Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Three Days to the Reunion...

Now that the G20 Summit is over, my home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is gearing up for it's next challenge: this coming Saturday, the North Allegheny Senior High Class of 1969 will hold its 40th (gasp!) reunion. I'm looking forward to seeing many of my old friends again, and playing the "You're WHO???" game, although it should be a bit less shocking than the 30th reunion, because lately we've all been trading pictures on Facebook. All I have to do is keep from embarrassing myself too badly. Agnes will help with that.

Perhaps it's just coincidence, but this wonderful poem appeared today in my daily Writers' Almanac e-mail from Garrison Keillor...

Walking at Night
by Louise Gluck

Now that she is old,
the young men don't approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.

By midnight, the town's quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.

When they pass, they don't notice her.
She's like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.

When she's tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.

The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river's grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank's deserted—

There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after a while, they made their way into the woods
where it's always twilight—

The woods would be empty now—
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.

In the river, there's just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the gray stones. The moon's bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river's edge.

When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn't seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost—

On nights like this, she'll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had as a young woman,
glistening under the light summer clothing.

When you look at a body you see a history. What a great line! I like to think I've earned every wrinkle, every gray hair, and every creaky joint by living life the best I could. Many posts ago I quoted from a wonderful song by German singer Harald Junke titled Keine Falte tut mir leid that provides a great perspective on getting older. The lyrics read, in part...

Ich sag' Dir keine Falte tut mir leid,
Ich bin ein Mann mit viel Vergangenheit

"I tell you, I'm not sorry for a single wrinkle,
Because I'm a man with a lot of past..."

This weekend, I'll be able to relive a little of that past. Naturally, I'll only remember and reminisce with my friends about the good parts, but that's to be expected. We've all traveled different roads to get to this weekend, and it'll be interesting to share the stories of how we got here.

And we won't ... or most of us won't ... be sorry for any of the wrinkles.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You, Too, Can Be a General!

Between the end of the Vietnam War and the current unpleasantness in Iraq and Afghanistan, generals - the senior leaders of the armed services - have enjoyed a bit of a boost in recognition, if not outright popularity. General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf led the allied coalition to victory in the first Gulf War, and now generals like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal are household names...generally admired and respected on the Right and viewed with suspicion or outright hostility by the Left.

Regardless of what you may think about them personally, American generals tend to be well-educated, well-trained leaders, respected by their peers in other nations and by the men and women they lead. They don't become generals because of family connections, but because of proven military and political skills. There are exceptions, of course, but these are rare and the American military is led by solid professional soldiers, rather than by the bemedalled and beribboned clothes horses often seen in many Third World armies.

It's a little different in some armies. According to an article in the South China Morning Post titled The Top Brass Who Can't Fight, China's People's Liberation Army (or "PLA") has at least 30 generals who have no leadership or battle training - they are singers, dancers, actresses, or musicians given general's rank as an expression of their perceived value to maintaining the morale of the troops. The practice dates back to the time of Mao Zedong, who recruited entertainers and granted them high ranks for their "revolutionary performances" that boosted the morale of undersupplied and overstressed common soldiers.

The practice continues today, with folk singers and other entertainers receiving general's or admiral's rank for their entertainment and morale value rather than their battle skills. The practice is being criticized in many quarters, but it does have the support of the military. Retired general Xu Guangyu was quoted in the article as saying that the real ranking of these "generals" was different from those of the rest of the army. He characterized the ranks as an "honor ranking designed for professions who make contributions to our army," noting that some top performers were given high rank "in order to guarantee their high salaries, good housing, and other lifelong benefits."

Well, perhaps this is something we should look at here at home. General Edyta Sliwinska could move between "Dancing with the Stars" and the front lines, accompanied by Generals Toby Keith and Angelina Jolie (who at least has combat training from the Laura Croft movies). John Travolta has a pilot's license...he could be an Air Force general. The Navy could be ably led by Admirals like Kanye ("the Russians have a good navy, but ours is better") West. And General Oprah Winfrey could award brand new tanks to deserving soldiers on her program.

The possibilities are endless.

You, too, can be a General! Demand the rank you deserve! Write to your elected reprehensives today ... it's not like they're doing anything else worthwhile.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, September 28, 2009

"A Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy"

You may recall that former First Lady (now Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton once blamed many of the problems facing her husband as the malign actions of "a vast, right-wing conspiracy." Well, according to former President Clinton, that conspiracy is still alive and well. Speaking yesterday on Meet the Press, Mr Clinton said that "...(the conspiracy is) not as strong as it was, because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was."

Conspiracy, no.

Strong, no.

Virulent, yes.

If the strength of a movement is based on the strength of its ideas, I think Mr Clinton has grossly overestimated the power of this imagined conspiracy. America has always been a relatively conservative nation, but that conservatism has always been tempered with enough liberal ideas and simple common sense to keep it moving forward and prevent the worst excesses of the extremists on either wing. The extreme right today is an embarrassment, reduced to frantic shouting about the President's birth certificate and the wildest ravings that compare our elected government to that of Nazi Germany. Doonesbury has called it right...

A census worker was murdered in Kentucky, apparently by those who thought his census data collection represented a grave intrusion into personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution...that would be the same Constitution that mandates (see Article 1, Section 2) a national census every 10 years to apportion Congressional seats.

Not that the extreme left is much's just that the extreme right is a bit more hysterically loud at the moment.

Pat Paulsen, the wonderfully deadpan comedian who ran for president on the old Smothers Brothers television show, once said, "Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles." He was correct. We need the best ideas of the conservative and the liberal sides of the political debate, without the most outrageous and intolerant excesses of either. One hopes that we'll see that happen soon.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Have a good day. Keep to the center. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alternate Currency

Yes, I's post is going up much later than normal. Live with it. We were out very late last night at a great birthday party for one of our friends, and - for once - I was able to sleep late this morning. And then was the laundry, and I am.

