Saturday, November 08, 2008

Here Comes the Cavalry!

If anyone doubted there is a new day dawning, check this out:

Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team.

A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition.

In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Still Processing Yesterday's Election

Alleluia. I am so exhausted from emotion and filled with good cheer that I can't think straight. More to come, but this will do for now:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daughter of Slave Votes for Obama

Imagine a life crossing THREE centuries. Imagine voting for a black man for President of the United States, the same country that allowed your father to be considered property. It strains credulity, but here is 109-year-old Amanda Jones' story, and of course this takes place in Texas:

"Jones' father herded sheep as a slave until he was 12, according to the family, and once he was freed, he was a farmer who raised cows, hogs and turkeys on land he owned. Her mother was born right after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Joyce Jones said. The family owned more than 100 acres of land in Cedar Creek at one point, she said.

Amanda Jones' father urged her to exercise her right to vote, despite discriminatory practices at the polls and poll taxes meant to keep black and poor people from voting. Those practices were outlawed for federal elections with the 24th Amendment in 1964, but not for state and local races in Texas until 1966.

Amanda Jones says she cast her first presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt, but she doesn't recall which of his four terms that was. When she did vote, she paid a poll tax, her daughters said. That she is able, for the first time, to vote for a black presidential nominee for free fills her with joy, Jones said."


The older I get, the more grateful I am for the sacrifices and hard work of preceding generations. This woman personifies just about every kind of social ill that this country has the capability to throw at us. And, she survived.

So, let's do Amanda proud on Tuesday, folks. She deserves it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Little Town


Being bad with the maths and an ostrich by nature when it comes to money matters, I was startled yesterday when the bad economy almost literally hit home. Late yesterday afternoon I went for a walk in my neighborhood to shake off the work week blues. As I turned the corner, I came upon a cute little stucco house that had recently been sold. As I approached this time I noticed it was again for sale this time by its new owners: THE GOVERNMENT. Yes, a home foreclosure in my sweet little neighborhood. I had to take a picture of this unfortunate occurrence because it sent a bit of a chill down my spine. It reminded me of the reality of the news stories, and the credit crunch and the layoffs and everything else we've been hearing about lately.

While we tend to be relatively conservative in our spending and sometimes I question why we don't live a little better (closet space? what's that?), it's times like these that I am thankful that we don't have a lot of debt. We went through that when we were younger and took risks because we had an expectation of time to make up any losses. Now, I'm glad that we are living within our means, but like everybody, we're a lost job away from losing health insurance and eating catfood for dinner.

The other thing I do know is that these times will pass. We lived through similar times back in the '80s, and again when the dotcom bubble burst. And it does appear to be cyclical. So, riding it out, not looking at our 401k balances, seems the best way to go.

But I still feel bad about the neighbors.

Seriously, we can!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Good News from Colin Powell

Finally, at long last, a grown-up is speaking to us all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lizard Man



All during the debate, you could hear Grandpa wheezing and gakking away like some kind of amphibian. Grandpa almost made it through the contest without his real self showing through: "Look! I think I caught a fly on my tongue!"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wish I'd Said That

Although I haven't yet put this thought into words, this post at Andrew Sullivan's blog crystallizes just what it is about Sarah Palin that I can't abide. One of his astute readers wrote:

I just want to ask: can anyone, anyone, imagine Condoleeza Rice or Margaret Thatcher or even Hillary Clinton for God's sake, winking at the nation and/or being coquettish in any national format?

Yeah. Just checking.





Worse than Bush?



Here's another nail in the coffin aka The McCain Campaign. Rolling Stone does a long feature on him this month (which, truth be told, I haven't yet finished reading). But when it starts out by comparing Grandpa with the Chimp and saying it's very even, except the Chimp was a better pilot, I have a feeling I know where it's going. Enjoy the complete article here.

Hat Tip to Redbeard.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

This Will Wake You Up

Grandpa Doesn't Like Michigan

Well, it seems that recent events have caused Grandpa to re-evaluate where he's spending his campaign dollars. And today we find out that he's giving up on Michigan. We just need a couple more of those swing states to continue to move Obama's way and this could turn into a blow-out. I'm careful not to get too high on these things - anything can happen. And God only knows McSame might come up with a few more of his "surprises."

