Archive for January, 2003

Clash of civilizations

Friday, January 31st, 2003

Yesterday’s courtroom confrontation between “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and Judge William Young was nothing short of epic, right up to its dramatic conclusion:

Judge Young: “See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will.” (At this point, Reid stands up and shakes his fist at the judge. The judge orders him restrained and removed from the courtroom.) “Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.”

Reid: (As he is being dragged out of the courtroom) “That flag will be brought down on the Day of Judgment and you will see in front of your Lord and my Lord and then we will know.”

No word on whether anyone in the courtroom burst into song when Judge Young said, “That flag still stands for freedom.” (“…and they can’t take that away! I’m proud to be an American…”)

But anyway… holy crap, dude! It got biblical in there. Who needs a Perry Mason moment when you have a clash of civilizations happening right in your own courtroom?

And what I quoted only scratches the surface. You gotta check out the transcript.

Speaking of biblical stuff, here’s a pleasant little excerpt from an Associated Press article about the potential consequences of a war in Iraq:

Saddam doesn’t have missiles that could reach the United States. But as he demonstrated in 1991 by firing 39 Scud missiles at Israel, he considers Israel a surrogate target. Those Scuds had only conventional warheads, and Washington managed to dissuade Israel from retaliating.

If the missiles carried chemical or biological warheads this time, and if they caused serious damage, Washington’s job would be much harder. Some say major casualties would force Israel to retaliate by firing a nuclear weapon at Baghdad.

“If Saddam was able to kill 50 Israelis — no. Five hundred — probably not. Fifty thousand, done deal,” said John Pike, director of, an independent military policy think tank.

An Israeli nuclear bomb, which could kill millions of Iraqis, might turn an attack on a single nation into a world war, with some Muslim nations joining Iraq’s side against a U.S.-Israeli alliance.

“It would shape the course of Mideast history for the rest of the millennium,” Pike said.

I was recounting this to a guy on the bus today while en route to work in Marina del Rey. He began explaining how such a scenario could very well lead to the Apocalpyse, as foretold by the Bible. Normally, I don’t lend any credence to such ravings. But, hmm…

Lo and behold

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

I made a minor typo while typing in my own website’s URL, and I found Who knew?

“No blood for oil!” the liberal activist cried, as he drove away in his SUV

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

Seriously, you gotta wonder how many of the people honking their horns at the “No blood for oil” signs are doing so from Ford Explorers and Toyota 4Runners. Ah, hypocrisy.

Anyway, here’s a subtle anti-war message from everybody’s favorite source for artistic subtlety, the Daily Trojan. (Note that Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers has apparently been replaced by Popeye the Sailor Man.)

And here’s yet more subtlety, this one floating around the Internet with the caption “Frodo has failed”:

Hee hee hee. Funny stuff, that. We must defeat the union of the two towers — Baghdad and Kabul!

In all seriousness, I wish George W. Bush’s conception of evil was closer to J.R.R. Tolkien’s conception of it. Tolkien saw evil as something floating in the ether, a force that can infect the hearts of good men as well as driving the war machines of the Saurons and Sarumans of the world. Indeed, even Sauron and Saruman were, initially, good. (I wrote about this in a DT column last year.) Rohan’s king, Theoden, was good, yet evil nearly conquered him; Gondor’s steward, Denethor, was good too, yet evil did conquer him when he burned himself alive (and tried to take his son with him) while his kingdom was under seige. (Attention confused movie fans: that happens in the third one.)

Evil in Tolkien’s world — and in ours too, I believe — works in many ways, and no one side of a conflict has a monopoly on it. If Bush agreed with me on this, he would understand that the force of evil can influence his own administration too, even when they are genuinely acting with good intentions. The steady erosion of civil liberties is a great example of this: the ethereal force that is evil, having failed to destroy our freedoms through brute violence on Sept. 11, is now attempting the same goal via another strategy, through well-intentioned but potentially disastrous reforms such as the U.S.A. PATRIOT act. We’re fighting a two-front war, but it’s not against Osama and Saddam: it’s against blatant evil abroad and subtle, unintentional evil at home. If J.R.R. Tolkien were president, he would have recognized this. George W. Bush does not seem to.

