God tells me to copy and paste, so you can't stop me. -- Kate

"You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..." -- G.W. Bush

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Ya know, collectors are just waaaaaay out of hand with the lovely little goodies they like to collect.

Here is something everyone needs to show off in their homes, the chicken nativity.

There are even more animal nativity sets to enjoy.

Hey kids, it’s time to play “cheese chicken!”

Monday, December 27, 2004

”It's our silver wedding next years so I'll wait till then and then we'll see."

Does she really think things will change next year?

Video game 'record score' claim
A man who has spent at least two hours a day practising on a vintage video game for the past 25 years has secured what he says is the highest ever score.

Gary Whelan, of Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, has been playing the space invaders game, Galaxian, since 1980.

He said he had set a world record of 399,290 points, beating the previous record held by a Californian.

Mr Whelan said he would not stop playing until he had reached at least a million points.

He said: "You've got to put some effort into it and some time into it.

"My marriage is probably the same.

"The worst it's been is if my wife shouts me for my tea. I say 'I'll be down in a minute', but obviously, if I'm on a good run, I'll keep on going till my tea's cold."

His understanding wife of 24 years, Trish, said she had not considered divorcing him.

"It's not like I didn't know what I was getting into," she said.

"He has always been really interested in video games.

"At least I know where he is and what he's up to. It's our silver wedding next years so I'll wait till then and then we'll see."
Yup, next year will be sooooo much different.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Just a quick update. I sent this letter to my cousin at Suburban Guerrilla. Need to find somewhere else to send those phone cards.

Hi Susie,
Did you know that if you Google, "phone cards wounded" you get a bunch of sites asking for cards and to send them to WR Hosp? Guess what, they want people to stop.

Since you have a much bigger readership than my little blog, I was wondering if you could post something for me. I think you posted something about Walter Reed Hosp needing phone cards for the wounded not too long ago.

Well, I called them and they don't need any more. I collected money at work to send cards. I called to see what denominations were best and the poor guy sounded a little tired of phone cards. He said "we don't have room to store them" and "we're asking people to stop sending them."

I was wondering if you could post it. The number for WR Medical Family Assistance Center is 1-866-546-1310 and 202-782-2071. You may not want to post the phone number but if you wanted to check things out or see if they needed anything else, I didn't think to ask.

People who still want to donate phone cards could send cards through this website (they have good card rates and go directly to USO, Red Cross and others groups):

I read that their goal was 50,000 minutes, that's a little over 34 days of straight talk time. If they got that much then they're probably ok for cards for awhile.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Wow, I did some online shopping at work and I know that I didn’t shop anywhere near as long as these people, and I did it mostly at lunch time. Time on blogs and blogging, now that’s a different story.

Internet boom for gift shopping

Cyberspace is becoming a very popular destination for Christmas shoppers.
Forecasts predict that British people will spend £4bn buying gifts online during the festive season, an increase of 64% on 2003.
. . .
Top shoppers
Almost half of the UK population now shop online according to figures collected by the Interactive Media in Retail Group which represents web retailers.

About 85% of this group, 18m people, expect to do a lot of their Christmas gift buying online this year, reports the industry group.

On average each shopper will spend £220 and Britons lead Europe in their affection for online shopping.

Almost a third of all the money spent online this Christmas will come out of British wallets and purses compared to 29% from German shoppers and only 4% from Italian gift buyers.

. . .
Much of this online shopping is likely to be done during work time, according to research carried out by security firm Saint Bernard Software.

The research reveals that up to two working days will be lost by staff who do their shopping via their work computer.

Worst offenders will be those in the 18-35 age bracket, suggests the research, who will spend up to five hours per week in December browsing and buying at online shops.

. . .

This is interesting and I guess they’re wrong, about memory being the first thing to go.

Ten odours 'help spot dementia
Lemon, lilac and leather are three of 10 odours that can be used to tell whether a person is likely to develop dementia, according to US scientists.

A Columbia University team tested the odours on 150 people with minimal to mild cognitive impairment.

Those who went on to develop Alzheimer's disease performed poorly in terms of identifying the 10 smells.

Experts welcomed the study, but said such tests should not used in isolation as a test for Alzheimer's.

Telling smells
The odours also included clove, smoke, menthol, pineapple, natural gas, soap and strawberry.

The study was described to the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Doctors have known for some time that smell is one of the first things to go when someone develops dementia.

Although it is impossible to diagnose Alzheimer's disease with 100% certainty whilst a person is alive, memory tests, genetic tests and brain scans can give an idea of whether this form of dementia is likely.

More recently, smell tests have been added to the tools used to predict dementia risk.

Dr Davangere Devanand and colleagues set out to determine which odours are best to use.

