Thursday, January 31, 2008

Extremism Defeated

...American political extremism, that is.

Think about it. The Daily Kos and their band of raving fanatics could not defeat Joe Lieberman. Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity won't be able to defeat John McCain. There's a lesson in all of this - the primary characteristic of loudmouths is loudness. Not intellect, numbers or influence, just loudness.

Seeing the influence of both groups wane is a good thing for all of us.


Another great cheezburger...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pope Kirk I

Yes, that Kirk. Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Our Court Jester has the story. Seriously.

Spoiled Brats Against John McCain

I don't have time right now to link to all the posts across the center-right blogosphere throwing temper tantrums that McCain won Florida and is poised to win the nomination for the Republicans. Suffice it to say that they are plentiful and lots of people are threatening to sit out the election if McCain does win.

Here's my reply: Get over yourselves. You need a spanking and a time out. You need to be convinced to not sit out the election? How about this.

We didn't.

We "RINOs", such as people like me who thought that tax cuts in the middle of deficits were the equivalent of payday loans, didn't sit out the election when Bush was elected. What did we get? Massive deficits. We knew that was going to happen, but we voted for the guy anyway. We voted for Dole and we voted for Bush I. We voted for the airheaded Republican congresscreatures in our districts as well. You're welcome.

So now you want to point to one individual policy or another on the part of McCain and throw a temper tantrum? Thanks, pal. So much for winning the war on terror, replacing ACLU members on the Supreme Court and at least taking a swing at controlling government spending. That's not enough for you, you have to have more.

Well, at least some of us were mature enough to know how to take half a loaf instead of nothing at all. If you need to sit out the election, why not do it in a corner with a dunce's cap on.

The High Priests of "conservatism" bellow out their call to arms: "Waaaaahhhhh!"

When I have some time, I'll go through the blogosphere and add the links so you can read some of their hysterical sobbing.

Sunset After the Rain

We had some pretty hard rains recently leaving behind clear skies and best of all for sunset videos, a flock of fleecy clouds. I asked before for some music suggestions for the video, but ended up going with Swing Out Sister's Blue Mood from their CD It's Better to Travel. I just didn't have time to act on the suggestions that Dean and Rose gave me, but I'll check into them in the future.

In the meantime, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That's a Lot of RINOs

From the Florida primary election tonight, all of the "conservative" theologians must be hiding under their beds for fear of total Republican In Name Only (RINO) infestation. Between the McCain, Giuliani and Huckabee, they picked up 64% of all Republican votes. 64% of the Republican party are not true Republicans.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

You can't hide. We're everywhere.

Update: I have a follow-up post here.

Reader Request - Music Recommendations

I got a nice sunset video last night, but I'm at a loss for a soundtrack for it.


World of Good, Navy Style #2

Welcome to another World of Good (WOG) entry here at The Scratching Post! This week we go back in time a bit to highlight the wonderful relief efforts of the US Navy after cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh last year. We focused on the US Navy in our very first WOG long ago when we showed the work they did in caring for the people of Banda Aceh, Indonesia following the massive tsunami in 2005.

Back when the cyclone hit in November, 2007, Dr. Jeff Masters over at his Wunder Blog posted a very good summary of what the Category 4 cyclone did to Bangladesh.
The maximum storm surge from Sidr was probably 20-25 feet, and affected the regions near and to the right of where the eye made landfall. The eye fortunately came ashore in the Sundarbans Forest, the world's largest forest of mangrove trees. This region is the least populated coastal area in the country (Figure 1). Storm surge levels of 10-20 feet probably affected the provinces of Barguna and Paruakhali, which are more heavily populated. Undoubtedly, the storm surge killed many more people in these provinces, and Sidr's death toll will go much higher.
Check out his blog post for detailed maps and descriptions of the storm.

The U S Navy was on the scene fairly soon after the cyclone had passed, restoring basic services and providing food, water and medical treatment to the stricken people in the area. From the Bloomberg news article linked above:
Two US Navy amphibious assault ships are on their way to Bangladesh after Tropical Cyclone Sidr slammed into the Ganges Delta, killing at least 1,100 people and making thousands more homeless.

The USS Essex and USS Kearsarge, each carrying helicopters, hovercraft and equipped with hospital facilities, have been dispatched.
Just what did they accomplish? Well, the pictures from tell much of the story.

DOBLARCHAR, Bangladesh (Dec. 04, 2007) Lt. Cmdr. Lu Le, a Navy surgical doctor attached to 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (SOC), uses a stethoscope to examine a Bangladeshi fisherman.

DOBLARCHAR, Bangladesh (Dec. 04, 2007) On this small Island fisherman form a line in front of a medical tent set up by Sailors and Marines attached to the amphibious assault ship Tarawa (LHA 1) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (SOC).

DUBLERCHAR, Bangladesh (Dec. 4, 2007) Fisherman assist members of a U.S. Navy Fleet Surgical Team by carrying medical supplies from a CH -53E "Sea Stallion" helicopter arriving from the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1).

BAWFAL, Bangledesh (Dec. 4, 2007) A Marine Radio Operator calls in a radio check as food rations are offloaded from a Marine CH-46E assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 166 (REIN), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC).

Lastly, one of my favorite pictures from the set over at the U S Navy website (search term: "Sidr") is this one. It's not just the look of concern on the boy's face, but the enormous line of people in the background waiting for aid from the sailors and marines.

BAWFAL, Bangledesh (Dec. 4, 2007) A Bangladeshi boy watches as food rations are offloaded from a Marine CH-46E assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 166 (REIN), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC).

Over 1,000 people died from the cyclone. The damage was much less than some previous cyclones because of the competent and able work of the Bangladeshis in preparing for it and partly because of the post-cyclone assistance from the US Navy. They certainly did a world of good.

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

In Extremis

I'm out of coffee this morning. Or, rather, I'm out of ground coffee this morning. I have some whole beans, but no grinder. My blender is an ancient beast that would never be able to grind them properly. Instead, I'm having to blog fortified only with this.

Horrid on it's own, but not bad with some sugar.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Doan Wanna Do Nuthin I ain't gonna.

It's one of those times when my list of things to do is enormous. So enormous that it's simply overwhelming and I don't really feel like doing any of it. None of the stuff has to be done this instant, so I'm not going to do any of it this instant. Instead, I'm going to sit down with a book.

I might not even read, I might just sit down with it.

I taped a great sunset tonight and will probably transfer it to the PC, but I won't make and post the video until tomorrow morning.

So there.

By the way, in case you're wondering, right now life is as good as it has been in the last ten years. It's not that things are going wrong, it's just that I doan wanna do nuthin.

Call it militant laziness.

