Friday, December 31, 2004

Are We Stingy?

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Are We Stingy? Yes

Oddly enough, when I first read of the flap caused by Mr. Egeland's statement, my first thought was "Right on! Telling the truth..." And then Mr. Egeland was obviously forced to reconsider his remarks. Politics, perhaps? Perhaps he liked his job and wanted to keep it?

Facts are facts and the fact is, as a world class government, we are the stingiest. We rank lowest among industrialized nations on the percentage of GNP given as aid. End of story! That's a fact! Get over it...it has always been this way. But American's, as private citizens, as fellow human beings, are generous and always have been.

If the Administration had been smart, which they aren't, they would never have responded to Mr. Egeland's comments and would have let our actions tell the story. Now, the world can only wonder why we doth protest a bit too much.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tragic

The death toll from the tsunami is now close to 70,000. I try to pray for those who are affected by this tragedy but I am overwhelmed by the numbers at times, and my prayers seem so small. And I can’t help but think about the possibility of such a tragedy happening in America. There is an island off of the coast of Africa that has a large volcanic mountain on it. And that mountain is close to collapse, close to falling into the ocean and causing a huge wave to race across the ocean and strike the East coast. I remembered this from some TV program I watched last year and so I searched for it this morning. Here is what I found…

Canary Islands Earthquake Could Trigger Monster Tsunami
by Susan Schlachter
The eruption of a volcano in the Canary Islands could trigger a ''mega-tsunami'' that would devastate Atlantic coastlines with waves as high as 330 feet, scientists said on Wednesday.

They said an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, part of the Spanish island chain off West Africa, was likely to cause a massive chunk of rock to break off, crashing into the sea and kicking up huge walls of water higher than any other in recorded history.

The tsunami would be capable of traveling huge distances at up to 500 miles an hour, the scientists said in a research paper to be published in September's Geophysical Research Letters.

Simon Day, of the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at the University College of London, said that as the volcano was not erupting at present, the short-term and medium-term risks were ''negligible.''

But Cumbre Vieja should be monitored closely for any signs of activity so that emergency services could plan an effective response, he said.

''Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse,'' said Day, who collaborated on the research with Steven Ward of the University of California.

''Although the year-to-year probability of a collapse is therefore low, the resulting tsunami would be a major disaster with indirect effects around the world.''

WEST SAHARA TO BEAR BRUNT
The effects would spread north, west and south of the Canaries, with the west Sahara bearing the worst of the wave's energy.

The energy released by the collapse would be equal to the electricity consumption of the entire United States in half a year.

Immediately after the landslide, a dome of water 900 meters (3,000 feet high) and tens of miles wide would form, only to collapse and rebound.

As the landslide rubble moved deeper under water, a tsunami would develop. Within 10 minutes, the tsunami would have moved a distance of almost 155 miles.

On the west Saharan shore, waves would probably reach heights of 330 feet.

Florida and the Caribbean, the final north Atlantic destinations to be affected by the tsunami, would have to brace themselves for 165 foot waves some eight to nine hours after the landslide.

Wave heights toward Europe would be smaller, but substantial waves would hit the coasts of Britain, Spain, Portugal and France.

The research paper estimated water would penetrate several miles inland and that the devastation would cause trillions of dollars in damage.
SOURCE - Reuters

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A blog a day...

As I was driving yesterday, I was listening to KVMR and I heard that there was a potential for improving your immune system if you were to write for 20 minutes each day. So I looked up a few sites on the net and found this one…

“Psychotherapy and other techniques that bring repressed emotional material into consciousness can also heal, both psychologically and physically, by helping us to achieve peace of mind. One interesting series of studies by psychologist, James Pennebaker and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser asked twenty five adults to write down details of disturbing life experiences and to describe their feelings about them. A control group of equal size wrote only superficial topics. Blood tests showed strikingly improved immune function among the emoters, who also made fewer visits to the doctor, but no improvement among the control group. Six months after the experiment was over the emoters still showed positive health effects.”

I like it! My ramblings can be beneficial…to me. But, the study doesn’t indicate what your writings will do to the health of those who read them. Could this be a whole new field of opportunity for lawyers? For government? Poets could be sued for practicing medicine without a license. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Perfect!

