Sunday, August 28, 2005

Start your engines

We had a good weekend with all the folks from out of the area (and in) here for the conference. I'm in a much better state of mind and health than I expected. Monday is here in a matter of minutes. I'm going to get 6 hours of sleep and start early on the remaining tasks--like pack (for example:).

Joel and Rachel are getting set to take off about three hours from now. A safe journey home to Salinas for them...

And now...ready...set...

Friday, August 26, 2005

If life was a trip...

...I'd be out of gas.

The one question I consistently endured this fine Friday at work was "what's the matter with you?"

I'd answer, "what do you mean?"

They'd respond, "you look tired."

Indeed, between the burning sensation and the brightness of the sun, my eyes never fully opened all day. I guess balance in life isn't 11 hours of work to every 5 hours of sleep. The exhaustion built up over the week as I alternated between late-night work on the conference, overtime at work, and the 5 hours of sleep I could sneak in-between. It's just not right for my mental well-being if I may be so bold as to claim it.

The conference is looking much more comfortable, though, the work week is over, and I just have a few more things to tie up... The hill is partway climbed.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Adventures in the land of spam

Yes, it started today on two posts back. I got on to start posting earlier today and while I was actually composing it the spam started rolling in. I've dealt with it previously but only on a smaller level so bear with me and PLEASE IGNORE ANY LINKS THAT ARE IN THE COMMENTS for now. I'm going to make some adjustments soon or stop posting for a time... We'll see.

On a related note....

I did nail down some domain names for upgrading this blog. So Meneltarma will hopefully have a better skin and system soon. It's all a work in progress really because I'm not able to redesign it by myself. When that does happen, you can be sure there will be a more sophisticated spam controller.

Adventures in the land of busy

Here we stand upon the brink of a new quaint.

But what a truly exciting schedule--what, between work, relatives and a impending conference on the following week.

Overtime is mandatory this week, as there is a lot needed and I haven't placed much over the past few weeks. If I'm extremely fortunate, I'll only have to do one day. I'd normally not be too thoughtful of this, but for the other obligations and distraction that hang all around me.

The house is full of little feet, little (i.e. big) voices, little falls, little kisses and the like. That's just how it goes with the complete gathering of Reimers nieces and nephews. I've been enjoying every minute of it I must confess. I should, I guess, while I'm not the parent who has to deal with the many entertaining situations sustained on a minute-by-minute basis. Here's a glimpse into last night's gathering of the clans in the backyard after dinner.

Mom and first-born grandchild, Mary, hangin’ out under the arbor.

A typical goofy scene out back of the house.

Anna mediating between the animal and Justus, the animal chaser.

Again, the conference starts a week from tomorrow...officially that is. There's plenty to make it seem like it's already in progress. I suppose we should just be thankful there's not a huge amount kids being put up by our church. Burlington is taking a huge chunk of them by default.

Yes, ramroding the conference has been, and will be God willing, a challenge to be savored.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The ethics of berry picking

About a week ago I went for an evening bike-ride down behind our house, among the cranberry and cornfields--just scouting the blackberry patches and checking out old haunts. When I was there then, I concluded they needed just a little bit more time before the first harvest, considering the abundance of lingering blossoms. This afternoon, though, Anna and I took a ride down there with clippers and buckets and I was surprised at the pick’ns... I don't think we've ever hit it at such an ideal time--even the bottom stuff was big, and more importantly, it was still there, uneaten by the various greedy berrivores that lurk among the trees and canals beyond Wiser Ridge.

Nevertheless, it was still the same trial and character-building exercise to gather them in with patience and methodical endurance.

Would it be too cliché to start naming off all the lessons to be learned from picking blackberries? Perhaps...I mean, they certainly abound:

First there are obviously the thorns, which seem to make it a matter of pride among them to see who gets first blood! Yes, I'm assigning to them a metaphorical will of their own because, since they exist because of the curse, I think I might as well give them their rightful due. The lesson? Nothing other then a reminder of our cursed state I'm sure...

