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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wise words from Penn Jillette 

This came from another friend of mine (thanks, Sizzle)

"Thought you might find this interesting. To give you some background the National Public Radio show Morning Edition has a series called "This I Believe" which runs on Monday mornings. People submit short essays about their beliefs. Some are chosen and read on the air. The following was submitted by Penn Jillete." (Sizzle)

Penn Jillette is the taller, louder half of the magic and comedy act Penn and Teller. He is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and has lectured at Oxford and MIT. Penn has co-authored three best-selling books and is executive producer of the documentary film The Aristocrats.

November 21, 2005
· I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The Atheism part is easy.

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

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Wal-Mart times 

I got a very interesting link the other day, to an interview with Jon Lehman who used to be the managerial type with Wal-Mart and is now trying to organize the unionization of Wal-Mart's workers (not something WM wants in any manner). The interview was conducted by Frontline and it's entitled: Is Wal-Mart good for America?

Here's background on Jon:

Jon Lehman worked for Wal-Mart for 17 years, managing six stores in four different states before he left the company in 2001 to work for a union trying to organize Wal-Mart employees. In this interview, he recounts how he became disillusioned with the company's focus on profit, and why he feels that the current management has strayed from the principles of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Lehman also describes how Wal-Mart developed its efficient supply chain, how Wal-Mart's buyers negotiate with manufacturers to drive down costs, and when he first noticed Wal-Mart's importing low-cost goods from China. This transcript is drawn from two interviews with Lehman, conducted on June 4 and Oct. 7, 2004.

It's long, but check it out. Round about the middle things get really interesting. Like how yeah, sure Wal-Mart has low prices, but they are a big help in forcing manufacturing companies to take their jobs overseas; bad about their employees; yes, the American dream is making money, competition and all that. BUT....

Seems PBS put together a bunch of material about Wal-Mart...

Check it out. I'll copy over one passage from the article, the answer to the question posed in the title of the interview:

...
Is Wal-Mart good for America?

... I don't think Wal-Mart is good for America because what's happening is, yeah, you can get maybe a bag of groceries more, or you might spend $50 at Wal-Mart and spend $50 at Target or Kmart and you might get a few more items at Wal-Mart because of the prices.

But there's a cost to low prices. And the cost is [that] good, American jobs are being shipped overseas. … Many times union jobs are going away, and those same people are having to go to work at Wal-Mart, making a fraction of what they made there and not getting good health care; not getting a good company-paid pension, company-paid health care.

So no, I would say Wal-Mart is not good for America. I think the average person out there that you run into in a Wal-Mart store may say: "Yeah, I love this place, because look at the stuff I can get. Look at the cheap prices." But there's a cost for these low prices, and many people don't realize that.


So in effect, what you're saying is Wal-Mart is good for customers, and Wal-Mart's not good for workers?


Yeah, I think Wal-Mart is temporarily good for the economy. Certainly the stock price, the investment value of Wal-Mart stock -- those things are good for our economy on a short-term [basis]. I think there's going to be a correction that takes place, though, eventually. I don't know what's going to happen.

... Is Wal-Mart good for America in the long run? ... You said in the short run, temporarily it's good, lower prices, and the stock value is good.

Well, what I mean by that is the consumer. It's good for the low-wage consumer, a blue-collar worker out there that is just barely making ends meet. Yeah, they can go to Wal-Mart, fill up their shopping cart and save $20, $30 that week, which may help to pay for the kids' lunches at school or whatever. It may help pay for their gas bill that month, or electricity bill. So yeah, Wal-Mart is good in that respect, OK?

But many people don't look behind that big, yellow smiley face that they show on TV and see the reality of what's happening to our economy here, what's happening to good, American jobs in the United States here. ... Workers are being worked off the clock many times. There's lawsuits, class-action lawsuits, in over 30 states right now of workers saying: "Enough is enough. I'm being worked off the clock, not paid for my overtime." ...

