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Originally published February 28, 2003

Theodore Roosevelt

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

Iraq Map

The Bush Adminstration has been presenting the Iraq issue as a choice between war or voluntary disarmament by Saddam. Since everyone knows — even the French — that Saddam will never voluntarily disarm, then that means war is the only alternative. Or is it? I happen to think that inspections are going well. They've turned up those missiles and some chemical artillery shells. At the very least, Saddam can't develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) while foreigners are cavorting all across Iraq. Sure, it will take time, but if the real goal is to prevent the use of WMD, then war is the last option you'll want to take.

George W. Bush
Photo by Eric Draper, White House.

And that, I believe, is the crux of the issue: George W Bush doesn't really care whether WMD will be used. He wants war because it will further his goals. What those are, I can only guess: increase his poll numbers, distract the public so his tax cuts and other domestic initiatives can sail through un-opposed, or perhaps he is just a trigger-happy cowboy. I don't know, but it scares the crap out of me.

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Dangerous Liaisons
Dangerous Liaisons
Directed by
Stephen Frears
Staring
Glenn Close
John Malkovich
Release
December 21, 1988

This movie is on a short list of ones that I'll watch repeatedly, like a little kid with a Disney video. Set in pre-revolution, 18th Century France, the movie is based on a contemporaneous novel. The story of social intrigue and deceit could just as easily take place at any point in time since the beginning of history to today (Mean Girls, anyone?). I find it endlessly fascinating even though I am not the type to engage in such behavior. (I probably have more in common with Le Chevalier Danceny than I care to admit.)

What truly grabs my attention, though, is the period portrayed. This movie deserves the Oscars it won for Art Direction and Costume Design (in addition to the Screenplay, another well deserved award). The depiction of everyday life of the French nobility is captivating. From the opening scene with the main characters getting ready for their day to the faux good act of the Vicomte de Valmont in saving the peasant from the tax collector, you truly get a sense of the gap between rich and poor of that era. We seem to be heading in that direction today, hopefully we'll arrest it before we have our own 1789.

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I have a secret that's been tearing me apart: I own every album Enya has put out. Ahhhh, now that I've admitted it, I feel so much better. I hope that others, too, can come out and live true to themselves. You shouldn't have to justify your taste in music. And yet, most of society looks down on New Age as a freak of musical nature, that it's but the first step that leads eventually to crystals and weird health care choices, and will put them to sleep. I knew, though, since I was little that something was different about me.

I Blame My Parents

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel performed the soundtrack to my earliest memory, which is still a vivid one. I'm in the back of our blue Buick station wagon, cruising through west Texas. Scarborough Fair is playing on the radio. I see it clearly: desolate countryside, the road bending off to the left in a wide arc.

Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

The key here, I believe, is memory. This song was burned in early, it fires off pleasurable neurons whenever I hear it, kept me listening so that later in life, I grew to appreciate the story the lyrics tell. I have found that this song is frequently covered by both new age and folk artists, but it is just one of many great songs on the original album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which includes Homeward Bound, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) and a mix of other good folk and sixties pop tunes.

...continue reading "Yes, I like New Age Music. You got a f!#%ing problem with that?"

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A Confederacy of Dunces
Author
John Kennedy Toole
Publisher
Grove Press, Inc.
Edition
First Black Cat Edition, Second Printing - 1981 - paperback - 415

I fear, in an alternate universe, I may be Ignatius J. Reilly. Perhaps it is my Irish Catholic upbringing that leads me to believe, in my dark moments, that despite my good intentions, I am worth less than a small pile of flea turds. When it gets bad, I break out this book and give it another read. The laughter it induces is enough to bring me out of my funk, but I also realize -- Damn! -- things could be worse.

...continue reading "Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces"

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Choose Your Battles

:flick:

It's a simple act, turning on a light.

"What are you doing? Turn that off!"

"Why? It's dark in here, I can't see."

"See how high up that light is?"

I've lived in this house for years, walked through this foyer countless times.

I look.

"We don't have a ladder high enough to reach it. If that bulb burns out, we'll never get it changed."

"If that's the case, why don't we use it until it does burn out?"

She looks at me like I'm a stupid child, one that may not make it past the 6th grade.

I turn off the light.

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Intruder Detection System: Model 38, Class A, Number 5
Copyright © 2010, Yaegini Lenoir

The laser ranging back and forth across the landscape betrays its approach. The machine makes no noise as it picks its way through the former suburb on six insect legs, looking for evidence of intrusion. It scans, measuring everything it can, and submits the data to central control. Scan, send. Scan, send.

Receive!

"ALERT: 30 meters in a heading of 23.3°, investigate car. Current height 3.5 inches lower than last baseline. Threat Assessment: 21% likely; Pre-emptive Action Threshold: 35% certainty."

...continue reading "Walking the Beat"

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For having only 6 letters, my last name has been pronounced an infinite number of ways. I can still hear Coach Silly Bean (what was his real name, Sylvester? No, wait, I was never on the Cheerios) shouting at me in 7th grade PE:

Laneer, get over here!

la-NEER, get over here!

