Saturday, January 30, 2010

JMO - Democracy Held Hostage

The Republicans in the Senate are holding our democracy hostage. When the rules require a simply majority to pass legislation in the Senate, just 51 votes, or 50 in a tie with the Senate Chairman (the Vice President or their designate) casting the last vote, the Republicans have always used the filibuster rule where it takes a supermajority of 60 to overturn the filibuster to block Democratic-backed legislation.

The Democrats have used the filibuster rule in the past but in the long past. None of President Bush's backed bills in the then Republican controlled Senate were blocked with a filibuster. And the Republicans didn't use this rule to block bills when the Democrats took over in 2006, because they knew President Bush would veto the bill.

But now with a Democratic majority in both houses and the White House, they used this rule to threaten any legislation they don't like, even despite the clear majority of the people, yes the American citizens, want the legislation passed, signed and enacted. The Republicans are being both whiner and obstructionist, the very thing they called the Democrats under Bush.

As Chris Matthews said last night on the two-hour MSNBC with Rachal Maddow and Keith Oberman, the Republicans are hypocrits, plain, pure and simple. They questioned and criticized the President during his meeting with the Republicans in Baltimore demanding to know why their bills weren't considered.

Except as Chris said, while proposing "new" healthcare reform they want, they never even suggested this legislation during the entire Bush administration, most of which they controlled Congress and could have easily passed. And now they're charging the President and Democrats with failure?

And when that fact of history and other facts of work they never did which they said they wanted, they argue the Bush mentality, "The past is past and not worth talking about." Well, your memory of the truth of history is poor at best and blind at worst. And it's obvious to everyone, but apparently not you.

And all during the new Obama administration the Republicans have threaten the filibuster to kill bills, and sadly the Democrats, not having the balls to challenge them, won't just go ahead and let them filibuster. The public needs to see the Republicans in a filibuster of the Healthcare Reform Act or other legislation. Let them whine forever if they want. The public will see them in the nakedness of principles and character.

This is what Jon Stewart noted on his show when he asked, "Why is that it only take 51 Republicans to pass a bill in the Senate but it takes 60 Democrats?"

And the Republicans don't need 51 Republicans. They have independents, such as the honorable asshole Joe Lieberman, and the Blue Dog (conservative) Democrats. They used these folks in the past to overwhelm any Democratic opposition. But now with the Democrats getting, albeit with a lot of bad earmarks and provisions to buy their votes, a clear majority, the Republicans made good on their promise.

And now with 41 Republicans, they can rest assured they'll continue to hold the Senate, and our Democracy, hostage. It's time the President, who is doing a good job at this, along with those in Congess, especially the Senate, need to threaten back. Let the Republicans whine, and put it in the news.

Call it what it is, obstructionism. Let the public see the filibuster for what it is, whining. And then let the voters decide in 2010.

Friday, January 29, 2010

JMO - Thinking not permitted

Thinking out loud that is. It's been a problem with me all my life. I like to think out loud, from the obvious ideas to the most extreme in many different directions. I've always been good at brain storming and often found myself in those group "brain storming" meetings, the typical manager thought " to come up with new and fresh ideas", with a list on my tablet with 90% of the ideas people suggested during the meeting, and that's when the meeting started.

I do my homework and go through free thinking excercises before I get there so I'm ready. I'm almost always dumbfounded to hear most of the people, despites days of advance notice of the meeting and the work, don't have any ideas or suggestions. I'm also always dumbfounded when people begin to critique, and worse criticize or ridicule, suggestions before everyone's had a chance to talk.

They don't seem to want to recognize two things. First, the process of brain storming is being open and non-critical. Second, personal attacks on the suggestions and worse the people not only doesn't help, it's unprofessional. But there are those who start right away, "Wow, that's a dumb idea!", right after someone, and often timidly, suggested it.

And if there isn't a better way to kill a discussion and to muffle free thinkers, I can't think of one. No one wants to say something as an idea, asked to free think in an open discussion, to hear criticism or worse condescension about their idea or themselves. I've heard it all too often. Some people just want to be assholes.

Anyway, in many ways the same applies to forums and bulletin boards. Someone asks a question and the ideas and responses begin. Then someone will post an entry that slams some of the responses, or worse the people writing them. Sometimes people, like me, often post responses more as questions, simply wondering it something is a possibility.

