Friday, January 30, 2004

Super Bowl Memories, II-V

Hi Kari:

So who are the Chief fans like you rooting for in this edition of the Super Bowl?

I've already shared one memorable Super Bowl, here are four more. The thing you will soon notice is that in all cases they are memorable partly for how the game ended but also for the circumstances of my experiencing of the dramatic moments.

There is of course the Super Bowl game with "the Drive." You know of what I speak of... you were probably old enough to have seen the game. Well, I didn't see that game. I heard it. I was at my church in Los Angeles quite late that Sunday and I was driving home when I listened to Joe Montana lead his team to victory. Just amazing.

Super Bowl XXIII
San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
Joe Robbie Stadium
Miami, Florida
January 22, 1989


It would be many intervening years before there was a game that really captured my interest. Most were blow outs and the NFC dominated. But finally, John Elway at long last had a running back in Tyrell Davis that gave him a chance at the end of his career to win that illusive Super Bowl ring. I was talking up the Broncos as the team that would throw down the AFC curse (the LA Raiders were the last AFC team to win the title) and pick up the Super Bowl trophy. That Sunday, I was again at church but in San Francisco as I was living there at the time. The congregation had a large number of twenty- and thirty-something adults. Thus, one of the leaders decided it would be great to roll out a big screen television into a meeting room and have snacks and soft drinks and throw it open to anyone who wanted to show up. As you might guess it was mostly guys... probably 99%!

Elway, Davis and the Broncos got the winning TD when the Packers packed it in on defense in the final minutes of the game.

Super Bowl XXXII
Denver 31, Green Bay 24
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego, California
January 25, 1998


Two years later, I was having dinner with the extended family on Super Bowl Sunday. Ocean Seafood is one of the classic restaurants for Cantonese style seafood in Los Angeles Chinatown. So if you (or our readers) are ever in LA be sure to check it out.

Anyway, back to the game. I knew the game was nearing the end so I wandered away to the bar to take a quick look and voila, I happen to watch the final few plays as the Titans were trying to tie up the game and... just inches short! Talk about the agony of defeat!!

Super Bowl XXXIV
St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
January 30, 2000


For my final memorable Super Bowl game I was doing what I do best: eat. And guess what, I didn't see the final play nor hear it on radio. I had been watching the game prior to the dinner and listening to it on radio as I drove to the restaurant but I wouldn't see the winning field goal until that night's sport's reports! We heard about about it over dinner, however.

About 16 of us were at the Buca di Beppo in Pasadena. One of my fabulous female friends was having a birthday and going away party in one. She was going overseas to teach English and business for about 9 months so it was a chance to celebrate her life and cheer her on for a big adventure.

I think there were about 16 of us. I'm not sure about the exact number. However, I am sure about the exact number of males at this party: two. Indeed, the waiter looked at me and the other male who sat next to me and gave us a look that said: how did you guys get to be so lucky to be surrounded by all these amazing women? Well, at least my male friend is truly fortunate because he is married to the woman he sat next to. Me: as Benjamin Franklin Pierce (Alan Alda) used to say in MASH, "I'm my only child."

Oh, by the way, the Patriots won with a field goal. But you knew that already.

Super Bowl XXXVI
New England 20, St. Louis 17
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 3, 2002


Anyway, its now Super Bowl XXXVIII and I'm sticking with the Panthers. I'm not sure I'll be in front of a television or not because we will be celebrating my nephew's birthday.

Now, for the obligatory prediction (for entertainment purposes only; past performance is not an indicator of future results) Panthers 21 Patriots 20.

Who are you picking?


Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Can't Top That!

Dear Kari:

Was planning to post on Super Bowl hype but that can definitely wait a day or two.

Anyone who knows you in real life or is within a regular click away from this blog is happy to read your post of earlier today.

I wrote a quick note in the comments box right after I read it and have been in touch with you off-blog since then. As the day in the left coast draws to a close, I feel the need to write again. If I was one of those DJ's on late night radio, I'd read a quote from the Good Book and play a familiar song from Louis Armstrong for you:
Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.
-- James 1:17

I see trees of green........ red roses too
I see them bloom..... for me and for you
And I think to myself.... what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue..... and clouds of white
The bright blessed day....dark sacred night
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.

The colors of the pretty the sky
Are also on the faces.....of people ..going by
I see friends shaking hands.....sayin’.. how do you do
They’re really sayin’......I love you.

I hear babies cry...... I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more.....than I’ll never know
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself .....what a wonderful world

Oh, yeah.....

Kari and Brent, have a wonderful life!


I'm Gettin' Married in the Mornin' (well, in May or June anyway...)

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

At age 33, looks like I’m getting married.

My fiancé proposed Sunday night. We had talked through the idea of getting married, and we’d even done some (as we called it) “hypothetical” planning and ring-shopping, but he still managed to surprise me with the timing. Kansas City had been hit with a nasty ice storm the night before, and we cancelled our normal Sunday church date because Brent lives up north, about 20 miles from my house and our church, and the roads were in horrible condition.

