29 November 2005


This is hard, because there at least two blog posts I really want to write right now (one is on Iraq, the other is about how November totally kicked my butt), but I'm not going to do it! No sir! Not until I get these bleeding law school applications finished! And the living room cleaned out at least somewhat!

So that's it. No more blogging until the applications are all done. With any luck it won't be that long.

28 November 2005


So... I read Freakonomics, which apparently is one of the biggest nonfiction books of the year.

I didn't buy it, though, I borrowed it from a friend. It turns to be very interesting and thought provoking, but I'm not sure it's quite as amazing as a lot of folks are saying. The main problem with this book is that not everything in the world can be explained with the cold logic of economics. I like the book's premise--that we can use the tools of economics to answer all sorts of questions. I like the idea of coming up with my own questions and trying to find solutions in the same manner as the book's authors. But I am not among those who believe that all of live can ultimately reduced to algorithms. Messrs Levitt and Dubner seem to think that is possible.

I may write a longer review when I'm feeling better, but I might not. This book gets... oh, I don't know. It's probably worth a read, I mean, it is interesting. Just don't forget your salt.


So... I read Freakonomics, which apparently is one of the biggest nonfiction books of the year.

I didn't buy it, though, I borrowed it from a friend. It turns to be very interesting and thought provoking, but I'm not sure it's quite as amazing as a lot of folks are saying. The main problem with this book is that not everything in the world can be explained with the cold logic of economics. I like the book's premise--that we can use the tools of economics to answer all sorts of questions. I like the idea of coming up with my own questions and trying to find solutions in the same manner as the book's authors. But I am not among those who believe that all of live can ultimately reduced to algorithms. Messrs Levitt and Dubner seem to think that is possible.

I may write a longer review when I'm feeling better, but I might not. This book gets... oh, I don't know. It's probably worth a read, I mean, it is interesting. Just don't forget your salt.


Laid low by gastroenteritis, I had hoped not to do anything but sit around in the recliner and sleep today. Had hoped. But the office doesn't let me do that.

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and came home Sunday night. I had a spot of dinner, but poured myself a glass of milk to drink with it. The milk, it turns out, was bad. I only drank one swallow of it, but that was all it took. Lord only knows what was in there, but it wasn't very nice.

I didn't even lie down in bed before I got sick the first time. Then I felt so much better I took a shower and lay down, thinking it was all over. Ha! One AM was a harsh hour for me. So was three-thirty. I don't think I ever got any actual sleep.

Lying there in the bed later in the morning, I became acutely aware of every joint in my body, and the way the bones fit into them. I could feel each individual bone, and how it was situated. I just couldn't get even remotely comfortable; if I lay on my back my neck hurt, if I rolled on my side my shoulders and arms hurt, on my stomach nothing felt good at all.

I stayed in bed anyway. The phone rang around 8. I had to go in to the office. Ugh.
I left the house around 9'30, quite ill. I never realized how lousy the roads are in Tampa until this morning, but I could feel every single bump in the road--every concrete joint on Bayshore, every manhole cover, every bump in the pavement on base. I about got sick just driving in.

Fortunately, I got my work finished fairly quickly, and came back home, where I slept on the recliner for a while. I had corn flakes for lunch, which stayed down, and made some chicken noodle soup in the crockpot which I'm enjoying now.

My advice: smell the milk before you drink it.

27 November 2005

More Pots!

I have some new pots over at St. Pete Clay. So here are some photos.

First we have the standard pic of everything new.

First we have the long-awaited ugly face jar. Not much to say about this. The salt firing added nice pitting and made him even uglier.

Here is a big fat jug. This is the first jug I've thrown in two parts.

This item here is a nice jar I've glazed all over with amber celadon, which is a glaze I've tried for many years to produce and which, as you can see, I have not yet perfected. But the jar is still pretty nice anyway.

And finally we have the Christmas Jar. I don't know what exactly made this jar turn out the way it did, but it's beautiful, and if it doesn't sell at this weekend's Christmas Sale (8-4, Saturday and Sunday, at the studio on S 22nd St), it's coming home with me.

23 November 2005


Ooo! I have pottery pictures! But I'm also about to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I must get on the road shortly or I'll have to fight rush hour traffic. I'll post on Sunday.
Enjoy the holiday and we'll all be back together in a few days.

