Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Letter

(The following is our annual end of year letter which typically goes out in Christmas cards. If we missed anyone this year, here's what's going on!)

Hello again, Christmas 2009
You likely received this a little late this year, as the Foster family has become quite time impaired these last few months. It’s been a busy year, and just getting busier as we go.

Been a big year for some Fosters. In June, Zack graduated High School up in Washington, and now that we’re back in Arizona, has started his life as a college student. He’s pursuing a criminal justice degree as if it was a speeder in a red ‘Vette. Indeed, the Foster formally known as “The Boy” (hard to call him that when he’s 6’2” and 210 pounds) has basically become “that guy who lives in my spare room.” He’s also working and driving, and seems to actually be a productive member of society. Let me please take a chance to look at those who doubted us back when he was still in diapers and say, “ha.” He’s a good man actually applying his potential with the intention of making the world a more just place. We should have gotten him a Cape for graduation. Very proud of him. (Though around the house I still call him “The Boy.”)

Hannah has also gone through a transition since we’ve returned to the land of mesquites and paradoxically bad Mexican food; the younger Foster has turned 15 and started High School. Indeed The Daughter is currently attending her parents’ alma mater and even in the same JROTC Battalion in which her dear Dad was a cadet many, many years ago. Oddly, my too-brilliant, overly sarcastic daughter is taking to her military class very well, perhaps applying her love of Orwell to the idea that no one is safer from The Man than The Man. Wherever did she get the idea a snarky non-conformist with a sharp tongue could actually be happy in a military setting? Do you hear that? That’s my glee buzzer from when I see her in uniform. It is so good to watch her truly enjoy something in our incredibly poor public education system.

Speaking of education, did you hear I’m dating a co-ed? The Lovely Jennifer is not only getting her Associate’s in the Spring, she’s already well into her Bachelor’s! Now, the flip side to having a wife who is a smart, hot college girl is that she’s also a smart, serious college girl and her workload is staggering. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s taking a full class load and still keeping Zack, Hannah, and I out of jail and the hospital. It does mean shoving 26 hours into every 24 hour day, but she’s tearing it up and only rarely taking tension relieving swings at my head. All this while putting up with the fact Sierra Vista, Arizona has neither a Thai nor Indian restaurant. She is definitely looking curry deprived.

Dodging those blows has kept me fleet of foot however; quite helpful with my new hobby. For those who don’t know, my 37th birthday brought me the realization My Firm (which I do truly love) was trying to make me old before my time. So to convince myself I shouldn’t let the Army break me down I decided to run a marathon. Training is going well, with a target date in May. I am running about the 12 mile mark right now. Looking forward to June when I get to sleep again. Oh wait- I am starting a Master’s in February, so I will be joining the three out of four Fosters submerged in academia. So much for sleep…

And a sad note- we lost our dear dog Cleo this year after 10 years of her being the best dog in the world. A month before she died though she got to go on a big road trip and even ran with horses and dogs in Idaho. We miss her, but we know that dog lived her life well-loved. Her cat misses her too.

So, as we bid good-bye to 2009 and look forward to 2010, I don’t think we’re going to find all those hours we lost, but when we do finally catch up with ourselves, the future is looking… pretty OK. And not just because of that groovy new Star Trek movie.
Much love to you all, and as always we pray that next year be better than last year,

Daniel, Jennifer, Zack, Hannah and Patches

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Swift commentary on Country Music

Remember when this happened a little while back? I remember the outcry for poor little Taylor Swift, and what a jerk Kanye was for doing it. And indeed I too felt a twinge of pity for Ms. Swift who afterward stood on the stage in mortified paralysis like a 19 year old girl (which, well, she is). I had listened to her album before, and it hadn't done much for me, but she was a nice girl and all, so maybe Kanye was a jerk.

