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Eric Cheung
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Eric Cheung's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
    9:36 am
    My endorsements for 2012
    Okay, I think these are my choices for Election Day. There's still a month and a half, so I'm malleable enough to change my mind if anyone has any compelling counter-arguments. I'd love to hear from you. Go to the link below to find your
    local races in Massachusetts. That link provides information only on the local offices, so I embellished the list by adding the presidential race and the ballot initiatives.

    2012 Boston.com Voter Guide
    MyBallot, created September 22, 2012
    US President
    Barack Obama (Dem), President (He has earned my vote through his accomplishments, his calm cool leadership, and his reasonable demeanor. Often he appears to be the only adult in Washington DC. I'm excited to see what can be accomplished in a second term. That said, going at least as far back 2008, he's echoed John F. Kennedy's call to action wherein the former president asked us to ask what we can do for our country. Barack Obama's accomplishments will not happen in a vacuum, but will require the American people's help and good faith).
    W. Mitt Romney (GOP), Governor/Executive (I think the biggest problem with Mitt Romney is not his ideology or his wealth, it's his dishonesty and cowardice. He has repeatedly been presented with situations that would allow him to demonstrate how he would act as president and he has failed every time. Whether it's condemning reprehensible remarks of his presumed surrogates, remaining opaque and evasive about his own policies, insulting to foreign leaders, condescending to those going through troubled times, and socially awkward and tone-deaf, Mr. Romney has utterly failed to comfort me in his abilities to lead our nation through tough times.)
    Jill Stein (Green), Physician (While I agree with Ms. Stein on some issues ideologically, as unfair as it is, third-party candidates have to be exemplary transformative politicians in order to justify a vote. They are necessarily leaders of a movement in the same way Barack Obama was in 2008. They need to be at least as strong in terms of organization and oratory as he was then.)
    Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Governor (See above.)
    I may be open in the future to voting third-party, or for a split-ticket like Americans Elect advocates.

    US Senator
    Scott P. Brown (GOP), US senator (Scott Brown is a likeable person and I could even see myself voting for him at some point, but not now and not in a tight Senate like this.)
    Elizabeth A. Warren (Dem), Law professor

    US Representative - Seventh District
    Michael E. Capuano (Dem), Member of Congress

    Governor's Councilor - Third District
    The Massachusetts Governor's Council, also known as the Executive Council, is composed of eight individuals elected from districts every two years, and the lieutenant governor who serves ex officio. The council meets weekly to vote on gubernatorial appointments such as judges, clerk-magistrates, public administrators, notaries, justices of the peace, and members of various boards. It also reviews warrants for the state treasury, pardons, and commutations.
    Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney (Dem), Governor's councilor (Made a compelling, passionate case, but not as strong as Charles N. Shapiro's case)
    Harry S. Margolis (Dem), Attorney (Not very passionate or specific)
    Charles N. Shapiro (Dem), Local business owner / former teacher

    State Senator - Second Suffolk & Middlesex District
    Steven W. Aylward (GOP), Manager, information systems
    William N. Brownsberger (Dem), State senator (Reading the position statements was good. I like that he'll consider a congestion tax to alleviate MBTA debt)

    State Representative - Eighteenth Suffolk District
    Michael J. Moran (Dem)

    Clerk of Supreme Judicial Court - Suffolk County
    Maura Doyle (Dem)

    Clerk of Superior Court (Civil Business) - Suffolk County
    Michael L. Dash (Dem), Lawyer (there wasn't any information on Mr. Donovan, even a google search turned up little. It suggests a lack of seriousness in the campaign)
    Michael Joseph Donovan (Dem)

    Clerk of Superior Court (Criminal Business) - Suffolk County
    This was a tough one, but there was a news article link on the guide that suggested to me that Hennigan would be better.
    Robert J. Dello Russo Sr. (Dem), Former assistant clerk of court
    Maura A. Hennigan (Dem), Clerk of Suffolk Superior Court, Criminal Division

    Register of Deeds - Suffolk District
    Mickey Roache (Dem), Register of Deeds - Suffolk District

    Register of Probate - Suffolk County
    Patricia Patty Campatelli (Dem), Statewide program supervisor, Office of Community Corrections
    Salvatore LaMattina (Dem), Boston city councilor (Was specific and built a case for his election)

    Question 1: Availability of Motor Vehicle Repair Information
    YES (We're moving toward a more transparent society, and that shift is for the better. Car information should be provided to car owners and repair shops to empower them to make their own decisions about where to get their cars repaired and how to repair them.)

    Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life
    YES (As with living wills, it's important for people to make their own decisions regarding the quality of life. I've read some of the details of the law and while I know that the six-month provision is fairly arbitrary, as such diagnoses aren't very reliable, I think there's plenty of wiggle room in the law for this to be implemented very effectively, and I expect it to be so.)

    Question 3: Medical Use of Marijuana
    YES (Having lived in California I lived in a world proposed by this initiative. It was not some chaotic hellhole. I advocate this initiative not out of some endorsement for a recreational marijuana use lifestyle, but because of the benefits it may provide for those in pain. I also advocate it to make its distribution safer, and the product more pure than it would be out on the street.)

