Friday, January 29, 2010

"Are these Republicans Walter"? "No Donny, these men are just nihilists"

"I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the Republican party, Dude, at least it's an ethos..."
Apologies to Joel and Ethan Coen...

There has been a recent meme circulated by the leftosphere, that the Republicans... in fact any opponent of the Obama agenda... are nihilists.

Now, I have to say, I don't think most of the people promoting this idea even know what a nihilist is (and if they did, many of them would realize THEY are the ones that come closer to fitting that bill), never mind that current republican ideology is nihilist. Current republican ideology is empty, obstructionist, and reactionary; but that's not actually nihilism... or even close to it.

A few days ago, a person whose intellect I generally respect, John Scalzi randomly tossed off a comment calling republicans (and Obama oppositionists) Nihilists.

Well.. at least John knows what a nihilist is... which is why I was disappointed in his statement... because as far as I'm concerned that analysis is just lazy.

Then a few days later, as part of his commentary on the state of the union speech, he wrote this:
"As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be."
Ok... not much of the core of the analysis there I can disagree with... but again, it isn't nihilism.

Today however he posted a link to further explain the position he was trying to express in shorthand by calling the Republicans nihilist.

Again, there's nothing I can really disagree with in this analysis:
[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.
The best thing though, is the source of that quote: The American Conservative

Thus showing, once again, for those who don't already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn't necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you're Catholic).

I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says "hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I'll do the same for you, thanks".

I'm well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

I don't care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don't have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

I have no faith in the government not to do with... really anything other than defense... exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn't make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad... I'm sorry, you're wrong.

It's a sweet ideal, but it just isn't true. Good intentions don't mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion... HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force... stealing and killing.

That doesn't mean that good can't come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that's worth it, sometimes it isn't and it's DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

Sorry but, HELL NO.

I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities... But the government doesn't have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

Actually, the government doesn't have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the exercise of which we can delegate to the government. The government therefore cannot legitimately do anything that the people as individuals cannot legitimately do.

It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn't to be trusted; they just believe it's not to be trusted over different things:

Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don't want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don't trust it with your education, healthcare etc...

Well, I don't trust them with ANYTHING except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

It's axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

Now, if we're charitable and say they're all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don't hurt yourself laughing), that's an overall government IQ of .25

Why on earth would you want THAT spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

Now... Given that thumbnail philosophy, what's MY demographic? Who am I supposed to vote for?

I certainly can't vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

On the other hand, I can't much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide.... They just want to take a little less of it.

And I really can't vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn't be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

So tell me, is that nihilism? I don't think so. I think it's playing defense, which isn't a winning strategy; but it's not nihilism.

Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say "there's no point in playing, you're all going to lose anyway"... which coincidentally is the position of a lot of Libertarians.

Virtual Underground Triphop Jam

Damn... just amazing.

A Bit of Unexpected Wisdom from a Friend

You might have heard the old saying "The best measure of a mans intelligence and wisdom, is how closely he agrees with you on any given subject"...

Well, by that measure, Kommander is a damn genius (from a thread discussing Obamas abandonment of manned space flight):
The problem with exploring and colonizing space, as opposed to exploring and colonizing the "New World"; is that there is, right now, little commercial benefit for doing so.

Remember that the first colonists to the Americas were not doing it "For Science!" but "For Money!" Until there is money to be made in space it will continue to be dominated by various governmental agencies.

Spaceship One and the space tourism are a good start, be we need more. The future of the space program does not lie with governments, but with commercial interests who will be willing to take risks where governments are not.
Indeed. I'll take Branson and Rutan over Bolden and Garver in a split second.

Just let me know when I can sign up for the trip to freehold... or anywhere... or nowhere and back for that matter (when it costs less than a nice used car anyway).

I feel like cheating...

I'm a strat man. I've alway had strats, and strat clones, and superstrats... hell I even had a strat shaped acoustic once. My very first guitar was a strat clone (appropriately enough for this post though, it was an Epiphone). I own a superstrat now (a Jackson Dinky).

But the best guitar I've ever owned, my favorite guitar, the guitar I loved the most... Was a Gibson.

An early 80s production Gibson custom shop Explorer in mahogany and bound flame maple, with a clear on deep cherry red finish (it made the figuring just pop. Amazing chatoyance), bound top, board, and headstock, with no pickguard (the whole thing was backrouted. Nothing to mar the top), mother of pearl inlays on a rosewood board, dual gold covered hand wired humbuckers, a gold Kahler and matching hardware with custom knurled tone knobs (four, in a staggered configuration like a Les Paul. Individual volume and tone for each pickup. Each pot was a switch: On/off on each volume control, and coil splitting on each tone control. No toggle switches to mess up the lines), and custom knurled end tuning machine knobs.