But then the more I thought about it, like a jerk myself I found myself chuckling a bit. Then it went further. Every time "Love Story" or "You Belong With Me" came on the radio, I would find myself immediately switching to NPR or listening once again to my burned CD of the soundtrack to "Streets of Fire" to keep from hearing her saccharine sweet warble. What was it? Why was the sweet young girl quickly climbing to a place of disdain on my list which featured such nemeses as Paris Hilton, Fred Durst, Julia Roberts, or she who will one day fall to my wrath, Celine Dion? Then it hit me- I hate modern country music, and Ms. Swift was the final step in the nefarious plot of Nashville execs who made me hate country in the first place.

You see- she's a "crossover" star; perhaps the ultimate. Country, once the refuge of real people singing about real emotion had since the late 60s been slowly morphing under the hands of Nashville producers toward the pop arena. Pop music in general is fluffy, non-offensive, fake happy moments as sung by pretty people. This was why legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Alan Coe, et al made a break for Luckenbach, Texas in the 70s. They weren't pretty nor poppy- neither were a lot of the classic Country stars. Once, Country stars looked like this:

Faron Young

Kitty Wells

Hank Williams Sr.

Patsy Cline.

Legends. Not pretty people. Now?

Jake Owen

Faith Hill*

Keith Urban

Sara Evans

That's what you basically have to look like to make it in Country Music today. Don't believe me? Ask Shelby Lynne:

This is Shelby's first album, "Sunrise," released in 1989. It's solid country. This is Shelby's sixth album released ten years later:

This is how Shelby showed up to accept her Grammy for "Best New Artist" for that album.

She broke the code.

Truly talented yet physically unattractive people aren't going to get far in popular music today- and country is going after that pop crowd. Look what happened when the adorable Kelly Clarkson went up (gasp) three dress sizes? Magazines, websites, etc. dropped the f-bomb: FAT. Pop music requires pretty and if country wants in, it must be pretty. Taylor Swift is that last step, getting completely equal play on Pop and Country Radio, crossover awards, etc. She's singing pop songs, made country firendly by nothing but a steel guitar. Is she talented? Somewhat, but she's no Patsy Cline.

But who's going to look better in this outfit?

Sorry Taylor, you're on my list with Paris and Celine. Go get 'er Kanye (though he's still a jerk).

* I am going to grant Faith Hill one small piece of reprieve; the song "Cry" is full of heart-wrenching emotion as the singer covets pure schadenfreude from the lover who jolted her. "Show me you feel a little more pain..." That's old fashioned Country right there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spin and Counter-Spin

So this greeted me on my Google homepage a few days ago. I draw your attention to the stories on MSNBC and FOX News indicated by my hastily added arrows. Same story, different spin, both inaccurate.

That, my friends, is what passes for news in America. Well, that or what CNN did, which was ignore it for a while...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just a quick update!

Letting you all know I am not dead, just dreadfully busy. I should be back here with some biting sarcasm and cool commentary soon, but here's some quick hits:

-Read Max Brooks' "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War." Ken Burns meets George Romero in what is probably the most politically insightful book I've read in a while. Besides the obvious horror elements, Brooks does a great job showing how various governments and cultures deal with what is essentially an outbreak of a horrendous disease. Makes you want to get your swine flu shot.

-Read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." Possibly the most poetically sad book ever written. If you have been feeling down, don't read it. It's fantastic, but yikes- a downer. Hoping to see the new Viggo Mortensen film version soon.

-Bought a Blu-Ray player in order to buy Star Trek in HD. That's really all I wanted it for.

- Haven't touched a guitar in a month, and my mandolin in about three. Must rectify this.

-Marvel Comics' stunning 1980s war comic "The 'Nam" is finally coming out in trade paper back. That makes me happy.

-Jack White produced an album for Loretta Lynn in 2004 called "Van Lear Rose." I am a criminal for not knowing this sooner.

Hope to catch up more soon... ready for some holiday time off!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

There is hope for Humanity.

