Sunday, August 20, 2006

Stupid postal paranoia

If the post office isn't stupid enough, my experience Sunday tops it all.
I tried to mail a package on Sunday to a friend in Arizona. At the nearest post office in Plano, Texas, there is one of those automated postage machines, where you can weight and print the postage. You sjip those 20-minute waits in line and can be on your way ASAP.
But, lo and behold, on Sundays, you cannot MAIL the package because the slots are locked to the public. Seems as if they want you to mail it in person so they can see it mailed in person. And that doesn't happen until Monday.
It took two visits to discover that since the firswt post office didn't have the requisite sign to inform the public ... must have gotten lost in the mail.
Of course, on Monday, I can use the same machine, avoid the long lines and drop it in the same slot.
And on Sunday, no one touches the packages untl Monday so what's the problem?
It's just more of these stupid asshole uber-security scare tactics that has everyone paranoid. And our government agencies buy into it wholeheartedly.
Damn these bureaucrats and those who have put this nation into this mindset. We must stop surrendering our liberties and lifstyles for a false sense of security. It doesn't exist.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bush mis'judges' Middle East conflict outcome

Poor President Bush! In 2009, when he “retires” (hopefully) from politics, he will NOT have a career as a guest judge on “American Idol.” From comments made Monday, he has no idea who is a winner and who is a loser.
He probably thinks that people like Clay Aiken or that gray-haired guy actually have … talent! How sad!
This is based on his comments that with the cease-fire implemented, and holding as strong as a bandage on wet skin, that Hezbollah should be declared the loser of this skirmish.
Excuse me, but what war has HE been watching? The Iraq war? If “losing” means you’ve taken your sworn enemy’s best military shot, enhanced your political standing among formerly unfriendly neighbors and emerged as the so-called “champion” of disenfranchised Palestinians and Arabs, then, sure, you lost!
Hezbollah proved to be a much tough, much more resilient combatant than Israel, or anyone in the U.S. State Department (which seemingly continues to live in a Bizarro-like world of reality in the Middle East) realized. It matters little that most of Lebanon is a pile of rubble; Hezbollah fighters emerged triumphant from that shambles (unfortunately for the rest of the world). If an election was held today in Lebanon, anyone want to guess who would win???
But there was President Bush, giving his David Hasselhoff analysis, on military talent.
If you want a Hollywood analogy, go back to “Rocky I.” Rocky Balboa merely wanted to prove himself in the ring; not necessarily do the impossible (actually winning the fight). Going the distance, something no one else had done with Apollo Creed, would be victory in itself.
Israel might have inflicted great damage on Hezbollah’s stronghold and the inhabiting nation. Many fighters might have died and there could be a cease-fire that will hold. We should all be so lucky.
But I am guessing Hezbollah will need extra helpers to handle the increasing amount of volunteers to its cause. For the first time, someone stood up to Israel (yes, it had the overwhelming help of Iran and Syria) and lived to tell the tale.
It was a massive miscalculation by the Israeli hierarchy, which cannot afford that many misjudgments, and its American backers. The world des not need more Hezbollah recruits; it needs peace and security which was NOT advanced by this conflict.
Perhaps we should send Clay Aiken to the front line. A few bars and everyone will surrender … unconditionally.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

For all you foodies!

The perfect food or dining experience is one that combines all the necessary elements – regardless of price or location.
You need a perfectly cooked entrée and sides, served with courtesy and timeliness, in a relaxed atmosphere where people sincerely appreciated your business and act accordingly. In the end, you feel satisfied with the food and believe every penny (and every moment) you spent was well worth it.
I can happen in a major metropolitan area or at a country roadhouse in rural America. The meal can cost $100 per person or $9.95. You can be in and out in five minutes or two hours. It all comes down to total satisfaction.
As a frequent diner, I would sincerely recommend the following places from our various excursions:
Blue Ginger, celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s superb establishment in Wellesley, Mass.
Café du Monde, the undying symbol of New Orleans.
Corky’s, Memphis, Tenn., second best barbecue ever!
Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans’ best setting to eat and the best buffet, which is an injustice to the superb food.
Don’s Drive-In, Traverse City, Mich., an excellent hamburger and the best cherry milk shakes from the Cherry Capitol of the World.
Joe T. Garcia’s, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth that only serves fajitas or enchiladas. That’s it … but that’s enough.
John’s Grill, on Ellis Street in San Francisco, and having the real Maltese Falcon in house only adds to the legend.
Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas, the best barbecue ever, EVER and no chicken!
La Fogata, South Texas Tex-Mex food at its best in San Antonio.
Lark’s, Ashland, Ore., located in an historic hotel in a small southern Oregon city, a complete surprise in an area not as well-known but should be.
Lombardi’s, the place in New York City’s Little Italy where pizza was invented. Period.
Peterson’s Ice Cream Company, Oak Park, Ill., with great homemade ice cream and great sandwiches in an old-time soda fountain setting (and it works!).
Ranchman’s Café, in tiny Ponder, Texas (north of Fort Worth), serving THE most perfect chicken fried steak in all the land.
The Parthenon, a great Greek restaurant in Chicago.
The Boiling Pot, a little hole in the wall Cajun place in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Fulton, serving the freshest seafood literally ON your table.
The City Tavern Restaurant, in downtown Philadelphia, like stepping back into history.
The Crab House, on Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, also in San Francisco, and after eating the broiled crab there, we can’t eat crab anywhere else.
Zingerman’s, a great delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich., even if it wasn’t there while I was a UM student.
Special mention to the California fast food chain, In-and-Out, which makes the best damn hamburger of its kind I've ever tasted. Wish they all were like this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Now I’m 54

“Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I’m 64.”

