Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Because I Know Best: I have a love/hate relationship with stuff like talk radio and the blogosphere. There are times when I need to just wallow in conversation about stuff I feel matters, and these are places to do it. But a lot of times I get frustrated with either how, either because they're uninformed or biased or more interested in converting than in looking for truth or in some other way locked into ignorance, some people and hosts and pundits and bloggers and columnists can be.

It reminds of something Douglas Adams wrote about. In a bit called "Turncoat" in The Salmon of Doubt, he talks about why he's so pro-science, despite having " . . . made [his] reputation making fun of science and technology: depressed robots, uncooperative lifts, doors with ludicrously overdesigned user interfaces (what's wrong with just pushing them?), and so on."

Despite having become entranced at a young age with comedy as a means whereby "extremely intelligent people could express things that simply couldn't be expressed any other way," he came to feel, by the end of his life, that maybe we had "too much comedy these days."

But nowadays everybody's a comedian, even the weather girls and continuity announcers. We laugh at everything. Not intelligently anymore, not with sudden shock, astonishment, or revelation, just relentlessly and meaninglessly. No more rain showers in the desert, just mud and drizzle everywhere, occasionally illuminated by the flash of paparazzi.

He says further:

There's always a moment when you fall out of love, whether it's with a person or an idea or a cause, even if it's one you only narrate to yourself years after the event: a tiny thing, a wrong word, a false note, which means that things can never be quite the same again. For me it was hearing a stand-up comedian make the following observation: "These scientists, eh? They're so stupid! You know those black-box flight recorders they put on aeroplanes? And you know they're meant to be indestructible? It's always the thing that doesn't get smashed? So why don't they make the planes out of the same stuff?"

The audience roared with laughter at how stupid scientists were, couldn't think their way out of a paper bag, but I sat feeling uncomfortable. Was I just being pedantic to feel that the joke didn't really work because flight recorders are made out of titanium and that if you made planes out of titanium rather than aluminium, they'd be far too heavy to get off the ground in the first place? . . . There was no way of deconstructing the joke (if you think this is obsessive behavior, you should try living with it) that didn't rely on the teller and the audience complacently conspiring together to jeer at someone who knew more than they did. It sent a chill down my spine, and still does. I felt betrayed by comedy the same way that gansta rap now makes me feel betrayed by rock music. I also began to wonder how many of the jokes I was making were just, well, ignorant.

Not only is he right about comedy, but he exactly describes how I feel about any sort of thought. We've so cheapened the concept of "insight" as to render it meaningless, become so glutted with people who proport themselves to be knowlegeable while offering little more than pap.

So many people want to live in a world where Dr. Laura can solve all their problems in time for the hard break on the hour, where watching a 30 second news bit makes a man capable of casting judgment on entire nations, let alone an obviously evil or stupid person here or there, where anything someone who disagrees with me does can instantly be explained, because all you have to do is assign them the most sinister or boneheaded motivation you can think of.

Which is all well and good until one of the mouths stumbles onto a topic you actually know something about, and you realize that all their ramblings are probably as uninformed as the one on subject xyz.

At such time, I always end up fleeing back to experts. Reading actual books. Talking to people who sincerely know something about something.

Into such a place I go again now. Reading suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Turkeys: Oh, and you're probably wondering how the Thanksgiving meal went.

Well, we did two turkeys this year--we roasted one and we deep fried one. The original plan was to smoke one and deep fry one, but we decided that if we did two experiments and they both failed, we'd not be forgiven. So we roasted the big turkey, just to make sure we had plenty of meat, and we deep fried the 12 pounder.

I brined both birds all morning in a mix of water, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, and orange juice, as per Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. I did it in a huge 5 gallon ice chest, with ice thrown in to keep the temperature low.

The fun started when my two-year-old pulled the spigot on the side open, releasing turkey-juice infected brine all over herself and my floor. After decontaminating the kid and the floor, things were uneventful until I stuck the thing in the trunk of the car to take to my parents and realized the ice box lid didn't have a lock.

Of course, all of this was out of site of relatives and onlookers, so if I didn't mention it here, no one would ever know.

The big bird was smothered in oil and thrown into a 500 degree oven for half an hour. Then we turned the temperature down to 350, stuck a triangle of foil over the breasts, and stuck a probe thermometer in the breast and set it for 161. All that was left to do with it was pull it out of the oven when we heard beeping. It would be either the thermometer or the smoke alarm, and either way it would be time to take out the bird.

In the meantime, we set up the deep fryer. Basically, this thing is a rocket engine that runs on propane. Rather than straight peanut oil, like everybody recommends, we went for about a half-and-half mix of peanut oil to canola oil. Not only is canola oil cheaper, but the smoke point is actually higher than peanut oil, making the mixture a little less temperature sensitive (fortunately for us).

