Friday, July 24, 2009

Line6 Follow-Up

So in a sense of fairness I got a hold of the User's Manual for the Line6 Bass PodXT Live and combed it for uncoolness.

I got rattled when they went rule-head on me with this:

1. Obey all warnings on the POD XT Live and in this Pilot’s Handbook.

But the only thing that I read about volume levels was actually phrased in a way that made it seem like they cared about you and not necessarily the people around you first:

8. Prolonged listening at high volume levels, especially with headphones, may cause irreparable hearing loss and/or damage. Always be sure to practice “safe listening.”

Note that the suggestion that Roland offered was to do exactly the thing that Line6 is warning you about - listening to loud music through headphones.

The way that I choose to interpret "safe-listening" in this context is to wear ear-plugs on stage and crank it up for the world to hear. Incidentally, if I find myself with front-row tickets I think they're a wise move too.

Interestingly this unit has a sweet-spot setting for the Bose PS1 Cylindrical Radiator™ which I find very interesting technically. I have been told by a beautiful woman that I trust however that they are not sexy.

I will say this - Line6 writes a far better manual than Roland. I think the proof is in the sound though... I guess I will have to harrass some poor salesman into letting me try them both. That sounds like an ordeal for us both.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'Reasonable' Rock & Roll

I am interested in buying a multi-effects unit for my bass. I narrowed it down to two contenders:

I was pretty much sold on the Roland unit and have been saving my pennies to pick one up. But I was reading the Owner's Manual & I came across this little nugget that just bent me out of shape:

To avoid disturbing your neighbors, try to keep the unit’s
volume at reasonable levels. You may prefer to use
headphones, so you do not need to be concerned about
those around you (especially when it is late at night).

What kind of corporate liability lawyer dreamed up that bizarre bit of legal advice? There are multiple settings in the device specifically designed for the playing of Hard Rock and Heavy Hetal music, amongst others. What are they thinking!?

Whatever happened to "This goes to eleven"!?

I suppose to be fair I need to check the Line6 copy next...

iTunes Uses "Pentium Math"

I am sure that there is some kind of technical explanation for this one, but whatever it is - the UI designers gave me a laugh:

But what is one ridiculous message when two in a row can make you keep scratching your head?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dropping the Ballmer

If you are a Micro$oft stock-holder - I suggest that you start a vote of no-confidence against your CEO.

I love to lampoon this guy - because he makes it so easy.

But honestly, just because you were Bill's sidekick does not mean that you have the tenacity of vision that Bill Gates does.

Here is the latest dippy thing that he had to say about a serious subject that strikes at the heart of the M$-Ca$h-Cow:

I am pretty sure that a lot of people know what it is - and what is more they are very interested in it. I know that I am.

The fog of multi-generational FUD is starting to clear as the blogging-generation grows up. No more will the middle-class buying dollars be swayed from their techno-toys by silly mud-slinging.

How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways:
  • Vista - an industry-wide joke that even Jerry Seinfeld couldn't make funny
  • Zune - a pathetic also-ran
  • X-Box - never turned a profit
  • X-Box360 - this product dumping thing is expensive! Still never turned a profit
  • Sync - You can't keep your OS from crashing and you want to put it in my car!?
  • MSN - An online service that no one paid for that became a brand name for awful TV channels
What exactly has come out of Redmond since he's been at the helm that is worth anything?

My Next Phone?

This is tasty...
Now that Pandora is coming for Android I just might end up with something like this as my next phone.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What You Weren't Allowed To Know...

...Unitl after the election...

I don't know which is funnier - the meat of this story or the repeated use of the ?word? "Knowledgeability"... (Isn't the proper word 'knowledgable' - used as an adjective? You guys were communications majors, surely you do not need to butcher the English language in this way?)

Oh here we go again - How about simply using the word "Knowledge"...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dude, Where's My Party?

Is is unforgivable quotes like this that make me ashamed of the Republican party:

"I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." - George H.W. Bush

"We don't have to protect the envionment, the Second Coming is at hand" - James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior

Do you see me using the word 'polemicist' at the top of this blog? Let me be clear - I have nothing in common with the likes of Ann Coulter. No one would pay any attention to that twit if she wasn't somewhat attractive. At the time of my writing this - she is 47. I can't wait until she hits the wall and is squelched into irrelevancy.

