Monday, June 29, 2009

More on Honduras

I wonder if when our President calls for "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter" he means the now former Honduran president, too?

Because THAT guy was on the verge of doing some pretty non-democratic things.

This “coup” is a great victory for the democracies of the Western hemisphere.  A nation that supports free elections and democratic ideals, one would think, would be supportive of a government working to protect those same principles.  ESPECIALLY in Central America.


Tonight I’ll be missing out on yet another bike ride and instead repairing the drain on the bathtub.  Yippee.

Meanwhile, the lack of rain and oppressive heat are taking their toll on both the veggies and herbs.  I’m counting a full month for sure since the last real rain.  Possibly 6 weeks.  It’s been dry.  Real dry.


Meanwhile, a bunch of famous people died.  Seriously, I don’t care.  My heart breaks for their families and friends, but it’s the burden that families and friends have to bear.  AND it’s a burden that’s a little easier to bear without an entire nation voyeuristically gawking at their pain saying “oh, he meant so much to me” when we didn’t even know the dead celebrity.  There should be some kind of “mind your own damn business” filter, but, alas, the self absorbed cretins who somehow feel validated by standing in the glow of stardom and following lives that are far more glamorous than the perfectly fine life they’ve been blessed with feel it is perfectly appropriate to NEED to know the precise circumstances about which someone who they saw on tv this one time died.  Because, you know, death is a spectator sport.

Meanwhile, thousands die in obscurity every day.  Is their family’s pain no less significant?  Can you not visit a random funeral home where an anonymous stranger lies and a child cries and not offer any comfort to THAT person?  No, of course not, that person was not famous.  You’d rather watch people die on tv and the internet.  Why mourn the anonymous?  Why try to comfort the living when you can just spin around in your pointless world?

What’s more the billions upon billions who are about to die and carry on with their day to day anonymity who you would be more likely to shoot the bird rather than smile and wave to, because DEATH is not a spectator sport, but FAMOUS DEATH, of course, is.

America, in times like this you make me sick.  Absolutely sick.


While you weren’t looking, the cries for freedom in Iran are still being brutally snuffed out.

While you weren’t looking, the Honduran President, who was working with Hugo Chaves to overthrow a relatively stable democratic system and install another dictator who elected in successive sham elections, was removed from office by the Honduran Congress.  (If you read past “Military Coup” in the headline you’ll see it was a “Congressional Coup”, but who cares, right?   There’s another dead celebrity.)  The United States—you know, the defender of freedom and liberty and democracy—is not happy that a constitutional government is protecting itself from a political coup.

While you weren’t looking, North Korea was still preparing to launch an ICBM towards Hawaii.

But don’t worry about it.  American Idol should be starting a new season soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Running in the sun

Last night we got a light sprinkle.  Not quite enough to soak into the ground, just enough to piss off the garden, and just barely enough to make this morning cooler.

Of course, had it come 5 minutes earlier, while I was running, I’d have appreciated it even more.  That would have been a nice relief.


The current running plan involves my lovely wife tagging along on her bike while she pulls the kiddo in the bike trailer.  She naturally rides at a slow enough pace that I can keep up with her and it provides the added bonus of a pace “rabbit” to keep me honest about my speed.  Not too fast, not too slow, just right and steady as she goes.  It will also provide much needed information for my closest and best advisor as to whether or not I’m going to be in a place where I can become ready to run the marathon, and consequently whether or not I should bother to sign up.  When/If we work our way up to longer run/rides, she can carry the drinks.  Very, very clever, yea?


Anyway, sign up day is about 3 weeks away and I’m still mostly undecided.  I’m certain that I like the idea, but less certain about whether or not I really, really want it enough to reshuffle my schedule with school, work, the garden, duties as an elder, duties as a father, other side projects, etc.


Events in Iran have unfolded just about as our fears predicted (not our worst fears, mind you, it could be much, much worse).  The oddest thing is that the regime might have legitimately won the election, even without massive ballot stuffing and the suspected widespread fraud.  The mullahs could have avoided all this by simply letting the electoral process go forward.  And supporting the protesters with even the slightest bit of rhetorical “atta boy”?  Nope, not gonna happen.  We wouldn’t want to, you know, challenge the status quo.  Pax via dictum, you know, as opposed to si, se puede.  Makes you wonder what might happen if people here were to take to the streets to protest the oncoming taxation tsunami …  oh, wait, that did happen and they were ridiculed as small minded idiots.  I remember.  In that context, turning your back on protesters demanding more representation from their government makes sense.  Chosen Ones must look out for each other.