As for the frying itself--you know how, when you fry something, the oil looks so still and calm and unthreatening until you toss the food item in, and then it starts to snap, crackle, and pop? This was something like that, except that from the moment the tip of the bird contacted the oil, that oil became the way the surface of the water becomes in the movies, when they want to denote that something really, really bad is happening underneath the surface, usually involving pirana.

You'd be amazed at the potential energy inside a turkey. I can understand why people use steam to power ships and turbines.

The hardest part was controlling the temperature. You're supposed to cook it between 350 and 360, but with this rocket engine down there, we were hard pressed to keep it under 400. We turned the gas off altogether at one point--a risky move, since 25 degrees too low is way worse than 25 degrees too high, but it paid off.

Deep fried bird is just as good as everybody says. Working with a scalding vat of oil is just as crazy as everybody says. Don't let the kiddies around.

The whole thing was done in 45 minutes. We set the thing up out of the box, heated the oil, and had the bird out before the roasted bird was out of the oven--that bird took just over three hours, total, which is still fast, if you're talking turkey.

We thought we had saved some money by borrowing the deep fryer from a friend, but I think it just became an ad for us buying our own. Any other year, I'd have got compliments on how good the roasted bird came out--because it was good. This year--I think it was barely noticed.

That hot vat of oil has won another family of converts. Thanks, Tako.

When I Grow Up: Well, now that I'm 29 going on 30, I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.

This is sort of a big deal for me. Among the various problems I've had throughout my education experience has been the problem of actually figuring out what I wanted to get my degree in. My AA degree is in Communications-Television. At various points I've either majored in or seriously considered majoring in Film, Business, History, Library Science, English, and who knows what all else that isn't coming to me right now. But as far as choosing a career based on any of those?

Film This is what I would really, really love to do. However, when you start with internships and work your way up to lousy pay, which only comes intermittently--just can't do that with a wife and a couple of kids and bills and health insurance.

History Still probably my second choice. Starting out, anything I did with this degree would probably make me less money than I'm making right now. But it would be a great boon to my writing, which I'll still do no matter what career path I pursue.

English Never all that high on my list of options, since every writer I admire strongly advises against being an English major. However, as a major it would have been a lot of fun, and teaching it would have been fun, too. Grading papers, not so much.

Library Science Even if I'd have got my four year degree in business, I still would have gone into this for my masters. It seems like the best career path of all to me--you're still in a teaching environment, still surrounded by books, no papers to grade--what's the downside? Also, the paths are pretty open. You could also work in a Film or Special Effects Studio archive, archives of a government agency like the CIA, or any number of historical archives--pretty cool possibilities.

So that leaves my final choice as . . . Business. The biggest detractor I had from this one was that a lot of my peers have four year degrees in business. In other words, I've already got the experience that's equivalent to a four year business degree.

But what I have is management experience, and management isn't where I want to stay. I want entrepreneurship experience, and that's what I want my emphasis to be. That's the only drawback to the library science degree--what I ultimately want is the freedom of owning my own business, not the regiment of a 9-5 job that puts money in other people's pocket.

And the best part is, I'll still get to teach. I've stared working on a commercial education product that, while it may be a few years off, has me really excited about where I can go.

So it will be a big relief to everyone that I've finally gotten my act together and developed a career and life plan I'm happy with and excited about.

It's a big relief to me, at any rate.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving: What's the Doc grateful for this year?

Post-it Notes, DVD extras, huge bookstores, demo versions of expensive software, stickers for which toddlers will do anything, Mormon cinema, free elections, Alton Brown, short story collections, people willing to defend freedom, digital cameras, talk radio, the ability to get away from talk radio once in a while, fabric softener, my laptop, modern medicine, spiral bound notebooks, good friends I don't see nearly often enough, the family I grew up with, and the family I have now.

Their, Um, Something Given Rights: You knew this would happen eventually, right?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Airport Security: So the airport security thing has basically come down to two choices. First, they could grope you to feel if you have any dangerous things on you. Second, they could put in giant X-ray cameras that would let them see if you have any dangerous things on you.

So the debate has become whether people would rather have their private parts seen or felt.

Count me firmly in the category of, "People should have a choice." Why does the federal government get to decide which is best for everyone, when clearly both have advantages and disadvantages? Security should just be left to the airlines, who would get to chose their security measures, and then customers could decide which airline to fly based on which held the particular balance between personal privacy and public safety they were most comfortable with.

