Wednesday, March 24, 2010

America ain't got no use for old people...

While walking by the White House recently, I was thrilled to see Helen Thomas, famed journalist who has covered 10 presidents (and got some good laughs on the Colbert Report, too). She was being helped towards the WH security entrance by an aide (Helen is 89, after all) and I told her to keep up the good work. She responded with a smile and said thank you, which made my day.
Now Helen Thomas is certainly not a household name, and I don't know I could have recognized her more than 4 years ago when the internet made her semi-famous.
And I thought about her and the things she's seen and the people she's talked to. I thought, "This woman is living history." And I looked around and saw a woman being pushed in a wheelchair, and a veteran with a WWII cap on, and I thought how much more interesting these people are then all the history books put together.
And yet most of the time, they are seen as just old and slow. They are bad drivers. Their TV is up is too loud. They take too long in the grocery aisle. They are a hindrance, used-up, in the way, a nuisance. How terrible....
But it is. And I should know - up until I was in my early 20's I disliked adults in general, and felt completely divorced from senior citizens. Their needs and desires seemed unfathomable. It seemed like they were over, their life behind them, and they were just buying time until the end.
So my childhood was basically spent without realizing how cool old people can be. And I'm sure I'm not alone, which sucks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What if some kids can't be taught?

There have been lots of stories recently about terrible schools and terrible students. First, we have a school in Missouri that closed HALF of its public schools. Then a story about the so-called "Worst school in the nation," in Central Falls, Rhode Island, that closed because fifty percent of its students failed EVERY CLASS.
Let that sink in a second. All F's. Half the student body got all F's.
OK, now I know Central Falls - it is an economically depressed area in Rhode Island with a very high Hispanic population. High unemployment (10%+), poor public works and terrible public transportation. Obviously, neither the kids nor the school are sitting on mountains of cash.
But still, if half your students are failing, the problem most likely extends beyond the students to the community, the economy, the family, and probably the underpaid and maybe underqualified teachers as well.
But forget about that for a second. If I was a lawmaker and looking at a school where half the students were failing every class, I might think that the kids and the school were both hopeless.
Even if you take into the account of the difficult factors of poverty that impact a child's education - lack of food, occasional homelessness, domestic violence, lack of school supplies, working after-school jobs until midnight on a school night - the fact still remains the students haven't learned much of anything, at least in classic educational sense. The money spent trying to educate them has essentially been wasted - if the goal in educating someone is for them NOT to get F's, and they get all F's, haven't you literally failed to educate them? Or, by the same token, haven't they failed to receive an education?
So what do you do with this population, where higher education is impossible and minimal wage the expected norm? Obviously both poor and rich people have the biological ability to learn, but nature is practically moot in these circumstances.
Yes, everyone deserves an education in this country, but what if some people just can't be taught?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strange pics about the Health Care vote win

All courtesy of dedicated Farkers:

I liked this as well:
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chatroulette goes niche

Observe - Chat Roulette for the gay subculture.

What could be next? Hope High School Class of '86 Chat Roulette? Ex-Con Chatroulette?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Big spender... on hair

I had trouble with $12 haircuts.
And $15 haircuts. I looked, at least once, "shorn." Or they'd stab my head with the electric razor. But it was cheap, dammit, and I wouldn't need to get another haircut for 2 months or so.
However, I have learned, painfully, that it may be worth it to pay $25 for a haircut that actually looks good.
But quality always comes at a cost. This time, it seems I will have to DOUBLE my haircut budget.... to $25-$30 a haircut. And not only this, but since I need to get haircuts more often to avoid the "shaved sheep" look, I'll be heading back to my favorite Old-Lady-catering hairplace in Arlington very often.

How journalists see guns

So true... so true

Hipster Bingo

I respect the moderate hipster, but I have no love for guys like this.

Anyway, here's the bingo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm not 100% sure, but I think Fox News is against Health Care reform....

What do you think? (double click to enlarge).
BTW, by reading this here instead of on Fox News, you are NOT contributing to their revenue stream! Whoo-hoo!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pay your dues, maggot!

I'm a big fan of Toastmasters (the public speaking club), but something happened recently that I wish to share:

Our club, which as far as I can tell has minimal operating expenses and is volunteer-run, has dues. $70 to join and $33 twice a year.

