Friday, October 31, 2008

Chicago is New US Murder Capital

Chicago Breaking News reported October 24, 2008, that Chicago is now the Murder Capital of the US.

Chicago is outpacing New York and Los Angeles in 2008 murders, the Sun-Times reports.
Chicago, whose population is less than either of those cities, posted 426 killings through Tuesday, compared with 417 in New York and 302 in L.A.

At the end of 1998, Chicago made international headlines as the U.S. "murder capital" after surpassing New York's homicide totals for the first time ever. Chicago shed that dubious distinction when murders plummeted over the last decade.

Did you catch that? Chicago had 426 murders through October 21st.

Contrast that to the US combat fatalities in Iraq, reported here.

I added up the deaths for this year (reported by Year/Month) all the way through the end of October, giving the terrorists an extra 10 days over Chicago's bad guys to get their shots in.

We've had 282 deaths in Iraq this year. As reported by the AP today, October saw 13 deaths, the lowest month this year.

Now, Obama wants to pull our troops out of Iraq ASAP and let the Iraqis fend for themselves. But Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have all had worse years than our military in Iraq has. Imagine if Obama took the same approach to fighting murder in our major cities that he wants to take to fighting the terrorists in Iraq: Pull out the police and let the people of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles defend themselves.

How well would that go? And how quickly would Obama and his supporters on the left start blaming Chicagoans for not stepping up to the plate fast enough to keep the bloodbath from happening? Because you can be darn sure that Obama wouldn't be accepting one iota of blame for the results of his policies.

Being on the left means never having to say you're sorry...

Happy Halloween

It's almost 8:00pm, and I'm waiting for Trick-or-Treaters to come.

I stopped at Costco today for an emergency acquisition of creamer, and I also bought a package of candy just in case. It's Costco-sized candy: 150 pieces. I don't know what possessed me to get that many, but I didn't want to be caught short.

At home, I separated out the Kit-Kats into a smaller bowl to keep for us and put the rest into the big Halloween bowl. Then my daughter came home and announced that she just picked up three bags of candy, since we didn't have any. When I told her about the Costco bag, she said she'd take her candy to her friend's house for the party.

I put the Nestle's Crunch in the bowl with the Kit-Kats for my daughter and added a few packages of M&M's, because they're good to eat with a cup of tea, and then I put the big bowl by the front door and turned on the porch light.

I kept hearing voices outside, so I stayed ready to run to the door. Finally, I went outside and looked up and down the street. It's empty, except for the neighbors a couple doors down (grow-ups) who are standing outside talking.

No children. No costumes. My next-door neighbors with the little kids aren't home. The other next-door neighbors with the slightly older kids show no sign of Trick-or-Treating in their plans.

I have 150 pieces of candy...

Oh wait! I hear little kids outside. Maybe they're on their way.

You can watch this while I go hang out by the door. Beware, it could be disturbing to young children (HT: Michelle Malkin).

Update (9:15pm):

Nobody came. If I had a job, I could take the leftover candy (but not the Kit-Kats and Crunches) to work.

PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's to use Mother's Milk

This is old news by now, having happened in September, but I spotted it again in the file where I save blog ideas for future- or non-use.

WPTZ reported September 23, 2008, on a request PETA sent to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.

"PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.

PETA officials say a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health.

"The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Everyone knows that 'the breast is best,' so Ben & Jerry's could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk."

If it's tough on cows to be constantly giving milk to the ice cream cause, why would PETA want to subject young mothers to similar treatment? Do these people even think?

Ben and Jerry politely declined to follow PETA's suggestion.

"We applaud PETA's novel approach to bringing attention to an issue, but we believe a mother's milk is best used for her child," said a spokesperson for Ben and Jerry's.

The article has a full reprint of the PETA letter to Ben & Jerry's, and it's a real head-shaker.

By the way, I do not buy Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and I don't recommend that brand for any of my friends. Their company donates a lot of money to hard-left causes "that are organizing for systemic social change," and I don't want my money to support them. If you like hard-left causes, you might want to buy their ice cream.

Disposable Diapers Good for Environment

The Telegraph (UK) reported October 19, 2008, about the latest news on the environmental impact of disposable diapers ("nappies" in the UK).

A government report that found old-fashioned reusable [cloth] nappies damage the environment more than disposables has been hushed up because ministers are embarrassed by its findings.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has instructed civil servants not to publicise the conclusions of the £50,000 nappy research project and to adopt a “defensive” stance towards its conclusions.

The report found that using washable nappies, hailed by councils throughout Britain as a key way of saving the planet, have a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalents unless parents adopt an extreme approach to laundering them.

To reduce the impact of cloth nappies on climate change parents would have to hang wet nappies out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C.

The conclusions will upset proponents of real nappies who have claimed they can help save the planet.

That's good to hear. When my son was born, I wanted to be a good mother, so I ordered a diaper service because everyone knows cloth diapers are better for the baby. But the parenting classes said that using plastic pants to cover the cloth would defeat the purpose of allowing the cotton to breathe. OK, I tried that, but an uncovered cloth diaper makes the baby's clothes wet too, and I was spending all my time changing baby clothes along with changing diapers. Within a couple weeks, I canceled the diaper service and had them send me disposables for the remainder of my already-paid-for month.

