Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, October 23, 2004
Suspenseful score
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:42 PM

Tied again in the top of the eighth inning. If I had any sense, I'd not listen to the game and just catch the closing score after it's over...

Just heard on the radio: "Three men on; Two men out." And in my mind, I'm hearing a similar phrase in a similar tone of voice: "Two men enter. One man leaves." Very different context, though... Have I mentioned that my mind is a steel sieve; I retain all kinds of strange trivia for recall at the oddest moments.

Would they really?
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:15 PM

Susan has found something scary:

According to White House and Washington Beltway insiders, the Bush administration, worried that it could lose the presidential election to Senator John F. Kerry, has initiated plans to launch a military strike on Iran's top Islamic leadership, its nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, and key nuclear targets throughout the country, including the main underground research site at Natanz in central Iran and another in Isfahan. Targets of the planned U.S. attack reportedly include mosques in Tehran, Qom, and Isfahan known by the U.S. to headquarter Iran's top mullahs.

The Iran attack plan was reportedly drawn up after internal polling indicated that if the Bush administration launched a so- called anti-terrorist attack on Iran some two weeks before the election, Bush would be assured of a landslide win against Kerry. Reports of a pre-emptive strike on Iran come amid concerns by a number of political observers that the Bush administration would concoct an "October Surprise" to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

The terrifying thing, IMO, is how unsurprising something like this sounds for this crew.

The Sox are back in the lead, but the umpires seem to be arguing over the scoring of something else.

I'm listening to the game, but I'm tired and bored. I'm staying awake to give Ian a ride back from work, whenever he gets out, but otherwise I'd probably be going to bed. There's some writing I have to do (for the blog, largely), but I'm just not feeling terribly inspired at the moment.

How are you?

There they go again
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:35 PM

The game is now tied 7-7 in the sixth inning. Aren't the Red Sox amazing?

I've been lapcatted:
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:50 PM
Violet sitting in my lap Violet sitting in my lap Violet sitting in my lap Violet sitting in my lap

One more:
          Violet sitting in my lap

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:29 PM

Three run homer in the first inning!!!

Four-nothing first inning. wow.

How do you follow the game?
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:12 PM

So how do you follow the baseball games? I listen to it on the radio (AM 850) with MLB.com's Gameday applet. [As Ian put it, all it took was for me to find the right tool with which to follow the game for me to get into the sport.] I don't actually watch the game on television. [Considering all the complaints about FOX's announcers on Boston Common, I think I may be better off for this decision.]

How 'bout you?

Added later: Regarding predictions of how the series will turn out, I did hear somewhere that every Red Sox trip to the World Series since 1918 has run for seven games. Though the full moon on Game Four could make matters interesting...

Oh, and for Harry Potter fans, how about Professional curse-breaker Bill Weasley takes on the Bambino?

An odd mood
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:20 PM

I am not in a mood to read books. There are a ton of books in the library that I've been wanting to read -- I've even checked out a few, but returned them unread. For some reason, I just don't feel like I'm in a headspace to read any of them.

What is wrong with me?

I suppose it could be the impending election and current events feeling more urgent than my histories; I don't know. It's certainly odd, however. [When I told Ian, he replied, "Who are you and what have you done with my wife?"]

Friday, October 22, 2004
What happens if the Red Sox win?
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:55 PM

A comment in Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light:

God, I hope the Sox win it all.

Then I'll never have to hear about the curse again.

Around inning 6 or so, Ian and I started talking.

What happens if the Red Sox do win the World Series?

I'm not talking about how it would affect the team itself or short-term aftermath of celebrations (or riots), but take the long view for a moment.

The Red Sox and the myths surrounding them play a powerful role in the region. How will we deal when we no longer have the Bambino to blame for our regional bad-luck?

Will the Storrow Drive "Reverse the Curse" sign finally, permanently come down for good?

Ian quipped that we might see a brief uptick in the mortality rate, as all the seniors who have been sticking around for the Red Sox no longer have that to live for.

But think big. Think longterm. Speculate. What ramifications do you foresee with a Red Sox victory?

Facts Against Bush/Cheney
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:40 PM

Via DailyKos, The Nation has come out with:

100 Facts and 1 Opinion:
The Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration

PDF (nicely laid out for handouts)

[And I agree with corrente and Jeneane: Blogger has gotten sluggish to the point of unusability -- it took over ten minutes to merely open the Create Post page, meaning I just missed LJ's hourly check of my feed. grumble.]

Added later: UDecide.org has other PDF flyers for downloading, printing and sharing with undecided voters. [via Atrios]
Hmm... Anybody want to print up a bunch of these and hang out outside Fenway on game days? Which of these flyers do you think would be most effective for that purpose?

Out of the mouths of babes
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:45 PM

Ian described to me an interesting moment in last week's Sunday school class, which I've begged him to blog, but finally, I will since he hasn't.

He was teaching his third-graders about Ve´ahavta lereicha camocha, and, well, let me just quote our conversation in which he described the event:

I was talking about how you're supposed to love your neighbor as yourself, when [student] totally floored me.

She said, "my neighbor says that's the reason why we can't beat the Yankees!"

I said, "what?"

She explained, "that's from Leviticus 19:18.*"

"Well, yes. Yes, you're right."

"And because of that, we're never going to be able to win the World Series until we love the Yankees fans the way that we love Red Sox fans.

