Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows Eve

It's that time of year! Time for trick or treat, or rocks if you're good ol' Charlie Brown!

Funny thing is, for some reason I'm particularly excited about it this time around. My kids are grown, so no costuming there, and I've missed Halloween several times over the last ten years due to work and not thought much of it. Yet I found myself in Meijer's last night buying more candy, to make sure we had enough, even though my wife had already gotten us well supplied with sugary treats for the little ones. Whaa?

Sure, our second son and our daughter will be around to help pass out candies, and may even dress up to walk around the neighborhood. I'll hike around a few blocks myself just to check out events. As for our eldest, what do they do in Cuba for Halloween? Will Beavis dress up like a soldier?

I'm sorry, that's not fair. Beavis seems like a good guy and is a good friend to my son, and here I am dissing him on my blog. Support the Troops, Marty!

Anyway, I'm geeked, and I really don't know why. Second Childhood? Third more likely, but either way you slice it, I have a couple autumn ales to warm my innards, and can't wait for the goblins to show up this evening.

Happy Halloween to all you at Gitmo! Happy Halloween to all of you here!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Conservation Plan for Everyone!

The Detroit Free Press this morning editorialized on the bad things about gasoline falling back to around two bucks a gallon. Among other things, the paper lamented that it would make people less inclined to conserve natural resources.

Fuel conservation, outside of genuine need (and I mean need on the scale of World War II nationally, or harsh personal finance individually) is really a rather pessimistic principle. You conserve because you have no option (personally), or because you have no hope in the future or see that great or unusual restraint is necessary (nationally). While we each have to deal with our own situations the best we can based on our personal resources, as a nation we can do more. We can tie into the traditional American belief in herself, that someone or something given the opportunity will find us alternatives when the time comes. We can believe that with the freedom we have come to rely on we will find new fuel sources for our cars, homes, and businesses. We can see that if the government would just get out of our way we will get over any over-reliance on limited means. Something will be developed or found or invented to alleviate the current pressures on our current natural resources.

Or do we think that once the oil is gone, we're toast? That's what the liberal 'government is the answer' thinkers apparently believe.

That is patently absurd, unless we allow it to become the case. So we do need certain pressure to keep it from becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. And the surest pressure to prevent that is exactly what may seem, at a glance, the lousiest choice.

Drill that oil. Process it. Burn it up in our cars. Because if you want something to take the place of oil, then get rid of the oil. Where there's a buck to be made and a need to be filled, someone will satisfactorily address the situation if given the freedom to do it.

So pump that oil out of the ground and into your tank. As P. J. O'Rourke said in one of his books: "Fat lot of good its done lying in the ground for billions of years."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The End of an Era

This is it, folks: the start of my last week with AOL as my primary web provider. It took a long time and a lot , a LOT, of crap from AOL, but I break the ties this week.

It helps that their screen names are now feree,, because one of my holdups has been that I have always had the same e-mail since day one of having internet access. Yeah, I'm funny that way. I never want change. My wife knew that before she married me, but did it anyway. The joke's on her. Except when's she's mad.

Oh well. Sometimes change is thrust upon us. And that isn't entirely bad. I'm just thankful that it only involves my ISP.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vote NO on Proposition #2

Among the other items on the ballot this year in my home state of Michigan is a referendum to amend the state constitution to allow embryonic stem cell research. Until I found out that the measure involved them I was ambivalent towards the issue. Now, I am completely opposed.

Human life begins at conception; there really can be no other reasonable conclusion. Therefore any human life at any stage of development must be treated as though it were fully human, with all the rights of any other man or woman. Anything less is to lack respect for human life. Period.

I know there are people out there who think they might benefit from such research. They are accident victims or born with a defect which hampers their ability to function normally. This is far more flippant than I mean it (because I also want to respect those people as people) but the fact is bad things happen to folks in this world. After a fashion, sometimes all we can do is accept that we simply have limited options as to our future and must deal with our conditions on that level. Violating another person's right to life does not rise up all boats. It lowers us to simple animal status, as the haves (in this case, those with born human lives) merely use the power they hold over the have-nots (those yet to be born) to get what they want.

