Merry Christmas!

No "Happy Holidays" here at Recycled Sip, oh no, no, no. Here, we're wishing people the real McCoy: "Merry Christmas!" And I hope that all of the people who read this blog have a great day.

For me, Christmas actually came a little early. My brother Karl sent me a new computer game that I'd asked for: Civilization IV. It came on Wednesday afternoon, after I went to bed. I found the Amazon.com box outside my door when I got ready to leave for work. I opened the box on Thursday morning. The game itself wasn't wrapped, of course. And nobody would know if it got opened just a couple of days early and installed on my computer. Nope, nobody at all. So needless to say, I've been noodling around with the game for a couple of days. I even managed to finish and win one game, although that was at a fairly low difficulty level.

I also got some chocolates from my mom, sent by Harry & David, on the same day. They came with an impressive set of ice packs to keep them cool. When I took them out of the box, I had to laugh: While the message on the outside of the box said "Merry Christmas, Love, Mom" the chocolates had a blue bow on them that said "Get Well." And I didn't even know I was ill! Don't you hate it when it sneaks up on you like that?

I also got a couple of Amazon gift certificates, one from my other brother Kurt and one from my mom, so that I can order another computer game that I want, which isn't coming out for another three months or so. Originally, it was supposed to be in November, but evidently there were some glitches. I'd far rather get the game a little later and have it work right.

Later this morning, I'm going over to my dad's place and do the family thing. I got him that book he wanted (a Baptist hymnal, so he could "sing my songs," as he put it) and I'm also going to take him over to Fort Lauderdale to the Treasures of King Tutankhamen exhibition next month. Everyone else got honeybells. I like that; it makes it easy to buy for people.


Let the Weekend Begin!

My work week is finally over. The bad news is that my perfect streak of going through the entire month of December without having to work overtime came to an end today. Now I know how a major league pitcher feels when he loses a perfect game in the bottom of the ninth inning. They nailed everyone today. I wasn't too happy when the supervisor came around and proclaimed, "The list is getting four hours, the non-list is getting two hours and the PTFs are getting 3-1/2 hours."

"You're fucking with my goddamned weekend," I growled at him as he left.

And so my streak came to an end on the last work day before my three-day holiday weekend. I had to stay until 9:30 a.m. I was not amused, and it would probably be accurate to say that I was not as well-motivated as I normally am. I waited until 7:31, when I was on overtime, to visit the restroom. I figured I'd do my business on their time and they could pay me time-and-a-half while I did it. I felt better afterward.

All was not doom and gloom, however. I had the distinct pleasure of yelling at one of the Haitian casuals who came over and tried to steal one of my Labelle racks. The trays in the rack all had dispatch labels in them, and the racks clearly say all over them (in English) "Do Not Take!" "BCS #14 Setup" "Do Not Steal!" Obviously I need to write it in Haitian, too. Anyway, I saw this guy trying to abscond with my rack and I bellowed at him, "HEY!! DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!! THAT'S MY RACK!! YOU CAN'T HAVE IT!! NO FUCKING WAY!!" I think they probably heard me halfway across the building. Then I politely explained to him that we do NOT take labeled racks or GPCs off of people's machines, or they will be righteously pissed off. I then found a rack that wasn't being used and had him take that one instead.

It actually was therapeutic to yell at the guy. He was catching it for all of the times when weasels on other tours have stolen my racks. I'd have yelled at all of them, too, if I'd known who they were. This time, I caught the guy in the act. Very satisfying.


This and That

We have a holiday snack table at work, where people can bring in food to share. Last week, someone brought in a little green reindeer as a decoration; it looked like it was covered in artificial turf or faux chia. The next day, someone else brought in a gyrating Santa figurine, dressed in a cowboy outfit. You can guess how long it took Santa and the green reindeer to make an intimate acquaintance. Alas, the green reindeer was gone when I went in to work last night. Apparently someone has no sense of humor. A sign appeared on the cowboy Santa last night: "Brokeback Santa misses Rudolf." Heh.

I made the mistake of going out on US 41 on Saturday to buy a Christmas present at a specialty bookstore. The traffic and parking situation was just insane. I finally made it to the store, looked around and found what I was looking for. I got up to the cash register with the book and cash. The cashier asked for my telephone number. "You don't need it," I told her, handing her the book and the money. I think she was a little nonplussed by the response, but hey, I don't need to be in any more databases than I probably already am. If I'd wanted them to have my phone number, I'd have paid by check. Chalk it up as a victory for privacy rights. Well, if we actually have any of them left, which is doubtful.

Less than a week until Christmas. My string of overtime-free December days is still intact. Let's keep our fingers crossed...


I'm Not Complaining (Too Much)

Well, no, not too much. There are lots of people who have more to complain about than I do. The folks in the Mid-Atlantic who have gotten nailed with the latest ice storm, for instance. It's a truism that all politics is local, and the same goes for weather. We've had a bit of what passes for a cold snap the last few days here in Florida, but only comparatively so. I talked with a friend in North Carolina this morning, and she was pretty much marooned by the ice storm. She described her car as being "entombed" by the ice, and was hoping that the accumulation of ice wouldn't bring down the power lines. I seconded that. I remember how unpleasant it is to be without electricity.

I don't miss winter, no, not at all.

Others with more to complain about than me: The people at work who are lower on the totem pole and are being slammed with ridiculous amounts of overtime just about every day. Meanwhile, I do my eight and hit the gate. I am fully prepared to work overtime if I have to, but of course, but I've made it halfway through December without having to work any overtime at all. I'm hoping that my luck continues to hold.

I don't miss working overtime, no, not at all.

All is not sweetness and light, however. Last night, I got back my incidental leave request for a week off in March, which was denied because the maximum percentage had already been approved for those dates. It wasn't a big deal, however. I hope to be able to get a week off sometime in April when the percentage of people who can be on leave at one time goes up from 3% to 15%. The March week was a pipe dream, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I just don't want to have to wait until July for my next vacation.


Bad Stuff

Over the weekend, I was channel-surfing and caught the end of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" movie, featuring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees in the Beatles' roles. It was so bad that I couldn't look away. I only saw the last twenty minutes or so (alas, I missed Steve Martin's version of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), but it was enough to get a renewed feel for the zeitgeist of 1978. The long hair. The horrible clothes. The music: Barry Gibb's falsetto version of "A Day in the Life," followed by Billy Preston dressed up in a gold suit singing "Get Back," with the final reprise of the title tune to close the movie, featuring a group cameo by everyone who was hot stuff in Hollywood that year: George Burns, Carol Channing, Helen Reddy, Keith Carradine, Tina Turner, Leif Garrett... It was surreal. Certainly nothing I would have paid to see in the theater, even in that long-lost year.

Tookie: Are you in the "Save Tookie!" or the "Die, Tookie! Die!" camp? Me, I'm down with capital punishment for gangsta quadruple-murderers. I don't care how many children's books they write in prison. I was listening to Matt Drudge's radio show on the way to work last night and he mentioned that some people thought that the death of comedian Richard Pryor might generate a groundswell of support for Tookie. As if people were going to say, "There! You've got one dead black man, you don't need any more!" All I can say is, "Ahnold, be the Terminator you were elected to be."


"All I Wanted Was A Pepsi, Just One Pepsi..."

Odd story of the day, especially if you think that cops have gotten "Taser-happy." Bonus points if you recognize the source of today's blog title:

Cop Said to Taser Partner Over Soft Drink

HAMTRAMCK, Mich., Dec. 8, 2005
(AP) A police officer has been charged with using a Taser on his partner during an argument over whether they should stop for a soft drink.

Ronald Dupuis, 32, was charged Wednesday with assault and could face up to three months in jail if convicted. The six-year veteran was fired after the Nov. 3 incident.

Dupuis and partner Prema Graham began arguing after Dupuis demanded she stop their car at a store so he could buy a soft drink, according to a police report.

The two then struggled over the steering wheel, and Dupuis hit her leg with his department-issued Taser, the report said. She was not seriously hurt.

Classic! But not Coke Classic!


Instant Karma

My sympathy meter is stuck on 'zero':

Suspect in Salvation Army kettle robberies found dead

TAMPA, Florida (AP) -- Tampa Police say the man suspected of robbing several Salvation Army bell ringers has been found dead.

Spokesman Joe Durkin says the body of Lee George was found in his car at the bottom of a creek near the Hillsborough River. The former auto-repair shop owner was pulled from the submerged car and identified through fingerprints. Police say he matches the description of the robber provided by witnesses.


The spokesman says police divers also found near the car a bottle of liquor and two pill bottles with small amounts of marijuana inside. Police say the crash may have been alcohol related.

Someone who'd steal money from a charity is lower than... Well, lower than a dead stiff at the bottom of a creek near the Hillsborough River. Call it what you like: Instant karma coming around, poetic justice or just God showing a warped sense of humor. Any way you slice it, this fellow's criminal career has come to a precipitous conclusion.


Bowled Over

Last night at work, I was looking at the sports section of the local newspaper during my break. One thing I noticed was a schedule of upcoming college football bowl games. I was amazed at how many of them there are these days. When I was a kid, there were only four college bowl games worthy of the name: The Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. Do you know how many there are now? Take a guess. Go ahead, I'll wait...

The answer: Twenty-seven. No, I'm not kidding. Starting on December 20th and running through January 4th, there are a total of twenty-seven bowl games, and that isn't including the college all-star games that take place later in January. There is at least one college bowl game every single day during that two-week period, except for the Sundays, of course, when the pros are playing.