    For coverage of other races and candidates, visit:
    http://c3.thevoterguide.org/v/boston12/
    Monday, February 13th, 2012
    8:44 pm
    MBTA Fare Proposal
    Okay, I went to the BPL for the MBTA meeting on the fare proposal. It was rowdier than the JP one, so much so the mayor had to keep the chanters in line. I spoke 25th and proposed a couple of ideas. Because my speech had actual content in it a BU student interviewed me after.  So this is what I wrote to the MBTA:

    Subject Heading: Here are a couple of ideas

    To whom it may concern:

    Tonight I (Eric Cheung) spoke at the meeting at the Boston Public Library.  I wanted to take what I learned from the meeting at Jamaica Plain and try to extrapolate solutions for the deficit problem.  I learned that a gas tax would be considered an unfair consumer tax to those who don't bother with the Greater Boston area.  I learned that the disabled, senior citizens, students, and those in low-income housing are disproportionately affected by these changes.  And I grew frustrated that the bulk of this debt is derived from the cost overruns of the Big Dig.  So I proposed the following, with major input from my girlfriend Mary Beth LaRivee, as a way to target revenue-increases in a more egalitarian way that doesn't burden people who don't travel to Boston, nor crippled those who can't afford such drastic changes to their daily lives:

    The MBTA and this debt should be audited to strengthen enforcement and streamline current policies.  The people responsible for the cost overruns of the Big Dig will never truly be held accountable, but they should have funded an expansion of services with fines against them.

    Or maybe target those that would benefit without placing the fiscal burden of that benefit on those that would be crippled by the MBTA's current proposals.  Tax businesses that reside in the MBTA service area at tiered percentages based on annual profits.  Their help funding the MBTA would actually increase their business by building on record ridership. 

    Another option could be a London-style congestion tax on cars visiting the city to encourage the use of public transportation over driving on Interstate 93 and the labyrinthine tunnels and lanes that make up the Big Dig.

    Maybe these ideas won't work in full, but maybe they can get the conversation started.  Maybe they can inspire different ideas, while articulating the need to avoid targeting the weakest.  I hope there's something here you can use.

    Before I went to the meeting in Jamaica Plain two weeks ago I was skeptical that a solution without service cuts and fare hikes was possible.  Now I don't see how these proposals alone could work.


    Thank you,



    Eric Cheung & Mary Beth LaRivee

    Sunday, July 17th, 2011
    11:39 pm
    I'm pretty happy
    * I work at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

    * I volunteer at WGBH as a tour guide and occasional on-air reader.

    * I volunteer at Learning Ally, recording textbooks for the blind.

    * I write scripts and voice act as a regular on an online animated fan series called Star Trek: Mariner.

    * I've had lots of wonderful adventures in stand-up, and doing extra work in movies, and traveling, and auditioning for a series regular role on a network TV show.

    But most of all I get to spend time with people I love in my family and with MB and her family..
    Sunday, June 12th, 2011
    6:33 pm
    Star Trek: Mariner - Shakedown
    I haven't posted this here since I don't use LJ very much any more, but a few weeks ago a fan-made animated Star Trek series premiered.  I play regular character Lieutenant Commander Sirol, Chief of Security.  He's the Andorian.  I also wrote a lot of the dialogue for this episode, especially the scene at the beginning and the scene where Gage pulls Admiral Bryant into the ready room.

    You can watch it here.

    Enjoy and share it with whomever.
    Saturday, November 6th, 2010
    1:50 pm
    "The only place where we don't [problem solve] is here or on cable TV"
    This article combined with this one suggests insanity on both sides. The left can't really expect to get better results by ousting Obama, if anything they'd only net a GOP victory in 2012, and further stubborn gridlock. The Republicans must also realize that being so transparent about their obstructionist and cynically political agenda won't win them any friends from independents and the center.

    Whether you agree with President Obama's stance on the issues or policies he's made, for the first time in my lifetime certainly, we have a president who is not only pretty clean, he's sane, adult, and has maturely courted ideas and suggestions from all sides as a constant matter of course over the past two years.

    That alone should encourage Congress, on both sides, not to set their eyes on some other candidate in 2012, but to play the hand they've been dealt and open meaningful negotiations towards a fiscally responsible way to streamline government and make it, and the people, work for each other.
    Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
    11:22 pm
    Three books about one thing
    Since moving to Brighton in September, my commute has changed drastically.  I live on the B-Line and work in Downtown Crossing.  Therefore,  my ride into the city is one long straight shot.  This has also drastically changed my reading habits.  Before I would take a bus to Davis and grab a Metro before catching the train.  Riding a speedy Red Line train to Park Street, I only had time for the quick paper.  But now, I have forty minutes on one vehicle.  So now, having moved and placed my books on a shelf, I can tilt one back, stuff it in my bag and ride through pages on my ride to work.

