Byrd's Brain

Tuesday, September 30
more madness
 
Gun control wasn't my intended theme today... But now a handgun has killed a 7-week old baby.
A 7-week-old baby being cradled in his uncle's arms became one of San Francisco's youngest victims of gun violence when a shot intended for the infant's father pierced the family's home in the Bayview district, police said Monday. SFGate


Oh my God
 
If this isn't an argument for gun control then I don't know what is. Don't people think? Actions have consequences. How can someone leave a loaded handgun sitting around the house?
A 4-year-old boy shot and killed his sister and wounded his brother on Saturday, and he understands what he has done, his father said today.

"He knows," the father, Gregory Thigpen Sr., told The Washington Post for an article in today's paper. "He's very remorseful. He was apologizing to me."

The boy, Da'Joun Brice, was crying when the police arrived after the shooting. He had picked up a .45-caliber handgun and pulled the trigger, shooting Kimberly Brice, 5, and Gregory Thigpen Jr., 7.
NYTimes
Gun advocates say, "Guns don't kill people, people do." Well this gun sure killed this child. If that gun hadn't been in that house that girl would be alive today. No one will ever hear her laugh again.

Monday, September 29
The diet continues
 
We are still on the South Beach Diet. Mrs Byrd and I feel great. It is kind of amazing what happens to your body when you stop eating processed and heavily sweetened foods. We were vegetarians, but we had been eating lots of prepackaged foods. We felt good as vegetarians, but we feel surprisingly better now. It sounds crazy, but I feel younger. Okay enough! I have lost 18 pounds in roughly 2 months.

Besides, by eating this way we support local farms and not conglomerates like ConAgra. This is the anti-BushCo meal plan.

No accounting for taste
 
Oh my God. People are actually buying this book! Regular readers of this site will know that I am jealous because I shopped my children's book around for a year and no one wanted to publish it.

Friday, September 26
Mistakes
 
John Cleese on mistakes:
Denying mistakes results in lying and cover-ups that build exponentially. "This kind of concealment creates terrible anxiety."

On stress making you stupid: "Suppose Edison was afraid of producing a light bulb that didn't work? My Auntie Vera put it differently; she said we learn only from our mistakes."

"Science makes continual improvements only by learning from its mistakes in theories."

"I believe the big question here is how to change our attitudes towards mistakes so that instead of living in morbid dread of making an error, as so many people, in the future we only live in dread of repeating that error."
These are notes from John Cleese's Keynote Address at SunNetworks, as recorded by Mark Jones in the Infoworld blog.

I was too quick too celebrate
 
Although BushCo is expected to sign the bill next week, the federal do not call list has been put on hold again by another federal court ruling. This time the list was thrown out on free speech grounds since the list does not apply to nonprofit organizations, politicians and pollsters
"The registry creates a burden on one type of speech based solely on its content, without a logical, coherent privacy-based or prevention-of-abuse-based reason supporting the disparate treatment of different categories of speech," CNN
If Congress articulates a reasonable basis or rationale for the exceptions that might satisfy a court. Or perhaps we limit all telemarketing calls to a specific time period, such as 5 pm to 6 pm (on Wednesdays and even numbered Tuesdays). That might be a reasonable time, manner and place restriction that courts would accept.

This does not bode well for the California do not call list.

Thursday, September 25
Do Not Call: update
 
The Senate has now approved the do not call list. BushCo is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow. I sure hope that the Telephone Marketers Association didn't party too hard last night celebrating the court ruling. No one likes telemarketers. Their hangover is just beginning.

Don't you wish that all good legislation moved this swiftly? This is how legislation moves when lobbyists can't overcome the clear will of the people.

50 Million is a big lobby
 
It won't take long to re-instate the federal Do Not Call list. Congress is motivated by 50 million (angry) people who signed up for the list.
The House of Representatives on Thursday granted the Federal Trade Commission authority to create a national "do-not-call" list for telemarketers and the Senate, which is expected to follow suit, started debate on the issue in the afternoon.

A Senate vote could come by 6 p.m.

The quick action comes a day after a federal judge ruled the FTC needed a congressional mandate to create the wildly popular list. CNN


Comments are back
 
A while back there was a "comments" option on Byrd's Brain. It was a nice feature, people are more likely to leave a comment than to send an e-mail. But the feature was often buggy and slowed the loading of pages. So it was deleted. Rumor has it that it works more smoothly now, so comments have been restored.

