Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's well-formed thought

So, last week, my next door neighbor died. Her name was Norma, and she was 63. She had bone cancer, which is pretty damn painful. It's just about one of the most painful things you can ever have, a 10 on a 10 scale. She had it about 5 years ago or so, and got through it the first time, but it took a LOT out of her and she was never quite the same in the time following. When it relapsed, she didn't last very long, maybe 3 months. None of this is all that remarkable, in and of itself. People get sick. People die - it's part of a normal life cycle I suppose. But it pisses me off.

Norma was one of the nicest, sweetest people I've ever met. I've met some very nice people, I've met some not-so-nice people, so I do have a sense of perspective. She was on the far right side of the bell curve. She was basically an old hippie - a liberal Unitarian - and after her mother passed away she lived alone (she lived with her mother when I moved here). I don't believe she was ever married, and she never had any children. She was a really good neighbor in the sense that she never was anything but pleasant, cheerful, and friendly. She was not the most robust person in the world, physically, so I would try and do little things to help her, like shovel a little bit of snow or blow leaves, stuff like that.

And it really pisses me off that people like her, people like my friend Tim's Mom, Shirley, people like my own Mom, don't get to enjoy the full measure of a lifetime, and enjoy all that life has to offer, and have to suffer horribly before dying. Literally, it feels like they were cheated of some of the best years of their lives, the times when they should be able to enjoy all the love and happiness and charity they've shared, and instead they all got sick and died. How old is old enough to have lived a full life? What's the standard for a quality life? I don't know. I know in my mom's case, all she ever wanted was to be a "granny" (the term she wanted for herself), something she never got to have happen. I suspect there are things that Shirley and things that Norma would have liked to have happen or done and weren't able to do, either.

I have a very difficult time rationalizing there is a "God" when I think about things like this. My friend Steve, in the midst of a heated discussion, accused me of not having any faith. He's 100.00% right- I don't have HIS faith, or faith by his standards, and I never will. And I am damn proud of that. There is no way a "God" allows people like Norma to suffer, allows people like Shirley to suffer, people who were nothing but kind and friendly and loving. Good people, the kind of who make the lives better for those they meet. It's when these people get "cheated" that I get angry.

I do have faith - I have faith in my friends, faith in my family. Frankly, I don't care what anyone else believes, which is why I'm so anti-religion (specifically organized ones) especially for myself. I think people can and should believe whatever they want, as long as it doesn't bother, hurt or impact other people in a negative way. You want to be Islamic, Catholic, Methodist, Jewish, Unitarian, or a Scientologist? Great, go be happy - just keep it to yourself as far as I'm concerned and don't judge me because I don't share your beliefs. Honestly, I completely respect whatever it is you want to believe and makes you feel good, just give me the same latitude. But I digress.

Norma is gone, her house will be empty soon and then it won't be. I'll remember her, all her kookiness and eccentricities, and I'll miss her from time to time. I supposed I could draw solace from the fact she's not in pain anymore, but that seems a rather empty concept to me. More than likely, I'll just hope that whatever good might come of dying, she's able to have that happen for her - she certainly earned it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Actual poll from Note the 5th option:

No comments. Just watch

Ok, one comment. That's a REALLY cool cake.


I watched the entirety of the Cowboys / Redskins game last night, except for the last few plays where Dallas was just taking a knee to run out the clock.

This is the second week in a row that they got man-handled. Especially the offensive line.

After the preseason, after week 1 when the Giants man-handled them, I told my buddy Tim I just didn't think this was a very good football team. They then played 5-1 football, and won some very big games. At one point, Tim was razzing me, and I told him I still wasn't convinced. But after giving up 10 sacks in two games and scoring 13 points total over those two games, I think the real team is the one we're seeing now.

What I saw in August was a team with an old, slow, offensive line who couldn't pass block and was mediocre in run blocking. The defensive line got p0wned as well, especially the defensive ends who couldn't stop the run OR rush the passer. Pittsburgh, and now Dallas, dominated in the trenches.

I was wrong about Jason Campbell, the quarterback. He's improving almost every week and his mechanics and technique are much improved. And the defense has played better than I thought they would this season. But football is mostly about the basics - blocking and tackling. Generally speaking, the teams who excel in those areas win.

It's also about imposing your will on your opponent. And the Redskins are allowing other teams to impose their will on them.

New layout

Tweaked the layout a bit. I really hated the tight column format.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Drool ...

I have *got* to get me one of these.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Senate races

Votes counted in Minnesota's senate race: 2,833,089

Votes separating Norm Coleman and Al Franken: 221

To me that is simply astounding, but not as astounding as Ted Stevens, Convicted Felon and U.S. Senator from Alaska, who went from trailing in the polls to a slight lead as of today. The only place I've heard any rumblings of hanky panky with voting is Alaska, where the Presidential race, the Senate race, and a key House race all came in about 10% stronger for the GOP above where they were predicted in the days leading up to the election. Personally, I think it's a statistical anomoly.

I also think when all the counting is done, the Dems will win both of those seats.

Georgia looks to be heading for a runoff. This is where the GOP makes a last ditch Little Bighorn stand to keep the Dems from geting control of 60 Senate seats. In fact, a GOP spokesman, when asked about these Senate races, said they consider anything less than 60 to be a major victory for the GOP.

Personally, I hope they keep it at 59 or less. I love Fillibusters. I love Senators reading from cookbooks, textbooks, and comic books just to keep talking. I think it also bodes better for the Dems in 2010 to NOT have a "Perfect Storm"-level sweep. But most importantly, I think both sides of ALL issues need to be heard.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The morning after ...

