Wednesday, November 29, 2006

UPS: case study in business incompetence

It started with a box on my porch when I got home.

I looked at it and thought "oh, my wife is buying yet more stuff" and picked it up and took it in. I looked at it: sure enough, the street address was correct, but the name on the address was not ours.

Hmmm, I decided to wait until my wife got home to see if she knew anything about it.

Sure enough, it wasn't for us; it was some outfit with a Peoria address but a South Carolina area code? (if that was indeed the number).

That is where the fun started.

I called the 1-800 number for UPS. Of course, I got one of those multi-layered menus, none of which had what I needed.

I gave up and called the local office.

They told me to call the 1-800 number and say "agent."

I did; it turns out that there was a long wait so I hung up and called the local office again.

They would not help me; they said that *I* could just wait on the 1-800 number or *drive* the package back to them! (no, I didn't)

All this because I got a mis addressed package that I didn't order?

So, now the box sits on the front porch. My guess is that the person who ordered the item (a bag for a lawn mower) will eventually inquire and trace the item.

The killer is tha the local UPS office did NOTHING; yes, if they were given the wrong address it wasn't their fault, but you'd think that they would care more for their customers (the business who sent the item, and the one the item was going to, but I guess not.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Personal: JUNK!!!!

The city of Peoria twisted our arms into getting our garage fixed. Yeah, that is the kind of things that local governments and/or homeowner's associations should do. We were negligent.

This is a sort of a "before" photo: note the trim on the roof. The roof has been replaced; the sides and the doors are next.
This is the trash that was INSIDE of the garage, and there is probably a half of a load more to go! This has nothing to do with the work that has been done; this is simply some of the trash that we were keeping. Unbelievable.

So, what should a homeowner's association not do?

Try this:

While the overwhelming Democratic victory in the midterm Congressional elections gives us huge reason for hope, we still receive signs on a daily basis showing just how much work we have to do in repairing our country. One piece of evidence today comes from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where Lisa Jensen is in deep trouble with her homeowner's association for having the gall to hang a holiday wreath shaped like a peace sign on the side of her house.

"I just wanted to put a message of peace out there," said Jensen, who put the wreath up about one week ago, not intending it to be a statement against the Iraq war. "I was really trying to be in favor of something - peace." [...]

According to Bob Kearns, the association's president, three or four residents have complained and at least one believes Jensen's decoration is a symbol of Satan.

"The peace sign has a lot of negativity associated with it. It's also an anti-Christ sign. That's how it started," said Kearns. "Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up."

Hmmm. Not much more to add to this.

More remarks: (click to see a larger version)
This pretty much sums up my feelings about Thanksgiving dinners...

Oh yes, athletics. Yesterday, I had pain in the upper part of my right calf; almost behind the knee. It went away today; I think it was sympatheic pain for the right knee as we just had a weather change.

Still, I gave my knee the day off and swam 2600 yards and water ran for 20 minutes. I had a lane next to a tri-babe who was wearing a brief workout bikini.

No names mentioned (yeah, she is happily married and a mom, and not only is she an accomplished recreational athlete, she is also a professional engineer!)

Still, it was fun to swim next to her.

I am ashamed to say that my fastest 100 was only 1:37, and I had to push to do THAT (I was leaving on the 2:10). But, this semester I have been swimming 1 mile (1800 yards) three times a week, after lifting weights. Today, I swam "fresh".

And ok, I've been sort of down lately. Nothing is really wrong; I just have the blah's. I get these almost every year at about this time.

Yes, this series of injuries has frustrated me just a bit, but I brought it on myself by overracing the ultras and letting my walking technique slip.

So, to remind myself of what could lie ahead, I'll post some photos from athletically happier times:

Mrs. T's, in 1999. This was the last year I could swim a sub 16 minute 1000 yard race.

Finishing the 2000 Madison Half Marathon in 1:35. This was my last "good" half marathon, though I did manage a 1:37 in 2001.

Finally, a comment on a thread on on yoga and lap dancing

one poster said this:

Well, to each his/her own. I think Cyndi's more on it with the competitive thing. Sensuality is a wonderful aspect of humanity that is good to cultivate, but getting tips/getting a promotion/ahead in the world based on the size of your cups is another thing. But, most of us women know how stupid men are when we shake our ta-tas in front of them and some of us (a lot of us) take advantage of that. Can't say that I haven't done that myself (not for money, though ).

The P*s*y Cat Dolls song "don't you wish your girlfriend was HOT like me?" sums it up.
To which I replied:

Ahh, but then you have no room to complain if you aren't taken seriously, or if another woman with better ta-tas comes by and makes you invisible.

And another yogi posted:

Ah, a nice, serious topic among yogis.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Going into the last week of November

This post will be a bit more rambling than normal.

Today, I ran 5 miles slowly (9:30 pace) and then did 1 hour of indoor cycling. Then I hiked about 2 miles with my wife; I did have some hip ache that I was able to fight off with some sitting and stretching.

As I said, I got back from Austin recently; one of the things I did was to celebrate some birthdays. The birthday girls can be seen here.

The three "girls" are Krystal, Olivia (the one with the glasses, my daughter) and Lauren. We clowned around with yoga a bit as all have had lessons; Krystal (the one with the star on her sweatshirt) can do the backbend (Urdhva Dhanurasana) from standing. Personally, I need to push up to it, or to use a wall.

On the way home I stopped at O'Hare airport (Chicago) for a 3 hour layover. O'Hare is named for Butch O'Hare, who was a naval ace during World War II and won the medal of honor for taking on a formation of 8 Japanese bombers at once.

When I stopped to see the exhibit, I was surprised to find that he was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, class of 1937. I saw the Lucky Bag (year book) open to his page, and I noticed that Midshipmen wrote the same sort of things about each other as they did when I graduated 44 years later. I suppose that some things are universal.

I read the following article by Leonard Pitts today, which was written in response to this incident and the public's response to it:

Richard's Rant Leaves no Doubt that He is a Racist.

[...]a pointed question is now being debated: Is Michael Richards a racist? Let me save us all a lot of time: Yes. It seems obvious that Seinfeld's Kramer, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding, has no use for, as he put it in his rambling, disjointed, and painful-to-watch apology on Letterman, ``Afro Americans.''

I have a reader who would disagree on that. She sent an e-mail hoping to preempt my calling Richards racist. She asked that I consider the possibility he's no bigot but simply a man who, in anger, reached instinctively for the most hurtful language he could find. We've all been there, right?


Well, no. Richards' rant, according to the video of it online, lasted a good 2 ½ minutes. You might angrily snap that somebody is a ''fat so-and-so'' without really meaning it. You don't spend 2 ½ minutes calling them fat unless fat is exactly what you mean.

