Sunday, November 30, 2008

They just don't work

Two years ago, the government-sponsored Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) determined that neither glucosamine nor chondroitin, alone or together, reduced pain and other symptoms much better than a placebo. Now the second part of the GAIT study has examined the other claims made for these supplements - that they slow or prevent the deterioration of joint-cushioning cartilage caused by arthritis.

In the follow-up study, 357 subjects continued treatment (glucosamine, chondroitin, both together, Celebrex, or a placebo) for an extra 18 months and then had X-rays to measure cartilage loss. The exams found insignificant differences in cartilage loss between the treatment groups. Interestingly, glucosamine and chondroitin acted less effectively when taken together than singly, and nothing worked much better than a placebo.

In addition, an earlier 2008 Dutch study of 222 arthritis of the hip sufferers found that glucosamine did not reduce pain or stiffness any better than a placebo, and X-rays revealed no differences.

In summary, if you're spending $20 or $30 each month for glucosamine and/or chondroitin you appear to be paying for nothing more than a placebo-like effect; artificially connecting a temporary reduction in arthritis pain - which naturally waxes and wanes - to a particular treatment regimen. Finally, pain relievers can and do help many arthritis sufferers, but they do not affect or reduce the underlying loss of cartilege.

Source: U.C., Berkeley School of Public Health

Friday, November 28, 2008

They called him a teenage idol...

The late Ricky Nelson began his recording career with the release of I'm Walkin' - a cover of a Fats Domino song - in April of 1957. He continued making studio recordings until 1985. During this twenty-eight year period, he placed 40 singles on the charts, with 21 of them landing in the Top 40. He also had three number one singles, starting with Poor Little Fool and Travelin' Man.

Ricky recorded with the great lead guitarist James Burton, prior to Burton's work with Elvis Presley, and for 14 years was joined on record by the Jordanaires extraordinaire vocal group.

Ricky, of course, appeared on 435 episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet on TV, one factor that led the readers of People magazine to vote him the All-Time Number One Teenage Idol. Ricky's song (They call me a) Teenage Idol hit number 5 on the charts in 1962 and was followed by the number 6 single It's Up to You.

In 1963, Ricky became Rick and founded the Stone Canyon Band (SCB). The SCB must be given a great deal of credit for moving forward the country-rock sound now associated with bands like the Eagles, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds.

In June of 1972, Rick and the SCB released what may well have been the greatest come-back single ever recorded, Garden Party. It was his third and final number 1 single. (The story of how Rick came to write this song has been so often told that it won't be repeated here.)

Rick and the members of his band died tragically in a plane crash on December 31, 1985, near DeKalb, Texas. In a sign of sad irony, the final song he recorded was Buddy Holly's True Love Ways, and there are reports that the final song Rick sang on stage was one of Holly's earliest country-rock marvels, Rave On.

Rick Nelson was elected into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in year two of the Hall's existence, 1987. John Fogerty served as his presenter.

For a great single-disc introduction to, and overview of, Rick's career we recommend Rick Nelson Greatest Hits. This finely remastered compilation from 2002 contains twenty of his twenty-one Top 40 hits in chronological order. Also highly recommended - and it makes a great Christmas gift for boomers and prospective fans - is the 4-CD, 100 song, collection entitled Legacy. The sound on Legacy is superb, with some songs appearing in stereo for the very first time.

We'll have more on this site on one of Rick's best albums at some point in the near future. Stay tuned and remember to Believe What You Say.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More cute cats, large and small...

Above are photos of the Cincinnati Zoo cheetahs (no, they're not Bengals), Sassy the calico, Lexi the Maine Coon, and Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat. OK, I guess the cheetah cubs are actually small large cats.

Bottom photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo of Munchy to see a larger version.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We hate to say we told you so...

But a big business news headline today read: Auto industry planning a carpool to Washington. We asked earlier, about the CEO of GM, Why didn't he drive (to D.C.)?

Now we read that, "The CEOs of Detroit's three automakers may make their return trip to Washington by car as they seek a federal bailout." As the Associated Press noted, "Congress abandoned a vote on the bailout after the automakers were critized for lavish corporate travel and poor business plans." Ya think?

Anyway, if I'm the CEO of Ford I'm claiming the dark gray-green Mustang Bullitt as my ride for the drive to D.C. in early December.

