May 2003 Archives

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May 26, 2003
On the Road

I hate travelling on business. Tight schedules, dinky uncomfortable airplanes, waiting around in airports, living out of a suitcase....

I hate it.

That's right - I'm outta here tomorrow, back on Friday. Expect light blogging (lighter than usual, that is.)

Did I mention that I hate travelling?

Posted by Russ at 10:44 PM
May 24, 2003
Big deal

Happy Birthday to me.

Big deal.... I figure that most birthdays really don't mean much after age 12. For me, they've become reminders that I'm not the kid I used to be. Dang.

Well, maybe the noteworthy milestones are worth celebrating: 16, 18, 21, 100. Maybe 30, maybe 40 and 65.

Me? 41. Big deal. It's been just another day here for me - chores that need doing, some work to catch up on. I do love hearing from the family, though - that's always good... especially the niece and nephew singing their highly-modified quasi-operatic version of "Happy Birthday to you."

I guess birthdays aren't so bad, after all. Not after that song.

Posted by Russ at 09:04 PM | Comments (3)
May 23, 2003

You could call it an unintended consequence. The sad state of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country (largely due to the meddling of the ACLU and the politically-motivated brainless positions of organizations like the APA) leads to events like this one happening every day. Of course, it's only considered newsworthy when the irony is overwhelming.

Members of the nation's largest psychiatric association discovered San Francisco's mentally ill homeless problem up close this week, as they stepped out of their annual convention and were surprised -- some say shocked -- by the legions of people living on the street.

I'm shocked - shocked! - to hear of mental patients on the streets! I wonder who put them there?

The worst, however, came when an official of the American Psychiatric Association, a Baltimore doctor known for being an advocate for the indigent mentally ill, was assaulted by an apparently homeless man with a history of psychiatric problems.

Thus enters the irony. "Advocate for the indigent mentally ill"? What exactly does this doctor advocate? I'll wager that the short list of causes she advocates would include free needle exchanges, bigger cash welfare payouts, and taxpayer-funded "halfway" housing.

I'll further wager that her list doesn't include what would actually be best for some of these unfortunate people: institutionalization.

Knocked unconscious by the seemingly random attack near Union Square on Sunday morning, the doctor spent the week recovering at San Francisco General Hospital. Dr. Geetha Jayaram, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the scientific program committee chairwoman of the psychiatric association, is expected to be released soon.

Released soon....

Police arrested Aaron Matthew Hull, 32, who has no local address and has a history of being detained for psychiatric evaluations, according to law enforcement sources. He was being held in the county jail on two felony counts of assault and battery and is scheduled to appear in court today to determine if he is competent to face charges.

Mr. Hull won't be released soon. Nor will he receive the help he really needs.

The irony of the attack was not lost on the association's members and other convention goers, many of whom said that they'd been noting the large numbers of homeless people on the streets ever since they arrived Saturday.

Read, "we know this sort of thing happens all the time, but it's not supposed to happen to us!"

"It's kind of shocking," said James McNulty, head of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "I've been walking around the hotels and up the hill to Fisherman's Wharf. It was very disheartening."

The shocking thing is the limited way we as a society are permitted to handle the seriously mentally ill. Again, thanks mainly to the ACLU and the APA.

Long before the attack happened, the APA had planned a news conference Wednesday to publicize past and future threatened cuts to what the group's leaders called the nation's "crumbling mental health system." More than 27 million people with mental health problems are facing "personal health care disasters," they said, because of Medicaid and state funding cuts to mental health programs.

Said mental health programs often being little more than outpatient clinics for people who need more intense care.

"Imagine what it would be like to have heart disease and be told, 'Sorry, there is a budget crisis, we can't afford your beta blockers,' " McNulty said at the news conference. "Can you imagine the outcry?"

Well, most folks have this thing called "insurance."

McNulty, who lives in Omaha, said that he had "never seen greater contrast between degradation and great wealth. If you think things are bad in San Francisco now, wait until the cuts happen. And I'm not just talking like Chicken Little."

San Francisco's problems are many and have various causes. But the problem they have with homeless mentally ill people are of their own making. When you subsidize homelessness, you get more homeless people. Duh.

Jayaram had come to the convention, which drew about 19,000 participants, to speak, among other topics, about outreach to indigent mentally ill people in India.

At this point I have to wonder how much this conference cost everyone involved. I also have to wonder a) were the attendees talking about more taxpayer funding, and b) how much the attendees donate to charity every year?

Her husband, Jay Kumar, said his wife is "doing better but not 100 percent right yet."

If there's any one thing we can surmise from this tale, it is that Mr. Hull will likely never be "100 percent right." He certainly will not receive the care he needs by being paid by the city of San Francisco to live on the streets.


