29 September 2009

Have I missed something?

As I look through my last few posts, I've noticed a dip in the comments. Actually I'm surprised that my bloviating attracts any readers, and that's fine. But on further review of a lot of the blogsites I normally visit, I see that most of them have fewer comments. Anyone else pick up on this?

A curious thing, I think. To what does anyone attribute this? I've got a few theories-what's your guess?

-Different communication methods? A lot of you at least experimented with Twitter, but I'm not all that interested in it. My thoughts are much too expansive to be crammed into 140 characters! No, wait-'Cruising as before. Ship functional in all respects' is only around 45 characters.

-No big events? I know the 'Burger used to have some big battles back when President Bush was back in office. Now that President Obama is there, all is right with the world. Anyway, even the 'Burger doesn't have the epic verbal wars it used to. I don't know that I miss them, especially if I got dragged into one-but it did make for some long threads. Also, since Birmo isn't quite ready to release After America, there hasn't been a lot of the pre-release hype yet, which may make for some longer posts and comments there. Perhaps right now, there's just no big event or series of events that is causing a massive uproar.

-Losing our home? Most of you regulars here are, like me, Journalspace refugees. Did losing a lot of our original blogs take a bit of the starch out of doing this? I rather miss JS-it had some nice features-and a lot of my 'travelogue' posts. *%$#*!  But it's a bit like rebuilding a house-it works the same, but it doesn't-quite-have the feel of home.

-Outbreaks of real life? I suspect that's also a lot of it. Events catch up with all of us. I know it did for me this spring and summer. People that used to post or comment regularly have moved on to jobs that require more time, or have had life situations change as well-not always for the best, or for the worst. I would hope for all of you that your situations are taking you to greater things! Cyberrelationships can be fickle and transitory things as well. You meet people and move on.

-'Leaders' in blogging circles? It seems like every group of blogs or discussion forums has a few 'key' people-the 'cool kids', if you will-and if one or more of them pull out of a group, the unit falls apart or drifts. Is there a bit of that going on here?

I dunno. To me it's a bit of an interesting psychological study.

Your thoughts? I have to go look at pictures of Spitfires now for a little project, and fire up the Print Artist to do a bulletin (I knew that bloody carnival would make me more work!).

yankeedog out.

25 September 2009

Learning something? From TV?!?

Odd, the way things work. A month ago we didn't have squat-all to do at work. Now we're working overtime-in fact I'll be going in on Saturday morning to stay ahead of a couple of big projects. It does beat sitting around trying to look busy.

I hate working on Saturday. I'll miss the morning cartoons! Actually that isn't much of a miss these days, but for people in their 30s and 40s, Saturday morning cartoons were probably a big event. I think children's programming was better back then. I remember in second grade being trooped to the school's TV to watch The Electric Company to learn all about phonics. A good watch, The Electric Company. If you watch the clip, note some of the troupe-the short woman in front is Broadway stage star Rita Moreno, and the two African-American players are none other than Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman! Quite a cast for a PBS kids' show.

But Saturday morning was the best. I'd wake up, pour a giant bowl of Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Cereal, and watch The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner cartoon show. These were the original Warner Brothers cartoons that kids enjoyed for the slapstick violence and adults enjoyed for their comments and parodies of people and events of the time.

I suspect that some of the oddball schemes Wile. E. Coyote cooked up to try to dispatch the Road Runner set me on my path to product design. Sometimes his cockamamie ideas and my cockamamie ideas come to the same bad end.

Some of the other cartoons I enjoyed were The Pink Panther (I DO like Henry Mancini's original score from the movies), Hong Kong Phooey (which probably wouldn't make it on TV today due to 'offensive stereotypes of Orientals'), Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (probably some stereotyping here as well, however I can't help but think what today's version would look like. Snoop Dogg's New Fat Albert Show-'Bust a cap in yo' ass, Russell! Hey Hey Hey!'), and the animated Star Trek (would've been great if they had today's CGI technology).

I never got into any of the Superhero cartoons, and oddly enough I don't really care all that much for Scooby-Doo. How many times to you have to debunk some ghostly figure or nefarious scheme before the crew of the Mystery Machine just looks at it as another day on the job? C'mon, man!

Of course, if you watched cartoons on a given Saturday back in the mid 1970s, you saw at least one episode of Schoolhouse Rock or its variants. I know if I gave the segments themselves a lot of thought at the time, but most of the tunes were catchy (some of them are still bouncing around in the cobwebby recesses of the vast empty hangar that is my mind) and as I watch them now, they really do cover their subjects well.

Some of the SHR's that still linger:

Conjunction Junction-hookin' up words and phrases and clauses...

Verb-The theme reminds me a bit of the theme from 'Shaft'. That Verb is one baaad motherf-/Shut yo' mouth!'

Noun-A little 70s country/rock/folk to teach you about the word for person or a place or a thing!

Bill-A three-minute bluesy jaunt through the American legislative process. Somehow this segment fits in well with the current health-care debate going on now.