There was a very interesting article in this morning's Washington Post on a topic I'd heard briefly about before, but didn't pay much attention to at the time. The article, by UK-based reporter Karla Adam and titled When Going Gets Tough, Local Currency Gets Going, discussed the growing trend in some communities in Britain of introducing their own local currencies, such as the "Brixton Pound." The alternative currencies are intended only for local use, and to supplement the legal tender represented by the official British Pound. Those who advocate these alternative currencies believe that they will help local communities better weather the economic storms and help boost local businesses.

Now, as I've often admitted, I'm no expert on economics. You could take everything I know about economics, put it in a thimble, and have room enough left over for a herd of elephants and a brass band. If I understood economics, I'd be the one sitting in some idyllic country with no extradition treaties, sipping martinis and laughing at schnooks like me whose savings I'd gutted while leaving the taxpayers stuck with the bill.

No, I'm no expert. But I know a good idea when I see one. Maybe it's time to get rid of the Dollars, Pounds, Yen, Riyals, Euros, Rupees, Shekels, Rubles, Crowns, Pesos, and all that bewildering array of other currencies and replace them with real, meaningful currencies backed by something other than worthless paper generated by amoral criminals armed with degrees in economics. Here are my suggestions for some new, more appropriate units of currency for use by different political parties, industries, localities, etc...

Hard-core, extreme right wing, die-hard conservatives can adopt the Republican, one of which is divided into 100 Rants. The One-Republican coin has John Wayne's picture on the front, and a herd of heavily-armed elephants trampling a middle class on the back.

Liberals can spend the Democrat. One Democrat is divided into 100 Whines. The One-Democrat coin has Nancy Pelosi on the front, and a jackass surrounded by acorns on the back.

You could pay for your health care with a new, specialized unit of currency called the Tumor. One Tumor equals 100 Cysts. The only problem is that nobody wants them to be a publicly available option, so you'd have to buy them from your boss, or from the mint operated by the insurance industry.

Texans could chuck the dollar in favor of the new Texas currency, the Braggart, equal to 100 Exaggerations. Not considered legal tender in Alaska.

Illinois could introduce the Indictment, divided into 100 Subpoenas. I'm not sure whether Al Capone's or Rod Blagoevich's picture should be on the front, but the back shows a finely-engraved image of the Capitol with a small "for sale" sign in front.

What do you think of my idea? Got any other prospective currency ideas of your own? I can't wait to see the comments...

Have a good day. Don't take any wooden nickels. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cartoon Saturday

The circus must be in town, as Mohammar Gadhafi and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad took time out from their clown act to perform at the United Nations this past week; a woman has given birth to the wrong child, courtesy of a hospital mix-up in which the wrong embryo was implanted into her womb; service continues to be a top priority at DC Metro rail, where a station shut down for the night and locked its gates before the last train arrived, stranding several passengers; and the G20 economic summit took place in Pittsburgh this week, providing a new opportunity for anarchists and buffoons of all sorts to rally in a new place.

It's all right...Cartoon Saturday is here to kiss your intellectual boo-boos and make them better.

You need to have a license to drive, hunt, fish, get married, run a business, and just about anything else. Sadly, there are some things that don't require a license...
Prophets of gloom and doom aren't always funny, but sometimes they just hit you the right way...

You know things are getting bad when the cars are smarter than the drivers...

Tom the Dancing Bug takes on every loudmouthed buffoon you can imagine in this wonderful summary of the health care "debate"...

And finally, from the Department of Be Careful What You Wish For, Because You Might Get It"...

We are now exactly one week from the much-anticipated 40th reunion of the Class of 1969, at which we'll all come together to try to figure out who all these geezers are who have taken the places of the buff young studs and babes that marched out the high school doors in the summer of that fateful year. It's gonna be interesting...

Have a good weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Bullet Shortage

"The metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the 9mm bullet." - Dave Barry

Yes, my friends, in today's America we suffer from many shortages. We are short of affordable health care, affordable housing, civility, clean air and water, quality and affordable elder care, and adult leadership in Congress.

Another thing we're short of is ammunition.

According to this and other recent articles (including Mike's post of last Sunday), US citizens are suffering from a critical shortage of bullets to fill up those arms the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives them the right to bear. There are two major reasons for this: the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are leading the Army to buy enormous quantities of bullets (which are said to quickly cure individual cases of radical Islamism); and the prevalent hysteria that the Obama administration is going to suddenly send swarms of jackbooted thugs to our homes to pry our guns out of our cold, dead hands.

"We are working overtime and still can't keep up with the demand," said a spokesman for Remington Arms Company, which makes bullets for rifles, handguns and shotguns. "We've had to add a fourth shift and go 24-7. It's a phenomenon that I have not seen before in my 30 years in the business."

According to the National Rifle Association, the nation's premier gun rights group, Americans usually buy about 7 billion rounds of ammunition a year. In the past year, says NRA spokeswoman Vickie Cieplak, that figure has soared to about 9 billion rounds.

Nine billion bullets.

And that doesn't even count all the bullets bought by the Army and by police departments around the country.

Why do I not feel especially safe?

Baring arms is fine for Michelle Obama and other buff young ladies.

Bearing arms is problematic for those to whom rights are more important than responsibilities.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Brief, Yet Boring Excursion into Linguistics...

In a comment posted a few days ago, Bandit rhetorically asked how civil people can have a civil war. Then Eminence Griese weighed in on the topic, challenging me to dig deep into the cobwebby recesses of my poor, crowded brain and discuss not civility per se (which I've pretty well beaten to death, thanks very much), but the derivation of the word. As one who is fascinated by Linguistics and Semantics, I could hardly turn down a challenge like that.