I am a "government minimalist" sort of almost-libertarian. I really don't see the compelling interest the government has in taking my dollars to distribute in the form of what are euphemistically referred to as "transfer payments" - i.e., social programs.

There is one set of cases, though, in which social spending is not only in our best interest, but is the right thing to do: programs to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.

Not unwilling. Unable.

Unable doesn't mean "well, I didn't bother to save for my retirement," it doesn't mean "I'm 16 and having my second baby so pay me," it most certainly and emphatically does not mean "buy me medical care even though I can afford a big-screen TVs and cable in my house."

Unable means mentally or physically incapable of providing for one's self. That really leaves only a few general categories of people: orphaned children, disabled veterans, and the seriously mentally ill, for instance.

Time doesn't allow for me to go into the role I think families should be playing in any of these types of situations, but suffice it to say that there are some few circumstances wherein a family is not an answer - the danger-to-themselves-and-others mentally ill, orphans with no family whatsoever, and so on. But all in all, the numbers of such situations are not huge.

I really don't have it in me to comment on the rest of the article. It's too sad.

Posted by Russ at 06:09 PM | Comments (6)
He almost gets it

Today while dissecting the various StarTrek offerings over the past 30-odd years, the indispensible James Lileks bleats:

In the last few years [Deep Space 9] just got better and better - a four-year story arc, complex politics, exceptionally acted secondary characters & villains. I still think it’s the gold standard for Star Trek shows.
Well, of course it was. DS9 was a shameless ripoff of Babylon 5.

Posted by Russ at 08:56 AM
May 20, 2003
Great Day

Some days really bite. You know the ones - usually preceeded by a sleepless night, got to be at the office for an early meeting, got to stay for a late meeting, deadlines stacking up, car runs out of gas, it's either 100° out or raining or both, the IRS decides to audit you...

OK, OK, OK, I've never been audited, and I haven't had a vehicle run out of gas since 1984. But you know exactly what I mean.

Take that day, turn it around 180°, and that's the kind of day I've had. And damn, it feels good.

  • A full 8 hours of sleep.

  • No meetings until a leisurely 10am - plenty of time to enjoy a big ol' cuppa joe.

  • Bail out of the office at noon. Noon. Noon!

  • Drive to the ballpark and catch the Bulls vs the Toledo Mudhens (I'll bet you thought that was a made-up team, didn't you?)

  • The weather? High 70s with lots of big fluffy clouds providing periodic shade.

  • Game ends in time to beat the after-work drive-time traffic.

  • A quick stop at the Home Depot to drool over power tools.

  • Chinese take-out for dinner.

Hey, it's just 7:00pm and I'm done.

I could do this every day. Too bad I have to mow the lawn tomorrow.

Posted by Russ at 07:07 PM
May 18, 2003
... for a Very Important Date

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?

I prefer my water near-boiling hot, flavored with coffee squeezin's. And occasionally some real cream.

2. What are your favorite flavor of chips?

Plain-flavored Ruffles. Why dress up perfection? The salty potato-y goodness is sublime.

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?

Pan-seared ribeye steak - practice has made perfect. I'm still working on my smoked baby back ribs - a couple more tries and I should have it nailed.

4. How do you have your eggs?

Over medium - not runny, but still some liquid yolk - perfect for mopping up with a good english muffin.

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?

Mom. I don't remember exactly what we had for dinner that night, but I guarantee it was perfect in every way.

Posted by Russ at 10:05 AM | Comments (1)
A death in the family

Thursday, my laptop computer died a horrendous death. The hard drive self-destructed. Absolute total loss. Not even slightly recoverable (without spending oodles of cash.)

I say "my", but it really belongs to my employer, and was issued to me for work use.

That's not to say I can't use it for non-work things in my copious free time (there are restrictions - no file sharing software permitted, for instance), but it is mainly what I spend all my salaried time staring at. It's also my principle blogging platform, since it's rather difficult to relax in my recliner in the evenings with a desktop computer in my lap.

I only had a few files I hadn't backed up recently - a few pictures, my bookmarks file, a spreadsheet I was working on. The latter sucks - I've been trying to recreate three days worth of lost work. No fun.


Posted by Russ at 09:48 AM
May 15, 2003
So soon?

I swear, just when I thought I'd made my case, more evidence appears.

In my last two posts, I explained some of the reasons I left California, despite being that rarity, a native Californian descended from a generation or two of native Californians.

Yes, the state has gone to eternal perdition in some sort of woven container. Yes, the gun laws are unreasonably severe for law-abiding folks like me - and the proposed ones are even worse.

