Tuesday, December 26, 2006

News on the Day after Christmas

On the first day after Christmas, My true love and I had a fight. And with a single cartridge, I shot the blasted partridge..... And in other news...

According to CNN, the waste and outright fraud associated with Katrina Aid will top two billion. That's a capital B and a lot of zeros. This is a classic "damned if you do or don't situation". CNN reports that a major cause of the wastage is no-bid contracts. Seems to me that if they went thru the loooooong process of normal procurment channels that folks would scream about "inaction". So, anyway, if you don't like reading obviously biased news don't click this link.

Over the weekend, including today, several prominent people who are relevent to realists the world over did. James, "The Godfather of Soul, Brown passed away on Christmas morning. Great entertainer, marginal human being, but watch as time goes by and he will be a folk hero. Saddam Hussein lost his appeal and is supposed to join his fellow despots in hell within thirty days. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Too bad the woodchippers are already being outsourced.

Now if you just happen to be a college student you will recognized the name Stafford. Former Senator Robert Stafford, as in Stafford Loan, passed away. Yet he won't be a folk hero.

But my personal favorite story of the day comes from Fox and talks about how the .gov is requireing auto manufacturors to tighten up the fuel economy again. I won't ruin the story, but it is an example of a great idea that features a twist that will put the screws to the USA. From the standpoint of Mr. and Mrs. McUSA you can look for higher prices on new domestics vehicles. Why? Because the twist in the law allows "credits" previously earn by the Japanese to be applied now. Read about it here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to all.......

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Even though we tend to become nicer people during the holidays we should be that way all year around. I know that the real world tends to intrude an dampen our enthusiasm for giving or just being better people. So I have made a list of ways you can be a better person with a minimum of impact on your daily grind. At worst you should feel no effect. At best you will feel good about it.

Drop your spare change into a mason jar or glass at the end of the day. When it is full leave it with a note at any of the Salvation Army centers in your city. Leave it at the entrance to the public library with a note to support literacy campaigns. Find a local charity that you think can help and just leave it. It's virtually zero impact since you likely won't miss your pocket change.

Make a payroll deduction to the local American Red Cross. Again, it is zero impact because you won't miss the money you don't see. But the people you help will certainly notice.

Write down twelve causes that you believe in. Eliminate the ones that are not designed to help the less fortunate. In other words, while donating money to a political campaign may be great, it isn't meant to help the homeless like say, Habitat for Humanity. Each month donate time, or money to the causes. At the end of the year, you'll be surprised at how much help you gave.

Sponsor a child in anything. Maybe it's a kid at the local high school band who cannot afford to take a trip. Or it could be a kid in Central America that needs food or medicine. Kids literally are the future and realistically we must do everything we can to help them along.

There it is, a short list of ways you can be Christmas-like during the year with only a small impact on yourself. And if you are not careful, before long you may find yourself doing more and then it could be life changing

Finally, a very Merry Christmas to all the folks at Open Debate, PolyRap, TalkAmerica, and USMB. I've never met any of them in person. But most seem like really decent folks.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Silent Thunder and Lame Ducks

Well it looks like it'll be business as usual on Capitol Hill. The outgoing Congress is working overtime at last second stuff and the incoming Democrats are already backing away from the fighting words that put them in office...

It's sad really. I was hoping against hope that they (the Dems) would be bold and decisive. I was hoping that they would rock the establishment. I was looking for Newt and the immediate action plan. Instead it looks like they are on track to lose in 2008 even though they won't admit it. It's too bad really. If they implemented a few of the things I already covered they would stand a chance.

Then there is the continuing saga of Plamegate. Personally, I don't care about it except that the leaker needs to be prosecuted as a matter of course. Basically, I still don't know what actual measurable damage has been done, and no one can tell me how it hits the average Mr and Mrs McUSA.

Right now, the suddenly revived Democrats are trying to find some form of unity. They are looking at folks like Hillary Clinton in 08, then there is Dennis Kucinich (Not really a Democrat but a "Independent Progressive"), and of course Barack Obama.

