Friday, December 31, 2010

Fern Bar

Did the Fern Grotto tour this morning. Not the most exciting thing to do, but it is a nice, relaxing couple of hours. You take a large tour boat upriver, followed by a short hike to the grotto. The guides rattle off the typical tour guide mix of facts, legends, and bad jokes. On the way back they teach you a few simple hula moves, and everyone sings along to a couple of songs (Tiny Bubbles, anyone?). Like I said, it was a nice respite from the more active activities.

Tonight there's a New year's Eve luau on the beach, with flaming torches, more hula dancers, and fireworks. I don't have time for much self-reflection on this trip, so I'll just say I hope everyone's 2011 is their best year ever.

Or at least better than 2010.

And maybe in the new year I'll be able to track down obama's birth certificate...

Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da

We went ziplining today. We've done this before in Central Texas, but much as I hate to admit it, that was nothing compared to this one. Some of the runs were several hundred feet above the ground and a quarter of a mile long. Terminal velocity was around 40 MPH. I usually don't have a problem with heights, but a couple of times it felt like making love for the first time - terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

The weather has remained constant - overcast and rainy. We've been here four days and only seen the sun for brief stretches. Fortunately, the timing has worked out so that it rains while we're indoors and stops, except for a little drizzle every once in a while, when we go out. I blame this on obama vacationing here at the same time. He brings doom and gloom wherever he goes.

Speaking of obama, still no sign of his birth certificate. I'll keep looking...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Food For Thought

Q: Why does Hawaii have Interstate highways? It's a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What state(s) could they possibly drive to?

A: Hawaii has Interstate highways so it can guzzle at the public trough, just like the other 49 states. Without federal funds it wouldn't be able to build and maintain the extensive road system between the islands ... no, wait ...

Why does Hawaii have Interstate highways?

Parasailed and boggie boarded yesterday. Visited the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial this morning. Catching a flight later today for Kauai. Waikiki is nice to visit for a couple of days, but enough is enough. 

Haven't caught a glimpse of obama, but his spoor is all over the place. However, can't find a trace of his birth certificate. Will continue searching.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Longest Day

The Longest Day is not the June 6 1944 landings at Normandy. It is the Dec. 27 2010 trip from Central Texas to Honolulu.

We got up in Central Texas at 5:30 a.m. CST. We collapsed into bed in Honolulu at 10:30 p.m. HST (Hawaii Standard Time - four hours difference). That's 21 hours of airports, flights, cab rides, wrangling kids, and dealing with indifferent airline employees and rude passengers. Oh yeah - don't forget overpaying for that wonderful airport food.

We arrived in Honolulu on the heels of a series of rainstorms that triggered mudslides and flash floods. It's currently raining outside, with showers forecast for the next few days. The first item on the local news was a shark attack on a surfer. But we're here, we're all in one piece, our luggage made it, so life is good. At least we're not dealing with blizzards on the east coast, or more rain and mudslides on the west coast. We'll manage.

First impressions of Honolulu are of apartments - lots and lots of apartments, many of them the high-rise type. Makes sense, I guess. This is an island, after all, and land is limited.

The streets around where we're staying (Waikiki Beach) are narrow and crowded. Lots of high-end shops. Reminds me of a cross between Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and the Galleria in Houston.

Our hotel is on the beach. Even in this weather (drizzly, overcast, temperature in the 70s) there are people surfing.

No formal plans for today - just recover from the trip and get a feel for the place. Tomorrow we tour Pearl Harbor in the a.m., and then that evening move on to Kauai.

So far no sign of obama's birth certificate...

Monday, December 27, 2010

More TSA

Saw this on another blog. Supposedly it's a true story. Based on the idiots currently running Homeland Security and the TSA, I have no reason to doubt it.


"Yes, that's a burka, yes that's a real TSA agent, (I saw her badge when I passed her and made a U-turn to snap a pic)."
Fox guarding the henhouse...

Aloha

I have a conference next week in Hawaii. We leave this morning. Notice the change in pronouns.

When I had a conference a couple of weeks ago in St. Louis, no one wanted to go with me.


But everyone wants to accompany me to this conference. Go figure.


I'll be posting pictures and notes from the trip. Here's the first one - what I expect from the TSA.


Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Net Neutrality - Quick Hits

April 6, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission does not have the legal authority to slap Net neutrality regulations on Internet providers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday...


Tuesday's decision could doom one of the signature initiatives of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat. Last October, Genachowski announced plans to begin drafting a formal set of Net neutrality rules--even though Congress has not given the agency permission to do so.

Dec. 21, 2010
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a historic vote Tuesday, approved network neutrality rules...

The FCC approved the rules in a 3-2 party-line vote, with both of the commission's Republicans voting against the proposal. They require broadband providers to disclose their network management practices and performance metrics to customers, in addition to prohibiting broadband providers from blocking legal Web content.
Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules. We're unelected, appointed democrat commissioners. We know what's best for you. Just relax and enjoy it.

Dec. 26, 2010
Net neutrality is anything but neutral. It takes the operation of the Internet away from the heterogeneous and diversified interests of the private sector that has created it and concentrates it in the hands of an unelected and unaccountable board of political appointees atop a federal bureaucracy. Does that sound like a recipe for continued innovation?

The dire problems net neutrality activists cry wolf about either don't exist or have already been resolved without the heavy hand of government influence. A federal court has ruled the FCC lacks the legal authority to regulate Internet service providers. So why try to do so?

Over the last two decades, millions of individuals have contributed to a remarkable expansion of freedom, creativity and commerce on the Internet that has benefited billions of people. For three FCC commissioners, that's a problem. The power to regulate, after all, is the power to control. For control freaks, few things are more tempting than an unfettered Internet.
More tempting, and more frightening...

Twas The Morning After Christmas

Here's hoping your Christmas exceeded expectations.

Santa's certainly did...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Bad news. Christmas has been canceled this year.

 
But seriously, folks, here at Bergheim Follies we unabashedly wish each and every one a Merry Christmas. I can think of no better Christmas wish than that old standard:


"Peace on Earth. Good will towards men."


May it come true this year...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Follies Happy Hour - Christmas Edition

My all time favorite Christmas song. Enjoy, and have a very Merry Christmas.



Ho Ho Ho!

Last Minute Gift Suggestion

For all you married men out there, here's a gift that's sure to bring a smile to your little woman's face.











Let me know how it works out for you...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis The Season

This is a true story. The lead character - Bob, the patient - is a friend and mentor of mine. He plucked me from a gaggle of entry-level employees at my first job after I got my bachelor's degree and groomed me for a series of special assignments that gave me the opportunity to grow professionally. Over time our relationship progressed from mentor-mentee to friendship. When I moved from Houston to Central Texas we stayed in touch, and got together for a few rounds of golf every year. By a stroke of fate, his daughter ended up living about 30 miles from us, so we'd visit when Bob and his wife came to see their grandkids.