One more quick note...

Concerning error messages. In going to the website Bruce, to prepare a post below, I saw that the yellow triangle error message also appears there. So, again, I believe it is simply an issue with Internet Explorer and the browser's possible difficulty with Java Script. Or perhaps there's another explanation, but I'm sure that the Boss' official site has sufficient technical support to ensure that the content on the site itself is not generating the error messages.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just another photo...

Of Munchy, the creative cat.

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

You'll need to act fast...

In order to get a free download of Bruce Springsteen's new single, Working On A Dream, from the iTunes store. This offer is only good today, Monday, November 24, 2008 until 11:59 P.M. EST; 8:59 P.M. in the west. You can also find this single for free downloading at the Boss' official website, which you should be able to find via Google. Hint: It ends in .net.

Working On A Dream is the title for the Boss' next release, described in more detail in an earlier post (Who's Next? The Boss.).

A short, slightly technical, explanation (but not very)...

Some of you visiting this site using Internet Explorer (IE) as your browser may very briefly see a short error message at the bottom left corner of the screen. That yellow triangle-based message usually disappears once the current page loads and you see the Done message. This is just to let you know that there's no true error, which I believe is true based on two sources.

First, Blogger provides its users with information on certain technical issues that may affect some or all users. One recent notice indicates that certain - but not all - Blogspot pages are affected by apparent errors in downloading. But, again, they're not true errors, it is likely simply an issue with the way IE interprets some Java Script. Or perhaps it is due to some other temporary incompatibility between the programming used on Blogspot and IE. This appears to be the case as the Blogger engineers are said to be working on it.

Adding to this possibility as the likely source of the alleged error is that Firefox browser users who come to this site do not see an error message, fortunately. I also took my own steps to ensure that there's no error in the content displayed. I spent quite some time removing each post, each news widget, each photograph before reposting them. As the error message still displayed on IE, I know the fault is elsewhere. Also, this type of error message only began to display itself a few days ago and, therefore, it should not be visible when visiting older posts. But it is, which only adds to my view that this is a temporary issue that - with luck - should soon be fixed by the great engineers at Blogger.

Patience and courage should see us through. If not, Alaskan Amber Ale often helps.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

They were right, life goes on...

It was 40 years ago today that the Beatles White Album was released. A moment of silence and peace to remember all that has happened, and all those that have come and gone, since then. Let it be.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's just my suspicion, but...

This is what you don't want to look like after finishing a marathon. (The person pictured here was supposedly headling home on the New York subway after completing the NYC marathon.)

Is this The Fabulous Johnny Cat?

No, it's actually Munchy, the creative cat. As usual, he's looking forward to Thanksgiving as turkey has always been his favorite food.

Photo: Joseph/Munchy Archives (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Postscript 2 - Why didn't he drive?

USA Today's lead editorial for this weekend's issue (dated November 21, 2008) begins by discussing the new found humility on Wall Street and in the banking industry. The publication then shifts to the auto industry, "where the CEO's of the Big Three flew their private jets to Washington this week to demand $25 billion in taxpayer help. Their principle argument was that they were holding the U.S. economy hostage, and would make it suffer if they did not get their money."

The editorial goes on to note that the CEOs were told to return to Congress with a plan on December 2nd. "Essentially... (the) message was this: The testimony the executives gave was a failure; they should go home, think things over and come back when they have something meaningful to offer."

The editorial concludes with a somewhat familiar thought: "It was a clear message to the auto executives that one way or another... they have to come to grips with reality. One way to signal they are doing so would be to deliver their plan to Capitol Hill by car pool, not by private jet."

Good Mexican food at low prices...

I've been reading, in such places as USA Today, that there's a lot of online interest in places that serve good food at low prices. I found such a place in the Mission Valley area of San Diego and it's called Sombrero Mexican Food at 8590 Rio San Diego Road. This is one of at least eight locations in the San Diego City area, with more outlets nearby in other southern California jurisdictions from Riverside to Imperial counties.

I happened to fly into San Diego on a very early morning when I'd skipped breakfast and was starving by the time I arrived at the Marriott, Mission Valley (a very nice hotel, by the way, where I've stayed on two occasions). This Sombrero location is northwest from the hotel and only about an extra-long city block away.

