Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year! And watch out for lasers!

Here's an interesting story. Apparently, somebody's shining laser beams into the cockpits of airplanes. Just what the air travel industry needed. I'm curious to see how the government and all its agencies react to this.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Warning System

Just in case you were wondering, there is such a thing. Here are the member states. I wonder if their membership is soon to increase? Of the countries hardest hit in the recent disaster, the only ones I see on the list are Indonesia and Thailand, though I don't know how much warning they received.

Also of note, according to this A.P. story, the country with the greatest amount of donated aid (The United States of America) has donated less than half of the amount of American corporations...I guess the heartless, greedy bastards aren't all bad.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Top 10 Rock Songs of All Time?

Here is a story about a poll by British radio station PLANET ROCK, in which their listeners picked the top 10 rock songs of all time. I think that a similar result would have been reached if they'd polled the Mallet Assembly (residential honors program at the University of Alabama) during my stay in the late 80's-early 90's. The Led Zeppelin content would have been the same, though KISS, Rush, and the Beatles would also have been represented.

Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" garnered 70% of the vote, but what really surprised me was that Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" came in second....I wonder if those snaggle-toothed Brits also liked "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Gimme Two Steps".

From age 13, when my Uncle Dan gave me "ZOSO" for Christmas, until my late 20's, Zep was the music most likely to be heard coming out of my speakers. Heck, I even loved (and ate a Shoney's dinner with) Dread Zeppelin. Then suddenly, my liking for their music seemed to ebb. Nowadays, I don't change the station if one of their songs come on, but I pop in a Zep CD no more often than once a month, and my MP3 player's Led Zepplin content is less than 1%.

Here's another "Tops" song list, but it's actually useful, as it has the tablature and lyrics, for my fellow rock-star wannabees.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Driving is a privilege, not a right...especially in Houston

The Houston Chronicle has a story about a new city ordinance taking effect in the "rocket city" come January 1, 2005. If your car breaks down, gets a flat, or otherwise becomes immobile on or along the freeway, you will be automatically towed (and charged U.S. $75) regardless of your wishes in the matter. I wonder how long it will be until a government-sponsored program to buy bullet-resistant vests for tow-truck drivers is announced.
Fun with Wookies!!!

My beloved gave me the special-edition 3-movie boxed set of the original 3 Star Wars films (episodes 4-6) for Christmas! Lucky me! Here is a website with some fun little Star Wars extras you can download, including the "so bad, it's...bad" Christmas special. I lifted the link off of Jeff "Axemurderer" Robertson's blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Wait 'til the movie comes out....and oh yeah, Merry Christmas

I'm looking forward to reading more about this Northern Ireland bank heist. It seems like the guys did an amazing job of stealing a ton of money that'll be really tough to spend. We Americans love a good bank robbery (at least since the FDIC sprang into being), and while I hope the bastards get caught, locked up, and never released, I do admire a well-crafted and well-executed (and well-hyphenated) plan.

This is the stage of the post where I usually go off on some crazy tangent, like--the creation of Northern Ireland being a really stupid idea, and who would win a chainsaw fight between Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, or something. Well, I've got insane last-minute Christmas shopping to do, I've gotta run...I'll ramble on next time.

I wish a Merry Christmas and a Sassy Saturnalia to you all. And for my Jew reader (you know who you are), I hope that your Channukhah was merry, happy, and holy, and that you are feeling much recovered. I don't know anyone who admits to me that they celebrate Kwanzaa (at least not seriously or reverently), but if any of my readers do, I hope you have/had a nice one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Another day of good news!

We had another OB appointment today, and Ferlotta is doing great, other than nausea, fatigue, back pain, cravings, indigestion, and every other pregnancy-related side-effect you can name. All kidding aside, though, she has been a real trooper, and I'm very proud of how well she has done with her suffering. Little Rani (aka Veronica, Nica and Baby V) is also doing well, and per the doctora's calculations, we could end up doing a C-section on my birthday, though that certainly remains to be seen. Thanks for all the well-wishes and cool gifts, and we'll keep you posted as to further developments.
The best thing they've done since kicking France's butt in WWII

Well, that is really just another facetious title, but I was seriously jazzed to read that the Germans are building a huge solar power generating facility. Story and link stolen from Mike. Like my good buddy, I am a big proponent of using solar power to create (at least some of) our electricity. It's clean, cheap (if done properly), and doesn't require a huge number of union workers getting paid outrageous salaries for doing what often amounts to very little work. It would be wrong to classify me as totally anti-union, but I am never to forget the stories told me by a friend's father who worked at a power plant in North Alabama. Of those stories, my favorite was about a rotating assignment to go around and wake up his "union brothers" so they could clock out prior to exceeding the allotted amount of overtime.

I'm sure that the Hun's Chancellor Shroeder and his left-leaning party will find some sop to the strong German unions, but if this German endeavor works, we would be wise to follow suit, as cheap energy (along with water) is going to be the primary currency of the future.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Hatch Done Gone

Our good buddy Hatch is away to Atlanta on assignment. By his leaving, he has managed to raise the average IQ of Nashville and the average air pollution index of Atlanta. My Hatch can accomplish this, and other things as well. He even finished the last half of his bedroom's bamboo floor without the burden of my help.

