Sunday, August 30, 2009

Better Safe Than Sorry

Mr. Stang often gives me shit for being an alarmist. What can I say?? I have a vivid imagination, a fascination with history and never got the chance to indulge my inner girl scout. The wisest advice ever spoken was "Hope for the best but plan for the worst". In those "what kind of parent are you?" surveys, you'd think I'd be a Helicopter Mom as a result - hovering over MickeyD and never letting him do anything because he might get hurt. But no. I'm more the Medi-Vac Mom, ready with a first aid pack and maps to all the area hospitals in the glove compartment for when he does crash and burn.

So after hearing all the gloom and doom about how the H1N1 virus is poised to take off as soon as the school year starts, and that a vaccine won't be available until mid October, Mr. Stang has given in to my inner alarmist and agreed to keep MickeyD out of daycare for a few months. He was only going one day a week, just to give Daddy a break and give him some needed kid play, but as usual brought home two colds in the last month after he did go. Normally I don't worry about minor colds - besides a tendency to get croup, MickeyD fights them off pretty well. But usually the worst of them do come after the first week of the new school year, when the older siblings of all of MD's preschool friends bring home the newest and greatest virulent fads.

This year, it looks like Swine Flu will be all the rage. And since MickeyD is not yet required by law to attend the little germ factories, we're opting out until he - and Daddy - can get immunized. I'm not too worried about MickeyD - the newest advice is that while more people are going to get it this year than regular flu, most are only getting a mild to moderate version. Kids may be miserable for a couple of days if they get it but recover quickly. but Daddy is diabetic, has allergies, is asthmatic... and is prone to chest infections. All pretty well under control with medication & diet currently, but he definitely falls into that at-risk population with "underlying conditions".

This decision has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I saw a documentary on one of the Nerd Channels last week about the Black Death and how it killed up to 50% of the population in some locations - perhaps more. Really. (do I sound convincing?)

Sidenote <--- H1N1 virus plush toy from GIANTmicrobes is now available! THE cool gift this year for all your little germ magnets.
Cute little bugger, isn't it?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Looking for Real Estate in Portland, Oregon?

Apparently there's a glut of available condos on the market in downtown Portland. So if you're looking to move, or buy one for investment purposes you may want to check these out:

Atwater Place condos up for auction at drastically discounted rates next month. Some 1300 SF one bedroom that were selling for $600,000 will start bidding at $169,000. Unbelievable!

Here's more info about the new South Waterfront neighborhood. I remember the days when it was all just a toxic brownfield.

Friday Critter Blogging

From an Email I received this week. source unknown:

"The Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara, CA last week caused these two to take shelter together. The fawn is 3 days old and the bobcat about 3 weeks. The fawn came from somewhere in the fire and the bobcat from Carpentaria. They immediately bonded and snuggled together under a desk in the Santa Barbara County Dispatch Office for several hours.

Animal Planet is reporting the bobcat kitten was rescued near Arnold Schwarzeneggers ranch, where it was dehydrated and near death. They rescued the fawn during last weeks wildfire.

Although wild animals, especially of separate species, are never placed together due to regulations, in this emergency situation, they had no choice. During the mayhem of the fire, they were forced to put animals anywhere they could, since they had run out of crates large enough for the fawn. The kitten ran to the fawn, and it was instant bonding."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm from the Government and I'm Here to Help

An argument I've heard time and time again by anyone against the Public Option is "anything run by the government run is a joke". Also known as "name one government-run program that's worked". I'd like to hear what government programs they think have NOT worked, because IMO that list would be far shorter than those that have.

In general people are damned glad to see FEMA, the National Guard, and the Coast Guard show up in and after a national disaster. Usually, they're pissed if they don't show up soon enough (as in Katrina) or do enough. When the shit hit the fan in Lebanon U.S. citizens stuck in the crossfire were thrilled to see the Marines. The FAA does a damned good job of controlling air traffic - I still cannot believe controllers were able to get 5,000 commercial flights grounded within only THREE hours on 9/11, with no set drill, plan or training in place to ground every flight in the U.S.
Environmental arguments aside, business folks around here are pretty happy that the Army Corps of Engineers is dredging the Columbia which allows us to have access to international shipping. Even if some of us would have preferred the hydroelectric dams not be put in place to begin with, we're pretty happy they maintain them now and regulate the water flow to protect us from flooding (and give the salmon a chance).

Every day when I check the forecast to decide what clothes to put on in the morning I am grateful for NOAA and the National Weather Service. Every time one of our little mountains burps ash, or the ground gets a little shaky here on the Pacific Ring of Fire I'm very thankful for the USGS. All of their tax dollar funded research came in very handy when I was looking for a house to buy that wasn't in a flood, landslide, tsunami, or earthquake hazard zone. Then there's the CDC, FDA, EPA... pick any 3 digit acronym and I'll tell you what they've "helped" myself or my loved ones, personally.

