Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Welcome Home, Mosab!

Click on the title of this post for more information. Mosab Yousef, a hero in the truest sense of the word, was just granted asylum in the United States.

Welcome home to a man who exemplified America before he even got to live there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mosab Yousef - the Administration's reward for HAMAS?

Please click the title of this post to read the blogprof's account of how the Obama administration may be conducting secret negotiations with HAMAS.

Now ask yourself: Does this have anything to do with the Department of Homeland Security's threat to deport Mosab Yousef back to HAMAS and certain death?

What better inducement could the administration offer to HAMAS than "Son of HAMAS" author, (convert to Christianity, and covert counter terror intelligence source for Israel)whom HAMAS has sworn to kill?

Can this administration be that callous? Can they be that cold-blooded? If they are, can they be so foolish as to believe that any promise by HAMAS in exchange for his blood would be a promise they could depend on?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Many Projects, Little Time

I have a couple projects I try to get to in my spare time. One of those is refinishing about 10 of these chairs I found in the trash next to a sidewalk cafe the other day. I'm working on one right now for Zoe's room. I've replaced the rusty pins with oak dowels and glued them so the chair won't fold any more, but it's a lot stronger now.

I found a cushion that's exactly the colors of her room the other day, and I'll take it apart and have it sewn into the back and seat.

I bought a can of paint that matches the colors, and once I'm finished sanding the chair (I'm assuming the original paint is lead-based, so I'm doing the sanding rather than letting Zoe help.) I'll let Zoe paint it.

The other big project is building a mountain bike with Zach. We ordered this frame from an online catalog, and we're slowly adding components to it. I'm resisting the urge to hurry, which is all self-imposed. The point of this project is to have something for the two of us to do together. Side effects are that Zach learns about tools and about how bikes work, and I'm hoping that when it's finished he'll have a better understanding of those things than I did at his age. Of course, I'm also hoping he'll love riding as much as I do, and that we'll get to share that as well. So far, we've installed the bottom bracket, which is the bearings and axle to which the crank set attaches, and the head set, which is the set of bearings through which the fork tube attaches to the frame.

As with the chairs, I'll post pictures of our progress.


I had a nasty bug this weekend, so I didn't get a chance to post this little painting. If you scroll down a bit, you'll see a photo that served as the inspiration.

BP - Are They Stupid?

Sharper pens than mine are writing extensively about the oil spill. They're doing a fine job of pointing out how the federal government has done everything but improve the situation. One thing I haven't heard much about though is this: water weighs eight pounds to the gallon.

So what? Why do I bother pointing out what every third grader knows? Because at eight pounds to the gallon, water exerts a tremendous pressure when you work at a depth of a mile. Everything you do, if you park a rig, drill a hole, a sink pipe - and whatever else needs to be done to extract oil - over that kind of depth, must be done in an environment that exacts mind-boggling pressure and complicates the simplest operations exponentially. A gushing well in shallower water would be much more easily capped because, working at decreased pressure depths, there is a wider range of equipment that is available to apply to the task.

Do oil companies not know this? Of course they do. They spend millions on research and development of the kinds of equipment that will function in that environment, and they spend millions more hiring the kinds of people who are willing to live on those lonely rigs.

Why in the world do they work at such depths then? Are they stupid? Why don't they drill in shallower waters where risks are lower and ruptures are more easily fixed?

Of course they're not stupid. They would gladly drill closer to shore where the depths are less and the risk is lower and their people are closer to home - but the environmental lobbies have made it impossible to drill close to shore.

