Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

It is said that if you can fit a philosophy on a bumper sticker, it probably belongs there. True, but they also say that if you can't get a great idea down into one sentence it isn't that great. Like many things, this one is probably a bit of both. Still, if you're like me, you'll find it rewards contemplation:

Click for the bumper strip size

You say you want real change in our political culture? It really is just that simple, and just that difficult. You say it is impossible? So was America in June of 1776. And then some people sat down and wrote this.

Posted by Vanderleun May 31, 2006 8:47 PM | Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Intellectually Insane!" ®

aninsanebrain.jpgBig Brother Speaks: "Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision. Greetings gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going. I recommend you take a tranquilizer and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary." -- Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan Proctologist-in-Training. Hard to believe there a scads of Americans in love with this fascist, but, hey, once a bear gets hooked on garbage, there's no cure.

Big Sister Speaks: "Starting in the fall and toward the end of the year we're going to start seeing troops withdrawn from Iraq. 'My argument is, why wait?' " Given her history, we can understand why Hillary Clinton's default state is to pray for an early withdrawal, but just because her husband complied years ago is no reason to insist the America do the same.


Posted by Vanderleun May 31, 2006 8:06 AM | Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Parent Trap

One of the many compelling reasons for following James Lileks' Journal AKA The Bleat is the never-ending story of Gnat, his daughter. I always brighten up when there's a day with Gnat being retold. It lets me, in a strange way, relive long ago days with my daughter when things were, well,


Posted by Vanderleun May 18, 2006 9:17 AM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Unheard Verses of Tupelo Honey

I'M LISTENING, right now, at 12:50 here in Seattle to an ourstanding version of "Tupelo Honey" sung by Van Morrison. I mean the seven minute cut, and I'm loving it.

That's one of the true pleasures of holding thousands of songs in your iTunes library. You forget what


Posted by Vanderleun May 18, 2006 12:50 AM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Sheetrock the Cockpit

Making Aircraft Security Screening A Thing of the Past
by Tom Parker *

THERE'S SOME GALLOWS humor often quoted by airline pilots as cockpits become more sophisticated and navigation procedures become increasing automated. It goes something like this: The newest airliners won't need copilots or navigators at all. Instead, the cockpit will have room for just one pilot and a dog. The pilot will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to bite the pilot if he touches anything.


Posted by Vanderleun May 13, 2006 12:19 AM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Demo-Demento-Depression ® : Just Say "Medicate!"

AS DIFFICULT AS IT IS TO IDENTIFY with the hamstrung, sold-out, and Gobstoppered Republicans currently dissipating electoral power in Washington, it must be much more difficult to be a classic Democrat these days. On some level it has simply got to literally make you sick.

The Democrat Disease has many manifestations but now most often presents as "Semantic Dementia " -- progressive and with no known cure. No telethon long enough and no condom thick enough. And as


Posted by Vanderleun May 12, 2006 9:31 PM | Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Mother at 90

momasyounggirl2.jpg   momnow.jpg
Lois Lucille McNair Van der Leun -- then and now

HER EARLIEST MEMORY is being held on the shoulders of her father, watching the men who lived through the First World War parade down the main street of Fargo, North Dakota. She would have been just four years old then. Now she's 90 years old and she comes to her birthday party wearing a chic black and white silk dress, shiny black shoes with three inch heels, and a six foot long purple boa. She's threatening to sing Kurt Weill's 'The Saga of Jenny" and dance on the table one more time.

She'll sing the Kurt Weill song, but we draw the line at her dancing on the table. Other than that, it is pretty much her night, and she gets to call the shots. Which is what you get when you reach 90 and are still managing to make it out to the tennis courts three to four times a week. "If it wasn't for my knees I'd still have a good backcourt game, but now I pretty much like to play up at the net."


Posted by Vanderleun May 10, 2006 8:31 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Go-Bag: "What does one wear to a truly stunning natural disaster?"

[Tornadoes in Kansas make me think of earthquakes in California. Others think "disaster preparedness." And talk about the kits we all should have -- the "go bags." I thought about this a couple of years back. Here's how I put it together then. There are some things that should not be "left behind."]


And then
something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!