I resigned myself to a Sunday spent breaking up ice on the driveway and doing laundry, but despite temperatures in the low teens, by late afternoon the sun had combined its rays with the sand and salt on the roads to make them passable. Brent called to report that he had spoken to my parents on the phone, essentially baring his heart and asking for their blessing, if not quite their permission, for us to marry (we are in our 30s, after all).

They were more than approving, and he was clearly relieved and re-energized. He decided to brave the improved road conditions, and we had an early supper at our favorite place to eat on Sunday, the Dragon Inn. The staff knows us so well that we don’t even have to place an order – we just confirm “the usual” with a smile and a nod. (KC: Order the steamed bread. At 95 cents for four pieces, dipped in a variety of sauces, it’s a simple appetizer and the best buy in town.)

Then we went back to the house and watched a little bit of Ken Burns’ Civil War series on DVD. If you don’t think that’s romantic, you are forgetting the letter Sullivan Ballou wrote to his wife on the eve of the first Battle of Bull Run, which is read memorably over footage from the battlefield as it looks today:

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights – amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours – always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by…

With our eyes misty, Brent pulled out a packet filled with bits of paper, receipts, and notes, all mementos of our time together. We have talked about making a scrapbook, so we went over them one by one. Then he got up and revealed a small box he’d hidden in the room. He opened it, got on one knee, and … well, the rest is even more personal than what I’ve written so far. I’m already afraid I’ve tested the boundaries of our blog, but suffice to say, I said yes.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Super Bowl Memories I

Hello Kari, Sports Super Fan:

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, I thought I'd begin a series of short little posts recounting some Super Bowl games that were memorable to me. To be honest most games are quite forgetable non-contests. And for my first of five memorable games... a blowout.

Super Bowl XVIII
Los Angeles 38, Washington 9
January 22, 1984

I remember that stupid screen pass by Washington just before halftime that was run back for a TD that sealed the fate of the Redskins. I remember that Marcus Allen just ran all over them. I remember that President Reagan called the Raiders locker-room and compared Marcus Allen to an MX missile.

Alas, that would be the last time (only two times, the other was the Rams in 1980) a Los Angeles team appeared in a Super Bowl game and the only victory.

Be well,

P.S. On a completely unrelated matter, our blog is sometimes brought up in Google searches by people interested in Lord of the Ring quotes. I really liked the short speeches given to rally the troops like:

Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered!
A sword-day, a red-day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!


Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I come singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall.

Hmm, I wonder if there are any football coaches who use stuff like that to fire up his team?

Anyway, I'm sure there must be a multitude of web sites devoted to LotR with more quotes. I took these straight from the books and I'm guessing Jackson kept them as is. I suppose I could go to the DVDs and check to be sure!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Picture of the day

Hi Kari:

Pleased to hear that Opportunity has landed safely on Mars!

Image source:

I'm still not sure how I feel about the Bush Administration's goal of sending people to Mars and setting up a base on the Moon. I believe we eventually want to be able to do such things but how much money and how quickly to work toward those goals is an open question in my mind. Have you formed any opinions on this?

For now, I'm just admiring what the NASA-JPL people are doing on Mars. Hope that Spirit will become fully operational again and am glad they were able to fund a second rover in Opportunity to explore another part of Mars.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

Lunar New Years!

Hey Kari:

Happy year of the monkey!

Saw this over at Google.

Image source:


Political navel gazing

Dear Kari:

In our blog space, we have generally resisted omphaloskepsis (contemplation of one's navel) as a basis for a blog post. I have wanted to use that word in our blog and my resistance was down as I write. Sorry, Kari.

Anyway, for this blog entry, I wanted to share about the formation of my political views and would be curious to see how similar or different it was from yours and our readership.

As an ethnic minority, I face competing forces. Ethnic minorities often join up with the Democrats because they claim to be the party of the downtrodden and the little guy. But on the other hand, not being that far removed from the immigrant experience (I was born in the USA; my ancestors weren't) there was lots of the "do it yourself and take care of yourself and your family" mentality in my upbringing which is more common among the conservative and libertarian political thinkers.

My parent's were largely apolitical when I was growing up and politics wasn't routine dinner time conversation. Most of my school teachers kept their political views to themselves though the ones who did express any views at all were Democrats but didn't ardently advocate their views.

I suspect the thing that shaped my views the most was the Cold War. The USSR was a nation where the state controlled everything. And so I associated the idea of power concentrating as a bad thing leading to my journey towards the more libertarian way of thinking.

The other factor that influenced me was the tendency of some people to view the world in strictly economic terms: crime is due to poverty and that all problems in the world are due to conflicts between the have's and have not's. This view of the world has some limited merit but it undersells the power of ideas and values. And so this recognition led me to the conservative political perspective.