As I walked in, this Sombrero appeared to be a mix between a mom-and-pop restaurant and a fast food outlet; it's a bit of both. The posted menu is a simple, basic and minimal one and the staff was fine with serving the food as plain as I like it. I ordered the two beef tamale plate, no cheese, with rice and beans and a large beer - make that root beer. The tab came to all of $7.60. Suffice it to say that the portions were big enough to constitute both lunch and dinner without argument.

I subsequently hiked back to my room at the Marriott to take an afternoon siesta, purring like our cat Munchy. Sombrero reminded me of both a similar restaurant in Reno that's no longer open, the Alamo, and of Emma's Taco House in West Sacramento. The latter has been in operation - depending on whom you believe - since either 1949 or 1951.

On a five taco scale, Sombrero of Mission Valley gets 4.5 for the food and 4.85 for the value. As California's governor might have stated, I'll be back.

A Postscript from San Francisco

This is a follow-up to the earlier posting regarding Rick Wagoner of General Motors (GM). Ellis Brooks Chevrolet has been doing business in downtown San Francisco since 1939. The Brooks dealership will halt the sales of GM vehicles in mid-December. It will soon go into business as a seller of cars built in either Japan or Germany. Ellis Brooks' grandson, General Manager John Brooks, told the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday that Rick Wagoner "needs to be removed. He's destroying America's greatest company."

Friday, November 21, 2008

What the...?

News reports: A Clinton to be secretary of state in the Obama administration. Didn't the American people vote for change?


The essence of all beautiful art is gratitude. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Photo: Dan Columbus/Buckeye Images (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why didn't he drive?

So Rick Wagoner, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors, flew in a private jet to and from Washington, D.C. in order to ask for his company's portion of $25 billion in government bail-out funds. Am I the only one who wonders why he didn't drive a GM-built car from Detroit to D.C. and back to show his faith in the quality of the vehicles being built under his watch? And did you notice his testimony before the U.S. Senate? He read his notes. Read them, as if he somehow lacks the knowledge of what is going on at the company he directs.

Keep in mind that Wagoner is lavishly compensated, to the tune of reportedly taking home over $14.4 million in 2007. One would think that an executive at this level would be able to hear the sounds of a poor economy; instead he came off as tone deaf.

USC Still Tops in International Student Enrollment

The University of Southern California enrolled 7,189 international students in the 2007-08 academic year, according to the Open Doors report issued by the Institute of International Education. This was the seventh year in a row that USC was ranked first by Open Doors. In 2007-08, NYU ranked second and Columbia University was third.

China and India each sent a large number of students to the campus in Los Angeles, with almost 2,600 students coming from these two emerging nations. USC officials attributed the jump in Chinese students to several factors, including its reputation among the Pacific Rim and a commitment to recruiting supported by an expanding alumni base in several Chinese cities.

"USC is the top American university for international students by design, not by accident," said C. L. Max Nikias, executive vice president and university provost. "We have been strategically expanding our international presence in major cities around the world. As a result, our students are better prepared to compete in an increasingly global society."

"International students from 115 different countries bring a wealth of experiences and viewpoints to our campus," said Tony Tambascia, assistant dean of student affairs. "This contributes to a dynamic learning environment unparalleled at any other American university."

Source: USC News, 11/18/08

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Her Song (a poem)

This is a poem by Brad Buchanan of Sacramento about his 3-year old daughter. It could be anyone's daughter, well-loved.

Her Song of Hunger

I have stopped pretending
that life makes sense -
partly because I don't
the joy that shrieks at me
now from her chair.
smeared with Cherrios,
and the other ineffable
messes of breakfast.

The scream is high-pitched,
and necessary, the child
who makes it
is well-fed and happy, and
yet she yells
because even a beautiful
needs a shrill, discordant

It's the newness that brings
each day to light
whether we're ready for it
or not -
and we aren't, though we
won't remember why
when it's dark again and
our ears are still ringing
like holiday bells from her
song of hunger.

Yes, Virginia, there will be a "new" New Beetle...