– Sir Paul McCartney, 1967
When the “cute” Beatle inched one step closer to Social Security earlier this year, much was made of the lyrics he penned for the 1967 seminal album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Sir Paul actually wrote that ditty years before and waited until the right moment for musical inclusion.
Do you think, in the mid-1960s, that McCartney actually gave serious thought to what he’d be doing in 2006? At the ripe OLD age of 64?
Do you think he knew that he would be worth billions, that he’d be getting divorced from his second (much younger) wife, worrying about a toddler he fathered with her, coming off yet another grueling tour of North America and facing the loss of almost a third of his net worth? Do you think he knew that two of his best friends would be dead well before their time and that he’d see men walk on the moon, people communicate on the phone from around the globe without a cord to connect or that commercial air travel could be conducted at supersonic speed?
Maybe; maybe not. It’s hard to say what kind of future he envisioned as he emerged from his teenage years. If he were like me, he would never have thought of any of those things.
Sir Paul turned 64 and today, I turn 54. Spare the black balloons, send the wait staff back to the kitchen (no singing at the table) and put away those candles. I don’t have the lung capacity to extinguish them with a single breath and, if ignited, they could activate all the smoke detectors in the joint. Anyhow, the cake would have to be sugar (hence, taste) free and that just isn’t right.
When I emerge from Women’s Hospital in Detroit, Mich. some 54 years ago, I just never thought I’d see this day; I had no concept of what 54 “years” meant in real time. Who does? Growing up, all I wanted to do was play first base for the Detroit Tigers. What happened to me in subsequent years was never (and could never have been) forecasted by me.
When I stepped off a Greyhound bus 30 years ago in Conroe, Texas, I never thought about getting married. After all, what female would agree (willingly) to spend their life with me? I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t going to get fired from my first job. I never envisioned having children because I was taught that part 2 required part 1 to happen.
And, no, I didn’t think I would be in the newspaper business for as long as I lasted, nor did I think I would retire due to health reasons at a reasonably “early” age. Retirement was for “old” people and now, “I be one.”
Presents? Do you mean the surprise gift of a new dog that my wife has been talking about for weeks? I’ll be sure to act properly shocked, astonished and delighted – count on it. Will my children call? Only if they’re not too busy, which is unlikely, but I’ll be 85 before a birthday card arrives in the mail (sorry, e-cards do not count).
Now that I have a firm membership grasp of my AARP card, there are some things I like to see in the future. First would be … the future. That will be up to me, my horde of doctors and God, I guess.
Second, I’d like to hold my grandchildren in my lap. I’d like to teach a grandson how to play baseball like Hank Greenberg (and be the first baseman I could never achieve). I’d like to see granddaughter paint like Amanda Dunbar of Allen, Texas (whom I profiled when she was just in high school but already a talent beyond compare).
I’d like to travel America in a big, all-encompassing RV and see all the national park sites and every professional baseball stadium – without worrying about gas costs or the calendar.
I hope to cook like Emeril, or meet Emeril, in one of his restaurants (in a fully-restored New Orleans). I’d like to see politics stop being about vanquishing your opponent like Genghis Khan and learning how to make government work. I’d like to people to actually listen – and consider – other ideas. I’d like to see a man (or woman) set foot on Mars … without worrying about the cookbook, “To Serve Man.”
I want to see my beloved Detroit Tigers do more than just play well this year. A little bit IS better than nada, but I want the whole enchilada – the World Series title.
I’d like to see my old friends at least one more time, perhaps as often as each of us can arrange, and make new ones along the rest of the way. I’d like people to be treated equal in all our eyes and believe that justice is a honorable concept worth defending.
Most of all, I’d like to see 55 … and beyond.
Starting with tomorrow. The day AFTER my birthday.
“Will you still need me?
“Will you still read me?
“Now I’m 54.”

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New future for America

After the revelation about the plot by Al-Qaeda to bomb as many as 10 planes from London to the U.S., there are some new constants that Americans are going to have to accept for the foreseeable future:

1) Al-Qaeda will not quit. It does not care about anything but death.

2) It has far more support and appeal than anyone in this country wishes to acknowledge.

3) Members are not idiots; in fact, quite intelligent. They plan; they don't act recklessly.

4) Anyone and anything is a target. You cannot protect every single individual.

5) We have no idea who they are and have no idea who exactly we are fighting. A war is best fought when you can identify the enemy. The ability to remain invisible is Al-Qaeda's biggest advantage,

6) Too many governments have turned a blind eye to this menace and, in some cases, we are protecting them.

7) No one in our government appears to have a clue as to produce effective counter measures. We need to be proactive, not reactive as we seem to clumsibly be.

8) This is a parallel but separate action in any war of terror. Iraq is a side show - no one there has yet to produce the panic that happens when you stop airline traffic across the world.

9) Go after the head and see how the body follows. We haven't done that in 3-4 years. It's about time ... unless we don't have that capability anymore.

10) Talk is cheap; action is needed from Washington.