Chapter 9: 50, Cars.

 
Well that's it.  The end of the first half century.  I am 50 years old tomorrow.
Happy happy birthday, and may the happiest moment you have felt up until now be the saddest of your next fifty.
That is a nice thought, although statistically improbable.  Thank you kindly ma'am.
The 17th is also my nephew, Gilbert Theodore Lehman (Teddy)'s, birthday.  He is one today.
Well, happy birthday to little nephew Teddy, and many more of them.
I feel there ought to be an intermission with ice creams and things before the next half starts, but I guess life just carries on regardless.
I think that's a wonderful idea.  And the intermission should be conducted in a theatre lobby in the location of your choice, with beautiful ushers bringing the ice cream.
Well I didn't do too badly as it turned out - I had a small party for a few friends, and baked a big steak and kidney pie to go around.  Oh, yum.  I love S&K pie, but I don't like cooking kidneys; the smell puts me off. The pie was as good as any I have done and was well received.  (I admit to cheating and buying frozen puff pastry - I don't have time to make that.)  Who does?  I always buy the frozen stuff.  You need chronically cool hands to make good pastry, and I have chronically warm hands.  My pastry always turns out tough.  I have given up gracefully. One couple brought a big dish of raspberry Pavlova, my favourite dessert, and they had a separate one on a smaller dish just for me.  How kind!  You didn't have to share!  That way, you could shatter it all by yourself, without having other people pick at the bits.
I thought a Pavlova was an Aussie dessert.  I knew that UK culture flowed to Oz, but I didn't know it flowed the other way, too.  Do you also have all those revolting Australian candy bars, like Violet Crumbles and Cherry Ripes?
I wasn't aware of that.  It is a Russian name or thereabouts, but it doesn't seem much in the Russian style.  I knew the Aussies were strong on deserts but I didn't know they did desserts too.  Although I did have an Australian book on Russian cookery, which was a bit odd.  The headteacher at Natasha's nursery school (when she was 3) borrowed it and never gave it back. Every six months or so I see her in the supermarket and she reminds me she's still got it.  That doesn't really help.
I am into the history of cooking and dishes, and I think it was invented when Anna Pavlova toured Australia.  Like Peaches Melba.
Mind you I once lent a geology textbook to a guy who I lost touch with and one day about five years later he turned up at the front door with it.  The odd thing about that was that we started talking about travel, and he mentioned he was going to Capetown the next month to visit his son.  As it happened I was working there that month, and we ended up meeting at his son's girlfriend's place for a barbeque.  The girlfriend was quite a character - she held the world record for swimming the English Channel at the time, and had an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
No we don't have the candy bars you name, yucky or otherwise, although we surely have enough of our own.
Not bad as they only got back from holidaying in Cyprus the day before. That was a lovely thought.
Didn't manage the beautiful usherettes though.  A good time was had by all, I accumulated a flip-top bin-full of empty bottles (for recycling) and the dishwasher had two full loads this morning.

Thereby impressing the neighbors, no doubt.
Happy day after your birthday.


I just read that Robson Walton of Wal-Mart has overtaken Bill Gates in the richest man  stakes.  Why is it that I greatly resent Gates' profits from Microsoft, while I don't feel half so bad about ASDA/Wal-Mart taking my money, even though they get a lot more of it?  My three nearest supermarkets are all ASDAs.  Maybe because they employ a lot more people than M$ does, then the CEO is a bit more entitled to have his nose in the trough.  Or maybe it's just Gates' personality that gets up my nose.  Somehow I feel that M$ doesn't so much provide a service as prevent services being provided.
I think it's all that plus the fact that Wal-Marts are very useful places, whereas MS products often cause agita.  I never have a problem with anything I've bought at Wal-Mart.  (Well, why would I?  I mostly buy pickles and toilet paper there.  Not exactly high tech.)