Ironic, isn't it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why the 17th Amendment was a bad idea

The 17th Amendment to the US Constitution allowed for direct election by the voters of their senators. Never mind that the Founding Fathers foresaw that was a bad idea - onward in our rush toward democracy! (something else the Founders knew to be a mistake)

Not only does direct election of senators lead those senators to compete in confiscating and redistributing wealth in order to buy votes, but there's also the distinct possibility that, (Hm, how can I put this delicately?) if a significant portion of the electorate in your state is lazy, ignorant, or mentally deficient (or all the above) they might actually vote for someone like Alvin Greene, the Democrat candidate for the South Carolina senate seat who just won his primary despite not bothering to campaign for it. He spent no money, aside from the $10,000 filing fee, and how he came up with that is a mystery, since he's unemployed. He rang no doorbells, spoke at no rallies, and gave no interviews, but he won 60% of the vote. He is inarticulate. He can express no plan beyond "Jobs, Education, and Justice," and he is being charged with having shown obscene material to a minor. His responses to questions are so lame, so monosyllabic, that in this interview (Click on the title to this post.) his interviewer asks him if he is impaired. Really. Most candidates realize you have to survive your general election, not just the primary before you start acting like an idiot. At least we can credit Mr. Greene with being transparent.

Except aside from clearly demonstrating his sub-par intelligence, he's not transparent at all. "My lawyer's handling that," is how he answers most of the questions in this interview.

So how does an unemployed, inarticulate, potential criminal who ran no campaign, displays no mental acuity, and must periocially be poked with a stick in order to ensure he's still alive win a primary election? When the mob votes, you get candidates that are just like them. South Carolina - you have serious issues.

When you elected James Clyburn back in the early '90s and, in his first letter to his constituents he used words like "spanse" (as in "the broad spanse and diversity of our state") and "syncretize" (as in "we must syncretize the needs of different people") I thought you'd been shamed enough, and might exercise a little more discernment in your representatives. You keep on reelecting that clown though, so I guess Alvin Greene should come as no surprise to anyone.

If you, like many of my friends, live in South Carolina, I hope you homeschool your kids. It's clear that the state is doing a lousy job of turning out responsible citizens.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I have lots of different things on my mind today, so this will be a collection of scattered thoughts. First, this is another view of the palace at Sintra. Why the big chimneys, you ask? I don't know. I think someone was compensating for a deficiency elsewhere.

Here's a small (3 X 5) painting I did of the same scene.

And here's a scene I hope to paint soon. I took this today, just before I jumped in the pool. I like the color, the simplicity, and the abstractness. Like most things that appear to be simple, this will be very demanding technically, and I'll be thinking about it for a while before I try it out.

This is the stairway down to my studio, with the morning light streaming in. This too, appears to be very simple, but there's a lot going on here, and it'll be fun to paint. A lot of these subjects are probably of no interest to anyone but myself, and I paint without much hope of selling them, just because for some reason the images seize my imagination and won't let go until I do. Sometimes I even dream about them, and sometimes I have to paint them more than once before they leave me alone.

Incidentally, this is what my studio looks like. It's in the basement, and it can be damp in the winter, but it's on the side of the house where the ground slopes away toward the south, so I get good light all day long.

Here, my daughter's cat Kiki poses on a shamagh, just under that stairway window I showed you above. This would make a fun painting too.

Here's another fun subject. These bougainvilleas from my courtyard feature an infinite number of differing shades of red. There are many aspects of watercolor that make it more difficult (so I'm told) than working in other media, but one of the things I love is its fluidity. When exploited properly, that makes shifting between shades easier than I think it would be in oil or acrylic. (I say I think, because I've never tried any media other than watercolor.)

And these philodendrons have just as many different shades of green. I like this photograph a lot. It seems very peaceful to me. Does that make sense?

Of course, as much as I'll enjoy these small-scale subjects, my first love was landscapes, and I'll be doing lots more of them.

And maybe even a portrait or two.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Please Support Mosab Hassan Yousef

Please click on the title of this post to get the full story.

Meanwhile, imagine that your father is a leader in an organization the purpose of which was to fight for justice for the oppressed. Imagine that you took up that mantle yourself, and entered enthusiastically into the family business, only to realize that, instead of helping the downtrodden, you were increasing their oppression, enriching yourself, and using intimidation, murder, and terrorism to do so.

Imagine that your family business justified everything it did as being in accordance with your religion, a religion that, if you were to leave it, would demand your death.

Now imagine that you are a man of extraordinary courage. You reject the family business. You turn your back on the religion that demands blood sacrifice. You use your position in the family to report critical information on upcoming terror attacks to the authorities. You do this for years, despite the incredible stress, despite the daily fear that you will be discovered and die a slow and painful death. You save lives. You are a hero.

