March 20, 2013
But there is no Easter bunny, Santa doesn’t deliver presents for every girl and boy (naughty or not) and if you work hard you probably will not achieve “Success”. In fact you are more likely to wake one morning at the age of 42, living in your car, recovering from your third bad marriage wondering where the alimony is going to come from this month. Much more likely. Is there a fairy story for that? [...]
February 19, 2013
Merry Winter Day of No Particular Note from North Korea, American oppressors!
So the North Koreans have had yet another Nuclear test and successfully launched a satellite into space. Kim Jong un says this is a matter of steadfast defense and their blossoming space program, the rest of us aren’t so sure.
February 18, 2013
I love those kinds of phrases. Things like “Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” and “That dog won’t hunt” and even “Nine women can’t have a baby in one month.” Even though I once had a manager who insisted they could, if properly motivated. They are linguistic relics of a life [...]
January 29, 2013
We’re finally hearing rumblings of the Republican party coming to it’s senses. Senators and Representatives are calling for at least sounding like we’re listening. [...]
January 24, 2013
Victim of the horrible “Poindexter syndrome” always get a second opinion when choosing glasses (from an Adult)
I remember the first time I discovered I needed reading glasses. Sitting in yet another crushingly boring meeting I was handed a printout of a spread sheet in point 17 font. In an attempt to squeeze [...]
January 22, 2013
The PLIOMax project is a good read and worth some investment of time. [...]
December 4, 2012
Well, we’ve finally done it. The party has presented some recommendations for a budget deal. It’s too bad it’s a copy and paste of Tom Daschle’s list from two years ago, but it’s something. There is almost no specificity, there’s quite a bit of “MathMichigas,” but at least we’re starting to see our hand [...]
November 28, 2012
Paranoids don’t want the worst to happen they are just terrified it will, while lot of these people seemed thrilled at the prospect. [...]
November 5, 2012
A proposed Storm Surge barrier beyond the Verrazano bridge.
Just in case you thought you might have missed some, there was no #5,#6,#7, too boring to keep whining on and on. However, last night for the first time we saw lights on the hills around our house. Ohio Edison trucks whizzed up and [...]
November 1, 2012
I finally got out for a walk this afternoon, the welcome sounds of chainsaws and chippers drew me from my happy castle. In just a few short minutes of walking I was quite convinced that we’re in this for the long haul. Trees are down everywhere, lines are down everywhere and roads are [...]
October 31, 2012
From the NY Time – It’s tough to get on the FDR drive through this tunnel today.
Here I sit in the middle of a disaster area watching TV and eating for sympathy. I had a breakfast sandwich while watching the HMS bounty go down. Possible loss of life, two, her captain has [...]
October 30, 2012
Tuesday October 30th, 2012.
The generator is not so loud as it is endless. New rules for later tonight, generator off at 10pm. My poor neighbors. I got up early to catch the news and see what’s going on around me. The hills are dark. No streetlights, no houses lit, just dark woods [...]
October 29, 2012
I just had this all blown off yesterday.
Monday, October 29th, 10:27 am
Weather forecasting is great, you get to worry for five full days before the the latest Frankenstorm hits. Well, after multiple trips to the store for more bacon and chips (the traditional storm preparedness supplies) we are now starting the [...]
October 22, 2012
Easily the worst part of being a Republican is constantly taking flak for Governor Romney. “He’s the best we’ve got,” or “ Well, maybe some business smarts will help the congress do something…” seems pretty weak when Mitt open up his mouth once again.
Never tiring of the same old, tired, [...]
October 3, 2012
Did you know that the price of wheat is the price of wheat all around the planet? Yup, it’s the same. We can include Corn, Soybeans, Rice and most other staple foodstuffs in that category as well. When did that happen? Sometime in the 1970’s it actually became official, but it’s been going on [...]
September 18, 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled [...]
September 12, 2012
An ambassador, and several others were killed by an angry mob in libya yesterday. In a sense they were killed over free speech. They were killed because of a 13 minute movie “trailer” called “The Innocence of Muslims” released on the Internet. That was wrong, as vile as it was ignorant and a great tragedy. However, mostly it was due to an incredibly stupid or malicious use of the powers of freedom granted to us in the United States. [...]
August 29, 2012
It’s sat there for 5 years. It’s sat there since my son pushed the memory card in backwards and rendered $2500 of digital excellence almost completely useless. [...]
July 30, 2012
The beginning of yet another 90 degree day.
Just about anyone not living in a cave, or clutching hopefully to the “It’s just weather” line could write about the serious changes we’re seeing because of global warming. In the last two weeks I had some weird or possibly serendipitous events that brought the [...]
April 18, 2012
A couple of months ago, some contributors registered some incredulity or perhaps just surprise when I mentioned that there were quite a few Tea Party members in Zucotti Park. This was something I heard through the live footage of the Occupy Wall Street. But at that time there was very little credible documentation for [...]
April 4, 2012
The new menu addition
Bob and I have just put up a new feature for the SWI community. You will see a new entry in the site’s menu bar called “FORUMPRESS.” This menu selection will take you to the new SWI forums, which is a place for commentary and discussion.
Initially the Forums [...]
March 31, 2012
Here is a presentation that was prepared for Bob Grant examining the current and potential future of Speak Without Interruption. This document has been shared with some of the contributors and now we are opening it up to all readers and contributors for general discussion. Please give us your questions, comments and criticisms. Let us know what you [...]
March 29, 2012
Sunny, warm, a great walking city with wonderful French dinners and a purse snatching foiled, is Chicago my kind of town? [...]
March 16, 2012
So where do you like to keep the little woman?
As we wind our painful way down to the final selection of which embarrassing nincompoop we will offer as a candidate, we discover it’s not too late to drive a few more nails in the election coffin.
It yet another ground breaking [...]
March 12, 2012
first cast upgrade, laser and super bright Led, the silver dots are the firing buttons (don't freak, the red is just mounting tape)
On Friday morning one of my fingers fought it out with a 4 inch circular saw. They are a supremely useful and versatile tool, but now I find myself thinking [...]
March 5, 2012
Yeah, big brains. Deal with it.
For some reason I do a lot of translating, in and out of languages, most of which I really don’t know. It has made me acutely aware of the difficulty of “smoothing.” That is adjusting the English versions to more match the intent of the original. Or, at [...]
February 24, 2012
By way of apology for a seemingly cold and insensitive remark, let me try to make it up to you with a gift. These are the three pieces of advice my late wife gave me before she died, leaving me with three smelly, rambunctious and dangerous boys. Well, that and the strict warning not [...]
February 20, 2012
14 stories of happy
It took me a couple of days to get used to the strangeness of it all. Here we were slamming our way across the ocean in a 14 story building, all the while being coached to “Buy, Buy, Buy!”
It’s been a long time since I drank that much. [...]
January 25, 2012
We set ourselves up for the public smacking we took last night. Stood strong, turned our chin at just the right angle for maximum contact, dressed in our best smug smile and the President’s haymaker punch knocked us all to the moon. Nice job.
In truth, it was well deserved. The party has nothing [...]
January 23, 2012
I looked across at that face you see when someone clearly thinks you’ve lost your mind and can barely stop the flood of reasons why this is a crazy idea bursting out of their mouths. Instead, they’re doing their best to wait for you to suddenly realize your “life error,” and repent. They’ll give [...]
January 17, 2012
Tomorrow, starting at 8 am eastern time, Speak Without Interruption will show it’s support for the Stop SOPA Internet Blackout, January 18th from 8am to 8pm.
SWI, along with thousands of other sites all across the Internet, will redirect it’s users to a special Stop SOPA page. [...]
January 8, 2012
Best movie ever, and so real!
There are, and have always been monsters on this planet. 800 pound tigers, 1200 pound Grisly bears, 4200 pound Great White sharks and 5 ton Killer whales come immediately to mind. We have many smaller monsters as well, some only barely perceptible with special tools like microscopes [...]
January 4, 2012
It was 4.7 degrees outside this morning, which is quite a change from New Years Day’s 57 degrees. The furnace has been running all morning fighting to replace the heat lost and the cats are snuggled up against the vents blocking the airflow. They are toasty warm though. Are we glad 2011 is [...]
December 13, 2011
I think the hardest thing to stomach about some in the “Republican” party these days is that they don’t seem to have good connection with the real world. Over and over again we all see examples of this disconnection, a kind of unfortunate triumph of ideology over reality. Just another reason to only mumble [...]
December 13, 2011
I don’t know if you’re like me but in the past to spruce up my pieces I would do a quick image search to find some appropriate images and insert them into the text. Cartoons, pictures of political figures, images of great art, or just about anything else that seemed to match my subject.
