09 December 2005


If you haven't heard the story of Cory Maye, take a look at this.

06 December 2005

Lileks and Atkins

I wrote everything at home – a rare five-column day, alas – and ventured out only to go the grocery store, where I confronted the fact that I am fargin' sick of Atkins, and want a stack of pancakes about seventeen miles high. Also caramel rolls and cinnamon buns and burritos with warm soft tortillas and all the other things I forbid myself in order to maintain a trim physique in case I should be required, by some sort of public referendum, to walk around naked all the time. When it's two. 

12 October 2005

lileks nails the essence of a happy childhood

It's not really what you remember when you're older. It's what you don't have to remember or try to forget.


"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." - Stephen King (1947-)

02 October 2005

Downsize FEMA

This article from the WSJ describes how the nations business community was the driving force behind a vast relief effort in Katrina's wake. They recommend FEMA take some pointers from the people who do logistics 24/7.

That just seems silly to me. FEMA's never going to be proficient at the kinds of things that FedEx and WalMart do day in and day out. Instead of trying to train FEMA, lets just downsize it. Put them in the position of doing long-term projects that aren't so time-sensitive, but that require a more substantial commitment than our corporate first responders can probably sustain.

I know. Downsizing government - that's just crazy talk.

30 September 2005

Obi-wan or Gandalf

Warning: Harry Potter spoiler ahead.

I've been reading the newest Harry Potter book to my kids and we're nearing the end. We were a little depressed at Dumbledore's death. After the initial attack I was sure Snape had only pretended to kill Dumbledore and had actually healed him. But it definitly seems he's dead - like Obi-Wan and not like Gandalf. I wonder how Rowling will replace Harry's protector and two most common nemeses?

We have only the last chapter to finish and we'll be anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Damn it.

14 September 2005

Romantic cruise

My wife and I decided to take a moonlight boat ride the other night after the kids were tucked in. As we were leaving our cove, I pulled up on the driver's seat so I could better see over the windshield and the whole seat pulled right out of the floor. I had just 'fixed' the seat a couple of days before, but apparently my screws didn't take. So I drove the rest of the way standing up. I prefer that anyway.

There's a small island in the lake near the northern shore where we stopped and dropped anchor. We sat for a while enjoying the night and having the lake to ourselves - there wasn't another boat to be seen. We chatted and finished our drinks and listened to the stereo. After a while we noticed that the storm we'd been watching seemed to be getting close enough that we ought to head for cover. I pulled the anchor in and went to start the motor, but it wouldn't turn over. The gas tank showed a quarter tank, but we'd had trouble with it not being too accurate. I was sure we were out of gas.

I dropped the anchor again to keep us from ending up on the rocks by the island and we considered our options. I had grabbed my cell phone as we were walking out the door so that was good., but it was late and we didn't really know anyone else who lived on the lake. After a little discussion I called our son at home and told him we wanted him to go next door and see if our neighbor would come out and tow us back in.

Naturally, he didn't want to do this, and said, "Don't you have a paddle?"

This had occurred to me, but we were a good ways from home and it's a fairly heavy boat. I said something along the lines of "A paddle?!"

Well, that was all my wife needed to hear - "That's right! We have a paddle. We'll just paddle in."


So she handed me the paddle and she grabbed one of the skis and we commenced to paddling for home. After a little practice we were making pretty good progress and had made it maybe a third of the way home when the wind came up. Of course it was blowing right in our face and all of a sudden we couldn't seem to keep the boat pointed toward home. The wind kept pushing the nose around and tired as we already were, we couldn't get it turned.

By this time the wind had pushed us to within about 50 yards of the shore, but further from home. I decided to drop anchor again while we rested for a minute and tried to come up with a new plan. I tossed the anchor toward shore and let us drift back. Looking around we saw we were right by a private neighborhood marina and thought if we could get over there we could just tie the boat up and walk home. The problem was the wind was trying to blow us past the marina toward the north shore where we'd have ended up with a MUCH longer walk around the lake.

The anchor had given me an idea, though. When I had dropped it last I had tossed it toward shore. As the boat drifted with the wind we wound up a few feet closer to the marina. I thought if I could just keep doing that we could slowly make our way in.

I grabbed the line and pulled in the slack until the boat was back over the anchor. Then I pulled the anchor up to find it covered in weeds. The wet weeds more than doubled the weight of the anchor and severely hampered my ability to do much more than just drop it in the water. I tried to swing it toward the marina, but it didn't go far and the next time I pulled it up it seemed to have attracted even more weeds. Refusing to give in, however, I tried swinging it back and forth a little before heaving it once more toward our destination.