What bothers me most about my reader's explanation is that she felt compelled to postulate an alternate reason for Richards' behavior. Evidently she found the likeliest reason too hard to accept. Nor is she alone., the website that obtained the video, polled its users with this question: Is Richards a racist? Forty percent of the respondents said no. [...]

Granted, the survey is not scientific, but it is instructive. And no, it makes no difference to me that some black people freely use the same word Richards did. I consider them just as hateful as I do him, except with them, it's hatred of self.

But frankly, Richards is not the point here. [...]

But if so many of my white countrymen refuse to recognize racism when it is this blatant and unmistakable, what expectation can we have that they will do so when it is subtle and covert? In other words, when it is what it usually is.

Modern bigotry usually isn't some nitwit screaming the N-word. It is jobs you don't get and loans you don't get and apartments you don't get and healthcare you don't get and justice you don't get, for reasons you get all too clearly, even though no one ever quite speaks them. [...]

These are complaints African Americans have sought for years to drive home only to be met largely by indifference, the defensive apathy of those who are free to ignore or diminish any claim on conscience that makes them uncomfortable. At the risk of metaphor abuse, the response to this debacle makes clear that you can't explain Advanced Racism to those who haven't passed Racism 101.

And, with all due respect to my correspondent, that need to make excuses gets old. The man spent 2 ½ minutes screaming racial insults. You say that's not racism?

Then, pray tell, what is?

Here is a youtube of what Pitts is talking about.

So, what? What do you think?

It Pitts (one of my favorite columnists) overreacting?

Probably not from the point of view of most African Americans. Seriously, think of it this way: blatant, state sponsored racial discrimination last occured before many of today's younger adults were born (and please, don't even try to compare affirmative action to what went on before; those things aren't even in the same universe even if you feel that race based affirmative action is unjust).

From the point of view of many non-African Americans, this was just some shock-comic saying shocking things. And one thing that Mr. Pitts probably doesn't want to admit is that there is a big "cry wolf" syndrome at work here.

I've seen it repeatedly: someone fails, and then they try to play the race card, if it is available to them (in EITHER DIRECTION, that is, a minority claims "discrimination" and the non-minortiy claims that they would have made it if affirmative action were working for them). Many people (regardless of race) are quick to make excuses for their own failures.

Nevertheless, I see his point: if this outburst, which I admit is blatantly obvious, isn't seen as racist, then how in the heck are the rest of us going to take the more subtle forms of racism seriously?

So, this is one reason I will continue to support affirmative action, especially for African Americans, even with its problems. I just don't trust our society to truly be color-blind; we (as a society) need some guidance. We're not ready to kick up the training wheels as yet.

When the Jewish Bible talks about the "sins of the fathers" affecting many subsequent generations, this was the kind of thing that was being talked about, in my opinion.

And please don't tell me that certain classes of people (mostly white) don't have built in advantages. Would George W. Bush have been president had he not been a "Bush"?

On another angle: I'd ask Mr. Pitts to consider how people reacted to Senator Allen's "macaca" incident.

Frankly, that bothered me much more as this came from a sitting United States Senator. Even worse was the "welcome to America" remark; it is as if only white people are real Americans.

Then, on a lesser level, there was the remarks made by Michael Irvin about the Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo was having a good game against the Tampa Bay Bucs. In fact, he played so well that Irvin joked that Romo must have had African ancestors somewhere (the implication that a white couldn't be that good of an athlete):

IRVING, Texas - Don't tell Bill Parcells, but Tony Romo is currently the NFL's best quarterback.

Don't tell Michael Irvin, but it's not because Romo has black ancestors.

And whatever you do, don't tell ESPN that Irvin has no business pretending to be Charles Darwin.

If you're a little confused, bear with me. We came to Dallas to cover a Tampa Bay game. We got one of the biggest stories of the NFL season, along with one of the most under-reported.[...]

The biggest continues to be Romo. The Bucs made him look like Roger Staubach. Or he made the Bucs look like Chernobyl High. Either way, five touchdown passes added up to a Thanksgiving Day Massacre. [...]

How did a fourth-year nobody from Eastern Illinois become a pro sensation?

"I just try to execute," he said.

That's the kind of nice, modest explanation you've heard countless times. Then there is Irvin's explanation, which you probably haven't heard once.

"Somewhere there are some brothers. . . . (Maybe) his great, great, great, great Grandma ran over in the hood or something went down."

That's what Irvin said Monday on the Dan Patrick radio show. The host then asked Irvin if having black ancestry was the only way to be a great athlete.

"No, that's not the only way, but it's certainly one way. Great, great, great, great Grandma pulled one of them studs up outta the barn."

It should be noted that Irvin was cackling throughout. It should also be noted that doesn't matter.

Some things you just can't joke about in this day and age. At least you can't if you're, let's be honest here, the color of Romo's great, great, great, great Grandma.

Of course, Irvin was a hall-of-fame caliber player with those Cowboys, and he caught his passes from Troy Aikman, who, if anything, looks like one of those old Nordic gods.

But even those who have felt the pain of racism sometimes slip up, though Irvin's "botched joke" was nothing like the incident that Pitts wrote about.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yuck!!! Bad weekend for spectator sports...

Oh well, ND fell 44-24, with USC getting their last touchdown when they returned an onside kick for a touchdown. I had called it 34-21 here.

I had a split TV going while I watched Illinois beat Bradley 75-71; Bradley had a lead but was depending too much on 3-point shooting.

As far as the ND-USC game: USC had too much team speed, and ND couldn't take advantage of a series in the second quarter where ND got two interceptions in a row. At the time, USC lead 21-10.

The total net yards weren't that different (407-402 in USC's favor, with both rushing and passing being close) but it appeared if ND was always playing catch up.

ND ended up turning the ball over on downs a great deal.

So, we'll see how the bowl situation turns out; USC still has their rivals (UCLA) to play, and ND can still take solace that they beat teams who are currently 9-3, 9-3, 8-4 and 8-4 along the way to a 10-2 regular season.

But this was a weekend to forget, spectator sports wise.

Back in Peoria, Thanksgiving 2006

I am back in town again, and have taken today off from exercise. My butt hurts a bit from the trip, so I'll do some yoga this afternoon just before dinner.

I've been told that I look better than I did this summer. Part of the reason is that I've been faithful with lifting, yoga, swimming and well as cycling. Running is coming along oh-so-slowly (and of course, my racing has been slow too).

Weightlifting wise, my big exercises have been pull ups, lat pull downs, and squats (I've also used the hip machine, and done a couple of sets of bench presses).

I don't get the depth that this powerlifter Zhanna Ivanova (Ukraine) gets; mind you she has 456 pounds (207.5 kg) on the bar! Nor does my form look nearly as good. I'll have to keep at it.

I've been reading The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas Barnett; I am on the last 150 pages or so. I'll write a review afterwards; let's just say that the actions of the Bush administration makes more sense to me now, though I continue to despise them as much as ever.

