Friday, March 30, 2012

3504 This kind of crap really jerks my chain

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for good reason.



Evidence tampering: A Republican Party advertisement on the president’s health-care law uses doctored audio from the arguments earlier this week to make Solicitor General Donald Verrilli look bad, according to Bloomberg.

A spot circulated yesterday excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 argument in which Verrilli is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water. “Obamacare,” the ad concludes. “It’s a tough sell.”

According to Bloomberg,
A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version.

What kind of idiots .... ?
... and some people continue to believe ...
Sigh. I give up.

3503 Martin/Zimmerman - my take

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bumper stickers are a yapping dog.


Everyone not under a rock knows about the Travon Martin/George Zimmerman controversy.

Both "sides" have their own theories, and in the spirit of today's political examples are trying to paint the other person as scum.

I have my own theories, based on the simple facts.

Facts aren't easy to come by. Zimmerman has been described as the neighborhood watch captain. Other sources describe him as a vigilante who appointed himself to the supposed position. The photo that's on every website shows him as pudgy. The police video of his arrival at the police station shows him as trim and muscular. It has been reported that the police report says that he had a cut on the back of his head that would have required stitches, and a broken nose. The police video shows him uninjured and with no blood on his clothing, and he did not go to the hospital. The photo everywhere of Martin shows him looking small, and sweet. Actually, that photo is several years old, and now he was much taller and filled out more.

Several things we do know for sure. Zimmerman had a gun. He called 911 and was advised not to follow the kid. Zimmerman was white, Martin was black, and it was a mostly white neighborhood. If racism entered the picture anywhere (and friends of Zimmerman claim he was not racist) it was significant that Martin didn't know if Zimmerman was racist or not. That's key. Anyone looking at this has to understand that. A white person might be able to understand how nervous they'd feel walking in, say, South Philadelphia after dark. Well, a lot of black people feel the same way about threatening-looking whites, and that's everywhere, all the time. You never know when some racist thug is going to pick a fight, just because they don't want you in their area. Having the wrong skin color is like wearing the wrong color in a gang area.

We also know that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin in his car. Slowly. It's dark. That would scare anyone. We believed it scared Martin because he called his girlfriend, and she said she told him to run.

Fact - Zimmerman got out of his car and confronted Martin. We don't know why.

We don't know what was said, or who did what. Martin can't give his side of the story. Zimmerman said that Martin attacked him, knocked him to the ground, bashed his head against the concrete, and tried to take his gun, and so he shot him in self defense, which is legal under Florida's "stand your ground law" (which I'm sure Zimmerman knew all about). Then the story changed, and now Zimmerman claims he didn't pull the trigger, that Martin pulled the trigger while they were struggling for the gun, so forget self defense or manslaughter, he didn't even kill him. Ta-rah.

(Consider how difficult it is to pull a trigger with the gun pointed at your own chest. Yeah, it happens on soap operas all the time, but that's fiction.)

Other people said they heard someone yelling "Help", then the shot. Some people think it was Martin yelling for help. Zimmerman says it was he himself. Who knows.

There are a few things I do know.

If Zimmerman hadn't followed Martin after being advised not to, thereby scaring the kid, it wouldn't have happened. Period.

If Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of the car and confronted the kid, it wouldn't have happened. Period. And I would not be surprised if Zimmerman's lawyer hadn't pointed out that his having been the aggressor sorta negates the "stand your ground" argument, since if anyone had the right to stand his ground, it was Martin. Zimmerman had complained in the 911 call that "They always get away". So I can't help but wonder why he got out of the car. To keep the kid from getting away? And how did he intend to accomplish that?

If Zimmerman hadn't gotten so close to the kid that he could be pushed to the ground, he wouldn't have been pushed to the ground, assuming he was, and it wouldn't have happened. Is it possible that Zimmerman displayed the gun, thinking that made him all-powerful? How else did Martin know there was a gun, to try to take it away from him? As to Martin, if you were wearing the wrong colors in a gang neighborhood, and were confronted by a guy with a gun, running or surrendering could get you shot in the back. He didn't know for sure what Zimmerman's intent was. If you're scared witless, the first thing you'd think of is to knock the guy down and get the gun - THEN run.

It doesn't matter at all whose finger was on the trigger when the gun went off. If Zimmerman had not displayed the weapon, it wouldn't have happened. Period.