Let me be clear about this:
The reason why I am a Republican is because I believe in small & limited government. I want the government out of my life and off of my property. The religiously intolerant Fundamentalist Christians1 whom have hijacked the party and are constantly trying to extend the influence of law into the wombs of women are completely out of control and need to be kept in check.

In New York state you must belong to a party in order to participate in the Primaries. I believe that change is best effected from within - so I participate. But I disagree with almost everything that my fellow Republicans seem to be for these days.

GWB expanded the federal government more in his first term than Clinton did in both of his terms. It took a jackass like him to make a weasel like Bill Clinton look good.

I miss the prosperity of the 90's in the worst possible way.

But neither do I forgive the Democrats for their complacency while the proverbial excrement was hitting the rotating blades.

IMHO the American people now expect politicians to be utterly corrupt and forgive them for it. I want you to think about that because it means that you are giving a shooting license to Ceasar. It only took 8 years for the Greatest Country In The World to drag the global economy down with it.

Now ask yourself - what, if anything, is getting better?

1 Fundamentalist Christianity - because bothering to believe in ALL of it is a lot of work, and that Love Thy Enemy stuff must be some Hippie Nonsense, right?

A Plea to All iPhone Developers

FACT: iPhones get dead-spots on their screens

Most people that I know who have them have a dead spot somewhere. Mine is a line about 1cm tall extending across the screen.

If you have a button on the screen somewhere, someone is likely to never be able to press it.

There is a simple answer to this:

Please Please Please support rotation in your applications whenever possible. If I can flip the screen around then I can get all of the buttons in any app to work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Spam

I am the sort of person who can withstand the constant onslaught of slings & arrows from critics and detractors alike.

But if you are going to comment on a posting - please do not use it as a forum to post nothing but links to yourself. Please write an actual comment.

I was apparently link-spammed by the author of (Happy with your link now?) or someone using their account who posted a comment including all of the text of their two most recent blog entries. These had nothing to do with the posting it was 'commenting' on at all. I am going to delete it.

If you want to debate a topic & tell me that I'm a shitwit - that it one thing. As long as you are vaguely on-topic I will not so much as moderate. But blatant self-advertising is just rude and a waste of time for the few people who read this blog. I am for free-speech. But if you just want to shout out your name, go stand on a NYC street-corner & start rappnig free-style or something and get off of my lawn.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Blogspot Feature

It would seem that if I am going to meditate a little longer on a blog entry that I need to finish it before moving on to the next one. I added 2 new postings today that had been brewing for some time now - but they appeared chronologically not in the order in which they were 'published' but rather in the order in which they were created.

I suppose I will need to be a little better about that kind of thing from now on!

Wordle Snapshot

Occasionally I take a snapshot of my blog using Wordle.

Here is the latest version:


Monday, July 13, 2009

Video Games vs. Violent Crime

I apologize for the stupid pop-up ad. Just close the window & come back to watch the video.

Hubba Hubba Huh?

Aaaand my nomination for the worst technology name of the year is ...

How to Share Photos without Facebook

A number of people that I know seem to think that you need to use Facebook to share photographs.

In fact many people outright refuse to share photos with me unless I join.

These are mostly the same people who had that same attitude about MySpace 2 years ago.

Well - for those of you who can't handle email attachments for some reason and are too frightened by your own computer to turn on the built-in web-server that everyone has now.... Try one of these:

Sarah Palin – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

[ADHD WARNING: This is a LONG post & the good stuff is at the end]

Following the ‘disjointed rambling’ that was her 2,700+ word resignation speech, I took the time to sit down & thoroughly research the history of Sarah Palin. Being a fellow Republican (dude, where’s my party?) and a Scientist (I neither thump nor burn books, I read them) – I thought I would try to be as fair as possible in presenting a picture of this person whom has been a lightning rod for attention for the last two years.

From that, I give you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sarah Palin. The Good reflects the hard-earned accomplishments of someone who has worked hard & deserves to be proud. The Bad reflects poor decisions and failures – and to be fair who doesn’t make those – but that which one should be regretful about and learn from. The Ugly however is that which is neither to be forgotten nor forgiven and what makes this politician truly dangerous and a shameful embarrassment to Alaska and America.

