Saturday, December 08, 2007

Last ten years of Silicon Valley now immortalized

I just watched "Here Comes another Bubble" a satirical video posted on YouTube, produced by The Richter Scales, a San Francisco Bay Area a capella group.

This absolutely captures Silicon Valley perfectly and is absolutely the best thing I have seen on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rest in Peace: Moliere Auerbach 1997 - 2007

On Thursday, November 1, 2007, we had to make a terrible decision. As Dr. Janet Brennan, our veterinarian said: "It is the most difficult choice for you, but the best choice for your pet".

Moliere Auerbach, our beloved cat, had renal failure beyond hope.

I keep my mind focussed on what a great cat he was.
He was both prey and predator. As prey he successfully avoided the
coyotes, mountain lions, and the traffic in front of our house that
had gotten many of his predecessors. As a predator he was awesome.
He came home every night with a mouse. He tolerated his pesky little
brother. He never asked for much. He had a great life. We have
never had a cat get old enough to die of natural causes before. We
were good parents.

Karl and I conducted our own private funeral service. Moliere is buried on top of a little cliff in our back yard where he often perched to scout out unsuspecting mice. We recited Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar". It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for hunting, so it all seemed right.

Rest in Peace, Moliere. We loved you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mrs. Magoo Goes Touring in Her New BMW X3

Mrs. Magoo needed a new car. She needed a car for hauling computers to tradeshows, for taking customers to lunch, and for the occasional ski trip. She looked at lots of cars. The Prius was too small. The Ford Escape and the Honda CRX had too hard of a ride (like a truck), the Toyota Highlander was absurdly expensive for what you got, the Lexus RX350 was too "girly".

What car should she get? Nothing seemed to fit.

Finally she decided on the BMW X3. Why? Because Mrs. Magoo really likes Cliff Gaston at BMW of Monterey. A few years back, Cliff helped Mr. Magoo lease his BMW 325ci and Mr. Magoo loves driving about in his midnight blue convertible.

Cliff is a straight shooter. He is helpful, knowledgeable, and could answer all of the Magoo's questions. Cliff knows the competition. Cliff also knows how to navigate through all the paperwork for lease deals. Cliff knows how to get the right accessories. Cliff is perfect. Cliff makes getting a new car a fun, smooth, and easy experience.

So Mrs. Magoo got a new BMW X3 from Cliff Gaston.

Then, Mr. and Mrs. Magoo drove the X3 from Santa Cruz to Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierras.

First thing they noticed was the sun roof. The sun roof on the X3 is huge! Push a button and most of the top of the car slides backwards. Mrs. Magoo thought it was better than Mr. Magoo's convertible because the air wasn't whipping her hair in her face and messing up her makeup and lipstick. Mr. Magoo rolled his eyes and said it was hardly the same as his 325ci.

But then, Mrs. Magoo noticed that with Mr. Magoo in the front seat, she had to put her purse in the back. Not good! Mrs. Magoo used to drive a Dodge Caravan with floor space between the two front seats which made it very handy to put her purse there.

Then, sometimes if Mrs. Magoo had a lot of stuff in her purse and she put it on the passenger seat, the seat belt alarm went off! The X3 cannot tell the difference between a passenger and a purse. Sigh. Maybe German women do not carry purses?

By now it was getting dark on the way to Mammoth Mountain, and the next thing Mrs. Magoo noticed were the headlights. Oh my goodness, with the BMW headlights it was practically day time, and when she drove around the tight corners on the mountain pass, there was a kind of side light off the front fender that lit up the curve for better visibility. This was very nice because Mrs. Magoo does not have the best night vision. She loses her depth perception and everything gets kind of flat which is fairly dangerous. Thankfully the X3 has eliminated a lot of that danger.

Now the Magoos decided it would be nice to have some music. Mr. Magoo plugged in the iPod attachment and pushed the buttons. Strangely, the iPod attachment is behind the driver's seat, so after plugging in the cord, the only place to put the iPod is on the console between the front seats. This is very strange. It would be much more convenient to plug in the iPod from the glove compartment. But anyway, soon they were listening to Allison Krause.