They tested 150 people with minimal to mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

In this condition, people have memory problems that are hard to discern from those found with normal ageing.

Some people with MCI will remain healthy, but others will go on to develop full-blown dementia.

The team tested the volunteers' ability to distinguish between different odours once a year for five years.

Compared with the MCI volunteers who did not go on to develop full-blown dementia and 63 healthy elderly people, those with MCI who developed Alzheimer's performed poorly on the test.

Ten odours were particularly good markers of Alzheimer's risk and the results based on these markers tallied with memory test results and brain scan signs of dementia.

Dr Devanand said the test could help spot Alzheimer's sooner.

"Early diagnosis is critical for patients and their families to receive the most beneficial treatment and medications," he said.

Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell at Cardiff University, said the smell test was a good idea, but it was essential that it was used in conjunction with other tests for Alzheimer's and backed by expert advice and support.

Future tests
"Smell can be affected by a great many things - if you have a cold, for example. Or before a meal, your sense is more acute than after a meal.

"In the US, you can buy a self-testing Alzheimer's kit based on smell, which I think is unethical and horrifying."

He said the test could be improved by quantifying how well a person is able to discern odours. He is currently trying to do this.

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "The physician relies on several tests to reach a best clinical judgement.

"A test that is quick to carry out and non-invasive would, if proven to work, be a significant step forward."
The Alzheimer's Society is funding a study at Oxford University looking into a person's ability to smell lavender.

Dr Steve DeKosky, chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Panel for Alzheimer's Disease International, said: "Although tests for smell are usually abnormal in Alzheimer's, they have not been reliable enough to help with diagnosis, in part because many older people, and a number of late-life brain diseases also have problems with naming odours.

"This study...may help make the diagnosis earlier and perhaps more accurate."

Friday, December 10, 2004

All for the want of a tree . . .
Trees for Democracy
Published: December 10, 2004
Nairobi, Kenya

WHEN I was growing up in Nyeri in central Kenya, there was no word for desert in my mother tongue, Kikuyu. Our land was fertile and forested. But today in Nyeri, as in much of Africa and the developing world, water sources have dried up, the soil is parched and unsuitable for growing food, and conflicts over land are common. So it should come as no surprise that I was inspired to plant trees to help meet the basic needs of rural women. As a member of the National Council of Women of Kenya in the early 1970's, I listened as women related what they wanted but did not have enough of: energy, clean drinking water and nutritious food.

My response was to begin planting trees with them, to help heal the land and break the cycle of poverty. Trees stop soil erosion, leading to water conservation and increased rainfall. Trees provide fuel, material for building and fencing, fruits, fodder, shade and beauty. As household managers in rural and urban areas of the developing world, women are the first to encounter the effects of ecological stress. It forces them to walk farther to get wood for cooking and heating, to search for clean water and to find new sources of food as old ones disappear.

My idea evolved into the Green Belt Movement, made up of thousands of groups, primarily of women, who have planted 30 million trees across Kenya. The women are paid a small amount for each seedling they grow, giving them an income as well as improving their environment. The movement has spread to countries in East and Central Africa.

Through this work, I came to see that environmental degradation by poor communities was both a source of their problems and a symptom. Growing crops on steep mountain slopes leads to loss of topsoil and land deterioration. Similarly, deforestation causes rivers to dry up and rainfall patterns to shift, which, in turn, result in much lower crop yields and less land for grazing.

In the 1970's and 1980's, as I was encouraging farmers to plant trees on their land, I also discovered that corrupt government agents were responsible for much of the deforestation by illegally selling off land and trees to well-connected developers. In the early 1990's, the livelihoods, the rights and even the lives of many Kenyans in the Rift Valley were lost when elements of President Daniel arap Moi's government encouraged ethnic communities to attack one another over land. Supporters of the ruling party got the land, while those in the pro-democracy movement were displaced. This was one of the government's ways of retaining power; if communities were kept busy fighting over land, they would have less opportunity to demand democracy.

Land issues in Kenya are complex and easily exploited by politicians. Communities needed to understand and be sensitized about the history of land ownership and distribution in Kenya and Africa. We held seminars on human rights, governing and reducing conflict.

In time, the Green Belt Movement became a leading advocate of reintroducing multiparty democracy and free and fair elections in Kenya. Through public education, political advocacy and protests, we also sought to protect open spaces and forests from unscrupulous developers, who were often working hand in hand with politicians, through public education, political advocacy and protests. Mr. Moi's government strongly opposed advocates for democracy and environmental rights; harassment, beatings, death threats and jail time followed, for me and for many others.

