Friday, September 30, 2005

Big Numbers

The number of blogs in the world are up to 60 million, 40 million or 18 million...depending on who you choose to believe. No matter, even 18 million is a lot of people and somewhat of a depressing number. Another number is 30,000 - 40,000. That's the number of new blogs every day. So who's reading? We must all be so busy writing, I doubt that anyone can spare the time to read a blog.

And speaking of blogs, I learned that a lot of the new blogs are actually "spam" blogs, created by robots to drive traffic through a "link farm."

http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000298.html

White House criticizes Bennett

White House criticizes Bennett
Is he one of the "compassionate conservatives" that we hear so much about?...to be honest, I don't know why reporters even give him the time of day.

Coffee Time - Redux

I finally got my coffee & my reading time in this morning. My plan was to stop at Raley's on the way back, buy the groceries I needed and then get a coffee at their Espresso bar. Wrong! I did buy the groceries but when I went to pick up a copy of the News and Review...there weren't any to be found! So I ended up across the street at Cal Java. They were crowded as usual, but I found a vacant table outside and was able to enjoy my newspaper. And I had a berry/white chocolate scone that was very good!

Hunting Story

I have been hunting again and quite successfully; bagging a large ground squirrel yesterday afternoon. I had been missing some easy shots, so I took the time to sight in the air rifle once more and after that, the next shot was deadly. I used the window in the Study for my hunting this time and from what I saw, I won’t be lacking for targets, I saw half a dozen or more of the critters, in all sizes. But - now that two of their numbers have been disposed of, the others are becoming quite wary and the hunting will be more of a challenge.

Coffee Time

The last day of September. It’s a Friday and that means that I will need to find a spot to enjoy my coffee and read the News and Review when I go to town for my walk this morning. This is a habit that I have enjoyed developing. But, the last little bit of this habit is not quite complete as I don’t have a favorite coffee shop. I would have liked Bidwell Perk, but it’s always too crowded. Cal Java on East Avenue is good, but small and cramped, necessitating a seat outside, and that’s tough in the winter. Cal Java at Raley’s Center is also small, but it does feel better; though it is out of the way. Steam and Bean changed hands and the quality has suffered. Higher Ground was good but they removed their reading material? There was a spacious and comfortable shop on Highway 32 near the freeway…but they closed. Café Flo is a possibility, but their pastry selection is seriously lacking in variety. I prefer not to patronize the many Starbuck’s available and coffee at Peet’s was a less than memorable experience. What I’m looking for may not be available – yet.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wildfire

Wildfire
It never stops...this area has burned dozens of times and still the people come back to it. When the Spanish first explored the Los Angeles basin, they named the bay, Bahia de Fumar, the bay of smokes...In 1957, I was with a friend, sneaking past the firelines in Malibu Canyon so that we could get a better view...In 1974, we were living in Newbury Park when the fires exploded in Sand Canyon and then marched across the valley and into our neighborhood. It will stop as soon as they pave it all over.

Confirmed

John Roberts has been confirmed as the 17th Chief Justice...a shame. Not that Mr. Roberts is a bad guy...but that he is so ordinary. A political hack, a lobbyist with no real world experience. How did he become Chief Justice? He knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew...I really hope to be proven wrong here.

Marco's Boot Camp

Marco's Boot Camp at CameronDirect.com
Hey! My money worries are over! I'll just charge the registration fee...

Speaking of money

The American Bankers Association reports that the percentage of credit card accounts 30 days or more past due is climbing rapidly. April to June records show that 4.81 percent are past due. And at the same time, the personal savings rate dropped to a negative number, -.06%.

(The negative percentage means that people did not have enough left over after paying their taxes to cover all of their spending in July...so they dipped into the savings account to cover the shortage.)

And in related news...the number of people living in poverty has increased 17% since Bush took office. Duh!

Bold

Bold…Innovative…and expensive.

On September 1st, FEMA struck a deal with Carnival Cruise Lines. A $236 million dollar deal, where Carnival would provide 7,116 beds for 6 months. Those beds happen to be on 3 cruise ships that are now anchored in the Mississippi river and in Mobile Bay. It was a no-bid deal and was completed in a day or less.

Here’s the good part. If the ships were at capacity, the price per evacuee would be $1,275 per week. Compare that to the cost for a real cruise. The same ships have a 7 day Caribbean cruise deal that runs about $599 per person…and the ship actually goes somewhere. And “at capacity”? Currently the ships are less than half full so change the $1,275 to $2,550 or more per person.

And some interesting news about Carnival…headquarters in Miami, but incorporated in Panama, for tax purposes. Last year, they paid $3 million in income tax benefits on a $1.9 billion pretax income. A U.S. company would have paid $475 million.

FEMA, ya gotta love em’!

Flash!

Flash memory is getting cheaper all of the time and right now we have Apple to thank for it. Apparently, Apple bought all the flash memory card production they can get from Samsung Electronics, to use in the new Nano iPod. The reputed price for a 4 Gb chip was about $120. And since the Nano can also be used as a portable hard drive to move any kind of files, which put the pressure on those who were selling 4 Gb flash drives. (That didn’t play music…) Those devices were selling for about $300, but the price is falling fast! A 1 GB drive can be found for $50.

And now this…”Last week, a consortium of flash memory makers announced a new flash drive technology, U3, which allows programs and system settings, as well as data, to be carried around on a flash drive to any PC.”

http://www.u3.com/

Yesterday's musings

Perhaps a recap of yesterday is in order. First; when I went to release the irrigation water, I found that the canal was empty! That was the first time I had ever experienced that. I came back home and paged the ditch tender and notified the users downstream. About 45 minutes later I heard a knock on the door and it was the tender, to tell me that all was OK now, that I could go back and open the gate. Only three of the six property owners were going to use water this morning as walnuts were dropping and harvesting had begun. Opening the gates is much more pleasant when the sun is up and you can navigate the path to the canal without fear of falling into the occasional valve box.

Then it was time to clean the wood stove. It will soon be chilly enough for us to use the furnace and since the price of natural gas is increasing, it looks like the wood stove will get a workout once more. I really don’t like a wood stove because of the mess it creates, and the chore of bringing in wood and starting fires is no longer on my list of things I enjoy.

Once the stove was sparkling again with a new coat of black paint and the bronze door all polished, it was time to clean the pool. That didn’t take long and I have to admit that I was tempted to jump in for a swim, despite the chill. I resisted the urge and even put the pool toys away. After all, it is almost October.

I also checked the orchard and it’s obvious that we will have a large crop of pecans, a favorite of mine. There are a lot of walnuts as well, but the worms have taken quite a few of them. Pomegranates are ripening quickly and it looks like one tree will produce a bumper crop. That is the one that I have props under some of the limbs. Persimmons? There might be half a dozen. A far cry from last year’s huge crop. All of the citrus looks good and the trees are heavy with fruit.

The day ended most pleasantly with a trip to Chico and dinner with our family. It was time to celebrate David's birthday and we enjoyed a Mexican dinner at El Patron...It was great to have the kids there, though Meghan was missing (soccer practice). Darn!

On the way home, there was an accident at 32 and Meridian, but since the emergency crews weren't there yet, (the helicopter was overhead) the delay was minimal. (no injuries)

All in all...a very nice day.

Thursday morning

Thursday morning has arrived as scheduled and I’m ready for it. Or I will be as soon as I have had my coffee. I’m sipping on that first cup and it will take a few minutes for it to have any effect.

Looking at the headlines, I see that the world (my world) has survived the night and that it’s business as usual. The headlines are;

For G.O.P., DeLay Indictment Adds to a Sea of Troubles. Republicans are dealing with a string of ethical issues along with Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and hopeful Democrats.

What I found interesting here was that DeLay was blaming the indictment on a “fanatical” Democrat, Texas prosecutor Ronald Earle, whom he described as "an unabashed partisan zealot.” Mr. Earle responded to the partisan charges, "Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public” he also said he has investigated four times as many Democrats as Republicans. The truth is this…Mr. Earle only brought the charges and the Grand Jury did the indicting, based on the evidence. They could have viewed the evidence and then told Mr. Earle to stop bothering them, but they didn’t. And these jurors were DeLay’s fellow citizens; Texans. So it looks like his popularity at home is certainly on the wane.  

Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans. A review shows that some of the most alarming stories appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations.
    
“A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations...”

This story demonstrates how easily fear creates a new reality. People want something, to base their fears upon and anything will do. A rumor quickly becomes “fact” and that “fact” becomes a headline.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Compass now says that some of his more shocking statements have turned out to be untrue. "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."

What is it, in our human nature, which makes us want to believe these stories? Why aren’t rumours of widespread “good deeds” as popular? In fact I will predict that most people will not want to believe the truth and will continue to believe that our fellow citizens in New Orleans are somehow less than human.  

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/national/nationalspecial/29crime.html?pagewanted=1&th&emc=th

It’s a lengthy story but worth reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oil Prices: Cause and Effect

Oil Prices: Cause and Effect
Another viewpoint on oil prices...The bottom line? Go to the bottom of this article and there it is.

"When it comes to causes and effects of high oil prices, nobody in Washington shows much interest in logic or facts. It might be sad if it wasn't so pathologically pathetic."

DeLay Indicted

DeLay Indicted
Now this will keep the news media folks busy for awhile...Personally, I think he will fall. And that might wake up some others.

The Governor

Arnold is in the news this morning. One, for adding $20 million to the school budget for vocational training. That's a very good thing! Although it is only a drop in the bucket, it's a start. Now we have to watch out for those school districts that will "cook the books" in an attempt to divert that money. And that money needs to be in Addition To current funds, not taken from one fund and placed in another.

Arnold starts out good...but ends badly when he fires the entire Reclamation Board and appoints 7 new ones. The Reclamation Board sets flood control policy and oversees the levees of California, all 1,600 miles of them. But what's really wrong here is the fact that these are political appointments. That should change.

Wednesday

Wednesday has arrived and this Wednesday is also irrigation day. It looks like it will be dark when I head out to open the floodgates at six this morning; even the moon is just a sliver and won’t help to illuminate the path.

I’m enjoying a second cup of coffee this morning as I sit and rack my brain, trying to come up with a subject or two for this blog. I’ve read the headlines but nothing seemed to interest me.

I did review my tape recordings (made while walking) and made some notes from those, so I may have something worthwhile to write about yet. For instance; I was opening a package of pocket sized Kleenex yesterday and once again I opened the wrong side of the adhesive sticker that is used to secure the opening. That made me think; why do I always do that? I looked at the package and its design and I saw that the arrow on the sticker was pointing the wrong direction. But, since I always make this mistake, someone…someone in charge at the Kleenex plant, has made a decision that the arrow should point in that direction. Why? I think it’s a function of personality type and the person who made the decision is a Sensing Type and not an Intuitive. Laurae, a Sensing Type always opens the correct side and on occasion I have even asked her to open the package for me, just to make sure I get it right. Oh sure, it’s just a Kleenex package, but I began to wonder if there aren’t more instances of this type of thing. Industrial design is big business, yet some of the major decisions for the design are decided by Type.

Another instance of Type deciding outcome came to mind and that was in testing. Written tests. When confronted by a test, an Intuitive will begin at question #1 and quickly scan all of the questions, answering all that they can. Then they will return to the top of the list and begin a second review of the questions that they hesitated at answering. After 3 or 4 such reviews, they will then begin the process of studying the questions that they couldn’t answer. This method allows the Intuitive to finish a test much faster than a Sensing Type, who will be reading and thinking about each question in order. They will not move on to the next question until they have solved the first.

What is wrong with all of this is the fact that the person administering the test will think that the Intuitive Types are somehow, brighter than the Sensing Types. In fact, most tests are designed to benefit the Intuitive because most tests are timed. The Sensing Type is still answering questions (correctly) when the test ends and then loses points because of unanswered questions. The Intuitive gets an edge because they were able to answer all of the questions, though not necessarily correctly. And the majority of educators…are (Surprise!) Intuitive’s.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Disturbing

Here’s a most disturbing scenario…thousands of trucks, loaded with water, ice and medicine are waiting to be deployed. 4,000 National Guardsmen plus an equal number of emergency workers are in place and waiting to go to work. 5 million meals are stockpiled, ready to be served. Mobile satellite communication stations are prepared and waiting. A combined Federal – State Task force is coordinating all of this; plus coordinating the efforts of the Red Cross, Salvation Army and others.

Why is it disturbing to me? Because I just read about this happening in Florida…about a year ago. (Atlantic Monthly) This is what the Bush administration did in advance of Hurricane Frances. If you had watched the news, you would have seen the president passing out bottles of water to those (voters) driven from their homes. Of course, the fact that the election was to be held in just two months might have had something to do with it, especially since Florida’s 27 electoral votes were up for grabs.

Blind Trust

Blind Trust. Is that an appropriate name? Bill Frist, that compassionate conservative leader in the Senate, apparently sees the contents of his "blind" trust quite well. Well enough to order the sale of all of his HCA stock just before it dropped in value. His wife and 3 sons, all with similar "blind" trusts were able to sell their HCA stock as well.

Now maybe I am confused...and I'm obviously wrong, but I thought that a blind trust meant that the owner of the trust no longer controlled the disposition of the contents of that trust.

Big Business

Good news. Boeing and the Machinists union have settled their differences and both sides are happy. The machinists received a 17% boost in pension payouts and healthcare premiums remain the same for the length of the current contract. No wage increases, except for lump sum bonuses over 3 years, totaling $11,000.

What's interesting here is the fact that Boeing says they like the contract...now will they say the same thing in a year or two? If Airbus cleans their clock on a big contract, will they they somehow change their tune and tell everyone that if it weren't for the big pension load they carry, they would have been more competitive?

Time will tell. But the fact remains that a union contract can be fair and equitable.

Blame

Blame
Now it's getting ugly. Yes, Mr. Brown deserves a lot of blame...he was the public face of FEMA and was paid well for taking on that responsibility. But now it appears as if the Senators and others have decided that his shoulders are broad enough to take on the whole load of blame, rather than apportion it as deserved. Shame on them!

Designs

Intelligent Design is in the news almost every day and it appears that there are only two sides to the question…but I have a third. I have believed in Intelligent Design for a number of years now, long before it became controversial. And I don’t believe it’s a substitute for science. It’s a religious and philosophical belief. Science has rules and religion has faith. I have no problem accommodating the two in my life. No one should. God gave us science, just as He has given us everything in this world. What’s the problem? The problem lies with those who think that they know the mind of God and that He must be defended. I’m sorry, but my God is bigger than that.

Bob

I watched the PBS special on Bob Dylan last night and had mixed feelings afterwards. It seems as if Bob was focused solely on Bob during all of those years of fame. He had a fixation on Woody Guthrie for a time, early in his career, but that didn’t last long. And ego? His comments regarding Joan Baez were, “She was a great guitar player…but, I thought that she needed someone to sing with her.” (Himself) and the comments from his contemporaries seemed to reveal the same problem with ego. He had no problem stealing material and styles from fellow musicians. Born in Duluth (1941) and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, he has dismissed that part of his life completely, even changing his name from Zimmerman to Dylan. But, I did enjoy seeing video of that era, the late 50’s and early 60’s. In those days, I was really into the folk music, poetry and coffee house scene. And Bob was part of that. At the time I thought he was a musical genius…sad.

Awake

What a morning! If I wasn’t quite awake earlier…I am now. And it is all because of coffee. Yes, coffee will wake you right up when it’s spilling across the surface of the kitchen counter in hot streams. I had forgotten to put the basket holder into the machine earlier, just before loading it with fresh coffee grounds and water. And 5 minutes later, when I walked into the kitchen, fully anticipating that my first cup of coffee would be ready to pour, I was faced with this minor disaster. OK, the lights go on and I go to work, resolving to myself that I will not allow my temper to get the best of me. Soon the counter is clean and I prepare another pot. What I didn’t do was to make certain that all of the liquid from the first attempt was clear of the system…and so when I filled it with water, the excess burst forth in a lovely dark stream, flooding my newly cleaned counter. This time I let the coffee pot continue its work while I mopped up once more; after all, I had come into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and somehow I was going to get one.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Christianity in a nutshell

Christianity in a nutshell
What will be next? Readers Digest Condensed Version? A 60 minute TV special? In truth, I'm not against it, if someone will read it, understanding that it's not the Bible and then want to know more...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Flickr: Photos tagged with gaudi

Flickr: Photos tagged with gaudi
Aha! See how well Flickr tags work...I wanted to find some Gaudi photos a few months ago and looked all over my hard drive and ended up using a few Google Images. But with Tags, I found a whole bunch of pics I had never seen before.