Rush Limbaugh is Wrong, Tax Cuts do not pay for Themselves

The current election cycle has caused me to rethink much of my political beliefs. As I've watched a couple of Republican candidates, Mike Huckabee and John McCain, be savaged for deviating from conservative orthodoxy, particularly by talk radio, I've begun to question much of what I've heard over the years. Frugality and living within your means have been frequent themes on this blog. The budget deficit in Washington drives me crazy. The thought that we're spending our children's money to buy goodies for ourselves is fundamentally immoral.

Opposition to tax cuts is one of the prime examples of conservative apostasy used by demagogues on the right to illustrate how this candidate or that is a Republican In Name Only (RINO). Rush Limbaugh in particular has frequently claimed that "tax cuts pay for themselves" in terms of economic growth. I've never cared enough before to look this up. I finally did.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has very convincing data that show that Rush is completely wrong.
(E)conomists from across the political spectrum — including economists who have held top positions in the current Administration — reject the argument that tax cuts pay for themselves. In tax policy, as in other aspects of policymaking, there is no “free lunch.”
Here's a cute headline within that article for all you RINO hunters out there: "Treasury Department Study Finds the Bush Tax Cuts Will Pay For Less Than 10 Percent of Their Cost."

I'm not going to bore you with further quotes from the article, but suffice it to say that it convinced me of something I had felt for quite some time.

So what does it mean? Well, it means that if you're running a deficit, cutting taxes is essentially taking out a bigger loan to hand everybody cash. Kind of like going to one of these places.

Since I don't frequent these establishments, I must be a RINO.

Update: Here's a nice, succinct quote from that article for all you RINO hunters. "(I)n the long run, the deficits that result from unpaid-for tax cuts constitute a drag on the economy because they lower national savings." In part, that's because you're not just having to make up the cost of the tax cut, you're also having to make up the interest you pay on the loan.

Update 2: Lest you think I'm leaning towards the Democrats, read this and then take a look at either Hillary's or Obama's health care proposals. The only group that makes the Republicans look fiscally responsible are the Democrats.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Google Earth Weather Tracking

This weekend, as noted by our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings, San Diego was supposed to experience a massive storm. Because of that, I cancelled my daughter's soccer lesson. Here's what the weather looks like right now, at 10:42 AM.

See any sign of rain? Neither do I.

Disgusted with Yahoo! Weather and the Weather Channel's site, I stumbled across the Google Earth Blog's entry about tracking weather on GE. Check it out. Here's what it shows right now, with San Diego at the center.

I think we need to try and reschedule the soccer lesson.

I've got it set now so that every time I start GE, this cloud overlay will come up. I think I'll use this more than the Weather Channel site.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

John McCain - Cut Taxes Only If You Cut Spending

Well, my recent decision to support John McCain after the departure of my man Fred looks better and better all the time. There's a New York Times article on McCain's economic views that is quite good. Here's the key bits.
Senator John McCain said that, if elected, he would do what other presidents had tried but failed to do: cut government spending sharply enough to reduce the budget deficit while lowering taxes at the same time...unlike Mr. Bush — or other Republican presidential candidates this year — Mr. McCain favors government mandates to halt global warming and slow the growth of Medicare costs. His campaign says it would also cut financing for programs that the White House budget office has deemed ineffective, a list that includes Amtrak.
Bingo. Here's a little more.
During his campaign, Mr. McCain has focused much more on spending than on taxes. He has called for the end of earmarks, which are pet projects inserted into spending bills by legislators.

They are “a very small part of the budget,” he said, “but so symbolic” — because they prevent politicians from having any credibility when they try to persuade the public about other budget cuts. The campaign has also said Mr. McCain would consider cutting the programs that the White House has identified as ineffective, which together make up 10 percent of the budget.
There's more to the article, but you get the idea.

We're spending way more than we take in. We can stop that the easy way (voluntarily) or the hard way (bankruptcy). McCain's the only one left talking about doing it the easy way.

On Properly Saying Goodbye

I had not intended to bury Jacob. We have both possums and raccoons in our neighborhood; they dig up anything they can find and eat. I can't even throw overripe bananas into the garden without them pulling them out and devouring them.

My daughter felt otherwise.

Jacob was her pet, given to her as a gift on Christmas of 2005. She and Jacob saw very little of each other as her bedtime was about a half hour before he woke up. She and her friends would occasionally take him out in the afternoon to play with him, but that was very rare. I really didn't think she had developed much of an attachment to the little guy.

When she found out he had died, she was devastated. She cried for quite some time until it finally came out that she wanted a proper burial for him. She wanted to say goodbye. And so I pulled him out of the trash and we walked over to the vegetable garden and buried him (deeply) there. I said a short service for him, thanking God for having given us such a delightful little friend and hoping that he had lots of seeds and treats and places to explore in Hamster Heaven. My daughter led us both in a Hail Mary. We covered him up and put a simple marker over the site.

It made all the difference in the world.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jacob the Syrian Hamster, 2005-2008

It's with deep regret that we announce that our little blogging buddy passed away yesterday of old age. He was 2 1/2. He went quietly in his sleep after dining on a wide assortment of seed treats and bits of fruit.

Jacob was so active that I finally had to stick him on a windowsill to get a decent shot of him.

My little man taught me a lot about how to enjoy life. When I would take him out of his cage and sit with him, everything in the world delighted him. He climbed in and out of filing boxes, scaled small trashcans and plopped down inside of them, leaped into book shelves and when given the chance, would try to escape into the rest of the house to explore it. His energy was almost endless.

One day I tried changing his food from the standard rodent pellets to an assortment of seeds. I had taken him out to run and sat with him while he tried his new food. He nosed about through the food and then stepped back for a moment. You could just see the light bulb going off in that fuzzy little head. He practically levitated back into the food dish and tore through it, finding his favorite bits and stuffing them into his cheeks as fast as he could.

It's going to take a little while to get used to the house without Jacob in the study. Every evening I would go in to see if he was up, calling out, "Rrrodent! Where is the rrrodent?" trilling the r's. I spent a lot of time trying to get good photos of him to share with you, with little success. I'll still blog in his name here at the 'Post, but I'll have to give up on my plans for a hamster music video and other such odds and ends.

Someone told me that people come into your life for a reason. I'm not sure that's a universally applicable statement, but I know it can apply to pets because Jacob had a purpose in my life. He was there to show me how to take joy in the simplest of things.

Sleep well, little buddy. We'll miss you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cheezburger of the Day

This one cracked me up.

