Friday, December 23, 2011

Apologies On Breach Of Blogging Etiquette

I did something on this blog last night that I've never had to do in over 12 years of blogging:

I had to take down a blog post.

True: I have removed personal information from this blog when asked to before, but I have never had somebody tell me to take down an entire post simply because they were concerned what other readers might think of it (and me), and actually listened to them... especially when that post did not specifically mention the person asking me to take the post down... especially when I stood 100% behind the content and opinion expressed in that post.

But, you see, in mentioning the company I work for on this blog, I inadvertently tied the content of this blog to that company. Thus I inadvertently ceded some measure of editorial control of my blog over to my company in the process. So when my company "seriously recommended" I take a post down because of their concern that my opinion would be confused with their own, I really could not say no. It's my mistake and I have to live with it now.

So, to those people who will notice that a post that they had read previously is suddenly missing from the blog lineup, you have my apologies for breaking a cardinal rule of blogging. It was not voluntary, and it will not happen again...

But that is primarily because this blog is ending and a new one will be beginning. The new blog will not have my name on it, or Epril's name on it, or my company's name on it. It will not link to this blog, nor this blog to it. You'll probably find the new blog eventually... but you may not. Sorry, if you don't. But all good things must come to an end.

Sorry Ron Paul

I've liked Ron Paul forever... or at least since 2007 when I first mentioned him on my blog. He's the only libertarian conservative running for the Republican nomination for President this year, the only constitutional literalist running for the Republican nomination for President this year. He may have some crazy thoughts regarding fiscal policy, but he played all the right social issue chords and role-of-government melodies with me.

I wouldn't vote for him anymore (though I would have before), because his fiscal policy is too severe a bludgeon in a time that requires more tact and gentle approaches to a shaky economy, but at least he is consistent. He is an old-school fiscal and governmental conservative with liberal views on society and government's need to stay out of it... just like me.

Unfortunately, he was at one point in time, a virulent, unabashed, dyed-in-the-wool racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, and conspiracy theorist of the highest tin-foil-hat-wearing order, and published all of those facts repeatedly in a regular personal newsletter. I knew it was sort of bad 4 years ago, and I figured: The guy's a bit of a kooky old man, allow him a few peccadilloes that he can deny and we can ignore if anyone ever asks. (If I had been more seriously examining him as a candidate, instead of just "pondering", I may have been a little serious about looking into the content of those "newsletters", but I wasn't, so I waffled on the racism stuff.)

But of course, now the newsletters are front and center... and they are bad. And now Ron Paul's denials are front and center... and they are weak.

Sorry Ron Paul. I gave you a whole heaping plateful of spaghetti-a-la-benefit-de-la-doubt and it was not nearly enough.

You no longer appear to me as a rough-edged old coot with a heart cast from American Gold Eagles, the hand-me-down spirit of John Jay, Adam Smith's blood, and Oakshott's tongue. Now I see a sad old politician trying to dodge reasonable questions, avoid responsibility, deny culpability... while at the same time (as we all deep down knew would happen), more newsletters with your signature on them are being discovered filled with ever-nastier white-supremacist content.

I'm sorry we can't find a better person to put your ideas in, because those ideas of yours... and those ideas alone... are worth something to this country. And the country will be all the poorer as nobody will appreciate those ideas because they are coming from the person who is Ron Paul.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Daily Report: On Her Way

Epril finally (FINALLY) got her visa. No reason for the 1.5 month delay was given nor apology offered. I had actually called the office of my Congressmen, Mr. Buchanan, and they sent out an inquiry. Based on the timeframes of the visa's approval and delivery to my wife, I suspect that their inquiry was a day too late to have an effect — my terse e-mail demanding either action or explanation sent a week prior was more likely to have done it — but I must say Rep. Buchanan's staff... their instant involvement and knowledge of what to do and who to contact was exemplary, and I can say without hesitation that contacting your Congressman (something I had never done before) is a worthwhile undertaking when you have a problem such as I had.

That said, Epril will be here next Wednesday. Christmas is no longer in the cards, I am afraid. Epril got a whiff of 4 a.m. church services, lechon baboy, and candied spaghetti, and decided to stick around for "her last Christmas in The Philippines". (Actually it was her mother's request.)

Epril and her family really are approaching this as if it were the last time Epril would ever see The Philippines or her family again. Obviously that's not the case, and I'm sure that on some level, they realize it, but at the same time, there is some finality to the way they are all going about Epril's "final days".

(Seriously... she might even be there for Easter, guys.)

Anyway, Epril will be arriving next Wednesday afternoon in Florida. After that, we'll probably eat something really American and really fattening. Then we will probably just spend a quiet few weeks at home.

Oh... and driving lessons.

You Know The Republicans Have Lost It When...

... when the most conservative newspaper in the country, The Wall Street Journal, has to come out and say the Republicans are idiots. And it's not even gentle or qualifying, like you would expect: The subtitle of the piece is "How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama?" (And it gets more scathing from there.)
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

... But now Republicans are drowning out that victory in the sounds of their circular firing squad. Already four GOP Senators have rejected the House position, and the political rout will only get worse.

After a year of the tea party House, Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have had to make no major policy concessions beyond extending the Bush tax rates for two years. Mr. Obama is in a stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago, and the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining.
See? That's harsh coming from The Wall Street Journal.

It's true though. The other day, I said that the candidates in the Republican Presidential primary were giving Obama everything he needed to win without his lifting a finger to help or hinder. I suppose it is fair to mention that the rest of the Republican party is doing their part as well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Light Bulb Companies Pissed Off

My libertarian sensibilities were offended when I heard that the government was outlawing incandescent light bulbs. Turns out, I was just being suckered by Republican hyperbole. You see, "outlawing incandescent light bulbs" was actually President Bush signing a bill that required light bulbs to use 30% less electricity (for the same amount of lumens) by January 2012. The fact that most light bulb makers decided that this goal would best be met by switching over to the fluorescent light bulbs was simply a fact of expediency and simplicity. There are actually incandescent bulbs that use 30% less electricity for the same light, such as halogen bulbs, but they aren't as common in the market.

Of course, Republicans are still going on fighting the "outlawing of incandescent light bulbs" and are working hard to make sure that, come January 2012, not only is the light bulb requirement repealed, but ALL light bulb standards are repealed as well.

Which, of course, annoys the hell out of the people who make light bulbs, who have spent millions re-tooling all of their factories to meet the new standards and make the new format fluorescent bulbs. They not only see the Republican attempts to repeal the law as potentially undercutting them, causing them to have wasted all that money, but also opening up the market to any fly-by-night company who is able to coast in with cut-rate incandescent bulbs and make a killing. The light bulb manufacturers are imagining 25-cent light bulbs from China on shelves next to their 2-dollar bulbs that the government had insisted they develop.

(And of course, when the 25-cent light bulb burns your house down... well, that's another story entirely.)

Quick Thought

President Obama's chances of reelection are approximately 100%.

About 25% of that probability comes from the Republican primary in which every candidate had to claim "I'm crazy like you" to the people who are going to vote them in the primaries.

About 25% of that probability comes from attack adds from Republican candidates pointing at each other saying, "He's not crazy like us" to the people who are going to vote for them in the primaries.

About 25% of that probability comes from the rest of the American public looking at the Republican candidates and concluding, "You're crazy based on all the crazy shit I've heard you say in the Republican Primaries."

The remaining probability comes from the fact that President Obama has not even cleared his throat yet to start the actual campaign, and you know he's no slouch as a candidate.

Like it or not: Four more years. Those endless debates where all the candidates stood up and tried to out-tea-party each other was the best thing Obama could ever have hoped for. For every "I'll bring the jobs back" line, there was an "I'll arrest all the activist judges" line. Every candidate who said that they would repeal "Obamacare" also said they would start a war with Iran.