In retrospect, standing on the nose of a moving boat swinging a 40 pound weight on a rope seems like an obviously misguided idea. I promptly found myself in the water. When my wife appeared leaning over the side of the boat - after having gotten control of her laughter - I handed her my cell phone which had, of course, been in my pocket. As I handed it to her, I noticed it was ringing - not for long, though. We found out later that it was our son calling back to check on us. When we didn't answer he just went to bed.

Our next plan was that we would tie a couple of our ropes together and I'd swim into the marina and then I could pull the boat in and we'd tie it off and walk home. I took off my already wet shirt, grabbed the end of the rope, dove in, and headed for shore.

Naturally I didn't have enough rope to make it all the way. I swam back to the boat, added a ski rope to my other rope and took another crack at it. This time I made all the way in and was able to pull the boat in - after my wife strained her back pulling the weed enveloped anchor up - and tie it to the dock.

All that was left was for us to walk home - barefoot of course - and fall into bed just as the rain started coming down. Apparently the rain gods missed a meeting as they obviously should have arrived much earlier.

I got up early the next morning, grabbed our two six-gallon gas cans, filled them up, and parked at the marina. After emptying the first one into the boat, I once again turned the ignition. No good. The starter sounded fine, but the engine wouldn't turn over.

Okay. Maybe it's the battery - although it doesn't sound like it. So I go back to the truck and head home to pick up the jump starter I bought last year when we kept running our battery down. Hooked it up to the boat battery and tried the ignition.

Nope. No go. At this point I was fuming - sure that something was Really Wrong with the boat and I was going to have to beg someone to tow us to a boat ramp so we could trailer it and take it into the shop. As I stood looking around the boat, trashed from our efforts of the previous night, I noticed a red cord laying on the ground.

Our boat has a safety feature that consists of a switch attached to a string with a clip on the other end which one is supposed to attach to one's clothing while driving the boat. I guess the idea is that if you get thrown out of the boat, the switch is pulled free and kills the engine so that the boat doesn't just keep going. Apparently, as we were moving the broken driver's seat around after we'd anchored the boat we pulled the switch loose.

I picked the cord up, reattached the switch, and turned the key.

The boat started right up.

07 September 2005

Rehnquist 5

Dave Kopel investigates the history of the term "Rehnquist Five" and finds its first use in 1988. As used most recently, the five are "Rehnquist and O'Connor, Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Thomas". So who was number five back in '88 - before Thomas was appointed in '91?

02 September 2005

Hurricane musings

I continue to be awed by the devastation in Katrina's wake. The property damage as well as the breakdown in civilization. I think we largely think of ourselves (in America and the rest of the 'civilized world') as above the barbarism that has manifest in New Orleans these last couple of days.

I know I do.

It's depressing to think we're all one big disaster away from living a third world kind of life. A life where gangs of thugs - I keep picturing cave men - wander around taking whatever they want, raping and pillaging. How quickly our social fabric shreds.

I know that's not the only story, and in reality it's really a small part of the bigger picture. The much bigger story is the one where people are digging deep to help strangers who are their brothers and sisters in this time of need. That's the big story and the one that will absolutely win out.

And yet, I can't get the other story out of my mind. It makes me wish I was a gun owner. Because when you find yourself in a jungle surrounded by vicious animals there's nothing else that's quite so effective at helping you protect your family and your property.

UPDATE (29 Sept)
I'm glad to hear that things in New Orleans were not so barbaric as they were portrayed at the time, but I'm frankly furious that better information wasn't available from the MSM - and from my trusted bloggers.

This was a situation where bloggers could only do so much. There was no power, no phones, no cells in the heart of the devastation. This was a situation where it was up to the MSM to get people in there, talk to people on the ground, and find out what was really happening. Instead they relied on 2nd, 3rd, and nth hand accounts that turned ou to be completely unreliable. It was essentially a game of post office presented as fact.

01 September 2005

Hurricane Relief

Gas prices have jumped in the last few days. That's pretty much it for how Katerina affected my life.

