Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 February 2010 Wasting away in academia

28 February 2010 Wasting away in academia

In January I returned to campus with a fair degree of excitement and some trepidation. I was eager to make an attempt at learning something new; and I was concerned about being able to keep up with students who have been active and involved in studying in the electronic information era, using tools and techniques that did not exist when I completed my BS in Medical Technology (now Clinical Laboratory Science).

The Crime Scene Investigation course is frankly a disappointment. I have no doubt that the instructors are quite competent, know their subject matter intimately, and are capable of teaching at a much higher level than they are currently. The problem is the quality and caliber of students enrolled in the class. Those who routinely sit near me spend the class period sleeping or playing with their cell phones in some manner. They do not take notes, do not ask questions other than, “Will this be on the test?” or “Will we have class the Friday before spring break?” Not exactly sterling students. Friday’s class was a ten minute review of what will most likely be on the midterm exam. I was honestly annoyed at having wasted gasoline and time to drive in for that class. However, one of the young men who routinely sleep did wake up enough to sit up and eat during the review.

I’m amazed at the level of rudeness apparent in their behavior and amazed that the instructors are not able to single out and stop such behavior. I’m rather certain that as easy as this “exam” will be, cheating via cell phone will be rampant. Were it me, I’d have made an announcement on day one that any use of cell phones in class would result in immediate and irrevocable penalties being subtracted from any grade point totals.

My history course is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. To date, I’ve seen nothing to make me think it requires an undergrad degree to understand the material being presented. At the half-way point in the course less than one 5 days worth of class time have actually covered material directly dealing with the fate of Jews during the Holocaust. Most of the class time has dealt with the material from a German approach. While this is necessary to explain some of the aspects of the Holocaust, the basic source material suggested by the professor is weak with regard to the actions and fate of Jews.

There is very little input from the class members, very few questions asked by them. I’m trying to feed in some information about Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to and during the Holocaust. It hasn’t triggered anyone asking questions of me, which disappoints me. The professor’s area of interest and expertise is German history from WWI – modern Germany. I have no doubt he is well educated in his field. I’m not sure, yet, how well he will actually deal with the Einsatzgruppen and death camps. Right now, he’s wasting about ten minutes of every class talking about things that have absolutely no relationship to the class in any matter. He seems to want to be a “warm and fuzzy” professor. I think I would prefer someone more Bismarkian in nature.

I’m still debating whether or not to actually do the two book reviews and the research project that the regular students are required to complete. I don’t get grades for attending and I’m not really certain he wants to grade anything he doesn’t have to. The first book, a history of a German reserve police battalion tasked with murdering Jews in Ukraine seems overly apologetic to me. The author has added a long afterword defending his position against the differing opinion of another academic. While it is well referenced, the conclusions that the author draws seem more aimed at absolving his subjects than at pointing out the evil that they helped propagate by their actions. I truly find little of merit in the author’s work. He seems to be just one more historian lacking the courage to hang the blame on everyone involved.

I have no reason to believe that the CSI class will improve in nature. I can only hope that the material covered after the poor overworked darlings return from spring break actually begins to deal with life in Poland, in the Pale, and in the USSR for Jews. Somehow, I’m not that sure it will.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

27 February 2010 Women in combat units

27 February 2010 Women in combat units

The question is largely resolved. Women fill positions in today’s military that place them into combat situations. Truck drivers, medical specialists, communications specialists, armorers, electronics technicians, and other enlisted troops may find their selves suddenly in the middle of an ambush, a protracted fire-fight, or in the target zone for mortar and artillery strikes. At such time the question becomes academic.

Female officers already serve as staff and command officers for units that wind up actively assuming combat roles. Aviation units already have female pilots, navigators, weapons systems officers, flight surgeons, flight nurses, and others fill duty roles that subject them to risk of combat daily.

It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and of the Dept of Defense that women are now vital in carrying out the missions assigned to the U.S. military. All branches of service are dependent upon females to round out the TOE’s. As we have operated with an all volunteer military since the 1970’s, it is unlikely that the U.S. will resort to conscription in order to complete filling manpower needs. There are no indications that the DOD is in favor of resuming the use of conscription or that a period of national service for all citizens at age 18 will be implemented. The brief history we can refer to since the mid 1970s tells us that even though we are engaged in two foreign wars the number of volunteers entering the armed forces still remain too few to carry out assigned missions without female volunteers stepping up to serve.

There are arguments about the physical ability of women to handle the necessities of combat under full pack and armament weight. By implementing height and weight requirements for females along with regulations that require reaching specified fitness levels for male and female troops, those arguments can be essentially disregarded. We know that women medics have performed rescues of wounded soldiers under fire just as well as have men. They’ve essentially proven that they can do the job as well as men. At least, some women can do the job as well as some men. Not all men will be able to perform rescues under fire.

Housing for female troops has been resolved in nearly all cases. They serve aboard ships, just as they serve in foreign and domestic bases. Arrangements for separate sanitary facilities or time-restricted facilities handle most needs. Of particular interest will be the potential assignment of women aboard submarines. I personally don’t see how that will be resolved given the nature of the submarines now in our fleet. But it is possible that the current generation of sailors will find accommodations adequate to allow females to serve submerged.

The question of bravery has already been resolved as has the question of ability to fulfill combat roles that require use of weapons. Women are able to serve as well as men. Not all women will ever be able to meet the most restrictive physical requirements for some duty assignments. Neither can all men or even most men. The choice to request such extreme duty assignments such as SEAL team duty, Marksman/sniper training, and even flight and submarine duty are unlikely to appeal to many women. But if they can qualify, they deserve the chance.

Sex will always be problematic. Humans exist in two genders, sex is enjoyable, and people will find times and places to get together in non-combat and in combat units. The danger of sexual assault, rape, and coerced sex needs to be addressed at all command levels and dealt with honestly, immediately, and in such manner as to discourage any harassment, coercion, or rape. Every woman in our armed forces needs to have ready access to morning after meds. In fact, those should be issued to every female serving in uniform and replaced annually or at need, no questions asked. The theocrats and theocons who object to the use of such medication are not required to use them but have no legal or moral right to prevent anyone else exercising such an option. In many instances, the need for such medication begins with the religious fundamentalists in uniform who object to women and believe that women exist to serve men as breeding stock. They believe, so they say, in strict interpretation of their religious sacred text. Yet they happily accept money for potentially or actually violating a primary tenet of their religion. We’d be far better off with fewer of them in uniform.

To be absolutely fair, no female should be allowed to become pregnant intentionally so as to avoid or end a duty assignment or deployment. Such pregnancies should result in discharge. Since planned deployments are announced far ahead of shipping out, it should be easy and fair to determine which pregnancies are so intended.

Further, there have been and will always be instances of members of our armed forces selling sexual services. Such proven action should result in discharge and such penalty should apply to both genders.

There has always been the objection to women’s service based upon the risk of rape and other torture if captured. Such risk is real and all women deployed to combat zones need to be aware of it. However, the reality of interrogation in some regions of the world places men at equal risk of rape along with other torture. There is no way to prevent such occurrences. War is a brutal and ugly business.

That solves another of the nation’s weighty problems. Now, pizza for dinner.

Friday, February 26, 2010

26 February 2010 My book or no book so says my book

26 February 2010 My book or no book so says my book

From: The Washington Post

“Does Wall of Separation extend overseas?

By David Waters

Should the federal government pay for a Bible-based sex education program? What if the program instructed youth that "God has a plan for sex and this plan will help you and protect you from harm"? What if it urged them to memorize and recite Psalm 119:9 ("How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word")? What if it was funded by the State Department to help villages in AIDS-ravaged Africa?”

How firm is the 1st Amendment? Does the government have any reason to fund Christianity-based education programs? Is AIDS/HIV prevention sufficient cause to allow our government to fund what are essentially missionary programs in third world nations?

During the Reagan and Bush II administrations the religious right rammed legislation through Congress to prevent our government funding any family planning programs that even mention, in passing, abortion. This was certainly an assault upon the integrity of the 1st Amendment. Even if it dealt with foreign aid moneys and an attempt to raise the quality of life for women and children in third world nations, the evangelicals and fundamentalists felt that they had the right to force their religion upon countless thousands who were thus stripped of information that might have markedly improved their lives.

I have no doubt that if programs to prevent HIV/AIDS were based upon the Torah, the Koran, the sacred texts of Hinduism or any other non-Christian religion the religious right and their Congressional puppets would be up in arms and searching for any means of preventing program funding. It would not matter that the incidence of a lethal disease might be decreased, that lives might be saved, and that economies might be improved; as long as the program was not Jesus-based, it would never be acceptable to the theocrats and theocons who make up the religious base of the GOP.

We’ve seen this religious insanity from the extreme base of Christianity since the various colonies that became this nation were established. In the beginning there were colonies for Catholics, for Puritans, for Baptists and Quakers. The animosity between the various sects was so intense that they wouldn’t share the same terrain if they could avoid it. If they had to share, it became a struggle for sect supremacy that still exists today. The sect with the greatest numerical superiority seems to have completely forgotten that they were once extremely unpopular. Now they have apparently forgotten that history, mistaking numbers for a license to rule the nation via lobbyists and puppet elected officials.