One airline could be the "We're safer than staying at home in bed" Airline, and subject all passangers to a strip search and psyciatric evaluation before boarding. Another airline could be the "Techno Savvy Safety" airline, where they used bomb sniffers and other such sensitive equipment to get you onboard safe, but with your dignity intact. Another could be the "Quick and Dirty" airline, where they didn't have any equipment, but they gave you rudimentary pat-downs and did thorough bag checks.

For the Federal Government to step in and not only mandate, but take over the entire security process of airports--look, am I the only one here who feels that the most ridiculous and pointless parts of their job and/or day were implemented at the behest of the Federal Government? Don't you think the Airlines could, if their survival as an industry depended on it, come up with easier, less intrusive, more effective measures against terrorists than a bunch of Washington beaurocrats?

I think they could in a heartbeat. So why not let them?

Because the Federal Goverment isn't interested in their answers. Like all government agencies, this one is interested in only one thing--being as intrustive as it can. Like all government agencies, the more in-your-face and blown up it is, the less likely it is to get cut out of next year's budget. The last thing you want to do, as a government organization, is operate quietly, effectively, and at a low cost. If you do that, it makes you a real easy slice to cut off come budget time.

So you have to run your roots as deep as you can into everything you can, so that cutting you would be more like emergency surgery than an outpatient procedure. Never mind that this means you're really the most deserving of being cut and trimmed. We're legislators, and we need to get back on the campaign trail. What can I do that will look like it's doing the most. Don't bother with what actually gets anything done.

So to the CEO of the future "Techo Savvy Airlines," count me in for your frequent flyer program.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oh, And Speaking Of Cooking: Yes, I do plan to make my turkey this year based on the advice of a talking octopus in an internet cartoon.

Cooking With The Doc: Okay, so when I roast chicken, I usually do it the way Alton Brown describes in his book I'm Just Here For The Food. That is, I stick an unglazed terra cotta flower pot in the oven with its base, crank it up to 550, let the pot heat up while I put the rub on the bird, then I put the bird on the base, put the pot on top upside down to cover the bird, leave the oven on 550 for twenty minutes, then turn off the heat until the bird registers 170 on my probe thermometer. As the heat of the pot goes down, the heat of the bird comes up.

Makes a great bird. Crisp and golden outside, and juicy and--dare I say?--succulent inside.

Only today I had a problem. The last time I did it, I left the base part of the setup on the counter, and some butter got spilled on it. Despite my best efforts at cleaning the thing, I was stuck with the effects of butter's very low smoke point all through my apartment before I'd so much as finished applying the rub to the bird.

So what did I do? I tried to recreate the same effect using the oven. I stuck the bird into a round metal cake pan--almost exactly the right size for a broiler/fryer. Then I set the oven at 550 for twenty minutes, and then I dropped the temperature 50 degrees every five minutes until I hit 350. I left it at 350 until the bird hit 170 on my probe thermometer.

The bird was absolutely gorgeous, and as juicy as anything I've ever pulled apart with my fingers. I highly recommend it.

Unless your flower pot is butter-free.

Hang It All: Want to show your friends you support commercial spaceflight? Like cool pictures on your wall but get bored with them after a month? Want to know what day it is without clicking the date icon in the toolbar? Want to steal the designs from the ship that won the last X-Prize to help you win the next one?

If you answered "Yes" or "No" to any of the above, then rush on over and get one of the calendars the SpaceShipOne folks are selling right now.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

To The Point: Rather than blathering on, I should probably just be abrupt and sarcastic.

Like, this post should have just read, "A bunch of kids won a lawsuit today guaranteeing their right to work hard for and make a profit for a corporation that hates them. Way to go, guys."

Speaking Of Awards: Mel Gibson should officially withdraw The Passion Of The Christ from Oscar contention. This just seems obvious to me--this isn't the kind of film you want people making glib remarks about in Oscar Buzz columns--and, in light of the current--and incorrect--idea that Born-Agains decided the last election, it's only going to draw partisan fire.

Mel, I know you say you're not doing a paid ad campaign for Oscar, but give it some thought, man. Pull the film from contention.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Congratulations: To Ray Bradbury, for receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Award, and Madeleine L'Engle, for receiving the National Endowment for the Humanities Award.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Quotable: Having done the 100 greatest films of all time, and the 100 greatest comedies of all time, and the 100 greatest heros and villains of all time, and the 100 greatest title sequences of all time, and the 100 greatest camera moves of all time, the American Film Institute is now going to officially declare the 100 greatest movie lines of all time. They've got the 400 the members are voting on posted on their website.

I got a quote for you guys: Lists ain't news. Lists have about as much legitimate news value as a poll. The only, and I mean only time polls matter is in an election, and the exit polls in this election proved how unreliable those are.