Giving to the Less Fortunate

Here on this blog, we've made a big deal about our World of Good series of posts. I just want you all to know that this is more than just a bunch of stories, it's a way of life for us. This Christmas, I was given a huge bag of almonds in the shell as a present from the family. I have chosen not to eat them and instead, I am donating them to the ground squirrels where our human works. These ground squirrels live a meager life, eating only those things which grow in the coastal desert that is San Diego. Almonds are an unknown treat to them. Rather than keep these almonds, I've decided to give them away. We put out six for the little squirrels this morning. I'll let you know if they're gone tomorrow.

Update: Our Maximum Leader has asked me to also mention the fact that I hate to gnaw on things and that might be part of the reason I decided to forgo these treats. Personally, I think I would have given them away regardless.

But not if they were sunflower seeds. My goodness, no. Those sunflower seeds are mine, I tell you, all mine!

I Don't Think I Want to be a Runner

I was driving home last night, listening to the radio, when a commercial for UCSD Medical Center came on. It went something like this.
Man's voice: "I used to run 70 miles a week. After a while, I developed tremendous pain in my hips. The pain was unbearable. I was not even able to sleep at night! I went to UCSD Medical Center and instead of giving me a full hip replacement, they were able resurface my hips. After a short recovery, the pain is gone and now I'm able to take walks again."
They resurfaced his hip bones?!? What did they use, something like this?

For me, the ad wasn't a recommendation for UCSD, it was a dire warning never to take up running.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wollf is a Genius

I am in awe of his parenting skills.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney's Stimulus Plans

...explained in an IBM commercial. Remember, it's your (borrowed) money they're talking about.

I am ROTFLOL with this one, thanks to our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands.

I have more details on Mitt's stimulus package here.


...from the Hong Kong aquarium. The lighting color changes are a theatrical effect at the aquarium, not an ability native to the jellyfish.

Vote for Mitt Romney And Get Free Money!

I was scoping out Real Clear Politics this morning when I came across this article by Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a tidbit.
As Romney courted the Michigan vote, he proposed a $20 billion energy research/auto industry bailout plan likely to appeal to the Motor City state. Later, touting himself as the turnaround guy for a flailing economy, Romney released his own $233 billion stimulus package -- a price tag that dwarfs President Bush's $145 billion proposal.
That $233B has to come from somewhere. I wondered if Ms. Saunders' article was just cherry picking things from Romney to make him look bad. So I went to his site and found this.
Today, our economy is facing unprecedented challenges both here at home and abroad. Our economy needs pro-growth stimulus, but Governor Romney believes any stimulus package should return money to American taxpayers, not increase already out-of-control government spending. To promote economic growth, Governor Romney is proposing an economic stimulus plan that would lower taxes on individuals, reduce taxes for businesses and help homeowners through the current housing crisis.
I tried to imagine one of Mr. Moneybags Romney's famous PowerPoint slides showing how showering dollar bills on certain private citizens was different from showering them on, well, other private citizens.

It hurt my brain. Let's see if we can simplify this whole idea.
Profit = Income - Expenses.
Mitt is saying that this:
Profit = (Income - $233B) - Expenses
is not the same as this:
Profit = Income - (Expenses + $233B)
I still couldn't understand how that worked out. I decided that my failed effort, years ago, to understand algebraic topology was coming back to haunt me. Then I finally hit upon the true calculation of his plan.

Under Mitt Romney's stimulus plan, these will materialize out of the air all around you.

Update: Mitt Romney as a George McGovern clone? Extreme Mortman posts a great comparison between George Bush's stimulus plan and George McGovern's plan from 1972. If Bush's paltry $140B matches up well, then Mitt's $233B is a perfect fit.

Update 2: Welcome RCP readers! Here's some background. All of this "stimulus package" talk just blows me away. The US debt is so big now that each one of us, every man, woman and child, currently owes $30,000. What kind of dimwit thinks that a family of four, already down $120,000, needs to borrow still more money as some kind of stimulus? When people talk about Romney being a conservative and the other Republican candidates else being RINOs, I ask, what's wrong with being a RINO?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lawman is Posting from Iraq

Our Knight-Protector and Defender of Yarn Balls is in Iraq. Here's latest post. Drop by and let him know you care.

Tonight's Sunset awesome. Film at 11.

Update: The video I took didn't turn out too well. The colors were great, but there was no drama to the changes in the sunset over time. I did manage to get some decent still photos. Here's the best of the lot.

Rainy Evening Sunset Clouds

Well, here's 66 seconds of your life you'll never have back.


It's not the greatest, but it has some interesting shapes and motions. The music is Dave Brubeck's Pick Up Sticks. Enjoy.

In retrospect, this was a perfect time to use the manual focus and exposure. The manual exposure doesn't work when you're pointing right at the sunset since anything light enough to catch the final colors of the sunset gets blown out by the sun as it's going down. Next time I try this, I'll do manual all the way. Even so, there were only a couple of times when the camera couldn't figure out where to focus.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Our Maximum Leader is trying to point out a problem. What could it be?

Here's a hint.

What's Wrong With Being a RINO?

The current primary season has changed my views on politics significantly. By now I may have removed the links, but for the longest time I was a huge FredHead. When he couldn't do better than a distant third in South Carolina, I finally decided to give up on that Quixotic quest.

So did our Official Artist, who has posted a pretty funny fast-food analysis of the candidates.

Hugh Hewitt, who became the completely deranged lap dog of Mitt Romney, started the whole process. I used to love his radio show and linked to his blog frequently. As he went on a campaign of spreading filth about all of Romney's rivals, both on his vicious blog and his utterly sycophantic radio program, I started examining the sources of my convictions. In the comment threads on Hugh's blog I noticed a continuing theme about this candidate or that being a Republican In Name Only (RINO). There were all kinds of litmus tests thrown out there, including pro-life, tax cuts and so forth. Each one was held up as a kind of religious orthodoxy and if you had any traces of sin upon your legislative hands, you were considered an apostate.

The tax cutting thing started to get to me. Here's why.

The national debt corrected for inflation.

The national debt soared under Reagan and both Bush presidencies. It dropped during Newt's time in the congress. Reagan and W both cut taxes, but did not cut spending. The result was a financial catastrophe. I'm far more forgiving of Reagan since he had a hostile congress that was carried over from the spend-like-crazy 1970s. The current Bush has no such excuses. Nor does the Republican party.

So just what does it mean to be a Republican these days? It certainly doesn't mean that you're fiscally responsible, does it? Frankly, the wild increases in the debt during total Republican control of the budget makes me want to re-register as an independent.