Since many questions can't be fully researched to post a knowledgeable response, I'll often suggest something out of curiousity than accuracy. But then invariably someone will post a critical response how dumb or misinformed the post or I was. And while they may have the answer, is there any reason to say it in a degrading or condescending manner?

The problem I've also seen is that if you answer their response was overly critical or worse, they usually respond about being honest, and the old saying if you can't stand the criticism don't make the comment. Well, that's just more of the same degradation and condescension espoused as rhetoric and the typical asshole mentality.

I say that because it's not the view of the person making the comment that matters, but those hearing or reading it that matters. It's how it's received that is the critieria for appropriateness. Something they don't see, or more often don't want to see. I've worked with too many like them, and listened to their response, "I'm just being me.", or, "I'm just being honest."

Yeah right, and an asshole to boot.

NPR - Ode to Barefeet

I've written I like to walk around in my barefeet when I'm home and outside around the home. And I've written last winter and into spring Raynaud's Syndrome found my toes, or at least they showed me my toes are now part and parcel with the Syndrome with the hands. Over a period of a few days in the late spring, the toes swelled up, turned bright red, and was very painful when put in warm or hotter water. And then the ends completely scabbed over similar to mild second stage frostbite.

In the end, it took until July for all the scabs to clear up and the toes resume normal size, look and feeling. Except this fall, the problem came back, with the first cold snap followe by a warm spell, normal for the northwest in mid-to-late fall. And the toes continued to go back and forth into the winter until the cold settled in for the season.

Well, I still like to go barefoot, always when the weather is warmer and occasionally when it's not so warm. During extreme cold persiods, however, I now resort to those socks with the individual toes (I call them sweater socks). And even now when it's still January, the toes are showing the effects between cold and warmer weather, even with the socks.

In addition, the little toes are always slightly swollen and the toenails black. Walking around in the early morning hours my little toes become the 5-mph speed bumpers for my feet and often hitting some piece of furniture results in lifting the nail from the toe and putting it back. This creates a blood clot under the toenail for months until it grows out and the black disappears, but only if I don't stub my toe(s) again.

But that's not the point here. It's about going barefoot.

I decided after turning 60 last fall to get my ears pierced, common these days for both sexes. Well, the holes are healed even though I haven't hit the 6 months period when I don't have to wear them full time, but I find I like wearing them. And yes, I've learned the lesson of hearing one drop and suddenly finding myself on the floor looking for the lost earring and clasp.

Well, that happened this morning in the kitchen. But I couldn't find the clasp, so I wrote it off a got another one from a pair with the same size post (why they're all different escapes me). When I went to leave the kitchen after filling my coffee cup and making a crumpet with butter and jam, my foot stepped on something small. This is common there because of bits and things are always falling on the floor between cleanings.

But this time I stopped and reached down to discover the clasp sitting there under my foot. So going barefoot, even in the coldest weather has some advantages. Besides their freedom to be toes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finding Linda

Folks, I need to find Linda (Marilyn) Brown. She used to be Linda Knowles. We married in 1971 and divorced in 1984. After that we remained in contact until these recent years. I didn't send out Christmas cards in 2008 and the last contact I've had with her was in 2007 when she was living in Brownsville, Oregon and working at a hospital in Eugene, Oregon. She has sold her property and is probably in retirement somewhere.

She was, and still is, a wonderful person and woman. I owe her a lot for and after the years we were married. We had fun, and as usual went through all the trials and tribulations of marriage until we separated in 1983. It was an amicable separation and marriage because we realized we had changed so much, and while we loved each other, we would marry each other. So we let each other go and have a life, and hopefully find a new and maybe better love.

She remarried, hence the new last name, and then divorced a few years later. She had plans to move to Italy or Spain when she retired, but some injuries and illnesses a few years ago changed the plans, or so I thought. So she may have moved to accommodate any medical treatments or move closer to work if she hasn't retired, and in the process forgot to let other folks know.

Anyway, she's in my will and estate plan, and so I need find her if only to update her contact and address, but really to see how she's doing. So, if you know her, please let her know to contact me. She's knows my e-mail, also found here. I'd appreciate it. And if you do, I'll give you a box of ten photo cards of your choice of eight different sets.

Thanks for any help people you can provide. Unfortunately, this was the last photo of her, dated in the early 1970's. She's the same except older, like we all are since then, with shorter hair.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

JMO - Corporate Aristocracy

After reading the news of the Supreme Court ruling overturning decades old laws governing campaign advertising, basically making it an open market for corporations to sell views, aka votes, on issues and candidates, I think two things will happen, or at least for me.

