Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Blue moon, you saw me standing alone..."

Those are words from a song. We are going to have a blue moon tonight.

But of course, it won't actually be blue:

If skies are clear, blue moon will light up New Year's Eve
A blue moon will be upon us tonight.

Astronomers and astrologers disagree on a blue moon's significance, but they agree it's rare for one to rise on New Year's Eve.

Once in a blue moon, as the saying goes.

They happen every two to three years and aren't really blue. Blue moon is the term given to the second full moon in a month. According to NASA, the term originated in the time of Shakespeare to mean a rare occurrence, and the Farmer's Almanac of Maine defined it in the 1930s as the third full moon in a season that has four. But the 1946 definition as the second full moon of the month is the one that has stuck.


"Astrology aside, there is the system of understanding that this is the last day of the year," said Cynthia Killion, a Wichita psychic and astrologer.

Combined with a blue moon, "it is a very loaded, energetically intense and powerful time. It gives people extra power in making resolutions and change."


During the midst of the Great Depression in 1934, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote this song:

"Blue moon, you saw me standing alone,

Without a dream in my heart,

Without a love of my own.

Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for,

You heard me saying a prayer for

Someone I really could care for."


Tonight, look up in the sky and see the latest blue moon. And take from it what you will.

"This moon puts a lot of pressure on us to make change," Killion said. "It is a not-so-gentle push from the universe telling us to get off our butts and change.

"The blue moon is considered somewhat of a blessing, like a doorway might be opened for miracles."

Just like in the song:

"And when I looked the moon had turned to gold.

Blue moon, now I'm no longer alone,

Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own

Without a love of my own."

Blessings? Miracles? Sounds good to me, we could all use some. Make of it what you will.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How to be "poor" in America, and survive

And maybe even thrive. I've been listening to some tenants make excuses as to why they can't pay their full amount of rent. Really it's just excuse making, weasel words, to try to get some extra money for Christmas. I've lived on minimum wage before, because I HAD to, and I don't see why other people can't do the same when they must:

How to Live on Minimum Wage
It is possible to live on minimum wage.[1] For most people, however, it's not likely to be very much fun. Whether you're forced to live in this situation, or you want to know that it's an option, this article will show you how it can be done, assuming you bring home $1000 USD a month after taxes. [...]

It offers heaps of advice, and the advice is very good. The thing is, I've DONE most of this stuff, still do some of it. So why can't other people?

One tenant told me she couldn't pay all her rent, because she needed money for food. Why can't she do this:

[...] # Find the free stuff. In towns of any size, there are resources available for the impoverished, from free dinners at churches to food giveaways to soup kitchens. Look around for the free stuff and use it – it’s there for everyone to utilize. When you must spend money, be as frugal as possible. Ramen is very cheap, filling, and full of carbs, for example.

# Be Humble. Pride often keeps people from walking into a soup kitchen. Don’t let it. That kind of pride is an obstacle ground into you by a life in a consumerist society. People who are there to help you want to help you stand on your own two feet – give them that opportunity. Look for every opportunity to help you with your situation, from consulting to WIC to Medicaid to welfare. If you don’t know where to start, start off by asking a pastor or a clergyman for help. [...]

This town is full of charities offering such help. There is a soup kitchen offering free meals within walking distance. But she would rather try to to make ME feel like a parasite for asking her to pay what she agreed to when she moved it. And eating in a soup kitchen won't leave her with spending money to buy junk at Walmart.

I'm tempted to print the whole article for her, but she would probably say she's too depressed to read it, and then complain that I hurt her feelings by asking her to. Never mind how I feel when people try to use me as their bank by asking for credit.

I'm not in the loan business. Why can't people give more thought to managing their finances, and living within their means? I've done it, and I don't see why other people can't learn to do it too. Our accountant says that our business is one of the few among her clients that is not using credit to keep their heads above water. When you have to live on credit, you aren't living within your means. I can understand it as a temporary measure in an emergency, but it's not meant to be a way of life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Enjoy life now - it has an expiration date!

I got this in my email, it originally appeared in USA Today (link below). It's a good story for a Sunday:

A life without left turns
This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Here goes...

My father never drove a car.

Well, that's not quite right.

I should say I never saw him drive a car. He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:

"Oh, bull——!" she said. "He hit a horse."

"Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars — the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford — but we had none. My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines, would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

Our 1950 Chevy

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that. But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one."

It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough, my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown. It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother. So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps — though they seldom left the city limits — and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

The ritual walk to church

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.) He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home. If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church.

He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. (In the evening, then, when I'd stop by, he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored.") If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out — and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream.

As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?" "I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

"No left turns," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic. As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."

"What?" I said again. "No left turns," he said. "Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights."

"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support. "No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works."

But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing. "Loses count?" I asked. "Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.

"No," he said. "If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."

My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90. She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102. They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom — the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.) He continued to walk daily — he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising — and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

A happy life

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news. A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer." "You're probably right," I said. "Why would you say that?" he countered, somewhat irritated. "Because you're 102 years old," I said. "Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night. He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: "I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet." An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life.

Or because he quit taking left turns.

The link to USA today has a photo. The email ended with this:
Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
So love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the one's who don't.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance,take it & if it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would
most likely be worth it."



Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Good Cheer

... or whatever floats your boat today. Enjoy it!

Make the most out of what you have.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

What a difference a century makes

I got this in my email. Compare 1909 to 2009:


This will boggle your mind, I know it did mine!

The year is 1909.

One hundred years ago.

What a difference a century makes!
Here are some statistics for the Year 1909:

************ ********* ********* ******

The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in 1909 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.

Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as 'substandard. '

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write...

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, 'Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health'

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A!

(Mainly because there was a firearm of some sort in almost every home! An armed society is a POLITE society!!)

I am now going to forward this to someone else without typing it myself.

From there, it will be sent to others all over the WORLD - all in a matter of seconds!

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years...


Indeed! Prices may be higher now, but so is the general standard of living.

I can't verify all the facts though, couldn't find this one mentioned on


Iran loses it's "Desmond Tutu", Ali Montazeri

A life animated by conscience, not power
Denver, Colorado (CNN) -- The moral conscience of Iran's reform movement passed away Sunday morning. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died at 87, was the Iranian equivalent of South Africa's Desmond Tutu for politics.