The gold and red combo with the figuring... it was just beautiful. The post here from the current makers of REAL Hamer (there's cheap low end Hamer made offshore now. Not even close to the same) has the closest thing to the same finish I've seen in a long time.

The funny thing was though... It was essentially Gibsons custom shop doing a straight up copy of a high end Hamer Standard, which was itself a copied and improved version of the original Explorer.

The original electrics were toast, so I updated to EMG actives (two humbuckers of course) with an onboard preamp and EQ (one of the early sets. This was the early 90s that I picked it up. Got the parts from Stew-Mac Guitar Shop Supply... still remember that crappy pulp paper catalog with the black and red printing).

I was working in my uncles refinishing shop at the time, and I managed to pick up a cosmetically trashed sunburst ES-355; and I used the shop to VERY thoroughly restore and refinish it.

But I'm not a 355 fan (yeah, I know, heresy, especially for a blues fan), and nobody was willing to give me anywhere near what the thing was worth in cash. Lots of folks wanted it, but nobody who wanted it could afford it.

My guitar teacher had this fried Explorer, that he had taken in lieu of a debt... and he WAS a 355 fan... So a trade was struck.

One of those things where we both figured we got the best part of the deal, and we were both right.

Anyway, this thing... It was just beautiful; and the tone... Lord. I never knew an unamplified electric guitar could have that much sustain, or sound that good.

Unfortunately, the guitar was lost when my brother burned my house down... Damn, that was 13 years ago now... Hadn't thought about that in a while.

Thats a guitar that you can't replace... Even if they made them like that anymore, which they don't (well... Bill Conklin might make something that good now... but not many do, and it wouldn't be anything close to the same... just "as good"). You don't try to... you just remember it for what it was, and find something new and different.

Anyway, the other day, I was watching one of those "how it's made" type documentaries on TLC or discovery or somesuch and I watched them make a couple of Les Pauls.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the guitar gear queer world... There are Strat guys, and there are Les guys... It's kinda like Chevy vs. Ford...

For the first time, I found myself seriously wanting a Les Paul.

Unfortunately, the last few years, Fenders quality has been all over the place... and really I'm just not interested in another Strat (I want one of my old ones back, but that's another story entirely. A '94 Ultra in Beryllium blue with the ultrathin neck, and lace sensors. It was a gift from my dad)...

But Gibsons are still sometimes made well (though not as much by hand as they used to be. They now use computer controlled routers for much of the work, just like every other guitar maker)...

...and I'm kinda having a bit of guitar lust over a Les Paul.

Maybe a flame maple bookmatched top, with that deep cherry sunburst... blocks and bindings,, and no pick guard...

So, here's a chance for Billy Beck to show off a little bit... Seriously the man knows his Les Pauls and I'd welcome his advice, along with any good advice from Les Paul lovers and players... I'm a strat man, I don't know much about the details of production, what works and what doesn't, whether a straight bridge, a trapeze trem, or a Floyd works best... Anything really.

If I were to do it, what should I look for? What shold I look out for on the bad side of things?

Most importantly, is there any way to get a decent one without being raped (and god knows, you can't buy a new one in the style I'd like for less than the price of a used car... which is why I really dislike Gibson as a company. I mean, there is NO reason there are 60 different models of Les Paul most of which cost more than $3,000).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I had a pretty good day

Do you know what happens when you put your boot down on the pedal of an all wheel drive, six liter, twelve cylinder, twin turbocharged coupe with 553 horsepower and 479ftlbs of torque?

Well, I do.

You reach 60 miles per hour in a little under 5 seconds, with a BIG DAMN SMILE ON YOUR FACE.

I drove this today:

Damn... It isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but it is for damn sure the best car I've ever driven. Incredibly comfortable, fast, GREAT noise, refined, great handling... I love it.

It's a 200mph car and it feels as comfortable at 25mph as it does at 100mph. It's amazing.

Of course, for $267,000 (new, MSRP anyway) it had better be. Yeah... not gonna buy a car that costs as much as a house.

But still... damn.

Before that, my wife and I found a really decent, and very cheap, Greek/Armenian/Chicago diner food place that delivers, and we happen to be in the delivery area. Great gyros, great baklava... can't ask for more.

Also, I've lost eleven lbs in the last three weeks. Let's hope I can keep that up (not visiting the Greek place too much would be a good plan for that).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Neytiri or Abe Sapien? You decide.

I fucked up...

I fucked up, and I lost a friend because of it... and maybe I'll get him back, but if I don't, it's my fault and I deserve it.

I very badly hurt a friend of mine. With the best of intentions, and in a self righteous fit, I made bad assumptions based on bad information and mis-communication.

