Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Non-Standard Roadsign Colors

It has been too long since I have posted any road geek photos, so let's remedy that right now. This is a picture of a 'YIELD' sign I saw in a Phoenix parking lot. I didn't Photoshop it, and yes, it is really blue. Looks weird, doesn't it?

Looks Like The Rolling Stones Logo

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, says humans are pattern seeking animals. This is why we see shapes of familiar things in the clouds and stars; and why people see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich.

I am not immune to this human trait. I noticed this hole punched in the tile of the cafeteria floor at work today. To me, it looks like the logo of the Rolling Stones, you know it...the open mouth with a tongue sticking out. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two Kinds of Coaches

After being unceremoniously dumped by the NFL's Houston Oilers, head coach Bum Phillips said, "There's two kinds of coaches. Them that's fired, and them that's gonna be fired." Today the Denver Broncos taught Coach Mike Shanahan the truth of Bum's words. The coach who has spent 14 years with the Broncos and led them to two Super Bowl victories was given his walking papers. In my opinion, it was high time.

The Broncos have barely broken .500 in three seasons. They had a three-game lead in there division this year, and only had to win one of three games to make the playoffs. They botched every chance. Fresh blood will do the team good.

After the Dallas Cowboys abysmal loss over the weekend, could Bum's son, Wade (a former Broncos coach himself) be tossed aside in Big "D" to give Tom Landry's old chair to Shanahan? I imagine we'll find out soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Digital Darkrooms

I have always enjoyed photography. Although I never had the proper resources to do the whole darkroom setup with enlarger, chemical baths, red lights and such; it has always fascinated me. My brother did dabble with this, and I thought it was a fascinating hobby.

I also recall the first time I saw a tin type photo and some of the work of Matthew Brady and his photos of the U.S. Civil War. As it turns out, the imperfection of the early photographic techniques give them a certain charm. Today, using digital post processing, one can recreate the look of some of these old photos fairly easily.

For years, I have used Adobe Photoshop, which is still the gold standard for digital image manipulation. The problems with this amazing product are its high cost and its steep learning curve. Luckily, there are powerful options for the photographer on a budget.

Since my main computer runs Linux, I cannot run Photoshop natively on it. I do run it under WINE, and it works fine. But there is a native Linux application known as the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, or The Gimp for short. The photo above started out as a full color digital photograph I took earlier this year in downtown Denver, Colorado. In a matter of about three minutes, I straightened it up, cropped out tell tale items like modern cars and signs, adjusted the levels, and applied a filter that gave it a treatment to mimic the look of a very old photo. If I had taken more time, I could do even more, like applying digital scratches and stains to it to further add to the illusion.

The Gimp will also run on Windows, but there is another very good (and free) program you can use to post process your pictures. It does require Windows, but is very powerful. It is called Paint.net, and is an absolutely amazing little piece of software.

To get these programs, click on these links:
The Gimp
Paint.net

For the sake of comparison, here is a small version of the original photo. Click on either one to see a larger image.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dennis Yost & The Classics IV

Remember the 1960s hits, Stormy, Spooky, Traces, and Every Day With You Girl? These memorable songs were performed by Dennis Yost and the Classics IV. You couldn't turn on the radio during 1968 and 1969 and not hear one of their records being played.

I just learned that earlier this month, Dennis Yost, the group's mellow-voiced lead singer, died of respiratory failure. Dennis fell down the stairs about 3 years ago, suffering a brain trauma that left him unable to perform. Now at age 65, Dennis has lost his battle to live. Yet another baby boomer cultural icon gone.

Labels? We Got Labels!

Okay, it's time to take a look at a couple of wacky labels. The first one is obviously either written by Mr. Obvious, or maybe it was a result of the work of the Department of Redundancy Department.

On the right we see a package of peanuts I got out of a vending machine at work. Ordinary looking bag of peanuts, nothing unusual or seemingly out of the ordinary, right?

So, we flip over to the back of the bag, and what do we see? Wel, there is the typical list of ingredients. Here we see this product contains "peanuts, (vegetable oil or peanut oil), salt". Fine. Sounds like a wholesome snack.

But then we look a little further down, and see an allergy information line that warns us this product was "packed on equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts". Ya think? It would be quite a feat if they were packed with equipment that doesn't handle peanuts.

This reminds me of the potato chips that we used to see in Oklahoma. I don't know if the brand is even made anymore, but we used to get "Kitty Clover Potato Chips". The bag always said "Untouched by human hands". I always wondered just what kind of hands were touching them during the production process!


























Then we also have this little jewel I picked up today. The lovely spouse and I drove all the way over to the Stapleton area to have lunch at Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que. Now I have to say that Dave's has just about the best barbeque anywhere. No matter if you want Texas-style brisket, Georgia pulled pork, Saint Louis ribs, or just some good sausage or barbequed chicken, Daves is great. I have some favorite places, such as "The Swinging Door" outside of Richmond, Texas; or Spring Creek Barbeque in the Dallas area. But Famous Dave's can stand up to (and probably beat) any of them.

So anyway, I opened the little wet napkin they give you to clean up and notice the tag line under the Famous Dave's logo. "Better than the family dog"? What? I could think of better comparisons than saying the meat you serve is better than the family dog. What was funnier still is that we almost ate at a Chinese restaurant, but the LS is so afraid that they really are serving dog meat that she is leery of them. So now what do we find at Dave's? "Better than the family dog"!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shake & Make Foods

Back in the 1960s there were some shakeable foods that my sisters and I used to love to make. Both were based on the same idea. They came with a cup with a lid, and a tetrahedronical envelope of powder. You tore the end off an envelope, poured the powder into the cup, added milk, and shook the cup.

One of these products was Royal's Shake-A-Pudd'n. As you might guess, the agitation of shaking the powder and milk caused the mixture to set into a smooth pudding. Their commercials started with a jingle singing, "Pudd'n, Pudd'n, Shake-A-Pudd'n".

Then there was Great Shakes, a similar idea, but instead of pudding, you ended up with a frothy milk shake. Below is a Great Shakes commercial, courtesy of You Tube. These were great fun as a kid, and as I recall they didn't taste too bad either.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Even More Music Reflections

In my last post, I wrote about some 60s & 70s pop songs that I didn't particularly care for. One of these was Angie Baby as recorded by Helen Reddy. In fact, I never particularly cared for her singing. However, if you read the comments from that post, I got a short comment back from Alan O'Day, the song's composer. It simply said, "I'm CRUSHED!!!"

Now while I still don't like that song, Alan I do want to clarify that I do dig Undercover Angel, so my mention of it was to demonstrate that it isn't all of your work I don't like. Just that one song. So I figured I should clarify that. :-) By the way, Rock 'n' Roll Heaven ain't half bad either.

Anyway, I popped over to Alan's website, and found some pretty interesting stuff there. One of the things I saw there was a picture of Alan and Ron Dante. Ron is not one of the better known people in popular music, at least to the general population. However, his voice and recordings are pretty well known by pop music fans. You see, he was the voice behind a number of what were sometimes derisively called "Bubblegum Music" hits. Two you will likely recall if you are of sufficient age are Tracy and Sugar, Sugar. Tracy was really all Ron, and was a big hit in 1969. It was released under the artist name of "The Cuff Links". Sugar, Sugar was of course, released by "The Archies", which was a fictional band of cartoon characters from the Archie comic books.

Ron also has worked with Barry Manilow, Cher, Bette Midler and other prominent artists. But there is one record of his that I recall that most people probably don't. Back in 1974, I was a disc jockey at WCUM Radio in Cumberland, Maryland (yep, those were the real call letters back then), and a record put out under his own name came in the mail. It was on the Bell label, and was titled Midnight Show, about a musician who was torn between being on the road and being with the woman he loves. The song was kind of catchy, so I put it into rotation on the air, and it became somewhat of a local hit, although I don't believe it did much nationally.

