Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gambling Update

In late December I blogged and shamelessly bragged about my $60 jackpot. Unfortunately – or fortunately depending on your point of view – I haven't gambled since then. I haven't had any legitimate reason to visit the casino. Even though it's only a short drive away, I don't go there unless there's a reason or we're on an outing. Too bad. I was on a roll.

Meanwhile, I read that they're closing Bay Meadows Racetrack in my hometown of San Mateo to make way for some bland development. That's a tragedy. The racetrack is a way of life for a lot of folks.

And speaking of gambling, I recently watched the movie 'Two for the Money," starring Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey. I heard a review that it was an excellent movie with incredible insights into gambling, so I was eager to see it. I wasn't expecting anything as great as "Casino," but with those two actors I figured it would, at the very least, be decent.

But it turned out to be a nutty turd – the cinematic equivalent of an episode of "Nash Bridges." It was lame and unbelievable from beginning to end – a total bust. Save your money and rent "Cinderella Man." That's a great movie all around. And it stars Renee Zellweger, always a pleasure.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Fourth Amendment

On Monday I was labeling papers and flipping through the channels when I came across a talk on CSPAN by Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of National Intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency, before the National Press Club. He was discussing the NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy.

He defended the practice and called it perfectly legal. He also said that the NSA has expertise when it comes to the Fouth Amendment. I was interested in hearing an intelligent defense of this practive by an expert in the field, so I was all ears.

But when a reporter questioned him about the Fourth Amendment, I almost fell out of my chair.

The reporter questioned the general about the constitutional requirement that there be "probable cause" for a search. The general interupted him and said the constitution protects against "unreasonable search and seizure." The reporter tried to correct him, but the general was adamant, denying that the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and insisting that it protects against "unreasonable search and seizure."

When it comes to the Bill of Rights, the general knows slightly less than what we were taught at Bayside Middle School in a sixth grade basic law class.

Here's the Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I’m not a doctor, nor have I taken any college-level psychology classes.

But I am convinced that I suffer from a form of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. Not regular AADD, but something which I call Intermittent Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. That’s IAADD.

Unlike sufferers of AADD, I can spend long hours concentrating on detail-oriented tasks. But there are certain situations that I can’t handle. That’s when the IAADD kicks in.

For example, the other day I was standing in line at Staples. There were two checkout counters. I waited. And waited. And waited. About five minutes went by and I realized that neither line was moving. The clerks were punching buttons and apparently having problems ringing up the purchases. No progress was being made and there were several people in line ahead of me.

This is when the Intermittent Adult Attention Deficit Disorder began. I squirmed and felt miserable. I went from being a happy-go-lucky guy to a man in deep despair. I looked ahead and saw the clerk on the phone yapping about how she needed to find a “P.O. number” for the man before her. In the other line, the clerk kept pushing buttons, but nothing seemed to be happening.

The clock ticked away. I tried to pass the time by reading the packaging on the items I was about to purchase, but I quickly ran out of reading material. (I was also cranky because the cheapo printer I was purchasing didn’t come with a printer cable, which meant I had to spend another $25 for a USB cable. What a rip off!)

I looked up and the lines were still not moving. This is when I had a vision of my head exploding – something which seemed entirely plausible at that moment.

I was already highly agitated. The next step I envisioned was a sudden rise in blood pressure, an uncontrolled outburst of profanity, followed by a sudden “popping” sound, at which point my head would literally explode, covering all those around me with bits of tissue, blood and brain matter.

It was imminent. I considered just dropping my items and walking out of the store, but I really needed what I was about to purchase. There was a good chance I would be walking out of Staples without a head.

Relief came in the form of progress. The line moved and I was suddenly one customer away from making my purchase. I was a happy camper and the IAADD subsided.

But when the clerk scanned a packet of colored Sharpies, it didn’t show up on the computer. Time for a price check! The veins in my head were throbbing and a head explosion seemed possible again. At least the clerks at Staples were wearing red shirts. The blood wouldn’t be as noticeable.

Another clerk waddled up to the counter, slowly grabbed the Sharpies and disappeared into the labyrinth.

We exchanged awkward glances and I even forced a fake smile, but I was miserable. I felt like a Russian grandmother halfway through a Moscow bread line.

Eventually I made my purchase and was fully recovered by the time I was in the parking lot.

