Tiger By the Tail

So the real question as the women continue to flood out of the woodwork is, "How the hell did Tiger Woods still have the time and energy to play golf at all, much less play it so well?" The last I saw, the number of mistresses had risen to double-digit doxies. His stamina is impressive, even if his judgment isn't.

I read an amusing article on the Us magazine web site, when the number of mistresses was still at nine. This made for some hilarious double entendres in the comments, like: "That's a short course; everyone knows Tiger wouldn't stop after nine holes" and "First he played the front nine, then he played the back nine." And as some commentators on Fox News noted last night, this is a stunningly quick reversal of fortune for any celebrity, to go from respected athlete and pitchman to punchline and laughingstock in a matter of days.

Tiger Woods is not the first man to run into this kind of trouble, nor will he be the last. When you're rich and famous, you have to beat the women back with a stick, if you really want to. Tiger obviously didn't want to, and apparently he didn't have that club in his bag even if he had.

In other Tiger news, Gatorade is dropping their Tiger Woods-linked drink, "Tiger Focus," although they made the decision before Tiger's travails came to light. "Focus"? Was there supposed to be one U in that name or two?

Meanwhile, Tiger can just sing along with Buck Owens.


Climategate Stuff

On Thanksgiving, I sent a link to a hilarious video on YouTube called "Hide The Decline" by Minnesotans for Global Warming to most of the people on my mailing lists. If you haven't yet seen it, here it is:

If for some reason you haven't yet heard about the Climategate scandal (or Climaquiddick, as others are calling it, since the drive-by media seem to be doing their best to ignore it) and don't get the "hide the decline" reference, just google it. Suffice it to say, the global warming people have been fudging the numbers, conspiring to keep opposing views on AGW from being published, their computer code that generated the scary global warming models is a bug-ridden piece of junk, and they've been deleting inconvenient data and dodging Freedom Of Information requests on both sides of the Atlantic. Other than all of that, they're all strictly on the up-and-up. Like Bernie Madoff or Enron were.

Yeah, they want to wreck our economy and impoverish us for something that "science" cannot prove is actually a problem!

Update from yesterday's Washington Times:

Gore cancels climate conference event

Former Vice President Al Gore on Thursday abruptly canceled a Dec. 16 personal appearance that was to be staged during the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which begins next week.

As described in The Washington Times' Inside the Beltway column Tuesday, the multimedia public event to promote Mr. Gore's new book, "Our Choice," included $1,209 VIP tickets that granted the holder a photo opportunity with Mr. Gore and a "light snack."

Berlingkse Media, a Danish group coordinating ticket sales and publicity for the event, said that "great annoyance" was a factor in the cancellation, along with unforeseen changes in Mr. Gore's program for the climate summit. The decision affected 3,000 ticket holders.

"We have had a clear-cut agreement, and it is unusual with great disappointment that we have to announce that Al Gore cancels. We had a huge expectation for the event. . . . We do not yet know the detailed reasons for the cancellation," said Lisbeth Knudsen, CEO of Berlingske Media, in a statement posted by the company.

The ClimateDepot,com, an online news aggregator that tracks global-warming news reports, referred to the situation as "Nopenhagen," and evidence that popular momentum for the Copenhagen conference "is fading."

Hmmm... I wonder if a dish of crow qualifies as a "light snack."

Mr. Gore may be greedy, vain, venal and hypocritical, but he's not a fool. I'm sure he understood the full impact of the released e-mails and data from the University of East Anglia, unlike President Obama and his "science" czar Carol Browner who are both "full speed ahead" with fighting climate change, never mind that the scientific underpinnings have been yanked away like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Nope, this time they're gonna kick that climate change football and... "AAIIIEEEE!!!" THUMP! She did it again.

In the comments, one person noted that Gore canceling was like the Pope opting out of Christmas mass. Copenhagen was supposed to be Gore's victory lap, his moment to bask in the warm glow of his acolytes' adoration. And now... He's going to be as far away from Denmark as he can get, no doubt. I saw a clip last night of Jon Stewart mocking Gore and talking about the irony of him being undone by the Internet, which Gore claimed to have invented. When you've lost Jon Stewart... It's over. As one wag put it, climate change has assumed room temperature.


December 1st?

Whoa! How did that happen? I've been remiss in my blogging for the past few weeks. I blame Dragon Age: Origins, a very cool game that I got about three weeks ago that has been consuming most of my free time. Very addictive. But it has kept me from writing as much as I normally might have, especially about things like Climategate, which I hope that you have heard about. If not, I'll rectify that!

I will try to be a bit more accessible this month. More in the morning...


Twenty Years Ago Today

...The Berlin Wall came down. It hardly seems possible that it has been twenty years since that momentous event. For me, as a former resident of West Berlin for almost four years, it was a joyous occasion.

West Berlin was a huge city, and there were large areas of it where the Wall was not even visible. Still, it was always a looming presence. We knew that the Wall was there, and we knew that the people on the other side of it were not free. They were held on the other side by guards with machine guns and dogs, by barbed wire and concertina wire and tank traps and mines.

And then, almost miraculously, the Berlin Wall fell, the guards and their dogs and their guns disappeared, the wire was taken down, the mines disarmed. The Iron Curtain vanished in a cloud of rust. The people in the East, who had not known freedom in half a century, suddenly emerged to blink and bask in its bright light. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Today, even twenty years later, watching the dominoes symbolizing the Wall toppling, I can't help but smile.


Why I Like George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, secretly visited the hospital at Fort Hood, Texas, last night to comfort the wounded from the cowardly terrorist attack and their families, according to Fox News. They asked the base commander that there be no press coverage of their visit.

To me, this was a very classy act. They were there to do what they could to console the victims. They weren't there for a photo op to make themselves look good.

The Bushes have a ranch about thirty miles from Fort Hood, so it was a little easier for them to get there than for President Obama, who will be there Tuesday for the memorial service. Still, this wasn't something that they were duty-bound to do. They did it because they care about the members of our armed forces, just as they did when President Bush was in office. This is why he was so popular with most service members then, and I dare say that he remains so now. The Bushes are good people, who put up with a lot of calumny about them for eight years. And although I didn't agree with everything he did, I miss him.


A Muslim? I'm Shocked, Shocked!

Admit it: The first thing you thought to yourself when you heard about the atrocity at Fort Hood yesterday was, "Is it a Muslim terrorist attack?" The FBI quickly pooh-poohed that notion, saying, "No, no terrorism here, move along." But on Fox News, Shepard Smith was coy, refusing to name the murderer even after all of the other networks and the AP had already released the name. They got it wrong, of course; they named him as Major Malik Nadal Hasan, said that he had been killed, and rumored him as a convert to Islam. His actual name was Major Nidal Malik Hasan, he's a native-born American Muslim of Palestinian descent, an Army-educated psychiatrist and it turns out that he is still very much alive. As in most chaotic breaking news situations, the initial reporting was inaccurate.

Most of the news outlets are puzzled about why he might have committed such a heinous act, shooting 43 people and killing 13 of them (so far). All you need to do is look at the pictures of him in a local 7-11 yesterday morning and all is made clear. He looks like he just walked in from Peshawar. That is not the normal garb for an American military man. It IS the normal garb for a devout Muslim. Somebody dressed like that very well might have no problem murdering soldiers that he viewed as oppressing his co-religionists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, most of the media doesn't want to use that particular M-word, because it is politically incorrect to do so. The message they've been giving us since 9-11 is that Muslims are no different then we are and that it's just a coincidence that every time you turn around and hear about another terrorist plot being foiled or some immigrant doing an "honor killing" on his daughter or wife for becoming "too Westernized," it's a devout Muslim who is involved.

It's time to say something that is politically incorrect but true: If immigrants from ANY society do not accept the basic tenets of our society, that is, individual liberty and religious freedom, then THEY DO NOT BELONG HERE! And from everything we've seen in the news, both from here and in the U.K., France, Germany and other places in Europe, devout Islam is incompatible with Western civilization.