Oh well; back to the grind; I'll be busy with school this week, starting tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006


The Aggies whipped my Longhorns 12-7 in a game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. Yeah, A&M went up with 2:30 or so to go after a long drive, but UT's only score came off of a fumble recovery.

Basically, UT couldn't move the ball (their quarterback appeared as if he hadn't recovered from his injury two weeks ago) and they had a hard time stopping A&M's option attack, especially when they were moving with the wind at their backs.

On a personal note, I got in a 4.2 mile run (37:30 this time), and some pull-ups at Town Lake, and then went shopping with Olivia (my daughter) and my mom.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What Famous Liberal Said this:

I have some quotes. One person said all of this.


  • “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

  • “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.”

  • “War settles nothing.”

  • “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

  • “We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”

  • "How far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”

  • “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Man, what an unpatriotic, bleeding heart, liberal pinko commie!
Click here to see who it was! (yep, it was a famous Republican!) Hat tip to Flint at a popular website.

Turkey Trot: can't fake a 5 mile race.

I attempted to run the Thundercloud Turkey Trot in Austin; distance was 5 miles (8.1 km).

The course was a hilly loop that circled around the capitol, the campus of the University of Texas, and some of my old neighborhoods (when I was a grad student at UT).

There were 8000 people there, along with the usual problems of slow walkers lining up in front, 12-13 minute a mile joggers lining up at the 6 minute a mile spot, etc.

But I should have been focused on my own lack of running conditioning. The first mile took me a bit over 8 minutes to complete as I had a slow start; but I was already feeling a bit winded. The second mile came about 7:30 later; that was too fast for me today.

I was already starting to hurt; I ended up walking 2-3 times (up the hills, which I wasn't ready for). Mile 3 came at 25 minutes; I was completely whipped.

We went past Memorial Stadium and around the Super Drum (basketball arena). I was suffering though I was barely doing sub 9 minute miles at this point.

We made the second to the last turn to face a stiff but short uphill; I walked a few more steps.

My final time was 43:08, which was about 5 minutes slower than 3 years ago, but what I should have expected given that 5 miles had been my longest run (9 minute pace) and most of my runs were 2-3 miles.

The hard truth: I can "fake" an ok 5K race (say, at 30 seconds a mile off of my race pace) by just showing up in half way decent aerobic shape (via bicycling, swimming, etc.). But anything longer: if I am to race, I need to be in running shape.

But I had fun, saw lots of cute spandex and got a wonderful tempo workout. And I am one workout closer to being in running shape.

Update: Political Commentary.
There is one thing that did bother me a bit. Before the race, they sang the National Anthem. Ok, we overuse this around here, but I've come to accept that this is part of our culture. So, I respectfully stood at attention.

However, there is one runner who stayed down to stretch. And, of course, some busy body had to go and try to get onto the guy for not standing up. The runner held is ground and more or less politely told the busybody to mind his own business.

THAT is the kind of phony patriotism that I dislike; it is really none of anyone's business who stands and who doesn't during the National Anthem. We are supposed to be free and attention that is coerced is not sincere.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Enchanted Rock State Park Hike with Daughter

Today, I skipped working out and drove to Enchanted Rock State Park to hike with my daughter.

From the park site:
History: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area consists of 1643.5 acres on Big
Sandy Creek, north of Fredericksburg, on the border between Gillespie and Llano
Counties. It was acquired by warranty deed in 1978 by the Nature Conservancy of
Texas, Inc., from the Moss family. The state acquired it in 1984, added
facilities, and reopened the park in March 1984, but humans have visited here
for over 11,000 years. Enchanted Rock was designated a National Natural Landmark
in 1970 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The
Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground,
1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest
batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United
Tonkawa Indians believed ghost fires flickered at the top, and they
heard weird creaking and groaning, which geologists now say resulted from the
rock's heating by day and contracting in the cool night. A conquistador captured
by the Tonkawa described how he escaped by losing himself in the rock area,
giving rise to an Indian legend of a "pale man swallowed by a rock and reborn as
one of their own." The Indians believed he wove enchantments on the area, but he
explained that the rock wove the spells. "When I was swallowed by the rock, I
joined the many spirits who enchant this place." The first well-documented
explorations of this area did not begin until 1723 when the Spanish intensified
their efforts to colonize Texas. During the mid-1700s, the Spaniards made
several trips to the north and northwest of San Antonio, establishing a mission
and presidio on the San Saba River and carrying out limited mining on Honey
Creek near the Llano River.

The following are some of the photos that I took:

This is from the summit of the smaller of the two peaks.
We then went dong the small peak to the larger, more popular one. Here is Olivia trudging up the side. The hill is made of granite.
Here Olivia is at the very summit of the taller peak; she is reading the metal geological medalion that is placed there.
Here she is between two of the larger rocks.
Another one, about midway up the smaller peak. You can see where the rainwater runs during wet weather.
Here she is at the start; the smaller peak is behind her.

A couple of thoughts: first, I noticed that almost everyone at the top of the peak was slender. That isn't true 100% of the time; but most of the hikers we saw looked like the folks that I see at running races and bike rides.

Next: there was this guy from Scotland who was cycling across Central Texas. He was taking a world tour and is headed to South America (by plane); he was in Japan a couple of weeks ago.

Finally: this trip was significant for me for a couple of reasons. First, it was my daughter that told me about this park; it was her idea to go there two years ago. Secondly: my hip/piriforims/gluteals didn't bother me at all. I had a couple of "after the fact" tingles in my lower leg; that was about it. In fact, I mostly forgot about the leg entirely.

No, the climb was no big deal, but it was EXACTLY the kind of activity that would have had me in a great deal of pain this summer. So I have indeed made progress, though I am still a good ways from being able to do full blow ultramarathon training.

Can't make myself do it..

I was thinking about swimming today, but it is in the 40's outside and Barton Springs Pool is closed.

So, that means trying to get a lane at Stacey's. Brrr...

I want to take Olivia to Enchanted Rock State Park and hike up the rock:

That we will probably do.

Then of course, this weekend, I am looking forward to the USC-Notre Dame football game. I still think that USC will win, though I'll be cheering for the Irish.

Of course, the USC quarterback is named "Booty" which leads to stuff like this:

I hope to see stuff like this:

or like this:

Or even like this:

Or perhaps like this:

Yes, You-tube has replays of the end of last year's game as well, but you can find your own clips on those.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Austin, Texas

I arrived in Austin, Texas late last night. The flight from Chicago to Austin started off ok; when I sat down the plane was half empty.

But a connecting flight had yet to land; and of course the plane was packed; in fact, double booked in some seats.

So, the days of empty seats on (most) flights are long gone; of course that is why my plane ticket costs roughly the same as it would have in the late 1970's (about$285.00 for a round trip). In those days, the planes were often half empty, but in real dollars, the tickets were more expensive.