Speaking of Tags

As you may know, file names and folders are the backbone of our current computer filing systems. But, it is the least mastered...thousands, no...millions of users are clueless as to where files reside on their hard drives. I know that I spent a long time getting the file management discipline straight, in my head. Even with my expertise, I have folders named "unsorted" and they are crammed full because I haven't taken the time to drag their contents to the proper folders. But there is hope for those clueless millions. (And me.) Tags. Apple, Microsoft and Google are looking at file retrieval systems that use tags to locate the files you want. With file retrieval using key words and tags, you won't care where the file is...a search engine "spider" has already crawled your hard drive and knows where everything is. You just tell the computer that you want the file about fish that was created a few days ago...Voila! Your file is served.

Check out Flamenco at http://bailando.sims.berkeley.edu/flamenco.html for another way of seeking and finding.

Flickr!

Welcome to Flickr!
Back to technology...here's one that slipped right by me and I'm a Yahoo member. I'm sure that some sort of notice of this new service was given, but I don't remember it. Anyway...this is all about "tagging" websites. Users can post their photos and give them a "tag", a one word description. And you can search for photos by searching "tags". Example; search for "love" on Flickr and you get close to 20,000 photos of what posters think love means. The user creates the database.

Another one; del.icio.us provides for the management of bookmarks. You can add bookmarks to your own del.icio.us page and see what others have bookmarked; creating a community.

And more; A group called "It's The Crew" uses Flickr to make bizarre on-line comic books. They alter the photos using Photoshop and then add captions to create a slideshow.

And last; Make, a magazine for hobbyists uses Flickr and del.icio.us.


Go to www.technorati.com for more "tagging" stuff...

Timing

CREW
As they say; "Timing" is everything...!

HappyNews

HappyNews.com - All The News That's Fun To Print
Just what we all needed!

Government in action

An oddity from the news of yesterday...

A Texas town had the good fortune to have the US Navy offer to store its vulnerable emergency equipment on board a ship tied up near the town. After all, if their fire engines and ambulances were under water, they would be destroyed and useless. But after the hurricane had passed, the Navy wouldn't release the equipment unless the mayor came down to the ship and approved it. And if the mayor had died in the storm? Would the Navy require that a special election be held to elect a new mayor before releasing the equipment? Just wondering...

CREW Homepage

CREW: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - Homepage
A daunting task...will they be successful?

I have been thinking

I have been thinking about copyrights lately and it seems as if the whole business of copyrights is in a state of flux. In a digital age, an age of information…what can be sacred anymore? And why do we have copyrights for some things and not for others?

Odd things about copyrights; I can loan you a music CD legally. You can then loan it to John. But I can’t loan the music to both you and John at the same time. I can sell my CD to a store that specializes in used CD’s, but I can’t sell the music on that CD to others. But what did I own? The CD or the music? Or both? And books present another problem. Since they are not so easily digitized, the sharing of multiple copies is not usually a problem, yet. But used bookstores make a profit many times on a single work of an author and the author receives nothing. A musical artist makes money every time a song is played. A literary artist makes money only once; when the book is sold. And libraries! Repositories of potential profit for the authors, yet the books are read for free…unless you keep the book too long. Photos? I can take a picture of the Grand Canyon and try to sell it to you for $$$’s. You can stand right next to me and take your own picture. Is either one of those photos copyrighted?


What?

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and Rigoberta Menchú Tum. What do those words have to do with anything? Those are words that I was desperately searching for in my mind last night. My memory fails me at every turn! We were enjoying a conversation with the pastor and I had an opportunity to speak about the book, The Heart of the Sea, and I suddenly lost all memory of the title. Later, she was speaking about her experiences in Guatemala and I wanted to add what I knew about Rigoberta Menchú, but once again the memory of that name had faded away. And what I do remember; is it factual? Memory loss is the worst of all the aspects of aging! I had to use Google this morning to find these names for me, and I suppose, if I live long enough, I may have some portable device that I can use, no matter where I am, to search the internet instead of my empty brain.

A portable wireless search engine with a direct connection to Google. That’s what I need! OK, I know that is something that is already found in a laptop computer. But a laptop is still a bulky piece of equipment and I was thinking of something a little more compact. And a wireless connection is not to be found everywhere…not yet anyway. Some cities have begun the process of providing connectivity but they are facing some controversy as private enterprise accuses them of unfair competition. Just as cities provide libraries for written information, why shouldn’t they provide that same information (and more!) via an internet connection? Imagine the possibilities!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rules are Rules!

I don't know about you, but I feel safer...

"Nearly 1,300 patients were airlifted out of an airport near Beaumont in a rush Thursday night and Friday morning, but only after the county's top official made a panicked call to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson for help.
``We had patients throwing up. It was very ugly,'' said Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith, who blamed delays on the Transportation Security Administration, which insisted every wheelchair-bound passenger be checked with a metal-detector."


That vomiting could have been a trick, just to divert the attention of the TSA.

Friday, September 23, 2005

At Last!

Success!

I bagged my first ground squirrel. There were three of them in the backyard, near the roses. I slid the kitchen window open just far enough to get the barrel of the air rifle out and I sighted on the biggest one. Squeezed the trigger…Pow!

Now, Laurae thinks it’s sort of tacky to keep an air rifle in the corner of our kitchen and to hunt through an open window…but who wants to argue with success? In fact, I may try sitting down at the kitchen table when I bag the next one!

Nano, Nano

Nanotechnology...one of my favorite subjects! Altair Nanotechnologies of Reno, has come up with a new lithium based battery that uses nanocrystals to coat the battery anode. This gives it a much larger surface and allows for increased power as well as faster recharging. In fact, Toshiba, using similar technology, has a battery that can recharge to 80% of capacity in 1 minute!

BeatTheTraffic

BeatTheTraffic.com: The Right Traffic at the Right Time
Here's another one I found...And I read that Microsoft is developing one that uses Bayesian logic, called JamBayes. (I use spam filtering software named SpamBayes)

Windsurfing-in a BIG way

SkySails GmbH & Co. KG - Welcome
This was in the Technology quarterly as well...great idea! Some facts from the article; moving one ton of goods the distance of one kilometre by ship, releases about 225 times as much sulphur as moving it by truck. The sail makes sense.

Mash-up

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned any new technology. And that used to be something that I was known for. (If it was new…then Steve must know something about it.) But that was back in the days when I was working and had subscriptions to all of the technical (computer) magazines I ever wanted. And I usually read 2 or more of those on every flight I took. That added up to a lot of technical reading, but our department, Strategic Development, was focused on all things “New and Exciting”.

Without that focus, I have become fragmented as to what I actually know about the latest products and ideas. And so it was very interesting to read the Technology Quarterly of The Economist. Lots of good stuff!

“Mash-ups” was the first thing that caught my interest. These are websites that use the resources of other websites to produce a new web “product”. www.HousingMaps.com uses housing for sale data from Craigslist.org and combines it with Google maps to show you a map with houses and apartments in a particular city and within a specified price range. And to make it even more interesting, most Mash-ups happen without the sites supplying the data even knowing that it is happening. There are more and more being created every day and right now, these are free websites, but that will change!

Here’s some other links…
http://traffic.poly9.com/

http://ejohn.org/ I had a problem with this one…couldn’t find the server?

www.busmonster.com



Miles of Traffic as Texans Heed Order to Leave

Miles of Traffic as Texans Heed Order to Leave - New York Times
More on the same subject...shameful!

