Monday, August 31, 2009

New at the Grocery Store

Saturday I visited the local Kroger. As I turned in the alcohol/snack food aisle, I stopped for a second thinking I'd made a mistake. There in the newly widened aisle between the booze and the junk food, they'd put the vitamins and OTC medicines.

Makes sense, I suppose, looking for some Doritos and queso dip with a six pack of Red Stripe? Maybe you'd like some antacids and aspirin too? Here they are.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why do poisoned bugs always die on their backs?

I suppose I could leave it at the title; but, this is a blog; and, there is a back story for the title. So here it is.

Though I keep the place reasonably clean, I live in the middle of a nature preserve. Lots of trees, lots of grass, lots of woods. Lots of bugs – it’s Georgia.

The exterminators get their money, to my mind for no good reason. What kills the bugs? A can of Raid (no scent variety is highly recommended). Once a week or so I spray along the bases of the cabinets and in front of doors and windows.

A day or so later there’s always a corpse near one of the spray lines, on its back, little legs curled across his or her thorax. I wasted another paper towel on one of them when I got home a little while ago.

That’s it. Answers to the question are welcome.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I think there's a better way to eulogize

I’ve not read anything about the death of Senator Kennedy, for some reason, I’ve not wanted to. I hadn’t planned on listening to what’s being said; but, I forgot and turned the TV to one of the local NPR affiliates. They are talking about him.

Here’s my proposal. If we know someone is going to die, shouldn’t we tell them formally what we think about them. Not the private family stuff, I’m sure the Kennedys did that for him along with his close friends.

His death got me thinking about my friend Big Tony, not that that his death was expected. But had it been, I’d have much rather had our wake while he was around to enjoy it,though he would not have.

Maybe here’s what I’m saying. If you know someone that’s going to die soon, do the personal stuff; but, also do the formal stuff so that they and the family and friends know what you think of them.

Maybe this is more a movie plot than a good idea.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One more try

Curmudgeon politely pointed out in a comment that I added some extra zeros in my deficit sharing figure in the last post – to the tune of three. (It continually amazes me that I scored in the 99th percentile in math tests back when I was a kid – I guess having four answers to choose from takes away from the tests’ predictive value.)

With some further research, it turns out that zeros and long division weren’t my only problems.

According to, the current “outstanding public debt” is $11.734 trillion, and some change, or $38,247.47 per person, based on a current population of 306,799,856 as of 6:22 p.m. GMT today.

If you add the projected $9 trillion increase in the deficit over the next ten years giving a total debt of a bit less than $21 trillion in 2019 we are in the neighborhood of $70,000 per person (using a 310 million population number).

Some more: In 2004 (the only year I could find a number for) the net worth (assets minus liabilities) of the median family in the country was about $93,000. I found various numbers for the number of people in a family just above and below 3. Using an average 3.2 people for a “family,” the total net worth of the U.S. population is about $8.8 trillion, $2.9 trillion less than the current deficit. Folks the country has a negative net worth. (Given our recent financial meltdown, I’m assuming the median family net worth has dropped from $93k given the dive in 401K's, house values, etc., giving even grimmer results.) Even assuming a return to economic stability over the next ten years we should still have a negative position. Put a different way, if we return to where we were in 2004 when things were perking along, but run up another $9 trillion in debt, our negative net worth should approach $12.2 trillion.

I’m thinking “baby boomer” will be a cuss word in about ten years. Throw in Medicare and social security underfunding that no one is really talking about. Generational warfare?

What's a few trillion dollars spread among 307 million people?

It's exactly $29,315,960.09 for every person in the country today as a share of the newly projected $9 billion deficit projected over the next ten years.

While I hate to say it, to those of you that are young, under every feasible and infeasible projection of my income and assets going forward, I will be defaulting on my share. Just wanted to let you know.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ya'll thought Obama was a foreign policy wimp!

Guantanamo is alive and well.

Obama is hands off on CIA torture allegations letting Holder take the heat for ineffectually going after a few low level shlubs.

And now, we are going to continue to “render” terrorist suspects to foreign countries for interrogation under the Obama Administration. The big difference, the State Department, that hard charging protector of human rights, will monitor the rendees to make sure they aren’t tortured by the recipient countries.