So let's all stop getting all hyper just because AFI or Rolling Stone or John Doe's Big Crappy Magazine officially declared your favorite song or movie is or isn't one of the fill-in-the-blank number best movies of all time.

These things are all just publicity stunts to make money and sell magazines. Please ignore them so they will go away.

Otherwise, you're going to come to your senses one day while you're watching the Twenty-Seventh Annual Awards Show Awards and reading Lists magazine's Top 100 Lists of Lists of All Time.

A Personal Note: To the person who found me by googling the question "What disease did Jamie Lee Curtis die from?":

I'm sorry. She's not dead. She just looks like that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Discrimination: Discrimination seems to be in the news a lot lately, what with Dr. Rice's appointment and the recent lawsuit settlement against Abercrombie & Fitch.

I've always been sort of skeptical about discrimination. Only twice in my life has my boss ever been a white man. Every other person I've ever had to answer to has been a woman, a minority, or both.

But every time I want to say racism is dead and buried, I encounter it again. I recently overheard a couple of white kids in "thug" attire mocking a black woman at an ATM who had asked them to step back a little while she finished her transaction. Though they were polite to her face, once she walked off they muttered about how insane her request was.

"It's not like we're the n----rs."

I was shocked. I've never really been around that attitude. Even in a high school as racially charged as mine was, I was in mostly advanced classes, so every everybody I knew or was friends with, of all races, were intelligent, witty, clever kids who were as nice as anybody you'd want to meet. If any of them were racist or held racist attitudes, they had the good sense to keep it to themselves.

But I know that racism is real, and that it's ugly, and that even though it isn't the 1960's anymore, ignorance is still alive and well.

But there's a catch-22 in trying to enforce non-discrimination laws. Since all the law can do is change behavior, and not actually modify beliefs, what did these kids in this lawsuit win? The right to work for someone who wants to oppress them? Why is that something they would even want to win?

I had friends deal with some degree of this as a kid. When they'd try to get into Christian private schools, many would be excluded simply because they were Mormon, and the common idea among Protestants at the time was that Mormons weren't Christians. Ergo, there was no room for them at the inn.

My feeling at the time was, why fight it? If they don't want you, why would you want them?

Groucho Marx is famous for his quip against one club that wanted to exclude him for being Jewish, only to accept him later--"I would never belong to any club that would have me for a member."

The answer to that was, and still is, that people want to work for people who would otherwise oppress them have something to prove. They want to prove that they can be as effective, as profitable, as good an employee as anybody else out there.

I must admit to feeling some of this sentiment myself. On one occasion, I was told by a store manager that having a black employee in their store was a bad idea. "The people in this community will be very uncomfortable with it."

So I deliberately left the employee in the store, hoping that by exposing such a community to a friendly, helpful black girl would go a long way to softening up some attitudes. Did I lose some customers because of it? I sure hope so. I hope I lost every one of them whose support I don't want.

With all of that said, I must say I have a hard time believing in any means of enforcing anti-discrimination law that isn't, in and of itself, discriminatory. People need to be free to hire who they want, for whatever reasons they want.

If you, in your business, want to make it a goal that you're going to help teenagers who are just starting out to get business experience, and so you hire nothing but teenagers, should you be sued for discrimination against the Elderly?

If you, in your business, want to help out little people by giving them work, should the tall be able to sue you?

If you, in your movie, are casting Abraham Lincoln, should little people and women be able to sue for a chance at the role?

By telling any of these people they can't hire who they want, aren't we discriminating against those groups as surely as we're trying to avoid discrimination against anybody else?

Supporters of affirmative action programs would say yes, but that this "reverse discrimination" is carefully targeted to only affect those who traditionally have had it the best off, been given a "free ride," so to speak, up until now. The "free ride" the opponents of affirmative action claim people get with its practice is just a way to equal the playing field.

Such is definitely the case with the Abercrombie case. There's no doubt in my mind there was racism there.

There's racism in Hollywood, where they can't let an actor like Jackie Chan or Will Smith open a movie by themselves, unless it's an "ethnic" movie--they always have to pair them with a "popular" white actor or actress(although I, Robot and Ray should both go a long way to changing some minds on this).

Well, in the end, I still say power to them. Let the ignorant run their companies in ignorance. Let them limit themselves and their possibilities, so that I can be as free as I need to be to offer whatever help I can.

And I'll keep supporting every means that teaches every man, woman, and child how to succeed, so that not even the ignorant can stand in their way.

And thank you, Dr. Rice, for proving it can be done.

VSE: Well, good news and bad news. In checking out the Virtual Stock Exchange today, I was delighted to see that it's gone back to being free. It's now owned by CBS Marketwatch, and if you put in your old VSE username and password, it pulls up all your old, pre-subscription service data.