The only problem is that with so many bowl games, not every game is going to feature a matchup of great teams. Indeed, there are several bowl games involving teams with 6-5 records. Quality or quantity, take your pick; you can't have both.

However, that Texas-USC matchup in the Rose Bowl looks like it might live up to the hype. "Hook 'em, 'Horns!"


Blinded By the Light(s)

The neighbors across the street from me really, REALLY love Christmas. They have really gone all out this year in the Christmas lighting department. Indeed, perhaps they've even gone a little overboard. Let me describe it to you: The house, the windows, the front door and the garage door are all outlined with colored lights. The two big trees in the front yard are festooned with strings of lights. There are two lighted artificial trees. There is a lighted inflatable Grinchy Claus (with the dog) that's about eight feet tall, as well as a lighted inflatable Santa and a lighted inflatable snowman of about the same size. They also have a large lighted inflatable snow globe that's about five feet in diameter. All of the inflatables have a tendency to deflate as the air turns colder, so each morning they are lying flat on the ground. There is a row of several lighted candy canes lining the driveway. There are a couple of lighted toy soldiers flanking the garage door, as well as a small lighted Santa, a lighted snowman and another lighted Santa with a pack, all in front of the house. There's an evergreen wreath on the front door. And there's a huge "Merry Christmas" in lights on the roof that has to be about fifteen feet wide .

They love Christmas. And Florida Power & Light loves them.


"You Say 'Torino' and I Say 'Turin'..."

I saw an article in yesterday's newspaper about the lighting of the torch for the upcoming Winter Olympic games in Turin, Italy. One fun factoid: The latest incarnation of the torch was designed by engineers from Fiat and Ferrari. And it shows; it looks so aerodynamic that the runner carrying it would gain a little speed. A picture showed the Greek Olympian who is the first torchbearer, and his uniform had the logo for "Torino 2006."

That got me to thinking: There are a lot of cities in Italy that call themselves something other than what we English-speakers call them. Torino, for instance, is our Turin. Similarly, such cities as Roma, Venezia, Milano, Napoli and Firenze are known to us as Rome, Venice, Milan, Naples and Florence, respectively. Doesn't that seem a little strange? Now, there are certain other foreign cities whose names are different in the English-speaking world, such as Moscow and Munich and Athens, but it's not a wholesale thing like it seems to be in Italy.

Then remember how the Chinese changed their transliteration system several years back and all of a sudden, Peking became Beijing and most other Chinese names became unrecognizable. I think they did it just to cause confusion in the West. You cannot get "Beijing duck" or find a "Beijingese" dog, however. Anyway, the point of all this is that the Chinese said, "We want you to spell our language like THIS," and by golly, we did! Apparently the Italians don't have that much pull with us, which isn't really fair considering all the of the great contributions they've made to American cuisine.


Happy Thanksgiving!

May your turkey be moist and your weather be dry. Or your martinis, whichever is applicable.

I kinda-sorta promised some pictures the other day. Some of you may have already seen these. If not, enjoy!


Buddha Boy?

One of the quirkiest stories I've read lately, via the London Telegraph:

Pilgrims flock to see 'Buddha boy' said to have fasted six months

Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.

Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.


Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.


The popularity of the phenomenon is partly because it resembles an episode in the life of the historical Buddha, who was born 160 miles away around 543 BC. The Buddha achieved enlightenment when he meditated beneath a sacred pipal tree for 49 days.

Ram Bomjon is also sitting beneath a pipal tree, in the same posture as the Buddha is depicted, but his vigil has already taken longer.

Ram's mother, who is called Maya Devi, like the Buddha's mother, admits to anxiety, particularly at meal times. But she tells herself: "God took him to the forest and I have faith that God will feed him."


The fervour increased last week when a snake is said to have bitten Ram, and a curtain was drawn around him.

After five days it was opened and he spoke. "Tell the people not to call me a Buddha. I don't have the Buddha's energy. I am at the level of rinpoche [lesser divinity].

"A snake bit me but I do not need treatment. I need six years of deep meditation."

I like the part about how his mother's name is the same as the Buddha's mother's was. How conveeeeeeenient!
My guess is that somebody is sneaking him food and drink at night.
I imagine the start of all of this was something like, "Well, I'm not into this whole 'school' thing and none of the Bhindaputra sisters will go out with me, so I guess I'll try this 'enlightenment' thing and see if I can start my own religion. It worked for guys like Buddha and Mohammed, although not so well for that Jesus guy."
Somewhere in America, Mary Christ is telling her son Jesus (named after her uncle Jesus Sanchez) that it's time to stop hanging out with those loser friends of his and get a real job...


Busy Week

My mom visited me down in Florida this week. We got a chance to spend a lot of time together on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as yesterday. We were outdoors quite a bit and saw some really interesting things. I may post some small pictures later on.

On Friday morning, we went out to Sanibel Island. First we tried to visit the Ding Darling wildlife refuge, but they were closed because it was a federal holiday. I think they may also normally be closed on Fridays anyway, so it was poor planning on my part. However, it turned out pretty well because the Indigo Trail (for hiking/biking) was open. It is a two-mile long trail and it doesn't loop around, so you have to walk two miles out and two miles back. We were well-prepared to be outdoors, with plenty of sunscreen and broad-brimmed straw hats.

About a quarter-mile down the trail, there was a sudden flurry of feathers exploding across the path right in front of us, and a red-shouldered hawk flew past in a blur and lighted atop a nearby palm tree, no more than ten feet away from me. He was a very fierce-looking bird. I snapped several pictures of him with my digital camera, one of which came out so well that I'm currently using it for my desktop wallpaper. At about the half-mile mark, we spotted our first alligator. He was about twenty feet off the path, basking in the sun along the water's edge. He was perhaps five feet long. A couple walking behind us with a baby stroller took one look at Mr. Gator and decided that they weren't going any further. We, however, continued on.

We had been impressed with the small alligator until we saw the larger one at about the one-mile mark. He was perhaps seven or eight feet long, and was sitting at the water's edge facing the path, again about twenty feet or so away. His mouth was gaping wide open, and he showed off an evil-looking set of jagged teeth. My digital camera was very busy as I shot several pictures of him from various angles, including one with full digital zoom in which he took up the full picture frame from elbow to elbow. I sent that pic out to many of my friends, along with one of the red-shouldered hawk.

Further down the path, we saw many bees buzzing around a tree. We figured that their hive was probably within it, and that the tree was probably filled with honey. We decided not to try to find out for sure, though. At the two-mile mark of the trail, there is a small dike road that takes off at a right angle and links up with the road that drivers use to drive through the preserve. There was a wooden pavilion along the water, and we went under its welcome shade and looked around the area. After we'd been there for perhaps ten minutes, all of a sudden a mother raccoon came walking along the water's edge, with four or five baby raccoons trailing along behind her. I snapped several pictures of them, although they moved so quickly that I didn't have the opportunity to zoom in on them.

After we made our way back along the trail, we went out to lunch at the Mucky Duck on Captiva, then went back down to Sanibel to Bowman's Beach for some shelling and a little beach time.

Saturday, we went to Fort Myers Beach to the Sand Sculpting competition. It was really interesting to watch the professional sand sculptors at work. Not only does it require artistic talent, but also an ability to figure out what the sand's qualities are and what they will allow you to do with the sand. We had some lunch, then watched the sand sculptors in action for awhile longer, then made our way back to Fort Myers. We had passed a fruit stand on the trolley ride back from the beach, and watermelon sounded good, so we got a quarter-melon at Winn-Dixie and had some of that when we got back. Then, we went out and played miniature golf. I was extremely rusty, and Mom beat me the first game. I shot something like a 56 on a par 42 course. Bad. Very bad. Not to make excuses, but I made the mistake of dragging my digital camera a long, so I had to juggle a camera, cell phone, putter, ball, scorecard and pencil. I was somewhat distracted and I didn't play well. After the first game, I put the camera back in the car, then we had a rematch. I played much better the second game, shooting a two-over-par 44 the second time around, including THREE holes-in-one. After that, we went to Smoky Bones Barbecue (a sports bar on US 41) for some barbecue. I had the pulled pork while Mom went for some ribs.

Sunday, we went out to Six Mile Cypress Slough and walked the boardwalk through there. We saw some wildlife, including an otter, turtles, some anhingas (long-necked birds whose feathers aren't water resistant, so they stand with their wings extended to dry them out), a little blue heron, more hawks (at a distance), and some strange bird up in a tree that Mom thought was a night heron. I got some nice pictures of the Slough. My favorite was of the light shining through the trees directly onto a strap fern growing on a fallen tree. The light shifted almost as soon as I took the picture, but I managed to capture it at just the right time. After the Slough, my mom was in the mood for seafood. We tried a couple of the local seafood restaurants, but found that they didn't open until 4 p.m. We ended up having lunch at Hops instead.

Mom visited friends up in North Port on Monday and Tuesday, then we got back together yesterday. We had lunch with my ex, who always was on good terms with Mom, and then Mom and I drove down to Naples to visit a couple of her friends from her condo in Michigan. We had a nice visit with them, then I drove Mom to the airport for her flight home.

It was really nice to have Mom down here to visit me.


Story of the Week: When Lesbian Cheerleaders Attack!

