April 2003 - Belmont Park - Mission Beach

April, 2003: 27 posts.

No Fooling.

15 years ago I learned something critical and important about myself. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to talk specifics, but let’s simply say that I made some greivous mistakes in my youth, for which I have atoned. I will never forget these lessons, and the people who have helped me be a better person over the years.

The world is upended right now, and things are upended for me a bit at the moment, but this too shall pass, with determination, hard work, and some proper meditative calm.


Probably none of this makes sense, but that’s fine. I’m thinking too much about my audience for this blog and not about what what matters. What matters is that this is a space for me to bleed on the page. A place for me to work stuff out.

So hey. Time to do that.

I’m sick of the war. Not of the media coverage. The war. I’m displeased with the revealed vapidity of the press, which seems to think wars are quick, bloodless affairs, and are shocked, shocked to see that human beings are turned to mush by war. I’ve seen a fair number of broken, bloody bodies in my medical background, and warfare is the creation of carnage and destruction. And I don’t like it. This is not so much a political opinion I’m voicing here, just an observation that I feel sick in my heart when I look at news of almost any kind. For example, here’s the… Quote of The Day: An American Serviceman in Iraq

“When I go home, people will want to treat me like a hero, but I’m not,” he told the Times. “I’m a Christian man. If I have to kill the other guy, I will, but it doesn’t make me a hero. I just want to go home to my wife and kids.”

From Town becomes horrific battleground

And it’s true, Americans are shocked that this is not a “cakewalk” – and yet this is what the populace says it wants, Saddam is a bad man, and he must be removed.

How many bad men run countries around the world? Are we going to deploy men and women to depose all of them?

As my Grandmother might say: It makes me want to spit!

And then I read articles like this: War-Gamed: Why the Army shouldn’t be so surprised by Saddam’s moves

In which we find that in the wargames that we have played for scenarios that are something like Iraq-Invasion ’03, the side playing the faux-Iraqis was chastised for playing his role too well.

And that makes me want to spit too. What in the hell are we doing by playing wargames against glass-jawed opponents? If you’re going to spar, you should spar with someone who’s going to challenge your skills. Stacking the deck, putting a finger on the scale — however you choose to describe it, it’s not a good thing to cheat the military of challenging opponents.

Because certainly the enemy faced in Iraq is a challenging opponent.

In terms of a conventional army, they’re not challenging. No.

But as far as irregular forces, which have the capacity to kill, to trick, to use subterfuge, car bombs, suicide attacks, they can certainly hurt Americans well enough to provide death to American servicemen. I weep this night for the dead men.

How much of this will our forces endure?

There are people going back into Iraq to fight: War against Iraq stirs Arab Pride:

In contrast to the knee-jerk expressions of support for Hussein that are often heard among Iraqis, he carefully avoided saying anything about the Iraqi president. His desire to return, it seemed, had little to do with Hussein and everything to do with loyalty to country.

“I am going back to defend the Iraqi people; to defend the old women of Iraq; the old men of Iraq; the land of Iraq,” said the 33-year-old Shiite. “Do you allow someone to enter your home and force you out of it. They have put up the American flag in Umm Qasr. This is not liberation. This is occupation.”

National pride, for a nation with a dictator? It’s difficult for my brain to process such thinking, and yet there it is.

Meanwhile, I think of the Pictures of the Day
Amazing images of the war. Images of war

I have so much yet to learn about myself and the world. I’m always learning new things about this world and what it takes to survive and be a healthy person. With some hard work I’ll keep getting better.

I’m up too late. Time to sleep.

Back to Random Links

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

I got some peculiar referers here on the blog, check these three recent entries:

From the IP address:

Looks like a joke or something. I wonder if anyone else is seeing these?

Current Events

So what’s new with Joe? Lost in the aether? Lost in space? Lost in the public transit system of San Diego County somewhere?

Or maybe it’s D) NONE OF THE ABOVE

Things are pretty good, actually.

