Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This year, my daughter went to school dressed as a cop. Sort of a Serpico cop, wearing mostly denim. They don't allow toy guns, so instead of a gun, she just held her hands together in a gun shape and shot at people this morning around the house before going to school. A lot. Here's a set of cop sayings as I believe she would interpret them.

"You have the right to remain dead!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"Come out with your hands up! You're easier to shoot that way!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, it hardly matters!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"Did you see anything suspicious? Did it look like this?" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"Your registration has expired! And so have you!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"Do you know how fast you were going? It wasn't faster than a bullet!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

"I'll get you and your little dog, too!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

That last one isn't very cop-like, but in our house it just works. Hope y'all have a great Halloween!

Links: Over at The Temple of Mut, Halloween is being celebrated most, err, EgyptianGoddessally!

The Beach Boys And Church

... make an odd combination, but there it is.

We were at Mass yesterday and right as the priest was starting his homily, the sound system developed a strange feedback effect that sounded like nothing so much as the electronic rhythm at the beginning of the Beach Boys' Do It Again. I love that song anyway, so I didn't really need any more prompting to post it.


San Diego Sunrise

I shot this one yesterday morning from my backyard with the camera pointed 90 degrees off of sunrise. I picked the angle because it gave me the best shot of the horizon. After playing with it, I've figured out I could do a lot better if I shoot from my upstairs balcony. It's only 60 seconds long, so it won't take too much of your time.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

European Shell Game

Greece is saved. That much we know. The Euro banks are going to take 50 cents on the dollar for Greek bonds so Greece doesn't have to pay back what it borrowed. Hurrah!

Not so fast.

The banks that loaned Greece that money rely on Greek bonds retaining their value in order to claim the reserves they need to loan money to businesses and to pay out money to depositors at the ATM. Now that the Greek bonds are cut in half, they need to restore their reserves from somewhere. Where are they going to get that cash? Well, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is going to provide that. And where does the EFSF get that money? It borrows it.

In effect, the obligation for the Greek debt has gone from Greece to the banks to the EFSF. EFSF debt is serviced by ... members of the EU ... who can't pay their bills now. The real backstop to this is the European Central Bank which can print money.

Guess who's going to end up paying the tab and how they're going to do it.

Mach schnell mit der Druckerpresse!

You Loaned A Company $529M So They Could Make A Sportscar For Multimillionaires

... but at least it is (mostly) all-electric. Don't you feel better now? Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings have a video of the fellow who received our cash donations, err, loan.

In any case, meet the Fisker Karma.
Business partners Henrik Fisker and Bernhard Koehler are visibly on edge. While they want to dedicate every ounce of their focus on this all-important launch of their first baby, the 2012 Fisker Karma, their attentions are being constantly pulled away from it by big conference calls regarding the money and logistics of launching the whole Fisker Automotive franchise. Are they really and truly answering a $95,900-$108,900 question with this bold effort that enough people are asking? ...

By late 2009, Fisker Automotive was coming out of essentially a nine-month hiatus during which Lucifer rose from Hell and swallowed mankind whole. Or so we thought. But investors finally felt like investing again, and just short of half a billion bucks had been promised to our heroes, much of this attracted by the imminent huge loan being talked about from the Department of Energy. Everything rode on that razor edge – not just for the Karma itself, but also for any future plans. That $529 million loan from you and me came through in September 2009 and Fisker Automotive went directly from vaporware to a $1 billion, fully-funded company with big cigar-chomping (but from sustainable tobacco farms) plans.
What's it look like, you ask? Try this.

$529M buys a whole lot of neighborhood drug rehab work and repairs on rundown schools. It can provide scholarships to deserving, underpriveleged kids. It can be given back to businesses who employ people. Best of all, it could be not borrowed in the first place. $529M can do a lot of things.

Right now it's building $100K sportscars. In Finland. For rich ecofreaks.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Losing The Future

... not winning it. Dig this.
The cordial 40-year-old Greek website designer Thanos Sioris never dreamed he would spend his life with his wife and son anywhere but at home in Greece, where he worked hard for 12 years to build up his company.

But the debt crisis that has rocked the euro zone abruptly shattered his world. The country's worst recession in 40 years and skyrocketing taxes are now threatening his business and forcing him to uproot his family to survive.

"Here in Greece, everything is so depressing and so expensive ... My clients are closing down, firing staff, they owe money to banks," Sioris said as he prepared to leave for Hong Kong for one month to develop contacts there.

"Why live here without work, without income?"

Sioris, who is making plans to move to the Asian financial center by next summer, is part of a new wave of emigration of thousands of qualified Greeks seeking to escape their country's record high unemployment.
They "invested" in their country to the point where their younger generation of top talent is leaving. That doesn't sound like Winning the Future to me.

Must-See Movie: The Way

Last night, my wife and I went out and saw The Way.

I can't recommend this film highly enough.

I found the trailer for the movie on YouTube, but I fear it gives away too much. Instead, here's a tiny clip of Emilio Estevez, the director and producer and Martin Sheen, the star, discussing the film.

The movie is beautiful on so many levels. It follows the path of a grieving father who decides to walk a pilgrimage road from southern France into Spain. It's one of the deepest and most moving films I've ever seen.