But something tells me that the erratic behavior of recent days has been exactly what has doomed him. I think the public is tired of the overly-dramatic and is ready for the calm, sure hand of a smart and thoughtful president. We'll see.

I have hope.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Get Your Latest Poll Numbers Here

Holy cow. I hate to get too over the top with the good news, but things are looking great for Barack. Today's CNN polls:

• Florida: Obama 51%, McCain 47%, with a ±3.5% margin of error.


• Minnesota: Obama 54%, McCain 43%, with a ±3.5% margin of error.

• Missouri: Obama 49%, McCain 48%, with a ±3.5% margin of error.

• Nevada: Obama 51%, McCain 47%, with a ±4% margin of error.

• Virginia: Obama 53%, McCain 44%, with a ±4% margin of error.

Yes, indeed, with only 33 days to go, I'm quite pleased with where this has been going. And be sure to be in front of your TV tomorrow night at 9 to see what could be a major body blow to Grandpa's campaign.

Woo-fuckin'-hoo.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Faint...

Thank you, North Carolina!!

A new Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina finds Sen. Barack Obama has taken the lead over Sen. John McCain for the first time, 47% to 45%.

Key finding: "Over the last year there's been a strong relationship between the number of North Carolinians listing the economy as their biggest concern, and Obama's standing in the polls. In January when just 39% of voters said it was their biggest issue John McCain led by 14 points. In August with it up to 48% Obama trailed by just three. Last week with 58% listing it number one the race was tied, and now with the number up to a record 64% Obama has taken a small lead. He is up 55-38 among respondents citing the economy as their main concern."

Also not helping McCain: A dramatic decline in approval of running mate Sarah Palin.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Watch Out! Putin's Rearing his Head

Comedy Writes Itself

The writers at SNL don't really have to do much anymore except watch the news. The below video is either hilarious or scary. You make the call:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cannot Wait until the VP Debate

I love the expression on Katie Couric's face. And, of course, I adore Jack Cafferty's response.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Phil

Although our neighbor, Phil, was a funeral director by profession, he never seemed "the type." We never saw him in a suit, or in a somber pose in the 25-plus years we lived across the street from him. He had strawberry blonde hair, a jaunty walk, and could often be found, in good weather, taking the sun on the side deck with his wife, Debbie.

Yesterday, we heard Phil died. He was 65 and apparently died fairly soon after finding out he had advanced stomach cancer. It knocked me for a loop because he, like our other neighbors, are fixtures in our lives. Not that we're particularly close to one another, but we lived in each other's presence for a long time. We know each other's rituals. I looked forward to seeing Phil trim his dogwood tree in the spring, and seeing he and Debbie entertain their children (and grandchildren) at cookouts in the summer.

We probably only spoke to one another a handful of times - and the fact that he and Debbie were very private made us appreciate them all the more. Of course, we'd run into each other during major snowstorms when everyone was shoveling, or the time a tree branch knocked down the electrical wires and none of us could get down the street. In recent years, I could see that they bought a plasma TV and they were big Red Sox fans - we shared that, as well.

Now, I look across the street and see a lone light in that room with the TV. I wonder about Debbie and how she's doing. We wanted to send a card, or some flowers, but -- unbelievably -- we don't know their last name.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Priceless

Imagine a Thoughtful and Intelligent President...

Here's Barack's thinking on how we deal with the looming economic crisis. Easy to understand, too.



Although I fully understand we need to offer no blank check, etc., my favorite line is that NO CEOs PROFIT FROM THE BAILOUT. EVER.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Joe and Hillary on Women's Issues

Are you a woman? Do you have a daughter? If so, you'll be interested in this 30-minute webcast with Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. They discuss the impact Grandpa will have on the Supreme Court, equal pay for equal work, violence against women, and more.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In Case You've Been Sleeping for the Past 20+ Years



Do you still think the GOP has your best economic interests at heart???

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The GOoPers Are Killing Me

Could we just cut the crap? The GOP is making a mockery out of the USA, the office of President of the United States and the electorate. Just stop already.