Several years ago he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Chemo and radiation seemed to have regressed, or at least halted, the disease. However, on Tuesday of this week the following stream of emails began. (The author is a friend of Bob and I who lives in Houston, where Bob still lives.)
* * * * * * * * * *

Date: Tue Dec 21 18:17

I went to the hospital today to see Bob………

If you have never been to MD Anderson, I hope you never have a reason to go……. Most people are walking around with bald heads and caps, sad eyes, and soulless stares.  They move slowly, and their family and visitors act just like they do, except they have hair.

There is a stench of disease in the hallways, and no one smiles……… I’m sure it’s a great hospital with a tough job….. but existing there and waiting for treatment has got to be as hard as the treatment, or worse.

Bob…….. I don’t think it’s good,  (The wife) was there, and although having been sick with a cold she said, looks like she has been beaten with a stick….. tired, sad, and I think scared.

Bob is swollen…. His head and neck are one big bulge….. any definition around his eyes are gone…. Just slits….. his forearms are swollen, he looks like Popeye in his arms….

He was waiting for a MRI….. he needs a stint to relieve the fluids in his body,,,,, there is a tumor pressing on his heart, and he may have a blood clot in his heart…..

But he can’t have the stint procedure if he has brain cancer….. yep, for some reason they think he may have brain cancer again….. that’s why he is having the MRI…….

His family is supposed to let me know tonight or in the morning what the MRI showed and whether the brain cancer is back or not, and if they will be able to do the stint to relieve the pressure and figure out what else is going on………. Like he needs more to be going on……

I gave him the cards y’all signed, and if you didn’t, I signed your name to them….. I gave him a t-shirt that said “ golf is easy, it’s the scoring that’s hard”.  And some Killer Bee golf balls that are not USGA approved because of their supposed increase in distance.

I think he liked still being considered a non-conformist…..

You guys know what to do….. pray for our friend Bob, and tell others…. As soon as I hear  from (the wife) I’ll pass on the word

 * * * * * * * * * *

Date: Wed Dec 22 17:29

I called (the wife) a couple of hours ago to see how the tests went yesterday.  She sounded annoyed, angry, and generally pissed off, and really tired.

She said the tests did not go well.  I asked if it was brain cancer and she said it was worse than that; that it was very bad.  She wouldn’t tell me what it was because they were not ready to tell anyone ( that would be me and Y’all by default ) what it is or what’s happening now.  She said that (the son) and (the daughter) could not handle what was going on and left the hospital and said they couldn’t or wouldn’t be coming back…… Leaves (the wife) there alone I guess, except I do plan on going back.

Not really sure the kids said exactly that, but that’s what she heard and I understand how hard it would be to see dad at this stage.

So, I know nothing except to say it’s worse than they expected or at least (the wife) hoped and wanted. I’ll try to get more info.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Date: Thu Dec 23 11:22

I’m so excited of the news I just got from (the wife), and the way she sounded with hope and some sort of relief in her voice, it’s kind of hard to type….

Yesterday when I sent y’all the email about how angry and defeated (the wife) was, it was because the doctors had just told her that there was nothing else they could do for Bob.  Finished, completed, run out of answers and ideas. DONE!

However, one doctor in this band of Christmas coal delivery suggested that maybe another doctor, Dr. Expert, should be consulted….. (The daughter) and (the wife) implored Dr. Expert to look at Bob.  Nothing to lose, the others had written him off, it was just of matter of time, days, hours,…. Whatever.

Dr. Expert reviewed Bob’s issues ( besides his poor putting ) and immediately put him in surgery.   Three to four hours later, he is in ICU, recovering from having his blood clots removed from his heart ( they crushed them!?) and installation of the stint he needed to drain the fluids so they could now tackle the radiation treatment with less fear of complications.  He will be in ICU for about another 24 hours, then moved to another room….

(The wife) said that they said within another week, he will be feeling much better.  Didn’t go as far as to say feeling like a new man, but  an alive man.  Damn he is tough!  (The wife) sounds like she has drawn her first breathe in about three weeks or longer.

I think they were going to let him die yesterday….. Dr. Expert said no, I want, I can , I will do this.  He did!

Bob is far, far from being out of the woods as you all know, but as he has always done, lives to fight another day……. God Bless you all for your prayer and thoughts for Bob and (the wife)…. She told me tell you all that she knows that you are praying for the family, and she appreciates it,,,,,,, and it’s worked?

Miracle on Holcombe Blvd!   Merry Christmas everyone,,,,, I’ll keep you updated.

  * * * * * * * * * *
Bob has a long way to go, but he's much better off today than he was yesterday. So I guess tis indeed the season for miracles...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More DADT

To put DADT and other social movements in historical perspective, here's a retelling of Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. (Original story from here, via C&S).
Nelson: "Order the signal, Hardy."

Hardy: "Aye, aye sir."

Nelson: "Hold on, this isn’t what I dictated to Flags. What's the meaning of this?"

Hardy: "Sorry sir?"

Nelson (reading aloud): "England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability. - What gobbledegook is this for God’s sake?"

Hardy: "Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting ' England ' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."

Nelson: "Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."

Hardy: "Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments."

Nelson: "In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle."

Hardy: "The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. Its part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."

Nelson: "Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it ........... full speed ahead."

Hardy: "I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."

Nelson: "Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest please."

Hardy: "That won't be possible, sir."

Nelson: "What?"

Hardy: "Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness; and they said that rope ladders don't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."

Nelson: "Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."

Hardy: "He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck Admiral."

Nelson: "Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."

Hardy: "Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."

Nelson: "Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."

Hardy: "Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."

Nelson: "Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."

Hardy: "A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"

Nelson: "I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."

Hardy: "The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."

Nelson: "What? This is mutiny!"

Hardy: "It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."

Nelson: "Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"

Hardy: "Actually, sir, we're not."

Nelson: "We're not?"

Hardy: "No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."

Nelson: "But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."

Hardy: "I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on disciplinary report."

Nelson: "You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King."

Hardy: "Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules. It could save your life"

Nelson: "Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"

Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there's a ban on corporal punishment."

Nelson: "What about sodomy?"

Hardy: "I believe that is now legal, sir."

Nelson: "In that case .............. kiss me, Hardy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Social Safety Net

I have nothing to base this on other than my belief in the basic goodness of human nature, but I do believe that most people are, at heart, at least somewhat compassionate. Most of us don't want people starving, freezing, homeless, etc., and are willing to provide some sort of social safety net to help those in need. Where the problems arise, however, is in determining how big the mesh of that net should be.