The Europeans are in a lot more trouble than we are, because they've allowed a lot more immigration from Muslim countries (often in their former empires) than we have. Now, many of those Muslims are law-abiding citizens, but it's apparent that the ones who are not are very, very dangerous people. The Europeans fought Crusades for several hundred years to keep the Muslims from conquering Europe. Now, in the space of the past few decades, those same Muslims are well on the way to accomplishing that ancient goal by peaceful immigration.

More importantly, any Muslim in our military or in any position where he can harm our society has to be considered suspect at this point. It's like having a python for a pet: 99% of pythons are perfectly good pets, if you like that sort of animal, but the 1% of the time when the python gets loose and strangles the baby that makes you think that you'd be better off if nobody kept pythons as pets and you just left the pythons back wherever it was that they came from. Our country could get along just fine without pet pythons or Muslim immigrants equally well.


An Interesting Election Day

Especially considering that there weren't any races locally affecting me. Republican-endorsed Conservative Doug Hoffman lost to Democrat Bill Owens in NY-23, by a margin of a few thousand votes, fewer than were cast for Dede Scozzafava, who was still on the ballot, although I'd guess that those six or seven thousand votes were mostly mail-in absentee ballots. That just shows the flaw in absentee voting: If things change on the ground at the last minute, your vote can be wasted, which is why I always show up at the polls in person on election day. The good news is that the RINO Scozzafava wasn't elected, and next year, perhaps the Republicans of the district can choose a candidate more to their liking than Scozzafava was.

The news elsewhere was good, however. Barack Obama's magic is gone. He personally campaigned for Democrat gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds in swing state Virginia and incumbent Jon Corzine in blue state New Jersey. Deeds was crushed by Republican Bob McDonnell in Virginia, and even the Democrat political machine in the Garden State could not save Gov. Corzine, who was defeated by Republican Chris Christie by a decisive margin.

Now, it is said that all politics is local, and of course local issues like high property taxes and poltical corruption in New Jersey came into play. However, given Obama's heavy personal involvement in the two big races, the defeats show that his support is not enough to get Democrats over the finish line, even in heavily Democrat states like New Jersey, if the people are angry about the economy, unemployment, extreme government spending by Congress, and Democrat schemes to ram through expensive agendas like health care reform and cap-and-tax global warming that will make our economic problems worse, not better.

My guess is that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health care and cap-and-tax plans are dead in the water, because we are only a few months away from the 2010 congressional primaries. Any congresscritter from either party who votes for them is likely to see a strong challenge in the primaries in any district that is not mostly populated with far-left liberals. Those Blue Dog Democrats who were swept into power last year on Obama's coattails will be committing career suicide if they vote for those schemes, and they know it. This is why Obama and his minions were in such a hurry to ram things through. Now they're probably too late, which is a damn good thing.


Dogs and Cats, Living Together

Unless you're a political junkie, you've probably never heard of Dede Scozzafava, Bill Owens or Doug Hoffman. You probably have no idea what part of the state New York's 23rd congressional district is in. But since NY-23 is one of a handful of special elections on Tuesday that will serve as a referendum on Barack Obama's presidency so far, it's a story to keep an eye on. It's a traditionally Republican congressional district, although one that went for Barack Obama in 2008.

President Obama tapped the district's Republican congressman, John McHugh, to serve as Secretary of the Army, which opened up the seat for the special election. The law in New York is that local party bosses get to select the candidates in special elections like this one; there's no primary system or anything like that. The Democrats chose a liberal, Bill Owens. The Republicans also chose a liberal, Dede Scozzafava, whose positions on most issues would be at odds with most people who call themselves Republicans.

One peculiarity of New York politics is that there are a lot of different parties that have candidates on the ballot; sometimes, candidates run as members of more than one party. In any case, the Conservative party chose a Tea Party activist named Doug Hoffman, a fiscal conservative with an accounting background. God only knows that they could use an accountant in Washington!

Well, numerous Republican luminaries, starting with Sarah Palin, endorsed Hoffman over Scozzafava, saying that she was too liberal. Other Republicans, like Newt Gingrich, said that party loyalty was more important than ideology and threw their support behind Scozzafava.

The end result was that Scozzafava ended up running a distant third in the polls, with Hoffman and Owen running neck-and-neck. And so, on Saturday, Scozzafava apparently did the honorable thing and suspended her campaign, seemingly so that the Republican/conservative vote wouldn't be split and throw the election to the Democrat. Because, you know, Republican contributors had given her campaign some $900,000 and it wouldn't be right to help out their political opponents, right?

But yesterday, Scozzafava shattered any illusion of honor, and threw her support behind the Democrat! This was the biggest case of someone being a turncoat in New York since Benedict Arnold tried to betray West Point to the British. Scozzafava couldn't have been a bigger RINO (Republican In Name Only) if she'd had a horn growing out of her forehead!

She proved by her dishonorable action that people like Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, etc., were exactly right about what kind of congressperson she would have been: Another liberal useful idiot that would go along with Obama's schemes to turn the country into a socialist paradise. Well, Dede, don't the the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya on the way out. Good riddance to you!

And not to be gratuitously insulting, but I saw a picture of her on the sidebar of another blog, just over a picture of Hillary Clinton, who looked absolutely svelte by comparison. I think there's a new Cankle Queen in town!

The good news is that Doug Hoffman should get most of the Republican vote and hopefully will win NY-23 handily on Tuesday. Then the voters in that district will get the responsible representation that they deserve.


NFL Futility In the State of Misery

I was looking at the football standings this morning, and thinking how badly our Florida teams are playing this year. The Tampa Bay Bucs are 0-5, the Miami Dolphins are 1-3 (pending tonight's game), and the Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-3. 3-11 is a pretty bad aggregate record. But there is a state that is doing worse: Missouri, or Misery as they sometimes call it.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams are both 0-5 after yesterday's losses. Combine that with Nebraska beating Missouri in college football on Thursday night and the St. Louis Cardinals being ignominiously swept in three games by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, and it was a pretty bad weekend in the Show Me State.

I read somewhere that Rush Limbaugh wants to try to purchase the St. Louis Rams. I guess that's because last year's winless team, the Detroit Lions (who have won a game this year) were unavailable. I think that Rush could bring the Republicans back to a winning record before he could make the Rams winners.

Columbus Day

Today is Columbus Day, when we celebrate the European discovery of the New World in 1492. It is the most politically incorrect holiday on our calendar (yes, even more than Christmas!). I have to wonder how many more years it will be a holiday.

Christopher Columbus and his Spaniards, after all, showed a callous disregard for the natives, enslaving and torturing many of them in the search for gold, silver and other riches in the Americas. That narrative was pretty much disregarded when I was in elementary school and America was 80-90% white, but as the nation grows increasingly more multi-ethnic and our leaders dwell more on our historical faults rather than our national manifest destiny, Columbus has become symbolic of America's original sin, at least in the eyes of those on the political left.

The Italians would be unhappy if Columbus Day were to be dropped from the holiday list, but hey, how many of them are there? It's not like they're likely to become suicide bombers and start blowing stuff up, like certain other groups would if they were miffed.

Times change, and reality changes with the times. If Pluto can be dropped from planetary status, then Columbus Day could be demoted from legal holiday status to an ethnic festival like St. Patrick's Day. I figure it will happen about the same time as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians are forced to change their team names.

What would be likely to replace Columbus Day in the legal holiday pantheon? Well, like the Nobel Peace Prize, there's only The One logical choice: August 4th, in honor of Barack Obama.

Now, some might say, "Wait a minute! George Washington and Abe Lincoln have to share a holiday, and Barack Obama gets his own? What's up with that? And isn't he technically included in 'Presidents Day' anyway?"

Well, yes, but they were only presidents; Barack Obama is also our new Messiah! Consider this new holiday one to be awarded not for anything he's done, but for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." It's not like that would be unprecedented.


Perfect Picture

I couldn't resist...

You've Got To Be Kidding Me!

Apparently not. The Nobel Peace Prize, already awarded to reprobates like Jimmy Carter and Yassir Arafat, has hit a new low. The eggheads in Oslo have awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama, for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Note that the deadline for the award nomination was February 1st, meaning that the fledgling president had been in office for a grand total of 11 days.

