Thursday, January 25, 2007

He's Been Looking For A Woman

To whomever came to my blog using this search: If you find out, get a picture, and I will post it here for you.

That's all. For now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thunderjournaling For Uranus: Ring Around The Hub


Learned Foot, a wise man once said, is an inspiration to us all. I would like to thank him for soliciting blog entries for the "Blog For Uranus" Internet campaign, in honor of Voyager 2's flyby of the planet right up Saturn's behind.
As a child, I learned that Saturn was the only planet encircled by rings. Magnificent! Saturn had something that no other planet had!
Or did it? Whenever we asked our teachers whether any other planet had rings, the answers ranged from "no" to a definite maybe. In the wake of lunar exploration, it was hard to fathom that there might be something that we didn't already know about any of the planets in our very own star system.
Voyager did something special for us. It proved to the world -- nay, to the entire Solar System! -- that the planet Uranus is encircled by rings like Saturn! Not just like Saturn, mind you; the larger planet has a more elaborate pattern of frosty goodness around its midsection. But you, Uranus, did something that no other planet could do: you whipped out your planettude and made the entire Earth gasp!
When you go out into the world today, in the office, in the school, in the bus shelter, and especially in the public rest room, be sure to cry out: "Dude! There are rings around Uranus!"

Ghost Of A Child

A couple of years ago, a little boy who had attended Kindergarten with one of my sons died at home under sudden and tragic circumstances. The details are irrelevant; it is enough to say that a young family suffered a terrible and unforeseen loss of the worst sort. My son was a guest at the boy's last birthday, and had a wonderful time. He spoke glowingly of his classmate in the aftermath of the child's death.

After a few weeks, he stopped talking about his friend. He was still a little sad, but there was really nothing more to say. Such is the way of things.

More than a year later, my boy became a big fan of a cartoon show whose protagonist shares a first name with the boy who died. He is such a big fan, in fact, that he learned how to access episodes of the show using Comcast's cable TV "On Demand" service. And he speaks the name of the show with an enthusiasm that he normally reserves for his obsession of the moment.

Of course, every time he says the name of the show, I can not help but think of his deceased classmate. He watched so many episodes On Demand this past weekend that it affected my dreams.

The most vivid dream of the night took place at the home of a family with a small boy. My son was visiting on what we 21st century parents call a "play date", and had earlier been there for a birthday party. The parents were so happy. The boy was lively and joyful, and my son had a wonderful time. He was sad when it was time to go.

Later in the dream, I took my son back for another (presumably unannounced) visit. The mood had changed considerably. The happy young couple seemed very morose, distant and withdrawn. I couldn't understand why. They did not explain. Even more unusual was the child. As my son and I stood in front of the house, the child opened the door, stepped out onto the porch, and looked around at nothing in particular. It was as if we weren't even there. Or was it that boy who wasn't really there?

At that point, the alarm clock buzzed and I woke up. The thought process that produced this vision was clear: Hearing my son repeat the name of his friend while watching his favorite program. I felt a little melancholy most of the next day, and told my wife what I had dreamed.

She suggested that it might have been a ghost. Do ghosts visit us in our dreams? I don't know.

What I do know is that my kids are getting extra long hugs every night. Any of us could become a ghost before too long.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Giant Bubbles

Ultraman was a favorite afterschool program when I was in fourth grade. I was sure I had seen every show. I was wrong.

Here is the missing episode:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mayoral Meltdown?

Politics is not for the thin of skin.

Anyone who has ever run for office in the history of this country knows that being a public figure attracts criticism of all sorts. From the elite media to the average citizen, someone is going to have something negative to say about you, and you can't let it get under your epidermis.

Pittsburgh's nearly-fresh-out-of-college mayor is now dealing with the revelation that he had a scuffle with a policeman outside of a Steelers game when he was a city councilman a couple of years ago. He's not dealing with it very well. Instead of being content to explain his side of the story, he accuses bloggers of spreading "conspiracy theories".

When a politician starts getting paranoid about people who write commentary as a hobby on the internet, you can smell a meltdown coming.

"If you look at the infamous blogger that has been blogging, referring to me as Mayor Opie, referring to me as somebody not capable of doing the job, there's a clear pattern there that that individual does not care for me," the mayor said.
Boo-hoo-hoo! A mean man with a computer (and no small amount of experience working in local media) called me a name and doesn't like me! The media honeymoon is over, pal. Get used to it.