November 26, 2011
It was a quiet holiday this year, almost overrun by “Black Friday” and Christmas. We watched the Macy’s parade for a while and then sett of to my parents’ house in Princeton. No turkey frying for us this year. No delicious aromas of gravy, stuffing and fresh cranberries sauce filling the house and no [...]
November 18, 2011
It seems that every time I turn around there is more junk around our house. It’s nice junk, don’t get me wrong, but what are we going to do with all of this stuff?
I guess I’ve spent my life collecting accouterments. Sets of china, tables, couches, dressers, appliances, books, rugs, in short no [...]
November 16, 2011
My wife and I just came back from a three day weekend in Virginia. We’ve made it a goal to visit likely places to move at least twice a year. The time of retirement is coming. She put a stake in the ground last week, it’s 5 years and counting.
I’m not sure what [...]
November 8, 2011
Sometimes I think if I just close my eyes the stupid antics of the GOP will just go away. And they would, if only they didn’t talk. That’s what’s got Herman Cain into trouble, both talking and of course the not-talking. Victim number one and two surface, and Herman says “I don’t know anything about this.” Victim three shows up, represented by counsel and Herman says “I’m not going to talk about this anymore.” Victim four shows up, in person, represented by one of the toughest attorneys in the country for this kind of thing and Herman says, “ We are taking this head on, there’s not an ounce of truth in all these allegations.”
Well, we can’t wait, Herm-y. We’re all ears. Here you go “Problem solver,” turn this into Pizza. While accusations fly about who leaked this to the press, was it Rick Perry’s campaign? Was it Rahm Emanuel? No one seems to be asking “Who the hell vetted this guy?” I guess the whole “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment, multiple times” question just isn’t on the candidate sign-up sheet.
There are lots of reasons Herman Cain shouldn’t be closer to the White House than a postcard picture of the Lincoln bedroom, or thinking again, how about a nice shot from across the street? But, we are all snake fascinated by the “sex scandal” instead. Except, as it looks so far, Herman was better at getting the “breeze” than the girl. Continue reading The Embarassed Republican: Raising Cain
November 4, 2011
Me and Joe, out by the Wall, some lost spring day.
When my first wife died, leaving me with three sons, ages 6 through 15, I went through a lot of changes. It’s a very different universe when you wake up as only one person after 20 years of being part of a marriage. As kind of half-ling, I began to search for my own identity, which brought me back to thoughts of our time at college together, and those times even before I’d met her. Back when there was only me.
I began to look up old friends, people I hadn’t seen in 20 years or more. At first, as a matter of simple notification, reaching out to those I thought would want to know of my wife’s passing. The Internet made it easier and as I gained some facility in my investigations, I began to search ever further, outside our “monkey circle” of friends. Lost names and faces from the time before times came back to me and I continued to hunt. I didn’t really want to rekindle all those relationships, just find out what happened to everyone. To have a chance through their words and voices to see if I still recognized them. Maybe just to find out who I was, or had been. I know you can’t go home again, and I certainly couldn’t go back to college. Both are just strings of fragile and transitory moments in time and relationships. Continue reading Finding Eddie G
November 1, 2011
Well, it’s happened again, we got our asses kicked by yet another storm just two months after the first. Last time we lost power for 5 days, and it seemed like months. This time it was just a little over 24 hours, but you could smell the relief in the air when the lights flicked back to life.
My wife and I were sitting out on the deck smoking, (yes I know, naughty naughty) after 20 hours without power on Sunday, surveying the immense damage around us. Piles of broken branches on the ground and still-hanging boughs waving in the air. She turned to me and said “Oh course, we all know there’s nothing going on with the climate!” We’ve lived in this area for almost 30 years and the east coast for most of our lives. While that’s hardly a climatological viewpoint, it makes us witnesses to continually hotter summers which bring more ticks and other pests than ever, a rainy and snowy inundation of our once pleasant climes, and harsher storms to challenge everything that stands above ground. It’s makes us much more sensitive to the predicament to the people of the Seychelles whose entire living space is gradually sinking beneath the waves of a rising Pacific. Continue reading Living through Snowzilla
October 27, 2011
Like most things in this universe, blame is circular. It flows from one person to another, one cause to another and usually ends up back where it started. So it is with the mighty corporations, the public kind, traded on Wall Street and other exchanges every day. We like to blame them for all sorts of crimes against us, in a very idealistic way. It’s simple and picturesque to be wronged by the faceless, heartless and machine-like corporate entities.
However, imagine having a boss who was so callous as not to care if you lived or died. A harsh taskmaster who would gladly fire you at the slightest issue, whether it was your fault, an issue with a contractor, “act of god” or just random happenstance. A boss who was so insubstantial they they only appeared as a kind of doubtful fog, one that came and went without warning and who may or may not be drawn away forever at any moment. A tyrannical master who cares not for the truth of rumors but only if they occur. One who profits by your success or failure. Every CEO and Board knows exactly what’s that’s like, it’s like dealing with Stockholders.
While faceless corporations are easy to point fingers at, it becomes much harder to affix blame for just about anything they do once we think just a little further. For example lets consider an Oil spill. A big nasty one, with lots of gooey sludge and some dead birds mixed in. Lovely, and obviously the corporations fault. Maybe they should have taken more precautions, been more careful about safety or the employes/contractors they hired. Maybe it was just sheer greed, that’s a comfortable thought. Greedy little executives, on high, counting their money while being quite deaf to the “little people.” Continue reading The tyranny of Stockholders
October 19, 2011
It’s raining today, a cold October rain, and it’s drenching the protestors on Wall Street. So, now what was once a hot, dirty encampment on concrete and asphalt is a cold wet struggle not to get washed out.
The weather is against them today, but in the past few weeks Occupy Wall Street has faced many enemies and supporters as well, chipping away at their meaning and message. Looking through their notes on the real website, (there are so many “would be’s” and “Could be’s,” not to mention all the “We are too’s!”) I see a lot of “we are not associated with…. “ notices.
From conservative media TV hosts and Bloggers assigning “meanings” to the protests, fear mongering with warnings of upcoming violence (there hasn’t been any on the part of the protestors, unless you count walking in the street) to an almost national obsession with the “demands” they expect. Actually, we’re really not looking for demands as much as proposed solutions to hold up or tear down. It’s a lot to handle for a loosely organized grass roots group barely 5 weeks old. Lately progressive groups like MoveOn.org and big labor have jollied their way forward trying to get in the lead. All these groups seem to have missed the point.
When was the last time you read Rolling Stone? I like Matt Taibbi, but I don’t read him much. Rather, I hear him from time to time on the local NPR station, WNYC. However, I will read him more from now on because of what he wrote in this “off-hand” piece.
It’s a concise response to being accused of participating in the “liberal Media” plot behind Occupy Wall street, and a solid analysis of the forces trying to align the movement. I think one of the best things he points out is that his, and many other reporters emails were stolen and forwarded to the NYPD, the FBI and who knows who else. Continue reading Who are the 99%?
October 10, 2011
My wife and I snuck in a little “us time” this past weekend. We took the train to Baltimore to look at boats, eat out for a change and just be alone for a while. As it turns out Baltimore manufactured it’s own nickname “Charm city” in the late 70’s when the Mayor commissioned a group of local ad executives to come up with a campaign to change the city’s image.
Baltimore was a rough place in the late 60’s and 70’s, run down too. Now it has a shiny, almost Disney’esque waterfront area thanks to that Mayor, as well as several attractive services like free busses that circulate throughout the city. They are very clean and bright. It was only one comment from a street performer made me look a lot harder at the city while I was there, and listen a lot closer to what people said. Don’t get me wrong here, Baltimore is a very cool town, lots to see and do. The people I met were unfailingly polite and helpful, the weather was mild and pleasant and it’s an easy city to walk in.
To take advantage of that we strolled down to the boat show, ready to pry into all the waiting nautical nooks and crannies. Our first, best retirement plan is to be constantly mobile on the rivers, lakes and seas of the world, or at least the parts within a hundred miles of tera firma. My wife loves boats but has great doubts about thousands of miles of ocean. For me it’s a chance to wake up with a panoramic ocean view where the waters are turquoise blue, deep and clear enough to see down 100 feet. That way I can see the “big things” coming, before I go in for a dip. Continue reading Charm city
October 6, 2011
Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011
Herder of cats
Some people say that Steve Jobs was an amazing innovator and that he had the boldness and the talent to change the world. I think this is partly true. But these pundits miss one of Mr. Jobs greatest accomplishments. He also had the ability to manage, direct and drive a wide variety of very bright, talented people to a single goal. Very few managers and executives have that ability in the abundance that Jobs had.