It bothers me..
 
Does it ever bother you when you hear television or film executives claim that the media has no influence on behavior? Does it ever bother you to hear them say that violence in films or on television is just reflective of society and that the movies and shows have no impact on behavior? It bothers me. If media has no influence on behavior then why the hell do companies pay to air advertisements on television? Why are advertisements now shown before movies? Why are there movie trailers? If media didn't influence behavior there wouldn't be an advertising industry.

It is very much akin to when cigarette executives said that smoking wasn't addictive.

Wednesday, September 24
Symptoms are easier to deal with then root causes...
 
This is a systemic cultural problem. These only deal with the symptoms when the problem has gotten out of control. As a society we need to look inward and deal with the causes of violence. These don't stop the violence. They only record it. And with them we are creating a surveillance society and generations that will only know a life that is constantly watched and monitored. What psychological impact can these omniscient eyes have on an individual? On a community? On a nation? They create fear. They perpetuate fear.

Symptoms are easier to deal with than root causes. There are bucks to made on these technology sales. Besides who wants to really tackle the difficult issues? If you install cameras it looks like you are doing something.
A digital camera hangs over every classroom here, silently recording students' and teachers' every move. The surveillance system is at the leading edge of a trend to outfit public schools with the same cameras used in Wal-Marts to catch thieves.

Fearful of violence, particularly in light of the nation's experience with schoolhouse shootings, educators across the country are rushing to install ceiling-mounted cameras in hallways, libraries and cafeterias. But no other district has gone as far as this Gulf Coast community, which, flush with casino revenue, has hung the cameras not only in corridors and other common areas but also in all of its 500 classrooms.

That has made virtually everything that happens at any of Biloxi's 11 public schools subject to instant replay, though so far, principals report, they have used such replays to confront only humdrum problems like clarifying the disappearance of a child's ice cream money or ensuring that students do not sleep in class. NYTimes


Symptoms are easier to deal with then root causes...
 
This is a systemic cultural problem. These only deal with the symptoms when the problem has gotten out of control. As a society we need to look inward and deal with the causes of violence. These don't stop the violence. They only record it. And with them we are creating a surveillance society and generations that will only know a life that is constantly watched and monitored. What psychological impact can these omniscient eyes have on an individual? On a community? On a nation? They create fear. They perpetuate fear.

Symptoms are easier to deal with than root causes. Besides there are bucks to made on these technology sales. Besides who wants to really tackle the difficult issues?

Tuesday, September 23
Car Black Boxes
 
Did you know that your car may have a "black box" ("event data recorder") in it that records data on how the vehicle was driven just before an accident? If you have a GM car it is almost guaranteed to have one of these recording devices. They monitor driving activity at all times, but only save the data that was recorded just before an accident. Insurers and police have used the information in these devices against the interests of the car owner. Not for long California.

California is the first state in the nation to pass a law that prohibits the police, or others, from obtaining the information in the "black box" without the vehicle owner's consent or a court order. The new California law takes effect on July 1, 2004.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.

The Recall Is A Go
 
That was fast. The Ninth Circuit has ruled. The California recall is back on as originally scheduled.
A federal appeals court Tuesday reinstated California's Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election, rejecting a three-judge panel's decision to put it off for months and handing a defeat to supporters of Gov. Gray Davis. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in quickly, the decision means Election Day is two weeks away.

The 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the Sept. 15 decision of a three-judge panel from the same circuit. The original panel postponed the election because six counties would use outdated punch-card ballots that were the subject of the "hanging chads" battle in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

The decision clears the way for a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could be asked to revisit its Bush v. Gore decision in the 2000 election.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the challenge, did not immediately confirm its next legal move.

The appeals court reinstated a ruling by a district court judge who originally refused to postpone the election. The judges based their decision on the state's constitution, not any precedent set by Bush v. Gore. SacBee


Monday, September 22
ANWR
 
ANWR has been written about a lot on Byrd's Brain here, here, here, here, here and here. Potential ANWR drilling is one of those issues that won't go away. BushCo wants to drill in the arctic at all costs, or at least wants to use ANWR drilling as a strawman in order to get other controversial policies through Congress. The GOP is drafting a new energy bill. Drilling in ANWR will be one of the projects included.
Republican authors of the emerging energy bill will formally propose opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling as they begin to reveal the more contentious elements of the legislation this week, Congressional officials say.

