February 28, 2007

From the Deathbed

Having a three year old that spends time in the day care world, leads to opportunities to meet new and interesting bacterium and virus' on a regular basis. Over the last week I developed a relationship with what must be a new form of cyano-bacteria, judging from the wonder full blue green hue, that had adapted to the dark damp conditions of my lungs. I coughed so much that for a moment I thought I was in danger of my twelve pack abs turning into a six pack, and I was wheezing like a ninety year old asthmatic.

Since there is usually a silver lining in every dark cloud I would like to pass on this one. Being ill gave me the opportunity to spend inordinate amounts of time in front of the TV while the poor wife (bless her heart) took over snow and ice removal during the week end storm.

I ran across an astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium promoting his book Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries on CSpan's Book TV. Move over Bill Nye the Science Guy, here is a guy that can take a subject like cosmology, astrophyics, or ID, and relate it to the general public in a way that is relevant understandable and in many cases, with just a touch of humor. Plus he has the goods to back it up. He had me hooked at how the elements were formed. Just an amazing speaker. As a bonus he narrated a NOVA special on Monday night. If you get the opportunity check him out.

I am by the way on the road to recovery and thanks to the work of modern science and the development of antibiotics and steroidal medications I will soon have the lungs of an out of shape middle aged fat guy once again. Thank you Merck and Co. for all you do.

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.

If not for the fact that it is so funny, it would be almost painful to watch the once emboldened Democratic Leadership, which ran an election as the party to end the war, wallow rudderless in the mire of disgraceful indecision. Their only actions to date required no real commitment on their part and the only ideas they are floating now have no chance of ending the war but are geared toward embarressing the president politically. As Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif recently lamented, "Bush hasn't to date done anything we've asked him to do, so why we would think he would do anything in the future is beyond me," and with the Bush's approval rating at 36% that tactic has little life left in it.
The Murtha Plan is DOA and the latest twist involves using budget waivers whereby anytime the president needs another box of ammo he will have to get authorization from congress. Biden has proposed revoking the original authorization but when Bush declared the end of major hostilities it could be argued that we are no longer working under that bill anyway.
So that brings us to defunding the Iraq operations, the one action that legally and constitutionally could stop the war. But for reasons that only the democrats can say (and they aren’t at this point) defunding has become the third rail of the debate and they are loath to pull the plug.
It must be painful to try to nuance your core beliefs in exchange for political expediency. (The use of methods that bring the most immediate benefits based on practical rather than moral considerations. (Encarta) In a time of war that expediency reaches another level. Mark Twain once said ;

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let me label you as they may.

It is not at all unpatriotic to question the war but it is morally bankrupt not take the actions to back up your stated convictions.

February 21, 2007

Iowa Destinations.

If you are traveling through the Hawkeye State, known affectionately as the gateway to Nebraska, take time to check out some of our states many roadside attractions. This weeks stop.....
"Is this Heaven? No this is Iowa." Dyersville, Iowa to be exact. Home of the movie location of the 1989 film "Field of Dreams" staring Kevin Costner.

True to the movies hook "Build it and they will come", nearly 50,00 travelers a year pay a visit to this out of the way Iowa destination.
It is doubtful you will see the ghosts of baseball past emerging from the surrounding cornfields but you are welcome to bring your bat, ball, and glove and play a little ball on one of the countries most famous diamonds.
The field itself straddles the property line of two adjoining farms which touched of a feud between the two neighbors and in Solomon like fashion the site is divided into the "Original Field of Dreams" Open 9AM to 6PM and the "Left and Center, Field of Dreams" Open 8AM to 8PM.


February 12, 2007

Thanks Steppenwolf.

