Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Say Goodbye To New Orleans/Say Goodbye My Baby..."

You know what's gone on the past two days in New Orleans: The city gets sideswiped by the hurricane and seems to have avoided the worst of it, only to find its defenses breached and liquid doom flooding in an inch at a time. The water is a toxic mix of oils, gasoline, fire ants, snakes and pesticides.

Okay, nothing unusual -- except we're talking about a city that has few ways out. There's three bridges to the east,. The Lake Ponchatrain Causeway to the north, and I-10 to the west. Any access going directly west either hugs the Mississippi or dead-ends at another river. There isn't much in the way of access away from New Orleans.

In a way, the city is an island, isolated from the rest of the nation.

If the water rises to the level of the surrounding sea, it's going to be impossible to pump out. Since New Orleans is (or WAS) below sea level, you'll have to pump the water up to get it out -- but first, you'll have to rebuild the dikes below the water level. You also have to have the electircity connected to the pumps, and water levels low enough to accept the water from Lake New Orleans.

Then there's the cleanup. And the toxins now deposited on the city.

New Orleans may no longer exist as a city. It may just exist as a memory in our minds, or a word on a plaque along the lines of "Here was the first American City to literally die, killed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005"

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fire Dusted Baker, Please!!!

The Fire Dusty Baker website

If you're a sports fan in Chicago, I'm sure you've heard Dusted Baker complain about not being given unquestioned adulation or blind devotion from the people in Chicago. Well, let me pile on.

First, a history lesson: having seen two coaches turn good teams into pieces of crap (George Perles and Bobby Williams), I'm sure I can tell when a team is turning to horse shit underneath someone's supposed watch. And, to be honest, I saw that Dusted Baker would let the team turn to crap when, after that foul ball bounced off the glove of the now forever scarred Bartman, he never thought about going out to the mound and calming down Prior. While there were players out there, it was Dusted Baker's job.

Since then, I've listened as the Cub Pitchers' arms have been repeatedly injured, the Cubs go from in control of their destiny to out of the playoffs in less than a week (complete with a victory after they were out of it) at the end of last season, and a team built to win playing under five hundred. And all this, with the front office supporting the team with spending.

Understand this, Dusted: you're in a job where you're judged by what you do with what you got. You were given a plum job, an audience that would cheer if the Cubs put out a team of Junior High kids, and a front office that gets you what you need. Guess what: you've been failing, and badly.

You think you're being persecuted? Try having "For Sale" signs posted in front of your house. Try threats made to your children (you know, the ones you hide behind every chance you get in the post-game interviews). Try being booed in your home stadium. Haven't experienced the above yet? Then shut up.

Perles had built his team to a place of pure glory before the collapse, hence his still being welcome in East Lansing. Williams was a nice guy who, while good as a running back coach, was out of his league as the team choach; he has since found consistent work as a running back coach in both College (LSU, under Saban) and the Pros (Detroit, and now Miami).

I'll bet that once Dusted Baker gets cast out of Chicago, he'll run to the safety of San Francisco and be welcomed back with open arms (Thus proving that even Utopias have their flaws). He'll probably do baseball games until he grows old, and gloat over the games his beloved Giants win over the Cubs. Of course the fans in San Francisco will probably coo their approval when he talks about the "abuse" he suffered in Chicago -- never mind what has really happened.

Friday, August 26, 2005

MSU Meditations I: Intro

Officialy starting this week (although it's been going on all month, and there's many who never left) hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of 18-30 year olds are filling in the apartments, dorms and houses that surround the colleges that are supposed to give them the education to improve their lives. In response:
  • Rents rise in the area, and sometimes outside the area, as landlords try to increase their take between taxes, insurance and city intrusion.
  • Liquor stores and bars prepare for the usual business rush that comes from the infusion of overmonied (and overcredited) students ready to throw themselves into a hard weekend's drinking
  • Other businesses get ready to escape from the doldrums they've suffered through the summer
  • Campuses plan their parking patterns for the year's football bachanals
  • Cops start planning overtime, ready to spend their time hunting down "underage" drunks and others.

