Monday, March 31, 2008

Frustration, and the Family Legacy

Well, Mom's door has now been repaired. It's a new and improved door, and meets the latest hurricane-resistant standards. Of course, that leaves the other two wooden doors from 1960 and a couple of glass doors in the back that have no additional reinforcement against either home invaders or hurricanes. So it goes, as a friend likes to say.

My sister and her husband were down over the weekend for a non-burglary related event. The subject of moving came up briefly, only to be shot down in a blaze of verbal gunfire. What it comes down to is this: Mom refuses to move. She has several reasons, depending on the occasion, a favorite being that "it's unsafe everywhere!" "Yes, but it's more unsafe where you live now!" is not an adequate response, despite the fact that it's patently true.

But the real reasons, I believe, that Mom refuses to move are fear of change and sheer God damned meanness. I know that I'm a (far to) casual curser, and an atheist to boot. But the cursing two sentences back means precisely what it says this time. Meanness is the family legacy, both on Mom's side of the family and on Dad's side. (And on Mom's side it comes from the families of both of her parents, as well.) Family lore includes some truly heart-wrenching stories of cruelty, the worst of it verbal in nature.

(As an aside, that dab of Latin at the top is what I've adopted as the family motto. It's a rough translation of something Mom said while telling of yet another incredible story about some relatives. After recounting this bizarre tale (Reader, you know the one!), she mentioned that she couldn't understand such insanity. I said, "Mom, this doesn't sound that out of character for anyone in the family." She replied with the now classic, "We'd never do that! We're not crazy, we're just mean!" My brother-in-law and I collapsed in laughter.)

But Mom is afraid of the change, and she's too mean to give anyone the chance to tell her she was wrong to hold out so long.

The frustration isn't just that she persists in living in a dangerous neighborhood - it's that she's practically refusing to live. Essentially, she's waiting to die. She doesn't leave the house except when she has to do some shopping or go to the doctor, and she doesn't do more in the house besides watch TV and play hand-held video games. There's no reason for this! Yes, she's had some health issues, but she has recovered from those. She's agile and strong for her age. Financially she's in the best shape of her life. And while she's not as mentally sharp as she used to be, she's far from senile.

But yet she refuses to get off her ass and do anything. The best for her would be to leave Orlando (which she hasn't liked in 20 years because it's too big) and move to Columbus, GA. Columbus is where my sister lives with her husband. My niece and her family (husband and two small children) also live there. But she won't move.

This is just a waste of life. Kim's grandmother, who's roughly two years older than Mom, had a stroke about two years ago. She went from being a rather energetic and involved person to being a victim of paralysis and dementia. If given the choice, I'm sure she'd be happy to switch places with Mom. I'm pretty sure that Amba would love it if Jacques had my mother's level of lucidity and mobility. Another friend is dealing with a parent falling into the fog of Alzheimer's Disease - that person doesn't have a choice about what's happening to her. And although Pastor Jeff's mother sounds lucid enough, I'm sure she would appreciate joints that weren't inflamed.

No, what bothers me most about Mom's current situation isn't even so much that she's insisting on living in a dangerous situation, but that she's refusing to live, period. That kind of waste is criminal.

...

[Note: Thanks to everyone for the concern you've expressed. I do appreciate it. And to Jeff and another friend, I hope everything works out as well as possible with your parents. Finally I need to give credit where credit is due: Kim actually provided the translation for the motto at the top.]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Sleepless Night in Chopper City

Wherein a very long post describing the latest, freshest Hell that 2008 had in store for me....

Late Tuesday night I got a call from my brother. He's been living with my mother for the last several years. I'm not particularly happy with this arrangement for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. But it does (allegedly) have two benefits: first, he can keep an eye on her health-wise; and second, I hope that his presence will help deter the neighborhood thugs from trying anything too egregious. Tuesday night it got put to the test.

Sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 PM two men kicked in a side door to the house. (There may have been a third man involved. That point isn't clear.) That door leads into the room that we made by enclosing the garage. It's just a storage room now, so that door is rarely if ever used. Because of that it has had a heavy bolt lock instead of a regular door knob. It's a heavy duty lock, and so it held. So did the frame of the door. But the door itself splintered horizontally at the level of the lock. The door caved in, the lock fell to the ground, and in came the wolves.

