I wasn't a regular reader--it's in my links but not my blogroll, which is pretty much what I check regularly, but I'll miss Ms. Davis' insightful, thoughtful, and well-written reflections. Please join me in wishing her the best of luck.
Gore is supposed to be "stiff", so if he isn't stiff, he must be departing from his real personality. Or something. These guys have drawn up a map of Al Gore that looks nothing like Al Gore, but when the map doesn't match the territory they figure it's the territory that's wrong.
Of course, there is something new going on with Al Gore, which is that he no longer tries to hide his playful side. ...But during his political career, he's always tried to comport himself with the dignity he thought political office should have in public. He did tell the obligatory warm-up jokes, but he always considered it inappropriate to yuk it up during occasions of state. That didn't work in 2000, when he was painted as "too stiff" compared with a guy who gave people noogies. (And let's be honest about this: George Bush does not behave like a "regular guy", he behaves like someone for whom the technical term back when we were in highschool and college was "asshole". Not the class clown, who was at least sharp and funny. Not the "regular" guys, who were usually safe to hang out with. Not the captain of the football team, who was - well, he was Al Gore, actually. George Bush is the guy who everyone hoped wouldn't show up at the party.)
The myth of Gore's stiffness was so overwhelming that people mistakenly attribute Gore's playful activities to the supposedly press-charming George Bush. Bush, we all remember, was the guy the press seemed to like because he was fun to hang out with. But Al Gore famously asked reporters not to mention it when he was fooling around on the plane, because it wasn't, y'know, presidential behavior. George Bush, a man who you're always afraid is going to come up and snap your bra (or wipe his glasses on your skirt), was running around claiming he was going to "restore honor and dignity to the White House" - and Al Gore was running around showing people what honor and dignity actually looked like.
The "new" Al Gore is the guy who has learned the lessons of that campaign: That he cannot rely on the press to do anything but lie about him, and that therefore his only hope is to make sure the American public sees as much of him as possible, as he really is. The only way to do this is to appear as frequently as possible on the air, where people can see and hear him as he is rather than how he will be spun later by others.
But whatever Al is planning to do, he needs to bring it to the people, and that's what he's doing, and it's obviously scaring the hell out of the right wingers, who are spinning like crazy. But maybe - just maybe - it won't work a second time when the voters can see what Gore is actually like with their own eyes.
I still put "new" in quotes up there, though, because in fact there is nothing new about the fact that Al Gore can learn. Gore reads a book and learns something from it. Gore gets a letter from a constituent and learns something from it. Gore discovers the arpanet and learns something from it. Gore is trashed by the press and learns something from it. Gore has been absorbing new information all along and acting accordingly. I prefer this to the alternative.
The dictionary defines liberalism as "a political philosophy advocating personal freedom for the individual, democratic forms of government, gradual reform in political and social institutions." That doesn't sound too life-threatening. The political philosophy of liberalism has had a long and varied history. It arose in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, to protest the prerogatives of kings, aristocrats and the church.
I might add, at its best liberalism still protests the prerogatives of kings and aristocrats and church-as-state, while its counterpart supports those prerogatives.
They believe that government is inherently good, that it can make the human condition better. .... The conservative thinks government always makes things worse.
The liberals brought electric lights and indoor plumbing to our farm homes. They also brought the Civil Rights Act and Social Security, women's right to vote, bank-deposit insurance, and the Peace Corps.
Of course, some conservatives contend that liberals have been wrong about every issue in the last century. Pretty much shows where they stand, huh? Finally, this choice quote from John F. Kennedy:
I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas ... . For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves. ... For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society.
Arianna Huffington points out that the drug-liability provision was far from the only sleazy thing inserted, secretly and at the last minute, into the so-called Homeland Security bill. It also reversed a measure adopted at the peak of the public's ire about corporate scandals prohibiting government contracts to corporations that ostensibly relocate oversease as a tax-dodging measure. And, of course, Mr. Responsibility President Bush signed the bill anyway. (Like I said, unions were just not the right special interest.)
