Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Debbie's home and she brought Koegel hot dogs and bologna!!!


Early Morning Ranting

I woke up this morning, rolled over and looked at my clock, which politely informed me that I should have been up and in the shower 15 minutes ago. So I bailed out of bed, did all my morning stuff, came out into the kitchen and grabbed my daily bowl of sugar, artificial color and preservatives and started to chow down. The microwave said it was 5:15am. So did the stove. And the DVD player. I grabbed my cell phone. 5:15am. I checked the clock on my nightstand. 7:45am. So my clock has a poltergeist that randomly moves the time forward two and a half hours. I guess things were getting too boring around here or something.

So I'm blogging. Or at least, I trying to blog. It seems Google has been improving things again, so there are all sorts of glitches when trying to edit my blog post. It looks like some of the improvements will be handy, and there have been some things fixed that haven't worked quite right since long before Google bought Blogger, but the process of getting from here to there looks to be rather painful.

Debbie should be rolling into town about the same time I get out of work, so we'll do a quick unpack of the rental car and try to get it back over to the local "airport" (one step removed from a mowed field and a wind sock) before the guy that handles car rentals, concessions, flight school, etc. goes home for the day. The rest of the evening will likely be getting all her stuff washed and put away and finding places for the stash of Koegel meat products that I'm certain she is bringing back with her.

Anyway, some tidbits from today's trip around the internet:

In news that will surprise no one, cops are some of the worse drivers on the road. They sideswipe parked cars, back into things, open doors into traffic, drive too fast for conditions, drive on the sidewalk, run red lights, and generally make a nuisance of themselves on the road. Or at least some of them do. I suspect the bad drivers are the same ones who swagger around with their "cop attitude" on full display anytime they are not behind the wheel. I also suspect that a significant fraction of these guys are responsible for the vast majority of abuse cases. Like repeatedly tasering a pregnant woman. Cop schools need to do a better job of weeding these guys out.

Christian militias are back in the news. It's like the worst of the Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter presidencies all rolled into one giant turd ball. At least the FBI managed to get through the arrests without shooting any unarmed women carrying infants or setting any children on fire. This time.

A couple health care-related stories: The British NHS is widely despised by those forced to suffer under it, and with good reason. Stories like this or worse are regular features of the British press and illustrate that there are some things that government can do, and many things that government should stay far away from. To be clear, we are not implementing anything like the NHS under Obamacare. At least, not yet. We seem determined to get there in some form or another, but not in this round of "reform." Instead, we are setting up health care to be a spoils system to be manipulated by the rich and influential. We see that already in just passing Obamacare (like the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase). Expect this to begin in earnest as unions, corporations and insurance companies begin the feeding frenzy. And keep in mind what happens to the grass when elephants fight. I see that at least some of our overlords are moving past arguing about who wins or loses and starting to look at the bigger question of what legal or constitutional authority gives the federal government the power to force me to do business with a private business? Again, this is not an academic question; it is a defining question.

And now it really is getting to be time for me to get moving for the day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Daily Mail

One of the dangers of the internet is not knowing which foreign-yet-still-English-language papers/web sites are rubbish. I don't recall ever linking to or quoting the Daily Mail....

"...enshrined in some little folder..."

Today started off at the po-lice officers' station getting a study in black and white of my fingerprints, which I sent off to Washington where they will undoubtedly be enshrined in some little folder. The IRS requires fingerprints as part of the ERO application process. I realize they may not want lowlifes and criminals doing tax returns, but I was a bit bemused given that I didn't have to submit fingerprints for my FFL application, but I do in order to submit e-filed returns for other people. In any case, the whole process had Alice's Restaurant running through my head all day. I almost started singin' a few bars while at the po-lice officers' station, but I managed to keep it to myself.

The big news of the day: Debbie's mom is finally home. I can only assume that Debbie is on her way back to New Hampshire. I don't have any word on what arrangements are being made for her in-home care, but just the fact that she's finally home instead of in the hospital is a huge deal for everyone.

On the non-news front, the CBO reports debt will rise due to health care reform, bank bail-outs, Social Security, Medicare, and other government largess. Nice to see someone who collects a government paycheck doesn't have their head completely shoved up their ass. Repeat: it is not possible to add $1 trillion to the budget and not increase the deficit without a massive increase in taxes on everyone. Unless the only thing you ever see is the inside of your own colon.

Meanwhile, US troops deaths rise in our little forgotten Forever War in the Middle East. I'm sure our soldiers appreciate being ignored except when we are cutting funding for VA hospitals. There is no possible way that can ever end badly.

That's all I can muster, mister. For some reason I could not sleep last night. I finally fell asleep about four hours before my alarm went off. Not good.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Michigan Pyrotechnics Arts Guild

First, why have I never heard of these guys before? Second, how do I join?

Words you don't want to hear when fireworks are being set off nearby:

"That's unfortunate."
"Oh shit."

There is also an impressive mushroom cloud about 7 minutes in that I don't think was intentional.

Friday, March 26, 2010


This week seemed to go by fairly quickly, even though sitting alone in an empty office made the days feel like they would never end. I'm not entirely sure that makes any sense, but that's how it is. And it really isn't TGIF when you have to go in on Saturday. The upside is that I go in an hour later and only work a half-day. Debbie is supposed to be home Sunday, so I'll have to scrub and polish tomorrow afternoon and Sunday so she doesn't vomit in disgust when she walks in the door. The temperature is supposed to get up into the 60's, so at a minimum I can open the windows and air out the aftermath of an over-consumption of dairy products....

Current status on Debbie's mom as of this morning:

Mom had anoth­er uneve­ntful night­-- this morni­ng the neuro Dr was in early this morni­ng to check out her numb leg. (He apparently is the top neuro surge­on in the area!­) He belie­ves the probl­em is the nerve­s from the probl­em disks in her back. He said they could come back to life right away or in 1 month­s... no way to reall­y know. He did not have any sugge­stion­s for immed­iate help besid­es order­ing a "drop foot brace," but talke­d about being able to help her out after compl­etely recov­ered from the heart surge­ry. The brace will help to stabilize the foot and keep it from dragg­ing and her toes from bendi­ng backw­ards.

