Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My story

Remember back when I said I sent a story to the Ruined Music website, and I'd let you know if they published it? Well they did.

Read it here.

Finished product

Here's the end result of my knitting project:

No, I did not knit the kitchen chair.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Numbers and words

So, as noted below, yesterday was my birthday. I am officially 31, and therefore, I'm trying to convince myself that it's cool to be a prime number.

I was, however, just the teensiest bit upset when my aunt offhandedly made some comment about being forty.

Not. Even. Close.

Anyway, here's an interesting little tidbit: According to this, there are 10,499 people in the United States with the first name Dara. And when I did the search with my last name, it turns out that no one else has my same name.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I am unique.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Complaint o' the day

My parents' house is soooooo cold. More significantly, they don't know how to fix the thermostat, and can't find the directions.

I think I'm getting frostbite.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What's wrong with Wisconsin?

There is something weird going on in Wisconsin. In September, some guy was arrested for attempting to remove a corpse, presumably for sexual purposes. But now there's this whole story about some guy getting it on with a dead deer -- and whether that should be illegal.

This is not a joke. From the motion (conveniently available on The Smoking Gun):

First of all, can you really win a legal argument by quoting The Princess Bride?

And second, eew.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Distraction, distraction

I've been derelict in my blogging duties today. But that's because there was so much good TV on. I've already managed to watch My Name is Earl, The Office, Gray's Anatomy, and The O.C. -- which was surprisingly good. I still have E.R., Smallville, and Supernatural to go.

Ain't November sweeps grand?

Speaking of tonight's TV, check out this article on all the tech involved in making the animated segments of tonight's Earl.

And if you're still bored, have Dwight Schrute call your friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Me, in South Park

If I were a character on South Park, I'd look something like this:

Thanks, Sweet. This was fun.

Update: For fun, I also made a South Park version of my mom:

Update 2: Thanks to my awesome brother, here's the rest of my entire family, South Park style:


My sister and her husband

The artist himself

I am a cookie killer


This is a very popular quiz this week -- it's been everywhere, including Gene Weingarten's chat. So, I took it. And the results are, uh, peculiar:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

This says I have no accent. It's wrong, though, because I have a combination of accents.

I mean, I grew up in New Jersey, roughly halfway between New York and Philly, and then moved to Southeast Florida. I went to college in Tallahassee, which is pretty darn southern -- enough that I can -- and do -- use the term "y'all." My parents grew up in the Bronx/Brooklyn and Jersey City.* My grandparents are from the Bronx, but lived in Massachusetts for a long time. My cousins definitely speak with some Boston tendencies (and call subs "grinders").

I think "Philadelphia" and "Inland North" are overrepresented, and "The South" is underrepresented in my result.

*I'd say they both have New York accents, but my dad has a New Jersey accent, which is somewhat distinctive. The best example is that he says "Nuurk" instead of "Newark."

Punchline question

I'm trying to figure out the funnier twist to the story that a Florida absentee ballot was mailed with a rare stamp: Is it that 1) the law requires that it remain in a locked ballot box until it is destroyed; or 2) the idea that the stamp might be a fake?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Learning something new

This weekend, I decided to learn something new -- how to knit.

My mom taught me how to crochet when I was younger -- and I learned how to sew and do cross-stich in home-ec -- but I never managed to learn how to knit.

On Sunday, while shopping with some friends, I saw this kit -- which seemed to be aimed at children -- and figured that it couldn't be too difficult.

Last night, while watching TV, I started making the first couple of stitches. Today, I think I'm starting to get the hang of it:

Admittedly, this is very simple. It's a scarf, so there are no complications like sleeves, or round edges, or anything. Plus, it's only one color yarn, and a simple pattern where I'm knitting one row and then purling the next.

Still, I'm kinda proud of myself.

Chicken or egg?

When I got home last night, I crashed. I was on the verge of making myself dinner, and instead, I went to go lie down, "just for a minute."

Yeah, right. I should know better by now. I don't do short naps.

I wound up sleeping for just over 2.5 hours, while still dressed in my work clothes.

The problem? I woke up, and couldn't fall back to sleep until around 2:30 in the morning.

Of course, now I feel like complete and total crap. And I'm left wondering if the napping was a sign that I was getting sick, or whether it made me sick?

