February 28, 2010

One and Done

Add Buffalo to the list of teams that said "No" to any more of the T.O. Show.


photo from here

February 27, 2010

Endorphins and Disappointment

The Cowtown should be renamed the The Letdown.  
Mr Harper and my oldest son were participating in the 5K race this morning.  My son did this for the first time last year as part of a school running club and wanted to do it again and Mr H agreed to escort.  The plan was for a longer race, but old man knees and school commitments reduced the available training time, so the Kid's 5K it was.
The other kiddos and I cheered them at the start line and then ventured into the warmth of the nearby Barnes & Noble.  We queued up for a warm beverage, as the 5K doesn't allow for time to see them at a mid-course cheering station.  The day was warming up nicely, so we decided to head out early, walking a block over to the finish line, expecting our boys to cross at the 30 - 40 minute mark.  It became evident as we approached, that most of the racers were already in.  Hmmmm.  I double checked my watch, twenty-five minutes since the start.  There are some quick runners, but my son ran it in 40 minutes last year and finished in the top half of the field.  WTF?  
A couple of minutes of standing there and the announcer says that they have reported in that the track is clear, all 5K runners are in.  All 4,000 entrants ran it in under 40 minutes? Surely not, I thought, but we wandered over to the food corral where the runners congregate after the race and sure enough, there are the boys, halfway through their yogurt and banana snack (Mr Harper wasn't aware that beer was available!).  
I suffered through several hours of mom-guilt since I didn't see them cross the finish line, beating myself up for indulging in a latte while they pounded pavement.   At the same time, Mr H and the boy are talking about how easy the run was, how much fun they had, what an accomplishment, want to do the 10K or half marathon next year...a real proud parenting moment, especially for my kid that is usually less than confident in his abilities.
My son wanted to know his time, so we began checking the site for results.  Nothing.  Every race, even the Ultra Marathon (50K), was posting chip times, but nothing for the Kid's 5K.  Exasperated with the results site, I click on the race's Facebook page to see if there are any notices about the lack of results.  
Turns out, the mom-guilt has turned to mom-indignation.  The race officials and police escort took the racers on the wrong route.  They ran 1.69 miles, instead of the 3.1 they were expecting.  Now, the news is in that the men's marathon winner went half a mile off course!  Seems there were issues throughout.  I know people make mistakes, but the distance and route of a race are critical.  Disappointed kid.  Unamused dad.   (But now guilt-free mom!) It's gonna stink to go to school and work and have people ask about the race and have to say, "Well, it was a great 2 1/2 K".  More infuriating is the silence from the race.  No statement, no explanation.  No, "We aren't posting the 5K results because it was only half of a 5K". 
We'd like half our money back, please. 

February 26, 2010

Running Men

Mr Harper and the oldest boy will be running a foot race tomorrow in Fort Worth.  Past experience tells me that it will be the coldest, windiest morning of the winter.  The wind can whip through the downtown streets and right down the collar of your coat.  Ugh.  Lucky for me, my job is to snap a photo or two, cheer loudly as they start, then trot over to the warmth and coffee counter at the Barnes & Noble for a bit before strolling over to the finish line to snap that obligatory triumphant photograph.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
I drove to Cowtown this afternoon to pick up their race packets for them.  Translation; I sat in ridiculous traffic in the middle of the day trying to get in and out of the city.  In the good old days, you could sneak into downtown via Belknap, avoiding the mix-master disaster at I-30.  Used to be, if traffic was backed up it usually wasn't much further north than Northside Drive, another sneaky way into town.  Now it is stop and go from well north of 820 all the way in.  Anyway, I finally got there and had only circled the block once when I lucked into a parking spot in front of the (closed) Dixie House, so I only had to carry my toddler one block in the rain. 
That turned out to be one nearly-deadly block.  Our nanny-state leaders have a law for nearly everything else in the world, here's one that is sorely needed: a Prius should make some noise.  Especially since they are driven by inattentive, self absorbed assholes who choose to ignore traffic signals, crosswalks and right of way laws.  Those cars are wicked hard to hear - they sneak right up on you.  If I am going to die by vehicular assault, I want to hear it coming.  Make them put a card in their spokes or something.
In honor of my boys, here is some Pink Floyd.  I showed this to my son, who thought it was cool.  I guess that proves that hallucinogens are not necessarily required to appreciate a Floyd show.

