The Good Life

"So I don't mind saying
"This is how the good life's supposed to be,
"The good life
"For you, for me..."

-- Cracker, "The Good Life," Gentleman's Blues, 1998

A lot of the news in this country lately has been about how bad things are, about how economic conditions are the worst they've been since the Great Depression, about how many people are struggling to make ends meet. For those who are unemployed or are living from paycheck to paycheck, it probably feels that way. I suppose it's sort of like getting hit by a hurricane: It doesn't have to be a Category 5 to mess things up for a while; even a minimal hurricane is a disaster if it happens to you.

Still, the vast majority of Americans have it pretty good. I was having lunch with Dad today, and we talked about him growing up on a cotton farm in rural west Texas in the 1940s and 1950s. When he was a kid, there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no hot and cold running water, no central heating, let alone air conditioning. He was in elementary school when he saw his first flush toilet. His mother cooked on a pot-bellied stove that burned coal. When the family got a bit more affluent in the early '50s and electricity arrived, one luxury was an oscillating fan. And remember, folks, west Texas is as hot as the Devil's tail in the summertime, but the people who lived there then persevered without air conditioning. They were made of sterner stuff then. Even our poor people now live in luxury compared to the vast majority of Americans several decades ago.

We also have access to more information in more ways than we ever have had, and the vast majority of our recent cultural history is available to us at a very reasonable price. It wasn't that long ago that the music you could listen to was limited by what your local radio stations played and what was available for you to buy at your local record store. Today, you can go on Amazon.com or similar online stores and find just about any type of music you want to find, as well as vintage movies and television shows from recent to ancient. You have the ability to find most albums by most artists somewhere on the internet, and to discover "new" artists that sometimes may be decades old. If you haven't heard them before, they're new to you.

Case in point: I'm on a bit of a Gram Parsons kick lately. I'll write some reviews later, but suffice it to say that if you like Americana/alt-Country, then his solo albums as well as the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo are something you would want in your music collection. I've become more interested in the Americana music over the past several years, exploring my musical roots and discovering great music from decades past that I missed the first time around because it wasn't my style at the time. Times change, styles change, but those old albums are still out there, now digitized instead of on vinyl. And you can get them, often cheaper now than they were when they first came out.

Yes, life is pretty damn good.


Buh-Bye, Nancy!

We didn't want what she's been cooking anyway!

Credit: Coraline.


Election Day

Well, here it is, the first Tuesday in November in an even-numbered year again.

Two years ago, things looked pretty gloomy. And considering what's happened since then, there was good reason for gloom. The American people had given the Democrats not only the White House, but also overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress; they were only a turncoat in Pennsylvania and some vote-counting shenanigans in Minnesota away from a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and they quickly achieved both of those goals. They were in position from that point on to do any damn thing they pleased, and they knew it. And unless they totally screwed things up, they would probably be in the majority for years to come.

Despite the fact that Obama had posed as a "centrist" who would extend his hand across the aisle, both the President and his Congressional leaders quickly proved themselves to be left-wing radicals who wouldn't even consult with the Republicans on any of the legislation they were writing on health care, card check, cap and trade, etc. Instead, the Democrats rammed their health care bill down America's throat, despite the fact that none of them had read the whole thing.

And a funny thing happened: The American people, who didn't want this particular health care bill rammed down their collective throats, didn't want trillion-dollar bailouts for Democrat cronies, didn't want stimulus bills that didn't create jobs, etc., got angry. Big government was getting bigger and bigger, and ever more arrogant, drunk on its own power.

Had Obama, Pelosi and Reid managed to buy off a few Republicans and get so-called bi-partisan legislation passed, then it wouldn't be only the Democrats with their seats on the line today when those policies proved to be hugely expensive abject failures. But in their greed and pride, they felt that they didn't need to cooperate with Republicans at all. They "won," after all, and they wanted to get all of the credit for the "wonderful" things that they had done.

Today, we get to see Hubris meet Nemesis. The only real question is how big a drubbing the Democrats are going to take today.