Electricity-I've sat through basic electrical courses that didn't give as good a thumbnail sketch of the creation of electricity.

Good stuff, eh? And some of you either got a memory dredged up, or worse yet, learned something!

Once the 1980s rolled around, cartoons really became a way to sell a given toy line, the networks decided (rightly or not is open to debate) that they didn't have to do a lot of educational programming, and I think most of the magic was lost for Saturday cartoons. But I'm glad I was around for that particular bit of television history.

Nowadays I watch PBS for the do-it-yourself shows and Saturday night programs from the Beeb and CBC.
I do still like the occasional animated work-lampoons like The Venture Bros. and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

What'd you watch in your misspent youth? Send links to them.

A pleasant weekend, all!

yankeedog out.

23 September 2009

Let's not, and say we did...

...have an Olympics in Chicago in 2016. Let Madrid or Rio or Cairo or whoever wants it have it.

The committee that wants to bring the Olympics to the Windy City will be off to Copenhagen next week to make their pitch to the IOC. Do us a favor. Stay home.

Chicago really is missing a lot of the facilities required to throw a decent Summer Games. And the venues necessary for certain of the events probably won't get used after the Games. We'd need a bigger stadium than the 65,000-70,000 seat Soldier Field for the ceremonies and track and field events-but the Bears probably don't need (and wouldn't buy) a 100,000 seat stadium somewhere else in town. There isn't a good venue for swimming events. Probably the best pool is the IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) natatorium, but Indy is a good three hours from the Loop. And I don't think the powers-that-be in Chicago want to share the financial pie with a bunch of rural Hoosiers. There's no place to have cycling events, though I might suggest routing the cyclists through some of the rough neighborhoods on the South Side. I suppose rowing events could be held in Lake Michigan.

But it will be a financial boon to the city and state!

No it won't. We'd possibly get a bump in construction jobs to build the necessary facilities and infrastructure, and a lot of service jobs for the few weeks of the Games, and after that...probably not much. It isn't like they're going to get the Olympics every dozen years or so. Also, yes-people will come to the city and spend money... but that will be more than offset in the cost of all that security (Chicago Police, Cook County Sheriff, Illinois State Police, Illinois National Guard) and all of those new buildings-which cost will be overinflated because, well, it's Chicago and everyone will want their share, if you know what I mean.

Olympic Games are notorious money-losers. I believe Montreal just finished paying for their games (from 1976!) and all they have to show for it is the monstrosity that is Olympic Stadium, a horrific pit of a place that was so bad that the Expos left town to go play in that graveyard of baseball teams, Washington, DC.

The committee that's pushing for the Games promises that the taxpayers of Illinois won't be stuck with a big tab for all of the things they have planned for 2016. Of course. And I've a parcel of prime land in the Everglades to sell you. I don't see corporations ponying up and getting in line to hand checks out for all the stuff they want to build. It'll be an icy cold day in a Brisbane February if we taxpayers don't get handed a bill for all this neat crap the Olympics require.

But the Games will put Chicago on the map and make people all over aware of the city!

OK, readers. Everyone who's heard of Chicago, Illinois, raise your hand. All of you? I thought so. Doesn't appear to be a problem with name recognition.

I think Mayor Daley II simply wants the games to cap his reign as Hizzoner. Really, I don't think the average Chicagoan wants the Games in town and a lot of us downstaters don't want to pay for it. It's hard enough to get around the city when the Cubs and White Sox are both at home. What's it going to be like when 110,000 more people come to town? It'll be like Honolulu-only with a European instead of a Japanese accent.

I'm told that there is a party atmosphere when the Olympics roll into town. I'd rather celebrate a Cub victory in the World Series, a Bears win in a Super Bowl, or see the Blackhawks hoist Lord Stanley's Milk Jug. There's your big party and victory rally! The price tag for the bash ain't worth it.

Here's to Tokyo, Rio, or West Brazzaville getting the 2016 Olympics! I don't think we need it here.


And in other news, rumor has it Charlotte the Harlot (from the carnival post a few days back) and her family are looking to exercise their right to freedom of religion and find another church home. That's probably for the best for them.

To think that I confronted her and caused her to blow up and make an ass of herself! Yet another set of lives disrupted by yours truly!

If I vex some of you at times-I don't want to hear it. I've made waves with better people than you all! :)

yankeedog (Quality Disruptions Since 1966) out.

22 September 2009

The weak in sports (with apologies to the Doc)

If it's September, it must be time for the Cubs post-mortem. Though they'll finish in second place in the National League Central, they'll be way behind the Cardinals, who'll cruise into the division championship and the playoffs. Here's to a sweep of the Redbirds by the Dodgers, Phillies, or Rockies (who also look to win their respective divisions and/or the wild card).

It appears that the Cubs will finish right around .500, possibly the worst place to be for a sports team. If you're good, you can 'tweak' a team by adding a player or two. If you're godawful, you need an overhaul. What do you do if you're neither particularly great nor terribly bad? Count on some key players having better stats next year? Or roll the dice on two or three free agent signings? Is the team getting older and sliding, or the season an aberration? That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm not a general manager.

