Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday, year-end wrap up

As I sit in my cubicle, after finishing some contractually necessary reporting that few (if any) will bother to read {until even} after the holiday, I find myself posting one of the last posts to this blog of the year.

The Christmas holidays were, well, not as bright as the could have/should have been. Nothing tragic, mind you, but the kids were sick. MBH was sick. I even caught their bug over the weekend. Yeah, it sucked.

We delayed Christmas in our house a few days, so the kids could spend the day enjoying themselves.... we had to reschedule the visits to the local family, and cancel my folks' annual to-do in Queens. That was a big disappointment: my folks always want my 3 brothers and I to celebrate Christmas with them, and each year there seems to be a reason one of us doesn't make it. Two of my brothers are on Long Island, but one lives in New Hampshire and we're out in PA, so it's getting harder to get us all under the same roof. We'll try to get in to them this weekend, but certainly my brother and his fam from NH most likely won't be there, understandably.

And there are other headaches around the house that have to be dealt with. But many of them will be done by the time the spring weather is upon us.

This is the time of year when you're supposed to look back and reflect on things in your life (or so we're all told):

In my real life, it's been a fairly quiet year, thankfully. Work has handed me new responsibilities (read: headaches) but considering my salary requirements I have no complaints. We're all healthy -- well, healthy enough, not to have to complain too much. And the cars are all humming along. The house is still holding together, but the to-do list gets longer and longer, so I will have to redouble my efforts to get more and more done each weekend.

Sidebar: On a related note, Wired reports something that certainly interests me:
A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery's first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

The treatment is "a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign," said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. "It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess."

YEAH!!! Sign me up as a tester!!!

In my social circle, I know a few people who aren't as happy as they'd like to be with the career choices, but are grateful that they have them. They may not have the most money in the world, but they are certainly making the most with what they have.

I know a gal who is one of the most charming people you'd ever meet, and yet fails repeatedly to make wise choices in her mate, and winds up sorry, all too frequently.

Elsewhere, in the number of people I know through this semi organized social network of blogging (I do so hate the term blogosphere): some welcomed new births, some lost loved ones to old age. One fine person has come to learn their mate didn't see things the same way (although I am still hoping it is a case of temporary insanity), and yet another launched a career as an author.

More than one fellow blogger (and another person to whom I am personally known) is experiencing health issues - or, as a parent, are experiencing medical issues through their child - that I wouldn't wish on a enemy.

Two other fine bloggers had big years in opposite (apparently) directions, and both of whom I've linked to many times over the years: one left her old blog to start a new one, heralding her new life with a new mate. The other.... well, the other described a personal medical issue in a post in August, and has since seemingly vanished altogether. Of course, I wish both of these good souls well.

Looks like there's a lot of up and down; a pity we can't all be on the positive side of things (There are other folks I am forgetting, of course, but the good feelings go with them as well.).

But it's a new year, so we're supposed to assume the slate will be cleaned1 and we're starting new. Basically, I don't get that notion: it's just another calendar, just another day. In the past I've ranted about the futility of waiting for New Years to resolve to do/change/start/stop something, so I am at least consistent in my reasoning.

Yet, if others find comfort in starting fresh, I certainly hope that works for them. For me, the time to start anything new is here and now, regardless of the calendar page..... maybe, tomorrow morning, but that's the extent of it.

Regardless of our own lot, we have a much to be thankful for in our lives. We may be far from perfection (whatever the hell perfect means), but we can concede were better off than a lot of people in this world. And each day we start to work our way towards a better life, only occasionally forgetting that there are others who would be MORE THAN happy to trade with us. Many of those people, for example, couldn't access the Internet (much less this blog) if their life depended on it.

Tonight, unlike some others, I'll be home. No parties for us... MBH may well be asleep around 10PM (she's still fighting the cold we've all fought). I'm looking forward to watching the ball drop (and the Shamokin, PA Coal Drop - wish I had picture-in-picture!), then flipping over to watch The Honeymooner's Marathon on WPIX-11, occasionally switching around to see the 'ball drop' from other timezones-- all of which will be done with glass of bourbon in hand, quietly ringing in the new year. Maybe I'll post in the wee hours... the first of the new year.

I keep hearing a lyric from Semisonic going around my head:

Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...

Tomorrow is a new year, a new month, and a new day. Here's hoping you and yours make the most of your new beginning.

1 Are there even 3 readers who are old enough to appreciate this phrase?

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another Good Turn by Philadelphia Boy Scouts

While the effort to evict the Philadelphia-area Boy Scout council (Cradle of Liberty) from their building continue, here's a story about a family of 7 whose home burned down last week, and the generous support (in the form of gifts and morale) from the local Boy Scout Troop:

Now that Council member Michael Nutter is Mayor-Elect Nutter, do you think he'll be more willing to work the Scouts, possibly even paying them to stay where they are (as I suggested), instead of pursuing an agenda-driven eviction?

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Sensible ideas on curbing illegal immigration

Jay Tea at Wizbang discusses new laws on the state level, on how they can greatly reduce the illegal alien population:

If enough states -- especially those with a significant illegal alien population -- start cracking down on some of the economic underpinnings of the illegal alien system (i.e. employers local to those states), we will find we don't need to deport 12 million/15 million/20 million/2.7 kajillion illegal aliens. The vast majority of them will simply deport themselves.

Couple that with cutting or eliminating public benefits afforded to illegal aliens (welfare, housing assistance, food stamps, etc.) and resisting measures that will make it easier for them to assimilate into society (no drivers' licenses, etc.), and we'll find that the number of illegal aliens left behind will be minimal.

And the closing point is one I've stated many times before in this humble blog:

I am very much in favor of a fairly open-door policy on immigration. But a door standing by itself is pretty meaningless -- whether it's open or closed is largely irrelevant if one can choose to simply walk around it. An open door, attached to a strong wall and closed windows, is an invitation to come in -- but on our terms.

Read the rest and defend your opposition to these common sense ideas.

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A great idea for empty beer bottles

....hmmm... maybe next year...

And for those interested in learning more, join their Facebook Group.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Musings

On my way home this evening I did some shopping. Yep, I did. Yep, I am one of those.

My last stop was to a local Pennsylvania State Store (what is known as a liquor store in much of the rest of the world); MBH wanted some vanilla vodka, I needed some more Maker's Mark (long-time readers and the few who know me in real life will wonder why I've seemingly abandoned my Old No. 7; I haven't, totally, but long before they started sending me gifts I found it a pleasant change of pace; so sue me). Along the way, I picked up some Southern Comfort, something I haven't sampled in nearly 18 years.... far too long. But it was a great summer, when we all thought we were all invincible, and would be happy forever. As it turned out, a few of us are still waiting on that last part, in particular.

