Friday, September 30, 2005

Not much to report other than soccer practice last night and then home for dinner and a movie. The local library is collecting the movies from this summer's Traverse City Film Festival. Nestina grabbed one called Tarnation when she was at the library a while back, and last night was the first night that we were all home at the same time. It was certainly different. I haven't decided if I liked it or not. I may have an opinion later after I've had a chance to process it more. The main story line resonated with me; a normal person completely destroyed by the psychiatric industry, and left to live out the rest of her life with severe mental disability. I've watched this process in people I know and even members of my own family, although not in any way close to the degree seen in this movie. Remember, if your kid is hyper-active, give him some pot to smoke. It's far less damaging than anything a doctor will prescribe, and, unlike prescription drugs, it will work. Better yet, avoid refined sugars, caffeine, and red dye. That cures between 75% to 80% of all ADHD.

Not much else other than a spam map. You can zoom right in and see where the spammers are. We just need to find the guys that beat the Russian spammer to death and offer them free plane tickets, free food, and free lodging to the US.

I've got to go; I'm supposed to meet Debbie and Ruby Tuesdays for dinner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Well, I didn't get to post anything later on Monday or at all on Tuesday. I'm going to try to make up for lost time today.

In local news, I just received a phone call from the head of the Kalkaska AYSO and my girls will probably get kicked off their field again this Saturday. The reason for this is simple: Paul, the director of the Kaliseum (and, by his actions one would think, the owner, although the Kalkaska taxpayers that are still paying for the place might take issue), has booked some league from out of town on our field every Saturday. I knew this a while back, and just as I figured, no one has the balls to tell me about it up front. The last time, they used the excuse that our original schedule had our home games on September 17 as tentative and they just assumed that meant we weren't playing. I wonder what the bullshit excuse will be this time, eh Mark? Just how far have you shoved your head up Paul's ass, anyway?

Did I mention I'm pissed off?

Paul has a problem with me because I fried is ass for his habitual violation of child labor law, so in typical Chicken-Shit-Paul fashion, he is taking it out on a bunch of high school girls. Way to go, Paul; you da man. Or not. Tonight I will be drafting a nasty letter to all of the parents telling them exactly what their $65 is buying. AYSO money built that field, and Paul is now booking out-of-town teams to play on it when AYSO already has it reserved, because the league pays. Not to AYSO, but to the Kaliseum. AYSO, of course, figures they already paid to use the field by paying to build it. I'm sure the higher-ups in AYSO will be very interested to hear all about this.

I'm about two seconds from being All Done with anything and anyone in Kalkaska.

In other news, nothing is really going on. I sat for two hours last night sorting through junk mail from just the last few days. I'd just burn the lot of it, but about once every three days, something shows up that I actually care about. So I have to go through the (literally) three-foot-high stack piece by piece. There are a lot of other things I could have used that two hours for. I'm not sure what the answer is. I've asked the vendors to not send me their crap because I'm just not interested. They send it anyway. Most of the catalogs are from companies I have never heard of, nor would I ever do business with. Yet the catalogs Just. Keep. Coming. You would think that after sending me a 300-page catalog every few months for the last six years, and never getting a single order, that someone would get a clue. And the newspapers. I have no idea what happened recently but all of a sudden my mailbox is jammed with papers from Elk Rapids, Bellaire, Mancelonna, and on and on and on. I get at least one of these a day. It started with the Bellaire paper. I received my complimentary copy when it started up, and was told I would get two more. They also gave me prices for a subscription if I wanted it to continue. I never gave them a dime, but I am still receiving my weekly "complimentary copy" over nine months after the first issue. In that time, the Bellaire paper has been joined by a nearly identical paper from every wide spot in the road in a fifty-mile radius of our home. Interesting business model to say the least. I suspect my tax dollars are backing this in some way.

I said all that to say this: last night while I was sorting junk mail, I watched a movie (Constantine) that I didn't order, and that Columbia House had delivered because I had lost the reply card in the stacks of junk mail that come to our house. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't have bought it, given a choice.

I've built up a pile of links over the last few days and I don't have time to do them justice. Remember that just because I link to something doesn't mean that I necessarily agree with it, just that it is asking questions we really need to think about.

Most long-time Republicans have taken to calling the Republican Party the Stupid Party, largely because key members in the hierarchy seemed incapable of firing a pistol without hitting their own foot. The current administration is typical. In spite of controlling the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court, nothing seems to go their way. Well, it looks like it goes deeper than just the party leadership. It seems the entire conservative movement is cursed with a bad case of the stupids. When any movement starts losing people like Dr. Pournelle, it ain't long for this world.

Fred Reed has a new essay up at his place: Whimpering About Poverty: Maybe You Should Try the Real Thing. Real poverty in America is rare. What we mostly have is lazy people making bad choices compounded by sheer stupidity. Why should I spare one second of pity on someone so stupid that they can't figure out that the way out of the ghetto isn't becoming a pregnant crack-whore at 14? I hear a lot of yammering about the plight of the poor in our inner-cities (never mind that there is a higher rate of poverty in rural Kalkaska), when all I see is self-inflicted blight.