February 25, 2010

Pushing up Daisies

I am one of those nutty people who reads the obituaries every day. Usually the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and occasionally in the Denton Record Chronicle newspapers.  If I am away from home, I will read the local paper wherever I may be. I think that it, in some small way, honors the dead - whether I knew them or not.
Considering my long history with the obit, there is one thing about mine that I am certain of - and have instructed all family members about. I am going to DIE, so 'died' is the appropriate term. If you really must, you can say 'passed away'. I would actually prefer that some humor is injected. If I die before Mr. Harper, I won't get my first choice, as he is not quite as amused as I am at the thought of putting 'tits up' in our local paper. The following are acceptable alternatives:
bought the farm
bit the dust
taking a dirt nap
kicked the bucket
cashed in her chips

If the manner of death is at all interesting, it should be mentioned. Quite frankly if I am hit by a bus, I think my obit should say so - tombstone as well.
Of this I am certain, if any of the following phrases show up in my death notice, I will haunt the writer for eternity:
answered the trumpet call
entered rest
marched triumphantly through the Pearly Gates
fell asleep in the arms of Jesus
crossed over
has gone to her reward
joined her _________
awoke to life immortal
joined the choir invisible

February 24, 2010

At least we have our health (knock on wood)

Is there a name, other than Murphy's Law, for when all the little piddly things start to fail around the house within days and weeks of one another?  I hate to let odd jobs pile up, but sometimes they just aren't conducive to the weather, time of year, household budget or my schedule. 
A couple of weeks ago our front door handle started getting hard to open.  The little thing you put your thumb on was hard to press down far enough to trip the latch and get the door to open.  It was butt numbingly cold, so I kind of hoped that the weather was contributing.  It has just gotten worse and the door is about to the point of being un-openable (I know it isn't a word) from the outside.  I took it apart, cleaned, lubricated and spit on it a little, hoping to get it to semi-working condition until I can get a new handleset.  Most of our house has new door hardware, from when we remodeled a couple of years ago.  I thought it would be nice to get front door hardware that matches the rest of the house.  Well, I can do that, if I want to buy a new door.  As it turns out, the deadbolt and knob openings do not match any current manufacturers dimensions. Nor will any of the existing screw holes align with anything I can find.  So, it will take some Harper ingenuity to find a handleset that I can make work with as few new holes, patching and painting as I can manage.  BTW, door knobs and good deadbolts ain't cheap.  I loaded up an Internet shopping cart with my "dream" list, including the new front door hardware and matching stuff for the other three exterior doors.  $500!  Holy crap.  I will just have to slap the first person who points out we have mismatched hardware throughout the house.
Just as I finished fiddling with the front door, I headed out the back door to put my tools away in the garage.  Damned if the back screen door latch hasn't quit.  It just won't latch anymore.  Add that to my Home Depot list.  This door was already on my to-do list as the dogs scratched a hole through the screen, wanting to come in out of the cold sooner than normal, this 'mild' winter. 
We had a little plumbing back up and discovered that when we remodeled, someone didn't get a good seal on the new line to the septic tank and we now have tree roots creating an issue.  Now we have to get the plumber back with a camera to find the exact spot, so they can dig up the only professionally landscaped part of my yard and fix the problem. 
My son tried to open his window to holler at a sibling that was outside the other day.  The window seemed to separate from the metal piece that fits into the track that runs along each side of it.  I managed to get it shut again, but it is inoperable - and beyond my realm of home repair knowledge.  It will just have to stay shut and low on the priority list.
Trash compactor ceased working a couple of months ago.  We now use it as a recycle bin.  I want to replace it with an under-counter residential ice machine that makes Sonic ice.  I have talked to various ice company reps at trade shows and they tell me it is coming , so I wait, not so patiently.  
The refrigerator and washing machine are both making strange noises.  The fridge is ancient and bound to die soon.  The washer is newer, but since I do a minimum of 10 full loads of laundry a week, it is near the end of its life as well.  They must survive until April, I am waiting on that appliance clunkers program.