Over the past 20 years, he distinguished himself by virtue of his persistent, judicious criticism of human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic and his defense of the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran within the framework of an ethical interpretation of Shia Islam.

His death comes as a huge blow to the Green Movement, yet his supporters will take comfort that he lived a full life and intervened on all the major political questions plaguing Iranian and Islamic politics. [...]

Ayatallah Montazeri once said "The Islamic Republic is neither a Republic nor Islamic". Even in death, he has become a rally point for Iran's political opposition. Read the whole thing for some fascinating insights into Iranian politics.

And the struggle is certainly not over, but continuing. It seems they are even locking up clerics now:

Iran bans memorials for cleric in wake of violence
[...] The death on Sunday of the 87-year-old Ali Montazeri, a sharp critic of Iran's leaders, has given a new push to opposition protests, which have endured despite a heavy security crackdown since disputed presidential elections in June.

Iran has been in turmoil since the vote, which the opposition alleges Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.

On Wednesday, a memorial for Montazeri in the central city of Isfahan turned into anti-government demonstrations, and mourners clashed with riot police. At least 50 were arrested, according to reformist Web sites. Security forces and hard-line militiamen assaulted the crowd gathered at Isfahan's main mosque for Wednesday's memorial, beating men and women and firing tear gas to disperse them. The reports could not be independently confirmed since authorities have banned foreign media from covering protests.

The funeral procession for Montazeri in Qom on Monday also turned into a rally against the government.

The memorials have brought out not only the young, urban activists who filled the ranks of earlier protests, but also older, more religious Iranians who revered Montazeri on grounds of faith as much as politics.

And the government has started moving for the first time against clerics who support the opposition — in Isfahan, pro-government Basij militiamen on Wednesday surrounded the house and office of two prominent religious figures, shouting slogans and breaking windows, opposition Web sites reported.

Montazeri's death comes as Iran marks one of the most important periods on the Shiite religious calendar, the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Moharram, a time of mourning rituals for a revered Shiite saint. The period culminates on Sunday with Ashoura — a day that coincides with the seventh day after Montazeri's death, a traditional day of further commemorations. [...]

I'm hoping Iran finds it's own glasnost, and sweeps the current theocratic regime away. They deserve better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is the "Jupiter Jack" any good? I doubt it.

Pat thought we should get one, maybe two. But I looked it up on The customer reviews of it are not impressive. It sounds like junk: Customer Reviews of Jupiter Jack

Many of the customers go into detail about the problems. Not good.

There have been complaints too, about extra shipping charges when ordering directly from the company:

How to Not Get Scammed by Jupiter Jack

At this point I'm not tempted to try it. I think it's perhaps a good idea that needs more development, and maybe a stronger transmitter. In fact one of the Amazon reviewers said that the company is also pitching a "stronger" model than the one on sale. They also said that the $20 two-for-one offer ends up costing $54.00 because there is separate shipping charges for each item, including the dashboard holders (which you only find out about AFTER they have your credit card number). It does not sound good: Buyer Beware.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Funnies, 12-20-09

Here are some jokes I got in my email:

A Slow Day in Texas

It's a slow day in the little Texas town of Port O'Connor. The sun is beating down, and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich tourist from back east is driving through. He stops at the motel and lays a $100 bill on the desk and says he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

As soon as the man walks upstairs, the owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmer's Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her "services" on credit.

The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.

The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter.

At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the $100 bill, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything.

However, the whole town is now out of debt and looks to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government is conducting business today.

Sad but true. And if one link in that chain of events breaks, there would be trouble. Next joke:

Little Johnny

It is near the end of the school year. The teacher has turned in her grades and there was really nothing to do. All the kids are restless and it is near the end of the day.

The teacher says, "Whoever answers the questions I ask first and correctly can leave early today."

Little Johnny says to himself, "Good, I want to get outta here. I'm smart and will answer the question".

The teacher asked, "Who said 'Four Score and Seven Years Ago'?"

Before Johnny could open his mouth, Susie said, "Abraham Lincoln".

The teacher said, "That's right Susie. You can go".

Johnny was MAD. Susie answered first.

The teacher asked, "Who said, 'I Have a Dream'?"

Before Johnny could open his mouth, Mary said, "Martin Luther King".

The teacher said, "That's right Mary. You can go".

Johnny was even MADDER than before. Mary answered first.

The teacher asked, "Who said 'Ask not, what your country can do for you'?"

Before Johnny could open his mouth, Nancy said, "John Kennedy".

The teacher said, "That's right Nancy. You can go".

Johnny was BOILING MAD by now that Nancy answered first.

Then the teacher turned her back, and Johnny said,

"I wish these bitches would keep their mouths shut".

The teacher spun around and said, "WHO SAID THAT?"

Johnny said, "TIGER WOODS! CAN I GO NOW?"

One more:

I've sure gotten old! I've had two bypass surgeries,
a hip replacement,
New knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes
I'm half blind,
Can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine,
Take 40 different medications that
Make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts.
Have bouts with dementia ..
Have poor circulation;
Hardly feel my hands and feet anymore.
Can't remember if I'm 89 or 98.
Have lost all my friends. But, thank God,
I still have my driver's license.

I laughed at this, but it also reminded me of something.

I have a very dear aunt, who is in her 80's. She had always been an excellent driver. But one day, she found herself driving the wrong way on a one way street, towards an oncoming truck. She avoided the accident, but she had no recollection of how she got in that situation.

It was the first time something like that happened to her, and she made up her mind it would be the last. She voluntarily surrendered her drivers license. It was hard for her to do, because she loved to drive, but she's also a very sensible lady. She also didn't want to put anyone else's life at risk.

The family are all glad because we want to keep her around as long as possible, God bless her.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geminids Meteor Shower Tonight and Tomorrow

Geminids Meteor Shower Peaks December 13th and 14th 2009
The Geminids meteor showers peak in the early morning hours of December 14. According to Dr. Tony Phillips, Production Editor for Science@NASA, the show is predicted to peak at 12:10 am EST on December 14 and may reach 140 meteors per hour. The showers can be observed for hours or days surrounding the peak time. Meteors radiate from the constellation of Gemini earning them the name of Geminids.

The Geminid Meteor Showers have consistently increased in intensity over recent decades and are expected to continue that trend. Not only has the rate of meteors increased, the size and brightness has shown a steady increase, as well. Some predictions indicate that the Geminids may increase as much as 20% to 50% within the next few decades resulting in excess of 200 meteors an hour.