(via Daily Kos, who comments: "the Democratic Party's challenge is to take each of these gross abuses and build upon the last one -- the same way the GOP hammered home the "Gore is liar" theme. None of these incidents by themselves will expose the GOP for the facilitator of corporate corruption that it is, but with deft handling Democrats can help make the case. I hate to assume that the Dems will let this and other opportunities pass, so let's hope that our side is starting to learn their lessons.")
Consider for a moment how the national press corps would have treated such a story from within the Clinton White House in December 1994. They habitually gave far more attention and credibility to material of far less substance during the eight years of that administration. And there is no way that Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart would have been able to shut down questioning about an article like Mr. Suskind’s as curtly as Mr. Fleischer did. [Ed.: And have the "liberal media" let them get away with it, too.]
Then consider, after reading the Esquire article, which will soon appear on newsstands, what the press apparently cannot report (and probably doesn’t know) about the inner machinations of the Bush White House. The new occupants have changed the tone, indeed: It’s either happy talk or dead silence.
This essay in the online 'zine Savant calls for a quick and merciful death to Marvel Comics; Dan Traeger takes especially savage issue with the publisher's policy of underprinting to enhance the alleged "collectibility" of its comix.
Campaign ad spending for the midterm elections amounted to [begin dr. evil voice tag] one billion dollars! [end dr. evil voice tag] The largest single amount--almost three times more than any other group spent on campaign ads--was the US$9 million spent by a group backed by the pharmaceutical industry, mostly supporting Republicans (now see this). However, interest groups, candidates and parties on both sides spent roughly equal amounts (now see this).
As I've said, I remain unconvinced that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law is the best way to deal with the corrupting influence of money in politics, but it is corrupting, and absolutely needs to be remedied.
One hopes the airlines are beginning to understand that passengers no longer expect, or want, luxury in the old-fashioned sense -- be it fancy entrées you can't pronounce or a choice of wines from five continents. ...What people want is some basic comfort and efficiency. ...What they want is a halfway comfortable seat, some food (at least on a long flight), something to do, and, for God's sake, an occasional 30-cent bottle of water.
It also includes the fascinating fact that a certain European carrier not only provides an individual video screen for each seat (in coach, yet), but offers a video feed from a nose-mounted camera during takeoff. c00L!
If the Bush Administration thinks the practice is such a great idea, one wonders why it was so hush-hush. This Administration appears to be obsessive about secrecy and opposed to accountability to a degree reminiscent of the Nixon administration, and for that reason alone it should be considered no more trustworthy.
And speaking of secrecy, Arianna Huffington wonders why absolutely no one seems to know how language protecting drug companies from lawsuits was placed into the Homeland Security bill. (via Blog Left) A bill, I might add, that Bush threatened to veto over what he called special-interest provisions (seems they just weren't the right special interests...). She's right about one thing:
This is clearly not a left-right issue. Any politician who has waxed lyrical about "accountability" and "transparency" -- that includes you, Mr. President -- owes it to the public to demand that Congress get to the bottom of just whose directive it was to insert into the homeland security bill a provision that has absolutely nothing to do with homeland security.
Teleport City's Keith Allison was really excited about the premise of a no-budget Japanese flick called Stacy: a cheapo zombie flick about an army of undead Japanese schoolgirls (sounds good to me!). Unfortunately, he discovered, the movie sux0rz; so much so that he couldn't sit all the way through its 80-minute length. And Allison, like myself, usually will watch just about anything all the way through (unless I fall asleep).
More sad news...animator William "Tex" Henson has died of injuries resulting from being struck by a pickup truck. He was 78. Henson, a former Disney animator, supervised the team of animators for the beloved Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
I learned something today. Any anime fan knows about hentai --the Japanese word for "perverted," it can mean anything from a teasing flash of a female character's panties to explicit pr0n. A common theme in hentai pr0n is schoolgirls being ravaged by demons or aliens with multiple, tentacle-like appendages; La Blue Girl (alternate site; FAQ) is a prime example. (I've never been into it myself, but I can also say that it isn't the most bizarre thing I've ever seen.)
Today I learned that depictions of tentacle sex is a theme in Japanese art dating back to at least the 18th Century (who knew?). This ivory carving (circa 1770) shows a pearl diver being, er, entangled by an octopus.