So, you and I are looking for Congress to set an example, solve problems, and be LEADERS the USA. What we are likely to get are two years of soundbytes for the 08 contenders. What we are going to get is a Congress that talked tough and will now wimp out in order to place any possible blame on the GOP. Much as I thought she was a raving lunatic (where race and the Capitol Police are concerned) at least outgoing Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney made a defiant parting shot in her introduction of an impeachment bill. The Honorable Mrs. Pelosi (a vociferous critic of the President) has said that impeachment is off the table. Not even (formally) one business day into her new job and she is ticking off the left.

It's going to be an interesting first year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Random Roundup

Today Mr. Gates was sworn in as the new Secretary of Defense. This is important to anyone who has a friend or loved one involved in the war on terror.

It doesn't really matter what we think of the war, that is for the politics section. What we need to be aware of is that it is not "Vietnam Lite", it is a deadly business and it's only getting deadlier. But, lest we think that all the news in Iraq is bad (media conspiracy anyone?)there is good news. You really have to look for it, but it's there. For the media, "if it bleeds, it leads" isn't only limited to politics or war.

Today, "Animator Joseph Barbera, half of the legendary duo of Hanna-Barbera has died. Barbera, 95, created a host of cartoon characters, from the Flintstones to the Jetsons and Tom and Jerry." -- Source

I included that because for most folks of my generation this guy was half of a team that created the shows we lived for on Saturday morning. He's right up there with Charles Shultz of Charlie Brown fame. I am really going to miss the guy.

Speaking of good news, there is a story out about how breast cancer is being fought one woman at a time. And for even more good news, Senator Tim Johnson is recovering from surgery. Politics can wait another day and we should all be pulling for his recovery.

Locally, the Marines are sprinting to the finish in thier annual "Toys for Tots" drive. For those who don't know, every year since 1949 the local Marine Reserve Unit collects donations of new, unwrapped toys to give to underprivileged kids. This has got to be the most non-judgmental charity work I ever did. Now as a retiree I am happy to donate a fair amount of toys myself even if I don't get to work the program in uniform any longer.

The year is almost done. Sprint to the finish.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Life

What a weekend. We closed on the house putting us massively into debt. But it is my debt. Christmas shopping is in full swing. I got a new cell phone and it's more complicated than my computer. Only kidding on that last one. And then.....

I called to talk to my folks. I should really do that more often. They were thrilled about the house and immediatly planned a visit.

My oldest daughter graduated from college with a degree in biology and one of my favorite neices got married. It will kind of make you feel old sometimes but good at others. Since I remember each girl as an infant I felt the age thing coming on. But each girl is great in so many ways. So, I am happy for both of them.

No links this time. I am trying to learn a way to parse the blog so that folks can read what interests them. None of us are one dimensional. So I hope to make a blog that everyone can find a reason to check out. You may hate my politics, but hopefully the section on Computers will allow us to find common ground.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Bits and Pieces

Today’s news is awesome. The Space Shuttle launched again. That is so awesome. I am an avid space fan from way back. I remember sitting in front of my dads black and white TV set as a kid watching the first moon landing. I was so convinced that someday I would be an Astronaut.

It really annoys me that we are not out and about in the solar system and all that. But I also love the space program for all the great things it has done that are down to earth. Those things have really helped change our quality of life for the better. I hope that our politicians understand that and continue to fund the greatest explorations that are yet to come. Another spinoff of space technology is solar energy. I don’t honestly think that solar will replace oil as the enegery fuel of choice because of political, industrial, and infrastructure reasons. But it has a promising future (along with wind turbines) as a local alternative. Check out Scientific American for the newest breakthru.

And speaking of fuel, Autopia has a short piece on the newest and cleanest diesel fuel. This is important to Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class USA because I cannot think of a single item you can buy that doesn’t get hauled by a diesel powered eighteen wheeler at some time. The price of diesel fuel directly effects how much you pay at Wal Mart, K-Mart, and the corner Town & Country. So in the long run this will be great news for the environment, and eventually, you and I. Too bad there aren’t more diesel powered choices for the average driver.

Well Don Rumsfeld is out. I really liked the guy but I had to disagree with his execution of the war in Iraq. I do think that his final trip to Iraq showed a lot of class. He led from the front and made it a point to recognize the hard work and dedication being shown by all of our service members and their families. Mr. Gates has some big shoes to fill.