What an interesting point.

"LET IT BE KNOWN, in the County of Middlesex and all the civilized lands beyond, that on this day and in this place, a proclamation is made, issued by the good citizens of the City of Boston and the surrounding region, and most particularly by enthusiasts of the Red Stockings athletic club, to the worthies of the Borough of the Bronx, the City of New York and contiguous areas, and in specific those followers of the sporting organization known as the Yankees, offering those greetings and felicitations common to well- mannered discourse, all good wishes for continued health and prosperity, and an inquiry as to the identity of their father."
  -- Kurt Busiek (as seen on Khaosworks)

*For those who don't already have it drilled into their skulls, 1918 is also the last year the Red Sox won a World Series.

Ask and ye shall receive
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:25 PM

Attended the Actors' Shakespeare Project production of Richard III last night. I'm going to post a review of it sometime over the weekend (in brief, very good -- I not only recommend it, but wish I had the funds to see it a second time to pick up some of the nuance I missed), but I just have to share this tidbit now.

When we walked in, I noticed a stack of press kit folders by the entrance. After we found our seats, I worked up the nerve to introduce myself as a blogger who often writes about Shakespeare and then I asked for a press kit. I got one, and they took my card to put me on their list for future announcements.

This is actually the second Shakespeare troupe I now have press credentials for, since I contacted Shakespeare & Co. after we attended Comedy of Errors opening night and I first saw the press kits.

I mean, Hey, why not? My audience is probably comparable to that of a small college paper, but with more potential attendees for something Shakespearean. And I did establish Bard in Boston as a central listing site for Boston-area Shakespeariana.

Two realizations:

  1. I need to have new business cards made. My normal cards are just personal cards; I need something that's specifically for and about my blog.
  2. In both cases so far, I've asked for press kits after I paid regular admission to watch the show. I have got to see if I can't get actual press tickets when the A.R.T. performs Marlowe in March. I mean, I already know I will attend and will write a review. What does it hurt to ask? After all, the worst that can happen is they'll say no, in which case I'll buy tickets and join the audience as I've been planning to since I heard about the production.
Technical/stylistic question for other bloggers
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:20 PM

How many posts do you display on your front page, and why?

Personally, I show the most recent 15 posts, because that's what my RSS feed can display. After a few incidents last year where several large posts made my RSS feed was too large for LiveJournal to read, I've found it a useful tool for me to see the same information on my main page as in the feed, rather than having to count posts or something. [Before that, I set my journal to the most recent seven days. Another problem with that was that a few busy days could make my front page very very large.]

How about you?

And so it begins
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:45 AM

Is anybody really surprised by this from early voting in New Mexico?

Kim Griffith voted on Thursday ? over and over and over.
She's among the people in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties who say they have had trouble with early voting equipment. When they have tried to vote for a particular candidate, the touch-screen system has said they voted for somebody else.
It's a problem that can be fixed by the voters themselves? people can alter the selections on their ballots, up to the point when they indicate they are finished and officially cast the ballot.
For Griffith, it took a lot of altering.
She went to Valle Del Norte Community Center in Albuquerque, planning to vote for John Kerry. "I pushed his name, but a green check mark appeared before President Bush's name," she said.
Griffith erased the vote by touching the check mark at Bush's name. That's how a voter can alter a touch-screen ballot.
She again tried to vote for Kerry, but the screen again said she had voted for Bush. The third time, the screen agreed that her vote should go to Kerry.
She faced the same problem repeatedly as she filled out the rest of the ballot. On one item, "I had to vote five or six times," she said.
Michael Cadigan, president of the Albuquerque City Council, had a similar experience when he voted at City Hall.
"I cast my vote for president. I voted for Kerry and a check mark for Bush appeared," he said.
He reported the problem immediately and was shown how to alter the ballot.
Cadigan said he doesn't think he made a mistake the first time. "I was extremely careful to accurately touch the button for my choice for president," but the check mark appeared by the wrong name, he said.
Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera said she doesn't believe the touch-screen system has been making mistakes. It's the fault of voters, she said Thursday.
Cadigan, for example, could have "leaned his palm on the touch screen and it hit the wrong button," she said.

This is why they need to have UI designers and QA involved. Because we understand that repeated failures are not the users' fault.

I've got a baaad feeling about this.

Expect the unexpected
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:10 AM

Lots of talk going around about the possibility of an October Surprise, and with less than a dozen days, there's not much time left.

However, several bloggers have noticed a likely culprit.

Bush's official schedule says he's going home to Crawford this weekend. Really odd time for a vacation. Even the Globe notes the strangeness of this:

This weekend -- less than two weeks before the election, typically a time for frenzied barnstorming -- Bush is planning to spend two consecutive nights far from any battleground, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

But what if he's not really going to Crawford. What if this empty block of time on his schedule is just a cover story, for say something like his surprise Thanksgiving trip to Iraq? After all, that trip also left from Crawford rather than from Andrews.

But bloggers don't think Bush would actually go to Iraq this time around. Too much bad news over there that he doesn't want to remind voters of. A likelier candidate may be a trip to Afghanistan, which just held elections and thus appears like a more traditional success story.

Anyway, I'm just pointing this out now, so if Bush does take a surprise trip this weekend, you can just go "ho-hum publicity stunt" and hopefully defuse some of the bounce.

