was backed up by Denver's mayor and city attorney. When did majority votes that limit the power of the government cease to count in this country?" -- Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial, on the occasion of Denver's vote in favor of marijuana legalization
Perhaps you've heard that the Rockettes (of Radio City Music Hall) have gone on strike, just as their huge Christmas Spectacular was ready to begin. Our friend Dawn designed a bunch of the sets for the production, so we're really hoping they can work things out so that the show can go on. But if they don't, Kristin & Alison & Petra will have the dubious distinction of being among the few who actually got to see the show this year, since they took a quick day trip to NYC on Tuesday to see a dress rehearsal performance (for which Dawn had comp tickets). They say it was an awesome show... let's hope everyone else who wants to see it will get the chance!

"Yoder admitted on January 18 [1968] that he had made the whole thing up because of his 'concern over illegal LSD use by children.' The 'distraught and upset' Commissioner Yoder was immediately suspended from his post as he checked himself into the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center, where he spent four weeks before being permanently removed from his position with the Welfare Department. (Although Dr. Norman Yoder is the name now mentioned whenever this story is discussed, the creation of this legend should be credited to the anonymous hoaxster[s] who had planted the 'blinded students' articles in California newspapers eight months earlier.) As usual, the unraveling of the legend received far less attention from the press than its sensational outbreak had produced, and it remained a widely believed drug horror story throughout the next decade." -- Snopes, "Blinded by the Light"

"Does it LOOK like I want a dollar?" -- an Old Man on the subway, reacting to the Dollar Dudes' offer of a free dollar

"I do think sooner or later marijuana prohibition will collapse under the weight of its own stupidity.  It doesn't work, just like it didn't work for alcohol." -- Bruce Mirken, of the Marijuana Policy Project

I believe the outcome of the 2004 election was altered by voting machine fraud. Some of the articles I've read make the case quite strongly and suggest that the evidence is out there to prove it. So why isn't anyone bringing this matter before the courts? Couldn't the results be overturned, and the rightful winner installed (even halfway through the term), if indeed voting machine fraud can be proven? At the very least, shouldn't the Democrats be doing something to prevent the Republican-built voting machines from stealing elections for many years to come?

"I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, 'Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth.' The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close." -- Paul Krugman, "Design for Confusion"

"The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history." -- Retired Lt. General William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency (seen quoted in Al Gore's speech, "The Threat to American Democracy")

I really like the new 2005 nickel, with the dramatic new portrait of Jefferson and the lovely coastal view on the back, commemorating the end of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1805. Those six words do a great job of evoking the mood that group must have felt: "Ocean in view! O! The Joy!"

"I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States -- our United States -- is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into. We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today. Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what?" -- Andy Rooney, CBS's "60 Minutes"

"From the darkness nearby comes the sound of shuffling feet. As you turn towards the sound, a nine-foot cyclops ambles into the light of your lamp. The cyclops is dressed in a three-piece suit of worsted wool, and is wearing a black silk top-hat and cowboy boots and is carrying an ebony walking-stick. It catches sight of you and stops, seeming frozen in its tracks, with its bloodshot eye bulging in amazement and its fang-filled jaw drooping with shock. After staring at you in incredulous disbelief for a few moments, it reaches into the pocket of its vest and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with a leafy green substance, and examines it carefully. 'It must be worth eighty pazools an ounce after all' mumbles the cyclops, who casts one final look at you, shudders, and staggers away out of sight." -- a random event that occurred very rarely in David Platt's 550-point expanded version of the original Colossal Cave text adventure game (seen quoted on wikipedia)

The Dutch are leading the way again! The Netherlands has effectively legalized group marriage by granting a civil union to a man and two women. Victor de Bruijn insists there's no jealousy between the three partners because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual. "I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult," he said, noting he is "100 percent heterosexual."

I think loyalty is over-rated. Leaders value loyalty in those under them, because it demands instant forgiveness of mistakes and flaws. But loyalty has too often let bad rulers stay in power, and has allowed unjust policies go unchallenged for too long. At some point, loyalty becomes a burden and must be discarded. How long does the colonist stay loyal to the King? At what point does the ancient Roman turn his back on Zeus to begin following Jesus? How far into the graveyard does the loyal German follow Hitler? And how many more people must die in Iraq before loyal Republicans turn against Bush?

I value bravery much more than loyalty. It takes bravery to challenge authority and to speak up with unwelcome opinions, all the more so when surrounded by staunch loyalty. Bravery is what it takes to speak out against those in power, even when they are wrong. Loyalty is what keeps the powerful in power, even when they are wrong.

"In everyday life many human problems stem from people's preoccupation with the past and the future, rather than the present. Disasters provide a temporary liberation from the worries, inhibitions, and anxieties associated with the past and the future because they force people to concentrate their full attention on immediate moment-to-moment, day-to-day needs. [This shift in awareness] speeds the process of decision-making [and] facilitates the acceptance of change." -- Charles Fritz, from his 1961 study, "Disasters and Mental Health: Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies," seen quoted in "Notes on bad weather and good government" by Rebecca Solnit, at

One way to sum up the differences between Canada and "Red" America: the 3 Ps vs. the 3 Gs. The 3 Gs are God, Guns, and [oppression of] Gays, while the 3 Ps are Peace, Pot, and [gay] Pride. I've long been hearing about the 3 Gs that motivate conservatives down here, but the 3 Ps have only just now stuck in my mind, thanks to a review I just read of this movie we're supposedly in (which finally debuted last week at a film festival in Montreal), called Escape To Canada. I can't wait to see it!

Ever since I was a kid, I've been particularly fascinated by disasters. (For details, see my entry on the Titanic in Mysteries of the Timeline.) I believe strongly in taking precautions and trying to be prepared for emergencies. I think that's why I'm so shocked and angered -- still -- by the way the government botched the handling of Katrina. As a disaster-watcher, I've long known that a major hurricane strike would be particularly devastating for below-sea-level New Orleans. It was as inevitable as the next major quake in California. As I watched the news on the eve of the storm, I listened to an expert predict exactly what we all then saw happen over the next few days, and I knew he was completely correct. So it seems to me they had plenty of warning, plenty of time to prepare. Why then were they caught with their pants totally down? And what will happen when the next disaster isn't so easily predicted?

"I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made 'at the top' and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to. I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war. But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you." -- Sharon Olds, in her open letter to Laura Bush, "No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame"

"New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA. Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside. Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars." -- Will Bunch, "Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?"

