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November 26

The calls for withdrawal from Iraq keep getting louder and louder. All I can say to these people, especially members of Congress, is “Where the hell were you three years ago?!?!” Those of us not blinded by patriotism after Sept. 11 have been against this war from the very beginning. I guess it’s better late than never, but still. You’re not gonna get much credit from me.

The Seattle Times has a good story about Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat from Bremerton, Wash. In October 2002, Dicks voted loudly and proudly to back President Bush in a future deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq. Dicks thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and wouldn’t hesitate to use them against the United States.

Like his longtime friend Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., he now — FINALLY — sees things differently. Dicks now says it was all a mistake — his vote, the invasion, and the way the United States is waging the war. "The insurgency has gotten worse and worse," he said. "That’s where Murtha’s rationale is pretty strong — we’re talking a lot of casualties with no success in sight. The American people obviously know that this war is a mistake."


November 25

I somehow managed to get Thanksgiving off from work (even though I didn't ask for it), so I thought I'd make the most of it and cook my first turkey. The San Francisco Chronicle printed a recipe for brining turkeys, and since it looked easy I decided to give it a try (I would've used a recipe from my newspaper, but this year our Thanksgiving section was for people trying to keep their calories below 1,100. What the hell fun is that?) I won't bore you with all the details; all I'll say is that Judy claims it was the best turkey she's ever had (although she freely admits she doesn't like turkey in general, so I don't know how much of an endorsement she gave me). Most homemade turkeys are either too dry or tasteless (or both), but mine was neither. Very juicy and very flavorful. Now that I know about brining I'll never go back. Judy's parents came over for dinner, and even they liked it. The homemade mashed potatoes and gravy weren't bad either.

A few weeks ago I flew back home for my niece Mindy's wedding. She teaches agriculture at a high school about an hour east of St. Louis. Her husband also teaches agriculture; his classroom is across the hall from Mindy's, in fact. Below are a few shots from that day.

My next trip home probably will be for my nephew Brian's wedding in June. After he ties the knot I'll be next in line, at least in terms of age, in our immediate family to walk down the isle. It would probably make my family happy, but it isn't happening anytime soon. So get off my back already!

November 6

As I’ve said many times before, legal and safe abortion will most likely be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. But if the Supreme Court really does overturn Roe v. Wade, what exactly will that mean? Will all abortions in the United States immediately become illegal? Would some still be allowed? A story from the AP gives us a good idea what might happen:

Roe’s reversal would not outlaw abortion nationwide; the issue would revert to the states, with patchwork consequences. Some states would likely ban almost all abortions, others would allow them to continue unfettered, and a middle group might impose restrictions that would make abortions harder to obtain.

If the pre-Roe past is any guide, affluent women in states with bans would likely find ways to have safe abortions, either traveling to a no-ban state or hiring a doctor willing to flout the law. Abortion-rights activists say poor women would have fewer recourses; some might resort to using cheap, widely available abortion-inducing medicines that didn’t exist before Roe.

Read the story

November 5

An L.A. Times review of the recent U2 show at the Staples Center caught my eye at work. A local all-female quartet shelled out big bucks for seats close to the stage, then hit the lottery when Bono pulled them onstage to perform a song. After rocking the joint and getting a standing ovation, they were flooded with calls from record companies. It was a real movie-of-the-week moment.

The story reminded me of the U2 concert I attended in Oakland in November 2001. Some guy secured a spot along the aisle and held a sign that read “I can play Hendrix, Dylan, WHATEVER.” Bono - standing on the ramp in the middle of the arena - asked the guy if he was serious. When the guy said yes, Bono pulled him up on the ramp and gave him a guitar. He strummed a few chords to some song I didn’t recognize (but the crowd did), and then Bono motioned for him to walk up to the front of the stage with the rest of the band. The guy played very well, and when he was done he got a standing ovation. I can’t even imagine what he must have felt at that moment. The only thing missing, I guess, was getting a record deal out of it.

Read the concert review

November 2

The only thing better than getting candy from neighbors is getting candy from neighbor dogs. Phoebe and Boomer greeted all of our trick-or-treaters Monday. A couple small girls were scared to death of Phoebe, although I don't know how that's possible. I mean, just look at her in that costume! What's to be scared of? Boomer, on the other hand, looks like he's putting out a "Don't mess with me" vibe. It was either that or a "I hate this stinkin' getup" vibe. Not sure which one. Doesn't matter. He was cute, that's all we cared about.

October 27

In case you missed it, editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently included in one of his cartoons the names of every soldier killed in Iraq. How the heck was this guy able to write so small? Do you think he'll be able to do it again when the total reaches 3,000...or 4,000...or 10,000? I'm pretty sure we'll find out someday. Anyway, read the story behind the cartoon here.