So now that I hopefully am back in Alan O'Day's good graces and have removed my foot from my mouth, let's just hope Helen Reddy doesn't stop by!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not So Great Hit Songs

My recent post about Jersey Boys has been getting lots of hits, especially since the musical's official website linked back to it. While not everyone is a fan of music from the 1960s and 1970s, I happen to enjoy the guilty pleasures of listening to the music I remember from those years.

Now, not all of the songs from that era were great music by any means. In fact, one of the sappiest songs ever was a number one hit from 1968. I would say it is a strong contender for the worst song of all time. Want a clue? Remember these lyrics?

"She wrecked the car and she was sad
And so afraid that I'd be mad
But what the heck"

Yes, it's that saccharine laced song of a dead love, Honey (I Miss You) as sung by Bobby Goldsboro. The song was written by the late Bobby Russell, who penned other hits, such as Little Green Apples for O. C. Smith (for which he won a Grammy award); The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, recorded by his wife at the time, Vicki Lawrence; and had novelty recordings of his own with Saturday Morning Confusion and 1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero.

Another song that rubs me the wrong way is one I heard on XM's 70s on 7 channel this morning. The song? Angie Baby as recorded by Helen Reddy. This song about a crazy girl who makes a boy "with evil on his mind" disappear into her radio was written by Alan O'Day, who had a hit a few years later with Undercover Angel, yet another song about a mysterious lover who disappears.

I'll stop here for now, before I begin to sound too much like I am channeling Casey Kasem. So, let me know what your picks are for some of the worst songs of the Sixties & Seventies. Until next time, I leave you with Casey's signature sign off . . . "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jersey Boys

A few days back, I wrote about catching a special on TV called Frankie Valli - A Tribute on Ice. Well, tonight (actually Friday night...it's past midnight) the lovely spouse's boss and his wife took us to see the musical Jersey Boys, a show that chronicles the history of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The performance was at the Buell Theatre in downtown Denver, and I have to say, the guys portraying the group were dead on with the sound and the music. You could almost swear you were watching the Four Seasons as they were back in the 1960s. The show follows the formation of the group, originally known as The Four Lovers, and follows their path from the first big hit, Sherry, through hit after hit after hit; like Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Dawn (Go Away), Rag Doll, Who Loves You, and many more. If you get the chance, and like The Four Seasons or sixties pop music, it is definitely a show to see.

This performance was interrupted during the second act when an audience member started choking. You could hear him being pounded on, and it appeared that he may have been having a heart attack. The commotion quickly spread, and finally they had fire department personnel come in and brought up the house lights, but by then, the man had ejected whatever he choked on. At first, the performers were oblivious, as all they can see is the spotlights in their eyes, but once the excitement subsided, they requeued to a point to restart, and the artists continued the performance flawlessly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hold On!

Well, the UAW and the GOP members of the United States Senate stared each other down tonight, and neither side blinked, thus killing the bridge loans passed in the House today. I fear tomorrow's trading on Wall Street is going to be a free fall. Could the Dow drop to 5000 or below? How many jobs will be lost in the wake of this? It's not pretty. I don't believe the automakers deserve the loans, but for the sake of the greater economy, I think they are necessary to avoid an even bigger disaster than we already have. This is not a pretty picture.

Bye Bye Polaroid Pictures

Another icon of the 20th Century is headed to the proverbial dustbin of history. Polaroid is ceasing production of its instant photography film. The advent of digital photography has killed off the experience of waiting 60 seconds and having a picture that came right out of your camera. The early Polariods I remember had to be peeled open after developing. Some of the later cameras used a film that had the developer inside a clear window on the picture so you could actually watch the image form from the gray square. The company had many hits, from the famed Polaroid Land Camera, to the 60s hip Swinger, to the Sun camera to the SX-70, Polaroid brought the magic of instant photography to the masses. Even as Polaroid makes digital cameras, they aren't real Polaroids.

Who could ever forget, "Meet the Swinger, the Polaroid Swinger". After all, it's almost alive, and it's only nineteen dollars and ninety-five! Yeah Yeah! And you know, you just gotta wonder...how many actual "swingers" used these cameras for those pictures they couldn't take to the corner drug store to be developed.

Here's the commercial that anyone alive in the 1960s should remember, featuring a young Ali McGraw.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Evening Random Ramblings

It's Sunday night, and the weekend is wrapping up. For some, it was a long holiday weekend, but my employer doesn't give us the Friday after Thanksgiving off, so it was a regular weekend for me. With the first significant snow storm of the season blowing through since Friday night, it was good timing that is was the weekend, even if it did screw up the lovely spouse's plans for me to put some Christmas lights up on the house. But I suppose that only delays the inevitable. So in keeping with this blog's theme of random ramblings, lets touch on a few things before we shuffle off to bed.

An Odd Show

This morning when I turned on the television, I saw something that struck me as somewhat bizarre. It was a program that apparently was broadcast earlier this month on NBC, but was being rerun on the Style network. It was called Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - A Tribute on Ice. Now don't get me wrong, I have always been a fan of the unique sound of this group that sprang up from doo-wop music, but there were several things that just didn't seem right.

First of all, there was Frankie himself, singing a very listenable, if lifeless performance. He looked pretty old, but hey, it happens to all of us, doesn't it? But his new group of Seasons appeared to be in their late 20s to early 30s, young enough to be Frankie's kids. What the hell did he do with the other guys?

Then there was the fact that ice skaters were skating his songs as he sang them. For example, when Frankie and his new boys were singing Tell It To The Rain, a female skater was doing some skating with an umbrella. Now, ice skating is okay, pop music is fine, but putting them together seemed just a bit, twisted. Kind of like those Tropicana Twister commercials of years ago, talking about flavors Mother Nature never intended. It made me wonder what next? Perhaps "A Bullfighting Tribute to The Village People"? Maybe "The Monkees - A Shuffleboard Tribute".

Still, I never fail to enjoy a nice dose of Four Seasons music, be it the early stuff like Dawn Go Away or Mary Ann; to the later stuff like Grease or maybe Swearin' to God.

TV or Not TV, That is the Question

Everytime I go to Costco or Sam's Club, I see the deals getting better and better on new HDTV sets. Part of me really wants to get one, but after looking at them, I always walk away. Even the lovely spouse says to get one if I want it, but so far, I have resisted the siren call of HD. I probably will give in sooner or later, but several things hold me back. First, I hate to spend the money when my 36" regular TV still looks as beautiful as it did when brand new eight years ago. In some ways, you can't beat a direct view CRT. Second, it is the start of an entire series of upgrades. Upgrade my DISH Network setup, upgrade my DVD recorder to Blue Ray, upgrade my audio-video receiver to handle HD. Then I would have to figure out how to move the massively heavy old TV down to the basement. Plus, in these uncertain economic times, bargain or not, I am not too hot on buying much of anything.

Shivering, Hungry Squirrels

This morning, the LS and I were watching a couple of squirrels shivering up in the branches of a neighbors tree. They were eating what few leaves are clinging on, and trying to stay warm as the snow was coming down. I meant to get some squirrel peanuts or corn for them, but forgot as the day wore on. That is something I will still have to do. They can be pesky, but I don't want the bushy tailed little guys to starve during the cold weather. Here is one of them chewing on a leaf this morning.

Fox Broadcasting - Rotten to the Core?

Do you trust the news media to tell you the truth? Do you think it is fine that deregulation has concentrated America's media into just a few hands, such as News Corporation, Clear Channel, and a handful of others? Does it not trouble you that media magnate, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation owns The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Sky News, and a slew of local TV stations among others? Well, look at this video about Fox 13 in Florida, a Fox-owned outlet. Watch it, and tell me if you believe advertising dollars don't dictate what is passed off as news...in this case, outright lies.

