Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ain't it the truth

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Looks like winter ...

I hear some parts of the country are getting less snow than usual. Not here. It looks pretty much like last February already, and last year the snow didn't really start coming bigtime until January.

If I stop posting for a while, grab a shovel and come looking for me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ending traffic congestion with GPS tracking and confiscation of wealth

"New global positioning system technology and congestion pricing can reduce traffic jams. In mid-January, 10,000 transportation professionals, including people from the incoming Obama administration, will convene in Washington D.C. at meetings of the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Science Foundation, to discuss solutions ...

"London’s system of road pricing, with cars charged $16 to enter the center, is held up as a model for other cities. But its main flaw is that drivers pay flat fees, and are not charged by miles driven or by routes taken.

"A better scheme would be to have drivers pay per mile, with higher charges on more heavily-used streets and in periods of heaviest congestion ...

"Here’s how this could work. GPS devices could be given to drivers who choose to participate—one per car—and drivers pay as easily as they are now paying for cell phones or E-ZPass tolls. Participating motorists could be exempt from license-renewal fees, but would pay road charges instead, charges that could vary by type of road used and time of day. Driving in rush hour along a busy road would cost more than driving on a little-used road late at night."
I could not make this up. Once again the increased surveillance and higher taxes are sugar-coated as solutions to a common problem: Few people enjoy sitting in traffic jams. And oh, yes, it's a "voluntary" system for "drivers who choose to participate," but there will be a costly penalty for "choosing" not to participate.

Will most folks trade in their freedom and their cash for the promise of less-congested roads and highways? Maybe. Freedom is so inconvenient.

Read Big Brother's argument.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Carol of the Firefly

"Because Christmas ain't Christmas without Firefly."


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa strikes a blow for freedom

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A friend recommended this one; Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James, and Casey Affleck was nominated for the supporting-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Robert Ford, the young man who became part of the James gang and ultimately betrayed the famous outlaw.

It's a beautifully filmed piece (it also got a nomination for best cinematography), and the performances of Pitt and Affleck, among others, are indeed worthy. Ultimately, though, I didn't care about the characters, the kiss of death in a movie that runs 2 hours, 39 minutes.

Part of the problem is the leisurely pace of the movie. As an old radio guy, I eventually became distracted by the dead air that you could drive semitrucks through. Pitt especially, but all of the actors, did not carry on conversations. One would speak, and the other would listen, allow the words to sink in, mull what would be the best way to respond (or dart their eyes about in fear of saying anything) and then finally, finally, finally say something. Then the other would listen, allow the words to sink in, etc. After a while it was no longer the outlaw Jesse James on screen, or the coward Robert Ford — it was The Oscar-wannabe Actor Brad Pitt and The Oscar-nominated Actor Casey Affleck showing off their chops.

A good editor could probably knock this puppy under 2 hours without breaking a sweat.

I didn't hate The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford; they are compelling performances and a cracking good story, Grommit. Great music and a cool cameo by Nick Cave. Soaringly beautiful landscapes. I just didn't need them to take almost three hours to tell the story.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Dependent on foreign oil

Part of the deal in anointing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was for her husband to reveal the donors to his foundation.

The New York Times reports:
Saudi Arabia alone gave to the foundation $10 million to $25 million, as did government aid agencies in Australia and the Dominican Republic. Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan each gave more than $1 million. So did the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation, both based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Friends of Saudi Arabia, founded by a Saudi prince.
This explains a great deal why, even though politicos over the years have declared the nation's energy goals include "reducing our dependence on foreign oil," the strategies never seem to include allowing companies to drill on land within the U.S. of A.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

You tell them 'stay' and they just don't listen

One of the guys brought his new puppy into work the other day, a German shepherd. Cute little thing. Before I realized it I was on the office floor petting him and saying hello.

Shopping for Christmas presents the other day, I came face-to-face with a little stuffed German shepherd puppy toy and my heart melted.

And this morning, going through my unplayed podcast queue, I found the "D-Day" episode of Len TV over at Jawbone. It's about the day Len and Nora picked up a puppy for their daughter's birthday. It's a wheaten terrier, not a German shepherd, but still my mind flashed back to the helpless little ball of fur who loved to snuggle on my chest and never stopped trying to do that when he grew to 55-60 pounds.

How is it possible, three years after my beloved Tucker left this plane of existence, that from time to time, he still breaks my heart? That darn dog. I really miss him sometimes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Battle of the Greetings

I stopped by the store to do some Christmas shopping — or was I just picking up kitty litter? — when I witnessed the face-off. It was like watching the climax of a good old clichéd western.

At the front entrance a cute young woman with a big smile was herding a handful of elementary school-aged kids. She had a little name tag that identified her as a local public school teacher. (I hesitate to mention this because the following will reinforce some stereotypes, but what the heck.) They were gathered about the ubiquitous Salvation Army kettle.

The young teacher greeted shoppers with a bright, "Happy Holidays!"

A middle-aged woman leaving the store responded with a bright smile of her own and a firm, "Merry Christmas!" and pushed a dollar bill into the little X-shaped slot in the top of the kettle.

"Thank yoooouuuu!" several children said in unison.

"Happy Holidays!!" said their teacher, a little more brightly and emphatically.