Preparation... Well, I knew I would probably pay for it but I went in shorts, sandals and a cut-off shirt. Hey, it was hot. I thought I would make up for it by bringing the clippers. I did, sort of but there are some things that just won't work no matter how much you try to clip away. Without a nice layer of clothing to take the brunt of the laceration, you are in trouble. Preparation? Well, maybe I'll just bring clippers next time.

What of patience--another obvious one perhaps? When it seems like everything is working against your goal of snagging one berry that's way out of reach--the sun baking your face and neck, the thorns just about everywhere sticking in your arms, legs and toes, your arms beginning to feel like lead from the continual horizontal position--yeah, there's a lot to be said for keeping your cool when the one berry you sweated, bled and ached for slips from your fingers and drops down into the thicket.

What about the ethics of method? Oh, I've got you stumped on this one.

As you stand there alternately picking and clipping, it's noteworthy that there are several kinds of branches in the bushes. One has plenty of little clusters of the coveted berries dangling from the ends. The others seem to be there for one purpose and one purpose alone (not scientifically proven mind you): to block both your view and your arms from reaching the first type of branch. These are free game. One snip and you are that much closer to the target. But what happens when you face only branches of the first kind, albeit loaded with only blossoms and unripe clusters, arching into your path, immovable except by cutting.

Suddenly you have an ethical decision to make: do you pass over them, limiting your ability to reach fully ripened clusters, but letting these undeveloped clusters in your way live and reach their full potential, OR, do you take them down along with the other useless guardian branches blocking your way to tomorrow's blackberry pie and next week's blackberry jam--cutting them down for the sake of what you can enjoy now?

I must confess I didn't take too much time thinking about it and I think I only snipped one such branch in a moment of desperation. I did mention it to Anna but she was already of the opinion that I was suffering from some heat-related delusion based on all the muttering and sighing coming from where I was picking. It was a little late for me to expect a serious answer to my random questions.

But, what do you think? I'll tell you what I think after I get a couple opinions.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The black sheep?

Cindy Sheehan, most recently known for her outspoken anti-Bush activism after the death of her son Casey in Iraq, is now facing the public angst of the rest of her family according to an email they sent to blogger Matt Drudge. (see story here)

Drudge reported a few days ago regarding the fact she has changed her story about her visit with President Bush--first he was sincere in his condolences then he was completely agenda driven and cold. The whole story is summed up here in the Vallejo Times Herald and here's Drudge's piece too.

Apparently Drudge has the rest of Casey's family on his side, giving another black eye to the political hay the Democrats are trying to make over her activism.

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Down to the river

I don't think I mentioned it on here before, but I got tickets to go the an Alison Krauss concert down at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Ok, I'll confess--I didn't mention on here and it was last night. So you just get to know what a good time I had and the undisputed fact from me: Alison Krauss and Union Station are true, timeless, and just plain, all-around awesome.

Anna, Brian and Jackie and me were the complete cadre. We somehow made it there an hour and a half ahead of the concert--which was ideal--and spent the time on the grass playing dominoes on the cooler (Brian and Anna twice destroyed Jackie and I).

The concert was great--duh. That said, I must say this about Krauss: she has a great voice, a great sarcastic wit, does dynamite fiddling, has a great band, and isn't stuck within one genre, sound or style. How good can it get? On an abstract level (without getting too picky in my comparison), I think she has a lot in common with someone like Johnny Cash, who will be remembered for years to come by more than one kind of crowd.

When we got to the park, a parking attendant warned us not to take any contraband to the gate because we would just have to take it back to the car. Among the no-no items was a camera--and I just happened to have one in my backpack which I was smart enough to remember about when we reached the gate, and unsmart enough to attempt the line with anyway. No matter, they took a look under the main zipper at the blanket and handed it back to me...I remember wondering, though, if they had really searched and found not only the camera but also the voice recorder and such, what would I have been able to say for myself?