Monday, November 13, 2006

CNN, always reporting on the important issues of the day

Something to ponder at lunchtime: The trend in celebrity divorces.

According to the experts at CNN, it's now de rigueur for the successful woman to divorce her less-successful mate. And they even throw in a bit of advice for regular folk:

[W]e can and should learn from these celebrity bustups, where the woman, traditionally the financially dependent spouse, leaps beyond the man in terms of money and power, creating inevitable fissures in the union. More practically, they say, professional women need to learn to protect their assets -- as in demanding a prenuptial agreement -- before they head to the altar.

Aaaw. Ain't it sweet.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fixing the AMT

Remember back when I said that the alternative minimum tax sucks? Before I started saying crazy shit like if it were the only tax system, it might be okay, since it would be kinda like a flat tax?

Lucky for us, the Post reports that the Democrats were listening.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the presumptive chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, this week put fixing the AMT at the top of his agenda, calling it far more urgent than dealing with President Bush's request to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in 2010.

Here's some background:
The complex and expensive tax was designed to prevent the super-rich from using deductions, credits and other shelters to avoid paying the Internal Revenue Service. But because of rising incomes, the tax is expected to expand to more than 30 million taxpayers in 2010 from 3.8 million mostly well-off households in 2006.


In simple terms, the AMT is sort of a flat tax with two brackets, 26 and 28 percent, and fewer deductions. Credits for dependents, medical expenses, and state and local taxes are all disallowed. Instead, taxpayers get a single big deduction, called the AMT exemption, which is set this year at $62,550 for married couples and $42,500 for singles. Taxpayers must compute their taxes both ways and pay whichever is higher.


By 2010, "the AMT will become the de facto tax system for filers in the $200,000 to $500,000 income range, 94 percent of whom will face the tax," according to a report by the Tax Policy Center. About half of tax filers making $75,000 to $100,000 will have to pay the tax, including 89 percent of married couples in that income bracket who have at least two children.

In the past, Congress has patched the AMT one year at a time, primarily by increasing the exemption amount. Next year, to hold the number of affected taxpayers steady at about 4 million, the patch would cost about $50 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't mention how the Democrats have any sort of cohesive plan to fix this problem.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Movie recommendation

Stranger Than Fiction is the best movie I have seen in a long time. It is smart, funny, tragic, silly, and interesting.

Go see it.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Yet another crazy lunch story

Since I'm not exactly getting peppered with questions, I've decided to devote a couple minutes to writing about my most recent lunchtime controversy.

Yesterday, I had a quick appointment in between Farragut West and Foggy Bottom. I decided that I'd walk there and back, and grab lunch along the way back to my office, since the weather was divine -- probably for the last time until next Spring.

Plus, it seemed like an excellent day to walk down by the White House.

So, on the way back, I stopped to grab a sandwich at Cosi, as I am wont to do. I decided, fat and calories be damned, I was going to try the Turkey Bacon Cheddar Melt. I ordered, and specifically asked them to hold the honey mustard (I hate mustard) and to put the sandwich on the new Etruscan whole-wheat bread.

During the fifteen-minute walk back to my office with the sandwich, I was so excited about that sandwich. The Cosi next door to my office has been closed for so long that I had almost forgotten how good their bread tastes.

I got back to my office, grabbed a Diet Coke, and finally sat down at my desk to eat my sandwich. Of course, it was absolutely drenched in honey mustard.

I called the Cosi, and at first, they were uncooperative. They said that I could walk down there and get a replacement sandwich. I explained that the whole process would take at least a half-hour of my time, which was unacceptable. They offered to have a sandwich sent out to me, if I waited until after the lunch rush was over -- but they had no idea what time that would be. I reluctantly agreed, and was transferred to a manager.

Of course, the manager chose a different route. She unilaterally decided that it would not be possible to deliver a sandwich to me, no matter how long I was willing to wait. Instead, she said that my next four sandwiches at that location would be free. She took my name, e-mail address, and other information, and promised me that she would send me something to confirm ASAP.

I gave the sandwich to one of the newbies in the office, and then went downstairs to Au Bon Pain to get a Thai Chicken Salad. As always, it was perfectly okay, but it just wasn't what I wanted.

