11.2.12

No na bai Bissau

No na bai Bissau, no na bai gosi
No na bai Bissau, no na bai gosi
Ke ku na fasi ora ku chiga?
Ke ku na fasi ora ku chiga?
Na bai badja, na bai kanta
Na bai badja, na bai kanta
Si bu odja nha irmao fala ami'n manda mantenha
Si bu odja nha irmao fala ami'n manda mantenha
No na bai Bissau, no na bai gosi
No na bai Bissau, no na bai gosi

5.11.10

Haiku

Hunchback pet-a-stool
Poor dog with diarrhea
Can't even read a book

31.1.09

My niece

I feel empathy for my niece
Having come of age under Ronald Reagan
And she a generation later under George Bush, the Lesser
While Ronnie did not convert me to conservatism
W. has made my niece one of these viral liberals
Who, already overestimating their own righteousness
Do not take a step back to create one half of what could be common ground
But inch forward, cutting off all routes of escape
Reinforced by an almost Balkan sense of injustice
At what should have been
Had someone’s fumbling grandmother
Her face obscured by a broad brimmed hat
To fight an early November Floridian sun
Not mistakenly marked the ballot (what happens when a butterfly flaps its wings?)
Next to the image of Pat Buchanan
Or been unable to pierce the 92 pound card stock
I knew boys named Chad at school
But twenty years from now you are unlikely to find one under 30 years old
Unless it was a family name or given with some sense of irony
Now, my niece, like so many, are chuck full of hope
“Chuck full” one of those rare individual intensifiers we have in English
Hope that one rare individual can defy inertia
His only hope that the incompetence of George W. Bush
Warranted the reprisals and that this opposition
Will behave in the opposite manner

5.4.08

Pin Heads

My sister said it in her coy manner that told me, "you’re not going to like this", and then she waited for my reaction. She was dead on in her appraisal of how I would receive the envelope on the dining table. At first I thought it a cruel joke by the postman who may have been offended by our majestic snow people that welcomed the beginning of spring training.





But that was not the case. The envelope was clearly addressed to me down to the useless extra four digits of the zip code. Now, it is hard for me to imagine, back in the day when this world made sense through the slow erosion of our souls through a pointless clash between two systems, the Soviet Union sending tourist brochures to good, red-blooded Americans telling them how they could spend their summer lounging by the Volga and if interested join their system; not openly through the US mail at least. Could you see Emperor Zhou sending Wu such missives in the last throws of the Shang dynasty? Me neither. But there it was on the table, neatly addressed with the arrogance so typical of its sender as if I had actually asked for it.

The sleek, overly self-indulgent 61 page booklet inside was simply titled, "The Final Season". I thought I felt a lump in my throat, but it was just part of the sandwich I had for lunch in the prelude to vomiting. The main photo below the title was of Yankee Stadium today and above the title a small image of how it looked back before the renovations of the '70's ruined what little charm it had. At the top, "2008 Ticket Information & Fan Guide". At least I'm pretty sure that's how it was laid out since I'm working from memory and not willing to dig to the bottom of the cat litter to verify any of this.

The platitudes contained in the letter from COO Lon Trost were standard clich├ęs though I did have to re-read the sentence, "we have made certain that the new Yankee Stadium will feature the finest and most state-of-the art amenities- but not at tradition's cost." The first go through I thought it said, "at traditional cost", and I was stunned they would be that honest. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw I had it wrong. And while I'm on that sentence, "most state-of-the-art"? As compared to sort of state-of-the-art? The Yankees' marketing materials have gone down steadily since Costanza left.

Before lining the cat's toilet, I flipped through this unsolicited piece of propaganda. After the ticket "license" plan options ("you got a license for that seat, buddy? No? Let's go, I'm taking you in.) I came upon the W. B. Mason ad. Like the recently apprehended international arms dealer Viktor Bout who was known for selling weapons to both sides in a conflict, Mason proclaims its endless devotion to the great tradition of the Yankees, while simultaneously flogging office supplies to the members of Red Sox Nation to which it is so "committed". These shameless confidence corporations, Dunkin's no better, think they can spread eagle for the Yankees while laying down with the Sox at the same time and that irrational fans like myself aren't going to notice? The boycott begins! I know, easy for me to say since I don't drink coffee or eat doughnuts (note the spelling Dunkin) and I have a Staples around the corner, but in these sorts of struggles everyone has to make different levels of sacrifice and I'm sure you'll do your part.