I found this great quotation the other day, nestled in among a hundred other lesser quotes and I have come to enjoy it. “The believer is happy; the doubter is wise. - Hungarian proverb” This is true! Although I am not Hungarian, I can always appreciate a brilliant thought. And of course it validates my role as critic, cynic and curmudgeon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Pity us poor chickens

The door to the henhouse is now ajar. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/21/business/21lobby.html?th+

“As President Bush prepares to disclose the details of his plan to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars of future Social Security funds into privately held investment accounts, Wall Street has begun a muted lobbying campaign, chastened by bolder forays that failed in years past.”

Can you imagine just how much money stands to be made by those who are friends of this administration? Those that just might be the lucky recipient of this government largesse…kind of reminds me of Halliburton and friends.

“The first salvo was launched by the Securities Industry Association, which recently issued a research report arguing (Arguing means that there is another opinion) that the private accounts would not be a financial bonanza for Wall Street. In the paper, the association calculated that firms would collect at least $39 billion in fees, and perhaps considerably more, (What does “Perhaps” mean?) from managing such accounts over the next 75 years. But the group noted that the fees charged would be significantly below the fees that investment firms receive these days from low-cost mutual funds.
And even if the fees rose significantly as more people chose actively managed accounts, the association's report argued, they would still pale in comparison with the $3.3 trillion in revenues Wall Street firms are projected to earn from their core securities business over that period.”
-But we’re not comparing them; we’re talking about adding to them!

Doesn’t anybody remember the story of the fox and the henhouse?

AOL Alert

It looks like AOL is on a fresh campaign to litter the landscape with shiny new CD's. I have received about half a dozen of them in the past few weeks. And now I see that they have resorted to using pop-ups that suddenly float free of the page where they appeared to be images only. I guess that they can sneak past pop-up detection software that way. What's with them? Why would they want to irritate the public anymore than they already do?

I also wonder if there is a AOL support group that enables those who are addicted to AOL to break free?

Hello, my name is Steve and I used to use AOL. (1992) But now I'm free!

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Christmas Flap

Christmas Flap by Charley Reese

I like a lot of what he says here...As a Christian, it is up to me to decide to be offended by the secularists. I can also choose not to be. My personal thoughts on this are...Leave this holiday to the secular world. It has always belonged to them. Let us celebrate the birth of Christ every day, as we should.

Physics 101

Yes, this is an old joke...I ran across it the other day and decided to post it just for fun.

Physic 101…
New Element Discovered in Washington, D.C.

A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Governmentium." Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 11 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons. These, in turn, are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of governmentium causes one reaction to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a minute. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 3 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass".

All the news that's fit to print...

I’m enjoying the morning, sipping on my coffee and exploring the news, as usual. What a great way to begin the day! What did I do 30 years ago? I would have been 34 years old and the year would have been 1974. We lived in Newbury Park or Brea. I can’t remember when we moved to Brea, but it was close to that time. I was a superintendent at the time and would have been up very early, just as I am now. But I had no computer and I would have listened to the radio for the news of the world, early in the morning. Yes, I like this better.

Sometimes I think it is the fact that we have access to so much information that gives us the tension that seems to divide us as a nation. Go back 60 years and you would have seen a nation that depended on very few sources for their news. Television didn’t exist and radio was the news media that the family focused on. That radio sat in a place of prominence in the house, not in the dashboard of the family car. Having a daily newspaper delivered was a small luxury, as most people decided to buy a paper based on what the headlines read that day. (And so we believed what we were told…)

I grew up during those early times and I must say that I like the information loaded world of today far more than that of the 1940’s. Truth is far more important than some sort of perceived unity.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Another case of "blind justice"

Write-in mayoral bid has fresh hope | csmonitor.com

I know this is silly...but if I took the time to write in a candidates name, I would assume that anyone else, with a modicum of common sense would understand that I wasn't just practicing my penmanship and that I really did want to vote for that person. Ah, but I am talking about common sense, and that is sadly lacking in the judiciary.

And speaking of common sense; if I can believe the press accounts, it is common sense that lead many to vote for Mrs. Frye. I wish her the very best...

A good review

How We Got to Abu Ghraib

Here is another opinion of the Seymour Hersh book. I'm only about 40 pages into it, but I find it fascinating.

Interesting!

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

If you have broadband and are able to view Flash animations, you might enjoy this website...I don't know anything about the movie, but the previews look like fun! But I've been wrong before. Yes, there are sounds as well, so keep an eye on the volume.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

FCC to Allow Wireless Access on Planes

Yahoo! News - FCC to Allow Wireless Access on Planes

I am so glad that flying (for me) is history! It was bad enough having to spend a couple of hours in the terminal while listening to a cacophony of cellphone chatter. I can't even imagine a 4 hour flight with a crowd of those idiots...