"They didn't listen to the Army Corps of Engineers when they insisted the levees be reinforced. They didn't listen to the countless experts who warned this exact disaster scenario would happen. They didn't listen to years of urgent pleading by Louisianans about the consequences of wetlands erosion in the region, which exposed New Orleans and surrounding parishes to ever-greater wind damage and flooding in a hurricane. They didn't listen when a disaster simulation just last year showed that hundreds of thousands of people would be trapped and have no way to evacuate New Orleans. They didn't listen to those of us who have long argued that our insane dependence on oil as our principle energy source, and our refusal to invest in more efficient engines, left us one big supply disruption away from skyrocketing gas prices that would ravage family pocketbooks, stall our economy, bankrupt airlines, and leave us even more dependent on foreign countries with deep pockets of petroleum. They didn't listen when Katrina approached the Gulf and every newspaper in America warned this could be 'The Big One' that Louisianans had long dreaded. They didn't even abandon their vacations." -- Senator John Kerry, speaking at Brown University, September 19, 2005

When I was a kid, and you missed (or couldn't see) a movie new in the theater, you had to wait "until they show it on TV." That was the worst, since of course that might never happen. Then came the video era, when we were waiting only "until I can rent the video." Now I realize I'm doing the same thing with premium-cable shows. For example, I'm really interested in this new series "Weeds" but I don't get Showtime, so I'm waiting until next year, when the whole first season will undoubtedly be available on DVD.

Here's a phrase I wish people would use more often: "I was wrong." For me, one of the most annoying things about President Bush, and many people like him, is his pointed unwillingness ever to admit a mistake. (His doing so last week regarding Katrina was a first!) Yet mistakes are one of the most important things in life: often, the only time we actually learn something is by making a mistake. So there should be no shame in saying, "Oops, I made a mistake before, but I've learned from it." And yet, ego or pride or sheer stupid stubbornness often keep people -- men usually -- from being willing to say those 3 simple words, the hearing of which makes all the difference to those who knew the truth all along. The only thing worse than being unwilling to admit a mistake is being unwilling to even imagine that what you earnestly believe is true might actually be completely false. (This mentality is summed up for me by the expression, "I may not be right, but I'm sure.") As a scientist, nothing is more frustrating to me than stubborn unwillingness to change one's mind about something, be it important or minor, even in the face of obvious proof to the contrary. I really can't deal with people like that.

"In the last ten years he [Marc Emery] has paid over $600,000 in taxes to the provincial and federal governments declaring on his income tax form "marijuana seed vendor". Health Canada has even sent him customers to buy seeds to grow medication and does not get bothered by the police. The community accepts him and he has the backing of NDP leader Jack Layton as well as many other politicians. Marc has made millions of dollars and yet he only owns the shirt on his back. The $3 million a year he is reported to make goes right back into his belief in freedom for the people. So why would our Canadian government consider extraditing a Canadian citizen that is not considered a criminal to a country where he could face a life prison or even the death sentence? Let's make our politicians and law enforcement understand we the people will not tolerate it. We want to be free and we don't want more prisons. The US drug war has proven itself to be a horrendous failure, as the budget increases each year so does the drug problem. The US has more prisoners per capita than any other country in the world, seven times more per capita than Canada. This is in large part due to the drug war, a staggering number of the prisoners are there for marijuana offences. Prohibition has created a huge high priced black market for a weed that could otherwise be grown anywhere by anyone for free. Ever since that ill-fated day in 1971, when Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, the US has built and filled jails at a criminally insane pace. Most marijuana smokers are law-abiding family orientated people and putting them in jail for smoking a harmless herb is wrong. " -- Paul Greer, "Freedom Fries, Drug Czar Lies"

"When President Bush stays on vacation and attends social functions for two days in the face of disaster before finally understanding that people are starving, crying out and dying, it is time for him to go. When FEMA officials cannot figure out that there are thousands stranded at the New Orleans convention center - where people died and were starving - and fussed ineffectively about the same problems in the Superdome, they should be fired, not praised, as the president praised FEMA Director Michael Brown in New Orleans last week. When Mr. Bush states publicly that 'nobody could anticipate a breach of the levee' while New Orleans journalists, Scientific American, National Geographic, academic researchers and Louisiana politicians had been doing precisely that for decades, right up through last year and even as Hurricane Katrina passed over, he should be laughed out of town as an impostor." -- Gordon Adams, "After Katrina Fiasco, Time For Bush To Go"

"According to Drudge, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently enjoyed a little Broadway entertainment. And Page Six reports that she's also working on her backhand with Monica Seles. So the Gulf Coast has gone all Mad Max, women are being raped in the Superdome, and Rice is enjoying a brief vacation in New York. We wish we were surprised. What does surprise us: Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we've confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo's Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice's timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, 'How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!' Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman. Angry Lady, whoever you are, we love you. You are a true American, and we'll go shoe shopping with you anytime." --, "Condi Rice Spends Salary on Shoes"

"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. When did this calamity happen? It hasn't-yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City." -- Joel K. Bourne, Jr. "Louisiana's Wetlands," National Geographic magazine, October 2004

"There's nothing wrong with mountain biking, but when you are president of the United States and you are engaged in a war where people are dying every day because of your decisions, mountain biking is not where your energies should go. Now is simply not a good time for the commander-in-chief to take a month-long vacation, bouncing from his bucolic Texas ranch to the forest trails of Idaho.  The president is evidently more concerned with recreation than reconciliation for the costly blunders of his administration. Bush seems to be heavily narcotized given his lackadaisical role in this volatile, often tragic, world.  His recent speech about the devastation of Katrina was almost glib, and there's got to be a chemical rationale for the 'What, me worry?' Alfred E.  Newman caricature presiding in the Oval Office." -- Paul Andersen, "Time For Your Pee Test, George"

"The foundation of the manfood pyramid is, needless to say, meat. A typical manfood meal has a meat course followed by another meat course. The 'mixed grill' is a shining example of manfood... and 'yes' is the invariant answer to the question of whether you want cheese on that. (Nachos drenched in cheese is a kind of transitional layer between the chip and cheese layers of the manfood pyramid -- or is that getting too technical?)" -- Joel Achenbach, "Kale? Not for This Male," The Washington Post Magazine, August 28, 2005, page 11

"My eating habits are terrible. I don't like fruits and vegetables. I kind of like meat. I like doughy things, fried things, and sugar things. That's what I like. And dips. I like things with dipping sauces. And glazed. Things that are glazed. Or have frosting, in some way, or are some sort of a layered, something layered with other things inside that are sugary. Also, I like butter. I like things that rise. Cakey, cupcakey, doughnutty... I like breaded stuff is good. I like breaded bread." -- Kathy Griffin, "My Life on the D-List"

"With American sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the Presidency of your country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President." -- LBJ's "Renunciation Speech," delivered on March 31, 1968

Start with Kathy Griffin's eating habits, replace the part about "kind of" liking meat with Joel Achenbach's theory of Manfood (minus the beans and beer), pour on some chocolate sauce, and you've got the perfect recipe for what Andy Looney likes to eat.