October 19

I'm usually too lazy to lug my camera around when we go to Point Isabel with the dogs, but last week I saved up my energy and took it along. Here are the results.

October 6

"I'd feel more confident of Harriet Miers, President Bush's choice for the empty Supreme Court position, if she had better judgment about what she does with her hair."

Those are Andy Rooney’s thoughts, not mine. So what do I think about the nomination of Miers to the Supreme Court? Not much, really. Probably about the best we could hope for from this president. I expected him to select another flaming right-winger, but as Harold Meyerson points out in the Washington Post, Bush is in no position for a fight in the Senate. The extreme right wants a fight, of course, but Meyerson says they’re off base:

Just because the conservative intellectuals are itching for a fight over first principles doesn’t mean their country is. The conservative legal movement may have been waiting for this moment, as David Frum (the right-wing activist and former Bush speechwriter) wrote on his blog, for two decades, but the conservative economic movement had also been waiting for more than two decades for its moment, its fight over Social Security. Bush indulged the economic right, and look what happened: Armed with the best thinking of Heritage, Cato and all the right-wing think tanks, the president took on the New Deal and has not yet recovered.

Now the legal right wants — what? A public debate over the right to choice? A frontal assault on the right to privacy? A nominee who’ll argue, as right-wing darling Janice Rogers Brown has, that the minimum wage and Social Security are unconstitutional? Is it any wonder that Bush, particularly in his weakened state, chose to sidestep those fights? Most of the right wing’s legal agenda commands minority support in the country and provokes majority opposition. How many battles of ideas can Bush afford to lose? More ...

September 26

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans recently looked into all those stories about rapes and killings at the Superdome and Convention Center. Surprise surprise, turns out the media exaggerated these incidents just a little bit:

As floodwaters forced tens of thousands of evacuees into the Dome and Convention Center, news of unspeakable acts poured out of the nation's media: evacuees firing at helicopters trying to save them; women, children and even babies raped with abandon; people killed for food and water; a 7-year-old raped and killed at the Convention Center. Police, according to their chief, Eddie Compass, found themselves in multiple shootouts inside both shelters, and were forced to race toward muzzle flashes through the dark to disarm the criminals; snipers supposedly fired at doctors and soldiers from downtown high-rises.

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened. More ...

September 23

As a co-worker commented Thursday night, you know the Bush administration is in deep doo-doo when Newt Gingrich AND Rick Santorum are trashing their policies. As the L.A. Times reported Thursday, Bush is proving deeply reluctant about using some of the big-government tools at his disposal to help Katrina victims, apparently out of fear of permanently enlarging programs that he opposes or has sought to cut.

So what’s all the fuss about? Just a couple days after Katrina hit, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to issue emergency vouchers aimed at helping poor storm victims find new housing quickly by covering as much as $10,000 of their rent. Not so fast, came the reply from the White House. Although emergency vouchers had been successfully used after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, the administration focused instead on a plan for government-built trailer parks — yes, TRAILER PARKS — an approach that even many Republicans say would concentrate poverty in the very fashion the government has long sought to avoid. On top of that, White House officials are quietly working to derail a proposal by leading Republican and Democratic senators to temporarily expand the Medicaid program. Instead, they are pushing a narrower plan that would not commit the government to covering certain groups of evacuees.

Here’s the quote that kills me, and it’s from Gingrich: “The idea that in a community where we could place people in the private housing market to re-integrate them into society, we would put them (trailer) ghettos with no jobs, no community, no future, strikes me as extraordinarily bad public policy, and violates every conservative principle that I’m aware of. If they do it,” Gingrich said of administration officials, “they will look back on it six months from now as the greatest disaster of this administration.”

And that’s saying a lot, folks!

September 18

Added the latest gallery featuring Boomer, Phoebe and Bella. Coming soon are pictures of our most recent rescue, a tiny little maltipoo named Dixie.

September 17

It's been a while since I checked in with everybody, so I guess it's time to catch up a little.

Boomer is now a permanent part of our household ... and he has company. An Oakley woman who runs a pit bull rescue organization introduced us to a little girl puppy named Phoebe. I can't overstate just how apprehensive I was about allowing a pit bull into our house. I've read the same stories as you, and so naturally I assumed Phoebe would be a snarling menace to society. Well, let's just say my preconception wasn't entirely accurate. Phoebe is one of the sweetest, loving dogs I've ever met. Not only that, but Boomer absolutely LOVES her. With every other dog he is timid and reserved, but the instant he met Phoebe he was in Play Mode.

