Monday, December 28, 2009

Stocking Stuffer

I received a stick of pepperoni in my Christmas stocking.

As I sit here at my desk gnawing on it, it occurs to me that there is no way to offer to share it with anyone without being brought up on sexual harrassment charges.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Winter of My Discontent

I'm a bit ashamed of myself right now. At that time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we ought to be most thankful for what we have and for those around us, I've caught myself dwelling more on what I don't have and what more I want.

With Janet running a day care at home, I'm constantly looking around the house to find ways to maximize the space we have. For the last several years, our three season sunporch has alternated in use as exercise room and storage room. Now, I'm eyeballing it as additional space that could be used for the day care; however, before that can be done, it needs to be renovated, insulated, and heated.

Well, if I'm going to go to that expense, what would it take to expand it and and a few more square feet to the house? We could knock out the back wall and extend the sunporch another ten feet. Hmm... in fact, why not expand both the parlor and the sunporch and put up an whole addition to the house?

Wait, if I do that, I encroach too much on yard space. Now I need more yard. The house next door looks like it's headed into foreclosure, perhaps I can buy it and gain that real estate. Well, if I'm going to do all that, why not simply sell mine and buy a new, larger house? Or better, build one of my own design? Or even better yet, keep my existing one and build another one!

Maybe I should buy a vacation home on the Cape? Or maybe out of state? Why not buy a multi-family home and rent it out? I could become a landlord. I could increase my income through rental properties... and then buy more stuff... that requires more storage... I'm going to have to tear down my barn and build a bigger barn...

Recently, I had a couple of conversations that caused me to feel an emotion I do not often feel: jealousy. One was a guy telling me about his second home in Florida, and the other was a woman who told me about the Mercedes Benz her husband had bought her.

Why don't I have a house in Florida? Why can't I afford to buy my wife a Mercedes Benz??

So then I found myself thinking back over the last 15 years of my career in the Information Technology field, all the things I didn't accomplish, all of the certifications I didn't pursue, all of the money that I might have made if only I had been more dedicated, studied harder, worked harder...

This is a spiraling gyre that never stops. It's like World of Warcraft, there is always another level, another achievement, another possession to pursue. There is no winning, just various levels of losing.

In all honesty, it isn't like me to get caught up in this sort of materialism and I guess that's why felt like posting this blog. I'm generally pretty content with what I've got. If anything, my complaint over the last couple years is that I have too much. (Like Stephen Wright said, "you can't have everything. Where would you put it?")

So, for now I'm going to content myself with maximizing what I can do with what I do have. That's just good stewardship. And like Solomon said, "Better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"This One Time, at Band Camp..."

A few years ago, I decided that there are three more things I needed to do in my life in order to become a proper Renaissance Man: Learn to play an instrument, learn to speak a foreign language, and write something that gets published. I decided to tackle the first item on this list with the mandolin.

I believe it was three Christmases ago that I opened a present from my wife Janet and found the most beautiful mandolin I had ever seen. It was elegantly ornamented with ornate mother of pearl set into its woodwork on both front and back and accoutred with lovely hardware for the string tuners. For the first two years, I casually "fiddled"(1) with it, but at the beginning of 2009, I got serious and studiously put myself to the task of learning to play my chosen instrument.

Using a chord chart that Janet had also given me, I began to memorize where to put my fingers on the fret board to play a given chord. I then searched about on the Internet for simple music that used few chords. If the music called for a G chord, I would look at the chart and put my fingers in the indicated locations on the fret board and strum. With repetition, I began to slowly memorize the "finger shapes" required to play a chord. Next, I began to learn individual notes on the fretboard. This was quite a bit easier and I later realized that I probably had gone about my self-teaching backwards. Once again, it was a matter of reading a note or a tab on a sheet of music, putting my finger on the appropriate position, and then plucking a string.

If that description sounds a bit mechanical, it was so intended because my "learning" was terribly mechanical. I call it music training by brute force. Having no formal music training in my background, I wasn't even sure how to learn, let alone what to learn. What has been surprising to me most of all in this process of self-study is that little I am able to accomplish has been fairly well received.

The first strangers who heard me toodling around on my mandolin were friends I knew online. Using an Internet voice communication program called Ventrilo, I grinded out a couple tunes to a few folks who had the misfortune of being online at the time. It was far from perfect, but rather than being laughed and scorned, I was commended for my attempts and applauded for what I had learned. In short order, a couple of the others pulled out their own instruments and we broke into a sort of impromptu online jam session.

This past October, I subjected myself to my first public appearance with a mandolin in my hands. I attended the Cape Cod Mandolin Camp, a three-day festival which featured well known and gifted mandolin instructors teaching workshops in a variety of types of music and culminating in a concert featuring the students. I learned quite a lot, most of which entailing a realization of just how much I did not know. Many of those who were there were students at renowned Berkley College of Music, but a few, like me, were utter novices. But regardless of who we were, we did have one important thing in common: more than anything else, we were all hopeless geeks. This camp was far and away the geekiest thing I have ever done, surpassing any Dungeons & Dragons game I'd ever participated in by several orders of magnitude. (I can't wait to go back next year.)

As it happened, Ben was sick that weekend. That fact made for a perfect excuse for me to chicken out of the student concert and leave early on the last day. I wasn't ready for that sort of demand upon my insufficient skills and I knew it.

When I returned home, I picked up my studies with a renewed vigor. I practice more often and tried to put into effect those nuggets of knowledge I had picked up at the Mandolin Camp. I was finding some improvement, and feeling a bit more comfortable now that I knew what it was that I did and did not know. It was the previous feeling of "not knowing" that had always nagged at me; not knowing if I was playing a chord properly, not knowing what music to focus on, heck, I didn't even know if I was holding the darn thing the right way.

Several weeks ago, in November, I contacted the music leader at our church and asked if he'd mind if sat in on the team's practices as a means of trying to better myself at my own instrument. Our Worship Team is composed of about half a dozen people playing the piano, a couple accoustic guitars, an electric bass, and drums. I was told that I was welcome to practice with them. That first week, I found myself encouraged, if not compelled, to join them on the platform during the service. I did. I played softly and timidly, but again, I was well received. Over the last five or six weeks, I've had a couple pretty shaky outings and a couple of really good ones that even made me smile. As it turns out, there's a lot of Christmas music that lends itself to the mandolin. The feedback from people in the congregation has been very encouraging, even those comments from those who think I'm playing a yukelele. (I told one enquirer that it's an oboe. They responded with, "Oh, cool.")

So, why the mandolin?

I could come up with a variety of answers ranging from liking the sort of music it is associated with. Folk music, one of my favorite forms of music, going far back into the Renaissance and right back into today's Bluegrass, has always employed the mandolin. Celtic and Italian music both rely on the mandolin. Even rock music has featured this instrument. (Jimmy Page was an excellent mandolin player.) But the real reason I picked up the mandolin was that I thought it would be easy. Stupid me. Years ago, I started to try to play the bass guitar. As I started getting the hang of it, it dawned on me that I couldn't really just sit and play the bass alone without someone else to play the melody. So I fell out of it. Later, when I contemplated finally learning to play an instrument, I realized that the mandolin was played like a four stringed instument just like the bass guitar. I assumed I already knew much about the mandolin and that this would give me a running start. As it turned out, the mandolin is exactly the opposite of the bass guitar. Same string tuning, reversed. Ugh.