Don't you remember all of the totally awesome stuff he did in those 11 days? He brought peace to the Middle East and established a Palestinian state that now lives in harmony with Israel, he ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he got North Korea and Iran to end their nuclear programs, he persuaded China to end their occupation of Tibet and allow the Dalai Lama to return home, he convinced the Russians to pull out of Georgia and stop menacing their neighbors, and he got every nation in the world to give up all of their nuclear weapons and promise to use nuclear energy for only peaceful purposes from now on. Gosh, he did so much in those 11 days that he was the only possible choice for the...

Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that he didn't do ANY of those things? You mean to tell me that even almost nine months into his term, he still hasn't done any of those things? You mean those wacky Svensk fellows just gave him the award because of his complete and total awesomeness, not because of anything he actually DID?

You mean to tell me that they gave an empty award to an empty suit of a president for his empty accomplishments over 11 days? Yup, that's exactly what they did. How appropriate. But I guess that $1.4 million will spend the same either way, deserved or not.

If there was any justice in the world, Stevie Wonder would be at the award ceremony to sing "You Haven't Done Nothing."


Don't You Feel Better Now?

I saw this story in the news:

David Letterman Reveals Extortion Plot and Confesses to Sex With Staffers

And all I could think was "Thank God we had this paragon of virtue to defend us from immoral people like Sarah Palin's slutty daughter!"

But as Whoopi Goldberg would probably say, "It's not sexual harassment-sexual harassment!" Right? Notice that it was sex with female staffers, plural; women whose careers Letterman had considerable power to help or harm. So this wasn't a single incident of a boss boinking a subordinate, but an ongoing pattern of behavior. In your office or mine, the guy would be fired for cause.

I already thought Letterman was a schmuck. This just confirms it even more. But as Glenn Reynolds noted at Instapundit, the timing is excellent for Letterman; compared to Roman Polanski, he doesn't look like so much of a heel.


A Blast From The Past

A few people have already seen this, but for those who haven't, a little bit of back story.

This picture was taken in the summer of 1984 along the Yakima River in eastern Washington. There's a story behind it, known as Raiders of the Lost Rifles:

We (the 109th MI BN, 9th ID, Fort Lewis, WA) were doing a field training exercise at the Yakima Firing Center. The Ranger unit on Fort Lewis was doing a night waterborne insertion into the area of operations on the the Yakima River. Unfortunately, one of their rubber rafts turned over in the swift current, and a couple of M-16 semiautomatic rifles and a tactical radio ended up in the drink. This resulted in every able body in the area being sent to search along the banks of the river for the lost rifles. I don't know if they found the lost rifles and radio or not; I just know that we didn't find them. But it was a nice day for a walk along the river, even if the mosquitoes were heavy at times (note the unrolled sleeves). And so the Raiders of the Lost Rifles trudged along the Yakima River, looking at every glint in the water, although the radio was undoubtedly olive drab and the rifles were matte black.

Now, why was I wearing flowers in my helmet? Well, the wildflowers were in bloom along the river. Part of tactical camouflage is taking pains to blend into the background of your local environment. Note that these were the old steel pot helmets, whose liners were removable, allowing the helmet to double as a wash basin. The Kevlar helmets that came later had a built-in liner, which precluded other uses for the helmet other than protecting one's noggin.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was talking about this picture with a friend of mine and went and dug up the negatives from the set of pictures that this one came from. They were old 110 film, so when I took the negative to Wal-Mart for a print, they had to send it out to a lab rather than doing it on site. I was pleased with how well the picture came out, considering that the negative was 25 years old and hadn't always been under complete climate control (that week without power after Hurricane Wilma back in 2005, for instance). I sent the original to my Mom back in 1984, so this was the first time I had seen the picture in 25 years.


Knucksie Tales

Knucksie the cat was originally my stepdaughter Anjelica's kitten, which she got up in Orlando in late 1991. She named the cat Baby, but that didn't really seem an appropriate name for such a rambunctious kitten. I christened her Knucklehead, Knucksie for short, since it was more polite than Shithead.

Knucksie was always darting out the front door whenever it opened. She was the only cat who was allowed to go outside, primarily because it was impossible to keep her inside. She would go to the door and cry to be let out, then would go out and play for a while and return to the windowsill, where she would paw at the glass until let back into the house. She was a very polite cat; she would meow a "thank you" when I'd let her back in.

I would have preferred to have her stay inside, because I know that bad things can happen to a cat who goes outside: Cars, vicious dogs, mean kids. But for many years, she lived a charmed life. There was one day when she was out on the windowsill and a vicious dog came running up to her. You never heard such a commotion! I quickly ran out and chased the dog off and Knucksie, who had run around the side of the house, came back and sprinted into the house.

It wasn't uncommon for her to vanish for a day or two, then come home. One day she had disappeared and I went outside and found out that somehow she had ended up on the roof. When I came back from my New York trip last year, I looked around the inside of the house and couldn't find her. Then I looked in the spare bedroom which I use for storage, and where I had kept my luggage. There was Knucksie, hungry and a bit dehydrated after three days in the room. She meowed angrily at me for accidentally closing her in there, although it was partially her own fault for sneaking in there.

Knucksie was a great hunter in her younger days, keeping the yard clear of vermin and wildlife. Her victims included a rabbit, a squirrel, a mole, a snake, a few birds and several anole lizards. The mockingbirds in the tree outside knew her for the predator that she was, shrieking "Cat! Cat!" whenever they saw her outside. Sometimes they would divebomb her as well, but she was not impressed. She knew that if they got within paw range, they were meat.

She also was the one who found the baby opossum. I came home from work one morning and she was stalking in front of the trash cans next to the garage and growling. I looked behind one and spotting a tiny opossum which had gotten separated from its mother. We ended up calling the local wildlife rehabilitation facility and taking the opossum in to them to take care of.

Despite her ferocity with other animals, she was very gentle with people. She quickly learned the "no claws" rule and pretty much obeyed it. She acquired a habit for a while of jumping up on my computer chair and worming her way into the seat next to me so she could watch what I was doing.

A few months ago, her luck ran out. She had gone running out the door when I left for work, which wasn't uncommon. Usually, she would be waiting in the grass in the morning, ready to go inside. That morning, she wasn't around. She came home a couple of hours later, and I noticed that she was dragging her right hind leg. It turned out that she had a broken femur. I took her in to the veterinarian and they put a splint on her leg. She was too old and skinny for them to operate on her, so they had to just splint it and hope the bone would heal on its own. Fortunately, it did, although she was in the splint for eight weeks. She dragged it around behind her, and the weight was enough that it threw off her balance. Her outside cat days were over.

Finally, though, the splint came off for good, and she spent her last couple of months mostly hanging out in my bedroom as she readjusted to walking on the healed leg. She did make it outside one last time, though. I had the window open a few days ago, and she came running out and jumped up on the windowsill, then jumped outside.

"Oh, no you don't!" I yelled, running to the door, grabbing the wayward Knucksie and bringing her back inside. "You're an inside cat from now on," I told her.

And that was that.

I feel a little better now that I've had a chance to tell you a bit about her. She was a very good cat. I don't think I've ever had a better one.


Another Knucksie Picture

This one's a little better:

She was such a good cat! >sniff<

A Sad Day

This is Knucksie:

She passed away peacefully this morning at the age of about 18. She was a good friend, and one of the best cats I've ever had, always gentle and wanting to snuggle and be petted. I will miss her for a long, long time.

In The News

I spotted this headline:

Jimmy Carter: Wilson comments 'based on racism'

to which I had the following retort:

Clyde: Carter comments 'based on being a jackass.'

I mean, really, who's the bigger jackass (to use the presidential term), Kanye West or Jimmy Carter? They're both world-class jackasses, as has been known for a long time, so I'll have to declare the contest a tie.

I wish that Carter would hurry up and die already, so I can get my federal Day of 'Mourning'. I won't go to Plains and piss on his grave when he dies, but only because I don't like standing in long lines.


To the Nines

We're coming up on another one of those dates and times, this time the one with all of the nines. Very shortly, it will be 09/09/09 09:09:09.

Enjoy it... to the nines.


Up Late For Shuttle Launch

I took a nap this afternoon, intending to get up at 7:00 p.m. to watch the Dodgers-Reds game. Instead, I turned off the alarm and slept in. When I woke up, it was 11:30. I flipped on the Royals-Mariner game, found out that my fantasy team starter Brian Bannister had already given up five runs and decided to check on the status of the shuttle launch scheduled for 11:59 p.m.

