Saturday, December 31, 2005


BAGHDAD — A 16-year-old from Florida who traveled to one of the world's most dangerous places without telling his parents left Baghdad on Friday to begin his journey home, the U.S. Embassy said. The teenager spoke to Associated Press early Friday, several hours before the embassy announcement, and he was still under the impression that he would be following his personal travel itinerary, which had him leaving the country by himself Sunday.

He wasn't even aware that the story of his perilous travels had made the news around the world — or that his mother was being interviewed on television. "I don't have any Internet access here in the Green Zone, so I have no idea what's going on," he said. Hassan left the United States on Dec. 11 and traveled to Kuwait, where he thought he could take a taxi into Baghdad and witness the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

Hassan had recently taken a class on immersion journalism — when a writer lives the life of his subject — and wanted to understand better what Iraqis were living through.

The teenager was able to secure an entry visa because his parents were born in Iraq, though they've not been there in more than three decades. Skipping a week of school, he told only two of his school friends of his plans to leave the country. He didn't tell his parents until he arrived in Kuwait.

"He is very idealistic. He has many convictions. He is very pro-democracy, very compassionate, always helping out others, he's very driven," his mother said. "Those are more characteristics of Farris than adventurous. This is the first adventure he's been on." In Kuwait, a taxi dropped him in the desert at the Iraq border, but he could not cross over because of heightened security ahead of the elections.He then went to Beirut to stay with family friends, and from there flew to Baghdad on Christmas Day. After his second night in Baghdad, he contacted Associated Press, saying he had come to do research and humanitarian work. The news agency called the U.S. Embassy, which sent American soldiers to pick him up.

Shown below are his thoughts and ideas that he wrote while on this mission. His mother should be very proud.

. . . and here's what the young idealistic Farris Hassan wrote about Iraq and its struggle:

There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. You are aware of the heinous acts of the terrorists: Women and children massacred, innocent aid workers decapitated, indiscriminate murder. You are also aware of the heroic aspirations of the Iraqi people: liberty, democracy, security, normality. Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help ... So I will.

Life is not about money, fame, or power. Life is about combating the forces of evil in the world, promoting justice, helping the misfortunate, and improving the welfare of our fellow man. Progress requires that we commit ourselves to such goals. We are not here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves, but to serve each other and the creator. What deed is greater than sacrificing one’s luxuries for the benefit of those less blessed? ...

I know I can’t do much. I know I can’t stop all the carnage and save the innocent. But I also know I can’t just sit here ...

I feel guilty living in a big house, driving a nice car, and going to a great school. I feel guilty hanging out with friends in a cafe without the fear of a suicide bomber present. I feel guilty enjoying the multitude of blessings, which I did nothing to deserve, while people in Iraq, many of them much better then me, are in terrible anguish. This inexorable guilt I feel transforms into a boundless empathy for the distress of the misfortunate and into a compassionate love for my fellow man ...

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless the one who gives them.

Going to Iraq will broaden my mind. We kids at Pine Crest (School) live such sheltered lives. I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress. I also want to immerse myself in their environment in order to better comprehend the social and political elements ...

I plan on doing humanitarian work with the Red Cross. I will give my mind, body, and spirit to helping Iraqis rebuild their lives. Hopefully I will get the chance to build houses, distribute food supplies, and bring a smile or two to some poor children.

I know going to Iraq will be incredibly risky. There are thousands of people there that desperately want my head. There are millions of people there that mildly prefer my demise merely because I am American. Nevertheless, I will go there to love and help my neighbour in distress, if that endangers my life, so be it ...

If I know what is needed and what is right, but do not act on my moral conscience, I would be a hypocrite. I must do what I say decent individuals should do. I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets. Therefore, I must go.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


calvin and hobbes Posted by Picasa


Here's a wonderful song that Anthony Newley sang, and it always reminds me how lucky I am---how lucky many of us are in this crazy and wonderful world:

On a wonderful day like today
I defy any cloud to appear in the sky
Dare any rain drop to plop in my eye
On a wonderful day like today

On a wonderful morning like this
When the sun is as big as a yellow balloon
Even the sparrows are singing in tune
On a wonderful morning like this

On a morning like this I could kiss everybody
I'm so full of love and goodwill
Let me say furthermore
I'd adore everybody to come and dine
The pleasure's mine and I will pay the bill

May I take this occasion to say
That the whole human race should go down on its knees
Show that we're grateful for mornings like these
For the world's in a wonderful way
On a wonderful day like today

From the London show
"The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd" (1965
(Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley)

The URGE comes with an Xbox 360 and uses the steering wheel and pedals to control play

Nissan Motor Co. next month will unveil at Detroit's auto show a concept sports car, called the Urge, equipped with Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 video game system.

When the car is parked, the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and a 7-inch liquid crystal display screen that drops down from the rearview mirror turn it into a personal video arcade so the driver can play the "Project Gotham Racing 3" game.

The car-racing game, which works only when the Urge is stationary, allows players to virtually speed through the streets of London, Tokyo, Las Vegas and New York and to compete on a German test track.