Republicans this year forgot the most important rule in politics: The more a politician talks (not makes speeches... but talks: as in debates, interviews, et cetera), the more likely he will say something that will make it impossible for people to vote for him. Think about it: If Rick Perry had never said a single word, he would still be the front runner in this race. But look at him now. If Mitt Romney hadn't attended a single debate, he would probably be polling better than he does. Bachmann and Santorum have done nothing in their lives except say jaw-dropping crazy shit since they graduated from high school. And let's not even get started on Gingrich.

Anyway, I put Obama winning the coming election 57% to 43% of the total vote... 14 points... against Romney. 60% to 40% against any other candidate.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Typhoon Hits CDO, Hundreds Dead


CDO has been pummeled by one of the first typhoons to make it over the mountains in decades, and the results are catastrophic.

Due to it's peculiar location, as you can see in the image below, which is a map of the eye of every typhoon to cross the Philippines in the last half century, CDO and Mindanao are rarely visited by big storms. Therefore when one does come through (even a small tropical storm, as this one named "Sendong" / "Washi" was), nobody is prepared, and the results can be hideous.


Anyway, I assume my wife is okay because I spoke with her yesterday afternoon after the worst had passed. I don't know about her family out in Jasaan though. The last time a big storm came through, their house was endangered. But I'll assume everything is alright since Epril made no mention of it.

However for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people who lost their lives yesterday, and all of their family and friends, the small size of this storm, or the rare path that it took will be of little comfort. Keep those poor souls in your thoughts.

UPDATE: BBC is reporting now 652 confirmed dead and 808 additional still missing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Daily Report: Delayed

Bad news: Epril won't be arriving on the 13th as hoped. Her visa has not yet been approved, and the soonest it could arrive in Epril's hands at this point is Monday morning... the time at which she was supposed to be getting on a plane to Manila. God damn. Now it is a day-by-day waiting situation, which is just ridiculous.

This whole visa application process has been one bullshit situation after another. First all of the paperwork that Epril mailed to me from The Philippines took almost 50 days to arrive. Next, the American government lost her entire visa package between the California Service Center and the New Hampshire National Visa Center for 2 months. Now, the American Embassy in Manila is taking over a month to approve her visa. All of these things should have taken days at most to accomplish... and instead my wife and I have been kept apart an additional 4 months total on what is essentially governmental idiocy. It would be a fucking joke if it wasn't so frustrating and upsetting: We've got rather important Christmas plans that might be spoiled.

So, I retain my long-term optimism... but in the short term, I really want to just climb into bed and wait for the "here and now" to go away.

I miss my wife.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The New Truth About Lying

When Mitt Romney's campaign put out an anti-Obama advertisement in which Obama was accused of saying something damaging/stupid, when it was clearly evident (when the Romney campaign's dishonest editing was redacted) that Obama was quoting somebody else's damaging/stupid statement, Mitt Romney's campaign responded with the following statement (and no, this is not a joke):
“First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”
Think about that for a minute: Mitt Romney's campaign is saying that ALL political ads are trying to get people to think bad things about the other guy, so there is no need for them to be true.

That should be repellent to any sensible person. It is degraded. It is mercenary. It is the Romney campaign proudly and shamelessly admitting to being morally bankrupt and willing to lie to achieve power.

Yes, I have had it pointed out to me before that shit like this has been going on since America was founded. Go ahead and state then that Romney's campaign is in keeping with the finest tradition of Tammany Hall, and therefore is just engaging in "politics as usual". Yeah... Let's welcome back the days of Boss Tweed. Just remember: As of now, Mitt Romney is a guy who is apparently willing to blatantly lie to the American people about even the simplest crap, like the content of a campaign ad, and admit laughingly to moral turpitude when called on it, and who wants to run a government that already has serious problems with transparency, civil rights, and moral balance.

You know that 25 years ago, something like this would have sunk a presidential campaign in a heartbeat. Now a disturbingly large idiot segment of the American population just yawns and ignores, forgets, or even cheers for it.

Interesting Story On Police Usage Of Force

The Huffington Post has a very interesting (and disturbing) cover story today about the increased use of "SWAT" teams (with raids up from a few thousand per year nationwide 20 years ago, to well over 50,000 a year now) and the general use of unnecessary violence for all kinds of law enforcement activity. The author documents (with links) how SWAT teams were sent to all kinds of places where no potential for resistance would normally be considered... such as the house of a person who had defaulted on student loans, or the Gibson guitar factory (over suspicions of illegally imported wood), or even on a group of vacationing Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas.
Dress cops up as soldiers, give them military equipment, train them in military tactics, tell them they're fighting a "war," and the consequences are predictable. ... [I]t has become routine to use force that is disproportionate to the laws the police are enforcing. Because it has happened gradually over the course of about 30 years, the public has become accustomed to it.

Today, SWAT teams are routinely deployed against people who pose little to no threat at all. It's hard to come up with a legitimate reason that the federal government needs to send heavily-armed, heavily-armored SWAT teams to raid medical marijuana clinics, for example. ... There's also little justification for sending SWAT teams to raid the offices of doctors accused of over-prescribing prescription painkillers, co-ops accused of selling unpasteurized milk, or for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to send paramilitary squads into businesses suspected of employing undocumented immigrants.

At the 2008 GOP Convention, police staged preemptive raids on the homes of possible protesters and rabble-rousers. There were mass arrests of protesters and journalists, few of which resulted in any actual charges. At the 2009 G20 summit in Pittsburgh, camouflage-clad cops deployed sound cannons and arrested protesters, students and even onlookers. This was not because they broke any actual laws, but on their potential to cause disruption.

In 2009, I wrote an article for the Daily Beast about the odd phenomenon of cops shooting dogs. In drug raids, killing the dogs in the targeted house is almost perfunctory. We also see stories about cops killing dogs while chasing suspects across the property of a third party, or killing a dog who growls at them after they were called to a house on an unrelated matter. ... The often cold reactions from police departments to these incidents also show a certain indifference to the people they are supposed to be serving -- again, more the way a soldier interacts with citizens in another country than as with a police officer serving his community.

The amount of force the government uses to uphold a given law is no longer determined only by the threat to public safety posed by the suspect. Now, it appears to give an indication of how serious the government is about the law being enforced. The DEA sends SWAT teams barreling into the offices of doctors accused of over-prescribing painkillers not because the doctors pose any real threat of violence, but because prescription drug abuse is a hot issue right now. The feds sent SWAT teams into marijuana dispensaries not because medicinal pot merchants are inherently dangerous people, but because officials believe the dispensaries are openly defying federal law. It is, to put it bluntly, a terror tactic. Sending a couple cops with a clipboard to hand out fines and shut down a dispensary doesn't convey a strong message. Sending a bunch of cops dressed like soldiers to point guns at dispensary owners and their customers certainly does. ... The amount force government authorities use, then, is no longer based not on what sort of threat a suspect poses to the government or those around him, but on the political implications of the laws being enforced. It isn't difficult to see how we get from here to pepper-spraying and beating peaceful protesters, particularly if the protesters are becoming a thorn in the side of politicians or are losing support from the public.
The author summarizes with a good point: Back in the 1990s, political conservatives were the ones decrying the excessive use of law enforcement firepower at Ruby Ridge, Waco Texas, and even in the Elian Gonzalez raid, while liberals were mainly silent. With the Occupy protesters now being targeted for excessive use of police violence, the Conservatives are nodding their heads in satisfaction and offering congratulations to the cops for a job well done. When the pendulum swings back again, and it becomes Tea Party activists being beaten by police for waving guns around at a political rally, or it is Christians protesting gay marriage who are pepper sprayed because they were "outside of a protest zone", or abortion protesters who are tasered for blocking a sidewalk... will those same congratulations offered before still be forthcoming? Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daily Report: Another Update

Yeah... sorry for waiting for more than a month for an update. Everything has been tossed up in the air and is spinning: a slow motion floating kaleidoscope of every detail of my life. All of us here are pretty certain that all of those things are going to land as a perfectly formed diamond-encrusted sculpture of joy and success, but watching and waiting for that to happen does not make it any easier.