There were a lot of reasons for the mediocre season on the North Side-some key injuries, a general lack of offense for the first three months of the season, and one or two bad signings by General Manager Jim Hendry. One not-so-great pickup was former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg, who in his stint here proved to be quite hittable in those ninth-inning situations when you don't want your pitcher giving up long bombs into the third deck of the outfield seats. I'd rather have had anyone else from the Marlins pitching staff-Nolasco, Volstad, even, God forbid, VandenHurk (not our NatV, nor related-but if Natalie could get a baseball past a hitter in the 9th inning of a 3-2 ballgame, I'd sign her).

The worst signing by the Cubs, and I have to pile on, was that of outfielder Milton Bradley (yes, just like the old boardgame maker). This guy's been on a half-dozen teams in his career, and has been a clubhouse cancer in all of them. Naturally the Cubs signed him for three years and $30 million to be a left-handed power hitter and patrol right field. He provided below-average power, and was a dog in right field (on a team that has a piss-poor outfield trio to begin with). He's been injured a couple of times-no sin there but he did have a track record of injuries-but he's done not much but whine and complain about how he's been treated by the fans, media, and his team since about the end of April. He's even dragged out the old saw about being harrassed by the Chicago fans because he's black.

Please. Derrek Lee goes out every day, plays a solid first base, and hits for average and power. He's also black. Odd that no one yells racist comments to him. Andre Dawson played in right field back in the day at Wrigley. Fielded well, hit for power, and was the league Most Valuable Player on an epically bad Cubs team in '87. Also black. Also no racial slurs. Hmm. Interesting.

The Cub brass finally suspended Bradley for the rest of the season for essentially 'conduct unbecoming'. I'm sure they'll try to unload him in the off-season. Unfortunately he's still owed $21 million. Good luck unloading him! If I'm a GM on some struggling club, I'd tell the Cubs "Sure. We'll take him. Make sure you pin a check for about $18 million on him, 'cause we ain't paying him out of our pocket." or "Sure. We'll take him. In return, we'll send you our dog player with an oversized contract. Have fun trying to fix him." Or you release him, pay him his $21 mill, and explain to the new owners how you were stupid enough to sign this guy to that kind of deal and hope you keep your job. One of those three scenarios will play out soon.

It's the same in every sport that moves players around-often as not it's a crapshoot on whether the player you let go is really on the way down careerwise or not and if the player coming in is all that and a bottle of Mad Dog. But there are certain players in any sport a good GM should stay away from. Bradley was one of those.

Now the Cubs have a new ownership group. They paid $850 million for the team and the outdoor beer garden that is Wrigley Field. I guess I'll be curious to see how they run the organization.

What would I like to see?

-A purge of those running the scouting and talent development areas. The Cubs have a dismal record of developing players through their minor-league system. Other organizations are able to develop good pitchers and position players (have to give the Cardinals some credit there). The Cubs need to be able to identify both potential talent and players wanted in trades.

-Running the organization like a professional sports franchise instead of a giant beer bash. Outdoor parties are fun. 101 years without a championship isn't.

-I'd be accused to blasphemy in Cub nation, but I'd look seriously at getting out of Wrigley Field. I suppose it's a 'shrine' for baseball, but the place is a bit shabby bordering on being a dump. Put up a decent stadium close to the expressways. Put on an movable roof, a parking lot you can tailgate in, and good seating for 50,000 fans. They'd still fill the place. This won't happen anytime soon, I'd guess. Wrigley will collapse before the Cubs will move. There's no reason Milwaukee and Indianapolis should have better sports venues than one of the greatest cities on the planet.

I suppose you've heard enough. So ends a mediocre blog post on a mediocre team that had, when all is in the books, a mediocre season.

The Bears did beat the Steelers 17-14 on Sunday, though. Are they good enough to make the post-season? I dunno. Are they better than last year's 0-16 Detroit Lions? All the regular visitors here could have formed a football team that was better than last year's Lions.

yankeedog out.

19 September 2009

A Game Too Far

"Have I been blind/Have I been lost/Inside my self and/My own mind/Hypnotized/Mesmerized/By what my eyes have found/In that great street carnival/In that carnival?"

-Natalie Merchant, 1994

"I don't know what these goddamn logistics are, but make sure I get a lot of them!"

-Unknown US Army general, 1940

A big week up here at the Lodge. Our church decided to have a kids' carnival to kick off the fall and winter children's programming. The committee in charge came up with the idea in the middle of August, and there were basically two people in charge-my own Better Half and another woman, who we'll call Charlotte the Harlot, or CTH for short (about which more later). As for labor, well, you can guess who got conscripted for that.

You'd probably think three people couldn't round up games, food, entertainment, volunteers, and get the whole thing set up in a month-what with work and other commitments.

