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05/31/2006

Hope-I-Die-Before-I-Get-Old Dept.

Bill_gates

Bill Gates spoke at The Wall Street Journal's D:Conference ("D" as in "Digital") this week.

In a blog post about the presentation, Weblogs, Inc., founder (and erstwhile dotcom poster boy) Jason Calacanis, 35, mused: "Wow, this guy's been building the same piece of software for over 20 years, and he is still excited about it—that's pretty cool."

There's nothing to suggest Calacanis meant it as anything other than a compliment, but, well … ouch.

Calacanis also offered this further reflection on Gates, 50: "He does seem very happy and at peace."

Sounds like something you'd say about someone you'd just visited in a hospice.

I suppose that must be one of the hazards of running your business at the speed of thought for all those years.

Posted by Rodger on May 31, 2006 at 05:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Made for you and me?

Kerry_bush

During the last presidential election cycle, the only thing centrists had to feel good about was a two-minute Internet cartoon. But a coalition of political independents and former Ford and Carter operatives is out to change all that.

Jonathan Alter writes in Newsweek:

A bipartisan group will open shop this week at Unity08.com. This Internet-based third party is spearheaded by three veterans of the antique 1976 campaign: Democrats Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon helped get Jimmy Carter elected; Republican Doug Bailey did media for Gerald Ford before launching the political tip sheet Hotline. They are joined by the independent former governor of Maine, Angus King, and a collection of idealistic young people who are also tired of a nominating process that pulls the major party candidates to the extremes. Their hope: to get even a fraction of the 50 million who voted for the next American Idol to nominate a third-party candidate for president online and use this new army to get him or her on the ballot in all 50 states. The idea is to go viral—or die. "The worst thing that could happen would be for a bunch of old white guys like us to run this," Jordan says.

The Unity08 plan is for an online third-party convention in mid-2008, following the early primaries. Any registered voter could be a delegate; their identities would be confirmed by cross-referencing with voter registration rolls (which would also prevent people from casting more than one ballot). That would likely include a much larger number than the few thousand primary voters who all but nominate the major party candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. This virtual process will vote on a centrist platform and nominate a bipartisan ticket. The idea is that even if the third-party nominee didn't win, he would wield serious power in the '08 election, which will likely be close.

There are plenty of ways for this process to prove meaningless, starting with the major parties deciding to nominate independent-minded candidates like John McCain (OK, the old McCain) or Mark Warner. Third-party efforts have usually been candidate-driven, and the centrist names tossed around by way of example (Chuck Hagel, Sam Nunn, Tom Kean) don't have much marquee value in the blogosphere. And the organizers would have to design safeguards to keep the whole thing from being hijacked.

True enough. But—along with more narrowly-focused efforts like Porkbusters and Citizens Against Government Waste—it could spell the end of politics as usual (or at least, in time, a less annoying kind of politics as usual).

Like those 5,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, it's a good start.

UPDATE: Sam Smith at Lullaby Pit sat in on a conference call that Unity08 did for bloggers. His notes on the call can be found here.

Posted by Rodger on May 31, 2006 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

05/30/2006

The soybean strikes out

Soybeans

There is no joy in Soyville, says Hillary E. MacGregor of The Los Angeles Times:

When soy burst onto the Western food scene in the early 1990s, the possibilities for the bean seemed boundless. The protein-packed legume had potential to prevent breast cancer, increase bone mass, alleviate hot flashes. It seemed to lower cholesterol, and thus to help prevent heart disease.

Millions of dollars were poured into research, and technologists plopped soy into every food imaginable. They ground it into burgers, hot dogs and sausages (Tofurky was born). They processed it into cheese, milk and ice cream. Manufacturers added it to baby formula, and baristas foamed it into lattes.

Purists consumed soy in its traditional Asian forms — as tofu, tempeh or edamame — while hard-core health nuts sought out soy protein powder or isoflavone-packed supplements.