It's not going to be around long in the theaters. The cinematography makes it worth seeing on the big screen. Go see it if you get the chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy Cupertino, Dude

This was a nasty, vindictive man who laid off workers en masse, bragged about stealing ideas from competitors, belittled his employees with screaming tirades laced with oaths and imprecations, overburdened them with heinous work schedules, cheated his best friends and oldest colleagues when it came time to distribute shares, outsourced everything he could to Chinese factories that employ child labor under dangerous conditions, practiced a cruel Darwinian meritocracy that disdained diversity, lied constantly out of pure habit, sicced the government on his chief business rival, possessed a “Nietzschean attitude that ordinary rules didn’t apply to him”, and even denied paternity of his firstborn child. Then he took credit for the work he practically whipped out of people while posing as a benevolent sage.

Grillades and Grits

I made this last night and it was delicious! It's my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant in the DC area, Southside 815. I used this recipe for the Grillades and Grits, this one for the seasoned flour and this one for the cheese grits. Note: I used cheese grits rather than normal grits as that's what they do at Southside.

The result: Pure deliciousness!

Film Noir Bible Research

At the suggestion of a local parish priest, I'm listening to Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. Lee was a legal reporter for the Chicago Tribune who was an atheist. When his wife converted to Christianity, he decided to research this Jesus fellow in the manner of his court reporting.

The Audible version is read by Dick Fredricks like a film noir narration. It makes the whole thing come across like an old movie. It's a little distracting, but in a fun way. As the story moves along, Lee interviewing one scholar after another, trying to get to the truth of the matter, I imagine him in a smoke-filled office, fingering the .45 in his pocket, wondering if the suspect he's grilling is lying to him or is about to pull out a gun and shoot him.

The Romans had found him guilty and executed him, but something just seemed fishy to me. A couple of phone calls had led me to ask some questions the cops didn't want asked. When I returned to my office, they were there waiting for me. It was going to be a long night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

East Meets West

Today's lunch: leftover Shrimp Pad Thai and a grilled Bratwurst.

White, Southern Tea Partiers Are Racist

We know this because they are the intersection of two known racist groups - the Tea Party and white Southerners.


Mitt Romney Has Real World Business Experience

... or so they say. He makes the most boneheaded marketing errors, so I'm not sure about the whole thing.

Left Coast Rebel has the round up on Mittens' latest foray into the world of Edsel and New Coke. Ohio governor John Kasich is trying to face down the public employee unions whose pensions and contracts are threatening to do to Ohio what they did to Rhode Island. There's a controversial and unpopular ballot initiative that Kasich is supporting which tries to bring some fiscal sanity to Ohio. When questioned, Mitt refused to support it.


Mitt's biggest problem is that he is seen as a spineless worm, someone full of blather, but not full of fight. Here was a chance to flex his biceps without any risk at all. The general election voters would never know or remember his support for the initiative, but the primary voters, particularly the Tea Party and punditry zealots, noticed it immediately. It was another wimp-out by Mittens.

Mr. Capitalism had a chance to deal with his biggest marketing problem for free and he didn't understand his own marketing problems enough to take it. I don't think he's the business genius everyone says he is.

Over at Ricochet, they're going bonkers against Mitt as well. I think a lot of big name Republicans stayed out of the race for fear of Mitt and his "organization" and money. I don't think it will be too long before they smack their foreheads in anguish, realizing that Mitt is nothing more than inert material, going nowhere. You can effectively remove his 23% support from the polls and use the rest to figure out who is going to win the nomination. Chris Christie, in particular, really blew it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dear OWS, Rhode Island Is Bankrupt

Deep blue Rhode Island has bankrupted itself through government compassion.
ON the night of Sept. 8, Gina M. Raimondo, a financier by trade, rolled up here with news no one wanted to hear: Rhode Island, she declared, was going broke...

After decades of drift, denial and inaction, Rhode Island’s $14.8 billion pension system is in crisis. Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers. Before long, Ms. Raimondo has been cautioning in whistle-stops here and across the state, that figure will climb perilously toward 20 cents. But the scary thing is that no one really knows. The Providence Journal recently tried to count all the municipal pension plans outside the state system and stopped at 155, conceding that it might have missed some. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions, including the big one: Are these numbers for real?

“We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of this state,” Ms. Raimondo said in a recent interview. And if the fight is lost? “Either the pension fund runs out of money or cities go bankrupt.”
Meanwhile, the OWS movement has metastasized yet again and is now showing up as malignant in Providence.

I've spent a lot of time on this blog pondering what it must be like to live in Greece where the government has bankrupted the nation through hopelessly generous social spending and public employee pay. How is it possible that the populace is rioting for yet more money when they've already spent everything they've got and all of the future's money, too? How does the human brain handle that cognitive dissonance?

Wonder no more, my friends, because the Occupy Providence movement is here to answer that question. That link takes you to their website. For the life of me, I can't make heads or tails of the thing. It's worth popping over to it and spending some time clicking around. Please let me know if you see anything even resembling coherent demands. To me, it looks like a transcript from a particularly politically-obsessed sleepover by a bunch of 14-year-olds. It's like a posh private school's Model UN gone very, very wrong.

If Occupy Providence is any guide, the answer to the Greek conundrum is just about what it seems. Decades of compassion have divorced the population from reality to the point where they think they can vote themselves money - the primary business of the nation is politics. When the money spigot gets shut off, their only answer is political action.