Unfortunately, it seems to be even buggier than it was before. Hopefully, they'll have it straightened out soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The AP: Hawkish? Hawkish? The only adjective the AP can come up with to describe Dr. Rice is hawkish?

Um, Something's Missing . . .: Hearing that Disney might be making a Toy Story sequel without Pixar is like hearing that The Beatles might be making another album without, well, The Beatles.

Answering Becky's Question: I was actually puzzled, back when I first started blogging, about how in the world people figured out who was linking to who and where what links were coming from--it was like everybody had a strange sixth sense I didn't know about.

Fortunately, Lynn, who has an entertaining blog over at Reflections in D Minor pointed me to the little multi-colored box at the bottom of her homepage and whispered the secret word "Sitemeter."

Now I, too, bear the multi-colored mark on my page, and can see the invisible footprint of all who pass.

Monday, November 15, 2004

And The Real Estate's Still More Valuable Then The House: One thing they're leaving out of this story? The beaver was the one in the ski mask.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Speaking of Becky: The links in my sitemeter page show me that Becky now has a blog. Among the interesting things to be found there is a link to the new Charlie And The Chocolate Factory poster.

I'll be adding her to my blogroll as soon as I'm not lazy.

Going Public: Well, since accountability is the only way to create any real sense of responsibility, I've decided to put my FitDay.com journal online, as a motivator to get myself back down to my fighting weight.

Although, according to their charts, 220 still counts as "Moderate overweight" for somebody of my height, it's a good place to start.

Come, laugh at me as I try to stop being laugh-at-able.

The Sci of Fi: Here's an article on The Science of Super Heros from National Geographic.

Here's the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics site refrenced in the article.

An exerpt from that site's review of The Abyss:

Harris decides to stay on bottom which proves to be a wise move. He's taken in by the aliens who place him in a room and do a Moses-style parting of the waters to provide him with a breathing space. They turn on the TV to make him feel at home and the reception is exceptional. This is all the more impressive since they're on the bottom of the ocean and no human has ever figured out how to transmit electromagnetic waves at TV frequency through salt water. Apparently they have cable.

1980's Christmas: Yes, that dream Christmas from when you were a kid is still possible. In some ways, it's more possible than ever. Your kids just might be asking for the same stuff you did.

Whether it's Transformers, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, or Strawberry Shortcake, it's been repackaged and reissued for the new generation.

If GIJoe is your bag, they have the 3 inch figures, the 12 inch figures, and, of course, a trading card game. They even finally made the Kwinn figure all the comic book readers wanted so bad.

What about the Worlds of Wonder stuff? No sign of any new Teddy Ruxpin. Lazer Tag is still around, but changed to the point where it's unrecognizable.

Of course, there's always Ebay.

That Peterson That Ain't Me: I am so glad that trial is over. When it started, back when I was in junior high, we could all see "Sociopath" tatooed in huge letters across Scott's forehead. So it's been like watching an eighteen year long Lifetime movie with an obvious ending.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Oh, And Speaking Of Movies: There's this little indie art film out there you should really go see. I don't know if you'd get the chance to hear about it without my recommendation, but it was a hit around here. Go see it, and make the guys who made it a couple of bucks.

It's called The Incredibles.

Obscure Movie Review Of The Day: Piglet's Big Movie

Alright, I've had it. Either Carly Simon goes or I go.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Don't Let The Door Hit You: What a beautiful story.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Doc's Obscure TV Review Of The Day: Drew Carey's Green Screen Show

This is Drew Carey's new improv show, where, after the performers make up skits on the spot, the scenes are sent to pro animators who fill in the imaginary backgrounds and objects the performers describe.

I was a big Whose Line Is It Anyway? fan. I find improv comedy hilarious. When it's well done it's great. The tension of knowing that everybody's working without a net and could screw up at any time adds something special to performances. If you knew everything was scripted, the show wouldn't be nearly as funny. Part of the humor comes from the pressure you know the performers are feeling, and that you're feeling with them.

When it's done poorly, though, it's really, really painful. It's a bunch of people prancing around like idiots, and that's the entertainment equivalent of watching people drown. Not the best way to spend your time.

Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, fortunately, isn't that bad. The improv folks know what they're doing. Unfortunately, the green screen aspect seems to take more away from the improv format than it adds to it. I don't know why this would be. Maybe it feels like a safety net, because the animation was all added in later, so it takes away the spontaneity of the show.

But I think the real reason is this--part of the humor of improv comedy comes from figuring out what's going on. Humor is, to a large degree, about the moment when you "get" a joke--that connection that gets made in your brain activates some type of pleasure center and makes you laugh.