For one, the networks will see a boon in revenue from corporate sponsored ads and political shows, all meant to present a view and sway voters. But I think if they go too far, meaning the corporations overload the networks or the networks oversell air time, the viewers will simply decide to turn off the TV or at least their network.

And for another, at least the ads and shows will have to announce who is sponoring and paying for it. That means you will get to see where the money you spend on products is going, and if you don't like what they're doing, you can choose not to buy their products. Meaning you vote with your pocketbook.

And that's what I intend to do. I don't watch much TV anyway, and really not much network channels, especially prime time shows, but I will monitor the ads and elect not to watch at all if it's gets too much. I can't stop the corporations from sponsoring ads and shows, but I can stop them from getting my money to do it.

I know I can't stop buying all the products, too many companies are subsidaries of larger corporations, some of which make products I need or want to get through life. It's the reality of the corporate world and products. I can, however, choose products to replace some of them, which is something I will do.

And what bothers me even more about the ruling, it's that it doesn't prohibit foreign or international companies and corporations from sponsoring ads or shows. Many US companies and corporations are foreign owned anyway, like the oil giants where none are solely US owned but subsidaries of larger international conglomerates.

We can't change that and we can't stop buying gas for our cars, we can only choose the lesser of the bad companies. And it's the non-US ones now that can join in the political funding. This means the 2010 national elections will be interesting, and something to see who funds what on which channel.

But don't expect me to watch much. After all I still control the on/off switch on my TV. And I control my money and who gets it.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Update Jan. 22.--I got a reply from Logitech about the Webcam. They didn't have the specifications for the Zeiss lens. They said the camera was developed for Internet chats and video conferences, meaning people within a reasonably short distance from the lens, hence the blurry distance focusing (besides being only 2 Megapixels in a very small sensor) and exposure problems and the lack of any applications software or driver.

Update Jan. 18.--I played with the camera's location and got a better view where the autofocus and lens seems to capture more of the distant scene, like the power line tower. Mt. Rainier has been obscured for days from storms, so I'll have to wait untill a good sunrise or sunset to test it.

Original post.-- Well, I finally broke down and bought a Webcam for my Mac (an older PPC G5, and yes a new Intel Pro is on the list this year). It turns out Apple only recommends one, the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro (for Macs), see their Web page. The Apple store in Seattle had one for $30 cheaper than retail, so it's came home with me.

Well, as the reviews and information about it says, it's plug and play because it doesn't have any driver or application to install. It relies on existing Apple or third party software, which is mostly Apple's iChat, Photo Booth and QuickTime Pro. That's all the software Logitech and (obviously) Apple recommends to guarrantee to work with it. Oh well.

So, what's my opinion? Well, remember I'm a photographer (not of note or achievement by any stretch) but I wouldn't rank it great. And good is relative. Why? Because the view you see in the image is out my office window I see my just looking up beyond the computer monitor. I have a direct comparison with the image and real life itself.

And that's why for 2 Megapixel and the Carl Zeiss optics, it's won't win awards for quality or technical merit, but it's good for a snapshot, minus all the intricate details in the scene. For one, there is a tall transmission tower between the large gap of trees on the left and Mt. Rainier between the gap of trees on the right. While visible through the lens, neither show up on the image, which means the 640x480 (jpg) image loses a lot of detail.

For another it's looking through a double pane window, which is seen in the reflection (yellow circle). I will try to find a location where it can see better because I'm wondering if it's effecting the autofocus. And for the last piece, it sees the real-time image in reverse because it's expecting a reverse (mirror-like) image, so it reverses it. You can set the auto-flip to correct it.

Anyway, I bought it capture snapshots for people to see what I see from my (home) office. The next test is use the digital camera (Canon 5D) to capture the same image for comparison. And to that I'll keep you posted, and in the meantime, that's the Narrows Strait in the background with Tacoma across the strait.

It's a neat view, not just because of Mt. Rainier is out the window (on clear days), but I get to see all the boat and ship traffic passing under the Twin Narrows Bridges just off to your right in the image, all the Seattle to Portland train traffic on the tracks at water level (1+ mile) across the Narrows Strait, and the outgoing and incoming flights into SeaTac airport and McChord AFB across the sky in the distance from the southwest to the southeast.