Epril flew to Manila with her mother for a 3-day visit to get her health exam in the latter part of October. Then flew to Manila again with her mother for another 3-day visit for her embassy interview. That went great. She dropped off her passport on November 8th and was told that it would be shipped to her via a courier service. But that was almost 3 weeks ago, which seems like a long time to wait. I'm going to have to call the embassy in Manila tomorrow and see if I can find out what the problem is.

PeGreSol has been meeting with companies in Thailand and Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as talking with Ukraine, Uganda, a couple of middle eastern countries, one South American company, and one very large American oil company. Now, we are at the stage of shipping out samples of FloWell to various corporate laboratories so that they can test the product themselves to make sure that not only will it work as advertised, but won't damage any of their equipment in the process. In December and early January, we should start performing our first field tests for clients (which will result in PeGreSol's first small commissions). Then, once the wellhead tests are done, each client/country will hopefully be expanding the use of FloWell by a factor of a thousand(s) and taking monthly shipments of that vast amount. After that, sales should increase exponentially on pretty much a weekly basis as more and more oil companies become aware that FloWell is being adopted industry-wide and rush to jump on the bandwagon.

I just can't stomach the wait! The transcription job is all but finished, as the pay rate there was deeply slashed at the end of summer. A job that used to pay me $75,000 a year; now I couldn't survive on what I make if I worked 60 hours a week at it (which I can't — not allowed and not nearly enough mental/spiritual desire). I'm barely making minimum wage really, though that is more a function of just not giving a shit about a job that used to be so great rather than the shockingly low pay rate that I have to work with. But honestly: Who the hell could be serious about a job that pays only 30% of what it used to pay (and is only getting worse), while looking forward to what in a few months should be a weekly income that is equal to my current annual salary? It is literally the same as busting your ass at McDonald's while waiting for your lottery check to arrive. Well, I'm doing it.

Epril should be arriving in Tampa on December 13th. Then a week later we will be driving up the East Coast to my mother's house in New York for Christmas. After that, we hope to visit New York City and possibly Washington DC. After the New Year, hopefully the money will have finally arrived to fund a trip to Thailand (both business and pleasure). Then after that it will be back to Florida to work on setting up a place for Epril and I to live.

But, as I said: Every single detail of everything I have mentioned above is currently "up in the air"... and I haven't the foggiest idea when any of the details are going to finalize themselves. Quite literally, if you ask me where I'm going to be at any given point in the future, I could not make a single promise, assurance, or assertion based on the current circumstances of my life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Alabama Immigration Law Applied To Wrong Alien

Apparently a police officer in Alabama didn't get the memo that the state's new immigration law is only to be applied to brown people with foreign accents: An executive of Mercedes Benz, visiting the local car factory his company operates there, was hauled off to jail after being unable to prove he was in the country legally at a roadside stop.

Obviously, the governor of Alabama was quite embarrassed and apologetic to the German auto company over the fact that the law actually was mistakenly applied to a respectable/white/desirable immigrant unable to immediately prove his legal status in Alabama on demand. (Fortunately, the Mercedes executive was released before the waterboarding was started, so no harm done.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

William Shatner shows us why he has been, is, and will continue to be the coolest guy in Hollywood: Watch as he pours all his energy and creativity into a fun little PSA for State Farm Insurance warning about improper use of turkey fryers. Seriously: Can you imagine any other actor rising so high by stooping so low?



Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Don't set yourselves on fire.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ghandi Knew All This

Throughout history, all around the world, if you ever needed to figure out which side of an issue the history books would eventually determine was the correct side of the issue to be on... it has always been on the side of the issue for which peacefully protesting, nonviolent people are pepper-sprayed, tasered, attack-dogged, fire-hosed, lynched, or murdered by law enforcement.

Seriously: Has there ever been a moment in modern history where state/official violence was unleased upon nonviolent protesters... and whatever it was that the protesters were protesting was eventually proven wrong? I can't think of any.

There should be a logical truism like Godwin's Law that states, "As soon as you can get the police to beat on you while you are engaging in nonviolent protest, you automatically win the protest."

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Republican-To-English Translation Aid

Heh.
  • Liberal: A person who should be rounded up and shot but not really.
  • Marxism: A political and economic philosophy developed by Karl Marx and promulgated by Paul Krugman.
  • Media (Mainstream): Where you won't hear things.
  • Medicare: A fraudulent, socialistic boondoggle that is sacrosanct.
  • Mexicans: Brown people who have it coming.
  • Mountaintops: Ancient rock formations that have it coming.
  • Muslims: Brown people who have it coming.
  • News: Fox News
  • Obamacare: A Federally-mandated policy to address the national oversupply of grandparents through euthanasia.
  • Organic: Eaten by lesbians.
  • Party (Tea): A grass-roots movement of patriotic Americans fighting for the principle of "No Taxation With Representation."
  • Poll: A survey used to determine, to within a margin of error, what percentage of Americans are right.
  • Poverty: The condition of having inadequate financial or material resources due to not trying hard enough.
  • Propaganda: The politically motivated dissemination of biased information, opinion, or data through its publication in the New York Times.
  • Punishment (Capital): The legally authorized killing by the State of someone who is definitely guilty.
  • Racism: A form of discrimination that typically happens in reverse.
  • Regulation: Rules issued by a government agency for no reason.
  • Ronald Reagan: A fictional character based loosely on President Ronald Reagan.
  • Scientist: A person who employs a rigorous system of observation, experiment, measurement, and verification to perpetuate his Godless left-wing agenda.
  • Social Security: A redistributionist Ponzi scheme that is sacrosanct.
  • Socialism: An economic system invented by FDR.
  • Taxes: Levies imposed by the government that raise more revenue the lower they are.
  • Torture: A method of interrogation that does not rise to the level of torture.
More where that came from when you click on the link.

The 6 Lies About The Economy Republicans Tell

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones sums up 6 fundamental lies about the economy that are demonstrably false.

I'll force you to click on the link to see why and how they are false (mostly actual data, studies, and historical facts), but I will summarize them here:

LIE #1: The stimulus failed. SUMMARY: It was too little, too late, but the people's whose opinions actually matter all agree it stopped an economic disaster.  See "Mistake of 1937" for what not to do, and why we are repeating it.

LIE #2: The deficit is our biggest problem right now. SUMMARY: With T bond interest rates near 0%, trust in America's ability to pay debts has never been higher.  Long term, yes, it's a problem.  Short term, worry about the economy.

LIE #3: Lower taxes are the best way to grow the economy. SUMMARY: No historical correlation to prove that is the case.  Last time taxes were raised (under Clinton), economy surged ahead.  Last time taxes were cut (under Bush), economy stagnated.

LIE #4: Regulatory uncertainty is clogging the economy. SUMMARY: No business owner who was asked agreed with that fact.  And, current administration has not been active at all in ramping up regulations in the business sector anyway.

LIE #5: Obama is debasing the dollar. SUMMARY: "Printing money" had no effect on dollar value. Exchange rates prove that.  (And, we should wish the dollar value would collapse, because the value of American exports would increase.)

LIE #6: If you unshackle the rich, they'll rev up the economy. SUMMARY: Rich people are more rich now than ever before and corporate profits are at record levels, but they are waiting for economic improvement to invest in or expand their business ventures.

Self-Driving Cars Are Here... Quite Soon

Based on what I'm seeing in this video with Google's driverless car program, we should see the first self-driving cars in showrooms in 2 or 3 years. Their prototype cars have driven over 100,000 miles with not a single incident. (Okay, one human driver incident.)

