Sunday, December 30, 2007

My New Year's resolutions

1) Try out for the New Orleans Saints. They need a few good men in their defensive secondary, and I could fill in at either cornerback or free safety. Yeah, yeah, I know the NFL doesn't have open tryouts. But really, what are they afraid of? That I'll be bad?

2) Vote for Barack Obama in the Missouri primary and then, eventually, whatever Democrat wins the nomination. Because that's the only way that this country will even begin to start healing itself.

3) Further my progress toward eating more organic and home-cooked food. Which brings me to:

4) Don't go bankrupt. Making decisions to be healthy and environmentally conscientious can be expensive, even more so than eating junk and driving junk. This, of course, is a major part of why America is obese and coughing: everyday low prices! Speaking of which...

5) Stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Did that twice this year. Sorry.

6) Blog more and more furiously. With an election year coming, that shouldn't be too difficult. Also, I want to make more videos, as soon as I figure out what it is with my camera that adds 45 pounds to my face.

7) Stop being so hard on myself. Man, am I hard on myself! I could absolve myself of this problem if only I weren't such a FRUSTRATINGLY PERFECTIONIST PIECE OF CRAP!!! YOU SCUM! dROP AND GIVE ME 20! AND 20 MORE FOR THE TYPO IN THAT LAST SENTENCE!! GRARARARARAUGUGUGH!!

8) Lay the groundwork for a future New Year's resolution.

9) Turn 28. This one I think I can keep.

10) Of course, I'd be amiss without mentioning the one thing that everyone can get behind in this tumultuous time: washboard abs. Oh yeah.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coming soon, maybe...

I hope to write a review of the year 2007. But first I'm waiting to see how the Saints' season ultimately turns out. Also, I'm holding out for the year's worth of good news that I am sure will spring forth in the next four days.

UPDATE: Just learned that Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's great democratic hope, was assassinated today. (It's the second most popular story on Reuters today, behind Paris Hilton being denied 97 percent of the Hilton fortune.) And here I was all optimistic. Hah! I'll bet the damn Patriots win too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This is what I get for trying to be Al Gore

This week, I received a pleasant surprise. And by "pleasant," I mean "brutal":

Seems my utility bill had surged from $58.76 last cycle (itself high) to $90.08. I did expect my bill to rise somewhat, given current cost trends for, well, everything in the world. But a near-50 percent increase? Foul! For one thing, I use my heater about twice a day, and always turn it off anytime I leave, even for a few minutes. Second, I tend to have on only what I'm using at any given time, which often leaves my apartment lit only by the occasional peek of sun. Third, I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment. Foul!

At first opportunity, I went to City Utilities (or CU, as we say when making puns) to set them straight. I liked my chances, given that my first-ever bill from them was a whopping $211. They told me later it was an estimate, which makes me wonder what they charged people who actually have roommates and other rooms. They were so wrong that time that they actually credited me for the next three months.

This time, however, CU was as certain about my bill as George W. Bush is about, well, everything in the world. After all, this bill was based on actual meter readings, which are gospel. If anything, they said, a broken meter would have worked out in my favor. Hmmm...tempting! Naah. Sounds like entrapment.

After some wrangling with the front desk, which was like trying to push a good idea into Bush's head, I headed over to appeals. I told them of the situation, my energy principles and my history of battling fishy CU prices. How, I asked them, could my carbon footprint have been made by Andre the Giant? (In different words, of course. I'm not always metaphorically pretentious.)

They then showed me that my kilowatt-hour rate had indeed doubled in the past month, probably from leaving my heater on 70 (good call there). Furthermore, that rate was actually stingy compared to previous tenants' readings from this time of year. So my extensive efforts to be an energy hippie actually did help a little. Whee.

So now I accept the $90 charge as a learning tax. This month, I'm determined not to use my heater at all, even when the temperature drops into sub-freezing levels. I've actually done this before, and it's not bad with blankets. Take that, Hallibusto!

The New Orleans Saints will keep me warm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things I learned (or recalled) during my week in Louisiana

--A Starbucks really can open and thrive in the parking lot of a Barnes and Noble that has a Starbucks inside it.

--Since moving, I have been down for three Saints games: the preseason game against the Chiefs, the Monday Night Falcons match and Sunday's go against the Cardinals. All three were decisive victories. Nice.

--A lot of grass I remember fondly in Lafayette is now about 30 trendy businesses of which I am not fond.

--Cyclists are tied with terrorists on the "Mow them down" scale.

--To older, sight-challenged women, I am worthy of a brusque "Table for four" by virtue of my proximity to the front door of a Mexican restaurant.

--To older, speech-challenged women working cleanup at Chick-Fil-A, I inspire the thought, "Now that's a guy who wants to hear all about the pearl necklace my boyfriend of nine years gave me and what I did to get it!"