MBH's sister (SIL) traveled this summer to Ireland, and she remarked that whenever any of the women on her tour stopped at the smaller pubs to order a Guinness, the bar tender would always add a shot of something; and it was only for the women, because it was said to cut the bitterness of Guinness for the Yanks.

She has been drinking Guinness for many a year, so bitterness was something she never was troubled with (speaking for myself, I began drinking Guinness when I was 20, which explains why brews such as Miller High Life and Coors Light are like piss to me). And while SIL could describe the flavor of the shot, she couldn't recall the name of it. After some Googling, as near as I can discern, it was blackcurrant cordial; and while it is non-alcoholic it is stocked at liquor stores. So here's hoping she can relive some of trip to the small pubs in Ireland.

And if it wasn't blackcurrant cordial, I got her a litre of Bailey's, as a backup.

At the liquor store, as I was selecting some vodka, a guy on his cell phone pushed a cart down the aisle. Dialogue is guaranteed verbatim:
HE: Yeah, I got gifts for the golf guys, the neighbors, and my brothers. And I'm getting a few extra bottles. You know; in case someone stops in. I don't know, someone. You never know. What? No, I don't know who. But if someone stops in, I want to give them something.
Not being able to resist a perfect set up, I speak up:
ME: I'll be over tomorrow night, around 8, OK?
HE: See? This guy next to me says he's coming over tomorrow. No. No, I don't know (holds phone to chest) What's your name?
ME: Charlie.
HE: Charlie. Yeah. Charlie. No. No. No, he's some guy in the liquor store, but he says he's coming over. (To me) What do you drink?
ME: Bourbon!
HE: See? I need bourbon. Look, I'll call you when I am done. No. No... look, he's a nice guy, ok? Love you too. (disconnects)
ME: I'm sorry I butted in, but I couldn't resist.
HE: That's OK; my girlfriend can be a pain, you know? Um, are you going to be in Harrisburg tomorrow?
ME: No worries, pal. I'm not coming over. Merry Christmas!
HE: Merry Christmas to you, too!
But you know, I kinda think it would be worth the 90 mile drive....

Christmas in the onthepa.turnpike house may be delayed... the little one has a nasty upper respiratory infection. He was hacking all night Sunday, so mom and I got very little sleep. He literally slept the entire day today away (when he wasn't hacking like he was a 4-pack-a-day smoker). We'll see how he is tomorrow, and we may cheat a little; older brother has agreed to hold off a day for his kid brother (and thus we know that at 12, he's officially off the Santa theory), so Christmas may come on Wednesday here. Time will tell, but older brother is showing some maturity in that he'll forgo his presents a day on behalf of his hacking brother.

Between his good looks, brains and consideration, it's amazing to think I had anything to do with him!

Time to finish this drink, and post, and maybe catch some of Ralphie... I only have 21 hours left!

Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

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It's Christmas Time....

Santa Cap

I can't say I am in the full swing of the Christmas holidays... I know, I know: be thankful for the good things in life, and yes, I am. And of course the celebration of the birth of Christ is not forgotten in the Wii-inspired shopping frenzy that is all around. (Side note: no, my kids are not getting Wii) But even seeing the glee in the eyes of my kids is becoming less and less something that sets my mood bright. And its not because they're not getting a Wii.

Even as I sit here wearing my favorite Christmas baseball cap, listening to Christmas season tunes, I can't shake this .... blah. This funk will pass, not doubt. It always does. But getting to the passing point seems to be a longer ride every year.

The I have a status report to generate and send out around 2PM, and then I'll likely call it a day. I have some year-end reports to churn out, but that's what next week is for, right? Between now and then I'll scan the blogs I follow for posts - slim pickings, as everyone else is in Holiday mode - and make a few phone calls, send some e-mails to others offering Christmas greetings.

I'd phone each of you, personally, who read this blog regularly, but to do so would risk you trusting me with your phone number (not to mention my risking some wiseguy figuring how to defeat my block of my caller-ID) so you'll have to
do without.

I meant to post about what is best described as an evil-genius who was willing to share his scheme with a highest bidder on eBay:

You are bidding on a rare chance to traumatize a treasured friend or relative with baffling, mind-numbing, mystery correspondence from abroad.

Here is the arrangement: I will be spending the Christmas holiday in Poland in a tiny village that has one church with no bell because angry Germans stole it. Aside from vodka, there is not a lot for me to do.

During the course of my holiday I will send three postcards to one person of your choosing.

These postcards will be rant-ravingly insane, yet they will be peppered with unmistakable personal details about the addressee. Details you will provide me.

The postcards will not be coherently signed, leaving your mark confused, guessing wildly, crying out in anguish. How do I know this person? And how does he know I had a ferret named Goliath?

Your beloved friend or relative will try in vain to figure out who it is. Best of all, it can't possibly be you because you'll have the perfect alibi: you're not in Poland. You're home, wherever that is, doing whatever it is you do when not driving your friends loopy with international prankery.

The scam is so simple, yet exquisite. The guy got $415 for the trouble of mailing 3 postcards. Not bad at all. What sells it for me was the angry Germans who stole the church bell. Follow the link to see others who have followed his lead with postcards of their own... is up and running, of course: with Google Maps, you can track where the Big Guy is right now; my 12 year old son is jazzed about the map aspect.

If this is your only planned reading of my humble blog today, allow me to wish you a very Merry Christmas (certainly, a better one than I am experiencing now). I'll probably post about something or other before tomorrow morning... like my final shopping excursion this season. Which also happens to be my first such trip --- yeah, I am that bad....

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Final daze

A quick update as Christmas approaches:
  • Fam Christmas party I : Does anyone else see the irony in what had to be one of the longest days in my recent history took place yesterday, on the Solstice, which happened to be the shortest day of the year?

  • I should be able to post a few times this week; I work Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and heaven knows there's not a lot of work going on this week.

  • I purposely haven't posted much about the Presidential Primaries; the well-discussed schedule being so accelerated, I can't see how anyone can speak with any authority about predictions. I could, of course, suggest Congressman Ron Paul doesn't stand a chance because Republicans Libertarians - like all third party candidates - would lack any support at all in Congress, thus making himself a tough-sell to the electorate. But at this stage of the Primary Process, the only reason why I would make such a post is to see what kind of traffic such a phrase (above) would direct to my humble blog.

    Stay tuned.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Sleigh bells ring, are you glistening....

Am sitting here, writing out Christmas cards. No, really. By the time I get these to the post office, it'll be a scant 2-1/2 days to get them to their destination. Obviously, they'll likely get there late, but hey there are supposed to be 12 days of Christmas, right?

But I am getting into the spirit; am listening to XM (via AOL) and am pleased to be listening to Artists Confidential with Mannheim Steamroller Live. Can't get much better than that.