February 23, 2010

Our National Treasure

When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that he would begin using a Twitter account, I didn't take much notice.  What did catch my attention was the clarification, a few days later, of which tweets would become archived forever.  Gibbs clarified that:
What I write and what I tweet is archived as a part of this Presidential Records Act of 1978 because it is work product created as part of my job at the White House. People that follow me, people that read that, people that re-tweet that, none of that goes into or is archived as a result of the Presidential Records Act. The only thing that would be archived other than what I produce is if you respond directly to me and only me. It's analogous to sending an e-mail to the White House, which is already archived.  
Then it came to me...we have the opportunity to create the next "National Treasure" type of historical code  If the government continues down the path it is on now, we independent-minded patriots will be silenced and/or forced underground (cue the violins).  There already exists an atmosphere of fear and trepidation when we exercise our rights to free speech, assembly, gun ownership.  One never knows what Big Brother is keeping track of.

So, if every direct message, be it e-mail, tweet, IM, DM, etc., is required to be archived, we can hide our messages for the patriots of the future in those missives.  One hundred years from now, some treasure hunter will be poring over the National Archives and see a pattern in the language or theme of certain digital correspondence, he will crack the code and discover the great treasures of freedom and liberty that Americans once had.  As the Bill of Rights will be all but forgotten, erased from our history like Obama's Kenyan birth certificate and Indonesian passport, these ideals of liberty will ignite a firestorm in the passionate youth of 2200 and freedom will again ring throughout our land.

Or, we can all just commit to sending at least one (per week) raucous and highly descriptive e-mail, about the current administration, to the White House.  Wouldn't it be fun to search through the National Archives in 30 years and show your great-grandchildren what a potty mouth you had back in 2010? 

February 22, 2010

Enough already

Ten days ago, the record setting snow in the Dallas area was thick, wet stuff.  Perfect for big, hard, knock-your-sister-sideways snowballs and towering snowmen.  It also stuck to everything, causing lots of tree damage and downed power lines.  The first time we ventured out, we passed a large subdivision and I commented that I should have taken a picture of all the white roofs, as that would be the look of the future should the warming nuts get their way.  In a classic case of "careful what you wish for", it seems that I will get another opportunity to take my 'white roofs' photo.    
Every TV and newspaper meteorologist is using a different map for north Texas' next round of snow. This map just barely keeps me in the "less than 1"" area, so it is the one I am going with.  'Cause maps don't lie.  And they never miss the forecast.

February 20, 2010

Blumenthal Smackdown

This is fun to watch. Funnier still is his desperate attempt to downplay the event and insult anyone who thinks he deserved what he got. That is Andrew Breitbart getting in Max Blumenthal's face at the beginning. Then Larry O'Connor calls him on his answers to Breitbart.

I saw it first at Left Coast Rebel.

Kiss My Medal

I love the Olympics. Most of the time we are cheering for an American in a sport we know very little about, and when an American isn't available, we find someone to get excited about. I can't think of any other sporting event that can grab the collective interest of people with no particular interest in the activities. It got my mother to call me after 10 pm to ask if I saw how high that Shaun White got on his straight air in the half pipe. We even pick up the lingo.
It was other snowboarding athlete news that caught my attention this weekend. Snowboarder Scotty Lago left Vancouver early after "risque" photos of him appeared on TMZ. (Anyone else wish those TMZ people would just go away?) After being awarded his medal, Lago decided to celebrate and was,
"...wearing a Team USA T-shirt when somebody snapped a photo of a woman kneeling below Lago’s waist to kiss his medal. That picture, and another showing him sticking the medal in the woman’s mouth while teammate Greg Bretz looks on, appeared Friday on the TMZ Web site."
I know, I know, Olympic athletes are representing our country and should display a bit more decorum.  I suppose Phelps got it right since he waited until a post-Olympics party to pose for his bong picture.  I think sending Lago home and making him apologize is political correctness run amok.  You have to admit the "kiss his medal" euphemism makes you giggle.  These guys and girls train their butts off, I think they should be allowed to let off a little steam and enjoy their success.  

These guys should be invited to BlownStar.  They might have fun with their medals, but you should see what  hilarity ensues with a well-placed sausage. 

