Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

27 April 2007

Thank You, Mr. Spocko

Today's timewaster:

I took the long way around Firedoglake to get to First Draft.

In the comment thread, a person hight "Spocko," (and oddly enough it turned out to be the same brain-in-a-box we all know and love--what are the odds?), referred the Gentle and Cultivated Reader to Superdickery.com.

Now before Raincoaster rushes off to view it, it's all about comic books. Namely, Superman captured on the cover of his own comic titles being, as the page name might inform you, a dick.

Here's one of the covers and captions that got me sniggering behind my hand.



List of more pratical uses Superboy can make of a machine that can see through time:

1.) Betting on the outcomes of sporting events.
2.) Forseeing natural diasters and catastrophhe.
3.) Letting Bruce Wayne know that his parents are going to be gunned down in front of his very eyes in a filthy alley, you dick!

I urge you to pay a visit to the galleries at Superdickery.com.







26 April 2007

The Workplace is an Ass!

Fresh from the meeting today with a boatload of metaphors.

Re. My little section of my workplace:

Basically, there’s this wee tiny donkey trying to pull this great big ginormous cart. Lately it has been observed that the donkey is complaining vociferously about the enormity of the load.

Management’s solution is to break the load down into two portions and load both portions onto two carts half the size. Then hook them both up to the same donkey.


Actually, since they're transferring my old boss from electronica to marketing, and since we're not getting anyone in to replace her, the metaphorical donkey is also having a leg pulled off.


Re. My boss
Not my old boss. My current boss.

There's this orchestra, see? And there's a conductor trying to make everything come out looking and sounding good.

Every so often, people from the box office or janitorial staff come racing in and stick unrelated music sheets on the stands of the musicians.

The conductor's job is to stop them. However, sometime last year the conductor was interrupted by the orchestra board, and handed a trombone to play--in addition to the other duties.

My boss devotes 45 percent of her work time to a non-product that makes no money, and therefore has no budget attached, nor personnel work hours alloted. Nonetheless it is immensely successful and popular, and the people in charge want her to continue to maintain it.


Re. Perception of work value:
Every so often the people who sponsor the orchestra show up, wanting to know what happened to all their money. They are shown the instruments, which they cautiously approve, they meet musicians.

Then they try to measure the music with a yardstick. Whereupon they decide that nothing has been produced, and so what is required is that more sheet music be given to be played each evening, in the same alloted time and by the same size of orchestra.

I really do love what I do for a living, but like everything else it would be easier if they'd just give me/us money and let me/us get on with things.







Conservative Governments, Death, and the Labour Market

This post has been on my mind a while now. Hope it sounds as coherent to you as it does to me. To reiterate: I am a conservative. I just feel that unrestricted free-market piracy of the early 18th Century is perhaps ill-suited to the 21st.

Just recently, a report came out that associated suicide with conservative governments. I thought that this was interesting.

I suppose the tories feel that since conservative governments in the modern era emphasize things like "self-reliance," that someone who was enduring difficulties might choose to take the independent, self-reliant way out.

Or, if you take the un-spun view: When your resources have been cut off and you have nowhere else to go, the next life may turn out to be the preferred option.

I'm reasonably sure that by participation in the Glorious Crusade in the Middle East, the "conservative" government of Mr. Bush and the not-unrelated activities of Mssrs Prodi, Harper, and Howard have marginally raised the overall death rate for their own respective countries. Not to mention what they've managed to do for Iraq.

The sole exception, possibly, might be Russia: Vladimir Putin's commu--sorry--conservative (be it by any other name) government has recently claimed that journalists are dying by the fewer-than-during-communist numbers lately. So there's some good news.

But all that crap is political. That is, these are unusual times, and an unusual number of cretins seem to occupy the thrones of an unusually large number of countries. When that happens, people die. Until some of the cretins are pushed off their thrones, impeached and jailed, or assasinated (I don't really wish for it to happen, but it's hard to imagine what might get worse in Zimbabwe if Mugabe got bumped off).

It's the stuff that is now reckoned to be "all part of the (economic) game" that revolts me utterly. Not that the other stuff doesn't fester, but the corruption and meanness extends beyond the war-related crap and extends its tentacles into everyday life at the first level. And people are dying for it.

As my Avid Fans (all three of them) know, I write for a workplace safety publication. Thus I encountered this week the " Death on the Job: The Culture of Neglect" report from the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations).

The AFL-CIO is really the last vestiges of the union movement in America. To describe the Bush policy as anti-union is to spare it the term "union-busting thugs". I mean, Lee Iaccoca hates Bush as much or more than he disliked the United Auto Workers, and that's gotta count for something.

We're supposed to believe that industry is capable of self-regulation. That the ones who got caught at Enron were in fact the only crooks in business or something, that really, every hard-ass capitalist has the interests of the world at heart. That left to their own devices, the market and industry will self-regulate in a dispassionate and moral way.

Bullshit. And double, triple, and ad infinitum bullshit.

The "Death on the Job" report spells it out. The Bush administration has the worst, most lax policies on worker safety since OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was created. Workplace deaths are increasing for the first time in a decade.

OSHA has been sapped, strangled, castrated, and made a hollow mockery of what it was created to be. It was to be the muscle that made the unions superfluous. It was the meeting of economic prosperity with the good interests of the workers. It was the way that responsible companies would step forward and shine.

This week, the muscle spasmed. OSHA refused to regulate diacetyl.

Diacetyl is a pernicious, poisonous chemical. It has long been associated with "popcorn lung". Wondering what that is? Well "black lung" was something coal miners got by breathing coal dust. It killed them. And "textile lung" was something textile workers got by breathing fibers and dye chemicals. It killed them. Guess what something called "popcorn lung" might be?

Popcorn lung is also known as "bronchiolis obliterans." And it's been "popping" up in a lot of industries. Mostly, you guessed it, popcorn plants where diacetyl is added to give the microwave-pop that mm-mm delicious buttery flavour. But diacetyl is used in a truly amazing variety of industries.