You can always tell when a stupid person knows that what he is doing is stupid. He will invariably claim to be just doing his job. Arrest, confiscation of property, time in jail, lawyers, court appearances, all by the book. All the forms filled out in triplicate with the pink copy filed with all the other pink copies, and the blue copy filed with all the other blue copies, and the white copy filed with all the other white copies. And what dastardly deeds lead to these charges? Well, from what we can tell, this man is a terrorist because:

a) He was wearing a rain coat. In London. In the rain. Go figure. I thought rain gear was legally required before leaving home in England.
b) He checked his voice mail on his cell phone. Imagine. Paying $50 - $100 a month for a high-tech communication tool, and having the audacity to use it. People these days.
c) He arrived early for his train and sat quietly waiting for it. If this were New York, this definitely would stick out among the diversity wearing pants ten sizes too big, wandering around shouting obscenities at no one, and defecating on the floor. But I understand that in a London tube station, it is quite common to see people arrive early and wait quietly for the next train.
d) He works for a company that had recently sent out all the new-hires on some sort of break-the-ice assignment to take pictures of local land marks. OK, so on the dork-o-meter, this ranks up there with drumming circles, but I'm not sure it qualifies as potential terrorism.
c) He speaks with a (European) accent. Just like all those terrorists from 9/11.

My God!!!! Break out the pitch forks and torches!! Yes, I know. This was London, not New York. But for forty years, I've watched the United States follow right along behind England. Sometimes it's only a few months lag, other times it may be four or five years. (Aside: Evangelicals in the US may want to keep this in mind while looking at the fate of mega-churches in England. I'll give you a hint; the plywood industry is doing nicely.)

China is heading back to space. This time, there will be two astronauts, and they will be leaving the first module of a space station on orbit. The Chinese are not just replaying Mercury. They are out to eat our lunch and we are doing everything we can to help them. (shrug) Sometimes, you just get what you deserve (see above rant on "poverty").

Two from the AnalPhilosopher: Women and Careers, and Crying Wolf. The only thing keeping the Stupid Party in power is that the Democrats have become the Cry Baby Party.

And Vox Day takes on every guy's favorite topic: Breasts. That and the new found liberation women seem to feel about displaying them anywhere and everywhere. Tell me again, how exactly was women's lib supposed to be about eliminating the exploitation of women?

And that is all I have time for today.

Monday, September 26, 2005

It's been a few days since I've had a minute to post anything. Sorry about that. It's been pretty crazy around our house (I know, what's new).

First, of course, is that it looks like we got lucky with Rita. "Lucky" is, of course, a relative term. The people who own homes that are nothing but naked slabs probably don't feel too lucky. But the last minute hook probably saved the refining industry and some of the most built-up areas of the coast. The role that the marshlands played in all this also needs to be studied and understood by the pave-it-over-and-build-condos-on-it crowd. And just because Rita wasn't as bad as it could have been or wasn't as bad as Katrina doesn't mean we can just forget about those that were effected.

As previously reported, as of Thursday, we are no longer Verizon customers. Something that Debbie or I did or said must have seriously jerked some chains, because when Debbie left for work this morning, there were three Verizon vehicles out on our road. I hope they got the message that we are no longer a customer. I'd really hate for them to waste a bunch of money burying all new cable to our house for nothing. Really. Honest. I'd feel real bad for maybe two seconds.

In any case, we are set up with cell phones. If you are trying to call us on our old number, you will not get through. We are contacting people as fast as we can with our new numbers. If we haven't gotten to you yet, be patient; we will.

Thursday night was also Tip Night at G's, the local pizza joint. My soccer team waited tables for four hours and made over $340 dollars for the local AYSO organization. Good job, ladies!

Friday, I had scheduled a soccer practice because we were all serving food when we normally practice. Very few could make it, but those of us that did had fun. Several of us sat around after practice and talked. That's the part about youth ministry I miss the most. I wish I had more time to spend with everyone on the team outside of practices and games.

Saturday was, of course, soccer games in Gladwin. Our first game didn't go too well. We just couldn't seem to get it together and lost 4-0. The second game we played much better, but still lost 3-1. The offense is really starting to gel. We might have it together in time for the last game of the season....

Debbie was at a retreat Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. She stopped by the house while Nestina and I were at the soccer game, then headed downstate to her mom's place. I drove down Sunday to meet her there for a benefit dinner. One of her high school classmates has cancer and as you would expect has really racked up the bills. There was a very good turnout and between those paying for the meal, the silent auction, the live auction, and the 50/50 raffles, the family should have gotten a big boost.

We got home last night after 11pm and finally fell into bed around 1am. I'm really hammering down the caffeine today, and it isn't working. There is soccer practice after work, but other than that, I have a night off.

That's all I have time for right now. There is a bunch of stuff I need to link to, but that will have to wait for later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's a Category 5!!

It's official: Rita's winds just hit 165 mph. At least the latest predictions have it going around Louisiana. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for small favors. There will still be a lot of rain hitting the Big Easy, so hang on folks. It's going to be an interesting couple of days.
As of about two minutes ago, we have no telephone service. The trick was to not say anything when the automated attendant asked to briefly describe what you want. Then it gives you some example statements. The problem was that I was saying "Cancel Service" instead of "Change Service." So instead of telling me it didn't understand what I wanted, it just put me on hold until I gave up and disconnected. I'm not sure it is possible to be any more stupid than that.

"Sir, why do wish to cancel your phone service?"


Which. of course, I didn't say because I was raised better than that. In any case, I will be shopping for cell phones tomorrow.

Bye bye Verizon! May you rot in hell.

A Milestone (of sorts)

Our web-stat counter broke 1,000 sometime in the last 24 hours. That's the number of page hits we've had since August 5, 2005 when I signed up with I would have never expected the number of visitors, and I certainly would have never guessed at the geographic distribution.

Setting aside my normal sarcasm, it is both gratifying and humbling to realize that there are those that take time to come here and read my ravings against the phone company, or detailing what was for dinner last night. As a certified geek (just ask Nestina) I probably shouldn't be in awe of technology, but the ability to touch family, friends, or just random people over the entire globe from a $500 appliance in my living room (OK, so in my case, it's my employers $500 appliance in my cube) ought to impress us just a bit.

