Friday, January 30, 2009
Got into a fender-bender this morning ... with a snowbank. And it was of my own accord.

Yeah, that's a great way to start the day.

See, yesterday was bright and sunny, so all of the snow from Wednesday started to melt. Then last night the temperatures plunged - this morning at 7:15 it was still only 8 degrees Fahrenheit. So needless to say on the drive this morning the roads were an icy mess.

And while I don't want to put all of the blame on Brunswick Public Works, I'm not quite sure why they don't sand the roads up here. Did the price of dirt go through the roof this summer? Is Maine running out of gravel? Can we at least throw some pebbles from the ocean on the busier roads?

Either way, this morning McKeen Street in Brunswick was virtually an ice skating rink. Which is a challenge when you get to the four-way stop at Spring Street, next to the old high school.

When I got to there this morning a pickup truck was stopped in front of me. Four or five car-lengths out I started to brake.


Three car-lengths, pump the brakes.


Two car-lengths, downshift, scout for a soft-looking part of the snowbank on the right-hand curb, turn the wheel, brace for impact.



Now this is the part where I'm glad to be in Maine. I hadn't even gotten out of the car yet and a security guard from local Bowdoin College slows down, asks if I need help. One minute later I had four other men stopped to help. One had a big bushy beard and flannel shirt, like he was heading into (or out of) the woods, the other was bald in a shirt and tie, like he was a high school geometry teacher.

Before I could even stereotype the other two dudes I had five guys pushing my car out of the snowbank (which luckily was very soft, and only a foot tall).

And before I could hop out of my car to thank them, they were gone to the four cardinal points of the intersection.

Then I was on my way again.

Just like that.

I have to contrast these events with Dubai, where I doubt I'd get any help. And before you say, "but Josh, there are no snowbanks or icy roads in Dubai" you have to remember that we had sand.

Lots and lots of sand.

Because one day in Dubai when I was trying to sort out the whole 'equivalency of degree' thing for my MBA I actually did get stuck in the sand. It was the day I was running to-and-fro for my High School Equivalence Certificate (see High School Equivalence Certificate in Dubai).

Somehow I parked on the wrong side of the Dubai Ministry of Education building, in less of a parking lot than an empty lot. It wasn't paved at all - just sand. And keep in mind that we had a Toyota Echo, which pretty much had bike tires on it.

So as I had to leave the Ministry of Education to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I got stuck. Wicked stuck. Tires-spinning, sand-flying stuck.

Do you think anyone helped me there?


To be fair, however, I should point out a rather Dubaian dick driving move I saw yesterday on 295 here in Maine.

An SUV was actually backing up in the breakdown lane because it had missed the exit for the Falmouth Spur which leads to points south via Maine Turnpike.

Now, granted, the car had New Hampshire license plates, so clearly the driver wasn't a Mainer, but still, that move would have fit in perfectly in Dubai.

Although if that clown got stuck on the side of the road here at least someone would stop to help him out ...
posted by Josh at 7:01 PM | 0 comments
The Republican National Committee just elected Michael Steele as chairperson.


You've got to be kidding me!

They're such copycats!
posted by Josh at 5:50 PM | 2 comments
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Today the company I've been temping at was just closed by the home office. I've been downsized, and I don't technically even work there. I think that's a new low.

The closure will actually roll-out over the next few months, although all of the employees left early today. I say "employees" because we temps stayed on.

See, we don't get paid if we don't work - it's the temp credo. So over the past few weeks I've braved blizardly driving conditions to get in on-time or stay late to ensure payment. Heck, once I even worked during a power outage. That was something.

In fact, yesterday's blizzard day was the first time where all three temps in my department (the only temps in the building, actually) left work early. So of course we were all planning on working late tonight, to make up for the lost time.

But then today our manager "team leader" never came back after the "you're all fired" meeting (wisely it was held off-site). So we three non-employees continued to work quietly at our desk all afternoon as the sobbing, angry and shell-shocked real employees slowly dissipated from the surrounding cubicles. By four in the afternoon you could have heard a pin drop from across the building, provided, of course, someone were actually there to drop said pin.

Then just before five a smartly dressed gentleman none of us had ever seen before wandered by our cubicles. Odd. After he passed we heard the muffled tones of him getting on his cell phone.

Something was up.

But, as we're not paid to think, just work, we continued on. Like the proverbial chicken whose leg muscles still flex after the ax has cleared its head from its shoulders, we worked on, sans managers, other employees, or even mailroom guy. All muscle, no brain - the other temp credo.

A few minutes later one of the company's human resources ladies whom we did recognize wandered by. She asked politely, well as politely as one who works in HR really can be (they're generally a blunt and brusque lot) for us to get out of the building immediately, and to not come back until 8 am tomorrow, no earlier.

