Monday, March 27, 2006

A Brief Reckoning....

Via Done With Mirrors, I was directed to this post on Michael Reynold's blog, The Mighty Middle. In belatedly recognizing his own blog's one year anniversary, Michael Reynold's given a brief reckoning of where he's been:

I've lived an unusually fractured life. I attended 12 different schools -- and I dropped out after 10th grade. Three colleges, dropped out of all three. I've lived in California, Florida, DC, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachussetts, Virginia, Maine, Illinois and North Carolina. Also France and, briefly, Portugal. And multiple locations in each of those states: six cities in California, three in France, five in Florida, four in Virginia. Often I live in more than one place within cities. I had three different apartments in Crockett, California. I'm on my second house in Chapel Hill, and I've been here just under three years. Three places in Minneapolis, two in Fouras, France, three in Ocean City, Maryland.

I couldn't put a date on any of the above. When was I at Urbandale High in Iowa? Hmmm. When was I in that apartment in Portland, the first one? Not a clue. How about Waldorf, Maryland? 1975 maybe? Temple Hills, Maryland? Ocean City the second time?

I've been a waiter, a janitor, a law library clerk and a law librarian, an editorial cartoonist, a bowling alley pin-jammer, a stock clerk, a restaurant manager, an antiques dealer, a property manager, a restaurant reviewer, a house painter, a political media consultant, a writer.


This put Callimachus in a mind to try the same, but not right now:

It got me thinking about what my life would look like if I inventoried it. Bus boy, meter reader for the electric company, assembly-line worker, ran an observatory, taught high school, wrote ice hockey, wrote porn, ate lunch with Reagan in the White House, ... yeah, I'll have to sit down and make a list sometime.


This idea of making an inventory of personal details is kind of interesting to me, at least at the moment.

I've lived in three different cities: Orlando FLA (1968-1994 & 2003-present), Gainesville FLA(1995-2000), and Baltimore Maryland(2000-2003). I lived in one house in Orlando through that first stretch in Orlando, and one house (so far) during the second stretch. One apartment in Gainesville (1995-1998) and one townhouse (1998-2000). In Baltimore (Reisterstown, properly), we lived in a three floor townhouse the whole time.

In the past I've been (in succession), a nightshift switchboard operator and alarm baby-sitter at a hospital, a construction worker (roads, to be precise), a cashier in a grocery store, a bagboy, a tutor, an I&D guy (putting together and disassembling booths at tradeshows), a tutor again, a bagboy again (excuse me, front service personnel guy), a tutor again, an exam proctor, a graduate teaching assistant, a retirement actuary, and a benefits/financial analyst. A fairly boring set of jobs, but I do what I must.

I went to one elemetary school, one middle school and one high school, which I dropped out of midway through 11th grade. I went to the local junior college (Valencia Community College) over a span of ten or eleven years (depending one how you want to count it), and dropped out several times for various reasons. (Only one of those reasons was any good.) After getting my shit together (or rather finding the right person to kick my sorry ass into gear), I attended the University of Florida to get my BS in Mathematics, and then continued on at UF to study mathematics at the graduate level. I dropped out of that too, eventually, when I realized that I had no desire to actually go through the pain and suffereing it would take to become a tenured college professor. I was too lazy for that path, and I disliked the idea of perpetual poverty.

I have one wife, and it will always remain so. She has told me that if I leave her she will kill me! That's not really a problem, since I will never leave her, but it makes very clear that she doesn't believe in no-fault divorce! We met in February of 1994, went on our first (and she insists only) date on March 14, 1994, moved in together at the start of 1995, and married on December 26, 1996. We have hypothetical children (number unknown), and actual cats (two). After 7+ years together, the cats have decided that they just might be able to tolerate each other, as long as the stay on opposite sides of the house.

I've been in 10+ car crashes, one of which I prophesized. (Really, at some point I lost count of the number. Also, being Cassandra sucks.) I was only driving for one of those accidents, BTW, and alcohol has not played a role in any of them. The severity of the accidents has run the gamut from minor fender-bender to one which makes me laugh scornfully at most tales of "heroic recoveries". When you're lying in a hospital bed, peeing through a tube, and dreaming of the day you will be able to eat something as solid as sherbert, you have two options: lie there and wait to die, or get on with your life. Which is to say, you really have no options at all.