This week, OSHA made its decision. The decision itself wasn't really a surprise after all the foot-dragging that's happened since the issue was first raised: OSHA swung into action like a sloth swings along a branch.

OSHA is stacked with Bush appointees including Edwin G. Foulke Jr., whose prior work experience seems to have largely been in union-busting (he worked for a law firm that publishes a newsletter dedicated to stamping out the urge to unionize in your slaves--I mean "workers"). OSHA decided that they'd take a little look at about five dozen plants. Out of tens of thousands where diacetyl is used.

They didn't issue an exposure standard. They didn't issue a personal protective equipment standard, which would at least have meant exposed workers should use respirators around this toxic stuff. They didn't do jack $#!7. And their excuse?

"The science is murky."
--Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
Bush Appointee, corrupt @$$#0!3

Sorry--that last clause was unneccesary. It's like saying "Bush Appointee" twice.

No, Mr. Foulke, it's not. There's a scientifically established link between diacetyl and destructive lung disease. And even if there wasn't a definite link, is the sensible thing to do (think hard, Mr. Foulke!):

a) To issue a temporary standard and see what happens?
b) To assume that nothing's wrong and just keep counting the mounting pile of lungs on the dissecting table?
c) To decide that industry should be left alone to "self-regulate"

In view of the fine work industry's been doing so far, OSHA left it at (c) with a side of (b). To, no doubt, the joy of a number of people currently waiting for lung transplants.

Sorry, Mr. Foulke. But you do get a case of Rice-A-Roni and a copy of the home game. Thanks for playing and take care now.

The diacetyl case is just the most prominent pimple on a faceful of festering boils. The "Death on the Job" report notes the lax approach to safety regulation, the subordination of life and the dignity of the worker to profit and expedience, and the rising tide of deaths among black and hispanic workers. All burning while OSHA fiddled.

It's time we stopped pretending greed is good. It's time we started turning back to the things that made the "West" a great place to live and work.

That would be the unions.

It wasn't the idea of business to give a worker one or two days off per week. It wasn't business that came up with sick leave. It was not the corporate sector that fought for a minimum wage or the eight-hour day.

It was business that approved corporate "health plans" over universal health care for everyone. It's business that fought tooth and nail, with every cent they needed to spend, to pretend tobacco was as harmless as mother's milk. It's the modern-day corporation that fights environmental regulation ('cos "the science is murky", y'know) today.

This $#!7 has got to end. Now. And the solution (and let me tell you that as a free-market man I hate to say this) is union.

Self-regulation is a failure. Relying on the moral compass of privateers and profiteers has gotten North America lost, and dragged the rest of the world with it.

Conservative deregulatory culture leads to corpses. Forestry, trucking, mining--all occupations with rising death tolls, and all targets of deregulatory efforts by goverments like that of Bush: so concerned with keeping the goverment out of the public sector that it's spying on its own citizens illegally; presumably to see if it can catch itself in the act of regulating something.

You could mention India--but the world's largest democracy has become a byword for unethical labour practice on the part of the multinationals, and besides, the sheer size of the labour pool means that anyone seeking near-slave labour at below-market rates can find it there.

But why bother when a Vietnamese nine-year old not only is willing to do the work instead of going to school, but saves on machinery because her hands can go where an adult's can't? ‘Cos that’s how ethical self-regulation in the unrestricted free market rolls, yo.

I see a hand in the back. Speak up please ... ah yes. Good question, and I'm glad you asked:

"What about China?" my interlocutor demands, "China's a communist country, and all their workers are collectivized, aren't they?"

No. They're not. Oh the workers are collectivized. But China today is not a communism, but that most conservative of things, an oligarchy with a side of plutocracy. Those worker collectives are instructed--not bargained with. And d'you think they ever get any kind of free choice vote?

Besides—there’s the human rights thing. If even the Bushies, (in an act of pot-calling-kettle-blackness not, we hope, soon to be repeated) have mumbled about the Middle Kingdom’s record on human rights (yes, the same ones you give up when you get sent to American Cuba, “renditioned” to Syria, or “disappeared” into the CIA prison system) why should we hold them up as some kind of example?

There’s the enviro-thing: China is throwing up a Europe's worth of coal power plants in the next decade, and responsibly regulating its own pollution how?

Well, not so much "regulating" as "allowing it to spew freely into the air" is how.

If the government can't be trusted to make a few simple adjustments to make the coal-fired power plants cleaner and thus not poison their own plants, animals, and people, not to mention small countries surrounding the area, then why should we believe that they’ve got some kind of corner on ethical workplace regulation?

Oh--and there were 127,000 Chinese workplace deaths in 2005.


And two yesterday. In Alberta. Which brings me to Canada.

We have been poisoned from within. A country which was seeing an expansion of workers' rights has gutted itself, thanks to the uber-sick greed of the eighties (trivia question: who was running the country for most of the eighties?), but with the especial assistance of the New Green Conservative Government of Canada (New! and Green!).

For example: in the wake of a rash of train derailments in the west, the Liberal government began a probe into why these were happening so frequently. When the consevatives scraped a minority government from a grudging population, they (as the polite term goes) "tabled" it. That is, they tossed it under the table, apparently.

This week an engineer got his one chance to play hero by staying at the wheel as another derailment happened. It looks as though his hand at the controls may have saved some other lives. Though not his own. Doubtless the company will cite "worker error." I can't say for sure right now, but I'd bet on that being slander.

This morning, a former rail worker spoke of watching two of his best friends die, one in his arms. He talked about how the railway company pushed workers to meet unrealistic deadlines by cutting corners.

On the same radio program, a political hack for the Harper government described the railroad workers' deaths of the past few years as "unneccesary".

Uh, sir? Could you look through the dismal record of workplace safety that is Canada's and point out to me which of those deaths was neccesary?

Who had to die to keep the economy growing?

Can you indicate to me which worker on the job won't come home to the spouse and kids because his or her death was god-dammned neccesary today?

You £µ©λing uneccesary asshat.