And just a few minutes ago, I read that a bus loaded with refugees burst into flames and 20 were killed.

Got a Plan?

Hurricane Rita is working its way across the Gulf of Mexico towards Texas and Louisiana. Each day brings a new forecast of where it will land and it’s looking more and more like Louisiana will be the target once again. The city of Houston has been evacuated and that exercise has been a disaster of its own, as millions of people are still stranded in traffic jams that extend for a hundred miles or more. No gas, no food and no shelter. These two storms, Rita and Katrina, have exposed our weaknesses. This nation is not prepared for emergencies. We like to say we are and we have some of the latest high tech equipment…but when it comes to practicality, we are simply lost. It wasn’t till the Texas freeways were hopelessly tangled in vehicles that someone made a decision to open both sides of the freeway to north bound traffic, a day late! The governor said “evacuate!”, but no one looked into the possibility that gas stations might be out of fuel or closed. The Houston airport was a scene of chaos because the majority of TSA screeners didn’t show up for work. They were busy evacuating. Those that did show up acted as if it were normal for thousands of people to be in line for inspection and continued their usual work pace. Was it any better than the disaster in New Orleans of a few weeks ago? Certainly. But it was nothing to be proud of. Does any city in this country have a plan for the evacuation of that city?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

School Days

Schools seem to be a controversial subject these day; schools and teachers. And I can’t help but be interested in these subjects…I have no children in school but I do have grandchildren attending school at various levels. And I am still a taxpayer, so I guess that gives me a right to air my views.

I’m often surprised by the conditions that I see in the school plants themselves. The buildings are old and maintenance has obviously been deferred. Desks need repair, walls need repainting and ceilings show signs of leaking roofs. And then I look at the tools that are to be used for education; the computers and the software. It’s all old and outdated, plus there aren’t even enough of these tools for all of the students.

Now I compare what I see in the schools with what I see in our businesses. The difference is huge! Business wouldn’t tolerate the conditions that our schools operate under. I worked for a large construction firm and our yearly budget for computers, peripherals and software was over $2 million. That was for an employee base of 600+. That’s over $3,000 per employee, every year. Why did they spend that kind of money for computers? Because they recognized the value of the tool. No one was allowed to do without the needed tools. Whatever was needed to make the employee more efficient was supplied. It makes good business sense. Just as buying safety supplies makes for a safer workplace, buying tools makes employees more efficient.

It’s obvious that the schools don’t use a business model for success and it’s also obvious that we don’t spend enough money on our schools. How can we give our children a first class education when we won’t finance that education?

Did You?

Did you get a chance to watch the drama of the JetBlue aircraft landing at LAX? Recap: The JetBlue Airbus had a problem with the nose wheel assembly after takeoff and they had no choice but to land the aircraft. Since they had just taken off, from Long Beach, they had a full fuel load and had to circle the Los Angeles basin for 3 hours to burn off fuel before attempting the landing at LAX. (A longer runway than Long Beach)

It was high drama as the jet came in to land...in a perfect straight line, no crash landing. There were plenty of sparks and flames from the exploding tires on the nose wheel assembly, but when the smoke stopped, the jet was safely on the ground.

As a former frequent flyer, I could imagine the (vividly!) the atmosphere in the aircraft.

I'm sure there is some video on the internet if you missed it on the television...Google it.

MOPS Convention 2005

MOPS Convention 2005
This should be an interesting weekend for Jill, as she and a few other MOPS moms are flying from Reno this morning and heading to Dallas for the MOPS convention. Bad timing, I'm afraid. I just checked the weather report for Grapevine, Texas, and the forecast has improved overnight. It seems that Rita has changed course and will now hit north and east of where it was originally predicted. That could mean less trouble for the people of Dallas/Forth Worth. Grapevine (and Dallas) is over 300 miles from the coast, so the hurricane would certainly be less dangerous...but I don't know how the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport will handle the storm. That airport was never one of my favorites and I can just imagine it filled with unhappy travelers as flights are canceled on Sunday. Round and round they go!

Thursday Thoughts

Thursday has arrived once more and in the usual way; overnight. And I’m here and somewhat ready for it. I have my second cup of coffee in front of me and I’m sipping on it as I endeavor to get the brain cells in gear. The coffee is loaded with flavored syrups, Ginger and Butterscotch, so the sugar should soon stimulate some thought, although I cannot guarantee it will be coherent.

We watched a movie last night from our Netflix selections. Sense and Sensibility was the title and it was quite enjoyable. That’s two in a row, both enjoyable. The first was Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp; I always enjoy watching Depp and this film was no exception. One of my all time favorite movies was Edward Scissorhands, a film where Depp thoroughly impressed me with his skills.

I have signed up for an introductory month long (free) subscription to Netflix and so far I have had no trouble finding interesting titles to view. We were Netflix customers a long time ago, but gave it up when I could no longer find much worth watching. I suppose the same thing could happen again, but I have about 9 films in my queue and they all appear to have promise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nuts

Aw, nuts! Yes...it's almost time for the walnut harvest. I picked up a couple I found under the walnut tree, out in front. They were pretty tasty! Overall, I imagine that the harvest won't be that good, as I have a lot of moth damage this year. So I will have to sort them carefully to exclude the wormy ones. Even so, with 3 trees there will be more walnuts than we can eat.

The good news is that the pecan trees are doing very good. The pecan out in front now has props under the heavier limbs and the tree in back has a great crop as well. The crows will tell me when the pecans are ripe as they will flock to the higher branches and strip the nuts from them. They fly out over the street and drop the nuts to break them. When I see nutshell fragments in the driveway...it's time for me to pick.

Doonesbury

Doonesbury
How odd!? I was just thinking about this very same subject the other day while walking...It makes me wonder why we have to have laws to protect "whistleblowers". And shouldn't "whistleblowers" get a medal? Or is being part of the Team more important than the truth?

Digital Gallery

Digital Gallery | Home
A fascinating site! And really well done. Browsing is quite easy to do, not requiring much more than intuition to guide you through the many pages.

A thought

Wednesday has arrived and I’m awake at a later hour. That’s good! And I have already posted my first thoughts of the day to my blog. This time I used the audio blog posting program and that was somewhat difficult for me. I don’t do well as a public speaker…and I feel like I’m standing in front of a microphone in a very large auditorium whenever I call the audio blogging phone number. It’s stage fright without a real stage. Perhaps I will become more comfortable with practice.

Now that I have posted to my blog, I find that I am unable to view my posting. It seems as if my satellite connection is lost. I have rebooted the computer a few times now in an effort to regain my connection, but with no luck so far. I have even unplugged the satellite modem, waited 20 seconds and plugged it back in, all to no avail. “Cannot find the server” is the only message I get. Very frustrating!

I just had a thought…and that thought is; what happens in an emergency? Will I lose satellite service? Where is the command center for the satellite service? I understand that my local loss of power would stop the service, but what if the power is out in Houston? Or Chicago? Or Grand Forks?

Ah, there's the service again...I can post this.

Early morning musings

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Free Access

Diebold. Is that pronounced “dee-bold” or “dye-bold”? Whatever…I did run across some interesting information regarding this controversial company. You should already know that they are the leading (only?) computer voting machine company around and you may have heard that they are also managed by a group of fanatical republicans, one of whom promised the president that he would deliver the votes in 2004.

One of the Diebold Company’s more controversial moves came when they claimed that it was extremely difficult to provide a paper trail for votes cast using their machines. This claim (when your local market can identify you and everything you bought, and tell you how much more you need to buy before you can claim your free latte...all on a paper receipt!) was an obvious lie.

Now I read that Diebold uses MS Access software. “The vulnerability and the ability to "manipulate votes" occur because the GEMS software uses the public Microsoft Access database software to store vote totals in a separate data file.”
Now that is scary! Access is great database software to use if you want to keep track of your CD collection, or something of that nature. No one should ever use it for sensitive data.

Most large corporations use database software that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is a reason for the high cost; security. Access can be purchased for hundreds of dollars. There is also a reason for that.