Vindication, however long delayed, is a beautiful thing.

Jerry Dog and his Ball Launcher

Ah, the joys of waiting on hold with the cable company. Two video blog posts while I wait and then recover.

This is a great gizmo for anybody with a ball-chasing dog (my little dog Abby didn't chase balls, and neither did our family dog Fifi when I was a kid).

Here is the comment that accompanies the video on YouTube:

I built the ball machine because I thought my dog Jerry, might like it and that it would be something fun for me to build. So after two years of on and off work, with many safety features such as IR proximity sensors to protect Jerry and my son from the machine, I finally complete.

Far from being a replacement for me, I was always right there with him enjoying his fun. And with all the troubles that I went through to build the ball machine, I still end up throwing more balls than that the machine could count! According to the computer, he played with the machine by himself only 3 times in his life.

I recently put this video on YouTube to keep alive my earlier memories of him and (hopefully) provide some "humorous distractions" for anyone that might drop by.

Please enjoy the video.

I did. Thanks.

Digital TV Conversion Instructions

It's time for another Public Service Announcement.

Senior citizens especially, please follow these instructions carefully for a smooth conversion to the digital TV age.

(Sorry for the format issue, but it's too good to ignore.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Easing Pain

There have been quite a few studies lately focusing on pain management, each one with a different approach.

The Telegraph (UK) reported October 10, 2008, on a pain treatment that is eight times stronger than morphine and lasts 14 times longer--up to three days.

A team at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine have pinpointed the identity of a particular "pain protein" in nerve cells and have found a way of converting it from a substance that causes pain into ones that suppress it.

"This protein has the potential to be a groundbreaking treatment for pain," said lead study author Mark Zylka, assistant professor of cell and molecular physiology at UNC.

The substance, which can be injected, appears to have few side effects and works by neutralising the chemical in the body that causes the brain to feel pain.

The Telegraph reported back in January on another approach to reducing chronic pain.

Prof Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer and colleagues at the University of Zurich identified a target, which is found in a part of the grey matter of the spinal cord, called the dorsal horn, where signals from pain nerves are relayed to the brain.

The protein receives signals from a messenger chemical, called GABA, which is found throughout the nervous system and inhibits signals. In chronic pain sufferers, these signals decline in the dorsal horn and, as a result, the pain continues.

To restore the signals, Prof Zeilhofer and his team used drugs to target one class of the so called GABA-A receptor. They found that by activating this target produces "pronounced analgesia" without unwanted sedation and without paralysis. Nor did mice build up a tolerance to treatment, unlike with many drugs.

The Telegraph also reported back in January on a gene-therapy approach to pain management.

Now a method to use gene therapy - a gene transplant - to simulate the pain relief effects of morphine and other opiate drugs has been developed by a team in the Department of Medicine and Department of Neurosciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

His team designed a virus that could carry a pain relief gene called prepro-beta-endorphin into nerve cells. The gene makes an opioid that the body itself produces and that acts like morphine.

The modified viruses were tested by injecting them directly into the spinal fluid of rats via a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, with only one injection. Results showed that the rats remained symptom-free for over three months.

Another pain relief gene, interleukin-10, was also effective when similarly administered in small doses directly at the spine.

"One of the strengths of our gene therapy work is, that it was effective with an opioid gene and with a non-opioid gene," says Prof Beutler. "Both approaches have important implications."

And just in case you want something a little more natural, The Telegraph reported October 3, 2008, on a "magic bullet" pain-relief technique.

Childbirth, surgery and trips to the dentist might be less traumatic in the future, thanks to a team at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, which has achieved the feat in the laboratory by adding spice to an anaesthetic that by itself should not work because it does not get into nerves.

The sense of pain was selectively switched off in rat hindpaws by injecting QX-314, a normally inactive derivative of the commonly used local anaesthetic lignocaine, and capsaicin, the heat generating ingredient in chilli peppers.

In combination, these chemicals targeted only pain-sensing nerve cells, preventing them from sending signals to the brain. But even though the rats could not feel pain in their paws, they continued to move normally and react to touch.

Why am I focused on pain relief? Am I in pain? No. My mom has some pain since her recent ankle surgery, but it's not the kind of chronic pain these studies are trying to alleviate.

I'm concerned about the push in society for legalizing physician-assisted suicide. The arguments usually include the desire for people to be able to stop their suffering when it becomes unbearable. Morphine can alleviate pain, but the side effects from continuous use are troublesome.

With pain treatments like the ones highlighted by the Telegraph, we can see the time coming not too far down the road when chronic pain may no longer be a factor in the life decisions we have to make. And that can reduce the call for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Any treatments that can help prolong life--rather than unnaturally cut it short--are the kinds of medical advances I want to highlight.

May these research teams be well-funded long enough to get their treatments to the market.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Heading for Texas

I whined, back at the beginning of 2007, about my frequent flyer miles. They expire at the end of this year, and I have a ton of them.

So I decided to use most of them up by flying to Texas to see my mom and my sister for the weekend. I even have enough to go first class, so that's what I'm doing.