Another argument that got quite the reaction at the town hall last week was "where in the Constitution does it say 'give healthcare to those who haven't earned it?'" It says "promote the general welfare not "provide"!!" For the moment I'll leave aside the idea that anybody needs to "earn" the right to basic health care and address the constitutional argument.

First, what do you think the Framers had in mind when they said "promote?" Public Service Ads of the "Just Say No" variety??? I don't think so. From the very beginning our founders committed federal dollars to public projects/ investments to "promote" the general welfare. To make the promise of the American Dream reality for as many people as possible. One of the first of these investments that was highly controversial, incredibly expensive, and criticized as being "unconstitutional" was ......

The Louisiana Purchase.

Jefferson himself acknowledged that the Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquisition of territory, but felt the aquisition of New Orleans (and elimination of France as a potential North American rival) was vital to the security of the young nation. When Napolean offered the ENTIRE Louisiana territory, including New Orleans for the outrageous price (at the time) of $15 Mill. James Monroe and Robert Livingston jumped at the offer.

For the record - the "purchase" was made on credit. With bonds. France charged us 6% interest. In the end the total price was $23.5 Mill. Which, using the GDP deflator, would be about $430 Mill in today's dollars. Using the relative share of GDP, it would be the equivalent of over $700 BILLION.

What did the federal government do with all that land? Practically gave it away (Preemption Act of 1841) to anyone willing to build a sod house on it. Then did give it away: Homestead Act of 1864. Not only to any citizen of the United States (who had not taken up arms against said U.S.), but to anyone who *wanted* to become a citizen. How well do you think this kind of blatant socialism would go over in today's world?

And as a result millions of people and their descendants were able to realize the American Dream. When the term was first used in 1931 by Historian James Truslow Adams, it was described as:

The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and
richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it.

It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous
circumstances of birth or position.

This was the disconnect that struck me at the town hall... those who felt they HAD achieved the "American Dream" feeling as if they are superior to those who are still struggling to realize it for themselves. I'm not dogging the blood, sweat and tears any of these "self made" people put into growing their own business, but I would ask them to really think about how much of that "self made" succss was due entirely to their own efforts, and how much was due to others, including the government.

A couple of them talked about their pioneering great-greats who came west with nothing and built a better life for their children. If their great-greats were anything like mine, they were only able to do so because at one point the Federal government bought land, and GAVE it away to homesteaders. If they weren't one of the initial half a million or so who survived the arduous trek westward by wagon train or ship, then they likely came west on one of the railroads built on more land bought by the federal government and GIVEN to the railroad companies. And undoubtedly enjoyed being able to receive goods and services to help them build their new lives on the frontier, and ship the fruits of their labor to customers, by those same railroads. The construction of which was heavily subsidized by federal tax dollars.

Or maybe their great greats came west, like some of mine and were GIVEN the opportunity to make a fortune by mining for gold and other minerals; or running their herds of cattle on GOVERNMENT owned land.
I don't know how many wage slaves I've worked with who dream someday of starting their own business. People in the IT industry especially always have some side project they're working on in their spare time to make a million bucks. The one thing that stops them from taking the plunge? The fear of losing that basic medical safety net for themselves and their family. If that were guaranteed, there would be an entreprenuerial renaissance in this country the likes of which we've never seen.
Update**For the record, I'm not ignoring the huge issue of what gave France and the U.S. the "right" to buy/sell land that didn't belong to them to begin with; or the issue of what atrocities the young nation committed to provide these capitalist "opportunities" to potential railroad barons, settlers, miners, whathaveyou. Just pointing out that the "American Dream" was BUILT on the Federal Government "giving away" common resources/capital to individuals with no thought as to whether or not those individuals had "earned" that privilege.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary!!!

Today, Aug. 26th is the anniversary of the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment became effective and gave women the right to vote.

Good Night, Teddy

Goodnight. You'll be missed.

I don't really know what to say about Sen. Edward Kennedy. He's a perfect example of how a very flawed individual can still effect great positive change in this world. I will miss his voice, his political ability and his unfailing dedication to liberal causes.

Melissa from Shakesville, OTOH pretty much sums up my feelings perfectly.

In other news, Russia admits the hijacked cargo ship may have been carrying a secret cargo. Oh, wait! Not really, no.... there's no cover up! We swear. Trust us.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shattering the Glass Ceiling with Bullets?

Rise of the Godmothers in Naples crime families...

Snips: Their simmering power struggles once drove them into the streets, guns blazing. They rule their crime families with steely determination, and also raise the kids and stir the pasta.
Move over, Don Corleone. Godmothers are rising in the ranks of the Camorra, the Naples' area crime syndicate.