Here I'd better give a brief description of the layout of the house. The garage room leads into the back of the house. That's where Mom spends most of her time, regardless of whether she's awake or asleep. (She's been in the habit of sleeping on the couch since I was a little boy.) This back room (which is another addition to the original house) opens into the rest of the house, which is laid out kind of like an 'L'. At the top of the 'L' are the two main bedrooms and the back room is at the lower left end. My brother sleeps in one bedroom, Mom occasionally sleeps in the other.

Another thing to know is that my mother is completely deaf in one ear and probably about 90% deaf in the other ear, and she refuses to get a hearing aid. This means that when she watches TV it's turned up LOUD. You can clearly make out what's being said at the front door of the house. Between that noise, the lights in the house, and the two cars in front of the house, it had to be obvious to the thieves that the house was occupied. They didn't care.

So they kicked in the side door, ransacked the garage room and then moved into the rest of the house. (Amongst the items they stole from the garage: a new shop vac, and a large supply of paper towels and toilet paper. No, I'm not making that up.) Here's the first incredible thing: My mother slept through the whole episode! (She once famously slept through at least one devastating hurricane, as well, so I shouldn't be surprised. I come from a family that sleeps soundly, when we finally get to sleep.) Sleeping through this may or may not have prevented something really terrible from happening to her.

But as it was the thieves passed her by and ransacked other parts of the house, especially her bedroom. The got away with some jewelry and such, but nothing truly important. The thieves made at least three trips to their car to load up their ill-gotten (and ultimately rather petty) gains. They also raided the back porch and stole Mom's lawn mower. They had moved a bunch of tools around to the front corner of the house but they got scared off before they could get it loaded up.

Eventually my brother, who is another famously sound sleeper, woke up to go to the bathroom. As he was returning to bed he saw a couple of shadows pass in the hall. Realizing that there should have at most been only one shadow he followed them into the front room. At that point they realized that HE was there and fled the scene. They must have known that he was in the house, but they must not have thought that he would wake up.

I can only assume that they thought Mom must have had a lot of jewelry or that my brother was a drug dealer. Wrong on both counts. I imagine that's why they ran off when my brother startled them. Someone breaking into an occupied house HAS to be prepared for violence. They probably decided that it just wasn't worth the trouble at that point. I should note that there has been a wave of home invasions and burglaries in recent weeks (No shit!), and the homeowners have frequently been shot. So I guess that Mom and my brother sleeping through most of the event was actually a blessing in disguise - it gave the crooks enough time to realize there was no point in committing additional felonies.

After the thieves fled my brother called the police and then woke Mom up. (!!!) When the police arrived they started putting the story together. This was greatly helped by the eyewitness who had seen everything. A neighbor had been sitting out in front of her house and watched the whole thing, which is how we know for example how long they were in the house. Now this leads me to the second incredible part of the story: The neighbor never called the police! For all the neighbor knew my mother was being raped and killed next door and the neighbor didn't do squat to help. Not one god damned thing. You see, the neighbor is black, the thieves were black, and Mom is white. She'd never turn in a brother to help a white person. (My mother and brother account for two of the three white people still living in that neighborhood. I guess they're the blockbusters now.)

So around 1 AM my brother called me and told me what was going on. He wanted me to bring Mom back to my place. Fortunately I hadn't gone to bed yet, so I put on some clothes, woke up Kim and explained the situation, and drove over to Mom's house.

I live about 30 minutes away. (That's the middle-of-the-night-no-one-else-on-the-road-going-15-mph-above-the-speed-limit time.) On the way over I reflected on the fact that I was driving down Murder Alley to Murder Central. These are just the names I use for the route I take. The local paper had mapped all the murders in Orlando and Orange County for 2007 a couple of months back and I noticed that the biggest cluster was in my old neighborhood and that a great many others were centered on John Young Parkway starting at Sand Lake Road and heading north into Pine Hills. That's also my route to Mom's house. (There's also another cluster of murders in the east part of town where another big section of illegals live. Mexico's chief exports are dirt cheap labor and crime.) It really put me in the mood for the night, and I was good and paranoid when I got near Pine Hills. I decided to take Colonial over to Pine Hills Road so as to try and bypass any shit that might be going on near Mercy Drive. (You've still got to cross Mercy Drive but I know and trust the intersection at Colonial more than I trust the intersection on Princeton.) Turns out I had made a good call as there were about 8 police cars in the middle of Colonial near Mercy with their lights going, with more backup arriving as I sped by. I have no idea what was going on, nor do I really care - just another night of fun in northwest Orlando. Some asshole was probably being tazed and beaten into a bloody pulp by the police, but I didn't have time to stop and cheer.

