Saturday, April 29, 2006

Another Idiot Who Deserves To Be Starving And Homeless

First Neil Young, now Pink.

There's nothing like an asshole who gets rich on the basis of having little or no talent, then goes out in public and demands that other rich people ought to feel guilty for being rich. The rich really are different. They're even different from one another. How much money does Pink have? Does she have any conception of charity, or is she content to elect a government that will ostensibly provide for everyone's needs?

I just had the opportunity to hear the audio of Pink's new song "Dear Mr. President" on the NARN webcast. The prolonged whine set to music deserves a longer, harsher treatment than John Hinderaker and his Fraternal underlings were able to dish out. In other words, I am going to do more than just giggle at these lyrics:

Dear Mr. President
Come take a walk with me
And make sure at least two Secret Service agents go along to keep an eye on her at all times.
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me
Well, he would have to pretend. He is better than you. In fact, on the "best people in the world" list, you're number two, and he's tied with everybody else for number one.
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly
No, he's not your real father, and no, he's not going to tell you if he wears boxers or briefs.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street
I wish you were on the street with them instead of making lousy music. As for the President, he would be encouraging faith-based organizations (like CHURCHES, if you've ever heard of them) to help out and making charitable contributions to the cause with some of that money that you think he shouldn't have.

Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep
You, maybe? Christians are nice that way.

What do you feel when you look in the mirror
Are you proud

Well, as long as the face looking back is his own he ought to feel quite well.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
"The rest of us"? What twisted approval ratings are you looking at? And who do you include in "the rest of us"? The homeless? It's a free country, despite what you might think. You can abandon your music career anytime to go live on the streets. If I see you, I'll be sure to give you a nice stiff kick in the teeth.

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
That sounds like a good question to ask a pro-abortion politician.

How do you walk with your head held high
He has the Secret Service run ahead to sweep for landmines and banana peels so he doesn't have to look down. (Or, if you're the one trying to make him slip and fall, contaminated used condoms.)

Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why

No, he can't, because you are a gross skank.

Dear Mr. President
Were you a lonely boy

No, he came from a good-sized family and always had a place at the table in spite of his "Prince Hal" youth.

How can you say
No child is left behind
Because, sometimes, you just have to come up with a corny name for a bill in order to sucker Congress into giving it bipartisan support.
We're not dumb and we're not blind
You're right, if you mean "dumb" in the proper sense of unable to speak. You're not that at all, to my dismay.
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell

That's a fairly apt description of the federal government's role in public education in America. But somehow I don't think that's what you mean.
What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away

That would be the President's brother Jeb, Governor of Florida, whose daughter violated the state's drug laws a few years ago.
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay

That would be Vice-President Dick Cheney, and he and his wife have always been loving and supportive parents to their daughter. Pink, where are you coming up with this crap?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say

"I love you, George!"
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine
Another insight into the world of Pink! "He's not like us because he doesn't do drugs or drink liquor anymore!"
Let me tell you bout hard work
Yeah, I'd like to hear what you've done for a living besides dancing and singing.
Minimum wage with a baby on the way

Is this autobiographical? Did you have to leave the house to eke a out a meager living as a pop star? I make a relatively low salary (somewhat about minimum wage), I have a mortgage, and I have four kids with one on the way, but I don't go whining to the government about it. It's my life, my problems are my own, and I will deal with it myself. Or are you just whining to one man? Do you want George Bush to pay people's child support out of his personal funds? Yeah, you probably do.
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away

His house? You mean the White House? Has the Secret Service given you a verbal bitch slap yet concerning this thinly-veiled threat?
Building a bed out of a cardboard box

My kids do stuff like that all the time.
You don't know nothing bout hard work

Yeah, we get it, he's a rich guy and he always has been. Other than that, you don't know nothing bout him.

And finally, to sum up:
How do you sleep at night
How do you walk with your head held high
Dear Mr. President
You'd never take a walk with me
Would you

No, he wouldn't! He wouldn't be able to get to sleep after getting a look at the nightmare that is you. Do us all a favor, Pink: Stay away from the President. Stay away from the microphone. Stay away from ME. And, if you really care about the homeless, stay away from THEM. The last thing they need is a herpes epidemic.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Talking About My Generation

Jay Tea at Wizbang, who must be an almost exact contemporary of mine, recalls current events of the late 1970s and early 1980s from the perspective of a young person of the time. His perceptions and memories run parallel to mine with regards to almost everything he mentions.

Amazing how some things, like Iran and oil woes, keep coming back at us.

Inner City Public Education

It was not a normal day at one local elementary school yesterday:

A man was shot as he was leaving a convenience store in Elliott yesterday, then ran to a nearby school, where he collapsed in a room in front of preschoolers.

You just don't know what your kids are going to be exposed to in the 21st century classroom.
The classroom was filled with 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in the school's Head Start program, who were quickly taken to another room, Ms. Turnquist said. Lt. Kraus said there was "quite a bit of blood" in the classroom.

Well, Head Start is all about exposing small children to things a little earlier than their peers...

Blown Out Of Proportion

It seems that the big news story in the Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette this week has been the "Top 25" list at Mount Lebanon High School. Basically, some of the boys took a bit of time and effort to compile a list of female classmates and rated them on all of the things that teenage boys look for in teenage girls. In other words, it's quite salacious. Parents of the girls are (rightly) outraged, while the boys have their own defenders among the adult population of Lebo. Many locals are demanding that something be done about this! To the casual observer, it looks like an internal matter. If the list was distributed among boys at school and came into the possession of someone who would be offended, then it would be punishable by whatever sexual harassment policy the school district has. If the boys had kept it to themselves and outside of the school, it would be their business and no one else's. It hardly seems like a legal matter.