People in the U.S. hate Wal-Mart because it is often the death of small mom-and-pop stores in small towns, but I insist on my right to shop in a store with a wide selection of goods, very low prices, and polite staff.  I have no nostalgia for the fly-blown selection of three elderly candy
bars, a rustly can of WD-40, and two hats that one used to find at said mom-and-pop stores.  That's why people in small towns were always driving huge distances to the big city to shop.  Now they don't have to, and they moan and whine.  Hypocrites.
Also, Wal-Mart hasn't had to lay people off, whereas Microsoft has.  Routine surveys of "the best companies to work for in America" have Wal-Mart up at the top of the list.  They treat their employees well.

Aloha, Catharine
who is also a secret fan of the fact that you can get cotton candy (candy floss) any old time you go to Wal-Mart, instead of having to wait for a state fair or something.

I'm also glad that there is a rational explanation for my gut feelings.
I -have- had problems with things I bought from ASDA, like chickens that were a bit high, to put it mildly.  However they bent over backwards to help, replaced the chickens and gave me 10 as well.  When I have problems with M$ the attitude seems to be "We've got your money, now f**k off."
Absolutely.  Hey, does your keyboard have a key that makes a sign, or one for the $ sign?  Which one do you have to put the ASCII code in for, or do you?  Can you tell I haven't been to Britain since 1983?
Both. The standard UK keyboard differs from the US one in a few details, and has one extra key, 102 not 101. It looks like this
!"$%^&*()_+
`1234567890-=
 QWERTYUIOP{}
 qwertyuiop[]
  ASDFGHJKL:@~
  asdfghjkl;'#
 |ZXCVBNM<>?
 \zxcvbnm,./
In particular the #, \, " and @ signs are moved and the left shift is single rather than double width with the extra \ key next to it.
So displaces # and # displaces \ to the extra key.  @ and " are exchanged.
I don't have to put in ASCII for any of these, just for things like , , etc.  most others I use 'character map'.
Ahh.  Very interesting.
Although I am reluctant to press it far after reading reports of people who paid for support only to find that they didn't get their problem solved, but did get continuing debits to their credit cards thereafter.
The small-shop problem here is slightly different because of less dependency on the automobile.  The main complaint is that out-of-town supermarkets are effectively inaccessible to the elderly and other carless people, and by 'cherry picking' customers, force up prices in local shops and so end up as a tax on the least privileged sectors of society.  For those of us that pollute routinely it is pretty much an unqualified boon.  There is a growing movement here of the opinion that low price has gone too far, and quality, taste, food safety and the well-being of our (and third world) agricultural industry are being sacrificed on this altar. 
We also have that feeling here.  I've had it for years.  David doesn't understand why I have to go to THIS grocery store for meat and THAT one for produce, but that's the way it is.  However, I do admit that Wal-Mart's store brand (the low-priced one) of pickles is divine.
Certainly I have long felt that the 'budget' brands in supermarkets were best avoided on nutritional and flavour grounds.
I used to feel that way, but the Safeway store brand has improved dramatically in the past couple of years and, when I shop there, I buy that brand whenever I can.  They have really made an effort.  I pass their frozen chili off as my own, and I get raves for it, and I don't have to spend six hours cooking it.
I will admit to liking ASDA's budget brand of mild cheese, and things like kitchen towels are OK.  In the latter there is a lot of hype about absorbency and strength but when was the last time you really soaked one or had one fail structurally?  Most times these factors are irrelevant and one sheet is really more than you need, so number of sheets is the only criterion.  I do try not to buy their meat, it is rather poorer quality than the local butcher's.

The prodigal son just returned.   Nothing to do with the previous, he just walked through the door as I was typing.  He had been home for the weekend, and should have been on the bus back to university today.  He left at about 1:30 to get a sequence of buses to get him back to London, but missed his connection in Manchester and figured the next London bus would land after the local public transport there had shut down for the night.  So he came back to have another try tomorrow.  Bloody students!  :-)   On his journey here he had arranged to attend a family gathering at my sister's in North London on his way.  He arrived here on time and without fuss somewhat to my surprise.  I spoke to my mother later and she said he had actually arrived with them two hours late, and they had just given him some food and taken him straight to the tube station, so getting him back on schedule.  I guess I have another place to set for tea.