In the same program, an inspection was cited that found safety defects on fully 53 percent of CP Rail rolling stock. As a trucker myself, I know that that might mean a broken reflector. So why don't we generously assume that half of those were cited for being the wrong colour or something? Which leaves us with just over 25 percent.

Would you ride on an airline whose fleet was "75% Safe!"? So why should 900,000 Tons of Steel be okay to rocket through our towns carrying passengers and hazardous cargo at 100 km/h when it's not even?

Lately, to keep up the fevered oil-sucking frenzy that is the tar sands (and thus support a real-estate market that lends itself to profiteering), the government allowed companies to bring in workers from China. Two of those workers died in the oil patch yesterday, and four other workers were injured, when a five-storey bitumen tank collapsed. One of the new workers was apparently welding tank supports.

The company's first reaction was to rush to the phones and console the grieving relatives ...

Sorry--the company's first reaction was actually to issue a public statement ...

No.

The company's first reaction was to confiscate all cellular phones from employees on the site. Some of the employees were on the phone with their union rep at the time. Then the company urgently announced that everyone on site got the "safety briefing". Forgive me if I think: "What's Canada Natural Resources Ltd. hiding?"

The Chinese workers were, of course, non-union. There were likely language barrier issues, which always complicate safety. But union members had apparently already complained that the workers may have been doing work they shouldn't have been.

Of course I'm sure the imported labour could have contested the issue, if that were the case ...To whom? One wrong word and you're back on the bus to Beijing, chum!

Remember: this is all to keep the (Alberta) economy growing at record rates.

Hey kids! Trivia question: when something just keeps growing unrestrictedly, what do we call it? That's right--cancer! And what does cancer do? it kills!

So when an economy keeps growing unrestrictedly, why is that better than if it just kinda stays the same or grows really slowly? Sorry--I don't have the answer to that one. But guess what an economy growing unrestrictedly does?

But the deaths only tell part of the story. In Ontario they've finally raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour--over the next three years. Which would be better if it weren't itself the first raise in at least eight years, and if the fat-assed morons sitting in the Ontario legislature hadn't also voted themselves a raise that amounted to more than a month's pay for most workers. Still, progress.

A ten-dollar per hour salary will net you about $16,000 a year. If you’re willing to give up an extra day, perhaps $21,000. No tax, because you’re not earning enough to qualify. The poverty line is at least $23,000 in this country, and probably closer to $30,000.

That’s it. No extended health benefits, no job security, no support package, benefits, or layoff payoff. Just 9 to 5, every day. Six days a week. But Wal-Mart thinks you should be grateful. So do the conservatives.

Guess who keeps saying that the solution to poverty, pollution and workplace death is less regulation and maybe even a lower minimum wage?

The Canadian government didn't move on Wal-Mart's union busting tactics--which were clearly illegal. So much did WM hate unionization that the single unionized Wal-Mart was quietly allowed to rot. The shelves were unstocked, goods lay idle in the warehouse, until the company could point to their poisoned store and say "See--that's what unions do. Now we have to shut it down and *sob* take 300 minimum-wage jobs out of the community."

How sad.

The government can’t be counted on to provide a minimum of workplace safety nor worker dignity. Companies? Why don’t you just slit your wrists?

If you doubt the value of unions--that is, if the fear and loathing exhibited by your corner capitalist isn't enough to tell you that they are the single most powerful weapon the worker has in the fight for a living wage, a fair day's work, and time to spend with their families--read this. or the original article.

It is time to begin the new labour movement. To take back our work and our dignity. To respect the people who provide us with the things of daily life by backing them against the billionaires.

It’s time for a whole new union movement on this continent. Maybe the world.

Why not a global union for every trade? To set living wage prices for labour and guarantee fair and equitable employment. We could set such a thing up easily. They would not be entitled to negotiate benefits, nor even overtime maybe. Just a basic living wage for each country, and fair treatment.

I mean, how could these ethically-self-governed companies and the governments that enable them take a stand against that?

On a not-entirely-unrelated topic, I have to go write up a memo "justifying" the raise I want them to give me.







25 April 2007

God Doesn't Want Me to Exercise

Okay, so lately it's been harder to keep up with the physical activities. What with five nights of theatre per week and all the things I need to do in between. But there are some signs that a Higher Power has set itself against you.

For example, when one is beginning the sixth one-minute shift of a run-walk program, heading around the track for the ninth lap, feeling terrific because the end of the workout is in sight and you just know you're gonna make it.

And something in the meaty part of your calf--the bit the cannibal would draw dotted lines around and drizzle with demi-glaze--goes *twang*.

Two days later, having immediately limped home and iced and rested and all that crap, you head out the door to go to the gym: no roadwork, you're still resting the leg. Because it feels better and you know that means the injury is just lurking 'round the corner ready to flare up again.

On the way out the door you pick up the recycling bin, which is a teeny bit heavier than usual (and I do mean just a few kilos).

And something in your lower back goes *twang*.

Clearly the FSM wants me to play poker online this morning.







24 April 2007

I'm Retiring

Hey--that last post was my 666th!

I'm having a beer to celebrate that tonight.

But unfortunately I have sad news that I need to share with everyone. Tonight I will hang up my cape for the last time.

The word is out, the discovery has been made, and the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. I thought it was safely buried beneath the Serbian steppes, but you never can tell where humans will explore next.

It's been a good run, but now I'm retiring while I'm ahead. It's not like it hasn't been fun. I've enjoyed the daily workout, speeding bullets, pushing locomotives, leaping tall buildings and all that.

I was even really on board for the new movie, but then they pushed Kevin Smith off the director's chair.



From now on, it will almost certainly be a bird or a plane. Unless my communter flight gets bumped.

It's not the public disillusionment and the questioning of my role. It isn't the ambivalence about my American alliegance. It's something altogether more menacing ...

Now the terrorists will have Kryptonite.







Oversharing

On the office intranet today I, along with every other member of my company, including those at the other two sites which are some 3000 miles (5000 km) from here, received the following:

Subject: Sad Things

My Husband and I have decided to go our separate ways.