As I ripped the pages to fill the bottom of the box, I was wondering how they got me? What made them think I was open to such offensive literature? And there it was. New for 2008, the Yankees have teamed up with Stubhub. Last year when we went on that section retreat and I bought the Yankees-Blue Jays tickets and miscounted how many people were going and only got 10 tickets instead of 11? That's right. Stubhub! And now my personnel details are there for that grubby Hank, like a bi-pedal Baron Harkonnen, to peruse at his leisure.

So as we move into this new season with the Red Sox about to receive their second set of rings in four years and the Yankees at 26 and counting, "27? 27? Bueller?..." I'll probably go to the Stadium for a section retreat or a Sox-Yanks match up, and when I do I look forward to verbally doing to the Yankees what the cat has been doing to their publication.

16.3.08

Three Types of Time

On a quiet, cloudy Sunday afternoon somewhere between the NFL Play-offs and the start of Baseball's regular season, one is left to contemplate. The timing of Hunter S. Thompson's suicide coincided with the end of the Football season, to which he was addicted. The way the Patriot's season ended, I actually had to ask myself why I spend an inordinate amount of time following "professional" sports. I changed the default channel on the cable from ESPN to CNN and stopped listening to sports radio for a week. But I have cash riding on the Celtics and the Rockets so I knew I was bound to tune in again, with or without the Sox, so why fight it?

I had considered becoming religious again if only to have some pre-planned activities on Sundays. I should probably go back and delete the "again" from that last sentence, but it stays as a hollow nod to all that time spent through First Communion before I realized I didn't like doughnuts. Even if there was an urge, I've read The End of Faith by Sam Harris and whether you agree with him or not, you are reminded of what a mixed bag the whole organized religion thing can be. I, like many, are happy to observe holidays but not holy days and be a devout follower of the American religion of consumerism.

The point at which consideration of time and consumption come together is commercial gambling. Before I went to a casino for the first time, I believed that there were two categories of time: human and cosmological. If it all works out for you, expect to have around 28,000 days on this planet or in a near Earth orbit. Those 77 years have the width of less than a human hair on a chart showing the eons the universe has been churning. I used to wonder what went before and what will come after. The last time that happened I was on a business trip and was trying to see how much of the in-room adult entertainment one could watch as a free preview before the system locked, turns out it's three minutes, and those precious three minutes made the eternity of existence pretty unimpressive.

Once I went to casino, I realized that there is a third category of time that falls somewhere in between days and eons, though tends more towards the eons. With windows blackened and oxygen pumped in through overhead vents, I was shocked to hear the announcement the casino would close in ten minutes. This casino is in Europe where they actually think it unfair to continue fleecing people well past their bedtime. Still it was three in the morning and I was sure it was 8:35 pm. Within the complex fold of time that takes place among the buzzing and dinging of slot machines and constant security video surveillance, is the patience of those machines.

Once called "one armed bandits" for the clunky lever on the side used to activate the consumption of your money, slot machines have grown up a lot in the last couple of decades along with video game technology. Certain spins result in bonus rounds activated on separate screens that turn into video shorts about how much of your money they are returning to you. You have options not to play one credit, no point in saying coin as most casinos are going metal-less, or three credits but 25 credits or more. Nickel machines quickly morph into $2.25 a go. What has not changed is the carnival like sounds each machine projects with 250w speakers turned to 11. With all the sights and sounds, they give the impression they are in a hurry, but watching someone sit for five or six hours at the same machine, or worse being the one sitting there, starts to impress upon the more rational side of your mind just how long it will be before the progressive jackpot comes spewing out, not in a load of coins, but in a neatly printed receipt. Again, more towards the eon end of the ledger.

But when it hits, it's as if that potentially real deity above smacked you on the back and said, "now that's the way!" God as compared to the con man at Trump's Taj Mahal who segued congratulations on a small win to a story about how he was tapped and just found out his son died and he needed cash to get back to New York City. But how to have the good of addictive gambling without the bad of losing all your money and time? That was my question too.

On the money issue, I have copyrighted the business plan for a chain of resorts called "Co-sinos", the first not for profit casino chain. Instead of paying out a miniscule portion of wagers, only operating costs and staff salaries would be deducted. Everything else would be returned to the consumer. While this all sounds good, I haven't moved ahead with developing the first property as there is a bit of a problem. While no one would lose much, like the sticky sweet rush of methadone is a poor substitute for heroin, no one would win much either. Since gambling is essentially inequitable taxation on the lower and middle classes who want to rise to the status of the rich and large cash prizes stimulate the chemical reward centers in our brains, no one in the focus group I ran stuck around for more than a couple of hours before hopping on the bus to Foxwoods. I may try it again, but with a little heavier subsidy on the price of the buffet.