Also, don't forget that the poll effects of terror alerts have been quantified! As I wrote two weeks ago, a Cornell University study found conclusive evidence that "terror warnings increased presidential approval ratings consistently." The average increase in the president's approval rating is 2.75%, but the increase only lasts for about a week, maybe two. So be on the lookout.

Friday Cat Blogging
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:33 AM

Almost forgot it's that time of the week.

Here are some snaps I took earlier in the week of Violet helping Ian with his computer games:

Violet on Ian's PC, playing tag with the screen (click to enlarge) Violet on Ian's PC, playing tag with the screen (click to enlarge) Violet on Ian's PC, playing tag with the screen (click to enlarge) Violet on Ian's PC, playing tag with the screen (click to enlarge)

Isn't she helpful?

Posted by Lis Riba at 10:08 AM

cpolk just wrote that Brian Froud's Faerie Oracle is available online.

She noted that "the deck likes to concern itself with boho artsy fartsy questions. so if you're all 'argh this is driving me crazy stupid book' the faeries will give you a good kick in the ass." I'm in exactly that situation, now. I've got this short story where I'm completely stumped around one scene. I've got everything before it and everything after it written, but this bit is a blocker. And I've been stuck there in paralysis for quite a while. So that gave me a question.

Question for the Faeries: How can I finish this damn story?


Even just looking at the summaries above, before reading the details behind the links... Kick in the pants is right. I'll try to get on it this weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
Flash! Ah-hah!
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:55 PM

Just caught last night's episode of Smallville.

Okay, who can point me to some Bart-Clark slash (Smallville, not DC continuity)?

I thought the kid they got for the Flash was great, and I hope they find some way to bring him back. Also, some nice in-joke nods to the comic fans.

But, dude! The ending. Slash openings-a-rama! So blatant that even Ian commented upon them. Of course, I managed to crack Ian up with my quips on the concluding scene. White-on-white text to minimize spoilers:

After Bart puts on the extra burst of speed and Clark stops running, "Okay. Where am I. No. Seriously. I'm lost. Where am I?" The fact that Clark starts dumbly looking around him made it even funnier.
Well, that failed to work
Posted by Lis Riba at 4:45 PM

I've mentioned before how our tenant's kittens come up to our apartment to hang out and filch Boopsie's food.

Boopsie's a bit of a fussy eater. We feed her dry food, but she refuses to eat anything that's been sitting a few hours. Goes "stale" or something. But the kittens would eat that, so we put another cat bowl outside our door and put the stale kibble there so the kittens wouldn't steal from Boopsie and to reduce waste.

And, impressively enough, it worked. The kittens at the kibble that Boopsie otherwise wouldn't touch.

But we're a little uncomfortable with growing kittens eating diet catfood. Boopsie needs to keep her weight down, but these kittens still have room to grow. So I had Ian buy some Science Diet regular to feed the kittens with -- same brand as Boopsie's but a little better balanced nutritionally.

We tried it today.

Boopsie's foodbowl was nearly empty and she was begging for more. But Violet was queued up behind Boopsie, clearly waiting for her chance. So Ian carried Violet to the distant foodbowl and fed her the new kibble, while I fed Boopsie her usual food.

All seemed well in the animal kingdom, until I heard a hiss much closer than expected.

I peered out the door, and there was Boopsie, eating the kittens' kibble, while Violet cowered a few steps away.

Oh well, best laid plans of mice and other catfoods...

Posted by Lis Riba at 3:15 PM

Just a few things I've seen along my wanderings that piqued (not peaked!) my interest. This is in no way intended to shill for gifts; just reminders for when I'm a little better off.

Of course, what I want most of all is a job (that, or a winning lottery/sweepstakes ticket, but since I don't play the lottery or sweepstakes, that's a real long shot). So, hey, if you're new here, if you're just discovering this site through one of the links to my Pat Robertson stories, take a gander at what I can do, and think if you know anybody looking for someone with my set of skills.

Oh dear
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:56 AM

Someone has created replicas of Bush & Kerry in Sims 2 and moved them into a house together, hoping sparks would fly. They did, but not always as intended. Click hear to see the results.

Oh, the horror humor!

Mercury in transit
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:25 AM

And going in the wrong direction.

Back in April, I posted the following horrifying news:

...February 6th announcement by the EPA that their estimates of over 320,000 children per year born with blood levels of mercury that put them at risk for learning disabilities and neurological disorders were off by over 50%. The real number, they now admit, is probably closer to 630,000.

While that number seems rather high, let's put it in a bit more perspective.

630,000 out of 4,000,000 annual US births, or 15.75%.

In even more comprehensible terms, one out of every 6 children born in the U.S. has a mercury blood level above the level deemed safe by the EPA.

These are not children exposed to mercury (unless you live in a sterile bubble, everyone is exposed to some level of mercury), but children who acquired enough mercury through their mother during pregnancy so that their cord blood levels register higher than the maximum safe level
And keep in mind that this only refers to the level of mercury the EPA has deemed a health risk. The EPA (particularly under this administration) is extremely averse to inconveniencing industry, so the actual safe levels of mercury may be even lower.

Of course, not only hasn't this administration done anything to reduce mercury levels, but it has fought safeguards put into place during the Clinton administration. So is it any wonder I check this morning's blogroll and discover things have gotten worse?