Assuming the Administration is not snickering about its vow to not allow torture, what is gained by exporting the questioning? What other than the ability to torture does a foreign interrogator have over a US interrogator to get the truth from a suspect?

So far, Obama is Bush lite. He’s not as bellicose and belligerent with our overseas antagonists; but, we’ve added troops in Afghanistan and not too many have left Iraq, Iran pays little attention to us and is still developing nuclear weapons and funding terrorists. There seems to be an increase in killing and political instability in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though, North Korea seems to be mellowing for the moment after Bill Clinton’s visit.

Foreign policy status quo ante it seems to me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More on Clemency

The comments on my post about the humanitarian release of the Lockrbei bomber were gently against my view, with one maybe.

In the event that one of the posts here over the years hasn’t said it, I don’t like the death penalty. Put simply, we get things wrong and if we do in that arena, there aren’t any do-overs.

I’ve got some mixed views about prison sentences. I’ve read about punishment, retribution, rehabilitation, vengeance and other purposes for sending people away. I think, especially here in the South, we put people away on the “the hell with you" model. They did it, they deserve to rot.

And there are those that do deserve to rot. Then too, there’s a time that there’s a time show that we are better than they are. Be it the Libyan guy who’s going to die quite soon or some other guy, why not send them home to die with their family? Is it wrong to send them home? If you say yes, why? Would you deny them a visit from their family at the end of their life while sitting in prison? You are only honest if you say yes to both questions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Breaking with Obama and others

The sole convicted Lockerbie bomber has been sent home to die by Scotland.

Obama and others are pissed. Why is that? He is terminally ill, a few months to live.

So some Libyans cheered and shouted. Given that he killed, should we deny him a bit of solace at the end of his life? I think the Scots got it right.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Language Jail

The Los Angeles Times reports that California’s legislature is considering a bill that prohibits a business from refusing to do business with someone that doesn’t speak English. From the article: “Speaking a native language is protected in cases of employment and housing under existing California law, but that protection does not cover consumer issues.” OK, it’s California; but, really!

First, why wouldn’t most businesses do business with such people? And if they don’t want to, don’t the discriminated against have a ready remedy, going down the street?

Apparently the law had its genesis in the LPGA’s failed and ill-advised attempt to make all of its players speak English – American sponsors are said to like the winners of their participants to be able to talk to the pro-am players, the crowd and the TV audience if they win. (An interesting point given Yang’s win last weekend at the PGA Championship over a “half” foreigner, Woods.)

But, how do you write such a law; and, once written, how do you enforce it.

A guy walks into my office and I don’t understand a word he says. He doesn’t understand me; but, for some reason wants to retain my legal services? He leaves, he and I are frustrated. I’ve violated the new law?

Let’s take it down a level or too. I’m not a lawyer, I’m a waiter. A guy comes in speaking and reading no English. He looks at the menu not understanding it and starts talking to me in a language I don’t understand. He’s pissed and departs. Or I’m frustrated and stalk away. I’m guilty?

Another approach, legal. Language is not a fundamental right under the Constitution. I know that is a bad sentence. Another try – the right to communicate and do business, despite inability to speak English isn’t a fundamental, or any kind of, right under the Constitution.

Should business people that only speak English try their best to do business with people that don’t speak English? Yes, if they want to earn a living. Should they go to jail if they can’t or won’t communicate in another language? I’m thinking no.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enough about the World's problems, more on brining

I did a post in May about fried chicken – temperature, oil, time, and I mentioned brining the bird.

I learned of brining by reading a cookbook by Scott Peacock. He brines his fried chicken, it’s only served on Tuesdays at his Decatur, Georgia restaurant, Watershed. They run out midway through the evening.

I tried it last Thanksgiving with a 3 or so pound chicken that I roasted.

A digression, I have never liked white poultry meat. Same with pork. Same with well-done beef. Too, too dry. Too, too little flavor. I seldom order any of them in a restaurant. Medium rare cooking works for beef. Marinade (Mojo, courtesy of Big Tony) for pork. Brining works wonderfully for chicken, and I assume for turkey, both the dry problem and the flavor problem.