But 15 years later, with ever more soy products available in the grocery store and conspicuous soy consumption a cultural shorthand for "Hey, I'm health-conscious!", the tides are turning against the Asian wonder food.

I guess our household is behind the curve, where a half-gallon of soy milk is now a regular fixture in our fridge, right next to the traditional, cow-produced variety. (Our 16-year-old daughter—and resident expert on all things trendy—claims to prefer it.) Two Asian-food-loving boys also consume industrial quantities of soy sauce and (occasionally) various soy-based snacks.

But if soy is so fifteen-minutes-ago, then what's hot? Ms. MacGregor doesn't say, but here are some modest suggestions:

  • Kudzu (If some way can be found to make it palatable, the South could rise again.)
  • Seaweed (Protects against radioactivity, for those worried about nuclear terrorism.)
  • Swiss chard (Protects against emphysema. Who can't use that?)
  • Fenugreek (Helps regulate blood sugar and aids digestion.)
  • Wheatgrass (Among other things, it allegedly "dissolves tumors" and "acts as an appetite suppressant." What's not to like?)
  • Andouillette (They say 60 million Frenchmen can't be wrong. I disagree, but, hey, what do I know?)
  • Lentils (High fiber, lots of folic acid and actually quite tasty for a legume. And they come in such cool colors.)
  • Quinoa (Actually not a grain but a fruit. Once known as "the gold of the Incas.")
  • Strawberries. (Like olive oil, a rich source of heart-healthy phenols. Also, they're coming into season right about now.)

I welcome additions to this list—frivolous and otherwise—in the comments section.

Posted by Rodger on May 30, 2006 at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

05/29/2006

Baumgartner sends Costner to the showers

Costner_shower

US magazine's "Hot Stuff" column is reporting that Christine has given the Bull Durham star his free-agency. (HT: Gabsmash)

Hot Stuff has learned that Christine Baumgartner, 32, Kevin Costner's bride of less than two years, may have left the Oscar-winning actor-director, 51. At issue: the revelation that Costner was accused of "pleasuring himself" (according to a spa staffer) during a massage in October 2004, while on his honeymoon with Baumgartner in Scotland. "Christine is furious about the charges, and they are living separately," a source close to Costner tells Hot Stuff. "Costner told her he would do anything and would go to sex therapy." But the source adds that Baumgartner doesn't believe Costner, who is shuttling between Europe and Louisiana for work. Costner's rep tells US, "Your story is clearly false."

I guess that would explain Christine's no-show at the BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament back in April and the two houses in Santa Barbara.

Sorry about that, Kevin.

Posted by Rodger on May 29, 2006 at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

05/24/2006

Faded love?

Mr_and_mrs_costner_1

Are Kevin and Christine Costner headed down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

It's starting to look that way. The ritual pre-breakup denials have already begun:

Kevin Costner tells "The Insider" not to believe any reports that he and wife Christine Baumgartner may be splitting up.

A rep for the star released the following statement today, "The story is false. They sold their house in Hollywood, and they are moving to Santa Barbara. Kevin is on location and Christine is getting the house ready.

Christine Costner is on her way to Shreveport where Kevin Costner is shooting 'Mr. Brooks.' They'll both then go to Providence, RI, for daughter Annie's graduation from Brown University. The Costners will then head back to Los Angeles where Kevin will continue to help Christine with the move. After that, Kevin will go back and finish shooting the remaining several weeks of 'Mr. Brooks.' "

As I noted earlier, Mrs. Costner didn't accompany her husband to the recent BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament in South Carolina (an event she'd attended with him in past years).

It's also curious that an ex-girlfriend of Costner's, Birgit Cunningham—rather than Christine—would rally to his defense in the imbroglio with the Scottish masseuse.

Expect the separation to be announced well before Kevin plays his next pro-am golf tournament.

Posted by Rodger on May 24, 2006 at 01:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

05/23/2006

Stand by your man

Hero_of_the_peace

Has George W. Bush become the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents?