Here's a story with a little bit of everything: Sex! Violence! Cheerleaders! What more could you want? From Tampa Bay's Channel 10 Sports (pictures on link):

Police: Cheerleaders arrested at Tampa bar

Tampa, Florida – Two Carolina Panther cheerleaders spent the night in jail after a rough night in Channelside. The Panthers were in town to play the Bucs Sunday afternoon.

Witnesses say Angela Keathley and Renee Thomas were engaged in some type of sexual activity inside a bathroom stall at Banana Joe's around 2:20 am Sunday. Another woman waiting to use the bathroom got into an argument with the pair. Police say Thomas punched the woman in the face. When Thomas was arrested, she gave police the name of another Panthers cheerleader.

Thomas could face additional charges for lying to police, once they confirm her identity.

Keathley was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing or opposing an officer, while Thomas was charged with one count of battery.

The two women were taken to Hillsborough County jail, where they both bonded out later Sunday morning.

They are, of course, former cheerleaders now, as the team has kicked them off the squad for conduct detrimental to the team. The whole thing sounds like the plot to a bad late-night weekend Cinemax movie, doesn't it?


New and (Not) Improved

Change is not always good. When I came back from vacation this week, I was told by my regular partner that "they" had changed the computer operating system for all of our machines, and now they didn't run as well. I'm not sure how much of it was due to software problems and how much was due to a bad sensor in the reader, but the machine was jamming every whipstitch for about two days, until they fixed the sensor yesterday. It's still running rough, though, and there's a bearing squealing in protest that's ready to go at any time.

Another change: They got rid of all of our CRT monitors and replaced them with flat-panel LCD monitors. Now, a flat panel monitor is a thing of beauty, as long as you're right in front of it. However, if you try to view it at an angle, you quickly lose the ability to see it. With the old CRTs, we could turn the monitor at an angle so both the person feeding the machine and the person sweeping it could both see the monitor, which was convenient. Not any more. New, not improved.

It's been a generally trying week so far at work. I've felt like a fish swimming upstream the entire time. Some weeks are like that.


Electricity Back!!

Hooray! The power is back as of 6:00 p.m. Television! Computer! Air conditioning! Refrigeration! Water from my well for a shower! Beer waiting for the fridge to chill it down!

Life is good. Or better than it was, anyway.

I finally got to read my e-mail for the last 5-1/2 days. Thank you to all of my friends who e-mailed me with their kind words of concern. I do appreciate it, even if I couldn't read it at the time you sent it.

Saturday at the Library

Still no power. This morning's paper says that FPL promises that everyone in Lee County east of I-75 will have their power back no later than November 10th. I suspect that mine will be back a lot sooner than that, but every day this becomes more frustrating. I'm not really having any problems meeting my basic needs, but I'm really, really bored. No television. No computer. Nothing but my books. And you can only read for so long before you want to do something else. I don't feel like doing anything particularly active, because I don't want to get sweaty or dirty.

Yesterday, I scrounged some water from the neighbors across the street to fill my toilet tanks. I spent most of the day sitting out in front of my house in the shade, reading Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy, which I got at the library the other day. I'm into the second book. Lots of time to read, while it's light out. I also have my flashlight, a fancy deluxe model with both incandescent and fluorescent lights as well as red and yellow flashers. The fluorescent light is perfect for reading in the dark, and there's lots of dark this time of year, even at this latitude.

Nights are currently about 12 hours and 40 minutes long. You can't really sleep that long. I've been going to sleep at dusk and waking up around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. and then trying to get back to sleep amid the roar of the generators. Tonight is "fall-back" night, so tomorrow, the sun will rise around 6:40 a.m. and set around 6:00 p.m. And tomorrow night, I'll have to go back to work, with however much rest I manage to get. Hopefully the power comes back today or tomorrow, or things are really going to suck even worse.

I haven't really had much appetite lately. Yesterday I had an Angus burger with bacon and cheese from Burger King, and a brownie in the late afternoon. This morning, I dined on S'Mores Pop Tarts. I've been drinking lots of water, although it hasn't yet become hot enough to worry about dehydration.

That could change by the middle of next week, with temperatures predicted to climb into the mid-80s. It's supposed to get up to 82 today. You worry a lot more about the temperatures when you don't have electricity, because there's no way to cool or heat the house. The ambient temperature is what you get. I battled the possible oncoming heat by opening the windows and getting the house as cool as possible overnight. It was down into the low 60s overnight, so I figured that the cooler it was in the house this morning, the more pleasant it will be in the middle of the afternoon.

One silver lining to the dark cloud: No mosquitos, at least so far. I've been able to leave my windows open, even the ones whose screens were destroyed by Knucksie the cat, without being attacked by the little bloodsuckers. Also, as soon as I arrived home with my new cell phone, I found that my landline phone was working again. I'll be able to go online as soon as my power comes back.

I keep telling myself that this is only a series of temporary inconveniences, that no matter how unpleasant it may seem now, there are other people who are worse off. It's true, of course, but it doesn't really make me feel any better. I want my power back!


This Sucks

Still no power as of this morning. No phone either; it was back on Wednesday afternoon, when I got home, but then went out and never came back. I decided that I would have to get a cell phone. I'd never really needed one before, but now I do.

I started this morning by going to my workplace and taking a shower in the locker room. After that, I went to the Mall to get a cell phone. Now that I've accomplished that, I just have to get it up to a full charge. I'm using the 12v adapter in my car to charge it up. Then I can start calling roofers about trying to get my shingles fixed.

After leaving the Mall, I stopped off at my insurance agent to give them my new cell phone number. Hopefully I'll hear from the claims adjuster soon. I'm not going to wait on looking for shingle repairs, though. I suspect I may be in for a long wait, courtesy of my non-working landline phone. The good news is that the rainy season appears to be over, and I didn't take any water damage even after losing all of those shingles. The bad news is that the federal tarp program doesn't apply to Lee County, so I am on my own.

Please, please, dear God, let my electricity come back on soon! It's gotten progressively warmer each day. The first two days were nice and cool, yesterday was warm. In a couple more days, I'm going to really start missing my air conditioning if it isn't back by then.


Power Still Out

The good news is that Lehigh Acres at least has power. I, however, still do not. I'm back at the library. From the window of my house, I could see the branch on the power line that is preventing my power from being restored. It's such a simple thing. If that branch hadn't caught on the power line, my power would have been back from Tuesday afternoon on. Unfortunately, the blasted thing is still there.

After I left the library yesterday, I went to Wendy's for lunch. Yup, hot food is right down the road, just not available at home. Water is the real problem, however. I no longer have anything coming out of the tap, so all I have to wash with is the bottled water now. Both of my toilets have full cisterns, and I have about 5 gallons of tap water in a big jug to refill one more time. After that, I'll have to go to the neighbors who have a generator and beg some water from them.

I also may have to go back to my workplace while I'm still on vacation, just to make use of the shower in the men's locker room. It's closer than going to my dad's place, and easier to access. I'm also going to have to get a loud windup alarm clock so that I'll be ready to go to work on Sunday night if the power isn't back on before then.

Laundry also will be becoming problematic. I washed everything I normally wear before the storm hit, so everything was clean. It'll only be a couple more days until I have to look for a laundromat in Lehigh or else go visit my dad so I can wash clothes. Dad's farther away but it wouldn't cost me anything. Tradeoffs to consider.

I spent this morning dismembering tree branches from my back yard and placing the chopped up bits beside the street. I worked to the point of sweating, which I didn't really want to do until I had the power back on and could shower, but I had to get those branches ready for pickup because I have no earthly idea of when they'll be coming by to get them. Better to have them there drying by the side of the road and there to pick up than to miss the opportunity.

When I got home yesterday with my Wendy's burger and fries, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my phone was working. I managed to call my insurance agent and start the claims process. Unfortunately, when I checked the phone this morning, it was dead again.

This officially is the Worst. Vacation. Ever.


Blogging From the Library

I hope you all weren't too worried about me. I am fine. The north side of my roof lost a lot of shingles, my power is still out and so is my telephone. But other than that, I'm okay.

Here's what happened: On Monday, I called my dad around 8 a.m. and while I was talking with him, my power went out. About 15 minutes later, the winds really started howling in from the north. The back side of the storm was hitting our area, and it was interacting with a cold front coming down from the north which intensified the winds. I estimate that we were seeing gusts of 80-90 mph or more. It was a bit scary, and it shredded the shingles from the north side of my roof. From all the ones I picked up in the back yard after the storm, I'm surprised that there were any left. Apparently, however, there was a double-layer of shingles. I don't see any plywood showing from the front of the house.

Anyway, the storm shrieked out its fury for about three hours, and we were still getting strong gusts in the early afternoon. I called my dad back around 1 p.m. to let him know that I was okay, other than losing power. Then, I went outside to see the damage. I spent the next hour or so picking up shingles and branches from trees across the street and in my neighbor's yard. Oh, and lots and lots of fronds from my palm tree, at least fifteen or more, which were on the side of the house and out back. When I checked the phone again, it was dead.

The power remained out overnight Monday and all day Tuesday. Then, yesterday afternoon at 5:10, it came back on... for 15 minutes. Hooray! Then it went out again. Loud curses. I heard fire trucks coming, and it turned out that a branch had been on one of the power lines down the street and started a fire. Most of the surrounding area now has power again, but we don't in my neighborhood. I'm just hoping that it's something that they can fix relatively easily, and that we haven't been pushed to the end of the line.