I'll answer to any, but the following two are the most correct:

...continue reading "How do you pronounce my last name?"

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These are the core principles that guide my beliefs.

We are all in this together

We cannot exclude anyone from the benefits our nation confers. All of us, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual preference or citizenship. True, being a citizen confers certain rights and responsibilities, but not being one doesn't put you beyond the pale.

Let's be careful about using the label "them".

We are the government

There is no other institution that allows all of us to act together. Businesses are beholden to their owners, religions to their god(s).

If we abdicate our responsibilities as citizens, since politics abhors a power vacuum, someone will step in and they will not likely care about everyone.

Consider, too, that since we are the government, the government acts in our name.

Good guys don't shoot first

It's tempting, I know. Holding back means good people will get hurt or killed. I agree, it's sucks in the short term. However, long term, it shows the world who the bad guys are and it makes sure that our wrath, when it is stirred, is properly directed.

This applies domestically as much as on the international scene.

Don't be a dick

We should work to make sure that all of those who need help, get it, even at the cost of some undeserving reaping benefit. I do not want to hurt those who need help in an effort to stick it to the bad actors.

Don't be stupid

Don't let our principles lead us off a cliff. We should constantly evaluate our actions and their impact. If something doesn't seem right, revisit the core principles. Maybe it's an unavoidable situation. Or maybe we need to readjust how we act.

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It took me 7 hours to get home during the epic thunder snow of January 26th, 2011.

  • 2 hours on the train

    F-ing Metro was single tracking both Red and Orange lines for non-snow related reasons.

  • 1.5 hours waiting for a bus

    My toes began to freeze. Many people were not adequately dressed. Needed to pee, but no bathroom or convenient tree.

  • ...continue reading "The Long Journey Home"

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Everything I know about breakfast I learned from my father. It was he who fed me those early school mornings, at least when he was in town. I took care of myself when he was not because my mother was not exactly a morning person. The fare was simple: Either scrambled eggs liberally dosed with sauteed jalapeños or fried eggs, sunny-side up on toast. But the best was sunday brunch: omelets, pancakes or my all time favorite: corned-beef hash.

This is not as bad as it looks
This is not as bad as it looks

Yes, that's right! I'm talking about breakfast in a can. I still enjoy it to this day. Open up the can and plop it right into the frying pan. Sure, it looks like dog food (may even taste like it, for all I know), but when it's done right — the perfect balance between the crispy outside and warm, soft inside — it starts my day off very well, thank you. I'm not claiming this is better than home-made, which it's not. Just that the ratio of work to joy is quite favorable.

A very tasty breakfast made quickly
A very tasty breakfast made quickly

Doing It Yourself

If you have the time, though, and the circumstances are right, I recommend making your own. It's simple to do:

  1. You need some left over meat.

    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner
    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner

    I only make hash when I have some leftovers. The meat needs to be cooked before you start, so it doesn't make sense, to me at least, to set out to make this from scratch.

    Any meat will do. For me, it's usually a left over roast beef of some sort, which is ironic since I don't like the canned roast beef hash, but have never made my own corned beef hash. I've used turkey after Thanksgiving and with ham after Easter, both worthwhile.

  2. Chop the meat up fine.

    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish
    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish

    I run it through my meat grinder once with the large die. You could just use a knife. I wouldn't recommend the food processor because it will turn the meat into a paste that isn't very tasty.

  3. Dice up a potato.

    You need the starch in there. Well I do, anyways. It ain't breakfast without it. Don't limit yourself to the potato, though. If you have any other leftovers in the fridge that look like they might work, chop them up and toss them in there, too. You can't go wrong with onion, peppers of any sort, garlic. Just make sure you dice them up small.

  4. Toss all of the into a frying pan at medium heat with some butter or oil.

  5. Add a liquid.

    You might – might – be able to skip this step if your meat is particularly fatty, but even then, I wouldn't recommend it. Last thing you want is a dry, crumbly hash. You don't need much, a quarter cup or so should be enough. I've used my pig shots (2 ounces of pork broth), milk (yes!) or even gravy for my post Thanksgiving hash.

  6. Keep cooking until you get a crust, but not so long that it dries out.

  7. Throw a fried egg or two on top.

It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it
It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it

Is It Worth Ordering when Eating Out?

This is tough to answer for someone else because it depends on your willingness to suspend your disbelief. I know that the hash I order is coming out of a can most times I order it. Usually it works out just fine. The Yorkshire Diner in Manassas does it well. I enjoy it with a short stack of pancakes in addition to the usual sunny-side up eggs.

This isn't always the case, though. I've had hash served without any crispiness, could still see the shape of the can. In other cases, I've been served a uniformly consistent paste. Where they try to make their own? Doesn't matter, it was a disaster either way. And this really pisses me off. This isn't hard to do.

I'll Never Give It Up

Despite the less than pleasant experiences, hash will always be on my menu. The warm fuzzy feelings it conjures, memories of my father, make it a tasty meal, even if it is from a can.