First, let me repeat what I had written the day after the Muslim Attacks.
First, let me say that there is no such thing as a good or holy war.
Fanatics with dreams of earning a place in paradise, who kill themselves and take as many blameless people as they can, go to Hell. There is no salvation for them. They have thrown themselves away like used wads of toilet paper. Let such as they be remembered as the evil sons of bitches that they are. And let those who cheer the vile acts of these murderers have their suffering grow tenfold!
I stand by that statement still.
The destruction of human life, just because one does not like Americans polluting the holy soil of Islam, can only earn the murderers a one-way ticket to Hell. The murderers are still there, writhing in the misery of having been deceived — or, worse, forcing themselves out of pride to refuse to believe that they were deceived — while the deceivers live on, tucked in their hideaways, exalting themselves in the glory of the struggle.
And here is why this has lasted for so long. Those deceivers, while deceived in their eternal destiny, find justification in their struggle with the continual American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also stand by what I said about the World Trade Center: The buildings were ugly monstrosities; if not for the massive loss of life, their destruction was the best thing that could happen to the New York skyline. Now they are building even worse monstrosities on the site!
We had a reason to invade Afghanistan, true. But we should have left once a new State was founded. More than that, we should have taken out the root cause of the Taliban: Pakistan. Pakistan is from where the Taliban come, where they were taught by radical Sa’udi-funded Wahabist madâris; and where Pakistani spy agencies provide the money, protection and logistics that ensured the Taliban’s success. If we had invaded Pakistan to finish off the Taliban and their backers, we would have been out of South Asia sooner and Pakistan would not be such a bane.
As for Iraq, we should never have gone in, no matter how many falsehoods El Dubya pulled out of his rear orifice. Or, as an alternative, we should have just killed Saddam Hussein and let his successors fight it out for control. The results would have been the same, either way. Nor does it matter what others say: We conquered the country for its oil and to clean up the mess El Dubya’s father left behind in 1990. (Why Tony Blair decided to make Britain join us is anyone’s guess.)
Then, after the conquest, we screwed up by dissolving the regular army and the state apparatus. Why? A certain bureaucrat decided that the Ba’ath Party is identical to the Nazi Party. And since the soldiers and bureaucrats had to join the Ba’ath Party to get their jobs — out they go! Not only was idea stupid on its face, it forced otherwise-cooperative but now-unemployed soldiers and bureaucrats to become the fighters and organizers of the many guerrilla groups fighting our troops!
But what is the most incomprehensive is that a president elected to end the war has instead continued the war in one country and the occupation in another. The American people want the wars to stop. The president has refused to do so, choosing instead to buy societal quietude with borrowed money, albeit to different recipients than the last one; and ignoring the coming crisis where those recipients far outnumber the taxpayers’ willingness to pay — and the willingness of foreign investors to buy our government bonds.
Meanwhile, the wars are are sucking taxes out of our pockets, ensuring that banks do not lend, businesses do not hire, and Americans do not work. These continuations of the policies of Bush the Younger, unless they end in the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, will make the current president the third in twenty years of incompetent presidents, with which the American people have chosen to bless themselves.
Finally, I would like to reflect on what the Muslim Attacks have done to our rights and freedoms. These rights and freedoms are more fragile now than ever. We are no longer our ancestors. We do not believe or assume what our ancestors took as givens. And, with those beliefs and assumptions, our rights and freedoms totter like a gutted building, ready at any moment to collapse.
The Judeo-Christian bedrock on which English common law and Reformation legal theory, on which in turn the Constitution was based — this is almost wholly crumpled away. It was a slow process, aided by the legal abuses of law professors and Supreme Court judges lubricated by monies from the newly ascendant business tycoons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — all Europophiles in an age when Europe was about to undergo decades of self-destruction. By the 1920’s a prosperous and arrogant America began its own decline; by the late 1940’s — I use the SCOTUS Everson decision of 1947, defining the modern concept of church/state separation, as the transition point — it died a quiet death. It died, and a new United States, the one we live in now, was born.
The Constitution is still there. Our freedoms and rights are still there, in some fashion. But they are so fragile. They came under threat from the Law of 26 October 2001, which is slowing being undone. But the basic problem remains: The whining for security, especially among business types and other people in their affluent suburbs, and the politicians who cater to them. This lust for peace and security (
Peace and security, Paul of Tarsus centuries ago quoted those who would not see disaster coming upon them), or what Francis Schaeffer called personal peace and affluence, will be the corroder of those freedoms and rights that brought such peace and security about.