In my opinion, the “establishment clause” of our 1st Amendment applies to all American policy, domestic and foreign. We should not provide any financial assistance to any religious-based program here or abroad. If the religious wish to fund missionary programs, they are free to do so. But the United States government should never provide a cent toward any program based in any religion.

As an example of how well the religious right is following the supposed tenets of their faith here at home, witness the number of citizens lacking health care, lacking jobs, lacking homes. Those unfortunates need help from many governmental agencies. Currently Congress is locked up over health care reform. The party which most frequently and most loudly announces that “this is a Christian nation” is also the party that has spent the last 13 months making every effort to prevent the government reforming health care in order to meet the needs of all citizens. Lots of WWJD bracelets and bumper stickers out there but apparently most of the people sporting them failed to read “the book.”

We have no reason to fund any faith-based program, here or abroad, to reduce HIV/AIDS infections. Teach a few verses from any sacred text to some horny young males. Give their cousins an unlimited supply of condoms and tell them that using condoms lowers the risk of infection. Faith or science? There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind which group will live longer and which is more protective, prayer or condoms.

Just to round this out, it won’t matter what language is used for what faith’s prayer. They are all ineffective against retro-viruses. But the fundamentalists and evangelicals will all tell you that the infected used the wrong prayer from the wrong book. Funny how that works out. Funny how it works out in the streets of Kabul, in the barrios of Los Angeles, and in the lily-white protestant small towns and suburbs.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 February 2010 Sarah the Resignator and the fable of great jobs for unwed teen mothers

25 February 2010 Sarah the Resignator and the fable of great jobs for unwed teen mothers

Is Sarah Palin a hypocrite for sending her oldest daughter off to the societal harlot known as Hollywood?

The link below lays out the scenario with daughter Bristol apparently playing herself on an ABC teen program. It also links to several pages of more or less antagonistic comments concerning the Palins, former governor, and current unwed high school dropout mother.

I won’t bother quoting the Washington Post article. There’s really nothing new in it unless one has just returned to situational, geographic, and political awareness after living in a cave since mid 2008. If one enjoys anti-Palin commentary, have a ball. If not, avoid the link and some of the truth it contains.

Ms. Palin is now an adult and free to take any job she can find to support her untimely conceived infant. Since she left high school prior to graduation and prior to delivering her child, well-paying jobs are going to be few and far between. I’m sure there are mini-marts in need of night clerks in Alaska. Perhaps the former Governor, Sarah the Resignator, might wield what political influence she still has to find her older daughter a paying job so that the lawyer bills get paid. No one is likely to send money to pay for Bristol’s lawyer. Nor is the tea-party mob likely to send money to pay pediatrician bills since many of the mob don’t believe in vaccination anyway. Oh, wait! Baby Palin-Johnson is reportedly getting healthcare from one of the Native American health care programs. Bristol and baby must need some cash for daily living expenses, diapers, baby food, baby cloths; unless those are being paid for by Grandma Resignator from her “legal defense fund”. Might be interesting to find out what that fund is paying for.

Here’s the part that bothers me most:

Teen-agers get pregnant while still in school. I can’t really fault the daughter, particularly since Grandma Resignator, being a fan of abstinence-only education, apparently failed to properly instruct her daughter regarding just exactly what is involved in “that abstinence thingy.” The daughter was sent out to play without necessary information. She got caught.

The worst thing anyone could do is to make being an unwed, teen-aged, high school dropout, seem glamorous. So what has Grandma Palin done? Like all of her children, she waved Bristol around as a campaign prop to lure the theocrats, theocons, and evangelicals. She hid behind a pregnant teen-ager. She kept a pregnant child from finishing school by using her as a prop in her campaign, and then in her post resignation quest for money, fame, and more money.

Unless everything I have read and heard is wrong, Bristol Palin is no more the intellectual than is her mother. If ever a child needed to finish high school, it is Bristol Palin. But Grandma Resignator needs distractions. She’s pulling what strings she can to find paying gigs for her unwed and unskilled daughter. Face it; Bristol has little to make her an attractive television actress beyond her name and Mommy’s ability to pimp her out.

So let me offer thanks to Sarah and Bristol Palin for doing their very best to increase the birth rate among teen-aged, white, high school dropouts. The GOP will be happy to demand they give birth with no resources to prepare a good home for an all-too-often unwanted child. And the GOP will be equally thrilled to vote against every bill designed to provide food, housing, education, and healthcare for the same unwanted child once it is delivered.

“Well done,” Bristol; you’ve managed to lie about the future to about 20% or more of your generation. And, “Well Done!” Sarah Palin, You’re responsible for thousands of new teen-aged dropout mothers because you made it look glamorous while, yet again, ignoring the truth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

24 February 2010 Bad puppet Leave this town

24 February 2010 Bad puppet Leave this town

“Colorado Springs Censors Puppet Cleavage

Avenue Q debuted on Broadway in 2003 to rave reviews and was a Tony winner three times over: for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The show is scheduled for March 16 and 17 in Colorado Springs, at Pikes Peak Center, as part of the Broadway in Colorado Springs series. And it's already causing controversy.

Lamar Advertising sells space on local bus shelters in Colorado Springs and they rejected the posters advertising Avenue Q. Why? Apparently they find them to be too risqué. Keeping in mind that there are primarily puppets in this show, what would be too sexy for a bus stop? Believe it or not, it's merely a fuzzy pink pair of puppet boobs—or, more accurately, fuzzy pink puppet boob cleavage—that the Lamar folks found offensive. Granted, that fuzzy pink cleavage belongs to character Lucy the Slut, one of Avenue Q's more colorful residents.”

There are many advertisements I would like to see vanish from the airwaves, from newspapers, from websites, and from public transportation. Looking about I see clearly deceptive advertising in every direction I turn. I am bombarded with all manner of offerings via e-mal whenever I log onto the internet.

Someone is eager to increase the size of my genitalia, someone else, a women of some pulchritudinal quality, would like to meet me for joint gratification. Bankers all over Africa want to enrich me for my minimal help in skirting the banking laws of their particular nations. Chiropractors want to cure me of all illnesses know to mankind by means of their off-the-wall theories and “patented cures.” Hackers in Russia and China would like me to give them my pin number, account number, and password in order to test the security of my bank, credit card company, and my ability to detect the trap they have set.

With all these ads and items worthy of censure and elimination the target of the day for Colorado Springs becomes puppet cleavage?

I’m really at a loss for anything to say about that degree of prudishness.

Spring break is now only two weeks away. I haven’t had that sort of time off since 1972. Even then, I worked instead of piling into a motel room with many other people to spend the week in a state of unwashed, constant, inebriation. Spring Break is one of those traditions that should never have been allowed to develop. After two months of extremely easy classes I don’t need a break from study. While it existed as a tradition for the wealthier students when I was young, it was nowhere near the Saturnalia that it has become thanks to booze merchants and television reality programming. Perhaps it is time for the local people who have to clean up after their more affluent guests to say, “No more! Bad students go home!”

One thing’s for certain. Given the lack of participation in my classes a week hitting the books by one’s self would not be a bad thing for all the nice young men and women who believe that they are entitled to “Spring Break.” Someone in the CSI class even had the gall to ask today if the instructor would let them off on Friday before break officially begins. I don’t know what she will do. I’d schedule a mandatory exam.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

23 February 2010 odds and ends

23 February 2010  odds and ends

Hike with Mike this morning. Henry, youngest son of one of the oldest valley families joined us today. The minute I cleared the driveway it began to rain. While I was wearing Gore-Tex, I came back wet from the knees down. Gore-Tex excels at keeping one warm and dry in cold and rainy weather. I was comfortably warm and my down vest stayed dry under my parka. Take the temperature up 20 degrees, and Gore-Tex and analogous materials become a sauna with sleeves. There really isn’t any good rainwear for temps in the 60’s and above.

Loki plodded along with us, not complaining but not overly happy to be out in the rain. At one point her control collar became disconnected but I noticed it before she had a chance to wander too far on her own. I think I’ll quit using that collar as she really doesn’t need the prongs for control. Back to the standard slip-chain that can’t come apart in use.

For some unknown reason our HP J5780 all –in-one periodically loses its connection to the computer it is hardwired to. The maintenance program that is designed to track ink use and carry out other functions fails to recognize the printer as present in the electronic plane of existence. While other programs will still connect with the errant printer, they are also not able to guarantee flawless printing or even initiate printing. Some programs will initiate a print but some of the characters will print in reverse. Needless to say, frustrating.

Today I went through the process of downloading the printer drivers, deleting the older software, and re-installing the newest revision of HP’s drivers and other associated software. What I want the device to do is print documents upon demand, copy documents and graphics, and send and receive faxes. I do not want it to organize all my graphic files into a massive upload to a commercial site. I do not want to print photos remotely or contract with anyone to print my photos. And I do not wish to install any tool bars that hijack browser and other selections.

Currently the computer recognizes the presence of the printer. Whether it will or not tomorrow remains to be seen.

Loki is migrating between her kennel and a rug in front of the stove. I’m planning a bison/beef meatloaf for dinner.