21 November 2005

A Ramblin' Man

The title could have multiple meanings. I don't really have anything to say, but imagine that I'll ramble on a bit anyway.

Tampa is a great city, don't get me wrong, and I've enjoyed living here at least as much as I would have enjoyed living anywhere else the AF might have sent me. That said, there are some things I miss.
The weather here has been more or less exactly the same at all times that I've been here. I've deployed during the winter and during the hottest part of the summer, and every time I come home from a deployment, the weather here is the same as it was when I left. I didn't think much about it until I started spending so much time here this past year, and I realized that the weather was pretty much always the same.

Today, at last, we got an actual cold front, and it was dreary and grey and rainy, even if only for two hours. It felt like actual weather. I loved it, but at the same time I was a little cheesed by how exciting it was. Today, for the first time in about a year, I wanted to pick up and drive away and not come back.

I grew up in Florida. I shouldn't get sudden urges to drop everything and drive to Cheboygan, Michigan, so I can see some snow and a genuine winter storm. But I got one. This is, alas, a sign that less has changed in my outlook over the last several months that I might want to think.

Turns out, I'm still not ready to settle down, even though I claim to be. I first noticed this thought creeping around in my brain on Sunday, during my bike ride. Smith & Associates (no relation) was showing a few units in The Meridian and Victory Lofts, over in Channelside. I rode up and took the tour. I was mostly interested in seeing The Meridian, the outside of which I quite like, but it was Victory Lofts that really caught my interest. All my life when I've thought about living in the city, I've been picturing Victory Lofts; I just hadn't realized it until Sunday. I can't afford anything in that building, but some day when I've made my money selling tawdry novels (I always knew Lauderdale would be tawdry, but it's become more so as I've written it) I'd like to pick up something like one of the city view penthouses at Victory Lofts.

But while I was thinking these thoughts on Sunday, I was also thinking about what it would really mean to put down roots here in Tampa. I like this city. In two or three years, downtown is really going to be an exciting place to live. And I don't want to be here for it. I'm just ready to go.

For the last year, I've been thinking that what got me depressed and anxious about the Air Force was the inability to stay in one place and put down roots. But that's not quite the problem. I don't really care to put down any roots; I just want to be able to say when and where I'm going to go, and I can't do that in the service.

That said, the age of the Dharma Bums is over. I'm not aware of a way I could move around the country at a whim and still maintain continued employment that would keep me fed, clothed, and housed, and allow me to keep my car, library, and laptop in good shape. If anyone is aware of a career that would allow this, please tell me all about it.

That said, the "laptop in good shape" bit is causing me some trouble right now (see, I told you I'd start rambling). I've owned the current machine (known as The Governor) since January of 2003, so this one has had a fairly good run, certainly longer and less troubled than the previous iteration (Betty). But in the spring of 2004, the power plant on this machine crapped out, and it could no longer accept a charge through the ac adapter. I sent it in for repair; it was a huge saga that I won't detail here, but suffice to say it took over a month before I finally had a working computer again, and they'd had to wipe the hard drive.

I'm much better about backing up these days, but The Governor has reached what I consider the goal life span of one of these machines and I've thought for a while now that if anything broke on it again I'd just replace it. Well... the power plant's going to die again soon. Initially I thought there might be a problem with the AC adapter itself, since the plug on it where it attaches to the computer is looking somewhat corroded. I got a new adapter in the mail today from HP. The new one doesn't work any better than the old one, although it does look better without the corrosion.

This means that I now find myself in the market for a new laptop. I hate shopping for these things. They cost way too damned much money, and to get the few things I really need in such a machine I usually have to buy something with far more functionality than I really need (and thus have to spend more than I want to). With unemployment looming in the distance, I'm not keen to spend much...but then, I do need a computer. While I have a terrific old Smith Corona typewriter waiting for me in Atlanta, it's not functional at the moment; I'm also not really going to try to write a novel longhand, much less get it published.

So, if you A) know of a job where I can pick up and move any time I want, or B) have a suggestion for an inexpensive but somewhat customizable laptop, I want to hear about it. And if you just want to say that you totally feel the same way about wanting to go someplace new all the time, I want to hear about that, too. Especially if you're a single woman, because obviously we're meant to be.