Luke needs to get a thicker skin, or get out of politics.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Authority Questions Authority

Back in my school days -- over twenty years ago! -- teachers, principals, and administrators were to be respected, admired, and even feared. The higher the school official ranked, the more imperious and god-like his bearing. Most of the time, we felt humbled in the presence of such a being.

In the 21st century, the veneer of divinity has been rent asunder and these authority figures have been revealed for the "crude matter" that they are, just like the rest of us. A couple of year ago it was the Bethel Park superintendent affair. This week, it is an alleged assault on the son of the Lebo school board president...by the Principal of USC High School.

Yeah, this'll win the admiration and respect of students and parents.

The battle lines are clearly drawn. The USC authorities (including the cops) are claiming, after an investigation, that nothing bad happened. Meanwhile, people who were at the basketball game where the alleged assault occurred and actually saw it happen are supporting the accusation.

This sounds like the kind of dispute that students would be arguing in front of the principal, not something that school officials would be arguing about in front of the public. It's nice to see people with taxpayer-funded income brought down a peg. As a citizen of the American Republic, I've never been comfortable with the concept of respecting authority, particularly those authorities who feed off of the public trough. Those pigs are no better than the rest of us.

Methinks more people need to keep an eye on where their tax money is going.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Great Movie Theme







(Posted in honor of Mitch.)

I Have No Idea

It's time for another bizarre search of the week.

Whoever this person is, I hope they are doing well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I've Been Doing This For Two Years Now?

Gosh, I just looked at my own sidebar and saw that today is my second Blogiversary.

Happy Blogiversary to me, then! Who knows how long it will last?

Minimum Compensation

So, who's happy about the federally mandated minimum wage increase? Anyone?

If you are, you can sod off and die.

Everything that we evil right-wing types have been saying about the minimum wage is already coming to pass. My employer informed me today that we will have to cut back on part-time workers by July, when the second increment takes effect. That means more work for me and my full-time assistant, which we can handle, but also less work available for people whom we might otherwise be able to hire. The institution that employs me just does not have room in its budget to cover the part-timers' wages, especially considering that expenses are going up all around.

Watch how much more expensive everything gets in a few months. If you want to blame GWB for this one, go ahead, as he had been saying that he was going to sign the bill well before it crossed his desk. Just don't forget who he colluded with to get this put into law. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to YOU, donkey girl. Go study some real economics before you try and Bolshevize the American Republic, you twits.

If I sound angry and resentful, consider this: Everyone at the bottom is getting automatic raises because of the new law. I get nothing. There is no compensation to keep me at the same level that I am at right now. My woefully underpaid assistant is going to get a bump in pay. I wish the same would happen for me.

The only compensation that I get is my annual federal income tax refund. It's usually a hefty amount that I can use to pay some bills and spend on the house each year. It's also a reminder that, given the size of my family, I am living below the poverty line. This is according to guidelines established by the same federal government that thinks it can eradicate poverty by raising the minimum wage.

Yeah, right about now, I feel like kicking Uncle Sam in his red, white and mostly blue balls.

Rick's New Gig

It's good to see that Rick Santorum has found a new job that continues the work that he was doing his last few months in the U.S. Senate. It was hard to see him retiring to private life as a lawyer, or by becoming a Fox News commentator, as was rumored. The new post fits him to a "T".

I can't say that I have paid much attention in the past to his new employer, the Ethics & Public Policy Center, perhaps because the name is rather dry, unlike, say, the Heritage Foundation. At least the name is straighforward about the Center's mission, as is the name of Rick Santorum's program, America's Enemies, which "works to identify, study, and heighten awareness of the threats to America and the West". It sounds like the focus is on foreign threats rather than domestic. I don't see how you can separate the two, especially in this era of electronic communication and lax immigration policy.

In any event, it will interesting to see what will come of Rick's new gig. Will he be able to shape foreign policy? Will he be able to restart his political career? Time will tell.

In the meanwhile, the usual bunch of idiots have reacted in the usual idiotic way. Corey Saylor of the apologist group CAIR is unhappy because Rick keeps using the term "Islamic fascism". Not knowing anything about Corey Saylor, I looked him up online and learned that he looks a lot like Andy Aplikowski.

