Remember kids, cutting yourselves is bad.

I read a startling article this morning, which pushed my planned article to the back burner. In April, the UK’s Royal College of Nurses will debate how best to treat self-mutilation or cutting. According to the article:

“Patients who want to harm themselves could be given clean blades and advice on where to cut, under plans drawn up by nurses’ leaders.
The move is aimed at minimising the risk of infection from cuts made with dirty implements, just as drug addicts are issued with sterile needles.”

Stupid British can’t even spell “minimizing” correctly. Anyhow, they’re weighing two factors here: harm-reduction versus increasing the incentive to cut. True, the combination of a clean razor with the knowledge of the safest body part to cut would probably reduce the risk of infection, disease, or worse. However, when you make a harmful behavior safer and even subsidize it, then discouraging it becomes more difficult. You might even encourage that behavior. So we’ll see which factor wins out.

I think it’s probably a bad idea. Let the British experiment with it, and we’ll just sit back and watch what happens. But effectiveness of the plan aside, isn’t there a simpler way to do this? Why not just publish a PSA? Or a manual? Why not just tell parents: “Show your children how to sterilize their razors with alcohol and a lighter; show them the safe places to cut; and when they show up with fresh cuts, tell them they really shouldn’t do it anymore.” Then wait a few years for it to stop. Isn’t that the short and sweet version of what the RCN wants to do?

This reminds me of a college friend who would self-mutilate…himself. He owned a khukuri, the famous sword of the Nepalese Ghurkas. The legend is that the blade can not be returned to its sheath before drawing blood, so this friend would cut his forearm whenever he drew the khukuri—which was often enough that his inside forearms were crosshatched white with scar tissue. I suspect the self-mutilation ended shortly after he knicked his radial artery and spent the night in the hospital. But I guess the good news is that the cuts never got infected.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 5th, 2006 at 5:18 PM.

4 Responses to “Remember kids, cutting yourselves is bad.”

  1. The Questioner Says:
    February 12th, 2006 at 9:22 AM

What do you think of the use of this type of behavior in patients with dissociate disorders?

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    February 12th, 2006 at 6:25 PM

What are you asking, should we cut them up?

  1. The Questioner Says:
    February 14th, 2006 at 2:52 PM

No, but as weird as it sounds this is one way that a solution can be built for a person. So long as there is not a suicide risk. I am not suggesting that people start doing this but in some cases where this is going on already, this can be a tool.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    March 8th, 2006 at 3:26 PM

I hear you, but I think the trick is determining which people this tool would help, and which people would be adversely affected. It’s kind of like the programs for severe alcoholism which provide booze to the patients– it can work for them, but some of them just drink themselves to death.

Stupid conscience.

Once upon a time, your humble narrator sat at a table in a dormitory courtyard with a girl I shall once again refer to as “Martha Quinn.” That is her alias because she looked like Martha Quinn, one of the first MTV VJs. (My stories about girls actually named “Martha” are for another time and place.)

Mario Puzo once wrote about being struck by “the thunderbolt”; for me, that was “Martha.” She was beautiful, though she described herself as “plain.” She said she had “brownish” hair, but more precisely she was brunette with hints of auburn. Her “skinny” build was in fact slender and graceful. She was intelligent, she had a lyrical Italian name, she had this silly little laugh thatwou—well, you get the picture.

We were chit-chatting at a table near my dorm, almost exactly ten years ago. We came to the subject of the Challenger explosion, since the ten-year anniversary was rolling around. We began having a light-hearted argument about the date of the accident.

That day was etched in my mind. It was a “headline moment,” one when you remember exactly where you were when you learned that Something Big went down. On January 28th, 1986, I was in Mrs. Hopson’s fourth grade class. She left the room for a moment to talk to someone, came back in, sat down, and very calmly said, “The space shuttle just blew up.”

I was a little surprised that it wasn’t as etched in “Martha’s” mind. I said it was the 28th, she insisted it was the 29th. Back and forth. Finally I said that I would bet her anything that I was right. Anything.

She said, “Okay, what do you want to bet?”

I sat back and looked off into the distance… which wasn’t that distant, because she sat with her back to Harcombe Dining Hall. So I sat back and looked off into a great big cafeteria, thinking about what I wanted to win from her. I say “win from her” rather than “wager” because I was right, and I knew I was right, because the shuttle exploded two days after the Bears won the Super Bowl on January 26th.

So she sat there, smiling, while I was trying to figure out how to make the most out of this opportunity. Would she… this? Could I say… that? And so on.