A small microcosm of the world economy just outside in view, and now I can snap a picture of it.

Conclusion.--My personal view (not it of me) of this Webcam is simple. If you need one because your monitor doesn't have a built-in one or you want a better one, this is a good choice, besides being one of the few for Mac's and being plug and play. The limitations really preclude it from other uses, although I'll keep mine pointed out the window for now.

I haven't tested third-party software yet, but I did buy QuickTime Pro to test it with the Webcam. If I want better images out my window, I learned to tether the Canon 5D to the Mac, and presently (this week) it's been sitting alongside the Webcam to compare images (unfair but so what), and will be when it's not in use elsewhere.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

JMO - The truth as seen

The truth as seen from here anyway. The Massaschusett's election of a Republican over a Democrat was not a repudiation of President Obama and the Democrats healthcare reform legislation, nor of the President and his achievements to date. Nor of his goals and plans. It was simply a better selling job by the Republicans to elect a candidate who the voters think is better than Ms. Coakley, the Democratic candidate.

In truth, both of them have political baggage and if voters think Mr. Brown will be "their" man, they had better think again, because once in office he'll be another Republican owing his allegiance first to the party and second to the lobbyist, corporations and their big money who sponsored his campaign. They bought and paid for him, and they sold the voters a bill of goods.

That's not to say Ms. Coakley was squeeky clean either. She came with the Democrat's baggage, especially to help get the healthcare reform bill through the Senate as well as her big money backers. It didn't matter if Massachusetts already has a good healthcare program, it was campaign ads to convince voters they didn't want or need two, the federal one and the state one, and the Republican candidate would best send that message.

It wasn't that they didn't want healthcare reform for the country. Nor did they want to see they state plan integrated into the national plan. It was the government control the Republicans sold that to the voters and Mr. Brown would carry that message. Except he won't carry it for the people, but the corporate interests who are making money in Massaschusetts and have provided him with campaign money.

So to the Democrats, take a deep breath and simply learn to do a better job, which surprises me you keep having to do. You're either deaf or blind to the advise you're given or simply have chosen to ignore it thinking you know better. Well, obviously you didn't and still haven't learned from your mistake. You're seeing your own history repeated over and over again.

As for the healthcare reform effort, I will add that's I've not been an overwhelming support of the healthcare bill from either the House or the Senate, as I've noted here in post last fall and winter. I think the Democrats need to reconsider it and reduce it the basic necessities for an initial program.

This would include patients protections, such as the right to coverage with pre-existing conditions, the right to the coverage for severe or sudden problems without being denied coverage or facing increases in their premiums, and the right to an impartial review board for the timely redress of complaints when denied coverage.

This would include a public option (not tied to Medicare, Medicaid, FEHB or other existing programs) for the underinsured and uninsured with significant government support either in direct payments to companies, tax deductions, and other financial incentive. In short, make it really affordable than just the appearance of affordability when families can't and won't spend the money, even with a mandate and facing penalities for not having insurance.

This would include dropping the mandatory insurance, using the above incentives, to encourage getting insurance, and then finding ways to prevent people from simply using the public healthcare system and programs as many already do. That needs to be fixed where hospitals, clinics and physicians can ensure they don't lose money. They don't have to make a profit, just not lose money as many are currently doing.

And this would include fixing existing small problems, like drug prescription coverage, excessive premiums, health insurance and corporate descrimination against patients, consider making maximum premiums universal to prevent profitting by the sick or ill at the family or government's expense, and most of all provide better oversight to oversee and prevent fraud, rampant in some programs.

That's it. Focus on that and you'll be ok. And I won't consider adandoning the Democratic party in 2010 elections and beyond.

Friday, January 8, 2010

JMO - Shooting our own foot

Reading the news about the US trying to get other countries help us in the "war on terror", which President Obama doesn't use, we're finding it a rough road until we offer our deep (debt-plagued) pockets to enrich corruprt governments to buy our weapons and arms, allow our special forces to operate in the country, and appear to fight any enemy forces we define as the enemy. This is happening in Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia (the only stable country of the lot), and some in the horm of Africa, among others.

We love corrupt governments because we can do what we criticize others, and especially corporations for doing, bribe people. We simply buy into their government with economic and military aid, which is short for writing checks and delivering pallets of freshly printed money (which we did in the early years of the post-invastion Iraq to find 10's of millions of dollars gone and unaccounted), which is turned into personal wealth for individuals and aid to buy the weapons.

