Sunday, January 30, 2005

Happiness Is a Warm Pussy

SNOWBALL EARTH - The worst of Ice Storm 05 has passed in Atlanta, and temperatures are slowly returning to their seasonal average, the snow is melting, and the power and cable have returned to my home.

Although the lights, heat and cable all did go out here, I wasn't around for the worst of it. L. called me Saturday morning, and invited me over for dinner and the night. I wasn't sure if I could get down the driveway and out of here, but I took her up on her offer anyway figuring that where there's a will, there's a way. So, Saturday afternoon, while the lights were flickering on and off (and annoyingly knocking my computer repeatedly off line), I began my escape.

I went out and started the car to defrost the windshields and windows, and while it was running, I attempted to scrape the ice off the driveway. I don't own a snow shovel; there's no reason to own one in Atlanta - I wouldn't even know where to start looking even if I wanted to buy one - so I tried scraping the ice off the driveway with a rake. This actually worked better than you might think - the ice was still slushy, and the precipitation at that hour was coming down more as rain than snow or sleet, softening things up. But it seemed that although I was able to move the slush around a little, it would almost immediately re-freeze into an even-slicker sheet of ice.

By this time, the car was all defrosted, and since I figured that conditions were only going to get worse before they got any better, I hopped in and glided the car safely down to the bottom of the driveway and left it parked on the road while I showered and got ready for my evening at L.'s.

The lights were still flickering as I left around 4:30 p.m., and many of the traffic lights were out as I drove to L.'s. In fact, several blocks along Peachtree Road in Midtown were without power. However, when I got to L.'s, her place was lit and warm and comfortable and inviting.

We had salmon for dinner and watched Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" on DVD and Mike Judge's "Office Space" on VCR. It was my second time seeing "Spirited Away," but the movie is so visually stunning that I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

The morning was spent like all good Sunday mornings should be - slowly, with lots of coffee, the Sunday New York Times, and cats. Karma got into the spirit of the day by using the newspaper as blankets to keep warm. Happiness is a warm pussy.

On the way home, I stopped at Barnes & Noble and bought a bunch of books: "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse" by Jared Diamond; "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell; "An End to Suffering" by Pankaj Mishra (reviewed here); and Michael Crichton's "State of Fear." One of my New Year's pledges was to make more fun of Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Putin and Crichton. Although I've been living up to my promises on Bush and Rice, I figured I might as well gather up some ammunition before taking on Crichton (and Rumsfeld, Cheney and Putin only need to be patient - their time will come).

There were downed trees all over Buckhead and Collier Hills as I drove home, and tree-service trucks, utility repairmen and other emergency services all over the place. When I got home at around 4:00 p.m., the electricity was on, but it was obvious that it had been off for several hours, probably even overnight. Although the heat was running (with the thermostat set at 72), it was only 62 degrees in the house when I got home, and the cable was out, meaning I had neither television, internet access nor non-cellular telephone. By 7:30, however, the cable was restored and everything was once again copacetic.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Wonder Winterland

Well, it looks like the freezing rain and sleet came through just as predicted. My yard, my driveway and the road are one big sheet of ice, effectively trapping me here at the house. No worries, though, I've got coffee and food.

Friday, January 28, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lucien Carr, a muse and catalyst of the "beat generation" who brought Jack Kerouac together with other writers to spark a counterculture revolution, died on Friday at George Washington University Hospital of complications from cancer treatment on Friday in Washington. He was 79.

Mr. Carr was a student at Columbia University in New York in 1944 when he introduced Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, who formed the literary nucleus of the countercultural "beatnik" movement of the 1950s. By some accounts, including his own, Mr. Carr played a role in Mr. Kerouac's legendary speedwriting of the breakthrough novel "On the Road," by supplying a Teletype roll for the manuscript. Mr. Carr was portrayed as Kenneth Wood in Kerouac's novel "The Town and the City."

Mr. Carr served two years on a manslaughter conviction for stabbing dead an older man, David Kammerer, who had a romantic crush on Carr, and throwing his body into the Hudson River in 1944. The conviction cast a pall over the emerging beats who were striving for authenticity in the gritty urban streets of America, and probably kept Carr from playing a more public role for the rest of his life.

LONDON (Reuters) - Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi died on Friday after a brief fight with stomach cancer. The 60-year-old Mr. Capaldi, born in England of Italian immigrant parents, died in his sleep at the London Clinic in the early hours with his wife and family at his bedside.

Along with Steve Winwood and Dave Mason, among others, Mr. Capaldi's driving rhythms and songwriting ability helped make the groundbreaking band Traffic a household name in the 1960s and 70s. Traffic finally broke up in 1974 after releasing 11 albums, including the iconic songs 40,000 Headmen, Dear Mr Fantasy and Paper Sun. Traffic reformed in 1993 followed by a major five-month tour of the United States in 1994, including appearing at Woodstock and playing alongside The Grateful Dead.

Mr. Capaldi was five times winner of BMI or ASCAP awards for the most played songs in America and cooperated closely with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Marley, Carlos Santana and the Eagles, among others.

In 1975 he married Brazilian-born Aninha and spent much time with her helping the street children of her native country.

"Death is neither depressing nor exciting; it is simply a fact of life." - Sogyal Rinpoche

"You see, we are all dying. It's only a matter of time. Some of us just die sooner than others." - Dudjom Rinpoche

As I recall, I have something like 8,523 days left in my life. This thought is neither depressing nor morbid - it's just a recognition of what is.

This past week of my life (don't want to call it "my short life," because after all, what is longer than your life? You will never experience anything longer than your life - your life is the longest thing you will ever know) has been pleasant enough, and very little of that pleasure has been chronicled here in this blog. Sunday, after the morning Zen service, L. called me while I was picking up a salad at Eatzi's and asked if I could also pick one up to bring over to her. I did, and we wound up spending a whole blissful day together. We saw each other again briefly at the Monday evening service.