When I got to the house the police had already left. I took a look around the house and noticed a few other things that had been stolen and some items that they had meant to steal but left behind in their haste. I checked out the door and inspected everything I could think might be important. After talking it over with Mom and my brother I decided that it would be better for me to stay their with them instead of leaving my brother alone. I didn't really think they would come back (I mean, there just isn't that much to steal), but I didn't think leaving someone behind was a good idea. I talked them into getting some sleep. We had already barricaded the broken door, so if anyone came through that direction they would at least have to make enough noise to alert me. So I sat up through most of the rest of the night with a machete in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

Really the cell phone was the better of the two weapons. The machete would be useless against a gun and if the attackers were Haitian (highly probable in Pine Hills) then they would know a hell of a lot more about hacking people up with a machete than I do. Curse my lousy education! But with the cell phone I could at least give the police a description of my killer before dying. All of which is to say that for the second time this year I really REALLY wished that I owned firearms. I may have to correct that situation in the near future.

But night gave way to dawn without incident, and so clean up and repair work began.

The most immediately frustrating part is that none of this should have happened. My mother HAS the financial wherewithal to move. We've been trying to get her to leave for years, but she just won't budge. This isn't going to change her mind either. She's the original owner of the house, and when she moved into the house in late in October of 1960 she swore she'd never move again. She appears set on living up to that vow even if it kills her. (Or me. I'm lucky that the drug dealers across the street don't realize that it was me they were trying to catch in a car chase one afternoon. Fortunately I know those streets way better than they do.)

I'd say that I really hate my old neighborhood now, but that's not fair. Pine Hills now is not the same as Pine Hills then. The same is true of Orlando in a larger sense, too. The city has grown so rapidly that it bares no resemblance to the city I grew up in, or even to the city that I moved away from in December of 1994. (I returned in September 2003.) Hell, most of the people here don't even know that they should hate Shaquille O'Neal for screwing over the city all those years ago. (And no, it's not that he left, it's how he left.)

All the growth (which has been cancerous in its appetite) has wiped away almost all the vestiges of where I grew up. I can't even imagine what it's like for natives that are 20 or more years older than me. When I was just a child they said the town was unrecognizable from when they grew up. Everything has changed. The orange groves are mostly gone because of the combination of the southward creep of the frost line and the ravenous development. All of the wild spaces are gone, too.

In 1980 Disney World to the southwest was way past everything, as was Orlando International Airport to the south and UCF to the east. All three of those landmarks are essentially in the middle of town now. And the people just keep coming! In the next 40 years the state of Florida is supposed to add as many people to its population as now live in New York state. I almost hope the worst of the Global Warming scenarios is true. I'd love to see all of these people who have ruined the quality of life down here get chased away by a mighty flood. Besides, I always wanted to be buried at sea.

(It's hysterical to hear someone who moved here in 1998 or 2000 talk about how the place isn't as wonderful as it used to be. No shit, asshole, it's because you're here now!)

No, the City Beautiful, which used to deserve that moniker long ago, gave way to the City Plastic, and hence to the City Suburban Blight. With that blight has come crime, displacement, more crime, yet more suburban sprawl and blight, and the destruction of anything that resembles community.

When I grew up in Pines Hills we knew everyone that lived around us. We knew their habits and foibles and who could be counted on in a pinch. I've lived in my current neighborhood just shy of 5 years now and I don't know the name of even one neighbor. I still know the people around Mom's house, though. Rather I know what they do for a living. The house across the streets where the W**** Family used to live, whose children I grew up with, is now owned by a not-terribly-successful drug dealer. Two houses down from that house where the crazy Greek Orthodox family lived, towards the lake at the end of the street, lives the guy who breeds pit bulls for dog fighting. (He advertises when he has a new batch of pups ready for the ring with hand painted signs in his front yard.) Across the street from them is the house where the people who broke into Mom's house the other night live. (Yeah, we even know who committed the crime, but they'll never get caught or even serve a day for it. However, if I'm lucky, they may get pulled over by the cops at random some night and get the living shit beat out of them. Use the Tazer! The Tazer! God Bless Local Law Enforcement!) I haven't checked in a while, but last time I did there were several rapists and pederasts living within a block of Mom's house. Pine Hills is where all of the sex offenders go to live (or at least where they say they live) when they can't get housing anywhere else.

