Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009...and Good Riddance


Note: this post contains an excess of personal whining. Please feel free to skip reading it.
2009 was, for me, a year of pain. In fact, by far the most painful year of my life. On the first day of the year, my 50th birthday, I slipped on an icy hill and suffered a double compound fracture of my right humerus. Surgery, a metal plate, and eight days in the hospital are a lousy way to start a year, trust me.
On January 23rd, my Mother passed away. For those who never new my Mom, she was a character of almost mythological proportions. She called herself a "faded flower-child" but she was tougher than the average nail. Although she battled cancer for 16 years, she was still riding her Harley a few weeks before she died. The last thing she said to me was "I'm not old enough to have a child your age." Spending the last days by her bedside, I went through more emotional pain than I could have imagined.
And the plate in my shoulder/arm worked loose. So I got to have a second surgery, and gained a second plate. Also, a lump was discovered in my right lung. It was non-cancerous, but having it removed was another surgery, and caused another painful process.
Are you sensing a theme here? I spent my spring in extensive physical therapy, which is supposed to be good for you but feels like a violation of the Geneva Conventions, three times a week.
By June, I thought my shoulder had recovered enough to attempt a small river trip. It hadn't. I ended up with an inflamed labrum in my rotator cuff. Six more weeks of serious pain.
Just to insure that the year finished in pain, I developed an Inguinal Hernia (actually, two. But only one hurt prior to surgery). So earlier this month, I had Bi-Lateral Inguinal Hernia repair surgery. I'm rehabbing steadily, but it still hurts to move.
And I still need surgery on my right knee sometime in the future. I think I'll hold off as long as possible.
Throughout all of this I've had prescription pain medications available, but I don't like taking pain pills because I like pain medications way too much for my own good. I've gone through addiction in my past, and I refuse to go back. So I'm willing to live with a certain level of pain. It's the better alternative, even though the plates in my arm are an effective barometer.
I did have some good times in 2009. River trips in June, July, and October; multiple concerts by Widespread Panic, Stockholm Syndrome, Jerry Joseph and more; good friends (and I do have some of the greatest friends imaginable) and gaining a silly little bird (she thinks she's important). I shouldn't whine; my life is full, and mostly happy.
So I'm happy to say 'goodbye' to 2009, a year that had way too much pain.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5,000 Years in 90 Seconds

Via Ellroon at Rants From The Rookery, here's a very Cool map of the rise and fall of empires across the Middle East over the past 5,000 years. History is not kind.

The Frightened Senator

Aw, my worst senator (yes, I think he's even worse than St. Sleazy McCain) Jon Kyl is scared:

Sen. Jon Kyl said he doesn't "feel totally safe" with Janet Napolitano at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security, given that agency's handling of the attempt to blow up a Detroit bound airliner.

"I don't feel totally safe" Kyl said.

http://www.azdailysun.com/news/local/state-and-regional/article_4ba5a284-e5a8-5a14-aca8-2106b6952207.html


Poor senator Kyl doesn't feel safe in the world because terrorists still exist. In short, the terrorists have achieved their goal with him: he's terrorized.
Jon, I want to let you in on a little secret: life isn't safe, and it always ends up with dying. Man up, grow some stones, and realize that, as a senator, you're supposed to show a little courage. OK, I know you're a rethug and fear is your marketing strategy, but you're acting like a whiny child faced with a bully instead of some sort of leader. You don't feel safe? Maybe you should stay home with your mommy.
(added slogan: "you're 99% safe everywhere, you're not 100% safe anywhere")

Adjusting the Attitude

Sweaterman and I were discussing the issues I focused on in my last post, and he made some very salient points:
That the issue may be less one of "competence" than one of "attitude"; that the American mind set used to be one of "can do", but the current attitude is "no can do". That is that we used to believe in our abilities to change the world, but at some point the problems became accepted and insolvable. FUBAR became the accepted status quo.
And then Sweaterman asked the gazillion dollar question: "how do we change that attitude?".
I certainly don't have an answer. I know that I don't expect Obama (or any other 'leader') to make the changes we need. It has to come from within; we need to believe we can change and improve our society if we're going to fix anything.
So I'm passing Sweaterman's question on to you: "how do we change that attitude, from 'can't do' to 'can do'?"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Tragic Death of American Competence


The following may just be the grouchy ranting of an old curmudgeon, but I'm angry about the loss of "American Competence" that seems to be more pervasive in recent years. As I read the media's "end of decade" stories (they can't even get that right; the decade ends at the end of next year. Count it off with me: 1 to 10, not 0 to 9. Thank you.) there is a repeating theme of failure; of all the things we "cannot" do.
The most glaring example is our dysfunctional government. Regular readers know that I tend to blame the conservatives for this, but there's plenty of blame to be shared. In principle, government is the means of maintaining a functional society. Maintaining the rules (laws) and ensuring the basic services (roads, etc.) while providing security (military) for the populace as a whole. But politics is sometimes the enemy of good government, and the struggle to hold power has reduced the focus from substance to image. The goal has become re-election rather than achieving solutions to problems.
The most recent example, the health care reform debacle: the problem is rather simple; over 3 million Americans lack access to health care, and roughly 45,000 per year die as a result. So a simple solution would be to create a program to provide health care to those people (yeah, that's the public option) efficiently. But that's not the way our government works. Instead, corporate lobbyists spread millions, and partisan hacks spread misleading talking points in order to enrich themselves. We're told that real reform is "impossible"; we lack the competence to provide working health care for all (despite the fact that the rest of the modern world seems capable of doing it.)
This country needs a modern energy infrastructure, not the fifty year old system we currently have. Even if you want to deny climate change, what's so bad about reducing pollution, energy costs, and dependence on foreign oil? And the technology to address the problem is readily available. Here's one simple example: look at all those long distance overhead power lines, and realize that they lose 8% to 25% (depending on distance and age) of the electricity passing along them. Simply replacing them with modern insulated lines would bring the loss down below 2% (and create a lot of jobs; replacing that much wire is rather labor intensive), saving the country billions annually. While the project wouldn't be cheap, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than invading Iraq. But we're too incompetent and complacent to take up such grand projects. It's the same in alternative energy: we're falling behind Europe and Asia in wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal energy generation. A wind farm being built in this state will use windmill generators built in China. Why? Because we "can't" manufacture them here.
America has the largest, most powerful (and most expensive) military in the history of the planet, but after eight years we are still stuck in wars with no "victory" in sight. I admit that because our war is with a verb, "terror", it's hard to know what "victory" would be, but one would think that after 8 years and roughly 1.5 trillion dollars, a competent military would be able to defeat a small group of fanatics. America isn't even competent at war anymore.
I grew up with a certain ideal of American greatness; "exceptionalism" if you wish. Forty years ago, we put a man on the moon. We can't do that now. We built the greatest cars, the finest machines, and the most innovative technologies then. Now we build celebrities, although most of them do nothing worth celebrating.
There was a recent report that 12% of American drinking water is contaminated, and almost every month brings news of a food contamination. Modern, competent civilizations should be able to ensure safe food and water, but America can't anymore. Why?
As American industry is dying, we're spreading billions of bytes of information across the internet every hour. But it seems that most of it is spent spreading "LOL cats" and such, rather than building anything. I suppose that's something; we're still competent at entertainment. America may be dying, but at least we'll be amused.
This probably sounds like the grumblings of a grouchy old man about the "good old days", but it's not meant to be. The "old days" had plenty of problems; the difference is that we had a belief that we were competent enough to solve those problems. That belief seems to be gone now. Now we believe in all the reasons that we can't solve problems.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Playing the Blame Game