Her heart surge­on came in after 7a to check up on her. He didn'­t seem too conce­rned with her left leg bruis­ing and the pain Mom start­ed to compl­ain about last night. He said it looks fine. He talke­d to Mom about going to rehab for a coupl­e days befor­e being relea­sed, Mom decli­ned. Sherr­y said she would have 24hr suppo­rt at home to help out. He will proba­bly order home PT also. He said she MAY get relea­sed by the end of the weeke­nd. It will proba­bly all depen­d on her 1) walki­ng to check out how the heart does 2) getti­ng the oxyge­n level up -- she is still using the oxyge­n nodul­e -- breat­hing deepl­y and cough­ing like she needs to to try to clear up the lungs­.

Debbie had hoped to spend some time getting her mom settled into the house before she started the trek back to New Hampshire, but that isn't going to happen unless she extends her stay in Michigan. At least she was able to help bed-sit and spend some time with her mom.

Now that Apple has given tablet PC's a much-needed kick in the pants with the iPad, there is a lot of talk about the impact on print media. Pictory shows what an e-magazine would look like. Looking at it on my main system isn't perfect because my screen is oriented the wrong way, so by the time I zoom in enough to be able to read the text, the whole page isn't being displayed. But with a tablet rotated to portrait mode, it would be perfect. I would have no problem reading my National Geographic and Reason magazines like this. The difficulty would come when I was done reading them; both get passed around to friends and family. I know the publishers have wet dreams about eliminating what they consider theft-by-sharing (as well as theft-by-library, theft-by-used-book-store, theft-by-reading-aloud, etc.), but I, and last I checked, the US Supreme Court, consider my first-sale right to be as valid as the publishers' copyright. Call me old-fashioned.

I am very tempted to jump into e-books now that I can run the Kindle software on my PC without needing to plunk down $300 for a Kindle. My tower and 42" screen isn't very portable, but I could easily read books from the couch using my current setup. The number of free books alone could keep me busy for the rest of my life. If I had a Win7 tablet with a battery that would hold up for at least a day, I wouldn't be sitting here typing about being tempted; I'd be reading.

The health care reform debate/debacle has taken over the headlines here in the US, so there hasn't been much news about the PIGS' debt problems. That doesn't mean they've gone away:

Portugal's debt rating drops.
Greece "will default."

And speaking of sovereign debt problems, the US is having problems finding buyers for our trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. Go figure....

Bloomberg.com has an article on how over half of the people who get loan modifications default anyway. I'd consider being surprised by that is like being surprised by gravity, but that's not what I want to point out:

U.S. homeowners are struggling to make payments as depressed housing prices leave them owing more than their properties are worth.


The ability to make your house payment has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you are underwater. You make payments on every other thing you buy on credit in spite of being "underwater." A new car loses 15-25% of it's value as soon as you sign the title papers, before you have driven it one single mile. And yet you make the payments just fine, assuming you didn't buy more car than you can afford. Every single thing you buy on a credit card is worth less (and sometimes worthless) by the time the bill shows up, yet you make your credit card payments without difficulty, assuming you haven't racked up more than you can afford. It's the same with a house; you are struggling with the payments because you bought more house than you can afford. It has nothing to do with being "underwater." Shame on you, Gittelsohn for writing bullshit, and shame on you, Bloomberg for publishing bullshit.

And on that pleasant note, I need to try to get some sleep.

Obama Math

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care Reform

I always get a funny feeling in my gut whenever a politician starts talking about reforming something; the same funny feeling I get whenever I've eaten food that has sat around too long. The promises are always the same: money will be saved, taxes will be lower, deficits will disappear. We will arrive in the Promised Land! Only it never works out that way. Now the federal government is wrapping its slimy tentacles around a sixth of the economy. Is it possible this won't be the train wreck that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and every other thing the federal government touches has turned out to be? Sure. And there really could be a Tooth Fairy (which has to be the creepiest of the lies we tell our children). But we will run the experiment. Again.

The primary effect will, of course, be a further expansion of the government workforce. The purpose of government is to increase government payrolls. If something else is accomplished in the process, well that's fine. But it isn't the primary purpose. The Iron Law is absolute, and this, or something as bad, was inevitable. Government is a one-way ratchet; always increasing, never decreasing. Even in the worst economy in decades, with state and federal revenues falling, no one is suggesting that maybe, perhaps, the public sector should imitate the private sector and make permanent reductions to the payrolls. The best we get are reductions in already-planned increases or in the most dire circumstances, temporary freezes.

The second effect will be a vast increase in taxes or the annual deficits. Or both. Logic and common sense says you cannot increase spending by $1 trillion a year and not increase taxes or deficits. To say otherwise is to reveal yourself as a moron (in the clinical sense) or a liar. They won't be called taxes, of course. They will be called "fees" or "fines," and, like we have found here in the Live Free or Die state, they will be worse than any straight-up tax could ever be. It begins with the Tanning Bed Tax today. Soon, everything you buy will have a hidden tax buried in the price, just like here in New Hampshire where every penny of the insanely-high corporate and real estate taxes comes out of shoppers' and renters' wallets. To pay for the vast increases in Medicaid, states will have to continue adding fees to every encounter you have with a government agency, voluntary or not. Expect higher vehicle registration fees, drivers license fees, library fees (like the $50/year fee for a library card at our "public" library), pet licenses, marriage licenses, etc., etc., etc. Some states will attempt to fight back, or at least do a lot of posturing. But eventually, they will roll over and piss themselves like the obedient, co-dependents they are, the minute some federal bureaucrat threatens their highway money. All of this falls disproportionately on the poor. Plus ça change....