This morning was Medical Assisting class, and I don't have to be back again until Tuesday, so I'm flying out tomorrow and flying back home on Monday. Naturally, our instructor assigned us more homework today than is good for us, and I had to do it all today, which took me all afternoon and most of the evening, but it's done and ready for Tuesday's class.

In the morning I'll drive over to the train station, park the car (parking is free), and leave a message for my daughter telling her where it is so she can pick it up after work and drive it home. Then I'll take the train to downtown San Diego, catch the bus to the airport, and be ready to go. Total cost by train & bus will be less than the gas it takes for somebody to drop me off.

I haven't heard back from the job interview I had Monday. They said I was their last interviewee and that they hoped to be close to a decision by the end of this week, with the winning person to start around the first of November. So the timing of this trip is right, considering my hope to be gainfully employed soon.

But just in case, I'm bringing my Spanish vocabulary along like a good girl ("Don't confuse ano with año..."), so I can feel guilty for ignoring it in favor of easier reading.

I can't wait to see my family again!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I Want To Know

There are Great Mysteries in life, questions that linger, unanswered, over the years. They come to mind for a time and then again another time, when some event triggers them.

One such question for me was, Why do rainbows curve?

I would ask people that question, and most of the time they tried to tell me about prisms and light refraction--concepts I already understood and that had absolutely nothing to do with my question. One time I had seen a triple rainbow: One complete one; underneath it (and with the colors reversed) a second complete rainbow; and to the right, curving away from the first two, was half of a third rainbow. Whatever explanation I received would have to cover all three rainbows, plus one that a co-worker described: from an airplane, he had looked down at the clouds to see a U-shaped rainbow.

I finally got my explanation in two pieces. One person asked if there was a body of water near my triple rainbow that could have reflected light upward to form the second, reversed rainbow. There was: The Yellowstone River. The second answer was given to me by, similar to this article, but with diagrams.

Another question came from my 8th grade General Science class and the limited mini-chemistry lesson we got. It was, How can there be carbon monoxide?

We had learned, in 8th grade, about filling the outer shell of electrons, so we calculated carbon and oxygen and got carbon dioxide. But I wondered, if it took two oxygens to fill up carbon, then how could a carbon/oxygen molecule get by with only one oxygen? I never asked my teacher.

I got my answer about ten years later, on the drive to go cross-country skiing with my husband and a friend of ours. I asked the question, since both of them had been science majors. Our friend had taken Chemistry, so he explained rough concepts of single bonds and double bonds and electron-sharing between atoms. I asked a lot of questions to get it clarified just enough that I could picture how carbon monoxide could exist.

Then I started wondering, How does carbon monoxide kill you? I guessed that it bound to the O2 in the blood, rendering it incapable of being used by the body.

A few years later, we were at the beach with my sister-in-law's family, and she was studying Physiology and happened to be reading about the chemistry of the blood. So I borrowed her textbook and looked up carbon monoxide. I had guessed wrong. It binds to the hemoglobin.

Normally, hemoglobin forms an incomplete bond with the O2, so it's easy to let go of the O2 at the right time. But if carbon monoxide gets in there, it forms a complete bond with the hemoglobin and won't let go. After enough exposure, there isn't enough un-monoxided hemoglobin available to transport the O2 around the body, and your tissues die for lack of oxygen when there's plenty of oxygen in your system. It's very sad. Carbon monoxide is chemically evil. (My apologies to Chemistry majors if I butchered this description. I learned it over 20 years ago.)

That brings me to some still-outstanding Great Mysteries:

Why can't Hollywood get the end credits on movie DVDs sharp enough that you can actually read them?

Why does toothpaste say, "For best results, squeeze from bottom of tube"? Do they put all the fluoride at the bottom, and if you squeeze in the middle, you don't get any fluoride or whiteners?

What's on the other side of the end of the universe?

If you have answers, please let me know.

Better yet, tell me what Great Mysteries have been plaguing you. What is it that you want to know?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Animal News

It's that time again. Time to update everyone on the latest events in the animal kingdom.


Squirrels are back in the news, those cute little rodents that, in the past, have been leg biters, spies, archaeologists, and snake attackers. Now an anti-war lefty squirrel has roughed-up an Iraq War veteran. The State Journal-Register carried the story October 14, 2008.

Frank Garren is tough guy. The 6-foot, 4-inch former Army sergeant was awarded a Purple Heart after surviving a roadside bomb while deployed in Iraq in 2004. He knows about combat and quick reactions.

An angry squirrel is another matter, said Garren, who reported just such a run-in recently in Washington Park.

“You might expect a mugging in the park, but not to be attacked by a tree rodent,” the 34-year-old Springfield resident said Monday. “I never thought a squirrel could kick my (behind).”

He said the animal, which Garren estimated weighed 2 to 3 pounds, pounced on his head after he simulated a squirrel call to get its attention Sunday afternoon.

Garren walked away with several scratches on his face and head, and a newfound respect for a squirrel’s agility.

“I think next time I’ll keep my distance,” he said.

Good decision.


The bird news is less violent.