"I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life. So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so." -- George W. Bush, on his refusal to take time out from a 5-week vacation to see the grieving mother of a dead soldier camped out on the edge of his ranch (seen quoted in "Biking Toward Nowhere" by Maureen Dowd)

"I too suffer from migraines and daily chronic headaches and through this past year, and many many MANY different types of costly prescription medications, herbs, accupressure, acupuncture, chiropractor, massages, you name it I'm sure I tried it, weed still seems to be the only thing that instantly relieves most of my pain. I can't say enough how much I appreciate your devotion to this cause as there will be millions who will benefit from this." -- email from a reader named Elisa

"Every spare unit of emptiness is occupied by an artifact, a gimcrack, a gewgaw, a collage, a montage, a set of game pieces, a conversation starter. Hundreds of board games overflow the shelves in the game room. A model train makes a loop along a track mounted around the perimeter of the kitchen ceiling. A green parrot squawks out a greeting. But the stereotypical pack rat is a hoarder; the Looneys are collectors and arrangers. The place isn't untidy. It's small, it's crammed to the rafters with stuff, but every object appears to have its place and was obviously deposited in its place by design." -- Susan West, "The Looney Labs Experiment," Games Magazine October 2005, page 6

"Brother Frank has once more gone to Iraq. Bleh. This war is really depressing. For lots of people I'm sure it's just a minor annoyance, perhaps for some people it's a rush, but for some of us who opposed this war at the start--and some of us with friends and family over there right now--it's a huge, dark, open chasm. My brother Frank is wonderful, and I love him dearly. He chose his job and he is very good at it, and I wished him well when I hugged him goodbye. Now he's at the chasm's edge again. Bleh. I used to climb cliffs and ride motorcycles a lot. Hell, I even smoked cigarettes. I chose to do those activities and I understood the risks; life is like that, you choose your potions. The Iraq war is different potion: Concocted by a very small group of hack chefs out of the leftovers from an oily family feud gone awry, and force-fed to millions. Now they've spilled it all over the place and we're depending on nice people like my brother to clean it up." -- John Cooper, GinohnNews, August 17, 2005

"Future archaeologists trying to understand what the Shuttle was for are going to have a mess on their hands. Why was such a powerful rocket used only to reach very low orbits, where air resistance and debris would limit the useful lifetime of a satellite to a few years? Why was there both a big cargo bay and a big crew compartment? What kind of missions would require people to assist in deploying a large payload? Why was the Shuttle intentionally crippled so that it could not land on autopilot? Why go through all the trouble to give the Shuttle large wings if it has no jet engines and the glide characteristics of a brick? Why build such complex, adjustable main engines and then rely on the equivalent of two giant firecrackers to provide most of the takeoff thrust? Why use a glass thermal protection system, rather than a low-tech ablative shield? And having chosen such a fragile method of heat protection, why on earth mount the orbiter on the side of the rocket, where things will fall on it during launch? Taken on its own merits, the Shuttle gives the impression of a vehicle designed to be launched repeatedly to near-Earth orbit, tended by five to seven passengers with little concern for their personal safety, and requiring extravagant care and preparation before each flight, with an almost fetishistic emphasis on reuse. Clearly this primitive space plane must have been a sacred artifact, used in religious rituals to deliver sacrifice to a sky god." -- Maciej Ceglowski, "A Rocket To Nowhere"

"The majority of journalists in 1974 had a good excuse for producing hysterical and hackneyed crap: Drugs were a thousand leagues outside their comfort zone. Your average pressman had never met a heroin user, had never smoked marijuana, and mistakenly believed that some college kids on LSD had gone blind from looking at the sun. But today's top editors are all young enough -- or old enough, depending on how you look at it -- to have observed illicit drug use firsthand, and I'd wager that most have partaken of recreational drugs at some point in their lives. They know that police officers exaggerate drug menaces, that not every drug user turns into Charles Manson, and that not all drug use constitutes drug abuse. Such personal familiarity with drug lore and legend should have better prepared them to cover the subject. What's their excuse?" -- Jack Shafer, "Why Does Drug Reporting Suck? -- Still."
I'm glad the shuttle mission was a success, but I totally agree with those who say it is time to retire the fleet. Upgrades and overhauls not withstanding, our current spaceships are obsolete. They were designed a really long time ago, and according to some critics, it's always been a flawed system. The new designs I'm seeing make a lot more sense: put the cargo on a big dumb booster and send astronauts up in a craft designed to do only that. "One day, a bad bad day, when many soldiers lost lives in that distant senseless war, my middle son stood with barefeet on the cold tile floor of the kitchen, listening to NPR, and clenched his fists in frustration. 'Why don't they stop fighting? We're never going to join a Federation of Planets if this continues. Don't they know that? Why don't they want to help end starvation instead? I wish we lived in the future.'" -- Birdie Jaworski, "A Love Letter to Star Trek"
"Medical marijuana has nothing to do with 'potheads' wanting a good time.  It has to do with people in pain who need relief.  Someone very close to me decided to stop smoking marijuana, not for medical reasons, but for himself.  After about three weeks, he started to lose vision in his left eye. The doctor told him it was glaucoma and prescribed marijuana in pill form, but his condition only got worse.  He eventually started smoking again, and he now has 20/20 vision. So, Stuart Caesar, you mean to tell me that he just should have gone blind and moved on with his life? I don't think so.  If smoking marijuana is preventing someone's pain, then more power to them.  The pill form obviously is not strong enough.  I feel only pity for someone who has such a strong opinion on something they obviously know nothing about." -- Kimberly Montanya, "On Marijuana, This Caesar Has No Clothes"    Remember that radio personality, Paul Harvey? The line I always quote from him is "...and that's the rest of the story." He recently spewed out a pretty amazing rant, endorsing racism, genocide, and wartime aggression, all wrapped up in references to an interesting quote from Winston Churchill (which was in regard to the strength of the American people in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor): "We didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy." Anyway, I just learned the rest of Paul Harvey's story: in 1944 he stole an airplane and was discharged from the Army Air Corps on Section 8 charges! (You know, the crazy way out Klinger was always trying to get on M*A*S*H!)
  "Marijuana smoking -'even heavy longterm use'- does not cause cancer of the lung, upper airwaves, or esophagus, Donald Tashkin reported at this year's meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.  Coming from Tashkin, this conclusion had extra significance for the assembled drug-company and university-based scientists ( most of whom get funding from the U.S.  National Institute on Drug Abuse )... It is Tashkin's research that the Drug Czar's office cites in ads linking marijuana to lung cancer.  Tashkin himself has long believed in a causal relationship, despite a study in which Stephen Sidney examined the files of 64,000 Kaiser patients and found that marijuana users didn't develop lung cancer at a higher rate or die earlier than non-users.  Of five smaller studies on the question, only two -involving a total of about 300 patients- concluded that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer.  Tashkin decided to settle the question by conducting a large, prospectively designed, population-based, case-controlled study.  'Our major hypothesis,' he told the ICRS, 'was that heavy, longterm use of marijuana will increase the risk of lung and upper-airwaves cancers.'" -- Fred Gardner, "Study: Smoking Marijuana Does NOT Cause Lung Cancer"