Monday, February 22, 2010

22 February 2010 George becomes lost in the advertising game

22 February 2010 George becomes lost in the advertising game

22 February was once a national holiday commemorating the birth of our renowned Revolutionary War General who became our first President. The date no longer appears on the calendar as a holiday. It became just another day after the Nixon three day weekend purges removed both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays as rightfully celebrated holidays.

Now, when our students have an ever decreasing grasp of history, the image and memory of George Washington are being further diluted by a commercial for an automobile manufacturer that injects Washington into a series of scenarios about purchasing various models of vehicles. I know it is intended to be amusing; most likely you do too. But I have no doubt that a percentage of our populace will not realize it to be a deliberately incorrect advertisement. Just as many of our students probably can’t find the U.S. on a world map, many of them probably have no idea in which century the American Revolution was fought and in which centuries our founding fathers lived.

I’ve been dissatisfied with the progress in the CSI class. It seems to me that the class could proceed at a faster rate. While the subject is moderately technical, no single chapter of the textbook has been difficult to master and the review questions at the end of each chapter are easily answered without much effort. So today I approached the instructor. She’s a former MLT – clinical lab technician – working on her Masters. We have common ground for conversation and questions. I asked her if she felt the progression was slower than it could be. I indicated that I got the impression she was spoon feeding bits of the exams to junior high school students. Her response was guarded. She said that the other sections of the class were taught at an even slower progression. She didn’t really want to be backed into a corner and forced to answer my question. She finally stated that because any student from freshman to Senior could take the course it had to be taught in a manner that did not exclude anyone. “It’s just how it has to be…”

I left it at that, not wanting to pressure her into having to make a statement she felt uncomfortable making. Her reluctance to answer pretty much told me what I suspected. I suppose I’m lucky I am in this section. Friday is to be a review for Monday’s mid-term.

Such encounters only make me more concerned for the state of education in the U.S. We need to increase the emphasis on mathematics, sciences, English, and foreign languages; in order to be more competitive with the rest of the world, that is the world not hampered by religion being taught instead of science.

The campaign of 2008 was frightening in its open disdain for education. Anti-intellectualism, as a policy, leads directly to societies, cultures, and nations controlled by divine-right rulers, religious organizations, and dictatorships of the unschooled. One thinks of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of the American South.

Back to the books.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

21 February 2010 Did the groundhog get it wrong?

21 February 2010 Did the groundhog get it wrong?

This is the third day in a row with temperatures reaching above 50°F. With rare exception, we have no snow on the ground on our property. The old folks who have grown up here claim this is one of the worst winters they can recall. I’m willing to believe them. But for these three days it has been possible to believe that we’re getting back into a normal winter pattern. Obviously three days does not indicate a suddenly vanished El Nino. People here are willing to hope that it does.

We handled the gate at the Jonesborough Contra Dance last night. The place was packed to the rafters. Everyone seemed eager to seize the opportunity to get out on dry roads and do something, anything, without having to worry about unsafe travel conditions. The unofficial head count last night was 175 people paying for admission to the dance. Since some of those who paid were admitted on a family payment plan, the total had to exceed the number generated by payments.

We sat at the door to the dance hall, took money, accepted a few new memberships, encouraged several membership renewals, and listened to the music. Gloria knew of one of the band members from her Glen Echo dance days and had a chance to talk with her during the set break. She also had a chance to sit and talk to several other women, which made it a successful trip for her. She misses dancing but she misses friends with similar interests and backgrounds too.

As for me, I enjoy the music and would enjoy dancing if we were able. But the overall background noise level is so overwhelming that it is difficult for me to engage in any conversation inside the building. I did notice that the group last night was somewhat more quiet during the walk-throughs than on previous nights. Such courtesy makes it easier for the dancers to hear what the figures of the dance actually are; and leads to less confusion and disruption during the dance.

There were a lot of first-time dancers there last night which bodes well for the future of contra dancing here. I did hear some complaints from regular attendees about the number of new dancers in attendance. I also noticed that many of the regular dancers who tend to talk through the walk-throughs and then show-boat during the dance, causing disruption and confusion weren’t there last night. That may have also decreased the amount of confusion during the dances. For such a packed house with so many new dancers, it went very smoothly. The band was quite enjoyable.

Tonight’s dinner is a lamb stew. I’m braising lamb shoulder in red wine with carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onions, and garlic. I’ll serve it over Israeli couscous. It’s been cooking since about 1300 today and the smell is as good as the taste.

Back to school tomorrow. I’m not overly happy with the progress of the classes in terms of how much of the material has been covered. The Holocaust class is dealing more with the run-up in Poland than with the actual murders of Jews. I’m trying very hard not to say or do something that will piss off the professor. His vantage point is far different from mine. The CSI class has only dealt with 4 chapters in the single text and has yet to meet for a full hour. The class seems to expect the instructor to give them study guides holding all the test questions they might encounter. Worse, she seems willing to do just that, encouraging them to let someone else do all their information gathering. In a class that deals with a field of work that demands near OCD from its practitioners these students seem horribly unsuited for the job they may someday fill.

It’s been a good weekend, a very good weekend!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

20 February 2010 Palin uses children as political props yet again – Bested by actress with Downs

20 February 2010 Palin uses children as political props yet again – Bested by actress with Downs

I am among those who instinctively dislike and distrust former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at a deep and permanent level from the first moment I encountered her. Like most Americans, my first encounter was her appearance on stage when introduced as the 2008 GOP VP candidate. Her voice, which she cannot help; combined with her absolute lack of any command of English grammar, which is her fault; were enough to set my teeth on edge and conjure up memories of Heinlein’s prediction of political takeover by uneducated fundamentalists. I was appalled when she trotted her children onstage as props. The election of 2008, any election, is supposed to be about principles, positions, platforms, qualifications and, at some level, truth. Instead, Palin’s very presence was indicative of an attempt to foist off a poorly educated candidate with no national or foreign policy awareness on the voting public in hopes that females would rush to her camp instead of Obama’s. Her gender, her religious fundamentalism, her willingness to sell the nation out to energy companies, and her apparent physical attraction to a percentage of male voters were her tickets to GOP candidacy. Her willingness to use her children, including a pregnant 17 year old daughter and the daughter’s barely literate boy friend who suddenly became her fiancé, as stage props became even more annoying as she dangled her youngest son, afflicted with Downs’ syndrome, as if he were a campaign poster.

Throughout the campaign, as her lack of qualifications became more and more evident, the presence of one or more children became more and more frequent. They were convenient flags to trumpet “family values” while she ignored the values that were really being used to raise them: dishonesty in filing travel and flight expense forms to ferry and house her family at official events that did not require their presence, lack of value for education displayed by taking school aged children on a campaign trail, racism and bigotry combined with blatant lies about political opponents while covering up her own ethical defects and violations.

When it became apparent that she was a major factor in the GOP’s loss of the election she started whining about personal attacks upon her family and herself. To this day she waves her youngest son as if he were a sacred object instead of a child who was tragically borne with a developmental defect. Her child is not the only child to be born with this genetic defect and she gains no sacred status by giving birth to such a child. Thousands of women in this nation deliver Downs children and go on about their lives, taking care of their children, and not feuding with the rest of the world for nor affording her beatification.

Ms. Palin seems to operate under the assumption that her failed VP run and series of incompleted terms as an elected official should protect her from all criticism. Further, she wants to bear a standard for defense of developmentally delayed children without really doing anything for them beyond holding one up to the camera when one is available and then quickly handing the child to one of her daughters who should be in school rather than serving as an unpaid nanny lest Ms. Palin be burdened with the need to actually mother her child rather than speak of mothering her child.

She has now taken offense at the inclusion of a Downs-afflicted character into the script of a Fox comedy cartoon know for bad taste. The character tells another character that her mother is the “former governor of Alaska.” The phrase is an obvious slap at Palin; But Palin wants to claim that it is a direct attack upon her child and says so publically.

Palin, in short, is lacking both a sense of humor and any shred of intellect that might help one be qualified for elected office. Palin, rather than rejoicing that the character with Downs is portrayed leading a somewhat normal life, wants to retreat behind the body of her own child and wave her child about as if it somehow makes it illegal to point out what a poor excuse for a political candidate and a mother she is.

I’ve included the link below. Please read the article. The actress who did the voice-over for the character which offended Ms. Former Governor Palin is, herself, afflicted with Downs and has her own career as an actor.

Her comments upon the show and character in question and about Former Governor Palin, she of the repeated resignations, are quite to the point and thoroughly enjoyable. Ms. Palin has often shown her lack of intellectual curiosity and her own failure to grasp complex concepts. The actress who played the part which upset the queen of quitters certainly seems able to laugh at herself and to understand and act upon complex concepts.

Read the article. Then hope that Ms. Palin retires from the public arena and somehow becomes a real mother to her youngest child, one who will allow it to grow to its fullest potential rather than always being a device to gain attention and pity for his mother.

What is it to be, Ms. Palin? Will you quit waving your child as a prop and allow it to develop as fully as possible or will you keep it a loaf of bread on someone else’s arm while you make the same tired and error-filled speech over and over until there’s no one left who wants to hear it?