Since Mrs. Magoo has "no sense of direction" as Mr. Magoo frequently points out, Mr. Magoo insisted that Mrs. Magoo's X3 have the navigation system.

Mrs. Magoo loves the nav system and the polite female voice telling her things like "in 600 feet turn left". Mrs. Magoo is a Very Important Person with a Lot on Her Mind, so she tends to miss exits and turns because she cannot be bothered with details. Now the polite female in the X3 gently reminds Mrs. Magoo about what to do next.

With Allison Krause singing, and the cold night hair coming in from the roof, and the beautiful stars in the night sky, the Magoos are really enjoying their ride. Suddenly a female voice screams "in 100 feet turn right". "ARRGH" both the Magoos scream and jump up two inches in their seats.

Well... ahem... it seems that there is no audio calibration between the iPod and the X3 nav system. Now how could BMW have possibly missed this? The Apple iPod folks and the BMW X3 folks have not had a "sit down" to plan how these two products should be integrated. Many very basic things are missing. For example, when listening to the radio, the BMW X3 displays the artist and the name of the song that is playing on the nav system screen. Apparently if the radio station broadcasts this information the BMW X3 can capture it and display it. The Apple iPod has the same information, but it is not displayed. Why not? Because there has been no "sit down".

Wake up Apple! Wake up BMW! Sit down and have coffee together.

Of course, the next thing that happened is Mrs. Magoo, having such a fright from the screaming voice, momentarily lost control of the car, but, in the nick of time, corrected the steering and the car was safely between the two white lines. Such a maneuver in her Dodge Caravan would surely have flipped that thing or caused it to fishtail. Although Mrs. Magoo never dreamed she would ever require the performance driving features of the X3, in this particular instance, she was glad the X3 responded so well.

After all of that, the Magoos turned off the navigation system and just listened to the iPod and Mr. Magoo decided he should drive for a while.

Mr. Magoo is a white knuckle driver with his hands on the steering wheel in an odd configuration. Instead of 10 and 2 o'clock, Mr. Magoo's hands are at 11:45 at 12:15. Mr. Magoo constantly "corrects" the steering. On other cars, such as the Dodge Caravan, if you move the steering wheel an inch to the right or an inch to the left, almost nothing happens. On the X3, however, slight changes in the steering wheel cause the car to instantly respond. Thus, if you happen to sit in the back seat with Mr. Magoo driving, you are definitely prone to vertigo and car sickness as you feel like you are being whipped all over the road.

Mrs. Magoo has looked for a button called "make the steering more sloppy" to press when Mr. Magoo is driving, but so far she has not found this.

The next day, the Magoos head out early. Early for them. At about 10 a.m. they see the sign that the Tioga Pass is closed. The Magoos walk around a bit, and then head over to the Sonora Pass. Oh this will be a long day of driving.

As Mrs. Magoo gets into the car to take over the driving, once again, the car frame hook scrapes her bottom. For some odd reason, the BMW X3 has a little hook in the frame exactly where one's bottom needs to be to get into the driver's seat. The only way to avoid it is to attempt to pivot forward from the hips when entering the car. Maybe German ladies have smaller derrieres? No. Mrs. Magoo has been to Munich and recalls viewing many ladies' bottoms more "fluffy" than her own.

Mrs. Magoo drives along the Sonora Pass pulling over frequently to admire the view. She notes a little "ding ding ding". Oh this is so delightful; the X3 gives a little warning when one is getting too close to the curb. Mrs. Magoo is quite embarrassed to admit that she has destroyed the tires on her other vehicles due to some poor judgments while parking. Now the X3 will help her with her parking challenges. Oh and another little surprise, the outside mirror on the passenger side tilts down while backing up. Something else to aid with the parking challenges. Very nice.

There are many other fine features on the X3 such as the marvelous interior bike rack that looks like a piece of fine modern sculpture from a fancy New York Art Museum. The Magoos have not used it quite yet.