An interesting pair of dates (for me): May 13, 1988 & March 15, 1991. The first was the day they put me back together, using talent, skill, training, experience, several pounds of stainless steel, and some bone from a cadavar. The second is the day they removed the steel from the first go-around. That's right, Friday the 13th and the Ides of March were good days for me! Ain't no luck like bad luck, and for a contrarian such as myself that's the best kind.

Currently, I'm 17 years, 10 months, 15 days, 22 hours, and approximately 16 minutes into borrowed time. And people wonder why I don't mind debt?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Prep for the SAT? Do people really do that?

So Ann Althouse has a post up about an Orlando Patterson op-ed in the New York Times. The op-ed includes this sentence:

Young white Americans are very much into [hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions], but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.


Do people really prep for the SAT? I've heard about this for decades now, but I don't think I know anyone who has ever actually done anything more than get a decent night's sleep before hand. (And I actually failed to do that.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Secret Identity Has Been Revealed....




You Are Dr. Bunsen Honeydew



You take the title "mad scientist" to the extreme -with very scary things coming out of your lab.

And you've invented some pretty cool things, from a banana sharpener to a robot politician.

But while you're busy turning gold into cottage cheese, you need to watch out for poor little Beaker!

"Oh, that's very naughty, Beaker! Now you eat these paper clips this minute."



Hat tip to XWL, the crazy lunatic....

Monday, March 20, 2006

Simul-blogging a Survey

So the other day I got a Republican Party Census in the mail. Basically, it's a fund-raising device for the party faithful with a survey to discern the mood of the grassroots. (And also to help frame debate on certain issues, of course.) Obviously this blog is a small personal endeavor only intended to amuse myself. As such, I generally DON'T want to blog politics, but occasionally I can't help myself. The Dubai port deal got my attention, and now so has this survey. So I've decided to simul-blog my survey responses, just for shits and grins. (The posts on the Dubai port deal were for Shiites and djinn.)

Unless otherwise noted, all questions are to be answered by a 'Yes', 'No', or 'Undecided'. However, I wouldn't be bothering with this if I couldn't mouth off some....

Section I Domestic and International Security

1. Do you support President Bush's initiatives to promote the safety and security of all Americans?

Answer:
I'm tempted to check 'Undecided' on the premise that Bush hasn't been real clear on what his initiatives are. However, I'm going to check 'No', as nothing has been done to secure the nations borders. The (illegal) flow of goods and people across the borders is huge, and until that flow is stemmed, domestic security is going to be questionable at best. (And there is no point in worrying about the legal flow of goods and people in the meantime.)

2. Do you support the use of air strikes against any country that offers safe harbor or aid to individuals or organizations committed to further attacks on America?

Answer: 'Yeah'
, baby! Let's blow their asses up! Let's film it and sell the movie rights to defray the cost of the operations.

3. Do you continue to support increasing the amount of security at airports, train stations and all government buildings including monuments and museums?

Answer:
Trick question! There's a difference between increasing the amount of security, and improving security. Increasing bad security measures isn't that helpful. Plus, it's a damn shame that so many public buildings are becoming less and less accessible. (This last bit predates both 9/11 and the current administration.) So let's check 'No'.

Economic Issues

1. Should the inheritance or "Death Tax" be permanently repealed?

Answer: 'Undecided'
. A few years ago, I would have checked 'Yes', but damn we're spending money fast! We're going to have to pay for that eventually. May as well do it when we're already dead. Still, I hate just saying 'Yes' to a tax. Thus my weasel answer.

2. Do you support President Bush's pro-growth policies to create more jobs and improve the economy?

Answer: 'No'
. Trick answer! I don't really care about the President's policies to create jobs. Mostly, the government should be getting the hell out of the way, especially at the federal level. Plus, if the President wants to be pro-growth, he shouldn't be creating new entitlements! That damn drug benefit he created is going to be a killer. And yes, it is corporate welfare of a kind, but not in the way most of the idiots complaining about it suggest. At least that part of it is only a one time deal. (The corporations are killing their retiree medical benefits anyway, so long-term effects on the business community will be negligible.)

[Note: I need to remember to explain why people are wrong when they insist that corporations don't really pay for their medical benefits even when they provide medical insurance.]