At Wal-Mart today, I had to get out of the way so a twelve year old girl could look at Star Trek figures. I warned her (with every intention of being a smart ass) that Wave 2 had not arrived yet. She responded that she knew, and was looking for the short packed Uhura from Wave 1. I realized, this girl knew that of which she spoke. She then however, said Captain Pike was an idiot as she shuffled past his figure in the stack. (For the record, that's when Jennifer just walked away.) I asked what her beef with Pike was, and she went on to explain (SPOILERS AHEAD) that Pike must have been on the Kelvin, and did little more than run. I said sure, he'd written a dissertation about the Kelvin, but we didn't know he was there. "If he knew Kirk's Dad, and knew so much about the Kelvin, didn't it make sense that he was?" Dear God, she was right. I conceded and applauded her, and went on to say how it did my heart good to see ANYONE under 30 like Star Trek again. She replied, in a Great Bird of the Galaxy blessed voice:
"I was born a Trekkie."

I realized at that moment, regardless of everything wrong with the species, humanity was going to make it. We were still breeding Trekkies. Aham'd Allah!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Maybe it's the "S"...

So, if you check out my Facebook you'll see I went to a Halloween party Monday night at a sport's bar dressed as Superman. I do indeed love this time of year, and any opportunity to act like a big geek in a public venue I jump at.

Let me again point out this particular costume shindig was at a Sport's bar. More than that, it's one we go to watch Monday Night Football at nearly every week- the Daughter loves football, my friend Grady the radio star hosts a good time, and my friend Doctor Smith shows up. We hang out as family a friends and watch a little football, usually over a a couple of beers for the Doctor and me.

This week, except for the costume, I expected it all to be about the same. However, it was not. See, the venue is a "family" bar. No real hard alcohol, just some beer and wings for Dad, and the kids can have a burger. As dad I went to have my weekly Guinness... and I couldn't. There were kids there. I couldn't let kids see Superman drink.

I mean, it's Superman. Is there anything more iconic in American culture? Is there any kid who hasn't at least once tied a sheet/towel/pillowcase to their neck and gone "swoosh"? Putting on that suit, I suddenly felt I had a responsibility. I had a standard to maintain. And I did. Monday Night Football or not, nothing but iced tea for Kal-El of Krypton that night.

Once, many years ago, the family and I were driving from California to Arizona, and I was traveling in a Superman t-shirt. On I-10 outside of Tucson, we found a car broken down. I went about a quarter mile past, because you never know of it's a trap, and ran back to see if it was OK. Indeed it was only two very nice old ladies with a flat tire, and a couple of grandkids. I told them I would be right back (had to go let the Lovely Jennifer it was all safe), added another half mile jog to my evening and came back to find a State Trooper changing the tire. Ensuring all was well, I was prepared to dash back off into the night when the kids in the back seat rolled down their window.

"Where did you come from?" they asked.

"I'm Superman," I told them and ran back off into the night. Their look as I flashed away was worth all the running.

Everyone's well aware in my comic book addiction I am more of a Batman fan than a Superman fan. See, I think we need Batman. We need someone who will make the bad man pay. We want Superman- we aspire to be Superman.

Batman never made me pass up a beer. That is more powerful than a locomotive.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Blog- The Running Dan

(This is actually the first post of a whole new blog. If this intrigues you, follow that link!)

This last week I turned 37, and left behind the halcyon days of “mid-thirties” for the far less entertaining days of “late-thirties.” Yeah, I know, me and some 15 billion people before me (though let's face it- for a lot of human history age 40 was considered “aged”), and it's going on all the time. I however cannot speak for them, I can only speak for me. I am not, I stress again NOT, having a mid-life crisis, but it has come to my attention that the days I can tell my body what it will do are coming to an end, and eventually, my body will tell me what to do. I am really only just recovering from an injury back in May where I tore a calf muscle. That injury put a halt to my fairly standard running schedule, and I am not the type of person who stays in shape if I am not trying. My firm has made me run for years, and I have always fought it. Even when my run got good, I didn't like it, I didn't want to, and therefore slipped back into lazyness. Excuse or no with this injury, I did all my physical therapy and have been running regularly again for about two months. In that two months I brought myself back from not being able to really run two miles (my last bit of therapy was to do three miles alternating between two minutes of running and two minutes of walking) to a 16:30 two mile on a PT test this week. Now, the week before that the weather was better and I did it in 15:50. Sure, I am not breaking any land speed records, but it's been nice to run again.

