Thursday, August 31, 2006

U.S. Military Offers $20 Million to Improve Media Coverage of Iraq
The U.S. military in Iraq is offering to pay a two-year, $20 million public relations contract "that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq," Walter Pincus revealed in The Washington Post on Thursday.

"The contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide 'public relations products' that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal," Pincus wrote.
Far be it from me to give the Army military advice, but here's some public relations advice - free of charge.

Submit this to every media outlet around the planet -

U.S. troops begin immediate withdrawal from Iraq


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back To School

"Back To School" in this county quite often means sending your kids off to a claustrophobic "modular classroom".

Thanks to the North Carolina Educational Lottery, our county will be the first to receive funds to help build a badly-needed additional high school.

Have you ever been in one of these crappy trailer/classroom things? They aren't anywhere near as 'spacious' as they look from outside, not to mention dark and either freezing cold or sweltering hot. No wonder there's a terrible shortage of teachers.

I'm somewhat neutral on the subject of lotteries, not to mention lighter in the wallet for the occasional (losing) ticket. But I'd like to see all those fire-breathing, Bible-thumping lottery opponents confined to a 'modular classroom' with thirty antsy young'uns for just one hour.

They'd come out screaming and begging to pay additional school taxes.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Frist Medical License Renewal Questioned
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist acknowledged Tuesday that he may not have met all the requirements needed to keep his medical license active even though he gave paperwork to Tennessee officials indicating that he had.


"As a result of a change in Tennessee's regulations several years after Dr. Frist came to the Senate, he may be required to complete additional continuing medical education hours," spokesman Matt Lehigh said in a statement
Surely Video Diagnosis 101 isn't an acceptable part of continuing medical education.

Admitting wrong

One year ago today, I wrote -
At least it looks like New Orleans may escape the apocalyptic, doomsday scenario - barely - but the area to the east may not be so lucky. It's going to be a long day.
I was right about "the area to the east" - but dead wrong on NOLA.

Which still gives me a 50% better prediction average than the Bush administration.


Monday, August 28, 2006

It's a miracle, again

I learned to swear in the 1950's, during the mass childhood immunization programs.

And anyone over a certain age will certainly remember those HUGE needles - I swear, they looked a foot long.

Not only were they long, they were thick - the technology didn't exist to manufacture the tiny hypodermic needles of today.

And not only were they long and thick - they were not disposable. The needles were used over and over (hopefully, sterilized in between) until they became too dull to pierce tender childhood hide - and then they came to ME.

I have a pet theory that the anti-war sentiment of the 60's actually originated in the horrific vaccinations of the 50's. It's bad enough when sadistic nurses take target practice on scrawny children's arms & butts - why would anyone want to subject another human being to even worse suffering?

So we were taken to a community gathering point; a church, school, fire station or the like - and a hundred crying children stood in line waiting while nurses in starched white uniforms gleefully jabbed those huge hypodermics to the bone and Your Turn came ever closer.

My mother quickly learned it was no use trying to distract me from the impending injection - much better to cover my mouth.

Time passed, but my needle phobia sure didn't. Even though the needles were clearly thinner, shorter, and disposable - I still tensed up for every injection and made things worse.

Until I had muscle spasms in my back.

I felt like someone was forcing me to bend the wrong way, and the x-rays showed my cramping back muscles were straightening my spine in places where it was supposed to curve.

I was given a series of stretching exercises, a prescription for a muscle relaxer, another for pain, and the threat of major surgery if it didn't improve.

Checkups were weekly (at the time, $25 co-pay). The conversation always went like this:

Doc: Well, how are we feeling?
Me: We are feeling like our back is breaking.
Doc: Let's renew those prescriptions.

So I went through daily life in a foggy drug-induced half-coma, feeling like I was walking in waist-deep water. And my back still hurt.

When I wasn't too zonked out from the drugs, I read all I could about back pain - and I kept reading positive things about "acupuncture".

Acupuncture involves needles. Needles mean pain. Needles mean nightmares from childhood. But back spasms are worse than needles.