If you don't enjoy pedantic sojourns into linguistic history, come back tomorrow. Otherwise, read on.

The origin of the word civility (as well as the words civil, civilian, civilization, citizen, city, and many others) is the Latin word civitas, meaning city-state (i.e., Rome). The original meaning had to do with the responsibilities of a Roman as a member (a civilian, if you will) of the city-state of Rome, and the civilized (worthy of living in a city-state) behavior expected of him or her.

The term civil grew to have many meanings, some of which include: "of or relating to citizens; of or relating to the state or its citizenry; of, relating to, or involving the general public, their activities, needs, or ways, or civic affairs as distinguished from special (as in military or religious) affairs." Looking at the word in this way, we can see how civil people (those who exhibit the behavior expected of citizens) can engage in a civil war (a war conducted between opposing groups of citizens of the same country).

You can trust me on this one...I studied Latin for three years. Of course, two of those years were spent trying to get out of Latin I, but that's beside the point.

The bottom line: our concepts of civility - the good civic behavior expected of good citizens - goes all the way back to ancient Rome. And where Rome used to be, today we have ... Italy, the land of the government-of-the-week, the Red Brigades, and Silvio Berlusconi.

Practice civility. Be a good citizen. Don't let this happen to us.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Favorite Movie Characters, Part 2

If Hollywood can get away with lack of creativity by resorting to sequels, so can I. Here are a few more of my favorite movie characters...

Major Reisman, played by Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen. Only a really tough SOB could take a dozen condemned criminals and turn them into the ultimate hit team to wipe out a conference-load of Nazi generals. Every one of the "Dirty Dozen" was a great character, but Marvin's Major Reisman was the unquestioned alpha bastard...

Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. No, he never said, "Play it again, Sam!" What he said was, "Play it, 'As Time Goes By.'" (See the Eminence Griese's comment to yesterday's post for his reminder of the very best "go to hell" quote of all time, also from Bogart in this film). Cynical, world-weary, and yet willing to stick his neck out for the woman he once loved, Rick Blaine is a man I'd like to have a drink with.

Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino in The Godfather and its sequels. The good boy who wanted to stay out of his family's dirty business learns that blood is important in more ways than one...

Eowyn, played by Melinda Otto in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Beautiful, tragic, and - in the end - heroic. When the terrifying Witch King hissed, "No man can kill me!", she looked him in the eye and shouted "I am no man!" as she stabbed him in the face. Remind me not to piss off this lady...

This is fun. I could go on forever. But I won't. Tomorrow, we'll look at why people who are civil can have a civil war. Inquiring minds want to know.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Favorite Movie Characters

Yesterday, while catching up on some of the sites I don't visit every day, I dropped by Jay's Cynical Bastard site ("Appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator Since 2006"). In his post of last Thursday, he picked up on a theme from another site, and discussed his favorite movie characters. I thought that might be an interesting diversion from bitching and complaining about health care, civility, illegal immigration, and general buffoonery, and so (drum roll, please), here is Bilbo's List of Favorite Movie Characters...

King Theoden, played by Bernard Hill in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Rescued from the domination of the evil wizard Saruman and transformed from weak tool to heroic leader, he leads his people into a war he sees no hope of surviving. One of my favorite scenes of all time shows him arriving with his army at the scene of the siege of Gondor to find the city on fire and his army vastly outnumbered. His face has a look of complete horror and desperation that slowly hardens into stern resolve as he rallies his troops and leads them in a mighty charge to save the city. If you aren't on your feet cheering after he leads his troops in three cheers of "DEATH!", call the coroner to come and pick you up...

Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. Sad, weary, and quietly heroic as he leads his men on a mission they think is stupid. When first seen, he's on the landing craft headed for Omaha Beach at Normandy, and the camera zooms in as he tries to pour himself a drink from his canteen...and the canteen rattles against the cup in his nervous hands. That one small scene captured for me the terror so many men must have felt as they neared the hostile beaches.

Nick Rivers, played by Val Kilmer in Top Secret. One of the funniest movies you'll ever see, at least if you like broad parodies of World War II/Elvis Presley/Secret Agent films. He hits his mark when he explains his name to Hillary ("She whose bosoms defy gravity"): "My father thought of it while he was shaving."

Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens. Who says a sexy lady can't be a hero? Who can't love the scene in Aliens when she fights the terrifying alien queen to protect little Newt, shouting, "Get away from her, you bitch!"?

Detective William Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman in Seven. Imagine Captain John Miller as a world-weary detective taking on a terrible serial killer just days from his retirement. Freeman's thoughtful, dogged detective is the perfect foil for hot-headed young buck Brad Pitt as they search for John Doe, the mysterious killer who is murdering his way through the seven deadly sins. If I ever get murdered, I want this man on the case...

Cosmo Brown, played by Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain. The ultimate song-and-dance man, and a perfect straight man for Gene Kelly. "Cosmo, call me a cab!" "Okay, you're a cab!" And the man can dance!

There are many other characters who could be on this list, but this will have to do for now. It's going to be a busy day, and someone's got to generate those heaps of PowerPoint slides and position papers on issues that will mean nothing in six months.

It's a job.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Wages of the Sixties

You'd have thought I'd be tired of harping on courtesy and civility by now...but you'd be wrong. It's still got me riled up and it should have you riled up, too.