I presumed that my friend had done a despicable thing, when he had not. I then treated him as if he had done that thing, though he had not.

That I was mistaken, or that I truly believed I was right, is no excuse; in fact it makes it worse...

I betrayed our friendship by assuming that he was less than a man.

I failed to give my friend credit for his growth as a man, and for his character. I assumed the worst of him... and in that I failed as a friend, and as a man myself.

I did this at a time when he was hurting more than he ever has before in his life. In the most difficult time he has ever had, when I should have been there for him, I made it worse.

It's no excuse, but I did this because I was very badly hurt by what I thought was happening... but what I thought was happening, really wasn't; and rather than make the effort to communicate with him about it, I cut him off. Not only that, but I publicly insulted him.

...and I'm sorry.

I talked to him today, for the first time in a few months... I hadn't understood, I didn't know, and I was very very hurt... but that doesn't excuse my behavior towards him.

I did apologize to him while we talked... for several things... but not enough.

He said to me that he considered my behavior a betrayal of our friendship, and even though I conceded that I was wrong, I didn't agree with him at the time that it was.....

...but he was right. I did betray our friendship.

It wasn't until I really sat down and thought about it for a while that the full weight of my betrayal of my friend settled on me.

The worst thing you can do to a man, is treat him like less than a man. That's exactly what I did to my friend.

...and that's the danger of self righteousness, and anger, and hurt, and reacting without considering and communicating.

I'm a grown man. I'm supposed to know better. I'm supposed to BE better.

...but I fucked up.

...and I'm sorry.

This isn't some "poor poor pitiful me" bullshit, or some self flagellation to make me feel better... and it's not an attempt to win my friend back, or a request for forgiveness.

If he forgives me, that's great. If he doesn't, he'd be justified. I'm not going to ask for forgiveness, because frankly I don't have the right to.

What it comes down to is this: I fucked up in public, and I mistreated my friend in public; and now I'm going to act like the man I should have been, own up to it in public, and apologize in public.

I'm sorry.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sadly True

Well, changing the gender anyway:

Damn... she was SOOOOO high...

Alicia Witt on Craig Ferguson... I'll post a video when I find one.

Seriously, there were a few shots where her pupils were clearly visible...

At least she's one of the fun ones, not a sloppy one like Andy Dick or Courtney love.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Better unplugged

Paramore... Actually pretty damned good unplugged. Much better than their studio singles.

Unfortunately, there's no embeddable link to the entire show, but I'll put a song up, which will link to the rest of the songs if you're interested:

Not so gentle dental

So, after having her second root canal Monday, my wife has just completed her two hour, 5 tooth extraction (4 impacted wisdom teeth, plus one of her molars).

Even better, the wisdoms were DEEPLY rooted: two all the way into the nerves, and the uppers rooted almost into the sinus cavity.

Yeah, she's had a bad week, and next week wont be much better. Much Vicodin and moaning to come.

Unfortunately, as with the past couple weeks,don't expect much content out of here for the next week.

Accurate, Concise.. I like it...

Let's start a campaign to replace MSNBCs entirely political commentary slate with Dicky Barret.

Full disclosure, I'm a huge Bosstones fan. I've known Dicky Barrett since I was a kid. Not only did I start going to Bosstones shows about 5 years before MTV figured out who they were (surprisingly easy to sneak in to the Kenmore square clubs as a teenager), but he's a friend of the family (a couple of my aunts and uncles who are only 12 -14 years older than I am used to hang with him.. never got the story if one of them was actually dating or not), and I went to school with a couple of his cousins.

Yes, Massachusetts really can be that small a place... at least when you've got as big a family as I do.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

That's It, I'm Never Flying via Airline Again

I knew the final straw was on its way.

I've flown my entire life. My father is an A&P IA (Airframe and Powerplant and Inspection Authority). For those of you who aren't aviation oriented, that means he's an aircraft mechanic and inspector. For all of my life he's worked on private aircraft and I've been in small aircraft many times since infanthood, whether flying, detailing, or hooking things up in hard to reach spots (small hands can be quite useful).

I've also been flying on major airlines by myself since I was 6.

I've seen quite a few changes.

Enhanced security? Sure. It didn't bother me when non-passengers weren't allowed at the gates anymore, and metal detectors have never really bothered me.

Lately though, "security" has gotten out of hand.

Shoes? Meh.

Liquids? Irritating.

Full body scans? Um, no. I'm driving. That's it. Unless I need to go see someone on their deathbed, I'm not flying commercial. Ever again.

But that's not the worst of it. That's just TSA crap. I expect them to be incompetent and unthinking.

But Border Patrol or Customs messing with my (or anyone's) laptop? Oh no, that's REALLY crossing the frickin' line.