It's about 30 hours later, and I still haven't received any e-mail from Cosi. The bastards.

Ask Dara Anything! Round 3

It's a quiet holiday Friday around here. So, to amuse myself, I thought I'd sponsor another round of "Ask Dara Anything!"

It's exactly what it sounds like. The rules are simple: Just post your question in the comments section, and I'll answer it.

Awesome awesomeness

If you haven't seen it yet, check out The Daily Show's cartoon about Midterm Elections. It's full of awesome-y goodness.

History of Dara, part 6

I was looking through some papers yesterday, and stumbled across a two chapter attempt at writing my autobiography. It was written right around the time I graduated from college. In retrospect, I clearly had no business writing an autobiography at that point in my life, but I had a couple tales to tell. Plus, my last semester was a summer semester, and my roommate left after the first six-week session, so I had a lot of time to kill. I'm going to save the chapter on my telemarketing jobs for a later date, but here's the chapter about my trip to Paris. Enjoy.

The summer after my first year of college, I went on a study abroad program in London. This program also included a four-day trip to Paris. I was so excited to be going to Paris that I did not accurately prepare for the trip. I forgot my French-to-English dictionary, I packed all the wrong clothes, and I left my umbrella in my flat. Coincidentally, all it did was rain while I was there.

The first thing I noticed as I stepped off the bus was that Paris smelled. "But hey!" I thought to myself, "This is Paris -- the city of love, the city of light! Who cares if it smells? This is a historical, important place."

I went into the hotel to check-in and unpack. After this, I had some time left before I had to be anywhere, so I decided to find a bookstore and buy another dictionary. I left the hotel, and wandered into a small boutique around the corner. I walked up to the salesman. "Excuse-moi," I said oh-so-politely. "Je nes parles pas Français bien. Parlez-vous Anglais?"

The salesman looked at me as if I were a total moron. "Of course I speak English," the man said rudely, in a perfect British accent.

"Thank you," I whispered, and I turned around and walked back to the hotel, where I sat in my room and cried for twenty minutes. My friends practically had to drag me out of my room that afternoon.

Eventually, I was able to leave my room and go see the sights. I eventually bought that dictionary, which came in quite useful.

I had packed clothing for warm weather, however, my entire trip was cloudy and cold. So I bought quite a number of t-shirts to wear with my one pair of jeans that I had with me. The problem was the rain. My only shoes that I had in Paris were an old ratty pair of sneakers with holes in the heels. My feet were wet for four days. I thought that I was bound to come down with pneumonia.

The entire time we were there, the rain just got worse. On the night we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower in order to get an aerial view of the city's lights, there was a thunderstorm. The winds were so strong on the top level that I kept getting blown into the railings. The storm got too violent, and we had to be sent down. Then my friends and I got to walk through the twisting streets of Paris, trying to find our way back to our hotel.

The next night, in order to celebrate the end of our trip, my friends and I decided to go out to a "nice" dinner. We found a restaurant that looked appealing and went inside. We were seated and proceeded to order. The group of us decided that it would be a good experience to try some French wine. We looked at the wine list, and as everything was unrecognizable, we randomly selected a name. When the bottle came to the table, we were shocked. It was a California Chardonnay. We couldn't stop laughing about it all night, or even the next day, as we started our journey back to London.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On other people's writing

It's a literature-type day on the blog. Mostly to make up for all the politics-type days of the past few weeks.

First, thanks to Boing Boing, check out these two sites posting reviews where people trash talk about classic works of literature.

  • First: Defective Yeti. Examples of the brilliance found here are include some brilliant mind compared The Great Gatsby to Beverly Hills 90210, and his intellectual equal decreeing that 1984 is no longer relevant due to the fall of communism. (Had to get a little politics in there, heh heh.)
  • Second: Charlie's Diary. Here, a chronologically challenged person took issue with Romeo and Juliet because it was similar to other stories.
Fun for the whole family.

And here, thanks to Minijonb, I give you a literary meme.