Here’s the thing about our food system (or, really, just about every logistical system in the US).  If the current industrial system for getting food from the field to the fryer didn’t exist, somebody would invent it.  It’s extremely efficient and grew up, if you pardon the phrase, organically by individuals seeking to add value to their enterprise by consolidating farming operations, transportation operations, processing operations, and distribution operations.  It really makes perfect sense if you look at it from a logistics point of view.

Unfortunately, looking at it from that point of view takes all the humanity and life out of the process, as well, and you have what seems to be heinously atrocious conditions within processing (butchering) facilities.  The animals are not viewed as living organisms but rather inputs to the operation and resources to be maximized and managed.  Quality of life is an irrelevant variable when you’re looking for maximum yield.  That’s just how it is.

And this is where that activist government involvement that I generally oppose is not a bad thing.  The best systems are not actually the best systems for the population.  Yes, getting the meat from the field to the fryer in the most cost effective manner possible is great for commerce and good for my wallet, but it’s not necessarily good for my health and, in the long run, may end up being WORSE for my wallet by forcing me to pay for the meat in other way—doctors bills, fuel bills, cost of land—and bad for our culture by disconnecting us from where food comes from and what food is.  Food is not merely an input to our system, otherwise we could subsist on nutrient rich artificial filler.  Food is actually something that is supposed to sustain us, if consumed in the proper mixture, and entertain us by providing a cornucopia of flavors, colors, textures, and scents.  That’s what food IS…  it doesn’t have to be an inconvenience that interrupts our busy days.  Otherwise, we could just plug a tube into our gut and never have to stop.  Until it kills us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

International Political Chess

First off, I didn’t run last night, but I did think about it. I got home from class around 9:00pm and, generally, when I get home from class my internal engine is running at a pretty quick clip. I was thinking on the way home that taking a quick run would be a good way to run that engine down a little bit.

But I didn’t run. Maybe tonight…

In other news the blackberry/apple jam turned out great. Tastes absolutely fantastic. Yum.

And another 4 ounces of berries came out of the garden.

Finally, what would happen if the clerics in Iran decided to “bring in the tanks”? Would Iran’s proverbial chickens come home to roost? After all, they’ve expended an obscene amount of money arming Hezbollah and Hamas as well as militias in Iraq. Sistani, in Iraq, has ties back to Iran, as does, I believe, Sadr. Both of those militias are pretty well armed (with Iranian guns and explosives). So, what would happen if the clerics in Iran decided they’d had enough of these protesters? What if the protesters win? What if the protesters win and the clerics are toppled? Does Sistani come back to Iran and try to resurrect the clerical regime? Does Sadr fill in the gap Sistani leaves behind in Iraq? Do Hezbollah and Hamas come back to defend the clerics, or the people (my guess would be clerics)? And if they do, does that mean the violence in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon will finally come to an end and we’ll have a Palestinian state? And how many rockets have been fired into Israel from the Strip since the election in Iran and the protests started?

So many moving parts over there. Such a fascinating turn of events.

Oh yea, and Japan is reporting that North Korea may test fire a missile toward Hawaii. But those sanctions are really working and we’re really serious about it this time. Which city must be sacrificed this time?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

1 month, and counting

Signup day for the Houston Marathon is coming up precisely 1 month from now.  The fee is $90.  I have not yet come up with a good reason not to do it, though I have also not come up with a particularly good reason TO do it.

I still hate running.

I still have exactly no time.

I still would rather sleep between 5 and 9 in the morning, than run at any point between 5 and 9 in the morning.


On the other hand, chicks running at memorial park are pretty hot.

Performing ridiculous feats of physical strength impresses the one girl I really care about.

Finishing is very, very cool.


Oh yea, and then health benefits, and blah blah blah.


Time and energy, or lack thereof, are significant factors.  I got a lot of stuff going on.

However, this is my last chance to finish my second marathon before I turn 35.  And, of course, finishing 2 marathons will put me something like 58,673 marathons behind Jon Walk.


What to do…  what to do…


I’m guessing that just about everyone is watching the events unfold in Iran.  Amazing stuff going on…  and equally amazing that while social networks are hip deep in the action, MySpace is seemingly absent.  Very, very interesting.  Makes you wonder what would have happened 20 years ago in China if Twitter had existed then.

Maybe, just to help out the protesters, the UN can pass some completely meaningless resolutions?