For example, I have no problem with the government facilitating distribution of surplus peanut butter, cheese, bologna, bread, and so forth to keep people from starving, or even going hungry. I do, however, have a problem with using my tax dollars for food stamps (or whatever the current equivalent is) that allow people to buy just about anything in the grocery store.

Similarly, I don't object to a little assistance that helps people in need pay their heating bills during extreme cold weather. However, this story really raised my hackles.
The Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council, which distributes the federal money, had its share of funding for the program cut by 44 percent this year.

Jimmie Samuel, executive director of the agency, said the need for assistance in Bibb County has spiked, while the available funds to fill those needs have been slashed.

“We’re close to being out of money,” Samuel said. “We’re going to assess to see what we can do, to see if we can do any more.”

That’s left people such as Raymeica Kelley frustrated. Kelley said she, her mother and her sister arrived at the church about 3 a.m. Wednesday, only to get turned away.

“We were already too late,” she said. “It’s like impossible (to get a ticket). It gets in the way of people who need it. ... If we’re there at 3 a.m. and it’s already too late, what time are you supposed to go?”

Kelley said she was unemployed for a year before recently landing a job. But her bills have stacked up while she was unemployed, and she needs the assistance.
The story was accompanied by the picture below, captioned as follows.

"Showing her Georgia Power bills in the one warm room of her home, Raymeica Kelly explains how her mother, sister and herself were turned away from the Energy Assistance Program on Wednesday morning after standing in line for four hours. All three complained that the system the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council uses to give out the assistance needs improving."
I might have had some sympathy for Kelly if the picture hadn't shown her standing in front of a big screen HD TV and an X-box game system. And note the look of indignation on her face. It's so unfair that the gummint doesn't pay her heating bills.

This has got to be the only country in the world where the poor are obese, have cable, HD TVs, cell phones, don't work, don't pay taxes, and still find something to complain about.

I wonder how many of them vote for the democraps...

(H/T to BMEWS for the link to the original story.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

FOD Substitute

Christmas season = busy busy busy. Not much time for FOD, but in the spirit of both FOD and Christmas I offer the following.

Ho ho ho...

Now That DADT's Behind Us...

... can we please focus on solving serious problems? Like unemployment and the economy?

As I've said before, I have mixed feelings about Don't Ask Don't Tell. However, I don't feel strongly enough about it to get very excited over the Senate's vote to end it. Hopefully it will result in the benefits it's proponents expect, with little or none of the drawbacks suggested by critics.

One point which has escaped most commentators so far is the repeal's effect on universities that today don't allow ROTC on their campuses. A primary reason given by many of them is the military's so-called discrimination against gays. Now that that crutch has been removed it'll be interesting to see what happens.
Some top universities moved quickly Saturday to respond to the vote repealing the ban on gays in the military, and those who don't restore their ROTC programs in the wake of the vote are likely to face immediate pressure on the issue.

The ROTC programs have been absent from a number of Ivy League and other leading campuses since the Vietnam War, and many schools subsequently linked programs' return to open service for gays and lesbians. The vote, said Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, provides "the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services."

"This is an historic development for a nation dedicated to fulfilling its core principle of equal rights. It also effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia -- given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," he said in a statement through a spokesman.

Harvard University President Drew Faust today signaled that she would move to restore ROTC to the campus.

"Because of today's action by the Senate, gay and lesbian Americans will now also have the right to pursue this honorable calling, and we as a nation will have the benefit of their service," she said in a statement through a spokesman. "I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard's full and formal recognition of ROTC."

A spokesman for Yale University also suggested that change may be coming soon.

"We are aware of the vote and have plans in consideration," said Yale spokesman Thomas Mattia in an email.

A Stanford official declined to comment for the record but noted that the school's Faculty Senate is already reviewing the restoration of ROTC, a process that began last "in part in anticipation of the 'Don't ask Don't tell' issue," and is due to consider a report and recommendation in the next few months.

The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol suggested today that repeal should trigger an immediate press for reinstating ROTC on campus, a battle that has been a front in the culture wars since the 1960s.

"One trusts the presidents and trustees of colleges that have been keeping ROTC at arm's length, allegedly because of DADT, will move posthaste to ensure a hearty welcome and full equality for ROTC at their universities," he wrote, pointing to Senators who are alumni of the relevant schools. "One would expect that patriotic alumni of those universities would insist on quick action."
Also lost in all the hullabaloo about DADT is that it is not the military's policy. It stems from the "Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993," passed by congress during the Clinton administration. As with most things controversial, the media over time has rewritten facts and history to suit the liberal perspective.

In any event, all that's behind us now (no pun intended). So can we please move on to any number of serious issues that desperately need to be addressed? 

Like global warming...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Funnies



A hooded robber burst into a Texas bank and forced the tellers to load a sack full of cash.

As the gunman ran out the door, a brave customer grabbed the hood and pulled it off, revealing the robber's face. The robber shot the customer without a moment's hesitation.

The robber then looked around the bank and noticed one of the tellers looking straight at him. The robber instantly shot him also.

Everyone else, by now very scared, looked intently down at the floor in silence.

The robber yelled, "Well, did anyone else see my face?"

There are a few moments of utter silence during which everyone was plainly afraid to speak.

Then one old rancher tentatively raised his hand and, while keeping his head down, said, "My wife got a pretty good look at you."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bah Humbug

I do practically all my Christmas shopping via the Internet. The selection is astonishing, I can always find the right size and color, and there's no need to get dressed up (that is, put on something beside sweats) and fight the traffic and crowds.


Yesterday, however, chance and circumstance combined to send me out shopping in the real world.

Never again.

It was mid-morning on a weekday. I figured that would minimize the hassles. If that was indeed the case, then God have mercy on the poor souls who must venture out on evenings or weekends.

Long lines at lights













Packed parking lots













Crowds













Rude people
















and hordes of preschoolers amped on sugar and Santa













... what a nightmare.

To spare you, my loyal reader(s), the agony of a similar experience, here's a few online sources I find helpful.

Amazon, of course, for most traditional/routine gifts.

Semi-educational gifts: Discovery, History, Geography, Arts & Entertainment, and more.  

Food: Polish and Texas Food (here and here) (who needs anything else?).

Our local source for outdoor and animal items - Barkleys.

National sources for outdoor goodies: Cabella's and Bass Pro Shops.

For upscale wanna-be ranchers and western types, check out the King Ranch store and Crow's Nest

Offbeat, weird, and twisted items.