Phoebe was coming over to play with Boomer a couple times a week, but I still resisted fostering her. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized there were no valid reasons to keep her out of our house. About the same time Judy came across another dog that urgently needed a foster home (and by urgent I mean she would be euthanized in a couple days). So we took in Bella, who was a dalmation/Jack Russell terrier mix. Boomer got along with her just fine, so we prepared to keep her for a few months. I put an ad in the Contra Costa Times, and the next day we were flooded with calls. A latino family (a man with his son and daughter) from Pittsburg came to the house to visit Bella a day after the ad debuted in the paper. They loved her, of course, but were concerned that mom may not be willing to take in a new dog. When they left the house we were encouraged, and then we were even MORE encouraged when they came back a couple hours later to say they wanted to take Bella home THAT DAY. And so that's what they did. We had Bella only a few days, but Judy was still shaken up when she left. I'd love it if all future adoptions go as easily, but I doubt they will.

So with Bella gone, I finally broke down and told Judy we could take in Phoebe. Initially it was until we could find her a new home, but I soon realized there would be no way I could pry Phoebe out of Judy's arms. And so now Phoebe is ours, and Boomer couldn't be happier.

I have lots of photos from the past couple of months to share, but the first ones I'll post weren't taken by me. These pictures are of Phoebe long before she came into our lives. She was born Nov. 29, 2004, just a few days before Samson died.

July 3

I tried to watch the Live 8 shows on my computer Saturday morning, but my feed through Safari wasn’t fully cooperating, which forced me to get the leftovers offered on MTV. It didn’t take me long to realize the TV coverage was far inferior to the streams at AOL. Way too much talking and not nearly enough playing. They were probably worried that showing too many performances would hurt future DVD sales. Whatever.

When I went to work I caught some of the performances on the many TVs scattered about the office. It got me thinking about what kind of lineup I would put together if I had organized the thing. Here is my dream list of artists I’d be willing to travel across the country to see perform at one venue in a single day (listed in order of opening act to headliner):

  • Metallica (they did a good job of opening the Freddie Mercury tribute concert)
  • Black Crowes
  • Sum 41
  • Shakira (to watch, but not listen)
  • Maroon 5
  • Weezer
  • Oasis
  • Foo Fighters
  • Lenny Kravitz
  • Outkast
  • No Doubt
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Green Day
  • R.E.M.
  • AC/DC
  • Pearl Jam
  • The Police
  • Paul McCartney (tempted to have him close show)
  • Guns ‘N’ Roses (original lineup reunited)
  • Rolling Stones
  • U2
  • Led Zeppelin (reunited with Dave Grohl on drums)

July 1

The retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor from the Supreme Court provides another one of those "I told you so" moments I talked about after last year's election. She was the deciding vote in a 1992 decision to keep abortion legal, and she will most certainly be replaced with someone desperate to overturn that decision. Abortion will once again be illegal in this country within the next few years, but all you'll hear from me is "I told you so."

June 25

I turned 30 today, and I had planned on posting something about my life so far and what the next 10 years may bring my way. But I'm in just a horrible, horrible mood and don't feel like it. So I turned 30, big friggin' deal. I have to work today anyway. Maybe I'll eat a cupcake or something on my dinner break.

June 21

Work has been pretty much unbearable the past few days weeks months years, and so when I came home Saturday night I told Judy we had to have some fun Monday (which is the last day of my weekend). Sunday was spent at a decent Chinese restaurant in S.F. with Judy's parents and her sister's in-laws. Judy's sister would've been there, except she lives in Las Vegas and therefore gets to miss out on the obligatory family gatherings. Kinda like me with my own family in Illinois. Anyway, all of our energy Sunday was spent doing things with the family, so Monday was our day to kick back a little. We piled into the car with Boomer and drove 45 minutes toward the coastline to Point Isabel Regional Park near El Cerrito. The place is like you died and went to dog heaven. It was Boomer's second time at the park, but it was the first time he went with both me and Judy. It was also the first time I saw him interact with other dogs. There were a couple growls here and there, but for the most part he acted like a normal dog would act around his peers. We're still trying to teach him to be a little more brave around water. Right now he'll get in about chest level, but he's yet to swim at any great depth. That will come soon I'm sure. He's a very quick learner, not to mention extremely well-mannered and lovable. I'm pretty sure we'll be keeping this one.

You can see photos from the outing by clicking on the gallery at right or by clicking here.