She derailed my train of thought with a suggestion of her own. It was a gooood suggestion. A suggestion that, as much as I might’ve liked to, I wouldn’t dare have made myself, for fear of getting slapped, scratched, and possibly filetedA win-win suggestion. I shifted my gaze from the cafeteria into her light brown, freckled eyes, and it looked like they weren’t kidding.

For a long time thereafter, I would believe that at the very moment she made her suggestion, aliens silently landed nearby and zapped me with a mind-control ray, forcing me to say what I said next, which was, “No, stop playing around.”

I immediately regretted saying it, and simultaneously regretted regretting saying it. At the time, I honestly couldn’t figure out why I’d grudgingly said no. Well, the “grudgingly” part was obvious, but why did I say “no”? To her, of all women, even if she was only playing around?

Right after I said no, I suggested that the loser would cook for the winner. She agreed. A few days later, she admitted that I was right, the shuttle did in fact explode on the 28th, and because she was a good, honest girl, she dutifully made a pretty good pizza. And that was all.

Much later on, I’d realize that perhaps my conscience had shot down her suggestion because there was something distasteful about winning certain favors by knowing exactly when seven astronauts fell to their deaths after their shuttle had been destroyed. Perhaps that’s what happened; the aliens were still a possibility.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 28th, 2006 at 6:09 PM.

8 Responses to “Stupid conscience.”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    January 28th, 2006 at 7:09 PM

[Heavily edited by moderator.]

You dumbass.

  1. aabrock Says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 2:44 PM

You played it straight Dom, that’s the way to be. Besides, I like your suggestion; haven’t you ever seen “9 1/2 Weeks”?

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 3:36 PM

Um… no.

  1. Fat Tony Says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 7:29 PM

While I can not make an accurate judgement of the situation since I lack the exact knowledge of the opportunity you passed up or the whole relationship between the 2 of you at the time it was probably best the choice you made though not the wording but better that you did the right, good thing and not taking advantage of the situation. now that thats out the voice in the back of my head feels compeled to tell you that if my cousin or brother or i were to do the same thing i would have smacked them in the back of the head.

  1. The Questioner Says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 11:59 PM

You have forgoten what is best in life…something Conan did not…

  1. PaxonGator Says:
    February 13th, 2006 at 8:00 PM

And to think you used to be my favorite teacher. So much for you being my idol.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    February 14th, 2006 at 12:43 AM

Well, I was young and stupid. I will do my best to redeem myself in your eyes.

  1. clarkkent Says:
    February 28th, 2006 at 9:50 PM

mr. v.

i neither praise you nor condemn you….ill just say this….no i wont, because if i did, your eyes would turn radient green and youd ruin the fine clothes youre now wearing….

so ill just stick with this: youre a good man….a good, evil man

Littered with pennies.

The best teacher I had in high school was Mr. Rushing, who taught my AP Government courses. He had a pretty dry sense of humor, was very intelligent, was well-respected by the students, and his red-inked pen was feared by all. I had him again for two weeks at the beginning of AP European History, but the whiners in IB didn’t like their teacher and complained until their section was switched with ours. We were infuriated, but either way, it shows how highly everyone thought of him.

That said, he would occasionally tell my class something that never made sense to me. He’d say that my generation would be the first in American history that would be economically worse off than its parents.

This worried me a little. What did he know that the rest of us didn’t? Why was this going to happen? Would it be my fault? What would I have to do to avoid ruining the world? Or would it be because of something I didn’t do? Such is the conundrum faced by those who know the future.

I didn’t get it then. I don’t get it now. I cannot objectively look at the world we live in and say that my generation is worse off than its parents, or that we will be worse off.

I can see that some people are worse off than their parents were at the same age, but I see even more people who are better off than their parents were at the same age. I can see particular ways in which we’re worse off. We hear all about doom and gloom in the news, especially when politicians sense a winning issue during an election year. But I think the economic positives outweigh the negatives by far.

We live longer lives. We live healthier lives. We can afford more leisure, or work more if we’d like. In America, there is virtually no risk of starvation (unless you’ve got some serious self-image problems). In fact, our “problem” is just the opposite– we’re more likely to die from too much food than too little. Communication is easier, and there’s greater access to knowledge. We, as a society, are so disgustingly rich that though the streets aren’t paved with gold as immigrants used to imagine, they are littered with pennies.