Divorce papers were sent out on Wednesday. So I am, literally, just hanging on by a thread.

I have been advised to seek therapy - so I have made some appointments. Unfortunately, they are during the workday. I do not want anyone to formulate the perception that I take a lot of time off -- for one reason or another, so I will be coming in earlier and working later on the few days that I have therapy scheduled.

Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time.

I will be reverting back to my maiden name--Maiden

Thank you for your sympathy and patience,

Elizabeth Maiden.



And I was left thinking:
"Hey! Did I ask?"

I'm sure it's none of my business in any case. But equally to the point, and not to sound callous: I don't really care. And honestly I cannot see what the out-of-country branches might need with this information.

In the course of normal workplace communications I would eventually have found out from somewhere. But writing about and putting it on the company 'net is just TMFI, okay? If we hang out together off work, I'm sure you'd have let me know. If we don't, then why would it matter to me?

If you feel that people need to be apprised of your absences, then for FSM's sake, apprise the ones who need to know. A simple: "For personal reasons, I will need to be away from the office at frequent intervals for the next year. I ask you to bear with me," would probably suffice. Note that said circle of need-to-knows still does not include me.

I bet her ex-husband's not out there telling his workmates: "Yeah, I've been advised to seek therapy." Much less the ones in other countries. And definitely not in writing.

We're humans. We have struggles, trials, and miseries, all of us. Unless they affect a lot more people than just you and yours, yours are no more important than mine, no matter how life-or-death they are.

And until the advent of Phil Donahue, Geraldo, Oprah, YouTube and the Self-Help Society most people suffered them in near silence.


I'm so tempted to reply to this missive:

To: Elizabeth Maiden

So does that mean you're free tonight?

--Metro


Telling the world of your workplace that you've been advised to seek therapy, by the way, seems to me to be a great way to ensure your promotion prospects.

Oh--and I'd be a lot more sympathetic had the author of this piece not used the term "reverting back to".

$#!7! Couldn't she just get a blog?


Elsewhere: I swear I haven't forgotten that I have been tagged by the Meme of Mur. I'm just trying to sort out the blogs that make me think from the ones that I read to confirm my worst suspicions regarding humanity.







21 April 2007

The DEA Does Its Bit For Gun Control

Okay, I know I said I was sick of the debate, and I am. However, once in a while it is futile to resist.



What I really like is that he continues the lecture, and invites his asisstant to bring up the bigger weapon, whereupon the kids begin demonstrating how well they've learned the lesson:

"Puddit AWAY!"

Just remember--this is a professional. Not only a professional, but one of the people in the War on Drugs.

Let me be clear: the war is on drugs.

Like many other items, this was delicately ripped off of Stilletta.







20 April 2007

I'm Having Trouble

Trying to write a couple of concise, straightforward posts. Topics include:

Harper--Mr. "I want an elected Senate"--appoints a senator.

Harper--Mr. "I want an end to corruption, strong federalist political landscape, and an elected Senate"--appointed an unelected Quebec seperatist as Minister of Public Works, and has just told him to "probe liberal government contracting." Despite the Auditor General's finding that the contracts were in order.

Harper--Mr. "I want a probe into liberal contracts"--seems to be Halliburtoning the contracting of services in Afghanistan through a secretive single-sourcing agency called ACAN.

No success. Possibly not enough material? So for today, to get away from the whole gun-control business, of the which I am truly sick to death arguing, comes this:




If this doesn't do it for you, go see Yann Martel's helpful site, What Stephen Harper is Reading. It's sort of like a personal Oprah book club for Steve Harper. Because, like Dubya (who put Camus on his summertime reading list in order to stop being the idiot who watched Joe Millionaire all the time) and Mike Harris, who admitted that his favourite book was, appropriately, Mr. Silly, Harper hates reading. I suspect this is because it tends to expose him to ideas he doesn't already hold.







18 April 2007

Gun Control We Can All Live With

While over at Former Frontier Editor's place I was struck with a terrific idea:

I've come around. I've heard so many people saying that more guns are the solution that it's become obvious to me that it's true. So here's an idea the NRA will love: Arm everybody!

In view of the ongoing "terror threats", increased international tensions etc., America must avail herself once again of the citizen soldier. From now on, every John and Jane Doe must be a vigilant, armed and lethal warrior against whateverism.

Therefore, starting in 2008, every man, woman, and child in the United States should be required to own a firearm, and undertake training in how to use it.

All weapons must be kept cached against the threat. For maximum protection and concealment value caches shall conform to the following standard:
The weapon itself shall be stored inside a wooden crate. The crate shall then be placed in a concrete or steel box. Said box must then be buried in the owner 's backyard and covered with a minimum of five feet of earth, to insure against its discovery and use by hostile forces or criminal types.

Planting daisies atop such caches to allay suspicion is encouraged. For additional concealment value, paving the area should be considered.


I am expecting an endorsement from Charlton Heston.







The "Lone Crazy" Fallacy

A lot of the pro-gun types are saying:
"Gun control couldn't have stopped this guy. Nothing can stop the determined lone maniac."

The "lone maniac" in this case was a perfectly sane, law-abiding student, as far as anyone who sold him a gun knows.

This guy was focused. He waited one month to get past the waiting period so that he could buy a second gun.

Not a maniac. A murderer. A focused, determined, legally-armed murderer.

The gun nuts will blather on about "culture". They'll talk about "values" and how the country's going to pot. They'll bitch about rap music and video games.

And they'll try to blame this shooting on a person--an aberrant psychotic.

The implicit assumption is that they, and every one of the NRA zombies, are "normal".

So was he.

And so are most of the people who kill or maim hundreds of thousands of Americans per year. Right up until the point when they walk into a school and start spraying the place with lead.

If it had been illegal to posess handguns without some sort of permit or screening, or indeed at all, he might have been stopped.

To oppose gun control in the environment where this sort of thing happens is to be complicit in the killings.


In Baghdad today, four near-simultaneous car bombs killed 120 people. I mention this because for some reason, it barely made the news today.







17 April 2007

YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

HE £µ¢λING DID IT!