Tuesday, we hit something of a bump in the road, but as I blogged that day, we had a long, soulful talk that evening and possibly identified a path for a more sustainable way of being together. On Wednesday, I attended a meeting of the Buckhead Community Planning Unit to discuss solid waste issues (boring!), and Thursday, I stopped by L.'s after karate for an impromptu and affectionate visit.

Tonight, we had dinner at Bone's, a great Atlanta steak house.

As predicted, the weather's turned cold once again and the furnace has been running continuously. They say that at midnight, the freezing rain and sleet will hit and possibly coat my steep driveway with a sheet of ice, trapping my car where it's parked and, ergo, effectively trapping me in my house. "The car has become the carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man" (Marshall McLuhan).

Bring it on, I say. I'm ready . . .

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The History of the Book in Approximately 100 Words

You may miss the comment posted today to my December 26, 2004 blog entry "Tragic," in which I quoted Eric Schulman's "The History of the Universe in Approximately 200 Words" to distract myself from the tragedy of the tsunami in Asia. That being the case, here is a copy of this morning's comment, presumably by Mr. Schulman:

Anonymous said...
Thanks for posting my History of the Universe. You might also enjoy the book I wrote based on the piece, A Briefer History of Time.

7:56 AM

I downloaded the book, and it's great and entertaining and very interesting, and perhaps best of all, it's free. I encourage you to do the same.

"The future of the book is the blurb." - Marshall McLuhan.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Deadliest Day

"Where in the waste is the wisdom?" - James Joyce

Another sleepless night. Although I fell off quickly enough, I woke up around 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got up around 4, put on some coffee and started cleaning off the hard drive on my computer.

At least I (uncharacteristically) made it to the office on time this morning.

Today's coffee consumption:
One home-brewed pot (~ 4 cups) - 4 - 6 a.m.
Large Caribou dark roast - 8 - 10 a.m.
Starbuck's Quad Venti Vanilla Latte - 2 - 4 p.m.

Today’s Headlines

"The price of eternal vigilance is indifference." - Marshall McLuhan

Architect Philip Johnson died today at his home in Connecticut
He was 98.

Condoleezza Rice won the Senate confirmation to be the new Secretary of State by a vote of 85 to 13
Rice's confirmation had the second largest number of nay votes against a Secretary of State nominee in U.S. history; in fact, the highest number since 1825, when Henry Clay was confirmed in a vote of 27 to 14. Since World War II, seven senators voted against Henry Kissinger and six each against Dean Acheson and Alexander Haig. In the history of the United States, the Senate has never rejected a Secretary of State nominee, and since 1789, only eight nominees have received any votes against their confirmation.

31 Marines have tragically died in a helicopter crash near the Syrian border in Iraq
As Frank Rich will say in this Sunday's New York Times, "Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span." As for the crash, the military is blaming bad weather.

Speaking of weather, here in the ATL, the forecast calls for freezing rain this weekend. Although the weather’s been delightful the past few days (sunny and 60s), on Friday the highs will fall to the mid-40s with a 30 percent chance of rain. By Saturday, there will be a 40 percent chance of light freezing rain, with temperatures from the upper 20s to the low 40s. Sunday will be partly cloudy, with a 20 percent chance of showers, lows in the mid-30s and highs in the mid-50s.

This is typical for this time of year. On January 12, 1982, my first full winter in Atlanta, a blizzard coated the town with 6 inches of snow and left me stranded in traffic on the in-town connector for at least four hours in the infamous "Snowjam ’82." On Jan. 22-23, 2000, the weekend before Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl, an ice storm knocked out power at about 300,000 homes and businesses.

This forecast worries me on a couple of fronts. First, this house of mine isn’t doing too well against the cold – when it’s below about 30 degrees outside, the heat runs all night, and the temperature still keeps dropping. And the power is prone to go out here due to all of the trees – I lost power during each of the hurricanes that came through last fall. If icy conditions this weekend do knock out the lights, it might get very cold indeed.

Secondly, I have an exceptionally steep driveway, so even if I try to escape the dark and the cold, I may not be able to make it down the driveway if we get the dreaded black ice. This was one of my few real reservations back when the house was on the market.

What a fucking mess. I refer here to the weather forecast, today's news, my mental condition and this blog entry. I'm out of here.

Let me close with some more quotes of Marshall McLuhan:

The story of modern America begins with the discovery of the white man by the Indians.

Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.

The nature of people demands that most of them be engaged in the most frivolous possible activities — like making money.

With telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is "sent."

Money is the poor man’s credit card.

We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

Spaceship earth is still operated by railway conductors, just as NASA is managed by men with Newtonian goals.

Invention is the mother of necessities.

The car has become the carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man.

Why is it so easy to acquire the solutions of past problems and so difficult to solve current ones?

The trouble with a cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it.

People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath.

The road is our major architectural form.

Today each of us lives several hundred years in a decade.

Today the business of business is becoming the constant invention of new business.

News, far more than art, is artifact.

When you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body.

Tomorrow is our permanent address.

All advertising advertises advertising.

The answers are always inside the problem, not outside.

"Camp" is popular because it gives people a sense of reality to see a replay of their lives.

The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.

One of the nicest things about being big is the luxury of thinking little.

Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.

The missing link created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.

In big industry, new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.

When a thing is current, it creates currency.

Food for the mind is like food for the body: the inputs are never the same as the outputs.

Men on frontiers, whether of time or space, abandon their previous identities. Neighborhood gives identity. Frontiers snatch it away.

The future of the book is the blurb.

The ignorance of how to use new knowledge stockpiles exponentially.

A road is a flattened-out wheel, rolled up in the belly of an airplane.

At the speed of light, policies and political parties yield place to charismatic images.

I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Where Black Is the Color and None Is the Number

Today is the first full moon since the winter solstice, and already I can feel the days growing longer, the nights shorter.

Last night, I was very aware of the passage of time as I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. I estimate that I got about three hours of sleep - net, not all at once. An hour here, 90 minutes there.

The night seemed very long, indeed.

