Friday, October 30, 2009

Now, where was I?

I have a new laptop and working Internet service at home.

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Points

• I’ve most likely covered this before, maybe even more than once, but after the recent White House attacks on Fox News (and the multiple mindless, and oddly identical, defenses of the network by conservative bloggers), I think it needs to be said again:

Either Fox News is a fair and balanced network, or it’s a refreshing conservative alternative to the liberally biased mainstream media.

If it’s the first, then it’s a lie. Fox is not fair and balanced. It’s owned by Rupert Murdoch (who Seth MacFarlane said “is a capitalist first, a conservative second”) and run by Republican strategist Roger Ailes.

If it’s the second, then it proves Fox viewers care less about the tenets of journalism than simply being reactionary to perceived (and false) biases of other networks. It is not a news network’s job to dish out viewers want to see and hear, or to overcompensate for its competitors. Such activities are ideological in nature, or even cynically calculated (as I said about Murdoch...).

• Why does every top right-wing host always sound like an angry bully? Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, even Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin — all of their voices and/or choices of words suggest they’ll beat you down at any minute. Isn’t one of the things we’re taught early in childhood that bullies use bluster to hide an inadequacy of some sort? Guess what, kids? That doesn’t change when you’re an adult. In fact, you can often find it in the very same types of people. Ever notice how Rush, Sean and Ann look like playground bullies, being any combination of towering, thick and smug? I doubt it’s an accident.

Glenn Beck represents the flip side of this equation: a crybaby blowhard. He’s the skinny kid in the Saturday morning milk commercials who everyone picked on, but who then drank milk and worked out, just to show them, then didn’t, and then reverted to his previous waah-waah persona. Then he spent his early adult years smoking all the pot in Mexico and letting go. Now he’s trying to make a name for himself, becoming the latest in a long line of sports/morning zoo guys making the step down to conservative punditry.

• I’ve been shopping for a new Internet service provider on the free market and now I think it’s time we reconsider communism. Yes, I had a ton of fun sifting through the legalese of dozens of different providers’ bait-and-switch policies, but in the end I realized that the offers are far more alike than different. And not in a good way. One offered a decent rate, but jacked it up by almost a factor of five after the trial period ($72/month in the fine print of the fine print). Another one required a technician to come into your home, and yet another reserved the right to bill you for the vague notion of “excessive hourly use.” It’s almost as if all of these ISPs are wholly owned subsidiaries of AT&T and exist only to make their parent company look tolerable by comparison.

Now I wish Springfield had municipal broadband. At the very least, it would require these companies to flex their atrophied muscles a bit.

On the other hand, it IS fun to shop for the most competitive deal among dozens of businesses, and the tremendous amount of time and legalese required is like swimming in a pool of freedom. I look forward to the day when government steps out of the free market and I get to repeat this exciting process with health care and everything else!

And those higher prices? Pursuit of happiness, baby.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's probably time I wrote a new entry

Well, I have a new laptop now, rent be damned. A brand-spanking-new Macbook Pro. Now I understand the meaning of paranoia.

Last night I dreamed that I was at the library and had to leave my belongings for an indeterminate period of time. When I came back, both of my debit cards were missing from my wallet. I strode down the crowded hallway and bellowed, "I work at a bank. I know compliance officers and police officers and everything in between. So whoever took my cards is gonna get fucked up if they don't give them back right now!" (Remember, this is a dream. I don't work at a bank and I'm only a hard-ass on the inside.) With that, two small children toss them back to me. My Springfield card is OK, but for some reason my Lafayette card has been snipped. When I put them back in my wallet, I notice my Missouri driver's license is gone, and only my old Louisiana license is left. So I gather my things and storm back home, passing several random faces along the way who seem startled by my facial expression. When I get home and fish through my wallet again, I find the Missouri license underneath the Louisiana one. I take it out, kiss it and put it back in its rightful spot.

That dream is about the laptop, I just know it.

It's a beautiful machine. All I have to do now is reopen my home Internet connection so that I can stop these long trips to the library every day. And maybe then I can stop my four-game skid in fantasy football. And give my "fans" something new to personally attack me over.

In the meantime, I'll do everything I can to preserve my investment, including not dropping it. Note to self: if it's between the laptop and the cell phone, let the cell phone drop. It's used to it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wipe this

Early Thursday morning, on my drive home from work, I found myself traversing roads soaked from a vortex of rain. The worst of it had stopped, but a consistent drizzle continued.

I drive a boxy Scion hatchback, which means I have a rear windshield wiper. I probably use mine more than most, but I still don't fire it up nearly as much as I do with the front wipers. In driving rains, I don't hesitate. In other conditions, I flip it on and off manually (it has no intermittent setting) whenever enough rain collects.