Many of the events listed in one section end up reappearing in another section – so I have attempted to link these with footnote references.

Full disclosure – I did not vote for McCain in the last election. I did vote for him in favor of Bush in the 2000 New York Primary.


  • Elected twice to the city council of Wasilla, in 1992 and 1995 & was a member of from 1992 to 19961
  • Served two terms (1996–2002) as the mayor of Wasilla
  • First female governor of Alaska
  • Youngest person elected governor of Alaska
  • First Alaskan candidate of either major party on a national ticket2
  • First female vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party2
  • Head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the school3
  • Captain and point guard of the school's girls' basketball team that won the Alaska state championship in 1982
  • Winner of the Miss Wasilla Pageant in 19843
  • Finished third in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, which earned her a college scholarship4 and the "Miss Congeniality" award
  • Returned to the University of Idaho in January 1986, where she spent three semesters completing her bachelor's degree in communications-journalism, graduating in May 1987 4
  • During her first year in office, Palin kept a jar with the names of Wasilla residents on her desk, and once a week she pulled a name from it and picked up the phone; she would ask: "How's the city doing?" Using income generated by a 2% sales tax that was enacted before she was elected to the city council, Palin cut property taxes by 75% and eliminated personal property and business inventory taxes
  • Elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.
  • Chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004
  • After resigning from the AO&GCC, Palin filed a formal complaint against Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Randy Ruedrich, also the chair of the state Republican Party, accusing him of doing work for the party on public time and of working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating
  • She also joined with Democratic legislator Eric Croft to file a complaint against Gregg Renkes, a former Alaskan Attorney General, accusing him of having a financial conflict of interest in negotiating a coal exporting trade agreement, while Renkes was the subject of investigation and after records suggesting a possible conflict of interest had been released to the public. Ruedrich and Renkes both resigned and Ruedrich paid a record $12,000 fine.
  • Palin followed through on a campaign promise to sell the Westwind II jet, a purchase made by the Murkowski administration for $2.7 million in 2005 against the wishes of the legislature.
  • In December 2008, an Alaska state commission recommended increasing the Governor's annual salary from $125,000 to $150,000. Palin stated that she would not accept the pay raise. In response, the commission dropped the recommendation
  • Helped in her husband’s commercial fishing business7 [This isn't all that he does however]


  • Unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2002
  • Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee for the 2008 United States presidential election2
  • Announced that she will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010 and that she would resign the Office of Governor effective July 26, 2009
  • Enrolled at Hawaii Pacific College in Honolulu. She left after one semester 4
  • Transferred to North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d'Alene and spent two semesters as a general studies major in 1983 4
  • August 1984, she transferred to the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho 4
  • After two semesters at UI, Palin returned to Alaska and attended Matanuska-Susitna College, a community college in Palmer, for one term in the fall of 1985 4
  • Did not complete her second term on the city council because she ran for mayor in 19961
  • The first governor not to be inaugurated in Juneau; she chose to have the ceremony held in Fairbanks instead. 6
  • Palin promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR).
  • In 2006, Palin obtained a passport and in 2007 traveled for the first time outside of North America on a trip to Kuwait. [She was the only Vice Presidental candidate in history to have never met a foreign head of state. That she never even travelled out of the USA at all prior to 2007 is shameful for someone whom would potentially preside over foreign policy matters]
  • In June 2007, Palin signed a record $6.6 billion operating budget into law. At the same time, she used her veto power to make the second-largest cuts of the construction budget in state history. The $237 million in cuts represented over 300 local projects, and reduced the construction budget to $1.6 billion. In 2008, Palin vetoed $286 million, cutting or reducing funding for 350 projects from the FY09 capital budget.
  • Palin also joined with nearby communities in jointly hiring the Anchorage-based lobbying firm of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to lobby for federal funds. The firm secured nearly $8 million in earmarked funds for the Wasilla city government. Earmarks included $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, and $900,000 for sewer repairs.
    However in 2008 Alaska was still the largest per-capita recipient of federal
    earmarks, requesting nearly $750 million in special federal spending over a period of two years
  • She opposes same-sex marriage and supported a non-binding referendum for an Alaskan constitutional amendment to deny state health benefits to same-sex couples 3
  • Palin has called herself "as pro-life as any candidate can be" and has called abortion an "atrocity." 3
  • Palin has stated that abortion should be banned in nearly all cases, including rape and incest, except if the life of the mother is endangered.3
  • Palin has stated that she does not support embryonic stem cell research. 3
  • Governor Murkowski appointed Palin to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She chaired the Commission beginning in 2003, serving as Ethics Supervisor. Palin resigned in January 2004, protesting what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican members.5


