Saturday, May 29, 2004

Well, as usual, last night didn't go quite as planned. Instead of getting to bed early, I was up until around 3am doing file maintenance, cleaning, organizing, etc. So instead of getting up early and getting some work done before I headed into Kalkaska, I barely got up in time to make it to the high school graduation. I wanted to get pictures of our kids from youth group, but everyone snuck out somehow. Then I found out that we are not doing my dad's birthday today, so that gives us the afternoon to work on the house.

In any case, I just thought that I would stick something on here on a Saturday for a change.


Friday, May 28, 2004

I'm sitting here in the accounting office slowly freezing to death. I can see the sun through the windows, so I'm assuming that in spite of the temps only being in the 60's that some jerk cranked the AC up to Arctic. My feet froze solid about ten minutes after I came in today. I just lost all sensation from the knees down. I'm typing this with a pen held in my teeth because my hands are two fist sized blocks of ice and I can't hit individual keys with them. I can't believe I'm supposed to get any work done this way.

Anyway, we finally got our grades from last class. I was worried that I wouldn't do well, but I guess my worrying was for no reason. Our PLT had a paper and an oral presentation on that paper. We got 100% on the presentation and 99% on the paper. The deduction was because the margins were an eighth of an inch over the one-inch requirement. I sense a joke in there: a one point deduction would have no effect on our grade while still giving us "room for improvement." I can see our instructor getting a chuckle over that one. I had two individual papers due. The one I was pretty sure was ok. It was just journaling about what we read for class. There was a minimum of two pages for each week's reading for a total of 10 pages. Mine ended up being 15 pages or so. I got an "Above and beyond expectations" and a 100%. The other paper was more involved, although much shorter (5-7 pages) which is actually harder. I had to do some serious condensing to fit all the required elements of the paper in seven pages or less. I didn't have room (or time) to write a real conclusion to the paper. It just sort of ends. I got 100%. Sheesh. The more confidence I have in a project, the lower the grade and visa versa. I'll never figure school out. But I got a 4.0 in the class so that boosts up the GPA a bit.

Otherwise, class was ok. I just don't enjoy the material that much. Our PLT is humming along nicely with our second new member in as many classes. We got a ton of work done and our final project is already falling nicely into place. According to my theory in the previous paragraph, we will get a horrible grade...

Anyway, long weekend coming up. I'd like to get the phone line buried from the house to the cabin so I can get on the Internet at home without it being a major production. The weather looks like it will cooperate on Saturday, but Monday looks dicey. In any case, we will give it a try. If nothing else, I can string it from the trees and bury it later.

The other project that must get finished this weekend is the power shed. In fact, I will likely work on that before I work on the phone line. I want the electrical situation taken care of once and for all.

Saturday is the high school graduation and will likely be my dad's birthday party/Memorial Weekend Cookout combination. I'm going to try to make an early night of it tonight so I can be up around 6am Saturday and get some work done before all the festivities eat the rest of the day. Yea, right. It's looks good on paper, anyway.


I've long been a fan of biodiesel for transportation. This article has some back of the envelope calculations on just what it would take to replace all gasoline and conventional diesel with biodiesel. The answer is about 11,000 square miles of alga farms. These can be built anywhere there is a waste stream; human, animal or agricultural. The alga will clean raw sewage, stop fertilizer run-off, and eliminate the "poop problem" from large-scale meat animal operations, such as hog farms. That has enough benefit in and of itself to justify the cost. The biodiesel is just a by-product that allows us to stop importing oil. That means the worthless rag-heads in the Middle East can drink their stinking oil because we don't need it or them. It makes perfect sense, so of course we won't do it. Instead we spend $40 billion a year in Iraq and pay $2.15 a gallon for gasoline.


One spammer fined millions of dollars. Another off to 7 years in jail. Like 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea, I call that a good start. May there be about a dozen more just like him. Something like 90% of all spam is sent by a handful of individuals. We know who they are and where they live (right in the U.S.) and it's about time something be done about it.


Dorothy Parker was once asked to use the word "horticulture" in a witty sentence. She replied. "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."


Bill Cosby smacks down poor blacks. All I can say is "Amen! Preach it brother!" Some highlights:

"I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?"

"People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? . . . People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don't know a damn thing about Africa."

"What is it -- young girls getting after a girl who wants to remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where do they come from and why haven't they been parented to shut up? This is a sickness, ladies and gentlemen."

You tell 'em Mr. Cosby. I can't because that would make me a racist. Of course all the victimology specialists really want to tell Mr. Cosby he can't say those things, but his credentials are too strong. And even they have to realize that he is right. The answer to the problems in the black community are found in the black community. Not white-run government programs. But I can't say what really needs to be said; go read Mr. Cosby.

And just to go along with what Mr. Cosby was talking about we have these two gems:

The first is a high-school girl with cerebral palsy. The harassment directed at her culminated in a classmate threatening her with a knife, then setting her hair on fire. She was sent home for the remainder of the school year and not allowed to take her finals. The assailant is still in school, unpunished.

The second was three kids, two nine-year-olds and a ten-year-old beheaded in their apartment. This is a sickness indeed, and it goes beyond the black community.

Jerry Pournelle has a couple good essays this week. One discusses the latest neo-con complaint that our Army is too small. The second tackles what we need to do in Iraq.

An just to make your day complete: many are looking to the Greek Summer Olympics scheduled to start in 10 weeks or so to give us all a reprieve from bad news. Or maybe not. It seems the Greek government isn't doing too well getting the place fixed up for August. Cost overruns, missed deadlines, and security problems. Maybe we should skip this time...

Just some thoughts to brighten everyone's day. Maybe I'll just start skipping the news thing...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Just thought I'd let everyone know: the sun is out. Blue sky. Big fluffy clouds. Life is good. Still not very warm.

Ya'll can die happy now.
Last night was the shortest deacons meeting I have ever attended. I was home before 9pm. Normally, it's more like midnight. It was a good thing because I had to get ready for youth group tonight. It works better if I have something to say when I get in front of the room. In any case, I was only up until 1am or so. Not too bad.

Not much else to report. The rain has stopped, but we still can't see the sun. It's cold, wet, and just depressing in general. Tonight promises to be another late night with 100 pages or so of reading and a couple things to work up for college Thursday. It's my turn to drive, so I'm hoping to not be up too late. The problem is the book is just flat out the most boring bunch of crap I have ever had to read. It just drones on and on and on and on and on and on about things I could care less about. I knew this class was going to be tough primarily because I have absolutely no interest in the subject matter. The instructor went on at length about how great the book was and how valuable a resource it is. My personal opinion is that it is a huge, stinking pile of dung. I expect to get nothing out of this class other than the lowest grade since I started the program. I just hope I don't mess up the PLT grade.