It's a pretty geeky 15-minute video, but completely fascinating for anybody who has been waiting for a true self-driving car. (And, just because it needs to be said: This driving is done on today's roads... no special futuristic road construction to instruct the driverless cars or anything.)



What this means is that we are fast approaching the moment in time when you can get into your car, program the destination, and then sit back and relax (preferably with a foot near the brake pedal... just in case) with a good book, video, or conversation. (And, the moment in time will arrive shortly after that when the first ticket for "driving while sleeping" will be issued.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What "The 99%" Is Trying To Say

Sometimes, you get an idea in your head that you cannot quite put into words. Then I read the "Open Letter To That 53% Guy", and it all suddenly became easy to explain.

The "53% Guy" is some otherwise-nameless young fellow who put up a picture of himself holding up a sign that said, "I am a former Marine. I work two jobs. I don’t have health insurance. I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college. I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years. But I don’t blame Wall Street. Suck it up you whiners. I am the 53%. God bless the USA!"

In the open letter, the author finally stated what I had been trying to verbalize for a while:
Do you really want the bar set this high? Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week? Is that your idea of the American Dream?

Look kid, I don’t want you to “get by” working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week. If you’re willing to put in that kind of effort, I want you to get rich. I want you to have a comprehensive healthcare plan. I want you vacationing in the Bahamas every couple of years, with your beautiful wife and healthy, happy kids. I want you rewarded for your hard work, and I want your exceptional effort to reap exceptional rewards. I want you to accumulate wealth and invest it in Wall Street. And I want you to make more money from those investments.

I understand that a prosperous America needs people with money to invest, and I’ve got no problem with that. All other things being equal, I want all the rich people to keep being rich. And clever financiers who find ways to get more money into the hands of promising entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their contributions as well.

I think Wall Street has an important job to do, I just don’t think they’ve been doing it. And I resent their sense of entitlement – their sense that they are special and deserve to be rewarded extravagantly even when they screw everything up.
Precisely.

The American middle class lifestyle is slowly being eroded away in order that our corporations become more profitable, more able to compete on the global stage. Look at my so-called "job" as a medical transcriptionist: I used to earn $40 an hour doing that work as recently as 5 years ago. Now, it pays less than half that. Why? For my company, it is because Indians can do my work more cheaply. Hospitals know this, and demand lower prices and force my company to slash wages, cut operating costs, and outsource work. In other areas of industry, skilled jobs and salaried positions are being replaced by semi-skilled or non-skilled hourly workers.  (Do you see an MD doctor when you for a health checkup these days, or a physician assistant... or a nurse practicioner?)   Other companies are streamlining production and improving efficiencies of workers without raising pay... or even paying them less (again, as with my company and its' "voice recognition" software).

Another quote from the "Open Letter":
Here’s how a liberal looks at it: a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse. The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.

The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them. If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut. They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create. And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life. It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.
We're going through something similar again: A new era of "improvements" in production whose benefits do not trickle down to the working class. It's generally unfair that this rising tide of technological know-how and improved production and management methods is decreasing prosperity, not increasing it.

And the question needs to be asked: Why make Wall Street the target of our anger? Did they cause this situation? Well, yes. They did. Another excellent thought regarding the anger directed at banks comes from a Washington Post opinion piece by Harold Meyerson:
Whence this fall — if not from grace (a state that few of us, and even fewer bankers, attain), then from the occasional decent opinion of humankind? At its root is the simple fact that the Wall Street banks over the past quarter-century have done none of the things that a financial sector should do. They have not helped preserve the thriving economy that America once enjoyed. They have not funded our boldest new companies. (That’s fallen to venture capitalists.) They haven’t provided the financing to maintain our infrastructure, nor ponied up the capital for manufacturing to modernize and grow here (as opposed to in China). Instead, they’ve grown fat on the credit they extended when Americans’ incomes stopped rising. They’ve grown plump on proprietary trading and by selling bad deals to suckers. (Citigroup, like Goldman before it, just agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle charges that it defrauded investors.)

The original J.P. Morgan was hardly a beloved figure. But in the course of attending to his business, he helped form the American economy. He consolidated railroads, cobbled together the companies that became U.S. Steel and General Electric. In pursuit of profit, he helped build the country. By no stretch of the imagination is that what today’s Wall Street is about. The country isn’t being built; no one’s been building it for the past 30 years. Wall Street’s interests are elsewhere, in realizing huge profits and bonuses for arbitrage and paper-swapping that has brought little but debt and ruin to the larger economy.
Again: Precisely. Remember back in the day when brokers and bankers invested in actual industries? Remember that other famous line from The Graduate? "One word: Plastics." Investors back then were all about emerging technologies and growing industries. Now everyone is involved in derivatives and futures and silly computer-generated everyone-wins investments that have no basis in the nuts-and-bolts reality of the business world. Now the only thing that attracts investors is proven and continued profit. Speculative investment in new areas has vanished. It's all just a game now among millionaires and billionaires — and politicians and CEOs — and the American middle class are disposable playing pieces.

And it was with that thought that I realized how to explain where we are at as a country:  The return of the industrial era, where 99% of the American population is nothing more than a factor of production that can be squeezed and manipulated and used with as little care and consideration as the law will allow.

To quote one more time from the above-mentioned Open Letter, the fellow writes, "[T]he commitment we’ve made to the working class since the 1940s is something that we should both support and be willing to fight for, whether we are liberal or conservative. We should both be willing to fight for the American Dream. And we should agree that anybody trying to steal that dream from us is to be resisted, not defended."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Republican Hypocrisy From The Daily Show

John Stewart has some more fun, showing endless clips of Republican politicians urging Americans to "take to the streets", to "take our country back"... and then those same Republicans expressing concern about the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadly Indy Crash

It does not get any worse or impressive than this. Prayers to the family of British driver Dan Wheldon who died.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Natural Disasters In US Over Time



1980 to 2011, natural disasters in the United States

Red - seismologic (earthquakes / volcano)
Green - meteorologic (storms / blizzards)
Blue - hydrologic (floods / landslides)
Orange - climatologic (heat wave / drout / forest fire)

 (Hat tip Sullivan.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bad To Say, Even If It Is True?

The U.S. Ambassador to The Philippines rubbed his host country the wrong way when he cited the statistic, "40% of male tourists come to The Philippines for sex."

I hate to say it, but... only 40%?  Well, perhaps 40% of male tourists to the Philippines, when asked to list ALL the things that they plan to do while in The Philippines put "sex" as the #1 item, another 40% have it further down the list.

The final 20% are mongers from Thailand who are actually just taking a weekend break from all the sex they are having in Bangkok.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Finally Figured Out What Republicans Are Doing

I finally figured out why the Republicans are trying to roll back banking regulations to the way the regulations were right before the banking collapse; why they are trying to make it easier for corporations to ship jobs overseas, to pollute, to cut salaries, to cut corners; why they are making it harder for unions to bargain; why they favor health insurance company profits over patient care; why keeping taxes low for millionaires is more important than creating jobs for the unemployed.  I've finally figured out why Republicans are blatantly working to increase the wealth of America's wealthy and improve the unbridled power of America's corporations at the expense of America's middle class on down.

The Republicans expect — as do I — that in the very near future, the world economy is going to collapse and the planet will enter a global depression of an unknowable-but-probably-catastrophic degree.  Like it or not, what they are doing is putting as much wealth and power in the hands of as few Americans as possible before this disaster hits.

Why is this?  Two simple reasons:

(1)  With government spending cut as low as it can get... and taxes as low as they can get... and corporate and millionaires' income as high as it can get, and their investment coffers as full as they can get at the onset of this disaster, less American wealth will be frittered away on saving poor Americans from utter ruin, or be depleted by the massive swath of middle-class unemployed Americans using their life savings on day-to-day expenses.

