Archive for December, 2009

Blah!  That sucked!  Just finished watching the Vols get dominated by Virginia Tech.  Simply put, Virginia Tech is just a better team.  The Vols are just mediocre.  The Alabama game was obviously just an aberration (and we didn’t even win that).

And if I am not in a bad enough mood, somebody in my apartment building got a new toy for Christmas.  And they have been kind enough to share with the whole apartment the last three nights.  Is it wrong that I wish to strangle whoever invented loud bass stereo systems?  Does this person not have any other source of entertainment other than playing music for HOURS?  Does this person never leave?  (What’s bad is that I am imagining that this person DOES leave, and just leaves the stereo system on just to spite me!  Yep, that’s it.  Everyone is out to get me.  What, me paranoid?)  Seriously, I am thinking of a New Year’s resolution right now, and it’s not very nice!

What would make me feel better?

Yeah, that would do it!  Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

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The big story (which you all know unless you had too much of the holiday egg nog) from over the holidays was the attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253 to Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.  While obviously this guy deserves whatever he gets, I do hope that whatever other action we take in response to this is the result of sound investigation of the facts and an analysis of the cost and benefits of the proposed actions and not as a result of knee jerk reactions and attempts to appease talking heads in the media and politicians looking to score points.

While it is important to look at this incident to determine what can be improved upon security-wise, it is important to also note that the would-be terrorist was only successful in burning the heck out of his own legs.  As far as I know, only one passenger was injured in his attempts to put out the fire and certainly no one was killed.  That’s not to say that nothing should be done, but we do need to keep things in perspective and not go overboard.  But I can already imagine that we are going to have constant demands of the Obama administration that drastic action is needed.  And of course, there must be Senate hearings.  Senate hearings always fix everything.  If, by “fix everything”, you mean create boring content for C-Span 2.

What is funny is that we will see all this demand for action for something that almost happened, but didn’t.  Yet we will see over 40,000 actual deaths on the nation’s highways.  We will see over 14,000 actual deaths from homicides.  Actual deaths, not theoretical ones.   But you will not see a single call for action, no hearings, no nothing.  Why?  It seems that we as society has accepted that there is some level of risk associated with getting into our cars or just living our day-to-day lives.  But for some reason, when it comes to terrorism, there seems to be an expectation that our risks can be reduced to absolute 0%.

We could reduce the speed limit to 10 mph and strictly enforce that limit.  That would certainly reduce highway deaths.  But we know this would come at great cost to our economy and our quality of life, so we do not think that the cost is worth the benefit.  The same mentality should be used when dealing with terrorism.  We could put an air marshall on every plane.  But would the benefit be worth the cost?  We also have to accept that if you have a lone terrorist who is just determined to make an attack, there is probably not much that can be done about it.  It’s hard to gather intelligence about a plan that is simply inside one guy’s head.  We should be very careful about sacrificing freedom in an attempt to achieve a level of security that can simply not be achieved.  Life has risks.

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Christmas Time

Posted: December 22, 2009 in Miscellaneous
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Ah, Christmas.  A joyful, wonderful time of cheer and goodwill toward…..ah, who am I kidding?  I am no better of a writer now than I was a month ago.  So instead of an inspirational blog entry about the wonders of Christmas, you get this:

You all are probably sensing a theme.  World’s (Not So) Funniest Blog, bringing you the best in scatological holiday humor!  Merry Christmas everyone!!!

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…we would be a lot better off.  Sometimes it seems that are activities in Iraq and Afghanistan are just minor blips on the radar, which is amazing to me considering the lives that are loss and the amount of resources that are spent.  However, I do see talk of “war” in the media.  But it doesn’t involve guns or bullets.  It involves the dreaded “war on Christmas”!  It has now become an annual tradition that when the holidays roll around, there are certain groups that swear that there is some grand conspiracy to put an end to Christmas.  When this first occurred, I was really hoping that, like the Cabbage Patch Dolls or Care Bears, it would just be a fad and people would forget about it.  But it is unfortunately becoming clear that the cries of “war on Christmas” are here to stay.   Sigh.