Feed him something boring.
He got liver and onions - he had to have what was in the freezer because the van windscreen got vandalised Major bummer. and I didn't feel much like going shopping on foot.  There's always a pack of frozen liver in there, cheap and compact. 
Mmm.  Liver and onions.  I love it, especially with bacon and ketchup.  WE can't get frozen liver here.  It's fresh or nothing.  I don't often cook it because there's a membrane on it that is a pain to remove.  If you don't remove it your poor little (or big) piece of liver curls up like an armadillo when heated - so much for cooking it on both sides.  We don't have stand-alone butchers any more, so I can't hand the liver to the meat counter attandant and ask if he can remove it.  He doesn't even know what I'm talking about -- it was probably trucked in from some central abbatoir last night and all he did was load it into the chill containers.
Shame.  Our supermarkets tried that and did a major favour for small shops. They are getting back to the idea of having specialist meat and fish staff on site, and the quality is improving but it has a way to go.  They advertise "If you want something special doing just ask for it".  I tried. The answer, when you eventually find the right person is "Sorry we haven't got any"   Oh well, their PR heart is in the right place but they still can't quite get out of the 'cheap and efficient' mindset.
Yup, that's the way it is here.  I think it's because they don't have an actual cow carcass or whatever hanging in the back.  Everything has been cut up already and trucked in, and of course they can't give you anything special.  We are lucky in that we are in Seattle and the fish counter is wonderful.  THEY can do anything you ask.  I am a wuss and always ask them to filet and/or bone the fish.  I hate eating fish with bones or with the skin still on, etc.  Shudder.
The rapid call-out windscreen repair service said "OK can you bring it in this afternoon."  "What? Drive ten miles with an illegal broken windscreen to get a service that is covered on my insurance?" Erm, don't they advertise themselves as rapid call-out? " Well it'll have to be tomorrow afternoon then."  I suspect that I get second class cover if it an insurance job, the rapid call out only applies to cash.  This somewhat begs the question of the value of the insurance in the first place - windscreens aren't that expensive an item or that infrequent a job that insurance is really appropriate, but I am forced to have that cover - being a domestic van driver I am in a minority and so victim of insurance cherry-picking. 
 
This is another beef of mine, maybe I should start a new paragraph.  My befogged chemo brain and I thank you. Insurance companies get economies of scale by only calculating premiums for commonly-occurring situations.  So as soon as you want to do anything unusual, you find you can't get insurance or you have to go to expensive specialists.  Most regular car insurance companies won't insure vans, so the one that will gets to rip you off.  I can only get covered if I buy their top-of-the-range 'gold' policy with inclusive road recovery, windscreen cover, all the bells and whistles which I don't particularly want.  Even a free device to warn of approaching traffic jams, which I tried and (a) didn't work and (b) was a potential road hazard in itself.  I get eager salesmen ringing me up "We can cut your car insurance bills."  "I drive a van."  "No problem, how big is the engine" "2.5l diesel" "Oh, sorry we don't go that big." or "No problem. No modifications?"  "Only side windows and five seats" "Oh no we can't cover that". 
It used to be the same way here until all the soccer moms started driving vans.  They now drive things called mini-vans, but they didn't always.  And of course there are the idiots in the SUVs.  (Sport Utility Vehicles.)  I include my husband in the latter category.  It was bad enough to drive around with him in the pickup truck with four-wheel drive which we did not get much use from, as we are currently city mice.  Right before he went out of town (so I haven't been able to torment him as I would like to) he traded the pickup truck in and bought a Ford Excursion.  He just went out and did it.  Did not include me in the decision at all.  Just came home with it.  This is the biggest SUV made.  I don't even know if it's legal in Canada.  It oughtn't to be legal here.  
It is 227.6 inches long.  It gets 4.4 miles per gallon in freeway driving with the air conditioning on and 5.9 MPG with the air conditioning off, also on the freeway. 