Julia has found a Washington Post article which states:

One-fifth of women of childbearing age have mercury levels in their hair that exceed federal health standards, according to interim results of a nationwide survey being conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

The article goes on to remind people that mercury "is a neurotoxin that can cause developmental problems in fetuses and young children."

The last major national study of Americans' mercury exposure, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999 and 2000, concluded that about 12 percent of women of childbearing age had mercury levels that exceeded EPA's safety standard.
The new study found excess mercury levels in 21 percent of the 597 women of childbearing age who were tested.

An increase of 75% in four years, corresponding to the Bush administration with it's more relaxed environmental standards. Coincidence?

Is this for real?
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:45 AM

In hindsight, perhaps it was a mistake for the Yankees to raise a "Mission Accomplished" banner above their dugout after Game 3.
 -- Jim Caple, ESPN.com

Okay, I follow the game through the radio and MLB.com's GameDay applet. I don't watch on TV to see many of the visuals.

Did the Yankees really do such a thing?


What could they possibly have been thinking.

Look what's happened in Iraq since Bush appeared before such a banner.

And if the that quote's timing is correct, the Yankees went straight downhill after they displayed theirs.

Perhaps we should declare a moratorium on the phrase "Mission Accomplished" -- or at least on banners using that slogan. They appear to be ill omens.

On second thought, can we get Bush to appear in front of another one, like right before the election?

(First seen the left end of the dial)     
Consider it a challenge before the whole human race
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:28 AM

We're going to the World Series. So now what?

Who should we be rooting for in the National League?

On the one hand, a Boston-Houston matchup would lend itself to all kinds of election analogies. On the other hand, the Red Sox has lost two World Series to the Cardinals (in 1946 and 1967), meaning history would be against us. [Besides, just think about the color clash: Red Sox and Cardinals?]

Oh, and who do you think deserves MVP for this series? David Ortiz, twice scoring the winning run, or Curt Schilling for playing so well through injury last night? Okay, Ortiz got it. [I didn't realize they awarded it so promptly.] Good choice.

[You know, my high-school self would've been shocked and appalled to see how much and how well I'm following these games...]

Baseball Nightmare, Part Deux

Anyway, over the past week, I've given further thought to my Red Sox victory affects the election scenario from last week, though I waited to post it until it seemed more probable.

Imagine the Red Sox won the World Series in Game Seven. The whole of New England would be filled with such celebrations to make Mardi Gras in New Orleans resemble a sedate church social.
But that's only two days before Election Day. The entire region could be unable to vote, either due to continued drunken stupor or collective hangovers. And with New England generally considered a Democratic lock, depressed turnout up here could be devastating for Kerry.

Considering the kind of endurance matches we've seen in the last several games, don't you think a Game 7 of the World Series -- played on Halloween at (Bambino-cursed) Fenway with Stephen King in attendance -- would have to run 13 innings? [I just checked. The full moon is on the 27th. When I saw the half-moon in the sky this evening, I worried that we might have to deal with that lunacy as well.]

And then came the ruckus at last night's game.

Riots. I forgot about the possibility of victory riots.

We've got a Republican governor -- would lawlessness be a sufficient excuse to issue curfews or other crackdowns? Just as the Democratic majority is trying to get out the vote...

I know this is pure speculation and may border on the paranoid, but I guess I'm a bit superstitious.

Alternately, though less violently, considering how late the last several games have run (* & *) with its impact on productivity, the aftermath could leave us all too exhausted to vote.

Last year, when we faced the possibility of a Cubs-Sox World Series, people were quite open that a victory for either team could spell Armageddon. I sure hope that a Red Sox win wouldn't presage a Bush victory and the End Times.

Anyway, Go team!!! Woo-hoo!!!

On to the World Series
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:01 AM

12:01 am -- we done it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Learn something new all the time
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:01 PM

Lee Atwater died of AIDS!? How come I never heard this before?


I know this makes no real difference one way or another, but my worldview feels suddenly shaken.

Further corroboration
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:20 PM

Kevin Drum linked to my previous post, and a commenter pointed out another Robertson appearance which is consistent with the other accounts (emphasis mine):

Robertson said the same thing in JUNE on Hardball--and WH Communications Director Dan Barrett was in the studio!!


BROWN: I want to ask you how you feel about the war in Iraq. And if God is calling this war a disaster, does that mean that he is actually opposed to it?

ROBERTSON: Well, I don`t think God`s opposed to the war, necessarily, but it was a danger sign. I felt very uneasy about it from the very get-go. Whenever I heard about it, I knew it was going to be trouble. I warned the president. I only met with him once. I said, You better prepare the American people for some serious casualties. And he said, Oh, no, our troops are, you know, so well protected, we don`t have to worry about that.

[Damn. I tried to post this at 9:02 PM, and:

Blogger is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.

This downtime will last 30 minutes from 6 pm - 6:30 pm (PST).


Oh, and Go Red Sox!!!

Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 PM

Well, well, well

According to Atrios, Karen Hughes and Scott McClellan are calling Pat Robertson a liar. [See my earlier post for the context.]

We've now got more detail that the alleged conversation between Robertson and Bush supposedly took place in February 2003 in Nashville. Armed with those extra details, I went looking:

CNN: Connie Chung Tonight, February 27, 2003:

CHUNG: Let's turn to Iraq for a moment.