L. and I had a long, soulful talk this evening, interrupted by a third party's crisis. The crisis was a legitimate and necessary interruption (the party's in the hospital), but before the feces hit the fan, we were able to cover a lot of ground and hopefully not only resolve some of the issues that kept me up all night, but possibly build a foundation for a more sustainable way of being together.

Time will tell, and the longer days will give us the time to find out.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Study: Watching Fewer Than Four Hours Of TV A Day Impairs Ability To Ridicule Pop Culture

from The Onion:

A Columbia University study released Tuesday suggests that viewing fewer than four hours of television a day severely inhibits a person's ability to ridicule popular culture.

"An hour or two of television per day simply does not provide enough information to effectively mock mediocre sitcoms, vapid celebrities, music videos, and talk-show hosts — an essential skill in modern society," said Dr. Madeleine Ben-Ami, a professor of cognitive science and chief author of the study. "The average person requires a minimum of four to six hours of television programming each day to be conversant on the subject of The Apprentice or able to impersonate Anna Nicole Smith."

Tracking 800 individuals between the ages of 15 and 39, researchers found that people who watch fewer than four hours of television a day have difficulty understanding the references made on VH1's Best Week Ever, and are often unable to point out the absurdity of infomercial products or the cluelessness of American Idol finalists.

"Study participants who watched television inconsistently were less personally invested in what they saw than regular viewers," Ben-Ami said. "While some sporadic viewers were able to enjoy jokes made by others, they were unable to make jokes of their own. . ."

. . . or, apparently, write original blog entries of their own. My television viewing, on average, is now well below one hour a day. In fact, if it weren't for The Daily Show, I would be below a half-hour a day on average. Personally, I blame the prevalence of reality t.v., the continuing absence of new episodes of The Sopranos, and the refusal of the networks to allow the cast of Desperate Housewives to do full-frontal nudity. Of course, we can blame the FCC for the latter, although even what with Michael Powell stepping down and all, that's not likely to change any time soon.

So, I guess my underviewing of television leaves me pop-culture impoverished, and I have to resort to cutting and pasting articles from The Onion to fill my blog.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Got my second stripe in karate today.

Also, went with L. and her friend Linda to Dad's Garage Theatre to see their show "8 1/2 x 11: Uncensored," a series of eight and a half short plays (skits really), each 11 minutes long, on the subject of censorship. The show was entertaining in places and quite funny at times, but also a little uneven, as could be expected from 8 1/2 plays by 8 1/2 different playwrights and 8 1/2 directors. And for the most part, the plays weren't about censorship, but rather included topics (usually sexuality or profanity) often the subject of censorship. But it's great to see local theatre at least take a stab at something original.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Inaugural Blues

Seems that once again I've fallen a day behind on the blog: Wednesday, I was writing about Monday and Tuesday's meals; Thursday, I was writing about Dogen's Wednesday birthday; and now it's Friday, and I'm writing about Thursday's inauguration.

Of course, I'm writing about trivial things on the fringes of my real life. Since I've violated Tony Pierce's rule of not telling friends about my blog, it's once again become difficult to discuss what's really been on my mind. Not that I don't think about what I eat or Dogen's birthday or W.'s inauguration, but other things have also been on my mind lately. But to discuss those things here would only hurt those involved and make matters worse, and it is not the aim of this blog to inflict more pain and suffering on the world.

So let's talk instead about yesterday's inauguration and Bush's rather evangelical speech. None other than Peggy Noonan, former Nixon speechwriter and former campaign worker for W., found the inaugural speech startling. "It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike," she stated.

"This world is not heaven," she wrote. "The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly."

During his speech, Mr. Bush said, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world."

Ms. Noonan: "Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth."

Toward the end of his speech, Mr. Bush included the following rather remarkable statement: "Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

That statement is - how else to put it? - over the top. According to Ms. Noonan, "It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past 'mission inebriation.' A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts. One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not."

From a Zen perspective, of course, "perfection" and "heaven" are merely human concepts, and the world is neither "perfect" nor "imperfect," neither "heaven" nor "hell." The world is simply thus, impermanent and beyond any of our labels, and suffering derives from our attempts to make it conform to our expectations. The world includes both tyranny and our desire to eradicate the world of tyranny. Peace is found in tolerance and acceptance.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dogen's Birthday

With all of my talk about food yesterday, I completely forgot that it was also Dogen's birthday!

Dogen Zenji (January 19, 1200 - September 22, 1253), a title which translates literally to "Elementary-Way Zen-Master," was a Japanese Zen teacher and founder of the Soto school of Zen in Japan. He was a leading religious figure and important philosopher.

He came from a noble family and he quickly learned the meaning of the Buddhist word "mujo" (impermanence). His parents died when he was still young, and it is said that this early glimpse of impermanence inspired him to become a monk. He went first to Mt. Hiei, which was the headquarters of the sect he studied. In his young age, he questioned that "Both the esoteric and external doctrines of the Buddha teach that enlightenment is inherent in all beings from the outset. If this is so, why do all the Buddhas, past, present, and future, seek enlightenment?" This doubt led him to study Buddhism under the Rinzai teachers Eisai (1141 - 1215) and Myozen for nine years.

In search of the truth, he went to China accompanied by his teacher, Myozen, at the age of 24, even though crossing the ocean was dangerous at that time. After visiting well-known monasteries, he came to study with Ju-tsing (J. Nyojo), the 13th Patriarch in Mt. Tien-tung (J. Tendo). This lineage would become known as the Soto school in Japanese. Two years after, he finally realized liberation of body and mind, free from ego.

Dogen came back to Japan after four years abroad. In 1244, he established Eihei-ji, the main Soto monastery, in Echizen (now Fukui) to spread his Buddhist religion. The temple is still one of the two head temples of the Soto sect today. He spent about 10 years teaching there.

Dogen's masterpiece is the Shobogenzo, a collection of essays on the Buddhadharma in 95 chapters that reveal his thoughts and faith. He employed Japanese language to write, which was unconventional in that time, and put down the point in simple, logical and concise style. He was followed by Keizan (1268 - 1325), who popularized Soto Zen.

"Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words, and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest."
- Dogen

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


I've been eating well, lately. Perhaps too well. Probably too much.

OF course, you are what you eat. What we eat or have eaten recently has a direct bearing on how we are being, our chi, and our consciousness. The environment is the source and the creator of all our food, providing the ingredients of soil, air and water. As we cook and digest this food, it becomes our blood. Half of our blood is made up of plasma, which regenerates itself every ten days. Therefore, it is easy to see that if we change our diet for ten days, it will affect how we feel and perceive the world around us.

After last Saturday's great dinner at Floataway Cafe, I had a grouper sandwich the next night, following the Rebecca Martin concert, at the Treehouse Lounge with my friend Jeff. Monday, a bunch of my co-workers and I went to lunch together, and I ate a far-too-large chicken burrito at Pappasitto's. I was still full at 9:00 p.m. following the evening service at the Zen Center, so I passed on going out to the unfortunately-named Thai Coon for our customary after-zazen meal with the Monday Night regulars.

However, that night, L. - not a Monday Night regular - stopped by the Center to join us for the sitting, and we went back to her place aferwards, stopping at Wild Curry to pick up two orders of chicken panang. So even though I was still too full from my lunchtime burrito to eat at the unfortunately-named Thai Coon, I wound up eating a full Thai meal that night anyway.

The Thai theme continued into the next day. Tuesday, I met sensei for lunch at Harry & Sons in Virginia Highlands, and I ordered the pad prik, but when it came, it was basically the same dish as the chicken panang. However, I still enjoyed it and ate all of it.

As long as I was out and about, I had made an appointment at my doctor's office for a routine check up. It was small wonder then that my weight was up a few pounds. The doctor raised his eyebrows as he looked at the results, and asked if I had stopped working out. "No," I wanted to reply, "I've just been on a marathon eating binge, and if fact just came from Harry & Sons with a belly full of chicken pad prik panang!" The good news was that my weight was still in the "normal" range for my age and height, although my BMI was one point (one point!) over the "recommended" zone.

But the binge continued. That night (last night), my office had a business function at Pappadeaux's, the cajun cousin of Pappasitto's, where I managed to gorge myself on a full plate of crayfish etouffe, followed by a huge slice of key lime pie.

I managed to show a little more restraint today, taking only a half plate of Dave's barbecue as our business meeting continued. However, I'm still eating, even right now as I'm writing - in this case, a Whole Foods thick-crust pepperoni pizza. The good news is this should be the end of the binge - I don't have any social or business meals planned for the next 48 hours or so.

Moving my focus up a few chakras from the stomach to the face, everyone's been reacting to my newly shaven chin. The consensus at the office, where four of the five males have goatees, is that shaving was a mistaken. "You should grow it back" seems to be the consensus. "It makes you look like a Republican," Dave viciously noted.

The cruelest comment, however, came as I picked up my morning coffee. The 20-something kid who serves me nearly every day did a triple take when he saw me and said that he didn't recognize me at first. "You look 15 years older," he offered by way of explanation.

There are few things less unkind to say to a man my age.

Personally, I think I look pretty much the same, only, well, somehow less intelligent. But maybe that's the same thing as Dave was trying to say.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Condoleezza Rice is having her confirmation hearings today. But meantime, this from the Wonkette:

Blogging: Deep Thoughts
We hear there is a conference at Harvard this weekend on blogging and ethics. They're going to work on some ideas about standards and accountability. So glad Harvard is looking into this because we're not sure anyone could figure out whether or not to trust blogs unless Harvard tells them what the deal is. We look forward to future chin scratching to come on even weightier topics: Crossing the Street: Should You Look?; Mixed Nuts: Why Does the Brazilian Nut Always Wind Up on Top? and Spending Endowment Money: Let's Just Roll Around Naked In It, Shall We?. The upside is that this conference takes place on a weekend, so there's a good chance that everyone will be bombed by noon. Oh wait, it's Harvard. Well, maybe they'll drink a lot of green tea and get gassy.

Meanwhile, this little blog has been getting a whole bunch of hits lately based on picture searches. Specifically, searches for pictures of Courtney Love, preferably wallpaper sized, although some searches have also been for Jimi Hendrix and for Mount Everest. Somewhere, in the archives of this blog, all those pictures exist, and for some reason, the Google searches have started pointing the searchers to this blog today.

So the traffic volume to this blog is still going strong - at least by the low-volume standard of previous months' traffic. Last week, I started getting noticeably more hits after Wampum nominated my MSNBC screenshot of December 12, 2004 for The Koufax Awards: Most Humorous Post. That surge was soon replaced by hits from horny young men Googling after the nude pictures of Damon Gregory's wife. I mentioned Ms. Gregory in my SexBlog 2005 post of January 14, and it amuses me to wonder how many of those Googling Monkeys think that the pictures I posted there were actually of the underdressed and overexposed Ms. Gregory.

But this leads to the question of whether it is pandering to drop words like "Damon Gregory's wife" in a blog that otherwise has nothing to do with Ms. Gregory in an attempt to attract more hits. If I use the terms Courtney Love and Damon Gregory's wife, or even Michael Creighton - State of Fear (whatever happened to all of those hits?), does that constitute pandering, and if so, is that ethical?

Or do I need to go to the Harvard conference to find out?

Oh, by the way, this morning I shaved off my beard.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?

From The Economist
Jan 13th 2005

WOMEN live longer than men. It is unfair, but true. In developed countries, the average difference is five or six years. In the poor world the gap is smaller, owing to the risks of childbirth. But nowhere is it absent. The question is, why?

That question can be answered at two levels. An evolutionary biologist would tell you that it is because women get evolutionary bonus points from living long enough to help bring up the grandchildren. Men, by contrast, wear themselves out competing for the right to procreate in the first place. That is probably true, but not much help to the medical profession. However, a group of researchers at John Moores University, in Liverpool, England, has just come up with a medically useful answer. It is that while 70-year-old men have the hearts of 70-year-olds, those of their female peers resemble the hearts of 20-year-olds.