A lot of improv humor is funny the same way pantomime can be funny--it gives you lots of chances to make connections in your brain. When Red Skelton is pantomiming showing a button, and he suddenly winces and sucks his thumb, we laugh because our brain had to make the connection that he'd hurt himself.

But if the needle was drawn in, and blood was drawn in squirting from his thumb, we've lost the chance to make that connection on our own. In a very real way, this means the moment has lost its humor.

So the show's okay. I try to watch it, if I'm available. Some of the animation is even fun. But it still doesn't stack up to my imagination.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Breakin' Down The Ballot: Okay, here's a breakdown of what all the issues are, and my recommendations.

I've got a San Bernardino County, CA ballot in front of me. Here we go.

1A: This measure would require that any money the local government makes has to stay with the local government. The Governor and two thirds of the legislature would have to okay any variance from this.

Pros: Most police and fire departments are locally funded, and leaving more money in the city coffers would be a big boost for them. Plus, it prevents local governments from being left in the lurch when the state has a fiscal crisis and pawns it off on the local communities by taking their money.

Cons: A lot of the services that are used locally are tied closely to the state--the state needs some degree of ability to reallocate funds as necessary. For instance, if a drug problem in Orange County is related to Meth Labs in the high desert, Orange County has an interest in paying to solve the problem.

My verdict: Vote Yes. I'm a big believer that the most effective level of government is the local level, and more power should be put there than in Washington. Think about it--who knows better that the park around the corner from you is falling apart? A congressman or a city councilman? Who should have more money and power to take care of things?

So anything that shifts money and power back to local governments is fine with me.

59: Would create an amendment to the state constitution to acknowledge the public's right to attend government meetings and read government papers. It doesn't repeal any of the existing exceptions--it just preserves the rights that are already there.

Pros: If this passes, then if someone was trying to sue to get access to government documents, they would have a definite constitutional right to do so. It's like the bill of rights--it acknowledges something the people are supposed to be able to do.

Cons: However, because it doesn't change anything from what's already in place, it seems kind of pointless.

My verdict: Yes. But I really feel like there's something I don't know here. Either somebody has made a challenge regarding certain documents, or someone is going to make a challenge regarding certain documents. Or meetings.

Either that, or it's just a token gesture on the part of the state government to offer us something that we already have. I have no idea which it is.

60: Would require that the top vote-getter in each party primary would end up on the final ballot.

Pros: This was put up in opposition to Prop 62, below. It would stop "open primary" elections.

Cons: But it doesn't go far enough. Critics say that while it looks like it's opposed to prop 62, it actually leaves the door open for prop 62-style primaries.

Verdict: Vote no. The system ain't perfect, but let's not mess with it.

60A: Would require the state, when it sells certain property, to pay off certain parts of its debt.

Pros: Would save us money as the debt was paid off quicker. Sometimes you have to force the state to do what it won't chose to do. Think of it as an automatic transfer from checking to savings on payday.

Cons: Any money made off these sales would be tied up, and would not be available to go to other causes.

Verdict: Vote no. Complicated restrictions on how the state is supposed to use money and where is part of what has dug us into the hole we're in. If you keep tying the government's hands, the less they'll be able to wiggle free, Houdini-like, from the bonds of debt.

Yeah, I know. This would require them to pay down debt--it's like requiring that Houdini start sawing through the box--but what if that money could go to other bonds, that are higher interest? What if we need to buy another property, that could house three or four government offices and save us money on the land?

There's lots of good ways to use money--why not decide as we go, based on what's good for this year?

61: Would sell $750 million in bonds to raise money to pay for children's hospitals.

Pros: Who doesn't want to help kids? Don't we want them to have the best care possible?

Cons: After 30 years, the $750 million would come out to be $1.5 billion after interest. That's about $50 million a year. And unless we spend more money, our newly-paid-for hospitals will then be 30 years outdated. Or will we just go into more debt then?

Verdict: Vote No. There's lots wrong with health care. I love kids. But better for us to cut other excess programs to pay for these things to dig ourselves further into this hole.

62: If this passes, then instead of voting for your own party in the primary, you'd be given one long list of all the candidates from every party. The two folks who got the most votes would go on to the election, even if they were from the same party.

Pros: If Republicans only vote for Republicans, you're going to end up with a middle-of-the-road Republican, but he'll be too far to the right for the moderates. Same for the Democrats. This will help us elect some nice, centrist, moderates who can reflect the views of all of California.

Cons: What it actually reflects is the views of the majority, to the exclusion of the minority. What about libertarians? What about the socialists? Don't they get a voice? Do voters have any right to decide what candidate should represent a party they don't belong to?

Verdict: Vote No. There's plenty wrong with the system, but this won't fix anything. It might mean your guy won't end up on the ballot at all, and does nothing to increase his chances, no matter which party you are. Forget about it.