The FAA's concern stems from whether airborne cell phone calls could interfere with a plane's navigation and electrical systems, agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said. The technology used on seatback phones causes no such interference.

I still have a problem believing this old story about possible interference with aircraft systems. Imagine that you are a pilot and you have 200 people on board. Now if you thought that an errant cellphone might endanger your aircraft, would you allow anyone to board the plane unless they were searched for phones? Knowing human nature...someone is bound to leave one on. How do I know? Because I have done it myself; forgetting that it was on and sleeping through the safety announcements. (You tend to do that after your 300th flight.)


This would be a good one to read...

Chain of Command

I just bought a copy of this book, "Chain of Command" by Seymour Hersh...Great book so far. I would hope that more people would read it. Mr. Hersh irritates those he criticizes because of the fact that he is very careful to document all that he writes about. He won't publish what he can't prove. And it's also one reason why those who wouldn't ordinarily speak to a reporter, will confide in Mr. Hersh. He has ethics...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Election official says 561 ballots wrongly rejected in Washington governor's race

Election official says 561 ballots wrongly rejected in Washington governor's race

Absolutely amazing! First, Dino Rossi wins by 261 votes. A mandatory recount of machine voting occurs. Now the margin is only 42 votes...what happened to 219 votes? And the Republicans began to squeal when Democrats demanded and paid for a hand recount. Doesn't the fact that 219 votes simply disappeared, bother the right wing? It seems to me that no matter what your political views are, you would want to get to the bottom of this mystery. All taxpayers/voters in the state should be appalled that voting can't be 100% perfect! And now to top it off...561 votes that were not counted. How many others are sitting in county vaults?

A odd little bit of news...when the USA audited the recent election in Venezuela...(We didn't like the results) the Venezuelans used electronic voting machines that provided a paper trail. Yet we seem to have a problem providing machines like that for ourselves? Maybe we should buy our voting machines from Venezuela.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Darn Hippies!

Yesterday, I had to laugh when I read the inscription on a refrigerator magnet that my oldest daughter pointed out to me. She had placed the magnet in a prominent spot and it read, “Hippies use the side entrance”. Both my oldest and the youngest child are slightly? upset with their father and his latest incarnation as a “hippie”. My middle child seems to think it’s OK. My grandchildren also think I’m OK. What none of them realize is that I have always been this person, this “hippie”.

So what is a hippie? An on-line dictionary states this…“Unconventional young person of the 1960’s. A young person, especially in the 1960s, who rejected accepted social and political values and proclaimed a belief in universal peace and love.” I guess that is almost right. Only the date is wrong. I started my quest for hippiedom in the late 1950’s. That is when I, along with my friend, Mike, decided to buy a 1949 Divco bread truck. We were going to convert the bread truck to a mobile home of sorts and go to New Orleans to live. My plan was to become an artist and live off of the income from odd jobs. Mike’s plan was to become a jazz musician. He was already a very good clarinetist.

We gutted the interior of the bread truck and painted it a lovely shade of orange. Then we found some green shag carpeting for the floor and a friend’s parent’s donated a living room set, a couch, two chairs and a small table. Does that sound “unconventional” to you?

Then reality set in when my father gave a firm “NO” to the plan. I was very disappointed and now, looking back on that time, I sometimes wish I had defied my father and made the trip to New Orleans. I really do love the life that God has made for me since that time, but I’m still curious as to what might have happened if we had snuck away early one morning and headed east as we had planned.

During this same time, (the 1950’s) my friends and I were becoming involved in the coffee house scene. And the best of the coffee houses was Positano’s, in Malibu. Jack Kerouac was the only author to read and stories of the “beat generation” were featured in all of the national magazines.

Recently, I found this story about Malibu life in the 1950’s.
“Positano's by Tom McBride
Positano's was a coffee house located up a steep dirt driveway off the Coast Hwy. just north of Topanga canyon. I lived there for a short time with a guy named Tony. Tony was a Hollywood type who drove a black '49 Cadillac and called it the "Bat Mobile" because of the futuristic tailfins. I drove a black '46 Ford woody station wagon which Tony dubbed the "Bum Mobile".

We rented a building on the property which resembled a small barracks. Neither of us worked in the mornings so Tony put up "blackout" shades on all the windows. When we got up it was always dark inside and we'd go blind when we opened the front door to find the sun shinning brightly at mid-day.