Here's the site's description of the carving:
A girl diver (ama), wearing nothing but a grass skirt is being ravished by an octopus. The creature's tentacles ensnares her legs and two of them curl about her breasts. She is making a token resistance but the arc of her neck, her hair tumbling down her back and the expression of pleasure on her face indicate her real feelings. Any ambiguity over the matter is dismissed when the piece is closely examined: it is possible by locking between the parted tentacles of the octopus, to see that the skirt by no means completely covers the girl, and that the embraces of the mollusc are far from displeasing.
Japanese art has always delighted in depicting women pearl divers being embraced by octopuses. Generally they are shown warding off the creature's blandishments but with this example the suggestion is that she is enjoying its attentions.
Noted broadcaster Roone Arledge has died at the age of 71. Not familiar with the name? Neither was I, but most Americans are probably familiar with his legacy. He launched Monday Night Football--the longest-running prime-time program in TV history--and inaugurated a number of now-commonplace sports broadcasting conventions, including instant replay and slow-motion. Arledge also helped create the news programs 20/20, Nightline and Prime Time Live and ABC's Wide World of Sports and coined its well-known tag line "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."
The 36-time Emmy winner was cited as one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine in 1990.
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and top White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey have both resigned. More later.
Update:Here's the WaPo story; the resignations were "at the request of the White House." Here's the AP story, which says "Bush advisers have been increasingly worried that a lagging economy could hamper the president's re-election prospects. [Duh!] The unemployment rate rose to 6 percent on Friday, the highest in nearly nine years."
The thing I don't get is, these announcements are supposed to be timed for a busy news day, not a slow one, so they're virtually ignored by the so-called "liberal" media. Instead, other big news includes the fact that unemployment is now at 6% (Merry Xmas, y'all!) So I can't feature why today--unless we're about to see Ashcroft announce an "elevated" level of terror threat, or something.
Update #2:Kos notes "that there were no pretensions about 'spending time with my family' ...This was a good ol' fashioned firing." and that it was tantamount to an admission "that his economic team was inept," as if a sluggish stock market and ongoing corporate layoffs didn't make it a foregone conclusion.
The Nov. 26 death of Ray L. Wallace at the age of 84 has led to a startling claim: His son maintains that his father instigated the Bigfoot craze, and that it was all a hoax. The deception--which began with an oversized pair of carved wooden feet worn like sandals--included the famous 1967 "Patterson film;" the elder Wallace had claimed to know not only that the creature was a person in a costume, but who was wearing the suit.
As the Seattle Times obituary notes, Wallace's death has hardly ended the Bigfoot controversy, but it certainly adds in interesting chapter.
Telephone jacks are powered with a constant supply of electricity whose tab is picked up by the phone company, not the homeowner (well, it is factored into the bill, but you know...). Now some genius has created a line of rechargable products that are powered by telco jacks, including a flashlight, a police scanner, an electric razor, and a vibrator (glow in the dark, yet--just in case the power goes out, of course).
Burton then goes on for a double-pronged prescription of how and why the Democrats need to stop trying to be Republican Lite and go back to being Democrats, also riffing off of a recent Kevin Phillips column (reg. req., sorry).
As soon as Democrats start selling access to anyone willing to write a check, they're lost. It's not that Democratic ties to their traditional supporters scare off voters; it's that Democratic reliance on their traditional opponents paralyzes them. This reliance makes it impossible for them to put forth the sort of policies that will truly differentiate them from the Republicans.
I'd also say that it's good news for the Democrats that some big money that had straddled the fence in the Clinton years has now gone over entirely to the Republican side. That's right. It's good news, but only if the Democrats learn the proper lessons (and some Democrats, like Joe Lieberman, seem unwilling to learn those lessons).
The Democrats can make a list of every industry that favors Republicans over Democrats, then go down that list getting rid of every policy they ever instituted to favor those bastards. They once opposed price controls for prescription drugs; they should now favor them. Not only is it good politics in that millions of voters would benefit from Democratic policies, but sticking it to your enemies is also good politics. It gives the big donors a reason to fear you, and may convince some of them to stay the hell out of politics completely. [Note: I disagree; it'll make them support the Repubs all the more--but again, that can be a good thing by eliminating any confusion that the GOP isn't the party of the corporate interest.] The same is true for sticking to the oil companies, the insurance companies, the big polluters, etc.