The non-sequitur-formatted update:

Yesterday I got a hug from my mother-in-law who was visiting from Miami

Yesterday I gave even more old photos and frames to my estranged wife

I’m glad we are still amicable

I still have not filed for divorce, but today I’m working on the papers

Procrastination is still a problem

Friday was a great day, my Grandma made me a carrot cake for my birthday

Friday I enjoyed fish and chips

I’m still enjoying the bus

I’m still not likely to get a bike

I have no room for a bike here, really

rudy and my aunt still think I should get a bike

I’m still seeing Leah

Leah is a great thing in my life

Work is good, still

There is more to tell in the work arena, but not in public

Saturday I played some great intense racquetball with an aunt and uncle

I’m behind in my reading

My roommate gave me an audiobook of The Tennis Partner some weeks ago, and I’m finally finishing it, and it is moving but depressing

Last week I bought some new pants, smaller than before

Still making progress on the size/weight front

I feel I’m in better health than I have been in perhaps 6 years

We went through the time change today, and I again wonder why we don’t simply leave things in Daylight Savings Time

The other night Leah and I did some sketching together, and it was really, calmly, quietly wonderful

Compared with last year at this time, I have 4 less teeth

Compared with last year, a higher percentage of my teeth are in good shape

I got a cell phone not long ago, and so far it’s been very useful

I’m loathe to give the number to lots of people though, as it is possible to abuse

Today my back aches, I think from the racquetball yesterday

I worry about the health of my roommate, and am still unsure of what I can possibly say or do to help, other to wish encouragement

For my birthday, Leah gave me a great stamp of my ArtLung logo, and today I have put it to good use in some paper correspondence

Today I’m organizing my backpack

Today my hair is uncombed

Today I am chilled out



Leah beat me 8 to 2 at Air Hockey.

I want a rematch!!!

Slimming Down (in ListServ land)

Dropped 2 mailing lists today.

Too much email.

As in, I still get too much email — but now I’ll have less interminable nattering in my inbox.

Good discussion lists are civil places to be. I have no need for places of incivility and rudeness and pedantry. The world is that way, and I like my places to talk and socialize to not be so much like the world. If a private club is just like the whole world, what’s the point of the private club?

Birthdays Apparently

Today is Sassy’s Birthday

And I forgot my good friend and roommate, Erin’s birthday yesterday.

Happy Birthday!

Maybe I need to save these dates somewhere so I don’t forget them?

Rematch, Still Beaten

So I got a rematch with Leah (she beat me 8-2 the other day) yesterday.

She beat me 7 to 3 instead.

Incidentally, few things are worse than the feeling of scoring on yourself in Air Hockey.

I only did that once though.

Lyric of the Day

From Here at the Western World:

Ruthie will give you the silver key
To open the red door
Lay down your Jackson and you will see
The sweetness you’ve been cryin’ for

In the night you hide from the madman
You’re longing to be
But it all comes out on the inside

Knock twice, rap with your cane
Feels nice, you’re out of the rain
We got your skinny girl
Here at the Western World

New Header

New Header! for the blog. Permanent URL: Header 12 April 2003. I like it. A composite of 3 photos I took at the Belmont Park Roller Coaster. Definitely a continuation of the theme from 15 February 2003.

And yes, the haircut is short.

Leah Peterson, Columnist

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the new column by Leah at writersmonthly.us — Stories Overheard — Dude Like Duh

Funny cool stuff.

And yes, this is the same Leah who has beaten me at Air Hockey twice.

Taxes, The House of Saud, and Babe

Okay. So, taxes.

Taxes were the monkey on my back for several weeks. I intended to do them. I put them off. I opened the box where every receipt under the sun from 2002 lived. I pondered. I procrastinated. I worried.

I went on a road trip Sunday before last to buy TurboTax for Mac, which has been wondrous for me in getting taxes sorted out for 4 years. Of course, we went out at 7pm, and apparently every possible vendor of TurboTax for Mac in San Diego (Fry’s, Staples, The Apple Store) is closed at 7pm on a Sunday. Go figure.