    Having started right away, I've read three books so far, and am reading a forth--when I'm not reading news on my phone.  They were: Chinese in America: A Narrative History, Eating Animals, Obamanomics: How Bottom-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics, and currently Future Shock.

    What struck me with all three of these books (more on the fourth later), was that, despite their ostensibly disparate topics, they're all books about capitalism and its relationship with cynicism.  By this I mean not just the cynicism of the corporations or governments in power, but the cynicism of the presumed powerless.  They're are so presumed, again not just by the powerful, but by much more damagingly, by themselves.  These books attempt to rectify that by shedding light on they ways the public can affect social change in large and small ways.  These books mean to empower the reader.

    Let me get more specific.

    Specificity...Collapse )
    Monday, November 1st, 2010
    11:09 pm
    My third trip to Washington DC

        “I can’t control what people think this was.  I can only tell you my intentions.   This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies.

        But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.  The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.  

        If we amplify everything we hear nothing.  There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned.  You must have the resume.  Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more.  The press is our immune system.  If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.  

        And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good.  Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.  It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball.  

        So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster?  If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day!  

        The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.  But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.  Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.  Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do itimpossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.  

        Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are.  These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high.  He’s going to work.  There’s another cara woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now.  There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah.  There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah.  Another car’s a Latino carpenter.  Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman.  Atheist obstetrician.  Mormon Jay-Z fan.  But this is us.  Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.  

        And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river.  Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences.  And they do it.  Concession by conscession.  You go.  Then I’ll go.  You go. Then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?  Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.  

        And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.  

        Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the  of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.  

        If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  Your presence was what I wanted.  

        Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you."

    Click here to read about my weekend hearing these words.Collapse )Click here if you want to read how I heard these words.Collapse )

    Thursday, July 8th, 2010
    8:56 pm
    Sunday, April 25th, 2010
    9:37 pm
    Canederli or Klöße (Guest Blogger: Eric Cheung)
    Cross-posted to Mary Beth's Feast

    Mary Beth and I had bought some Trader Joe's Organic Soft Multi Grain Bread last week and both loaves crumbled like cheap stucco.  We couldn't use the bread for toast, we couldn't use the bread for sandwiches, so I suggested using it for a recipe for Italian bread ball soup my mom taught me called Canederli.

    I'm a new vegetarian (since January 7th 2010, so it doesn't count as a resolution), so I had extra incentive in attempting to adapt it to a meat-free soup.  The recipe calls for kielbasa and bacon, so I knew that if I didn't find some kind of replacement for the chunky saltiness then it would definitely be missing something.  Inspiration came from another item in our trip to Trader Joe's: smoked Gouda.

    As I got to work Mary Beth came in and suggested that these could work as meatless balls for spaghetti, so I took half-a-dozen of them and fried, then baked them to be dipped in some sauce as a snack/experiment.

    My recipe for both is as follows (measured for 1 1/2 loaves):

    1 1/2 (36 oz.) loaves of old dry hard bread (cut into cubes)
    1 heaping cup of Romano cheese
    1/4 cup of cilantro
    6 large eggs
    1 cup of milk
    1 cup of smoked Gouda (also cubed)
    1/2 cup diced onion
    olive oil
    4 quarts of broth
    flour and bread crumbs (as needed)

    Sauté the diced onion in a small sauce pan, coated on the inside with olive oil, and set aside to cool (though not in the ingredients list, I often sauté my onions with roasted red pepper flakes, garlic, curry powder and/or ginger).  Pour bread, Romano Cheese, cilantro, smoked Gouda, eggs, and milk into a very large dry bowl.  Knead ingredients, along with cooled onions until evenly mixed.

    Pour the broth into a large pot and set it to boil, staying mindful of it as you do the following:

    Liberally flour a cutting board, or other dry surface, and dust the excess from your hands into the bowl.  Roll the mix into large meatball sized balls and roll the balls in the flour.  For each ball roll them gently from hand to hand until they have a nice, thin, and even coating of flour.  Set these balls aside on the on-deck circle next to the pot of boiling broth.  As the broth boils gently place each ball into the pot.  It will sink to the bottom.  Take as much time as needed; you'll keep the soup boiling for thirty minutes after the bread balls rise to the top of the broth.

    For meatless balls: make the bread balls smaller, fry them in olive oil turning them frequently, and, if necessary, bake them at 300° for twenty minutes.
    Thursday, January 28th, 2010
    6:15 pm
    A few observations
    1. For the past several weeks I've been sick.  It's the same thing about once every winter (especially this dry one): a sore throat for a few days then a few weeks of phlegm.  I'm on the waning stage of phlegm, but I think there's something going on that I don't recall happening before.  In order to rid my throat of the phlegm I've been trying to cough, but I keep just missing the target phlegm and it's just air that ends up hurting the passageway.  In effect it's like trying to blow out candles on a birthday cake when the cake is sitting on a chair on the other side of the table.

    2. It's been exactly three weeks since the last time I've eaten meat.  For years I've seen others example and wanted to become a vegetarian.  I don't know if this will take, but I realize that most of my diet is basically vegetarian anyway.  The only exception is really when I eat out.  So it's more slices of cheese pizza for me.