It will be some time before we know the full impact of this bill. Many of the provisions don't kick in for years with the heaviest ones not taking effect until Obama is either safely into his second term, or on a beach somewhere enjoying his retirement from Messiah-hood. Much will be fleshed out deep in the bowels of some government building by unelected and unaccountable government drones slaving away toward their 20-and-out pension; the amorphous They that rule so much of our lives without us ever knowing about it. And like previous expansions of government, it will happen gradually over a generation with the economic effects masked behind a general lowering of living standards that will be blamed on whatever group is out of favor at the time, and aided by the long-term memory loss that has become a permanent part of American culture.

However, the big question I have has nothing to do with taxes, deficits, capitation, or death panels. It is simply this: where in the Constitution is there a right for me to demand money from you to pay for my medical care? This is no idle question; it is defining. This latest "historic moment" is by no means unique in this respect; the same question can be (and has been) asked of much of what the federal government does. The difference I see in the current instance is that the question isn't being glossed over with some tortured constitutional argument. It is simply being dismissed as more "tea-bagger nonsense" to be smirked at by the bi-coastal intelligentsia. This is new and should be of some concern, but it isn't.

As I have said repeatedly. We are on a road. The end of that road is knowable, and is in fact known. In theory, it isn't too late to begin turning the ship. We won't, of course.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't done one of my long, pointless rambles in a while, so...

One thing I love about Britain is the dry humor. The story goes something like this: some rather dumb geeks claim that wearing hoods into public places such as government buildings is protected religious expression. In response to some very un-Jedi-like whinging, a corporate suit issues an awesome apology/take down:

"Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores," he said, "although we would ask them to remove their hoods." On that point, the company noted that Jones seemed a little unclear on his own mythology. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless [in public] without ever going over to the Dark Side," the spokesperson continued, "and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood." Impressive, but the final blow was still to come: "If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."

I have a hard time imagining some corporate drone in the states having the guts, not to mention the imagination, to issue a statement like that.

Speaking of take-downs, here is a collection of "devastating" climate changes in the US over the last hundred years. If they fail to awe and terrify you with the ferocious changes in climate, you're not alone.

"What's the difference between General Motors and California? California hasn't gone bankrupt. At least, not yet"

Another Friday, another 7 banks. At least the trend to smaller banks seems to be holding up; only one of the seven had over a billion in deposits. Sure, a billion bucks is a lot of money, but it's chump change compared to the size of banks going down a year ago. This made me sit up, though:

The pace of bank seizures this year is likely to accelerate in coming months, regulators have said, as losses mount on loans made for commercial property and development.

Was that thump another shoe dropping?

At least someone is showing some common sense in all these sexting cases. Too bad it's too late for the teens that have had their entire lives destroyed by over-zealous prosecutors. And I'm still trying to figure out by what definition that clothing that is routinely worn in public constitutes "partial nudity." Maybe they should wear socks with their bikinis so their ankles are covered....

And I should write something about health care "reform" but I think I will wait on that for another time.

One Guy Gets It

We have chosen a direction; that direction matters more than the details of any particular bill. The majority of the country seems opposed to that direction, but we're just a bunch of red-necked, Fox-watching, fly-over-country bumpkins that need to be told what is good for us by our masters.

They Did It

Well, Hope-n-Change got his way. Remember the third Chinese curse; "May you find what you are looking for." November will be interesting. November 2012 even more so. I'm still not clear exactly what passed (and neither is anyone who voted for it), but at least it looks like it was a straight vote on the Senate bill, not some un-constitutional parlimentary trick. The "fix" bill looks to be an even bigger fight than the bill itself, so we may as well plan on living with the Senate bill. And I still want to know how a $1 trillion bill reduces the deficit. My remedial math skills must be slipping. Or at least somebody's remedial math skills are.

We are getting the government we voted for, and we are getting it good and hard.

Debbie is in Michigan with her mom. I just got a call from her; she was just getting to the house after spending the night at the hospital. Her mom has still not slept more than a few minutes at a time, which is starting to concern everyone. Physically, she is doing fine and is pretty much where she ought to be. She is able to move around and has been getting out of bed routinely. There were rumors that she will be moved back to CCU where they hope to get her on a routine schedule that includes sleeping at night. Her last stay there didn't go so well, but maybe this time will be different.

Work is completely dead. Which explains why I'm doing this from work. I have a couple returns on hold that need to be followed up on and one or both may even get sent through. I have another return that was completed weeks ago and has been sitting here waiting for the wife to "have time" to sign the damn thing. People need to figure out the difference between being important and lacking basic time management skills.

I'll probably post more after work, unless I decide to start another geeky movie marathon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Best! Typo! Evaaaar!!!

My inner 12-year-old is rolling on the floor:

Large Hardon Collider
Originally uploaded by Skepchick

On My Own

Debbie just headed off for Michigan, leaving me here to my own devices. Scary, really. Having a job will force me to at least pay minimal attention to hygiene, but it could still get ugly by the time she gets back. Her plan is to drive half-way today, spend the night in Batavia, NY, then make the rest of the trip Sunday. She will be in Michigan all next week to be with her mom when she gets released from the hospital, then heading back next Saturday and Sunday. She's driving because a) air fare could only be described as "You're a fracking idiot if you think I'm paying that much to fly less than 900 miles," and b) getting to and from the closest thing to an airport here in the colonies is a pain for us, and getting herself to and from the airport in Michigan would have been a pain for someone else. So she is driving the 800 miles. Most of it is on the turnpike, so it's an easy trip, but I'm still not real sure this is a good idea.

Since the last time I posted anything, her mom has been moved out of the surgical ICU to the CCU, had some problems with hemoglobin and oxygen levels, and is now back in SICU. It's mostly to keep closer watch on things and to be more proactive with her breathing treatments, pain medications, etc. As of a couple hours ago, the hemoglobin problem was fixed by topping her off with a couple pints, oxygen levels are back up, pain is under control, and she even did some walking in place. They will likely be keeping her in the hospital for a bit longer than anticipated as yesterday ended up being mostly a lost day in terms of recovery. The downside of the SICU is the limited visitation and no phone calls, but at least she is back on track.