Nothing happened at a coffee house until night fell. Because the drive up to the house was treacherous, everyone was picked up at the highway and given a ride up the hill in a Chevy "TravelAll or CarryAll" (forerunner to the SUV's). Tony and I would stand at our front door and watch people arrive until it looked like a good crowd had gathered then we'd go into the 'club' and have some coffee or tea, play chess, listen to folk tunes and eat tofu.

This was the "beat" generation and most everything seemed phony to me during this era. This was pre-hippie. Synanon was operating as a drug rehab center in the old DelMar Club on the beach in Santa Monica and surfers were bums along with the rest of the younger generation. Yes, "The times they are a-changin'."

My own recollections of this coffeehouse are similar. We would park at the bottom of the cliff, along Pacific Coast Highway, and wait for a Ford station wagon to come down and pick us up. You had to be a member to enter Positano’s and that would cost you five dollars. (That was a lot of money!) The house was quite old and sprawled across the top of the cliff, with a great view of the ocean if you left the house and walked to the edge. But it was inside the house that attracted everyone. There were poetry readings, singers and movies, tables to play chess and chairs to sit in and read…if that was all you wanted to do. And all of this was happening simultaneously in the many rooms that made up this house.

So what happened to me between the 1950’s and the next century? Life happened and I had to conform and get along. But now I’m free to be what I always was…a darn hippie! And I will use the front door, thank you very much!

Social Security Reform With One Big Catch

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: Social Security Reform, With One Big Catch

Medicare and now Social Security...scary topics for the geriatric set.

I don't know about you...but I can't be trusted to make a wise decision about which stock to buy or which bond to sell. That is why I had to hire a financial consultant, someone who does know. (I hope!) So why would I think that 300 million Americans can make those decisions for themselves? And when their decisions prove to be the wrong ones and they have no retirement $$$ available, who will have to bail them out?

Test Finds Inaccuracies in Help Line for Medicare

The New York Times > Washington > Test Finds Inaccuracies in Help Line for Medicare

Yes, I'm getting older and this is the sort of news that makes me nervous. I still have private insurance, but when I turn 65 next year, this is what I have to look forward to. I'm already finding it difficult enough to open some jars and packages, but I can usually find something to help me pry it open. What's going to help me with a dumb answer?

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

More on the Rich and Famous

Nordhavn

Check out this page and specifically about our nephew, Justin. We saw the video made of this trip and it really gave me an odd sensation to see Justin jump into the water (rough!) in mid-Atlantic to make a house call for a problem on another yacht...

Here's the new 86'...go to www.nordhavn.com for more information.

Lives of the Rich and Famous

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PAE Introduces the new flagship: the Nordhavn 86

Dana Point, CA – (December 7, 2004) – Is bigger always better? In the case of many Nordhavn owners, it is. Since the first Nordhavn was built nearly two decades ago, we’ve seen countless Nordhavn owners move up to bigger Nordhavns. So it’s no surprise that Pacific Asian Enterprises, Inc. (PAE) is announcing a brand new larger model: the Nordhavn 86. Heeding current Nordhavn customers’ requests as well as a heavy market demand for a larger boat, the design team put together lines for a gorgeous yacht that will take over as Nordhavn’s new flagship in 2006.

The most significant difference between the new 86 and the current flagship, the 72/76 model, will be the overall girth of the boat. The 86 will be more than 1 ½ times greater in displacement and volume. It will reflect the layout of the aft wheelhouse-configured Nordhavn 76, but feature a larger flybridge, a more spacious wheelhouse, an exceptional sky lounge and a six-stateroom interior. The standard configuration will include twin engines with keel coolers and a dry stack exhaust. “This new boat will be based on the specifications and standards of the 72,” said PAE President Dan Streech. “It will use the ideas, concepts and systems that were developed for the 72 and carry them to the next level.”

In truth, the birth of the 86 was just a matter of time. Over the years, PAE focused on smaller-sized vessels, but there was always a call for Nordhavn to delve into the mega-yacht market. “There is a demand for a larger boat with greater capabilities,” Streech said. “Our existing Nordhavn owners have shown a propensity to move into larger boats and so we’ve felt that demand within our own owner’s group alone.”

But timing is crucial. And the fact that the Nordhavn 86 is being introduced now is no coincidence. Yes, it is a logical progression from the 72/76 model. But producing these complex, large-scale boats is a challenging endeavor – one that PAE heads feel their
partner factory in the Far East, as well as their own skilled project management, engineering and design teams, are ready for.