Good luck with that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Bond Girl Of All Time - Janice Rule

... and she wasn't even in a Bond film. Let's just call her the best Spy Girl of all time.

Janice plays Sheila Sommers in the Matt Helm spy spoof, The Ambushers. Dean Martin is Matt Helm and the movie is over-the-top camp with Dino leering and drinking his way through the scenes. The plot is thin, the extras are silly and the gadgets are ridiculous. Having said that, the chemistry between Dean Martin and Janice Rule is terrific. Unlike the wooden sex toys that are the Bond girls, Janice's character is sassy and fun. The interplay between the two of them is on par with The Thin Man love-sparring between William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Janice and Dino. A great combination.

It may be that the lively, perhaps ad-libbed banter between these two would have been impossible in a Bond movie where they had to at least try to be serious. The only Bond girl that comes close to Janice's joie de vivre is Miss Moneypenny and that's probably because she was played for laughs - the running joke being that she would never win James Bond.

The Ambushers is not a great movie or even a decent spy film. It's a fun way to blow 90 minutes and wonder what the Bond films could have been like had they been a little more human.

What Happens When Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Head?

You look like this.

Why Aren't Actors Buddhist?

... or Hindu?

Over the weekend, I listened to Shatner Rules: Your Key to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large. It's William Shatner's reflections on life at age 80 and it's a lot of fun. While he's not terribly deep, he's charming, entertaining and thoroughly understands his success.

Shatner spends most of the book giving you rules for living illustrated by cute anecdotes from his life. There is a brief detour into seriousness where he talks about the environment and how he thinks we're all going to die because we're killing the planet, but the audiobook is well-constructed and it's easy to flip to the next chapter.

Shatner's sophistication is confined to life and career advice. His science and metaphysics leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately, he spends very little time on those. Having said that, as he is 80, Shatner reflects on his own mortality near the end of the book and spends a little time stumbling around the meaning of life. (Hint: his conclusion involves having fun.) He refers to himself as a Jewish boy from Montreal, but that reference just illustrates his ignorance.

Rule: You can't claim to be Jewish if you don't go to synagogue and you profess your atheism / agnosticism in your book.

When he was younger, Shatner fashionably visited the Himalayas to find enlightenment. What happened? Whatever his experiences might have been, they didn't take root. From the existential questions he poses at the end of the book, it's clear that there was no serious change in him from the experience.

Before: Act, ride horses, party.

After: Act, ride horses, party.

Rule: A trip to find enlightenment that only results in a couple of brief anecdotes is called a "vacation".

Shatner's not the only one of the Hollywood set to have gone to Tibet. So why doesn't Studio City have more Buddhist temples?

This is not a photo from Hollywood and Vine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mitt Romney Has A Superb Campaign Organization

... and I hope they've all got day jobs on the side.

Politics is a sales job. The product is the candidate and the voters are the prospects. There are four different states for a prospect:
  1. He knows what you're selling and wants it. Easy sell!

  2. He doesn't know what you're selling, but wants what it does. A few demonstrations and you've probably got the sale!

  3. He doesn't know what you're selling and doesn't think he needs what it does. You have to convince him he needs it and that your product is the right choice. Tough job.

  4. He knows what you're selling and hates it. Get another product to sell because you're going to take a bath on this one!
Mitt Romney is a #4 kind of product. He's been running for president for 5 years. The Republican primary voters know who he his. They also dislike him. That's why, no matter what he does, he can't break 25-30%. If you've got a #4 product, you can double or triple your sales force and it won't make much of a difference. The quality of your organization becomes irrelevant if all you've got to sell is a bag of toads.

If I was one of his field operatives, I'd bring along a nice set of non-stick cookware to sell at the same time. At least I'd be able to see what success looked like.

The ScanPan is a top-of-the-line skillet and I can offer easy payments!

An Object In Motion Tends To Stay In Motion, A Bachelor Tends To Stay At Rest

My wife is away this weekend, working the women's Cursillo retreat. I'm laying around the house like a particularly inactive sloth, a house which in two days has become littered with clothes and dishes. I don't want to do anything. I lay around, watch soccer, occasionally drag myself over to the computer and maybe visit friends.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The California Air Resorces Board Is Made Up Of Morons

The CARB has decided to fight Global Warming Climate Change by instituting cap and trade for our state. This means we will have new regulations, new taxes, new governmental entities, blah blah blah ...

China* has decided not to do this. Here's a graphical representation of what this means.

* - Neither has India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, ... I didn't have enough space on the graphic to add all of them. That is left as an exercise for the reader.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Where's The Sense Of Shame?

I'm listening to G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man again and it set my neurons to firing in odd ways as I noodled about an email conversation that was started among friends about the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Here's what I've finally come down to.

Where's the sense of shame among these people?

They're young and got to go to college. They're surrounded by luxury and information. Even in the absence of college, they can teach themselves to do just about anything via free Internet videos. Some of them hold up signs describing their college debt, incurred in the pursuit of degrees that only a complete fool would associate with a career capable of servicing the debt.

In essence, they're running around telling us all that they are spoiled, delusional blunderers.

Have they no shame?