The second idea, also laboriously documented with the US Office for Patents and Copyrights in Alexandria, VA, is "Casino Express" the first drive through casino chain. To ensure the success of this concept I combined it with a liquor store and plan to launch it only in States that allow vendors to provide a cup with ice when selling spirits. Instead of wasting all that time having your head filled with annoying sounds and flashing lights that follow you home and infest your sleep, you simply drive up, stump up the amount you planned to gamble and the games you tend to play. The helpful attendant keys in your wager and the computer runs a complex algorithm that determines how much you won or lost. A visit to Casino express would typically go like this.

Helpful Attendant: "Good evening, Mr. Smith" (Casino Express has a comp package like other casino, but it’s only good for free car washes), "What'll it be?"

Mr. Smith: "I'd like to play some Caribbean Stud and that Popeye machine. Let's go $300." Mr. Smith hands over cash, credit card, transferable bonds or any other M3 asset.

HA: "Very good. Let's see? Ouch! Not too lucky at the poker, though you did go up a little on Popeye before giving some of it back. You've got $23 left."

Mr. Smith: "Knew I should have played roulette. Just give me a pint of Wild Turkey, a liter of coke and a cup with ice."

HA: "Surely. And here's your change."

Mr. Smith: "That's for you. Goodnight."

Another happy customer who now has the rest of his evening to watch some movie on TBS he's seen seven times and get tanked. There is a second window at Casino Express before you leave for those who decide to try a little more. It's outfitted with a no fee ATM machine and a home equity officer.

I’m only left to wonder where Blog time fits into this all?

12.3.08

Al Qaeda Opinion Polling

What’s the worst thing in the world? It used to be nuclear holocaust. We built fall out shelters and, just before my time, practiced the quaint, though pointless "duck and cover" routine. I don't know about you, but I could watch those videos all day long and not get tired of them. We did a lot of idiotic things in order to feel more secure against something that only rational thought and diplomacy could avoid.

Today it's a terrorist attack. For this we have a "War on Terror". This term has confused me since it was first introduced as one typically fights a group or ideology. I used to watch a lot of the "The World at War" WWII series with my dad when I was a kid and I don't have any recollection of the stern announcer dubbed over the footage of scruffy, cigarette smoking GIs walking alongside Sherman tanks in the French countryside saying, "The "War on Formed Divisions" marched on toward victory". The Nazis were Fascists and the Allied Forces were determined to eliminate them so we could get on with the pointless nuclear winter musings.

But instead of a group or ideology we are waging a war on a method? Some have been more specific and referred to Jihadists or Islamic Fascists, but that wouldn't explain the initial push to eliminate the Baathist regime, referred to by Osama bin Laden as Communists, in Baghdad. And what about the Basques in Spain or those wacky ecoterrorist groups in the northwest? As you can see, it is all a bit confusing.

Whatever we call it, we can only hope this "War on Something" is slightly more successful than the "War on Drugs". Since the Nixon Administration, complete with a Tsar, a term loaded with meaning that would appear contrary to American values, we have been fighting that one and the result is more drugs in higher potencies at lower prices. Yippee! If this war goes like that one we'll all soon be dead and in our place decent Muslims will be persecuted by a small minority of radical non-thinkers. Interestingly Republicans say Democrats would do less to protect us from Islamic extremists. Think about it; Al Qaeda is against alternate lifestyles, reproductive choice, minority rights and just about everything else that distinguishes the Democratic platform from the Republican. From the extreme right of American politics you get a feeling that some of them would be comfortable under an Al Qaeda government. Sorry, that was a typical hyperbolic blog statement. Should anyone have been offended by that statement I apologize (Sweet! overreaching blog statement countered with recently pervasive non-apology apology! Yes!).

Like the "duck and cover" exercises of the past, we have our current practices akin to a child's security blanket. The most obvious is the Terror Alert System. I believe we are in Orange and have been for the past 20 months or so. Take a moment and think of how your life has changed in this bright hue of alertness? Was a moment too long? Perhaps you stocked up on your plastic sheeting and duct tape when we were still in magenta? If so, make sure the expiration date on both is still good. Comedian Ron White suggested a two stage system- 1. Get a (expletive) helmet. 2. Put the (expletive) helmet on. As logical as the current system and much more action oriented.

We’ve also had droves of smokers bumming lights outside airports since their lighters were confiscated when they boarded. Some 80% of all the items TSA confiscated were lighters, in some cases taking four or five lighters off a single passenger who, in his or her nicotine driven paranoia, stashed multiple incendiary devices in their carry-on hoping to sneak one through. As an attachment to the Intelligence Bill signed in December 2004, the Congress banned lighters in reaction to the Shoe Bomber incident in 2001. The law came into effect the following spring, almost four years after a bruised Richard Reid was taken into custody. In between the President signing the law and the application of the ban several months later, TSA officials informed passengers that they would soon not be able to take on the lighter they now had in their possession. I tried to make that sentence more coherent, but the substance made it impossible. How the "terrorists" missed that window I do not know. In mid-2007 the TSA Chief Kip Hawley admitted taking lighters was "security theater" and all but torch type lighters were supposedly allowed, though you still see all sort of lighters being confiscated to this day. Maybe not everyone got the memo.