Yep, Chopper City, nee Pine Hills, is the shittiest place in town, and possibly the worst place between Liberty City in Miami and whatever passes for a bad neighborhood in Atlanta. I actually heard someone bragging recently that it is purportedly the "ghettoist" place in the South now, but that seems like wishful thinking. Surely New Orleans is worse. But I guess we take pride where we can. (It seems I forgot to write the post I had intended about Pine Hills Second Most Famous Former Resident. If you want to know how bad Chopper City is, consider this: at least one African dictator hired his chief torturer from Chopper City. Yes, this guy grew up in my old neighborhood. Out-stand-ing!)

As I've been typing this I've been listening to the street racers tearing ass up and down John Young Parkway and Orange Blossom Trail. The roads are each about a mile away from the house, but the racers like to set up their rides to make the maximum amount of noise. Too bad they don't actually learn how to drive. Several of them seem to get killed racing every month. When we're lucky they only kill themselves, but sometimes they kill other drivers or even pedestrians. I remember a few months ago they seemed to have all decided at once that it would be better to race in the morning, and in the space of a week about three elementary school students got run over by these idiots.

You know, if it wasn't for the weather and the skies I wouldn't even know this was my home town. Everything else is completely alien at this point, including the people and the spoken language. There are too damned many people for the local environment to sustain. The aquifers can't handle the increased water demand, the local infrastructure has NOT grown enough to support all of these people, and the strain is showing. If there's an afterlife then I can only hope the developers and the politicians who have created this mess all find suitable punishments in Hell.

The worst is that there's no place else to go. Anyplace else where I would want to live has already experienced this burst of growth, or is about to. (For example, sleepy little Gainesville is supposed to be as big as present-day Orlando in another 50 years. There won't be an oak left standing in that town by then.) And I would HATE to be the person that ruins someone else's paradise by showing up and fucking up the place. No reason to add that to my personal list of sins.

God, I hate this city.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Should I go with "Cold Fury" or

...
RAGE?

I'm tending towards rage. But then, I would, wouldn't I?

More later, as I have a show to go to later tonight. But for now I will just add that I now have yet more reasons to really hate the year 2008.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just a quick observation....

This week the local school board and the county commission came to a decision to relocate my old high school to another neighborhood several miles up the road. This is interesting on several counts.

First, such local leaders as my old neighborhood (Pine Hills) has do NOT want the high school moved. Renovated (rebuilt, actually), but not moved. It provides the most likely center for a renewal of that general area.

Second, the area to which the school will be relocated (Ocoee) does not WANT the school in their neighborhood. More precisely, they don't want the students from the old school coming into their nice area and ruining the place.

(The current student body has just about every problem you could think of: low academic performance, horrible 'family' structures, poverty, crime, high teen pregnancy rates, and did I mention that they're teenagers? Also, they're black, and the area to which the school will be moved is one of the whiter bastions left in central Florida. But if we're going to have an honest discussion of race, then it should be acknowledged that the students are, besides being black, have low academic performance, high pregnancy rates, commit more crimes than most, and oh yes, they're also teenagers.)

Third, the county will have to change the zoning laws for what can and cannot be built around Ocoee for the new school to be built. In fact it's this objection to new zoning laws as much as having the students from the old school running around in their 'quiet' neighborhoods that has the residents of Ocoee so fired up.

Fourth, the people of Ocoee actually organized a grassroots campaign and managed to stop these plans from going forward a few weeks ago.

So, if the school board and county commission decided a few weeks ago that they would scrap the relocation plans, why are they changing their minds now? Well, I can't be sure, but it appears that the reason they're doing this is because they don't care what their constituents want, and are going to does as they god damned well please. And if the voters don't like it then the voters can go fuck themselves with chainsaws, because there is no way we're ever going to get rid of the corrupt assholes that run the county.