If the gun had gone off during a struggle for the gun, then the two would have been close together. Zimmerman (now, since the story changed) claims he was on the ground with Martin over him, struggling for the gun. Got the picture? So why wasn't any of Martin's blood on Zimmerman?

The above is all fact, even given that facts in this case are hard to get.

In my opinion, Zimmerman set it all up playing cowboy. It was entirely his fault. I suspect that HE shot the kid in a moment of panic, and then later realized how wrong he was. Or that the kid pulled on the gun and Zimmerman, whose finger was on the trigger, reflexively tightened his grip, firing the bullet.

Whatever. He is entirely at fault, he killed the kid. Period. If it was accidental, then it's manslaughter, at least. But only the actual pulling of the trigger was accidental. He set it up for the trigger to be pulled. "Stand your ground", as stupid as that law is, doesn't apply here. Zimmerman was the aggressor. Under "stand your ground", Martin had a right to kill Zimmerman, not the other way around.

None of this would have happened if Zimmerman hadn't acted like a macho asshole and invaded Martin's space.

Everything else is misdirection and blather.

3502 Blogger Comment Errors

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nature is never wrong.


Blogger is throwing "bX-cy0oum" errors when people try to leave comments on Blogspot blogs. They know about it and I assume they're working on it. I'd hate to lose comments because of errors. I do want to "hear" what you have to say. So if you try to comment and can't, please come back later and try again.

Becs, I've been trying to leave a comment on your "not a vegan" post. Here it is:
You know you're not allowed to have a preference that others don't agree with. They'll give you an argument. You have to be forced into choices by something you can't control.

Lie. Tell people that meat causes severe digestion problems, like and painful acid reflux, or nasty flatulence. Act embarrassed by the whole thing. They can't argue with that. In fact, you'll get pity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3501 Habits

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One of the saddest things to happen was the optioning of morality by religion.


This is SO useful! (From - go there. They're fun.)


I've mentioned before that I don't form habits easily. I don't have a set sequence in the morning, for example, not even when I was working. Without habits and routines, we can easily forget important things. Like, sometimes before I leave the house, I have to feel my toothbrush to know whether I'd brushed my teeth yet. I have to keep careful notes as to whether bills have been paid, since I don't have a set time or routine for paying them.

Jay was very bound by habit. He'd actually get anxious if a set habitual routine was disrupted.

I do have a few habits:
  • I always always turn off the stove burner before lifting a pot off the burner. It's such an ingrained habit that I don't even think about it when I do it.
  • I often fall asleep with a pencil in my hand. When I wake up in the morning, the pencil will be tightly gripped in my fist. When I fell asleep, the pencil would have been in writing position, so at some point I had to have shifted it to a fist grip.
  • I never lock any door - house, car, hotel room - with an empty hand. If I don't have something in that hand, I literally can't lock the door. What's supposed to be in the hand is of course the key, so I can't lock myself out, but occasionally it happens to be the WRONG key, or not even a key. Oops. I don't seem to have added "check that's it's a key, and the right key" to the habit.
  • Because I don't seem to have routines, I depend on To Do lists. An unfortunate habit is that if there's something on that list of very high priority that I don't feel like doing, nothing else on the list gets done, either! I wish I could train me to do something else. I think I'm untrainable. Wild feral me.
Do you live by habits? Do you have any odd ones?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3500 Transplants - my take

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A man's perception is his reality. The easiest way to change your reality is to change your perception.


This is my understanding:

There are designated transplant facilities, some specializing in particular organs. Every state has at least one, some better than others, many associated with universities, or there's one just over the state line. (No, your local community hospital is unlikely to be a transplant center.)

Lists of people who need transplants are kept by the transplant centers. They examine and test you for suitability and if you are approved by their board, you are put on the list for that center and that state, and it expands outward by distance, so you are also on the national list.

Organs are are doled out within the state of origin (where the donor died) first, going to the nearest transplant center, then to other centers in the state, then within the region, then it spreads out nationally. So if you are on the list in Pennsylvania, you'll get first dibs on organs in Pennsylvania. You'd get one from Virginia only if there was no match in Virginia.

In other words, one major factor in your priority on the lists is location.

Some states tend to have more patients on wait lists than organ donors. Other states have more donors than patients on the waiting lists. Since each center wants to do their own testing and records review, the more money you have, the more centers' lists you can go on. It's to your advantage to find the states where donors outnumber patients, and get approved by a center in that state, and to get on as many centers' lists as possible. Obviously, it is best to be on lists at centers all over the US.