  1. One book that changed your life: 1984 (George Orwell). I loved the book, loved the story, loved everything about it. It made me want to be a writer. More importantly, it made me start questioning my government, which, in theory, made me a better citizen, and by extension, a better person.
  2. One book that you'd read more than once: Is this past tense or future tense? If past, then Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), which I read like a hundred times. If future, then, the book I most need to read again is Generation X (Douglas Coupland).
  3. One book you'd want on a deserted island: Ulysses (James Joyce) -- because if I have all that time, I might as well be productive and figure out a way to get through it.
  4. One book that made you laugh: A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess). Mostly because of the strange slang dialect -- which I often found myself having to re-read out loud.
  5. One book that made you cry: Waterland (Graham Swift). Read this book! Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
  6. One book you wish you'd written: Hell, I just wish I wrote my own book already. But probably Waterland, since I'm not hip enough to have written Generation X or High Fidelity (Nick Hornsby).
  7. One book you wish had never been written: This is hard, because I'm of the view that all books have their purpose. But, for the record, I didn't like Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) at all.
  8. One book you're currently reading: Henderson the Rain King (Saul Bellow). It's the latest from my list, and I'm about halfway finished.
  9. One book you've been meaning to read: Ulysses. See #3 above. But I've tried, honest. It's just so hard.
  10. Tag five people: That would be rude. Besides, this blog is all about free will. But hopefully, five people will play along.

On writing

When I started this little blog project nine months ago, I mostly intended it as a place for me to vent my frustrations and post things that I would otherwise send to people in annoying e-mails. I had no idea that it would remind me of how much I love to write.

The problem is, I have this thing called a job.

Anyway, for those who haven't been paying attention, November is National Novel Writing Month. And, while I haven't actually signed up for the challenge, it has inspired me to write more. I'm not sure where (or if) it's going -- I only have about 650 words so far.*

See, one of the downsides of this job thingie is that I generally work really long hours. So the only time I have to write is when I get home from work. But when I get home, I usually need to relax, find something to eat, check out what's on the telly, and unwind for a little bit first. Since I've started with my project, I've managed to find a tiny bit of time to write, late at night, just around midnight. As a result, I go to sleep late, wake up late, rush in to work late, and proceed on with my very lawyery day.

Still, 650 words is pretty good, right? Although, maybe it's better suited to Jason's alternative writing challenge. I'll reassess towards the end of the month.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I stumbled across this awesome site, Ruined Music, where people tell real life stories about how a song is ruined for them.

Yeah, you know where this is going. I stayed up late night last night to write one. It's about 400 words. I started writing it out by hand -- like I hadn't done since I was a kid -- during Lost, and e-mailed it in at about 1:30.

I'll keep y'all posted if they publish it.

*662 as of this morning! Hooray!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The fallout begins

Just days after saying that he thought Rumsfeld and should stay to the end of his term, President Bush announced today that Rumsfeld is stepping down.

Fresh from the Post:

The development occurred one day after midterm elections that cost Republicans control of the House, and possibly the Senate, as well. Surveys of voters at polling places said opposition to the war was a significant contributor to the Democratic victory.

Bush described Rumsfeld as a "superb leader" in a time of change, but said his defense chief recognizes the value of "fresh perspective." He said Rumsfeld is a "trusted adviser and friend," and that he's "deeply grateful" for his service to the country. Bush said he and Rumsfeld agreed that "the timing is right for new leadership" at the Pentagon.


Oh, Virginia.

You disappoint me. Just when it looked like you were getting over the redneck ass-backwards southern thing by electing two moderate Democratic governors back to back, and possibly even ousting George Allen, you have to go and overwhelmingly support an homophobic initiative that doesn't just prohibit gay marriage -- it prevents any type of civil union.

Boy, was Gene Weingarten right this morning when he noted that you declared yourself the "state of sanctimonious bigotry."

And to those Democrats and independents that supported the amendment but voted for Jim Webb: What are you thinking? You should be ashamed.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You know it's official when it's on CNN

In what can only be described as a death knell to family values, CNN reports that Britney and Kevin are divorcing. reports that Spears filed legal papers Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing "irreconcilable differences." Spears is asking for legal and physical custody of their two children, 1-year-old Sean Preston and 2-month-old Jayden James.

The date of separation was listed as Monday.

While I question CNN's decision to quote TMZ as an official source, they published the actual papers, which must mean it's true.

How not to behave at your polling place

If you haven't voted yet, you still have time. Just don't do this:

A man who reportedly believed Republicans were conspiring to steal today's election entered an Allentown polling site, signed in and proceeded to smash the screen of one of the electronic voting machines with a metal cat paperweight, poll volunteers said.