But I love it. I find that the more I play, the more I want to play. It's almost addictive. Each time I accomplish something new or better, I find myself more hungry to learn more. If I thought I had any real talent that this, and that there was a market for it, I'd quit my job and hang out under Park Street Station and play for coins. It's the perfect instrument. It's fun, it's got a unique sound that lends itself to many forms of music, and it is easily transportable.

When I decided to learn an instrument, I had one simple goal in mind. I wanted to be able to sit in front of a campfire and play for my friends. I think I'm almost there.

(1) Mandolins and violins are tuned the same way. Ain't I witty?
(2) For more info on mandolins than you can possibly want to know, try


Friday, December 11, 2009

Are You Not Entertained?

The Chosen One seems to have encountered a few... let's call them impediments... on his journey toward destiny. It seems the woman he married (that's her just there to the right) has proven insufficient to meet the needs of his Chosenhood and he found it necessary to sate himself elsewhere. Many elsewheres, as it turns out.

Like the vast majority of people out there, this story had little interest for me until just this morning when, on the ride into work, I caught a few things being said about Chosen One that defied credulity. These were not statements regarding resently revealed trists, rather, they are statements made many years ago when he broke onto the sports scene like a tiger attacking an antelope. What follows are statements that were captured in either interviews or other recorded events over the years. I think they paint a rather vivid picture of the standard that the Chosen One was expected to uphold.

Interviewer: "Do you see yourself as a leader, a Gandhi or a Nelson Mandela?"
Tiger Woods (21 years old): "I will have more impact than Gandhi or Nelson Mandela because I will have a larger forum than both of them."

Tiger Woods: "I know I can handle all this, no matter how big it gets."

Earl Woods (Tiger's father): "Tiger is going to be the bridge between the East and West. He plays a sport that is international. There is no limit to what he can achieve because he has the guidance."

Earl Woods: "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,"
Sports Illustrated: "Mr. Woods? Do you mean more than Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, more than Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe?
Early Woods: "More than any of them because he's more charismatic, more educated, more prepared for this than anyone."
Sports Illustrated: "Anyone, Mr. Woods? Your son will have more impact than Nelson Mandela, more than Gandhi, more than Buddha?"
Early Woods: "Yes, because he has a larger forum than any of them. Because he's playing a sport that's international. Because he's qualified through his ethnicity to accomplish miracles. He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Earl Woods (during a speech at a dinner): "Please forgive me, but sometimes I get very emotional when I talk about my son. My heart fills with so much joy when I realise that this young man is going to help so many people. He will transcend golf and bring to the world a humanitarianism which has never been known before. The world will be a better place to live, by virtue of his existence and his presence. I acknowledge only a small part in that, in that I know I was personally selected by God to nurture this young man and bring him to the point where can make his contribution to humanity. This is my treasure. Please accept it and use it wisely. Thank you."

Tiger Woods: “I think it's an honor to be a role model to one person or maybe more than that. If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person's life in a positive light, and that's what I want to do. That's what it's all about.”

Tiger Woods: "My main focus is on my game."
Gleno: "Yes, but which game?"

Tiger Woods: "If you can't laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?"
Gleno: "Well, we can laugh at you, apparently."

Just what is it that drives celebrities to do self-destructive things? Why is that those people who have it all (I did mention that the woman in that picture is his wife, right?) seem to exhibit an irrational desire to risk it all? Is it boredom? Is it the lust for adventure? Is it a feeling of invulnerability? At what point do you begin to believe all the absurd, obsequious, kowtowing drivel that people tell you?

It seems apparent that Tiger began to believe it at a very young age indeed. Clearly, his father raised him to think he was indeed the Christ-Child. Did that contribute to Tiger's actions? Did he really think himself invulnerable or did he just want us to think he was?

And most importantly of all, do we, should we care?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Keep Your Laws Off of My Body... Unless...

Here's a good one. I just found this out a short time ago. In 1984, Al Gore helped rush the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 into law. That law makes it illegal for anyone to offer one of their organs, most notably, one of their kidneys to another person in return for any kind of payment.

OK, so here is a law established by the Federal Government that is designed to tell you what you can do with your own literal physical body. The law, proponents state, helps to "protect" poor people from "exploitation." Apparently, according to this mindset, if you make under a certain number of dollars per year, you are categorized as too stupid to make decisions for your own well-being and thus, the government needs to do this for you.

What's absolutely unfathomably absurd about this law is that it was sponsored by Al Gore, one of the leading political pro-abortionists of the last 20 years, a man who has actively worked to protect a woman's choice of whether or not to kill a living person in their wombs.

Kill your unborn kid? Hey, it's your choice and the government shouldn't have any say.
Sell your kidney? Hey, you can't do that. It's unethical.


Oh WoW

Pirates of the Caribbean

I've been woefully slow in getting this posted, but every time I sat down to attempt an entry, I'd be distracted by dangling string or shiny objects. This time, I'm forcing myself to write.

From November 16th to the 23rd, Janet, Benjamin and I, accompanied by Janet's father and aunt, took a Caribbean cruise. It was a much needed vacation and we had a very good time.

We booked on Norwegian Cruise Lines for this, our third cruise. I was very much looking forward to it based on the experiences I'd had on the previous two cruises. However, this time, I have to say that the experience was somewhat tarnished and my expectations of enjoyment were left a bit disappointed.

The best part of the cruise, as I had anticipated, was the snorkeling and watching Ben on the ship and at the beach. A few months ago, when I turned to Janet and suddenly declared I wanted to go on a cruise, it was the desire to once again go snorkeling that prompted the decision. Having Ben with us on this vacation made it all the more fun. Certainly, he made it much more challenging -- meals in particular are always more interesting with a baby -- but we were blessed to have the full support of Auntie Patsy. She was our hero when it came to helping with Benjamin.

In the interest of keeping this post of reasonable size, I'll recount one brief story that will no doubt be one of my favorite memories for all time. We were in the most upscale restaurant on the ship enjoying delicious steaks when Ben began to get rowdy. He was sitting to my left in a wheeled high chair. We had a series of distractions: babyfood, his bottle, toys, keys, etc. that we hoped would keep him occupied through dinner. Eventually, the novelty of each one wore off and he returned to throwing things off his high chair and being noisy. Having many times seen kids making far too much noise and parents do far too little to reign them in, I am rather sensitive to how much noise Ben makes in public. I felt like he was approaching that point where one of us would have to leave the restaurant with him. Not something I was particularly looking foward to.

The maitre d' came over to inquire if we were satifisied with our meals and service and if there was anything he could do for us. I said, "This guy next to me is making an awful lot of noise. Can you throw him out?" He called over one of the waitresses and instructed her to "take Monsieur for a ride." At that, she wheeled Benjamin away from the table and across the restaurant. Ben's face immediately lit up. Ben and the waitress then visited every table in the restaurant where he was able to make liberal use of his favorite word: "Hi!"

He made the rounds like a politician running for office. He spent a fair amount of time at each table, with the couples and families at each exclaiming how cute he was (he really was), and chatting away with him in his own little language. He never outstayed his welcome and he quickly moved on to visit the next table and to chat up the guests seated there. Some twenty minutes later, he returned to our table, very happy indeed, and just in time for a little ice cream for dessert.

