The Day That Was

On most days things tend to get exciting right after lunch. A client calls in regarding an item that was due to appear but isn’t there, a contract comes in - missing a crucial signature, or some work drama. Today - there seem to be nothing. A normal person wouldn’t be worried - however - I think in these days - quiet means that something’s on the horizon.

Alex has been providing clues to our vacation. It’s the first real vacation we’ve been able to take together. Before this all of our traveling has been for work, family or for Green Party. I heard a Green Party member once joked that his only vacation was during Green Party state meetings. I used to think I could live like that, but I don’t think I can do it anymore.

When I was younger I wanted to do a lot of things - cook, professional baby-sitter, an elected, a politician (there’s a difference between the elected and the politician...), a policy analyst (not the insurance kind), a “consultant”, a barista, a teacher, a professor. I never thought I would be doing what I do now...which is essentially a policy analyst by LazyBoy.

I’m not saying my job is boring, but on some days I wonder what is the goal, what’s the purpose? Should I make more? Am I getting paid too much? Should I be working harder? Do I work too hard? All the questions and no one to give me answers.

Four paragraphs and there’s not much meaning to it. If you are reading my blog for entertainment - I don’t think you will find the first paragraphs eventful.

On to the most recent family story...

Uncle Bill, as you know, passed away a couple of weeks ago. The funeral was 3 weeks ago, and my dad called me on my way home from work the other day to fill me in on the details of what happened. First, the back story:

1) Cousin Mike: Good guy, dad - he and his wife Sheila run the family farm up in Washington. Come to find out, he’s also responsible for the local cemetery.

2) Cousin Norma: Sheila’s older sister, who (bless her heart) means well but tries too hard.

3) The Casket with Uncle Bill. Nothing too outragous...worthly of a Case

Cousin Mike was responsible for digging the hole that Uncle Bill would come to rest in. He was also responsible for placing the crypt and casket. Maybe I heard Dad incorrectly, but Cousin Mike was running late and was still digging when guests and family began to arrive. (funny)

As they are placing the casket in the crypt

(And I must now stop...

Today is Poetry in Motion day. I’ve waited 20 minutes for the train. The hold up seems to be a problem with one of the “Cat and Canary” pole and there’s a 35 minute delay on the train. As we are plowing through Highland Park, this guy with a bright orange safety vest announces that it’s National Poetry Month and recites a poem by Langston Hughes. How I would love to see that on the Blue Line as it comes up to Compton BLVD.

Apparently I can expect poetry reading every thursday until the end of April. Today happens to be the last day of this Wild And Crazy Poetry Reading by Ambush.

(And now I can start again...)

Where was I....ahh placing the casket in the crypt. There was a little bit of a problem. As they were placing the casket, the casket bumped the sides of the crypt . Then, once they got the casket in the crypt, they couldn’t get the crypt to close correctly.

(I swear there is a funny part)

The funny part is that once it became widely know there was a problem with the crypt closing family hopped into the trench with wild abandoned to help Cousin Mike correct the crypt lid, allowing the service to come to a close.

I wish I would have been there because I would have laughed just as hard as when my dad was telling the story on my way home from work the other day.

(Oh, but we aren’t done)
The last part of the story starts with the fact that Norma wanted to plan the “after party”. The idea was to go to the new buffet restaurant. In typical Case fashion - no reservations or anything - not even a call ahead that 30 people were about to arrive. Well, who knew that it was the Grand Opening weekend of the new restaurant. With a line out the door prior to the Case party’s arrival...the thought of waiting in line to celebrate the passing of Uncle didn’t go over well.

Uncle Bill won’t be remembered for his funeral or the buffet restaurant - but rather all the good things he did in his life.
Didn't forget

Happy Birthday Trudi-Bootie and Grandpa Bob!


An American activist who dared to help Iraqi victims

Intrepid humanitarian aid worker Marla Ruzicka died in Baghdad Saturday when her car was caught in an insurgent attack.

By Jill Carroll

Californian Marla Ruzicka was the head of an NGO whose blend of tenacity and optimism kept her in Iraq long after almost every other humanitarian aid organization had left.

Marla and her Iraqi driver died Saturday when their car was tragically caught between a suicide car bomber and a US military convoy.

Marla was more than a source for a story, she was one of those quiet cheerleaders that kept me - and the Iraqis she touched - going almost from the moment that I arrived here three years ago.

I first met her in Jordan, just before the war. A reporter friend told me that I should get to know this young activist who made a name for herself working for Global Exchange, the US organization that sent field workers to Afghanistan to count civilian casualties.

After the Iraq war, she moved her push for an accurate count of civilian casualties to Baghdad. At a time when the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations were leaving Iraq, Marla started the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. Through that, she helped Iraqi families navigate the process of claiming compensation from the US military for injuries and deaths.

When she died Marla was traveling to visit some of the many Iraqi families she was working to help. Lately, she had been attempting to aid the relatives of a toddler whose parents were killed after the mini-bus they were traveling in was hit by what was believed to be an American rocket. The baby was thrown out of a window to save her life.

It's still unclear exactly how Marla and her driver, Faiz, were killed. But early reports indicate that they were traveling on the dangerous route between Baghdad and the airport when a suicide car bomber tried to attack a military convoy. Faiz was an Iraqi Airways pilot, who at one time worked as an interpreter for Monitor correspondents in Iraq.

