Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I'd like to say that we hope for the best for everyone down in New Orleans and the gulf coast. I made a donation and I encourage everyone else to do the same - there are lots of good charities, especially the Salvation Army, which has very low overhead and a good track record of helping those that need help the most (bonus - liberals dislike them because of their actual Christian message of helping the spirit).
Here is a photo of one of the above-ground graveyards near the Garden district, one of the many sites that makes New Orleans a unique part of our heritage.
However, a theme we constantly come back to in this blog, that the average citizen needs to be able to defend themself, comes up in all of the horrible articles about the looting and lawlessness such as this one here. The bad guys are already armed, and now they are boldly taking over the city and terrorizing the remaining citizens. Police are being taken off search and rescue missions and the National Guard is being called out to enforce order.
Another theme is that if disaster preparedness covered the average person instead of awaiting specialists - the "first responders", that is, our country would overall be in a better state when these types of extremely unfortunate events occur, such as in this post.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I never thought I would see the day that I was in a restaurant and the word mousse would be misspelled "mouse". That day arrived last Saturday night here in Madison. The photo above is the actual dessert menu from a restaurant my wife and I dined at. I can see at least two other grammatical errors in the menu - can you?
UPDATE: Make that three other errors.
Monday, August 29, 2005
The Bean (Cloudgate is the official name) in Millenium Park is back on display. They had it covered up for a while to get the "seams" out of the exterior. I went over there on opening day (Sunday) to check it out. This is a view from the East as you walk towards the Bean.
You can walk right underneath the Bean and snap a photo - in fact, it was the only place out of the sun.
Finally, here is a look at the midpoint of the Bean from underneath - you can see where they are still working on the seams...
The common thread was the feeling of superiority all of the media types still feel about the common man. We are the MEDIA, you are not. I couldn't even count the number of times a reporter would come on and lash into folks for not moving out of the way of the hurricane. There were kids surfing and reporters calling them names, criticizing them for supposedly taking up valuable police resources while the officers could be doing something better.
Hey reporters - stick it. These are grown adults that can make their own decisions. If they want to stay, they can stay. If they want to leave, that is tough shit anyway since the evacuation orders were given so late by the agencies that traffic was locked for miles around. The nerve of these people to just criticize and call people names who are doing what they think is best for themselves and their property.
And in the end, it is the MEDIA's fault for sensationalizing all of the hurricanes for the past few years that didn't do squat! Not only the hurricane coverage is sensationalized, but other stories as well.
Of course people won't leave - what the media reported in the past as a massive nasty storm doesn't materialize into much of anything except a few big thunderstorms. The public that consumes mass media has been conditioned not to believe it. I find that very interesting.
I found this video on the web today. One of the most annoying personalities of all on Fox, Shepard Smith, asks a guy what he is doing. The guy replies that he is walking his dogs. Then Shep prods him more and gets a taste of that Big Easy mentality. It really is none of his fucking business. And by the way, shouldn't Shep and all of the rest of the reporters get the heck out of there? Isn't it dangerous not to heed the warnings of the various agencies?
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Of course the poor and others who just don't want to leave are going to be there when it happens.
The first thing I thought was - hope they have a gun. Because that will be the single most important thing to have when everyone comes out. Lets just say it is total devastation. There will be no power, which means no refrigeration, no water, raw sewage flowing, nasty chemicals all over the place and trees down everywhere. Those who make it and are prepared with food will need to protect themselves. The National Guard can't be everywhere. The people there will have to take their defense into their own hands.
The same thing could be said if a large city was dirty-nuked. The mayhem the bomb causes will kill far more people than the actual bomb or the radiation itself. Everyone should own a firearm and know how to use it well. Just in case.
The subject got around to my schedule for the week. I told her that I was going to Cincinnati on business for a few days. She asked me where I was staying and I told her that I was staying at the house of the owner of the business that I am visiting. My wife gave me a rumpled forehead and said "really?"
Before I get into the meat of the conversation, some background.
I have known this business owner for 15 years. He is a good friend, but not a close or inner-circle guy. I have never worked in a corporate environment and am not up on standard protocol for them.
When plans were finalized for me to visit Cincy, the business owner offered to put me up for the night at his house. I immediately accepted. My wife says that it isn't really supposed to quite work that way. She says that I was supposed to politely decline. Then he will insist, THEN I can accept. To her, the invitation to stay at his house was simply a gesture of good faith, not intended to be taken literally, but to be felt out. If I decline and he doesn't insist, that means that he really didn't want me to stay there. If I decline and then he insists that I stay there then that shows he really did want me over at his house. So to summarize, the wife says that it works thusly:
1) He Invites
2) I Refuse
3) He Insists
4) I Accept
I just thought he was being nice and thought I could save myself a few hundred bucks along the way. My other thought was that maybe he has some stuff he wants to talk to me about.
As it stands, I am staying at his house, but for future occurrences it would help me if I would know what the standard protocol is supposed to be.
So, tell me in the comments - am I a buffoon?
"Compare and contrast - the US in WW2 vs. the US War on Terror. At the height of the American Effort during the second world war, in 1944, the US was spending 38.5% of its GDP on defense, and had almost 12 million under arms (almost 10 percent of the total population)...
At present the US is spending 3.6% of GDP on defense... and has 2.7 million men and women in uniform... the present day figure that would correspnd to the percentage of our population mobilized 60 years ago would be about 30 million"
Our current military is a volunteer force, and the WW2 force included conscription. But there was an immense effort on the home front, with rationing that was generally adhered by all and price / wage controls, as well.
It is difficult to imagine what the equivalent type of mobilization for war would be if we put that effort into it today - entire companies / industries would be outfitted for war, and pretty much everyone would either be trained for the military or some sort of civil defense duties.
A corallary to this is that HUGE resources are now devoted to domestic policing and prisons, far in excess of prior times. From that same issue of Strategy & Tactics:
"The annual budget of the NYPD averages roughly $3.3 billion. Only 19 standing armies around the world have bigger budgets than that."