Alas, it was to no avail:

Lehigh County Board of Elections Chief Clerk Stacy J. Sterner said votes recorded on the machine were saved. More than 130 people had voted at the site by the time of the incident."The good news is that even though the machine is broken, the votes are not lost on the memory card. They have them in custody at the voter registration office," Sterner said.

Slow news day

Since there's clearly no important local or national news today (*cough *cough), the über-hip and trendy (*cough *cough) Washington Post has an article about the dangers of the new (*cough *cough) trends: body piercing and tattoos.

I mean, who knew you could get an infection?

Um. Most people.

Disclaimer: I have five regular earrings, and a piercing in the cartilage of my left ear. I used to have two more earrings. And, once upon a time, I had a belly-button ring -- way back before I had to wear suits and hose to work, subjecting myself to infection. One of my siblings has other piercings, and both of my siblings have tattoos. (Note: It's not true that they can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery.)

People, it's not that big a deal. You did dumb stuff when you were a teenager/in your early twenties. Kids still do dumb stuff. It's not newsworthy. Move on.

Just for the record

I voted today -- surprise, surprise. (And not just because Justin told me to.)

The whole process took about an hour, but I feel pretty good about it. My opinion might change, however, if the proposed Marshall-Newman Amendment passes.

Here's the text:

Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”?

Forget about George Allen, bond initiatives, or any of the other crap. Forget about being pro-choice, or pro-life, and what that means with regard to stem cell research. Even if you disagree with homosexuality in general, this amendment is offensive. Not only is it offensive because of the homophobic undertones, but it's offensive because the language is so overly-broad that some court somewhere could interpret it as making contractual agreements between unmarried persons that involve some right typically associated with marriage invalid.*

Oh, and let's not forget that it defies the principle of comity.

See, one of the things that works so well is that governments have this understanding by which they're supposed to recognize the validity of other government's laws, in a "You don't tell us what to do, we won't tell you what to do either." That's why if you get married on a whim in Vegas, you're still married when you get back home. So, with this amendment, Virginia is saying that they'll refuse to recognize unions that are perfectly legitimate in the place where they occurred.

*I think there's a good basis for an equal protection challenge on this basis. I mean, what exactly is the legitimate governmental purpose behind the law, and how exactly does the provision accomplish that purpose?

Monday, November 06, 2006

New additions

Some people blog about their pets; I blog about my shoes. Meet the new additions to the family:

Via Target and Kenneth Cole, respectively.

Pop Culture Litmus Test

I saw Interview's Pop Culture test today (thanks Gawker!).

I am astounded that I can only identify ten of them without resorting to Google or Wikipedia. Therefore, I've concluded that Interview is way out of my league.

Accordingly, I've decided that I ought to come up with my own Pop Culture reference test. Possible candidates from recent blog posts include:

  • George Allen
  • Stephen Baldwin
  • Charles Barkley
  • Bono
  • Tim Burton
  • Kirk Cameron
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Neko Case
  • Eric Dane
  • Patrick Dempsey
  • Devo
  • Ted Haggard
  • Logan Echolls
  • Tina Fey
  • Mark Foley
  • Kinky Friedman
  • Lorelai Gilmore
  • Jeffrey, Michael, Uli & Laura
  • Alex P. Keaton
  • Jimmy Kimmel
  • Michael Kors
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Richard Linklater
  • Dave Navarro
  • Chris O'Donnell
  • O.K. Go
  • Matthew Perry
  • Ryan Phillipe
  • Trent Reznor
  • Santino Rice
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Al Sharpton
  • Slash & Axl
  • Wesley Snipes
  • Jeff Suppan
  • Bill Watterson
  • Jim Webb
  • Gene Weingarten
  • E.B. White
  • Bradley Whitford
  • Wegmans
  • Michelle Williams
Scoring: If you can't identify the majority of these names, then clearly, this blog is not for you.

Thought for a Monday morning

This was in my mailbox this morning, and it sums it up perfectly.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Football and politics

Since this story is about local politics, it's been overlooked by the press here in DC, but I think it's one of the most interesting stories to come out of the election.