A draft of the measure, to be made public as early as Monday, will incorporate a House-passed plan to let oil and gas companies begin exploration while confining production plants to 2,000 acres on the coastal plain of the 19 million-acre refuge, officials said.

The proposal is part of a new set of agreements between Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, the two Republicans who are leading the energy negotiations. It is being released for review by others involved in the energy talks and for eventual consideration by the conference committee.

The two lawmakers have made clear they support drilling in the refuge, but their decision to try to add it to the legislation at this stage of the negotiations is certain to reignite strong resistance to the drilling plan from Senate opponents and conservation groups.

Drilling proponents said they hoped to entice a few Democrats and moderate Republicans who oppose the Alaskan exploration by emphasizing other pet projects and programs that will be included in the overall measure. For instance, projects that benefit the coal industry and a plan to increase the use of corn-based ethanol have significant Democratic backing.

"Some Democratic senators say if some things are in there, they will vote for this bill no matter what," one Senate aide said. "What we are going to do is really put it to the test."
NYTimes


Happy Birthday!
 
This is birthday month at the Byrds. Today is our son's first birthday! He is a very busy guy. He gets into everything, including the dishwasher and higher cabinets that we never "baby proofed" because his sister had no interest in them. He has six baby signs now: elephant, bye-bye (of course), monkey, ball, lotion and fish. He says "dadda", "moma" and "cat". We celebrated his birthday yesterday, with the in-laws. However, he was too busy running around the room to be bothered with gift opening. His sister handled that for him. She loved opening the gifts. She even got a couple of presents that we had saved from her party. On the other hand, he delighted in the cake eating aspect of his birthday. He enjoyed the frosting and the cake. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that it was all over his face, hands and hair. The frosting let him shape his into a nice Mohawk.

Friday, September 19
Talk about secretive
 
Commandant Ashcroft has refused for two years to release information regarding the number of searches of library records that the justice Department has conducted. Yesterday that information was released. If it can be believed there have been no searches of library records. None. Nada. This was so hard to tell us. This information would threaten national security? Come on.

It took two years to learn this. And the information was only released because of the growing firestorm in opposition to extending the Patriot Act. BushCo and company is secretive beyond belief. They clearly want to work beyond any sort of public scrutiny, behind the proverbial curtain.

This gives us another reason to campaign tirelessly to get a Democrat elected and BushCo out of D.C. With BushCo gone we might find out what else they have to hide. This also means though, that BushCo will fight to its last breath to stay in office so that its activities are never fully known.
After months of increasingly noisy protests, fears of Big Brother run amok and government warnings about needless "hysteria," the Justice Department gave its first public accounting today of how many times it had used its newfound counterterrorism powers to demand records from libraries and elsewhere.

The answer is zero.

Department officials and their supporters pointed to the goose egg as evidence that the raging public debate over the government's expanded powers has been much ado about nothing. In this case, they argued, public fear and mistrust of government appear to have outpaced the reality of what federal agents are actually doing.

But the disclosure by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who said he grudgingly agreed to declassify the data on demands for library records to counter "misinformation," is unlikely to end the debate soon.

Mr. Ashcroft's opponents said they remained deeply concerned over the government's far-reaching powers under the legislation, the USA Patriot Act, and they said the Justice Department added to public fears by maintaining such tight secrecy over its activities.NYTimes
Although, according to this (which I found via Vigilant) librarians have disputed Ashcroft's "zero" claims.

Opus Returns
 
Humor is always a good thing. And more humor is better than less. Bloom County was a rare blend of humor, politics and humanity. I was an avid reader of it. And not just because of Opus -- some readers of this site may have gleaned that Byrd's Brain likes penguins (check out the last set of links near the bottom of the left column). After a hiatus of a decade Berke Breathed is bringing Opus back in his own comic. Go to Berkeley Breathed for more information and a link to your local paper, so that you can request that they carry the comic strip.

Thursday, September 18
Diet: Phase 3, Day 1
 
I have never been on a diet before, but I am impressed and happy with the progress that Mrs. B and I have made. We have been on the strangely named, South Beach Diet -- except for a few vacation days -- for over a month. I started out at 178 pounds. My goal was to lose 10 pounds. As of today I have lost 13 pounds and Mrs. B has lost 11.