The previous two paragraphs come from my own observations but also from Dennis Prager who has influenced my political thinking the most. He is an author, speaker and radio talk show host based in LA. He is Jewish and was a long time Democrat. However, he felt that modern liberalism has moved away from the classic Democrats of the past. So eventually, he re-registered Republican.

I can't say I'm fully at home in either the libertarian or the conservative camp though that is what I would self-identify myself as. I guess I'm even less at home in the liberal camp. Libertarians are often foreign policy isolationists which I think is an irresponsible position. Conservatives are too beholden to business interests as the liberals are too beholden to labor and trial lawyer interests. Though I'm skeptical about business, I tend to think the market will correct things more effectively than excessive regulation and I don't go as far as the liberals to demonize businesses. Liberals seem to think that if you throw enough money at a problem it will be solved. I appreciate their emphasis on compassion but these problems might be better addressed by community-based entities rather than big federal programs.

So what am I? Politically confused? Politically incorrect? Or perhaps a typical American?


Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Beautiful Game

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

As Kansas City prepares for an anticlimactic NFL playoff weekend (once one’s team has been disqualified, the playoffs turn nasty; we still watch, but we’re torturing ourselves with what might have been), I thought I’d take on the topic of the other football – that game we call soccer.

I have cousins who grew up in a part of the country where soccer has been popular for quite a while, and it helped fund their college educations, so I’m not as anti-soccer as this screed might indicate. However, a few years back I listened to a good friend enumerate the limitations and offenses that keep the “beautiful game” from catching fire in the United States. Here’s my attempt at a recap:

1) Soccer has no intermediate goals. Think about sports like baseball or football – even individual sports like tennis. In each, there is something to cheer for other than a run, touchdown, or set. A baseball player can get a hit, advance on the bases, put down a sacrifice bunt – all goals on the path to the ultimate goal of scoring a run. A football team competes for first downs that don’t get it any points but do advance the ball towards a touchdown or field goal. Basketball, arguably, also lacks intermediate goals, but the frequency of scoring makes up for that. The lack of intermediate goals in soccer makes it difficult for fans to stay engaged, particularly when so many international matches end up 0-0 or 1-0.

2) Soccer is both nationalist and communist. The grandest stage for soccer is the World Cup, at which bands of rowdy fans compete to beat the crap out of each other, all while singing jingoist ditties and disparaging the ethnicity of their opponents. But soccer represents a brand of collectivist nationalism that reminds many of communism – as Stephen Moore wrote in a rather over-the-top piece in 1998, “Soccer is the Marxist concept of the labor theory of value applied to sports....The purpose of a capitalist economy is to produce the maximum output for the least amount of exertion. Soccer requires huge volumes of effort but produces no output.”

3) Soccer prospers where people don’t. There are exceptions, but soccer is played most often in lesser-developed countries, or in lower-economic communities in prosperous countries. Soccer is cheap to play – a ball and two goals are all you need – but the limitation is the space required to play a regulation game. In general, if land is cheap, soccer is a good fit. It’s proletarian in that way. But in the US, where land is not cheap and the sport is still a relative novelty, soccer is most popular in the upper half of the middle class (and among immigrants from soccer-loving lands).

4) Soccer’s statistics are virtually irrelevant. This is a personal issue for me; I add it to my friend’s list of limitations. I love baseball, basketball, and football statistics. Soccer statistics tend to be subjective. Unless a player is a goalie or a big goal-scorer, the stats appear pretty worthless to me. Other than goals, what outcomes matter? This goes back to the issue of no intermediate goals.

5) Soccer’s biggest advocates try to force us to care about soccer.

So, Rene, are you a soccer fan of any magnitude? If so, have I earned a red card?


Friday, January 16, 2004

Friday Fearless Forecasts

Hello Kari:

I'm rooting for Indy to pull off the upset in Foxboro. It is going to be cold up there and I'm guessing a low scoring game. How about 17-14 with Manning engineering a late in the game drive for the TD to take the victory?

Meanwhile, down the road, I pick Phily to hold off the Pathers. How about another nail biter that has the Monday morning QBs frantic, 20-17?

Then there is that political rugby match in Iowa? Being the Mid-Westerner in this blog, what is up with your neighbors to the north?

It is now a four-man race! I suppose it was a matter of time before the media that propped up Dean was going to string him up like a pinata to be bashed. Of course, then there was the Clark boomlet as the anti-Dean and now the backlash against Clark is running full speed ahead. Then what do you know? The polls are now showing traditional pols like Gephardt and Kerry who were written off making a comeback.

How are they going to spin this thing?

I suspect in terms of actual votes there won't be a whole lot of difference between all four. But the media and the campaigns will do the dance to spin out a favorable story for whichever candidate they like. My feeling is Gephardt has the most to lose since he is from Missouri next door.

Forecast: (1) Gephardt (2) Dean (3) Clark (4) Kerry. How long before the others drop out?