For those really hard to shop for people, we usually make a charitable contribution in their name. There are many out there, but here's a couple of suggestions: Heifer International and Southwest Indian Foundation (they also have native American gits available for something a little unique or unusual).

This is just a partial list. If you have questions or would like more information just let me know.

(Note: I have no connection with any of these organizations, nor do I have any sort of financial arrangement with them. These are just sites that I've found usually provide quality products and reliable service.)

If I can just save one person from what I went through yesterday then this post has served its purpose.

Ho Ho Ho...

R.I.P. Captain Beefheart

We take a break from the usual political commentary and Christmas postings to note with sorrow the passing of Captain Beefheart.
Avant-garde rock legend and visual artist Don Van Vliet, who performed under the name Captain Beefheart, passed away today at age 69. A representative of New York City’s Michael Werner Gallery, which showed his paintings, confirms the sad news to EW. Van Vliet died of complications from multiple sclerosis at a hospital in Northern California this morning.

Born in California in 1941, Van Vliet dubbed himself Captain Beefheart and began experimenting with eccentric rock’n'roll sounds in the mid-1960s. His first two releases with the Magic Band drew positive notice from some connoisseurs but failed to connect with the wider public. Van Vliet next forged a close creative partnership with Frank Zappa, a former high school classmate, who signed Beefheart to his Straight Records and produced 1969′s Trout Mask Replica. While the bizarre double album was not a major commercial success, it quickly became a cultural landmark. Van Vliet effectively redefined the frontiers of popular music, singing snatches of surreal imagery in disturbing tones over music that drew on blues, jazz, psychedelia, and a thousand other subgenres. 
Cutting through all the flowery artsy-fartsy wording above, C.B. was a pioneer and key player in the counter-culture and musical revolution of the 60's. He was part of my misguided youth. His death is just another sign, along with receding hair and popping joints (body parts, not seeds-and-stems doobies) that I'm getting old.

Rest in Peace, Cap...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflections From The Road

I enjoy traveling. It's usually intriguing to see differences in people, artifacts, and customs between different parts of the country, or different countries. My recent trip to St. Louis was no exception, with one exception.

When I'm on the road I like to get out and experience the local scene. However, on this trip the weather was so bad that for the most part it kept me tethered to the hotel.

How cold was it, you ask?
It was so cold I chipped a tooth on my soup.

It was so cold we chopped up the piano in the lobby for firewood, but we only got two chords.

It was so cold the politicians had their hands in their own pockets.

It was so cold Scarlett Johansson was downgraded from "hot" to "tepid."

It was so cold that when I turned on the shower I got hail.

It was so cold that instead of the finger, cab drivers were giving each other the mitten.

It was so cold that I saw an Amish guy buying an electric blanket.
But seriously, folks, it was so cold and the sidewalks were so slushy that I didn't get out and around too much. I did wander over to one local watering hole - Caleco's Bar & Grill. The food wasn't bad, the atmosphere was okay, but the service... well, let's just say that it could charitably be characterized as adequate at best. The reason for that is probably because the tip is automatically added to your tab. Hence there is no incentive for the waitstaff to strive for exceptional service. They get the same tip, no matter what. A bad way to run a bar, IMO.

A few random observations:

I'm used to casual chit-chat at a bar, even between strangers. There, it seemed like everyone was either talking on a cell phone or texting. I had better conversations at the Chili's bar in the DFW airport (more on that later).

It was obviously a local watering hole. What was interesting is that almost all the men there were blue-collar types: wearing Duluth-style work clothes, shirts with their names on them, etc. They were also big, beefy, corn-fed midwest types. A lot of them looked like Dick Butkus, with crewcuts, flattened nose, rugged features, and large gnarly hands.


Most of the women, on the other hand, looked like professional white collar workers: stylishly dressed, well accessorized, well groomed hair, quality jewelry, all that good stuff.

The local appetizer is something called toasted ravioli - their equivalent of our nachos. It's actually deep fried ravioli, served with tomato or marinara sauce. Not bad, but I'll stick with nachos.

Speaking of the DFW Chili's, it's evidently their policy to card everyone - even an obvioulsy old guy like me. I'd love to think it was because I look three decades or so younger than I am, but I don't think that's the reason. The question is whether that's a corporate policy, or just that particular location.

The only really negative note of the trip occurred at the DFW airport. The flight was fully booked. The plane was one of those regional jets that have two sets on one side of the aisle and three on the other. Thanks to the number of passengers and the plane's configuration, overhead space was at a premium. The gate agent made the usual announcement about limiting carryons to one piece of luggage and one personal item (purse or briefcase). Yet every single American Airlines employee at the gate and on the plane turned a blind eye to people loaded down like pack mules who were struggling down the jetway. I spotted one woman with two - TWO!!! - rolling carryons plus a backpack plus a totebag-sized purse. Of course the overhead bins filled up quickly. People started just leaving their carryons in the aisle, which caused all sorts of confusion and consternation. Oh well, if that's the worst thing that happened, it was a pretty good trip.

But like Dorothy says, "There's no place like home..."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Catching Up

Back home - finally - and just about fully thawed out. When I left St. Louis yesterday it was 24 degrees. When I landed in San Antonio a few hours later it was 74, a 50 degree swing.

Along with the warm weather comes another drought.
The great drought of 2011 may have started two months ago.

Since Tropical Storm Hermine drenched Central Texas in September, the state has been very dry, with large swaths receiving less than 10 percent of normal rainfall levels.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, the past two months were the state's eighth-driest October-November period on record and second-driest in 44 years. If Texas doesn't get at least 0.78 inches of rain this month, it would be the driest October-December period since the 1950s.
This follows the drought of 2007-2009, which was the most severe drought to affect the region since the all-time record drought of the 1950s. 
“Continuing dry weather is likely to persist at least into the spring,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. “It's probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

Partly in response to the looming drought, the Texas Forest Service convened a workshop this week in College Station to alert state and federal fire agencies about the threat of wildfires, and to prepare.
“There are important indicators ... that at least an active fire season is at hand,” said Todd Lindley, a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Lubbock.
Our local VFD is already beefing up preparations for 'an active fire season.' We've obtained an additional brush truck, along with some extra firefighter coveralls and gloves. But what we could really use is some rain.
Rainfall late in the state's growing season helped grasslands that are now drying out, which will provide fuel for any fires that get sparked.
Wildfires are common in Texas during these months as strong winter systems bring gusty wind conditions.
The rains last season came at the perfect time for foliage growth. Heavy rains began in Fall 2009 and continued throughout Spring 2010, prepping the ground, germinating seeds, and encouraging growth. Now all that grass is knee to waist high, and dry as last year's hay. Combine that with "gusty wind conditions" and God help us if there's a spark. It's like several thousand acres of tinder right now.
Forecasters expect a dry winter because of strong La NiƱa conditions in the equatorial Pacific, where sea surface temperatures are cooler than normal.