...[T]here are a lot of voters disaffected with the direction the Republicans have pushed politics in the last two decades. Those voters, most of them Rockefeller Republicans, are looking around for a choice. The Democrats, by competing for big money donations from those same interest groups that have driven away lifelong Republicans like Phillips, haven't given those partyless voters any reason to support them. The people want politicians who'll stick up for them even when the big money goes the other way. Those policians are unlikely to ever be Republicans, but right now they're not Democrats either. It's not that the people have been given a choice and chose the Republicans, it's that they've been given little choice (at least economically) and are evenly divided. Democrats win elections on economics, but they have to give voters a true choice. Skybox Politics doesn't give the voters that choice.
This activist approach to government is very popular and should be just as big selling point for the Democrats now as it was then. While social dislocation and unemployment is nothing close to what it was in the 30's and the War on Some Terror Funded by Some People (none of whom happen to be Saudi) pales in comparison to WWII, the public today is still quite anxious. A factory employee, a middle manager, even a professional doesn't know for sure that his job will be there in a year. If it's not, he doesn't know for sure he'll be able to replace it. He doesn't know if his kids will find good jobs when they graduate college; nor does he know what the world will be like in even a few years. This leads to a lot of anxiety, and elections will go to those who act to calm it and are willing to take steps to make things better. If both parties pretend the anxiety doesn't exist, then elections will go to the party willing to promise the biggest bribes to the most people(and that's usually the party that wants to cut taxes the most). [Note: And, I should add, Democrats need to never let up on the theme that Republican policies don't do a single blessed thing to help.]
The second thing in people's minds that FDR spoke to was a sense of powerlessness in the face of the forces controlling events, sometimes these were the market forces which caused the Great Depression, sometimes they were world events spinning out of control. This, too, is still a powerful emotion today, though there are obviously different things driving it.
Whoever reliably sticks up for those that have little power on their own will win elections. Given their unwillingness to face down corporate donors over economic issues and their unwillingness to do more than slavishly follow George Bush on foreign affairs, the Democrats shouldn't be surprised to see Bush fairly popular. At least he seems willing to stick up for them against terrorists (even though he's dishonest as hell about where the true threat lies).
Speaking for those who feel anxious and those who feel powerless was the true source of FDR's coalition, much more than simply listing its members ethnicities and incomes. That is the sort of coaltion the Democrats should be rebuilding. Give them policies which try to address (rather than just stoke) their anxieties and which give them a collective voice in events they're powerless to affect alone, and you'll win the support of most Americans. Stoking fears without offering solutions and hoping people vote based solely on ethnic identity is sure not to.
I've always loved flight simulators, and one of my all-time favorite computer games is Dynamix's Red Baron (no relation to the also-enjoyable Atari arcade game). The Flash game Death From Above is a simple WWI aerial combat simulator. Although the flight model isn't terribly realistic, and the enemy AI doesn't seem to incorporate team-fighting tactics--I was able to routinely take on pairs on enemy planes, something that should have been much more difficult than it was--the game is a lot of fun. (An unlimited ammo supply is a helpful, if unrealistic, touch; also, you never have to worry about aerial collisions or crashing into the ground. The fact that your enemies are lousy shots doesn't hurt, either; I was able to score more than one kill flying head-to-head without taking a hit myself.) Missions involve taking on greater numbers of enemies; once you've completed a mission, you can replay it in a different aircraft. You can fly for the Germans, Americans, French or British, but the choice basically involves different characteristics of speed, manuverability and firepower. Although not a realistic flight simulator, Death From Above s an entertaining way to spend a coffee break.
(Note: The game company Dynamix--now owned by Sierra Games--shares a name with a pr0n website, so be careful in your searches.
Lest anyone imagine that the Administration has no intention (perish forbid!) of abusing its power (excuse me, "flexibility") granted by the Homeland Security reorganization, it has revived a policy of granting large cash bonuses to patronage appointees. Notice that the program had previously been undisclosed...