In general, the weather was great, the many beaches, the shopping, the tours, were all fantastic, but there was one thing that, I personally felt, left a taint on the entire experience. In the two previous cruises we've taken, I felt like we were treated like royalty. That was what I anticipated on this cruise as well. However, instead of this being the case, I felt like we were being "nicked and dimed" by the cruise line.

Unlike the previous trips, Norwegian suddenly had all sorts of extra charges that I hadn't anticipated. During our first trip, all the food was phenomenal and it was all included. On the second trip, there were two restaurants that were considered "extra special" and they cost $10 per person to get in. This time, however, fully three-quarters of all the restaurants had a "cover charge" (some as high as $25 per person!) and the quality of the food in the standard restaurants was far inferior.

There are a number of other examples that really left me cold, but I'll not bore you with them here. Suffice to say, I won't be back on a cruise ship again, at least certainly not on Norwegian Cruise Lines. My complaints, when voiced to the front desk were dismissed entirely with a wave of, "That's the company's new policy." At an economic time when I'd expect to get more bang for my buck, not less, I found people banging on me constantly demanding more of my bucks.

I think I'm going to return to backpacking and hiking as my preferred vacation mode. At least that way I'm in charge of where I go and who I give my money to.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Clams Attack

A few weeks ago, Math Guy and I were chatting online when he pointed me toward a YouTube video of a group of tourists standing in waist deep water, surrounded by sharks. (This was a very apropos topic given my approaching Caribbean Cruise, for which I am scheduled to depart this very Saturday.) Given that the video exhibited (1) people and (2) sharks in a fairly confined aquatic space and notwithstanding the fact that (3) the video had been posted in the first place, it was no great shock to me when, at length, one of those toothy marine predators latched onto the leg of one of the tourists. (Why the tourist was surprised by this, I cannot say.)

Math Guy and I began to elucidate on the rather foolish nature of this endeavor and to postulate alternative places one could stand while minimizing the risk of a shark attack such as the one depicted in the video. I casually mentioned that one such place with an inherently low chance of shark attack was my kitchen. Math Guy found this amusing and the conversation continued. It is quite true, in point of fact, that in the fifty plus years my house has been standing, there has not been one reported (okay, well, substantiated) shark attack.

It then occured to me, however, that during that same time, there have been at least two reports of attacks by clams. As many kitchens (and beaches for that matter) are not the scene of clam attacks, I thought it might perhaps be useful to you the reader to retell the tales of those events here.

The most recent attack was prior to my taking ownership of Upham Manor. My late grandmother, "Nana", was shucking clams in the kitchen preparing supper for her and Papa. Seafood has always been a staple of my family, so this scene has been repeated many times. However, on this occasion, all at once, one particularly ornery specimen latched onto her finger and held there fast, refusing to be removed. Nana fought valiantly against the cantakerous quahog but to no avail. She prodded it with a knife. She ran it under cold water. Then hot water. She even stood with her hand in the freezer for several minutes trying to cause the clam to loosen its grip.

In the end, much to her embarrassment and chagrin, she tip-toed into the parlor and quietly informed my Papa of her predicament. This was in many ways worse than the pain she endured from the clam because Papa had earlier admonished her, "You no toucha the clams until I come in and-a helpa you a-clean them," or words to that effect. He made himself comfortable in his chair and proceeded to watch Perry Mason until such time came to help make supper.

But now, seeing the stubborn mollusk upon his wife's finger, he grew very upset. Through a stream of Italian castigation, he led Nana into the kitchen. Using his pocket knife first to crack open the shell and then cut at the muscle, he managed to dislodge the clam and free his wife from shackles of the cockle.

A few years prior to this event, there was another incident of an attack by -- or, this time, rather -- with clams. This is one of those stories you hear all of your life as you grow up, but you just can't quite decide whether you want to allow yourself to believe it -- largely because it's your father doing the telling. However, since my mother recently corroborated it, it has been entered into the history of Upham Manor as fact. (I shall recount here my father's version of the tale, as it carries with it more action, drama, and impending litigation.)

It happened that on a certain day, some forty-odd years ago, my father arrived at Upham Manor with two precious parcels upon his person: Firstly, a diamond engagement ring he wished to bestow upon my mother; and secondly (and of only slightly less importance) a large bag of steamers he purposed to impart to Nana as a gift.

He entered the kitchen of Upham Manor where he found my mother and her young nephew. He gave the boy the bag of clams and said, "Here, take these into the parlor and give them to your Nana. She will be very excited to have them." The lad, my cousin, promptly ambled off with the bag of steamers as directed. My father, being then left alone with my mother, went to bended knee and romantically requested my mother's hand in marriage. Delighted, she accepted the proposal, and the two held fast in the fond embrace of a kiss.

It was at this point Nana entered the kitchen, bag of clams in hand. Seeing her youngest daughter daring to kiss this man in her own kitchen, she drew the bag of clams back and brought them down heavily upon the head of my father. My father, being rendered incapacitated for a moment, fell to the floor, a large knot welling on his head.

My mother, however, still with the glee of a young lass who has accepted a proposal of marriage, cried out to my grandmother, "Ma! Look! He asked me to marry him!" Nana, then seeing clearly the diamond upon my mother's finger, was over come with joy at this event. She hugged my mother and celebrated with her through tears of joy. My father also in tears, albeit not of joy, remained prostrate upon the floor as my mother and grandmother, in Italian tradition, poured cordials and toasted the occasion.

As I grew up, any time Nana had gotten the better of my Dad, I can remember him telling Nana that the court case was going to come up one of these days and that one day he'd have his revenge. (The wheels of justice move very, very slow.)

And thus is the telling of the history of Upham Manor. If you should ever visit , you might find, sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen a small bottle of liquid labelled "Clam Repellent".

One can never be too careful.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tales from the Chat Logs

Math Guy: For reasons that I will not go into, I was reviewing the CDC's advice on what to do in the event of a radiation emergency. I was shocked to find that you were never told to get a crowbar so that you will be ready for the zombies that always result from such an accident. That's quite an oversight.

Math Guy: Also, when you beat a zombie in the head with a crowbar, why does it always sound like you are punching a pillow?

Math Guy: Just a thought to start your day

Gleno: Zombies. Expect them.

Math Guy: Don't waste ammo on them. Crowbars are always your best bet

Gleno: Correct, because -

Gleno: when have you ever seen just one zombie??

Math Guy: Pairs...always in pairs

Math Guy: They are dead, but social

Gleno: Gregarious ghouls.

Math Guy: They are not much with conversation, but they always bring great nachos

Gleno: You can always count on a zombie to be the designated driver.

Math Guy: They are loyal. They will follow you anywhere. However, they are NOT good swim buddies.

Gleno: Zombies will listen quietly to your opinion.

Math Guy: They do not judge. You're right there

Gleno: Zombies do not have a short temper. When was the last time you saw a zombie get upset?

Math Guy: They are not a drain on society either. No healthcare needs. They neither eat or drink (except blood). They never speeak out of turn.

Gleno: You know that's a very good point. I've never been interrupted by a zombie.

Math Guy: Granted, all they do is shuffle around and moan, but how is that different from an 80 year old Chinese man?

Gleno: They are different in that zombies, as they shuffle around, do not have their hands clasped behind their back.

Math Guy: You have a real gift for observation

Gleno: Zombies also tend toward not wearing hats.