(graphic from What Would Jack Do)
In the case of the "underwear bomber", the time for action has passed, and now is the time to find someone to blame. So the most obvious person to blame would be the TSA director, right?
Except for one minor detail...there is no head of the TSA. South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has a hold on the appointment of a TSA chief.
Just another example of the rethugs decision that the best way to oppose Obama is to prevent the government from functioning any way that they can. They're perfectly happy to sacrifice the safety of air travelers if it will score them a few political points. Hell, they don't care how many Americans die in their quest to make Obama look like a failure. Refusing to confirm his appointments is one of their favorite tactics. While I'm not sold on the effectiveness of the TSA, the lack of a director certainly doesn't help.
It's one thing to have a difference of opinion, and oppose policies with which you disagree. But it's quite another thing to try to destroy the government in a fit of pique. The current rethuglican party are terrorist enablers, if not actually terrorists.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Glad I'm Not Flying Anytime Soon

After the "shoe bomber" made his attempt, we're all required to remove our shoes for inspection prior to boarding a plane...
Now we have the "underwear bomber"...

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Low-Key Christmas



Compared with Christmas memories, this year's will be rather quiet for me. No family gathering, no fancy gifts (although I did buy myself a refrigerator to replace the tiny dying one), no festive decorations. I'll be getting together with a few friends later today to hoist a few mugs of cheer, but we frequently do that regardless of holidays. I am enjoying Egg Nog (with a little brandy), which is one of my favorite holiday treats. But that's about it for Christmas 2009.

Christmas traditions haven't been the same since my Father passed away. While my Mom tried to carry on the traditions, she never had the enthusiasm for Christmas that Dad had. Perhaps it was because he grew up in poverty, but Dad embraced Christmas as a spectacle and embraced every extravagance that he possibly could indulge. The grandest decorations, the most indulgent cuisine, and (as much as possible) the most heartfelt gifts were Dad's delight. He also, despite being a lifelong republican, loved making charitable contributions. The salvation army, food banks, and homeless shelters all received the benefits of Dad's seasonal largess. Dad was never wealthy, but his heart was rich.

My Mom was also a very generous soul, but she never quite had the enthusiasm for Christmas that Dad had. The family gatherings after Dad's passing were still warm and loving, but not the "celebration" of years prior. Now that Mom has passed (first Christmas without her; don't mean to be maudlin) the remaining family didn't even have the urge to gather. While both of my sisters invited me to join them for the holidays, it was more an act of formality than a heartfelt "we want to be together". Because I'm still recovering from surgery, I was able to politely decline and save us all the awkward moments.

I'm grateful that this year I'm in a position to make some charitable gifts, and I'm happy to have done so. Having spent so many years in poverty myself, it feels really good to be able to share. So that's been my gift giving this year. What otherwise might be a melancholy Christmas feels a little warmer in knowing that I've tried to give to folks what and where I can, and I may not be done yet. I think I'll spend part of my afternoon looking for homeless folk in need of a little cheer. It's the least I can do.

(and then I'll watch some football; yeah, I'm that shallow)

Here's wishing you and yours a warm happy holiday!

Boobies for Christmas



Because there's no better way to celebrate than with a pair of bouncing Boobies. May I be the first to wish you a Merry "Boobie-mas"?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Wishes





As it is Christmas Eve, and I'm not doing anything better, allow me to wish you a:


Merry Christmas!


Thank you for stopping by; hope you're enjoying the best of the season, staying warm, and letting those you love know that you do.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Senate Grinches

Regardless of how you feel about the health care bill itself, can you believe how ridiculous the rethug obstructionists are behaving in using every possible procedural maneuver to delay the final vote until Christmas Eve? It's now clear that the dems will continue to have the 60 votes to clear each hurdle, but the petty rethugs refuse to cede time and allow the vote earlier. So all the senators and their staff are held hostage by a pointless fit of pique:

Apparently not all Republicans think the most fruitful use of their time is delaying a final vote on health care reform. Early this afternoon, Republicans filed into a caucus meeting just off the Senate floor to discuss whether it makes sense to require Democrats to run out the clock, as is their right under Senate rules, or to cede back some time so that members can go home early.

Among Republicans, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been the most adamant that the minority use all of the tools at its disposal--maximize the number of filibusters, and make sure they last as long as possible--to delay (or forestall) a final vote.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, definitively, "no, we're not going to cede back any time. We're fighting til the bitter end, till hell freezes over and we're skating on the ice."

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/12/here-til-christmas-republicans-differ-on-whether-to-run-out-the-health-care-clock.php?ref=fpblg


Reminds me of a certain boss I had a few years ago, while working at the university. Boss grinch decided that nobody would be allowed to leave early on Christmas Eve (although he left at lunch; he said that he was "non-essential" while the rest of us were "essential", which was truer than anything else he ever said), even though there was no actual 'work' being done. I, being single, had volunteered to stay to keep the department open so that those with families could leave and begin their holidays. But boss grinch wouldn't hear of it, so six of us sat around eating cookies until the clock hit the magic hour. It was a purely petty act to prove his "authority", and it only generated resentment instead of respect.
And, in the end, resentment is all the rethug senators will get. The final vote is now a foregone conclusion (unless Sen. Coburn's prayers are answered). A responsible party would waive the 30 hour delays, allow the vote, and go celebrate the holidays. That's some "family values" you've got, rethugs!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice



The real "reason for the season."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Least Bad Option


Not that my opinion really matters, but like most every progressive I'm disappointed in the health care bill. It's weak on health, short on care, and far from reform. But, sadly, it's the best we're going to get at this time. A lot of democrats/liberals are bitter that the senate failed to do better, but the alternative was to do nothing. And that would be worse. If the current bill failed, it would be at least twenty years before health care would be tackled again. At least the current bill can be built upon during the coming years. If nothing else, it beats letting the rethug obstructionists win.
Sigh...we really do deserve better.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Prince Has Died

One of the greatest joys of having a blog is that when you see a really absurd story, you can share it. This one is what I blog for:

Nestled near the beaches of the Italian Riviera and the snow-capped Alps sits the tiny principality of Seborga, a place that floats on legends. Over the centuries, plagues and earthquakes have struck the region and missed Seborga, or so the stories say. Some insist that knights took the Holy Grail there.