With only 40 percent of Americans supporting the President—and 59 percent critical of the job he's done—one could might easily assume that he's already well on his way to becoming, in Dick Morris's words, "the lamest of lame ducks."

And how could he not, given the constant retelling—by the mainstream media and the naysayers of the Democratic Party—of the Legend of the Great Iraq Blunder: (1) Bush misled us into war and distorted the findings of the intelligence community; (2) Saddam posed no threat; (3) the idea of turning Iraq into a democracy was just a postwar rationalization of the Bush administration once the WMDs turned up missing.

Former speechwriter Peter Wehner has a masterful rebuttal of these myths on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal this morning.

But the real erosion in the President's poll numbers, it would seem, is coming, not from the center of the political spectrum, but from the right, who see his actions of the last five and a half years as a "great betrayal" of conservatism.

Richard Viguerie writes in The Washington Post:

Sixty-five months into Bush's presidency, conservatives feel betrayed. After the "Bridge to Nowhere" transportation bill, the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and the Dubai Ports World deal, the immigration crisis was the tipping point for us. Indeed, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found last week that Republican disapproval of Bush's presidency had increased from 16 percent to 30 percent in one month. It is largely the defection of conservatives that is driving the president's poll numbers to new lows.

But do all conservatives feel that way?

The Anchoress has just penned a most eloquent defense of George W. Bush's "failed" Presidency—one that should make any conservative ashamed for not recogizing and celebrating what has been accomplished by a leader they not long ago hailed as the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan:

Perhaps I am a dim bulb, but President Bush has never surprised me, and that is probably why I have never felt let down or “betrayed” by him. He is, in essentials, precisely whom he has ever been ….

The far-right gwwwwarks like a cracker-obsessed parrot: Bush has abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base.

Ever stop to think maybe the president feels his base has abandoned him, that uncontent with 75%, they’ve simply moved beyond reason? Ever stop to think that while you’re calling the president every despicable name in the book and demanding his fealty or you’ll “teach him a lesson,” that perhaps there is a lesson you need to learn? That a good man, disinterested in merely laughing or crying for the camera for 8 years and looking to do a difficult job in the face of unprecedented hate, unprecedent speed of communication, unprecedented global instability, unprecedented backstabbing from within his own CIA, deserves some loyalty and the benefit of a doubt as he tries to bring you the 75% you so callously spit back at him as insufficient?

We do not know everything we think we know. Nothing is static; everything is in flux, and it is very likely that more is at work here, on many levels, than any of us can dream. There are things seen and unseen. Think about it.

We should.

Posted by Rodger on May 23, 2006 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

05/22/2006

Chained heat

Koleilat

Rana Koleilat—the international woman of mystery at the center of the al-Madina banking scandal—has agreed to talk the UN investigators probing the murder of Rafik Hariri.

Naharnet Newsdesk reports:

Rana Koleilat, the heroine [?] of the Al-Madina Bank scandal, has sent a letter to the United Nations saying she is ready to be questioned outside Lebanon by the commission investigating ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's murder, her lawyer said.

Attorney Victor Mauad told An Nahar that Koleilat, who is still locked in a Sao Paulo jail, wrote in her letter that she would put herself at the disposal of the U.N. commission and would only accept being questioned in Brazil not Lebanon.

According to Mauad, Koleilat claims she is being subjected to intimidation by Lebanese authorities who have recently arrested her brothers Taha and Bassel for suspicion of involvement in the bank's fraud case.

U.N. investigators want to question Koleilat to know whether money allegedly diverted from Al-Madina Bank, where Koleilat worked, was used to finance Hariri's assassination.

A report by chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz said the bank's affairs were "a task for further investigation."

Koleilat quickly became the center of the bank scandal when it broke in July 2003. After detecting a cash deficit of more than $300 million, along with other irregularities, the Central Bank stepped in and took control of Al-Madina.