The media plays an important role in a society. By caving to threats of lawsuits and withdrawal of advertising revenue, they abdicate their responsibility to the public.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Funny Family Photo

Well, if anyone who knows me wonders why I am the wacky, crazy, fun kind of guy I am; one needs only to look a little further back down the family tree. This gem of a photo was taken many years ago. The man grimacing and the woman sitting on the running board of this old car and holding an ax are my paternal grandparents. The kids on the car are a combination of some of theirs and some are just neighbor kids getting in on the silliness. This picture is one of my favorites. It shows that even in hard times, there was time to cut up a little and let your hair down. And as you can see, given my genetic makeup, I never stood a chance! :-)

I am not quite sure if this was taken in Texas or Oklahoma, but it was one of the two. As usual, you can click on the photo for a larger version.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Ponderings

Well, it's Thursday, Thanksgiving holiday, and a day off work. And now the madness known as the Christmas season kicks into gear, as lights start going up on houses and stores. Sadly, the Christmas message of "Peace on Earth" is nothing but an empty phrase, as it has been almost every year in history. With the terrorist attacks yesterday in Mumbai, India, we once again see that there are severely defective human beings capable of horrific acts of death and violence against others who have done them no wrong. The American occupation of Iraq continues, and the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. An attack on government officials in the South Ossetia region of the Republic of Georgia following the Russian invasion, along with Russia cozying up to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela threaten to further degrade world order. We even have pirates seizing merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia. So while "Peace on Earth" remains a wonderful ideal, there are people in the world who will not allow it to be.

Poor little Molly dog is probably going to need surgery on her foot, but as we try to see if she will heal without it, she is proving difficult to gain cooperation from. She ate the bandage they put on her at the emergency room, and when we put the Elizabethan dog collar on her, she broke the snaps and tore off the new bandage that the lovely spouse had made. I fear that we will be hard pressed to keep her from messing up any surgery, making healing even more difficult. It is a sad sight to see her limping around with a bandaged up foot.

Having owned a retail pack & ship business for 3 years, I am very glad to not be in that business this holiday season. With the suppliers (FedEx and UPS) competing with us by encouraging on-line shipping; plus buying Kinkos and Mail Boxes, Etc. respectively; business just kept declining. On top of that, our franchiser was all help and smiles before they get your money. After that, they were worthless. They live on turnover and selling new franchises rather than helping their existing ones succeed.

Now with this horrible economic situation, I fully expect to see more and more retail businesses shutting down right after Christmas & New Year's Day. After what the LS and I went through, I have great empathy for the Mom & Pop stores out there struggling to stay in business in an environment where even big box outfits like Linens & Things and Circuit City can't make it. Already, the new Circuit City store that opened six months ago here in Parker is going out of business. Several other businesses have gone down, even as new ones continue to pop up. This is not a good time to be a retailer. I can honestly say that nearly four years since we shut down our stores, I am so glad to not have that burden anymore. We paid dearly for the lesson.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Can you believe it?

Today, I had to get gasoline in my car. Just a few short weeks ago, it was about $4.25 per gallon, and over $60 to fill up. Today, I paid $1.53 and went from almost empty to full for about $20. Just two weeks ago, it was around $1.80. Now this could signal more of the underlying problems with the economy to see oil fall from its record highs, to this level so quickly. I imagine this cannot be good for the oil companies either. Still, at least this is one small bright spot for consumers.

The Weekend is Almost Done

It's Sunday night again, and what a rough Sunday it has been. Molly, the smartest dog in the world, is ailing today. We had noticed her starting to limp a bit, but today it was very pronounced. We took her to the emergency room after the Lovely Spouse noticed that Molly has a large, bloody looking knot on her left front paw, on the pads. To take X-Rays of the poor little thing, they had to give her major sedation, and she has been lethargic all day. She hasn't eaten, she won't take a drink of water, and we are very concerned about her. She has a bandage on her foot, and will likely require surgery if antibiotics don't help.

Now, my antibiotics typically are a $4 Target or Walmart buy, but doggie pills are still way overpriced. Today's visit was over $400, and we have yet to really do anything. I am worried about her not drinking. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for her.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have They Killed The Goose?

A fable attributed to Aesop, from the Sixth Century B.C.E. tells the story of a couple who had a goose that laid golden eggs. They decided to kill the goose to get all the eggs inside it out at once, rather than waiting for it to lay them, only to find no eggs inside the goose. Oh, if only the greedy captains of American industry had heeded the wisdom of this ancient Greek story teller.

First it was investment banks and bad mortgages. Now we find the so-called "Big Three Automakers" on the verge of collapse. Though decades of poor management, taking multiple givebacks by the United Autoworkers Union, building cars that were sub par, and shipping American jobs to foreign nations, these companies find themselves in serious trouble, and could be the the thing that tips us into a major financial depression.

The inept, greedy CEOs of General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford flew in their mulitimillion-dollar private jets to sit in front of our representatives in Congress with their hands out, asking we, the American people, to give them money we don't have, from the public coffers. We find ourselves in a quandry. If these companies collapse, who will build our tanks and other military vehicles? Toyota?

I don't believe we can afford to let these companies collapse, only because of the economic tsunami that would ensue. However, any aid should be predicated upon ousting these inept management teams, requiring the return of jobs to the United States, and a clear plan to bring these companies back to profitability and repay the American taxpayer.

It seems that the entire house of cards is falling apart rapidly. I not only fear for our long term future, but for our short term survival as well. I have never felt this pessimistic about the future of this nation and its people. Many people pointed to the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 as evidence of the flaws of the Communist economic system. I find it entirely feasible that we could see a similar collapse of the capitalist system of the U.S., and very rapidly also. This consumer-driven economy cannot forever sustain itself if people don't have jobs.

These clueless executives are more interested in getting free government money to sustain their own lavish lifestyles while changing nothing; rather than creating fundamental change in the way business is done in this country. Mr. Obama, I fear you have been dealt the biggest mess of any incoming president since Franklin Roosevelt, and perhaps since Abraham Lincoln. America is sending you to The White House to effect change. We have never needed it more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oklahoma, WTF?


I have written about some of the things I saw last week in Oklahoma. Now, I must say there are many things to like about The Sooner State, but their politics isn't one of them. Following the recent election, I was looking at state by state maps of how the counties went either for Obama or McCain. One thing became readily apparent; Oklahoma is the only state out of the fifty that did not have one single county that had a majority vote for Mr. Obama. Not one. Every county went red.

Now I can think of a number of reasons for this. The Oklahoma education system outside of the excellent OU and OSU is not the best. People tend to be less educated than the U.S. as a whole. Its two metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are not among the largest in the country. This is a state that also re-elected James Inhofe to the Senate. Yes, the same Inhofe who questions whether or not Mr. Obama loves America; the same James Inhofe who thinks global warming is a scam perpetrated by The Weather Channel. This is the state where young student, Brandy Blackbear, was expelled for allegedly placing a curse on a teacher that put him in the hospital.

So now we clearly see that Oklahoma once again reinforces the stereotype that it is a backwards-thinking state. When America overwhelmingly went for historic change, Oklahomans decided to stick with the GOP. In browsing the web about this phenomenon, I also found that former Oklahoma governor David Walters wrote about this on his blog in an entry titled, What's The Matter With Oklahoma?

As a native Oklahoman, I would love to see the state of my birth become more progressive. However, I fear the culture of ignorance makes such a change unlikely for the near term. Okies are, for the most part, good, hard working, and honest folks, who have endured a lot of hardship. However the combination of lack of opportunities, inadequate public education, and the ever present influence of fundamentalist Christianity holds them in an intellectual death grip.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dobson At It Again



The hatemongers and bigots at Focus on the Family are at it again. Taking up the mantle of the so-called "War on Christmas", the Dobsonites have compiled a list of retailers who they consider to be either "Christmas Friendly", "Christmas Negligent", or "Christmas Offensive". In other words, if the retailers don't use the holiday shopping season to push Christianity on all of their customers, you get put on Dobson's naughty list.

First of all, these idiots don't know or care, that retailers are in business to serve all of their customers. Not all customers celebrate Christmas. What if offensive about wishing customers a happy holiday, regardless of which one they may or may not celebrate?