63: Anybody who makes more than a million dollars a year pays a 1% tax to fund mental health services.

Pros: What's wrong with this? You don't have to pay it, and it helps people who really need it.

Cons: Critics say this is just a way of throwing money at a complicated problem.

Verdict: Vote no. We can't just force the rich people to solve all of our problems for us, first of all, and the insinuation they should is scary.

64: Would prohibit lawsuits against businesses that didn't actually do anything to anybody.

Pros: This is meant to stop "Shakedown lawsuits." Groups like the much ballyhooed Treavor Law Group have a habit of looking up obscure environmental and safety laws and then filing lawsuits on behalf of "consumer groups" that consisted of themselves and their spouses and friends. They'd usually settle out of court and keep all the money. It's a predatory practice, and this would bring an end to it--lawyers would be forced to represent a real person with a real complaint who would receive the actual money.

Cons: But if lawyer's don't have a financial interest in prosecuting environmental violations and other "victimless" crimes, won't those laws all get broken, with no punishment or consequence?

Verdict: Vote yes. Shakedown lawsuits are terrible, and government agencies can still prosecute for "victimless" crimes. This just means nobody gets any money out of it who wasn't actually hurt.

65 Just vote no. The people who put this up want 1A instead.

66 Would require that, in order to qualify for life sentences under "Three Strikes," the third strike would have to be violent. It also changes the definition of violent a little. It's also retroactive, so all the current prisoner's sentences would be reevaluated.

Pros: It's possible, under the current laws, that people can get life sentences for less serious crimes, if it's their third strike. There are stories about people who committed small crimes, like stealing aspirin, who ended up in jail for life because of this law. It's cruel and unusual punishment and needs to be fixed.

Cons: Opponents argue that most of those stories are false, or incomplete--a lot of those sentences were already overturned, because the current system allows for plenty of judicial discretion, which means a person with a brain makes these decisions, not just a law. On the other hand, the stories of the people who would be released under prop 66 would make your hair stand on end.

Verdict: Vote no. Three strikes is working. Crime is down. Bad guys are locked up. That proves that three strikes is a deterrent, and takes criminals off the streets. Please don't take the teeth out of the dog, or all you'll have left is barking.

67: Currently, the state requires hospital emergency rooms to help anyone who comes in, whether they have insurance or not. This proposition would establish a phone tax to help pay for some of the costs of those uninsured patients.

Pros: The state's already established it wants everybody to get medical help in an emergency. If they want it, they should have to pay for it--and this way is as good as any. It's just a small hike in the existing 911 tax on every phone, and those exempt from that tax for financial reasons would be exempt from this too.

Cons: There's no cap on it for cell phone users, there's no cap for small businesses, and it's a 400% increase in the existing tax.

Verdict: Vote no. If the tax hike is as small as they say it is, they can find the money somewhere else.

68: Would amend the state compacts so that the Indian casinos would either have to pay 25% of their winnings to the state or the state would get to allow 16 non-tribal casinos to be built, which would each give 33% of their winnings to the state.

Pros: California would finally be getting their "fair share" of the tribal money, or a third of the money from casinos built right here in CA, apart from the Indians and apart from Vegas. All the money would have to go to social programs.

Cons: This is a bizarre, upside down initiative. What it really does is open the door for legalized gambling in California--because that will be the result, unless a unanimous vote of the tribes says they want to give up a quarter of their profits. Opponents argue the threat of losing their monopoly will "force" the tribes to comply, but the vote has to be unanimous. Ergo, 16 new Vegas-style casinos will probably open.

Verdict: Vote no. We'll eventually negotiate something equitable with the tribes--it's inevitable. In the meantime, if people want to gamble, they can still go there, or they can go to Vegas. As for the asinine assertion that this will help social programs--They sold the state lottery as being anybody know a single employee of a school district who ever said, "Thank goodness for all that state lottery money!"

The sad fact is that lotteries and other state-permitted "games of chance" legalized to raise money for the state are an inversely scaled tax--a tax where the poor actually pay more than the rich!

69: Within the next five years, this would require anyone charged with a felony to submit to a DNA test. Their DNA would then become part of a searchable database.

Pros: This is a win all around. Felons with their DNA on file will be spared the embarrassment of false arrest because their DNA, already on file, will prove their innocence without the need for questioning. On the other hand, the guilty ones will have less chance to get away with crimes. Also, knowing their DNA is on file may deter criminals from committing sexual or other crimes.

Cons: Because the test happens upon arrest, innocent people will end up in the database--a type of "search" of very personal data. It's not clearly spelled out what steps an innocent person would take to get his name and DNA out of the database, once exonerated.