I took a break earlier to respond to a post about the infamous Christmas Letter, you know those lengthy stories about where you and your family has been since the last Christmas? (See Black Belt Momma)

We don't do those; if we're close enough (and not necessarily geographically) to get real a Christmas card from us, you know where we are in life, how the kids are, etc. And in many cases, the only time I hear from many of the people who write these things is when they write them!

Others seem like PR people wrote them.
Little Susie started preschool this year and she is already working on quantum physics. Johnny Jr. is the starting quarterback for his peewee football team and we hear the Steelers are looking to sign him.
Please; be real.

If you're not typically staying in touch during the year, why try to catch up in December?

Gotta get back to cards; they won't write themselves!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Family Christmas, Part I

I'm taking a vacation day Friday. Amazing, isn't it?

With but 2 exceptions, I haven't taken a day off all year. I've taken plenty of working remotely days, days in which I worked either from home or on th road -- have cell phone and wireless broadband in my laptop, will travel. It's about time I start using some vacation days, so I'm taking off tomorrow and next Friday. Why only two, a week apart?

Being a Team Lead, I have to balance coverage for the Help Desk. Now we all know NO ONE - especially in Defense - is likely to be working next week, so it will be incredibly slow. But both of my team members wanted time off - Irene wanted off Monday and Wednesday, Jack wanted just Wednesday. So I'll cover their time, and have two, long weekends1.

Tomorrow we begin in earnest to deck our halls.... gotta give Santa an appropriate greeting and tree. A pity it's once again last-minute..

This Saturday is my in-laws Christmas. This will be an incredibly annoying kind of party; too many people unrelated to family at what is billed as a family get together, and half of the group isn't speaking to the other half - but they all talk to me and MBH. There's probably not enough bourbon to make this day go smoothly...

Next weekend is my family's gathering, also in Queens. That'll be another post next week...

1Lest there be any doubt, no, Irene and Jack are not their real names.

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For a decidedly different take on Santa Clause (after I posted a scientific analysis of his existence), Lore Sjöberg of WIRED.COM provides the following:

Santa Claus is coming to town. That's great and all, but if you're an American you probably enlist the services of the same Santa everyone else does: fat, jolly, dressed in fur, gives rich kids great presents and poor kids crap, always gives kids dolls and trains and other generic presents in the cartoons, but when it comes to real life he's inexplicably down with major name brands.

Seriously, in a country where no two people can order the same coffee drink, why is there only one Santa Claus?

Surely this sort of monopoly can't be good for competition. I want you to think long and hard about letting some other jolly old elf invade your home in the middle of the night this year.

I happen to represent an entire line of Alt.Santas, each one wanting to be your holiday provider. Let's take a look, shall we?

    • Objectivist Santa

    • Atheist Santa

    • Pagan Santa

    • Parent Appreciation Santa

    You'll have to follow the link to read the descriptions of the four different Santas, but I think it's worth your effort.

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    The Politics of Automotive Safety

    Earlier this morning, as I was getting ready to leave for work, ABC's World News Overnight (or whatever it is called) was on the TV - it's basically an overnight news show that runs until 5AM, offering news and interviews.

    Side Note: As near as I can tell, the interviews aren't taped but are live. Who agrees to be interviewed on a TV show at 4:30 in the morning?

    One of the stories I heard in the background was about automotive bumper crash-test results. I heard the same piece on ABC Radio news later on during my commute, and the premise simply annoyed me. From Newsday:

    An insurance group is again raising concerns about vehicle bumpers - those of minivans this time - contending that weak federal standards permit automakers to build cars that suffer thousands of dollars in collision damage even in impacts at walking speed.

    The industry-funded research group, the , based in Arlington, Va., says the worst performer among six 2008 minivans it recently subjected to four low-speed crash tests was the Nissan Quest, with resulting damage that would have cost more than $8,000 to repair. "It's damage that consumers shouldn't have to pay for, or put up with the aggravation of having to get their vehicles repaired," institute senior vice president Joe Nolan said in a statement.

    OK, so the obvious point made is that the bumper on minivans and cars are inefficient and can lead to costly repairs in minor fender-benders (the tests were conducted at speeds of 3-6 MPH).

    So where does politics connect to this story? From AP:

    President Bush has signed the energy bill passed yesterday by Congress, boosting auto fuel economy for the first time in 32 years. The energy bill, boosting mileage by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon, passed the House 314-100. The Senate approved it last week.

    The centerpiece of the bill remained the requirement for automakers to increase their industry wide vehicle fuel efficiency by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 mpg by 2020 compared to today's 25 mpg when including passenger cars as well as SUVs and small trucks. ...

    Democrats said the fuel economy requirements — when the fleet of gas-miser vehicles are widely on the road — eventually will save motorists $700 to $1,000 a year in fuel costs.

    The automakers have repeatedly fought an increase in the federal fuel standard, known as , maintaining it would limit the range of vehicles consumers will have available in showrooms and threaten auto industry jobs. Bush also has argued against an arbitrary, numerical increase in the fuel efficiency requirement, preferring instead legislation to streamline the federal requirements and market incentives to get rid of gas guzzling vehicles.

    If you think stories such as the one about fender-benders being expensive are a one-off, wait until Detroit is forced to produce even lighter weight cars and SUVs.

    What's worse: the so-called energy bill does nothing about increasing our supply of crude oil domestically, nothing about nuclear, and little (if any at all) on hydrogen development. Feel-good legislation, at its finest.

    Even worse, wait until the death toll on the nation's highways increases.

    Congress and President Bush are responsible for this foolish legislation. Sadly, our kids will be the ones driving the skateboards when they're long out of office.

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    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    The Democrat's SCHIP has sailed

    MacRanger notes the Democrat-led Congress gave up trying to bloat the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). President Bush and the Republican minority wanted to increase the program moderately (some might say conservatively) but the Democrats wanted a ridiculously high $35B increase, wich the president vetoed. Twice.

    Another defeat for the do-nothing Congress.
    “The Democrats’ yearlong fight to boost federal spending on children’s health insurance ended with a whimper Tuesday.

    After coming up short in their efforts to enact a $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) — enduring two presidential vetoes along the way — congressional Democrats signed off on Republican demands to extend the program until 2009.

    Rather than expiring just before the presidential and congressional elections next year, SCHIP will keep running through March 2009 under the plan originally conceived by House Republicans and hashed out by the Senate Finance Committee and Senate leaders late Monday.

    MacRanger noted: Rep. John Boehner’s leadership on this is noteworthy. If only Republicans had this much leadership in 2005, 2006, this never would have been an issue, as we would still be in the majority

    Food for thought, Republicans.

    My other posts on SCHIP:

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    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Making My Mark

    I opened a small package that came in yesterday's mail, and was caught completely off guard.