You'd be right. But we were only about half an hour short. Possibly the first mistake made was to have the event on a Wednesday night. Obviously if we'd done this on a weekend day, we'd have had a better chance of getting a few more troops to help with set up. We had one guy volunteer to help. Unfortunately, he has the tendency to work for 10 minutes, and yack for 50. I rather figured we'd not get a lot out of him, and just this one time the gift of prophecy worked. Thanks.

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign/Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind/Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"

-Five Man Electrical Band, 1971

One of the tasks I had was to make signs for the various games at the carnival. How most of the games worked was that the children would do whatever the game was, and get a block of tickets, redeemable for prizes (little gewgaws that the Chinese are so adept at making-you know, the things like you find at dollar stores-hey, for a four or five-year-old, it's cool).

Below are some of the signs. Looking back, I'd probably not have done anything so elaborate, but I felt the need to show off a bit. Pride goeth before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. And the time spent on these could have used elsewhere in the project.

On the other hand, I was told to make some fancy signs, and given a description of what was required. So I was only following orders. That defense worked at Nurnburg and Tokyo, didn't it?!? Sure it did!

'Walls of Jericho' was the game where you toss the ball at the stack of blocks or bowling pins or whatever and win the prize.

And the Wheelbarrow Race, where the two-person teams (one as the 'wheelbarrow' and one as the pusher) compete for the prize. Those of you reading this, do me a kindness and don't show this to Hanna-Barbera's lawyers. I don't need trouble for, umm, 'borrowing', certain of their characters.

Yes, voted 'most likely to paint silly nose art on airplanes' when I left school. In many ways I suppose I should've followed up and got artistic training somewhere. Ended up doing about 20 posters. And 5 kilos of sloppy joes. And setting up. And being a gofer.

The director of children's ministries came up to me and said 'YD, I didn't know you were an artistic type!". Yes, well, there's a reason for that. Generally I prefer to remain under the radar. Now I'm going to get pestered to make posters for every event. Oops.


"I'faith, sir, you shall never need to fear:/ I wis it is not half way to her heart;/ But if it were, doubt not her care should be/To comb your noddle with a three-legg'd stool/ And paint your face and use you like a fool."

-William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 1, Scene 1

"I said girl, don't go away mad/Girl, just go away"

-Motley Crue, 1989

But, as in every endeavor, there's always that one person, always that 10 percent, who can't play nice. Such was the other person in charge, Charlotte the Harlot (CTH). A religious person would say 'she's full of demons'. I'm not that religious. The woman is simply a bitch (Sorry, if any ladies are reading this, but I don't know a better term and many worse). She was trouble at Vacation Bible School, and I could tell she was going to be trouble here. She was sullen the whole day, and kept saying 'I asked for three weeks what I could do and kept getting blown off!" What she was given to do she half-assed her way through and we couldn't get a hold of her at all. After the carnival, I remarked to her that she could have been more civil, and I wasn't sure given the time we had that she'd have done better. She then stormed over to TBH and said 'Don't send your fiance over to jump on me! If you have a problem you come talk to me!" Thereupon, the pastor came over and had to play cop and tell her to go home. CTH dropped an F-Bomb on the pastor then went and pouted.

She can stuff it. TBH is the most mild-mannered person there is. CTH was looking for a fight all day. She wrote a lukewarm apology the next day. She even accused me of 'attacking her character'. Whatever. She can plant her lips on my pasty white posterior. I thought I left people like that behind when I got out of school. Good to see the subspecies is alive and thriving.


"The kids are alright!"

-The Who, 1965

So the carnival wasn't done up according to CTH's standards, and we were late getting rolling. But once we got up and running, the kids had a good time! The games went well, all things considered. We had a face painter (always popular), a fellow who made balloon animals, a dunk tank (amazing when you have the pastor in the dunk tank how good everyone's aim gets), and an inflatable jumpy. Everyone got enough to eat (I didn't poison anyone with the sloppy joes-I can do a mass feeding. We Americans are the masters of mass feeds. And invasions.). A lot of people from the neighborhood came in and everyone was well behaved (good, because the area is a bit rough at times). That the kids enjoyed the event was much more important than the event being done perfectly! A lot of people came up to TBH after the carnival and commented that it went well. Much more important than one dissenter complaining.

Were there things we could have done better? Certainly. It was our first one. The following ones will be easier.

Next time we'll start planning earlier-March or April, maybe. Set up a committee to handle food, and one for games and prizes, and let them do their thing. Have the carnival on a weekend day to make it easier to get helpers. We already have a lot of the games in house now. Check out other school/church carnivals and see what they do. Standard stuff. And I'll be quite happy to do ONE (and only one) thing for it-run a game, or, better yet, cook something. But no more strategic planning for a while. I didn't need this right now, although events on other fronts are at good points, all things considered.

Whew! What a week. I'm beat, more mentally than physically. Although the Greek Orthodox church in town (yes we have one!) is having their outdoor carnival/festival today. I think we're going to check it out-recon, ya know-

-and baklava! Mmmm, (drool)....baklava.
yankeedog out.