And look behind that yellow smiley face and see what's really happening to workers. Good, American jobs like at Thomson Electronics in Circleville, Ohio -- that poor guy making $15, $16 an hour, now he's [going to be] making a fraction of that, $7, $8 an hour, working 32 hours a week; a meager health care plan that he's got to pay for now, token health care plan; no pension; no future. There's a revolving door at Wal-Mart -- workers coming in, seeing the reality of it. They've been duped by the yellow smiley face many times. Then they go right back out the same door they came in a week later, a month later, a year later, whatever, however long they choose to stay. That's what's happening behind closed doors. That's what's happening [behind] that big, yellow smiley face. ..



h/t - Tom N

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Monday, November 28, 2005

A little ditty 

(Sung to the tune of: Love is flowing like a river)

Snot is flowing like a ri-i--ver.
Flowing out of my raw no-o-o-ose
Flowing down onto my shi-irt front
making all my shirtsleeves stiff


I don't have the time to write more verses. I gotta run out and get more snot wiping implements

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Wacky good fun 

Scroll down a bit to get to this story.

I don't know what to say about it. So I'll just say: "Those wacky Canadians!"

What's the story?

Henre Laroug, Canadian marries local Maple Tree but admitted
that a relationship with a tree lacks some of the same warmth and amenities of that with a human female, but adds "She never says no, never gains weight and already has all the rings she'll ever need."

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ok, fine... 

...I won't pierce my middle nose. If it's seen as a nasty piercing by my brother, I'd better avoid it. Ah well. It's for the best

Seattle has some great used bookstores. I'm impressed at my getting thru the day having bought only one book. The good news is, it was a book I've been questing after for a while (the Travels of Marco Polo). Exciting, isn't it?

Woola

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Friday, November 25, 2005

I guess I missed it 

Huh. Seems today, Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year. And this year's crowds were bigger than ever before! Guess I missed out on all the fun. What kind of fun? Fun like:

...
In Cascade Township, east of Grand Rapids, Mich., a woman fell as dozens of people rushed into a store for the 5 a.m. opening. Several stepped on her, and a few became entangled as a man pushed them to the ground to keep them away.

When the rush ended, the woman and a 13-year-old girl suffered minor injuries.


And...

...
Tempers flared at a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Fla., where a man allegedly cut in line to buy a bargain notebook computer and was wrestled to the ground, according to a video shown by an ABC affiliate, WFTV-TV.

And large crowds...

...
Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive of Federated Department Stores Inc., which operates Macy's, estimated the flagship Herald Square store attracted about 1,000 people for the 6 a.m. opening.

...
At a Best Buy Co. store at CambridgeSide Galleria, in Cambridge, Mass., the line of about 400 shoppers snaked through the indoor mall for the 5 a.m. store opening.

...
Meanwhile, about 100 people lined up for the 6. a.m. opening in freezing weather outside the Super Target in Apex, N.C., about 10 miles south of Raleigh.

...
Meredith Carter, 29, from Apex, took the first spot in line when she arrived around 4:50 a.m., about 10 minutes after the veteran Black Friday shopper woke up.

Ahh! I feel so warm and snug knowing that the economy is doing so well and that rampant consumerism is gaining in popularity. Not to mention the wonder feeling of brotherhood (or sisterhood, whatever) and togetherness that flows between strangers overcome with the Holiday Spirit.

Goddamn holiday Spirit. Who knew the bastard was such a greedy self-centered S.O.B.

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Post-Thanksgiving wrap up 

Turkey day has come and gone and I sitt here, no longer b-l-oated. Yes, I over ate yesterday as most were wont to do, as an inclusionary act into the holiday. My fare of overindulgence happens to be biscuits and mashed taters. My performance was sub-par with years past, thanks is large part to stunting my eating these last couple of years. When your budget is limited you (well, I, anyway) tend to eat less. Ignoring the Italian-ness in my blood was a hard road to traverse and made life tough at first, but now I've come to accept my reduced gorge-ability. Not necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that it took less food to leave me groaning and rolling around trying to breath over the excess of food in my gut. Unfortunately, unlike some people whose stomachs swell to accomodate extra food, mine does not. The food builds upon itself and rises higher and higher up my torso.

Enough of the gory details. I made it thru the night, that is enough to suffice. Before passing out on my sis's futon we took in a viewing of 'Old School'. Good times. Laughing uproariously did not help my situation but being the plucky lad I am, I made it thru.

The day itself was pretty uneventful, filled with multiple trips to the nearby Safeway, reading, vacant staring at computer screens, music and cooking.

And rain.

Silliness on the part of my sis. The Ambiguous Foreign Girl.

My feet smell

Something is tugging at me and wanting to burst but I can't tap into what it is.