No, I don't really fucking care if it's only international. I've flown internationally far more often than I care to admit; legal proceedings in another country do that to you.

I've gone through Border Patrol and Customs on the way back to the US via auto and airline; I understand that a foreign airport is technically not US soil and that it can technically be pleaded that since its not US soil the Constitution doesn't apply.


I don't care if it's technically legal, it's still WRONG. Search and seizure without probable cause is still WRONG. Stealing intellectual property is still WRONG.

If I have to leave the country, or God forbid finally go on an actual vacation to the Bahamas or wherever, I am NOT going through Border Patrol and Customs on foreign soil. I am NOT flying.

If Border Patrol and Customs is going to pull this shit on me or anyone, let them pull it on US soil. Let's see this go to the Supreme Court again.


Hmm... Tarantino is into Breath Play.. SO not shocked

First things first, Conan is ON lately, now that he's canceled and Friday is his last show, hes letting it all hang out.

But what I'm really interested in here, is that Tarantino basically just outed himself as into kink... Not exactly surprising when you think about it; but it's pretty rare for anyone in the mainstream to talk about kink in public.

And yeah, look at his face when he's talking about it, he KNOWS that which of he speaks.

I used to be able to start a Hulu video at a specific minute, but apparently they'ved stripped that ability. The relevant segment starts at minute 24 (after the second commercial break) and goes through minutes 27.

Actually, just watch the show, it's pretty good this night... Paul Bettany is hilarious too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

...and a revolution happens

Scott Brown is the senator elect from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

-30 to +5 in three weeks...

I cannot describe the kind of a change this is... Ted Kennedy held this seat from November 7th 1962, until his death in 2009... Almost 47 years...

The democrats have been calling this "Ted Kennedys seat" since his death... This is NOT Ted Kennedys seat, it is the seat of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

I have a personal connection here. I am a native of Boston, born and raised until I went to college (with some diversions into New Hampshire). Even deeper though, I come from a Massahusetts political family. My grandfather was politician in Boston, as was my great grandfather (a state rep, and delegate to the 1924 democratic election).

In 1976 my grandfather ran against Kennedy, as a conservative democrat, and of course lost. Soon after, he switched his allegiance to the Republican party.

My grandfather recognized then, that the politics of Kennedy and Carter were harmful to this country; and he made a principled stand, that essentially ended his political career (and many of his personal friendships; because he grew up in the streets, an Irish, democrat, union kid).

Today, 33 someodd years later, a man who believes... essentially as my grandfather believed in 1976 (excepting his pro-choice stance; my grandfather was a pro-life catholic 'til his death), is to be the junior senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I can honestly say, I did not believe I would live to see this day.

I think this calls for a nice bottle of Taittinger.

Mr. Brown, I raise my glass to you...

May you have the wisdom, the intelligence, the courage, and the strength of will; to go to Washington, and do right by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the people of Massachusetts, and the American people.

Monday, January 18, 2010


From my wifes iPhone:

We called her... something else....

Something a little less family friendly, and a little more alliterative.

The sign is available here... I think I'll hold off until I find one with her... proper name shall we say...

It's going to be a tough week

Mel got another root canal this morning. She's wobbling (literally) back and forth between pain and vicodin induced sleep.

Friday, she's having her wisdom teeth pulled.

So uhhh yeah...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just a couple good things about living in Arizona

Earlier today, a new Arizona Senate Resolution was introduced with 17 cosponsors (more than half the senate), covering several areas of crime law, firearms laws, victims rights and other areas... Kind of a kitchen sink bill.... but a couple of nice provisions are in there including:

Sec. 3. Section 12-714, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

START_STATUTE12-714. Actions against firearm manufacturers; prohibition; findings; definitions

A. A political subdivision of this state shall not commence a qualified civil liability action in any Arizona court.

B. The legislature finds that:

1. The citizens of this state have the right, under the second amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2 II, section 26 of the Arizona Constitution, to keep and bear arms.

2. Lawsuits have been commenced against the manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of nondefective firearms for the harm caused by the misuse of firearms by third parties, including criminals.

3. Businesses in the United States that are engaged in the lawful sale to the public of firearms or ammunition are not, and should not be liable for the harm caused by those who unlawfully misuse firearms or ammunition.

4. The possibility of imposing liability on an entire industry for harm that is the sole responsibility of others is an abuse of the legal system, threatens the diminution of a basic constitutional right and constitutes an unreasonable burden on the free enterprise system.

5. The liability actions commenced by political subdivisions are based on theories without foundation in the common law and American jurisprudence. Such an expansion of liability would constitute a deprivation of the rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed to citizens of this state under both the Constitution of Arizona and the United States Constitution.