The idea of a diet has always bothered me because they seem so artificial. You are either supposed to eat foods that one normally wouldn't eat or you are supposed to monitor what you eat in ways that are too inconvenient. For instance, we tried Weight Watchers for a day or two. I couldn't do it. We either had to eat these frozen processed and tasteless foods or we had to walk around with this food-wheel and add up the points for the food that we ate during the day until we had reached our total point allotment.

Neither of us wanted to eat the processed junk food, so we tried the food-wheel method. That was way too hard for me. You can eat anything that you want. You can eat a cookie, but you only get one. You can eat junk, but only so much and it may use up all of your points. The theory, I guess, is that you don't have to change your food choices, just the amounts that you eat. That didn't work for me. I hated the bother of reading labels on everything and adding up the points throughout the day. Worse though, I felt hungry the entire time. That diet was a no go.

Atkins we considered, but we don't eat red meat so we wouldn't get enough protein and no carbos didn't sound balanced enough too us. It sounded like our arteries would protest in the long run, but our weight would go down in the short run. Too much of a win now / lose a lot later proposition for us. Besides, we like our breads (and birthday cakes -- last weekend and again this weekend).

This South Beach thing has been a lot of work for my wife. She has had to plan every meal, get the shopping done and prepare dinner and lunch. That takes a lot of time, especially with two young children who aren't on the diet. I do the breakfasts for the most part, but those are easy. We eat almost no processed foods on this diet. That feels good from a health perspective and a societal perspective. We are supporting local farmers and businesses. Except for a few dressings, condiments and oils we aren't buying much from large multinationals. (They would go bonkers if everybody ate this way.....) I realize that this has sounded like a paid testimonial, but we are eating quite well, we are living more according to our values, we feel great and we have lost weight. What more could you want from a diet?

Today's menu:

Breakfast -- oatmeal, grapefruit, eggs and coffee.
Lunch -- a turkey wrap and an apple.
Dinner -- grilled chicken, couscous, asparagus, a salad and yogurt with fresh strawberries for dessert.

Wednesday, September 17
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
 
Today is my daughter's 3rd birthday. She is growing up so fast.

Tuesday, September 16
Senate moves to block media consolidation
 
- The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on Tuesday defied opposition from the Bush administration and voted 55-40 to rescind new regulations allowing large media companies to grow even bigger.

Fearing fewer viewpoints and decreasing local news coverage, 12 Republicans joined most of the Democrats to back a resolution that would undo rules narrowly adopted by the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission in June.

.....

The resolution of disapproval faces a tougher battle in the U.S. House of Representatives and a threat of a veto by President Bush if it reaches his desk. It would take 67 votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto.

"I know of no plans to bring it up," House Speaker Dennis Hastert's spokesman John Feehery said of the resolution.

The House has already passed a bill that would prevent the FCC from spending money to enforce its new national television cap for a year, and the Senate is expected to follow. The White House has threatened to also veto that measure. Findlaw


Wow, that never happens
 
I'm getting something for nothing. I have happily paid for Blogger Pro for a year and now the pro features are in the free version of Blogger. That's great to me because I wasn't sure that I wanted to pay the "pro fee" again and now I get it for free. Can't beat that. And to top it off, Pro users are getting a free sweatshirt from Blogger. Sure the sweatshirt is an advertisement, but how many times in this world do we get something for nothing?

You have to wonder...
 
I have thrown my support behind Dean, but I just heard today that he supported NAFTA. There are questions as to whether his support was "strong" or not. Ross Perot warned us about the "Giant Sucking Sound" and many knew that he was right. NAFTA and other free trade agreements have hurt U.S labor, the economy and the environment. These free trade agreements only help multinational corporations that can move their operations around the world to whichever place has the cheapest labor and the most favorable laws and regulations. I question the judgment of anyone who supported NAFTA. Of course we all make mistakes, but this one has me watching Dean more carefully. If he was a "strong" supporter then I may need to re-evaluate.

It is great, but it makes us sad too
 
Our daughter turns three tomorrow. It doesn't seem like she could be three already. We remember when she did her first "baby sign" at 9 months. She did the sign for cat and then how quickly she picked up on other signs. She even created signs of her own that her mom and I had to figure out. She clicked her tongue in two different ways depending on whether she wanted milk or a book. When we figured her signs out she did her happy dance.