What is even more amazing is the irony that is lost on these people. Consider the following from their website:
Retailers will be presented with petitions — thanking those that embrace "Christmas," and alerting those that have purged or marginalized "Christmas" that you object to the secularization of Christmas. We hope you will "stand for Christmas" with us and encourage the continued acknowledgement of this historic Christian observance in our culture.
So, in other words, while you are out celebrating the birth of Jesus by running up the credit cards, be sure to piss and moan about stores "secularizing" Christmas. Whatever happened to "love thy neighbor"? In a retail season that promises to be the worst in decades, Dobson is out to throw his substantive weight around the economy, and in effect, punishing even the Christians working at stores on his Christmas Offensive list. Good job, numnuts.

So let's all be sure to support the businesses on Dobson's hit list:

Christmas Negligent
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Best Buy
  • Borders
  • Circuit City
  • Dick's Sporting Goods
  • The GAP
  • KB Toys
  • Kmart
  • Toys "R" Us
Christmas Offensive
  • American Eagle
  • Banana Republic
  • Bloomingdale's
  • Lane Bryant
  • Old Navy
Makes me proud that the Lovely Spouse just dropped a few bucks at Lane Bryant over the weekend!

Oh, and by the way, it will be a Christmas to remember for 202 Focus employees, as they are getting laid off by the Dobson machine, just in time for...yes, I'll say it...the holidays!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sights in the Arbuckles


Turner Falls in Oklahoma's Arbuckle Mountains

The Arbuckle Mountains are a very old range of mountains located between Davis and Ardmore, Oklahoma. This uplift is somewhere around 500-million years old. Today, Interstate 35 makes them almost unnoticeable, but old US 77 wound around for a few miles through these hills. They are so old and so worn that they are no longer mountains in the sense of the Rockies or even the Appalachian range. Still, they are quite beautiful, and home to the Arbuckle Wilderness and Turner Falls, pictured above. Turner Falls is a 77 foot drop of spring-fed Honey Creek, making it the highest waterfall in the state. At the time I stopped by, the water appeared to be at a low point in volume.

In the 1930s, a doctor decided to build a couple of castles beside the falls. Below is one of them.


One of the Turner Falls castles

When I was a child living in Houston, we used to travel the old US 77 to Oklahoma City to visit our grandparents. At the time, it was a bit scary to go through the Arbuckles and the hairpin curves, especially at night. We were always afraid of falling off the mountains. Had we seen the sign below, it would have made for even scarier stories!


Road monument in the Arbuckles

You see, it turns out that this old highway was built through the mountains in the mid 1920s by prisoners. The imagination can come up with all kinds of spooky stories about what could have transpired in the dark along this stretch of highway!


Close up of monument showing this road was built only 18 years after Oklahoma became a state

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Little Oklahoma Road Geekery

On Tuesday afternoon as I drove along I-35 from Oklahoma City toward Dallas, I saw many reassurance shields for I-35. Most of them are the typical ones you see everywhere. However, I saw two like the one below just north of the town of Ardmore.


Look closer...the shield is not cut out, but is painted on a white, squared blank. Interesting? Only to us road geeks!

Oklahoma's New Dome

Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States in 1907, and while Guthrie was its first seat of government, the capitol was moved to Oklahoma City shortly thereafter. The state capitol building was distinguished by two things. First, it had working oil wells on the capitol grounds. Second, the capitol had no dome.

To celebrate the Oklahoma centennial, the state finally finished its capitol building by adding a dome which was dedicated in 2004. I had never seen the new dome in person, so as I left town on Tuesday, I made a stop to grab some photos. Since it was Veterans Day, the building was closed, so I could not get any pictures of the interior of the new dome, which I understand is spectacular. Maybe next time I get down to OKC I will be able to take a look inside the rotunda.

The dome was dedicated on statehood day, November 16, 2002. It is topped off by a statue of a native American, titled "The Guardian", which was designed by former state senator and Seminole Nation Chief, Enoch Kelly Haney.

I must say that I think the dome really gives the capitol a look of completeness that I never really noticed before. It certainly now fits the mental image that capitols should be topped by domes.

Below are some other shots of the Oklahoma Capitol I took on Tuesday. Click Here to see a photo of the building taken in 1999 prior to the construction of the dome. You may also click on my photos for a larger version.



Statue titled "As Long As The Waters Flow", which was how long Oklahoma was to have belonged to the Indians under a United States treaty with the Five Civilized Tribes.


Oklahoma's Capitol Building and its new dome


Full view of the south side of the Capitol

Oklahoma City National Memorial


Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

The bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in United States history. On April 19, 1995, 168 people, including 19 children, were murdered by a bomber who parked a truck bomb by the building. The site of the Murrah building is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial site, containing a reflecting pool, chairs representing the victims, and other artifacts. I had not been to the site since before the memorial was completed, until I stopped by for a few moments last Tuesday.

The perimeter of the site still has sections of chain link fence where people brought tokens of remembrance of the victims to the site. The picture below is


Chain link fence and items left by mourners at the Murrah site

Each end of the memorial contains a large gateway with the time of 9:01 on one, and 9:03 on the other, representing the moments in time just before and after the blast occurred. The reflecting pool is between them, and the field of chairs to the south side of the pool. The chairs for the children are smaller in size than the ones for the adults killed by the blast.


The Field of Chairs


Another view of the chairs

In what became an iconic image of the tragedy, the picture below was taken by a worker downtown who saw Oklahoma City fireman Chris Fields cradling the little dying Baylee Almon on the day after her first birthday. Below that famous photo is the one I took of Baylee's chair.


Chris Fields and Baylee Almon


Baylee's chair at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

It was a cool, calm day Tuesday, giving the reflecting pool a perfect image of its surroundings.


Reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial


The 9:03 gate at the Oklahoma City National Memorial

A church across the street from the memorial site erected the statue below called "Jesus Wept". While I suppose it gives comfort to some, it only reinforces to me just how irrational religion can be. If Jesus is so powerful, why is he standing there, turned away, hiding his eyes and crying at the site of these needless deaths? Why didn't he cause McVeigh's bomb to simply not go off? Why did the truck just fail to start that fateful morning? No, instead, Jesus stands there doing nothing but hiding his eyes and crying at the place where he supposedly could have stopped this from ever happening in the first place.


Too late to cry now

Seen In North Texas

Yesterday, I was in the Dallas area on business, but still got to take a few interesting photos. My morning started before dawn, and I arrived at my company's offices in Arlington, Texas just as the sun was coming up. So here are a couple of things I saw near the office. As usual, click on any picture for a larger version.

First, I like how the moon was setting, yet still in the sky above Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of the American League Texas Rangers. So I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and snapped this picture through the open window.


Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the dawn's early light

Also nearby is the site of the new stadium being built as home to the Dallas Cowboys, and as the new venue for the annual Cotton Bowl game. Below is a photo I took of the stadium as it is now, followed by the architect's rendering of the finished stadium.


New home of the Cowboys under construction


New Cowboys stadium as it will look when completed (looks like a giant bicycle helmet)

Later in the day as I was heading to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I stopped at a Kroger supermarket, where one of the famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobiles was parked in the lot. "Oh I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner!"


What's that guy doing hot-dogging all over the road?

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

This week I had the "pleasure" of flying twice on United Airlines. Well, the first flight was on a United Express partner regional jet from Denver to Oklahoma City. This was on Monday. On Thursday, I experienced what the marketing and executive geniuses at United implemented as their boarding policy that is sure to piss off most of their customers, and so needlessly. I saw it yesterday while boarding a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver.

This ridiculous excuse for an airline has decided to list a litany of customer classes who get United's "Special" treatment at boarding time. They have placed ropes beside the ticket taker at the gate, creating two lanes...one for these elite classes, and the other for the rest of us, whose business United apparently no longer values. The difference? The elite groups board first, and in order of just how elite they are. The other difference is the red carpet treatment, and I kid you not. The lane for the elites have a red "United" rug for the people boarding first to walk across. No joke!

Now, as you can imagine, this only adds to the fiasco of getting everyone on board quickly. It is bad enough that this pathetically-managed air carrier has shot themselves in the foot by charging for every piece of checked baggage. That alone causes carry-on madness and overloading, which delays getting everyone on board and ready for departure. Now we have this little game. Every carrier treats its frequent fliers to perks, and that is fine. It is just that United has taken leave of their senses with this plan. Here is the boarding order:
  1. Premier Executive members
  2. Star Alliance Gold "guests"
  3. Global Services customers
  4. 1k customers
  5. United First customers
After all of these guys who obviously paid a lot more money to sit in the same cramped seats get on by walking over the red rug, the rest of us schmucks can finally start boarding to aircraft. And with all the carry on bags, a lot of the end up getting "gate checked" anyway.