I was always amazed at how composed Marla remained amid the violence and confusion of Iraq. One of my favorite memories of her was when I was sitting in the middle of the Palestine Hotel lobby in Baghdad, surrounded by a confusing swirl of soldiers, officials, and reporters. Fear swept over me. What was I doing here? I had come as a freelancer, with no experience covering a war. Just as I was quietly freaking out, Marla appeared in the dusty, harried scene. She was the picture of calm in a perfect French braid and long blue dress. She was like a breeze blowing through, so tranquil, so clean.

Later in the fall of 2003 when I moved here and was despairing of my sputtering freelance work she would always say, "Jill, good for you. You're working so hard. I'm so proud of you." She was the eternal supportive cheerleader. One night she slipped a note in my hotel mailbox. It was a small essay of encouragement and praise from out of the blue, scribbled in black ink on a scrap of notebook paper.

I found out that Marla had died several hours after she didn't show up for a party that she planned at the Hamra, a hotel occupied mostly by foreign journalists. I was tired and wasn't going to go. My friend Scott went and called me about 11 p.m. He said no one had heard from Marla since about 2 o'clock that afternoon. The other journalists and I all feared a kidnapping. I went over to the Hamra lobby and asked at the reception desk if they knew Marla's driver's family. They said his brother had just called because they were worried they hadn't seen him. A bad sign.

Then we got a call from the US military saying a woman fitting her description had been in an accident, but that she was in the military hospital and in good condition. We were relieved. In Baghdad's strange logic, we all thanked God it was a car accident and not a kidnapping. Then we received another call. It was the military again. This time they said the woman was dead on arrival.

The only thing we can say now is at least she died doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. If she were still here, she'd be most worried now about her driver's family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with.

She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla.

Somewhere Geeks are laughing

Eighth Annual Budget Analysis Quiz

The annual quiz that tests your knowledge of our 1400 page Analysis of the Budget Bill and Perspectives and Issues! Find the answers to these and other questions:

* What would a new "state gaming testing lab" do?
* How many foreign inmates has California transferred from its prisons during the last three years?
* How much unspent federal money for before and after school care does the LAO estimate could revert to the federal government by September 2006?

The questions and answers are available here:

Scientific Conference Falls for Gibberish Prank

By Greg Frost

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.

The prank recalled a 1996 hoax in which New York University physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting an entire paper with a mix of truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs and otherwise meaningless mumbo-jumbo published in the journal Social Text.

Stribling said he and his colleagues only learned about the Social Text affair after submitting their paper.

"Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions."

Stribling said the trio targeted WMSCI because it is notorious within the field of computer science for sending copious e-mails that solicit admissions to the conference.

"We were tired of the spam," Stribling told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that his team wanted to challenge the standards of the conference's peer review process.

Nagib Callaos, a conference organizer, said the paper was one of a small number accepted on a "non-reviewed" basis -- meaning that reviewers had not yet given their feedback by the acceptance deadline.

"We thought that it might be unfair to refuse a paper that was not refused by any of its three selected reviewers," Callaos wrote in an e-mail. "The author of a non-reviewed paper has complete responsibility of the content of their paper."

However, Callaos said conference organizers were reviewing their acceptance procedures in light of the hoax. Asked whether he would disinvite the MIT students, he replied: "Bogus papers should not be included in the conference program."

Stribling said conference organizers had not yet formally rescinded their invitation to present the paper.

The students were soliciting cash donations so they could attend the conference and give what Stribling billed as a "randomly generated talk." So far, they have raised more than $2,000 over the Internet.
The Big Blow Up on Oak Harbor

My dad called tonight to let me know that Uncle Bill passed away. Uncle Bill was my father’s father’s brother. He taught me how to drive stick shift and tractors. Duringthe family reunions he would drive the tractor up and down the road spraying water to keep the dust down. But, that’s not really what he’s known for...

I don’t know who told me the story first, my dad or Poppo, but it started with the explanation that on farms in his day they had dynamite to clear out mole holes. Apparently one day my Poppo led by Uncle Bill headed down to the beach at Oak Harbor - with sticks of dynamite. They were still kids, and it was okay I guess to let children run around with dynamite in their backpacks.

In any case, the Case Boys made it to the beach and planted the dynamite throughout the beach. Moments later Oak Harbor shook! Rumor spread that Oak Harbor suffered from an earthquake. The next day in the newspaper there was talk about the broken windows downtown, and the mysterious “earthquake” on Whidbey Island.

Heaven help Heaven - the Case Boys are together again. Should Heaven rumble in the next couple of days you know that it’s Poppo and Bill blowing somethin’ up.
Big News!

Now You can Comment on my posts!

Keep it clean, my grandmother reads the list.

My drive in this morning, all I could think about was the fact that some bird must have eaten a full plate of artichoke-spinach dip - because that's what half my car looked like this morning. Now, I know that too much of a bad thing happening to a car is a sign that something big and bad is about to happen.

As I was driving to work this morning, I had put in the California Love song by Tupac. It's one of my favorites, I don't know just is. In any case, I was interection located before my parking lot, stopped with traffic. Then, all of the sudden - BUMP. I look in my mirror and there's this lady who's got both her hands in the air. I roll down my window and we roll through the intersection and exchange information. But, of course, as she gets out of her car she says: "I didn't see you, I was looking down"

Oh, I'm sorry - looking down? Didn't see me? First off - it's morning traffic! Do you think you can be driving alone on Friday morning at 7 a.m. and not expect traffic? Um, no. Do you think you can drive and not look at the road? Um, no.

This was my last day driving to work anyway. I hate driving in Pasadena. It may be a broad and sweeping statement - but all you drivers in Pasadena suck ass.