Saturday, January 31, 2004

Not sure who to vote for? Take this quiz.

The answers give you a ranking of candidates after you input your views on the issues. I'm something of a political mixed bag so it was interesting to see how they ranked them for me:

1. Kerry, 2. Edwards, 3. Bush, 4. Lieberman, 5. Dean, 6. Clark, 7. Sharpton, 8. Kucinich

This is not the order I would've picked. The quiz allows you to show which issues are most important but it doesn't measure the intensity very well. I was happy to see the two craziest (Sharpton and Kucinich) at the bottom of the list.

The most important factor for me right now is which candidate can most effectively deal with the threat of international terrorism and rogue states. All of the Democrats except for Lieberman fail miserably for me on this issue. At least Dean is somewhat consistent. Edwards and Kerry are all over the map. My kids know more about terrorism than Sharpton does. Kucinich wants to respond by creating a Department of Peace. (all we are saaaying...is give peace a chance!)

I tend to side with the Democrats on issues such as education and civil rights and jump over to the Republicans on tax cuts, fighting terrorism, and a sensible use of environmental resources.

How I would rank the candidates myself?..Right now?

1. Bush - deserves re-election even though he really needs to do something with the budget. What a mess!
2. Lieberman - a little preachy but consistent on terrorism and military matters.
3. Edwards - southern blow dried boy has some substance.
4. Kerry - too liberal for me on military and foreign affairs but intelligent and articulate
5. Clark - military man seems to have something not quite right about him..can't decide what it is just yet
6. Dean - all anger..all the time. Can be a pro wrestling announcer if this politics thing doesn't work out.
7. Kucinich- a wildly lefty dreamer
8. Sharpton - a political con man and hustler.


Thursday, January 29, 2004

Instapundit is right! This is very, very cool.

The U.S. military is sure they will catch Bin Laden this year.

The U.S. military is "sure" it will catch Osama bin Laden this year, a spokesman said Thursday, but he declined to comment on where the al-Qaida leader may be hiding.
Bin Laden, chief suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that sparked the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, is widely believed to be holed up somewhere along the mountainous Pakistani-Afghan border with former Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

One can only hope! His capture or death will make the world a much safer place and he has thousands of innocent deaths to answer for.

This pair picked an unusual way to deal with a neighbor they were feuding with:

Bob Sam Castleman, an attorney and former city judge in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and his son, Jerrod, were charged with mailing a cardboard box containing a venomous copperhead snake to a neighbor with whom they had feuded. The two pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday.

These two bozos are lucky they aren't facing a murder charge. What the hell were they thinking?


Sunday, January 25, 2004

This guy has more intestinal (and I mean intestinal!) fortitude than I do.

Spurlock, a tall New Yorker of usually cast-iron constitution, made himself the guinea pig in this dogged investigation into the effects of fast food on the body. He ate only at McDonald's for a month - three meals, every day - and took a camera crew along to record it. If a server offered to super-size his order, he was obliged to accept - and to ingest everything, gherkins and all.

I have been known to occasionally eat at McDonald's and some aspects of their food have improved over the years. Ok..I'll admit that I like their fries. But the rest of their food I can generally do without. Their burgers taste like what they are..prepackaged, preformed, precooked. Their chicken nuggets taste like highly flavored and processed cardboard.

Give this poor guy some kind of award.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

I just read some entries from an incredible blog. Ron Graham and his wife started a blog that chronicled his fight against cancer. The treatments...the struggles...how to handle it with the kids. He succumbed to the disease last July:

Ron left us today, suddenly, with almost no warning. He had a fine evening and a lovely supper.

Then he started to have some trouble breathing, and it scared him and he started hyperventilating. He relaxed some but it started again and so we
called 911. He stopped breathing while being loaded into the ambulance, and the his heart stopped and wouldn't start again.

Although he was weak in body, his fine mind was still as strong as ever right to the end.

I hope that I could be half as brave and courageous as Ron was.

If this doesn't jerk enough tears read about Andrew Wark's death here.


