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Congratulations, Al Gore!

Al Gore was a co-recipient today of the Nobel Peace Prize, due to his work to educate the world about the threat of climate change.

God bless ya, buddy.  You took one in the teeth 7 years ago, but ended up having one of the biggest impacts a citizen of this world could have.  It turns out the presidency is overrated, anyway.  And that job attracts assholes like rats to a dumpster. 

Here’s to thinking about everybody on planet earth.

We’ll be raising a glass to Mr. Gore at the Connolly house this evening.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/13/world/13nobel.html?ex=1349928000&en=3fc5aeb5e155f49c&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

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Our “Letter to My Sister” Videos

A couple weeks ago, my brother turned me on to one of the funniest damn videos I have seen in a long time, called "Letter to my Sister".  It’s a short film from some of the actors on Saturday Night Live.  It itself is a spoof of some season cliffhanger of the TV show "OC", where they glossed over the gratuitous killing off of a major character by adding an nice soundtrack to the gun battle.

Here is the SNL video:

But, the best part of this video is that a million people have been making their own versions of "Letter to my Sister", by mashing up other movies (or their own videos) with that song (which, by the way, is "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap).  The best one I have seen is a mashup of a scene from the movie "300", but you can surf around yourself and see some great ones.

So, obviously, we had to go and make our own videos to join the party.  And, since the only willing actors we had at our disposal tended to be 3 years old, we had interesting challenges for directing the shot.  For instance, we thought it would probably be a bad idea to include, say, a gun in the plot :-)

Brian got his done first, where he decided to use a magic wand.

For our video, I decided to use death rays that shoot out of your hands as the agent of death.  I couldn’t get Monica to be one of the actors in our movie, but the Weaver-Hoisingtons were visiting us from Bend, Oregon, so their two kids play pivot roles in the plot, and Kecia shows up at the end as the last person to die.

Making those videos was a ton of fun.  Now, if I only had the same amount of motivation for finally packaging up those hours of videos of birthday parties, vacations, and Max’s first steps from 2 years ago so our relatives can access them!

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I Drove Over a Bowling Ball

The evening’s plan started off with high expectations: leave work a bit early with Monica, pick up my son and my niece, and head over to the Zoo for the ZooTunes show of the Pink Martini’s.  A little picnic outside with two 3-year olds in front of a live band on a sunny day.  Sounds like a great plan!

In actuality, yesterday night totally sucked beyond belief.  And it was all due to a bowling ball.

Monica picked me up from work at around 4.  I was about 10 minutes late, which wasn’t that big of a deal, but it did add a little "we’re a bit behind schedule and it’s my fault" vibe to our commute, which had me looking to make up for lost time during the rest of the journey to the zoo.

Then, even though we were on the road at 4:15, we got stuck in the total nightmare of the evening rush hour on westbound 520.  Crap!  But hey, if you lose your cool about traffic in Seattle, you’ll have an ulcer in no time.  So, we just hung out and caught up on life as we waited it out.  No biggie.

We got home, picked up Max, walked and fed the dog, got picnic supplies, and out the door in 10 minutes!  Excellent, lost time re-acquired.  Next stop: over to my brother’s house to pick up our niece Audrey to join us for the picnic.

This is where the evening took an unrecoverable dive for me.

As we pulled into the alley behind Brian’s house, a saw a small blue ball sitting in the middle of the alley.  I was driving rather slow, since I was in an alley and about 5 houses away from my destination, but I still felt I was a bit behind schedule.  So, I drifted the car a bit to the side so I would run over the ball in the middle of the car, gently passing over it.  Sure, I could have stopped the car and moved the ball myself.  But hey, I’m in a hurry. 

What I heard next was the most ungodly crunching and scraping that I have ever heard any car make, let alone my car.  I hit the brakes and stopped the car.  I could see my sister-in-law and niece a couple houses down waiting for us outside, and they obviously were wondering why we stopped where we did.  As they walked over to us, and got down on my hands and knees and tried to figure out what was going on.

That damn blue ball was a goddamn bowling ball, and it scraped and crunched everything in it’s path on the underside of my mini-cooper.  Then, it lodged itself into a small well on the underside, where it was completely stuck.  On top of that, some weird fluid was leaking out of the bottom of my car.  That’s just great.  People that know me all understand one weird thing about me: somehow, I managed to get to the age of 36 without any basic understanding of how cars work.  This is mostly due to me not getting my first car until I moved to Seattle at the age of 23.  I skipped that whole teenage phase of most boy’s lives where they get interested in cars and figure out how they work.  If there is anything more severe then running low on gas or needing an oil change (which I pay other people to fix for me), any problems with my car become completely debilitating because I don’t know how to fix them.  Great.  So, the liquid leaking of of my car could be coolant or windshield wiper fluid for all I knew.  No clue.