But let me put this issue aside for the moment and make my (not so) quick observation. Have you noticed that government at all levels is increasingly willing to rub the voters faces in it? If the leaders want something, they're just going to back-door their way into it regardless of what the voters think. (You'll note that this is happening in Europe, too, most notably with the idea of the nations giving up their sovereignty to the EU.) I'm tired, and rambling more than usual, so I'm not going to dig up other examples. But when it comes right down to it our representative form of government doesn't really seem all that representative. I'm starting to think that the half of the country that doesn't vote actually has the right idea.

[Sorry Kim, I got distracted. I'll get to the funny post Thursday.]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Some Idle LOST Speculation

Someone else has probably already hit on this idea, but I don't read the boards so I haven't heard it.

We know that some people associated with the island seemingly can't die. My hypothesis is that anyone that commits a truly heinous act on the island can't die until they earn redemption. For example Locke is responsible for the death of his own father and it appears he can't die. Ben killed everyone on the island associated with the DHARMA project and he doesn't seem too afraid of death, although other things scare him. Richard seems to be immortal - perhaps he was on the Black Rock slaver's ship. Charlie killed a man in cold blood and has appeared a couple of times after being dead. Mikhail should be dead three times over now, and yet he keeps popping up, usually just in time to perform some new murderous scheme, so I think we can safely assume he's done other nasty things on the island. And now we know that the island won't let Michael die because he murdered two women in cold blood.

[Also note that some of the Others have died. They also seem to have been newer recruits, like Juliet, and not part of the core group that Richard had been a part of.]

It's unclear how heinous an act would be before sentencing one to a Purgatory-like existence. For example, Bernard and Jin helped kill several of the Others, but perhaps that won't count against them since it was done in defense of their families. Sayid, on the other hand, may be stuck as he tortured Sawyer. Ana-Lucia killed Shannon, but that was accidental.

Anyway, I think that's enough idle speculation for now....

One final thought for the evening morning....

The rather painful discussions concerning race in America that have been going on for the last week or so lead me to this conclusion: We would be better off NOT talking openly and honestly about race. I'm sensing no kind of resolution to anything, just increased tension and resentment on all sides. Sometimes the best course of action is for everyone to maintain a tight-lipped silence, and hope that time itself will provide relief. (You know, like when obnoxious relatives come to visit for the holidays. Just wait a few days, and they'll be gone....)

The topic of race in this country is so incendiary that I believe we may need to keep it safely locked away, lest that heat burn us and set our house on fire.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's a good thing Obama is going to bring racial understanding to America...

... because after a few more weeks of his explaining race we're going to have race riots in the inner cities again. On Tuesday, after dismissing Rev. Wright's incendiary comments as simply a part of "the black community in its entirety", Obama claimed that

... race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Rev. Wright made in his offending sermons about America -- to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

Three paragraphs earlier Obama offered up an example of stereotyping that amplified the negative:
[M]y white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Many people reacted negatively to Obama injecting his grandmother into this speech in such a negative light. Even if Obama didn't mean to throw his grandmother under a bus, enough concern was expressed that Obama and his campaign felt that he had to publicly explain what he meant. However, I'm willing to bet that the explanation is going to prove more costly to him than the original comment.

Today Obama tried to explain himself during an interview on a Philadelphia radio station, WIP:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know there's a reaction that's been been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it...
This statement makes no sense. If his grandmother reflexively has negative reactions to people of another race for no other reason than race, then she does in fact harbor racial animosity.

Throwing Granny under the bus (again) isn't the worst part of his comment, though. The worst part is his overly simplified stereotype of the "typical white person" as a racist. One wonders if the Stuff White People Like blog has shaped Obama's views of white people. No, that can't be it, as that blog has a very recent origin. Or perhaps "to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality” is just something that the typical black person does.

...

I've been thinking a bit more about Obama's “A More Perfect Union” speech. Initially I had only heard snippets from the speech, and later heard and read more when the commentary started to appear. This morning I finally read the whole speech myself. Personally I thought the speech had two major flaws beyond the Grandmother Incident discussed above.