But this is Mount Lebanon, where people have a lot of money to throw around. Lawyers are getting involved. The Lebo police department is desperately trying to distance itself from something that is likely not against the law (and if it is, it's a stupid law). In my day, the principals would have dealt with the situation quickly and quietly with suspensions. If you were a "good kid" as many of these boys are alleged to be, the knowledge among your peers that you had been suspended would have been enough humiliation to shame you for years. No one would have considered taking it to court.

But then again, I didn't go to Mount Lebanon. I attended school in a neighboring district where we considered Lebo to be our greatest rival. Anything bad for Lebo was good for us. A story like the Top 25 list would have been ultimate Schadenfreude at my school.

Now that I am an adult more than 20 years out of high school, I feel sympathy for the kids, both boys and girls. It's tough being a teenager in any era, but even more so in this hypersexualized era. One could argue that this case is a good reason for sexual segregation during the high school years. Or you could argue that this whole thing is as ridiculous as it sounds. If you take a gander at the Moist-Towelette's special reader forum, you'll see that the news coverage of the Top 25 list has raised more hackles than the list itself. For instance

What, "The List" is out again? Is the Post-Gazette afraid to publish it? I'd
like to see it, it's been a while since the last one came out ...

That guy graduated 27 years ago! And then there's this:
Although I do not condone this behavior, I also do not feel this warrants front page coverage for the Post-Gazette! Is this really the state of our social conscious, that a juvenile list makes the front page of a supposedly large newspaper?

And this:
Wow, newsflash!!! "Teenage boys rate their fellow female classmates." Who cares! We were all teenagers once. This is all being blown way out of proportion.

This is not a criminal matter. The students involved should be disciplined by the principal and that is it. Once again, a situation has been blown out of proportion by the media, the school board, and the school district. I bet most of the girls on the list are honored
to be on the list.

People, we are at war, gas prices are through the roof and the City of Pittsburgh can't manage its finances, and what gets us all up in a fuss??????? A stupid, teenage prank. Priorities people, priorities!!!!!!!!

The amount of media coverage and public attention this "story" has received galls me. If this is indicitive of what people are truly concerned with, then God help us all.

And so on. Does it seem that the big issue here is not so much what the boys did, what the school district will do about it, or why there are lawyers involved, but why the hell the media is making such a big deal about such a minor matter?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That's That Iron Man Guy!

I love it when James Lileks comes up with new pages for his Insititute of Official Cheer, I really do, but I am a little disappointed that he didn't identify the "oily jerk" on page 9 of the latest addition by name. It's Tony Stark, before he got caught in that explosion in Vietnam and ended up with a chest full of shrapnel. That'll teach him not to mess around with sailor's girls.

Stark, not Lileks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Who Do You Think I Am, Anyway?

Why, with a blog name like this one, I'm a Mad Monarch, of course:

I'm Ludvig II, the Swan King of Bavaria!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

I suppose it's worth pointing out that my great-great-uncle Karl, back in the 1880s, was a royal tax collector for the Kingdom of Bavaria in a Rhenish district. This means that my family helped fund the construction of Mad King Ludwig's big fancy castles -- by taking other people's money. Sorry about that.

(Via SCD.)

Everything Young Is Old (News) Again

The other day, some twit from Bethel Park wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette newspaper and explained why blogs are not a source of news and how they waste his time (as if he was forced against his will to spend hours each day looking at blogs). Intending to fisk this piece of Moron Mail (thank you LF), I thought about some of the stories that have been covered by blogs like Power Line and Captain's Quarters at times when the mainstream media turned a blind eye to news, or tried to blind us to the news. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that the letter writer was essentially correct. Big time blogs like PL and CQ are the rare exceptions; the vast majority of blogs are done as hobbies by small timers who aren't really concerned with being players in the big game. I, for one, am a hobby blogger who doesn't crave attention. No one should expect to read breaking or continuing news coverage here. For example, this post certainly is not news, nor should it be news to anyone who reads it:

Neil Young is an asshole. He has always been an asshole, and he always will be an asshole. Mr. Young is a waste of space; he is a waste of carbon, oxygen, heart, lungs, vocal cords, precious bodily fluids, and any other elements/organs/substances/matter/anti-matter that went into his creation. Nothing based in logic, reason or facts can explain why such a talentless jackass could ever have achieved the level of fame that he has attained over the last forty years. I am one Northern Man who doesn't need him around, anyhow.

Why yes, I am composing this in response to the news of his latest album release:

A full tracklisting and biting lyrics have emerged of Neil Young's forthcoming album 'Living With War' - and it seems that as had been reported the entire record is a concept album about the policies of George W Bush at home and abroad.
Neil Young is a no-talent bum whose career has become an obsession with mocking and criticizing President Bush. He has a lot in common with the editorial page of the Moist-Towelette that way. Sure, he can say whatever he wants about GWB, but keep in mind that he's a Canadian citizen. When is he going to come out with an album about Stephen Harper?

According to the website Down With Tyranny, which claims to have been given a personal playback of the record by Young's manager Elliott Roberts, the album was written and recorded in nine days following a conversation the singer had about the politics of the Bush administration with Steve Bing, a film producer friend who funds radical causes in America and recently donated $10 million to a study of global warming.
The only thing worse than a jerk with too much money is a communist asshole with too much money. Steve Bing ccould buy the world and reshape it in his image with the kind of money he has, but that would never overshadow his greatest accomplishment. If Mr. Bing and I had a conversation about that, I might take nine hours to write and record an album about it. Politics would not even play a role in it.