The good news is that the weather has been very pleasant, with lows in the 50s and highs only in the 70s. Usually, we suffer in the heat and humidity after a hurricane, but this one is unique in that regard. I've never seen a strong cold front push in behind a Category 3 hurricane before. The temperature gradient of the air was something like 77 in Fort Myers and 57 in Tampa when the strongest winds came through, and that difference accounts for the wind damage. Lots of street signs and even whole trees were blown down in my area, and we weren't the most severely damaged.

Also, because I'm still on vacation, I don't have to worry about going in to work until Sunday night. I'd better have electricity back before then or I won't have a trustworthy alarm clock to wake me up.

The bad news is that I have a 2% hurricane deductible on my homeowner's insurance, which means that most of the cost of fixing my roof is probably going to come out of my own pocket. Also, because I don't have electricity, my well isn't working. I've got plenty of bottled water to drink (more on that in a second), but water for washing and flushing the toilet is more problematic. I have two large containers filled with water to flush the toilet, and there is still water in the hot water heater, although it's cold. I found that out when I took a spit-bath out of a couple of bowls with a wash cloth, then used a couple more bowlfuls to wash my hair. The cold water was most unpleasantly bracing, but I'm clean again to some extent; I'll be glad when the power comes back on and I can take a hot shower, after the hot water heater warms up.

I had about six or seven gallons of bottled water available for myself, plus another couple of gallons of tap water that I'd run into bottles for the animals. This morning, I read that FEMA and the National Guard were handing out water, ice and other stuff in Lehigh Acres, so I swung by there. They gave me two 24-packs of bottled water (1/2 liter each) and a bag of ice. They didn't have any MRE's, which is too bad. I've got stuff to eat, so I won't starve, but I could have used more. Best of all, there was no line at all. I was in and out in less than a minute. I didn't even have to get out of my car! I just popped the trunk lid and the soldiers put the water in my trunk, and then the Lehigh Acres Fire Department fireman put the ice in afterward and closed it up. I won't go thirsty.

The temperatures are supposed to start creeping up, though, with low 80s expected over the next three days or so. Please, PLEASE let my power come back soon.

Also, one more observation: You have NO idea how long a night actually is until you don't have electricity. I've woken up around 1 or 2 a.m. both of the last two nights. Last night, I woke up in time to listen to the last couple of innings of the World Series game. Then, I listened to the radio for the rest of the night. It really sucks not being able to play on my computer. I've done a lot of reading the last couple of days. Right now, I'm working on Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." Fun, fun, fun, until sunset. Then, I'm in the dark again, unless I want to read by flashlight.


7:30 Update

The electricity went out for a second around 6:50 and then came right back on. I barely had time to reach for my flashlight. Had another flicker about five minutes ago, but again, it came back on. Don't know how much longer my luck will hold.

I heard a thump on the roof about 15 minutes ago. Probably a frond coming off the palm tree in front of my house; they're fairly heavy. Still getting lots of northerly winds and rain. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed at this point.

I'll give my dad a call around 8 a.m. to see how he's doing.

Winds Picking Up

Just had a pretty good gust, probably around 60 mph or more, but it's subsided now. Power continues to go out around the region. They just showed Fort Myers Beach, where the power is now out, and the NBC affiliate mentioned earlier that power is out in parts of Estero. All of that is southwest of me.

6 a.m.

Well, I'm living on borrowed time now for power. I figured that it would already be out by now. As I'm sure you've already deduced, the presence or lack of electricity becomes an obsession for anyone who's lost power for any length of time in the past. My power was out for less than 24 hours after Charley, but that was bad enough. I still fully expect it to go out sometime this morning.

The winds are starting to pick up outside. As of 5:45, winds were 38 mph gusting to 50. However, it tends to come and go.

Latest Forecast Update

The weather.com site's forecast numbers are looking worse:

6 a.m.: ENE 59 mph
7 a.m.: NE 62 mph
8 a.m.: N 65 mph
9 a.m.: N 65 mph
10 a.m.: NNW 65 mph
11 a.m.: NW 65 mph
12 p.m.: NW 53 mph
1 p.m.: NW 42 mph
2 p.m.: NW 30 mph
3 p.m.: NW 27 mph
4 p.m.: NW 23 mph
5 p.m.: NW 20 mph

Squalls all morning, mostly sunny by late afternoon, temperatures falling into the 50s overnight.

If that's the worst I get, I'll be happy. That's not even Category 1.

Still Here, For the Moment

The eyewall is coming ashore in Collier County. Fox News Channel has some crazy guy still hanging out in Everglades City where they're expecting a huge storm surge. I never have understood why the networks insist on sticking reporters out in the streets in howling wind and pouring rain to report on hurricanes. Hey, we get it, guys. It's very windy and wet. You may think we're impressed by your bravery, but all we really see is someone who doesn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

We're also supposed to get 4-8 inches of rain today, maybe more in some spots, and most of Florida is under a tornado watch. There have been several reported already in various parts of the state. A couple of hours ago, the weather guy on Fox News Channel said that if a hurricane warning was issued, people should go to an interior room of their homes, or even better, to a basement. I laughed at that last part; we don't HAVE basements in Florida, because the water tables are usually too high. This ain't Kansas, that's for sure.

Weatherman Sez

Just watched the weather guy on the local station who drew a couple of parallel lines showing the path that the eyewall is going to take. It's very, very wide and it covers all of Collier County (to my south), as well as most of Lee County (where I live) south of the Caloosahatchee River, all of Hendry County (to my east) and much of coastal Monroe County south of Collier. It looks like I'll be hit by the far northern edge of the eyewall. Of course, the windspeeds aren't uniform throughout the hurricane; most of the really nasty weather is in the southeast quadrant of the storm, the part that's been battering Key West already, but I still could see 100-mph winds here for a while. Yuck.

Fox News reports power outages in the Keys and parts of southwest Florida. I don't know how much longer my electricity will be on. If (when) it goes out, I'll take some notes and then write about it here when the power comes back on.

Meanwhile, since the power IS still on, it's time for a hot meal. Might not see another one for a while.

Wilma Getting Stronger

Winds are now up to 120 mph. Not good. The local TV reporters continue their message of hurricane force winds coming for the entire area, but the 3:00 a.m. hour-by-hour forecast from weather.com still shows winds in the mid-50 mph range for a few hours starting around 5 a.m. I'm wondering if that's just their prediction for sustained winds. That seems a little more likely, with occasional hurricane gusts from storms cells as the hurricane passes to the southeast.

I suspect that I won't know what the top winds actually were until well after the storm. I fully expect power to go out once the wind starts really blowing, and at that point, I'll have to rely on the radio and the newspaper for news until the power comes back on. I'm fairly certain that there won't be a newspaper today, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one on Tuesday. When Hurricane Charley hit last year, they actually had a paper in my driveway the next morning, which surprised me.

Right now, I have light wind and rain. I've lost DirecTV's satellite signal three times for short quick bursts of rain, but it came back each time.

Who to Believe?

The weather.com site's hour-by-hour list for this morning shows several hours of 50+ mph winds, but not hurricane force winds. That data came from a 1:00 a.m. run. On the other hand, the guys on TV are saying that Wilma's windfield is so wide that all of Lee County can count on 85-90 mph winds. I hope they're the ones who are wrong.

I'm not going to get the worst of it here, though, either way. Looks like that will be southern Collier county will bear the brunt of it, especially the storm surge. And whoever is in the path of it as it crosses the state is going to feel it as well, especially in the heavily-populated East Coast.

Looks like some heavy rains coming in now, because I just lost the satellite connection for DirecTV. Guess I'll flip it over to the local channels now.


Hurricane Warning

Well, here we go. The forecast has improved for where I live, with weather.com's hour-by-hour predictions for the wind speed now maxing out at 62 mph at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The timeline seems to have slowed down a bit, since earlier in the day the prediction was a peak of 76 mph at 8 a.m. At this point, the radar images show the storm moving on a northeasterly track with Naples square in the bullseye. I've read on a couple of different websites that because the storm is picking up speed (now moving at 15 mph and still accelerating), there will be a significant difference in the strength of the winds on the north side of the track and the south side. The north side subtracts the forward wind speed and the south side adds it on, so it obviously makes quite a difference.

Even if we don't get sustained hurricane force winds here, we'll still probably lose power for a while. I'm prepared for that. I've got all my supplies laid in and I don't have to go anywhere any time soon, so I'll just sit tight after the storm passes until the power comes back on.

The forecast for the next few days is for much cooler weather than normal, since the storm will be sucking cold air down from the north. We're talking about highs in the low 70s and lows in the 50s. Ironically, the problem may not be a lack of air conditiong but a lack of heat, if the power stays off. I'll just bundle up in the long-sleeve shirts and sweaters I don't normally get to wear.


Not Looking Good

While Wilma does the Mexican hat dance on Cozumel and Cancun, those of us in Florida are watching and waiting. It doesn't look good. Monday looks like it's going to be rather unpleasant. If the latest forecast models are correct, it will hit somewhere around Naples and then cut diagonally northeast across the state toward Lake Okeechobee. The intensity and exact landfall part are the crucial factors. I'm far enough inland that I don't have to worry about storm surge, although some wind damage seems quite possible. The north side of the storm's track should be the weak side, with wind speeds 25-30 mph less than on the south side. The only good news is that the storm probably won't be more than a Category 2 (and more likely a 1) when it hits Florida, and that it should be moving across the state at a pretty good clip, so we won't get the kind of rainfall that the Yucatan peninsula is going to get of the next couple of days. I'm guessing that the power will probably go out over much of the area. Hopefully it won't be out for too long. At least the temperatures are supposed to be cool in the days after the storm hits, so we won't be suffering in the 90-degree heat as happened after Hurricane Charley last year.