The NASA channel showed everything a go as they counted down. I looked outside and the sky is completely clear, so I'll be able to watch it go up from my front yard. Night launches are very impressive, even from a couple of hundred miles away. You know something is intensely bright when you can see it halfway across the state!

Five minutes to go...

Thought For the Day

Only an irritated oyster creates a pearl.


Oh, Danny Boy...

I was looking at the most recent projected track for Tropical Storm Danny and noted two things: That it's supposed to become a hurricane by early Saturday off the North Carolina coast, and that Boston is still within the cone of uncertainty as the storm makes its way north on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Sometime during that period will be the funeral mass for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Danny probably won't hit Boston, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Now, having been through hurricanes myself, I wouldn't wish them on anyone. However, I just have to ask: Would it be a sign of Divine disapproval for someone's funeral to get hit by a hurricane?


Stop The Canonization, I Want To Get Off

As you will no doubt have heard, Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) died last night of brain cancer. Not surprisingly, it's wall-to-wall Ted Kennedy on both CNN and MSNBC (or as I call it, MSDNC). Fortunately, Fox News is covering other topics besides Kennedy's death. The only question about CNN and MSDNC (and probably the networks as well, especially CBS and NBC) is whether they will ask the Pope to canonize Teddy or whether they'll just declare his sainthood themselves on their own.

To be honest, I was not a big fan of the man. His politics aside, there was always the shadow of Chappaquiddick and his questionable behavior on that night. You have to do a hell of a lot of good to balance the scales after leaving a woman to drown. Some might think he balanced the scales; I don't.

I'll say this: He probably wasn't as big a scoundrel as I thought he was. But he damn sure isn't as big a saint as the TV talking heads would have us believe.


So Easy...

I know that criticizing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) is like shooting fish in a barrel. She's a perfect example of the fact that it doesn't take intelligence to succeed in politics. So what has this fine paragon of Congress done now?

She has referred to those who oppose Obama's health care scheme as "Neanderthals."

It just goes to show that opposing ObamaCare is so easy a caveman can do it. And so can those of us who are more evolved than that.

And scaring the hell out of the American people with insane spending and trying to take over their health care and their lives? It's so easy a Democrat can do it.

Who's Counting?

So I'm in the break room last night, eating a nuked slice of pizza and reading the paper, when I see an article about Miss Venezuela winning the Miss Universe pageant. Then it mentions that she received the crown from the previous Miss Universe, who also was from Venezuela. And I had to ask: "Who's counting the ballots? Hugo Chavez?"

Just askin'...


Aw, Nuts!

I've written in the past about the explosion in varieties of gourmet chocolate on the candy aisle, with a mad rush to see who can come up with the chocolate bar with the highest percentage of cacao. I think there are some out there now that have just a splash of milk and a pinch of sugar thrown in with the cacao, making semi-sweet baking chocolate taste like Hershey's chocolate syrup by comparison. I guess it would take a stiff upper lip to enjoy that kind of chocolate.

Paralleling this has been an explosion of varieties of packaged nuts. It used to be that there were peanuts, mixed nuts, almonds and macadamia nuts. Now there are more varieties, and they are flavored with a great number of different things. I recently tried some of the Sahale Snacks nut blends, including Soledad Almonds (with apple, flax seeds, date, balsamic vinegar and red pepper) and Valdosta Pecans (with sweet cranberries, black pepper and orange zest). I also liked the Sing Buri cashews, with pineapple and Chinese pepper. Now Planters has gotten into the act, with their Planters Black Label jars. I bought a couple of them: Belgian Milk Chocolate (almonds and cashews) and Santa Fe Roasted Chipotle seasoned blend, which again is almonds and cashews with spicy seasoning. They taste a lot like Lay's barbecue chips with a bit more of a bite.

Even Blue Diamond almonds has gotten into the extreme flavors act, with Wasabi flavoring among others.

It's not just nuts, though. I saw some "extreme" flavored Pringles chips as well, although I ended up buying a multipack of the Pringles Restaurant Cravers, with Mozzarella Sticks & Marinara, Onion Blossom and Mexican Layered Dip flavors instead.

If I ate all of those at once, with the flavored nut blends, my tongue might just explode!


Wisdom In A Bag Of Chocolates

I like the bags of Dove chocolates, which are wrapped in foil with a little message on the inside. On a whim, I bought a bag of the new peanut butter-filled Dove milk chocolates. The messages are a bit different from the other ones I've seen, many of which ran to things like "It's definitely a bubble bath day!" or "You know what? You look good in red." The new batch in the peanut butter variety's wrappers are a bit more philosophical. Here are some that I saw today:
  • Seize the day.
  • Listen to the wind.
  • Share a kind word.
  • Protect your solitude. Turn off your ringer.
  • It's okay to live without a "big picture" in mind.
  • Be an optimist.
  • Remind yourself that it's okay not to be perfect.
  • Express your gratitude to those you love.
  • Hug a friend today.
  • Chocolate is love shared between friends.
If everybody did those things, it would be a nicer world, wouldn't it?

And the peanut butter-filled Dove chocolates are just the kind to share with a friend. You might even get a hug, which would be good for a two-fer.


Tropical Playlist

While at work last night, I was listening to music on my iPod and I came to the realization that I could come up with a playlist for the named tropical storms so far during this Atlantic hurricane season, using songs on my iPod. Well, actually I had to cheat a little bit on the spelling of the first one.

Ana -- "Anna" by the Beatles
Bill -- "Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now" by Van Halen
Claudette -- "Claudette" by Roy Orbison

Now, what's the name of the "D" storm? (Answer: Danny.) Hmmm... I think the closest I'd have for that one would be "Denis" by Blondie, which was pronounced "Dah-nee" rather than "Dennis." Beyond that: Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri. Somehow, I think I'll be stumped from Erika on.


These Posters Made Me Laugh

From The People's Cube:

Posters: Do Not Spread Fishy Rumors or You'll Be Flagged

Sheer genius! Be sure to go to The People's Cube's home page for more satirical humor.


Another Thing Old People Remember

Live Elvis, as opposed to Dead Elvis. Today is the 32nd anniversary of The King's passing, making it the biggest day of the year at Graceland. I wonder if the Michael Jackson fans will make annual pilgrimages to Neverland Ranch in the future on the anniversary of his death? I also wonder if the Jackson estate will be anywhere near as savvy as the Elvis Presley estate was in marketing their deceased star.

Another interesting story in yesterday's newspaper was about the upcoming consecration of the new Hindu temple in Fort Myers, which will serve the 1000 Hindu households in southwest Florida (Lee, Charlotte and Collier Counties). It will be dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity that Hindus believe helps them overcome obstacles, according to the article, although Hindus will be able to worship all of their gods and goddesses there. I guess that it is not too surprising that Hindus would be attracted to Florida; its warm subtropical climate with rainy and dry seasons is probably closer to that of much of India than any other place in the United States. The article also noted that Hindus make up about 0.4% of the U.S. population, which would be around 1.2 million people.


Obama's Potemkin Town Hall

Did you see President Obama's laughably scripted town hall meeting from Montana today, or even just the highlights? The crowd looked like extras from The Stepford Wives, deliriously cheering every word the President spoke. Where did they bus these people in from? It looked more like an Obama campaign rally than the sort of skeptical town hall meeting that members of Congress are seeing across the country. All it was missing was the styrofoam Greek columns.

I mean, really, when the guy who asked one of the two hard questions that Obama got mentions that he's an NRA member and believes in the Constitution and only three or four people applaud, in a crowd of over a thousand, you have to just laugh. This was MONTANA, for heaven's sake, one of the states with the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, and almost nobody applauds a mention of the NRA?! You would have gotten more applause than that in some place like Vermont! It was a clear tip-off that this was not a random, representative crowd of Montanans.

Come on, President Obama. Don't insult our intelligence! Don't piss on our legs and tell us it's raining.