    Makers Mark Sealing KitInside was a small wax candle and an impression tool, used to seal envelopes with a unique mark. In this case, it was a Maker's Mark, from the maker of that fine Kentucky Bourbon. This is not some chatchski to used once and lost/forgotten. This is a wooden small handled1 tool for sealing documents to ensure no one reads, as in the days before proper adhesives were developed.

    I normally do not like receiving gifts, but I was very impressed at the thoughtfulness of their give-away; it will be displayed on my desktop. Makes being a member of their Ambassador's Club all the more worthwhile.

    Note to self: stop off for a bottle of their fine bourbon this week!

    On one of my colleague's desk was the following USB-powered figurine:

    Ice Figures Warming Themselves?

    Am I reading too much into this, or are ice-people warming themselves in front of a fire?

    Just asking.

    1 It isn't wooden, but it looks great regardless.

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    A Christmas Carol and its oddities

    Preface: I found this post in a txt file on a 3-1/2" diskette (I am old enough to call it a floppy disk but do not do so out of respect for the youngin's who may not know the origin of that term). I can't say I authored it, but I find it an entertaining read. If you know who wrote it, please let me know so proper credit can be given.

    One last aside: I do enjoy reading A Christmas Carol each December, and even am proud to say I own a book which contains photos of the actual manuscript Dicken's wrote. It is interesting to see his margin notes and edits along the way.

    Has anyone else noticed what a weird story "A Christmas Carol" is?

    We start with Scrooge, who is built up as a man who is only concerned with himself and his money. He runs a successful business, but doing what exactly, we're never told. All we know is that his business only benefits Scrooge, and people give him lots of money for some reason, while no one ever boycotts him or gives their business to a competitor. Apparently Scrooge does something where he can just command people to give him money, and they do.

    Next, he's visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, who has long chains that symbolize Marley's lack of concern for the poor in life. Now that Marley is dead, he helps the poor by hanging out in one of the nicest privately-owned houses in all of England.

    Following this, three ghosts visit Scrooge and show him the error of his wealthy ways. One example he's shown is the house of Bob Cratchit, where we apparently learn that having a large family that you have so much trouble supporting that you can't provide sufficient medical care for your lame son, and having to let him die later on, is a much better way to live.

    Why these ghosts never grace Queen Victoria's presence and make her open up to the castle to the homeless is never explained. Perhaps Scrooge was better off than Queen Victoria, since he was in business where he could simply command people to give him money.

    In the end, Scrooge changes his ways, and is able to financially help out only the Cratchits, his nephew Fred, and a charity or two, while the ghosts with the ability to traverse all of time and space do nothing more to help the poor, and never directly contact the poor themselves.


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    Monday, December 17, 2007

    December 17th

    You meet a lot of folks while blogging. And if you're lucky, you can become pals with some of them. Among the many of pals I am fortunate enough to have made is Alex Charyna, who writes for not just one but two blogs: PA Watercooler and Three Sources (possibly more?). His analysis of issues is always dead-on, and his wit makes every post all the more interesting.

    So today, as you read this, click over bid Mr. C a Happy Birthday ... he deserves it!

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    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Weather or not...

    At least 3 local TV stations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region are off-air (, , and )... their towers were blown down by today's heavy winds mixed with ice. While I don't live in Sc/W-B, it is one of the two closest cities to my home, and the ones with the network affiliates. Even though I get (analog) cable, their signals weren't being received, so their stations were dark today.

    We were supposed to get more snow this evening, followed by freezing rain overnight. Fortunately, there's no more ice in the forecast:

    So by 5AM we'll see how well I do heading to work. Time to put away the lightweight jacket and break out the winter coat.

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    I've had a hard days night...

    ..and I feel as if I was working like a dog.1

    So late yesterday I traded places with my MBH to attend to her sister (SIL) and her plumbing - furnace - whatever problem. It wasn't the furnace at all... last summer SIL had to have a water softener put in because she had a number of leaky pipes in the course of a year. I pegged it as the same kind of problem I had a few years back (here and here). Needless to say, when I offered my experience and advice to call my plumber, SIL called her own. That her plumber cost at least 50% more than my guy, took twice as long and did - in my estimation - a sloppy job with the pipes is fodder for another post.

    Be that as it may - the story went like this... the oil dealer is not licensed to do plumbing; when she described the problem to the same idiots plumbers who robbed her last time said they don't work on heating systems. So SIL called around to find someone willing to come out on a Saturday night (and for the hourly rate, that really wasn't hard to do) and found someone who took her description over the phone and came over (once again, for whatever reason, she didn't call my plumber). The guy replaced a few pipes in the ceiling over the laundry room (adjacent to the furnace room) and was done by midnight. I, of course, was en route already, so I hung out while he worked.

    Yeah, that's my job, I know.

    Of course, since I was getting second-hand descriptions of the problem in the first place, I couldn't tell her original crooks plumbers that it wasn't a heating system, etc. How it was considered to be the furnace is still a mystery, but that's another story all together.

    So I left her home around 12:30, just before she left for work (they paged her) and came home in the middle of the snow/freezing rain. I admit I had fun driving in it, but that's just me.

    Slept in a bit this morning, and then - are you ready? - went back to SIL's house to let her dog out and use her snow blower on her driveway (she was still working since the page last night -- while I applaud her dedication to her trade, there's something wrong with a Rad-Tech being on-call every other weekend and subjected to these kinds of hours). By then, the 4" of snow had a good, thick coating of ice on it, so it took some effort to clear. That the clouds broke up and some sunlight appeared did help with the chore.

    But Charlie.... when did you clean your driveway?

    After I got home, around 4PM, silly. Of course, by that time, naturally, the sun had set and I was back to my ice-breaking.

    SIL is not a bad person, but she lived with her folks all of her life, and is not yet used to doing for herself. She is selfless where her work is concerned, but a bit of stick in the mud when it comes to home care. No talk of her selling and getting a condo can ever be mentioned, and so long as I don't want to deal with debating with MBH, this isn't going to change any time soon.

    All I know is, when the time comes in 30 or more years, I better go first!

    1 Is it me, or do most dogs lead lazy lives? Conundrum, don't you think?

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    Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Leaky pipes

    So today was one of those I'm going shopping, you stay with the kids.  MBH and her sister take these all-day (and some times all-night) shopping binges.   Her sister (hereinafter SIL) lives alone, and so MBH spends a lot of time with her.   With Christmas on the horizon, today's shopping is all for presents, no doubt.

    About 2 hours ago they stopped at SILs house to regroup, and that's when they noticed the water leak.  From the description they gave me, a feeder pipe to the furnace is leaking.

    Not a huge lead, at least according to the first report, but a concern nonetheless.  SIL called her oil company, who told her - now get this - they aren't licenced to work on heating units.   