On a different subject, either I have the most painfully shy bunch of readers in blog history or no readers at all. I have 0 comments to date since Blogger added its own comment capability. I do need to start sending out e-mails to everyone about signing up as contributors. But we still don't have phone lines to the house and the cabin isn't a very pleasant place without electricity. We are using the cabin generator on the house while the house generator is in the shop. We should be getting that back in the next week or so; then I can start doing more with this place and figuring out all the new stuff that Blogger added. With some luck, I may be able to shut down the old website soon. It's becoming very neglected and most of what is there is likely of no interest to anyone, including me. That will save us $10 a month, which doesn't sound like much, but every little bit helps. My intention is to keep the domain name so I can switch our e-mail addresses over to That way, I'm not dependent on any ISP and I can access everything from anyplace. I don't have any plans to change ISP's or anything, but I don't like being tied to one.

Once again, all the news sites are carrying the same stories. It takes me about five minutes to skim the half-dozen sites I keep tabs on. I swear they all have a pool of a couple dozen news stories that they randomly pull for their web site every day.

Well, I've wasted enough electrons. If I can think of anything significant to say later, I'll let you know. (You're welcome.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

It finally stopped raining. For now, in any case. The weather liars are predicting more. Ya. Hoo. The temps are still running on the cool side; it hasn't topped 70 degrees F in a while and doesn't look to anytime soon. The long-term forecasts were for a hot and dry summer. Given that no one can predict the weather three days out, I'm not sure what good these long-term forecasts are.

In any case, last night was a bit of a lazy day even though I had a lot of work to do. I still have a ton of homework and a deacons meeting tonight. That means homework will have to be done at 2am.

A good bit of news just came in. I was worried that my last class wouldn't turn out too well grade-wise, but I just found out that we got 100% on our presentation and 99% on the group paper (the 1% deduction was because our margins were off a bit). I still don't know how I did on the two individual papers. I felt they were not my best effort, but at least the group project stuff will boost me up some. No matter what, I have a passing grade.

I haven't had time to read the news today, but I assume it's still all bad. Interesting rant from Jerry Pournelle on Monday. As he has said repeatedly, it was all predictable and in fact was predicted. And it takes a special kind of stupid to fire off automatic weapons at a wedding when you know the place is being patrolled by a jumpy occupation force that has been under continuous attack for months.

Well, that's all I have time for. Have fun.

Monday, May 24, 2004

We made it there and back in spite of dodging tornados and storms both trying to leave and getting back home. Our flight out Friday was delayed because of storms rolling through Flint. That meant we didn't have much time to tour hotels in Tampa, but that turned out to not be a problem. The first place we went to will do nicely. At that point we were hungry, so we walked next door to Benigan's and had dinner. We stayed at a very swank Marriot closer to the water Friday night, then headed for Disneyworld Saturday morning. Problem was we got turned around because of construction and ended up at Bush Gardens instead. We went back to square one and tried again. This time we ended up on the right road.

The last time I was at Disneyworld was 1982. It is somewhat bigger now. Then, we pretty much covered everything in a day. This trip we spent most of Saturday covering about half of Animal Kingdom, one of the smallest parts of Disneyworld. You could spend a week here and never go to the same place twice. I had fun, being a critter person. Debbie was less than thrilled with some of the creepy crawly stuff. We managed to not get burned (or even tanned). Sunday, we were up early, packed and headed back to Flint to transfer from plane to automobile and drive north. We swung by Debbie's Mom's place for a quick visit then made a run for it as a line of thunderstorms and tornados headed our way. Other than that, it was uneventful.

This was my first time on a plane since September 11 and the new restrictions. My experience in Flint was about what I expected from government employees: no attempt to act like they were dealing with a human being. No one actually said "Moo," but it was a close thing. The Orlando airport seems to operate under the influence of The Mouse: people there were friendly, smiled at us, and even joked around about stealing our cinnamon buns as they went through the x-ray machine. At least I didn't end up in jail, even though I had to strip half-naked to get through the checkpoint. Well, ok I just had to take off my shoes and my belt, but because I've been losing weight, I almost ended up half-naked because I could barely keep my pants on.

In any case, we are home and tired. I have a ton of homework to do and I still have to type up the minutes from the last deacons' meeting for tomorrow night.

The news has become an endless repetition of the same stories. I'm just skimming things these days. Vox Day had some important thoughts on why The Shrub will lose Iraq. Otherwise, nothing really caught my eye.

Well, I gotta go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Last night was eaten by locusts. I didn't leave work until 6:30, trying to get my hours in as I won't be working Friday and I have no vacation left. I had to pick up the tables and chairs we borrowed from my parents on Sunday and return those. When I got to my parents place, the pastor and his family plus several out-of-town relatives were combing my parents' property for morels. So that wasn't a quick stop. Then I headed for home and everyone followed me to see if there were any morels at our place. So with the chatting, tours of the place, etc., it was almost 9 pm before I started looking for something for dinner. Debbie was off doing the mega-laundry thing and didn't get home until after 10 pm. We just talked and vegged until 11 pm and went to bed.

I finished my exciting code changes at work today; now I get to check 80+ pages of general ledger entries against what came out of the production system last pay period to see if I broke anything. I'll be cross-eyed by the end of the day.

Not much else to say. Nothing really jumped out at me when I hit all the usual web sites, other than Jerry Pournelle's discussion of the difference between police and soldiers. Primarily, soldiers exist to kill people and break things while preventing the enemy from doing the same to them and their buddies at any cost. Police are concerned with maintaining order and protecting civilians. Two very different goals that require two very different approaches. We have trained our police in military tactics that result in crimes like Ruby Ridge. Now we have our soldiers performing police duty in Iraq with equally dismal results. All of which is predictable and in fact was predicted by many.

Ah well. I guess it doesn't matter now. Our masters... er... leaders seem to think they know what they are doing and don't need advice from me or anyone else. I wish I could share their confidence.

On the bright side, it's bright. Outside, that is. Blue sky, sun and 70 degrees F. I looks like there will be some rough weather moving in just in time for us to fly down to Florida. Rough flying weather doesn't bother me, but Debbie can't take any shaking around in a plane. In any case, there probably won't be anything here before next Monday. We will be enjoying hot weather in Sunny Florida this weekend and not worrying about anything for about 72 hours.

Everyone have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Another exciting day at work. I'm rewriting all the custom code that controls how the payroll posts to the general ledger. Wow. You can feel the vibes...

Anyway, it didn't start raining last night until after dark, so I spent an hour or so working outside. It sure feels good to start seeing some things accomplished. I'm doing something I've never done before; I'm building a stone retaining wall. I'm working on the premise that if I stack two stones on top of each other and they don't fall over within five minutes that they will pretty much sit there for a hundred years. We'll see. I don't think anyone will be hiring me as a landscaper anytime soon.