Now that would be good enough... but it gets even better... the sections in red below are deletions:

Sec. 6. Section 13-3102, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

START_STATUTE13-3102. Misconduct involving weapons; defenses; classification; definitions

A. A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly:

1. Carrying a deadly weapon without a permit pursuant to section 13‑3112 except a pocket knife concealed on his person; or

2. Carrying a deadly weapon without a permit pursuant to section 13‑3112 concealed within immediate control of any person in or on a means of transportation; or

So yes, that means it would no longer be a crime to carry concealed without a permit in this state.

It's a big bill, the full text is posted here, and it includes a number of other very gun friendly provisions. Given the number of cosponsors it looks like it's going to pass at least the senate (we have a bicameral legislature here, 30 in the senate - 28 republican - and 60 in the house - 35 republican - so it will still have to pass the house, but it's likely to), and if it does pass both houses, it's likely the governor will sign it.

The only holdup is an administrative issue, in that we cant address any other bills until we pass a budget, and that seems unlikely to happen any time soon, given the state is completely bankrupt.

It's still more complicated and restrictive than it should be, but it shows that sometimes, you really can take freedom back without the bloody reset.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monorail Puppies

A Minor Miracle

I never thought I'd live to see the day when my native state of Massachusetts might send a Republican back to the senate... but it's looking like it just might happen, and it's because of things like this:

Only one problem with that statement... It's a senate seat, so it ISN'T the peoples seat, it's the states seat. The peoples seats are in the house. Unfortunately, the 17th amendment has destroyed that little bit of separation of powers so...

Mingus just sounds better at 3 in the morning...

While Monk should always be played 'round midnight.

How do you come up with something memorable about all of them...

I mean.. Millard Fillmore 'nuff said... Franklin Pierce primarily notable as being an alcoholic and never actually doing anything but making unpopular compromises... William Harrison for all of his 32 days... at least Garfiled actually had some decent appointments, and got to put a justice on the supreme court (T. Stanley Matthews... Chiefly noted for being the closest successful confirmation vote in supreme court history... and for voting the wrong way in nearly every case he participated in.. though that should be laid more at the feet of Morrison Waite and Melville fuller, two of the worst chief justices the supreme court has ever seen )

Actually, I kind of like this version better:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Process Story

Y'all might have noticed, I've been relatively content free for a couple weeks... Really since before the holiday.

The thing is, I've got a ton of stuff about 3/4 written; almost ready to go, that I can't quite finish.

And it's a process problem

I generally don't write much during the day... at least in terms of personal writing, as opposed to writing for work, which I do all day long.

I'm an insomniac, and a late night person; and I do most of my writing for the blog at night, in bed, on my laptop. I'm comfy, and nothing else is in the way, and I can just let the ideas flow from brain to fingers to keyboard.

When I'm writing for work, I rarely get blocked up. I generally don't have a problem just working through whatever is going on to get things done on time.

Writing for the blog though, is a different story (as is my fiction, or poetry). I can't push it, when it comes it comes.

The problem at the moment though, is that my process is being disrupted by not having my laptop.

I'm on my netbook sat the moment, which is great for reading, and for short posts, but it's just too cramped to write anything long and involved on. The keyboard is fine for a few minutes of typing, but the hours of typing it takes to write 10,000 word posts... just can't do it. Also the screen is just too small to have multiple windows and tabs open to flip back and forth to, as I like to do with posts that take a lot of research (as these 1000 yard posts do).

If it was work, I'd just suck it up and do it, but blogging is optional. It's supposed to be fun.

Of course it's also frustrating as hell, because I WANT to publish this stuff, I want to finish writing it... hell, the reason I write the blog is because there are tons of ideas rattling around my head, and I need to get them out, or I go a bit nuts and start ranting in public places etc...

Better than shooting every idiot I come across I suppose...

Anyway, the laptop has been non functional since the week before Christmas, but with the vagaries of the holidays it didn't get into their depot until January fifth; and the status on it wasn't updated until last night; when they listed an out of warranty repair required.

Odd given the problem is that the system is poorly designed, and oeverheats, which causes multiple component failures... none of which would be out of warranty.

So, HP called me up today and tried to say there were "scratches" on my LCD... which is rather odd. There were no scratches when I sent it out, and the problem wasn't the LCD at all.. which by the way they wanted $429 to replace. I told them just to do the in warranty repairs and send it back to me.

I just checked the status again, and there is now no shipping date scheduled, status, or punch list on the machine now...

So thats at least another two or three days before I get it back.

I'm a bit irritated.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Caps and Tops and Flares

and I'm not talking about fashion...

We're getting ready to move in a few months, and as part of that we were planning on picking up a truck cap.

Of course, there's advantages and disadvantages to a cap. The big advantage is weather protection, the big disadvantage is having to take it off for anything particularly tall or oddly shaped etc... especially given that said cap would be 7ft long 5ft wide 2+ feet high and weighs about 150 lbs.