What is funny is that often the targets of these groups’ ire are stores and other businesses.  First, why on earth would any store want to do anything to damage their biggest moneymaker of the year?  And second, I hate to tell you guys this, but these stores have never had any interest in the religious side of this holiday.  They are naturally all about the commercial side of the coin.  So why would those who are supposedly looking out for the religious aspects of Christmas even care how a store chooses to handle the commercial aspects?  It would seem that these groups should have more of a problem with the commercialism in general rather than how many times the word “Christmas” appears in advertising or whether store employees choose to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. (Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think Christians necessarily should have a problem with commercialism.  It is just that biblically, the big fat guy in the red suit and the amount of gifts under a decorated tree do not make an appearance.  So it seems to me that one really doesn’t have much to do with the other, and it never has.)

The truth is that millions celebrate Christmas, Christians and non-Christians alike.  Whether you are ultra-religions, somewhat religious, or not religious at all, basically the underlying themes of Christmas are good.  It is a time for families to get together.  It is a time for giving.  It is a time for joyous celebration.  And this is why there is no serious effort to end Christmas.  It is the favorite holiday for way too many people.  Fortunately the “war on Christmas” is just a phony ploy created by right-wing groups to raise money from those on the fringe and/or those who watch a little too much Fox News or listen to a little too much right-wing radio.  For the rest of us, it is just something to roll our eyes at (or blog about!).

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UPDATE 1/12/2010:  I have noticed that I have been getting a lot of hits from people looking for results from this race.  Well they are finally out!  Go get them here:  http://www.mbho.org/MBR_Results/MBR_09_Results.pdf

Today was a very nice end to what had been a pretty rough week for me.  Given the events earlier this week, I would have told you that there would be no way I would set a personal 5k record in the race today.  I just didn’t think I had it in me.  But it goes to show that you will never know unless you try.

A little background into the week that was.  Sunday morning I drive to Atlanta to attend a course on professionalism (I know there are people I know who would joke that I should have taken this course a long time ago!).  I check into the hotel, and after I get settled in, I decide to drive up to a mall I passed to get a bite to eat.  Now since I am basically a big ol’ rube, I am super-impressed by the sheer size of this mall’s food court.  I mean, they had the traditional stuff you see in every mall, like the Sbarro’s and Chik-fil-A.  But this place also had multiple Chinese places, a Japanese place, multiple ‘meat and three’ places (I had never seen a ‘meat and three’ in a mall, ever!) and on and on!  It takes me a very long time to decide which place I am going to choose, and that is even before I order.  I finally settle on something (and this is typical me, all the places I have to choose, and I go with a grilled chicken sandwich….yawn!).  I eat that, and actually it wasn’t really all that good, but whatever.

So after I finish that, I look around some more and decide, what the heck, I am going to treat myself.  Company is paying, right?  I see a Haagen Daz and think, hey, I’ve actually never had anything from Haagen Daz (Told you I am a rube!  Hey, I grew up in a town where it was front page news when we got a McDonald’s.  It is what it is.).  So I decide to try one of their milkshakes.  And it was good.  Well at least at the time I thought it was.  Little did I know at the time that this was a BIG mistake.

Walking around the mall, I feel my stomach grumbling a little.  I thought ‘hmm, strange, but it is probably just because I ate a little more than I am used to’.  So I return to the hotel and lie around.  My stomach is grumbling more.  Still I thought, ‘ate too much, but it will be fine’.  I go to bed.  It WAS NOT fine!  I go through the worst night of my life.  I will spare you the details (and believe me, you should thank me for that!), but I will just say, it was ugly!  Morning finally rolls around, and I am in a situation where normally there would be no way I would even attempt to do anything that day.  But I am on a road trip for a course that’s only offered twice a year and has already been paid for.  I feel like I have no choice but to carry forward.  And carry forward I did.  For two miserable days.  At least I managed not to toss my cookies during any of the sessions.

