Friday, December 30, 2005

Is our food any safer?

A few months ago, I remember seeing some information somewhere that the recent wearing of latex gloves by people in preparing food, especially at restaurants, has done little to improve the safety of the food being prepared. I've always been a bit suspicious of this effort to improve safety, mainly because my experience in food service told me that wearing gloves would not do much to keep food safer.

Today at a mall restaurant, it became absolutely clear to me just why.

I watched a teenage girl at the World Wrapps restaurant in the mall. She wore latex gloves, of course. She was responsible for making the smoothies and serving them, so her work mainly dealth with using the blender and handing the cups of icy-fruit blends to customers. But she was also responsible for helping at the cash register and wiping up the counter and picking up the trash left by people unwrapping their straws.

I watched her, as I waited for my teriyaki chicken wrap, as she dropped ingredients into the blender, hit the button to liquify the mixture and poured the smoothie into a cup. As she called the name of the person she owed a smoothie, she picked up some trash. Then she took some money at the register. A minute later, she used a rag to wipe down the counter. Made a smoothie. Wiped the counter again.

For someone so concerned about the cleanliness of the service area, one would have thought she switched gloves several times. Nope. All the germs and dirt were just collected on her gloved hands. In fact, the only things kept clean in the entire process were her hands! That seems exactly backward to me. By wearing the gloves, the germs and dirt are just held on the gloves, waiting to be transferred to the food. I have even seen people brush their nose or mouth with their latex-clad fingers, something that would probably not happen with bare hands -- at least not without a sanitized wipedown afterward.

The food industry should lose the latex gloves and re-emphasize actual cleaning and safety procedures. Wipe or wash your hands after handling money or performing a cleaning task. Keep food clean and separate from contaminated areas (like your dirty hands, gloved or not).

I don;t expect a sterile environment. I do expect that workers follow the basic cleanliness procedures required by the food handler's certification exam. It's simple, really, and common sense.

But I won't be ordering a smoothie anytime soon.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Time to cut and run?

In a post I read over at the blog of my Colorado chick Vestal Vespa, I read with interest about the true consequences of pulling out American troops from their occupation of Iraq. The article is a manageable one from The Atlantic. The author is a fellow at the New America Foundation and spent 16 months in Iraq after the initial invasion.

Read "If America Left Iraq"
and arm yourself with some facts about what might happen in the next year or more.

We're pulling out eventually. What happens when we do is a matter of when we pull out and how long we have overstayed our welcome. Even if, after reading the article fully, one doesn't come to the same conclusions as the author, it is worth it for the background and history. I was intrigued by the projected future for the Kurds and the political bargaining that will keep Turkey in check.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Vacation Movies, Part II

I have spent some time in theaters this week, with more time scheduled still, so I'll get right to it.

"Syriana" -- I enjoyed this film about oil politics in the United States and the Middle East. A lot of reviews said it was a thinking person's drama, and I think that is right. There is some great stuff in the film.

I have to admit I approached it as a movie first and a commentary second. The film is well made with excellent perfoemances and a wonderful convergence of plots that had me surprised a couple of times. It also gave good screen time to some new actors, people to watch. As a commentary I tried not to think of the larger implications outside the theater. Certainly there is a lot to ponder in the United States' deadlings with the oil emirs of the Persian Gulf region. The interests of the United States are often the interests of the Gulf states. Fortunaltely, "Syriana" steered clear of an outright indictment of certain nations, religions or even our own country. This was a work of fiction. However, its plot events were all-too-likely. Think "Manchurian Candidate" with oil.

"The Producers" -- This was the most over-the-top romp I have seen in a long time. I have not seen the original film or the stage musical, but I knew the basic plot. This version was delightful. A woman sitting further down in front than me laughed at every line and gag with a squeal that writer Mel Brooks would love.

Movies just aren't this cleverly funny anymore. Either they are funny because of stupid antics and cheap lines or they are funny because of their serious portrayal of the human foibles, but "The Producers" has targets on so many levels that one can't help but laugh. No one is safe from the satire. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are simply perfect. More Mel Brooks, please!

In looking for other movies, I am amazed by the number of strong films out right now that are also very long. I am not sure if I can handle a three-hour show without a "bio break," so some ("King Kong," "Munich") may need to wait for the home-viewing pleasure that is DVD.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Today, Dec. 29, is the first anniversary of Loganite.

The last year has brought a couple hundred posts to this Weblog, and dozens more comments from my handful of loyal readers.