13 September 2009

Increasing OpTempo

I appear to have been conscripted into a little project, so I'm going to be busy well into next week. As I left, I put a dollar in the Cyberjukebox to play a few faves for y'all. Even hit the numbers for you. Listen up!

A2: This band was formed in downstate Illinois a looong time ago. I've drunk rather a lot to this song back inna day. Give it a play.

B6: One from the mid 1960s. No one captured the Hudson-Mohawkside sound like the Knickerbockers. No! We're not trying to sound like those guys from Liverpool! Not us! Not Don, Saul, Porge, and Bingo!

B8: Another oldie-a minor hit here but I gather somewhat bigger Down Under. It features one of the Musical Young Dynasty. Would you believe I have a striped jacket just like those the band wears? No? Good.

K7: I don't know who would be considered the performer of the iconic 'American' song. Perhaps Springsteen, but for my money, John Mellencamp's songs capture the spirit of the Midwest. The man writes what he knows-a good rule to follow whether an author or songwriter. The Small Town he sings about might have been the one I grew up in.

D3: They don't make country and western songs like this anymore. Nor does any radio station play them-if you can have classic and oldie rock, why not country? Saddle up, amigos-we're headed for the border.

D5: I'm up for a trip to the tropics. I can't afford one, but I'm up for the trip anyway. Perhaps a bit of the good Mr. Buffett will help-that and a drop of the medicinal rum!

F2: At first I scoffed at this bunch-but I've become a fan! Hello, hello...

A11: As you all know, I can't get enough neo-swing/jazz/blues/rock/folk/bayou/klezmer, even though the genre has become trite. Don't like my rambling? Put a lid on it!

E8: We'll go back to the beginning of the last century for some Scott Joplin. I've seen sheet music of Joplin's work-it appears to be quite a challenge to plunk out. Not for the squeamish!

H4: Finally! The last tune. The Metrolites were a local band that specialized in lounge/surf/spy rock. Never heard of them? I'm not too surprised. This is their cover of 'The Blob', from the original '50s film (no bloody Blob -B, -C, or -D!).

You've heard enough. I suppose too much exposure to my musical tastes would be considered a crime against humanity in some circles.

Later, kids.

yankeedog out.

09 September 2009

Someone help me out here...

...becuase I'm a simple man. A man of of the land. A moron.

I've been quiet about all of the debate on health care up here in the Land of the Free, mostly because I don't know of a good solution to the problem. Like most problems, it doesn't have a single 'solution', rather a series of actions would be necessary for a 'solution'.

Oh, I've heard all of the crap from both sides on it, though, with no thought given to any pretense of civility or logic.

First off, let's talk a bit about civility, shall we? I know what you're thinking-"Not again, YD. We went through this all before." Then it's time for a refresher course.

We seem to be losing the ability to have constructive debate on any issue here in this country anymore. I hear a lot of people on talk radio, and the gist of what I'm hearing is 'I don't want the government meddling in my affairs! Make sure my Social Security check gets here on time, my roads are plowed and patched, and the mail gets here before my naptime. When's Glenn Beck on?'

To be fair (and balanced), people couldn't wait to pick apart Mr. Bush's every move and call him every name in the book when he was Boss, so neither side can claim innocence.

Polarization will not bring about anything productive. (Yankeedog said, into the wind for all the good it will do).

I've read the last few issues of Fortune magazine, and they've had some profiles of successful CEO's in them. What struck me as interesting is that a lot of them talked about gaining their success by being deft in negotiations. They aimed whenever possible to create situations where everybody got something in a given deal. Everybody chalks a win and no one one walks away empty-handed.

Let's consider a few prominent Americans for a bit.

1) Ted Kennedy, the 'Liberal Lion', late senator from Massachusetts. While not the ablest of the Kennedys, he had friends (or whatever passes for friendship among pols) on both sides of the aisle and at the other end of the political spectrum. I don't what morals he had (not good, I suspect), but he seemed to follow that classic saying-'It's ain't personal. It's just business.'

2) William F. Buckley, Jr., late 'spokesman' for the conservative movement. Buckley could verbally rend someone-or take them apart with surgical precision. He was also known for having dinner parties featuring prominent liberals on the guest list.

It ain't personal. It's just business.

3) I'd make a case for Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. After the Civil War, they had the opportunity (and military strength) to utterly crush the Confederate States, execute the leaders of the Rebellion, and exact reprisals on everyone that served in the Confederate forces. Instead, the Confederates were given as good as could be expected. The officers were allowed to keep sidearms, and any soldier with a horse or mule was allowed to take it home (to help with the harvest). Most of the common soldiers had only to sign an oath not to take up arms against the Union. Indeed, many former Confederate military served in the postwar US military, and one Confederate general served in the US Army during the Spanish-American War.

Perhaps honor meant more then than now. At any rate, showing the opponent some dignity in defeat in this case may have saved countless years in guerilla actions in the South. There were enough problems there at any rate.