Back here in Pittsburgh, one of the world's biggest arseholes responds to the news with a typically asinine piece of writing that justifies my stance against paying real money for a copy of the Psychosis-Gazette. You can't even poke fun at that kind of self-parody.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where'd The Other One Percent Go?

This should have been 100%. Perhaps the quiz is rigged to remind us that no one is perfect.


You are 99% Pittsburgh.

Great job! There's nooooo doubt about it. You're from Da Burgh. You deserve a reward, so go have an Ahrn City or two. And GO STILLERS!

How Pittsburgh Are You
See All Our Quizzes


The questions are going to confuse the hell out of anyone who's not from around here.

Maybe It's Because I Watched Too Much Television As A Kid

Last Summer, I spend a few days out in Long Beach, California. Judging by the results of this quiz, I could have stayed there and fit right in.


What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
Boston
North Central
Philadelphia
The Northeast
The South
The Inland North
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


And people used to tell me that I had an obvious Pittsburgh accent!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gotta Find That Woman!

This is one of the more interesting searches that I have seen in a while. Now, who spots an attractive woman in a casino and uses some vague Internet search to try and find out who she is? The search string smacks of desperation.

Dude, if you're really that hot to find out who she is, go back to the casino and hang out until you see her again, and if she's really that hot, go over and talk to her. Sheesh!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Since I took a break from blogging during the Christmas season last month, I would like to take this opportunity to make up for it by wishing all of my loyal blog readers, especially those whose faiths follow the Julian calendar, a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Let's all just sit back and enjoy this lovely Christmas carol, performed as a duet.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fun Stuff

This is my (chronologically) Number Two Son's favorite movie clip. I heartily recommend this film.

Stream Of Unending Bull

Did you read the newspaper this morning? I did. It's hard to tell what's worse: the news that the paper reports, the quality of the editorials, or the insipid letters written to the paper by ordinary people like you and me.

Sports dominates the front page. Bill Cowher is leaving. Mario Lemieux might be leaving. To both of these stories, I say: Big Whoop! The local authorities don't know how to handle the responsibility of having major league sports franchises. The imminent departure of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been in the works for years, just like the decline of the Pork Authority. Speaking of which:

The Port Authority's proposed bus route cuts and fare increases are seen as a small but positive step toward eventually winning aid from the Legislature for mass transit in Allegheny County.
So, according to this logic, an announcement from Allegheny County that the Pork Authority is cutting everything but fares while spending too much money on useless projects will spur the state legislature to dip into the public purse and "save our transit" again. Good grief. It's so easy for the government to rob Peter in order to pay Paul when the government has a gun at Peter's head.

Don't forget that the Democrats have formally "taken control" in Washington, D.C. The paper has a pretty standard "first day of Kindergarten" piece of mush about Democrat Jason Altmire's swearing-in at the Capitol yesterday. One of the things we learn is that Congressman Altmire did his part to effect new leadership at the highest levels:
"Yeah! He got his first vote right," joked the Rev. Donald B. Green, executive director of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania, just seconds after Mr. Altmire cast his choice for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.
Unless there's more than one Lutheran pastor named Rev. Donald Green, I this this guy was a ministerial intern at the church where I went to Sunday School back in the 1970s. I vaguely recall his photo from an old church directory, but I otherwise don't remember seeing or hearing about him. As you can tell from the above excerpt, he is quite the well-connected leftist. The first Google search result for his name yields a statement (in PDF format) from July 2005, imploring the PA House Dems to raise the minimum wage. The whole thing reads like a Marxist political platform. Some highlights:
  • A declaration of advocacy for the type of government coercion that is known in leftist circles as "Social Justice". The government will guarantee you a job/home/health care etc. nonsense. It doesn't come right out and say how, but you know that it must involve socialism.
  • Support for a minimum wage increase that will make poverty and welfare dependency things of the past. Nothing about the unemployment that will result from a government mandated wage increase. Marxists don't have a clue about economics.
  • Some utter bull about how raising the minimum wage will reduce student loan obligations, how the current wage levels are unfair to the new breed of immigrants, and a stinging criticism of welfare reform that includes a swipe at Rick Santorum's book. He can't even bring himself to mention Rick by name. Does it make him throw up when he says it?
  • What would any self-respecting Marxist's screed be without a touch of class envy? The Reverend goes after a couple of local corporate bigwigs, but -- in keeping with the lefty Zeitgeist -- reserves his harshest criticism for Wal-Mart. It's like a form letter, really. Everything is predictable.
  • The timing of the statement couldn't have been better, for he ends with a blistering attack on the Legislature for the then-recently enacted unconstitutional pay raise that upset damn near everybody. His solution? Make the government give everyone else a raise!