UPDATE: In Kari's comments (click below), she reminds me that Clark has opted out of Iowa. I obviously dropped that football big time. Perhaps, my mild dyslexia kicked in when I was reading this poll summary and mixed Edwards up with Clark? No, maybe, I'm just clueless? 8-)

So my amended Iowa forecast (1) Gephardt (2) Dean (3) Edwards (4) Kerry.

However, if the Zogby people are right, Kerry has shown a big movement while everyone else is flat-lining with a small dip in Dean support. Zogby was the toast of the polling community when his group forcasted the somewhat modest victory in the popular vote for Clinton in 1996 while everyone else was predicting a blowout of epic proportions. I haven't been following the Iowa polling that closely. Is any other poll showing a Kerry shift? All will be more muddy by Monday I suppose?

UPDATE: I managed to get it completely backward! The results from Iowa are rather amazing: Kerry, 38%, Edwards 32%, Dean 18% and Gephardt 11%. Suffice to say, Gephardt is done.

Now, onto New Hampshire and here is a summary of polls for that contest.

UPDATE: Instapundit has a nice round up of what the pundits are saying about the Iowa results.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

LA Scene: Helping people in the city

Compassion in the City

(Seventh in a series of occasional posts on Los Angeles life)

Dear Kari,

In my past posts about LA, I've concentrated on some of the entertainment venues and great places for culture and the arts. Today, I want to take a different tack. Indeed, there are many beautiful places and places to see beauty and they are to be enjoyed because they are reflections of the God given creative spark within humanity and there is often goodness and truth to be found in beauty.

However, besides the museums, palaces of performing arts, gleaming building of this big city, nice homes of upscale sections of town and charm of old style apartment buildings, there are parts of LA that aren't doing so well as is the case in all big cities. But beauty of the human spirit can also be found on the difficult streets of the city.

Almost monthly, I go to 4507 S. Western Ave. where Faith in Christ Ministries works to help people one at a time. In the weekdays, the site has a charter school that takes kids who the regular public schools can't handle. There are also after school programs to help kids with academics and activities to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They provide clothing and food for those in need. And since it is a faith based organization, there are church activities with Bible teaching to help provide guidance in life and encouragement to turn one's life over to God.

I've helped a couple of times for Thanksgiving food service to the poor and homeless. Also, I help with others from my church on some Saturdays with general clean up and upkeep of their facilities. This past Saturday because of plans for the afternoon, I went early to help with the breakfast food service.

I helped "cook" which in this case entailed putting donated frozen burritos and breaded cheese sticks in the oven. We served local people who dropped in for some food. These people all have stories and Joe and Gywnn Brown who run FICM talk to and find out about them. I talked with a few people and observed some others. For some, it is pretty clear they don't have enough to eat during the week. In some, you see the physical scares and infirmity that time, health problems and perhaps violence have inflicted. There was one man who talked with Joe about doing community service for he had many hours he had to serve. I felt a thrill of hope for that man for he was seeking to turn his life around, pay his debt and make good on his opportunity.

In an absolute sense, my four hours on a Saturday isn't a whole lot. In the end, it is the people who are there day in and day out who make a real difference. But if a thousand people can come on a thousand days and do some of the little stuff so that the Browns and others can do the big stuff then our few hours matter.

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert F. Kennedy in his Cape Town, South Africa Speech:
This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease ...

Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Take care and be well,

UPDATE: I found out FICM has a web page.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

@ the movies

Hey Kari:

Any movies (rental or in the movie house) out there you would recommend? Our readers know of our fondness for the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. But what about other films?

I did see Paycheck with three other people of Chinese heritage since it was the latest John Woo flick. I think you and I disagreed on whether Face Off was any good. I thought it was a thumbs up with some reservations whereas I think you gave that a thumbs down. I found the finale of Face Off way too long and almost as bad as the finale to Patriot Games. I thought Patriot Games was going along reasonably well until that way too long Hollywoodish ending.

Paycheck was a marginal thumbs up in my book. I was in the mood for that kind of film: interesting premise but ignore plot holes and good action scenes. Ben was okay. I don't know, he looks good on screen but he is like an empty suit, do you know what I mean? The polar opposite would be Cary Grant in North By Northwest. I can only say I've seen Ben in Pearl (good battle scenes; unbelievable and unbearable romance), Sum of All Fears (if the writer is dead, they say he is turning in his grave; since Clancy is alive, what does he do?) and Good Will Hunting (now, in that one, he was great).

Anyway, Ben is the engineering guy caught up in something he can't quite figure out (losing one's memory does make things a little tough, eh?) and we have to follow along as he tries to figure it out as he leaves himself some clues (of course, this is a plot hole because why are the bad guys going to allow him to leave himself clues?). But, hey, this is the movies, not reality, right?