20 November 2005

Sunday Morning

This morning I took my usual Sunday constitutional a little later than normal, so there was more traffic on the roads than normal. Not a big deal. I wouldn't want to do it during a weekday rush hour, but downtown is not a hard place to ride a bike around in--at least as long as Mayor Iorio keeps the lights timed.

This morning I rode around the back side of The Floridan hotel, renovations to which were supposed to have got underway some weeks ago. They aren't, but then we've heard the line about renovations getting under way every few weeks now for the last year.

But there is something going on at the old hotel; a sign at street level indicates that the city is to hear a request for a special tax exemption on December 8th, which presumably the owners want in place before beginning their work. Or, this could just be one in a long line of stalling tactics. But somebody's been in the building recently, as three inflatable snowmen now adorn the top of the building; I first noticed them yesterday on my way home from work.

As I was riding along the sidewalk on the south side of the building, a visibly drunk person driving an extremely shiny and evidently new black pickup truck stopped beside me. He had a lot to say, but was having difficulty forming the words he wanted to use. Among other things, he told me he wanted to get to Busch Gardens. I started to say how to get there, but he launched into a spiel about how he was only in Tampa for a day and wanted to make his mark--I shudder to think what he meant--and several other things, none of which I could make out. The shiny new pickup had a shiny new smoker in the back, one of the things you'd use to cook a few hundred hamburgers, for example, and he gestured at it a lot, but I couldn't tell what he was saying.

He had two passengers, both shabbily dressed and also visibly drunk. The driver was wearing what might have been the only decent clothes he had, and a black cowboy hat exactly like the one Kenny Chesney was wearing in the poster advertising his newest album that was pasted on the boarded up window of the Floridan behind me. Where he had picked up these other two I had no idea, but it occurred to me that he might have stolen the truck, the clothes, and possibly the passengers as well. I didn't want to ask.

After making what were evidently supposed to be jokes (lots of laughing involved, anyway), he mentioned that he also wanted to pick up a prostitute. I assume this was in fact the only thing he wanted to do. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I knew where to send him. It was far easier to give him directions to Nebraska Avenue (just head down this street a few blocks and turn up Nebraska Avenue, that's where you want to go) than to get him all the way up to Busch Gardens, to which he was too drunk to be admitted anyway. But prostitutes? Yeah, I know where you can get those.

Really, I don't know from personal experience or anything. But I live in downtown Tampa; I have lived here for two years and I read the papers. I know that if I ever wanted to score some drugs and pick up a hooker, I'd head right over to Nebraska.

The fact that this comes up on a Sunday morning is probably a sign.

17 November 2005

Capitol Football

This came from The Hill e-News, and I found it so amusing I had to share.

The first annual "Longest Yard" Fall Classic, a football game between members of Congress and the Capitol Police, ended in a 14-14 tie yesterday. The event raised funds for the Capitol Police Memorial fund and the game was played despite torrential rain and dropping temperatures Thursday night...
...More than 30 members of Congress participated; former Nebraska Head Coach Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) coached the members' team.
Although the contest was billed as flag football by the bipartisan press release, the game was so rough that one member, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), sustained a head injury that required stitches.

A head injury requiring stitches? Wow, that's more contact than you see in late-season NFL games between teams with losing records. I'm impressed. Rep. Tom Osborne, by the way, is running for governor of Nebraska next year, which is all the more reason to go there as far as I'm concerned.

If one school board is lousy, why would two be better?

Today’s Tampa Tribune contains an article detailing some legislators’ plan to allow Florida’s larger school districts to split into smaller districts.

When I was going to college in South Carolina it always interested me that even relatively small counties in that state have three or sometimes five separate school districts within them. Then, when I moved to Texas, I found that some school districts covered two or three counties, or that any given county might have parts of several districts in them with no regard to county lines at all. Having grown up in Florida, where every county has one school district and one school board, this was pretty weird.

The article notes that “some studies suggest that smaller districts do a better job of educating students,” though it doesn’t describe any of the studies or even name them, so it might just be a lie. Google came to the rescue with a couple of studies, and there’s more (but not too much more) after the jump.