Here is what United sent to its "most-valued guests" by email:
Beginning November 12, our Premier Executive members and Star Alliance Gold guests will board before Seating Area 1 customers through the Economy Lane.

The new boarding order will be as follows: Global Services, 1K and customers sitting in United First will continue to board first through the Red Carpet Lane, followed by our United Business customers.

Our Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold members will then be invited to board. After all of our most-valued guests are on board and getting settled, the regular boarding process of seating areas 1 through 4 will begin.

We strive to consistently reward you, our premium customers, for your loyalty. We hope that as a Premier Executive and Star Alliance Gold customer, you enjoy this added benefit.
Yes, United has decided its other "guests" aren't so valued. It isn't that I care about walking on a silly little red rug in a roped-off lane. It isn't that I can't get on the plane first, as we all arrive at the same time anyway. It is the ridiculous delays that this new policy causes at the gate. United, your elitism is working against you in on-time departures and in public relations.

Just another reason I am a big fan of Southwest and Frontier. United, YOU SUCK! No wonder you keep losing gazillions of dollars, keep going bankrupt, and just can't seem to figure out how to run an airline. Stick that in your red rug and roll it! Hopefully a decently run airline will buy your remnants out of yet another bankruptcy...someone who knows how to run a business.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Arizona Still Loves 'Em Some Colors

Maybe its because with the exception of the beautiful blossoms, the desert is all sandy colored. But the state of Arizona has always had a thing for colored highway shields. Back in the 1950s, the state used various colors for their US Highway shields. (CLICK HERE to see a picture of these, including one of the old black on yellow stop signs.) Then they have more recently used colored shields for Arizona state highways.

When I was in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, I managed to grab these two shots with the cell phone camera. The blue shields are on US 60 as you approach Loop 101, the Agua Fria Freeway. Then at the point you turn onto the entry ramp, there is a white shield. THIS SITE says the blue ones are being phased out. In any case, I found this to be in interesting piece of road geekery.

Arizona also has the distinction of having once had a swastika on its state highway shields (CLICK HERE for an example). These were changed out during the 1940s and 1950s after the ancient symbol (used by the Hopi tribe of American Indians) was used by the Nazis in Germany under Adolph Hitler.

Curtsys and Childhood Games

This morning while watching an episode of the television classic, I Love Lucy, there was an episode where Little Ricky was supposed to perform on his drums, but got a bad case of stage fright. I noticed that the children coming in to play their instruments entered and did something you don't see much anymore. The boys would enter and bow, while the girls would enter and curtsy. It occurred to me that you don't see little girls do a curtsy anymore. Perhaps in certain contexts, such as the courts of royalty, a curtsy would still be done. However, it seems that even after artistic performances, the bow is now done by both genders.

This led me to think about other things that children used to do that you rarely, if ever, see happening. We didn't have Nintendo DS, iPods, and other gadgets that keep kids occupied today. We played simple games, such as Four Square, Jacks, Red Rover, Marbles, Spinning Tops, Duck Duck Goose, and Jumping Rope. Jumping Rope was mainly a girls' game, and the jumping cadence was accompanied by unique stories in the form of rhymes. The stories sometimes related to other girls jumping into, or out of, the rope, while each end of the rope was spun by another girl. I found a website with many of these games and lots of jump rope rhymes that you can visit by CLICKING HERE.

For boys, Marbles, Dodge Ball, and Kick Ball were favorites. Kick Ball was a game played with a big inflated ball that was much like baseball, except that you kicked the ball rather than batting. One of our favorites was playing with wooden tops that you would spin by wrapping a string around and tossing to the ground while pulling back on the string. Many tops had metal points, but the folks at Duncan, the yo-yo company, made a safer top that had replaceable nylon tips. These were a lot of fun.

The things kids have to play with today are pretty cool, but sometimes I wonder if they are missing out on the simple joys and toys of days gone by.

Sunday Morning Musings

As is typical, I awoke well before 5 AM this morning, and although I feel tired, I cannot sleep. So since I am awake and the house is quiet, this seems like a good time to reflect on various things.

Yesterday started out with the lovely spouse and I picking up two of the grandkids and heading to downtown Denver where I participated in a charity bowling event to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Sadly we learned from our daughter-in-law that one of my granddaughter's most beloved teachers succumbed to brain cancer. This teacher, "Miss Sue", was only in her 40s, but had loved her students, and obviously the feelings were mutual. It is a sad time for Nicole as she deals with the reality that death is part of life, and that losing is part of having loved.

When we got to the bowling venue, the lanes were all taken by participants in the project, but a couple of "no shows" opened a spot for the kids to bowl as well. The LS also played pool with our granddaughter, and toward the end, one of my other sons and his fiancée brought his little 4-year-old stepson who we were watching for the day. So here were grandma and grandpa with all three grandchildren of varying ages. We haven't had just us and three kids since our boys were all children, but we had a good time with them.

Upon leaving the bowling alley, the little guy started crying for his mom. I felt really bad for him, because he really doesn't know us that well yet. But when he saw a little stuffed toy in a store window, grandpa and grandma bought it and he was good to go! We then went for hamburgers at Johnny Rocket's on the 16th Street Mall. The 4-year-old grandson made sure we knew he wanted his burger plain and with no bun. The granddaughter, who is 10, also wanted hers plain, but with the bun, while the 13-year-old grandson wanted his plain with a bun, but with cheese on it. Of course, to be fair, grandpa also has one special request for his burger also...hold the mayonaisse. Mayo on a burger is an abomination to me. I like cheese and all the veggies, but the only condiment that rightfully belongs on a burger is mustard. To go with our fries, the waitress used the ketchup squirter to make us each a little smiley face in small paper bowls. That was a definite hit with the kids.

During lunch, my granddaughter decided she wanted a stuffed toy too, so we went back to the store on our way back to the car and let her pick one out. The kids hadn't had enough bowling, so we headed toward The Brunswick Zone near Park Meadows Mall. However, we didn't get to bowl, because the kids decided they would rather play laser tag. So they played a couple of rounds, hit the crane machines, and then we went home. All in all, a good day!



It is getting colder as we progress into Autumn, and a rain/snow mix is moving into the area tonight, just in time for me to have to fly out through a mess on a business trip that will take me to Oklahoma City and Dallas. Oklahoma City is always a bittersweet place for me, as it was where we spent many Christmases during my childhood, regardless of where we lived at the time. It was where my Grandparents lived and the place I was born, so it was the one constant during my young life. Despite living in different states from coast to coast, OKC was always a place where we returned to every year. Now, all four of my grandparents are buried in the Oklahoma City area, and although I have various cousins who reside around the city, I have not kept up with them.

Of course this year is a big sports year for Oklahoma City, as the NBA's Thunder started playing there after relocating from Seattle where they were known as the Supersonics. OKC hosted the New Orleans Hornets for a couple of years following Hurricane Katrina, and proved that an NBA team could do well there. So now Oklahoma has its very first major league sports team to call its own. While I favor the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets, I may have to pile onto the Thunder's bandwagon too!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Barack Obama in 2004

While watching the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I first saw a young state senator from Illinois, who was running for the United States Senate. He was selected to give the keynote address to the convention, and did a masterful job. While I never expected it to happen quite this fast, immediately after the address, I told the lovely spouse, "I think we just heard from the first black President of the United States." Sure enough, here we are just a bit over four years later, and Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States. So let's take a look back at that speech from four years ago. Click below to see the future President's first major national address.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Over!

In victory, President-Elect Obama gave an inclusive and forward looking speech. In defeat, Senator McCain looked like the John McCain of old that most of us admired and missed during the campaign. If THIS John McCain had not disappeared during the campaign, and had he not chosen a bimbo for his running mate, he may have fared better. But ultimately, those were just add-ons. The economy and voter discontent where Republican rule has led us, are likely the reason for the landslide win by Obama.