It must have been incredible gratifying to start Apple computer. It was the epitome of American success stories. Started with a couple of friends in a garage, grown by relentless effort and endurance in a market that had no use or idea for what they hoped to sell. That alone is a huge success story. I had one of the early generations of Apple computers, an Apple II and it started me on my career. Continue reading Steve Jobs: iDead
October 3, 2011
We hadn’t seen much coverage of the protestors on Wall street, at least not on the national news. Well, until they started to get arrested. That could be because they are polite, completely non-violent and don’t seem to have any leaders or major media message. They do have a name though “The 99%.”
They are definitely building numbers, new groups seem to join them every day. Last week it was Airline pilots, and Subway workers. This week will come more trade unions, the “Rebuild the dream movement” and several other national groups. The list of upcoming events is impressive. Makes me want to show up as well, just to get a sense of what’s going on. Something is happening here, and it’s starting to feel big, steam roller big.
Although they have been portrayed as being a “purposeless rabble” there is a singular purpose, expressing dissatisfaction with big corporations, the wealthiest individuals, their institutions and the erosion of opportunities and support of everyone else. They have a lot of sympathy, on both sides of the “two party system” and all across the political spectrum. We can see the proof as these demonstrations spread to other cities and towns. What started in New York, now is happening in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and about 40 other cities across the entire continent.
Taking a look at the various websites that are suddenly springing up, the 99% have sparked organizations in at least 44 states. There are groups coming together in 12 European countries as well. Maybe it was the recent explosion of the Arab Spring that leads me to believe that what we are watching is the same kind of phenomena, but happening here and in Europe. Were the Wisconsin protests just a precursor to something larger? Were the London “riots?” Maybe it’s that these are all just regular people, young and old who are expressing their dissatisfaction with their declining Continue reading Is this what revolution looks like?- The 99%
October 2, 2011
It’s one of the coming of age ceremonies that some young men and women pass through on their way to adult life. It always seems to happen in the wee hours, so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when my youngest son put his hand on my shoulder, waking me at 2 am this morning, and asked “Dad, can you help me?”
The light above the sink that silhouetted his form also illuminated the great red/brown pools of vomit that stretched from wall to wall in the downstairs bathroom. Wafting acidic vapors were quickly filling the entire downstairs. He was fully blown, but soon retreated to crouching over the toilet bowl in the endless agony of a stomach trying to bring his entire body through his mouth for a good rinsing. He was driving the porcelain truck, learning the fine points of the alcohol game. There you go son, now you are a man. How’s it feel?
I didn’t expect it. But he and a friend had emptied half a handle of Myers rum in one of the back rooms in our house, the one we call the “Lab.” Holding with tradition it had been a secret ceremony, held far from the eyes and ears of inquisitive adults. His friend was face down in a corner of that dark room, gone from the world, but still bubbling gooey ejecta from his mouth. He was heavy too, one hundred and fifty pounds of vomit-slimy rag doll. Too heavy for 2am. Too heavy for this 56 year old to get over the landing and the stairs to the wretched already besmirched bathroom by myself. As I muscled him around, I was rewarded for my efforts with a fresh red/brown fountain down my back. Later he also got the front for good measure. Time to get help, it’s nice to have a six foot six, 265 pound older son nearby. Continue reading Fording the pools of puke in parenthood
September 26, 2011
We had a discussion a while ago about manufacturing jobs so I’ve been thinking about that, especially as our candidates tour around the country and debate. There’s a lot of talk about getting back to an economy of “Making things.” There’s a lot of talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs. Which begs the question, which manufacturing jobs do we want back?
How about the electronics manufacturing jobs that bring China’s workers about a dollar a day? Or what about the clothing manufacturing jobs in India that pay even less than a dollar a day? That sound good?
The Chinese premier visited recently and made a point by holding up a the top of the line $400 iPhone. “This only brings back $25 dollars to China.” He’s right of course, the engineers and programmers, designers and managers at Apple get most of the rest. That’s why they have more cash on hand than just about any other company in the world. Continue reading What jobs do you want?
September 15, 2011
One of the great sadnesses in our society is the stigma we give mental disabilities or mental differences. Whether it be a nervous tick, Dyslexia or ADHD the afflicted are shunned as if carrying a deadly communicable disease. Perhaps “shunned” isn’t the right word, maybe it’s more like “automatically dealt with.” It’s not the [...]
September 8, 2011
If I had to put my finger on the biggest problem in America today, I would put it squarely in the face of our fears. It seems we’ve changed from the lion of the world just a few short years ago to a fearful angry nation hiding behind our weapons and out-dated policies.
It was fear that started the war in Iraq, the same for the war in Afghanistan. It that same fear that ties our hands as we try to climb out of the deadly recession. It rules our economic and political interaction with smaller developing nations as well as up and coming giants like China and India. Worst of all when we, the neighborhood superpower are afraid, everyone gets nervous not knowing what will happen.
It’s a strange turn of events when the country who developed the Marshall plan and pushed for the organization of the United Nations should feel we need to go it alone in military conflict after military conflict. No stranger perhaps than begging and pleading with the rest of the world to get on board with capitalism for a hundred years and then feeling threatened when they do. What are we so afraid of? This is what we wanted. We had a big part in building the world we live in both by action and example, now we just want it to go away?
We see Globalization as a threat, socialized medicine as a threat, global warming as a threat, the successes of other countries as a threat as well as being panicked by their failures. We look at a sudden burst of democratic reforms all across the middle east as a threat, and we see the slow and painful failure of the communist regime in North Korea as a threat as well. Many of the things we’ve worked years for we now regard as dangerous.
Maybe we just got old. An elderly country hiding behind it’s picket fence shouting out at the kids passing by, “You better stay off my lawn!” Blaming everyone and everything for our own sudden lack of confidence. Continue reading Living in Fear
September 1, 2011
After a four day sojourn in world of dark, I’m thrilled at the simple magic of turning on a light by just pressing a switch. Yes we had flashlights and white fuel lanterns, but it’s not the same as the full, corner filling illumination of electric light. It’s nice to flush the toilets as well, really nice.
Midway through our fourth day one of the township crews came by with a generator and a jury rigged cable to start the pump in our holding tank. It turns out we didn’t have a 500 gallon capacity, it topped out at about 60 gallons. No wonder we were full so fast. The release of stress when the grinder pump started to churn and water actually went down when we flushed was lovely.
I had taken it upon myself to become the pooh ladler, making my rounds each day with an old plastic bucket to empty each toilet. After all it’s only poop and paper. Then I would bag it up and put it in the garbage, as a special treat for the local sanitation engineers. I did “double bag” though.
I was most surprised at the growing sense of dis-ease that over came us all as time went on. Little frustrations built up into a sense of malaise, that piled into grim faces by the third day. It didn’t help that the local authorities kept announcing that all would be well by 10pm, or that the power utility had the pure stupidity to grumble about the cost of repairs forcing them to raise the rates soon.
Raise the rates? We coming over to burn your houses down if you don’t get us working soon. The local government had nothing but praise for the power utility, and the power utility “appreciated the full cooperation of the municipality.” “That’s nice,” said our voices in the dark. “Prepare the boiling oil!.”
It was interesting, from a purely academic standpoint, that nothing really started happening until after Irene blew through. That when trees just started to topple and streams gushed into to rivers and rivers leapt our of their banks and took over the land. Irene never materialized as the devastator she was predicted to be, she was only a tropical storm when she got here. It was still plenty. Continue reading Irene, four days is plenty
August 29, 2011
Well here we are in the midst of our second day without power. Irene did not have the predicted high winds but she did pack a lot of rain. Enough to drown our town’s major substation.
Morning’s first light is greeted by the sound of generators and pumps lighting lights and emptying cellars. We walk among the leaf strewn streets to view houses and cars crushed by trees. The merry rivers and streams of our town frolic through the streets leaving wide swaths of soaked sticks, leaves and mud when they finally go back to their homes.
Mostly we wait for the power company to make a pronouncement more valuable than “extended period.” we are better off than most on our street. We have white fuel lanterns for light, and a generator to keep the refrigerators going. However, so far we can’t use it to master the house’s Achilles heel, the poop pump.