Now, I’m a small-government guy. I tend to think that no problem is so large that adding more government to it can’t make it worse. Thus, my first impression here is, Florida has only 67 school districts, thus only 67 school boards and 67 sets of bickering politicians, 67 separate district administrations sucking money away from classrooms to run their administrative duties, 67 separate boards to spend campaign money on, and so on. Compare this against South Carolina, which has less than a fifth of Florida’s population and only 43 counties, but has over 150 school districts—and thus 150 sets of bickering politicians etc. And note that South Carolina’s schools are not notably better (nor much worse) than Florida’s. I just don’t see how smaller school districts would change anything.

But Google found me several papers that purport to show exactly that: smaller districts would be better. Unfortunately, a lot of them are useless.

Here’s an article from the University of Minnesota that asks if "some districts are too small or large to offer a quality education," but then fails to answer that question. It does offer some background, though (but it makes use of one of my least favorite statistics, the "top 10% makes up X part of the total, while the bottom 10% makes up only Y part of the total." This is a statistic of the type "informative but valueless.").

Here we have a comment on people power in large v. small school districts that bases most of its argument on the fact that something "stands to reason." So this study is basically worthless.

So I've left the best three studies for last. This study argues, contrary to my logic above, that large school districts actually spend more on non-essentials than would more small school districts. It's worth looking at.

Here's a very good study that says very clearly that smaller school districts have a positive effect on graduation rate. Unfortunately, it seems there are a lot of variables they don't seem to have corrected for.

Finally, this study, called School Inflation, is probably the best. It also has some interesting conclusions. The study seems to indicate that larger districts might actually be better, as long as the larger districts have smaller schools. Probably the most nuanced study here.

Anyway, after I tracked down and skimmed all these studies (you think I actually read them all?) I sort of forgot where I was going with this post. I think my main point was going to be this:

I don't think smaller districts are going to solve any problem that couldn't be solved by not creating additional levels of bureaucracy, as I said above. And after looking through these studies, I'm not sure I've seen anything that clearly proves me wrong. But I think it's an interesting point nonetheless and I know I have some readers from South Carolina so I'm keen to hear what, if anything, they think about all this.

16 November 2005

Doggie love

Here's an article from Bay News 9 about how dogs can improve the health of heart patients. It's the second story on the page.

Last night I watched Bay News 9 while I ate dinner--which I started eating around 9, after getting home at 8'30 following a 13-hour day--and they had the dog story on as I sat down. It reminded me of something I noticed around Christmas of 2003.

My grandmother was suffering from congestive heart failure then, and was in an extended care facility at the retirement community she'd lived in for some years. My folks and I went up to visit over Christmas (actually drove north on Christmas Day), as I was to deploy in the first week of January and would probably not get to visit her again. Because of the short notice trip we brought the family dog along rather than boarding her at the kennel.

The retirement community, including the hospital, had always had fairly liberal policies about dogs, and we brought the dog in. I don't believe I've ever witnessed such a sudden and visible change in people's attitudes than when we walked through that care facility with the dog. These were people near the end of their lives, but when they saw Dixie coming every one of them was six years old again.

"Can I pet her?" "That's a nice doggy." "Such a pretty girl." And so on. Some of the nurses remarked that they'd like to see somebody bring in a dog every day, just to make folks happy for a few minutes.

I don't have a dog myself, and Dixie passed away a year or so ago. But I still remember the effect she had on those folks; it's nice to see a study verifying that. For liability reasons I doubt local hospitals would be keen on folks just wandering in with their dogs, but it would sure be nice if we could find a safe way to bring this little bit of joy into peoples' lives--and if it actually has health benefits to boot, so much the better.

15 November 2005

Test Pattern

Okay, so I was going to go off on my next adventure (St. Pete Clay, specifically), but then Clemson put three touchdowns up on FSU and now I can't leave the television. I'll go to the studio tomorrow.
So... I guess I should write a review of Test Pattern, by Marjorie Klein, which I read while on vacation.
I picked up this book at the used book store in downtown while wandering around down there one afternoon. I also picked up several other used books, and the total bill came to something like four dollars. So as you can see, this book didn't exactly cost a bunch of money. For what I paid, it was a good book.