Whether or not you voted for him, it's time for all of us to wish him the best, because if our President does well, our nation does well. I hope that as we see the new President in action, those who vilified him will give way to the realization that their fears and concerns were unfounded. This great country needs a reboot with fresh leadership. We have overwhelmingly voted for that change. Mr. Obama inherits a nation with an economy in extreme duress and two wars in progress. He has a big job ahead, and I am hopeful he will provide the new direction we need.

An Historic Day

Today will be an historic day in America, as one of two firsts will take place. We will either have elected our first African-American President, or we will have elected our first female Vice President. This is a day that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will study in school.

I predict a victory of landslide proportions for the Democratic ticket, as well as Democratic gains in both houses of Congress. While I don't think there will be a filibuster-proof majority, President Obama will have a legislature who will help him push his agenda.

That's my projection. I could be wrong. We should know in a few hours.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Finally!

Tomorrow is election day in the United States, and all of the disgusting, lying, mudslinging ads come to an end...for a while. It's about time!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gettin' all Mavericky One Last Time

I won't miss the smarmy and lying attack ads after Tuesday, but I surely will miss all the great stuff on Saturday Night Live this political season. It has arguably been the best political season on SNL since Chevy Chase portrayed a bumbling Gerald Ford. Here is last night's appearance by John McCain and Tina Fey, portraying John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

States To Which I Have Been

I have enjoyed traveling to many parts of the United States, and find something I like everywhere I go. So for grins, I decided to color code a map of our fifty United States of America. The code is as follows:

Green - States where I have lived for at least a year
Purple - States where I have lived for less than a year
Blue - States I have been to
Yellow - States I have flown over, but not been to on the ground
Red - States I have yet to visit or traverse by air

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Love Early Voting

Two years ago, the lovely spouse and I had to stand in line for over two hours to vote. This morning, it was a different story. We got to participate in early voting.

We first went to the town hall, and while it had a line, it looked to be fairly short. But the LS also knew of another early voting place located in the clubhouse of a nearby apartment complex. So we decided to go there. Walked in, showed our IDs and went straight to the voting machines. Done! It doesn't get any easier than that to participate in our republic. So, after voting for President, U.S. Senator, Mayor, Town Council, retaining judges, state constitutional amendment proposals, a few referenda, and some local ballot initiatives about taxes and debt for public schools and libraries, I was done. All in about 5 minutes. Of course, I had my cheat sheet to make sure I was ready.

The voting machines used here also print a paper copy that you can review and approve after voting electronically. No dimpled or hanging chads here!

I'm Randy, and I approved this message!

Meant as Humor, But Makes a Good Point

Technology is just getting too hard for many of our older citizens. It used to be you turned on the tv, flipped the dial to the channel you want, and presto, you had TV!

Nowadays you have to mess with multiple remote controls, converter boxes, cable or satellite boxes, home theater receivers, and to top it all off, television stations in the United States will cease to broadcast in good old analog NTSC in February, rendering any TV over a couple of years old useless without a converter box of some kind, be it cable, satellite, or over-the-air.

The following video was meant to be humor, but I fear that it is all too true for many. The closer we get, the more I think this whole conversion to DTV is a scam to make money for the government, the consumer electronics industry, and others who stand to gain from this conversion. For young folks who grew up with iPod earphones stuck in their head and a cell phone in their hands, it is no big deal. But not everyone can handle the intricacies of the change. And with DTV, instead of a little snow but a perfectly watchable picture, we get no picture with a weak signal. We also are subjected to compression artifacts and pixellation.

As to the video, I actually had the two cable boxes on the first two TV sets you see...the one with the knob and the one with rows of push buttons.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It Has To Stop

I have thought for a long time that there are nutcases out there who would cause harm to Senator Obama if they could, for reasons ranging from rabid racism to pure hatred. Yet I have not spoken about it for not wanting to even entertain such ideas. Yet today, the BATF broke up a plot by some neoNazi skinheads from Tennessee to murder 88 black Americans, 14 of them by beheading, then topping off their murder spree by taking the life of Senator Barack Obama. There were also previous plots that have been foiled, such as one to kill the Democratic Presidential nominee during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

While it is true that these sick and twisted excuses of human beings don't require any encouragement, the rhetoric from the GOP is not helpful. Calling your political opponent a socialist, saying he "Pals around with terrorists", and other vitriolic nonsense only feeds the fires of hate. It is time that such hate mongering to stop in American politics. Now. If something horrific were to happen, I would hold people who spew such garbage for potential political gain partially responsible. When your crowds shout "Kill Him" and "Terrorist" about your opponent, something evil has taken hold in the nation.

And it isn't just extremists. Look at the video below to see the inane comments by the crowd going to a McCain-Palin rally. Unbelievable. It has to stop.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arizona's Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As with all of my photos from the recent trip to Arizona, these are not up to par, as they were taken with my mobile phone camera. The location again is the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.

This time, we are seeing the Arizona Vietnam Memorial. Much like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, this one involves names inscribed into black rock, but rather than a wall, these are monoliths arranged in a semi-circle, surrounding a series of plaques in the center. The plaques are mounted on a stone pedastal, and describe milestones during the America's involvement in the Vietnam War. This monument was placed by The Vietnam Veteran Association of Arizona.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

USS Arizona Artifacts in Phoenix


An anchor from the USS Arizona on display in Phoenix

Earlier this week, I was in Phoenix on business. On the way back to Sky Harbor Airport, I had a few minutes, so I stopped off at the Arizona state capitol complex. Across the street from the capitol building is the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, a park containing a variety of monuments. The series of photos to follow were taken on my Motorola Q9 mobile phone camera; therefore they are not up to the typical quality of the pictures I usually post. Still, they are able to convey their contents effectively, so I will share them here.

Two of the items in the park deal with the USS Arizona, a battleship of the United States Navy that was destroyed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The ship, commissioned in 1916, saw service in World War I, and underwent a modernization during the 1930s. Upon her destruction, 1177 lives were lost. Today, the USS Arizona Memorial is a part of Pearl Harbor.

But back in Phoenix, the signal mast of the ship, along with one of her anchors, are prominently displayed among the myriad memorials and monuments in the park. Below are two views of the mast, followed by a photo after the ship's 1930s updating, where you can clearly see this mast on the ship.


USS Arizona signal mast, with the state capitol in the background


Flags displayed on the signal mast


USS Arizona following her modernization in the 1930s

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quick Hits on a Friday Morning

Well, it's been another busy, busy week, hence the lack of postings. More to come this weekend, but let's take note of a few things.

Wall Street Roller Coaster


Unbelievable insanity continues in the economy, as the DJIA drops over 400 points in the opening minutes this morning. As always, it will be the people who just work hard every day will pay the price in decimated retirement and job losses. This is bad news for the Republican ideals of "I got mine, too bad for you", as people who have jobs and health insurance suddenly find themselves with neither. Maybe the greed will finally give way to real compassion and the realization that we are all interconnected, and that freedom from want is truly an American...and yes, a human, ideal.

Wasting Political Donations

Did you give donations to the Republicans? If so, are you angry that over $150,000 of your funds went into new outfits for Caribou Barbie? Governor Palin claims to be a typical hockey mom. How many hockey moms can drop that kind of cash at Neiman Marcus and Saks? I suspect real hockey moms are starting to abandon even shopping at Kohls and Mervyns, and heading to the Goodwill Store in today's economy. I guess it takes some mighty fancy lipstick to dress up a pit bull!

If you want to play along, you can dress up Governor Palin by CLICKING HERE.

Good News on the Horizon for MS Patients

British scientists at Cambridge University have found that alemtuzumab, a drug used to treat leukemia, can not only stop the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, but actually can reverse the damage caused by this horrible disease. Further testing must take place, but this is potentially great news for people who suffer daily with MS. CLICK HERE for more on this story.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell's Endorsement of Barack Obama

I have been quite upset with a man I have respected for years since he went before the United Nations and made a presentation based on bad information in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. That man is former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell. Today on NBC's Meet the Press, General Powell redeemed himself. In a most eloquent and reasoned manner, he laid out why as a life long Republican, he is endorsing Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States.

