Saturday, February 26, 2011

If You Remember the '70s

You probably didn't enjoy them. Ain't that the old joke?

The trouble is, we are almost repeating the '70s; especially the late '70s.

Look at Mid-Eastern unrest. To be honest, I think we are screwed in that area of the world for a generation or more. And not just us; Europe and Asia too.Anybody who doesn't see Islamic theocracy in Egypt's future is whistling past the graveyard. Yemen and Libya too.

And then the wars start; just like he '70s. First they will go after Israel, get their collective asses handed to them again, and then the Shiites and the Sunnis will go after each other, again.

The bad news is we will not be burning Middle Eastern oil until maybe 2040. The good news is, neither will Western Europe, China, India or Russia.

The bad news is we won't be burning our own until 2015. Maybe. If we can get government permission to drill for it.

And I don't see that happening until Obama has to get out and help push Limo 1.

Face it; the only reason we give a rat's hindquarters about what happens in the Middle East at all is because of the oil. That's why we fought over it in WWII; to keep the oil out of Hitler's hands. That's why we have a presence there now, to keep the old USSR from taking the oil over. Because we- and every other industrialized nation on the face of the Earth- use oil to travel, produce goods, services and food, heat our homes and a thousand other things. Including power our National Defense.

We saw that in WWII also. The side that ran out of oil first lost. Oil is not "A" strategic resource, it is "THE" strategic resource.

Our entire economy is dependent on oil; cheap oil. Try to think of the last time you went a day without being dependent on oil for something. It could even be stretched to the idea that the coal that fired the boilers that made your electricity was delivered with oil fired towboats. So even that day you stayed home in the air conditioning and watched old movies was brought to you by oil.

Remember that post I did about your rights stopping at the end of my nose? How long until the unrest in the Middle East starts to effect the end of your nose with $5.00 a gallon gas? How long until we are nostalgic for $5.00 gas?

There is a reason that the United States sticks in nose in all over the world; what happens all over the world affects the way we live our lives; even more so than in teh 70's.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Holy WOW!

All I can say is:

Holy Wow!

I was checking out Jay Leno's Garage this morning and caught this video.

Holy Wow!

If only they can somehow match this up with Google Street view, not only could you drive your car on the street at 140, you could drive your car, on your street at 140!

How cool would that be?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yeah, But Back in My Day...

Sometimes it's the strangest things that start my mind to working down odd paths.

This morning I was reading Car Lust, one of my favorites, and found this post. Truly the end of an era.

But it got me to thinking about how car sound used to be a 'gateway drug' to customization of what used to be Mom & Dad's car.

Back in my day, when dinosaurs like Pontiac and Oldsmobile ruled the land, and you would rather be caught naked in the gym on Prom night than drive a 'furrin' car, usually the very first thing that happen to your first car was the tune box. Usually before you even washed it, or put gas in it for the first time.

The FM converter. Plugged into the antenna wire between the antenna and the radio, and suddenly you could avoid the stigma of AM only. You still had just one speaker, and it always sounded high pitched and tinny, but, man, you had FM. For $9.95 at Kmart.

It usually took a couple of paychecks, but eventually you became enamored of a little higher quality sound in the ride, and sprung for the AM/FM in dash stereo unit that came with the wires and TWO speakers! $29.95 for the Kraco brand at Kmart. Since installation usually required dismantling the dash, most of the interior and sometimes cutting holes into part of the car, installation usually took place at a friend's house, where you assured his Dad you had permission to do this work.

White lies like that are just a few weeks in Purgatory; well worth the benefit of the NEW AND IMPROVED sounds your car made. It was also almost worth the Hell you went through when Dad found out what you had done to HIS car.

But the new wore off of that system pretty quickly too. Everybody else was listening to Tape Decks in their cars, and you were stuck with only FM. In 1978 you could still buy an aftermarket 8-track unit, and you did have a collection of 8-track tapes. Cassettes were an unproven technology- and cost money. It was either buy a fresh new cassette deck, and not have anything to listen to in it, or get an 8-track deck.

You could by a new stereo 8-track, but hey; that was 75 bucks. Down at the junk yard (they're called Auto recycling centers now) you could get a used factory unit for half that, some times less, if you bought one of the less popular side-by-side knob units like Chrysler and Ford used in their high-end stuff.

So you had to cut up the dash a little more. and there were no factory trim pieces to hide the mess you made of the cut job, No dremel tools in them days. When you cut a hole in a metal dash it was with a hammer and cold chisel, tin snips and, if you were lucky, a rotary file chucked up in a corded drill. Precise cuts were as common as Cadillacs in the high school parking lot.

But it was worth it. Now you could listen to your music on your schedule at a volume that almost overrode the muffler and the wind noise at highway speeds. You were Stylin'!

