This I Believe

This is wonderful. In 1951, Edward R. Murrow asked Americans, both famous and everyday, to express their beliefs in 500 words. Every week an essay would be played on national radio, read in the author’s own voice. Now NPR, Atlantic Public Media and This I Believe, Inc. are recreating ‘This I Believe‘ both on the radio and online.

From Jay Allison’s introduction, read today on All Things Considered:

In a media climate of Hyper-reality Television and Conflict Radio, of aggressive pundits, of innuendo, harangue, and attack – we’re trying to create not more noise, but a quiet place. A place to listen. As it was fifty years ago, This I Believe will be noted not for its clamor, but for its calm. We are eager for your contribution.

Essays from the original series, including ones from Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson and Harry Truman, can be found at (redirects to the site). There you can also submit your own essays and join the discussion.

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End of the rainbow

Long as I’m posting holiday pictures I may as well catch up on St. Pattie’s day…

A couple months ago we had one of those amazing rainstorms where it’s raining pretty hard but the sun is shining at the same time. (I know, you Seattle folks won’t be impressed, but here in California the fact that it rained is already enough to make us sit up and take notice.)

Anyway, it made for a gorgeous rainbow stretched across the sky. It also caused something I’d never seen before in a “real” rainbow: the end of the rainbow was in sight, just 100 feet or so away. You can see in the picture below, where the end of the rainbow clearly occludes the houses just across the street.

Having never seen such a thing before, I did what any good Irish-heritage boy would do — I ran over and looked for gold, or at least a midget in green telling me to keep my mits off his cereal. Looks like I was too late though — at the end of the rainbow is a water-main access cover. I figure somewhere in Menlo Park is a water works repair employee with a big smile on his face.

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Happy Easter

Happy Easter all (either a week late or right on time, depending on your persuasion). I’m happy to report this year’s experiment was an unqualified success: quail’s eggs make great naturally-speckled Easter eggs, with a nice marble look to them.

And the best part is bringing them to work and having people assume they’re chocolate since they’re the wrong size to be real eggs.

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Top 3-digit numbers in LJ usernames

By way of Cemom and Jofish22 and Researcher2, the 11 most frequent 3-digit numbers in LiveJournal usernames are:

Digits Occurences (Probable) Meaning
666 6053 Number of the Beast
101 3762 Intro class (or Orwell/Matrix reference, or maybe oral sex)
420 3559 Pot-smoking reference
123 3325 And I’m working on getting to 4!
007 2473 Bond. James Bond.
182 2452 Probably Blink 182
143 1880 I Love You (1-4-3, get it?)
777 1452 Number of God (or perhaps global read/write/execute permission in Unix)
311 1121 Band name
911 1026 Emergency, and of course 9/11
247 1006 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

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Amsterdam Red-Light District

During the day the Red-Light district is mostly downtown shopping with cute fashion shops, Chinese restaurants and British sports pubs. OK, and hash bars and prostitution, but the vibe is still downtown shopping district. Come dusk every few blocks you’ll hear a quiet whistle, and if you turned your head someone would offer to sell you coke or X (low quality, according to my tourist guidebook). The prostitutes were all out behind their windows, preening under red neon in bikinis or lingerie and looking rather bored.

Going down a side alley (I know, never go down the side alleys…) I ran into a very friendly gentleman who wanted to pick my pocket. We chatted for a while, him asking questions like “have you taken any pictures of your trip,” and patting his pocket, as if to say “now you pat the pocket where your camera is!” I never gave him a lead and kept to the touristed streets, glad that I’d zipped everything in my inside jacket pocket. Eventually he asked if I smoked pot and I when I told him I didn’t we parted ways, and I went to the Hash Museum.

(No pictures — even during the day I didn’t want to take my camera out.)

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Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum

Eagle Bill and Me

The Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum was far more interesting than I expected, even after getting past my initial American surprise of seeing the potted marijuana plant that adornes the sidewalk entrance to this place. Their small establishment is full of the history of the use of the hemp plant as both textile and drug, plus a great collection of ’30s & ’40s anti-marijuana propaganda.

The best part was getting to meet Eagle Bill, a self-described “half biker, half hippie” and former canabis breeder and smuggler from the US. It’s hard not to like Bill from the get-go — he’s got an infectious smile and the same love and passion for his drug of choice that you see in wine growers and conesuirs up in the Napa Valley. He was demonstrating his vaporizor system for inhalation of smokeless, pure THC vapor. It’s safer than smoking, obviously, but what surprised me is his claim that with vapors you get high (giddy, euphoric) but not stoned (zoned out). I’ve never done pot myself so this may be common knowledge in other circles, but when smoking he claims some breeds, like Indica, will get you stoned while others, like Sativa, would get you high. With the vaporizor you just get high. That makes sense if the vapor really is just pure TCH (the breed shouldn’t make a difference then except amount of vapor produced) but it makes me wonder what the extra chemicals are in the smoke that makes one stoned instead of high.

Another interesting comment by Bill — his main complaint about today’s pot is that it’s too strong. Back when he started smoking it was about 4% THC, now the stuff you buy on the street is about 18%. It’s still the same chemical (I assume, though see above), but now one joint is like smoking four old-fashioned ones in the same time period. Reminds me of the bathtub gin of the Prohibition era — when you’re risking getting busted, you don’t bother making a nice 4% alcohol Merlot.

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Amsterdam Day 1

Amsterdam Canal

[still clearing my backlog — this is from about a week ago…]

Amsterdam is gorgeous. Take a cross between Boston & San Francisco, remove the hills & homeless and replace them with a canal every 2 blocks and you’ve pretty much got Amsterdam. The canal district is Becon Hill, the Red-Light District is a cross between Haight-Ashbury & the Combat Zone (only with more overt illigal-drug sellers on the street and the prostitutes solicit from inside heated rooms), and in this alternate universe Critical Mass won the war.

It’s very much my kind of town.

I happened to arrive the day of their 5th annual Museum Night, where 39 museums are open from 7pm-2am all for one price, with special events at each and free water-ferry & trams between them. I must’ve hit 7 museums, the highlights being the black-gospel choir at the Bible Museum, blacklight-painting exhibit at Rembrandhuis and the lit-up Botanical Museum. For continuity sake, I ended the night at the NEMO science museum to check out their Smart Fashion exhibit.

Update: pictures are now up!

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More on Red vs. Blue

Kevin Drum’s latest comment on Tom Wolfe) rings very true for me:

In other words, they [Red-State folk] disagree with us, but not so much that they can’t be brought around or persuaded to vote for us based on other issues. Too often, though, a visceral loathing of being lectured at by city folks wins out and they end up marking their ballots for people like George Bush.

I think that’s spot-on — and it works both ways too. My step-dad and I are a great example I think (hi Frank!) — we get along great and pretty much share the same core values when it comes to life, but go completely loggerheads when it comes to arguing politics. My sense (and he’s welcome to correct me here) is the thing that sets him arguing most is any argument that smacks of intellectual/long-haired-hippie/lecturing elitism — almost regardless of the policy in question. I’m on the other side of that equation — I claim to hate Bush because of his incompetence and policy (and to some extent I do), but what really gets my teeth on edge about him is the anti-intellectualism he sides with and stands for. That more than anything is what drives me, a third-party-voting fiscal conservative who thought Iraq was a threat that needed to be dealt with, further and further taking the position of the Left.

Don’t think for a minute that the pundits of both sides aren’t doing this to us on purpose…

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