CHUNG: Because I'm wondering if you believe the United States should invade Iraq without U.N. backing.

ROBERTSON: Connie, I have, over the last year or so, been quite concerned about entering into this war. We should have gone in after him in the Gulf War I.
This thing is fraught with danger. And I think we need to understand that. I told the president that just recently, that we have got to prepare the American people for civilian casualties, for possibly our casualties, for gassing, for various chemical weapons against them.

CHUNG: And, sir, in the last 15 seconds, do you believe we need U.N. backing?

ROBERTSON: Connie, I think the U.N., frankly, is a joke. And I think they're becoming impotent and I think they're becoming ineffective. And the dithering on this matter just proves it. So I don't think that's necessary. We've already got Resolution 1141. That's all we need.

CHUNG: So are you saying to the president, go ahead, but warn...

ROBERTSON: I think that's it. We're too far along the way to stop back now. And you have no choice but to go forward, so be resolute, but please tell the American people to expect trouble and don't think it's going to be a cakewalk.

So why did Pat Robertson specifically mention that he warned Bush about casualties? If, as Scott McClellan is paraphrased today, "Bush always has recognized that war 'requires sacrifice' and that there would be American casualties"(CNN) then Robertson wouldn't've had to tell Bush so.

But Robertson has now spoken out about it, twice in eighteen months, using very similar language to describe the conversation. Which also supports the notion that Bush's response was a memorable one, and not the expected.

I'd like to spend more time blogging away at this, but I've got to find a blank videotape for Smallville.

Added later: For those of you arriving at this link from elsewhere, take a look at the post immediately above, which includes a link to a June 2004 Pat Robertson interview. Whether or not he's credible, he's certainly consistent!

Well, there's a new one
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:05 PM

I've heard a lot of reasons against using touch-screen voting machines, but this afternoon WBZ commentator Gary LaPierre had a new one:

There's a shortage of flu vaccine, so election day will put all the vulnerable elderly in Florida at risk by forcing them to touch the same screen as people who might be infectuous.

Say what!?!

My first reaction is that touch screens would be no more vulnerable than other voting methods, such as those old-fashioned booths with all the levers. Then again, you only need to touch each lever once to vote, rather than reusing the same screen space over a longer period of time, and I doubt any lever would be touched by 100% of the electorate.

Still, there are enough legitimate problems with touchscreen voting; this seemed rather goofy, if you ask me.

[Idle silly thought (who, me???): Ever since I read Watership Down, I keep mishearing his name as "Gary Loppy-Ear." Has anybody else come up with this independently, or am I the lone weirdo? I also tend to make jokes about WBUR supporter "U.R. Listeners" and their reporter "Robert Smeagol."]

Speaking of flu vaccine, while returning some library books I spotted a crowd of senior citizens in Medford Center, presumably waiting for flu shots. It's about 50° F outside, and the line stretched around the block. That can't be healthy, just standing out there in the cold. And the GOP is making accusations about health care rationing??? It doesn't seem right in American in the year 2004 to see a line of elderly people waiting in inclement weather for basic preventative health care.

But the flu vaccine does seem to be sparking conversation. A few other comments of note from around the blogosphere, links and excerpts:

Pat Robertson on the Iraq War
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:11 PM

Kevin Drum quotes a CNN excerpt making the rounds today (emphasis mine):

Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had [a] conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."
..."And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' "
Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."
If this is true, it's scarier than the entire 10,000 words of Suskind's article last Sunday. And you know what? A year ago I probably wouldn't have believed it. It's just too bizarre, even for someone who despises Bush as much as I do. Today, though, I find it sadly believable.

On another note, it appears that God told Robertson the war was a bad idea. I wish He'd make up His mind....

Aside from the horrific nature of Bush's alleged comment, Kevin makes a good point: how believable is this? Is yesterday's statement consistent with Pat Robertson's previous comments?

Well, I enjoy a challenge, so went searching for how Robertson has talked about the war in the past.

It was a somewhat tricky search with a lot of red herrings (frequent news mentions of Robertson's and Fallwell's post-9/11 comments on Islam, for example), but after a short while I found the following two excerpts on Pat Robertson's own website:

March 25, 2002:
I believe we need to do is to support insurgencies in Iraq and Iran. The Iranian people are tired of a theocratic rule under the Ayatollahs. They want to be free. The women want to be free. They want to have a chance to live a normal life, and if we play that right, there will be insurgencies against that theocracy that is controlling the country and ruining it.
As far as Iraq, we've missed two opportunities to get him. We should have gotten Sadaam Hussein after the Gulf War. We had him on the run with the Republican Guard and we missed a golden opportunity. In the Clinton Administration a CIA agent told me we had an insurgency going in Iraq that would have taken out Sadaam Hussein but that on orders of Bill Clinton and Anthony Lake they were told to stand down. The United States would not support it. We could have won that.
The last thing I think we need to do is to go to war with Iraq because it will be perceived in the Arab world as an attack on Muslim people by the United States and it will not be won.
But there needs to be a targeted action against Sadaam Hussein himself because he is a source of terror.
March 27, 2003*:
But I don't think this war has been about oil. This war has been about terror. I want to say this: I am one hundred percent in support of our troops. I am one hundred percent in hopes that the Americans will win. I think Saddam is an absolute monster, and he needs to be replaced.
Nevertheless, I have said before the build-up began that I have grave reservations about this war. I still have them. I think that the Iraqi population is not welcoming us as liberators but as conquerors. We are going to have guerilla fighting going on all of the time. We are going to have the Kurds and the Turks doing their thing in the north. We are going to have the Shiites against very shortly from Iranian help. In the center, the Baath party, what is left, will be opposing us. It is going to be a political nightmare, and the idea of pacifying that country may well be a pipe dream.
Once you are engaged in a thing like this, you can't let up. We are a big superpower; we have got to win it. So we will keep pouring it on until we claim victory. If we have to go into urban warfare, it is going to be a bloody mess. I have not been thrilled about it. I think we had to bring him down, but I would have much rather send a little squadron in there to do a night raid and blow him up somewhere than to go to war.