It was Marjorie Klein's first book; she writes for the Miami Herald and the book has a promotional blurb from Dave Barry on the cover. That's pretty high praise; I'll read anything by Barry and for the most part I'll read anything he recommends (say what you will, but I think Dave Barry's a better judge of literature than Oprah). That, and the cover of the book caught my eye. Bright yellow, with a picture of a TV dinner. The old kind of TV dinner, the kind that predated microwaves and that had those neutron peas that never seemed to warm up all the way (and seemed to exist in every compartment of the dinner whether there were peas in the dinner in the first place or not).

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but that is in reality how we judge most books, and nearly everything else as well. And I'm not disappointed in this book. It wasn't bad. It wasn't remarkably good, but it had its own charms.

The central conceit of the book is that there's more in the tv test pattern than meets the eye--at least for one little girl. The book is set in the early 1950s or very late 1940s, in the early days of television. The family at the center of the book have just acquired their very first television, and the book's theme is the effect tv has on the family. As you might expect, the effect is not exactly a good one.

Marjorie Klein has done some very amusing things here. For one, each chapter alternates between the daughter narrator, and third-person narrator following the mother. This is pretty unique; I've tried to write stories where multiple characters each get to narrate, and the reason so few people can make this work (Faulkner aside) is that it's hard to get the narrators to be convincingly individual. Here, instead of having mother narrate herself, mother's chapters are written by a third narrator, but with a very limited point of view. I've never read a book that used this tool, and I quite enjoyed it.

The father, who is a key character in the story every bit as important as mother and daughter, doesn't get to narrate. Hard to say why exactly, but there are plenty of possible reasons. We never really get into his head, but it's clear enough exactly what sort of problems he's having, with his wife, with his job, with life in general. That he doesn't suffer from not having his own chapters is clear enough indication that Marjorie Klein knows what she's doing.

As I said, it was an enjoyable read, but not one of my favorites. The test pattern bit seems...silly, and frankly insignificant, until the moment comes in the story when it actually plays a role. And then, it feels a little... I don't know. You can't call it deus ex machina, since she's set it up right from the start of the story. I guess it's just that, I never fully bought into the test pattern magic anyway. I have problems with magic in realist stories, and this is a very realist story. In fact, I almost wonder whether the magic is necessary to story at all--and until that one fateful moment late in the book where it does matter, it could almost be eliminated. So it feels as though this bit of magic is only in the book to save everybody there in that one crucial climactic moment.

That, and, there's a glaring error in the book that should have been picked up by a decent editor. At one point when snippets of The Simpsons appear in the test pattern, Lisa's name is given as "Susie." Why Susie? It's a throwaway moment and thus no commentary is intended by the name change; it's simply an error, a bizarre error to be sure, and the sort of thing that editors are paid to catch. Then again, I do watch an inordinate amount of Simpsons, since it's on twice every night as I'm cooking and eating dinner.

The main commentary in the story, about television's effect on this working-class family, is very well stated, and the book is worth reading because of that. Indeed, a lot of people who have less trouble with magic in realist stories would probably enjoy this book a great deal. As for me, it was... okay.

Test Pattern

Well, I don't have any idea what happened to the post I wrote reviewing Test Pattern. It's gone from the edit queue so I'll be darned if I know what happened. I could try to recreate it but I'm just not feeling it right now. So here's the executive summary version:

It's a decent book. Probably worth picking up if the theme--the effect of television on a 1950s working class family--seems like it might be interesting. It certainly has its own unique charms, and, though I wasn't really drawn in by the gimmick (the idea that there's more in the test pattern than just a test pattern, at least for one little girl), I was drawn in by the unique narration style and the effective characterizations. It was Marjorie Klein's first novel and I think it's always a good idea to support first novels. So there you have it.

I'm also not sure why The Jump doesn't seem to be working any more. It must be the computer's fault, as I am wholly innocent.

Long week

And it's only Tuesday.