But the true miracle of Seborga may have been the 46-year reign of Prince Giorgio I, the constitutionally elected royal ruler of its five square miles and 2,000 people, about 350 of whom are enfranchised citizens.

Prince Giorgio, a bewhiskered grower of mimosa flowers from a family of mimosa growers, was seized by a glorious vision: that Seborga was not part of the surrounding Italian nation. It was an ancient principality, cruelly robbed of its sovereignty.

After convincing his Seborgan neighbors of their true significance, Giorgio Carbone was elected prince in 1963. He gracefully accepted the informal title of His Tremendousness, and was elected prince for life in 1995 by a vote of 304 to 4. Voters then ratified Seborga’s independence, which, by the prince’s interpretation, it already had. Prince Giorgio established a palace, wrote a Constitution, and set up a cabinet and a parliament. He chose a coat of arms, minted money (with his picture), issued stamps (with his picture) and license plates, selected a national anthem and mobilized a standing army, consisting of Lt. Antonello Lacala. He adopted a motto: Sub umbra sede (Sit in the shade).

But the principality’s future has suddenly turned cloudy. Prince Giorgio I died at his home in Seborga on Nov. 25 after suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the principality announced. He was 73. Succession plans are uncertain.

More than 20 countries have recognized independent Seborga, in one fashion or another

Since the Middle Ages, Seborga’s sovereign had been elected, so the princely plebiscite that elevated Mr. Carbone was a return to tradition.

Prince Giorgio accepted no salary, although it is not clear he was offered one. He daily availed himself of ham and cheese from the village shop, a royal perquisite.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/world/europe/13carbone.html?_r=1&hpw


Let's see; we have an elected monarch of a country that only marginally exists with a one man army and the wisest motto I've ever found: "sit in the shade"; who can argue with that? That's why I blog.
(h/t to Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns, & Money, who should be elected the next monarch)

News That Made Me "Saab"


I'm somewhat saddened by the news of the demise of Saab. I have rather fond memories of the Saab I owned back in the late '70's, a 1973 99DL (like the one in the photo, but mine was gold rather than that ugly yellow) that was a delight to drive. Yeah, it was quirky. It was the first non-american car I ever owned and, compared to the mid-'70's american cars it was a modern marvel. The handling and comfort were so completely different from my previous cars that I looked for any excuse to take long road trips. While it wasn't the best car to have sex in, the heated seats seemed to encourage some young ladies into creative positioning (hey, I was a lot younger and more flexible myself). Alas, the main drawback of my Saab was that it was expensive to maintain, and I went through some life changes that made it impractical.
Saab's demise actually occurred years ago when GM acquired the brand and turned a unique automobile into another generic vanilla vehicle. Sigh...
While I've been living "car-free" for more than twelve years, I still have very fond memories of the better vehicles I've owned over the years, and I've owned many (ask me about the 1959 Mercedes-Benz sometime). So I'm letting out a little "Saab" upon hearing this news.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Surgery Recovery

Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I had a surgery, and the recovery has been slower than I had hoped (although exactly on the pace the Dr. expected). I guess that I'm lucky; I'm poor enough that I qualify for state insurance. Watching the whole health care reform debacle is incredibly depressing, as the senate argues petty peripheral points while avoiding addressing peoples actual medical needs. It's just sickening.
But I do get one small side benefit. Having surgery gave me a convenient excuse to avoid spending Christmas with either of my sisters, which would have been more painful.

As The Boobies Debate



A nice pair of Boobies debating the quality of political discourse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Really?

Really? This is the best Time editors could do? Bernanke?

And print media wonders why it’s losing relevance.

Sheesh.

I could go on and on about why this is a shitty choice for POTY, but let's just hope his renomination isn't secure.

However, it is interesting that Time rolls this out now, this week, when it appears that 7 or 8 Senators have stated that they are placing holds on his re-confirmation. Of course, publicly speculating on things like that makes you sound like some kind of crazy conspiracy-type person, so I won't go any further....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trade

Here's an idea: maybe the senate could trade Joe Lieberman to Dick Cheney's hunting club for a meth addicted weasel. The senate would find the meth addicted weasel more reasonable to negotiate with, and I'm sure Cheney would enjoy using Lieberman as a target.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Science

I love it when medical research comes to a conclusion that I can actually use:

A rather bizarre study carried out by German researchers suggests that staring at women’s breasts is good for men’s health and increases their life expectancy.



According to Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist and author of the study, gawking at women’s breasts is a healthy

practice, almost at par with an intense exercise regime, that prolongs the lifespan of a man by five years.

She added, "Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female, is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out."


"Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years."

In addition, she also recommended that men over 40 should gaze at larger breasts daily for 10 minutes.

http://www.themedguru.com/20091206/newsfeature/stare-boobs-longer-life-study-86131320.html




Of course, getting slapped also provides some aerobic stimulation. And who knew that all these years that I've spent being a polite gentleman by not staring were actually shortening my lifespan. "I'm sorry, miss, but I'm only staring for my health."

And if the study is correct, my friend Ducky should live to be 120.

(I chose not to add photos to this post; I'm sure you can find some on your own.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Icicles for Lockwood


Blog friend Lockwood of Outside the Interzone posted some pics of what pass for icicles in his part of Oregon. Cute, tiny icicles that look decorative. So here's a pic of Flagstaff icicles. They are not cute or tiny; they are lethal. They will impale you if they get a chance. And they're going to be hanging around for a while.

Can I Fast Forward To Spring?


Looks like we'll be getting a little more snow this weekend. I suppose I shouldn't complain, since I live in a place where winter happens. But I got a new river supply catalog (also known as "porno-for-boatmen") in yesterday's mail, so I'm fantasizing about white water and warm sunshine. And wishing I had more money for new toys (that I don't really need). Oh well, the more snow in the winter, the more white water in spring.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Really Scary Pictures

OK, most of these are so awful that I would never post them here, but if you have a strong stomach you can click on this:
Michael Steele and the RNC Interns.
That'll drive you to drink. Luckily, for me, it's a short walk.
(h/t to Mock, Paper, Scissors for the nightmares)

-5

Brr. -5 this morning. Glad I didn't have to go anywhere.

Boobies for 1500


This weeks Boobies mark the 1,500th post on Pygalgia! While I realize that isn't all that many when compared to the better blogs, I'm quietly proud of our persistence. Thanks to all our readers; maybe we'll stick around a while longer.