We looked!
-- The Cat in the Hat

ABOUT QUARTER TO NINE this serene Sunday morning, as I was sitting down and wondering what to write about, the house bumped me. One BUMP with the sound of "Thump!" as if a giant's fist had given the floor a little love tap. And then... nothing. No rattle of plates and shuddering of books in the shelves. No rising hiss of gas lines pulled open. None of the sounds of panicked birds. Just one BUMP with a thump and then everything goes back to "Condition California Normal."

Everything except me.

When you've recently had a number of homes 400 yards from you just wake up one morning and decided to take a slide down their hill, you tend to become just a wee bit oversensitive to your environment. That solid BUMP had me out of my chair and moving toward the front door with dedication. Once second, I'm sitting. Next second, I'm standing in the middle of the intersection looking up and down the streets. I'm
paying special attention as to whether or not I can see any tall trees swaying on this windless morning. Nope. Nothing. But the birds agreed with me since they had, for once, shut up.

I also found myself standing in the intersection in my pajamas with bare feet. A neighbor dressed in a robe and boxer shorts came out on his third-floor balcony, wallet and keys in his hand.

"You feel that?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah. I see you did too."

"Maybe," I said, "we should get dressed."

A new Lexus came up the steep hill behind me heading for the road down from the summit. It stopped for a moment. An old couple was inside. He was driving. She looked resigned and was holding a irritated looking cat.

"You feel that?" he asked.

"Am I standing in the middle of the street in my PJs?"

"We're going downtown and then out to the valley for the day. Can't be too careful."

"Well, that's true enough. Just don't linger on the canyon road. You got rock slide zones on both sides."

"We're not going through the canyon. We're going up to Newport along the coast."

"Well, get through those parts that run along the cliffs quickly."

"You got that right. Anyway, I've got water, food, and shovels in the trunk. You can't be too careful. These days you can't be too careful."

His wife was beginning to roll her eyes and their cat continued to squirm.

"Or too prepared," I said with a slight edge of sarcasm in my voice.

"No, you can't," he said, and gunned the shiny tan Lexus up the hill and out of sight. They were pretty old and frail. I hoped that, if anything happened, they'd be able to get out of their car and to the shovels and water in the trunk.

I looked up at my neighbor on his balcony high above the street and thought about the ten or fifteen seconds it would take to fall on top of me if we had another more serious BUMP, which was due in Southern California.... oh, just about any day now.

My neighbor shrugged. "What you gonna do?" he said in the manner of those who, faced with their continuing powerlessness, have nothing at all to say.

"I don't know about you," I answered, "but I'm getting dressed."

"There's a thought."

I went back inside and got dressed thinking, "Now what does one wear to a truly stunning natural disaster?" This thought revealed to me that I had not a smidgen of an idea about what to wear or what to do at all. Not a single brain cell in my over-furnished brain had been tasked with determining how to survive the most likely disaster in my little world.

Like millions of others on this shaky slab of the planet, I just woke up every day, took a breath, had some coffee and ran my "I'm okay and I'm okay" tape in the background and got on with "havin' a good one." Like millions of others in this state which is, like all states, just a state of mind, I "had the experience but missed the meaning." Like millions of others, I had -- in my heart -- scoffed at the old man in the Lexus who had, probably for the hundredth time, pushed to wife and the cat into the car and driven to the valley with his various survival supplies rattling in the trunk. Unlike millions of others, I stood in my bedroom and, not for the first time, realized that I was an unreconstructed fool. Worse still, I was a fool that laughed at the wise. Worse yet, I had no plan for a disaster that was not an if, but a when; a bad day that only lacked a date certain.

I had no plan even though I'd seen, at first hand, the man-made disaster of 9/11 kill thousands in seconds and render a great city helpless and floundering for weeks and months after. But then I thought, as my neighbor said, "What you gonna do?"

Which was when I remembered Mandel's car.

Tom Mandel was the first good friend that I made during the stone age of online communications in the 1980s. He was my first 'cyberbuddy' in the days before we had such a wet word for it. I met him through the Well conferences (about which the less said the better these days), and he grew to be a real friend in the real world. We even co-authored a book together. He was a good, complex, secretive, and brilliant man. And he died young of a bad disease.

Tom had lived in Palo Alto and been alive during the Loma Prieta earthquake that hit the Bay Area on October 17, 1989. Nothing much happened to him or his home on that day, but people driving in the wrong section of Cypress structure on the Nimitz freeway were not so lucky. Large portions of this concrete overpass pancaked down and reduced a number of cars and 42 of their occupants to flattened slabs of metal. bone and flesh. Others, somewhat luckier, were trapped in their crushed cars until rescue.