I digress, since none of you probably wanted a history lesson. The point and common theme was that the people mentioned above knew and practiced civility (or mastered the art of the deal-perhaps they're one and the same) to their ideological opposites. Evidently this method does, on occasion, work.

Well. Don't reckon there'll be a change anytime soon.

As for health care here-I'm firmly on the fence. Like I said, I don't have an answer. People don't want to pay the cost (real and/or perceived) of a government-run system. There's been a lot of talk of 'rationed care' and 'death panels'. But the system we have now doesn't run all that well either.

Let's compare and contrast a few things:

-A panel of government bureaucrats decides that you're too old and unproductive to expend heroic measures to keep you alive.
-A panel of insurance company bureaucrats decides that you're too high risk to carry, so they deny payment for heroic measures to keep you alive.

-Under a government health care plan, you won't get to use the physicians you want.
-Under the current system, the insurance company will pay benefits only to physicians in their plan. You don't get to use the physicians you want.

-Government health care means 'rationed care'.
-The current system doesn't pay for certain services, so you pay out-of-pocket. Or more likely, don't get them.

-Recently the VA sent 4300 letters to patients informing them that they had ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). It was an error by the government medical bureaucracy.
-Recently here in the QCs a local hospital failed to inform the county Health Department that there was a person in hospital with Hepatitis B from contamination from a local restaurant. It was an error by the private medical bureaucracy.

The question, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is-

What the hell's the difference?

When someone can answer that, then I'll jump both feet into one side or the other. Show me one system is better than the other based on the arguments here (That's a rhetorical question I'm asking my hardcore fellow citizens-you visitors that have your own health-care setup are exempt from answering).

We aren't anywhere close to getting the health-care thing solved. But we'd better start pulling on the same side of the rope a bit more often on issues, or the country's screwed. There are times I despair for us now.

Ending on a better note, we're working 40 hours again, at least for a bit. We've had an influx of orders-and good projects, at that.

Barkeep! Steins of your finest Keystone Light all around!!

yankeedog out.

08 September 2009

Visiting the Doctor

When we first got cable back home, 'round about 1980, we got WTTW, the PBS affiliate from Chicago. On Sunday nights, they showed exotic TV, from way, way far away-the UK. I remember occasionally staying up to watch Dave Allen at Large (must check if those are available in my Region's DVD format) and Doctor Who. I cut my teeth on the Tom Baker episodes, with his quirky wardrobe and the slightly subpar special effects that marked productions by the tight-fisted Beeb.

I sort of drifted away from the show (it was on at 11pm on Sunday-school beckoned the next day) and forgot about it, though I knew the good Doctor went through several incarnations since Baker the First. I remember seeing my first episode of Red Dwarf, thinking it was an episode of Doctor Who. Then I thought 'Wait a minute! There's no laugh track in Doctor Who!'

Last Saturday, I stayed up late to catch the hour of The Red Green Show (the show that's just like home), and after that I heard the familiar theme. It's the Doctor! With computer generated special effects and a funky-looking interior in the ol' TARDIS! Since it had been a while since I tuned in, I hung around to watch. The episode was Gridlock, and it looked like it was made within the last year or so. The actor playing the Doctor (David Tennant) didn't seem too bad in the role, and his companion, Martha (Freema Agyeman) was, well, the typical Companion. The story was similar to all those I remember in the older episodes-somewhat quirky and a bit cerebral (though I'd not have minded had some of the Who writers had worked on any of the Star Trek spinoffs-they'd have been more watchable).

For all that, there was something missing for me in these new series, and I can't place it. Perhaps I'm just getting old and can't change-but these didn't seem very rewatchable to me. As I recall, the old Whos might have had a story arc stretching out over several episodes. This episode was only an hour long-not much time to set up a good plot for the man from Gallifrey to set right. Maybe that was a lot of the problem I had. Perhaps it was no clunky K9 on board. No, not that.

Any veteran fans of the Doctor out there? Is it just me that sees something a bit amiss compared to the older series?


yankeedog out.

06 September 2009

ECHELON logo (for the 'Burgers)

A few weeks back, Birmo asked what the logo for the ECHELON logo (featured in his book Without Warning) might look like. A lot of people came up with some good descriptions, but since I often have trouble with words of more than one syllable, I remembered that a picture is worth 1000 words. Therefore, I sat down and created a kiloword.

I sent the image to The Man Himself. Following is the description of the emblem:

I assume that Echelon could be multinational. I used a black/dark grey background to indicate 'operating from the shadows'. The dagger with stylized wings might recall the SAS or any of several special operations units around the world. The multiple lightning bolts of different colors might be taken from the US Army Special Forces logo, the multiple colors representing the flags of several nations. The stars along the left might also represent the countries/entities that contribute to Echelon and the stylized 'olive branch' on the right might represent 'working for the cause of peace'.

