Archive for March, 2010


Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

As you probably have heard, the 44th and current President of the United States Barack Obama is going to be in Portland, Maine tomorrow.

Today Liz stood in the rain for two hours to try and get tickets to his speech at the Expo but they sold out.

I still might go, just to get a glimpse of this epic man.

Thank you!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Thank you all for your birthday well wishes yesterday. Thirty-four feels very similar to thirty-three so far, which is nice.

That being said, no matter how you slice it this will be my last year in the ‘youth’ demographic; I’ve got to make my important purchasing needs known in the next twelve months before I’m a dreaded 35-54 …

Missing Sheikh Screws Up TV Schedule

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

On Sunday I mentioned how one of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikhs has gone missing in a glider accident (see UAE President’s Brother Missing).

The search in Morocco is still on, but now it’s affecting the television schedule in the UAE; the final episode of Million’s Poet scheduled for tonight has been postponed.

Million’s Poet (I hope the name sounds cooler in Arabic) is like American Idol, but with Nabati poetry instead of singing.

Probably more modest dress, as well.

Check out the Khaleej Times’ article: “Final episode of ‘Million’s Poet’ postponed.”

UPDATE: Rescuers found the sheikh’s body on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi will observe three days of mourning.

LHC Works; We’re All Going to Die

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I feel the New York Times is missing half a headline today: “Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashing Properly; Black Hole Imminent.”

Ten bucks says they create a strangelet and we all blink out of exist–


Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Articles like this make me want to throw up: “Overqualified? Yes, but Happy to Have a Job.”

Milbank on Reform

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Dana Milbank has a good column in last Sunday’s Washington Post: “Health reform and the specter of Alf Landon.”

Landon, you might recall, ran against FDR in 1936’s presidential election – the most lopsided election in the history of the United States in terms of electoral votes (I don’t want to spoil it, but FDR creamed him).

Additionally the 1936 presidential election, you might recall, was the one in which Maine lost its place as the bellwether presidential elections.

For the hundred years prior Maine had almost consistently predicted the Presidential winner. See, back then our statewide elections were in September. In the presidential election years we oftentimes voted in the governor or senators from the party that would go on to win the presidential election. The political wisdom of the time became “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”

Then 1936 happened.

Only Maine and Vermont voted for Landon.

Thus the phrase jokingly became “As goes Maine, so goes Vermont.”

Anyway, check out Milbank’s article.

UAE President’s Brother Missing

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the Managing Director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and younger brother of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, is apparently lost: “Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi missing.”


Apparently his “glider” went down in Morocco.

But the pilot was found in good shape.

Not buying it.

When the manager of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with an estimated $627 billion in assets gets lost in a “glider” accident in Morocco I call bullshit.

I mean, this is a family who torture people for fun (see The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi Gets Away With Torture).

I totally bet they’re capable of pushing their brother out of a “glider” for some SWF improprieties.

None Too Secure (part 3)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I talked about Social Security’s woes back in January and August of last year (None Too Secure and None Too Secure (part 2)).

But it’s a whole lot worse now: “Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year.”

Key quote:

This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It’s not quite clear when they’ll totally run out of money, I’ve seen 2035 and 2037, though I’m sure those’ll be revised soon.

Of course, I’ll reach my normal retirement age of 67 in 2043, much too late.


Never Be President

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

So I was just re-reading the Fourteenth Amendment (what, you don’t read the Constitution for fun?) and I came to a horrible conclusion – it’s possible I won’t be able to run for Congress or the Presidency because of our insurrection when George W. Bush won in 2004 (see 83 Portland Rd Succeeds from Union).


Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Of course, we could try and get two-thirds of Congress to help, but that doesn’t seem likely …

Who Broke Wikipedia?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Awww, who broke my favorite website!

In case you haven’t been to Wikipedia lately, well, it’s all jacked up.

Check out: “Wikipedia Site Fails After Servers Overheat.”

Lincoln Pierce

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Apparently Lincoln Peirce, the guy who writes and draws the comic strip “Big Nate” lives in Portland, Maine.

Add him to our list of famous Mainers that we started back in January (see Paul Andrew Mayewski).

98 Years of Health Care

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I love the New York Times interactive timelines. Here’s one that’s just fantastic: “A History of Overhauling Health Care.”

What’s Wrong with WDFA?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this two part article “What’s Wrong with [Walt] Disney Feature Animation?” – part 1 and part 2.

I’m not sure who Ed Liu is, and I don’t agree with some of his statements, but it’s a good dialogue to start. Something’s certainly going wrong that needs fixing.

Jefferson on Liberty

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

In the John Lewis piece the other day I quoted Thomas Jefferson, his “tree of liberty” quote. I mentioned how the militias and the other hate groups of our time love that shit.

Well I love history, I love Jefferson, and I love proving people wrong. So lets delve into this a little more, shall we?

The quote references an 1786 armed uprising of farmers in western Massachusetts called Shays’ Rebellion. If you’re not familar with that incident, go read the wikipedia entry. I’ll wait.