Frustration

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

South Park. The movie 

Just watched it. How's that for Thanksgiving Eve celebrations? Only my sister and I are the only ones who made it thru without falling asleep. Good times

It's foggy outside. Exciting, eh? And the kitten is sitting on my head again. What can you do? She's pretty darn cute.

What's new in life these days...let's review. Not too much. Had a great time in Portland, met some amazing people and loved the place. I made it up to Seattle in time to have Thanksgiving with my little sister, which is awesome. Haven't seen her in 9 months or so. My birthday is 2 months from yesterday (I think. I still am not doing too well keeping the days straight). The big 3-0. Gotta figure out what I am going to do for that.

The news continues to frustrate me; the happenings in the world that is. Ski season is upon us, and I have no idea when/if I'll get to ski. It's harder now, ya know, with the 'sport' going more and more upscale (i.e.-exclusive) every year. Not an affordable past-time for most of us anymore. One day I'll get backcountry gear so that I can cut free from the money-hungry corporate run areas and wander off into the wild and enjoy skiing for the skiing, not the 'atmosphere' (which actually turns me off of skiing, to tell you the truth).

I thought I had other rambling diatribes to jot down here, but nothing comes to mind right now. Bummer.

Happy Thanksgiving to y'all. Enjoy the day and be glad and all that

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mounting a volcano 

As far as I can tell, today is Wednesday. Which means yesterday was not. That was the day I left Portland and made my way to Seattle. A simple trip, for once. No drama en route, easily found my sister's place (which is amazing. Her knack for giving directions has sometimes been a bit suspect), and am having a lazy morning drinking coffee while she is in class. Hehe

However, last Saturday was exciting. I went snowshoing on Mt. Hood! Well, not up to the peak or along the ski trails, but along its flanks. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect temperature, and a great hiking group. Except for the girl that shrieked and screamed....pretty much continuously. That doesn't do much for the solitude of nature, but so it goes. It's a wild state, I tell ya. After driving thru lush forests, we eventually broke out into high mountain terrain. Ah! It was quite nice to be back out in nature, shuffling along and falling now and then into the scrunchy snow. Brought back a lot of memories. Most of the day my brain sorta tuned out the scenery and focused on trying to figure out life: where to live, what to do for now to get money, birthday plans, etc. In a way, the wayward squealing was a nice distraction!

Think my mom would freak out if I pretend to have pierced that middle part of my nose?

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Hypocrisy. I love it 

Isn't it great that a nation as great at ours can stand upright, look a world governing body (like the UN) in the eye, and say: "Nah, we don't need to play by the rules. Sorry." (That is paraphrased, of course)

Despite the fact that we insist that all other countries must abide by the UN's laws and dictates, our leaders have no qualms about showing, once again, that they feel they are above the laws all others must be subject to (Kyoto Treaty, International Tribunal, etc).

Once again, I am talking about the refusal to allow UN staff into Guantanamo Bay to inspect conditions there. One reason given is that the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) has already done so. However:

The UN experts maintain that the ICRC's monitoring is very different.

The ICRC as a matter of policy does not make its findings on humanitarian conditions public in order to preserve access to prisons that may otherwise be closed to them.

The UN experts, in contrast, are mandated to investigate allegations of human rights breaches and report publicly to the UN General Assembly and the world body's top watchdog, the Human Rights Commission.


If some other country tried this, would we accept this as a valid excuse? Not likely. Hm. I wonder why people don't like us?

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Random news 

I found a couple articles on one of my new sources for world happenings: aljazeera

One story is about a Moroccan woman in France who is being denied a renewal of her long-term residency card, simply because she wears an Islamic head scarf, thus branding her an fundamentalist. She's lived there for the past 8 years. Seems like a bad precedent to set. I wonder how long it'll be until the US starts taking such measures? Or has that begun? I don't know.

The other story is for those of you who are environmentally minded. It's about emissions around the world; who has cut theirs and who haven't, and how countries of the world are adhering to the Kyoto Treaty. If they signed it, that is. Honorable (?) mentions were made about countries who didn't sign the treaty and what they've been up to (Cuba's emissions are down 40% from 1990 levels; the US levels are up 14% from 1990). Interesting read.

Damn this country is spoiled and arrogant (oops. Did I say that out loud?).