I'm generally frugal with the rear wiper because, unlike my front wipers, the rear blade is a custom item that must be bought as a complete piece. It costs $78. Unlike with most similar cars, no standard blade will fit it. I discovered this the hard way, and frankly I'm not a fan of this setup. It looks cooler and more streamlined than your average sagging minivan rear wiper, but there's no reason that someone shouldn't be able to get a simple blade refill for it. Scion made it 12 inches long, which is not a standard refill size. As it is, I'm going to exercise my usual thrift next time I need a rear wiper and try to splice a refill onto one of my plastic housings. It seems wrong to have to toss a perfectly fine two-foot-long plastic housing every time the (tiny) blade wears out. Before long, I'll have a closet full of these things.

The point being, this is not a wiper I use recklessly.

On my drive home Thursday morning, the rain was just borderline enough to where I wasn't sure whether or not to turn on the rear wiper. It had been squeaking and rubbing recently, and I wasn't sure if it was worth the wear to wipe off the mist that had accumulated. After all, it was mostly dark outside and traffic was light.

A couple of cars and trucks answered that for me. They approached from behind and one passed me, kicking up splashes. I flipped on the rear wiper. On this wet and curvy road, with a sudden influx of traffic sandwiching me, thrift suddenly seemed like a cheap notion. Who risks their road vision - and life - over a car part?

That's when, as often happens, my mind turned to the health care debate. I've always been irritated by the conservative/libertarian mind-set that certain political measures aren't worth doing because they cost taxpayer money. This, I feel, goes beyond a healthy sense of frugality into the realm of financial fanaticism; it seems to ignore completely the idea that any benefit whatsoever will result, but that such programs are simply financial black holes.

Such sentiment is succinctly encapsulated in bumper stickers all over red-state streets: "Work Hard. Millions on welfare are depending on you." The notion is not just limited to welfare, but goes for any entity that does not directly benefit those who fund it a few cents at a time.

Curiously, this mentality apparently does not cover undefined and endless wars or any other efforts to flex U.S. muscle by right-wing leaders, nor farm or other subsidies that many of these people count on for survival. But that's another post altogether.

The health care debate brings this attitude to light like never before. Almost to a person, Republican politicians - and, regrettably, their allied Democratic brethren - who oppose health reform speak in dollars. Their arguments resonate with those with their hands in their pockets, rather than in casts. They think the answer to health care overhaul is to suppress malpractice suits or offer tax cuts so people can shop for private insurance at the insurance mall. Or to do nothing at all. Anything to keep private insurers sacrosanct and to keep alive the utterly idiotic notion that they aren't paying a staggering amount for inefficient medical care for the poor already. Meanwhile, millions lack adequate care and are dying because of it.

In other words, these critics want to leave the windshield wiper off in the rain to save a few dollars. I say, use the wiper, stay alive and realize later that it isn't actually costing you much, considering what you're getting.

Otherwise, you might find that your cheap ways wind up costing you thousands of dollars when you eventually crash.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sigh...

Rule #142: A Real Card of a Report
The only thing worth reporting about a report commissioned by the insurance industry that says a public option is a bad idea, is how comically worthless such a thing is. Gee, the private insurance industry opposes the formation of a public insurance plan? What a shocker! In other news, Dick Cheney wants to drill, drill, drill! And the sky is blue, at least until the drilling, drilling, drilling.

Hey, conservatives: you know how much you've professed to hate special interests all these years? Well, as misguided as that sentiment has been in a number of cases, you've got it nailed on the health care issue. Health insurance companies are about as special-interest as they come! And that interest does not involve YOU. It's past time to take that distrust of the government and hone in on where it really belongs.

Rule #143: Fleet feet meet street meat
If you're a trio of slow walkers on a three-lane indoor track, you do not need to flank out into all three lanes. The runners behind you might not appreciate such a thing. Yes, this is one of those rules. Sorry!

Rule #144: Rushian Revelations
Conservatives can rewrite the Bible. Hell, they already have their own parallel faiths, TV networks and pop culture, so this is the next logical step. Anyway, it's not as if they haven't already been rewriting the Good Book for decades.

I, for one, would read a Conservative Bible (King Beck Version?). It would be no MAD magazine, but you can never have enough laughs in your day.

Rule #145: No Nobel Bull
No more Nobel jokes. "I want peace, love and crabs. Where's my Nobel Peace Prize?" "I'm not George W. Bush either! Where's mine?" "I watched a college football game. Do I win the Heisman Trophy?" WE. GET. IT. ALREADY.