I had once thought John McCain had a few decent bones in his body and that he was far less dangerous than the Chimp. But his campaign over the last couple of days has shown what a despicable liar he is and what a morally bankrupt campaign he is running.

Andrew Sullivan says it better than I ever could. I'm disgusted with the GOP and anyone who would vote for them.

This is a sorry state of affairs.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Keeping Their Eyes on the Ball

I like where the Obama camp seems to be going. Rather than be distracted by a truly shiny object in the person of Governor Palin, the campaign appears to be refocusing on McCain. And, to reinforce that message, Senator Clinton will be going to Florida on Monday to talk about the economy - the non-topic of the RNC.

Go Hillary!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Let Them Eat....Bling?

Yes, the McCain's understand all of us. They understand what it's like to struggle with the mortgage. They understand what it's like to pay the credit card bill. They feel our pain when it comes to buying groceries, filling the gas tank and saving for our childrens' educations.

That's why it was easy for them to determine their budget for Cindy's outfit at the convention the other night. They managed to scrape together the change found in their sofa cushions and got a dress, jewelry and shoes for ....



$300,000.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

This is Freakin' Hilarious!

Two GOP operatives are heard saying what they REALLY think about Sarah Palin.



You can get the transcript here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Putting Yourself Before Your Family

News broke today that the daughter of presumptive VP nominee Sarah Palin is pregnant and planning to marry her 17-year-old boyfriend. She's apparently five months along, and we assume that her parents knew about this prior to accepting the appointment as Grandpa McCain's running mate.

If this is indeed the case, and knowing that the national media was going to focus on your daughter's personal life intensely as part of the campaign, why would you put her through this? It stumps me.

The only thing I can think is that Governor Palin cares more about her career than her family. Family values? Hmmmmmmmm?

And, by the way, imagine if Joe Biden's teenaged unmarried daughter was preggers? He'd be crucified.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin Time?

Holy smokes. McCain is stupid. What kind of person, contemplating the complicated world we live in today (and who has been stoking the FEAR about such a world) picks a little known, inexperienced empty suit of a small time governor as his running mate? Listen, folks, if you had any doubts about McCain's judgment, this choice should set off alarm bells all over the place.

And, McCain's self-professed weakness is the economy. That being the case, wouldn't you expect him to add a person to his team who could help him shoulder that load? No, he picks someone who lives in an 8,000-person town in Alaska. Not that I'm dissing Alaska - probably a wonderful place to live. But, what experience does she have with security issues there? What experience does she have with mass transit issues? What experience does she have with urban sprawl?

OK, she has five children. Great. She's experienced at managing a household. If that's the litmus test for us to be president, then there are millions of people who are better qualified than Governor Palin.

And she likes guns. Swell. In Alaska, that makes pretty much sense. In Philadelphia? In Oakland? In Houston? Eh, not so much..

Wonder if she knows what the internet is?

On the other hand, look at Obama. He's acting like a grown-up, choosing someone who can help him carry the burdens of 21st century life. From here on out, McCain will never, EVER get to say that security is the main issue of the campaign - or foreign policy. Obama has boxed Grandpa into a corner in stunning fashion. People, Obama will know how to campaign, how to govern. From Day One.



PS: For any of you who read this and wonder where I've been of late (all 2 of you) - I've been away from blogging due to a recently acquired addiction to Facebook. Whaaaaaa!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama-Biden '08



I've always liked Joe Biden and I'm actually very pleased with this choice. Just listened to his first speech in Springfield, and let's say it's now officially ON.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Elite Exotic

So, he's on vacation doing things that NO American ever would think of doing, right? Riiiiiiiight.



I love this picture...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Kinda Texas, kinda not

Alejandro + Bruce = a match made in Texas.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barack Hates the Yankees, Too

Wish I'd Thought of It

People in Iowa sure are smart. Some have attempted a citizen's arrest of that notorious creep, Karl Rove. Good stuff.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

USA! USA! USA! USA!