It's the week of the big exercise at work. But no week is so overexercised that they can't give us a second or third exercise to increase our fun and enjoyment. To that end, we have a one-day exercise tomorrow, and then the big multi-day exercise Thursday through Monday. So although yesterday and today were too busy (I didn't leave work until... well, until normal people normally leave work... which is still way later than normal for me and cuts out my gym time, which sucks), the real problem is that I'll be at work Saturday and Sunday, too, and then all the way through Wednesday. I'll be at work until Thanksgiving day. Wow, that sucks.

Because we've been so busy with preparations at work, I haven't A) followed the news enough to find anything to comment on here, or B) been creative enough to think of my own original material (like the turtle post below). Unfortunately that's likely to continue for the next several days.

12 November 2005

Notes on a Saturday

1. Go Clemson!

2. The people who answer the phones at the Tampa Police Department do not know the names of the city's parks. This is pretty bad. I was at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park this morning, where I had put in my kayak for a wonderful morning paddling around downtown and in the harbor area. When I came back to the park I found the gate to the (from?) the docks was locked and I couldn't get back to my car. I had my cell phone, so I called the TPD figuring they were the most likely city agency to answer the phones on a Saturday morning. When I said I was at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, they told me I wasn't in the city. I was in the county.
Lane Park is in downtown, next door to Tampa Prep and right across the river from my house. It is most certainly in downtown. But they were convinced that Julian Lane park was somewhere out yonder in the county. Now, Lane Park is in a bad part of town. So if you're ever in Lane Park and are in trouble and call the cops, don't expect anything to happen. They don't seem to know where you are.

3. Newsweek has a new poll that, like most other polls, shows extremely low approval ratings for Bush. Newsweek also says, "But that’s not the worst of it for the 43rd president of the United States, a leader who rode comfortably to reelection just a year ago. Half of all Americans now believe he’s not 'honest and ethical.'"
That's what Newsweek says. Smitty says, "Half of all Americans have finally realized that he's not 'honest and ethical.'"
The thing about snow jobs is, snow melts.

And now I'm off on another adventure.

11 November 2005

Turtles All The Way Down

More and more these days I'm finding wisdom in Hindu mythology. And I thought it was the Chinese Buddhists who were supposed to have it all figured out.

In Hindu mythology, the first turtle created was Chukwa. She was an enormous turtle, and on her back she supported the first elephant, Maha-pudma. Maha-pudma, in turn, supported on his back the entire world.

The Indians tell a story about an Englishman living in their country during the colonial era. He was fascinated by Hinduism but was a skeptic like any good Anglican. When told of the story of Chukwa and Maha-pudma, he asked, reasonably, what Chukwa stood on. Though it's not part of the myth, the response to the Englishman's question was, another turtle. And after that?

Ah, after that, it's turtles all the way down.

This myth has been transcribed into a story about a scientist and a little old lady, which is probably how most readers have heard of it, if indeed you've ever heard of it. But I like the Indian version much better. When it's a scientist, it's a story about the absurdity of the woman's belief against the obvious validity of science. That story's been told a thousand times.

But when it's a story about the Indian and the Englishman, it seems a little deeper to me. And while the "turtles all the way down" are not part of the original Hindu myth, what I know about Hinduism leads me to believe the Indian in the story was trying to be instructive nonetheless. He's telling the Englishman that, frankly, you'll never know everything. Or, as anthropologist Clifford Geertz summed up the story, "you'll never get to the bottom of things." It's rather wittier that way, but I can't take the credit.

So, some things we're just not meant to know. I don't know what the turtle is standing on--perhaps a larger planet (the first Men In Black movie played with this idea) in a larger universe. And I don't know what's in store for my career in the next few months.

I know there's a turtle. I don't know what the turtle stands on, but I don't have to know what she's standing on to trust that she will continue to hold up the world. This is not at all a Western point of view; it is very much a south Asian one. And I'm trying to square that against my own situation. I don't have to know what the Air Force is going to do with me (separate me, retrain me, etc). I know that they'll do something, and that regardless, the turtle will continue to hold up my world. I just can't keep my Western point of view out--I have to know what's going to happen.

And so, it seems, does almost everyone else. It's the primary topic I talk and write about to friends and relatives these days because it is, obviously, one of the most important things going on in my life right now. But I think I'm just going to start telling people about the turtles. I won't get fired/married/divorced/pushed out of the service/retrained/admitted to law school/published/engaged/lucky without everyone knowing about it, and if I can rest comfortably on the backs of infinite turtles, than so can everyone else.