Lest you think the elections are over, here’s a bit from the great state of Louisiana. Representative William Jefferson wins despite an ongoing bribery investigation. Philosophically I would expect our statesmen to adhere closely to the highest standards of morality and ethical conduct. Logically, you would think that voters wouldn’t even consider electing someone that isn’t truly an outstanding citizen. But the reality is that politics doesn’t adhere to either philosophy or logic. Just ask Marion Barry.

Of course no Sunday news bits would be complete without a sense of humor. Check out the Not Quite Sunday Funnies. Enjoy yourself and have a great day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor Day and the News

I have a mental picture of two dogs and a car. The car is labeled Congress. It is moving quickly and being driven by George W Bush. One dog (labeled Democrat) has his teeth embedded in the bumper and is being dragged. The other dog (labeled Republican) is running along side the car asking the one being dragged..... "Now that you caught it, what are you going to do with it?".

Man this week is moving fast. I'm a news junkie alright. But this week I really haven't had time to go thru the events of the day. But some have potential to impact us in a very real way.

Take the Iraq Study Group for example. Looks like a middle of the road solution to me. Realistically that's about all you can expect from a blue ribbon panel. It allows them to not be controversial and yet still look pious and say that they tried.

Then there is taxes. "Tax breaks affecting millions" are being pushed through the lame duck congress. This has the potential to realistically help Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class USA. It's not as good as the Fairtax would be if enacted. Hope the Democrats get it done. But realists recognise that the odds are slim even if fairtax.org says that now is the best time ever.

One thing that gets me is how people like this are allowed to live in our society. I mean, really, how can you possibly rehabilitate someone who commits acts like these. Realistically I think that we should look hard at our judicial system. I would support not locking up anyone who was nonviolent except for exceptional circumstances like the Enron scams. Prison should be for the violent only. But, being honest with myself, I don't see it ever happening.

Fortuneately, to counter the scum in our society we do have heroes. My heart goes out to this family. While someones death is never a good thing, I hope they can take comfort knowing that he was actively trying to save them instead of passively waiting to see what fate had in store for them.

Speaking of heroes. I hope everyone took a moment to remember those that died in the treacherous attack at Pearl Harbor sixty-five years ago today. I am privileged to have an uncle who survived the attack. But everyday we lose another thousand or so members of the WWII generation. Pearl Harbor is now far enough in history that someone born during the attack can now retire and collect social security. Be sure to thank them if you get a chance.

But in the most unusual story today, there is a man in Houston who is threatening to race pigs next to a mosque if it is built in his neighborhood. I don't know if the sentiment is right or wrong. And realistically speaking, it likely won't change a thing. But you have to give credit for an unusual stand.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home (almost)

UPDATED: WE finally Closed. I am now eyeball deep in debt. Wahoo. I hate buying a home. It has got to be the most frustrating thing in the world.

We are going to close on our house soon. The trip to this point has been nearly perfect. But each small bump nearly killed us. Take for instance the "already offered" bump. Not once, not twice, but three times we found a house and told our agent "Go for it". Three times he called us back to tell us that someone else had already put it "under contract".

Then there is the one where we paid for an inspection and found damages to the tune of several grand. The seller offered a five hundred dollar allowance. Adios muchacho. And the hunt goes on.

Finally we find the best of all. And the place is awesome. Thanks to a miscommunication, the appraisal didn't happen. Delay of a week. Then thanks to someone doing about thirty credit inquiries our loan bombed and we had to re-qualify.

We are supposed to close before the end of the year. Or else.....

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Snow, Ugh.

Ugh.... Nasty white stuff falling from the sky!!!

I hate Snow. I hate it with a passion normally reserved for a blood feud in the old country. But, my pup Sadie loves it. This is her playing in it. She'd only nine months old and this was her first time in snow.

Of course no comments on snow would be complete without talking about the drivers. These folks are nuts. There were over 100 accidents in the one day. And I thought California drivers were insane.

Anyway I hope y'all have a great holiday season. Bye now.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Internet Fun

I just revamped my personal homepage using a google account. You get to pick your own stuff and just drag and drop it.

So now, when I log onto the net, I have a homepage with three tabs labeled general, news, and games. Google is great. I had a game attached to this blog but it took up too much real estate. As I continue to learn, I will re-add it.