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December 31, 2003

Happy New Year

With little over an hour to go, I'm ready to close the books on 2003. It ended with a remarkably fussy child hastening our exit from a restaurant, and a welcome gathering of friends.

May 2004 bring you peace and your true heart's desire.


So after my heartfelt post about retiring the catchphrase "drank the Kool-Aid" after hearing a chilling NPR story about the Jonestown Massacre, I forgot myself and mentioned that some friends of mine had "drunk the Kool-Aid" for the TV series Firefly. And another friend of mine instantly called me on it. I didn't even know he read my blog. Just goes to show how time lessens the impact of memory, and how what you write can follow you anywhere...

December 14, 2003

Best Music DVD

Pick up Blue Man Group's new DVD of this summer's The Complex Rock Tour. I was afraid to get it, because I was sure it wouldn't measure up to the shows I attended in Raleigh and Charlotte. Well, no, it doesn't, but it was still damned good.

I Blame My Family

Over Thanksgiving, my father and brother were amused by the brand name of the yogurt we feed Will: YoBaby. Of course, they started trying to get Will to repeat "Yo baby!" It didn't take much, and Will let out a stream of "Yo babys": matter of fact, quizzical, Barry White, and Dirty Old Man. (The last was really unnerving coming from a not-yet-two-year-old.) I kept hoping Will'd forget. And he hadn't said it in weeks.

Tonight, at the grocery store somewhere in the canned veggies, our shopping cart passed an attractive twentysomething's. Will turned to her, and said -- softly, but with the Dirty Old Man voice -- "Yo baby."

I kept going. Stared straight ahead. Refused to make eye contact.

December 10, 2003

Insert Your Own Snide Headline Here

It's an uncharacteristically conservative blogging day for me. This afternoon on All Things Considered, Guy Raz reported (RealAudio, scroll down to "Britons Protest University Fee Plan") that British students are aghast -- aghast, I tell you! -- that Tony Blair is suggesting that they ought to contribute to their own tuition expenses for University, given the crushing debts the institutions are operating under.

After they've attended school.

After they've got a job.

After they're making the median salary.

At which point they'd be paying, on average, 8 dollars a week for 10 to 15 years for a college education.

Interest free.

Not only do the "self-consciously radical students" decry this as turning British schools into rich-only enclaves just like American colleges, but Blair is having difficulty selling the plan to half his own party.

It's a fascinating, infuriating story with an interesting look at just how competitive Cambridge and the others are (not as competitive as you'd think). Raz's snideness comes through, and for once I don't mind the lack of the "objective" voice.

Playing from the Spite Deck

Back in the days I was playing a certain collectible card game, my good friend Mark had what he called a "spite deck." He pulled it out whenever events in the previous game had frustrated him utterly, and the rest of the players knew that although Mark was unlikely to win from playing the Spite Deck, he would be taking the majority them down with him.

Geopolitically speaking, there's been a lot of playing the spite deck lately, the most recent example being the Pentagon's decision to only award post-war reconstruction contracts in Iraq to coalition members. This is a large, neon middle finger thrust before France, Germany, Russia and Canada, among others. To my own surprise, given my lack of support of the Bush administration, I really don't mind that they're playing from the spite deck this time.

For one thing, despite the Bush administration's diplomatic blunders and arrogance, the failure of the U.N. to enforce its own resolutions can be traced primarily to France and Germany who, it seems, were playing from the spite deck themselves when they decided that the final resolution on Iraq (PDF) for which they had voted didn't mean what it said. Whether you were in favor of the war or not, when you consider that the only thing that might have prevented war was U.N. unanimity in enforcing Resolution 1441, France's intransigence at the Security Council seems at least as spiteful as principled. So there's something satisfying about playing from the spite deck in retaliation -- I don't feel a particular need to welcome French companies to the bidding process and I suspect the Iraqi Governing Council would agree. (That said, I admit that this isn't a great way to thank Canada for at least putting some money up toward reconstruction, nor does it help encourage Russia to forgive Iraq's debts.)

Second, this isn't just about the middle finger. Britain, Spain, Australia and the others put boots on the ground. Reserving the bidding to them may be a small gesture -- a few extra jobs in Birmingham won't help Tony Blair with his backbenchers -- but it's a start.

And finally, there's a smaller but still substantial pot of money out there from the U.N. for reconstruction contracts as well, so the other countries aren't being completely frozen out.

Now, I reserve the right to retract every one of these statements if Halliburton wins all these bids, too.