So. When's the last time you saw Europeans gathering to cheer an American? When's the last time you heard a crowd of 200,000+ people chanting "USA! USA!" outside our country's borders? Well, it happened today when Barack spoke in Berlin. And it's about time.

Today's speech reiterated how important it is to repair, and - yes - improve, our relationships with allies abroad. And seeing people of all colors and sizes greet Obama as if he was one of their own says volumes about how we go about fixing these relationships. I like the strategy he seems to be employing, which stresses how alike we all are, how we share values, and hopes, and desires for the future. These discussions, whether they're behind a podium in Berlin or back home, can only make America more secure.

This is what good judgment is. This is what intelligence is. This is what security is.

Take note, America. (See more great pictures from Berlin here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shanghai to Shrewsbury

Well, the last day is finally here - and the work we came here to do is finished. So we went out on the town to celebrate with our colleagues.

Started at a shopping district near Yuan Gardens:











And then we went to dinner:





And walked around The Bund:



And I iz one tired puppy. Night, all!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Working Life

Today was as much like a normal workday as it could be on the other side of the world. Our Chinese driver picked us up at our hotel and drove us the 40 minutes or so to the office. We held our training session with some of the most eager students I've ever worked with. Mostly a room of 30-year-olds, many with university degrees, all of whom paid close attention to everything we said. This is typically not the reaction we get from American colleagues, particularly this age group. In fact, at one point we said we'd take a break for 15 minutes and not one person got up and left the room - they just continued working. Be afraid, Americans, be very afraid. The Chinese are coming and they're ready to take your jobs.

Last night at dinner, the manager of the Shanghai office told us that only about 5% of the workers for our company actually own a car. Most take public transportation/walk to work, but many ride bikes or scooters. Some even take taxis to work - which surprised us, although that's not as expensive as it sounds. We took a cab last night for about a 15 minute ride and it cost only about $3US. Then again, two cups of coffee this morning cost us about $20US. Hard to know why things are valued this way.

Took a few pictures along the way that illustrate the way Chinese typically commute:





Caught this guy on the commute home:



Had a free night so took a walk up the street from the hotel to the mall:





And a fountain along the way:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shanghai Surprise

Yesterday's travels to Shanghai and today's workday have pooped me out. This won't have a lot of content, mostly pictures because I'm ready for bed. But I do want to at least get this much done. And I'm sorry for not responding to emails, I hope to do more of that tomorrow!

Took some pictures from our 38th floor breakfast area in the hotel, the lobby itself:





How 'bout these crazy chairs?



We were lucky enough to get a driver to transport us to the office on the outskirts of Shanghai. It was a wild ride, even by my standards. Pedestrians crossed between cars, bicycles darted in and out of traffic. The van we were riding in switched lanes uncountable numbers of times, sometimes blowing its horn, sometimes crossing the double yellow line to pass cars when another car was coming toward us. I finally found a city with worse drivers than Boston! Some pictures from out the car window:







After work, we went out for Chinese food. Ha! See what I did there?? I crack myself up. (Yeah, I'm tired. So what of it?)

Anyway...multiple dishes are placed on the lazy Susan and you simply serve yourself from the group dishes:



It was delicious. Except for some raw meat that I steered clear of.

One of our colleagues made us go out to the lobby of the restaurant to see the "100 day" birthday party being thrown by a family of a 100-day old daughter. Seems they invited 300 of their nearest and dearest to mark the occasion. Note the poster-sized pictures of the child! If she gets this for being 100 days old, what in hell will her wedding be like?



Not too much of excitement planned for the next few days. Counting the hours till the long plane ride back home!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

If It's Sunday, It Must be Shanghai

Made the short hop over from Osaka to Shanghai today, which included so many modes of transportation, it's hard to keep it all straight.

Took a taxi (transportation type 1) to the Kyoto train station, where we were pretty much like your average run-of-the-mill contestants on "Amazing Race." We had to use our wiles to figure out where to buy a ticket and find the train. The tricky part was that there were two train stations in Kyoto, and two airports in Osaka, with both express trains and locals to choose from. After asking several people, we were able to figure it out and it all went smoothly once on board.