An American bird made the British press. The Telegraph reported October 10, 2008, that an alder flycatcher (Empidonax altnorum) was photographed in Cornwall, the first time that species has ever been spotted in the UK. Here he is:

And the Telegraph reported October 11, 2008, that a rare black barn owl has also been spotted--in captivity.

This young barn owl is one in a million after being born with a rare genetic condition that has made her feathers jet black.

Sable, who is two years old, suffers from melanism, a 100,000-to-one gene mutation that makes her the exact opposite to an albino.

Baroness Sasa Vonbarth und Kippenruer, who runs the Hereford Owl Rescue, described Sable as "peculiar" but "very beautiful".

She said: "Sable is very peculiar or I suppose you could say a freak of nature because melanistic owls are usually killed at birth or chucked out of the nest by their mothers.

"The parents think that because a chick is not white they shouldn't feed it. However, she is captive bred as were her parents so she survived.

"Strangely Sable is much stronger than a normal barn owl whereas an albino is much weaker and has a very bad immune system.

"However, if she got out into the wild she'd be dead within 12 hours. You would think black would work at night but in reality she would be mobbed and killed by other owls."

This is Sable:

Mouse v. Viper:

The Telegraph reported October 9, 2008, about an intrepid mouse (most likely related to the attack squirrels). I won't post any pictures, because a very good friend of mine (who only rarely reads my blog but might choose now to do it again) once responded to a funny-story email I sent her, with a picture of a snake in a computer, by sending me flaming hate email in reply telling me to NEVER, EVER send her a picture of a snake. If you want to see the pictures, follow the link to the Telegraph article.

A mouse bit a venomous viper to death after it was thrown into the snake's cage as a lunchtime snack.

Firefighters in Taiwan who were looking after the snake - which had been found in a local resident's home - thought that the live mouse would make a perfect lunchtime treat.

But the furry creature had other ideas. Instead of cowering from the 12in snake's gaping jaws and long fangs, it went on the offensive.

"It attacked the snake continuously, biting and scratching it," one firefighter said.

Viper venom is poisonous for mice, but the snake proved unable to land a killer bite.

What a mouse!

Leopard v. Crocodile:

The Telegraph reported July 18, 2008, on yet another mouse-bites-snake style of story. See the article for the pictures.

A series of incredible pictures taken at a South African game reserve document the first known time that a leopard has taken on and defeated one of the fearsome reptiles.

The photographs were taken by Hal Brindley, an American wildlife photographer, who was supposed to be taking pictures of hippos from his car in the Kruger National Park.

The giant cat raced out of cover provided by scrub and bushes to surprise the crocodile, which was swimming nearby.

A terrible and bloody struggle ensued. Eventually, onlookers were amazed to see the leopard drag the crocodile from the water as the reptile fought back.

With the crocodile snapping its powerful jaws furiously, the two animals somersaulted and grappled. Despite the crocodile's huge weight and strength, the leopard had the upper hand catching its prey by the throat.

Eventually the big cat was able to sit on top of the reptile and suffocate it.

And that's the news from the animal world, until next time...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Going to Class

I mentioned last month that I'm in a Medical Assisting class. That takes up my Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and then I have homework. Right now (not right this minute, but before class on Tuesday) we have to type up letters for referrals to and from other doctors and to terminate misbehaving patients, and we have to listen to a simulation of phone calls for a couple days at the office, log them in, and write up any message slips and appointment slips. And read the next chapter.

Wednesday night I started Spanish for Medical Professionals. Our instructor told us right off the bat that we're not going to learn to speak Spanish. We're going to be learning the basics of words that we'd hear in a medical setting. Things like prepositions, relationships (mother, husband, cousin), medical terminology, and how to pronounce the language.

I had to learn Spanish in sixth grade ("Hola, Paco. ¿Como estas?"). It was a requirement of San Diego schools. Being forced into learning it is part of what made me not like it. That and a traumatic visit to Tijuana for shopping with the family when I was about 10 or 12. It smelled bad there, a combination of sewer and the way grease smells in dumpsters behind fast-food restaurants. And at the shopping district, the vendors (male) kept hitting on me in an attempt to entice me into buying what they had for sale. It was creepy. I associated Spanish with the bad smells and emotions and wanted no part of it.

I learned a few phrases along the way out of necessity and living in Southern California, and after I learned how to pronounce Polish for a trip to Poland in 1997, I got better at rolling my R's in Spanish too. But I still didn't like it.

Until I went to the Just Give Me Jesus conference that Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham's daughter) held in San Diego. The musician for the conference was Fernando Ortega ("I am Fernando Ortega. You killed my father. Prepare to die."--Yes, he said that at the conference), and he sang a Spanish worship song that he said was a traditional song from way back when in Mexico. The song was, Con Que Pagaremos, and I understood almost none of it, but it was one of the most beautiful things I've heard in my life. At the moment I heard Ortega sing it, I decided that maybe I wouldn't mind learning Spanish after all.

I haven't done that yet, but that change of heart played into my decision to sign up for the medical Spanish class.

My purpose in taking these medical classes is to get qualified for a job, and maybe even with the Spanish to get a bit of an advantage over some of the other people who will be applying for the same jobs. Sure, the bilingual people will have the advantage over me, but I'll take whatever I can get.