There. Now here’s a good chunk of the letter in question that TJ wrote from France about Mr. Shay and his pals:

Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.

It’s so rich! And so much more complex than the one line that hateful bastards put on tee-shirts.

What does TJ say? That rebellions such as Shays’ are necessary in our government, for lethargy is “the forerunner of death to the public liberty.”

However, the “people cannot be all, & always, well informed.” Sometimes they’re just ignorant, not wicked.

And then this: “The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.”


But how do we fix this?

“The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Everyone needs the facts straight.

Especially on this quote.

“Hummel from Alcatraz, out.”

Word Cloud

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I found this website, that builds word clouds out of text files.

So I uploaded the 380 pages of my Newlywed in Dubai: Best of the Blog book and came up with this:

Pretty cool.

John Lewis

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Have you seen this yet: “Spitting and Slurs Directed at Lawmakers?”

Tea Party protesers apparently spit on House of Representative members, yelled gay slurs at Barney Frank and the “N-word” at African-American members.

That’s it. The Tea Party has jumped the shark. Everyone out of the pool.

Now, I don’t side with the demonstrators – I’d very much like government health care, please – but I think it’s fair that they’re allowed to display their opinion. Everyone should be allowed to assemble peaceably.

But racial epithets slung towards John Lewis?

That gets my ire up. My blood boiling.

Although he does it so often it’s a bit like crying wolf, this deserves a Keith Olbermann rant.

So I’ll take a shot.

John Lewis is, well if not a “hero” then he’s certainly “heroic”. He’s faced the darkest, most evil aspect of America, risen up and changed the system.

John Lewis is, by my account, the living embodiment of the possibility of America.

Here he is after being attacked by white segregationists at a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama during the Freedom Rides:

The caption that I cut off? “Jim Zwerg [the white Freedom Rider on the right] is checking how many teeth he has left.”

Here’s Lewis, as the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, being beaten by state trooper during an attempt to march on the Alabama state capitol in March of 1965:

I don’t even have a photo from his beating during the Selma to Montgomery marches, which left head wounds that are still visible 45 years later.

The Tea Party crowd, and before them the Militia-folk of the 1990s, like the Thomas Jefferson quote “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants”.

John Lewis, patriot, has shed his blood for our country.

Our country.

Part of the reason that protestors today are not mercilessly beaten is the lessons we as a country learned after the Civil Rights movement. The photos of dogs, water hoses and billy clubs being used on human beings as they tried to exercise their right to peaceably assemble were so violent, so excessive that it sickens us still a half a century later.

Disagree with his politics, that’s fine. Assemble in peaceful manner to do so. Heck, go on Fox News and complain. But don’t do this.

National Education

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I’m still mulling over Susan Jacoby’s Op-Ed from yesterday’s New York Times: “One Classroom, From Sea to Shining Sea.”

Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason is a brilliant book, but I’m very wary of her plans for a national school curriculum.

Oddly, this week actually I went to my first school board meeting in 16 years – have I mentioned here that Lake Region was branded as one of the ‘lowest-achieving’ in Maine?

I’m against removing the principal (and possibly half the staff) in that case.

I find issue with several parts of the process in that case – testing with the SAT (only reading and math), trending over only three years, the legality of charter schools in Maine … it’s a mess.

But more importantly, I think the teachers should teach what they want. Local issues, local heroes, local science – in eighth grade we made maple syrup (40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup) partly because there were maple trees on the Middle School property, and partly the teacher (who happened to be my father) knew that it was a fun learning activity.

Oh, wait, no – it was hands-on, designed for multiple intelligences to promote life-long learning.

(That’s the correct jargon, right?)

Either way, now, 20 years later, I’m still looking forward to Maine Maple Sunday in two weeks.

But then there’s the flip-side: the crap in Texas with the board of education changing history, literally re-writing the books.

In that case I’m all for federal standards.

See my quandary?

No Census Online

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I love the decennial census, but you know this (see Census Fun).

We got our form in the mail the other day and I was confused to see you couldn’t fill the form out online. Doesn’t that seem like a logical option?

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who found this odd: “One Thing You Still Can’t Do Online.”

Inernational Politics … and Zombies

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Apparently international politics must be quiet at the moment; Foreign Policy had a lengthy piece on zombies this week: “Dawn of the Theories of International Politics and Zombies.”

Lots of research (facetiously, I hope) has gone into how society would react to a as-of-yet theoretical attack.

Key quote:

If bureaucratic conflicts and organizational pathologies hamper effective counter-terrorism policies, imagine the effect they would have on anti-zombie policies. The bureaucratic turf wars would be significant. Quelling the rise of the undead would require significant interagency coordination. In the United States, one could easily envisage major roles for the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. This does not include autonomous or semi-autonomous agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control, and the myriad intelligence agencies.

So the ability of organizations to adapt to an army of the undead is an open question. Clearly, further research in this area is desperately needed.