When we become to view unborn humans in their embryonic state as unhuman, we make a grave error. We begin to treat others as a commodity to be used as those in power want. We forget that a human life can never be treated as a utility.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is There in Truth no Beauty?

Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? That is a stance taken by most people when the subject of beauty comes up. Taken at face value, it is meant to say that we all have our quirks and foibles and as such our own opinions on the beautiful. That's fine, too, so far as it goes. Without a bit of individual interpretation an awful lot of very good things might go unrecognized.

Too often, though, it is not taken at face value. It is often intended as a way of dismissing any claim which propriety or objective analysis of art and objects may have against what makes something beautiful. On that level, it at the least makes art valueless. At the most, it is dangerous to our very psychological well being.

Why should there be no standards for beauty? Why should we not be able to know and employ them? We do and know and apply standards to so much else; why should the beautiful be any different? What can we really know about art and beauty if we have no way of judging them anyway? Indeed it can open us up to certain ironies, areas where what think awful may actually be lovely.

I remember a nun back when I was in Catholic schools who couldn't hold a musical note in a bucket: God love her, her voice was terrible. Yet when I hear it now, I realize that it in fact had a certain beauty in it which made it endearing. She belted out those hymns, by gosh, a Joyful Noise Unto the Lord, and it really was a joyful noise.

Aethetics, I believe Aristotle called it. A way to judge the beautiful from the horrendous. It is a subject on which I think we need to spend more time and effort.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's Heating Up!

An Associated press poll shows McCain behind Obama by a mere percentage point. This may mean nothing, as so many other polls show Obama clearly ahead. Still, one never knows what type of momentum may be built from even an individual shift in an individual poll. If people sense a shift, that presumed shift may grow.

Not that I put any real stock in polls. I don't care how scientific it may claim to be, you're still asking for opinions. They can and do change, and we never really know how many people are talking just to hear themselves talk, or saying what they think the pollster wants to hear. Still, they may well drive the election process to some degree; I don't think that anyone actually doubted Obama's lead anyway.

Besides, we're really 50 different elections anyway, so national polls are that much less important.

Too much time left, and too much can happen. But I don't expect a slam dunk from either candidate. They don't expect it themselves, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Still the Fall Classic.

Today's lead sports story on AOL had comments about the Philadelphia Phillies - Tampa Bay Rays as being weak from a television network's point of view. Well, so bloody what?

We're talking baseball here! America's game! The greatest game in the history of the world! The networks can think what they want; this is the Fall Classic and deserves respect on that ground alone.

So it's not a New York - Los Angeles matchup, or even a Subway series like the Cubs/White Sox matchup so many wags fantacized about. But baseball isn't continental per se: it's the ultimate provincial game. You root for the home team because they're your team and some false national sports symbol like the Dallas Cowboys or even The New York Yankees. You watch it because you love the game and not the parties which surround some games. It isn't like the Super Bowl, which is anymore just an excuse to party as few really care about who's playing, making it not truly about the game.

So shut up and let Philadelphia and Tampa fans enjoy their respective teams' day in the sun. And watch the Series for what it is: America's salute to herself and her culture.

Monday, October 20, 2008

That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, today's the day.

You wait for it, and wait for it. It seems like it's never going to get here.

Then you wake up, let the dog out (she has to go earlier and earlier every morning, it seems, not unlike her owner), have a coffee, check your e-mail, check the webcomic you're following, and then it hits you. You see the date.

October 20th, 2008.

The day the curling season begins this year.

Tonight at 6:30 it all begins anew. The roar of the rocks, the swish of the sweepers, the yells of the skips, the drops of sweat onto the ice creating extra pebble. The curling season is upon us.