    HUH?  The only experience I have with oil furnaces was the flat we rented for about 2 years.... 17 years ago.   Every house I've lived in before that had a gas furnace, and this house has a coal stove (with electric baseboard just-in-case).  So I am lost to recommend anything.   SIL called her plumber... he's not licenced either.  WTF?   So he tells her (get this), to turn off the heat and wait for Monday.

    Turn off the heat, in December, with a NorEaster bearing down?   Time to find a new oil company.  

    Then my MBH calls to tell me there's a bulge in the downstairs ceiling.   This is not going to wait.

    A few phone calls later and she has a licenced plumber/heating guy coming over.   

    Here's a catch. There's always a catch, right?

    SIL has to be on-call for her Radiology Tech job, starting at midnight.   So if this guy can't fix things soon (and he's only on his way there now),  I'm going to have to head over there in case she gets paged (and you gotta believe ol' Murphy is just waiting in the wings).

    Oh, and did I mention the Nor'Easter?  Yep, its going to be a long night....

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    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Never mind the Global Warming myth, what about the coming Ice Age?

    This is from The Daily Green - the consumer's guide to the green revolution--

    The record melting of Arctic sea ice observed this summer and fall led to record-low levels of ice in both September and October, but a record-setting pace of re-freezing in November, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Some 58,000 square miles of ice formed per day for 10 days in late October and early November, a new record.

    This piece goes on to describe with comparison photos of sea ice in the last 25 years. Now don't forget, in 1974 - just a few years before this alleged quarter century review of the sea ice was begun, Time magazine reported:

    As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

    Compare that to The Daily Green, again:

    The record melting of Arctic sea ice this summer was widely viewed as a harbinger of global warming, though unusual wind patterns played a role and many factors affecting fluctuations in Arctic ice are poorly understood by scientists.

    At least they acknowledge scientists poorly understand the fluctuations!

    When we look at weather over a generous period of time, and not just in snapshots, we learn the panic of Global Warming is nonsense.

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    For those of you who prefer dogs over cats....

    For those of you who, like me, prefer dogs to cats....

    My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. PREPARE TO DIE! â?? loldog, lol dog, and funny dog pictures
    moar cute puppy pictures


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    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Maybe its a trust thing...

    Another post about my martial arts training... move on if you aren't interested....

    We periodically engage in a stretch that I actively step out of whenever it comes up. Two students of similar height stand back-to-back, arms pointing straight over their heads. Students then grasp each other hands, and then take turns where one student bends forward, at the waist, lifting the other student's feet off the ground. This is supposed to make one's back feel good.

    I took one look at this stretch and announced I'm out! The idea of having my hands restrained (for lack of a better term) and relying on my colleague to lift me off my feet sounds completely untenable, and anything but relaxing.

    I realize I am in a similar position at other times, such as using a bar for chin-ups, but at that point I control my destiny, and can drop to the floor whenever I want. Not so when someone else is holding my hands. And if this guys back were to give out, where does that leave me?

    Conversely, I am willing to lift my colleague in the prescribed manner. Obviously, this causes some discussion whenever this particular stretch is used.

    Maybe I am lacking in trust, or perhaps others are too trusting.

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    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Imus begins week 2

    Don Imus started his second week back, sounding every bit as good as he did last spring. Everyone assumed last week would be on-target, and it was (with the possible exceptions of some technical glitches on Tuesday), but so far his second week has the same caliber of guests as he used to host, and the advertises seem pretty much the same as in early April. Now will the ratings follow?

    Time will tell, but many see his adopting two additional co-hosts, Karith Foster and Tony Powell a big change for the show. As a long-time listener, I do not think the fact they are there is monumental. In the past, Imus had Sid Rosenburg and either Janice Dean (now a Fox News meteorologist) or Tracy Burgess (WFAN Traffic Reporter) as part of the regular cast. So adding Karith and Tony - who are both funny and both bring good conversation to their mics - ought alleviate any one's lame suggestion Imus caved in hiring them.

    I find it funny that MSNBC still lists Imus' Bio on their site and only recently removed the affiliate list from the now defunct Daily Imus. I guess their webmaster is behind the times...

    Surprisingly, Curtis Sliwa - who lost his highly rated morning show in the rehire of Imus - is still making silly comments about his broadcasting from a broom closet of an auxiliary studio. This surprises me, because Curtis made a very professional sign-off on the Friday of his last 5 hour show, and then started Monday morning griping about his studio. No one wants to lose their job, especially when they were doing it so well; but to keep bitching about the studio sounds, to me at least, petty.

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    Birthday Greetings...

    Happy Birthday to Susan Dey.

    Laurie Partridge is 55? How can it be???

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    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Ice Ice baby

    No, this isn't a tribute to Vanilla Ice, that cretin who stole the lick from Bowie and Queen, but to the layers of ice outside my door from the freezing rain all afternoon.

    Should make my 5AM commute all the more fun. Not sure what I'll do; if I get to the main road, I'll be fine. Getting to the main road is the trick: about 6 miles, downhill and windy all the way.

    But I love a good challenge.

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    How not to spend a Sunday

    Last year I described the headaches of using a credit union located some 80-odd miles from where I live. It's a great banking institution overall, just out of the way.

    My Debit card stopped working last week. Well, 10 days ago. Seems I never realized my old one expired 11-07. I found out when I went to debit a transaction. OK, so I paid cash for that transaction, went home and got the new card out of the bill box. I called the toll-free number and activated it.

    So today I stopped at a to grab some cash. I'm told my PIN is wrong. Huh? The PIN is one ingrained in my brain. WTF?

    Much to my chagrin, MBH never - ever - activated her Debit card. So neither of us have ready access to cash. And we're both dry.

    I called the CU, knowing they couldn't do me anything over the phone. Fortunately, they're open Sundays.

    Oh, and we're getting an ice storm to our region starting Sunday morning. Were it not for that, she'd be in the car with me, to get her card activated.

    So how is your Sunday shaping up?

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    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Update on Philadelphia area Boy Scouts

    The Cradle of Liberty Council Boy Scouts of America stuck to their principles, and will evidently face eviction because of them (see my prior post).

    But it isn't over yet.

    NY TIMES: PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 4 — For three years the Philadelphia council of the Boy Scouts of America held its ground. It resisted the city’s request to change its discriminatory policy toward gay people despite threats that if it did not do so, the city would evict the group from a municipal building where the Scouts have resided practically rent free since 1928.

    Hailed as the birthplace of the Boy Scouts, the Beaux Arts building is the seat of the seventh-largest chapter of the organization and the first of the more than 300 council service centers built by the Scouts around the country over the past century.


    On May 31, the City Council voted 16-to-1 to authorize ending the lease, though [City Councilman] Clarke and other Council members continued trying to negotiate a settlement. Those efforts ended this week, Mr. Clarke said, adding that he had shifted his energy toward trying to see if there was a way the city could reimburse the group for improvements it had made to the property over the years.