It appears that our beige Bug will have a nephew (or two) arriving as early as 2010. The new Bug that's likely to appear then is pictured in the top two photos above and will be known as the MkII (Mark Two) New Beetle. This new model may be a bit smaller and/or lighter than the current Bug - beige or not - as highly fuel efficient cars are more in demand in the U.S. at this time. Although we think this may just be icing on the chocolate cake... A recent drive of several hundred miles in the current Bug resulted in 26.2 real world MPG. Twenty six point two is marathon mileage!

The MkII New Beetle may also be joined by a mini-Bug based on the VW Up! Prototype, a Smart car competitor, pictured above in the bottom photo. Whether its one new New Beetle or two, it looks like good times are ahead for us Bug lovers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The city of the angels

The sun burns a hole through the 6 a.m haze
Turns up the volume and shows off its rays
Another Dodger blue sky is crowning L.A.
The city of angels is blessed every day...

Even when the sun and I head off to sleep
There's an unspoken promise that we keep
We'll pilot our light into another day
And keep a golden glow warming up L.A.

- Brian Wilson

Dido's new release is torpedoed by horrible sound...

Let's be clear, there's good and excellent sound, bad sound, terrible sound and horrible sound. The recording quality on Dido's Safe Trip Home is just horrible. On an A to F scale, I'd give it no better than a D and quite possibly a D-. This is sad, as there appear to be some great songs, some beautiful songwriting, and a great deal of creativity and emotion expressed in this release. But it's just close to impossible to hear it.

Most recordings, of course, have high, mid-range and low-range sounds. After one listening, it is sadly clear that the sound on this release is virtually all in the lower mid-range to low-range (bass sounds). I was not one of those troubled - as some were - by the high compression levels on 2003's life for rent. But this is something else again, trying to listen to this new release is like attempting to hear while one's ears are plugged with wax.

Perhaps the sound can be improved, just a small bit, by dubbing Safe Trip Home onto a brighter blank CD, such as one made by Sony or Memorex. But right now I'm doubtful and close to raising the white flag.

It's a shame as, from the small bits I can hear, this album might have been brilliant; even maybe a near-masterpiece like Sting's The Soul Cages. Perhaps that's what it would have been in the hands of a finely talented producer like Pierre Marchand, who serves as Sarah McLachlan's George Martin.

On a much better day I might give this another listen, another try. Today is not that day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Who's Next? The Boss.

Bruce Springsteen's new album, Working on a Dream, will be released on January 27, 2009. The CD was recorded with the E Street Band, primarily in Atlanta, and includes twelve new Springsteen compositions and two bonus tracks. Here's a preview of the 12-track listing: Outlaw Pete, My Lucky Day, Working on a Dream, Queen of the Supermarket, What Love Can Do, This Life, Good Eye, Tomorrow Never Knows, Life itself, Kingdom of Days, Surprise, Surprise, and The Last Carnival. The two bonus songs will be The Wrestler and A Night with the Jersey Devil.

Brendan O'Brien, who did a masterful job on The Rising, produced and mixed the album.

Said the Boss: "I hope 'Working on a Dream' has caught the energy of the band fresh off the road from some of the most exciting shows we've ever done. All the songs were written quickly and we usually used one of our first few takes. We all had a blast making this one from beginning to end."

Let the countdown begin now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Because sometimes...

You just need pictures of cute animals, even if one of them is of a tough cat of the streets.

The March Continues...

USC 45, Stanford 23.

"Hats off to them for breaking us down (in the second half) the way they did." - Stanford safety Bo McNally

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A veteran is someone who, at some point in his or her life, wrote out a check made payable to "The United States of America" for an amount "up to and including his or her own life." That is Honor, and too many people no longer understand it. - Ken Lang (USN veteran), 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great News for Shakey's fans!

Neil Young's live retro concert CD/DVD, Live at Canterbury House 1968, will be released on December 12, 2008. The CD will contain 14 tracks including: On the Way Home, Mr. Soul, Expecting to Fly, The Last Trip to Tulsa, The Loner, Birds, Out of My Mind, I've Been Waiting for You, Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing, The Old Laughing Lady (the song performed solo at the end of the Heart of Gold concert DVD), Broken Arrow and Sugar Mountain. To my ears, Sugar Mt. is his all-time best song - and reported to be his personal favorite - and those who were at UCLA's Royce Hall when The Needle and the Damage Done was recorded for 1972's Harvest swear it was the best performance of the night. Let's just hope the version of Sugar Mt. included here is as good.

