Tuesday, March 30, 2010


As I write this, nine members of a "Christian" militia group have been arrested for allegedly plotting to first kill a police officer and to then kill many more--along with their families and friends--by planting bombs at the funeral of said officer.

The scariest part? These folks all lived within a 50 mile radius of me. This wasn't some isolated survivalist cult living in the mountains of Idaho or the deserts of New Mexico or Arizona--this was a group living in southern rural Michigan, less than 50 miles from 2 major urban population centers (Detroit and Toledo). A co-worker of mine lives less than 10 miles from where these arrests happened.

And these were not Muslim fanatics, born overseas and in this country on expired student visas. These were U.S. citizens, born right here, and educated--if that word can be used--right here.

These are AMERICAN CITIZENS who apparently have no problem with thinking that extreme violence against the government of the country they were born in is perfectly acceptable. I wonder what they would think about such a plot being hatched against American troops deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But that's not the biggest irony in this whole affair. No. The biggest irony is that all nine of the defendants have asked to be represented by public defenders. These nine people. who seem to despise the government and everything it stands for, have no problem with that very government defending their rights.

To paraphrase quotes from The West Wing*:

"What do you say about a government that defends the rights of all of its citizens, even when they want to destroy it?"
"God Bless America".


*Check out Season 2, Episode 3

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In Memoriam

Robert Martin Culp--August 16, 1930 – March 24, 2010

Most folks who are, on average, about 10 years or more older than me, will remember him as the star of I Spy, the TV show that is perhaps best known as being the first network TV show to feature a black actor (Bill Cosby) in a leading role. It was the show that launched Cosby's career.

I mostly remember him from his role as FBI agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero, a TV show probably better known for it's title song than anything else (Believe it or Not)

But to a much younger generation, he will be forever known for a far more obscure, and yet also far more notorious role: The voice of the evil Dr. Wallace Breen, the puppet administrator of post-invasion Earth installed by the Combine between the events of the FPS games Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Few game villains have ever been more reviled--a sleazy, smarmy opportunist who manipulated events that took place after Earth was conquered by invading aliens to seize the kind of power he never would have gained otherwise. (For those non gamer-speak savvy folks, FPS stands for First Person Shooter.)

It's a role that probably gained him more fame than he ever got from his other roles. After all, Half-Life became one of the most popular FPS games in history, and its sequel, Half-Life 2 and its follow-up episodes became one of the biggest sellers in video game history, and it earned over 40 Game of the Year awards. I'm not ashamed to admit I played the game. I still play it on a regular basis. It's one of those games that never gets boring.

It may not be the greatest legacy in the world to be known to gamers far and wide as the voice of one of the biggest villains ever created, but I think he probably enjoyed the notoriety.

Farewell Dr. Breen!

There was no one that we members of the human resistance loved to hate more than you!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Far Will They Go?

Teabagger activists posted the home address of Democratic Congressman Tom Periello on the web and told people to "stop by and thank him" for his yes vote on the Health care reform bill.

Apparently someone took this advice at face value. At this address, the main gas line that feeds the house was found cut.

One problem: The address they posted was not the Congressman's but his brother's. A married man with 4 young children.

I have been increasingly concerned about the Tea(bag) Party. It was Mahatma Gandhi that once said, "First they ignore, you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Well, first we ignored them. Then we laughed at them. Now we are fighting them.

The difference, however, between the Mahatma's situation and ours, is that he was fighting for a good cause. He was fighting for the independence of his country, against a tyrannical colonial power that was oppressing his people.

In this case, however, progressives are fighting against a health care system that has placed profit over people. We are fighting against a health care system that can drop you from coverage the moment you get an illness that might cost them too much money. We are fighting against people who are opposed to big government spending only when a Democrat controls the White House. And we are fighting against people who are in favor of states seceding from the union, and who seem to like it when an AMERICAN CITIZEN loads a small plane full of too much gasoline and crashes it into a Federal government office!

These people are NOT on the side of good, or right. There is nothing about these people that is to be admired. And we cannot lose the fight against them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Insanity

It never fails.