There's a sensible case to be made that President Obama didn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. We may or may not agree on the points, but it's out there. Personally, I see both sides. I can understand why some would find it unseemly that a president received it so soon after taking office. Or that he shouldn't get it when two wars still rage. Or that it was a reactionary shot at George W. Bush. But I can also understand that Obama's already had a profound effect on world relations just by being elected, and that the Nobel committee has stated that the award has activist roots as much as roots in past works. Let's talk about that for once, please?

Incidentally, it's not in anyone's best interest to pretend it's easy to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. Because if it IS so easy, why don't you have one? You see? Painted yourself in a corner. Possibly an accurate corner, but a corner nonetheless.

Rule #146: Notforthe Fuzzball League
Rush Limbaugh's failure to buy the St. Louis Rams merits me taking back everything bad I ever said about the NFL. The Rams deserve to win this week. Not just because of the stand against Rush, but because the Jacksonville Jaguars sat out one of my best fantasy players over a curfew violation. Now THAT sounds like some zero-tolerance policy crud Rush would just love!

The rest of the rules

Friday, October 09, 2009

SOFA recap, 9/27/09

(Note: By popular participant demand, I post a recap of our flag football game from two weeks ago. I'm late with last week's too, but will post it Saturday. Can't wait to get a computer so I can do this whenever I please!)

SOFA snapped its extended series of blowouts with a 78-74 matchup that came down to the last play. Finally, some suspense!

Rarely is a football game played on two different fields, but that’s what makes us special. The Kickapoo High School Chiefs needed to get a leg up on practice for their Thursday game, so they commandeered the field at halftime, after having watched us for a few plays. The Chiefs wound up crushing crosstown rival Glendale, 28-7, so clearly they learned something from us.

Brick House (Jack, Tyree, Ian, Emily and Nathan) got an early jump on Revolving Door (rotating cast of Jeff, Sam, Leann, Kenny, Blue and Joe) with a pair of Jack touchdowns. RD answered back with SOFA rookie Leann’s first-ever score. Not to be outdone, Ian scored for BH and Jack made like Al Bundy and scored two more touchdowns in quick succession. Emily punched one in for BH, as did Kenny and Blue for RD.

By halftime, Revolving Door had closed a substantial deficit to 46-38. But Brick House had built (sorry) a comfortable cushion by then.

The second half was more of a shootout, thanks in part to an improvised gridiron on the Kickapoo soccer field that may or may not have been polygon-shaped. This resulted in several players (but mostly Ian) making outstanding flag tackles deep in the end zone, and/or thinking a team scored only to discover they weren’t even close.

A long string of back-and-forth scoring snapped in the second half when Tyree threw a pass that bounced off Ian’s left forearm and into Sam’s hands for an impressive pick-six. Not long afterward, Ian rectified the play with a field-length TD run augmented by a hesitation-and-juke that Tyree later called “NCAA-ish.” After scoring, Ian felt a burning pain in his stomach that illustrated how many years he had left before he could step up to college athletics.

Revolving Door had a chance to take a comfortable lead late in the game, running three consecutive goal-line plays after a long gain. But Brick House subdued them to the last play, stifling a 4th-down reverse to stay in the game.

With the score Brick House 78, Revolving Door 74, RD had one final series to traverse the field and take it home. But BH once again held their ground and made incompletions of a potentially explosive passing game. A strong effort all around, the likes of which will hopefully continue for quite some time.

Game notes:

* Player of the game: Leann. Not only was she a newcomer to SOFA, but she said before the game that she had never played football. She proved this by scoring four touchdowns and nabbing a monster interception that, due only to a penalty, wasn’t a fifth. She was also aggressive on defense, notching at least one bona fide tackle. She credited the full-contact moment to her volleyball days. I do not want to play volleyball against her.

* With the exception of Joe, every player scored at least one touchdown, and most notched two or more. Joe did, however, throw several touchdown passes.

* Emily recorded about 47 first downs for Brick House. Impressive though this is, it might not even be her all-time best.

* Ian and Tyree both ran kickoffs for touchdowns for the second consecutive game. Tyree credited “great blocks by Nathan, Emily, Ian and Jack” for his ability to explode. Teamwork!

* Tyree expressed satisfaction with his play Sunday, praising his efficiency as well as his team’s. It’s good to see Tyree pleased with his play. At least half the field is similarly pleased on a weekly basis.

* One Brick House score involved Ian pitching to Jack, who then flicked the ball to Nathan. Or was it Tyree? I can’t remember, but it was a sweet TD.