The general issue is that if we are to really be prepared for the war on terror we need to do a better job of integrating our security forces around the US, whether they are local or state police, the FBI, or even private security forces. The total forces (if these are all included) is in the millions... and these would be the people on the front lines (terrorists generally would try to avoid US military forces on US soil and go for civilians, the opposite of our current situation in Iraq).
As war moves from the traditional model of clashes between national states like WW2 or even Korea and the First Iraq war into the civil war / guerrila warfare world of today, the paramilitary forces and police will play a bigger and bigger role.
I am still struck by how small a percentage of our population is mobilized compared to 1944, however. We really haven't put our nations' full energies into this task.
- Complexity - the code is very complex, with effectively 2 Federal schemes for individuals (regular and the Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT) plus state taxes, estate taxes, property taxes, and often local taxes (New York City or Philadelphia).
- Progressiveness - as people make more money, the % of income that gets taxed gets higher and higher. Remember "Taxman" by the Beatles - 1 for you 19 for me (that was the Taxman talking, because the marginal tax rate for England at the time was a whopping 95% once you hit certain income levels)
- Key Deductions - deductions are meant to reward certain types of behavior - for example the deductions / exemptions for dependents helps families with lots of kids, the mortgage interest deduction helps people who buy houses, the charitable gift deduction helps people who give to churches, and then there are myriad other deductions that are supposed to encourage / discourage other behaviors
- Types of Income Covered - whether or not to tax capital gains, such as stocks held for a certain period of time, or businesses owned in the family then sold, or interest income on savings accounts, or dividend income received from corporations that was already taxed at that level, this is actually a key element of the tax debate, but it is more subtle
What is happening now is that George Bush has been pushing reforms that have made the Federal tax on individuals less onerous. Key items:
- Reducing the capital gains tax - if you hold property a long time the capital gains tax is far lower than ordinary income, encouraging people to make investments and then to sell and re-invest the proceeds (rather than holding them forever to avoid the tax bite)
- Reducing the tax on dividends received - dividend income was already taxed by the company, so now it is taxed at a lower rate when it gets to you
- Phasing out the estate tax - the estate tax exemption is being raised, so that less and less estates should be impacted by it
- Other cuts here and there
In general, however, most of these items above are being offset by the rise of the AMT. The AMT doesn't give you a deduction for state and local taxes, and these taxes are huge, especially in older industrial states like New York. More and more people are finding that they do all of their work on the code and then they get swept into the AMT, where their deductions don't count, and they pay more (the way it works is that you EITHER pay the standard liability or the AMT liability, but if you owe more under AMT that is your new payment level).
Here is a decent article about the flat tax from the Chicago Tribune - you need to register to see it.
The AMT is kind of a pathetic form of a "flat tax". The flat tax has been gaining popularity in Europe. Here is a link to Steve Forbes' article in Forbes magazine where he defends the Flat Tax - he has been a consistent and smart backer of the flat tax.A true flat tax dramatically simplifies the tax code, with the "postcard" being the goal of these plans. A friend of mine who is a tax expert said that we still would have to figure out what to include in revenue, however, and that makes things complex, especially for businesses. Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor about how are tax policies are becoming less progressive and "flatter".
In reality, of course, the tax code just keeps getting more complex. We keep making the "base" code more difficult, while trapping more people in the AMT. This is very counter productive and a big waste of time.
The reality is that ultimately the AMT WILL become our tax code. Right now our legislators can't find enough offsetting cuts to kill off the AMT without raising taxes elsewhere. And every year the AMT picks up more people because 1) its brackets are not indexed for inflation 2) state and local taxes keep going up, and this deduction doesn't count for the AMT.
I don't know if this is good or bad. It reflects how weak our legislators are, because they don't have the muscle to fix our current code, and a change to a consumption based tax (i.e. a really big sales tax, like 20%) or a European style "Value Added Tax" seems totally unlikely to occur. It doesn't seem likely that we can keep making cuts in the base code that are effectively undone by being irrelevant to your AMT liability indefinitely.
From a political landscape perspective, the AMT hits the high tax (i.e. Democratic) states hard. Thus the Republicans aren't really all that up in arms about fixing it. Since the Democrats will compromise on nothing (look at how obstructionist that they are being on social security reform and the new, middle of the road supreme court justice selection), the Republicans aren't about to offer them a fig leaf with AMT reform. This will definitely push harder on the exodus of people out of the high tax states (i.e. East and West coasts) and into Republican friendly states like Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, etc...
My personal 2 cents is that we should move towards a flat tax and dramatically reduce the complexity of our tax code, which is just a waste of time for everyone and endless work for lawyers and accountants without really accomplishing anything. The endless expansion of the AMT will make it the de-facto tax code of the future, and it is a bit flatter and a lot simpler (by itself) than the current code. I guess that is good enough given our legislative gridlock, we can't expect anything better.
If you REALLY want to change the world, eliminate tax withholding. This idea changed the world because it made businesses responsible for collecting taxes on their employees. Imagine if you had to write your own tax check every month - there would be riots as people realized how much was being taken away from them! Withholding was instituted during WW2 in 1943 - and this, more than anything else, led to the giant growth of our Federal government.
Eliminating tax withholding and making redistricting of house seats would be the 2 biggest items to shake up our political system (in a positive way).
Short of these positive changes, we are stuck with the gradual growth of the AMT instead of the traditional code and direct political referendums such as are being used in California to circumvent our gridlocked and gerrymandered districts.
After about a one hour drive from Madison, I arrived in Milwaukee at the terminal. Here is a shot of the cars lining up getting ready for departure. You can see the Dan-mobile at the far right. As an interesting aside, the car was not searched at any time, nor was I patted down or made to go through a metal detector or anything else. Their system for checking you through to this lot is somewhat backward. You pull up to a gate and a person checked your photo-ID. Then they check their system and print your tickets for yourself and your car. Why you can't just print your boarding passes from the internet is beyond me. I paid for the tickets online, why not the boarding passes, too? Even the most inefficient method of travel of all, the airlines, allow you to print boarding passes from home.