Another change is that it is almost impossible to escape people on cell phones in the airport. I dread the day when they allow for them to be used on planes.

This morning I "ran" 4.25 miles on the Hike and Bike (one mini loop from South First under the Mo-Pac bridge and along the north side) in 37:00; it was too much of an effort for such a slow time. The first mile (9:15) was by far the slowest; I averaged 8:20-8:30 after that.

No way I could do a marathon at that pace; at least at any time in the near future.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Off to Austin

Well, I am almost off to Austin.

Politics: There is a flap about Representative Rangel introducing a bill to reinstate the draft. Personally, I like the idea as it will give a loud "put up or shut up" message to all of those who claim to "support the war" but don't want to fight it themselves.

Hey, people like Senator McCain are saying that we need more troops. So where are these troops going to come from? Put up or shut up. Thank you Mr. Rangel.

(Congressman Rangle )(D-N.Y.) has long advocated returning to the draft, but his efforts drew little attention during the 12 years that House Democrats were in the minority. Starting in January, however, he will chair the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Yesterday he said "you bet your life" he will renew his drive for a draft.

"I will be introducing that bill as soon as we start the new session," Rangel said on CBS's "Face the Nation." He portrayed the draft, suspended since 1973, as a means of spreading military obligations more equitably and prompting political leaders to think twice before starting wars.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," said Rangel, a Korean War veteran. "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft."

Rangel has drawn modest support for his draft proposal in recent years and it has been unclear whether its prospects might improve in the 110th Congress.

And frankly, if you enjoy the benefits of this country, you should be willing to give something back.

Now to other matters: this weekend, USC plays Notre Dame in football. It should be interesting.

This is the USC (Cheerleader? Song Girl?) squad that they always show on television. Click for a larger version.

Notice: they all kind of look alike, though from the television view I thought that they were all blonde. In fact, only 5 of the 12 are.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Grade Inflation and Yoga-Lap Dancing?

Ah, the Thanksgiving holidays are once again upon us. Frankly, I don't like this holiday.

In the past couple of years, I had the Ultracentric 24 hour race to look forward to. This year, it is a week earlier, and I was too injured to enter anyway.

Basically, there is no way to get around the fact that I'll be around people who will be stuffing themselves; that is, eating the way that I used to.

But, I'll have some time to spend "one on one" with those I love, including my daughter, mother and sister. And I'll get to watch Texas whip Texas A&M on a big screen television, as well as run in the Thundercloud Subs Austin Turkey Trot (5 miles).

Grade Inflation in the High Schools

"oh, but we used a college book in my high school calculus class, and I got an "A"" is a common lament from those who struggle and fail in their college calculus classes. So, what is going on here? Answer: grade inflation.

Many students are getting very good grades. So many, in fact, it is getting harder and harder for colleges to use grades as a measuring stick for applicants.

Extra credit for AP courses, parental lobbying and genuine hard work by the most competitive students have combined to shatter any semblance of a Bell curve, one in which 'A's are reserved only for the very best. For example, of the 47,317 applications the University of California, Los Angeles, received for this fall's freshman class, nearly 21,000 had GPAs of 4.0 or above.

That's also making it harder for the most selective colleges — who often call grades the single most important factor in admissions — to join in a growing movement to lessen the influence of standardized tests.

"We're seeing 30, 40 valedictorians at a high school because they don't want to create these distinctions between students," said Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. "If we don't have enough information, there's a chance we'll become more heavily reliant on test scores, and that's a real negative to me."

Standardized tests have endured a heap of bad publicity lately, with the SAT raising anger about its expanded length and recent scoring problems. A number of schools have stopped requiring tests scores, to much fanfare.

But lost in the developments is the fact that none of the most selective colleges have dropped the tests. In fact, a national survey shows overall reliance on test scores is higher in admissions than it was a decade ago.

"It's the only thing we have to evaluate students that will help us" tell how they compare to each other, said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

Grade inflation is hard to measure, and experts caution numbers are often misleading because standards and scales vary so widely. Different practices of "weighting" GPAs for AP work also play havoc. Still, the trend seems to be showing itself in a variety of ways.

The average high school GPA increased from 2.68 to 2.94 between 1990 and 2000, according to a federal study. Almost 23 percent of college freshmen in 2005 reported their average grade in high school was an A or better, according to a national survey by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. In 1975, the percentage was about half that.

GPAs reported by students on surveys when they take the SAT and ACT exams have also risen — and faster than their scores on those tests. That suggests their classroom grades aren't rising just because students are getting smarter. Not surprisingly, the test-owners say grade inflation shows why testing should be kept: It gives all students an equal chance to shine.

The problems associated with grade inflation aren't limited to elite college applicants.


More than 70 percent of schools and districts analyzed by an education audit company called SchoolMatch had average GPAs significantly higher than they should have been based on their standardized test scores — including the school systems in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Bernardino, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio. That raises concerns about students graduating from those schools unprepared for college.

"They get mixed in with students from more rigorous schools and they just get blown away," said SchoolMatch CEO William Bainbridge.


But the colleges most popular with Edina students already know how strong the school is: Students' median verbal and math SAT scores are 1170 out of 1600.

Hicks isn't willing to blame the concentration of grades at the top on spineless teachers, or on grade-grubbing by parents and students. Expectations are high, and grades are based on student mastery of the material, not a curve. Wherever teachers place the bar for an A, the students clear it.

"Everyone here is, like, 'if I can get an 98 why would I get a 93?'" said Lavanya Srinivasan, who was ranked third in her Edina class last year. Far from being pushovers, she says, Edina teachers are tougher than those in a course she took at Harvard last summer.

Zalasky agrees the students work hard for their high grades.

"The mentality of this school is, if you're not getting straight A's you're not doing well," he said. "There's just so much pressure on us day in and day out to get straight A's that everybody does."

So, what is going on?

Basically, I think that the answer is this: too many people associate "hard work" with quantity. And too many are afraid to make assignments/exam problems that require cleverness and ability to do.

In other words, in a properly designed exam, not everyone will be able to get an A, no matter how hard they try.

But that stikes some as being "unfair".

Perhaps this is why I am so drawn toward athletics. When the gun goes off, you start running (or walking, or swimming, or cycling), and the winners are clear cut. When two teams play, the result is clear.

I wish it were more so in academia, at least at the lower divisions.

Yoga and Lap Dancing

I often visit the message boards. I was a bit surprised to find the following thread there:

Good Lord- what do you all think of this -

I found another yoga center in the town next to me, went to check it out, they have the usual yoga, pilates blah blah - but they also have a "learn how to be a stripper/lap dance" class - not just a one time "seminar", but a weekly thing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am NOT a prude, I was a stripper myself for 13 years...but lap dancing being taught at a yoga center?? Is it just me or is that kind of against the whole...the whole...I don't know, the whole scheme of things. It just turned me off.
There were the usual "oh, I want to see that!" type of posts (I made one) and some "that isn't compatible with the spiritual aspects of yoga" posts as well.