Sincere thanks to all for stopping by.
Some items of interest from today's skim of the internet:

Jerry Pournelle has an interesting article on his mail page from a European observer of our response to Katrina. The above link doesn't go directly to that excerpt; you will have to scroll down a bit (to the phrase "And a more serious view follows") Some of the important points from the interview with Emmanual Todd:

What really resonates with my representation of the United States... is the fact that the United States was disabled and ineffectual. The myth of the efficiency and super-dynamism of the American economy is in danger.

The great weakness of this economic system is that it does not rest on a foundation of real domestic industrial capacity.

[T]o manage a natural catastrophe, you don't need sophisticated financial techniques, call options that fall due on such and such a date, tax consultants, or lawyers specialized in funds extortion at a global level, but you do need materiel, engineers, and technicians, as well as a feeling of collective solidarity.

The Americans knew how to dominate the Nazi storm with a mastery they show themselves incapable of today in just a single one of their regions.

This social system no longer rests on the 'Founding Fathers' Calvinist work ethic and taste for saving - but, on the contrary, on a new ideal (I don't dare speak of ethics or morals): the quest for the biggest payoff for the least effort..... The gang of black unemployed who loot a supermarket and the group of oligarchs who try to organize the "heist" of the century of Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves have a common principle of action: predation.

What seems to me more striking is the way this America that incarnates the absolute opposite of the Soviet Union is on the point of producing the same catastrophe by the opposite route.
Many in America (and I am sure we are hardly the only ones to have fallen victim to this particular logic error) assume that the way things are is the way things will always be. America is here today, so it must always exist. I'm pretty sure the average Roman citizen thought much the same right up to the day Rome fell. A more modern example is the Soviet Union, which Mr. Todd points to in the interview. We are not the end of history. We will not usher in the Millenial Kingdom, no matter what nutter Christian Reconstructionists claim. The United States will, at some point, cease to exist in its present form. We seem to be following the path laid out by history, which we, of course, no longer teach in our schools.

While working in the automobile industry, I learned that all domestic car manufacturers (and most manufacturers in any industry) don't really build things any more. They are essentially banks that finance the sale of products produced, in whole or in part, in some other country. GM looses money every time they sell a passenger car. But that's OK; they make it up by providing the financing through GMAC. That wouldn't be so bad except odds are the car you bought landed in the US either fully assembled, or as parts made overseas, then assembled here in the US. I worked for Volkswagen which lost money on every product line, but made up for it playing various financial games with currencies, and buying and selling other brands. From what I know of every major industry, it is much the same: product takes a back seat to financial games. I'm sure I just lack the imagination to see why this is good thing.

A series of closely related blog entries:

Maybe there is hope
Women, fear and embottled genies
The Death of Feminism

I've said it before and I will say it again and I will continue to say it as long as there are those still advocating the failure called feminism: it is a bad deal for families; it is a bad deal for children; it is a bad deal for men; it is a bad deal for women. The only beneficiaries seem to be high school and college guys who now have access to unlimited, commitment-free sex. How being a spitoon for a string of random males' sperm empowers women is beyond me, but then again, I'm just "book smart" and "not intelligent" according to some members of my family.

Many, including yours truly, predicted this day would come: Michael Schiavo is writing a book. Somehow I don't think he will attempt to explain his peculiar way of showing affection: killing his wife by dehydration. Would someone explain to me again how all this wasn't just about the money?

It seems my co-worker's fear is coming to pass. A Catagory 4 storm that could push up to Catagory 5 is working across the Gulf of Mexico. If you look at the predicted storm tracks over the last 48 hours, you will notice they keep shifting to a more northerly path. Sort of like Katrina did. Some models are still showing a hook right into Louisiana. Pray that doesn't happen. Of course, no matter where Rita hits, it won't be pretty.

And that's all I have time for today.

Sending Smoke Signals

For a telephone company, Verizon has a lot to learn about how to make use of a telephone in a business. Today, I sent them a message that even the brain-damaged morons employed there will understand: I signed a stop-payment order on my Verizon bill. We'll see if having their ACH request bounce back to them gets anyone's attention. Most likely not. What I expect is a letter stating that my payment bounced and my service with Verizon is in jeopardy if I don't call their stupid 800 number and sit on hold for hours on end. Which I have been doing for days trying to cancel my non-functioning phone service.

Automatic payments are certainly convenient, but you put all the cards into the vendor's hand when you give them an open-ended authorization to charge whatever they want whenever they want against your bank account. Automatically billing a credit card at least gives you the opportunity to contest a charge; an automatic debit against your checking account leaves you almost no recourse. Even the stop payment option is very limited. For example, I just paid $28 to stop a single payment on a specific day for a specific amount. If Verizon re-sends the debit through ACH the next day, or for a different amount, it will come out of my checking account, and I will have no recourse whatsoever. Other than sitting on hold for hours at a time and begging Verizon to please stop stealing money out of my checking account.

If this doesn't work, I guess I can always resort to destroying every piece of Verizon equipment I can find. The little green boxes on the side of the road are now made of plastic instead of metal, so I assume a little home-made napalm would do quite a number on them.

Anyway, not much else going on.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just a quick note before I have to go to an eight-hour meeting.

My soccer team lost Saturday. Badly. I lost track of the score. Practice today will be interesting. I knew we were playing a really good team, but I didn't think they were that good. But the other team was very gracious, and my girls held their poise; not an easy thing to do when the other team can essentially score at will.