Women have long played a strong role in Camorra crime families, muscling, sometimes murdering, their way to the top. Their influence stretches back as far as the 1950s when a pregnant former beauty queen dubbed "pupetta" (little doll) shot dead the man who had ordered a hit on her husband, and allegedly settled into a life of crime.

Now, as the state steps up its war against the Camorra, rounding up scores of mobsters, the women are increasingly taking over the helm from their men.

Raising offspring means steeping children in a life of crime and arranging marriages of sons and daughters to spin a web of new or stronger ties with potentially rival clans. "They're very determined, very good at mapping out strategy, even sharper" than their men, Maruccia said in a telephone interview.

But does that mean Camorra women can be considered "liberated?"
In one key sense, sociologist Zaccaria thinks not.
"The code of the Camorra permits the boss to have all the lovers he wants, even publicly, because it reinforces his strength," she said. "The Camorra woman, in contrast, cannot betray him."

Damn. Guess I'll have to cross Mob Boss off my list of possible career choices after all.

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Class Friday at Cinetopia

***sigh*** Looks like good yard work weather this weekend - mid 70's. Between hot nasty weather keeping me out of the yard and Mr. Stang's bum knee keeping him out of it, the weeds have taken over. At this point I almost want to Round Up everything and just barkdust over whatever survives. Or rent a goat. Goats are cute. And they fertilizer at the same time!

Mr. Stang and I went for our monthly "lunch date" at Cinetopia, the fancy movie house today (billed as the "most luxurious" theatre in the nation). MickeyD goes to daycare every Friday so it's the one time we get some alone time without trying to find a sitter. We have this weird thing where if we're going to spend $40 for us both to go out to a movie, it had damned well better have super than super HD/sound, leather seats, a wine bar/fine dining, in-theatre alcohol service, live music and original art on the walls. Though lately we can only afford the cheap $8.25 lunch matinees so generally miss out on the booze and live music. The nicest part? Very few kids/teenagers and no sticky soda-encrusted floors. Which is perfect when you're trying to have a nice, romantic afternoon/evening away from the little monsters.
Those of you south of the River are in luck - I hear the owners plan to build one in Beaverton soon.

For the record, I definitely do NOT recommend seeing District 9. Wait for it to come out at the $3 theatres, get in on Netflix or see in on MS3K. It's that bad. I can't tell you how bad. The critics are nuts.

Friday Critter Blogging!

Jinx and The Kittlin (currently known as TigerWhinger).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

But Plastic Surgery is competitive!

One of the other comments made at the town hall the other night was that "Laser Surgery costs have come down in the last decade. This is proof that medical care, when not funded by or interfered with by the gov't can work well using just the free market".

Thom Hartmann was reading my mind this morning when he responded to a similar question at the town hall he was holding on his radio show. The question is, "but costs for plastic surgery have remained stable or gone down in recent years. Doesn't this prove that gov't only fucks things up when they get involved?"

Ummm..... no.

First, as no health insurance policy in the world will cover elective, cosmetic procedures like facelifts and LASIK I'd say it's a much better indication of how well things can work when there aren't any insurance companies involved. Because even though the Gov't doesn't pay for elective, cosmetic procedures any more than insurance does... they are still very much "involved" in these industries in a regulatory manner. The FDA approves what drugs/treatments they can use. The states license the doctors of course and dictate standards of care/sterility, etc.

Second - what part of "ELECTIVE" do you not understand??? Nobody dies if they don't get that facelift or LASIK surgery (unless, you know you lose your glasses and inadvertently step in front of a moving bus). People DO die, every day from not being able to afford cancer treatment, or brain surgery. A free market only works if one of your options is "none of the above- thanks I can live without it after all". In the case of health care, "None of the Above" = a death sentence. In other words, you're making your "choice" with a gun to your head. That's not free enterprise, it's extortion.

Third - I'm sure one of the reasons there's more competition in the world of cosmetic surgery is because so many doctors are getting tired of dealing with all the crap (insurance and gov't alike) and are saying no to primary care and becoming specialists. This is NOT a good thing, and is one of the reasons most bills on the table include funding/ incentives for doctors to go back to or get into primary health.

Fourth - You can't very well ask for bids/quotes from different hospitals/ ambulance services, etc. when you or a loved one are lying bloody and unconscious in the middle of the street; or in that "golden three hour" window while suffering a stroke when medical treatment might actually save your life. Even if you had any clue, whatsoever as to WHAT specific tests, procedures, drugs etc. you might need at that point.