  • She promoted an effort to de-list the polar bear as an endangered species, since this could hinder oil searching 7
  • In 2007, Palin supported a 2003 Alaska Department of Fish and Game policy allowing the hunting of wolves from the air as part of a predator control program intended to increase moose and caribou populations for subsistence-food gatherers and other hunters. In March 2007, Palin's office announced that a bounty of $150 per wolf would be paid to the 180 volunteer pilots and gunners, to offset fuel costs, in five areas of Alaska. Six-hundred-and-seven wolves had been killed in the prior four years. State biologists wanted 382 to 664 wolves killed by the end of the predator-control season in April 2007. Wildlife activists sued the state, and a state judge declared the bounty illegal on the basis that a bounty would have to be offered by the Board of Game and not by the Department of Fish and Game.7
  • Palin stated in 2006 that she would not allow her personal religious beliefs to dictate her political positions3
  • Her father, Charles R. Heath, was a science teacher
  • Member of the girls' cross country team [her father was the coach]3
  • 1988, she worked as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV and KTVA-TV in Anchorage 3
  • Worked at the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman as a sports reporter [You wonder where all the sports metaphors come from?] 3
  • On the City council, she successfully opposed a measure to curtail the hours at Wasilla's bars by two hours. This surprised her opponent Hartrick because she was then a member of a church that advocated abstinence from alcohol. [I actually agree with her legal stance but it is the hipocrisy that raises questions. She clearly cherry picks where to apply Beliefs to the Law] 3
  • She introduced abortion, gun rights, and term limits as campaign issues [i.e. these were not issues Alaskans based their votes on previously - Wedge Stratregy anyone?]
  • Shortly after taking office in October 1996, Palin consolidated the position of museum director and asked for updated resumes and resignation letters from some top officials, including the police chief, public works director, finance director, and librarian & stated this request was to find out their intentions and whether they supported her 6
  • As Mayor she temporarily required department heads to get her approval before talking to reporters, saying that they first needed to become acquainted with her administration's policies 6
  • As Mayor she created the position of city administrator
  • Reduced her own $68,000 salary by 10%, although by mid-1998 this was reversed by the city council [An obvious and clumbsy PR stunt]
  • According to Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, Mayor Palin inquired two or three times in October 1996 as to how Emmons would handle any request to remove books from the library 3 6
  • Palin fired Emmons and Police Chief Irl Stambaugh in January 1997, stating that she did not feel they fully supported her efforts to govern the city. The next day, following expressions of public support for Emmons and a personal meeting, Palin rescinded the firing of Emmons, stating that her concerns had been alleviated, and adding that Emmons agreed to support Palin's plan to merge the town's library and museum operations.Stambaugh, who along with Emmons had supported Palin's opponent in the election, filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, violation of his contract, and gender discrimination. In the trial, the defense alleged political reasons; Stambaugh said that he had opposed a gun control bill, Alaska HB 270, that Palin supported. The federal judge said in the decision that the police chief serves at the discretion of the mayor, and can be terminated for nearly any reason, even a political one, and dismissed Stambaugh's lawsuit ordering Stambaugh to pay Palin's legal fees.6
  • Using municipal bonds, she made improvements to the roads and sewers, and increased funding to the Police Department.She also oversaw new bike paths and procured funding for storm-water treatment to protect freshwater resources.At the same time, the city reduced spending on the town museum and stopped construction of a new library and city hall.
  • During her second term as mayor, Palin introduced a ballot measure proposing the construction of a municipal sports center3 to be financed by a 0.5% sales tax increase. The $14.7 million Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex3 was built on time and under budget, but the city spent an additional $1.3 million because of an eminent domain lawsuit caused by the failure to obtain clear title to the property before beginning construction.The city's long-term debt grew from about $1 million to $25 million through voter-approved indebtedness of $15 million for the sports complex, $5.5 million for street projects, and $3 million for water improvement projects. A city council member defended the spending increases as being caused by the city's growth during that time.

