Sunday, September 25, 2005

"Since the dawn of time..."

I caught the most delightful exchange on talk radio this afternoon. The topic on the show was about a man murdering three cops (back in 2003) and how he was a fan of "Grand Theft Auto".

The delightful part was a caller who began by saying, "There have been violent video games since the dawn of time..."

Host, interrupting, "There have been violent video games since the dawn of time???"

Caller: "Yes. Even back in the days of Atari..."

At that point, I changed the station to avoid the verbal bloodshed I have no doubt was about to occur.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The gender changer arrives

But it doesn't work. My cable box won't recognize the signal. :::sigh:::

I had to default to IR. Next week, I'll exchange the cable box -- I'd rather do without high-def than Tivo.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The hunt for a gender changer

I spent an hour at Fry's, sitting on the floor, combing through loose items in a box. That seems to be their main storage system.

I found a 9-pin serial gender changer. But male. All the female gender changers were 15-pin. Then, in a bag labelled RJ45 adapter, there was a large piece of something with wires protruding and what looked to be a 9-pin serial gender changer female!

I get home. It is a 9-pin gender changer, but only one side is serial...the other, the holes are too large for the pins on the connector. I can't begin to figure out what this thing is for.

Phone book. Calls. Nobody has one. Finally, I log on and order it from CompUSA. $2.95 for the adapter, $18 for next day shipping. Argh...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Entering the big screen world

I've thought about getting a big screen tv for months but not obsessively - it's been easy to talk myself back out of it. Then we did dinner & a movie at my brother's so he could show off his monstrously big new tv. Mine looked so much smaller than before after that. And then the replacement for my stolen tax refund check (a story for another day) came in the mail.

So I bought one last night. It was delivered this morning. After work, I tackled the connections -- cable box, Tivo, and DVD.

Unfortunately, I also swapped my cable box today for the HDTV version, and it lacks the serial port that the digital box had. Without the serial port, the only other option for communication between Tivo and cable is IR...ugh! (Slow and only works sometimes.)

Off to Fry's. Surely there's a serial-to-USB adapter (because the cable box does have a USB port). Well, Fry's had the adapter but the serial end is male. So is the connector. So I hunted for a gender changer. Finally found a female serial gender changer (is Fry's known for terrible floor service or is it just our store where they hide from the customers?). Get home...damn, forgot to count the pins. The connector is 9-pin, the gender changer is 15.

Back to Fry's tomorrow.

Oh, and only now do I discover that Tivo can't handle HDTV. Could have kept my old cable box. (Hmmm, that's a solution...return the HDTV box...)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Too late for "do-over"

I respect General Clark, but his Washington Post article, "Before It's Too Late in Iraq" does too good a job in the opening, when he establishes how we should have approached the post-invasion period, to support his arguments for what we should do now. The mixed tenses give the game away:
"...we need a strategy to create a stable, democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq...
From the outset of the U.S. post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic, political and military."

He's right about what we needed; he's right when he describes the results of not developing and implementing the correct strategy; so I'm afraid he's unconvincing when he attempts to show how to reassemble Humpty Dumpty. The strategy we should have had is not the strategy for getting us out of the mess we put ourselves in.

It's like a road trip, General. When you head west from Salt Lake and realize after several hours that this route won't get you to Boise, you stop worrying about how to get to Boise from Salt Lake -- time to figure out how to get to Boise from Reno. And as part of the reevaluation, ask yourself: Is Boise where I really want to go now?

"Doonesbury" fans speak out

What a delight to read the pleading comments from readers in the UK, in response to the Guardian dropping the Doonesbury comic strip from its pages. It's gratifying to find fellow devotees.

I've been reading Doonesbury since junior high school. I love its intelligent commentary on the U.S. And the idea of an annotated Doonesbury-history wiki would create a resource to be treasured.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Feeding my dog in an emergency

Sometime in our pup's first year, I came across a mention of B.A.R.F., (an acronym both for Biologically appropriate raw food and Bones and raw food, depending on who you read). Did a lot of research, because at that time I had no idea there was any controversy over pet foods, and had never thought of there being an alternative to commercial dog food. (I thought the choices were dry or canned...)

But once I actually thought about it and began examining ingredient labels, commercial dog food didn't look so hot. So I dug deeper into the raw food movement. (Aside: I find it amazing that food choices for pets are almost as polarizing as politics...) And the home-cooked movement. And gradually changed over our pup's food, using a mix of raw meat & bones and home-cooked recipes...

Anyway, going on 7 years now, she's still a "perfect canine specimen", according to our vet, who adds "whatever you're doing, keep doing it." Beautiful teeth, soft shiny coat that is never unpleasant to touch, a fresh outdoorsy odor, energetic and in great health.