Well, you night say - nobody expects people to bargain shop in the middle of a crisis. What insurance companies want is for consumers to do their comparison shopping *ahead* of time, and for chronic conditions to help keep down costs. Because we don't have anything better to do than to spend hours out of our days calling up various hospitals, doctors, clinics, labs and pharmacies to find out what they charge for everything from office visits to urine tests to enemas.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Healthcare Reform Town Hall with Brian Baird

CVTV (public access) recording of Aug. 18, 2009 Town Hall with Rep. Brian Baird.
If you've got 2 1/2 hours to kill feel free to click on the above link and watch the town hall. I'm just right of center aisle about halfway up.

I'm proud to say it was an exceedingly civil affair. Less than a handful of protesters out front. Nobody (visibly) packing heat :) No shouting down.... all a very good, logical, mostly respectful conversation. As I'd expected the hall was overwhelmingly filled with older, more affluent, retired white folks. Looked like a country club social. Maybe that's due to the fact that there was no public transportation to the venue. In any event - conspicuously absent were any people of color or folks under 50. Maybe 10% of the crowd of nearly 3000. If that.

Yes, there were some passionate boo-ing, chearing, applause and standing ovations but nothing worse than what you'd see from the gallery at a state of the union address.

Anyway. Very Republican and anti-government Independents. I'm very glad I went even though my number wasn't called to step up to the mike. I'll address more of the perfectly reasonable objections/concerns in the coming days but just had to jot down one of the more ridiculous.

Most ridiculous: the guy who somehow got the impression that Obama wants to outfit/fund Americorps volunteers "exactly like" the army. According to my Repub. coworker who was also there last night, Obama made some remark to the effect somewhere that he wishes Americorp would be just as well funded, or outfitted, etc as the military and now people are being told by somebody that this is, in fact his evil plan to take over the interior of the country. Americorps volunteers are apparently going to be the new gestapo. You heard it here first. Note - just because a politician says in his dream world that a peaceful, proven effective community service program (that provides thousands of at-risk youth with training, skills and opportunities to keep them out of jail and/or off of welfare) would receive funding on a par with the military does not mean he wants or intends to turn them INTO a military.

Almost as ridiculous if it weren't so scary true and sad:

People who claim to be patriots and say they love this country of America with all their heart and soul are perfectly capable, at the same time of viewing the non-millionaire, non-business owning, non-property owning fellow Americans as worthy of nothing but total contempt. Regardless of skin color, actually so at least they're not racist. Those working stiffs who don't have the "guts" to sacrifice their family's financial security and health insurance in order to try to start their own business don't deserve a single penny of their hard earned tax dollars..

They did it the hard way and they'll be damned if they make it any easier for anyone else to accomplish the same thing. All for None and None For All. I say we make that our new Olympic slogan. Fills you with pride, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waiting for the town hall....

Damn!! Knew I should have printed out an entire copy of the bill to show folks exactly where their line by line 'analysis' is blatantly untrue.

I asked this guy handing out flyers if he'd actually looked up any of these "factual" sections/lines that supposedly equate to an Ice Flow end-of-lie Plan for Gramma, or read any of the bill himself to verify anything he'd been told.

"No I did not. But it's a death sentence for me and my wife!"

Well I did, sir. And it doesn't say anything about that B.S. you've wasted ink to print out. But you know what it *does* address? Precisely the things you say on your other flyer that MUST be in a reform bill. Like federal regulation of insurance companies. A national "market" to increase competition. No denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

You'd think if somebody handed you a "death sentence" you'd take the time to read the fine print, wouldn't you??

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nothing says "Freedom" like an Assault Rifle

At least two carried assault weapons to an Obama event in Arizona today. Nothing illegal in that, as AZ is an "open carry" state. Police were monitoring a dozen who were carrying firearms of one kind or another. No "incidents", no arrests. Everything perfectly civil.... so far.


Our rep. Brian Baird who had previously received death threats over Health Care reform is having a town hall meeting tomorow night at the Clark County Amphitheatre (fairgrounds). I was sitting here thinking I need to go, even though:
a) it will be near 100 degrees
b) I'd need to be there two hours early to get in (at least) and would need to leave work early
d) I am phobic of crowds and crushes of people.
e) I have a bad back

I was at the Democratic primary caucus last year sitting on hard bleacher seats for over 8 hours in a hot, overcrowded, impossible to hear anybody say anything even with a microphone, high school gym. My Republican co-worker reported similar frustrations at his caucus.

Only those who could shout the loudest were heard. In our case this was the guy who felt he'd been slighted in the selection of state convention delegates and kept shouting "Mr. Speaker I've Been Disenfranchised!!!" In my Republican co-worker's caucus, it was the Ron Paul supporters. In both our cases, due to time being wasted appeasing the hotheads there was no time to discuss anything substantive.

Which brings us back to the But....

For the first time in my life I am *personally* scared of exercising my 1st Amendment rights, of exercising my privilege and responsibilities as a citizen.