Jeez.  I'll bet it accounts for about 0.1 per century global warming all on its own.  My 3.5 tonner (diesel) does about 28mpg at 70mph, that's about 23mpg in your money, and it's probably got more windage too.  The days when our air needs cooling are too few to mention, at least until Europe gets hit by the exhaust plume from David's car.
(wailing) I'm so embarrassed!
I know this because it has a fancy on-board computer that will tell you these things.  It is so big that it has an internal beeper that beeps if you are about to hit something, fore or aft.
That's handy if you can't drive. Yes.  We have very exciting drives, as it's always beeping when D. is about to hit a curb.  I just smile quietly to myself as he cusses at it.  I have one of those fresnel lenses stuck to the back window so I can see until I'm about 6" from the thing behind me. I did once hit a ladder protruding from the top of a smaller van though, but the bleeper probably wouldn't see that either at about 7' off the ground.
It is so big that Ford is stopping making it.  Too many people were buying them and then returning them because they don't fit in their standard garages or carports.  The one David bought was ticketed at $41K.  He was able to talk them down to $35K because the vehicle is not being made any more.  The car payments are still, even with the trade-in of his fairly new, fairly fancy pickup truck, $635 a month.
SHRIEK. 
<envy> It must be nice to be rich. :-)
My anger came from the fact that we are not all THAT rich, and I think once we start actually living on this new salary he is going to find that he can't really afford it. 
I was truly madly deeply mortified to be seen in it, and then I looked around and saw that the majority of traffic in Seattle is pickup trucks, minivans, vans, and SUVs, so we don't stick out too much.  I hate it.  I won't drive it.  It wallows when it goes around corners, and it has this front-to-back bucketing motion and also a side-to-side sloshing motion that are very painful on my physical body.  I associate these motions with a bad suspension, but oh, no, David says they are evidence of its good ride.  As my exquisitely vulgar former boyfriend used to say, "Don't pee on my shoe and tell me it's raining."
I thought all American vehicles did that - the concept of the Detroit Blimp is well known here.  It is evidence of a soft ride, great for going in a straight line over bumpy roads, but useless at anything else.  That's why American motor racing doesn't have a manufacturers' competition (so I'm told).
They have been getting better.  Back when we were going to buy ME the new car because HE was happy with his pickup truck, I was investigating the Ford Focus.  I was initially attracted to it because it looks like a space ship and comes in silly colors, but I was really impressed with it when I drove it.  Very tight handling -- which the salesman worried about, as he thought it was not good. 
Artyom showed me a headline in a lads car magazine. Their team had just test driven a Focus and were impressed.  Their headline took a little thinking about; "Focus sideways!".
I'm not interested in what "lads" think of cars.  I have a wonderful magnet on my refrigerator that shows a handsome teen guy in a car about to crash into another car and the caption is "He was too young... too fast... and had too much testosterone."
Washington State requires everyone to have car insurance.  That means there are insurance agencies that specialize in people with bad driving records.  They are called SS21 agencies, after the piece of paper that has your record on it.  There is one that has a hilarious ad on TV that features a bunch of what we used to call "stoners" sitting around on a sofa.  One of them is on the phone and says, "Man, I have a DUI record, glasspacks on the car and Keegans (or something like that) on the back end.  What?!?  You can cover me?!? IRON MAIDEN!!!"  I didn't know that Iron Maiden was being used as a statement of approbation, but whatever.
I'm interested in what rotund women in their mid-to-late 30s who still want to look cool and want to be able to zoom onto the freeway think of cars.  
The point was that you were not the only one to notice that the Focus had better handling than one gernerally expected of a Ford.
I figured as much, but I wanted to be snippy.
I was also interested in the Toyota Echo.  (Yeah, yeah, I love my little Toyota, but I was excited about the idea of a new car.)
This sort of suspension goes really well with chemo.  You need Zofran just to ride to the hospital.  I was discussing the other day with Natasha why she still gets sick on car journeys but never gets sick in the van any more.