Koleilat was interrogated and jailed several months in 2004. She then jumped bail and fled the country, allegedly with the help of Syria's then former intelligence chief in Lebanon, Major General Rustom Ghazaleh.

She was arrested in March by Brazilian police at a hotel apartment on the outskirts of Sao Paulo and was charged with trying to bribe a police officer to release her.

Mauad told An Nahar that Koleilat will remain behind bars for at least two months as no date has been set yet for her trial in the bribe case.

Serge Brammertz has less than a month to wrap up his investigation and submit his report. But, according to Beirut's Daily Star, it could be a stunner:

According to the newest rumor circulated on Sunday, Brammertz has uncovered new evidence, which might "set a dramatic turn in the course of the investigations." The UN probe spokesperson would not comment on the information.

Judicial and UN diplomatic sources said Sunday that "Brammertz and his team have very crucial information related to Hariri's assassination and the string of explosions that preceded and followed Hariri's killing."

Lebanon has been rocked by a series of blasts, which started with the October 1, 2004 assassination attempt against Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade. [Actually, the recent string of assassinations in Lebanon dates back to the January 4, 2002, assassination of pro-Syrian warlord Elie Hobeika and the May 20, 2002, car bombing of Jihad Jibril, son of PFLP leader Ahmed Jibril. These bombings of prominent pro-Syrian leaders may been used as a pretext for the subsequent attacks on anti-Syrians Hamade, Hariri, et al.] The most recent assassination was the killing of journalist Gebran Tueni on December 12, 2005.

The judicial sources said that Brammertz "is pretty much convinced that there was an underground explosion that detonated Hariri's convoy, and another one above ground. Several witness statements have indicated that they heard two explosions and not one."

If Rana sings to Brammertz and the additional rumors pan out, the al-Madina bank scandal may make the BCCI imbroglio look like a tempest in a teapot.

Godfather IV, anyone?

Posted by Rodger on May 22, 2006 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

05/20/2006

Bob Wills shocker

Bob_wills_statue_vandalized

I know we live in a sick world, where unhappy people are driven to senseless acts of vandalism.

And while I don't countenance it, I suppose I can fathom the motives behind this.

Or even this.

But I never imagined that anyone could be so troubled and twisted as to dishonor the memory of the King of Western Swing.

From the AP:

GRUENE, Texas—An eight-foot-tall carving of the king of western swing Bob Wills has been vandalized in Texas.

New Braunfels police say so far no arrests in the damage to the artwork in Gruene.

The carving in front of the Lone Star Music store was found toppled on Wednesday. The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung reports one arm broke off.

The eight-foot effigy was carved from one giant piece of wood by local musician and artisan Doug Moreland. The statue is depicted as many remember Wills, smoking a cigar and holding his fiddle. He has been a popular attraction for tourists and locals since erected in early 2005.

The carving has been fixed for now with a sling apparatus.

Wills, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame who died in 1975, formed the Light Crust Doughboys in 1931. A few years later, he put together the Texas Playboys.

His hits included "Faded Love" and "Spanish Two Step." In the 1940s, Hollywood discovered Wills, and he and the Playboys appeared in numerous movies.

Lone Star Music is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Good Lord. Is nothing sacred?

I hope they find the sons of bitches who did this, lock 'em in a cell and make 'em listen to "San Antonio Rose" until they repent of their misdeeds and master the Spanish Two Step.

Don't mess with Texas. And Bob Wills is Texas.

Posted by Rodger on May 20, 2006 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

05/14/2006

Recapturing the passion of summers past

Tazo_passion_iced_tea

If Starbucks' Tazo Passion iced tea lemonade is one of your summer favorites—as it is mine—you'll want to know that they've changed the formula this year, for the worse in my estimation.

Consequently, if you want to enjoy the drink the way you remember it from summers past, you'll have to remember to ask for it sweetened with Valencia orange syrup, rather than whatever bland syrup it is they're using now.