I'm sure there's places where everything works out fine, where people go and do more than they ever dreamed of doing. I'm more concerned about one place. A place where I spent (too) much time in college, then another bunch of years profiting off of (paying during this time with taxes and support of local businesses). A place where I believe things have gone horribly wrong, and where things can go amazingly right IF THE PLACE REMEMBERS WHAT MADE IT GREAT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The problems I'm going to talk about here happen all over. Many schools have similar problems to what I'm talking about. However, I'm going to focus on what I know and have loved: Michigan State University.

Sadly, the school has felt free to trade on its party-school reputation, with predictable results. Seems every time I hear about MSU in Chicago, it's always in a severely negative light, as if everything bad about Chicago can be traced directly to MSU graduates.

I wonder if any other school goes through this. I once remember hearing a mutilation of the OSU Fight Song by U of M graduates which included the couplet at Columbus you're way ahead/when you get straight A's in Phys Ed; I have to wonder whether they even feel the need to demean MSU folks when too many of them are too willing to demean themselves for fun and sport.

Part 2: Remembering MSU's Past (and it's shameful present)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

MSU Meditations II: Remembering The Past

When I think of MSU, I think of a school that has always had to scrape for its survival. A school that has always lived in the shadow of Michigan. A school that has always had to seek ways to excel, be noticed, and in ways the other school couldn't stop.

It has always done its best when it's gone its own way, as Michigan always did its best to insure that MSU could never compete. Whenever MSU tried to improve itself, there was U of M, trying to stop MSU any way they could.

MSU was always at its best when they didn't compete directly but worked where U of M didn't want to go. MSU was started (as Agricultural College of the State of Michigan) when Michigan ignored the wishes and needs of Michigan's farmers. As Michigan kept to its elitist mind-set, MSU reached out to the rest of the population. When Michigan focused on Graduate students, MSU built up its undergraduate programs and built the biggest dorm system in the nation (complete with classes at the dorms).

And now? Sadly, MSU has seen fit to follow the rest of the universities in their activities. They chase after graduates, starving undergraduate education in the process. They chase after athletic greatness (more on that later). They starve their liberal arts for the sake of their business, law and engineering schools. (Yes, I missed science and Agriculture, but those schools were the basis of MSU).

You know the results. You see it every time they lower themselves to the worst expectations.

Part 3: Looking at athletics and reputations

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

MSU Meditations III: The Athletic Side

I remember 1987. Perles had promised Michigan State fans a rose bowl in five years, and we got it. Better yet, we won the game -- something other Big 10 schools had found hard to do over the past twenty years! The Spartans had arrived, and were here to stay -- so it appeared.

Well, things changed. Perles turned his attention away from coaching and recruiting (and onto the Athletic Director's job), and the team suffered; with losses to Central Michigan in 1991 and 1992 (and a near-loss in 1993) being the Nadir of his carrer. He lost his jobs soon after.

But that's not the worst of it:

If you're not an Michigan State Spartan fan, you probably have forgotten (assuming you heard in the first place) that MSU won the Rose Bowl in 1988. However, chances are you've heard recently that MSU's football teams used Steroids in the eighties, and that was the only reason for their success. I heard it frequently enough while Rick Telander was on Chicago Radio.

In fact, I've recently heard of the Pittsburgh Steelers supposedly using steroids during their glory years, when they won those four super bowls.

Connection? Perles. He was the defensive coach at Pittsburgh, then moved to MSU to coach during the eighties and early nineties.

Understand this, MSU fans: Reputations last longer than winning seasons. Fans remember bowl wins, everyone else remembers what is thought about the school. And reputation always trumps bowl wins; for reputation lasts (whereas bowl championships don't). Don't let the plaques fool you; they're there so people don't forget.

Part 4: Reputations and the Student Body itself

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

MSU Meditations IV: Student "Life"

March 27, 1999: I was on the west side of the Lansing area. Michigan State had just lost their Final Four game to Duke, the eventual champions. And I'm risking a fight with a Notre Dame guy three inches taller than me because on the television screen is a bunch of brats setting couches on fire and bragging on their beating the Police!

