Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moves

Sunday, two friends came over and helped move Jordy's bedroom suite. She helped for a while, but then had to leave for work. Jordy seems to have a magical ability to produce...stuff, and then, to make it disappear when she needs or wants it. I love that girl.

Anyway, with all three boy scout types here, no one had rope. We loaded everything on an eight-foot trailer, and it appeared to be wedged in fairly well, and headed out for The Nook. We had just pulled out of Little Momma's subdivision when our tow vehicle flashed its lights at us in the lead car.

It seems the mattress and the box mattress started to shake pretty violently almost immediately, so I ended up riding in the trailer, holding onto the mattress with one hand, and the box mattress with the other. I was feeling my inner redneck breaking free, I can tell you.

We made it to The Nook (only two miles away) with only the loss of my Molon Labe hat (later recovered).

That night, we had our first guests, as Doug, Faith, Christina and Scott dropped by to socialize and watch a movie. Everyone had a great time, and I finally, finally crunched into some Fiery Habanero Doritos. I've been trying to get my hands on these since before I left for Afghanistan. Doritos seems to be going nuts with the flavors now- I'm pretty sure they have Chocolate Chip Muenster Cheese now- but the Fiery Habanero Doritos are the best Doritos ever. Really. Spicy but not overwhelming, and flavorful. Great with red wine or a bubbly soda.

Clayfeet

Saturday, I went to a dear friend's house to retrieve some dishes he was kind enough to let me store when I left for Afghanistan. My god. I searched for over half an hour, straight, in one tiny room, until I found them. I know some folks who are widely respected, and read, in the blogosphere and online community. I love these people.

But I have stood in dirty kitchens, been knee-deep in hair balls, gun articles, and sturdy swords, and stared, amazed, at piles of empty Diet Mountain Dew bottles and discarded potato chip bags. I may be hanging out with someone who has mastered the new rhetoric, conquered the old-style battle reminiscence, or awed the world with artistic talent, but from where I'm standing, they have feet of clay.

Sigh. But I love them. Regardless of what you hear, reality is better than fantasy, and a real, live, steadfast friend is better than any imaginary icon. Even if they can't cook, or keep the world's most untidy home. Warts and all.

So, let's raise a glass to friendship...somewhere else, where I can see the floor!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hospitals and Reports

Tuesday night Little Momma had to go back to the hospital. Her visit was prompted by a long-term medical issue she has, but with so much time spent in the hospital lately, she really hated going.
I was happy to be able to be there for her, but also missed being able to use that time for working on a report for my SPED class. Wednesday afternoon, I picked up the keys to The Nook, and after spending a couple of hours working on my paper, Jordy and I went to spend a little time in our new place.

And then I came back and worked until 0630.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Riding Home from Class

with the huge illustrated book of Muslim propaganda that Doc Nugget gave me- evidently sent to all members of the ASU history faculty (and perhaps all members of every department), a midsize black dog darted in front of the Grand AM. I slammed on the brakes and honked, fortunately missing the pup, who gave me a puzzled look.

The huge tome hit the floor of the car hard, ripping the binding. I looked at it briefly when I got home.

Every page is full of beautiful pictures, with some variation of "this XXXX has not changed in 100 Million billion years. This proves that evolution is not true." Every damn page.

Now, people should stand up for their beliefs, certainly, but show a little originality, hm? EVERY PAGE?! What the hell?

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't hit the dog.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Editorial

Geekwitha45 had this to add:

After the Danish cartoon thing was artificially whipped into a frenzy 3 or 4 months after publication, Jihadists where quoted as saying, "You have no right to insult Islam."

In full accordance with the laws and ethos of my culture, yes, I absolutely do have the right to fully, with malice aforesight, insult Islam, Christianity, Judiasm, Zoroastrianism, Communism, Paganism, Socialism, Heathenism, or any other damn ism I please.

-All your ism's are belong to me. Screw them, I say-.

Get it?

There are a lot of rights I -don't- have, for example, to incite violence against members of whatever ism, but I most certainly have the right to insult it.


That we are even discussing this, that we even have to re-establish the baseline meaning of freedom of speech amongst a liberty oriented crowd is extremely disheartening.

What has blurred this once universally held line is the concept of "Hate Speech". While I don't particularly hate anyone or thing, and therefore don't have a particular use for it, I categorically reject the concept of "Hate Speech", recognizing it for what it is: an attempt to redefine the meaning of freedom of speech, to chill public dissent and discourse, and to increment us towards the cognitive tyranny of political correctivism.

You Knew it was Coming

If you take an idiot..who thinks he can get away with murder, so to speak (because he has)...who feels slighted...

Can we really be surprised that OJ Simpson appears to have committed armed robbery? I saw some footage Friday afternoon about this on Fox, including some quotes from Simpson, who basically said, who cares, no-one got roughed up...