Dude! I'm a journalism student! What CAN I say?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Wash and wax

Car care for me has been a little limited for the last year...being caught up with school and such. With the coming of summer and normal working hours, I've found at least some time to apply a little albow grease for appearance sake. Last week I vacuumed it out. Then on this las Saturday, Anna and I grabbed a couple of good rags and the can of wax.

Behold, what once was just a four cylinder hairdryer on wheels now glistens under the evening light.

More pictures to come when I have the time.

I know I still haven't dealt with all the exciting shakes and rumbles that have tricked some passengers into thinking they had boarded a one-way space shuttle flight (honest). But I am closer. I'm having her looked at soon.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A pseudo-elegant evening

The music was great and so was the company. My friend Luke called me up this afternoon, asking if I wanted to take the other ticket he had for the Mt. Baker theater, featuring soprano Heidi Grant Murphy--a graduate from Western apparently.

"I don't know who she is; it might be a sleeper of a concert; who knows," he said before I accepted his offer.

I managed to dress a little down (with him in his nice suit) and show up a little late...and to add insult to injury, I think I enjoyed the concert more than he did...

There were a few people in the chorus who I know and the orchestra finished up the evening with Beethoven's fifth! What a treat! I got to sit there and let my ears isolate each section of the orchestra and examine their contributions to the whole harmony...

The violins...

The first chair was very easily identified, even without the solos he played with Ms Murphy. He was the one who generally looked the most comfortable.

The violas...

The lead had a quirky habit of looking at other players nearby and raising eyebrows as if he just gotten tipped off to an inside joke.

The cellos...

The lead had a very impressive Italian profile if I ever saw one. But nothing stood out to me more than the man who had a weird scope attachment to his glasses. My only guess was that it helps him focus on the music.

The basses...

They were, as usual and unfortunately, too restrained. I'm a great fan of prominent bass, you know. Only in the last movement were there a couple bars of extra prominence.

The woodwinds...

I love the Oboe, what can I say? I was impressed with one piece where I noticed for the first time a few bars where the flutes subtly backed up the violins on the same crescendo note...all too subtly I'm afraid. I liked the intensity it added--something the pretentious violins cannot provide on their own, no matter how much they think they can.

The brass...

They were out of sight most of the concert. Afterward, however, the conductor did a section-by-section bow and I located them behind the woodwinds...which must have been interesting for the woodwinds.

It ended at 9:30 so we decided to find some place to go that didn't close at ten. Through various odd-ball events we ended up at the Olive Garden ready to take on the full meal deal. Unfortunately, just as I decided on the three meat ravioli, Luke pipped up and said, "I think I'll just get the three meat ravioli."...

"Oh, you would," I said with indignation. "I had just decided on that one!"

Before I could step back from the wine menu and choose some other main dish, he was kind enough to concede and choose the lasagna instead. But no sooner did we order then the waitress returned to the table to tell him the lasagna wasn't available...he suppressed a snicker and calmly said he would settle for the three meat ravioli. Did he get off easy or what!?

No matter, because I got to demonstrate to Luke first-hand how nice it is to not be carded over a glass of wine.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Chewable tidbits (but not recommended for human consumption)

It was a mad-dash after a month of procrastinating.

I threw together a hodgepodge of background info on the Kelo v. City of New London case--in English: the case in Connecticut that resulted in a community being uprooted by the city to make room for a number of business ventures with the justification that it was for the public good. The research was needed so I could give a talk on the subject at the local Whatcom County meetup/discussion group. I was surprises that I got as much as I did--and the discussion ended up being a good one--although I only got through about half of the info I brought.

Now... Instead of letting it go to waste, I'm going to record a brief and abridged (explained) version here for posterity and your perusal. Don't blame me if you find it somewhat boring. I showed the handout to a friend I ran into after the meeting and the question I heard as she looked blankly at the sheet was something like "how do you come up with this stuff?"