So needless to say I did no running Monday through Wednesday.  I go out and try to run Thursday.  I did poorly.  I only went for 3.5 miles, and I had to walk some.  I felt weak and my stomach once again started grumbling.  So with race day approaching, I pretty much think I am not going to do much.  I decide to map the course out on one of those mapping run websites to see how it looks elevation-wise.  I look at the profile and start to hope that the race organizers are going to provide Sherpa’s to help us along the way!  Any confidence I have going into today is shot!

Today arrives and at least I feel good.  The weather is colder than I would like, but not miserably cold.  I get to the race location and at least don’t notice any big hills at the beginning, so that was a plus.  So I get a small confidence boost.  Then the race begins!  And I fly out of the gate (I beginning to get a bad habit of running too fast at the beginning of races I believe)!  It becomes clear that the elevation profile was just wrong and this course wasn’t going to be bad at all.  The first mile is completed in 7:49.  A sub-8 minute mile is smoking fast for me.  And I pay for it during the next mile.  Additionally, I begin to feel fatigue that I believe is still the result of being ill earlier in the week.  So the next mile is more like 9 minutes and I don’t feel particularly strong.  But at some point during the last mile, I kind of just reflect on how lucky I am to be able to participate in something that I enjoy doing so much.  And I begin to suck it up and pick it up again.  Even so, I really don’t think I am going to get a P.R.  I just wanted to give a good effort.  So I make my way to the finish line and see the clock.  I look at it and think ‘what’s that, 25-something’?  Oh my goodness, I have a chance!’  I go into a full-out sprint, weaving through a ton of people ahead of me!  I pass the finish line as the timekeeper says 26:03, and that my friends is my new PR!  What an awesome feeling!

I have to say that I highly recommend this race for those in the Birmingham area.  The food they had for the post-race festivities was top-notch!  They had chicken tenders from Zaxby’s, pizza from Papa John’s, donuts and other pastries, coffee, hot chocolate, Smoothies (which unfortunately is just not going to go over well when the temps are in the 30’s!), cheeses, crackers,  and BBQ pork and BBQ chicken sandwiches from Jim and Nick’s Barbeque.  And if you didn’t like BBQ from Jim and Nick’s, they also had BBQ from Full Moon.  That’s right, you had your choice of BBQ vendors!  Oh, and they had Fondue.  Yes, Fondue!  How many races do you see that?  Needless to say, I stuffed myself!  (Hey, PR = reward, right?)  Thank goodness I had my appetite back, or I think I would have to have made another trip to Atlanta to kick a certain milkshake maker’s arse!

The course is beautiful.  Just enough rolling hills to keep things interesting, but nothing really challenging.  I would probably classify it as a fast course actually.  Plus you finish along a pretty lake.  And they had a ton of door prizes to give away.  I tried to hang around for that, as it look like to me that the prize to people ratio was getting awfully close to one-to-one, and I like those odds!  But decent running weather was NOT decent standing around and doing nothing weather, and I was freezing.  Looking over the prize table one more time, I decided there was nothing there worth getting hypothermia over and left.  Maybe next year I will stick around.  The fee for the race is actually just a donation of your own choosing to the Alabama Jesus Video Project, and they only suggest a donation of $10, which makes this race a bargain.  Two big thumbs up from me.

I am off the racing circuit until January 23rd, where I will be doing my second 10k, the Village-to-Village Run.  Should be a lot of fun!  Hopefully no illnesses leading into that one!

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You really have to hand it to Fox News.  Anybody can have a poll that adds up to 100%.  But that is SO CNN or NPR!  Fox News is better than that!  This is what Fox News can do for you:

That’s right!  Not 100%, but 120%!!!  That’s 20% better than all of the other polls.  Suck on that MSNBC!!!!  This is how Fox News rolls, fair and balanced style! (just don’t ask them to balance the numbers of their poll graphic with the source of the poll)

Some people think that Fox News purposely skewed the numbers to mislead their viewers.  Certainly I do not believe Fox News is above doing something like this.  But I think that is giving Fox News too much credit, as sad as that may be.  This is what I believe happened.  Here is an excerpt from the Rasmussen press release regarding this poll:

“Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s Very Likely. Just 26% say it’s not very or not at all likely that some scientists falsified data.”

