Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The auto industry

I think I bruised a rib over the weekend.  I’m going to get out on the bike tomorrow after work to see how it holds up.  I’m pretty confident that it won’t be a problem, but I’ll know for sure about tomorrow.




The American auto industry is NOT in trouble.  Ford and GM are in trouble.  They continue to build more and more cars and trucks that nobody likes.  Their business model is no longer the “car sales” business, but rather the debt sales business, just like Sears.  The only segment of Ford and GM that consistently make money in good times and bad is their financing arms.

Dalmer-Benz bought Chrysler and is stuck building quality while trying to sell quantity.  They’ve backed themselves into a problem of a sales culture that is used to selling something that Dalmer-Benz is not accustomed to building.  What we’re seeing is some very, very nice Chryslers and Dodges being built, but a public that is expecting to see Chrysler and Dodge price tags.  Dalmer builds quality, but downstream their dealers sell debt.  Mercedes dealerships aren’t having that problem.  They sell quality.  There’s a clear disconnect there.  They should seriously consider rebranding or closing down all together.

Those companies are in trouble.

MSNBC is reporting that Toyota is opening an EIGHTH plant in Tupelo, MississippiToyota isn’t having problems.  Ironically enough Toyota sells cars and trucks still, and not merely debt.  It’s the difference between building and selling quality.  Toyota builds and sells cars that people WANT to buy because they’re good cars.  They may be a little more expensive than their Ford and GM (pos) counterparts, but somehow Toyota manages to sell them.  Odd how that works.  Maybe it’s not so true that “price sells cars” as one of the local debt merchants insists over the radio.  Maybe good cars sell.

The American auto industry isn’t in trouble.  There are at least a couple of American manufacturers (even if the home office is in another country) that are doing quite well by making cars that people want to buy.

Maybe Ford and GM should learn that lesson again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My comforter is hurting my feet

No less than 30 miles this weekend.  Cross my heart and pinky swear.


Ok, so I’m a pretty healthy guy.  I’m no marathon runner, or anything…  no, that’s not right.


I’m no mountain climber or anything, but I’m pretty healthy all the same.  I’d guess I’m on the “better than average” side of the equation, rather the “worse than average” side.

That said, over the last several mornings I’ve been increasingly worried about this pain in my feet when I wake up.  Everything’s fine until I stand up and then WHAMMO!!! my feet just scream with this aching pain.

It’s been going on for 2 weeks with increasing worry.  What the hell’s going on.

So, I start thinking about the pain and what kind of pain it is so that I could decide to go to the doc or not.

The more I thought about it the more I came to realize that it was a “pressure” kind of pain, sort of like when you’ve been on your feet all day or your shoes are too tight or when someone squeezes your hand hard (but not too hard) and then lets go and it hurts to put more pressure on it, but doesn’t hurt when it’s just sitting there.

Sort of like when I go quail hunting and the soreness in my feet when I unlace my hunting boots after walking all across creation looking for those little damn birds.

What’s weird is that I don’t hunt, walk, wear shoes, or squeeze my feet when I sleep.  I just sleep.

So, I get to thinking about it a little more and start thinking about my comforter.

It’s heavy.  Really heavy.  Like lead heavy.  It’s a denim shell with a really, really thick interior.  It’s so very toasty warm.  Plus, because my lovely wife is a sheet hog (she doesn’t read this) we like to get comforters that are extra big so that she can hog the sheets and I still have some scrap of fabric to cling to.  This is a king sized comforter on our queen size bed.  Because of that a good portion of it hangs off the end of the bed—maybe 1/5 to ¼ of the whole thing.

My hunch was that all this fabric, added to the weight of the sheet itself, was creating an even heavier tug down near my feet and my comforter was squeezing my feet at night—hence the pain in the morning.

So, last night I folded over the comforter and got some of the weight off the ground and sure enough, this morning I had no pain in my feet.


Weird, huh?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here's a thought

Let’s look at the world before September 11, 2001 through the lens of that day.


