Homer, I found this behind the radiator.

We have heat. We finally turned our heat on today, after the temperature in our living room dipped to a chilly 58 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. I had somebody scheduled to inspect our boiler this morning, and I wanted to hold out for them before turning it on. It’s not that I expected any problems, I just wanted to be safe. And I’ve never lived in a home with radiator heat where I was responsible for the boiler. It turns out the system was low on water and I needed to vent the radiators, so it’s a good thing I waited (though I don’t know how bad that would have been — probably just inefficient.

Of course we did pay the price. My wife and I (and Speak) have been absolutely freezing for the past week. This weekend was really the worst, though it hit rock bottom this morning. For a while things were worse than when I stay at my mom’s house, where her frugal heating approach means 62 degree nights. However, my wife and I have a down comforter, and that makes all the difference.

The administration has declared recycling a felony and Smokey the Bear is now Choppy the Lumberjack.

OK, I’m a bit confused about two current events.

The first is the one that’s been all over the news today, Robert Novak’s July Chicago Sun-Times column based on a White House leak that blew a CIA operative’s cover. Though Novak says, “There is no great crime here,” (CNN) the potential leak could be a felony. Two things confuse me on this one: 1) If this is such a big deal and the column appeared in July, why are we just hearing about it now. 2) If this is such a big deal, why isn’t Novak in trouble for publishing the link.

Second confusing current event is this who no-call list fiasco. The courts are holding it up because telemarketing calls are a protected first amendment right? Being irritating and annoying is a first amendment right? That is mind-boggling.

Treason season started early this year

OK, this isn’t a confusing current event, more like a heart-breaking event that I just read about while checking the news. Two American M-16 rifles were recovered today from captured Iraqis. The rifles belonged to two U.S. soldiers who were reported missing June 25 and found dead June 28. Some of their personal items were found in a house-to-house search on June 27.

I don’t remember hearing about this story back in June, but this seems to be more than a typical killed in action situation. These two U.S. soldiers were taken captive and killed. Those are pretty intense guerrilla tactics. Usually it’s inflict as much damage as possible, which would usually mean killing those soldiers as soon as possible. But the fact that they were abducted is disturbing. It’s one thing for guerrillas to sneak and pick off a few soldiers, maybe detonate a remote bomb. But to have the force or the guts or the element of surprise to actually take members of the greatest armed forces in the world hostage is a bold move.

That says to me that something is wrong. These two soldiers were obviously out-matched. To me, that’s a clear-cut case of either poor planning or not enough troops on the ground in Iraq. Either way, it’s not cool.

Hey, Miss Doesn’t-find-me-attractive-sexually-anymore: I just tripled my productivity!

Today was a productive day. I should have done my day in the life of the unemployed today. It would have been so much more impressive. I finished the templates and basic coding for a web site I’m designing. I began the initial work on a freelance project, getting the ball rolling on several fronts. I also found out about a potential new freelance project. I fired off some more networking e-mails. I had our boiler inspected and we turned on the heat for the first time. I fixed the doorbell and vented my radiators, which involved a trip to the hardware store (a dreaded killer of productivity). I washed the dishes, picked up all the crap coating our downstairs, and took the dog outside numerous times. For a while this afternoon I was listening to NPR (starting with Howard Dean’s appearance on Talk of the Nation [wait — can you “appear” on radio?]), and I think somehow that makes your day feel more productive.

This industry moves so fast it’s really hard to tell.

Why am I never happy with things the way they are? I have to have the newest, coolest, bestest. It’s more than apparent with these thoughts. They started with me copying someone else’s cool idea. I’ve updated the design of these thoughts several times, always trying to make them cooler. I added images at the top, I added the reading/watching/listening/surfing suggestions on the side, but I’m never quite happy. I look at my friends who have database driven blogs. They’re cool. They have comments and neato calendar displays and search capabilities and all this cool stuff you get with a database system. Yet I’ve resisted that step because I wanted more control, or some such nonsense. And now I’m thinking that I want to forsake control to have those spiffy features.