"In June, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released the results of a yearlong study showing that driver distractions -- including such low-tech basics as eating, chatting with passengers, and fiddling with the radio -- account for nearly 80% of crashes." -- Michelle Cottle, "My Roving Barcalounger," an essay with the sub-heading "Our New Minivan Has So Many Extra Gizmos You Might Forget You're Driving," Time Magazine, August 1, 2005, page 72

"The Jedi order [are] the geekiest people in the universe: they have beards and ponytails, they dress in army blankets, they are expert fighter pilots, they build their own laser swords from scratch. And (as is made clear in the "Clone Wars" novels) the masses and the elites both claim to admire them, but actually fear and loathe them because they hate being dependent upon their powers.... I lap this stuff up along with millions, maybe billions, of others. Why? Because every single one of us is as dependent on science and technology - and, by extension, on the geeks who make it work - as a patient in intensive care. Yet we much prefer to think otherwise. Scientists and technologists have the same uneasy status in our society as the Jedi in the Galactic Republic." -- Neal Stephenson, "Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out"

"This game is the reason I had to buy a second 3DO. My mom got so hooked on this that when I moved out of their house after college, she made me leave my 3DO and Icebreaker! She still plays it to this day. I never got into it as much as she did, but it is a great game. I'd dare say in the same class as Return Fire as far as fun!" -- comments appended to the DigitalPress "Sleeper of the Week" review of Icebreaker

"Despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes."-- The Supreme Court's medical marijuana ruling of June 6, 2005

"Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I'll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today -- I think it is bad for us. I think it has done nothing but harm to the United States of America. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did." -- Molly Ivins, "Batten Down the Hatches"

Rest in Peace, Scotty! You were always my favorite character on the original series (fond though I may be of Mr. Spock). I'll never forget sitting right up front when you were the guest speaker at an Engineering Colloquim at Goddard, when Kristin and I were working there together in the early 90s. Perfect timing, too, leaving the Earth on Moon Day. You may be dead, Jim Doohan, but you'll live forever in our hearts.

"There's no difference between killing and making decisions by which you send others to kill. It's exactly the same thing. And maybe it's worse." -- Golda Meir, in a 1972 interview with Oriana Fallaci

I've grown to hate email, which is sad, because I used to love it. Back in the late 80s, it was the Best Thing Ever! But now, the spammers have ruined it for everyone. I feel like my favorite secret spot, that swimming hole in the valley, once the scene of many happy afternoons, has now become polluted, over-run by rude tourists, and plastered over with signs, billboards, and advertisements. Yuck.
  "Travel with several Three Musketeers bars and a few bags of honey-roasted cashews. If your hotel has shut down its room service for the night, or if room service is as bad as it often is, you will want those snacks. I might add that it's a rare hotel that has room service that tastes as good as a Three Musketeers bar. (When I was a child they were a nickel - sniff, sniff.) And if the airline food is disappointing - isn't it funny that I say 'if'? - you will be happy that you have that reliable Three Musketeers chocolaty goodness in your pocket. (No, I am not a spokesman for Three Musketeers. I just love them.) Sometimes a rush of chocolate can cover even the worst sins of an airplane." ­ Ben Stein, "In Seat 12C, Speak Kindly and Carry a Big Candy Bar"

"My life climaxes twice every year. Being professional game-manufacturers, Christmas is always very big for us. Games make great gifts, plus we create something cool each year to give away to our friends (that's how we got our business started). Six months later comes Origins, a huge gaming convention, where we hold a gathering called the Big Experiment. For 4 days we run official tournaments for all our games, awarding Olympic-style medallions to the winners. These 4 days are my favorites of the whole year. But now, Origins is over, and the next 6 month cycle is beginning." -- a "Life is Short" autobiography which I just sent to the Washington Post

In the distant future, say 20 years from now, the Looney Labs World Headquarters will be housed in a cluster of buildings shaped like giant Icehouse pieces. The compound of 4 or 5 house-sized pyramids with glass walls will be perched somewhere along the edge of the cliff that runs through the center of Hamilton, known as the Niagara Escarpment. The pyramids will have inner and outer chambers; the inner areas will be the office and living spaces for our business and our co-housing community. The outer rooms will serve as greenhouses for whatever Alison wants to grow, including the marijuana we hope to legally begin farming someday. At night, we'll be able to turn on colorful lamps that will make each pyramid glow with a different hue, making them beautifully visible from far away, and the view from the top room in the tallest of the pyramids will be truly spectacular. This is where I hope to be, when I'm 64. (I wonder how many Fluxx decks we'll have to sell to make that happen...)

"I was, in a word, unprepared for my exposure to the game as it's really played, by those who have been playing it a long time. (And those who designed it in the first place, who were among the tournament players.) I had thought the game was just a contest of tactical piece-placement with room for diplomacy; that's how I had played it with all my friends. Oh, no no no. It is actually all about diplomacy, carried out through piece placement. Every important move seemed to be a team effort, with opponents forming brief alliances (very brief, since games have a 10-minute timer) to disrupt other opponents' defensive formations and swap captured "prisoner" pieces, shuffling them around the table to foil attackers in ways that made my head spin. It was an entirely different game than the Icehouse I knew anything about." -- Jason McIntosh, describing his experiences with Icehouse at the 13th International Icehouse Tournament, in the section on Icehouse in his page about his favorite board and card games

"A White House whistle-blower has released documents showing that an administration official, Philip Cooney, has been doctoring U.S. government reports to weaken the evidence for global warming. [...examples...] Cooney isn't even a scientist. Before Bush hired him as his chief of environmental policy, Cooney led the American Petroleum Institute's campaign to cast doubt on global warming." -- The Week, June 24, 2005, page 17

"I cannot understand why it is so critically important to prevent sick Americans who receive relief from smoking marijuana from having this form of treatment, yet it's OK to sell a known carcinogen to smokers. The most recent news in 'Marlboro Country' is that the huge settlements levied against the tobacco companies have been reduced.  Drastically reduced.  First the government wanted to reduce the $280 billion in fines down to $130 billion. But last week on The News Hour, Matthew Myers of the Foundation for Tobacco Free Kids, told the story of an appalling lapse of ethical integrity during the latest tobacco trial, which has been going on for the past eight months. After hundreds of days of evidence presented by the government proving continued rule breaking by the tobacco companies, The Department of Justice ( which had stood firmly behind the expert testimony of its foremost advisor in this case, Dr.  Fiore ) did an abrupt about face at the 11th hour and reduced the suggested $130 billion fine to a mere $10 billion." -- Susan Hanley Lane, "Will The Real 'war On Drugs' Please Stand Up?"