One of the other temps was confused and a little amazed at this. She obviously has never been downsized before.

I actually have only been made redundant once in my career, way back in December of 2000 at LEGO Media Santa Monica (yes, the LEGO company was trying to break in the entertainment biz. As you probably didn't know that, you can see how far they actually got).

In that case our hint that something was amiss was that the president of the division was actually flying to Los Angeles from Denmark, or England, or wherever he was based. It was the first time in the six months of the Santa Monica office that he was coming around, and we all doubted that it was a purely social call.

Again, they had an off-site meeting, and again I wasn't privileged enough to attend. To be fair, I was the assistant, and the other four people in the offices all held some kind of "director", "executive" or "senior vice president" in their titles.

When the four returned from their meeting it was less sobbing than downright angry. Pure rage, actually. The VP, Kathrin, grizzled by many years of fighting with corporate parent Viacom while at Nickelodeon and Nick Films, just handed me her cell phone (this was pre-Blackberry), office key and parking card, and walked out, seething.

In that case I was asked, or commanded, really, to take down the office and mail everything to LEGOLAND in San Diego, who'd get everything back to Slough, England where the corporate overlords of LEGO Media resided.

Thoughts of Grosse Pointe Blank and Joan Cusack "taking down the office" with a five-gallon jug of gasoline flitted through my head.

Naw, they probably frown upon arson in Southern California. Too many dry hills and expensive homes. People are so snippy about that stuff.

And that right there is why they kicked us out tonight in South Portland. Oh, yeah, that's where this now-doomed office is, in South Portland, right behind the mall, actually.

Oddly enough the home office is in Portland, Oregon. I'm trying to think of a Lost "Not in Portland" joke but I really can't at this point. Still, at points the "Portland" / "South Portland" thing confuses everyone from customer to employees all the way down to temps. Why they couldn't have picked Scarborough or Westbrook or Falmouth is beyond me.

Anyway, honestly I'm really quite ambivalent about this recent turn of events. The pay was good for temp work, but of course the job itself was mindless, as it was temp work.

I guess it all just makes sense, in this economy, that companies need to consolidate for a sustainable future. That they need to find opportunities to centralize key functions, streamline the processes and improve efficiencies. Operate the business at peak efficiency, if you will. Reduce costs and increase revenues. Think of the 5-Year Plan.

(Bet you didn't know that there is a MBA class called "Corporate Reasoning for Downsizing". It's required. Can you tell that I got an A?)

No, I hate to make light of this turn of events, and the 200-some odd people in South Portland whose lives just got plum crazy today. That's the real tragedy.
posted by Josh at 6:58 PM | 5 comments
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Here's a Los Angeles Times article that should be pretty amusing to Boston Red Sox (and baseball) fans: Agent: Manny Ramirez should be signed by the start of spring training.

Um, ya think?

Bet that two-year, $45-million pitch from the Dodgers (that has since evaporated) looks pretty good to Mr. Manuel Aristides Ramírez Onelcida right now.

On ESPN this morning they likened Manny to the stuck-up pretty girl in high school who turns too many prom-suitors down and then ends up not going at all.


I never get sick of mocking Manny, that overpaid, spoiled big baby.

I mean seriously, what GM in their right mind is going to give him a 4 or 5 year deal with him turning 37 this spring?

Yes, add "deluded" to the "overpaid" and "spoiled" thing above.
posted by Josh at 5:58 PM | 0 comments
So I ended up going in to work today, but I left at 3:30. Good thing, too, the roads were pretty treacherous already. Luckily along most of 295 we never really got above 40 mph (64 kmph).

That also allowed me to take a few photos with the camera on my phone. Sorry they're not great quality, they should give you a pretty good idea of what I was dealing with.





Sadly, I didn't get a shot of the big rig off of the road just south of exit 15, which could have made a dramatic shot.

I did, however, take one of the speedometer, though:


(Don't worry about the Check Engine light, it's been on for months. You should, however, note that my gas tank is pretty full. My Dad always said, "make sure you always have above a half-a-tank in the winter.")
posted by Josh at 5:32 PM | 3 comments
So apparently today we're going to get just dumped on with snow. Hammered, it seems.

Oddly it wasn't always that way. Let's look at the progression of this storm.

Sunday night the local meteorologists said, "flurries on Wednesday."

Monday it became 6 inches (15 cm) of snow.

Then yesterday on the radio I heard 15 inches (38 cm).

And now I just saw this on WCSH's weather page:


What the hell?

Up to 24 inches (61 cm)?!

Now, I know that this forecasting isn't a set science. At times it seems the hoodoo of snow dances coming from the bedrooms of thousands of school-aged students praying for a snow day affects the weather much more than air pressure and water vapor in the atmosphere. But shoot, to go from a light storm to two feet of snow in two days? That's a freaking blizzard!