I love Day by Day. Today's cartoon makes a point that all Christians need to think very hard about. Katrina was not God's finger punishing the infidels in New Orleans. If God wants to impress me, He can destroy Las Vegas with a hurricane, rather than a below-sea-level city in an area that gets hit with multiple hurricanes and tropical storms every year. And I sure wish the ladies at my work would dress like that. Well, some of them, at least.

And I have to go. More later today.


It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!!


Here is a keyboard that will help you blog like a pirate.

Friday, September 16, 2005

All Done Part II

Verizon joins the list of those with whom I am All Done. Six years ago, we paid a big stack of dead Presidents to have phone service run to our house. We paid for buried cable, repeaters, etc. What we got was 3,000 feet of buried service. Worse, it was buried about 3" in the ground right down the center of the county road we live on. So for six years, our phones have stopped working whenever heavy trucks drive down the road, it rains, our road gets graded, or for no apparent reason at all. Back in the first week of July, we started getting static on our voice line. There was a gas well being drilled on the back of the property, so some heavy equipment had driven down the road. The static got worse over the next few days, so I opened a call ticket on the Verizon web site. Their repair guy came out, switched our line one and line two around (so now the static is on our data line), left a note to call Javier Barajas at 989.732.8501 to get it fixed right, and closed out the ticket. This has been our typical experience. The tech knows that the whole installation is a hash, and rather than get bogged down in actually addressing the root problem (improper installation), they just jury rig something, close the call ticket, and run away.

I called Javier. He was working on it. They were trying to figure out how to install the line the way it should have been six years ago. This seemed odd to me; that Verizon is not aware of how to install a length of buried cable. But maybe there is some serious mojo I'm not aware of, like the sacrifice of a virgin. We wait. And wait. I call back a week or so later. The crew is waiting on miss-dig. I asked him what they needed to miss? There wasn't anything under the road other than their own wire. The crew will be there Thursday. Promise.

Silly me, I didn't ask which Thursday. I didn't even ask which year. So I wait. No crew. I call. Thursday. Really this time. They're just waiting on miss-dig. I explain again that there isn't anything to miss. There will never be any flags no matter how many times they call, because the only utility we have run is the phone line. Oh. Well, they will be there Thursday. Honest.

Well, it is now Friday, and no sign of the phone crew. So in about five minutes, we will have no phone service at our house. I'm All Done; pulling the plug on this nonsense. I've been paying $70/month for phones that don't work at all for significant chunks of time, and have never worked properly. So this is it. At some point, I will sign us up for cell phones. Alltel phones seem to work fairly well at our place. I will have to get them from the Kalkaska store and take a pass on my Munson discount. I've been to the Traverse City Alltel store several times to get information on just what the Munson discount is, and I can only assume everyone there must have previously worked for Lark Lawn and Garden, Brown Lumber, or Verizon. I don't think you could hit room temperature if you added all their IQ's together. The Kalkaska store is staffed by people that seem to actually want to sell you a phone and a service contract. Not only is that rare anywhere in America, it is virtually unheard of in Northern Michigan.

So we will be out of touch for a while. Updates here will only be when I can sneak on from work, as we will have no internet access from the house. And give ol' Javier a call and tell him I said he is an ass. I'd do it myself, but I am All Done.

I just spent 45 minutes on hold waiting for the next available Verizon representative. And of course you can do anything you need to do over the internet except cancel your service. We wouldn't want to make that easy to do. I wonder what MBA genius sporting a diploma with the ink still wet thinks that this is somehow changing my mind that Verizon is run by idiots?

And another hour of my life wasted on Verizon while I sit on hold. Monday I will be putting a stop-payment order at the bank. We'll see if they respond to that.
Last night was soccer practice, Kalkaska's varsity soccer game (a 2-2 tie), a ref's meeting, and other soccer administrivia. Bottom line was I didn't get home until after 9pm. Did I mention that this soccer thing seems to be eating me alive?

Anyway, a bunch of links. First, A Stitch in Haste tackles several interrelated topics:

Perhaps They'll Give Her an SUV Instead
Why is Flood Insurance Publicly Provided?
What is 250,000 Squared?
On Chips and Chins

Here at work, we use GroupWise, Novell's scheduling, e-mail, task management, whatever else tool. The old term for it was groupware, but I haven't heard that used in a decade. In any case, the administration of GroupWise is a huge task that has been dumped on various people in our networking group over the years who already had 40-hour-per-week jobs. Well, some bright boys in IS have decided that GroupWise will be taken from the networking group and dumped into the applications group where I work. It certainly makes sense on one level, but after the recent layoffs, it's not like we have an extra full-time employee just sitting around doing nothing. So this has turned into a bit of a pissing match, which does wonders for employee moral. In any case, it seems we are not alone. Scott Adams has spies in Munson's IS department.

The Theory of Gravity is so materialistic, humanistic, and atheistic. And besides, it's just a theory. I'm glad to see that there are brave souls out there following the path blazed by the Intelligent Design crowd. Read all about Intelligent Grappling, and the fight for equal access to the public school science classrooms currently in the grip of atheistic humanists trying to turn all of our children into homosexuals.

I have to run out for some food. More in a minute.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Yesterday, I worked late, went home and ate dinner, read for a bit, then went to bed early. I think the excitement has gone out of my life.