Uma Thurman is the love interest and she gets to beat people up but not as many as in Kill Bill. Also, it would seem Woo is taming down the mayhem. Yes, there are car chases and explosions and gun play and assorted violence but nothing like Face Off or Broken Arrow. But back to Ms. Thurman, was it my imagination or did they make Uma look a little... frumpy? Hard to imagine Thurman frumpy but she kinda was... but still adorable. (UPDATE: Hmm, frumpy may be a bit strong. She wasn't quite as glamorous as one would expect. But then she was playing the part of a scientist!) So I'd give it 2 stars out of 4. Okay for a rental or discounted at the theatre.

I also saw Love Actually and found that one to be quite the tear jerker. I confess, I do cry at movies and I did at this one. Love Actually is about relationships of various types all interweaving together. Some of the threads were more interesting than others. I really liked the father (Liam Neeson) and stepson thread. It is always a pleasure to see Emma Thompson at work and she got some amazing scenes. Laura Linney in the sister/brother thread was heart breaking. There were two threads for comic relief that I really didn't like at all and if they deleted those out, I think the film would be better off. The two old friends thread was goofy but the payoff at the end was worth it. Hugh Grant as the British Prime Minister was actually (rimshot) kind of fun. The romantic triangle one was okay. And the one with the English writer and the Portuguese woman was I suppose what we hopeless romantics like to believe about the magic and power of love. Three stars out of four and bring multiple hankies.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Do you think North Korea really wants nuclear weapons?


Its been a few years since you were on the Hill and had to read and prepare policy papers. For this post, I'll dive into an issue that is on the minds of some in foreign policy circles but seldom in the news because of the obvious interest in Iraq and other Middle Eastern hotspots.

Last month, I attended a lecture sponsored by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council where David Kang, professor of Government and Business at Dartmouth and Victor Cha, professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown spoke as part of their tour for their book, Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies.

This post is based on my quickly scribbled notes. I hope I accurately represent their views but without a transcript I have no way to fact check it.

David Kang spoke first. He mentioned that North Korea is not the top priority in foreign policy. At least not until there is a crisis. He and Victor Cha are long time friends who have studied North Korea but disagree on what the USA should do. They wrote differing op-ed pieces for the NY Times and decided it was time to put their thoughts together in a book.

Prof. Kang laid out the format for the night: he would make some brief remarks then Cha would make some and then the two of them would field questions.
Point #1 -- Does North Korea have security fears? Currently, the Korean war is NOT over. A truce was signed in 1953 which is not a true peace treaty. North Korea remains on the USA's nuclear warhead target list as of 2002. 30,000 US troops remain in South Korea. North Korea has lost their supporters in the USSR and China. They are a very small country afraid of its neighbors. The USA GDP is $10 trillion; Japan is $4 trillion; South Korea is $800 Billion; North Korea is $18B; New Hampshire is $47B. They are afraid.

Point #2 -- There are economic reforms taking place in North Korea. As of July 2002, they are beginning to abandon the centrally planned economy. This is a major shift and could be an indicator of future changes.

Point #3 -- US policy has been crisis driven. North Korea may not collapse tomorrow. What will the US do if it turns out the current system stays in power for decades? China began economic reforms in 1978 and has come a long way but politically it hasn't changed much. The US choose to deal with China rather than isolate it.

Thus, Kang's view is that the US must engage North Korea using more carrots than sticks.

Prof. Cha then spoke and made his three points.
Point #1 -- If North Korea intends to trade its nuclear weapons for food and security assurances then indeed, engagement makes a lot of sense. However, if they want to have nuclear weapons to have them then that strategy doesn't make sense. They would make the deals and still try to keep their weapons.

Point #2 -- The USA must get everybody around North Korea to say with one voice to them: you can't have your nuclear weapons and our assistance. The USA cannot be alone in making this demand on them.

Point #3 -- North Korea is indeed reforming their economy. However, that tells us nothing about their willingness to give up nuclear weapons.

Thus, Cha's view is that the US must engage North Korea using more sticks than carrots.

The audience then posed question.

Q: How much money does NK make in the drug trade?
Cha: It is estimated they make $250 million from drug trade and $250 million from missile technology sales.

Q: How far along are they with plutonium development?
Kang: There are indications they are working on both highly enriched uranium and plutonium. They know that the USA has them on nuclear attack plans. They are acting on their security fears.
Cha: The USA was giving them, for free, 155 million gallons of fuel oil per year. The USA and SK have tried to engage them to assure them; however, NK continues to work on the programs.

Q: Who actually runs the country?
Kang: Kim Jung Ill and the top military make the decisions.
Cha: The Korean Workers Party is in decline relative to the military. Kim Jung Ill and about 1000 top military run the country.

Q: How can China help?
Cha: China really didn't care all that much. But now they fear NK's nukes. At one time, they cut off food and energy for three days to send a strong message to NK. Recently, though they seem to have returned to not saying much.

Q: Is there a South Korean lobby in the USA that affects our foreign policy like the Israel and Cuba lobby?
Kang: No.

