Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Friday, October 31, 2008


Went out with the goal of stretching dinner past the rugrat hour. Failed, returned home. A few have showed up.

This spoils the whole thing, y'know. The hidden agenda of Halloween is to enable guilt-free candy consumption by otherwise guilt-ridden adults for one night of the year. Valentine's Day doesn't count because there are strings attached to that candy, in the form of getting lucky.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Giving small

The question of quasi-forced, or maybe really forced, charity, lately came up at Ms. Malevolent's blog.

What I want to digress upon is the "give to the troops" thing, chiefly because hardly anyone knows what they're giving and why. To some extent, that includes me, because I'm a couple of wars behind here.

Once upon a time, in Navy boot camp, one spent much of one's first three weeks in the service learning to put almost all of one's worldly goods into a cube 21 inches a side. This was what the Navy laughingly called a locker. Whilst I get the idea that enlisted personnel live a little larger than that now (the Army always did :p), I don't think they have unlimited storage space.

This takes us to the question of misplaced generosity. When my workplaces have called upon us for donations of this sort, I make a point of getting umpteen small items, rather than a couple of typical American civilian biggie-size goodies. I usually spend a fair amount doing this and don't expect even a tax write-off in return, because it's a way of paying back.

I wish someone involved in the current festivities would tell me if I'm wrong, but I think that the biggie-size items are a pain in the arse to one person, whilst the many small items do some good to all of a small unit, distributed as fairly as the officer or NCO in charge can manage.

Please do understand that Uncle Sam does not provide personal goods, beyond soap, to service members of any rank or grade. They are on their own for them. Another thought is that we now say "service members" because this ain't a one-gender operation, and service women don't stop having periods because they are in Iraq or Afghanistan: you catch my drift.

So yeah, do this: preferably when someone isn't making you feel guilty if you don't. And--final commercial--try to do something, however small, for your local veterans' shelter (mine is the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans). An appalling number--something like a third-- of American homeless are veterans. Fer chrissakes, what kind of way is this to keep a promise?
Four bucks will buy you a "support the troops" magnet for your ride, or it will give a hot meal to two or even three homeless veterans: take your choice.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More good news

This good news is exclusively for those of us for whom "crazy" is more than just a word.

Earlier this week, I was watching a PBS show on depression and thought to myself once more that in the current world, if you're not depressed, you must be crazy ;)

And now we have proof from Japan that we are the sane ones. We--I at least--have never virtually killed my virtual spouse after getting a surprise virtual divorce. Nor have I ever tried to report such a story as straight actual news, and I'm not sure but what the reporting isn't crazier than the virtual murder.

Speaking as a connoisseur, of course.

On more generic fronts, I get to move on to real free weights, albeit the weenie sized ones. And it's Friday.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good news

The PT thinks I should try drawing the bow a little. That's progress.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Supposing the next president is FDR redux,recall that the US was still not out of the Depression in 1941, eight years after his first inauguration. J

Supposing the next administration stops rewarding business for offshoring jobs. You can do it, all right, but you have to pay the full freight and see if it still looks good to you.

The result of the first two is that most of us are gonna work until we drop, and that companies can't solve their problems by shipping them to Bangalore. Suppose too that we won't hear about privatising Social Security for another generation or so.

So, suppose now that the pundits are right for once, and the main employment resource for the US will be its older workers.

How do you plan ahead to deal with the nasty, squint-eyed little middle-management shits who are the main reason we have age bias?

Suppose the ideas of these creatures were carried to their logical conclusion. A "career" would span the ages of 25 to 45. Few could get a job before then because they lack experience. Nobody older could keep one because they cost too much. The shits are just acting out their own age insecurities. Nothing can make them younger, though, and nothing but death can stop them becoming over 45 themselves one day. Their worst fear is that when they do, someone will treat them just as they have treated others. The golden rule does not occur to them.

The revolution won't come unless this class of person are shipped en masse to the re-education facilities, or perhaps go to sweep floors in Bangalore, simply to level the playing field for both the young and the old. That's not supposing: that is.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Laughter from the grave and elsewhere

First, the ashes of Alexander Hamilton must be giving fits to the universe. For those of you who slept through American history, Hamilton was the last word in paleo-conservatives. Among his other ideas was that neither the unwashed, nor the states, could be trusted to handle money wisely, and therefore we needed a national bank.