David Goldspink, who revels in the title of Professor of Cell and Molecular Sports Science at John Moores, and his colleagues looked at 250 volunteers aged between 18 and 80 over the course of two years. All the volunteers were healthy but physically inactive. The team's principal finding was that the power of the male heart falls by 20-25% between the ages of 18 and 70, while that of the female heart remains undiminished.

Each volunteer's heart function was measured before exercise and at peak exertion on a treadmill. In particular, the researchers measured blood flow and blood pressure. Their subjects were also given an ultrasonic scan to measure the size of the chambers of their hearts, the thickness of the heart's muscular wall, and its filling and emptying actions.

The researchers found that between the ages of 20 and 70, men lose one-third of the contractile muscle cells in the walls of their hearts. Over the same period, women lose hardly any contractile cells. There is a strong link between the number of these cells and the function of the heart. What remains a mystery is why men lose these cells and women do not.

A previous theory of why women outlive men suggested that the female sex hormone, oestrogen, could have a protective effect on the heart. But Dr Goldspink dismisses this idea, saying that there is no discernible drop-off in female heart function after menopause, when oestrogen levels decrease dramatically. However, oestrogen does have a beneficial effect on blood vessels. The study found that blood flow to the muscles and skin of the limbs decreases with age in both sexes. The changes in the structure of the blood vessels occur earlier in men, but women catch up soon after menopause.

It's not all bad news for men, though. In a related study, the team found that the hearts of veteran male athletes were as powerful as those of inactive 20-year-old male undergraduates. But can men really recover lost heart function after a lifetime of inactivity and poor diet? Is it ever too late to start exercising? "I think the answer is no," says Dr Goldspink. "The health benefits to be gained from sensible exercise are to be recommended, regardless of age."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Every Day Is Special

Every day is special. Yesterday was nice, but there's no need to attach to yesterday's memories and miss today. When I got up this morning, I found the following comment posted to my January 3 blog entry:

Hi Shokai,

on your very interesting blog you wrote:

"In the particularly hard-hit Aceh Province of Indonesia, several statues of Buddha were reportedly unmoved by the flood waters. One news account quotes a Buddhist monk as saying: "The people are not living according to religious virtues. Nature has given them some punishment, because they are not following the path of the Lord Buddha. The people have to learn their lesson." In my opinion, such a view is a fundamental misinterpretation of the Buddha-dharma.[...]"


BTW: As far I know it was in Sri Lanka

you have also wrote:

"While many Buddhist web sites express sympathy and compassion for the victims and survivors, and provide links to relief organizations, they don't seem to be offering a Buddhist interpretation of the events."

You are right - it's true and that's also why i was glad to see this article (cbs again):

"CBS News went to a Buddhist temple and asked why.

The monk there explained that under his religion, the answer is, "just because."
"This is how nature works, it is like a cycle," says Vidura, a Buddhist monk.
"From time to time these things happen. We never know where it happens."

There is Dukkha, there is Anicca, there is Anatta...

Greetings from Cologne to Atlanta:

I'm in complete agreement. The world is simply thus, including occasional earthquakes and tsunamis. In this world of samsara, even following the path leading to the cessation of suffering does not nullify the First Noble Truth of the existence of suffering. So no matter how sincere the practice of the people may be, rain will still fall, people will still grow old and die, and the earth will still occasionally shake.

However, as pleasant as it was to receive that note this morning, I didn't have much time to linger, because it was my morning to do newcomers' instruction at the Zen Center. We had five visitors: one guy, a couple and a mother and son. I enjoy doing the newcomers' sessions since it gives me the chance to re-experience "beginner's mind." After the instruction was complete, I stayed around for a not-particularly-memorable dharma talk. After the talk, while everyone else was eating (we serve a brunch after the Sunday morning dharma talk), I sat zazen alone in the zendo for an hour. I completed my day at the zendo with a Board of Directors' meeting from 1 to 3.

On the way home, I stopped at the dive shop. Jerry, one of the divers on my November trip to Grand Cayman, was kind enough to make everyone else a CD of his pictures, and had left them at the shop. Not to be a narcissist, but here's the one I found the most interesting (that is, here's the one of me):

This evening, I went to Smith's Old Bar in Ansley Park to hear Rebecca Martin. Rebecca is a singer/songwriter, and the daughter of Terry Martin, who, among other things, is my father's girlfriend. So I guess that makes Rebecca kind of a friend of the family's.

I had never heard Rebecca's music, but I had read favorable reviews in the New York Times. According to Ben Ratliff (August 23, 2004), her last album, Middlehope, a collection of standards and songs by other composers, "suggested a strong musical personality with an intuitive undercurrent: Ms. Martin's mannerisms didn't seem indebted to any jazz singer in particular." Of her latest album, People Behave Like Ballads, he notes "the songs are all hers this time, and nearly every one carries a chilling mule-kick, originating either in Ms. Martin's lyrics, her singing or the arrangements of her modest band."

Maybe so. I haven't heard the album. But if jazz can be defined at all, the best definition of it I ever heard was "improvised music to a syncopated beat." If you can accept that definition, then what I heard at Smith's tonight has no relationship to jazz at all. Maybe it's called "jazz" because she wears a beret on her album cover.

Rebecca Martin was touring the south solo, using only her guitar for accompaniment. Mr. Ratliff noted that "a lot of these songs sound written around that instrument, suggested by the harmonies of sliding parallel chords; every once in a while there's a hint of Joni Mitchell, who has composed similarly." Yes, but Joni Mitchell's songs left open spaces for improvisation, and occasionally, her music swinged. Neither was on display at Smith's tonight. Ms. Martin's guitar playing stuck to the chords, and suggested what was once called "folk music" more than any other genre, and nearly everything was played in a monotonous mid-tempo. "Even when I try to write up-tempo songs," she joked at one point, "they come out mid-tempo."