I think when it comes down to it I just like to play with web-based toys. But it has to be purposeless fun. I sat down today to work on a web site I was supposed to design months ago. I spent the time ogling database-driven blogs instead. What is wrong with me? My biggest fear is that I’ll spend countless hours converting these thoughts to a database system, only to find the next cool thing six months down the line and have to do it all over again. That seems to be the cycle of life.

And of all times to think of doing this, I pick when I’m unemployed. What a dangerous time suck.

A Holier-Than-Thou Nut Job

“Loving Bush: Day 2” by Anne Lamott: “Even though I’m addicted to hating the president, I’m trying to forgive him—as Jesus would. It’s not easy.”

Only Anne Lamott could talk about bringing the love of Christ to the realm of politics and not sound like a complete holier-than-thou nut-job. And it’s so entertaining to hear from someone who is as overboard about Jesus as they are about the Democrats.

She’s just kidding Mr. Lord!

CBS’s new pseudo-spiritual drama debuted tonight, “Joan of Arcadia.” In some ways it’s “Touched By An Angel” for a younger, hipper, and more spiritually tolerant audience. Of course they gave it the worst time slot possible, Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. CT. Who watches TV on Friday night? You know what used to be in that time slot? “Full House” with Bob Saget and the Olson Twins. I taped “Joan” tonight, and I’ll probably have to do that the rest of the season to actually watch it.

In case you completely ignore all forms of media, the show is a modern day retelling of Joan of Arc. God decides to talk to a present day teenager, Joan. The twist is that God appears as everyday people, ala Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (which just so happens to be the show’s theme song). It’s a unique premise for network TV, but we shouldn’t be so surprised. Television is pathetically slow when it comes to reflecting the spiritual beliefs in its audience. Movies have been toying with these ideas for a long time.

Of course the show’s spirituality has to play to the broadest common denominator. When Joan asks the hot teen guy who claims to be God if he’s the pillar of fire, ten commandments God of the Old Testament, he answers yes, then says that he got a better rep in the New Testament and the Koran, but yes, the same God. I’ve read comments from the show’s creators talking about their attempts to make their God as broad as possible, so the show can appeal to as many religions as possible. Thus you get a bland one-size-fits-all God.

But if you can get around the politically correct spirituality, the show raises the awareness and thinking about a supreme deity. At the beginning Joan tells God to go away, thinking he’s some deranged stalker. How often does that scene play out in real life? It’s moments like these that make the show captivating. I’m eager to see what they do with it.

At the same time, the show is mired in a number of lame moments. The God-speak that Joan endures is offset by Joan’s father, the chief of police. So it’s an edgy “Touched By An Angel” meets every cop show on the air. As you’d expect, “Joan” doesn’t hold a candle to “Law & Order” when it comes to police drama. Hopefully that side of the show will make more sense or play a smaller role. The younger brother is also a trip. He’s supposed to be the nerd, but he’s college level nerd, not 15-year-old dork. I should know, I was a 15-year-old dork. And if I’m not dorky enough (trust me, I am), I hung out with dorkier people. He starts spouting off laws of physics to explain the possibility of God’s existence, and it’s laughable. He has a poster of Stephen Hawking and he quotes physicists. They went for the mother of all stereotypes, and they nailed it. Too bad it sucks.

But all of that smacks of series pilot miscues. I expect they’ll iron out the wrinkles as the show goes on. But the sadder lame moments are the clich

Wahoo! Three day weekend!

A day in the life of the unemployed:

7:00 a.m. – Alarm goes off
7:08 a.m. – Snooze goes off
7:16 a.m. – Snooze goes off, wife gets up for work.
7:20 a.m. – I get out of bed, take the dog outside
7:22 a.m. – Kiss wife as she leaves for work, gather household trash
7:25 a.m. – Scour yard for dog poop, take trash to the curb
7:35 a.m. – Feed dog, have a “mini-breakfast” consisting of a few gulps of OJ and a few spoonfuls of granola
7:40 a.m. – Depart on bike ride
8:05 a.m. – Return home, guzzle water, take shower (including a shave)
8:30 a.m. – Let the dog out, sort and start the laundry
8:45 a.m. – Turn on the computer, prepare real breakfast, let the dog in
9:00 a.m. – Eat breakfast while checking e-mail, morning news
9:20 a.m. – Switch laundry loads, let the dog out
9:30 a.m. – Search online job sites
10:15 a.m. – Change laundry, let the dog in, fold laundry
10:45 a.m. – Add names/contact info to networking database
11:30 a.m. – Write and send two networking e-mails
11:50 a.m. – Draft this silly log of my time
12:00 p.m. – Realize I haven’t brushed my teeth
12:01 p.m. – Brush my teeth
12:03 p.m. – Call wife
12:05 p.m. – Call window people who have been slacking about setting up a measurement appointment
12:09 p.m. – Break to check laundry and eat lunch
12:15 p.m. – Convince dog rain will not impede his ability to urinate
12:20 p.m. – Fold laundry while dog tests that theory
12:30 p.m. – Let dog in, notice that theory was proven correct; begin making lunch
12:35 p.m. – Eat lunch while reading Time magazine article about the Reagan Letters
1:00 p.m. – Check the mail, items of interest: unemployment check and job application rejection (this is rare, of the jobs I’ve applied to, I hear a negative response from only 20%. The rest don’t bother).
1:05 p.m. – Fired off seven more networking e-mails
2:05 p.m. – Change laundry, fold laundry
2:15 p.m. – Read some Johnny Cash, let the dog out
2:45 p.m. – Enter receipts, checks into Quicken, compare with bank statements
3:55 p.m. – Let the dog out, change and fold the laundry
4:05 p.m. – Check latest bank statement against Quicken
4:10 p.m. – Give up. Wife is home. At this point it’s time to start thinking about supper, cleaning up the kitchen, etc.

Don’t blame me. I voted for Kodos.

Politics is beginning to get very interesting. I think the 2004 election is going to be a doozie, and it certainly helped that the last election reinforced the importance of voting (I suppose for some people it did the opposite, but I hope we have enough faith in democracy to realize that we’ll do our best to count the votes, but we can’t count yours if you don’t vote). Even if nothing happened during the past three years, this would be an interesting election year. But with September 11, the weakening economy, the rising unemployment, and the sprawling war on terrorism, it’s a huge election.

And the group of candidates is beginning to look as large and ridiculous as the California recall candidates. I hope the Democrats wise up and start trimming the ranks soon. The Howard Dean and Wesley Clark phenomena’s are especially interesting, and I’m eager to see how that plays out.

It gets especially interesting as all the critics and loud-mouths have to put their two cents in. Molly Ivins’ book, Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America, came out this week, which is a scathing analysis of Bush’s first term. You can put that one right next to Shrub: the Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, which came out during the 2000 election. Despite the overwhelming bias, I’m curious to pick up these titles.

And my favorite loud-mouth, Michael Moore is releasing a book next month, Dude, Where’s My Country? It follows his best-selling Stupid White Men and well-received, yet factually questioned Bowling for Columbine. Now I like Michael Moore. He stands up for issues that we don’t normally think about. He stood up for the automotive workers in the 1980s with his documentary Roger & Me. He stood up for workers again in the 1990s with Downsize This. While I don’t agree with all his views, he does make a powerful point on social justice issues.

At the same time, he comes off with this false-humility that just grates on me. When his facts are challenged, he doesn’t stand up. I wrote about this back in April (see April 6, 2003), and examined some of the factual questions relating to Stupid White Men and Bowling for Columbine. Moore has answered some of the issues on Bowling for Columbine, but he doesn’t even listen to himself. He attacks his attackers just like they attack him, trying to discredit his critics rather than just answer them. His writing is packed with arrogance and makes me wish for once he’d admit that he doesn’t know everything. I’d respect him so much more if he stopped playing the innocent liberal, the simple man with a microphone and camera.

I’d also be interested to see Moore’s response to the Nader effect. In the 2000 elections Moore supported Nader, encouraging Americans to vote for a third party and let their voice be heard, refusing to believe that a vote for Nader was a vote for Bush. Of course that’s exactly what happened. I don’t want to blame it all on Nader, because there should be room for another political party. It’s just a bit odd seeing how anti-Bush Moore is. Of course Moore blames it all on the Supreme Court and the vote counting mess and whatever other conspiracy theories he can come up with. You wouldn’t want to admit you’re wrong.