The Obama You Have vs. The Obama You Want

Browsing around Blogtopia (Y!SCTP), there's obviously a lot of dissatisfaction with President Obama. And that's just from the left; the right has hated him from day one. Apparently, a lot of progressives think he's turned into a continuation of shrub, and not the great liberal savior they were wishing for.
As I see it, this disappointment is a result of unrealistic expectations. There's been a lot of projection placed on Obama: "he's a good, smart man, so of course he should act strongly on the issues that I believe strongly in." Whether it be Afghanistan, Wall St., health care, gay rights, or a host of other issues, the left expected Obama to be a more progressive advocate. He isn't. Hey, I'm about as far to the left as possible, and I knew all along that Obama was no liberal.
In reality, Barack Obama has always been a moderate (as is Hillary, BTW). Don't be fooled by lofty rhetoric; every policy proposal made during the campaign leaned strongly toward the middle ground. Obama advocated "fixing problems", not "radical" changes (yeah, I know the slogan; the actual "change" proposed was minor). He's an 'establishment' manager rather than a revolutionary.
Maybe it's because I'm cynical to begin with, but I'm not all that disappointed in Obama's performance so far. He's done about what I expected (as opposed to what I might have wanted): he's been pragmatic and intelligent as he attempts to address the myriad disasters in front of us. Faced with a trashed economy, wars, and an opposition party that refuses to participate in governing, Obama has been able to make some small, steady progress. We may want a lot more, but it's unrealistic to expect it, and it may be impossible for Obama to actually change a situation that was decades in the making.
If you keep your expectations low, you're seldom disappointed. All I ever expected Obama to do was do a better job of governing than St. Sleazy McCain (or shrub) would do. What we've gotten is about what I expected.

(Added: Go over to No More Mister Nice Blog for some other views, especially in the comments, on the topic. It's a very lively, but civil, debate).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dynamite Prize

Many find it ironic that the president is accepting the "peace" prize while escalating a war. But the very prize is itself ironic. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite, which is not exactly "peaceful" by its very nature.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Eighth

Well, the town's slowly digging out. The storm wasn't the worst, but it was still pretty impressive:

This wasn't anywhere near the biggest storm recorded for Flagstaff -- 1967 still holds the record, with 7 feet of snow in a little more than a week.

But this week's storm did make the list for snowiest single days in the past century, as the 8th snowiest day on record for Flagstaff, according to Andrew Latto, meteorologist intern at the National Weather Service in Bellemont. From midnight on Sunday to midnight on Monday, 20.1 inches of snow was reported in Flagstaff. Also, winds during the storm reached 70 mph in Bellemont and 53 mph in Flagstaff, according to the National Weather Service.

http://azdailysun.com/articles/2009/12/09/news/20091209_front_208960.txt


Under the heading of 'things I'd rather not do', I have to make it to a doctors appointment. Wading through snow banks isn't as much fun as some would think.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Because I Want More Spaceships


I grew up loving NASA and reading sci-fi space stories, so I naturally love stories like this:

On Monday, Virgin Galactic took the cloak off SpaceShipTwo, which had been under secret development for two years. The company plans to sell suborbital space rides for $200,000 a ticket, offering passengers 2½-hour flights that include about five minutes of weightlessness.

"We want this program to be a whole new beginning in a commercial era of space travel," said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, who partnered with famed aviation designer Burt Rutan on the venture.

The British billionaire hopes to begin passenger flights out of New Mexico sometime in 2011 after a series of rigorous safety tests. Branson said he, his family and Rutan will be the first to fly on SpaceShipTwo.

SpaceShipTwo is based on Rutan's design of a prototype called SpaceShipOne. In 2004, SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize by becoming the first privately manned craft to reach space.

Since that historic feat, engineers from Rutan's Scaled Composites LLC have been laboring in the Mojave Desert on a larger design suitable for commercial use.

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2009/dec/07/virgin-galactic-unveils-commercial-spaceship/

Sweaterman and I have an ongoing joke: "Where are our jetpacks, dammit!?" Here's hoping Branson and Rutan can take us into space!

Yes, It's Winter

Yup, this storm is living up to its billing. Lots o' snow. Walked down to my favorite pub (locals know it's a fairly short walk) to make sure my favorite bartender wasn't lonely. He wasn't.
You get to know a bit about the character of a town when you have bad weather. Which locals are out, and the stories of who they've helped while being out.
Myself, I ended up helping a mother and daughter who's car got squished. They were traveling from New Mexico to San Diego, and hadn't planned for a storm, when their car got creamed. I was able to (after medical clearance) secure them lodging, feed them, and direct them toward the best local car rental (already closed because of blizzard; maybe tomorrow) before I had a beer.
I think I like living here. People try to help each other out when things get tough.
(p.s. Home and warm with Bailey's and coffee is good, too)

December 7th

A day that will live in infamy. On December 7th, 1945, the microwave oven was patented. And history (or, at least cooking) will never be the same.

Blizzard Warning

The first real winter storm has begun. We've had a couple of snow dustings, but today we have a blizzard warning. Forecast for two feet of snow by tomorrow, with winds over 30mph. Currently it's snowing lightly, and the wind isn't bad yet. Glad my heater works well, and that I don't have to go anywhere today. Is it time to break out the brandy yet?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Of Course God Agrees With Me


I love it when a study confirms what I already believed:


Religious people tend to use their own beliefs as a guide in thinking about what God believes, but are less constrained when reasoning about other people’s beliefs, according to new study published in the Nov. 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, led the research, which included a series of survey and neuroimaging studies to examine the extent to which people’s own beliefs guide their predictions about God’s beliefs.


The researchers noted that people often set their moral compasses according to what they presume to be God’s standards. “The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing,” they conclude. “This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.”


http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2009/12/02/study-believers-inferences-about-gods-beliefs-are-uniquely-egocentric.html


"And in the beginning, man created God, and saw that it was good."
Added: as Sweaterman reminded me, William James explained this in "The Relative States of Religious Experience" about a hundred years ago. I should've thought of that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Newsflash: Extra-Marital Affairs Happen



Normally, I have nothing to say when a celebrity or politician gets caught having sex with someone who is not their spouse. But I'm really tired of the media's obsession with a certain golfer who was caught being human.

Here's the simple fact: extra-marital affairs happen. I'm guessing that they started shortly after the first marriage, but there wasn't a media to obsess about it (unless there's a cave drawing somewhere that I'm not aware of). No one should care except the parties involved. Some things were never intended to be a spectator sport.

Maybe it's my liberal view, but whatever happens between consenting adults is nobodies business but the persons involved.

Except toe sucking...toe suckers are perverts who should be publicly shunned.