Now, I'm aware of the history of MSU riots, and until this date some actually made sense. You had times when the cops were kept from beating up on students, and times when the students went ape-shit on each other. There were also times when a so-called riot was nothing but people having fun, with the "riot" moniker added on as a scare tactic.

March 27, 1999 was sheer stupidity. They lost the game, so they decided to tear shit up.

And worse yet: they continue with this pattern; with the exception being a controlled celebration after the 2000 NCAA basketball championship.

Guess what: I get to hear Radio talk show hosts rip on MSU students and graduates. They're linked with the worst of the Cubs fans, and when the latest version of March 27, 1999 happens I get to hear thoughts of a pre-emptive carpet bombing of East Lansing so as to clear the land of all stupid people.

As the "Udder University" always in the shadow of the Behomouth in Ann Arbor, you should know your actions are looked at more closely. Many look at you, hoping to God that you'll mess up and act like the vicous brats they pray for you to be. It's up to you to live to a higher standard, NOT DOWN TO WHERE THE HATERS WANT TO BE ACT!

From a Spartan, who tries to take pride in his school despite the actions of idiots (and it's not always easy, let me tell you...).

In case you think this is ONLY about Michigan State University...

Monday, August 22, 2005

MSU Meditations V: Not just at Michigan State

I talk about things going on at Michigan State because of my experiences there. However, MSU is not unique in any sense. As Murray Sperber wrote about voluminously in Beer and Circus, similar stuff has been going on at college campuses allover the country. Michigan State, while not exactly the virtuous sister in this (it is cited in the book), it's not necessarily the worst either. Not only that, but it's squarely in the mainsteam of university decay, according to Sperber.

What the universities need is some changes:
  • Do you really need football? Basketball? Lose the sports, you lose the idiot alumni PLUS a major source of your troubles.
  • If you're going to let anybody into your halls, have some classes that separate the men from the boys (and the women from the girls). Many colleges used to do this; the idea being to let in people who may not have done well in High School and see how many of THEM belonged in the University.
  • Return the drinking age back to 19. That would remove the obvious difficulty in keeping alcohol away from the High Schools (students hell-bent on drinking will do so; families hell-bent on feeding students alcohol will do so regardless) while reducing the power of drinking on the campuses (since relatively few students will be "illegal," with the number dropping near zero by the end of the school year)
    (yeah, fat chance I know, but it's a shot. Have heard many intelligent people suggest this, figured it belonged here.).
  • How much Public money is flowing to the universities, anyway? Some schools might want to think about taking themselves private; as monies from the public sector become scarcer that might be a way to take total control of their future.
  • Otherwise, more funding from States and Federal. Stop using schooling costs as a bar keeping poorer students from education.

I wouldn't mind seeing MSU dismantle it's Football and Basketball programs and create classes to weed out the posers from those who belonged in college (one of MSU's strengths has always been welcoming others, no need to stop that). I'd also like more "In Loco Parentis," including a barring from school for anyone identified as being in one of those riots they seem determined to start every year -- seeing their friends barred from school for tearing shit up would go a long way towards a calmer, more fitting celebration next time around.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

4th25: Live From Iraq

Get This Album. Now.

Compared to these folks, even 50 cent (nine bullets my ass) is a wimp. Never mind Eminem.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Why I Like Downtowns.

I like downtowns that are thriving.

I like downtowns because each storefront stands on its own, and not as a designed part of a pseudo-whole.

I like downtowns because you're outside and in a public space when you leave a store. Malls are private spaces where the public is invited if they shop or hang out.

I like downtowns because there's parks and things you don't find in the malls.

I like downtowns because demographics aren't catered to there.

I like downtowns because there's the sounds of downtown going on there; and nothing is piped in or played off muzak.

I like downtowns because you don't hear muzak everywhere in the air (not even at the record stores).

I like downtowns because the people you meet there and the stores there have interesting things.