I got sick on car trips until I was about eleven, if that's any help. :) Does she read in the car?  I needed to do that or I went crazy with boredom, but that was always my downfall.
Yes the discussion covered the effects of reading or drawing in the car.
Not easy to explain how that works.
It's because the car makes the paper vibrate and it's hard to focus on the vibrating print or drawing.  I understood that at seven; I'm sure she can, too.
It can't be that simple because it would be worse with hard suspension like the van, and it isn't.  It has to do with conflicting signals from the eye and inner ear as well.  When you watch outside, the eye sees movements that make sense of the balance signals.  When you watch inside, the eye image is stable but the ear-balance one isn't, so I guess the primitive brain says 'earthquake' or something.  There is something that happens to this mechanism when you learn to ride a motorbike and get accustomed to looking at the world gliding past at odd angles.  Well it did for me, I remember noticing a sort of reorientation was part of the learning process, and I can use that learnt skill in other situations, eg on roller coasters or at sea, to keep my mental orientiation in confusing environments.  Didn't happen with pedal bikes, I suppose you don't lay them over far enough.
I remember once we were coming back from visiting my grandparents in Arkansas.  I was around seven.  My father always wanted to start driving at around 3:30 a.m., so we could miss a lot of morning traffic.  So we would always get bundled into the car in our pajamas, and then we'd stop for breakfast around 8:00 a.m. and change into our clothes in the restaurant's bathroom.  ANYWAY, I was sitting in a miserable little heap in the booth at the restaurant and the kind-hearted waitress kept pestering me to find out what I wanted to eat for breakfast.  No, I did not want a Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity.  No, I did not want a Ballpark Breakfast.  Finally I said, in a tiny voice, "Please could I have some scrambled eggs?"  She said, "Sure, hon, you like scrambled eggs?"  I said, "No, it's just that they're the easiest thing to throw up."
I still remember the evil look she gave my parents.
Heh heh.  The only good thing is that it won't fit in our garage, where my tiny, bedraggled 1985 Toyota MR-2 now sits in lonely splendor.  It won't even fit in the parking places in front of our house, as they are for compact cars and are very small.  He has to park it down the street and hike back to the house, complaining bitterly all the way, as he doesn't like walking.  Oh, the other good thing is that he keeps running over curbs in it, which should ruin the alignment or the balance or something pretty quickly.  Yay.
I can finally drive myself around again (at the high point, my leg was too grotesquely swollen to fit under the steering wheel in my Toyota) and am SO HAPPY to be able to do so.  Plus, I love my little tin can.  It has a mid-mounted engine and really skates along, making a  gratifying zoomy kind of noise at the same time.  I feel very small and virtuous as I zip along at 80 mph, getting 40 mpg, and surrounded by towering, inefficient SUVs.  I like to imagine that guys look at my teensy little coupe longingly as they whip their giant family-size vehicles onto the freeway which I have just danced onto, turn-signals ablaze, but I don't think they really do.  I think they still like the SIZE of their SUV.
Of course, my car was made before airbags were standard.  So even wearing my seatbelt, I have the comforting thought that if one of those SUVs creams me, I will die instantly, with none of this lingering in a head-injury-twilight for months while my family bickers over me.
I get the same sort of deal with house insurance, the last one "Is there a stream under the house?" "Yes, not for nothing is it called Springside House, there is a well in the cellar.  Its been there for 160 years"  "We can't insure that then".
Wow!  A well in the cellar.  Is the water still potable?  What does it taste like?
I don't think it was ever intended for drinking water, when I arrived here it was being used to pump water up 8' into the street drains to keep the water table under the house down.  When putting in the utility room drain in the cellar, my labourer discovered a culverted stream under the floor and diverted it into the foul drain, which is about 6' DOWN.  Water runs much easier that way, and the public sewer was short of water flow (kept blocking in the summer - not enough 'fall' (down slope)), so everyone benefited, and my cellar never floods any more even in storms.