I've got my supplies laid in, I have a flashlight and a portable radio with extra batteries for both. I'll use up my frozen stuff over the next couple of days and clear out the freezer. If the storm misses us, then I'll go shopping on Tuesday. If not, well I've got non-perishables and bottled water, and I'll get in line for the MREs and ice with everyone else if I have to.


Plans Changed

Given that Hurricane Wilma is now a Category 5 hurricane packing 175 mile per hour winds and the lowest pressure ever recorded for an Atlantic basin hurricane, and that the projected track brings it over the Florida peninsula uncomfortably close to where I live on Saturday night, my mom and I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and she won't be flying in tomorrow. She's going to try to reschedule for flight plans to come down on Monday, assuming that we don't get a direct hit on Saturday night. So either my mom and I will be having a nice time next week, or I'll be surviving in the ruins. I sure as hell hope it's not the latter.

I'm getting really, REALLY tired of hurricane season.



I'm feeling lazy, which explains the lack of recent blogging. My mom's coming down from Michigan later in the week for a few days. We're going to do the touristy stuff here in Florida. I've got a few things in mind, but I'll see what she'd like to do while she is down here. Hopefully the latest tropical storm (Wilma) will stay far away from Florida.

The weather is beautiful this morning; the temperatures actually fell into the upper 60s overnight. Delightfully cool, compared to the lows in the mid-to-upper 70s that we had last week. It was too darned muggy. This actually feels like fall, at least as close as it gets to fall here in the southern part of the Sunshine State.

I'm a couple of hours away from playoff baseball in my computer baseball league. My team dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series at home, which means we've dug a deep hole for ourselves. Hopefully we'll have better luck on the road. We'd better, or the series may not make it back to my park. So far, it's been very disappointing.


Random Thoughts

Yeah, slacking again.

There was a front page article this morning in my local newspaper about how the entangled bodies of a 13-foot-long Burmese python and a 6-foot-long alligator were found in the Everglades the other day. The python had tried to eat the alligator, but its stomach exploded. The tail and hind legs of the alligator were protruding from the snake's stomach. Yes, there was a picture. No, you probably don't want to see it, especially if you've eaten anything recently.

One more night and then it's time for a three-day weekend. We all like three-day weekends. They're a good thing.

Did you hear that Piglet (of Winnie the Pooh fame) has been banned in Britain?

Muslims win toy pigs ban

NOVELTY pig calendars and toys have been banned from a council office — in case they offend Muslim staff.

Workers in the benefits department at Dudley Council, West Midlands, were told to remove or cover up all pig-related items, including toys, porcelain figures, calendars and even a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.

Bosses acted after a Muslim complained about pig-shaped stress relievers delivered to the council in the run-up to the Islamic festival of Ramadan.

Muslims are barred from eating pork in the Koran and consider pigs unclean.

Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practising Muslim, backed the ban. He said: “It’s a tolerance of people’s beliefs.”

So the Muslims are promulgating intolerance in the name of "tolerance." Charming.

My reaction: "If you don't like toy pigs, there are boats and planes leaving for Muslim countries every day. Don't let the door hit you where Allah split you on the way out."



I saw in yesterday's news that Don Adams died at age 82. If you're of a certain age, you remember him as Maxwell Smart from the TV comedy "Get Smart," or perhaps as the voice of the cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo.

I was thinking about this last night while getting ready for work, about how quaint "Get Smart" and other TV shows from the early-to-mid 1960s seem in retrospect. There was a cultural sea change that happened during that time, and the way that people dressed and behaved changed radically some time around 1967 or so. The Summer of Love marked the end of the reign of the fedora-wearing man in the gray flannel suit almost as surely as the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

Even into the early 1960s, all men wore hats everywhere they went. A man wasn't completely dressed without one. If you look at archival film footage from the 1930s or 1940s or 1950s, you notice it: They were all wearing hats. And then you look at film from the 1970s, and you notice that very few men were wearing them any longer. The ones who did still have hats from then on were wearing them as part of a uniform: Military, law enforcement, culinary, sports. But for John Doe, the hat was no longer required or even desired.

I think that the man who single-handedly killed the haberdashery industry was President John F. Kennedy. Sure, he died in 1963, a few years before hats almost completely disappeared, but he was the one who set the hatless trend by appearing bareheaded at his inauguration. The die was cast; hats were no longer fashionable. The dinosaurs didn't all die off at once, either; it took a little time. It's always been my pet theory that the haberdashers were the ones who had Kennedy assassinated. Do you know what Harry Truman did before he entered politics? He was a haberdasher in Kansas City. Really.


"...Why Must You Live Out Those Songs That You Wrote?"

Nine years ago, it seemed like a "local girl makes good" story. 20-year-old country singer Mindy McCready went from southwest Florida to Nashville to seek fame and fortune and had a #1 hit in 1996 with "Guys Do It All the Time."

But now she's pushing thirty and the news lately has been all bad. Her life has been like a bad country song. She's been arrested for drunk driving, for possession of OxyContin, and for some kind of involvement with a con man in Arizona. She attempted suicide last year, and then just yesterday, she was hospitalized after overdosing on antidepressants after an argument with her boyfriend. She's also pregnant. And unlike Hank, Jr., she doesn't have "Family Tradition" as an excuse, as far as I know.

Sometimes fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. It seems to have brought poor Mindy more heartache than happiness.



I really have to compliment the USPS for their quick delivery of my DVDs. I placed the order on Monday with Amazon.com, and it shipped on Tuesday via USPS with an expected delivery of 3-5 business days. The projected delivery date according to Amazon.com was September 26th. Well, they arrived yesterday, in just two days.

"Wonderfalls" is a three-disc set which includes all thirteen episodes, including nine which were shot but never aired on Fox. There are also documentaries as well as commentary tracks on some of the episodes. I watched Disc 1 yesterday afternoon, which was the first four episodes, the ones that actually aired before the show was cancelled. After watching them, I had to wonder: What was the network thinking? If they'd put this show in a decent time slot and left it there, they could have had a hit on their hands. Instead, it was off to Canadian TV and then to DVD and the Logo Channel.

Would you like it? Perhaps. If you liked "Twin Peaks" or "Northern Exposure," which were a couple of my favorite television shows, then you probably would. "Wonderfalls" has a delightfully quirky cast as well as an interesting premise: Jaye, an Ivy Leaguer with a philosophy degree, is a slacker who works in a kitschy gift shop in Niagara Falls and lives in a trailer park. One day, a wax lion figurine in the gift shop starts talking to her, and soon other similarly inanimate creatures start doing the same. They tell her to do various outrageous things, but in the end, her actions change people's lives for the better.

Jaye is a very complicated woman, if not always a likeable person(much like Joel Fleischmann was in "Northern Exposure"). The show is cleverly written, and there have been some lines that had me howling with laughter. There's also the sexual tension of Jaye's growing relationship with Eric, the bartender at "The Barrel," a local bar, who came to Niagara Falls with his wife on his honeymoon a few days earlier, then found her fooling around with the bellboy in their hotel room. Heartbroken, he left her and started drinking and crying at the bar until they hired him. Jaye's best friend, Mahandra, waits tables at the bar as well.

I haven't watched the whole series yet, but so far, so good. And so, I'll finish this post and pop the next disc into the DVD player.


Sending a 1974 AMC Pacer to the Moon

Over the weekend, I read an article about NASA's plans to put Americans back on the moon in 2018. I was underwhelmed. First, why should it take so long to do it? John F. Kennedy set a goal back in the early '60s of putting a man on the man by the end of the decade, which was successfully accomplished. Less than ten years then, but now it takes us thirteen years? Why?

Even worse, NASA's plan is to cobble together a lunar mission using leftover parts from the Apollo and Shuttle programs. My reaction: You've got to be kidding me! That technology is 30+ years old now, so it will be almost 50-year-old technology by the time of the 2018 moon mission. I just do not believe that there haven't been advances in design, materials, technology, etc., that couldn't be implemented in a new and improved spacecraft design. Scavenging old parts to try to make a new spacecraft is hardly the hallmark of a vibrant space program. It sounds like something that a second-rate nation would do.

I'm not talking about the computer and communications technology, of course, which will certainly be state of the art. I'm talking about the bus they'll be driving. It's the equivalent of putting fancy chrome and a state-of-the-art sound system into a 1974 AMC Pacer and thinking you have a pimped-out ride. The proposed hybrid Apollo-Shuttle spacecraft would be the equivalent of a 1974 AMC Pacer, the Mirthmobile from "Wayne's World." Sometimes making something new look retro is a successful marketing tool. Look at the most recent incarnation of the Corvette, which looks much like the 1953 version, or the retro-inspired PT Cruiser. These are, however, new cars with all the bells and whistles. A hybrid Apollo-Shuttle moon mission would not be retro, though; it would just be old.