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More Portland 

Yesterday was a nice day. The sun was out again and the temperature, while not perfect, was close. 40-50ish. A beautiful day to get out and walk. Which I did. All day long. I'm staying in the southeast part of the city and my destination yesterday, the Japanese Garden in Washington Park, is quite a bit west. No matter, I enjoyed the walk.

The garden was a bit pricey ($6.75) but was very nice and very relaxing. Not only that, but the view let me see quite clearly (for the first time) Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. Quite breathtaking. The view of Hood on the far side of Portland reminded me of the view of Mt. Fuji over in Tokyo. Not that I've ever been to Tokyo, or Japan for that matter. But I've seen Godzilla. And pictures of the city. No large amphibians were to be seen in yesterday's vista, thank goodness, just a massive snow-covered peak rising into the air. A view different than the mountain views I'm used to because Hood is not ringed with other peaks but stands alone (or so it seemed to me). Mt St Helens was also quite spectacular, though the peak (or what's left of it) was wreathed in clouds or mist or escaping volcanic coolness. Whatever the case, I sat and gazed for a long while.

Then came the chaos. After stopping at Baja Fresh for some burrito refreshment, I made my way into Powell's bookstore. Krist almighty that place was awesome. It was all I could do to contain my drool and not spend my remaining money on books. I managed to escape with 'only' 6 books ($40). I swear that place had every book imaginable! I was quite happy, and further laden with writing filled papers. I won't even tell you how many books I am carrying now (in fact I can't say, because I refuse myself the right to count.).

A natural disaster must be approaching out here since I am here, and perhaps we can make guesses as to what it will be. My guess is a volcanic eruption. The question is, which volcano will it be?

A great article was sent to me yesterday, basically dealing with the question of whether or not greed is good. An interesting article and I have thoughts on it. If I continue sitting inside today (I feel as though I deserve a day of rest after a couple days of walking around...) perhaps I'll try and post something about it. The article at least. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Right now I need to eat something. So I'm going to do that. Excuse me

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Addendum 

There were a couple details about the bus ride up from Oakland that I forgot to inlcude in my earlier post. Not all that exciting, but I felt bad leaving them out. They got lonely and wanted to be a part of the fun. What could I do?

When we stopped to switch drivers, the new driver came on and quite gruffly told me to grab all my stuff and get off the bus. There were only a couple of us on there, and the guy a couple seats back asked if that was everyone. His response was a very menacing "no". Off I went. As soon as my feet hit the pavement, he began going off on me for harassing and threatening another passenger. It may have been phrased questioningly, but the tone made it clear that there was no question in his mind. I vainly began to defend myself to deaf ears, until the Middle Eastern kid spoke up and let him know that it wasn't me. "Oh," he said. No apology was forthcoming but he let me back on the bus. Nice.

A few people on the bus assumed I was heading to Washington. Why? I have no idea. They said that I looked like I was from there. I decided not to ask for any elaboration on what that meant (I have a good friend from Washington. He's old and bald and bitter. I didn't think I fit that description but maybe I do?)

I told myself today that I need to not only begin exercising again (yeah right. How many times have I vowed that in the last year?), but I need to stop sleeping 8-10 hours a night. It's silly. Late up I am, up early I will attempt to be. Gots lots to figure out, might as well stop the sleep excesses which only serve to block the workings of my brain.

A problem with this theory just arose in my stomach. I'm hungry. Food is expensive, and if I start eating many meals a day that'll be more money out of my pocket. Tough decisions.

Speaking of money, does anyone in the Chicago area have any work, or know of any seasonal work available? I need to make some money and will be back in the area for the holiday and could use some leads...

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Wedding Crashers 

Saw this movie today, for $2. I'm glad I didn't pay more. Rumor had it this was a riotously funny movie. I didn't see it. I felt like it went on forever, and the laughs were far in-between. And don't get me started on the cliche following closely on the heels of the previous cliche (Hollywood movie-type cliches).

Don't get me wrong, I like stupid humor and I've really liked the other movies these guys have done. In a way, it seemed like they sold out and were banking on their current following to make some cash.

Or it's me, and I'm losing my sense of humor (I've wondered now and then).

Whatever the reason, when Vince Vaughn poured himself some scotch or whiskey, I was jealous. Sorry, I can't give it a thumbs-up. I will make a recommendation for them: if you're making a funny movie, make it funny. Don't switch half-way thru and try to make it a romance, with horrid jokes tossed in at random.