Every year, I scoff at the silliness of the NCAA basketball tournament. 65 teams, most of whom have no business being there, play each other in a single elimination tournament that completely captivates the entire country for two and a half weeks.

The first bit of silliness is the play-in game. 2 low level teams that have no business being there in the first place play each other for the honor of being eliminated by a number one seed.

The second bit is matching the 16th seeds with the 1st seeds. In the 25 years since the tournament was expanded to 65 teams, not once has a 16th seeded team beaten a 1st seed.

And the final bit is the inevitability of a first-seeded team or two falling by the wayside. Everyone from the professional sports commentators to the people at the water cooler seem amazed by it. This never ceases to amaze me. How can anyone expect the opponent of a favorite to bring nothing less but their A game to the battle?

And the game itself is silly. It has become not so much a sport as a circus sideshow. After all, how can anyone possibly be that tall?

But I always fall for it. I dutifully fill in my brackets every year. I don't put any money on it--learned that lesson the hard way a long time ago--but I do follow it. And inevitably the choices I make are wrong. Case in point: Only one team I picked to be in the Final Four is still in the running.

But there are stories to be proud of too. I have spoken with a man I work with who attended Cornell. He says that for Cornell to have a competitive team is unusual. The reason for this is that Cornell does not offer athletic scholarships. Imagine how hard it must be to put together a competitive basketball team with nothing but athletes who are not only smart enough to attend an Ivy League school but also talented enough to compete on the higher levels.

Yeah. It can't be easy.

That's why I fall for it every year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Got my Vote!

It's been a few weeks now since the Supreme Court officially announced it's decision that corporations could buy as many elections as they want to (In case you didn't notice, I don't sugarcoat things. I call them as I see them).

And now, one corporation has decided to follow that decision to its logical conclusion.

The saddest part? You only THINK it's a joke. Trust me when I say it's not.

What really grinds my gears the most is the blowhards who claim that the decision also means unions are free to support candidates of their choice. The fallacy in that argument is that unions and other people-powered movements don't have a fraction of the spending power that corporations can bring to bear.

Government of the Corporation, by the Corporation, for the Corporation.

And Chief Justice Roberts has the gall to criticize the President for chastising the supreme court's decision during the SOTU. With all undue respect, Mr. Chief Justice, screw you. I hope you somehow catch a painful, crippling, venereal disease. Of course, since you've probably never been laid in your life, that's not likely to happen.

I told you I don't sugarcoat.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Celebrity Deaths

The past 2 weeks have seen the deaths of Corey Haim, Merlin Olsen, and, just yesterday, Peter Graves.

Many people have pointed out the tendency of celebrity deaths happening in threes--three not necessarily all well-known, but usually notable, celebrities all dying within a two week period. If there is any doubt that this theory exists, simply search "celebrity deaths in threes". You'll get tens of thousands of results.

Many have devoted much effort to explaining this theory, proving or disproving it, or even gambling on it.

Many theories to explain it have been advanced, but my own personal one is this, without any research or whatnot:

Celebrities simply cannot subconsciously allow anyone to hog the spotlight alone, even if they do it by dying.

Meh. Whatever.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

As if I Needed Another Reason...

...to not be a Catholic.

Let me say, as I have said time and time again, that I do not have a problem with Catholics in general. I know many and am friends with some good Catholics. Our Vice President is Catholic--And he is a good and kind man, as far as I know. Most Catholics, as far as I can tell, are kind, honest, decent people. Not all that different from most people of other faiths.

What I cannot tolerate, however, is the rigid intolerance of the leaders of that faith, as graphically displayed in the story linked to above.

Figures of authority in any given organized religion by their very nature hold tremendous sway over their congregation. They have the power to declare what is right and wrong, with the full power of the faith supposedly behind them.

However, in this day and age, when narrow minds hold such power, they are beginning more and more to find themselves on the wrong sides of an issue.

I am a heterosexual. Personally, I find the idea of homosexuality repellent (except in certain cases of hot lesbian porn--but let's not go there!). But that's my opinion, and--most of the time anyway--I keep it to myself. If, however, I were a teacher at the school referenced in the news story, and I were assigned to teach the student in question, I would have no problem with it.