I have nothing but praise for my off the shelf Costco generator. $350 well spent for 3500 watts. The power it turns out isn’t good enough for a computer or other equipment that demands pharmaceutical grade power, but that kind of generator requires an extra zero in the price. For the cost it’s been a lifesaver. Starts on the second pull every time and runs as long as you put gas in it. It bravely delivers both 120 and 240 at a moments notice, even in weather as cold as 10 below. Continue reading Hot wiring Irene
August 16, 2011
There’s a shortage of Wite-Out in the conservative business camps lately, the’ve begun to quietly paint over a whole section of history, because frankly it doesn’t make any sense to them. During the late 1950’s and early 60’s Union participation was at it’s highest, almost 30% of jobs were unionized. Unfortunately this was also a time of unprecedented industrial and economic power for the United States. That’s awkward.
The unionization of the American workforce didn’t come about because the working man’s or working women’s lives were hunky dory. Both public and private unions grew and flourished because workers faced the same problems; oppressive work and compensation systems that favored profit over safety and secure employment.
Giving employees the power to negotiate their salaries, benefits and working conditions was a tough pill for employers to swallow. They fought hard to prevent this loss of power and spent billions throughout the years trying to defeat unionization. Although, many union members and organizers were hurt or killed attempting to get these concessions, these bands of employees fought on. And after all of that struggle, the evidence is clear the Union movement was actually very good for American companies, making them the industrial and service leaders of the world.
It wasn’t really all that new idea, long before Union members were being called Communists and Socialists, they were known as Guilds and Confraternaties where talented workers banded together to level the playing field between consuming companies or individuals and workers supplying the effort and expertise. Collective power is a very old concept, in fact the only word for employees who don’t band together to better their lives is slaves.
A group or organization that collectively organizes workers is good not only for the workers but also for those who employ them. The Union or Guild provides a single point of contact for all employment negotiations. This means that there is a single set of rules and costs for employment, which make planning and projection much easier. When approached in partnership these organizations enable. When approached in competition the relationship is rarely profitable. No one wins in a adversarial negotiation or a strike. The workers might eventually get back pay and the company might start running smoothly again, but the intervening time is lost to all. Continue reading Union!
August 5, 2011
That’s torn it. Now we’re in trouble with Pimco, Standard and Poors and Moodys. A hat trick of detention, all of our own doing. Our Grand Old party has shaken the world (again) proving “Who says no one could be that stupid twice?” Some people would say we handed the country over to the oligarchs.
In the eleventh hour the “Debt Crisis” was essentially solved when The Chamber of Commerce and other business interests let the Tea party and other budget choppers know that it was their campaign funds on the chopping block.
Effectively handing the entire country over to the ratings agencies, the focus on the wrong side of the balance sheet, the frightening “take no prisoners” attitude and the calls of “who cares about default, we spend to much money!” have worked their magic with the economic masters of the universe. That’s no longer us, by the way.
By throwing a full body block during the election two-step my masterful party has opened the yawning gates to hell. Right now investors are bolting for safety, dumping stocks as fast as they dare and looking forward to another major dip. Apparently unbeknownst to our conservative penny pinchers there is money to be made as markets and countries fall, lots of money. You can bet the Koch brothers know that. Continue reading The Embarassed republican: Hiding in the basement with a false beard
August 4, 2011
The emperor of pens - Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 "Diplomat"
I though today would be as good a day as any to bring this up. I have always been a fan of writing instruments. Pencils and pens, brushes and crayons all peak my curiosity. What’s would it be like to use this rapidograph? Would a really fine pencil make my handwriting more beautiful or more expressive? As I said in my column today “I once had my handwriting analyzed to see what it might reveal about me. The analyst told me my handwriting clearly said I shouldn’t have skipped penmanship.”
I do love to write with a fountain pen though, something about the expressiveness of the lines or perhaps the still liquid track of ink shining up from the page. I’ve been through a lot of fountain pens in my life. They’ve leaked in my pockets, turned my fingers blue and created large piles of stained tissues that overflow the various wastebaskets I’ve used.
Two things have come of that, I now detest the color blue for ink, preferring green or red and I continue to search for the finest points possible. Does anyone remember writing so much that there was a little dent in the end of your finger, that hurt? Scrawling page after page until your whole arm and back began to ache? What about finishing an exam question, only to smear the answer? Ah, good times, good times. Continue reading Personal writing
August 1, 2011
In recent months the New York Times has been running news from the civil war years. At the very least I thought this was curious when I first noticed it. I though it was a little predictive and possibly incendiary later on during the squabbles over the debt. However, it did remind it’s readers [...]
July 26, 2011
It was a very long time ago, but it is still one of my clearest memories. I had been bundled off to the wilds of Maine for 8 weeks in a summer camp. 8 weeks of woodcraft, marching up and down through the dense Maine woods and sleeping on double bunk cots during long nights of homesickness. But the homesickness wears off, as does the excitement of being far away in an unfamiliar place. It becomes tedious, the days getting longer and longer with each trumpet call to breakfast or announcement of “Today is really special!”
I hungered for civilization. In the rough sawn cabins the call of plaster and sheetrock rang in my ears. I yearned for asphalt roads and the ring of the telephone. Which is why when I heard about the 2 day Art trip going to Bar Harbor, I flew to the sign-up sheet.
10 of us, the unruly denizens of the art and crafts building, clambered into two Ford vans and began the long sweet rumble down the camp’s dirt roads to the hustle and bustle of the big city. The ride was long, as any drive in Maine is inevitably long. All things are distant in that great state. But soon we saw other cars, other people, and best of all none of them were likely to burst into the Chewonki camp song at a moment’s notice.
I spent a wonderful afternoon in all of the 2 shops of Bar harbor. It was there I purchased (using my entire summer’s allowance) the succor of my soul for the rest of that long, long summer. It was a small blue transistor radio, definitely illegal in camp terms but small enough to hide under my pillow at night.
I forget what we actually came to Bar Harbor to see, but the people and the ships in the bay were wonderful. I felt like I could breathe again. We ran over the wharves and bounced from dock to street in an endless celebration of town and sea life. Continue reading Ghosts #1: Simon or Simone?
July 24, 2011
I’ve often wondered why we don’t ask out candidates for office the hardest question of all? “Which of your principals are you willing to give up, for all of us?”
In other words, it’s fine to hold strong beliefs, we expect that. They are easy to shout at conventions, provide gleeful agreement for supporters and rallying points for strong campaigns. However, they are not a measure of strength only of conviction.
Leadership is choosing, often against you’re better judgement between two (or 5) horrible alternatives. It’s working with people you disagree with and often don’t like or even respect. It’s forging consensus where there was none before and taking the pounding when the people you lead didn’t get their way. In short, it’s leading, and almost never has anything to do with getting your own way.
I’ve been derisive and then impressed with John Boehner lately. He worked hard to forge a deal on the debt ceiling and then went back to his party and was told to “go to hell.” The impressive part was he came back to deal again. Whether this is an impressive piece of political stagecraft, or just the way things work in Washington these days, I don’t know. I hope not. I’d like to think there are a few of the old time politicians left around who do have the courage to compromise.
Our entire congressional system is built around compromise and consensus. That’s the way it was designed and that’s the way it works best. When we have congressmen and women who draw a line in the sand and bravely will not cross it, they are like the proverbial wooden shoes in the machinery. Have enough of those, either left or right, and congress grinds to a halt. These people are no longer doing the job they were elected to in government. They are not governing. Continue reading The courage of compromise
July 19, 2011
We are in Maine for a couple of weeks, taking full advantage of a parental vacation home as visitors to the old homestead. Last year as we cruised for lobster (lobs-staa) over to Cutler (cut-laa) on the coast. We were amazed at all the new asphalt (tahd-rud) we rolled on. The stimulus was in full swing in northern Maine. That was a good thing, the northern section of Route 1 was corduroy until about 25 years ago. Corduroy is a road made out of sawn logs laid side to side, they’ve been making roads that way since the 1600′s. It takes the “new fangled” a little bit longer to work it’s way to northern Maine.
This year what’s left of stimulus funds are fast running out, as evidenced by the empty houses and egregious and bountiful display of “for sale” signs on the way to Cutler. Families are moving out and south, or in with each other. Winter will be crowded and quiet this year.
Maine has always been a hard place to live. We are tempted to think of Maine as one of the original 13 colonies, but it was actually a territorial holding of Massachusetts until 1820 when the Missouri compromise made Maine a fully fledged state. However, like many parts of the Northeast people have attempted to live there since the 1600′s. The rugged seacoast has hosted many British and French colonies It’s also a bastion of self-reliance, not by choice however, which would be very romantic, but rather by effect. Continue reading A state of Maine
July 17, 2011
I was recently prompted, along with millions of other Americans, to come up with an idea or two that might creatively solve some of our nations problems. There were lots already, we’re talking thousands, but one idea did strike me so I though I would place it before some of the smartest people I [...]