Back in the 1960s, the space program had a major "wow factor." It was glamorous. It was cool. And we thought it had a vision, although it turned out that the vision was far too limited, since all we really cared about was getting to the moon before the Russians did. Once we got there, we jumped up and down a few times and planted our flag, but then we left and we didn't go back. The mid-1970s were a bad time, with Vietnam ending badly, Watergate turning us into a nation of cynics, and then the trials and tribulations of the Carter administration. The whimpering end of the Apollo program was just another symptom of a nation that appeared to be in decline. The coolness of the space program, the wow factor, was gone.

NASA had an opportunity here to show some vision, to come up with something bold and new. Something cool. Something with flair. And they instead have decided to try to do it on the cheap, sending a 1974 AMC Pacer to boldly go where we've already been before. How disappointing.


No Meter Maid

No, lovely Rita is a tropical storm, soon to be a hurricane. We won't see much of it here, just a bit of wind and rain as we catch the edges of it as it passes to our south. I'm really ready for hurricane season to be over and done with.

This paragraph from an AP news story that I read over the weekend made me laugh:
Also, about 60 members of rival Palestinian security units engaged in a shootout in the center of the West Bank town of Ramallah after two officers feuded over a parking space, security officials said. No one was hurt.

I guess a Palestinian shootout involves all of them firing their guns into the air while yelling "Allahu akbar!" and then dodging the other side's bullets as they fall to earth. Apparently they think "aiming" is some kind of Zionist plot.

I was watching television yesterday and just kind of aimlessly looking through the DirecTV guide when I happened across a show called "Wonderfalls," which was about to start. The description said that the episode was about a Russian mail-order bride who comes to town and finds her groom is someone she did not expect. Well, I was curious, so I watched it. It was actually a funny show, so I did a little googling and found out that "Wonderfalls" was one of those "best shows you never saw." It was on Fox in the spring of 2004 but was cancelled after just four episodes due to poor ratings, even though the critics seemed to like it. A total of 13 episodes had been filmed, however, and the show later found other venues, including a DVD set. It's now being shown on the Logo channel, even though the "gay factor" of the show seems to be limited to the main character's lesbian sister. The show I watched yesterday was the eighth episode. Rather than try to catch them all on television, though, I decided to just go to Amazon and order the DVD set.


What I'd Miss Most About New Orleans


Now, I really don't think the city is gone forever. Other cities have suffered dreadful calamities and recovered; Lisbon, San Francisco, Chicago. It just takes time. Geography is destiny, and New Orleans' geographical location hasn't changed.

My main frequent connection to that city is that I've become rather fond of the New Orleans-style frozen dinner bowls from Zatarain's, which is headquartered in New Orleans. I don't know if they have any other manufacturing plants outside of that city or not. If not, then my supply will dry up soon and not return unless and until New Orleans is back in business. I usually eat one or two a week, since they fit nicely in my lunchbox. I like spicy Cajun-style food as a change of pace. I'll be sad if it becomes more difficult to get.


Katrina: Week in Review

I've been digesting the calamity that was Katrina. While I haven't written anything here, it's not like I haven't been writing anything. Mostly, it's been an e-mail discussion with a friend and the occasional comment on other blogs. Frankly, I'm disgusted with the coverage I've seen which tries to pin the blame for the "slowness" of the disaster response on the federal government, especially regarding the flooding of New Orleans and the heartrending pictures of those thousands of people trapped in the city, suffering from hunger and thirst in the heat. As I've written elsewhere, the fault for this disaster lies primarily with the state and local governments, who were totally incompetent and bungled this situation at the cost of thousands of lives. It also lies with those who were too complacent or too foolish to evacuate with a potential Category 5 storm bearing down on them. Don't tell me that they couldn't get out; I've seen far too many people still being coaxed from their flooded homes as their cars lie drowned in their driveways. And we've all seen the pictures (haven't we?) of the motor pool parking lots where the hundreds of school buses were parked, also drowned, and the dozens of NORTA city buses, also drowned, which could have been used to evacuate the city's poor and carless. Instead, they went to the modern day Black Hole of Calcutta, the Superdome and environs, which had no food or water on hand for the hapless crowds that showed up. The City of New Orleans had a disaster plan, which was not followed, and was totally inadequate for the situation in any case. And hundreds, perhaps, thousands, are now dead because of that fact.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Many of the poor people of New Orleans had been dependent upon government largesse their entire lives. That's not the sort of thing that encourages people to look out for their own self-interest, because they expect the government to look out for them. Well, the government let them down, and that's the lesson we all should learn from this tragedy: IF YOU TRUST YOUR FATE TO THE GOVERNMENT, YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE LET DOWN. And that's local, state and federal. You have to look out for yourself.

Finally, I heard a lot of "What took so long?!" when the National Guard showed up with food and water on Thursday morning, about 96 hours after the hurricane made landfall and less than 72 hours after the levees failed, drowning much of New Orleans. Well, folks, that is NOT a long time for the feds to get those relief supplies together, stage them and then bring them in on guarded military convoys. The logistics involved would probably boggle your mind, if you knew about them. And anyone with any sense who lives in an area where hurricanes hit KNOWS that you're probably going to be on your own for at least 3-4 days after a major hurricane hits your area, and plans accordingly. If you don't have enough food and water to last for three days or longer, then you're just begging to suffer if disaster hits.

I saw those poor people suffering on the overpass on Wednesday and I wondered, "Why don't they just drop a couple of pallets of bottled water and MREs onto that overpass?" And then, after thinking about it for a moment, I knew the answer: Because there would have been a stampede for the supplies if there was not someone armed with an M-16 to hand them out. Remember that little stampede on the Baghdad bridge where almost a thousand people died? Well, it would have been something like that, and then we'd hear stuff like "See! George Bush hates black people so much that he drops supplies on the bridge to make them stampede and kill each other!" And don't tell me we wouldn't have heard just that. You know the sort of silliness that the press has been putting out. The funniest thing I read was some idiot named Randall Robinson, a "civil rights activist," who last week claimed that the poor starving black people were being forced to eat the bodies of the dead to survive, because George Bush and the federal government were so slow getting relief in to them. I just had to roll my eyes and laugh at the man's stupidity.

I liked this article by Ben Stein: Get Off His Back



Dodged the Bullet?

Maybe not.

When Katrina weakened a bit before landfall and moved a bit farther east of New Orleans, it looked like the city had dodged the worst-case scenario. However, this morning we're watching rising waters on television as levees have been breached and water floods into New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain. The video of housefires burning out of control with no way for the fire department to put them out, of rescuers chopping holes in roofs to rescue people forced to their attics by rising water, of water spreading everywhere as far as the eye can see... It's sobering. The damage to coastal Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama is catastrophic. Today would be a good day to make a donation to the reputable charity of your choice that will be providing help to the many hundreds of thousands of people affected by this disaster. American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, whatever's your style...


New Orleans: The New Atlantis?

There's a certain sick fascination with watching a slow-moving inevitable disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina has become. It's now a strong Category 5 storm with 175 mph sustained winds and gusts over 200 mph, and it's heading straight toward the Crescent City. Of course, as huge as this storm is, it's going to cause catastrophic damage in a huge swathe of the Gulf Coast. It's the size of last year's Hurricane Ivan, with an intensity similar to 1969's catastrophic Hurricane Camille. It wouldn't have taken a storm of this magnitude to destroy New Orleans, which lies well below sea level and only exists because of a system of levees and pumps which keep the city from being flooded on a normal day. Tomorrow is not going to be a normal day. It may be the worst natural disaster our nation has ever seen, and as slow as the evacuation from the city has been, there will likely be huge loss of life, as well as unprecedented destruction of property. New Orleans itself may end up under 20-30 feet of water. This will make Hurricane Andrew and last year's Florida hurricanes look like nothing by comparison.

Katrina has really become a monster. The central pressure is down to 907 millibars, making it one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history. Hurricane force winds extend out over 100 miles from the center, so when it hits, the wind is going to blow at hurricane force for several hours. The destruction we will see afterward is likely to be unbelievable. This would be a good time to say a prayer for our neighbors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. They're in for a rough ride.

The Hand of Providence or Plain Dumb Luck

That's what apparently protected us Thursday night. On Thursday morning, the forecast track for then-Tropical Storm Katrina was right over the top of us. Then, after she hit Fort Lauderdale, the storm tracked southwest instead, through Monroe County and the Everglades, and exited in Florida Bay after just seven hours overland. Instead of getting 50 mile per hour winds and several inches of rain, we got 20 mile per hour winds and almost no rain at all, since almost all of the rain was in the southern half of the storm. For us, Katrina was a non-event, except for all of the schoolkids and others who got Friday off.

It was strange, because normally hurricanes move west and north. They don't normally take that kind of a southwesterly turn. As the hurricane forecasters noted, if they had predicted it to happen, they would have been wrong 100 times and right once. Well, this was the once, and those of us in Southwest Florida are grateful for our good fortune. I went into the break room a couple of times on Thursday night and looked at the satellite imagery as the eye of the storm crossed Monroe County, which is mostly uninhabited swampland. The storm paralleled Alligator Alley (I-75 running east-west between Naples and Miami), and all of the rain was falling south of I-75.