Somehow I don't think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they crafted the 2nd Amendment.

So who is the greater coward? The person who isn't willing to face a firing squad to speak their mind or the thug person who would rather let "his little friend" do his talking for him?

Once upon a time I climbed up a wobbly 30 ft. ladder to paint the trim around the roofline of my two story house. When MickeyD asked "Why??" I told him it was because it scared me. Since then, every year I make a point to climb up that same ladder and clean the gutters. I will not let fear rule my life, and I will not let insecure, cowardly thugs sabotage my Democracy.

Marriott is dropping it's victim blaming defense

in the case of a Connecticut woman who is suing the company for negligent security, etc. after she was raped in front of her children in their parking garage.

Here's the original story from Jezebel. According to Marriott's defense lawyers, the victim was "careless, negligent and didn't exercise proper use of her senses" when she thought she'd be reasonably safe buckling her two small children into her minivan in their parking garage. When the company was inundated with folks boycotting in protest saying it would be idiotic to stay at their fine establishment and expect any reasonable level of personal security, they backpedaled.

btw, I really, really hate having two posts in a row about rape but there you go.

Marital Rape may have been outlawed

after considerable pressure from the Obama administration and other western powers, But thanks to chickenshit Pres. Karzai, it is now perfectly legal for Shiite husbands to starve their wives if they refuse them sex.

Sexual slavery alive and well in the 21st century if you call it "marriage".

Former Insurance Exec Spills Beans

Wendell Potter shared a commentary on CNN yesterday about exactly how insurance companies - like his former employer, Cigna manipulate the legitimate fear of many Americans to sabotage health care reform efforts.

In other interviews he shows exactly how Wall Street (the same folks that brought you the whole mortgage derivitave/housing crisis mess, Enron, Bernie Madoff....) directly influence premiums and denial of coverage for Ma and Pa Public on Main St. Guernica: snip:

"I’ll admit I knew that Wall Street looked at the medical-loss ratio. I knew it was an important measure. I didn’t know until, frankly, very recently how important it was. As recently as fifteen years ago, the medical-loss ratio in this country was 95 percent. Since then, there’s been great industry consolidation to the point that now there are seven companies that dominate. They’re all for-profit. During the time that this consolidation, this shift to for-profit occurred, the medical-loss ratio has continued to drop. Now it’s around 80 percent. That means twenty cents of every dollar goes to something other than paying medical claims. Just fifteen years ago, ninety-five cents of every dollar went to paying medical claims. This trend is due to pressure from Wall Street. If a company misses Wall Street’s expectations—if the medical-loss ratio starts to inch up—the company will suffer. I’ve seen companies lose 20 percent of their stock value in one day by disappointing Wall Street with their medical-loss ratio. "

I don't think average folks understand how Wall St. factors into it. Being fundamentally honest and hard-working themselves, they are loathe to believe that anything *other* than honest and ethical business practices would make a public company "successful". Even after Enron. And it's not that the executives of these companies are inherently evil - they are required BY LAW to do everything in their power to increase the value of their stock for shareholders. And the only way to earn the good opinion of Wall St. analysts is to make *more* profit this quarter than the same quarter last year. If they're operating at a steady rate of profitability - one that resulted in more coverage and more claims paid for consumers. Like 10%... that's not good enough for Wall St. They have to make 10.5% this year, 11% the next, 11.5% the next... etc. At some point, after you've cut costs and increased revenue by every ethical means available there's nothing left but to start ripping people off. At some point in the last decade they stepped over that line.

Critics of Potter have tried to write him off in the court of public opinion as just another disgruntled ex-employee. But if that were the case and he were making all of this up... where are the lawsuits for libel/slander? Cigna's got an army of corporate attorneys who could whip out a request to cease and desist in the space of a coffee break if there were any hint that what Potter is alleging is not provable in a court of law. Why no legal action? Because the last thing they want is their dirty laundry hung out to dry.

In case you missed it, here's a transcript of Potter's damning testimony before the Senate commerce committee at the end of June. Some snips:

"Unless required by state law, insurers often refuse to tell customers how much of their premiums are actually being paid out in claims. A Houston employer could not get that information until the Texas legislature passed a law a few years ago requiring insurers to disclose it. That Houston employer discovered that its insurer was demanding a 22 percent rate increase in 2006 even though it had paid out only 9 percent of the employer’s premium dollars for care the year before.
It’s little wonder that insurers try to hide information like that from its customers. Many people fall victim to these industry tactics, but the Houston employer might have known better – it was the Harris County Medical Society, the county doctors’ association."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ship Found

Well they found the missing cargo ship near Cape Verde. No information about the crew or possible motive/perpetrators.