The Bounty on Chris Muir's Head

To the right on my blog page is my link to Chris Muir's Day by Day, a well-drawn political cartoon. Chris stays much more aware of politics on a, well, "day by day" basis than I do. He chiefly seems to use his work to lampoon the American political left, especially those who do not support our troops, and take extreme, ridiculous stances.

As probably every reader is aware, many radical Muslims have called for the execution of cartoonists who published art believed to be insulting to Mohammed. This became international news in late September 2005, when the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten released a page of cartoons about radical Islam. These cartoons evidently badly offended some Muslims, who threatened to kill everybody and their mother, bomb the newspaper in question, and did in fact lead to some deaths worldwide.

It is sad that cartoons, of all things, can lead to some groups' willingness to kill other human beings. In a world filled with violence, disease, and death, surely any thinking person has better things to do than try to kill people because they've laughed at his imaginary friend. What is even sadder and more ironic, are those who've apologized to these infantile terrorists for not taking them too seriously.

My own brother is one of many who created cartoons satirizing "the Prophet", not because of any inherent dislike of Islam, but in the name of freedom of the press. Chris Muir has thrown his hat into the ring today with this cartoon. Realist that he is, he must know there will now be people intent on killing him, if they can. Since he's willing to risk his life to back up his beliefs, take the time to check him out.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Travels and Travails

Little Momma is doing well after her last surgery. Jordy and I are riding up today to Hartwell, to meet with Jordy's two sisters and their families.

I hadn't planned on going, but Jordy's car is in the shop. Big Daddy told me I "should" go, even though I protested that I had lots of schoolwork to do, and that I was busy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

May This be the Last

Surgery to close Little Momma's back has been postpone twice. She's scheduled to go into the hospital at 0600 tomorrow. Hopefully, this will be the last medical procedure she'll have to undergo for a LONG time.

Someone New

A friend I've talked to on the net since 'way back in 1998, and who I had the pleasure of meeting in the flesh at the end of '03, is finally starting a blog. Nothing there yet, but stay tuned. I know what he has to say will be worth your time.

http://jpg-expertwitness.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thunder, Fire, and Smoke

Six years ago today, I was getting ready for my job at a wireless call center. I was the sole remainder of a small third-tier group with direct oversight over about forty-five reps, so I could basically choose my own hours. My friend Howard called and told me an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He was unclear, and thought it might have been a small plane.

I worked in a large call center with about six hundred others, and there were monitors around the center that usually displayed news. I know I must have arrived around the time United Airlines Flight 175 crashed, though I cannot now remember if I made it in time to see it happen in real time. I think I did.

I do remember the frantic tracking of remaining flights. I remember the attack on the Pentagon. I remember the finding of the smoking ruin of Flight 93 (I suspected for quite some time that it had actually been shot down by interceptors). I remember explaining to customers on "escalated calls" for the next couple of days that my employer's system was not working for them because we had lost an antenna on the WTC, we had thousands of units in the area seeing heavy use by emergency services, and millions of people were overloading the New York phone system as they frantically tried to contact family and friends. Even more than those things, I remember the aching in my chest and the tears running down my face as I saw the video of thousands of innocent civilians dying as the monitors overhead showed those big commercial jets slamming into the Towers over and over and over again.

Perhaps every day changes our life, but that day led to very obvious changes in mine. I was not married, had no children, and wasn't in a serious relationship. I believed there were three potential responses to the aggression against my country. First, we could do nothing, which I believed would lead to more attacks. Second, I believed we could respond with Clintonesque air strikes (pointless) or a nuclear response which would alienate most of the world. The third option was to put boots on the ground, and this seemed to be the only realistic option. It seemed hypocritical for me to support sending others to fight, and some to die, if I was not at least willing to go, since I did not have the responsibilities of many others my age.

I definitely have paid some costs for my service. One of the saddest was the irreplaceable loss of hundreds of pictures and about five hundred letters that I had stored at a friend's. I know things about pain and fatigue that I had never known before, and I learned that when you're stretched too thin, you have nothing to give to anyone else, and eventually, even to yourself. Some of these costs I am not happy to have paid, but I've had some compensations, too. I've known the joy of brotherhood, the instant response to a threat against the group, and I've known the awful joy of facing your worst fears and continuing. I've seen friends and family gather to support me, and I've even seen total strangers show me love just because of what I symbolized.

When I entered service, I was assigned to an infantry unit in Washington State. After two years there, I left active duty, secure in my knowledge that I was not a hypocrite, and resolved to get on with my life, starting with finishing my BA. Most of you know I was reactivated later, fought successfully (and sometimes deviously) to stay in school long enough to graduate, and did a combat tour in Afghanistan, where I tried to do my job, keep my head down, and have as boring a stay as possible. I am troubled about many aspects of this so-called War on Terror, just as many aspects of the War on Drugs trouble me. Both "wars" continue to usurp freedoms, some of them freedoms that directly stem from rights acknowledged in the Constitution. I further doubt US presence can do much good in Iraq, and doubt the United States will have the commitment to stay for the very long time any satisfactory outcome in Afghanistan will require.