Of course the biggest question of all is Iraq. There are so many things up the air that could change the race. Weapons of mass destruction were our justification, but none have been found. We can justify the war in other ways, but that’s Monday-morning quarterbacking. That was our justification, we stuck by it, and so far we’re wrong. That’s not cool. The post-war reconstruction is another joke. I’m beginning to wonder how much planning was really done in the first place. We’ve got a first rate military, but all we can do is blow stuff up. We don’t have a clue how to put anything back together. That’s got to change. Bush needs to find a way to put Iraq back together, or it’s going to be one messy election if soldiers are dying as weekly poll results come in. I’m all about finishing the job, but so far all we’ve managed is worsen our image the kind of terrorist state we’re trying to root out.

Ah, the joys of politics. Where does it go from here?

(a half-hour later:)

So after spouting off against Michael Moore, I decided I should read a bit and see his response to the whole Nader thing. He claims that most Nader supporters changed their mind at the last minute and voted for Gore. What was 5% of the vote in early polls dropped to 3% when the actual voting happened. Instead of Nader being issue, Moore decided to unleash his venom on the Electoral College, demanding that the popular vote should decide the election, which would have declared Gore the winner.

Or he could blame Monica.

Or he could blame the Supreme Court.

Sheesh. As for his popular vote comments, I thought the purpose of the Electoral College was that a president is chosen by the proportionate size of each state. It’s a mixing of the Senate (every state gets two senators) and the House of Representatives (each state gets representatives based on its population), so each state is has more of a say in the election. Otherwise candidates could completely ignore states with lower populations because those states don’t matter. Maybe I’m screwing it up, but I thought that was the purpose for a electoral system where you can win the popular vote but lose the election.

But however you work it out, it’s kind of funny how none of these issues are raging anymore. That whole thing is behind us. I don’t know if it’s 9/11 or our fickle nature, but we don’t seem to remember the election mess of 2000, and I wonder if it will come back to haunt us.

At any rate, it’s a lot of fun reading Michael Moore’s rantings. I don’t always agree with him, but man does he get going sometimes.

The problem, Homer, is that the mind is always chattering away with a thousand thoughts at once.

I’ve been reading the autobiography of Johnny Cash since the news that came that Cash died. It’s incredibly interesting how he incorporates his faith into his life. He’s certainly fallen flat, and he admits that, but he’s found grace.

Another interesting thing is the projects you don’t hear about. My favorites are the offbeat ones. Apparently in 1986 Cash recorded the record, Chicken in Black, as a parting shot to 30 years with CBS records. They had failed to market his releases in the 1980s, and there was a fair amount of bitterness. Cash described the album as “intentionally atrocious.” I don’t think the album was ever released, but the title track was, and a video was made featuring Johnny Cash in a chicken suit. I don’t know where that video is, but somebody needs to find it.

The Children’s Album by Johnny Cash is another one I’d love to find. I haven’t been able to find out anything about the album, but it was re-released as All in the Family in 1999 and includes some previously unreleased outtakes as well as June Carter’s 1975 solo album, Appalachian Pride.

The Bible voiced by Johnny Cash is another one I’d love to have. Thomas Nelson released the audio version of the New King James version read by Johnny Cash. It’s no longer in print, but I think it should be re-released. The Bible to a classic voice like Johnny Cash (it sure beats Larry King).

On the religious theme, there’s also The Gospel Road, a movie Cash did about the life of Christ. Cash considered it one of his major accomplishments, but it’s not exactly widely available. Supposedly it’s available through World Wide Pictures, since Billy Graham and Johnny Cash were so close, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find anything there either.

Finally, there’s an album that brings together some of the odd side of Cash, Crazy Country. It’s a compilation album released in 1998 that includes “Chicken in Black,” “Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “The One on the Right Is On The Left,” and “Boa Constrictor,” among others (both “A Boy Named Sue” and “Boa Constrictor” were written by Shel Silverstein). I imagine some of these are from Cash’s Children’s Album, but who knows. As a bonus, the album is only $6.98 from Amazon.