Friday, February 19, 2010

19 February 2010 Iran – Just building it because they can.

19 February 2010 Iran – Just building it because they can.

For the better part of the last decade there has been a great deal of concern about the possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear-armed nation. The various Western nations have voiced suspicion that uranium enrichment was taking place. The Bush administration, never hesitant about going off half-cocked on cooked intelligence feed, actually got this one right. Of course, former VP Cheney and his merry band of chicken hawks were hoping to use the rumors to start a war between the U.S. and Iran. Even better, they would have liked for Israel to attack Iran in a pre-emptive strike similar to the Osiris reactor strike that destroyed Hussein’s plans to convert Israel into a radioactive wasteland.

Israel has, by far, the most reason to fear a nuclear-armed Iran. The current madman in charge can’t wait to further the spread of Islam by impressing the world’s infidels what can happen to those who oppose the national aims of Iran. He, and the toady who would have been dismissed from office had the votes been counted properly, would also like to be able to show the neighboring Arab states a brilliant display of what might happen to them if they failed to acknowledge the religious purity of Iran, its military superiority compared to non-nuclear Islamic states, or Iran’s desire to re-establish what was once the Persian Empire.

That bit about the Persian Empire is important. In back-channel communications Iran suggested that normalization of relations between Iran and the U.S. might be more likely if Hollywood apologized for the way the Persian army and its rulers were presented in the movie, “The 300.” There seems to be a basic disconnect from reality there. Hollywood does not exist as an entity and sends no apologies or regrets. There is no single person who speaks for “Hollywood” as an elected ruler or non-elected dictator speaks of Iran. There is no reason for anyone to apologize for the portrayal of the Persian Empire as a polytheistic, hedonistic, empire ruled by edict and whim rather than codified law. Wishing such history away does not make it vanish except in the historically and educationally challenged Moslem nations which are in drastic need of a religious reformation and cultural and social enlightenment. Iran can impress such states and buy the loyalty of the religious fundamentalists who run them. Iran can pay many poor nations to send out terrorists into the West and to send the same type of thugs against those who would bring about reform and enlightenment in those quasi states that have not changed since the fall of the Caliphate.

Iran’s current religious and military rulers fancy their selves as the continuation of the Caliphate. For that matter, so did the Shah before he was forced to abdicate by the Islamic revolution. Iran is one of those nations that traded potential and position for religion. There is very grave concern that the Revolutionary Guard will gain control of any nuclear weaponry that Iran develops or purchases. The Revolutionary Guard is on path, according to Secretary of State Clinton , to becoming a military dictatorship that controls the civilian government – such little as exists – and will work in league with the most fanatical of the religious hierarchy.

The latest acknowledged nuclear research and factory sites are situated within a Revolutionary Guards base at Qom. The Iranians have learned from Iraq’s mistakes and buried their nuclear facilities well within civilian population centers and religious shrines. To attack them by aerial assault would require meticulous accuracy, deep bunker penetrating capability, and massive amounts of explosives plus thermo-baric weapons to destroy any life within the bunkers and storage/manufacturing facilities. There would most certainly be loss of civilian life and probable radioactive contamination in the surrounding locales.

The nation most likely to plan and successfully carry out such an attack is the U.S. We are going to be the secondary target for Iran’s militant fanatics for many reasons. They resent our former support of the Shah, our current support of Israel, and our failure to convert to Islam and force the mythical “Hollywood” to apologize for the way Iran is viewed by many U.S. citizens. Iran can’t reach us with missiles but can most certainly put a bomb onto our soil by many means. The failure of the Bush Administration to work toward effective border and port security leaves us at grave risk today. Iran would not be opposed to buying weapons from N/ Korea, China, or Pakistan in order to detonate one inside our borders. We cannot write them off as ineffectual or incapable of harming us. They are an enemy and do intend to attack us whenever possible.

That Iran is an enemy nation does not mean that we should follow the Cheney system of winning friends and invade Iran. We don’t have the manpower, the hardware, or the money to wage a war against Iran on their soil. Nor do we have the national will to support such a war. The people yelling most loudly that we should invade Iran are either too old to fight or unwilling to join our armed forces and put their lives at risk. This pattern of chicken-hawkery has been a problem for this nation since the VietNam war. We need to realize that going to war must involve all of our citizens at some level or that we should not engage in that war.

Israel is next in line with just cause to fear Iran’s intentions once possessing nuclear warheads. Every one of her neighbors save Jordan and Egypt are still so opposed to the existence of the Jewish state that they would gladly ignore fallout hazards to their own populations in order to see Israel wiped out. I don’t see any hope that there will be a resolution of the Israeli-Arab wars in the next two decades. The Arab states will continue to support attacks against Israel and the would-be-Palestinians will continue to breed uncontrollably while sinking ever deeper into poverty because their leaders will not tell them the truth about anything regarding Israel, because their leaders will use hatred and lack of education to hold the so-called refugees in the cities that have existed there since 1948 or earlier.

The only solution to Iran is to find a way to halt and remove their nuclear weapons program. There is no way to do this without leaving trails; no way without angering everyone in the Middle East except possibly Israel. The Iranian reactor sites and uranium concentration plants need to be removed by any means possible and closed off forever. If that requires that their entrances and exits be converted to glow-in-the-dark markers visible from low earth orbit, the Iranian leaders have had every opportunity to save both their soil and their population. Hatred of Israel and the U.S., combined with that longing to be the Persian Empire yet again seems to be of greater importance to the men who rule Iran.

This is, of course, all conjecture. The Islamic Republic of Iran has stated that it would never build a nuclear weapon. And, of course, we know how honest and trust worthy they are.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, February 18, 2010

18 February 2010 to continue in the same vain

18 February 2010 to continue in the same vain

Misspelling intentional.

Yesterday’s post dealt with idiots behind the wheel of vehicles.

Today’s post continues in the same vein, dealing with those people who seem blissfully unaware of weather, of history, and of many other things their mothers and putative fathers should have drummed into their skulls.

From the Washington Post 18 Feb 2010

“Posting God's laws on government property

By David Waters

Five Republicans who govern the Judeo-Christian part of Arizona voted Tuesday to require that the Ten Commandments be posted in front of the old state Capitol in Phoenix. Three Democrats who govern the secular and pluralistic part of Arizona voted against it.

"True religious liberty means freedom from having the government impose the religion of the majority on all of the citizens," Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Rios said, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star. To which Republican state Sen. Sylvia Allen replied: "People need to be tolerant of the majority's beliefs." “

What is of concern to me is that we, as a nation, seem to be reaching toward a theocracy, complete with state religion. This is quite frightening. The religious right’s fundamentalists along with their evangelical brethren want to return us to those days before this nation was ripped from the British Empire. They fail to recall that those immigrants who did leave England for reasons related to religion were members of minority sects and therefore not under the blessings of the Church of England. Those minority sects wanted a place where the official religion, the one practiced by the majority of people in Britain, did not have any say in their daily lives or impact upon their lifestyles. In short, they wanted to tell the majority’s religious leaders to bugger off. They did not want to constantly involved in Church of England rituals or to be told “no” with regard to any Church of England Policy.

Fast forward several centuries and the minority sects which left England rather than be controlled by the practitioners of a faith they did not follow or support are now in the majority when we count up who prays where and how. Rather than recall how their predecessors felt when they were the minority, they’ve collectively decided that they now have the “one true faith” and that they have every right to inflict said faith on everyone else.

“People need to be tolerant of the majority’s beliefs!” I think not. I owe nothing but contempt to anyone who believes he or she has the right to demand that I allow them to inject their particular cult into the public sphere. I will not accept their right to proselytize or to demand that this nation’s laws be subject to the approval of their religious councils or practitioners. While they may believe their sacred book gives them the right to convert the world, I believe that our Constitution’s 1st Amendment provides me the right to slam the door in their faces and prevent their attempts to create a state religion by means of hijacking our civil and civic functions.

No public meeting needs to be opened with prayers unless we include prayers from every faith present in the nation. While that might require enough time in itself to prevent some takeovers, it is not appropriate to have any prayers at all. Nor should a group of religious fundamentalists control our laws, our schools, and our private lives. If these fundamentalists want a theocracy, they can migrate to Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran and enjoy the full benefits of a theocracy along with the joys of a society where science takes a back seat to mythology, where women are once again property, and where people are put to death for blasphemy.

We had the full benefits of a nation based upon the principles of the Enlightenment, with freedom from religion rather than the repressive church-based monarchies of Europe and the oligarchies of the Central and South American states. But we seem all too willing to let a bunch of fundamentalists and evangelicals no different in total from the Taliban of Afghanistan take over American culture and laws.

The Christian majority all too frequently complains that it is being persecuted. By definition, a minority cannot persecute a majority. That in itself warns of an education tainted by propaganda and ignoring facts in order to rabble rouse. There seems to be a growing number of people who do not want their lives controlled by today’s analogs of witch hunters and the Inquisitions. I’m in their corner. The U.S. needs to be a secular nation in order to fulfill its design potential. Despite the strident shrieks from the religious right, there is no “war on Christianity.” Nor do I want to see such a war take place. But if America’s own Taliban continue in their current path, there will be; and it will be justified.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17 February 2010 Things we should have made certain our children learned

17 February 2010 Things we should have made certain our children learned

That we should have conveyed these things to our offspring is, of course, dependent upon us having learned them from someone older than us. For the purposes of this entry it is necessary to make the wholly unwarranted assumption that we were handed a sum of knowledge designed to preserve our lives and those of others around us from glaring errors of stupidity.