The first problem is that he never explained why he made the judgment call to keep attending such a militant church if he had aspirations of appealing to a broader (i.e., whiter) audience. He's made judgment a central theme of his campaign as a way to dismiss concerns about his lack of experience. Therefore he needs to explain why he judged that attending that church and listening to that rhetoric wasn't going to repel the average voter, whom he needs to win the election. Further, Obama should explain why he had made the judgment call over the last year to claim he really didn't know anything about this aspect of the church only to completely reverse himself yesterday. Did he think that the press wouldn't notice that he'd been bending the truth for the last year?

The second problem though is even worse. Obama wasn't 'just' giving a speech on race relations in the US last Tuesday. He was also making a pitch for his own personal interests - to wit "Elect me!"
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism....

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some otherdistraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time."
Obama then lists a litany of problems that need fixing. As he recites his litany of woe it becomes clear that he means the only way to adequately address these problems is to elect him to the Office of President. So, we can either vote for division, conflict and cynicism, or we can vote for Obama. He isn't presenting himself as a candidate for office, he's presenting himself as a messiah. At best he's offering up a false dichotomy, though cleverly concealed. At worst, he's the Second Coming, these are the End Times, and we'll all be hearing the Trump and the Shout 'ere long.

Regardless, his broader message about race in the US would be more convincing if the entirety of the speech didn't nakedly serve Obama's self-interest. He disguised it well, but ultimately this speech isn't about Race in the USA, it's just another rhetorical device for getting Obama elected.



One final point: Obama’s starry-eyed supporters are simply obnoxious. Consider this Andrew Sullivan post. Andrew includes a story about how people listened to Obama, and that they wanted to see Obama, that they wanted to understand him, and praise Him, and annoint Him with oils. Then Sullivan ends with the most sanctimonious line I believe he has ever devised:
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Lord, please spare us from self-congratulatory English twits!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Speech

[Adapted from an email to some friends....]

I don’t think it’s THAT hard to find problems with Obama’s speech. A lot of people seem very put off that he threw his grandmother under the bus, even if he had done so before. (Charles Krauthammer made the additional point that there’s a world of difference between muttering a slur under one’s breathe and exhorting racial fury in a crowd of people.)

[Added later: Reader_Iam comments: "Also, I will now, here, state publicly, that I may be one of the few people in the ... universe who does NOT think Obama "threw his grandmother under the bus." I totally disagree with that analysis, as it's being stated and used, and I will stand by that."

Actually, I didn't take it that way either, initially. Obama had, after all, already written about this topic publicly. After reading Kaus' take, though, I may have changed my mind.

Implicitly equating his grandmother's soto voce racism and the bombastic exhortations of Rev. Wright feels like a rhetorical dodge. It reinforces the "crazy uncle" rhetoric that had been Obama's previous line of defense while glossing over salient differences. First, whipping up racial hatred in an impassioned public forum is much more divisive to the body politic than whispered hard feelings, especially if one is literally preaching to the choir! Second, as an adult one can chose one's minister, but we're all stuck with family. Yet Obama choose this minister over and over again for 20 years.

But the casually implied "Grandma used to call black people n******" cuts off critical lines of thinking when hearing the speech. One reflexively thinks of the young mixed-race grandchild of that woman and the deep hurt such words must cause. Interestingly, he's managing to infantilize himself ("Oh, that poor baby!") while at the same time convincing people of his great maturity for speaking of such things. A damned fine rhetorical trick!]

But the best take I’ve read about the speech was Mickey Kaus’ dissection at Slate. He highlights some definite problems with the speech.

A somewhat rougher (by which I mean both rude and evil) take on the speech can be found here. Udolpho is a hell of a lot more direct about race than Obama, and he’s not wrong that Obama is benefiting heavily from the double standard that doesn’t allow anyone other than minorities to speak about race.

Finally, I’m still having trouble with this: How is he supposed to bridge the racial divide in this country (which is supposed to be one of his selling points) if he’s spent the last 20 years being mentored by a “Hate Whitey” black separatist? In all seriousness, if it turned out that a white candidate had been going to a racist church for the last 20 years would he have even been given the chance to redeem himself with a mealy-mouthed speech?