You'll hear about it in more detail tomorrow. Whether you want to or not.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tee Gee Eye Eff

The title says it all, friends. It's been a long week and I'm glad to be coming out of it. Beer and pizza tomorrow with friends visiting from North Dakota, in a new pub just opened up around the corner, will make it all worthwhile.

Ain't life grand that a little cheese and pepperoni and alcohol can salve all wounds?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debate Number Three

The third and final Presidential debate was held last night, and it wasn't a moment too soon. McCain was on the offensive and made some good points about ACORN and that Ayers guy, but I am beginning to fear that it's too little too late for the GOP nominee.

He should have been hammering on those points months ago, but he didn't want to be 'partisan'. Hell's bell's, John, people want partisan, I don't care what they might say to pollsters and news reporters. They want clear choices. Without them, they'll just go for the more photogenic and charismatic candidate, and quick frankly, that's Obama, not you.

There's still time and I'm not without hope. If McCain keeps up the pressure we may have a race. But momemtum seems to be with Obama, and momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher. I'm afraid it doesn't look good, Senator McCain.

But today does look good for my daughter! Happy birthday sweetheart!

Man, THAT was incongruent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There are no Devils in Baseball (Except maybe DH's)

The Tampa Bays Rays seemed poised to send the defending champion Boston Red Sox home for the winter, and that's okay. I'm rather hoping they do; I like it when a traditionally poor team rears its head and makes waves in any sport. Even when an underdog makes it big in life, how can we not cheer?

I'm still going to lambaste them for a second anyway.

They were the Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays before this season, you know. They dropped the word devil because they felt it was a bad connotation.

I suppose I can accept that on that level. But they were named after a presumably fierce seas creature. Not Old Scratch. It just seems to me inane, that's all.

Like my writing?

Who said that? If I ever get my hands on you...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Theatre of the Absurd

The DOW jumped what, 963 points yesterday, an 11-point-something improvement in its worth. This after arguably the worst week ever for the stock market. I tell you again, I don't understand how it works.

Are all traders bandwagon jumpers? Lemmings, perhaps? How can things be so bad and so good so quickly strung together? What exactly is the layman supposed to take out of all this activity?

Well, I'll take all I can get, and in this case, it's nothing but an easy blog entry. I think of it as a quick profit for a poor writer.

Poor as in not enough money, not talent, you jokers out there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

No, not to my American fans: to my Canadian peeps! Their Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October (unlike the first Monday in October, when our increasingly weird Supreme Court rulings begin rolling out) so I want to give them a shout out!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends! See you soon on the curling ice!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Love Irony

In the interest of trying to get my aging body into some kind of decent shape, especially as curling season approaches and I will be expected to sweep rocks, I am making an effort to spend thirty minutes on a treadmill each day.

So far I've made it two straight days. The journey of a thousand miles and all; it's worth something. And I don't even hurt, nor have I really been all that winded when I've stopped. A bit sweaty, but I'm not truly out of breath. Maybe I'm not in such bad shape after all.

I feel I have the right incentive to keep the regimen going strong. You see, I drink a beer as I walk the treadmill at a pretty brisk pace; I time myself at about 75 steps per minute. The beer is my incentive to keep pushing; a few steps, take a swig.

Now I know some of you purists out there think I'm defeating the purpose of the workout. So it goes; it's nevertheless exercize, and I like the juxtaposition. Besides, how many of us drink when we bowl or curl? So unless you don't believe that bowling or curling qualifies as exercize, I rest my case. And if you don't think curling is exercize, come out to the ice and try it. That'll change your mind.

The beer we drink while playing will surely help you see the light.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Day I'll Recycle this Article

My wife and daughter are very into recycling, and that's okay. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, and they do it all themselves, so it doesn't even really affect me.

Still, our son while on leave from the Army commented on it in a way I had never considered. Watching his mother prepare tuna cans and milk jugs for recycling he remarked, as she was rinsing the items out and even putting the cans through the dishwater, "So we have to wash our trash?"