I believe that the folks at Fox News just took this statement, slapped it into a graphic, and ran with it without ever taking the trouble of trying to comprehend what was being said or, you know, perhaps looking at the actual poll itself.  That would be doing their job as journalists.  But really, do they even employ journalists at Fox News?  The key of course is that 59% of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely.  That means the 35% in the next sentence is actually included in the 59% stated in the prior sentence.  (Even without understanding that, they do have the actual poll that they could have looked at that makes this very clear.)  But I think that went over their heads.

So instead of a case of bias, I believe this is a case of laziness and incompetence.  Fox News is often called out on the former, but they should be called out more often on the latter.  Because they are so often all of the above.  When confronted with this apparent graphical mistake, the Fox News official response was that there wasn’t any mistake at all.  They claimed that they only posted three interesting independent facts on the screen and never intended to present these numbers as numbers that could be added together.  They say this even though the anchor DID do just that, and literally said that over 90% of Americans said that it was likely that scientists falsified research data.  So I guess we can add disingenuous to the list!  But I do suppose that “Fox News:  Biased, Lazy, Incompetent, and Disingenuous” wouldn’t be a very good marketing pitch!

I think it is sad that Fox News is the news source of choice for so many Americans.  I have to groan whenever I hear somebody proclaim that they prefer Fox News and then regurgitate the “fair and balance” tagline (yes, I have really heard people say this!).  But it does make for good humor fodder sometimes!

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And with my substantial influence in the blogosphere, with thousands, um hundreds, ok, maybe dozens of readers, some of whom may actually live in Birmingham, the mayor’s position is as good as his!  Actually if he had any idea, he and his campaign would be cursing right now.  The people I vote for usually do not win.  Heck, I voted for Patrick Cooper the last time and we saw how that turned out.  Even if they do win, usually they end up as complete failures (great going W.!  Thanks a lot!).  So really this is probably the worse thing that could have happen to Cooper.

Anyway, I took this afternoon to try to research all 14 candidates as best as I could.  To me, Cooper is so far beyond the other candidates that if based on capabilities and potential alone, the election would be a landslide.  Of course, some of the other candidates aren’t exactly setting the bar high.  One was arrested “campaigning” in a bar.  Another’s claim to fame is trying to convert “Bruno” from homosexuality.  Still, to me the choice is clear for two reasons.  First, clearly Cooper is a very intelligent man.  Second, Cooper is not a part of the current Birmingham political scene, and we sure could use some new blood in this city.

I probably make too much of this, but one thing I pretty much make a requirement for my support of a candidate is that the candidate must have an informative website.  In this day and age, there is just no excuse not to have a website.  I understand that you really can’t get into too much detail with campaign signs and 30 second commercial spots.  But that’s the beauty of the web, you can post all the information you want, and anybody can go get it.  Patrick Cooper has a very nice website full of good info.  A couple of other candidates have pretty good websites as well.  But most of the candidates either do not have a website (that I can find anyway), or have websites that are nothing but fluff.

Sometimes I really like little things as well.  Patrick Cooper is proposing setting time aside every week where anybody, ANYBODY, can make an appointment to see the mayor and discuss one-on-one anything that they desire.  So simple.  Yet if this is actually done anywhere, I am unaware of it (maybe it is common though and I just don’t know).  I also like the idea of setting aside a couple of offices at city hall as study areas for kids.  Just the general sense of accessibility that Cooper wants to create at city hall really appeals to me.

So I am voting for Patrick Cooper on Tuesday.  I hope that the people of Birmingham get out on Tuesday and vote for somebody.  I almost would prefer that even if they don’t vote for Cooper that they vote for somebody new, even if that somebody may be in over their heads a bit, instead of the same old tired faces like William Bell or Carole Smitherman.  How do we ever expect to see different results if we keep voting the same folks in over and over?  Still, I have more respect for you if you get out and vote, even if it is for Bell or Smitherman, then if you sit home and do nothing.

Here is Cooper’s website:  http://www.cooperforbirmingham.com/ Maybe you will be as impressed as I am.  Or not.

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