You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, I say The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

It was probably about 1973 and I was sitting in my bedroom, the headsets plugged into my brand new, turntable, eight track, FM radio, stereo system, blasting Steppenwolf in to my mushy young brain. The air giutar was yet to be invented but I was singing along, apparently at the top of my lungs because it eventually drew the attention of Dad. Now I have to say that most of the things I learned from my father must have happened through DNA transfer because besides this incident that I am about to relate we didn’t spend a lot of time together hashing out life’s mysteries. He was always working two jobs so that us kids could have stuff like a stereo in our bedrooms whether we deserved one or not, or I was out running rampant though the countryside. On this night however a point was about to be made that I have carried to this day.
When he entered the room and I removed the headset, the only thing he said was "Give me those and get out of here". Several minutes later he came down the hallway. “If a person can’t make their point without cussing they don’t have much of a point to make.” I of course had to make the argument that they were cussing about drug dealers, but he was not swayed. “If you can’t do it without cussing you shouldn't do it at all." He didn’t make me get rid of the album, (he did know how to pick his battles) but the point was made.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am by no means an angel. I have been know to throw back a few beers, cuss like a sailor, and to throw the F-bomb in the heat of the moment. But to this day the thought of sitting down at the keyboard to fire off a foul-mouthed diatribe to make a point makes me cringe. I also cringe when I run across it in the blog“o”sphere. It really adds nothing to the writing, in fact if anything it reveals a persona lacking in depth, maturity, or gravitas. State your argument, support it with a fact or two if you can and if you find that it can't stand without the support of the third leg of the vile invective perhaps you shouldn't say it at all.
Thanks Dad... And Steppenwolf

You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he's not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream

God damn, The Pusher
God damn, God damn the Pusher
I said God damn, God, God damn The Pusher man

Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I'd declare total war on The Pusher man
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun

God damn The Pusher
Gad damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man

"Steppenwolf" (1968) “The Pusher”

February 10, 2007

Mr. Mom

I have had the good fortune to play Mr. Mom to my three year old for the better part of her short life and when my favorite sister in law sent me this link I couldnt help but think of the times I have spent in that role. Thanks Double J.

Global Warming

The other night while skipping through the channels I paused for a moment on Larry King Live. Not a show I normally watch because I think it is a little morbid of CNN to use an interviewer that actually died in 1987, but I digress. What caught my attention was Larry’s guest Bill Nye the Science Guy was on, discussing the upcoming made for TV, end of the world as we know it, apocalypse now, topic of Global Climate Change. Formally known as Global Warming. What made this interview interesting was that Nye was debating MIT climitologist and infamous global warming denier Richard Lindzen.
I don’t know if Mr. Bill Nye Inc., Cornell University educated engineer, former Boeing employee, and sometimes comedian would use a topic as serious as the end of the world to promote his Science Guy schtick but it became pretty clear that Bill was out of his league in this debate.

What this clip doesn’t show is that after several more minutes of Nye lobbing the climate change mantra and Doctor Lindzen smashing every serve a flustered Nye switches gears and presses the Professor to admit that we ought to do it for the good of the people so they have clean air. He then goes on to say that we ought to do it because it would an economic boom as people make a switch to alternate energy. It appeared that his scientific arguments didn’t have much leg.

If Nye, Gore, and DeCarpio are the Science Front Guys for Climate Change then the awaiting disaster has all the credibility of Y2K, West Nile, Flu vaccine shortages, or any number of scares that in hindsight came no where near the point where we had a guy dragging a cart through the streets yelling "bring out your dead".

“Comic Interlude”

During my days in Alaska I witnessed the glaciers receding and I have no doubt that the earth's climate is changing. If there is one constant in this world it is change, but there are credible voices that say that the sky is not falling and as the global warming inquisition gains steam those voices have a right to be heard. As Lindzen said many years ago: "...the consensus was reached before the research had even begun. Now, any scientist who dares to question the prevailing wisdom is marginalized and called a sceptic, when in fact they are simply being good scientists."

Global Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts? : Timothy Ball, Canada Free Press

Al Gore Is a Greenhouse Gasbag :Professor Bob Giegengack, Penn St.

Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century :Michael Crichton

The real deal?: Lawrence Solomon, National Post; Ten part deniers series.

Iowa Destinations.