July 14, 2011
Poor John Boehner, his chances for historic accords are fading into the sunset. For a while it looked like history making time, but now its just “chest beating time.”
Meanwhile Mitch McConnell’s secret plan has emerged! Too bad it’s the same secret plan we always use lately, “Blame the President.” His plan to pass legislation to allow the President to increase the debt limit on his own, there by taking all the responsibility and the blame, will give our glorious party three opportunities to vote against the President while assuring the passage of both the blame and the increase in the debt limit.
It’s just too bad that everyone has figured out that’s what’s going on. Making it kind of like covering your own eyes and announcing that no one can see you now.
Mitch: “Wow, It’s dark in here.”
It’s all part of our master strategy of changing our image from the “Party of No” to the “Party of Doh!” Which is our destiny since we’ve embraced the great unsung power voting blocks, Looneys, Bible thumpers and those conservatives whose right wing philosophies put them between Louis the 14th and Mexican drug lords. Continue reading The Embarrassed Republican: Pulling a Boehner
July 5, 2011
I met a man from Estonia a couple of summers ago who told me that he didn’t know where America was. “What is that country?” He asked me. It was kind of a joke to him. You see in Estonia there is no America, there is only “Oooh-Sa,” which is what they call the U.S.A. “America is two continents joined together by a narrow ismus,” he explained to me. Which meant that to his mind everyone from the Northwest Territories to Chile was an “American.” “Dude,” I said “ There’s a lot of people who would be very insulted by that statement, most of whom don’t even live in the United States.”
If you measure generations in the most common way then I’m 22nd generation American, with family here long before the United States. However that doesn’t make me any more of an American than anyone else in the USA, that was what the American revolution was about, among other things. From the newest citizen to the oldest family it’s still one person, one vote. It used to be “one man one vote” but we fixed that. It used to depend a lot on the color of your skin, but we finally got that fixed that as well.
Although the country began with a single set of principles and rights we’ve been modifying them all along. It’s a long hard process, everything in a democratic republic is, but we get it done just the same. We’ve been fixing things for a very long time in this country, and we’re at it still. Continue reading The next American revolution
June 28, 2011
In the spring of this year I began to ask “what’s up with all these tornadoes?” I was assured that they were quite normal for those areas this time of year. Then our own weather radio stated to go off every week with it’s own pronouncements of Tornado warnings. Tornadoes in NJ? Is that normal? Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. I looked up at our roof, still there, so no worries right?
However, then came the Mississippi floods and the flood of Minot North Dakota. I’ve been to Minot actually, it’s a long story but I know it well enough to know their marketing phrase was “Why not, Minot?” It’s taken me a couple of years but I have a reason now.
A year or so ago, I challenged one of the authors here to meet me at the North Pole in 2030 for a drink. I asked that he bring a sturdy boat and told him I would bring ice because there wouldn’t be any around. Looks like I can move up that date to 2013. Scientists are a bit like weathermen aren’t they? I guess the “model” was a little off.
With record droughts in Texas and Arizona, the biggest ever in recorded history, I started to wonder if all this was just weather. The difference between weather and climate is sustained effect. In other words, it might be raining but that doesn’t make it a monsoon. Checking with climatologists the reports are about split 50-50 between “I told you so, jerk!” and “Too early to tell, we need more data.” I guess that means I have to look up and find my roof gone at least 5 times before we are close to a conclusive theory. Continue reading No connection?
June 27, 2011
That used to be a common saying when I was growing up. I was and am part of the follow-on generation to what I think was the real “greatest generation.” That’s probably because I grew up watching that generation throwing tear gas grenades back at the riot police. I watched them stop the Vietnam war, cried when they got shot for their trouble at Kent State and cheered them when they were the “freedom-riders.” This was the generation that burned their draft cards and bras, picketed, marched and sat in against every unfairness they could think of. It was a time of “What are you rebelling against? I don’t know, what have you got?”
Their fathers and mothers may have won the second world war, but the greatest generation changed the world after the war. And this is the generation that is beginning to retire now, these are the ones worrying about healthcare, jobs, and a declining economy. They are the ones who have seen the shenanigans on wall street and had their 401ks cut in half. The ones who have watched the economy double since 1980, but noticed that they actually make less. The ones who are public servants, private entrepreneurs and most of all, thinkers.
These hippies, yippies and socialist revolutionaries are the ones who are listening when there is a call for a revolution. You see, they’ve answered before and mostly they aren’t conservatives or strict constitutionalists. They’re not “Everyman for him/her self-ers.” They won’t abandon each other against big corporations, big politics or big media outlets, they invented the word “solidarity.” They know how to change the world. They know that it happens among small groups of friends in basements making posters, at rallies, marches and demonstrations. They know it takes a long time. Continue reading Come the revolution
June 21, 2011
I was more than a little surprised Saturday night. We had our yearly French bread picnic, a gathering of our friends over a table of meats, cheeses, fruits pickles and other condiments all paired with loves and loaves of thinly sliced French baguettes and red wine.
While hunched over our plates of goodies the talk turned to politics. My wife wisely asked me not to pursue it any further, but her best efforts were defeated. Once out of the box, the talk of politics always takes on a life of it’s own.
I got the usual astonished “You’re a Republican?” comment. I always do. People sometimes fail to realize that in an effective 2 party system each party will have elements of conservatives, liberals, progressives and regressives.
However, the surprise really came when we all turned out to be Republicans and we actually agreed on a lot of points. As it turned out we all seemed to be financially conservative and socially progressive. A group that doesn’t fit the current Washington Republican profile. It’s a calm, thoughtful group and well worth listening to. I certainly learned a few things.
We collectively wondered why all these extremists were also suddenly calling themselves Republicans? Who invited them to the Party? When did that start to happen? The Ann coulters, Glenn Becks of the regressive “wacky” fringe seems to be steering the Republican ship lately and it’s damned disconcerting. It used to be a party of wiser, possibly more experienced, mostly more affluent serious minded individuals who knew the way to progress was making the right deal. Continue reading The Embarassed Republican: A civil government
June 15, 2011
We love comments here, good or bad. Comments are feedback and writers love feedback (they even love to hate feedback) Feedback lets the author know someone read his piece. So, please comment.
Sometimes the comments are even better than the piece, so always be sure to check them out. Comments are writing too.
Some words are going to trigger the Spam Algorythms. Inclusion of certain words are a sure bet to get your comment dropped in the spam file for later review. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, it just means that an admin will go through the hundreds of spam comments to hopefully find yours and “un-spam” it.
Here are the words to avoid:
The last two are there because we had a virtual attack of phony messages that included “Imoti” and “Varna”. I recently removed the word “Nigger” because it was stopping comments to a legitimate posting. It may or may not go back on the list. Continue reading Some posting information for our contributors – the “dirty” words
June 1, 2011
Our “immigration“ problem is undoubtably of our own making. By that I mean that without Americans and American businesses hiring illegal immigrant workers there would be no problem. But we do hire them, employing them as a kind of second class workforce. A workforce that can be paid far below the legal minimum wage, sometimes as low as what Chinese or Indian workers are paid.
It’s a conundrum that we are competing against low cost foreign nations with our own low wage workers. However it’s very clear that we are utilizing this resource and leveraging it for our own benefit. The by-product of this activity has created an American second class. How strange is it that the “land of the free and home of the brave, where all men are equal…” has a lower class. An untouchable caste suitable for factory or farm labor that can be disposed of (deported) at will.
Recent estimates measured the current illegal immigrant population at somewhere between 18 million and 30 million. That’s as much as a full 10% of the population, far too many to deport economically. And although there is some hue and cry to do exactly that, the economic damage would be massive. These are food and hospitality workers, factory and field help, maintenance and manual laborers employed because they are cheap and available. The economic reality is that they are working because we need them and we’ve come to depend on them. Mass deportations is something we dare not try just as a major recession is finally easing. So what do we do?
These immigrants have dreams, else they would not be here. Dreams of a better life than they had from whence they came. They have joined our communities, are attending our schools, harvesting our crops, working our factories, serving in industries of all types. In short they’ve quickly become part of our nation. All that separates them from American citizens is legal status. Why not use some of our famed ingenuity and take advantage of the situation? Continue reading Illegal immigrants are the answer
May 20, 2011
Congratulations to my party. At last we’ve succeeded in achieving a position that is so out of touch with current public opinion, that we’ve managed to make Newt Gingrich seem reasonable. Yet another brilliant moment in our kamikaze attack on political reality.