Math Guy: Zombies never seem to even imply that they may be enjoying themselves while shuffling

Gleno: Zombies never take the last piece of pie.

Math Guy: They may eat the dog, but the pie is left on the table right where you left it

Gleno: [nods sagely]

Math Guy: I have never seen a zombie that likes the Yankees

Math Guy: Or the Canadiens

Math Guy: Or the Cowboys

Gleno: I really like that about zombies.

Math Guy: Or the Lakers

Gleno: That's major points in my book.

Math Guy: The pie thing is important to me

Math Guy: I like pie

Gleno: Oh, totally.

Gleno: How can you not like pie?

Math Guy: [shrugs]

Math Guy: A zombie enver tries to steal your girl (for romantic reasons)

Gleno: You can trust a zombie with money.

Gleno: "Dude, this is my last fiver. Please hold onto this for me? Don't spend it."

Math Guy: A zombie will hold your kite all day.

Gleno: Crowbars. Definitely the way to go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One World Scam

Watch this recent video and read this brief article from the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do No Harm

This is a great conversation that has spilled over from the comments in my last post. I'd like to try to address as many of the points raised there as I can, but I'll say from the outset that I don't claim to know what the best answer is and I don't claim to even know for sure what I think we as a country should do. So... With my lack of qualifications firmly established, let me begin to make policy.

CC said that it would be preferable for everyone to be in the system (a public option) because that way, healthy and sick, young and old, each would balance out the other thereby making the cost of the insurance more affordable to all. "[That's] what makes an insurance pool work." Exactly right, you need the one to off-set the other. However, the coersive nature of government (id est, government's power to force compliance) makes it dubious insurer. If I can force you to pay for my services, I've nullified the very foundation of a free-market. Where is my incentive to keep my prices low? How long before the public option becomes onerous and used only by those who are sick or cannot afford other options?

I think it's useful to understand the purpose and definition of insurance. I spent some time in the financial sector (I was licensed to sell both securities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and yes, health insurance.) In the definition of "insurance" is the phrase "the transfer of risk." In other words, you the Insured tranfer the risk of your death, auto accident, or medical problem to the Insurer. We can debate the purpose and function of government all day, but I do not think any of us would be particularly comfortable with the notion of tranferring the risk of an entire population's health onto the federal government. That's not a function of government. That's why we have Insurance Companies.

CC zeroes in on a major priority of any health insurance overhaul: cutting costs. I concur, advertising of pharmaceuticals is a problem. It artificially drives up costs. I will add to this with another commonly mentioned cost -- malpractice insurance. This must, must, must be reduced and drastically. There needs to be limits on the awards that plaintiffs receive in court in situations where criminal negligence is not involved. If a doctor misdiagnoses your condition, and has done due diligence, it's unfortunate, but it's reality. Americans need to accept that medicine is not a simple and exact science. The human body is far more complex than a PC, yet no one expects the Geek Squad to buy you a new house if they fail to retrieve your data from a crashed hard disk.

Another point I think needs to be made here in regards to this sense of "entitlement" that I see in Americans. There is a disdain for the fact that rich people can afford better care than can poor people. Americans look at this and immediately say, "That's not fair. Everyone has a right to equal healthcare.

They do? Says who? Where is this written? Under which philosophy of ethics is this implied? As an American, you and I have equal opportunity to be as rich or as healthy as our own individual talents and abilities allow. If you have more money than me, why shouldn't you be allowed to use your lawfully obtained resources to benefit the lives of you and your family? If I do not have the same resources, how is it justified that others be forced to pay for my care? I do not understand this thinking. It's un-American and it's unrealistic. It is that sense of entitlement that has driven our government and our society toward economic unsustainability.

AsterixChaos suggests that costs can be cut by simply cutting off care to those who are beyond helping. Well, I can see the reasoning behind this point, but I do not see it as a major change in our current system. I do not believe that there are masses of doomed people who are artificially being kept alive against their will. In this country, when you say, "That's enough," then that's when your care ends. The only time the state can intercede is when its determined that you're unable to make that choice yourself. And, despite what we may see anecdotally in the news, those cases do not make up much of the overall costs of healthcare.

CC makes a great counter argument, one I agree with, that if we allow our society to become sickly, then we put our country at risk and we become a burden upon ourselves. Well said, CC. In this sense, yes, I see the Federal Government as having a stake in this argument and an interest in promoting "the general welfare." (This, however, is not the case right now, but if it were, certainly the government should act.) Moreover, I believe strongly that the morals and ethics of our country do not allow this policy to be employed. What benefit is there to being a member of a society that denies care to those in need if they have the resources to obtain the care? Beyond this, I believe there should be some nominal "safety net" to care for those who lack these resources.

OK, so let me get to the heart of the matter: What should we do?

Again, the caveat holds true that I mentioned before. I don't claim to know for sure what to do. However, I think each of these points need to be a part of the solution to this pressing problem.

First, costs must come down. Malpractice insurance, advertising of pharmaceuticals, jury awards, outrageous and inequitable hospital charges against different types of patients (depending upon the insurance they carry) and other costs must be examined and addressed. And lowered.

Second, (for those who like Federal Government intervention) Americans need to be taught and "socially engineered" to understand that healthcare starts and ends with prevention. No, you don't get to have a heart transplant if you've spent your life at McDonalds and you weigh 400 pounds. No, you don't get a new liver, Mr. Mantle, if you've spent your life drinking like a fish. If the government wants to intercede in this situation, let's spend money on physical education and getting people healthy. THAT would be a legitimate govnerment interest. Paying for people's problems after the fact is a poor social program that has no end to it. Let's start with this and see how we do before we start re-defining our Constitution and throwing HUGE gobs of money at the problem. Also, let's stop perpetuating the myth that the government will bail you out when you've soiled yourself. God help this generation of Americans.

Third, rather than pumping this mess up to the Federal Government, let's push it down to the communities where we can have some control and some accountability over it. Lets fund and staff local clinics in our towns to intercept the small problems rather than overwhelm our hospital emergency rooms with people who need naught more than an aspirin and a Kleenex. When I smashed my pinky finger with a 4lb hammer as a 17 year old, I went to the local town clinic. A doctor gave me a prescription for a pain killer and stitched up the wounds. I didn't need an ambulance ride and an emergency room visit at the hospital that would have cost ten times as much and would have taken ten times longer to see a doctor. Our baby Benjamin had trouble breathing recently in the middle of the night and we took him to the hospital at 2am. SIX HOURS LATER they finally had a doctor see him. What the hell is that?! If I have to pay another tax, I'd rather it stayed in my town and bought me a local clinic that can care for the needy and provide routine medical procedures (flu shots, bandaging, burns, cuts, etc.) Having trouble paying for it? How about a "Peace Corps" like program that enlists new doctors to serve in such clinics in return for some loan forgiveness?

Fourth, let's listen to our Insurance Companies. Let's see what they can tell us about why costs are so high. They're the ones paying the bills, perhaps they might have something to add to this conversation? (Ya think?) Before I'm going to listen to Sen. Frank Lee Blowhard, the junior senator from Idaho, I'd like to hear what the professionals have to say.

In short, there are a lot more and better ways to fix this mess than for the Federal Government to usurp and entire industry with socialism. Why don't we try a few before we start re-defining the U.S. Constitution?