Case in point-the final scene. Huh? That was not only silly (in a bad way), but it followed in the footsteps of how many movies that have climaxed the same way? The Graduate, yeah, it worked. Leave it there.

At least it was a beautiful day and I got to do some hiking, real actually hiking-and in the city!, and sit in the sun for a while looking out over the trees of many colors around Portland. Quite nice

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Charity-based thoughts 

Here's some things to think about:

"...One charity has stayed above all this for 137 years. The Salvation Army is unique among all U.S. charities for many reasons. Let’s start at the top. Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary just $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing this $2 Billion dollar organization. By comparison, Brian Gallagher, President of the United Way receives a $375,000 base salary (plus numerous expensive benefits) and the Red Cross President Marsha Evans receives $450,000 (the article was written in 2002 a wapping 50% increase in 1 year??) plus benefits..."

Interesting, eh? This article discusses further.

An excerpt from the above article:


Since the Salvation Army pays its leader only about 3% of what the other big charities pay, one might expect that it would be less efficient than the other charities. Not according to the experts. The Army’s website (http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/) contains the following evaluation by one of the nation’s most trusted management experts, Professor Peter Drucker:

“Identified by author and management expert Dr. Peter Drucker as ‘by far the most effective organization in the United States,’ The Salvation Army invests the charitable gifts it receives in the lives of men and women and boys and girls. ‘No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use,’ Drucker said. (Forbes, August 11, 1997).”

The first place I found on when I googled this stuff was from Chris Gupta's blog

h/t-Najima

Makes me wonder how much of donations get to those for whom it's intended...

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The Bus Ride 

I'm not sure where to begin this tale. The bus ride from Oakland, CA to Portland, OR was....nuts. Literally. The ride from Oakland to Sacramento was uneventful. After a 3 hour layover I boarded the bus headed to Portland. After attempting to not start, the driver managed to get the beast running and we left. Maybe 20 minutes late. This caused an uproar amongst many of the passengers in the rear part of the bus where I found myself situated. Yes, those being rowdy were less than sober. Let me tell you about my fellow passengers.

One older dude was traveling with his kind who was perhaps 8 years old. From the minute they got on, this asshole was yelling and bitching; about the bus being late, about the bus stopping where it wasn't "supposed to stop", about the other passengers. The worst bit, however, was his continually beratement of his son. Cursing, insulting, just plain mean. Many of the people around me were clenching their jaws and biting their tongues in blinding fury at this man. It was ludicrous. The way he treated his kid was inexcusable (he's one of many who should never be allowed to procreate). I won't even get into specifics, but it was terrible. And it must not be an infrequent occurance, as the poor kid took it without batting an eye. Very sad.

An older lady came back to use the bathroom. For some reason, a couple people tried to offer advice on using the bus toilet. She was less than pleased. They were thanked with cusses, and one kid had his ear yanked.

Virtually everyone around me was moaning and complaining about the bus being late (5-10 minutes), about the lack of smoke stops, and the guys in front of me commented on how this was the worst bus trip they'd ever been on. As tempted as I was to relate some of the bus rides I've been on in the last year, I held my tongue and rolled my eyes.

A kid of middle eastern descent had his life threatened (use of knives and guns) by the husband of the crazy old lady, and was accused of being a terrorist. He responded by threatening to blow up the suitcase bomb he was carrying (I can't say that I agree that taunting is the best way to deal with someone less than stable, but that's me). His grasp on sanity was a bit tenuous as well.

An old guy in back sprawled drunkenly across the back seats and floor while bantering back and forth with the verbally abusive father.

The driver lectured the bus a couple times. He bawled out the abusive father, the threatened use of guns, the drunkenness and rowdiness and let it be known that he had no qualms about dumping people off the bus, no matter where the bus happened to be; "I throw people off my bus everyday and it doesn't bother me a bit!". His replacement driver tossed out a 10-minute lecture at the beginning of his shift, with a similar message. While a bit appropriate, I felt like I was back in grade school.