We pretty much have defeat covered for 2012. A line up of mad magazine’s most wanted politicians for President, and a clear crucifixion of the one barely qualified potential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney. We won’t have to worry about him any more the Democrats have recognized his potential and are already running ad campaigns against him. But we still win because they’re wasting their money, we got him first.
We have those damn Democrats completely confused and dazed with our “We’re all nuts!” strategy. Yet another brilliant stroke was having noted scientist and climate skeptic Dr. Richard Muller announce to Congress and the public that he agreed that the planet was warming, and could prove it. As we used to say in the golden days of “Leave it to Beaver,” swift, really swift. Nice vetting boys.
I’m sure that we will all be glad to hear that current estimates of Christians that will actually qualify for “the Rapture” numbers in the area of four, so previous worries of loosing a substantial amount of voters have been allayed. Considering the potential impact of pre-Rapture parties, conservative projections have that figure reduced to 2 by Saturday morning.
It is also important to note that the party has already initiated actions and media coverage to implicate several parties in the “failure to Rapture” including the “Take God off the dollar bill” crowd, single payer healthcare advocates and, of course, the IPCC. These are expected to provide an entire summer’s worth of fodder for the upcoming congressional hearings on the matter. Continue reading The embarrassed Republican: Newsflash: Rapture decimates Tea party!
May 19, 2011
I am sure some of you are familiar with the various burgeoning opportunities for writers and bloggers. One I’d like to bring to your attention is “Patch.” Patch is, or rather the Patches are, hyper-local news sites. Recently absorbed into the Huffington Post’s media group, Patch was a project by AOL to create town [...]
May 16, 2011
Short answer: Not mine.
Property the first “hard” currency and certainly the first “fiat” currency. Emperors, Kings, Queens, Lords and every one from lowly serfs to cave men have fought and died over property ownership through out the entire history of the human race. It is a lasting and poisonous racial myth that confounded the Native Americans and fueled short lived dreams of European settlers. As it turns out the Native Americans were right all along, you can’t actually own property, if you think you can you’re dreaming, and sooner or later you’ll “come a’cropper.” But as those same natives found out, people who think they can own property are impossible to convince otherwise. They have to come to that realization their own. Which is why, as the proud “owner” of .26 acres with a house in Northern New Jersey, I am confident of two things: I don’t actually “own” anything, and it will be a lot cheaper when I finally admit that.
You can own a car. You can own clothes. However, it’s a big stretch of the imagination to believe that we actually own property. We can sign deeds, build houses, march around proudly proclaiming our stewardship but as soon as we try to do something with our property the light dawns. For instance, I have enough acreage to provide the base for an impressive 300 foot medieval stone tower, with which I could stupefy my neighbors. But, I’d soon be in court and eventually have to take it down, at my own expense. That’s because property ownership comes with conditions and, more importantly, other owners. Continue reading Whose property is this, anyway?
May 11, 2011
I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my new, and quite undeserved computer. My laptop is coming on 6 years old and while it seems to get slower everyday, it’s really a result of the demands I put on it and the constant changes in software.
Every software improvement almost always comes at a price. Software designers always want to do more and hardware engineers have to race to keep up. It has always been that way, and probably always will be. So while my MacBook Pro has been a faithful companion, lasting far longer against the depredations of power-crazed programmers than it’s PC counterparts, it too will eventually fall.
As neither software or hardware developer, I cast my lot with the rest of us lowly users. I am a simple slave to the personal computer market place. Even though I constantly review technology as part of my job, and write long thoughtful commentaries (at least I think they’re thoughtful) on the vagaries and verdicts of living in a cyber-world, I too have walked out of the software store only to find that my puny system won’t run this cool new program.
I really didn’t deserve a new computer, after all mine is still working. Any new computer was supposed to be paid for from the millions I would earn from selling the movie rights to my amazing novel. I was going to buy a new computer on the way back from getting the check at my agent’s office. Since he no longer takes me to his club but now favors the corner “umbrella room” for my visits, that all looks pretty distant.
However, I have a secret weapon, my wife. Working for a multinational corporation with discounts from every company known to man has it’s benefits. I played upon her vast sympathies, like the evil monkey-brained slithy toad I am proud to be. Every once in a while I would cry out sad phrases like “oh, woe is me, if I wait for this to finish loading I shall soon be far too old to bring you breakfast in bed (for a year!)” and other cleverly composed alluring tales of woe. She relented with only the barest of recriminations, and of course, several contractual agreements.
Then came the decision as to what to get next? For me, a confirmed Mac addict, an eschewer of the bargain PC and sufferer of many years under the Microsoft delusion, the manufacturer choice was easy. Continue reading New computers
May 5, 2011
We had some minor problems today, but our provider Hostgator cleaned them up. Which gave me the opportunity to look at some statistics (I just can’t resist!), we have not only continued to grow but we’ve about doubled our traffic since January. Where as we were transferring about 28 gigabytes in January we transferred [...]
May 2, 2011
I got the news last night, way past my bedtime, so consequently it barely registered with me. However, this morning I got a chance to think about it. I understand the celebration, but wonder about the affair and the consequences.
An elite special forces group attacked Bin Laden’s shared compound about 40 miles from the city of Islamabad in Pakistan. So, he was hiding out for the past 6 years in the center of Pakistan. I have a few questions about that.
He was shot in head during the firefight and his body was flown to a US carrier. After the Saudis declined the offer of the return of the remains, Bin Laden was buried at sea. Let the conspiracy theories begin.
What does this really mean? I myself had hopes for a trial, but maybe that wouldn’t have worked out as a public trail probably never would have happened. If we couldn’t manage a public trial for Ali Sheik Muhammad, Bin Laden probably wouldn’t have gotten one either. That’s a shame.
What we actually have is the completion of a promise George Bush made almost 10 years ago, but that’s about all. We’ve proved we can hunt down and kill someone, no matter how long it takes. Does that make us any safer? Will Al Qaeda now collapse in shock and disbelief? I doubt it. Continue reading A questionable death
April 25, 2011
Each day we watch men, women and children out in protests for basic human rights. Things like the right to a fair election, the right to wear whatever they want, to live where they choose and to have the occupation they choose. Nothing fancy, this isn’t about expensive and complex medical care or mind numbing economic strategies. These protests are about the simplest rights that we, as Americans, take completely for granted.
And yet in payment for their troubles they are shot down in the most despicable displays of despotism imaginable. And what do these protesters do? Do they hide in their basements and deny any further involvement? Nope, they are back the next day burying their dead and getting right back to protesting. What kind of courage does that take? How brave are these plain everyday unarmed butchers, bakers and office workers to face down the guns of government day after day. Husbands, wives and children are being killed and still they keep on. How valiant, deserving of freedom could you possibly be?
And yet there are naysayers who would deflect this amazing show of indomitable courage with talk of crazed religious fundamentalists behind the protests. A coming dark movement back to the laws of the 13th century and the widespread adoption by these very same brave souls of an even worse despotic future. What are these naysayer’s smoking?
Do these people look like they want less freedom? What about the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia resemble the formation of Islamic states of all-powerful Mullahs? What do the leaders of the revolution in Libya have to be, besides being tired of being shot and bombed by their own government, to gain our acceptance? Why are children being shot daily in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen so threatening to these “old hands” at foreign policy?
Daily I hear talk of “It’s all about the oil” and “wait till the Jehadists take over…” from these otherwise sane sounding pundits. What?
Our government’s reaction may be about oil, the despot’s in power may be about oil, but I seriously doubt the last thought going through a child’s head, just before the bullet, was anything about oil. Continue reading Courage and the wrong side of history
April 20, 2011
Here’s a bold statement, “Dirty up your act!”
I began to think about statistical analysis the other day and something one of my professors in Probability and Statistics said made him crazy, “Users of creative analysis, should not be licensed to carry calculators.” It’s the idea that a set of data, say the amount of apples cancer patients eat in a year can predict the health benefits of apples for the rest of us, can be very enticing. Finding out that this particular set of patients did not eat an entire bushel of apples every year, “unmistakably” leads us to the conclusion that they failed to protect themselves with that obvious anti-cancer wonder drug. The problem with this kind of analysis is that we want it to predict that there are anti-cancer benefits to apples, and so it does.
Apples are nice, fresh (well, most anyway) and seem to scream “Health!” It seems just a hop, skip and a few taps of the array key to conclusive proof that apples are the anti-cancer weapon of the future. The stray facts that 60% of the study’s participants were addicted to dental X-Rays and the other 40% drank a dose of motor oil every day can be left pleasantly aside.