According to the article, the mother of New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees is a judge running for reelection -- and he is upset about her using his image in her commercials. Equally interesting is that they apparently had a falling out, over his not hiring her as his agent.

This has not, however, had any effect on the Saints' season.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Religious/Political Question of the Day

For all the evangelicals out there reading this -- help me get this right: Crystal meth and gay prostitutes are ok, but gay marriage is not?

And let's not get into the dispute about the difference between "sex" and "massage" in this circumstance -- it veers dangerously close to Bill Clinton territory.

A letter

Dear Curt Cloninger:

How are we supposed to take your theory that Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O' Mine represents "the voice of your generation" seriously when you can't even get the lyrics right?

You wrote:

Its lyrics tell of an escapist teen love. I imagine the song's subject, "Sweet Child," wearing ripped jeans and several Cyndi Lauper bracelets, our narrator picking her up in the back of the trailer park in his green Impala, and they cruise to Makeout Point.

As the lyrics go, Axl Rose sings, "I'm just sitting here staring at your hair, and it's reminding me of a warm, safe place where as a child I'd hide." I can see them embracing tenderly, and going to shoplift a six-pack of Schaefer. So far, so good.

No Mr. Cloninger, not good at all. See, the lyrics actually go "She's got eyes of the bluest skies/As if they thought of rain/I hate to look into those eyes/And see an ounce of pain/Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place/Where as a child I'd hide/And pray for the thunder/And the rain/To quietly pass me by."

And any girl seriously listening to that song would have been way over "Cyndi Lauper bracelets."

Write what you know, sir. And clearly, you don't know Guns N' Roses.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Not Cool" is no defense

It's official: "Not Cool" is not a persuasive legal argument.

When did wanting to pay less tax become a criminal offense?

Some people are all up in arms, accusing U2 of cheating on their taxes becuase they moved their publishing company's headquarters out of Ireland and to the Netherlands to take advantage of lower tax rates.

These people are out of their friggin' minds.

Folks, this is not cheating on taxes. Not even close. It's a fundamentally sound, albeit tax-motivated, business decision. Or, as the Edge called it, "tax-efficient."

Companies do this every single day. Heck, it's why I continue to live in Virginia instead of Maryland or D.C.


This confounds me:

Amanda Brisendine attributed the 30 pounds she gained in the past year to an abandoned smoking habit and rich food. So when she went to the hospital with sharp stomach pain, she wasn't expecting to leave with a newborn son.


George Macones, chairman of the OB/GYN department at Washington University in St. Louis, said he's seen about a dozen cases in his nearly 20-year career.


The 26-year-old Renton woman went to Group Health Cooperative's Eastside campus last Saturday after experiencing several days of abdominal pain so intense that she called in sick from work. Doctors examined her and performed a pregnancy test that showed positive — she was nine months pregnant.


Already mother to a 14-month-old daughter, Melodies, Brisendine said she didn't experience typical pregnancy symptoms, like a missed menstruation, morning sickness, fatigue or food cravings. "Everything was normal as far as I knew," she said.

Thanks, Yahoo! News.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Today in politics

It's the first day of November. The midterm election is just days away. And, just like the script says, John Kerry makes an offhand comment interpreted as insulting soldiers, all for a laugh. (Talk about "Here it goes again" . . .)

Free Republic posted this picture, which is a perfectly defensible response to the purported meaning of the Kerry comment:

Justin thinks that the Democrats will win the House, not the Senate. I'm skeptical about whether they can win anything, even with it being handed to them on a silver platter. John Kerry's stupidity is just a symptom of a much larger ineffectiveness that the majority of Democrats seem to find inescapable.

As crazy as it sounds, at least Al Sharpton had something intelligent to say today. He's right that focusing on moral issues is not a way to cure the majority of society's problems. Still, I don't know that bashing the Christian right is the way to change things.

And finally, from Professor Geoffrey R. Stone's commentary in the Chicago Tribune, What it means to be a liberal, here are his 10 defining characteristics:

1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others. This is at the very heart of liberalism. Liberals understand, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed, that "time has upset many fighting faiths." Liberals are skeptical of censorship and celebrate free and open debate.

2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment and the rights of gays and lesbians. (Note that a conflict between propositions 1 and 2 leads to divisions among liberals on issues like pornography and hate speech.)