When I started this a year ago, I did not know where it would take me. My mission was to record my thoughts about things that happen to me or people I know and also about things that interest me. I think I have succeeded on that mission over the past 52 weeks. It has been an interesting journey and a great creative outlet. I've enjoyed posting my thoughts, and I have really enjoyed reading the comments. Yes, I read them all.

I have worked hard to, at times, bite my tongue (figuratively at least) and to not post a snarky reply to every ludicrous comment posted to one of my ruminations. And I don't always agree with the people who post, even those who take my side.

So, hat's off to a successful first year. I have my fingers crossed for another year of keyboard success. I only hope Dino Rossi, George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress can provide as many great opportunities for me to sound off as they did in 2005.

Commence commenting...

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Vacation Movies, Part I

I saw the first of my holiday movies Monday night: "Walk the Line" with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. It was excellent and deserves being seen, even at full price.

The story of singer Johnny Cash was well-portrayed by Phoexix, and June Carter never looked better with Witherspoon's perky and upbeat characterization. At times, with the camera angle just so, Phoenix looked the spitting image of Cash. Add in the fact that he sang the songs himself, and you've got a performance that is both entertaining and awe-inspiring.

The only downside was the chattering of patrons near me. I don't know what I do to always sit by the talkies, but it is annoying. Behind me and to the right were two older women, who shared the occasional remark with each other, usually followed by a chortle. To the left was a family of two parents and two children, both under the 13-year-old suggested age for admission. It would not have been so bad, but the family acted as if the theater were its own personal living room, and talked throughout the film. The quartet also whooped and hollered as if at an outdoor concert. Sadly, the children were better behaved than the parents.

I still have a couple more holiday features to view, and the Wenatchee theaters seem to have most of what I want to see. A trip to Seattle should fill in the rest.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Still perfect

I just checked my grades for the fall semester for my graduate studies program. I still have a 4.0 grade-point average after five semesters. I am prettty pleased -- not just because I have high marks but because I worked dang hard this semester for one of my two A's, and I thought I was going to get a lower grade.

One of the concepts I studied this semester in my Human Learning class was motivation -- intrinsic and extrinstic. Atthis point in my studies, I am intrinsically motivated to do well in my classes. There is no other incentive aside from my own desire to perpetuate the grade perfection. I get a salary bump based on completion of the degree, not how well I did (that is an argument for another day).

So, as I head into my final semester, I am looking forward to maintaining my high marks -- solid grades based on hard work and achieving beyond what is expected. My biggest competitor is myself. And I compete to win.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Only one week left to get to voting

There is just one week left in 2005, and that means only a few more days for voting for the A.H.O.Y. '05. Voting closes Jan. 8.

Check out the Web site. Enjoy. Cast your votes.

Then, check back and see who is leading and who will be the A.H.O.Y. '05!

Happy voting!

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Winter wishes near Tacoma

The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., reported this week about a great project at Bethel High School, located in the Pierce County town of Spanaway. The students have organized something truly special -- they grant wishes for students at their school, just in time to brighten a holiday for those who might not have much to enjoy this time of year as their friends get new clothes or cars.

The paper reports:
Making wishes come true
With no budget, Bethel students fulfill requests for others

By Tara M. Manthey

Let 1,510 teens make a wish for someone else and you can expect 64 requests for a yearbook.

At Bethel High School, you’ll see yearnings for 14 iPods, seven letterman’s jackets, six cars and three months of unlimited tanning.

But you can also expect a plea for a surgery, clothing for babies, a bigger house for a needy family.

Sean Warner wants his brother to survive a fight with cancer. David Harbison wants money to help his grandmother in Korea. Kayla Yuill wants classmate Michelle Swails to visit her father’s grave in Florida.

Every year the 30 students of Bethel High’s leadership class have a month to fulfill as many requests as possible for the Winter Wishes assembly. It started five years ago with kids making wishes for themselves that were answered with mostly gag gifts and small favors.

As more wishes were granted, students took the task more seriously. The wishes became more earnest, and many were pleas for help.

This year, the Spanaway kids had to make a wish for someone else. With no budget and hundreds of requests, the leadership class sorted out the possible from the impossible. Then they picked a few of the latter and tried their hardest.

At a time when teens are maligned for being shallow, for being selfish, these kids show they have something more to offer. They just want to get something done for their friends. Whether it was a fun "snowfall" or a new bed or a letterman's jacket, it was a small gesture -- usually a request from a friend, sibling or teacher -- that made someone else happy. It all culminated in an assembly where the wishes were granted.