Change

Things change. It’s the only constant. And it looks like the New York Times (electronic version) will soon lose me as a reader. They have begun to charge $$ for the privilege of reading the works of some of their columnists. And once that happens, additional charges won’t be far behind. (I think my having to endure their ads is payment enough!)

I am an old hand at this internet stuff and have been using it to gather information since 1990, when I started with CompuServe and some BBS’s. The display was white letters on a black background and there were no graphics, no video and…no pop ups! And during the early years, the internet was free, the information was free. The only cost you had to deal with was that of the dial up service. And then, around 1993, I fell for the AOL line and subscribed to that service for awhile. I kept my CompuServe account as well and soon the differences in the philosophy of the two providers became obvious. AOL was in it for the money. Ads began to litter the screen alongside the information. CompuServe remained a “pure” provider. In 1995 I dropped my AOL account and that is a story in itself. No one leaves AOL without a hassle! And today? No one remembers CompuServe. They are dead and buried within the corporate structure of their evil competitor. AOL lives on, awash in a flood of advertising.

OK, it is all about money and I probably can’t change that, can I? But I can try and prolong the free experience as long as possible. And so I will start looking around for a news service that can deliver a daily recap to me.

(Since February 1998, CompuServe has been a wholly owned subsidiary of America Online, Inc. As part of the AOL Web Properties group, CompuServe plays an important role by providing Internet connectivity for value-minded consumers seeking both a dependable connection to the Internet and all the features and power of an online service.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Corporations of the Whirlwind

Corporations of the Whirlwind
The wise always tell you to "follow the money", but I don't know how you can in this convoluted mess of political chicanery...does anyone have a map?
this is an audio post - click to play

DIY - FEMA Style

I was just listening to the radio a few minutes ago and heard a conversation (via telephone link) with the mayor of Petal, Mississippi. The interviewer asked him if he had seen any FEMA representatives yet. The answer stunned me…yes, he had seen a FEMA rep last week and the FEMA agent had asked the mayor to provide him with 20 computers, office space and communication lines. The mayor had replied that since the city of Petal owned only 5 computers, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to fill that request. The man from FEMA left town right after that meeting and no one else from that agency has been seen. The mayor went on to explain that he had received a lot of help from private individuals and other governments; such as Indiana State troopers, Canadian police, a company in Kansas had trucked in fuel for their use, etc, etc. He named a dozen or more utilities and private enterprises that had helped as well.

Connected

OK, I downloaded the file and upgraded my old version of Skype. Now I have my headphones and microphone set up. I guess I'm ready to begin using Skype again...Hello?

Skype

The Economist has a good story this week on the demise of the telephone business. POTS, or plain old telephone service, is in it's last days. The story talks about the recent sale of Skype to EBay for a little over $2 billion dollars. Skype, a software company, has never made a profit and it's revenues have never exceeded $70 million. But...they have a software package that allows for simple voice transmission via your computer and a broadband connection. Skype is not the only software firm that does this, but their software is easy to use, it's free and they already have a loyal following of Skype fans.

The gist of the article was that since voice transmission has become digital and broadband has become so easily available, there is less reason to use the old copper wires provided by the telephone company. And in fact, most telephone companies recognize this and have diversified their interests. In the future, (the near future!) your broadband connection will be your multimedia connection, giving you internet access along with television and telephone. And just like e-mail, phone calls will have to be free if a provider wants to be competitive.

I have had Skype on my computer for the past 3 years, or just about ever since they started in business. But...I rarely use it. Perhaps it's time for me to crawl under the desk and connect my headset to the computer again.

As a rule, I hate using the telephone and go out of my way to avoid it...will a computer driven phone effect me the same way? Or will I find the Skype phone to be just fascinating enough (technically) to make me a fan?

Good Planning

We had a good time at church last night, where we are studying a Max Lucado book, Come Thirsty. Lucado is not one of my favorite authors, but the book facilitates some discussions and those have been good. Although, we didn’t get around to discussing all of the relevant Bible verses on the subject of our study that night; death. I noted that death seems to be a very fascinating subject for Christians and that there was no lack of enthusiasm for the sharing of stories concerning death and how it had affected us. The consensus was that death for ourselves holds no fear, but we really disliked the “loss” of others caused by death. Despite our knowledge that those we had loved had gone on to a far better place, we could all agree that we missed them and that there seemed to be no easy answer as to how to manage grief.

As for myself, I shared a conversation I had this past weekend with Jill. Her father’s death had been very sudden and that had left a lot of things unsaid between them. Not a good situation. And so I had told her of my plans for my own death. In my ideal scenario, I would have time before I died to visit and talk to all whom I loved. I would have time to share my joy at this impending event in our lives. At the same time, I would ask for forgiveness for my past mistakes. In my plan, it’s all about me…Now, in life that is not a good thing. But in death, it’s certainly understandable. (Count the number of times I used “Me, “my” and “I” in the paragraphs above. Shame on you, Steve!)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wooden Swing Sets

Wooden Swing Sets
Is this great, or what? Just what every child needs, 1,500 SF of play! And you can customize it to make it even larger...including an attached hammock so that you can relax while monitoring the little ones at play. If you can imagine relaxing while 20 or more children rampaged through all of the activities possible here.

Look at the whole website and you might spot the swing set that their parents ordered for Steven and Abigayle. And no, it's not on the same page as this one. The company that makes these great sets is located in Maine and even with shipping, they are cheaper than building your own. And they are guaranteed for 10 years!

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

Message: I Care About the Black Folks
And now, for the rest of the story!

Whoops! There Goes Another Pension Plan

Whoops! There Goes Another Pension Plan
This is theft, pure and simple. I don't know about you, but if I agree to work for a company that tells me that they have a pension plan and they take money from my paycheck and put it into that plan...I think I should be entitled to it, just like my paycheck. How do these people sleep at night?



Odds and Ends

I think that I reported here that I had sold the old motorcycle? Anyway, I had used www.Craigslist.org to sell it, since they offer free advertising for things like that. It’s just like a newspaper ad, only free and it’s read by millions. Ever since I sold it, I have been receiving inquiries about it and I have to tell each one that the motorcycle is sold. But what was most surprising, was the apparently low literacy level of those who replied to the ad. Only one of the respondents was able to type a complete and logical sentence. I don’t think it was the subject matter of the ad (motorcycles) that was to blame for the display of poor writing skills, but rather, a symptom of our society’s inattention to the teaching of those skills.

On Friday afternoon, before I headed to Susanville, I helped to load many boxes of books onto trailers for transport to the local Catholic church and the upcoming book sale to benefit the Friends of the Orland Public Library. I was amazed at the number of books they had! They hold the weeklong sale twice a year and it starts on Monday with 53 tables filled with books. So it appears that literacy is alive in Orland…but for how long? (I also noted that most of the volunteers were, like me, over 65 years old.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush confident

Bush confident :
"It's going to mean that we're going to have to cut unnecessary spending,' Bush said." Would that mean cutting the budget for the Starwars missile program? ($130 billion spent so far and it still doesn't work!) Oh, silly me...what was I thinking? Of course you can't cut the budget for strategic things like that! Cut some programs that might benefit the poor instead. They'll never know!

Too Funny!

A friend just sent this one and I have to post it!

Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans, as long as he doesn't get blamed.

Links

Here are a couple of good links to the types INFP and ISFJ. I am the INFP and my wife is the ISFJ. (Thank goodness!)

http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/mb-types/infp.htm

http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/mb-types/isfj.htm

I am pretty sure that my mother was also an ISFJ, while my father might have been an INFP. I’m still undecided about that…What’s that old song, “I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old dad!”?

Personal Growth

Personal Growth
This is a pretty good website and it has some detailed descriptions of the 16 Types and how the MBTI works.

The Cost of Education

I see that the Chico school board has hired a new Superintendent; at a cost of $170,000 per year.

Did you ever stop to think about the disparity between teacher's wages and bureaucrats wages?

What I find interesting is that when the Superintendent's wages are discussed, the story is always the same, "You have to pay for quality. If you want a good Superintendent, you have to pay for that kind of expertise." But...shouldn't you use the same argument when you hire teachers? After all, they spend a lot more time educating your children than the Superintendent does.