Then, a few months back, the wife and I saw the Softopper on spike TV or vs. or somesuch (one of the "guys" networks), and got very interested.

Basically, it's a boats bimini top with camper curtains, for your pickup truck (The company that makes it started off as a custom boat top manufacturer). The sides can even be rolled up so you can use the thing as a safari top, for riding in the bed.

Here are some photos. One should note, the older models of softopper had side windows, but the new models are smooth sided (for pickup trucks at least. For SUVs they still do); because it is more durable.

I actually rather like that concept, because not only will it be nice to camp in; in states where it's legal to shoot from your bed, it can be used as a covered blind, or varmint shooting station.

The most important part though, is that it is easily folded up in the front of the bed, giving you the full capacity of your bed (minus the small amount of room the folded to takes) in about a minute.

Also, the top detaches and lifts off in just a couple minutes for storage. Theres even an optional screen window for the back, and a carry bag.

Heres a couple videos of the process.

Seems like a great compromise to me. Sure it wont have all the protection or security (what little there is anyway) of a full hard cap, but it doesnt have any of the disadvantages either.

Oh, and it's about 1/3 the cost... A not insignificant factor. The leer cap that we wanted, with the options we wanted, was well over $2k installed. This thing costs just $660 shipped (plus $100 for the scen window, and the storage bag).

Every review I can find of the thing (there aren't too many unfortunately) is very good; so unless we hear different from somone who has personal experience with them, I think we're going to order one this paycheck.

Continuing in the truck prep vein, I need to replace my batteries (yes, batteries. It's a dual battery system). Actually, they aren't dead, but they are thre years old, and in this desert, unless its an optima or something similar, three years is about the limit. I want to put that worry behind me.

So, as with my car, I'm picking up a pair of yellowtops for the truck. I think I'll take the other two batteries, put them in some front of wheel well in-bed battery boxes, and stick them on a charge/isolator circuit. That way when I get the winch, onboard air compressor, and ham rig set up (all coming later), I'll have all that extra juice available to me.

before I put the soft topper on, I need to replace my bedrail and tailgate caps. They're totally knackered, cracked and peeling up off the rails.

Also, the new tires we got for the truck a couple months back are just wide enough that they're throwing rocks and sand off the road up onto the bodywork. I dont care about the diet, but they're dinging and scratching the paint, and that means rust.

So it looks like I need some fender flares.

I figure I'll kill two birds with one stone, and grab the flares and caps from Bushwacker.

I like the plain smooth style for the bed caps:

But I think I want the "pocket" style fender flares:

I think they go will with the overall look of the truck, especially in the no-gloss (not exactly satin or matte) black. It matches the nerf bars.

I think they'll be enough extention to provide proper protection at the least. My truck is wide enough as it is, I dont think I need the extra... I dunno that must be 8" total counting both sides... that something like the "extendaflare" or "cutout" flares:

Anyon have any experience with these bolt on aftermarket fender flares as a whole, and bushwacker in particular?

I'm looking for reviews, and for recommendations, so chime in.

Now I just need to start saving for a set of Reunel bumpers...

The only way we'll ever have any real airline security...

"If someone tries to hijack the plane, he has to know that within a minute... a second... he'll be dead".

THAT is security. Everything else is theater. I've been saying it for 15 years. I'll probably be saying it 15 years from now after another half dozen bombings and hijackings on U.S. flag flights.

Security is a man with a gun asking you questions, checking your answers and your records, and deciding whether you get on the plane; followed by a man with a gun on the plane waiting to kill you if you try and hurt someone. That's it. Everything else is theater.

HT: Gadfly (sometimes NSFW)

Totaling up the cost of healthcare for one family

So, demographically speaking, we're a "typical American family". We live in the suburbs, have two kids, etc...

I'm doing some beginning of year/end of year calculations at the moment, and there's a particular number that struck me.

We have the lowest cost comprehensive health plan my company offers. It's a high deductible plan with a healthcare savings account; and we contribute the maximum amount to that account (about $6k).

That saves us about $4,000 a year on premiums (which is also the amount of our deductible), reduces our taxes significantly (HSA contributions are pretax), and overall reduces our out of pocket costs, as well as being cheaper for the company. I think anybody who doesn't have a chronic illness requiring constant treatment should at least investigate the HSA/HDHP option.

Our total out of pocket cost for healthcare this year, including our insurance premiums (medical, dental, and vision), and everything that was covered from our healthcare savings account, was about $7650.

Of course, if you include the portion of our healthcare costs that the company pays (80% of the insurance premium, and $750 into the HSA), that number is much larger: the company pays about $7200 a year for our health plan premiums, plus the $750 HSA contribution; $585 for our vision premium; and about $3200 a year for our dental plan premiums.