And to celebrate my bachelorhood, I am guzzling down some Diet Coke while totally jamming to some serious Emerald Web. It is off da hook up in here, dawg!! Dis boy knows how to par-TEY! Later, I might even watch all the Star Trek movies and eat mac&cheese with our last two Koegel hot dogs cut up in it! Woohoo!


I have a bunch of links on Washington DC's attempt to destroy our health care system, but I think I'm going to hold off and see what happens tomorrow. Besides, I gotta get going on that double-batch of mac&cheese!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Great Reneger

No comment; none whatsoever.

Truly Strange

What happens when you combine a lyrebird (a mimic) with zoo construction and a bit of monkey thrown into the avian improv? Behold, Chook the Lyrebird:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the Hits Keep Comin'

Completely random collection of stuff I found while being bored out of my mind at work (not a single client all day). May as well start with this:

I don't know how effective they are in combat, but Parachuting Dogs would be an awesome name for a band.

Speaking of dogs, new DNA research has narrowed in on where dogs were domesticated. It makes sense that dogs were first domesticated from wolves in the same area that other animals were. The whole co-evolution of humans and dogs is fascinating to me; turning a predator into a defender seems so unlikely. And how has having dogs around effected us? What would our social structures look like today without the influence of our four-legged companions?

Expect to see more major chains refusing Medicaid patients. Then you can expect some sort of attempt to make accepting Medicaid patients a requirement to obtain or keep a license. Of course Obamacare will fix all that by magic. Don't believe it? Consider this: there must be some powerful juju in that bill for it to reduce the deficit while simultaneously spending a trillion dollars. I can feel myself filling with hope just thinking about it. (gag)

Another state uses interest free loans from its taxpayer/subjects to balance its budget. I don't think the bureaucrats coming up with this stuff understand how much it damages their legitimacy to govern. And now the courts have decided there is nothing wrong with the state putting people on sex offender registries that are not, in fact, sex offenders. I believe our overlords have gone completely mad.

And that's probably enough of that. I'll probably have even more tomorrow if business stays as bad as it has been over the last few days.

My Morning Laugh

What is so funny is that anyone who has had a run-in with a typical lefty, PriusPrick immediately relates to the conclusions of the study Do Green Products Make Us Better People. The short answer is, "No." The slightly longer answer is:

According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the “licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour”, otherwise known as “moral balancing” or “compensatory ethics”.

Ah yes; that just made my day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The End is in Sight

The end of tax season is in sight. At least I can see the row for April 15 on my spreadsheet I use to track the number of returns we complete each day. Today we may as well have been closed; in fact, we haven't completed a single return since around 11am yesterday. I think the schools are closed again (I don't recall have several week-long vacations when I was in school...), which means a lot of people are likely out of town. But it sure makes for a looooong day. You can only watch so many videos of guys doing stupid things that end with them getting smacked in the nads before your brain turns to mush.

Debbie's mom is still doing well. She is off all blood pressure meds and is down to just the "nose hole tubes" for oxygen. She was able to get out of bed and sit in a chair for short bits today. They are keeping her in the surgical ICU for at least one more day before moving her to a regular room, so it's still no visitors and no phone calls for a while longer. But you can keep yourself updated and leave her messages here.

I see the Democratic leadership is determined to create a constitutional crisis. I guess "we won" means that a handful of people can run the country like a private fief. I repeat: this will not end well. More on why this is a bad idea from KipEsquire.

The price of "green" power, which will fall hardest on those who can least afford it. Anyone who thinks the higher rates charged to business and industry won't be reflected in the price of everything is as big a fool as those who think "green" power is.

I think I'll do a bit of reading, then hit the sack.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mom Update

Most important thing for today is that Debbie's mom has come through her open-heart surgery. The doctors say everything is as it should be. They will be keeping her in the surgery ICU for a bit and if all goes well, she will be released in four or five days. If anyone wants to keep up to date, go here and click on "Request invitation to a page." A number of people are working to keep that as current as possible.

Work for both of us is more or less a distraction with everything else going on. My office seems to be busier now during the "slow" part of tax season that it was during the "busy" part. Everyone is settling into their roles and it's all just starting to click now that it's almost over. I sure have a knack for picking a career. Debbie's work is staying steady; the store here seems to have much better traffic than her last one. We'll see if that holds up over the summer.

A couple tax-related stories: The IRS sends a couple goons to harass a guy over four cents ($202.31 with penalty and interest). Stories of IRS agents kicking in doors and generally acting like TV gangsters used to be common; then the IRS when through some serious reforms. I hope this doesn't mean the bad ol' days are coming back.

States are so broke, some are delaying tax refunds. So if I don't have the money to pay my taxes to the government, that's a crime. But when the government is so mismanaged that it can't pay its bills, then that's just tough crap for everyone else. I guess when you have a monopoly on force, you can pretty much do as you please.

Remember Al Gore's "lock box" and all those predictions about when or even whether Social Security was going to run out of money? Well, guess what? The answer to "whether" is yes it is, and the answer to "when" is 2010. Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see....

Fred Reed is up to his usual with a new essay on race relations in the United States:

Racism is in bad odor among the virtuous. I wonder why. At least, I wonder why any discussion of race is thought to be racism. The United States faces grave racial problems—more accurately, has them but doesn’t face them. Refusal to acknowledge their existence is not productive: Few problems are solved by forbidding their mention. The question should not be whether views are racist, but whether they are wrong....

...It gives me no pleasure and little hope to hear that black schools regularly produce functional illiterates, that the schools of Detroit and of the nation’s capital and for that matter of wherever blacks predominate are disasters, that savage beatings of whites by gangs of blacks are common and hidden by the media. That these things happen is of no advantage to me. I would be delighted to see blacks and Hispanics excelling academically. I would like to walk the streets of American cities without carefully noting pigmentation, which we all do and pretend we don’t....