I’m seriously contemplating adding rabbits to the old backyard farmstead.  We haven’t quite perfected the production side of the garden, but we are getting a decent amount of daily production.  We’ve got enough variety in the crops to ensure decent production, but not over production, allowing for a handful of beans each day, a bowl of blackberries each day, 2 or 3 tomatoes each day, etc.  Not really enough to freeze and store, but enough to munch on and enjoy without having to spend money on extra foods.  Water is also a very good thing.  On that note, a June drought neither helps the garden nor the bank account.

So, with decent, though not overwhelming, vegetable production coming out of our little patch of dirt, I’ve been thinking about “livestock”.  And by “livestock” I mean anything that is 1. Alive and 2. Able to stock my freezer with meat.  Being in the suburbs, my list is limited to rabbits and chickens.  Chickens were vetoed by my lovely wife, so rabbits are the current topic of negotiation.  The hang-ups:  either my lovely wife or beautiful child becoming attached to dinner.  When “the rabbit” is referred to as “a bunny” or, worse, “my bunny”, or, worse still, “Fluffy”, it makes it exceptionally hard to lop off its head, strip off its fur, take out its guts, and pop it in the freezer or a stew pot.

Needless to say, negotiations are ongoing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ok, enough already

Ok, I’ve decided that I’ll probably sign up for the Houston marathon.  Here’s the thing…


The week before the marathon is a very important part of the preparation period.  No doubt.  However, if the last week before a marathon is the make-or-break period of your training, which is to say that you finally become READY in that last week, then you’re doomed.  The way I see it, there’s a 6 month process of preparation that transforms a runner into someone who is both physically and mentally prepared for running 26.2 miles.  If that preparation is done wrong, no amount of work in that last week will get you there.  Sure, there may be some last minute stuff, but it should be in support of the work already done.

Something like the difference between cramming for a test, and being prepared for a test.


I think I can do both the training AND the trip, AND run the marathon.

And if I can’t, it’ll be money sent for a good cause and I’ll just run the next marathon on the schedule.



Governor Palin, dear heart, hot Alaskan mom, moose hunter extraordinaire, please shut the hell up.  You’re not making it easier for yourself or your party.


Yes, the media was gunning for you on day 1 because you dared to be pretty and conservative when everyone who’s pretty should be liberal (lest they be demonized by the media).  It didn’t help that you brought a small-town mentality to a big-city stage.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a small-town mentality. 


It works just fine for yourself and your community.  And, yes, Alaska may be the largest state in the union, but population wise, it’s a small town.  The challenges of the folks in southern Alaska aren’t too different from the challenges of the folks in central Alaska.  So, too, are the people.  It’s a pretty homogeneous population up there on top of the country.


But when you’re going to be expected to advise policy decisions for the whole country, that has disparate populations like those in Miami and Kansas City and Honolulu and New York City and Cut ‘n Shoot (in Texas, population of about 500) and Los Angeles and Dallas and everywhere else, where challenges and concerns and backgrounds and values are different, small-town mentality doesn’t quite work.  “We are all just folks” works just fine in Alaska.  In my neighborhood it works fine, too.  In fact, when New Orleans came to Houston, it worked just fine for awhile.  But when you get to specific folks with specific needs, “we’re all just folks” doesn’t work quite so well. 


Yes, I believe there is still such a thing as “universal American values” and “universal American mentality”, but the days when the small town values and small town mindset were synonymous with those are long gone.  In my small town, I don’t always have to remember to lock my door.  That’s very different from someone who cannot go out alone at night due to pervasive urban violence.  Please, before you keep talking and insisting that David Letterman owes every little tramp in America an apology, just think a little bigger.  I’m just sick and tired of seeing you on my news being a hot bitch.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Summer siesta months

I’ve gotten a couple of runs over the last week or so.  Nothing memorable, nothing earth shattering.  Just about a mile or so and a pretty decent pace (still no chrono).  I think I’m about ready to start tracking the runs on a regular basis and picking up the distance.  Marathon sign up is looming on July 17 and I STILL haven’t decided whether or not I’m 1. Going to Chile or 2. Going to run the marathon.  What I might do is still go to Chile to get school out of the way, and then sign on for a run a little while later—like Surfside or Austin.  My hunch is that a few of the Houston blog-runners will be making the trip to Austin, plus at least one Houston refugee is staying out there, so it might be worth the trip.  Plus, I can say that I traveled for a marathon, which gives me extra points in the running world that I can eventually redeem for a pup-tent and lantern.