That and some homework was the night. Exciting life, I know. Try to control your jealousy.

My class that starts this Thursday is Human Resource Management, which is most likely the part of work I like the least. For one thing, the whole business has turned into a breeding ground for political correctness. Like the following conversation pulled at random from the web:

Just got home from work. Am purple with aggravation, frustration, and disbelief. Cannot possibly speak rationally right now. Also apparently have lost all my pronouns somewhere between the car and here.

Breathe deep. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.......

Okay, I'm better now.

Here's the thing... I was called into the HR office today, because one of my coworkers (let's call her Blondie) wanted to file a complaint against me.

The complaint stated that I made her feel "threatened".

I was slightly reassured, however, that they'd given the problem to the Intern. This bodes well in favor of this being silly enough to count as training for her, apparently. The Intern is approximately 12 years old and has not blood but political correctness flowing in her pre-pubescent veins.

"How" I asked the Intern, "in the world does she think I've threatened her?"

Intern: "You've made no overt action. She feels intimidated by you, however, and wished to make an official complaint. We felt it was better to discuss the matter with you before taking any action, if necessary."

Me: "Exactly what did I do?"

Intern: "Er... nothing, really.... she said she's intimidated by you, because you talk about people and events that she knows nothing about, and she said it makes her feel stupid."

Me: "You're kidding, right?"

Intern: "We have to take it seriously, it's in the manual. "

Me: "Exactly what was it I said that got her upset?"

Intern: "She mentioned something about medical references, and once you talked about Henry VIII.... it bothers her that she doesn't understand what you're talking about most of the time. Oh, and McGuyver. "

Me: "She's upset because she doesn't know who McGuyver is?"

Intern: "We're not writing a complaint on this. We just wanted you to be aware of her feelings and be more sensitive to her cultural framework."

Me: "Oh, you did NOT just say that."

Intern: "Beg pardon?"

Me: "Nothing, nothing.... okay, so basically if I have to talk to her, I should talk slow, use small words, and mention nothing that happened before last Tuesday?"

Intern: "Did you know sarcasm is considered a form of aggression?"

Me: *backing slowly out of the room* "Uh... okay, gotta go, late for my shift... buh-bye now."

I haven't quite decided how to handle this yet. Part of me wants to completely and utterly ignore Blondie and speak nary one more word to her...


And the other part of me wants to start a discussion about quantum physics and watch her head explode.

I'm probably going with the third path.... I'm going to laugh my [butt] off.

This is the world of HR; a world that is so far removed from reality that it is outside any ability I have of understanding it. And I get to read and talk and write about it for the next five weeks. yea. I'm only on the second chapter of the book and I've already written a dozen critical comments in the margin: assertions stated as fact, "great ideas" that don't work in the real world, PC crap oozing everywhere. It really is incredible that I'm paying money for this.

Change in subject.

This is something that every company seems to have to learn individually. Cheaper labor does not always translate into lower over-all costs. I took this from the Leuf Daynotes page:

(Tuesday, 18 May 2004) An interesting article, Made in Japan (Newsweek European May 17 issue) made the following point about the true cost of outsourcing, based on a realworld example from the Japanese consumer goods maker Kenwood.

In 2002, Kenwood built a portable minidisc (MID) production line in Malaysia, like other such efforts based mainly on the lower wages. Surprisingly, only a year later, the company moved production back home, to Tsuruoka, a small city some 460 km south of Tokyo.

Why? Crass economics; the company realized the following benefits:

Only 4 workers were needed to run the line in Tsuruoka, compared to 22 in Malaysia.

Orders could be delivered to stores in only 2 days, compared to 5 weeks from Malaysia!

Stockroom shelftime for components went down to 3 days, compared to 18.

The bottom line is that Kenwood makes the units 10% cheaper at home than abroad, all costs factored in. In addition, Kenwood realizes a PR benefit by being able to market the units as Made in Japan again.

Wages are low in places like Malaysia because the people there are uneducated. There is no infrastructure. The police are either non-existent or corrupt. It costs money to ship things to another country and back. The list is endless. In some instances it makes sense, but in many cases, the same money invested back home in modern facilities and worker training would save far more than what is being saved on wages in some third-world hell hole.

Anyway, I need to go eat my lunch.

Monday, May 17, 2004

For once the weather liars were right: we had fantastic weather all weekend. Saturday, it was dump day in my parents township, so I helped my dad haul a truckload of stuff to the dump. My dad hung around afterwards at our place and helped me move the new batteries up to the power shed, load the diesel generator into the truck so I could drop it off at the shop, load up a truck load of rocks, etc. At some point we were messing around with our Gravely tractor which hasn't run for a couple years. Ever since we've bought it, the starter binds up on the flywheel and won't flip the engine over. The dorks at the dealership have never figured out why that was a problem when I could sometimes make the thing start by repeatedly hammering on the starter. Duh. That's why people spend 5 figures for a small tractor: so they can sometimes get it to start by abusing the starter. Anyway, we were messing around and miracle of miracles, the engine turned over. We pulled the cover off, used some starting fluid to get it running, pulled off the snow blower, and drove it around. It seems to be working good, although the starter stills hangs up. My fear was that there was a problem with the engine, but I ran it for over four hours hauling rocks and debris all over the property.

After all that, I was going to work in the power shed for the rest of the day, but it was just too nice. I started moving some dirt in order to prepare for laying out the walks and such around the house, helped Debbie with leaves, bagged up construction debris and generally got a lot more exercise than this old bod has seen in a long time. We collapsed on the couch around 9pm with the intention of doing some reading, but we were both falling asleep, so we went to bed.

Sunday was more busy than usual. Bible study and morning service, then we headed home to gather everything for a youth event in the evening, got back to church at 3pm for week three of the Financial Peace University classes, choir practice, evening service, then haul a van load of teens out to one of the church family's place for hot dogs, volley ball, and some general messing around. We met with a youth group from another area church that has a family connection with ours. I think it went well and the two groups seemed to blend pretty well for a first-time meeting (after some obvious prodding by the adults). We landed at home around bed time.

Today, I dropped off the diesel generator for some repair work. This thing has been a vast disappointment to me as well as a waste of a lot of time and money. I have three Japanese-built generators that have never given me a minute of trouble. The three American-built ones have suffered from defects in both workmanship and design. And yes, I have six generators that I have bought for various uses over the last six years. They don't last long when they get a lot of use. At some point, we will switch to a different setup, but for now this is what we have to deal with. In any case, draw your own conclusions in the American vs. Japanese debate, but the outcome is pretty clear to me.