3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion expansion of the franchise; the elimination of obstacles to voting; "one person, one vote;" limits on partisan gerrymandering; campaign-finance reform; and a more vibrant freedom of speech. They believe, with Justice Louis Brandeis, that "the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people."

4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind. It is liberals who have defended and continue to defend the freedom of the press to investigate and challenge the government, the protection of individual privacy from overbearing government monitoring, and the right of individuals to reproductive freedom. (Note that libertarians, often thought of as "conservatives," share this value with liberals.)

5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion the rights of racial, religious and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, persons accused of crime and the outcasts of society. It is liberals who have insisted on the right to counsel, a broad application of the right to due process of law and the principle of equal protection for all people.

6. Liberals believe government has a fundamental responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support government programs to improve health care, education, social security, job training and welfare for the neediest members of society. It is liberals who maintain that a national community is like a family and that government exists in part to "promote the general welfare."

7. Liberals believe government should never act on the basis of sectarian faith. It is liberals who have opposed and continue to oppose school prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools and who support government funding for stem-cell research, the rights of gays and lesbians and the freedom of choice for women.

8. Liberals believe courts have a special responsibility to protect individual liberties. It is principally liberal judges and justices who have preserved and continue to preserve freedom of expression, individual privacy, freedom of religion and due process of law. (Conservative judges and justices more often wield judicial authority to protect property rights and the interests of corporations, commercial advertisers and the wealthy.)

9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism. The accusation that liberals are unwilling to protect the nation from internal and external dangers is false. Because liberals respect competing values, such as procedural fairness and individual dignity, they weigh more carefully particular exercises of government power (such as the use of secret evidence, hearsay and torture), but they are no less willing to use government authority in other forms (such as expanded police forces and international diplomacy) to protect the nation and its citizens.

10. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, without unnecessarily sacrificing constitutional values. It is liberals who have demanded and continue to demand legal protections to avoid the conviction of innocent people in the criminal justice system, reasonable restraints on government surveillance of American citizens, and fair procedures to ensure that alleged enemy combatants are in fact enemy combatants. Liberals adhere to the view expressed by Brandeis some 80 years ago: "Those who won our independence ... did not exalt order at the cost of liberty."

I don't know that it's exhaustive, but it's a good start.

Update: Michael J. Fox says that even Alex P. Keaton would be fed up with the Republicans over stem-cell research. I think that might be an exaggeration. For the record, Alex Keaton was a fan of Reagan and Nixon. And, from what I've been told, even though those that hew closely to a Conservative political philosophy (small government, lassez-faire, individual liberty, etc.) aren't big fans of the current administration, they wouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater by voting for the Dems.

More importantly, read Lou Dobbs, who says that no matter which major party wins, middle class America is getting screwed:

It's amazing what a mere $2.6 billion can buy in a democracy. That's what the two parties will have spent in their campaigns leading up to these midterm elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And most of that money for Democrats and Republicans alike comes from corporate America. So what will be the outcome of this election? The only certainty is that corporate America will get what it's paid for, and that's more of the same.


While the name of the party in charge may change from Republican to Democrat, it's really only a branding issue. And just as my friend James Mtume says, it's still the same bird, just a different wing. And believe me, middle-class America will still be getting the bird.

Neither party at the national or local level is talking about what to do about the education crisis in our public schools. Both parties seem to think a 10-year plan to measure the decline of our schools through the No Child Left Behind law is an adequate response to what is an outright emergency.

Both parties seem happily content to give their multinational corporate masters exactly what they want in the form of so-called free trade, which has cost millions of middle-class Americans their jobs to outsourcing and off-shoring of manufacturing production to cheap overseas labor markets.

And God forbid we should disturb the orthodoxies of both parties that insist that we not secure our borders and ports, despite radical Islamist terrorist threats, the multibillion-dollar illegal drug trade and what is nothing less than an invasion of illegal aliens into this country.

I wish I had written that line about the bird. Fucking brilliant.

John Mayer

Dave Navarro used to be my favorite blogging musician -- and it's not that I don't still love him -- it's just that John Mayer is friggin' hilarious. (If you don't believe me, read his Rolling Stone interview from a couple weeks ago.) And his new album is pretty good, too.

I just wish his tv show was still on.