The lovely Jennifer, who has recently been on her own new fitness plan and taken off quite a few pounds, enrolled us to participate in the Bisbee 1000 Stair climb. See, for those who aren't familiar with Bisbee, it's my favorite Arizona town. It was a mining town built into a bunch of hills over a century ago, and is now a quirky little hippie town full of people who like to take life a little slower than most. In short, it's like a Washington town right here in the desert. Anyway, the whole town is built on various levels and riddle with an Escher-like system of stairs. Each year, the town puts on a 5K run/walk which involves climbing 1000 of these stairs. Jennifer and I had never done anything like this together before, and not only had a great time, but got a good workout. I started thinking about running it next year.

Then I started looking at myself. I'd never liked this kind of thing before, but I was feeling good doing it. And on my birthday, it hit me.

I was going to run a marathon.

Now, I don't know a damn thing about this stuff. I started doing internet research, and quizzing friends- turns out I have a remarkable number of friends who have done these. Some of them are even geeks like me (yes, you Jim. Well, you too Siddhartha). To help me along, the Lovely Jennifer bought me a book for my birthday called “Born to Run” about the psychology of endurance runners. The idea of embracing the fatigue and operating outside yourself. Making yourself like a child and just running with no thought of time or pain. Stepping out of yourself, while being acutely aware of yourself...

Hey, wait a minute. This was starting to sound a bit spiritual. And it is. If God's in all of us, an dwe have to dig deep inside to make 26.2 miles (though many people in the book are doing 100 miles races!) then what, or who, will be looking back when you dig?

So, I have a basic training plan, starting out this week. I cheated a little and went out to do four miles this morning like a preview... and you know what? I quit fighting it, and with a whole new attitude, I liked running this morning. I did an extra mile just for fun, and felt like I could have kept going. Endorphin euphoria or God-seeing trance, it felt good. I can't wait to do it again. I'm not even sore.

So begins a new Blog. As I go through this plan, I will share what I am thinking and feeling. I am sure it will not all be as nice as it was today, so I don't always promise to be so positive. I will keep you all appraised of my progress and plans. There's a marathon in February in Apache Junction, but that one seems too soon. I may do the half marathon then. The run I plan to do is in Prescott in May. Seven months away. No pressure, just what I want to do.

Welcome to The Running Dan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Report!

Have you all ever heard of Arius? Probably not- he was an Egyptian priest in the early Church who got in trouble because he said Christ and God were of separate “substances.” Indeed, he argued that since Jesus was the “begotten” Son of God (Jn 3:16- as any football fan can tell you) there must have been a time before He was begotten, making God unbegotten, and therefor separate substance; Christ was created of the Creator, not the Creator Himself.

This isn't Church doctrine today because a guy named Athanasius (whom you've probably not heard of either) beat him in a series of debates in Nicea (a place you've likely never heard of) sponsored by Constantine (no, not Keanu from the movie) in 325 AD. This is what it sounds like when you have a degree in religion.

However, getting to the point, the winning doctrine was God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were “Una substancia, tres persona;” one substance, three faces. Further, in defiance of all the laws of math, Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. To my mind, though one of the faithful (if not one of the religious, and there's a difference), the Church in its various incarnations has never done a good job demonstrating it. The Gospels portray Jesus almost exclusively as supernatural; the only hints at His humanity being in the accusations of his detractors (he is a drunk and glutton! Mt 11:19), or possibly the exclamations of complete exasperation at the thick-headedness of the Apostles. Many other authors have tried through the centuries- Schweitzer with his historical analysis; Kazantzakis wrote “Last Temptation” and does OK, but leaves poor Jesus kind of a muddle mess all through it. I say to thee Lord: Can no one demonstrate the nature of your Son?

And then the Lord sent Christopher Moore.