Monday, January 19, 2004

Today is Martin Luther King Day. King is the only American honored by having a national holiday in his name. We can argue about whether others might be equally deserving (and some are I think) but King had a dramatic impact on this nation. I re-read "I Have A Dream" which is one of the great public speeches in American history. A couple of passages really struck me:

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

King's leadership kept the protest movement of the 60's from sinking in a pool of violence and destruction. He kept the civil rights movement on course toward urgent..but peaceful change.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

The table of brotherhood...I want a seat there. I don't know if we've reached it yet but things have changed so much since my childhood.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Moving...evocative....hopeful. Why doesn't anyone give speeches like this anymore? I think people look for leadership and want to be inspired.

Keep the dream alive for everyone.

Michael Jackson has now been formally charged with committing lewd acts on a child and giving "intoxicating agents" to a child.

As I've said before there is no way of knowing with certainty that Michael committed these acts. But his bizarre behavior and his continued pattern of sleeping in the same bed with children has to be considered.

Either Michael is a totally misguided, innocent soul or he is a child molester.

In this day and time why would any adult, especially one so famous, put himself at such risk? I would be exceedingly uncomfortable sleeping in the same bed as a child..good intentions or not. He has a gigantic home. He couldn't have found separate beds for everyone?

He was asking for trouble and he found it.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

The anniversary of my sister's death passed yesterday. Its hard to believe that a year has gone by. I got the call from my mom and work and I can't remember feeling so devastated..like all the air had gone out of me. She was so young with so much more life ahead of her.

When I think about her I think about the value of life. Its here and then its gone. So important....so valuable..and yet so very fragile.

Here's to ya sis. You're never far from my thoughts.

From Kevin Drum at Calpundit:

If you type a UPC code into Google it will look up the product's full name, then generate a list of Web sites selling the item or providing other information about it. This can spare shoppers from trying to guess which search keywords would bring up the same information.

Hehe. I've gotta try this out sometime.

My school district and most others in the great state of Washington are set to vote on "maintenance and operations levies" in a couple of weeks. Every state has its own methods of school financing and I'm still learning the system here.

In Oklahoma, the state gave each school district an amount of money based on a complicated formula which involved enrollment, student attendance, and past contributions. Additional monies dribbled in through various things like the "School Land Fund" and "Federal Impact Aid". If a school wanted to build a new football stadium it floated a "bond issue" with precise explanation of how the money was to be spent.

Here in Washington each school district receives money from the state based on enrollment. This money is supposed to provide for "basic education" (Click here to read a better explanation than mine). Then each local school board can change the "levy rate" and ask voters to approve it (a 60% vote is required to approve). The reality is that local schools depend on these levies for survival. The money received from the state is not sufficient to fund even "basic education", much less all the programs that make up a modern, successful school. All it takes is 41% of the voters to oppose the levy and its sunk. In this Olympian article the newspaper advocates for levy passage and provides reasons why they are necessary.

"The simple truth is that Washington lawmakers are not living up to their constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. They are slighting parents and students in this state by cutting corners and changing funding formulas. "
You can probably guess how all this plays out. People in the wealthy suburbs vote high levies to fund arts programs, technology, lower class sizes, and increased teacher pay. More rural districts struggle to get levies approved that enable them to barely keep their doors open.

I've long been receptive to the idea that such widespread disparities amount to unequal treatment under the law for students. Why should a child's education in the world's richest country be so dependent on where he/she is born? The answer of course is the answer to all questions like this...politics.

Denying kids a proper education in poor areas of the state has no political consequence. If you made kids in the wealthy Seattle suburbs sit in classes of 35, use 10 year old computers, and read from even older textbooks, you'd have a Starbucks riot on your hands. Kids in smaller, poorer districts get the shaft. Then we expect them to compete with those same kids for jobs and college admission. Is that what we've come to in this country: geography = destiny?

The answer of course is simple. Eliminate the local levies/taxes that fund schools. Have the state realistically fund all school districts. If kids in Everett are worth 7k a year then so are kids everywhere in the state. Put all parents and schools in the same boat and let us row together.

Enough of this little rant. I feel much better now.

The Super Bowl is now set. The surging New England Patriots defeated Peyton Manning's Colts and the overachieving Carolina Panthers thumped Philly. Neither of these teams could have been considered real contenders before the season started. So what do they have in common?