After Tom died, his widow -- a woman he loved and married in his final weeks -- was going through various things and came to his car. He hadn't used it for some months. When she began to clean it out she noticed first that the front seats had been rigged so that they could flatten backwards. Then she noticed that the back seat had been rigged so it would pop out easily enabling you to crawl into the trunk. Opening the trunk she found blankets, a number of military issue MREs, containers of water, a folding shovel, a long crow bar, two hundred feet of rope with knots tied in it every two feet, and three small but powerful hydraulic jacks. It would seem that, although he was not a man given to planning the future, Tom was at least prepared for being trapped in a collapsed structure after an earthquake. He could have gotten out of that one. It was the cancer that he couldn't escape, but in the end there's always something for each of us that we can't escape.

Then there are those that we can. If we plan.

Experienced sailors, having seen the lethal caprice of the sea and survived it, have a habit of packing a "Go-Bag." People who advise about emergencies also advise you to have one. These bags are supposed to contain all sorts of items handy in a survival situation: radios, batteries, flashlights, first-aid kits, ropes, knives, and so on. All the items deemed necessary to get by and keep going if the world around you is, suddenly, transformed to one state or another of, well, rubble.

I can understand, finally, the wisdom of that and, after this morning's BUMP, I've finally gotten the message clearly enough to begin to assemble my own Go-Bag along with a few other items in the trunk of my car. I don't know if I'm going to go as far as the hydraulic jacks, but the folding shovel and the blanket seem to be a good bet.

In order to do my Go-Bag right, I've made a list of all the practical things I'll need to assemble or buy, with an eye towards practicality and portability. But as I look at it now, I can see there are some essential things that I'll need for survival that I've left out. If you've ever made such a survival list, I'll bet you've left out some of the same things. None of the sites or agencies that talk about Go-Bags include them either. I'm going back in to add them even if it means I have to throw some 'sensible' things out. The new additions include:

A collection of photographs of my daughter in a small album. It stops at age 11.
A card she once made for me for a long-ago father's day.
Pictures of my wife and stepson.
A long letter of advice from my father that he wrote to me when I was too young to know how valuable it was.
A photograph of myself and my two brothers in our Sunday School best posing with my mom and dad on some long ago summer afternoon.
A sheet of paper with a hand-written haiku made for me by my first love.
A slim King James Bible owned and bearing the initials of my paternal Grandfather, that old reprobate.
A page from a notebook containing idle doodles and a few self-portraits of my daughter that she did, off hand, while being bored at my apartment in New York five years back.
Tom Mandel's Marine dog-tags.
A small oval tin given to me by my wife Sheryl containing a very small picture of her and two silver hearts that make a soft rattling sound when you shake it.

That's the list and I've now got them all in a small, sealed canvas bag next to my front door. I'll buy the "important" survival supplies this afternoon at the mall, but for right now I think I can say that the BUMP made me jump enough to survive. My real Go-Bag is full and I think, at last, that I'm finally good to go.

Posted by Vanderleun May 7, 2006 11:22 AM | Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Do not keep this message.

ONE OF MY HARD AND FAST RULES is to never, but never, pass along chain-letters.


Posted by Vanderleun May 7, 2006 10:42 AM | Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
World War III: "The Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth"

BUSH STATES WHAT HAS BEEN OBVIOUS FOR OVER FOUR YEARS ( Bush says fight against terror is 'World War III' ) and the ripping sound of twisting knickers and busted bodices echos across the blogosphere.


Posted by Vanderleun May 6, 2006 8:18 PM | Comments (17)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The [Linknotated] Law of the Blogger


Posted by Vanderleun May 5, 2006 12:15 PM | Comments (23)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Heat of Hot Air


I WOULD LIKE TO GO ON RECORD as asserting that I only watch Michelle Malkin's new videoblog Hot Air for the content. And I say that as a man who was an editor of Penthouse for decades.

Posted by Vanderleun May 5, 2006 10:00 AM | Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Not asking the right people

Third-rate pornstar 'Belladonna' in a touching journal entry on being bodycast for an inflatable love doll: -- "Did you know a lot of people did not want to shoot me in the beginning because of my looks, tattoos and what not? I used to feel like I had to prove myself to people and show them how great of a performer I could be." enterbelladonna (NSFA)

Donna, we knew Ron Jeremy and you are no Ron Jeremy.