All in all it was a fine motoring experience. If you would like to have one yourself, just contact Cliff Gaston.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

End Game by Samuel Beckett

I saw "End Game" by Samuel Beckett at Shakespeare Santa Cruz in August 2007. This was my second attempt at watching this play. My first attempt was ten years ago at Berkeley Rep, but my husband insisted on leaving during a break. I am glad I saw it a second time all the way through. I think I understand it now.

What tripped me up about the play was my visceral reaction, the first time, to the image of an elderly mother and father without legs, living inside garbage cans.

I was repulsed the first time.

The second time, I saw the wry humor of the situation. "End Game" in this play refers to the final stages of life. The next stage for the elderly couple was going to be death, so removing their legs and putting them in the garbage can was a humorous, and definitely undignified way, of demonstrating that they are going to die -- cut off at the legs, put out with the garbage -- life is done with them.

The elderly couple is financially supported by, and living with their blind son, Hamm, who is the unhappy protagonist of the play. Hamm abuses, manipulates and controls everyone around him, but never in a way to achieve his purpose. Hamm has a helper/aide/nurse named Clov. When Hamm's helper, Clov, leaves the room, Hamm comments to himself "I think we are getting along now." But they are not getting along because Hamm is unreasonably demanding and Clov wants to get out. Hamm asks Clov to kiss him on two or three occasions, but Clov refuses.

Hamm wants love, friendship, and compassion. Unfortunately, his behavior does not invite this response from those around him. It is a tragedy. It is the end. No one gets what they want in End Game. They all just die.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Total Immersion Improv Class - Second City Training Center - Los Angeles

Last week, I participated in a five day improvisation class in Hollywood at the Second City Training Center.

I had the time of my life.

I feel like I was just introduced to the third level of consciousness -- "improv consciousness". There is the time when you sleep, the time when you are awake, and the time you are doing improv. While doing improv, I felt hyper-awake. It was like drinking cup after cup of espresso continuously for 96 hours. Bright lights emanated out of every pore of my skin. It was definitely a feeling I have never had before.

Our instructor was the Second City Artistic Director David Razowsky. He was beyond excellent -- he was an inspirational, master guru of improv instruction. Razowsky created a safe environment. He introduced us to all the elements of narrative improv. Like most people, I thought it was a matter of spontaneously coming up with pithy one-liners and getting a laugh. I was wrong. This was all about emotionally connecting with our partner and responding to our partner. Razowsky coached us, supported us, and encouraged us. He learned all of our names and all of our strengths and weaknesses.

I got an amazing amount of individual attention and personal coaching, as did my classmates. Razowsky also followed all the principles for teaching adults -- minimize the lectures, get the students doing exercises with each other, mix it up. He also focussed on the zen of the moment. We would try something, and if it did not work, we felt it experientially, and Razowsky let it go and moved on to the next thing. So there were no scoldings, reprimands, lectures, just gentle reminders.

For the week of our Total Immersion class, I felt every human emotion deeply, strongly and intensely. It was hard to shake the feeling when class ended. I had social events to attend with my husband every night, and while I was physically present, my brain was consumed with what had happened during the day, replaying all the moments, trying new things, creating new characters. I got very little sleep -- how does one sleep when one is doing the emotional equivalent of chain-drinking espresso?

I also developed a completely new view of actors. I made an assumption that temperamental, emotional, and insecure people go into acting. Now I realize that it is the work of acting that makes them that way. They are putting everything into their performance. It is a lot to demand of them, it is a lot to expect of them, and it is personally devastating when it is not appreciated.

It is also completely exhausting.

By Thursday I was really dragging and making lots of mistakes. I had a huge number of business commitments on Thursday night and Friday. I tried, but I could not rearrange them, and I could not make it to the last day of the class and our big ensemble performance.

I was very disappointed.

BUT... I am just going to figure out how I can go back for more. I am hooked!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rupert Murdoch has ruined my life

I am sure he did not intend to ruin my life, but Rupert Murdoch has done just that. He has removed the major source of joy and happiness in my life. How did he do it? Well unfortunately he purchased Direct TV in 2003. Direct TV is my satellite television provider.

