Saturday, March 6, 2010

Life's Random Observations

Occasionally I have to break from my conventional patter to present a brief compendium of unrelated events that are interesting (at least to me). These topics usually do not have enough tread on the tires to earn a full-blown post individually, but still deserve an honorable mention or re-direct. Enjoy!

This whole “My three words” fad is all over the place again this year, or maybe it never went away? This was started a couple of years back when the ABC network asked people to express their emotion, need, or declaration in only three simple words. It has since been extended and adapted as a technique for goal setting or as a memorial to tragic events by regular folks to even celebrities. You can see tons of examples on the web but only here can you see my almost daily RECURRING sentiment in 3 words …

I had to laugh that Missouri put out a press release that it will join 18 other States in observing ‘Earth Hour’. The State Capitol, the Arch, and Busch stadium will all go ‘dark’ for an hour at 8:30pm on 3/27/10 to promote energy conservation. While the idea is noble, can you imagine the resources required in all these States to go shut down all those flood lights, have public works people shoot the breeze for an hour+ on overtime, then re-start those high powered lights? Yes I get the symbolism but would it not be a ‘teensy’ bit more meaningful if the action ACTUALLY SAVED ENERGY AND MONEY?

These following news items were pretty exciting. The Canadians stepped up again. I have NEVER been a fan of dodge ball, the game OR the movie, but the time lapse ceiling camera adds enough artistic beauty to this clip to make it interesting. Reminds me of my old Uncle Milty's GIANT Ant Farm. Edmonton Journal made this vid:

Now Snuggies on the other hand – those are my cup of tea! What better invention can there be than an ultra-soft, over-sized hunk of warm, cuddly fabric with arm sleeves built in? Oh yeah I remember – that’s called a ROBE! Still, a massive gathering of these ‘mock’ Monks is worthy of a gander. Thanks to the AP for this video:

And finally, who needs Will Rogers when I can just call upon my personal sage? Here lies the passing of one of my Dad’s most recent witticisms out of literally “a cast of THOUSANDS”. . .

"Why should I go to anyone's funeral if they won't come to mine?" – B.H. Camp, 2010

A Band-Aid for Healthcare

I have not spent a bunch of time rallying either for or against the healthcare debate, mostly because what I say or think will not make one iota of difference anyway. So why get a full head of steam built up when there is no train on the track? Did I just channel Will Rogers? No, probably not since there are no steam trains on tracks any longer, ergo the analogy just does not make any sense?

Well that is EXACTLY how I feel about this healthcare bill as written. At 2800 pages long, it is just too much for anyone to get their proverbial arms around, much less actually digest. It confounds me as to what the big attraction is in this bill that makes grown politicians throw caution to the wind along with their potentially long political careers just to cram all of this through RIGHT NOW? Doesn’t that make anyone else just a little bit curious and NERVOUS? Just what flavor of Kool-aid are these folks drinking?

Now I completely understand the President’s reluctance in throwing the WHOLE bill out and starting over. Even if I were naïve enough to believe that Congress really will put the interests of the people FIRST (THIS TIME) over their individual party agendas, I personally don’t think another year of debate will change much? It’s clear that both sides are more interested in gaining a political advantage over each other than solving the basic issues and that drives the public crazy. We know these people are wasting our time, money and worse yet they SUPPOSEDLY work for us? The reality though is that this is AMERICA, not Europe and MOST Americans are not interested in giving up their world-class healthcare availability to emulate inadequate socialized medicine models despite the President's good intentions.

In general I’ll admit it! I am stupid and impatient when it comes to reams of legal descriptions, covenants, and provisions on just about ANYTHING. So why not make it easy on me and anyone like me when these guys go to write a ‘GOOD’ healthcare bill? Quit trying to be all things to all people and bankrupting the system in the process. Take things slow – test a couple of ideas and fine tune the balance to get the BEST answer rather than any old answer. My happy band-aid fix for healthcare is to simply split it up into small parts and let the light of day expose the TRUTH on whatever it is that is being pushed upon us.

If Congress is sincere and they truly can come together on sensible provisions for health plan portability or the elimination of pre-existing condition cut-offs; then VOTE on those pieces now. Put off the provisions that cause the Unions to go nuts, the insurance companies to fight, and the rest of us not to trust anybody that sets foot in Washington.

In the end the REAL problem with healthcare access is ALL cost driven – not features! If you get rid of the obscene LIABILITY exposure for Doctors, Hospitals, medical equipment and drug manufacturers, then you will be a step closer to a workable solution. The government could set strictly DEFINED limited liability schedules and enforce them. No more multi-million dollar judgments for a severed toe or similar misfortune. People would still be protected adequately from abuse or malpractice, but no more re-distribution of wealth in the hundreds of millions to a few lawyers at the expense of the many.

