Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Shabby Attempt at a Rant

I love it when people look at me like I'm crazy, or an idiot, or a crazy idiot. I was talking about how absurd is the federal post office. There is no reason whatsoever why the delivering of mail must be done by the government, but there are plenty of reasons why the government should not do it--the most obvious is that private companies would do better. This one guy actually thought that I was threatening his wife's job (she, apparently, works for the USPS). It took him a second to see that I wasn't saying that she should be unemployed, but that her bosses should be businessmen and not politicians and political appointees.

Next came the fire department. Again, homeowners insurance would either provide or require subscription to a fire-fighting service, so why must it be controlled by local politicians? The same goes for a police department (and this is where I lose those who had been with me thus far).

Seriously, the more important something is to us the less we should want the government to provide it. The police department is so important, so let's not leave it to municipal officials. The same is true for school districts, health inspectors, air-traffic controllers, etc. If we're going to let the government do something, then it should be something that we can afford to be done inefficiently. It could be allowed, for instance, to secure crowd control at the Goldenhawk golf course, where I will be golfing tomorrow afternoon. There is a good use of the government. They can have agents deployed throughout the course, keeping fans, well-wishers, and Brad Pitt (he's still jealous about that "thing" I had with Angelina) away at a safe distance. The only problem with this scenario is that it would cost everyone money in taxes, and no one else should have to pay for freaking security that I don't need. Supposing I should need the security, and more security than the average person, then I should be the one to cover it.

If I'm not willing to pay for it myself, then I obviously don't need it bad enough to pass the bill on to others. If I need it, then I'll pay for it.

The point is, the government is not the best option for those things that we (for some reason) think that only a government can do. Supposedly, government exists to secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Look at history. Governments are horrible at protecting life (though they are rather good at taking it). Where people do not have liberty, who's to blame? The government. As for the whole pursuit of happiness thing, anyone who's ever tried to start a business or do anything that requires cutting through "red tape" knows that governments impede happiness.

"So," the guy says to me, "why even have a government?"
"Exactly," I said, smiling.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I'm Out

On vacation. Will be back on Thursday. I apologize for the inconvenience.

That's right. I'm arrogant enough to think that this bothers some people, in the very least my mom.

The picture's old, but it's of vacation, at least.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Father's Day Gift

I like playing music. I am pretty good at the piano, fairly decent at the guitar, quite capable at the tenor saxophone, and pretty bad--but not inept--at the harmonica and violin.

I decided to expand my horizons. I wanted to learn something unusual, something that very few people know how to play. My options included the kazoo, the accordion, the harp, the autoharp, the mandolin, or the ukulele.

The kazoo is ridiculous. It sounds like a wounded goose and requires about as much skill as is necessary to run for Congress.

The accordion isn't as rare as you think (or as it probably should be). Furthermore, my dog howls unmercifully whenever an accordion is played. I don't need that.

The harp is too expensive and too feminine.

The autoharp is not too expensive but it's extremely feminine.

The mandolin is awesome, but decent ones are expensive and it looks really hard (not that I'm afraid of a challenge, but the cheapest ones at Guitar Center are around $250).

This left the ukulele.

I was well aware that I would endure ridicule for taking up the uke. First of all, it looks like a novelty toy (at least the cheap ones do, and that would be my first purchase--in case I didn't like it). Second of all, people think that it's just a knock-off guitar--though it isn't. A guitar has six strings, and a ukulele has four. Chords are not similar, nor is the sound.

One thing I learned immediately is that there are many different kinds of ukuleles, and they range in price from $40 to over $1,000. As I did not know if I would like it, I opted for a cheaper soprano ukulele (the kind that most people picture in their heads).

So on Saturday, my wife asks me if I really want a ukulele for Father's Day. She seemed to think that I was joking, as if no one in his right mind would want to learn the ukulele.

I told here that I did, and we headed for the Guitar Center.

At the Guitar Center, there was a limited selection. There was only one model, and of that model, there was only one ukulele. I took it down and tinkered with it. The first thing I noticed was how odd the tuning was compared to a guitar; but it sounded neat, and I figured that no one I know has or can play one, so it would be pretty cool to learn it.

I said, "I'll take it. I don't know anyone who plays one, so it will be something different."

That's when the salesman began teasing me. He laughed that I was the first person to buy a uke from the store, and that he appreciated having this to tell everyone.