Oh and that doesnt include the $2158 the government sticks me for medicare/medicaid; and the same amount paid by my employer.

So... about $24k out of my paychecks and employer went towards healthcare last year, accounting for all sources and destinations; $19k or so of which was theoretically just for my family.

The thing is, our actual cost for healthcare last year was about $12,500.

About $4000 of that was fixing my wifes teeth (and she's got another $15,000 to go, of which we'll pay about half. She had two teeth extracted including an oral surgeons visit, a root canal, a crown repaired, 3 fillings, two abcesses, and two cleanings). My wifes other direct medical care costs were about $1200.

My direct personal medical costs were about $3600, mostly relating to my knees, and the hormone issue. My dental costs were about $1500.

The rest was prescription drugs, over the counter medical items (HSA covered stuff like sudafed), and a couple of doctors visits for the kids.

And, of all that, only about $4800 was actual medical care that would have been covered by health insurance; and only $3000 of that was actually covered because we didn't go over our deductible. The rest came from the HSA, or was dental care.

The dental care was the big "win" for us this year, since I had about $1500 worth and my wife had about $4000 worth; of which we paid for about half, all out of the HSA. For all that, our dental plan cost us $700 out of pocket, and cost my employer about $3200.

I say "big win" only on a relative scale, because for $3900, we got about $2750 worth of services. As insurance deals go, that's actually pretty good.

Health care on the other hand, was something of a bust for us this year.

Our total was $4800, but our insurance only paid $3000 of that with a remainder to us of $1800, plus the $9,000 or so in combined personal and company premiums.

Of course, if you just look at my personal out of pocket plus premiums, that looks like a good deal. After all, I only paid about $1600 in healthcare premiums for about $3,000 in total covered services; and about $700 in dental premiums for about $2750 in covered services.

The difference between those two value propositions, that $13,000 that the company pays; is what we call a "hidden externality". There is a cost that most people dont account for when thinking about their healthcare, and its what their employer pays.

Oh and then theres that $4300 in medicare/medicaid I and the company combined pay...

Have these numbers been a bit confusing? Because believe me it was confusing compiling them.

Now that's just for me, and my family of four. Imagine how difficult thats going to be for the other 100 million or so families in America, combined...

What ISN'T confusing to me though, is that if instead of providing me with health insurance, my paycheck were instead $15,300 higher... Well my family could buy our own copper bottomed gold plated health insurance for a fair bit less than that, and have a good chunk left over...

Or we could use a healthcare savings account for our regular expenses, and have a $4000 a year $4000 deductible catastrophic care plan and have another $5,000 in our pockets.

Or we could do none of that and just pay cash, and still be $3000 ahead on the deal.

And hell, the government would have more tax revenue, and my employer wouldn't have to have several thousand insurance specialists on staff...

I just don't see how that wouldn't be a win for everyone.

It doesn't matter who you are, or how much money you make; if your employer provides your insurance, and pays for most of the cost (and most do); that overhead and inefficiency are hurting you, and your company, and the country.

And the democrats want us to hand all that over to a government run bureaucracy, with not only no incentive to be efficient, but all the perverse incentives that government creates to ensure inefficiency; and with the inherent rentseeking of government?

No thanks. I'd like to go the other way please.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tarantino and Whedon Shoutouts in NCIS

Anyone else notice?

The "hot lawyer" character was from the lawfirm of "Wolfram, Hart, and Donowitz".

Wolfram and Hart of course was the evil lawfirm in Joss Whedons "Angel".

Donowitz is a shoutout to Tarrantino. It's the last name of two of his characters: Lee Donowitz in "True Romance", and Donny Donowitz in "Inglorious Basterds".

I didn't happen to catch the writers credits on the show, wonder if they've been involved with Whedon or Tarantino before (hahah, IMDB prevails once again. The writer was an assistant on "Angel", and there are some google mentiones of his name with Tarantino regarding upcoming projects).

Monday, January 04, 2010

Just one of the reasons...

I think I mentioned earlier, I had a bad day today.

Nothing earth shattering... just one of those days; for a number of mostly unrelated reasons.

I just felt like blathering on a bit about one of those reasons though.

One thing, is that the hormone therapy that I've been on hasn't really worked. It's helped a lot in some things, not done a thing in others, and although I haven't seen any side efects, the risks of them are pretty high... But... overall it's not working, and it's VERY expensive (over $300 a month even with insurance) and we're going to have to try something else.

Were probably going to combine testosterone injections, with thyroid supplementarion, and antiandrogenics to keep my body from turning the excess testosterone against me... plus maybe some direct metabolic enhancement.