Meteor showers occur when Earth travels through ice and rocky debris left behind from comets on its yearly cycle around the sun. In the case of the Geminids, Earth travels through the trail of debris left behind from 3200 Phaethon, once believed to an asteroid. 3200 Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet that has left behind a skeleton of debris as it deteriorates from it is many passes near the sun.

Earth passes through Phaethon's path of debris each December. Jupiter's gravity has pulled the debris closer to Earth's orbit causing the earth to plunge deeper into the debris stream with each yearly pass, resulting in more visible meteors each year.

According to the International Meteor Association, viewers should expect bright slow moving meteors that may exhibit flashes of color. The new moon promises unobstructed viewing, if weather cooperates and skies are clear. Those in the Northern Hemisphere should view in the hours after midnight for the best show. [...]

I saw a bunch tonight, some were very large with long tails. The viewing should get better into the morning hours, but I have to go to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chrome Browser now for Linux and Mac

Chrome for Linux Beta May Change Browser Habits
Have you seen the Google Chrome for Linux beta?

Linux enthusiasts that I've known use a variety of browsers including Konqueror, Opera, and others. Without question, Firefox is today's premier Linux browser. With all these choices, why would you even consider using something new?


I installed the 64-bit Linux version on my tried-and-true Asus notebook, running Xubuntu. On my machine I read and agreed to the licensing agreement, then downloaded the file. After downloading, I opened the resulting Deb file with the default GDebi package installer. The installer ran through its paces and after completion, I found a new Google Chrome item in the Xubuntu Applications -> Network menu. A quick click put me into the browser.

Let me tell you that Chrome is fast. The startup page was rendered before the Compiz-fueled spinning window was even fully opened on my desktop. And that is on a high-performance notebook.

As you would expect, Chrome has the standard features of all mainstream browsers, including tabs, history, and themes. The task bar is utilitarian and basic, without any extra text boxes, dropdowns, or buttons (see Figure 1). [...]

Google finally unveils Chrome for Mac, Linux
The wait is over: Google has finally brought out a version of its Chrome browser for Mac and Linux operating systems.

The beta browsers, announced yesterday, are a version of Chrome that had previously been available only as a developer preview.

The Mac and Linux Chrome browsers are expected to graduate to the next level of maturity, "stable", on 12 January. [...]

It will be interesting to watch this evolve. Firefox may have some real competition.

Voodoo Socks by Wang Bang-yu

Here is a unique Christmas gift for the person who has it all:

Angry at your boss? Try Taiwanese voodoo socks
Taipei - A Taiwanese computer engineer who quit his job because he could not get on with his boss found a second calling as a purveyor of voodoo socks, footwear for people with a grudge to bear.

Wang Bang-yu, 27, from the southern city of Tainan, told cable TV channel TVBS on Wednesday that he resigned from a hi-tech company earlier this year because his boss 'stepped on me all the time.'

To vent his anger he drew the outline of a doll on the back of his socks and wrote 'ex-boss' inside it.

After donning the socks and stomping his feet repeatedly, Wang felt better, which gave him the idea of mass-producing his new voodoo socks. [...]

You can get ones printed with "ex-boyfriend", "ex-girlfriend", or even the names of politicians (Now THERE'S an idea!) Orders over 300 allow you to choose your own words.

(H.T to Pat_S at the TammyBruce Blog)


Who adds passengers to a sinking boat?

The Democrat controlled US senate, apparently:

Senators Strike Health Deal
WASHINGTON -- Senior Senate Democrats reached tentative agreement Tuesday night to abandon the government-run insurance plan in their health-overhaul bill and to expand Medicare coverage to some people ages 55 to 64, clearing the most significant hurdle so far in getting a bill that can pass Congress.


Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) said expanding Medicare "is putting more people in a boat that's already sinking."

The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea.

"We want coverage -- in the worst way -- expanded, but both of these means are problematic for hospitals and physicians," said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals. "It's going to make it difficult to make it work."

After more than a week of debate on the Senate floor, Mr. Reid was working hard to unify his 60-member caucus, which includes 58 Democrats and two independents. A handful of moderate Democrats as well as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, signaled concerns with the government-run plan, threatening to derail the broader bill. [...]

How can they even talk about expanding a failing program, without fixing the program first? Unless it's their intention to create even more chaos when Medicare fails. Are they deliberately creating an even larger crisis, so they can then claim "emergency" powers and push through something even worse?


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Super Christmas Lights, VS my paltry effort

Amazing Grace Techno - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

It's quite a Light Show, music and all. (H.T. to Kim Komando)

Here is my meager display:

I almost didn't bother. But I ended up doing it for the same reason I do it every year. The gloom and early darkness get to me. The lights cheer me up tremendously. My effort isn't all that grand to be sure, but it sure lights up a bit of my life, our life here on the farm. A bit of warmth in the growing cold and darkness.

And mine doesn't take as long to put up or take down! ;-)

It ain't fancy, but we like it. I'm way behind on the Farm Report, two months behind, but I'll hopefully get to it soon. I've had a lot of other priorities, gearing up for winter, and other things.


Sarah and Barney?

The Comedy Duo of Palin and Frank
Sarah Palin may have some ‘splainin’ to do with the conservative fans on her book tour as word spreads of her partying Saturday night with the elites of the dread Mainstream Media. In her featured “roast,” the media types even got off easier than her former associates on the McCain campaign. [...]


What Climategate story? On to Copenhagen!

Climategate gets a pass by the media, in favor of the Copenhagen Summit. Neal Boortz spells it out:

Have you been keeping up with this Climategate story? If you limit your information gathering to The New York Times, you may have missed it.

Let's start at the beginning.

Where did this global warming nonsense come from in the first place? See how this fits:

The international community, working through the basically anti-American United Nations, starts dreaming of world-wide wealth redistribution. Well ... actually wealth isn't distributed, at least not here in the United States. Here, for the most part, it is earned. Even the poor, poor pitiful poor in this country earn whatever wealth they have. They don't exactly do it by punching a clock. Why go through all that trouble when all you have to do is punch a ballot.