Monday, September 15
Humbling Stats
 
Other bloggers have noted this same phenomena so I am not alone. But it is curious. This blog wasn't updated for more than a week. But the number of visitors to the site while there were no updates were on par with the number of visitors when there are updates. What does this mean? I don't know. Perhaps all one needs is a url -- the page could be blank -- and a random, but consistent number of visitors would happen by due to the vagaries of the internet. Perhaps not. But a humbling thought nonetheless.

Unplanned Hiatus
 
I'm back. No my absence wasn't because of the diet. We are fine. The "Byrds" finally went on a family vacation last week. That had been planned. But I had expected to continue with entries on Byrd's Brain. However, forces beyond my control prevented me from accessing the internet until recently and I haven't had a moment to post anything until now.

A week ago on Saturday I felt very productive around the house. I did needed tuckpointing on our foundation, I pruned a couple of trees and a row of bushes, I cleaned out the garage and I even put up four of those "big red hooks" so that I could hang my ladders and some tools in the garage. That afternoon while running errands my wife called on my cell phone. "Had I done anything in the garage that would cause the phone -- and more importantly DSL! -- to not work?" "I put some hooks in the wall, but there shouldn't have been any wires there.... maybe, but I don't think so..." I thought that I had been careful. The hooks were in an exterior wall that had no plumbing in it and one plug socket and one wall switch, but there is a pone jack in the room upstairs. I thought that I knew where the wires were, maybe I didn't. As you might imagine, I hurried home.

"Mrs. Byrd" was right. The phone line was dead. Immediately I felt guilty. I checked the box outside. Aha. There was no service coming into the house, so I couldn't have caused the outage. "Mrs. Byrd" wasn't so sure. I still felt guilty. I wasn't positive either. I couldn't understand how I could have caused the problem, but the timing of it sure looked like I was the cause of it.

I called SBC. It was Saturday, no humans work on Saturday at the phone company. Instead I found myself in a seemingly endless voicemail loop. Eventually I was able to schedule repair service for Thursday morning. We wouldn't be back home until then. No phone service was a problem because our daughter's 3rd birthday party was coming up and most people hadn't RSVP'd yet. Now how could they? And we were going to be out of town! I suggested that my wife call each person on her cellphone to see if they were coming. She could even call while we were away since we have free long distance on the cell phones. (Does anyone with a cell phone ever make a long distance call on a landline phone anymore?)

I am not up on proper etiquette. I learned that calling to ask people if they were coming was rude. Instead my wife composed an e-mail message to the invitees, explained our lack of phone service and that we would be out of town. She then took her laptop in the car to a wireless "hot zone" that has been established in town. While parked there she sent and read e-mail. I felt guilty that she had to go through this rigamarole. I didn't know that I was the cause, but everything sure pointed to me.

We left for our trip early Sunday morning. My wife took her computer with her since she still had to do some work. (She works from home, which at times means that one is always at work...) I didn't take my laptop with me because the battery is dying. It only holds a 20 minute charge. I can't use it because I have to keep it plugged in! Somehow being tethered to a chord after two years of not needing a chord feels too inconvenient. It is funny how technology changes us. Somethings which seemed like luxuries at one time (DSL and a good battery) now feel like necessities.

When we got home from our trip the phone line was still dead. The next day the phone guy came to the house. He didn't need to cut any holes in our walls. The line was dead at the house. He confirmed that that meant that the signal wasn't coming form one of the neighborhood switching boxes. What a relief. As Mrs Byrd said, "You can keep your toys, uhm, tools."

I followed the repair guy to the switching box. The wires to our house had been pulled out of the circuit! Maybe somebody doesn't like us..... I asked him if he couldn't check to see if an SBC service technician had done any work on the block on Saturday. According to him, the SBC computers can't do a search by geographic area. The only way to find out if service had been performed was to do a search by each individual phone number that was connected to this box. It is incredible to me that a company of the size of SBC can only search by phone number, but that is what he says.

Long story short. Phone service was restored. DSL and our wireless network were back up. Everyone RSVP'd for the birthday party and a good time was had by all. But I didn't find time to use my computer until now and I still need to get a new battery.

I'll write about our trip and the birthday party later. I am sure that you can't wait.