This morning, while driving into Johnson City in blowing snow, on a road with patches of ice, I was passed by a man driving a car who crossed a double yellow line in order to tear around me. I was driving at 50 MPH on a road with a posted limit of 55 MPH. The other driver was clocking at least 70 MPH. I hope he got to where he was going without harming someone. He is an accident looking to happen. Obviously he is a man of importance. I’ve a few words to launch in his direction and toward other idiots like him.

When driving in a motor vehicle, the speed limit posted alongside the roadways is to be obeyed. This is primarily intended to benefit others rather than you. If you slow down to the posted limit you will be less likely to lose control of your vehicle, run off the road, run into someone else, or in some manner, cause bodily injury and property damage to someone else. If a professional racing team thought you were capable of driving for them, they’d have called last year. Until they change their mind, slow down.

There is an axiom which directs that one should decrease speed 5-10 MPH below posted legal when driving in rain or upon rain-wet roads. Further decreases are indicated for snowy or icy conditions. It is not appropriate to increase speed during inclement weather. It does not matter that you are trying to reach your destination before the rain blowing through your inoperative window floods your car’s interior; slow down.

If you cannot negotiate a turn without driving into the oncoming lane of traffic, you have exceeded the ability of your car to retain traction; slow down and return to your lane. It does not matter that you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The laws of physics as they apply to angular momentum, vectors of force, inertia, and velocity trump the “coolness” and “machismo” of your vehicle every time. You will run off the road, lose control, come to occupy a ditch, and look foolish as you wait for a tow truck to haul your broken truck or car from the mud. Slow down, so that you don’t injure someone else in your stupidity.

Ice scrapers, brushes, and defrosters exist for reasons of safety. It is impossible to drive a car or truck safely while looking through a 6 inch x 4 inch hole scraped into the snow and ice amassed upon your vehicle’s windshield. You may think it looks cool, or you may think that you saved time by not clearing every window, completely. In actuality, it tells the rest of the world that you are an idiot who has no concern for the well-being of anyone else. Get up earlier, put down your cell phone or turn off your television and clear the snow and ice off every window that your vehicle has. I’ve spent many long hours trying to resuscitate and stabilize the people you, in your idiocy and lack of concern for others, injured. I feel badly for them today just as I did when your stupidity caused their injuries. For you, I felt then and feel now, nothing but contempt.

Those solid yellow lines mean “do not pass other cars and/or trucks. That must have been one of the questions you missed on the written part of your drivers’ examination. The people who built and maintain the roads determined that it was impossible to see far enough at some points along the road to pass safely. They are right, you are wrong. No one cares if you are late for work, for a date, for a job interview. No one is concerned about your need to empty your bladder. Get up earlier, leave the house earlier, get dressed earlier, and then drive safely instead of endangering everyone else along the road.

While we’re at it, get off my tail. I’ve been hit from behind and injured by one idiot. I’ll guarantee your reflexes are no better than his. If you must steer your vehicle into something, find a nice overpass and have a face to rebar encounter. Slip your seat belt off, if you like, just before impact.

Whether you simply can’t get up and get organized or whether you have some exhibitionist tendencies; getting dressed, applying cosmetics, shaving, and playing with your hair should be done at home, before entering the car. A stop light is not designed and placed so that you may apply lipstick or change your blouse.

Put away your cell phones, your smart phones, your laptops, close your front seat offices until you are off the road and stopped in a parking lot. You have nothing to say to anyone that is important enough to allow you to yak or text or browse while driving. Nor is your sales call of sufficient merit to allow you to risk my life. Put away the coffee, the sandwich, the salad, the cereal, the magazines, and anything else that takes your hands off the wheel or you mind off the road in front of you.

And, yes, I do own the road. At least that part of it that my tax contributions help maintain. So drive safely or stay off my road.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

16 February 2010 There may be hope for the future

16 February 2010 There may be hope for the future

But I have my doubts about my class mates.

There is still next to no participation in the Holocaust class. I’m making some effort to not hijack the class at this point. The progress is tediously slow as we are spoon-fed the history of the Nazi rise to power, German re-armament, and the invasion of Poland in Sept 1939 with the subsequent liquidation of the Polish intelligentsia, leaders, and military cadre.

Yesterday’s class dealt with the resettlement of Poles from W. Prussia and the Wartheland into the General Government area. Fritz repeated everything at least three times during the course of the hour. I’d noticed heavy repetition  previously but yesterday was remarkable for it’s over use of repetition. If I were teaching this class, we’d be somewhat farther into WWII. But WWII has not really been mentioned until briefly and repeatedly, yesterday.

At the end of the class period Fritz brought up a memo written by Himmler dealing with the “Treatment of Racial Aliens in the East," dated May 25, 1940. In comparing the plans to resettle Poles and Jews, Himmler made reference to the brutal murders carried out under the Bolsheviks. Following the usual Nazi pattern of shifting blame, he called the Nazi actions humane compared to those of the Soviets. He further referred to the Russians and other Slavic peoples as sub-human compared to the Aryan model claimed by the Nazis as pure Germanic.

When this cropped up near the end of the class period I was surprised at the willingness to accept Himmler’s blame shifting. While Stalin was a murderous, paranoid thug, he was no more so than Hitler and his minions. Stalin’s body count is greater in number but his aim was far less genocidal than Hitler’s. I want to see whether or not this can be resurrected and further discussed, lest it leave anyone with the impression that the Soviet government under Stalin was worse than Hitler’s Germany when it came to killing Jews. Germany, having been “civilized” far longer than the USSR reached a greater depth of depravity compared to the USSR. Stalin had the long history of Eastern European anti-Semitism to fuel his murderer’s blood lust. Hitler had to regenerate that level of senseless hatred in Germans. Neither’s actions can ever be excused but Hitler’s were worse in intent.

Following that, the CSI class lasted long enough to sign the roll sheet, pick up a handout, and put my coat on. This class has never lasted the full period. There’s a lot of material that can be covered. I hope it will be. Yet no one seemed upset yesterday at not having an actual class.

Hike with Mike this morning. The road was slick as oiled glass before the county truck made its way here. Seems mostly clear now. Tomorrow morning could be quite interesting. Gloria has more back roads to travel than I. I’ll be home late as I have an audiology research program to take part in tomorrow at 1300. That barely gives me time to get from ETSU to VA and find a parking spot.

High today has been 26.74 °F. The low will be around 20 tonight with perhaps another 0.5-1.0 inch of snow.

We’re having baked, stuffed eggplant for dinner.

I received a scarf in the mail today. More about that later.

Monday, February 15, 2010

15 February 2010 What happened to the flag I used to know?

15 February 2010 What happened to the flag I used to know?

I’ve watched a bit of the winter Olympic games over the weekend. As always, I am saddened and annoyed by the absolute disregard that our U.S. teams of athletes and their coaches, trainers, support crews, and fans display for the United States flag.

Most disturbing is the growing practice of rushing out to hand every medal winner a flag to wrap around him or herself like a blanket. The flag code linked above clearly states that:

“ The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard

The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations. “

I’m not sure what part of that is so complicated in nature as to require that it be pointed out to members of teams officially representing this nation. It is stated in plain English without any attempt to disguise the content. I don’t think that the level of education in this nation has slipped so deeply that the statement is not understandable to a middle school student. Perhaps I am wrong.

I’ve broached this subject to others who show no understanding of what about the practice I find problematic. “After all,” they say, “All the other countries teams and fans do it.”

I view the flag as a symbol of our nation. I view it as a marker that proclaims our national purpose and a marker that honors all who fought in our various wars. I do not view it as suitable for advertising car sales, furniture stores, or fast food restaurants. I most certainly don’t view it as a blanket, towel, or just some striped fabric to drag on the ground of a stadium or arena.

I understand that some misuses of the flag, such as burning it in protest are protected speech. But using the flag as a blanket is not exercising free speech, but displaying a lack of respect for our national ensign and those of all other nations.

If we are going to fund and engage in symbolic combat between nations, our symbolic warriors and their fans should be taught the flag code and required to follow it. Otherwise, I’m sure we can find other athletes who will be willing to comply with the flag code in exchange for all those sponsorships, uniforms, travel, training, and media face time.

Perhaps we should boot any competitor who uses a U.S. flag as a towel, blanket, hat, coat, or who treats one as if it were lacking in any symbolism. I’m far less concerned with medal counts than with team members who understand what is involved in representing a nation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

14 February 2010 Sunlight plays with our hopes and expectations

14 February 2010 Sunlight plays with our hopes and expectations

Loki tried to wake Gloria about 0600 this morning. Gloria ignored her and Loki took the rebuff until about 0730 when the Newfoundland Retriever from up valley wandered down and triggered Loki’s pack stimuli. Rather than try to sleep through her whining and barking it was easier to get up and take her outside.

Gloria woke up earlier than she usually does. I fixed buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. I had mine with honey and blueberries. Later today we will have some sort of lobster/snow crab feast in celebration of the holiday. I’ve got some small ears of corn and some new red potatoes to round out the meal.