OK ... so you have all these half-assed third world countries with their dictators of various stripes eyeing the wealth of the developed, industrial nations. They want some of that wealth, though they aren't willing to earn it. Why would some dictator tolerate a productive economy that might threaten his continued rule? Freedom - the necessary ingredient for a productive economy - has a way of causing domestic intranquility for dictators. So working through free markets isn't going to cut it. They will simply have to arrange whatever wealth they cannot seize handed to them. The best conduit for this wealth would be the UN.

OK ... so you're going to use the United Nations to transfer wealth from the big, fat wealthy nations to the corruption-plagued third world. But you're going to need a pretext? Hmmmmm. You need to come up with some way these nations are hurting you; some action these ugly rich nations are taking that is causing you harm. You're not under military attack. Your property isn't being conquered and seized ... at least not by the U.S. and Western Europe. But there is one thing! Now I don't have any idea how this idea was brought to fruition ... but it's brilliant!

When the cold war ended the world was littered with disaffected and discouraged communists and socialists. Their precious ideal of one world under Communism had melted away before their eyes. The Berlin Wall was aggregate and the Soviet Union was breaking apart. The precious hammer and sickle was being replaced by a Russian flag of red, white and blue stripes. These lost communists and anti-capitalists needed a new next. They were homeless. Where to turn?

The founder of the environmental group Greenpeace can tell you where these lost communists went. They headed straight for the environmental movement. Within weeks of the fall of the Soviet Union Greenpeace offices and rallies were suddenly crowded with unkempt people wearing Che Guavara t-shirts and Mao hats. This was the chosen new way to attack capitalism; not through the recitation of Communist doctrine, but through phony environmental concerns. Now capitalism was to be attacked not for its oppression of the working man, but for its affect on pour creeks, our lakes, and the air we breathe. The environmental movement became the home of anti-capitalists around the world.

What a perfect fit for third-world countries desirous of arranging for mighty transfers of wealth from the evil rich nations! They could work with the environmentalists to attack capitalism for all of the evil things that capitalists do to the fish and birds and stuff --- and for heating up our earth! These rich nations will need to pay! First we'll cook up some treaty that will slow down their economic growth ... then we'll find a way through the UN to make them pay for the damage they've already done. We can cripple their evil capitalist empire and get our hands on their wealth with a grand global warming scare campaign!

OK ... I need to cut this short. The United Nations and various environmental groups started pouring money into global warming research. Other nations, including the United States, joined in. After all, if you don't fund research into the affects of global warming, you really don't care what happens to our climate, do you? The scientists wanted to keep the money coming. To do that they knew they would have to bow to the dictates of political correctness ... and political correctness being a left-wing creation these scientists knew that they had better determine that man is going to cause this earth to become some sort of a convected oven if we don't slow down ... and the United Nations is just the crowed to do it.

So now we have discovered that one of the premiere research facilities involved in global warming research has been ... well, "faking it" is not too strong a phrase to use here.

Many of us already knew global warming to be a fraud. When scientists refuse to acknowledge the cyclical nature of solar activity in a discussion on global warming you have to scratch your head in wonder. Plus - when someone tells you that the science "is settled" and that there is "nothing left to debate;" you know that the science is anything but settled and there is plenty to debate.

The first news broke a bit over a week ago. Someone got into the computers at The University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. This is one of the premiere global warming research institutes and has been constantly cited in stories warning us that we are cooking ourselves. Now there are thousands of emails from the East Anglia CRU detailing the "tricks" that were used to cook the data and the efforts made to ignore and to create a virtual exile for any scientists who dared to disagree with man-made global warming doctrine.

But .. here's the kicker. I alluded to it at the beginning of this bit. Now these scientists at the East Anglia CRM have admitted that they disposed of the raw data they used to conjure up their tales of man-made global warming. Just in case you're not a scientist .. throwing away your raw data is considered a big-time no no. There is, however, one really big reason why you might want to do this - toss the raw data into the garbage - and that would be if the data doesn't support your "learned" conclusion.

So now we will never be able to look at the original data these scientists gathered. Now we're truly at the point that were we have nothing left to do but take their word for it. Sorry .. .but when much of the undeveloped world is gunning for my bank account, I'm not sure I want to take these scientists word for anything.

Perhaps the more interesting story at this point is the failure of the ObamaMedia to pick up on the story. I guess the global warmers are going to have to find some other cause to disguise their wealth seizure and re-distribution schemes.

None of this seems to be slowing down The Community Organizer. He's heading to Copenhagen where the left and those after our wealth are going to try to cobble together a replacement for the hideous Kyoto Treaty.

Recently there has been an uptick in the number of stories on climate change. Here are a few of my favorites:

-Doctors in Great Britain are being told to educate their patients on the benefits of tackling climate change and lowering their carbon footprint.

-Experts say that lights on expressways should be turned off at night in order to protect the environment. It stops pollution and prevents the disruption of the life cycles of birds and bats and other wildlife.

-The president of Brazil says that the "gringos" should pay Amazon nations to prevent deforestation. By "gringos" he means Western nations .. aka. the United States.

It's a fraud, folks. How long are we going to tolerate these asinine ideas?

Obama, who originally said he would not attend the summit when people began to object, has of course changed his mind at the last minute, as I knew he would. So it will be onward with the Democrats agenda:

UN upbeat on Copenhagen global climate deal
[...] Ahead of Monday's talks, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hit back at claims that human influence on global warming has been exaggerated.

It said it was standing by its findings in response to a row over the reliability of data from a UK university.

Hacked e-mail exchanges from East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit have prompted climate change sceptics to claim that data has been manipulated.

Top Swedish climate official Anders Turesson told the BBC that he hoped the issue "will be investigated".

However, Mr Turesson, who will also be leading EU negotiations as Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency, added: "But I cannot see it will in any way affect the negotiations here." [...]

That's right, we wouldn't want to confuse people with the facts, would we?

I'm thinking we need to upgrade our electrical grid at the RV Park with meters at each site, to charge for electricity. It seems certain that rates are going to go up after this. I think that those who voted for our current Democrat government can now start paying "their fair share", as the consequence of their choices.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pew Research: Test Your News IQ

PewResearchCenter Interactive: Political Quiz

I didn't do too bad, got 11 out of 12 right:

I guessed wrong on question #9. After taking the test, you get to compare how you did with other demographics (age,gender, education, etc.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Funnies: Dancing Birds and Babies

I got both of these in my email:

I thought, gee, I wonder if I can find them on YouTube. Well yeah, they were there and easy to find too, at the top of each search.