In order to actually GET the organ, you have to be able to get to the center within X hours of notification. That's why people who need an organ will actually move to the city with the transplant center to wait. When a match is found, the best and neediest match who is on the center's list AND shows up at the door soonest gets it. Having access to a private jet to get to centers in far-flung states makes that a lot more feasible.

And that's why rich people get organs before poor people. They have been approved by more centers, are on more centers' lists, and they can get to the centers quickest.

(Um, also, they can positively or negatively affect the center's fundraising, but, um, we won't mention that.)

When a very wealthy person doesn't get an organ in time, it's frequently because either they didn't make the effort, or they have a rare genetic makeup.

Re the age cutoff being based on overall health - Cheney has a VERY bad health record. It's a miracle that he's made it this far. Perhaps the age of the heart he was given (60?) was a factor. You don't put a brand new motor in a 15-year-old junker, nor a 200K-mile motor in a 2-year-old car.

3499 The Road - my take

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
-- Ghandi --


This is copied from my blog post of 01/08/10:
In other movie news, my Meetup group saw "The Road" ( Wednesday evening. One of the attendees (R.) was a fan of Cormac McCarthy, the author of the novel, had read the novel, and was able to explain some of the symbolism and meaning that otherwise might have escaped us. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on the movie skims over the meaning, too.

I did notice that even though the father keeps saying that they are "the good guys", he is descending into immorality himself, and that the son was of an age when he would not only learn from the actions of his father, but would strive to take those teachings to a greater level to impress the father - and yet the kid remains good and pulls the father back from depravity. I noticed that, but I didn't know why, and R. explained it.
Odd that I didn't write the explanation then. I did later read the book, and it's also odd that I didn't comment further then.

The major character in the book and the main symbol is neither the father nor the son, but the road. The journey. It is neither from nor to, but simply a journey. A context. Although it is lifeless, it is life, and it is what we have made of it.

The son is the second messiah. "The fire".

I found a New York Times review of the book just this morning, and it explains it all much better than I could (but not half as well as R. did). If you are familiar with the book I urge you to read this review. It won't hurt and might help you to deal with leftover emotions.

The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006. (Not that that means a whole lot. Most Pulitzer Prize-winning novels are unreadable.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

3498 Pronunciation

Monday, March 26, 2012

When the elephants dance, the mice get trampled.


Ever wonder how to pronounce a particular word? Especially if it's a different language?

Try, or for just English, try

I understand Google, Google Chrome, and Wikipedia all have spoken pronunciation guides, too, but I don't know how to get to them. Comment if you know.

If it's one of those esoteric fictional words, or a proper name, you might be able to find it on
- go to
- at the top, search for (for example) "ahmadinejad, cc", where the ", cc" says you want closed captions
- this will get you a list of all captioned videos whose titles or descriptions contain that word
- select one to view. If it's short, you can just listen to it
- if it's long, you can go directly to the word:
-- under the video you will see what looks like a page with a highlighted line
-- click on that icon
-- this gives you a printed transcript
-- look for the word you want, click on that line, and the video will go directly to that line.

Captioning on YouTube videos can sometimes be unintentionally hilarious, especially if it was machine generated. In the example above, in the CC transcript for the first video I tried for "ahmadinejad", it was transcribed as "on the teenager". So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes the speaker is full of crap and pronounces it incorrectly. It's a crap shoot.

3497 Shock

Monday, March 26, 2012

Denis Johnson, "The Small Boy's Unit", Harper's, Oct. 2000, on the meaning of "everything is arranged" in Africa: Everything is arranged doesn't mean you should expect to get anywhere or accomplish anything. In fact for sanity's sake these two ideas have to be banished. Everything is arranged means that all is complete, the great plan of the universe is unfolding before our eyes.
So eat, drink, sleep. Everything is arranged.


I have widgets on my laptop desktop that show the outside temperature at both houses, and although all winter it's been 8-15 degrees warmer at the new NJ house, for the past two weeks it's been 5-10 degrees warmer at the old NY house, 140 miles north. In fact, Thursday of last week it was in the 70s. Weird.

I'm now at the old house upriver.

When I left NJ this afternoon to drive up, I was wearing a pink sweatshirt-like hoody over a silk/cotton turtleneck, and I forgot to grab a jacket to take along for just in case. I remembered it when I was on the road, but shrugged and figured I wouldn't need it.