I recently had a rather heated Facebook discussion on race. I dropped the issue as it was on someone else's wall, but all I said was that hate crime laws are mostly crap because a) they require a jury to be mind-readers, b) a crime is a crime; the "why" is, in my view, relatively unimportant, and c) white straight males seems to be the only ones capable of them; black gangs killing whites are never charged with a hate crime, or if they are, the media very carefully and intentionally covers it up. I was immediately tagged as a horrible human being. (shrug) Probably, but entirely beside the point. And it's the same regardless of the topic. Washington DC's schools suck and are locked in a battle to the bottom with Detroit. Not that they're all that much worse than a certain all-white northern Michigan school district I could name, when measured by test scores, drop-out rates, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol use, etc. But the mere mention that it may be counter-productive for Detroit to routinely graduate illiterates and you're a racist; everyone knows that Detroit's problems are the fault of all those white folk who fled to the suburbs after the '67 riots. Same with crime: Next time the subject comes up, point out that the leading cause of death among blacks age 16-25 is blacks age 16-25 and see how long it takes for someone to label you a hater, then go on at length how even if true, it's all your fault. Whatever.

And something else to worry about; stem rust is back. The Dark Horse has been the constant companion for all of human history. The Green Revolution wounded him, but most certainly did not kill him.

On that cheery note, I need to go find a snack.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Surgery scheduled

Mom's heart surgeon got back in town and up to see her this afternoon. He decided to schedule the surgery for Monday morning (730a) -- she will be having a triple bypass and aortic valve replacement.

Please keep her in your prayers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Golden Grasshopper

We got to see the Golden Grasshopper today on our little bus trip to Boston, but not much else. The trip down took longer than expected leaving us with just enough time to grab something to eat at Quincy Market and hop back on the bus. Traffic was so bad we were almost late for Lion King at the Opera House. But we made it just as they flashed the lights. The show was awesome and we had a fun day, even if the weather sucked. We knew it was supposed to be raining and windy, so we didn't even bother bringing the camera. Now we just have to figure out how to get back there when the weather is nicer. There is no way I will attempt to drive around those streets myself. City driving normally isn't a big deal to me, but that place is nuts on so many levels, there is no way we would ever get in and out in one piece.

One of my fellow tax preparers is working for the Census Bureau. She knew I had taken the test back in December and asked me Friday if they had called me yet. They hadn't and I made some half-hearted comment about contacting them. When I got back in cell range (there is better cell coverage on China's Tibetan Plateau than we get here in the Live Free or Die state), I had not one, but two messages from the Census Bureau. I called and was basically hired on the spot. I start two weeks after the end of tax season. Sweet, if temporary.

Obviously, our major preoccupation for the last couple days has been Debbie's mom. It now looks like open heart surgery is imminent, but we won't have a firm date and time until sometime tomorrow. There really isn't any more news than that, so please refrain from jamming the hospital switchboard or calling her cell or the phone in her room. We'll update everyone via phone, e-mail and Facebook as soon as there is anything to update. Right now, she needs rest. If you want to send her a message, you can do so here. A volunteer is running the messages up to her room every few hours. Marge is getting a kick out of them, so keep 'em coming!

With everything else going on, I haven't had the time to dig up stuff on the web other than watching the ruling party implode as they try to create a constitutional crisis. This will not end well.

Peggy Noonan has an interesting take on the mental health of those we elect to the highest office. Current events certainly support her theory. It is often said humorously that the lunatics are running the asylum, but that may be literally true. That hardly makes America unique in world history, but it's still a hell of a way to run a railroad.

Well, I need to see if I can get some sleep. I'm wide away from too much napping on the bus ride to and from Boston, so I don't expect much in the way of success.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crazy Couple Days

We got a phone call yesterday from Debbie's mom; her trip to the doctor turned into a trip to the hospital with a possible heart attack. The "possible" turned into a "yea, you had one" and a two-night (so far) stay at St. Mary's in Saginaw. Yesterday and today was the whole "hurry up and wait" routine and a battery of tests. No definite results yet; the heart cath that was supposed to happen today, then tomorrow, then today, and now tomorrow again will probably be the thing that settles was the next step is.

Other than that bit of excitement, not much going on other than work, work, work. My office is either full of people all day like it was yesterday, or completely deserted like it was today. At least I had time to clear out a bunch of stuff that's been sitting in the file cabinet and do some dusting and what-not. The glamorous world of tax prep, eh?

The downsizing of Detroit is back in the news. I'm not sure of the reason for all the hand-wringing about how to force people to move out of mostly-empty neighborhoods. It's seems pretty simple to me. Announce that after such-and-such a date, those neighborhoods will no longer have city water, city sewer or city trash pickup. Also, after that date, any 911 calls will go to the county sheriff's office like they do for anyone else living outside the city, and the residents will have to form up a volunteer firefighting unit just like other rural people have to do. In exchange, set up a homesteading deal where residents will be granted title to adjacent vacant lots on the condition they clear abandoned buildings, garbage, etc. In other words, grow up and be self-sufficient. Oh, wait; my bad. We're talking about Detroit, the land of total and permanent dependency.

One of the things Jerry Pournelle frequently mentions on his web site is that unrestricted capitalism will result in human flesh being sold by the pound, if not at your local grocery store, then at least via some form of special order. Are we seeing the first step towards humans as food animals? The most disturbing book I think I ever read was Through Darkest America. Is this a path we want to be on?

Only a complete idiot would equate a couple guys fishing from a row boat with a commercial fishing trawler when discussing sustainable fish harvesting. Obama may be a great many things, but the man isn't stupid. This has nothing to do with saving bluegills from extinction via little boys with fishing rods, and everything to do with eliminating self-sufficiency. From fencing off millions of acres at a shot from hunting to eliminating sport fishing to banning people from having a couple chickens in the back yard for eggs and meat to government-run auto companies to government-run health care to government bans on salt, it all reflects the neo-liberal view that no one must be allowed to fend for themselves. We must all live in a state of perpetual dependency on our self-appointed masters.