08 November 2005

The Reason I'm Not Supposed to Drink

See here's the thing. I'm totally drunk right now.
My coworker (technically he's subordinate but no sane person would assume that was true) and I left our mutual horrid job this afternoon and went to Hooters to have a few beers and commiserate. I've missed this, on vacation. Not that I've missed the need to do this, since on vacation I didn't have any need to get drunk. But what I have missed is the chance to have a few drinks with someone who's going through the same hideous chain of events I'm going through and bitch. And then to get past the point of bitching and just talk. That's what i've missed.

I guess, since I feel the need to get wide every now and then, I should recognize that as either A) the beginning stages of alcoholism, or B) much more likely an ultimate recognition of the fact that I really hate my job and should find something else to do.

But anyway, now I'm really pretty far gone, much moreso than I would have thought given the rather moderate amount of beer I had to drink. But I am reminded of one very sobering fact: I really like being drunk.

Is that a bad thing? I have this feeling that it's a bad thing. But it's also a deeply entertaining thing, and right now I'm too much enjoying being drunk to get overconcerned about being drunk. Again, I'd assume that was a serious problem, if it wasn't for the fact that I don't get drunk all that often.

Then again, perhaps I should get drunk more often. Since I enjoy it, that is. Oh, me. Well, one of the more entertaining bits of semi-fiction I've written was done while I was drunk and was about being drunk, and this is I suppose just a follow-up to that. It's been a very useful piece, that story about being drunk, for my work on Lauderdale, since one of the important things about getting drunk is forgetting. People get drunk to forget. People who don't get drunk to forget, forget anyway. Isn't that the point?

Or, given what's going on right this minute, maybe the purpose to getting drunk is that Malcolm in the Middle, which is a decent show anyway, is really really funny when drunk. Ah, God bless UPN 44.

05 November 2005

Thoughts on Alito and King George I

Lest anyone get the impression that I think Bush doesn't give much thought to his SCOTUS nominees, I'd like to make a few comparisons.
Roberts believes in giving great deference to the executive branch; he seems to see in the Constitution (as I do not) room for a very strong executive, and he has supported expansion of executive powers in his appellate decisions. I firmly believe that all other qualifications aside Bush was very much looking for a judge who supported strong executive power when he nominated Roberts. For some info on Roberts' views on executive power you can look on SCOTUSBlog here, and other sources here, here, and here.

I'm going somewhere with this after the jump.

Next, Bush nominated a slavering crony who seemed to believe--clear evidence that she wasn't very bright--that Bush was the most brilliant man she'd ever met. The prime reason for Senators to have denied Harriet Miers a seat on the court was her sycophantic devotion to George W. Bush; we can assume she would have supported the expansion of executive powers, as long as Bush was in office at the very least. Hmm.

Now we have Judge Alito. I had a feeling, an inkling, when the nomination was announced, that liberals and Democrats were going to overlook every important issue and concentrate solely on abortion, and so far that seems to be the case. But do you think Bush nominated Alito solely on the basis of his Roe v. Wade stance? I certainly don't.

Nah. Instead, here's an article--most assuredly the first of several--about Alito's views on executive power. It seems that once again, Bush has nominated to the Court someone who is amenable to expansions of executive authority. (He also seems to defer to business interests a lot as well, another item of interest to Bush-watchers.)

Why is Bush so interested in getting people onto the Court who will support the Justice Department in any upcoming cases revolving around the limits on executive authority in this country? We already know he's keen to bring the military in to handle domestic disasters should any more occur (when, I should say), and the only comment I heard on his Bird Flu plan yesterday was that people would have to "do what they were told;" the plan also includes using the military on the homefront to combat any potential pandemic, another use of military forces during peacetime against the homefront.

I'm not a tinfoil hat person. I'm not a conspiracy buff. But just exactly what the hell is Mr. Bush planning for his next power grab? He's already asked Congress more than once to repeal the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act barring the use of the military for domestic policing. While the strength of the act has been diminished over the last 20 years, that Bush wants it repealed entirely clearly indicates he is up to something. Why does he feel he needs to use the military at home? Just exactly what parts of the military is he expecting to use, since he's got us all tied up gallivanting around the middle east and seems to want a fight with Syria to keep us even busier? I don't know. Like I said, I don't buy into conspiracy theories, but the trends here would seem to indicate that something is up.