Congress need not concentrate on EXTENDING access if it focuses on driving down COSTS including legal liabilities. As costs lower, and real market-driven solutions take hold, the ideal of increased access and universal coverage will soon become closer to a reality. Will Rogers DID say “People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument“ so quit bickering over thousands of pages of ‘gotchas’ and legal ‘twists’ for special interest groups. Divide the legislation up into easy-to-understand and small digestible chunks and give them an Up or Down vote. Remember It’s the U.S. taxpayer who is footing the bill, so please try using a band-aid FIRST to fix healthcare BEFORE subjecting all Americans to a Socialist European 'BODY CAST'!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Top Ten Either/Or signs you're TOO fat...

1) You need several friends to cut and bag your toenails OR a full-length mirror to even see them yourself.

2) You are seriously considering buying an infomercial personal hygiene wand OR your entire bathroom is actually a really giant bidet.

3) You’re the Hollywood director Michael Moore OR your shadow does not fit through a patio door even on a cloudy day!

4) When you’re forklifted onto a plane OR they automatically hand you a seat-belt extender and a case of Mountain Dew.

5) Your personal weight scale audibly grunts when mounted OR your Body Mass Index is 100%.

6) When you walk, glasses of water shake like in Jurassic park OR your footprints leave permanent impressions on carpet like furniture.

7) The bus dangerously lists to your side even when everyone else is sitting on the other OR you must hold the steering wheel by keeping your chest at 10 & 2

8) The sleep number on your bed is 300 and still seems too soft OR you’ve resorted to bedding down in a McDonald’s ‘Play land’ ball pit.

9) When heading for the backyard hot tub, the neighbors send nag-o-grams citing violation of the association ’no Rhino’ clause OR prior to entry, your pool must be drained for fear of downstream flooding and levy breaks.

10) The kitchen fridge is labeled “Chickens” and the basement one is marked “Pies” OR the’ Ice in door’ levers are modified to dispense shredded or cubed pepper jack cheese.

Night-Owl or Early-Bird?

Most people choose to describe themselves as either a Night-Owl or an Early-Bird. I have the unique luxury of being one of a very select few who belongs to BOTH of these sub-groups! Now I guess there could be a number of sleep schedules which break from these norms, particularly depending on your work requirements? But if there is one thing that I learned in college - the BEST theories are always formulated from the least amount of data. All those pesky facts floating around just make everything so much longer and difficult to explain. So for my own selfish purposes, since I have to go to the bathroom, I shall only address the two main aforementioned bird-based sleep groups.

As a Night-Owl, I recall working third shift. It was clear that most people I encountered after the witching hour were in love with the power of the night. I assumed as soon as their work was done for the day, they would drive home to their sun-less lairs and foil-covered windows to seek precious sleep, or more likely, an O-positive bat-shake?

I was one of these night creatures. I really loved driving to work when most people were tucked away for the night. There is something excitingly beautiful about a cityscape designed for thousands of interacting humans during the day being silently vacant at night. I liked looking at the darkened business signs, endless empty aisles of stocked goods, and the chilly stillness in the air.

Now as an Early-Bird, there is also something vibrant about a city waking up? Out of the silence, the sound of the morning newspaper hitting the driveway begins the show. Then the birds start to chatter and chirp their morning dialog. A few joggers may happen by along with at least one hard-core biking enthusiast. You know the type – the bright neon green stretch pants with exposed bulging calf muscles and a form-fitting water-wicking jersey? Yeah, that guy is in every town in America.

For my parents, as they have gotten older, the morning begins with an infectious pre-dawn arrival at a favorite breakfast place. I only mention this long-standing habit because it has now apparently infected my Aunt as well? At 5:35AM, my bedside cell rings and the impossibly cheerful voice of my Aunt says “Where are we going to brekkie?”, obviously mistaking my number for that of my parents nearby. I am almost positive it was a mistake since I LIVE OVER 200 MILES AWAY from her and my folks. At best I could meet for breakfast at NOON! But I was amazingly cheerful too because not only was it great to hear her happy voice, but also I had yet to settle-in completely from a Night-Owl binge.

Therein lies the problem. If you belong to both of these groups – when do you sleep? I try to sleep a full night and I completely acknowledge the health benefits of getting good rest. But there is just so much going on and passing me by while sleeping. I pick up an hour nap here or a snoozing block there, but it is very unusual to sleep like normal people. Too bad – God knows I always strive to be Normal!

So there you have it – the mysteries revealed of the Night-Owl and Early-Bird. I would explore the topic with you at more depth, but my Vegas in-laws just called and asked me to meet them for a 99 cent casino “brekkie” special. With a deal like that, I need to pack as I have a 1500 mile drive ahead of me. If I leave now, I should be there before tomorrow’s ‘Early-Bird special’ cut-off at 8:00AM. Heaven forbid if I have to pay the full $2.99 like everyone else. What do you think I am – Normal?!

Clothing is BAD!