    3. Having watched a few episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon I've realized that the show would be slightly more enjoyable if it were on Nickelodeon in the early 90's, preferably as part of the SNICK lineup.

    4. According to the Phoenix of the three movies profiled, the Disney movie is actually the least racist.  Given their description of The Blind Side, that's less surprising than I thought it would be.

    5. I was encouraged by last night's State of the Union address and Republican response.  Both in the number of bipartisan ovations and the content of the response, it's clear to me that both sides of the aisle have more in common than not, in a good way.  I think if they realize it then they can maybe actually get things done.
    Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
    10:49 am
    What needs to be said

    Below is the closing spoken remarks from Conan O'Brien regarding his time with NBC.  I added emphasis on the words in bold at the end.  I think it was perfect.  It's stuff I think about all the time.  It is just a TV show.  I hate it when good people get screwed, but he's saying the same thing John Lennon said in Beautiful Boy--words I live by: "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."

    "Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC.  To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at Saturday Night Live, The Late Night Show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked with NBC for over twenty years.  Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways.  But this company has been my home for most of my adult life.  I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible. 

    Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun.

    And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

    To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.

    Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.  As proof, let’s make an amazing thing happen right now.  Here to close out our show, are a few good friends, led by Mr. Will Ferrell…"

    Friday, January 22nd, 2010
    7:41 am
    The Importance of Methodology
    Last year, I came across this blog entry from Roger Ebert.  MB is a fan of his writing and, I too, find him to be my favorite, and maybe the best critic today.  It's regarding the film Creation about the marriage between Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood featuring excellent character actor Toby Jones in a supporting role as Thomas Henry Huxley, one of Darwin's champions.

    The Los Angeles Natural History Museum has a Darwin exhibit that's a tie-in to the movie.  It stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin (which is especially appropriate because Bettany played the naturalist doctor who wanted to catch insects and birds on the Galapagos in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).  The clip from the opening of the exhibit, along with the trailer is here.

    I recognized the Natural History Museum from the clip because the last time I was there was to see a rock show there.  On Friday January 9th, I went to something called First Fridays.  It's something that the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History does the first Friday of every month for the first six months of the year.  It combines scientific lectures with indie rock bands (that month were the bands Plants and Animals, from Quebec, and local favorites The Little Ones).  Since it's near the USC campus, and I used to work at a Santa Monica annex of UCLA, it was one hell of a long way from my job.  So I couldn't make it for the lecture, but I was there to see the speaker signing her book Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent: The Importance of Everything and Other Lessons from Darwin's Lost Notebooks by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

    As I had my copy signed, Haupt cheerily offered me a sticker--a portrait of Darwin with his fighting height and weight (5'11" and 163lbs., almost exactly my own statistics), and I attached the sticker into the new book next to Haupt's:

    To Eric--

    Happy Darwin's 200th Birthday.

    Lyanda Lynn Haupt

    The book is really a piece of literary criticism through the eyes of a fellow naturalist.  An ornithologist, she focused on Darwin's relationship with birds, opening many of her chapters with quotes from his Ornithological Notes.  Though the scientific material is challenging to the layperson, it's completely unpretentious, passionate, and a valentine to Darwin's philosophy.  First she set up the background of her subject before swooning over his sensitivity, his charming quirkiness, and genuine curiousity.

    He came from a rich family; his father was a wealthy doctor and financier, and sent young Charles to the University of Edinburgh (well-known as the graduate school of the brilliant MB), and he went to study under the tutelage of botanist John Stevens Henslow so much he became known as "The Man Who Walks with Henslow."  He would prepare for his journey on the HMS Beagle intending to study not only the nature around him, but how to study the nature around him.  He was a man of gentle awe, even innocence as he came of age on his trip around the world.

    Haupt reviews with intimate detail excerpts from his Ornithological Notes, intent on examining the development of Charles Darwin from a mere boy to a man in the time on the ship and afterwords, as he developed his theories and honed them for publication.  Her relationship to the subject matter recalls a Sarah Vowell-esque mix of memoir, research diary, and editorializing, perhaps in a less overtly comic writing style.  There is an optimism in her voice that demonstrates what a kindred spirit she's found in Darwin.

    When reading the book I found myself comparing Darwin to Jane Goodall.  Both scientists came of age as naturalists and people during their most famous endeavors.  As a result, both scientists reinvented their professions through lack of knowledge of proper procedure.  That's a risky tactic that only works for geniuses.

    It worked for Orson Welles who taught himself filmmaking in the director's chair of Citizen Kane, and it worked for Darwin and Goodall.  It was their innocence, curiousity, and youth that enabled them to empathize with the animals they encountered.  The terminology Darwin used was an attempt at proper taxonomy, but he also used language as a way to personalize his subjects.  He saw through their eyes in a time when that simply wasn't done.  It was a unique concept even more than a century later when Goodall would name her chimpanzee subjects.  As with most legendary breakthroughs in history, Charles Darwin was not the first person to come up with the idea of evolution.  But it was the importance of his methodology that transformed him and Goodall from simply scientists with new knowledge to share in their given fields to the true innovators and geniuses we remember today.  Without that philosophy Darwin would not have been able to theorize just why species evolve, and without it Goodall would have dismissed the idea that chimpanzees could have so much in common with humans such as war, compassion, and tool-making.