"If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything, and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers...  In the early days of the republic it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana." -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in the dissenting view of their June 6th medical marijuana ruling

"The report estimates that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government. The report also estimates that marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco." -- Executive Summary of "Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States," a report signed by over 500 noted economists, including Milton Friedman

"Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force." -- Minutes of the Prime Minister's Meeting on Iraq, 23 July 2002 (aka the so-called "Downing Street Memo") as originally reported in the Times of London, May 1, 2005

"If you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming in on Sunday." -- Jeffrey Katzenberg, seen quoted in "The Dream Works Machine," Wired Magazine, June 2005

Last week's Fluxx 2.1 deck sold on eBay for a record $32.99! (Luckily, that wasn't my last one...)

"We know we're moving. We need space. We crave change. We seek adventures. But where shall we go? We can run our internet-based company from anywhere, making the possibilities endless. So people wonder why we're considering Canada. 'Protesting Bush?' they assume. 'Medical marijuana,' we reply. It provides unparalleled relief for my wife in her battle with severe migraine headaches... when we can get it for her, which we don't have the freedom to do here in the States. So, as we await the Supreme Court's ruling on Raich v. Ashcroft, I'm packing boxes, wondering where we will go..." -- Now-obsolete 100 word autobiography I submitted to the Washington Post's "Life is Short" feature

Viewed now as a whole, the 6-part Star Wars saga becomes the biography of one man, beginning as it does when that man was a boy and following his life story through until his death. Thus, he who was once merely the villain of the piece has now become its hero, the main character. (George currently dismisses all talk of ever making Episodes 7-9, but I think that's just to get people off his back for awhile... I expect in 10 or 20 years we'll finally see that final trilogy, which will again change the focus, making C-3PO the ultimate main character of the epic.)

"For more than four years -- steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them -- civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have better access to better information than officials do... After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue... Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored." -- Gary Wolf, "Question Authorities: Why It's Smart to Disobey Officials in Emergencies," Wired Magazine, June 2005

To me, the most shocking thing about the story of Schapelle Corby (an Austrailian woman convicted this week of smuggling marijuana into Bali, Indonesia) isn't the fact that she was sentenced to 20 years in jail. What really amazes me is that the prosecutors are planning to appeal the case, saying that 20 years isn't long enough, and that a life sentence would have been the "fair" punishment. (Meanwhile, Abu Bakar Bashir, the terrorist who masterminded the October 12, 2002 bombing in Bali, which killed 200 and injured 200 more, got only 2 years in jail.)

"18. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person." -- Dave Barry's list of 19 Things It Took Him 50 Years To Learn       "The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous - and that's the point. Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture. 'I love it!' Monderman says at last. 'Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road.' It's no surprise that the Dutch, a people renowned for social experimentation in practically every facet of life, have embraced new ideas in traffic management." -- Tom McNichol, Roads Gone Wild

Monorails are really cool, and they're a whole lot cheaper to build than subway tunnels. Once they were seen as the transportation of the Future; a monorail was featured at every World's Fair of the 1960s. So why haven't they caught on as a general tool of mass transit? A lot of the visionary ideas for the future that we dreamed of as kids have come true, but where are the monorails, beside at Vegas and Disneyworld? Unlike jet-packs and flying cars, monorails seem both cool and practical. Why aren't there more monorails?

"How could a board game that advocates sensibility before crime be more harmful than the thousands of video games, toy guns, and warfare games that have killing and war as their main theme?" -- Ivan Solomon, commenting on the decision to ban the Grow Op board game from Toy Fair 2005

"Washington's 'war on drugs' in Colombia is collapsing in chaos and corruption, and the drug producers are winning.  The so-called Plan Colombia, which has cost the US more than $3bn (UKP 1.6bn) in the past five years, is being abandoned, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced. Last year, the hugely expensive effort to poison coca bushes -- whose leaves are the source of cocaine -- by aerial spraying ended in failure.  More bushes were flourishing in January this year than in January 2004. Meanwhile, complaints have multiplied about the damage done by the chemical poisons to the health of humans, especially children, as well as to livestock, fish and the environment. Plan Colombia was designed to eradicate narcotics, control powerful left-wing guerrillas and strengthen the position of the US military in South America.  The scheme was eventually expected to cost $7.5bn." -- Hugh O'Shaughnessy, "America's Drug Plan Collapses In Chaos"

"Did you know that there now exists in the public domain a 'smoking gun' memo, which proves that everything the Bush administration said about the Iraq invasion was a lie? If you live in Britain you probably do, but if you live in the United States, chances are minuscule that you would be aware of this. Think about that for a second. Apart from 9/11, has there been a more important story in the last decade than that the president lied to the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, and then proceeded to plunge the country into an illegal war which has alienated the rest of the world, lit a fire under the war's victims and the Islamic world generally, turning them into enemy combatants, locked up virtually all American land forces in a war without end in sight, cost $300 billion and counting, taken over 1600 American lives on top of more than 15,000 gravely wounded, and killed perhaps 100,000 Iraqis?" -- David Michael Green, "Stop the Crime of the Century"

Last fall, I said I was feeling like a senior in college again. Now that it's spring, I'm feeling like a senior who's realizing he's going to need to stay on an extra year in order to graduate. (Which is exactly what I did, as it turns out... I was on the 5 year plan.) People keep asking us if we've moved yet, or how soon we will, but we're still many months away from being ready to actually sell the house and leave town. But we are working on it...

"A 250,000-square-foot supercenter with a 16-acre parking lot will produce 413,000 gallons of storm runoff for every inch of rain. Each year, such a lot would dump 240 pounds of nitrogen, 32 pounds of phosphorus, and 5 pounds of zinc into local watersheds while creating heat islands. Once Wal-Mart stifles its competition in a region, it consolidates its holdings by vacating many of its stores. To limit competitors in the future, the leases of these dark Wal-Marts prevent them from being used for retail. Other uses for these massive, windowless structures are limited. As of February 2004, Wal-Mart possesses 371 dead stores. Half of these buildings have been vacant for at least two years, and 21 percent have been vacant for more than 5 years. Over that time, the number of dead Wal-Marts has risen 38 percent. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart opens a new store every 48 hours." -- Stephanie Pool, "Wal-Mart: What A Bargain"

I have decided that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Why? Because that's the time when I'm least likely to encounter foods I dislike, such as vegetables. Traditional breakfast foods are almost never green.