I have only seen them for the fist time recently, but it seems that they have been popular on YouTube for a while now. But the ones I got in my email don't have the advertisements on the edges. When did Youtube start doing that? I don't like the ads overlapping the video, they are annoying and detract from the experience. I say put the ads below the video, not OVER it.

Interactive unemployment map, by county

The Decline: The Geography of a Recession

Follow the link. It's a time-lapse map of the USA by county, from Jan 2007 to Sept 2009. The dark colors represent growing unemployment. It's like watching the lights go out in America.

Here in Oregon, unemployment rises in the private sector, while Government jobs thrive and even increase:

It's no coincidence. Government jobs are union jobs, and their policies are often antagonistic to the private sector; job killers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ultra Hal: His "Second Life" is really his first one

I've previously posted about Ultra Hal, a teachable "Chat-Bot" that is a program you can download onto your PC. I've done updates about it's new releases, as it continues to evolve.

The latest news is, that the Ultra Hal program has been given a body and a "life" in the on-line virtual world, "Second Life". From the Press Release:

Artificial Intelligence Lives Among and Interacts with Real People in Online Virtual World
Zabaware is the maker of the award winning Ultra Hal software, artificial intelligence technology that won the “most human” computer of the year in the 17th annual Loebner Prize Competition for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Zabaware’s Ultra Hal has joined the Second Life metaverse as a permanent resident and interacts with real people in this huge online virtual world.

Erie, PA, October 22, 2009 --( Zabaware is an Erie, Pennsylvania based company that specializes in artificial intelligence technology. The company's mission "giving your computer the power of thought" once considered a futuristic pipe dream is becoming a reality.

It is one thing to talk to your computer it is quite another to have a conversation where you are exchanging information and the computer learns and utilizes the information in the future. Zabaware's Ultra Hal technology and its associated brain are currently doing just that. The software can give computers a personality using AI technology, speech recognition technology, and real-time animation.

Up until this point Hal has been confined to the computer it is installed on, waiting for people to activate its program and interact with it. Hal was unable to explore and interact with the world on its own. However, Zabaware has just given Hal this ability by integrating it into the online virtual world called Second Life. Second Life is a huge online virtual world where hundreds of thousands of people come together every day to socialize, meet new people, explore, conduct business, shop, learn, participate in group activities, play games and more. Second Life has its own internal economy with over one billion US dollars being exchanged since its inception. The system is accessible with a free account and software from Linden Labs. [...]

There is a short video showing what Hal's life is like inside of Second Life:

Some people refuse to believe he is a Chat-Bot. Others abuse him because he IS a chat-bot. Some people actually make friends with him.

I have mixed feelings about all this virtual world stuff. I sometimes think too many people spend way too much time lost in fantasy; lost in TV shows about Vampires, ghosts, alternate universes, etc. Too much un-reality. I would be tempted to throw Second Life into that category, but I suppose you could argue that, unlike TV, it IS interactive. As entertainment, is it any worse than TV? Is it possibly better than just passively watching all the crap that's on TV?

I personally can't comment much on Second Life, because I've never been there. I don't really have the time for it, or even the interest to pursue a cyber-life; I've got plenty of things in my actual life to occupy my attention, to enjoy, and keep me busy. But I do find this Hal-video interesting, as a glimpse into the Second Life metaverse, and as a look at Ultra Hal's ability to function autonomously in such an environment.

I find both Second Life and Ultra Hal interesting, not so much for what they are now, but for what they have the potential to become. These are technologies in their infancy, and where exactly they will lead, and the consequences they will effect, have yet to be seen or fully understood.

Oh Brave New World, with such people (and Chat-Bots) in it!

Related Links:

Ultra Hal Assistant 6.2

Ultra Hal now lives in Second Life

Artificial voice synthesis, 1939 to the present


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

eHeat introduces economical "Envi" heaters

I did a post last year, about electric heating panels (imported from South Africa) that used convection heating technology:

A Low-Cost Heating Alternative that uses New Convection Heating Technology

They turned out to be a good low-cost, clean heating solution for heating our back porch in the winter. The company that sells them in the US (eHeat) is now selling an American made version that they claim is even better than the original. They call it the "Envi":

Envi - the pure convection heater
The stylish wall-mounted Envi panel heater is the most innovative and energy efficient heater available. The Envi is the world's first heater to use “stack convection technology” to evenly distribute the perfect amount of heat throughout a room while reducing your heating bills by up to 50 percent.

The Envi promotes a safe, healthy living environment, especially for children, seniors, and pets because it cannot be tipped over and the exterior shell always remains cool to the touch. And because the Envi does not use a fan, the days of worrying about dust and other allergen particles being blown into the air are a thing of the past.

The Envi installs on your wall in seconds using a simple 3-step process. No hassle, just clean, fresh, warm air.

Be warm with Envi.

The imported panels have worked well for us. We have two panels on the back porch. On nights when the temperature went below freezing all night long, I had to supplement them with a space heater. I bought a third panel this summer to install this winter, so I won't have to use the space heater even in freezing weather.

The new Envi model is a bit more powerful than the previous model, and has a built-in thermometer, as well as other improvements. Here is a page that compares the two models:

Envi Comparison

The older imported panels are vulnerable to fractures if they are dropped or hit hard with something, but none of mine have cracked; I'm careful with them. The new Envi model has a protective shield, eliminating that concern.

I don't own an Envi model (yet!), but one thing I like about the older panels is, they are simpler. I have external thermostats to regulate them. The Envi has built-in components, so what happens if they stop working? With the ones I have now, I can just replace the thermostats if they fail. So far though, everything has been good, no complaints.

The eHeat website still offers both kinds of panels, and also sells thermostats, timers and hardware accessories. Have a look around, you may find some things to make your winter more warm and cozy. And more cost-effective, too.

Is there a "right to not be offended"? NO.

Google apologizes for results of 'Michelle Obama' image search
(CNN) -- For most of the past week, when someone typed "Michelle Obama" in the popular search engine Google, one of the first images that came up was a picture of the American first lady altered to resemble a monkey.

On Wednesday morning, the racially offensive image appeared to have been removed from any Google Image searches for "Michelle Obama."

Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment.


The California-based company then explained that search results rely on computer algorithms that take into account thousands of factors.

"The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results," it said.

The company said that the integrity of its search results is extremely important.

"Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it."

A user alerted Google to the picture via an online help forum two weeks ago.