The political tone is set by opening track 'After the Garden', which kicks off with the lyrics : "Won't need no shadow man runnin' the government." It's followed by the title track, which incorporates part of 'The Star Spangled Banner' as Jimi Hendrix famously did at Woodstock in 1969.
You know, "After the Garden" would be a great title for the opening track on my hypothetical album inspired by my hypothetical conversation with Steve Bing. Lots of Garden of Eden imagery going on there, if you know what I mean.

'Shock And Awe' refers directly to the bombing of Baghdad with the lyrics: "Back in the days of shock and awe, thousands of children scarred for life/ Millions of tears for a soldier's wife, both sides are losing now."
"Shock And Awe" would also work on my album, but the line would be something like "Back in our night of shock and awe"...wait. I was supposed to be talking about Neil Young here. Neil Young, the Saddamist/terrorist enabler from Canada.

'Flags of Freedom' returns to the theme with the lines: "Today is the day our younger son is going off to war."
Your younger son (whoever you are) enlisted in a volunteer military. He is not a child, and he must have a pretty good idea of what entering military service means. It's dangerous, and you can easily get killed.

'The Restless Consumer' is built around the refrain "Don't need no more lies" while 'Let's Impeach The President' is even more forthright, with the words: "Let's impeach the president for lying, misleading our country into war/Abusing all the power that we gave him and shipping all our money out the door."
"The Restless Consumer" could easily be about gas prices, but I suspect otherwise. Impeachment usually doesn't make sense unless you're a power-hungry Vice-President looking to move up a notch. Remember the Clinton impeachment? If he had been kicked out of office, we would have had an incumbent President Gore running in 2000. Do the Dems really want to make Dick Cheney president?

Other titles include 'Lookin' For A Leader' and 'Families' and the album ends with another Iraq song, 'Roger and Out', which includes a 100-piece choir singing 'America The Beautiful'.
Ah, dear Mr. Neil Young, you are America's passive/agressive lover. You love us so much, you hate us. Why not just come out and admit that you want to be appointed Dictator of North America, funded by your wealthy pal Steve Bing. Speaking of whom -- "Roger and Out" would be the perfect title of the closing song on my aforementioned hypothetical album, seeing as how that's a good description of how he handled the aftermath of his experience of a lifetime.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Return Of A Titan

Last Saturday's broadcast of Radio Fraters (a.k.a. the Northern Alliance) was a real treat. Who could have predicted the return of JB Doubtless to the airwaves of the Twin Cities (and the internet connections of out-of-towners like me)? What a breath of fresh air!

JB sounded like the surest, most polished, and most experienced one of the three Fraters on the air. Why has this man been held down for so long? He needs more air time, damn it! I smell a conspiracy theory coming on.

And Chad the Elder still sounds like the Wizard of Speed and Time. Just listen for yourself.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gaseous Clouds

It's beginning to look a lot like California around here. No, I don't mean the weather. I am referring to the $3 a gallon gas prices, up from $2.69 just a week ago.

Normally I'm not given over to conspiracy theories, mainly because I find it far too easy to construct a web of intrigue out of almost any premise. Yet, when all of the gas stations in the neighborhood sell gas for the same price per gallon, no matter whether the cost goes up or down, something smells funny, and it ain't the fumes from the gas pumps.

My wife does most of the driving since my bus ride to and from work is paid by my employer, so gas prices are out of sight and out of mind until I actually have to fuel up. Of course, on the one or two occasions during the week when I need to drive, she leaves the car in the driveway for me with its tank nearly empty, necessitating a visit to the nearest fuel depot. Yesterday I paid $65 to fill the tank in my minivan. Fifteen years ago, I could fill my compact station wagon on just a little over $10. It's enough to make me want to sell the car and use the proceeds to pay down my mortgage. The whole sad situation made me wonder if there really isn't something to the leftist propaganda which states that the Bush Administration is all about oil.

Fortunately, there's always right wing talk radio to balance out the talking points on the other side of the tracks. Sean Hannity was discussing gas prices on his show while I was out expending fuel. I don't much like listening to Hannity, since he strikes me as being rather something of a twit (some call him an egomaniac, and he certainly does seem to be full of himself) who lacks the entertaining style of many of his peers. I wasn't very happy with what he was saying when I first turned the radio on; it sounded like he had no problem with the rising price of gasoline. I hope he was being facetious, but with Hannity it's sometimes a little too hard to tell.

Whatever it was, he went on to say a number of things that I actually liked hearing. We don't do enough domestic drilling, either on dry land or offshore, due to environmentalist outcry. Alaska is the most well-known case, but there are plenty of other places where we could get our own petrol without leaving the country. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can reduce our fabled dependence on foreign oil.

Hannity also asserted his support for 110 mpg cars, and development of alternate fuels. Supposedly the technology for the former has existed for many years, and there are a number of conspiracy theories about why it has never been done, most of them regarding oil companies' hold on auto manufacturers. Alternate fuels such as ethanol are gaining in popularity. Frankly, I am all for it as long as it makes things cheaper in general, the same way that fuel prices are making everything more expensive.

The one silver lining is my home heating bill. A lot of us took a big hit last Fall when the monthly fixed budget payment nearly doubled. That decision was based on an estimate of higher costs over the Winter months, and I am happy to say that the gas company overestimated. I got ahead, and don't have to pay this month because there is a credit on my account. For once, I was smart and put plastic sheeting over the windows, and kept the thermostat down around 63 degrees for as long as it was tolerable. That must have helped. Whatever it was, I'm happy with the way it turned out.

Stepping back and taking another look at the big picture, who benefits? (CONSIPRACY THEORY ALERT)

Public transportation companies, for one. Most local bus and rail authorities are run by people who have an interest in spending public funds. When gasoline gets too expensive, and the commuter has a choice between driving the car or riding the bus, more people are going to opt for the bus ride. A rise in ridership (i.e. higher demand) gives the transit authorities an excuse to request more public monies as well as raising fares. It's a bus conspiracy!