    Boy Scout officials said they do not have a cost estimate for the improvements, but [officials] said it would exceed $5 million.

    It seems to me that since the City is changing the terms of the original 100 year lease, signed in 1928, there's another 20 years left to work out. $5M/20 years is $250,000/year .... $50,000 more than what the City has determined the fair market value of their property. I am certain the Boy Scouts will be willing to work out a payment plan that sits well with the City, and perhaps surrender the building - according to the lease - in 2028.

    And I believe it is certain the Boy Scouts will certainly find suitable accommodations elsewhere in the region with that kind of return on their investment -- not to mention any negotiated interest accrued! (Remember: A Scout is Thrifty!)

    Or the City could just honor their original lease.

    This is the kind of issue Mayor-elect Nutter will have to resolve when he is sworn into office next month.

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    Recession? What recession?

    The good economic news just keeps pouring in. GDP grew at a great 4.9% rate in the third quarter. Worker productivity is up. Unemployment remains low. Just where is this recession the left keeps claiming is at hand?

    In other economic news, the Labor Department reported that worker productivity roared ahead at an annual rate of 6.3 percent this summer while wage pressures dropped sharply.

    Meanwhile, a private sector report on labor market strength projected that business payrolls increased by 189,000 in November. That gain in the ADP report was well above the expectation for a modest gain of 50,000 jobs and caused economists to boost their forecasts for job growth in the government's employment report which will be released Friday.

    Ian Shepherson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said he now looked for the Labor Department to show a gain of 125,000 payroll jobs in November rather than the 50,000 gain he was forecasting before Wednesday's report.
    Talking down the economy is standard operating procedure for the Democrats when a Republican is in office. Fortunately for America they have a much harder job to do this time around.

    Looks like Democrats are going to have to find another way to scare people into voting for them!

    Hat tip to The Reality Hammer, one of my oldest blogging pals...

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    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Christmas Meme

    Well. what do you know? I've been tagged in another meme! And yet I almost missed it! Diane at A Stellarlife has tagged me, so I am bound to play. But I am so behind in my reading, I would have missed it if not for the Blogger web comments icon in FireFox. I honestly never clicked it before today! It may be a plug in.... I don't know.

    Regardless... I am obliged:

    1. Do you put up a real tree or artificial? We have, in the past, done both! Artificial inside the house, and a natural on the deck. This year we'll have one indoors (coal-stove heat is not the best environment for a real tree)

    2. When do you put up your tree? The weekend before Christmas. This year, we're shooting for the 15th.

    3. When do you take down the tree? Gotta wait for them wise men to get there! Little Christmas, or Jan 6.

    4. Do you like eggnog? There's always enough Bourbon/Whiskey about to make it tasty!

    5. Favorite gift received as a child? Mattel's Electronic Football II (still have it)

    6. Worst Christmas gift ever received? Could there be such a thing?

    7. Favorite Christmas movie? I've come to love Bill Murray's Scrooged. Dicken's Christmas Carol is always a favorite, in whatever interpretation (including Mr. Magoo's)

    8. Have you ever recycled a present? Not in recent memory, but I did give away a bottle of Brandy (back before my tastes were more mature) to my father.

    9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Riccotta pie.

    10. Favorite Christmas song? As mentioned in this blog, I am very partial to Old City Bar and Christmas in Sarejvo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Manheim Steamroller's version of Silent Night is a classic song favorite.

    11. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Time can't stand still

    12. What you love most about the holiday? The intended sharing of joy with friends and loved one; it doesn't always happen that way, tho....

    13. How many reindeer did Santa have? 214,200. Hey, don't argue with me, SPY Magazine ran the numbers.

    14. Best Christmas memory? The Christmas Eve when MBH accepted a wild proposal.

    15. If you could have one Christmas wish what would it be? That we all could just get along. Yeah, I copied Diane's answer, but it does work well.

    Self-tagging any who read this!

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    Festival of Lights

    On the beginning of the Festival of Lights, I bid my friends well.


    Something new for those who have installed MS Silverlight:

    h/t to Synergist via K.C. Lemson

    And what would a holiday be without some Global Warming absurdity?

    Jerusalem Post: In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

    The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.

    "The campaign calls for Jews around the world to save the last candle and save the planet, so we won't need another miracle," said Liad Ortar, the campaign's cofounder, who runs the Arkada environmental consulting firm and the Ynet Web site's environmental forum. "Global warming is a milestone in human evolution that requires us to rethink how we live our lives, and one of the main paradigms of that is religion and how it fits into the current situation."

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    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Monday Quick Hits

    The freezing rain overnight made the early morning a nuisance.... that it is Monday only compounds the headache. Then, the alarm keypad at the office failed, causing the alarm company to be alerted of an alleged break-in. I haven't been arrested yet but the day's not over, either...

    On the upside:

    • Don Imus made his return to radio and RFD-TV: today's guests include Sens. John McCain and Chris Dodd, Mary Matlin & James Carville, presidential historian Dr. Doris Kearnes-Goodwin, and the great Levon Helms Band. With all due respect to Curtis Sliwa and company: he has never delivered a guest list like that! Many of Imus' loyal sponsors have returned.... it's only a matter time to see if the ratings follow (and I predict they will), and the entire horrible incident will be in the past.
    • Philadelphia Boy Scouts hold their ground: The Washington Post reports the Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia will not concede to the City's demands. This will wind up in court, no doubt, unless Mayor-elect Michael Nutter challenges the order of the City Solicitor... time will tell.

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    Sunday, December 02, 2007

    Sunday Snow

    Just spent some time taking care of the driveway and cars.    Less than 4" of powder.... I imagine its a great base to ski in but its lousy for snowball, snowmen making.  Still, the kids have fun.

    Will get some pics later...

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    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    Saturday Night Thoughts

    A rambling, somewhat coherent post ....

    Me and the kid: Tonight was an unusual one; MBH, 12 year old son left me and our 4 year old boy home alone. (cue annoying Home Alone sound effect)

    For the second year running, they and her sister attended a performance of Ronan Tynan; if you are unfamiliar with the man's vocal range or his life story, you owe it to yourself to click the link above and educate yourself. While I cannot state I've lived the life of adversity that has, his triumphs serve as a lesson to me whenever I get into a selfish funk about myself. Several of his tunes are on my Blackjack (bet you thought I still had no clue about that phone!), and they are inspiring in their own right.

    Update: Ronan Tynan sings at President Reagan's funeral on YouTube

    So me and the little guy hung out tonight which was his big treat. That I am often out many evenings with his brother made tonight a big deal for him, and me, too. We played some games, ate dinner, hit some kid-friendly websites and off to bed he went (yes, I know there are many people, including some readers, who abhor sites such as , but it was his night).