"She doesn't write the same song over and over," Ratliff noted. Maybe not, but at Smith's tonight, all of the songs certainly sounded the same. This could be blamed on the limits of appearing solo, or the gruelling road schedule on which she's been (she had played in Athens, Georgia earlier in the day). She was obviously tired - she seemed to have lost her way or forgotten what she was playing at times during several songs, and couldn't seem to decide on the set list at other times. Only on one of the last songs, Thoroughfare, did her playing seem to come to life, and she even attempted a little bit of vocal improvisation with the title.

I went to the show with my friend Jeff. Jeff and I get together every so often, and compare notes on what we've done and where we've been. This time around, Jeff had me trumped: he had just come back from Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice) where, among other things, he proposed to his Russian girlfriend, Karina. Kind of beat any stories I've told here since last October.

But anyway, Jeff and I got to Smith's about an hour before the show and introduced ourselves to Ms. Martin. She was extremely gracious with her time, coming as it did just before her show, and we chatted about our family friends, life in Maine (her home state - she now lives in the Catskills), the environment and Buddhism before we let her excuse herself to go do her soundcheck.

Between the soundcheck and the show, Jeff and I did what any two guys would do in a bar with time to kill - we shot a game of pool.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Today was such a good day that I almost don't want to write about it. Did you ever have a day so perfect that you didn't want to discuss it with anyone else? At least anyone other than the one you shared it with? It's like a dessert so sweet that you don't want to let anyone else even taste it. Or a shower so warm and perfect that you don't even care if you're using up all of the hot water for everyone else.

This week has not been easy, but my one refuge all week had been looking forward to this day. And when it arrived, this 8,500-something-eth remaining day of my life, it was every bit as good as I had been expecting.

Here's a brief overview: I stopped over at L.'s apartment in the early afternoon. L., as readers of this blog should know, is not only the loveliest creature on this planet, but is also one of the smartest. And sexiest.

And, let me just add, she looks terrific in a thong.

We went out and saw the Scorsese film "The Aviator." A tad too long and in need of editing in some parts, but entertaining, and with a good cast. But the best part for me was to be sitting there in the theater with L., holding hands and sharing popcorn.

We changed after the movie (clothes that is, not identities) - L. into a very slinky short sleeveless dress that she made look absolutely gorgeous. I humbly put on a pair of dress slacks and a blazer, and we went to dinner at the Floataway Cafe. I had chicken, she had steak, and for dessert, chocolate pie and vanilla ice milk with espresso. Diners at another table sent two glasses of champagne over to us (we were flattered), but when we went over to thank them, they had already left (so at least they didn't have to see us return them - neither one of us drinks).

But that's all that I'm saying. It was a lovely day with a lovely woman, and I'm going to savor these memories and keep the rest of them to myself. So, off with you now - shoo! You can come back here tomorrow, when normal blogging will resume.

Friday, January 14, 2005

SexBlog 2005

Okay, now pay attention, because I'm only going to do this once . . .

OZARK, Ark. Jan 14, 2005 — A sheriff's deputy was fired after his wife posed nude next to his patrol car. A computer disc containing the photos of Damon Gregory's wife posing near the patrol vehicle surfaced at the Franklin County Sheriff's office in early December. Gregory was fired Dec. 14, and the reason was released Thursday. A supervisor who knew of the photographs was demoted from sergeant to road deputy. Gregory said he won't appeal his firing for violating department policy and conduct regulations.

SAN FRANCISCO Jan 14, 2005 — Management consultant William Fried told eighth-graders at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School on Tuesday that stripping and exotic dancing can pay $250,000 or more per year, depending on their bust size. Fried has given a popular 55-minute presentation, "The Secret of a Happy Life," at the school's career day the past three years. He counsels students to experiment with a variety of interests until they discover something they love and excel in.

Fried's comments to the class came after some of them asked him to expand on why he included "exotic dancing" on his list of 140 potential careers. Fried spent about a minute answering questions, defining strippers and exotic dancers synonymously. He told students: "For every 2 inches up there, you should get another $50,000 on your salary." Fried, 64, said he does not think he offended any of the students: "Eighth-grade kids are not dumb," he said. "They are pretty worldly."

The stripping advice wasn't the only thing that riled parents. One mother said she was outraged when her son announced that he was forgoing college for a field he loves: fishing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Return to Karate

What was it that Yogi Berra once said? "Nobody goes there anymore - it's too crowded?" That's what gyms are like in January. After the feasts of the holiday season, the gyms of America all fill up with resolutionaries, who crowd the regulars out until about Valentine's Day, when they lose their enthusiasm and the gyms go back to normal.

So, having missed my karate classes for much of December due to travel and the holidays, I felt like one of those resolutionaries myself as I went in tonight for the first time this year. However, much to my surprise, the class was only at about 3/4 of the regular-size crowd - no herd of thunder-thighed newbies, no fugitive couch potatoes trying to get back in shape.

Except, of course, for me.

But all the instructors greeted me like I had just been there yesterday.

Meanwhile, though, it appears that the White House finally called off its search for WMDs last Christmas, according to the press. And guess what?

They didn't find any.

Something about massive intelligence failures, billions of dollars spent needlessly, tens of thousands of lives lost for no reason. Of course, even if the WMDs were found, the loss of lives would not have been justified. But nobody really seems to have the stomach to discuss it as the colossal blunder that it is.

However, the truly impressive thing is this blog is starting to finally get some hits! It seems that Wampum has nominated my MSNBC screenshot of December 12, 2004 for The Koufax Awards: Most Humorous Post. Okay, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to find me there, but I'm on the list. Personally, I didn't find the screenshot all that amusing, but what the hell? 37 hits from that link alone. That's a lot of hits for this modest little blog stuck away in an obscure little corner of the internet.

Think I ought to tell them I found the screenshot over on usenet (no idea who uploaded it) and that it wasn't original? Or do I just pull a Jayson Blair?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


How do we ever know if we've made the right decisions or not? The more we look at a situation, the more complicated, the messier, it appears. There are always so many variables, so many different possible outcomes.