It sounds crazy; but, fill up a pot with enough water to cover the bird/bird parts, Google brining poultry and find out how much salt to throw in the water based on how big the bird is (it’s much more than you think, more if you use Kosher, don’t worry, it won’t be salty when you’re done). Throw in, depending on your taste, some peppercorns and brown sugar. Stir while bringing to a boil and take off the stove. Throw in the bird or bird parts and some ice. Put it in the frig for the time the Google result tells you depending on how heavy the bird or the bird parts are – an hour or two for parts and as much as 12 hours for a big chicken or a turkey. Rinse several times.

Now you can (add some poultry type herbs and spices) roast, bake, pan fry, deep fry as you will and you will get the most juicy, flavorful bird you’ve ever eaten. Don’t like white meat? You will.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stupid Exercise

Some people in Phoenix “attended” the President’s town hall whatever recently “bearing arms.” They didn’t break any law, carrying guns is legal there. Looking beyond local law to the Constitution, their conduct is protected by both the First and Second Amendment. I’m more interested in what I think is their message, protected by the First.

I grew up with protests, black people, white people, young people. Pacifists and activists. Speech and expression are good things; but, there’s a point when speech and expression become a threat. The Phoenix protesters got to that point. They broke the social compact that I recognize.

Their point? “I don’t like what ya’ll are saying and maybe I’ll just intimidate you with this here gun.”

I grew up with family and friends, and hang with people, that own and use guns. I’m the object of their gentle derision for my anti-gun views. None of them make a display of their guns. None would ever show a gun as a political statement. All of them know that guns have a deadly purpose and are only used for that purpose, not brandished to make a “point.”

I don’t think that the Phoenix gun boys (they aren’t what I consider to be men) rise to the level of “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” I do think they are a disturbing example of a disaffected class in our country. Rappers wearing ammunition belts in their videos. Skin heads and Aryan types with Swastikas and guns posing for the camera. Kids on corners idly flicking knives. Yes, they are young and old, black and white; but, they are all of a type. I can get what is “mine” with violence or the threat of violence.

I don’t have an answer to the problem I see.

Apple Apology

The Apple tech guy came to the office this morning with the innards of the computer, ready to swap them out. As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary as the drive that was buzzing was the non-Apple external drive I backup to. In my defense, it sat right next to the Apple computer and I swear it was the Apple that buzzed. Sorry. (An aside, the 800 number Apple guy, Tony, had told me they don't do onsite service of Mac minis because the techs don't have the tools to open them. The tool? A wide blade putty spreader. One pop and the bottom of the computer was open.)

I have a new Western Digital external drive that is backing up the Mac as I type. Both drives are nice and quiet. Why do advertised gigs exceed actual gigs? The new drive says 500 on the box and the drive itself says it has “465 gigs available.”

Public ire that I don't understand

On a fairly regular basis newspapers and TV will do a story about the evils of “double dipping:” A government employee retires and goes back to work in his or her job as a consultant.

I’ve yet to see one of these stories say that the employee didn’t qualify for retirement or that there was a law in place that barred an employee from returning as a consultant.

No, they focus on the fact that the employee is getting a pension and a salary or hourly fee – how dare they “collect twice!” But they aren’t collecting twice. The pension was earned by however many years of service and contributions. The salary or hourly rate is earned by the current work. Indeed, the government entity is probably saving money by paying the retiree and not having to pay into a pension plan for a replacement.

Bad idea? Change the law.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Short circuited survival skill

An interesting article can to be found at How many of you have cut back on “real” reading lately?

Why We Fight


Last week, though, Human Rights Watch discovered that a revised version of the Shiite Personal Status Law had been quietly put into effect at the end of July — meaning that Shiite men in Afghanistan now have the legal right to starve their wives if their sexual demands are not met and that Shiite women must obtain permission from their husbands to even leave their houses, “except in extreme circumstances.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fingers Crossed

The Braves start a three game series against what one local sports guy always calls the stinkin' Phillies tonight. We're something like five games back. Three wins and it's two. A loss and we don't gain much.

For most of you, this isn't much of a post. For those of us that had more than a decade of assured post-season, this is our moment to return to it.

Sorry Pos, but, you're a football guy, you've got Vick as of yesterday - I want the baseball win. (And best of luck to Vick and the Eagles, I've got a bad feeling it won't work out; but, I wish him the best.)