    The older son is so accustomed to me going places with him I've told him the time is coming near where I will be taking his younger brother places, sometimes at the expense of him going places alone. He says he's OK with it, but I predict a conflict the first time it happens.

    Celebrate Repeal Day
    A Toast to Freedom: If you are looking for a way to break up the monotony of next week, don't forget to circle Wednesday as the anniversary of Repeal Day. The anniversary of the end prohibition isn't taught in history class, nor is it on many Hallmark calendars, but it is noteworthy (as if you need a better reason for a drink?).

    John at Appreciating All Things Considered has invited all of us to a party Wednesday (via comments) but his blog doesn't really specify where he is, and I am not that likely to go out of town just for a drink, so I'll raise a toast to him on my own. Check your local watering hole, you may find some drink specials this week (or you can be the one to suggest them!).

    Remembering the ongoing human tragedy: I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to remember today is (er, yesterday was) . I doubt there are many who can honestly state they do not know a person who has HIV or is a loved one of one who does. And yet as I much want to eradicate this vicious virus and rid the world of this epidemic and its bane, I can't help but to see how politics have polluted the fight.

    For years we - the USA - we've poured billions into funding programs and NGOs abroad, which have little to show for it. Yet we cannot ever discuss reining in or re appropriating those monies to other areas.

    People gnash their teeth and wring their hands that fetal stem-cell research isn't getting more money, despite no cures have ever been found with the existing funding. There are complaints that the US (and in particular, President Bush) doesn't budget enough for AIDS research, and yet cancer and heart disease kills perhaps 10 times as many people annually, but those diseases get less funding here in the US. While we all know at least one person touched by AIDS, how many do we know who have been touched by cancer or heart disease?

    The United Nations, that bastion of world good (cough-cough - remember, I used to work for them), has recently admitted it had overestimated the number of worldwide AIDS cases (by the millions), yet there was little outcry; why are they free from worldwide blame for such a huge error, but the US is always blamed for (allegedly) being cheap? And what has the UN done with the monies in their charge that were purportedly helping the millions of people who (by their own admission) didn't exist? Why hasn't the care of those truly infected been proportionately better with the additional funds? No one asks these questions; no, that wouldn't fit the template of being caring.


    Why does the funding for AIDS research keep going up, but the number of new cases does not level off or decrease?

    Why is Washington, D.C. the home for a modern epidemic of AIDS ?

    I'm not for banishing those with HIV. I am not one of those few radicals who scream let them die. But I do find it odd we treat other infectious and deadly diseases differently from how we treat AIDS.

    We treat tuberculosis - a disease that is (or was) largely eradicated from our environment - a lot differently than we do AIDS. We seem to make it the responsibility of people who want to avoid AIDS to take specific steps (condoms, for example) but do little to admonish those who have it and spread it. Compare how we treat AIDS to how the man who had mistakenly (?) boarded a plane with TB earlier this year. And since there are scores of TB viri that are largely immune to our normal battery of antibiotics, this disease can be bit as fatal as AIDS.

    There has to be a middle ground (at least) between how we treat AIDS today and how we treat other communicable diseases (and lets not forget how this subject ties in nicely with border enforcement).

    Well there I go: I mixed politics (border enforcement) with AIDS. Guess I can't be as critical as I was when I started this post (but that was over an hour and 2 glasses of bourbon ago).

    Of course: we all want a cure for AIDS. We all want the best care for all who have it. But maybe we can ask how our monies are being (mis)spent and offer some consideration for ways on how it can be spent better.

    Well, that may have pissed some people off....

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    Philadelphia Boy Scouts at their deadline

    Still no reprieve for the Philadelphia-based Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

    Read my take of their pending eviction here and here. Latest news as of yesterday is here. Two key components not mentioned specially in my earlier posts:

    The Cradle of Liberty Council has pointed out that they have an agreement with Philadelphia adopted in January 2004 which stipulates, As the most diverse youth serving organization in our service area, we are committed to this mission and we oppose any form of unlawful discrimination. The local chapter does not ... take an interest in whether a scout or a troop leader is gay, but it would object to a member using the organization as a platform for advocacy of gay rights or any political agenda.

    [W]hile the Boy Scouts have not paid over a dollar per year in rent for the use of the city's building, they do pay roughly $60,000 a year for its maintenance and undertook a $2.6 million renovation in 1994.
    Clearly, as the Boy Scouts have a binding in perpetuity lease, they have the legal standing. However, their legal budget in no way matches the heft of the Philadelphia Solicitor's. The can and should take the city to court, but who knows how long the city can waste their monies before the verdict is handed down?

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    Friday, November 30, 2007

    So there is an advantage to junk food!

    Conversation with 5 year old son:

    Me: Wow, you are getting to be a big boy! Must be all that good food Mommy gives you!
    He: Can you ask Mommy to give me junk food tomorrow?
    Me: Er.... why?
    He: Because I don't want to be a big boy! I want to stay a little boy and play all day!
    Yeah, it's sappy. But I did post it, didn't I??

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    The beat(ing) goes on...

    This is one of those posts that have been stuck in drafts folder for a few weeks now...

    I have purposely avoided writing much about my karate training. Things are good, overall, but as I advance it is no surprise the training gets harder and harder. One could only hope for such an instructor as I have, but - predictably - there are days when I wish I wasn't as lucky.

    If all goes well, I could be testing for my Tae Kwon Do Black Belt in the Spring of '09. I realize that sounds far away, but it isn't. Considering the best length of time for a new student to start the program and attain a Black Belt is just over 3 years, and that I've been in training since July '03, I've certainly taken long enough.

    In the early days, I never expected to attain more than a Green Belt (7th Gup - students begin as a White Belt as a 10th Gup and work their way to 1st Gup and then a Black Belt; see chart), so I puttered along. Once I reached that mark in mid 2004, I figured I'd wait an appropriate period of time and then drop out; I didn't want to do so right after being awarded the belt, because I figured it looked obvious that I suddenly upped and quit. I was working out along side of my then 9 year old son (figuratively, as I was in the adult class), and he and I were promoting together, so I didn't want to appear to him as a quitter.

    Late in 2004, he started only going through the motions. He'd go to class, but his heart wasn't in it. A big part of Tae Kwon Do is the Poomse (forms), which are routines of blocks, kicks and punches. Ideally, one is supposed to show strength and determination when performing the Poomse. If you're practicing, you typically don't show that much emphasis, but in class you need to show you're serious. He wasn't; he moves showed no strength, but rather that he was doing it just because he was told to do it.

    We talked at home about him continuing, and ended up having him sit out a few months. He returned full of vigor, and proceeded on. In late '06 he stepped out between November and January, for the very same reason.