Today will be a bit of a link-fest. We start with two posts from A Stitch in Haste on the evil that lurks in the hearts of men (if you know what that's originally from, you are older than I am). Notice that the first two have nothing to do with a natural disaster. Natural disasters simply loosen the lid enough to let the real person out. That these kind of events are both rare and shocking at least tells us that civilization works in a broad sense. The last is Katrina-related, but certainly not caused by Katrina. The defense from the medical staff is simply bone-chilling: "To my knowledge -- and I'll go to my grave with this -- there was no one there who could have been salvaged." Sorry "Dr." John J. Kokemor, but you have no business practicing medicine. I have no idea of the size of this medical center, and maybe it was true that right at the moment of evacuation there were 34 people "in their death throes." But this kind of callousness is inexcusable. Salvaged indeed.

Two articles that point out better than anything I have seen what people like Fred Reed mean when they talk about two nations living in one set of borders. Read this article, watch the video, look at the slides. Then tell me what that group of people from New Orleans have in common with this person:

Letter from South Louisiana

Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We're South Louisiana.

We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We're not much on formalities like that.

And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn't ask for this and neither did we, so we're just going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.

We're a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don't cotton much to outside interference, but we're not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.

Just don't get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don't try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters. We're not going to listen. We're stubborn that way.

You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you'd probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.

We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't.

But we'll try not to judge you while we're in your town.

Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.

Often we don't make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God's name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?

We can't really explain that. It is what it is.

You've probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.

The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.

We are what made this place a national treasure. We're good people. And don't be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.

When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.

But don't pity us. We're gonna make it. We're resilient. After all, we've been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That's got to count for something.

OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.

But what the hell.

And one more thing: In our part of the country, we're used to having visitors. It's our way of life. So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.

That is our promise. That is our faith.

More from Chris Rose here, here, here, and here.

Speaking of evil, the AnalPhilosopher starts off with The Logical Problem of Evil, followed by Can Implies Ought? Both are important and need some thought.

And last, it seems the reputation of bureaucrats is not holding up well under Katrina. Big surprise, that.

And I need to do some work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

To start with a retraction of sorts. It appears the at least parts of the Falls Creek report were exaggerated. There is a rebuttal here, but of course, consider the source; it is written by an emergency response bureaucrat. Probably the safest bet is to follow the advice of Napoleon and never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence. And friction. Never forget the friction. Of course the two most disturbing elements in the original story remain: one confirmed by the rebuttal (the "guests" are in fact detainees that are not allowed to leave for any reason), the other ignored (the government "leased" private property without the consent or knowledge of the property owners). And again we see the PC Police with their insistence that changing the label you attach to something somehow changes the facts. I too "insist" on referring to the refugees as refugees because that is what they are. Look the word up in a dictionary if you don't believe me. They may also be "guests," although, at least where I'm from, one doesn't lock guests in the bedroom and insist they stay against their will. And God forbid that citizens "self deploy" to help others out. That might steal some of the glory that should be accruing to the bureaucrats.

In any case, my original opinion stands. Given that the oldest political joke in the world is "I'm from the government and I am here to help you," why would anyone in their right mind depend on the government for their own safety and the safety of their families? That goes double for disaster planning, where it is provable that the government is not making adequate provision to fulfill it's own promises. Think of it this way: I promise to give you one million US dollars on 12/31/2005. I put it in writing and sign it with witnesses on national TV. You, being a bit of a skeptic, decide to check on me and discover that the only way it would be mathematically possible for me to fulfill my promise would be to win the Super-Lotto, which you have on good authority I don't play. Would you then go $1 Million in debt, expecting to pay it off with the $1 Million I promised to pay you in 14 weeks? Sure, I'm a liar and a scumbag and probably a number of other things (none good), but would you expect to get a great deal of sympathy from people for having placed yourself in a position of dependency on someone that was provably, in advance, not worthy of your trust?

Emergency services are all well and good, and there are certainly large scale things that need to be handled by the National Guard or coordinated by some federal agency, such as recovering New Orleans from the bottom of a lake, re-establishing navigation on the Mississippi, or rebuilding the power grid. But when it comes to the health and well-being of yourself and your family, you have exactly one person you can rely on; yourself. Thus it has always been.

Now for what is really important in this world: soccer. Saturday was my first time out as a coach. The team did very well, although I have my doubts as to how much I actually had to do with it. We lost the first game 3-2 and tied the second 4-4. You would be hard pressed to find three more evenly-matched teams. We had three girls score their first goal ever in a game and one that scored our other three goals on an incredible effort. Almost everyone on the field was playing a position they have had little or no experience in. Due to my slackerlyness (a word which oddly does not spell check), we had three regular practices, plus two optional practices over the Labor Day weekend prior to the game. I was extremely proud of everyone. Great job Lady Blazers!!!

Other than that, not much to report from over the weekend. Soccer has officially taken over my life until the end of October.

Wiley Miller is from Maine, which gives him a front-row seat for the Dover, Pennsylvania court case that will decide if the intelligent design "theory" is science or religion. That may explain two recent cartoons, found here and here. I have nothing to add.

And that seems to be all I have at the moment.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yesterday evening was our last soccer practice before our first set of games on Saturday. It could have gone better, but I think we will do OK on Saturday. We lost a lot of key players from our offence and our goalie to college and such. Most of the players on the team are young and could form a solid core for the next couple years. We'll see.

Not much else, just went home after practice and collapsed in my chair until I went to bed.

In New Orleans, the Constitution has been suspended, apparently. "I'm from the government and I am here to help you."

FEMA seems to be using a Southern Baptist retreat as a detention center of some sort. The owners of the property have been told it is no longer theirs; it now belongs to the government. "I'm from the government and I am here to help you."

At the Astrodome, volunteers trying to set up a low-power FM station to broadcast information have been shut down. "I'm from the government and I am here to help you."