I'm sure they can easily provide documentation what these dues actually paid for (snacks, maybe PR or salaries) but to me this doesn't really matter. The explanation "Well it goes to the corporate office" really doesn't work with me - it makes me think of union dues and what a big waste that generally is.

Toastmasters is a professional club with a non-profity mission - help people be better speakers. All the local chapters are full of volunteers. And that's what bugs me. Since I think of it as a non-profit, I feel they should fundraise but not charge people for entry. After all, if *I* created a social club like this I couldn't imagine charging people for my salary... It's a do-gooder thing, right?

Dianna said I was just being cheap. She may be right. She asked if I'd be opposed to annual membership. I said no. So I guess I believed there is a difference between annual membership and seasonal dues, which is, of course, ridiculous.

So.... yeah, I'm gonna pay those dues.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plane etiquette

On the plane back from Chicago, I heard a man loudly declare to the stewardess:

"Excuse me. I ordered tomato juice, but this one has ice in it. I asked for no ice."

Naturally, I felt only ill will toward this hapless nobody, and wished for the emergency exit to burst open, sucking him and his ego out into the heavens.

But perhaps I'm a bit too harsh - he did pay for the ticket after all, and in America isn't the customer always right? Then again, it's not a fucking bistro - it's a tiny metal cart with 400 people waiting in line to get their drink, as flying makes you preternaturally thirsty.

So was he a dick?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This is fucking fascinating

It just is: Chart of the geographic church denominations of the U.S. (double click to see it better).
You got your Baptists in Red, Mormons out west in Beige (Sand?), Lutherans up north in Orange (can someone please explain to me what a Lutheran is?) and most of the rest of the country is doing the Catholic boogie (in blue).
I always knew that the Mormons were in Utah (and Big Love is the bomb for teaching at least something about Mormonism( but maybe I'm just a visual person, because seeing it this way really helps me understand it better. I reckon if you were homeless in Utah they'd find you a place to sleep if you believed in the Book of Mormon, because they're nice guys and all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rachel Maddow is in my email

It's true. Every day at work, this pops up:

See her? No? Get your eyes checked, Jack:

See? That's like totally one-half of her face. Don't believe me? Observe me Photoshop / flip horizontal skills:

And isn't that just obviously the person below:

Wow... I almost convinced myself there

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cleveland Tourism Videos - Epic

Big ups to my homette Jessica Rumpf for passing this on. Prepare to die laughing:

And part 2
also rocks

My God.. I almost want to visit now...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I don't understand Reagan worship

I grew up during Reagan's presidency. Our house wasn't especially political, so I didn't really have any opinion about him one way or another.
Today, increasingly, there is a growing movement to basically deify Reagan. I find this mystifying, since for the most part he seemed to be just a president like any other. Certainly more likeable than Bush I, but certainly he didn't have the same cache as Roosevelt or Eisenhower, right? Right?
Well, an article about efforts to put Reagan on the $50 bill got the comment threads cooking on, and I got to see him through liberal and conservative eyes. Here are some pro-Reagan excerpts (most of which were new to me):

He: cut income taxes, rehabilitated the military, the economy was finally corrected under his watch, talked shiat to russia.

He told it like it was.
He called the USSR an evil empire. It was.

Dems, lefties and even his own advisers told him not to say things like that. We can talk to them, etc... do not 'provoke' them.

He called a spade a spade. The "tear down this wall" was not even in the real speech. They told him not to say it.

He KNEW "star wars" was not attainable in his lifetime. That did not matter. He knew if the USSR BELIEVED we could do it, they would have to try and beat us... he slowly... slowly.. bankrupted the USSR and proved that Communism was a bankrupt system that cannot last.

The lefties? Said Star Wars would not work. Said he was lying and wasting $. Etc... Thankfully, the USSR listened and believed Ronnie. They spent BILLIONS trying to keep up with something even Ronnie knew could not be attained. All to bankrupt them... and the lefties had no clue. They called him stupid, insane, etc... He knew what he was doing, and in the end proved them wrong, again.