A photo from the "I am an idiot" rally.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Freedom Is Required For Civilization

... and I don't mean political freedom, I mean freedom of action.

Yesterday, I argued that we should be thankful for flies, in part because we could have ended up with worse things like flying, carnivorous spiders. Überblogger Tim Eisele commented,
The thing I'm grateful for is that something like starlings haven't evolved into aerial piranha. It would be a real bummer to be walking down the street, minding your own business, and then suddenly have a flock of piranha-starlings descend on you and skeletonize you in five minutes flat.
In the office, this led to a lively discussion about such things. Could piranha-starlings prevent Mankind from developing an advanced civilization? More generally, what would happen if the dominant carnivore was fast and omnipresent?

First off, in the case of avius pisces chainsawus, you'd never be able to cross an open field unless you had armor or guns. (Even the guns would be of dubious value.) If you couldn't cross open fields, how would you ever get to the point where you made armor in the first place? Human colonies would have to be mostly underground or in places where there was shelter from the Flying Death. Yes, you could start underground and then move aboveground with buildings, like the malls in Toronto that have covered walkways for Winter use, but that comes with it's own dangers like the easy spread of diseases. In effect, the flying piranhas would channel you into an enclosed spaced where microbes could wipe you out, just like the Cliff Dwellers of the American Southwest.

Chalk up another lucky break for us that God decided to lay off making winged Makita sawsalls.

Eaton Center in Toronto, designed to protect you from flying piranha.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greek Temper Tantrums

The Greeks don't want to repay their loans. They are angry that you even suggest it.
ATHENS—Pressure on the Greek government has intensified as a general strike and mass protests focused on a parliamentary vote for deeper spending cuts to prevent the country from defaulting on its massive debt load...

More than 100,000 Greek workers, students and business owners marched through the streets of the Greek capital Wednesday, gathering in front of the Parliament in protests met by riot police. The protesters were chanting: "Burn. Burn. Burn down the bordello Parliament." ...

The protests marked the first day of a 48-hour strike by civil servants and private-sector workers in opposition to the new cutbacks. It follows weeks of almost daily strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins, as well as a two-week-long protest by municipal workers that has left uncollected garbage festering on the streets of Athens and other cities.

"We have reached the limits of our endurance and, what is worse is that there is no ray of hope," said Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the big Gsee private-sector union. "We want to send a message that these austerity policies have been a catastrophe for Greece."
Message: Please give us more of your money.

The video below, from the recent protests, is worth watching. It's the creation of new Greek ruins.

Be Thankful For Flies

Up on the mountain for this weekend's Cursillo, the weather was exceptional as was the number of tiny flies buzzing about our faces. During one Mass, someone quipped in mock-exasperation, "Why did God create flies in the first place?"

I'm here to answer that question.

First, as annoying as flies are, you have no idea what was left on the drawing board. What if we had tiny dragons buzzing about? What if flies were poisonous? How about zombie flies that only die if you shoot them in the head?

What if spiders could fly? Imagine that - flying, carnivorous spiders. Hoo boy!

How about facing off with a couple dozen winged versions of these guys?
Photo: The Firefly Forest.

Second, do you have any idea at all how hard it was to create a Universe that could sustain life? Adjust any one of a bunch of cosmic constants by just a tiny bit and you get Vast Wastelands of Death. Here's a few examples of these constants:
Fine Tuning Parameters for the Universe

strong nuclear force constant
if larger: no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable; thus, no life chemistry
if smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry
weak nuclear force constant
if larger: too much hydrogen would convert to helium in big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible
if smaller: too little helium would be produced from big bang; hence, stars would convert too little matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible
gravitational force constant
if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry
if smaller: stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus, many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form
electromagnetic force constant
if greater: chemical bonding would be disrupted; elements more massive than boron would be unstable to fission
if lesser: chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry
The weak force had to be tuned to an incredibly fine value in order to allow life to evolve. Adjust it just a little bit either way and you get a gigantic, silent tomb of a Universe. Now you want the weak force tuned to the point where flies don't evolve? Aren't you being a bit ungrateful?

So that's it. It could be lots worse and just getting to the point where there are flies at all took a tremendous amount of complicated tuning of cosmic constants.

Be thankful for the flies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

"I'm 180 Days Sober ... From Porn"

I recently met a fellow who, in an unguarded moment, talked about his addiction to porn. The terminology he used, derived from counseling sessions and group therapy, was identical to that used by people who suffer from chemical addictions. That had as much of an impact on me as his description of how it had damaged his family and his life.

When I started thinking about it, it made sense. Sexual pleasure occurs in the limbic system, the rudimentary, dinosaur portion of our brain. The fellow talked about seeing brain activity maps comparing drug addictions to porn addictions and said they were functionally identical. This morning, I spent some time noodling around the Interweb Tubes and found lots of supporting evidence and analysis. Here's a very, very small sample.