I am certain of this: our conflict in Afghanistan was begun righteously, after attack on civilians in my country. I am also certain that I'm not a god-damned hypocrite. I'm not too sure of anything else, but hug your husbands and wives, boy or girlfriends, and children tonight for all the US service members who can't, and count your blessings.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Additional SPED Thoughts

I wanted to make some additional comments about special education. Every right is an individual right. No such thing as "group rights" exists, only the right of each member of the group.

When it comes to considering individuals with disabilities, I definitely believe that these individuals do have rights, just as everyone else does. The problem comes when the assumption is made that the rights of some individuals (the ones with disabilities) outweigh the rights of all the other individuals, and that seems be the current reality.

An additional factor in the discussion is the "right" of "free" schooling to all citizens. I am not certain I believe in any such right, and of course schooling always costs someone. If you do believe that children should receive free schooling, I believe children with disabilities should receive the exact same sum per student for education as every other child in their district. If allowances for a student with special needs can be made for the same
budgetary allotment as other students, great. Do it. Help that kid learn at whatever level he can achieve. If special allowances cannot be made for the same costs, the family or other sources should provide the additional amount needed for the child's education.

The Brown vs. Board of Education case made the point that separate is inherently unequal, and this is true. We as humans are all inherently valuable because we're human. At the same time, we are not at all alike in ability. It is despicable to treat certain individuals as though they warranted special treatment because they have less ability. This is true whether that special treatment is a cruel institution or a budget that's six times as much for a student with special needs.

Landlords

Little Momma had mentioned that giving a deposit to hold the apartment would be a Very Good Thing.
"I don't think it'll be a problem," I told her. "He likes me."
But I started worrying...and, truth be told, the only reason I didn't put down a deposit initially was that I'd misplaced my rarely-used checkbook.

So, I called today, and told LL I'd drop by in about an hour with a deposit and the first month's rent (he said just the deposit was fine). I helped Big Daddy move a hot tub, and time crept by. I finally called LL back, apologized by being late, and checked to see if he would still be around. He had errands to take care of, but said I could drop the deposit by tomorrow, or the next day. Or whenever, assuring me he wouldn't rent to anyone else. Then he asked how Little Momma's latest surgery went (it's actually tomorrow).

See? He likes me.

Shoot 'Em Up

Friday night, Jordy and I saw Shoot 'Em Up. Minor spoiler warning. What a ride. This movie stars the engaging Clive Owen, the luscious Monica Belluci, and the evil, evil, bad Paul Giamatti.

Shoot 'Em Up
makes few pretensions at reality. Clive Owen makes his first kill with a carrot as the movie opens, and the bullets unloaded as this movie blasts through its paces probably beggar even Starship Troopers. Don't watch this flick if you want realistic gunplay: Transformers and practically any cartoon are more realistic. (!) Don't go if you're looking for something more serious than R-rated comic opera, well acted, which is ironic. If you want to see a funny eighty minute explosion with some excellent sound bites that will soon adorn "witty" sig lines on UBBs across the WWW, this is the movie for you.

Despite my liking for this movie, an attempt to make this an anti-firearm morality play feebly raises its head. Unfortunately for any serious attempt at such a stance, evil genius Paul Giamatti makes the point early on that the high-tech thumbprint-enabling on his Desert Eagle helps keep firearms from being used by criminals. But, since the bad guys could be sponsored by the government, how helpful is the pie-in-the-sky thumbprinting scheme? Not so much. Also, it's hard to make a a sex-stereotyped sermon about people with firearms being "pussies with guns" when your hero can kill people with a carrot, and if the hero uses a tool consistently throughout the flick, can the tool be inherently evil? Not really.

3.5 out of 5 stars because the thunder of the guns handily overwhelms the traditional Hollywood hypocrisy. And because gunsmiths are superheroes.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Home Shopping

Jordy and I looked at another apartment yesterday. This is an incredibly cute garage apartment .3 mile from the ASU main gate, within easy walking distance of the college. The landlord is making some minor repairs to sheetrock and paint, but it should be ready before October, which would work well. That would give time for me to start moving my things into the new place as Little Momma becomes more independent, and needs less assistance.