My wife benefits, I suspect. While I have been trying to cut back drastically on my driving, she spends the day zipping around all over the place, using gasoline that is mostly paid for by ME. It makes me wonder whether she doesn't have some kind of money invested in Halliburton or Exxon. She could be making some serious profit and keeping me completely in the dark about it. That would be smart of her, since she's a Democrat and she would just love to make it look like rich Republicans are the only ones benefitting from oil company profits. It's an untrustworthy spouse conspiracy!

I could come up with enough of these theories to fill a book. If you'd like to hear some more, meet me on the bus.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How To Vote, 21st Century Style

The PG points us to a demonstration page of the new electronic voting machines that we'll be using in Allegheny County for the first time this year.

I still like the old gray lever machines, but this new thing is pretty slick. I've gotten so accustomed to doing so many things online that I can tell this touch screen voting is going to be a breeze for me.

As long as the computer doesn't crash on us. Don't you hate when that happens? Man, I sure hope that doesn't happen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The News Just Sucks Anymore

Hey, did you heard about the teacher down in Washington County who made her students vote on whether or not they would have an abortion? Not high school or college students, either -- these were fourth graders. I don't care what the teacher's position on abortion is, that's really pushing the envelope when it comes to picking a topic for a social studies lesson. Remember "Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock? He was all about making school buses stop at railroad crossings. That's the kind of ordinary, everyday issue that you expect your kid to discuss in fourth grade social studies.

From the article:

[Teacher] was explaining the voting process April 5 when the subject turned to abortion, [Parent] said.

[Teacher] told her 9- and 10-year-old students that, during an abortion, a needle is injected into a woman's belly, and the fetus is sucked out and killed, [Parent] said.

She then told students to put their heads on their desks, close their eyes and vote on whether they would have an abortion or put a baby up for adoption, [Parent] said. [Teacher] voted for adoption, he said.

Not surprisingly, the kids went home traumatized. This is something that parents need to discuss with their children at home. See what happens when we let the schools usurp our responsibilities?

I've already started to consider homeschooling of some sort for mine. This story just makes me feel even more strongly about it.

When One Just Isn't Enough

This isn't one of those things you read about everyday:

A former Hempfield woman accused of juggling multiple marriages was taken to the Westmoreland County Prison after her attorney failed Tuesday in an attempt to get her bigamy case dropped.

Julia Bish, 33, spent seven months as a fugitive before appearing yesterday before Common Pleas Judge John E. Blahovec.

Police charge that she still was married to a Hempfield man when she married two other men during Las Vegas trips in 2002 and 2004.

Authorities say she fled to Nebraska with yet another husband she married in Ohio. A bench warrant was issued when she missed a Sept. 15 court date.

This raises a few questions. Was she married to more than two men at once? How did she juggle the relationships? Was she trying to make a point by getting married to another husband before splitting with the first, or was she just being psycho? I know people can be attracted to one another in an instant, but isn't it worth learning more about your fiancee before taking your vows?

Perhaps it's a Las Vegas thing. If nothing else, the lady's attorney can spin the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" defense and request a mistrial because no one outside of Vegas should have been allowed to know about the second and third marriages. But that doesn't explain Ohio.

This news story has got to make things a little awkward around the office:
Her husband in Pennsylvania is Randy Bish, the Tribune-Review's editorial cartoonist, who said outside the courtroom yesterday that a divorce almost is finalized. The couple wed in 1990 and have five children.
This has gotta be rough on those kids. I'm on my way to being a father of five also, and I'd hate to think of what would happen to mine if my marriage ended. The sensible thing in this case would be to give the father full custody. Given the discrimination against father's in the current legal system, I wouldn't put money on that just yet.

The judge in this case has ruled sensibly, even warding off a challenge to the case that makes a mockery of the concept of states' rights:

Defense attorney Larry Burns argued that, under common law, Pennsylvania authorities have no jurisdiction because the allegedly criminal marriages happened in Nevada.

Blahovec ruled against Burns.

Good thing, too, because had he ruled otherwise, he would have legitimized polygamy and who knows what other sham relationships masquerading as marriage.

This case is as good an argument as any in favor of a Defense of Marriage Amendment. It's not just about homosexuals.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

But Was It A Playboy Bunny?

So, after church on Easter Sunday, we went out for brunch courtesy of my wife's mother. I don't go to hotel brunches very often, mainly because I can't afford it myself, but also because everything is just so damn fancy that I feel way out of my element. But if someone else is voluntarily treating? I am so there.

Ever since I entered my mid-thirties, I have noticed my metabolism slowing down. I used to love buffets. Show me a steakhouse with a big salad bar including hot foods and desserts, and I was good for the day. If I try that now, I get stuffed in a matter of minutes.

So I fought off the temptation to consume the easter eggs and candy from my basket at home, saving my appetite for brunch. And what a brunch it was. Nice salad, some sort of creamy chicken dish, shrimp fettucine alfredo, potatoes, and beef. Blood-dripping, red, almost raw BEEF. And it was goooood. So good, in fact, that I almost didn't have room for afters.

But how could I resist? This hotel had a chocolate fountain. I've seen pictures of these things but never had I enjoyed the flowing delight until that moment. The chocolate fountain table had chunks of yellow cake (mmmm...uranium), strawberries, and biscotti for the guests' dipping pleasure. So I covered a couple of strawberries and cake chunks with sweet runny milk chocolate, grabbed a slice of chocolate cheesecake, and returned to my table for what my stomach told me was my very last helping of food for the day.