Viewing porn causes a complex chemical response in the body.
When an addict looks at porn, testosterone, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin are released, creating what Dr. Judith Reisman refers to as an “erototoxin”. The chemical change, which causes the person engaging in the act to have a temporary feeling of euphoria, becomes a necessity for the person to function. Like any other type of addict, porn addicts become trapped within their disorder, and the difference between casually watching pornography and being an addict hinges on the chemical makeup of the brain.
Cocaine, meth, porn, it's all pretty much the same when it comes to brain plasticity.
A recent study supports growing evidence that compulsive sexuality can indeed be addictive. In 2007, a VBM study out of Germany looked specifically at pedophilia, and demonstrated almost identical finding to the cocaine, methamphetamine, and obesity studies. [25] It concludes for the first time that a sexual compulsion can cause physical, anatomic change in the brain, the hallmark of brain addiction. A preliminary study showed frontal dysfunction specifically in patients unable to control their sexual behavior.
Your brain adapts itself to porn in response to pleasure.
(D)opamine is also released in sexual excitement, increasing the sex drive in both sexes, facilitating orgasm, and activating the brain's pleasure centers. Hence the addictive power of pornography." he says.

But this addiction might also have to do with a protein called delta FosB that accumulates in neurons. Studies with rats have shown that drug use can increase production of this protein, permanently altering their brain chemistry. "Each time the drug is used, more delta FosB accumulates until it throws a genetic switch, affecting which genes are turned on or off," says Doidge. "Flipping this switch causes changes that persist long after the drug is stopped, leading to irreversible damage to the brain’s dopamine system and rendering the animal far more prone to addiction. Non-drug addictions, such as running and sucrose drinking, also lead to the accumulation of delta FosB and the same permanent changes in the dopamine system."

Porn addicts reinforce their addiction each time they masturbate. "Neurons that fire together wire together," says Doidge. "These men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centers of the brain, with the rapt attention necessary for plastic change. They imagined these images when away from their computers, or while having sex with their girlfriends, reinforcing them. Each time they felt sexual excitement and had an orgasm when they masturbated, a 'spritz of dopamine,' the reward neurotransmitter, consolidated the connections made in the brain during the sessions."
In the end, your limbic system partially eats the rest of your brain.
Scientific evidence now strongly supports an organic basis for all addiction. Neuroscience has shown that all addictions, both drug and natural, are caused by a deficit of dopamine in the reward system. This deficit can be facilitated by viewing pornography. The viewing of pornography disrupts the regular and natural production of dopamine and resets the cells internal thermostat. This deficit produces a very powerful craving which underlies all addiction. The power or driving force behind these cravings and obsessions can literally disconnect the pre-frontal rational brain and drive one to behaviors that can destroy lives. The very definition of addiction is that one continues to participate in behaviors where there are negative consequences despite their best efforts to stop. What we are now seeing is that if the limbic system is constantly unrestrained, it grows stronger and the pre-frontal cortex actually shrinks. In other words, the part of our brains that is able to put the brakes on begins to malfunction. It simply looses the strength to restrain the unwanted behavior. Fortunately, with abstinence and counseling support, there is evidence that the brain can heal itself.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just A Quicky

I'm beat from working this weekend's Cursillo and have to saunter in to work and look busy, so I thought I'd throw a quick post out there that hopefully contains some meat to chew on.

One of the guys who came up as a candidate (newbie) this weekend was a USMC helicopter pilot. His helicopter had been accidentally blown up during a training exercise and as a result, he had lost a leg and had been burned over 80% of his body. He not only had no hair left, he had no ears.

When I first saw him, I thought he was going to be the central point of the weekend and his story was going to be one of overcoming tragedy. He was and it wasn't.

The guy had already forgiven the pilot who's dreadful miss had crippled him, he harbored no ill will and didn't come to recover from a disastrous change in his life. He came to become a better man, a better husband and a better father through Christ.

It was impossible not to notice him, his scars were so obvious. His nobility and humility made a tremendous impression on everyone. When you go to these weekends, you realize that almost everyone has had huge bombs go off in their lives - divorces, cancers, addictions, etc. - and a fellow like this Marine can't help but put your own losses and hurts in perspective and help push you to be better.

It was a great weekend. I hope you get to experience one as well.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Well-fed and Chic

I borrowed this video clip from our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings.

Dig how well-fed and well-dressed these protestors are.

Everything they wear, everything they eat, it all owes its existence to the banks and corporations and profits they despise.

Of course that's been pointed out lots of times before, but this video clip seemed to be particularly full of chic protestors, so I thought it worth noting.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Still Love You Guys

Not replying to comments this weekend. Too hard. I'm working the kitchen at Cursillo. Four days of chopping veggies, doing dishes and waiting tables. It's more fun than a barrel of marmots!

I'll have normal connectivity on Monday. Until then, God bless!

Cheezburger of the Day

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Good Set Of Demands For The Occupy Wall Street Crowd

... comes from Juan Peron's Twenty Fundamental Truths About Justicialism. It sounds just about perfect to me.
  1. True democracy is one where the government does what the people want and defends only one interest: THE PEOPLE

  2. Peronism is popular in its essence. All political circles are anti-popular and for this reason are not Peronist.

  3. The Peronist works for the Movement. Whoever in its name serves a circle or a caudillo is one only in name.

  4. For Peronism there exists only one class of men: workers.

  5. In the new Argentina work is a right that creates human dignity and is a duty, for it is right that everyone produce at least what he consumes.

  6. For a good Peronist there can be nothing better than another Peronist.

  7. No Peronist should feel himself to be more than he is, or less than he should be. When a Peronist begins to feel himself to be more than he is he begins to convert himself into an oligarch.