Messing with the generator means I will be working late, then I have to go pick up stuff from last night's youth group outing and deliver it to its proper home. I have some reading for college that I was hoping to finish up tonight. I also have to find someone to teach my class next Sunday and let the choir director know that I won't be there for choir, etc. We are making a quick trip to Florida this weekend to check on hotels for the big Friends-and-Family cruise we are going on next March. This is a pretty big deal (parents 50th wedding anniversary) so we are looking for something nice that isn't too pricey. That's why we decided to go have a look for ourselves instead of trusting a third party. What some people define as "nice" doesn't really align to well with what we consider "nice."

Anyway, that will chew up my entire evening, I'm sure. I also have to get the minutes typed up from the last deacon's meeting before the next one on the 25th. So as usual, more work to get done than hours to do it in.


A more detailed article on the selective reporting from Iraq. Again, it is hardly surprising that the major, east-coast news sources are ignoring this. Influence without accountability, sensationalism, saving face after making a lot of "where's the beef" sort of statements, etc. I've discussed this at length before, so I'll spare everyone a repeat.

A Vox Day piece on why women in the military is a bad idea. I may not agree entirely, but then I would never have expected American soldiers to use Iraqi prisoners as unwilling and unpaid participants in porn flicks.

And this is very long, but very important. The West must grok this if we have any hope of success in the Middle East.

Talk delivered by a famous Israeli scientist at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation, April, 2004

As you know, I usually provide the scientific and technological "entertainment" in our meetings, but, on this occasion, our Chairman suggested that I present my own personal view on events in the part of the world from which I come. I have never been and I will never be a Government official and I have no privileged information. My perspective is entirely based on what I see, on what I read and on the fact that my family has lived in this region for almost 200 years. You may regard my views as those of the proverbial taxi driver, which you are supposed to question, when you visit a country.

I could have shared with you some fascinating facts and some personal thoughts about the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, I will touch upon it only in passing. I prefer to devote most of my remarks to the broader picture of the region and its place in world events. I refer to the entire area between Pakistan and Morocco, which is predominantly Arab, predominantly Moslem, but includes many non-Arab and also significant non-Moslem minorities.

Why do I put aside Israel and its own immediate neighborhood? Because Israel and any problems related to it, in spite of what you might read or hear in the world media, is not the central issue, and has never been the central issue in the upheaval in the region. Yes, there is a 100 year-old Israeli-Arab conflict, but it is not where the main show is. The millions who died in the Iran-Iraq war had nothing to do with Israel. The mass murder happening right now in Sudan, where the Arab Moslem regime is massacring its black Christian citizens, has nothing to do with Israel. The frequent reports from Algeria about the murders of hundreds of civilian in one village or another by other Algerians have nothing to do with Israel. Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait, endangered Saudi Arabia and butchered his own people because of Israel. Egypt did not use poison gas against Yemen in the 60ís because of Israel. Assad the Father did not kill tens of thousands of his own citizens in one week in El Hamma in Syria because of Israel. The Taliban control of Afghanistan and the civil war there had nothing to do with Israel. The Libyan blowing up of the Pan-Am flight had nothing to do with Israel, and I could go on and on and on.

The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would have existed for 100 years. The 22 member countries of the Arab league, from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers. The social status of women is far below what it was in the Western World 150 years ago. Human rights are below any reasonable standard, in spite of the grotesque fact that Libya was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights commission. According to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published under the auspices of the U.N., the number of books translated by the entire Arab world is much smaller than what little Greece alone translates. The total number of scientific publications of 300 million Arabs is less than that of 6 million Israelis. Birth rates in the region are very high, increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in the world.

It is fair to say that this creates an unprecedented breeding ground for cruel dictators, terror networks, fanaticism, incitement, suicide murders and general decline. It is also a fact that almost everybody in the region blames this situation on the United States, on Israel, on Western Civilization, on Judaism and Christianity, on anyone and anything, except themselves.

Do I say all of this with the satisfaction of someone discussing the failings of his enemies? On the contrary, I firmly believe that the world would have been a much better place and my own neighborhood would have been much more pleasant and peaceful, if things were different.

I should also say a word about the millions of decent, honest, good people who are either devout Moslems or are not very religious but grew up in Moslem families. They are double victims of an outside world, which now develops Islamophobia and of their own environment, which breaks their heart by being totally dysfunctional. The problem is that the vast silent majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement but they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong, but are afraid to express their views.

The events of the last few years have amplified four issues, which have always existed, but have never been as rampant as in the present upheaval in the region. These are the four main pillars of the current World Conflict, or perhaps we should already refer to it as "the undeclared World War III". I have no better name for the present situation. A few more years may pass before everybody acknowledges that it is a World War, but we are already well into it.

The first element is the suicide murder. Suicide murders are not a new invention but they have been made popular, if I may use this expression, only lately. Even after September 11, it seems that most of the Western World does not yet understand this weapon. It is a very potent psychological weapon. Its real direct impact is relatively minor. The total number of casualties from hundreds of suicide murders within Israel in the last three years is much smaller than those due to car accidents. September 11 was quantitatively much less lethal than many earthquakes. More people die from AIDS in one day in Africa than all the Russians who died in the hands of Chechnya-based Moslem suicide murderers since that conflict started. Saddam killed every month more people than all those who died from suicide murders since the Coalition occupation of Iraq.

So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded. It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.

But the real fear comes from the undisputed fact that no defense and no preventive measures can succeed against a determined suicide murderer. This has not yet penetrated the thinking of the Western World. The U.S. and Europe are constantly improving their defense against the last murder, not the next one. We may arrange for the best airport security in the world. But if you want to murder by suicide, you do not have to board a plane in order to explode yourself and kill many people. Who could stop a suicide murder in the midst of the crowded line waiting to be checked by the airport metal detector? How about the lines to the check-in counters in a busy travel period? Put a metal detector in front of every train station in Spain and the terrorists will get the buses. Protect the buses and they will explode in movie theaters, concert halls, supermarkets, shopping malls, schools and hospitals. Put guards in front of every concert hall and there will always be a line of people to be checked by the guards and this line will be the target, not to speak of killing the guards themselves. You can somewhat reduce your vulnerability by preventive and defensive measures and by strict border controls but not eliminate it and definitely not win the war in a defensive way. And it is a war!

What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself. No relative of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn’t you expect some of the religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it, if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren’t they interested in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naive children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people are dead.

Suicide murders also have nothing to do with poverty and despair. The poorest region in the world, by far, is Africa. It never happens there. There are numerous desperate people in the world, in different cultures, countries and continents. Desperation does not provide anyone with explosives, reconnaissance and transportation. There was certainly more despair in Saddam’s Iraq then in Paul Bremmer’s Iraq, and no one exploded himself. A suicide murder is simply a horrible, vicious weapon of cruel, inhuman, cynical, well-funded terrorists, with no regard to human life, including the life of their fellow countrymen, but with very high regard to their own affluent well-being and their hunger for power.

