Away From Home

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It is once again permissible to stab people on an airplane


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration will announce Friday that it will ease restrictions on sharp objects aboard airlines, a Department of Homeland Security official said.

The change in rules, expected to go into effect December 20, will allow for some scissors less than 4 inches long and some tools less than 7 inches long.

The changes are being made to put the focus on explosives, considered the "risk of greatest consequence," according to the source. These can be detected by "puffer machines," which have been deployed to some airports.

Currently, items such as sharp nail scissors and screwdrivers are not allowed on planes. The source attributes the rule change to a "good amount" of screener time devoted to the search for these items.

About half of the nation's 43,000 screeners were trained for some of the new procedures and protocols for explosive detection before Thanksgiving.

Rumsfeld hearts torture

Some people still maintain that anyone who criticizes the administration or the War on Terror is opposing the troops. Far from it. From the Washington Post, courtesy of Daily Kos:

The nation's top military man, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, said American troops in Iraq have a duty to intercede and stop abuse of prisoners by Iraqi security personnel.

. . . When UPI's Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld replied that "obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility" other than to voice disapproval.

But Pace had a different view. "It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it," the general said.

Rumsfeld interjected: "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."

But Pace meant what he said. "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," he said, firmly.

This, I believe, is a good example of why it's good (and how it's possible) to support the troops while opposing the administration. It's also heartening to note that the military has the right idea, while Rumsfeld is just a kook.

Say it ain't so!

It's a sad, sad day:

Off-screen, Mr T is lending a helping hand to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The tragedy deeply affected the 53-year-old Christian star, who was so moved by what happened in New Orleans that it convinced him to give up his trademark gold chains.

He said: "I watched my people, the black people, screaming, begging and crying just for water.

"They didn't want diamond rings or new houses, they just wanted water, and they couldn't get any.

"I knew that soon I would be going around visiting these people in homeless shelters and it would be a sin against God and a sin against humanity to go around there wearing a million-dollars worth of gold chains, rings and diamonds.

"It would be wrong for me to say 'it's going to be alright buddy' and then go about my business. That would be a lie.

"People need to see that Mr T has a heart of gold, not just the gold that drips around my neck.

"That's my wardrobe, my uniform, but I will never wear it again."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

He has a point

An interesting rant from Al Franken's new book, The Truth (with jokes). Though it might seem really over the top and overdone, the interesting thing is that there's evidence for all of it. Links provided by the Daily Kos:

"You can't count on them to give you straight information. You can't count on them to tell us straight why we're going to war. You can't count on them to tell us what's happening over there.

You can't count on them to do their homework. To keep track of our money. You can't count on them to punish war profiteers. You can't count on them to protect our troops.

You can't rely on them for much of anything. Armor. Veterans' benefits. You can't count on them for the true story of how Jessica Lynch was captured, or how Pat Tillman died. Even for how the "Mission Accomplished" sign went up on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. They actually lied about that.

You can't count on them to count terrorist attacks. You can't count on them to count civilian victims. You can't count on them to listen to military commanders and send in enough troops, or to not lie about the commanders asking them to send more troops, or to listen to Colin Powell and not torture people, or to not lie about whether the torture policies started at the top.

You can't trust them to care. About Iraqis. About Americans.

You can't trust them to do the work of actually signing killed-in-action letters. You can't trust them not to lie about not signing killed-in-action letters.

You can't count on them to acknowledge any mistakes whatsoever. You can't trust them not to lie when confronted with those mistakes.

You can't trust them not to believe their own propaganda.

You can't trust them. Period."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving recap

Well, Thanksgiving ended up successfully, for the second year in a row.

Wasn't always smooth sailing, though. I put my 12-pound turkey in the fridge on Tuesday, so it could thaw before the feast on Friday. So at 6:30am Friday, I pull it out of the fridge, expecting to just toss it in the oven and be off to the mall for Consumerism Day.

Ha ha! Think again. Turns out that 2.5 days in the fridge left the turkey just about as unfrozen as the North Pole. During the Ice Age.

I couldn't even get my hand inside the cavity.

So, in my best problem-solving spirit, I dunked it in a sink full of cold water and went shopping.

Black Friday was disappointing this year. Nothing worth buying, so Joe and I came back at 8:30 sans goodies.

But what about the turkey, you ask? It was marginally less frozen. Marginally. (Not margarinally, you weirdos.) But because it was almost 9 am already, I didn't have a whole lot of time left to mess with it.

So, throwing caution to the wind, I put it in the oven, turned the oven on High (the better to defrost it, right?), and then sat back and watched The Ruining of Thanksgiving.

Just kidding.

I put it in the oven on only 300 for an hour and a half, before raising it to 325. For three more hours. Turned out good and juicy though!

And it's making some very excellent turkey sandwiches.

21 million gallons of raw sewage? A mere trifle

A fun story about the wonders of local government:

Hundreds of people woke to find bugs swarming around their homes. Fish were dying by the dozens at the nearby pond. Buzzards circled.