Instead, that wealth can be used for the aggressive purchases of depressed foreign assets.  The wealth can be used for the propping up of wealth-generating American assets that might otherwise flounder.  The wealth can be used to give American business the financial ammunition (along with the free rein from legislative burdens) to fight against China and other countries' governments over resource allocation (food, fuel, and factors of production) and market share.  The wealth will give corporate America what it needs to survive, and to emerge after the worst of the global economic collapse has passed in a stronger position than its competitors.  The ability of America's largest corporations to survive in as free a market model as the Republicans can create will keep many more Americans employed than any government program could (although the collapse of small business in America will be a collateral result).  America's corporate and personal wealth, in other words, will not have to be used to save "ordinary" Americans, but instead be used to preserve American corporations and American world economic dominance.

(2)  The second reason is that when the American people start screaming, "Save me!  Save me!", the American government (i.e. the Democrats, who will obviously be voted into power to enact some kind of modern New Deal) will (a) be too late to enact legislation/taxes to undo the massive "fortress of wealth" the Republicans have created, or (b) those same Democrats will see the logic in what the Republicans have done and might even join them in leaving the American middle class on down to weather the storm on their own while the "1%" keeps on accumulating and prospering.

In other words, Republicans are working hard to set up an economic/political system that will allow American economic hegemony to emerge victorious in the upcoming world financial/economic collapse at the expense of the American people.

So yes, like it or not, the Republicans are not worried about you, the "99%" — as the Occupy Wall Street people have come to call you.  They do not care whether you have a job or not, or really if you even survive at all.  They are only focused on America's long-term economic and geopolitical survival.  I can't say, if — given the facts as the Republicans see them — I would disagree with the Republican plan, which I must say is a strong change of mindset from where I was before this realization.  But I do think that America should be more concerned about its people's welfare than the Republicans are... or ever will be.

But, as I see it:  There is my realization — stark in its truth and depressing in its consequences.  Feel free to disagree if you want, but I personally do not see any other way to explain the otherwise-crazy shit that the Republicans are trying to accomplish and politically suicidal stands that they are trying to make... at least without just concluding that they are simply evil bastards, which I'm moderately inclined to think is probably wrong.

The Republicans are building a Noah's Ark for America... and you're not invited.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Daily Report: Update

Epril's visa package is now in the American Embassy in Manila, and they have contacted her with the date for her interview:  November 8th.  In addition, she has her medical exam in Manila coming up on October 19th.  Epril expects to receive her visa / green card on November 22nd, and we hope she will be in Florida by November 24th — Thanksgiving.

At worst, I'll be flying to Cagayan De Oro to help Epril pack, going to her Despidida party, and then bringing her back to America.  Based on the money situation (still in flux) I may be leaving for The Philippines the day before Epril's interview on November 8th, or even the day before her medical exam, October 19th — though the 19th is quite unlikely at this point.

PeGreSol's first sales presentation will be around the same time, October 18th, and we should be getting our first set of general commitments from clients around then.  (I had hoped that the first sales presentations would be this past week, but I am unfamiliar with how things work, and unaware of the logistics involved in getting a bunch of peripatetic oil executives in the same place at the same time.  (UPDATE: Mike lets me know in the comments section, "The first seminar is on Thurs 13th in Brunei, the next on Mon 17th in Miri, KL Tue 18th and Kertih Wed 19th." I don't put up business details like that without permission... and I figure Mike's comment would represent that permission.)

But, PeGreSol has been contacted by several of the giants of the oil industry (both corporations and countries) and meetings with them will follow quickly on the heels of those clients scheduled later this month. Hopefully this Christmas will be of a sort Epril and I previously could only dream of.

In other news, Mom and Paul will be returning to Florida on the 26th of October.  My cousin Paul and cousin Bobby from next door have both moved out of the house to embark on their respective futures.  My piano playing is still coming along.  My diet has sadly faltered over the last few weeks and I need to get back on track.  The weather was glorious up until today when heavy cloud cover moved in.  The season finales of both Doctor Who and Top Gear have come and gone and I don't have anything to look forward to on the television.

So I'm still waiting — rather impatiently I'm afraid.  The days are starting to blur together though in a mind-numbing and meaningless light-outside-my-window/dark-outside-my-window asleep/awake process that is actually making the days go by much more quickly.  So thank God for the doldrums, I suppose.  I will be glad to see the doldrums go with news from PeGreSol that we have landed our first contract, but for now the doldrums are the anesthetic to my life's dreary and repetitive days, which are only there to measure the time between now... and then.

And now at least with Epril's Visa adventure finally drawing to a close, I have some definite thens to look forward to.  I just need to get through these final nows.

Sarah Palin The Scammer

John Stewart pieces together how Sarah Palin scammed lots of people: SarahPAC, which is in essence, Sarah Palin herself, sent out a mailer to her supporters that said literally, "Send in a donation to show how you support Sarah Palin running for President."

Then John Stewart first ran down the list of things that money donated to SarahPAC was spent on (including $10,000 to her parents for "signing cards") to show that the money was pissed away. Then he showed Sarah Palin's daughter back in June stating that Sarah Palin had already made up her mind about whether or not she would run for President.

In other words: Sarah Palin scammed people straight up; she used the "give me money and maybe I'll do something even though I've already decided not to" scam.


It truly amazes me that there are still people in this country who are obtuse and gullible enough to vote for this scumbag for President of the United States.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Comparison Taste: Glayva, Drambuie, Benedictine



My friend Mike recently was extolling the "best liqueur in the world", an herb-infused scotch called "Glayva". Being rather familiar with the two other famous herb-infused concoctions, Drambuie and Bénédictine, I decided to buy a bottle of Glayva and do a side-by-side 3-way taste test.

First off, getting Glayva in America is frickin' hard. The number of places that stock this beverage is minimal. You might wind up having to order over the internet (and thus tacking on $10 or $15 to the cost of a bottle). Prices for Glayva are roughly the same as that of Drambuie and Benedictine: About $31 to $34 per 700 mL bottle.

1. Drambuie.

The principal taste of Drambuie is its scotch foundation, with the common alcoholic tingling and oak bouquet of the breed. Following this is a combination of honey wrapped around licorice/anise. Finally, as the alcoholic scotch tang settles, a gentle waft of spices, like opening your mother's spice cabinet, comes to the fore, and your mouth is warmed. It's not subtle or mild (but only in a way that foreshadows what I am going to say about the other 2 brands featured), but it is a fantastically friendly drink without a kick or harshness to it.

2. Glayva.

In comparison to Drambuie, the scotch foundation has disappeared completely. The mild alcohol twang is about 75% of the previous, and it comes after the honey flavor instead of in front of it as in the previous, and the nip of licorice is replaced with a comfortable, fruity accent to the honey. The range of spice flavor at the back end trends slightly more toward a dusky and smoky "French boulangerie" than the Drambuie's bright "Italian kitchen" range. Glayva is much more a liqueur while Drambuie is more a fortified scotch.

3. Bénédictine.

Where Drambuie and Glayva hung the honey flavor up in the pole position, Benedictine has almost no honey flavor at all. No scotch flavor either. I've drank more Bénédictine than either of the other liqueurs, and I always think that the principal aspect of Bénédictine is "essence of pine tree with a background of French toast and an aftertaste of pepper." If I had to carry on with the "kitchen comparisons" that I used for the previous two liqueurs, it would be "Christmas hearth fire". It has about the same alcohol twang as the Glayva, and occupies the same beverage niche as Glayva as well.

Verdict.

All three of these drinks are excellent in their own way. Glayva and Bénédictine are much more closely related to each other than either is to the Drambuie, which really stands as a separate type of liqueur from the other two. Drambuie is best enjoyed alone with a cigar and a pair of slippers. Glayva and Bénédictine are best enjoyed at the dining room table after dinner with friends.