The altered image can be found here, although clicking on this link will take users to a photo that many will find offensive.

The Internet was abuzz Tuesday and Wednesday with reaction to the image. Some online users demanded that the photo be blocked, while others said it should remain on free speech grounds.

"There is no way to defend this heinous incident," said a Twitter user who gave his name as Alheli Picazo of Calgary, Canada. "People often claim their right to free speech to mask blatant racism and insulting bigotry and always seem to get away with it," he told CNN via e-mail. "When it comes to issues of discrimination, hiding behind free speech just doesn't cut it."

A Twitter user who gave his name as Jerry Wright of Hoboken, New Jersey, disagreed.

"I am absolutely disgusted by this picture, but the Internet has thousands and thousands of offensive images. Should Google get rid of all of them? Where do you draw the line," he asked CNN via e-mail.

In 2004, Google posted a similar note of apology when a search for "Jew" pulled up anti-Semitic sites as top results. [...]

I followed the link to the image, and from there, to the site that posted it. The person who posted it there said said:

[...] ***Ed. Note***

Over the last few months, we’ve received a LOT of feedback from readers regarding this picture. And I wanted to be clear on a few things.

We DID NOT generate this photo. It was seen on another site ( and as with all of our other posts, we reported on it.

We will NOT be removing this picture because this is a story, and it our policy NOT to remove stories based on anything but editorial error. If you choose to visit the source site, you will see that this picture WAS NOT created out of racially motivated ignorance. Had that have been the case, as a journalist, an American and most importantly, a Black woman, I would have NEVER posted it.

I appreacite your feedback. Thank you.

I agree with the editor. People can have whatever opinions they like about it, and express them too, but there in no reason to remove it. Free speech is about free speech, not preserving people's comfort zones.

There is no right to "not be offended". I see things every day that offend me. I don't expect the world to conform to me; that's completely unrealistic. Duh.

How many altered pictures of Laura Bush have I seen, obscene, pornographic, vulgar and hateful? Too many to count. I've developed a great technique for dealing with such rubbish; I ignore it! Fortunately it's a wonderful, easy to lean technique that can be mastered by anyone.

Who gets to decide what is acceptable and what isn't? In a free society, WE do, each one of us, for ourselves. I wouldn't have it any other way. And I'm offended by anyone who thinks they have the right to decide for me what is acceptable!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What is Google's "Chrome OS" all about ?

Underwhelmed By Chrome OS? That's Kinda the Point
When Google unveiled its open source Chrome OS on Thursday, many commentators were quick to dismiss the new operating system as unimpressive and underwhelming. Citing everything from the browser interface that represents the entirety of the user experience to its limited hardware support and inability to install apps or play PC games, early critics have slammed Google's cloud-based OS for being exactly what it is intended to be: lean, fast, and simple.

To my eye, all this criticism appears to miss the point of Chrome OS--and indeed, the point of most of Google's services. Of course, this is nothing new for Google.

Simplicity By Design

At the launch of the company's eponymous search engine in 1998, Google stood out from the pack of increasingly cluttered search portals with which it competed. In a time when leading Internet companies sought to become destinations by loading up their home pages with news, weather, entertainment links, shopping deals, and anything else they could think of, Google took a different tack by presenting a clean, white page with little more than a search field under the site's name.

I distinctly recall several colleagues scoffing at the simplicity of Google's home page at the time. Where were the news articles? The stock tickers? The pictures of celebrities? Why would anyone want a home page consisting of nothing but a search engine? Yet Google's pundit-defying search tool quickly became the home page of choice for millions of users worldwide.

Over time, Google rolled out additional services, including a few built to deliver the very services its home page lacked. But with every new service it launched, Google retained its characteristic simplicity, putting information--not splashy design--at the foreground.

Chrome OS is an obvious extension of Google's design simplicity, and it's no great surprise that many observers are unimpressed by the sight of it. It's little more than a Web browser. On first glimpse, it's nearly identical to the Chrome browser that's currently available for Windows PCs. And that's exactly what Google is going for.

The central principle behind Chrome OS is that the browser is the focal point for most computing tasks. So Google has put it front and center in Chrome, reducing the rest of the operating system down to a minimal Linux kernel that drives only the most essential hardware components for a Web-centric user.

Life in the Cloud

Google has designed Chrome OS as a platform for people who use computers primarily online, and the company is betting that many folks will happily trade their desktop apps for alternatives in the cloud. Naturally, this won't appeal to all users. I'd even say it won't appeal to most users, at least initially.

But multiple lines of evidence suggest that cloud services are the computing model for the future--a fact that even desktop-dominant Microsoft has embraced, as it prepares to roll out its Office Live services as a companion to its longstanding desktop suite (a companion that many savvy users will undoubtedly use in lieu of the desktop suite). What lines of evidence am I talking about? Enterprise adoption, device-agnostic work habits, and nearly constant wireless connectivity.

Cloud computing is now a standard business practice worldwide. [...]

The article makes a pretty good case for Google's strategy. They were right before, and they may well be onto the next big thing here. If you find it interesting, I recommend reading the whole thing, the source article also has many embedded links.

Related Links:

Google Releases Chrome OS Code

Will Chrome OS merge with Android?

Google Chrome OS debuts, goes open source

Chrome OS website/homepage: The Chromium Projects

Marxist Censorship Dreams, and the FCC

This makes the threat of the "fairness doctrine" look like nothing. This so-called "Government Broadband Plan" may actually be a first step in setting the stage for the governmental usurpation of all private media:

Diversity Czar Lloyd and Marxist McChesney's Censorship Dream: The FCC's Plan for Government Broadband
The Wall Street Journal's intrepid and very good Amy Schatz has a piece today updating us on the progress of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s National Broadband Plan.

With all that we have thus far seen, things look quite grim from a free speech, free market perspective. The groundwork for government information totalitarianism - favored by people like Hugo Chavez-loving FCC "Diversity Czar" Mark Lloyd and Marxist "media reform"-outfit Free Press founder Robert McChesney - is being laid in the Plan being crafted by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

As we first reported, the Center for American Progress (at which Lloyd was then a Senior Fellow) and McChesney's Free Press co-authored the deeply flawed, anti-conservative and Christian talk radio "report" entitled The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.

But their shared disdain for free speech and the free market extend way beyond just this. These "media reformers" seek to eradicate most or all private ownership of all information delivery - be it by radio, television or the internet - thereby leaving the federal government as sole purveyor. [...]