For those of you who are still Republican stalwarts, just what does that (R) mean? Reality suggests that an (R) means the same as a (D). A profligate, pandering vote-buyer. That's the truth. You can't point to real data and argue otherwise. Since that's the case, what's wrong with being a RINO? I want a RINO. There's no way I want some tax-cutter who refuses to cut spending in any meaningful way. We did that. The evidence of fiscal mismanagement is pretty clear.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up supporting McCain. I know everyone runs about pointing to his immigration votes, McCain-Feingold and so forth, but I'm beginning to look at those with a different set of eyes as well. I spent a lot of time listening to the Republican High Priests of Theology, Rush and Hugh and so forth, who I now see were either completely ignorant of financial matters, or were simply lying to support the party. They colored my view of these issues and it's time to re-examine what I support and why.

Until I change my party affiliation, I think you can safely call me a RINO as well. So what?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Smoke Photography

Rick Lee has it.

Choosing Between Rudy Giuliani and John McCain

Well, our man Fred isn't going to make it this year. If you look at polls of bloggers, you'll find that he was supported by roughly 60% of all conservative ones. Clearly, he was the choice of people who are deeply involved in the issues. Unfortunately, you can't win like that. You also have to get the votes of the people who want to back a winner and the votes of the people who make more emotional decisions. He missed both of those groups.

That leaves The Scratching Post with a choice of whom to support. We care about controlling government spending and balancing the budget, lower taxes or not. We also care about winning the war decisively. Here are my choices from bottom to top.

Mitt Romney is a complete non-starter for me. He is a dishonest charlatan who was a poor governor when he was in Massachussetts. I might vote for Hillary over Mitt. If it came down to Mitt vs. Obama, I'd hold my nose and vote for Mitt.

Mike Huckabee can be dismissed immediately as well. I don't think he was ready for prime time and he never expected to do this well. He seems to thrash about on all sorts of issues and he's just running on folksy charm. I might take him over Hillary and definitely over Obama.

I looked carefully at both Rudy and John McCain. They both are committed to winning the war, so that one's a wash. That leaves us with controlling or reducing spending.

Ouch! Man, I wish Fred had done better.

When it comes to controlling spending, all these two talk about are earmarks. Congressional pork projects are just a drop in the bucket.

You can't control spending by going after such a tiny portion of the budget. Only Fred was willing to talk about such things.

So where does this leave us? Well, who is more credible when it comes to controlling spending, John or Rudy? I have to go with John McCain. When President Bush, one of the best Democrat presidents we've had in a long time, tried to push through his tax cuts with no spending cuts, McCain stood against it and earned the wrath of conservative talk radio jocks like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. It was directly against his best interests to oppose the tax cuts, but he did it anyway because he felt he was right. That took a lot of courage and integrity and that's what we're going to need in the next president.

Boy, it hurts to take down my Fred links. I might work up the strength to do it later today.

John McCain for president?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Time to Support John McCain?

Ok all you readers, it looks like our man Fred is going to finish a distant third in South Carolina after putting all his effort there. It doesn't look like this is Fred's year.

I'm thinking of switching to McCain. For me, it's all about winning the war and controlling spending. John McCain's the man for that.


2008 Soccer Season, Game two

Today my 5th grade girls soccer team has their second game. We whupped up on a combined 5th and 6th grade team last week, 5-0. Unfortunately, this week I'm missing my best goal scorer and two other fairly good players. That puts me down to 9 girls and I need 11 on the field. League rules allow me to pull 4th graders up for emergencies like this, but I've only got one of them coming so no matter what, we'll play short handed and everyone will have to play all the time.

That should make things just about even. :-)

Update - We won, 3-0. The other team only had 10 players, too. Our 4th grader even scored a goal! Yay!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blogging Will be Light

...until tomorrow (Saturday). Assorted other things are taking up my normal blogging time. It's all good.

Ebony and Ivory

...come together in one, wonderful Maximum Leader!

She's become an almost-lap cat. She wants to be right nearby, sometimes pressed up against you. If I ever stopped moving long enough, I bet I could turn her into a lap cat.

No chance of that happening. Gotta run!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Black Jewel Orchid

...mine is blooming. It's the worst orchid I own, but it's the only one that blooms consistently. Talk about boring!

You're just not trying hard enough, Mr. Black Jewel!

Here's what orchids can look like if they put their minds to it.

I have some that are this pretty, but they spend all their time pouting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Bittersweet Story

...can be found here.

World of Good, Room Mom Style

...and no, I'm not going to go all PC on you and call them "room parents" just because a tiny minority of dads sometimes do the job, too.

Welcome to another World of Good (WOG) entry here at The Scratching Post!

Kindness, cooperation and charity are all around you all the time. Such things are far more common than self-indulgence, depravity and dishonesty. The mainstream media (MSM) gives you an entirely dishonest view of the world every night on the news. Want some proof? Dig this.

In the United States, there are 95,201 elementary schools. Assuming only one class per grade (my kids' schools have more than one per grade) that leaves you with

95,201 (schools) x 8 (grades) = 761,608 room moms.

That means there are over 700,000 room moms in the country. You know, the women who make sure the art projects go well, the ones who administer tiny bits of first aid to little cuts and scrapes, the ones who organize the teacher's appreciation presents, the ones who work the book drives, the ones who make the whole place run smoothly so the teachers can teach. At the end of the year, they might get a little present and a round of applause from the kids, but lots of the parents don't know them by name or have any idea at all what it is the room mom does for the kids.

Meanwhile, what do we see on the news?

Brittany Spears in rehab.

There are more than 700,000 women who go in to our schools every day to sit with 9 year olds and cut out paper flowers for art projects. There is one Brittany Spears, but that's all we hear about.

Don't let it get you down. The MSM is not there to inform you, they are there to sell their advertising. The world around you is kinder, more giving and more pleasant than you think. That's because more than 700,000 women in the US alone are out there doing a World of Good.

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

The Groundhog saw its Shadow in Michigan we're in for another month of winter under a blizzard of Mitt Romney attack ads and Hugh Hewitt's deranged blog postings. The Panderbear managed to say all the right things in Michigan and utter promises that would make a dishonest Lothario trying to score a one night stand blush.

A rodent with more integrity than Mitt.

So here we go, into the South and Super Duper Tuesday with Mittens spending more money than all of the others combined to say Lord only knows what. Add to that the cacophony of brainless talk radio like Rush and Sean Hannity endlessly prattling on about some kind of conservative religious orthodoxy where all we care about are tax cuts, but never specific spending cuts and we practically guarantee ourselves one of those two human financial hemorrhages, Hillary or Obama.

Great. Just great.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Well, That was a Catastrophe

Mr. Scorched Earth Moneybags, that pandering, rat-filth-encrusted creep, Mitt Romney, won in Michigan and by a wide margin. Luckily, the editorial staff at The Scratching Post aren't the only ones to see what this was, a victory for Mitt over authenticity. Ron Fournier, an AP writer, hits the nail on the head.
WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney's victory in Michigan was a defeat for authenticity in politics.