We had a good reason to hang around and digest for a little while -- there was entertainment on hand, in the form of (guess who?)...the Easter Bunny! There weren't that many kids running around in the dining room, so my brood made damn sure that they spent as much quality time with the giant rodent as they could. My younger son, who like to make messes all over his bedroom floor, has been under a threat of Easter Bunny exclusion unless he cleaned his room before Sunday. He hadn't, but the Bunny brought him goodies anyway, God bless it. Well, the boy was so concerned about the possibility of being excluded that he looked the Bunny right in the eye and asked, "Did you see my room?" I was quite content to sit back and let them have all the fun, but I couldn't avoid a little bit of bunny time of my own.

On my way back to the men's room with my sons, I spotted the Bunny tending bar. What a sight! We almost made it past there when the Bunny saw us and ran over to "speak" to the boys in bunny language. They made a point of identifying me as their Daddy, which prompted the Easter Bunny to run over and give me a great big hug, which I was more that happy to return.

And it made me wonder. Who was in the costume? I have observed in past that young women usually wear these costumes at amusement parks. Was this Easter Bunny a female? I also noticed, as I entered the hotel, that all of the employees had year-round tans and the women were all nicely attractive. Was this Easter Bunny a hot chick? That made the bunny hug all the more special.

Now, looking back, I suppose I should be glad that I didn't find out who or what was inside the costume. All I could tell from the hug was that the Bunny was skinny. It could have been some scrawny punk kid that the dining room staff dragged out of the kitchen for some holiday humiliation.

As far as I'm concerned, that Easter Bunny was a girl and she was hot. And I'm going to keep telling myself that until this brunch is a distant memory.

Sailing, Sailing, Over The Bounding Main (Street)

Sometimes, a bus is just a bus.

Yesterday afternoon, my bus was more like a schooner or a giant raft -- and it didn't even need water to enhance the effect. I've been on buses that did not move the way that buses are supposed to move, but this one was under the delusion that it was some kind of boat.

The ride along the row of stops in the neighborhood where I work was normal enough. Once we were on the speedy access road to the bridge home, things changed. When the bus began to accelerate, something felt wrong. Why did it seem like the bus was swaying? Well, because it was.

The faster the bus went, the harder it rocked. I'm sure I heard a pair of ladies use the word "seesaws" at least twice. I've never seen so many passengers grab the metal bars at once. To make it worse, the bus was entering a section of the road that runs along a downhill grade with a bend -- and everybody seems to speed up on this stretch. I kept looking at the river below and wondering whether we really were going to end up in the water. Do buses float or sink?

But no -- the river was a little too far away. We were a little closer to the Allegheny County Jail. Imagine that: A bus rolls off of a ramp, slamming into the front of the jail building and sparking a massive prison break. Just the kind of publicity that the Pork Authority needs.

Somehow the bus got everyone home without flipping upside down. In the end, it didn't faze me, since I have a strong sense of inevitability about death that outweighs any fear that I might feel. But I'm sure that, come rush hour this afternoon, a lot of my fellow passengers are going to be hopped up on Dramamine.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Looking For Hidden Meaning Where None Exists

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to hear, for about the third or fourth time, a candidate for State Representative in a neighboring district, which is unfortunate since I would vote for the guy if I could. He's barely old enough to run for the office, yet he is bright, wise, well-informed, conservative, and says all the right things. He has core Republican principles but does not sound like he's using talking points when he tells you what he believes and why he's running.

Then I noticed his new lawn signs (which you can see in the flash header at his official web site). They have his name in big letters over the name of the office for which he is running. And there is an additional graphic: A red star.

Why in Reagan's name would a Republican running a campaign based on solid conservative credentials use a Soviet communist emblem in his advertising? I've seen this sort of thing before, also from a conservative candidate.

Some people are liable to see the sign and think, "He sounds good on the issues, but there's a red star on his sign so he must be some kind of commie. I'm voting for the other guy."

It could be worse, I suppose. At least it doesn't look like a swastika.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bogus Gold Friday Fun Quiz

Doug leads us to the following quiz:

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 93% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I
can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon
intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You
have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly!
Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog:

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
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Somebody Call Me A Doctor

Just before I woke up this morning, I had a dream about Star Wars. I was watching the movie (in the dream) but it wasn't the way I remembered it. Some of it took place in 1970s San Francisco, or at least that's where it seemed to take place, based on the hilly urban landscape. I remember something about Mike Farrell (who at the time the Star Wars movies were being made would have been appearing on M*A*S*H) going out to his car only to find that it had been partially destroyed in some kind of battle that Luke Skywalker was having. With something that I can't recall, if in fact I ever saw it. On the streets of San Francisco.

There was also a segment that took place in a discotheque, but I can't remember the details, only that it was near the end of The Empire Strikes Back and was touted as being one of the most moving scenes in film history.

Yep, the entire decade of the 1970s suddenly comes bursting into my subconscious while I'm trying to enjoy a relaxing sleep. Surely reversion to a conscious state would free me from the mania.

No such luck. After getting bathed and dressed, I went down to the kitchen to prepare my sandwich for lunch. I decided to take along a couple of the red delicious apples that I bought at the grocery last night. The plastic bag that contained the apples had a web address indicating that they were grown in an orchard in New York state.

For the next several minutes, I could not erase the image of Hillary Clinton as the Evil Queen from Snow White out of my mind.

Doctor, I need a cure!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Clean Sweep Of The Governor's Mansion?

The Trib tells us that Mr. PACleanSweep himself, Russ Diamond, is trying to get onto the ballot as an independent in the Pennsylvania Governor's race. This is interesting in that it seems too soon to tell which major party candidate, Ed Rendell or Lynn Swann, he is most likely to "take" votes from. He may very well attract disaffected voters from both parties who take a "throw the bums out" approach to the post-pay raise political climate in the Commonwealth.