Our instructor had a huge list of English and Spanish words on the board for us to copy and learn. Then she gave us a big handout with more terms. She went through everything, making sure we knew how to pronounce it and making us say things out loud so she could correct us. My pronunciation got "muy bien" every time.

Then she erased the vocabulary words (family relationships) and wrote medical terms until she ran out of space. We copied them and then pronounced them.

I already knew the word for heart: corazon. I learned that one when I watched Romancing the Stone back in the '80s. And the word for lung (pulmón) was easy to remember, because it's just like the medical terminology I learned last year.

So I'm on my way. But I stopped at the end of class to tell the instructor that I have a job interview on Monday afternoon (I passed the initial-screening phone interview with the HR person this past Monday), and if I get the job, I'll be dropping the Spanish class.

I told my Medical Assisting instructor the same thing at the end of class Thursday, and she suggested that I stick out the class and get my certificate so I won't waste all the work I've already done (the class is half-over). Unfortunately, the job would be a day job, so I wouldn't be able to continue the morning class. So she said she had a bit of pull and might be able to get me into the evening or online class. I might take her up on it, just in case I get the job but it goes south on me.

So that's the latest. Big interview scheduled to last about 2 hours Monday afternoon for an Admin job that pays really well for that kind of work. I'd appreciate your prayers.

Oppose Obama, Get Investigated

I noticed the trend when the Lufkin Daily News reported October 6, 2008, on the mysterious case of Jessica Hughes.

A Lufkin woman received a surprise visit from the Secret Service last week because of a "death threat" comment she reportedly made about Sen. Barack Obama to a campaign volunteer asking for her support of the presidential candidate.

Two federal agents arrived at Jessica Hughes' home Thursday to ask her if she said, "I will never support Obama and he will wind up dead on a hospital floor."

Hughes said her words were deliberately twisted by a volunteer who was apparently unhappy Hughes was rude during a phone conversation the two had. The Lufkin mother, a Republican, said she received a call on her cell phone Wednesday from a woman with the Obama Volunteers of Texarkana.

"She asked if I was an Obama supporter, to which I replied, 'No, I don't support him. Your guy is a socialist who voted four times in the state Senate to let little babies die in hospital closets; I think you should find something better to do with your time.' (And then) I hung up."

Hughes said she was surprised to see two Secret Service agents at her door, and upset to learn that the conversation she had with the volunteer apparently had not been recorded.

"I find it hard to believe that (campaign volunteers) don't tape these calls. They call people unsolicited and they aren't monitoring the calls or recording them? I think that is absolutely ridiculous," she said.

"I mean, how often must this happen — that someone is rude to a volunteer that they don't want to talk to?"

Hughes said she wants to file a countercomplaint against the volunteer.

"She has made a charge that will follow me the rest of my life," she

Joe the Plumber is another case in point. A better one, in fact.

To refresh your memory, here's the video of the full exchange (over 5 minutes) between Barack Obama and Joe the Plumber. It isn't the tidy little soundbites you might have heard on the radio, so I offer my warning that the Snooze Factor is about a 4 on a 1 - 5 scale when Obama starts talking details of how his tax plan would have helped Joe in the past.

Keep in mind that Obama ventured into Joe's neighborhood and talked to him, hoping to get Joe's vote. Joe wasn't some sort of "GOP plant" at an Obama event. So what's the reaction on the part of the Obama-promoting media?

They're trashing Joe's private life. The Toledo Blade reported yesterday that Joe Wurzelbacher is not really a plumber and has other dastardly personal issues that make him unqualified to talk to The One, let alone criticize him.

A check of state and local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan shows no plumbing licenses under Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher’s name, or even misspellings of his name.

Mr. Wurzelbacher told reporters Thursday morning that he worked for Newell Plumbing & Heating Co., a small local firm whose business addresses flow back to several residential homes, including one on Talmadge Road in Ottawa Hills.

According to Lucas County Building Inspection records, A. W. Newell Corp. does maintain a state plumbing license, and one with the City of Toledo, but would not be allowed to work in Lucas County outside of Toledo without a county license.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell’s license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work.

He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he’s not a plumber.

I love how certain the Blade is that Joe is definitely not a plumber. Which, by implication, invalidates the whole "spread the wealth" conversation with Obama.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was hired by Mr. Newell six years ago and that the possibility of him eventually buying the company was discussed during his job interview.

He said it’s his understanding he can work under Mr. Newell’s license as long as the licensed contractor works on the same site.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he is working on taking the Ohio plumbing contractors’ license test.

It's not enough, of course, for the left to attack Joe for his lack of plumbing credentials. They had to go and get personal. They checked his voter registration, they discovered a lien on his house, and they even looked at his divorce records to learn how much he made at the time of the divorce. All because Obama decided to walk down Joe's street with a camera crew.

I'm telling you, as Sarah Palin learned when John McCain picked her for the VP slot, you don't oppose Obama in public (or even on the phone, right Jessica?) unless you're willing to have your dirty laundry aired nationwide. Make that worldwide.

Here's John McCain's response today to the investigation of Joe the Plumber.

Hope. Change. That's what Obama's all about...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fire Update with Pictures

Here's an article about the fire from the local paper.