So on my lunch hour I walked out to the local Office Depot and got it. It was a lovely day too. Sun shining. Downtown near the water can be really zesty. Office girls, businessmen, homeless all doing their respective lunch groove things. Tourists wandering near Santa Fe Depot. Traffic steady.

I brought TurboTax home. Loaded it up. Put in some raw figures.

Tap Tap.


Tap Tap.

W-2. 1099.

Computes. Computes.

It looked bad.

It looked horrendously bad.

It looked to me like I was going to owe $2400.

I pondered.

I procrastinated.

I wondered about extensions and payment options.

Maybe it’s time to go on the lam?

I considered leaving the country.

The expatriate thought is not an idle one.

As a credentialed and licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner, I sometimes get email like this, and just got this a few days ago:

Hi Joe,

I came across your details and wondered if you would be open for new opportunities in Saudi Arabia for a respiratory therapist position. I have a number of positions available with xxxxxxxxx on good contract terms.

Please let me know.


xxxxxx xxxx

xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxx
Phone: +xx (x) xxxx xxxxxx
Mobile: +xx (x) xxxx xxxxxx
Email: xxxx@xxxxxx.xxxx
Address: xx xxx xxxx xxxx xx xxx xxx

I have known several Docs, Nurses, RTs and such who have worked in Saudi Arabia and several other Arabian states. But it’s difficult to imagine me doing this. Still, my impression is the money is good, and one is treated well. But given the current instability of the “Middle East” (you know it’s actually a bit offensive to call it that, right? “Middle East” implies that we are in the center of things, and all others – Far East, Middle East, are simply “The Other” with regards to us).

Anyway, given my financial situation (could be much better, but always incrementally improving lately, albeit slowly), I considered for more than the usual half-a-second.

Why not take the gig? I don’t have encumbrances. I am a free agent. If I could invest time in something which would be of short duration (typically contracts are six months to a year I believe) and lucrative, why not do it? It would be a tactical, short duration, Machiavellian move designed to make bank, and grab some stories in the meantime. Live and blogging from Riyadh! It’s Joe “ArtLung” Crawford, Boy Respiratory Therapist, Follow his Daring Misadventures as he sucks snot and journals on life, love and cardiopulmonary ailments from the exotic climes of Saudi Arabia!

So I half-seriously pondered it for a few days.

Okay, quarter-seriously.

Then I picked up the current issue of The Atlantic, paper magazine. I read the article “The Fall of the House of Saud” and I was stunned.

Wow. Pick it up.

Saudi Arabia is a mess. And we rely on them. They apparently have a trillion bucks in our banks. They have a messed up royal family. They are repressive. They are not cool. They have so many oil people, congressmen, pr people, Washingtonians, Texans, and the like in their pockets it’s not even funny. Colin Powell used to be the racquetball buddy of Prince Bandar. Prince Bandar used to come by the Kennebunkport compound of the bushes so often his nickname was “Bandar Bush.” And the intelligence agencies of our fair nation are not allowed to question Saudi Arabian nationals in their nation to, you know, investigate that 9/11 thing that we were so upset about a few years ago.

But enough about the geopolitical ramifications of US dependence on Saudi Arabian oil.

Back to my taxes.

So I went to family dinner the other night (lots of my relations meet and talk and stuff). I relayed my worries. My aunt, the certified financial planner and accountant, was not there, but I passed along my worries.

On Saturday she and I played racquetball. (Good games!) She also asked about taxes, and made suggestions for how to go about it – home office, new computer depreciation. Utilities. Mileage. I filed this all in my brain. Still procrastinating. But maybe a little hopeful.

So Monday, April 14th. I finally buckled down and did the do. Leah helped me go through the scary office box of papers. We went through receipts, bank statements, notes, invoices, EVERYTHING.

TurboTax keeps this running tally. I put in new items. I owed $1600. Hey — hope!