You need not turn away for fear of an expose' on a nudist camp (Ha – that’s a funny phrase on a number of levels). It’s not that I shun clothing, it’s just that most clothing finds ways to confound my under-developed brain. I have patiently tried to make peace with the stuff for decades, but it is disagreeable at best and ‘Pol-Pot’ evil at best.

My jacket in particular obviously receives more than ample exercise during the colder seasons of the year. Though it complains little, in its silent but deadly way, it tries irritating me with sophomoric tricks. The pocket liner for one has separated from the normal pocket hole, however only on ONE side. So unless you purposefully reach in and insert the things that you normally put in pockets with care, they may choose the normal fist-sized recess, or more likely, they will drop off into the Grand Canyon? Yes that space behind your pockets is the black hole of jackets and the really fun part is that the space is a continuous void that extends from one side of the garment to the other.

I know it sounds like a pretty minor thing to complain about with real troubles in the world. But consider the daily, if not hourly, frustration of losing ones keys, absent-mindedly into that void of batting; dark unseen places previously only known to Sri Lankan seamstresses. I have found pens, pencils, paper clips, business cards, a rubber band, and exactly 57 cents (interestingly enough excluding quarters) lost deep in the fabric of space-time itself.

If you are familiar with winter jackets, then you likely have owned one with that rugged continuous cord that extends the girth of the jacket. You snug up this string presumably to get a more body-hugging fit at the waistline. Sadly I never have had need to snug up any garment over my jolly waist, but that does not mean that little evil string will leave me alone. On the outside, if that cord gets caught and pulled to one side, the coat will bunch up and rise on one hip while flaccidly draping helplessly on the other. For a person of my size, this unfairly gives the untrained observer a reason to flee screaming for ‘Sanctuary’ as a modern day ‘hunchback’ bears down upon them from a darkened drug store parking lot.

Fortunately my self esteem is not easily damaged as I simply attempt to adjust the cord and relieve the momentary tension with the horrified observer. But as previously described, the inner parts of the jacket and batting have been dislodged and disturbed from my frequent fishing trips for parking meter money. Now that nasty scratchy batting inexplicably will tangle with every back and forth pull to even up the fall of the jacket. Magically, as if I need the help, my posterior grows a life preserver-sized pillow rolling up in the back of my jacket. Though my esteem is still solidly intact, I do try to avoid the hemorrhoid and Beano medication aisle at Walgreens now.

The final straw to this jacket is the stupid hood. Of course ALL normal adults avoid use of a built-in jacket hood in favor of a more stylish fashion hat and ear-muffs, or a cool skater-dude knitted cap. Nope, not me! When the going gets tough, I raise my oversized head tarp in anticipation of the warmth akin to a tender hug from my Mother. But of course I think of all this too late. Either the wind relentlessly fights my efforts to cinch this parachute closed, or the trash can-sized hood has already filled with rain or snow. So when I pull the hood over, it showers my head and neck with a shivering icy grip of electric-cold.

So forgive me if I do not find the same elation as most of you by opening a bulky Christmas box from Kohls. I just have a negative Pavlovian response to outerwear that far outweighs my inner appreciation of your thoughtfulness. I have begun taking pro-active baby steps at trying to re-condition myself to learn to love my jacket again. Ooo what’s this in my pocket - a QUARTER? And oh my gosh, look … is that a sawbuck inadvertently stuck in my hood? Wow I’m already feeling better! I think I'm ready to cruise ALL of the aisles at Walgreens? Not to worry, Spring is nearly here and I’m pullin’out my WINDBREAKER!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The disrespect of the mighty Woo

I drive a 10 year old Daewoo station wagon. I don’t love it or hate it – it’s just basic transportation but good enough for my minimal needs . The fact is I just do not pay a lot of attention to the care and feeding of my car. It has 4 wheels and runs (most of the time), a windshield (most of the time), doors that open, (most of the time) and that round thingy poking out of the dash that helps you turn - to radio stations?

Much of my attitude is my parents fault! I know it is fashionable these days to take personal responsibility and I preach it all the time but honestly, this one is all on my folks and they know it. When I was growing up, all the other kids were crawling under their familial machines getting soaked in oil and messing with hoses, wires, and car stuff. A lot of the Dads liked those kind of repair teaching sessions and passed their interests along to their kids.

I can only recall one time helping my Dad hold the door open on his van while he pulled out a heater control cable. Now mind you I said ‘PULL OUT’ the van’s heater control NOT replace it. We lived in California after all, so when the cable control broke “who needs a heater?” my father reasoned. You probably already noted that my job was to simply “hold the van door”. The reason for that was the normal detent hinge clip that keeps car doors partially open when required, was already broken and most likely removed as well?

You might think this PARTICULAR van was an anomaly and I am exaggerating for dramatic license. No, I recall on a fine Plymouth that my Dad purchased used and cheap, literally had the headliner falling down in our faces whenever we braked? Even he felt guilty about its horribly faded dull black paint, so he INVESTED in a new pastel TURQUOISE paint job. Color choice aside, my favorite memory of this machine was peeking in between the paint on the poorly masked windows and scraping that weird green paint off of the rusty chrome parts. It could have been a lot worse. My Dad's dad (my grandfather) proudly brought over his own van to show off. He had HAND PAINTED a racing stripe all the way around the thing with LATEX house paint - brush strokes and all! I know what you are thinking - must be a paternal gene mutation, poor kid?