The Republicans, however, should take little comfort in their likely victory. It's not about them; it's about putting a stop to the Democrats' madness. As P.J. O'Rourke wrote recently, "This is not an election; it's a restraining order." Most of us aren't particularly in love with the Republicans, but we're hating what the Democrats are doing to this country.

The Republicans will be on probation: The American people want a return to fiscal sanity. They want an end to Frankenstein bills that are as thick as a phone book and as unread as a novel from the slush pile, and waste money like water over Niagara Falls. They want no more job-killing stupidity like cap-and-trade and EPA regulations that protect some stupid fish while preventing irrigation to grow crops, like in California's central valley. And they don't want taxes raised on anyone during a recession. If Republicans take over Congress and go back to business as usual, their days will be numbered, and that number will end in 2012.



So yesterday I was reading online about how CBS is remaking the old TV series Hawaii Five-O for the new TV season, and also that the Spike TV cable channel was running a five-day, 45-hour marathon of episodes from the original series. Well, I flicked it on and watched a couple of episodes from the first season, 1968-69. The first show (which I joined in progress around 12:20) was the fifth episode of the season, "The Samurai," guest starring Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese-American businessman who fakes his own death. Perhaps the most jarring moment from a 2010 perspective is when McGarrett goes to the Navy base to talk with one of the officers there about an old Japanese sub that had been found and recovered by divers off Molokai. The officer was probably in his late 40s, and McGarrett asks him, "You were here at Pearl Harbor during the attack, right?" And it is at that moment that I realized just how old that show was. It aired in October 1968. At that time, not only was LBJ still the President, but Nixon hadn't even been elected yet. The Beatles were still making records. And Americans had yet to walk on the moon.

Another interesting moment came in the next episode, which was actually the second episode of the first season, shown out of sequence. In the first episode I watched, the Japanese guy's daughter was wearing a lime-green dress with white lace. The next show was about a couple who preyed on wealthy widows by having the man romance them, get access to their money, then bump them off. Well, the first wealthy widow at the beginning of the show was wearing the exact same dress, lime-green with white lace. They must have had a small wardrobe budget that first season. Most people probably wouldn't have noticed it in 1968, with the episodes airing some three weeks apart, but when it's only fifteen minutes later, it's easy to say, "Hey, I remember that dress!" But in the original broadcasts, the widow wore it first.

Finally, in watching the promos for the 2010 series reboot, I'm kind of dubious about it. The new McGarrett just doesn't have the same gravitas as Jack Lord. And they Starbucked Kono! (That's when they switch the gender of a secondary recurring character, as they did to Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica series to the reboot version a few years back.) Gotta get at least one hot babe into the cast.


Murphy's Law Strikes Again

I was hanging out with Dad at his hospital room yesterday. Just before lunch time, the nurse came around to remove a couple of the "pacer" wires that were still under his skin from the operation. She hooked him up to a monitor and said that they would check his vitals every fifteen minutes for an hour, then every half hour for another hour, then every hour for the next two hours. After the wires were removed, he had to stay in bed for the next hour.

Well, about half an hour after the wires were removed, Dad started having an irregular heartbeat. The doctor who came by later said that this is fairly common and usually returns to normal on its own. However, while this was going on, the monitor's alarm was beeping incessantly. The nurse turned the volume down, but couldn't turn it off completely. Although Dad is somewhat hard of hearing, he had no trouble hearing the beeping and it was driving him bonkers. When his friend Dick came by to visit a little later, I was sent out to find Dad some earplugs to block out the beeping.

I went to the nearby Walgreen's drug store and found several different types to choose from. I got some foam earplugs that looked like they would do the trick. I also saw some cans of store-brand mixed nuts, on sale 2/$9. "Well, why not?" I thought. Impulse buy. And so, with purchases in hand, I returned to the hospital, only to find that the earplugs were too small and didn't solve the problem. So, back out I went to try again.