That's when I figured that he doesn't work on commission. Here I am, a patron about to make a purchase, and he's mocking me. To make matters worse, my wife started teasing me.

I said, "Hey, it's not like I feel the need to pick up women anymore."

To which, she replied, "Yeah, but don't you want to keep around the woman you've got?"

Well, I persisted and got my ukulele. I brought it home, tuned it up, and searched for some ukulele sites on the internet. I found a few and began playing. It was a bit tricky because the neck is so small, but I stuck to it for about three hours until I was playing pretty well for a novice (this evaluation has been seconded by my wife). On Sunday, I played for another hour or so, and today I putzed around on it for about a half hour. So far, my best songs are "Help Me, Rhonda," by The Beach Boys, "I Wanna Be Like You," from Disney's The Jungle Book, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World," arranged by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (you heard it in "Finding Forrester" and on that old eToys commercial), and "When I'm Sixty-Four," by The Beatles.

I really don't care that people laugh when I tell them that I got a ukulele and that I'm going to get good at it. Most people can't play anything. If they want to deride me for seeking something different, something relaxing and fun, then go ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Struck by a Vehicle

Today, something happened straight out of a Dane Cook routine.

I saw someone get struck by a vehicle.

Two friends and I were on our way back to work from lunch. Jeff was driving his new Ford Freestyle (not to be confused with the Greco-Roman Ford), and I was seated in the front passenger seat. We were stopped at a light, about two cars back, and I spied an old man crossing the street on his Rascal (you know, the motor-powered bikes for old people).

I couldn’t help but observe how quickly that Rascal was shooting across the street, so I pointed it out: “Hey guys, look at that Rascal go!”

That was the best part, for we saw this entire thing unfold. We watched in earnest as he neared the curb, when the green arrow for a free right turn appeared.

What happened next happened in slow motion (as it always does). The three of us went from chuckling to shouting “Whoa!” “Ooo!” and “Gah!” in unison (it sounded like Wha-oo-gah!” The old lady in the turn right only lane saw her green arrow but didn’t see her decrepit peer. As she slowly moved forward, we watched in horror.

“Wha-oo-gah!” we said.

For a moment, it looked like he would make it. He was oblivious to her, and she was oblivious to the fact that she was alive and behind the wheel of a 2000 pound vehicle.

But he didn’t make it.

In the slowest car accident in recorded history, we watched her roll into his rear tire and begin pushing his Rascal. It pivoted to the right upon contact, but she didn’t stop. He reacted by throwing his hands in the air and shouting something, but we couldn’t hear over “Wha-oo-gah!”

I thought that I was to be the spectator at another fatality accident. I’d even unbuckled my seatbelt, thinking that I’d run to the aid of this destined-to-be broken man, but rather than simply drive over him at .5 miles per hour, she came to a less than screeching halt. He sat there, waving his hands in the air for a moment, but quickly kicked that bugger into gear and headed for the safety of the curb.

I relaxed a moment, then the three of us started laughing. For this, we will probably be ridiculed by females, but male readers will understand how freaking funny this was. We saw a man get struck by a vehicle that was moving a cool three miles per hour—and everyone was OK.

The light for us turned green. Jeff hesitated for a moment, but eventually proceeded on our way.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sic Semper Tyrannis!

A few years ago, the United States congress passed and the president signed an absurd piece of legislation called "No Child Left Behind." I haven't the time to take it apart piece by piece (at least not at this moment), but I would like to bring up an observation.

One of the provisions of this act requires that teachers be "highly qualified." This means that teachers teach in either their major or minor, provided they have passed certification exams on the subjects. That's what highly qualified means. It sounds good, but anyone familiar with secondary education knows its hidden flaws. It means that teachers who have been instructing a given subject for thirty years may suddenly be considered not "highly qualified." Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many other great teachers would have been rendered unemployed by this federal legislation--all of which is unconstitutional, as the 10th amendment reserves such powers for the states or the people.

I wonder if there is any way for us to devise some method for ensuring that our governing officials are "highly qualified." The democratic process certainly has not worked well. Ironically, you have to major (or minor) in social studies to teach government, but you don't have to have even gone to college to "serve" in government.