So my question is, do I even drive in to work? Do I stay here? Are the meteorologists all on drugs?
posted by Josh at 5:16 AM | 0 comments
John Updike died yesterday. So in natural form, I'm going to bring it back around to baseball and the Boston Red Sox, as is my general style.

Here is his New Yorker article "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu".

I think every sports fan, regardless of sport, can understand this line about the hope one has for a losing team, "Nevertheless, there will always lurk, around a corner in a pocket of our knowledge of the odds, an indefensible hope, and this was one of the times, which you now and then find in sports, when a density of expectation hangs in the air and plucks an event out of the future."

I kinda felt that way back in 2004 ...
posted by Josh at 5:03 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Wait wait wait - I thought we were done with this foolish 50 State Quarters® Program! Alaska, Hawaii, khalas!

So why in the holy hell did we get a District of Columbia quarter yesterday?


(Apparently Duke Ellington was born there).

Turns out we're not done with this 50 State Quarters® Program crap, not by a long shot.

Yes, you guessed it, this year we're getting 25 cent pieces for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, United States Virgin Islands and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

No, I'm not even kidding. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Did you even know that we owned the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands?

That's how jacked up this Treasury is.

Collect them all, kids, 'cause it only costs something like 8 cents to make a quarter. Ca-ching!

Yes, that seigniorage is the only thing keeping your government out of the poorhouse!

I can't even wait to see who's going to make it onto the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands quarter! The anticipation is killing me!!!!!

posted by Josh at 7:16 AM | 7 comments
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I've long mocked our local hometown weekly paper, The Bridgton News, for not having a website. Didn't every other newspaper in the universe have one in 1999?

Well it looks like we only have to wait a little longer - apparently they now own the URL and have a "coming soon" logo parked there.

How about that?
posted by Josh at 7:23 AM | 1 comments
Saturday, January 24, 2009
The Academy Award nominations were announced on Thursday?!


Guess I missed it. I don't have a whole lot of time to read the news these days. Pretty much if I were any more out of the loop I'd be in orbit.

Anyway, does it say something about me that the only pictures I've seen from the list are: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Bolt, WALL-E, Hellboy II, Presto, Iron Man and In Bruges?

And no, I'm not a teenage boy.

I know I should go see Milk, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, but I just don't have the time. Shoot, I don't even have the time to read the news to tell me the Academy Award nominations are out!

We are, however, talking about seeing Slumdog Millionaire this weekend ...
posted by Josh at 8:18 AM | 0 comments
So this morning I found the coolest office toy ever - a USB Missile Launcher.

Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like:

USB Missile Launcher

"With the USB Missle Launcher you can defend your cubicle from unwanted co-worker intrusions or defend your room for unwanted siblings! The USB Missile Launchers features 3 foam projectiles that can be fired up to 20 feet at an extremely fast rate. (at least twice the range of any other product on the market) Turn, swivel and move the USB Missile Launcher up and down from your PC to aim the missiles towards your target. The computer control panel can be controlled from your mouse or your keyboard. Realistic sound effects bring the rockets to life as they leave the launcher towards your foe."

They don't, however, mention if it's Mac compatible. Two other reasons that I won't buy it: I don't think my coworkers at my temp gig would care much for it (I'm the only dude) and it's still a pricy $25.

But if I were still at Disney Animation, I would have ordered this faster than you could say "it's all fun and games until a co-worker loses an eye."
posted by Josh at 7:55 AM | 0 comments
Friday, January 23, 2009
What do you call a cat front armpit?

posted by Josh at 6:09 PM | 0 comments
In other Dubai news, it appears that Nakheel Tower and Jumeira Gardens are on hold. Nakheel Tower was going to be the world's tallest building at one kilometer (3,280 feet). Jumeira Gardens was going to be a city-within-a-city, built on what used to be Satwa, the po' section of town (where the workers lived, and where all of the tailors and repair shops were).

Last I heard, they were already bulldozing Satwa, though. Hmm. Wonder if they'll rebuild it for the workers?

"Dubai Worker Village", perhaps?

"Indentured Servant City"?

"Oppressed Peoples Township"?

I can see the logos already!

Number two, it appears a teenager from the UAE is going to take on Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic next month.

Yeah, good luck there, sport.

Lastly, that British adulterer lady has apparently lost her appeal. Ugh. I'm sick of Brits getting all "Blimey, I didn't know that was the way here!" This article doesn't mention her kids at all, who probably are quite glad. Can you imagine the whole world knowing that your mother was an adulterer?

What's the letter "A" in Arabic, can we get a red one cut out and sewn onto all of that lady's clothing?

Aw, they just shut all of the tailors in Satwa!