At this point, my focus was dislodging this ball, and the easiest thing to do would have been to jack up the car.  I’m sure I have a jack in my car somewhere.  But, no, of course I didn’t do that.  I was in a hurry.  We were late for the show. 

Two neighbors popped over and asked if they could help, so I asked them to help me find some big rocks.  The idea was to put a big flat rock in front of the front tire, and drive the car up onto the rock, and then kick the bowling ball out of the way.  I found a big paving rock in a neighbor’s backyard that I pried out of his lawn, put it in place, and drove the car up on top of it.

The result of this: the ball now was lodged into a different spot under the car, but directly under the exhaust pipe.  And, if I drove off the paving stone, the ball would crush and destroy a large section of the exhaust pipe (among other things that looked important under there).  I now had to make sure the car did not come back down, or things would break even worse, but I also needed to get it higher.

So, another paving stone and some other large rock were promptly found.  One was put in front of the existing paving stone, while the other was put in front of one of the rear tires.  The goal is to move four inches forward, and get both tires up (and keep them up).

This worked!  The ball rolled away.  One of the friendly neighbors took it from me and said they would dispose of it.  This was good, because if I had to deal with that ball, I was going to do something very unconstructive like throwing it at something.

Threw this whole ordeal, I had this ticking clock in the back of my head, because we were on a course to massively be late for the show.  So, I was sweating bullets on my hands and knees kicking a stuck bowling ball and hauling big rocks around, but I was also getting all stressed out about the show. There were two three year olds running around, some neighbors trying to help, and some goddamn mystery fluid leaking out of my car.  This all turned into a poisonous cocktail that fouled my mood for the rest of the day.

So, although we dealt with the frustrating traffic on 520 with style and grace just an hour earlier, the next set of mundane hiccups to the show become overwhelming burdens.

Dealing with crosstown congestion on the way to the zoo: infuriating!

Finding a parking spot near the zoo: infuriating!

Trying to find a spot to sit down at a sold-out show that we are arriving late to: infuriating!

I tried to hide my moodiness from my lovely wife and two three year-olds that were excited about playing outside and dancing and jumping to music.  But, after we finally wedged into a spot and sat down, the kids played and wrestled and giggled too loud (apparently, kids can giggle too loud, I did not know this), so some grumpy people behind us politely pointed out that the kids were distracting them from seeing the show.  Christ Almighty.  There were about 300 kids here doing the same thing as our kids were doing.  These grumpy people were lucky I didn’t have that bowling ball in my hand at that moment. 

The rest of the evening was a blur.  I tried to get out of my funk, but it didn’t really happen.

On the trip home, I was peppered by some good questions from the kids.

"Uncle Mike, why did you drive over that bowling ball?"

"Daddy, driving over bowling balls is dangerous.  You shouldn’t do that."

After not being able to answer these questions to their satisfaction, my only retort became "Uncle Mike doesn’t want to talk about the bowling ball anymore.  The bowling ball is in Uncle Mike’s past.  Uncle Mike is moving on to other things now".

I went home, had one beer, and went to bed.  Day, be gone!

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Saran Wrap

It’s 2007, and it’s a great time to be alive.  Technological advances make life better every day, by creating new experiences previously unavailable to us, or by removing old pain points that came along with life.

Last week, however, I had a run-in with a piece of technology that seems to be exactly the same as when I was six years old.   That was a long time ago.

The evil sharp serrated edge of the Saran Wrap dispenser.

Why is it that, in 2007, I can slice my thumb open simply by trying to wrap a peanut butter sandwich in plastic wrap?  Have they not been able to create some elegant design where the plastic wrap can be cut, but not expose the user to a slashing risk? 

Please, people! Let’s get some smart people thinking about this problem and get it fixed.

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Scooter Libby Deserves No Pardon

There has been quite a deal of chatter in the newspapers, blogs, and talk radio about a potential pardon for Scooter Libby.  Some of this talk is not about "if", but "when".  Are you kidding me?

Scooter Libby might deserve our sympathy.  The guy is going to jail.  That must be pretty hard on anybody, it doesn’t matter who you are.  But, sympathy aside, the man deserves no pardon.

