April 26, 2010

too much salt? not enough salsa!

Brazil has leapfrogged California.  No, not economically.  According to Wikipedia, California's Gross State Product (GSP) is $1.8 trillion compared to Brazil's $1.5 trillion Gross Domestic Product.  (Personally, I think California's grossest state product is asparagus, but that's not my point.)

My point is that Brazil now has the coolest government.  We already knew they had the best beachware, but now Brazil's health minister is urging the country to cut down their high blood pressure.  While we here in the US fret about things like salt intake, Brazil is pushing exercise, from dancing to sexual intercourse.  (I'm guessing that the reason the rate of high blood pressure rose in 2009 in Brazil is because of the minister's announcements.  If I knew the government and the health industry were behind me, I'd do everything I could to juice up my blood pressure right before my doctor appointment.  You know, to get the prescription.)

Back in 2003 we had a choice to make in California.  Our governor was kicked out, and we had 135 candidates on the slate in the special election.  Eventually we selected The Terminator, who has proved to be mostly inoffensive.  That's about the best I can say for him.  We thought it would be totally cool to have a kick-ass actor as governor again.  Harken back to the time when Dutch was governor.  A tough guy for tough times, a real Americ... um, tough guy that understands guns and manly modes of transportation such as horses and motorcycles.

Me, I hoped we'd go a different film star route.  I hoped we would follow Italy's lead.  In 1987, a full 16 years earlier, Italy saw the wisdom of electing a former porn star to Parliament.  Cicciolina, a Hungarian born porn star, in 2002 failed to win an election for mayor in an Italian city.  I am sure defeat was hard for her to swallow.  Maybe, had she won, we would have had ridden her tail--um, coattails--to a victory of our own.

Yes, we had our very own ex-porn star running for governor of California, the eighth largest economy in the world.  Mary Carey, a former ballet dancer and current porn star, ran on an 11-point platform that included making lap dances tax deductible.  Carey promises to run for President of the United States when she turns old enough (35).  According to Wikipedia, she will be eligible for that position the 2016 election.  And why shouldn't she?  She's already familiar with all the other positions politicians engage in.

If only we'd elected Carey, we'd still be ahead of Brazil.  Plus, when a porn star urges more sexual activity, it feels authentic.  When a regular old health minister does it, it seems... doctory.  Like the old guy with cold hands that tells you to turn your head and cough.  I'd much rather hear it from Carey.  Plus, I'm sure she's very familiar with politics since, being a California based porn star, she is likely familiar with the club at which the RNC hosted some, um, "meals."  Which means she's probably heard a lot of political chit-chat through the years while she was working.

California's loss may be Louisana's gain.  Porn star Stormy Daniels is preparing to run for Senate against disgraced Republican David Vitter.  I dearly hope she wins.  I'm considering moving to Louisiana just to vote in this election.  How a Senator can co-sponsor a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, then get caught with his pants down like he did... and still be electable is a big question.  And now that he's running against a porn star.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

God bless America!  (And Brazil a little bit, too.)

PS:  Be sure to keep your salt intake low.  And get your blood pressure checked regularly.

April 24, 2010

Wednesday invades Saturday

Today is Saturday.  And a GLORIOUS Saturday it has decided to be.  Which, unfortunately, means a lot of weed pulling.  But it also meant a youth soccer tournament between Walnut Creek Soccer Club (my son's local club) and youth teams from Sheffield Wednesday.  No ash clouds in sight (or any other clouds for that matter.)

Wednesday arrived Thursday to play Saturday.  They may also be playing Sunday, but they won't be playing my son's team.  My son is on the second flight team, and only the top flight are in the tournament.  I don't have any idea what the results were, but judging from the American parents' comments, it seems Wednesday schooled our boys pretty good.

But what was fun for my son was a coaching "clinic" the Sheffield coaches put on today.  Essentially it was four weeks of practice squeezed into sixty minutes.  They asked my son's team to be the practice squad, so a few of the boys and a few younger ones were run through a frantic but professional set of drills.  It was great to see the demeanor and action of the coaches, watch how they ran the drills.  I didn't take any notes at all because, thank God, I don't have to coach this year.  Hooray for me!  Yay!

The best part of the day was the language barrier.  The boys had no idea that "in ya come" means "stop the drill and come listen to me."  They had no idea that "have a breather" meant "stop the drill and take a rest."  One boy said that the main coach (who had a wee hint of Scottish brogue) was completely unintelligible, and not a single word was understood.

Here are some more of the photos.  Sorry they stink.  They were taken on my blackberry.  My son is #61, the one clearly exhausted after the first drill.  (Apple doesn't fall far from tree.)

Here, Sam is successfully dispossessing one of his good friends.  A natural defender, my boy.  Again, apples and trees, limited distance relationship.

Final wrap-up before quitting.  No breaks for an hour--the boys did a terrific job keeping after it and represented their club well.  Very coachable set of boys, those.