It's also gotten to Victor Davis Hanson, an historian and commentator whose website is bookmarked in my link list. I have a love-hate relationship with Dr Hanson, admiring much of what he writes while taking issue with much of his relentless bashing of the Democratic party (Note: I certainly believe the Democrats need a good bashing periodically, but I object to his failure to equally bash the Republicans when they're being stupid). In a recent post titled The Rise of the Uncouth, Dr Hanson traced the source of the problem we're having with civility today to the generation that came to age in the 1960's (Disclaimer: one of those would have been yours truly). He wrote,

"...The truth is that a new generation of boors has come of age without sober, wise people to teach them how to act. A Stark or a Wilson, whether left or right, were Sixties people, a generation known for its hip crassness and uncouthness. The baby boomers themselves abdicated the role of elder statesmen, and instead need in their dotage to be taught before they can teach anyone. The proper censors are in the graveyards, a better mannered generation used to hardship and war, whose legacy of standards we have squandered."

I think this is true, and is worth thinking about. A lot.

When I look at the people of my parents' generation, I see the difference. My parents had standards of behavior that they passed down to us. My Mother would have knocked me into the next zip code for the sort of behavior that now passes for normal...and my Father would have gone to the next zip code, found me, and knocked me back again. Sadly, it appears that many others who came of age in the turbulent sixties didn't care that much.

"a better mannered generation...whose legacy of standards we have squandered."

In his 1998 book Civility, Stephen Carter wrote,

"...having developed integrity as a tool for creating our own moral selves, we must next develop tools for interacting with others. I do not consider civility synonymous with manners (although I do think manners matter). I have in mind an attitude of respect, even love, for our fellow citizens, an attitude...that has important political and social implications. Moreover, civility is a moral issue, not just a matter of habit or convention: it is morally better to be civil than to be uncivil."

Can we all resolve to be civil today? And to hold our elected reprehensives to the same standard? Even if you were born...or they were the Sixties, there's no excuse for the kind of behavior coming from those who should know better, who should be the role models for the next generation.

Demand civility. After all, it's not something hard, like health care.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

When You Just Can't Find Pork Uteri Anywhere Else...

Unlike lots of other men (and women, too, for that matter), I really enjoy grocery shopping. The three kinds of stores most difficult to get me out of are those selling books, electronics, and foodstuffs. And yesterday afternoon we discovered the granddaddy of all great food stores, right in our neighborhood!

We're often looking for odd ingredients for different recipes (do you know how hard it can be to find eye of newt or toe of frog when you need it?), and are always looking for new ethnic markets to haunt for various things. On the advice of Cynthya, one of our dancing friends, we visited the Fresh World International Supermarket, also known as El Grande Mercado. It reminded me of some of the pictures Amanda has posted of the markets she's visited in Palembang and other places. It's huge, crowded, chaotic, and filled with everything you can imagine eating. Or not eating, in many cases.

In one section we found "Big Green Onions" which looked to us suspiciously like leeks...and, sure enough, we found the same thing in another section, labeled "American Leeks." We found "Cock Soup" (don't ask), great bins full of fresh, irritable blue crabs, tanks of live fish and piles of whole, fresh fish on ice. One woman was wandering around with a plastic bag full of live eels figure-eighting their way to her dinner table. There were piles of every kind of vegetable and herb you can image, battered boxes of things with impenetrable labels in Thai, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, and other languages I didn't even recognize. There were rows and rows of bottles of every kind of sauce, oil, marinade, glaze, or other condiment the fevered mind of man can conceive.

It was fascinating. It was a culinary orgasm. And the prices were, in most cases, amazingly cheap for this area, particularly for some of the more obscure herbs and vegetables (I found big bundles of lemon grass for less than the cost of a measly plastic package of the same at the local grocery). If you are queasy of stomach, and not in the mood to see frozen packages of pork uteri, lamb spleens, and other questionable delicacies, it's not the place for you.

But we found it fascinating. Now Agnes just needs to get moving and turn that package of frozen passion fruit pulp into ice cream...

Have a good day. Cook something exotic.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cartoon Saturday

A criminally insane killer from eastern Washington state is at large after escaping during a field trip to the county fair (???) organized by his mental hospital; a laboratory technician has been arrested for the murder of Yale university student Annie Le; scientists have found the first rocky planet located outside our solar system (although it is not, as previously reported, near the orbit of the first Bullwinkle planet located outside our solar system); a 15-year old boy committed suicide on Thursday by jumping in front of a Washington DC Metro rail train...he is the ninth person to do so this year, and all but two of those have died; and people are discovering that you can't even give away old tube-style television sets, even when they're in perfect condition.

Time to crank up Cartoon Saturday to ease your troubles...

Identity theft is a serious problem in which criminals can literally steal your life. Don't you wish there was a punishment that fit the crime?

Some problems have always been with us. And so have the first responses to our initial attempts to solve them...

Opinions differ as to whether or not we're on the way out of the recession, but one set of opinions that hasn't changed is the responsibility of "creative accounting" for the loss of trillions of dollars in wealth of ordinary persons. It's tough to make that funny, but you can try...

This one reflects the new reality in how Agnes and I evaluate potential investments...

We haven't had any penguin cartoons for a while, and penguins are always good for a laugh. I sometimes wonder how a penguin cartoonist would look at us...

And, finally, I don't think this one needs any introduction or commentary...

Avast, ye lubbers! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. We all know that pirates really aren't funny (just ask anyone who sails around the Horn of Africa), but a little whistling past the graveyard never hurts. A few days ago I saw a cartoon (which I didn't copy, and now can't find, dammit) that showed two pirates texting each other ... "R" ... "R" ... "R" ... "R"...

Well, I thought it was funny, anyhow.

Our forecast for today is for a sunny day with highs in the mid-seventies...maybe I can get some work done on our poor, suffering yard. But first things first - we have to try out the new waffle iron we bought this week! My waistline will hate me, but it'll be worth it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Cost of Intelligence, Air Travel, and Health Care

Yesterday Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, disclosed that United States intelligence operations worldwide over the past year employed some 200,000 people and cost $75 billion.


And that's just the government.