Warmer daytime highs are also a factor, because they increase the rate of evaporation, further drying the soil.
All things considered, right now I'd trade this warm weather for some rain. We really don't need another prolonged drought so soon after the 2007-2009 one.

Are you listening, Santa...?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TwoFer - FOD and FID Combined

I'm leaving balmy frigid St. Louis today, headed back to God's country.

I don't wanna say it's chilly here, but it's been as cold as my ex-wife's heart. (Rimshot)

Anyway, I'm borrowing a post from Jammie Wearing Fool that highlights the foolishness of both obama and islam idiots. Oh yeah, and that loser eric holder as well.
Glad to have that whole Blank Panther voter intimidation business behind them, the Department of Justice has moved on to bigger game. The civil rights division has launched a lawsuit against a Chicago school district for denying a teacher three weeks off to go on the hajj.
In a civil rights case, the department said the school district in Berkeley, Ill., denied the request of Safoorah Khan on grounds that her requested leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers union. In doing so the school district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practices, the government said.
A commentator on the Fox news story also pointed this out.
The Hadj is not based on the solar calender, it is based on a lunar calender. Hence, the Hadj she wishes to attend will happen in the summer, during the school's summer break, just like it did this year.
God knows I'm not an expert on islamic practices (and yes, that's an intentional God - islam contrast), but it's my understanding that the hajij only has to be done once in a person's lifetime. It also looks like it takes place in the summer, at least some of the time. So how is this a violation of that idjit's civil rights?

DOJ - fail.

Common sense - fail.

eric holder, obama, and islam - out of control.

Oh my aching butt...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Late FOD

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, has published a couple of books on former presidents - one about Jimmy Carter, and one about George W. Bush. It's the latter that is relevant to FOD.
Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush must be smiling. When President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, the current president ratified a key policy from the former administration.

While Obama ran as the candidate who would fight to overturn Bush's record, a huge number of his (Bush's) policies remain in place.

This says a lot about President Bush. One of the key measures that we have to evaluate the success of a president is not simply how many of his proposals pass through Congress but also how many of his policies outlast his time in office. (For example) Many of Franklin D. Roosevelt's programs, including Social Security and the Wagner Act, survive into our time.
For the record, I do a little social science research. One of the basic tenets of the field is to make sure you define your terms clearly and up front. So IMO 'success' of a president is not a measure of how many of his policies linger, but rather how well those policies address the problems they were intended to solve. For example, FDR's Wagner Act protects certain union activities and constrains the actions employers can take against unions. It may very well have been beneficial in the 1930s, when companies routinely engaged in union-busting, but today it is an outdated and unnecessary relic.
Thus far, President Bush has been doing well on that score (that is, having his policies carry over into his successor's administration).
Most of his counterterrorism policies have survived. Although Obama has begun to draw down the troops in Iraq, he has acknowledged that a substantial number will remain in place, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan. Until the disastrous Gulf Oil spill, the administration supported expanded offshore drilling and did little to fix the regulatory bodies responsible for monitoring these operations.

Congress is deliberating an extension of President Bush's biggest domestic policy of across-the-board tax reductions.
The tax cuts grew out of the supply-side tradition that has been central to conservatism since the 1980s. From the time of his campaign in 2000, Bush enthusiastically embraced supply-side economics, based on the argument that the wealthy would invest the money from their tax cuts into the economy.
In 1978, while testifying to the Senate Finance Committee, the economist Alan Greenspan said, "Let us remember that the basic purpose of any tax cut program in today's environment is to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenue available ..." Or as George W. Bush liked to say, "I've learned that if you leave cookies out on a plate, they always get eaten."
Amen, brothers. Tell it like it is.
Barack Obama made his attacks on the tax cuts a pillar of his campaign in 2008 and continued to oppose extending the reductions for the wealthiest Americans. As late as September 2010, the president attacked Minority Leader John Boehner during a speech in the Republican's home state of Ohio by criticizing Republicans for supporting the "same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place: cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations."
Let me add my voice to the growing chorus of people who are pointing out that the choice today is not about cutting taxes, but rather about either (1) preserving the status quo, or (2) raising taxes. And the people affected are not millionaires, but rather families and small business making more than $200,000 per year. Good money, but not exactly what I'd call millionaires, or even rich.
But in the end, Obama reversed himself, and he did so in dramatic fashion. House Democrats were caught off guard as the negotiations excluded the Democratic Caucus. Obama justified his decision by telling his supporters that he had no choice.

Since he was going to lose anyway on extending the tax cuts, he said that he should just accept this outcome and get the best deal possible, which included an extension of unemployment benefits.
Yeah, right. And if rape is inevitable, just lay back and enjoy it. (Sorry, ladies. I don't mean to be insensitive, but the comparison is just too good to pass up.)

So much for principles.
Now that the tax cuts have received bipartisan support from the leader of the Democratic Party, they would be doubly difficult to eliminate in two years when the debate occurs once again.
And what the hell was he thinking, making it a two-year extension. That guarantees it will be a big issue in the 2012 election. Amateur hour.
The political victory is not simply one for Republicans but also for former President Bush, whose policies continue to demonstrate their strength and durability.

A president once dismissed as a lightweight, as an accidental president, clearly left his imprint on Washington. The Democrat who replaced him, a politician who won amidst the anger and frustration with Bush, has ended up accepting many of the policies his Republican predecessor put into place.
i know I do.
You never know what you've got till it's gone...

Conferences

Like much of academic life, I have a love/hate relationship with conferences. There are two general types: the large, international ones (like the one I'm currently at), and the smaller, more focused ones (either regional, or on a specialized topic).

At the large ones there are well-known keynote speakers, numerous tracks arranged around different topics, presentations, panels, workshops, etc. I've found that I get the most value out of the interactive sessions, usually panel discussions and workshops. The paper presentations are generally stiff, stilted, and boring.

In a typical paper presentation session there are young faculty, anxious about presenting their work to a room full of people whose work they've studied as a student. The young 'uns are scared to death that they'll do or say something foolish or offensive to the Big Names, and as a result are wound up tighter than a seven-day watch.

In contrast, the Big Names deliver their papers much as the Pope delivers a sermon (or whatever it is the Pope delivers), expecting rapt attention and respectful commentary.

The Q&A period after each paper oscillates from the dull and obvious to the ever-popular "My work shows that..." It's much like a political press conference. The question is used as an avenue for the questioner to make a statement regarding his or her opinion. The response rarely directly addresses the question, but instead wanders off on some irrelevant tangent.