Since the profession's birth, the cry, "Kill all the lawyers," has been a common sentiment among the non-lawyer'ed. Here's one reason why. A single sentence containing 303 words, followed by a second containing 343 words, written in such an incomprehensible way that even another lawyer can't figure out what is being said. Why anyone would think this sort of nonsense makes them look smart or scholarly is beyond me.

A couple climate quickies: the reason why any carbon emission agreement that excludes China and India is a complete waste of time, and a new way to measure ancient ocean temperatures that confirms that both the Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period were in fact very real and very widespread; at least hemispheric if not global.

Government is a one-way ratchet; always increasing and never decreasing. Kansas is being forced by a budget crunch to be a minor exception to that rule. But read closely. The Kansas schools have half the students they had ten years ago and a quarter of what they had in the 1960's. This "draconian" belt-tightening plan will close fewer than half the school buildings and eliminate less than a quarter of the staff. And how much would you like to bet that by the time all the lawsuits are over, not a single staff member will lose their job and the vast majority of the school buildings will still be operational? A closely related story about government employment. I guess the answer to all our economic problems is that we should all work for the government.

In two other closely-related economic stories, February set another record for the monthly federal budget deficit, and the Canadian dollar with hit parity with the US dollar and may even shoot past it.

And enough; I really must get to bed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Dog Post

Doggie romping in the snow:

Danger On The Mountain from Walker Parks on Vimeo.

(If you have a large monitor, I wouldn't watch this full-screen if you have recently eaten.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Not Many Words

Not much to say today other than I wish I could sleep past 3am. That would be nice. But given that I can't seem to, I guess I'll mess around here. Work is still slow-but-steady. At least most of the returns coming now are more involved and sometime even require a bit of research. All of which makes the days go by a bit faster.

The weather continues to tease us with temps in the high 40's and low 50's (that's 7C to 10C everywhere other than the US). If this is a head-fake and we end up buried up to our necks in snow a couple weeks from now, there are going to be a great number of very angry people, including yours truly.

So anyway, I'm up at 3 o'clock this morning with nothing better to do than read about the Democratic party shooting itself in the foot. Obama has chosen to surround himself with Chicago thugs that are about as subtle as a brick through a window. The November elections will be interesting; even more interesting will be Hope-n-Change's response to losing the majority in one or both houses. Will he do a Bill Clinton, or will he double down with his juvenile "Guess what? We won." attitude? As much as I'd like to see the Democrats implode, it would be a disaster for the country. I never thought I would say this, but I'm becoming nostalgic for the Clinton years when the worst we had to worry about was Waco and Ruby Ridge. We can hope that The One learns the right lessons from the November elections.

And as always, the British press has an interesting perspective on US politics:

Mr Obama benefited in his campaign from an idiotic level of idolatry, in which most of the media participated with an astonishing suspension of cynicism....

The root of the problem seems to be the management of expectations. The magnificent campaign created the notion that Mr Obama could walk on water. Oddly enough, he can't....

There are lessons from the stumbling of Mr Obama for our own country as we approach a general election. Vacuous promises of change are hostages to fortune if they cannot be delivered upon to improve the living conditions of a people. The slickness of campaigning that comes from a combination of heavy funding and public relations expertise does not inevitably translate into an ability to govern. There is no point a nation's having the audacity of hope unless it also has the sophistication and the will to turn it into action. As things stand, Barack Obama and America under his leadership do not.

Campaigning is not governing. Obama needs to learn this. The question is, will he?

The national ID card is back on the table. I'm of two minds about this. As a libertarian, a national ID card would be yet-another nail in the coffin of federalism and another push down the road to making Washington DC into the Imperial City. But another part of me understands that federalism is dead and buried, the sod grown over the unmarked grave, and its location forgotten. Not even Bones could find it now. Will whatever federal agency put in charge of this make a hash of it? Will innocent people have their lives destroyed through bureaucratic incompetence? Will it fail to fully address it's primary selling point (in this iteration, illegal immigrants)? Certainly. The No-Fly-List is exhibit A in any discussion of just how badly a move to a national ID card could go. The thing is, I'm no longer convinced that given the current political reality, the alternative is any better. I know despair is a sin and all, but.... (shrug)

Gas prices around here are edging back up to the $3/gallon mark as oil pushes higher. The article argues whether the price is up due to expectations of a resumption of the climb in global demand, or "technical factors." I suppose that's an important point to some people, but I can't see myself smiling as I pump $4/gallon gas because it's only due to "technical factors."

Fred Phelps is an ass. Advancing the political cause of your "church" by disrupting the funerals of soldiers is morally bankrupt in every way. I'm sure a psychiatrist could put a label on whatever is wrong with him and his little inbred band of followers.


The Supreme's are now weighing in on the case. Boundary cases involving free speech are a minefield and have been for several generations, but they are important none the less. It is unfortunate that this one will center around such an unprincipled ass.

Well, time to get ready for another fun, fun day.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Walkin' in the Sunshine

We took advantage of both a day off and the nice weather to take our first walk around the 'hood. We took the camera and snapped a few. We're going to try to make a habit of it (yea, right) as long as the warm, dry weather holds out. It looked like everyone else had the same idea; we had lots of company out on the streets both on foot and on bikes. We had considered digging our bikes out of the storage shed, but figured it would be more trouble than it was worth. I'll probably take a few minutes to air up the tires and what-not after work one night next week in case we get a sudden impulse to do something more physical than walk from the couch to the jellybean jar. It isn't likely, but you never can tell.

Other than that, not much happening today other than dishes, laundry and getting ready for another week of the same ol' grind. Next weekend we will be taking a day-trip down to Boston to hang around a bit and see Lion King. Debbie saw it up in Toronto, but this will be my first time. It will be a nice excuse to get out of the apartment. We're a little concerned about the weather, but even if we get the rain that is predicted, it will still be a nice trip made better by the fact that I don't have to do any of the driving.

I'm gradually working my way through the 1,300+ free songs I grabbed from Amazon last week. The vast majority are worth every penny I paid. A few are worth another listen and a handful or so have already made it to a playlist. I expect to have a few hundred after the first cut and likely less than a hundred when it's all said and done. But at least I get some new tunes without having to spend money.