That's what Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has called protesters against Obama's health care reform scheme. Wonderful. The same sort of people who made fun of President Bush calling Muslim terrorists "evildoers" (because they didn't really believe in the concept of "evil") are now calling Americans exercising their First Amendment right to free speech "evil-mongers." So, let me get this straight, Senator: People who fly airplanes into buildings, behead "infidels" and stone rape victims to death, "NOT EVIL"; people who go to town hall meetings and speak their mind against Obama's plans: "EVIL."

I'm glad you've clarified your point of view for all of us, Senator Reid. And I hope that your constituents in the Silver State decide to give you a gold watch and send you home the next time you're up for re-election. You're an embarassment to the Senate, sir.


R.I.P., Les Paul

A little experiment: Pick out any popular music from the last fifty years or so and listen to it. Then say thank you to Les Paul, the guitar virtuoso and inventor who died today at the age of 94. If there were electric guitars in that music you listened to, well, Les Paul invented the electric guitar. And even if you picked a genre that doesn't include electric guitars, it almost certainly was recorded using multi-track technology. Again, a Les Paul invention. Whether you like rock, jazz, country, hip-hop or any of the hundreds of genres of music, they all use multi-track recording, and your life has been enriched through music that Les Paul's inventions improved.

So thank you, Les Paul, for all that you did for popular music. And may you rest in peace.


Currently Reading...

I've gotten bogged down in Atlas Shrugged during the 50+ page speech that John Galt gives over the commandeered radio frequencies. The sad truth is that nobody's going to listen to you go on for fifty pages worth of a speech, even in an 1100-page novel. I figure that's at least three hours if read aloud, and most people would have said, "Okay, we get it, we get it! How about the Cliff Notes version, buddy?"

Anyway, I'm taking a break from it right now and reading a "new" book by J.R.R. Tolkien. He's surprisingly prolific for a man who has been dead since 1973. Actually, his son Christopher edited the manuscript, as he did with the rest of his father's posthumous published works. The book is The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, a retelling of the old Norse sagas translated into English verse. I've been reading the introductory material for the last couple of days, off and on. I'll have to hurry up and get to the meat of the book, the eight-line stanzas, since I only have it for two weeks.


A New Obamicon

What the hell, why not?

Yeah, that's the late, unlamented Erich Honecker. Let's beat the meme like a dead horse...


I Turned Myself In!

Here is the text of the e-mail I sent to the snitch e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov:

Comrades! I want to thank you for this wonderful opportunity to turn in those thought criminals and wreckers who want to sabotage the wonderful plans of our Dear Leader, President HoneckerObama! Long may they languish in their prison cells in the gulag!

First, I wish to denounce Winston Smith, 1984 Orwell Road, New London, Connecticut. Comrade Smith is an irredeemable thought criminal who does not have sufficient zeal in his support for DemSoc. I overheard him say that President Honecker'sObama's health care plan will ration care for senior citizens on Medicare, and deny them treatments because they are "not cost effective." Send him to Room 101 where he belongs!

Second, I wish to denounce John Galt, 1 Objectivist Way, Galt's Gulch, Colorado. He's guilty of being a selfish, greedy capitalist and exploiting the working class. His girlfriend, Dagny Taggart, of the same address, is equally guilty. They both said that it's not their responsibility to be taxed in order to provide health care for illegal immigrants and other layabouts too lazy to earn their own health care. Not only should they be sent to the gulag, but their taxes should be raised much higher so that they can pay their fair share of the health care bill! Nobody should be allowed to "shrug" off their debt to society!

Finally, I must also turn myself in, because I have had my own doubts about whether President Honecker'sObama's health care plan can be implemented without bankrupting the country. Wow, that sounds "fishy" to me! So tell me which prison camp I'm supposed to report to. I understand that President HoneckerObama will make sure that the trains are running on time.

And as someone who served in the Army in West Berlin in the late 1980s, this all seems very familiar to me, except that it was on the OTHER side of the Berlin Wall that people were snitching on each other to the Stasi. I never thought I'd see it in America. "Hope and change," right, comrades? It's the East GermanAmerican Way!

Say "hi" to President HoneckerObama for me and have a nice day.


An American Erich Honecker?

You know, it's getting to the point that I'm not sure this is America any more. We have a presidential administration that gives out an e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov, which people can use to report fellow citizens who are giving out "misinformation" about the Obama health care plan, or just anything that sounds "fishy." Twenty years ago, when I left West Berlin, Erich Honecker was still the President [Correction: His title was "Chairman of the Council of State of the German Democratic Republic" -- the de facto head of state.] of East Germany, where the government kept files on its citizens and people informed on each other to the much-feared Stasi (short for the Staatsicherheitsdienst, or State Security Service) to curry favor with the communist government. I never thought I'd see that sort of thing happening here in America, but it's just a small jump from having people inform the government about their neighbors' politically unreliable views to throwing those dissidents into gulags. Today, courtesy of the "hope" and "change" that 53% of the American electorate chose last November, we now have a president who is the American equivalent of Erich Honecker.

Now, if I was a less socially responsible person, I might spam that e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov, with every kind of objectionable material I could find. I might have spam for penis enlargement and breast enlargement sent to them, I might have porn or things like "2 girls, 1 cup" or "goat.sex" sent to them, or just put it on a web page where the spambots could crawl all over it.

But I think instead, I'll help them out. I'll send an e-mail to President HoneckerObama at that e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov, and turn in some thought criminals like Winston Smith or John Galt or Dagny Taggart. Maybe I'll just turn myself in, too. After all, we must support President Honecker'sObama's health care plan, right or wrong! It's the East GermanAmerican Way! And when He gives a speech, don't be the first one to stop applauding; they always send that guy to the gulag first.


A Definition

It's seems like I've seen this somewhere, but I'm not sure where, and therefore unsure who to credit for it:
"When people you don't know lose their jobs, it's an economic downturn. When friends or family members lose their jobs, it's a recession. When you lose your job, it's a depression."
I've moved up to the "recession" level as of today. My good friend Barbara up in North Carolina officially is moving up to "depression." Today is her last day on the job. Her employer notified her two weeks ago that they could no longer afford to keep her. They were decent about it, giving her two weeks' notice, which is rather unusual. It wasn't that she hadn't been doing a good job; it was nothing personal, just the lousy economy. Of course, that doesn't really make her feel much better. It just means that she'll get a glowing letter of recommendation (and I hope it looks like Three Mile Island or a 100-year-old's birthday cake).

I'm confident that someone as intelligent, resourceful and personable as she is will land on her feet. As I told her, "Tough times don't last, tough people do." I'm not one to spout a lot of Pollyanna platitudes (I'm a curmudgeon, after all!) but I really do believe that she will come out of this unfortunate situation alright.


Honeymoon Over?

You might think so if you saw this poster, which was spotted by radio talk show host Tammy Bruce in Los Angeles:

Remember how right after the inauguration, all of the late night comics and standup comedians were saying, "Oh, we won't have anything to joke about. You can't make fun of Barack Obama."

Well, apparently, you can.

Best comment at NewsBusters, where there was a blog post about the poster, by a commenter named "ecarlwhite": "Why So Stimulus?" We have a winner!

In related news, at PajamasMedia, Jennifer Rubin had a great post asking How Does A Leftist Govern America?

In it, she quotes the results of a recent Rasmussen poll:

Seventy-six percent (76%) of U.S. voters now think President Obama is at least somewhat liberal. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is very liberal, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the highest finding to date on the question and is a five-point increase in the number who say the president is very liberal from a month ago. … Seventeen percent (17%) of voters say the president is moderate, while only six percent (6%) believe he is conservative.

I'd say that the last 6% need to put the bong down, pronto. I think that among the rest, there are a lot of people who voted for Obama who may be saying to themselves, "If I knew then what I know now, I'd have voted differently." They didn't read the fine print on the shiny box of Obama-Os, they saw the big "HOPE!" and "CHANGE!" on the front of the box, and didn't look at the ingredient label on the side of the box, where it said, plain as day: "Warning: May Contain Socialism." The media was actively doing everything it could to hide that Obama wasn't who he claimed to be. He was not a moderate; he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate. Some of us knew that. Some of us were paying attention. Some of us are saying, "I told you so."