February 17, 2010

I can confirm that Obama thinks we are stupid

"...Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's second-in-command, was apprehended in Karachi, Pakistan, by a joint CIA-Pakistani operation and officials said he "was talking."
 Well, at least the CIA got top billing in that statement.
Baradar is being held in Pakistan by local authorities for the time being, but other options have been somewhat limited by new NATO rules -- and by President Obama's own policies.
Policies, like that one BHO hastily signed on his second day in office, reversing the 'harsh' interrogation and detention methods of the previous administration.   
Baradar, who also functioned as the link between Mullah Omar and field commanders, has been in detention for more than 10 days and was talking to interrogators, two Pakistani intelligence officials said Tuesday. One said several other suspects were also captured in the raid. He said Baradar had provided "useful information" to them and that Pakistan had shared it with their U.S. counterparts. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
How foolish does the White House sound, playing coy about a guy who has been in detention for more than 10 days now? 
BHO has figured out that the way around his own policies is to let someone else be the fall guy.  "We don't have Baradar in custody, the Pakistanis do.  We aren't interrogating him, the Pakistanis are.  Yes the CIA aided in his capture but they aren't possessive and don't mind someone else heading up the questioning process and getting all the credit.  We appreciate that the Pakistanis are so adept at lawful interrogations of hardened Taliban members.  They are clearly more successful than our CIA would be.  We appreciate them sharing what they have learned".
The White House declined to confirm Baradar's capture. Spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters the fight against extremists involves sensitive intelligence matters and he believes it's best to collect that information without talking about it.
President Obama is huddling with members of his war cabinet Wednesday to discuss strategy in Afghanistan after the recent capture of the Taliban's top military commander.
Obama will meet in the White House Situation Room with top officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command.
General Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, were to join the meeting via video conference, the White House said.
We can't confirm the guy was captured but we can confirm that we are having a strategy meeting about what to do since we captured the guy.
Others cautioned it was too soon to say whether the arrest (as yet unconfirmed by the U.S.) represented a strategic change or was a one-off event aimed at reducing some of the U.S. pressure on the country. Some said they believed it was simply the result of good intelligence work by the United States.
"I think the intelligence comes from the Americans," said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani journalist and expert on the Taliban. "They tell the Pakistanis that 'we have to raid some place' and the Pakistanis say 'we will go along with you."
"We will go along with you" and then the U.S. can hold and interrogate Baradar and his compadres in the comfort of Pakistan, as we take the credit/blame.  That way your president keeps his hands clean and Pakistan suffers the backlash from the Taliban. 

Quoted news story from here.

February 16, 2010

Count me out

Is anyone looking forward to filling out their census information?  I just read this article detailing the millions of dollars that have been wasted by the Census Bureau so far.  Among the issues found by auditors were:
--More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.
--Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.
--Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.
--Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.
And the real work hasn't begun yet!

I didn't have to actively participate in the 2000 census as I was a military dependent living overseas.  Rather than ask military and government employee's families to fill out a form, the Department of Defense provides information to the Census Bureau to enumerate American military families living abroad.  I suppose that should bother me more, no telling what information they turn over!  I imagine it is wildly inaccurate information, considering the number of dependents that the military thinks are in country that have returned stateside, or vice versa.  There are a hundred little ways that military families manipulate the system to maximize the allowances for housing and cost of living.  Not to mention the everyday flotsam of life that causes military families to live apart.  It is troubling that the DoD can just provide a report, but that the Census Bureau can't accept similar information from other agencies for its count.  

If the Census Bureau can trust the military, why not the Social Security Administration?  They have critical data on a majority of Americans.  It is standard procedure to apply for a child's SSN prior to leaving the hospital with your newborn.  How about the IRS?  My tax return contains most of the information that they are seeking.  It contains names, dates of birth and information that details my home ownership and mortgage. It seems that the IRS could add a question about race and cover all the answers 'needed' by the census, thereby combining their efforts and saving the taxpayers millions.

Even more to the point, in my opinion, would be to combine the census efforts with a vote.  The census is intended to determine the representational needs of a given area - tie it to people who actually vote.  How about, over the course of the census year, that the census business is conducted at the polling place?  The voter rolls contain address and age data, add the remaining questions to the ballot and be done with it.  If the Census Bureau wants to hire people to go door-to-door and register people to vote and help get them to the polls....wait a minute, aren't there organizations that do that?  Anyone else seeing the redundancy in efforts here?   

February 15, 2010

Obama to honor Bush

In a reconciliatory move by the Obama administration, the president has asked the Board of Geographical Place Names to change the name of the fracture in the tectonic plate beneath Haiti, in honor of the forty-third president of the United States, George W Bush.

Henceforth this particular fracture in the tectonic plate will be called "Bush's Fault".