Economic development takings – A little background
By Mark Reimers

Amendment V - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. (public use clause)


The interpretation of the public use clause is the contentious issue at the heart of Kelo v. City of New London. The struggle of nearly every court decision is to define and objectify something or leave it completely alone. The term "public use" it immediately stands out in a court of law as a vague term that will need clarification. The Kelo case was just the last in a string of cases that have tried to give "public use" a broad meaning, almost changing the clause to something like this: "we can take anything we want and give it to anyone we want as long as we pay for it and it holds the slightest hint of improving something about our community."

What now has received extra attention is the fact that the land in the Kelo case is being taken to be sold to private developers. Even thought it is blatant infringement on the property owner's rights, the Supreme Court found a way to get it done. How? Partly by citing other examples. Yeah this has been going on for a while...

Cases of interest:

Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff
One of the first precedents of explicit takings for economic development. (see link - more light was shed on this case at the meeting)

Kelo v. City of New London
Justice Stevens’ majority opinion excerpt:
  • In Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, (1984), the Court considered a Hawaii statute whereby fee title was taken from lessors and transferred to lessees (for just compensation) in order to reduce the concentration of land ownership. We unanimously upheld the statute and rejected the Ninth Circuit's view that it was ‘a naked attempt on the part of the state of Hawaii to take the property of A and transfer it to B solely for B's private use and benefit.’”
  • “…a one-to-one transfer of property, executed outside the confines of an integrated development plan, is not presented in this case. While such an unusual exercise of government power would certainly raise a suspicion that a private purpose was afoot, the hypothetical cases posited by petitioners can be confronted if and when they arise. They do not warrant the crafting of an artificial restriction on the concept of public use.”

Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit

Kristina Dalman (attorney from Chicago) on the Kelo case: excerpt from an article in the Brownfield News .

  • “For decades, many courts (including the Connecticut Supreme Court in Kelo ) relied on the position taken by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1981 in Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit. In the Poletown case, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the City of Detroit’s condemnation of a thriving neighborhood in Detroit to make way for the construction of a new General Motors plant to help reinvigorate the city’s depressed economic condition. The Court determined that the taking of land for economic development purposes was a valid “public use” under the Fifth Amendment. In a stunning turn of events in August 2004, however, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed its position on the issue, declaring in a subsequent case involving the condemnation of land surrounding Detroit Metro Airport for economic redevelopment (Wayne County v. Hathcock), that its prior decision in Poletown was wrong and that the taking of private property in furtherance of economic development was unconstitutional.”
  • Note: the Connecticut Supreme Court cited this case after it had been finally denounced in the Hathcock case.


CATO Institute: “Robin Hood in Reverse: The Case against Economic Development Takings
by Ilya Somin

Written just prior to the Supreme Court Kelo decision, I appreciate the CATO/libertarian perspective on this issue. I’m not done reading the 24 page document but so far it has proved very informative.


“Both the Fifth Amendment to the federal Constitution and nearly all state constitutions contain a ‘public use clause.’ By implication, such clauses prohibit government from taking private property, even when compensation is paid to the owner, except for a ‘public use.’ But for some time the U.S. Supreme Court and many state courts have allowed that restriction on the condemnation power to atrophy.”

“For more than 20 years, Poletown stood as both the most infamous symbol of eminent domain abuse and a precedent justifying nearly unlimited power to condemn private property. As one scholar of the subject put it, ‘To many observers of differing political viewpoints, the Poletown case was a poster child for excessive condemnation.’ Poletown held that condemnations transferring property from one private party to another satisfied the ‘public use’ requirement even if the only claimed public benefit was that of “bolster-[ing] the economy.” While it was not the first decision upholding so-called ‘economic development’ takings, Poletown was by far the most widely publicized and notorious. Its notoriety stemmed from the massive scale and seeming callousness of Detroit’s use of eminent domain: destroying an entire neighborhood and condemning the homes of 4,200 people, as well as numerous businesses, churches, and schools, so the land could be transferred to General Motors for the construction of a new factory. Aside from the moral and humanitarian concerns at issue, Poletown raised the fear that if ‘economic development’ could justify such massive dislocation, it could be used to rationalize almost any condemnation that benefited a private business in a way that might ‘bolster the economy.’”