I generally avoid any news about awards shows because I like what I like and could care less about what some committee thinks about it. No number of ugly statues are going to make me like something or someone that I don't, and vice-versa. But I was intrigued by this:
A dispute over what Cablevision New York should pay for ABC’s free-to-air broadcast signals turned ugly at the stroke of midnight Saturday as the Disney-owned network made good on its threat to cut the signal, putting into doubt whether the cable system’s three million area customers would get to see the Oscars Sunday night....

Should the dispute not be resolved in the 19 hours or so until the Oscars will be seen by everyone else, ABC could and should stream it live. No special video players. No registration. No questions asked: Surf on over to ABC.com and join our Oscars party. Just leave the webcast going after the red-carpet show is over.

ABC could easily do that. They likely won't. For one, the affiliates would scream bloody murder. If the networks start streaming live shows on their web pages, local affiliates become more or less superfluous. They're close to that now; streaming shows (live or otherwise) simultaneous with their broadcast would pound the last couple nails into the local affiliates coffin. I expect the TV industry to look very different in a few years.

It's late and there is work tomorrow.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sunny and Warmish

According to our little indoor/outdoor thermometer, it broke 50 today. Add in the blue skies and sun and you'd almost think summer is here. We don't know what's "normal" weather-wise around here this time of year, but I'm figuring it's all a head-fake and we'll wake up to a blizzard. But in the meantime, I'll take what I can get.

Work for me has surpassed slow and is quickly heading towards completely dead. I was told to expect it to get slow, but at this point, we can't even be covering payroll. Staff has been cut to the absolute minimum possible without reducing hours of operation. I feel bad getting paid to surf the web, but I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to do about it. Ah well; 5 weeks to go.

I signed back into Facebook last night for the first time in over a month. I've been checking on the progress of the updated FB Purity script since the latest redesign of Facebook broke the version I was running. Without Purity, Facebook was unusable to me which was a big part of why I just stopped using it. Well, a new Purity script enticed me back in. I'm still working on having better control over content. What I'd like to be able to do is see updates prioritized so if I'm short on time, I can make a quick check without having to wade through updates from people we're not as close to. But long story short, I'm back on Facecrack.

This morning, I saw a headline that started with "Positive jobs report..." and assumed that despite the fears, unemployment crept down in February. But of course in the world of the new normal, "positive" means "less negative." Of course.

While we're on the subject of large negative numbers, it seems our wunderkind in our nation's capital are digging us into a hole even faster than previously thought. I remember when billion-dollar deficits were going to be the doom of the nation. Then it was tens of billions. Bush II upped the ante to hundreds of billions. Hope-n-Change said, "See your hundreds of billions and raise you a trillion or so." No one really believes we can keep doing this, right? There is no way this has a happy ending.

I suspect Germany is feeling like the put-upon husband that is at his wits end with his shiftless brother-in-law. First, two German politicians told Greece they should sell off some islands to bail themselves out. Then an open letter to the Greek prime minister has this zinger:
Germany also has high debts but we can settle them. That's because we get up early and work all day.

Ouch. Me thinks the gloves have come off. More from another article:
"[Greek Prime Minister] Papandreou said that he didn't want one cent -- in any case the German government will not give one cent," [Germany's Economy Minister Rainer] Bruederle told reporters.

Damn. If Germany is saying it, I wonder how many other countries in the EU are thinking it: "Get yer lazy Greek ass off my couch and get a job!!"

It's Saturday again which means that another bunch of banks did a big ol' belly flop off the high dive. But like I said before, at least the pace of failures as well as the size of the banks involved seems to have backed off from 2009. Slightly more worrying is the lack of willing asset buyers this week. That may be an indication of how horribly run those banks were, or an indication of something more troubling. And there is also the off-hand comment by unnamed FDIC officials that the pace is likely to pick up later this year (wait; did the FDIC just predict a double-dip?) and that the list of "problem" banks has grown from 552 to 702 in three months. Meanwhile, The One insists that the way to solve a problem caused by excessive debt is to "promote" more debt. The gods save us from the world's dumbest smart guy.

Well, I should stop messing around here and see what's the latest on Facebook.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Still Muddling Through

This week hasn't been too bad at the office. We still get the occasional person who has no idea how to do their taxes, but will insist on arguing about every figure on the tax return because they don't like the answer. I'm at the point now that customer service be damned: If you don't think I did it right, take your crap across the street so they can charge you to tell you the same frackin' thing I just told you for free. But you are not going to sit at my desk wasting my time while you demonstrate your ignorance of the tax code and basic mathematics.

We seem to be settling into a rut of going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching something on Hulu, going to bed, then doing it all over again. So Debbie hooked us up with a couple tickets for a bus ride down to Boston to hang out there and see the stage version of Lion King. It's been a while since I've seen a stage production of any kind and we've never been to that area of the country before. Should be interesting.

Can someone explain why it's OK to take a second-grade class to a museum to view nude sculptures, but the cops force a homeowner to dress his Venus de Mil sculpted in snow? One of these days, this country will address its schizophrenic attitude towards nudity. Or it will simply continue to be schizophrenic. We seem to like being schizophrenic about a great many things.

I used to listen to NPR religiously. Trying to salvage something from the several hours in the car just getting to and from work was part of the reason, but during the 1980's and 90's, they were a fairly reasonable source of news. Then sometime around 2001 or 2002, there was a dramatic shift towards attack journalism. I just switched it off and have never listened to a minute of public radio since. I see that I haven't missed much; now they can't be bothered to check even the most basic of facts. Whatever. I think I'll keep right on not listening.