As for my eyes, they're not back to 100 percent yet, but they're close. Every day I'm amazed at how well I can see. My goal all along was for the Lasik surgery to improve my vision enough so that it was close to the same level as with my glasses. I was shocked when it became obvious that I can actually see better now than with my glasses. Everything is so perfectly crystal clear, even very far distances. The night vision is still a little spotty, but I've been told that will improve. Even if it doesn't, it's just a little annoying, certainly nothing that would prohibit me from driving.

June 14

It's the day after my Lasik surgery, and my eyes feel pretty awful. If you've ever worn contact lenses, try to imagine what your eyes might feel like if you left them in for a week straight. That's the bad news. The good news is that my vision appears to be pretty close to 20/20. My follow-up trip to the doctor tomorrow will determine if this is true. I'm still a little sensitive to light, and my vision is a little hazy, but not too bad. The important thing now is to make sure I take all of my eye drops. There are three different drops I have to put in my eyes every two hours for the next two weeks. That sucks. Small price to pay, though, for never needing glasses again.

Was the procedure painful? Everybody told me it would be pain-free and easy. All I have to say is this: LIARS! I suspected there might be trouble when I talked to a couple in the waiting room. They had just finished their procedure. When asked if the surgery was painful, they responded with "Nah, it was OK. No big deal." I knew they were hiding something and just didn't want to scare the rest of us.

I absolutely hated the surgery. It wasn't really about the pain, it was about that suction device they put on your eyeball. It's the thing that cuts open the cornea flap and keeps you from blinking during the laser treatment. Terrible, terrible, terrible. It didn't help that the doctors were yelling at me "Keep your eye open! You're too tense! Relax your brow! Keep your eye open!"

While she waited for me, Judy killed time by taking Boomer to the dog park at Point Isabel, which was just a couple miles from the doctor's office. When it was over, Judy drove me back home, and we ordered takeout from the Vietnamese restaurant in Antioch. Then I took a sleeping pill and went to bed at 8.

June 12

It's been a pretty busy week around here, so you'll have to excuse me for the lack of posts. This new dog has given us a crash course in learning how to deal with a dog in public. Jasper and Sammy were never socialized enough for us to take them to public places, so now we're making up for it with Boomer. On Wednesday we got up way too early and visited a trainer in Martinez. He worked with us for only an hour, but what he taught us is turning out to be invaluable.

Our main concern with Boomer has been interaction with other dogs. His previous foster homes had other dogs, so we know he's somewhat socialized. When we took him to Petsmart earlier in the week, however, he became aggressive toward all the other dogs in the store. Around people he seems totally fine, although his alpha male tendencies do come out occasionally (we've seen him lightly growl at a few men, never any women).

The trainer put Boomer on something called a Gentle Leader, which basically gives us total control over Boomer's movements. When he barks at something we can gently but firmly pull his head up and close his mouth, which at the same time makes him look at our eyes. This lets him know we won't tolerate any tantrums. After just one day on the Gentle Leader he was already much easier to walk. He still barks at other dogs in public, but with some work this should be under control.

In many ways Boomer is a dream dog to adopt. He's housebroken, he doesn't chew on things, he's not an obsessive barker, he's crate trained (something I've never had in a dog), and best of all he likes other people (although he does take a little longer to warm up to men, probably due to some bad experiences in the past).

And let me tell you something about Boomer: The dog can run. FAST. It's pretty amazing to watch him sprint from our back door all the way to the back of the yard. The only dogs this yard has seen have been old German shepherds with hip problems. Now it has a young, vibrant dog to deal with. Gotta remember to keep all sharp objects out of the running lanes.

Monday is my LASIK eye surgery. If things go poorly, you may not be hearing from me for a while. Everybody I've talked to who has had it raves about it, but still. I could be the exception.

June 3

So as you may have guessed, we had to put our Jasper to sleep Tuesday. He had battled his cancer for more than six months, but in the end we couldn't save him, just like Samson. Unfortunately Jasper's final days weren't as peaceful as Sammy's. He started to get sick a week ago Sunday, but the oncologist didn't think it was the cancer. If he had, we would've put him to sleep last Wednesday. Instead, Jasper had to suffer through a whole week of vomiting and bleeding. Judy spent nearly every moment with him trying to nurse him back to health, even sleeping next to him on the floor at night. She was devastated when she found out that it was indeed the cancer that was causing him to be sick. Now she blames herself for putting Jasper through that suffering for a week. I told her she was only doing what she thought was right, that it was because everyone told her Jasper could get better. She said now she knows to always go with her first instinct.

After Jasper left, the house was very empty and quiet....for a day. When I got home from work Wednesday night I found Judy washing a new dog! Turns out one of Judy's friends regularly takes in foster dogs before they find new homes. She had one too many for her house, so she gave us one to look after for the next month. You can see his profile here. He was a stray until recently, and he's about the most gentle dog I've ever met. In fact, he is remarkably similar to Sammy in a lot of ways. I suspect his stay at our house may be extended beyond its initial run....