General Powell echoes the main reasons I also support Senator Obama. These include:
  • Senator McCain's poor judgment in selecting Governor Palin as his running mate, when she is obviously unqualified to be President
  • The possibility of at least two more Supreme Court appointments of a conservative bent
  • The low road taken in these closing days of the campaign by Senator McCain's team
  • Not only the misrepresentation of Mr. Obama as a Muslim, but that it even matters what his religion may be, when there explicitly no religious test for public office, as stated in the Constitution of the United States
  • Barack Obama is a new generation, a transitional figure in American history, when the nation can ill-afford four-to-eight more years of basically the same failed policies of the past eight.
General Powell, I salute you for your taking a stand, and in spite of your long standing friendship with Senator McCain, putting your country first.

I have embedded today's Meet the Press below.

Hop To It!



Between battling a major round of insomnia, and the most hectic times at work in quite a while, I have not been posting as regularly to the blog as usual. Politics have reached new lows of slinging mud...no, more like slinging crap...especially from the McCain campaign. So let's look at something a bit easier on the brain.

Today, one of the little bunny rabbits that live under our trees was sitting out in the yard, looking all fat and happy. I don't know if this is a pregnant bunny, or just one that is well fed on my poor lawn, but in any case, it is cute. That said, if times get tougher, this could begin to look less like a cute little bunny, and start looking more like dinner and four "good luck" keychains, cotton tail notwithstanding!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Poor Pa Kent! Killed Off Again!

Let's take a quick break from politics and economics. Too much of that can make your head hurt!

As I was growing up, the Superman mythos was an important part of my childhood. When comic books were from 10 cents to 12 cents each, even my modest allowance of 75 cents a week would buy several comics. I loved the characters of the DC line; Superman the most, but also Batman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern.

The Superman story line and continuity was as familiar as if it were my own life. Jor-El, the leading scientist of the planet Krypton, which revolved around a distant red sun, warned the Science Council that the planet would soon explode. No one believed him, so Jor-El and his wife Lara, placed their baby son, Kal-El, into an experimental rocket and sent him to Earth, where he was adopted by the elderly Jonathan and Martha Kent, who lived on a farm just outside Smallville, U.S.A. The Kent's named the space child Clark, and he had a career as Superboy. After his foster parents died, Clark moved to Metropolis to work for The Daily Planet newspaper. All this was immutable comic book reality. Then came John Byrne.

Byrne was hired away from Marvel Comics to do a total reboot of Superman in 1986. While in some ways the reimagining of the character was a welcome relief to bring about a more interesting and limited version, it was a major change, doing away with such characters as Superboy, Supergirl, Krypto, the bottle city of Kandor. In fact, the entire DC Universe was redone via the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline crossing all DC titles. But two characters came out of the relaunch better than before...Ma and Pa Kent were still alive back in Smallville, and Superman was able to go home for visits.

The 1978 film, Superman, starred Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent, who died of a heart attack. Not even his son's super powers could save him. In the television series, Smallville, Jonathan Kent, as portrayed by John Schneider, has been killed off. So this week, Jonathan is killed off once again in Action Comics #870.

So the moral of the story is, it isn't good to be either Superman's real father, who died on Krypton; nor his Earth father, Jonathan Kent, who is now dead for the fourth time. Much better to be Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From Nixonian to "Bleeding Heart Liberal"

If you read this blog regularly, you know I lean politically pretty hard to the left. But what you may not know is that this wasn't always so. A combination of my evolving views and life experiences, along with a takeover of the GOP by more radical right elements resulted in a shift in my views. You may ask yourself how does a Reagan Republican become a Democrat? There are probably stories how people have done this. For anyone interested, this is mine.

Early Years

I was politically-aware at an early age. I was seven years old during the 1960 election campaign, and vividly remember that my parents supporting Vice President Richard Nixon for the Presidency. Since Mom & Dad were backing Nixon, in my young mind, that was the obvious and only rational choice, right? When I found out from the kids next door that their family was for Kennedy, it actually caused some playtime ill-will, since they had the same view of their parents’ choice as I had of mine. Yet none of us were smart enough to tell you a single issue in the campaign. Like any other children, our views on politics, religion, morality, and how the world should be, was inherited from the environment of our respective homes.

When my parents went to cast their ballot for Nixon in 1960, my younger sisters and I had to stand with them in what seemed to be an infinitely long line of people waiting to vote. When we finally got to the front of the line, a poll tax had to be paid in order to cast a ballot. Poll taxes were instituted shortly after Reconstruction in 11 southern states as a way to keep blacks and poor whites from voting. The growing civil rights movement had brought the issue to the forefront, and by 1962, Congress sent a proposed constitutional amendment that would abolish the poll tax, to the states for ratification. This became the 24th Amendment upon ratification on January 23, 1964. The impact on national elections was felt in the five states that still had poll taxes, one of them being Texas, the state where we lived at the time.

In 1964, since my parents were for Barry Goldwater, so was I (not that it mattered who an eleven year old child was for). The political leanings I was taught at home were so ingrained, that I never really questioned them growing up. Even during my teen years, and with the dark specter of possibly being drafted to fight in Viet Nam, I unquestioningly assimilated the Republican mindset.

The events of 1968 were compelling, and I was a bit put off by Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War if he were elected. It turns out there was no secret plan, and the war dragged on during his first term. The assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Democratic Presidential candidate, Senator Robert F. Kennedy; along with the protests on college campuses across the country, coupled with the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago showed that the nation was experiencing a time of major unrest and political upheaval. The incumbent President Lyndon Johnson declined to run for a second term, as the war took its political toll on him. The Democratic mantle fell to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Between Humphrey and Nixon, neither one got me really excited, but alas, I was still too young for any of it to matter.

When the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesting students at Kent State University in 1970, it horrified me. Four students were killed, and nine others wounded. You cannot ignore something like that. I see it all quite differently now, but at the time, I was either too young or too apathetic to really dig into what happened. Had I known then what I know now, I would never have supported the President for re-election.

Young Adulthood, The Draft, and The Rise & Fall of Nixon

The 1972 elections were the first to be held after ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which granted the vote to citizens who were at least 18 years old. As 19-year-old college student, I was ready and eager to participate in the political process. I was one of the few lonely campaigners on my campus for the re-election of President Nixon. I recall telling my dad that if the upcoming election were decided by my fellow students, Senator McGovern would win overwhelmingly. His reply was something like, “Well, those students won’t be deciding the election.” As it turned out, he was right, as Nixon won re-election in a landslide, only to resign a short time into his second term in the disgrace of the Watergate scandal.

At the time, I was not a fan of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern , and given the Nixon landslide of 1972, neither were very many others. His early gaffes surrounding the abortive selection of Senator Thomas Eagleton as running mate, and his hasty replacement with Sargent Shriver won him few fans. Then his promise to immediately withdraw from Viet Nam within 90 days of his inauguration as President, and a promise to travel to Hanoi to beg for the release of our prisoners of war, did him in. At least it did for me. Despite my strong desire for an end to the war, I felt (and still do) that it was beneath the President of the United States to effect an immediate surrender, and then to travel to the “enemy” capital to grovel at the feet of Ho Chi Minh.

A rite of passage for young men when they reached age 18 was registering with the draft board. How well I remember the day I went in. The war was largely executed by reluctant recruits drafted into service. As I came of age, the Selective Service System started using a lottery system to determine the order of call up into coercive induction. It was a lottery you definitely didn't want to win. Prior to the lottery, men were called up by local draft boards, starting with the oldest eligible men first. They started with the 25 year olds and worked down from there.

