Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm guessing he doesn't have any children

In Texas, it's legal for teachers to carry guns, because I guess the Apaches might attack any second. You can't protect your fort without your guns. But if that wasn't crazy enough, ponder this.
... the Teacher’s Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student. Link
The State Rep. who proposed this, Dan Flynn (guess which party he belongs to), thinks that school teachers should have the right to shoot their students, not only to protect lives, but to protect PROPERTY. And the teachers would have automatic immunity from prosecution. That sounds like a delightful and safe environment in which to raise your children. These gun fetishists are sick bastards.

Seriously, what kind of mind thinks up such a horrific thing?

Elections have consequences

I live in a reliably Blue state which means we usually have progressive policies and rational government. Maryland was the first state in which voters approved same-sex marriage, after all.

Unfortunately, to my shame, this past November we elected Larry Hogan, the Republican candidate for governor. He wasted no time enacting his regressive policies.

Within FOUR HOURS of being inaugurated, he rescinded environmental protections for the Chesapeake Bay, because who needs that watery, crab-filled thing? He also stopped regulations limiting pollution from coal power plants, that the coal plants HAD ALREADY AGREED TO. And just to prove his conservative bona fides, he also killed regulations designed to protect LGBT people from discrimination, because why not?

Getting rid of the pollution controls will actually cost the state money, so any argument for fiscal responsibility fails. Killing the LGBT regs might not have any economic impact, he was just proving he's a douchebag.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SOTU Awesome

There should be a cable channel dedicated to this.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

American Exceptionalism! (We're excepted from being smart.)

Ladies and gentleman, the new Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee!
Wednesday was a big day for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). In the morning, he officially took the gavel as chairman of the Senate’s Environment Committee. In the afternoon, he took the Senate floor for a long speech about how human-caused climate change is fake.  Link
"Climate is changing, and climate has always changed," said Inhofe, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "There's archeological evidence of that. There's biblical evidence of that. There's historic evidence of that." He continued: "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful, they can change climate. Man can't change climate." Link


Yeah, we're boned.

That Blackish, Holish Thing

In 1979, two years after Star Wars and the same year that Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien were released, Disney made its bid to become something other than a "kid" studio with the release of the PG rated, adult-themed science fiction movie, The Black Hole. I was 14 years old when I saw it in the theater. I had some problems with it.

I've seen it once or twice since then but it's been years. I remember liking the music a lot and the general atmosphere so I've been wanting to see it. Tonight I watched it.

For its time, some of the effects are pretty good. The beginning of the film contains some nice weightless scenes, the stylish blue tint to star-filled space is unusual, and the black hole itself is a whirling funnel of color. The mysterious spaceship found by our heroes, inexplicably sitting placidly by the black hole, the Cygnus, is a great interior lit model, and the sets, while ridiculously impractical for a spaceship, are cavernous and interesting. I still liked the atmosphere of the film a lot.

As for the music, I love the main theme by John Barry, the man responsible for James Bond's signature theme, but the "heroic" action-adventure music is cliched and awful. That same music is used in the film's overture, a touch I didn't remember, and it reminded me that Star Trek: The Motion Picture also had an overture. They were among the last two films to do it.

The movie itself is pretty short, without too many surprises and some really dumb mistakes and plot points. Early on, the female lead, Dr. McCrae, says that the Cygnus's mission was to find "habitable life" rather than habitable planets. And I knew I was in trouble when early on the Captain asks Dr. McCrae to contact their robot, VINCENT, with her ESP. Oy. The heroes mostly seem unimpressed with Dr. Reinhardt's incredible discoveries and are weirdly paranoid from the moment they meet him. The cool villain robot, Maximilian, for reasons never explained, doesn't follow the orders of his creator, and at one point Dr. Reinhardt inexplicably asks Dr. McCrae to protect him from his own robot.

Then of course there's the ridiculous translucent orange meteors and the crew walking out on the surface of the ship (in space!) and not dying.

So not too much improvement over my earlier memories. I do love the look of most of the film and the spooky atmosphere. But much of the rest of the movie is a mess.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 - State of the Union Dissent

Here's a partial list of the things Congressional Republicans did NOT clap for during President Obama's State of the Union address:
  • An improving economy
  • A soaring stock market
  • Americans getting health insurance
  • Mention of "solar power"
  • Tax cuts for working families 
  • Affordable childcare
  • Tax cuts for families with children 
  • Equal pay for women
  • "America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined."
  • A "free and open internet"
  • Rewarding companies that "invest in America" 
  • "Working Americans"
  • A resolution for the use of the force against ISIL
  • "Trying something new" with Cuba
  • Acknowledging that climate change exists
  • Prohibiting Torture
  • Not persecuting "people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender."
  • Closing Gitmo
  • Making "voting easier for every single American"
Just to be clear.  They did NOT clap for these things.