Shiny Apple

It looks like I’ve solved my warranty problem, it only took about a half hour on the phone. The first guy just gave me rote no’s to my requests to schedule onsite service. He sent me to a product specialist who said that Apple doesn’t provide onsite service for Mac mini’s because special tools are needed to open them and the techs don’t carry them.

I explained that then my warranty was worthless because I couldn’t make an appointment at a store. He put me on hold to try to get me an appointment. “You’re right, I can’t get you one either. I’m going to schedule a tech to come to your office.”

Assuming the problem is the hard drive, the logic board or a SATA cable (?), which the tech will bring, I guess with special tools, I should be good to go early next week.

A round of applause for Tony at Apple!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not yet, but starting to, rotting Apple

So here’s the latest on the attempt to do more than talk with people at Apple.

You can’t get an appointment, since they only give them for somewhere between the next two and three days. If you call or go on line, they don’t have any.

So this afternoon I took the computer to the Lenox Apple store (there were exactly 66 customers counting me at one point) and tried to leave the computer. I was told if I left it, it would be three to five days before it was diagnosed, then an undetermined number of days before anything was done to it. Or I could wait an hour or two and maybe have someone diagnose it at which point the undetermined number of days to fix it would start today.

So, I did what I should have done before messing with these people, I read the warranty. It turns out that I have “onsite” service for my warranty, not that any of the Apple people that I have talked to told me that.

A call to be made tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bruised Apple

I was in two of Apple’s stores, several times, while buying my Mac mini. They don’t work like normal retail stores. They work along the lines of a high-end, trendy restaurant.

You don’t wander in and get asked by an employee “can I help you?” They are busy helping the forty other customers in the store. What you do is go online to get a reservation to talk to one of the employees; or, you wander in and are met by the “concierge” who puts your name on a list – if someone skips an appointment and there aren’t too many people on the list ahead of you, you might get to talk to someone in an hour or so.

My computer may well have a bad hard drive in it. It makes a strange noise while cogitating. I called an “Apple Expert” who agreed with me and offered to make an appointment for me at the nearest store to have the drive swapped out. First (and only) available appointment: 4:15 p.m. on Friday. “How ‘bout Monday?” “Sorry, the schedule only goes through Saturday, you might want to call or go online Friday and see what’s available then.” Let’s see, I’m calling today and there is one appointment available over the next three days, if I call or go online in two days there will be how many appointments available over the then next three days?

When you have fifteen or so employees and always have forty or so customers in a store, is it too much to ask to assign an employee or two to walk-in customers? I suppose the answer is yes if you model your business on a fancy restaurant.

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Occasional Review

From my few reviews, you know that I’m not a great critic of art. I know what I like and dislike; but, have difficulty telling you why.

I’ve often said that art occurs when the artist takes you somewhere they want you to go. By that definition, Hounddog, from 2007, starring Dakota Fanning and written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier, is art. The trouble I have with the trip I took is that I didn’t want to go and I have a troubling sense that the artist shouldn’t have taken Fanning on the trip.

Fanning plays a girl, eleven or twelve, in the deep south in the Fifties. She lives with her dysfunctional father and grandmother (David Morse and Piper Laurie). She’s pretty much on her own with the false friendship of a neighbor boy and true but unavailing concern from a black neighbor. She’s mistreated, or better put, ignored by her father and grandmother as she goes through the process of ending childhood. She ends it with a bang – being raped by an older neighborhood boy.

Her redemption, if it can be called that, is to leave them to live with her barely functional aunt - from a terrible life to a life without much prospect.

But none of this is my problem.

I know people live this way, going from desperation to marginality being a success. And these are stories that should be told. But, I made the mistake of watching the “making of” piece on the DVD. Kampmeier is proud and defensive about her raw portrayal of young sexuality and its terrible consequences for the Fanning character. I know I haven’t adequately described the character or the performance. Think Jodie Foster at the same age, but even more sensual, no that’s not the right word. Fanning’s character is an innocent. Kampmeier plays with the innocent with an adult’s prurient interest.