There is also a very successful commercial intelligence and forecasting firm called STRATFOR which produces some very interesting and thought-provoking analysis. Each week I receive a copy of their free newsletter (a teaser to get me - so far unsuccessfully - to subscribe to their rather expensive services), and find it fascinating. Here is a link to this week's topic, titled "Convergence: The Challenge of Aviation Security."

Having just returned from our recent trip to Colorado Springs, I'm still irked over the necessary, but maddening kabuki dance of airport security checks. But if you read the STRATFOR article, you'll learn that the latest threat to aviation security isn't hijackings or improvised bombs or shoe bombs, it's internal bombs.

The article reports on an assassination attempt against Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Nayef by a man posing as a repentant terrorist who got close to the prince, then used a cell phone to detonate a pound of explosives stuffed in his rectum. Think of it as a terminal fart.

Having described the grisly, if unsuccessful attempt to kill the prince, the article goes on to consider how it might be possible to protect against bombs actually stuffed into a body cavity, rather than carried in luggage or worn under one's clothing. I've gotten used to the baggage searches and the metal detectors and the pat-downs at the airport, but I'm not sure I'm ready to have a bomb dog sniffing my crotch each time I want to fly.

There is, nevertheless, a potential up-side to this situation, as pointed out by my good friend the Eminience Griese, who posts comments to this blog using his spiffy and original nickname, "Anonymous." He noted in an e-mail exchange yesterday that we might enjoy some potential savings in health care costs by combining airport security screening with prostate exams. Think of it ... we could cut back on the number of people the health care industry employs to examine our backsides, and ensure double use of all those rubber gloves the TSA folks at the airport go through each day. The potential savings are enormous.

Of course, not everyone would accept the wisdom of this plan. It clearly plays to the worst fears of the Hysterical Right over overly-intrusive government programs, and airline seats are uncomfortable enough already, without having to cope with the aftermath of a cavity search. But times are hard, and everything is on the table. So to speak.

As for me, if this comes to pass, I'm going back to riding Greyhound.

And as for the terrorist mastermind who dreamed up this latest tactic, just take your bomb and shove it up your ... uh ... never mind.

Have a good day. Cartoon Saturday is coming...


Thursday, September 17, 2009

"At My Earliest Convenience"

It really seems as if the standards of civility and good behavior we once observed are going the way of the dinosaur. From a member of Congress calling the President a liar during a live speech to the boorish and spiteful display of bad manners by Kanye West on a recent awards program, to young people loudly using foul language in public, we seem to have tossed common courtesy overboard in ways large and small.

I've groused about this often enough in my recent posts (and if you're tired of reading about it, well, there are about 300,000,000,000 other blogs out there for you to try), and it was brought home to me again recently when I ran once again into one of my major pet peeves...

Yesterday afternoon I called a clinic at my HMO (yes, I have health insurance, thank goodness) to make an appointment. The call was intercepted by the voice mail of the scheduling assistant, and her message ran like this...

"This is Deborah XXX, scheduling director for the XXX clinic. I'm either on the phone or away from my desk, but if you leave your name, phone number, medical record number, Doctor's name, and the date and time of your call, I'll get back to you at my earliest convenience."

The four words that really irk me are at my earliest convenience.

I've noticed that many people's voice mail include those four words, and I'm sure most of them are not really aware of what they're saying. I believe they're trying to say something like, as soon as I can, but instead they're saying at my earliest convenience. The message they're conveying, deliberately or not, is that my call isn't important enough to return can wait until it's convenient for them to return. Perhaps, oh, sometime in November. Or never. Is never okay for you?

Am I making too much of this? I don't think so. Our home voice mail message asks people (in English and German) to leave a message and we'll get back to them as soon as we can. When I leave a message on someone's answering machine, I may ask the other person to call back as soon as possible or at your earliest convenience...which is a polite way of asking for a return call. If, however, their recorded announcement promises to call me back at their earliest convenience, the implied message is a little different.

I think it reflects two things: careless use of language, and a subconscious belief that it's all about me.

It's a little thing, but it's sad, and it leads to the sort of behavior we're seeing all around us. Standards of language - written and spoken - and personal behavior are in decline. We owe each other more, but we've come to expect less.

Have a good day. Demand better behavior, particularly from those you elect to serve you.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood Bar...

When Agnes and I took our first cruise, one of the things we found we enjoyed doing was sitting in the lounge before dinner to sip a nice cocktail. The ship had a vast drink menu, and the bartender could mix up just about anything you could name.

And there are some drinks out there with odd names, to be sure. "Fuzzy Navel," "Boilermaker," "Virgin Mary" (a non-alcoholic "Bloody Mary"), "Sex on the Beach," and "Suffering Bastard," to name just a few. Yesterday, the matchless Miss Cellania published a list of Drinks for the 21st Century that was just too good not to share. In any event, facing the evening news is much easier with a drink in your hand. And so, coming soon to your favorite watering hole (with my favorites asterisked), are...