Jerry Pournelle has a lot of e-mail about the good, the bad, and the ugly of hurricane relief. Many people are doing extraordinary things to help others, while the petty bureaucrats try to botch things up just to prove they are in control. Is anyone surprised by this? In all of human history, has it ever been otherwise? So please explain why we keep giving these people more power and more control over every aspect of our lives?

Some of the pumps are running in New Orleans. Only about 10% of them at this point, but at least water is moving out of the city. The time estimate remains firm at five to six months before anyone gets back. The dollar "estimate" is between $150 billion and half a trillion. I'd guess the latter is closer to the mark.

And that is all I have for today.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More water on Mars. It just keeps getting better. I can't believe both rovers are still running without any major malfunctions. They were only supposed to last six months at best. Eighteen months later, they are both going strong.
Bob Thompson posted a response to Fred Reed's column that I linked to yesterday. Again, I find nothing to argue with. The lid coming off, to use Bob's phrasing, is one of the big reasons I have been planning and working towards getting out of Flint since I was in Jr. High. At my last job (Hurley Medical Center), you could cut the racial tension with a knife. The place was over-run with affirmative action hires that were not capable of doing their jobs. Everyone, including the affirmative action hires, knew who the affirmative action hires were. It was obvious, yet no one was allowed to say anything on pain of immediate termination. At least at work. The whites certainly said plenty to each other after work. I have no idea what the blacks said, because I never talked to them outside of work, and only then when it was unavoidable. Not because I am some racist that doesn't want to be anywhere near blacks, but because the blacks in the IS department requested (demanded?) and were given racially segregated offices. I drew the obvious conclusion from that and restricted contact to e-mail and phone, and only when absolutely unavoidable. In Flint, whites and blacks have very little to do with each other, and both sides seem to prefer it that way. Two nations living in the same borders.

And I will shut up before I say too much. This is, after all, America; where everyone knows what you cannot say and who you cannot say it about.
Today, my web stats look a little more like what I would expect: almost every visitor is from North America. I have no idea what was going on last week with visitors from every continent. Combined with the comment spam I can only assume the script kiddies had a new toy to play with and the comment authentication has shut them down. I've said it before and I will say it again: something painful, bloody, public, and fatal has to happen to spammers unless the world is willing to abandon the internet. These same people have already destroyed Usenet. The majority of internet bandwidth is already being eaten by spam, and even the fastest machines made today cannot run even modestly effective e-mail filters without choking. Certainly the Mafia use computers? Understand that the majority of spam comes from a dozen or so individuals. Their names, home addresses, and business addresses are all known and are in fact published on a number of anti-spam web sites. Several live and act like they are rock stars or some other minor celebrity, giving interviews to the press and driving around in Ferrari's. A couple of them beaten to death (as has already happened to a minor player in Russia) would certainly deter the rest?

Or maybe I'm just in a foul mood.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fred Reed has a new column up about the looting and violence in New Orleans. Anyone familiar with Fred can pretty much guess his take on things. Not that I disagree. I grew up in Flint. I've seen what Fred describes first hand. Fred is also backed up by a member of the "black culture."

I really don't have much to add to either of those, other than there is a reason I left Flint to live in an area with a higher cost of living and lower wages. It certainly wasn't for a view of the bay.

Jerry Pournelle's son is in the Navy and reports from ground zero. The damage is worse than can be imagined. The "estimate" being tossed around now is $150 billion to rebuild. I'll say it again: estimates are based on previous experience. When was the last time a major modern city was recovered from the bottom of a lake and rebuilt? Before this is over, the total bill will make that $150 billion into chump change. For one thing, don't expect the official rebuilding numbers to include items like higher prices for building materials, gasoline, natural gas, electricity (How much coal passes any given point on the Mississippi River on any given day? Or, more accurately, "passed."), food, etc. for the rest of the country continuing for the next several years. It also won't include the costs born by local governments due to increased crime around refugee centers. It hasn't even been a week and Houston is seeing a spike in crime around the Astrodome. It also won't include locally depressed wages when the refugees decide that living below sea level in an area prone to hurricanes is stupid and decide to stay where they are. It also won't include the hidden, systemic costs of a massive increase in federal debt. Everyone realizes that Uncle Sucker will be paying for most of this, right? What percentage of mortgages are ARM's? What is the ripple effect of increasing the majority of mortgage payments in the country a hundred bucks, on average? That's a lot of discretionary income to have evaporate out of the economy.

A more interesting question is who will move back into New Orleans? I blogged previously about the likely drop in population. I wonder what the drop in per-household income will be? Could it become negative? Will the situation be temporary? Someone with an upper-middle-class income could most likely find comparable work in even a modest-sized city. If the pay ends up being a little less, the offset will be living above sea level.

Another interesting question posed by one of my co-workers: what happens when another hurricane hits New Orleans this season? There are tropical depressions lined up like beads on a string from Florida to the African coast. Even a Catagory 1 hurricane pushing all that water into wood frame structures will save a lot of demolition work later.

And I need to get back to work.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Army Corp of Engineers have begun pumping the lake formerly known as New Orleans dry. The process will take three months. It will take another three or more months to scrape up the toxic sludge left behind. I assume after three months of soaking in water, every wood-frame structure (meaning most of the houses) will be condemned. In my mind, that raises a question: I'm in a shelter in Texas or Michigan or one of the other couple dozen states taking in refugees. My house is either already destroyed or will be condemned and demolished. Most likely, I don't have flood insurance, or it is not adequate to rebuild my house. Every single physical object that I owned, other than what little I have with me, is gone. Most likely, any means of making a living, doing anything other than shoveling toxic muck, is non-existent and will be for six months, maybe longer. Why would I ever go back? I can't be the only person asking that question. I wonder what the population of New Orleans will be two years from now. I'm guessing substantially less than what is was prior to Katrina.