“We made the decision to proceed with the new Nordhavn 86 after almost nine years of working through numerous designs from 80 to 95 feet,” said PAE Vice President Jim Leishman. “Our own expert team of designers and engineers are up to the task as is our new big boat facility in Xiamen, China. Within this facility, we have the capability to build vessels well over 100 feet with crane capacity, a tank testing facility and the experienced manpower to manage our new flagship.”

As with all Nordhavns, this new 86-foot passagemaker will be built from a complete set of precision, high-polished female molds. The deck structure will be a single seamless molding for maximum strength and will possess surfaces of gleaming, low maintenance gel coat that will reflect an exceptional finish.

Tooling is scheduled to commence next month with the first boat completing toward the end of 2006. PAE intends to package the base boat with extensive equipment and systems as standard, and is aiming for a selling price of around $5 million.

“This boat will be a marvel of technology, elegance, and seaworthiness,” said Streech. “It will carry forward our tradition of ocean crossing capability.”

And with the first three hulls already having been reserved, it should prove to be a popular-selling vessel like all the Nordhavns before it.


No, I am not the new Nordhavn dealer, yet...but with this posting I am putting myself in the running to become Orland's only yacht broker and I want to deal in Nordhavn's! It's true that the ocean is 88 miles away (as the seagull flies...) but that shouldn't stop me from marketing this fine craft. I can guarantee that it will cross and re-cross Lake Almanor with ease. Even when it's iced over...

Actually, we saw a few of these fine yachts when we were down in Vista, at my sister's house. My nephew is a project manager for PAE and so we got a tour of two of them; a 57' and a 62' model.

So take a look at the website for Nordhavn...pick out the model you want and just mention my name when you order it...Thanks!

I will send up an image of the new 86' in just a second or two.

Previous Post

As you can see from the "sad" picture of the persimmon tree, it's winter here. And this is the time of year when the persimmon tree loses all of its leaves and displays the bright orange fruit in all of its glory.

Yes, winter is here, but when I awoke, the house was nice and warm, and the fire was still going. I just added a log and kept the stove at the same low heat setting. I can keep this up all day! I have plenty of firewood for this winter and I understand that there is always a good supply of wood available from the orchards. But why am I exulting? I made a vow when I left Janesville that I would never, ever have to deal with firewood again! Well, so much for some vows and my ability to keep them.

But…in my defense, I have to say that we used up to 7 cords of wood each year while we were in Janesville and the fire was lit in September and didn’t go out till May or June of the next year. That fire needed to be fed 24/7 and I was the one that had to cut and split it all. I finally started buying logs by the truckload and they would be delivered by a logging truck, right to my yard. Then I could cut and split as I needed and not have to spend every weekend up in the woods, looking for firewood. Even that convenience didn’t make the use of firewood seem any more attractive. I longed for a thermostat on my wall and a furnace to roar to life whenever it was needed. Well, now I have that furnace and our monthly bill for natural gas went up to $125 from a summertime low of $10. So here I am, once again, throwing another log on the fire.

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree...

Some things never change...

The New York Times > Business > Seeking Quick Loans, Soldiers Race Into High-Interest Traps

Many years ago...when I was in the Navy, these quick loan shops operated much as they do today. If anything has changed at all, it's the fact that the loan shops are now closer to the front gate of the bases.

Today, this situation makes a good news story. But when we are at peace, this story will go back to being non-news and military personnel will go back to being the second class citizens that most Americans think they are. Some things never change.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Freedom of the Press

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: You Can Blog, but You Can't Hide

An interesting and dangerous thought. Naively, I believed that freedom of the press was a "given". Not so...

As much as I dislike the supermarket tabloids and yellow journalism, like Murdoch's Fox news, I still think the press must be free. (Even for bloggers)

Netherlands hospital euthanizes babies

sacbee.com -- Health & Science News -- Netherlands hospital euthanizes babies

This I find to be startling...and scary. And the worst part is this...
However, experts acknowledge that doctors euthanize routinely in the United States and elsewhere, but that the practice is hidden.

"Measures that might marginally extend a child's life by minutes or hours or days or weeks are stopped. This happens routinely, namely, every day," said Lance Stell, professor of medical ethics at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and staff ethicist at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. "Everybody knows that it happens, but there's a lot of hypocrisy. Instead, people talk about things they're not going to do."

More than half of all deaths occur under medical supervision, so it's really about management and method of death, Stell said.


If anything positive can be said about the Dutch proposal...it would be the fact that it was made publicly. It's almost as if they are hoping that there will an outcry of revulsion and they will have to stop the practice. I hope that outcry comes...