'In Cavda Venenum' I believe is Latin for 'The Tail Contains The Poison', which might suggest both a surveillance function, the ability to destroy as necessary, and the concept of a relatively small body (one person or a team) to do damage out of proportion to size.

JB seemed pleased enough with my concept.

Not a terrible image for an hour's work. I've asked to be Official Heraldist to the Realm. So far, no word. Reckon I shouldn't have asked for $ 3 million a year.

yankeedog out.

05 September 2009

Rails repeat

Last weekend, my brother and I took some time away from our various projects and did a trip to the Illinois Railway Museum, the biggest collection of railroad equipment in North America (outside of the railroad companies, of course). Last year I made a post on the old journalspace blog, so most of this is likely a repeat. But, since that site went the way of the dodo, I'll make another post. If you find it boring, change the channel.

I've been there several times in my life, and the place is constantly growing-getting equipment restored, trading equipment with other operations, and adding inventory. They have need for volunteers of nearly every profession that ever worked the rails. I'm sure they could find jobs for about anyone.

This parlor car was used on an electric railroad in Indiana. Most of the shell of the car has been restored. Looks like the original manufacturer used a fair amount of mahogany or teak in the interior. The car is a beauty right now-once they get the period seats and furniture (early 1900s or thereabouts) installed, it'll be quite a magnificent bit of rolling stock.

This little car was built in 1859 for the North Chicago Street Railroad. It could carry perhaps a dozen passengers along with its 1 or 2 horsepower prime mover-that, of course, being 1 or 2 draft horses. It beat walking, though, and the street railroads eventually became streetcar lines which became mass transit systems.

A General Motors Electromotive Division SD45. The -45 was built in the late 1960s-early 1970s and were a powerful engine (3600 hp). Their 20 cylinder diesels had a tendency to break crankshafts, which is obviously a major repair-several days of downtime. Most of the units still around were rebuilt with a much more reliable 16 cylinder powerplant.

A GG1 heavy electric locomotive, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the late 1930s. These were used on both freight and passenger service and became something of an icon of the Pennsy, with their brick red or dark green exteriors pulling trains along the Northeast Corridor at speed, 11000 volts humming through the catenaries. The Keystone emblem on the nose is the symbol of the state of Pennsylvania, 'keystone' state of the 'arch' of the original 13 colonies. The keystone was also used in the Heinz Foods logo and the 28th Infantry Division, both Pennsylvania based.

Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 265, built in 1944 and part of the last series of steam locomtives built for the CMStP&P before dieselization. These spent most of their service pulling freights, although sister engine 261 is operated by a nonprofit organization for excursions. I've had the pleasure riding on 261 excursions, and you regulars here have seen those pictures and accounts.

The Electroliner was something of a luxury train that ran between Chicago and Milwaukee (taking between 60 and 90 minutes to do so). It was an articulated set that always operated as a single unit. The five-car train included a bar/parlor allowing for some luxury for the commuting public. The Train of Tomorrow-which lasted in the Chicago area from 1940 until 1963. They were then used in the Philadelphia area until 1976.

A nose-on view of a GM EMD E-unit from 1936, the motive power for the Burlington Route Nebraska Zephyr, another articulated trainset. This was operated at various routes around the Burlington.
Oh, yes-an articulated train has one set of trucks (wheels) permanently connecting between two cars. They look cool-but this system is a maintenance problem, since a car that has a mechanical problem can't be disconnected. This means that any issue with a single car sidelines the whole train. Not all that economical for the company.

A couple of F-units-more General Motors power that was so prevalent from the late 1930s into the 1970s in mainline service, and fairly common on short lines and tourist railroads to this day.
Again, the 'covered wagons' had issues. The early models didn't have easy maintenance access to the diesel engines-the side body panels were difficult if not impossible to remove, making it tough to perform major repairs. The later marks had improved structures and removable side panels, which made the machinists' and electricians' jobs much easier.
A fine day all in all. Some folks try to drown their problems, only to find that the problems are quite capable of treading liquid. I try to get away from them, if even for a day, but I find they occasionally ride on the running board. But not so much on this day trip.
yankeedog out.

03 September 2009

Learning to lose

For you few hangers-on that visit here, I may have covered this topic before. I should go back and check but actually I don't much feel like expending that kind of effort. And those of you with kids might possibly chime in with your opinion.

The Better Half has a sister with a couple of kids who can do no wrong in their parents' eyes. And they aren't bad kids-but they have a potential life-problem coming up.

When the oldest one graduated high school, TBH sent him a nice card and $600 as a graduation present. This was in late May. It's now September, and we've not heard a peep from him-as in 'Thank you, Aunt, for the card and cash.' No note, no text message, nothing. Just like he fell off the map. We know he headed off to college, because his mom (who is first to tell us when the little darlings do something wonderful) said so in an email.


Is it me, or is it too much to ask that the little ingrate say 'Thanks'?

To be fair, the kids never have thanked anyone for anything. Also, to be fair, you can't blame the sword for the actions of the hands that wield it. My guess is that there was some item omitted by the parents-the course on Basic Courtesy.