But just when I thought I wouldn't need to explain further, this little tidbit popped up in the Washington Post on Wednesday:

California Gov. Gray Davis unveiled an overhauled $96-billion budget on Wednesday that relies heavily on more borrowing paired with tax increases and spending cuts aimed at closing a record shortfall projected at $38 billion.

Un... bloody... believeable.

A $96-billion budget.

Say it again - a 96 billion dollar budget. $96,000,000,000.00 - just look at all those zeros. By comparison, Russia's 2002 budget was a paltry $43-billion - with a $2-billion surplus (numbers courtesy of the CIA 2002 World Factbook.)

$38 billion "shortfall".

None dare call it "deficit." None, at least, at the WaPo... not while a Socialist Democrat is governor of California.

More borrowing.

Way to go, guys - mortgage the future to pay for the excesses of today. I'll bet Grey "Red" Davis never expected the business cycle to kick in quite so hard when he was jacking up the social spending (read, "vote buying"). Kiss the White House goodbye, you poltroon.

Tax increases.

Ah, yes - the Democrat solution to every problem. What Red fails to understand is that higher taxes are an incentive for the people paying the most to leave the state. He must have skipped the Economics courses at college....

Hey, Red, get this: I left and took my moderately well-paid job out of the state with me. Tax this, you idiot.

Posted by Russ at 01:59 AM
May 13, 2003
More reasons to not be in California

In my last post I enumerated a number of the reasons I left California. Here are four more, info courtesy of the California NRA Members Legislative Council:

AB (Assembly Bill) 50 (Koretz) - .50 Caliber Rifle Ban - would ban the sale/possession of rifles that are chambered for the .50 BMG cartridge and the sale/possession of .50BMG cartridges.

Oh, yes, I recall all those news stories of crimes perpetrated by .50-caliber rifle-wielding maniacs. After all, what self-respecting criminal would want to appear in public with a weapon that costs less than $3,000?

AB 992 (Ridley-Thomas) - Ammo Tax - Amended to direct revenues to a "Victim Reimbursement Fund".

Since this would also put a tax on ammunition components (powder, primers, brass, bullets) this would spell the end of reloading and custom loading. And we all know what a lawless pack of felons the people who load their own ammunition are.

SB489 (Scott) - Semi-Auto Handgun bill - [requires] that all semiautomatic handguns, manufactured after a specific date - that are imported and sold in California, be equipped with a loaded chamber indicator and a magazine disconnect mechanism.

A "magazine disconnect mechanism"? I'm guessing they don't mean the magazine ejection button already built into semiautomatic handguns?

This is so bloody typical - the legislators want a technology which doesn't exist outside of Fantasyland to be made mandatory. I'll bet they never actually consulted a firearms expert - except the ones thoughtfully provided by the Brady people.

SB 601 (Perata) - .50 Caliber Handgun Ban - would ban sale/possession of .50 caliber handguns. This bill is aimed specifically at the new S&W .500 Magnum cartridge but would also ban others.

Because we all know that criminals will buy and use the most expensive weapon available - profit margin be damned. No sense buying that cheap ratty .38 when you can spend 5 times as much for this, right?

Now, I don't reload, and I don't own or plan to own a .50 caliber rifle or handgun (blackpowder smokepoles excepted). But I sure am glad I left the Peoples' Republic - half of my arsenal is already illegal there, and I don't own anything bigger than .45ACP. Well, except for my muzzleloaders....

Posted by Russ at 06:41 PM
May 09, 2003

California, my native state, used to be a great place; it really was "The Golden State."

The schools were among the best in the country. Every cop was Joe Friday. Two cars in every garage and a swimming pool in every backyard. We gave Ronald Reagan two terms as governor, then gave him to the nation.

California was where everyone wanted to be; indeed, the population has nearly tripled in my lifetime. It's almost as if someone had picked up the entire country at the east coast and shook it - but only the debris slid down to the west coast.

By the time I kicked the California dust from my shoes in 2000, the state had gone completely and, I fear, irrevocably down the toilet.

Still, when I left California to relocate to North Carolina I knew there would be things I'd rather not have left behind, despite all the things I don't miss one iota.

I don't miss the explosive growth of ill-governed big cities. I don't miss the crowding or the crime. I don't miss paying more for rent than most Americans pay for their mortgages. I especially do not miss the moronic PC crowd running the state into the ground, the exceedingly moronic city governments doing even worse to what used to be such great cities, and the criminally stupid bureaucrats driving the schools at top speed on a highway to educational oblivion. I don't miss the corrupt politicians like Willie Brown and Grey Davis. I don't miss paying taxes so lawbreakers can get freebies from the state.