You can't make this stuff up:
In 2007, an Islington [England] officer ticketed an Islington vehicle, but the department that got the ticket appealed. Because the department is not a different entity, in legal terms the council was appealing a ticket it got from the council, and under the rules above, the council was hearing its own appeal. After the council rejected its appeal, it then appealed again to the Parking Adjudicator. But having appealed, it then presented no evidence, and the Adjudicator voided the ticket. Feeling its appeal had been an outrageous waste of time, the council asked for costs, thus accusing itself of having acted frivolously, vexatiously and/or wholly unreasonably toward itself.

Remind me again why we want to be like these guys?

Speaking of England, a couple Muslim women chose to miss their flight rather than be publicly strip-searched (which is what the new full-body scanners do) in the middle of Manchester Airport. I normally don't find myself agreeing with people who feel the need to wear giant garbage bags over their heads, but it's time and past time to decide just what indignities we are going to allow ourselves to be put through.

And that's it; I'm falling asleep on my keyboard again.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Yea, yea. It's a frackin' commercial. Watch it anyway.

Way Cool Video

No comment necessary:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Spring has Sprung?

Sunny and 50 degrees at work today. All the snow from the weekend is gone and we are back to dead grass and piles of black shmutz. Work has been completely dead, as in sitting in the office for eight hours so I can spend 15 minutes on a return and the rest of the time reading stuff on the web. It's supposed to be like this for the entire month of March. I'm definitely bringing a book with me. The whole thing seems a bit nuts, but the money spends just like a real job.

We stuck to our plan for the weekend and, other than Debbie making a short excursion to work and the store so we wouldn't starve, we never left the apartment. To paraphrase Peter Gibbons, "We did nothing and it was everything we thought it would be."

Many are nervously watching Europe's PIIGS, wondering what the impact will be if one or more of them topples. Yet those same people don't seem to realize that California is at least at bad and maybe worse. Keep in mind that California would be one of the top 10 world economies if it were a separate country. This cannot end well.

It seems the buzzards are circling ABC. Actual news teams will be replaced with guys out running around with Zip Camcorders or some such. I'm sure that will dramatically improve the already-stellar news-gathering at ABC.

Unemployment will be higher in February, but it will be because of the sucky weather, not the sucky economy. Um. Yea.

As a result of one of the various ways that Amazon's tentacles reaches into my daily life, I get an e-mail with a link to free music once a week or so. Usually, it's 20-30 songs with maybe one or two that don't completely suck. This week, the list has nearly 1,600 songs on it. Even if the usual suck-age percentage holds, I look to score 50 to 100 free non-sucking songs. Not bad. The only downside is that I have to download each one individually; no way to grab the whole bunch all at one go. But it's free.

One problem is that on a few of the tracks, I can't change the meta-data under Win7. This has nothing to do with security settings or what particular program I'm using to change it. It just flat doesn't work. The data is there; I can see it in iTunes, Windows Media, etc. But there is no way to change it. Unless I bring up the same file under XP, then I can do whatever. Google-ing around took me to a number of sites where people describe similar problems with Vista. The only solution that works is to keep an XP machine around to edit the meta-data on 2% of your MP3's. It's not a show-stopper or anything, but it is a real pain in the butt.

I'm dozing at the keyboard, so I probably should go to bed.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is Anyone Normal?

Allen Frances, chairman of the commission that drafted the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association:
As chairman of the task force that created the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which came out in 1994, I learned from painful experience how small changes in the definition of mental disorders can create huge, unintended consequences.

Our panel tried hard to be conservative and careful but inadvertently contributed to three false "epidemics" -- attention deficit disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder. Clearly, our net was cast too wide and captured many "patients" who might have been far better off never entering the mental health system.

The first draft of the next edition of the DSM, posted for comment with much fanfare last month, is filled with suggestions that would multiply our mistakes and extend the reach of psychiatry dramatically deeper into the ever-shrinking domain of the normal. This wholesale medical imperialization of normality could potentially create tens of millions of innocent bystanders who would be mislabeled as having a mental disorder. The pharmaceutical industry would have a field day -- despite the lack of solid evidence of any effective treatments for these newly proposed diagnoses.

[Emphasis added]

Read the entire article.

I've said all along that the wholesale drugging of the nation's children was a money-making scam by the pharmaceutical industry. When your definition of "normal" excludes 25-30% of all male children, you need to seriously rethink your definition of "normal." And now we have the new DSM that will define, what? 50% of all male children as having a mental disorder? And with Obamacare we all get to participate in lobotomizing around half the male population and no small percentage of the females. It won't make us competitive with China and India, but the upside is that we'll all be too stupid and drugged up to care.

February by the Numbers

February was back down to the new normal with 269 visits. That's nearly 10 unique visitors a day and is probably about all I have any right to expect. It's not like I'm writing brilliant essays on topics of great import.

One big change from January is that I'm no longer posting links on Facebook, so I've lost much of that particular stream of visitors. Obviously that means referrals were down and The Archdruid Report has jumped in as Facebook's replacement in first place due to track-backs and comments I've left there.

Microsoft continues to dominate the operating systems used by visitors here with XP still claiming over 50%. All Windows versions combined tally up to 75.9% of visits. Other was the next-most significant OS at 10%, mostly thanks to whatever Facebook person/bot has been regularly visiting us. Mac, Linux and iPhone account for the rest.

The best word to describe the browser situation is "fragmented," with 16 uniquely identified browsers passing through in February. Grouping them up a bit puts Internet Explorer at 42.3%, Firefox at 28.3%, Chrome at 9% and Safari at 6.3%. Opera, Mozilla 5 and Other make up the rest. The interesting thing to me is the tipping of late in favor of IE over Firefox. I've seen wider surveys that show Firefox losing to Chrome and IE holding steady, but that doesn't appear to be what is happening here. Microsoft may have a bit of a hit on its hands in IE8. Whereas IE6 and 7 were the best thing to ever happen to Firefox, IE8 seems to have hit that "good enough" point that makes it not worth the hassle of downloading and installing something else. At least for the majority of those who come here.

There were several contenders for the Odd Search Term of the Month award in February. "Eyes dilated" and "paddle her ass" came on strong, but ultimately "ich bin license plate" won the day.

And that's enough of that.