Others were more significantly impacted. Here's what the city of New Orleans has to look forward to:
"  First they have to pump the flooded city dry, and that will take a minimum of 30 days. Then they will have to flush the drinking water system, making sure they don't recycle the contaminants. Figure another month for that.
  The electricians will have to watch out for snakes in the water, wild animals and feral dogs. It will be a good idea to wear hip boots and take care of cuts and scrapes before the toxic slush turns them into festering sores. The power grid might be up in a few weeks, but many months will elapse before everybody's lights come back on.
  By that time, a lot of people won't care because they will have taken the insurance money and moved away — forever. Home rebuilding, as opposed to repairs, won't start for a year and will last for years after that.
  Even then, there may be nothing normal about New Orleans, because the floodwater, spiked with tons of contaminants ranging from heavy metals and hydrocarbons to industrial waste, human feces and the decayed remains of humans and animals, will linger nearby in the Gulf of Mexico for a decade."  (from The Washington Post)

Here's an interview with a New Orleans resident who chose to remain in town with his wife, an oncology nurse who stayed her post rather than head for higher ground.

The population of New Orleans is 1,337,726 with about 484,674 in the city proper.

And that's just New Orleans. The hurricane came ashore across the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, and into the Florida Panhandle as well.

Millions of Americans will need help for a long time.

Please do what you can.

I donated to Mercy Corps. And I'm planning to make a family project out of putting together some relief kits as described here over the weekend.

Other ideas:
Soldiers' Angels - relief effort targeted at families of servicepeople in the area.
American Red Cross
Feed the Children.
Salvation Army
Canal Street Presbyterian Church - this is church in New Orleans
Brett Favre is collecting materials to help with the clean up.

FEMA has published a list of recommended organizations here

Be aware that there are, of course, people looking to take advantage of this situation, so use a bit of caution if you're inclined to donate to other organizations. Many certainly are legitimate, but many are not.

thanks for your time,

26 July 2005

Soccer crunch time

Both our boys won their district tournaments last weekend and are on to state. Pix up here, here and here, though can't imagine anyone would care...

Happiness is a warm bed ...

I listened to the Wendy Wild show last night on the way home through a downpour. Her guest was The Factman - a professor at a local university.

They covered several topics mostly dealing with economics - he's not professor of economics, of course, but he's the Factman so it's okay. One of the arguments they made was that the American Dream is essentially over. While it may have been true in the golden days of yore, now the disparity between the super rich elite and the common person is so great that if you're not already rich you may as well resign yourself to a life of serfdom.

Sorry, not buying any of it, thanks.

Obviously, not everyone can be rich. In order for the word rich to have meaning it's opposite must exist. There will always be some people who are more asset-endowed than other people and every attempt to make things otherwise has failed miserably.

They cited a report that Europe has recently passed the US in terms of economic mobility (sorry no link). This was their evidence that poor people can't become rich anymore. I can't address the report other than to quote Twain - "lies, damn lies, and statistics". If you have an agenda it's easy to find numbers to support it. I don't know if that's the case here, but I'm just sayin'...

The US as portrayed in 1950's sitcoms may be only a pleasant memory - to whatever extent it ever existed - but look around. People in the US are doing okay, today. Not just the super rich. And most of them start out at less than zero.

My wife and I are both college grads and we came out of school with a bunch of student loans. At the age of 22 I was an unmarried college grad working as a waiter with a child on the way. When my girlfriend (eventually my wife) and I moved in together we took my bed from my parents house and I think we had a card table and chairs. That was it for furniture. For our first Christmas I bought us a microwave and a television.

Money was tight for a lot of years. There was nothing easy about it. I went back to school (twice!) and worked full time. Our story together started out some 17 years ago and we've had our share of ups and downs, but today we live in a really nice house.

We're not wealthy (yet), but we're successful by most any measure, and frankly, we're happier than anyone else we know. But we're no happier now than we were when we started out with less than nothing. We just kept working and believed that things would eventually be better. And they were.

That's the American dream. You can get pretty much anything you want if you're willing to work and wait for it. It's not easy and it shouldn't be. But the dream is definitely still alive and flourishing. So the rich have gotten richer. So what. The poor have gotten richer, too.

25 July 2005

Churchill, youth, idiot ...

We moved recently and had a lot of stuff to unload. Over the weekend I put some ads up on Craigslist and got a great response. I had heard of the site a few years ago, I guess, but never spent much time looking at it.

As I was clicking around on it last night - in between responding to emails about my big internet/garage sale - I took a look in the Rants and Raves section and there was a post (language warning) from a (presumably) college student who was offended by a group of pro-life activists on campus.