No, that's not the problem as my Mother's history is not pure and without blame as well. While she always seemed to have the “better” vehicle of the household at any given time, she also was not overly concerned with mechanical perfection. If the car continued to run and as long as parts would fall off ‘quietly’so as not to rile my father, then that was fine with her. She only needed (and still only needs to this day) a gas pedal, a brake pedal, one AUTOMATIC gear each of forward and reverse, a steering wheel, and maybe a single roll down air hole of some sort for sunny days. It is immaterial what the thing looks like or if the clock is correct or air conditioning exists. The car does not even need a gas gauge since after every 50 miles or so, a mandatory trip to the pumps is required for a fill-up "just in case".

Now you compassionately understand my tortured youth, unreasonably devoid of parental car acumen. The world and NATURE ITSELF also haunts and disrespects my Daewoo to this day. Once I came out of a meeting to find a huge BOULDER on my dented hood. Yes it was probably hooligans but it looked more like an alien meteor to me? A year after that, I came outside to find that a giant tree limb had smashed a head-sized hole through my front windshield. I still chuckle at the thought of coating the windshield with catsup and driving around the neighborhood just for attention. Once I got the window fixed, I drove for months holding up the rear view mirror in my hand when I was curious what was out back. Whenever it gets really cold, the door locks will freeze and the car will not let me get in the front doors. So imagine my gentle grace as I butter-up and contort my body through the back hatch of the car, snaking through voids, impaling my ample girth on headrests and that stupid rear view mirror again. It is not a pretty picture.

So despite my whining, really "the Mighty Woo" and I were made for each other. We don’t expect much from each other (except for that clown-act exercise routine when the locks freeze). If the heater doesn’t work I have gloves. If the horn is misbehaving, I can yell. If the transmission won’t move until it warms up – I have the time to wait. We don’t much care what other people think - clearly we’re a match made in heaven! Uh, well maybe it’s not heaven – it seems awfully hot in here?? … Can somebody open the windows please?? – WHAT!? What do you mean they don’t work?

ADIOS - Dad Controller!

I love the fervor over the kid that found his way in to Kennedy’s air traffic control tower. The media was all in a tizzy that the iron fortress of tower security had not only been breached but it had been defiled by a child! Yes, these days it takes some planning and a little patience to get cleared for an invite to a FAA controlled airport control tower. But other than the fact it was a kid up top, it is not THAT unusual that guests may be stopping by for an escorted visit.

The emphasis is on ESCORTED. Nobody is wandering around flicking switches and taking chances with America’s airport tower safety despite the uproar over this kid’s brief radio transmissions. I am confident that more than one controller was at hand to make sure the hand-off transferred without a hitch. In fact, other than not specifically giving the radio frequency to the AeroMexico flight (and not having a valid FCC radio license), I thought the kid did a credible job at the comm., not to mention the Spanish send-off. In the stressful daily rigor of flying the big iron, I would bet most pilots listening turned a smile for a moment or two.

The sad fact though, in these times, the supervisory controller and the controller handling the AeroMexico and Jet Blue flights will at the very least face a reprimand in their service jackets. The FAA notoriously does not have a sense of humor even though everyone knows there was no discernable lapse in safety during this incident. I do not know what the Air traffic controllers union has in the way of a contract but even if they do not fire the guy, the FAA could easily have the chutzpah to bounce the controllers out of the glass house for awhile if not fire them outright.

All of this makes me a little sad though. When I was a kid, it was routine that youngsters would get a thrill in a jet flight to tour the flight deck and talk to the Captain and crew. Along with my little set of wings (metal in the day but now plastic if even offered), those were special moments that kids today will rarely experience.

Even as recent as the last couple of decades, I remember hot towels offered on flights, decks of cards, and yes, cabin participation games by the flight attendants with PRIZES. Regular people would even wear sport coats or nice skirts when traveling. Now I am happy if I just don’t have to sit behind somebody with a ripped t-shirt scrawled with profanity. I have learned to fight back though if my fellow passengers strike my ire. I routinely carry a defensive bag of Corn Nuts and I am not afraid to deploy them. No there are few people strong enough to endure the pungent waft of corn odor from a masticulated bag of those diamond hard golden hulls.