    And just as Haupt's book was a character study of Charles Darwin, so too will this film be one.  Based on what I've read so far Creation is not so much about the struggle between science and religion as it is a portrait of a family within the context of that cultural and philosophical shift in history.  Sadly it was only recently that distribution in America was granted.  Apparently we in this country are still in the eye of that storm.  I'd very much be interested in seeing the impact of this film.
    Sunday, January 17th, 2010
    7:36 pm
    Saturday, November 28th, 2009
    12:25 am
    Top Ten Things to do at a High School Reunion
    1. Dress simultaneously in clothing that uses one's school colors and evokes The Hustler starring Jackie Gleason.

    2. Whenever you find dinner rolls, make sure you reenact Fatty Arbuckle's dancing rolls sequence (stolen by Chaplin).

    3. When one of your utensils is a steak knife, make sure you carve all your food accordingly. Even if your macaroni and cheese is medium rare when you could have sworn you ordered it medium well.

    4. Play a mean game of pool using that pool cue holder as often as possible.

    5. In casual conversation, catch up with people, by running up to them with your well-run stories.

    6. Play every British-y pub game there, no matter how dangerous you are with darts.

    7. Be willing to dust off the stand-up, but only on the very unlikely chance that someone manages to find a microphone.

    8. If they can't, leave them wanting more.

    9.

    10.
    Thursday, October 1st, 2009
    9:34 am
    Rational Thought Lazily Cribbed from Others

    The other day, my brother found a commencement speech by Bill Watterson, from the commencement at Kenyon College 1990.  Matt's rediscovered Calvin and Hobbes recently, as the well-drawn, even cinematic, and intelligent portrait of a six-year-old's interpretation of the world and his philosophical musings with his friend that's only imaginary depending on the eye of the beholder.  After all, the two main characters were named after John Calvin, (the 16th century philosopher who believed in predestination, and was a huge influence on early Puritan settlers in America), and Thomas Hobbes (the 17th century philosopher and author of Leviathan, who believed that humankind's natural state was one of war), respectively.

    If you've read Bill Watterson's thoughts as communicated in his commentary in the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, you'll recognize his philosophical and ethical leanings in the commencement speech linked above.  It reads as genuine, not only because the point of view is spot on, but because the speech reads smarter than even his strip or previous musings do, if only because his audience isn't as broad as usual--not that he's ever been known to dumb things down (even within his strip, Calvin, the troubled student, has the hyper-literate vocabulary of a well-read grown-up).

    Watterson's thesis can be found in the following paragraphs:

    Read more...Collapse )

    In addition to this speech, someone else pointed me to the below video.  I think it's a good example of well-reasoned argument, and suggests how open-mindedness is a necessary trait of any debate participant.  I've been looking for an excuse to post it, and I think this will do.





    Thursday, September 24th, 2009
    8:36 pm
    Fall Harvest Scarecrow Event
     
    Fall Harvest Scarecrow Event
     
     
      
      
      
     

    Ico_edpick
    Fall Harvest Scarecrow Event

    Sunday, Sep 27 1:00p
    at Concord Museum, Concord, MA

    If you bring the old clothes (suggestions: big shirt, jacket, vest, trousers, skirt, boots, pillowcase for the head, baseball cap, gloves), the Concord Museum will provide hay and string so you can make a scarecrow on the museum lawn. -- June Wulff, Globe Staff


    Concord Museum
    200 Lexington Rd.
    Concord, MA 01742
    (97...

    Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
    9:09 pm
    The One After 9/09/09
    Today is the day Barack Obama gives a speech to a joint session of Congress in defense of his healthcare initiatives.  The stakes couldn't be higher, this could make or break the most important piece of legislation of his first year as President.  It's truly an historic day.  But not for the reasons you may think.
     
    Today is also September 9, 2009, or 09/09/09, a day on which the numbers align like planets in a chronomatic solar system.  It is also one of the biggest days for Beatles fans in the history of the band.
     
    Today, all thirteen studio albums are being re-released on enhanced CDs, each with documentary footage, and other computer-specific content.  Today is also the day in which Beatles Rock Band is released.
     
    This morning, on the way to work, I went to the Best Buy at the Cambridgeside Galleria to a special event brought to us by Mike FM.  There, you could sign up to win a trip to Abbey Road Studios, or sign up for a chance to win an X BOX 360.  Besides that, I had my picture taken at a special booth with a psychedelic background and played a couple of songs on the Beatles Rock Band game.  Since I have short fingers I had to play on Easy, so it was kind of lame to strum every few seconds on "Twist and Shout" as a rhythm guitarist.  I had more fun singing "And Your Bird Can Sing."
     