I suspect many people haven't noticed the difference (or think it's just their taste buds playing tricks on them). But a thoughtful barista at the drive-thru Starbucks at Robinson Towne Center tipped me off to the change—and added that there should be no problem requesting the old formula, since they always keep Valencia syrup on hand.

Summer 2006 is starting to look brighter already.

Posted by Rodger on May 14, 2006 at 05:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Only passing through

Larry_rice_1

The music world lost a brilliant mandolin picker and songwriter yesterday.

Larry Rice died yesterday after a long battle with mesothelioma at 12:44 am at Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Florida. He was 57.

Bob Cherry writes:

Larry was an extraordinary mandolin picker who played with some of the finest groups in bluegrass and acoustic music. He started playing in his father's band, the Golden State Boys, with his brothers. Larry had three brothers who all played acoustic instruments and bluegrass music. Tony, who is world famous for his unbelievable guitar work, Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Rice who played bass. The last album that all four brothers performed together on was Tony Rice - 58957: The Bluegrass Guitar Collection.

The outpouring of love for this artist was amazing. Many benefits have been held for over a year and a half to supplement his bills and to help with the family. He recorded on at least 25 different albums with his brothers, J.D. Crowe, Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen and his own albums.

After playing in his father's band, Larry formed his own band, the Haphazards, with his brothers Tony and Ronnie. In the '70s, he joined J.D. Crowe and the Kentucky Mountain Boys and the band, with this lineup, changed the band name to J.D. Crowe and the New South. In 1973, Jim Hatton was replaced by Tony Rice on guitar. Later, in 1974, Ricky Skaggs joined the New South and replaced Larry Rice.

Larry played and learned from the greats. He was a true innovator and contributor to the unique mandolinists of the last 40 years. His innovations and his unique traditional style are still the model for many others. His music stands on its own and because of his original style, is easily recognized. There are not many in the genre that stand out but Larry was in good company with the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Chris Thile and just a few more who placed their mark on the music.

Larry's first solo album, Hurricanes and Daydreams, was released in 1985. Since then, he has released other albums including his 1996 release, Notions and Novelties and his last album Clouds Over Carolina released in 2005.

Larry's approach to the music was gentle and soft. His music was once referred to as "mellow grass." Due to his unique style, he was able to take familiar tunes and make them his own by applying his smooth and gentle arrangement. This isn't to say that he wasn't a traditionalist. Larry always held tradition in high respect and he didn't stray as much as his brothers Tony and Wyatt.

Larry also wrote one of the great bluegrass songs of recent years, "Only Passing Through," which he recorded on the Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen album, Out of the Woodwork.

Wooden porches on rundown houses,
Mildewed sofas and grown-up yards,
Driving past them I am reminded
Of where we come from and where we are.

We are only passing through
Like it's all we have to do
And for all it means to me and you,
We are only passing through

Up on Wall Street, they shape the curve
By what we have and what we deserve.
And I don't buy it and they don't care
I can't say which of us is most aware.

We are only passing through
Like it's all we have to do.
And for all it means to me and you,
We are only passing through.

Worse case scenario: the world just keeps on turning.
Best case scenario: pretty much the same.
And all that seems to matter
Is the scramble for the credit
And the blame.

Big old houses and tall white columns,
Iron gates to keep what's bad outside,
Driving past 'em I am reminded
The price we pay just to enjoy the drive.

We are only passing through
Like it's all we have to do.
And for all it means to me and you,
We are only passing through.

We are fortunate indeed that Larry Rice passed through our lives.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Tony and Pam Rice been going through a very rough time lately. Pam's own brother just passed away last month—also after a prolonged and painful illness.

I want to extend my deepest sympathy to them both. They're in my thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: For the love of bluegrass blog reports: "Larry died in the arms of his mother and Tony, surrounded by family. Godspeed Larry to that other shore, and may the loved ones left to carry on find strength and courage in the love you gave and the music you made." Amen.

Posted by Rodger on May 14, 2006 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)