The only way to fight this new popular weapon is identical to the only way in which you fight organized crime or pirates on the high seas: the offensive way. Like in the case of organized crime, it is crucial that the forces on the offensive be united and it is crucial to reach the top of the crime pyramid. You cannot eliminate organized crime by arresting the little drug dealer in the street corner. You must go after the head of the "Family".

If part of the public supports it, others tolerate it, many are afraid of it and some try to explain it away by poverty or by a miserable childhood, organized crime will thrive and so will terrorism. The United States understands this now, after September 11. Russia is beginning to understand it. Turkey understands it well. I am very much afraid that most of Europe still does not understand it. Unfortunately, it seems that Europe will understand it only after suicide murders will arrive in Europe in a big way. In my humble opinion, this will definitely happen. The Spanish trains and the Istanbul bombings are only the beginning. The unity of the Civilized World in fighting this horror is absolutely indispensable. Until Europe wakes up, this unity will not be achieved.

The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies. Words can be lethal. They kill people. It is often said that politicians, diplomats and perhaps also lawyers and business people must sometimes lie, as part of their professional life. But the norms of politics and diplomacy are childish, in comparison with the level of incitement and total absolute deliberate fabrications, which have reached new heights in the region we are talking about. An incredible number of people in the Arab world believe that September 11 never happened, or was an American provocation or, even better, a Jewish plot.

You all remember the Iraqi Minister of Information, Mr. Mouhamad Said al-Sahaf and his press conferences when the US forces were already inside Baghdad. Disinformation at time of war is an accepted tactic. But to stand, day after day, and to make such preposterous statements, known to everybody to be lies, without even being ridiculed in your own milieu, can only happen in this region. Mr. Sahaf eventually became a popular icon as a court jester, but this did not stop some allegedly respectable newspapers from giving him equal time. It also does not prevent the Western press from giving credence, every day, even now, to similar liars. After all, if you want to be an antisemite, there are subtle ways of doing it. You do not have to claim that the holocaust never happened and that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem never existed. But millions of Moslems are told by their leaders that this is the case. When these same leaders make other statements, the Western media report them as if they could be true.

It is a daily occurrence that the same people, who finance, arm and dispatch suicide murderers, condemn the act in English in front of western TV cameras, talking to a world audience, which even partly believes them. It is a daily routine to hear the same leader making opposite statements in Arabic to his people and in English to the rest of the world. Incitement by Arab TV, accompanied by horror pictures of mutilated bodies, has become a powerful weapon of those who lie, distort and want to destroy everything. Little children are raised on deep hatred and on admiration of so-called martyrs, and the Western World does not notice it because its own TV sets are mostly tuned to soap operas and game shows. I recommend to you, even though most of you do not understand Arabic, to watch Al Jaseera, from time to time. You will not believe your own eyes.

But words also work in other ways, more subtle. A demonstration in Berlin, carrying banners supporting Saddam’s regime and featuring three-year old babies dressed as suicide murderers, is defined by the press and by political leaders as a peace demonstration. You may support or oppose the Iraq war, but to refer to fans of Saddam, Arafat or Bin Laden as peace activists is a bit too much. A woman walks into an Israeli restaurant in mid-day, eats, observes families with old people and children eating their lunch in the adjacent tables and pays the bill. She then blows herself up, killing 20 people, including many children, with heads and arms rolling around in the restaurant. She is called martyr by several Arab leaders and activist by the European press. Dignitaries condemn the act but visit her bereaved family and the money flows.

There is a new game in town: The actual murderer is called the military wing, the one who pays him, equips him and sends him is now called the political wing and the head of the operation is called the spiritual leader. There are numerous other examples of such Orwellian nomenclature, used every day not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media. These words are much more dangerous than many people realize. They provide an emotional infrastructure for atrocities. It was Joseph Goebels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. He is now being outperformed by his successors.

The third aspect is money. Huge amounts of money, which could have solved many social problems in this dysfunctional part of the world, are channeled into three concentric spheres supporting death and murder. In the inner circle are the terrorists themselves. The money funds their travel, explosives, hideouts and permanent search for soft vulnerable targets. They are surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners, commanders, preachers, all of whom make a living, usually a very comfortable living, by serving as terror infrastructure. Finally, we find the third circle of so-called religious, educational and welfare organizations, which actually do some good, feed the hungry and provide some schooling, but brainwash a new generation with hatred, lies and ignorance. This circle operates mostly through mosques, madrasas and other religious establishments but also through inciting electronic and printed media. It is this circle that makes sure that women remain inferior, that democracy is unthinkable and that exposure to the outside world is minimal. It is also that circle that leads the way in blaming everybody outside the Moslem world, for the miseries of the region.

Figuratively speaking, this outer circle is the guardian, which makes sure that the people look and listen inwards to the inner circle of terror and incitement, rather than to the world outside. Some parts of this same outer circle actually operate as a result of fear from, or blackmail by, the inner circles. The horrifying added factor is the high birth rate. Half of the population of the Arab world is under the age of 20, the most receptive age to incitement, guaranteeing two more generations of blind hatred.

Of the three circles described above, the inner circles are primarily financed by terrorist states like Iran and Syria, until recently also by Iraq and Libya and earlier also by some of the Communist regimes. These states, as well as the Palestinian Authority, are the safe havens of the wholesale murder vendors. The outer circle is largely financed by Saudi Arabia, but also by donations from certain Moslem communities in the United States and Europe and, to a smaller extent, by donations of European Governments to various NGO's and by certain United Nations organizations, whose goals may be noble, but they are infested and exploited by agents of the outer circle. The Saudi regime, of course, will be the next victim of major terror, when the inner circle will explode into the outer circle. The Saudis are beginning to understand it, but they fight the inner circles, while still financing the infrastructure at the outer circle.

Some of the leaders of these various circles live very comfortably on their loot. You meet their children in the best private schools in Europe, not in the training camps of suicide murderers. The Jihad "soldiers" join packaged death tours to Iraq and other hotspots, while some of their leaders ski in Switzerland. Mrs. Arafat, who lives in Paris with her daughter, receives tens of thousands Dollars per month from the allegedly bankrupt Palestinian Authority while a typical local ringleader of the Al-Aksa brigade, reporting to Arafat, receives only a cash payment of a couple of hundred dollars, for performing murders at the retail level. The fourth element of the current world conflict is the total breaking of all laws. The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law, including international law, human rights, free speech and free press, among other liberties. There are naive old-fashioned habits such as respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations. Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free speech protects you when you shout fire in a crowded theater? Should there be death penalty for deliberate multiple murders? These are the old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.

Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that someone would openly stay in a well-known address in Teheran, hosted by the Iranian Government and financed by it, executing one atrocity after another in Spain or in France, killing hundreds of innocent people, accepting responsibility for the crimes, promising in public TV interviews to do more of the same, while the Government of Iran issues public condemnations of his acts but continues to host him, invite him to official functions and treat him as a great dignitary. I leave it to you as homework to figure out what Spain or France would have done, in such a situation.

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals, with some Western media repeating the allegations. The good news is that all of this is temporary, because the evolution of international law has always adapted itself to reality. The punishment for suicide murder should be death or arrest before the murder, not during and not after. After every world war, the rules of international law have changed and the same will happen after the present one. But during the twilight zone, a lot of harm can be done.

The picture I described here is not pretty. What can we do about it? In the short run, only fight and win. In the long run only educate the next generation and open it to the world. The inner circles can and must be destroyed by force. The outer circle cannot be eliminated by force. Here we need financial starvation of the organizing elite, more power to women, more education, counter propaganda, boycott whenever feasible and access to Western media, internet and the international scene. Above all, we need a total absolute unity and determination of the civilized world against all three circles of evil.

Allow me, for a moment, to depart from my alleged role as a taxi driver and return to science. When you have a malignant tumor, you may remove the tumor itself surgically. You may also starve it by preventing new blood from reaching it from other parts of the body, thereby preventing new "supplies" from expanding the tumor. If you want to be sure, it is best to do both.

But before you fight and win, by force or otherwise, you have to realize that you are in a war, and this may take Europe a few more years. In order to win, it is necessary to first eliminate the terrorist regimes, so that no Government in the world will serve as a safe haven for these people. I do not want to comment here on whether the American-led attack on Iraq was justified from the point of view of weapons of mass destruction or any other pre-war argument, but I can look at the post-war map of Western Asia. Now that Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are out, two and a half terrorist states remain: Iran, Syria and Lebanon, the latter being a Syrian colony. Perhaps Sudan should be added to the list. As a result of the conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq, both Iran and Syria are now totally surrounded by territories unfriendly to them. Iran is encircled by Afghanistan, by the Gulf States, Iraq and the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union. Syria is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. This is a significant strategic change and it applies strong pressure on the terrorist countries. It is not surprising that Iran is so active in trying to incite a Shiite uprising in Iraq. I do not know if the American plan was actually to encircle both Iran and Syria, but that is the resulting situation.

In my humble opinion, the number one danger to the world today is Iran and its regime. It definitely has ambitions to rule vast areas and to expand in all directions. It has an ideology, which claims supremacy over Western culture. It is ruthless. It has proven that it can execute elaborate terrorist acts without leaving too many traces, using Iranian Embassies. It is clearly trying to develop Nuclear Weapons. Its so-called moderates and conservatives play their own virtuoso version of the good-cop versus bad-cop game. Iran sponsors Syrian terrorism, it is certainly behind much of the action in Iraq, it is fully funding the Hizbulla and, through it, the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it performed acts of terror at least in Europe and in South America and probably also in Uzbekhistan and Saudi Arabia and it truly leads a multi-national terror consortium, which includes, as minor players, Syria, Lebanon and certain Shiite elements in Iraq. Nevertheless, most European countries still trade with Iran, try to appease it and refuse to read the clear signals.

In order to win the war it is also necessary to dry the financial resources of the terror conglomerate. It is pointless to try to understand the subtle differences between the Sunni terror of Al Qaida and Hamas and the Shiite terror of Hizbulla, Sadr and other Iranian inspired enterprises. When it serves their business needs, all of them collaborate beautifully.

It is crucial to stop Saudi and other financial support of the outer circle, which is the fertile breeding ground of terror. It is important to monitor all donations from the Western World to Islamic organizations, to monitor the finances of international relief organizations and to react with forceful economic measures to any small sign of financial aid to any of the three circles of terrorism. It is also important to act decisively against the campaign of lies and fabrications and to monitor those Western media who collaborate with it out of naivety, financial interests or ignorance.

Above all, never surrender to terror. No one will ever know whether the recent elections in Spain would have yielded a different result, if not for the train bombings a few days earlier. But it really does not matter. What matters is that the terrorists believe that they caused the result and that they won by driving Spain out of Iraq. The Spanish story will surely end up being extremely costly to other European countries, including France, who is now expelling inciting preachers and forbidding veils and including others who sent troops to Iraq. In the long run, Spain itself will pay even more.

Is the solution a democratic Arab world? If by democracy we mean free elections but also free press, free speech, a functioning judicial system, civil liberties, equality to women, free international travel, exposure to international media and ideas, laws against racial incitement and against defamation, and avoidance of lawless behavior regarding hospitals, places of worship and children, then yes, democracy is the solution. If democracy is just free elections, it is likely that the most fanatic regime will be elected, the one whose incitement and fabrications are the most inflammatory. We have seen it already in Algeria and, to a certain extent, in Turkey. It will happen again, if the ground is not prepared very carefully. On the other hand, a certain transition democracy, as in Jordan, may be a better temporary solution, paving the way for the real thing, perhaps in the same way that an immediate sudden democracy did not work in Russia and would not have worked in China.

I have no doubt that the civilized world will prevail. But the longer it takes us to understand the new landscape of this war, the more costly and painful the victory will be. Europe, more than any other region, is the key. Its understandable recoil from wars, following the horrors of World War II, may cost thousands of additional innocent lives, before the tide will turn.

And if that isn't enough for you, get a life.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Another class in the can. Or the crapper. I don't have a lot of confidence that any of the three papers I had to write for this class are anything close to what the instructor wants. But for better or worse, this class is done. Followed, of course, by another class. This one promises to be a real snoozer for me. Human Resource Management, at least what I've seen of it anyplace I've worked, is a lot of fuzzy-headed nonsense with no logic behind it. But I will get through it the same way I've gotten through the last dozen+ classes: sleep deprivation. We get a couple weeks off after this class, which will be a nice break when I can really use it. I have a lot of work to get done this summer and school work is a serious hindrance to getting it done.

In any case, it's all over in October. Some things I will definitely miss, but it will be nice to get my life back.

Weather is rain. And rain. And more rain. And when it stops raining, it's just so that it can rain some more. I know we are low on water, but things are getting soggy. This is too much too fast. Parts of our place are under water that have never been under water before. At least the weather liars are saying that it will clear up tomorrow so I can get some outside work done.

Other than that, not much to report. This is a quiet time of year. The snow is gone, but it isn't warm enough (or dry enough) to do anything. Other than pick morels. Every wooded hill seems to be growing a bumper crop of oversized, jean-clad butts. Most of whom have no business being where they are, but if you ask them, they will claim that they received permission to hunt morels on the private property of others in a personal revelation from God himself. If you think I'm joking, be assured that I am not. Next to deer hunting, morel hunting is the most frequent excuse for trespassing.