Posted by Vanderleun May 4, 2006 12:52 PM | Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In Digg Nation - The Number Game


Digg fall down and go boom.

It was the number that launched 24,552 31,523 Diggs -- most of those Diggs were directed at Digg itself. It was also a number that launched thousands of copies of itself across the Internet. What is this number? It's a secret... or rather was a secret. It is also a "copyrighted" number that has now been "copylefted" or "copylifted" depending on your point of view. It is a number that unlocks copy protection on HD-DVDs. To the movie industry it is a number worth untold millions of dollars if people don't know it, and one that could cost the industry untold millions of dollars if people do know it. Which they do. Now. In the millions.

Google probably won't tell you the number. They've received a "cease and desist" order from the owners of the number. But Digg can tell you even though for a bit yesterday they decided they couldn't and began to delete every page and posting on Digg that contained the number. That was the policy then:

"We've been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention."

But live by the users, die by the users. Digg, a site whose content is created by over a million users, quickly became the focus of the Digg users who believe, in the core of their being, that "Information wants to be free." They instantly reacted to the "policy" by flooding Digg with thousands of postings containing the number, together with cross-postings to blogs and forums by thousands. Flowing right behind this first wave was a tsunami of rage directed at Digg itself. By the mornings light, Digg founders had "heard the users" and changed course 180 degrees. In a pure Hail Mary play they decided to go all in on the side of the users:

"We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code," according to the posting. "...You've made it clear. You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."

Digg may indeed die from this decision since the large media companies like to make examples of people and companies that thwart their will -- although it usually doesn't involve companies that can ship bits by the tanker load like Digg and the online behemoth Google. Still, once the lawyers start their billing clocks the only limit is the depth of pockets on all sides of the argument. Digg seems to feel that it has to placate the users who "made it clear."

But just who is the you that "has made it clear?" Charles Johnson calls it bowing to the mob, " a virtual lynch mob," and he has reason to know about the Digg mob. Allah at Hot Air pronounced it a riot as in "laff riot." The action has created one of the largest Blogpiles even seen on Techmeme as hundreds of blogs weighed in. Other sites and voices call what happened "an example of 21st century digital revolt." But is it?

Not at all. One of the constants of the Internet since the Stone Ages when hypertext standards were but a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee eye, is the conflict between the "Information wants to be free" crowd and the "Yes, but people need to get paid" set has been a staple on the Net. (Think "Discussions about what 'fair use' really means.")

Both then and now the nature of the living Web is that everything scrolls off. Because of this, everything is repeated.

An Internet Stone Age parallel to today's "sekrit" number kerfuffle was first seen on a massive scale in the "Scientology versus the Internet" Usenet wars of the early 1990s. In this long running flare up, the publication of "secret internal documents of the 'Church' of Scientology" were promulgated across the internet via the Usenet group alt.religion.scientology by one Dennis Erlich, a disaffected one-time high ranking member of Scientology.

Because the posting of these documents placed Scientology in an unfavorable light and revealed "trade secrets," the group moved to expunge the both documents and the newsgroup. Scientology used a host of methods, legal and spam based, to try and stop these documents from being available at all. But the ubergeeks of the newsgroups answered them with mirror sites, document files held on servers in foreign countries, and a "make my day" attitude. The result was that many millions more people grabbed and read the documents exposing the "secrets" of Scientology than ever would have if Scientology has just let sleeping newsgroups be.

Today's "sekrit number" case is a close parallel. You may not care about defeating a copy-protection scheme on your HD-DVD. You may not even know how to begin. But if somebody tells you a number is a closely guarded secret that is now being widely told, you might just be curious enough to look and save a copy of the number to your hard drive. Just in case.

What is that number again? We forget, but you can find out if you really want to Digg it.

[Pssst.... Be careful with that click. It leads to a Digg post with over 1,300 comments and could take a looooooooong time to load.]

Posted by Vanderleun May 3, 2006 1:49 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"This is What Democracy Looks Like"

Images and notes from the Seattle Immigration demonstration, May 1, 2006


Posted by Vanderleun May 2, 2006 12:33 PM | Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Seattle Swarms

FIRST THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE STREET, then there was everyone, then there was nobody there again....


Posted by Vanderleun May 2, 2006 8:52 AM | Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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