On balance, we’re better off than we were thirty years ago, and will probably be even better off in another thirty. Sure, it’s possible that something unforeseen could cause us to be worse off, such as a nuclear attack, or a meteor strike, or an invasion by the Martian cloth-monsters. But even if that happens, I can think of a time in American history when people were worse off than their predecessors: look at the Great Depression. Even if my generation did somehow end up worse off, at least we wouldn’t be first. So there.

Anyhow, what prompted this brief entry was today’s article on my favorite economics blog, Café Hayek. It’s named after the Nobel Prize winning Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek—no known relation to Salma. I like this website not merely for the subject matter, but also because of the authors: one was an economics professor at my alma mater; the other wrote The Invisible Heart, a novel about the adventures of a high school economics teacher. The article was about the 1975 Sears catalog, and I’ll let it speak for itself.

In other news, today is the twentieth anniversary of the Chicago Bears’ victory in Super Bowl XX, their ninth overall championship. All hail Ditka.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2006 at 9:45 PM.

How to Make Everything Perfect Forever, Part One.

I was watching Jack Cafferty on CNN today, and the topic was Congressional salaries and pensions. The commentators were complaining about the fact that Congress has a cushy retirement system and guaranteed salaries for itself while in the private sector—where the bottom line matters—salaries and pensions are not nearly as secure, and people worry about their retirement.

Furthermore, Congressmen are compensated no matter how big the annual deficit is, or how big the national debt gets. I think that’s what irks most people about congressional compensation. If the feds lose money in a given year, no Senator or Representative will get fired over it.

Now, I don’t care that much about the debt or the deficit (where “that much” = how much I care about the percentage of GDP controlled by the feds, currently around 20%). But as long as most other people are going to whine about the debt and the deficit, then I humbly put forth the following proposal–which is probably not original, but I wouldn’t know who to credit:

Currently, regular Senators and Representatives earn $165,200 a year, and after five years of “service,” they qualify for a pension (about $3,900 per month, if I remember correctly). I don’t know if that’s too much, not enough, or just right, but I do know that those numbers are in no way attached to whether the federal budget is in surplus or deficit. So if we want to put real pressure on these guys to run a surplus every year and reduce the debt, we need to connect their salaries to their fiscal performance—as in the private sector.

We should exclude Congressional salaries and pensions from the budgeted expenses, and pay Congressmen a fixed percentage of the surplus. In other words, salaries and pensions would be paid only after every other expense of the federal government had been paid—if they run a deficit, no salary. No pension.

Let’s pretend that Congressmen would have to evenly split one percent of the surplus. It may not seem like much; we can tinker with the percentage later. If they want to earn the same salaries they’re earning now, they’d have to run a surplus of almost $9 billion per year. If they want salaries of $1 million per year, which is fine by me, they’d have to run a surplus of $53.5 billion per year. The bigger the surplus, the bigger the paycheck. That multi-trillion dollar national debt would shrink pretty darned fast.

A constitutional amendment along these lines would be nice, but perhaps not necessary: Congress sets its own compensation by law. What would keep them from creating a surplus by raising taxes too high? Elections. Recalls. Vetoes. Humiliation. Public thrashings with canes, if necessary. What about unexpected expenses, like a $40 billion military appropriation after a terrorist attack? Well, budget carefully. Have contingency funds ready. There would be dozens of other details to iron out, such as making sure that even “off-budget” expenses and revenues are included in the equation.

This proposal should be taken with a grain of salt; I really don’t think that the size of the surplus, deficit or debt matter as much as the levels of federal spending or taxation. But the principle remains: if we really want to eliminate or reduce the debt, then financial compensation needs to be tied to financial performance.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 22nd, 2006 at 7:45 PM.

On the end of the Bears’ season.

I think I’ve stopped crying long enough to discuss the end of the Bears’ season. Here goes.

Once again, only half of the team showed up to play. The bizarre thing was that this time it was the offense. They scored three touchdowns on offense; only the third time all year that happened. However, the vaunted Bears’ defense—which had been compared to the ’85 Bears and ’00 Ravens—did not perform so well. I guess it’s because Carolina kept calling that play where the Bears’ cornerback falls down and leaves the league’s best receiver wide open. Two easy, uncontested touchdowns… Carolina wins, 29-21. Puke.

I don’t know why Ditka chose to have the Bears’ season end this way. It is not my place to question his motives, for he is Ditka. Nonetheless, it was a much better season than I expected. They won their division, they got into the playoffs, they beat Green Bay twice, and Green Bay finished last. Like my father used to say, a 2-14 season is successful if those two wins were against the Packers, and a 17-2 Super Bowl championship season is a failure if those two losses were against the Packers.