3. Do you think Congress should focus on cutting the federal budget deficit by reducing wasteful government spending?

Answer: Hell yes!
For an example of said wasteful spending, how about rescinding that drug benefit? Of course, that's not going to happen. Federally subsidized drugs for Boomers is a right, goddamnit! Screw the citizens coming after them.

Education Issues

1. Do you support President Bush's plan to make our schools more accountable to parents and to restore local control of education?

Answer: 'Yes'
for lack of any better options. Of course it will never work, at least not until we blow up all the Peace Balls. That'll get the little monsters' attention! But enough about Education School graduates....

2. Should students, teachers, principals and administrators be held to higher standards?

Answer: 'Yes'
, and how about throwing the parents on the higher standards bonfire, too.

3. Do you think that teaching our children to read and increasing literacy rates should be a national priority?

Answer:
Okay, what dolt ISN'T going to say 'Yes'? And if we get improved literacy, then perhaps the pollsters won't write such horrible sentences as the one in the question. Shouldn't that be 'national priorities'?

Social Issues

1. Do you support President Bush's initiative to allow private religious and charitable groups to do more to help those in need?

Answer: 'No'
, because the government is spending enough money without looking for other people to help them spend more.

2. Do you support the law, passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Bush, that bans partial-birth abortions?

Answer:
Pretty much 'Yes', but despite all the fuss, partial-birth abortions aren't really that big of a problem. Also, shouldn't we be returning these issues to the individual states to decide? So let's change that to a 'No'.

3. Do you support the President's efforts to save Social Security?

Answer: 'Yes'
, out of naked self interest. I don't think I'll ever see anything from the current system. However, I'd also be happy with reforms to the current system. A well-designed means testing system would help.

4. Do you think Congress should pass legislation on the Federal Marriage Amendment?

Answer:
Not just 'No', but 'Hell no!' The Constitution should be about strict matters of governance, not social engineering. And again, let the states sort this matter out. What's the point in having 50 individual testing grounds for government policy if we're not going to use them? Where the hell did the small government conservatives go?

Defense Issues

1. Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?

Answer: 'No'
. Personally, I can't understand how anyone still believes in that corrupt organization.

2. Do you agree that our top military priority should be fighting terrorists?

Answer:
Oooo, this is a tricky question. Does this mean we should be engaging terrorists directly (e.g., the Afghani campaign, using Predator drones to kill terrorists in Yemen), or the more vague idea of nation building (e.g. the Iraqi campaign)? The question needs to be restated in a clearer fashion before I can even to answer it.

3. Should the U.S. continue work on building a defense shield against nuclear missle attacks?

Answer:
In principle, 'Yes'. However, with the deficits we're running, I'm not sure we can continue to fund this kind of research. (And it is still definitely a work in progress, and yes it is research worth pursuing.) So, given the current financial environment, I will choose 'No'.

Republican Party

1. Do you support the election of Republican candidates across the country and rebuilding our majorities over the next ten years?

Answer: 'No'
. That can be changed to a 'Yes', but only if the party returns to some sane principles concerning the size of the government, the scope of the government, and fiscal policy. Otherwise, why the hell should I care?

There's a little more to the survey, but this is the end of the non-begging portion of the survey. And the end of this overly-long post. More later in the week, if I still care.

[Further observation upon rereading: I write 'hell' an awful lot.]

Update: Bill catches me in a bit of wishful thinking:

On [Icepick's] last answer there, what's this "only if the party returns to some sane principles..."? Returns? That's assuming an awful lot. I don't recall any party practicing "sane principles" about the size of government. Sure, they'll talk a good game when they're the minority party, but once in charge they become Emily Litella.


Sadly, Bill is spot on, and is right to call me out on this.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dang.

Only the good die, er, hiatus young. I guess I'm going to have to get off my digital kiester (sp?) and finish a couple of posts now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Now It's Gone TOO FAR!!!

posted a day late and a dollar short

Okay, this damn Dubai Port Scandal has got to stop. Yesterday, the missus had The Fox Report with Shepard Smith on in the background. That hour was going to feature a story on a bunch of surfers riding some dangerous waves somewhere in the South Pacific. YES! However, at the end of the hour, when that story was supposed to run, they ran this story instead.