If you are traveling through the Hawkeye State, known affectionately as the gateway to Nebraska, take time to check out some of our states many roadside attractions. As a public service we will periodically point out a few of our more interesting destinations. This week.....
Brandon. Home to the worlds biggest fry pan.
Located just off Interstate 380 between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, this eight foot steel behemoth is capable of frying 528 eggs or over 350 pounds of those delicious Iowa Chops.


Clinton's Socialist Agenda

Senator Hillary Clinton plans to "take" oil company profits and put them into a fund for energy independence. It is unclear at this time if she plans to do this through taxation or nationalization. Through legislation or executive fiat but whatever her plan it will not be good for energy independence or energy prices. She might as well say she wants to take the profits from Home Depot and give everyone a house, or from Microsoft and give everyone a computer. What she evidently doesn't understand about our system is corporate profits are not hers to take and as history has proven it didn't work in Russia and it can not be allowed here. Just say no to Hillary.

Perhaps she has been taking lessons from Hugo Chavez:
Chavez announces May takeover of all Venezuela oil fields

February 03, 2007

Polar Bear Humor

Bert: I’m king of the mountain! I’m King of the mountain!
Ernie: Quit playin around Bert. Don’t you smell that? I think it’s Gore-Tex.
Bert: Look, over on the beach. What’s that guy doing?
Ernie: I think he’s taking our picture.
Bert: Boy that sure is a pretty shade of red. Stands out on the tundra like a dead caribou in July don’t it Ernie? Do ya figure it’s one of them there environmentalists?
Ernie: Maybe. This one sure smells prettier than a local and I don’t see any guns.
Bert: Ya figure they’re any good to eat?
Ernie: Not as tasty as a big fat seal but it probably beats the hell out of hanging out at the Barrow dump looking for muktuk.
Bert: I say we swim over there and have a snack.
Ernie: Ok but we have to be veeeery quite.
Bert: Why’s that Earnie, are they fast?
Ernie Nah there easy to catch. But if you aren’t careful, you scare the shit out of 'em then there isn’t much left.

February 02, 2007

Literary Madness

I have been an avid reader throughout my life though it seems that “litra-ture” had somehow escaped me until I returned to college and had it introduced to me in a vain attempt to make me a logical thinker. Like writer Joan Didion wrote, “I do not think in abstracts”, and from what I have ascertained, abstract is the realm of the literary mind, a part of my mind that failed to develop.

I knew from the start that literature and I could be civil but we would never be best friends. This became embarrassingly apparent in my first college composition class. We would read an essay from some esteemed author and during the class discussion the professor would ask my interpretation of some inane paragraph. I would give my sincerest interpretation and then get the look. The slight grin, an upturned eyebrow. “Interesting.” she would say, with a tone that was apparently her metaphor for “Ok, so you are a loon”, before moving on to the more enlightened in the front row. Further indoctrination with the likes of Faulkner and Tan failed to garner any improvements in my perception. Perhaps it is the annoyance of having to read and reread in order to flesh out exactly what the author has said that makes me think that literature is itself just a code word for lunacy.

This groping to understand these hidden meanings has led me to resent literature as having a bit of snooty pretentiousness. I recently read that even a “ rancid maggot covered piece of meat can make anyone feel something. And any pretentious moron in a beret can call it a metaphor for anything.” When EB White says that he has hanging in his closet the “ Mantle of Montaigne, smelling slightly of camphor” who is to say White is not just wondering, what is that smell?

I now find myself in one final attempt at understanding literature, studying a genre hell bent on unique and interesting ways to state the obvious. But this time as I became acquainted with the God-father of the essay Michel de Montaigne I found myself agreeing with what he was saying. Cynthia Ozick reflects that it is the intrinsic power of the essay to “… be a force for agreement. It co-opts agreement, it courts agreement, it seduces agreement.” Not that what Montaigne wrote was some eye opening revelation of something I did not know but instead was like carrying on a conversation with an old friend as he reminded me of my own similar experience that I would then like to recount.