This whole tirade is so I can give you perspective on what has snuck under our collective noses as the premier work in Christian literature of the 21st Century, and most people were too busy picketing Harry Potter or wondering if the Da Vinci Code was real. In Christopher Moore's Lamb we get the tale of the Christ Child, the missing 18 years, and the desperation of the Apostles to understand what this skinny Jewish guy is really trying to say all from the perspective of Jesus' lifelong friend Levi, known to those around him as Biff (a nickname from when his father would smack him upside the head as a child). The book would seem on its surface to present a bit of mockery, but you will find if you read it a delightfully reverent book regarding the Christ character. He is obviously special, He thinks he is the Messiah, but He is not so sure that just means taking up a sword and kicking out Romans. Biff meanwhile sees Jesus (referred to as “Joshua” throughout the book- or “Josh”) as a truly good man, likely the Son of God, and yet na├»ve in the ways of the world. Someone is going to have to take care of Him. When they go on their great journey, Biff asks, “if someone asks you how much money you have what do you say?” “I would tell them.” “And that's why I am going with you.”

The book claims to be nothing more than a work of fiction, and as such can make some suppositions, and has a little fun with some ideas. Some of these suppositions are so simple yet profound; how does a six year old with the prescience of God act? Joseph tells young Biff and Josh he plans to be around for a while. Young Josh replies “Don't be so sure, Abba.” The shaken Joseph tells the boys to play, and Josh wanders off oblivious to the meaning of what He has said. Biff offers to help Joseph who tells him, “You go with Joshua. He needs a friend to teach him to be human.” It is obviously not Josh's intention to be cruel, but when you are 100% God, and 100% six year old, these things happen.

Where does Jesus go from age 12 (which as stated here is an adult in that culture) to age 30? To find the only people who have shown any acknowledgement of His nature- the Three Wise Men. Josh and Biff spend time in various Eastern locales, learning from those philosophers (well, Josh does- Biff mostly is in it to keep Josh safe, and find opportunities to have all the sex his friend can't), and explaining the similarities between Joshua's expansion of the Torah and the Tao or Zen. Josh sees first hand the abattoir which passed for worship of Kali in India. He tells God, “no more sacrifices.” This mantra becomes what will drive Him to the cross- a final sacrifice to stop the flow of blood.

Yes the book is funny, and pokes some fun at the world in which Josh and Biff live. When the two ten year olds decide to take Biff's father's stonecutting tools and circumcise a statue in a Greek gymnasium in Sepporis, you will laugh your ass off. When Josh takes great ironic pleasure in India at poking the arms of the members of the “untouchable” caste, you see a Christ who is part of the world around him, while not succumbing to it. The way the young Josh learns to heal things will crack you up (it involves lizards and sticking them in your mouth). When John the Baptist baptizes Josh, indeed the sky rolls back and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove appears while the voice of God says of course “this is my beloved Son with whom I am very pleased.” As the multitude gape at the fading vision and voice, Josh comes out of the water and looks around. “What?” he asks, having missed the whole thing.

The book is poignant. Mary of Magdala (little Maggie) loves Josh, but will never be able to be with him. Biff loves Maggie, but can't compete with his best friend when said friend is the Messiah. Josh drops some Kazantzakis style frustration when well into His ministry, one of the apostles asks how, when the Kingdom of Heaven is established, they will kick the Romans out of it. After dropping about 30 allegories and three hours trying to explain the Kingdom is for EVERYONE, He can only tell Biff, “Those are the dumbest sons of bitches on Earth.” When you see the frantic attempts by Biff to thwart the crucifixion, and his anguish when he cannot; you may well shed a tear.

Lamb will on its surface turn off those who don't want to dig any deeper than “the Bible says...” without actually looking into what the Bible means. I would advise you to dig more deeply, and see a Jesus who is not the venerated ascetic moving stoically through the Gospels from sermon to sermon to Golgotha (wait until you read the draft version of the beatitudes). Instead there's a Jesus who struggles with whether or not he is the Messiah the way we struggle with whether or not there's a God. A Jesus with a sense of humor and justice like a man would have, while delivering it like God.

A presentation of a Christ 100% human and 100% God. Finally. If Athanasius had lent this book to Arius, the Council of Nicea would have had a lot more fun and a lot less banishment.