Then came that first job after graduation and the first car you could by with your own money. It came down to two; Grandma's 15 year old, low mileage Buick that you could get a couple of hundred, or that 10 year old Mustang that has been hot-rodded and modified to the point where even Lee Iaccoca wouldn't recognize it; for a grand- cash.

Grandma's Buick had an AM Radio.

The Mustang had a cassette deck.

Yeah; it was no contest. Your cousin who got the Buick drove it for two years and it didn't cost any more than gas and oil.

And an FM converter that you sold him for 5 bucks.

The Mustang ate parts like you did popcorn at the drive-in. When you could afford the drive-in. You spent more on parts that first year than the car cost you, and twice that the second year.

But you didn't care. You had a stereo cassette deck.

Even if you did have to play it in the driveway, waiting on parts.

While you rode with your cousin in Grandma's old Buick.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: Now What?

As I mentioned in this post, we have an interest in what goes in the rest of the world. I may not be my brother's keeper, but I sure should be his helper.

The problem in Egypt is the disconnect between the people and their government. On the radio today there was a report from Cairo where the reporter repeated what he had heard from some of the protesters in the square. Apparently there was at least one protester who felt the American government should have done more for the people of Egypt, and less for the government in the form of Mubarak.

Great Idea!

Now, how do we implement it?

Governments have to deal with governments. The folks in charge may not have a legitimate claim to being in charge, but they are the legally constituted folks what be in charge. And damn the bad luck we can't do anything about that.

Take North Korea. Other that the Chinese and Iran (talk about your strange bedfellows), there probably isn't a country on the face of this Earth that wouldn't love to see a regime change in North Korea. How do we go about it?

Declare war on North Koreans? Have our army fight their army? Would China join in? On who's side? And the end game would be what?

Thousands or more dead on both sides, wanton destruction of the Korean peninsula and eventually freedom and reunification.

Would that be best for the North Koreans? Set them free, but destroy the population and the landscape?

And who knows the cost for the South Koreans? Remember, North Korea has at least one nuclear weapon, and probably wouldn't hesitate to use it on Seoul, if it could, or Pyongyang if it couldn't.

Would that be better or worse for the North Koreans than living under the current regime?

Tough call, ain't it?

And Pyongyang is on our ENEMIES list. Egypt isn't.

Maybe the best way we can help the Egyptian people is by trying to modify their government, by bribing them to cooperate, a process sometimes called foreign aid.

The trouble is, to those on the bottom, it doesn't look like we're helping them, it looks like we're supporting the crooked regime.

And we are. Change is glacially slow, and the more we spend to try and get some reform, the tighter the nets are drawn, the more the people suffer and the more power the top man consolidates to himself.

And the US Dollars keep flowing in.

Rand Paul has a plan that drastically cuts this bribery. And we should. But maybe we should make sure we are completely self sustaining and isolated first, like we were in Washington's day.

I found this chart that in some ways asks more questions than it answers. Did you know ONE THIRD of all foreign aid goes to Egypt and Israel?

And we have no real idea how much we are spending in total.


So back to the original question: What do we now do in Egypt?

The military is now in charge; we'll have to see if that is temporary, until the next election, or if this is just step one in a military coup. Elections in September. Free and Fair? Who wins?

And then what? What if the Free and Fair election votes in another Muslim theocracy? Then how do support the Egyptian people? Like we did the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein? Like the Iranians under the Ayatollah? Like the North Koreans?

It all looks so easy, doesn't it?

Until you start looking at the possible options, and the most likely results.

And no matter what happens, we're affected. The region is oil rich- damn the bad luck- Egypt is next to (and has a peace treaty with) our strongest ally in the area, Israel. What happens if the new, freely and fairly elected Egyptian government reneges on the treaty?

We are already fighting wars on two fronts in the area; are we ready for a third?

More importantly; are we ready for the consequences of our actions/inactions?

I wish I had more faith in the Democrats to handle this crisis. As is, I think were doomed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Once, I Thought I Could Write

At one time I entertained the idea of supporting myself by being a writer. I figured I'd get up in the morning, bang out a thousand words by lunch and then enjoy the rest of the day. I could read a page in a minute or so; I should be able to write a page at the same clip, right?

Did I mention I was 15 at the time? Writing is work. It it may look or read like it, but I usually have about an hour in each post. Sometimes 4-5 hours, if I do the research that I should.

So I get about a word a minute. At that rate I might be able to write Gone With The Wind in a couple of lifetimes or so.

So one of the guys on the web I admire immensely is James Lileks. I don't know how he does it; it's almost like he uses more than 3 fingers to type with.

A very good writer, every paragraph a gem, even the warm up blog he does every morning, probably between the coffee pot and the kitchen table. If you get bored with his website there ain't no hope for you.

Let's Get It Done and Move On

I found this today while reading Instapundit.