On the left you can see the terminal in Milwaukee. This is a shot taken by me from on top of the boat, where those people are standing on top in the photo on the right. They wait until the cars are loaded before they load the passengers without cars, as you can see from the line of people waiting to board. The trips to Muskegon and back to Milwaukee were both sold out. They did in fact turn some people away so be aware that you should buy tickets in advance if you are interested in taking this ride. The terminal in Milwaukee was nice. They had a little coffee and sandwich shop there along with nice chairs and tables for people to wait in. In Muskegon, all they had was some benches and a couple of Coke machines. Don't ask me why the terminals didn't "match". There were some other differences as well. In Milwaukee when I boarded as I mentioned before there was no security check, no pat down, no nothing. In Muskegon they used a mirror to search the underside of my SUV and asked me if I had any large pocket knives (I did but lied), firearms (I didn't have any) and any firewood - yes, firewood. There is some ordinance that you can't bring a certain bug into Wisconsin that lives in firewood piles. Again, they never checked the car so why do they even ask?
In Muskegon while waiting in line with my vehicle I was presented with this list of rules to read. Funny, I wasn't presented with this list on the Milwaukee side. Go figure.
I am pretty sure that this boat does not have a rudder. It is a catamaran or dual hulled design. On each side are two 3,000 horsepower diesel engines, for a total of 12,000 hp. I assumed that the boat didn't have a rudder from how we got away from the dock. Note in the photos that the water is flowing away from the boat at an angle. This means to me that the engines can rotate and that they steer the boat in this fashion. My suspicion was proven correct later as I peeked over the boat and actually saw the engines moving around down there.
After a short "taxi" we got under full throttle. You can imagine the real size of the wakes from looking at the size of the man in relation to it.
The ride from Milwaukee to Muskegon was a rough one. Very rough. At times when you looked out the windows in the main cabin you could see all sky or all water - that is how much it was rocking. They didn't slow it down at all, though. They did make everyone get off of the upper observation deck. Meanwhile, I estimate that approximately one out of three people on board were vomiting. Little kids were falling down, grown men and women wiped out, and even babies were ralphing. The crew was actually walking around with rolls of paper towels cleaning up messes the whole time. A very ugly scene, like nothing I have ever experienced . Take a look at this photo:
I felt really bad for the woman hurling in the sickness bag. They had lots of these bags spread out in the cabin when I boarded but I never thought they would all be used. The woman's kids were both puking, then she got sick too.
After about two long hours of this tossing, we finally slowed down to find Muskegon. I never get seasick or airsick, but I was definitely ready to get off. Muskegon is neat coming in, though. After you clear the breakwater you enter a channel approximately a mile long that empties you into a large lake. From there you get to the dock and get off the boat. Here are a few photos of Muskegon as seen from the observation deck of the boat. Note the WW2 submarine - didn't have time to check it out while there - damn!
You can see the dual hull design of the boat from that last photo.
The trip back from Muskegon to Milwaukee was much less eventful. It was smooth as silk on the lake and felt more comfortable than most jet rides. I didn't see even one person getting sick or stumbling and falling.
So the question everyone asks is was it worth it? I think so. After waiting in lines and embarking I only saved about 1.5 hours using the ferry vs. driving from Madison to Muskegon. However, that is with one big qualifier - if I zip through Chicago. If traffic is locked in the big city, the time savings would be greater. The cost was $210 for the round trip for me and the vehicle, comparable to a plane ticket. But if you figure the gas it would have cost me to drive it is almost a wash when you figure in the saved time. I also love the novelty. I would highly recommend everyone do it at least once IF YOU DON'T HAVE MOTION SICKNESS PROBLEMS.
**Don't ask me why, but in that last photoset you can't click two of the four photos to get a larger version. I dinked with it for a while but eventually just gave up. Blogger still has a few things to work out.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
You sniveling little twit. I just love the way you liberal moonbats bitch about “censorship” and “shutting down debate” whenever someone counters your agitprop with facts and opinions of their own. Hate to burst your bubble sweetpea, but the 1st Amendment is not exclusive to the leftist fringe. And as for your views of the war on terrorism: We all know how difficult it is for you socialist “activists” with your post-election trauma and the weekly trips to your therapist, but the rest of America is getting sick and tired of your pissing, moaning, and imbecilic regurgitations ie: “Bush Lied”.
If you removed your head from your ass and stopped fawning over bin Laden and repulsive simps like Michael Moore, you might get that clue you so desperately need. Hell, if all we wanted was “oil” we could have bombed the Middle East back to the Stone Age, which would only set them back about 2 weeks, and simply TAKEN every single oil well in the region. Meanwhile, we’re paying about 3 bucks a pop at
You’ve conveniently forgotten about the 3000 Americans who were slaughtered on September 11th 2001. That was a Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century, and all you can do is spew Norman Mailer quotes.
Included in the war on terror equation is Afghanistan, the success of which is virtually ignored by the leftist media. We kicked the crap out of the Taliban. That success is reflected in the fact that bin Laden and whatever little band of thugs he still has, are scurrying like cockroaches back and forth across the mountainous region between Pakistan and Afghanistan hiding in caves to avoid detection.
As for Iraq:
Saddam Hussein filled hundreds of mass graves with men, women and children, and slaughtered 5000 Kurds with “non-existent” chemical weapons. He thumbed his nose at the pusillanimous UN for 12 years, while he continued to research, develop, and hide the evidence of his WMD program. In addition, Iraqi intelligence met with al Qadea operatives and he provided them with training camps in Northern Iraq. “About the oil”, my ass.
Let me give you first hand experience as to how the war is going: We are kicking the shit out of the terrorists to the extent that they are getting desperate, and it shows. The Iraqis are starting to wake up and realize that the future of their country depends on how much they assist in their own reconstruction and protection. We are getting an increasing number of people who walk up to American troops and literally take them to weapons caches and terrorist hiding places. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note the numerous press reports of captures/kills of high ranking Zarqawi Lieutenants. The Afghan and Iraqi people are constructing fledgling democracies, can vote, run for office, and speak freely for the first time in their existence. Nothing threatens Islamofascists more than a democracy.