By the way, here's the British edition's cover. I like it better.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Maybe I should pick...

OK, it's no secret I voted for and remain a fan of our current Commander-In-Chief. I think given the steaming pile of American Eagle droppings he was handed on January 20th, the fact he has yet to have broken down and cried openly on national television is a testament to his character. Taking heat for not fixing the previous eight years worth of smeg-ups in the first 10 months alone would have broken me. I think the administration was WAY too optimistic about their ability to fix the economy (which will take years) and need to bust a couple heads there in Congress, but overall, the downward spiral of economic freefall, worldwide hatred, and Texas style dumbassery ruling the free world seems to have slowed if not stopped.

However, not sucking as much as the last guy does not qualify you for the Nobel Peace Prize. In a couple years if Iraq is independent and stable, and we have Afghanistan under control, have partnered up with Russia over Iran, and maybe gotten things quiet between the Israelis and Palestinians? Give the man the medal. Right now? No. Indeed, I think this will hurt my President as it will promote the "he's one of them not one of us" nonsense so prevalent in the opposition. Were I the President, I would have turned it down. (Of course, I've never been offered one, so maybe I wouldn't. After all, earned or not, you still get to have one. You know what they call the guy who graduated last in medical school? Doctor.)

So, if I were allowed to pick, who would it be? Hmmm...

OK. Maybe I shouldn't be allowed to pick.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deyz in yur government mezzin' up yer medizin!

My dear congressional Republicans, there is a problem in this country which needs your action. Right now, Federal bureaucrats are preventing doctors from making medical decisions regarding their patients. A specific treatment which has proven beneficial and cost effective is being blocked by big government, and some committee which thinks it know better than physicians how patients should be treated. Seeing as how that's one of the major arguments Congressional Republicans have against the Public Option, I am looking forward to seeing some brave Conservative get up and say it:

It's time to repeal the Federal ban on medical marijuana.

Seriously, regardless of my Centrist views, I also do NOT want some committee deciding who gets particular treatments. However, if we're not going to let a death panel decide an 80 year old can't have a new liver, then why are we still allowing the FDA to say doctors can't prescribe marijuana? I am not talking about legalizing it for recreational use (that's another argument). I am talking about a doctor prescribing to his or her patient who is undergoing chemo, or suffers from glaucoma, or has breast cancer, or even as some studies show, Alzheimer's- a natural remedy which is easy and cheap to produce, and has far less ill effects than the pharmaceutical alternatives.

I'm talking about a treatment supported by the American College of Physicians, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychological Association, and of course Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes.

I'm talking about an easily delivered treatment which some evidence shows may treat or alleviate up to 250 different ailments.

Now, let's be fair- this list was assembled by a doctor who may not be totally objective about this subject, but if it works for even ten things on this list, isn't it worth using? Five? Even one, if it can bring relief for a single ailment, and doctors want to use it, why are we letting the Federal government say otherwise? They're the doctors right? And not just some quacks, but real doctors (see the list above).

So, what is the government's argument against it? The hazards of smoking. No really, you can't have relief for your nauseous reaction to the chemo you have treating your cancer because the period you smoke the MJ might give you lung cancer. Well, what if it becomes a gateway for the patient? According to the Rand Corporation, the Gateway concept is bunk, and so say these doctors.
Even the 1999 study the FDA cites on usage in general only says:

"The gateway analogy evokes two ideas that are often confused. The first, more often referred to as the 'stepping stone' hypothesis, is the idea that progression from marijuana to other drugs arises from pharmacological properties of marijuana itself.

The second is that marijuana serves as a gateway to the world of illegal drugs in which youths have greater opportunity and are under greater social pressure to try other illegal drugs." (Institute of Medicine in its Mar. 1999 report titled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base")

Not really a damning statement. Here's how Lynn Zimmer, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Queens College at the City University of New York put it:

"In the end, the gateway theory is not a theory at all. It is a description of the typical sequence in which multiple-drug users initiate the use of high-prevalence and low-prevalence drugs.