We had reservations for dinner at Brumley’s in Greeneville last night. Gloria decided that she wanted to stay in rather than brave the cold. Fortunately I had enough shrimp in the freezer to whip up a garlic/olive oil/herb sauce for shrimp and linguini. It looked more elegant than it was. However, Gloria was happy with the meal. Perhaps we’ll try Brumley’s Thursday night when they are supposed to have Jazz and Tapas.

Today we exchanged Valentine cards as we have always done. I bought her some very good chocolates made with ≤ 1 gram of sugar. She’s able to eat them without blowing her glucose out of order and they have no alcohol sugars that cause GI disturbances for many people. It took two trips to get them in Jonesborough as the shop was closed on Monday when I first tried. It was worth the extra trip, really just a longer route home. She misses good chocolate and ice cream more than almost anything I can think of.

While the forecast calls for more snow tonight, 2-6 inches according to the NWS over the course of Sunday night – Monday night. Should make getting home from classes interesting tomorrow. But right now it 42°F and there is blue sky overhead. Winds are gusting up to about 14-25 MPH right now and may increase a bit as the next storm rolls in.

I cut some of the firewood that was too long to fit into the stove into usable lengths yesterday and really appreciate the new Stihl chain saw. The easy start feature is nice and the saw is light enough for me to use without the vibrations ruining any motor control in my hands for the next day. Today I moved the last of the split wood from the dump truck load we bought in December into a rack of wood that is all too long to fit the stove. The rack has about two weeks worth of wood in it. The remnants of the last load are now uncovered, the tarp folded and put away, and will hopefully provide some kindling as the dirt and mud gets washed or blown away. There was a bit too much dirt in this load to suit me; probably loaded with a front loader. If the next load is equally dirt-laden we’ll look for another source of firewood.

We’ve watched a bit of the Winter Olympics coverage. Too many commercials, not enough focus on any competitors except the favored medal contenders. The nice thing about the games being held in Vancouver is that we were there last summer and sometimes see places or things we visited on our trip. Vancouver is one of earth’s truly beautiful places, even with a city overlaying the topography. It is highly doubtful we would have ever visited Vancouver if my son Joshua hadn’t invited us to his wedding last June. Thanks, Joshua!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

13 February 2010 Happy Birthday Gloria

13 February 2010 Happy Birthday Gloria

63 years ago today a young woman was born in Boston.

She has lived in Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Israel.

When I met her she had returned to Maryland and I was in Missouri after living in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado.

Each of us has been married prior to meeting each other and becoming a pair. Together we have lived in Maryland, Florida, and now in Tennessee.

She is more widely travelled than I but we have managed some traveling together and that has been quite pleasurable. We’ve traveled together to San Francisco and surrounds, to Orlando, to the Kennedy Space Center, to Los Angeles and surrounds, to Mission San Juan de Capistrano, to Maine, to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, to Niagara Falls, Ontario, and most recently to Vancouver British Columbia.

There’s no gift I can give her that is suitable. Oh, I’ll try to find something and it will offer her some pleasure. But what do you give someone who convinces you to stop smoking, someone who welcomes you into her life and her world without demanding changes?

Most of all, what do you give someone who makes you happy, someone whom you have come to love like life itself?

So, I’ll tell her that her birthday gift is on the way; I’ll drive her through the snow to dinner and home, and remind her once more that I love her. And next year, I’ll start the whole search for a suitable gift all over again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

12 February 2010 Happy Birthday, Abe

12 February 2010 Happy Birthday, Abe

“When I was young…”

That could be the beginning phrase of a John Prine song about Peabody Coal Company’s rape of the Appalachian mountain geology.

That could be the beginning of an allegorical tale handed down from generation to generation, מדור לדור in an effort to preserve knowledge and tradition.

And, that could be the beginning of a lament, a tirade, or a tired complaint with elements of the second option tossed in for seasoning.

With that in mind:

When I was young, the calendar on the wall had the date in red numerals as today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and, in my youth, a federal holiday. Later in the month, on the 22nd , red numerals denoted another federal holiday honoring George Washington’s birthday. Today, in the year 2010, is not a holiday. Nor, if you flip ahead on the calendar, is the 22nd. Both dates lost their holiday status during the Nixon years when Congress decided that three day weekends were of greater importance than commemorating events on the dates when they actually took place. Congress, almost always in holiday holding pattern unless actually on holiday, downgraded both dates and created a new holiday, President’s Day, so that those of us with jobs might possibly have a three day weekend in February.

There was, and is, the question of who actually gets the holiday off. Federal employees do- read that as Congress and most of the government. Postal Service employees, bank employees, financial house employees, and some union workers get the holiday. Some schools close, some universities close; others don’t.

Who doesn’t get the holiday might be a better question. Retail workers, transportation workers, chefs, restaurant and fasts-food workers, and of course, healthcare workers. Some healthcare professionals get the holiday, others don’t. In the 30+ years I spent in clinical lab, I never received time off for Presidents’ Day. In most instances I was not even aware that the holiday had rolled around again. Now that I’m retired and don’t have to keep up with work schedules, all the holidays sort of sneak up on me. Fortunately, Gloria’s birthday, which I have managed to remember every year, warns me about Valentine’s Day coming the very next day. Even more fortunately, Gloria understands shipping delays – fortunate for me this year.

So “when I was young,” the month of February had a much different configuration. We got two days off school if the holidays happened to fall on weekdays. Like the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”, which was initially written and accepted by Congress without concern for any references to religion, those days off are things of the past. Now we honor all Presidents, whether or not they truly deserve to be honored, on a single day in February chosen not for its historical significance but for its impact upon the work schedule of millions of Americans.

I don’t particularly mind three day weekends but I do regret glossing over our grasp of American history in an ever more desultory manner that leaves most American students unable to relate the actual facts leading up to the founding of the nation. Texas students will graduate high school thinking that the only reason we broke with England was over the practice of religion. (Of course, they may also think that Jesus Christ spoke English instead of Spanish and that he personally decides who wins football games between Texas high schools). If one considers other states high school graduates it is possible to find equally poor student preparation and awareness of what causes a foot ball team to win a game. Kansas schools ignore science. I’ve seen many rural Missouri school events that were in direct violation of the 1st Amendment at every public event. And the list goes on.

Washington and Lincoln were two of our most important and effective Presidents. I believe we should return the original celebrations of their terms of office to the anniversaries of their birthday. We’re rich enough to afford two holidays in February. That’s all the more true when we look at the unemployment rate and at the number of people who don’t get any holidays because their employers don’t provide benefits.

The temperature today has exceeded the freezing point by 0.14 °F. It is now snowing lightly as if to prove that global warming exists with many facets. There’s that nasty science factual material intrusion again.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

11 February 2010 Poll out the barrel

11 February 2010 Poll out the barrel

A break in what seems to be an interminable series of snow storms happened today. Half of Greene County must have decided to fill up their pantries today. Enjoying food quite as much as the next couple, we joined the throng and restocked our larder for the coming weekend and following week. Lean ground beef and a chuck tenderloin roast were the primary features in today’s haul. We also restocked bratwurst, baked beans, artichoke hearts, and orange juice. Grapes, strawberries, apples, bananas, and a bit of watermelon found their way into the cart. All is now put away in the appropriate storage area and we face the ageless problem, “What do you want for dinner?”

I am heartened by an ABC/Washington Post poll released today which indicates that the percentage of people who feel that Sarah Palin is completely unqualified for elected office is rising. I was not called by the polling firm who did the sampling. I’d have been happy to have provided my opinion. I find her unqualified for any political or civil service position.

I would have voted for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee for POTUS in 2008 and I would have voted for her in the general election rather than vote for McCain. This is not a statement that I am fond of Ms. Clinton, I’m not. I think she is an extremely ambitious, coldly calculating woman who saw a chance to trade political power for a figurehead marriage. Her choices must have caused immense pain and regret over the years. But while I do not care for her as a person, she is politically palatable and intelligent. I think that had she been chosen as the nominee she would have won the election against McCain. I don’t know what she could have done differently to stave off the economic meltdown that resulted from 8 years of Bush following the Reagan trickle down plan.

I actually felt McCain to be a tolerable politician, not preferred but probably highly preferable to Bush II; and not connected by a slime umbilical to the religious right. Then his machine and the GOP foisted Palin on the voting public as a candidate. It was almost certain that her only qualifying feature was her gender. At that point, McCain lost any chance of ever obtaining my vote for any office.

It speaks loudly and truthfully about the GOP that they would consider running a female candidate to lure the disaffected Clinton supporters. It indicates how little they know of what really matters to anyone outside the GOP’s religious base and the managing privileged party bosses. Still, they have an impressive BS machine that is somehow capable of convincing working class people to vote against their own best financial interests. They’ve run on a hidden platform of racism, anti-intellectualism, bigotry, and theocracy since the Nixon days. While their voter base has aged, it has also spawned enough replacements that the GOP will have ample voters to fill in the roles and to vote for incompetents like Palin for years to come.

I hope this latest poll is correct. I hope that the American public is becoming aware of what an incompetent and unethical candidate we were offered. I hope that Palin manages to steer herself into a huge public train wreck that will permanently link her name with lack of qualification and lack of honesty.