Matches were never banned as it was not deemed cost effective. How that gelled with the Cheney 1% premise (if there is even a 1% chance of a terrorist event taking place that could have a significant impact we must address it as if it was sure to happen) is unclear. That the 1% premise turns risk management on its head and ensures more likely scenarios will not be properly addressed due to limited resources is actually a comforting thought since no advanced civilization could really be that stupid so there must be sound logic at its foundation and risk management is just made up business speak to keep consultants employed. Right?

We are assured all these measures have been successful, along with a few dents in our civil liberties, since there hasn't been another major terrorist attack since 9/11. Improved security coordination internally and externally along with us calling Al Qaeda out to the parking lot of Iraq and our half completed efforts in Afghanistan probably has done much more. It's difficult to know what Al Qaeda and their affiliated groups are thinking or planning since pollsters tend to shy away from beheadings. However, that hasn't stopped dozens of politicians from asserting with great certainty what has or hasn't emboldened or assisted the enemy.

The latest of these pronouncements came from Iowa Republican Steve King concerning the "optics" of an Obama victory and Al Qaeda's jubilant reaction. My first inclination is to take King into custody and waterboard him as he seems to have far too much knowledge of what Al Qaeda is thinking. Similar pronouncements were made about John Kerry once the fact he was a combat war hero was obscured. A video by bin Laden four days before the 2004 election helped ratchet up the fear and Bush's poll numbers. I wish we could have polled Al Qaeda then. I bet you they were pretty steamed that their video helped secure Bush's second term when they really wanted Kerry, who like Obama, would have made life easy for them. In the absence of being able to ask Al Qaeda directly, let's wait for King to confess and then we can make an informed decision about who to vote for.

8.3.08

Letting the Pitcher Decide.

Few moments were harder on Red Sox fans than 16 October 2003 around 11pm when Grady returned to the Sox dugout at Yankee Stadium without what he had gone to get; Pedro Martinez. In a foolish assault on a supposed curse that led to 85 years of futility, I had already made a few calls to friends and parents of friends, people who wouldn't take my calls a year later even when it was obvious the Sox would win because nothing seemed more obvious than game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. And within that obvious game, nothing seemed more obvious than to let the bullpen take over for Petey.

Instead Grady let the pitcher decide. He deferred to someone without perspective beyond 60' 6". He allowed someone who wanted to be a hero decide to be a goat. In '86 it was Buckner, out on the field well past his defensive usefulness in hopes of being there for the final out and a Sox first in 69 years. Instead of asking what Stapleton did with that championship ball, we watched Bill stumble behind first in search of it. Was it all Pedro's fault or even Buckner's? Of course not, but they are convenient. The managers charged with making decisions, who have more oversight of the larger picture and facts in hand were derelict when they deferred to their performers instead of deciding themselves. Even SportCenter Anchors know that.

So why is it that some pundits think we should defer to the men and women in the trenches to decide if we should continue a particular strategy? Why would put excessive weight on the opinions of people who are in the midst of the "fog of war", who measure themselves by never giving up? Why would you listen disproportionately to people who see a small snapshot of a larger political-military conflict to determine what to do next? Why should we be swayed by that?

And how does questioning the troops’ ability to determine if we should “soldier on” become a sign of non-support for those troops? The public can admire their will, determination and training, but Presidents can also make decisions that are in their best interest and the interests of the country, though perhaps contrary to what a non-scientific sample of GIs writes home. In fact, that's what Presidents are elected to do.

There was a lot of rhetoric about how those who questioned the war disheartened the troops and emboldened our enemies. I give our troops a little bit more credit and believe they can tolerate dissenting opinion within a democratic system. Many even claim to be fighting to protect just that. No, I don't think that debate disheartened or emboldened anyone. Now the lack of armored Humvees, platitudes about "dead-enders" and "turning the corner" in the face of a well organized and deadly insurgency and the lack of a coherent plan for victory? Those might have been a little discouraging. It was also contradictory to listen to soldiers about staying the course while ignoring their opinions about the basic equipment they required.

However, don't believe I'm all for the defeatists. I firmly believe the criticism after Hurricane Katrine and since has emboldened tropical depressions everywhere.