India and Pakistan were locked in mortal combat over the disputed territory of Kashmir.  The Americans had a set of pet rebels in Afghanistan who had been armed and politically abandoned after the USSR withdrew from occupation there.  The Pakistanis decided to influence and use that pet against India in its struggle over Kashmir.  They had been executing small attacks against the United States, but it was nothing significant and even somewhat significant attacks (USS Cole) were brushed under the rug in the name of stability.
India already had nuclear capability.  To counter India, Pakistan decides to start a nuclear program of its own.  They set up a rather decentralized program between Lybia, North Korea, and themselves to begin researching weapons programs from chemical to nuclear options, pooling information and building on each others’ research.  Pakistan eventually tests the bomb.  India follows suit.

The United States, meanwhile, was content with the status quo of a mortal death grip between the two nations.  Stability at all costs is the mantra.  Saddam Hussein was boxed in, but safe.  He acted as a buffer against Iran who wasn’t demonstrating any long range plans for the region.  Syria was safely in control of Lebanon.  The Palestinians were safely isolated in their intifata against Israel and that problem could be, presumably, worked on in a vacuum as Arafat demonstrated himself to be an unhelpful partner in negotiations.

Everything was cranking along just as it should.  Signs, however, were pointing to increasing destabilization in Afghanistan as the Taliban increasingly tightened their grip on power.

Then everything went suddenly and brilliantly wrong.

Pakistan’s pet terrorists (formerly America’s pet terrorists) decided to escalate their attacks against the US with the spectacular and astonishing attacks on September 11, 2001.

The status quo was no longer acceptable to the US.

The conflict over Kashmir was no longer an acceptable situation.  Pakistan and India were ordered to make nice.  Pakistan keeping pet terrorists was no longer acceptable.  They were ordered to cut support.  There was probably a threat of making rubble bounce and a promise to see Kashmir in India’s hands among other things.  That conflict was put on ice quickly.

The terrorists in Afghanistan were routed out of their positions of power and you know the rest.

Attention then turned towards Iraq.  Saddam was boxed in, but that status quo was no longer acceptable.  For no good, concrete reason, but several geopolitical “new world order” types of reasons, the job in Iraq had to be finished.  Saddam had to be removed and the task was done and justified in any way the administration could manage to make it appear proper and just.  The real reason, as it becomes clear later, is that it is simply something the administration felt had to be done, they could, so they did.  Be mad all you want and stop us if you can.  This reasoning is going to become very, very useful later.

On the same theme of “freeing the oppressed”, national democratic movements are supported in several non-strategic places.  Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Belarus… but not Pakistan, or Egypt, or Saudi Arabia where extreme governments might make matters worse.

The unintended consequence of the unrest throughout the Mideast was that oil prices spiked, making Iran a very rich nation for a very short while.  While there was a bit of an influence vacuum in the region, Iran was able to spread around funds and fill that vacuum.  The US suddenly had a problem of a regional power being able to counter the US influence in the region and counteract some of the “progress” being made in setting the shape of the new order of things.

Now we can fast forward to today.

The US has begun establishing the basis for justification of military action against Iran in the name of self defense.  The US has moved a second aircraft carrier group into the Arabian Sea and a third is going to be coming to back up the other two.  Nobody in their right mind thinks that attacking Iran is a good idea.  Nobody in their right mind believes that an all out invasion of Iran is probable to happen or likely to succeed.  Nobody in their right mind thinks that an invasion of Iran will end will.

Read the above sentence and replace “Iran” with “Iraq”.  Then add “The administration sees it as something that has to be done, that they can do, so they will”.

With the Iraqi gambit of a seemingly irrational run up to war when other options were still available, this administration set the precedent of going to war not as a last resort, but as one of many options.  Add to that precedent the 150,000 troops ALREADY on the ground in Iraq, the impressive firepower the US Army possesses, the impending handover to Iraqi forces (job finished or not), and the 3 aircraft carrier groups in the region (more firepower than most nations’ ENTIRE airforces), and you have what is considered a “credible threat” of military action.

It’s not the least bit surprising that yesterday the Iranians voiced a willingness to discuss the nuclear issue again.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Iranian nuclear issue is resolved before March of 2008 with an agreement not unlike the N. Korean agreement where full diplomatic relations are being negotiated at the end of it all.