Eventually, several hours later, it was done. But my Aunt had wanted to review it, and I had told her I would bring it by on Monday night. It was now 1:30am. It’s been raining here in San Diego, so I ziploc’d up my California and State of California returns, and Leah took me to my Aunt’s and I dropped it on her windshield.

I hit my Aunt with an email.

When I awoke, there was a new email from my Aunt… I was hoping I hadn’t done anything to get me sent to jail, that I had not misunderstood my friendly tax software.

She said:

Looks okay- oh, wait what are the utilities on line 25, Schedule C-phone I hope. Your other utilities sb listed on office in home section.

Good job.

Good Job.



From my Aunt, this is HIGH HIGH PRAISE. I felt just like that pig at the end of Babe when the James Cromwell says “That’ll do, Pig.”

And the final tally?

I owed The IRS $399. I owed California $165.

Not bad.

And I don’t have to go to Saudi Arabia.

Okay, maybe I was never going to go to Saudi Arabia, probably. But still, it’s more dramatic to think in these kind of terms.

That’ll do, Pig.


So I’m back. Been busy. Hrm. Belated Happy Easter and Passover to you All. Catching up on email now.

Current Heavy Rotation

The Negro Problem: The Teardrop Explodes
Lyle Lovett: Skinny Legs
The Negro Problem: Lime Green Sweater
Electronic: Getting Away With It

Unlikely to Satisfy

So I just got a hit from a yahoo search for “saudi arabia girls xxx”. This is amusing, yes, I mentioned Saudi Arabia the other day, and blocked out a recruiter’s info with xxx’s. And yes, I mentioned girls.

Alas, this site is not likely to satisfy the desires of someone who is looking for saudi arabia girls xxx.

Search engines are bad at “understanding” but they sure do find search terms well.

How else do people reach this site? Check this.

Time For a Link Dump!

Time For a Link Dump!

And Some More

Unfinished Blog Entry (Written on The Coaster The Other Day)

Easter was pretty good. I spent most of the weekend with Leah and her kids. Leah and I went to a little park in San Marcos and chilled out. It was great, and I even kicked some hacky sack with her two middle kids. The day was beautiful.

I had planned to borrow a truck for the weekend from a good friend of mine, but was dismayed to note, a bit too late in the process, that said truck was not an automatic transmission.

I think, perhaps, under duress I could summon my powers of driving technique and drive a straight transmission, but my confidence level is low. I’ve always hoped for a “straight transmission simulator” I could use to grow my confidence level. Alas, the practice I’ve had driving stick has been minimal.

So, no car.

So Easter morning, which was sprinkled with lovely Easter Bunny hats courtesy Leah and Me) and a lovely breakfast. Leah and her kids went to Easter services and I got on a bus, bound south for Crawford Holiday Activities. It took a while, but eventually I got far enough south that my Aunt was easily able to pick me up.

On the way I got some strange news about a mutual acquaintance, about which I really can’t say anything here, but suffice to say that fidelity and loyalty abused is a terrible thing. I feel for those who have been made to play the cuckold.

I played ping pong with various cousins, kids, my uncle — very good time, and I was able to not embarrass myself too badly with poor play. I’m surprisingly proud of my performance. I also threw a nerf football around with my cuz (he’s 15) whose form with a football is an order of magnitude better than mine (he plays both football and baseball) … his exhortations to “throw it like a tomahawk” were well intended, but no closer to my frame of reference than “throw it like a football.” Continuing the theme of game-play, we played a game called Phase 10, a card game with Uno like cards and rules like a mush of Yahtzee and Rummy. That seems rather promising.

I had also played “poker” with Leah and her kids on Friday night – and enjoyed it much, though it was poker modulated by rules to make it more “fun.”

This is I think poker is only poker when there are real stakes (e.g.: things of value, usually money), otherwise the game really doesn’t have the necessary impetus to work. I believe it was in a David Mamet essay where I read that poker is not a game of chance, or a simple card game, it’s a game specifically about playing against the wills of other human beings. Bluffs and raises are not inherent in games of skill or chance, they are about human manipulation.