I have forgotten that I set Internet Explorer with a proxy server address. That setting was what caused Windows Update and Kaspersky to be so obstreperous, refusing to download updates they could not find. Removing the proxy address restored to both their ability to download updates.
My sister the editor has quit her part-time job as an enumerator for the Census. This was expected, as the local Census bosses for whom she worked were archetypal jerks. Indeed, they are such jerks that they have difficulty keeping enumerators on the job: Workers would rather take their chances with the private job market than work for those bosses.
The jerkitude in itself did not bother my sister. What made her decide to quit were two Marion resident whackos: one of whom threatened her with a shotgun and the other of whom called the sheriff because she had blue hair. When my sister reported the latter incident, her boss demanded to know what she did to make the guy call the sheriff. My sister replied, What makes you assume I did anything? At this point, she was out of there.
This is folly of the kind that makes Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss look like a paragon of managerial competence. It is this kind of folly, that makes it likely for Marion to be undercounted. Marion cannot afford undercounting, as it has been losing people every decade since the recession of the early 1980’s and the loss of almost all of its manufacturing. It would not surprise me if Marion comes out with fewer people since the 1940’s. It currently has fewer people (now roughly 43%) than the surrounding county, which makes life difficult for the city and its leaders: Relations with the county have never been cordial, and have sometimes been snarky.
Anyway, to celebrate her departure from the Census, I have bought a gift for her: A set of five Japanese pencil erasers in the forms of a hamburger, French fries, fruit shake, ice cream on a stick and a toothbrush and cup.
My spring vacation this year started with the town rummage sale day last Saturday. I spent a couple of hours at the old library building, sitting at the checkout table and taking money for the used books we were selling. We closed early when it became obvious that the shoppers were dissipating.
I should have mowed my lawn then. But I wanted to check out the stuff I bought from my sister’s rummage sale. One item was what I thought was a Japanese/English phrase book. In fact, it is a Chinese phrasebook for Japanese tourists.
Then there was my other acquisition, a three-part original video anime version of Rayearth. No, this is not the Magical Knight Rayearth TV series. Here, in this sad tale of friendship and bravery, the girls Hikaru, Umi and Fuu do not go to Cefiro; Cefiro comes to them, with the very worst in mind for Earth. The girls each join with a mashin to fight sorcerors sent by Eagle, regent of Cefiro, in order to save humanity from certain death. In time they defeat Eagle himself, who is too bitter to concede that he has lost. His older sister, Princess Emeraulde, having woken from a fever dream by the girls’ prayers, makes him concede, and leaves with Cefiro with thanks for the girls and the task of rebuilding Cefiro. The protectors also depart, and the three girls resume their lives and go their separate ways.
I got Rayearth on videotape. (There was a DVD version, but it has long been out-of-print.) The tapes have this wobbly background look. I am not sure whether the tapes are getting old or if the videocassette player itself (which I have not used in a very long time) is showing its age.
Nothing happened on Sunday, except an attempt to mow my lawn has failed because my reel mower could not cut through the now-thick grass. Then came the rain — heavy rain — rain that demonstrated the weakness in my back roof gutter. All I got for my work was soaking wet.
I borrowed my father’s riding mower to work on my lawn. I must admit that it mows a lot faster than my reel mower does. Of course, my reel mower does not scalp my lawn than the rider does, even at its highest blade setting. And then there are the clippings: Six yard bags full of them. The time I saved mowing with the rider was so much spent raking cut grass, that I would have spent with the reel mower. At least it will be awhile before I can mow again.
Then I got some help from one of my neighbors to charge the battery on the riding mower. The mower’s battery ran out of juice, and I had to jump-start it from my car’s battery. But I got it home.
This morning I voted in the primary election. There is not much in the way of selection, as the only truely contested races were for senator and for representative in my congressional distrist. Even with all the candidates, there was practically nobody to choose from. They all say the same old crap. But Dan Burton, the incumbent, will surely be chosen because, unlike the other candidates, he has pull in Washington. And, in this age, that too much counts.
Rupert Murdoch, again displaying his remarkable ignorance of how the Web works, repeats in Washington the falsehood that he had pronounced in Beijing last year: Google is his enemy because it steals his news. And this time he throws in Microsoft’s Bing for good measure. (→, then →) And, in what seems to be the most damaging endorsement for any piece of hardware, Murdoch said that
the iPad was a
wonderful tool for listening to music, watching videos and reading newspapers.