On a day hung over with yesterday's misery, I visited Jacob Seilheimer's blog:
In what can only be described at the most horrific experience of my life. I, Jacob Seilheimer, completed the Boston Marathon...

DEAD LAST.

And I'm damn proud of it.


Raincoaster will doubtless wish to make her $25 US contribution to the American Cancer Society immediately?

Under the terms of our wager, I will be putting in my $26.20 US this evening. Mme Moistness and I will exchange receipts to verify that we have lived up to our end of the bet.

A bright spot in an otherwise rather dismal day.







16 April 2007

It's Official

Bagdhad is at least as safe as at least one American city today.

Already the wingnutosphere is warming the microphones for their NRA masters and apologists:
Nobody seems to know much yet on what happened. These things do seem to take place in locations where it’s not legal for people with carry permits to carry guns, though, and I believe that’s the case where the Virginia Tech campus is concerned. I certainly wish that someone had been in a position to shoot this guy at the outset.
--Apologist Instapundit

In other words, the solution is more guns--in schools, yet!

The quote above was stolen from The Stranger in Seattle. One of my favourite haunts as the home of Savage Love.

Today, like most North American media, the Slog (The Stranger's Blog) has been following the Virginia shootings.

Dan Savage has some words on the subject.

The comments drove me into what I can only describe as a full-on wingnut-type fury. Y'know, like O'Reilly hearing about illegal immigrant babies getting vaccinations or Limbaugh saying drug users should be shot. So I kind of let fly.
To all you apologists for the NRA: Get stuffed. With cacti.

30 bodies on the deck and you claim that gun laws are "unenforceable", so you shouldn't try?

You say that US culture loves guns, so no-one should try to stop them?

You blame this on some soi-distant "personal rage" problem and say that banning guns would be like banning aircraft or cars?

How odd that more mass murderers don't choose to run twenty or thirty people over; or that apart from the events of September 11th 2001 no-one has chosen to kill people using a plane.

How weak you sound, and how pathetic.

30 dead people. Dead at least in part by a cancerous hankering for firepower on behalf of US culture?

The lone gunman without a gun is simply a lone man.

Stop making excuses for arming him.


In the same area. It's official: worst school shooting in US history







Thank God For the Second Amendment

They're still collecting bodies in Virginia.

At least 20 people will not be coming home tonight. Instead, their parents or spouses will receive a concerned visit from the cops plus a counsellor. And from that time on, nothing will be the same.

They will have to read papers for months that talk about their sons' and daughters' deaths in the same measured tones in which the rise and fall of the Dow Jones is measured.

They'll have to watch television on which white men with guns continually and single-handedly become heroes--and never once torture or shoot innocent bystanders.

They'll spot graduation announcements in the paper--right next to their child's obituary ...



It's at times like these that I think that were I an American I would be grateful for the Second Amendment; that oft-quoted business about the right to bear arms.

Because that would mean that I could buy a large-calibre handgun and hollow-point teflon coated (teflon slides through bulletproof vests) "black talon" (opens up inside the "target" to tear his or her insides out) ammunition.

Which I would use on the first asshole to spout: "Guns don't kill people ... people kill people!" or "From my cold, dead fingers." A consummation devoutly to be wished.

I'd like to thank the NRA and the GOP for their staunch defence of the right of unstable, angry, small humans to expand their destructive range. There's a reason one rarely hears the phrase: "Workplace baseball-batting kills 29."

I'd like to thank the Bushies for making the world a darker, sicker, more violent place with their "culture of life" and their overweening imperial ambitions.

I'd like to thank them too, for ensuring that as the volcanic frustration of GW II vets builds up, this sort of thing may become even more likely.

Oh--and thanks ever so much, you damn dirty ape, for letting the assault weapons ban lapse, thereby increasing the firepower available to the garden variety nutjob.

~furious

Guns kill people. In the hands of the sort of small man who needs to own a gun so badly that he'll defend his right to own it even in the face of this sort of horror, they certainly do kill people.

God help the parents of Virginia now.







Uneventful

That's last weekend in a nutshell. But don't let that make you think I spent it all swinging in a hammock. Or even swinging at a very nice suburban party, for that matter.

Saturday I borrowed my boss' ancient pickup:
"You'll want to drive carefully in case anything falls off," she said.

I reminded her that as an ex-trucker I have some idea about how to secure loads.

"No, no," she said "Off the truck."

So I loaded up with the decrepit bark mulch, earth, sand, and cat crap that used to be the playspace for the two children who lived in the home that is now Domicile Metro, and took it to the dump.

Sorry, "landfill".

Our landfill's quite progressive. We have a fairly high set of charges for recyclable material. The dump takes in yard waste up to 500 Kg for free, and sells the compost. The first bit of luck was that I had about 499 Kg. Or maybe 505 and the woman running the scale liked my smile.

The second was that my boss' truck has a dump bed. I got a load of envious looks from the other dump denizens as they shovelled and shoved their way through piles of leaves, branches, and dirt. I just picked a good spot and hit a switch. Box up, load "un"-ed.

The third bit of luck was that the rain held off until I'd finished. It took two loads and five hours. I had to shovel the dirt and chips into a garbage can and shift it without a wheelbarrow, as I had no way to dump the barrow into the truck, and shovelling it in, then out, of the barrow just made no sense. Wet bark and dirt would have taken half again as long, and cost money at the dump, to boot.

But eventually it, and all the associated garbage (including two years' worth of Christmas trees--who the hell were these people?) was gone. Nothing left but denuded earth in a large square, waiting for us to fence, seed, and plant.

Oh--and one load of cat $#!7, as of about 7:30 this morning. Neighbours' moggy clearly takes a dim view of my denuding the area of sand and ground cover.

I wonder if cats make good fertilizer?


Sunday was spent largely tinkering with my scooter--summer riding's just a couple of hard thundershowers around the bend, and I'm going to be ready.