This entry is unfinished, and will remain so.

More links and a few thoughts.

I like being able to read on the bus. I’m currently reading John Kennedy Poole’s A Confederacy of Dunces – very funny so far. I also occasionally print out longer articles and read them. This is a very cool aspect of public transport. I defy you to read current news in your car. Hee.

Then again, one listens to more radio in a car than on a bus. I suppose I could get a walkman though.

No dazzling insights today. Gotta head to work.

MovableType’s EULA, does it stand up?

Tim Swanson has some interesting thoughts on MT‘s EULA (End User License Agreement). I always wondered about that. It’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided MT, frankly. I would prefer more control over software. And if you intended to make money with MT, you would be going outside the typical use. Does that include tips, as in paypal or Amazon tips? Many questions.

India, China, Space Race

How the heck does Bruce Sterling find such interesting takes on topics? Oh, yeah, he’s educated and awake to the world. I love that guy. Here’s a quote.

China has openly declared its desire to colonize the moon. The world’s most populous nation is unlikely to build lunar settlements, but that’s not the point. China’s motive lies not in constructing a lunar Hong Kong, but rather in luring India into a loud public competition. Later this year, if all goes as planned, China will become the third country to send a citizen into space. An orbiting taikonaut will be even more impressive if American shuttles are stuck in their hangars while the misnamed International Space Station limps along with a skeleton crew.

As Russia once did, China has a strong technical advantage. It already owns a chunk of the commercial space-launch business. But India has a decent shot at victory as well. It doesn’t have China’s manufacturing know-how, but it’s rapidly becoming the world’s software back office.

Who will become top dog in South Asia? That’s an open question, and there aren’t many good ways to answer short of a useless massacre. A space race offers a good solution. It’s a symbolic tournament that tests competing political and economic systems to their limit.

A decade after the end of the Cold War, good old-fashioned space programs still matter. Not for exploration’s sake, but to settle new cold wars. If you doubt it, imagine this scenario: It’s 2029, and a lunar mission lands at Tranquillity Base. A crew of heroic young Indians – or Chinese – quietly folds and puts away America’s 60-year-old flag. If the world saw that on television, wouldn’t the gesture be worth tens of billions of rupees or yuan? Of course it would.

Revisiting Tranquility Base would be something else.

Oh yeah:

TAIKONAUT! I love that. (see previous post).

Randy Newman

Today I’m enjoying Randy Newman. I can’t exactly remember when I first picked up the Randy Newman box set, but I believe it was right after Jennifer left me. I’ve been listening to Newman for a year or so now, and I believe him to be a genius.

I distinctly remember asking fellow coworkers and friends whether I should get obsessed with Randy Newman or Warren Zevon. In the end I decided on Newman.

Here’s a citation from last June, where I quote Bleeding all over the place – a lament for a lover or wife who has cheated and left. So we know at the very least I started in June 2002.

In that time I’ve come to really appreciate Newman. His voice astonishes. He’s an artist who can ably sing songs sung by truly odious characters. One of his best songs, Sail Away is a song sung to a would-be slave about how great America is:

Ain’t no lions or tigers, ain’t no mamba snake
Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
Ev’rybody is as happy as a man can be
Climb aboard, little wog, sail away with me

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away-sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

He’s also astonishingly funny. Political Science is in the voice of the put-upon USA, deciding the best thing is just to be done with it and bomb everybody:

Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada’s too cold
And South America stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’, too

In addition to pithy, smartass lyrics, the man is a real musician, well, at least he composes in the format where most people hear classical music — the movies! He’s done scores for The Natural, Ragtime, Parenthood, and many others. Check out his imdb page – James and the Giant Peach, Toy Story, wow! Even I hadn’t any idea he was involved with so many films.