"You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Conflicted Review... the best that he could do?

I've always had conflicting feelings about John Mellencamp, a bit more negative than positive. Oh, I liked the Lonesome Jubilee album and the innovative Mr. Happy Go Lucky, but not much else of his struck my fancy. And his induction into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame? No comment.

Anyway, a friend recently recommended that I listen to his 1999-release and greatest hits collection called The Best That I Could Do. So here's an attempted fair and balanced review of this 59 minutes plus collection (59:18 to be exact), covering both the hits and the misses.

Opening Instrumental - The Rockford Files revisited. One half expects to see Jim Garner driving his late 60s/early 70s Firebird down Third Street in Los Angeles. Quite nice for 2:00 until it turns into...

I Need A Lover - Still not an easy track to like (far too busy and unfocused) but at least the then-John Cougar had some energy. At times it sounds like a poor man's Journey. The drum beating fade-out is just awful.

Ain't Even Done With the Night - A little more subtlety here. The Spanish influenced music is nice as is the hand claps/cymbals sound effect. However, the sax solo ranges dangerously close to Springsteen's territory.

Hurt So Good - Now JC was rocking! Fine Matthew Sweet-style lead guitars, Beatles' hand claps, Charlie Watts-like drumming, and a "got attitude" vocal.

Jack and Diane - Still a classic. Yes, James Dean would have loved it. "Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone..." The splendid production, with the large drums, sounds like something from Van Halen's 1984. But the fade-out seems to indicate that no one had an idea of how to end this otherwise great song.

(The Walls Come) Crumblin' Down - Maybe the best hard rock song ever written based on a biblical tale. The drumming on this track has always reminded me of Keith Moon's playing on The Who's I Can See for Miles.

Pink Houses - I'm not sure if the sloppy vocal was meant to invoke blues singers, but it never seemed to fit with the sharp music surrounding it. I never liked the old folk-rock song about ticky-tacky houses and I also never liked this song about pink houses. "Ain't that America?" Nope.

Authority Song - An admirable re-make of I Fought the Law by the late Bobby Fuller and the B.F. Four. Nothing original but not bad.

Lonely Ol' Night - The drums are far too E Street'ish, which makes it instantly forgettable. (I love the Boss but not knock-offs.) "Glory days..." Yawn.

Small Town - Are we selling pick-up trucks now? Not even a bit interesting.

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. - About 100,000 songs based on La Bamba have been recorded. This is one of the very, very best. From first note to last it's just about perfect and screams out for a video with the Shindig dancers. 210 seconds of rock heaven.

Paper in Fire - One of the best tracks from Jubilee, perhaps his best album. This is a "loose" JC, sounding comfortable within his own skin - like Paul Simon on Graceland - and not trying to be someone else. (Kudos to the drummer for pushing the beat forcing the Cajun-style band to keep up.)

Cherry Bomb - Another nice track from Jubilee. Very Motown in a unique way... Marvin and Tammi could have recorded this. "Our hearts were really pumping, say yeah, yeah, yeah..."

Check It Out - His anthem and just about as good as any of them from the Boss. It in fact sounds like a track from the later-recorded Springsteen album The Rising. The Ventures-style fuzz lead solo nails it all down. Or was this meant to invoke Buffalo Springfield?

Without Expression (This is a Man) - A cover. Nothing special. It was tacked-on to this collection and sounds like it. 5:05 and goes on for about 1:10 too long.

Overall grade: B-

Remastering: B to B+

Originality: C+ to B-

Essentialness: 2.6 to 2.75 stars out of 5 possible

[Examples of 5 star albums: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, The Rising by Bruce Springsteen, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Who's Next and Live at Leeds by The Who, Straight Up by Badfinger, Beatles VI and Rubber Soul by Those Guys, Joni Mitchell's Blue and Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones.]


I am heading for a time of quiet
When my restlessness is past
And I can lie down on my blanket
And release my fists at last...

And I am heading for a place of quiet
Where the sage and sweet grass grow
By a lake of sacred water
From the mountain's melted snow.

- Paul Simon

(Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We're just glad...

That this one is in the books. USC 17, Cal 3.