This time, I decided to try the CVS drug store instead. I found some earplugs that looked like the biggest ones available. I also picked up a bottle of Fuse Banana Colada drink (another impulse purchase). I managed not to buy the Godiva chocolates, though.

Back to the hospital! In the hallway, the nurse told me, "He's back in rhythm." And sure enough, the beeping had stopped. I muttered a choice oath under my breath and went down to hall to Dad's room.

I gave him the new earplugs anyway, just in case the beeping started back up again. And then I sat down to drink my Banana Colada and snack on cashews, almonds and pecans. A word of advice: You are better off sticking to name brands when buying nuts. The house brand nuts were covered with big chunks of sugar and salt. Let me just give a shout out to Planter's, since their quality is usually pretty high.


Off Kilter

There are times when one's existence is thrown off balance, when the normal routine is broken, when the regular schedule is altered not by choice but by necessity. When it happens, the only option is to go with the flow, which is what I've been doing for the past several days.

Dad had valve repair surgery on his heart last Tuesday and has been recovering in the hospital since then. His progress hasn't been quite as fast as we hoped that it would be. Originally, we hoped he would be able to go home from the hospital early in the weekend, but due to some minor complications, that hasn't happened. I took vacation time this week so that I'd be able to help him out once he got out of the hospital. Hopefully that will be in the next couple of days.

I spent several hours at the hospital over each of the past few days, mostly in the late afternoon and evening. Those are ungodly hours for me, since I'm normally asleep at that time of day. I did get the chance to see some nice sunsets from Dad's room. (I see the sunrise almost every morning, but rarely see a sunset.) Last night's was especially dramatic, and I watched as the western clouds turned blood-red. Then the sky began to crackle with lightning. My original plan was to stay until around 11 p.m. when Dad was asleep. Then, shortly before 11:00, it began pouring down rain. My umbrella was in my car. I went back to reading my book and waited until the rain had ceased around midnight. When I left, it was cooler outside than I remember it being in weeks. The rain had dropped the temperature all the way down to 73 degrees, according to my car's thermometer. In a steamy Florida summer, that's what passes for refreshingly cool.


Thoughts on the "Barefoot Bandit"

Over the weekend, police in the Bahamas arrested fugitive American teen Colton Harris-Moore, also known by the pictureseque moniker "the Barefoot Bandit." 19-year-old Harris-Moore had been on the lam for two years, stealing cars, boats and planes in his elusive cross-country flight from the law. His mother observed that he was a genius-level intellect, supposedly "one point less than Einstein," she said. He managed to elude the cops for a couple of years, but I'd have to say that going to the Bahamas was not the act of a genius.

Why? Well, a criminal on the lam wants to try to blend in as well as he can, to "swim in the sea of the people." A 6'5" white teen is likely to stand out just about anywhere he goes, but especially in the Bahamas, where 85% of the population is black, according to the CIA World Factbook. And it's always a bad idea to flee to an island, where the authorities can patrol off shore and close down airfields to cut off escape options.

Harris-Moore's other mistake was in continuing his criminal career past the age of 18. Prior to that, non-violent offenders usually have their records expunged once they reach adulthood. It's like baseball's Grapefruit and Cactus League exhibition games: They don't really count for anything in the standings. Once the regular season starts, though, everything counts. And so it is for an 18-year-old criminal. No more juvenile courts, no more halfway houses, no more slaps on the wrist. The wisest course for a 17-year-old with larceny in his heart is to "go straight" -- and enter politics if he still feels those larcenous impulses after age 18. John Dillinger was a piker compared to the average congressman.


It Suddenly All Makes Sense

Instapundit pointed me to this post at The Onion (yes, I know it is a satire site): Obama's Weekly Video Addresses Becoming Increasingly Avant-Garde

It's good for a chuckle and the bizarre video clip is pretty good, too. But it also made me think about President Obama and how he has been doing a lot of things that don't make sense from a political standpoint, like having his Democrats in Congress ram through legislation that the majority of Americans oppose, his worse-than-Katrina response to the oil catastrophe in the Gulf, his administration's willingness to overlook illegal racist behavior when perpetrated by non-whites (see New Black Panther Party voter intimidation in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008, for instance) while focusing like a laser on Arizona's immigration law, bowing to foreign leaders, offending traditional allies like Great Britain and Israel, etc.