It was Montaign’s “Of Idleness” and the images in my mind that his piece evoked that convinced me to try my hand at an essay. To take the topic of what is the essence of an essay and define my understanding of the subject by steeping it in imagery and a variety of literary devices to see where it might lead.

"The Madness of the Essay" :

Picture if you will, the disheveled man in the crumpled hat, we have all seen him shuffling through town, as he carries on a conversation, with no one else around. We smirk and then we reason, “I’m glad as hell that I don’t act that way”, but when you think about it, we are all a touch insane. The difference between him and us? We don’t move our lips.

“The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs

(Pink Floyd)

The mind is never silent; it banters back and forth but that is perhaps the one thing that defines that we are real:

“I think therefore I am.”
(René Descartes)

There is never respite from it, it continues as we sleep. Those “monsters” that jolt us wide-awake at night are visions that make no sense to us:

You lock the door, and throw away the key, There’s someone in my head but it’s not me. (Pink Floyd)

Our heads are packed with stories that we tell ourselves, or friends. Each one our skewed reflection of the places we have been. If we could only take the time to jot these ramblings down we could fill the cellar walls with these memories that we’ve built.

But I for one have this “childish notion” that someone more might care, so to quell this vain compulsion I will bottle up these memories and present them to the world. Montaigne called it the “essay” but madness fits as well, a thousand words in each “attempt” to share my private tales.

I will pick these words with caution like the grapes for a fine wine. Message them with the greatest care so they age well over time. I have no crazed delusions that by this folly I’ll gain fame, my goal is purely “pleasure” for those minds that might partake. My one great hope is when they are through and we find we both agree they will raise a hearty toast to this, the earthy brew I‘ve made.

There I’ve done it. I have created litra-ture. As I look at the finished piece I am amazed that it in no way resembles the initial thoughts that I put to paper. It evolved as I tried different words, ideas, and similes in search of the perfect feel to make my point. This process was described by Virginia Woolf “the essay… can be polished till every atom of its surface shines, there are dangers in that too.” Too much polish can lead to as she stated, “…grapes on a Christmas tree, that glitter for a single night but are dusty the day after.” You have to know when to stop and on that point I am afraid that I didn’t heed her advice in this attempt.

I don’t know that my essay will reach the level of pleasure that Woolf and others referred to, beyond my own pleasure in writing it, but the critiques I received from my fellow students have been encouraging. The one recurring theme in the reviews though has been “creative” which may just be a metaphor for “Interesting.”

A Global Warming Primer

1. What is meant by the term “global warming” and why may it is a problem?
Global warming is the term that has been applied to an apparent increase in the average temperature of the earth in the last hundred years or so. This increase in temperature is expected to continue for the foreseeable future and according to some it may mean the end of the world, as we know it. Some expect coastal flooding, increased storms, and droughts. On the other hand it just may mean that we could once again see wineries in Scotland.
2. What is the most probable cause of “global warming”?
The cause most widely quoted for this increase in temperature are the rising levels of CO2 gas entering the atmosphere due to the use of fossil fuels in our industrialized society. The additional CO2 does not allow the sun’s energy to escape back into space trapping it in the atmosphere and increasing the temperature much like a “greenhouse”. Hence the name, greenhouse effect.
3. What lines of evidence support or refute “global warming”?
Scientists have examined the CO2 levels and global temperature ranges for the last 650,000 years or so and determined that there may be a correlation between the two. Although the earth has always undergone cyclical variations in temperature the concern today is that CO2 levels are now higher than at any time in history “probably” due to mans use of fossil fuels. There are alternate theories to explain the rise but CO2 is the most popular at this time and those that do not adhere to the greenhouse hysteria are now being vilified in the media.
4. Can we do anything about “global warming”?
Reducing the use of fossil fuels “may” have an effect over the long term. It is unlikely though that all nations i.e. China and India would agree to the reductions needed to be effective. It is also unlikely that the industrialized nations will cripple their economies without worldwide cooperation in controlling CO2 emissions. I myself will be looking for beachfront property in Greenland.