The job of a school is to provide a quality education for every student who wants it. It should not and can not matter who any student's parents are. And, in the case of a private school, it should by no means deny the quality education it can provide to any student whose parents can afford to provide it. On the contrary--any parents that want to provide quality private education for their child(ren) should be applauded, not forbidden due to vagaries of faith!

Catholics as a whole need to step back and take a good look at what they are being told by their leaders, both locally and from The Vatican. The current doctrine of the Catholic church was laid down in medieval times, and little has changed since. Such dogma simply cannot thrive in this day and age.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections on a Trip to Paradise

Back on the Mainland of the U.S., during winter, I want to share a few observations about the only U.S. state that is a chain of tropical islands.

* Hawaii is a United State. It is also the only one that cannot be reached via land vehicle of any kind.

* It is the only state that you are required to fill out an immigration form to visit. It may be disguised as an agricultural information form, but let's call a spade a spade...

* It is the only one of two states where you are warned that prices advertised on TV do not apply. Case in point: Subway's $5 footlongs cost $6.99 there.

* It is a state where primetime TV starts at 6 PM.

* It is a state where travel between some of the cities requires traveling either by plane or boat.

* It is a state where you can observe people living in conditions you would expect to see in a 3rd world country. Sadly, the state is by no means unique in this regard...

* It is a state where 70 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a "cool day". Wimps.

* It is a state where residents often speak a foreign language that is spoken regularly in no other state in the country.

* It is a state that desperately needs a lot of help that it will probably never get, due to its geographic isolation and lack of political power.

And, it is a state that I recommend everyone visit at least once in their lives, if they can. There are few things in life that don't disappoint. Hawaii is one of them. For all the negatives mentioned above, it's hard to be unhappy when visiting a state where it is sunny and warm when every other state in the country has snow someplace. I'd live there if I could afford it.

Mahalo, Hawaii, for a wonderful vacation experience. I hope to return to your sunny shores again. Hopefully, it won't take another 42 years before that happens.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 7

Day 7

My last day on the island paradise of Hawaii.

My dad had an early flight to Los Angeles, so he could catch the train back to Toledo

(My dad loves the train. If there was a train to Hawaii, he would have taken it there.)

I had a late afternoon flight. I managed to spend as much time as possible soaking up some sunshine. The shuttle to the airport was 1/3 of the cost of a cab ride. The only way I can think of that cab drivers survive in this state is that they prey on the naive tourists. Lesson to learn: Don't be a naive tourist.

Before I left, I threw the two flower Leis we received into the Ocean. We kept them in our hotel refrigerator for the week. Tradition says that they should be thrown off the boat as you leave the island, However, since neither of us was leaving by boat, and since throwing things off a moving airplane is frowned upon, I threw them off the breakwater at the beach. Tradition also says that if the Leis you throw off return to shore that you will be back. Both of them did, about 5 minutes after I threw them. I guess we'll both be back there someday. (I gotta say that I hope to return there one day.)

My return flight took me back to Detroit, by way of Atlanta. The return flight was a LOT shorter than the trip out there. Tailwinds.

Upon my return to Detroit, there was 6 inches of snow on my car. Welcome back to winter in the Midwest. Welcome back to reality. Crap.

This is my last entry on my trip. Next post, I go back to being the cynical curmudgeon I usually am.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 6

Day 6, continued

After lunch, we headed up towards Volcano National Park. On the way, we stopped at the plant orchard that features the orchid valued at $20,000.

Please, in the name of all that is holy, do not ask why this plant is valued at this. Trust me when I say that it's a claim that does not stand up to careful scrutiny. I bought a $.79 key chain at this store that is more valuable to me than this plant.

We eventually entered the national park. This is a park that contains ACTIVE volcanoes. No one knows when they might pop off again. This is a picture of a caldera of an active volcano. You might notice it's the size of a small town...

The park is also peppered with steam vents. If you recall your basic high school physics, you know that steam is actually invisible. The white stuff that you see is actually water vapor that has changed from complete gas to partial liquid. So visible steam is cooled enough to be harmless. Observe...