Stuff Older People Remember

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. You might have heard something about that in the news recently. And over the weekend, former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite died at the age of 92. Cronkite was one of the newsmen who covered that Apollo 11 mission, one of many historic events over his long career, which ended when he retired in 1981.

There is front page coverage of the Apollo anniversary in today's paper, along with an AP article titled "Most Weren't Born Yet," which notes that in 2008, the median age of Americans was 36.8, meaning that most Americans alive today weren't born when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you can remember the moon landing, or watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news, you are officially in the older half of the population.

So what else do older people remember that the young whippersnappers don't, besides the moon landing and Walter Cronkite? Black-and-white television. Eight-track tapes. Pong. Tang. Leisure suits. AMC Pacers and Gremlins. Hippies. Computer punch cards. Johnny Carson. Disco. Vietnam. Watergate. Chappaquiddick. Cars where seatbelts were optional equipment and airbags did not exist.

If you were there back in the 1960s and 1970s, you can probably add at least twenty more things. If you weren't, you're probably just thinking, "WTF?" Don't worry, though. Forty years down the road, you'll be nostalgic about your iPhone and your netbook computer, while the kids will be looking at them and thinking, "Man, how did they get by with those slow, clumsy devices?" Progress moves on.


A Bad Idea Goes Awry

I saw this story in the news the other day:

Oldest woman to give birth dies, leaving twins

MADRID (AP) — She devoted years to caring for her mother, who died at age 101. Then Maria del Carmen Bousada embarked on a quest to become a mom herself. She lied to a California fertility clinic to skirt its age limit, and later pointed to her mother's longevity as a reason to expect she'd be around to care for her kids.

At age 66 she had twins, becoming the world's oldest new mom — and raising questions about maternity so late in life. Now she is dead at age 69, leaving behind boys not yet 3.


Another brother, Jose Luis Bousada, told the AP he was estranged from his siblings and read about his sister's death in the newspaper. Asked who might raise the children, he said he imagined arrangements had been made and "I suppose there will be no problem."

When she revealed last November she had stomach cancer, Bousada said she did not regret having children late in life and that her sons would be well-cared for no matter what happened to their mother.

Addressing her mortality and her children's tender age, she told Spanish television station Antena 3: "I hope God does not ... I want to hang on at least until they are 18."

As the last election should have taught us, "Hope is not a plan." Actuarially speaking, a 66-year-old American woman in 2005 had a life expectancy of 18.70 years, according to the ssa.gov site. But that "life expectancy" means that by that age, 50% of the age cohort will have already died, and 50% will still be around at age 84.70. That's like playing roulette and playing red or black.

I don't know what the difference in life expectancy would be for a Spanish woman aged 66 in 2006 vis a vis an American woman, but it's probably fairly similar (we're not talking Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa). But she came up black less than three years down the road, and the house raked in her chips.

As the article notes, there's a reason that Mother Nature shuts down women's fertility when it does. I'm sure that those babies will eventually be glad that they were born to a 66 year old woman rather than never being born at all, but still, it's a hard thing for babies to lose their mother like that. And it was really a selfish thing for her to do.


Watching the Michael Jackson Memorial Coverage

I'm watching the Jackson coverage, and they just showed some politicians being photographed on the red carpet. It seems to be a very "L.A." kind of thing, very Hollywood. I think that many of those people aren't necessarily going to the shindig to remember Jackson but to benefit their own publicity. They've all got an angle, something to sell, something to shill. The circus is in town and the carnies are swarming. It's simultaneously unseemly and fitting, and I doubt that it could happen in such a way anywhere else.

And a golden casket! What, did they think he was the Boy King?

Where's Steve Martin when we need him?

Now, when I die,
Now don't think I'm a nut,
Don't want no fancy funeral,
Just one like ole King Tut.

Greta and Shep are talking about empty seats in the arena. "There wouldn't be empty seats like this at a Lakers game," said Greta. To which I quipped, "The Lakers had a better year."

Comedian/Senator Upstaged

If a tree falls in a forest and there's nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? The political corollary: If new U.S. Senator Al "Landslide" Franken gets sworn in at noon EDT as the media focus on the Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles an hour later, will anyone notice? All eyes will be on the Jackson family (and probably the hearse carrying Jackson's coffin) as they make their way from Forest Lawn Cemetery to the Staples Center. The former funny man definitely has been upstaged today.

Picking a Losing Fight?

I was reading in the news about the ethnic turmoil in China's Xinjiang province, where the native Uighurs rioted over treatment by China's ethnic Han majority. About 150 people were killed and a lot of property was destroyed, and now the Han Chinese are up in arms, wanting blood vengeance. I read on the CIA World Factbook web site page on China that about 91.5% of the country's population of 1.338 billion people are Han Chinese -- which would be about 1.224 billion. Is it a good idea to pick a fight with that many of your neighbors if you're the Uighurs?

And just in case you were wondering, the average person in the world is a Chinese man.


Thoughts on Sarah Palin

Like most political observers, I was surprised by Sarah Palin's announcement on Friday that not only was she not going to run for re-election as Alaska's governor in 2010, but that she was stepping down from the job at the end of this month.

Most pundits seem to think that it's political suicide, since from their point of view, it marks her as a "quittter." Others say that she might be crazy like a fox, since it will put an end to the parade of baseless ethics complaints against her (which have built up a $500,000 legal tab to defend against, even though all of them have been dismissed), as well as taking her family out of the public eye, where they have been subjected to almost unprecedented nastiness by the mainstream media in its role as the propaganda arm of the Democrat party.

As someone who strongly agrees with Governor Palin's message of smaller, less intrusive federal government, lower spending by our prodigal Congress, and more personal responsibility rather than whining about unfairness, which should be the core values of the Republican Party, I would like to see her take a larger role on the national stage. Is she ready to be president? Probably not, but neither was the guy who got elected last November. Can she be the voice for conservative values? Yes, she can!

In many ways, Sarah Palin is the anti-Obama. The president was elected by offering blandly inspirational slogans like "Hope!" and "Change!" and "Yes, We Can!" He never really articulated what he actually stood for or what he would do if elected. Well, after a few months of his rule, we have a pretty good idea. He stands for a larger, more intrusive federal government that will take more of your money and make your decisions for you, "for your own good." They, after all, are the Best and Brightest, graduates of elite Ivy League universities, who know all the proper theories of how things are supposed to work. Never mind that none of them have ever run a business or had to make a profit. Indeed, "profit" is a dirty word for many of them. And really, why wouldn't you want the same people who ran the economy into the ground to run the climate and your health care? What could go wrong?

All of those Beltway insiders, Democrats and Republicans alike, hate Sarah Palin, hate her with a white-hot passion. Why? Because she scares the crap out of them, because she connects with a large portion of the electorate. She's not an Ivy League lawyer, a Beltway insider, someone who is there to feed at the public trough and enrich themselves and their cronies through politics as usual. She's a hockey mom, state-school educated at the University of Idaho, for chrissakes, who got into politics at the local level to fix local problems and continued to advance against the odds and the old boy's network.

She's not one of THEM; she's one of US. And there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them. They know this and they fear this; why else would the Democrat media continue its despicable attacks on her and her family?

I don't know if she'll run in 2012 or not, but if she does and she is articulating the same message she is now, then I would certainly consider voting for her. In the end, 2012 is going to be a referendum on the policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the other Democrats who are spending money like there is no tomorrow, and doing their best to control more and more of the lives of Americans. If things are as bad as I suspect they will be, any Republican who is for smaller government and lower spending will stand a very good chance of winning. If the economy improves, then Obama will probably be re-elected, Sarah Palin or no Sarah Palin.

Vacation's Over

It's always nice to take some time off from work to decompress. I tacked an extra week onto my late June vacation in the vain hope that perhaps things would be back to normal at work when I returned. Regrettably, that is not yet the case. The grapevine says that there may be reason for hope, but it hasn't happened yet.

I'm still reading on Atlas Shrugged. I'm about 750 pages into it now, about 2/3 of the way through. As I'm sure I've noted before, it's very topical due to the current political regime in power. The book does strike some anachronistic notes that let you know that the book is fifty years old: The ubiquity of trains as the way to travel long distances (Eisenhower's Defense Interstate Highway System was in its infancy), classical music as the highbrow music of the day (our heroine Dagny Taggart has a favorite composer), and especially, the common acceptance of cigarette smoking in all social situations. Ayn Rand's cigarettes in the book are so omnipresent that they are almost a minor character.