The future is promising. Only one starter is up for free agency. The offense should be better next year, assuming Grossman doesn’t shatter. Even if he does, Orton will improve. With an improved offense, the defense should have an easier time. They could probably use another good cornerback… at least, one whose shoes get traction.

I hereby predict that the Chicago Bears will win Super Bowl XLI after going undefeated, untied, and unscored-upon throughout the 2006 season.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 at 9:49 PM.

One Response to “On the end of the Bears’ season.”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    January 17th, 2006 at 10:31 PM

Nope. The Bears will go 18-0-1, with a 0-0 tie. They will score 126 points – for the season. And give up none. 119 of the points will be on defense.

Just win, baby.

Resolutions.

My resolutions for the New Year 2006:

I shall procrastinate less.

I shall be a better friend to my friends, and better enemy to my enemies.

I shall pass Illinois’s’s Assessment of Professional Teaching.

I shall drink more water and milk, and less soda and pop.

I shall pretend that Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III simply never happened.

I shall lose thirty pounds—that may be three pounds ten times, or six pounds five times, or some such combination, but it will come to thirty pounds.

I shall strive to embiggen more people, except for those who I think don’t deserve it.

I shall attend a Cubs game and a Bears game.

I shall be a shiny, happy person on the inside, and the usual on the outside.

I shall force the release date of the next James Bond film, Casino Royale, back to 2007, for what I would think is an obvious reason.

I shall read every book I that have bought but not yet read.

I shall keep at least fifty percent of my resolutions.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2006 at 7:35 PM.

3 Responses to “Resolutions.”

  1. jmanpc Says:
    January 12th, 2006 at 9:17 PM

embiggen.

i like it.

  1. aabrock Says:
    January 14th, 2006 at 6:35 PM

Dom, drink more tea. I too have completely stopped drinking all soda and having real tea (not Lipton tea bags, I mean loose-leaf tea like Rishi Tea) really helped. Some of the fruitier teas can be iced and drank without any kind of sweetener. Which reminds me…no more artificial sweeteners either!

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    January 14th, 2006 at 8:21 PM

Since when do Lipton tea bags not count as “real tea”? Didn’t “y’all” lose that war?

Seriously, though, I’ll have my staff look into your suggestion and we’ll take it into consideration.

Rose-tinted karma.

Pop quiz:

There are just under two-and-a-half minutes left in the national championship. You have a five point lead, you have the ball at the fifty yard line, it’s second down with seven to go. You have two running backs with over one thousand yards this season. The clock is running. Do you call:

(A) a running play? It’s a low-risk play, and you will very likely get a few yards closer to a first down. The clock will keep running, unless your opponents decide to burn one of their precious timeouts. If you get the first down, you can almost definitely run out the clock.

(B) a passing play? It’s a higher-risk play. You might get a few yards closer to a first down, you might have it picked off, you might get sacked, you might have the receiver break for a touchdown… or it might fall incomplete, leaving you with a 3rd and long, leaving your opponents with all of their timeouts, and stopping the clock with 2:25 left in the game.

If you chose (A), congratulations! You’re about to win your 35th game in a row and your third straight national championship.

If you chose (B), you’re USC and you are impossibly stupid.

Shockingly, in all the articles I’ve read about the game, in all the analysis I’ve seen, no one has addressed that particular play: the one that truly invoked the wrath of the Gods of Football.

It wasn’t Reggie Bush’s fumbled lateral early in the game, which killed a drive that could have made it 14-0, USC. It wasn’t Texas’ first touchdown, when the refs seemed to miss Vince Young’s knee being down, seemed to miss what could have been a forward lateral, and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to review the play. It wasn’t the 4th and 2, two plays after the incompletepass, that USC didn’t convert.

It was that stupid, stupid pass on 2nd and 7, which gave Texas one last glimmer of hope on a night when Vince Young was playing the best game of his (or anyone else’s) life. USC should never have given him the chance… but they did, and got what they deserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 5th, 2006 at 4:10 PM.

2 Responses to “Rose-tinted Karma.”

  1. aabrock Says:
    January 5th, 2006 at 10:34 PM

Like my grand-pappy used to say: “When you throw the football, three things can happen…and two of them are bad.”

  1. jmanpc Says:
    January 11th, 2006 at 9:19 PM

how bout them jags

Infamita.