The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents' record and continued to show why he's the most malleable — and least credible — major presidential candidate...

Judging by the brief campaign in Michigan, one candidate would flail away at the problem with empty rhetoric while the other would ask Americans to come to grips with the harsh realities of global competition, a tech-based economy and the urgent need to retrain a generation of workers.

Those aren't easy things for a politicians to say, but the truth is, the days are gone in Michigan and elsewhere when a high school graduate could land a factory job and count on a comfortable, stable middle-class life: a nice home, two cars, college tuition, health insurance and a pension.

Romney didn't talk about any of that.

Instead, he told voters what he thought they wanted to hear.
Read the whole thing.

Fiddling with Global Warming While the Chinese Die

The Earth is boiling! Scientists predict that by the year 2075, the seas will have risen 150' and everyone East of the Mississippi will drown! The polar bears are so ticked off that they're building an armada to come down to beat up the entire city of Vancouver! Al Gore has been seen having second helpings at Elario's!

OK, that last one wasn't an exaggeration, but you get my point.

Meanwhile, real, live Chinese workers are being poisoned by real, live pollution. Yet another article in the Wall Street Journal details yet another toxic waste tragedy. This time it's cadmium batteries.
In recent months, Americans have discovered the dark side of their reliance on cheap Chinese goods. From lead-tainted toys to contaminated pet food, the safety of Chinese products is suddenly an American obsession...

The nickel-cadmium battery illustrates this trend. Once widely manufactured in the West, the batteries are now largely made in China, where the industry is sickening workers and poisoning the soil and water...

As the U.S. and other Western nations tightened their regulation of cadmium, production of nickel-cadmium batteries moved to less-developed countries, most of it eventually winding up in China. "Everything was transferred to China because no one wanted to deal with the waste from cadmium," says Josef Daniel-Ivad, vice president for research and development at Pure Energy Visions, an Ontario battery company...

In China, government standards on cadmium exposure are in line with those endorsed by the World Health Organization. And without question, there are safe cadmium plants in China.

But having rules and enforcing them are two different things. China has dozens of so-called "hot spots" where the cadmium contamination is similar to levels at U.S. superfund sites. More that 10% of China's arable land is contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, according to the State Environmental Protection Agency, and the metals are entering China's food supply.
I just checked the thermometer near here and it hasn't risen at all. This looks safe to me.

Should we worry about this? Nahhhhh. It's all climate change all the time. Say, we just had a Santa Ana. It was dry here in San Diego for the last few days. If this continues, we may never see a cloud again!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mitt Romney Cliche Count

Here's a video from Letterman's show where he counts the number of campaign cliches that Panderbear Romney uses in a speech in New Hampshire. Hilarious!

Blowing up a Cement Mixer

The link to this video was sent to me by a friend in response to this news item.
RED WING, MINN. - Workers at the Prairie Island nuclear plant were put on high alert temporarily on Sunday after a man blew up a dump truck about a mile away, authorities said.
This video is not of that event, but a similar one shown on the show Mythbusters.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Robert Novak Makes the Case for Fred Thompson

Robert Novak, that anicient, maverick renegade of pundits, makes the case today for Fred Thompson. The reason? Everyone else is promising to spend us all into bankruptcy. First, the Democrats.
Listening to the Democratic contenders, for example, is like listening to a 4-year-old tell Santa what she wants for Christmas -- an array of cherished desires, and no sense that someone has to pay for them. Universal health insurance! Affordable college! Grants for child care! Money for schools! Every doll ever made by American Girl!

According to the nonpartisan website PolitiFact, which assesses the accuracy of what candidates say, all the programs envisioned by Hillary Clinton would add about $174 billion a year in outlays. And that was before she unveiled a $70 billion fiscal stimulus plan Friday. Barack Obama, according to a November analysis in the McClatchy newspapers, has promised "at least $181 billion in new annual spending on middle-class tax cuts, health care and retirement and energy plans."
Could one of you out there who supports a Democrat please explain your reasoning? Seriously. It doesn't make any sense to me.

Now for the Republicans.
If Democrats love spending money, Republicans love cutting taxes. Not so long ago, they assured us that lower taxes would inevitably force lower spending. In his time in office, though, President Bush has refuted that claim.

Since 2001, federal revenues have declined by 7 percent as a share of gross domestic product, while federal outlays have grown by 9 percent as a share of GDP. When you increase spending without increasing revenue, you aren't cutting taxes but raising them -- for future taxpayers.
If you're supporting someone on the Republican side other than Fred Thompson, can you explain your reasoning to me? Seriously. I don't get how cutting taxes and increasing spending is supposed to work.

How about Fred?
But among the Republicans, only Fred Thompson has been willing to risk the wrath of the elderly by calling for a cut in the growth of Social Security benefits. The supposedly fearless John McCain targets pork-barrel goodies, which are only a small part of the problem. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee strenuously dodge the entitlement issue.
Fred Thompson for president.

Goodbye, Seahawks!

Yesterday, the Packers slaughtered the Seahawks, 42-20. Thank goodness. True to Seahawk form, the game looked like a total coin toss. The Seahawks got out to a quick 14-0 lead and made it look like it was going to be a rout one way. Then they let the Packers outscore them 42-6 in the final 50 minutes and have it be a rout the other way.

Typical. Just typical.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coaching Soccer Like an XBox Game

I'm coaching my daughter's 5th grade girls soccer team. We had our first soccer game today. I got to the field early and watched some of the game right before ours. One of the coaches spent the entire time screaming at his team, giving instructions. He wasn't being mean or insulting or anything like that, he was just screaming out instructions to his girls.

As I watched, it reminded me of playing an XBox soccer game where instead of using the controller, you just screamed at the players.

"Sarah, cut in left! Julie, go to the center! Pass, Charlotte, PASS!"

It didn't work too well.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Surge has Failed can tell from this video.

The insurgents are now practicing biological warfare and have infected our troops with Tarantism, causing them to dance in the streets with the locals.

How many more must suffer from a total loss of rhythym for this unjust war?

Because it's Friday

...and Friday is the traditional day for catblogging.

Our Maximum Leader has gotten progressively more cuddly as she has gotten older. It used to be that she would sleep in whatever room was handy. Then she wanted to sleep in the room where you were. Then she slept with me in my bed at night. Now she sleeps with her little body pressed up against me.

I'm not quite sure why it's happening, but it sure is nice to feel all that feline affection.