"I don't think that scientists are prejudiced to begin with. Prejudice means pre-judging. They're post-judice. After examining the evidence they decide there's nothing to it. There's a big difference between prejudice and post-judice." -- Carl Sagan, in an interview on Nova

"In a Mirror, Darkly" might have been the best episode of any Star Trek series ever. I think the only one that could beat it was the DS-9 episode where they went back in time to "The Trouble with Tribbles," which reminds me once again that what I (and what I think legions of other Star Trek fans) really want is another series set in the same time period as the original one, with the classic look and feel of the original show's technology. Perhaps with "Enterprise" being canceled and the franchise looking for the next think to do, the Star Trek people will realize this as well. (I'm hoping they already have, and that they preserved, with this in mind, the beautiful recreations of the original sets which they built for IAMD.) My idea for such a series is to focus on another ship in Star Fleet, with a captain who is one of Kirk's rivals. I'd pick the USS Constitution. (The original Enterprise was described as a "Constitution-class starship" but we've never seen the NCC-1700 nor any of its crew.) They'd have their own adventures, but sometimes they'd go to the same places Kirk had recently visited, arriving perhaps just a few weeks later, and following up on some of those storylines. I'd also do it as a half-hour situation comedy. Now that would bring in new viewers, don't you think? And if UPN wouldn't pay for it, I'll bet the Sci-Fi channel or Comedy Central would (I wish I had the ear of "the right people"...).

I love using under-utilized currency, like the $2 bill, the Golden Dollar, and the 50 cent piece. They are always fun to spend. I love them all, but I think I like the JFK half dollar the most. When it comes to flipping a coin, no currently circulating US coin is better than JFK, and I like having at least one in my pocket at all times, just in case I'm ever accidentally shifted into an alternate universe where JFK wasn't assassinated. Think of what a neat artifact that coin would suddenly become! Of course, in such a universe, everyone would just assume it was a fake, like those dollar bills with Clinton or Bush's face you can get at novelty shops now, and anyway, I don't really believe time travel is possible. But hey, if you're playing Chrononauts and someone reverses the 1963 Linchpin, you can get that coin out and impress the other players with it! In fact, it might be a neat House Rule to say that if you have a JFK coin in your possession, you get to draw an extra card anytime his assassination is prevented.

"Think back to the 1950s, when courts and Northern legislators began to recognize the rights of black people, triggering angry and often violent reactions in the South. At the time, white Baptist preachers insisted that integration was sinful and cited biblical passages to back up their bigotry. Now we hear the same, Scripture-based attacks on gay marriage. But after they cite "traditional religious values," the forces of reaction can offer no rational reason for denying a whole group of Americans the right to wed the person they love. It may take years or even decades, but other states will eventually follow Connecticut in legalizing civil unions, and finally, gay marriage. The train of equal rights has left the station and isn't going to stop halfway." -- Robert Scheer, of The Nation, as quoted in The Week, May 6th, 2005

"Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of previous investment suggests that we will defend our drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible liability. Before long, the suburbs will fail us in practical terms. We made the ongoing development of housing subdivisions, highway strips, fried-food shacks and shopping malls the basis of our economy, and when we have to stop making more of those things, the bottom will fall out. The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are." -- James Howard Kunstler, "The Long Emergency"

"My problem is this - although I love *being* out, I hate *going* out. Being at home means pajamas and no shoes and doing exactly what I want when I want and not having to consider the group dynamic. It means a chance to curl up on the sofa and read, or taking a two-hour bubble bath or playing video games until my eyes are so blurred I can't make out simple shapes or colors any longer. It is my world retreat, my comfort zone. I happily make plans to go out - but when the time comes to actually *keep* them, I become terribly cranky. I find excuses to delay getting dressed ("Can't get out of pajamas yet; I haven't had coffee." "It's impossible for me to shower until I've checked and answered all my email.") and then, as the time to leave the cocoon encroaches ever nearer, I get childishly grumpy about it. "Why did I agree to go to this thing?...grumble mumble...should stop talking to other humans...always wanting to *do* stuff...why do I like having friends, again?"...etc. And mind you this is before something I'm looking *forward* to doing, something I know I will *enjoy* once I get there. If you want to see some Grade A dillydallying, catch me getting ready to go somewhere I absolutely don't want to be." -- Sarcasmo's Corner, "In or Out?"

"Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such 'evidence' -- no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it -- is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion." -- Carl Sagan, "The Dragon In My Garage"

For years I've been making chocolate angel food cakes, but this week I tried something new, and they turned out great: chocolate angel food CUPcakes! (OK, it might seem obvious to you, but I've never tried it...) You need to use extra large foil baking cups, and filling 'em is a bit tricky, but instead of one big cake that doesn't slice up very nicely, I got 20 lovely little cakes that are perfect to put on a tray and pass around at a party!

The Canadian government has approved the prescription sale of a natural marijuana extract called Sativex, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain. Sativex is basically liquid marijuana, being derived from whole plant extracts instead of being merely a synthetic version of one of marijuana's most active chemicals, like Marinol. Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, says "Sativex is to marijuana as a cup of coffee is to coffee beans," and notes that while this is obviously a big victory, "we could end up with a policy every bit as silly as telling coffee drinkers that they can buy a cappuccino, but they'll be arrested on sight if caught in possession of coffee beans." It sounds like Sativex might be perfect for treating Kristin's migraines... so must we really move to Canada in order to get a prescription for it? How much longer will our government insist cannabis has no medical value? What is the Supreme Court going to say?

It's kind of a shame that "Star Trek: Enterprise" is on the brink of cancellation... it was finally getting good. In this, the 4th season, they've stopped inventing new aliens we've never heard of but should have (like the stupid Xindi), and are instead finally fulfilling the promise that first excited long-time fans like me, namely exploring more deeply the mythos of the original concepts. In this year's episodes we've seen interesting new details of Vulcan history, Andorian culture, the Eugenics Wars, those green-skinned Orion slave girls, and more. We've seen the beginnings of the founding of the Federation, we've gotten an explanation for why the Klingons of Kirk's era lack "cranial ridges," and perhaps most exciting of all, this week's episode promises to be a Mirror, Mirror prequel! It's too bad they weren't this good until the 4th year... in contrast, the first season of the Sci-Fi channel's new version of Battlestar Galactica was outstanding!

According to a report on MS-NBC, a slightly used Prius can currently be sold for $1-3K more than the sticker price of a new one! This is because there's so much demand for the cool new hybrid-electric car that impatient buyers are willing to pay extra rather than wait for 6 months. (We find this particularly funny since Alison drove hers right off the lot after walking into a dealership on a Saturday night expecting just to put her name on a waiting list.)

I finally saw Oceans 12, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed by it. It's true that a short scene takes place in one of my favorite Amsterdam coffeeshops, De Dampkring... but the fact that the characters are legally smoking marijuana there isn't acknowledged at all. What was the point of depicting it if not to bring some attention to the Dutch coffeeshop scene? Pulp Fiction had more to say about the drug laws in Amsterdam than did this movie. I'm reminded of an Amsterdam travel guide Russell gave me which was completely sanitized of references to the coffeeshops. But like its predecessor, Oceans 12 did have great music.

I love rock formations. Last weekend we went for a hike on the Billy Goat Trail (part of the C&O canal parklands) and the huge outcroppings of rock along the way reminded me of ancient ruins. I think I dig rocks because I love ruins. Rocks formations are nature's ruins.