Poor planning, poor planning ...
posted by Josh at 7:08 AM | 1 comments
Don't know if you guys ever read the comments on this page (heck, sometimes I don't - and I'm supposed to moderate the things!) but we had two good links thrown up on Wednesday's post Security Alert In Dubai that I'd like to give their full due.

It appears some graphic designer went to Dubai recently, and was taken by all of the Arabic logos of American / British products, so he posted a bunch of photos of them (sound familiar at all?)

Check out:

Arabic Versions of Global Packaging Logos


Arabic Versions of Global Brand Identities

That reminds me, the photos on Newlywed in Dubai and Year 2 are all still jacked up due to server issues ... maybe that's something I can fix this weekend.

Oh, and that security alert? Prank caller, prank caller!

At least, that's what the Gulf News says.
posted by Josh at 6:55 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So the season premiere of Lost was last night. But we missed it - we were out at dinner and missed it.

So tonight I go to check it out on Apple's iTunes Store, and episodes there are three dollars? Are you kidding me?

And last night's two hour-long episode counts as two episodes!


I didn't want to stoop to nefarious schemes to watch the show, but perhaps I might have to now ...

Update: Family friend BL says I can watch the episodes at Duh, why didn't I think of that?

Well, probably because it didn't work when we lived overseas last year. Either way, it's too late now, but maybe tomorrow night.
posted by Josh at 7:07 PM | 0 comments
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
With all this Inauguration talk I'd be remiss to not point you to Jim Hill (of the aptly named and his interesting story about Disney adding Obama to Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents.
posted by Josh at 10:12 PM | 0 comments
Two reporters from the Portland Press Herald were in Washington yesterday for the festivities.

First off, our cyber-friend Justin Ellis doesn't sound like he had a great time: "Chance to see history trumps D.C. hassles" and "From front row to way in back, a shared thrill".

Secondly, Bill Nemitz has two very interesting personal stories from Washington: "For mayor of Auburn, a remarkable current event" and "Maine airman who felt sting of bias rides in parade".
posted by Josh at 10:06 PM | 0 comments
Uh oh. This just rolled in off of the AP wire about an hour ago: "US consulate in Dubai trims services after warning".
posted by Josh at 7:00 AM | 1 comments
Lost logo

Tonight! ABC! 9 pm!


(Insightful comments soon, I promise.)
posted by Josh at 6:55 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I've always been a fan of United States history; growing up I had countless books, posters and flashcards of the Presidents. I especially enjoyed when they would line up the portraits all next to each other, the far past to the present.

Now with Photoshop and the internets it's even easier and faster to do that.

So this afternoon I put this together.

Here we go, the forty-three leaders of these United States:

(Click for a larger image)

Can you believe it?
posted by Josh at 7:14 PM | 0 comments
Monday, January 19, 2009
My brother just sent me this crazy article about Lost from last Thursday's New York Times: "The Man Who Makes Sense of ‘Lost’".

Yup, kind of reminds me of my time script coordinating Teamo Supremo.

posted by Josh at 6:23 PM | 0 comments
My Mom sends this in from Sunday's Boston Globe: "O Beautiful".

posted by Josh at 6:21 PM | 0 comments
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Just read this fun fact in Time magazine - in 1825 John Quincy Adams was sworn-in as the sixth President of the US not on a Bible but on a book of laws instead.

For more information, here's a snippet from a 2007 article from the Department of State's website: "U.S. Swearing-in Ceremonies Highlight Religious Freedom Legacy".

    Because America has been predominantly Christian, it became customary, but not mandatory, for U.S. presidents and other public officers to carry or place their hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office. Fiercely secular, John Quincy Adams took his oath on a book of laws containing the U.S. Constitution. Theodore Roosevelt used no book at all. Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover, a Quaker, did not swear but affirmed the oath of office.

Interesting stuff ...
posted by Josh at 9:43 AM | 0 comments
Sweet! Boston is getting a House of Blues!

Check out this Boston Globe article: "For House of Blues, encore on a grand scale".

House of Blues Logo

The best part - it's going to be on Lansdowne Street (which you might know better as Ted Williams Way) right behind Fenway Park.

You might remember that the first House of Blues ever, which was in Harvard Square, closed about five and a half years ago.

This is bad-ass. Can you imagine a night when there's a big concern (the venue can hold 2400 people) and a baseball game at the same time? The Fens will be hopping!

I'm so happy for Boston right now. This is awesome!!
posted by Josh at 9:35 AM | 0 comments
Friday, January 16, 2009
Reader RN in Casco sends this story in: "Adolf Hitler, Sisters Taken from Parents' Home".

You might remember Heath Campbell from last month (see So Heath Campbell Is An Asshole).

posted by Josh at 7:19 AM | 1 comments
For those of you in warmer places, or even other parts of Maine, right now at our apartment in Brunswick it's -10 degrees F (-23 degrees C).