With all the hassles though, I am not ready to say Adios to the dips in the less-friendly skies just yet. Whether it is a happy kid in the tower or a faceless pilot at the pointy part of the plane, I still need somebody to move me around in those big Boeing tin cans for the foreseeable future. Hmmm, I oddly have developed an urge for a big ol’ bag of Fritos and some bean and garlic dip! Go figure?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

K2 Exposed! (Not the mountain or skis)

Most recently, K2 has become the ‘hot’ new term de jour in the Midwest. No the newsies are not talking about the mountain or famous ski gear; this is something new that has hijacked the same name – INCENSE? Uh-Oh I have lost you. There is no way you are going to trod through endless paragraphs to become enlightened about some holdover hippie olefactory delight right? Well I would be right with you abandoning ship if it were only the smell that made this topic NOSEworthy!

The geniuses buying this stuff are not satisfied with the faint whisp of the herbal splendor of embers which is the true nature of incense. No, these oh-so-cool dudes have decided that K2 is BEST when it is nefariously packed into a water or hookah pipe and the smoke is inhaled with asthmatic gusto. Apparently the ‘hot stuff’ gives the user a euphoric buzz akin to Marijuana though I have no experience first-hand in what that exactly means? Whenever I need a little extra jolt of euphoria that caffeine cannot provide, I simply lick the terminals of an Energizer 9 volt battery for an electrifying release of metallic flavored bliss!

I think it is safe to say that this “new use” of K2 is not being looked at kindly by legislators and local law enforcement for fear of losers going wiggy, or worse killing themselves. So far the stuff is legal to buy but that will probably change in the near future. I understand the pressures on society but at some point it becomes almost impossible to prevent people from finding new and creative ways to abuse themselves. Who still finds it a mystery that breathing in ANY TYPE OF SMOKE is probably a bad idea? Have these Rhodes scholars ever been around a campfire when the wind shifts? I mean just about anything you burn and breathe in is absolutely revulsed by the untrained body and respiratory system.

I am further irritated that K2, a perfectly safe and gentle name with properly established conventions, has been co-opted and stained by some lowly wanna-be street punk drug of ’doobie-us’ reputation. After all, I have spent many a happy hour deftly (why are you laughing?) cutting a swath through fresh powder on ultra-famous K2 skis. The name is supposed to call to mind the vision of the ultimate majestic and famous Karakoram mountain at some 28,000+ feet of oxygen-free elevation.

I mean if the romance alone of scaling a big rock with the second highest climber fatality rate (1 death for every 4 attempts) isn’t enough, as a bonus, the thing is hanging above Pakistan. As if gasping for air, facing unbearable cold, and a savage climb isn’t enough to kill you – then those Bin Laden looking drones hanging around probably will.

Hmmm, maybe I should re-think the consumption of this new designer Mary Jane, incense peyote? It is starting to sound far safer than my obviously dangerous geology fetish. I guess my predicament is what’s called “being between a rock and a space case”?

My one sentence answer to take back control of the U.S. deficit

What America needs is a short and sweet super-simple answer to reel in the runaway Federal budget deficit. Forget all the political wrangling, hard to understand legalese, and 3000 page impossibly unreadable Congressional bills. We want real solutions without the endless debate, discussion, and insider in-fighting.

So enough preamble already – spit it out man! Ok, here is goes … I propose the U.S. government simply FREEZE THE BUDGET AS IS, AND ALLOW NO PERCENTAGE INCREASES OF ANY KIND for the next two years in any department, on any bill, ammendment or program. Programs can be REDUCED or eliminated as needed and the money can be reclaimed for new legislation or priorities. But whatever that magic spending number is in 2010, then THAT is EXACTLY THE SAME Budget you get for the next two years. That’s it – no doublespeak Washington math where a “CUT” is simply a reduction in the size of an increase. No hard to understand cost of living formulas, raise pools, indexing, mark-ups, earmarks, shanks, hocks, bacon, ham or all-inclusive PORK!

Now honestly ask yourself, how hard can this be? Yes there may be some marginal inflation or really good folks that could go without a standard step raise for a couple of years. But in reality, most families suffer these kinds of adjustments from time to time and deal with it just fine. If your budget at home gets a little tight, you may choose not to go out to the movies or eat out as often? You may decide to put off getting your car detailed or you’ll switch to buying Pop Tarts from Target (a pretty good value by the way) vs. your corner supermarket? You might ask your kids to help out a bit more or do a family garage sale to generate some fun money? Whatever it is, you adjust right?

If your raise was not quite what you expected this year, did you just collapse in a blubbering heap of self-pity or did you simply move on even MORE determined to make things happen for next year at review time? I think almost everyone has been in a situation like this, so as uncomfortable as these tough circumstances can be, normal people recognize that it is part of life and do just fine.