Oh, and this little gem of yours is a real side-splitter: “It is sick how you warmonger chickenhawks keep sending our children to die. As Norman Mailer pointed out, Americanism as an ideology can be seen in the light of the apparent fabrications which lead to the police state which has come to pass.” I’m no “chickenhawk”, toots. I’ve served in 2 wars and a so-called “peace keeping mission”; Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a stint in Clinton’s wag-the-dog tactic in Bosnia. We’re fighting Islamofascist thugs who would gladly subject the entire planet (including you) to their oppressive theocracy. Before you hit the sack tonight you should get down on your knees and give thanks to whatever God you pray that we are out front making sure that doesn’t happen.
You can thank Bubba Clinton for giving al Qaida the green light. His total indifference to the terrorist attacks on his watch; the first attack on the World Trade center, Khobar Towers, and the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania went without retribution. He and algore (one word) were too busy using the Oval Office as their personal conduit for unethical, immoral and illegal activities. His Chinese/Indonesian friends Charlie Trie, John Huang, and James Riady bought the 1996 “election” in exchange for information on, among other items, classified satellite technology, He illegally obtained FBI files on political adversaries, and fired the Travel Office and threatened them with surveillance if they talked. Oh, wait, he did have a response--he bombed Kosovo and an aspirin factory in Iraq.
Abetted by lap-dog Janet Reno’s obstruction of justice, Clinton flushed the integrity of the Office as well as national security down the toilet, and not a peep out of you liberal shitbags. Dedicated, brave Soldiers of the United States Army are fighting and sacrificing their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan so that ingrates like you won’t have to worry about another 3000 deaths on this soil. You lefties are comprised of pseudo-anarchists, nihilists, and spineless MoveOn.org sycophants who would never let the facts get in the way of a good Bush bashing. The adults, thank God, are still in charge of the country. You ought to follow the lead, remove the nose rings and grow up.
Sergeant First Class Cheryl McElroy US
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Live 365 has many formats to choose from. I have been listening for about 60 minutes now on their alternative station and have not had a drop off. I have only heard one ad for 30 seconds. The ad was for someone selling a book telling you how to online date more effectively.
You can minimize the window while listening and just click on it when you hear a song you like to see who the artist is.
This whole thing started earlier tonight when I tried to find the Bears game audio for tonight's preseason game online. Yet another stupid move by a professional sports league. You have to pay $29.95 to the NFL to get the radio broadcasts. For this price you get all of the broadcasts for the whole year for all the teams. Or Sirius has all of the NFL too. But I don't have a real good use for Sirius now that I have found Live 365.
I thought about buying the NFL package for $29.95 a moment then declined. Screw them, it's pre-season anyway.
You have to figure that 90% or more of all Bear fans are within listening distance of WBBM in Chicago (including me here in Madison at times). So why not just give the radio broadcasts away for free? For that matter, why not give the TV broadcasts away over the internet as well? You could give the exclusive streaming broadcast rights to the TV networks and that way Bear fans from, say, Omaha, Nebraska could watch their team. Fox or CBS would lose exactly nothing as they could still force you to watch the ads. They could even develop new ad clients. The folks watching a NFL game online are probably a different crowd than most that are watching on TV or sitting in the stands.
I just don't understand the market strategy of denying devoted fans their broadcasts of their favorite teams. It doesn't sell one more ticket or t-shirt or jersey when folks sit at home all pissed off because they can't watch the next shit-ass Bear quarterback blossom.
I understand if the games are not sold out. But if the game is sold out, why the hell not let everyone and their brother watch the game?
1. I wake up early. Really early. Even if I am tired or hungover (not hungover as much anymore). Usually I wake up at 4am every day - 5am is sleeping in for me. As I have aged I seem to need even less sleep. I seem to get more done before 7am than the whole rest of the day.
2. I love eating these. But that wouldn't be an idiosyncrasy if I lived in Japan.
3. I will not go shopping for clothes unless absolutely forced to (usually by my better half). Definitely one of my most hated activities.
4. I never shave on Sundays.
5. I hate things around my neck - I mean hate. I will never wear a turtleneck or any other item of clothing around my neck. I wear ties only if it is a mandatory piece of clothing for the event I am attending such as a wedding reception or business meeting.
Related: I also hate wearing pullover sweaters.
Feel free to leave your five in the comments and if you are a blogger, post yours on your blog!
Friday, August 19, 2005
People Progress American Way Move Forward
Move America Forward? People for the American Way? Progressive America? No matter.
The reason I bring up my burning hatred for Al is the big (and getting bigger) scandal involving one of his pet projects, Air America. For those who don't know, Air America is a network of radio stations that broadcast "liberal" talk radio shows. What they are, in reality, is boring and failing. Their idea was to try to take one of the few bastions of media that the right enjoys supreme power in - radio - and try to compete. Unfortunately for Al, it is failing and miserably.
And now, as if I wasn't happy enough about the poor ratings Air America regularly receives, imagine my glee when the scandal started to erupt. Others have summed it up much better than I ever could. Michelle Malkin is leading the charge - her blog has quickly become one of the biggest in the blogosphere measured in hits.
If you have an extra hour or so this weekend, it makes for very entertaining reading. That is, if you are interested in two things: the downfall of Air America and legal issues. I have said many times that I would have made a damn good lawyer. I have always been interested in legal "stuff" and this case really makes my day.
Anyway, if interested, go here first. At the end of the post, there are all of the other posts she has done - go to the bottom of the list and work your way up. This will give you a better feel for how the scandal has progressed. As you work your way up from the bottom of the list the posts will be in date sequence and easier to follow.
Then, go here. This is today latest. Don't forget to read Eric Costello's six page discussion of the matter she links to in the post. He is a lawyer and can read into the language of the legal docs filed by the parties involved. Very well written in plain English.
By the way, why haven't you heard anything about this from the MSM? Just ask my good friend Bernard.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
For those not familiar, IKEA is a beautiful marketing concept - the short version: cheap Chinese shit marketed under a Swedish name. Really. That is what it is. Granted the stuff they have looks nice, but it is all made in China.