And that's probably a few degrees warmer than it really is, because the thermometer is on the covered stairs next to the house. says it's =-13 F (-25 C).

posted by Josh at 7:18 AM | 0 comments

Oh just great!

"Maker Recalls Peanut Butter As 2 More Die of Salmonella"

Now what am I going to have for a mid-morning snack at work today?

Seriously, I have seven packages left of the Austin Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter. What am I going to do with these? It's not really in my nature to throw food away - especially peanut butter products.

Can I check some product code or something on the wrapper to make sure that they're safe?

And didn't I just go through this?

Argh. I don't have time for this - I've got to go unsheath some Ritz and get snappy with the Skippy.
posted by Josh at 7:18 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Oddly enough I mentioned Carl Weathers yesterday, and guess what? I Just discovered it was his birthday!

Happy birthday Carl!
posted by Josh at 6:01 PM | 0 comments
Boston Red Sox logoJust had word from my folks that the Boston Red Sox are going to play a Spring Training game at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex ... on March 30.

My Birthday.

They just bought tickets.

You know, this is just further proof that the world is angling against me. You might remember last year on my birthday the Red Sox played a spring training game in Dodger Stadium (see Happy Birthday to Us).

For half of my time in California I lived 15 minutes away from Dodger Stadium. Seriously, 15 minutes - Go ask Google.

9.4 miles, about 15 minutes (up to 25 mins in traffic).

Told ya.

But that was last year. This year the angry baseball gods decided to stick it to me further by putting the game in one of my favorite places to be - Walt Disney World.

I wonder how they'll top this next year? Free tickets to all of my ex-girlfriends? Free beer to all of the people whom I don't like?
posted by Josh at 5:56 PM | 0 comments
How have I not heard of this story until now? It's right up my alley - an alley that my wife would have to mention is full of dead white men.

Only until Tuesday, honey. Only until Tuesday.

"Ownership of Declaration copy disputed in Virginia".
posted by Josh at 6:57 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Have you ever heard of the Dateline NBC segment To Catch a Predator?

The intent of the hidden camera investigation is pretty much to entrap men who might use the internet to prey on children.

It's horrible and awesome at the same time.

So here's a joke I came up with last night, although someone might already have done it (probably Robot Chicken).

What if you combined To Catch a Predator with 1987's film Predator?

You know, the one that starred the former governor of Minnesota, the current governor of California, and renowned acting coach Carl Weathers as commandos in South America, or Central America - I dunno, a jungle - where they were being hunted by an alien?


The best part is that I have a perfect end to this skit. When trapped by Chris Hansen and the Dateline crew the creature could activate a self-destruct device ... say, one that might destroy enough rainforest to cover 300 city blocks ...

Muwhahahahahaha ...
posted by Josh at 7:02 AM | 0 comments
I had a little brain-freeze the other day. Another one, actually - they seem to be happening more frequently these days.

So Monday morning we had a freak little snow storm. There was no significant accumulation, the storm itself wasn't even mentioned by the local meteorologists. Really all it did was make the drive in to work a little more beautiful. And that's a nice way to start the week.

Anyway, as I'm driving on the highway in Maine, snow flurrying around me, I see a dark blue Volvo stationwagon in the other lane up in front of me.

Now, back in Dubai we had a huge airline that you might have heard of - Emirates Airline. It's owned by the government of Dubai, which really means the ruling Al Maktoum dynasty.

So around town (Dubai town, not here) Emirates runs a fleet of cars to deliver delayed luggage, packages, maybe even people. And for that fleet they use dark blue Volvo stationwagons with the Emirates logo in gold on the doors.

Emirates Airline logo

So on this snowy Monday morning as I pass the dark blue Volvo stationwagon I actually turned to look for the Emirates logo on the door.

Now, to defend myself, Emirates does fly to Toronto, New York, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whether they have fleets of dark blue Volvo stationwagons in those cities, I don't know.

It does, however, seem rather unlikely that I'd see a dark blue Volvo stationwagon from Emirates on Interstate 295 in Maine.

But, still, amidst the snow, I looked.

Needless to say, the dark blue Volvo stationwagon on Monday morning was not decked out in the Emirates livery.
posted by Josh at 6:40 AM | 0 comments
Monday, January 12, 2009
Did you see that former Red Sox left-fielder Jim Rice was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today?

This baseball card from Topps is how I always think of Jim Rice:


It's funny, this card is from 1989, the year I turned 13. Man, I loved the design of that series. It might be my favorite baseball card year. Even the backs of the cards were cool.

Interestingly enough, 1989 was also Rice's final year with the Sox, his final year in baseball. Yeah, that's back when players played their whole careers with one team.