I have scheduled for Saturday a good, long ride of at least 30 miles…  if the weather cooperates.



Here’s how I likes my coffee.  At a shop it’s café mocha.  I lika tha chocolate.

At the office I’ll take the regular crap that gets brewed in someone’s sock and put a packet of hot cocoa in to give it that mocha flavor.  Like I said, I lika tha chocolate.

Invariably someone will look over and say “what is THAT” as if I’m stirring in powdered babies to the coffee or something.


So, just to be clear, I lika tha chocolate (and actually have cut back during my prelude to training, gotta watch the old ell bees), and chocolate IS NOT powdered babies, so get off my back.


Monday, February 12, 2007


Last time I went out cycling it straight up kicked my ass…  but in a good way.

I was tired, but not wiped out.  It was hard, but not impossible.

The weather was bad, but not horrid.


I haven’t gone out since.


But I haven’t sat idly by, either.  I’ve been lifting weights, working on flexibility, and strengthening my “core” focusing on places that faced the worst of the beating on my last outing.

2 weeks ago I chose not to ride thanks to a personal storm that was shipping all around me.

That storm has mostly subsided, but not gone away.

This past weekend I wussed out because of the cold.  Yea, I know.  Not much of an excuse.

I’m gearing up for a steady diet of 10 and 15 mile days with the occasional big weekend, but the schedule is mostly on hold pending a couple of other things falling into place.


Meanwhile, if you’re up for a challenge, check out

I dare you.

I double dog dare you.

I triple dog double hog tie under the tree double double dare you.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What confidence

Yes, I’m getting more fit.  2lbs have dropped off my body somehow, someway, from somewhere in the last 2 weeks.  Maybe it’s just stress, but I don’t feel 2lbs lighter.


Yes.  I’m at war.  Details will come out eventually as to what that means.  I can say this much:  it’s not a war of bullets but it does include armies.  It’s also not a game.  It’s very, very real, with very, very real consequences.  The trick is to wage the war in such a way as to not destroy, but build.  War, by its very nature, destroys.  Generally even the territory being fought to save becomes ravaged during the combat.  Its exceptionally difficult to wage a war on territory you’re trying to save without damaging that same territory.  That is why Europe had to be “rebuilt”.  The very land trying to be saved was demolished under the boots of liberating armies.

In his “manifesto”, Ted Kaczinski described the difference between “revolution” and “reform” as the difference between rebuilding and redirecting.  A reform movement takes where we are and simply tries to correct the direction that we are traveling.  A revolution desires to demolish the current establishment and rebuild a wholly new establishment in its place.  Under this definition, the “American Revolution” was really a reform that was sped up by war.  The historical evidence can be seen in places from Canada to India where former colonies have established independent democratic states over time.  He goes on to say that the tricky thing about revolutions is that you can never predict where the revolution will go because you’re quite literally starting a new path.  Reforms you can predict, but revolutions often have unintended consequences.  The French Revolution was a true revolution, and it collapsed under the weight of unintended consequences.


So, my challenge in properly executing my war is to reform rather than revolutionize because I don’t believe that which I’m fighting to save will survive a revolution, and I’m not sure anyone will like what a revolution produces.  However, the reform has to be radical enough to exact true and permanent change, lest that which I hope to save continues to careen into the abyss toward which it is steadily traveling.  Most people, though, don’t know the difference between reform and revolution so you can use the terms interchangeably and most will be none the wiser.


Meanwhile, enjoy the lyrics to “When the Roll is Called up Yonder”.  What confidence the wielder of that pen has.  I want some of that…


When the trumpet of the lord shall sound and time will be no more

And the morning breaks eternal and bright and fair

When the saved on earth shall gather over on the other shore

And the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there


When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!


On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise

And the glory of his resurrection shared…

When his chosen ones shall gather to their homes beyond the sky

And the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.


When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!


Let us labor for the master from the dawn to setting sun

Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care

Then when all our lives are over and our work on earth is done

And the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.


When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder!