Boobies on the Rocks


Blog friend Lockwood of Outside the Interzone left a link in the comments to a National Geographic video, explaining how to make boobies sexier: don't let them have sex. Most entertaining.

Minor Frustrations


The past couple of days have hit me with a few frustrating situations. Not major, but thing that leave you grumbling with an urge to kick somebody.
I bought myself a new refrigerator, as my old one is dying. Bought online, taking advantage of post-thanksgiving sales. Only one minor problem: it doesn't work...at all. I suspected there might be a problem when I was taking out of the (very beat up) shipping carton, and found a large oil stain at the bottom. So a wonderful series of calls with the charming people at "customer service" later, I'm nearing a solution. My desire was rather simple: take the defective fridge back, and give me a working one. Apparently, that's awfully complex. First, having worked some tech support in the past, I understand their urge to start with basics, like "is it plugged in?" and "is the outlet working?", but at some point they should understand that I have RTFM'd and covered all the basics. No, I don't want a refund; I want a working refrigerator. After talking to several different departments, and holding for a long long time, I think we've got it taken care of, but there's still the potential for additional screw ups.
Then there's cars. I offered to take care of a minor repair on a friends car, a newer Chevy sedan. Dear Chevy: when did you decide to use the oddest size bolt heads imaginable? I know you want buyers to use dealerships for even minor repairs, but some of these were ridiculous. 13/32's? That socket hadn't been used in the 25+ years in my toolbox. Having some metric and some standard bolts on the same housing? What are you thinking? Repair completed, but they sure made it harder than it needed to be (especially when it was 26 degrees outside at the time).
Which brings me to a certain lady friend with a computer problem, specifically the "blue screen of death". I should know better than trying to explain to someone who's computer illiterate that the only solution is drastic: the "nuclear option". She didn't like that answer, and kept demanding that I find a simpler solution. She even offered multiple sexual favors if I could find an easier way to solve the problem. But sometimes reality bites. She's currently trying to find someone else who'll tell her what she wants to hear. Good luck with that.
And it's 8 degrees outside. Not exactly inviting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Judd Gregg, Obstructionist


The health care reform bill has become a question of what (if anything) can be passed over the republicans obstruction. And to put to rest any doubt about the republicans intentions, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) put out a letter clearly describing a variety of obstruction tactics to be used:


Sen. Judd Gregg, (R-NH) has penned the equivalent of an obstruction manual -- a how-to for holding up health care reform -- and has distributed the document to his Republican colleagues.


Insisting that it is "critical that Republican senators have a solid understanding of the minority's rights in the Senate," Gregg makes note of all the procedural tools the GOP can use before measures are considered, when they come to the floor and even after passage.


He highlights the use of hard quorum calls for any motion to proceed, as opposed to a far quicker unanimous consent provision. He reminds his colleagues that, absent unanimous consent, they can force the Majority Leader to read any "full-text substitute amendment." And when it comes to offering amendments to the health care bill, the New Hampshire Republican argues that it is the personification of "full, complete, and informed debate," to "offer an unlimited number of amendments -- germane or non-germane -- on any subject."


The details of Gregg's outline are a clear reflection of the extent to which Republicans are turning to the Byzantine processes of the Senate chamber as a means of holding up reform.


...


Considering the already lethargic pace of health care reform, this is an illuminating reminder of how Republican's are putting their energy into dragging out the process rather than affecting the legislation.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/read-it-gop-senator-pens_n_377386.html


(bolds are mine. complete text at the link)


Needless to say, this is not about policy or reform; this is about stopping any form of legislation out of fear that it might help the democrats. Sen. Gregg and his cohorts have no interest in serving their constituents; they only care about a partisan victory. Self-promotion trumps governance in their minds.
And, as a result, the senate has become completely dysfunctional. It's one thing for a minority party to oppose a policy by trying to modify legislation to reflect a different set of ideals. It's quite another thing to try to prevent the body from taking any action at all.
If we had an informed electorate, any senator engaging in this type of behavior, regardless of ideology, should and would be removed from office. To so blatantly say "I want to stop the government dead in it's tracks", rather than trying to govern in a way that you prefer, proves that you are unfit for office in government. Democracy, for all its flaws, requires that elected officials, in some fashion, represent the people who elected them. It's perfectly respectable to vote against a policy you disagree with; it's downright Un-American to prevent that vote from taking place.
(this is completely seperate from the debate as to what kind of health care reform would be best-I'm discussing the efforts to prevent any action at all)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Now the Shoe's on the Other...

Slightly delicious irony of the day: the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at shrub is now on the receiving end of a shoe toss:

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush has himself become the target of a shoe thrower.

While speaking at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, was nearly hit in the face by a shoe thrown by what appeared to be another Iraqi man.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/national/bush-shoe-thrower-120209

(video at the link)


If shoe tossing ever becomes an Olympic event, bet on the Iraqi's.

Speech Response

I'm going to disagree with my friend Justin a bit about Obama's Afghanistan speech. Not that I'm sold that the plan for Afghanistan is a good plan; it isn't. But it may be the 'least bad' plan that can realistically be implemented at this time.
Obama inherited a complete disaster in Afghanistan. The original goal of destroying Al Qaeda was abandoned in favor of a war in Iraq, and our forces in Afghanistan were left floundering for years without a strategy or the resources to carry out a plan. The puppet government is both corrupt and impotent, and the history of regional tribalism limits the potential for local allies. In short, we're in a hell of a mess.
But simply leaving Afghanistan would be even more dangerous. Aside from the humanitarian disaster that would follow, there is the very real threat of a terrorist haven on the border of a nuclear state that is itself unstable. Abandoning the Af/Pak chaos would greatly increase the risk of future attacks around the world.
So the situation is simply: damned if you leave, damned if you stay, damned if you escalate, damned if you draw down. Obama's plan has some of each; an escalation followed by a draw down, an increased focus on Pakistan, and an attempt to create a working government in Afghanistan. Stabilization, followed by a transition out of Afghanistan.
The speech itself was classic Obama. The tone was clear and somber, with a somewhat intellectual emphasis. While there were the requisite platitudes and rhetoric, Obama articulated his plans and goals with a level of clarity and honesty that the previous president was incapable of. As speeches go, it was strong and effective, and it probably pleased no one. Criticism is already pouring in from both the left and the right.
Will the strategy work? We'll see, but what we had been doing clearly wasn't working. Given the options currently available, Obama's choice is quite plausible. We'll see if it's workable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Cuban Umpire

I was tempted to title this post "Umpire Defects", but for baseball fans the discussion of defective umpires would be endless.
No, this post is about a Cuban umpire who's defected to the U.S. We've had a lot of Cuban players come here for fame and fortune, but this is the first umpire that I'm aware of:

Baseball might be one of the strongest arguments for moving toward more normalized relations with Cuba after 50 years of embargo. The Cuban people are passionate about the game, and the repression of the Castro brothers regime has driven their finest players to defection. If relations were more normalized, those players would return money to their home country, like Venezuelan and Japanese, etc. players do. An open baseball exchange would be a "win-win" for both the U.S. and Cuba.
And, lord knows that we could use better umpires.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anatomy of a Shrub Up

As more information comes to light, we're reminded that a 'shrub up' goes much further than a 'fuck up' in terms of damage inflicted. Some of us knew at the time (despite the media's obfuscation) that shrub's mismanagement allowed Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora. Now we're getting told exactly what transpired:

The report, based in part on a little-noticed 2007 history of the Tora Bora episode by the military’s Special Operations Command, asserts that the consequences of not sending American troops in 2001 to block Mr. bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan are still being felt.