Tell me again why anyone would vote for these asshats.

Thanks to DailyKos.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pope gets it half right

Like many public figures, Pope Francis spoke out last week about the massacre in Paris.
The Pope stressed that there was no justification for the killing of 17 people in three separate incidents, including a massacre in and around the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailants were reportedly Islamist extremists, some of whom called out "Allahu akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great," as they singled out the magazine, French authorities and Jewish people.
"One cannot make war (or) kill in the name of one's own religion," Francis said on his way to the Philippines. "... To kill in the name of God is an aberration."  Link
That's absolutely true. It's absolutely hypocritical to say you believe in a god, then destroy his creations. Way to go, Pope. 

But then he went too far.
"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith."
Sorry, Pope, but that's 100% untrue. Religion is fair game for satire. 

If you say that the Universe was created by one guy who sees and knows everything and sits in judgement over us, poor humans, ready to sentence us to eternal torture, then you are fair game for questioning, provocation and insult. One should be respectful of other people, but ideas are fair game.

I've never understood this. If you really believe in an omnipotent, omniscient guy who controls the universe, then why do you think he can't stand being questioned or made fun of? I'm pretty sure that if such a being existed, he wouldn't give two craps about some puny human making fun of him.

The fact that you're offended on his behalf, says more about you then it does about him.

Hermione (and Emma) kick butt

Since Hermione is my favorite Harry Potter character, I thought this was great.

If Hermione were the Main Character in Harry Potter: Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy

(Spoilers for Harry Potter, of course).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Everything is NOT Awesome

If you ever needed absolute proof that there is no god, then this is it.

The Lego Movie was NOT nominated for either a Best Picture or a Best Animated Feature Oscar.

I call total BS on that. It was not only clearly the Best Animated film of the year, it is seriously one of the Best Pictures of the Year, period

Holy crap. The only thing I can think to explain this is that The Lego Movie came out last February and that Oscar voters forgot about it.

What an outrage. I am despondent.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

So this happened

Last Friday, everyone in my Agency received an email that President Obama was coming to speak to us on Monday. If we were interested in attending, we were to send in our name for a ticket lottery. I certainly was, and did, and on Saturday was notified that I would receive a ticket. I had to pick it up by 8:30AM on Monday.

Unfortunately, ticket pickup was complicated by the two hour delayed arrival due to weather on Monday morning. While normally a delayed arrival would let me sleep in, I still needed to leave earlier than usual to make sure I got there by the new deadline of 9:30AM. Happily, the weather threat was overblown and I arrived by 8:30.

The auditorium opened at 10AM and after moving through security, we basically sat and chatted for two hours until the President arrived. Everyone was pretty excited. Obama was the first President to visit our agency since FDR almost 80 years ago.

Finally, about ten minutes after noon, the President arrived. After his introduction, there was a burst of Hail to the Chief, everyone stood, and he came to the podium.

He spoke to us as an agency for a few minutes, joking about the lack of Presidential visits and generally being charming. Then he gave a short speech to highlight initiatives he's going to talk about at the State of the Union next week.

After he was done, he moved into the front row, shook some hands and was gone.

All told, he was in the auditorium for less than a half an hour. But it was thrilling to see him so close and it's been the talk of the agency all week. One of my colleagues got a "VIP" ticket and got to shake his hand. I made sure to shake my colleague's hand soon after.

And that's how I saw my first President, live.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Horrible person says horrible things

Rupert Murdoch, the horrible person who unleashed FOX News on America and screwed us up for decades, is a horrible person.

Did I mention he's horrible?

So are we holding all Christians responsible for the genocide in Bosnia, or the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa? Do we hold all Buddhists responsible for the massacres in Burma or all Hindus responsible for killings in India and Pakistan? How about all Republicans taking responsibility for right wing violence in America?

When there was an immediate inevitable counter-reaction to Murdoch's racist BS, conservatives trotted out their code phrase "political correctness", which means "stop calling our racism, racism".

Yeah, we'll get right on that.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Now Rachel goes to Hogwarts

Rachel returned to school today. One of her roommates, Matt, having arrived several days ago, took it upon himself to enhance their lighting.

Awesome job!

Commuting Woes 2015

Tuesday morning began like any other. Except, there was snow on the ground and it was still falling. Carol checked and our schools had a two hour delay, so Ben could sleep in, but I was awake and ready to get to work.

Would that I was not.