  • In 2004, Palin told the Anchorage Daily News that she had decided not to run for the U.S. Senate that year, against the Republican incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, because her teenage son opposed it. Palin said, "How could I be the team mom if I was a U.S. Senator?" [Really? She took career advice from her teenaged child?]
  • In 2008, as a vice-presidential candidate, Palin characterized her position as having told Congress "thanks, but no thanks, on that bridge to nowhere." This angered some Alaskans in Ketchikan, who said that the claim was false and a betrayal of Palin's previous support for their community. Some critics complained that this statement was misleading, since she had expressed support for the spending project and kept the Federal money after the project was canceled.
  • In August 2008, Palin signed a bill authorizing the State of Alaska to award TransCanada Pipelines — the sole bidder to meet the state's requirements — a license to build and operate a pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the Continental United States through Canada.The governor also pledged $500 million in seed money to support the project.It is estimated that the project will cost $26 billion. Newsweek described the project as "the principal achievement of Sarah Palin's term as Alaska's governor."
  • Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan on July 11, 2008, citing performance-related issues, such as not being "a team player on budgeting issues." Monegan said that he had resisted persistent pressure from the Governor, her husband, and her staff, including State Attorney General Talis Colberg, to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten; Wooten was involved in a child custody battle with Palin’s sister that included an alleged death threat against Palin's father.6
  • She placed an aide on paid leave due to one tape-recorded phone conversation that she deemed improper, in which the aide appeared to be acting on her behalf and complained to a trooper that Wooten had not been fired.6
  • On September 1, Palin asked the legislature to drop its investigation, saying that the state Personnel Board had jurisdiction over ethics issues. The Personnel Board's three members were first appointed by Palin’s predecessor, and Palin reappointed one member in 2008. On September 19, the Governor's husband and several state employees refused to honor subpoenas, the validity of which were disputed by Talis Colberg, Palin's appointee as Alaska's Attorney General. On October 2, a court rejected Colberg's challenge to the subpoenas, and seven of the witnesses, not including Sarah and Todd Palin, eventually testified
  • On July 4, 2009, Palin's attorney issued a statement threatening bloggers and news organizations with potential defamation lawsuits for spreading rumors about criminal behavior by Palin as if the rumors were fact.6
  • Todd Palin works for the British oil company BP as an oil-field production operator7 and owns a commercial fishing business
  • Palin described herself in an interview as a "Bible-believing Christian." After the Republican National Convention, a spokesperson for the McCain campaign told CNN that Palin "doesn't consider herself Pentecostal" and has "deep religious convictions." 3
  • In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, responding to a question asking the candidates whether they would support teaching creationism in public schools, Palin stated that she supported teaching both creationism and evolution. Shortly after that debate, Palin said in an interview that she meant she supports allowing the discussion of creationism in public schools3, but says it does not have to be part of the curriculum. She supports sex education in public schools that encourages abstinence but also discusses birth control. 3
  • On global warming, Palin has said that "a changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."7
  • Regarding foreign policy, Palin supported the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq, but is concerned that "dependence on foreign energy" may be obstructing efforts to "have an exit plan in place"7
  • Palin supports preemptive military action in the face of an imminent threat, and supports U.S. military operations in Pakistan. She declined to give a yes or no answer regarding whether U.S. military forces should make cross-border attacks into Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government.

Commentary, linking topics:

1 She failed to complete her 2nd term

2 Arguably she was a major cause of the lost election. It is widely held on both sides of the political arena that they should have declined the nomination.

3 The agenda of the Fellowship of Christian Atheletes is to promote religion through sports. Her subsequent sports-centered career and religious overtones are arguably an extension of this early-adopted agenda. This clashes however with her declaration in 2006 that she would not allow her religious beliefs to dictate her policies

4 This is one of the oft-cited 'quitter' moves where it took several attempts for her to complete her degree.

5 These are incidents where the "quitter" label applies. There is a pattern of "cut and run" behaviour when she finds herself in an underdog scenario, unable to run the show and win admiration.