Then again, as Mark Tushnet argues here, maybe I'm a fool for even worrying about the matter in the first place.

03 November 2005

But why is my trunk such a mess?

I was just watching the Honda Civic commercial, the cartoony one where the car bounces off the rooftops? And I noticed at the beginning the driver puts two grocery sacks in the trunk.
Man, I may not be the smoothest driver in the world, but after that drive, that poor dude’s groceries are all over that trunk. I wonder if I could make the Subie bounce off the rooftops?

Noise about Judge Alito

I’m reserving judgment on Judge Alito for the time being. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Bush to have picked someone worse than Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, so at the least Alito is a significant improvement over the last nominee.

That said, I’ve heard very different stories about what kind of judge he is and where he stands politically from the different sides of the political spectrum, so until some genuine facts come out (during Senate inquiry I assume) and he has a chance to speak for himself, I’m not going to say anything good or bad about him. But I do have a few observations about the whole situation.

First, I find it interesting that our Evangelical Protestant president has now nominated two Catholics to the Supreme Court. I wonder if the GOP is going to nominate a Catholic for president any time soon. Furthermore, when he tried to name a fellow traveler, the mere fact that she was an Evangelical was not good enough for other EVs. That’s interesting to me, though I haven’t thought enough about it to draw any conclusion. Second, and probably without intending to, Bush has made it appear that there are no women in the federal judiciary worthy of sitting on the Supreme Court. Contrasting Miers against Alito is insulting; that Bush went to Alito after the Miers flop seems to say that Miers was simply the best woman he could find, and, released by her of the duty to nominate a woman, he returned to the white males.

I’m a white male. I would like a federal judgeship some day, sure. Who wouldn’t? So I’m not trying to play the diversity card here to run down Alito’s nomination; as far as I’m concerned it’s terrific to know that white males can still be selected for the Court. I just think the contrast between Alito and Miers is so stark as to make all potential women aspirants to the court seem pathetic; that’s a shame, and I hope Bush didn’t intend to produce that image. That said I think if we get a Democrat in the White House next time around his/her first court nomination will be a woman, just to draw a contrast.

Finally, I’d like to point out this article in today’s Washington Post, about Judge Alito. It seems the Post thinks Alito is a bit, well, dorky. A nerd. All politics aside, I think this is wonderful. Roberts was a jock, let’s face it, and Bush wishes he was a jock (he was one of those guys who hung around the jocks to look cool, you know? You can just tell). But Sam Alito, well, he’s been to baseball fantasy camp, but in high school he played in the band. I like a guy like that.

02 November 2005

It's official

I am no longer on flying status. It's actually official as of the 12th of October, but I didn't know until I called the doc today. So now comes... yet more uncertainty! Hooray! It's like a drug, it is, uncertainty. I crave it. Xenophilia.

Fortunately I have a few interested Lieutenant Colonels in my squadron who have taken an interest in... well, at least in helping me. Helping me do what, precisely, is still something of a question.

I've come to the conclusion--one of several over the last three weeks--that, all potential catastrophes aside, I'm going to begin all discussions by offering to save the Air Force the trouble and expense of retraining me. Whether they're even remotely interested in that offer I don't know, but I've concluded that separating is the best course I can possibly take at this point. I'll have the GI Bill to go to law school, and I can set my own course, which is ultimately what I need to do (set my own course) if I'm to get past this whole depression problem. That said, if I stay in, it's my intent to apply to law school and to the JAG program. If it's not of the two... then I don't know what will happen. So let's concentrate on those "one of the two" ideas.

01 November 2005

False alarm

Well, it wasn't allergies. Thank goodness. Turns out I'm just plain sick. This should make my first day back to work interesting tomorrow, though I doubt I'm contagious anymore (shucks).

October sure turned into November in a hurry here in Tampa. What had been a beautiful clear month and good health have become grey and dreary and sick. That's November, all right. They say tomorrow will be sunny and in the low 80s, but that's not November at all. I want to go back to North Carolina.