Now, I have come to love North Carolina; there is nothing I can think of [family crises excepted] that could persuade me to move back to the People's Republic. I love the fact that there are four discernible seasons here every year. Even as late as November, the landscape here is just so green - a novelty for one such as I raised in perpetually drought-stricken California, where brown hills are the norm from April to January.

The culture here is far more polite, far more respectful. Children raised here typically address their elders (when permitted to speak at all) as "Sir" or "Ma'am," not by their first names (a habit I consider to be particularly rude.) Neighborhood block parties happen every year, and you know all your neighbors' names - and they all know yours.

Mmmm.... Pig pickin' and other barbecue.

Still, there are particular things I miss about California. Yes, I miss having the beach within a stone's throw and the mountains half a day's drive away. I miss the really amazingly excellent Mexican food - and even the not-quite-so-good Mexican food. I miss having a computer store within ten minute's travel from any place in the state. But I can live with the loss of all those.

What I miss most - unquestionably, unalterably, undeniably - is being close to my family. I miss seeing my nieces and nephew growing up - too, too fast. I even, on occasion, miss my brother and sister (but I suspect that's a symptom of temporary insanity on my part.) I feel badly that they are all stuck there, and I almost feel bad that I have been lucky enough to escape.

With Mother's Day coming up any minute now, I am reminded of how much I miss seeing Mom as often as I used to. Steve over at Little Tiny Lies misses his Mom, too. (Read all about it.) But I am lucky - I have a mother to miss, to try to be a good son to.

If I could only get her to leave California.

Love ya, Mom.

Posted by Russ at 12:52 AM | Comments (4)
May 06, 2003
I love you, Mr. Coffee, but....

I went to bed at midnight last night, a bit earlier than usual. Suffering (if it can be called that) from a cold, I medicated myself. You know the brand - the "snotty, coughy, generally-feel-like-crappy, knock-you-flat-on-your-butt medicine."

Four hours later, staring at my bedroom ceiling, I finally gave up trying to sleep and schlepped my sorry heinie downstairs. Diddled with my template here for a little while, figuring it might be boring enough to send me to the Land of Nod. A couple hours of shuteye before I have to tend to my job would be better than nothing....

Nope, no dice. Not a wink.

So I finally fired up the good old Mr. Coffee. You know Mr. Coffee, don't you? The Mr. Coffee that has followed me around for the last 10 years, from LA to San Jose to North Carolina. The coffee maker so important that when I moved and drove cross-country I brought it in the EvilSUV with me rather than wait for the moving van to show up at my new place. The Mr. Coffee that is so covered with coffee deposits that I could make a full pot o' joe without actually adding fresh coffee grounds. I love my Mr. Coffee. But I have a question, one small question, that's all....

Would someone please please PLEASE tell me why there aren't any automatic drip coffee makers on the market that make more than 12 cups at a time?

That's all I want to know.

Posted by Russ at 07:16 AM
May 04, 2003
I'm late, I'm late

Okay, okay, I missed the Friday Five, on which I'd meant to start this week. So sue me. I blame my job.

1. Name one song you hate to admit you like.
Voices Carry - Til Tuesday

2. Name two songs that always make you cry.
New Horizons - Moody Blues
Broken Dream - Justin Hayward
[Note: the above are for varying values of "make you cry"]

3. Name three songs that turn you on.
Still the One - Orleans
Falling for the First Time - Barenaked Ladies
Never Let You Down - The Verve Pipe
[Note: the above are for varying values of "turn you on"]

4. Name four songs that always make you feel good.
Cliffs of Dover - Eric Johnson
Rocky Top - Osbourne Brothers
Cult of Personality - Living Colour
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

5. Name five songs you couldn't ever do without.
Carefree Highway - Gordon Lightfoot
The Real Folk Blues - Yoko Kanno
One Slip - Pink Floyd
Only Time Will Tell - Asia
Highway - Moody Blues

Wow. I look at some of these and think man, what a geezer. I look at others and think man, what a dork.

It could be worse - it could be all (c)rap.

Posted by Russ at 05:08 AM
May 01, 2003
Geology... and my work with the VRWC

Geology - specifically, soil subsidence - can be a bad thing.

Due to this bad thing, my driveway settled and broke across the middle and had to be replaced. Fortunately, it was under warranty. So yesterday, the contractor ripped out the existing concrete, dug a big hole, and filled it with gravel.

Today, the new concrete is going in.


Well, geology can be a good thing, too.

"Now what," you might ask, "does this have to do with the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?" Well... just think of the opportunities geology can provide.

Next time you wonder "whatever happened to [insert name of Idiotarian here]", consider:

  • a big ol' hole in the ground;
  • a ton of gravel;
  • a fresh concrete slab.

The rest I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by Russ at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)