In Wenatchee, teens spent an hour Tuesday attending an assembly -- the "Christmas Basket" Assembly. Apparently organized around the need to have a representative from the local PUD employees' union thank the students for organizing donations for Christmas Baskets for needy families (the union donates the turkeys for baskets), the assembly droned on for about 50 minutes with inanities.

Sure, the assembly went off mostly without problems. It was nice to listen to the kids sing or to see them dance. Even the framing sequence was decently portrayed. But the point where I started questioning the purpose was the long dance number with three very tall teachers sancing to the "Sugarplum Fairies" song and a smaller teacher looking even more diminutive. This lasted several minutes. And I thought to myself, "Why, exactly, are we here?"

When I read the story above, reprinted in the local paper today, I thought the efforts of the students at Bethel High were closer to what student leaders could be doing with their time and abilities. The hour would be a lot better spent. And the PUD employee representative could still come on to say how the donations had helped grant some other winter wishesn for needy people in the community.

I'm amazed at the willingness of people to give to others. I also know how much a small gift means to people -- sometimes just a little boost can be all someone needs to make it.

It would be great to see the local effort revamped based on the Bethel model. That would be my wish.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Will Washington protect journalists?

If Washington's attorney general is successful, journalists in Washington state will have more protections. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in its Dec. 22 edition:

The recent jail stint of a New York Times reporter might help spur passage of legislation to protect reporters in Washington state from having to disclose confidential sources.

But even some lawyers, prosecutors and others who support the concept of "shield" laws -- which exist in 31 other states and the District of Columbia -- have concerns about the details in legislation proposed by state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Two Democratic and two Republican state senators are sponsoring McKenna's bill. It would provide an absolute protection to news media from court-ordered disclosure of confidential sources and a qualified protection for a reporter's notes, photographs, audio- or videotapes and other work products.

It also would protect third parties who could reveal a journalist's sources, such as a cellular phone company with records of calls to the sources.

The law would codify into law what has apprently existed in court rulings based on common law and on the federal First Amendment. It would also define a the news media as:
It would define "news media" as "any person or entity ... in the regular business of disseminating news or information to the public by any means," and who earns "a substantial portion of his or her livelihood" by such means. It would include journalists, their work associates, researchers and scholars.

This proposed law is not only important, it is necessary for a healthy democracy. When the news media have protection from prosecution, they will be more likely to continue the historical tradition of government watchdog. Roughly two-thirds of the states have this protection, and Washington should follow soon.

However, a source close to the proposal told me in November that student journalists were initially to be included in the definition of the news media, while bloggers would be excluded. The definition reported above would seem to exclude student journalists because they would not earn a substantial portion of their livelihood from their work as a student journalist. Furthermore, hobby bloggers would also be excluded apparently.

Hopefully, legislators in the short session set to begin in January will modify the language to include as news media all people associated with the dissemination of news. Such a broad definition would include scholastic and collegiate journalists as well as part-time bloggers.

Nonetheless, this is an important bill with bipartisan support, and it is one that should be enacted by the representatives in Olympia and signed by the governor.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Bob Novak signs off CNN

Bob Novak, a newspaper columnist better known for his second job as a talking head on several CNN shout shows, has held his last day in a 25-year career on CNN. He had been on long-term suspension since the summer when he stormed off the set after uttering a swear word on live TV in an argument with the equally volatile James Carville.

Novak will be joining FOX News as a contributor.

Novak had also become known in the last couple years for being the newspaper columnist who printed in his column the name of the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the covert CIA agent that has led to a special investigation and an indictment of the vice president's chief of staff.

While Novak has maintained a near silence on the matter over the last two years, he said recently that the president should break his silence on the matter -- he believes the president knows who the source is who told Novak about Wilson's wife being a CIA agent.

CNN showed Wolf Blitzer this afternoon reminiscing with Novak, plying Novak for some details about the still unnamed sources involving the CIA agent, and generally feeling upbeat. There was just an allusion to the August incident with Carville. There was no mention of Novak's new job at FOX.

FOX is really a better place for Novak, anyway. He just ruffled the feathers of all the CNN folks, people who are generally reasonable and who try to see both sides of an issue whether they themselves are conservative or liberal. Novak could be relied on to recite the Righty political talking points and to carry plenty of water for the Bush Administration. I'm sure the Rightys will take care of Novak -- and it starts with finding him a nice spot at their media outlet, FOX News.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

The loss of a true gem

One of the special treats I enjoy on many breaks from school is watching the back episodes of my fevorite television series, "The West Wing," on DVD. I just began watching the fifth season this week, and though I had already seen each episode, of course, it is nice to see the show without commercial interruption and with the option of pausing and replaying.