No matter what we do though, it's going to take some time to work through. Were going to have to experiment to figure what works, what doesn't, and how to balance dosages.

However, because we're moving in a couple months, I want to wait until were settled in to our new area, and I find a new doctor; before we start experimenting.

After all, the last thing I want to do is have to switch things up in the middle of evaluating a course of therapy.

...But we knew that a month ago. I've been off it since before thanksgiving.

I also haven't been on a scale since just before thanksgiving.

I don't think I've ever made it totally clear how bad this thing has screwed me up, or how just how much my body is malfunctioning.

Yaknow, in 2003, I got back down to 295lbs, and under 20% bodyfat. I had a 44" waist.

My goal was to get back to my highschool football/wrestling/powerlifting weight of 265-285, at 12% or under, and if not a 38" waist like I had back then, at least a 40.

Then I got a job that was 100% full time travel, and workouts and good eating went by the wayside... But until this hormone thing started I still managed to keep within sight of that number...

Then the hormone thing started, and my weight just went up and up. But still, in 2006-7 I managed to lose 75 lbs with diet and excercise...

Then, at some point, even on the diet, even with the excercise, my weight started going back up. I kept restricting calories more and more, but I still gained weight.

When I restricted down to well below my starvation rate, Instead of losing weight, I would just fall asleep in the middle of the day. Obviously, I stopped restricting that low.

Eventually I settled into 2000-2400 calories a day, as the minimum I could eat withou making myself I'll. I stuck to that for over a year (I got one day a week plus holidays that I was allowed to go over)... And yet I still gained weight.

So obviously something was wrong, and that's why I went on the hormone therapy.

The one thing the hormone therapy I've been on had been successful at, was in arresting my weight gain. I've gained well over 100lbs in the past few years, while reducing my caloric intake, and increasing my exercise; and that seems to be primarily down to the hormone issues.

Going off the hormones, combined with the holidays... Well, I haven't exactly gorged myself. In fact, I've eaten less than I would (or have) in previous years holiday times...

I was still maintaining a diet while I was on the hormones, and although I wasn't losing weight, I wasn't gaining it either. However, from thanksgiving to new years, I know, it's useless to try and keep to any kind of real calorie restriction. I just made sure I ate sensibly and properly, and only had the occasional indulgence.

But I stepped on a scale today for the first time since thanksgiving; and in the past 5 weeks I've gained 35 pounds.

Now, understand, in someone whose body is functioning properly, gaining 35lbs in five weeks would mean I had to eat an extra 3200-3600 calories a day.

For someone my size, even if I were at 100% bodyfat, and did nothing but sleep and eat all day long; if my body function wasn't completely haywire, that would require eating almost 8000 calories a day.

On the "worst" day since thanksgiving, I still ate less than 4000. Most days I I'm in at 2400-2800.

So, it seems there is something seriously wrong with me.

This has nothing to do with diet and exercise. My diet is fine, and excepting when the knees are bothering me particularly badly, I get enough exercise. There is simply some major mechanism of my body that is working completely improperly.

I absolutely have not been eating nearly that much. Maybe averaging an extra couple hundred calories a day over my previous maintenance intake (2400 - 2800 a day); given that I had dessert, and the occasional cookie or piece of chocolate... but seriously, I wasn't eating that much.

It's just that after coming off the hormones, my basal burn went down even further. Which means my thyroid function, pituitary function, and testosterone production are even lower and more screwed up than they were before I started.

There is something seriously wrong with me, neither I nor my doctors understand what it is; and frankly, it has me very worried.

We know I'm not diabetic, I'm not vitamin or nutrient deficient in any significant way (I supplement), and it seems that the ulcerative colitis doesn't have anything direct to do with the problem... and they're sure I don't have Crohns (at least not yet anyway). Other than that, the docs don't know why whats going on is going on.

So yeah, I had kind of a bad day, and that was one of the reasons why.


Just having a crap day.

I say again, bah...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Is there anything better in this life...

...than champagne and dark chocolate, with the woman you love, on the first day of the new year?

Holy Crap, it's 2010

I mean... Seriously...

It's frikken 2010.

Remember 1980? Reagan getting elected? Eagle Claw, the boatlift, Mt. St. Helens, CNN, Pac Man, Empire Strikes Back, Bonn Scott, John Bonham, John Lennon... all 30 years ago.

Tyson, Gorbachev, New Coke, back to the future, the rainbow warrior, the Amiga, the first Calvin and Hobbes, and windows 1.0... All 25 years ago.

Mandela gets out, Tyson loses, the SJ Games raid, the Baltic states leave the USSR and the Balkans democratize.., Windows 3, Jim Henson, Iraq invades Kuwait, Germany reunifies... 20 years ago...


2010... Seriously?