So there you have it. While Robertson hoped for regime change in Iraq, he seems to have been consistently against the war.

That doesn't provide any firm conclusion regarding the content of a private conversation, but one more piece of evidence for its plausibility, given Robertson's stated opinions.

Sing along with Spike: scheduling notice
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:35 AM

I mentioned this last week, but it may have gotten buried in other entries:

Friday at midnight, the Coolidge Corner Theatre will be showing free the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sing-A-Long Party.

To quote from the flyer:

Queer Soup, creators of underground theatre sensation "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's High School Reunion" join us in person for a special sing-a-long show of the classic musical episode of Joss Whedon's beloved cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

We'll have goodie bags full of interactive activities (and plastic vampire teeth, of course), subtitles so you can join in the singing, and our ringleader cast who will guide us through two of the best episodes of our favorite television show: "Once More With Feeling" (aka, the musical episode) and "Hush".

Plus, you can win your own collectible "Dark Witch" Willow action figure and other Buffy items by entering our challenging Buffy trivia contest.

I'm going to go. I hope they won't sell out because I'm posting this, but anybody else want to get together for the show? Ian's working until "close" that night (he and I will have to coordinate transportation issues later) and I wouldn't mind the company.

BTW, I did go to last Friday's free show: Wizard People, Dear Readers with intermission rock by Harry and the Potters. Eh. WP,DR had some amusing moments (Chapter 14 in the Potions classroom and the references to Oliver Wood were hysterical, but much of it was far outclassed/outstripped by fanfic I've read). Harry & the Potters should give hope to a lot of filkers out there -- with a good gimmick, you can go far. Good showmanship, But in general, I haven't been overly impressed by their music.

So, I gave it some thought and after the concert ended, before the second half of the movie, I left. It didn't cost me anything; I was careful not to walk out during the concert to avoid giving offense... I downloaded the MP3s for WP,DR so I can watch the second half at home if I choose (and I have them available for Ian or others).

You know what I want?
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 AM

Rentable Cat Furniture

Boopsie seems to need a jungle-gym right now, given the way she's climbing over everything. But in the past, when I've bought stuff for her, she's never used them, and we wound up giving them away unused. So why not make the stuff available to rent for a day or week, with an option on buying if you like it. And if the cat just ignores it, you can return it and the company will clean and disinfect it and lease it to somebody else...

What do you think?

Heard in the Osmond-Riba residence this morning:
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:50 AM

Ian: I'm making eggs for breakfast. Want some?

Lis: Yes.

Ian: What kind?


Lis: Chicken.

Ian: You know, as I said that I was asking myself what are the odds that she's going to say 'chicken,' and I thought, somewhat better than any other bird. She might name a reptile.

Lis: Reptile? Ewwwww. <pause> Well, you didn't say "how do you want your eggs," you said "what kind?"

Ian: Yes, yes, I'm aware of that. How do you want your eggs?

Lis: How did you want to cook your eggs?

Ian: Well, I was planning to apply heat to denature the proteins.

Lis: That sounds good! With toast and butter?

Ian: I don't think there's enough heat in toast to denature the proteins.

He's in the kitchen right now. I'm wondering how he's preparing the eggs, but I'm somewhat afraid to go into the kitchen to see.

Added later: I just asked. He's scrambling them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Rocky horoscope
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:54 PM

Usually, Free Will Astrology horoscopes aren't posted until Wednesday morning, but I guess sometimes we get lucky.

Astrology divides human personalities into twelve basic types named after the zodiacal signs. In her books, Agapi Stassinopoulos proposes an alternative system based on 15 Greek gods and goddesses. Using her approach, I've determined that you are currently a blend of Aphrodite and Artemis. Aphrodite embodies love, beauty, and passion, and her essence is summed up by the statement, "It is what I am, not what I do, that is valuable about me." Artemis, on the other hand, is independent and strong; her message is "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid." How is it possible to be a synthesis of these two? You tell me, Cancerian. It'll be your specialty in the coming weeks.

"You tell me..." I'm currently channelling my energy into a couple other channels. Anybody else care to take a stab at this?

Choose your own adventure
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:30 PM

This morning's trip report is actually one of several longer posts that I've had percolating in my head for a while that I haven't been able to find the time to write.

I'm trying to space out my longer posts so readers have enough time to digest one before I hit them with another, but I have two other recent topics I've been meaning to get out, and I thought I'd put it up to readers' vote for which I write next:

  1. A copyright what if
  2. rediscovering Red Dwarf

Which would you rather read about first?