(An aside: yes, that is me. Aren't you all glad I don't post pictures of myself more often?)

We headed back down the mountains after this. We stopped at an exit where we could walk through a lava tube. If you ever get a chance to walk through a tube of solid rock that once upon a time had red hot molten lava flowing through it, then do it! You won't be disappointed.

We returned to Hilo, Hawaii, and I was disappointed to find that Wal-Mart had invaded.

At the airport, after traveling through security, we spent our time in the Hilo airport departure lounge. Note to Homeland Security--who will soon surely ship me to Guantanamo--check folks who wear cargo shorts! I had in my pocket a 6 ounce bottle of sunscreen that went through security undetected. I am kidding about this by the way.

I have to say that of all the airport lounges I have been in, this one was the most comfortable by far! The chairs and couches were all fitted with comfortable cushions, and it was very easy to become so comfortable you didn't want to leave, especially after spending a day in constant motion. We nearly missed our flight!

We finally arrived back at our resort at nearly 11 PM...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 6

Day 6

My dad and I scheduled a tour of the big island of Hawaii this day. For those of you who don't know, the island of Hawaii is the BIG island that you can see on every map of the U.S. It is the biggest--and newest--island of the island chain. It is the one that still contains the bulk of the active volcanoes that formed the islands in the first place.

The first step was getting there. We flew out of Honolulu airport via Go! airlines, which is a VERY small regional airline that has dreams of being a LOT bigger. It never will be, though, because it believes in friendly customer service, arriving and leaving on time, and thinking that the comfort of your passengers is more important than making a profit.

We boarded the tour bus for our tour. Our first stop was Rainbow falls. Sadly, due to the extreme drought being experienced by the islands, the falls was more like Rainbow trickle.

We then visited the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut factory and store. If you've never had a Macadamia nut, then you don't know what you are missing. they are delicious, sweet, and not to be missed. If you do nothing else in this life, taste a Macadamia nut before you die. (I recommend the Maui onion and garlic flavored ones.)

We journeyed up the steep island slope. It is important to remember that the Hawaiian island chain was formed by volcanoes. Those volcanoes are still active, and are doing their best to add to the land mass of their island chain. We stopped for lunch at a drive in that resides at the base of a lava plain that covered over six square miles of what was once open Pacific ocean.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 5

Days 4 and 5.

It would be nice to say that we did something on these days, but it would be a lie.

I live in Northwest Ohio. From October to April, this is a city that gets maybe 5 days of sunlight during that entire six month period if we're lucky. So on these two days I spent most of my time lying on a chaise or swimming in the resort pool or lagoon. I applied 30 SPF sunblock in a futile attempt to obtain a tan, but my combination of Scandinavian and Irish genes rendered that attempt futile.

Suffice to say that nothing itches more than second degree sunburn.

I am a simple creature, with simple tastes. I am happiest when I am doing nothing. And nothing is what I did for 2 days on Hawaii.

If any of the 3 readers of this blog have a problem with that, then I invite them to take a week away from their jobs and travel to a place that requires nothing of them other than to lie down and soak up sunrays.

It's not something that's easy to pass up.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 4

Day 4

Returning the rental car was on today's agenda, after a morning spent fat-assing around the hotel doing as little as possible.

Returning the rental car meant going back to Honolulu airport. There were a few ways to get back to the resort once I returned it. My choices were a cab ride, or relying on Hawaii public transportation (= The Bus).

Cab: $30
The Bus: $2.25
(By the way, "The Bus" is not my name for Hawaii's public transportation system--it's theirs. Seriously. It's simply called "The Bus". It's not terribly original, but why should they call it anything else when it's the only one available?)

Easy choice.

It's quite a remarkable thing. Riding a bus in Honolulu is a lot like riding a bus in any other city in the country. Crowded, smelly, and with non-existent shock absorbers. I have experienced being completely dependent on public transportation before, though, and it is not fun.

But hey, the price is right. And I did my small part to help keep Hawaii green.

After day four, we had little to do except a lot of nothing...