If this man is representative of what the ELCA is these days, I might as well stop giving money to my church. Or I might just stop going to church altogether. When people like him take over, there will be no charity but the government.

Time to move on to something else.

Let's play "Name The Editorialist", a game inspired by Mitch Berg, who has been trying to figure out who writes which unsigned piece at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The Pittsburgh Psychosis-Gazette kindly does us the favor of dropping the names of people on the editorial board, which includes some of the usual gang of bozos whose columns appear regularly in the paper. I think I've figured out which ones have a hand in most of today's editorials:

  • The first editorial, about Our Friends the Kurds, reveals a keen grasp of foreign affairs. It's got to be Dan Simpson. And, in true Dan Simpson style, it ends with a stab at the current US Iraq policy. That was easy.
  • The second editorial praises PNC Bank's success in the financial marketplace and tells us that we are bad people if we don't like PNC's use of TIF money to construct a new building. I give up; this could be any one of them, though the "giant has been plagued by local Lilliputians" line smacks of Reg Henry.
  • The third and final editorial starts off talking about UFOs and suddenly turns to the topic of a CNN graphic that called Osama Obama. Or it called Obama Osama. Either way, it somehow equates to a UFO sighting. The complete lack of sense makes me think that this could be Reg Henry again, but the abrupt change in topic suggests Tony Norman or Reg. Possibly both.

The strangest part of the Obama/Osama editorial is the description of the Senator as "America's most popular politician". Really? In what version of reality? I don't know about him being popular, but I do know that he has really big ears.

Next up is Tony. He writes a nice human interest piece about a man who recently risked his life to save someone from being killed on subway tracks...until paragraph seven, where he tosses a curveball aimed at President Bush. The rest of the column is just one long bad analogy. This is writing on a Nick Coleman level, as Ryan Rhodes (one of the three funniest men in Minnesota) can tell you.

Our visit to the Psychosis-Gazette ends with a visit to the Letters to the Editor. Most of the people who see their letters published are not really just like you and me. Google the letter writers' names, and you'll find that the unassuming man/woman in the street is really a dedicated activist of some kind. (I learned that from Learned Foot, who is possibly the only man in Minnesota funnier than Ryan Rhodes.) From this morning's correspondents, we read (among other things):
  • That Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, a Democrat, is just no better than an evil Republican because he allowed the Pork Authority to make a realistic business decision;
  • That one soon-to-be-former Pork Authority Rider "feels used", but it is unclear by whom;
  • That a medical doctor who resides in an affluent suburb of Allegheny, chants the "Halliburton" mantra while criticizing America's Iraq and Israel policies (I'm never letting that guy cut me open);
  • That a public radio host laments the fact that his former employer runs its business like a business; and
  • Deep expressions of regret that Saddam is dead.

There are also two decent letters, one suggesting that we privatize the Pork Authority, and one supporting Pittsburgh Republicans' proposal to reduce the size of city government.

A few years ago, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review posted billboards with the slogan "MAKES YOU THINK". The Psychosis-Gazette makes me think, too. It makes me think that I'm suffering from internal bleeding.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Go Ahead And Fuss If You Can't Take The Bus

Anyone whose life is becoming a whole lot more difficult due to the Pork Authority's proposed service changes has a right to be pissed off. People who are accustomed to being able to catch a bus right in their neighborhoods, but soon will not, have a right to be pissed off. People who enjoy the relative luxury of having a choice of buses to catch along a main road (VERY convenient if you've missed one) have a right to be pissed off. People who have to plan for 2 hour trips instead of 45 minute trips have a right to be pissed off. People who need a direct ride from the eastern neighborhoods of the city to the airport have a right to be pissed off. And you can be sure that the hundred of drivers and other employees who will be losing their jobs have a right to be pissed off.

Yep, there's a whole lot of pissing off going on out there.

The politicians and Pork Authority executives are pissed off. The union is pissed off. Well. Who is responsible for the mess, anyway? Try the politicians, the suits, and the union. They are the people whom everyone should be pissed off at.