Yes the solution appears simplistic, but assuming government and its myriad of programs has functioned adequately this year, then there is no reason to think that they cannot do ALMOST as well on a few percentage points less over two more years. Plus I believe from my own experience, when it is time for a little belt tightening, it is amazing what kind of waste you can find in your operations to cut down or eliminate outright. Do you really need 200 channels of cable and a DVR in every room? Do you have time to read Cosmo, Popular Mechanics, Reader’s Digest AND my FREE blog or could you easily eliminate one or more of those costly news sources? (Emphasis on COST not relevancy – so don’t get cute)

You get the point. Government just needs a reset and literally the OPPORTUNITY to look for savings and efficiencies at ALL LEVELS. If everyone pitches in and tries to save supplies here and there, or adjust their workstations to make work easier and FASTER – is that an unreasonable burden during these tough times? Just think, on the Congressional front alone, what will all our representatives have to debate and fight about for the next two years if the budget is already set in stone? They could skip the two martini & Morton's steak once a week and partake in Denny's $5.99 burger and unlimited beverage and fries - what a deal! Maybe it would afford them more time to visit their constituents and truly LEARN what people want and need from government rather than what issues political PARTIES try to manufacture and push to Americans for their own selfish agendas?

On second thought NIX that idea – keep the reps in Washington! Speaker Pelosi’s NEW government funded Boeing 757 (200 seat USAF C-32) runs about $60,000 in fuel EACH WAY on the weekly trip back to her San Francisco home. I think even the Speaker could benefit from a little face … oops (cheap shot - sorry but you KNOW you were thinking it!) BELT tightening? Can somebody please introduce her to SKYPE – its free EVEN FOR Washington POLITICIANS, and it works really, really well!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top-Ten tests of a True Friendship

Ok, I know my stuff gets a little 'heady' sometimes. While that is fine for the main course, all good diets require a bit of sugar now and then. So don't let it go to your head - I don't write a lot of internet forwards, but here is one to snack on for dessert. Now honestly, I do BELIEVE in these ideals, but I know it is very difficult to continually practice them all in real life encounters. But I guess that is the best way to approach any high-minded goal or effort - just do the best that you can and if you fail ... well that's what 'tomorrows' are for - Enjoy!

True friends think of me before they think of themselves.

True friends wish for my happiness yet avoid burdening me with their own troubles.

True friends strive to make their friends my friends too.

True friends never talk behind my back but always say what’s on their mind.

True friends never build themselves up by tearing me down.

True friends are blatantly honest before a decision & quietly supportive afterward.

True friends are never jealous of me when good fortune finds me first.

True friends treat my time, energy, & character as if it were their own.

True friends seek out my opinion and value it as if heaven sent.

True friends deserve this top-ten treatment even more than I do.

Team America needs MORE Bunnings!

It’s interesting that almost the entire U.S. Senate is ready to throw Kentucky Senator, Paul Bunning(r) under the bus? I mean what has this guy done but TELL THE TRUTH about Washington spending. I am disappointed that not one other voice will join Bunning in his very reasonable call to find funding for the program BEFORE voting it into law. His position is SO rational and EXACTLY how a normal family might address its own budget slimming concerns – why is this guy treated like some kind of nut? Bunning acknowledges that nearly ALL of the Senate wants this $10 billion bill to pass. BUT if they cannot come together to find a sane way to pay for THIS tiny amount (relatively), how can they EVER honestly expect to pay for a $1 Trillion health plan? The answer is folks – THEY DON’T?? Congress has ceased any understanding of the pairing of words “fiscal responsibility”. Washington is a bloated, overweight & wheezing former Quarterback. Team America is not impressed!

It is no wonder, the Tea Party movement has grown in metoric popularity over the last year among Americans from all political factions. When Republicans and Democrats both don't seem to 'get it' and can't find the spine to say 'NO' to borrowing or printing cash - the time is at hand that we need to clean house.

I understand that people are temporarily out of work as State construction projects stop but it bothers me that various State officials almost immediately start whining like schoolchildren when their allowance is cut-off. Did not the President just remind us all not to go off willy nilly to places like Las Vegas for fun if we could not afford it? Why is this so hard for these people to understand? WE DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY SO WE CANNOT SPEND IT! We need to control ALL SPENDING, even small amounts, until we get back to some semblance of fiscal liquidity. Endlessly extending unemployment benefits over and over may seem compassionate for a few, but Washington has an OBLIGATION to be compassionate to ALL THE PEOPLE not just a few. The best way to do that is to STOP UP THE SPENDING FAUCET and start paying your debts. Bunning is simply the tip of the sword that is increasingly prepared to cut the fat and slim down this out of control spending. Let's hope the Congress can find its way to Weight Watchers and get on board?

My only negative impression of Senator Bunning is that I wish he was not so defensive. I know he is under tremendous pressure to cave-in and comply so after a while I am sure it is hard to keep saying no. But at the same time, I would prefer if he just smiled and stated his case with appropriate confidence that he is doing the right thing. The press will ALWAYS vilify someone who they perceive is an outsider especially if they espouse conservative fiscal restraint. But don’t give them powder for their cannons by acting surly and disagreeably combative. Just stand up as a proud American patriot and know that there are MILLIONS of Americans who believe in those same principles.

We as a people are ready to send the Washington fiscal abusers to 'Fat Camp'. No way are we going to allow Team America to keep on following this out of shape leadership on this hopeless path as the biggest loser!