Now, I'm not begrudging the new Superintendent his salary; I'm sure he deserves it...but what does a teacher deserve?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

MBTI

The other day, I found my old copy of Profiles of the 16 Personality Types, by William Jefferies. This little book was used in my studies to become somewhat knowledgeable about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

If you don’t know much about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, or MBTI, let me give you the quick explanation. All people prefer to use one of 16 personality types to interact with the world. The key word here is “Prefer”, and you may prefer to act one way, but are forced by your life situation to act in another, completely different way. But your preference is an integral part of you (genetic) and you can’t escape its significance. These 16 types are referred to by a series of 4 letters. For instance, I am an INFP and I prefer Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling and Perceiving when dealing with the world around me. And this Type is shared with approximately 1% of the world’s population. (The exact opposite of my Type is ESTJ, or Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking and Judging.)

So what does knowledge of your MBTI do for you? It helps you to understand how and why you react to the world, and that helps you to understand other Types. The MBTI is used by dozens of the world’s largest corporations and it’s used by the Armed Forces, as well as most government agencies.

OK, from the Snapshot section of the book…INFP, You have an uncanny knack for knowing what others have not told you. You have a talent for listening, but prefer to cast what you hear in the form of stories and metaphors laced with moral overtones. You will normally go with the flow until your core values come under attack; then you will act relentlessly to right the situation. Existence is a mystery for you, and you enjoy unraveling its many nuances. Life is a lifetime of coming to know yourself. Gandhi, Lincoln and Joan of Arc share this Type with you.

And now the opposite, the ESTJ. (13% of the world’s population) You are decisive and tough minded. You prefer to organize operations and systems well in advance and then take charge and work logically to ensure mission success. Logical analysis is your path to success. General Schwartzkopf, Archie Bunker, Barbara Bush and Lucy (Peanuts) share this Type.

I will add some more to this in the following days…

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Unconstitutional

Unconstitutional
Here we go again...and who will win? The lawyers. Don't they have something better to do with their lives?

Not that the Pledge has much of a history in our country. It's a fairly recent custom, and like anything you have to do on a daily basis, after a week or two it has lost all meaning to those who dutifully recite it. We wouldn't be a lesser nation if we lost it.

http://history.vineyard.net/pledge.htm

Those in the know

“California’s prison population is at an all-time high.” (165,760) And there is no end in sight. So, I’m trying to understand here…is this because the Three Strikes law is working? Or...?

Now as I remember being told by those in the know; politicians, the Three Strikes law would reduce crime.

Stormy Weather

Some fallout from the storm…
Sumiko Tan, a columnist for the Sunday edition of The Straits Times in Singapore, wrote: "We were shocked at what we saw. Death and destruction from natural disaster is par for the course. But the pictures of dead people left uncollected on the streets, armed looters ransacking shops, survivors desperate to be rescued, racial divisions - these were truly out of sync with what we'd imagined the land of the free to be, even if we had encountered homelessness and violence on visits there. ... If America becomes so unglued when bad things happen in its own backyard, how can it fulfill its role as leader of the world?"

Janadas Devan, a Straits Times columnist, tried to explain to his Asian readers how the U.S. is changing. "Today's conservatives," he wrote, "differ in one crucial aspect from yesterday's conservatives: the latter believed in small government, but believed, too, that a country ought to pay for all the government that it needed.

"The former believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for a country to pay for even the government that it does have. ... [But] it is not only government that doesn't show up when government is starved of resources and leached of all its meaning. Community doesn't show up either, sacrifice doesn't show up, pulling together doesn't show up, 'we're all in this together' doesn't show up."

Now that the storm is over, we are “pulling together” once again, with over $800 million being donated. But what community leaves the old and the poor to fend for themselves when disaster threatens? Lots of questions and not many answers.

F.A.A. Alerted on Qaeda in '98

F.A.A. Alerted on Qaeda in '98
As long as we have government agencies doing things "by the book", we will always be at a greater risk than if we were to encourage thinking "outside the box". I still remember a flight in 2002, where I was given my meal with a plastic knife and a stainless steel fork. But I didn't have my nail clippers with me! That's the kind of thinking that allows terrorists opportunity...

How to Make Money

Halliburton vehicles have been spotted in Louisiana and Mississippi. That’s a sign that the looting program, set in place by the administration, is now in operation. The first step in the program was to get rid of the pesky “prevailing wage” laws that would have allowed those hired for the rebuilding to make decent wages. With that law rescinded for the duration, the shareholders of Halliburton, BRMK, Bechtel and others can reap even greater profits from the no-bid contracts they have been awarded. You certainly wouldn’t want the money going to the citizens of the devastated area. They would only spend it!  

Mosquitoes

Darn! I have a couple of mosquito bites around my right ankle and they are really itching this morning. The itch is the least of the potential problems that come with a mosquito bite these days, as West Nile Virus is very much on our minds. The teacher that Laurae works for has come down with it and has already missed 3 weeks of school so far. In her case, the virus has kept her extremely weak and with a low grade fever; definitely unable to cope with a class of 3rd and 4th graders.

And this is the time of year when the mosquitoes are very active. The almonds are being harvested at this time and shaking the trees seems to disturb the mosquitoes. And when that happens, they abandon the orchards and come looking for a quieter place to live and breed. Unfortunately, you are never very far from an orchard when you live in Glenn or Butte County.

We keep a couple of containers of wipes nears the garage door and use them each time we intend to spend any time outside. The wipes are impregnated with DEET and provide about 8 hours of protection from mosquitoes. And the wipes are much easier to use than the spray.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Out Walking

When I’m out walking I try to remember to bring along my tape recorder so that I can record my thoughts before I lose them. And every once in awhile I have to listen to those recordings, make a note or two and then erase the tape so that I can start over. I’m doing that today…

“Why do we attach so much importance to “precedence”? What if we were doing it all wrong to begin with? Why not examine everything with a fresh viewpoint each and every time? “Because we always do it this way” is not a good excuse for anything.

“What a setup! The Israeli’s were asked by the Palestinian Authority to destroy the synagogues before the turnover of Gaza. Although the Israeli’s had destroyed all of the settler’s homes, they declined to destroy the synagogues. The Palestinians then burned down 4 of them, just as the Israeli’s were hoping they would…turning public opinion against Palestinians once again.”

“I could probably do a whole series of commentaries on my walking shoes.”

“I’m saying “hello” and “good morning” to everyone once again…but few replies. In fact I just passed a young girl; in her twenties, and she frowns every morning when I greet her. I can almost count on it.”

“That reminds me of a time in the past when I used to join with 2 or 3 others every Tuesday morning for prayer. We would pray for all those in the church that had requested it. And once every few months, we would see a prayer card, asking us to pray for Marc, for his salvation. After a year or so, I began to depend on seeing that card and would worry if it didn’t show up. (What I should have been doing was celebrating…our prayers had been answered.) But no, the card would show up once again and in some perverse way, that made me feel better? And so it is with the frowning girl; will I really be happy if she decides to smile some day?”

“I can smell the cholesterol calling me!” – spoken as I smelled the delightful aroma of eggs and sausage cooking, somewhere near One-Mile.

“What if we were to explore the possibility of using carbon nanotubes for road surfacing?”


President Bush says

President Bush says he takes responsibility for the federal government's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina.

Thank you.

See, that wasn’t so hard to do, now was it? And you deserve some respect for doing it!


define:refugee

define:refugee
Who knew? I didn't realize that the word "Refugee" could cause such a storm. (A different kind of storm) Apparently it is never to be used when referring to victims of Hurricane Katrina. It has been deemed politically INcorrect! So what happens when I'm camping and it begins to rain, can I take refuge from the storm? Will the PC police arrest me if I take refuge under a tree? Do I have to find a tree in another country? It's all so confusing!