On the way to lunch today, I noticed that some disgruntled employee had scrawled “I QUIT” on the window of a local shop. The problem was that the “Q” was backwards. The line or tail slanted “southwest” instead of “southeast.” I imagine that the owner of the store was probably relieved to part ways with this particular Mensa candidate.

Anyhow, lunch was at an Italian restaurant right next to a high school. Thankfully I don’t work at that school, because if I did I might be thirty pounds heavier. The waiter seemed a little confused when I asked for meat sauce and meatballs with my lasagna, but we worked through it and no one got hurt. The food was good.

As I was finishing my meal, a group of four came in and sat a few tables away. One of them was some young punk who told the waiter, loudly and with terrible enunciation, that he wanted macaroni and cheese.

…Macaroni and cheese?

Upon hearing the order, I thought, “Did that guy really just order macaroni and cheese? It’s an Italian restaurant–everything on the f@#&$%g menu is macaroni and cheese.

Well, not literally everything; there was pizza, there were sandwiches, there were antipasti. And to be precise, not every type of pasta is macaroni. Nonetheless, I thought that he needed to be more specific, unless …unless he meant “regular” American mac and cheese.

A minor semantic irritation had suddenly become a full-fledged crisis.

You see, it’s generally considered bad form to go into an ethnic restaurant and not order ethnic food. There are some exceptions. For instance, when I’m at a Mexican restaurant, I’ll order thehamburguesa americana. This is because almost any Mexican dish will kill me. If you want to be seen with me at a Mexican restaurant, then my eating a burger is the price you have to pay, in addition to my appearance fee.

But with forty-seven different combinations and permutations of pasta and cheese on the menu, who could possibly ask for elbows and rehydrated cheddar? It would be like going into an authentic French restaurant and ordering a croissandwich. It would be like sitting down in a family-style Mexican restaurant and asking for something off the Big Bell Value Menu. Wouldn’t an imbecile of that magnitude simply ask for SpaghettiOs? Besides, no self-respecting ristorante would stoop low enough to serve Kraft-style mac and cheese, right?

Sure enough, and to my horror, that’s exactly what the waiter set in front of the little punk, and that’s exactly what his mother started feeding him, occasionally wiping his little chin with his bib.

Outraged, I excused myself and went to the restroom. I frantically checked behind the water tank, but found no gun taped there. That was the final straw. One affront to Italian dining mighthave been forgivable; two were certainly not. I returned to the table, paid the bill, and left, never to return to that wretched place.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006 at 2:25 AM.

Responses to “Infamita.”

  1. bologna of mal intent Says:
    January 3rd, 2006 at 11:58 PM

This truley is an appaling incedent on 2 levels. The lesser of the 2 being that the possibly mentaly retarded kid would go to a decent italian resteraunt and order “mac and cheese” for one any one who actually goes out to some place to eat, short of like the macaroni resteraunt grill or whatever they consider themselves, and orders that clearly is an idiot. Mac and cheese is a meal suitable only for eating at home from either one of the many boxed kind or the superior frozen kind. doing this in my book is the equivalent of asking to have some canned tuna dumped in a bowl for you to eat at a nice restaraunt.

However the most appaling factor is that the place had mac and cheese. With the exception of a childrens menu mac and cheese should not be served in adult portions above all not ina italian resteraunt. The only thing they should serve that in any way resembles mac and cheese is mabey some pasta with a heavy alfredo sauce. it is truly an nsult, with luck the next time you check behind that flush tank their will be a gun with enogh bullets not only for the lil retard but also the owner or whoever decided on the menu. so when the trials over with be sure to tell all your former students of your succes over this indignation. speaking of which now im hungry for pollo milanese, smite my lack of decent italian cooking

  1. aabrock Says:
    January 4th, 2006 at 11:23 AM

Truly appalling…next thing you know someone will come in, order spaghetti and CUT IT INTO EASY, BITE-SIZED PIECES BEFORE EATING IT.

  1. jmanpc Says:
    January 11th, 2006 at 9:17 PM

mac and cheese is only to be eaten when in the comfort of your own home, preferably while a poor college student.

 

2005 AD in retrospect.

When you look at the big picture, 2005 was yet another glorious year for our planet. There were three hundred sixty-five successful rotations, as predicted, with a leap second thrown in tonight for good measure. The Sun did not explode, and the Moon did not spin off into space. Well done, Earth.