**Update 8/17/09 - the crew is alive and well but still no answers as to what happened.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Turns out they're not extinct at all! At least the Tasmanian kind. Really, I'm not channeling my inner 12 year old boy. I'm reclaiming the word for use in its scientific context. Just to disappoint the Google-searching perverts out there. Kind of my version of the RickRoll. I Swear. No matter how fun it is to say.

Actually, I love a cousin of the forementioned Masked Booby, the Blue Footed Boobies of the Galapagos. So much so that I downloaded some terrific pictures from the internet and hung them on my bathroom wall. Besides matching the pallette/ decor of said bathroom, they just make me smile.

The feet! They're blue. And the beak. Even their eggs. Makes me think of that song. Healthcare debate getting you down? Just picture anyone getting blue in the face (no matter what side) looking like this.

And play this sountrack in your head.
Sing along....
"Yo listen up here's a story
About a little guy that lives in a blue world
And all day and all night and everything he sees
Is just blue like him inside and outside
Blue his house with a blue little window
And a blue corvette
And everything is blue for him and hisself
And everybody around
Cos he ain't got nobody to listen to

I'm blue da ba dee da ba die...

And they dance! Very slowly to draw attention to exactly HOW BLUE they, in fact are. Because, in Boobyland it is of vital importance that the females not accidentally mate with the dreaded Red Footed Boobies, or heaven forbid they may end up with PURPLE feeet.

Just one more funny booby story then I'm done. MickeyD informed us last night that he wants to be a girl when he grows up. Because if he had no penis he could be in the "club" and touch the boobies! For the record, we watched a nanny goat-milking demonstration at the county fair last weekend where a woman was showing the 4-H kids the proper way to milk. Said kids happened to be all girls. MickeyD was quite put out when they wouldn't let him try because he wasn't "In The Club". Between that and certain recent anatomical discoveries of his own that we've been talking about a lot lately, he sort of got the wrong impression. No honey, you don't have to be a girl to join 4-H.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

National Park Fees Waived This Weekend

Which makes it a great time to go to visit any of the following NW parks that normally charge a fee:

Olympic National Park, Ranier National Park, Fort Vancouver, Lewis & Clark National Historical Park, Whitman Mission National Historic Site and Crater Lake.


More on nightmare flight

Here's more on the fall out from that nightmare Continental flight from Houston to Minneapolis. Note the current status of the airline passenger bill of rights.
Snip: "Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's aviation operations subcommittee, said the incident underscored the need to pass legislation setting a three-hour limit for an airplane to sit on the tarmac without passengers being allowed off. A so-called passenger bill of rights that would do just that recently passed the Commerce Committee and awaits action in the full Senate.

The Air Transport Association, which represents a group of airlines that includes Continental, has resisted the legislation in the past. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Merida said the group continues to believe the legislation "will ultimately end up inconveniencing passengers rather than helping them."

Here's a thought. "Show of hands! Who wants to sit on the tarmac possibly for hours and hope the weather clears/bus gets here/new flight crew shows up and who wants to get off, go to the terminal - be given the opportunity to rent a car, take a cab, catch a bus....???" Democracy is a beautiful thing. So is individual freedom. After the 3 hour limit let each passenger decide for themselves what they want to do.

Note that the passengers from another diverted flight, Delta were put on a bus by 1:30 am.

Modern Maritime Mystery

Cargo ship possible victim of pirates off European coast? Sounds like a plot line from Clive Cussler. Where is Dirk Pitt when you need him?

Cussler is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. I just found out he's written a children's book The Adventures of Vin Fiz and another will be released next year The Adventures of Hotsy Totsy. I'd buy the first one to introduce MickeyD to one of my favorite authors but one of the editorial reviews on Amazon is a little disturbing: "Unfortunately, the book suffers from...problems with gender stereotypes. Lacey, the female twin, is never the hero in the adventures. " Sounds like a lot of his adult books. While his female characters are generally very smart, competent and not of the annoying damsel in distress stereotype who faints at the first sign of conflict, they're never the protagonist with the superhero-like abilities of his heroes either. Would it really be so hard?

Clive, you need to read some Sci-Fi. May I suggest David Weber? There's a male author who has mastered the art of creating awe-inspiring female protagonists that kick ass. Too bad Weber hasn't written any children's books. Those I'd like to see.

Summer Rain

Never fails in the summer... we have weeks of clear blue skies and temps of 80, 90, 100+ degrees and the first day we get any substantial cloud cover and rain? It's the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Oh well - at least I got a good night's sleep. But after the last few weeks of blistering heat the rain is a very welcome old friend. I love just sitting out on the covered porch listening to the fat drops fall through the trees. You'd think rain is just rain, but not so. Here in the NW it plays a different sensory melody with every season.