More than likely, the halls of Congress would soon empty on both the House and the Senate wings. The White House would sit vacant. The elderly sophists on the Supreme Court would die off and not be replaced. A new dawn of liberty would descend, and, for the first time in nearly two centuries, we would be free to enjoy our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ontology 101

I sat, today, beneath the shade of a lilac. For a moment, I felt as if I was tuned into the very frequency of mother nature herself. The meaning of life, death, and the way to happiness were all apparent to me. About a moment later, I realized that it was indigestion, and I spent the next 20 minutes on the toilet.

Dang huckleberries!

Screw you, Thoreau.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Adam and Steve

The Senate once again rejected the notion that an amendment banning gay marriage should be made to the constitution. I'm amazed that for the first time in a long time, a branch of the Federal government did not seize the opportunity to restrict freedom.

I'm not for gay marriage. Homosexuals simply cannot marry each other and it mean the same as marriage between a man and a woman. It's not Christian, but a law against it is just plain wrong. Marriage is a religious institution, and neither the federal, state, nor municipal governments have any business weighing in on it.

There are many churches that call themselves "Christian," yet I do not believe that they are very much so. Supposing one of them should begin marrying men to men or women to women, I would disregard this practice just as I disregard that church's practice of auto-castration and mandatory convulsions during revivals.

Just because two gay people have a ceremony and call themselves "married," I do not have to accept that they are married in the same way as my wife and I. It's like when my son calls himself a pirate. It's kind of cute, how foolish he is to think that he's a pirate, but no matter how often he grunts "Arrrrgggg!" and slashes the dog with his plastic sword (and, unfortunately, digs for treasure in the backyard)--he's not a pirate. Supposing I should tell a real pirate that my son thinks that he's a pirate. What should that pirate say? (Other than "Shiver me timbers!") He'd probably laugh, steal my wallet and wedding ring, and walk me off the plank. Consider the movie Dodgeball. That guy dressed and talked like a pirate--but everyone knew that he wasn't a pirate. Let him pretend, if it makes him happy.

The real issue is one of legal status, of the ease with which estates are passed from spouse to spouse and other legal issues. That's really where the state gets into "marriage." I cannot see why two homosexuals devoted to each other should not be able to enjoy the same legal rights in this sense. Besides, acknowledging such rights would not be tantamount to acknowledging the sanctimony of gay marriage.

If you're really going to go against gay marriage, then you should also go against any marriage done in a Las Vegas chapel (witnessed by Elvis, of course) or by a mere justice of the peace. If you're going to lay down the God card and say that marriage is sacred, and that the sacredness of marriage ought to be protected by the violent capacity of the state, then you must also support violence against those who marry outside of churches. Heck, you should also seek amendments to prohibit any marriage outside of your particular denomination: since yours is the only true church. Baptists should oppose Catholic marriages. Catholics should oppose Lutheran marriages. And everyone should oppose Heaven's Gate marriages.

Since I am at least nominally a Catholic, should I promote legislation against Protestant churches, for they are an affront to the Holy and Apostolic Church? Should I design a bill to forbid the Amish from calling themselves Christians because I am offended by their lifestyle and excessively priced furniture and chicken?

The bottom line is this: If marriage is indeed sacred (and I believe that it is), then the government's position on it is irrelevent. In fact, any governmental position on it is flat out tyrannical. Marriage falls under the jurisdiction of De Civitate Dei. No amendment is necessary, just as no law forbidding my son from calling himself a pirate is necessary.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Cure (not the band)

I believe in charities. They actually seek to do good, and they aim no guns at people to force donations--unlike the government, which will harm you if you don't cough up the cash. In most cases (though I really haven't quantified it), charities also do more for the people who need help than the government does.

But what's with the marches? Seriously, it's marching season again, and they're going to resume all over the place. Militant activists march, but middle class yahoos (who want to feel like they're doing something other than living a life that is merely the downtime between episodes of House, MD) usually "walk." You've seen these, surely.

March/Walk to cure cancer.
March/Walk to cure breast cancer.
March/Walk to cure skin cancer (bring your freaking sun block)
March/Walk to cure diabetes.
March/Walk to cure juvenile diabetes.
March/Walk to cure this.
And March/Walk to cure that.

Seriously, I think that they're silly. Marches and/or walks don't cure anything. What they need is money. Just cough it up if you care, because you're not curing diabetes because you walked around the Oakland University campus.

Hands down the worst are the AIDS activists. They walk, they march, they talk, they shout, they bemoan--all for a disease that is spread voluntarily. Like I said before, it's not like the plague, flu, or chicken pox. You don't get AIDS just by being around. You have to be around, that's for sure, but it's a little bit more involved than that.