Again, I do not understand why the robots.txt file in all the murdochist sites, like the Wall Street Journal and the London Times is not set up thus to keep Google out.
Unless the people who run the sites are that technically illiterate, even of their own superfluous ACAP crap, which Google and Bing do not recognize.
Of course, it is possible that the iPad is not meant to be worked on by hackers, makers or other such enthusiasts. It is not meant to have apps like the iPhone or iPod. It is not meant for us. It is meant for the Big Content folks, like the newspapers and the record labels and Hollywood, in order to push their crap in a way that they find acceptable.
If that is the case, it is okay, I suppose. Let the huffings of Puff the Magic Murdoch scare away Google and Microsoft and the open-source community and anyone else who might want to conceivably want to write programs for the iPad. Let the iPad be the exclusive domain of Apple and those specially chosen by Apple to build applications for the iPad.
Let us get on with our lives, and get over the fact that the Apple iPad is a toy for the middle classes and up. The iPad is for the rest … of them.
The governor of Indiana expelled IBM from the State’s welfare privatization program last week. (
Indiana axes welfare contract with IBM,, Indianapolis Star, 16 October 2009.) This took everyone by surprise. Nobody thought the governor would cancel the contract with IBM, no matter how crappy a job it was doing.
The Indiana welfare program was bad enough when the State was running it. Under IBM it had become bad in a different way, with scores of eligible people falling through the cracks, and others accusing the Governor of engineering those cracks to save money.
I, too, was surprise that the governor axed IBM, but not for the same reason others were. I had expected IBM, who was no doubt not making as much money from the deal as it would like, to bolt first. IBM has a habit of
bidding contracts too low to make a profit then mismanaging them in an attempt to make a profit anyway, often to the detriment of IBM customers, here being the thousands of Hoosiers who need assistance in some way. Again, I had expected IBM to bolt first, as it has bolted from any contract that does not produce even a penny of profit for IBM.
It is possible that the governor had sensed before anyone else did, that IBM was not worth the pain it was causing both the citizens of the State and his own political future. It is possible that he caught wind of the arrest of one of IBM’s more important executives, who was in charge of dumping American jobs and outsourcing them to India and Argentina. Read Cringely’s No Joy in Mudville for more.
I do not know (and right now few people know) how this will all work out. My brother Bill got the raw end of the IBM stick when the peculiar way he pays alimony (because his ex-wife was so impatient to get it) would not conform to the IBM way of doing things. And I have a fellow member of the local library board (who invited her to serve a full four-year term) who works for one of the subcontractors out of a concrete box on a hill just east of Marion. What effect this will have on the Bill’s payments, or on my fellow board member’s job, is for now an annoying mystery.
It has been a cool, crisp sunny couple of days to go with the couple of days of rain before them.
After Sunday dinner, I transported to my house an armchair that my folks were getting rid of. It is a rather ugly orange color that clashes with the general bland color of my house’s interior. But I needed a chair for the bedroom, as I had nowhere else to sit in there apart from the bed.
My sister the editor helped me carry the chair and navigate it around the narrow thresholds of my house. In return, I helped her put up her storm windows, put new glazing putty on some of them. (For those of you in newer houses, a storm window is a removable outer window that serves the purpose of a double-glazed window in old houses. It is used during the colder months to protect the house windows from storm and snow.)
This month I decided to go with a series of minor projects instead of the big project during the summer.
I striped out the existing pegboard in the shed and put up new pegboard. I also installed a shelf near the ceiling to store cardboard on its way to the recycling place.
I also got some spring-loaded curtain rods to fit in the sills of the upper room windows, and some curtains to go with the rods. That way, I can get both outside light and privacy.
Along with the standard yard work on Saturday, I took a saw to the maple tree in front, removing the lowest branches that were drooping onto the ground and whose leaves were showing brown/black blotches. I am hoping pruning the tree to keep the branches off the ground, and from swacking my car as I drive to the mail box, will make the tree grow more.
I visited Kennedy’s, the HVAC folks who installed the furnace for the house’s previous owner a year before I bought the house. It has been three years now since the furnace had any maintenance, and it is high time the furnace got it. I will see if I can get the HVAC folks to look over the furnace this coming Friday afternoon, and if I can get time off to attend to it.
During the next couple of weeks, I will study for the Apple Certified Service Professional exam on the last Wednesday of this month. I have worked on Macs and Mac OS X for the past five years, and it is time I have something to prove this. I will take a half-day vacation time to take it, at the new Ivy Tech campus on State Road 18.