When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

To invite in a new era of prosperity

The US is the richest nation in the world, yet Americans are some of the poorest in the world.


Yup, you read what I wrote correctly.  We make a ton of money.  We have a ton of stuff.  But generally we’re worthless.  It’s not even that we don’t have means, its just that our means are generally controlled by the bank.  So, the Bedouin who has no home and no money is actually wealthier than Jim Condo in Dallas with a quarter million dollars worth of stuff, but $300,000 in debt.  The one guy’s got nothing and owes nothing, the other guy’s got everything and owes even more.  The Bedouin is, by right of net worth, richer than Jim Condo.

To be fair ALL Americans don’t have negative net worth, but most of us have a net worth that is merely a fraction of our annual income and would throw a party if there was a comma included in the figure.

(Net worth is figured by adding up all you own AT THE PRICE IT CAN BE SOLD and subtracting all you owe.  That car that’s worth $5,000 and you owe $10,000 on adds negative $5,000 to your net worth.  Add the bank account, investments, house, etcetera and subtract the credit card(s), student loan(s), mortgage(s), etcetera and you’ve got your net worth.)

The problem for most people is that a good portion of our income is tied up either paying interest or minimum payments on stuff we don’t really need.  Sure, we spend a good chunk on food, but most of us don’t really own anyTHINGs, just a bunch of stuff that we can maybe sell for $5 in a garage sale. 

We have stuff.  Not assets.

So, to invite a new era of prosperity to America I challenge any of the wannabe Presidents to consider the following:

Should any citizen of the United States of America (and his/her corresponding spouse) agree to take a financial counseling class that stresses the value of staying out of debt, and is willing to sign a pledge to never take another usury loan out again on penalty of imprisonment (that would be anything with a stated or implied interest rate), then the Federal Government will extend a grant to pay off every penny of every debt owed by said citizen as of the end of the last fiscal year.

That means no more borrowed cars.  No more borrowed houses.  No more borrowed stereos.  No more borrowed big macs.  No more borrowed 6 packs of beer.  No more borrowed gum.  No more borrowed vacations.

In return, a check for the full amount of your mastercard, visa, discover card, mortgage note, second mortgage, home improvement line of credit, GMAC note, student loan, other student loan, other student loan, other car note, at the balance owed on December 31 of the year past (that way you don’t run up bills now to get the feds to pay them off, besides if you’re doing that you’re not really going to be breaking the habit anyway).

The net effect will be your chief wealth building device will suddenly be free of any encumberances and instead of blind consumption you’re going to be forced to actually purchase things and spend money.  So, rather than just buying stuff you’re actually going to be forced to spend money.  Instead of accumulating piles of crap, you’re going to be forced to consider the value of what you’re buying making you more likely to accumulate piles of wealth.  People with “rainy day” funds don’t need government assistance.  People with “emergency funds” don’t need debt.  People who build wealth are suddenly free and are no longer indebted to … well, anyone.


So come on, you sissy little wannabee presidents.  Who’s man enough to offer a check to people willing to break the habit?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More about (alleged) dirty filthy perverts

“To Catch a Predator” is back (check your local listings).  I’ll come back to that.


There seems to be a general misperception in “society” today that we only do things that we believe to be right, thus making us hypocrites if we say one thing and do another.  The church is fertile ground to find such hypocrisy.

The Reverend Ted Haggard is one fine (and latest) example.  He rants and raves against homosexuality and then gets busted for not only gay sex but also illegal drug use.  We could go down a long list of church leaders who have not only gone down, but gone down in spectacular style—a list that would even include some popes.

This apparent hypocrisy within the church seems to reinforce the irrelevance of the church in society today.  “Not even the church has the moral authority to boldly state right and wrong because even the church’s hands are dirty.”

It true to some extent, too.  There are all sorts of evil to be found in the church.  Embezzlement, pride, sexual immorality, honoring of false gods, crafting of idols, casting aspersions and slander against others outside (and inside) the community, covetous greed, megalomaniacal building projects, outright lying in marketing products, and preaching of false doctrines are only a few of the sins the modern church engages in.  Granted, most churches don’t engage in all of those.  Some churches engage in completely different sins.  Other churches engage in only a few.  But I dare say that each and every church—leadership as well as the congregation—has engaged in at least one of those sins (if not others) at some point, knowingly or not.  And anyone who will dare say they are without sin is… well, they should read their bible.