The report blames the lapse for “laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/world/asia/29torabora.html?_r=1&ref=us


Couple this with the British investigation into the lead up to the war in Iraq, and the dishonesty that shrub and the poodle engaged in to sell the war. Here's some official bombshells:

The military timetable for an invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not give time for UN weapons inspectors in the country to do their job, the former British ambassador
to Washington told the Iraq inquiry in London today.

Sir Christopher Meyer said the “unforgiving nature” of the build-up after American forces had been told to prepare for war meant that “we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun”.

For the first time in history, the entire world contemporaneously saw the blatant hypocrisy of war. The best PR money could buy was unable to convince the global audience that even a shred of legitimacy existed in the imperial invasion of Iraq. Only the most fearful Americans even bought it, though as usual that’s more than a majority. Plus of course Israel, to give credit where it’s due.

As usual, Scott Ritter tells the straight truth, and as usual, it ain’t pretty.

As if the 'shrub ups' hadn't done enough damage,not there's Draft Dick Cheney 2012. Just what we need.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Comment



Anybody there? I'm starting to wonder, as I haven't gotten any comments recently (even when I give you beer). The ol' 'sitemeter' says folks are stopping by, mostly looking for the Boobies, but nobody comments. Consider this post a "de-lurking" beg, asking for feedback (even if it's just telling me how boring the blog is, or that the boobies aren't as young and firm as you had hoped for). Any comments?

Friday, November 27, 2009

More Beer News - "Tactical Nuclear Penguin"

Beer "news" is my favorite kind of news. And when I read about a beer setting a new world record, with a name like "Tactical Nuclear Penguin", I must share it with you:




The BrewDog team have pulled off our most audacious and ambitious project to date, and smashed a world record in the process. We have today, Thursday 26 November 2009, set a new world record after creating the strongest beer in the world. Weighing in at an ABV of 32%, BrewDog’s ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin’ beats the previous record of 31% held by German beer brand Schorschbraer.


penguinblog2_440


This beer is about pushing the boundaries, it is about taking innovation in beer to a whole new level. It is about achieving something which has never before been done and putting Scotland firmly on the map for progressive, craft beers.


This beer is bold, irreverent and uncompromising. A beer with a soul and a purpose. A statement of intent. A modern day rebellion for the craft beer proletariat in our struggle to over throw the faceless bourgeoisie oppression of corporate, soulless beer.’


The Antarctic name inducing schizophrenia of this uber-imperial stout originates from the amount of time it spent exposed to extreme cold. This beer began life as a 10% imperial stout 18 months ago. The beer was aged for 8 months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask and 8 months in an Islay cask making it our first double cask aged beer. After an intense 16 month, the final stages took a ground breaking approach by storing the beer at -20 degrees for three weeks to get it to 32%.


For the big chill the beer was put into containers and transported to the cold store of a local ice cream factory where it endured 21 days at penguin temperatures. Alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water. As the beer got colder BrewDog Chief Engineer, Steven Sutherland decanted the beer periodically, only ice was left in the container, creating more intensity of flavours and a stronger concentration of alcohol for the next phase of freezing. The process was repeated until it reached 32%.


A warning on the label states: This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.


You can buy yours here: http://www.brewdog.com/product.php?id=46


tnp_2bottles02_440


http://www.brewdog.com/blog-article.php?id=214



If any of you were wondering what to give me for Christmas, well, a bottle would be much appreciated. I promise to drink it responsibly.
(added: they only made 500 bottles, so I'm being facetious in asking)
(dedicated to badtux the snarky penguin)

Black Friday Boobies

Left Boobie: "Thankfully, we wont be shopping today."
Right Boobie: "And, thankfully, nobody mistook us for turkeys."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

(not a Turkey)

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'll be spending the day with a gathering of friends at the home of the Flagsquatch*, as I did last year. I'm about to start cooking several side dishes to contribute to the potluck, which is a good thing. Griselda (my bird in the pic above) finds my cooking extremely entertaining and exciting, and she's already voicing her opinion on my kitchen activities. Thanksgiving is always a wonderful excuse to indulge my culinary creativity. Let's see if I can surprise some folks.
Thanksgiving used to be traditionally spent with family, but over the years the family has dwindled to the point that we're too few to gather. My sisters live in different states, and we really don't enjoy each others company enough to travel on a holiday. Exchanging polite phone calls is much easier.
It's always fun to join in a group of friends for a feast and some football (too bad this years games are such turkeys), and there will be beer. Hope you all have plenty of food, fun, and loved ones to share today!
Added: for my Native American friends, Happy "watch your immigration policy" day!

* the Flagsquatch is a rare local curiosity. He's larger than the traditional Yeti, but not quite as hairy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Turkey Story

Flagstaff icon and master storyteller Scott Thybony, with a fun one for Thanksgiving; the story of "Kathy", a wild turkey who lived in the Grand Canyon: Phantom Thanksgiving Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thought

In all the Kabuki theater that is the debate about health care reform, the republican position would best be summed up as "don't let the government come between you and your leeches."
That, or "death to the poor."

Marketing Bad Ideas

When you're selling a bad idea, I suppose that hiring a proven liar is a sensible marketing strategy:

College football's Bowl Championship Series, the system for selecting which two teams will compete in the national championship game, has hired former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer to improve its tarnished image among football fans.

http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/11/bcs-hires-ari-fleischer-to-improve-image.php?ref=fpb


The BCS system is pretty much universally hated by most college football fans. I doubt that even Ari can come up with a grand enough lie to make it popular.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spending



Any questions?

11/22/1963


John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Art

("Undercliff", a woodcut by Lynd Ward, 1948)

I have this woodcut hanging on my wall. It is among my favorite artwork.