The idea for this vast new bureaucracy was embraced at a moment of maximum political advantage and pursued with a relentless focus on electoral calculation. By turning domestic security into a divisive and partisan issue, President Bush helped win his party an election. But at what cost?
That's just the beginning, folks. But, of course, it's all academic now; Bush has a Republican Senate, the lack of accountability flexibility to remove Democratic unqualified employees and replace them with patronage more qualified candidates, and a bunch of tacked-on goodies for special interests.
I want it to be crystal clear the price Democrats pay for standing with President Bush on anything. Carnahan and Cleland were both targeted by Bush despite their frequent support for his policies. SD's Tim Johnson escaped by a sliver, despite offering the president his consistent support.
For pity's sake, did Deomocrats think that Bush would be so grateful for their (necessary) support of his agenda that he wouldn't work overtime for their defeat?
Kevin Raybold doesn't buy former Bush aide John DiIulio's recent recanting of a critical interview in Esquire magazine in which he was critical of the Bush administration. DiIulio was quoted as saying: "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." Raybold's analysys:
Based on his own words, it seems clear that the original Esquire article captured Dilulio's argument faithfully. If there is any fault here, it lies with Dilulio himself, not Esquire.
That leaves the question of the veracity of his charges. That is harder to judge, as this is a very closed mouthed Administration, and finding out what is going on inside it is very difficult. I do not take Dilulio's retraction seriously, as I find it hard to believe that a man as intelligent and accomplished as Dilulio would write such a long and detailed letter that consisted of nothing but mistakes. More likely, to me, is the notion that Dilulio was made aware of the political damage this could do to Bush - a man he obviously admires - and began damage control. Otherwise, why was his first correction only about two small incidents, and not the entire article?
There have been hints of this before the Esquire article. We know that Bush spends a lot of money - more than Clinton - on polls. [Editor Greg: Remember during the 2000 campaign, how Bush lied claimed that he didn't rely on polls? I do...] We know that Rove told the Republicans to run on the war. We know that Card defended the timing of the Iraq debate by labeling it a "marketing campaign". These small glimpses into how the Bush Administration works lend credibility to Dilulio's letter.
There is now a growing and credible body of evidence that this Administration is the most political, least willing to work with opponents, Administration of at least my lifetime.
In this excellent column, the WaPo's David Broder shows that one doesn't need shrill rhetoric or lefty hyperbole to call attention to the sham that this current Administration calls leadership: Simply pointing out Bush's relentless hypocracy and self-contradiction will do.
Earlier in the week, in connection with signing the legislation to create a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, Bush addressed federal employees in a memorandum about what he called "my highest and most urgent priority," protecting the American people from another terrorist attack. He praised the civil servants for their "hard work and unwavering dedication" and said, "Americans owe you their gratitude for helping to keep their families and their communities secure."
A few days later, Bush told those same federal workers that he was curtailing their pay increases because granting the "full statutory pay increases in 2003 would interfere with our nation's ability to pursue the war on terrorism." Instead of the 4.1 percent raise that was moving through Congress before it adjourned for the year, the president said the workers would get a 3.1 percent boost...the administration said it would save $1 billion nationally.
But the billion-dollar savings has to be put in context. The Pentagon budget for next year -- which does not include the funding of an Iraqi war -- is $355 billion, up 10 percent over 2002.
The farm bill, which the president signed back in May with an eye to November's Midwest Senate races, will cost $248 billion over the next six years. Fiscal conservatives in both parties objected to its expanded subsidies to large farm operators, but the president did not hesitate to give it his blessing. And he has defended his 10-year tax cut, which will cost the Treasury $1.3 trillion and mostly will benefit top-bracket earners. Indeed, he wants to make the tax cuts permanent, and there's talk in the White House of accelerating them.
Oddly enough, the same president who says, with a straight face, that a $1 billion federal pay raise would "interfere with . . . the war on terrorism" insists the tax cut can go forward as if the budget were still in surplus and al Qaeda had never struck. The mixed message to federal workers -- words of praise followed by a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings -- comes as administration officials and private foundations are trying to persuade thousands of talented young people to take up government careers and replace those who are slated for retirement.