Unlike this current crop of players. Some of these guys, especially the left-fielders, for example, are just hired guns.

Not class acts like Jim Rice.

posted by Josh at 7:35 PM | 0 comments
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Uh oh, another sketchy story about Dubai in the news.

Luckily it's just in some fly-by-night outfit called ... the Washington Post.


Yes, here's their front page story from today: "Iran Using Fronts to Get Bomb Parts From U.S.".

I'll give you two guesses where they're smuggling the parts through.
posted by Josh at 10:08 PM | 0 comments
Theodore Roosevelt International Highway signThis morning at the laundromat I read an interesting fact about a transcontinental road from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon in Down East Magazine.

As there's not much on wikipedia for the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway, I'll give you the whole Down East article.

Here we go:

    Lost Highway

    A transcontinental road once connected the two Portlands.

    File this one under the Annals of Forgotten History. Back in the Roaring Twenties, you could drive on a single road from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. More than a “mere road,” the four-thousand-mile Theodore Roosevelt International Highway was described in a brochure of the time as “the highway that opens to the tourist the door of the treasure-box of beauties and grandeurs and varied scenery of the North continent as no other national highway does.”

    From downtown Portland the byway headed north and west through Littleton, New Hampshire, before crossing Lake Champlain north of Burlington, Vermont, and threading west to the Canadian border at Niagara Falls. (What the Canadians called the road we have no idea.) It entered the United States again at Detroit and continued through Iowa, South Dakota, and Montana before terminating on the Columbia River in Oregon. Punctuated along the way by red markers bearing the white letters “T.R.,” the road was first organized in 1921 to serve as “a suitable memorial to one of America’s greatest builders and statesmen, and at the same time promote tourist travel to a section of the United States that has had few tourists in the past,” according to an article in the Roosevelt Highway Bulletin.

    Alas, this monument to the Bull Moose was altered just a half-dozen years later when the federal government began assigning route numbers to the country’s established roads. Roosevelt’s road was soon carved up, becoming part of more prosaically named roads such as Route 2 and, in Maine, Route 302. But around Sebago Lake, for instance, the honor for Roosevelt was a bit longer lasting. “I started going up that way when I was three or four years old because my parents had friends in Bridgton, and I distinctly remember seeing signs that said ‘Roosevelt Trail,’ ” remarks director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission Earle Shettleworth, Jr.

    Those signs are long gone, but Max Skidmore, a political science professor at the University of Missouri who recently wrote a book about his experience tracing the old highway, says more subtle remnants remain today. “I only found one intact marker, in Troy, Montana, but in Maine as you progress west you still find buildings that say they are ‘203 Roosevelt Trail.’ I also remember a ‘Roosevelt Flea Market’ on Route 302, so there are actually a number of little things left over from the highway in Maine.”

    With most modern highways seeming to be utterly devoid of personality, it’s reassuring to find some touches of the great T.R. still remain in Maine.

As I grew up on Route 302 in Naples I find this pretty interesting. You might remember I mentioned it about fifteen months ago (see 10th Mountain Division).

Of course, the author or this piece, as well as the remarks director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, really haven't done their homework. About five years ago all of the local towns renamed roads and streets for enhanced 911 service. In Naples, right next to Bridgton, Route 302 was officially named "Roosevelt Trail".

So naturally the Maine Historic Preservation Commission's director would remember seeing signs that said ‘Roosevelt Trail'. Anyone who drives through town would see them ...

Anyway, I'm glad to know for certain that the 'trail' was named after TR and not FDR. Sure, I always assumed that FDR was too recent and whatnot, but still, it's good to have real proof.

So there we go.
posted by Josh at 10:08 PM | 0 comments
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Do you get yearly statements about Social Security from the Social Security Administration? I assume that you must, as I do; in fact, I just received my 2008 statement today.

And that's what I'm going to chat about today. See, on the front page there's a section "About Social Security's Future". From that I quote:

    In 2017 we will begin paying more in benefits that we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2041 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted and there will be enough money to pay only about 78 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits. We need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations.

I have a problem with one of the sentences in that paragraph. Well, two really, if you count the whole "running out of money in 2041" thing.

My real problem, though, is the wording "protection for future generations".

See, I was born in 1976; therefore I'll only be 65 in 2041 when the money runs out. And since I was born after 1959, my "Normal Retirement Age" - the age at which I can collect full benefits - is 67.

So all of the money that I've paid in, all 6.2 percent of my salary that goes to FICA, will be all dried up just two years shy of my retirement.

Thus my problem with the "future generations". It should read something like, "We need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for all of you unlucky saps born since Nixon's resignation."