It was pretty cold and still snowing, but as I waited for the bus at 7:25AM, I enjoyed the first snow of the year and the muffled quiet of the morning. Some traffic was going down our neighborhood streets and conditions didn't seem so bad. After about ten minutes, though, I realized the bus was late. A few minutes later, I was approached from behind by one of our neighbors, a young woman who used to be friends with Rachel. She asked me if I wanted to sit in her van on the street nearby while we waited. I was perfectly comfortable and kind of zen, but I didn't want to be rude to a kindness and so got into the back seat. Her dad was in the driver's seat.

We talked a bit while we waited. The next bus was supposed to arrive at 8:03 but this bus also never showed. At 8:13 (50 minutes after I arrived at the bus stop) I suggested we drive over to the Germantown transit center to catch a different bus that went straight to the Metro. Her dad agreed and started driving the mile and a half to the transit center.

Unfortunately, rather than make a U turn and go straight down a nearby road, he went forward, which lead to a rather circuitous route. Also unfortunately, as soon as we got onto the main roads, we could see why the buses weren't arriving. Cars were everywhere and moving very little. It took us about forty minutes to go the mile and a half to the transit center and took a couple more minutes for the bus to arrive.

It had obviously been a long time since a bus had departed as a large crowd was waiting. As her dad drove away, we made it onto the bus. She got the last seat and I, along with a bunch of others, stood in the aisle. Our goal was Shady Grove metro, about 7 miles away, straight down highway 270. What we found was that on the exit from 270, a bunch of cars had spun out, blocking traffic. The bus took ninety minutes to go the last mile. I stood the whole way.

Once we hit the Metro, things went fine. A train arrived just as I reached the platform and I got my preferred window seat. Mercifully, there were no problems with the train.

I arrived at work at 11:20, three hours and fifty-five minutes after I had walked out my front door, five minutes faster than my Worst. Commute. Ever. I was actually slightly disappointed I didn't set a new record.

Today, with a bunch of Metro mechanical problems due to the cold, my commute only took two hours. It seemed fast by comparison.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Dumbhead says dumbhead things

Warning: harsh language ahead.
"After so many years of sluggish growth, we're finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration's long tenure in Washington, the expectation of a new Republican Congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda." - New Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
Yes, the huge, multi-year surge of the stock market, unemployment dropping below 6%, the 5% growth in GDP last quarter, the 10.3 million jobs created over the last 55 months, all because the Republicans took over Congress . . . yesterday.

Fuck you, Mitch McConnell. Fuck you.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Season of Nog

I love eggnog and have since I was a child. Of course, I can only drink it during the Christmas season (good thing) which makes me appreciate its delicious bubble-gum flavored creaminess even more. I have about a pint left in the refrigerator, so I'm about to enter the long nog-drought until next Christmas.

This season, I noticed something. Whenever I have eggnog and talk with someone while I'm having the eggnog, the conversation is inevitably, without exception, about liking or not liking eggnog. I'm the only one in my family who likes it, so when I bring out a glass I'm usually met with "Eggnog sucks!" or "Eggnog is the worst drink ever." When someone offers eggnog at a Christmas party, there's always an extended conversation about who likes or doesn't like it. It's an interesting topic, for sure, but eggnog is never drunk without a heaping helping of self-awareness.

So, to lay out my position for all future nog conversations: if you don't like it, (1) sucks to be you, and (2) more for me.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Into the Woods

While we were in Indiana we went to see Into the Woods on Christmas Day. I enjoyed it a great deal. I thought the music was good, the story clever, and the performances great.

There were a few Second Act problems as some storylines were not resolved (looking at you, Rapunzel) and some plot developments seemed unmotivated. Rachel tells me they cut out a couple of songs and changed the story from the stage musical. She didn't like the changes. My family mostly enjoyed it although some thought it too long.

Still, it was a fun movie experience and I'll look forward to seeing it again some time. Too bad the theaters in Elkhart suck. The lighting in the theater was too bright and the projector brightness turned down too low. The result was a dim movie. Another reason to see it again when it's out on video.

Where is Ipecac now?

We're back from our Christmas visit to Indiana and I'm back at work today. We had a nice trip with no drama and no major incidents. Got to see our family, eat out, play some games. 

With our kids all becoming adults, it's not clear how much longer we'll all be available to get together at the holidays. So all the more reason to appreciate that we're all still able to share the time together.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ipecac Eats Burgers #19 - Austin Grill

Austin Grill is a local Tex-Mex chain with a location right near my Agency's HQ. For years it was our standard go-to place when we wanted to celebrate as a shop. Now that we've moved, it's not nearly as convenient.

Still, one of my staff is leaving on December 31, so last week we took him out to Austin Grill. I've often had their Original Austin Burger, without cheese, and thought it was fantastic.