The union has been working hard over the years to get the Pork Authority employees the best working conditions possible. This includes higher pay and better benefits. I won't complain about the benefits, as any employer that values its workers -- and can afford it -- should invest in them, but where is the money for the salary increases going to come from?

This is where the executives come in. The most obvious source of income from street level is rider fares. The Pork Authority has been raising fares frequently over the course of the last 25 years or so. Almost anytime there is talk of a fare increase, we get a fare increase. When the fares get too high, riders start looking for alternate means of transportation, or simply start riding altogether. Every fare increase has resulted in ridership decrease, and that means a loss of revenue from the patrons. Where does the Pork Authority look for money next?

It turns to the politicians. Or, in reality, to the taxpayers, whose involuntary contributions are used by the politicians in whatever way they see fit. The Pork Authority is part of Allegheny County. The county owns it, and the suits are answerable to the County Executive. Additional funding is also provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was responsible for creating the Pork Authority in the first place. So there are the next two levels of funding: county and state tax dollars.

Let us not forget that just last year, Governor Ed Rendell diverted federal tax money from infrastructure funds to the Pork Authority in order to avert a strike and "save" us all from...well, from exactly what's happening this year. In the long run, Fast Eddie's misappropriation of other people's confiscated incomes made no difference. Jobs are being cut anyway, fares are going up anyway, and service is being cut anyway. That's a fourth source of funding, and it still doesn't help.

Not all of the money from fares, taxes, etc. is going to normal expenses like compensation and maintenance. The Pork Authority feels the need to do something, no matter how trivial or pointless, beyond simply providing good service to its passengers. That's why we have things like the parking garage at the South Hills Village LRT station, and the forthcoming LRT tunnel under the Allegheny River. The money for those projects could have gone towards maintaining existing services without raising fares.

Unfortunately, as stated above, the Pork Authority is part of the county; hence, it is run like a government and not a business. The execs are very good at planning, but poor on coming up with a rational means to pay for their plans. The union doesn't give a shit where money comes from, as long as the money comes. The politicians are good for little more than passing along taxpayer monies. The workers and the riders are the ones who suffer for incompetence at the highest levels.

I've said this before, more than once, and I'll say it again: The Pork Authority needs to learn how to raise revenue by selling advertising space. When I was a kid, there were ads all up and down the light fixtures on both sides in every bus I rode. That ad space was paid for by whoever wanted the ads to be seen. There were also ads on the outside of the buses and trolleys, and it was not unusual to see a vehicle with a sponsored paint job (like the trolley that looked like a loaf of bread). Selling ad space is a good source of revenue, guys. Try it out.

We don't need buses with slogans that say "RIDE RIDE RIDE" or "Ziggin Zaggin". We don't need "Poetry On the Bus", or re-branding as "Port Authority Gold". We don't need to look at mostly unused ad space that is dominated by PSAs provided by the Pork Authority itself. A solution is right there, yet no one takes advantage of it.

And I don't expect anyone to do so anytime soon. We are watching the decline of the Pork Authority, sad as it seems. I just hope that the people who are pissed off about this -- and who have every right to be pissed off! -- know where the blame lies.

(Just as a disclaimer, I ride the bus to and from work each day, and I will not be affected in any way. The list of proposed service changes and route eliminations came out yesterday, and my bus is not on there. Rate increases also do not affect me, as my employer pays big bucks for the privilege of allowing its employees to ride for free. But I still think the whole thing stinks to high heaven.)

Nihilist On The Silver Mountain

The Nihilist In Golf Pants currently has a quote from one of the greatest songs of all time, "Man On the Silver Mountain" by Rainbow, on his masthead.

In honor of the genius of Ronnie James Dio, Sisyphus, et. al., here is the quote in context, via the magic of digitized video:



We're all the man on the silver mountain.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Disconnect

I've been trying to keep up with local news by reading the Pittsburgh Psychosis-Gazette online. It gets tedious, especially when trying to make sense of editorials like this one.

Is it any wonder that more and more people take stupid blogs more seriously than "legitimate" journalism?

Joke

Good heavens, I'm pathetic. I've gotten so lazy lately that I haven't even felt motivated to blog in two weeks.

Let's break the silence with a suitably pathetic joke that I first heard about 25 years ago:

Q: What does Inspector Clouseau have in common with a male prostitute?
A: They're both Peter Sellers!