Tonight we dine on pizza. Tomorrow classes resume.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 February 2010 Where the chilly winds blow

10 February 2010 Where the chilly winds blow

When I went to bed last night about midnight we were seeing and hearing sleet. At 0600 today the sleet had made a slick base for two inches of snow to slide upon. I’ve cleared the decks down to the frozen sleet layer and there is now another 2-3 inches of snow to be cleared. The air is thick with snowflakes and the gusts, even in our heavily tree-sheltered back yard, are piling more snow onto every flat surface and into every corner. We’ve clocked 27 MPH gusts which translate to about 40-45 along the more wind-blown areas of highway 107.

At 0830 I decided that there was no valid reason to drive into ETSU for two hours and then to wait until 1400 for a physical therapy consultation at Mountain Home. I e-mailed my regrets to my history professor, rescheduled my PT appointment, and set about keeping warm and dry. Gloria skipped her glass class this morning, road risk too great. At about 1030 ETSU cancelled all classes beginning after 1030. Good choice, I believe.

The dog got to run around in the snow, which she really seems to enjoy. I’ve got to add some salt to the well filters softener reservoir the next time I go out and check the lamps in the shack.

Gloria’s platform feeder had 7 male cardinals contesting for food at the same time this morning. The flock has put in an appearance and moved on.

There’s little else to say today, a good day to catch up on required reading.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

9 February 2010 A poke in the shoulder with a sharp needle

9 February 2010 A poke in the shoulder with a sharp needle

After a suitably long interval I have been granted an orthopedic surgery consultation regarding my right shoulder. The joint has been painful enough to eclipse other chronic pains that normally serve as indications of continuing life. This morning I drove into Mountain Home and was seen by a PA. She did a careful and thorough exam, took a good history, and suggested that degenerative arthritis was the most probable cause and that a partially torn rotator cuff might also be involved. We discussed treatment and I opted for conservative therapy. I addition to physical therapy I allowed her to inject my shoulder with depo-medrol and two topical anesthetic agents. A 5cc bolus of fluid administered via a 25 g. needle was injected in hopes of reducing the inflammation of several tendons.

After the initial mild discomfort the post-injection period has been relatively comfortable. That topical anesthesia will wear off in a day or so and then the steroids get to coax some longer-term effects into being.

We discussed further treatment options, an MRI to check for soft tissue problems, and the possibility of rotator cuff surgery, if indicated. Her feeling is that pain management in the post-op period would be extremely difficult for me. The recovery period can exceed 6 months and there is a 30% chance of blow-out in repaired partial tears due to the nature of the tissue involved and the usual mechanics of the injury. It doesn’t look like shoulder surgery is in my immediate future. If today’s injection works, I can put up with more of them.

There are others who need a few pokes with sharp objects.

For some reason the GOP lackeys and the TPN mob have fixated upon Obama’s use of a teleprompter when making a speech as somehow lacking in suitability. The thinking, I imagine, is that he is incapable of speaking without one. The recent Q&A session with the GOP congress people should put paid to that little bit of untruth. But the GOP lie machine will ignore that truth and find something else to invent. Every POTUS I can recall has used some form of written aid when delivering a speech. Some have used typed pages, others index cards. Some have used Teleprompters prior to Obama. I doubt that St. Ronald presented his speeches from memory, particularly in the 2nd term. I’m not bothered by Teleprompters. I am bothered by people who invent and propagate lies and who market hatred and bigotry.

Palin, the incompletist, leaves no doubt that she is unable to deliver a speech from memory. I’ve watched, with disgust, as she has butchered the English language, ignored any attempt at grammatical construction of sentences, and spewed out lie after lie in an attempt to reach and mobilize a base that should not be mobilized.

I fail to understand people who see no benefit to education, who would rather be led or governed by those with no intellectual curiosity. I don’t understand people who choose myth and superstition over hard science disciplines. To me, the answers provided by biochemistry, physics, geology, microbiology, genetics, and medicine easily refute centuries of legends made up to explain what no one had yet found a means to explore and document.

Galileo disproved the terra-centric universe proclaimed as true by the church. But we still have millions of U.S. citizens who are unable to appreciate what he proved and how. Darwin and Mendel provided immense insights into genetics and evolution. But here, in the nation that first reached the moon, we find millions who are unable to move past the false rumor that evolution proclaims human kind descended from great apes. “Sharing a common ancestor during evoloution” seems perfectly clear to me.

These anti-intellectuals who thrive on myths and who refuse to try to understand science-based education are cannon fodder for the TPN and GOP higher-ups who will profit from the money raised by corporate contributors to misinform the rank and file placard carrier.

Palin, the incompletist, is as deeply hooked by the myths and lies spread by the GOP and the TPN as are the cannon fodder. Her lack of intellectual curiosity is overwhelming. I would be willing to bet that if she were asked the same question about reading materials that Couric asked her in 2008, she would still be unable to answer with the names of news papers and magazines. She has not made any real strides in acquiring either national or international knowledge. Paying for a daily briefing document to be delivered does no good if one lacks the basic skills to understand what is being referred to by the briefers.

Palin, the incompletist, has not progressed beyond junior high or middle school. She seems to have foregone intellectual achievement for athletics, fashion, and control of a clique. She learned, then, to play to the male equivalents of her clique in order to be rewarded with those things she wanted. It was frankly embarrassing to see her behave like a 16 year old would-be trollop during the debate with V.P. Biden. Every wink, wiggle, smirk, and innuendo used in her campaign lowered the bar on her candidacy and on her fan base. Despite the thoughts otherwise of the men who would vote for her based upon their perception of her as “hot” physical attractiveness is not a qualification for national elected office.

There have been many women who have served this nation quite capably in elected or appointed office. There have been many women who joined to defend this nation and paid with their lives. There are many women who are superbly qualified to hold public offices including the office of POTUS. Palin, the quitter has done every one of these women a grave disservice. Her failure to complete her terms of office, her use of sexuality as a campaign device, her lack of national and foreign policy knowledge, her habitual lies, ethical violations, and her willingness to roll back the 1st amendment for speech and religion are frightening and speak volumes about her utter incompetence and unsuitability to hold political office in this nation.

Someone needs to poke her with something sharp, repeatedly, until she realizes that she is no longer in middle school and that it is time to get off the stage.

Monday, February 8, 2010

8 February 2010 Like smoke in the wind

8 February 2010 Like smoke in the wind

In autumn of 1941 the Wermacht waged blitzkrieg in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine as Hitler’s armies were launched into the USSR. Falling back before the German armies, the Red Army followed Stalin’s directive to leave nothing of use for the Germans. The retreating Soviets set every field of grain on fire, denying the Germans the harvest but also denying it to the Soviet citizens left behind German lines. “Scorched Earth” has long been a weapon of war in the Steppes. The grain harvest needed to feed the always hungry USSR and to replant the fields for the next crop was destroyed, carried away in heavy smoke, in signs easy for anyone who understood this part of the world to read. Scorched Earth, empty bellies, and propaganda machines on both sides of the main line of battle cranking out excuses for the populace to help them hate the right targets.

Stalin’s lies were directed, primarily, against the Nazis. WWII became the Great Patriotic War for the survival of the Rodina, the motherland, and it is still known by that name today, long after Stalin and Hitler are dead. There was also some attempt to blame Jews for the hunger, starvation, and millions of deaths that the USSR suffered. Capitalism was always a valid target for the Soviet propaganda mill and Jews are always associated with the international Jewish conspiracy. Never mind that the Bolshevik revolution would not have succeeded without its Jewish masterminds, that Trotsky saved the revolution and built the Red Army; Jews were somehow profiting from the pain of good Soviet citizens.

Hitler’s underlings sent the Einzatzgruppen into the Soviet Union behind the Wermacht with the express purpose of killing every Jew they could and of deporting the remainder to the death camps or to slave labor camps. These units of auxiliary troops were somewhat few in number to carry out the horrific task of murdering or deporting millions of Jews. The planners in the Nazi hierarchy counted on the help of the citizens of the states they were invading to carry out round-ups and executions. They did not underestimate the willingness of the newly defeated to blame their troubles, once again, on their Jewish neighbors; and to join in the opportunity to loot, rape, beat, and kill every Jew they could reach. From the Baltic States to the Black Sea, the Soviet citizens were taking their places in a long history of pogroms and murders based upon long-standing anti-Semitism.

Those Jews who could not flee to safer locales, beyond the reach of the Nazis, died in mass graves, forest executions sites, and in some cases by being burned alive in their own homes. The Ukrainian citizens had no love of Jews and were all too happy to burn their property and farms in revenge for what they had been told was “the Jews’ war.”

All through the Pale such Aktions took place. Good Germans watched and encouraged good Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, as they wiped Shtetls off the map. Today, no one knows how many Shtetls vanished. In the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., there is an elevated corridor made of glass. Every square inch of available wall and ceiling space is etched with the names of Shtetls that vanished from site during the years 1941 & 1942. Like the crops of those years, they are smoke in the wind, frozen in time lest we allow them and the people who lived in them to be lost from memory.

Like smoke in the wind, those names, and the ones that no one knew to record, tear at my eyes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

7 February 2010 The Mad Hatters’ party

7 February 2010 The Mad Hatters’ party

At $549 per person the better off among the Tea Party Nation demonstrated their gullibility along with their dissatisfaction in Nashville. T-shirt sellers, pamphleteers, and other opportunistic merchants were the probable weekend winners along with the organizers of the event who got what Palin didn’t take.