The lottery changed all that, including the scrapping of the policy of starting with the older guys first. The initial lottery was held in December 1969 to cover all men born between 1944 and 1950. Subsequent lotteries were conducted for the next three years, which were for a single year only. As I was born in 1953, I was in the fourth, and final, lottery for the Vietnam-era draft. It was held in February of 1972 at the start of my second freshman semester in college. My birthday came up about one-third of the way down the list, effectively meaning I was not very likely to be drafted, but it was still possible. As it turned out, the year my age group would have been called up was 1973, the year the draft was finally eliminated and the United States transitioned to an all volunteer military. While I am sure I would have submitted to the draft had things worked out differently, today I have a very different view of what was going on at the time, and have a deep respect for both those who fought, and for those who protested against the unjust war in south-east Asia.

At the time, I bought into the Nixon administration's assertion of the “domino theory”. Simply stated, the idea was that if we were to leave Viet Nam, the Communist Chinese Army and their North Vietnamese proxies, would continue to take over nation after nation until we would be battling them in downtown Los Angeles. (We hear the same rhetoric from George W. Bush today, with lines such as “We are fighting them over there, so that we don’t have to fight them here.”) Over time, I came to the realization that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake and a horrible foreign policy blunder which cost this nation dearly in resources and in lives needlessly cut short.

On the political front, I was happy at the re-election of President Nixon. I think my little 1963 Rambler was the only car on my university campus to sport a bumper sticker proclaiming “Re-Elect The President.” I was likewise sadly disappointed as the misdeeds of Watergate eventually led to the Oval Office itself. As the walls were closing in on the President, my dad wrote him a letter strongly urging him to fight the charges and not to resign. After the revelations of the White House tapes and the passage of Articles of Impeachment, the inevitable happened. I will always remember that while visiting my grandparents in Oklahoma, I watched the President of the United States resign his office, and depart for California the following day.

Skipping an Election

Despite the resignation of Richard Nixon, I still believed that the Republican Party was the party that anyone with any sense would support. Surely Nixon had just been caught up in his own “Imperial Presidency”. So when America's bicentennial year brought the 1976 elections, I was pulling for President Ford to legitimize his claim to the office of President by actually being elected to it. Even so, I was not an enthusiastic Ford supporter, and that blasé attitude, led to my sitting out the actual election. I had a busy day at work on election day, and somehow in my mind believed that there was no way that Georgia Democrat Jimmy Carter, would win anyway. So for the first (and only) time, I didn't go to vote. Much to my dismay, I felt somewhat responsible when later that night, the television networks declared that the Georgia governor had beaten America's first unelected President. I wondered how many others did what I did, resulting in this outcome.

As it turns out, years later I would meet former President Gerald Ford when I had the chance to ask him a few questions while covering a GOP fund raiser in Houston when I was a political reporter at KTRH Radio. The Secret Service agents thoroughly searched me and my tape recorder before letting me in. I didn't tell him that I felt somewhat responsible for his defeat in his bid to be elected.

1980 and the Reagan Revolution

The 1980 election was my chance to redeem my sitting out in 1976. I was not just voting against President Carter. I was energized by Ronald Reagan. As a child, I remembered Reagan as the host of one of my favorite television programs, Death Valley Days, sponsored by 20-Mule Team Borax. Reagan took over the program from the original host, Stanley Andrews as “The Old Ranger”, following Andrews' departure in 1965.

I had also noticed Reagan in the '76 Republican primary season, and was leaning toward supporting him, but in the final analysis, felt the incumbent Ford would have a better chance of winning. In the interim, Reagan hosted a talk radio program which kept him in the forefront of political discussion, and I ended up enthusiastically backing him when he gained the GOP nomination in 1980.

Reagan was a great speaker who clearly laid out his vision of America, and I bought it all. Even the whole “trickle down” Reaganomics” seemed like it just might work. Unfortunately, the trickle down became a stream of bubble up, giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, resulting in a redistribution of wealth that continues to the present. If only I knew then what I know now!

I voted for Reagan in both 1980 and 1984, and seriously wished in 1988 that he could run for a third term in office. I would have voted for him. I was not that impressed with the whiny-sounding Vice President, George Herbert Walker Bush. Still he ended up as the GOP nominee, so I voted for him, hoping he would continue the Reagan policies, even if he were not made of the same Presidential timber as President Reagan. I voted for him again in 1992. It would be the last time to date that I gave my vote to a Republican for President of the United States.

When Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton won the 1992 election, I was very worried about the future of the nation. While President Clinton largely won me over during his eight years in office, I never voted for him. By the time he ran for re-election in 1996, I had undergone an epiphany of sorts, but it wasn't the Democratic Party that garnered my support.

The Libertarian Years: 1996 – 2000

After developing an intense interest in studying the Constitution, I became convinced that the government that governs best is the one that governs least. By 1996, I decided to back the Libertarian Party. I was (and still am) drawn toward their ideas of liberty. Where the Constitution is silent, leave matters up to the state. Why should the government outlaw personal behaviors where no one else is harmed. Why are “victimless crimes” deemed to be crimes at all?

I still hold to many, if not most, Libertarian Party ideals. I don't believe the government has any business regulating things legal adults may decide for themselves, like marriage, prostitution, pornography, seat belts, motorcycle helmets, or executing the so-called “War on Drugs”. Let me be clear; I have never been paid for the services of a prostitute. I have never used illicit drugs, even as a teen coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is not a pat on the back for me. These things just never held any interest for me, and I knew they were something I didn't want to have in my life. I also am only speaking of consenting adults of legal age. Children who are not of majority age should always be protected by the state where their parents and guardians are lax or negligent.

In both 1996 and 2000, I voted for the late Libertarian, Harry Browne. I went to a Browne rally at a hotel in Englewood, Colorado. I gave to his campaign. Yes, I knew Harry wouldn't win. But that wasn't the point. Third party candidates have virtually no chance of winning the White House. However, I don't consider those votes “wasted”. Third parties succeed not so much by winning elections. They make their mark by garnering enough votes to push their ideals into the mainstream where they may be adopted by one of the two major parties.

The Shift Continues – On to the Democratic Party

As mentioned, in 2000 I voted for neither Texas governor George W. Bush, nor for Vice President Gore. But given the ignorance and corruption that I perceived in the second President Bush and his team, I knew that the only way to make a difference in 2004 was to vote for the only party with a chance of unseating him. Starting with his father’s political machine steering the system to award “W” the White House, to his misguided invasion and occupation of Iraq, to the no-bid contracts for his cronies, to the torture and detainment of prisoners, to the falsely-named USA PATRIOT Act which legitimized the government spying on American citizens, this was easily the worst administration in my lifetime; and quickly moving toward the absolute bottom of the heap. Watching the Republican National Convention in 2004, I was particularly sick to my stomach over how the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 were used for political purposes. I was incensed at how some widows of those attacks were trotted out as stage props for the GOP’s political propaganda machine.

Top it all off with the vitriol and absolute lies continually churned out by the GOP, and they lost me for good. I cannot support the type of political tactics that the late Lee Atwater renounced on his death bed, the tactics employed by the likes of Karl Rove, the tactics that have destroyed rational political discourse in this country.

Are the Democrats perfect? Absolutely they are not. But I find that the GOP is the party of pure greed. The attitude of “I got mine, so screw you” doesn’t cut it with me. America has to work for all. We have to be a compassionate society. George W. Bush claimed he was a “compassionate conservative”. He is not. Is it compassion to deny children healthcare while spending hundreds of billions on an invasion and occupation? Is it compassion to watch our elderly making choices between food and medicine, while giving our taxes to your buddies via “no-bid” contracts?

Call it socialism if you like, but as I often say, some things are better done collectively than individually. I don’t have my own fire department. I don’t have my own air force. Yes, we will always have the poor, but do we have to continue to ignore their plight? Compassion dictates that we use the resources of this nation to the betterment of all, not just those whose life circumstances have put them in positions of great wealth and power. This is one other contributing factor to my parting with the Libertarian Party. They embrace too much to the idea that you are on your own.

Until we get rid of the “Me first, screw you, I don’t want my money to be helping you” attitude that has taken over the Republican party, we will continue our decline toward becoming a second-rate nation. I hope that historians don’t look back on these times as the beginning of the end of America’s greatness. We are better than that.