A dark look flickered ever so briefly over the face of the other woman, but she found her smile again and, as she left the store, she said cheerfully and with just a tinge of edge in her voice, "Merry Christmas!!"

I must say (as a practicing Christian type person) I find the Battle of the Greetings trivial and a bit perplexing. Whoever first raised the issue of "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" clearly was searching for a way to polarize people during what is otherwise a time of peace and good will towards each other.

After all, the purpose of both expressions is to wish the other person happiness and even merriment. That's a good thing, right?

This season and throughout the year, I thank you for reading this and wish you all the happiness and joy you can muster this Christmas (or whatever holiday you observe) season.

And to all a good night.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The more things change

I was browsing the antique store and picked up a deal on a 1910 copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune, and this may come as a shock, but the lead story had to do with the day's testimony in the bribery trial of the Illinois state minority leader, who was caught giving out bribes to lawmakers in exchange for their votes for William Lorimer for Senate. (It was not until 1913 that the 17th Amendment deprived legislators of the duty of electing senators and turned that responsibility over to us teeming masses.)

"What is it about Chicago and Illinois?" is the question heard most often in the days since Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for trying to sell Barack Obama's open Senate seat. My flaky old yellowed newspaper is more evidence that this level of political corruption is nothing new in the Windy City. What is it, three of the last six governors have been charged with crimes, including the last two?

But ...

They got caught. They were arrested.

Does anyone believe Illinois is the only place where jaded politicians exert their power in desired directions for a fee? What if Illinois is the only place honest enough to arrest these jokers?

Ha, ha. You thought I was serious. Good one, eh?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Klaatu barada omfg

I glean from the reviews of the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still that Klaatu has not come to warn us of the dangers to the universe if we continue to split atoms violently on top of each other. No, out-acting Al Gore in what may best be described as An Inconvenient Truth II, Keanu Reeves' alien arrives on Earth with big robot Gort to stop us from belching all those greenhouse gasses.


What's next? A new Fail-Safe with the president agonizing over whether to ban vehicles with internal combustion engines?

I don't think I'm going to waste my (relatively) valuable FRNs on this one.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The return of Uncle Warren?

Well, now, this looks interesting.

I may have to edit my "Mute-Ant Fellow Travelers" category, it seems.

In case anyone is wondering how this affects the plans to podcast my forthcoming novel, The Imaginary Revolution, let's say that project is in "rework" mode and has been made independent of Uncle Warren's Attic. No, don't worry, Warren and I aren't mad at each other, as those who know the situation understand full well. Or, at least, not any madder than usual.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sometimes there's just not much to say

I suppose I could write about how I've finished watching Jericho Season 1 and admit that I have a richer understanding of just how great Season 2 is.

I could make a fuss about how the State seems to bounce back and forth between administrations loaded with Bushian statists and those loaded with Clintonian statists — although JN's entreaty to take the attitude of "State? I don't see a state" seems the most sane.

Somewhere along the way I could mention that I was ready to stop watching Heroes altogether — what's with all the darkness and graphic violence? — until Hiro singlehandedly rescued the show by visiting a comic book shop.

And I could write about how writing "refuse to be afraid" feels especially like spitting into the wind lately with the atmosphere of fear that so many folks are hellbent to generate in this world in recent weeks.

Speaking of which, I could write with some satisfaction that Netflix and Janus Films have made available a much, much improved translation of Akira Kurosawa's I Live in Fear (also known as Record of a Living Being) that erased my unhappiness with the unwatchable previous version and made this extremely potent film accessible to my non-Japanese-speaking self at last.

But I don't have much to say beyond those opening lines.

I think what I would most like to do is shrug. And that a) is something one must plan much more seriously than I have planned to date; b) is something one doesn't announce.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

The State as speed bump

Now here is an interesting conversation over at Sunni's blog, as anarcho-libertarians discuss the questions that "given that we live in a world dominated by states, at what point does interacting with them 'cross the line' and become immoral? How is the line determined?"

My light-bulb-flash moment came as "galacticmonk" mused:
my evolution started with attraction to free markets & liberty. from there i became active, getting angry (reacting emotionally) at the constant barrage of noise that conflicted with my ideal (at the time) libertarian paradise.

soon i started to realize that the perpetual stream of things that go against my current understanding would eat away at my core. i had to re-evaluate what was important. and frankly the state ranked so far down the list that it became a non-factor.

as soon as living a meaningful life and finding joy in the day-to-day aspect of it became my reason for being here, the state was like a speed bump--annoying but something i really had no control over (unless i chose a different road of course).
So here's a guy, me, whose entire career has been in media/news, with news defined as observing and explaining the latest stuff that The State is doing. I'm all wrapped up in watching The State, and I hear that "living a meaningful life and finding joy in the day-to-day aspect of it" is probably best accomplished by not getting all wrapped up in watching The State. I know this instinctively, but haven't seen it verbalized quite this neatly for a while.

Should I seek a journalistic beat that doesn't involve itself so much in State News, or seek a completely different path that takes me out of my media/news comfort zone but into something a little more joyful because it does not expose me to The State every day? This is the question that's been driving me nuts for some time, in part because I haven't phrased the question so well before.

As for the answer ... Stay tuned. And remind me that I was talking to myself when I said "Stay tuned."

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