Palin delivered a 40 minute speech. That in itself is perplexing as she used the opportunity to attack President Obama’s use of a teleprompter. I seriously doubt that Ms. Palin had her entire speech committed to memory so she must have read it from some source. I have yet to understand how a teleprompter has become an object of derision when used for by our current President. I suppose one could ask if Ms. Palin is too low-tech in capability to use a teleprompter. Perhaps that’s the catch?

Palin speaking about national security is, in itself, frightening. Her previous lack of geographic and political knowledge, described by multiple veterans of the 2008 campaign, indicate that she would need to repeat all of high school and university before even having the basis to consider foreign policy.

Palin criticizing the current administration for treating a captured terrorist as a criminal and affording him Miranda rights demonstrates both a lack of understanding of how our legal system is constructed and the ability to understand why it should properly be treated as a crime under our laws instead of a battlefield event justifying immediate execution. The GOP base and many of its leaders also seem to draw a blank on this. Unless we follow our laws and apply them, as written, to all suspects and admitted criminals, we have no right to refer to our nation as a nation of law.

The Tea Party base fails to understand the original event that they tap for their name. The Boston Tea Party was about taxation without representation, not about unwanted taxation. The TPN mob is being represented in Congress; usually by people they helped elect. Odds are that most of them also voted for Bush II twice. They object to taxation that might help someone else while many of them appear to be of an age that would grant them Social Security payments and Medicare. Others who weren’t able to afford the trip most likely benefit from some tax-supported entitlement, Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security, etc. It seems that they object most to any taxation that does not directly benefit them and them alone.

Palin made a comment about bringing “God” back into the government. She, and those who showed up to see her, fail to understand that the 1st Amendment was written by people who understood the danger of a state religion. The TPN mob either wants a theocracy or fails to understand what a theocracy is. The fact that they mostly belong to some protestant sect of Christianity does not give them any right to demand that we all pay and pray as they do. Their evangelical immorality, wishing to force their fears and superstitions upon the rest of the world, should be blocked at every turn. We can begin by taxing every church that involves itself in politics.

Palin called Obama to task, partially correctly, over his promise of transparency in government. But Palin talking about transparency, about truth, is a huge joke. She won’t release the amount of her speaker’s fee for her speech. It is purported to be $100,000. She’s got the greed part of GOP down just fine. Her promise that her speaker’s fee will be returned to the movement is about as reliable, about as likely to be true, as her previous comments about “death panels”, about… well, just about any statement she’s made in a public venue.

This is good for American politics. We have a possible new political party claiming it disavows racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-intellectualism, and on, and on. But every video clip we see or hear shows us a white, southern, evangelical protestant, homophobic, group lacking in Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, homosexuals and lesbians. We hear them criticize intellectuals, education, science, and many other facets of American life that has benefited the nation to this point. What we have before us is a evangelical female who believes in witchcraft, who doesn’t believe in birth control education or any sort of science, who can’t tell you what she reads, who hasn’t ever finished out an elected job, who is sadly lacking in intellectual curiosity, trying to court support from a group of people who could just as easily belong to the KKK. Her only real qualification, as far as many of the males are concerned is her carefully made-up appearance designed to stimulate an aging male population’s lust.

Move down, new cup, move down!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

6 February 2010 time for guidelines to be enforced

6 February 2010 time for guidelines to be enforced

A reading intensive weekend lies ahead for me. I’ve completed assigned reading in one of the Holocaust History texts for the coming two week period. I’m 1/3rd of the way through the companion text. I’ve completed one of the auxiliary books and should write a review of it although, as an auditor rather than a student I’m not required to hand in any written work for this class. I’m curious to see how I measure up against the students in this class. I’ll probably write the review.

The book to be reviewed deals with the participation in face-to-face executions of thousands of Jews, and with the deportation of thousands more as the Einzatzegruppen swept through the Pale behind the Wermacht in 1941. The men who committed the murders were members of a reserve battalion of “Order Police” drafted into service by the Nazis to kill or transport Jews. The unit served no other function. The author attempts to solve the question of how “Ordinary Men” could carry out such assignments.

Since members of my extended family were murdered by Einzatzegruppen C in “Aktions” around Polonnoye and at Babi Yar, the book hits home at a personal level that I doubt anyone else in the class will be able to recognize.

I still have to read Levi’s book about surviving the camps. That’s going to bring up some ugly associations too.

Then there is the text for Crime Scene Investigation. The text is a general survey book that is designed for entry level familiarization with the duties of an investigator. The reading, so far, has been easy and interesting. It puzzles me still that no one seems to be bothered to take notes during the class period. For some reason the instructor is spoon-feeding the class, not making them work to figure out for their selves what may be important when exams roll around.

In return, they repay her baby-sitting by coming to class late, by playing with their cell phones during her lectures, by getting up to throw candy wrappers and other trash away while she is speaking. I don’t understand such behavior in class and would not tolerate it if I were teaching this class or any class. I wouldn’t spoon feed them the class material, either. My opening comments would be that everything in the books and every word I might speak is likely to appear on some sort of exam. I’d close the door at the time class is to begin, and not open it for late students. I’m sure that such methods of instruction are not considered appropriate for teaching undergrads these days. I recall guidelines for behavior in this class being handed out the first day of class. It’s time to enforce them.

Off to read.

Friday, February 5, 2010

5 February 2010 El Nino strikes again

5 February 2010 El Nino strikes again

According to NPR’s article linked above, we are experiencing the strongest “el Niño” weather pattern in a decade. I suspect that people around the world would have no argument with that qualification. Rain and snow in California and Arizona, combined with heavy rainfall and snowfall on the mid-Atlantic coast and North East America are responsible for floods, mudslides, collapses along highway systems in the Appalachians, and filling reservoirs that were nearly bone dry two summers ago.

We have received 1.07 inches of rain since midnight. The forecast, at midnight offered a chance for freezing rain with accumulation varying in projection from 0.1 -0.25 inches. Fortunately we received only rain.

The trip into class featured drizzle and some crosswinds. The trip home had less drizzle but winds of around 60 MPH. I was nearly blown off the highway several times. Gloria had to run outside to weigh down the tarp over our firewood. There was enough wind here to move the weight I already had on it. I’d guess 30 MPH through the gap between the house and the nearest shed.

Now, at 1510, the wind has died down, bringing relief to Gloria and Loki. The wind noise here can put one on edge. The turkeys are back to fill up on what they can find here, and the creek is in full voice, muddy, high, fast, and doing its part to reduce the height of the Blue Ridge chain and challenge the brookies that still call it home to be as strong as they can be.

We’re looking forward to the weekend. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

4 February 2010 Not so national prayer breakfast.

4 February 2010 Not so national prayer breakfast.

Amid lots of press coverage, the “national prayer breakfast” took place this morning.

This highly exclusive event is yet another example of a theocon power base working to avoid recognition as they attempt to gain more control of the nation’s political system.

The event is not sponsored by the United States government but is staged and named so as to make it appear as if the government validates its existence. This is done by inviting members of Congress, of the Administration, and some foreign officials. But the actual sponsor, “the Fellowship”, known also as “C-Street” and “the Family,” is a highly secretive group of evangelical legislators and lobbyists.

“C Street” refers to a residence on C Street occupied by members of the Fellowship. There were held the meetings that were documented in the affair of Senator Ensign of Nevada. In addition, other GOP elected officials have been counseled by lay preachers, forgiving them for their various affairs, criminal, ðical violations, and telling them that they are supposed to become wealthy as a by-product of their membership in an elite religious group. There are reports that members of this group actually feel that they are above the law by virtue of being “the new chosen”, an elite that exists on a higher spiritual plane than do most people. Being of the “new chosen” not only elevates their status and relationship with the God they pray to; it places them outside the criminal law in matters such as bribery, theft, perjury, rape, and perhaps even murder. One of the best discussions of this can be found in the article linked below:

Please read the article carefully. The idea that their membership in this group elevates them to a superior status above the common law, suggest that not only have they included the Nazi model mentioned in the cited article; but that they may even believe that they are divinely selected to hold their offices. This is extremely dangerous at a time in our history when there is already too much influence by religious leaders and organizations in public life. There are enough people who would accept the argument that a particular minister is in direct communication with a deity to allow a religious cult to become too ingrained in our political structure.

There is no “national” in this function. It is an exclusive device organized to allow the religious group to plant ideas and attempt to make connections to increase their access to power. There are no Rabbis or Imams in attendance, no Orthodox Priests, no Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, at the tables. There is no attempt to unify all Americans in common interests but there is every effort to ram the wedge of evangelism between the Constitution and the voters who actually believe that theocracy is wrong for this or any other nation.

Even some Baptist churches joined in an alternative function this morning, protesting, in part, the Family’s support of the Ugandan legislation making homosexuality a capital offense. There is no reason for our Congress to support Uganda in such misapplication of laws. There is, likewise, no reason that any group of self-deluding hypocrites should gain any amount of control in our government.

As long as this group of theocons exists in Washington D.C., there should be no national prayer breakfast. Until the faces invited to dine represent all Americans, there can be no national prayer breakfast.