Satellite television is fantastic. The picture quality is great. Beyond that, there *WAS* a great, fabulous relationship between Tivo and Direct TV. Tivo automatically finds and digitally records your favorite tv shows, films, etc. Tivo finds and records shows by title, actor, director, genre, or keyword.

While that might not sound like much, try to imagine coming home after an extremely grueling day, to find that the Tivo has recorded a movie that you never heard of, that you never knew existed, and that, had you known about it, you would have wanted to watch.

For example, the Tivo heuristically discovers that film noir is your favorite type of film. Now, you can forget about your dreadful day and become totally and completely absorbed in watching this wonderful film noir film that the Tivo found and recorded for you. I loved this. It was the second source of joy and happiness in my life (my husband is the first). I spent many lovely and pleasurable hours watching new films, introduced to me by the Tivo, that gave me such happiness.

Rupert Murdoch took that away from me.

Shortly after taking control of Direct TV, Rupert Murdoch determined that Direct TV should retain all the profits associated with its operation. This meant that Direct TV would not license or pay royalties to Tivo. Instead Direct TV customers were required to shop at the "Company Store" and purchase new digital video recorders that were manufactured according to Direct TV specifications and controlled by Brand Murdoch.

I was forced to purchase one. It is completely awful. The user interface is so awful, it could be a textbook example of poor user interface design. The feature set is abysmal. Reliability is awful; we often have to power cycle the unit to play back movies. Of course, these new, feature-poor DVRs are little more than VCRs that record to disk instead of tape. I guess that was easy for Rupert Murdoch to understand. He has insufficient imagination to appreciate the advanced features that customers like me had so thoroughly enjoyed and utilized.

Of course, Rupert Murdoch had to have some excuse to appear to be running Direct TV in an open and fair manner. Direct TV points out that one can still use a Tivo with a Direct TV box. Let's examine that carefully.

When the satellite transmits the signal, your local satellite receiver, the Direct TV box receives the signal, decompresses the signal, and displays the signal on your television. If you are using a Tivo, the Tivo receives the decompressed satellite signal from the Direct TV box, and then recompresses the signal to store it on disk. Then when you, the viewer, want to watch the program, the Tivo has to decompress the signal to display it on your television. Thus the Tivo has to do an extra step to compress and decompress the signal. The constant decompressing and recompressing results in a reduced quality image when you view it on television.

Prior to Rupert Murdoch's unconscionable meddling, the satellite box and the Tivo functionality were integrated, this meant there was no unnecessary decompression and recompression. (previously the integrated unit recorded the satellite feed and decompressed it once for your television). Thus, prior to Rupert Murdoch, the Tivo image quality on your television was excellent.

So what does the FCC have to say about this? The FCC does not see Rupert Murdoch as a monopolist, because the FCC maintains that consumers have many choices with television. The FCC tells me that I could always obtain cable television instead of satellite, so that I have freedom of choice. Despite their absurd propaganda, cable television is inferior to satellite television in terms of image quality. Thus, in my opinion, I do not have a choice. The FCC is incorrect, and I am stuck with Rupert Murdoch's pathetic DVR.

I personally think that Rupert Murdoch has worn out his welcome, and he and his absurb trophy wife, Wendy Deng, should high tail it back to Australia and live out their lives in oblivion, something they richly deserve.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Immigration is not the Problem... it is the Solution to the Problem

My company, InterWorking Labs ( moved its corporate headquarters about three weeks ago. When we organized the move, Locatelli Movers, the best and most reliable, local moving company was not available. So we did what most small businesses do when we have a logistics/physical/operations type problem -- we contacted our general purpose contractor - handyman, Mac.

Mac said "Sure no problem." On the day of the move, Mac showed up with six guys and a truck to facilitate the move of our corporate headquarters. Mac had to leave for two hours that day due to a medical emergency and he forgot to designate one of the six muscle men to be the crew leader.

So there was a little chaos. I tried to check in from time to time, but I had a few emergencies myself. I was able to give the move my full attention during Mac's two hour absence.