Fred Thompson Runs Wild in the South Carolina Debate

I didn't see the debate, but the blogosphere is white hot with praise for Fred Thompson's performance in the South Carolina debate last night. StopTheACLU has a great round up of reactions. Dig this major league smackdown of Mike Huckabee by Fred.

Even Mittens' lap dog, Hugh Hewitt, claims that Fred won the debate, perhaps the first time in months that Hugh has claimed anyone on the planet has done anything better than Mittens.

Update: I just watched much of the debate over at YouDecide2008. Fred was smokin'!

The losers were Rudy and Mittens. They simply disappeared. Ron Paul is clearly insane, so I don't think judging his debate performance really matters. Huckabee did very well. McCain fell somewhere in between.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heart Attack Narrow Miss

So I'm the coach of my daughter's soccer team and I needed to send the roster to our team mom so she can set up the snack and drink schedule. I thought I had it with me in a file folder.


I figured I could find it in one of my normal filing* spots around the house.


I was sure I had typed the roster in to the computer. I did a search on all Word documents.

No luck.

I had all the email addresses for the parents and I wondered if I was going to have to send out an email saying, "Could you please send me back your name?" Is there anything more pathetic?

I finally stumbled across the spreadsheet into which I had typed the roster. Whew! Heart attack narrowly avoided.

* - These are not actually filing spots as you would normally think of one. They are more like flat surfaces upon which you can put papers.

Another Great Cheezburger

World of Good, Treehouse Style

Welcome to another World of Good (WOG) entry here at The Scratching Post! Yes, I know it's a Thursday and we normally do these on Wednesday, but life's been a bit crazy (and fun!) lately, so we've missed a bunch of WOG Wednesdays and I just wanted to get another one out there.

This week we highlight the work of Treehouse. Treehouse is UK-based organization that was started by parents of children with autism and exists "to transform through education the lives of children with autism and the lives of their families." For those who aren't quite sure what autism is, here's a very general description of the problem.
Autism causes kids to experience the world differently from the way most other kids do. It's hard for kids with autism to talk with other people and express themselves using words. Kids who have autism usually keep to themselves and many can't communicate without special help.

They also may react to what's going on around them in unusual ways. Normal sounds may really bother someone with autism — so much so that the person covers his or her ears. Being touched, even in a gentle way, may feel uncomfortable.

Kids with autism often can't make connections that other kids make easily. For example, when someone smiles, you know the smiling person is happy or being friendly. But a kid with autism may have trouble connecting that smile with the person's happy feelings.
I can't imagine what life like a parent of an autistic child must be like. One of my greatest joys is my relationships with my children and they way they react to me with love and happiness. To remove that from my life would be to remove a good deal of the sunshine. Treehouse works to give some of that sunshine back by educating both the parents of autistic children and the children themselves. Parenting an autistic child is tough. Doing it without a resource like Treehouse would be much, much harder.

Here, Treehouse volunteers teach the children hockey cross-checking. The photographer ended up knocked out cold.

Treehouse helps the children get out and participate in normal, daily activities.

TreeHouse children and staff continue to take advantage of the many facilities that are on their doorstep in the local community and in central London. All children go on trips to Muswell Hill, where they are able to visit the local library, have a drink or something to eat in a local café and go shopping in the local supermarket. Children also take advantage of the local amenities, going swimming once a week at the local pool. Horse riding is to become a regular feature on the weekly timetable. One class visited the ice skating rink at Alexandra Palace, where the children and staff enjoyed themselves learning to ice skate. Visits to local shopping centres are also a feature of our pupils’ learning...The purpose of such trips is to enable the children to become more used to being in the community, to practise daily-life activities such as shopping.

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner, visited Treehouse recently. Apparently his jokes weren't as funny as he thought they were.

Treehouse's newsletters are filled with little stories of success. In one, an autistic boy named Michael is being taught basic social skills.
Michael sits at the table and orders a cup of tea and a slice of toast in a Muswell Hill café. This may not sound like much, but for Michael, who is non-verbal, this is an enormous achievement. Teaching Michael this skill has been very positive for his family. Michael is now able to go to a restaurant, sit with the rest of the family and order his own food.
When I read this, I tried to imagine the patient love that the volunteers of Treehouse gave to Michael as they worked him through this process. They weren't teaching biochemistry to genius pupils, they were helping a young boy learn essential social graces. There was no glamor or fame to the task, only an abiding love for the child. Now imagine that event repeated hundreds or thousands of time and you begin to get a sense of what Treehouse does. Now that's a World of Good.

For more WOGs, a description of why we WOG and an opportunity to join the WOG Squad, see this post.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Promises They Can't Keep

Robert Samuelson, writing in today's Washington Post, has an outstanding article examining the presidential candidates' promises relative to our financial realities.

Here's the short version: we're out of money. Everything Hillary or Barack or Mike or Mitt adds as a promise will be paid for by our children. It's all borrowed and most of us will not live to pay it back. We're stealing from our kids so we can live high on the hog. Mr. Samuelson has some of the details:

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans -- already represent more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects that these programs could easily grow to about 70 percent of the budget by 2030. Without implausibly large deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today's levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services...

The insidious nature of this problem is that because the spending increases for the elderly occur gradually, the pressures on taxes and other government programs will also intensify gradually. A crucial moment to clarify the stakes and compel politicians to make choices probably won't occur until it's too late.

The longer we delay -- and we've done so now for several decades, because the strains created by an aging society have been obvious that long -- the more likely that eventual "solutions" will be unfair to both young and old. To acknowledge that and to come to grips with it would constitute genuine "change."
The only candidate who is addressing this directly is Fred Thompson.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Great Poetry

Go to this link now! It is a catwa from the Feline Theocracy!

The Marine, the Octopus and the Kid

I think our buddies over at US Torture and Atrocities have posted this one already, but I really love the imagery and couldn't resist posting it here. Click on the picture for a larger version that tells the story much better. There's that wonderful, universal look of innocent delight on the child's face that you can see much better in the close up.

Capt. Rodrigo Cantu attached to Regimental Combat Team 6, Police Transition Team 8 hands an Iraqi child a toy.

Finding it Hard to Blog This Morning

...for stylistic reasons.

I just love the way last night's sunset video came out. It would be a shame to follow it up with an angry political screed, a prolonged snark about work or some kind of business case analysis of a Wall Street Journal story.

Hmmm. Let's see if we can find something good to post...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Awesome Sunset

Tonight's sunset gave me my favorite sunset video ever. It's about 2:30, but it keeps changing throughout the video. The song is the B-52s playing Follow Your Bliss.


Tonight's Sunset awesome.

A video is being recorded even now. I hope to post it tonight.