A great deal of “healthy living” advice is based on statistical analysis, or as I always suspect “creative analysis.” We have become a nation of dutiful hand washers and vegetable eaters based on “scientific” analysis of health benefits from these noble pastimes. And yet, quite mysteriously, cancer rates continue to increase, new and terrible infections are on the rise and there is a veritable epidemic of the need for anti-anxiety drugs. I often wonder if the last is due to the failure of our current analyses to offer significant protection from the rest. Continue reading Clean living: Kills ‘em dead every time
April 18, 2011
My sister Pam when she worked for Walter Cronkite at CBS
My sister died last night, she was my eldest sister and I really didn’t know her all that well. A separation of eleven years is a devastating distance, as is three thousand miles. As it turns out, I’ve spent most of my life on the east coast while she moved to the west coast about 30 years ago. I can count the times I’ve seen her during that time on the fingers of one and a half hands.
I did like her though, she was possibly the smartest and hardest working of the three of us (although, that’s hard call to make between my two sisters), not to mention the hands down parental favorite. A title she no doubt earned, damn it! Worse, she was always ready to laugh and dispense a generous amount of kind words at a moment’s notice. If she hadn’t been such a nice person, I might have found the whole situation quite offensive.
But, as exceptional as she was, cancer plays no favorites and it nailed her with 16 months of suffering and finally killed her last night. She’d made the decision not to have any further treatment a couple of weeks ago, and so we’ve all been waiting for the end. I’d like to be that brave someday. She never smoked, always ate in the healthiest way, got plenty of exercise, and generally lived a bold and wonderful life.
There will be no funeral, I guess that was something we agreed upon. Funerals tend to be gloomy, morose affairs and can take a nasty turn especially when there’s an open coffin. Nothing like having a stuffed human in the room to let the air out of a celebration. There is no object so empty as a dead body, no matter how nicely it’s dressed. My sister will be ashes soon and then sprinkled (illegally) on the Snake river near her second home in Wyoming, with only her husband of 23 years in attendance. That sounds pretty good to me. Continue reading Dead, with a life well spent
April 12, 2011
I don’t believe that Ham radio is the first thing to come to anyone’s mind when the when that particular pork product is mentioned. I think I know why as well.
First, “Ham” radio has a pretty crummy name, let’s face it. I mean that word “Ham.” I can’t think of why introducing yourself as a “Ham,” would do anyone any good, except possibly when addressing other “Hams.” The alternative is not much better, “Hello, I’m an amateur radio operator.” When it’s not the Olympics, the word “amateur” just reeks of “not professional” and “ kinda-sorta.” I don’t know which would drain the life out of a conversation faster, mentioning that you’re a Ham or that you work for the IRS.
Second, having tried desperately to get my kids interested in Ham radio, I know quite a bit about it’s lack of allure. It’s hard to master, a very expensive hobby and 10 minutes of listening to Hams talk over the radio about their latest visit to the chiropractor or what they had for lunch sends most would-be practitioners running.
Third, I have to admit at this point that a great deal of active amateur radio operators are the hobby’s own worst enemy. Because it is an expensive hobby, at least 85% of Hams are older men. Persnickety and prone to quoting regulations in almost any circumstance these operators are not the dashing, suave basis for dreams of youthful adventure. Rather than daring the tables of Montecarlo, svelte in their crisp white dinner jackets, they are more likely to be found in musty old basements clad in an ancient and stained terry cloth bathrobes sporting well ventilated underwear.
Yet even with these detractions it is often the Hams who are first to scenes of disaster. That’s because, although you can communicate farther, faster and much more easily with a cell phone, it only works when the local cell tower does. Accomplished operators regularly bounce their signals off the Moon to reach distant areas of Earth. Ham radio requires no infrastructure and still can reach thousands of miles. During hurricane Katrina when cell phones and the police radio system failed it was a rag tag bunch of hams from all over the country who stepped in to help coordinate the relief efforts.
We actually don’t hear much else about Ham radio, just the occasional operator who becomes instrumental in a rescue or contacting a stranded ship at sea. But did you know that Ham radio has it’s own very powerful lobby in Washington?
Most recently they have fought against the adoption of the use of certain systems that provide Internet access over power lines, and have had quite a bit to say on the subject of the proposed nationwide first responders system. Both of these are examples of the hidden efforts of Amateur radio to keep the FCC from selling off the entire radio spectrum to commercial ventures. Quietly, in the background, Hams wait like guerilla fighters to ambush those who would curtail their activities. Continue reading The Ham in all of us
April 11, 2011
The recent Budget battle only starts the the real war against the simplistic “ideals” of the Tea Party. The dream of a return to better times through smaller government and lower taxes is beginning to fade. The problem is that a movement that gained strength with the impending peril of the great recession, is now loosing popularity in the face of continued recovery.
It’s not that we don’t have to get the country’s deficit under control, we do. It’s just we don’t and shouldn’t employ the draconian measures that seem to comprise the heart of the Tea party’s plans for the nation. Very damaging to the chants of “Were broke!” is the failing examples of England and Ireland who determined that attacking their debts while their economies were still early in recovery was the best strategy. As it turns out cutting services further depressed the economy and the private firms that were supposed to fill-in the jobs that were cut from government were reticent to jump at the chance.
Both countries are now projecting even larger deficits and an incensed citizenry. They both hurt their tax roles and increased their unemployment, but I suppose it was worth a try, if for nothing else to prove the problem is not so simple as reducing spending.
Out of this first battle, President Obama ended up looking very much like the only person in Washington willing to do what was necessary and the outliers on both sides are back to beating their drums against him. But the bigger fights are still to come and I wonder if he will fare as well for those? I do have hope now that we will be at least OK when the smoke clears. Cooler heads did prevail and although we suffered through a lot of “stunts” the government found a way to go on. Continue reading Failing fear drains Tea Party ideals
April 8, 2011
One of the duties I’ve taken on is to sift through the 400 or 500 emails comments in the spam folder each day for Speak Without Interruption.
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These missives come in the thousands and pelt our, and lots of other sites every day. Some are spewn out in droves by a single computer, and some come from hundreds of computers sewn together in invisible “Bot Nets”. Zombie-like emailers that operate beyond the notice of their owners.
What I’m looking for are the comments from real people and members of SWI that are legitimate, but just happened to include a link, or a few words that triggered the spam filter.
In fact I just nailed 176 from “Ben Wa balls”, all carefully written to seem to apply to any post they come up against. For example:
“I couldn’t have asked for a much better blog. You’re always at hand to supply excellent guidance, going on to the point for easy understanding of your website visitors. You’re surely a terrific expert in this arena. Thanks a lot for being there humans like me.”
So close, but no cigar buddy. “Saw you comin’ so I baked a cake,” with an axe in it. Continue reading Count Spamula vs the dark knight of the trash can
April 4, 2011
Like a lot of us, I’ve been thinking about fixing schools most of my life. When I was going to school I wondered why the experience was so often unrewarding. There were only a few classes when I didn’t ask myself, “Shouldn’t learning be a lot more fun than this?” As my children began to go off to school each day, I got to see education from a different side, but still wondered why it wasn’t more fun for them.
I still have one child in school, it’s a really good one and he does enjoy it, but I still wonder why that doesn’t happen more often? From a lifetime of study, inside and out, I think I have several solutions, but not being an “expert” I offer them cautiously.
I really don’t think schools cost too much but I do think they could be more effective and a lot safer. Therefore I don’t believe cutting wages or benefit packages for teachers and administrators makes any difference what so ever. It might make the “you pay for what you get” equation more even but it doesn’t make the schools better, it just makes them cheaper. Like closing schools and firing teachers we “can’t afford,” it doesn’t address the real issue. It also needlessly victimizes teachers, school workers, administrators and subsequently the students. Everything has to be about the students and if the students aren’t benefiting directly from the change, then the solution is worthless.
Rating schools and teachers
I think the trend toward better rating of schools and teachers is a valuable one. It should continue, be consistent and be done nationwide. However, we do a much better job of rating our students than we do the systems that educate them. Everyone, especially parents need access to comprehensive evaluations of all schools that they pay for or are expecting to send their children to. Continue reading Fixing schools
April 1, 2011
There has been a lot of talk about the redistribution of wealth in politics of late. Mostly this is a kind of political talking point, a way to garner support through fear. If you begin to talk to just about anyone about redistributing wealth, they most often think your talking about their wealth.
But the truth is most of us are not wealthy, at least not enough to spare any for redistribution. In fact, most of the people in this country are not even close to wealthy. Without throwing too many numbers around I think it’s fair to say that anything below $150,000 in yearly earnings is not in the running for wealthy. Upper middle class perhaps but not wealthy. Although recently in a vehement defense for Wall street bankers, a Fox news contributor exclaimed that $250,000 was “barely scraping by.” Where does that leave me, scraping or scraped?