I noticed that the hardest working, most cheerful, most focussed of the six men doing the move was Pedro. From his accent and appearance, Pedro is obviously from Mexico. The other five were white guys. The white guys took more breaks, had more excuses, and generally dicked around and wasted more time than Pedro.

Whether he is legal or illegal, it is clear to me that Pedro is an immigrant who is on a mission. He wants to do a job well; he wants to be recognized; he wants to get paid fair wages; he wants to achieve a lot in the United States. Pedro is the best thing that can possibly happen to a small business like mine and I also believe he is the best thing that can happen to America.

Now, I hope that Pedro is legally working in the United States. I do not know Pedro's immigration status; he is Mac's employee and not mine, and I don't know what kind of arrangement Mac has with him.

However, when Mac got back, I told Mac, in front of Pedro (and not the others), that in my opinion, Pedro was Mac's best guy by a long shot. Mac said, in front of Pedro (and not the others) that Mac knew Pedro was his best guy and he really appreciated Pedro, his work ethic and his can-do attitude. I hope that made Pedro's day and I hope that Mac gave him a bonus.

All of us need encouragement, support, and motivation. Sometimes motivation comes from competition. Immigrants are competition. They are a reminder that we have it good here and that other people in other countries are in such dire circumstances that they will risk their lives for an opportunity to get to the United States. Immigrants are grateful for an opportunity to work. These are the people that small businesses want to hire, coach, support, develop, and promote.

Native born Americans graduating in the top 25% of their college class are also highly motivated and hard working, but they want to work for major corporations. Small businesses just cannot get them. The native born Americans who are available to small businesses tend to be the young people who graduated in the bottom 25% of their college class, who have an attitude of entitlement, a poor work ethic, and high expectations. (Several years ago, we hired one of these individuals. He was fired within 60 days. We then saw his resume posted online with his stated career goal: "I want a salary of $1 million and I want to work in a laid back, casual environment.") Of course, this is a completely ridiculous statement to make to a potential employer, particularly when the individual has no track record or marketable skills. I prefer to hire someone like Pedro.

The proponents for immigration reform complain that the illegal immigrants are a burden on our social services. The illegal immigrants use social services (for example, their children attend the public schools) without paying for them through taxes, because of course, they are working illegally and not paying taxes on their income. I agree that is a problem. However, in the list of challenges confronting the United States -- the war in Iraq, the relationship with Iran and with North Korea, the problems in Israel, the global health care issues -- I would put illegal immigration at maybe #80 or #90 on the list. This means it is a problem that will never be solved.

So, assuming Pedro is illegal (and we don't really know), what do we get in return for Pedro's presence? We get competition, we get motivation, we get lazy Americans to wake up and smell the coffee. In my opinion, this is extremely important and more than compensates for having their children in the public schools. I would conservatively guess that the presence of illegal workers from Mexico in the U.S. increases Gross Domestic Product by 25 - 35%. That's huge.

I have to conclude that the Pedros of the world are not the problem; they are the solution.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Trained in the Ways of Men

The world premiere of the documentary film, "Trained in the Ways of Men", debuted at Cinquest in San Jose last week. There's a collage of interviews with the many players in our social system who are supposed to educate, support, and lead our youth to becoming fully functional, productive adults. Obviously, they all failed badly in preventing the brutal murder of Gwen Araujo, a transgendered woman. Everyone involved had an opportunity to present his/her perspective on the horrible tragedy, including Gwen's mother, the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorneys, high school counsellors, university sociologists, and so on.

I learned a lot from the documentary. I did not realize that transgendered people are so psychologically committed to their preferred sex that in their minds they are that sex even though the physical evidence suggests otherwise. So in her mind, a transgendered woman is not engaging in deceit when she flirts with a man in a bar.

I found myself wondering how many transgendered people are among us? The popuation of the U.S. is roughly 300 million. Homosexuals are estimated at 10% of that population or 30 million. So what is the number of transgendered? The film did not address this.

I also found the film very thought provoking and educational in that it addresses and explains the transgendered individual, whereas other films have treated the subject solely as an entertainment vehicle. These are films like "The Crying Game", "Boys Don't Cry", "Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert", "Transamerica", and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch".