Friday, September 5
Quick Takes
 
Court Blocks FCC Media Ownership Rules
An appeals court issued a stay and blocked new federal rules that would relax restrictions on how many TV stations a company can own and lift a ban on owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same city. Read the whole story. This ruling is not in the merits, but it is at least a delay, which is good. I have written in opposition to media consolidation most recently here.
Senate Panel Moves to Block Media Consolidation
"A Senate committee today unanimously approved a spending measure with a provision that would block a rule allowing the nation's largest television networks to grow bigger by buying more stations.

The decision by the Senate Appropriations Committee moved the Republican-controlled Congress a big step closer to a rare rebuke of both the Bush administration and the Federal Communications Commission, which in June adopted new regulations to permit the biggest media conglomerates to grow even larger." NYTimespassword/id: "rbyrd".
BushCo to take Clinton approach and offer inducements to North Korea in order to curb its weapons programs.
"President Bush, in a significant shift in his approach to North Korea, authorized American negotiators to say last week that he is prepared to take a range of steps to aid the starving nation ?— from gradually easing sanctions to an eventual peace treaty, senior officials today" NYTimes password/id: "rbyrd".
Conservative BushCo grows federal government by 1 million. Big Brother needs a big government. But this big government has been farmed out to private interests. The number of civil servants has decreased, but the number of contractors has increased.
"The era of big government, if it ever went away, has returned full-throttle under President Bush, who came to office championing "conservative ideas" as an alternative.

A report released on Friday by the Brookings Institution think tank and New York University said the "true size" of the federal work force -- which includes employees for federal contractors and grant recipients -- grew by more than one million, to 12.1 million, from October 1999 to October 2002." Reuters.


Thursday, September 4
Help Wanted
 
Cannon fodder needed for deployment in Iraq. New recruits will replace current troops in Iraq. Excellent opportunity to serve in peacekeeping force, under the direct command of the U.S. Applicants can expect to serve in the most precarious, unstable and exciting posts. Send application with list of next of kin to: BushCo, Washington, D.C.

Diet: Day 17
 
Today we got to have bread for the first time. For breakfast Mrs. Byrd and I each had a slice of toast with melted cheese, a half a grapefruit and coffee. It doesn't sound like much, I know. In the past I would have had a much bigger breakfast. After all it is the most important meal of the day, right? But the meals, meager though they seem, are somehow satisfying. Maybe we have been so purged of carbs that just having a little is filling. The mid-morning snack was yogurt. Lunch is a chef's salad. The afternoon snack is "laughing cow" cheese and a granny smith apple. (I have a complaint here. I used to think that I liked tart apples. But nothing is as tart as a granny smith. I had one yesterday for the morning snack. Bitter might be a more appropriate word -- tart just doesn't say enough. The cheese will be needed.)

Mrs. Byrd has been a professional proof reader at times in the past. The "south Beach Diet" book is clearly a first edition. Typos always drive her crazy, but this book is really a mess. Typos are the least of it. First of all the book has very little in the way of explanations as to how to approach the diet and what to expect. For instance, the book made the diet seem easy with no side effects. Four days in to the diet I was feeling great, but Mrs. Byrd was feeling ill. She had an electrolyte deficiency and had to take a supplement. A better researched book would have mentioned this possible side effect. I think that the author's patients have mostly been men so the diet was prepared with men in mind.

another irritating aspect of the book is that the recipes don't cross reference each other. For instance if one is having chicken for dinner tonight, the book doesn't mention that chicken is needed for salad tomorrow or the next day. If one knew this in advance then one could prepare all of the chicken at once. This is an obvious example, but there are many more. Mrs. Byrd has to read ahead for a week's worth of menus to plan the cooking and the shopping so that she can be as efficient as possible. A better edited book would make this job easier and some of the advanced cooking planning unnecessary.

Finally, there are omissions that can be figured out, but cause one to guess whether they are doing the right thing. For instance, in phase 1 it is made very clear that "all fruits and breads -- all carbs" are prohibited. But then some of the recipes call for seasoning with lemon juice and each breakfast started with a glass of V-8. Clearly, not "all" carbs were prohibited. Despite these drawbacks we still like the diet and the book is revered like a bible in our house.

Enough said. You are going to think that the Mrs. and I are all diet all the time and that we have nothing else to do or think about. Not true. Is is time for lunch yet?