I'm not sure where it fills from, I suspect it is the run-off from the spring somewhere, but attempts to trace it did not show up in the well. They used to collect drinking water from the spring at the top of the garden.  I have drunk that without ill effects, although there is no doubt a bit of last year's sheep pee in it, filtered through about a mile of shale. 
Tough it out.  A mile of shale ought to filter anything out.  It tastes like water without chlorine in it. Wow, she said in soft wonderment.  I can't imagine THAT.
You definitely wouldn't be able to get insurance coverage for such a house in the U.S.  Over the past decade, the insurance companies have taken such a beating with natural disaster coverage that they are definitely standardizing homeowners' coverage.  Now, the federal government passed a law saying that people in flood plains HAD to be offered flood insurance.  I kind of approved of that, but wondered what people were doing living on flood plains anyway.  I guess the property developers and zoning authorities are mostly to blame for that.
Then I married a guy who impulsively bought the house I'm sitting in right now without reading the due diligence papers.  If he had, he would have discovered that we are in the Green River flood plain.  Fortunately, we can get coverage for floods as per the aforementioned federal law, but guess what?!? We are right smack dab in the eruption plain for Mount Rainier.  The map in the middle of the DD papers says so.  So if Mount Rainier explodes, as it is overdue to do, we will be drowned in a lahar.  (Boiling mud and ash.)  Hence our stunning sunset views of Mount Rainier.
It is a hassle to have the house on the market, but I am secretly glad that David is sick of Washington and wants to move.  You had better believe that, when we get to wherever we're moving, I am not allowing him to leave the hotel on his own EVER.  Call me a party-pooper, but the first house he wanted to buy was next to a federally-protected wetlands.  Yes, the wildlife-watching opportunities are delightful, but let's go see it at sunset.  Honey?  Those mosquitoes you're bitching about?  They're an extra added feature of a HOUSE BUILT IN A SWAMP.
Can you see why we fight a lot?  I'm a mean old wet blanket.
Yes. mozzys are so ROMANTIC.  Memories of a summer in Leningrad.  So many mosquitoes in the car headlights it looked like a snowstorm.<shudder>
While this attitude may bring down the costs of insurance for the masses, or improve the return on investment in insurance companies, it does so at the expense of 'Macdonaldsisation' of the market it covers.  Paying a bit extra for an unusual risk is one thing but being forced to drive a particular sort of vehicle because legally required insurance is simply unavailable seems to be going too far. There should be a duty on motor insurers to insure ANY legal vehicle if they are to benefit from the law which requires motor insurance in the first place.
On the other hand I have now made major claims on both house and motor insurance and recovered most of the premiums I paid over the years, so I can't complain, and I did get the benefit from being forced to have high-grade policies.  I am very happy with the new kitchen that the 15,000 fire insurance payout got us.  I think of it every time I dump a pile of dishes in the built-in dishwasher, or when I switch on the extractor canopy to take my cooking smells outside via a duct above a lowered ceiling. 
Aren't those lovely?  Do you have a Dispos-All?  Can't think what the generic name is.  It's that thing that lives in the bottom of the kitchen sink that chews up food scraps.  I really love that.  Then the rubbish can doesn't stink.
Waste disposal unit?   No, I never got around to that.  The sink was about the only thing I didn't replace because the best on offer that would fit in the limited space was identical to what I had.  I'm not sure the drains would cope with the sludge anyway, I don't even flush coffee grounds, I sieve them out and put them in the bin.
I really appreciated the opportunity to redesign it myself from the bare brick/stonework with virtually no financial constraint.