If that sounds alarmist to you, then you need to read the rest. See what Lloyd and McChesney have actually said. Dang! Marxist is certainly NOT too strong a word. It's absolutely frightening to think what these people would try to do, to subvert the FCC for their purposes.

The source article also has embedded links.

Also see:

How much longer will our Republic last?

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government"

Climate Change Fraud Exposed. Scandal?

Viscount Monckton on Climategate: ‘They Are Criminals’ (PJM Exclusive)
The man who challenged Al Gore to a debate is furious about the content of the leaked CRU emails — and says why you should be, too.
This is what they did — these climate “scientists” on whose unsupported word the world’s classe politique proposes to set up an unelected global government this December in Copenhagen, with vast and unprecedented powers to control all formerly free markets, to tax wealthy nations and all of their financial transactions, to regulate the economic and environmental affairs of all nations, and to confiscate and extinguish all patent and intellectual property rights.


Worse, these arrogant fraudsters — for fraudsters are what we now know them to be — have refused, for years and years and years, to reveal their data and their computer program listings. Now we know why: As a revealing 15,000-line document from the computer division at the Climate Research Unit shows, the programs and data are a hopeless, tangled mess. In effect, the global temperature trends have simply been made up. Unfortunately, the British researchers have been acting closely in league with their U.S. counterparts who compile the other terrestrial temperature dataset — the GISS/NCDC dataset. That dataset too contains numerous biases intended artificially to inflate the natural warming of the 20th century.

Finally, these huckstering snake-oil salesmen and “global warming” profiteers — for that is what they are — have written to each other encouraging the destruction of data that had been lawfully requested under the Freedom of Information Act in the UK by scientists who wanted to check whether their global temperature record had been properly compiled. And that procurement of data destruction, as they are about to find out to their cost, is a criminal offense. They are not merely bad scientists — they are crooks. And crooks who have perpetrated their crimes at the expense of British and U.S. taxpayers.

I am angry, and so should you be. [...]

And how much exposure is all this getting in the MSM? Hardly any.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Funny, 11-23-09


Herman Van Rompuy, the E.U. King President

Meet the President of Europe
Herman Van Rompuy. Get used to the name. He is the first President of the European Union, which with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by all the 27 EU member states in early November was transformed into a genuine United States of Europe.

The President of Europe has not been elected; he was appointed in a secret meeting of the heads of government of the 27 EU member states. They chose one of their own. Herman Van Rompuy was the Prime Minister of Belgium. I knew him when he was just setting out, reluctantly, on his political career. [...]

Read the rest to find out what kind of person the new "president" is.


Dems want to kill consumer-driven health care

The End of HSAs
About the best that can be said about the Senate health-care bill that Harry Reid revealed this week is that it's marginally less destructive than the House monster. By a hair. Its $1.2 trillion cost (more like $2.5 trillion if you discount the accounting gimmicks), multiple and damaging new taxes, and new regulations will make health insurance more expensive for most Americans while reducing the quality of medical care.

We'll dissect the damage in the days to come. But for today let's focus on the damage the bill would do to consumer-driven health plans—the kind that give individuals more control over their health dollars and insurance choices. The 2,074-page bill crushes them with malice-aforethought. [...]

It goes into detail. I have an HSA, and it's wonderful. It allows me to buy insurance with a high deductible. I can then use the HSA to pay for uncovered costs, and to choose the kind of health care I want.

As the article clearly points out, the Democrats want to eliminate our choices, and force us to take what they choose for us, on their terms, not ours. Congress of course, will have their own insurance, and won't be forced to use what they force on us.

It's time for a revolution, time to get rid of the dictators.


Our National Anthem, sung the way it should be

No pop stars, no vocal show offs, just the Star Spangled Banner, the cadets, and the US Army Herald Trumpet Corps. [...]

Wow! Right on.

H.T. Neal Boortz

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shortwave Radio Nostalgia for a Sunday

In my reading about Ham Radio topics, there are often articles about well known Ham Operators who have passed away. "SK" (for "silent key") is added to the end of their call sign, to show that they are no longer with us. One recent silent key was Harry Helms, who was also a writer and author of several books:

Prolific Amateur Radio and SWL Author Harry Helms, W5HLH (ex-AA6FW) (SK)
After a long bout with cancer, Harry Helms, W5HLH (ex-AA6FW), passed away Sunday, November 15. He was 57. Known for his witticism and geniality, Helms was known for his many books -- such as Shortwave Listening Guidebook: The Complete Guide to Hearing the World, All About Ham Radio, How to Tune the Secret Short Wave Spectrum and Handbook of Radio Communications Servicing and Maintenance -- and his monthly column "You Should Know: Interesting Thoughts and Ideas for Enjoying the Hobby" in Popular Communications. [...]

It continues on about his life and the things he wrote about. There's a link to his blog, where I found this post about Shortwave listening:

Thoughts About Shortwave Radio
I have trouble sleeping through the night these days (it’s normal for late Stage IV cancer patients). I often find myself awake two or three times during the night, sometimes for more than an hour. Until I get sleepy again, I grab the Eton E5 portable shortwave radio I keep on my nightstand, put on headphones so I won’t disturb Di, and tune around to see what I can hear.

Why do I do that instead of, for example, listening to my iPod?

Since 1963, I’ve been obsessed with snagging all manner of “non-standard” radio signals. Those include AM and FM broadcast stations from hundreds and thousands of miles away, shortwave broadcasts from foreign countries, communications from ships and airplanes traveling around the globe, military transmissions, ham radio operators-----if it can be tuned on a shortwave radio receiver, I want to hear it. I’ve owned over three dozen different shortwave radios (some of which cost over $1000), numerous accessories (like antenna tuners and audio filters), and specialized antennas (like amplified loops for receiving distant AM band stations). I’ve belonged to numerous radio listening clubs. The first books I wrote were about shortwave listening.

Again, why?? What is it that keeps me searching the airwaves for something distant and unusual?

Part of it is pure nostalgia. Unless you were of sentient age in 1963, you can’t imagine how constricted the flow of information was and how distant the rest of the world seemed back then. The internet was just a theoretical concept and communications satellites were in their infancy. Video of events in foreign nations had to be flown into the United States for broadcast, and magazines and newspapers from outside the United States took weeks to arrive via ship mail. Trying to be aware of the outside world back then was frustrating, like trying to figure out what was going on in a room by peeking through the keyhole.