  8. In political action the scale of values of every Peronist is the following: first the Fatherland, then the Movement, and then Men.

  9. For us politics are not an end, rather only a means for the good of the Fatherland, which is the happiness of its children and national greatness.

  10. The two arms of Peronism are Social Justice and Social Assistance. With them we embrace the people in Justice and Love.

  11. Peronism wants national unity and not struggle. It wants heroes and not martyrs.

  12. In the new Argentina children are the only privileged ones.

  13. A government without a doctrine is a body without a soul. For this reason Peronism has its own political, economic, and social doctrine, which is Justicialism.

  14. Justicialism is a new philosophy of life that is simple, practical, popular, profoundly Christian, and profoundly popular.

  15. As a political doctrine Justicialism realizes the equilibrium between the rights of the individual and those of the community.

  16. As economic doctrine Justicialism realizes the social economy, placing capital at the service of the economy and the latter at the service of social well-being.

  17. As a social doctrine Justicialism realizes social justice, which gives every person their right to a social function.

  18. We want a socially just, economically free, and politically sovereign Argentina.

  19. We constitute a centralized government, an organized state, and a free people.

  20. The best we have on this earth is the People.
If you're going to be a fascist, then, by God, be a fascist proudly.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wall Street Fascists

... and by that, I mean the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

I've got some old friends on Facebook who are now regularly posting pro-Occupy Wall Street stuff like this.

As far as I can tell, that was Thomas Jefferson arguing in favor of a common currency. It only sounds like it has something to do with rapacious investment bankers. There was another one where FDR compared his opponents to fascists because they wanted to give free markets more power. I gently pointed out to my friend that this was completely backwards, that you might be able to accuse FDRs foes of being in favor of an oligarchy, but fascism was the exact opposite and he just ducked and kept going saying, "oligarchy, fascism, whatever" or something like that.

Mark Steyn has a terrific column on the Big Sloth movement of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. If you haven't read it yet, it's worth the time. No one does polemics like Mark and this one's a doozy. He does a great job whacking the obvious nonsense of the movement, but he's still missing the big picture as he calls the protestors "anarchists for big government."

The Occupy Wall Street protestors are, in fact, fascists.

Business is to be subservient to the government. The government is to determine national goals. Private property will be forced to serve these national goals through laws, regulations, taxes and tariffs. The goals they espouse are Peronist and not Nazi, but they are still fascists.

Would calling them what they are change perceptions?

Elsewhere across the Theocracy, there are plenty of opinions to choose from.

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands suggests the protestors can't be dismissed so easily.

Our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings point out that Washington ought to be near the top of the protestors' list of miscreants.

Secular Apostate goes through the demands one by one.

B-Daddy has a Tea Party / crony capitalism take that might surprise you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whew! That Was Close!

The Slovakians are going along with the latest Euro bailout after all after first getting rid of their government.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia—Slovakia's parliament will vote to endorse the amended European Financial Stability Facility, the euro zone's rescue fund, by Friday at the latest, Robert Fico, the chairman of the largest opposition and parliamentary party Smer-Social Democracy said Wednesday.
Well, it's smooth sailing from here on out!

I Love The New Passat Ads

... they're consistently funny, clever and charming.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Slovakia Conquers Europe

Slovakia voted today to put an end to the Euro bailout nonsense. All across Europe, Eurosocialists are sitting up straight in cold sweats, blinking and staring straight ahead at nothing.

Somehow This Seems Self-Defeating

Feel better about yourself yet, dummy?

Well This Is Hopeful

The Euros are finally talking about taking steps to end the debt crisis.
Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- European leaders pushed back a debt- crisis summit amid opposition to Germany's drive for deeper- than-planned Greek bond writedowns that Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker says may exceed 60 percent.

When asked on Austrian television late yesterday to comment on speculation investors may lose between 50 percent and 60 percent of the value of their holdings, Luxembourg's prime minister, said "we're talking about even more." He didn't comment further.
Banks will fail, life savings will be lost, businesses will go under, but their recovery will finally be able to start.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Link Of The Day

Just click here. You can thank me for it later.

Apple, Goldman Sachs and Exxon

I'd like to suggest that if you want to see who the rapacious, greedy, put-profits-first corporations are, you need to look at Net Profit Margin. This is the amount of each dollar in sales that sluices into the pockets of the fatcats in the boardroom so they can buy new boots to stick them on your necks. Let's compare two hated multinationals and one beloved tech company.

Apple: 21.54%
Goldman Sachs: 18.17%
Exxon: 8.92%

I have to admit that the GS number surprised me. I didn't think they were quite so rapacious, but indeed they are. In 2008, GS got whacked and saw it's net profits cut by a factor of 6, so they're not quite as consistently rapacious as Apple.

Exxon, meanwhile, is a proper capitalist firm, providing valuable goods and services that we all use and need for a reasonable price while employing lots and lots of American workers, paying them fair wages.

Sarnia Refinery - Suncor Energy

Maybe we should hate Exxon a little less.

Juice Defender For Android

If you've got an Android phone, pick up Juice Defender from the apps market. It's great. The thing intelligently turns services off when you're not using them. It just about doubles my phone's battery life. The phone is a bit groggy when waking up as it takes a while to restart the services, but once you get beyond that, the tool works without a hitch.

