Saturday, January 2, 2010


Happy "numerical palindrome day."

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Boobie

Flying into 2010.

Happy 2010

Happy New Year to you!
And Happy Birthday to me. 51. Funny, I don't feel older.

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.

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"...