WASHINGTON — The Dubai-owned company that promised to surrender its U.S. port operations has no immediate plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary's interests at Miami's seaport, a senior executive wrote Monday in a private e-mail to business associates.


And just to be clear, this has nothing to do with the deal for the British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co, but instead concerns a port in Miami in which DP World already owns a stake!

In other words, this phony scandal just got phonier. And now it's cutting into my surf coverage! (Bastards!) My utter contempt for Senator Schumer, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party that caved on this issue, and the media continues to get more utter with every passing day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Good Job!

Well, Senator Schumer has gotten his wish:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- United Arab Emirates-owned DP World said Thursday it would transfer its operations of American ports to a "U.S. entity" after congressional leaders reportedly told President Bush that the firm's takeover deal was essentially dead on Capitol Hill.

"Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship ... DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," Edward H. Bilkey, DP World's chief operating officer, said in a statement.


Good! We wouldn't want any Arab/Muslim scum like this Edward H. Bilkey character running our ports! My god, imagine all the terrorists that guy must have been itching to hire?

Of course, a price must be paid for this inspired and brilliant action by our Senators and Congressmen:

A source close to the deal said members of Dubai’s royal family are furious at the hostility both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have shown toward the deal.

“They’re saying, ‘All we’ve done for you guys, all our purchases, we’ll stop it, we’ll just yank it,’” the source said.

Retaliation from the emirate could come against lucrative deals with aircraft maker Boeing and by curtailing the docking of hundreds of American ships, including U.S. Navy ships, each year at its port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the source added.

It is not clear how much of Dubai’s behind-the-scenes anger would be followed up by action, but Boeing has been made aware of the threat and is already reportedly lobbying to save the ports deal.


Oh well, no good deed goes unpunished, right?

To sum up:

Cost of a port management company buy-out? Approximately six billion dollars.

Cost of a lost aerospace deal? About nine billion dollars of lost revenue for an American company, with attendant loss of jobs, etc for American workers and investors.

Cost of losing a valuable ally who runs a strategically important port so that Senator Schumer can look good? Priceless!

The most disgusting aspect of this story for me is how the Republicans in Congress flocked to the Democratic cause to destroy relations with an important ally. The sheer stupidity of this whole event staggers the rational mind. I wonder if repealing the Seventeenth Amendment would improve the quality of the United States Senate?

[Addendum: Now I realize that this whole thing is reminiscent of the Battle of Balaklava, which has been described as the feckless versus the incompetent. Call it the "Charge of the Lightweight Brigade".]

[Addendum II: See, Honey? The man in the box is the same nut-job you spend your nights with! Uh, okay, so maybe that's not so comforting a thought....]

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Another Trip Down the Memory Hole

Reader_Iam mourns the loss of any early love, and I go on a link-about.

There was a link missing on RIA's post, so I went looking for news about Jack Wild.

This led me to IMDb to check out Jack's career. He was 17 when he started playing Jimmy. I was never really a fan of that show but I don't remember Jimmy being that old. Did he look that young, or am I thinking of the wrong character/role? (I was more of a Sigmund and the Seamonsters fan.)

Anyway, this led my wife to ask "Whatever happened to Witchiepoo?" So I clicked on the Billie Hayes link. There's not much info there, but I did see that she had been a part of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special!

Plot Outline: Various comical Halloween skits featuring the cast members. Margaret Hamilton briefly reprises her role as the wicked witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. There are several musical performances by KISS, including the song "Beth".


IMDB user M. C. Brennan comments (and you should read the whole thing):

The best and most bizarre TV special ever made!

...

You have not lived until you've seen Peter Criss sing "Beth" to a middle-aged gay man. KISS also plays "Detroit Rock City"and "King of The Night Time World" while an appreciative Lynde flirts shamelessly. It's a beautiful thing. Hollywood legend Hamilton's bizarre interaction with KISS will also add breathtaking new dimension to any "six degrees" game you care to play. And did I fail to mention the other musical guests--Donny and Marie?

...

Anarchic, unhinged, showered in sequins and hypnotically immediate, "The Paul Lynde Halloween Special" will grab you from the first frame, beat you senseless and leave you begging for more. See this special at any cost.


Yea, verily! I WANT THAT BOOTLEG!

I'll take your damn quiz...

...but then I want you to send me home, like in the deal.