And yet I keep going. Why? Because every time I go to a conference I learn something. Either from the formal sessions, or, more typically, in informal discussions with colleagues in a corner of the lobby, or in a bar. The barroom discussions are a little more free-flowing, obviously fueled by the liquids dispensed therein. But that doesn't make them any less valid. In fact, its often just the opposite.

Conferences are also a good time to renew old relationships and make new acquaintances. Several of my research projects have come about as a result of what started out as a casual conference conversation.

So I'm willing to put up with the tedium and boredom in exchange for new and fresh insights.

Besides, the next one I'm going to is in Hawaii...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weather

This was the view from my hotel window Sunday morning.


A record one-day snowfall in St. Louis today.


Wind chill below 0.

Riverboat blown aground because of the wind. Passengers forced to stay on board overnight: "passengers wrapped themselves in tablecloths to try and stay warm."

And still the powers that be running this conference held an outdoor reception at the base of the Gateway Arch.

No, I didn't go.

Actually, I would have, except for my shoes. I can handle the cold, but I can't handle cold, wet feet. Since the forecast wasn't calling for snow when I left, I only brought dress shoes and athletic shoes, neither of which are suitable for tromping through snow and ice.

After spending most of my life in warm weather climes, snow and cold weather remains a novelty to me. I was looking forward to drinking and mingling in the middle of a snowstorm, but concerns over the shoes kept me in the hotel.

It wasn't a total loss, though. Several other conference attendees remained behind, so we got some serious networking done.

In the bar, of course...

Sunday Funnies


I work in a border town where the population is largely Hispanic. Consequently, most employers seek to hire people who are bilingual. For example, I noticed a sign in an office window that read: "Help Wanted. Must have MS Office computer skills and be bilingual."
As I was reading the sign a dog walked up, sat down besides me, and looked at the sign. After a moment he grabbed the sign in his mouth and went inside. Intrigued, I followed.
The dog went up to the office manager, dropped the sign on his desk, and sat there looking at him expectantly.
The manager laughed and said, "I can't hire a dog for this job."
The dog put his paw on the line that said "Equal Opportunity Employer," barked, and looked back and forth from the manager to me.
The manager saw me watching and said, "Okay, I'll give you a chance. Show me your computer skills."
The dog quickly waltzed through Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, opening and closing documents, moving files around, sending emails, and creating slide shows. It was quite impressive.
Still, the manager balked. "I can't hire you for this position," he told the dog. "You have to be bilingual.
The dog looked at the manager and replied, "Meow."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First Impressions

Landed in St. Louis around 4:00 this afternoon. My first impression was that it was very dark.

St. Louis is several hundred miles north of central Texas. It's also much closer to the EST/CST time zone line. Consequently, it gets much darker much earlier than home.

It's also much colder. I left a sunny warm clime (mid 70s) for a drizzly below-freezing icebox.

After I checked in and hung my clothes up in the bathroom with a full tub of hot water, I wandered down to one of the lobby bars. (Yes, the hotel is that big - it has multiple bars. It's also ritzy enough that the lobby restaurant is a Ruth's Chris steakhouse. I've never gotten out of one of those places for less than $100 per person. Sometimes the uncertain life of a consultant beats the hell out of steady employment.)

Unfortunately, here in the great midwest the bars are full of loud lousy music and smokers. My home-town hangouts feature quiet background sounds and very few tobacco users. I guess I've gotten spoiled.

Finally, while sitting in the noise-and-smoke-a-torium, I was watching a TV with subtitles (I guess there was no way anyone could hear what they were saying). I almost dropped my beer when I read "Justin Bieber tells Barbara Walters he'll cut his hair."

My God! Has the mainstream media sunk so low that this is what now passes for news? And is this the zenith of Babba Wawas' career?

It almost makes one yearn for Walter Cronkite...

On The Road Again

I'm off this morning to a conference in beautiful sunny St. Louis. Yesterday's high temp at home was a sunny 74. The forecast for today's high in St. Louis is 42 degrees, with rain. Then it gets cold. The highs for Sun. - Wed. are forecast to be in the mid-20's, with single digit lows.

The geniuses that planned this thing have an outdoor reception scheduled for Sun night. Who in their right mind plans an outdoor reception for Dec. in St. Louis? The high that day is supposed to be 26, and the low bottoms out at 7 friggin' degrees!!!.

The only clothes I have that can handle those temperatures are my hunting gear. Somehow I doubt that the fancy hotel hosting the conference would appreciate me clomping around in the lobby decked out in camo, with a furry mad bomber's hat, face mask, and snow boots.


I hope the hotel has a nice warm bar...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Follies Happy Hour

This video captures the story of my wasted youth - especially one lost weekend in New Orleans.

Actually, it was only supposed to be a weekend, but it ended up lasting five days. Something about lost plane tickets (or was it a missed flight? I'm still not entirely sure), a barmaid, a hotel maid, and a sympathetic N.O. cop. I'm still grateful to that man.

I should point out that all this took place many, many years ago, immediately after my graduation from basic training at Ft. Polk, LA. So the whole episode is justified at some level. Also, tequila and evil companions were involved.

In short, it wasn't my fault...

Attention Christmas Shoppers

This is a busy time of the year. We're all too often overwhelmed with things to do, not the least of which is buying gifts for family and friends. Amazon and its brethren have helped simplify this effort. I can sit in front of my PC in sweats with a cup of coffee and shop away to my heart's content. (Since the epic - and regrettable - Great Shopping Binge of '08 my wife has strictly forbidden me, under pain of dismemberment worse than death, to shop online while drinking anything alcoholic. But I digress...)

Someone sent me the following email. I usually blow these things off, but this one struck a chord. I did a little checking and verified it. As a result, I am definitely making it a point to buy as many gifts as I can from Sears. We have a couple of major appliance purchases looming in the next several months, and Sears has just moved to the top of the list for them as well.

Hopefully you'll take this into account as you do your Christmas shopping.
How does Sears treat its employees who are called up for military duty?  By law, they are required to hold their jobs open and available, but nothing more.  Usually, people take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up for active duty.

Sears is voluntarily paying the difference in salaries and maintaining all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for all called up reservist employees for up to two years.

I submit, Sears is an exemplary corporate citizen and should be recognized for its contribution.  I suggest we all shop at Sears at least once, and be sure to find a manager to tell him why we are there so the company gets the positive reinforcement and feedback it well deserves.

Pass it on.

I decided to check this before I sent it forward. So I sent the following e-mail to the Sears Customer Service Department:

I received this e-mail and I would like to know if it is true.  If it is, the internet may have just become one very good source of ads for your company.  I know I would go out of my way to purchase products from Sears instead of another store for a like item, even if it is cheaper at that store.