 
The traffic queue detector was a joke.  Some bright spark has gone around the country installing motion sensors on poles every few miles along all the major trunk roads.  These sense traffic speeds and communicate with each other, and so are able to pass warnings of slow traffic down the chain and warn approaching traffic up to 20 miles away by means of a radio signal to a little box of lights of the dashboard.  Expensive GM cars have that feature in their "Onstar" systems.  I have heard that it doesn't work here, either. But the must have f****d up the software somehow.  It made a complete meal of the new Manchester Ring Road, which was just being completed.  While it was still under construction, the system persistently warned of slow traffic 5 miles ahead as you approached the end of the existing road, where there was as yet no road ahead.  When it was completed it worked somewhat intermittently for a while and gave conflicting signals, probably some links of the chain were down, it didn't seem able to tolerate that either.  The final straw for me was when in light traffic it started warning of stationary traffic ahead.  The indication was consistent, the range steadily came down.  When I got to the zero point there was of course no problem and what little there was was flowing smoothly.  Then I spotted a drain cleaning truck crawling along the hard shoulder.  I am sure that in the absence of traffic it had sensed this slow vehicle as a traffic jam, and had ignored the occasional fast one passing it.  D'oh.

It had worse tricks.  In the year I had it before the batteries ran out and I threw it away, the only major unpredictable and potentially avoidable traffic jam I hit was about half an hour delay and the instrument was happily saying "No problem" all the way up to it.  Another time it began beeping to get my attention to the fact that it was suddenly displaying "Stationary, local".  I looked back at the road to find a very real queue rapidly approaching my front bumper.  I think I could have found it quicker without the help of the instrument, and the distraction at that point was a serious hazard.
 
When all is said and done, "So what."  So I know that there is a delay ahead.  Great, now what, I can get a nice warm feeling of "I knew this was coming." as I sit in the queue.  From experience I know it is rarely worth trying to find an alternative route to avoid a delay of less that 20 minutes, and delays that long are only common in bottlenecks where there is no alternative anyway.  If the device could reliably predict long delays far enough in advance to plan an alternative then it might occasionally have some value.  It might save half an hour a year for regular drivers.  Basically it is a totally misconceived and badly executed device and I resent being forced to buy it as part of my insurance premium.
I can get that information from the radio, as well as news and music.
Hmm.  What to do today.  It's pouring down rain again.  I know, I'll lie on the couch and read library books.


What is W doing?  I mean, ending the ABM treaty.
So with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the ending of the cold war, America at last moves toward world domination without credible opposition.
That's exactly what he's doing.  Hey, I didn't vote for him.  And it isn't "W", it's Dubya.  Sounds more insulting and bubba-like.
W is easier to type, I can't pronounce Dubya.  :-)
Is it true that when he came to the White House someone had taken all the W's off the computer terminals?
No.  A couple of interns had taken the Ws off of their keyboards, but it was two or three people.
USA no longer needs constraints on nuclear proliferation, now they can proliferate to their heart's content.  Goodbye mutual assured destruction, Hello unilateral assured destruction.
If the anti-missile system -can- be made to work and does not fall on its face as many seem to think it will, then there is no nation that can match it.  Ballistic missiles will no longer be a threat to the USA.  How long before the Pentagon forgets the promises that this is only intended for defence against 'rogue' states attacking the US? 
We all know that Dick Cheney is really doing the presidenting, and we're scared to death of him.  Halliburton, the company he is the former CEO of, is a majorly evil company securely tied into the military-industrial complex.  Said complex is just limping along, but its supporters do anything they can to protect and improve it.
So that's what it is all about.  That explains quite a lot.  Still presumably his company would be involved in the projects if only to save its ass, and it doesn't sound too well placed to make the sort of technological leap required to have this system in place before the big day. 
No, and frankly, I know Halliburton as an oil and gas drilling company.  I believe they also manufacture drilling equipment.  So I, personally, am not too sure how he fits in to the M/I complex.  I am brutally clear, though, on how he fits in to the plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Oh dear.  Does David's car need -that- much oil?  :-)  When my friend worked at the big oil refinery in LA he told me that they unload a supertanker every day there.  More oil than I can comfortably imagine.
("Sorry guys but we already put off Armageddon for 18 months so that Bill Gates could release Windows 2001, so you're going to have to come with what what you've got")  I guess we are going to have to rely on good old Amurrican incompetence to save the world.
From a position of security, the temptation to use threats for economic ends will be overpowering.   Even if no threats are spoken, what do you call a gorilla with a machine gun? 
