Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The fighting in the Middle East stopped this week, if only for a little while. Both Israel and the Hezbollah guerillas agreed to the conditions of a UN-brokered cease fire, which basically means you can get up and go to the bathroom because the second half won’t start for another 15 minutes.

If you watch cable news, you’re likely aware that both sides are using this break in the action to claim victory. Hezbollah is passing out candy to children in the streets of Lebanon bragging about how they repelled the evil Israelis. Israel, meanwhile, is reporting that it has destroyed most of Hezbollah’s operational infrastructure. The only thing that appears certain in the wake of this PR war is that hostilities will resume, and likely sooner than later. Hezbollah's infrastructure may have been weakened, but thanks to the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon, its numbers have certainly grown. And because it's been receiving a steady supply of arms from Syria and Iran, the odds of Hezbollah going away are somewhere in near the odds of Rob Schnieder starring in a box office smash.

Certainly, Israel has done much damage to Hezbollah. You can't drop that many bombs on so small a country and not hit a few bad guys here and there. But Hezbollah has achieved a more important victory here in resisting the Israelis long enough to warrant a ceasefire. Indeed, these mischievous Muslim crusaders are proving harder to get rid of than Joe Liebermann.

Another problem for Israel now is the mess they made in Lebanon, which is eerily reminiscent of the mess the U.S. made in Iraq. A more advanced nation rolls in with tanks and planes to battle terrorists and ends up completely destroying the homes and infrastructure of an innocent civilian population. This is not in the handbook on how to win people over and make friends. It's termed collateral damage, incidental death and destruction we accept as a necessary byproduct of ensuring our own safety and protection. I guess the logic there is, "Better their innocent civilians than ours." And as I sip my warm coffee in my air conditioned office here, thousands of miles away from the perils in the Middle East, I find it really hard to argue with that logic - even if something deep down inside doesn't feel right. Maybe I should have stopped after that second cup.

This is the frustration of fighting an enemy that hides among the innocent. They exploit the rules of engagement to their advantage and end up winning the favor of the very people they are endangering because of the perception that the larger “aggressor” is indiscriminately blanket bombing everything in sight. We, as civilians on the other side, assume that Israel and the U.S. have exercised restraint in their respective anti-terror campaigns, but it’s hard to believe sometimes when you see tens of thousands of people returning to rubble they used to call “home.” I keep wondering what we need to do to get those people on OUR side - because that's the key. Bombing them doesn't seem to be working. They're not all terrorists - but they end up sympathizing with the terrorists. Especially when hegemonist world powers demonstrate more interest in their nation's resources than their people.

Maybe a couple million free free iPODs would help.

I didn't think so.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Folks are meeting in Prague this week to determine whether or not to keep Pluto on the short list of planetary worthiness.

Nearly 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries are trying to come up with a once-and-for-all definition of what makes a planet a planet. And their decision could cost Pluto its job!

For most of us, the solar system has always had nine planets. That’s what they taught us back in grammar school – and that’s how many clay balls we included in our space mobile at the science fair. But then recently scientists discovered a heavenly body larger than Pluto a little farther out and they've been going around in circles ever since. Does the solar system have 10 planets, or do we revoke Pluto’s membership and trim the list to 8?

The problem with adding this extra planet (her name is Xena, by the way), is that there are actually plenty more where she came from. So by adding a 10th, we’d actually be letting in all sorts of cosmic riff-raff and planetary poseurs. To control the kind of company we keep within the confines of our solar system, some scientists are recommending we draw the line after Neptune - making a clean break based on size.

But why cut Pluto if it's already planet? Because Pluto’s status has always been questionable. It’s actually smaller than the moon! The problem with kicking Pluto out is that most people LIKE Pluto. And don’t forget Pluto’s neighbors. If Pluto gets the boot, Neptune and Uranus have threatened to leave, too. So some scientists say it’s better to keep Pluto on as an honorary planet, even if it lacks the heavenly luster we like in a solid, rocky mass of revolving ice.

I know what you’re thinking – good thing someone else is in charge of making the really tough decisions. If planets smaller than Pluto are let into the solar club, then we’re looking at including up to 44 more planets! It could get crowded up in here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Did you know that the Sears Tower is so big it has its own ZIP code? True story.

And, it takes two full months to wash all of its windows. Two whole months. By the time I'm done I have to start all over again!