Most Oceanside residents can return to the homes they were forced to flee from Monday after a fire of unknown origin erupted and tore through dry brush along the southeastern portion of this giant military base.

Although no word was available as of 6 a.m. as to how much of the 3,000-acre fire had been suppressed, Oceanside police Sgt. David Larson said most residents of Camp Pendleton's "back gate" area could return home. The exception, he said, was for residents of the Pilgrim Creek mobile home park, which is not yet open for the people to return.

The fire is back on base now, and our skies are blue again.

Yesterday evening the neighborhood came out into the street to watch the hills. My camera seemed to be unsure what to make of the smoke when it came time to focus, so I apologize for the less-than-ideal focus on these pictures (click on the pictures to enlarge).

This hill is on Camp Pendleton, about a mile and a half away. That little white thing on top of the hill on the right is an MP vehicle, and it stayed there for quite a while. We didn't worry as long as it stayed parked there, because the fire would have to burn its way down the front of that hill and through other neighborhoods before it got to us.

We watched the water-dropping planes fly in to make their drops. Much of the sky was blue, including right over us, because the smoke was being blown to the west by the Santa Ana winds, and the fire was to the north of us.

I think this is one of the Super-Soaker planes. The local news broadcast said that we were luckier than the people in last year's fires down in San Diego, because the Super-Soakers were able to drop their water, fly over to Oceanside Harbor to scoop up more water, and get back to the fire in just a three-minute round trip.

After a while, the MP car drove away and we saw flames on the ridgeline of the nearest hills. That's when I started packing up the important things into my car.

By the time it got dark, the planes had to stop flying, and the front of these hills were in flames, the smoke glowing orange well into the sky. I went to my friend's house, armed with my daughter's promise to call me if the evacuation order came.

It didn't, and when I drove up the street to come home, the sky was the black of a normal night. I unpacked my car and put things back where I got them and watched the news coverage for a while before going to bed for an uneventful sleep.

Monday, October 13, 2008


We haven't been evacuated yet, but we can see the flames on the hills about a mile away in Camp Pendleton. So, I'm shutting down the computer and packing it away in case of an evacuatoin order.

We're not too worried. Actually, my next-door neighbor and I are kinda hoping we'll be able to collect fire insurance money. But in truth, I think I'd rather nothing burns but the grass on base.

Update (9:45 pm):

I went to a friend's house for a couple hours, and the wind shifted while I was gone. It had been keeping the smoke away, but as I drove home, ash swirled on the street like a light dusting of powdery snow.

My house is in the clear, but more homes to the east are in danger. So far only two homes in our area got minor damage, and nobody has been hurt.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two Sides of Troopergate

The "Troopergate" report on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was released yesterday. The AP had this unbiased report this morning.

The politically charged investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is over, and its conclusions are stinging. But the fallout, if any, might not come until Election Day.

A legislative investigator found that Palin violated state ethics laws and abused her power by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.

The next move may be at the ballot box. The legislative committee that released the report Friday recommends no criminal investigation and has no authority to sanction the governor, the Republican vice presidential nominee.

If voters believe the report's finding and it tarnishes Palin's reputation as a reformer and a champion for good government, that could hurt Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the final weeks of the race.

They wish.

Attorney Bill Dyer, blogging at Hugh Hewitt's blog, posted his assessment of the Troopergate report yesterday. He had a slightly different take on the report (emphasis in the original):

Please understand this, if you take nothing else away from reading this post: The Branchflower Report is a series of guess and insupportable conclusions drawn by exactly one guy, and it hasn't been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body. It contains no new bombshells in terms of factual revelations. Rather, it's just Steve Branchflower's opinion — after being hired and directed by one of Gov. Palin's most vocal opponents and one of Alaska's staunchest Obama supporters — that he thinks Gov. Palin had, at worst, mixed motives for an action that even Branchflower admits she unquestionably had both (a) the complete right to perform and (b) other very good reasons to perform.

Here are the two key "findings," however (from page 8 of the .pdf file; boldface mine [Dyer's]):

Finding Number One

For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust."

Finding Number Two

I find that, although Walt Monegan's refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin's firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

Here's a note to Mr. Branchflower, who clearly is verbose, but obviously none too keen a scholar of logic: Gov. Palin's so-called "firing" of Monegan (it wasn't a firing, it was a re-assignment to other government duties that he resigned rather than accept) can't simultaneously be a violation of the Ethics Act and "a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority." This, gentle readers, is a 263-page piece of political circus that actually explicitly refutes itself on its single most key page!

When you see or hear Obama supporters crowing about Palin's "abuse of power" and calling for her to withdraw from the race, now you know what to say.

I wonder if Obama's "Stop the Smears" website will try to stop this smear...

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain's New Campaign Ad

It looks like John McCain is finally listening to his base and going after Obama for being tied to ACORN. Here's McCain's latest ad (HT: Michelle Malkin):

As one of Michelle Malkin's readers, Blind Mule, put it, ACORN should more correctly stand for "Association of Corrupted Organizations for Registration of Non-eligible voters."

I'm glad McCain is finally starting to fight. Here's hoping it's not too late.