Which the nation had, for close on 50 years, until the great unwashed refused to renew its charter, and we've been going to hell ever since.

Along the way, national banks became identified with (oooh!) socialism, which gave conservatives less cerebral than Hamilton (nearly all of them) one more reason to hate the idea.

So here we are in an election year, being told, more or less nakedly, that electing a black man President puts us on a rocket sled to socialism. No worries. By the inauguration, at the present rate the lame duck bush will have nationalised everything but Rush Limbaugh's mouth, thus taking the burden of the revolution off Obama's shoulders.

Undoubtedly, though, he'll fuck this up, as he has everything else.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

oh lord, he's on about that again!

Hey wait! It's been months, maybe years, since my last Monty Python riff.

Whilst the world at large was huffing and puffing about the -isms associated with Palin's "palling around" remark, and the "fluffy bunny" riposte by a (female) Obama campaign worker, true devotees of the canon thought immediately of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Lest either campaign grow complacent or self-righteous, both should recall that despite the initial mayhem wreaked by that particular fluffy bunny, it was atomised eventually by the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

21st C. homework excuses

Now that "the dog (or cat, or snake) ate my homework" is no longer a viable excuse, may I offer this alternative, courtesy of my grown offspring.

She has a cat whose dietary habits are the stuff of legend. Ms. P. far outdoes Mr. S., the feline gourmand in this house. Ms. P's latest exploit was to pry a key from my daughter's laptop, which she would have eaten had she not been caught red-pawed. (See, mother told you not to play with your food before you eat it.)

If you want to really stump Mac tech support, call them with this one, then tell them there isn't an Apple Store within 100 miles of you. Then see if it gets you out of turning in that homework.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Take two aspirin and call me after the election

The offspring and I were on the phone today shaking our heads, from slightly different angles, about what the Republican presidential candidate considers healthcare reform. Her angle was that of a clinician in practice. Mine is that of a writer on healthcare.

Neither the man, nor the party, have a clue. I'm not certain the other side has a clue either, but they could hardly be more off base.

Over my working life, I've come in line for tax credits at various times and for various reasons. The child care tax credit is one I recall best. Speaking not as a tax lawyer, but a consumer, I can tell you that the tax credit is worth about ten cents on the dollar. For those who haven't noticed, the credit comes off your liability; it's not money handed back to you outright. The child care credits I once received, the energy credit I got last year, and a couple of others I forget gave me back perhaps one month out of a year's worth of expenses.

To put $5000 in every taxpayer's pocket, you wind up paying taxes to them, instead of the other way around. If you go that far, almost any alternative national health insurance programme would cost less and would deliver more care to more people. So far into delusion will ideology take a political candidate.

The Republican plan is also assuming the best health insurance risks--the young, prosperous and healthy--actually would buy health insurance with their ten cents on the dollar. When last I looked, these are the same people that Massachusetts has had to drag kicking and screaming into its universal coverage plan.

As my child points out, opting out looks like a great idea until it's you on the gurney. Five grand won't buy you a single night's emergency room care. Five hundred won't get you past the registration desk in a lot of ERs. She has seen young, once healthy and prosperous patients who will never be either again, who did opt out because nobody made them opt in. Most of them are looking at bills of over $1 million: that's 200 years of $5000 tax credits.

Tax credits don't fix the fundamentals of a broken system. Healthcare costs as much as it does partly because it is so big, so complex, and so laden with contradictory regulation that no one really knows how much it does cost. It would be nice to blame it all on Medicare, except that the private insurers are just as much part of the problem as the government. It's much like the old Thomas Nast cartoon of the Tweed ring pointing fingers in a circle. Unlike the Tweed ring, this circle has many people in it who want to stop the madness.

The Republican plan differs from all others in being a great deal more naive. It's no more a plan than it would be first aid to stand next to a 20-car smashup handing out band-aids.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'm on a roll tonight

I've spent more time unemployed than Donald Duck, so I've had more exposure to career counselors than any six people my age.

They know jack.

The trick is to listen to the inevitably contradictory advice of any six or seven of them, average it out, talk to neutral parties, and work out what is most likely to succeed in a given situation.

My own advice is, don't have a resume. (and don't bother with them thar dingaling Froggy accent marks). Have a core description that you can customise from employer to employer, highlighting those of your skills which most nearly match what the particular employer wants.

As they say in the Navy, that is nooo shit.