Stepping back a bit, we learn that Russ Diamond has a history of involvement in politics as an affiliate of...the Libertarian Party! Of course, he couldn't have just popped up out of nowhere and formed an organization like PACleanSweep. Last summer was an opportune time for a Libertarian to take advantage of the pay raise controversy and attract people from both parties to his cause. But will they go all the way in an effort to send him to Harrisburg?

It's too soon to tell. Let's wait until after the primary and see how many PACleanSweep candidates are in the running this fall. We haven't had a good three-way governor's race since 1998. If nothing else, the Diamond candidacy will keep us awake over the next five months before the race really heats up.

Chilling Accident

This is one of those things that you hate hearing about and that you hope never to witness:

A construction worker died this morning when he was decapitated by an elevator in a Downtown building, police said.

Workers at the scene said the unidentified man, who was working on the seventh floor, stuck his head into an elevator shaft at the former Try Street Terminal Building at Try Street and First Avenue.

The elevator hit him in the head, killing him instantly, the workers said.

The incident happened shortly before 8 a.m., police said. The construction workers were sent home for the day following the accident.

I have been extra conscious about elevator safety since reading about another decapitation a few years ago. It's easy to get comfortable with such an ostensibly comfortable form of transportation, but just like any other type of ride, there are hidden dangers that don't always come to mind. Among the lessons that I have learned from these incidents are:
  • Never try to stop an elevator door from closing by blocking it with any part of your body.
  • If the elevator goes into a free-fall, the (relatively) safest place is not in the middle or near the door, but up against the walls, as tight as you can get.
  • If there's too much weight in the elevator going up and the doors open when the car is not level with the floor, don't even think about trying to get out.
And I don't care how claustrophobic you are, it's better to be trapped in an elevator while waiting for help than to try and escape on your own.

Just try to stay safe and healthy.

Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

No one seriously thought that this was going to be easy. After more than forty years of the old gray lever voting machines, federal law demands that we switch to something more modern and sophisticated. Here in Allegheny County, we (and by "we" I mean "people who are in charge of most of us") have rejected two electronic voting machines and are now looking at the third option. There's still over a month before the primary, but that leaves little time to get new machines in place. Some people agree, and are fighting to stop the changeover from taking place so soon:

A group of Allegheny County residents and the national People for the American Way filed suit in U.S. District Court yesterday to block the county from switching to touch-screen voting machines and paper ballots for the May 16 primary election.
The fact that the organization People for (a left-wing vision of) the American Way is a plaintiff casts a pall over the suit, yet some good may come out of this: We might get our old machines back, at least for a little while:

The group is seeking an injunction to require the county to continue using its lever machines instead of the iVotronic machines the county agreed to purchase last week from Election Systems & Software, or ES&S, for $11.9 million. The ES&S machines were the county's second choice after machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems failed to pass state certification tests.
"Second choice"? Didn't I say "third choice" up above? Yes I did -- just like you forgot Poland, you also forgot Diebold. Our local civic fathers opted not to even consider Diebold because they are tools of the vast right-wing conspiracy, in case you've been ignoring the whiny excuses for why John Kerry isn't president today.

The lawsuit, with local community activist Celeste Taylor as the lead plaintiff, claims there isn't enough time to train poll workers and voters properly on the use of the new machines, and that the new machines are not fully accessible to voters with certain disabilities.
The suit makes more sense as you learn more about it. Poll workers need to know what the heck they're doing. At my polling station, most of the workers look as though they've been at it since before the lever machines were put in use. I doubt that these old ladies will have an easy time trying to learn the intricacies of the iVotronic. They may well experience a good deal of confusion, and that will transfer to those of us trying to come in, vote, and leave so we can go to work.

The disability issue is a major concern. This isn't about access to private property; this is about limiting people's ability to exercise a civil right. Not that the county hasn't thought about that already:

...the county unveiled plans to equip one of the two machines at each precinct with "sip and puff" technology, which allows disabled voters with restricted mobility to cast their ballots without assistance.
So what happens if we don't get these machines in place within the next month and a half?

If the county is not in compliance with the federal law by the May primary, it could face legal action from the U.S. Justice Department, including the loss of a $12 million grant to be used to purchase the new machines and fund an educational campaign for voters and election workers.
Of course this is federal tax money at work -- the law was passed in the wake of a controversial presidential election. Wouldn't it make more sense, then, to give it a 2008 deadline? The way things are going, this could screw up local and state elections.

Here's a good point made by one of the activists pressing the lawsuit:

That pressure from the federal government is forcing the county into a precarious position, Ms. Taylor said.

"I would hope that the [federal government] would chill out," she said. "They really need to realize what is happening here. Are we going to put a price tag on people's right to vote?"

Apparently we are. The federal government is behaving like the mob here. "Do what we say, when we tell you to, or you don't get what ya got coming to you." The only thing missing is G-men in body armor coming down on us like a pack of rats and wrecking the old voting machines with baseball bats. It's not government, it's Gangstament! And people wonder why we right-wingers are so cynical about the system. Government is supposed to work for us, not vice-versa.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has previously called the federal law "the biggest waste of federal money I've ever seen."
Onorato is a Democrat, but he's better than most of them when it comes to fiscal matters, especially when they affect the running of county government. It's unfortunate, then, that, owing to his position, he has been named as a defendant in the lawsuit, because it sure as heck sounds like he's on their side in this -- and so am I.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Not As Sweet As It Sounds

Diseases are not pleasant things, but sometimes you read about one that just ratchets up the grossness factor simply by virtue of its assigned designation. (That means it's name, kids.) A case in point is one that makes the news today: Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD).