From a much more narrow perspective—that is to say, mine—the year was a mixed bag. There was much triumph and much tragedy, some of which is even mentionable. The lows first, so I can end it on a high note:

Three acquaintances committed suicide this year, one of whom I wrote about in September. Two of them were high school classmates, and of course were very young; the third one was old enough that he should have known better. Very sad.

It took a whopping five months to process my Illinois provisional certificate, which was promised to take less than a month. I missed out on several good full-time teaching positions due in part to people’s inability to distinguish August from December.

My cat, Bill the Cat, the Greatest Cat to Have Pitter-Pattered The Earth, Bar None, died. Everything I wrote in the “Generic Recommendation Form” was, to the letter, true of Bill. His greatness lay neither in his tremendous girth nor his dominance over the other cats of the manor–which lasted even into the twilight of his life–but in his ability to leave me alone. All cats should learn from his fine example.

My grandmother, Angela Maria Viscariello, née Zaccardi, died on August 7th at age 95—and even though at 95, death is not unexpected, it was still… unexpected. Happily, everyone in the family had spoken to “The Old Girl” in the week before she died, and she was surrounded by loved ones in her home when she went. Sadly, she took her recipe for meatball tortellini soup with her. And although the cooks in my family think they can make it the same, they’re wrong.

And worst of all, my cousin, Tai Angellica Torres, died on September 25th at age 20. It was absolutely heartbreaking, especially on the heels of Gram’s death. Hopefully she’s in a better place now, and hopefully her family will continue to recover.

On to (mentionable) happier things:

I watched my first batch of Paxon students graduate—that was neat. I had a few kids who didn’t want to take the AP exams, for whatever reasons, and prodded them to do it anyways. I was proud of them when they passed, not only because of the accomplishment, but also because of the fifty dollar bonus I got per passing grade. Thank you all.

I “played” indoor soccer on my brother’s team this summer. I put “played” in quotation marks because I mostly walked back and forth up front until somebody passed me the ball, and then shot wildly at the net. Sometimes it went in. I had two hat-tricks, including one that was all-lefty.

I moved from Jacksonville to Chicagoland. In all, I’ve driven from one to the other nine times this year. I finally realized what was so great about Jacksonville: even though the roads are laid out like spaghetti, they are smoother than those in any other major city I’ve been in. But Chicago is glorious, and I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of spaghetti, I discovered Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian roast-beef sandwiches, real deep dish pizza, and the generally higher quality of food that comes with living in a larger metropolitan area. I have discussed the food previously, so I will not belabor the salivation-inducing nature of the scrumptious breads, savory meats, ambrosial cheeses and delectable potations, even though they give greater impetus to our struggle against the brutal nature of this world, that we may eat more.

I met many relatives that I’d never met before, and got to know many that I had only met briefly. I’ve made some friends up here, and am verifying my belief that people, everywhere, are essentially the same. I’ve seen more snow in a few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. And I’ll probably see even more than that in the next few months.

All in all, I’d have to say that 2005 was definitely twelve months long. Here’s to a better 2006. Happy New Year—glug glug.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2005 at 2:06 PM.

One Response to “2005 AD in retrospect.”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    January 4th, 2006 at 7:26 PM

You know, it only took me several days to realize that you had indeed named a cat Bill. Did Opus deliver the eulogy? Did Steve Dallas get rip-roaring drunk at the wake? Did his love child kick your butt?

And most importantly, did you bury Bill in his favorite diaper?

 

 

Merry Christmas!

What a great weekend. I drove down to Jacksonville to visit the family. I loaded a cooler full of some foods that, as far as I know, are unavailable in the South—at least, not at the same quality as in Chicago: a few pounds of bocconcini, two pounds of Sicilian olive salad, a wedge of locatella cheese, and two boxes of pizzelles (very thin, light Italian cookies that you need special iron plates to make). All was well received, even though I couldn’t find the cannoli shells that my mother wanted.

I watched the football games with an eye on my fantasy football team, which is in the league championship. It looks like I’ll win my first title in five years, thanks to my good friends Shaun Alexander, Santana Moss and Larry Johnson.

I also had the opportunity to check out my brother’s new big screen with surround sound. We popped in the Predator DVD, skipped to the scene when the heroes blast away at the jungle to kill whatever just killed Jesse Ventura, and cranked up the volume. There were many, many loud explosions. It was fun.

We had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at my mother’s place; turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes. I guess it’s traditional, anyways, normally our family had pizza and boiled shrimp. Separate, that is, not shrimp-on-the-pizza.