I wrote in the introduction to my Shortwave Listening Guidebook that I considered my first shortwave radio to be a “magic box.” And indeed it was. Strange languages and exotic music gushed from the speaker of my simple Hallicrafters radio. Cities like Moscow, London, Quito, Melbourne, and Tokyo were in my bedroom with me. I eavesdropped on ship-to-shore telephone calls and communications from airplanes flying routes across the Atlantic. And there were also the dits and dahs of Morse code, the “beedle-beedle” of radioteletype stations, and all sorts of other bewildering noises. I even found myself entranced by station WWV, then in Maryland, and its precise time signals, one beep exactly each second.

When I got my first shortwave radio, it was like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when the movie abruptly changes from black and white to color; the world suddenly seemed smaller and more real to me. I couldn’t visit all those distant foreign places, but they could visit me. And I still get that feeling after 45 years of shortwave. Even though my world is media saturated, with the internet and 150 TV channels available to me, there remains something special about connecting to a distant place via shortwave radio.

Another attraction is the “DXing” aspect of radio. DXing is the art of trying to receive rarely-heard stations on various frequencies. To those not interested in DXing, this must seem like a ridiculous activity, and I suppose it is. But I get a feeling of accomplishment bordering on exhilaration when I manage to identify a weak, unusual radio signal through heavy interference. Maybe the best analogy I can make is to fishing. You never know what’s going to happen when you cast a line into the water, and you never what you’ll hear when you turn the dial of a shortwave radio. Whenever I hear a faint signal barely above the background noise, I am almost forced to stop and try to identify it. It’s as if the station is keeping a secret from me----its identity----and I want to learn that secret. To solve the mystery, I have to battle fading, interference, noise, and distortion. My shortwave radio becomes like a musical instrument in my hands. By manipulating its tuning knob and controls, I can coax weak signals to become more intelligible and, when the gods of the ionosphere cooperate, those faint signals will yield their secrets to me and I am briefly, almost mystically, connected to some distant place. My desire for connections to distant places was probably my biggest motivation for getting a ham radio license. [...]

There's more. There's a whole lot more on his blog, about his ongoing health struggles, and commentary on various other topics. He was a writer who enjoyed writing. His last blog entry, his farewell, was very moving.

My condolences to his wife and family.

Related Link:

Radio Communications in a Changing World
A prior post, about my own nostalgia for the shortwave radio of my youth.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Presidents, Polls, Popularity and Graphs

Here is a link to a really neat inter-active graph that let's you compare approval ratings for various presidents since the 1940s:

Presidential approval tracker
The Gallup organization first started asking Americans how they approved of the job the president was doing in the 1940s. See how each president since then has fared in the approval poll, look at some news events that influenced public opinion and compare how approval ratings evolved for each president. [...]

Be sure and read the article just below the graph, too:

Polls can affect president's hold on party
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A president's standing after his first six months in office doesn't forecast whether he'll have a successful four-year term, but it does signal how much political juice he'll have for his second six months in office.

That's the lesson of history.

Barack Obama, who completed six months in office Monday, has a 55% approval rating in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, putting him 10th among the dozen presidents who have served since World War II at this point in their tenures.

That's not as bad for Obama as it may sound: The six-month mark hasn't proved to be a particularly good indicator of how a president ultimately will fare.

Two-thirds of Americans approved of the jobs Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were doing at six months, but both would lose their bids for re-election.

And though the younger Bush and Bill Clinton had significantly lower ratings at 180 days — Clinton had sunk to 41% approval — both won second terms. [...]

I'm sure it is too early to say what the polls portend for Obama. So far his graph compares well with Ronald Reagan's and Jimmy Carters. But if the economy continues to tank and unemployment does not improve, I expect it will go the Carter way, rather than the Reagan one. Time will tell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

European Union tries to pick a King President

Or mabye "King" is a better word? Many people feel left out of the process:

Leaders in last-minute attempt to decide top European Council roles
Opposing groups try to find consensus on who should take presidential and foreign minister roles ahead of Brussels summit
The leaders of Europe's main political tribes conferred in Brussels this afternoon in an attempt to hammer out a last-minute consensus on who should be the top two people running the EU's new Lisbon regime, ahead of a crucial Brussels summit.

While Christian democratic government leaders, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Brussels, Gordon Brown found himself isolated at a session of the seven centre-left leaders ahead of this evening's summit.

The centre-left leaders, grouped in the Party of European Socialists (PES), hope to secure the new post of European foreign minister, with Italian Massimo D'Alema and Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos as their frontrunners.


Last night Merkel provoked anger in other European capitals with the announcement that Germany and France are to strike a deal on who they want for the post of president.

Merkel stated for the first time that she and Sarkozy intended to agree on a common candidate, believed to be the Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy.


The Belgian shares the strong opposition of both Sarkozy and Merkel to Turkey joining the EU. In a debate in the Belgian parliament five years ago, Van Rompuy made plain that he viewed the EU as a Christian club with no room for a large Muslim country such as Turkey.

"Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe," Van Rompuy said, years before he became Belgian prime minister. "The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey."

The EU is divided over Turkey, with France, Germany, and Austria leading hostility to membership, while Britain, Sweden and east European countries are strong supporters of Turkey in Europe.

Van Rompuy's antipathy to Turkey earned him support yesterday for the EU job from the Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, party on the extreme anti-immigrant right wing in Flanders.

But news of a Franco-German alliance triggered anger in some European capitals.

"We're not having a replay of the bad old days when the big guys fixed all the deals," said a Polish official.

Poland campaigned for greater glasnost, to open up the contest for the key jobs. But they have now conceded defeat, although they claim to have the support of 10 of the 27 EU countries. "We had a go," said the Polish official. "We wanted a degree of transparency to address the sceptics. And lots of countries feel that these appointments are just being made over their heads. There's always been a suspicion about the way these deals are done in the EU. This is a genuine example. It puts everyone to shame." [...]

The Lisbon "treaty" is basically the EU constitution that was rejected by European voters. The voters don't elect the EU president, either. Sounds like the "Old" way of doing things, no?

Anyway, it seems lots of people are angry, as the drama continues.

Also see:

Without Opposition: the European Union

Will the EU force Britain to accept the Euro?