So we look into our heart, but if we're honest with ourselves and look carefully, we still see the same uncertainty.

"Paralysis by analysis." But sooner or later we have to act, and then the cards are played and the chips fall where they may. It's tough, but I believe I did the right thing today.

Is it the action or our intention that determines our karma?

I'm sorry to have sounded so oblique the last few days, but those close to this situation will understand. I'm trying to say things the best that I can, and not hurt feelings or betray confidences. Any more than I've already had to.

Thank you, Zeiri. That helped.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Cerebus was the three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to Hell. The most famous of the underground dogs, dead souls had to placate Cerebus with gifts of honey and barley cake in order to gain entrance. Cerebus was charmed by Orpheus and his lyre into allowing entrance.

Today, the 8,539th remaining day of my life, I had some very hard decisions to make. My friend Arthur and I had dinner together (Korean barbeque) to discuss my options. Suzuki Roshi summed up all the teachings of Buddhism in three simple words: "Not always so."

Monday, January 10, 2005

8,540 and Counting . . .

Life is fragile, like the dew hanging delicately on the grass, crystal drops that will be carried away on the first morning breeze. - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Yesterday, the remarkable 8,541st day of my remaining life on earth, was not so bad. Intrigued, L. asked about the Death Clock, and I sent her this link.

Well, it turns out that although I am going to die May 5, 2028, she will live to be 100 and won't die until Saturday, July 5, 2064. She's going to outlive me by more than 25 years! Of course, her BMI is 19 (mine's 26). I offered to take her out before 2064 if she thought 100 was too old, but I wouldn't want to do it much before 2028, as I don't want to spend too much time in jail.

But that site is just a ploy for a vitamin company, and only considers gender, smoking and BMI in it's longevity calculations - more accurate actuarial calculations include things like wearing seat belts, marital status, religious beliefs, presence of disease, safe sex practices, etc.

The Death Timer also uses drinking and what country you live in, but only a "yes/no" algorithm for obesity rather than BMI, and it gives me November 20, 2028 for my day of death. Only six months more than Death Clock. . .

Day 4 Death gives me until September 4, 2039 (age of 84), and also predicts, with a 44% probability, that I will die under in-patient care and, with a 31% probability, from heart disease. It also provides celebrity deaths for the day of the year - I will die on the anniversary of the death of Hank the Angry Dwarf from Howard Stern's show.

The most comprehensive list of factors that I've found is on Bella Online. It includes a lot of lifestyle issues like stress, outlook on life, etc. It gives me until January 25, 2036, but two more years if I get a pet.

So all I really learned from all of this is 1. I am going to die, and 2. I can expect to live to be somewhere between 74 and 86 years old. All of which I already knew.

All this may be moot however. The Inca calendar ends in December 2028 - therefore, a lot of people think that's when the world will end. Not to much use planning beyond that date . . .

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Remarkable Day

This was a rather remarkable day. First, it was the third day of sesshin, and at the morning service I gave my first dharma talk, or at least my first prime-time Sunday-morning, full-sangha dharma talk. I didn't know that I was going to be giving the talk when I walked into the zendo that morning, but the senior teacher asked me if I wouldn't mind saying a few things this morning, say, oh, between 10 and 11 o'clock? Sure, I replied, and a few hours later, was addressing the sangha.

But earlier, during the sitting period, L. came in. I was attending at the time, so I didn't have the chance to say "Hi" or otherwise acknowledge her presence. But she came in, sat down, and I thought that she would be there for my first talk. However, as we prepared for the talk after the sitting, she apparently slipped out, as she wasn't in attendance when my talk began.

I was disappointed. First, I thought that she might have either been angry with me, and left rather than sit through my talk, or possibly that she thought that I was mad at her, and didn't want to make me lose my focus during the talk. After all, we hadn't spoken since October, and I had no way of knowing what was on her mind or in her heart. Also, I had been thinking that it might have been nice to get a cup of coffee with her, and catch up and see how things were going.

So after the service, the meal and the clean-up, I called her on her cell. She didn't answer, but I left a message saying that I was surprised that she had left, and wasn't sure why, and why don't we get together for coffee and talk? She called me back about an hour later (while I was out grocery shopping) and explained that she hadn't meant to slight me, but that she had brunch plans with some friends, so she left before my talk began rather than having to walk out in the middle of it. And as for coffee, sure, that sounded great - where do I want to meet?

Well, I had been thinking coffee about an hour earlier, but what the hell?, let's meet right now in Virginia Highlands. The groceries could wait in the car. So, we met and talked and talked, and she caught me up on all the things that had been going on in her life, and vice-versa.

It was good to see her. After the coffee, we talked some more, and eventually dropped the groceries off at my house, and even wound up going out to dinner (lots of catching up to do).

So, when I woke up this morning, I had no idea that I would be giving my first dharma talk, no idea that I would be meeting L. for coffee, no idea that we would be having dinner together.

A rather remarkable day.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

One Bright Pearl

Sesshin today was from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and was long and hard and exhausting and deeply satisfying.

"The whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl." The point is that the whole Universe in ten directions is not vast and great, not meager and small, not square or round, not centered or straight, not in a state of vigorous activity, and not disclosed in perfect clarity. Because it is utterly beyond living-and-dying, going-and-coming, it is living-and-dying, going-and-coming. And because it is like this, the past has gone from this place, and the present comes from this place. When we are pursuing the ultimate, who can see it utterly as separate moments? And who can hold it up for examination as a state of total stillness?

The expression "The whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl" originates with Gensa (835-907). After he had attained the truth at last, he taught people with the words that the whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl. One day a monk asks him, "I have heard the Master's words that the whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl. How should the student understand this?" The Master says, "The whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl. What use is understanding?" On a later day the Master asks the question back to the monk, "The whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl. How do you understand this?" The monk says "The whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl. What use is understanding?" The Master says, "I see that you are struggling to get inside a demon's cave in a black mountain."
- Dogen Zenji, 1238

Friday, January 07, 2005

Porn, Columbus and Ignorance

"Our own images have been stolen from us and licensed back in socially-approved and disapproved versions. The approved version appears as glamour, fashion, and privileged promiscuity. The disapproved version appears as pornography. This is a difference in marketing style, not a moral distinction."