We arrived at the store about 10:30 am Sunday. We stopped to go to the bathroom and I got done first as usual. I sat by the entrance waiting for my wife and kids to get done and decided to count the people coming in. It averaged about 40 people per minute! I knew this was not good. Fortunately the store is huge. Still, after about 45 minutes of shopping, you could hardly push a cart through the place it was so packed. There are some pretty good deals to be had I must admit - we replaced all of our every day dishes for $50 - that is for 12 settings! We also bought a bunch of other stuff we needed, but now it was time to leave.
The whole parking lot was full - and I mean every single spot - and traffic was backing up out of the IKEA store into the side streets that border Woodfield Mall. It was total and complete mayhem. Honestly, it made city of Chicago traffic seem normal (which it is definitely not). Anyway, after bullying my way through the lot I picked up the cargo, kids and wife and got the hell out of there. Unbelievable. I am on Carl's side - IKEA, not IAEA.
I wonder if we could get IKEA to bury the nuclear reactors that Iran is working on with furniture or flooring or flatware - they could even use Air Force planes if they wanted. Just fill up the C-130's, send them with fighter escorts to Iran and put the whole damn place under 12 feet of home furnishings.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
During my vacation last week I had very few opportunities to take artsy-fartsy photos. The one opportunity I did have was when we stopped to visit some friends in Dexter, Michigan for a few hours. We visited a pretty nice park so the kids could run around a bit.
Then we took a walk over to the Dairy Queen for a little ice cream. But wait....what's this?
A military monument of some sort - that will suck me in every time - let's take a closer look. As I walked closer I finally grasped that this wasn't just any old memorial - it was a memorial for those who died in the Civil War!
I circled the monument twice and there wasn't any identification or information posted so I was somewhat on my own to decipher what the hell it was all about. The man on top is clearly a Union soldier. The logo right beneath him I recognized as from the Grand Army of the Republic. That is basically what they used to call the US Army up to around the World War One era. After circling the monument for a second time, I noticed some engraving on the sides.
"Erected by the citizens of Dexter and vicinity, in memory of the heores who fought and the martyrs who died that the Republic might live."
"Dedicated May 30, 1898."
Well, this is why I love history so much. I picture it this way. Back in 1898 some veterans of the Civil War (most were in their sixties or seventies at this point) and their families wanted the future generations of Dexter to know what they did and to remember their loved ones who died in the Civil War. They raised money and were able to make the monument. I imagine there was a huge ceremony, maybe the governor showed up. Probably a big parade, lots of Sousa type music and flags everywhere. Maybe a huge bar-b-que and some fireworks. Kids running around not understanding or caring about the new gray statue in the middle of town, horses getting tense as they trotted down an unusually packed Main Street for the big day.
In August of 2005, 107 years after they made the monument and all of the people are long gone, here I was reading about how greatful the people of Dexter were to their veterans for saving their Union. Hello past, nice to see you.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I have been faithfully going to Bears home games for the past 10 years or so. It has been punishment for something I did in a past life I guess. Last year they had the last ranked offense in the NFL. When Rex Grossman broke his ankle last Friday I was reminded of a post I did last November 29 - it still applies and I reproduce it here.
And for all of those who have favorite football teams that are doing well and have healthy and decent quarterbacks, don't laugh too hard. Your day may be near. Maybe next play. Anyway, here is my post from last November 29:
Today is Brett Favre day here in the land of cheese. We all know what Brett Favre and the Packers have done the last 15 years or so, so lets look at what the Bears have done since Brett Favre became the starting QB in Green Bay in 1992.
84 wins, 119 losses, three playoff games, one playoff game win.
A sad story indeed for the last decade plus. I wonder if or when fans like me will tell the Bears to start putting a decent product on the field. The only way to do this, of course, is to quit going to the games and tell them to stuff their season tickets up their ass. That action may be pending for me.
Quarterbacks that have played for the Bears since Brett Favre became starter for the Packers in 1992:(WARNING!!! Reading this list is hazardous to the health of all Bear fans)
Peter Tom Willis
Rex Grossman (again)
One word comes to mind: brutal. The Bears defense should be pretty good, but that doesn't help when you can't score points or get a damn first down once in a while.
Related: See FrankenBear.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
What this basically means is they could not play in the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Football has no post season (the bowl games do not count) and let's face it - no other sports matter. Hockey has some small pockets of popularity in some places, but in the big picture it is of little consequence.
Included in this ban are my beloved Illinois Fighting Illini. I don't want to debate the issue of whether the naming is right or wrong. FYI I have come up and submitted to the U of I a new nickname for my beloved Illini:
The Illinois Non-Tribal Specific Indigenous Peoples. Sensitive enough?
But I digress. The real reason for this post is to take the NCAA to task for taking what they deem the moral high ground about these nicknames. This is the same NCAA that participates in the following:
1) Allowing their football players to pump 'roids to their hearts content - of course they know. If you have never seen some of these behemoths up close, try it once.
2) Not give a damn about whether the kids really graduate
3) Holding the football programs hostage to the silly BCS instead of an end of year tournament like any other sport that is sane. Could it be that the bowls have their hand in the cookie jar as well? I wonder. Not.
4) Allow crimes such as point fixing, violent crimes and others off with slaps on the wrist for the players and coaches and programs
5) Allow themselves to be set up as a minor league for pro football (this relates to point 2)
6) Let teams like Minnesota in the basketball tournament last year with not even one person graduating from the team
The list of crimes and criminals in the NCAA is practically endless.
And this is the organization that is claiming from me the moral high ground about indian nicknames. Whatever.
The results have been very encouraging so far - I "match" their savings and then add some more money so they have a stake in the outcome, and I also give them a list of stocks to pick from (out of 6, they pick 2) so that they can do some research and come to their own conclusions.
If you are interested at all you can go to this site to learn more about it.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Predictably, the Sunnis are rioting. Even though they:
1) chose not to be part of elections
2) have a long history of killing and oppressing everyone else
3) are basically leading the resistance
They want to stop this and try to enshrine themselves as the defacto ruler from Bagdad of the oil revenue.