1. Superb coaching - Bill Belichik is the best game day coach in football and is a master strategist. Carolina's Fox is known as strong motivator and is probably underrated as a strategist.

2. Blue collar quarterbacks- Tom Brady was a sixth round draft choice and Jake Delhomme was undrafted. These two guys made it the hard way. No multi million dollar rookie bonuses that set you up for life before you ever play. Brady has a better arm but Delhomme is the picture beside the word "intangible" in the dictionary.

3. Defense- Both teams control the ball on offense and use defense to set up field position.

4. Strong running games. You don't often see either team throw for 300 yards.

Then there are those undefinable things. Character, guts, staying power that make teams champions. There are more talented teams out there (KC, Indy, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles).

Congrats to both teams. I predict New England by 9.


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Its a political season now. The Iowa caucuses are upon us. For political junkies like me its a great time! For most people its a reason to keep turning the channel.

In race that is down to the wire there are four legitimate Democratic candidates with a chance to win. Iowa's bizarre caucus system is volatile and unpredictable and its difficult to anticipate whats going to happen.

DES MOINES, Jan. 16 -- The four Democratic presidential candidates with hopes of winning in Iowa put aside personal attacks Friday and focused on what all consider the two keys to victory: organizing supporters and winning over undecided Iowans doing last-minute shopping for the best candidate to defeat President Bush.

Dean is fading...Kerry is surging...Gephardt is slowly gaining...Edwards is coming on. What to think?

Dean's money and organization still make him a slight favorite. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see any of them pull out a win. Make a prediction you say?

Gephardt by a whisker.

Our dog "Wendy" is having puppies today. We "fostered" Wendy from some very nice people who were not able to have puppies in their home. We have the option of keeping Wendy or sending her back. We're keeping her and at least one of the puppies.

I sat up late last night watching her squirm uncomfortably and moan. This morning my daughter and I took her to the vet's office where she had the first puppy right on the floor! She then had another one on the way home (naturally). We think there are eight and she's had four so far. I'm 42 years old and have never seen a dog give birth. Wow.

We can now look forward to weeks of yipping cute little puppies. They are so cute and its fun to watch them grow.

Life is a truly a miracle no matter the species.

Update: pictures of the new momma and her pups can be seen here.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

I'm hope I'm still around to see this:

WASHINGTON — President Bush announced an ambitious plan Wednesday to send astronauts back to the moon, to create a permanent lunar colony and finally to make the first manned mission to Mars.

Yes, I know its going to be enormously expensive. Yes, I know there are pressing needs right here on the ground. And yes..I know its dangerous.

But the history of this country is a history of explorers and adventurers. A man on Mars? The stuff of science fiction! Why spends billions...maybe even trillions.

Why go to Mars? To search for traces of life. To search for materials not found here on Earth. To colonize and perhaps some day have a base for exploring further. Space travel is our destiny.

I can remember being a kid when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. I would like to feel that way again.

In the "for what its worth" department there is this story:

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun -- trailing badly in the polls -- will drop out of the Democratic race for president and will endorse front-runner Howard Dean, Democratic sources told CNN late Wednesday.

Now all those legions of Braun followers will be joining the Dean brigade.


Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Ed Schwartz published a list of famous people who died in 2003. I am surprised every year when I read these lists. You read about someone dying but in everyday life you don't stop and reflect on it. Read this list and feel overwhelmed by the amount of great talent that left us just last year. A few names:

Richard Crenna - an actor perhaps most famous for being Rambo's colonel in Sly Stallone's movies. Never saw him in a role I didn't like.

Fred Rogers - I guess there aren't any more beautiful days in the neighborhood. I can remember watching him in black and white and wondering what color those sweaters really were.

Daniel P. Moynihan N.Y. Senator and an intellectual, honest man in a party that needs more of them.

David Brinkley - longtime Sunday morning talk show host. A gentleman, yes indeed.

Gregory Peck - famous for a host of movie roles. My favorite: his portrayal of a southern lawyer in "To Kill A Mockingbird"

Strom Thurmond - longest serving Senator in American history and a fixture on the political scene for half a century. The old codger sensed before many Southern racists where the country was going and adjusted his views accordingly. We just recently found out about his 79 year old daughter from a relationship with a black teenage maid.