I hope that Shelly Prevost, the director of the film, will do a little more editing, and find an appropriate commercial distribution channel. It would be a good film for high school students to learn many important lessons about sexuality and responsibility concerning sexuality.

I understand that California no longer accepts the "gay panic" defense as an excuse for murder as a result of this murder and the efforts to bring these issues to light.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One solution to software licensing issues

There is so much mis-information about software licensing, that I have figured out a way to side step at least one of the issues.

My employer, InterWorking Labs, makes a high end test suite (or tester) for testing the SNMP protocol. We call it SilverCreek, the official SNMP Test Suite (see

Often what happens when you license software is that the prospective customer's Legal/Purchasing Departments make some assumptions. They assume that the software is going to become a component of the company's manufactured products. Thus, they want guarantees, assurances, commitments, etc. about the licensed software, because of the risk of incorporating software from a third party on 10,000 or 100,000 units per month. From their point of view, if some aspect of the software is found to be infringing on some patent, they would be subject or at risk for millions of dollars of damages for all the products they shipped. It is a very valid concern and they are quite correct in being very vigilant. It is obviously a very serious risk and they should do everything possible to prevent it.

In our case, our software is installed on a Windows, Linux, or Solaris machine and used as a piece of test equipment in the lab. It sends pathological packets (tests) to the device under test and evaluates the results as a PASS, FAIL, UNINTIATED, etc. This way our customer can find and fix bugs in the protocol implementation of their product prior to shipping their product to the general public.

Our software, SilverCreek, is NOT incorporated in the customer's manufacturered product.

All the ideas in SilverCreek, all the software we developed was our own original work so we are not worried about patent infringement. However, the Patent and Trademark Office has issued patents for some questionable inventions, so it is always possible they will inappropriately grant a patent on something that is obvious or predates the application and then there will be a problem. However, if this happened, we would find a work-around and supply that to the customer. It is a very small risk.

Nevertheless, the Legal/Purchasing Departments demand $100,000 worth of insurance and contract negotation for a matter that is less than $5,000. So what is the solution?

Package the software on cheap hardware. Then, the purchase goes through a different route within the big company. It becomes a "commodity" purchase, and it drives home the fact that SilverCreek is, essentially, a piece of test equipment.

If you step back and look at the big picture, almost everything you purchase has software in it -- cars, trucks, watches, radios, kitchen range hoods, can openers, pencil sharpeners, etc. The purchasing department does not enter into a complex negotiation regarding the software licensing issues when they buy a pencil sharpener, so why should SilverCreek be any different? The answer is package it in a piece of hardware and then it is over.

IP Lawyers in our area charge about $300 per hour, so two hours of one is the equivalent of a Dell laptop.

Just a thought.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Standing up for Tea Drinkers

Today is day 69 of our kitchen remodeling project. I won't blog about it -- that's just too suburban, middle class, and dull.

This entry is about tea.

The dust and disarray from the remodelling project have taken their toll on my emotional health, so I checked into a Bed and Breakfast. Studies show 69 days is the absolute limit for living without cleanliness and tidiness; 100% of the population cracks up on day 70. I had to get out and the B&B was a quick solution.

I stayed at the Cliff Crest Inn at 407 Cliff Street near the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. I could write about the Cliff Crest, but it would just be redundant with the entry at and how many synonyms are there for charming? Answer: not that many and they connote witchcraft which would be way off base.

I stayed in the Apricot Room, it was pleasant, quiet, citrus-smelling. I heard a few sirens in the middle of the night, but very little traffic noise.

At breakfast in the morning, I was offered fresh persimmons from the garden, but unfortunately, I never acquired a taste for them, so I declined. Then I asked for tea. I did not see a kettle of hot water and only a few tea bags labelled "Lipton" in a small basket. This is not a good sign. I became very concerned.