Needless to say, I approached the first acupuncture appointment with dread. I left it with a healthy back, muscles that have never experienced spasms since, and amazement that needles could be so painless.

That was ten years ago, and I've been successfully treated for various ailments since then. Non-invasive, drug-free. Even though my insurance doesn't cover it, acupuncture is cheaper in the long run. Take THAT, Big Pharma.

To make a long story short, I just returned from another treatment. I broke my left ankle many years ago, and have sprained it a dozen times since. If I'm not careful, it buckles under me when I least expect it.

Last night, it betrayed me again - this time, in our gravel driveway. I crawled back into the house, leaving a trail of blood from a busted knee behind me.

This morning, I crawled to the telephone and called my precious, highly qualified Chinese-trained acupunturist for an appointment. No "how about a week from Friday?" with these folks - they understand the need for quick treatment.

Leaning heavily on a cane, I wobbled into her office. An hour and a half later, I walked out - gingerly, to be sure - but twirling my cane in what I fancy was a jaunty manner.

It's not a cure, of course, but it relieves pain and improves circulation - which facilitates healing.

I still get a bit queasy at the thought of flu or pneumonia shots or having blood drawn...those needles are HUGE when compared to acupuncture needles, which are solid, disposable, and not much thicker than a strand of human hair. The worst you get from an acupuncture needle is a tiny sting, about like a mosquito bite. I usually don't feel them at all and often take a nap while the needles work their magic.

Yet it's amazing to me how many people suffer excruciating pain from strains, sprains, migraines, osteoarthritis, tendonitis (and many other ailments) rather than risk a teensy prick from a hair-thin needle.

Wimps, every one of them. In the meantime, I'm walking again less than 24 hours after a severe sprain.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Yard ape blogging

I know, I know - I've been AWOL again. But it isn't every day one of my bestest friends gets married.

Wedding rehearsals are soooo much fun. Especially when you're entertained by a thumb-sucking ringbearer....

...a flower girl not paying the least bit of attention....

...and the flower girl's little sister stealing the entire show ....


Thursday, August 24, 2006

What's that definition of "chutzpah" again?
A key House committee issued a stinging critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran yesterday, charging that the CIA and other agencies lack "the ability to acquire essential information necessary to make judgments" on Tehran's nuclear program, its intentions or even its ties to terrorism.
Oh, yeah -
Outed CIA agent was working on Iran


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Shop til you drop
Customers shop around when they buy an airline ticket or a new car, so why not when they need a hip replacement or treatment for a sore throat? An executive order being signed Tuesday by President Bush is designed to help people make more informed decisions about doctors and hospitals.
I don't know about you, but I can't wait to pick up a cut-rate hip replacement for my mother or have my next bout of bronchitis treated by the cheapest quack in town.
Four federal agencies will be required to compile information about the quality and price of care they pay for and share that information with their customers and each other.

"We're all about being cost-conscious," said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.
(Stop laughing...the quote isn't finished yet)
"It's just the American way. We clip coupons. We check for bargain flights on the Web. We carefully research major purchases. But when it comes to health care, we lack the tools to compare either quality or the costs.
I'll pass on the use of "we" for a moment, and just wonder - when will these jackasses ever get it?

Health care is not about comparison shopping. If you have a critically ill child, you don't say "well, let's see if we can afford to get our baby treated".

Millions of people can't afford any health care, not even the bargain-basement type.
Bush will sign the executive order in Minnesota, where he will talk with health care providers about "health transparency."
Now, there's something I can get behind.

Let's have some of that transparency. Let's know exactly how much health insurance companies and Big Pharma spend on advertising and perks for medical practices that contributes to that sticker-shock.

Let's be sure the CEO's salary is included on all that advertising and each bottle of pills.

And let's make sure the American taxpayers know they are paying twice for all that research and development Big Pharma whines about.

What the administration is telling us is that when we have an injury or disease, we don't deserve the best medical care - only the level of care we can afford. If you're fresh out of a paycheck or come to the end of your savings - you and your family don't deserve medical care.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Glory be

The ongoing adventures of upside-down gardening.

Not dead yet....and little green tomatoes, no less!