A similar statistical relationship exists between other kinds of common and uncommon related activities. For example, most people who ride a motorcycle (a fairly rare activity) have ridden a bicycle (a fairly common activity). Indeed, the prevalence of motorcycle riding among people who have never ridden a bicycle is probably extremely low. However, bicycle riding does not cause motorcycle riding, and increases in the former will not lead automatically to increases in the latter.” (his 1997 book “Marijuana Myths - Marijuana Facts”).

More than that, 13 States have voted to use medical marijuana- aren't the Republicans the party of State's Rights? Why aren't Republicans screaming about the Federal Governments insistence on imposing their will over these States' decisions? Who's going to be the brave Republican to get up and call for the end of these laws? John McCain, whose state is one of those who passed a local proposition? Sarah Palin, who is vehemently against Federal controls and bureaucratic interdiction in medical decisions? Joe Wilson, who obviously feels very passionately about health care. Who?

I am not trying to be a smart ass here- this is exactly WHY I want to see two parties in government. Any argument however must follow to the logical consequences. Opposing Government Health care on the grounds of bureaucrats not being allowed to countermand doctors has to apply to any reasonable medical decision. The facts are in- MM is reasonable, with the FDA's stats being spurious at best. Further, wanting to shrink Federal power in favor of State power means allowing States to make certain decisions on their own. The tenth amendment says they can do that, if there is not an existing Federal law- Federal Laws came from the control of recreational use- you know what? I can't use Vicodin for recreational use either, but no one in the Federal Government is asking to ban it as medicine.

So as a citizen, I ask a Republican to take advantage of the argument about health care right now and do the right thing. You would have doctors, States, facts, and logic on your side. Be the party of Smaller Government and put this tool back in the hands of doctors.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anthropomorphism: A Love Story

The above picture is of Helena and I. You probably know by now about my recent purchase of a 1985 Pontiac Fiero, but let me go into some detail here.

I have been driving a 98 Honda Civic we bought new in, well, 1998. It is a great car and has served us well. When we came back from Europe in 2006, we bought Jennifer a brand new Accord V6. It's a spiffy thing, with plenty of zoom-zoom. Again, a great car, and it serves us very well.

With all of us going different directions all week long, we knew we needed a third car. The initial intention was to pass the Civic on to The Boy, and buy another new car. Then we thought about the fact we didn't really want a new car payment, so we thought we'd buy something used, and maybe pass it to The Daughter in a couple of years, and THEN buy something new. So, we looked all over. We almost bought a Prius, but they weren't able to come down where I wanted to spend. We almost bought a 2000 Civic off Craig's List, but then when the shifty bastard selling it pulled out the title, there was someone else's name on it, and some weird document with his first name and his wife's maiden name. Rather than buy his stolen car, we moved on.

The search wasn't going well. Couldn't find what we wanted which would fit our needs. Then, in my office, a guy put up a picture of this little yellow car in my price range. The pic was really fuzzy, so I asked him about it.

“It's a Fiero,” he said. Now, I knew I didn't want to pass a Fiero on to The Daughter, but at least I worked with this guy, and knew he wasn't going to sell me a stolen car, so I got his son's contact (that's who's car it was) and called to see if I could go look at it. I drove out to see it, and finally finding the street, came around the corner...

Our eyes met, and I was smitten. She sat there gleaming, and I felt something I hadn't felt for a car in a long time- adoration.

When I talked to the guy, I could tell he loved the car, but he was a bit of a motorhead, and had a lot of projects. He had to find her a new home, but he had also been very reluctant to sell her. We realized we were both referring to the car as “her” about halfway through our talk. I won't go into more details on this part, but obviously she came home with me, and I am still madly in love with this car. It's been a long time since I was in love with a car. Probably since I was 16 and had a little '76 Honda CVCC which I kept running with spit, bailing wire, and affection. Some might say it's a midlife crisis thing, but let me debunk that. The midlife crisis is a function of evolutionary psychology- the male making himself more attractive to younger breeding stock by actively demonstrating virility and the ability to provide for offspring. As much as I love this car, let's face facts: girls born the same year or after my car was made are not swooning for the bald dude in the Fiero. That's cool though, I don't need them, I have Helena.