Rewarding Good Works

Regular readers know that I'm frequently critical of my congresswoman, Ann Kirkpatrick. But in the interest of good government, I'm more than willing to compliment her when she takes positive actions. Her bill, H.R. 1834, has passed in the house. The bill provides aid to Native American small business:
The bill "amends the Small Business Act to establish in the Small Business Administration (SBA) the Office of Native American Affairs, administered by a new SBA Associate Administrator, to increase Native American entrepreneurship [and] authorizes the SBA's Administrator (acting through the Associate Administrator) to: (1) operate a Tribal Business Information Centers program that provides Native American populations with business training and entrepreneurial development assistance; (2) designate entities as centers; (3) contribute agency personnel and resources to the centers; and (4) make grants to the centers."

The bill was introduced by conservative Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, whose district includes the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. Every single Arizona Democrat voted for it, of course.

Given that this district includes a huge number of impoverished Native Americans, the bill could be a huge benefit throughout the region.
So, well done congresswoman! We thank you.

Serious Journalism

The WaPo's editor gets to what matters in This Fred Hiatt column:

And didn't candidate Obama promise to fix the college football Bowl Championship Series?

Many people indeed blame Obama not only for this year's lackluster football season but for all these other problems as well.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112002416.html


Obama hasn't fixed the BCS, so therefore his presidency is a failure. I'm glad Hiatt is covering the important news.
Added: Obama never said he'd fix the BCS; he said he'd prefer a playoff system. Ruling over the NCAA isn't really part of his job description.

Friday, November 20, 2009

UC Berkeley Protests

OK, it's not Mario Savio or Vietnam. But they still know how to have a protest:

A group of about 60 UC Berkeley students and supporters barricaded themselves inside Wheeler Hall early this morning in the most dramatic display of disobedience on the campus since the UC regents voted to raise student undergraduate tuition by 32 percent Thursday.

The group entered Wheeler Hall around 6 a.m. and three students were arrested immediately for burglary as they moved heavy furniture to block doorways on the second floor, according campus police.

Andi Walden, a student among those occupying the building, who spoke to The Chronicle by phone, said the protesters had enough food and water to last four days.

"We decided it was necessary to take action," said Walden, a Middle Eastern studies and political science major. "A lot of people have been saying, 'Who's university? Our university.' So we decided to put that into action."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/20/BA611ANSAB.DTL&tsp=1


A 32% hike in tuition will force quite a few students out of the University, so they have plenty of reason to act. You Go, Kids! Keep the Berkeley traditions alive!
(added on Sat. morning: The kids have been arrested. Bummer, but no surprise)

Resource Depletion Humor


We at Pygalgia are all too aware of resource depletion. We've read (ok, sometimes skimmed) all the reports and books and we know that air, water, oil, coal, metals (gold, silver, copper, platinum, phosphorous, etc) are close to running dry.

If you pick up any of these reports or texts, you'll be presented with the familiar and famous "Hubbert Curve" that depicts the general depletion of a particular resource base.

Many commentators in the world focus on plotting such resource depletion curves against things like GDP (US or World), or Per-Capita-Income, or some such measurement.

But there's something even more important: the collapse of oil production in relation to the collapse of the production of good rock-and-roll music.

The roots of "Rock" music can really be though of as starting in the 1950s, but didn't really gain ground until the 1960s (the growth and discovery years) and then continued on throughout the decades.

But, as the previous chart shows, basically rock-and-roll music shot its wad early and has declined precipitously ever since. That's why you were stuck with Toto during the late seventies and early eighties (that early eighties bump came not from the North Sea Field or Alaskan production, but from the influence of Punk Rock finally crossing the pond and gaining traction in the US).

Unfortunately, it's been on a decline ever since.

Now, I love the Beatles. I can still appreciate The Band, some good Clapton, The Dead, Three Dog Night or Creedence. Hell, because I can still appreciate them probably explains the fact that there's still so many "classic" rock stations around - the best, low hanging chords were strummed the first. Those previously mentioned bands lucked out because they were on the rise, at least in terms of production. Folks like the Boss or Elvis Costello had to ride the backside of depletion - it gives a lot more nuance to "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run" now doesn't it? And shit, half of Springsteen's songs were about the romance of the automobile anyways....

Hell, I might even appreciate something like John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy!" as looking for ways out of our energy decline in the late 1970s. Plowin', farmin', playin' the fiddle, being sustainable - he does even mention limos as being uncool.

Now, all jests aside, we understand the importance of resource depletion. The next twenty years or so, as the resource base depletes even more rapidly, are going to be challenging for everyone involved. As people have to get used to doing with less - and more importantly, accepting doing with less, there is the possibility that many folks won't take kindly to it, to use a phrase.

That's why humor can be so effective in certain situations, and why I'm trying to be a little bit funny in this post.

To me, probably the best consequence of the development of the immense frontal cerebral cortex in the mammilian ape was the concept of humor.

Humor can overcome so many situations - by causing all participants to view a situation (somewhat) objectively and to provide contextual comments (sometimes humorous) about it, that I think it is crucial to our species survival.

That's why I so much like the graph (completely unattributed, although I think I got it off The Big Picture & Barry would have the link(s)).

Please, everyone, although the backslide of the Peak may be disheartening, remember that it could be worse: you have no gas in your car, but the radio still works and all you can get is..."When you get caught between the moon and New York City..." from Christopher Cross. Or some Milli-Vanilli.

Which, strangely enough, is about the pablum that our energy polices have been these past few decades

I rest my case.

From Bad To Worse?

Living in Arizona, I get to be represented by two of the worst senators in the country (OK, that's just my opinion; there are a lot of lousy senators to choose from). Jon Kyl is slightly less intellectual than the average eggplant, and St. Sleazy McCain appears increasingly senile with each passing day. So, leave it to Arizona republicans to find an even worse option:

A new Rasmussen poll finds that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) could potentially be in trouble with Republican voters back home in Arizona, where he's often faced criticism from the right for his views on immigration.

In a potential Republican primary for his 2010 re-election, the 2008 GOP nominee for President is in a dead heat with former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a hard-line conservative who lost his seat in the 2006 Democratic wave.

The numbers: McCain 45%, Hayworth 43%, with a ±4% margin of error. A third candidate who is already in the race, former Minuteman leader Chris Simcox, gets 4%.

From the pollster's analysis: "For McCain, the GOP Primary appears to be his biggest challenge since no major Democrats in the state have stepped forward yet to run against him."

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/11/poll-mccain-in-dead-heat-in-potential-2010-gop-primary-for-re-election.php?ref=fpb


That's right, J. D. Hayworth! A former sportscaster who's even dumber than Kyl (or an eggplant), a congressional loser who's opposed to everything after 1958 (I've met him, and I'm trying to be as kind as I can). Proving that no matter how bad you think it is, it could be worse (and don't get me started on Simcox). At least McCain is (sometimes) coherent.
Sadly, there's no democrat candidate (so far) who has a snowball's chance in Phoenix of winning the senate seat in 2010. Janet Napolitano was our most likely hope until she accepted the homeland security gig. So far, nobody else has come forward who's a serious challenger.
Dear America.
We apologize.
Sincerely,
Arizona Democrats (on the endangered species list since...forever).