Dinner today was very good. Dad made rigatoni and bracciole. What is bracciole? Think of one of those wraps or gyros you can get at a sandwich shop. Now, instead of lettuce, tomatoes, and all those healthy meats, you put in anything else you want. In this case, he used prosciutto, bacon, hard-boiled egg, pine nuts, mozzarella, provolone, small bits of salami, and spices. And instead of wrapping it in a fajita or something similar, you wrap it in a well-flattened, well-tenderized sirloin. Tie it together, stick in some toothpicks, braise it in oil, and pop it in the oven. It’s excellent, even though my heart is probably marbled now.

And the whole weekend is being topped off by watching the Bears and Packers. If the Bears win, they win the NFC North, the #2 seed in the NFC, and a bye during the first week of the playoffs. Plus, they’ll have beaten the much hated, God-forsaken Green Bay Packers. Hopefully they will make Brett Fav-ruh bleed from as many places as possible because I hate him. I hope he cries.

Anyways, Merry Christmas and Happy First Night of Hanukkah!

[Updated after the Bears-Packers game, at 8:38 PM EST]

Bears, 24-17! I was yelling at the Bears to kick Favre in the back of the head on those last two sacks. Well, they let him walk away without severe brain damage, but I’ll let it slide because they won. Merry Christmas!

6 Responses to “Merry Christmas!”

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 26th, 2005 at 12:18 AM

Hey. Did you know the Jags have record as good or better than three of the four division leaders in the NFC? I wonder which conference will win the Super Bowl?

  1. apushisfun Says:
    December 26th, 2005 at 10:05 AM

Well Mr. V, it seems like you had a heart-stopping Christmas. I would recommend that you don’t eat anymore of those bracciole because I don’t want you to die before graduation. Have a Happy New Year, Mr. V.

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    December 29th, 2005 at 12:51 AM

You never know… I remember when the NFC won 13 in a row and no one thought Denver could beat Green Bay, and when the Pats somehow beat the Rams a few years ago. Whichever team comes out of the NFC (Bears) only has to beat one AFC team once to win it all.

Super Bowl XL: Bears 78, Colts 3. Any other result will prove that the whole thing is fixed.

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    December 29th, 2005 at 8:03 PM

Nah.

Super Bowl XL: New England 27, Washington 13

  1. MyCreativeAlias Says:
    December 30th, 2005 at 9:50 AM

I am hard-pressed to think of a more impressive scene in a movie – let me know if you can think of one.

As for Super Bowl XL: Bears 5, Colts 3. Peyton Manning will throw a minimum of 4 interceptions and Brian Urlacher will be named MVP with 20 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked punt, and 1 blocked field goal – which would have been the game winner. Also, after accepting The Lombardi Trophy, “Lovie Smith” will pull off his mask revealing that he is actually Coach Mike Dikta. Did I mention the halftime show featuring the ‘85 Chicago Bears performing The Super Bowl Shuffle (Jarrett Payton will fill in for his father) as well as the resurrection of The Honey Bears?

  1. Vincent Viscariello Says:
    January 15th, 2006 at 3:17 AM

Doctor Hmnahmna:

Wrong, although it amuses me that your predicted score was that by which New England was eliminated.


On “price-gouging.”

Today, New York City’s bus and subway workers went on strike. What a mess. I wonder whether it matters to them that the strike is illegal. State law forbids public employees from striking, so the Transport Workers Union is being fined one million bucks per day. That’s roughly $30 per TWU employee, plus losing two days’ pay for each day on strike, plus the possibility of going to jail. I hope it’s worth it for them, because they’re going to have to answer to a lot of angry New Yorkers.

Anyhow, I watched portions of Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference regarding the strike. He reiterated that the strike was illegal and estimated the cost of the strike to be as much as $400 million per day. The last thing he said before I turned off the TV in disgust was that there was a phone number to report “price-gouging” by taxi drivers.

Never mind the larger point about the potential troubles and inefficiencies of too much government involvement in an economy. Why is it that when every mode of transportation in NYC–other than the subways and buses—is under far greater strain and faces greater demand than usual, Bloomberg sees fit to put an upper limit on what taxi drivers can charge?

“Well, people need [stretch “need” into as many syllables as possible] rides, and it’s not right to take advantage of them in such a situation.”