And, as I watch the episodes for a second, third, even fourth time because of reruns, I notice a bit more about the magic that is this special show. Its actors are the best anywhere week after week. Among the notable actors on the show was John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry and who died Dec. 16 of a heart attack at age 58.

Spencer's ability was in his expressions, the lines in his face, a look, a tone, a gesture. He conveyed important bits about the office of chief of staff and about the White House just through his simple and subtle acts. For example, Spencer as Leo always buttoned his jacket when entering the Oval Office. He often communicated an entire page's worth of script in just one pause with a look, a purse of his lips or a movement of his eyes.

Television, and some movies, is devoid of the kind of actor like Spencer, all too rarely seen today. I am not sure what is next for "The West Wing" now -- Spencer's character was the Democratic nominee for vice president in the ongoing campaign that in TV time is still six weeks away from Election Day. I imagine several episodes had already been written, let alone filmed, before Spencere's untimely death. The most startling irony is that Leo had suffered a major heart attack that left him sidelined for much of the sixth season last year. I do expect the show will acknowledge the death and will write it into the show. How they do and still manage to pay homage to a fantastic actor will be difficult, but the show should be able to pull it off.

I'll be watching.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

'Re-elect Rossi'? Ha!

As I left Wenatchee this morning for a quick trip down to Ellensburg, I saw a few vehicles with bumper stickers. A woman in an older Subaru wagon had one of note: "Dog is my co-pilot" and several other progressive and enlightened phrases stuck on the back panel. Good stuff.

Then I followed a SUV for a bit on the road on the outskirts of town. I always like to read the many bumper stickers I see while driving, which probably explains my tendency to follow too closely. So this vehicle had a sticker with the phrase "Re-Elect Rossi" -- no kidding. There is actually a bumper sticker for the lost cause of Dino Rossi, a candidate that did not win an election the first time around but whose pathetic supporters keep spouting off about how the election was "stolen" by the liberals and incompetent election workers in King County.

News flash: HE LOST. There is no "re-electing" him. He wasn't elected in the first place. For a time, he had more votes, but subsequent recounts and a court case showed he actually had fewer.

You don't see any stickers for "Re-Elect Gore-Lieberman" do you? There was an election that actually was stolen because not all votes were counted. But we have moved on.

The clincher here: The sticker was on a vehicle being driven by a conservative Republican county commissioner, one of the most pompous and self-serving politicians in the area. He's never won an election either -- he was appointed and then ran unopposed.

-- Ellensburg, Wash.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Et tu, Hillary?

From New York television station TV1:

Hillary Clinton Co-Sponsors Anti-Flag Burning Bill
December 05, 2005

Senator Hillary Clinton is supporting a bill that would ban flag burning, but she is opposed to a constitutional ban on the act.

Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a crime to destroy a flag on federal property, intimidate anyone by burning a flag or burning someone else's flag.

A spokesperson for the Senator says Clinton supports making flag burning a crime, but is hesitant to amend the Constitution.

Clinton's move to co-sponsor the bill is seen by many observers as an apparent attempt to win over conservative voters as she preps for a possible run for the White House in 2008.

Sen. Clinton is trying to butter her bread on both sides. While she says she opposes a Constitutional amendment banning the burning of the flag, she says it should be a crime to burn it on federal property or to use it to intimidate someone or to burn their flag. This is horrible politics, and her move to gain more voters by moving to the right where she is more comfortable will likely backfire.

The last two are already illegal. Threats are not protected speech. Destruction of someone's property is illegal. But burning a flag on federal property? That absolutely should be protected. Federal property includes national parks, monuments and memorials. In fact, it would include most of Washington, D.C.!

I have long claimed Hillary Clinton was a moderate and even zagged into conservative terratory at times. Her reputation as a leftie is greatly eggagerated by her affiliation wil nationalized health care. She is responsible for some of the tugging to the right Bill Clinton endured in the mid-1990s. She is no leftie. She even used to be a "Goldwater Girl."

Sen. Clinton makes this move at a time when she knows the right to dissent should be protected and affirmed. Now, more than ever, the freedom to speak out and protest -- even while repulsive to some -- must be guarded. Sen. Clinton would trade temporary political gain with a sliver of the electorate for the trust placed in her by not only her constituents but millions of Americans who have seen her as a leader and thoughtful voice from the left. What will most likely happen is that the people she hopes to gain favor with will see this for what it is -- a sop -- and those who helped her get where she is will start looking for someone who does not smack of tracking-poll politics as much as her husband did.