Some of the people who stayed in their homes continue to refuse to evacuate. One case caught my eye: a man who refuses to leave his dog behind. As a dog lover, that would be a hard call. I do wonder just what these people expect from the government. Daily food and water deliveries brought out by boat? Does any of them have enough food and water to last six months? Many of them are staying on the second floor of partially flooded homes. Are any of them aware of what months of soaking in water will do to the structural integrity of their house? On the other hand, how do you just leave a pet knowing the best you can hope for is that thirst will drive it to drink contaminated water and die relatively quickly, rather than slowly starve to death?

Here is a news site that understands that words are useless to describe just how bad things are. Thousands of photos, each more eloquent than any talking head.

Now that everyone is good and depressed.

Not much happening over the weekend. Debbie is dog sitting at the home of one of her co-workers in Kalkaska. Nestina is settling into her job. I tried to have a couple soccer practices over the weekend, but everyone was out of town. It did give me a chance to work with our new goal keepers, so it was useful. Other than that, not much to report.

Except that on Sunday, Debbie and I went to see the Power Team at the Kaliseum. If you have never seen these guys, they are a traveling evangelical outreach ministry that uses feats of strength to draw in people. It's pretty impressive, especially when they use white gas to set the stage on fire. Our pastor reported over 400 decisions of various types prior to the final program on Sunday. If I had to guess, they probably got another 100 or so from Sunday night. I remember seeing these guys when I was in high school. It was pretty much the same gig, other than I don't recall the stage being set on fire.

I will probably be sticking my head in another hornets nest, but I'm sure there are one or two of my readers that I haven't managed to offend in some way, and I wouldn't want anyone to feel left out. The following comments are based on first-hand experience, either from the show Sunday, or from seeing the Power Team when I was in Jr. High (the primary target) and similar programs over the years, not hearsay from others.

How sincere are decisions made at these events? I saw several dozen kids rush the stage on a dead run the second the invitation to come forward for salvation was given. Many of them were wearing autographed t-shirts from previous shows. Maybe this was arranged so no one would have to be first, but I have my doubts. I saw many that were no doubt sincere. I also saw many that, having spent my entire life in evangelicalism, I would tag as "repeat performers;" those that can't seem to ever pass up an opportunity cry in front of a crowd. I also saw many that were literally being dragged to the front by friends. If anyone thinks that peer pressure only works in a secular setting, you have obviously not spent much time around "church folk." That isn't always bad when we are talking about some self-destructive habit like alcoholism, but, based on the number of teens I have seen get "saved" then drop it like a ...well... bad habit as soon as their peer group changes, I have some doubts as to their sincerity.

What sort of follow-up is planned? I couldn't keep up with a dozen kids in youth ministry. Where is this flood of Christians willing to disciple 400-500 people going to come from? If our entire adult church membership suddenly took on a half dozen each, it still wouldn't be enough. And without follow-up, I can guarantee that most of these decisions won't last until the end of school today, if they make it that long. Cynical? You bet; cynicism born of much experience, including personal experience.

Who will be doing the follow-up? This is related to the previous question, but from a different direction. The Power Team announced the names of a dozen area churches that helped put this thing on. Who gets those 400-500 names? Are they just divided up evenly amongst the churches? Apportioned based on average Sunday morning attendance? Is the entire list given to all the churches so they can duke it out in the "religious market" like McDonald's and Burger King competing to see who can clog my arteries the fastest? Just who are we getting in bed with? Most of the churches involved differ more in practice than theology, but I know a couple disagree with us on what I would consider to be basic doctrines that define the very term "Christian." Just who are we climbing into bed with for what amounts to a marketing campaign?

Are big, one-shot campaigns better than sustained, long-term effort? This is probably one of the most contentious issues in evangelism. Historically, churches suffer a partial or complete loss of identity when they assimilate a large lump of new members. This can sometimes be positive, sometimes not, but the assimilation process always results in a significant fraction of the new members just walking away because they never feel accepted, as well as a loss of existing members that can't make the transition. What if the resources devoted to this one big event were instead used in a sustained, years-long campaign of evangelism? What if the same number of people "made decisions" over the course of one or two years, rather than being concentrated in four days? In terms of long-term impact, would this be a better strategy than the Big Bang approach? On the other hand, is there a congregation anywhere in North America that would devote the time and money, evenly spread over the course of an entire year, that can be brought to bear on a single event? Is it easier to convince someone to put 40 hours of work in one week to bring about 400 decisions at a single, large event, or to put one or two hours a week indefinitely towards a sustained goal of maybe one decision a week? Again, my experience is that the former is much easier than the latter. Not that either one is easy, but people prefer a big, short-term splash for their effort over long-term results. If you doubt that, compare the money spent on the lottery vs. the national savings rate, which was negative the last time I looked.

Does that mean that The Power Team and their like should be disbanded? I'm not prepared to say that. Does that mean that no one has ever truly become a believer at this type of event? That is most assuredly a false statement. I guess I'm just saying that some thought needs to go into how these events are conducted and promoted. There certainly needs to be better preparation of Christian kids that attend these events. It isn't about the personalities on the stage, and rushing the stage during the invitation to grab your souvenir chunk of broken concrete is, at best, a distraction.

And that is probably more than enough for now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Zoey Nicole

Zoey Nicole joined the Frost clan and the world yesterday, September 1 around 3:20PM. She is 9 pounds 1 ounce and approximately 20 inches long. I don't have any pictures yet, but I hear she's a real cutey.