And this morning I used the Vancouver Sun Run Training guide--borrowed from the running through rain blog. I started with the "Week 2" program. Run one minute, walk four, repeat eight times. I suspect that I'm deluding myself that I'm not training toward a 10-km run. Today's time was about forty minutes, and today's distance was about 3 miles/5 km.







13 April 2007

And Yet Again

We interrupt your workday to bring you the Cthulhu Ipod Cover:



Normally we're not about the whole Lovecraft-love crafts here at Metroblog. But normally we're not much about normal anyway.

Besides, I'm just doing it to annoy Raincoaster. Who is also running through rain.







We Interrupt Your Workday

And for the second time, mine, to bring you this brilliant piece.

--Via Scienceblogs, specifically grrlscientist at Living the Scientific Life. Visit her current post on Karl Rove's raiders of the "lost" e-mails, too.







'Mommy, What's Nig ... ger Brown?'

This is actually a triumph.

Sure, a black woman was deeply insulted, and probably, understandably, doesn't want the furniture in her house.



But consider the quote:
"It was tough, because she really didn't understand. [...] She'd never heard that word before and didn't really understand the concept of it."


She'd never heard that word before.

One day there'll be twenty-seven-year-olds like her.

Or maybe not.

Over at the Doonesbury website, hotbed of what passes for liberalism in the US, the Straw Poll on Don Imus' big mouth has surprised me.

Imus called a black womens' basketball team "nappy-headed ho's" (For readers from Albion's Isles: 'nappy' is not referring to turbans or head scarves but to the texture of black peoples' hair).

In response to the question "Should Imus have been sacked?", ten thousand Doonesbury readers concluded "Of course not," excusing his racism by pointing to his job description ("shock jock").

I wonder what they might think if Imus had called them "hook-nosed hebes"?

"Swarthy camel traders?"

"Whiny bitches?"

Do any of those sound better?

If it'd been Rush Limbaugh or one of the other wingnutosphericals, Doonesbury's readership would surely have been calling for his head on a pike.

I find this strange, and even worrying. Don't these people realize that Future President Obama probably reads Doonesbury? And that thanks to his predecessor, he has the power to record their IP addies?







11 April 2007

While We're on the Subject of Running

I hadn't been to the gym for about five days. I'd done a little workout with my $35 home gym, but nothing really shirt-soakingly sweaty in a while.

So I made up my mind to run a mile today.

[*People who could care less may skip ahead to the asterisk]

Because it was frickin' cold this morning it was indoors on the treadmill--also 'cos I was a bit lazy and slow getting moving today. The irony of driving a mile to the gym in order to run a mile has never seemed so pointed.

I set up a "fat burner" program on the treadmill for 13 minutes, with the goal of making a mile in 12. I ran for 8 straight minutes, which may be a personal record, walked for the 9th, then ran the rest of the way. My top speed was 6.5 mph and my walk speed was 3.5 or so.

In the 15 minutes total I spent on the treadmill I went 1.43 miles.

And amazingly, I never once felt like dropping dead. In fact I didn't even notice the first 8 minutes. Even though my mp3 player died in 40 seconds. Or perhaps I outran it?

Working out for me involves the music player because I can't stop myself from thinking. I don't especially like exercise purely for the sake of exercise, and it seems very pointless except as a recreational choice.

So to run eight solid minutes without interruption, despite the fact that I was going nowhere and had no tunes to distract me, is a fairly big deal.

After some work on the weight machines I did another 10 minutes at 3.5 mph, just for yuks.

[*]

In all I covered 2 miles in about 25 minutes today. Shirt sucessfully soaked. It feels better than I thought it might.







10 April 2007

PWNing the H8rz

I get more inspired every time I look at Jacob Seilheimer's site. From the FAQ section:
Q: What happens if you don't finish the race? (Meghan Rodriguez - Tampa, FL)

A: Then the terrorists will have won... not an option.


Also:

Q: Will you marry me? (anonymous donor)

A: Yes.


Q: If not, why?

A: I already said yes. You know what, never mind... you're too controlling.

For a man who admits to drinking his life away in lonely misery most Saturday nights, Bear has guts. I mean, a chance like that doesn't come by on the web every day ... well okay--I've had a few offers. Many from "hot russian girls!!!" and "Lovely Asian Women™," But you get the point.

I think he's gonna make it, walk, run, crawl ... he'll do it even if it literally kills him. And I'm gonna put $1 US onto one of those charities for every one of the 26 miles, he travels. I invite all Avid Fans (all three of them) to do the same. Especially those who think he shouldn't be running it, and couldn't possibly make it.

In fact, here's my offer:

If he doesn't actually drop dead (a possibility I feel is unlikely, but still ...), I'll put in $2 US for every mile he doesn't cover, plus $1 for every one he does. Avid fans who don't believe he can make it will put in $2 for every mile he makes it, to a maximum of $25 US, and nothing for any miles he doesn't cover.

So if he goes all the way, he gets $26 from me plus $25 from each Avid Fan who takes me up on this. If he makes it half-way, he gets $39 from me, and $25 again. If he drops at the starting line, he gets $52 from me and nada from anyone else.

Everybody wins--except me, possibly.

If he drops out because he's injured, I'll acknowledge losing the bet and pay $1.50 a mile. After all, the trained athletes in this game drop out with injuries all the time too.

Donations will be verified by using printed receipts from one of the three charities Bear's running for, signed by witnesses and exchanged by snail mail. Notarization will not be required, since anyone who'd welch on such a bet would be so small-souled as to be not worth the wear and tear on the pillory, and will eventually be ruined by their own foul Karma.

You need not be an Avid Fan, anyone stumbling along on the info highway is welcome. If you're up for this, leave a message saying so in the comments along with a link or e-mail addy I can reach you at. Format any e-mail addresses as "myaccount AT somehost DOT com" to avoid spambots.

Any takers?







09 April 2007

H8RZ #1

I found this on one of the science blogs.

In less than a week, a 360-lb student named Jacob Seilheimer is going to run the Boston Marathon.

He's doing it for charity.

He's doing it by not registering: registering would require him to compete in another marathon first.

His purpose is twofold: one, to "Refuse to be treated as a second-class citizen any longer."