Complaints were heard about the lack of cool air in the bus. So the driver opened the two hatches in the roof of the bus. After a while, those of us in back began to freeze. He closed the hatch for a short spell but then opened it again, ignoring the complaints from those of us in the area of the arctic blasts. Finally, with the driver shift, we got it closed (a couple people seated ahead of the rear hatch (the one left open the entire time) tried to complain but we shouted them down.) for good. He closed it, and told us twice (the second time over the loudspeaker) that if it got hot it was our problem and we'd have to deal with it. It didn't get hot, it stayed cold instead.

Insanity infused chaos is the only way to describe that ride. While I've had more physically uncomfortable rides, this one drove me batty. The self-centeredness of the people around me, the attitudes ("this is what I want so give it to me now!") and the ridiculousness of it all made me long for the days when I could not understand what people around me were saying/discussing. It was a great show of the reasons why I was less than fond of half the Americans I met while traveling. Attitude and an unwarrented chip-bearing shoulder.

It was silly, and lasted entirely too long.

It ended well, however. Not having any desire to figure out the Portland bus system after not sleeping all night (the ride was 1:30pm to 7am) I caught a cab to my buddy's house. It was awesome! The driver was Tibetan, nicer than hell, and his laugh made my day! My anticipated arrival at the house was met with loud shrieks and cries and I was made to feel more than welcome. Great times.

Greyhound-an interesting experience to say the least...

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Portland is cool 

Got here a few days ago on a bus trip that was mind-bogglingly crazy. That will be its own full-length post when I am more awake.

For now, however, I will say that I really like Portland even though it's been raining every day. Neat city, great people and fun (so far). I'm staying with a buddy, the guy I paddled thru Laos with, and his 4 roomates (all girls). It is a crazy fun house and the energy level here is mad high and it's tough to keep up. But it's fun to try. I'm told there are maountains nearby but the visibility due to the rain clouds is such that I haven't seen them yet. One day...

Here's something I like about this place: I don't feel so outsiderish amongst the people I've been meeting. Restaurants have not only vegetarian options, but also vegan ones (some places). And being a vegetarian, as I am on most occasions, is not a laughable pursuit. Neither is recycling, composting, reusing ziplock bags, extensive international travel....it's nice. Overall, I find my lifestyle and approach to life is more common out here than it seemed in other domestic places. Sometimes it's nice to feel as though you belong, ya know?

Although it still seems out of whack to be wearing the same clothes day after day. It's a harder gig to get away with when you are not hitting a new city every day or 3. Ah well. Thank god for places like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Got me some new duds for very little caish.

Time for a np. Maybe then I'll begin the recounting of the bus ride up here...

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Good movie 

'Cane Toads'. What a....movie. It's oldish, 88ish, but check it out! It's strange, a documentary of sorts, but definitely entertaining. Environmental scientist dorks out here made me watch it, and it was worth it.

What can I say about it? Not much. Strange, but good

I swear, tomorrow afternoon I am getting on Greyhound to head to San Francisco. I'm only 2 days late now...

Ate at a Cambodian restaurant tonight. It was pretty cool looking at the artwork in the place and having pictures in my bag of the objects of that art.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More new perspectives 

It's expensive in this country! Not only to live, but to eat and travel and get around. Especially without a vehicle of your own. Man! It's rough, I tell you what!

It's quite interesting to be seeing life here through the eyes of people who are living paycheck to paycheck on a good day. I've been to San Francisco before. But now I am seeing it thru the eyes of people with almost no money. Barely enough money to buy food and sleep somewhere indoors. I'm feeling the stresses inherent in this struggle; where can I afford to sleep tonight? Shite, there isn't anywhere. How am I going to get to somewhere else? How am I going to eat? Etc

Granted, my savings are still holding out enough so that these pains are more out of empathy than anything else. The difference between seeing things here with working engineers and professionals is quite a different story from what I am seeing now.

More to make you think. It's tough. Very tough to live this way. And hard to really understand without going thru it (my understanding, again, is a little peripheral).

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Another thing missing 

Our culture seems to be one of "I can do it on my own", of fierce individualism and a stubborn will to make it on our own (or is that just my family? I don't really know). This attitude makes it tough to 'break down' and let others help when it's needed. Many other places have extensive safety nets made up not only of immediate family but of extended family, friends, neighbors, and the community as a whole. That is not a frequent enough occurance here, as far as I can see. And that's too bad. Call me a hypocrite (as is quite apt), but I think we'd be better off acting communally instead of being so independance obsessed.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

San Fran 

Always an interesting place.