I know everyone thinks this is the deal breaker but basically if no one can come together, Iraq ought to split up. The Sunni, who have done nothing but kill Americans and be obstructionist bastards, can occupy a resource-poor stretch of desert with nothing. Eventually they will be driven out of Bagdad and probably a wall will be built similar to what has been built in Israel to keep them in their lifeless region of nothing so their suicide bombers are limited.
I know people will view this as a "failure" of US Policy but it is nothing of the sort. This is reality. If a country can't stay together, it shouldn't.
Like I said previously, other countries split apart or have violent resistance (Spain, Ireland) and their greviances are NOTHING compared to the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq - don't remember the last time someone dumped poisoned gas on Belfast or killed 100,000 + in Barcelona.
If it won't work, it won't. The Sunni have played their cards. Let them live with the results. Maybe they can count on handouts from the other Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. It worked so well for the Palestinians, after all.
To the victor belong the spoils....
Thursday, August 11, 2005
It has been possible to watch television on your PC for a while now. You just need to purchase a card that fits into an available slot on your PC and has an output where you can plug in your antenna. Your monitor has great resolution and thus you can watch either over-the-air (OTA) television or plug it into cable.
For high definition TV, however, there aren't many choices. The main choice is by the vendor ATI and it is called an HDTV Wonder card. If you use this card, you can watch either regular TV through your PC OR you can watch HDTV. The still photo above is a "snapshot" I took of the David Letterman show with my card. The resolution is very high - much higher than you would see for regular TV.
It isn't well known but HDTV is broadcasting right now. In Chicago there are lots of HDTV stations - if you are interested in the HDTV stations that broadcast over the air in your town you can go to the AVS Forum where there are myriad posts about digital reception in every city in the US and related topics.
HDTV is great for sporting events. Most of the football and baseball games are being broadcast over the air in HDTV; if they marketed this right it might really take off and put a dent in cable or satellite - especially since it is FREE.
My problem is that even though I have a clear line of sight to the Hancock and the Sears Tower in Chicago where they broadcast HDTV (I mean it is CLOSE), I can't pick up HDTV due to interference. This is very frustrating and I have run through a number of antennas trying to improve the situation, but haven't made much headway. I may have to give up entirely....
I recommend buying one of these cards and trying it out. It is a lot of fun using your PC for HDTV and not very expensive (less than $150, and no monthly fees) - even if you can't pick up HDTV you can use it for regular TV and it includes an antenna and remote. Too bad it isn't working for me...
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
About 1 1/2 years ago I had carpal tunnel surgery. Here is a picture of my hand after the surgery when they bandaged it up.
No one really knows why some people get this and others don't. I have been programming / typing for years and years (had my first Apple II more that 20 years ago) and it caught up with me - but not with my other family members who are bigger programmers than me. I think it might be an inherited trait.
In any case, I was a lazy bum and didn't go to rehab for about a year. What a fool! I finally went and it really helped a lot. I went to Athletico here in Chicago and had a really good therapist - I have recommended her on to 4 people, so far. The pain is way lessened.
I guess the lesson here is that if something is wrong, you ought to invest in your health, and do it sooner than later.
Note to Dan - the new Blogger photo is great! It is easy to use and a big improvement. For blogger readers there wasn't really a good way to put up photos for a long time, but blogger finally fixed that. Good for them.
Blogger is owned by Google. I run a little investment fund for a couple of my nephews and I was looking through the picks I gave them to choose from about a year ago. One of them was Google at about 100; now it is at 300! Oh well, too bad I didn't take my own advice. Stuff like Blogger is the reason that Google is dominating the world right now.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Some insane fan fell out of his seat in the UPPER DECK and landed in the netting that stops foul balls from flying back into the crowd.
I was watching the game and it was nuts... the guy just kind of sat on the netting, stunned, with fans below him looking up and taking photos.
here is a link to an article and photo
As soon as I saw this I said "that will be the most viewed photo tomorrow on Yahoo!"
Let's see if I am right.
By the way the Sox won 2-1 - they made a decision that I thought was crazy which was to take out Konerko, who just hit a home run, for a defensive replacement. That defensive replacement caught a smoking line drive to end the game. That is why I am at home and Ozzie is in the dugout.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Given that core assumption, that everything George Bush does is something to be attacked, many people have talked about the fact that we made a mistake in disbanding the old Iraqi army when we attacked. The dems say that we could have had better security if we would have kept the old army intact, as well as not feeding anti-US sentiment among the career soldiers out of a job.
Of all the attacks on Bush, this is the stupidest. Given the frenzy in the US and Europe over the slightest event or non-event, can you imagine the perpetual stream of articles and news that would be coming across the transom if we left these bloodthirsty lunatics in control? I know everyone in the world thinks the US is the bloodthirsty enemy but of course this is nonsense, the Iraqi army committed so many atrocities that it is hard to know where to start. They led the attacks on the Kurds and the Shiites and were a primary arm of control for the Sunni. Their solders and officers were chosen for their loyalty to Saddam and their ability to carry out whatever onerous task was handed to them in terms of showing barbarity to their own citizens.
The Democrats inhabit a never-never land where every decision could be scripted in advance with perfect knowledge, and instead of the relatively muddling ahead path that we have taken there existed a "golden road" of alternative actions that would have worked, instead. There is no road map for building a democracy out of three warring factions in a country run by a lunatic and awash in weaponry, with no history of civil society. I wish that we were out of Iraq but there doesn't seem to be an alternative path, other than leaving Saddam in power and letting the atrocities continue indefinitely. Apparently that known evil world was better than the imperfect world that we are attempting to build.
Who knows, maybe it will not pan out at all, and Iraq will cut into 3 countries, a Kurd, Shiite and Sunni state. It is possible - what binds together these people? In Europe the Belgians can barely stand one another, nor can the Dutch and the Czech and Slovack countries split up, not to mention the former Yugoslavia. I know everyone says that is a terrible outcome, but maybe not. Europe is atomized into small states that are ethnically homogeneous, and many states (Spain) have minorities that want to push it even further.