I am not the only one who finds the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barach Obama incredible; who thinks that he does not deserve it (even he thinks thus); and who believes the Prize will make every goal Obama plans to achieve all that much harder.
Obama has been president for only ten months. The fact that both Arabs and Israelis look upon Obama with incredulity means that a Middle East peace will be task far more difficult for him than any other post-WWII president. And he has two Middle Eastern wars of his own, inherited from Bush the Younger, which he has promised to wind down but which, for some reason, he refuses to end. And there are other conflicts, both active and smoldering, in the world (Darfur, the Somali tribes, Abkhazia/Georgia, Iran, Burma, North Korea) that demand his attention. As it is said, he has nothing yet. All that presenting the Nobel Peace Prize has done is to make it the Nobel Wishful Thinking of Some Norwegians Prize in the eyes of the many.
After commenting about this on Slashdot, only to get a -1 hit, I decided to create for my account a password of twenty randomly-generated characters that I cannot — and will not — remember. This is the best I can do to disable my Slashdot account, since it cannot be deleted. I have had enough of this moderation crap. I will keep on reading Slashdot; but active participation is an obvious waste of my time, and I will have no more to do with it.
Finally, from the depths of a
media summit in the gathering hall of the world’s most media-repressive nation, the great enemy of the BBC and the Anglophone world, Rupert Murdoch, utters his mantra that the Aggregators, the parasites that suck content from his news Web sites, are out to steal his money. We will make them pay and pay and pay, he grumpled from the depths of the hall. Here’s a good idea from Slashdot:
[S]imply stop Google from linking to their news stories by going to his Web site’s robot.txt file and adding
Disallow.I have a better idea: Why don’t you just shut down all your Web sites and stick to printed and televised media, where your customers have no choice but to pay? And leave the Web alone, you damn apeling!
It was bad enough that the ‘historical preservation’ company (which I will not name) that bought the building in 2003 did a poor job at fund-raising and dealing with interested parties. It tried to trick Warner Bros, who made the James Dean films, into contributing; the studio instead held a botched-up bash called James Dean Fest in 2005. The company took years to try to raise money. However, it never had enough; it had misestimated the cost from the start (the building is loaded with asbestos); and that cost kept going up.
In the end, after the mini-depression came last year, the company in April transferred the building back to the original owner, a local youth sports league. But not before it recouped some of its losses by selling off the northeast quarter block to some guy, who turned the old vocational education building into a garage and plans to reseed the parking lot. Now the league has no choice but to tear down the building: It is in far worse shape than in 2003, and the league needs the parking space.
But what makes it all the more galling is that everyone in town had been deceived. The company, it turns out, passes off its mission as historical preservation when, in fact, its chief mission is fund-raising. It is, to put it bluntly, a front! I learned this last night at the library board meeting.
I suppose we were ripe to be plucked, dazzled by the company’s promises of a performing arts center and museum in James Dean’s name. What does a town of under three thousand people need a performing arts center for? What does it need a museum for, when it already has one? There were plans to move the local library to the restored building; but those plans left no room for expansion; so, in the end, the library board gave up waiting, got a state grant, and renovated a couple of neighboring buildings into a new library.
It is not so much that people lost money on this. The company is said to have refunded all donations to the high school restoration. What we have lost is time — years during which everyone had their hopes raised while the building was rotting away. Now it is too late to save the building — it will be torn down — even if Warner Bros (who must have known that the company was a front) decides to pony up restoration funds now.
This is the start of my second summer vacation this year. I will detail my plans in another entry. Now, I want to opine on an article I found in the local paper (the Marion, Indiana Chronicle-Tribune) this morning. (I decided to subscribe for a further three months after thinking about letting it lapse due to its sparseness.)
One of the county library boards drove out its director, using the trumped-up charge of “falsifying time reports” to dismiss her. In the struggle the board did not follow to the letter procedures for the advertisement of the library budget as laid out by the state Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), which public libraries and other local government units in Indiana must follow to the letter. That is the reason that the DLGF slashed the library’s requested revenue allocation by one sixth, forcing the board to cut its hours down to 28½ hours a week.
The board claimed lower tax revenues due to the mini-depression; however, other libraries in the county are hit by the mini-depression, too, but are doing relatively well. The board is hoping a volunteer program will help it out; but that will be hard to carry out when the locals are passing around a petition calling for the board’s ouster. The library is too poor to even look for a new director; but even if it weren’t, word of the board’s shenanigans will have spread among the librarian community — they are surely known at the Indiana State Library, where the ex-director asked in vain for help — so that no librarian will want to work for the board.