These are the same parents who belonged to a country club so their children could meet 'the right people' (my life is an episode of Keeping Up Appearances, and TBH and I are Daisy and Onslow, evidently). Seems to me a bit of time may have been expended on a) teaching some manners and b) not giving the children everything.

I've never had kids, largely because I've not grown up yet. I suspect the family line will die out with my brother and myself. Less YD Family and more oxygen for everyone else-two reasons to celebrate! Such a deal.

I have to say that I've never seen anyone, child or adult, who never had to work for anything or hear 'no' ever come to a good end. Or if they do end up OK, it's after a real rough collision with life. You get handed a car, you wreck it. Hey, no big deal, right? You're not paying for the insurance or repairs. You get handed a free ride to college, you drink and party for four years (well, most do that, paid or not. I suspect I'd have done that.). It isn't your money being pissed away. You're out of school and have no job prospects? Go live in a 2-room flat and collect money from the parents or work a two-bit job.

Part two of this is the inability of parents to let their children fail. If a person never fails, how can they learn to succeed? Little League Baseball is a perfect example-everyone has to play in a given game. Some children's sports leagues don't count wins or losses. How does one get incentive to get better at a given task or learn how to lose gracefully? And what happens when, one fine day, the child who is now an adult, doesn't get the job after an interview? Or has to deal with a relationship gone bad? Or deal with any one of half a hundred things that can go wrong in a given day? Do they just break down mentally? Pout? Go insane?

Of course, I'm not saying 'Do nothing for your children. Let them fend for themselves. Give them a knife and compass and airdrop them in the Sierra Nevadas for two weeks.' I can only go on my own experience. I know I've worked to become what I am (which may or may not be an argument for working at all), and I definitely didn't get everything I wanted when I was young. My folks made sure I had what I needed. Education? Student loan-and two years in college. Car? Not in high school. Coddled in sports? No-and not all that good in most of them. Got picked last for the most part-but I'd not push my kids (if I had any) to be sports prodigies simply because I wasn't.

I dunno. Parents, am I completly off on this, or is balancing the desire to give your children everything vs. getting them used to taking a few hard knocks in life simply a balancing act? Or should I just shut my piehole?

As for the nephew who never learned how never to put 'thank' and 'you' in the same paragraph-well, he may find it a bit rough out in the world unless he learns some courtesy. Or it might be good that he's away from the atmosphere he appears to have grown up in. Time will tell. At one time he wanted to join the Navy, and it would have been a good thing for him. Most kids go in to boot camp surly, but, under the kind ministrations of the local Sergeant or Chief Petty Officer, come out knowing what the hell polite means. His parents probably wouldn't have let him go in unless he'd have started out commanding a carrier battle group, though.

Reckon we'll see, though. A shame he has to start his independant life with the handicap of the sense of entitlement.

I await your opinions and thoughts, folks. I'll be in and out over Labor Day weekend.

yankeedog out.

01 September 2009

Close call

I went to work this morning, and when I walked in, I caught a whiff of that burnt plastic/ozone type aroma usually found when an electrical component blows. Figuring that a transformer blew somewhere in the shop, I didn't give it much thought until I ran into my fellow designer, who kindly pointed out to me the burnt-out wall at the back of the factory building.

Holy crap!

Yesterday one of the fabrication guys was cutting apart some old chain slings used on the paint line at the local farm implement plant. We do this so that someone doesn't take used or worn slings home to use for some project or other-never use a worn sling that someone's disposed of, kids-safety tip for today. Someone tossed it out for a reason.

Anyway, the slings had about 10mm of paint buildup on them. When our guy was done cutting the slings, he tossed them on some wooden pallets right next to the wall. I know the guy, and I'm sure he was fairly conscientious about letting the cut ends cool, but enough paint fallout and vapors built up in that pile that some stray end set the lot on fire.

We were fortunate-we'll need a section of the wall replaced, one of the welders is shot, we lost a rack of various and sundry shop supplies, but for that it could have been worse. There were some oxygen and acetylene welding tanks about three feet from the edge of the burnt-out area. I'd guess once those let go that might have been all she wrote for the building. Whew!

The owners had said that if the building had been destroyed, we'd likely be out of business. We sell speedy service to our local customers, and since we build stuff to fix safety issues, our customers couldn't wait weeks or months for us to get back on line. We should be able to get back to doing some fabricating tomorrow, though.

On such things like a few inches, or a few minutes, livelihoods hang in the balance. Amazing if you think about it. Once again, YD (and a few others) draws the Ace off the Cosmic Deck. I seem to have a knack for this. One wonders when the other shoe will drop in life-it usually does.

So. At any rate, the insurance company should cover the damage ( we'll pay for it when the next premium notice comes in, I reckon), and we should be going full speed in a few weeks.

And I'd guess from now on we'll cut up those used chain slings and toss them in a metal dumpster-and roll it away from the building when we're done!

yankeedog out.