And we're buying into another favor, accepting Gitmo prisoners, er. detainees. Someone please explain the difference between prisner and detainee to them. A review of them discovered 85+% were relativley innocent men and boys (yes, one only 12 years old when "captured"). Another 10+% had some ties to terrorists groups, but not much beyond foot soldiers. And in the end, only a few percentage were serious terrorists.

Except now they're all radicalized against the US. And we're confused? LIke, you imprison some for 6+ years and expect them to like you when we, if we, let them go home or worse to some other country? But still the ricidivism rate is still only between 10-15%. Meaning 85% just want their freedom to go home. Except now many of them will be arrested, and their fate lost to a government (their home country) who thinks they're really terrorists.

In short, we created them and most of them haven't done anything wrong. And now we operate prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan with the same mentality. In the heart of their own country. And we wonder why they hate us?

Friday, January 1, 2010

NPR - Four Years later

On December 30, 2005, I walked out of the USGS office in Tacoma and into my new life and work. Actually the official day was the Saturday, the 31st, at the end of the two week payperiod. They also let me leave around noon after turning in my ID card and keys. I had already put everything in boxes and moved them to the van parked outside.

And then I walked around and shook everyone's hand to wish them well in their career and life, everyone I respected or liked. The rest I figured they didn't care anyway. I still have some of the stuff in boxes. I never really saw a reason to open them since it's all official or personnel stuff from the 28 year career, and most of the good stuff was lost in transit from Phoenix years ago.

When I transferred from Phoenix, AZ to Tacoma, WA in 1987 I shipped 6 boxes through the Post Office, remember it's before really good shipping companies. They lost two of the boxes in transit, and they couldn't find them, also before they had tracking. These were the two most important boxes, one with all my personal notebooks and files from the previous 10 years of field work, and one with all my academic books.

Gone, maybe misplaced but I suspect stolen, books taken and the rest trashed. I've always kept hoping someone would find them somewhere in a warehouse. I've replaced the books but I can't replace the notebooks. They were 10 years of every day of field work I did for the USGS in Oregon and Arizona. While the general memories are still there, it's the details I wanted to keep. Just notes of my life.

Anyway, the boxes when I retired went into the storage locker at home and then to the rental storage. And I took the weekend off to wonder and wander what I wanted to do. I had already decided to work on my photography, and then work on the Mt. Rainier NP photography guide, whatever it would be and wherever it would take me. It was a big unknown.

And that was a gross understatement and underestimate of the work. It simply took on its own life and work, which nows is most of what I do and what I want to finish, or at least the book part. The rest will always be an on-going project. And the history projects spun off their own life. And the photography, the large format work the business and the photo cards took a back seat.

What does it all mean then? I don't really know and probably won't beyond knowing it's what I did, to retire and then focus on the guide and my photography, it's what I like doing, and will do for the rest of my life. I still have a lot of things to do with it and with life, too many for too little time. But that's what happens.

I also know it changed my perspective on life, and especially my Dysthymia. Almost all my anger at people, and mostly people at work, is gone, minus the obvious anger with stupid politicians we seem to keep re-electing for strange reason or personal agenda and with people who don't seem to care, understand or accept others. Those people don't change and neither does my anger.

But my other anger has changed from being angry with other people who didn't want to hear my ideas to improve work and the work environment, the typical career ladder climbing asshole (either gender) and didn't want to give me chances to prove my ideas and show what I could do for the agency, people, customers and the public. I'm only deeply sad now.

It has changed to be more focused on myself, which isn't a good thing, and it's mostly on just getting old and finding what I want to do now is battling time, age and genes. And the realization I won't be what I thought and hoped I could be. It's not only not hopeful or wishful thinking, it's not even realistic thinking past a certain point.

Yeah, it's the reality of getting and being older, and now over 60. But it doesn't change the anger. And the answer now is simply in the trying and the work. That's the best I can do, and then hope nothing catastropic happens to turn it upside down and/or leave me a financial wreck, as has happened to so many.

And in the end, it's the same questions. Had I to do it over, would I do it differently? Not much, and only a few significant things which would be different now, but nothing huge. I miss the work, especially the opportunties, and some of the people, but those weren't going to happen. The reality we all must face in and with our life.

So, in the end, it's what happened and I'm still sitting here on the way to my fifth year with many more to come and lots more to do. It's all in front of me. Always there and waiting for me.