I consider Glayva and Bénédictine equals in terms of quality of taste. I personally find Bénédictine to have a more complex taste and if I had to make a choice between that or the Glayva, that would be it. But that is merely a personal preference between two excellent, competing beverages. Neither will ever be boring, common, or comparable to any other liqueur on earth. I only wish Glayva were sold in more places in America so that it could get the attention and exposure it deserves.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Farangs Will Realize It's Not A Joke But Still Laugh

There are Thai minds that really function at this level, especially male Thai minds, especially when drunk — which is often.
Thai man kills friend in Russian roulette

A 23-year-old Thai man has been arrested on murder charges after winning a game of Russian roulette with his friend, who was asleep at the time.

Ponthep told police he was still drinking on Sunday morning while his two friends, Sanchai and Ton, slept.

Seeing a pistol in Sanchai's belt, Ponthep decided to play a game of Russian roulette with his sleeping friend. He removed all the bullets but one, held it to his own head and fired. Nothing happened.

Ponthep then held the gun to the sleeping Sanchai's head and fired, putting a bullet through his skull and killing him instantly.

"Ponthep said he was shocked by what happened. He threw the gun away and ran home, where we found him," Uthai district police superintendent Thanaporn Pohthisuk said.
It was back when I first arrived to Thailand, when a British friend of mine told me that his gardener had got out a pair of shears and cut the garden hose in half to make the water come out twice as fast, that I realized that Thai people are pretty much capable of any thought, and acting upon that thought, no matter how ridiculous. A very good thing to know if you ever plan on living in Thailand: Don't just expect the unexpected... but expect the unimaginable.

Thailand is truly the world capital of Darwin Award candidates.

(And no, I don't think it was just a murder. I'm totally able to believe the fact that a drunk Thai guy actually played Russian Roulette with his sleeping friend. If you don't believe it, you just have not lived in Thailand long enough.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

America's Most Dangerous / Safest Cities

America's 25 most dangerous cities (highest violent crime per capita):
  1. Flint, MI.
  2. Detroit, MI.
  3. St. Louis, MO.
  4. New Haven, CT.
  5. Memphis, TN.
  6. Oakland, CA.
  7. Little Rock, AR.
  8. Baltimore, MD.
  9. Rockford, IL.
  10. Stockton, CA.
  11. Buffalo, NY.
  12. Springfield, MA.
  13. Cleveland, OH.
  14. Hartford, CT.
  15. Washington, DC.
  16. Springfield, IL.
  17. Philadelphia, PA.
  18. Lowell, MA.
  19. Richmond, CA.
  20. St. Petersburg, FL.
  21. Nashville, TN.
  22. Kansas City, MO.
  23. Miami, FL
  24. Lansing, MI.
  25. Elizabeth, NJ.
Americas 13 safest cities (lowest violent crime per capita):
  1. Irvine, CA.
  2. Temecula, CA.
  3. Cary, NC.
  4. Murietta, CA.
  5. Gilbert, AZ.
  6. Round Rock, TX.
  7. Frisco, TX.
  8. Simi Valley, CA.
  9. Bellevue, WA.
  10. Orange, CA.
  11. Amherst Town, NY.
  12. Thousand Oaks, CA.
  13. Surprise, AZ.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Niggerhead: It's Not Uncommon

Presidential candidate Rick Perry is getting a lot of heat for having had a ranch (inherited from his father, name changed decades ago) called "Niggerhead".

Simple fact is, "Niggerhead" used to be thrown around quite a bit. Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote in regarding all the different examples of "Niggerhead" that they knew of from the past:

  • It used to refer to the flower more commonly known as a black-eyed Susan (hence the name of Perry's ranch).
  • There was a shrimp brand by that name.
  • Types of coral and various rock formations were called that as well.
  • It was the name of a pond in Vermont and still is the name of a hill in Alaska.
So:  In summary, much ado about nothing.  Rick Perry's father bought Niggerhead Ranch back in the 1980s, and first thing he did was paint over the sign that named it so.  Yes, obviously the word comes from people who were specifically thinking about black people when they said it, and it is obviously no longer an appropriate appellation in any use... except historically, as in this instance.  But Rick Perry had nothing to do with the name given to the ranch before he (or his father) owned it, and his father had enough common sense (or, better yet: the knowledge that racism is wrong) to change the name.  That's all he could do, and I consider the matter settled.

The Cleverest Thing Ever

Conservative pundits were having fits last month after they (mis)read Michelle Obama's lips at a September 11 Memorial event, and claimed she was saying derogatory things about the American flag. As always happens, some creative mind with a bit too much time, and wanting to add to their portfolio of creative works, comes up with the perfect response: a website dedicated to bad lip reading:



Actually, Congresswoman Bachman makes about the same amount of sense in this video as she does in her usual speeches. ("Tell her I'll break a tree root up in her shrimp." "Jackpot Fishy Poopy-Pants!" Ah, pure genius.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Coolest Internet Thingy Ever

Google Maps now has "fly-by" mode as part of its "get directions".



Step 1: Go to Google Maps
Step 2: Select "Get Directions".
Step 3: (I recommend:) Type in "San Francisco, CA" to "Danville, CA". (Lots of buildings and mountains to fly past.)
Step 4: Click on the "3D" button.
Step 5: (Important:) Click on the "Pause" button at the lower left hand corner of the map so that everything can load properly. You'll be loading a virtual version of every building, highway, and bridge in the Bay Area.
Step 6: Once it is loaded, let it fly. (Additional pauses may be necessary for people with slower internet connections.)
Step 7: Don't zoom around too much while paused (although you can): The program is still a bit buggy and may "kick you out" to a standard grey street map.

Friday, September 30, 2011

America Getting Results The Easy Way

Some good points have been made regarding two recent "wins" against terrorism that made me stop and think.

First, the "death by drone" of this American guy, Al-Awlaki, in Yemen: What we DO know is that the guy was very vocal about fighting against America, hating America, jihad, and all that stuff. What we do NOT know is whether he ever got involved in what the intelligence community calls "operational actions" (e.g. plots, attacks, material aid) against America. What we may have witnessed was the American government assassinating an American citizen (no trial) for rhetoric that was, more or less, on the same level as the "God Hates Fags" people out of Kansas.

Glen Greenwald:
What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.
Remember: Before you say "he had it coming", "he was a traitor", or he was "helping the terrorists with his words", consider the following scenario: A white supremecist leader in Appalachia is saying the same anti-American, take-up-arms, kill-kill-kill things to a crowd of angry white hillbillies as Al-Awlaki was saying to Muslims in Yemen. As the white supremecist finishes speaking, an army sniper from a building across the street shoots him through the head. That is the same thing — an assassination by the government of an American — with only a degree of jurisdiction as the difference.

Second, the arrest of the guy with the model airplanes wanting to load them with explosives and crash them into the capitol building. What we DO know is that pretty much every step the guy took was on a paving stone laid down by the FBI. What we do NOT know is whether this "would be terrorist" would have ever made it past the "contemplative" stage without FBI guidance.

"All for the best," is my thought: Anybody who will "step that far down the road" — whether that road is paved by the FBI or not — is, in my mind, a potential terrorist and a threat. But here is something I had not considered:

Julian Sanchez:
One possible motive for these elaborate and highly publicized stings is that, whether or not the particular people they indict would have moved from rage to action without prompting, the steady stream of news reports will eventually force any candidate for jihad to assume that an “Al Qaeda recruiter” who approaches them is much more likely to be an FBI informant or undercover agent than a genuine operative. That’s likely to make it much harder for any real recruiters who’ve gone undetected to rope in anyone savvy enough to be truly dangerous. In a haystack of 300 million people—or even 2.5 million Muslims—the government can’t possibly be confident it will be able to identify in advance all the particular needles who are really prepared to carry out an attack, rather than simply ranting online. They may have concluded that the next best thing is to create a climate of suspicion in which such people are unwilling to risk collaborating with others. That means that the scale and destructiveness of any attacks that do occur are more likely to be limited to what a lone individual can achieve.
Indeed. The FBI goes fishing for gullible-but-earnest zealots, lures them in, then splashes their spoiled "evil-genius plot" all over the news, and the really dangerous people who are smart enough not to talk to FBI agents about their plans, may slink back down under their rocks and stay there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Most Helpful Kitchen Hint I've Ever Seen

How to peel an entire head of garlic in under 10 seconds.