Your thoughts?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Get That Constitution Out of My Face

In these statements it's clearly demonstrated that the Constitution is viewed as an obstacle to the goals of many liberals, and not as a revered document of life and law that should be revered.

This comes from the Patriot Post newsletter, dated October 23rd, 2009.

~~~~~~ Where, in your opinion, does the Constitution give specific authority for Congress to give an individual mandate for health insurance?

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D - VT): We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority? I'm asking-

Leahy: Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there's no question there's authority, nobody questions that.

The interviewer persisted, however, and again asked the question. Leahy dodged, saying, "Where do we have the authority to set speed limits on an interstate highway? The federal government does that on federal highways." He then walked away.

So to get this straight, Leahy defended Congress' unconstitutional attempt to take over one sixth of the U.S. economy by citing another unconstitutional law that was justly repealed 14 years ago.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) answered the question by saying, "Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect [a mandate that individuals must buy health insurance]. The end that we're trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility."

On the contrary, in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a mandate forcing Americans to buy insurance would be an "unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States."

According to Hoyer and his accomplices, however, the General Welfare Clause in the Constitution empowers Congress not only to "promote the general Welfare," but to provide it, demand it and enforce it.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the worst offender. "Madam Speaker," asked, "where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Her brief reply spoke volumes about the Left's contempt for the Constitution and the Rule of Law: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" She then ignored the question and moved on to the next one. Her spokesman later added, "You can put this on the record: That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."


Once again, we find the unbridled, inexcusable arrogance of the Leftinitza. What's next? A proclamation that "resistance is futile; you will be assimilated"?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Dream

Clinging tightly to sweaty skin
This subconsious tensile veil
Entangles me
Suffocates, asphixiates
Tugging upon my tumbling body
As I struggle to tear its transparent pale.

Images undulate with obfuscated forms
Over and under in the obscure
And twilight world
Within which I am wound.
Ocean waves, falling, and faces - such fears
Desire, conspire, to hold me secure.

I gasp and stretch to escape the grasp
Of the morbid forms that hold me fast
Miring me
In the unconscious solitude of sleep.
I tossle and turn trying to pierce the shroud
Under which I lie soaked in sweats of the past.

My mournful cry is muffled and muted.
Silence, the sole sound of screaming
A voice?
Can it be? Is this far-off call is seeking me?
What is real? Is not this veil?
And now a hand! --
"My Love, you were only dreaming."


Monday, October 19, 2009

Memo: Layoffs


As the CEO of this organization, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama is our President and that our taxes and government fees will increase in a BIG way. To compensate for these increases, our prices would have to increase by about 10%. But since we cannot increase our prices right now due to the dismal state of the economy, we will have to lay off sixty of our employees instead.

This has really been bothering me, since I believe we are family here and I didn't know how to choose who would have to go. So, this is what I did. I walked through our parking lots and found sixty 'Obama' bumper stickers on our employees' cars and have decided these folks will be the ones to let go. I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem. They voted for change, I gave it to them.

I will see the rest of you at the annual company picnic.

- The Boss

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Construction Site

This was just plain awesomesauce and I'm feeling like giddy dad. I'm not sure when a baby is expected to begin building towers with blocks -- heaven knows Benjamin has been knocking towers down since he was old enough to laugh at me -- but this afternoon, Janet was able to catch him on film for the first time building something.

I've seen him put two blocks on top of one another, but this goes much further than that. According to eyewitness accounts (his mom), Ben spent close to six minutes meticulously trying to build a tower out of seven wooden blocks. I'm biased, I know, but that strikes me as a long time and a good number of blocks for a 14 month old. He started over near the fire place placing them one on top of the other, only to see them spill over. He moved to where they landed and started again, repeating this process of trying and failing again and again until he had moved halfway across the parlor. Then, at long last, under the bay window, he finally succeeded in getting all seven blocks to stack. This success culminates, as you can see in the video, with him then attempting to pick up the entire tower, assumedly to move it back to where he began his efforts.

'Jammin, you are just too cute, and Da-Da loves you very much!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Life is that thing that keeps happening until it stops.

I'm hoping that after I die, someone will find that quote and I'll be considered some sort of metaphysical genius. Books will be written about me, philosophers will argue about my impact upon Western thinking, and high school Lit Crit students will have to write research papers on my life and blogs. It could happen. It's about as likely as someone being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Platitudes and Good Intentions, but it could happen.

This afternoon has been shrithing* by in aloof silence, taking little note of anything that might impede its progress toward evening. Between bursts of real work, I've been alternatively pondering something to blog about and wasting said subjects in posts and IMs to various people. If I had written here everything I've written today in other Internet locales, my blog would be quite full and you'd be reading something other than me writing about writing.

One subject that came up earlier was my response to Recessionista Genie's recent blog about a seeming paradox between Christianity and Political Conservatism. An interesting topic, for certain, but a debate that, I feel, ignores important foundational assumptions. This is an important step in analyzing any opinion or topic of logic: Check your assumptions. When something doesn't make sense or doesn't seem to come to a logical conclusion, check your assumptions. Sometimes I am amazed by just how much I take for granted in a debate. Take a look at Genie's "Magic Nutshell"** and the recent conversation taking place. I love Genie's writing and her opinions. Sometimes we even agree.

From the Wishful Thinking Department
Janet and I were were out and about on Columbus Day with Benjamin. We went pumpkin picking with him and had a great little family time. We had lunch with Janet's father and afterwards, we visited her mom's grave. On the way home, we chanced upon a rather nice house for sale and stopped to write down the realtor information. It's a very large five bedroom house on just over a half an acre with a pool and a barn that just screams "Mead Hall". The house is a two family that is currently being used as a single family; however, our intention would be to have Janet's father join us, were we to find ourselves as the new owners.

We shall see. I'm still very much in love with being the Lord of Upham Manor and it will take quite a lot to unseat me from our current estate.

That's about it for now. I hope to be more diligent in my blogging in the next few days. I'd like to put together another piece of fiction at some point too. I'm sure you're all anxious too read about the next biohazardous disaster that might befall me here in the lab. If you missed out the last outbreak we had here of zombieism, you might want to go back into the archives and read about it. One never knows when such much strike again, particularly with Halloween around the corner.

* Good word. Use it.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Imported Canadian

I'm woefully behind in posts for the last few weeks, but it's certainly not been for a lack of stuff to talk about. Rather, quite the opposite is true. For instance, as anticipated, last weekend, my good friend Stephanie commenced a long sojourn from her native Canada (a dark and foreboding place) and ventured down to Boston to visit me.

I do not envy her the trip down as she arrived by bus. I've taken my share of overland bus trips and I can think of a good number of preferable ways to travel. Yet, she braved the hassles and highways and was safely delivered to me in Boston-town early Friday morning. I met her at the station and our tour of the Center of the Universe began.

Boston is one of those wonderful places where you are best served if you travel by foot. Thus we began our path in the financial district and made our way through Downtown Crossing and on up to Boston Commons. There I pointed out the Freedom Trail, that red-bricked line that runs through the streets of Boston, passing the most historic sites and points of interest.