The original poster made an interesting comment:

Ok, as a former stripper, let me say that strippers as a whole are lost souls - yes, there are always those that are "paying their way thru college" or saving up to "start their own business" but let me tell you from experience, those types are few and far between. The lifestyle is rampant with drugs, alcohol, and low self esteem. As far as it being an ego boost to have all those men lusting at you, I wish every stripper had ears good enough to hear from the stage what these men are actually saying about them. - it is neither flattering or positive in any way. It is degrading. I found this out when I stopped dancing and just started bartending in gogo bars, and could overhear most of the conversation amoung the customers.

In order to do that kind of work and do it well and survive emotionally at the same time, you MUST be able to turn yourself off and become a sort of robot. This is not a healthy way to be. Maybe some of you will argue that alot of jobs or situations in life could be that way, but when you are selling sex or even just your sexuality, it is different. I met a few women in the business who had no problem at all with the work, who didn't need to seperate themselves from it, who didn't need 3 shots of Cuervo and a few beers to look like they were actually enjoying themselves, and let me tell you - those women were scary!!

I think that it is my feelings about the ugliness I saw and experienced in that business that made me have such a strong reaction to seeing this class offered at this particular studio. I also understand it is my choice not to go there. The classes being offered are not for strippers but for housewives or women who otherwise want to be more entertaining in the bedroom. And I have no problem with that - you have to keep sex interesting, and men are visual creatures - plus, the stripping etc can be fun for the female too, so I say go for it....but NOT in a yoga center. Not sure who mentioned in an earlier post about purity, but that word hits it right on the head with me. I want to go to my yoga classes, walk in the door and take a deep breath of all that yoga is to me now, and immerse myself in it. I feel anything outside of that would be a distraction to me in such a place.
Well said. I admit that when I visited the red light district of Amsterdam (a quick walk through), I felt no joy. Instead I felt pain for the ladies.

I admit that I have a somewhat negative reaction.

Of course, I like seeing physically fit women doing stretches. But this type of stuff strikes me as a "hey, look at how enlightened I am; I can take an erotic dancing class".

There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn't the kind of place where I would go to learn yoga. I would rather any sexual thoughts that pop into my head be a very small, subtle part of the experience rather than the focus of it.

But, a quick google search produced many such places:

ourse Cost: $89.00

Course Name:

Stripping Workouts/Striptease Lessons & Lap Dancing Classes

Exotic dancing is much more than dancing sexy. Come gain the confidence to express your authentic self. This class is about you finding you. It’s learning how to reach deep within yourself to find your inner beauty and grace and combine these into sensual movements that only you can express.

The non-intimidating style of the class helps you to overcome inhibitions and fosters your confidence and self-expression. All of our instructors are trained to create an environment that is supportive, not competitive.

This class will empower you to:

-Experience the benefits of a confident walk -Create an immediate impression as you enter a room -Project your intentions through body language. -Send and receive nonverbal messages through eye contact -Explore your self expression and be more spontaneous -Attract others to you -Overcome inhibitions and feel beautiful -Feel powerful and free

Dress comfortably in workout gear as your basic outfit and bring an oversized button down shirt and a pair of heels.

**There is no nudity in any of our classes.** The Art of Exotic Dancing Workout is Four 1 hour classes. $80 The Core Workshop I is three hours in length. $89.00 The Core Workshop II is 2 hours in length. $89 Chair Moves is 2 hours in length. $89

Due to the sellout nature of our classes, pre-registration is required. Change and cancellation fees may apply.

“By taking the class, I realized what I had was exceptional. I learned whatever I am or have isn’t right or wrong…it’s mine and is to be celebrated and cherished. No matter what we look like, what we do or how long we’ve been on this Earth, we are extraordinary women with great things to offer the world. We learned to hold our heads high, walk with confidence and with that people would watch us in a new way. Seduction, through dance, was amazingly fun, but we learned the power of our confidence was far more seductive.”

- Molly, Age 41 Mother of 4, Wife


Karen Cooper, Laura Klekar, Clarissa Pierro, Rachel Sand

AOED Instructors are Everyday Women

Rachel Sand, Dallas hails from Philadelphia. She was the star instructor in the Northeast and brings her enthusiam to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Rachel is in the corporate sector working in downtown Dallas. She previously was a recruiter for a catholic college in Philadelphia.

Laura Klekar, Ft. Worth-Laura is a scientist who has made a huge impact in the Ft. Worth area. She has been an inpiration to many of her friends and now the dance community.

Karen Cooper, Irving/Southlake – AOED Instructor, 20+ yrs ballet experience, Leader in the Dallas dance community, Entrepreneur

Clarissa Pierro, Dallas/Rockwall – AOED Master Instructor, Art of Exotic Dancing Licensee, Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur

Course Provider:

The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women

In 1998, two dozen women took the first AOED class and a phenomenon was launched. In just a few short years, tens of thousands of women have taken the course, purchased the video and read the book. Our class attracts women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities – the commonality is that each is seeking to unlock a realm inside. We are always happy to share our story and introduce you to the women who have taken the class. The instructors and students, diverse in ethnicity, age, size, shape, and local, are part of the vibrant community of women that are attending transformative workshops, Bachelorette parties, private retreats, private lessons, and other special events. The classes and workshops happen every month in each city, since 1998 and continue to explode throughout the U.S. and U.K. Run by Everyday Women for Everyday Women.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006


Today saw me watch the start of the Notre Dame-Army game and then watch the Ohio State vs. Michigan game.

I taped the rest of the Notre Dame game but it ended 41-9. Army actually led 3-0 after one quarter. Then it was all Notre Dame. The Irish wore green jerseys in honor of their senior class.
Navy went to 8-3 with an easy 42-6 win over Temple. Navy lead 35-0 at the half. BEAT ARMY!!!
And the game I watched: Ohio State threw one interception (off of a batted ball) and fumbled twice (0nce on a bad center snap) and still won 42-39. I had the impression that Michigan was more or less hanging on; at no time did it appear to me that Ohio State was in trouble. OSU lead 28-14 at the half and had pulled to 42-31 before Michigan closed in the final minute.

So who should play in the BCS championship game? It is too early to tell. If USC wins out, they deserve the shot (they would have beaten Notre Dame, Arkansas and Nebraska out of conference, as well as Oregon and California in conference). If Rutgers wins out, they would have beaten Lousiville and West Virginia (as well as now 8-3 Navy). But if either of these teams stumble, then perhaps a rematch is in order.