Q: Why do you think they want nukes?
Cha: They want to be like China. China got nukes and everybody had to respect them. They saw that Japan was defeated by nuclear weapons. They have a desire to be a rich and strong nation and in their minds that also means nuclear weapons. Why else would they sacrifice so much for the nukes? It cost lots of money to develop the technology and it is estimated that 2.2 million have died of starvation because they devote so much effort to getting them and in military spending.

Q: What is the military situation on the Korean Peninsula?
Kang: Seoul is 30 miles from the DMZ. 15 million live there. NK has a 1 million man army and 11,000 artillery pieces that can destroy Seoul. It is estimated that if war breaks out there would be 1 million casualties and would most likely draw in neighbors Russia, China and Japan (50 miles). The US would ultimately win but the cost would be high.
Cha: There are 100,000 US citizens who live and work in South Korea. Japan is just 10 minutes away by missile attack. North Korea already has a conventional weapons deterrence by holding Seoul essentially hostage.
Kang: True, but in their minds, more is better, so they want nuclear weapons.

Q: How did they get nuclear technology?
Cha: Pakistan transferred technology in 1997-1998 in exchange for missile technology.

Q: Would they really use the weapons if they got them?
Kang: Don't know. Unlike Usama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Ill has "an address." If they fire off a missile everyone knows. If they use the weapons they will got bombed.
Cha: We don't know if they would really use them. However, they may well sell them.

Q: How good is US intelligence in North Korea?
Cha: These items are easy to hide. If the country were to fall into anarchy, some military factions could steal the nukes and we would never be able to find them.
Kang: Intelligence is hard to get. Even China, a neighbor, has had very little success in getting agents in. Most of them wind up dead.

Q: What is your policy recommendation?
Kang: Clearly we need to deter but we should also engage with trade and various aid.
Cha: The 1994 agreement failed. We need to make it clear they must disarm. The cost of getting nuclear weapons is already high and we need to raise the cost further for them so they will finally give up those aspirations.

What do you think Kari? What do our readers think? More carrots or more sticks?


Monday, January 12, 2004

Monday morning quarterbacking

Dear Kari:

I was with a friend taking a look-in on the St. Louis vs. Carolina game on Saturday. We talked about other NFL playoff games of interest to us and one of them was our rooting for the Chiefs in Sunday's game. However, I cautioned, I am worried about their defense. Who would have thought...

Anyway, the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio has the following poll question:

Worst coaching decision of weekend?
(1) Vermeil not going for onside kick
(2) Martz opts for FG near end of regulation
(3) Sherman punts on fourth and 1
(4) Suggest your own... (not actually in ESPN poll question)

Fourth and 99, go for it,

P.S. I have to vote for Martz for the bad play calling of the weekend.

Chiefs tank; It's baseball season now!

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth going on in Kansas City today after Peyton Manning parted the Chiefs' defense like the Red Sea. Of course, both teams' defenses were there mainly for show, as neither team punted, but the Chiefs had a costly dropped ball, a shanked field goal, and a fumble after a fantastic run to blame for not scoring at least as many points as Indy. At least we lost to a classy team with an incredibly classy coach.

But while I'll keep my eye on the playoffs, it is now officially baseball season in Kansas City. It's been many years since the end of the Chiefs' hopes meant anything other than seven months of waiting around for football season again. With the signing of Juan Gonzalez, the apparent commitment to keep Carlos Beltran on hand for the final year of his contract, and the hope surrounding the ascension of young pitching, I'll wake up tomorrow looking forward to Spring Training. Ahh!

And there's always college hoops, right?


Saturday, January 10, 2004

LA Scene: Mark Taper Forum

Like Jazz

(Sixth in a series of occasional posts on Los Angeles life)

Hello Kari:

Los Angeles has been said to be a cultural desert. I suppose some New Yorkers and San Franciscans may still feel that way about Los Angeles? How do Kansas Citians view the fruits and nuts of Southern California?

Downtown LA has some of my town's venue for the arts. In a handful of blocks, going from north to south, there is the Catholic Cathedral, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion , Walt Disney Concert Hall and Museum of Contemporary Art.

I recently, finally, went to a show at the Mark Taper Forum to see the musical, Like Jazz which tells the story of jazz through a narrative device of a guy trying to explain jazz to the uninitiated. Woven around his moments of talking to the audience are various musical numbers with singing and a small amount of dancing.

The musical introduces the audience to some of the instruments commonly used. As you might guess, the trumpet was highlighted in several numbers as was the saxophone. One number that really got the crowd going was when lead singer Patty Austin did scat singing in response to solos from several instrumentalists. Just amazing.

Another angle they took was the venues where Jazz is played. There was a number showing the lone saxophonist in a club, another with the pianist providing a nearly ignored background soundtrack in a restaurant and one highlighting the street corner musician. But in the end for the average listener, what makes it work is that it introduces the emotional richness of the genre.