I like downtowns because the stores there aren't cookie-cutter. Even the cookie-cutter stores aren't cookie-cutter.

I like downtowns because at midnight you can still be in it; and even find things to do there.

And finally, I like downtowns because all the boring people hang out at malls and Wal-Marts and Targets and other Cookie-cutter developments that have turned America into a generic land where the only identifiers for cities is weather patterns; leaving the interesting and curious to hang out together.

I'm sure I've missed something, but this covers what I've thought about today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Where a Friend Moved

During a recent trip, we stopped off at a friend's house. She moved in it during the summer.

Her stated reason for moving there was to be as close to the school as she could. That way, her boys could do their school activities without her having to take time to chase them down. She even showed me the route to the place.

Makes sense. But I had other suspicions as to her choice of places, starting with the ract that the place where we turn off the highway to get to her place runs behind a Wal-Mart.

And the Wal-Mart isn't alone there. Turns out it's the main center of business for the town (and no, I'm not talking about downtown). Nearby is the Target, a Kohl's, grocery stores, other strip mall stores, and an enclosed mall. Further north are the Home Depot and Lowe's; and other developments are going on to the north.

So I wonder: was the school just the excuse? There's a school on the other side of town, one near other residential areas. While closer to the College, it's in no way close enough to be disturbed by college students. Plus, this friend has sons instead of daughters, there's little chance of them being corrupted by college girls before going to college.

Just wondering...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Thoughts on Public Schools

Who are the people beating up on the US, and what are they using to do so? Let's take a look...
  • We have Europe, who has public primary and secondary schools. So why is it their companies are buying up our companies? Surely it can't be the utter stupidity of those who attended the public schools there, can it?
  • Japan and the Pacific Rim schools send their children to public schools. Haven't heard much about how stupid their students are.
  • And what about those Asian Indians? If I remember right, they have colleges so exclusive that our Ivy League (and other "elite" schools) fight for thier refuse. And I keep running into Indian doctors. Amazing, when one would think their public education would leave them unable to add two and two together.
  • And Canada? That socialist dustheap of a nation with people too stupid to learn how to run factories? They must be too busy doing the jobs I thought I'd do, having been born and raised in Flint, Michigan.

Of course, there are some Progressive Lands who've turned their back on public schooling. Who are they?
  • Pakistan, who disinvested in its educational system to pay off debts. Now the students are being educated by fundamentalist Islamicists. Which may explain why we can't find Osama Bin Ladin: the students are hiding him from us.
  • Of course, there's always Africa. The place that, in the fifties, invested in Universities and forgot about public primary and secondary education. Now, instead of doctores and scientists, they got AIDS and famine. Wonder why?

Guess which way we're going.

Guess which way we should go. Not just with our monies, but with our energies.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

War Of The Worlds Was Read This Weekend.

Just came home from an impromptu vacation. Finally read War Of The Worlds.

In it, Wells describes a race of beings that literally becomes parasitic while thinking themselves independent of what they suck on. One would think they'd figured out there was only enough for a certain amount, but who knows.

I'd like to see a book based on the alien point of view. I'd wonder what they think, how they came to their conclusion, and what drove them to act in a kamikazi way (no way back, so it seemed, for them).

And while I'm not sure I'd want to see a religious pov on what they did, I'd very much like to see how they came to view Earth (and Venus) as necessary for their survival.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Civilization Goes Backwards (or At Least It Has Before)

Earlier Posting

You know, it's not as if the loss of the American Space Program would be the first time knowledge was lost.

Indeed, there's a shared unconscious memory of knowledge and technology lost: The Flood stories; usually preceeded with an advanced civilization which abused their power and a family picked to survive the coming punishment from (the) God(s). The universality of this story has led to many thoughts and to discovery of floodings towards the end of the ice age.