Update: Rutgers got whipped by Cincinnati and therefore dropped out of the picture. As someone said recently on the Notre Dame fan messageboards, it is tough for a team to carry around expectations. USC had an impressive 4'th quarter to whip California 23-9.

As much as I like Notre Dame, they are simply not a number 1 contender this year, even if they pull off the upset at USC. Frankly, I don't see them beating USC.

On a Down Note
As a Naval Academy graduate, a fan, and as a college professor, the following bothers me. I sure hope that there is more there than meets the eye.

Naval Academy Players Caught Using Steroids, but Drug Testing Delayed by Academy Officials.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- U.S. Naval Academy officials waited more than two months to give urine tests to five football players who acknowledged early last year that they had used steroids, a disclosure prompting lawmakers to call for a congressional probe into the matter, The Sun reported Saturday.

Experts told the newspaper that the delay acknowledged Friday by academy officials would have allowed any trace of the banned drugs to disappear.

"I think it's very important that we know who made the decision to test these young folks two months after we had good cause for suspecting illegal drug use," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. told the newspaper. Cummings is on the academy's Board of Visitors, a civilian oversight panel.

"I want to know who made the decision, why that decision was made, and I think that whatever answer that is provided should be one that every single member of the board should be very much interested in knowing."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., also called for a probe of the academy's handling of steroid use.

"The Naval Academy and its students occupy a unique place as American role models, and as such they must adhere to the highest possible standards," Waxman said.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy superintendent, and Col. David Fuquea, who handled internal disciplinary proceedings for the players and is now the assistant athletic director, declined to comment through a spokesman. The players also declined to comment.

Weekend: mostly personal

This is the last Saturday before Thanksgiving. Of course, the big football game of the day is Ohio State versus Michigan (though I am partial to the Notre Dame-Army game myself).

My thoughts: Ohio State wins 28-24 based on having more big play capability. Yes, I know that the former Michigan coach died (Bo Schembechler), but I think that the current Michigan coach (Lloyd Carr) is much better. His teams play better in big games, in large part, I think, to his "no excuses" attitude. On the other hand, Schembechler's teams didn't play well in big games, going 5-12 in bowl games. And when his teams lost, he often whined and made excuses.

But, I doubt that his death will have much effect on the players, as most of them were toddlers the last time that he coached. Young people of today are quite busy and focused on the here and now. It is the older crowd (fans, coaches) that will be most affected.

My favorite teams are Navy (where I went), Texas (my graduate school and hometown school) and Notre Dame (followed them most of my life). But I have soft spots for Illinois and Michigan; the latter due to their current coach.


My injury continues to improve. I managed to "run" my 5.2-5.3 mile (flat) course in 46:50, which is almost a 5 minute improvement from this past Tuesday. Then I went to yoga class, which was rather mediocre. The teacher did ok, but the class consisted of mostly the elderly and the out of shape.

I'd love it if there was a yoga class for those who were already physically fit.


DarkSyde of the Daily Kos has a nice diary on the current right wing assaults on science and public health policy. Personally, I have something in common with the creationists.

The evidence for my deity is there to be seen, for those who are open minded enough to look for it.

And woe to those who deny my deity!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Host of unrelated topics

Today's post will deal with political and personal topics. I'll start with personal ones; those interested in the political issues can scroll downward.


Celiac Disease in the Family

Barbara (my wife) was home most of the day with nausea and stomach cramps. She has gluten intolerance (aka "celiac disease") and evidently ingested some gluten from some egg nogg. Basically, she can't have wheat products; even the slightest bit can cause her a great deal of misery.

For the longest time she didn't know that she had it; but she kept getting frequent cases of severe intestional distress. Finally, her doctor did a blood test and was able to diagnose it.

She has felt much better every since, save the few episodes when she unintentionally eats or drinks something that has some wheat product in it.

I am basically clueless

On another note, it has become increasingly clear to me that I do not see the world in the way that most people see it. Time and time again, I am surprised at what offends most people.

Example: last weekend, I went to see the film The Fog of War on our campus. The film is about Robert McManara, who was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. The film itself had some lessons to offer, not in the least of which was that we ought to strive to see the world as others see it.

For example, we saw Vietnam in terms of communist expansion (e . g., they were headed to become some sort of puppet of the Communist Chinese or of the Soviet Union). The Vietnamese saw us as the natural follow on to the French Colonalists. In fact, Vietnam had no special love for the Chinese; in fact, their history shows frequent conflict with China; in fact, these two countries fought a war in 1979. And we had no interest in enslaving them.

That is, a good understanding of how we saw each other could have prevented much of the war!

But I digress.

At the film, someone had a collection of bumper stickers that he was handing out, free of charge. He had removed some that he thought might be offensive to people and one of these was this one:

I admit that I didn't understand. But surely enough, my wife did; she thought that many would be offended by it! That surprised me, as I would have chuckled had "Republican" been replaced by "Democrat."

Another episode: a couple of days ago, I went to my morning yoga class with Vickie. The class is taught in a room that has lots of mirrors. So after the class, I spent some time flexing; I really like what my light weight workout sessions have done for me.

Well, Vickie came up to me and kicked me in the butt! She did so playfully, but you could tell that my light flexing bothered her. And, every woman that I talked to said that they would have been repulsed by my doing that! I am not sure as to why; I wasn't hurting anyone.

Don't get me wrong; I am not that muscled:

This is more or less how I look, though the pace I ran at this half marathon (2000) is a bit faster than my current 5K running pace. Getting old sucks.

But my point was that I was clueless about how women would have been so turned off. Though, I also wonder about Vickie's reaction: if a female turned me off by what she did, I would have merely ignored it.


This upcoming football weekend reminds me of my own football days. My high school football career saw me hit it all, as my teams went 3-2, 8-0, 0-7-1 and 4-6.
This requires some explanation. I played one year of junior varsity and one year of varsity at Yokota High School in Japan and started both years. In my junior year at Travis High School in Austin, Texas, I started one year of junior varsity and then sat the bench on the varsity during my senior year.

Total record: 15-15-1; perfect mediocrity! I got to be perfect, and winless.

This shows me during a varsity game during my sophomore season, where I started all 8 games at offesnive tackle.

At the time, I just knew that I was headed to professional football, blissfully unaware that the professional teams wanted their players to be fast, quick, strong and agile (and I was none of those things).

But my endless hours of working out in the off season to get ready for football weren't wasted: I got in the habit of training and I love recreational sports to this day. Since my high school days, I have competed in wrestling, powerlifting, weight lifting, judo, racewalking, running, swimming and cycling events (all unsuccessfully).

I've also learned that wanting to do something doesn't mean that you can do something; there is that ugly word called "talent".