This is the latest column from Fred Reed. A lot of people are convinced that Fred is off his head because he is bashing Israel, etc. etc. I don't read this column that way. Maybe you have to read a lot of his columns before you understand his rhetorical style. Or maybe I'm just being obtuse.

And for something that cat lovers will hate: Check this cat carrier out. Just don't be drinking anything when you do.

At that's about all I have time for.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Another very short post. I took yesterday off work and spent 15 hours straight sitting in front of my computer typing papers. Today is also going to be mostly focused on finishing up homework for Thursday. I probably won't post again until Friday.

Weather is crazy. It's 82 degrees F with a really spectacular light show outside my office window. I assume that thunderstorms mean the temperature will be dropping for the weekend, but in the meantime, I have front row seats to a pretty good light show.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Well, I got quite a shock when I logged onto the blog this morning. At some point over the weekend, Blogspot has completly revamped it's site. There is a bunch of new stuff that I can do here. So far, I've set things up so that anyone can comment on any of the posts. If that gets out of hand, I may change that, but I doubt enough people read this for things to get out of control. It's going to take me some time to play with all the new stuff, and time is something I don't have a lot of at this point. It looks like I may be able to completely replace the existing web page sooner than I thought.

Anyway, busy weekend (so what's new?): Saturday was a work day at church and my mom's birthday. That pretty much did in Saturday. Sunday started early. I'm one of the Pastor's Prayer Partners; we take turns meeting early on Sunday before anyone else shows up to pray individually, then as a group. Then teaching, morning service, home for a quick lunch, week two of the Financial Peace University, evening service, and a meeting with the youth ministry leaders. This meeting wasn't quite as productive as the last, but ministry isn't all about efficiency. We're not running a car factory. In any case, we didn't roll in until 10:30 last night.

Weather is finally looking like spring. We're getting a lot of rain, but we need it. The best part is the temps are staying above 50 degrees F, and today looks to be well in the 70's. At long last. If anyone is interested in Morel mushrooms, they are springing up like... well... like mushrooms. The blacks are everywhere and whites are starting to show.


Iraq is more of a mess every day. Everything that has happened was predictable and in fact was predicted by many inside and outside the military. The neo-conservatives that Bush has chosen to surround himself with didn't feel it was important to listen. Proverbs talks about the wisdom of having many counselors. One supposes that a multitude that all think the same way and say the same things isn't what Solomon was referring to. I could give a hundred links to demonstrate my point, but why bother?


Intel has abandoned its next generation processor. Instead, multiple Pentium IV cores will be packed on a single chip using a smaller feature size and run at lower clock speeds. Initially, in any case. I'm seeing a lot of speculation as to why and what this means, but not many facts. It sure looks like good news for AMD, which in turn is good news for PC buyers. A year ago, there were death rattles coming from AMD; this may be the break they need. This is worth keeping an eye on.

Lunch is almost over. Back to the grind.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Well, I made it through the last couple of days. It turns out that it was a good thing that I stayed at the church Wednesday night as most of the people that had signed up for the prayer vigil didn't show. I was able to stay up until the pastor came in at 3 am Thursday except for a couple short naps while two other couples came in for their time slots. It was 4:02 am when I got to bed and my alarm went off at 4:52 am for the prayer breakfast in Traverse City.

The prayer breakfast was a lot bigger deal than I expected. There were nearly 400 people there. It went ok, but it did bring something home to me that I've noticed more and more. One can assume that the vast majority of people at a prayer breakfast are professing Christians, yet I have never seen such a display of complete contempt for others than I witnessed Thursday morning. The MC tried in vain for a full 5 minutes to get people to sit down and shut up. Only when the color guard brought in the flag and the National Anthem was sung did people finally stop talking. Alas, it didn't last. As soon as the opening prayer was finished, everyone went right back to nattering. A madrigal from one of the middle schools came on stage and tried to sing, but there was so much noise they couldn't hear the director's pitch pipe. They finally did get through a few selections, but I heard almost nothing. Later, each of the tables had a time of prayer. Our table did ok, although our resident windbag (see below) was talking and missed the instructions to keep your prayer short and to the point because time was limited and they wanted to give everyone a chance to pray. The table next to us had an elderly couple that talked to each other non-stop the entire time the rest of the people at their table were trying to pray. A hostess finally came by and told them to either shut up or leave, but by that point the prayer time was over.

I was also faced with the fact that most if not all politicians are self-centered windbags. Each table at the breakfast had been sponsored by someone. Ours was sponsored by some guy that used to work in the Justice Department (under Bush I, I think). Talk about someone in love with the sound of their own voice. His mouth never stopped until it was time for him to get on stage; then nothing but absolute silence was expected. Old people wonder why teens don't respect them. About twenty middle school students witnessed a dramatic demonstration by this clown how the world works: "important" people can do as they please and everyone else is lucky that they are allowed to exist.

I had an encounter with another of these guys later. The keynote speaker was my current instructor, so I went up to talk to him afterwards. Some jerk steps right in front of me in mid-sentence, blabs some meaningless drivel in my instructor's direction, then prances off. I knew he was a politician, because he was wearing a tag that identified him as a circuit court judge selection committee something-or-other. It was a typical government bureaucrat title and took up three lines on a 2" by 3" badge. Other than making sure everyone knew he was a Really Important Person, I can't think of what purpose wearing that badge served. And his behavior is exactly what I have come to expect from petty functionaries.

It's like that Jesus thing never happened....

Other than that it was great.

Oops. Meeting. More in a minute.

Well. I'm back. I did some polishing on the previous stuff. Now some new stuff.

Study group was productive and we are mostly set for our final project. One person can't be there, so we completed the written report and videotaped her part of the presentation. I'll get that transferred to some sort of media file so we can pull it right into our Power Point slides. It feels good having a major chunk of work done a full week early. Of course, I still have two other papers to write, but at least I don't have three...

Class was tough simply because I was so tired. I missed a lot of what was said because I kept zoning out. At least I didn't have to drive. I fell sound asleep about 20 minutes into the trip home. I got home and in bed around 1 am.

I woke up fairly early, but decided it just wasn't worth it and fell back to sleep for a few hours. I didn't get into work until after 10:30. Looks like I use up some more vacation time I don't have...

Not much else going on. Debbie is supposed to meet me in Traverse City for some shopping and dinner someplace. Tomorrow is a work day at the church, so I doubt I'll get much accomplished at home.

The news is nothing but talk of the mistreatment of Iraqi POW's. They all just seem to say the same things over and over, so I won't do the same and repeat what I've posted before.