That said, my feelings about the potential war in Iraq remain fervently ambiguous and passionately confused. President Bush and the conservatives are entirely right when they say it makes no sense whatsoever to wait for an “imminent threat” (did any of us foresee an imminent threat on Sept. 10, 2001?) or a “smoking gun” (guns don’t smoke till they’ve been fired, so a smoking Gun of Mass Destruction would be a very bad thing). They’re also right that multilateralism for multilateralism’s sake should not be an excuse for inaction, if the action is just. At the same time, I remain profoundly uncomfortable with the prospect of the United States striking first, and perhaps striking largely alone, and starting a war basically because it decides it wants to. Check that; because its executive branch decides it wants to. (Congress has the war-declaring power, and does not, in my view, have the constitutional right to give that power away, as it did last year and has been doing since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.) The precedents we’re setting are bad, the implications of what we’re doing are bad, the whole thing just feels bad and icky, not to mention unconstitutional. Yet I don’t hear anyone proposing any reasonable alternatives to war. (No, “peace” doesn’t count. Peace is a meaningless word unless accompanied by some concrete alternative plan of action, some specific “peaceful” way to deal effectively with warlike foes like Osama and Saddam.)

So I just don’t know what to think. I simply pray that if war happens, which it apparently will, it goes well, and is over quickly, and leads to the fewest possible number of American and Iraqi casualties, and does not involve the use of weapons of mass destruction (by either side), and leads to something closer to democracy than chaos in Iraq and the Middle East. And I pray that the United States, in the end, lives up to its moral obligation to do right by the Iraqi people, and does not prove all the radical no-blood-for-oil buffoons right.

Oh, speaking of evil, did you hear which cabinet secretary was kept out of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, to preserve the continuity of government? Ah yes, that would be everybody’s favorite attorney general and destroyer of civil liberties, John Ashcroft. Thank God the terrorists didn’t pick Tuesday to attack. (Becky speculated that some Al Qaeda operative might have had his finger on the button, but thought better of it when he heard Ashcroft would become president.)

The most jammin’ ads

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

It was a bit of a lackluster year for Super Bowl commercials, but there were still some good ones. For both Becky and me, the #1 ad was the Bud Light spot featuring a guy who circumvented a bar’s no-pets policy by putting his dog on his head and pretending it was his reggae-style hair. (We be jammin’, man.)

In addition, Becky and I liked the Willie Nelson H&R Block ad (in which the traditionally bearded Willie is forced to pitch shaving cream because he gets bad tax advice), and we both thought the “Terry Tate, office linebacker” ad (which featuring a football player randomly tackling people in an office) was pretty funny.

But otherwise, our lists were quite different. I had a special fondness for the Sierra Mist ad featuring a monkey catapulting into a polar-bear pool — but then again, I have a special fondness for monkeys generally. Becky was less sold on the flying monkey; she preferred the upside-down clown who disturbed bar patrons by drinking Bud Light through his costume’s crotch. In fact, four of Becky’s top five were Bud Light ads; only one of mine was.

Becky’s and my complete top-five lists:

Becky’s favorites
1. Bud Light: dog-on-head guy
2. Bud Light: upside-down clown
3. H&R Block: Willie Nelson pitching shaving cream
4. Bud Light: strong-man competition
5. Bud Light: mom with giant butt
Honorable mention: Reebok: Terry Tate, office linebacker

Brendan’s favorites
1. Bud Light: dog-on-head guy
2. Sierra Mist: monkey catapulting into pool
3. H&R Block: Willie Nelson pitching shaving cream
4. driverless truck causes mass destruction
5. Reebok: Terry Tate, office linebacker
Honorable mention: Bud Light: lobster bites guy’s lip as he tries to pick up chicks

Hello from Arizona

Saturday, January 25th, 2003

Becky and I have spent the weekend at her parents’ place in Arizona, and we’ll be watching the Super Bowl here tomorrow on their giant TV. :) Here are some photos from the past few days…

While Becky drives, Toby rests comfortably in the spot where she almost the entire ride from L.A. to Phoenix: Becky’s lap.

You tell me: What the heck kind of vehicle uses tires this big?

Arizona’s trademark, a cactus, is silhouetted by the sunlight.

Becky’s mom gazes up at a giant tree-like cactus thingy (uh, yeah, that’s the technical term) at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

A hummingbird at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Becky at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Me at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.


Saturday, January 25th, 2003

Trojan quarterback Carson Palmer unveils his Heisman Trophy at a rally Jan. 22 honoring USC’s fantastic winter sports season. The football team’s Orange Bowl trophy and the women’s volleyball team’s NCAA championship trophy were also unveiled.


Saturday, January 25th, 2003

Sporting my new haircut and USC Orange Bowl t-shirt, I pose with a large tortoise at the Los Angeles Zoo. During our trip to the zoo Jan. 20, Becky and I also saw hippos, apes, a big cat, and a pair of kangaroos that, surprisingly enough, did not know how to rap. More zoo pictures coming soon (or whenever I have time to post them).

Congratulations, President Bun

Monday, January 20th, 2003

Mr. Bun was inaugurated as Adollya‘s seventh president Monday, returning the Republidolly Party to power in the Blue House after a two-year absence. President Bun and Vice President Darla took the reigns from Dollycrats Oliver and Eeyore, whom they defeated in November’s national election.