It sounds like something that affects one's bathroom output due to consumption of that stuff that a lot of us like to pour on pancakes. Not quite. From the MSUD Family Support Group Page, we learn that:

MSUD derives its name from the sweet, burnt sugar, or maple syrup smell of the urine. The disorder affects the way the body metabolizes (processes) certain components of protein. These components are the three branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids accumulate in the blood causing a toxic effect that interferes with brain functions.

There's nothing sweet about the effects of the disease. The good news is that MSUD patients are receiving help in the form of liver transplants. Now, they can eat things that a lot of us take for granted, like cheeseburgers. It's a very happy development.

I would not blame these patients one bit if they opted not to chow down on pancakes dripping with Vermont's finest. I'm not to keen on the idea myself after reading about the main symptom.


Anyone noticed that the Pittsburgh Pirates are 1-8 and show no signs of making a recovery anytime soon? I'm telling you, it's that Barry Bonds thing. Remember that the Buccos haven't had a winning season since he left town.
They need Bonds back. It will never happen, but that's life. Without him, the Pirates are destined to be losers forever.

Unless someone can find a way to break the curse.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Good Morning, Wisconsin!

I have no idea why I have been getting so many hits from people in Wisconsin searching on a combination of keywords "green slime", "Breakfast cereal" and "crossword puzzle". Whatever it is, it must be quite a challenge if you need to come here for help.

Guacamole (my choice of green slime) over Corn Flakes doesn't really sound all that appealing, but then again I like tortilla chips with guacamole. Tortillas are made with corn, so maybe a bowl of Corn Flakes with guacamole instead of milk would be palatable.

The other night, in fact, I enjoyed a plate of nachos with melted Colby Longhorn cheese, ground beef, jalapeno slices, and -- oh yes! -- guacamole dip. This is why microwave ovens were invented.

My apologies if none of this helps, but I didn't want to completely ignore you friendly Wisconsinners.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Recognize Bonds For What He Did, Not For What He Did

(Look out -- I'm going to step back and do a little serious sports commentary. Don't get used to it.)

It's been a long time since I followed baseball. Few players yet remain from the days before the strike that wiped out the last two months of a major league season and caused me to turn my back on a sport that I had enjoyed watching for over twenty years. One of those players is former Pittsburgh Pirate Barry Bonds, who has been in the news lately for his apparent history of performance enhancement medication. Or, to put it another way, he's in trouble for taking steroids.

Bonds was the star of the future when he came up with the Pirates. He had speed, he had agility, and while he wasn't recognized at the time as a great home run hitter, there was no doubt that he could command the ball while at bat. The team's management might have overemphasized his speed by making him the leadoff batter. (For several years, the Pirates automatically had whoever was their center fielder batting first.) In time, the team would recognize that Bonds would function better lower in the batting order. Along with Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds served as one half of the formidable "Killer B's" one-two punch for some of the best Pirate teams of the last twenty years. Bonds helped lead the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, but somehow lost the ability to hit after late September and accomplished little as the Pirates failed to make the World Series.

Then, in 1993, Barry Bonds left Pittsburgh to return to his hometown of San Francisco. This loss of talent had a lasting effect on his former employer: The Pirates have not had a winning season in the last thirteen years.

After joining the SF Giants, Bonds's statistics have gone through the roof. He managed to find the power that he had only hinted at during his Pittsburgh days, and his batting average has been at or above .300 annually for most of his career as a Giant. Still, the suggestion that Bonds would someday surpass the single season home run totals of Ruth, Maris, McGuire and Sosa, followed by a run at Henry Aaron's career home run record, would have been fantastic. He wasn't like that as a youngster in Pittsburgh. But now he was getting older, having reached the age when many of his contemporaries were out of baseball or contemplating retirement, and performing better than ever.

In 2001, when Bonds hit a record 73 home runs, people began noticing that he didn't look the same as he did in Pittsburgh. Not only was he more muscular, but his body was bulky from top to bottom, including his face. The puffed up face was evidence, for many, that the late-career power surge was enhanced by the use of steroids. Anyone who has followed Football, Bodybuilding, or Pro Wrestling in the last forty years can recognize that look.

Now that Barry Bonds is under fire for his alleged steroid use, a public debate has arisen over whether an asterisk should be placed next to Bonds's home run stats in Major League Baseball's official records to denote that his greatest achievements occurred while he was using illegal performance enhancers. The asterisk issue has come up before, most notably when Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in an era after the baseball season had expanded by a few games; Maris would not have reached the mark had his season been as short as Ruth's. Longtime Pittsburgh fans recall the game in 1959 when Harvey Haddix pitched twelve perfect innings in a game that the Pirates lost in the thirteenth. Some of us consider that to be one of the greatest accomplishments in major league history, and deserves at least an asterisk in order to recognize what Haddix did, even if it was not truly a perfect game (or a no-hitter, for that matter).

But should Barry Bonds get an asterisk next to the record of his accomplishments? The unalterable fact is that he did indeed hit all of those home runs, whether he was taking steroids or not. Adding an asterisk and a footnote to the statistics accomplishes nothing, except to tell future generations that a lot of people hated Barry Bonds and wanted to punish him in the silliest way possible.

For more on the idiocy of the asterisk, I would refer you to Shelly Anderson's column in this morning's PG. She has it exactly right.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Demon In The Darkness

If I were ever to compose a short story, or perhaps a novel, I would base it on two rather frightening experiences that I have had while driving to and from Minnesota on the Interstates.