    Through his breaks, I continued, figuring the law of inertia would set in on my old bones, causing me to not to return when he did. I also figured that if I quit, he wouldn't return to the program. Much to the displeasure of my instructor, I told him I wanted to concentrate on the exercise and not so much in promotions, in part because I wanted to wait for my son to catch up. I said in part because I seriously didn't see myself ever reaching a Black Belt. The instructor allowed me to continue - he is a good man, and a great teacher, and while I am sure he had my best interest in heart, he wasn't going to chase away a student who was only there for the work-out alone but who always paid on time!

    Well, about a year ago - in fact during my son's last sabbatical - I realized I was starting to get the hang of the program. So I started to pursue the promotions and work my way up in ranking. I realized how well I was doing when I went for a promotion while he was out, in a way of encouraging him to return to class. Maybe he thought I'd always wait for him? As soon as I earned that next belt, he was all eager to return! However, when he did start again, he was 2 levels below me.

    At present, I am a 2nd Gup - a Red Belt with a single black stripe. The next level will give me a second black stripe, and after a minimum of 6 months training after that level comes the test for 1st Dan - the coveted Black Belt. The tests for Black Belt are held only annually, so that means early '09.

    As my son is a full belt below me (he is a Blue Belt, a 5th Gup), the earliest he can test for his Black Belt will be spring 2010. He is now 12 and is at least as eager as he's ever been; his strength and confidence have grown, and I am very fortunate that he has never lacked the respect for his parents that so many kids seem to do. He can test for his advanced Blue Belt as early as mid-December.

    It has been said that about 1 out of 100 students who begin TKD training (in earnest) earn their Black Belt (and that 1 out of 1000 earn their 2nd Dan). As much as I relish accomplishing the goal of earning the Black Belt, some days have seemingly become too long to make reaching the goal worthy, even if doing so means I would be 1 out of 100.

    Obviously, I can account for a lot this funk on the fact that my work day has gotten become increasingly more robust over the last year, what with the new position and such. There are several students in the adult class that are at or above my level: 3 are my contemporaries, 4 are kids - none over 18. All of them have become at least as good better fighters than I have; that most of them are younger than I am by more than half my age also plays heavily into the equation: not only are they good fighters, they are faster and can recover quicker than I can ever hope to do. I suppose the kids also view the bragging rights of achieving their Black Belts; few people even know I train, and somehow I don't think wearing a Black Belt as I walk down the street would attract any kind of positive attention.

    And maybe, deep down, I don't regard the Belt with the same majesty as they do. Sure, it would be great to have, but is it worth aches and pains? Yes, yes, I know: no pain, no gain. Here's one for you: who cares? I mean, this has no impact on my career at all - it won't bring me any money. There's no prospect of formal competition in my future (informally, I must attend two tournaments, before I test for Black Belt but that's a two shot deal, at best). To become an instructor, I would have to earn a 4th Dan -- and assuming I picked up the pace in my training, it would require a minimum of 8 additional years to reach that esteemed rank - I wouldn't bet on that happening if I were you.

    So again the question that begs to be asked: why am I doing this? If fun and exercise is all that matters, then I can go back into cruise control and skip the promotion track; it may not hurt a whole lot less, but it certainly shouldn't hurt any more.

    But still, there's that shadow of quitting in front of my son. Sure, if I were seriously injured, or if I had to do the kind of business travel I used to do, it would be easy to write it off. But those are not the case.

    I suppose I am trapped with the parental responsibility of not setting a bad example in front of him.

    Of course, there's his 5 year old brother, who wants to start karate, too! He's got to wait at least another year before our instructor will consider him (and even so, there's other things to contend with, too), so that means if I survive and manage to pass my Black Belt test, they'll be a new a new White Belt in the family at the same time.

    My bones ache just typing those words....

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    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Can't balance your check book? Must be global warming

    From American Thinker Blog:

    Dr. John Brignell, a British engineering professor, runs a website called numberwatch. He has compiled what has to be the most complete collection of links to media stories ascribing the cause of everything under the sun to global warming. He has already posted more than six-hundred links.

    More evidence that global warming is more hot air than reality.

    After reading the pages of items blamed on global warming, an old song by Joe Jackson came to mind:

    Don't touch that dial
    Don't try to smile
    Just take this pill
    It's in your file
    Don't work hard
    Don't play hard
    Don't plan for the graveyard

    Remember -
    Everything - Everything gives you cancer
    Everything - Everything gives you cancer
    There's no cure, there's no answer

    Everything gives you cancer

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    Wake Up With Whoopi put ratings to sleep


    Though "Wake Up With Whoopi" continues in syndication through Premiere, which tells Radio-Info "we're disappointed with WKTU's decision, but we look forward to continuing our production and distribution" of the show. Clear Channel launched the actress and comedian into morning syndication in late July 2006, and her site lists nine affiliates. The New York drop at WKTU (103.5) comes after the show lost Clear Channel-owned affiliates in Chicago and Philadelphia.

    Can't say I am surprised. As I've said before: to be successful in commercial radio, you need talent and something people are willing to pay for (via sponsors) in order to hear.

    Now, if you have a bag a cash from frantic supporters, it doesn't matter how poor your overall content is, or whether you having any ratings or not (e.g:AirAmerica Radio).

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Homestretch for Curtis Sliwa's morning show

    A few short days until the return of J. D. Imus to the radio; for Imus' fans, the wait has been long enough.

    For many in the greater NYC area, it's the end of Curtis Sliwa's reign in morning radio (similarly, other morning hosts in the various Citadel markets are also being displaced). While I have a lot of respect for Curtis (and his now-former partner, Ron Kuby), their show never gained my appreciation. Even though I was born and bred in NYC, I craved a more nationwide appeal than the typical local fare they offered. Still, their jobs being lost because of Imus' return is most unfortunate. Today's NY DAILY NEWS details how the show was once again ranked #3 in the NY Market - AM and FM. Citadel is banking on Imus' nationwide draw to make these changes profitable; I predict they will win that bet easily.

    No specific word has yet been said about Curtis' next gig. It had been rumored he would be teamed up with the midday host (John Gambling), but that slot lasts only 2:45 -- a far cry from his present 5 hour show.

    As recently as Sunday, I heard an on-air ad for the John Gambling show, featuring news guy George Weber. No mention at all of Sliwa; certainly. George Weber must feel completely lost; with Charles McCord coming on board with Imus, there's nothing for him in the morning anymore. And with the rest of the syndicated hosts throughout the day/evening, there's nothing left for him. Strangely, Weber's own site has been silent on his future.

    Warner Wolf's fate is still unknown, but he's in the best position to join Imus' team. Wolf had been a regular on Imus in years past, but left radio to take a TV gig (which, unfortunately for him, was short-lived). So he may have been offered to join Imus' team once again.

    Even as I reside in a rural community, my local cable doesn't carry RFD-TV, which will be simulcasting Imus; wouldn't it be ironic that RFD pull the same (if not greater) ratings than MSNBC did, or even does today??

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