The point is that the future is unknown, and attacking Bush on all corners, and implying that there is some obvious path (except for doing nothing) is asinine and not befitting the major opposition party in the US.
The Cthulhu mythos were a product of the feverish imagination of HP Lovecraft, a horror writer from the early 20th century who died in 1937. HP Lovecraft created a mythology of gods which ruled the world before mankind and were collectively called the Cthulhu mythology. They were linked to a (non-existent) book called the Necronomicon which drove all of the readers to madness.
If you go to ebay and type in "Cthulhu" you can find a huge variety of shirts, including a hilarious link that is a combination Cthulhu and hello kitty, along with a role playing game and various other sites.
HP Lovecraft was pretty much unknown during his lifetime but has immensely grown in stature since his death. His tales often featured lost explorers who faced creatures out of time and often went insane, often in an ancient New England setting.
Growing up I read all of his books; they kept re-releasing them with cool covers that brought in another generation of readers (along with his increasing reputation). You might want to try one someday, or maybe they are better left for teenagers.
This links to a book I am reading called "The Rough Guide To Cult Fiction". This is a fascinating book covering authors like HP Lovecraft who write outside the mainstream. Often the authors' lives are more interesting then their books; certainly very few of them would qualify as normal by any sense of the word. I highly recommend this little book - it is easy reading (you can skip around a lot and look at writers you are familiar with) and it proves the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, at least as far as their lives are concerned.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Back then unions did a lot of good. Many of the things that we take for granted, such as the 40 hour work week, generally safe working conditions, etc... were furthered by the union drives and people standing up for workers.
However, this was a LONG LONG time ago. Today, unions are basically dinosaurs in America, and their rationale has faded along with the fight against facism.
If you look at the heavily unionized industries (we will get to government later), the unionized ones are all on death door.
Airlines - do I even need to link to the myriad posts about troubles in the Airline industry? Safe to say that all of the "legacy" carriers United (in bankruptcy), US Air (in bankruptcy), Delta (near Bankruptcy), Northwest (near bankruptcy) and American (hanging on) are in trouble. I must mention SOUTHWEST, which IS unionized and is about the only successful company I can find anywhere (along with Harley Davidson) that is unionized and hasn't been "at war" with their unions.
Steel - pretty much all of the "old line" steel companies are dead or dying, going into court to shed their pension and union obligations. A new industry is coming up from the wreckage, and it won't have those kinds of benefits.
Cars - the "big three" left alive of GM, Ford and Chrysler (part of Mercedes) are all getting whipped by the Japanese transplant factories in terms of productivity, and their costs are far, far lower. Ford and GM spun off their supplier arms (Visteon for Ford and Delphi for GM) but now these companies are in dire straits, and GM is trying to prop up Delphi so they don't re-inherit their legacy costs. One terrible thing that the Big Three were doing at one point was pushing their parts suppliers to let unions in so that they would be crippled with the same legacy costs and unproductive "work rules" as their own suppliers (that they still had ties to). What a strategy - let's burden everyone! Don't wonder too long why Japan is crushing the US in cars in terms of price, profitability, innovation and productivity, usually with US employees assembling the cars here in the states (i.e. the same people the Big Three could have hired, if they were free to do so).
One thing you don't hear anymore is that "union made" is any better, at least not in manufacturing. They are just trying to hold on to their jobs. One loathsome tactic they use is "two tier" pay systems, where the existing union members get to keep their pay and benefits but the new hires are not eligible. How is that for "sticking together?". That is the most egregious showing that they are just in it for themselves.
In services there still are a lot of unions. They keep their power through various work rules depending on what state you live in. If you try to do it without the union, they will picket you or otherwise make life unpleasant. I haven't seen any research showing that they are doing better work, despite the billboards that they plaster along the highway. I DO know that they are more expensive, and that work rules can further add to expenses. Ever wonder why it takes about 10 years to get anything built in New York but they build in the South in no time (I lived in Houston; I swear that they built a high end restaurant in SEVEN DAYS - they put up lights and worked around the clock - it was amazing). In the 30's, before advanced technology, they built the Empire State Building was built in FOURTEEN MONTHS (see article) - try to do that with the unions today - it would take forever...
I will get to unions in the public sector later.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
When I first started as an auditor, we used to write up all the financials by hand, and then we would physically type up the financials and reports. There were an army of secretaries typing it all up on "Wang" computers. Sometimes you could even find last years' so they wouldn't have to start from scratch. There was no excel, so you had to add up all the numbers by hand and recheck everything on every page, even page numbers. This was called "referencing".
For example, I remember clearly when someone was trying to explain email and the internet to me in the early 90's, and it really wasn't clicking. You had your PC, even a laptop, and you could get to resources or dial in to a bulletin board, but what was email, and what was the web?
After a while it clicked more and more. I remember "pointcast", which was an application you put on your laptop, dialed up, and it "pushed" content out to your PC like the wall street journal and stock tickers. That seemed really cool.
Then there was adobe acrobat. I didn't get why someone didn't just send it in Microsoft word? Then after a while I realized that there was value in giving them the document in a format that they could read regardless of their word processor, and also if they had a different operating system.
But for all these things, what really stands out to me is Microsoft Outlook. Would we have as many meetings today as we do without that product? Salespeople and other super-organized types always carried daily planners, but most people just relied on their memory or jotted something down in a haphazard way. The powerful people had secretaries, but everyone else just kind of had an occasional meeting, or they would go to a "staff" meeting, always at the same time (say 2pm on Wednesday). The act of having a perpetual meeting also meant it was pretty disorganized, but you didn't want to cancel it because setting up a new one or moving the time was pretty much impossible.
With Microsoft Office, even the least organized person is susceptible to having a full calendar. Pretty much everyone uses this now. I remember how it infiltrated many organizations, but within those organizations lots of people pretty much ignored it, and didn't update their info when they were out, or really setup / accept meetings using the tool. Today, however, pretty much everyone in a relatively big organization is on the "outlook" train.