Absolute Zero = Absolut vodka over frozen nitrogen

* Alexander the Grrreat = Gin, creme de cacao, and sweet cream over corn flakes

American in Paris = Kentucky bourbon and champagne

Black Sabbath = Kahlua and Mogen David wine

* Blind Faith = Wood alcohol and sacramental wine

Blood Clot = Vodka, tomato juice, and Jell-O

Bloody Awful = Vodka and ketchup

Blue Moon = Corn whiskey and Aqua Velva

Brown Bowl = Vodka and Prune Juice

Coleman Cooler = White wine, soda, fried chicken crumbs, and sand

* Fuzzy Naval Base = Peach schnapps, orange juice, and ammonia

George Bush = George Dickel bourbon and Busch beer

Gorbachev = Vodka with a splash of port wine

* Honeydew the Dishes = Midori and Dawn

Marie Antoinette = Bourbon, cake mix, and flat beer

Martinizer = Gin, vermouth, and carbon tetrachloride

Mary Poppins = Vodka, tomato juice, and a spoonful of sugar

* Mexican Hairless = Tequila and Minoxidil

* Oil of Ole = Mazola and Sangria

Peter, Paul, and Mary = Potassium nitrate, Paul Masson wine, and tomato juice

* Phillips' Screwdriver = Vodka, orange juice, and milk of magnesia

Port in a Storm = Red wine and rainwater

* Quack Doctor = Cold duck and Dr. Pepper

* A Rum with a View = Bacardi and Visine

Rum-Pole of the Bailey = Bacardi rum, Popov vodka, and Bailey's Irish Cream

Sake-to-Me = Rice wine, punch, and nitrous oxide

* Scotch Tapeworm = Dewar's and Mescal

Shipwreck = Cutty Sark on the rocks

Short Wave = Ripple in a shot glass, ginger, syrup, and pomegranate

* Sinead O'Connor = Irish whiskey and Nair (I think this one's hysterical!)

* Skid Roe = Muscatel and caviar

Sour Kraut = Schnapps and lemon juice

Sundae Driver = Vodka, orange juice, and ice cream

Tequila Mockingbird = Jose Cuervo and birdseed

Anyone have any other ideas? The possibilities are endless...

Bottoms up!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Listening to Mom

In the context of our ongoing discussion of health care reform and the uninformed morons who are howling around the fringes of that important topic, I was interested to find this article on CNN yesterday: Mom Wasn't Always Right: Nine Updated Health Rules.

If you can't trust Mom, who can you trust?

Anyhow, it seems that some of the rules our mothers imposed on us as we grew up make sense, and some don't. Here is the lineup, with (of course) my commentary...

1. Eat more! Kids are starving (in Africa, Asia, etc)! True enough, although kids nowadays eat too much, don't get enough exercise, and too many are...well...fat. New advice: let the kids eat just until they're satisfied, and don't push them to eat more. And give them fewer desserts and more veggies.

2. Don't sit so close to the'll ruin your eyes! False. You may get eye strain, but the primary damage for sitting in front of the TV is brain damage from the stupid programming and headaches from listening to idiots on talk shows.

3. Don't read in the dark! Good advice. It leads to eyestrain and can, over time, promote nearsightedness. Of course, if you're reading anything written by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, or Nancy Pelosi, you can gain more useful knowledge from reading it in pitch blackness.

4. Don't'll get wrinkles! You might. But you'll get worse wrinkles from too much time in the sun without sunblock, or from sucking on cigarettes. In any case, it's better to smile more, even when the times don't give you all that much to smile about.

5. Sit up straight! Now that's good advice. Good posture helps your breathing and promotes good muscle alignment. Encouraging your kids to exercise will also help.

6. That music is too loud! It probably is. I often see young people on the bus who are playing music on their iPods so loudly that it bothers everyone around them. Channeled directly into their ears by earbuds, it can lead to hearing loss later in life. And angry glares from those around them.

7. We're having dinner together because that's what families do! A chance for everyone to sit down at the table is a good thing. It promotes the sharing of experiences and encourages everyone to take the time to eat a good, balanced meal. Assuming, of course, that Mom knows how to cook...

8. Eat your breakfast! True. A good breakfast provides the fuel to get the day started, and studies show that students who eat breakfast tend to do better academically. I suspect that most people who participate in tea parties and anti-government demonstrations don't eat breakfast.

9. Put on a'll catch a cold! No you won't. But you will get cold, and if it's more important to show what a manly stud you are by not wearing a coat, go for it. Maybe you look better in goosebumps.

Bonus entry...

10. Don't do that, or you'll go blind! Um...on second thought, we'll skip this one.

Listen to Mom's advice. She may not always be right, but she always has your best interests at heart. And someday, you'll wish she were there.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Five Surgeons

As long as we're still on the topic of health care, I figured I might as well break out this old joke. It has particular relevance nowadays...

Five big-city surgeons were discussing what types of people make the easiest patients on which to operate.

The surgeon from New York said, "I like to see accountants on the operating table, because when you open them up, everything is numbered."

The Chicago surgeon said, "Yes, but you ought to try electricians! Everything inside them is color-coded."

The third surgeon, from Dallas, said, "No, I really think librarians are easiest to operate on, because everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

The Los Angeles surgeon said he liked operating on construction workers "Because those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over."

The fifth surgeon, from Washington DC, just shook his head and observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable."

Have a good day. And - in the context of the health care "debate" - remember that there's a big difference between "facts" and "things loudly repeated because someone else said them and we just know they're true."

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

If You Weren't Tired Enough of the Health Care "Debate"...

My post last week castigating Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina for shouting "You lie!" at President Obama during the President's speech to Congress on health care reform brought forth a flood of comments. Everyone has an opinion on the subject, even if the opinion is limited to "I don't like it."

One exchange of comments took place between my friend Debbie and I, but didn't make it into the blog because the Blogger Screw-With-Your-Mind subroutine kicked in and wouldn't let her save her initial comment. The exchange thus took place by e-mail, which is why the rest of you didn't see it.

Debbie said she'd listened to a lecture by 'a Judge' (not further identified) who maintained that the President had, indeed, lied when he said the proposed health care reforms would not cover illegal aliens. As Debbie summarized his point, he noted, "... the stipulation in our Constitution that laws passed that cover all American citizens must equally apply to all legal and illegal aliens as well. Therefore if there is health care for all Americans it must cover the non-Americans as well. If Congress and the President enact such a law the Supreme Court will strike it down."