Some pictures of the countryside of southwestern Japan:



And an interesting building in Osaka:



The railcar (type 2) was nearly empty so we were able to spread out a little bit. The 75 minute ride dropped us right at the airport and we went through to our gate easily, following a short shuttle bus ride (type 3). Business class on the All Nippon Air flight was also not filled up, making the plane ride (type 4) a piece o'cake. We noticed that going through customs in Shanghai was a lot more aggressive than in Tokyo. People pushed ahead and jostled one another to get advantage, making me miss the gentle Japanese a bit.

We were greeted by a bellhop (literally dressed in his monkey suit) at baggage claim, who quickly moved us to an awaiting car (type 5) for the drive to downtown Shanghai. And, if China is considered communist still, you wouldn't be able to tell it by the looks of the suite I have. We're not exactly sure how we qualified for this situation, but we're enjoying it.

The check-in was a trip in and of itself. They whisked us to the 38th floor, which is known as the "Executive Lounge." There, we were shown to some comfortable chairs, given a beer, while they did the check in thing. Another set of bellhops stood waiting and guarding our suitcases all the while. Then they took us to our rooms:







The suite also has two bathrooms, a flat screen TV in the bedroom and a regular one in the living room. I even have my own fax machine if anyone needs to contact me.

Right now I'm really tired and work starts early tomorrow, so I'll leave you for now. Pleasant dreams, people!

And for HorshamScouse...I'm working on that World Financial Center thing. I'll let you know how that one goes as the week progresses.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just an Ordinary Saturday

Keeping busy in Kyoto on Saturday is not the least bit difficult. To help us get a sense of this place (which we've learned is the seventh largest city in Japan) we signed up for a half-day tour of three typical spots. First, Nijo Castle, home of the Shoguns. (I didn't see the mini-series or read the book, but may want to do that after this tour.) Then, we went to a Shinto shrine - ack! I didn't write the name of it down! It was a last minute change to the itinerary. I'll have to do some searching to see if I can find it. And we ended at the "Golden Pavillion" (really named Kinkakuji Temple), a Bhuddist temple.

Here's the best pictures of the day, starting with Nijo Castle, which was built in 1603. We weren't able to take pictures inside, but it was a beautiful series of Japanese rooms, with painted murals and carvings. Each place a nail was used, it was covered by a carved metal plate, over 400 in all, each with a different design.

The halls around the rooms were configured beneath so that they squeaked when you walked. This was to discourage assassins from sneaking up on the Shogun. They are called "nightengale" floors for that reason.



Before we could enter the shrine we had to remove our shoes and put them on the shelves:



The Shogun really knew how to make a nice garden, and if you look closely, you'll see an osprey on the bridge. It had just flown over our heads and landed there. Damn fine bird, with a helluva wide wingspan.



I can't believe I don't have the name of this shrine, but it was so freaking hot it was all I could do to take pictures and listen to the guide's descriptions of the places we visited:



At this shrine, one walks up to this place, throws money between the slats, steps back and prays. When finished, you clap twice, bow and back away. I also saw another woman pull on the rather long cord in the middle of the picture to ring the brass bell hung above. This picture doesn't really do it justice.



The back side of the shrine:



Then we were off to the Golden Pavillion:



The tour brochure says this is "perhaps the world's most authentic and exquisite Japanese garden." It was beautiful, certainly and we practically melted with the humidity:





As part of the visit to the shrine (and to make a few yen), we were invited to light a candle and some incense. First, you choose your prayer topic: - I picked a candle for the "God of Marriage."



Then I placed it here:



And lit my incense and placed it here. You stand for a moment and say your prayer and wave your hands over the rising smoke, pulling it toward yourself:



After some shopping and rest at the hotel, we ventured out for dinner last night, but didn't go far. Resting up for today's journey to China. We check out here around noon, take a taxi to the train station, hop a ride to Osaka Airport, get on a Nippon Airways flight to Shanghai. Once we land there, we are to be picked up by a car from the office, which will take us to our hotel. Luckily, in Shanghai it seems like we might have more personal care.

I'm really ready to come home now. It's been going great, but I'm tired of hotels and would really love to have a hamburger right about now.

Hope you all are well! See you in Shanghai!