April 22, 2010

Boy Scout Jamboree

When I was seven years old, I tried cub scouts and pretty much failed out.  I never thought much of it over the years until my boys joined cub scouts... and loved it.  The more they loved it, the more involved I got.  The more involved I got, the more they loved it.  So, recently, I found myself completing the training to become an official Assistant Scoutmaster.  Which was almost like waking up one day and finding out you live in a Brady Bunch house with a white picket fence in middle class suburbia.

Here's my house (courtesy of google maps street view):

Anyway, my first Scout event as a newly minted Assistant Scoutmaster was the Northern California Jamboree to celebrate the 100th anniversary of scouting in the US.  They expected about 16,000 people to attend, including scouts, adult leaders, volunteers, and staff.  Instead, they got 20,000.  Although not all 20,000 camped overnight, there were lots of tents.

The middle of the three photos above was our troop's camp site.  The others are just random photos from our little corner of the fairgrounds.  Imagine this fifteen times over, and you're getting close.

Some of the newer boys let their moms pack for the two-night campout.  We expected to hike our gear in about a half mile from the parking lot, but fortunately for this new scout, we were able to drive right up to the tent site.

Sam was also a new scout, on his first outing since bridging up from cub scouts.  He'd been on many outings with the troop, but always as a sibling and never as a scout in his own right.  Here he is, in full regalia.

The Jamboree was actually quite well run.  Although there were 20,000 people on the fairgrounds on Saturday, I never had to wait in line for a bathroom longer than a minute.  Food, on the other hand, was a mixed bag.  They provided tickets for the concessions booths for lunch on Saturday.  We were lucky and waited only 30 minutes for a hamburger and chips.  People who went after us waited more than two hours to get food.  But dinner was done cafeteria style, and it went smoothly.  Here's the line for dinner; it took our group about ten minutes to get from this point to meals in hand.

Although many of the lines for the events seemed long (we abandoned the BMX biking line after 15 minutes because we were only 20% through it), Sam still managed to have a ton of fun.
He climbed.

He tied fishing lures.  (We don't fish.)

He arched.  Archeried.  Shot arrows.

Did a number of other fun things, too.  All in all, it was a good event.  But I could wait a hundred years til the next one.  I prefer camping out in the wilderness rather than among 20,000 other people.

April 13, 2010

tax code gone wild

The US Chamber of Commerce has a blog.  They call it the Chamber Pot.  Sorry, Chamber Post.  For some reason that s always drops off when I read it.  Today they linked me to the video below, which would make FOX News proud (if anyone over at FOX News could understand it).

OK, sorry, I showed a little bias there, didn't I?

Over at the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, where I think they consider Glenn Beck a little too far left for their satisfaction, they say this video "exposes hidden tax of IRS compliance."  In the end, I was very disappointed to find, the narrator does not actually expose anything.

Personally, I think a flat tax with a minimal set of rules makes a lot of sense.  The IRS as it exists today is even more ridiculous than the health care industry.  Throw out the tax code.  Establish a flat income tax.  Abolish exemptions (except the extremely poor) and tax-based subsidies.  The 1040 would be reduced to a quarter page (half a page including instructions).  What's not to like?

This video does highlight some staggering statistics which prove is that the current tax system and the IRS are huge, wasteful bureaucracies.  There's an unfortunate undertone of "it's all Obama's fault" which is no surprise if you look at the other articles and videos at the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.  And in the end, the exposé of the hidden tax is that, yes, companies hire people to comply with tax law, and those people are paid out of the companies' taxed revenues, and their salaries are then taxed, and golly gosh darn it when they invest their money that gets taxed too!

I'm not really sure what the point of this video is except to make everyone feel worse than they already do about April 15th, the IRS, and government waste.  And of course it's only going to get worse since Obama put the IRS in charge of... something.  What did she say at 2:06?  Oh yeah, Obama "put the IRS in charge of enforcing a government run health care system."


Oh shit.  Now they really CAN take your spleen or whatever if you don't pay your taxes.  My god.  The cost of compliance will soar.  But it'll still be less than the cost of non-compliance.

But doesn't it all sound better when read by a cute college girl sporting a spaghetti strap top and a glowing tan?

April 8, 2010

Spring Break halfway mini travelogue

Out in California, where we don't have a "ski week" in February, we take our spring break at the logical and civilized time of Easter.  This is bad because the cousins in Connecticut are in school this week, but it's good because we have all the attractions and museums to ourselves.

We flew out on Saturday the 3rd, the day before Easter.  My older son had given up air travel for Lent, but when I reminded him that he's a devout Atheist and explained what Lent is, he relented.

Easter involves about 35 relatives all getting together at "the club" (a local former one-room schoolhouse that is more of a community center built in the 1950s than what most might think of when they hear "the club" up on "the hill").  I have a wonderful, fun family, and my extended family on my stepmom's side is as quirky and wonderful as my own.  Couple that with 75 degree sunshine all day, and you've got yourself a grand old Easter dinner.  Oh, and since my sister turned 50 on Wednesday, we had cake and sang and lit candles.  But only a few, symbolically, because after all it's an old schoolhouse and probably would have gone up like a bundle of straw.