Since the storm was only over land for about seven hours, and much of that time was over the warm, swampy Everglades, it didn't weaken much. Once it was back out over the water, I knew that it would strengthen again rapidly. Our only concern was that it might make some kind of crazy hook and come back and nail us, but that didn't happen. My prediction at work on Thursday night was that it would miss us completely, continue west and then turn north and whack the Florida panhandle as a Category 3 or 4 storm. I knew that the gulf water was about 90 degrees, and that would be like tossing a match into a puddle of gasoline in terms of how the storm would strengthen. It looks like my prediction was off only on how far west the strike would be. It does not look good for the people of New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. This may be the disastrous hurricane that they've always feared would happen. And given how important that area is to our gasoline supply, prepare for the price at the pump to go up even more, very soon.


Going Out With A Bang Twice

You might have seen the story over the weekend about the Hunter S. Thompson memorial service/fireworks display on Saturday night in Aspen, Colorado. The gonzo journalist's ashes were blown up at the peak of the fireworks, so he went out with a bang, again. The first time, of course, was his shotgun suicide six months ago. The event was timed to be exactly six months to the day from his death. Why not a year to the day? Well, do you really think they wanted to be outside at night in February in Aspen? An August night was certainly more pleasant.

While I didn't agree with some of what he wrote, I thought his death was untimely and tragic. It's hard to know whether he would have liked his grand finale, or whether he would have gone all gonzo on the celebrities sipping champagne as he took his final journey. Maybe both.


The Zen of Chocolate

If, like me, you are a connoisseur of chocolate, you know that there are gradations of quality. At the base of the chocolate pyramid, there is generic chocolate, your Hershey bars and so forth. At the apex, you find fine gourmet chocolate imported from small, otherwise insignificant European countries like Belgium and Switzerland, tasty and expensive. Somewhere in between, you find Dove chocolate, which is the high-end of the mass-produced chocolate market.

Our topic today is not just the chocolate in the Dove Promises, but the packaging as well. Each Dove Promise is wrapped in foil, with a little message on the inside. It's sort of like the chocolate version of a fortune cookie, and each morsel gives not just pleasure for the palate but a little psychological comfort as well. Reading the messages gives us an insight into who the Dove company thinks their customers are. We must assume that they have done exhaustive marketing research, after all. So what do the messages say?

Here are a few for your perusal. First, one that I like: "Don't think about it so much." This is good advice for just about everyone. Most of us worry and obsess about one thing or another, and sometimes not-thinking is the best kind of thinking. This is a very Zen concept.

Next: "Go against the grain." Aha! Dove chocolate fanciers obviously are supposed to be non-conformist rebels. If we were conformists, we'd eat Hershey bars. (Well, sometimes we do, but that's neither here nor there.)

"Smile. People will wonder what you've been up to." Not original, of course. I've heard it before. Perhaps Dove Promises eaters are a bit grumpy and need to smile more.

"Smile before bed. You'll sleep better." Again with the smiling? Yeah, we're damn grumpy people before we get our chocolate fix.

"Laugh uncontrollably -- it clears the mind." Uh-oh. Someone must have taken more than the recommended five-piece serving of chocolate. Serotonin levels must be off the charts...

"Age is nothing but a number." Hmmmm... While this is not gender-specific, women usually are more sensitive about their age than men.

"Buy yourself flowers." Hmmmm again. Maybe they meant, "After you finish binging on the entire bag of Dove Promises because your no-good boyfriend/husband is out playing poker with the boys and didn't even buy you any flowers, go out and buy them for yourself."

"It's definitely a bubble-bath day." Well, THAT gives the game away, doesn't it? It seems that Dove thinks that their customers are primarily thirtyish women with insufficiently attentive partners.

Or not. You make the call.


Hot Time

Sometimes you just know it's going to be a rough day at work.

My first clue last night was arriving at the time clock and learning that the air conditioning wasn't working properly. Apparently Florida Power and Light (FPL) had been doing some kind of power transfer and did something that bollixed up the local power grid at work and fried out two of the four big "chillers" that cool the building. The front of the building was hotter than the back; my machine is closer to the back than the front, so it was cooler there. It was still warmer than usual, and especially in the first hour or so, when I had to trudge back and forth from my machine to the front of the building in search of empty equipment. By the time I got everything in place an hour later, I was starting to overheat, so I went to the restroom and ran cold water over my forearms and splashed cold water on my face to cool off. I regretted very much wearing jeans instead of shorts. Hindsight's 20/20.

While printing out my labels for the trays, both of my printers ran out of labels. I normally print two sets at once, and oddly enough, both printers ran out on the same label, number 55. Very strange indeed.

Next, I started having problems with my machine. It took two hours to fix it. It turned out that not only had a diverter gate gone bad, but one of the light barriers also went on the fritz at the same time. Losing that much run time meant that we had to reorganize things a bit. Fortunately, our mail volume wasn't particularly heavy and we got both of our dispatches out on time. All's well that ends well.


This and That, #3

I'm watching the NASA channel right now, viewing the grainy analog image of the astronaut trying to repair the gap filler on the belly tiles of the space shuttle. On the one hand, it's cool to be able to watch it live in real time, but on the other hand, the video quality leaves something to be desired. I'm sure that 20 years from now I'll be complaining about the quality (and the lag time!) of the video coming from the Mars mission.

Yesterday, Fox News came up with their latest salacious teacher scandal, this one involving a 42-year-old woman teaching at a Catholic school in Albany, New York. The teacher, an attractive blonde, is married to a prominent banker and is the mother of four children, three daughters and a 17-year-old son who is a friend of some of the boys (plural) who were boinking his mother. This story is a bit more sordid than some of the other ones recently, since the teacher had repeated sexual encounters with the four 16- and 17-year-old boys at many places: On the football field at the school, in her house, in cars, etc. She even had sex with two of them at once while the others listened in on the telephone!

A few thoughts on this: First, where were these teachers when I was in school? Second, if I'd known the Catholic kids were having that much fun, I might have thought about converting. Finally, it might be a double standard, but these boys weren't "victims," they were "lucky," and they may never find another woman that wild in their entire lives, so I hope they savored every minute of it.


It's Been A While, Hasn't It?

Well, yes it has. I've been lazy. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Today, I finally put the old car out to pasture. I'm now the owner of an Impulse Red Pearl-colored 2005 Toyota Corolla CE. For the first time in ages, I have an automatic transmission. My last three cars all had sticks. The new Corolla is peppy and seems to want to drive over the speed limit. I will have to try to rein in that tendency. And it has that new car smell... Mmmmmmm.


Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

I spotted a rather creepy postcard in the mail last night. It was from a town in the Czech Republic and the picture was of a chandelier made of human bones. The picture is from the ossuary at Sedlec, a suburb of the Czech town of Kutna Hora. The entire interior of the church is decorated with the bones of tens of thousands of people (I read 30,000 in one place and 40,000 in another). Rather morbid. It does fit with the medieval mindset, which emphasized how transitory life was and how death and decay awaited all, meaning that they should focus their attention on the afterlife rather than worldly pursuits.

(Update: After a little more research, I found that the church wasn't decorated with the bones until 1870! The artist was a Czech woodcarver named Frantisek Rint. It is actually kind of disappointing, since it would be a better story if it had happened in the Dark Ages. Alas, sometimes the truth isn't quite so entertaining.)

Here is a site which has a gallery with pictures from the ossuary: Frisco's Kutna Hora - Sedlec Ossuary Page



Looks Like A Shitty Day

We're not going to catch the full brunt of Hurricane Dennis here in southwest Florida, but we are going to have a windy, rainy, thundery day. It's going to pass to our west, but we'll still get tropical storm force winds. I had already completed my hurricane preps, so I'll just stay home today and ride it out. Hopefully the power will stay on.

If you're the praying type, you might want to say one for the folks in Cuba who are getting hammered now, and for the people living along the northern Gulf Coast who will get hit tomorrow.


Ill Winds and Silver Linings

"It's an ill wind that blows no good."

"Every dark cloud has a silver lining."

And I'm sure there's an aphorism about the bright side of splitting out the seam of your pants along the back pocket (and if not, there should be). Why? Because I managed to parlay that particular "wardrobe malfunction" into an early out this morning, getting an early start on my vacation by an hour. I'm not exactly sure why the CFF (Catastrophic Fabric Failure) occurred, because the jeans I was wearing weren't particularly tight. They were a bit worn, well broken-in, the way a good pair of jeans should be. I think the CFF occurred when one of the gates was accidentally left open on our last run of the day, and mail started flying out. I quickly stopped the machine and then squatted to pick up the letters on the floor. A little later, I paid a visit to the restroom and noticed that I had about a two-inch long rip along the inside seam of the back pocket. I was wearing a t-shirt which covered part of the blowout, fortunately. I went and found one of the supervisors and managed to talk my way into an early out at 6:30. The jeans, alas, will have to be retired.

Earlier this week, someone at work was cleaning out one of the desks in the office and happened across several group pictures taken in early 1992. We were able to pinpoint the year because some people were holding up signs saying "Get well soon, Ron," for one of the Tour 3 supervisors from that time, who unfortunately passed away. It was fun to look back at the pictures from 13 years ago, seeing some old friends that I haven't thought about in years, as well as seeing the old LSM machines (which have been extinct for almost a decade) in the background of some of the pictures. Most of the people in the pictures are long gone from our facility, having bid out to one of the stations, retired, been fired or just moved on, but several of the others are still around. Some have changed dramatically in appearance over the years, while others look almost unchanged. I was happy, however, that it was only Tour 3 people in the pictures, so that I didn't have to confront the image of my much younger self.


The Death of America

Here lies America
Born July 4, 1776
Died June 23, 2005
Murdered as she slept
By five black-robed assailants.