(Now I appreciate the bare spots in the lawn - otherwise you couldn't see the tomato plant)
Running a business into the ground

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't there seem to be an odd disconnect between American business and reality?

Ford to halt production at 10 plants
Ford Motor Co. said Friday it would temporarily halt production at 10 assembly plants between now and the end of the year, blaming high gas prices for pushing many consumers away from its pickups and SUVs and toward higher-mileage models.
Japanese Car Makers Expected to Maintain Record Profit Results for 2006
Chang-Ran Kim writing for Reuters reported that after a turbo-charged year of bumper sales, a soft yen and hefty cost cuts, Japan's biggest auto makers are set to extend their run of record profits in 2006/07 fueled by even more key product launches.


Much of their fortune will continue to be made in the United States, where top-ranked Toyota began selling a new generation of the big-volume Camry -- America's best-selling car -- last month.
Earth to Ford - people are still buying vehicles, regardless of high gas prices. They just aren't buying your over-priced gas guzzlers.

And don't whine about Japanese car makers manufacturing their cars overseas...they're doing a lot of it here in the good old U.S. of A - your very own neighborhood.
With the Big Three American auto companies closing factories as they struggle to restructure, the Japanese are among the few carmakers still building factories.

For instance, Honda chose Greenburg, Indiana, as the site for a $550 million assembly plant after state and local governments offered tax and other incentives worth $141 million. More than 100 local residents even donned red shirts and formed a large letter "H" for a photo sent to the Honda headquarters in Tokyo as part of the city's bid. The factory, which starts production in 2008, will join 17 factories already owned by Japanese automakers in the United States, which built 3.4 million vehicles last year, according to the Japanese industry association.
Maybe you should start pushing some lower-mileage, lower-priced models before a major manufacturing sector goes down the tubes?


Friday, August 18, 2006

Best actual bumper stickers ever

(from Gold Star Mom)

At least in Vietnam, Bush had an exit strategy

Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention

If you supported Bush, a yellow ribbon won't make up for it

Poverty, healthcare & homelessness are moral issues

Of course it hurts. You're getting screwed by an elephant

Bush lied, and you know it

Religious fundamentalism: A threat abroad, a threat at home

God bless everyone (No exceptions)

Bush spent your Social Security on his war

Pro America, Anti Bush

Who would Jesus bomb?

If you support Bush's war, why are you still here? Shut up and ship out

Feel safer now?

I'd rather have a president who screwed his intern than one who screwed his countryY

Jesus was a social activist - that is liberal

My values? Free speech, equality, liberty, education, tolerance

Is it 2008 yet?

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism - Thomas Jefferson

Don't blame me. I voted against Bush -- twice!

Annoy a conservative; think for yourself

Visualize impeachment

Hey Bush! Where's Bin Laden?

Corporate media = Mass mind control

Stop Mad Cowboy Disease

George W. Bush: Making terrorists faster than he can kill them

Keep you rtheocracy off my democracy

Democrats are sexy. Whoever heard of a good piece of elephant?

Aspiring Canadian

Corporate media: Weapons of Mass Deception

Don't confuse dying for oil with fighting for freedom

Stem cell research is pro life

Hate, greed, ignorance: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Honor our troops - Demand the truth

Rebuild Iraq? Why not spend 87 billion on America?

1999 - $19 barrel
2006 - $70 barrel

The last time religion controlled politics, people got burned at the stake
Friday Cat Blogging

Occasionally Trouble manages a bit of feline elegance.

Dummies for Dummies

The heck with airports, subways, ports, nuclear facilities....where is Homeland Security in the fight against rampaging mannequins?

Westminster woman sues J.C. Penney after she and the dummy clash over a blouse.
Newton said she was ambushed by a legless female mannequin at the company's Westminster Mall store, a skirmish that left her with a bloodied scalp, a cracked tooth, recurring shoulder pain and numbness in her fingers.

The alleged attack was the latest in a string of mannequin mayhem incidents nationwide.

"There are a slew of lawsuits like this," said mannequin manufacturer Barry Rosenberg, who joked that stores should run background checks on dummies before letting them mingle with shoppers.