Yes, that’s what the adults around her in the movie were doing, and yes, people do those things. People love it or hate the movie Kampmeier said. I’m in neither camp; but, I have a problem involving a young actress in the process. Fanning was 13 in 2007 when the movie was released. I’ll assume she was a year or so younger during the filming.

I’d have less trouble with this movie were it a novel, no children harmed in the process.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Well, how 'bout that?

I just published the last post, you don't need to read it if you'd rather not. It mentioned paint. I found a typo and went back to fix it and re-publish. Google has found a way to monetize Blogger. There to the right of the text box was a flashing ad asking me if I wanted to know about paint booths!

I guess Blogger with all it's flaws couldn't be non-commercial forever. Is the next step Google putting ads on my site without my say so?

I wonder what it's going to flash when I hit publish post this time?

The Plan: Part 1

Some years ago, we used to park at the neighborhood bar and then go in one car to play golf. One morning, a company was re-striping the parking lot and one of the guys we played with, one of the owners, told them to put my and Big Tony’s initials at the head of the spots we always parked in.

We returned, and there they were. Over the years the valets got less protective of our spots; and, the weather has worn away a lot of the paint.

Tony would park in my spot if his was taken (bastard); but, none of our friends would ever park in our spots. I still won’t park into Tony’s.

I know it won’t do any good. I’ve decided to re-stripe Tony’s spot. I bought a can of paint and had a plan to re-do his initials, then I decided to do the whole space – tomorrow morning early so it would dry before there was any traffic. I was telling Mac about it today after work at the bar (someone was parked in Tony’s spot). Mac, the practical person that he is told me about how my plan was flawed. First there isn’t any way I can get the initials right without a template. And, doing the ten or so foot lines marking the space would be a nightmare without some 1 by 4’s.

So it isn’t happening tomorrow morning before going to play golf. Next weekend I guess. I’ll let you know if I get arrested for vandalism. If not, I’ll take a picture.

Here's a downer for you

Time Magazine reports that a growing number of bodies at morgues are going unclaimed by family and friends – they can’t afford the cost of a burial.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Back to Basics

Scanning the news lately has irritated me; but, there isn’t anything there that irritates me/inspires me/annoys me enough to write about.

So, I’ll talk about food this time of year. Tomatoes, corn on the cob, onions. And bacon.

When we were kids, we used to go out of the city to my uncle’s farm, about 20 or so miles, on most Sundays after church. Well water and no air conditioning; but, at that point in my life I didn’t know what AC was and the tang of the water was what you got if you wanted to quench your thirst.

In those days, any adult told any child what to do, and what the child was doing wrong about what he had been told to do. Sunday afternoons weren’t much different there than at home, except the semi-exotic farm venue. At home I might be instructed to cut grass. On the farm I was told to hoe the garden.

But the garden. Tomatoes, onions (what I call green onions), corn, lettuce, not so magically came together in August to make some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

I have two brothers, one three years younger, one seven. We have three cousins, sons of this particular uncle and aunt, about four, six and eight years older than me. They were in their middle to late teens, to my early teens in these years.

At a point in the late afternoon, Aunt Carm would instruct me (and my brothers as they got old enough) to go pick three dozen ears of corn, a dozen tomatoes, some onions and a couple of heads of lettuce (this is after strict instruction in what constituted a pickable item).

I (and they as they got older) would shuck the corn, peel the onions and rinse all of the vegetables (I know, tomato is a fruit). Strict instruction on shucking, peeling and rinsing was also given. Our cousins loved Sundays as they were free of what would otherwise be their duties.

Since “boys need some meat” Aunt Carm would fry up a pound or two of bacon and a Midwest orgy of eating food grown fifty feet away, perfectly fresh and still warm from the ground would ensue, washed down with milk from cows a little further away.

I’ve probably eaten better food; though, none of it is still in my mind and making me hungry as I type this.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More from the party of No

The (my hyperlink thingy has quit working) reports that Republicans are dismayed by the profligacy of the cash for clunker program. How dare the Dems spend a billion bucks in a week and want to extend it for another week!

Spend, spend, spend those Dems do. And the balls of them – it isn’t being given to Wall Street, insurance companies or other corporations – plain ole damn people are getting the $4,500 per clunker! What the hell kind of stimulus is that?