Wherever you draw the line between wealthy and the rest of us it does seem that fewer people are wealthy in America, but the ones that are, are wealthier than ever. According to recent studies the top median income, which goes to one tenth of one percent of Americans is just over 26 million dollars a year. That’s not savings and investments, that’s annual money coming in.
The median income for the top 10% is about 1.1 million dollars a year. Down here in the remaining 90% the median income is about 31,000 dollars per year. That includes the lowest 20% who do not make what is termed a “living wage” or enough to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities, America’s poor. Does 20% of Americans being too poor to provide for themselves surprise you? Well, maybe they’re all soulless lazy drug addicts, feel better? Continue reading Wealth, and how to share it.
March 31, 2011
Just a quick administrative note to let you all know that the transfer to the new hosting provider will probably take longer than first expected. Our new hosting service says the site won’t be fully copied over and activated until Saturday morning, 4/2/2011. So I’m afraid the site will continue to bog down during [...]
March 30, 2011
I sometimes wonder if all of the contributors know what they’ve gotten themselves into on SWI. Recently we had a problem with the site being throttled and that caused me to whine loudly to Bob. In the typical resourceful and wise management style, Bob then asked if I wouldn’t mind helping out as a site administrator. See what happens when you complain?
Actually, I’m thrilled to help out and I’ll tell you why. What Bob has here is something very different. The goals and purpose of SWI is simply to provide a vehicle for writers of all levels to present their work and opinions in an open forum. It isn’t edited, it isn’t muffled and it isn’t constrained by topic or political agenda.
His idea has now grown to a site with a substantial number of contributors and a large audience. Most sites can’t even dream of a thousand hits a day, and these aren’t just “flybys,” viewers are stopping to read and look around. That is very impressive for a blind Internet startup. Much of this is because Bob is constantly on the prowl for new contributors, but a great deal comes from a central core of strong writers who stay and continue to contribute. We get to be part of the success, both in writing and commenting.
Most of us here have our own websites and can appreciate just how popular SWI is. We wish we had this kind of traffic. What that means to us is an audience that we could probably never get on our own. Continue reading Growing pains
March 29, 2011
Anyone who’s having problems looking through the site, would you mind commenting here?
Bob and I have been on the phone to the host provider (where SWI) lives and we are getting all sorts of “interesting” explanations.
Please give us a short description and who is your Internet provider.
Thanks boys and girls
March 23, 2011
My son and I had an argument the other night, not an unusual occurrence. After having three sons I’ve found out just how “Stupid and Wrong!” a dad can be, everyday, for years on end. My own father tells me that will change, and he may well be right. It’s amazing how wise he became after I reached 30 and had my own family.
Still this particular argument concerned nothing less than the super-weapon of the 20 century, the neutron bomb. Designed to deliver withering radiation rather than explosive power, it was the final accessory for the well-to-do warrior. It kills all the people and animals but leaves the precious real estate undamaged and “move in ready.” Although, my son was convinced it never existed.
As with so many differences of opinion in our house, a quick look at Wikipedia and other sources solved the mystery. It did exist, under the name “Enhanced Radiation Weapons system” and has been sworn off by no less than two Presidents. But that was only interesting and rewarding for a microsecond or two until I had the thought, “What’s going to be the super-weapon of the 21st century?” The weapon to end all war of the 2000’s?
After some thought, I believe it’s already been developed and even better, you may already own one. It’s the cell phone, specifically the smart phone. You know the ones that allow you to Tweet all your pals or fans and let them know you’ve finished in the bathroom for now and are thinking about a nap?
The insidious power of the smart phone is not dependent on delivering massive amounts of killer radiation, instead it delivers massive amounts of killer information. The kind that makes everyone from New York taxi drivers to Middle Eastern fruit salesman wonder why their local politicians and Government tells them one thing and reality seems to be quite different.
By putting all of mankind’s information, and disinformation, in the pocket of every phone user in the world, the master of disaster has sealed our fate. Now, not only do we know from photographic evidence the color of Lindsey Lohan’s underwear when she fell drunken and stoned into the convertible Jaguar, but we also know that that particular model was recalled due to an “electrical incongruity” in the motor that closes the top. So it’s very likely that that underwear will be on display for the entire night. Continue reading The super-weapon of the 21st century
March 23, 2011
This morning it snowed here, so after our phones all rang to tell us that school was delayed by two hours, we slept in. That’s why I got to my email a little late this morning. But when I did, I was instantly awake after I read a note from Bob, our illustrious editor.
It seems that Bob, in his never ending hunt for new contributors, got an unexpected response from a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. This is what Bob wrote.
Good Day -
My name is Bob Grant and I have a website for writers named Speak Without Interruption www.speakwithoutinterruption.com . Since December 2008 we have had a little under 4,000 posts to the site from both professional and amateur writers – we are now averaging around 800 visitors per day. I obtained your name from the SPJ Freelancer Directory and extend an invitation to you to become a contributor to our site. You may post previously written material and/or material you write through other venues. If you are interested please reply to me atSpeakWithoutInterruption@gmail.com
I do not make any money from this site nor do I pay for participation. I do not edit or censor what is written. The contributors are encouraged to write about any topic or subject that is of interest to them and I have no minimum number of posts required to remain a contributor.
I look forward to your consideration and reply.
Bob Grant, Editor
This is what he got back.
March 21, 2011
Good thing no one has noticed that this poor “broke” nation just fired 160 million-dollar-a-piece cruise missiles into Libya. Fine, maybe 2 million a shot. Has the grand old party has turned a blind eye to the expense of an entire fleet steaming around the Mediterranean, and the cost of flying hundreds of planes on nightly sorties through the Saharan dark? Maybe, but think about how much we’re saving flying 20 B2 bombers out of Missouri to Africa and back.
In fact, the once reasonable Lindsey Graham, who used to be the one senator willing to negotiate with the Democratic majority, has now come out to demand leadership in the Libyan “no fly zone” operation. Well, it’s really more of a “no breathe” zone for Gadaffi isn’t it? But let’s not call it a war, that would be very unpopular and everyone knows we’ve given that up completely.
We would think that after the debacle of Wisconsin, where we proved tricker than the Democrats at getting laws passed and boosting union membership, we might want to take a short breather and let someone else drive for a while. Nah. Not only does the Republican leadership want to be in charge of operation “Pound Sand”, they’re complaining that we didn’t get started fast enough.
So, where’s the “we’re broke” party now? If you listen carefully you can almost hear the crickets chirping in the Tea Party seats, or is that the ocean? Still it’s obvious that everybody has to cut back and share the load, except the military of course, and anyone making over $250,000 a year. It’s a simple case of Teachers and Firemen for smart bombs and enhanced firepower. That’s what makes America great. Continue reading The Embarassed Republican: The cruise missiles for teachers deal.
March 10, 2011
Little pink houses for you and me.
I’m in, or was in sunny Southern California for a week, getting a chance to study the place and the lifestyles of it’s denizens. It’s very different than the east coast that I’m used to. For one thing a lot of the houses are built backwards.
A great deal of southern California is planned communities. Laid out on spacious maps and plans, blueprinted and thought out to the last yard before the first shovel is filled. That’s the first contrast to “back east” where each yard of land has been fought over for hundreds of years, the winners crushing the once fine domains of the losers under bulldozer or recking ball. In the east, towns and buildings are stacked on the bones of their forebears. Any semblance of order or planning was tossed long ago.
The Californian planned communities are massive in scope as well as acreage. College campuses and shopping malls go on the paper as well in a kind of super-community master plan. What this seems to have caused is an inward turn of the actual houses and homes that make up these communities. Instead of neighborhoods that bleed into each other, forming only fuzzy lines of demarkation, these communities are broken into “gated” villages, each with it’s own services, residents and esprit de corps.
Here individual houses face the street with their garages, rare is an obvious front door. The “front” entrance is often hidden down a long dark walkway somewhere on the side of the house. In reality most of the people I’ve seen use their garages as the main entrance. The active face of these houses is actually in the rear, looking away from the street making the focus of the home it’s own back yard. This gives these collections of houses a feeling of a line of closely packed individual fortresses facing the world with their armored garage doors, something like an eastern city alley. The forbidding feeling is reinforced by the plethora of locked gates, doors and alarmed windows. My guess is that there is no stoop sitting in this part of California, no “my street” feel to these communities. Maybe it’s something of a frontier leftover, a preparation for Native American or Mexican Bandito attack? Maybe the garage doors have hidden rifle slits to create a deadly crossfire? Continue reading California state of symmetry