When the URGE is stationary, the steering wheel, pedals and drop-down screen can be used for a video game.


For generations, diners with a craving for apple strudel or a stein of cold German beer have sidled up to the bar at the Berghoff Restaurant which is closing after 107 years in business. It's part of Chicago's history. After Prohibition ended in December 1933, the city issued the Berghoff Liquor License No. 1.

UPDATE: (April 22, 2006) The Berghoff Restaurant which closed in February, quietly reopened this week as the Berghoff Cafe: same menu, same decor and some of the same staffers. Third-generation owner Herman Berghoff,70, had closed the restaurant. His daughter Carlyn decided to bring it back with traditional Berghoff dishes including Wiener schnitzel and schlachtplatte. Welcome back !!

The Back Bar at the Berghoff in Chicago

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Jack Paar's Water Closet Joke - One of the early classic moments in television censorship occurred when late night talk show host Jack Paar walked off his NBC program after the network censors nixed a somewhat randy (for the times) bathroom joke. The joke was based on the misinterpretation of the initials W.C. --an English lady thinking it was a "water closet" and the Swiss schoolmaster thinking she meant "Wayside Chapel." The NBC censors thought the joke was dirty and cut it from the February 10, 1960 broadcast without consulting with Paar. When Paar discovered that his four-minute story had been cut, he later walked off in the middle of the live show. As he said "I've been up thirty hours without an ounce of sleep wrestling with my conscience all day. I've made a decision about what I'm going to do. I'm leaving THE TONIGHT SHOW. There must be a better way to make a living than this, a way of entertaining people without being constantly involved in some form of controversy. I love NBC, and they've been wonderful to me. But they let me down." The joke that caused all of the controversy is printed below:
"An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room, and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms, and when everything was settled, the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "W.C." [water closet, a euphemism for bathroom] around the place. So she immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there were a "W.C." around. The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English, so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tired to discover the meaning of the letters "W.C.," and the only solution they could find for the letters was a Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote to the English lady the following note:
Dear Madam:
I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house you occupy, in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and it is open on Sunday and Thursday only. As there are a great number of people and they are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early: although there is plenty of standing room as a rule. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it. While others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is a musical accompaniment. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expression on their faces. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people, since they feel it is a long felt need. My wife is rather delicate, so she can't attend regularly. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they will not disturb the elders. Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,
The Schoolmaster."
Prompted by a newspaper column written by John Crosby entitled "The Fall of Jack Paar" that reported that Jack Paar was washed up on television, Paar returned to the show on March 7th, strolled onstage, struck a pose, and looked right into the camera. "As I was saying," he said "before I was interrupted. Of course, the (audience erupted in applause. He continued, "When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well I've looked and there isn't. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I'm totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business. But I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past. Any who are maligned will find this show a place to come and tell their story. There will be a rock in every snowball and I plan to continue exactly what I started out to do. I hope you will find it interesting."
Born May 1, 1918 in Canton, Ohio, Jack Harold Paar died in Greenwich, Connecticut after a long illness on January 27, 2004. He was 85. Paar hosted THE TONIGHT SHOW from 1957-1962. He took over the show from Steve Allen and then passed the comedic torch to newcomer Johnny Carson. At the time, Paar was called the "King of Late Night TV". When Johnny Carson became host, he humbly settled for being called "The Prince of Late Night TV" Jack retired from TV in 1965. When asked why he didn't do more television, he replied "I've said everything I want to say and met everyone I want to. Why hang around?" Paar's trademark catchphrase was "I kid you not!"

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005


"Dry Guy" (shown above) was invented by Joel Beckett of Mercer Island, Washington. It airs out soggy gloves, hats and other garments after skiing, boating, swimming or fishing. It's four 8-inch nozzles emit a steady airflow---room temperature or slightly warmer. The device is no bigger than a toaster and is easier to work than some gumball machines. It's quiet and runs on less juice than a hair dryer, and sells for $89.95. Posted by Picasa


Pakistan's Supreme Court has extended a ban on making, selling and flying kites that it imposed two months ago after ruling the sport had become increasingly deadly. Lahore, the provincial capital, is the site of an annual festival in which tens of thousands of people fly kites from rooftops and sports fields. The festival, called Basant, sometimes turns deadly when people fall from roofs or are injured by metal-lined strings. The strings are used for kite battles in which people try to cut one another's lines. Nineteen people died and more than 200 were injured in February during Basant. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2005


Londoners bade a fond farewell to the red double-decker Routemaster that for half a century has been as symbolic of London as Big Ben. Loved by tourists and residents alike, the distinctive buses started service in 1956. But they became expensive antiques and have been gradually retired. A few will still run on two heritage routes catering to tourists.  Posted by Picasa