We also colored Easter eggs in the morning. This is a tradition that I loved as a kid but now treat with unbridled apathy.  My boys, however, love it (for about 2.3 minutes, just enough to pretend that the white eggs have picked up a healthy pinkish glow from the dye).  What I love is that the main Easter egg company is named Dudley.  Why?  Who knows?  But it is an undisputed truth that everyone, simply everyone, needs a Bendable Dudley.

Monday we drove out to Bradley airport and the New England Air Museum.  This is a wicked cool museum, with a truly impressive collection of original, restored, and replica aircraft.  This includes the original oldest remaining aircraft in North America--a balloon basket from a hot air balloon from the late 1800s.  Military and civilian aircraft, with a tremendous amount of history and factual information.  Highly recommended.  Oh, and don't miss the B-29 in the Bomber Wing.
Tuesday we split up.  The boys went with the grandparents to laser tag and some other nefarious deeds that we parents didn't really want to know about.  Meanwhile, Maria and I went south to the my father's birthtown and the current town-of-residence of one of my very bestest childhood friends.  We and Larry lunched at a little restaurant right on the shore, complete with lobster bisque and a crab salad sandwich.  Some things just aren't available in California.  Then we took a walk out to the beach.  Another gorgeous day.
Wednesday we went to the Pequot museum at the Foxwoods casino in southeastern Connecticut.  I'd heard it was really spectacular as Native American museums went, so I had high expectations.  And I happily say that it far exceeded my high expectations.  I really recommend this museum.  The fact that it is near a casino should have tipped me off that there would be bare breastage, however.  (No, not the docents--the statues in the Pequot Village).  The toplessness of these figures was neither tasteless nor gratuitous, however.  And frankly, by the end of the Pequot Village exhibit, I was a little surprised to emerge back into the museum and see women wearing shirts.  I do love the fact that it's up front and center, so to speak, on their web site.  As the curator says, "Get a load of those... beads!  In her necklace!  Yes, those are some beads."

Wednesday we nearly forgot to call my sister and wish her happy birthday, but we didn't.  Forget, that is.  We called after dinner and sang into the speakerphone.  To her answering machine.  A typical Dudley birthday celebration.  Happy 50th, sis!

Thursday (today), we split again.  Maria and my stepmom were going to see some NPR speaker in New Haven tonight, so my dad and the boys and I hightailed it over to a truly manly museum:  Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.  You may remember that last year at this time, we visited the HMS Belfast in London.  But that was merely a single ship, and that only a Cruiser class.  Battleship Cove has not only a legitimate, full size, wholly kick-ass battleship (the USS Massachusetts), but also a Destroyer, a submarine, some funky Russian missile boat, two PT Boats, and a landing craft like the one used in the D-Day invasion.  This museum rocked.  I thought the guns and magazine on the Belfast were impressive.  Holy smokes, the guns on a real battleship are daunting.  I did not get a photo of it, but the projectile hurled more than 12 miles by those turret guns are exactly the same height as my 10 year old son.  And they weigh far, far more.
You can see the boys sitting on that block in the foreground, under the guns.  The superstructure is behind them, with the I-195 bridge in the background.  This is another highly recommended museum if you have any interest at all in WW II history, military history, big ships, or whatever.  Plus, the woman working the snack bar on board was one of the friendliest servers I've ever met.

That's it so far.  We've also watched a few DVDs--UP, Hoodwinked, and Amelia. The boys are watching Live And Let Die as I write this.  We have two more full days, then earlyearly Sunday morning we take off.  Maria and the boys return home, and I go on to Minneapolis for three days of business meetings.

Spring Break should be more than a week.  It should last all Spring.

April 1, 2010

Shocking look into government spending

As part of my Day Job, I subscribe to a number of email newsletters from places like the Public Affairs Council, the US Chamber of Commerce, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, etc.  Sometimes I read what they send me.  Usually I just glance at the charts.  A couple of weeks ago, this one caught my eye, from the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), an arm of the US Chamber:

With the health care debate raging and the war in Iraq raging and old people raging, I found this chart fascinating.  We spend nearly a quarter of our budget on Defense and one-fifth each on Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  Combined, about two trillion dollars, nearly two thirds of our total federal budget.  In comparison, TARP seems miniscule, a mere rounding error.

Then I noticed that pale blue area, the "Other Discretionary."  Most people might think the person who made the chart spelled it wrong and should have spelled it "Slush Fund."  A concerned citizen, I decided to a little investigative journalism of my own worthy of the most popular of cable news networks.  What I turned up was the shocking allocation of that $437 billion, which I've detailed in the chart below.

With this shocking breaking news information in hand, I polled a random sample of the American people, including the crazy toothless homeless guy on Market Street, three drunk Norwegians trying to flip over a cable car, and two telemarketers who called me during dinner time.  I think the findings from the survey, detailed in the chart below, show what Real Americans think of Obama.  And it's not pretty.

It's time to take back our country, Americans.  I mean, we all adore Ellen because even though gays should never be allowed to marry, lesbian bondage strip clubs are cool and Ellen is funny usually, so that's OK.  Simon is still Simon, but Randy has to go.  I don't care how many records he's making with Gladys Knight.

4,387 and counting

Honor and remember them.  Because we all need to be reminded from time to time.