This got my research gland to start secreting, and I went back to the Constitution to read what it actually said. I didn't find anything like what the Judge said, but one of my co-workers directed me to the probable source of his position - the Fourteenth Amendment. This is what the relevant portion of this amendment says:

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Here is what I wrote to Debbie based on my read of this section (with minor edits to make this a more general discussion than the original one between us) ...

** Start self-plagiarization section **

"...(note) that the wording (of the 14th Amendment) clearly defines citizens as 'all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.' This would seem to preclude applicability of constitutional guarantees to those in the country illegally, particularly since it says 'and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.' If it applied to others, the correct wording would be 'or subject to the jurisdiction thereof.' This may be legalistic and grammatical hairsplitting, but it's what lawyers get paid to do (and bloggers, unfortunately, don't).

"We can take the discussion still farther by noting that the Amendment goes on to state that 'No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States...' This ensures that individual states cannot subvert the guarantees of the Constitution. But it goes on to say that, '...(no state shall) deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' This is probably open to endless legal debate, but the way I read it is that, yes, the states must apply the Constitution and federal law equally to everyone...and if the law specifically either applies to or excludes a particular class of individual (like someone here illegally), well, perhaps they should have stayed home.

"If you read all the comments posted to my blog post, you saw the one from my virtual friend Gilahi, who pointed out that this is a bogus argument in any case: illegal immigrants (and those who don't have/can't afford health insurance) go to hospital emergency rooms and free clinics for care, anyhow...and you and I end up paying for their treatment by way of the higher prices we pay for our own care or the higher taxes we pay to support facilities operated by local governments.

"This is a very difficult and complicated issue with no silver bullet solutions. I strongly believe that some form of "public option" needs to be a part of a multi-faceted solution that also includes (as a minimum) tort reform, separation of health insurance from employment, and some form of control over the cost of drugs. Illegal immigration is a separate, but closely-related issue...and you may recall that I have already published a comprehensive plan for immigration reform. If you've never seen it, let me know and I'll send you a copy.

"Sadly, nothing will get done until conservatives stop vilifying anything that involves government, and liberals stop living in a fairy-tale world of believing everyone should have access to everything without cost. It may not come across in my blog and e-mails, but I'm a fundamentally conservative person who is embarrassed (if not mortified) by the actions of congressional conservatives (read "Republicans"). I changed my voter registration from "Republican" to "Independent" long ago because I couldn't stand what the Republican party had changed into, and what the Democratic party had become."

** End self-plagiarization section **

I love it when I can recycle things I've already written to squeeze out a post!

So, what do you think about my arguments? As I told Debbie, I don't profess to be a Constitutional Law scholar or an expert in any sort of law. I haven't read all the laws based on the 14th Amendment and their legislative histories. But I do know how to read and, I think, separate what's actually being said from what the words can be tortured into saying. At least in the case of the applicability of the President's health care reforms to illegal aliens, I think the Constitutional basis is pretty clear.

But I'm sure some of you will disagree with me. Go for it. But support your arguments with facts, and not with ad hominem attacks or irrelevant diversions. The topic is important enough to deal with in a rational, factual way that respects honest differences of opinion.

Shouting, "You lie!" doesn't count.

Your turn.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Debbie, I assume you won't object to my use of our exchange...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cartoon Saturday Returns!

Gertrude Baines, the world's oldest person, has died at age 115; Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Lopez all turn 40 this year; yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11/2001; South Carolina reprehensive Joe Wilson, in a display of the civility we've come to expect in Congress, shouted "You lie!" at President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress earlier this week; and Israel has fired artillery barrages at Lebanon in retaliation for rocket attacks launched from that country.

Yep. It's high time Cartoon Saturday got back on the job.

There really isn't much that's funny about the rancorous and uncivil debate over health care, but we can try to look for the humorous silver lining buried deep within the dark cloud...

Everyone is spun up about the possibility of pandemic flu...swine flu, bird flu, whatever. At work, we're developing plans for how to keep working through a flu epidemic. Others have to work hard at epidemics, to speak...

My virtual friend Gilahi had an interesting comment thread on one of his posts this past week about the number of people he knows who seem to be failed chemists or chemical engineers. Like yours truly. Read the comments for a linguistic excursion into the concept of dragon poop soap. But I digress. This is an example of why I made the decision to move from chemical engineering to Linguistics as an academic major all those years ago...

Those of you who are familiar with the classic board game "Clue" (known in other parts of the world as "Cluedo") can appreciate this pair of cartoons...

And finally, when I get tired of harping on the virtues of civility and participation in public life, I can always fall back on the happy thought that I'm doing my own small part to make the world a better place...

It's going to be a short, but busy weekend of paying bills, visiting grandchildren, and doing laundry. Well, one out of three ain't bad.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, September 11, 2009


No, I am not talking about the sort of self-portrait I might take crayon in hand to draw. If I drew a self-portrait of myself, it would look as if it were done by Picasso the morning after the world's worst drunken binge. Even considering the model I'd have to work with, it would be ugly.

I subscribe to Garrison Keillor's daily "Writers' Almanac" e-mail, which offers a poem each day along with other literary history trivia. Yesterday's poem was written by Mary Oliver, and is titled "Self Portrait." I think it's great...

I wish I was twenty and in love with life
and still full of beans.

Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.

Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch

though I'm not twenty
and won't be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.

Well, I'm not seventy yet (thank goodness), but yes, I wish I could be twenty again...but only if I knew what I've learned in the 38 years since I was last 20. And I'd still love to be full of beans instead of (as with so many in Congress and the media) full of ... uh ... never mind.

Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Civility, Honesty, and the Health Care Debate

President Obama delivered his speech on health care reform to a joint session of Congress last night. A joint session of Congress...that means it helps to smoke a joint to ease the pain of listening to:

1. Republican demagogues.

2. Democratic demagogues.

3. Idiots, morons, and buffoons (see 1 and 2 above).

Whether or not you agree with the President's proposals (and I don't agree with all of them), I think we can agree that he did a good job explaining his positions and calling those to task who have complicated the already-complicated issue and stoked public anger by their gross and irresponsible (and generally false) exaggerations and hyperbole.

A new low in irresponsible behavior was set by Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina who, when the President said (truthfully) that his proposal would not cover illegal immigrants, shouted, "You lie!" To their credit, many other Republicans and virtually all the Democrats booed his boorish outburst (for which Rep Wilson later apologized...but likely only because he'd been called out on it).

CNN has done a good job of fact checking to cut through much of the bluster, exaggeration, and outright falsehoods surrounding the health care reform issue. You can also read well-researched, balanced, and documented analysis of the arguments at the website.

Will the President's speech help reset the hysterical positions of all sides of the health-care issue? Only time will tell. But I believe that his words at the end of the speech may have been the most important:

"...when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves."

Good luck, Mr President. With the shameful behavior shown by the blustering buffoons of the far right and the irresponsible fools of the far left - which drown out the logical and rational analysis we all need - you'll need it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Colorado Springs - Royal Gorge

Well, we're finally down to the last day of our trip to Colorado, and not a day too soon - there's just so much I need to blog about that's been stacking up for the last two weeks!

Last Saturday Agnes and I drove about an hour southwest of Colorado Springs to the town of Canon City to visit the famous Royal Gorge. This is an amazingly beautiful, thousand-foot deep gorge cut by the Arkansas River and spanned by the world's longest single-span suspension bridge. We actually saw the sights from two perspectives: first from the Royal Gorge Railroad train along the river at the bottom of the gorge, and then from the bridge far above.

Here's a sign at the top which offers a little history...

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. We first drove to Canon City to ride the Royal Gorge Railroad through the gorge. We opted for the most expensive tickets, buying seats in one of the VistaDome observation cars...

In this picture, you can also see the open car in front of the VistaDome car - this was for unobstructed photography, and (as you will see) we made good use of it. Our seats in the car were perfect - right in the front, offering great views all around...

The train wound its way through the gorge and back, passing magnificent vistas of the towering rock walls, the Arkansas River, and the Royal Gorge Bridge itself far above...

After passing through the gorge, the train stopped to wait for clearance for the return visit, then headed back to Canon City down the same route. Along the way, we passed many groups of white-water rafters working their way down the river, some more successfully than others...

After returning to the station at Canon City, we hit the gift shop (of course), then drove about ten miles to the site of the Royal Gorge Bridge itself. This was one of our first views of the bridge as we arrived, taken from a point near the boarding location for the aerial tram...

And here's the aerial tram...
I'm not particularly fond of heights, and so we didn't ride the tram. In fact, I wasn't really thrilled about walking over the bridge, either...intellectually, I knew it was perfectly safe, but it bounces and sways alarmingly as you walk (or ride across), and the gorge 1,053 feet below is visible through the gaps between the wooden planks of the bridge deck as you walk across. Agnes, far more adventurous than I, dragged me across the bridge and back. I don't look too terrified, do I? ...

And it was my braver-than-I Agnes who went right to the edge of the bridge and took this picture - straight down - of the train we'd ridden earlier in the day.

Here's another picture of the entire bridge, taken from Point Sublime on the far side...

And, of course, while the scenery is wonderful, you can just never find a bathroom when you need one...
There are lots and lots of other pictures, including some of the staged Old West-style gunfight at the park on the far side of the bridge, but time has run out and I need to get ready for work. I'll just add one more picture, though, in honor of Amanda. She's been blogging about the choking haze that covers Palembang (and most of Indonesia) at this time of year. I suggested looking at the bright side - the gorgeous sunsets such haze can provide. This is a view of a Colorado sunset, courtesy of the wildfires burning in California ...

Tomorrow, we're back to the usual commentary. For now, work looms on the horizon.


Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Colorado Springs - Seven Falls and the Cliff Dwellings

Today we continue our boring travelogue on Bill and Agnes's Visit to Colorado Springs by looking at two of the other places we visited: Seven Falls and the Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings Museum.

Seven Falls is - as you might suspect from the name - a series of seven waterfalls which cascade down a very steep cliff face. It's supposed to be especially beautiful at night, when the falls are illuminated with colored lights; however, as geezers in training who need to be in bed early, we visited early in the day. This is what the falls look like from the "Eagle's Nest," an observation platform across the valley...

If you look closely, or if you click on the image to view it at full size, you can see a very long set of very steep stairs that climb the cliffs next to the falls. Yes, we climbed those stairs all the way to the top. This is the warning that you see at the bottom...

And this is the view back down from the first landing...

Once at the top, you can proceed on via a series of trails to other beautiful vistas...

And other warnings...

Eventually, you reach "Midnight Falls," which is very beautiful and serene, but not as spectacular as the actual Seven Falls...

After climbing the 224 steps to the top of Seven Falls, we weren't in the mood to climb another 185 steps to the Eagles Nest observation platform, so we opted to take the elevator...

Having seen Seven Falls, we still had time to travel on to the town of Manitou Springs to visit the Cliff Dwellings Museum...

I must admit to being a little disappointed in this museum. It did feature a reconstruction of an old Anasazi cliff dwelling, but the rest of the site was far more gift shop than museum. Here are a few pictures of the cliff dwellings themselves...

And of the intrepid tourists who climbed around through the narrow tunnels...

On the whole, we enjoyed the cliff dwellings, but were disappointed that there was far less museum than gift shop. It's worth a visit, but is less educational than you might expect.

Tomorrow, we finish up our travelogue with a visit to the Royal Gorge - from the bottom and from the top. Be here. But first, we have to go back to work. Sigh.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.