But suppose for a moment that Barack Obama is really a performance artist, someone like the late Andy Kaufman, or Sascha Baron Cohen playing one of his characters like "Borat" or "Bruno." He's been building up this "Barack Obama" character for years, since he was in college. The reason his transcripts were never allowed to be scrutinized is that they would have shown that he was studying acting and associated skills. He's taken on this "Barack Obama" character like Sascha Baron Cohen did Borat when he was publicizing his film, and he never comes out of character. He plays it straight, just exactly as he would if he were a real politician, but his real motivation has been to see just exactly how many people he can fool and how many he can offend by screwing things up, again, just like a Sascha Baron Cohen character. He's someone who literally took in anti-Americanism with his mother's milk (she was an expatriate who didn't like America or its people). He doesn't like capitalism, or business (large or small), or the bourgeois people of America (especially those living in states that didn't vote for him). He got 53% of Americans to vote for him in November 2008, but in the ensuing year and a half, he's been doing all kinds of things to piss off more and more people, and he's done it deliberately. As Alfred the butler told Batman in The Dark Knight, "Some people just want to watch the world burn."

Because, you see, a performance artist doesn't care about whether he's liked or not. It's all about the performance. Kaufman and Cohen had characters that many people despised, but they were successful for all that. And this "Barack Obama" character seems to be the most successful of them all. He's partying all the time, out on the golf links, rubbing shoulders with the glitterati, vacationing hither and yon (in Maine this week, his third vacation since the oil disaster began on April 20th). He's Living The Life. It's good to be the President. And he knows that no matter how bad things get in the country, when he leaves office, he'll do so with a big pension and a Secret Service detail. Even screwups like Jimmy Carter get that.

Sure, it sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory. But ask yourself: If Barack Obama really was a performance artist playing a role, deliberately trying to destroy the country as part of the greatest prank of all time, what exactly would he be doing differently from what he's done over the past eighteen months?


Happy 4th of July!

Here's wishing you a fine Independence Day, no matter where you are. It's a great day to celebrate our good fortune to be living in America. (If you don't, that's okay; you're welcome to celebrate your own national traditions as well.) If you're not feeling fortunate, well, November's coming. Fortune favors the bold -- especially at the ballot box. If you don't like the direct this country has taken recently, well, vote the rascals out! They may think that they are undefeatable like King George III probably did, but they will be proven to be just as wrong.

I hope that you are having better weather than we're getting in Florida this weekend. It's been overcast and rainy the last couple of days, and today doesn't promise to be much better. It could be a washout for the local fireworks displays. Some things may happen "rain or shine," but fireworks aren't among them.



The Senate began confirmation hearings yesterday for Elena Kagan, who was nominated by President Obama to fill the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. One Republican Senator noted that she may be the least-qualified candidate for the Supreme Court in half a century. That might be a bit harsh, but there are reasons to wonder how well-qualified for the job she is, because she has no judicial experience. That's not a pre-requisite for becoming a Justice, but it is valuable experience. Making someone a Justice who has never been a judge is similar to calling a rookie ballplayer up to the big leagues without any minor league experience. The difference is that if the rookie flops, he can be sent back to the minors for more seasoning. A Supreme Court Justice, however, is appointed for life. If she flops, we're stuck with her until she either retires or dies.

Ms. Kagan has spent most of her career either in academia or working as a Democrat party political operative during the Clinton administration. She has a little experience as a lawyer in private practice, but that's a very different role than being a judge. A lawyer advocates for her client; she has a definite point of view. A judge, however, is supposed to be impartial, seeking only to make sure that the law is applied fairly to all. Ms. Kagan has not shown that ability. A Supreme Court Justice not only is part of the most important appellate court in the land, but also must rule on the constitutionality of laws written at the federal, state and local levels. It's a task which should be given to the ablest legal minds in the nation, not just those who happen to meet certain group quotas for identity politics.