Our first stop, one that began to feel as if it would last all day, was the cemetery called the Old Granary Burial Ground. There, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, the parents of Benjamin Franklin, and Mary "Mother Goose" Vertigoose are all buried. It's a lovely old burial ground that boasts stones that are both old and interesting. Our slow walk through the grounds set the stage for the wonderful and relaxing day ahead.

From the cemetery, we followed Tremont Street down toward Quincy Market. Now, for those of you from anywhere other than Boston, that might be mistaken for "Kwinssy Market". But take note. The proper and correct name is "Kwinzy Mahket". There we toured Faneuil Hall and the brick courtyard that is the whole of Quincy Market.

Inside, we had the good fortune to come across Eric Hanson, a Ranger with the Parks Service who kindly narrated for us the origins and history of Faneuil Hall. Stephanie seemed held in rapt attention as she politely listened to Eric recount his tales of patriotic dissension. It was about halfway through his monologue when, our young Canadian friend's sarcasm got the best of her and she began to poke in jest at my beloved Boston. I won't go into details, but it involves a certain very old eagle and an lack of housekeeping. But, suffice to say, before Stephanie comes to visit your city, do make sure you've properly dusted all of the historic statuary. (My mother would have been mortified.)

Later that day, Stephanie and I enjoyed a plate of raw oysters at the Union Oyster House, purportedly the oldest continually operating restaurant in North America. We ate a the same curved bar that Samuel Adams sat before in eating shellfish.

Moving onward through the market we made our way down towards the North End, then looped back around up Beacon Hill, past the state house and through the brownstone homes designed by Charles Bullfinch. We steered clear of "Cheers" (ugh) both because she was unfamiliar with the TV show and I saddened by what has become of a once lovely little pub. It's more resembles a tacky gift shop now than it does a pub. They still know your name in there, but only if your name is "Visa" or "MasterCard."

On Saturday, we visited the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. It was Stephanie's first Ren Faire and she was once again as brave as she is lovely. She donned a swashbuckling pirate costume and even had the courage to enter in full-contact combat with a trained swordsman. Huzzah, Stephanie! You made me proud!

Sunday was more relaxing. Accompanied by Janet and little Benjamin, we had a nice meal at the No Name Restaurant on the pier and which was followed by a relaxing evening at home watching Firefly. Stephanie's choice. (I told you she was cool.)
Steph, I hope you had a good time and maybe we can have you back again some day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

News & Notes

Upham Manor is soon to be host to a visiting envoy from the sovereign state of Canada. Little is known about this far off and exotic place, other than that it is largely covered by ice and government run health care.

Our good friend Jaeline will be visiting the Manor, no doubt sent here by the Canadian Emperor (or whatever sort of ruler they have there), on a journey of peace and to hopefully open dialog between our two peoples. Prior to this diplomatic mission, Jaeline had been working with the natives of Quebec, learning their primative language, and teaching them the Queen's English. This has been quite a daunting task, one which puts her life in harm's way every day.

While in Boston, Jaeline will be exposed to local customs such as eating, drinking, more eating, and jousting. The current schedule calls for a site-seeing in Boston on Friday, a trip down to the Connecticut Renaissance Festival on Saturday, and Apple Picking & Wine Tasting on Sunday.

It is our hope that this meeting will open a new age of peace between our two countries.

Here is the only map of the mysterious land of Canada that I could find that had more information than simply, "Here there Be Monsters".


Little Master Benjamin continues to grow and explore his world. His latest adventures have been been forays into the cabinets and drawers of the kitchen. Armed with only a stethescope, a Phillips screwdriver, and a hacksaw, he has proven to be able to bypass the drawer security and pillage the contents.

He seems particularly interested in baking equipment. Who knows? Perhaps he may one day bake award winning cakes or help break people out of prison.


Work at the laboratory continues to be very positive. I have recently unveiled a number of new classes for personnel here and they have been well received. It's quite amazing how much an enjoyable job can affect one's life. Janet has seen me in both the high mountains and the low valleys of employment and she can attest to how completely this one aspect of life can affect my attitude and outlook on life. I'm very blessed to be where I am and doing what I do -- and I know it. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for where I am.


That's all for now. There haven't been many pressing matters of late to bring forth to this forum. I continue to despise Obama and all things quasi-socialist, I'm disturbed by high prices, and I feel strong contempt for the failures of the GOP. But for a time, at least, politics is not a weight I care to carry around. I'm enjoying the beautiful autumn we're having. If the New England Patriots can figure out how to motivate their offensive line and perhaps sign a few linebackers, all should be well with the world, at least for a while.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Free

Peaches come from a can.
They were put there by a man
In a factory downtown.
And if I had my little way
I'd eat peaches every day
Sun-soaking bulges in the shade.

So goes the song Peaches by the Presidents. Here on Upham Manor, however, our peaches don't come from a can. They are home grown in our own orchard. (OK, so maybe it isn't an "orchard" so much as it is a single tree, but it's mine and I love it.) I love peaches. I think they're the perfect fruit. You don't have to peel them, skin them, or spit out seeds. And these are, without a doubt, absolutely the most delicious, juicy, sweet sun-soaked bulges you've ever tasted. I'm not exaggerating. These suckers are absolutely amazing. I'll give you a dollar if you try one and don't agree they're the best you've ever tasted.

Now, being that they are grown right here on my property, they are a bit more "real" than what you might be used to. That is to say, they are not flawless, pink and yellow orbs that you'd likely find on the shelves of a market. There are little brown speckles (made by rain spots I am told), and it's not at all uncommon for their to be scars and breaks in the skin. My peaches have suffered from splitting. I've tried a number of things to fix this, but I suspect it comes from rapid growth. The skin on top tends to split open, sort of like you'd see on a tomato. It heals over, but it leaves a grey scar on the fruit. Because of this, a large portion of my crop tends to look less than appealing to most people's spoiled eye.

So, if you come over, I'll likely serve them cut up in a bowl for you to eat like tiny slices of cantelope, with all the imperfections carefully skinned away. Or, perhaps after a feast, I'll serve you half a peach, peeled and soaking in a glass red wine. If you've never tried that little Italian secret, you've not lived.

So come by the Manor this week. The peaches have all been picked and are preparing to be eaten and I can guarantee you that you won't be disappointed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What Would You Do?

Part I: 11:30AM

This morning, on the way in to work I was listening to a New Hampshire radio station's morning show hosted by three guys. One of the guys was recounting a story he had read in an email from a listener. I'd like to present an abbreviated form of the story, from memory, to you all and invite you to answer some "What would you do?" questions in your comments.

The listener who had written the email explains that his mother owns a house that was built in the 1700s. One day, a sink hole opened up in the backyard. The whole grew to three feet wide and four feet deep. The woman called her son over to investigate.

The man examined the hole and ultimately got down inside and started to dig a bit. In the hole he found a wooden box. As he dug a bit more, the box began to take a rectangular shape. He continued digging and eventually was able to see that the wooden box was about two and a half feet wide. Though he hadn't succeeded in exposing the entire length, he could see the box was a rectangular in shape, at least five feet long.

OK, now stop. At this point in the story, jot down what you're thinking and what you would do about it. What do you think you might have? Do you call anyone? Do you continue digging? What if this is a coffin, what would you ultimately do about it? Would you report it? Should you report it? Would you exhume the remains and sell them on Ebay? Would you check for valuables?

I'm going to give the conclusion of the story in an edit to this post later today.

[Part II: 6:15pm]
The man continued digging until he had fully exposed the box. One one end, he found a pipe leading into the box. It turns out, the box was actually nothing but an old drywell. No body. No treasure. The story itself ends there. But the question of "what if?" lingers. I'd love to read your comments.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