I dare anyone to see the show and not find oneself tapping the feet to the music, inspired to clap along with the peppy pieces and moved by the emotional range of music from melancholy to humorous to exuberant love of life.

I'm a novice fan of Jazz and several friends (like you) have introduced me to different noted performers and some of the concepts behind it. I recommend the show highly. My only nitpick is that at times the band overwhelmed the singers. Also, I think they should give the solo musicians a little more of the stage.

It is in its premier run and it will be interesting to see if it gets picked up for Broadway or any other major cities. Like Jazz's Los Angeles run will end January 25, 2004.

Be well,

P.S. A small hint for Los Angeles readers and visitors, if you are on a budget, try the public rush option. I got my seat for $12. In calling the box office, they say Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances tend to be the ones where rush is successful. Of course if you have the money, go ahead and by the tickets outright at full price!

Friday, January 09, 2004

Right brain, left brain...?


Came across this web page in a visit over at Drink this... in her post Profile this....

I took the quiz and this is what it says about my brain:

Your Brain Usage Profile
Auditory : 50%
Visual : 50%
Left : 55%
Right : 44%

Rene, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant with a balanced preference for auditory and visual inputs. Because of your "centrist" tendencies, the distinctions between various types of brain usage are somewhat blurred.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor, unless it requires total spontaneity and ability to improvise, your weaker traits. However, you are far from rigid or overcontrolled. You possess a degree of individuality, perceptiveness, and trust in your intuition to function at much more sophisticated levels than most.

Having given sufficient attention to detail, you can readily perceive the larger aspects and implications of a situation or of learning. You are functional and practical, but can blend abstraction and theory into your framework readily.

The equivalence of your auditory and visual learning orientation gives you two equally effective sensory input systems, each with distinctive features. You can process both unidimensionally and multidimen- sionally with equal facility. When needed, you sequence material while at other times you "intake it all" and store it for processing later.

Your natural ability to use your senses is also synthesized in your way of learning. You can be reflective in your approach, absorbing material in a non-aggressive manner, and at other times voracious in seeking out stimulation and experience.

Overall you tend to be somewhat more critical of yourself than is necessary and avoid enjoying life too much because of a sense of duty. You feel somewhat constrained and tend to sometimes restrict your expressiveness. In any given situation, you will opt for the rational, and learning of almost any type should be easy for you. You might need certain ideas explained to you in order to fit them into your scheme of things, but you're at least open to that!
What do you think blog buddy Kari, sound like me? And what does it say about Kari's brain?

Be well,

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Continuing Mars Coverage

Hey Kari:

Am guessing when Mars news is on the radio or tv, you perk up a little. So the following is probably not news to you. The Rover will be delaying its tour as it can't move off the platform just yet due to some bits of the air bag interfering with the ramps. The JPL team thinks the problem could be solved in a few days.

This NASA/JPL page has the latest photos. Do I hear you and the readers exclaim, "Don't tell me, show me!"

Image sourced from

Meanwhile, Robby remains on the scene and blogging it up. He touches on the AI programming for the Rovers and reports on how hard it is to get to Mars and the data flood. He finishes off with a very human aspect of the story by sharing about some of the brains of great beauty who are part of the team. With their stories all over the blogosphere, wonder how long will it be before they starting getting marriage proposals and date offers in their email boxes?


Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Blockbuster Trilogies Scorecard

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

As promised:

 The Lord of the RingsThe GodfatherStar WarsThe Matrix
Original conflict/problemForces of good must destroy the One Ring before Sauron or their own thirst for power destroys themCompeting forces of respectability and familial responsibility tear Michael, Corleone family apartRebels must fight the Empire's will to subjugate and/or destroy them; Luke must come to terms with destinyRebels fight to free mankind from the Machines, who have subjugated and exploited them for their life force
Continuity of conflict/problemAbsolutelyAbsolutelyAbsolutelyNope
How resolvedThe One Ring is destroyedMichael dies a broken manThe Empire is defeatedRebels make deal with the Machines
Epic timeframe13 months (not counting prologue and epilogue)Michael's adult lifetimeA few yearsA couple years
Ultimate heroFrodoMichaelLukeNeo
Ultimate villainSauronMichaelThe EmperorAgent Smith
Continuity of hero/villainYesYesTo an extent -- Vader was the villain of the first filmNot really -- The Machines ended up uneasy allies
Character continuity(1-10, 10 highest)7: Grima Wormtongue only in TT, Saruman absent in ROTK, Gimli becomes pure comic relief, some characters have continuity in yet-unfilmed Hobbit7: Michael and Kay offer significant continuity, but the rest of the cast has dwindled by Part III9: Even dead characters reappear later, at least as voices and spectres8: Death necessitated new actress as Oracle, but most characters showed continuity; Morpheus became stale and impotent
Hunky guy score7: Aragorn, Faramir, Boromir, Eomer, Legolas (in a metrosexual way)8: Michael, young Vito, Vincent, Sal Tessio (just kidding)7: Han Solo, Lando, Luke (when I was 7, maybe)5: Morpheus (in the original), Neo, Trinity (whoops…)
Butt-kicking femme score8: Not many women in sight, but Eowyn kicks serious Nazgul keister4: Kay and Connie get run over but eventually push back7: Princess Leia, eventually10: Trinity
Core fan base frenzy level1061010
Best line9: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."10: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."10: "May the force be with you."8: "Free your mind."
Grade Chapter 19999
Grade Chapter 281085
Grade Chapter 39786
(Presence of George Hamilton)No (+1)Yes (-1)No (+1)No (+1)
Ultimate Score68606954
Footnote: Academy Awards6 (so far)9104 (so far)