Wednesday, September 3
The Mindset List
 
Every year Beloit College prepares a "mindset list" that describes the world as seen from the eyes of its entering Freshman class. For instance:
1. Ricky Nelson, Richard Burton, Samantha Smith, Laura Ashley, Orson Welles, Karen Ann Quinlin, Benigno Aquino, and the U.S. Football League have always been dead.

2. They are not familiar with the source of that “Giant Sucking Sound.”

3. Iraq has always been a problem.

4. “Ctrl + Alt + Del” is as basic as “ABC.”

5. Paul Newman has always made salad dressing.
Read the whole list. It makes me feel old.

Diet: Day 17
 
Yummy. Last night's dessert was organic strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Good food. Good diet. Although my weight loss is holding steady at 10 pounds.

Tuesday, September 2
Best Wishes, Dwight
 
We are losing yet another excellent blogger. PLA was one of the first blogs listed in the exclusive Byrd's Brain blogroll. I have read PLA almost daily for the past year. The insightful political discussions and the informative entries on autism will be missed. Dwight Meredith is moving on to greener pastures. Best wishes to Dwight and his family.

ANWR
 
"So it's hard to feel that this a place where humans are in charge. And that is precisely what makes the Arctic refuge so special."
Nicholas D. Kristof


Maybe the rest of America is catching on...
 
In leftie blogland it has been clear that Republicans will do anything to win or steal an election. They operate from a self-righteous winner take all point of view. There are indications that this reality is slowly dawning on the rest of America. If the trend continues this will bode well for democrats (large and small "d") in a year.
Of all the arguments advanced by Gov. Gray Davis to fight the recall, none resonates more strongly with Democrats coast-to-coast than his assertion that Republicans are engaged in a systematic effort to steal elections.

The anger that began over former President Bill Clinton's impeachment -- and intensified after the contested 2000 presidential election -- has solidified into an unshakeable belief among the party's faithful that the other side has abandoned rules of fair play.

The charge, which is gaining favor among some scholars and nonpartisan observers, has become a staple of Democratic speeches, opinion pieces and conversations. Strategists expect, no matter what the recall outcome, it will become a potent rallying cry heading into the 2004 presidential campaign.

"People are furious over what is going on," said Molly Beth Malcolm, chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party. "Republicans don't want a two-party system. This truly is an attitude of 'masters of the universe. We're in control and nobody can stop us. We'll do whatever we want, and we don't care what happens in the aftermath.'"

Bush's Florida victory in 2000 "validated their tactics," said Bob Poe, who was chairman of the Florida Democratic Party at the time. "It emboldened them, and now we're seeing more and more of it."

Democrats, whose mastery of exploiting campaign finance rules and White House fund raising prompted congressional hearings into their own tactics in the mid-1990s, acknowledge that they, too, play hardball politics. But they decry recent Republican maneuvers -- impeachment, recall, lawsuits and redrawn congressional boundaries -- as a more fundamental assault on the two-party system. SFGate



"I'm beginning to think that Republicans will do anything to win an election -- except get the most votes."

Bill Maher

Diet: Day 16
 
The weight loss for me has slowed, but my wife continues her downward descent. Thanks to all of Mrs. Byrd's hard work, the food on this diet is delicious.

Monday, September 1
Labor Day Thoughts
 
On Labor Day we celebrate the contributions that workers in America have made for this nation. What we celebrate has changed over the years. Workers used to be a strong voice in this country. Unions used to be stronger. Now with the "fast fooding" of America, workers have become a commodity. Do the job at the pay offered or get fired. Someone else will be hungrier and they will do the job. A year ago I shopped at Wal-Mart for the first time. The products seemed cheap, but then so were the prices. And Wal-Mart had a huge selection of artificial Christmas trees. I had looked everywhere I could think of before I bought a tree at Wal-Mart. But I was taken by the prices. A week later I bought a gift online from Wal-Mart.com. Long time readers of this site know how personal and professional that shopping experience was. To be blunt, Wal-Mart.com sucks. I had been directed to that site by a shopping bot. Wal-Mart.com had the best price by far for the gift that I wanted to buy.