Given the rocketing rates of obesity in the US, perhaps that's a valid exercise. Speaking as someone trying to lose as much as a fifth of my body weight, I sympathize, uneasily.

Some sample statements from his site:
Have you ever had little kids point at you and laugh while you're walking down the street?

Worry about if the chair you're sitting in is going to collapse at a restaurant?

Drinking your misery away at the bar because love obviously isn't finding you tonight or any night for that matter?


I want to welcome you to my life on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and thrice on Sunday.

But that was yesterday. And today is a new day. Today is my day to shine. I'm drawing a line in the dirt and taking a stand.

Stop By As I'll Be Posting A New Training
Video Each Week (Assuming I Don't Die First).


Cue up the Rocky theme.

Secondly, he's doing it for charity. I thought this was a terrific and irreverant way of directing some attention and some funds to a couple of good causes: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the American Cancer Society, and the Special Olympics.

That's an effort we can all get behind, right?

Only, not so. As usual, the wondrous magic of the internet brings the fatuous @$$#0!3s out of the woodwork. A few gems:
Boston represents a sacred goal. I'm sure that you have received an exception to run because of your fundraising efforts. In my opinion, this is why you don't belong. Anyone who runs Boston should earn it [...] Best regards.
--John Toth, Palmdale CA

"There's something about seeing a man that large jiggle and struggle that much that brings a smile to my face."
-- Corey T. - The Rock, AK

"I ran a marathon and trained with an official group for 9 months. You have no chance of ever winning this race. You won't even qualify you piece of sh*%. Why don't you crawl back under the large rock you came from and stop wasting everybody's time?"
--Tina Reynolds - Kansas

"I couldn't believe it when I actually saw you running in the flesh the other day. I mean I saw how pathetic you are on your website and knew you were in the area but wow. I know they say the camera adds 20 pounds but in your case, it does you no justice. YOU ARE FAT. YOU ARE A LOSER!"
-- Tommy McHale - Milford, NH


"Why don't you go crash a wedding and eat some cake you fat f@ck because that's the closest to love you're ever going to get! Why would anybody ever consider talking to you. MISERABLE!!"
-- Sharon Nicholls - St. Louis, MO


You get the idea. I suppose there might be a case for arguing that his presence might somehow profane that "sacred goal" of runners (to get yourself into peak shape to run until you piss blood, lose all sphincter control, and otherwise have a great time). But these sorts of reactions make me hope there'll be a freak event, say a downed power line or epidemic of warm mayonnaise, that leaves him the undisputed winner.

Wonder where I could score a large quantity of heavy guage copper wire and a map of the Marathon? Or maybe some of those Peter Pan glucose gel-packs?

Eases Evil Genius powered chair back into the shadows, stroking chin thoughtfully.







Via Mme Metro: Quiz du Jour

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.


As I am thus far the only one whose blog is the right colour, I feel vindicated in doing my little happy dance. Please add comments (but only thoughtful ones) below.







08 April 2007

Easter Sunday Thunks

In my little town
I grew up believing,
God keeps his eye on us all

--Paul Simon, "My Little Town"

This is a long post, 'cos I been thunking.

As regular readers know, I'm a lapsed Catholic with an uneasy side of atheism. But you don't just shrug off the conditioning of the first seventeen years of your life.

The Church was not the centre of our family life, but it was central. So when a feast day comes along I feel a vague tug in what passes me for a soul to seek a tall building and sin.

Sorry--"sing". But either one works. People totally underestimate the force of Christian guilt. Freedom from Christian guilt, and the transformation of such into smug self-satisfaction is, I am sure, a major element in the decisions of some of my peers to switch churches and go with the more evangelical sects.

To exacerbate matters, I'm currently involved in a production of "The Cotton Patch Gospel". The Harry Chapin tunes, largely driven by stand-up bass, banjo, mandolin and guitar, as well as some lovely harmonies, are catchy, and it's impossible to watch this play three nights a week without thinking somewhat on Christianity. So I'm feeling a surplus of Catholic Guilt, and to those of you who have never experienced it, I cannot explain the force involved.

Wonder if there's a good leatherman shop in town?

Now that the perverts have rejoined us ...

So as I said, it's impossible to not think about gods, the Bible, etc. on this, the holiest feast day in the Catholic calendar. And though it might surprise some of my Avid Fans (all three of them) there are lessons I feel the Bible can teach, no matter what your faith or attitude towards that particular text.

Except for literal interpretationalists, they haven't a hope. Last night two guys in the back of the audience were murmuring sarcastically to one another: "Oh, so the Bible had it wrong all along--Jesus was born in Georgia."
A couple nights ago one man declared himself to be "uncomfortable" with the interpretation.

I assume they've never seen "Cats", and I can't
wait until they see 300.

So in the Easter spirit, here are three short lessons, drawn from the testing of Christ, according to Matthew.

In the Bible, it says Jesus went into the desert and fasted for forty days ("forty days" being an ancient idiom meaning "probably over three/six/ten days probably not six weeks").

The Devil appeared, and said "Hey, if you're God's son, turn these rocks into bread."
And Jesus said "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that issues from the mouth of the spirit."

Lesson 1: There's more to life than eating. Personally, I see that as including elements of a spiritual life, if you have one; or a feeling of community; and/or including art, literature and music in your life. Think about it: what would the human race be without music--particularly that generation conceived in the back seats of station wagons?

Then Jesus was taken up to a high place. And the devil said "Hey--didja know you could jump down from here and God would send angels to catch you so that you didn't splatter? It says so in the bible."

Jesus replied: "Get lost, eh? That book you mentioned also says 'Don't test god.'"

Lesson 2: Don't use your special abilities for parlour tricks. Or as Spider-Man might put it: "With great power comes great responsibility." Jesus only got one shot at resurrection, after all.

(Bonus lesson: I feel in my theistic moments that this also tells us that Jesus a) knew the Torah as well as anyone and b) was fully human and bound by the laws and rules governing humanity. That is, Satan could not test god, sure. But Jesus knew that if he did fling himself into the void it would be him testing God, and not the devil.)