The Axis of Evil wants Bush to win
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:10 PM

Via Hesiod, Iranian leaders have spoken out on the U.S. election:

The head of Iran's security council said Tuesday that the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked if Iran is supporting Democratic Senator John Kerry against Bush.

That language sounds awfully familiar...

Earlier this month, I posted quotes from terrorism experts after GOP partisans suggested the terrorists would welcome a Kerry win:

LUDDEN: Eedle says the most concrete example came in March, in a statement put out by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, which Eedle describes as a black propaganda unit.

Mr. EEDLE: And they said quite explicitly, addressing President Bush, 'We say to you that we are very eager that you should not lose the forthcoming elections. We know that a single big operation would destroy your government, but we do not want that. We will not find anyone more stupid than you, who deals with matters with force rather than wisdom and intelligence. Yes, your stupidity and religious extremism is what we want, for our nation will only wake from sleep when it faces an aggressive enemy.' It goes on to say that Senator Kerry is no different in substance of policy, 'but Kerry will kill our nation while it's not looking because the Democrats have the cleverness to make unbelief attractive and persuade the Arab and Islamic world to swallow it in the name of civilization.'

LUDDEN: In other words, Eedle says, the message claims Kerry would be better at selling hated Western values to the Islamic world. The author of that tract, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, claims affiliation with al-Qaeda.

I haven't heard anything about North Korea, but Vladimir Putin has also endorsed Bush, though his reasons are both contradictory to the evidence above and actually sound like good reason to change administrations if true:

"Any unbiased observer understands that attacks of international terrorist organizations in Iraq, especially nowadays, are targeted not only and not so much against the international coalition as against President Bush," Putin said.

If that were the case... Somehow I'm picturing a bull enraged by a red cape. Wouldn't it make more sense to calm things down by putting the cape away, rather than continuing to wave it?

So there you have it. While it's not always possible to judge a man by his supporters (particularly given the gotcha journalism of giving candidates donations from purposely inflammatory fake organizations, just to see who notices), but I'm beginning to smell a trend.

The Elizabethan world picture
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:35 PM

Well, I just finished The Elizabethan world picture by E.M.W. Tillyard.

Has anybody else read it?

A brief description from the preface:

The province of this book is some of the notions about the world and man which were quite taken for granted by the ordinary educated Elizabethan; the utter commonplaces too familar for the poets to make detailed use of except in explicitly didactic passages, but essential as basic assumptions and invaluable at moments of high passion.
My object then is to extract and expound the most ordinary beliefs about the constitution of the world as pictured in the Elizabethan age and through this exposition to help the ordinary reader to understand and enjoy the great writers of the age. In attempting this I have incidentally brought together a number of pieces of elementary lore which I have not found assembled elsewhere.

I made a few comments on the book earlier today, where I tried to extrapolate from his examples to determine our contemporary world picture probably got buried and thus ignored in my trip report. Still, I do recommend reading just that passage if you're at all intrigued by the subject.

As I said at the beginning of the post, I just finally finished the book. And I find myself wondering whether it's possible and whether anybody has built an RPG system out of these beliefs. What if the world worked in that manner? I can certainly see glimmerings of ideas in there for, for example, a magic system based upon correspondences and the Great Chain. And reading all the details of the hierarchies in Heaven made me wonder whether In Nomine followed these beliefs (as opposed to those of a different period or place) [Added slightly later: Also, where does Faerie fit in to such a hierarchical worldview?]

At any rate, interesting book. Since it's sixty years old, I'm sure other research has either supplemented or supplanted it, though it does sound like the same concepts I heard in a lecture in August.

Domain registration help
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:30 PM

Within the past month, I recall several LiveJournal bloggers writing about some really cheap domain name registration service. Something like $1.99 or so for registration (no hosting necessary). Am I just dreaming, or does anybody else remember hearing this (even if you have no details, just knowing it's not just my memory is a help)? And do you remember where this was? I may be in the market shortly for a couple domain names. No details at present. I'll announce it when I'm ready.


I am a Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:20 PM

[A senior Bush advisor] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued.

Last August, in the wake of FoxNews' lawsuit against Al Franken, weblogs changed their subtitles to "Fair and Balanced."

It appears that Ron Suskind's article (which I blogged Sunday) has leant itself to another tagline.

I don't know whether I want to alter the design of my blog, but I just wish to state, for the record, that

I am a Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community

Which may seem odd for such a fan of speculative fiction (SF & Fantasy), but even fantasy worlds need some set of consistent principles...
[And, hey, the quote never says which reality we're studying.]

Charlottesville trip report
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:55 PM

Fine, I've been a bit poky, but better late than never. Since I don't have lj-cuts nor expandable post summaries, I'm putting the body of this post on a separate page manually. Just follow the bouncing links (they all go to the same page):

And there you have it. We left home 7:25 AM Friday and returned home 11:45 PM Tuesday, having driven a total of 1466.6 miles in those five days.

Any questions or comments?

Monday, October 18, 2004
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:00 PM

5-4 in 14 innings! Game Six tomorrow. I don't know if I can handle another game like those of the last couple nights...

Sunday, October 17, 2004
Food, glorious food
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:40 PM

Today's Globe Travel section has an article on the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University outside Providence. The article already convinced me it was someplace I'd have to visit, and the current exhibit list at the museum's website sounds even cooler (even though some of the links appear to be broken).

