29 October 2008


above is my personal term for sites which you can visit, input info as you please, and save the results for either public or private viewing. so far i've limited myself to four:

~ google earth. this surfable, 3D depiction of the globe is nothing short of fabulous. you can vary the magnification down to where you can see individual buildings, you can actually slant the view to see the height and dimensions of places as varied as manhattan and the grand canyon, and (here's where the vanity part comes in) you can tag personally significant locations -- places lived, events, whatever. it's a lot of fun.

~ google maps. similar to the above, but 2D, and with certain features like roads and streets in more detail.

~ facebook. yes, the one, the only, the ubiquitous, the paradigm of vanity sites. you get to reveal as much or as little of yourself as you wish to anyone who views your profile -- disgusting habits, tastes in movies and books, and oh yes, the names and faces of those who consent to be listed as your "friends". guilt by association. i'm still not sure of the value of this site, since there's little actual, meaningful communication going on, mostly preening. maybe i'm missing something.

~ my barnes & noble. i haven't opened this up to public view yet. it's simply a fun compendium of my favorite books and authors, growing all the time. they may be forced to evict me, as during my lifetime i've read thousands of books. one can also include movies, but there's no convenient way i've found to partition the two categories.

~ well, in fairness i should include match.com and eharmony. you create your own profile, including those traits and interests which you hope a reader will find appealing. perhaps the ultimate vanity. or perhaps just a new version of the age-old dance of courtship.

my chicago buddy bill notes in his blog http://ciexinc.com/blogs/daily/ that these endeavors can be a serious time suck (not his words). extremely true. beware.

28 October 2008


this time the title doesn't refer to actual animals, but to our uses of slang. when i was growing up, hip guys were cool cats, you dig? beatnik jargon. a new generation invented hip hop, and from the gangsta culture a different term of familiarity emerged -- dawg. yo dawg, wassup? it is my impression that at one point, the word was used only within either the Crip or the Blood gangs, and i'm not sure which. but it quickly generalized within the entire hip hop community to connote a friend or friendly acquaintance. and as with so much creativity that springs from black america (gospel, jazz, blues, r&b, rock 'n roll, rap), white kids adopted it too.

i wonder what my grandson's generation will come up with?

23 October 2008


i'm up and out the door a few hours before the sun comes up. yesterday morning was the first time this season i had to scrape frost off my windows, as my vehicle warmed up. brrr.

my work takes me from midtown missoula to the city's periphery in all directions. there've been days when i drive up into the south hills when my ears have popped from the change in elevation. other days, especially in winter, the valley's riparian fog is so thick you can't see more than fifty feet, which, on icy roads, is a not-so-welcome thrill. and of course, whenever it rains or snows, drivers seem to lose their minds completely and behave like lunatics. city drivers, anyway. those of us raised in the country are more likely to take it all in stride.

this being the west, in a university town of modest population, there are still opportunities to see wildlife as one explores the edges. i've seen bald eagles and great blue herons and osprey, rocky mountain bighorn sheep and whitetail deer (the latter so numerous in some neighborhoods that they might as well be cockroaches), black bear and red fox and coyote. the sightings are always a thrill, and a reminder that it is possible to coexist with nature, given a willingness to share space and make allowances for the needs of these creatures who share our planet.

but if one insists on seeing nature as Other, in case of conflict, in my book nature takes priority, whether you live on a ranch or in a city. this world currently hosts about 6 billion humans, far too many to be sustainable, or compatible with the natural world. i would love to wave a magic wand and set the upper limit for humans at one tenth that number, maybe even one hundredth. most would gravitate to cities located on coastlines or waterways, as we did back in the day, leaving vast reaches of landscape and seascape available for recolonization by wildlife. it would be a far richer, more varied world for us, and for our descendants.

sadly, it may already be too late to reclaim such a dream world. we've already set in motion the engines of destruction and extinction. there are entire ecosystems which have vanished, just during my lifetime. humanity is a cancer. eventually we'll either have to move off world, transmitting our viral selves to other planets, or else we'll drive ourselves (fittingly) to the brink of extinction through war, famine and terminal, myopic stupidity. such is the nature of the beast.

17 October 2008


my default resource on matters economic has won the Nobel prize in economics. paul krugman is a professor at princeton university, and writes a column and blog for the NYTimes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Krugman his writing is highly accessible without being condescending. he manages to distill complex economic and political issues down to their essence, making concepts and connections easy to understand, therefore easy to form one's own opinions about.

now if only he were in charge of this country's economic policy.

09 October 2008


so i've been exploring the possibilities in online dating/matching for well over a year now. lots of fodder for discussion there, but i want to narrow our focus to one topic -- pets. this being the west, a number of women online have horses, whether working or recreational. but the majority gravitate to the same animals that urban types favor: cats. and dogs. here in the northwestern u.s., cat owners like myself seem to be in the minority among pet owners. (we'll leave the discussion of whether it is the pets who own us, for another time).

which begs the question, are there human personalities that are drawn toward one animal or the other? you hear dog owners wax poetic about their animals' loyalty, faithfulness (as opposed to infidelity?), happy nature, always-glad-to-see-me, and most notably, their trainability (the dogs, not the owners). this, in spite of dogs' relative high maintenance demands: needing to be "walked" (euphemism for being taken outside to relieve themselves), creating a nuisance for neighbors by barking (shame on owners for not training properly), and unavoidably, their propensity to drool. editorial comment: yuck.