Most of the cases involved mannequins toppling over onto customers, but an Indiana woman claimed she caught herpes from the lips of a CPR training dummy. She dropped her lawsuit against the American Red Cross in 2000 after further tests revealed that she didn't have the disease, according to news reports.

The alleged Westminster Mall incident happened nearly a year ago in the women's department at J.C. Penney. Newton said she wanted to buy a certain blouse, but the only one in her size was being worn by a mannequin.

When a salesclerk tried to remove the garment, the dummy's arm flew off and struck Newton's head, according to her lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages.
"Frivolous lawsuit?" Not so fast!
Mannequin maulings and litigation aren't new. In 1990, a Florida woman collected $175,000 after a faceless Macy's dummy fell onto her neck and reportedly injured a disc.

In 1993, a Minnesota woman was knocked unconscious by a falling mannequin at a Dayton's department store, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She needed five stitches and several chiropractic sessions to recover but didn't sue.

And in 2001, a Canadian shopper in Vancouver won a $330,000 verdict after a Gap store mannequin landed on her head. Elizabeth Ball was apparently jinxed when it came to store displays. A few years earlier, while shopping at a lighting store, she was beaned by a falling chandelier, according to the Canadian Press.
In light of all these outrageous attacks, perhaps we should reevaluate the advice "go shopping"?

The measure of a man

Our ancient old riding lawn mower broke down (again), and until Mr. Andante orders the part and makes the repairs - he is condemned to struggling with the even-more-ancient push mower.

It's hot.

Our yard is uphill...both ways...which makes it even hotter.

But today is his birthday, and I've already given him his birthday present.

I told my Dearly Beloved - "I planned to buy you a brand new John Deere lawn tractor for your birthday, so I checked the bank account. The closest I could get was push-mowing the lawn myself".

And thank goodness that's over. It's a measure of the man that he actually appreciated my efforts.

I could live with the guy a million years, but my most vivid memory of him would be the time he held his daughter for the very first time.

They say all babies are beautiful....they are wrong. She was long and scrawny with red blotches all over her body and all the usual goop and gore. Her expression could best be described as "perplexed" mixed with "disgust". "Beautiful" was still somewhere down the road (she definitely got there).

Some men crave a son to carry on the "family name" and maybe to live out their own youthful fantasies.

Mr. Andante didn't care. His face literally blazed with joy as he carefully cradled his little girl.

Now that is the real measure of a man.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Christmas in August

I know, I know - I've been AWOL from the blogosphere.

But for lowly, underpaid, overworked church music directors - it's Christmas in August; that 'special' time of the year when rehearsals will soon resume after a summer hiatus and the fall/winter music better be ready (or close to it) if you don't want to work 24/7 in September.

I haven't been too absorbed, however, to note that I'm not the only one celebrating Christmas in August -
Big Katrina Contractors Win More FEMA Work

The four giant construction firms that received controversial no-bid contracts to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees last September will be earning up to $250 million apiece to do similar work after future disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday.

Unlike the Katrina deals, the contracts announced yesterday were awarded after a bidding process. But most of them went to the same four firms: Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Cos., Fluor Corp. and Shaw Group Inc. Two new consortia of companies were also chosen for a share of the work. Together, the six winners will receive up to $1.5 billion for hauling and installing temporary trailers to house evacuees during future emergencies.
I am SO in the wrong business.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Randy, in a staring contest with the camera.
Nip it in the bud

Congratulations to the British police for tracking down and foiling a terrorist scheme, and best of luck to them dealing with all the future jihadis brewing in the Bush administration "foreign policy" lab.

Patrick Smith, Salon -
Ultimately, protecting commercial aircraft from terrorism is not the job of airport security, it's a job for police departments, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The apparent plot at Heathrow Airport was not unraveled by the keen eye of a concourse screener; it was unraveled through careful investigation behind the scenes. By the time any attacker makes it to the metal detector, chances are it's already too late. There are too many ways to outwit that final line of defense.

