Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's cool at the beach

Heard it's another hot one in PDX, but we're happy at the manzanita hot-dog stand, listening to our friends playing music, and liesurely digesting a hot-dog and ice-cream cone (coffee-almond fudge).

Friday, July 24, 2009

brilliant bill maher screed

"How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. It used to be that there were some services and institutions so vital to our nation that they were exempt from market pressures. Some things we just didn't do for money. The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us. But now it's becoming all that we are.

Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a "war profiteer" was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations. There are more private contractors in Iraq than American troops, and we pay them generous salaries to do jobs the troops used to do for themselves ­-- like laundry. War is not supposed to turn a profit, but our wars have become boondoggles for weapons manufacturers and connected civilian contractors.

Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason --­ who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you're going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that's where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That's why America has the world;s largest prison population ­-- because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Television news is another area that used to be roped off from the profit motive. When Walter Cronkite died last week, it was odd to see news anchor after news anchor talking about how much better the news coverage was back in Cronkite's day. I thought, "Gee, if only you were in a position to do something about it."

But maybe they aren't. Because unlike in Cronkite's day, today's news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the CBS Evening News broadcast live from the Staples Center for two nights this month, just in case Michael Jackson came back to life and sold Iran nuclear weapons. In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies.

And finally, there's health care. It wasn't that long ago that when a kid broke his leg playing stickball, his parents took him to the local Catholic hospital, the nun put a thermometer in his mouth, the doctor slapped some plaster on his ankle and you were done. The bill was $1.50, plus you got to keep the thermometer.

But like everything else that's good and noble in life, some Wall Street wizard decided that hospitals could be big business, so now they're run by some bean counters in a corporate plaza in Charlotte. In the U.S. today, three giant for-profit conglomerates own close to 600 hospitals and other health care facilities. They're not hospitals anymore; they're Jiffy Lubes with bedpans. America's largest hospital chain, HCA, was founded by the family of Bill Frist, who perfectly represents the Republican attitude toward health care: it's not a right, it's a racket. The more people who get sick and need medicine, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they're always pushing the Jell-O.

Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision," where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.

When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

And if medicine is for profit, and war, and the news, and the penal system, my question is: what's wrong with firemen? Why don't they charge? They must be commies. Oh my God! That explains the red trucks!"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

transition day

Yesterday, I was rushing around from 7 am thru 10 pm, and a dozen chores got done. There's a certain satisfaction in ending a day that began with the thought "Oh, my god, I have so many things that must get done today" with the thought "nailed it".

Today is the lull before the next wave of frantic activity. Two of our three house guests for the upcoming week are now arrived and getting settled. We leave for a week at the beach on Saturday, just as the temperature is to approach 100.

Portland's most-sustained heat-wave in over 30 years is about to hit, and we are going to be basking in the 70 degree temps in Manzanita. It doesn't always work out this way.

Today, I water veggies and shrubs, mow the lawn, and start making lists of bike, dog, and people things to take. Maybe I'll even get to do 15 minutes of paid work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

unfortunately, sometimes it's OK that Big Brother is Watching

This morning, I purchased, by credit card, two train tickets for one leg of our Spain trip (Figueres to Tarragona). There is only 1 train on the morning in question that will meet our needs, so I thought it made sense to claim our seats now (before the Dollar drops any further against the Euro - sheesh!).

Although the site was in Spanish, I negotiated the steps without any problems. I did have one moment of panic when, just as I was preparing to print the tickets, I thought for a terrifying 12 seconds that I had inadvertently reversed the origin and destination. Fortunately, all was correct. Tickets are printed and in my soon-to-be-bulging envelope of Spain documents.

Less than five minutes later, I was outside digging an invasive plant from a flower bed when I heard the inside phone ring. Often, when working outside, I let it go to the answering machine. This time, I pulled off my gloves and picked it up.

It was an automated call from my credit-card issuer, asking me to confirm my identity and then confirm the 'suspicious' purchases, which included today's Spanish train tickets and Karen's trip to our local Safeway, last night.

I wonder, if I hadn't answered the phone, if they would have put a hold on the ticket purchase, requiring me to jump thru hoops to get it authorized? At any rate, I have to admire their program that must scan every purchase, looking for something that breaks the usual purchase pattern, and triggers a phone call within a couple of minutes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


We've been doing a lot of yard and clean-up work at our rental house, getting ready for the new folks, who are starting to move their stuff in next weekend.

It's always odd for me, to hang out at that house, where our bug boys (who, at this moment, 10:30 am on Sunday morning, are both asleep in our house) were little boys. Ben moved out of his apartment yesterday (one more car-load of stuff to go), and will be staying here 'temporarily'.