How is it we fall in love with automobiles? They are just machines, bolted together bits of rubber and metal, burning gas to move, pumping oil to keep its engine moving. Yet, we ascribe quirks and personalities to them. We give them names (don't tell me you haven't) and use personal pronouns to refer to them. We talk to them and cajole them when they don't run properly, and smile at them when they corner well.

You ever buy your car presents? A new steering wheel cover perhaps, or find a replacement for some little tweaked component? And we hope they like it when we put them on. Now, intellectually I know it's a car, just a machine- yet in my heart, I know she is happy we found each other.

You know, just to go off on a tangent here, I look at the potential technology and artificial intelligence around us and I wonder: if we can love cars, what will happen when we make androids? Suddenly, those Cylons seem a lot more plausible.

So, here I confess my love of this car. I don't know why, we just clicked. Kind of like when you get along with a person, or meet that special someone. I love driving this car- and due to people on the road I've hated driving for a long time, even when I liked my cars. I really like having that feeling again.

Here's what's interesting. I liked the old Civic a lot. Good car, always dependable. We had a long partnership. The Civic belongs to The Boy now; he tells me he loves her. I guess they clicked.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Happy 43rd, Star Trek!

Yes indeed, it is that time of the year again. The Great Bird of the Galaxy has let our planet revolve around the sun one more time, and we again find ourselves on Trek Day! To celebrate Trek day this year, I made a custom Mirror Universe Sulu based on the new movie, and wanted to share a special Trek story with you as we all huddle around the glow of the intermix chamber and quietly sip our Saurian Brandy.

Once when I was but a young inquisitor for my firm, I was working for a pretty cool boss who was going to go have a nice little meet with a member of one of our competing firms (we were trying to get that firm to work with our firm, so it was actually a friendly conversation in a Neutral Zone!). We went to pick that guy up, when suddenly, he was joined by a DIFFERENT member of his firm, who was there to make sure he didn't say too much to my boss. In the old days, some people would call that guy a “political officer.” So, my boss asked me to distract the Political Officer so she could speak freely with the Officer she actually wanted to butter up and question.

We went to a cafe in the Eastern European city we were in, and we all ordered our food and “kava c shlagam” (coffee with cream) and sat down to chat. I immediately went to work trying to get the attention of the political officer, and was having a poor time of it. What does a 25 year old American, still just an E4, have to say to a 50 year old Eastern European political officer wearing Colonel rank? While fishing for subjects, I mentioned that back in the days before I joined my firm, my friends called me “Spock.” He immediately turned to me, his eyes wide.

“Spock like 'Star Trek'?” he asked. I confirmed that and told him I was a huge fan.

So was he. We spent hours mulling over the fine details of “The Corbomite Manuever” and “Balance of Terror” and since he'd never had a chance to see it, I was able to fill him in on the Next Generation, and first couple seasons of Deep Space Nine. He was enthralled. We were still talking Trek long after my boss had finished doing her thing with the guy who was actually the objective.

When we started to leave, this former Communist Political Officer- enforcer of his Empire's will, gave the young American his address and asked if he would send some Trek his way if he ever got the chance. I had to tell him there were rules which prevented that, and he obviously understood, though was a bit sad. Still, he thanked me, and asked if it was OK if we met again when my boss met with his friend again. Just to talk. He wanted to show me his Trek scrap book.

Mission constraints quite unfortunately prevented me from seeing him again. What an incredible experience though to be able to reach out and find camaraderie with a man who should have been an enemy. Knowing that for those three hours we were just fans discussing our beloved Star Trek meant a lot to me, and was a lesson on how to deal with other cultures and countries. I think it would have made Gene Roddenberry proud.

Here we are in the 43rd year of Trek, and it is stronger than ever with a new lease on life in the terrific new film. May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless our planet for another year (at least until New Trek 2 comes out!).

And of course, goodnight Jolene Blalock, wherever you are...