May 31

Goodnight, sweet Jasper. Please give Sammy a good lick
on the cheek for me when you see him again.

May 27

It's been a rough week for the Porter-Nguyen household. Jasper took a turn for the worse Sunday, and we've been scrambling ever since trying to fix him. It started when he began to have difficulty using his back legs. They've always bothered him to some degree, but this week they shut down almost entirelly. The same day Judy noticed a huge sore on his front leg. He wouldn't eat or drink, and he had absolutely no energy or desire to move. Sammy became similarly incapacitated just before he died, so we were more than a little worried about Jasper.

The next day the oncologist diagnosed the injury as either a pressure sore or a side effect from the chemotherapy. The latter would have been very bad news, because it would mean all those harsh chemicals were getting into places they shouldn't be. Since the vet couldn't determine the cause, he prescribed several drugs to counter the potential side effects of the chemo leak. These drugs, however, had side effects of their own, none of which were very good. Bottom line is this: Jasper was very sick this week (and still is).

As I've said before, Jasper is Judy's baby; I'm really just his roommate. So naturally Judy was the one who put in the sleepless nights making sure Jasper was comfortable as possible. I told her she makes a good mother, and it's true. At least for dogs.

The good news is that the vet doesn't think the sores were caused by the chemo, which means he can stop taking the drugs that messed up his system even more. As of Friday night he was still unable to walk (or even get up off the floor) without assistance. He has started to eat again, although only very little. We're hoping he'll soon regain his strength and be able to walk again on his own. But I have to admit there's a small part of me that wonders whether Jasper will ever be the same again, that maybe he's entered a final stage of his life. If so, Judy will be faced with another awful decision. I'm not looking forward to that day.

Time for some happy music: "Maybe Won't Do" by American Hi-Fi

May 22

Well, a chapter of my life ended Thursday after seeing the latest “Star Wars” film. I’ll spare you a recommendation, mostly because I’m pathetically biased when it comes to these movies. The critics were right, though, when they called it the best of the prequels. And, as I told Judy, the final scene is exactly what it should’ve been. Couldn’t have ended the movie any better.

All day Thursday I kept thinking of my earliest “Star Wars” experiences. I never saw the original during its initial run (I was only 2 at the time), but somehow I got hooked on the movies anyway. I remember finally seeing the movie on TV a few years later with my brother Roger, who was maybe 18 or 19 at the time. The Chewbacca/R2-D2 chess match and the garbage compactor are the only scenes I remember from that initial viewing. Who knows, maybe I fell asleep before the end.

Then in 1980 my sister Karen took me to see my first movie in a theater, and it just happened to be “The Empire Strikes Back.” That day was also memorable for me because some guy came by our farm that day and took away the last of our horses (which might explain why I was treated to a movie). The only thing I remember about that viewing was arriving late during the ice cave scene on Hoth (and this wouldn’t surprise you one bit if you knew anything about my sister).

So, as you can see, I’ve been a superfan for essentially all my life. Keeping that in mind, it’s not too absurd to say that “Star Wars” will always be an integral part of who I am. I’m sad I’ll never again see a new chapter in the “Star Wars” saga, but life goes on. Time for another chapter.

Although there IS that TV show in the works...

May 18

Judy and I actually made it out of the house (for a change) Tuesday and caught "Kicking and Screaming" in Pittsburg. All Will Ferrell has to do is walk into a room and I start laughing, so it goes without saying I thought the movie was pretty funny. And the week only gets better, because I'm seeing "Revenge of the Sith" on Thursday morning before work. I'm going to the 10 a.m. showing, so there shouldn't be too many kids in the theater, right? Sure hope not.

Here is this week's really big news: I may be getting my eyes lasered! I have an appointment on June 1 to see if I'm eligible for the Lasik surgery. A friend had the procedure done a couple years ago and raved about it, so here I am. I can't even imagine what life would be like not having to depend on glasses to see...well...anything. I'm legally blind without glasses in my left eye, and my right eye isn't far behind. My eyes have never adapted well to contact lenses, so this surgery will be a dream come true...assuming it's successful. And it also doesn't hurt that Lasik is finally affordable for us middle-class folks. Not too sure Judy is entirely happy, though. She's part of that small minority that actually prefers guys in glasses. Weirdo.