And naturally, reading about all this reminds me of my friend Ford, who's currently attending culinary school -- whose stories about pastry classes make my mouth water. [Hey, they've got an Art of Pastillage exhibit!] As much as this interests Ian and me, I love the contagious enthusiasm of going places with experts in the field. You think sometime we could make it work to get together there for a day? The Glob is also reporting $49 fares on Southwest Airlines between Philadelphia and Providence. Maybe we could finally get to meet Ari as well.

Of course, we're also overdue for a trip to Florida to see my family (our previous plans being overruled by a hurricane), and Ian's mother just called about taking a trip to NYC to see the NYPL exhibit on Jewish history and maybe a Broadway play (maybe Last Starfighter: the musical or I've been getting really curious about Avenue Q), and Ian's schedule is getting tight and I've still got to find a job which may complicate my calendar...

But you interested?

Without a doubt, today's must-read article
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:15 PM

Well, everybody else is quoting Ron Suskind's NYT article, so why should I be any different. Hopefully by now you've read it, but here's one of the more... surrealistic quotes, in which someone suggests Sweden's army might be useful for peacekeeping the West Bank and Gaza Strip:

"I don't know why you're talking about Sweden," Bush said. "They're the neutral one. They don't have an army."
[Congressman Tom] Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: "Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army." Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
Bush held to his view. "No, no, it's Sweden that has no army."
The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.
A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. "You were right," he said, with bonhomie. "Sweden does have an army."

And here's a rather scary summary of what the whole article provides examples to illuminate:

[A senior Bush advisor] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

And what are Bush's plans for a second term? Besides talking about up to four Supreme Court retirements, "I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in," Bush said, "with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security."

Read the whole article. And remember, that's what our choice boils down to on November 2.

Cat blogging -- bonus Sunday edition
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:30 PM

Ever have a bad tongue day?

Persephone forgot to pull her tongue back in
John Kerry on the flu vaccine
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:28 AM

From his speech on Saturday in Xenia, OH:

When it comes to reality, George Bush has a simple strategy: Ignore it, deny it, then try to hide it.

We see it in Iraq, where things are getting worse each week with more violence, more chaos, more killings. We've lost more than 1,000 brave men and women -- and more than 7,000 have been wounded. But George Bush says we're making progress in Iraq.

We saw it with health care, when we learned that there was a severe shortage of flu vaccines this season. The story of how this happened is a troubling one.

Way back in 2001, our government was warned that our system was vulnerable to vaccine shortages. That was a red flag.
In June 2003, US health regulators discovered quality control problems at one of the two factories that produces the flu vaccine. That was another red flag.
Then, in August of this year, the manufacturer notified the Bush Administration that there were serious contamination problems in 6 to 8 million of their flu vaccines. That was yet another red flag.
Then, in October of this year, British regulators suspended the company's license. And only then, finally, did we go in to inspect the factory. But it was too late. And now, because of this Administration's failure of leadership and judgment -- because of their failure to act -- we've got a shortfall of up to 48 million flu vaccines.

So what's happening with the flu vaccine is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with this President.

The production of the vaccine was sent to a factory overseas ... sounds like George Bush's jobs plan.

He failed to adequately monitor the vaccine company, even after a year of warning signs that something was wrong, and even after years of warnings that we were vulnerable to shortages ... sounds like his policy on Enron and Halliburton.

Now he tells healthy Americans not to get their flu shots ... sounds like his health care plan -- pray you don't get sick.

Millions of Americans -- including seniors and children -- won't be able to get a flu shot this year. We've got people standing in lines for hours on end -- some of them in their seventies and eighties -- hoping to be one of the lucky ones. And every day, our health care workers struggle to make what could be life or death decisions about who will get a shot.

Then in the debate this past week, George Bush said "We're working with Canada to ... help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season." Well, I don't know about you, but I think that sure sounds odd coming from a President who's banned importing safe, effective, and affordable drugs from Canada. And the next day, Bush's own Secretary of Health even admitted that getting FDA approval in time for this year's flu season was "doubtful."

And believe it or not, just like with Iraq, just like with the economy, a top Bush Administration official is now saying that even with the benefit of hindsight, the Administration wouldn't have done anything differently.

It's just business as usual with George W. Bush: Ignore it, deny it, then try to hide it. And when confronted with a mistake, try and explain things away.

Well that's not going to cut it. When I'm President, we're going to have a real strategy to deal with crises like these. My running mate, John Edwards, called for national leadership on this issue nearly a year ago. Back in December of 2003, he spoke out about the importance of having enough flu vaccine and having a good strategy for responding to outbreaks. And that's exactly what's we're going to provide. We'll take responsibility for this. We'll work with companies both here and abroad to make sure we've got a safety net -- and we'll ensure that there are enough vaccines to keep our families healthy.

Nice way of tying together the issues...

Incidentally, in a similar vein, Kerry's Saturday morning radio address eulogized Christopher Reeve. I don't know how it sounded, but not bad reading...

[Note: Earlier posts on the flu vaccine: 1 and 2]

That's how much I love my husband
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:22 AM

Top of the ninth in a home playoff game, and I'm about to drive down to the Fenway area to pick him up from work. Wish me well...



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