Like many people around the world, I watched the speeches by both Jon McCain and Barack Obama. I was impressed by both, for different reasons. McCain's speech was a true concession and it crystallized, for me, the most important thing about John McCain - that he is a honorable man with good intentions and understands the damage that divisivness can cause. (amusing game to waste time - go back and watch his speech again, and if you find one non-white person, I will buy you lunch)

Obama's speech was not celebratory at all, rather very serious with two messages. One, there is a lot of hard work to be done, and two, a group of people who believe in something can make it happen. (amusing game #2 - every time you seen Jesse Jackson crying, take a drink)

If this election had been held in mid-August I probably would have voted for John McCain, and I said as much. There are two reasons why I didn't and voted for Barack Obama instead.

One, Supreme Court Justices. The court skews slightly to the right already, and its important for the Supreme Court to be as balanced as possible in my opinion. I couldn't count on John McCain to recognize this and make it happen, especially in light of the second reason.

Two, McCain made a tactical error in moving his position more to the right after establishing a firm foothold near the middle. The problem here is some of the GOP base are Conservative Christrian fanatics (or radicals, take your pick), have a lot of money and wield a lot of influence in the GOP. Someone got in McCain's ear and told him he needed to move to the right, pick a far-right running mate and count on the far-right to bring this thing home. Remember that a lot of conservatives were very critical of McCain during the primaries and a lot of people were speculating that the conservatives would just stay home on election day. He wasn't polling well with the far right and someone convinced him to go after them. It was a gamble and it failed. IMHO, if McCain had stayed near the middle, picking a Tom Ridge for example (someone who could've helped in Pennslyvania) he might have made this closer. If he had been a real maverick and picked Joe Leiberman, this *might* have gone the other way. Palin brought nothing to the table except nice clothes and the attack dog attitude, and helped him win precisely zero states. Colin Powell said it perfectly - everything that has transpired since the conventions was a sort of final exam, and Obama did a better job on that exam. I believe McCain lost two moderate votes for every conservative vote he picked up, and I believe that was the difference.

The Republican party in general is now deep in the midst of an identity crisis. You have one faction who wants to move the party FURTHER right (if that's possible) and another who believe the party needs to be more open and more centrist.

One last thing for now. If you REALLY think Obama getting elected is the onset Socialism, you truly don't understand government. True Socialism advocates state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian (which is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights) society. Our government - almost any form of government for that matter - engages in selective forms of socialism. As long as there are taxes, as long as we have public schools, libraries, highways, police, military, courts, medical research, etc, we will have some form of socialism (in this case, the collection and selective redistribution of wealth for the purpose of providing services to and for the betterment of our society). Having "Joe the Plumber" call something socialist doesn't make it it. Of course, I suppose Joe T. Plumber could have advanced degrees in Political Science and Economics - but I doubt it.

Personally, I would do away with income tax altogether, and institute a National Sales Tax. Honestly, if you make $80,000 and keep $50,000 to spend on your needs, wouldn't you rather keep $80,000 and pay and extra 15% sales tax? Tell me how that doesn't work out better for everyone. Please.

The GOP spent the last 6 months trying to hang a tag on Obama - anti-american, muslim, radical, socialist - in an effort to scare people into drinking the McCainorade and voting AGAINST Obama as much as for John McCain. It's fascinating to me how they kept trying to drag the election down to a negative campaign and the Democrats just wouldn't bite and ran a campaign based on their message.

Hey, here's a tag the GOP can now hang on Obama: President-Elect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

They won't call it, so I will

Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

Most news networks have called enough states to give Obama either 199 or 200 electoral votes. Combine those with the mortal locks from Iowa (7), California (55), Oregon (7), and Washington (11) you get either 279 or 280 (270 needed).

I was off on a network calling it 9:30, Virginia and Florida are being persnickety.

update: dagnabbit - beat me to the punch by 8 minutes.

second update: for my good friend Steve. Please write from up north.

A strongly worded rant

You know who really annoys me these days?

These guys.

aka CNN's "iReport", or, CNN's "Annoying People with Video Cameras".

I don't need to see the world through the lens of the average person - I already have that perspective. I don't need to know that some 23-year old grad student in Sheboygan think it's "really great we get to vote in this country". I don't care if some dude saw "news" happen and filmed it on his cellphone. I'm ready to punch these people in the throat.

I guess CNN is too lazy, ER, cheap, ER, "focused on the big picture" to actually do reporting these days. And what's worse, they've started putting these tools up on the TV as they go to/come from commercial. I guess they are hoping people will watch in the hopes of seeing their 10 seconds of uploaded crap on TV.

Now, some of this, it's moderately interesting. Some guy uploaded 25 minutes of footage of people acting like morons in Philadelphia after the Phillies won the World Series, burning stuff, etc. That held my interest for a good 2 minutes. But for the most part, if I want user-uploaded "news", I'll go to Youtube.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Electoral prediction

It's less than an hour to election day here on the East coast... so here goes:

Obama - 338
McCain - 200

Bonus prediction: At least one major network will declare Obama the winner BEFORE polls close on the West coast, maybe as early as 9:30 PM. I just don't see how this is going to be all that close, with key wins for Obama coming in Virginia, Florida, and Ohio.

Update 8:32 AM 11/4 - Forgot to throw this in, but hey! it's not too late: Also predicting the Democrats will control 57 Senate seats at the end of the day.