Yeah, sure.

They are predicting 22 degrees F here overnight tonight, and it won't be much warmer tomorrow. Luckily there are a few ratty old coats and jackets in the hall closet. If they're not too full of moths and mice, I guess I'll have to find one for tomorrow.

3496 Yeah, sure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.
-- Javier Pascual Salcedo --


Dick Cheney got a heart transplant, at age 71, after only 20 months on the wait list. Authorities insist that there was no favoritism.

You know, the rest of us simply don't believe that. We might be more inclined to believe that rich and famous people don't get organs faster, don't jump the line, if once, just once, somebody rich or famous died while waiting for an organ.

There are thousands of ordinary people every year who die waiting for livers, kidneys, lungs, hearts. If it's really fair, at least one of them had to be rich or famous.

Anybody know of any?


If you're here for info on how transplant lists work, see the comments, especially my second (long) one.   When I originally wrote this, I assumed everyone knew how the lists work and why rich people don't wait, but it became obvious from the other comments that they didn't.  So I explained it.  Read the comments.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

3495 Firefighting

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jean-Pierre Deriaud, on French laws: It is forbidden, but possible.


I've been watching videos on YouTube of fire departments in action. Many are from helmet cameras, and several include entering the burning structure. Pretty interesting. (Search for "fire cam helmet" in YouTube.)

I had volunteered with the completely volunteer fire company in the little village upriver. I was an EMT on the rescue squad. The company got some money from the village and the township, but most of the budget came from donations and fundraisers. Watching these "professional" company videos, I am amazed at the equipment and procedures we had. We were pretty damn impressive!

In the video clips, when they need an ambulance, they have to call for one. Our ambulance and EMTs went to fires. We were immediately ready for injuries. Even the EMTs were in full turnout gear for fires (and for motor vehicles accidents) - you know, the helmets, liners, shields, overalls and jackets, gloves, and boots. EMTs weren't allowed close to the actual fire, weren't trained for it, but we had other duties.

In most of the videos, the firefighters seem to be in charge of their own SCBA (the air tanks). In our company, the EMTs checked the pressures before they were distributed, filled them, handed them out, and checked the masks.

Each of our firefighters had a number shield on the helmet, and a corresponding tag clipped to the jacket. They were not allowed to go into a burning building without permission of the EMTs, and they had to give us the jacket tag, which got hung on a board on hooks. When they came out, the tags were moved from the board and clipped back on the jacket, and the firefighters had to be medically checked and approved by the EMTs and have the tank checked or refilled before they were allowed to go back - after surrendering their tag again.

That way, we knew instantly who was in the building, and since the tags were hung in order, we knew approximately how long they'd been in there. Nobody went missing, and nobody could disappear. If someone had been in too long, we knew exactly who, and could radio or send someone to fetch him or her out.

On these videos, firefighters seem to be running around with nobody paying attention to who went where. If a ceiling fell in, I wonder how long it would take them to realize that Joe is missing.

On the equipment, we had a high power ladder (even though there wasn't a single building in the township over three stories), and a bucket, and powerful stadium-type lights that turned the entire area into daylight. In the videos, these guys are pulling ladders off the truck and leaning them against the eaves, and if it's a night fire it's so dark, the only exterior lights seem to be from the truck headlights and flashing sidelights, and from the fire itself - which makes everything in silhouette and strobing confusion.

Yeah, your equipment is a reflection of your budget. But we were a tiny department in a tiny village. It's not like we were rolling in money. The training is NOT a reflection of the budget, and our guys were well trained with tight procedures in place and enforced. The Chief gets all the credit for that.

I've been reading the critical comments on the videos from other firefighters, and I'm proud that our little group would have passed their inspection.

3494 Taxes

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


Well, I've finally pulled my tax documents together. It took about six times as long as I thought it would.

I was missing two 1099-DIVs, but I was able to recreate the dividends paid from online info at Google financial. I never got the promised statement of total real estate taxes paid for the NJ house, and I couldn't figure it out because my checks included their screw-ups from 2010, so I had to go to the township tax office and get a statement.

It's shocking. Fully 26% of my disposable income went to real estate taxes on the two houses. Add in what I'd paid in estimated income taxes, and it's over a third that I'd paid on one tax or another. That doesn't include sales taxes, or what I still might owe on income tax (I usually owe more, never get a refund).