But the failure of a church is not its inability to abide by the moral law and follow the Lord, but the failure is the inability to boldly stand up and confess its own sins.  In fact, the failure of any Christian is not the Christian’s inability to abide by the moral law of God, but the failure to admit when he or she has not abided by that moral law.  It’s not for a Christian to stand up and say “but that is outdated and it doesn’t apply today” but rather it is for the Christian to stand up and say “I have done wrong, and for that I am sorry.”

The one hollows out God’s authority in the day to day operating of our lives.  The other places God’s authority right there in the front and boldly states that though I may stray, the path remains clear.


So, what does this have to do with “To Catch a Predator”?

Plenty.  I said once before (last time TCAP aired), that most of these guys were probably not “predators”, per se.  In fact, a double standard existed where guys were considered “predators” but hot blonde teachers who did the same thing were “misguided and mentally disturbed people acting out during a time of great stress”.


Either the hot teacher was a predator, or the guys were merely acting out and blah blah.  My gut says that the answer is somewhere in between were some of the guys are actually dirty filthy predators (and many in this latest installment seem to be just that kind of scary sociopath, but not all) and others were merely acting out from a point of desperation in their lives stemming from some other source of hollowness.

But it’s exactly that hollowness that I’m interested in.  Where does a guy go when he’s under immense pressure from job, or family, or finances, or general emptiness, or whatnot and is considering doing something stupid that he knows is wrong?  To the cops?  What is he going to say? 

“Excuse me, officer, I’m considering going to shoot meth into my veins to get a major, if temporary, release from the stresses that are literally crushing my spirit.  Can you arrest me before I do it, or do I have to ruin my life first?” 

“Excuse me, officer, but I’ve been chatting online with someone who isn’t judging me against the yardstick that I’m judging myself against.  She’s very likely emotionally disturbed on some level since she claims to be 13 and sexually active and I’m clearly emotionally disturbed due to the fact that I’m considering driving over 50 miles to spend time with her—though I doubt I’ll actually have the nerve to go through with anything.  Can you arrest me now, or do I have to go ruin my life first for that to happen?” 

“Excuse me, officer, I’ve been under an enormous strain lately.  More than usual.  It’s the end of the month, reports are due at work, bills are due at home, and my car needs some significant repairs to boot so I’m in a financial pinch as well as a stress related downward spiral emotionally.  My wife is under similar work related stress (and no small amount of stress over my own stress) so I can neither tell her what I’m going through nor get comfort from her because of what she’s going through.  So, I’m considering taking my mortgage payment and spending it on a prostitute—male of female, I don’t really care right now, I just need some emotional attention if you know what I mean—and some drugs, but not before I go to the bar to take the edge off my nerves so that I can actually go through with it.  I know it’s not a permanent fix and I know it’s wrong, but I’m not really looking forward to next week, just tonight.  Can you arrest me now for solicitation of a prostitute and possession of drugs, maybe even DWI, or do I actually have to solicit and purchase and invite ruin into my life for that to happen?”

I don’t see any of those conversations ever happening.

Can he go to anyone else in society?  Nope, he’s labeled as a sociopath and blackballed forever.

Can he go to the church?  The church is afraid to say what is right or wrong out of fear of offending anyone or looking foolish.  Moreso it has lost the ability to be bold and admit that the people in the pews don’t have it all together as they look down their noses at anyone who would dare admit such a thing.  It has therefore lost its moral authority and social relevance.  We think of the church as the place where perfect people come to a perfect building to listen to the perfect preacher tell them how to be even perfecter every day.

That is simply not the case.  Meanwhile, those who are lost have nowhere to look and nowhere to go.

Friday, February 02, 2007


On the other hand, the mess in Boston does reveal how shockingly easy it is to place several, several devices around a city on significant landmarks and high traffic areas.