Dylan, we think, is off to his camp counselor job one of these days. We just don't know much about his plans.

Long, hot spell is coming to Portland - expected to be in the 90's all week, culminating next weekend with a projected 99 degree day. Fortunately, that's the day we head to Manzanita for a week, with Ben staying home to feed cats and (we hope) water veggies and shrubs.

Zucchini is starting to enter our lives in a big way. I've got 3 monsters in the fridge already, with more coming by the hour. Anybody have any good recipes?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

living a cliche

Helping Ben move his stuff into the basement. His lease for the room he is renting in a house in NE Portland is up in a couple of weeks, and our months-long search for a house for him to buy (with room-mates) has not been successful (although we have had the pleasure of viewing some genuine dumps during the search).

We do have an offer in on one house, but the bank is dragging its feet making a decision and we ran out of time, so my 22 year-old son is moving back home, 'for a couple of months'.

We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

painful, but not awful

I replaced my ailing 8525 with a Tilt (thanks, again, craigslist). I had dropped the 8525 and it had fallen victim to the common 'White Screen' flaw.

It involved reinstalling my favorite programs (i.e. hunting thru saved emails to find the one with the ridiculous registration code) and insuring that my POP3 email and calendar sync was working correctly.

Then, after all that, a Google search informed me that there was an updated ROM for this phone, so I did that upgrade, and then had to do all the above all over again.

End result: I think I once again have a reliable phone, this time with some additional cool features (like GPS and a much better camera) and (most important) a lot more available memory PLUS a 4 gig storage card (up from 2).

Now, I just need to have AT&T unlock it for me, and I am good-to-go for using it in Spain.

As to why I don't get an iPhone like everyone else in the world, it's simply because I support programming I've done for Windows Mobile devices, so that's what I need. Yes, I could probably get a cheap iPaq for testing (in fact, I had one and sold it - DOH!), but I just can't see myself giving Steve Jobs the satisfaction of buying into his dream of world conquest.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

i've decided to be happier

Despite all the recent studies predicting a looming global environmental catastrophe (see recent posts), I am going to concentrate today on thinking good thoughts about my tomatoes, peppers, and squashes.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

listen to the experts

Hansen on the Waxman-Markey bill. It ain't pretty.

the power of Google's Search engine

This morning, I Googled the search string:

"Can't find project or library" and "trap" and "Access"

because I need to find out how to trap this error in Microsoft Access. Google pointed me to a page that did indeed relate to Microsoft Access compile errors, but look at the sponsored link at the top of the page:

I guess programmers might also need assistance with the other kinds of 'traps'.

UPDATE: 5 minutes later.

It just keeps getting better. As I drill down, I now see that "Mr Rooter Plumbing" has been joined by two other enterprises related to traps:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

i'm bad, i know it

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Isn't it ironic?

Watching all the tv news coverage of fireworks shows across the nation, there were several shots of workers transporting many large boxes to staging areas.

Each box was clearly stamped 'Made in China'.

Friday, July 03, 2009

who are these guys kidding?


Isn't it totally clear by now that the elected officials of the Industrial world are not going to do a damn thing about this.

We are just going to let it happen, let the brown people fend for themselves, and stock up on ammunition. Can't mess up the corporate profit picture for the next quarter or two.

out of the dog-house!

new computer was a success. all files restored.

I'm heading up to Karen's office now, to rebuild a more-comprehensive backup-regimen.

it's been a very wild couple of days. now, all I have to worry about is how to deal with our non-communicative younger son, who, it appears, has pretty much flunked out of college, and is about to have to deal with the consequences (i.e. no more financial support for the indefinite future).

Thursday, July 02, 2009

things are improving

At least my neighborhood computer store was able to pull files off of Karen's questionable hard-drive, saving my marriage.

I bought a new computer from them, and will spend the rest of the day rebuilding things and copying files, so that the new guy can get dropped into her network and both Karen and her assistant can feel comfortable again.

Not out of the woods yet, but at least I am half-way out of the dog-house.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

lots of bad stuff

Bad patch here.

Lost my good sunglasses, someone broke the mirror on my bike helmet, Karen's main work computer crashed bad and her last back-up was June 4 (trying to recover what we can), just got a $1500 estimate for a small roof repair, and, worst of all, just received a letter from my younger son's university, following up on his 12-month academic suspension (which, somehow, he neglected to mention when he was in town for a few days last week).

All in all, it's time to look for a silver lining.