In 1993, after spending a couple of days with a friend in Dayton, Ohio, I spend nearly an entire day from sunrise to sunset driving to Saint Paul by way of Indianapolis, Chicago, and Madison. Had I paid more attention to the "big picture" and not concentrated solely on my route, I would have realized that Wisconsin is a much larger state than any that I had passed though on my way from Ohio. It felt like I was racing to beat the sun as I sped across Wisconsin -- and at the age of 25, being single and carefree, I had little regard for speed limits. My speedometer only went up to 85, so much of the time I didn't even know how fast I was going. Yet, somehow, and for reasons that I can only speculate, the driver of a car that I had passed decided to follow me. He accelerated until his speed matched mine. It took only a couple of minutes for me to realize that I was being tailed. Was I worried? You betcha. Was this person going to take the law into his own hands and physically assault me for driving too fast? It was a matter of grave concern at that moment, for I was starting to run low on gas, and I knew that a station break was imperative. A few minutes later, I drove off the highway onto an exit with a handy gas station in the vicinity. My tail had broken free: He continued westward on his merry way along I-94 as my car's tank filled with prime petrol. The fear was gone. But...what if...what? What if?

Oh, and for those of you concerned with karma, you will be relieved to know that an Indiana trooper nailed me for doing 83 in a 65 mile per hour zone on my return trip. Taught me a lesson, that ticket did.

Now venture forward in time one dozen years, to 2005. On my first trip to Minnesota in eleven years, I was no longer a carefree single man, but a family guy with a minivan full of kids. No more speeding for me -- I wanted the trip to be as safe as possible for everyone. Danger reared its ugly head in Wisconsin once more. Nothing bad happened, but I will never again let my wife drive on any road with a speed limit over forty, since that's as fast as she could drive in the left lane without getting tense and nervous. I ended up doing almost all of the driving on the return trip, which was perilous as I was unable to nap in the car like everyone else did. Tiredness tormented me by the time we reached central Ohio, and the skies were getting dark. I turned the wheel over to her shortly before we entered a construction zone. With concrete barriers on either side there was no place for her to pull over, and no room for anyone to pass.

Soon enough, she started getting sleepy and we switched positions once more. I couldn't sleep because I was nervous about riding shotgun while she was driving. (Interesting question to ponder: When you die, do you want to be awake to see it?) By this time, it was after 9 PM and the whole family was starting to doze off. Once we were out of the construction zone, I prayed that there would be no more delays so that we could be home by midnight. Events of the following hour would not permit me to get that comfortable behind the wheel for the rest of the evening.

I was sleepy enough that I was unable to maintain a safe, constant rate of speed. After passing slower moving vehicles, I would settle into the right lane and my speed would drop off because I could not maintain enough pressure on the gas pedal without concentrating on it. My speedometer varied from 70 mph (when I was in the passing lane) to 45 (when I was getting drowsy and losing concentration). So, apparently, did the speedometer of a van driving just a few car lengths behind me. By this point, I'm not sure how long it was following me, but when I passed other vehicles, it passed them as well; and when I was slowing down in the right lane, well so was it. My "shadow" followed me for over a half hour, perhaps as long as a full hour, across central and eastern Ohio. Somewhere in the vicinity of Zanesville or perhaps Cambridge, my van's fuel tank level dropped low enough to require a pit stop. I pulled onto an exit ramp with two stations on either side of the highway; so did my shadow. The first station that I pulled into turned out to be closed for the night. I felt a chill as I spotted that other van pulling into the same station, on the other side of the pump. I also avoided making eye contact, or giving any obvious indication that I was aware of the shadow's presence or that it had been following me. My wife woke up when she realized that the car was no longer moving; I decided not to worry her about telling her that a stranger was following us and was parked almost right next to us. Ignorance was bliss -- and I still haven't told her about it. Someday, perhaps, when the kids are older. Otherwise, she'll never want to go anywhere again.

Quickly informing her that we needed to get gas and that this station was apparently closed, I pulled out and went to the brightly-lit 24 hour service plaza down the road. Sure enough, the shadow pursued. I didn't care anymore. I was going to pull the van under the bright lights and if the other driver had anything to say to me, that was the place to do it. But it never came to that. As I pumped the tank full of gas, the other van was nowhere to be seen. I definitely followed me into the station, but not to the pump. As near as I can tell, he must have driven to the McDonald's restaurant in the back of the service plaza. Good riddance -- if in fact he was gone. For all I know, he might have been parked and hiding out behind the building, waiting to shadow me once more when I was ready to leave.

As it happened, I never saw that van again. The only lingering problem that I had at that point was a crushing need to go to the bathroom. I might have done so at the service plaza, but I wasn't going to leave my sleeping family unguarded in the car while I ran inside where a killer might have been waiting. At the last rest stop before the Ohio border, near Saint Clairsville, I quickly pulled off and ran inside to do what I had to do and got back to the car. My wife was somewhat dismayed that I was stopping in the dark, but as strange as it seems, I felt safer in the darkened rest stop than I did at the well-lit service plaza.

Over my wife's objections, I turned on the radio to keep me company -- and to keep me awake -- the rest of the way home. She stopped complaining when she realized that the radio was doing more to keep me alert than anything else in the car. By the time we got home, it was close to 1 AM, and I was relieved. The family was glad to be back, and I was happy not to have shared my experience with them.

I also learned another valuable lesson. In addition to no more speeding, I am going to give up long-distance night driving, particularly if I am getting a little sleepy. Who knows how many other people on I-70 were as tired as I was that night? The open road can be a dangerous place if you're not careful.

Blogs Are Fun

Sorry for the lack of posting over the last few days. I'm sure all 3 or 4 of my regular readers have just been dying to see what I have to say about whatever. But who wants to post commentary about current events on his own blog when so many surprising, exciting things are going on at NIGP and KAR? (Or here, for that matter.)

And anyway, who wants to post anything serious on an April Fools' Day weekend and the first working day back from said weekend? Nobody's gonna believe anything you say.