Last night, my friend K. and I went to dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Atlanta, Nuevo Laredo Cantina. Their mole sauce is to die for. Afterwards, I turned on The Daily Show and who do I see as the evening's guest? Why, none other than my old college political science professor, Howard Zinn! Zinn has written several books, including A People's History of the United States, and was on the show plugging his newest book, Voices of a People's History . . . etc. On the show, he talked about Las Casas' narrative of Columbus' exploits. Las Casas was a priest on Columbus' voyages, and later had moral misgivings about the enslavement, exploitation and genocide that Columbus brought upon the Indians. A good description of what Columbus really had done is provided in A People's History, and can be found here.

Anyway, tonight is the start of the January sesshin, with the theme this month of ignorance (avidya), a subject with which readers of this blog should now be quite familiar.

Sorry about such a disjointed blog entry today, but it's the best that I can do right now. I guess it's the mind that's disjointed.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

India Tribe Members Survive Tsunami

JIRKATANG, India (AP) -- Armed with bows and arrows, seven men from the ancient Jarawa tribe came out of the forest Thursday for the first time since India's isolated Anadaman and Nicobar islands were shaken by an earthquake and battered by a tsunami. In a rare meeting with outsiders, the men said all 250 members of the tribe escaped inland and were surviving on coconuts.

"We are all safe after the earthquake. We are in the forest in Balughat," said one of the men, Ashu, who said he was in his early 20s.

The seven Jarawa men - wearing only underwear and amulets - emerged from the forest to meet at this outpost with government officials, who were accompanied by two reporters and a photographer for The Associated Press. The men stopped the AP photographer from taking pictures. "We fall sick if we are photographed," Ashu said. In the past, tourists who have tried to take photographs have had their cameras smashed by tribesmen.

Even though the Jarawas sometimes meet with local officials to receive government-funded supplies, the tribe is wary of visitors. "My world is in the forest," Ashu said in broken Hindi through an interpreter. "Your world is outside. We don't like people from outside."

The Jarawas didn't have any contact with government authorities until 1996. A year later, tribesmen stormed a police outpost and killed a guard with arrows. But relations with police have calmed, said an officer, who called the Jarawas "good friends."

Relations with townspeople seem more prickly. Ethnic Indians expressed wariness of their neighbors from the forest, and both sides remain as far apart as they were nearly a decade ago when contact with the tribe was first made. During the height of summer, when water holes dry up, Jarawas often come into town looking for water. Their presence frightens some villagers, and police sometimes are called in to persuade the tribesmen to leave.

Ethnic prejudice is evident. When asked whether tribespeople live near town, an Indian shopkeeper sniffed: "Jarawas don't live here. Only humans."

Anthropologists estimate the island's primitive tribes have dwindled to only 400 to 1,000 people. Most of the territory's 350,000 people are members of the larger Nicobarese tribe and ethnic Indians. Some DNA studies indicate the tribes' ancestors may have left Africa 70,000 years ago and passed through what is now Indonesia before settling on these islands, scientists say.

Government officials and anthropologists have speculated ancient knowledge of the movement of wind, sea and birds may have saved the indigenous tribes from the tsunami that killed 901 people and left 5,914 missing on the islands. But Ashu and his companions refused to talk about how they avoided the devastating waves.

Ashu showed off his bow, arrows and a metal box containing ash with which he smears his face and forehead during ceremonies. He gestured with his hands and asked for "khamma" -- water in the dialect used by the Jarawas -- and drank from a bottle Shokai offered to him.

Shokai: Ashu, what do you typically eat, out there in the forest and all?

Ashu: Pork and fish killed with arrows. And we like honey.

Shokai: How about the packages of cookies tourists sometimes throw from buses?

Ashu: We don't like when tourists throw things at us. They should give it to our hands.

Shokai: Can I offer you a Snickers bar and a banana?

Ashu: Packaged food upsets our stomachs. We prefer to eat green and roasted bananas. Ripe bananas make us sick.

Shokai and Ashu became good friends. Ashu said that he will come and visit Shokai one day, but that he should be patient - it takes a long time to paddle a dugout all the way from the Indian Ocean.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

This Is Not Funny

So, you're probably asking yourself, what's going on when I'm not talking about poinsettias, tidal waves, or the Titanic?

Sunday, I did successfully get the duct tape marks off of my car. It was a beautiful, warm (70s!) day, and I found a little baby garter snake (about 6 inches long) laying on the driveway. At first, I thought he was dead, that I had run him over or something, but I realized that he was only, I dunno, sleeping?, as his only move was a little wiggle after I poked him with my toe. I picked him up by his tail and set him back down on native ground, and that seemed to revive him - he slithered away under some leaves.

I like it that wild things live in this neighborhood - squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, and snakes.

Sunday night, I sat down to watch the Auburn-Virginia Tech game, only to realize that the last two games of the season weren't Sunday and Monday like I had thought, but rather Monday and Tuesday.

After the week off from work, my body rhythm is starting to get back to normal. I was able to put myself to bed around midnight Sunday; however, I woke up at 3:30 Monday morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I finally quit trying to sleep and got out of bed by 5:30, and actually made it to the office Monday morning before 8:00 a.m. Nobody was there to notice, though.

Monday night was the usual opening at the zendo, so I missed most of the Auburn-Virginia Tech game. On Tuesday night, I went to the Buckhead Community Planning Unit meeting, so I missed the first half of the Orange Bowl. Witch Doctor Jim might have won the pool, but at least Oklahoma didn't win the game for him. I know I said "no more spreadsheets," but for those of you keeping score at home, here's the final results:

Tonight, I was supposed to return to karate, but I was dragging butt all day and just didn't feel like going. Fuggit.

So that's the skinny. Any questions?