The AIDS activists' coup de grace is their giant quilt. Of course, that's what we needed twenty-five years ago! If we'd made a giant quilt in 1981--when the CDC first started noticing AIDS related symptoms in gay men, women, and IV drug users--then Liberace would still be with us today.

A quilt will not cure AIDS. And don't tell me it's the symbolic value, that it raises awareness and such. If you want symbolic value etc., then make a giant condom. Now that would get publicity. Imagine, a group of dedicated AIDS activists acquires a helicopter and drops a 152 foot Trojan right on top of the Statue of Liberty, the reservoir tip would cover the torch (come on, you can picture it); it rolls all the way to the ground, soaking tourists in nonoxynol-9. Tell me that wouldn't be noticed a heck of a lot more than a stinking quilt: Lady Liberty enshrouded by a giant condom (ribbed for her pleasure, of course).

What will cure diseases or aid those afflicted with them is not marches, walks, quilts or even giant condoms. Money, straight donations to reputable charities is the trick. Certain diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer, can be prevented if people simply improved their habits. AIDS is 100% preventable. Diabetes is often caused due to people's poor diets. Cancers too can be prevented (or at least reduced) with sun block (skin cancer), temperance (smoking), etc. None of these diseases rank with the bubonic plague. The black death swept through Europe like a scythe at harvest time, and there was nothing that people could do but pray and bury the dead. There's plenty of things we can do about today's epidemics that won't cost a single dime. So let's stop bemoaning and do it, or at least stop bemoaning for goodness sake.

Monday, June 05, 2006

AIDS: The Worst Epidemic?

So AIDS is the worst epidemic in history? I seem to recall the Black Death (not to be confused with OJ Simpson) killing between 1/4 and 1/3 of Europe's population. Comparatively, then, AIDS is not even close to on-par with the Bubonic Plague.

Furthermore, the Plague could be spread simply by breathing or being around certain rats. AIDS is completely preventable. How pathetic that our day and age suffers from an epidemic that could be eradicated without medicine.

The Five Worst American Caesars

The five most tyrannical chief executives in the history of the United States: those most responsible for loss of life, freedom, and economic prosperity.

1.) Abraham Lincoln. What, you can't believe that I have him at number one? See Thomas DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, and the King Lincoln Archives at

2.) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (The New Deal).

3.) George W. Bush (Civil Liberties violations, an unjust war, an insane budget--see Lincoln)

4.) Lyndon B. Johnson (The Great Society, Vietnam...)

5.) John Adams (Signed the Sedition Act)

The best president in history? Thomas Jefferson, term 1: 1800-1804

What a Brat!

I was at Kroger today, when I saw the biggest brat in the world.

I know what you're thinking, you've seen a bigger brat. Well, Dr. Freud, let me sadly inform you that, at least this time, yours is not as big as mine. I wanted to walk over and whack the kid on the back of the head and say, "Hey, stop being such a GD little brat!"

This kid was such a brat that I saw an Amish guy run up to him and kick him in the nuts. That's how big of a brat this kid was.

There was a brief moment, at the beginning, when I thought that the kid might have some kind of mental problem, perhaps even autism (think "Hot water burn baby!). But it soon became apparent that this was just a jerky kid, the kind that Moses meant when he wrote in Leviticus that children who disrespect their parents should be put to death. Hell, all I wanted to do was boot him in the ass.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mark Want to Go Baseball Game

We took the kids to a Tiger's game today. It was a beautiful day for baseball: clear skies, 80 degrees, complemented by an occasional breeze. It's too bad that the Tiger's lost. It's also too bad that we took the kids.

We should have known better.

Why, every time I go to Detroit, do I feel like I'm visiting that cantina in Mos Isley?

All Mark's been saying for the past week is "Mark want to go baseball game." To which, we suggest, "I would like to go to a baseball game." And he replies, "I want to go baseball game."

Natalie's also begged to go. Why? That's a good question. Even I get bored at baseball games, and I'm the guy who poured through the official government records of the Civil War.

Still, we went. It was a family outing, sponsored by Natalie's school, St. Thecla, and we're a family.

The drive there was uneventful. We listened to Johnny Cash and tried to get Mark to sing along during "Ring of Fire" (which he usually does), and we walked in an hour before game time.