You are Mosab Hossan Yousef, son of HAMAS, convert from a life of terror to covert informer to the Israeli government. Convert from Islam to Christianity. In your pursuit of what is right, you have earned the death penalty from HAMAS, and the House of Islam.

Mosab Hossan Yousef has risked everything to stop terrorism and save innocent lives, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is not convinced he should be allowed to stay in the United States. They are considering deporting him, a move that will almost certainly result in his death.

When illegal aliens throughout the US are committing violent crimes, wouldn't it seem that DHS would have better things to do than persecute a man who has demonstrated his loyalty to American principles?

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Not long ago, I wrote to you about riding mountainbike trails around the national park around Sintra. Since then, I've taken the family up to the village to have a look around.

We parked below the village and walked up, much to the dismay of Zoe, who detests walking. Every view upward seemed to frame the palace, but I was captivated by what I was seeing at ground level.

I can't get over how green it is here. Even if I hadn't been in Saudi Arabia for the last year and a half, I think I would still be amazed.

I expect that, just in the first painting I do here, I'll use more green than I have in the last 18 months.

Everything seemed to be not just alive, but vibrating with energy. I expected this tree to sweep the kids up in viney branches and carry them away at any moment.

Well, not EVERYthing was vibrating with energy.

Finally up at the level of the palace, Zach pauses to play with his yo-yo, a gift from my good friend Eric Julber, of Carmel California.

We could have climbed higher (There's a ruined Moorish castle way up at the end of this street.) but we'll save that for another day.

Cabo da Roca

Just up the coast from here is the westernmost point of Continental Europe, which is marked by a tall lighthouse.

Here, the coast is wild and rocky, and there is always a strong wind from the sea.

It's no place you'd want to try to come ashore at night, even during good weather.

Because of its unique location, the lighthouse has become a tourist destination. I expect to do some paintings of it soon.

Tourist trap or not, the light still keeps sailors off the rocks, and the century plants provide shelter from storms - even if only for snails.

Monday, June 07, 2010

My Affair with Helen Thomas


David Brooks recently wrote about being fondled at dinner by a U.S. Senator, whom he declines to name. As you can imagine, this has stirred up a bit of journalistic interest. Let the record show that I am the first to reveal that mysterious person's identity. Yes, it was I...


It seems that a lot of journalists are about to invest a significant amount of time and energy searching for the US senator by whom David Brooks claims to have been fondled. Seeing as the energy available to journalists for investigation is a rare and precious commodity, I feel duty bound to come forth with the answer. Only then can journalists direct their limited attention where it belongs, which is answering the important questions such as, “If Judge Sotomayor is right, and Latina women are wise, why did Lucille Ball get Desi Arnaz?”

So, in the interest of furthering true journalism, and at the risk of some personal embarrassment, I must now disclose that the errant hand that found its way onto David Brooks’ thigh was my own.

Let me hasten to explain a couple of small, but important details that David (not surprisingly – He is David Brooks, after all) got wrong. First, I never claimed to be a Senator. This is an important detail. I don’t want people forming a mental image of me as the type of guy who gets his kicks running around claiming to be a senator. Worse yet, I don’t want anyone to think of me as the kind of guy who actually is a senator. (shudder) Second, I did not know that the thigh in question belonged to David. In all honesty, I thought it belonged to Helen Thomas.

You can understand my error if you imagine the circumstances. The room was poorly lit, and I had consumed a number of Tom Collins. The precise number is unknown to me. It was more than one, and I have a strong memory of it being a prime number, but whether it was 3, 5, or 7, I cannot recall. I am certain that it was not Pi. Should we be required to reconstruct the incident, I imagine we could mix up a pitcher, sit me in a dark room and see at what point I lose my ability to distinguish between the owners of various thighs, but I’m not sure what would be gained, aside from a hangover that would be a dead wringer for the one from which I was suffering while David was, apparently, typing out his little story, of which I have become the reluctant star. Contributing to the confusion was the fact that, although Helen has a deeper voice and better posture, and more hair, she and David can easily be mistaken for each other when, as I mentioned, lighting is poor, and Helen is wearing a pantsuit.