I don't know who removed the video from YouTube, whether it was the McCain campaign deciding to play nice, or YouTube removing it because somebody flagged it as offensive. Either way, Michelle Malkin has the transcript for the ad.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stove Shoots Woman in Leg

It seems like so long since I've seen any strange news. The media has been full of the presidential campaign. Barack Obama is way ahead in the polls. No, they're practically tied. The debate was a bore. The debate was about Brokaw and his colored lights.

And on the financial bailout, the conservative blogs have been at loggerheads. Hugh Hewitt favored it for the sake of the economy. Michelle Malkin called it a "crap sandwich." It's hard to know which side to come down on, let alone be eloquent about that side.

So I've mostly been ignoring those topics on my blog, waiting for something interesting I can get my mind around. And now I've found it.

The [Olympic] Peninsula Daily News reported today that a woman was shot while she was inside her own home.

Cory Davis, 56, had just finished stoking her cast-iron stove to heat her home when something inside it exploded.

With a loud bang, she was struck on the inside of her left calf.

"I kept thinking, 'geeze that was one fast hot coal flying at me,'" she said, with a laugh.

"But it wasn't a coal."

It was part of a 22-gauge shotgun shell that had been accidentally placed in the stove along with some newspaper.

Davis said a case of the ammo had spilled in her home, located at Hoko-Ozette Road, about a month ago.

Davis said she removed the metal fragment from her wound early Sunday morning, then visited Forks Community Hospital on Monday.

A doctor cleaned the wound and gave her a tetanus shot.

Now, that's news I can understand. Spilled ammo. A wood stove. A woman's leg. Put them all together in an explosive blend and top it off with a tetanus shot.

SIDS Research Duh Moment

The AP reported Monday on the latest US research on SIDS.

Using a fan to circulate air seemed to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in a study of nearly 500 babies, researchers reported Monday. Placing babies on their backs to sleep is the best advice for preventing SIDS, a still mysterious cause of death.

Experts also recommend a firm mattress, removing toys and pillows from cribs, and keeping infants from getting too warm.

Such practices helped slash U.S. SIDS deaths by more than half over a decade to about 2,100 in 2003. But SIDS remains the leading cause of death in infants ages 1 month to 1 year.

"The baby's sleeping environment really matters," said study senior author Dr. De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "This seems to suggest that by improving room ventilation we can further reduce risk."

"... a still mysterious cause of death. " This really ticks me off. It's no mystery. Of course a fan would help, and I'll tell you why.

I used to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, from 2001 to the end of 2005, and an article describing some SIDS research in New Zealand came to the center. Here is an undated article describing the New Zealand findings and the results (the most recent article referenced is from 2003).

Ongoing SIDS research occasionally leads to discoveries of risk factors associated with these deaths, but after almost 50 years, researchers say they still do not know how or why it happens. The prevailing official viewpoint on SIDS is that the cause is unknown (SIDS Alliance 2001).

It may seem inconceivable that over a million babies have died of this "syndrome", and after almost half a century and many millions of dollars spent, no one in this age of science and technology can tell us why. But what parents are virtually oblivious to (through no fault of their own) is that a highly convincing explanation for this tragedy has been found, along with a simple means of eliminating it.

Dr. Jim Sprott, OBE, a New Zealand scientist and chemist, states with certainty that crib death is caused by toxic gases, which can be generated from a baby's mattress. Chemical compounds containing phosphorus, arsenic and antimony have been added to mattresses as fire retardants and for other purposes since the early 1950's. A fungus that commonly grows in bedding can interact with these chemicals to create poisonous gases (Richardson 1994). These heavier-than-air gases are concentrated in a thin layer on the baby's mattress or are diffused away and dissipated into the surrounding atmosphere. If a baby breathes or absorbs a lethal dose of the gases, the central nervous system shuts down, stopping breathing and then heart function. These gases can fatally poison a baby, without waking the sleeping baby and without any struggle by the baby. A normal autopsy would not reveal any sign that the baby was poisoned (Sprott 1996).

Here's the kicker (emphasis in the original):

A 100% successful crib death prevention campaign has been going on in New Zealand for the past 11 years. Midwives and other healthcare professionals throughout New Zealand have been actively advising parents to wrap mattresses. During this time, there has not been a single SIDS death reported among the over 100,000 New Zealand babies who have slept on mattresses wrapped in a specially formulated polyethylene cover. The number of crib deaths in New Zealand that have occurred since mattress-wrapping began in 1994 is about 810. The number of crib deaths that have occurred in New Zealand on a properly wrapped mattress is zero.

In New Zealand they have a solution. In America they keep saying they're not sure what works.

If you have a baby, or if you plan to have another one, look to New Zealand for the answer to keep your baby sleeping and breathing.

You can go here to order a BabeSafe mattress cover, manufactured in New Zealand, or go here to order a non-toxic crib mattress. I have no financial interest in either company.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oliver Stone's W

I just saw the trailer for Oliver Stone's latest movie, "W." It showed President Bush having lunch while his advisor was briefing him on the situation in Kosovo or someplace in trouble like that. Then Bush replied, "I don't understand why you're bringing this up during lunch."

It's revolting that Bush would be so uncaring about events in the world.