Yes, everything in this statement - my estimated benefits, my earning records, even how to request this statement en Español - really don't matter one iota. They should save the money spent on printing and mailing all of these statements to anyone born after The Godfather Part II was released and put that towards, oh, I dunno, another year or two of payments? At least get us to July of 2041. Something.

But no.

So now I've decided to slack off a full 3.72 minutes more per hour (that's 6.2% of 60 minutes for those non-mathies out there) to save myself the hassle of paying good money after bad.

You know what? I should take up smoking, and spend that time outside puffing away. That way I won't even live to see 65 when I won't get any benefits anyway.

It's not a perfect plan, but then again, apparently neither was Social Security.
posted by Josh at 4:27 PM | 2 comments
Thursday, January 08, 2009
If you like Disney, and some of you might, I found this article about the new(ish) CEO Bob Iger pretty interesting: "Bob Iger rocks Disney".

The subtitle? "In revitalizing the Magic Kingdom, the CEO has built a compelling case that integrated, cross-platform media leviathans like Disney still make sense in the Digital Age."

Like I said, interesting.
posted by Josh at 7:14 PM | 0 comments
Huh - today's the seventh anniversary of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

You know, I swear it's going to take Obama two full terms to fix all of the shit Bush broke over the last two terms.

Oh a happier note, today also would have been Elvis Presley's birthday.
posted by Josh at 6:18 AM | 1 comments
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Finally, a good trailer for this March's Watchmen. Of course, it's Japanese. Japanese people just do everything better than Americans - cars, electronics, Disney theme parks, and now trailers to Watchmen.

For those of you who don't know much about the 1986 comic, here's a tidbit from our friends at wikipedia:

"Watchmen is set in an alternate reality which closely mirrors the contemporary world of the 1980s. The primary point of divergence is the presence of superheroes. Their existence in this iteration of America is shown to have dramatically affected and altered the outcomes of real-world events such as the Vietnam War and the presidency of Richard Nixon. In keeping with the realism of the series, although the costumed crime fighters of Watchmen are commonly called 'superheroes', the only character in the principal cast who possesses obvious superhuman powers is Doctor Manhattan. The existence of Doctor Manhattan has given the U.S. a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union, which has increased tensions between the nations. Additionally, superheroes have become unpopular among the public, which has led to the passage of legislation in 1977 to outlaw them."

"The story focuses on the personal development and struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government sponsored super-hero pulls them out of retirement and eventually leads them to confront a plot by one of their own to stave off nuclear war by killing millions of innocent people."
posted by Josh at 7:26 PM | 0 comments
What happens when you put an Iraq War vet, a transexual and a Mormon in a room together?

Why, they stop being polite ... and start being real.

Yes, The Real World is back - back for the twenty-first time since 1992.

Personally I haven't watched it since Paris - what was that, five years ago? But really that's when my shelf-life expired with MTV.

Kudos for them though, for sticking with something that long.

So look for The Real World: Brooklyn tonight, with repeats every three hours for the next week, and a day-long marathon in mid-February.
posted by Josh at 6:22 PM | 1 comments
Monday, January 05, 2009
Here's a great Gulf News article about Dubai: "Mohammad's leadership hailed".

The 'Mohammad' in this case is HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Oddly, Dubai's economy is in the toilet right now, they might even have to give away their prized Emirates Airline to make payments on their palm islands and whatnot.

So who was saying glowing things about the leader?

Why, Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - Deputy Ruler of Dubai ... and son of Sheikh Mohammed.

posted by Josh at 7:05 PM | 0 comments
Here's that article from The New Yorker from March 15, 2004 that I was talking about earlier today: "Letter from Miami: The Cuban Strategy".

Read it, it's wicked scary.

The two things that scared me the most about Jeb were these two blurbs - "Jeb switched back and forth between Spanish and English" and "Politically, he was deeply conservative — well to the right of his father".

So a super-conservative Republican who speaks flawless Spanish and has a Mexican wife and bi-racial kids?


Of course, the big drawback in his last name. Right now I don't think people would want a local representative named "Bush". Honestly, I'm a little surprised that Billy Bush is still the host of Access Hollywood.

Course he could change his name. I dunno, "¡Jeb Arbusto en 2012!" has a certain ring to it ...

Aye dios mios!
posted by Josh at 6:50 PM | 0 comments
Oh, I knew this day was coming: "Former President Bush touts son Jeb for top job".

I've been scared about Bush III ever since I read a New Yorker article from five years ago. Positively glowing about Jeb. I'll look for it tonight.

Right now? Time to make lunch and go to work ...
posted by Josh at 6:53 AM | 0 comments
Sunday, January 04, 2009
A quiet Sunday morning, what better time for a quick Dubai News Roundup?

If you haven't seen the comments section lately, we were talking about this one the other day. The article is from November, but somehow I missed it. "Abu Dhabi wants stake in Emirates for bailout cash".