Freshmen Senators are expected to keep their heads down and not make waves; after all, you need to have 30 years in the Senate before you become respectable.

But Senator Paul intends to kick some big government butt and go back to practicing medicine.

This is going to be an intersting couple of years.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yeah, its Called a Man Cave for a Reason

I was reading Instapundit today and found this piece, decrying the death of the male space. As usual some of the comments are interesting.

Basically the article talks about how many males are being pushed out of the homes, figuratively, and how very few men have a Ward Cleaver den anymore. Since they have lost the smaller, defined spaces in the modern open layout, men have been relegated to basements and garages for their space.

Well, speaking as someone who LIKES spending time in the garage, and the basement workshop, I say:


But, as someone who has other possessions that can't, or shouldn't be, stored in either a garage or a dusty workshop, I also want my piece of the house.

Maybe it goes back to the commercials you used to see, where the young couple is combining households; her stuff goes into the living room and his goes into the dumpster. it seemed funny at the time, but maybe because if the humorous tone of the ad hid the total emasculation of the male in the ad.

I am using Male, instead of Man because Male is genetic; Man is earned.

I was at the Mall one time and one of the kiosk vendors offered me some hand creme. I declined. But, she says, lots of men use hand creme. No, I replied; its impossible to be a man and have soft hands.

It is the hand creme wearing males that started this whole mess. Get in touch with your feminine side. Remember when that was popular 20 years ago? I'm sorry; the greasy cuticles, dirty, torn jeans and ball cap so filthy you can't read the name it once advertised IS my feminine side. Now get out of my way before my Man side unloads on you.

But, I digress.

One of the things that separates Men and Women is the male competitive nature. I am of couse speaking in general, and not in absolute; there are always exceptions to the rule. So what better way to start turning young boys into males instead of men? Stop letting them compete. Turn a competition into plain exercise; like... Stop Keeping Score in BASEBALL. Or end games, like Tag or Dodge Ball that create winners and losers.

Let me tell you about Dodge Ball. I suck at Dodge Ball. If life were based on Dodge Ball I wouldn't have made it past 5th Grade. But guess what? I learned that since I consistently lost at Dodge Ball, maybe I should focus my time and effort elsewhere. So I did.

Without keeping score and defining winners and losers, how do you know to stop wasting your time on an activity?

Well, once again I have wandered away from the point.

The point is Men didn't lose their den last year; they lost it in second grade.

Come on Men; Man up and take back a room for your own, even if you have to build it in the basement. Hang your mementos on the walls, put your feet on the couch and hang a 'No Girls Allowed' sign on the door.

Then start keeping score again, so you can count this one as a WIN.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

When the Quiet of a Sunday Morning is Broken

So, there I am over at Althouse's place this morning, minding my own business, when I get accosted by a fart video.

Not what you expect on a quiet Sunday Morning.

But then curiosity got the better of me.

Did you know YouTube has thousands of videos with the key word 'fart'? Who knew?

Where does this prurient interest come from? Is there an actual desire to watch people fart on video that doesn't exist in real life? Of course, video farting does have its merits- all of them olfactory.

But, as usual, I digress.

It has often been said that humor is simply a look at someone else's troubles, a position I heartily endorse. A public fart is usually-hopefully- somebody else's embarrassment and problem.

I think everyone can describe at least one episode where passing gas has embarassed them. Or at least SHOULD have embarrassed them; we all have the problem.

When it happens to us, it's embarrassing. When it happens in front of us, its funny.

My youngest brother has instituted a series of photographic opportunities for group photos that he has given various names, such as '"Point to the Bird"; "Serious Face" and "X Farted".

Every one of our Family photo shoots has some variation on these themes.

Including the ones taken at my brother's recent wedding. With a small variation.

All of the kids agreed that when my youngest brother called for a "Serious Face" photo, all of the kids would do a "Mom Farted" pose.

It turned out CLASSIC.

Mom is sitting in the middle of the group of her (allegedly) adult children, looking as serious and as stoic as is possible, while everyone else is posing with the most exaggerated reactions possible to a recent 'gas attack'.

The moment only lasted a split second, because we took this photo on the dance floor at the reception, and the reaction of the guests was immediate laughter. Mom started looking around out of the corner of her eye, saw what we were doing and cracked up laughing.

But the photographer caught that split second. And the next few shots of Mom realizing what was going on and joining in on the laughter.

My Mom had that picture framed as an 8X10 and proudly displays it in the living room. And my Brother has posted it to Face Book.

So, if you happen to spot a picture somewhere of a group of gentlemen in Tuxedos and women in the finery reacting to a public fart from a well dressed and stoic woman in the center of them, that will be us. I'm the one in the middle, in the back, with my eyes crossed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Takes CRACKED Seriously?

During my daily perusal of Instapundit I found this article from Cracked.