[Icepick]

PS The biggest beneficiary of this last week has been McCain, but not because Obama’s been permanently damaged. (The people that would be most put off by this event aren’t going to vote for him anyway, and the media and white guilt will take care of the rest.) But McCain has seemed old and tired at times this week, even having a ‘senior moment’ during his trip to Iraq. Having the spotlight elsewhere has been a boon to him.

PPS And if you think I’ve got problems with Obama, consider this: I still find him the least objectionable major candidate left in the race. I’ll probably just cast a write-in vote for myself this fall.

It's a tough job being photo-journalist....

No, really!

(And for convenience, here's the link to the photos in question.)

What a tepid age we live in....

In response to China's most recent set of repressive actions in Tibet, we have calls for an Olympic boycott. But don't worry, this isn't going to ruin the Olympic Games like the 1980 or 1984 boycotts ruined the Moscow & LA Olympic Games. No, this will be a mini-boycott.

PARIS (AP) - Moves to punish China over its handling of violence in Tibet gained momentum Tuesday, with a novel suggestion for a mini-boycott of the Beijing Olympics by VIPs at the opening ceremony....

Such an opening ceremony boycott presumably would not include the athletes, who under Olympic rules are forbidden from making any kind of protest at events or venues - including the opening ceremony. It's not mandatory that every athlete participate in the opening ceremony.

"We strongly encourage our athletes to participate in opening ceremonies," said U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel. "It is a tremendous honor to walk into the Olympic Stadium behind the flag of your nation, and to do so in a ceremony honoring and celebrating athletes from around the world."
Such thin gruel to feed the spirit....

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Some not entirely meaningless statistics....

Recently I was reviewing a particular QB statistic: Yard per Completion. The numbers surprised me a little bit. I knew that we were in the dink & dunk era, but I actually thought it was worse than it appears to be. It's still apparent that this is NOT the long ball era.

Yards per Completion (all stats computed using NFL.com's player stats)

QBs from earlier eras:

Troy Aikman...................11.37
Brett Favre......................11.46
Joe Montana...................11.90
JM (SF years only)...........11.99
Dan Marino.....................12.35
Steve Young.....................12.42
Sammy Baugh.................12.95
Dan Fouts........................13.05
Roger Stuabach...............13.47
Bart Starr........................13.67
Terry Bradshaw...............13.82
Joe Namath.....................14.67
Otto Graham (NFL only)..15.48

Currently active QBs

Tom Brady.......................11.50
Eli Manning.....................11.53
Peyton Manning...............12.00
Kurt Warner....................12.46
Tony Romo......................12.81
Ben Roethlisberger...........12.86

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

As if I didn't have enough reasons to not vote for him...

It turns out that McCain is also a fan of crackpot scientific theories. Either that, or he's so slimy he will use this as a tool to get elected even though he knows it isn't true. I don't know which is worse.

Oh yeah...

THIS headline is reassuring:

Canada defends Obama over NAFTA flap

First he gets hosed by the Canadian's, and now he needs them to come to his defense. Hopefully they'll do better a better job for a Kenyan-American than they did for Somalis.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The FUTURE is STILL NOW! (or rather, still about 8-10 days ago....)

Just a couple of other items that could have gone with a prior post.

First we have MicroSoft being evil again.

Microsoft seeks patent for office 'spy' software

From The Times, January 16, 2008:

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

...

Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.

Just think of it as part of a new wellness initiative. And don't forget since employers pay the majority of health care costs for employees who are insured, they do have motivation to get involved. (The same goes if the government nationalizes health care. Remember, it takes a village!)

Also from The Times, this time from February 28, 2008, comes this story that ties into one in my other post.

The computer headset that reads minds
A device that decodes activity within the brain could benefit stroke patients, people suffering from paralysis – and gamers
Soon, it seems, not even the interior of the human mind will be beyond the reach of technology. As computers become ever smaller, more powerful and ubiquitous, work is gathering pace on an idea that comes straight from science fiction: the brain-machine interface.

The goal is to create a device that can monitor what goes on inside the brain, providing insight into neural problems and, eventually, allowing direct control of technology via the brain. Future versions of the device in the video above will be able to switch on electronic equipment in the home or even to guide a character through a computer game without any physical interaction, researchers suggest.
Yep, the future has already arrived, and we've hardly noticed. Will we notice (or have we already missed) the much prophesied Singularity?