By and large I don't disagree with much of what he had to say regarding abortion. My own nutshell thought on abortion (which was similar to at least one point made by the poster) - is that whether abortion is legal or not it's going to happen. Either it happens in a clinical setting with counseling services or it happens in back alleys with coat hangers. I think the whole late-term abortion issue is something of a straw-man. It's good PR for the anti-abortion folks, but I just don't think it happens very often. My wife is actually an OB nurse and she agrees.

Anyway, my point was that I agree with his view on abortion, but I had issues with his broad generalizations about Republicans as basically evil - " because lets face it, if you’re die-hard pro-life, you’re a fucking republican."

I'm neither pro-life, nor a Republican, although I have voted primarily Republican in the last few elections. I lean more to libertarian than either of the big parties.

Here are his arguments that pro-choice=Democrats>pro-life=Republicans(=devil):
"1) The person is poor. They cannot afford to sustain themselves and a child without adversely affecting the quality of their already shitty lives. The pro-choice left seeks to offer the lower class tax breaks and transfer payments from the upper class. The left increases funding to social welfare programs and public assistance. Republicans burden the poor with taxes while passing tax cuts to the wealthy. Welfare programs are eliminated."
The poor don't pay taxes - at least not income taxes. I think it's the bottom 20% of earners pay $0 in taxes, and of course the highest tax rates are on the wealthy. As a society, I think we need to take care of the less fortunate, but with the provision that being lazy doesn't make you unfortunate. If there's a good reason somebody doesn't have a job then they should get help. And kids should always get help - food, medical care, education. Young mothers, too, as the caregivers of the kids should get some help - food, medical care, daycare, education.
BUT I'm pretty sure the government is not the right organization to handle all of that. There's no reason that kind of thing can't happen in the non-profit sector - churches and other organizations already do a lot of charitable work and more efficiently than the government ever could.
"2) The person is uneducated. They aren’t aware of birth-control options that are at their disposal. They are unskilled laborers and therefore have little to no potential to “make-it.” The left seeks to educate high-school students over birth control, offer birth control to teens, and make plan-B available without a prescription. The left supports education by increasing funding to schools. Republicans tend toward the opposite. Children are, with a degree of futility, taught to “wait until marriage” and are fed mis-information that claims birth control can lead to infertility. Public education programs are cut, creating more working class individuals while manufacturing jobs are exported to exploitable regions of the world. "
I have a son in high school. Last year I handed him a box of condoms and told him that his mom and I would prefer that he wait until he was older before having sex, but that we didn't expect that he would consult with us and we wanted him to be prepared. I don't expect him to wait until marriage. I'd rather he wait a year or two at least, but I know that's not realistic. If some girl wants to have sex with him, I don't see him saying, "No, thanks". I know I wouldn't have.
And as far as education funding - it's a bottomless pit. We've been throwing money at it for a lot of years and it has made no noticeable difference. Education needs help, but there's no easy answer for providing that help. School administration needs to get more efficient so that money that's spent on administration can be spent on classroom teachers.
Outsourcing is a touchy issue, but the reality is we live in a global economy and manufacturing can be done a lot cheaper in other countries than here - at least for some things. It's not about exploitation, it's about cost of living. I don't think the people who are getting the jobs are feeling too exploited. There will always be outliers and so there will always be instances of evil being done, but by and large I don't think that most US corporations are looking to exploit their foreign workers. They're just looking for cost savings.
Many on the left seem to be all for a Global Community, but not so much interested in a Global Economy. I'm not sure you can have the one without the other.
"3) The birth is unsupported by friends and family. Meaning the abortion seeker is afraid of alienating themselves from their friends and family, school and workplace, and their entire community. Leftists offer support centers and their families tend to be much more accepting. Right wing nuts threaten the woman with the wrath of god, disown her, or send her to a hospital where the child and mother are nurtured in a concealed and unfit environment. "
We seem to be talking primarily about younger mothers here - most likely teens. I think there's almost always some stigma attached to teens - especially high school or younger - becoming pregnant, no matter your position on the political spectrum. I think the number of 'right wing nuts' who behave as described is pretty small, but he seems to be applying the label to anyone who's right of left. That's just a silly generalization.

17 June 2005

Riding report

Weather's gorgeous. The ride in this morning was even a little brisk. We
have a bike trip coming up and if we have weather like this it'll be
perfect. Can't imagine we could be that lucky, though.

16 June 2005

Not quite a year later ...

and nothing's changed in Darfur.
But that's not important right now because Jacko got off and was found not guilty - and a few isolated incidents in Guantanamo prove that America = Fascism.