Until your back, my tubby one, we'll be holding candlelight vigils for your return every night.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Hmmmmm.....mebbe she needs a hate crime...

This woman, Kerri Dunn, was found guilty of vandalizing her own car in the faking of a "hate crime" against herself. She was convicted of filing a false crime report and insurance fraud.

I disagree with the notion of punishing a criminal differently because of the race/religion/peversion, what have you of the victim. Our Constitution guarantees that U.S. citizens have equal protection under the law, and the idea that some citizens should have more protections than others is unconstitutional, illegal, and wrong-minded. Some will argue that such "hate crime" legislation is necessary because our legal system hasn't protected minority rights in the past. Well, I say the solution is to reform the practices of our criminal justice system, not pass or maintain unconstitutional statutes that set some Americans apart, effectively making some victimizations more meaningful than others based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or other criteria.

This particular whack-job allegedly claimed to be kinda-sorta considering a conversion to Judaism at one point, which may be why she added anti-Semitic slurs to her scam, which helped to get coverage in the Israeli press after the Anti-Defamation League got involved.

I can't wait for the tv-movie....She's a dark-haired white woman, so I'm sure that it'll be Valerie Bertinelli in the role.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Howard Hughes

It seems that everybody's talking about the upcoming biopic, and I must admit being somewhat interested myself. Here's a few sites about the real (surreal?) man. We bring you entries from:

society of southern california a bit bland, but interesting
famous texans perhaps a bit rich on conspiracy theory, but lotsa documented facts.
the howard hughes corporation definitely made with love...requires the flash plug-in

Good book review

VDH wrote a good review of Dennis Ross' new book. This book is a chronicle of Ross' time (which I'm inclined to think of as poorly spent) as U.S. envoy to the Middle East. Here's a tendentious, butt-kissing bio of Mr. Ross, and an older, more critical article from a pro-Netanyahu website.

This was the birthday cake I had made for my precious Ferlotta this year...but please, follow the instructions, if you want a piece... Posted by Hello
I've always heard that family court is a screwy place...glad I've never been there.

Here and here are accounts of a wacky story from New Mexico family court. The stupid, inept, and doubtlessly corrupt New Mexico Department of Human Services had been requiring this unfortunate fellow to pay child support for a child who didn't exist.

A good friend of mine (most of you know who) is involved in a paternity suit involving a child with his ex-wife. Assuming that the ex-wife actually birthed said child, it cannot be his, nor that of anyone with his particular ethnic background. Despite the fact that the child is obviously not his, a variety of bureaucratic hurdles has been requiring him to pay child support for well over a year in order to stay out of jail....poor guy

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Hatch Floor

Last night, Ferlotta and I were called over to Casa de la Hatcher to help put in a hardwood floor. The job is not yet done, but never underestimate the ability of two fat-hairy-white boys who have no idea of what to do....we also don't know our limitations.

"Evil British Bastards"

Today, an elderly German lady came to visit one of my patients. The patient wasn't up for conversation (better living through sedation), so I ended up chatting with the charming alte frau (old woman in pidgin German), which turned into her holding me spellbound while she told WWII stories.

Her father was an engineer who travelled throughout Europe as "a consultant for the construction of large bridges". He had worked extensively in England, Holland and Russia in the years leading up to the War. He took his wife and young daughter with him, all of them learning Russian, Dutch, and English. While in Russia, a Englishman became a very close friend of the family, hosting them often in his home during their trips to England, and visiting them in Germany. When war broke out, her father was commissioned in the German army, but fell under suspicion when a letter from the Englishman was brought to a superior's attention. He was imprisoned for over two years, and after his release, was sent to the Russian front where he died.

During the fall of the Third Reich, Alte Frau and her mother lost two homes to bombs, and she told me, "We were amazingly fortunate to be found by American soldiers, and not the Russians. The Russians were like demons who raped or killed every German they found". Alte Frau's mother worked as a cook in an American officers's mess, which provided them some security, and ample access to food. "But when the Americans turned our area over to the British, my mother said it was the first time she'd wished Hitler had won. The Evil British Bastards cut back on the rations for the Army prisoners, and then they quit feeding the people."
Alte Frau went on to recount a story of a group of British soldiers burning a large supply of ripe vegetables instead of feeding them to the Germans, brutal beatings and rapes, and all manner of acts perpetrated by British soldiers against the German citizens (not soldiers) under their guard. These stories may have been isolated incidents, and they may not even be true, but I found Alte Frau's stories, and her different perspective, fascinating.