When my "Thumb Drives" Wobble!

I have always had a fascination with earthquakes and geology even as a young lad. I lived in California over half of my life so I have personally experienced more than a few first-hand brushes with the relentless power that can be unleashed by nature. The interesting thing however, is only with the advent of the computer revolution and the rapid decline in cost of solid state storage and memory can ‘non geo-geeks’ actually start to grasp the true massive nature of recent quakes.

While Haiti’s earthquake was a powerful jolt, the problems there were exacerbated due to decades old poverty and largely unsuccessful governance. I could not tell for sure from a distance, but it appeared the damage was made worse with unreinforced concrete and poor construction, in addition to population density in Port Au Prince. Reports are that between 200,000 and 300,000 people died in the Haiti quake – a staggering number. The effective yield of the energy expended in this event would be equivalent to around a 32 megaton TNT explosion. That is about twice as much energy California’s Northridge earthquake in 1994 and about 1/30th the size of the devastating San Francisco quake of 1906.

Though adequate for a low resolution pictures, it probably has been some time since you associated a large capacity thumb drive with 30 megabytes, but a couple of years ago it was state of the art. Haiti, as bad as it was , in terms of energy dissipation is like a 30 Meg. thumb drive and the San Francisco quake of 1906 would be around the equivalency of a 1 Gigabyte SD card – still fairly small by modern computer portable storage standards.

Now fast forward to Concepcion, Chile and their massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake this week. A death toll has yet to be determined but no doubt even with all of Chile’s experience with earthquake preparedness and strict building standards, thousands will still perish. The effective TNT yield of this event would equate to the explosive power of approximately 16 gigatons. This gut-punch was so massive that the EARTH showed measurable “wobble” on its axis as two tectonic plates fought to occupy the same chunk of real estate 22 miles under ground. So back to our computer example, this would be equivalent to a 16 gig SDHC portable storage card – respectable by any standard, but hard to imagine that a seismic event of this size is literally capable of “Earth-shaking” the globe.

Even beyond Elvis, it was back in 1960 that another 'big shake' was felt in Chile and around the world. A modern record of a 9.5 magnitude or 178 gigaton yield quake was recorded that was an incredible 530 times more powerful than the power of the Nagasaki atomic bomb (32 kilotons). Even with our bloated, feature rich operating systems, most of the world’s computers, can function adequately with a 178 gigabyte hard drive on board.

Oddly I suddenly feel the need to run out to Micro Center and buy a 1 Terrabyte hard disk for my computer? Let's hope the earth never feels the urge to unleash a magnitude 10 (1 Terraton yield yet unrecorded by man)seismic event. Just thinking about that terrifyingly raw explosive power makes my knees, head, and yes even my Frisco-quake sized THUMB drives start to REALLY wobble!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Obama bets Yuengling not Bud on hockey

I don’t know about you but my first reaction when I heard the President made his Olympic bet with Canada was “Wow the Chinese are even covering the U.S. bar bets these days?” I know Archie Bunker was more interested in political correctness than I am, but I thought I‘d better check out this special brew pronounced “YING-LING” before passing judgment. I honestly don’t have anything against foreign breweries, but geez do we have to choose one that sounds like it came from the “Baby Names for Giant Pandas” book?

I was quickly relieved to visit Yuengling’s website and find the familiar eagle that we have come to recognize as American’s lager … uh now wait a minute, I thought Budweiser had an eagle behind THEIR logo? Well I guess a fancy regal eagle is not something you can copyright? Apparently Yuengling is not only an American brewery, but the OLDEST American brewery based in the historic backyard of our founding fathers – Pennsylvania. In some alternate space time “worm-holey” kind of way, Ben Franklin himself is probably raising a glass right now and belching “U – S – A” with fervor!

Unlike the now Belgian and Brazilian owned Budweiser brand, Yuengling is an ALL-AMERICAN hold-out proudly started by German immigrants over 180 years ago. The German name means “Young Man” in English which though void of bruising machismo, is marginally better than “Kinderling” – or ‘children man’; likely Michael Jackson’s first choice German name for Jesus juice?

So with no big-time international cash to fund national distribution networks and the lawyers to fight off much larger breweries, I guess Yuengling stuck to Philly and the Eastern U.S.? Obama could not have had the pleasure of a frosty tall mug of Yuengling in Chicago, or anywhere else in the Midwest, so he must have acquired his preference for the brew during his tenure in D.C.?

This got me thinking as to what I might put up as a suitable offering if I was in command of D.C's big leather chair? Those little powdered tubs of Crystal Light lemonade seem to be too chintzy and diet Dr. Thunder Wal Mart soda is an acquired taste at best. So just to mix things up a bit, I think I would offer up a few bottles of Holland’s “ChocoVine” wine. Only the Dutch in a clog-induced Amsterdam fog could conceive of a commercial pairing of gluten-free chocolate & red wine. Oh sure we have ALL talked about it, but who would really do such a thing – Yum ???