Fortunately, in 2002, Kenyans realized their dream and elected a democratic government. What we've learned in Kenya - the symbiotic relationship between the sustainable management of natural resources and democratic governance - is also relevant globally.

Indeed, many local and international wars, like those in West and Central Africa and the Middle East, continue to be fought over resources. In the process, human rights, democracy and democratic space are denied.

I believe the Nobel Committee recognized the links between the environment, democracy and peace and sought to bring them to worldwide attention with the Peace Prize that I am accepting today. The committee, I believe, is seeking to encourage community efforts to restore the earth at a time when we face the ecological crises of deforestation, desertification, water scarcity and a lack of biological diversity.

Unless we properly manage resources like forests, water, land, minerals and oil, we will not win the fight against poverty. And there will not be peace. Old conflicts will rage on and new resource wars will erupt unless we change the path we are on.

To celebrate this award, and the work it recognizes of those around the world, let me recall the words of Gandhi: My life is my message. Also, plant a tree.

Wangari Maathai, the 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is Kenya's assistant minister for environment and natural resources and the founder of the Green Belt Movement.

Makes me not trust politicians and businesses all over again.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Poor old Rummy, maybe it’s time he got out of the game.

Troops' Queries Leave Rumsfeld on the Defensive

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" that will affect National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."
I thought maybe he’d do a Zell Miller and say “Get out of my face.”

And hell, that's an awful thing to say to a bunch of people who are expected to be on the top of their game all the time after long hours and in the middle of a war zone. Come on soldiers, give the old guy a break. He gets fed better than you, he has a staff to do stuff for him and a shower and clean clothes every day. Oh and the odds of Rumsfield being shot at are pretty low. He deserves a break.

This is what Rummy came up with about the armor. It’s a real morale booster.
He said adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."
Let’s face it, in the long term, lack of armor is cheaper for the government. A single payout of life insurance is sooooo much cheaper than lifetime healthcare for maimed military personnel. What a bunch of bleeps.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Inventing a Crisis
Published: December 7, 2004

Privatizing Social Security - replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts - won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse. Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.

I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis.

There's nothing strange or mysterious about how Social Security works: it's just a government program supported by a dedicated tax on payroll earnings, just as highway maintenance is supported by a dedicated tax on gasoline.

Right now the revenues from the payroll tax exceed the amount paid out in benefits. This is deliberate, the result of a payroll tax increase - recommended by none other than Alan Greenspan - two decades ago. His justification at the time for raising a tax that falls mainly on lower- and middle-income families, even though Ronald Reagan had just cut the taxes that fall mainly on the very well-off, was that the extra revenue was needed to build up a trust fund. This could be drawn on to pay benefits once the baby boomers began to retire.

The grain of truth in claims of a Social Security crisis is that this tax increase wasn't quite big enough. Projections in a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (which are probably more realistic than the very cautious projections of the Social Security Administration) say that the trust fund will run out in 2052. The system won't become "bankrupt" at that point; even after the trust fund is gone, Social Security revenues will cover 81 percent of the promised benefits. Still, there is a long-run financing problem.

But it's a problem of modest size. The report finds that extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to only 0.54 percent of G.D.P. That's less than 3 percent of federal spending - less than we're currently spending in Iraq. And it's only about one-quarter of the revenue lost each year because of President Bush's tax cuts - roughly equal to the fraction of those cuts that goes to people with incomes over $500,000 a year.

Given these numbers, it's not at all hard to come up with fiscal packages that would secure the retirement program, with no major changes, for generations to come.

It's true that the federal government as a whole faces a very large financial shortfall. That shortfall, however, has much more to do with tax cuts - cuts that Mr. Bush nonetheless insists on making permanent - than it does with Social Security.

But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one.

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: first, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity - it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980's was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: the same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis - you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.

There's no honest way anyone can hold both these positions, but very little about the privatizers' position is honest. They come to bury Social Security, not to save it. They aren't sincerely concerned about the possibility that the system will someday fail; they're disturbed by the system's historic success.

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it.
So, basically what he’s saying, it would be easy to fix Social Security. We need the new jobs that Bush has been promising for months now. Or we need everybody needs a raise so tax receipts will rise. Oh well, so much for fixing Social Security.

By the way . . .

The fight over raising the debt limit has become a staple of the Bush years, which will have now seen three such increases and two consecutive record annual deficits.

The government reached the current $7.38 trillion cap last month, paying its bills since with investments from a civil service retirement account [my retirement account with my name on it], which it plans to repay. Even so, Republican leaders postponed the showdown vote until after the election, realizing Democrats would use the issue to highlight the red ink of the Bush years
From :Bush signs $800 billion debt limit hike

Why the hell did the Dems let them get away with this?? Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to retire.

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