Katherine Hepburn - a brilliant, versatile, eccentric actress. A real hottie when she was young and a classy lady in her later years.

Buddy Ebsen - Lets listen to a story about a man named Jed. Poor mountain man barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was shooting at some food and up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

Yep, I still remember the lines from the Beverly Hillbillies. Hopefully, Buddy is a having a drink next to that big cement pond in the sky.

Bob Hope - THE class act of show business for my entire life and then some.

Johnny Cash - one of the all time great country and western performers. A singer, songwriter, and champion of the down and out.

John Ritter - "Three's Company" funny-man and accomplished actor.

Art Carney - Jackie Gleason's sidekick on one of the best TV sitcoms ever made.

These people and countless others leave a void. Who's going to fill it?


Monday, January 05, 2004

This guy says everything about fighting terrorism that I want to say but can't express. I found this gem via Roger Simon.

Just a little vignette:

Thing is, we are not just doing this for ourselves. We are, once again, acting to protect all of western civilization including some of our harshest critics. We're not making a deal with AQ or OBL or Khaddaffi, saying "The US is off limits but have at Australia or Canada or Germany or France and we won't do anything". Which I honestly believe (don't you?) is a deal France and probably Germany would make in a heartbeat. What we are saying to these countries is that state sponsored terrorism of this type must stop. It will stop. You will stop it. Or we will remove you and replace you with people who will try to stop it.
And you know what? That IS a more mature and balanced response. The whole thing of trying to bribe the religious bullies and cut throat dictators into something approaching reasonable behaviour has a legacy of forty years of abject fucking failure. I defy you to show me a single nation that has emerged from under the rule of either theocracy or dictatorship because of buying them off. You can't. Not one. It. Doesn't. Fucking. Work.

Amen brother.

I feel better now after reading this:

You are in the top 0.893% richest people in the world.
There are 5,946,401,435 people poorer than you.
How do you feel about that? A bit richer we hope. Please consider donating just a small amount to help some of the poorest people in the world. Many of their lives could be improved dramatically or even saved if you donate just one hour's salary (approx $35.41)
Oh, and in case you’re interested you are the 53,598,565 richest person in the world.

Where do you rank? Check it out here.


Sunday, January 04, 2004

Hottie blogger Venomous Kate says we should "Get Used To Orange". She links to this story which indicates that an alarming number of Al Quaeda terrorists are on the move.

We WILL be hit with another terrorist attack. Maybe not this time...who knows how many attacks have been prevented, botched, or just called off. It may seem a little simplistic but we have to get the bastards before they get us.

Roger Simon is back from New Orleans. As a former suburban resident of the New Orleans area I enjoyed his descriptions of the restaurants, street vendors, museums and historic mansions in the area.

New Orleans is a unique place in his country. While living there I was struck by the contrasts: a conservative Catholic oriented state with a nightlife wilder than anyplace I've ever seen. You can drive through little stands and get a daquiri. You can buy liquor right out of the grocery stores. Some of the really cool clubs don't even get rolling until 2 a.m. I've seen more bare breasts in one night on Bourbon Street than I've seen in my entire life. People are incredibly friendly and strangers will strike up a conversation with ease.

Its also a pretty damned scary place at times. Walk a few blocks off Bourbon Street and you see poverty, run-down buildings, and a lot of suspicious looking characters. The smell in the French Quarter can be downright awful in the summer.... a weird mixture of beer, pot, urine, and sweat. The summer heat is oppressive.

I'd like to go back some day. I wouldn't mind going back more than once. But I don't think I'd ever want to live there again.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

My wife got her new Gateway computer today (with flat screen monitor no less) She's excited! Her old computer ran slow as mud, froze frequently, and struggled with many basic tasks. Now she has a screamer! Screaming is exactly what I wanted to do. I've spent all night trying to configure her Windows XP computer run on our established home network. I tried everything! Had a friend of my wife's on the phone for over an hour but had no luck. Finally I found this website which had a lot of helpful ideas. I'm not honestly sure of which one finally did the trick but it works. It works! Keeping my fingers crossed for now.


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