Here is a write-up from the Washington Post that gives an overview of the verdict and the current situation Libby finds himself in: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/15/AR2007061500200.html?tid=informbox

I did a search for anyone on the internet that could possibly argue the case for the Libby pardon, and I found a couple sites and articles that try to state the case.  So, I thought I would spend some time retorting some of their viewpoints.

For starters, the first destination you have to see so as to best understand Libby’s support network would have to be http://www.scooterlibby.com/.  This is a site 100% dedicated to getting Libby pardoned.  From what I can tell, it serves primarily as an information clearinghouse for those who are concerned about Libby’s plight, with new article links being posted quite regularly.  One big demerit, however, is the big quote from Dick Cheney at the top of the site, explaining how great a guy Libby is.  Now, I don’t care who you are, and what part of the political spectrum you subscribe to.  Even if you are a hardcore republican, do you really think that anything Dick Cheney says is honest and believable?  Geez, it would be better to get Nixon to phone in a recommendation from beyond the grave, as opposed to Cheney, the creepiest man in politics.

Anyhow, this site *does* take a crack at arguing Libby’s case, which is as follows:

 

The Nice Guy Argument

ScooterLibby.com, as well as many other sites as blogs, first lead with the "nice guy" argument.  Scotter Libby, it turns out, was the nicest goddamned guy in the whole world. He was a caring and loving father.  He was a friendly and helpful neighbor.  He sacrificed for his country.  Ya da ya da ya da.

This argument is utterly ridiculous.  Following this logic, we should pardon a bank robber, if we found out that he helped raise abused and abandoned pets in his spare time.  You break a crime, you do the time.  I don’t care how saintly you are in the spare time you have when you aren’t breaking laws.

 

The "What He Did Wasn’t So Bad" Argument 

The next article I read was from Christopher Hitchens for Slate.com.  You can read the article here: http://www.slate.com/id/2168642/.  He has a few arguments he makes against the Libby verdict, but I’ll start off with what I’ll call the "What He Did Wasn’t So Bad" argument.  Hitchens flippantly describes Libby’s offense as being simply a set of minor inconsistencies while under oath.

There is a major problem with this argument.  If you go back and read the Washington Post article, you’ll see that there was "overwhelming" (the judge’s words!) evidence that the reason he gave false statements under oath was to thwart investigators.  That’s called obstruction of justice.  So, to say that he only committed "minor inconsistencies" is a bunch of baloney.  He was trying to undermine a federal investigation, in order to protect someone.  Either himself, or someone else in the administration.

Here’s a good description of obstruction of justice from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obstruction_of_justice.

 We could obviously then argue about whether obstruction of justice is a big deal.  But, that would be silly.  You need the punishment for getting caught covering up a crime to be very high, since they are then basically getting away with whatever crime they are covering up.  So, since you can’t get them for that crime, you need to assume they did something very bad.  It’s like losing your parking ticket at a parking garage.  If you tell them you lost it, tough darts.  You pay the maximum fee, since the attendant can’t just trust you, or everyone will start accidentally losing their tickets if they have been there for a long time, since lying about losing your ticket would be cheaper than being honest about how much time you’ve been there.

 

The Procedural Error Argument

In Hitchen’s article, he references two more arguments that both fall under the "Procedural Error" class of arguments.  Meaning, some technicality in the way the process was carried out that could potentially have some bearing on the outcome.

His first jab at this is some arcane legal issue about whether Fitzpatrick was a legal choice as prosecutor.  Note that this isn’t about his competency, but something to do with his stature in the federal hierarchy.  I’m not an expert, but this seems like a distraction at best.  And, Hitchens goes off on some indignant tangent about how the court thumbed their nose at this argument, when they formally replied to it and largely dismissed it (although I do think some sort of investigation is still pending on this). 

His second jab is about the defense not being able to put memory experts on the witness stand.  I can’t really refute this one, but the comments section of Hitchen’s article on Slate seemed to rip this argument apart.  So, I’ll leave this argument to be batted about by people who know more than I on the topic.

 

The Naked Political "Protect My Peeps" Argument

Nobody beats William Kristol from the Weekly Standard for being nakedly political.  The guy doesn’t even attempt to hide it.  Kristol has posted two articles on the Libby Pardon debate; one in March, and one a couple weeks ago.

His primary argument, which can be read between the lines fairly easily, is the obvious one that Republicans all understand.  They don’t want to see Libby photographed in a prisoner uniform, right on the cover of the New York Times.  Having someone so close to the current administration doing time makes the crimes the Bush/Cheney presidency have committed so much more real to the American public.