From the News: Richard and Cynthia Are Actually Boris and Natasha

Scenario: You're an ordinary American kid. You live with your parents and your sister in a New Jersey suburb, and attend the local elementary school. Your family is curiously nuclear: No grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins. Just your parents, your sister and you, seemingly a typical suburban family. And then, one day, it all falls apart: The FBI raids your house, arrests your parents and drags them out in handcuffs. You and your sister are driven away by a family friend. And you learn that your parents actually aren't Americans at all; they are "illegals," deep cover Russian intelligence agents living in the country under false identities and spying on America. Your entire life has been a shining lie. And who knows what is going to happen to you?

That is pretty much non-fiction, by the way. It describes what happened to the daughters of a couple in Montclair, New Jersey, who claimed to be "Richard and Cynthia Murphy." According to the article I read in the USA Today, the kids probably had no idea about their parents' true identities. And ironically enough, if they were born here, then they're just as much American citizens as any Mexican anchor baby.

I don't feel any sympathy for the spies, but I do feel sorry for the kids. How horrible would it be to discover that everything you thought you knew about your family and yourself was a lie? It's like something out of Alfred Hitchcock or The Twilight Zone.


This Byrd Has Flown

In the news, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has died at age 92. He had been in Congress since 1952, and was the longest-serving Senator in American history. He was perhaps best known for bringing home the pork to West Virginia, no doubt a major reason for his continuing to be re-elected.

It will be interesting to see who replaces him in the Senate. I'm sure that President Obama and his cronies are worried that the "Byrd seat" might go the same way as the "Kennedy seat" in Massachusetts, also held by a superannuated Democrat politician who died in office; shockingly, a Republican was elected in a statewide race in the deep-blue Bay State. That scenario is not beyond the realm of possibility, given the current unpopularity of Obama and congressional Democrats.

And let me say, right here and now, that this is a good example of the need for term limits in both the Senate and the House, as well as the Supreme Court. We have term limits for presidents, after all. We figure that eight years is enough, and after that amount of time, we're usually tired of them anyway.

Unfortunately, the ones who would need to write the legislation to limit the number of terms that members of Congress can serve are also the ones who would be affected by it. Power and the perks that come along with it are sweet. Senators and Congressmen tell themselves that they are doing important things, and should be allowed to stay on as long as they can persuade their constituents to keep re-electing them. They feel that they are irreplaceable. Well, there are no irreplaceable people in this country. Not them, not me, not you, and certainly not members of our government. When the time comes for you to retire, your company will continue on just fine without you. When Presidents, members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices retire or die in office, the country also goes on just fine without them as well.

And if we can't term limit people like Sen. Byrd, Sen. Kennedy or Chief Justice Rehnquist, well, the Grim Reaper can -- and will.


The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Most infuriating thing I've read today: Avertible Catastrophe

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct
to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American
reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks
but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch
equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch
government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S.
refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would
come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had
also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with
superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of
Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy
companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically,
the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The
voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of
oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of
nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S.
regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at
least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they
are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in
charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We
have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be
decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on
that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf,
requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where
they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP
spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly.
Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted
the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And
rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming
equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to
allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns. According to Floris Van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the work. "Given the fact that there is so much oil on a daily basis coming in, you do not have that much time to protect the marshlands," he says,
perplexed that the U.S. government could be so focussed on side issues with the
entire Gulf Coast hanging in the balance.

Unbelievable. And that's why the Obama administration is being faced with their very own Katrina, or perhaps more accurately, their very own Iranian hostage crisis.


Return to Blogging

Okay, I've been slacking long enough. It's time to return to blogging more regularly than I have this year. I know that are still some people who check in here every so often and want to know, "When is he going to write something new?" And, hopefully, interesting?