Here's the Juice Defender website. If you are reading this from your phone, you can probably install it from there.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

Steve Jobs And The Wall Street Protesters

Steve Jobs has always been an icon of the hip. Apple products are sold as being cool and modern. Microsoft is for dorks and losers, but Apple is cool. It's a good bet that many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are Apple fanatics with iPhones, iPads and iMacs. After all, these are pretty cool people who are trying to get us to put people first and stick it to the Man, man.

Watch this video with a notepad and pen and carefully track their clothing and hairstyles so you, too, can be in with the latest street fashions.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs the man was a greedy, grasping tyrant. Apple's net profit margin is almost three times Exxon's. Steve Jobs' philanthropy could be measured with a thimble. His temper and workplace violence was legendary.

I think Steve Jobs makes the perfect icon for the Occupy Wall Street crowd. What better way is there to say, "I'm a naive child who has no idea how things actually work" than to chant anti-corporation slogans while texting on your iPhone?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I'm At The Point

... in my MGB rewiring project where I've begun to pull all the wires apart and am now standing back and saying, "What in the world was I thinking?"


How to handle this? Well, as Andy over at Patience Corners noted,
I am told that mountain climbers will occasionally put themselves into positions where the only way they can go is up. "When the only way you can go is up," I read, "you jolly well go up."
All the wires are coming out and I'm redoing the connectors. There will be no turning back now.

Update: Glorious success! I'm replacing all connections with either molex pin connectors or spade connectors and I just got my tail lights to light up using a 12V power supply and the new connectors. I know it's like proving that gravity still exists, but it's heartening nonetheless.

The Perils Of Poor Education

... can be seen in Greece today. This story is worth reading in its entirety. Here's the opening paragraph.
ATHENS, Greece — With no warning, a few dozen students blocked a major avenue in central Athens, marching slowly up the middle of the street to make sure motorists couldn't get through. Tempers frayed, horns honked.
The photo that accompanies this story is frightening. A group of high school students are bringing traffic to a standstill in a goofy, brainless protest, much like the Occupy Wall Street ones.

Greece is in total collapse and needs every cent it can earn to ease the pain, but the students are out there happily waving signs and throwing rocks. They have no idea at all how things work. Ben Boychuk has a great line about the Wall Street protests that applies equally to the Greeks.
What to make of all this? The movement's manifesto (to say nothing of this unofficial list of demands) reads like a Marxist child's letter to a Santa Claus his doctrinaire parents forgot to tell him doesn't exist.
It's childish and naive and pathetic. How did these kids get this far and have no clue about how wealth is created?

Friday, October 07, 2011

"I'm Here Because I'm Totally Baked."

... at least I think that's what they said.

Agreeing With Michael Moore

... just a tiny bit.

Weasel Zippers has the bloated moron's diatribe in full, but here's the part I think is worth quoting.
They (corporations, I suppose) took their boot and put it on the necks of the American people and now the American people want that boot removed. Now. Not next year. Now! We’ve had it. Enough is enough. The dirtiest word in corporate America is ‘enough.’ They can’t get enough. They weren’t satisfied with being just filthy rich. They wanted to be something better than filthy rich and this is what they got. They may have stolen trillions of dollars but we are here to say we want that money back.
Alan Greenberg unwittingly gave the game away in his autobiographical The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns. Michael Moore was exactly right when his quote is applied to the investment banker titans like Bear Stearns. They didn't care for you or your business or your job, they just saw numbers, like scores in a video game. They created more and more complex and fantastical financial instruments because they could, because they could get more money from doing so. They didn't support companies that made shoes or watches or cars, they just had spreadsheets with numbers and they wanted those numbers to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

In my Cursillo group is a fellow who is a commercial banker. We were talking about the Wall Street protest yesterday and he said that even he, a professional investment banker of twenty years, had no idea how those Bear Stearns contraptions worked. My friend can point to restaurants and auto repair shops that exist because of his bank. There was nothing comparable in Mr. Greenberg's book.

Michael Moore, unable to differentiate between parasites like Bear Stearns and valuable corporations like Exxon and the commercial banks, would probably hate my friend as well. Michale Moore may be a moron in general, but it's worth noting that some of what he says has localized value.


Back in the day, I owned a house that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. On fine evenings, when the sky was properly ornamented with clouds, I would put my video camera out on the deck and videotape the sunsets. I don't live there any more and gave up on my sunset videos because I didn't think the ones out here in Tierrasanta were all that special.

I'm rethinking that.

This week it rained and after rains, the clouds are just right. They're sculpted and healthy, with just the right amount of sky in between them. During the day yesterday, I perched my Kodak Zi8 on the railing in our backyard with one of those bendable claw tripods and let it run until the battery died. It went for 35 minutes. Using Adobe Premiere, I condensed it down to 90 seconds and added a soundtrack in YouTube. Later, it became obvious that the sunset was glorious on the ocean, but properly framed, a video out here could have captured drama and beauty, too.

I guess sometimes you have to look for beauty. It won't always be standing in front of you, yelling.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

It's Been That Kind Of A Day

It started out with a flat tire and has gone on from there. I know this is a repeat (from December, 2008), but I just felt the need for a smile and loved this one. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Solving Overpopulation Starts With You (Not Me)

Driving in to work today, I was behind a station wagon with a couple of anti-overpopulation bumper stickers. One presumes that the station wagon wasn't bought to haul two people around.