Pretty much Dubai is broke, they went to big brother Abu Dhabi for help, and Abu Dhabi was like, "that's a mighty fine airline you gots there."

Emirates Airline, besides the property thing, is the total crown jewel in, well, the Dubai royalty's crown.

And Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways isn't nearly as big or as well known.

Interesting to see how this'll play out.

Next we have the sequel to 2008's hit Sex on the Dubai Beach story - "British mother fighting jail in Dubai after adultery conviction".

The quickie summary - Brit meets Egyptian man, gets married, moves to Dubai, has kids, is rumored to be sleeping around, gets six months in a Dubai prison.


I have about thiiiis much pity for this lady. Sure, it sucks to go to jail, but frick, you're not in jolly ol' England. Did you not see the story about your countrymen and the beach and the sex? You're in a Muslim nation. Married to a Muslim man. What did you think was going to happen?


And if that doesn't pain you, how about this one - "Lindsay Lohan moves in near to the Beckhams in Dubai"?

Let me guess, they all live on Dubai Celebrity Island? I can see the logo already!

I think someone should remind Ms. Lohan that booze, drugs, premarital sex between differently gendered people and all homosexual sex is illegal in Dubai.

That might change her mind a bit.

And switching gears dramatically, lastly we have a story that I imagine will make my wife glad we left Dubai. "Campaign to Curb Stray Cat Menace".

I'll save you the pain of reading this article (the Khaleej Times is about as well written as a Middle School newspaper). Here's the gist - on Thursday the Dubai Municipality announced that they are going to hire an "international expert" in a bid to "control" stray cats.

According to Hisham Fahmi, the Head of the Veterinary Section at Dubai Municipality, the autumn's public awareness campaign “Protection against Stray Cats" "was aimed at educating people about the dangers of stray cats and the diseases they can spread. But then as calls and complaints came in, the [Dubai Municipality] took action by setting cages and capturing the cats.”

Mr. Fahmi then went on to praise HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for building the world's largest kitty farm. "The cats can play all day and have all of the catnip and balls of yarn that they could ever want".

Or, in reality, the Dubai Municipality probably had a big bonfire 2000 cats tall.

I know this is totally a cultural thing - Arabs just don't like pets that aren't horses or camels (which they still eat, btw). But speaking as someone who owns a stray cat from Dubai, a stray cat from Dubai who is purring like a bastard right this very second, I am downright sickened by this story.

You know, there's a theme common to most of these stories today, and about everything else I've written for the last three years - if you're going to have a city open to Westerners, you're going to have to do some shit that they like or everyone is going to go home pissed off. Especially the British moms who want to snog the co-worker's brother-in-law, the celebrity booze-hounds, the cat fans, and of course the locals.

Can anyone win in Dubai?
posted by Josh at 9:04 AM | 0 comments
Saturday, January 03, 2009
This is awesome (and not in the sarcastic way in which I generally use it).

Want to know what the New York Times thought 2009 would look like back in 1909? Well wonder no longer, my friends. We have the technology to bring you: "Looking Ahead to a Celebration in the Year 2009".

Wow, that sounds just like today! I mean, remember all of those bitchin' parties we just had for Henry Hudson, Robert Fulton, the Wright brothers and William Marconi? I got some great telegravures of them that I'll put up on soon, along with more from the space parade and the celebration on Mars, too.

Yup, I love 2009 ...
posted by Josh at 1:18 PM | 1 comments
Friday, January 02, 2009

So now Abu Dhabi has the Capitala World Tennis Championship?


Doesn't that directly mess with the older and established and next-door Dubai Tennis Championships?

Do you ever get the impression that these two are like some brothers who feel that everything is a competition? Malls, buildings, culture ... everything.

And now tennis.

posted by Josh at 7:12 AM | 1 comments
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Today is January 1st. You know what that means?

Three weeks until Lost is back!

In searching for photos of the new Lost toys yesterday I came across this sweet promotional photo of the fifth season cast that I have to share. (Click it to see the full size.)

From left to right: Jeremy Davies as Daniel Faraday, Terry O'Quinn as John Locke, Michael Emerson as Ben Linus, Mathew Fox as Jack Shephard, Elizabeth Mitchell as Dr. Juliet Burke, Josh Holloway as James "Sawyer" Ford, Yunjin Kim as Sun Kwon, Evangeline Lilly as Kate Austen, Jorge Garcia as Hurley Reyes, Rebecca Mader as Charlotte Lewis, Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond Hume, Naveen Andrews as Sayid Jarrah, and Ken Leung as Miles Straume.

Hmm, you notice anyone missing?

(Photographed by Florian Schneider and Bob D'Amico.)
posted by Josh at 9:34 AM | 0 comments