Went to the Green Festival yesterday morning. It was awesome! The turnout was tremendous which is great for the cause, but terrible for those of us who can't seem to deal with crowds and get hit with claustrophobia. Ah well. It was worth it.

What is a green festival? Kind of what it sounds like-a gathering of people and ideas that are environmentally conscious. Let me explain.

To live and think green is to live and think more 'naturally'. There were booths about Fair Trade goods; hemp clothing; sweat shop-free clothing; organic food and clothes; alternative energy sources (i.e.-solar, wind); health foods and teas and lotions; yoga; literature; green investing, companies, lawyers, etc.; recycling and recycled building material; and much more. Later on I'll try to add more links. The stack of literature I brought home has not been completely perused yet.

It was awesome. The people attending were incredibly varied in age, dress and lifestyle (sorry to you naysayers who might call this a hippy-fest. Sure there were 'hippies' (whatever that means, exactly), but they were not nearly the majority group to be expected, especially in a city like San Francisco). Not only that, everyone seemed to be in a good mood (tons of free samples I'm sure didn't hurt that) and were quite friendly. A great atmosphere all around.

Unfortunately, this festival only went to Washington DC and San Francisco. It would be quite interesting to see how it would fare in other parts of the country.

An exciting and hope-instilling day to say the least. Except for the crowd. I still can't manage to deal with them yet (fortunately, the people I went with are the same way in crowds so none of us felt like freaks for taking refuge under a staircase to get a breather.).

Check out the links and look for me to post more on here. Very interesting stuff.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Welcome back, Tolliver 

Anyone remember Tolliver? I had forgotten about him, but I think he popped back in to say hello.

Yesterday I found myself wandering into Chinatown, here in San Francisco. As Mi cuerpo entered the China hood my stomach began to make strange rumblings and the sweat started up. As progress was made further and further into the heart of the neighborhood, the situation became more and more dire. By the time we passed out the far side (I'd barely taken notice or enjoyed any of the familiar smells, crowds, pushing, noises, chatter due to my intense concentration on not soiling myself. But it was very much like being back in China. Only quieter and less polluted) emergency status had been reached. Dashing into a nearby Irish bar I bypassed the bar, the Guinness, and the wait staff and found temporary relief.

Back outside. Two blocks away we entered the City Lights bookstore. I rushed back out and over to the mexican restaurant next door where I purchased a burrito in order to become a customer and gain entrance to their bathroom. The problem that arose next was not that I now had a bean and cheese burrito (very good, actually) that I had no need of, but that an all too familiar ache was penetrating my guts. At least I didn't have to make any more bathroom dashes, I just found myself a bit hunched over. And headed back to the hostel prematurely.

The aches subsided the further the bus got from Chinatown, but it was all to reminiscent of giardia. I seem to be doing ok today, but it was an uncomfortable hour or so. Ah well. I guess Tolliver heard and smelled the Asian-ness of the area and got excited about possibly getting some new friends.

I'll keep you posted as to my stomach's progress...

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Welcome to SF 

That's right, I am in San Francisco yesterday. My plane touched down around 3pm (I didn't miss it, tho the Powers of Darkness from the night before tried to thwart me) and I grabbed BART into the city.

As I rode the escalator up into the sunlight I was listening to the Young Dubliners version of Amazing Grace (bagpipes and all. Quite cool). A smile popped onto my face as I felt, once again, as though I was embarking on yet more adventures. And I wondered what would happen next.

I did not have to wait long. As I reached street level I found myself between some anti-Iraq war protestors and a police squad in riot gear; they had shields up and batons out at the ready. And they were barking out some sort of moral supportive chant. The protestors took this opportunity to break out a megaphone and chant louder.

I joined in with the onlookers and giggled along at the madness.

San Francisco. What a strange (but awesome) city!

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seems a bit suspect to me 

I can appreciate that there is a necessity to not overcrowd a prison with extra people. But when the UN, a body the US proclaims to support and deems necessary, asks for permission for three of its memebers to get into Guantanamo prison to talk to prisoners (after tales of abuse and torture and unlawful imprisonment abound) and is rebuffed, I can't help but question the reasons.

By disallowing the UN access, doesn't that in a way undermine their legitimacy as a govorning body of its member nations? Doesn't it sound as though we're saying "do as I say, not as I do" once again?