All Hype Aside, Let's Check the Facts

It would be unseemly of me, a conservative and a gentleman, to criticize the dead. Thus, in the aftermath of the death of Edward "Teddy" Kennedy (22 Feb 1921 - 25 Aug 2009) I will refrain from any editorial and simply state facts and facts only. I will not opine. I will not interject subjective comment.

Perhaps this will provide some very small counterweight to the effusive torrent of leftmedia veneration of the late Sen. Kennedy.

The following Facts come from the Patriot Post.

Kennedy's 47 years as a senator made him the third-longest serving senator in the US Senate, second only to Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

Edward Kennedy was born into great wealth, privilege, and political influence, the fourth son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

He never worked a day in his life in a private-sector job.

He held an established reputation as a serial womanizer in college.

Ted was kicked out of Harvard for cheating. A few years later, he was allowed to return to complete his undergraduate degree.

Ted was a life-long abuser of alcohol. [Incidentally, on the first cruise my wife and I took to the Caribbean, the captain of a vessel we were aboard told us a story of how a drunken Ted Kennedy nearly drove a speed boat into the side of his vessel and did succeed in swamping his boat and passengers with an enormous wave as he sped by. Fact.]

On the evening of July 18, 1969, a drunken Kennedy left a party with Mary Jo Kopechne, an attractive 28 year old intern (pictured above). Kennedy lost control of his car on a one lane bridge and the car landed upside down in the water. Kennedy freed himself from the vehicle and, after resting by the water's edge, walked back to the party. There, one of his political assistants took him back to his hotel. Kopechne remained trapped in an air pocket inside the overturned car. Nine hours later, after sobering up and conferring with political advisors and lawyers, Kennedy called authorities to report the incident. By that time, Kopechne's body had already been discovered.

With the help of his father Joe's connections, Kennedy was charged only with leaving the scene of an accident. In his testimony, Kennedy stated, "I almost tossed and turned. ... I had not given up hope all night that, by some miracle, Mary Jo would have escaped from the car." Kennedy was given a two month jail sentence, which, in fact, was suspended. He never served a day in jail for the crime.

Claiming that the charges of "immoral conduct and drunk driving" were false, Kennedy was re-elected to his second term in the Senate by a landslide 62% of the vote. [I'm still managing to bite my tongue and refrain from comment.]

When the scandal broke that President Bill Clinton had lied under oath about his sexual liaison with a Monica Lewinsky, Kennedy firmly backed the president.

President Clinton awarded Kennedy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S. which goes to individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution" to the United States.

During Clinton's years as president, Kennedy stated: "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."

In 1987, Ronald Reagan's nomination of Samuel Alito to U.S. District Attorney, Kennedy's vote was amongst the Senates unanimous consent. Once again, when Alito was nominated for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990, he again received Kennedy's vote and unanimous Senate approval. However, during Alito's Supreme Court nomination hearings, Kennedy attacked Alito's character and his record. [A very interesting reading of Kennedy's political motivations can be found here:]

I could go on (and on and on...) but I want to go home and, frankly, I'm looking forward to the remainder of my life without this man staining my voting ballots, and without having to give further thought to the many political and social debacles this man contributed to in the Commonwealth and the country.

One final word from the Patriot Post worth quoting: "A man who can't govern his own life should never be entrusted with the government of others."

Noah Webster said, "The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities. ... In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate -- look to his character."

That's a lesson the people of the Commonwealth have yet to learn.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Can't Do It... Wouldn't Be Prudent

[W]ith respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age...

-Thomas Jefferson (But what did he know?)


"Meanwhile, in Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they couldn't afford it. ... And yet their recession has gone away. Of the world's biggest economies, only the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can't compete with Obama's $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the planet. Actually, when I say 'to less effect,' that's not strictly true: Due to Obama, one of the least-indebted developed nations is now one of the most indebted -- and getting ever more so. We've become the third most debt-ridden country, after Japan and Italy. According to last month's IMF report, general government debt as a percentage of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year. Of course, the president retains his formidable political skills, artfully distracting attention from his stimulus debacle with his health care debacle. But there are diminishing returns to his serial thousand-page, trillion-dollar boondoggles. They may be too long for your representatives to bother reading before passing into law, but, whatever the intricacies of Section 417(a) xii on page 938, people are beginning to spot what all this stuff has in common: He's spending your future. And by 'future' I don't mean 2070, 2060, 2040, but the day after tomorrow."

--Columnist Mark Steyn

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And Now for Some Good News

Pictured here is the Norwegian Jewel, a 294 meter luxury vessel with a complement of 1,000 crew members and a capacity for 2,376 guests. In the month of November, three of these guests will be me, my wife Janet, and my son Benjamin.

I've wanted a nice holiday for some time now and at last we will be having one. This 7 day adventure will be leaving port in Miami and trapsing about the western Caribbean, stopping at a number of exotic destinations.

This will be my third cruise. The first was our honeymoon which was to Bermuda. Prior to the Big Day, I encouraged friends and family to join us on the cruise. Most people thought I was crazy asking for company on our honeymoon, but, it became obvious fairly quickly that it would have been very nice to have had some people we knew on the cruise. After all, it wasn't like we were going away to a private island -- we were on a boat with over 2,000 strangers. To have had a handful of them be people we knew would have made it much better. Since it was formal dining, we were compelled to sit with the same two families of strangers every night. It was nice enough, but it would have been much nicer to have been able to share and converse with friends.

The second cruise was far better. This time, we went with several families of my extended relatives. What a surpremely glorious time we all had. Each family, each person had the freedom to do what they wanted during the day. Then, during supper, we would reserve a table for 25 and share our stories and laughter over the events of the day. If you go are ever able to share such an opportunity with your friends and family, I adjure you to seize the chance. It was truly one of the most enjoyable times of my life.

This time, it will be the three of us plus two. Janet's father and aunt will be joining us. This will give us some extra friendly faces to share the time with and, as a bonus, someone to watch Benjamin for a little while to allow Janet and me to sneak away to be alone. Janet's aunt genuinely loves babysitting "Jammin". She's agreed to watch him as often as we need. I am very grateful for this and will no doubt take her up on it from time to time, but I also can't wait to spend some time in the pools and on the beaches with the little prince.

I leave this open invitation to anyone who reads this. Join us! This is a very affordable cruise. (If it wasn't, Janet and I wouldn't be going on it.) There is more than enough room for anyone who would like to take some time before Thanksgiving to enjoy the sun and the surf before the snow settles in on us. I would love to have anyone and everyone join us. We have room for up to 2,370 of our closest friends and family.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hellth Insurance

I can't bring myself to write about this topic. As I begin to compile my thoughts, I find it harder and harder to hold onto a keyboard and mouse because my hands just naturally want to reach for my musket.

The Obamaniacs are calling anyone who disagrees with their opinions "unpatriotic" and "racist." The private citizens who show up at these ridiculous town hall meetings and voice their opposition to government take over of their healthcare are marginalized and accused of being planted there to create a commotion.

The simple facts of the matter are that the Democratic Party (and the untold number of Socialists who populate it) know that their time is short and they have to ram their agenda down our throats as fast as they can before we oust them in the next election.