Bun and Darla were sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Darlene — an Oliver-appointed Dollycrat who also happens to be Darla’s sister — at a noon ceremony Monday. Outgoing President Oliver stood nearby as his successor took the oath of office, then shook paws with President Bun moments later, as seen below.

Newly inaugurated President Bun, his foot still on the Bible, turns around to shake Oliver’s paw after being sworn in Monday. At right are Chief Justice Darlene and, at far right, Bun chief of staff Madereine Rue. Vice President Darla, not shown, had been sworn in a few minutes earlier.

It was the fourth time in Adollyan history that the political parties have traded the presidency. In all cases, the transition has been peaceful and orderly.

In his inaugural address, President Bun said he would “devote the full resources of my administration to protecting Adollya from terrorists, invaders, and trouble-makers.” But he also pledged to maintain the country’s tradition of tolerance, invoking the memory of the human civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. — whose birthday is observed by a national holiday Monday — in saying, “Our nation is and shall remain firmly committed to Dr. King’s dream, the universal dream of equal rights for all humans, animals, and dollies.”

As the audience applauded heartily, President Bun eloquently added, “Squeak!”

Bicoastal webcam mania

Sunday, January 19th, 2003

I’m now webcasting live (sort of) from both coasts: I’ve got one webcam in Newington and another webcam in L.A.!

Los Angeles, CA – updated every minute (when online)

Newington, CT – updated every 5 minutes (when online)

Woohoo! I say “sort of” live because they’re updated by FTP at set intervals, as described above. Moreover, the L.A. cam (a.k.a. TobyCam) will probably be updated rather intermittently, at least while I work out the details of the connection, and in fact, it may not last long. So enjoy it while it’s here!

In other news, check out my parents’ eBay profiles: here’s my dad’s page, and here’s my mom’s.

Oh, and in honor of the holiday, if you’d like to download Martin Luther King Jr.’s entire “I have a dream” speech in MP3 format, here’s a site where you can do just that. (I know I plan to play the whole speech on my computer at some point tomorrow. Hearing Dr. King speak never fails to give me goose bumps.)

‘Greatest Generation’ opposes Iraq war

Saturday, January 18th, 2003

Here’s some food for thought: Which age group do you think is the most opposed to a possible war in Iraq? Go ahead, take a guess. Is it my generation, full of bleeding-heart college liberals? Or perhaps Generation X, those unapologetic cynics who are opposed to pretty much everything? Or could it be my parents’ generation, the onetime hippies who protested Vietnam?

No, no, and no. As it turns out, according to two recent polls, the age group most opposed to (or at least skeptical of) war in Iraq is the generation that really knows what war is: the World War II generation.

According to a poll in the Los Angeles Times, 54 percent of Americans aged 77 and older oppose the war, while just 35 percent support it. By contrast, among respondents of all ages, 58 percent support the war, and just 35 percent oppose it.

The Pew Research Center, meanwhile, found a 50-50 split among Americans 75 and older, compared with 2-to-1 support among the public at large.

The L.A. Times has a fine article in today’s paper discussing these findings. Two representative paragraphs:

The Rev. Bill Berglund, 82, was a Marine who served, proudly, in World War II and Korea. He entered the seminary in 1969 at age 49. He is not, however, a pacifist. Berglund said he would have fought in Afghanistan too, “if I weren’t so old and feeble,” and if they had let him on the battlefield in his golf cart. And he has not ruled out going to war with Saudi Arabia. “They financed 9/11, and their young men flew the planes,” he said.

But ask Berglund, who lives in a retirement community in Elizabethtown, Pa., about Iraq, and he all but bristles. “I am dead set against it,” he said. “It is a needless exercise of power by a certain group of people in Washington.”

Very interesting.

On the other hand, there may finally be a smoking gun, and I’m not talking about those chemical warheads. Also, the U.K.’s liberal Guardian is apparently supporting war, and that’s saying something. (Both links courtesy of InstaPundit, which also has a ton of antiwar protest pics.)

On a totally unrelated note, did you hear the one about the guy with monkeys in his underpants on a flight from Thailand to L.A.?

The mystery of the lost and found USCard

Tuesday, January 14th, 2003

All right, the story goes something like this. A few days before leaving Los Angeles for winter break, I was walking back toward my Troy Hall apartment one afternoon. As I approached the front door of the building, which a one cannot open without swiping one’s USCard (the university’s student ID card, pronounced “U-S-C card”), I reached into my pocket, took out my wallet, opened it up, and — I swear to God — pulled out my USCard. I had my card in my hand, and was about to swipe it when, voila, someone from inside the building opened the door to walk out, letting me in without swiping my card.