I don't know. It sure doesn't help our image when we scornfully dismiss laws and such that we insist other countries adhere to.

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The essence of arrogance 

Words fail me in trying to discuss this article, whose title says it all: US Military Wants to Own the Weather.

Oof. What arrogance to think we could control nature. Even if this ridiculous endeavor has some success, who controls it? What are the chances that the technology would not be used for material and financial gain by those who control it?

Yeah, that wouldn't turn out poorly. The control of nuclear weapons is proving hard enough. Why not try to add another catastrophic weapon to the world?

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More discussion 

A comment was left on one of my earlier posts, the one in which I went off on the local news and all that. I thought it a good idea to clarify my comments/thoughts a bit. The comment left indicated that perhaps the meat of my beef with the news/media was not very clear (surprise surprise).

I took umbrage at the top stories on the local news being, essentially, celebrity news. Reports on the life events of sports celebrities (Broncos, Avs). I realize that the local news will reflect the interests of the local community and that they can't be expected to deal much with international news. I can accept this, though I adamantly disagree with the notion that international news is not also relevant on a local level. But that's another topic I won't touch on now.

Local news. Fine, report local events that are important for the community to know about. Such as serial rapists; a referendum that affects how much money will go to roads, schools, etc.; construction updates; traffic reports; violence in the community; gang activity. That sort of thing. There isn't a dearth of topics to report on, nor a minimal number of occurances to report. But to have the top story be about a rich man getting into an accident? A celebrity? That's fodder for rags like People and other such drivel. Not the local news. If I, or some other non-rich person were to get into a bad accident would it make the news for days in a row? Would family members coming to visit be interviewed? Nope. it's celebrity worship, and I can't see the relevance to the community. That is what I didn't like.

Furthermore, the comment aptly described local news as a vessel for reporting what's of interest to the community. Agreed. But if a sports team is of the most interest to the community...that's sad.

It's about priorities. Priorities are screwed up these days, in my opinion. That, also, is a different longer post.

Another point brought up was that people in places such as Cambodia are not up to date on current world events and their local news probably doesn't report any more internationally stuff than our local news (this may or may not be true. I can't read or understand the Khmer language)(I had to bust thru the sarcasm to reach this point, but as that is a language I'm fluent in it worked out).

However true this may be, about however many countries, it doesn't matter. Do the actions of the Cambodians affect countries the world over? Who is the most powerful country in the world (for now)? The US. As such, our country needs to accept this responsibility and realize that it is important for to know what is going on around the world and take an interest in it-on a personal level. Accept it or not, the beliefs of the people do still hold some sway over politicians (all they want is to get re-elected) and if we are clueless about the goings-on in the world then these politicians can do and tell us what they see fit; will we know any better? There is no parity between Cambodia (or Laos or Belize or Greece etc etc) and the US. We can't expect others to be on the same level as us; a level playing field is unrealistic. Expecting others to know as much as the US and "taking our ball and going home" when they don't accept as much responsibility as us is silly. And spoiled. The claim is that the US is the greatest country in the world. If this is believed, how can we expect these 'lesser' countries to be as accomplished as us? A bit contradictory, I think.

Another bottom line is this: interest in the international community is quite lacking (or so it seems to me). And the rest of the world knows this. I met people from many different countries and most of them wanted to know how we could take such little interest in what's going on outside of the US. It is tough to have a great interest in a place you've never seen, and in a people you've never met. This has to be gained. If for no other reason, to stop pissing off the rest of the world.

See my earlier post about the bumper sticker seen on a Denver road today: "Think Outside the Box"; the word 'box' is over the US. We are not an isolated country, no matter what our politics. That has to be realized. Think of it like being an older brother: your mom cusses you out for misbehaving because not only is it bad for you but your little brother mimics you. The rest of the world is mimicking our actions, desires, attitude. Not only is that not sustainable, but what if one day (soon) we are treated as we treat others? I.e.-China taking over and forcing their way of life on us and around the world. Same justification could be used-they are the most powerful so their way of doing things must be the best, right?

Food for thought

And time for me to get back to cleaning the bathroom

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Seen on the road 

A bumper sticker with the words: Think outside the box

The word 'box' was over an image of the USA.

Awesome. I wish I had seen it. I'm trying to find it online to put it on my non-existent car. Anyone seen one of those for sale?

H/T - RST

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ABOUT ME
Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

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WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com