Which leads me to my point. Do we really need to recycle things for which there is no demand? Steel, aluminum, copper; these things all get paid for by people who have a real use for them. They're worth money, therefore they get recycled. Paper, plastic, even tin cans aren't worth anything and therefore do not get recycled so readily.

Unless the government encourages or demands it. Many recycling projects are underwritten by government or commanded by it through things such as curbside pickup. In short, they wouldn't exist without coersion. Things worth doing get done without any hint of force.

Think of that when you're washing your tuna cans, using extra water, or burning extra gas to take things to a recycling center. Are we really doing anything worth such effort?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Is it Just Me?

One week now, and no sign the bailout is working.

Is it just me, or are two factors at work which we all ought to see but don't?

1. Wall Street is conservative and Republican by nature. Are we witnessing skittishness based on a Republican President acting non-republican?

2. Are we seeing the true effect of a potential Obama presidency? The market is reacting to what effect the approach of a socialist president may have on the economy and their investments?

Keep an ear to the ground on this one, friends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We May Lose even if We Win

I’m the first to admit that I don’t fully understand the economy. I content myself with the knowledge that no one else does, either. There are simply too many millions of people making too many millions of decisions for anyone to claim, reasonably, that they know what’s going on.

That’s why the bailout which Washington has recently enacted makes little sense. I realize that the mortgage industry is a significant part of our economy; surely, though, it is not the totality of it. Why should anyone think that one part no matter how important steers the entire ship?

I mean, it’s not as though there’s a steering wheel and a rudder and Polaris as guides and tools. What I want is what I want and not necessarily what my neighbor desires; likewise, what is bad for me is not necessarily bad for him. Even in times where more bad things are happening (or are threatened to happen, as may or may not be the case with mortgages) there are green lights and opportunities for others not directly affected. To react in such a massive and intrusive way seems to me an attempt, however well intentioned, to tie the unharmed and unhurt to the mast of the ship of those in danger. Toss in the fact that many are in danger because of their own devices and we are faced with a very real moral dilemma: why ought the innocent prop up the guilty?

Yet I see today that many nations are following suit in what one wag called ‘a concerted global effort to stop’ a disaster. All we little people can do now is hope that it works, and hope that the respective governments back off when it does.

I’m afraid that they won’t. I’m afraid that it’s only one step closer to the small world. One step closer to a loss of sovereignty.

One step closer to the stifling of human liberty.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Maher Markets

Today I was going to facetiously praise the nation's economic bailout plan; then the DOW fell under 10,000 and that seemed like a bad idea. Or maybe I could have made something good out of that. Oh well; I'm tired of the subject anyway.

Then I saw an article in today's Detroit Free Press about Bill Maher's new mockumentary, 'Religulousity' or something like that. He goes around basically mocking organized religion as though it were good journalism. And probably for some laughs too, him being a comedian.

I am curious to see it, although I'm sure it will inflame me a la Michael Moore's junky attempts at satire and slander. But why should I? When he avows in an interview that all the seriously religious are extremists, I think we can safely assume that fair play is out the window. If he really wants us, the seriously religious, to forsake our creeds, he needs to find a better way to channel his energy. You get more flies with honey...

I know that some will readily dismiss me as closeminded. After all, if I haven't seen the film I can't judge it.

Rubbish. I know that naked women are in Playboy without opening the cover. And I suspect that Mr. Maher is closeminded too. That's how films like his get made: those all so very sure of themselves just love to point out the folly of us fools. So bear in mind that if you see it, it was almost certainly made with the same zealotry and arrogance which we are accused of employing against nonbelievers.

The difference is, if we are true to our creed, we love him anyway.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Waiting with Bated Breath

Well, today's the day, folks. Probably by now we already have an idea whether the mortgage bailout is working, as the Asian and Eurpean markets are well underway. As I haven't checked, I don't know. The most massive intrusion of government in our private lives outside of a state of genuine emergency had better work.

At least I suppose it had better work. There's danger if it does: what new attempts at government expansion will rise from the ashes if it does? Still, I am not so naive as to not understanding the practical reality: if it doesn't work, we may well be on our way to third world status if not outright bankruptcy and breakdown. That's extreme, to be sure, but then, so is this plan.