So Congrats are in order for the Canadian hockey team. I won’t hold a grudge but lets just say, good old Idaho russets are replacing Yukon Gold taters in this household for awhile. I hope the Prime Minister enjoys his case of Yuengling even if he thinks it came from a Chinese Panda. He’d be wrong of course … Obama’s all American, Monsieur - uh well half Kenyan .. uh … umm – He’s the President ok and he's definately not a stinking Panda?! Ju...just take your hockey beer and Mountie hat and get back on your side of the Great lakes EH!

What's the deal with Cheese Balls?

Unless you are socially stunted, on occasion you probably have happened upon a food-like substance known as a 'cheese ball' at a party? For purposes of this post, I will include the aptly named 'cheese log' as a cylindrical shaped version of the same cheese genus. For those of you who were oft tardy to your High School Latin class, I am referring to the same 'family' or classification of soft party cheeses NOT to their debatable superior intelligence.

I am oddly curious about these fist-sized chunks of calories. Why are they coated in nutmeats?While the cheese itself can be quite flavorful, soft, and easy to spread, once you hit the outer asphalt of slivered almonds, your cracker will fracture instantly. This is irritating and unecessarily adds to the cost of a cheese ball. After all, if I want nuts on my cheese, I usually can find a bowl of mixed varietals somewhere at the party next to the popcorn and Fritos.

The addition of that armored layer of nuts makes the cheese very dense so even heat treated knives are rendered helpless for spreading. At parties, more than once I have found myself attempting to flick-off an entire nut encrusted cheese ball inadvertently impaled upon my knife. It is embarassing and unsanitary to dislodge a two pound chunk of cheese with your bare hands. I also never get invited back to parties but then again that may be the Leprosy thing?

Now I know I am a bit of a purist when it comes to cheese anyway. In fact, I had to make a special stop in Wisconsin just to buy and try some of their world famous curd. I even was so impressed with Cabot sharp brick cheeses made in Vermont that my parents had to ship me hunks of the stuff before it was available where I live.

So sorry if I ain't 'nuts' about nuts n' stuff in my cheese. When you have honed and refined your tastes you will learn to appreciate the likes of Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, and Kraft American slices with the same reverence as I do. Easy to slice and easy to live with; I want REAL 'lumpless' cheese, pure and natural - the way God (and Wal Mart) intended it.

My TV hates the Olympics

I personally do not have anything against the Olympics but my TV hates them. Ever since the much ballyhooed advent of digital TV, I fight with my TV weekly to let me watch what I want to watch as opposed to what it will LET me watch. Even when I was 16 living at home, my parents did not give me as much trouble about what programming I wanted to view as compared to this dumb digital television? Forget the fact that the ultra wide and billfold thin beast actually cost MORE than my first car! The only thing wallet-thin about these new TV's is how much LESS cash you will be sitting on until the next 'great' thing comes along.

What's the problem you might wonder? Isn't digital TV supposed to provide absolutely crystal clear HD programming for the masses. In fact it is SO IMPORTANT, that the government put off implementing the changeover to digital TV just so EVERYONE could have the opportunity to buy a new receiver or a set-top box to watch TV - right?

Well yes, digital TV will do all that IF you live within a clear line of sight to a city based transmitting tower. Yes I know that should be most everyone but sadly it is not my case. I live in a cave, or well more like a canyon surrounded by hills of rich, lovely dirt and hundreds of trees. Its a great place to live when you are hoping on an off chance that if you encounter a stampede, the crazed animals will choose an easier route, or you just don't really want to hear anything that goes on outside of your backyard and immediate neighbors. Yeah the neighbors get cable and satellite but that COSTS MONEY! Who in their right mind PAYS for COMMERCIALS with a little random content mixed in to connect them together?

Most of the time, I do not care as the TV is simply a babysitter for me anyhow. Yes it is on and it makes noise but I only look up on occasion from my laptop to make sure it still is heating the room. Even for the Olympics, I don't necessarily have to see EVERY minute of the broadcasts but it would be nice to catch the unpixelated infomercial highlights or updates without the frozen ghost images hijacking my screen for minutes on end. At least with the old analog tube I used to irradiate my family - it would go grainy and have a few dropouts but the sound would hang in there like a loyal bloodhound. I miss that. Life was simpler then. I did not get the pleasure of seeing every swollen pore on our local news anchor's face BUT I could hear them almost no matter what. Like the days of radio, my mind could fill in the rest. If my talking head newsie wanted me to know that he had a pore problem, then he would TELL me.

Oh well, what's done is done. Like most good comrades I know my government knows what is best for me in all facets of my life, especially REALLY IMPORTANT things like what kind of TV I watch. I just wish the government would tell my TV too so I could maybe catch a few minutes of the NEXT Olympics in 2012! I hear they will be in London so to get ready I will start watching my TV on the RIGHT side of the room with a soothing cup of tea WITH milk.