Verdict: Vote Yes. This is a tough one, for me. I'm all about personal civil liberties and privacy, and having a bid database of everybody's ID is creepy to me, in a big brother kind of way.

But you know, it really is just a high-tech fingerprint, and I have no problem with fingerprinting suspects to help in the quest to prove them guilty or innocent. And the idea that this will deter or help catch rapists, molesters, and murderers makes it really, really hard to vote against.

70: This one would provide that only Indian tribes can do gaming, that they'd pay the same rate as any other business, that their compacts would be written up in 99 year renewable terms, and they would have to have meetings and put up notices before they could expand.

Pros: Under this, the Indians would still get to make money off their gaming, no extra casinos would open, and they'd pay the same rate as anybody else.

Cons: This is an appeal to the voters to try to jump over some negotiations the Governator has already made with the tribes. Basically, opponents say to vote no because he got a better deal.

Verdict: Vote no. I don't like the money arguments of this--basically, I really do feel the Indians should be treated as sovereigns until they declare themselves otherwise, but they do use regular state services, like fire and police.

But that would make this the equivalent of international negotiations, and good negotiators never take the first offer. This would be a big, big win for the casinos, and they know it.

71: Would create $3 billion in bonds to pay for the "California Institute for Regenerative Medicine," which would give grants and loans and regulate the advancement of stem cell research.

Pros: If the research pays off, it will be great for everybody. Everyone talks about how much it could help the sick and afflicted. However, it would be great for the economy if all these advances happened here. California needs a new industry--the defense industry isn't what it was, and now that the dot com bubble burst, we need a new thing to spur on the state economy. From what we've heard, this is where it's at.

Cons: There's really no control over where this money will go. The wording of the law exempts this "Institute" from the type of public meetings and information release listed in prop 59, so they don't have accountability for their usage of the money. While stem cell advocates say there are means of harvesting stem cells that don't involve the destruction of fetuses, this law contains to safeguards against such action.

Verdict: Vote no. First, almost without regard to the issue, $3 billion is a whole lot to spend right now. And while I know the government often has a role in advancing research that may not seem immediately financially lucrative in the private sector, there's enough private interest in this topic I don't think there's a need to dip into it more.

72: Would require all business with more than 20 employees to pay for a minimum amount of health care coverage for all their employees.

Pro: Just like the minimum wage law makes sure everybody makes a certain amount of money, this would insure everyone would have a certain degree of health care coverage. This would reduce the number of people getting state coverage or using the emergency room without coverage. Plus, since this would allow people to get their regular check-ups, many problems can be fixed quickly and cheaply rather than progressing, undiagnosed, into big problems the state has to pay for when they go into the emergency rooms.

Con: First, this would hurt small businesses, like restaurants, that hire mostly part-time workers and have high overhead and low profit margins. Also, it would discourage other businesses from coming to California and bringing more jobs, since they know they could do the same thing cheaper in Nevada or Arizona.

Verdict: Vote no. Many part-time workers are covered by other forms of insurance, and many people, especially young people, consider health care coverage a luxury expense. Forcing it on them--when they'd have to pay 20% of the costs--is bad--forcing 80% on businesses is bad.

Yeah, if I had a business, I'd want coverage for all my employees. I work for a company that offers coverage to all it's employees. I encourage all employers to do the same. But we really shouldn't--we can't--force them.

County Ordinance:

Measure I: Would allow a half cent sales tax to continue for 30 years in order to fund road improvements on the 15, 215, and 10 freeways. An independent auditor would verify the funds went where they were supposed to.

Pro: Read the initiative! We'd have improved 15, 215, and 10 freeways. Who can argue with that? Have you seen the 15 north on a Friday night? Practically ever mayor, city councilman, and driver supports this one.

Con: We'd have to keep paying the extra half a cent in sales tax.

Verdict: Vote no, believe it or not. First, the way they've done this stinks. The 15 is a mess right now--the interchange from the 215 north to the 15 south has been closed for weeks, and the 15 southbound traffic is being diverted into lanes of the 15 northbound while they work on this.

In other words, they've put us knee-deep into this project right when they're voting for the funds to support it.

On top of that, Nevada should really be kicking in some of the money to pay for the northbound 15 improvements, since they're the primary beneficiaries of its travelers.

On top of that, if 1A passes, we should have more money left over locally anyway.

Look, it's going to pass anyway. They've spent about $150,000 of taxpayer money to send out fliers targeted at everybody from college kids to old people to get this to pass (I've received all of them). Just vote no in protest.

City Measure:

Measure G: Revises the city charter to allow for the creation of a "City Manager" to run things from day to day.

Verdict: What the heck. Let's give it a whirl.