Before I get into the horrors and terrors of Lipton tea, I know that hostesses prefer coffee drinkers. They are the majority and coffee is easier to serve and prepare. I used to be a coffee drinker. It is part of the my cultural heritage from the super cold North of my youth. Come in from the cold to a home, an office, a store in the Northland, and you are greeted with "How about a cup of coffee?" Afterall, you need to warm up so you say, "Sure." "You betcha."

One cup of coffee changes me for the worse. The very worse. Before your very eyes, a pleasant, soft-spoken woman transforms into an attack dog leaping for your jugular. After a few incidents with these unwelcomed, coffee-induced, personality changes, I switched to tea.

Tea is an acquired taste. Teas offer bouquets, like wine. The tea plant produces a flush of a full complement of leaves on the average of every 40 days. The flush of leaves is plucked and the gathering of the flushes is called a crop. The first flush of leaves in the Spring are the most tender and best tasting tea leaves. The second flush is less tasty. At the end, the tea leaves are tough and quite bitter.

I believe Lipton tea is made from the last flush, using the toughest and most bitter leaves. So if you want to offer the worst possible tea to a discerning tea drinker, serve Lipton and demonstrate to everyone that you are leading an inauthentic life.

When Plato described the cave imagery in the Republic, this is exactly what he had in mind. Plato said that in our quest for truth and beauty we are chained like slaves only seeing the shadows on the wall at the back of the cave. The real objects are behind us, illuminated by the light from the mouth of the cave, but we are only seeing the shadows on the back wall of the cave. Mere two-dimensional reflections, the shadows are sans light, sans color. Seeing the shadows are not even close to perceiving the true nature of the objects casting them.

Lipton tea is an inauthentic, insubstantial shadow of what true tea should be.

However, I am sorry to say the situation worsened. I asked "is there any other tea?" The hostess brought me a basket containing two kinds of green tea, chamomile tea, English Breakfast tea and one other herbal tea.

Ah... green tea. Huge health benefits. Very au courant in the Western world. Hugely variable quality. I have not developed a taste for it yet.

Chamomile tea. Great if you have a stomach ache or want to calm down and go to sleep. Not the type of tea to motivate you to get up and do what needs to be done first thing in the morning.

English Breakfast Tea. This tea could only be produced by the same country that offers you a piece of bread, fried to death, in grease from last night's dinner. (I am not making this up. I was offered this for breakfast on my first trip to England and I never set foot there again.) Strong tea but obviously also made from the last flush. If "flush" and "last" makes you think of the last thing in your body and a toilet, you would be having the right associations and images for this tea.

So, what should a Bed and Breakfast offer to their tea drinking guests?

Only teas using leaves from the first and second blush and these teas:

Earl Grey
Hojicha (a roasted green tea)
Lapsang Souchong
Constant Comment (a general purpose orange pekoe)

In the herbal tea family:

Constantin, the proprietor of the Cliff Crest, asked me if I enjoyed my stay enough to return. I said yes, but, I would actually only return if they provided the teas indicated above, or, I brought my own tea.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gideon's Trumpet - beginning of the decline

I just finished reading Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis. The book is a sort of legal history of the famous Supreme Court Case, Gideon v. Wainwright. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that an indigent defendant, accused of a crime, would be appointed an attorney if he could not afford one.

The year was 1963.

Prior to this Supreme Court decision, it was up to each individual state to determine their policies and procedures for representation. In Florida, where Gideon was accused and convicted of a crime, he had to represent himself. Of course, he lost. While he was in prison, he figured out how to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided to hear his case. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that the 6th and 14th amendment were intended to mean that all defendants must be represented by counsel in order to get a fair trial.

What I found interesting about this book was the absolute joy and enthusiasm that Anthony Lewis conveyed about the wonderful workings of the U.S. Judiciary system. He relishes the idea that a poor, somewhat pathetic man, like Clarence Earl Gideon, can have his day in court. Literally. Anthony Lewis is definitely an UBER fan of the U.S. system of government. He is almost like a sales person for the American judiciary.

The copyright on the book is 1963. Authors usually finish writing a book the year before the copyright, so probably Anthony Lewis finished it in 1962. In November of 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated.

I don't think anyone has written a positive, enthusiastic book about the U.S. Government since.