Over the months, my thinking has solidified. I can see how I was tempted by the prices at Wal-Mart. Who doesn't want to get a deal? Who wants to spend more of the little cash that we have that we need too? But Wal-Mart has cheap prices and cheap merchandise because it has cheap labor. When we just shop by price we benefit in the short term, but hurt ourselves in the long term. With the Wal-Marts of the world in mind on this Labor Day I quote below the entire text of an editorial by Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect.
Labor Lost
In Wal-Mart's America, worker rights are not a priority.

By Harold Meyerson

If you had to pick a time and a place where the 20th century (as a distinct historical epoch) began in America, you could do a lot worse than 90 years ago in Highland Park, Mich. It was there, in 1913, that Henry Ford opened his new Model-T plant and announced, a few months later, that he'd pay his workers a stunning $5 a day on the revolutionary theory that the men who built cars should make enough money to buy them.

Within a couple of decades, it wasn't just cars that the men on the assembly line could afford. Particularly after the United Auto Workers burst on the scene in the mid-'30s to win successively larger wage settlements for its members, Detroit became the American metropolis with the highest rate of home ownership during the first half of the century. In the post-World War II period, that distinction shifted to Los Angeles, where vast housing tracts sprang up around the unionized aerospace factories that were then the city's largest employers.

So in honor of yet another Labor Day, here's a depressing question: Where are the housing booms for the current generation of working-class Americans? Not around factories, that's for sure: We close factories in America today. In the past four years, the United States has lost nearly one in nine manufacturing jobs, including 20 percent in durable-goods industries such as autos.

You won't find any housing development radiating outward from the center of the new service and retail economy, either. Ford and General Motors are yesterday's news; the employer that now sets the standards for working-class America is Wal-Mart. The nation's largest employer, with 3,200 outlets in the United States and sales revenue of $245 billion last year (which, if Wal-Mart were a nation, would rank it between Belgium and Sweden as the world's 19th largest economy) doesn't pay its workers -- excuse me, "associates" -- enough to buy decent cars, let alone homes. According to a study by Forbes, Wal-Mart employees earn an average hourly wage of $7.50 and, annually, a princely $18,000.

Just as Ford, GM and the UAW once drove up wages for workers who were nowhere near auto factories, so Wal-Mart drives down wages for workers who never set foot there. Controlling as it does so much of the low-end retail market, Wal-Mart has, with great success, pressured suppliers to cut their labor costs. No other American company has done as much to destroy what's left of the U.S. clothing and textile industry or been so loyal a friend to the dankest sweatshops of the developing world. And unless American unions can find the political leverage to block Wal-Mart's expansion into non-southern metropolitan areas, the company poses a huge threat to the million or so unionized clerks who work at the nation's major supermarket chains.

It may just be me, but I don't recall the moment when the American people proclaimed their preference for an economy driven by Wal-Mart to the one driven by General Motors. It is, after all, one thing to live in a nation where the largest employer wants workers to make enough to afford its cars; quite another to wake up in an America where the largest employer wants workers to make so little they'll be compelled to buy low-end goods in a discount chain. Indeed, polling has consistently showed that a clear majority of the American people have been dubious about the benefits of free trade -- but these are the only polls that the political elite, so poll-driven on other questions, has consistently ignored. By the same token, polling also shows that Americans believe workers should have the right to join unions free of intimidation, yet that has not been the case in the American workplace for at least the past three decades.

Prodded by a labor movement that's grown smarter, if not more powerful, since John Sweeney took the helm at the AFL-CIO eight years ago, the Democrats have finally started to move on these questions. Most of their presidential candidates now say that labor and environmental standards and worker rights have to be an integral part of any future trade agreements, and that labor law must be reformed so that workers can again join unions without fear of being fired.

The relation of union power to mass prosperity is, in a word, causal. Anyone who doubts that should go to the only American city today where there's a boom in housing construction for the working class: Las Vegas. The MGM-Grand, the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace are the Ford and GM there, and a quite brilliant hotel workers union, which has won the right to represent the workers in all the strip hotels, is the latter-day UAW. And the desert rings with hammering and sawing as homes go up for the only low-end service-sector workers in the Wal-Mart economy who've won the living standards to sustain the American dream. The article on the American Prospect site.


Diet: Day 15
 
Weight: 168.2 pounds. Mrs. "Byrd" and I have lost the 10 pounds that we each had set as our goal. Now any other weight loss is "icing on the cake" so to speak. Today is the first day of Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet. Carbs are back! Today's breakfast was a very satisfying bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and a cup of organic strawberries. Yum.