The world has a problem. You.

Adobe MAX Keynote

On Monday, I was lucky enough to drive up to LA and attend the first day of Adobe MAX. The highlight was Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch's keynote, held in the Staples Center. This year, Adobe is focusing on cloud services and touch devices. They are recreating many of their products to allow creatives to work on tablets. In addition, they have created a new cloud service which allows you to create, store, collaborate, share and publish your work on cloud servers.

Here's the opening part of the keynote and it's worth watching all the way through. Seriously.

There was lots of other great stuff at the conference and you can find many more videos here.

I showed this to my daughter last night - we watched it on our Google TV. She was wiped out, having just finished her hill sprints for soccer, part of her deliberate practice. I told her she was learning how to create things like this. By working to be the best she could be at soccer, she was learning how to be the best she could be at anything. She got it. Way cool.

Herman Cain For President

OK, I'm sold. I love this guy. He may self-destruct with idiotic positions or it may turn out that he worshiped marmots in his youth while smoking banana leaves, but for now, I'm definitely supporting Herman Cain.

I just wish I could find a blog widget for the guy so I can put it on my sidebar. Guess I'll have to make my own.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Maybe They Heard A Can Opener

Two mountain lions were recently spotted on someone's front lawn in Sierra Madre.

The Last Gasp Of Racism Hysteria

Don't you feel like the whole Rick Perry hunting lodge rock painting thing is close to the death rattle of the groundless charges of racism? I guess Rick Perry went to a hunting lodge where the n-word* was painted on a rock somewhere or some such. The WaPo dragged a word on a rock into a huge story, but were never able to find the actual, you know, like, rock. Whatever. It fit the narrative - conservatives are racists. It's always worked before.

Thanks heavens for the new media. The comments on the WaPo article on their website do a good job blasting this notion as have some bloggers and Democrat officials in Texas.

Meanwhile, Hollywood lefty Morgan Freeman, acting as if he's playing the role of a Japanese soldier who doesn't know the war has ended, is still fighting a racist enemy that doesn't exist. That's not going so well.

Finally, there is the long, rich, multimedia memory of the web. Obama spent 20 years sitting listening to this guy and now his spews of racial filth can be called up any time you like to deposit in web comment threads. The "racism!" narrative sure seems to be at an end to me.

* - I was going to spell it out, but who knows what kind of web search algorithms are running out there, looking for that word, waiting to alert hate-filled loonies to descend en masse onto a site and begin screaming. Been there, done that on this site and ended up having to take a post down because of the insanity.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

The World That Utilitarians Built

Utilitarianism is an atheistic philosophy that says that pleasure is good and pain is evil. You should do whatever gives the most aggregate pleasure and avoid whatever causes the most aggregate pain. Michael Lewis has written an outstanding article for Vanity Fair, California and Bust that describes fiscal destruction in California from rapacious public employee unions. The following paragraph shows up late in the story and is his analysis of what happened behind the numbers.
I notice on his shelf a copy of Fortune magazine, with Meredith Whitney on the cover. And as he talked about the bankrupting of Vallejo, I realized that I had heard this story before, or a private-sector version of it. The people who had power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public-sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of people taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.
He wants to blame Americans, but that's a false classification as American culture has changed significantly over the past 60 years. Europe is rotting from exactly the same cultural decay, so blaming Americans isn't going to work. The self-denial lacking in greedy weasels like Alan Greenberg was also lacking in morally bankrupt scumbags like Crosby, Stills and Nash who urged us to "Love the One You're With" and now stand amazed at our massive prison populations and abundant social pathologies.

Like the old saw about the man who chased the girl until she caught him, we chased pleasure until it caught us.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Cheezburger of the Day

The Perils Of Overpromising

... can be seen in Vallejo, CA which declared bankruptcy because it couldn't cover it's bills.
On a recent midday, the busiest retailers in the faded downtown were establishments selling medical marijuana. Dozens of storefronts stood vacant.

"When you don't see streets paved, when you see crime soaring and squatters taking over foreclosed houses, something is wrong with this picture," says Bob Sampayan, 58, a retired Vallejo police officer. He now works with the Fight Back Partnership, a community group that organizes crime watch campaigns. Its operating hours, too, have been cut.

"Vallejo has always been the affordable American dream, but now that's all in jeopardy," Sampayan says. "We can't support the local theater group, the senior citizens center or the community arts group. All the things that help make up a community are not being supported."
Update: I rewrote this part of the post to remove unnecessary snarking.

I love local artists. My favorite place to shop around Christmas time is the artist colony in Balboa Park. When I visit Alexandria, VA, I try to get to the Torpedo Factory, another great artist colony. When we visited Santa Fe and Taos last year, I wished I was a multi-millionaire so I could buy all the wonderful things I saw there. I always try to throw a few bucks in the instrument cases of folks playing on the street corner or in parks.

It's sad to read stories like this where gifted and hard-working performers get their funds cut. I'm sure there were some in Vallejo who fought the monster pensions and the pay raises and the social spending and I'm sure they were accused of being heartless misers.

Now it looks like the heartless misers were the best friends the arts community in Vallejo had.