    But there's a pretty specific reason 09/09/09 was chosen as a release date.
     
    The number nine dominated John Lennon's life.
     
    * John Ono Lennon (ne John Winston Lennon) was born on 9 October 1940.
    * Sean Lennon was also born on that date in 1975.
    * Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles at the Cavern Club on 9 November 1961 (an upside-down year) and secured their contract with EMI exactly 6 months later (9 upside-down).
    * Their debut record, "Love Me Do" was registered as Parlophone 4949.
    * John and Yoko met on 9 November 1966.
    * Their first New York apartment was on W 72nd Street (the digits, of course, add up to 9).  At first, the Dakota also had the number 72.
    * John took the 72 bus to Liverpool Art College.
    * His mother's house was a 9 Newcastle Rd, Wavertree, Liverpool (All three place names have nine letters).
    * Perhaps conscious of this observation he included the number in several song titles: Revolution 9, One After 909, #9 Dream.
    * Regarding that last song, it was released on John's ninth record in the ninth month of 1974, it peaked at #9 on the New Musical Express Charts, and its chorus has exactly nine syllables.
    * John Lennon died late at night on December 8th, 1980.  The digits of the year obviously add up to a multiple of nine, but he died in the US Eastern Time Zone.  If he died in Liverpool it would have been on 9 December 1980.
     
    Source: John Lennon by Ray Coleman

    Monday, September 7th, 2009
    9:00 pm
    Intellectual Diet and Political Exercise
    When I moved back to Massachusetts in February, one of the things I was interested in was the Massachusetts health care plan through Commonwealth Connector called Commonwealth Care.  I applied for it because I didn't have a job (and I still don't have a steady one).  I looked it over thoroughly before sending it off in the mail, but I must have forgotten to check the box that said I was a citizen of the US.

    Several weeks later I got a phone call saying they needed me to fax over my birth certificate.  I felt so presidential.  So, I faxed it and tried to call to confirm that they got it.  Every number I got was a voice mail, so I left a message in the voice mail box of the person who called in the first place.

    Several weeks later I got a letter stating that I didn't list my driver's license information on the form.  Having just moved back when I filled it out, I didn't change my license before I mailed out the application.  So, I called to ask if there was a way to confirm that they picked up the fax when I sent it out this time.  They said the only thing to do was to wait until I received another letter in the mail.

    A couple of weeks ago I got that letter.  No mention of my license, but they did find out that I was working for a temp agency.  Well, I wasn't working for them so much as I was receiving temp assignments through them.  They would now like a reply explaining why I didn't mention them on my initial application, before I applied to the temp agency of course!

    Naturally the reason they want an explanation is to determine whether or not I could get health insurance through them instead of the state.  I called up the temp agency and they told me that health insurance would only be available on the weeks that I actually work for them, so very intermittently.

    If the state of Massachusetts isn't satisfied with that answer, or if they aren't satisfied with the fact that I haven't had health insurance all year, because of their shenanigans, then they'll tax me for it.  Part of me suspects that their communication almost exclusively through snail mail has been a deliberate act, not only to avoid giving me health insurance, but to have an excuse to tax me for it.

    All this is prologue to my activities of the past week.

    For the past several months I've been following this health care debate, just as everyone else has.  I'm having a hard time understanding this incredibly complex issue, and I have some serious concerns about it.  But at least I'm willing to admit that I don't get it, and that I desperately want a sober analysis of these different bills.  What's made me nervous about the general tenor of debate at all, not just on health care reform, is that it's gotten vicious, violent, and downright frothy.  Opponents act as if President Obama is less a man with an idea that may simply be different from theirs and more Frankenstein's monster, deserving of, in their angry mob minds, pitchforks and torches.

    As the insanity escalated throughout the summer I've grown more and more nervous that some politician somewhere will get hurt or killed by people brandishing weapons in a reckless conflagration of the First and Second Amendments.

    That said, I obviously have a personal stake in what goes on with health care reform.  I can state that my position is only that I am for whatever would get someone in my situation portable health insurance.  I would even like for it to be portable between states, or hell, countries as well.  If a public option is what's necessary to encourage competition and drive down costs then so be it.  But if another solution is equally viable then I'd like to hear that as well.  A public option is exactly that, an option.  So, the vitriol against such a thing confuses me, but if it's not something that could get passed, then I'd be in favor of a trigger option in which public options would be instituted if the private sector fails to lower costs.

    So, when I heard about two events over the past week that would allow the public to get involved, I jumped at the chance to participate.  MB and I met at Somerville High School on Wednesday night for a town hall meeting with Mayor Joseph Curtatone, US House Representative Michael Capuano, and headliner, Senator John Kerry.

    As we moved along in the line, a gauntlet of petitioners and partiers and sign carriers and a lone Obama as Hitler poster surrounded us.  The Obama poster was made by LaRouche supporters who claimed that "He's changed."  It still seemed mild compared to worst of what I've seen on television.