Summertime rain is the most welcome, and the sweetest smelling as it washes all the grit and grime from the air, greens up the wilting landscape and sends any mosquitos, gnats and other flying pests diving for cover instead of sensitive skin. The warm temperatures and sound of gentle plip plop plops falling through the thick canopy of maple and other ornamental trees of the suburban jungle is very inviting to native webfeet. MickeyD celebrated the unexpected shower by taking an old paint roller Mr. Stang had given him as a toy and scrubbing the mud from the cars.

Love that kid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Games That Give

Way too cool... check out the new online games website that gives 70% of their ad revenue to charities like (my favorite) Mercy Corps.

Jaws lurking off the Oregon Coast

Check out what got tangled up in the crab pot lines from a sport fishing boat out of Depoe Bay this weekend (or that's the official story..... Great Whites are still a protected species). Apparently warmer temps are bringing in bigger prey fish and the large predators are following them in. Warnings up all along the coast.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Imprisoned on a plane, on U.S. soil for 9 HOURS

At first I thought whatever airline "authority" who made this assinine decision needs to be imprisoned on one of their own stinky flights with 49 other people, no food or water for 9 hours and see how they like it. Only that would be grossly unfair to everyone else on board - especially the babies.

So I think a better solution is 49 criminal charges of kidnapping or involuntary detainment.

When you travel, you expect there to be some delays. You expect a reasonable amount of inconvenience to protect your physical safety. But to leave an entire plane full of people who were travelling DOMESTICALLY sitting on the ground for NINE FREAKING HOURS when they had only signed on for a 2 1/2 hour flight? Just because some idiot apparently didn't want to pay overtime to a security screener? Did they really think that was less acceptable/cheaper than the huge class action lawsuits (or 46 individual suits) they're now inevitably going to get? An apology doesn't cut it. Refunds/vouchers don't cut it. Someone needs to be fired, at the very least. When you buy a plane ticket where is the part where you sign away your basic civil rights?

If it had been me on that plane I'd probably have developed an anxiety attack and demanded to be taken to the Mayo Clinic as a medical emergency. It's in Rochester, MN right? If it had been me on that plane with a BABY there would be hell to pay.

Bringing home Health Care Reform

thebagofhealthandpolitics over at FireDogLake has an excellent post today about how the media is failing to draw the dots on two huge issues that you see everyday in their coverage, usually in the exact same newscast: The threat of Swine Flu and Health Care Reform debate . Snip:

"As the media continues to cover the new pandemic swine flu and raise alarm about its possible comeback in the Fall, they have completely failed to cover a crucially important fact: our lack of universal access to quality, affordable health care drastically hinders our nation's efforts to control swine flu.

In order to be diagnosed with swine flu, one must see the doctor. General Practitioners treat the flu (among a myriad of other ailments). They are very good at their jobs, and they can properly treat a person with swine flu in order to ensure that the disease does as little harm as possible to them--and in order to ensure that the disease does not spread to others.

But General Practitioners can only do their jobs if people actually go to the doctor. Earlier this year a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that
1 in 4 Americans put off going to the doctor because of the cost of a visit. For media stars who make more in 15 minutes than the average American makes in a week, the $120 fee to see the doctor, or the $75 copay some "fortunate" Americans carry, might seem quite reasonable. But for average, working Americans visiting the doctor costs a day's pay. "

A very good point to remember the next time enjoy your local county fair, as we did this weekend. They've got hand sanitizing stations set up at every entrance to all the animal barns to combat the spread of 'zoonotic disease' (e.g. E.coli and other viral, bacterial or parasitic infections). But in the germcubating factory that is the carnival area? Where thousands of unwashed hands of the masses touch the exact same surfaces on rides and games every day? Not a one.

This year we saw the bunnies, and pygmy goats and chickens. But the pig barn? Conspicuously vacant. "No pigs this year" said the sign. Wonder why?

Free things to do in or around Portland

See? I'm not the only one: Must-See Free Attractions in and around the Rose City. #1 on their list... Multnomah Falls and the Historic Columbia River Hwy. To that I'll add more than a few of my own.:

Just available just across the Big River in SW Washington is the Vancouver Farmer's Market which still allows dogs whereas Portland's Saturday Market no longer does. In fact, there are at least a dozen farmer's markets in the 'burbs around Portland. Besides the best local produce, fresh flowers and nursery stock there's almost always plenty of cool craft booths, music, great food and of course - people watching to enjoy. We have such interesting characters around here, People Watching should be the official regional sport.

First Thursday Gallery Walk. And if you love the arts, and you happen to be here in October you may also really enjoy the Portland Open Studios Tour. A great opportunity to see over a hundred local artists in their own studios at work.