Congratulations Nicole and Jeremy!!
I am a Wiggly Worm!!! Maybe I'll be a crustacean some day.

Thanks for all the traffic, even those of you from distant lands that I have no idea why you are here. I can only assume there is a market for the rantings of a lunatic Yank.
The lake formerly known as New Orleans continues to descend into chaos. The physical mess will take months to clean up, but, like the LA riots, the repercussions from the looting, rape, beatings, and general lawlessness will last far longer. A civilization rests on the premise that ordinary people are decent and will do the right thing the majority of the time. Once again, this assumption has been shown to be false, at least in our larger cities.

Under the headline of Depot Explosion Over Lawless New Orleans, we find these gems:
Gov. Kathleen Blanco called the looters "hoodlums" and issued a warning to lawbreakers
Yea, Gov; name calling and warnings are going to stop the looting. How about a shoot-to-kill order? Oh yea. I forgot. Your one of them womyn that are so superior to us men. Maybe you should cry some more on national television.
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA just learned about the situation at the convention center Thursday and quickly scrambled to provide food, water and medical care and remove the corpses.
How can this be? I knew about the lack of water and sanitation, and ever-growing piles of corpses at the convention center on Tuesday. Does the head of FEMA not watch the news? Or maybe he just has his head so far up his ass that it took two days for the sound waves to penetrate. Maybe Michael Brown is a good guy outside of his job, but he is a complete waste of human skin as director of FEMA. He should be fired, then charged with one count of negligent homicide for each person that has died since Monday. Should be, but we all know he won't. Instead he will receive an award and a promotion.

Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, "'Go to hell - it's every man for himself.'"


To make matters worse, the chief of the Louisiana State Police said he heard of numerous instances of New Orleans police officers - many of whom from flooded areas - turning in their badges.

"They indicated that they had lost everything and didn't feel that it was worth them going back to take fire from looters and losing their lives," Col. Henry Whitehorn said.

The thin blue line seems to have thinned to the point of non-existence. We have taught the last two generations that society exists only for MY benefit; to provide ME with everything I could ever want and little or no cost to ME. When society stops supplying MY every whim, why would anyone be surprised that I would walk away?

On a brighter note: it seems that the citizens of Texas at least still cling to some old fashioned notions of what a civilization is. Of course we all know that as soon as the Feds show up, the hot dog griller will be charged with violating food safety laws and operating a vending cart without a permit.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Debbie sent me this at my work e-mail a while back. It got buried in all the messages that built up while I was off, and I just stumbled onto it.

Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

If money doesn't grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Since bread is square, then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to "put your two cents in," but it's only a "penny for your thoughts?" Where's that extra penny going to?

Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

If you drink Pepsi at work in the Coke factory, will they fire you?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

How come we choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.

If a 911 operator has a heart attack, whom does he/she call?

Why is "bra" singular and "panties" plural?

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet soup?

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out!"

Or watch a white thing come out a chicken behind and think, "that ought to taste good."

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

When your photo is taken for your driver's license, why do they tell you to smile? If you are stopped buy the police and asked for you license, are you going to be smiling?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If the professor on Gilligan's island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

What do you call male ballerinas?

Can blind people see their dreams? Do they dream?

If Wyle E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Is Disney World the only people trap operated by a mouse?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your butt?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride; he sticks his head out the window?

Do you ever wonder why you gave me your e-mail address in the first place?
I finally got around to cleaning up the comment spam. There were eight messages in total, all posted within an hour of each other. One of them used a form of social engineering I haven't come across before. The entire comment was abusive, then challenged me to click on some link if I didn't agree that I was scum. The thing is, he probably gets 10x the hits from that spam than the guy that tells me how great my web site is then tries to sell me a vase, or Viagra, or whatever.

Not much going on with us other than the kick-off of soccer season. (Get it? Kick off? Soccer? Get it? Huh? Huh? Get it?) We lost a lot of seniors, so I will be changing the strategy some, but we should still have a good team.

I didn't find much that caught my attention running through my usual web stuff. However, I am starting to get annoyed by something I keep seeing repeated on the internet and in the print media: headlines along the lines of "Police Helpless to Stop Looters." Sorry, that is a lie. The police and National Guard could end the looting any time they wanted, but choose not to because those organizations are controlled by womyn and neutered males. Until the last few decades, looters have always been considered outlaw in the original meaning of the term. Their actions literally put them outside of the law. They are no longer fully human and can be (and historically have been) dealt with as you would deal with a rapid animal: shoot them on the spot. There would be the need for some discretion. There is certainly a world of difference between someone breaking into a grocery store for food or water, and someone carting off consumer electronics and jewelry. But I suspect that the later far outnumber the former, and it wouldn't take too many dead looters for the rest of them to get the idea. But it doesn't matter because it won't be done in the United States of Political Correctness, and New Orleans will not only be the set for Water World II, it will more and more resemble Beirut in the 1970's.

I would love to know what was going on yesterday with my web stats. I had 81 first-time visitors (over 100 total) yesterday alone. Understand I normally get about 20 hits a day. That combined with the flurry of comment spam leads me to believe that Blogger was under some sort of attack. Given the similarities in the comment spam, I suspect some sort of new tool kit made its appearance on the spammer warz sites. Things seem to be somewhat more calm today, although I have had dozens of referrals from other Blogger sites that have no links to this site that I can find. For those who are interested, if you click on the Last 100 Visitors link under my Quick Links, you will see a map of the world with the location of my last 100 visitors marked. If you hover your mouse pointer over the dots, they will show you some details. All I know is that there must be a lot of very bored people in the world.

Well, back to work.