This is their answer to my e-mail.

Dear Customer:

Thank you for contacting Sears. The information is factual. We appreciate your positive feedback.

Sears regards service to our country as one of greatest sacrifices our young men and women can make. We are happy to do our part to lessen the burden they bear at this time.

Bill Thorn
Sears Customer Care
webcenter@sears.com
1-800-349-4358

Please pass this on to all your friends.  Sears needs to be recognized for this outstanding contribution and we need to show them as Americans, we do appreciate what they are doing for our military!

It is verified by Snopes.com at http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/sears.asp
Sears goes beyond what's stated in the email, providing a number of programs to support the military. Other firms that also go 'above and beyond' can be found here.

Shop early, shop often, and shop at Sears...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tired

I've reached that point where disillusionment and disgust have combined to make me tired - very, very tired.

The political crap going on in D.C. has worn me down. Congress is playing its usual political games with nonsense like the Dream Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and oh yeah, the economy.

In the real world, most rational people try to solve the serious problems first. That's the opposite of what congress does.

Take the question of what to do with the Bush tax cuts. Either eliminate them or make them permanent. Don't play kick-the-can-down-the-road and push the problem off for two years. That's how we got into the social security mess.

There won't be any meaningful progress on reducing the deficit until we tackle mandatory spending.
Mandatory programs, as the name implies, are payments the government is obligated by law to make. These include interest on the debt and huge programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are also known as entitlements, because when you reach a certain age or drop below a certain income level, you’re entitled to them. These benefits are set by specific formulas, so they’re essentially on autopilot. 

(Source for text and chart here.)

Mandatory spending accounts for around 62% of all federal expenditures. If we're serious about reducing the deficit, that's the place to start. But no politician will go anywhere near those entitlement programs because that would put a serious crimp in their reelection chances. So lame ducks engage in bitchy little "I'll show you" snit fits while the real problems remain unresolved - hell they're not even being addressed in a meaningful manner.

It's enough to drive a man to drink...


UPDATE: Professor Hale has the same idea, but expresses it much better than I did.


UPDATE2: Ditto for Old NFO.


Great minds think alike...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Brother Knows Best

F.C.C. Commissioner Proposes ‘Public Values Test’ 

Michael J. Copps, one of the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission, is proposing a “public value test” for television and radio stations that he thinks should replace the current licensing process.
The first tenet of Mr. Copps’ proposed test would be “meaningful commitments” to news and public affairs programming.
Just in case there's any doubt, Copps is a democrat.
In an interview with “BBC World News America” that was broadcast Wednesday, the anchor Katty Kay anticipated what critics may say about Mr. Copps’ proposal. Ms. Kay asked, doesn’t a public value test “raise the specter of over government control of information? I mean, people would say to you, ‘Well, what one person’s public value is is not another person’s.’ ”
Mr. Copps answered, “What we’ve had in recent years is an aberration where we have had no oversight of the media. For years and years we had some public interest guidelines that was part of the quid pro quo between broadcasters and the government for the free use of airwaves that belong to the American people and in return for that free use, and the ability to make a lot of money, they agreed to serve the public interest and that public interest to me right now is crying ‘news and information, news and information, news and information.’ “
Right - "to me" - I, Michael J. Copps, am uniquely qualified to determine what the American people should and should not see on television.
With regards to local programming, Mr. Copps said, “the goal here is a more localism in our program diet, more local news and information, and a lot less streamed-in homogenization and monotonous nationalized music at the expense of local and regional talent.” He added, “Homogenized music and entertainment from huge conglomerates constrains creativity, suppresses local talent and detracts from the great tapestry of our nation’s cultural diversity.” He suggested that 25 percent of prime-time programming should be locally or independently produced.
That will effectively kill what's left of network television. While I'm not a big fan of the pap that currently taints the airwaves (who gives a rat's patoot about who is dancing with who?) I am a big proponent of the people's right to choose what they pollute their minds with.

Fortunately, some congresscritters are showing a little spine on this one.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) pushed back on Monday against a contention by a Democratic FCC commissioner that the government should create new regulations to promote diversity in news programming. 
"I hope … that you do not mean to suggest that it is the job of the federal government, through the [FCC], to determine the content that is available for Americans to consume,” Barton wrote Monday in a letter to Copps. 
(Copps) said outlets should be mandated to do the following: prove they have made a meaningful commitment to public affairs and news programming, prove they are committed to diversity programming, report more to the government about which shows they plan to air, require greater disclosure about who funds political ads and devote 25 percent of their prime-time coverage to local news. 
The regulations would apply to all news outlets operating on the public airwaves.
I'm sure the diversity provision would, of course, include NPR and Univision, which broadcasts its programs in Spanish. BET would be exempt, since it's a cable network.
In his letter, Barton questioned whether Copps believes the government should reinstate the defunct Fairness Doctrine, a controversial standard that required broadcast licensees to offer "balanced" coverage. Critics saw it as an affront to free speech.

Barton also asked whether "five commissioners can do a better job of ensuring that Americans have access to a wide diversity of content and viewpoints than Americans can themselves by expressing their preferences ... in the vigorously competitive marketplace."
That's the issue in a nutshell. Who decides what the American public gets to watch? A five-member commission, that is appointed, not elected, or the viewing public, which votes with their clicker?

I know which one I'd pick...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day Of Infamy

As hopefully everyone is aware, today is the anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that precipitated WW II.


Note that I said sneak attack. In recent years there has been a trend to describe it as something else. But IMO anytime you attack someone while still engaged in negotiations with them qualifies as a sneak attack. Screw today's political correctness.

As a school project for Veteran's Day a few years ago, our son was compiling a series of stories from WW II veterans on video. One of the interviewees was the father of a friend of mine. He's a Marine, decorated during the landing at Tarawa. He received the Purple heart and a Silver Star as a result of his actions there, and went on to participate in a couple more Pacific campaigns.


As part of the project, our son had an interview script. One of the first questions was "Why did you enlist?" Most of the responses were, as you might expect, something along the lines of  'to protect my country.'

All except the Marine. I didn't know whether to be appalled, or to stand up and applaud, when he said "To kill every God-damned jap I could get my hands on." (Needless to say, one part of that reply was bleeped out before the project was turned in.)

I should note that this veteran experienced some of the most brutal, inhumane, up close and personal combat in a part of the war notorious for brutality and inhumaneness.


It obviously had a lasting impact on my friend's father. He is so adamantly anti-Japanese that to this day he refuses to ride in a Toyota or Honda.   

If, as our progressive friends assert, we are shaped by our experiences, then we have a conundrum. Is this retired Marine a racist or a victim?