For 43 days this summer, no one was able to pinpoint the source of the mysterious problems outside the meticulously maintained homes near Lake Bernadette in Zephyrhills.

The odor intensified in the summer heat. The pond where people had fished festered and algae bloomed thick and green, then thick and red.

. . .

Meanwhile, residents were steamed.

Since the beginning of June, they had watched fish float to the top of their pond by the bucketload. They counted 338 as they picked them up one by one, including 170 large mouth bass, the majority weighing more than 10 pounds.

"The pond looked like the top of a septic tank," said resident Lillie Fondell.

Julie Knox, secretary for the American Condominium Parks Homeowners Association, said she made repeated calls to the county health department by the end of June, including information about exactly where they saw sewage gushing several feet high from a pipe beside a major road and the pond.

"They said, "It's not our problem,"' Knox said.

That's right. The problem was caused by a break in a sewage line, which spilled 500,000 gallons per day into a local pond, for a total of 21 million gallons.

But it wasn't the county health department's problem.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm now officially 0-for-all-big-firms

Well, our case was finally settled for good last week. Those of you who know what I'm talking about and would like details are welcome to ask.

So now you're thinking "If the case is finished, then that means you can finally get a job with that firm!" Admit it; that's what you were thinking. I'm inside your head; I know these things.

Except, that thought is wrong. As I had begun to suspect, it's simply too late in the game, and they've given away all their spots. That's not wholly surprising. Every firm their size completed its summer hiring over a month ago. Why should this one wait an uncommonly long amount of time just for me?

Plus, I also noticed that they didn't actually say they would have made me an offer, had things been more timely. They said that all the spots had already been filled. So it's quite possible (likely?) that I wouldn't have gotten an offer anyway. That wouldn't be overly surprising either; no other firm has wanted me, why should this one be any different?

And the search goes on.

Song of the day: Boom Bip, "One Eye Round The Warm Corner"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thoughts and Observations

Random thoughts and observations....

It's becoming increasingly difficult for me to tolerate the Republican position on certain issues. For example, just the other day, Dick Cheney said that people who criticize the war on Iraq are "reprehensible" and unpatriotic. Bush agreed with him. But today, Bush said "People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq." Well, which is it? Are war opponents awful people who damage America, or are they contributing to a national dialogue about the wisdom of our foreign policy? Or have we entered an era of "You can have any opinion you want, as long as it's mine"? (1984, anyone?)

In other Republican nonsense, Republican representative Jean Schmidt (who won her seat by calling a war veteran unpatriotic, by the way) recently smeared Rep. John Murtha, a war hawk who recently criticized the war, by saying:

"A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

As it turns out, Rep. Murtha is a veteran who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam. As you probably guessed, Rep. Schmidt was never in the military. She did, however, offer this "apology":

"Mr. Speaker, my remarks were not directed at any member of the House and I did not intend to suggest that they applied to any member. Most especially the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. I therefore ask for unanimous consent that my words be withdrawn."

Apology? More like boldfaced lie.

OK, enough political-speak. Well, maybe one more. Remember how just a couple months ago, the entire administration refused to talk about the leak of Valerie Plame? How the standard line was "I won't comment on an ongoing investigation"? Notice how the entire administration now is falling all over themselves to deny that they leaked to Bob Woodward. Everyone, that is, except Dick Cheney. The silence is deafening, methinks.

Now I'm really done with the politics. Random gripe: It drives me nuts when people get into an elevator, push the floor button, and immediately push "Door Close." Come on, people. Are you really that important that you can't wait 3 seconds? Are you really that selfish and arrogant that you would actively deny other people the chance to get on before the door closed? After all, I waited for you, the least you could do is be patient enough to wait for others.

Oh, and i'm about thisclose to opposing Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court.

I'll save my judicial activism rant for another day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The best reality TV show ever

The British television Channel 4 has come up with the greatest reality TV idea ever to actually exist -- Space Cadets:

For 10 days, the channel will televise the contestants as they undergo intensive training in Russia, before being flown 100km (62 miles)above the Earth into near space. Here they will spend five days orbiting the Earth and conducting experiments. Or so they think.

In reality, the nine - joined by three actors whom they believe to be fellow contestants - will be at a disused military base somewhere in the UK and will never leave the ground. The whole process will be filmed live in an unprecedented television event presented by Johnny Vaughan.

. . .

The show's producers have spared no expense or attention to detail in their efforts to pull off the huge practical joke - enlisting the talents of the cream of Hollywood's special effects departments to convince the contestants that what they are experiencing is real.

At the start of their journey, the contestants will take off in an aeroplane apparently bound for Russia.

In fact, they will fly in circles over the North Sea for around four hours before landing at the former British military establishment. The flight will take place at night to reduce the chances of them spotting identifiable landmarks.

They will be led to believe that the old military base, which was selected for its unusual and distinctive Soviet-style appearance, is Star City, the Russian centre for space tourism.

The site has been given a complete overhaul with plug sockets, manhole covers and light bulbs exchanged for their Russian counterparts. Food, toilet paper, matches and cigarettes have been imported from Russia and, when the contestants first arrive, they will be greeted by Russian military and taken in convoy through checkpoints.