The spring flurry in the garden is finally winding down, too.  Harvesting veggies, removing plants, preparing beds, replacing plants, adding hardware, removing hardware, re-adding hardware, reconfiguring beds, and finally figuring a way to protect what you have from bugs and birds is a 2 month process that really doesn’t wait for your schedule.  You do what you need to and move along.


In more northern climes, the spring season isn’t quite the traffic jam it is down here.  Down here the early spring garden is giving way to the summer planting schedule, so you have one load coming out as another is going in.  Up there you don’t have anything coming out, only things going in.  The stuff I harvested last month will be maturing soon up north.  Very different gardening worlds.  Very different.


In fact, in about another month, most of my garden will be starting to nap through the hottest days of the year, only to be reawakened at the very end of August.  A thick layer of compostable materials will be laid over the fallow beds and they’ll begin their quiet period.  It’s kind of interesting having two harvests.


Oh, I also get the opportunity to turn the compost pile this time of year more frequently than other times.  The hot sun helps to break down the yummy organics into material that’s very useful for the garden come next spring.




Speaking of compostable material, I took a little trip through my spam filter and found several cute little piles left by the resident troll.  I also noticed the piles slowing down over time.  Glancing over the piles I noticed, as usual, nothing was an original thought but rather reposts of other people’s words with no commentary or explanation, all of it either misrepresents facts and positions or flat out lies or denies reality, and is perfectly suitable for the compost/spam bin.  I do sometimes wonder how much of what I write is specifically formulated to be troll bait and how much of it can’t be formulated any other way except to enflame the very sensitive (and self important) nature of troll.  But, then again, I remind myself that trolls are simply trolls—sad little insignificant and anonymous creatures that lurk under bridges and only harm travelers who give them the time of day.  I am coming to believe that a spam filter is the best antidote for a troll.

The invitation remains, though.  Offer an original thought as a retort—not a repost of someone else’s idea or opinion, but your very own idea or opinion—and I’ll grant your cute little steaming pile a forum.  But if the best you can offer is name calling, misrepresentation, and a link to someone else’s idea, then you’re just going to have to stay in the spam filter and wallow around in the wasteland you helped create on yahoo groups.  But the good news is that I found out that I just won a Dell XPS and the former finance minister in Nigeria needs my help!!


Meanwhile, here’s some bait for you to chew on, troll-boy.  Since President Obama’s inauguration, North Korea has tested ICBMs, launched missiles, tested nukes, launched more missiles, backed out of the cease fire agreement, launched more missiles, kidnapped two American journalists, launched more missiles, “convicted” said journalists, launched more missiles, thrown AMERICAN JOURNALISTS into a labor (death) camp, and launched more missiles.  The response?  A stern look, a wag of the finger, and a warning not to do it ever again or we’ll enforce those sanctions we passed the last time you pulled all this shit.  We REALLY mean it this time.  Really really really.  Because, you know, the world proved with the whole Iraq thing that it takes UN sanctions and enforcement seriously.  They’ll all totally line up to enforce them again.  Totally.  For real this time.  Really.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Curious question

I find myself wondering “what if GW had done that” lately.


President Obama flies Marine 1 to New York to catch a Broadway show, complete with security contingent, road closures, and the like.  What if GW had done that?


President Obama flies his family to Paris to meet him for a weekend and dinner at the Eiffel Tower.  What if GW had done that?


President Obama takes the presidential motorcade out for burgers.  What if GW had done that?


President Obama fires the CEO of GM.  What if GW had done that?


Nancy Pelosi accuses the CIA of lying to Congress.  What if GW had done that?


Barney Frank calls up GM and (does not order) orders them to keep a distribution facility open in Massachusetts.  What if GW had done that?


Of course, we know it’s all rhetorical, the press would have skewered GW where they give BO and his boys a complete pass.  And maybe he did, but they were too busy complaining that he was spending a weekend at the ranch or making fun of his accent or rooting on the insurgents in Iraq to notice.


And the idea of Bush and Cheney going for burgers is especially far-fetched.

Everyone knows that Cheney feasted on human flesh (rim shot).

Da da dum de dum de dum

I’m leaning toward signing up for a marathon…  but possibly not the Houston marathon.  Research is ongoing.


Ok, here’s the story from the local news readers yesterday:  local unemployment up 75% since last year.


Excuse me?  What?