Had they been shiny little lighted boards with an obscene little character making an obscene little gesture attached to a wad of C4 and a cellular trigger device, then one phone call could have unleashed untold terror on a city.  Imagine 40 bombs going off all at the same time in all parts of the city.  Even if they’re small bombs the ensuing panic and stampede would kill and injure far more than the blasts themselves.

That is a little bit of a scary thought.

I think I’m going to ruminate on that for a moment…



Ok, rumination is done.


There is a difference between a reasonable reaction and a crazy headed overreaction.  We can’t go on living in fear.  We can’t just shut down a city because of a single little circuit board.  Maybe shutting down major traffic arteries was the right thing to do, but the pit-bull attack afterwards is pushing it a little too far.  Turner Broadcasting isn’t a terrorist organizat…  well…  no, they’re not a terrorist organization.  This was a misunderstanding and Boston is taking it too far.  Turner’s actions were not malicious, but Boston’s actions clearly are.

Besides, if these things resemble IEDs in Iraq, our military equipment must be a bunch of crap because that little circuit board didn’t look like it could rip through a wet Kleenex much less an armored troop carrier.

Quit calling it a hoax

From :

hoax  /hoʊks/ Pronunciation Key -noun


something intended to deceive or defraud: The Piltdown man was a scientific hoax.


The poorly received yet brilliant advertising campaign in Boston was not a hoax.  It was not intended to deceive.  It was not intended to inflame fear and whip people into a frenzy.  They were little lighted boards.  That’s all.  Nothing more.

It was an advertising campaign that officials overreacted to.  If any one of the government officials would have asked one of their staffers what one of those “devices” were they would have said “dude, that looks like a moonaninte”.  He would have also told you that you’re overreacting and acting like a fool.

You know why?

Because it does look like a moonanite and you’re overreacting and acting like a fool.

And the ongoing histrionics makes you look silly, silly, silly.

Yes, we as a public expect you to react strongly to any threat, but we don’t expect you to bring out the SWAT team and helicopters and water cannons at each and every traffic stop.  There is “reaction” and there is “overreaction”.

Initially you looked like very aware and responsive officials.  Now you look like obsessed, embarrassed, angry old men out of touch with everything.  While you’re focusing all of your attention on this ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN I sure hope there aren’t any real terrorists planning to do real harm.  Way to take you eye off the ball, Boston.

Meanwhile, the “perpetrators of the hoax” have been arrested and at least one is pressing on with the “you look like a bunch of fools” line of thought.

Outside the courthouse:

Q:  How do you feel?

A:  I feel like my hair looks great.  I really want to redirect this to lost hair dos of the 70’s.



I’m going to start mailing strands of Christmas lights to the mayor of Boston with cryptic notes like “deck the halls” and “light up your life”.  That should pitch the whole town into a good, crazy headed frenzy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston "Bomb" Scare

Ok, Boston.  I’ll just come right out and say it.


You look like a bunch of idiots.


You’re reacting like a suburban soccer mom who sees a garter snake and freaks out and runs down the street screaming that a python is attacking her.

When I saw the first reports around lunch time that “mysterious devices” were around the city that had circuit boards and blah blah, I admit, I was a little worried.  When I saw what the “device” was I laughed my ass off for a solid half hour.  I laughed so hard I almost crapped my pants.  And now your feelings are all hurt because you were made to look a fool and you’re going to arrest and prosecute and stomp around.

Dude, if I left my light-bright on the corner, would you be throwing the same kind of hissy-fit?


I will go so far to say that placing advertisements on public property is a bad no-no.  But if you’re going to prosecute these guys you should prosecute all the candidates for office who do the same damned thing.

Cartoon Network (Aqua Teen Hunger Force is an absolutely hilarious show, by the way) should have placed these things on PRIVATE property, with permission from the building owners, and that would have been far more effective and long lasting, but as my uncle used to tell me you can “shoulduv” in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up faster.


Get a grip, Boston.  You look silly and the only thing that’s coming of it is that I can’t wait for the movie now (that I didn’t know about until this morning) and I seriously want one of those “bombs”.