I don't know for sure, but I have my opinion. To keep it simple, I'll just call him today and thank him for his service. There aren't many like him left, and we should all be grateful for those members of The Greatest Generation who stood up and were counted when it mattered.

Wet Dreams and Money

Many people, myself included, think that expanding the money supply is not the way to get this country out of its economic doldrums. The obama administration doesn't share that view. The most egregious indication of that (IMO misguided) belief is the Fed's recent repurchase of $600 billion worth of US government-issued bonds. Known as 'quantitative easing,' the theory is that this cash injection will stimulate the country’s ailing economy.

The mastermind behind this plan is Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Former house speaker Newt Gingrich, among others, opposes it: “I would say that Bernanke is fundamentally wrong. This economy lacks confidence in the government. It doesn’t lack cash.”

FWIW, I agree with Newt for a number of reasons. I'll skip the esoteric and mind-numbing theoretically-based economic arguments, and instead focus on one simple observation.

As my old First Sergeant used to say, "CenTexTim, you could screw up a wet dream." Similarly, the government has problems coloring within the lines.

Government Can't Even Print Money Properly
As a metaphor for our troubled economic and financial era -- and the government's stumbling response -- this one's hard to beat. You can't stimulate the economy if you can't print the money correctly.

Because of a problem with the presses, the federal government has shut down production of its flashy new $100 bills, and has quarantined more than 1 billion of them -- more than 10 percent of all existing U.S. cash -- in a vault in Fort Worth, Texas.
Officials with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve had touted the new bills' sophisticated security features that were 10 years in the making, including a 3-D security strip and a color-shifting image of a bell, designed to foil counterfeiters. But it turns out the bills are so high-tech that the presses can't handle the printing job.

More than 1 billion unusable bills have been printed. Some of the bills creased during production, creating a blank space on the paper, one official told CNBC. Because correctly printed bills are mixed in with the flawed ones, even the ones printed to the correct design specs can't be used until they 're sorted. It would take an estimated 20 to 30 years to weed out the defective bills by hand, but a mechanized system is expected to get the job done in about a year.
Combined, the quarantined bills add up to $110 billion -- more than 10 percent of the entire U.S. cash supply, which now stands at around $930 billion.

The flawed bills, which cost around $120 million to print, will have to be burned.
Sigh ... where to start ... do I really have to belabor the obvious? If the government can't even print pieces of paper without fucking up, how on God's Green Earth can we expect them to manage the nation's economy?

Of course, one solution would be to rebrand the dollar bill with obama's image replacing George Washington.


In an added note of irony, the new botched bills are the first to include Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's signature. In order to prevent a shortfall, the government has ordered production of the old design, which includes the signature of Bush administration Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

I can't wait to see how obama and the lamestream media blame this fiasco on Bush...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Turn Out The Lights

Back in the day, when men were men and quarterbacks didn't wear dresses, giants stalked the earth.

Rugged, tough, manly men like Bart Starr, Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Y.A. Title, and Billy Kilmer swaggered their way around the gridiron. Among the toughest of these was an East Texas boy. 

I grew up watching Don Meridith play quarterback. He was a high school legend - All State in both football and basketball at Mt. Vernon, TX. Later, in college, back when SMU was a football powerhouse (it was known as Southern Meredith University when he played there), he was a two-time All American. Finally, as the quarterback for America's Team, he was an All Pro and NFL Player of the Year.


Many people forget, but in the early years (the 1960s) the Cowboys were an expansion team. In the beginning, they were pathetic. As a young player, Meredith alternated snaps with Eddie LeBaron - not one of Tom Landry's better innovations. After a couple of years he became the full-time quarterback. Unfortunately, back then the Cowboys offensive line was as porous as obama's national defense plans. Meredith got the snot knocked out of him.



Ben Roethlisberger has received a lot of positive press yesterday for playing with a broken nose and a sprained foot. No argument - he deserves it. But Meredith played with multiple broken noses, a broken ankle, fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and pneumonia, among other ailments. He was one tough SOB.

He was also a natural leader, with a good ol' boy demeanor and sense of humor that endeared him to his teammates.



After his playing career was over he became one of the first football jocks to make a successful transition from the field to the broadcast booth. He helped make Monday Night Football a resounding success by kicking Howard Cosell's ass on a regular basis. (For those of you too young to remember, MNF was initially (a) an experiment that no one knew how it would turn out, and (b) a cultural happening that changed Monday nights forever - at least for the first few years. It's hard to explain, back in the early days of cable and before Thursday and Saturday NFL games, how meaningful MNF games were.)

Despite his public persona, Meredith was at heart a shy, introverted, and complex individual. He had a brief acting career, but then retired to a reclusive existence in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Turn out the lights, Don. R.I.P.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tangled

Our 14 year old daughter and I went to see Tangled this afternoon. Given my work situation and schedule, we don't get to spend a lot of time together, so today I was happy to give up some football for a little father-daughter bonding time.

For those of you not familiar with the movie, it's the Disney version of the Rapunzel fairy tale. It's a well done film - great animation and production values, good story line, a couple of nice plot twists - the whole enchilada.

Without giving away too much, it's a coming of age story. A teen-aged girl who has spent her whole life in a tower suddenly gets out into the world. It has everything - adventure, comedy, betrayal, heartbreak, the aforementioned plot twists, and of course the requisite happy ending. I could have done without a couple of the songs, but overall it's a very good movie. I highly recommend it - two thumbs up.

However, the point of this post is not to do a Siskel and Ebert imitation. As 'the girl' sat there happily munching on popcorn and slurping her drink, I was struck by the parallels between the movie and where she is in her life's journey. Sometimes when I look at her I see the beautiful, self-confident, resourceful woman she's going to be. Other times I see the awestruck little girl she used to be, gazing in wonderment at all the new and exciting things in this great big wonderful world. I can handle either one of those versions. But I'm woefully ill-equipped to deal with her at this in-between stage.

I have no experience with daughters. I have an older son from a previous marriage, plus a first-born son from my current marriage. My sister has two boys. My wife's sister has three boys. No one in our family knows what to do with a girl.

With boys, it's like a Wild Kingdom video. As soon as they begin to challenge the alpha male (that would be me) they're booted out of the nest to fend for themselves. But with a girl, I alternate between screening her friends with a thoroughness that makes TSA employees look like slackers, and cowering in a corner while she reads me the riot act.

"Daddy, I'm not a child anymore!"

Well, actually, yes you are, and you always will be to me. The challenge is (1) for me to deal with the fact that she is metamorphosing from my little girl to a strong, independent woman, and (2) to hide from her the fact that I'm totally incapable of (1).

Have you ever seen Taken...?