6 These are cases where her heavy-handed need to control public perception has overriden her ability to govern properly

7 Does anyone else perceive Conflicts of Interests in these, or is just me?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Google/YouTube Being Evil

If I want to watch certain videos that have been 'flagged' on YouTube I am required to sign in to YouTube with an account under the pretense of determining my age.

The offer to link your Google account with your YouTube account is provided in this process - but what if I want to remain anything like anonymous?

If I attempt to create an account with the terms 'Google' or 'YouTube' in the account name, then the name is listed as 'Username Unavailable'. It really doesn't matter what else is in the name. Please go try it yourself to confirm this.

That made it impossible to create a name like "YouTubeLogsWutIWatch" or any derivative that includes their name.

Furthermore, they require my country as a "Location" as well as my postal code, my date of birth, and my gender. The combination of which, if honestly answered - a legally binding requirement - makes me anything but anonymous.

Lastly - the Terms of Use is displayed in a scrolling text field that is 3 lines high, which expands to 10 lines if you click in it, but contains legal conditions that are 311 lines long.

Those conditions are as arbitrary as possible due to the inclusion of this gem in line 4:

"YouTube may, in its sole discretion, modify or revise these Terms of Service and policies at any time, and you agree to be bound by such modifications or revisions."

So even if you do find the terms acceptable today - they can and will change them whenever is suits them to do so and your only recourse is in line 3:

"If you do not agree to any of these terms, the YouTube privacy notice, or the Community Guidelines, please do not use the YouTube Website."

And to be fully up to date and aware of the changes, again back to line 4:

" should periodically review the most up-to-date version..."

Mind you - that is just the first 4 lines. Do you want to read the remaining 307 lines? Does anyone besides me ever read them?

So what exactly is so "Evil" about this? Simple - they are acting as an accessory to government agencies that might have an interest in profiling what you watch and doing so in order to protect their own interests vis a vie Liability. No effort is expended in attempting to protect their customers' rights to privacy but rather they pass the buck by stating that they are 'obeying the law'.

Given that laws and governments change and themselves act in "Evil" ways - for example the extreme censorship in communist China and subsequent political imprisonment, organ harvesting, etc.. - Google/YouTube thereby empowers government agencies with the ability to monitor who is watching things that governments might take issue with.

The answer is simple : If you don't maintain records then they cannot be subpoenaed. That would be the lesser of all Evils.

By simply instituting an automatic pop-up that would appear for "flagged" videos for anonymous users, in the way that most adult entertainment sites do for example is an extremely simple technical workaround. This would provide people an option that would maintain their anonymity whilst also directly limiting Google/YouTube's liability.

One Week in El Salvador

Last week I went to El Salvador for a wedding between two friends of mine from the U.S.A.. The family of the bride comes from there and indeed largely still lives there and so they welcomed all of us with open arms and ecstatic generosity.

El Salvador is a fascinating country with deep mysteries that utterly contrast it's small size. Everywhere I looked I found intrigue and wonder. The first two days I stayed at a ranch maintained by the family on the beach - which was wired with both the local standard outlets and American standard electrical outlets. This was my first hint at the deeply intertwined relationship that El Salvador has with the U.S.A..

I came to understand that not only is a large percentage of their national economy flowing directly from the U.S.A. in the form of money and goods sent back there by immigrants to their families, but in fact their own currency was abandoned in favor of the US Dollar. The scale of this grassroots endeavor can only be begun to be appreciated when you realize that for example - over one million El Salvadorians1 currently reside in Los Angeles, California alone. LA is jokingly referred to as the 15th Department2 of El Salvador for this reason.

Sadly, a large percentage of those people came to the states to escape the military conflicts of the past. Those conflicts are reflected in the architecture of the place to some degree where walled compounds with sturdy gates and armed guards were the norm in the places that I visited3. This was true of both the places where I stayed as well as the restaurants and clubs that we went to.