This stings, Hillary. I thought you were better than this. You lost my respect and you probably lost my vote.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Three key court happenings

Today was an interesting day in court news, with some of the most interesting legal situations of the day all moving forward simultaneously.

In Iraq, the trial of Saddam Hussein continued, and the former ruler of Iraq let out a bolt of opposition to his trial. His United States attorney, former attorney general Ramsey Clark, led a protest in which the defense team walked out of the courtroom because the judge would not allow the team to read a statement declaring the trial inappropriate and asking for more protection as two defense attorneys have already been killed and other slain. Today also brought dramatic testimony from a man who claimed Saddam had killed his family. Saddam stood and shouted that the witness was a liar.

The trial continues to polarize both supporting and opposing groups. It remains to be seen how long the trial will take, on what counts Saddam will be convicted and if he will be executed.

On the home front, a Texas judge threw out one charge against Tom DeLay, the former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives -- the election conspiracy charge. The judge allowed a trial to proceed against DeLay for the charge of money laundering. This sets the stage for a new leadership election in the House, since the Congress will reconvene Jan. 30 for the presiden't State of the Union address.

Oddsmakers have their eye on Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former whip and acting leader, who is likely lining up votes for leader.

Finally, the Supreme Court said today it would hear a case involving military recruiting on college campuses. The case pits the armed forces recruiters -- combing law schools for recruits to the Judge Advocate General Corps -- against those who say that the military's ban on homosexuals serving openly violates the anti-discrimination policies in place at many universities -- most employers must sign a declaration that affirms they do not discriminate on the basis of several protected classes, including sexual orientation.

This case has the potential to undo the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in 1993 by the Clinton Administration.

All in all, a dynamic day in the courts.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The 'revolution' is dead

At other times in our nation's history, have we been aware that we were in a time of transition? Sure, politics and government is seemingly in constant flux -- and perhaps that is a good thing. But there are few times of such benchmark proportion that we can itemize them. In the second half of the 20th Century we had several instances, many related to changes in public opinion about a party in leadership or a scandal. Think Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. Add Newt Gingrich in there, too.

I'm pretty sure things have turned for the Republicans now, too, and that the so-called revolution in 1994, which swept Republicans into power in both houses of Congress as well as statehouses and legislatures across the country, is over. One key to their advances was billing themselves as good and responsible stewards of government and the taxpayers' money. More than a decade later, I doubt the GOP could make the same claim with a straight face.

Instead, the Republicans have become the party of flag-waving, defecit spending and war-mongering. With a new indictment of a Republican seemingly every week, the party is hardly a model of good government.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's admission this week that he accepted bribes and other gifts from defense contractors hoping to gain influence with Cunningham as chair of the defense appropriations sub-committee. He is the latest example of how Republican "values" have proven to be corrupt and bad for America.

So what are the Republicans to do? They better look inward to some of the less-polarizing leaders if they hope to have any chance at saving a majority in the Congress in 2006 elections and in the presidential election in 2008. Names we're likely to hear: Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, George Voinovich and, yes, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich can be the one to save the party again, and he is in the catbird seat to do so.

If more Republicans get indicted, we'll see a shift in attention.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Snow, snow, snow

Last Friday, Nov. 25, was the first snow in Wenatchee this year. We had another inch or so Tuesday. But the first real snow came last night and all day today, when about three to four inches fell on the lower parts of the valley. I assume the higher elevations such as the foothills and canyons received a bit more.

So winter begins.

Finally I shoveled the driveway tonight. I usually don't do much to clean off the driveway (there are no sidewalks on my cul de sac) for a few reasons. One, I have studded tires, so the snow is not really a problem to get through when coming in and out of the garage. Two, since I had already driven out of the garage Tuesday morning, compressing ruts, there was no way to clear the drive of the snow; the pebbly surface also makes it difficult. Finally, the direction of the sun's rays during winter -- blocked by the mountain and other homes -- means the driveway gets very little chance to have the snow or frost melt; pretty much it's shady till February.

But today, I had to do it. Enough snow had piled up that it needed to be done. And, I had to brush the snow off the car so it would not melt in the garage and leave a big puddle. Plus, I felt bad that the paper boy had to trudge through the drifts of powder just to deliver my paper to the porch.

So now, the driveway is mostly clean. Just in time for another dumping of snow. The good news tonight is that school is delayed two hours tomorrow, so I can sleep well.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.