There you have it -- and there's really nothing to argue about any more, is there?


Just rambling

Hey Kari:

What did you make of the just concluded college football bowl season?

I confess to watching to the dismal end a rather pathetic UCLA team lose to Fresno State. You know it isn't a good night when the most exciting thing was watching the scrolling score of the Holiday Bowl at the bottom of the screen. It was nice to see Washington State defeat Texas. I know you just love Texas. Not.

The outcomes of the two bigger bowl games (Rose and Sugar) were not a surprise to me. USC was just too fast for Michigan and LSU's defense neutralized Oklahoma's offense. And to think the BCS rating system had OU so much ahead of LSU and USC. They turned out to be debatably and doubtfully the third best team in the USA. Congrats to LSU and SEC fans in our readership and to USC alums and let's hear a mighty roar for the Pac10 which went 4-2 in bowl games this past season.

We may not agree on much in college football but we do agree it is time to delete the BCS and its computers.
It is time to say the BCS was a nice try. It is time to go back to the old fashioned bowls with the human voters. So what if there are split national titles.

As you might guess, I'm checking out our space consultant Robby's web site for an insiders view of the Mars Rover story. He shares about some other blogs covering the story and corrects an inaccuracy in some of the news coverage.

For our Los Angeles readers, check out this directory of Los Angeles blogs. And for our Kansas city readers, check out this directory of Kansas City blogs.

You've probably noticed that some of the big blogs are written by lawyers? They are called BLAWGS. Har har. We all know InstaPundit who is the champion of linking to everything out there of news note. And because of my UCLA ties, I know of Volokh Conspiracy which is collaborative and has heavy doses of law mixed with some society and politics and Professor Bainbridge who is also heavy on law but has his share of wine tasting, navel gazing, politics and culture. They are either "Higher Beings" (InstaPundit), "Mortal Humans" (Volokh) or "Large Mammals" (Bainbridge) in the Ecosystem. In case anyone is interested, we are currently "Lowly Insects" but usually rate as "Crunchy Crustaceans."

Speaking of Blawgs, I sometimes visit Stay of Execution which is a diaristic blog with mostly personal matters mixed with some legal inside baseball. The post that got my attention was her description of the different types of blogs out there and why she prefers certain types.

I wonder how many blogs are of the 2blowhards format which we also practice?

Be well and be good,

Friday, January 02, 2004

Close Encounters of the Mars Kind

Image are from

Dear Kari:

When we started blogging back in late August 2003, we started with discussions about the Mars close approach and the interest we share in astronomy. By the way, on New Year's Eve, a couple of days ago, Saturn was on its closest approach. It is very easy right now to see the ringed planet as it is up in the sky at a reasonable hour.

As we start 2004, the attention of this blogger turns once again to the red planet as high drama will take place as the first of the Mars Exploration Rovers will attempt a landing on Saturday. The record of these landings has not been good. This Yahoo/AP news item describes the MER project and reports that the only USA successes have been the two Viking and Sojourner landings. Most other probes have been lost. The latest is the apparent failure of the Beagle to survive the landing.

PBS's Nova will air a documentary, Mars: Dead or Alive, on Sunday January 4, 2004 at 8 pm with a rebroadcast on Tuesday January 6, 2004 at 8 pm.

As someone living in the PST, I can watch the Sugar Bowl but when 8pm rolls around, I'll likely be switching channels.

Take care and be well,

P.S. On more earthly matters, I will root for your KSU team to beat OSU and I will cheer for LSU to defeat those Oklahoma Sooners.

UPDATE: This is disturbing news. Will Synder bench his star QB? I think he has to. I can't root for KSU if he plays. I think most fans in America, if they know this story, will feel the same way.

UPDATE: As of 10pm (PST) Saturday, the news looks good for the Rover. Woo hoo!!!

UPDATE: Photos are coming in from the Rover!

image from

UPDATE: Please check out our space consultant Robby for his observations over at his blog. As someone who follows science and technology, I was so excited to hear that the Rover made it. Imagine how much jubilation there was among the engineering staff that have put their life into this project. You get that feeling from reading his blog comments.