Music suggestions, anyone?

New York, New York Roller Coaster

I hate heights.

I laughed out loud at the sheer terror of this roller coaster video. It's a little more than three minutes long and well worth it.

I would never ride that roller coaster. When the track support dropped away and they were suspended out in space, the total horror of the event had me in paroxysms of laughter.

After all, it was them and not me. :-)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Carnival of the Cats #199 is up

...over at The Cat Blogosphere. Check it out!

Carnival of Fatherhood

This week's Carnival of Fatherhood is up over at Time for Dads.

It's Just That Kind Of Day Today

Once again, our Maximum Leader leads the way.

It's been raining, I need more sleep and the NFL playoffs are on. It's just a lazy kind of day.

The News Media is not There to Inform You

It's all about conflict, confrontation and arguments. Dig this exchange between Fred Thompson and some muffin head from the Today Show:

The moral of the story is this. If you want to be informed, turn off the TV. The less TV you watch, the more informed you will be. They are not there to help you understand the world around you. They couldn't care less. All they want are viewers so they can make money off of advertising. They've found that if they make things more confrontational, they get more viewers. It's as simple as that.

The difference between the Today Show and Jerry Springer is one of tone, nothing else.

Demonic Possession and Mental Illness

I sat down the other day and was reading passages from the Gospel of Luke. In Luke's account, Christ is seen healing the sick and driving out demons from the possessed. This always bothered me. (Not the healing part, the possession part.) I kept wondering why there were so many people who were possessed by demons 2000 years ago and so few in evidence today. As I read Luke's accounts of the behaviors of the possessed, it dawned on me that this could well have been the mentally ill where their behaviors were interpreted as demonic possession.

A person with schizophrenia or a psychotic can sometimes be seen reacting to non-existent events, talking to people who aren't there and behaving in violent and irrational ways. For some of the mentally ill, fits and spasms can be common. 2000 years ago, in the absence of modern psychological diagnosis, I would bet that this would be seen as demonic possession. Luke's gospel, interpreted in that light, then has a common theme of Christ healing the sick, both the sick of body and the sick of mind.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

My Prediction for Today's Seattle Seahawks Playoff Game

Here's my prediction. Pick a team, Washington or Seattle, that you think will win. Got your pick?






There. I hope that helps.

Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee - Lots of Poop, but no Pony

So I stopped by the websites for both Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee this morning to check out their stands on the issues. They're almost identical. Of course, all of the politicians are saying almost the same thing. I think you could make a generic candidate out of an amalgam of almost all of them (Fred and Ron Paul aside) and come up with the Republocrat Android V 1.0.

Here's how it would stand on the issues along with the painful reality.

Health Care - Everyone should have health insurance. Health care costs too much. If it was more effecient, it wouldn't cost so much. We can all have all we want with my plan.
Reality - It costs alot because no one wants to die. We all want state-of-the-art health care. Improvements in health care are becoming more and more expensive. Peter Drucker clearly proved that improved quality in health care leads to vastly increased costs.

Republocrat Android Version 1.0, seen here with his press secretary, will make you smarter and wealthier while improving the environment, all at no cost to you!

Education - Kids can't read or write too good. Teachers need more money and we need to start teaching the kids sooner. Maybe when they're still in the womb. I will increase funding for pre-K classes and lower college tuition. I will pay the good teachers and institute in-class spankings for the bad ones.
Reality - Kids from stable, two-parent homes do just fine. Kids from single-parent homes don't do so well and in particular, ones from neighborhoods where the social fabric has been shredded are just totally screwed.
Energy - We need more funding for research. I have a plan to make us energy independent. We shouldn't import oil.
Reality - We've been playing this game for years and getting nowhere. We use oil because it costs less. We have to import it because we don't have enough of our own. Get over it. We're not tungsten independent, either. How about a plan for tungsten independence?
Budget Deficit - We shouldn't be so far in debt every year. By cutting wasteful government programs and auditing the government, I will save so much money that we will...we will...we will...look! A bird!
Reality - We're beyond broke. We spend every penny we get in taxes, we spend all of our retirement savings and we're running up our credit cards as fast as we can. Each one of us, every man, woman and child, owes $30,000 on the national debt. A family of four owes $120,000. Pay up.
I didn't think I'd find this when I started looking at the candidates. I came away from this little exercise more cynical than before. I just thought I'd share.

You're welcome.

PS - Of course, you could always just support Fred.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama's Win is Surprising Only to the Press

On the Democratic side, the press is all a-twitter over Barack Obama's victory in Iowa. It's a seminal moment in America, according to them, the victory of a black man in a lilly-white, heartland state.

What a load of manure.

The country has not had a significant race problem in decades. For example, when Michael Vick was caught in his dog fighting crimes, the reaction on unmoderated sports message boards in the deep South was something like, "Why couldn't he have been more like Deuce McAllister?"

The racism industry has had the media by the throat for years, giving it what it wanted - controversy and conflict. It's hard to make a compelling news story out of a beautiful moment like the one below that I captured at a local Special Olympics, but it's easy to drag one out of Al Sharpton screeching about racism on a panel of soundbiting loudmouths.

America is not racist. We haven't been racist for a long time. It's time to drop that theme. In fact, Iowa proves that this is the case. If not, you would have to believe that up until a short while ago, Iowa was racist and suddenly Barack Obama changed their minds.

TigerHawk, an Iowan, has a good analysis on this.

Friday Ark

This week's Friday Ark is up at The Modulator. Stop by and check it out. Even though I love cats, my favorite part of the Friday Ark is always the invertebrates.

Update: It looks like there are no invertebrates this week. :-(

Why Does Haloscan Fail So Much?

I would think that trackback pings would be pretty standard, yet I get error messages fairly often while using Haloscan as my trackback mechanism. I don't get it. I just tried one back to Captain's Quarters and failed. Townhall always fails, but then again they're a very anti-web 2.0 site.

Fred Thompson Wins Iowa

Last night's results from Iowa were about as good as you could possibly hope for Fred Thompson. Mike Huckabee dealt what some consider a mortal wound to that pandering creep, Mitt Romney. Huckabee's populist, evangelical message won't play in the big states like New York and California and it's hard to see how you can win without those. After McCain thrashes Romney in NH, that will narrow the field down to three candidates, Fred, McCain and Rudy. Fred will be the only conservative left.

In fact, once McCain crushes Mittens in NH, Fred will be the only conservative remaining then.

Bypassing New Hampshire, Fred now moves into a home game against Huckabee in South Carolina. With Mitt effectively out of the race, I'm hoping Fred will pick up some big endorsements there. The conservative Republican establishment will continue to pound on Huckabee and I'm hoping Mitt's erstwhile supporters will shift to Fred. Fred is still the dark horse candidate and is way short on cash, but his future just got a good deal brighter.