I remember Cracked from back in the day; back when when they were a MAD Magazine wanna be; bad art and all. Apparently things have changed.

I really have no quibble with most of what the article says; they're right, for the most part. In the section about how things are so expensive they mention how most families have two cars, unlike the old days. Yeah, but most families also have two jobs, unlike the old days.

Then we get to Music.

The article is correct; We know Beethoven from his time, but not the hundreds of his contemporaries who were writing music that was not as memorable. Even in the early days of recorded music, some 78 RPM records are worth hundreds of dollars; others... less so. Some of what was popular in the 1950's is forgotten today.

The number one song from 1969 was the Archies. Why? Because they had a Saturday morning cartoon.

Like the Beatles. And the Monkees. Okay, the Monkees was live actors, but how much closer to a cartoon could the show have been? And What about the Banana Splits? Who knew they had a website? Great for a cold splash of nostalgia!

But I digress.

The one point that this article could make and doesn't is that our imperfect memories always remember only the good times, and then compare that to our current situation. And nowadays always comes off second best. Our parents remember the Great Depression and WWII as the good old days for crying out loud.

And our kids will probably remember today's era as the good old days when they are adults. Who could become nostalgic about today for God's sake? Lousy economy, rotten popular music, Global warming burying half the country with feet of snow; seriously, who COULD remember this as the good old days?

Our kids won't remember that Uncle John spent 6 months without a job, and won't recall which piece of dreck it is that beats Toy Story 3 For Best Picture. Hell, the song that will be the most popular from the 'Oughts probably never even made it to the radio top 40, if history is any indicator.

And it usually is.
So kick back and enjoy the Good Old Days now; why wait until when you can only do it in what's left of your memory?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What To Do About Egypt?

The current uprising in Egypt is in some ways fascinating, and others frightening.

The Egyptians are unhappy with their current government, and are seeking to change the rules. That's their right. They can choose any style or form of government the majority wants. They don't need our approval, right?

That's what my Libertarian side says.

But then there is the more practical side of me. George Washington warned us against getting involved in foreign wars, but the world was a lot larger in his day; Egypt could go to hell in a hand-basket and it wouldn't have effected us for months, if ever.

Today, if 6 people gather on a street corner in Cairo at 9 am and wave 2 signs and a burning American Flag, by 10:30 gas has jumped 15 cents.

One of the basic tenets of Libertarianism is that your rights stop at the end of my nose. Or maybe at my gas pump. Do we have the right to tell the majority of Egyptians that they may or may not choose their own style of government so I can enjoy a consistent price for my gasoline?

What if that style of government is radical, Sharia Islam? A style that could threaten to start a war between Egypt and Israel, one that may eventually involve the whole region?

Has this reached the end of my nose yet?

What about the American troops in Iraq that may suddenly get pitched into this ancient battle?

Not to mention that Egypt has been completely outfitted over the last 30 years with tons of American military equipment; equipment that radical Islamists would not hesitate to use against Israel. Or us.

How's that nose feel?

Sometimes we have to make hard choices about where to allow free will- that doesn't affect our interests- and not to allow irrational decisions that do.

This is one of those times. I just wish I had more faith in the current administration to do the right and competent thing.

Just like the last time that region blew up and we were stuck with Carter. 30 years later we are still living that nightmare.

Are we going to be living with what may become an Egyptian nightmare for 30 more?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Looking Forward to a Rainy Saturday

While I was out on the Internets Sunday I watched the video from the Washington Post on the new Chevy Volt from the article I linked to earlier today.

As soon as the Chevy video stopped another one started, linking to this article. Who knew I was an early adopter?

My brother introduced me to Settlers of Catan probably 10 years ago. If I've ever won a game I can't recall. I really don't think I have. I think my brother just plays against me and the rest of his brothers so he has somebody to beat.

In some respects the game is like Chinese Checkers; very simple rules, multiple players each working for possession of a portion of the board, all working at the same time and using one another to eke out a victory.

Except you don't roll the dice in Chinese Checkers; although that would add an interesting dimension. But, I digress.

The game play is easy in theory, difficult in practice. There are 5 resources and who gets how much of each resource is determined by a roll of the dice. Each game is different. In one game a 6 may get you 2 sheep; in the next you'll get one wheat. Some games sheep are scare; the next its wood. and you need various quantities and combinations of the resources to move ahead.

Some assets remain hidden, so dealing with your opponents becomes like poker game. You need to be able to read the 'tells' of when somebody has a strong position or a weak position and use that information to your benefit.

The sets are well made and set up and tear down easily. you do need a solid playing surface, so the game board won't move when somebody sets down their beer, but otherwise its a play anywhere game; no TV or electricity required.

A great way to spend an hour or so on rainy Saturday.

And I guarantee everybody will laugh the first time a player says "I've got wood for sheep".