My generation was raised to think of the Germans as twisted nutjobs, and of the Brits as our friends and (along side the G.I. Joes) the true heroes of WWII. From the Germans that I've gotten to know, the first part seems to be true, so, I'm guessing the second part probably is, as well. Still, I loved listening to "the Tales of Alte Frau", and I hope to hear more.
Death of An Action Hero

Fernando Poe, Jr
is dead. He was an action-movie star who very nearly won the Philippine Presidential election of 2004. He was roundly mocked by the educated folks in the Philippines, but FPJ's popularity with "the masses", coupled with a growing frustration with the scandals of GMA's presidency, nearly had "The Brown Schwarzenegger" in the country's highest office.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hunted...better than you'd think

Last night Ferlotta and I curled up on the couch with my amazing homemade pasta alfredo (made with real olives and hot dogs), and watched.......The Hunted (no, not the lame Tommy Lee Jones/Benicio del Toro flick, the late 90's Christopher Lambert ninja movie). Here's the review that I wrote for Movie Skeptics.

Most of Christopher Lambert's filmography reads like a guide to B-movie hell. I got conned into watching this by a friend years ago, and will be forever grateful. The story is solid, Lambert turns in an almost-acceptable performance, and most of the rest of the cast does well. My favorite thing about the movie is the (by martial arts flick standards) realism. The gaijin does not miraculously learn to swing a sword like a samurai in a matter of weeks. The action sequences are exciting and well-executed (especially by 1990's b-movie standards), particularly a ninjas vs samuri scene on a Japanese bullet train. Some of the characters have a bit of complexity, there are a few little plot twists, and the character interaction is believeable. They also answer that age-old question "who'd win a fight between a middle-aged ex-athlete with a few months of kendo training and a ninja who's just lost an arm and leg"? (Lamberts's character is a former fencer turned businessman, but that bit's cut out of the dvd version, as is the monologue by Kinjo the ninja, which helps to serve---in part, at least, as an explanation as to why this movie, set in Japan, has almost an entirely Chinese cast). If you're in the mood for an fun, entertaining, semi-intelligent B-action flick, I whole-heartedly recommend this one. Oddly enough, the writer of "Pretty Woman" wrote and directed this flick, which may explain why Ferlie liked it, too

Friday, December 10, 2004

John McCain...Just say no!

Senator John McCain, a man who I respect, seems to be everybody's choice for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. I like the fact that he seems to think for himself, and that he has often publically told some of the Republican hardliners to piss off. Unfortunately, he does things like this (threatening federal government intervention in the making of professional baseball rules), reminding me that he's not someone I'd want as president. Making the rules of major league baseball isn't exactly one of the powers granted to the federal government by that old, largely ignored rag, the U.S. Constitution. The use of anabolic steroids, prepared testosterone, and most of the other things being discussed, by anyone in America (baseball players included) is illegal without a doctor's order. Medications/drugs are regulated (perhaps over-regulated) by laws and agencies at the state and federal level(some would argue the constitutionality of the FDA, but that's another post).

McCain's proposal to add federal oversight to the MLB is misguided, and shows, I believe, a basic flaw in the governing philosophy of an otherwise great man. This flaw will keep me from ever supporting him, unless we have yet another "lesser of two evils" election (of which I have no doubt.....sigh).

Monday, December 06, 2004

Yet another reason why I'm glad we live in Saudi no more

Jeddah (or Jiddah, Arabic names have no set Engrish spellings), which is actually quite a nice city on the Red Sea where I twice vacationed, was the scene of yet another attack on American in Saudi Arabia. Articles here, and here. Jeddah is the "liberal" or "open" city of Saudi Arabia, and as such, had the most lax security that I saw anywhere in the Kingdom, as well as the least restrictive enforcement of sharia, which made it much more fun than Riyadh.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Youth in Asia

This story, about the euthanizing of terminally ill children, has gotten a lot of folks up in arms. Those folks don't realize that this stuff (euthanasia, mercy killing, what-have-you) happens in American hospitals every day. We just don't write out policies for it. Having seen too many children, as well as adults, die in amazing, excruciating pain, I cannot find it in myself to condemn a single one of the cases of euthanasia that I've witnessed in America (the ones that I witnessed in Saudi Arabia are a whole 'nother story), all of them having been discussed at length with the patient and/or the family member the patient had appointed to make their decisions. I think that some of Jack Kevorkian's "mercy killings" were flat out wrong, but dismissing the idea of euthanasia because of your distaste for Kevorkian's brand of insanity fits the definition of "throwing the baby out with the bath water". While I'm not firmly decided, I'm inclined to believe that the current "off the books" practice of euthanasia in America generally works well in the instances that it is used. Perhaps the 'pickled-fish-eaters' are doing a good thing by forcing the discussion of the practice out into their country's mainstream. I have no doubt that the American public is not capable of handling such a discussion, unfortunately. I wish them better luck in the Netherlands (is that area properly called the 'nether region'?).

Oh Happy Day!

Today is our 45th "Monthiversary". We celebrated by following our regular ob check-up with dining at one of Ferlotta's favorite lunch places "The Hermitage House Smorgasboard", a Sunday-dinner style buffet that was founded by a WW II-era Czech immigrant and her G.I. husband. After a fine meal topped with the restaurant's trademark apple fritters, we ventured forth to spend a whole lotta money on a wide range of baby accessories. We had a blast, but we finally caved in to peer pressure and "got registered" at babies r' us and target....I've never liked the industrialization of sentiment, but I suppose I'm now a willing participant in the process I've long despised....oh well...