This works so well I almost think they are playing a joke on us. I'm making chicken soup tomorrow, and I'll give it a try.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Succeed In Life

Find one thing to do, and do it better than anybody else.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Report: Looking Forward

Blogger redesigned the entire appearance of its blog publishing software. I suspect my mother will have a fit trying to get used to it. Best of luck, Mom.

It's a gray, rainy day here in Florida again. It was actually nice for about a week, but now it's gone wrong again.

Epril's visa was approved on September 22, approximately 8 months after first mailing it in. Now the government has put Epril's visa application in the mail (where they had previously lost it for 2 months, June and July — fingers crossed this time) to send it to the American Embassy in Manila, who will then contact Epril with the date of her interview.  Epril will go to the interview, then she will wait a couple of weeks for her green card, and then she will be getting on a plane to come to America.

But wait; there's more.

This coming week is the real, official beginning of my company's sales efforts, where hands shake hands, samples are tested, presentations are made, and promises are delivered. Over the next 5 days, people from PeGreSol will be scattered to 4 different locations in 3 different countries in Southeast Asia talking with oil companies about setting up contracts to sell them the product that will provide them wax-free oil wells.

Assuming that we get just one contract out of the four (though I am certain we will get all of them, and we are expecting hundreds, if not thousands, of additional contracts), I'll be buying a plane ticket as soon as possible to The Philippines and going to pick up Epril.  Then we will be flying to Thailand, where we will be renting a house  in Pattaya (Maid Go is even available to clean and cook). There, we will stay and wait for Epril's embassy interview in Manila, having fun with all of our old friends, and working hard at getting PeGreSol moving to supersonic speeds. Then we will return to The Philippines for Epril's embassy interview. After that, we will have a couple of weeks to wait around in Cagayan De Oro until Epril's green card is received, getting Epril packed, and again having fun with all of our old friends. Then we will throw the biggest despidida (going away) party The Philippines has ever seen for Epril once the green card is received. Then Epril and I will finally fly to America together. We will be renting a nice house in Sarasota: So we'll have houses in both Pattaya and Sarasota, and we'll spend part of the year in each place.

So over the next 5 days especially, I wish good luck to my business partners and our global sales crew. Hopefully by the end of this week, I'll be able to give my beloved wife the second-best anniversary present I could give her: The date of my impending arrival.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Possibly The Most Important News In Years

Seriously. It is not often that one of the fundamental laws of the universe as we know it is broken.
While studying neutrino oscillations — where particles shift from one type of subatomic particle (muon-neutrinos) to another (tau-neutrinos) — scientists clocked a beam of muon-neutrinos outpacing the aforesaid ray of light by 60 nanoseconds.
In other words, scientists at CERN think (think, mind you) that they just witnessed something moving faster than the speed of light, which everybody believed (most notably Einstein) was simply not possible.
Oh. A month later and... never mind.

An Interesting Chart

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How To Improve The Educational System

Surprisingly, spending more money on education is not the most important thing, according to the Economist. The main conclusion of the article seems to be "diversity of approach": Try as many different educational formats as possible and build upon what works best. Oh... and of course, the obvious: Good teachers. Oh... and of course, the also obvious: Good parents.

Here are the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) educational rankings by country for 2008.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Define Irony

How about the man who literally defines himself by his take-no-prisoners, budge-not-an-inch, stick-to-the-guns approach to policy making writing this?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Republicans Corner "Creepy Political Party" Vibe

It's true, ya know.

In the first September 6th Republican Presidential Primary Debate, the crowd of Republican supporters gave the biggest cheers of the night (the biggest cheers, not just "cheers", but the biggest cheers of the night) with regard to the fact that Candidate Governor Rick Perry had "executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times."

I support the death penalty, but I certainly do not get politically orgasmic over it, and it just surprises me that there are people who not just DO get politically orgasmic over it, but it is literally their biggest political erogenous zone.

In the second September 12th Republican Presidential Primary Debate, the crowd of Republican supporters gave further cheers for the concept of letting people without health insurance die.

While I don't believe that people with emergency medical situations should be refused care because of inability to pay "up front", I do believe that people with chronic medical conditions who do not have insurance should not be treated until they get insurance (yes: even government-provided insurance if/when possible). But again: Cheering and clapping about the prospect of somebody dying in America due to being denied medical assistance? Again: What kind of angry, heartless people do that?

I just could not be a part of a political organization that thinks in those terms. I fully condone the necessary evils that the American version of freedom, responsibility, and citizenship require, but I sure as shit don't clap about those necessary evils and I sure as shit wouldn't support any political movement that actually celebrates them... especially when they think they are God's Greatest Christians (cheer for killing, clap for death) at the same time.


UPDATE:

Andrew Sullivan says more or less the same thing:
Of course, even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers. Similarly the execution of hundreds, while perhaps defensible politically and even morally (although I differ), is nonetheless a brutal, awful business. You don't delight in it. And the same is true of torture. Even if you want to defend its use in limited circumstances, it remains an absolute evil, no humane person would want to do it, and no civilized person would brag of it or dismiss any moral issue with it at all. And yet that is what Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney have repeatedly done. They are positively proud of their torture record. The fish rotted from the head down. Last night, we got a whiff of the smell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When I Can Afford It, I'll Get One

I just adore the look of this car, the Fisker Karma, a hybrid sedan (similar to the Nissan Leaf in that the only thing the gasoline engine powers is an electric generator while the only thing powering the wheels are electric engines) designed and built in America. Close to 100 miles per gallon equivalent, they say.



It really is the prettiest 4-door car I've ever seen: A blend of American muscle car and European sedan. A true design triumph that takes the standard sedan shape in a beautiful new direction. No wonder too: Mr. Fisker, according to the article in Car And Driver, "designed the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9 and V-8 Vantage", which are among the world's most beautiful cars.

What's next? I hear from Autoblog that a bit of a redesign is taking place, where the back end is going to get lifted up a bit to form more of a "flying brake" shape (think "station wagon") similar to the new 4-seater Ferarri FF.


UPDATE:

Here is the updated version, called the "Fisker Surf Shooting Brake"... even nicer! Well, I think I would have liked a bit more of a "hatchback", rounded rear than this (again, like the Ferrari FF), but it is still just a gorgeous piece of automotive art.



P.S. Since I've mentioned the Ferrari FF a couple of times, and not many people are familiar with Ferrari's new 4-seater coupé, here is a photo:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Best Thing I've Watched In A While

Watch in order. These kids take a while to get their trick right... but when they do...



Saturday, September 10, 2011

No, Really I Can

I promised you video of me playing piano, and here it is.



Sorry about the sound quality. First generation electronic piano, little microphone on my netbook, and fingers that haven't touched a piano in 17 years combine for a suboptimal listening experience.

And no... nobody is calling you on Skype. That is my Skype ringing while I'm playing.

"The Self-Fulfilling Crisis Is On"

When a nobel-prize winning economist comes on and says, in effect, "There it is. That was the bad sign that we've been waiting for. It just happened today." Then you know we're in deep.
Did the euro just enter its death throes?