It goes without saying that this is a poor argument.  Although preventing an embarrassing perp walk to the slammer being shown on CNN is a reason for wanting to see Libby pardon, is certainly isn’t a valid argument for why he deserves it.

 

The "If Sandy Berger Can Do It" Argument

Another argument that Kristol alludes to is the situation with Sandy Berger and the missing records from the National Archives.  If a Democrat can get away with this sort of thing, why can’t a Republican? To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention to this one when it happened.  You can read about it here, in this Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/07/AR2007060702278.html.

So, this is pretty crazy.  I don’t know what in the hell this guy was doing.  If you do some searches for more articles, you’ll find some pretty crazy accusations about how and why he smuggled this documents out of the Archives, but to be honest, most of these are on GOP political sites, so I had a bit of a challenge finding objective articles about it.  Let’s just assume he was doing something bad. 

But, to be clear, he got charged for a misdemeanor, not a full-blown obstruction of justice charge.  I think it could be argued that the Justice Department should have probably gone the distance and hit him with obstruction of justice if that is what they thought he was doing.  For some reason, they didn’t.  And, this was the Bush Administration doing the prosecuting. 

So, it can be either see that Berger didn’t commit as severe as a crime, so therefore he got less of a penalty.  Or, it can be seen that he was poorly prosecuted by the Bush Administration’s Justice Department.  But, in what world would their poor ability to argue the case with Berger mean they should take it lightly with Libby, when they *did* have a strong case of obstruction of justice?

 

The "Because You Can" Argument

The last major argument I can deduce from Kristol’s articles is simply, the president should pardon Libby because he has the power to.  Kristol spends a bunch of time describing the powers of the presidential pardon, and explaining why this power is an important part of the American system.

I couldn’t agree more.  I think the presidential pardon is a great thing.  We don’t live in a world of black and white.  You can easily construct hypothetical cases in which pardons make a lot of sense.  Although not a proponent of torture and any breaking of the Geneva convention, an example often cited is that character from the TV show "24" who has to torture someone to save L.A. from being nuked.  You can imagine he could be prosecuted and convicted, and then pardoned for saving millions of lives.  Again, a horrible example, and I apologize for it.  Torture is really dumb.  But, you get the point.

Well, it’s also a horrible argument for pardoning Libby.  It’s a good justification for why you would ever do a pardon, but it sure isn’t a good reason for why he deserves one.

 

How About, He’s Guilty of a Really Bad Coverup?

Which leads me to the one reason he shouldn’t be pardoned.  Because he’s guilty.  He’s guilty of protecting someone from some crime they committed.  Maybe he was protecting himself.  Maybe he was protecting Cheney.  I don’t know.  We probably will never know.  But, for every "nice guy" in the administration who is asked to jump in front of a bus to protect someone higher up, they should know that noone is going to swoop in and pardon them and clear things up.  They are going to jail.  So, they should think about who they are truly allegiant to.  Are they allegiant to the current crew of turkeys that run the executive branch of the US government?  Or are they allegiant to the USA, our justice system, and the proper prosecution of crimes?

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Screw You, Thomas!

As a parent of a 3 year old boy, it goes without saying that Thomas the Train is a big part of our lives.  Not only can Max tell you the name of every train in the collection (so can I at this point), he owns at least half of them. 

Which is why every parent that I know is now completely freaking out by the recently announced Thomas the Train recall.

http://recalls.rc2.com/recalls_Wood_0607.html

So, just like everyone else, I got home that night and went through Max’s toys and confiscated all the yellow and red trains.  Poor James, he was always proud of his red coat.  Ivo Hugh, on the other hand, wasn’t on the list for some reason. But he is red, so you’re out, buddy. 

Then, I went back and read the details of what the problem was.  Turns out, some factory in China is still using lead paint!  This is just great.  The DailyKos does a quick write-up on the problem.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/6/13/22048/3592

For those who don’t know anything about Thomas trains, there is one detail you should understand: these are not cheap trains.  If a matchbox car costs about a dollar, each of of the affected trains below probably costs somewhere between 5 and 10 bucks.  So, the fact that the manufacture of these toys involves some factory somewhere that has no quality assurance around the paint they use is a bit insane. 

I’m looking forward to seeing how this fiasco plays out.  I can’t imagine how expensive the replacement will be for this company.  But more importantly, how will they survive the PR impacts of their brand now meaning "cheap dangerous manufacturing process that has shipped poison to children for the past 2 years".

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