We made our way up to the 200 level picnic area, ate hamburgers and hot dogs, drank pop, and planned to watch the game through the third inning, at which time we would go to the merry-go-round.

Three innings can take an amazingly long period of time when you're with a two and five year old.

Throughout those innings, Natalie remarked nonstop that she was thirsty. Mark simply moved from his seat to my lap to Jennie's lap to his seat to my lap to Natalie's lap to Jennie's lap to his seat and so forth.

The final out of the third inning was a blessing, or was it a curse? First, Mark wanted to go to the baseball game, and there was no explaining to him that we were at the baseball game. He must have somehow imagined that he'd be playing baseball at the game. Perhaps a couple of years ago, the Tigers could have used him, but not now. Second, a stinking bottle of water cost me $3.50. Third, we had to pass a vendor who was selling (in Mark's words), "Big tiger claw!" (one of the giant foam hands--in the shape of a tiger claw). He wanted one. I didn't buy it, and I might as well have shot our dog in front of him. He threw himself to the pavement, crying out, "Mark want big tiger claw. I want, Mark want, big tiger claw." But I, apparently, kept pouring lead into our beagle's midsection.

So I picked him up and walked on towards the merry-go-round. He wiped his tears and snot on my shoulder (lovely), but kept on about the big tiger claw. Natalie, throughout this time, was quite good. We weren't just sitting there, and she was downing water that cost its weight in gold.

To get Mark to stop crying, I told him that we were going on a horsy ride (I wasn't sure that he knew what a merry-go-round was by name). That did the trick, and he even walked nicely to the ride. That's when he sees that the merry-go-round at Comerica Park is not a horsy ride, but, apropos, a tiger ride. This revelation begat another meltdown. "Mark want horsy ride! I want horsy ride!" Why this was an issue, I don't know. Riding a tiger must be ten times cooler than riding a horse. Hell, you never saw John Wayne ride of into the sunset on a Bengal Tiger, did you?

So Mark and I leave Jennie and Natalie. We go for a walk. For pretty much the whole time, Mark told me that he wanted to go on the tiger ride. Once he was calm, we returned--and just in time. Natalie was about to get on the ride. Jennie told me to go on with them and that she would take pictures. As we walked through the turnstile, the lady there told me "Two dollars." I showed her my wristband, which meant that I was part of the St. Thecla party and was thus entitled to free rides. She replied that the rides were free for children, but for adults they were two dollars--as if I was going on the merry-go-round because I thought it would be awesome.

I told her to forget it, that I just wanted to strap the kids in securely, so she let me pass. I did my paternal duty and stepped off the ride.

The kids had a blast, which was only partially good. The second I had Mark off the ride, he chimed in, "I want ride tiger ride." This, of course, meant that I had to endure another tear and snot drenched shoulder whilst we made our way back to our seats (at least he used the same shoulder).

We stayed for the whole game. Mark fell asleep in my arms at the start of the eighth inning, and I dozed off as well. With one out left in the bottom of the ninth, Jennie woke me up to say that we should move toward left field. That was where kids were lining up for a chance to run the bases after the game.

To be honest, I wanted to run with the kids. It would complement my dream--the one where I just hit my hundredth homerun for the season. I would round the bases with my hands in the air, and of course thank God and anabolic steroids for all of my blessings.

Don't laugh. It's just a dream. A hundred homeruns in a season? You might ask, so sue me. I aim high. Hey, it's a dream, so why not make it AWESOME? Then why not make it a thousand homeruns in a season? You reply. BECAUSE I"M NOT AN IDIOT, that's why. There's no way that I or anyone could hit that many homeruns in a season, so stop being such a moron and read on.

Let me tell you about this line. Have you ever imagined the line to enter Noah's Ark? It was nothing compared to this line. It made a new ride line at Cedar Point look like the line to buy tickets for a porno starring James Gandolfini and Hillary Clinton. It wrapped 2/3 around the stadium. Needless to say, we didn't wait in it. I'm not sure if I'd wait in line that long for access to the Pearly Gates.

So we leave the stadium and head for the car. We get to the car, and I strap Mark in to his car seat, and he says, "Mark want to go baseball game."

I will ponder for the rest of my days what he meant by going to a baseball game. We'd been at the ballpark for four and a half hours. It would have been twice that if we'd waited in line to run the bases.

Oh well, I grow tired now.

Bill of Rights