In the spring and summer many of the local flower wholesalers have free frestivals to open their display gardens to the public: Woodland Tulip Festival (WA) . Hulda Klager Lilac Festival (also in Woodland, WA). Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (Woodburn, OR - don't get confused). Shreiner's Iris Gardens (Salem, WA) (where Mr. Stang proposed) Heirloom Roses Display gardens (St. Paul, OR) . Swan Island Dahlia Show (in Canby, OR not actually on Swan Island). This is of course a coy, and highly effective marketing ploy to get you to place pre-orders for the next season. And come away with a ton of very cheap, beautiful, fresh flowers if you've a mind to. (Tip - if you're planning a wedding on a budget, it's great to do so these peak bloom times as you can get a ton of gorgeous flowers, cheap right from the field).

More as I think of them...

All of these free attractions are probably one of the reasons a writer for the Travel section of the NY Times recently said, "Amid economic catastrophe — Oregon has the country’s second-highest unemployment rate — there was a general indifference to wealth. In its place was a dedication to the things that really matter: hearty food and drink, cultural pursuits both high and low, days in the outdoors and evenings out with friends. It’s the good life, and in Portland it still comes cheap." In other words - we're broke but we don't care.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Columbia River Hwy being reborn as a Trail

The Columbia River Gorge has been my mental and spiritual "escape" ever since I was in college. My best friend and I lived together for a year in Troutdale, and on really stressful days after juggling full time school and 2 or 3 part time jobs, we would sometimes hop in the car and race time to see if we could catch the sun set over the Gorge fromthe Vista House at Crown Point. It's like stepping into a painting. Every second at sunset the light changes and splashes incredible new hues on the canvas of your senses. The Cascades and Mt. Hood recede to the east, and every shade of lavendar/purple/indigo you can imagine paints the headlands as they jut out into the river. To the west are displayed whatever intense shades of pink, yellow and red the sun has in store for you that evening.

As the minutes progress the grey clouds above seem to act as a conduit of color, transferring the darker, warmer shades from the sun-burnt red hills of Eastern Oregon onto the cooler pallet of the marine-influenced Western mountains and valleys, one by one until the navigational lights of the river traffic wink on and the red faces of the forested basalt cliffs grow dim. Soon enough the lights of Portland/Vancouver take over, symbolically - turning my attention from the magical back to the mundane reality of my obligations in the city.

It is a place where she, a devout Christian and I, the agnostic can sit together in awe and bask in the glory of nature and love of a friendship that transcends any religious differences. To her, God is revealed in nature. To me, the beauty of nature is God, if there is such a thing. Undoubtedly she marvels at His divine creation. I marvel at the amazing geological forces that have shaped this landscape (and continue to do so) and the fascinating demonstration of the natural laws of wavelength, light and color that plays across the evening sky.

Now that we've both settled down and have kids we don't get to the Gorge for that much needed stress relief as much as we used to. This weekend we're trying again, and I think we just may pack the picnic basket, grab our old hiking shoes and check out the new stretch of the Columbia River Hwy State Trail that has just opened between Starvation Creek and Viento State Park.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Marching Orders

Every morning I give MickeyD a big hug and kiss, or maybe a dozen before heading out the door. Then he comes yelling down the hallway, "Mommy, mommeee! One more Hug!!! Giggle..."" Rinse, Repeat until I manage to extricate myself from the vice grip of his embrace at the bottom of the stairs. If I'm lucky he'll let me go at the front door. If not (or maybe if I'm luckier, depending on how you look at it) he must escort me to the door of the ancient Big-Ass Bronco (kindly loaned by my father for my 3 mile daily commute), climb up on the running boards (usually only in his underwear) and inspect the windows for any unfortunate spiders that may have set up little doomed webs before giving me my marching orders for the day:

"And Mommy? Mommy. " (finger extended because this is of vital importance) "Stop at all the stop signs. And if you see the ice cream van??? Get me a SpongeBob ice cream. Is VERY IMPORTANT. Got it???"""

Got it. Stop signs. Ice cream van. Spongebob. Not that I've ever seen the ice cream truck out and about at 8:00 am but a kid can hope, can't he? It's the only way he'll let me drive off without him. Then he retreats to the stoop where I can see him, watches to make SURE I came to a full, 3 second stop at the stop sign at the end of the block, then it's back inside to Daddy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What do you think? Good luck or bad?

It's good luck to say "break a leg" in the theatre... but on your wedding day? Not so much, I think. Horse Pulling 'Just Married' Cart breaks leg and dies. Police say the 23 year old horse died after the fall, but not "how". I'll tell you how. Mercy shot. Yeah, I'd say that would be quite traumatizing to the happy couple in the carriage. Poor thing. May you spend eternity rolling in endless fields of clover.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Looks like my fabulous cousin Carla and her family are on a house exchange to Spain? Guess I should check in more often!