Today's recommended song: "I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll" by Leona Naess

May 13

Three years ago, in one of my first posts on this site, I raved about a midnight showing of "Star Wars: Episode II" that I attended in Concord. It was very tiring but a lot of fun. You'll get no similar post from me this year, though, because I'm skipping the whole midnight madness ordeal. It goes without saying that I'd like to see the movie as quickly as humanly possible, but this time I'm waiting a few days so that I can see it on my own time. The midnight crowds add a lot of excitement to the movie, but I'd rather watch this last "Star Wars" with a little less hysteria and yelling at the screen. Just another sign I'm getting damn old, I guess.

This Sunday's Contra Costa Times features a great piece by music writer Tony Hicks. He talks about the 28-year-buildup to this last "Star Wars" movie and what us diehard fans will be feeling during the next few weeks:

For 28 years, a sick, silly part of me has constantly waited for the next "Star Wars." Then the next one. Then the next one - all leading to this. The betrayal, the molten lava, the violence - more violence.

I passed time in between the movies reading the books, going through puberty, wearing my Darth Vader helmet on dates, that sort of thing.

Always waiting.

This one was the beacon in an otherwise disappointing last trilogy. Everybody knew "Sith" was why we sat through the first two films' lack of personality, bad dialogue and Jar Jar Binks. The redemption would come when Lucas stopped employing puppets, knocked off the lame jokes and middle-school romantic cheese, and got back to the drama - the struggle, the swordplay, the evil.

Finally, somebody got the big black suit out of storage and called James Earl Jones.

After all, none of us re-enacted "Star Wars" love scenes. We were too busy smashing each other over the head with toy lightsabers. At 10, my only complaint about the original was not enough swordplay. I have a younger cousin whose head probably still contains plastic shards. Now, finally - there's a "Star Wars" movie with enough swordplay, and violence - and swordplay.

But it dawned on me, when Obi-Wan and Darth Vader lined up for their climactic duel, that this was it. I'd waited for this for 28 years. The biggie. I've been picturing this duel since I was in fourth grade. This is the question nearly three decades in the making.

That's a lot of buildup.

And I'm satisfied. But today's like the day after Christmas. It's the long drive home from Disneyland. It's the end of an era.

Great song that belongs on your iPod: "Better Now" by Collective Soul

May 11

I hate having hair. No, I take that back. I hate having long hair. That's why I spent most of my college years sporting a nearly bald dome (I think for a couple years it was referred to as a Gump cut, for obvious reasons). My senior year I let it grow out a little, but I never really liked it. Not long after I moved to California in '98 I cut it way back, and that's the length it's been at ever since (as seen here).

For no particular reason, a couple months ago I decided to let it grow out again. Only this time longer. A lot longer. Just how long, I'm not sure. Until my girlfriend starts bugging me about it, I guess. Judy says she'd like my hair to be all crazy and messed up like a lot of actors and rock stars have it these days. I keep telling her there's a reason it looks good on them: they're actors and rock stars. I'm about the farthest thing from both. I guess her idea is as good as any right now, though, because I have absolutely no clue what I'm going to do with it all once it gets long. Maybe I'll slick it back and get my Gavin Newsom look going. Or maybe I'll do my best Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man impersonation. Or maybe I'll just chicken out and get a haircut after all. That's where Judy has her money, by the way.

So, if you're planning a trip to Soi 4, the Thai place in Oakland I mentioned last week, I recommend the steamed tunip cakes sauted with beansprouts and chives (kanom pak kard) as an appetizer. The spicy soup is also worth a try. Judy's parents (OK, actually it was just Judy's mom) entertained us with stories of Judy's early childhood in Vietnam. Long story short: Judy's mom couldn't get pregnant, she went to American and Chinese doctors for help, nothing worked, so as a last resort she went to the temple and prayed to Buddha for a child. Not long after Judy appeared. Oh, and Judy's grandmother told her mother not to discipline the child because it would make Buddha upset. Nice, huh? And now nearly 29 years later I gotta live with "I'm a child of Buddha" every friggin day...

May 8

After passing it several times at my local video store I finally broke down and rented "Garden State." Now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to see it, because I love this movie. That's pretty typical of me, though. I'm always several months - sometimes even years - behind the hottest styles, music, blogs, TV shows, etc. Probably comes from growing up in the Midwest, where it often takes years for fads to seep their way into everyday culture. (When they talk about He-Man on "I Love the 80s," for example, I always think they're early by about two years.) About the only thing I remember being ahead of the curve on was No Doubt, whom I was nutso about back when they were still an opening act.

So since watching the movie I've been catching up on Zach Braff's "Garden State" blog, which is terrific. There aren't many sites that inspire me to try harder around here, but Zach's site does just that. I always assume people wouldn't be interested in the mundane random happenings that make up Tyler's Life, but Zach's site proves that those are exactly the things that make blogs unique, interesting and fun. Or at least they are to me. Am I wrong?