Still, it is the objectivist philosophy that the book conveys that makes it a must-read. Their enemies, the "looters," are everywhere, and just as in our society today, they tell the productive people that it's their duty to produce for those who leech off of them and give them nothing in return but scorn for their "greed" and "selfishness." The looters promote policies to "make the rich pay their fair share," and in the book, it provokes a strike by the people who make the motor of the world run. In real life, we may be seeing the beginnings of the same thing, as more and more people realize that it is foolish to work harder in order to be taxed at a higher rate.

When Dagny gets to Galt's Gulch, the strikers' secret hideaway in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she meets a number of productive people who have gone on strike. One of them is a famous doctor. She asks him to give her his reasons for doing so (p. 744):
"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, of the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all of the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything -- except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards -- never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind -- yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it -- and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."
Topical? You make the call.


In Threes?

I've heard that "deaths come in threes," and this week, for the world of entertainment, that certainly seems to have been the case, as three icons of the 1970s and 1980s have died.

On Tuesday, we got the news that Ed McMahon, longtime second banana to Johnny Carson, had died at the age of 86. It wasn't really a surprise, because he had been in ill health for some time, and besides, once you get to the age of 86, you're playing with the house's money.

Earlier today, I heard that Farrah Fawcett lost her very public battle with cancer. She was 62. Those of us who were old enough to remember watching her on "Charlie's Angels" and seeing the poster of her in the swimsuit will never forget her.

And then, when I got up this evening, I heard the shocking news that Michael Jackson had suffered a massive cardiac arrest and died. Very talented and equally controversial, he was only 50 years old. I suspect that all of the plastic surgeries he had may have taken some kind of physical toll on him. To me, watching him morph from a young black man into some kind of sideshow freak made him a very tragic figure, because it showed that he was incapable of being happy with himself as he was. For all of his money and fame, it was apparent that he was still deeply unhappy. He might have been better off if his father hadn't hustled him and his brothers into show business when he was a kid. He never had a chance at a normal life.

RIP, Ed, Farrah and Michael.


Watching Iran

As did many people in the West, I watched the weekend's demonstrations in Iran with fascination. These were people who were literally putting their lives on the line to protest against an oppressive, thuggish government. To be honest, I don't know what kind of a government the protesters might choose to replace it with should they win, but it could hardly be anything worse. If you want to gauge how evil a government is, look at how they treat their citizens. A government whose agents shoot down teenage girls in the streets is too vile to stand. It's my sincere hope that Neda's death won't be in vain.


A Stressful Week

Have you ever had your boss decide to shake things up just for the sake of doing so, even though things were running smoothly and people, if not necessarily happy, weren't angry or unhappy either? Well, that's my week in a nutshell.

Starting on Tuesday, he decided that we would start rotating people onto different machines than the ones that they have worked on almost exclusively for the past several years. In my case, I had been on my machine since early 2000, when efficiency experts had been brought into the plant to make suggestions, and they had suggested putting people on specific machines and leaving them there. This was recommended in order to develop a sense of "ownership" as well as to allow the operators to become so familiar with the day-to-day operations of that machine and its sort plans that it would become second-nature to them. This worked extremely well.

When you've worked on a machine for nine years, you know what kinds of mail cause problems, any little quirks in the sort plans, what needs to be done with special holdouts, etc.

It is, of course, possible to gain that sort of information about multiple machines over a period of time, but there's really no reason to do it. If a person is an expert at a particular job, it is best to leave him on it, rather than trying to make him a utility guy.

It's like a baseball manager telling his star shortstop that today, he wants him to pitch, and tomorrow, he's going to play catcher. This despite the fact that the team has experienced pitchers and catchers, and could best make use of his skills at his best position, shortstop. No, the manager wants everyone to be able to play every position.

The problem with this fallacious idea is that while I can give a yeoman effort on any machine in Automation, I am an expert on the machine that I've run for the past nine years. I could run it without even having to think about it, because I knew at a bone-deep level what needed to be done at all times. I don't have that instinctive knowledge on any other machine, and it means that I have to stop and take time to think about how to do things. During a slow period like the middle of the week in the summer off-season, we can get away with that kind of inefficiency. On a busy Monday or Friday in season, we can't. It may be the difference between making dispatches on time and not making dispatches on time.

Even worse, this violation of the classic rule of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" has adversely affected morale. A lot of people are unhappy with the changes. Morale is in the toilet. People who would go the extra mile, make the extra effort on their regular machines are saying, "Hey, it's not my problem" when they're assigned somewhere else. People who previously strove for excellence are now willing to settle for adequacy.

My own personal observation: Working on a different, unfamiliar machine is like wearing someone else's clothes -- and they don't fit very well.


Thought For the Day

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana

Regarding my upcoming week at work, all I will tell you is the following joke:
A hillbilly goes to the railroad office to apply for a job. The man interviewing him asks him, "If you see a train coming westbound at fifty miles per hour and another train coming toward it eastbound on the same track at sixty miles per hour, what would you do?"

The hillbilly replies, "I'd go get my brother Clem."

The interviewer asks, "Why?"

The hillbilly tells him, "'Cause he ain't never seen a train wreck like that before."
And that's all that I have to say about that.

Update: Second bonus thought for the day: "Stupid doesn't have a sharp end."


One More Thought On Dinosaur Rockers

I guess the best reply they could make would be:
"Well it's all right, even if you're old and gray,
"Well it's all right, you've still got something to say..."
As the Traveling Wilburys put it in their song, "End of the Line."

Of course, that was in 1988. It hardly seems possible that it could have been that long ago!


Dinosaurs Still Roam the Earth

I was watching the news yesterday and they had a report from the latest, greatest entertainment expo. Among the hottest game titles is a new version of the game "Rock Band," featuring the Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo never looked so digitally good, and they had the two surviving Beatles* present to introduce the demo for the game. Isn't it odd that the game will mostly be played by people born ten or twenty years after the Beatles broke up? Yeah, I thought so, too.

But this ties into an article I read the other day about how some of the biggest-grossing touring attractions these days are the superannuated rockers from my youth. They're almost all in their sixties (or even early seventies!) now, with a few of the "kids" in their early fifties. They've all been AARPed (at age 50), the American ones at least. But they show no sign of leaving the stage gracefully any time soon. There's money to be made in those reunion tours! Back in the day, rockers made music so that they could meet chicks; these days, those chicks are young enough to be their granddaughters, and the ewww factor would be very high if they tried to pick them up.

Rock music used to be the music of youthful rebellion, but it's hard to get rebellious youth to identify with you when you're in your sixties. Tempus fugit, baby. Like that great head of hair and the flat belly you had in your twenties, it's gone, baby, gone.

* -- Do I really have to tell you who they are? Yes, Paul and Ringo.


Just A Thought

Isn't it a helluva note when GM stock is worth about as much as a roll of Charmin, and much less useful?

I'm reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and it's amazing how timely the book is, even thought the book was published more than fifty years ago. It's a brick of a book, almost 1200 pages, and I'm making progress at more than 200 pages in.

While the characters and many of their views are somewhat archaic, the theme of the book (what happens when government policies make it not worthwhile to be a productive businessman, and the necessity for them to put social "fairness" ahead of profit) could be ripped right from our daily headlines. Why work harder if the government is going to take a bigger cut of your profits? It's better to go John Galt and do less. Of course, that means that the people you would have employed are out of a job, and the overall economy suffers.

Government policies such as putting additional taxes on the "rich" can actually be counterproductive; in Maryland, for instance, their new "millionaire's tax" resulted in the number of millionaires in Maryland dropping from 3,000 to 2,000 in the past year. Some of them may have just been victims of the economy, but others may have just voted with their feet by moving to another state rather than paying an additional 6.5% to the state of Maryland.


Obama Picks Sotomayor

Well, no real surprise here. President Obama has thrown a sop to his far-left buddies by selecting Sonia Sotomayor, the farthest-left of the various judges whose names had been bruited about as nominees to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, as his pick. Sotomayor has a reputation as a hard-left ideologue. My guess is that he picked her because Rosa Luxemburg was already dead.