Almost everywhere you look, the element of shared sacrifice that should be expected in a nation at war is missing. A few people are being asked to give up a lot -- measured in time or money -- while others are being indulged in ways no one can claim are fair.
This is good news: In a slap at what many viewed as a an attempt by the Egyptian government to crack down on its critics, an appeals court has released and ordered a retrial for Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American civil rights worker whose prosecution on charges of defaming Egypt strained ties with the United States. The ailing professor was released so hastily that his family found him waiting outside the prison walls when they came to collect him.
Ryan Shellito and Darrin Bright have codified the physical Laws of Anime. Some examples:
Law of Constant Thrust, First Law of Anime Motion
In space, constant thrust equals constant velocity.
Law of Inherent Combustibility
Everything explodes. Everything.
First Corollary - Anything that explodes bulges first.
Second Corollary - Large cities are the most explosive substances known to human science. Tokyo in particular seems to be the most unstable of these cities, sometimes referred to as "The Matchstick City".
Law of Conservation of Firepower
Any powerful weapon capable of destroying/defeating an opponent in a single shot will invariably be reserved and used only as a last resort.
Law of Probable Attire, Second Corollary
Bikinis render the wearer invulnerable to any form of damage.
Who, after all, can seriously contend that a $100,000 donation does not alter the way one thinks about -- and quite possibly votes on -- an issue? Donations from the tobacco industry to Republicans scuttled tobacco legislation, just as contributions from the trial lawyers to Democrats stopped tort reform.
Alan G. Hassenfeld, CEO of Hasbro, Inc.:
Many in the corporate world view large soft money donations as a cost of doing business, and frankly, a good investment relative to the potential economic benefit to their business. In fact, although there is increasing resistance in the business community as access becomes more and more expensive, I remain convinced that in some of the more publicized cases, federal officeholders actually appear to have sold themselves and the party cheaply.
United Airlines Chairman Emeritus Gerald Greenwald:
When sitting Members [of Congress] solicit large corporate and union contributions, the leaders of these organizations feel intense pressure to contribute, because experience has taught that the consequences of failing to contribute (or failing to contribute enough) may be very negative.
Sen. John McCain noted soft money's influence on the recent spate of odious legislation affecting telecommunications and copyright:
I believe, based on my experience, that elected officials do act in particular ways in order to assist large soft money donors and that this skews and shapes the legislative process. ...Members of Congress who were involved in crafting the legislation were inundated with requests for meetings by soft money contributors... [T]he public interest had few lobbyists and no campaign contributors to protect it. The process was essentially hijacked by large soft money contributors and their lobbyists. The legislation, which dealt with issues of interest to big money donors, was poorly conceived and filled with internal inconsistencies designed to appease these competing donors rather than to serve the public interest.
I can't say if McCain-Feingold is the ideal way to reform electoral politics, but I can say that the current soft money system stinks on ice. Over an otherwise pleasant Thanksgiving break, I was exposed to even more odious campaign commercials thanks to Louisiana's upcoming runoff election--most of which were so-called "issue ads," from supporters of both candidates, and nearly all of which were tremendously distorted. I firmly believe in freedom of speech, but that freedom shouldn't encompass bald-faced lies, and it certainly doesn't support a system that's tantamount to bribery. Like I said, McCain-Feingold may not be the best fix, but the system that Senator McConnell and other defends is a system of bribery of public officials in which those who have the gold make the rules.
RetroCrush lists the Top 10 '70s toys. I used to own several of them...the $6 Million Man action figure, the Jaws game, the G.I. Joe with kung-fu grip, and the Big Wheel...ah, those were the days. Pity that a lot of them would probably qualify for that unsafe toy list these days.
We returned from New Orleans last night after a loooong drive. After we got the girls to bed and dealt with a few welcome-home issues, we pretty much crashed. Today has been spent catching up with email and the like, so far. Look for posting to resume in force tomorrow.
By the way--the trip to New Orleans was very pleasant. We didn't get out much, actually, preferring to visit with my relatives, but we did manage a Sunday trip to the French Quarter just before loading up to return. And think of it--nearly a week with no computer, no email, no PlayStation, and no DVDs. Even so, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable little vacation. And, of course, we ate like kings.