Well, dear readers, your request has been answered. Today, let me tell you the most laugh-out-loud funny thing I read last week. I'm sure you all heard about Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born terrorist who attempted to blow up an SUV in Times Square, being in court in New York last week. He defiantly pleaded guilty, claiming that he was a "Muslim soldier." The part that made me laugh out loud, though, was when I read the name of the judge: Miriam Cedarbaum. A Jewish woman! How do you like them apples, Faisal? I'm sure that it was just random chance that assigned the case to her.

A close second for the funniest thing of the week was Peggy West, the dimbulb Democrat county supervisor in Milwaukee who was opining on the Arizona immigration laws. She said that she could understand the need for something like that if Arizona was a border state, like Texas. Remedial geography classes for you, sweetheart.

We won't even go into the allegations against "crazed sex poodle" Al Gore by the masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Although I found the part where he was singing along, karaoke-style, to Pink's anti-Bush song to be a creepy bit of verisimilitude. If she's not telling the truth, she has a vivid imagination!



"Fifty is the new forty" is my new mantra. Yes, today is the big 5-0. Aloha! Although technically I'm just another day older than I was yesterday, turning fifty is a major milestone. When you turn fifty, you can no longer kid yourself about still being somewhat young. You can't even really say that you're middle-aged, unless you really think you're going to live to be 100. That's not impossible, but it's actuarially unlikely. Nope, fifty is the beginning of the long slide into geezerdom.

All is not entropy and decrepitude, however. Yesterday afternoon, I was hanging out with my Dad and my younger brother, Kurt, who flew in from Kansas City yesterday specifically to help me celebrate my birthday. We were waiting for news from my other brother, Karl, in New York, who was at the hospital's maternity ward with his wife, awaiting the arrival of their first child. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, we got a call from Karl, letting us know that little Maya had arrived. An everyday miracle, of course, but a miracle nevertheless. We were all smiles at Dad's place.

Maya has an interesting heritage: Her mother, Monika, is a first-generation American who immigrated with her parents and sister from Poland after the Cold War ended. Our family has been in the U.S. going back to colonial times, with the most recent known immigrants being one set of maternal great-great-great-grandparents who came from England and Scotland respectively before the Civil War. Maya is the first member of our family to be born on the East Coast in at least two hundred years.

Karl sent us a text message with a baby picture around 6 p.m. Technology is a wonderful thing.


I Told You So

For those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, thinking that he'd be a centrist and try to govern from the center in a bi-partisan fashion: Fooled you, didn't he?

He didn't fool me. I told you the day after the election that America had just given the keys to the liquor cabinet and the Ferrari to their teenager. Well, I forgot to mention that you gave him the family credit card as well. So now the liquor cabinet is empty, the car is wrecked in a ditch somewhere with a bunch of empty booze bottles in the back floorboard, and your credit card bill just came in. Could you imagine the kid spending THAT MUCH in 14 months? And now he and his no-good friends have just stuck their tongues out at you and said that they're passing their health care insurance reform scheme whether you like it or not. And for the majority of Americans, it was "not."

I watched much of yesterday's circus in Congress and found myself nauseated. Indeed, I found myself yelling at the television whenever that lying crone Pelosi came on. (You don't even want to know what I called her.) And now, this unconstitutional travesty has been forced on the American people by the barest majority of Democrats in the House, with not a single Republican voting for it. This is unprecedented in American history. Never before has such significant social legislation been passed without a single vote from the minority party. There are a lot of congresscritters who should be festooning lampposts. Unfortunately, the best that we can do is to try to make sure that they are voted out of office in November.

"Hope and Change," huh? Here's your "Change":

2004: "America, Fuck Yeah!"

2010: "America, Oh Fuck!"

And that's all I have to say about that.


A Safety Tip

Don't urinate on downed power lines.

You might think that one's pretty obvious, but some poor schlub up in Washington state managed to electrocute himself by doing exactly that. It seems that Roy Messenger wasn't seriously hurt when his car collided with a power pole and knocked it down, but his car was stuck in the ditch. He called a relative to come and pull his car out, but when the family members arrived, he was dead. It seems that he felt the call of nature and answered it in the ditch -- and didn't see the downed live power line. Oops. The medical examiner said that the burn marks showed how the electricity traveled up the stream and zapped him. Can you say "Darwin Award"?