February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

February 12, 2010

Open mouth, insert foot

Maybe it's the weather.  Candidates for governor of Texas are suffering a major case of foot in mouth disease.  Early this week it was Debra Medina not disavowing 9/11 Truthers.  Today, democratic governor wannabe Farouk Shami, the CEO of the company that makes the CHI hair care products, choked on his loafer.
In response to a similar 9/11 question he answered:
“I'm not sure. I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not really sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? It's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure.”
Okay, but are you sure about that?

When asked if he supported a government requirement for employers to use a system to verify a worker's immigration status, Shami declined to answer.  Then went on to say, 
“I find 80 percent of my employees at the factory are Hispanics. I don't find, you know, many white people really willing to work, you know, unfortunately.”
While still declining to answer the question, Shami said that at his Houston hair care products factory, Hispanics are vital to his business and the economy.
Asked to explain what he meant about not hiring many whites, he said they want special treatment. “A majority of the people are going to be Hispanic and African-American. You don't find white people who are willing to work in factories. And our history proves, you know, lots of time when they, you know, the white people come to work in a factory they either want to be supervisors or they want to be, you know, paid more than the average person. And unfortunately they exit.”
Because, you know, you white people, with your high school educations, knowledge of labor laws and expectation of minimum wage, you won't work in a sweatshop, you know.

By my calculations we now have three candidates for the gubergoobernatorial race.  Since Kay Bay Hutchison's campaign has mastered negativism, robo-calls and email spam, I have to vote for Governor Goodhair.  It has a lot more to do with her fondness for earmarks and that 'yea' vote for the bailout, but her calls annoy me.  Further infuriating is that her robo-calls don't begin by identifying the purpose of the call or the intended recipient.  My twelve year old doesn't need to hear about Roe v Wade when he answers the phone.   

Snow Day Redux

Off to play in the 14 inches of global warming that fell on our Texas yard yesterday. 

February 11, 2010

Oh Boy George

Have you seen this video?  It was billed as a birthday surprise for politico turned TV personality George Stepa Stephenup Stephanopull (the short guy who worked for Clinton).  Um, it's one thing to play 'Georgie-porgie and the trashy TV anchor woman' in the comfort of your own home - not on national television.  Does George have some secret Diane Sawyer fantasy?  If he did, it was probably put firmly to rest when his wife did the hooker-splits on the anchor desk on live TV yesterday.  

Snow Day

North Texas is being treated to yet another snow this winter season.  (Note to self, get that Gore fella on the phone and ask him WTF?) Our average temperature for today should be near 60 degrees.  Obviously we aren't getting there today.  As you may or may not know, we don't get much snow.  Most winter weather events for us are ice, so the fluffy white stuff is nice every now and then.  We missed out on the Christmas snow, so my children are doubly ticked off that they have school today.  Since the snow is supposed to continue throughout the day, I will probably go get them out of school early and avoid the nightmare of the pick up line and 300 soccer moms who have never driven in snow before.    

Getting the kids home early also provides the opportunity to begin drinking the obligatory snowstorm adult beverages earlier in the day.  In light of the forecast, I laid in a supply of necessary ingredients for Hot Buttered Rum and Tuaca-laced hot apple cider.  I made the Hot Buttered Rum base with cinnamon ice cream and have Captain Morgan on hand.   Yum.

On the down side, this is an extremely wet and heavy snow.  Some of our landscaping doesn't take the weight well, so I will be taking frequent jaunts around the property shaking limbs and poking at things with a broom.  Our Yaupon Holly trees are particularly susceptible.  As are these other tall skinny evergreen things we have that look like huge phallic symbols.  We inherited them from the previous owner and it wouldn't break my heart if they fell down and died.  I am sure my neighbors are entertained by my tree-shaking, as I look ridiculous doing it and the end result is that snow comes crashing down - usually on my head. 

February 10, 2010

Goodbye, Good Time Charlie

There aren't too many politicians with a "D" after their name that I have any admiration for. Charlie Wilson was an exception. What I hate most about politicians is the hypocrisy and lies. Charlie put it all out there for everyone to see and he spoke his mind, regardless of who it might offend. Plus he loved a good party.