However, not all losses of knowledge are mythical. There are some example of real knowledge loss:
  • There are ruins of cities on the Indus River Valley that date from before the invasion by the Indo-Europeans that inculde plumbing and writing. Nobody knows where these people disappeared to, or what the writing refers to (though chances are they're records refer to grain distribution and the emperor as a God).
  • If it weren't for the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian as a language would not be nearly as well known as it is.
  • it is known that there was a written language in what's now known as Greece that disappeared with the invasion of the Greek peoples. Eventually writing comes back -- as an import from the Phonicians.
  • Knowledge and Technologies lost with the collapse of Rome inclides the creation of Cement and Plumbing (again).
  • The amazing thing about the Irish is not that they saved many of the Greco-Roman books, but that they saved ANY of them. And what we have points to what's missing -- imagine all the stuff that didn't make it to England or Northern France (or to the Arabs and India) before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to be lost forever.
  • Torquemeda burned up almost all the Aztec texts, leaving just four examples and a changeable Oral Tradition to pass on pre-Spanish stories and knowledge.
  • And finally, ponder the mystery of Easter Island: Hundreds of heads looking out to some star or occurrance; and thousands of heads in the quarries not quite ready. What did the heads denote? What piece of knowledge did each statue represent?

So it wouldn't be the first time something was lost.

Indeed, there's a museum dedicated to technologies no longer used (amongst other things).

Monday, August 08, 2005

You Know, I Thought We Were Gonna Conquer Space

A Rocket To Nowhere

I remember as a kid, watching the first moon landing. Barely, but I remember watching it. It was supposed to be this major advance on the ladder of progress. There was also talk of a base on the moon, and even onto mars.

Not it looks like we're truely going to be limited to airplanes.

Here's the sad part: our Corporatista representatives in Washington are so hell-bent on the evil of government (and the holy good of corporations) that they're waiting for private enterprise to make ships to go to space. Meanwhile Europe and China are working to make stuff to enter into space, and should either nation/group of nations decide to colonize, they'll be in a position to bomb us (with real bombs, or with shit) from an unassailable perch.

What's even sadder is that we're seeing a phenomenon that many of us thought could never happen in the modern world: Knowledge Loss. That's right: We've lost the knowledge of how to fly to the moon, and soon we'll lose even the knowledge of flying up to space (read the comments below).

More on the losing of knowledge later this week -- maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What I don't like about Nonpaper Election Machines

The Diebold Variations, or fun with those who hide.

What's wrong with paperless voting machines? Let me count the concerns...
  1. Too easy to control the vote counts. With paper you have the intent of the voter on hand, a vote in the computer can be moved around without any one the wiser.
  2. No paper means no backup. Also, no way to insure how you voted.
  3. The touch screens can be used to identify voters. It's actually quite simple:
    • have a database of all registered voters in a precinct with their fingerprints.
    • Make sure the touchscreen is able to read fingerprints. (They can detect touch, I'm sure it's just a matter of computer power to include the reading of fingerprints).
    • Set up the program so that votes for certain candidates (or parties) get the fingerprints read.
    • Match the finger print to the database.
    • Persecute to Taste (or insure good fortune, if that person voted your way)
  4. No ability to vote for write-ins. What's a democracy if a well-meaning independent can't do a grassroots campaign and get write-ins? These electronic machines are set up so write-ins can't happen.
Yes, there's way for people to figure out who voted for whom, to cancel out write-ins, to mess with vote counts and fool people into making their vote not count. But the electronic voting stuff makes all the above things SO much easier; simply because you no longer have to work at those things -- just reprogram things to do it for you. No need for goons or people in your pocket to work at messing up the ballots; just a few programmers to fiddle with the results.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Governor Alan Keyes?

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has served but half his term, and already there's challengers to his governorship.

From what I've heard, it makes sense. The guy can't even keep things straight in his own camp, and he recently caved in to the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) when they threatened to violently gut transit service if they weren't given a bunch of money.

Now there's already a few guys out to challenge Blagojevich. However, these guys haven't even been able to win their own primaries. With the Ryans unable to follow up on their tainted name, that leaves one person to run.

That's right -- Alan Keyes. The guy for who the answer to everything is: "Stop Abortion." Doesn't matter that the question is "How do we get enough money for the new I-70 bridge over the Mississippi river" or "Wal-Mart just threatened to move into my town. How do I stop it?"