So, rule of thumb: If you should accidentally knock down a power pole, be very, very careful about what you do with your bodily fluids. Don't even spit!

A Harbinger of Spring

I watched the first spring training baseball game on the Major League Baseball Network yesterday, between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. It was a raw, windy day in Port St. Lucie, on the east coast of Florida. A cold front had just come through, dumping rain across the entire Sunshine State, and the Mets decided not to send their regulars out to play on the slick grass. They still won the game, 4-2. It didn't mean anything, of course, since it was just an exhibition game, but it was an opportunity to see a couple of the Braves' top young players in pitcher Tommy Hanson and rookie outfielder Jason Heyward. If you're a baseball fan, you'll be hearing those names a lot in coming years.

More importantly, especially for those who live Up North, the beginning of spring training baseball means that winter is probably on its last legs. And given the historic severity of this winter, its demise will no doubt be welcome from sea to shining sea. Baseball means that there's a warm, sunny light at the end of the tunnel.


Stormy Weather

Yesterday, I was reading in the news about the winter storm in Europe that had killed over 50 people in France and had brought flooding and hurricane-force winds to parts of the continent. The storm was named "Xynthia," which I thought was kind of strange. "They're already on their X storm?" I wondered.

Well, I was curious, so I did a little research to find out how they name their storms in Europe. It turns out that in Europe, every high and low pressure system gets a name. It's not like the names given to tropical storms, where they have to reach a sustained wind speed of at least 39 miles per hour before they get a name. This year, the low pressure systems are being given women's names and the high pressure systems are being given men's names. This alternates from year to year.

Not just that, but the Free University in Berlin, which monitors and names the systems, sells the naming rights to them at the beginning of the year through its "adopt-a-vortex" program. They go through the alphabet about three or four times per year. I'm not sure how much it costs to buy your own storm. Here is the list for the 2010 low pressure systems. Note that names can be reused multiple times in the same year, unless they are attached to a storm that is so destructive that the name is retired, as they do with hurricane names on occasion.

If you look at it, you'll notice that the name list has a definite Teutonic flavor. (The men's list is heavy on Gerhards and Karlheinzes as well.) Several women purchased the naming rights and named the storms after themselves. I'm guessing the men who bought the names on this list were doing it for their wives or girlfriends. That begs the question: Is it a compliment to name something windy and potentially lethal after your wife/girlfriend, or is it an insult? It could be taken either way. One wonders what Xynthia's feelings are about having her name attached to such a destructive event. It's not her fault, of course. Blame it on Wolfgang.


In Like A Lion

It was 36 degrees outside when I got home from work this morning. 'Nuff said. I'm really looking forward to the lamb-weather due to arrive sometime later this month.

I was looking at my friend Mary's blog this morning. She lives in northern New Jersey, and had several pictures of the increasing accumulation of snow in her yard over the past few days. By the end, there was three feet of snow in her yard. One of the earlier pictures in the series showed snow falling on the skeletal trees outside her window. My comment was that snow is very pretty when it's outside someone else's window.


Chilling Out

It's been several weeks since I posted anything. I blame the winter blahs, which have lasted pretty much the whole month of February. This has been the worst winter I can remember since I moved to Florida 21 years ago. Of course it's been worse in about every other state than Hawaii, so I guess I can't complain too loudly. We aren't the ones coping with record snowfalls and downed power lines. Still, compared to the mild winters we've had in the past, this one stands out.