I still follow football today, and have one bit of success to share: this year, my predictions as to how the college games will go (against the point spread) have gone reasonably well. In fact, this past week saw me move into a three way tie for first place in the "Fans of Navy" fan club, as well as into the 99'th percentile among all fans:

My Rank
Rank Team Points +/-
1 ollie 124 +5
Top 50
Rank Team Points +/-
1GoldenHawk124 0
1ollie124 +5
1MIDS124 +5
4Rockford Bigfoots123 -1
4Be A Hero123 +2
4jorjemonsalv123 +2

So, I want this to be remembered!

Oh yes, I am picking Ohio State to beat Michigan 28-24, though this means that I am taking Michigan and the 6.5 points.


Democratic Infighting

Much to my surprise, I found myself being linked on this blog:

Just a reminder: The Democratic party won 29 House seats to win control of the House. 15 of them, over half, have joined the DLC. 9 joined the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. How are the netroots reacting to this? Well, they’re in denial.

The DLC has never been a more dead commodity than it is today.
- Booman Tribune

There’s a reason that the DLC has lost just about all influence in DC. It’s because they have no natural constituency other than their corporate masters. - DailyKOS

The Democratic Party, stuck in DC with the likes of the DLC whispering in its ear, had lost touch with the rest of the country. - Blueollie

It’s over for the DLC, and they refuse to face that fact as stubbornly as Bush refuses to face the fact that his war is lost…
- Brilliant at Breakfast

…the DC DLC crowd showed that they’re not really in touch with voters. - twin city sidewalks

You get the picture, right? A dead commodity. It’s over for the DLC. Blah blah blah. Yet, back in the real world, the DLC wins over half the seats the Democrats picked up. Makes you wonder what meds the netroots are taking.

To the author's credit, he acknowledged my point was that in my blog article, I was merely trying to record the infighting that was going on among the newly elected Democrats, though he pointed out that I had posted lots of shots at the DLC . In fact, I have, and I have made it no secret that I am firmly in the left wing of the party.

But in replying to one of my comments, he brought up a typical "centerist" (and Republican) talking point:

I believe Jim Webb won in spite of DailyKOS, and that that online community hurt more than helped. I say this, not based on any statistical evidence, but rather because of KOS’s prior electoral track record.
I responded that Jim Webb indeed had a Daily Kos diary and had frequently used it. What I'll add here (and didn't say in the comments) is that Kos's prior electoral track record is easy to explain. Kos tended to back underdog, underfunded progressive candidates who were long shots to begin with.

Sure, we could have padded our record by, say, backing Ted Kennedy, but what would have been the point? The point was to give folks a shot that might not have otherwise had one. Sure, many have lost in the past, and some (e. g., Duckworth and Seals in the Illinois congressional races) lost in 2006.

But we helped them out, and caused the Republicans to work hard to defend what should have been "safe" seats for them.

We Spin, You Decide: Faux News

I think that this story speaks for itself:

One of the most ingenious aspects of the false charge of an intentional liberal bias in the news media is the unstated inference that if there is a liberal bias there by necessity cannot be an intentional conservative bias.

A new piece of hard evidence that there indeed a conservative bias in at least one quarter of the media, a Rosetta Stone of jaundiced journalism.

It’s apparently a printout of a channel's daily editorial memo, marching orders e-mailed to key staffers on how and where to slant the news. And how to adjust the facts to match the political conclusions and not the other way around.

Dated November 9th, the morning after Democrats secured control of both houses, obtained by the, it states:

“The elections and Rumsfeld’s resignations were a major event but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption.”

Then it brings out the old, a vote for Democrats is a vote for terrorists chestnut:

“Let’s be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.”
Straight GOP talking points.

Then, there is CNN asking a newly elected Democrat if "we" can be sure that he will represent United States interests rather than the interests of "the terrorists".

On the November 14 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck interviewed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), who became the first Muslim ever elected to Congress on November 7, and asked Ellison if he could "have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards up on the table." After Ellison agreed, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."
This is more or less the way I felt about this person's question:

well, I'll go on record and say... (12+ / 0-)

you know, some of my best friends are conservative @sshole Republicans...and I know and love conservative @sshole Republicans...

but I am sorry, but this is just the way that I feel:

you have to prove to me that you are loyal to the American people and just not out to make a buck for yourself.

You have to prove to me that you love your country and those in it.

You have to prove to me that you love this country enough to actually go and FIGHT in a war, if you think that the war is necessary....

you have to prove you aren't a traitor.


Note that Beck is a Mormon; e. g., a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints.

I could have responded this way:

"ok, I've been to Salt Lake City. I've shared an office with a BYU grad and deeply respect some of the BYU mathematicians. I've been to a Mormon service and visited Nauvoo.

Even one of my favorite Senators is a practicing Mormon.

But there is something that I need to ask: can you tell me that you really don't have five or six wives? Yeah, I know that your church gave up "plural marriage" in 1890, at least officially. But I feel that perhaps your religion has been hijacked by fundamentalists that don't accept this. Can you assure me that you follow our laws?"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

To Conservatives: A pledge from Michael Moore

First, to my Liberal and Democratic Friends: if you like this pledge, I'll provide a link to where you can sign it.

Link to sign:

Hat tip to Granny Doc from the Daily Kos for alerting us to it.

To: Conservatives and Republicans

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.


The Undersigned

just not feeling right

I probably have a low grade bug of some sort.

Update: I am merely a doofus. I made "decaf" coffee this morning (by mistake) instead of regular. Moral: look for the simple reason.

I "ran" 5.3 miles this morning; 51:18. I just was "out of synch" and was all day yesterday as well.

Afterwards, 1 hour on the indoor cycle doing 4 on, 4 off.

I've been interested in the post-election fall out. As predicted, the Democrats are fighting among themselves.

On the other hand, many of the Republicans "just don't get it".


Some think that the trouble in Iraq trumped a "good economy". That is, because the stock market is doing well, the economy is doing well!

Washington (The Daily Standard) - THIS ONE IS PRETTY EASY TO EXPLAIN. Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of
Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor. Unpopular wars trump good economies and everything else.
Of course, Mr. Barnes isn't wrong about everything:
What should worry Republicans most, however, is erosion of its strength in the West and in two states in particular: Colorado and Arizona. Fours years ago, Colorado was solidly Republican. Since then, Democrats have won a Senate seat, two House seats, the governorship, and both houses of the state legislature. At the state level, that's realignment.

In Arizona, Republicans dropped two House seats and Republican Senator John Kyl got a mild scare. Kyl, by the way, may be finest and most able senator in Washington. He's certainly in the top five. Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano cruised to victory.

The bottom line is this: Colorado and Arizona may not be there for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race. Of course, everything depends on the actual candidates, but these two states start out as presidential swing states. This is a new development.

Virginia is now worrisome for Republicans, even if Senator George Allen wins reelection via recount. It has become more a middle Atlantic than a Southern state, as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato notes. (Sabato, by the way, picked the outcome in the House and Senate almost perfectly.) Republicans have lost the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia, which have grown into a third of the state's vote. And Representative Thelma Drake almost lost her House seat in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area, a Republican stronghold heavily populated with active duty and retired military.