Tax Roads

I used to love me some President George Bush Turnpike when it was a new, smooth road, with little traffic and my nifty Tolltag doodad providing clear sailing - there was no slowing down until I reached my exit.  The PGBT (named for Bush 41) runs east-west through the northern part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and is part of the North Texas Tollway Authority.
I didn't used to have a strong opinion about tax toll roads, though as a kid I remember riding with my dad on his commute into the metro New York City area and marveling at his coin stockpile and method of toll paying.  He had rolls of coins in his console and would grab the appropriate selection as he approached each tollbooth, thus allowing him to go through the faster "exact change" lane.  It was probably only a couple of bucks a day, but that seemed like a lot of shiny silver coins to a kid my age.   
I think that toll roads can exist as an alternative to other routes.  All of the other taxes that I pay that are intended for road construction and maintenance should be used for that purpose.  If I have the means and wish to pay more for the use of a road, then bully for me.  If not, my tax dollars should be providing adequate infrastructure.  Unfortunately, North Texas is becoming overrun with toll roads, making them the only feasible routes to some areas.  
It doesn't help that the NTTA is building up quite a reputation as an organization of greedy idiots.  A couple of years ago the NTTA announced that they would be moving to all electronic toll collection.  No more toll booths, no more toll booth workers.  If you have a TollTag, it is detected as you pass through each checkpoint and your account is deducted accordingly.  If you do not have a TollTag, your vehicle license plate is photographed and you are invoiced for your toll fees (ZipCash).  The ZipCash system does not trigger an invoice until $3 are owed, and if you owe less, they don't let you pay it!  I wonder, over the course of a year, how many vehicles are sold, license plates changed, etc., with $2.99 owed to the NTTA?  Case in point: Last summer I was in the car with my mother - she didn't have a TollTag.  We traveled onto a toll road, months passed, no bill came.  Having seen some of the horror stories on the news, she called to see why she hadn't been billed.  She hadn't traveled on the road long enough to reach the billing threshold, and they had no way to bill her or accept her payment until she hit $3.  The next month she got a new vehicle and per current Texas law, the dealer took the plates off of her trade-in and handed them to her.  What happens to the $2 and change that she racked up on the tollway, since she will never reach the $3 threshold on that vehicle registration?     

The NTTA charges exhorbitant "administrative fees" for overdue tolls.  The reasonable $10 per invoice late fee is overshadowed by the $25 per toll transaction administrative charge.  Until this past Monday, unfortunate souls in the wrong lane were also charged the $25 per toll transaction administrative fee for using the electronic toll collection lanes without a TollTag.
Is there another system in America that can create a $2,000 bill out of $86 debt, simply by ignoring that debt for as little as 45 days? Banks and their obnoxious NSF fees may come close, but you'd have a write about 80 checks for $1 -- and bounce them all to get into that kind of trouble.
The first quarter that the all electronic billing program was in place, motorists were billed for $786,000 in tolls.  It cost $30,000 to print and send those invoices.  $450,000 was still owed at the end of the year.  I think the system needs some work. 
Now today, this story is in the local news:
Thousands of disabled veterans in Texas get to drive toll roads for free — but not in North Texas.
In September, the Texas Legislature passed a law giving toll road operators the choice to waive fees to disabled vets.
Three months later, Houston’s major toll road operator, Harris County Toll Road Authority, adopted the idea.
Any driver with a specialty license plate showing they’re a disabled veteran, Purple Heart or Congressional Medal of Honor recipient will not be charged on its 119 miles of highway.
The North Texas Tollway Authority hasn’t yet embraced the idea.
The NTTA says it can’t waive tolls because of contractual agreements with its bondholders who helped pay for the highways.
The agency estimates there are nearly 21,000 disabled veterans in North Texas; giving them a free ride would cost the agency nearly $3 million a year, officials say.
But what would it cost you as Americans, had those veterans not stood up for your freedom every day they were in uniform?  
I don't have to drive in the city much, but until this policy gets changed, when I do have to venture to points south and east...I will be taking the long way around.

February 8, 2010

No apologies

Entertaining parody:

Other Serious Crimes

The FBI is pressing Internet service providers to record which Web sites customers visit and retain those logs for two years, a requirement that law enforcement believes could help it in investigations of child pornography and other serious crimes.
From here via American Thinker.

I agree wholeheartedly with American Thinker.  "Child Pornography" is a cover ploy, it's the "other serious crimes" that our government is interested in.  "Crimes" like which political party you lean toward, who your friends are, what covert Tea Party activities you take part in. 
What remains unclear are the details of what the FBI is proposing. The possibilities include requiring an Internet provider to log the Internet protocol (IP) address of a Web site visited, or the domain name, a host name, or the actual URL.  While the first three categories could be logged without doing deep packet inspection, the fourth category would require it. 
"We're not set up to keep URL information anywhere in the network," said Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance. 
And, Arena added, "if you were do to deep packet inspection to see all the URLs, you would arguably violate the Wiretap Act."
Well, nobody in our government has a problem violating the Wiretap Act.