Security

A lot of people don’t realize that the government is not in charge of all airport security. In fact, in 2002, five airports (San Francisco, Kansas City, Jackson Hole, Rochester and Tupelo) were allowed to use private security companies in an effort to make certain that government security forces could be compared. Of course the ideal situation would be for the government forces to consistently rank higher than the private ones and thus prove that the Feds can do it better. In reality, it has been Kansas City that consistently ranks highest among the nations airports in regard to security. (San Francisco has decided to leave the program because TSA wouldn’t insure them against lawsuits)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Great Day!

I did it...I sold the old motorcycle. It was a 1976 Harley Davidson SX250 and it was in poor shape, mostly parts and rust. But I found the guy, or he found me, and it turned out that he wanted one just like that and so he paid his $100. . The bike is now in Redding and I wish him lots of luck! Since I paid $100 for it about 14 years ago, I may have lost some money on the deal because of inflation...but I feel great!

I don't get it...

My daughter warned me about the "Tell it to the ER" column in the local newspaper. She said it would drive me crazy if I read it and it does...for the past few days, someone has been calling in and complaining that no other countries are helping the US in relief efforts for hurricane victims. Of course they are wrong. Over 40 nations have sent people, money and supplies. In one Mississippi town, the first aid they saw in 5 days came from a detachment of RCMP. (Canadian Mounties) In fact, 90 nations have offered aid and the US has turned down over half of those offers. The loudest complaint should be focused on the fact that the bush administration has taken their sweet time in deciding who's aid we will accept. I suppose these people who complain to the ER must live in a vacuum, where only their own voice is heard.

Hurricane

I see that Hurricane Ophelia is menacing the shores of North Carolina this morning. And that brings to mind my own memories of a North Carolina hurricane, a hurricane named Donna.

It was September 11th in 1960 and I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

By the time the storm reached the beaches of North Carolina on the evening of the eleventh, it was racing toward the northeast at over 30 mph, and maximum sustained winds were up to 115 mph. During the afternoon, several small tornadoes touched down in coastal South Carolina, causing much damage and several injuries. Even though the hurricane regained intensity before it struck the North Carolina coast, its eye had expanded to become a broad, diffuse area of calm, ranging from fifty to eighty miles in diameter. It made landfall around 10:00 p.m., inflicting extensive damages from Topsail Beach to the Virginia line. Donna was particularly destructive from Morehead City to the Outer Banks, where it was considered worse than any of the severe storms of the past decade.”

I remember that we were instructed to secure all loose objects around the barracks and to open the barracks windows just 6”, top and bottom. That was to allow for equalization of pressure and would avoid windows being blown out by the surge of wind. I also remember looking out of the window near my bunk and seeing small trees flying through the air. And I was going to take a car over to the hospital for my evening shift, but when I pulled the car out from between the cars where it was parked, the wind got beneath the car and began to shake it violently. I pulled the car back into the parking space and ran back to the barracks. I would take the bus. And I can never forget the sight of the eye of the hurricane as it passed over us. It was as if we were at the bottom of a huge well. The next morning, I drove to the beach and saw that the brand new, concrete pier was gone. Not a sign of it anywhere.

Righteous Anger?

Yesterday’s sermon was challenging, as sermons are supposed to be…It addressed, but didn’t solve the problem we have forgiving those who have hurt us. In this message, the “hurt” was the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001.

Jesus is quite clear in His words concerning forgiveness.

“Matthew18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Matthew 18:22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Clear, but challenging. Can we forgive…and forget? Should we? Jesus isn’t as clear on the “forgetting”; He doesn’t even mention it and I believe there is no earthly reason to do that. Forgiving is hard enough. For me, the problem lies in the fact that I can’t see beyond the grievous sin that was committed against innocents. God, who stands outside the limits of time and space, sees it all, including the why of why we should forgive. And He makes that clear in verse 35 of Matthew 18, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

I know one thing about forgiving and that is the fact that it can free us from the stranglehold of anger. Anger that blinds us to reason and makes us lash out at anyone within our reach, even those we love. Anger damages our souls.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kansas

The other day I was asked, "Where would you live if you you didn't have ties to where you're currently living?" And I answered that it would be western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee. Somewhere in or near the Great Smokies...It is beautiful country.

But now I have reconsidered. And my vote now goes to Kansas. The middle of the country. When I first began to travel to Kansas as part of my career, I was surprised at how pretty it was. And in the area around Lenexa, Bonner Springs and Lawrence, it's not even all that flat! The people are friendly, towns are small and there is a certain feeling of feeling safe...snug in the middle. Excitement? Kansas City and Saint Louis are close by. Chicago can be reached in less than a day. Denver is also just a day's trip away. Texas isn't as close, but it's do-able in a long day.

Yes, there is a lot to be said for Kansas...in fact, I miss it a little.

Four Years

Here it is, 4 years later and Osama Bin Laden is still alive and well, hiding somewhere. But where? We have started a war, World War III, and still Osama eludes us. We have killed thousands of innocents (including our own) in our quest for revenge. It’s also true that we have killed thousands of the “guilty” as well. Guilty of hating us with a passion we don’t understand. Our country is bitterly divided over this war; we see no end to it and the costs are staggering. Is there any answer to the question? Anyone?

9/11

Sunday, and it’s that time of year when we all remember that terrible day in 2001. I was in Grandview, Missouri at the time, working with a new estimator and teaching him how to use our software. Someone told us that we should come into the conference room and see what was happening on the television. We stared at the screen, not comprehending what we were seeing. In a few minutes, we returned to the computer, shaking our heads and debating about what we had just witnessed. Then the second plane struck. We hurried back to the conference room, incredulous. How could this happen? A third plane...the Pentagon. A fourth?

Here is what I wrote in my journal that day, (Later) it is now 1:00 in Kansas on one of the most infamous days in world history. I was looking for something to copy and paste in the early hours of the morning and now I wish I could make the day just go away and start over! The murder of so many innocent people! Who could dream of such a nightmare? I was in the Missouri office at Dahmer/PCI when we suddenly heard of the first airplane striking the World Trade Center. In just a few more minutes we heard about the second airplane. And then a third and a fourth. I can’t say how I felt…numb is still a good word to describe the feelings. I am now in the hotel room, watching TV and trying to understand what is happening? It’s unbelievable that so much hatred could exist in one persons mind. No, that’s not true…we have seen this hatred before in many guises. History is filled with evidence of our inability to truly love one another. I’ve been watching the images of horror for too many hours…and now the parade of officials marching before the cameras to mouth inappropriate and inadequate comments about this event. I’m so sad that I have lived to see this happen.

On Wednesday, I wrote this… I am sitting in my room, in a hotel in Kansas, watching TV accounts of this disaster, and not being able to really grasp the horror of it all. Most early reports indicate that it was the work of Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist groups. The hunt is on.

By Friday of that week, I had decided to drive home, as no one was able to predict when the airports would re-open. A short trip of 1,855.3 miles and a very long time to be alone with my thoughts about that tragic day.

You've Heard it Before

Table grapes are picked today in California for $7 an hour, with an added bonus of 30 cents per box picked. That comes to $56 per 8 hour day. Let’s add in the 30 cents per box at a rate of one box every 10 minutes and that adds up to $14.40 or a grand total of $70.40 for the day. That would all add up to $352 per week, or $1,408 per month…and that adds up to $16,896 per year. A magnificent sum! Especially when considering that the Federal poverty level is currently at $19,350 for a family of 4.

So how would you spend your $1,408 dollars each month? You would need some shelter and a two bedroom apartment with utilities paid can be obtained for about $800. (I didn’t include a first and last, plus cleaning deposit) That leaves you with $608. How about food? Using an arbitrary number of $4 per person per day for all 3 meals ($1.33 per person per meal) that adds up to $480 per month. (That doesn’t include any meals in a restaurant. No Happy Meals!) Now we have $128 remaining. Transportation? There goes the $128. Health? Sorry, no money left. Clothing? Entertainment? Telephone? Savings? Oh, oh…I forgot to add in the cost of taxes, so we have to reduce the $1,408 to an actual number of $1,127.

You can see that these numbers aren’t going to work very well for the family unless more people in the family are working…or more boxes are picked!