Katrina. Well, I thought about emergencies before Katrina, she just motivated me to get even more serious about our water and food stockpiles. There's no good way, though, to stockpile raw meat or home-cooked dog meals. So I'm really grateful there are companies like Halo, which makes Spot's Stew. It's canned food, but that's what I need for stockpiling; has reassuring ingredients (human-grade chicken, zucchini, carrots, etc); and our dog loves it! And Katrina reminded me that it's time to pick up another case...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Minimum wage waived?!?

TAPPED: September 2005 Archives: "Meanwhile, the president has suspended minimum-wage rules for the reconstruction effort, arguing in a proclamation that 'The wage rates imposed by section 3142 of title 40, United States Code, increase the cost to the Federal Government of providing Federal assistance to these areas.' "


Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Tale of Two Paramedics

Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, two paramedics from California, document their experiences in New Orleans. Caught in the city while attending an EMS conference, they were unable to escape for days, trapped more by cruel and inhumane "law enforcement" than physical conditions...
"...In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads...."

Mexico sends first ever aid convoy to U.S. - Hurricane Katrina -

Mexico sends first ever aid convoy to U.S. - Hurricane Katrina - "Radio talk shows and newspapers in Mexico buzzed with excitement over news that this country, long on the receiving end of U.S. disaster relief, was sending a hurricane aid convoy north."

I've felt bad about how seemingly ungracious the U.S.'s responses to offers of foreign aid have been, so I enjoyed reading this story. I felt good for Mexico. It is healthy for countries to help each other as needed, instead of one always being the recipient.

This analogy coming up is not intended to extrapolate to the political relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, but only to describe the psychological dynamic of Mexico giving us assistance: it reminds me of when I was old enough and financially settled enough that my parents finally accepted help from me. That they let me help them, after a lifetime of the reverse, was the ultimate validation.

I hope we make the Mexican troops welcome and feel appreciated and needed.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Newsweek tries to answer "what went wrong?"

The lengthy article The Lost City tries to identify the many problems that contributed to the Katrina disaster without blaming any person or organization. Evan Thomas clearly establishes that nobody was in control, as this snippet illustrates...
The skies in New Orleans gradually filled with search-and-rescue helicopters, but there was no central command to coordinate them. A NEWSWEEK reporter on a helo flown by the Arizona Air Reserve heard this conversation as the crew readied to leave New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport after dropping off two evacuees. FIRST CREWMAN: "F---, is he hearing us?" (referring to the air-traffic controller). LIEUTENANT: "I don't know, we should just take off." ENGINEER: "We just got back from Afghanistan. Organization's a lot better there."
...but he cannot (or did not) pinpoint who should have been in charge.
Probably too early for that, anyway. As the article puts it, the failures reach "from city hall to the White House".

I think one of the peripheral problems created by the situation is a feeling of helplessness throughout the country. Disasters happen: local emergency infrastructures mobilize, and FEMA and the Red Cross will be there. That was how it always seemed to happen before. Now, the citizens of the United States are seeing in haunting, graphic images that we're all on our own now...maybe there will be help from the government...eventually...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Blogging for Katrina - TruthLaidBear

One of my selected charities wasn't even on the list, so I had the pleasure of adding North Shore Animal League to the roster at and recording my donation. NSALA is already in Alabama, desperately working to save animals. I just wish someone had been able to help this situation,
Many people had dogs and they cannot take them on the bus. A police officer took one from a little boy, who cried until he vomited. "Snowball, snowball," he cried. The policeman told a reporter he didn’t know what would happen to the dog. (The Brandon Sun)
I also added my donation to the list of those giving to the Salvation Army, whose valiant efforts may not be enough if "donor fatigue" sets in: Salvation Army says food, supplies running out.

Donating money isn't enough to dispel my feelings of impotence but it helps those who can do more. Please contribute.

Also, check out the roundup page at

What use was Hurricane Pam?

Just over a year ago, FEMA and state agencies concluded a "successful" catastrophic hurricane exercise, Hurricane Pam. It was nearly prescient in predicting the Katrina scenario.

What good did it do? When this is over, I'm genuinely curious about several questions:
  1. Were the plans created for and after "Pam" followed?
  2. Were the plans only workable on paper?
  3. Did the plans work but were inadequate to the reality of the situation?
  4. Were the plans not even followed, and if not, why?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Federal response to Katrina: be heard!

Do you have an opinion about how the aftermath of Katrina has been handled? Seems it's the purview of the Department of Homeland Security:
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st [2003] for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.
So use their Contact us button and express yourself!

I had to go to Melbourne for this...

20 countries offer Katrina aid [02sep05]

I've seen nothing in the news nor heard on the radio any mention of this. But something said in a chat room provoked me to google - and there it was. Not in our media, but in Australia's.
The State Department said offers so far had come from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organisation of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

This genuinely touched me. Even if we can manage the needed resources ourselves for recovery and even if we're the bully of the world in too many eyes, human kindness is global.
Cuban President Fidel Castro, a close Chavez ally, led a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of Katrina in parliament on today. The parliament then returned to normal business with a resolution attacking Mr Bush over the Iraq war.