Sir.  (Am I right?) Aye.  Same as you call a superpower with a nuke.
Horrible ethnic joke:
What do you say to a Samoan in a three-piece suit?
"Will the defendant please rise?"
(I'm so ashamed of myself.)
Quote Catharine "And that's why I don't tell any ethnic jokes." Girls who wear glass blouses shouldn't show bones (tee shirt seen in Oxford).I said I was ashamed of myself.
How many minutes does it take to re-target a nuke?
Foreign military minds will turn to other arenas.  The idea of an infiltrator with a swab soaked in foot and mouth virus suddenly doesn't seem so silly. 
I don't think it sounds silly at all.  Remember, I'm a public health enthusiast.  I still think that all the TB-infested Russian immigrants who are coming over here are a last-gasp kind of Soviet plot.  They certainly are sapping the strength of the public health establishment here in King County.
Well yes but why are they sapping the strength of the former Soviet Union as well.  Sounds like a bit of an own goal. 
Oh, yes.  If I ever get well again I want to go to try to help over there.  I am proud of Bill Gates for donating umpty-jillion dollars (I'm not sure exactly how much it was) for the TB effort in Russia.  You know, he's really a jerk as far as Microsoft goes, but I admire him immensely for putting his money where his mouth is and donating large sums to public health efforts, especially in Russia and Africa.  (Two areas I would really like to see blossom.)
Well credit where it's due I suppose.  I can't help being suspicious that there is an ulterior motive, if only improving his public image and buying off the legislative dogs that would bring him down.  Then again, I guess he probably has nothing better to do with it, even from his point of view.
I don't care if he tattoos his ulterior motive on his forehead, the money may do some good.  I have hope.
Mind you that's pretty normal for the Russian regime, not so much shot in own foot as machine-gunned. Gorbachev tried to stamp out alcoholism by destroying the champagne grape vines, and so lost a major export commodity while making negligible impact on alcoholism - how many alcoholics drink champagne?  The system suffered (and still does) from a major structural information bottleneck between the people on the ground and the decision makers.
You don't need to be a superpower to do that, great for terrorists.  Biological war here we come.  Creeping in the dark, growing quietly in a carrier host then breaking out all over and spreading like fire.  The perpetrator long gone, you don't even know who hit you.  The next flu epidemic might not be an accident..
I think it is scary.

I do, too, and I think this loud trumpeting of our desires to bring back the good ol' days of Amurrica First are a  GREAT way to get people thinking about such things.
Hey, they do thinking too?  There's hope yet.
Rereading my previous comments on the ABM bit I sound awfully anti-American, which I am not.  You can be anti-American if you want to; I don't care. Just worried where we are heading.  Good old American incompetence is a strange thing:  with some brilliant successes (electronics industry, space etc.) America has the image of technological omnipotence, and yet when you look at the everyday stuff, cars, machines etc they are strangely slapdash.  It's because of the trade unions' inordinate influence in manufacturing. I have probably said before that I always buy American tools, they are the best in the world, and I am sure there has to be some underlying cause which relates this fact to the mediocre quality of many of their constructions.
Of course they think.  All those terrorist groups are groups of young, testosterone-poisoned men in their twenties.  Just the sort of men who like to hang around in coffee shops and think.  My plan for men is that, at the first sign of puberty, we put them into a kind of twilight sleep and exercise them while they are under.  We only allow them out of their sleep at 35.  Then they can go to school, finish up what they haven't learned yet, and rejoin the human race at 40, when they have become civilized. 
Well, it's either that or require all men to have some kind of sperm-reducing Norplant-type implant that will keep them sterile until they can prove that they are married, do not drink, do not beat their wives, have health insurance, and make over $30,000 a year.
Hmm, testosterone poisining and logical thinking don't sound like comfortable bedfellows.  I meant think as in, with the head, not with the balls.  Still Dubya might end up with something like the anti-Vietnam protests on his hands if the implications penetrate the mass awareness.