--Speed vans hide.

--Gov. Bobby Jindal is talking about how he will fight the trend of college graduates leaving the state to take jobs. I'm encouraged; Republicans always back up their promises to Louisiana.

--Judging by the local media, not only is every man, woman and child in Lafayette gainfully employed, but they are all extremely affluent and are worried only about the fluctuating price of diamonds and sushi in River Ranch.

--Such constant cheerleading about Lafayette's "full employment" has me wondering exactly why Lafayette Parish voted so enthusiastically for Jindal, who campaigned on total change. I'm lost on that one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dollars so weak, they give you two for the price of one

Remember that time I got sequential dollar bills attached to each other? Well, it happened again, this time at a Starbucks in Springfield:

I'd tell you which Starbucks, but you might get confused and go to the wrong one across the street (Lewis Black sure nailed that one. Actually, there's one literally next door to another in Lafayette now, so Black'll have to refine his act).

In any event I'm glad this happened again. It's just more money for me to pay my $90 electric bill, which is a huge leap over last month's $58. Even with the winter months, I call shenanigans; I was in Louisiana all of last week and I make like Jimmy Carter with the heater. Was there a sweater surcharge?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Louiziana 4 Life

I just got subpoenaed for jury duty. In Louisiana.

I've been a resident of Missouri for more than 10 months, but apparently the Louisiana DMV and the registrar of voters are unaware of this. Remember that flap about Sammy Kershaw and John Breaux not being eligible to run for state office because they weren't residents of Louisiana? They were. Believe me.

Vote Jim Mora in 2011! Lee Harvey Oswald has skeletons.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Acadiana High to defend Louisiana football title tonight

Go Destrehan!!

Last year at this time, I posted the "motivational" speech I would have given the Wrecking Rams if I were their head coach. No excerpt does it justice. Maybe its ironic karma will actually work this time.

I like this line from The Daily Advertiser about tonight's matchup:

The Rams, who are making a third straight appearance in the title game, are viewed as a superbly coached machine not blessed with an abundance of college talent.

And who's behind that superbly coached machine? Coach Gingrich.

Here's to tomorrow's headline: "RAMS WRECKED!" Big font. 128-point, at least.

Be they from St. Louis or Scott, Rams simply should not win in the Superdome. Redeem, Dome. Redeem.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Ask not what you don't have to do for your country...

I have a slight problem with the Bush administration.

Maybe you've heard about this new rate freeze for subprime loans that will lock in interest rates for homeowners, rather than jack them up as scheduled. This measure is intended to combat the staggering rate of foreclosures that marred the otherwise totally tubular economic picture in 2007.

Now comes the interesting news: hardly anyone qualifies for the locked-in rate. Oh, and lenders aren't even required to offer it!

Yep, good old voluntary regulations.

When I was in fifth grade, my school system began something called "voluntary uniforms" (which, in retrospect, is about as oxymoronic a term as "compassionate conservative"). They kicked in the following year, but the campaign began well before that: "Check out the new uniforms in the lobby! They're not required, but they look great!" So I did. They didn't. I laughed, thinking they were not serious about this. The following year, I saw as many as five students wearing them. Before long even they loosened up on it, proving my long-held theory that school uniforms are not something people would ever, ever wear willingly. (I'm leaving out schoolgirl fantasy situations, because we're talking about 6th grade here, extremely pre-sexy-Britney.)

Of course, George W. Bush is a school-uniform kind of guy. And, aside from strict federal interference in education, stem cells, foreign affairs, sex and free speech, not the kind of guy who wants the government all up in our business. Voluntary regulations, then, are a win-win situation for this loser.

Funny how voluntary regulations seem to come in play only when actual application of such would threaten the sanctity of one of the many, many lobbies to which Bush owes his allegiance. When it comes to unreasonable education demands, opening up personal information to Homeland Security or reducing veterans benefits, that stuff's etched in stone. Anytime this government places regulations on industry, they won't be half as rigid and devastating as any burden placed on the people. Count on it.

I'm surprised we haven't yet seen the Wink, Wink Act. Perhaps in 2008?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Planes can't fly with only a right wing

Now here's something interesting. Apparently, a spike in airport runway collisions this year is being blamed directly on piss-poor leadership in the White House.

Does that seem like a far-fetched allegation? Yes, even considering how our leadership really is piss-poor. And, after all, the report is from the hippie Congress, which obviously means it's out to get the president at any cost. Besides, am I a worse driver now than I was in 1998, just because a Bush is in the White House? Hell no! If anything else, I'm better than I used to be because soaring fuel and insurance costs, combined with declining highway funding and fear of expensive tickets, has me as vigilant behind the wheel as Ted Nugent is behind a scope. If slightly less eager to hit anything. But I digress.