Staring at a Boobie



It's not polite to stare at a Boobie. In fact, some consider it rude. But it seems to happen sometimes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Culinary Assistance

This post is a follow up to a conversation that Sweaterman and I were having with some other folks last week. Both Sweaterman and I consider ourselves pretty good cooks (actually, Sweaterman is a great cook), and we were discussing how to make meals with minimal ingredients on hand. If you have a good feel for how foods go together, it doesn't take a whole lot to make a decent meal. But several of the other people who were part of the conversation were...how to say it politely...more culinarally challenged. One went so far as to say that she would never attempt to cook something without a recipe, while another resorts to fast food when unsure what to cook. So I'd like to share a wonderful resource with folks like them. Just go to Supercook.com and plug in whatever ingredients you have at hand, and it will spit out a recipe. It will also ask if you have certain other things available in order to offer additional ideas and options. While I don't personally need it, I've run some tests based on what I have in the cupboard and fridge and I've been impressed with the results. The recipes are all fairly simple and straightforward, not 'Julia Child' gourmet but easy, tasty, relatively healthy meals that most anybody can prepare.
(except Ducky, who has difficulty with the recipe for boiled water)

Palin: Even Dumber than Shrub


(pic from Album3)
I really would prefer to ignore her, but then she says something so mind numbingly stupid that my brain freezes and I must make a comment, if only to get un-stuck:

"We have allies who are as concerned about Ahmadinejad's actions as we are. We need to be working closer with France, and with Britain, and start, not just considering, but seriously taking steps towards the sanctions that we hear all about but we never see any actions towards, though.

"Cutting off the imports into Iraq, of their refined petroleum products. They're reliant -- 40 to 45 percent of their energy supply is reliant on those imports. We have some control over there.

"And some of the beneficial international monetary deals that Iraq benefits from -- we can start implementing some sanctions there and start really shaking things up, and telling Ahmadinejad, nobody is going to stand for this."

http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/11/palin-crack-down-on-iraq-to-prevent-nuclear-iran.php?ref=fpb


As if Iraq hasn't suffered enough.
OK, we know this was a simple mistake. Ms. Palin probably merely misspoke. Unless she truly is unable to distinguish between Iraq and Iran, a distinction that even Shrub was able to grasp...barely.
(video at the link, just so you know that I'm not making this up)

Dot Connecting

Children's books often include exercises to "connect the dots". If you connect them properly, a clear picture emerges. Of course, if the dots are connected improperly all you get is a meaningless jumble.
In the investigation of the Ft. Hood shootings, the question that keeps being repeated is "was there a failure to connect the dots?" (For this post, I'm ignoring the issue of terrorism vs. mass murder. The problem of 'dot connecting' is the same regardless of motivation.) Could the slaughter have been prevented? Were there enough warning signs that authorities should have taken action?
We go through this process whenever a massive tragedy occurs. After the Virginia Tech shootings, there were revelations that the shooter was deeply disturbed. The investigation of 9/11 revealed that there were many pieces of evidence that the plotters were working up to something big. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing reams of evidence came out that Timothy McVeigh had spent months building up to a massive anti-government act. In all these cases there were many pieces that in hindsight were "dots"; the question is whether they should have been "connected" in such a way as to reveal the picture that would prevent the ensuing tragedy.
During the years that I worked as a mental health counselor, one of the most important parts of my work was suicide prevention. The population of psychiatric clients includes a very high percentage of people at high risk for suicide. Sadly, despite our best efforts and 'expertise', some clients did commit suicide. When a suicide did occur, the treatment team would meet to review the case; to try to "connect the dots". While the goal was to hopefully find ways to prevent future suicides, there was the natural human tendency to assign blame: somebody failed to "connect the dots".
As I'm watching the process unfold (again) with the Ft. Hood shootings, I'm remembering how difficult it is to actually connect dots. In hindsight, here are a whole bunch of disturbing signs; do they add up to a clear picture of impending violence? Is there enough evidence to take action to intervene? Is the goal to prevent future incidents, or to blame somebody for the incident that occurred?
Example: You have a neighbor, "Mr. X"; he's anti-social, often angry. He blames "Y" for all that is wrong in his world. He might have weapons. What signs would be clear enough for you to call the police about "Mr. X"? How do you differentiate between an eccentric crank and a potential killer? Remember that our society respects an individuals freedom (in theory, anyway), and that "Mr. X" hasn't done anything yet. How many dots connect and what picture (if any) do they reveal?
Intervention is a very inexact "science"; you never really know what might have been "prevented" because there is no way to measure a "non-incident". Maybe a tragedy has been prevented, but maybe prejudice and hysteria have needlessly disrupted a persons life or deprived them of there individual freedom.
I don't have any answers; I hope the investigation will focus on trying to find ways to prevent future tragedies by helping people who are deeply disturbed, rather than degenerating into finding someone to blame. The reality is that life is full of uncertainties and that tragedies occur daily. Preventing atrocities is an admirable goal, but not all dots connect into a clear picture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Extreme Beer News

Anybody who knows me knows that I love a good hoppy beer. But in reading about some of the new "extreme" beers, I encountered one that sound like an "extremely" bad idea:

But don't confuse "extreme" with "strong," Koch says. "Extreme is bringing something new to the brewing process. It's like creating a whole new genre of music, as opposed to just playing the same music louder."

Nanny State, an "imperial mild" from the BrewDog microbrewery in Fraserburgh, Scotland, is the anti-Utopias, but just as extreme. It measures 1.1 percent alcohol; you'd be hard-pressed to get tipsy on a case of it. But it is crammed with hops. The brewer's claimed level of 225 international bitterness units is the most extreme I've ever heard. (IBUs measure a beer's level of alpha acids, the primary bittering compound in hops. For purposes of comparison, Budweiser measures about 12 IBUs; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 37; a typical imperial IPA, 75 to 100.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/17/AR2009111700693.html


Just the name "nanny state" is enough to keep me away, but 225 IBU's for 1.1% alcohol? Why bother? Just drink unfermented hop juice.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Upcoming Right Wing Screaming Point

I'm slightly surprised that this one hasn't been exploited yet: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's American college years:

After just a semester at Chowan, Mohammed thought his English was good enough to move on. So he transferred to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. It's Rev. Jesse Jackson's alma mater. And it's where Mohammed began studying mechanical engineering.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120516152


Yes! Jesse Jackson and terrorists all in one neat package! Coincidence? The wingers won't think so. I'm offering a (very small) prize for the first right wing pundit to make the connection.