But, this malady is getting worse. Long lines are unbearable. Long meetings are not much better. If I ever have to go to the DMV for any reason, I may have to visit a doctor ahead of time and see if I can get a short-term Valium prescription, or maybe I’ll just walk in with a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor in a paper sack.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Facial hair

On Saturday morning I was shaving my face when it suddenly occurred to me that this morning ritual, which I’ve performed almost every day since sometime during the Reagan Administration, is completely optional.

I am not required to shave my face and, being that I’m self employed, I can’t be fired for having facial hair. So on Sunday I stopped shaving and haven’t picked up a razor since.

I’m now on day three. There’s no beard, no mustache – just stubble. This may work for Russell Crowe, but on me it looks like shit. It gives me a bum quality – even more so than usual. And it doesn’t feel very good.

Patience is the key. Maybe within a week I’ll resemble the Brawny Paper Towel man, or I’ll look like Fu Manchu.

Or it’s possible that tomorrow morning I’ll cave in and shave. Time will tell.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Emergency Buckets

There’s a fine line between disaster preparedness and mental illness.

If you try to prepare for every disaster scenario, you’re likely to find yourself gripping an M1 carbine and sleeping in the garage on an army cot surrounded by cases of canned peaches and SPAM.

On the other hand, if you don’t prepare, you might find yourself sitting in the dark – cold and hungry and waiting to be rescued.

And we all know the latter can happen, and the government may not be there to help. That’s one of the biggest lessons of 2005.

After watching horrific scenes of Americans suffering without food and water after New Orleans was slammed by Hurricane Katrina, I decided to get serious about our disaster kit.

We always kept a small supply of emergency food and water, but it was clearly inadequate. So we bought enough extra food and water to keep us going for at least a week. We also stocked up on other essentials, like toilet paper, matches and propane. There’s extra dog and cat food for the pets, along with carrying cases for all three cats.

If I was smart, I would buy a couple cartons of cigarettes and a dozen pints of Jack Daniels that I could use to barter for goods and services in an emergency. But it would be too tempting to have toot, and maybe even a toke, when working in the garage, so those items aren’t in the kit.

But what happens if disaster strikes when we’re not home? Or what if there’s a giant quake and the bridges collapse while I’m in another town or county?

Not to worry. We have an “emergency bucket” stashed in the trunk of each car. It wasn’t until after I came up with these buckets that I felt reasonably prepared for a disaster.

These are five-gallon plastic buckets with snap-on lids filled with disaster supplies. Here’s what’s in each bucket:
• Two canned food items with pull top lids. If necessary, they can be eaten cold.
• Five granola bars
• Five medium-size Snickers
• Half a dozen water bottles
• 1 roll of toilet paper
• A pack of matches
• An emergency rain poncho
• A large plastic tarp, which can be used as a tent, crappy sleeping bag or can be used to surround the bucket from public view in the event that it needs to be used as a portable latrine! For instance, if you’re evacuating an area and you’re sitting in traffic for six hours and nature calls, you’ve got an option with the bucket. Unpleasant? Yes. But it would work. Just make sure you remove the food items first.
• Lots of plastic bags to line the bucket.
• A flashlight and unopened pack of batteries
• An ugly, but warm, sweater from the Salvation Army
• Rope

These supplies should keep a person going for a couple days and are in addition to what’s in the house and garage.

And so disaster preparation was one of the few long-lasting accomplishments of 2005.

Monday, January 02, 2006


Almost exactly 12 hours after I posted my blog entry on Friday about how I was enjoying the dramatic weather, I suddenly stopped enjoying it.

High winds with gusts up to 84 mph walloped Humboldt County Saturday morning, toppling hundreds of trees and knocking out power to 64,000 customers. Our electricity was out until about 3 p.m. Sunday.

The blackout coincided with the newspaper deadline, so for the first time ever we used our portable generator to power the computers. It was touch and go and there were all sorts of problems, but we got the paper out on time. I won't go into all the gory details. The only purpose of this blog is to provide me with some narcissitic entertainment, so I generally shy away from writing about work (Except when I feel like it.)

The wind also knocked down 10 feet of fence that surrounds our Fort Apache-style compound. I would have waited to repair wind damage, but in this case I couldn't. The fence keeps our animals in and the Jehovah Witnesses out. It had to be replaced immediately, and was.

And so begins 2006.

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