While not perfect, I believe the little place will be a good match for our current needs, and the rent is reasonable enough to make some compromises worthwhile. And, did I mention it's incredibly cute? Jordy's very excited, and me...well, I'm very eager to have my own place again, free of yippy dogs and other folks' schedules.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Oddities and Disparities

One of the five classes I'm taking this semester is an introductory Special Education class. Our second chapter discussed the civil rights movement and its effect on special education. I am in favor of equal treatment, in so much as we can deliver it. I am in favor of fairness. The problem with dealing with students with disabilities is that they are not receiving "equal treatment", and in fact, each such child should have an Individual Education Plan in place.

I addressed the teacher tonight: "Doctor, am I correct in understanding you to say that the impact of the student with disabilities on the general education students may only be considered if it's a potential safety issue?"
"That is correct."
"So- if only the rights of the child with disabilities can legally be considered, doesn't this mean that the other students have fewer rights?"
She didn't disagree.

I am not arguing in favor of "the greater good" or any such nonsense. I do not advocate sacrificing rights of even majorities for minorities. But I do want fairness, in so much as it is possible to provide. Unfortunately, making exceptions and spending extra amounts on individual students can and will be taken to an extreme, and everyone will lose. Ultimately, we are alike in that we are all individuals. We could all profitably have our own IEP. It just is not practical, efficient, or cost effective.

The "right" of schooling- if you believe that any such right should exist at all- should be that reasonable accommodations will be made to students with exceptional challenges. We as a country and society have gone from deplorable treatment of certain individuals to equally ludicrous and extreme efforts arguably on their behalf. I'm not saying students with disabilities should not be helped if reasonably possible: I'm just saying let's use some common sense in this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Evan Almighty

Watched Evan Almighty tonight. Jordy and I hadn't been to the theater in a while, so despite my 2,000 words of so of stuff due in the next 20 hours for my SPED class, we went.

Family friendly. Cute and unobjectionable to any but the most rabid atheists and fundamentalist Christians. (Odd, about that, huh? Of course, they are both rabid, so...) Personally, I would say the writers of this movie either have a deep faith in a powerful and benevolent deity, or can postulate well what such a personality would be like. Morgan Freeman plays his role perfectly, too, with an exquisite blend of humor and gentleness. Oddly enough, the funniest part of the movie comes at the credits, when Steve Carrell and Freeman prove they're actually excellent dancers.
This movie certainly isn't the funniest I've seen this year, but I didn't walk out of the flick swearing or looking for someone to crush, and that's a good thing. I'll give it 3 of 5 stars.

Idiots, Dolts, and other Fools

At my cushy job that is so top secret I am not allowed to mention it in publication without prior approval, there are two elevators in the main area. One elevator only travels down to the parking deck and up to the main first floor, while the other elevator rises from the first floor to the second floor, for those with challenges, or who are just too damn lazy to walk over to the escalator. Customers frequently become confused, and attempt to ride the parking elevator to the second floor, or take the second-floor elevator down. We floor staff must then helpfully assist them.

Just yesterday, two grown women and several children were in the second-story elevator, as it sat on the first floor.
"Are you trying to go to the second floor?" I politely asked.
"No, we want to go to the parking deck," the heavy-set, rather bulldog-looking woman replied.
"You need the other elevator for that, ma'am."
(Huffily)"Well, it's not like it says that anywhere."
Blink. No, actually, there is a 5x11" sign posted with clear instructions in each elevator, with letters half an inch high. It's just above the buttons you've been uselessly pressing.
Like Santa Claus, idiots are everywhere.

Yay/Bogus

I have received email notifying me that my GACE scores are in- and I evidently passed- but I'll have to wait until I receive my scores via snail mail to see how I actually performed. The email and site say *To preclude the use of GACE scores for purposes other than Georgia educator certification (e.g., employment, college admission screening), passing scores are not reported.

Whatever. Woohoo, I passed!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Returns, Co-Pilots, Send-offs

Little Momma was brought home from Walton Rehab yesterday morning. She felt a little weird and perhaps anxious at being out of a medical environment after the better part of two months in one. She still receives a dose of IV antibiotic every 18 hours, and I learned SASH yesterday: Saline, Antibiotic, Saline, Heparin.
We set up the hospital bed Friday night, but LM found it uncomfortable, so Big Daddy and I broke it down, and set the Sleep Number back up. We're doing pretty well, so far.

A Spyderco Co-Pilot II came in Friday from my friends at New Graham. The original Co-Pilot was designed to be a knife that could be taken onto airplanes, which is obviously no longer allowed in the US. This is a very elegant and useful gentleman's knife. A positive/negative is the extremely thin handle . This will be very easy to insert into a pocket, like a traditional pocketknife. Unfortunately, this same very flat profile will mean the clip will not hold the knife in place as well as a larger and thicker Spyderco.

I gave the Co-Pilot and a good RC flashlight to a friend of mine who's currently in the Army's Basic Leadership Course II, with the advice that he tie a lanyard to the Spydie if he planned on keeping it in his pocket.

HallowE09