This closing from the American Thinker sums it up:
By all means, give the FBI everything they need - within reason - to conduct criminal investigations. But tracking an individual's website history is pretty far over the line. Anytime the potential for abuse outweighs any possible gains, such an idea should be deep sixed.
Over the next decade, we will have to fight very hard to keep the internet from falling into the hands of statists who would use it to oppress us. The UN will try to take it over. The US government will try to tax it, and perhaps even level a charge for email. Other nations like China will continue to restrict freedom on the net.
All must be resisted if this last, true bastion of unfettered personal liberty and expression is to remain in the hands of the people.

February 7, 2010

Ms Harper Goes to Washington

Around Harper House today we are packing eldest daughter's things for a trip to Washington D.C. where she will be taking part in a Model United Nations conference. We are thinking positively as to the weather situation. Mother Nature is welcome to stick it to 'em snow-wise, as long as things are cleared up by Wednesday, her scheduled day of arrival. The teacher built in a day of sightseeing, so even if the weather doesn't clear until Thursday, the kids should still get to go and take part in the conference.
The aforementioned weather has resulted in more attention paid to the warmth of the clothing and ruggedness of footwear being packed. Needless to say, we are scrambling just a bit to make sure that she is adequately clothed.
I am also doing my best to prepare her mentally for the strong dose of BS she is likely to get from this experience. Interesting timing that her class watched 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' last week.  My daughter has been assigned a role as a Palestinian, and her position paper is on infrastructure, particularly road improvements, and their affect on the future economy. I was a little worried when I heard what country she was representing, but her assigned subject matter is quite apolitical. As a former debater, I would have wanted something more provocative to speak on.
I never would have let me go on a trip like this - at her age I was much more, um, adventurous and rebellious. Thank God I have 'good' kids.

February 4, 2010

Real Life Math

My daughter was working on this math problem last night:
You are designing a rectangular picnic cooler with length 4 times its width and height 2 times its width.  The cooler has insulation that is 1 inch thick on each of the four sides and 2 inches thick on the top and bottom.  Let x represent the width of the cooler.  What is a polynomial function C(x) in standard form for the volume of the inside of the cooler?
Every single one of us, at some time during our school years, lamented the same thing about math, "When will I ever use this in real life?"  In a rather un-parental moment, I suggested to my daughter that if she really wanted a meaningful answer to the question, she should go to the refrigerator and figure out how many Shiner bottles she could fit into her imaginary 'picnic cooler'.  Then ensued a discussion on the correct ratio of ice to beer bottle, to achieve optimum drinking temperature.  
Putting a round bottle into a square container, there is space between each bottle, and the smaller circumference of the neck portion of the bottle provides an additional amount of space for ice, when bottles are placed standing upright.  I have not yet perfected the formula, but put forth a hypothesis suggesting that long neck bottles establish the proper ice ratio unto themselves.  Of course, proper drinking temperature will be affected by the ambient air temperature.  To adhere to the scientific method, much testing is required.  Who's in?

February 3, 2010

This week's money quote

Courtesy of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, responding to Obama singling out Las Vegas as a place to avoid, AGAIN, in a 'tighten your belts' speech.

"This president is a real slow learner."

February 2, 2010

Obama's next career

Don't waste your time watching the whole thing. The point is made in the first 30 seconds. A sitting United States president doing several minutes of college basketball commentary, on live TV. I suppose it is racist of me to point out that the only public speaking this president is capable of doing, without a teleprompter, happens on a basketball court. Well, at least the headset covers up his ears.

February 1, 2010

Elevated Threat Level

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."  Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross."  The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out.  Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance."  The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.
The Scots raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards". They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the frontline in the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide."  The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender."  The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
It's not only the French who are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."
The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs."  They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose".
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy.  These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, mate". Three more escalation levels remain, "Crikey!", "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend", and "The barbie is canceled".  So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Careful how you word things

Not sure if this was ordered for a man celebrating a birthday or a woman celebrating something else.  

More entertaining bakery finds at Cake Wrecks.