History and culture are omnipresent in El Salvador. After taking a day-long tour of Mayan ruins I came to realize that almost every small and steep hill that you see anywhere is in fact a pyramid that is buried under about 7 meters of volcanic ash and soil. Only the tiniest amount of these have been studied at all - and those that have been excavated at all end up suffering from extreme erosion due to the lack of care-taking experienced during times of conflict when foreign archaeologists fled the country for a decade or more at a time.

One result of this incredible historical legacy is that construction of any large facilities or even simply houses can and often does grind to a standstill because if you dig just about anywhere you are likely to stumble upon yet another ancient ruin. That makes sustained development rather difficult and worse leads to an unrelenting black market for artifacts fueled by the omnipresent poverty that is slowly erasing an inconceivably enormous unknown history.

Christianity is the only thing more common than poverty in El Salvador. You cannot go anywhere without being surrounded by icons - be they dashboard Saints, placards bearing reaffirming slogans, etchings in car windows, T-Shirts, graffiti, statues, etc. - and you can't really have a conversation without noting subtle reference in the manner in which the idioms and speech patterns reinforce this Faith.

I personally have to wonder if this ecstatic faith helps the poor by providing them Hope or if it keeps them down by reinforcing the Ignorance that keeps them poor to begin with. I did not wonder this out loud. Religious Intolerance is a Real issue in a country of passionate people, a large percentage of whom regularly wield machetes.

It really puts things in perspective when you look at what people complain about in the U.S.A.. I do not know of anywhere in the U.S.A. for example where someone could live for a full year on $3 a day - nevermind your entire life. Yet this is true of the vast majority of the farming community there, who ride in the back of open-air trucks for hours to toil in the fields reaping sugarcane and coffee beans.

While many people in the U.S.A. think disparaging thoughts about El Salvador due to the poverty - there are class-strata ranging from the mind-numbingly poor to the Millionaire level. Maybe that American influence provides the accompanying intolerance and indifference or perhaps it descended from the Spaniards who conquered the place to begin with - likely a combination of both, but those who suffer most are those who are descended from the indigenous people - still referred to by the pejorative term "Pipil" which translates roughly as "people who speak like children".

During my stay I found everyone to be gracious, kind, and generous. Certainly I felt some resentment when visiting the poorest places but it never manifested into anything more than staring, which I expected anyway4. In truth, the only people that I had any problem with were other Americans.

Halfway through a group tour of the Mayan ruins two silver-haired gringos started following us around. I didn't think much of it because our tour guide spoke English and had a fascinating take on everything he described - but when they followed us in their own car to the 3rd site - it started getting weird. When they walked ahead of us 60 feet and absconded our tour guide it got annoying. When they started posing in our pictures it got downright creepy. When they followed us into the local shops one by one I realized the truth - they were stealing the services of the armed guard that was accompanying us for their own protection.

No amount of loud hint-dropping afforded a single dollar to go to our tour crew - instead even as we were leaving they again imposed themselves by hitting up our driver for directions for 10 minutes while we were trying to leave - and again failed to compensate our driver, tour guide and guard.

Contrary to the rhetoric of pin-heads like Bill O'Reilly - people like me do not hate America. But I am utterly embarrassed that our chief cultural exports are selfish morons like our tour-parasites, PizzaHut, Burger King, McDondalds, and WalMart. While I am certain that there are people in El Salvador who do hate America, identifying with their mind-sets in this way fails to make me a 'traitor' - but rather defines me as a 'patriot' who would see his own country live up to their high ideals.

Of course, with AT&T's treatment of iPhone users - it was utterly impossible to use any of the 6 local cellular networks to make or receive a phone call. I could only get a WiFi signal in the lobby of my hotel and all of the web sites that I accessed defaulted to Spanish by identifying my locale. This provided the single news item that filtered down to me: the resignation of Sarah Palin. You can be sure that I will have something to say on that topic soon.

1 The spelling of that word is in great debate so I will defer to my spell-checker
2 'Department' is the local term used that equates to 'County' or 'Parish' in the U.S.A. of which there are 14 in El Salvador
3 Though, to be fair - I wasn't "let off the reservation" during the trip - because I was emphatically told by the locals that it is "Not Safe"
4 When you are walking around with the local equivalent of 6 months salary in your pocket it should be expected.