    It was milder still inside the auditorium.  While there were a few hecklers in the balcony, and a couple of others sprinkled throughout, it was mostly a civil affair.  The mayor opened and hosted, with Capuano as a feature and John Kerry headlining.  And you could really tell that that was the hierarchy between the three.  John Kerry was surprisingly impressive.  Though it was the second time I'd ever seen him in person (I saw him vote in 2004 and then was part of a crowd that followed him to The Bell in Hand Tavern).  If I saw him speak with that much passion in person, my reluctant vote for him then would have been an enthusiastic one.

    But I wanted my question answered.  I wrote about my saga and I closed it by asking what could be done about the communication and the taxation system.  In a survey of the audience, Kerry asked everyone about their insurance.  I felt left out because I couldn't raise my hand at any point, since I don't even have insurance.  Through my question I wanted to make sure that a national plan wouldn't have the same issues as the Massachusetts one.  During the town hall meeting, I jotted down a condensed versionAlas, I didn't get to ask it.  Despite the libertarians directly behind me who bitched about everything, simply for the sake of bitching, we had a fun and informative night.

    Today, I went to a rally on the Boston Common for health care reform.  I took the Red Line to Park Street and snuck into my old dorm building to use the bathroom.  When I got back to the gazebo someone saw my Obama shirt underneath my blazer and quickly recruited me to hand out signs.  After a while another staff person asked if I'd rather do "visibility," so I asked what that was.  Soon I was walking up towards the State House with someone's home made sign which read "HEALTH CARE REFORM RALLY @ Boston Common."  The marker smelled of headache.

    I was a tourist attraction.

    Since the corner of Park Street and Beacon Street are right where the State House, Shaw Memorial, and Freedom Trail converge, it's along the path of tourists on foot and tourists riding any number of tour buses and trolleys and amphibious vehicles.  With my Lennon-esque shades, mop-top, blazer, and rally paraphernalia, I was an odd little sight.  So, instead of screaming for people to go to the rally, I decided to be a little more subtle and simply help people who looked like they needed help on the Freedom Trail.

    I had a Mr. Rosso moment when one college kid saw me and said "Right on dude" like I was wearing beads and smelt of pot.  There was one truck with a guy in the passenger seat who was trying to crack on me by saying that he didn't want the government to pull the plug on him at sixty, he wanted to live to be eighty.

    As if a synthesis of all that, I saw a particular panhandler I've recognized for the past ten years.  He's distinctive for his voice that loudly elongates each syllable of the inquiry "GOOOT ANYYY SPAAARE CHAAANGGGE?"  Well today he asked for cigarettes as well.  He would ask little children if they smoked and their nervous parents yanked their children away as they admonished him for smoking too.  Trying to divert him away from my mission of providing visibility for the health care rally I suggested that I saw some smokers behind the State House, or at Fanueil Hall.  "I don't go there," he tossed off, barely noticing me as he continued his pacing.  It was about this time that my shift was done.  I shrugged my shoulders and exaggerated stepping backwards for the amusement of the tourists in the parked tourbus and then turned and walked toward the rally, draping the posterboard sign on my back.

    When I got there I couldn't hear the public speakers.  The PA system left much to be desired, but a bigger problem was that the crowd was talking amongst itself in normal outdoor conversational volume.  Throughout the rally I wasn't all that crazy about the crowd's actions.  Representative Stephen Lynch was booed off the stage as a Blue Dog Democrat.  I support a public option, but if someone takes the time to come to your rally, then they deserve to be heard respectfully.

    Eventually, the rally ended and we all started marching.  I was lucky to be near the front of the crowd as we cut towards the corner of Boylston and Charles Street behind the Boston Common cemetery.  One of the staffers from SEIU handed out chant sheets so that we don't need to write them in our heads spontaneously.  But the crowd didn't need to anyway, as bullhorn-armed SEIU representatives chanted to the beat of The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band.  We followed that band along the left side of Boylston to the end of Copley Plaza before circling around to the front of Trinity Church where the event ended after they played a few more songs.  Still wearing my OFA-MA badge, I asked my fellow State House sign-holder if he thought there was anything we had to do, and he said he didn't think so. 

    Still, I walked back to the Common to help put away some stuff and turn in my badge.  I kept my sign as a souvenir.  I may regret it as the marker smelled of headache.

    I wish I had health insurance.
    Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
    2:19 pm
    Next time on a very special Obama Presidency
    Last week President Obama said something very stupid at the end of his health care press conference.  He took a question regarding his friend, Professor Gates of Harvard, and the situation with police.  He said that he didn't know anything about the situation, but that the police probably acted stupidly.  Saying you don't know anything about a particular situation automatically negates any input you have on a particular thing.  It was surprisingly Biden-esque.

    But this week, he's called the professor, and the police officers involved to the White House to hash it out.  That's pretty cool.  Barack Obama reminds me of a TV dad from the 80s or early 90s, in which he realizes he did something stupid, but thinks of a clever way to resolve the situation, except there's no cheesy music playing in the background...yet.
    Monday, June 29th, 2009
    10:03 pm
    Traveling in terms of states per day
    (or for the LJ version of this post: My turn to tell the tale)

    I think I've just been the furthest inland in North America I've ever been.