And the biggest problem with these numbers is the fact that we, as a society, have become calloused and no longer wish to see the reality of the numbers. We don’t want to see the humanity behind the numbers. John Steinbeck wrote about both the reality and the humanity back in the 1930’s, in his book, The Grapes of Wrath. In the 1960’s, Cesar Chavez made us aware, once again, of the reality of the migrant workers life. Now, 70+ years later…what has changed? Well, Steinbeck’s migrant workers were Okies and today they are from Mexico. Other than that, nothing has changed.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Friday, September 9, 2005

WHO

World Health Organization rankings of health systems...
1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica
37 United States of America

High Cost of Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drugs
Did you know that Americans take more drugs than citizens of any other nation? And our drugs cost more here in the USA than they do anywhere else..did you know that? High price or not, we clamor for more. With that information, you would think that we are the healthiest nation in the world. Not! (We rank 37th in the world.) We're just one of the most gullible. Most Americans believe that we should pay more for our drugs because...somehow they are "better", simply because they were purchased in the USA. And we are the best customer of the world's pharmaceutical companies; in fact, there is a nationwide shortage of pharmacists because we love our drugs so much. Have you ever wondered if there was any connection between the number of prescription drug advertising spots on TV and the amount of drugs prescribed?

Famous Last Words

I see that Mr. Michael Brown (FEMA) has been relieved of his duties and recalled to Washington.

I was watching the news the other day and while Bush was touring New Orleans for the first time, I heard him say, "Hey Mike; you're doing a good job!"

Quote

"To be poor in America was to be invisible, but not after this week, not after those images of the bedraggled masses at the Superdome, convention center and airport. No one can claim that the post-Reagan orthodoxy of low taxes and small government, which does wonders for the extremely rich, also inevitably does wonders for the extremely poor. What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don't have a boat?"
- Eugene Robinson, columnist.

How appropriate, what if you don't have a boat, indeed!

Vision

Excerpts from “The shaming of America”, from The Economist print edition September 8th 2005

Local government must shoulder some of the blame. The authorities in Louisiana have a reputation for confusion, inefficiency and worse. Different authorities are responsible for different levees, for example…This is exactly the same situation along the length of the Sacramento River. Local levee associations are responsible for the safety of the levee only in their territory and the safety of the levees as a whole system is never addressed by one agency. Do we really believe that New Orleans was an anomaly?

Local incompetence exacerbated the disaster: in Orleans Parish, for instance, where 60,000 households do not own a car, hundreds of city buses which might have shipped out stranded people were left to be swamped by the rising waters... 60,000 households! That translates to a minimum of 120,000 people who were forgotten.

…Still, Washington is mostly at fault. The responsibility for mobilizing the response to a disaster lies squarely with the federal government. And the responsibility for galvanizing the federal government lies squarely with the president... This is not a new concept!

And on the role of the Homeland Security Department…The department's focus on fighting terrorism has also distracted attention from coping with natural disasters, reducing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from a cabinet-level agency into a neglected stepchild. The best illustration of this is its boss: Michael Brown spent nine years at the Arabian Horse Association, before finally being eased out and joining FEMA as general counsel, brought in by its previous head, his college room-mate... “Eased out” is being polite, in truth, he was fired. This is cronyism at its worst.

...The recent transport bill contains some $24 billion-worth of pure pork—including $231m for a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Although this sort of thing is endemic in Washington, it has got far worse since the Republicans took over both the White House and Congress... Republicans used to be proud to be known as the party for less government, not more. Obviously, greed has no political boundaries. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

...If Mr. Bush addresses America's failings with the same vigor that he addressed Islamic terrorism in the wake of September 11th, he has a chance of reinvigorating his presidency and restoring respect in his country; if he doesn't, he will go the way of his father, limping wounded into retirement... He won’t. He has no vision.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Proposition 79

Proposition 79
The first thing you need to do is to look at the names of those who are against Proposition 79. Yes, it's the drug industry leaders, those fine folks who have only your interests at heart.

File Swap

From the Economist, September 8th…“Another victory for attempts to stem illegal file-swapping over the internet. A court in Australia ordered the owners of Kazaa Media Desktop, Sharman Networks, of Sydney, to amend the software so that it does not allow the downloading of copyrighted music or film.”
A short lived victory I’m sure. In fact, I think that I already have a method figured out to defeat that. It seems to me that if you were to modify the file extensions, the new watchdog built into Kazaa wouldn’t spot the files. For instance, batch change all of your .mp3 files to .mpz files. Once downloaded, the recipient can change them back to .mp3.
I don’t use Kazaa anymore and found it clumsy to use when I did. And no one ever had the music I liked. For the past few years I have been using newsgroups and a file retriever named Ozum to download the music I like. And since it’s almost exclusively  music from the 1930’s and 40’s, performed by dead artists, I’m not feeling too guilty. Whenever I do find a new artist that I like, I buy 1 CD. If I buy more than one, I will usually find that the second one has 2 or 3 songs from the first one.
The music industry just doesn’t get it…the days of being able to rip off the public by republishing song after song are over. Technology wins.

Finger Pointing

The finger pointing has begun and although it is sometimes disturbingly rancorous, it is certainly time to begin some investigations into what went wrong in New Orleans, not later, as “dubya” suggests. It is best to do it while the facts are fresh in everyone’s mind.

I don’t know about you, but I have a naïve view of government. For the most part, I lump them all together. City, county, state and federal. Government. They exist to do the things that I need done. I can’t tax my neighbors to help pave the road, so I depend on the county to do that for me. I can’t hire a policeman to keep me safe so I ask the city to do that for me. It is the same with my need for someone to help regulate commerce and to predict the weather. Government exists for us and not the other way around. So I’m particularly disturbed when one part of “government” blames another part for some glaring fault. Shouldn’t I expect all parts of government to work in concert? Shouldn’t the county and the state talk to each other? Can’t the federal government work hand in hand with a city? Don’t they all work for us?

Go ahead, call me naïve…but I think that my view is how the founders of our country saw it as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Osama and Katrina

Osama and Katrina
Tax cuts gone awry...And the rich just keep getting richer (China to!)

Change

I’m finally doing something that I have dreaded for a long time. I’m changing my ISP and that means a new e-mail address. I think I have had this old JPS address for 10 years and I don’t have a clue as to how many accounts I have linked to that address. I have begun the process of changing over by sending out a mass mailing to friends and relatives with my new e-mail address, and during the next few days I will go to the websites of those retailers I frequent and modify my accounts there. Then it’s time to look through my archived mail and see who else I need to contact. What a chore!

Think about it…wouldn’t it be “smarter” to have an e-mail address that would be yours permanently, sort of like your Social Security #, and no matter where you were…you would get your mail. I know that’s how web mail works and I have 2 of those accounts, but I want my important mail, my family mail, to be delivered right to my electronic doorstep, here in Orland. It could be done...but in the meantime, and on a positive note, this change means that I can opt out of some of the regularly scheduled e-mail I have been receiving for the past 10 years. Mail that I just never got around to canceling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Morning Headlines

I have looked at the mornings headlines and they are all about the New Orleans disaster. Which makes me wonder; what is happening in the rest of the world? I’m sure that news was made elsewhere, but we didn’t see much mention of it. Even the internet news, which I expected to be more international in scope, has remained focused on New Orleans. And I suppose I should state here that I may be typing the words, “New Orleans”, but I really do mean the entire region that has been devastated by the hurricane. I can only imagine the frustration felt by the citizens of the small towns and rural villages of Mississippi and Louisiana whenever they hear that name used as the title for their own disasters.

True, there was some mention of Rehnquist and Roberts in the news, but I don’t believe that little bit of political drama has captured the interest of the world. To be truthful, at this point I really don’t care what they do with Roberts. I may regret that later, so let me say for the record that I oppose the appointment of any Supreme Court justice who is without “real world” experience and that includes Roberts, who has spent his short life in the ivory tower of political juris prudence. (Plus, he was a lobbyist! And that alone should disqualify him.)

But, on to more important things; such as a very short list of words/phrases I would like to see eliminated from the language.  First, boots on the ground, or variations of that. “On the ground”, without the “boots” is just as irritating. Second, 24/7. What’s the matter with, “All of the time”?