So now you’re skeptical. You’re thinking, “isn’t this the same guy who wrote ‘I will go sailing no more’ and ‘Short People’ and ‘I love L.A.’ — this guy’s nothing but a novelty-song writer!

I respectfully disagree. Songs like Dixie Flyer, God’s Song, Real Emotional Girl show an artist who can tap into subjects and depth. I do think his best work is in a voice that’s peculiar. He inhabits these characters and shows a bit of their humanity, as well as their faults. He’s fearless in that way, unafraid to include racial epithets and the rawest slang to make his characters come alive. His work is really challenging, and makes me uncomfortable often. I certainly would not want my headphones to come out at work and have to explain why I have a song with these lyrics playing:

We’re rednecks, rednecks
And we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground
We’re rednecks, we’re rednecks
And we’re keeping the niggers down

That’s from Rednecks. And yes, it’s quite a shocking song. It was released in 1974, 30 years ago. The song of course talks about a bald-faced racism of some Southerners, but also points out that the North is not much better, blacks are free, but only to a point:

Yes he’s free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he’s free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he’s free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They’re gatherin’ ’em up from miles around
Keepin’ the niggers down

I really like the way that Newman seems to be trying to get us to have a laugh at the ignorance of these fools “Hustlin’ ’round Atlanta in their alligator shoes” – then switches it around on the listener, as if to say, “Oh, you think you’re enlightened do you? Well here’s your own treatment of your fellow man, jack”

The thing is, it’s not a protest song, and how could it be. With a chorus that includes the “N” word, it’s hardly radio-friendly. It’s the voice of an artist with a unique and ambiguous point of view. He simply paints portraits of the world as he sees it, and lets the cards fall where they may. How about another song, another pleasant sounding ballad/lament: I want you to hurt like I do, which includes a sad truth about how so often we wish ill on others, perhaps not because we are bad, but because often we ourselves are not happy:

If I had one wish
One dream I knew would come true
I’d want to speak to all the people of the world
I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform
First I’d sing a song or two you know I would
Then I’ll tell you what I’d do
I’d talk to the people and I’d say
“It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world
Well, you know
And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan
But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common
And it’s something everyone can understand
All over the world sing along

I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

And on the other end of the spectrum, here’s a song called “Laugh and Be Happy”

laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
don’t let the bastards grind you down
laugh and be happy
it’s a simple thing to do
believe in your dreams and
your dreams will come through for you

Which contains such a great section I have to include it:

now the country that we’re living in
you mean the good old usa?
thats right!
has never been about keeping you out
it’s about inviting you in and letting you pay

so laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
get back up on your feet whenever they knock you down

And that’s I guess the great thing about being a fan of artists with careers of a great length. There’s a richness about having had a great deal of time to live life and make songs. Frank Zappa is an obvious parallel artist for me, having had a 30 year career as well. Newman is still alive and producing records, too.

If this has piqued your interest in Randy Newman, I encourage you to check out the The Randy Newman Homepage, which has an extensive biography, including more information about the controversies surrounding some of Newman’s songs.

Quote of the day:

Have a magnificent Monday!

The Coaster driver this morning:

There may be something about driving a train, or riding in trains that makes one want to make affirmations and be philosophical. Blogging does that too maybe. So, like, do have a magnificent Monday.

Free Cone, Gotten

So on my lunch hour I got my Free cone.

Flavor choice? Oatmeal Cookie Chunk … in the sugar cone of course. Verdict? Tasty.

Not sure how much my 0.7 mile each way walked it off though.

Speaking of Free

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

And Leah and I saw the film Raising Victor Vargas the other day, for free. It’s a little foulmouthed, but altogether the message is really cool. It’s about a kid, and his brother and sister and the Grandmother who raised him, growing up in the city. Worth a visit if you like small, funny, bawdy, independent movies.

Blatant Plea for Sympathy

Tomorrow I’m getting a root canal.

Wish me luck.

And next week?

Another root canal!

My life’s so exciting!

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