By resigning from the ECB, Juergen Stark has conveyed, deliberately or not, the message that there will be no ... lender of last resort, that there isn’t enough political cohesion in the eurozone to stand behind countries under market attack. And this translates directly into soaring spreads for Spain and Italy; the self-fulfilling crisis is on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Daily Report: Waiting

It's been terrible weather here in Florida: Rain and clouds almost all day, every day, since I got back from New York. Uncle Bob says this happens this time every year.

I quit smoking 4 months ago (and I was only smoking 1 or 2 cigarettes a day for a year leading up to that), but since stopping I've developed a bad cough... a big tickle in the back of my throat. Due to the times I cough (especially upon going outside), I've figured that somehow having stopped smoking made me more sensitive to breathing in stuff in the air. I bought some allergy medicine and that seems to control the cough.

Epril's visa is once again momentarily tripped up: The visa people didn't seem to care for the "official copy" of the marriage certificate I sent in, or the quality of the copy of the police clearance certificate either. Per instructions I got from the help line at the National Visa Center, I sent a "pretty please, look at it again" e-mail to the People Who Look At Things, and hopefully that will settle the issue. If not, I'll have to have new copies of the documents sent from Epril.

I've been practicing piano. I'm working on the 17th Chopin Prelude, Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique, and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor (my old pieces that I was best known for playing). Hopefully I'll put up some videos of my playing on YouTube soon.

I'm now (along with my business partners) waiting on the first PeGreSol meetings with prospective clients, which are scheduled to start about 10 days from now. I'm so excited. FloWell is going to change the oil industry overnight... and certainly drastically change my life: Income from selling FloWell to only 2 (two!) oil wells on a regular basis would provide me enough to allow me to finally quit my transcription job. Mike is fully expecting us to supply FloWell to 20,000 oil wells in a very short period of time! Having my income increase by a factor of 10,000? I really just can't imagine it... but my fingers are so totally crossed, and I've even offered up a prayer or two.


By the way, here is why FloWell is so special (a description for the lay person): Imagine an oil well as a car. Every 45 days or so, your car's performance gets so bad that you have to take your car in to the repair shop, take the engine apart, clean out all the gunk that the dirty motor oil has left behind, put the engine back together, and put in new motor oil. If you don't do this, your car will eventually grind to a halt.

FloWell basically is a fluid that — while you are driving down the road — constantly drips into your car's engine, and stops any gunk from building up, and makes it so that your car never works less efficiently due to that gunk building up, and totally eliminates the cost associated with taking the car off the road and putting it in the repair shop to clean out that gunk.

So, in conclusion, FloWell is, as of now, the only product in the world that stops "gunk buildup" on oil wells as they are actively pumping oil.

Signs Amended With Amusing Graffiti

This will provide you with half a dozen smiles at least.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Daily Report: Encounter

I was out at the beach, wading back to shore in about navel-deep water. About 20 feet in front of me closer to the beach was a dark patch of underwater seaweed — of which there is not much on Florida beaches. Then I noticed that the patch of seaweed was being dragged towards me on the undertow, which was strange. In an instant, the dark patch was next to my hip, 8 feet long and as wide as the trunk of an oak tree... brown speckled skin: A manatee. He was past me before I could really react, and had swum on to visit a couple of people standing 20 feet further out. (I had just enough time to shout, "Hey, a manatee is heading for you!") His big snout came up in front of them for a few seconds, then submerged again, and his big rear flipper made a splash out out of the water, and he was gone.



Because I have a lot of readers from other countries who might not know what a manatee is, here is a video below. A manatee is a water mammal, sort of like a gentle walrus. They are vegetarians and hang out normally in canals and inlets where there is underwater vegetation and the water is a bit warmer. Cousin Paul says that they are friendly and curious, and will come up and visit with humans who venture into their habitat (or vice versa, as happened wtih me). However, they are a protected species in Florida, and messing around with them (or chasing after them, especially in water craft) is strictly prohibited.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Anti-Gay Gay Republican

The vocally anti-gay Republican Senator from Puerto Rico just resigned from office after he put a photo of his culo (his actual culo... not his culo generally, but his culo proctologically) on a gay dating website.

As Dan Savage said, "Shouldn't homophobic politicians and anti-gay bullies be presumed to be gay until they get caught up in a straight sex scandal?"

So true: As I've documented before, the louder a politician/preacher speaks out against homosexuality, the more likely it is that he is secretly speaking out against his own personal demons.

And just because it bears repeating: I don't have a problem with closeted gay politicians/preachers, only the hypocritical anti-gay closeted gay politicians/preachers.

Daily Report: The Biggest News

It's been a hectic 2 months, to put it mildly. Then I threw in a trip to New York to visit my family on top of it.

About the biggest news, I can't go into much detail at the moment but here is a general overview: I own 25% of a company that is the sales arm of a parent company that has created a product that is going to be purchased and used regularly for maintenance on every oil well on the planet.

Literally: If the sales of this product turn out to be only one percent of what my partners and I are expecting, my share of the commission from that one percent alone would still be 10 times more than the most I've ever earned before. It's that big.

That's it for now: Have to get back to work.

UPDATE:

My business partner in the comments section says to go ahead and spread the word.

So: If you own or manage an oil well and want to eliminate your paraffin buildup (and want to avoid it in the future), contact PeGreSol and we'll be happy to introduce you to FloWell, the newest in wax remediation technology: Not only is it the first nontoxic and nonflammable such treatment, but it works remarkably better than any previous wax remediation products.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Love This Photo



I'm back in Florida now, having flown right past the hurricane as it was making landfall in North Carolina. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this hurricane's threat to Manhattan is a bit overstated. I doubt that the storm surge will reach street level in the financial district. We'll see.

Photo credit to Talking Points Memo... and whoever they are giving credit to.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Daily Report: Mostly Baby Photos

My sister and her son Vincent and daughter Evie enjoying the pool at Watkins Glen State Park.


Evie having fun out on the grass in the back yard.


Evie is always exploring.


Campfire time in the great woods out behind the house.


Marshmallows for everybody.

Parents Hood

Monday, August 8, 2011

Youngun

25 years ago...


... and I haven't changed a bit.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Food For Thought

For some reason, this chart does not include the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit that President Bush added on as well, which was $1.2 trillion.

Daily Report: Random Photos Posted

With life being as slow and uneventful (yet hectic — but not worth writing about) as it is, little moments in time don't get written about on this blog and instead get set on the shelf where they accumulate until they create a large enough conglomeration of "unmentioned things" to warrant a mention here as a whole. (Or at least, that's what seems to have happened, since you are reading this.)

ANGRY BIRDS: These huge menacing turkey buzzards were hanging around outside on my patio waiting to hurt somebody, I think.


OLD FOLKS SWIMMING: My community's pool on a not-so-clear-and-bright day. There is a very pretty lake behind it, and a nice hot tub for soaking before taking a dip in the cool water.


KING KONG MUTT: My cousin Jonathan's giant dog (look at my toes for size comparison), Tank, came for a visit. He's a big ol' galoot who, as my uncle describes him is "friend to all, enemy to none." My cousin Paul describes him as "an oversized gerbil."


FREE POOL TABLES: The bar where I go to play pool. Like I mentioned: It is free to play as long as you buy a beer... and beer is always $2 (80 pisos, 60 baht) a pint... except for happy hour when it is 50 cents (20 pisos, 15 baht) a pint.


MY PRECIOUS(ES): I got my pool cues shipped from The Philippines, where I had left them. My prized possessions. The McDermott on the left has barely held it's value since I bought it in 1998. The Longoni, not so much, but it is still my favorite of the two.


YOUNG FOLKS SWIMMING: The local beach by my house: The water is always a beautiful temperature, it's quiet without any boats or cars nearby to make noise. There is not a speck of refuse anywhere. I wade out up to my chest, and then jog in the water down the length of the beach and back — easier on my joints, more strenuous my my muscles.