* Jeff, Kenny and Blue were tough to cover, as was any combination of the three.

* PATs were neither team’s strong point. In other shocking news, the sky is blue.

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize outrages people who hate the Nobel Peace Prize

Usually, when a Democratic president or politician wins the Nobel Peace Prize, Republicans dismiss it as a meaningless honor from a pretentious foreign body. That is, when they aren't shrieking about how unfair/political/preposterous/horrifying it is that such a prestigious honor went to someone so undeserving/agendariffic/not like them.

And they have a point. Why, just this morning, one of my conservative friends made a compelling case for why Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng should win the coveted award. I told my friend he was crazy. Not because Wei Jingsheng hasn't made strides for a more open China, but because this conversation totally didn't happen and he was just hating on Barack Obama.

When George W. Bush was nominated in 2002, it was for...hold on, have to pick up my jaw..."for fighting terrorism and promoting world peace." Granted, this isn't the same as Obama being nominated in his first few days as president (the nomination deadline was Feb. 1). But both nominations point to what should be painfully obvious: the Nobel Peace Prize is political. And Obama's win at such an early stage in his game makes that even more clear than usual. Love him or hate him, Obama basically won the prize for Not Being Bush. And that says as much about Bush as it does about the Nobel committee and Obama himself.

Hopefully, Obama will rise to the standards that the award has bestowed upon him. It's up to him now to prove that he deserves the medal, not just for Not Being Bush, but for being a true leader of peace in this world.

I'm confident he will.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Why the Saints are winning (and how to keep them winning)

I have a Reggie Bush jersey that I received as a Christmas present in 2006. Here's a picture of me wearing it during a football game:



The Saints have never won a game on days in which I wore this jersey. Case in point: the above picture was taken on the early afternoon of Oct. 18, 2008, when the Panthers trounced the Saints 30-7. It took a few miserable losses before I realized this connection.

Throughout this season, I have left the jersey on a coat hanger in my closet. But this past week, I wore the jersey on a weekday. That night, I threw it in my laundry basket. Fast forward to Sunday: I play in my weekly flag football game and get home in time to see the Saints-Jets game on CBS (finally, a Saints game in the Midwest market!!). The first play I see is a long gain by Pierre Thomas, followed by the Packers' impressive goal-line stand, then Will Smith's sack of Mark Sanchez that led to Remi Ayodele's touchdown recovery. Then, a lot of frustration, culminating in Bush's costly fumble.

It was then that I realized I had just washed my Bush jersey, and that it lay crumpled on my table. Remembering the pox, I quickly hung it up in the same place in my closet where it had been hanging for the past few weeks. The Saints then rumbled to the win against the Airplanes.

So, as Michael Jackson used to say, I'm keeping it in the closet. And keeping my Aaron Neville "Who Dat" record on my turntable. That too has helped a ton.

Cha-Ching!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

All apologies should be like Grayson's

Rule #139: Vie quickly
Alan Grayson should run for president in 2016. Because if President Obama and the Democrats clone his backbone, there'll be no need for Grayson to run in 2012.

Rule #140: Ya betcha best-seller
Now that Sarah Palin is set to release her new autobiography, "Going Rogue," in November, somebody has to explain to her the meaning of "rogue." Ghadafi and Ahmadinejad know a thing or two about it. And, dear God, no audiobook version...unless it's Morgan Freeman or Barack Obama as narrator. Then I'll buy 29 copies.

Rule #141: Gold meddle
Those who object to Obama lobbying for the Olympics in Denmark (in other words, claim he's wasting time) have to stop being the same people who think he's working hard to destroy this nation. Pick your false outrage and stick to it.

There's a lot of predictable outrage going around regarding Obama's Olympic trip, as if it's a frivoulous distraction from more pressing matters, like getting health reform not passed. Or, even better, that this trip is the reason Obama is not on the front lines in Afghanistan. Apparently, the only international affairs worth a president's time are those that involve threats and destruction.

This trip is not a vacation. And even if it was, the accusation that Obama's screwing around rings hollow from those who never made a peep about Bush spending one-third of his presidency on vacation — real vacation, as in, playing golf and clearing brush during times of catastrophe. Obama's "vacations" involve trying to get the world back on our side and clearing up Bush's rotten brush. The Olympics, being the ultimate symbol of international cooperation, is a pretty good start.

But I'm probably wasting time justifying this trip. Because if it wasn't this, it would be something else to feed the anti-Obama reactionaries. Maybe while he's in Denmark, Obama could lobby to add irrational hatred as an event. We're No. 1! We're No. 1!!

Past rules