For all the accusations that the report is sure to get from both remaining Bush apologists, statistics don't lie:

In the 2007 budget year that ended Sept. 30, the incidents spiked to 370 — 6.05 incidents per 1 million air traffic control operations. That approached the level in 2001, when there were 407 runway incursions and 6.1 rate. An incursion is any aircraft, vehicle or person that goes where it should not be in space reserved for takeoff or landing.

Ah, the good old flying days of 2001. Nostalgia! But what could be causing such a sudden spike in these incidents, when they had been going down for years?

Air travelers face a high risk of a catastrophic collision on U.S. airport runways because of faltering federal leadership, malfunctioning technology and overworked controllers, congressional investigators said Wednesday [...]

At this time, "no single office is taking charge of assessing the causes of runway safety problems and taking the steps needed to address those problems," the Government Accountability Office said in a report requested by Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Ill., and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.

So the cause is big, bureaucratic government? Here comes the Bush administration to the rescue!

What, no excerpt? I thought we had an excerpt. Moving on...

Then-Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey stepped into that leadership void in August by calling an industrywide conference to produce ideas for quick action. In October, the FAA reported progress on recommendations from the conference, including speeding improved runway markings and pilot training. The GAO report approved of those moves but also recommended more leadership from the FAA, better data collection and less overtime required of controllers.

"This report makes clear that the Bush administration is cutting corners and failing to put passenger safety first," Lautenberg said. "The FAA is taking too many chances and ignoring too many red flags."

So a leadership vacuum in a bloated government bureaucracy and lagging technology, combined with a lack of sufficient workers for the job, are causing lax safety situations at airports? This is not a case of minimum-wage-earning, untrained airport security; this involves well-trained professionals, which means it takes a serious crisis for them to have as many close calls as they have. And there's simply no excuse for that. But how about some good news?

Serious incursions, where a collision was narrowly averted, declined to a record low 24 in 2007, compared with 31 the year before. But the report said they have stayed high enough to pose "a high risk of a catastrophic runway collision."

Oh. Guess not.

Debate all you want about whether the Bush administration is doing the right thing overseas. But there's no debating that government has been crippled in so many areas domestically, from FEMA to the FDA and the FAA. When Republicans talk about ending big government, this is exactly what they're talking about. They have no problem putting cameras on every street corner and microphones in every phone; but actually ensure that our most basic public programs are well-staffed, well-funded and competent? Why, that requires more than lip service! It might actually entail making airports safer, and the public thus less subject to sort of fear that the White House needs to get away with its bungling.

And, yes, it is Bush's fault, because this is happening under his watch. Someone remind him that global conquest doesn't cancel out a president's need to address problems in his own country.

I think Tom Tucker from Family Guy said it best: "These days, it seems you can't even fly in a plane anymore!"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

How I feel about certain things

--No, this blog hasn't become audition central for "High School Musical 3"; that's Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle. He will be inactive for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers due to what was described as a "deep, deep bruise" in his lower back. Well, yeah, that's what happens when you put a 15-year-old on the field with NFL players. It would also explain the Chiefs' four straight losses, though not the rumor that Croyle beat the entire Miami Dolphins by himself in a recent pickup game.

--Sometimes I ponder going to teach in Sudan. With all that's going on in that country, I really want to do my part to educate the embattled population. After all, education is the way out of ignorance and poverty, and -- wait, what? Protesters are calling for a teacher's head because she let her students name a teddy bear after a classmate named Mohammed? Ha ha! That's funny! But I think Hollywood will find it too unbelievable a premise to make it into the next Jerry Bruckheimer movie, strike or no strike.

Oh, wait. This is actually happening. Fanatics are actually brandishing swords over a damn teddy bear. Wow. That's pretty sick! Almost Darfur sick. Between the anger in the fundamentalist Muslim world and the aggressive imperialism brought forth by Western Christian fundamentalists, I have to ask: How did atheists get so despised?

--The latest word in terrorism is that the Bush administration is going to slash the Homeland Security budget outlay in half for 2009. Actually, $3.2 billion to $1.4 billion is more than half. That's right - before Bush leaves office, he is going to leave his successor with a severely curtailed anti-terrorism budget. That means port security, transit security and local emergency programs will be slashed or cut altogether, and the new president won't be able to do anything about it until September 2009. Asked to comment, Niccolo Machiavelli called the move "political treachery of the worst kind." George Carlin called it "cynical."

--A recent study shows that night workers are more prone to prostate and breast cancers. Apparently, working at night and sleeping during the day disrupts the body's circadian rhythm, thus preventing it from creating enough cancer-blocking melatonin. I had a good laugh as I edited this article on my night shift. Then I went to the bathroom. Five times.