Scientists have created a DNA robot. It consists of a pair of legs that walk down two parallel DNA "railroad tracks." It can't carry anything yet, but give them time. I just hope these guys can avoid the luddites.

Back to work.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Short post today: I need to use my lunch break to finish up a paper for class tomorrow. Today ought to be interesting. I have work, then youth group, then I have the 1-3am time slot for my church's 24-hour prayer vigil, then a ticket to a 7am talk that my college instructor is giving here in Traverse City, then study group, then school. I ought to be completely zombied by Friday.

More bombs going off in Europe. This time it was Athens that got hit. Everyone insists it has nothing to do with the Olympics that start in 100 days. Right. Does anyone remember what happened at the last Athens Olympics?

Well, I have to get writing. I need to e-mail the final product to everyone before I leave work at 4pm. More later if I have time.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Last night was about as uneventful as I expected: some shopping, then home for homework, cooking up lunch food, organizing, and some financial planning. We just started the 13-week Financial Peace University series at our church, so we thought we had better get our stuff organized. We have gotten very sloppy in the last couple of years and it's time to get back on track. There are several homework assignments we are supposed to get done by next week, so we sat down last night and made a list of things we spend money on. It was scary to see how much we were spending on gas for the generator and propane. Those two alone are nearly $800 a month. No wonder we don't have any money. I wish I had a vacation day available to get some help and get the power shed completed. We are very close and that one thing will cut the generator run-time from essentially 24 hours a day to 6-8 hours a day. I don't know what we can do about the propane, but we will be looking hard at that as well. We only have two debts; my truck and the house, so we aren't looking too shabby right now. We just need to start paying attention.


Iraq is lost. The neo-cons were wrong; the Iraqi people failed to leap at a chance to be a Western democracy. Many said they were wrong from the start, but no one in the Bush White House was listening. After all, if God be for us, who can be against us? In any case, any chance we had of salvaging the situation was lost when the photos of American soldiers abusing prisoners were released. This abuse served no purpose other than the entertainment of American GI's. If you are trying to extract information quickly, you may resort to taping electrical wires to a prisoner and threatening to zap them or put a gun to their head and demand answers. If the POW proves to have nerves of steel, you may even be forced to follow through your threats with actual violence, if the situation is dire enough (such as finding a bomb planted in a populated area). A careful reading of military history will reveal that these things have always been done by everyone, including the U.S. What you don't do is take pictures as trophies. That implies pride in your work. No one worthy the designation "human" could be proud of causing physical or even psychological pain to another human. Forcing the POW's to perform sex acts on each other was pure sadism. It cannot be justified by any need for intelligence because gathering intelligence had nothing to do with it. It is obvious from the photos that the GI's looking on, including the women, were enjoying the show. All of Iraq hates us now, and they are fully justified in doing so.

Our options now seem to be reduced to two: Cut and run. We can declare victory, but no one else will see it that way. We will become like Russia; a loud drunk declaring our self-importance while the rest of the world laughs. Or we stay and become something other that what we are now. We abandon any notion of being a Republic, admit we are Empire and start acting the part. That means treating places like Saudi Arabia as client states ("Pump oil until the price is under $20 a barrel, or we will do it for you."), and bringing Iraq to heel by any means necessary, which will include creating several graves of a hundred head, or something similar.

I'm not sure I want to live in either place, but it seems I have no choice.

Back to work.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Wow. Almost a week went by and I didn't make a single post. It's been incredibly nuts around here, but what is new. Wednesday, I had to leave work early because we were taking the youth group out to rake leaves at several of our church members homes right after school let out. We only got one yard done before we ran out of time. I had a level bed load of very packed, wet leaves and a van load of tired, hungry teens when we were done. I couldn't figure out why the yard was in such bad shape, then I remember that we never got over to her house last fall to rake. Bottom line is that we will need to schedule at least one more raking day. I got home at a reasonable time Wednesday, which is unusual. I needed the sleep.

Thursday was fairly typical, except I forgot that I had a truck full of leaves. The kids did a great job of packing them in there, so it took me a half hour to get them out of the truck. Other than that, it was the usual long drive to college, meet with my study group, sit through four hours of class, long drive home, and fall into bed around 1:30 am Friday.

I took Friday off work to get ready for an overnight trip we were doing with the youth group. We took them down to Comstock Park to watch the Whitecaps play. The weather looked horrible and we were sure we were going to get washed out, but other than a few sprinkles, we stayed dry and the Whitecaps even won! I had heard that minor league ballgames had a lot of goofy stuff going on other than the game. This was my first, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but they were right. The game almost takes second place to all the crazy races and contests between every half inning. The other part of the game that no one told me about was the need for a hard-hat. Minor league hitters hit a lot of foul balls over the backstop. There was a steady rain of baseballs dropping 30 or 40 feet into the crowd. How we got through the game without someone getting killed can only be described as a miracle. We were close enough to the net that it wasn't much of a problem for us, but there were a couple close calls in the rows behind us. After the game, we headed to one of the other youth leader's parents place nearby for a bonfire, s'mores, hot dogs, and other health food. We spent the night there then just vegged Saturday morning until time to load up the van and head back home. Everyone seemed to have a good time, so I'm sure it's something we will do again.

Saturday night was home work and lesson prep for Sunday. Sunday was normal; morning Bible study, morning service, home for a short nap and lunch, back to church for the first installment of a 13-week series on financial management, evening service, then home. I spent several hours sorting through the mountain of junk mail that I had been ignoring for over a week. I hate junk mail almost as much as I hate spam. I hate trying to find the important stuff buried in it; I hate having to separate all the credit card applications (several a day) for shredding; I hate hauling the grocery sack a week to the recycle bin. You would think companies would get the hint; if I haven't bought anything from you in the last 10 years, sending me 20 catalogs in one week with "URGENT You must order from this catalog, or we will stop sending you catalogs" on the cover is a sure way to guarantee you will not be on my preferred vendor list.

Anyway, that brings you up to date on our lives. Oh, Debbie made it back from Las Vegas Thursday. I saw her for about five minutes before I had to head out Friday. She had a good time with her Mom; but they only saw Tom Jones once. I think that is some sort of record.

Now you are up to date.

Today is going to be uneventful: work, Sam's Club, some sort of card shop, then home for some serious heads-down writing until the wee hours.


If you want to know what should be happening in Iraq, ask Jerry Pournelle. I only wish someone in the Bush White House was listening.

And our schools continue down the road to utter stupidity. I have to wonder how much longer the institution called "public schools" will be tolerated by anyone other than the least intelligent in our country.

Fred Reed's latest article touches on this same subject. We are breeding a permanently stupid underclass. Things could get interesting.

John Derbyshire has something to say on the subject that is worth reading.

And Fred Reed again on American soldiers torturing Iraqies.

Well, that ought to cheer everyone up.