The board of that library faces an even bigger problem, one that all public libraries in Indiana will face but one which will hit that library harder than most. The Indiana State Library is formulating standards on available services and employee training, which all public libraries must follow if they want to keep on being funded by taxes. It is a safe bet that the library does not meet even the lowest of the three tiers under which public libraries are to be classed.
Also, we in Indiana are struggling with attempts to implement the Kernan-Shepard Report, which seeks to reduce local government and, especially, reduce the number of libraries in the state. It has not had much success so far; but even if some of its articles become law, the smallest libraries either will become branches of the bigger ones or will be forced to close. And that library is among the smallest. And being a stink in the nostrils of the Indiana State Library, which will carry out any library-related laws from that Report, does not help at all.
The village where the library sits needs to reform the library if it wants to keep it. And one of the things it will need to do is to replace the current members of the board. The new board will then needs to work with the village to convince the DLGF, ISL and the librarian community that it is working for the betterment of all and not for the throbbing egos of some.
On Tuesday I drove to Muncie to get some blood work done for my physician … so that I can eat something after more than half a day of fasting. I got a call from my physician’s office the next day, reporting that my lipid panel (measures of blood fat) are better than the last test.
Then I got a haircut at the campus barber shop in the Student Center. I found that the Tally eatery is now visible (though still under construction) and looks impressive. But the Student Center itself is not finished, and won’t be until next year.
Then I visited the Science Library in the lower level of the Cooper Science building to use its workstation and printer. I printed out the work I have done so far on the Janovac section of my Web site. I also printed details on the Honda Fit, which I wanted as a replacement for my Ford Aspire.
The details on the Fit I wanted because my last task for the day was to visit the main office of my bank to discuss what a car loan would be like if I decided to buy a Fit. It is a valid to visit the bank’s main office, which otherwise I almost never do. It is nice to see that after more than five years some of the staff still recognize me, even if I no longer remember some of their names.
It was the bank president himself that let the chief consumer loan officer know I wanted to see him. The president is a good fellow, and one of the few executives who is knowledgeable about computers. The loan office himself gave me details on a possible loan, with which I made the decision to go ahead with the purchase.
After getting pre-approval, I drove to Victory Honda on the northwest side of Muncie, test-drove a Fit, and went through the process of trading in my Aspire for a 2009 Fit Sport. Then I went back to the bank to get the loan check. Then I delivered the check, signed a lot of papers, and got the keys to the Fit.
Actually it took longer than I thought it would. It was not because of the process itself: I knew what I wanted, and I knew who I wanted to finance the loan; these cut the time the process took. It took longer overall because of a couple of problems beyond anyone’s control: A bad check-writing program at the bank, and a new mechanic at the dealer who parked the prepped Fit and told nobody where it was.
As for the Aspire, well, it was officially written that the odometer did not reflect the actual mileage — which is true because the odometer was part of a replacement instrument panel. In fact, the Aspire had 200,000 miles on it; and apart from the failed transmission earlier this year, it served me very well. I did not really want to part with the Aspire; and I would still keep it if parts were still readily available for it. But parts for the Aspire stopped being made years ago; and any parts now come from cannibalized Aspires in junk yards. It was time for me and the Aspire to part ways. The current worth was such that I could only get $200 for a trade-in.
I showed off the car to the folks (driving Madre around in it), my sister the editor (letting her drive around in it), and my sister the teacher (who merely looked it over).
Tuesday night was an uneventful Friends of the Library meeting. Wednesday night was the library board meeting, which was more interesting because it starts the process of formulating a budget for next year. Basically, we come up with a budget, publish it in the local papers a couple of times, submit it to the State agency for local-government finance and to various local councils. If it survives these, the budget is approved. Despite this, our money troubles are never over, because the money comes in fits and starts, depending on when (and it’s a shifting ‘when’) tax monies are allotted.
And it will not get any better, because any attempt at ‘reform’ by the governor and his shills (MySmartGov? C’mon!) will be resisted even by his own party, which probably does not believe in that book of fairy tales written by Randall Shepard, Joe Kernan and Andrew Lang, the latter being brought back from the dead to help write it.
I have largely given up on getting Thyme to my house against her will. I have a lot of things to do this week, including a visit to Purdue, that trying to corral the cat is interfering with. I will let my sister the teacher work on that.