Then the Devil took him up, and showed him "all the world, and all the kingdoms and mountains thereof" or something similar. And he offered Jesus dominion over them.

And Jesus said: "I know you. Get lost. The power isn't yours, but my Father's, and we're going to do things His way."

And at that, the Devil left him.

Lesson 3: Be careful who you associate with, who you enlist to fight in your cause. Because a good cause is poisoned with crooked alliances.

I can think of several political types who could take lesson 3 very much to heart.

Here endeth the lessons.







05 April 2007

Tripping the Big Smoke

Nope. Not whatcher thinking, I almost guarantee it.

Mme Metro and I took her teeth to be looked at in the city. It's about 900 km, round trip. We stayed overnight with friends and managed to take in dinner and the following day's lunch with no less than Raincoaster, who is slightly less tentacular in person, though looking rather peaky and clearly not getting enough spinach. I think she should consider some sort of purgative diet to cleanse her of accumulated poisons.

Dinner included pear, walnut and gorgonzola cheesecake, at a place known for what is colloquially called "gorgasm sauce" (a pasta topping).

The next day following, as Mme expressed it: "The fastest $240 I ever spent"--in and out in 15 minutes--we headed home. But I think we'll be sending her in on the bus for the follow-up. Upon arrival home I had to split to rehearse play number one.

I had gone to the gym Tuesday morning, and definitely overdid it, because after eight hours of driving my legs were burning all last night (That'll teach me to run almost the entire (slightly downhill) mile to the gym). But the long shot is that I was awake for about half of last night.

That's why I'm zombie-ing my way through work, trying to get it done so I can nap at my desk before I make my way to play number two. Since I haven't the energy to blog I'm offering you this, which I created myself, from scratch, with only a bag of random html tags to work with.

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!


Or possibly stole from Casa Az, I can't quite recall which, at the moment.

Wanna know the really cool thing about this trip?
I get to do it all again next week!







02 April 2007

Bill Donahue Shows His True Colours

A follow-up, via Crooks and Liars, to my post on My Sweet Saviour, text from the Anderson Cooper transcript in which Bill-O behaves like a whining child, even though in his own words "I won and you lost".

Nyeah!

[link to C&L's video] Emphasis in bold is mine.

[snip]
COOPER: Cosimo, do you understand the outrage this has caused? I mean, do you think it's overreaction? Do you get it?

C. CAVALLARO: Yes, I get it. I think it's an overreaction.

You just heard the gentleman calling artists losers, or me a loser. I think what he's — his assault is on the public at large, artists, and freedom of speech, and every Catholic. I'm a Catholic, and I'm a Christian.

And I think this gentleman doesn't even represent the people that are in his faith.

DONAHUE: That's funny. You said I put out a fatwa, right? Or the — or the — that was the — the guy who ran the lab, says I put out a fatwa. I put out a news release.

So, you're accusing me of being like the Taliban; is that right?

C. CAVALLARO: Who, me? You're not that intelligent.

(LAUGHTER)

DONAHUE: Oh, no, let me tell you something. You're — you're lucky I'm not as mean, because you might lose more than your head.

[/snip]

Bill, may I refer you to the other half of the Bible? Specifically the bit about "Love thy neighbour as thyself".

Of course it doesn't sound as if Donahue likes himself very much, either.

[sliceoflife]
While pursuing the story around the tubes of the 'nets, I stumbled across the Mahablog. There I saw this comment:
It used to be "Who ate the ears off my chocolate bunny?" Now there is the possibility of "Who ate the ____ off My Sweet Jesus?"
.
The answer to which, according to another comment, is Ted Haggard.
[/sliceoflife]

Thence I found my way to Thought Theater where I spotted this, from Tom Waits.


--Chocolate Jesus

In conclusion, my boss clearly isn't getting value for money today, but I'm having a lot of fun, as well as distracting myself from the distracting thought that I'm being sued for an accident I had two years back.







For the Preservation of Our Sacred Fortunes

The purpose of the Canadian tax code.

I have a simple philosophy regarding my taxes: if it's too complicated for an average citizen (me) to fill out unaided, then the government needs to simplify the tax code.

So I'm burrowing my way through the dense mass of paper that complicates the lives of those of us too cheap to pay some someone to timidly honk the nuts of government and make them give me back my money ...

When I realize the fundamental purpose of the tax code.

It is to preserve the fortunes of millionaires.

Do you doubt this? Consider then, the difference between the way charitable donations are treated and the way political contributions are handled.

With charitable contributions, the calculation comes one full page before the end of the form. You have to complete a "schedule". This process allows you to write off:
15% of amounts up to $200
29% of amounts above that figure.

So already, someone making poverty income in Canada, let's say $30,000, is scrod. Assuming he can spare it, he donates $300 to worthy causes. He is allowed to deduct $60. That's it.

Having donated 1% of his total income to improving this groaning world he is allowed to claim 0.2% back.

Not even as a refund, but as a "non-refundable tax credit"; and if his deductions are more than his taxes, that credit doesn't count toward anything, it just vanishes.

However, the calculation for political contributions is the second-to-last step in the calculation chain, and rather more straightforward. It consists of:
1) State amount of political contributions.
2) Deduct that amount.

That's it.

So Joe Millionaire, income $100,000, makes a $1,000 dollar contribution to Stephen Harper or whomever and his merry band(its). That's 1% of his income.

He gets every penny back. It's reduced not as a "non-refundable credit", but off his taxes owing.

Presumably politicians regard such contributions as more worthy than donations to UNICEF, for example. And what motivation is there for changing this regime?

Well let's consider who writes the tax code ...

The conclusion is left as an exercise for the student.







01 April 2007

Permission to Think It Through

Doonesbury author (and yes, it's a comic, but he's still an author) really has a gift for putting things simply.

From today's strip:
"Really [sarge]? So if congress doesn't support the troops, I go home to my family, but if they do support us, we have to keep returning to the meat grinder?"

[...]

"Permission to think it through denied."