Today Judy and I are taking her parents out to Soi, a Thai restaurant in the Rockridge section of Oakland. I think her parents are on some crazy diet where they can't eat meat anymore, but Thai food should work for them. If not, they'll just have to adjust. I get to eat Thai, which I haven't done in a very long time. That's one of the tradeoffs of living way out in the suburbs of Antioch; no good Thai restaurants. But hey, I owned my first house at age 26 (in the Bay Area, no less). Some things are worth sacrificing.

May 2

Saturday was the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, and just as a reminder my eldest (but not yet elderly) sister sent me an e-mail reminding me of Jane Fonda's traitorous ways in the early 1970s. It was just about the last thing I wanted to read that day. After thinking about it a little, I responded that although what Fonda did was horrible, she has since apologized for it and moved on with her life. It seems a lot of people in this country haven't moved on from it, and that frustrates me. Keep in mind, though, that I was born two months after the fall of Saigon, so maybe my perspective on Vietnam isn't that great. I do, however, look forward to a day when all of our candidates for elected office are too young to have served in Vietnam. Then we won't have to deal with all the bullshit associated with that horrible experience.

But back to the letter. After saying what I had to say about Jane Fonda, I told my sister that when I think about Vietnam, I don't think about the turmoil this country went through. Instead I think about my girlfriend's family, who escaped South Vietnam in the late 1970s after the communists came and took away their property. My girlfriend was 3 at the time, and she and her mother escaped first (her father and baby sister would follow a few years later). I don't know the whole story, but I do know they went without food or water for several days while on the standing-room-only boat. They both nearly died, and the only reason my girlfriend's mother wasn't thrown overboard was because she had a screaming daughter attached to her leg. They were finally rescued, but Judy's mother needed surgery from injuries suffered on that trip (she still has a very large scar on her stomach). The whole family eventually made it to San Francisco, where Judy's parents went on to own several restaurants. They spend their days now tending to their dozens of roses and fixing up their rental properties. Both of their daughters eventually graduated with business degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State.

I told my sister that when Judy's parents talk about the war (and that's not very often), they always end up talking about their struggle to make it out of Vietnam and their struggle to make a successful life here. Never ever has there been mention of Jane Fonda (or any other protester for that matter). Like so many immigrants who witnessed that war firsthand, they've been able to move on with their lives. I wish more people in this country could do the same. There are many, many things to be outraged about these days. Things that happened 30 years ago don't belong anywhere on that list.

For a more detailed account of what the struggle to escape Vietnam was like, read this story by Hai Do, who is now director of photography at the Philadelphia Inquirer. If reading this doesn't make you appreciate living in the United States, then nothing will.

April 24

I recently added my 1,000th song to my iPod, and to mark the occasion I'll give you a glimpse of what's in there. My CD library still hasn't been fully ripped into my computer (still have several Zeppelin CDs to add), but you should get the idea.

Artists with the most songs
No Doubt/Gwen Stefani - 120
Pearl Jam - 48
Cranberries - 31
Kiss - 30
Foo Fighters - 25
Hole - 25
Led Zeppelin - 24
Letters to Cleo - 22
Cardigans/Nina Persson - 19
Guns 'N' Roses - 19
The Beatles - 18
Green Day - 18
Lenny Kravitz - 17
Stone Temple Pilots - 17
U2 - 17
Veruca Salt - 17
Nina Gordon - 16
AC/DC - 15
Garbage - 15
R.E.M. - 14
Tonic - 14

Songs with "love" in title

Songs with "hate" in title

Oldest song
A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong

Newest song
Something Real - American Hi-Fi

Most embarrasing song
Grease Megamix

First purchased song
Sliver - Velvet Revolver

Most recent purchased song
Be My Escape - Relient K

Most recently played song
Latest Disaster - Stroke 9

April 22

David Broder's latest column lays out a simple plan for avoiding a Senate-splitting rules fight over President Bush's embattled judicial nominees:

Here is what should happen: The Democratic Senate leadership should agree voluntarily to set aside the continued threat of filibustering the seven Bush appointees to the federal circuit courts who were blocked in the last Congress and whose names have been resubmitted. In return, they should get a renewed promise from the president that he will not bypass the Senate by offering any more recess appointments to the bench, and a pledge from Republican Senate leaders to consider each such nominee individually, carefully and with a guarantee of extensive debate in coming months.
This may come as a surprise to regular readers, but I say let the judges be appointed. Every single last one of them.