And while Obama said that he didn't have any particular prerequisites in terms of demographic groups, he did indeed pick a woman, (and a minority woman at that) as was predicted. Perhaps he thinks she's the best qualified person for the job, the brightest legal mind in the country; but perhaps she's just another affirmative action pick. When it comes to the Supreme Court, people who are appointed for life, being selected because you're a woman is just as offensive as not being selected because you're a woman.

Can You Dig It?

Who doesn't love a cutesy kid story? Did you see the story about the woman in New Zealand who was on her computer visiting an auction site looking for children's toys? Well, she went to bed after putting in some bids, but didn't log off the site. The next morning, her three-year-old daughter, Pipi, wakes up before her parents and starts playing on the computer. I think you can see where this story is going, right? Well, the mother wakes up and checks her e-mail, finds out that she's won an auction, and gets another e-mail from the seller telling her that he's sure she's going to love the digger. Was this some kind of Tonka construction toy? Well, no; Pipi had bid on a $NZ20,000 (US $12,400) digger! Fortunately, the parents were able to explain the mistake to the web site, and the seller agreed to re-auction the digger. I had the Tonka toys when I was a kid, but I never got a real honest-to-God construction equipment. Probably just as well; it can be difficult to find a place to park them.

Lessons to be learned here: Be sure to log off secure web sites when you are done, and don't let your kids surf the net without supervision!


Contrast: East vs. West

I saw in the news this morning that beleaguered former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide early today by climbing a mountain near his home and leaping from the summit. He had been embroiled in a bribery scandal involving about $6 million, and had been interrogated about it by prosecutors at the end of April. It's kind of sad, because according to local accounts, he was "widely known for his relative integrity compared to other Korean presidents." His was an up-by-his-bootstraps story: He was from a town in the provinces, and since he was too poor to attend college, he worked regular jobs while studying law on his own, and he did so well enough to pass the tough Korean bar exam. He became a lawyer and then a political activist working for the downtrodden against the authoritarian government of the time, and worked his way up to president of the country. And then, this scandal, the shame and loss of face, the apologetic note and the leap off the mountain.

Contrast this with American politicians, most of them scions of wealthy families, born with a silver spoon in their mouths. When an American politician gets caught in a scandal, there is no feeling of shame. (While this is especially true of Democrats, it is true of some Republicans as well.) Rather than own up to their shortcomings and apologize, they deny, deny, deny. They don't take responsibility for their wrongdoing (see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing the CIA of lying to her and refusing to provide any evidence, for instance). Instead, they attempt to deflect the blame on others, or they just stonewall and refuse to talk about their scandals.

While I'm not calling for anyone to climb a mountain and hurl herself off of it, I would like to see some personal accountability, some honesty and integrity, and most of all, some feeling of guilt and a promise to atone for what they have done wrong. Former president Roh took it to an extreme, but at least he was sorry for what he had done.


Some Days Are Better Than Others

And the same is true of some weeks. This one's been bad. Nowhere to go but up.


Every Letter Tells A Story

There are a million stories in the naked city, and every so often, we brush across the edges of one of them. Last night, I brushed across two. First, there was a letter in my mail from an inmate in a local jail, written to a Mrs. N. something-or-other, a different last name than his own. Scrawled across the address in large rough letters was "Return To Sender" and written in the same hand below the return address was the salutation, "You can kiss your own ass yourself." I wondered if that was written by Mrs. N. something-or-other, or by her husband. The hand wasn't feminine (indeed, the man writing from jail had much nicer handwriting), but that really doesn't tell us anything, does it?

Well, I thought that little mini-drama would be the highlight of the night, until I went back to pick up mail at another machine and one of the women standing there showed me something even more bizarre: A letter with a slice of cheese in it, with the return address being only a mysterious "Cheese Woman." The oils in the cheese had saturated the paper of the envelope, rendering it translucent and making plain the orange slice of American cheese within. All I could do was laugh and wonder, "What the hell?!"


Movie Review: Star Trek

I don't go to the movies that often; most of the time, I'm content to wait until the film makes it to the pay cable movie channels. Every so often, there's a movie that I really want to see in the theater. Even then, I normally try to avoid going on the first day. Today, however, I made an exception and went to the 10:15 a.m. showing of Star Trek. All of the buzz that I had heard was positive, so I had fairly high expectations. They were not disappointed.

Star Trek is a non-stop thrill ride from the opening sequence until the end. It runs over two hours, but when it was over, I was already ready for the sequel. I'm not going to go into the plot, since I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is planning to see the movie, but it was well done and exciting. The casting was superb, and the performances were enough to bring a smile to the face of anyone who ever watched the original series on television. Chris Pine makes a rollicking James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto was spot-on as Spock; indeed, he looks more like Spock than the venerable Leonard Nimoy, which is saying something.

If you are a Star Trek fan of any sort, you must see this movie. Even if you aren't, you still might find it enjoyable if you like any kind of science fiction at all. This one will be a huge summer blockbuster. Don't miss it.


The Internet Answers My Question

Last night at work, I saw a flyer that turned out to be for premium electrical tape, which showed rolls in designer colors like green, red, orange, etc. At first glance, they looked like tires. It made me wonder about something: Why are all automobile tires black? After all, you can get your car in just about any color you want, but your tires will invariably be black. Why is that?

Well, I went to Ask.com and poked the question above into the search field, and was rewarded with the answer from ProperAutocare.com, which explained that ozone and ultraviolet light from sunlight attack the polymers in the tire:
To protect against ozone and UV damage, a stabilizer molecule called a “competitive absorber” is blended with the tire polymer. Competitive absorbers work by capturing and absorbing UV radiation and converting it to heat which is dissipated harmlessly. All tire manufacturers use the same competitive absorber, carbon black. This is why all tires are black...why tires are not available in designer colors.
How did we get along before the Internet came along to answer all of our trivial questions? The answer: Not as well as we do now.


Laura Doesn't Grok "Blasphemy"

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit points to a column by Laura Varon Brown on the Detroit Free-Press site, where she writes:

Parties were more fun when George W. Bush was president. You could debate, argue even, praise and condemn, throw darts and laurels and solve the world's problems over a bottle of wine.

No more. At least not in my circles. If you want to stop a conversation in its tracks, just question something President Barack Obama has said or done. It's not open to debate -- and I don't think that's healthy, for the country or the president.

It's especially unsettling for a free speech girl like me. The First Amendment is important -- but lately, it feels like my right of self-expression is being squashed.
Reading the whole column, it's apparent that like most of the media, she's an Obama supporter. She feels, however, that when he makes a mistake, it should be valid fodder for criticism. What she apparently doesn't understand is that for most of his supporters, Barack Obama isn't just the President of the United States, he is The Messiah. You can criticize a President, but you dare not criticize The Messiah. That's called "blasphemy," and it will get the same reaction among those on the Left in America as those Danish cartoons got from outraged Muslims around the world. The religious have always said that blasphemy doesn't fall under the rubric of free speech.

Sorry, Laura, you may not take the name of the Lord Barack Obama in vain. That was part of the deal you made when you guys voted him in. You're just gonna have to live with it until January 2013.

Now, for those of us on the other side who view him as an underfed incipient Mussolini who has yet to make the trains run on time, well, we can be iconoclasts. You can't, at least if you don't want your friends to stone you to death or burn you at the stake.


Who's Missing?

The U.S. Postal Service is teaming up with cartoonist Matt Groening to issue a set of stamps with the main characters from The Simpsons. There will be stamps with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. I saw pictures of the stamps and thought, hey, wait a second! Someone important is missing! No Simpsons stamp set is really complete without a Mr. Burns stamp! But is there a Mr. Burns stamp? Nope.

I'm very disappointed.


Swine Flew

Re: Former RINO Senator Specter (now D-PA) changing parties, one of the writers at NRO's The Corner said something to the effect of "I'd heard that he was changing parties, but I was disappointed to learn that he's still a Democrat."

The only thing more odious than a turncoat is a turncoat who tries to paint his actions as motivated by principle. I saw his speech today and was nauseated.