The Original Austin Burger

This time, the burger was a little disappointing. It was a bit overcooked, heavy on the peppers and needed some more sauce. It's been a while since I had had one, so I hope this isn't representative.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Come on Media, do your duty

In a demonstration that the American media is failing regularly on its basic function of educating the American public, a Bloomberg poll shows that the American public believes that the budget deficit is increasing and that we deported more people ten years ago than today.
A Bloomberg Politics poll shows that on two controversial issues, the budget deficit and deporting illegal immigrants, the public believes Obama's critics–even though reality favors the president. 
By 73 percent to 21 percent, the public says the federal budget deficit has gotten bigger during the Obama presidency.

Of course, the deficit is WAY down since President Obama was elected and deportations are WAY up from ten years ago. This shows that conservatives mostly succeed by controlling the agenda and lying about reality, and that the supposed "liberal" media is not only not liberal, but not doing its job.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ipecac Eats Burgers #18 - Outback Steakhouse

Almost every time we go to the Outback Steakhouse, I get the Alice Springs Chicken, which is the best chicken dish on planet Earth. But since I was trying not to eat over 1,000 calories in one meal, this time I went with the Outback Burger, which also enabled this post.

That's a pretty good looking burger.

I've had this burger before, and my memory is that it was HUGE. Apparently they've sized it down a bit which is great. It was too big.

All in all, a good burger. Too bad I'll rarely get it because of Alice Springs Chicken.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In Memory - Jeff Kling

On October 25, one of my childhood friends, Jeff Kling, passed away from cancer. Jeff may have been the first friend I ever had.

I haven't seen Jeff in over thirty years, but I have strong, fond memories of him and our childhoods together. Our neighborhood had a bunch of kids of approximately the same age who all got along really well. We rode bikes, played on swingsets, went swimming, shot BB guns, climbed trees, trick or treated, had sleepovers and did pretty much everything you can imagine kids doing in the suburbs of a small town in the 1970s. We transformed one of the empty lots on our street into a baseball diamond and often played there. We dug holes deep into the ground, covering them with plywood to make forts. We had epic stick sword fights in the woods behind our street. We made home movies, first on super 8 and then on our primitive, black and white, wired VHS camera, all of which were terrible, hilarious, and awesome. We had plans for an epic home movie remake of Star Wars, but never got around to making it.

Jeff wasn't a big kid but he loved sports, especially baseball. And he was really good at it. I was much more of a nerd, into Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, and so as we grew older, our interests diverged. But I have always had fond memories of Jeff, even when we dropped out of touch. His Mom has been trying to get us together during one of our visits to Indiana but we haven't been able to arrange it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.

Here we are, probably around 1970 or 1971. I would be five or six years old. From left to right, Rod, Me, Jeff, his brother Dave, and my brother, Mark.

Thanks Jeff.

Fun with Signs - Eternal Wisdom

Here's the current sign. Seems appropriate for a directional sign.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ipecac Eats Burgers #17 - Plan B Burger

A few weeks ago, Carol, Rachel and Rachel's friend, Jessica, met me downtown after work so we could see As You Like It by the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Before we went to the show, we ate at a new burger place in Penn Quarter, Plan B Burger.

Now THAT'S a bun.

The "Tavern Classic"

The obvious thing about this burger is the ginormous bun. Yikes. To my surprise, however, it didn't overwhelm the burger and compacted nicely once I started eating it. The bun was matched to an also very thick patty, which I don't care for as much as a thin patty.

This was a decent burger, certainly something I would order again, but mostly forgettable.

Who would Jesus torture?

This seems pretty clear cut to me. What America did after 9/11 with a whole bunch of prisoners, including some we knew were innocent, was TORTURE. Dick Cheney can continue to spin in his grave (wait, he's not actually a ghoul?) that it wasn't torture and that he'd do it again, but that says more about his lack of morality and character than it does about the torture we inflicted. But to America's deep shame, even acknowledging that it was torture doesn't dissuade some from endorsing it.

Today I saw this graph which sets out responses to the "Was torture justified" question by religion (or lack of).

Not surprisingly to anyone who pays attention, religious folk tend to okay torture while a majority of non-religious folk (aka agnostics and atheists) don't believe torture of other human beings is justified. So much for "Do unto others" and "Love your neighbor", not to mention "Love the sinner, not the sin." Of course, this probably has more to do with American religious folk being deliberately and systematically co-opted by the Republicans so that conservatism is more important to them than their religion.

I should also point out (again) that actual experts who study this have demonstrated time and again that torture is ineffective in getting good information and torture played no role in our getting information that lead to the killing of Bin Laden. So not only is torture immoral, it is ineffective. It's also dehumanizing and unamerican.

If you profess to love Jesus, and you still endorse torture, you may want to crack open that book of yours again and try to connect with the values that Jesus is supposed to represent. I'm pretty sure torture isn't one of them.