[Update: Whoops! Forgot to link back to Pastor_Jeff, who roped me in to this crazy thing. I mean, not that I sending anyone anywhere, but manners matter. If one is going to be rude, it should be on purpose! And I'm still not back in the S-Mart.]

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18 and find line 4.

Okay, done.

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, what do you find?

I find that the kink in my left shoulder from the other day is still there. Ouch!

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?

Bobobo-bo Bo-Bobo.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.

9:37PM

5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?

9:39PM

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?

King Nose-hair singing
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Je te plumerai la tête
(Je te plumerai la tête)


7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?

Two hours ago, and I was walking to my car so that I could drive home.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at?

See #3 above.

9. What are you wearing?

Don't get fresh.

10. Did you dream last night?

How would I know? I was asleep at the time.

11. When did you last laugh?

I never laugh. Laughter mellows my harsh.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?

Paint and paintings. If you had asked when I was at work, it would have been a white board, two movie posters, and a Buccaneers Super Bowl XXXVII Championship banner. And paint.

13. Seen anything weird lately?

See #6 above.

14. What do you think of this quiz?

It's too easy to cheat on this quiz.

15. What is the last film you saw?

Army of Darkness. But I'm thinking about popping Dragonball Z: Dead Zone into the DVD player.

16. If you turned into a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?

A large supply of Hufu and some good video equipment. Then I'd invite all my friends over for dinner and film the results.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know.

Only if you promise to respect me in the morning.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt and politics, what would you do?

I wanna decide who lives and who dies! (I'm with Crow T. Robot on this one.) Oh, and I never feel guilty.

Assuming that for some damn reason I'm not allowed to indiscriminately kill whomever I please, I'd want to melt the Antarctic ice cap. I'd love to get the paleontologists down there to see what's hidden under all that ice.

19. Do you like to Dance?

No. I'm too un-co-ordinated.

20. George Bush.

Which one?

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

Catherine Sophia

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what would you call him?

William Henry

23. Would you ever consider living abroad?

No. I'm a Republican, and the rest of the world sucks.

24. What would you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?

I'm an atheist. No pearly gates for me.

25. Name 4 people who must also do this theme in their journal.

Not until you send me back to my S-Mart, like in the deal!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

That would be the smell of REVOLUTION in the air....

Or perhaps it's just that the janitors and maids have gone on strike.

CORAL GABLES -- For four years, Zoila Mursuli toiled in the shadows, scrubbing toilets, sweeping floors and emptying trash on the graveyard shift at the University of Miami.

Her job came with no health benefits and paid just $6.70 an hour, which ranks among the lowest wages for university janitors in the nation. Then last week, she was fired after talking to the Orlando Sentinel about her efforts to organize a strike among her fellow UM maintenance workers. Late Tuesday, her efforts paid off: Her night-shift co-workers walked off their jobs in an escalating strike about alleged unfair labor practices.


Okay, so you're thinking "Typical labor dispute on a college campus, big deal." But this gets funnier.

The battle also comes at an awkward time for [University of Miami President and former secretary for Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton Donna] Shalala, who just raised an unprecedented $1 billion for capital, scholarship, faculty and other improvements at UM.

She also was featured in an inopportune article in the New York Times this month. In it, she discusses her 9,000-square-foot presidential residence on the waterfront -- where her dog has the choice of four beds, and where she doesn't make enough use of her 29-foot motorboat.

The interview brought her national scorn, including this "Note to the Haves" from The Washington Post: "When involved in labor disputes, skip the luxury home profile."


Beautiful stuff! These issues look a lot different when you're not spending taxpayer money, don't they Donna?

But even funnier than Shalala and her house is this bit:

Neither did the Shalala announcement cool the rising tensions between the administration and a growing faction of its students. Instead, students were emboldened by Shalala's action.

"It shows we are now a force that has to be reckoned with," said [UM junior Jacob] Coker-Dukowitz, a member of Students Toward a New Democracy, or STAND, a campus organization that has assumed a lead role in supporting the workers.


Those rich kids are just so cute when they get all socialist and revolutionary! "Aw, look at little Coker-Dukowitz. You're a good little revolutionary, aren't you? Yes you are! Yes you are!" All he needs is for someone to pinch his cheek.

[Adapted from an email exchange with my wife.]