People will tell you he had nothing to do with the fall of the USSR. sorry, I was there. The USSR might have collapsed eventually, but it was hastened. Imagine if Obama was Pres then, he'd want to talk, they'd talk and stall and the USSR would have been around for another 10 years.

We spent $$ to bankrupt the USSR. We got our money back with the "peace dividend". Kaching!

And here's a point-by-point disputing of the comic at right (click to enlarge it):

1. Tripled the national debt? He did. The military buildup was needed after the post-Vietnam decline. Also, there were tax cuts without spending cuts. However, the charisma helps. W had none and did the same things. Point to the cartoon, though.

2. Supported apartheid? He supported the white government of South Africa not because they hated blacks but because it was better them than the communists in neighboring countries getting a hold of the natural resources there and passing them to our real enemy, the USSR. Sometimes you have to go with the lesser of two evils in forgien policy.

3. He backed Saddam? We all did because Iraq was not Iran. The hostage crisis was too fresh in our minds then.

4. Crushed worker's rights? He fired air traffic controllers who broke the law. The manufacturing base could not support the work force anyway as the country could not be in a post WWII boom forever. This was the era where lots of union excesses were curtailed like featherbedding. We should be thankful he didn't Kowtow like the political parties did to the unions in the UK.

5.Star Wars was expensive and didn't work? It was a great bluff though. It fooled the USSR. They knew we could do it if we put our mind to it and they never could.

6. Backed death squads? See the point about the lesser of two evils. It is easy in hindsight to realize that the USSR was not as bad as we thought, but we didn't know that then. Therefore, we backed some nasty characters so the USSR couldn't get a beachead in Central America.

7. Raping nuns? See point 6. I do doubt that he was personally in favor of nun rape, even off-the-record.

8. Confused old movies with forigen policy? I have not heard any examples of this.

9. Arms for hostages and dealing w/ drug runners? See point 6. The arms for hostages was an honest attempt to free captured Americans and it backfired. He tried and failed, although not as bad as Carter and Desert One, IMHO.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Make sure to read things you disagree with

I keep coming back to this topic:
No matter how smart you think you are, if you consume media, there's still a good chance you are going to places that think like you do.
I believe we have a greater urge to consume media than to be challenged by it. After all, there is some value to doubting yourself and your values, and reexamining them, but how often do you really want to do this?
So conservatives can be forgiven for hanging out with Fox, and liberals for lounging with MSNBC.
There is a problem with hanging with birds of the same feather all the time, however - you start to get freaked out by birds from outside your coop. So, for example, when I used to be into left-wing protesting and would read all day, very quickly I began to avoid and mistrust the "mainstream media" and the information stream I consumed became incredibly narrow.
Today, thanks to my journalism experience, I know the value in talking to all sides, even if some of them can't always be trusted (i.e. Fox). So no matter where you are on the political spectrum, make sure to read websites you disagree with.

This message brought to you by self-important ex-journalists.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pompous Pronounciation

There are a few topics that will send me off into a predictable rant. One is the fact that there are simply too many types of pasta, and there can be no possible good use for all these types / names / categories. I think we could get by with 5 or so.
But this is not about pasta, but pronounciation.
I deplore people who use irregular prouncications of things just to sound smart. A very good workmate friend of mine is the guiltiest of all at this - he will pronounce all words in their local dialect and affectation. So Lesotho becomes "Le-soo-too" and so on.
Other guilty parties includes most foodies on TV, and most of the sins come in the form of Italian cheeses.
For instance, we have Mozzarella. A nice word. A tasty word.
Say it out loud.
Did you say it like "Motz-er-rella" or "Mohz-zah-rea-ya" (with every syllable annoyingly accented).
Or Parmesan.
We have too options:
Parm-mi-shzan / sean (well done)
Parm-mi-sahn (prepare for a beating).
I'm sorry, but I just don't have time for your linguistics lessons. I'll eat your food for you if you can't speak like a prole like the rest of us. This is seen too often on the food channels, especially Top Chef and even Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (which I like).
P.S. Dianna says I am guilty as anyone on this one, and that I pronounce hummus in the traditional Israeli "Chu-moos." However, I'm 90% sure I normally say "Chum-muss" and only gave her the outlandish prounication to show her how native Israelis might pronounce it.
So I'm like totally innocent.