I love Celebrity Poker Showdown, in which various minor celebs play Texas Hold 'em poker, with their winnings going to charity. I like it better than the World Series of Poker, in which the world's best professional poker players battle it out for big money. But what I'd really like to see is something I call Nobody Poker Showdown, which would be a lot more like a regular game show than the existing spectator poker programs. In Nobody Poker Showdown, ordinary folks would play poker, tournament style, for a prize pool of just $1000 or so, plus some prizes from the sponsors. The action would be edited down to half an hour of the most interesting hands, and whoever wins would be the returning champ in the next day's show.

"Dear President Bush: It's time to be honest about the failure of the War on Drugs. Please seize this opportunity to speak truthfully about your own personal experience, and to call for an open, honest re-evaluation of our nation's punitive drug policies. End the double standard that forgives some people their youthful indiscretions while others are locked up and tarred for life. Stop the Justice Department from imprisoning nonviolent drug law offenders and especially the terminally ill who use marijuana for medical reasons. It is time to stop the hypocrisy and replace punitive drug laws with policies based on reason, compassion, and justice. Respectfully, < your name here >." -- text on a postcard the Drug Policy Alliance sent out to its members, for them to sign and mail to the White House [Please help us end the drug war! Put this text into your own letter and send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave 20500]

My dear mom has been in the hospital all this week. She's fighting a sodium deficiency, which has left her confused and disoriented and not at all herself (apparently, your brain shuts down when your sodium level gets too low). Needless to say, we've all been worrying about her quite a bit, particularly since the doctors aren't succeeding in raising her sodium levels and can't explain why not. Please send your prayers and positive vibes her way!

"Sure--I worry about dying alone (or Keith dying alone). The thing is, it really seems like a rotten and selfish thing to have kids just so they can take care of you when you are old. And anyway, there's no guarantee that the kids would be willing (or able) to do this. People don't always do what you expect them to do. And life doesn't always work out the way you think it will--so maybe our deaths will be different than I fear." -- Ellen Baker, in The Honeycakes Diaries entry for April 3, 2005, entitled "Why Keith and I Don't Have Children"

We've changed our minds yet again about the colors to include in the Volcano boxed set. Much as we've tried to get behind various wacky color combos, we can't shake the feeling that the standard RGBY set, plus orange pieces, is really the best looking and most desirable color scheme. But we're still figuring on making white the color of the caps...

According to Fortune magazine, approximately one third of the 1.2 billion (!) marshmallow "Peeps" sold each year are bought, not for eating, but for use in science experiments or arts & crafts projects.

As we tell people our plans for moving to Canada, we keep hearing about how much we would like Montreal. We haven't been there yet (except when I was a kid) but we're gonna check it out on our next trip up there. We've been more interested in the southernmost Canadian cities, thinking the others would be colder and farther away, but as Alvaro's sister pointed out to us, Montreal and Hamilton are basically the same distance from DC (Hamilton is more farther south but also farther west) and once it's cold and dark, who cares if it's a little bit more cold and dark? Plus, Montreal has a subway, which I think is way-cool, and there are World's Fair relics to explore! So nothing's really decided yet except that we're moving somewhere...

"America is built on people leaving places. We're a country of people who've left. Constitutionally, the pursuit of happiness is something we not only honor, but something we legally protect. This ain't Russia. I don't have to stay. This ain't Cuba. I can leave. In fact, find me one American who would make me stay and fight. They'd say no, go, do what's right for you. I found happiness here. I'll be in BC the rest of my life. I pray to God that I don't die somewhere else, that I'm not vacationing somewhere when I die, because that would bum me out. . . . Pursue your happiness. We were the first country to do it. And we live for that, the fact that people have personal rights. Go where you want. Do what you want. The fact that I chose Canada is almost a bigger embodiment of the American dream. . . . I still love America." -- American expat Lorraine, seen quoted in Matt Labash's article, "Welcome to Canada"

Clark Rodeffer (world's #1's Proton fan) sent us something really cool this week: a Protonic Rubik's Cube! That's right, it's a Rubik's Cube covered with Proton panels, thus turning the Cube into a 2-person game! Wow, way cool! I can't wait to try it!

I hereby declare, for all the world to know, that if I, Andrew James Looney, ever become severely brain damaged (i.e. if I'm ever in "a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery"), then I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means. In other words, if ever I become injured like Terry Schiavo, then yes, please, remove my feeding tube.

Wow, my game StarRunners came in dead last in the 3rd Ice Games Design Contest! Well! Gee, I didn't think it was that bad... it just goes to show you how good the other ten games were! And I'm not sad... how could I feel anything but excitement at all the great new games being invented for my pyramids? Anyway, congrats to David J. Bush for Hextris!

"How about a refreshing change of pace? Come to the Quiet Party.  No loud music, no yelling, no cell phones and one designated area where there is no talking AT ALL!! Maybe you'll even find love through silent dating! The Quiet Party is a totally unique experience.  Inside the silent room we provide paper & pencils.  Pass notes around - be mischievous, have a little fun, meet some new people! see ya there....shshshshshsh!!!!" -- The Quiet Party homepage

Many Americans are upset about Canada's decision not to participate in our construction of an Anti-Ballistic Missile system, but to this peace-lovin' hippie, it's just one more reason to like the idea of moving to Canada.

"Every conspiracy theory results in a confusing fight between the people making the accusations and the people insisting that they are innocent. I think another reason people avoid conspiracy theories is because when they convince themselves that there is no such thing as conspiracies, they don't have to worry about them. When a person refuses to believe in conspiracies, he can ignore the evidence on the grounds that it is paranoid nonsense. He doesn't have to bother reading books or watching videos, nor does he have to think about or discuss how to make a better nation. Refusing to consider conspiracies is taking the easy and irresponsible path in life." -- Eric Hufschmid, "Do You Believe in Conspiracies?"

Oops! I've been misusing the phrase "begs the question" for years! Oh well.

Wow, the trailer for the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie looks really quite awesome! I've been a fan since hearing the original BBC radio series on NPR when I was in high school, and this movie has been in production for so many years that it's hard to believe it will really be coming out in a couple of months. And while I've read that the storyline will be rather different from that of the original radio shows, I'm OK with that, because the new material was created by author Douglas Adams, who finished the final script not long before his death. (It's just a crying shame he won't get to see the finished product himself...)

"Only ruthless goal-setters survive." -- comment about what it really takes to be a successful entreprenuer, in a little article in this week's The Week

It's taken us a little over 3 years, but we've sold a million dollars worth of games! And we now have over 1000 registered rabbits!