in counterpoise, you hear cat owners sing the praises of their animals' independence, the soothing effect of a happy cat purring on your lap, their own trainability (you just have to make the cats think it's their idea, not yours), and their low maintenace demands: cats instinctively use a litter box from kittenhood with no human training needed, they are very affectionate with humans they know and trust, and shedding can be minimized with daily brushing, a grooming routine which both humans and cats find nurturing.

the above assumes that all animals under discussion have been responsibly neutered. and, truth be told, a lot depends on the individual animal's personality, and how it interacts with the individual human's personality. but let's take an evolutionary step back, and look at a broader aspect of cats vs. dogs.

wild dogs (coyotes, wolves, dingos, hyenas, etc.) evolved as social animals, in hunting packs centered on a family group with an alpha (dominant) male and alpha female. they remain so in a human setting, subservient to their alpha human. cats, on the other hand, (with the exception of lions) are solitary creatures in the wild -- leopards, cheetahs, tigers, lynxes, ocelots, etc. they pair up temporarily to mate, then disperse. this behavior, too, carries over into a human setting, though it is somewhat arrested artificially, with adult cats in the role of kittens not yet weaned from their human "parents".

so what does this say about our human choices? i'm still sorting this out, and welcome any opinions or references from the reader. but as a starting point, it seems to me that dog owners are relatively insecure people who have a need to dominate and be admired, while cat owners are relatively secure people who have a tolerance for independence. all this is speculative and wildly influenced by my own preferences, of course. i know dog owners who are gentle, caring souls, and cat owners who are control freaks. but as a generalization, i think the contrast is a starting point for discussion.

a few tangential questions -- tentatively assuming for the sake of argument that my hypothesis is valid, what does this say about the respective humans' treatment of their own children? and what about people who own both dogs and cats? are they conflicted, confused, bipolar? or just door mats for any species that presents itself? (tarantulas and vampire bats and boa constrictors, take heart!!)

well, i'm a cat person. and you?

03 October 2008


during the night i came down with a bug that had me in and out of bed several times. i was reminded of all those things which we take for granted when they're functioning as we expect, but which gather our full attention when they break down. the list is impressive, when you think about it. our bodies -- affected by illness or injury. our vehicles -- increasingly complex systems (often computer governed) going on the fritz, or sustaining simple, unanticipated disruption like a flat tire or a key locked in the vehicle (i carry a spare in another pocket). our homes, our relationships, the air we breathe, all at the mercy of aging or accident or neglect or abuse.

there is another subset of expectations which i encountered earlier this evening, during the downtown First Friday art gallery stroll. a particular exhibit consisted of small, inconspicuous pieces which blended in so well with the merchandise and wall decor that, unless one chanced to notice the equally inconspicuous labels, one might miss the artist's creativity altogether. i was lucky, in that i know the artist and was on the lookout for her work. others breezed right by. we seem to assume that "art" is macro and attention-grabbing, often overlooking the micro, the subtle, modest in size but no less thought-provoking or enlightening.

we've managed over time to construct a visually and aurally busy world, full of color and clamor, and too often signifying little. what a wonderful surprise to pause, take a breath, and open one's senses to that which is only invisible because we take it for granted. my world is a little richer for that reminder.....

01 October 2008


like the late paul newman, i proudly lay claim to being a progressive liberal. labels are always limiting and sometimes misleading, of course, but one has to begin somewhere. i don't understand why so many democrats cringe when they hear the "L" word. most of our founding fathers and greatest presidents were, to one degree or another, liberal. historically, progressives and liberals have advocated the advancement of labor rights, civil liberties and social justice. we were early proponents of anti-trust laws, the regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-sponsored environmentalism. this is a bad thing?

naturally, political views fall along a continuum, and aren't easily cast in black-and-white terms. still, i suggest that the legitimacy and importance of the liberal point of view, as exemplified by ted kennedy and barack obama, are an important counterpoint to the fiscal and military excesses of the neocon reagan-bush years. capitalism is not some holy touchstone -- it an economic system replete with deep flaws, including an inherent penchant for greed.

this ties in directly with conservatives' hijacking of the concept of patriotism. as in, if you're not for their jingoistic point of view, you are somehow unpatriotic. this is completely irrational and manipulative. i'm one liberal who loves his country too much to allow it to continue to be ruled by a hegemony of oil barons, arms manufacturers, conservative christian fundamentalists, and others who devalue and seek to destroy the very diversity which defines freedom.

what are they afraid of, this ranting, self-important mob? well, the light of day for one thing. they scatter like cockroaches when confronted by the inconsistencies of their own propaganda, and ultimately crumble when, as happened during the mccarthy hearings in the 1950s, their hypocrisy is exposed and the fundamental question is asked, "have you no shame?".

i stand for social responsibility over corporate/shareholder profits. i stand for preservation of the natural world over the rape of its resources. i stand for liberty, equality, and mutual respect among all races and cultures, including both genders. and ultimately, i stand for our continued evolution from family, tribe, town, state and nation, toward a world community which values and protects cultural diversity, while affording equal opportunity for access to education, health care, housing, and viable work.

and i stand firmly against those who would deprive others of these rights, for their own selfish pursuit of wealth or power. theirs is a criminal world, deserving of the consequences bestowed upon criminals by a responsible society. a world society.