So instead, people should be allowed to take advantage of taxi drivers? Imagine this scenario—which is probably happening, in some form or other, today:

A ride from Point A to Point B, both in NYC, normally costs $25 for a full cab, say, four riders. Group 1 and Group 2, four people each, need to get from Point A to Point B as soon as possible. The groups hail the cab at the same time. The cabbie pulls over, and tries to figure out which group he should take. Group 1 offers $50. Group 2 offers $100.

Mayor Bloomberg suddenly announces that taxi fares can not rise more than 100 percent today. Fifty dollars is the cabbie’s limit for the day. One way or another, he has to refuse fifty moredollars that somebody was willing to pay.

See the problem the cabbie faces? If not, maybe this’ll help: to legally drive a cab in New York, you need a “medallion.” These medallions are auctioned off by New York City, which controls the supply. According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission’s most recent auction results, the lowest winning bid for a medallion for a regular, individually-owned car was $332,027.62. Remember, that’s just to be allowed to drive the cab– it doesn’t include gas, insurance, maintenance, or the cab itself. Medallions were cheaper for hybrid cars and handicapped-accessible cars, but still over $220,000. They were more than $775,000 for corporate-owned cars. The cabbies have some pretty big costs to cover if they ever want to see profits.

People who complain about price-gouging seem to forget that when buyers are facing emergencies, so are sellers–because buyers are making greater demands of the sellers’ time, effort, and resources. Who is Mayor Bloomberg to single-handedly determine the value of a cabbie’s work, especially on a day like today? The cabbies and the potential riders have a much better grasp of how much the ride is worth to them. Let them work it out.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2005 at 8:34 PM.

One Response to “On “price-gouging.””

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 25th, 2005 at 11:49 AM

Merry Christmas, Mr. V.


Tookie.

I stayed up late last night to watch the riots that might have followed the execution of Stanley Tookie Wiliams. Thank God, there were none. There were, however, plenty of stupid punks being disrespectful by mugging for the camera and calling their friends to tell them to turn on CNN or FOX. I wonder how those conversations went: “Hey, I’m on TV! Look at me! No, I don’t know why everyone here is depressed, ‘cause I’m on TV! LOOK AT ME!” I must confess to hoping the protesters would feed their placards to these laughing morons.

Anyhow, Tookie’s execution brought the capital punishment debate back into national focus. I don’t care whether you favor or oppose the death penalty. I favor it, but I acknowledge that there are many good, rational arguments against it.

However, there is one particular argument against the death penalty that strikes me as especially weak and silly– “straw-man” silly, “so-easy-to-attack-it’s-embarrassing” silly:

“Killing to punish killing is wrong.”

It looks good on a sign outside San Quentin—after all, two wrongs don’t make a right, right? For example, if you sleep with my wife, I do not show you to be wrong by sleeping with your wife. If you kill my son, I do not show you to be wrong by killing your son.

But the less that the actions in question resemble each other—in motive, in nature, or in consequence–the less valid and the less applicable the famous “two wrongs” dictum becomes. That is why this particular argument against the death penalty flops. It only works if you look at killing in the most superficial way and refuse to make distinctions between different types of killing. It only works if you think that all killing is wrong.

Let’s use a different “crime” in that sentence. “Holding someone against his will in order to punish holding someone against his will is wrong.” So, should we refrain from putting kidnappers in jail? After all, the police hold the kidnapper against his will, just like the kidnapper holds the victim against her will. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you can’t show that wronging is wrong by wronging.

You might say, “That’s absurd! It’s a bad example, because kidnapping is obviously different from incarceration.” You might say that because you might be using your brain. You were willing to look at the difference between two forms of “holding someone against his will,” and discern that one was more wrong than the other. One may even be the right thing to do.

In the same vein, we need to be willing to look at the differences between types of killing. We acknowledge that an intruder killing you in your sleep is not the same as you killing the intruder first; that a SWAT team killing a hijacker is not the same as a hijacker killing a hostage; that killing German soldiers on D-Day was not the same as killing Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz. In each case, one killing is undertaken because of the wrongness of the other killing; one is done to stop the other. But if we think and argue without discernment—lumping in premeditated murder with self-defense, lumping in genocide with a war of liberation, and condemning all of them equally as “killing”—we impair our ability to make moral or legal distinctions.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that even if you oppose the death penalty in general or simply for Tookie in particular, executing Tookie after twenty-something years of due process is not the same as Tookie murdering three motel operators and a 7-11 clerk for some cash.

Again, I’m not trying to convince anyone that the death penalty should or shouldn’t be legal. I just think that such an important debate needs to be conducted with more careful and precise thought than you would find on a bumper-sticker.