Either way, we're stuck. So it may as well be hoped that it works, and that cooler, more thoughtful heads will prevail when the next crisis appears, or that we will actually experience this only as an abberation and future Congresses will resist using this (possible) success as reason to increase federal power all the more.

Don't bet on it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Send Sarah!

The McCain campaign has decided to give up on Michigan. Whether this is a good move or not I can't comment on; I doubt myself that he can carry my home state and not knowing the exact nature of his resources, he may well have the right idea in spending them elsewhere. But I am reminded of his view on attacking Pakistan (Pak-ess-tan, as Barack calls it): never tell an opponent what you might do.

Don't overtly give up on Michigan, Senator. This will only help the Obama campaign paint you as uncaring about its plight. But if you need to reallocate resources, then attack Michigan on the cheap. In this case, send your vice presidential nominee as she encourages you to do. Send Sarah here.

Face it, John. She's the best thing you've got going for you right now. You don't inspire many folks, including me. I was only intending to vote for you because the alternative was completely unpalatable. But Governor Palin is sincere, homespun, fresh, and without that Washington political glare. She plays to an audience better than you. Use that, as you had started to but for whatever reason backed away from, becuse it's your best chance.

Send Sarah to Michigan. And Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Florida. Send her before the voters send the wrong message to you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Like Kissing Your Sister?

It's been said that a tie is liking kissing your sister, and the pundits are calling last night's Vice Presidential debate a tie. Maybe so, maybe no; I rather think Sarah Palin took the day by a teensy bit, but I am, admittedly, partisan.

Still, she was the one who had something to prove. Say what you want about Joe Biden, he has been in the Senate since 1972 and is a known quality. Governor Palin is not, honestly, and everyone has been waiting for her to commit a major gaffe. She did not, and even showed no fear in going on the offensive a time or two. Indeed I thought that she rather held back, trying to measure her remarks for safety's sake.

Sure, she ignored some questions for the sake of empacizing the party line, but so did Biden, and anyway, no candidate should ever let a moderator overshadow or control the types of comments they would like to make. It's their one chance to address Americans generally, and I'm not going to hold it against anyone if they tacitly set the format aside for the sake of sound bites. It's just good strategy.

She didn't look like an airhead or make a mistake; neither did Biden. Yet he had wiggle room and she did not; on that point alone, Sarah Palin won. But will it be enough for November?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Becoming a Curmudgeon, Part Two in an Everlasting Series.

I took my daughter to buy a new cell phone. Why? Because the old one was, well, old. You can't have an old cell phone that still works, can you? Kids these days..

Anyway, it was just my luck that the salespersons we encountered were young ladies about Abby's age. They expressed shock that her phone was from (gasp!) 2006! "How could you use that old thing?" one asked incredulously, before sheepishly noticing the old thing standing there with his daughter. "You flip it open and dial it, sweetheart." Sorry, punch the numbers; they hadn't a clue as to dial phones. I know, because I got that teenage 'Da-ad' look from all three. Right before the saleswomen gave Abby sympathetic looks and nods.

They then flew into all the things that the prospective new phone could do. "It's a slide front that has a radio and you can IM your friends and of course a camera and earphones and internet capabilities and it's available in pink or red or black or silver..." followed by oohs and aaahhs and cooing to be finally interrupted by a snippy, "But she can make calls on it, right?"

"Da-a-ad!" Kids today...

So we got the phone and Abby is happy. Dad is happy because Abby paid for it. So why should I crab?

On principle, okay? What happened to things being used until they couldn't be used any more? What happened to phones which were just phones? What happened to the times Dads understood technology better than daughters? It's disrespectful, just plain dispespectful.

Kids these days.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's up Wit Dat?

The Dow regains well over half of what it lost Monday, and some analysts call it a temporary gain. Why couldn't Monday have been a mere temporary loss? I think some people want us to fall into depression.