I'll bet the total # of meetings has gone up tenfold with the ubiquitous presence of this tool. Between outlook and your blackberry, you don't have to do much of anything and you can fill in your whole day with busy work, letting the world come to you. That is why I don't have a blackberry... :)
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
I purchased this Ruger from Gander Mountain here in Madison about six months ago and have finally had time to actually put it through it's paces a bit. What follows are my thoughts about this rifle, how I came about purchasing it, how I think it works and the end results on the range.
DISCLAIMER: I have only been shooting for about two years now and consider myself still quite the novice. I predict I will use some terms incorrectly in this post. For those who have been "raised" on firearms, I would appreciate constructive criticism in the comments, but please don't use the flamethrower on me. Thanks! On with the show.
First things first. Why a rifle in the first place?
I had been shooting my .357 revolver and .45 semi-auto at the pistol range for some time with mixed results. I am very good using my revolver, which is good for me and bad for any potential intruders as that is my home defense weapon. My .45 semi-auto is harder to shoot for me. Anyway, I wanted something that I could shoot for a longer period of time. After about an hour at the range shooting my .357 or .45 my arms and wrists were shot. This meant to me that I needed something in a smaller caliber. I always wanted a rifle anyway, so a .22LR or .17 HMR were the logical choices. After a bit of research and talking to many people who know a lot more about firearms than me I decided to go with the .22LR. Now it was down to which one - of the thousands that are out there. I wanted to buy local in case there was a problem so off to the gun shops I went.
The gun shops around here (I live in the Peoples Republic of Madison, WI) seemed a bit stand-offish. Maybe that isn't the right word. When I went into the independent gun shops it seemed that either you "belonged" or you didn't. I definitely did not. So off I went to Gander Mountain. They had a large selection of .22 rifles (I wanted a bolt action) and the Ruger caught my eye. Friendly, knowledgeable guy behind the counter. Sold.
The model you see above is a Ruger Model 77 chambered in .22 long rifle with stainless steel barrel. The portion that looks "wooden" is actually a laminate. I really like the look of it.
The scope is a Leupold model VX-I. It is a 2-7x33mm. This means that is is a variable 2-7 power, and the objective lens has a 33mm diameter. I don't really want to go into a huge optics discussion (which is a big topic in and of itself) rather I will make a few comments on the scope I bought, and why I bought it later in the post.
The mounting rings for the scope came with the rifle, which was nice. I had the guys at Gander Mountain mount it for me, as I figured I would mess it up.
This is a closeup of the action. I guess my only real complaint is that it is a little stiff or "firm". Then again, it has only had about 500 rounds put through it. I have oiled it a little to make it smoother as well. The majority of the friction is from the front part of the bolt rubbing against the receiver. Again, no big deal, but it would be nicer if it was a bit easier to close the bolt.
Here is a view down the scope. The bolt is open. I thought this would be an issue when I got the gun after they had put the scope on. When you pull the bolt back it comes very close to the scope as you can see. There is, however, enough gap for the bolt to clear. As noted before, I have put through about 500 rounds now and never had an issue with the bolt or my hand hitting the scope.
I took this rifle to the range the first time about six weeks ago. It was a disappointing experience. I really liked the view through the scope. It really lets through a lot of light and has a nice, easy to see crosshairs. Problem was, I couldn't hit the bullseye, and this only from 60 feet.
I know, I know, 60 feet isn't that far. But you have to understand where I live. Here in Madison, there are no public outdoor shooting ranges only gun clubs. Not wanting to join a club, I have been spending time here with my pistols. It is a nice range, but only 60 feet long. They allow .22LR chambered rifles there so that is where I have been shooting my rifle.
So, I was a bit frustrated with my new rifle. I decided to read up on the scope and am glad I did. Those two knobs you see on the side and top of the scope are the adjustments - one for right/left and one for up/down. Turns out the guys at Gander Mountain, even though they were courteous and knowledgeable didn't know how to set up a scope correctly. Anyway, after shooting I don't know how many groups of three last Saturday, I finally got the scope and gun all set up and the results were this:
Yep, not bad. A few notes just so you know I am not bragging too much. I am still a bit low/left. I may tweak the scope just a bit more to correct that, but it may be my shooting, too. This is about 70 shots or so, from bench rest, kneeling (like I said, it is a pistol range). I was much wilder, as you would expect, when shooting without the bench rest. My only complaint about the whole setup is that the thing is heavy. It has a bull barrel and I think that adds to the total weight of the package. But virtually no kick, and little noise.
About the ammo:
I used these different types of ammo during my shooting. None really made a difference in how the setup performed, but then again, I was indoors only shooting out to 60 feet. I had one dud round from the Remington box and one dud from the American Eagle box. The Winchester seemed to smoke a bit more than the others. Outside of that, no real performance difference. I assume that will become more important if I shoot at longer ranges or outdoors where I will need to compensate for wind.
The rifle comes with a 10 round clip that slides into the underside of the rifle. It took a while for me to figure out how to do it quickly, but like anything else once I got used to it, it went much faster. I bought a 25 round banana clip that was a waste of money - it is just too awkward for me to use it.
Ruger Model 77/22LR, Model K77/22 VBZ - $489.99
Leupold VX-I 2-7 x 33 scope - $179.99
Scope mounting charges - $17.50
Plus tax for a total of $725.29. I bought a case elsewhere for $25.
At first I thought that I spent too much on the scope - not that I got ripped off, just spent a bit much. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT. In the future I will always spend a little more on the scope than I feel I need to. It is really a good scope and makes the package just right in my opinion.
I have really enjoyed this rifle and plan on enjoying it for a very long time to come. I also like the fact that it is made in the good ol' USA.
Speaking of quality made in the USA, I have enjoyed shooting the .22 rifle so much that I bought a .22 revolver - range report to come later on this, my newest acquisition, the Smith and Wesson Model 17. I am not sure yet if I will put a scope on it or not - will definitely shoot it without one first and see how I do.