Too strong? Perhaps. It may be that the country will survive, although the American Dream apparently will not. If you are a property owner, you went to bed on Wednesday night secure in your Fifth Amendment property rights, keeping the government from taking your property by eminent domain, except in cases where it is necessary for the "public good," and with appropriate compensation.

Yesterday, our black-robed masters at the Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4 that we no longer have those Fifth Amendment rights, and that local governments can now take your property for solely commercial development, arguing that "increasing the property tax rolls" falls under the rubric of "public good." It is as if the Supreme Court all got together to deliberate over a big bowl of stewed prunes, then five of them went and took a great big healthy dump (often a major accomplishment for our nation's senior citizens) and then wiped their asses with the Constitution.

How ironic is it that President Bush and the Executive Branch have been extolling the virtues of an "ownership society," and now the Supreme Court (Judicial Branch) is actively working against private property ownership? Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. Indeed, if we could harness the energy from that spinning, we could probably be energy independent for the next couple of decades.

What does it all mean? Well, if you own a single-family home in a nice location, say by the beach in Connecticut, and some big developer greases the palms of the local government (city council, county commissioners, whatever), then if you refuse to sell, they can take your property and give you what THEY think is fair market value. You might get half a million, while the developer then takes your property and makes twenty or thirty million by building luxury condos on the site. You lose your home and have to move somewhere else, and that half a million you get probably won't replace it. That was probably the worst thing about this Connecticut case. And as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted in her blistering dissent, no property owner in America is safe any more. We are all vulnerable to being forced out by the highest bidder. This could set off the largest land grab since the Oklahoma Land Rush, only this time it would be the government doing the grabbing.

This case shows the need for either term limits or a mandatory retirement age for our unelected, unaccountable Supreme Court justices. Only Clarence Thomas is under age 65, and most of them are physically infirm; it would not be surprising to learn that there were some mental infirmities as well, due to advancing age. I would think it would take a severe case of senility for such an horrific interpretation of the Fifth Amendment. This is probably one of the worst Supreme Court rulings in my lifetime.


Don't Be Such A Dick, Durbin

Warning: Screed mode ON. Read if you dare, flee if you must.

Some Democrats continue to wonder why they lost so badly in the last election. They can't understand how anyone could have voted for Bush or any Republican. Well, it was easy to do. When it came to defending this country against terrorism, the Republicans were the only adults in the room. Putting the political leaders of the Democrat party in charge of our nation's defense would have been as irresponsible as handing a 16-year-old the keys to his daddy's liquor cabinet and Ferrari.

Exhibit A: Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the second-ranking member of his party's delegation to the Senate. Senator Durbin, like many of his Democrat colleagues, reminds me of nothing so much as a parrot, capable of learning a few words and phrases and repeating them ad nauseam without the slightest idea of what they actually MEAN: "Hitler," "Nazi," "gulag," "Pol Pot." They know that the words mean something really, really bad, but they aren't exactly sure what. On Tuesday night, Senator Durbin read the following into the record before a nearly-empty Senate chamber:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the[Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

How dare you, Senator Durbin? How dare you compare conditions at Guantamo Bay with the Nazi death camps, the Soviet gulag or Pol Pot's killing fields? How many millions of people have died at Guantanamo Bay? How many total? ZERO. The very comparison shows a colossal ignorance of history. Lavrenti Beria and Reinhard Heydrich would look up at you from whatever circle of Hell they currently occupy, ask, "How many millions of prisoners have you killed?" and when you told them "Zero, but we made some of them VERY uncomfortable," they would laugh at you for the rank amateur that you are.

Senator Durbin needs to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and maybe make a road trip to Cambodia to visit the museum there that commemorates the two million people killed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. He needs to look at the pictures from the liberation of the Nazi death camps by Americans at the end of World War II, he needs to re-read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's works, and then he needs to ask himself the question: What do all of these have in common? The answer: In every case, the prisoners were systematically being starved to death. Starvation is the tool in every tyrant's toolbox. Contrast with the prisoners at Gitmo, who actually have GAINED weight while in captivity. They are probably better fed, better housed and receiving better medical care than they ever have in their lives. And then there's another question: How many people in Cuba, outside of Guantanamo Bay, even HAVE air conditioning at all? How many of our soldiers in Iraq? Damn few.

Finally, Senator Durbin needs to remember exactly who these prisoners are. One of them is the man who was believed to be the "20th hijacker" from 9/11, who was turned away by an alert Customs agent. The jihadis at Guantanamo Bay would slit Senator Durbin's throat as soon as look at him, and would ululate "Allahu akbar!' while they did it. Indeed, if not for the heroic actions of the passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11, jihadis just like those at Gitmo would have flown that plane into either the White House or the Capitol Building where Senator Durbin works. Frankly, on 9/11 and for about year thereafter, I would have had no problem if the guards at Gitmo had repeatedly Tasered the testicles of every jihadi there to get them to talk.

These prisoners are not legitimate prisoners of war covered by the Geneva Convention; they were in civilian clothes and as such could have been shot out of hand when they were captured. The fact that we didn't do that shows more loudly than Senator Durbin's windy speech that we most assuredly are not like the Nazis, the Soviets or the Khmer Rouge. And consider that many of them have been repatriated and of those, about a dozen have been recaptured, with others doubtlessly killed fighting against us. If anything, we have been too kind to them.

One last word for the Senator: Don't be such a Dick, Durbin.


Out of Sorts

Don't know why, but I've been feeling more surly, more grouchy, more curmudgeonly over the past couple of days. There are a number of possible reasons why, but it doesn't really matter which one (or ones) are the root cause. I'm just feeling out of sorts. All I want is to get June over with and get to July, since I have a week off at the beginning of next month.

I spent some time this morning reminiscing about the "good old days" at work with one of the few grizzled veterans who remain from when I started in Automation 14 years ago. It brought smiles to both our faces. The stuff we used to do was kind of juvenile, but quite entertaining. Alas, things have become dull and gray.


Arlene: Not So Bad

At least she wasn't too bad here. We got a lot of rain and a little wind the last couple of days, but it could have been worse. We've already gotten more than our normal rainfall for the entire month of June. The sun is out now, though, for the first time in about a week. Things are looking up.

My brother Karl had asked me back in April what I wanted for my birthday. Unusually for me, there was actually something in particular that I wanted. I told him he could send me the new book "1776" by David McCullough, although it wouldn't come out until late May. Well, I got the book in the mail the other day and it's really an interesting read. If you're a history buff, you'll want to read it. I really enjoyed McCullough's biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman, and this is another one to add to the list.


Annoyance Factor: 11

It was the Monday from Hell today at work. My Annoyance Factor peaked out at 10 and then went to 11. Everything that could go wrong did, starting with having to try to track down two racks that some weasel stole off of my machine, and only being able to find one of them. Neither of my dispatches went out on time. I don't like Mondays anyway, and this one was worse than most. At the end of the day, a hapless clerk from the day crew came along and tried to steal the trays that I had stockpiled on top of my racks to use to retray them. It was actually therapeutic to yell at him: "HEY!! DON'T STEAL MY TRAYS!!" He grumbled about being yelled at, but he put the trays back. I immediately went to work on retraying the racks before any of the other day crew scavengers came around. Normally I try to get the racks retrayed before the day crew arrives at 6:30, but today it just wasn't possible.


Small World

First, a little personal background: I was born in Texas and lived there until I was eight years old. My family moved around the state several times, based on my dad's military career and his teaching career after that. My last stop in Texas was Denton, where my dad finished up his Master's Degree at North Texas State University in 1968. From there, we moved on to St. Joseph, Missouri, and later to Kansas City.

Well, the other night, I was working with one of our new PTFs who is originally from Chile. We got to talking about our backgrounds, and when I mentioned that I lived in Texas as a kid, he mentioned that the first place he lived when he came to the U.S. in 1975 was: Denton, Texas, where he studied at North Texas State University on a soccer scholarship. It is, indeed, a small world. I'm not going to put the "after all" at the end of that sentence because I'd probably owe Disney royalties if I did.


Dressed to the Nons

I watched the results of yesterday's French referendum on the European Union Constitution with what I can only describe as disinterested interest, not being a European myself. The French gave the measure a resounding defeat by more than 55% of the vote. I think they did the right thing, although many of them may have done it for the wrong reasons.

I went to the E.U. site on the link above yesterday morning and tried to actually read the proposed E.U. Constitution, and my eyes glazed over after about 30 pages or so. It runs a couple of hundred pages, and it prescribes in minute detail how the the E.U.'s subjects would be allowed to live their lives under its provisions. There is so much small print that just about anything could be hidden in there that would be useful to the Eurocrats who actually run the E.U. While paying lip service to individual rights such as "freedom of expression," it also abridges them by saying that:

"The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary."

In other words, any speech that might be perceived as infringing any of the other rights in the E.U. Constitution would be prohibited and punished. Indeed, at that point, about the only thing the French would really be free to say would be "Bonjour!" Such a provision would be unconstitutional in the United States.

I think the main difference between our constitution and the one the E.U. proposes is that in America, the people are sovereign and have inherent rights, and grant such powers to the State as it needs to function, and no more. In Europe, the State is sovereign and has inherent power, and grants such rights to the people as it deems necessary, and no more. We are a people who have a government; they are governments who have people. This is why so many of the leadership positions in the E.U. are unelected and unaccountable to the people they rule.