Let me also explain, (though it pains me to do so because not only am I not a senator, but I am also not the kind of man who kisses and tells) that Helen and I have had an off-and-on “thing” for a while now. It actually began several decades ago, when she was a svelte and sultry octogenarian. Although I was in peak physical condition, I was no match for her as she cornered me in a deserted Metro car, on the last Green Line of the evening. Ah, those sweaty summer D.C. Metro seats… I at first thought she was suffering from a rhythmic form of severe gastric distress, but it was only the capture and release of small pockets of air trapped between our straining bodies and that slippery vinyl.

Anyway, ever since that time, Helen and I, despite careers that have, at times, kept us continents apart, seem always to find each other (She made me tell her my social security number and my mother’s maiden name.) and on those occasions, she is fond of taking out her teeth and complaining of her “gout” or “rheumatism” at which point I am required to give her a “massage.”

Now I think you have sufficient background information to continue our story in the present day. I could give you more, but like I said, I’m not the kind of guy who likes to kiss and tell. Besides, it brings back the nightmares. So I was sitting next to David in that poorly lighted – did I say poorly lighted? It was practically a cave in there – room, well aware, as I always am when within a 100 mile radius of D.C., that I was in Helen’s domain, and that it was only a matter of time before she caught my scent, tracked me down, and started bundling me into that Velcro suit she likes so much. So I guess I was a little bit spring loaded as far as running into Helen is concerned, and speaking of loaded, did I mention that I’d had a few? Well I had, and that’s not an error I intend to repeat, I can tell you that for certain. Aside from a bloody Mary with breakfast, a martini (or two) with lunch, and a few cocktails in the evening, you can rest assured that I am definitely, positively, off the stuff.

So into that emotionally charged, light-deficient, high blood/alcohol situation is added the fact that I am sitting next to David Brooks. Now I don’t know if you’ve met David, or spent any time with him, and I don’t know if this is his usual condition, but I can tell you on that particular night, Mr. Brooks was a bit windy, if you know what I mean. He’d had a bit too much of the bean dip, is what I’m trying to say. Follow? And he wasn’t even trying to be quiet about it. Plus, the guy is a mouth breather. Dinner with him is like dining with a sulfurous Darth Vader. Unpleasant. Now maybe you are beginning to see what happened. Rasping breathing in the dark, audible venting of digestive gases, a vaguely slumped, hermaphroditic shape, the top of which is covered by a pitiful peach fuzz of what used to be a glorious head of hair – I had no idea I was sitting next to David. I was dead certain that Helen, far from slowing down in her later years, had gotten better than ever at finding me and cornering me in the dark.

We were in public, so maybe you think that would have afforded me some protection, but did I not already explain to you how she ravished me in a Metro car? The woman is a predator, and I was nothing but a lump of meat. All I could think about was forestalling the inevitable, placating her as long as possible. Who knew? Maybe fortune would smile on me and I would be able to escape. So I put my hand on her thigh. It was negotiating from a position of weakness, but at least it was a negotiation. And it seemed to be working. Although her breathing grew ever more raspy and she made disconcerting grunting noises from time to time, she did not slip under the table, reach up, with claw like hands, and draw me under to play Persephone to her Hades.

I have no recollection of getting to my hotel. My only thought when I awoke was relief at finding myself alone, with no signs anywhere of having been chaffed by Velcro. I immediately changed hotels. I wasn’t sure how she’d found me, and I was vaguely uneasy that she had tracked me down, only to disappear, but I was determined not to make an easy target.

Once I found a new hotel (I changed cabs three times on the way and signed for my room as “Mr. E. Bratwurst.”) I sat down with the paper and came across the little story David wrote. While they usually amuse me, this one caused me to break out into a cold sweat. I would never have imagined that there could be anything worse than being revealed to the public eye as the focus of Helen’s Wagnerian lusts, but having been accused of being a United States Senator, and one who fondled David’s thigh, no less, has changed my mind completely.