Sad thing is, I can see this guy winning. Just portray Blagojevich as a pawn of Corrupt Chicago. Daley's already under a lethal attack, any help he gives Blagojevich could end up hurting the Governor.

But then, who knows? Alan Keyes tends to enter races he knows he can't win; and besides he's still not finished with the persecution of his nonbreeder daughter. Maybe the Economy will save Rod in the meantime.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pamala Barsky's Notepads

Pamela Barsky's Website

Having seen the above (or versions of the above) in a store a couple weeks ago, I finally got a chance to look at the booklets up close and personal. Alas, I found them wanting.

The size of the booklets are perfect sized, and the paper is good. The cover is a bit flimsy and the wire binding is adequate. There is an interesting style, which includes the use or words (such as the teasingly self-depricating titles on some of the tablets).

The biggest problem with this, though, is that while the paper is blank (nothing wrong with that, mind you -- if you're a drawer or drafter), she includes a template for drawing lines on the paper to write on. I understnd why she'd do that -- adding flexibility to a notebook so one could draw OR write -- but I don't want to put in lines so I can write. Call me spoiled (after all, lines on paper is a relatively recent development), but if I want to write on something I'll want lines to help guilde me.

When she finally includes lines in the notepads she intends for writing in, maybe I'll consider buying a notepad from her. As I said, I like the style. But until then, I'm leaving them alone.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Seen on US 20 in Amish Territory

Came across this row of what looked like homestead farms. Each one had trees, a couple of horses, a barn, and a small garden. There was also kids in Amish garb running around in the yards. A couple that tried crossing the street were polite, and careful.

Heard later those "farms" were something along the lines of Amish Tract Mansions. The areas are big enough to house everything the Amish would use (horse, hay, storage for food and some ice for refridgeration well into the summer) but not really enough land to live off of. Supposedly those folks probably work nearby (at the RV building facility) and either ride horses or on a bus driven by a local "englishman" (American Amish term for "outsider") to and from work.

It did make for an intriguing look into another world. Human activity, absent from the vast majority of neighborhoods during this hot-hot-hot summer, was in full force for this block-long area. And it was intriguing looking into a version of the past. I asked my housemate whether this reminded her of her youth in Iowa. She stated that things were a bit more sparser than this, but familiar enough to her to relate. She then told me about some farming combinations that happened during her youth.

It also reminded me just how empty the farmlands of Iowa had become. It just seems strange to me, going miles and miles and finding single houses standing wherever they may be; outside of the towns (some of which are dying even as we drove by them) there's nothing preventing houses from being bulldozed to make another acre for farming.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On Judge John G. Roberts

I don't like what I see going on.

Yes, I'd like to see a critical look at Roberts. However, I think the left had better shift their battle elsewhere. Roberts may be a conservative, but he has many years of experience with the Supreme Court and knows its ways better than anyone other than the judges (and Sandra Day O'Conner, former judge).

If John Roberts is successfully blocked, here's what I fear will happen:
  1. The media (as there is no longer any liberal mainstream media in existence in the US) will wail about how Shrub Jr. had done his best to appease the liberal left and they came back with "This."
  2. There will be a vote to declare "fillebusters" dead. It will pass.
  3. The next person who comes up for a judgeship will make John Roberts almost communistic:
    • The judge's view of reproductive rights will be Monty Pythonesque -- and dead serious.
    • Separation of Church and State becomes Separation of Churchless and their freedoms.
    • The RIAA and MPAA gets the ruling they want: That the 13th Amendment does not apply to "intellectual property thieves" and anyone who deals with Intellectual Property owners.
    • Further, more radical rulings that shift rights from people to corporations, and from smaller corporations to bigger ones.
  4. As a result of the fillibuster rule, laws are enacted to make the Democratic Party criminal. These laws will stand up in court.
Give him SOMETHING to think about, but let him in. The court's going to the right; last thing needed is an excuse for it to go further than it must; and better someone who respects the court than someone who will choose to vegetate on the bench. At least Scalia explains himself.