Already the wails of the immigration restrictionists are rising, insisting Republicans lost because they weren't tough on keeping illegal border-crossers out. Not true. The test was in Arizona, where two of the noisiest border hawks, Representatives J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, lost House seats. Graf lost in a seat along the Mexican border, where illegal immigrants flock.

and he concludes:

What happens in a bad Republican year is that good Republican candidates lose. There were many of them: House challengers David McSweeney in Illinois and Van Taylor in Texas, lieutenant governor candidate Luther Strange in Alabama and Tom McClintock in California, and House incumbents Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania, Jim Ryun of Kansas, and Clay Shaw of Florida.

But you have to give Rahm Emanuel, the House Democratic campaign chief, credit for recruiting an impressive group of candidates, including a few non-liberals like Brad Ellsworth in Indiana and Heath Shuler in North Carolina. The media, however, is exaggerating the number of these unconventional Democrats. They are a handful, and the pattern of moderate and conservative Democrats when they get to Washington is to pipe down. Or, as losing Republican Congressman Chris Chocola said of his victorious opponent Joe Donnelly, they become "Nancy Pelosi."

Conservatives won't want to hear this, but the Republican who maneuvered his way into the most impressive victory of the election was California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Okay, he's sui generis. But he won a landslide victory after moving to the center, while holding onto conservatives by not hiking taxes. Just think if he were eligible for the White House in 2008. Even (some) conservatives would be clamoring for him to run.

So, in all, the above article is a good read.

But don't think that the real right wing nut jobs have gone away. You have some crying "woe is us, the terrorists have won!"

The biggest winners in last week's election were the enemies of the United States, who see the results as confirmation of one of their doctrines: the United States is weak and does not have the commitment to fight a protracted war.

There is no talk of a new strategy on their side. They don't hold elections to replace their leadership with people who will negotiate and compromise with the United States, or the elected Iraqi government. Their media do not carry voices calling for a new approach to the war.

America's enemies are gloating more than Democrats. But unlike Democrats, their intentions are evil. If the terrorists are to be believed (and who can credibly doubt them?), the U.S. election will encourage them to fight on and kill more of our soldiers.

The rest of his column is filled with similar nonsense and ends with a rant:

Both a novelist and a realist could write the following scenario: In an effort to take Iraq off the table as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, the Bush administration adopts most of the provisions of the Iraq Study Group. In a modern version of the Paris Peace Talks, which allowed the United States to have "peace with honor" and withdraw from Vietnam (resulting in the deaths, imprisonment and "re-education" of unknown numbers of Vietnamese who wanted to be free), the administration then orders a "redeployment" of forces after "negotiations" with Syria and Iran (recommended by Blair). This allows just enough time for American troops to leave before al-Qaeda murders the elected leadership and takes over Iraq.

Meanwhile in the United States, mosques and Islamic schools paid for by the extremist Wahhabi sect, multiply like fast-food franchises. Terrorists are imported and recruited from prisons. Al-Qaeda announces that weapons of mass destruction have been placed in key American and European cities. They demand that the United States withdraw its protection of Israel. If we refuse, they threaten to detonate their weapons, killing millions of people. What president, or prime minister, will reject that demand? After capitulating on the installment plan, who will have the political or moral capital (or military capacity) to stop Armageddon?

Ok, so Mr. Thomas' side lost in this election. But, I'll take a few lines to try to reason with those who are drawn to such writing.

Fact: the Iraqi Insurgency, for the most part, has little to do with the type of terrorist that is a danger to the United States. Yes, Al Qeda is there. But they are only a small part of those who are doing the fighting. Most of the fighters are a collection of common criminals, religious types who want to fight each others (Sunnis and Shi'ites) and Iraqis who plain just don't want us there:

Almost a year on, with kidnappings and beheadings by Islamic militants, large cities still not under the control of coalition forces months away from planned elections, and with security problems requiring the diversion of funds from reconstruction projects, assumptions were being reconsidered and estimates revised. The New York Times reported on 22 October 2004 that senior American officials believed that “hard-core resistance” comprised between 8,000 and 12,000 people, with the number jumping above 20,000 when “active sympathizers or covert accomplices are included.” Moreover, officials believed around 50 militant cells were drawing on “unlimited money” through underground networks supplied by people connected with the former regime, as well as wealthy Saudis and Islamic charities. Though some groups had the ability to carry out attacks in regions other than their own, and there may be some degree of cooperation between regions, it is believed that insurgent activities are organized regionally and that no national insurgent network exists.

In January 2005 Iraqi intelligence service director General Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani said that Iraq's insurgency consited of at least 40,000 hardcore fighters, out of a total of more than 200,000 part-time fighters and volunteers who provide intelligence, logistics and shelter. Shahwani said the resistance enjoyed wide backing in the Sunni provinces of Baghdad, Babel, Salahuddin, Diyala, Nineveh and Tamim. Shahwani said the Baath, with a core fighting strength of more than 20,000, had split into three factions. The main one, still owing allegiance to jailed dictator Saddam Hussein, is operating out of Syria. It is led by Saddam's half-brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan and former aide Mohamed Yunis al-Ahmed, who provide funding to their connections in Mosul, Samarra, Baquba, Kirkuk and Tikrit. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri is still in Iraq. Two other factions have broken from Saddam, but have yet to mount any attacks. Islamist factions range from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda affiliate to Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam.

A picture of the composition of the insurgency, though in constant flux, has come into somewhat greater focus. London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates roughly 1,000 foreign Islamic jihadists have joined the insurgency. And there is no doubt many of these have had a dramatic effect on perceptions of the insurgency through high-profile video-taped kidnappings and beheadings. However, American officials believe that the greatest obstacles to stability are the native insurgents that predominate in the Sunni triangle. Significantly, many secular Sunni leaders were being surpassed in influence by Sunni militants. This development mirrors the rise of militant Shia cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr vis-à-vis the more moderate Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani.

Still, the New York Times article also references military data suggesting roughly 80 percent of violent attacks in Iraq were simply criminal in nature –e.g., ransom kidnappings and hijacking convoys- and without political motivation. This figure lends credence to those who cited the CPA’s disbanding of the Iraqi army as an error likely to create a pool of unemployed and discontented young males ripe for absorption into the insurgency. Further, this statistic highlights the importance of reconstruction, and the revitalization of an economy in Iraq that can provide traditional employment opportunities. Of the remaining 20 percent of violent attacks –those with political motivation- four-fifths are believed attributable to native insurgents as opposed to foreigners.

In other words, Mr. Thomas, if we get our soldiers out of there, they won't be killed and wounded. The people we are fighting in Iraq have little to do with the terrorism that threatens us.