For the which, by the way, let me take just a moment to parenthetically thank George Bush for the disasterous and near complete failure in his presidency that paved the way for the knee-jerk election that is on the verge of costing us our freedom.

But as I was saying, I just don't have the words to express the outrage that comes over me when I think about the sword that is currently hanging over our heads in the form of Obama's health care bill. Actually, I do have the words, but most of them are comprised of four letters and shouldn't be used in polite company.

Therefore, allow me to provide a few statement about Obama's health care plan that will no doubt be more insightful than what my own crude words could express:

Page After Page of Reasons to Hate Obamacare
• Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!
• Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!
• Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
• Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
• Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
• Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
• Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
And MUCH more...

Ronald Reagan's views on Socialized Medicine
(This was recorded in 1961 and is startlingly prescient.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do No Harm?

Recently, Barack Obama said:

First of all, nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I'm tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I've proposed, if you like your doctor you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody, you know?

So why are wise people so upset with his plan?

My commitment is to make sure that we have universal halthcare for all Americans by the end of my first term as resident. ... I would hope that we could set up a system that llows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There's going to be potentially some transition process.

Oh! Now it makes sense. He's lying!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Snorkeling in Boston

This past Saturday was the best beach day I've experienced in at least four years. In fact, the snorkeling down on Rexhame Beach in Marshfield was the best I've experienced since I took a cruise through the western Caribbean.

The water was crystal clear, the waves were surprisingly calm, and the water temperature was probably 60 degrees or better.

Along with two childhood friends of mine who came back from Pennsylvania to visit, we stayed in the water most of the day. We captured a number of crabs and even managed to snag a couple of small lobster by hand. You haven't seen speed until you've gone after lobsters in their own habitat. It's amazing how fast they can spin around and attack your outstretched hand. (Fortunately for my digits, I'm just a bit faster.)

I don't really consider myself one to have hobbies. I love video games; I get a lot of satisfaction working on the manor and the garden; and I enjoy antiques and oddities; but I have to say that if there was one thing I could do night and day without eating or sleeping, it would World of Warcraft. (If there were two things that I could do night and day, the second would be snorkeling.

It's a little like being in outer space; only, rather than feeling like a weightless astronaut out on a spacewalk, it's more like being the spaceship itself, sleekly moving through the infinite void.

It's something I can completely lose myself in. In fact, during our honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas, we very nearly didn't make it back to the ship before it sailed away because we lingered so long in the reefs.

What a great weekend.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Finally, Someone with Some Class

Last week, I posted a conversation I had with Chaos Jackal regarding the arrest of a Harvard professor by a Cambridge police officer investigating a break in. In the ensuing media battle that was waged, it was clear who the loser of the battle was:

Barak Obama.

With the completion of the "Beer Summit" at the White House (shown in picture above) it has finally become obvious who the winner of the battle was:

Police Officer Leon K. Lashley.

Officer Lashley, a black man, was called to the scene as back up during Professor Gates' arrest. His face was seen in the news in many photos of the incident. His unequivocal support of Officer Crowley was also aired by news sources in interviews with him.

What follows is the letter that Officer Lashely gave to Officer Crowley. I think you'll agree with me that Officer Lashely is the one man who has come out of this with his dignity intact. This is someone I can respect.

Dear Jim [Officer Crowley],

Would you be so kind as to mention the following to Mr. Gates and President Obama during your meeting with them:

One of the major problems stemming from the events of July 16 is that I, now known as 'the black Sergeant', have had my image plastered all over the Internet, television and newspapers. Subsequently, I have also become known, at least to some, as an 'Uncle Tom.'

I'm forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and collegue, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage.

Please convey my concerns to the President that Mr. Gates' actions may have caused grave and potentially irreparable harm to the struggle for racial harmony in this country and perhaps throughout the world.

In closing, I would simply like to ask that Mr. Gates deeply reflect on the events that have unfolded since July 16 and ask himself the following questions:

'What can I do to help heal the rift caused by some of my actions?; What responsibility do I bear for what occurred on July 16, 2009? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the damage done to the reputations of two respected Police Officers?'

Thank you in advance,
Your friend,

Leon K. Lashley

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Office Space

The AC was out in the office today. I'm sweltering. The humidity is so thick that there are puddles forming on the floor.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama Sticks Gates' Foot in His Mouth

The following exchange occurred in Yahoo Instant Messenger.


chaosjackal: If I were the cop, I'd sue the President. When a national leader calls an individual peace officer stupid, that's defamation of character on an epic scale.

Gleno Underhill: I'm honestly not sure where I stand on this one, but I think we'll see Obama is the going to be the one to make the apology here. Obama snatched defeat from the lack of jaws of any kind in this one. He shouldn't have opened his mouth.

chaosjackal: The police showed up with a complaint of a possible B&E, asked the individual for ID, and before they could explain why they were present, the guy got nasty with them. Where reason and patience should have won the day, it escalated, because of race.

Gleno Underhill: True. BUT... Let's play it slightly differently...

chaosjackal: Kk.

Gleno Underhill: You arrive home and find yourself locked out...

chaosjackal: Common. >.>

Gleno Underhill: You know your house so you know how to get in. You enter. Now, admitting the distrust we both have about the establishment these days, think about it: The cops show up and tell you to come outside...

Gleno Underhill: Do you say, "Certainly Mr. Officer, sir" or do you tell them to show you a warrant? Honestly, depending upon my mood, I could see myself doing either.

chaosjackal: I'd demand a warrant or probable cause.

Gleno Underhill: So there you go.

Gleno Underhill: And if the cop gets pissy, he could push the issue and arrest you (wrongly so, but arrest you nontheless).

chaosjackal: I wouldn't start screaming and such. I'd calmly demand identification and prob cause.

Gleno Underhill: Bottom line: If Gates had not acted like a jackass, there wouldn't have been a problem. He's no dummy. He knew that obviously someone had seen him breaking into his house. Instead of saying to himself, "Good, I'm glad people are looking out," he acted like an idiot to the cop. The cop, instead of just letting the guy burn himself out, or even simply arguing with him, arrested him. Dumb move. Why arrest someone for being a jerk in their own home? Walk away.

chaosjackal: And the President, also playing along the, "Oh, we people of color are so oppressed" immediately makes the leap to, "Oh, the cop is stupid." I don't think there's a soul in this whole thing that's completely right. Not the professor for not being reasonable, not the cops for letting passion get in the way of patience, not the Pres for opening his mouth, and not the MSM for even COVERING the story.

Gleno Underhill: This is going to prove to be politically painful for Obama. There's a battle between a cop and a professor. Who loses? The President.

chaosjackal: I concur.

Gleno Underhill: The black guy obviously had a chip on his shoulder. But the cop shouldn't have arrested him. Short of the guy punching him in the mouth, he should have just let him rant.
chaosjackal: Well... did he arrest Gates before or after establishing his identification?

Gleno Underhill: After. The cop asked for ID. Gates initially refused and demanded to see ID from the cop. A short time after, Gates produced two forms of ID.

Gleno Underhill: I've broken into my house numerous times. After I do so, I always expect to hear sirens.

chaosjackal: Okay, yeah. Being belligerent in one's own house is a first amendment thing.

Gleno Underhill: There is no law against being an SOB.

chaosjackal: Newp.

Gleno Underhill: I'm glad. I'd be getting life. :-P

chaosjackal: Haha! Same here.