The Bugatti Veyron is a superlative on wheels. But for V W, which spent six years and about half a billion dollars, it may be obsession run wild. This, the fastest production car in the world, is broad and low, an enameled ellipse in a spiffy two-tone paint scheme. The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is not only the world's fastest production car but also the most expensive: $1.25 million before taxes and richly deserved gas guzzler penalties. Also the most powerful: it's 8.0 liter 16-cylinder quad-turbo engine produces about 1,000 horsepower and churns it through a high-tech all-wheel-drive system and gob-smacking foot-wide tires. Also, the quickest: the Veyron accelerates to 60 mph in 2.1 seconds, faster than a Formula 1 car, but then it's just getting started. In 20 seconds it reaches 200 mph. In 53 mind-blowing seconds, the Veyron reaches its marquee speed: 253 mph. At that speed, the tires would begin to soften in about half an hour. Fortunately, at top speed, it runs out of gas in 12 minutes. It's a safety feature. Posted by Picasa

What was that ?? That was 0 to 60 mph in 2.1 seconds. Posted by Picasa

$1,250,000 so watch for a sale Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Earth's north magnetic pole is drifting away from North America and toward Siberia at such a clip that Alaska might lose its spectacular Northern Lights in the next fifty years, scientists said Thursday. The shift could mean that Alaska might no longer see the sky lights known as auroras, which might then be more visible in more southerly areas of Siberia and Europe. Auroras occur when charged particles streaming from the sun interact with gases in Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have long known that magnetic poles migrate and in rare cases, swap places. Why this happens is a mystery. Posted by Picasa


The annual Geminid meteor shower will reach its peak Tuesday, but only the brightest meteorites will be visible---about one every 5-10 minutes---because the moon will be full that night. Beginning about 10 p.m., the meteors will descend from the east, but by morning they will be coming from the west. For the best viewing, stand with the moon to your back.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's hard to IMAGINE: John Lennon died 25 years ago today, Dec 8, 1980

With the passing of John Lennon and George Harrison (a few years ago) we are left with only two Beatles: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (see below). Posted by Picasa


John, George, Ringo and Paul Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Roger Carr, the versatile and talented cabaret entertainer, returned to L. A. after an absence that stretched into years. Shown above are the selections on his CD "Here's to Life" (click on the image for larger text). Entertaining the passengers of cruise ships on the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas turned into a long run. Roger was in town for the month of November, performing at venues in Silverlake, Long Beach and Palm Springs. I have long been a fan of Roger Carr, who has a talent for making you feel like you're enjoying a warm, friendly evening of music at home. His fans greeted him warmly, knowing that all you need is Roger Carr and a piano. His Broadway showtune medleys from shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors, Mack and Mabel and others recreate the magic and the intensity of the original shows. I'm sure that Elton John and Billy Joel would both approve of Roger's treatment of their work, and he specializes in Sondheim. Roger's tribute to the late Shirley Horn's "Here's to Life" is a highlight you won't forget. In a few days Roger will be returning to a Princess cruise ship in the Caribbean but he is expected to return to L. A. in May and next time his L. A. run promises to be much longer. Let's hope so. To learn more about Roger Carr and his music, visit his website: ( or you can click on Roger in the LINKS section on the right). Comments from cruise-ship passengers appear below:  Posted by Picasa

(click on the image for larger text) Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 04, 2005


The new Future of Flight museum in Everett, Washington, a $23-million project, is preparing to open Dec. 17, the 102nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic short hop at Kitty Hawk, N. C. The first exhibit of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (shown above) will be featured. There's also an XJ5 Flight Simulator which lets riders soar at tree-top level in a supersonic mission. This will be one of the first looks at the 787 Dreamliner, a composite-skinned aircraft that promises to change the way we travel. The Dreamliner, built of carbon fiber and titanium is lighter, quieter and smoother-riding than current aircraft. The double-aisle jumbo jet features larger windows and is expected to be in service by 2008. Posted by Picasa


BAY QUACKERS: An open-air amphibious vehicle which is actually a World War II transport offers visitors an adventurous new way of experiencing San Francisco and its bay. Posted by Picasa


In its 50-year heyday, the Brown Derby was where Hollywood hung its hat, The all-night eatery was as sublime as the top-grade, top-dollar caviar it spooned out, and as proudly low-brow as its buck-a-burger. The first Brown Derby opened on Wilshire Boulevard in 1926, across from the Ambassador Hotel. The Derby was where Clark Gable proposed to Carole Lombard. Lucille Ball and Jack Benny lunched on Cobb salads, invented on the premises and named for the owner, Robert Cobb. Today, only the stories of film legends remain as the last of the restaurant's four former locations faces the wrecking ball. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 03, 2005


About 44 acres of coastline collapsed into the ocean in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, setting loose a glowing stream of lava that shot out from the newly exposed cliff wall 45 feet above the water. The plume, 6 feet in diameter, sent up a tower of steam as it hit the water and began forming a ramp of new land. The collapse of the lava shelf and cliff was the largest since Kilauea Volcano began its current eruption in 1983. The picture above shows an earlier incident where an active lava tube poured out at the ocean forming a "new" shelf out of the lava flow. The Island of Hawaii grows daily with this process.  Posted by Picasa