The REAL story is that local unemployment is down from last month to 6.32% (take that, rest of the country).  This time last year it was at a scorching low 3.8 or so, and 6.3 is about 175% of 3.8.  But since saying that unemployment is down is not a story, they went with the misleading lead in.


Remind me again why nobody watches the news?


So I’ve been at this gardening thing now for about 6 years cultivating various crops and building up some experience, and I still find out new things every month.  For example, did you know you could make basil tea?  Maybe you tea drinkers knew, but I had no idea.  None whatsoever.  So I’ve had my basil drying in the refrigerator (another accidental success) and just found out I don’t have to wait for my tomatoes to come online to actually use the stuff.  Tonight I’m going to make me a big old kettle of basil tea and see how it tastes.


I’ve also become a lot less grossed out by bugs than I used to be.  No, I never went running and screaming like a little girl, but I’ve generally preferred them to be over there, behind glass, and me over here.  Now, I just grab the little boogers off the plants, inspect them to see if they’re beneficial or not, then take the action necessary (smoosh or release).  Oh, and don’t ever let any “organic” gardener lie to you that gardening that approaches organic standards is more humane than chemically blasting little nasties off the face of the earth.  It isn’t.  It’s just a little more healthy.  The nasties still die horrible, painful deaths and the organic gardeners revel in their pain and suffering—because they’re nasty little bugs and worms that turn their plants into poop and bug eggs.


Another interesting side product is the increased veggies in the diet.  As the garden grows, so too does the veggie part of the diet.  Foods I never thought to eat have been added to my diet.  Grilled squash?  Yup.  Collards?  Yup.  Swiss chard?  Sure.  There are the standard staples:  carrots, beans, potatoes.  But before I planted a tomato plant, I had never eaten a tomato.  God’s honest truth.  Same is true with black berries.  I planted 8 bushes having never had one of those beauties pass over my lips.  Now the first thing I do when I come home is check to see if any are ripe (of course, my son and wife pick them clean before I get home, little scavengers).  I’ve only eaten 2 Brussels sprouts in my life, but there are 8 plants in my garden right now desperately trying to yield a crop before the oppressive summer heat shuts them down.  I didn’t particularly like the 2 sprouts I had eaten, but maybe these will be different.  Dunno.


All in all, it’s a fun experience to see where food comes from and come up with ideas on how to use the stuff once it comes from there.


On the political scene, there was a good speech yesterday.  Very interesting, very cool to read.  I’ll have to admit, when the President is overseas and there is unusual activity, I get nervous.  2 tapes from Al Queda as he’s traveling the Mideast counts as unusual activity.  I’m glad everything went off without a hitch.  But while he’s on the make nice tour, there’s this matter of taking over domestic car companies, overhauling the health care system, and, oh yea, that reclusive, nutty North Korea regime doing stupid shit that apparently nobody needs to worry about because nobody cares about it.


Personally, I don’t want the government running GM.  I don’t care if GM is profitable or even continues to exist.  Yes, it’ll be very, very bad for the businesses tied to the auto industry if GM fails and is sold off, but if their pieces are sold off and the buyers use them to build (gasp) cars that people (gasp) want to buy, then that’s good for everyone.  As GM got big, then bigger, then still bigger, then started having trouble competing in the 70s, their divisions that made the cars people wanted were starved of capital to expand while GM chose to build trucks and SUVs that were more powerful and profitable and were easier to sell.

Here’s a marketing question for GM:  did people want iPods before Apple made them cool?  No.  iPods didn’t exist before Apple made them cool.  Apple told people they wanted iPods, and build iPods that lived up to the expectations Apple taught the people to have.  That’s the difference between a company that sells stuff and a company that builds stuff.  Sansa builds mp3 players, and people want to buy iPods.


For my part, I will never ever buy a GM as long as the government is calling the shots (and 6 of 10 members of the board is calling the shots).  And even after the government divests (if it ever does), I won’t buy a GM unless they figure out how to build a car that isn’t simply an engineering marvel, but is also a pleasure to own and drive.  Figure that out, and you’ll have my business back (for hints, look at Saturn before you fucked it all up, or maybe even Pontiac, or Ford).


And the latest news on the Korean front is that they’re going to ENFORCE the sanctions that were passed last time they sanctioned the North.  Big whoopidy doo.  Rest assured, Tokyo.  We’ve given them a stern look and told them we really (don’t care) mean it this time.  If I were you, I’d let the world know that if they’re not going to do something, you will, and ramp up that nuke program you’ve been sitting on.