    It started on Friday night, a trip Andy, Jessie, MB and I had been planning for weeks: MB and Jessie's high school friend, Heather's baby shower.  The plan evolved from a night-long driving relay between Andy and me to Huntingdon, PA (just this side of Pittsburgh) to a more sensible break at a hotel in Pittston (near Scranton).  The earlier iteration of the plan was scrapped when the three others realized how I get weird--even for me--when I get tired.  That kind of high could be dangerous behind the wheel--or if I'm a passenger that thinks the wheel is now some kind of teddy bear or something.

    In the week prior to the trip I had tried to conserve energy to little profit by sleeping as much as possible.  On Friday I just drank as much caffeine and vitamins at lunch as possible and showered to wake up when I got home.  We ordered some Pinky's Pizza and ate with Jessie and Andy before leaving to the classic Boston road trip song "Roadrunner" by the Modern Lovers.

    As would be the trend for the weekend I would drive through the worst of the weather, but it was quite a luxury to have Andy's GPS, whom he named Jane after the voice he chose.  We would play a game where we'd try to get the ETA to tick down by making up as much time as possible.  I had clocked us at an estimated arrival time at the Knight's Inn of about 12:50AM before we stopped at a McDonald's to stretch and snack.

    To keep me awake, MB played me some Beatles CDs so that I could drive and sing.

    The motel was decent for the price, except for the smell of BO that permeated the air (I'm usually turned off by the excessive disinfectant smell in most roadside motels, but at least that is presumably sanitary).

    The next morning I beat my alarm by waking up around 7:00 and decided to see what the continental breakfast consisted of here.  It was a box of twelve doughnuts for the whole hotel, some regular and decaf coffee, and a fountain with apple and orange juice.  I grabbed some fliers and newspapers on the off chance we'd want to explore Scranton before heading to the shower or on the way back the next day and returned to the room just in time for everyone else to wake up.

    We settled on a place about two doors down for real breakfast, it was a Perkins, which is apparently Pennsylvia's answer to Bickford's. 

    Omelettes for everyone.

    We made a few stops on the way for gas and food and to donate some bodily fluids to the local sewage systems, including a stop at a Pizza Hut/KFC.  It had been years since I've even been inside a sit-down Pizza Hut.  I remember going to the one on Boston Road as a kid with pitchers of neon Mountain Dew and pan pizza.  Here we got some pizza rolls to justify using their bathrooms.  It didn't occur to us until later that they might have meat in them so MB didn't have any and I ate three out of four, including one that had been baking on the dashboard (There are starving kids in China).

    The shower was pretty nice.  I had only been to one other baby shower, it was for a doctor co-worker of mine at UCLA.  He had been subject to some games that were at once embarrassing, gross, and touching in their thoughtfulness.  I have now witnessed what it's like to change a diaper when the contents are foul peanut butter. 

    This one was different though.  It was in a friend of Heather's house and there was a pool and barbecue food and people of all ages.  The only people around our age though were Heather and her husband Sean.  Andy and I managed to have fun instigating a water war with some little children though.  Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges.

    We drove to Heather's house paralyzed with laughter from tasteless jokes, though sadly none were inspired by the West Hempfield Middle School visible from their house.  It was here that I realized my long-dormant fear of dogs.  I didn't grow up with pets and my neighbor's dog backed me into a corner at a young age.  Having staked out our rooms for the night, and with the Siberian Huskies now a calm mass of resting fluff on the floor, the six of us sat on opposite couches exchanging hilarious stories of our wacky adventures, while I tried to help Andy with some Sudokus on his computer.

    The next morning we chatted some more over some eggs, bacon, and toast while we plotted the trip back.  MB and I were interested in stopping in a city at some point in the day to walk around and say we were somewhere (of course with four people blogging about the same thing, surely someone will believe us?).  We, however, realized the daunting task ahead of us as we planned a trip that had taken us two days to get there to be done in one.

    Andy and I would switch off more frequently than the past two days and we'd play our game of watching the ETA tick downward, even as we made several stops.  The total stopping time was about two hours, we only lost one.

    The route we took home was Interstate 76, not the video game from the 90s, through New Jersey, to New York, where we were dangerously low on gas and made a wrong turn to the gas station, and north on Interstates 95 and 91 to the Mass Pike, back onto 95 and Route 2.  We ate at a Chinese/American buffet and I thought that Jane would want us to take 91 up to Springfield, bringing me close to my folks home, but it wasn't to be.  It was probably an expensive set of tolls (Andy's car has EZ Pass, so we'll figure it out later), but it was worth the saved time through Pennsylvania's perpetual construction, despite one last traffic jam on the Mass Pike.

    We had traveled five states in about 51 hours.  It was quite an adventure, and quite a feat, but it would have been nice to have another two days so that we could actually walk around some cities along the way.

    Perhaps we will the next time someone has a baby.
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