The good news is that we may soon be returning to a warmer climate, if the increase in sunspot activity is any indicator. It seems that about the beginning of this year, the sun finally decided to end its long quiet period. Last year, there was no sunspot activity at all on 260 days (71%), according to SpaceWeather.com. However, since the beginning of this year, there have only been 2 days with no sunspot activity (3%). The solar minimum may be over. Since long periods of time with no sunspot activity correlate with colder weather on Earth, the increase in sunspot activity may herald some climatic warming. The length of the solar minimum that appears to be ending was starting to become a little disturbing. The sun is a variable star, after all, and from humankind's perspective, the less variability the better. We don't want another Little Ice Age, although chances are when the next one comes, we won't have much choice in the matter.


One Year Later...

How things have changed! Well, that's what President Obama promised us, wasn't it?

If someone had told you a year ago that Teddy Kennedy would die within the year, and that a Republican would be elected to fill his seat, what would you have said? After you got up off the floor where you'd been rolling around laughing, of course. The Republicans were supposed to be dead, a tainted brand, doomed to wander in the political wilderness for a generation. And in one short year, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their cronies have completely turned that around. One of the bluest states in the country, one that did not have a single Republican in its entire congressional delegation, just elected Scott Brown, a Republican, to fill a Senate seat that had been held by a Kennedy or one of their family retainers since 1953. To say that this is shocking is an understatement.

I turned on MSDNC... Oops, MSNBC, last night to see how people like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were holding up. You never saw such long faces! I have to admit feeling a certain amount of schadenfreude.

So, anyway, it's morning in America again. Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day!


Help For Haiti

If you've seen those gut-wrenching images coming from earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, Haiti, then you probably want to do something to help those poor people, if you haven't already. Last night, I read a blog post from Tony Woodlief's Sand in the Gears blog (via Instapundit) who told the story of the BRESMA orphanage in Port-au-Prince. There are about 150 orphans there, desperately in need of supplies. The orphanage is affiliated with Kentucky Adoption Services. There's a link on the blog post above if you feel moved to make a contribution by PayPal or credit card. You can't save all of Haiti, but you can help save those children. And of course, there are numerous other worthy charities trying to help the suffering people of Haiti. Do what you can.

Here is another blog which has information about the orphanage and the two young women who were running it and are trying to get the children to safety in the U.S.


Cold Enough For Ya?

If it's freezing here in southwest Florida, which it is, then you, dear reader, are probably even colder. It was 29 degrees in my driveway this morning when I got home from work. My car windows were covered in frost this morning, and since I don't own an ice scraper, I had to turn the heater all the way up and blow it full blast on the windshield to melt the ice. It only took a few minutes.

To put this into focus, we are looking at the possibility of tying or breaking some long-standing records. We set a record low in Fort Myers this morning at 35 degrees, and it's colder east of I-75 where I live.

Even more interesting, I saw on the local news yesterday that record for the longest number of days where the high temperature doesn't reach 70 degrees as 12 days. I think it happened twice, once in the 1910s and once in the 1930s. They showed a graphic of the longest stretches of nine days or longer, and there were only about eight or nine of them since the beginning of the 20th Century, with the most recent occurrences being three times in the 1970s.

Well, the high last Friday was 77 degrees. Since then, over the past four days, the highs haven't gotten out of the 60s, and the forecast for the next week, through next Tuesday, is for the temperatures to stay below 70. That would be 11 days, which is highly unusual. We normally get one or two blasts of cold air every winter that drop the temperatures down around freezing, but usually, it warms up in a couple of days or so. This time, it's been one cold front after another and it isn't warming up.

I know that most of you would take high temperatures in the 50s and 60s and lows around freezing with gratitude, but you probably don't live in a place with palm trees and other subtropical vegetation. We aren't used to this kind of extended cold, and to get an idea of how the weather feels to us, subtract 40 degrees or so.

I'm ready for spring now, please.


First Observation on 2010

It's cold. Yesterday's high of 52 degrees was 23 degrees below the normal average high for the date. It's in the 30s this morning, and will be down around freezing tomorrow morning. It's supposed to be colder than normal for at least the next week. Global warming, my foot. For all you people Up North who were expecting to have palm trees and hibiscus bushes in the near future, guess again. I'm not saying that we're facing the onset of an ice age, but then again, I can't say we aren't.

I hate winter.