Go Fred!

Update: I should probably say Fred will be the only orthodox conservative left in the race. I would be pretty happy with a McCain nomination. I love the fact that he voted against Bush's tax cuts because there were no associated spending cuts.

Other takes: Captain Ed calls this a body blow for Romney and sees it helping Rudy.

RiehlWorldView completely misses the point and claims that Romney lost because he was too negative. No, Romney lost because he's like an onion - he has no core.

Redstate has this as a win for McCain. I agree with that assessment as well.

SoCalPundit agrees with me.

StopTheACLU has video from Fred's campaign last night.

Babalu Blog comes to the same conclusion.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A World of Good from our Court Jester

The Feline Theocracy's Court Jester had this post the other day that is worthy of being a World of Good entry.

H/T: Our Precentor of Measurements.

Blogging Will Be Light

...until I finish my current mortal combat with a cold virus.

Die, virus, die!

Pacific Sunset Video

Yesterday evening I drove to a local church parking lot where they have an outstanding view out towards the ocean to get a good sunset video. The sunset didn't entirely cooperate. I also learned that just because you can pan back all the way and see a wide angle, it doesn't mean you should. I used Enya as the background music again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The First Sunset of the New Year

...was spectacular. Because of the angle of the sunset, I didn't have a chance to get a good video, but tonight I may drive over to a local church parking lot that has a better view and get a video from there.

No More Complaining About Video Games

In the past, I've complained about raising children in a culture suffused with 24-hour kids' TV and endless access to video games.  I'm not going to do that any more.

Over this last holiday season, I spent time riding bikes with my daughter along the boardwalk in Mission Beach.  I took my son to a local baseball diamond and hit him ground balls for a while.  In both cases, without my intervention in some way, they would have sat themselves in front of a video screen of some kind.  That used to bother me, but it doesn't any more.

As I rode bikes with my daughter, it occurred to me that every generation of parents has had its share of problems.  We complain these days about our kids being inactive or obese and spending too much time in front of the boob tube.  However, every time I offer to go do something with them, they jump at the chance.  If I accept the fact that in my era a parent's burden is that you have to provide the incentive to get off the couch then it all falls into place.

Less than 100 years ago, parents worried that their children would be stricken with polio.

At the height of the polio epidemic in 1952, nearly 60,000 cases with more than 3,000 deaths were reported in the United States alone.

About 30-40 years ago, parents from a very different generation had to deal with the introduction of illegal drugs into society.  Not being familiar with drugs like heroin and cocaine, they didn't know what to look for and many times their children were terribly harmed before they even recognized the problem.

There are lots more examples of the burdens various generations of parents have had to face, but I think you get the point.  These days, we have to be the stimulus to get our kids off the couch.  It's a drag, but it's just the way things are.  I'll take that over polio any day of the week.

Killings in Baltimore are not Random

In today's Wall Street Journal, Wendy Pollack has a concise piece discussing Baltimore's murder rate.

Killings in Baltimore have remained consistently high even as most major U.S. cities have seen their murder rates fall sharply. What sets Baltimore apart, so Baltimore Sun’s Julie Bykowiczme criminologists say, is pervasive heroin addiction, the reports.
In the article Ms. Pollack links to, there's a telling section.
In a joint interview this month at police headquarters, Dixon and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, both Baltimore natives, said drugs have played into the city's homicide rate in another way - by breaking apart the family structure.

"There's a whole different makeup of the family now, with alcoholism and drug addiction," the 54-year-old Dixon said, contrasting today's Baltimore with the one she grew up in.

Jessamy and others wonder about a violence-begets-violence effect.

Children here grow up with so much death and chaos, Jessamy said, that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and deal with it by acting out. Men age 24 and younger are driving much of the violent crime in Baltimore, according to statistics.
This mirrors what's going on in Oakland.

Social pathologies are not the rain, falling evenly across society. They are not primarily driven by income or race. They are most strongly correlated to the family structure of the people involved. It's a mathematical fact. While some want to find governmental programs to help the situation, the real solution is clear. It stares back at us in the mirror every morning. Governmental agencies with civil servants typing reports on computers and giving each other PowerPoint presentations in nice office buildings around the Beltway are not going to change the situation.

Single parent households have less money and fewer labor hours to devote to parenting than traditional, two-parent households. You cannot consistently produce a better product with less money and less labor.

Why is that so hard for reporters to write? Why is that so hard for politicians to say? Why can't bureaucrats report that?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Eve Party Nightmare

...from icanhascheezburger - someone shows up wearing the exact same thing!

Cottony Scale and the Nuclear Option

Inside my house I have a 15' tall fiddle leaf fig.  I love my fiddle leaf fig.  It is currently under assault by cottony scale.  Cottony scale is an insect that most scientists believe comes from one of the lower levels of hell.  Spawned by the devil to attack beautiful, indoor plants, cottony scale serves no useful purpose and must be destroyed at all costs.

I've tried systemic poisons, spray on non-toxic insecticidal soaps and finally, at the suggestion of my gardening guru mother, rubbing alcohol applied with a cloth.  Only the rubbing alcohol has slowed it down.  Unfortunately, applying it with a cloth only leads to damage for the plant as the scale tends to hide out at the intersections of the leaves and the stem.  Today, I finally went with the nuclear option.

I filled a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and just blasted the infested parts of the tree.  I figure the tree's naturally waxy leaves and stem will be able to deal with the alcohol, but the scale won't.  We shall see.  In any case, the tree has been nuked pretty thoroughly.  More updates in the weeks to follow.

Creating Posts With Windows Live LiveWriter

I just downloaded and installed Windows Live in an attempt to find a nice desktop publishing platform for the blog.  I've been wanting to do this so I can insert photos and wrap text around them more easily than having to edit the raw html in blogger.  The Official Artist of the Feline Theocracy has been recommending LiveWriter for quite a while, so I figured I'd try it out.

Daisy What better picture to play with than one of Momma Daisy's daughters?

Ooh!  The formatting works very well indeed and LiveWriter allows me to resize the photo by dragging the anchor points in the editor.  Very nice and very intuitive!

There seem to be all manner of other tools associated with Windows Live that I'll explore in the coming days.  As I do, I'll post the information as well as my Windows Live contact data so we can play with the IM parts of the product as well as photo and video sharing.

I like it.  I like it a lot already.

Update: What happens to you when you click on the picture? When I do it, my PC wants to open the image with Corel Photopaint rather than Internet Explorer. I've seen that from time to time on other sites and I don't get it.