I proceeded to walk to my room, pick up my New York Times outside the door, open the door with my key, say hi to my roommates, walk into my bedroom, and put some stuff down. Then, wanting to head over to the building’s mail center to pick up some packages, I checked my pockets to make sure I had my USCard (which you need to pick up packages). To my surprise, I couldn’t find it.

Remembering that I had taken it out of my pocket in preparation to open the building’s front door, I concluded that it must be in my apartment somewhere. So I looked — in the pile of stuff I had put down, inside the New York Times, in the cracks next to my desk, on my bed — basically, in every conceivable place I might have plopped it. But I couldn’t find it. I even looked in the hallway to see if I might have somehow dropped it on the floor between the front door and my apartment door. Nothing there, either.

Utterly perplexed, I finally had to give up the ghost and move on to other, more important things; this was exam week, after all, and I had studying to do. Still, I couldn’t understand how the card could be so thoroughly lost. But, bowing to the apparent reality of its disappearance, I went down to the USCard office just before heading home and shelled out $15 for a new card. It didn’t occur to me to ask the people at the USCard office to look in their stack of lost cards, because I was certain I knew where mine was: in my apartment, somewhere.

Despite getting a new card, I continued to hope I might find my old card again, because it has on it my $95 activity sticker, which gives me access to virtually all USC athletic events, as well as a copy of my yearbook, and that sticker cannot be replaced without re-purchasing it. But finding the old card, at least anytime soon, seemed unlikely; I had looked everywhere for it.

Fast forward to yesterday, more than a month after losing my old card. I needed to put some money on my discretionary account, so I went down to the USCard office in the afternoon to transfer $100 from my feebill to that account. On a whim, while I was there, it occurred to me to ask whether they had my old card in their lost-cards stack. I thought for sure this would be a fruitless effort, because my card was in my apartment somewhere, but since it crossed my mind, I thought, eh, why not? So I asked, and so she looked in the stack.

And there was my card.

How did it get there? I have no idea. My roommates wouldn’t have brought it in if one of them had found it; they would have just returned it directly to me. I suppose I could have dropped it in the hallway between the building door and my apartment door, but I searched that area within 10 minutes of when I would have dropped it, so someone would have had to pick it up awfully quick. So perhaps I never had my card at my apartment in the first place — perhaps, when I took that card out of my wallet, prepared to swipe it to open the doors, it wasn’t my USCard at all, but some other plastic card, and I didn’t get the chance to realize it because the door was opened for me.

I don’t know. It’s a mystery that will probably never be solved.

Now I have them both in my wallet:

But the important thing is, I have my card back, which means I can go to the basketball game against Arizona on Thursday. :)


Sunday, January 12th, 2003

Yesterday in men’s basketball: Pennsylvania 99, USC 61.

That’s right, the Trojans were creamed by the Quakers (5-4), an unranked, thoroughly mediocre Ivy League team that boasts losses to such powerhouses as Drexel and Delaware. And the game was in Los Angeles, for heaven’s sake. USC is now 6-5, with notably ignominious defeats at the hands of Rhode Island, UC Santa Barbara, and now, Penn. Hey Trojans — how do you spell NIT? (And guess what: On Thursday, we get to play #2-ranked Arizona. Oh, goody.)

Another ouch, in women’s basketball this time: the Women of Troy (6-9) lost to archrival UCLA, 72-64.

I miss football season already.

Safe & sound in L.A.

Saturday, January 11th, 2003

Well, I’m here. :) After staying up all night packing, I slept through almost the entire flight both from Hartford to Cincinnati and from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. In the latter case, I literally went to sleep over Indiana and woke up just east of Barstow, Calif. Now I’ve been reunited with Becky and Toby, and I’m slowly unpacking and settling in. I can’t believe this is the last time I’ll be returning to L.A. to start a new semester at USC!!

Anyway, I have a ton of pictures to post (the Rowland rally, in particular), but I also have a ton of stuff to do over the next few days, so the website is not exactly going to be my priority. But I’ll try to keep it as up-to-date as possible.

In the mean time, keep visiting our new AdollyaCam, a webcam of our front yard in Newington.

Bound for California

Saturday, January 11th, 2003

Well, I’m off. Plane leaves for L.A. (via Cincinnati) at 1:30 PM Eastern time. I won’t be posting from airports and such, because I don’t have my cell phone. Adios…

Oh, and check out the new webcam at our Newington house showing the front yard and Hartford Avenue.


Saturday, January 11th, 2003

Players battle for a rebound during overtime of the Newington High School girls basketball team’s Jan. 10 conference showdown against the Platt Panthers of Meriden. The Indians beat the Panthers, 48-44, on the strength of late clutch shooting, and improved to 4-5 overall, 2-1 in the CCC South. The undefeated, #10-ranked Newington boys team also pulled out a nailbiter against Platt.