No matter, here we go initiating yet another absurd crackdown to the detriment of millions of innocent travelers. Just as confiscating corkscrews didn't make us safer after Sept. 11, so banning liquids isn't going to make us safer now. All the while, the true weapon of mass destruction is the imagination and resilience of those who wish to harm us -- a fact we continue to ignore at our own peril.
And nobody ignores that peril more than the Oval Office squatter -
This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11. We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously, we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in.
I take it back - "ignore" isn't accurate. A "total failure to comprehend" might be better, with the addition of "complete incompetence to deal with the problem" and "dishonestly promising complete safety".

As Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry always said - "Nip it in the bud!"

Or as Mark Benjamin (Salon) puts it more eloquently:
The difference in arrests in the United States and Britain appears to have much more to do with demographics than the relative skills of law enforcement. Most terrorism experts say the most insidious threats from terrorism now come not from organized terror organizations launching attacks that were hatched overseas, but from disenchanted Muslim extremists at home. And Muslim communities in the United States are generally more affluent and less dogmatic than those in Britain, which has a Muslim population of nearly 2 million. O'Hanlon described Muslim communities in Britain as "more cut off and more isolated" than in the United States.
They don't want to harm us for "our freedom", as Bush so often puts it...they just want some of it, too.

Occupying their countries, bombing their cities, and killing their women & children isn't the way to "win hearts and minds", nor is it the way to give them a chance for a better life.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Army Ponders Amusement Venue, Hotel At Ft. Belvoir
Army officials say they are considering allowing a private developer to build a 125-acre entertainment, hotel and conference center complex next to a national Army museum at Fort Belvoir that could draw more than 1 million people a year to traffic-choked southern Fairfax County.
For the record, I was born at Ft. Belvoir and raised in traffic-choked Fairfax County.

A museum - I consider that a fitting tribute.

But an amusement park?

I'm feeling a little indignant.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

The joys of home ownership

What better way to start the weekend than by digging up your front lawn to find a leak in the water line?

For a much better start to the weekend, you can go here.

(I know the photo is fuzzy; you'd be fuzzy, too, if you'd been digging for five hours)


Friday, August 04, 2006

More Friday Cat Blogging

My niece-kitty, auditioning for the female lead in a new, all-feline production of The Virgin Queen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

And now for something different

Flooding, snow as severe cold grips South Africa
Heavy rain drenched large parts of South Africa's southern areas on Thursday, flooding roads and damaging houses in devastating storms, while deep snow forced mountain passes to close.

Temperatures dropped to record lows for August as snow fell in industrial hub Johannesburg for the first time in eight years in what residents say is an unusually severe winter.

Friday cat blogging

The morning sprawl.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


When last seen on June 10th, my upside-down tomato plant was sporting lots of foliage and even a couple of tomato blossoms.

Alas, within a day or two either the birds in yon pine tree or the remnants of Alberto broke the main stem.

The battle was joined.

I broke off the dying portion of the plant and took a page from the Bush administration's Middle East playbook - "wait and see".

August 2, 2006 -

Not too shabby, huh? There are even a couple of blossoms on the back side. Plainly 'wait and see' works better with vegetation than with diplomatic crises.

And yes, that bare spot in the grass is mine; one of many spots where grass refuses to grow.

I'm considering laying down gravel or mulch; grass thrives on the stuff.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gibson Apologizes for 'Vitriolic' Words

Yeah, big deal...

But you know what? At least he didn't preface his apology with that stupid phrase we've become so familiar with - "IF I have offended...."

I hate that disclaimer.

It's like thumbing your nose at the offended and saying "Yeah? So what?"

Maybe Mel's apology is sincere, maybe it isn't. I can't make that judgement.

But I'm glad to see a public figure openly acknowledge their stupidity and accepting responsibility.

Never fear! Dubya is at the wheel!

Koreans Trade Fire Near DMZ
North and South Korean troops along their heavily fortified border exchanged gunfire Monday night for the first time in nearly a year, a South Korean military official said today.

North Korean troops fired two shots, one of which hit a South Korean guard post near the demilitarized zone, and South Korean troops returned six shots, Maj. Kim Tae-hoon said. No one was hurt, he said.
I hate to ask what else could go wrong under Junior's watch.


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