The training they receive will consist of lectures delivered by actors accompanied by a genuine space expert, in which 80 per cent of the information will be true and 20 per cent fiction. Issues that will be explained to them include the fact they will not be weightless in near space and that, like Sir Richard Branson's space-tourist shuttles, their craft will take off horizontally rather than vertically. A Russian fitness trainer will also take them through their physical paces.

The shuttle itself has been built using a set from the film Space Cowboys, starring Clint Eastwood, which was made from a Nasa blueprint. It consists of three sections - a cockpit, a mid-deck where they will they eat and sleep, and a laboratory, where the team will carry out experiments - some of them authentic, others slightly more wacky.

The cockpit has four windows, which are in reality giant digital screens using graphics three times the resolution of high definition television and better than the visual effects used in The Matrix, capable of recreating hurricanes over Mexico.

To simulate take-off, part of the set has been built on a hydraulic platform and part on "air biscuits" that can bounce and wobble around. The Hollywood-based sound specialist, Dean Andre, has created an immensely powerful noise that will vibrate through the participants' bodies. A genuine astronaut has tested the experience and pronounced it authentic.

The shuttle has been fitted with panels, allowing the production team access. So, for example, if the contestants have been asked to carry out an experiment to see how fast tomatoes rot in space, they can go in overnight and replace the fresh fruit with a rotten one.

I'd watch it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kansas City Super Bowl!

Kansas City could be the site of a Super Bowl -- and even in our lifetimes!

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - NFL owners voted Wednesday to tentatively award Kansas City a Super Bowl, largely as a tribute to owner Lamar Hunt, who gave the game its name.

With one giant string attached: improvements to Arrowhead Stadium, including a rolling roof to keep out the February cold. The team estimates the cost of the roof alone at $100 million to $200 million — and that's not counting $300 million or so the Chiefs say they need in stadium upgrades.

The approval is for a 10-year window, starting in 2011, but Hunt said the most likely prospects would be for the 49th or 51st Super Bowl, in 2014 or 2016.

I for one think this is a good thing, and could be just what the city needs to finally improve Arrowhead. Think about the economic benefits that a Super Bowl would bring, let alone all the publicity for Kansas City!

Plus, Arrowhead is already considered one of (if not the) loudest and most hostile stadium in the NFL -- just imagine how much louder it would be with a roof keeping the noise in!

I say let's do it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Snyder retires

And the big news out of K-State today, as I'm sure you've all heard:

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder is retiring after this season, the school said Tuesday.

. . .

The 66-year-old Snyder took over the Wildcats' program in 1989, and is 135-68-1 in Manhattan, including a run of 11 straight bowl games that began with the 1993 season.

But after winning the Big 12 championship in 2003, Kansas State has stumbled to two straight losing seasons.

Despite the recent setbacks, Snyder is credited with one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history. When he took over in 1989, Kansas State was the only major college football program with 500 losses.

This stat says it all:

Snyder's 17 seasons: 135 wins
54 seasons before Snyder: 137 wins

I've also heard that the school is renaming KSU Stadium to "Bill Snyder Family Stadium." When asked why the word "family" is included, Snyder's response was that his family sacrificed so much for his job, that he wanted the name to refer to them.

I support that. Classy move.

Here's to you, Coach Snyder, the best coach in Wildcat history, and architect of the only worst-to-first turnaround in college football history.

Fall Resolution!

It's been a ridiculously long time since I actually posted any sort of update. In light of that amount of time, and the amount of time it would take me to compose any sort of comprehensive update, we'll just pretend like that time didn't happen. Capice? Good.

So my Fall Resolution is this: From now through the end of the semester, I vow to spend 60 hours per week downtown, either studying or working. That's a lot of time, but it's not unreachable. And yes, Saturdays and Sundays count toward this total.

Maybe I'll even put a tracker on the side of the blog, so you all can see my progress, and beat me if I don't fulfill it. If there's demand, I'll do the tracker. Let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Real Men of Genius

As seen on Craigslist:

The Washington Metro Presents: Real Men of Genius
(Real Men of Genius)

Today we salute you, Mr. Arm Shoved Through Metro Door Commuter.
(Mr. Arm Shoved Through Metro Door Commuter)

Without your unwavering commitment to board a train that comes every four minutes, fellow commuters would have to arrive at their jobs on time.
(no one hopes you make it)

Armed with nothing more than an Express, you squirm furiously, undeterred by the total loss of circulation in your right arm.
(your fingers are turning red)

Please stand clear of the doors? I think not. While others may heed these warnings, you dare to push the envelope, and all others within five feet of the doorway.
(no one else matters)

So crack open an ice cold beer, oh gatekeeper of the Green Line, because Metro may Open Doors but you keep 'em that way.
(Mr. Arm Shoved Through Metro Door Commuter)

Update? Me?

No time to update right now, but I implore each of you to harass me endlessly until I do update. Tonight.