Not like Barack "Just Let Me Eat My Waffle" Obama.


OK, I begged Bekah to tag me so I could play along.

Here are the rules:

Each player answers the question themselves.At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blog and leaves them a comment letting them know that they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve answered the questions on your blog.

10 years ago (1998):

1. I took my kids on a road trip to visit my sister and her family in Texas, stopping in Tombstone, AZ, Roswell and White Sands, NM, and Carlsbad Caverns along the way.
2. I learned how to swing dance.
3. I dated a really nice guy for several months, before he dumped me. He turned out to be a serial heart-breaker (I was the first).
4. I worked in IT at the corporate headquarters of a fast-food chain.
5. I had just moved into the first home I bought by myself.

5 things on today’s “to do” list:

1. Get my watch battery replaced. It died yesterday.
2. Go to class.
3. Do homework.
4. Look for a job.
5. Figure out a dessert to bring to Saturday's lunch at church for a missions board meeting.

5 snacks I enjoy:

1. Grapes.
2. Strawberries.
3. Peanuts.
4. Yogurt.
5. Raisinets at the movies.

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire:

1. Go on a cruise and stay in this stateroom.
2. Buy a 2-story farmhouse with a wrap-around porch and a full basement.
3. Take my family on a fully catered canal cruise in France.
4. Visit my World Vision child in Malawi.
5. Hire a house cleaning service and a gardener and maybe a cook.

5 places I have lived:

1. Norfolk, Virginia, when I was 4 and 5 years old.
2. San Diego, California, from kindergarten through 9th grade.
3. Missoula, Montana, for high school and a year of college.
4. Spokane, Washington, early in my marriage. Loved it! They have basements.
5. Newport Beach, California. Before kids. We had an apartment an alley away from the beach, for the winter before we went on our big bicycle trip to Europe.

5 jobs I have had:

1. Vending Help at Yellowstone National Park.
2. Temp job for two days passing out free samples of cigarettes in downtown Los Angeles.
3. I worked in the IT department for an airline. Loved the job, especially the flight benefits!
4. Local tour director gigs.
5. Temp job at Christmastime working at the customer service desk at a mall.

5 people to tag:

I'll take a page from Bekah and not tag anybody in particular. If you want to play, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain Finally Takes the Gloves Off

The guy in this video is not John McCain...

... but he should be the opening act for McCain on the campaign trail.

Michelle Malkin reported today on her blog that at long last McCain has come out swinging.

Last week, the McCain campaign said it would be too complicated and politically incorrect to blast Obama for his Fannie/Freddie complicity.

Looks like common sense mugged the Maverick.

Better late, than never — via Ed Morrissey, here’s McCain’s prepared text for an event later today:

Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. What was his actual record in the years before the great economic crisis of our lifetimes?

This crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them. Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread. This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place.

Senator Obama was silent on the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and his Democratic allies in Congress opposed every effort to rein them in. As recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, “a good idea.” Well, Senator Obama, that “good idea” has now plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

To hear him talk now, you’d think he’d always opposed the dangerous practices at these institutions. But there is absolutely nothing in his record to suggest he did. He was surely familiar with the people who were creating this problem. The executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have advised him, and he has taken their money for his campaign. He has received more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other senator in history, with the exception of the chairman of the committee overseeing them.

Did he ever talk to the executives at Fannie and Freddie about these reckless loans? Did he ever discuss with them the stronger oversight I proposed? If Senator Obama is such a champion of financial regulation, why didn’t he support these regulations that could have prevented this crisis in the first place? He won’t tell you, but you deserve an answer.

It's good to see the fight coming back to McCain. He's been way too nice, giving Obama a pass for far too long.

Power Line has the video of part of McCain's campaign speech in Albuquerque. They also have this post on the latest CBS News poll showing that the race may be tightening.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Personality Testing

Before I get to the personality test, a little background...

I bought these plastic cups at Disneyland many years ago. Mickey and Minnie are fine, but I normally drink from the Donald Duck cup unless he's not available.

OK. On to the story.

My daughter's friend, the one with boyfriend trouble (they broke up recently), came over with a personality test she took at a workshop. It's available online, if you're interested in taking it.

I'm more familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality types of NT, NF, SP, and SJ, but I've also heard of the types that our friend brought over: Expressive, Analytical, Amiable, and Driver.

I took the test, which plots you on two scales: Ask v. Tell, and Task v. Relationship. I came out as Tell (just barely: 4 to 3) and Relationship (just barely: 4 to 3), which puts me in the Expressive personality type (just barely). The overview describes me as:

  • The life of the party

  • Turn disaster into humor

  • Prevent dull moments

  • Generous people*

  • Eternal optimists

I'm not really the life of the party, but the rest of it describes me, although they forgot the part that says, "Talks with hands." I don't know what the asterisk is for about being generous.

Toward the end of the document, they list famous people from each of the personality types. The expressives are:

  • Ronald Reagan

  • Lucille Ball

  • Donald Duck

  • Robin Williams

This is freaky. Are they trying to tell me something? Were they watching me drink from the Donald Duck cup?

I'm not sure I like what Donald Duck says about me.