By filibustering these last nominees, Senate Democrats are only being seen as "obstructionists" by most of America (nevermind that the vast majority of Bush's judicial nominees have actually been approved by these same Democrats). The filibuster does offer a vital service by allowing the minority party to exert some checks and balances over the majority, but the filibuster isn't being seen this way. Democrats are losing this fight, and I'm damn tired of losing fights.

The next few years will probably see a few Supreme Court nominations from the Bush White House, and if that doesn't send shivers down your spine, nothing will. Democrats in the Senate should drop the fight over Bush's current judicial nominees and save up their strength for the Supreme Court battle to come. If not, any fight over nominees for the high court will be seen as just another attempt by those liberal "obstructionists" to block Bush's agenda.

Of course, there's also part of me that thinks these extremist judges should be approved simply out of spite. Rulings from these judges will have vast implications for many Americans for years to come. The only way for people to understand this is for these judges to start issuing draconian rulings (and believe me, they will). That may sound a little too Ralph Naderish for some, but it's true. The American people picked this administration, now they must deal with the consequences.

April 21

A story Wednesday from the Cox News Service detailed the new pope's role in determining the outcome of last year's presidential election. It ain't pretty:

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, played an indirect role in the 2004 U.S. election campaign when he directed Catholic bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters such as Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Ratzinger found no common ground with abortion rights advocates last June when, in a letter to the U.S. bishops, he stated that Catholics who support abortion rights are guilty of a "grave sin" and are unworthy of communion.

Although he did not mention Kerry or any other person by name, it was widely viewed that he was referring to the Democratic presidential nominee when he said the Catholic sacrament should be denied in "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws."

Further, his letter said any Catholic who votes for a candidate who holds a pro-abortion position is "guilty of formal cooperation in evil" and is likewise "unworthy to present himself for holy communion."

That's right, folks. The new pope - your direct link to God almighty - thinks all pro-choice people around the world are evil. No word on his feelings about Osama bin Laden though. I new pope's gotta have priorities, I guess, when it comes to hating people.

April 20

Good ol' Tom DeLay is at it again.

You remember his comment immediately after Terri Schiavo died. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." He was talking about judges who refused to obey orders from Congress (although nevermind that Congress has no power to order the courts to do a damn thing).

Now he wants the House to find a way to hold the federal judiciary accountable for its decisions. "The judiciary has become so activist and so isolated from the American people that it's our job to do that," he said Tuesday.

My favorite part of this story comes from the Associated Press:

One way would be for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the clause in the Constitution that says "judges can serve as long as they serve with good behavior," DeLay said. "We want to define what good behavior means. And that's where you have to start."
That's right, folks. Tom DeLay will soon be defining what "good behavior" means. This is akin to Keith Richards defining what "clean and sober" means.

My reaction? I TOLD YOU SO. Tom DeLay ain't goin' nowhere folks. In fact, all of this controversy will only empower right-wingers to dig their heels in even more. But in case you were thinking of complaining, don't. You had your chance in November, now suck it up and deal with the consequences. If you're truly and honestly outraged by the behavior of DeLay, Frist, Bush, etc. (and you should be), then I have two words for you: November 2006. Burn that phrase into your brain. Otherwise just shutup and deal with it.

So now we have a new pope. Since I'm not Catholic, never have been and never will be, I really couldn't care less. And after quickly looking at this new guy's resume it's painfully obvious he's just as homophobic and behind the times on contraceptive use as John Paul II. (And you know, for people who are so against homosexuals, those cardinals sure do wear some awfully gay clothes).

My Galleries

Mindy and Tim's wedding

Another Point Isabel trip

Boomer, Phoebe
and a brief houseguest

Boomer's big day out

Some photos from Spring 2005

Latest photos of Jasper

New photos with a new camera

My last gallery of Samson images

In memory of Samson, Part I

In memory of Samson, Part II

No Doubt in Sacramento
June 21, 2004

My yard in all its splendor
March 2004

The dogs
March 2004

A bunch of random stuff

Seeing the world
in black and white

New York, May 2001

My trip to Illinois
July 2003

Jasper, Part I

Jasper, Part II

Flowers, etc.

Take a look at our dogs
Jasper and Samson

Mendocino, Calif.

The beauty of San Francisco

More black and white photos

Mom and Dad visit
the Bay Area, May 2003

Mom and Dad visit
the Bay Area, Part 2

The beauty of landscapes

Brian visits the Bay Area
July 2002

A peek at my family

Golden Gate Bridge,
circa spring 2001

2005: January, February, March, April, May, June

2004: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, October, November, December

2003: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, December

2002: April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Other Sites

Ronn Taylor
Greener Pastures


Vacation 2002
No Doubt on Mad TV
No Doubt at the Fillmore

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