"Dave's dad is one of the best kind of people, the kind who will lead many people to strange new worlds long after he's left this one. Thanks for your stories, Mr. Chalker." -- John Cooper, on the sad occasion of the passing of Jack L Chalker, father of our friend Dave [We extend our deepest condolences to the whole Chalker family...]     "In fact, what the medical community actually says is precisely the opposite of what [former deputy "drug czar" Andrea] Barthwell claims.  In its official policy statement on medical marijuana, the American Public Health Association stated, 'Marijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision .  .  .  greater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.' In a 1997 editorial, the New England Journal of Medicine -- widely regarded as the most prestigious medical journal in the world -- called the ban on medical use of marijuana 'misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane.' In a November 2003 letter to New York legislators, the American Academy of HIV Medicine put it this way: 'When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients.' And the Illinois Nurses Association, in a position paper issued last December, said, 'Cannabis [marijuana] is considered by the scientists directly involved with cannabinoid research to be one of the least toxic substances known that delivers a therapeutic response.  .  .  .  There is almost a half-century of research that supports the safety and efficacy of cannabis for conditions such as reducing nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, controlling spasticity, decreasing the suffering from the experience of chronic pain, and controlling seizures.'" -- Illinois State Representative Larry McKeon, "Lies Cloud Medical Marijuana Debate"

"I love the United States. I fought for it in Vietnam. It's a wrenching decision to think about leaving. But America is turning into a country very different from the one I grew up believing in." -- Christopher Key, quoted in an article called "Some Bush Foes Vote Yet Again, With Their Feet: Canada or Bust"

"Conceding that it's possible to jack up rationalizations and interpretations that spin these last obvious lies into inadvertent misstatements or something a little less criminal, go back to the top and look again at the inarguable distortion of the basic math of Social Security, which ain't much more complex than grade-school arithmetic. Bush absolutely, positively lied.  Repeatedly. Lying to Congress is an impeachable offense. It is also, very sadly, now a standard part of how this country is run." -- Bob Harris, "Bush Lies To Congress, 2005: A Sample of Obvious Lies"

"There is not one bit of justice, logic, scientific fact or moral clarity involved in the mechanism of the drug war. To destroy the drug war monster, requires nothing more than the truth and the courage to speak." -- Dean Becker, "Crackajuana Kills!"

"It has ever been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues." -- Abraham Lincoln, who was probably gay, according to researcher C.A. Tripp, who makes the case in a new book called The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln

If you think I'm being paranoid, worrying about things like global warming and bankrupted airlines, then I'd direct you to articles I read in the most recent issues of my newest favorite magazine, The Week, which piled up in the mail during our travels. One article described a "Dire Warning" issued by an international task force in Greenland, who are predicting that "the world will heat up to an irreversible tipping point in less that 10 years" unless greenhouse gas levels are somehow reduced. The other was a grim profile of the ailing airline industry, which answered the question "Do the old airlines have a future?" with "It'll be a struggle."

Having successfully converted from sugary soda to diet (I'm totally used to the funny taste now) I have begun refining my preferences. I'm developing a fondness for Diet Coke with Lime, since it's kind of like drinking a Sprite at the same time as a Coke.

While I opposed the war in Iraq, I will readily admit that this week's free elections there were a wonderful thing. In fact, I find myself feeling envious about the manner in which they cast their historic votes. I think our country should adopt the "permanent ink on the fingertip you vote with" method they used, which I see as having several advantages over our country's easily corruptible technological systems:

  1. No way for a hacker to change the votes with a computer
  2. No "hanging chads" in the event of a recount
  3. Easier to prevent multiple visits to the voting booth
  4. You have this lovely purple reminder of being part of a democracy on your hand for the next few days
  5. You can see who the non-voting slackers in the community are, and chide them for not voting.

"Twenty-one months into this war, the world's most powerful military is stymied, unable to halt the expanding Iraqis insurgency and the rising number of American dead. Those who planned this war knew as much about Iraq as those who planned the Vietnam War knew about Vietnam, which is why Iraq will end as Vietnam ended. In America's defeat. For those of us who fought in Vietnam and reflected on that disastrous war, we knew America could not win in Iraq. Many Americans came to that conclusion without having served in Vietnam. But not the Bush Administration and the Neocons, and not most Americans, who went along with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. For these Americans, the Vietnam War never happened and Iraq would be 'fast and easy.'" -- Stewart Nusbaumer, "The Jungle in the Desert: We Never Learned Why We Lost the Vietnam War, and Now We're Losing Another Asian War"

A band named themselves after their favorite Fluxx card: Final Card Random! Unfortunately for them, I decided it worked better making the first card random, and in Version 3.0 we changed it to First Play Random. Sorry guys!

"It is time to bring the exhaustive debate down to a simple language that even a child could understand. Hopefully, this book will foster the type of debate that is necessary to make change and end a ruthless and senseless war that has harmed our nation." -- from the FAQ page about a new children's book called It's Just a Plant, in response to the question, "Will this book help legalize marijuana?"

"Game system design is a kind of meta-game design. A game system designer designs the structure within which other game designers will create games. The 'rules' of the system are the physical qualities of the game system components; the 'play' that takes place is game design itself, resulting in sets of rules that make use of the game system. This kind of process requires that the game system designer give up a significant degree of control, as other player-designers decide how the game system will be used in actual games. But this loss of control is ultimately what is so satisfying about designing game systems: as a platform for player-driven creativity, a game system is a catalyst for truly transformative and emergent play." -- Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play, page 547

I am amazed to find myself listed in the index of a textbook published by MIT about Game Design. I am amazed that a textbook about Game Design even exists. Back when I actually used textbooks, the idea of Game Design, as a field of serious study or career planning, was quite unheard of. I myself stumbled into becoming a game designer, having planned instead on become a writer. Now I find myself being held up for example in a textbook as a success in a field even more obscure and unimaginable than I had previously figured myself out to be: I'm not just a Game Designer, I'm a Game System Designer! I didn't know I could say that about myself until I read about my own works in a textbook which created a separate category for Icehouse games in its definition of types of games. I find all these things truly amazing.

"I beseech you all to think about these women -- to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking. They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life 'out there' where each person will ultimately find herself, many with no skills and no preparation for living." -- Martha Stewart, in an open letter she wrote from prison during Christmas 2004

I have long been a believer in the future reality of marijuana legalization, but always it has been a theoretical someday sort of belief. I have also long been saying that the best chance for rapid change is in a Roe v. Wade-style landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, but even so, it's still always been a vague future hope. Usually they refuse to take cases that would force them to consider the issue. So now, as we wait for the ruling on the Raich v. Ashcroft case, it becomes possible to imagine that The Day When Everything Changes is actually drawing near, that it literally could happen any day now. Each day I wake up wondering, 'Will it happen today? Is this The Day?' For pot-smokers everywhere, it's like waiting for Christmas. Of course, what's different is we don't know exactly when it will happen, and what's worse, we're all worried that Santa Claus will have nothing for us but yet another lump of coal. But imagine the joy that will be felt by stoners everywhere if S.C. gives us all the gift of Freedom.

"#18.  All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates." -- "20 Amazing Facts About Voting in the USA"

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!'" -- original author unknown; seen as a .sig by Rash

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