Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting to know folks

I used to believe the best way to really get to know somebody was to share an inheritance with them. That's still probably true, but very limited usefulness since there are too few people I share an inheritance with...There is another useful tool, though, and a larger subset of the population----dog owners.
This is NOT an absolute. It's just clue, sort of a 'heads-up'. I can already think of exceptions to this, so I'm open to other views on this.
People with happy dogs are pleasant people. If I run a 911 call to someone's house and the retriever brings me a tennis ball, it's a good bet those are going to be kind, compassionate people. If the family dog is something vicious, they will be suspicious edgy type folks. Be careful. If they have small yappy dogs, they will be loud, close talkers and not good listeners. Maybe they've gone deaf. I've noticed people with hyperactive dogs tend to be fitness minded; I haven't made the connection yet as to why.
If you own cats, you're staff. Snakes, spiders, scorpions--- If you are an adult and your life revolves around these as pets, I'm going to keep my distance. Fish people live a long time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tall poppies and a bucket full o' crabs.

We watch on average 2 hours of television. Per week. We are usually getting something else done that doesn't require too much concentration so we don't just sit with our eyes glued. A show AnnaMarie and I both like is Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". We like how he brings you to a place. We like how he gets to know locals and targets the poorer quarters where the food is great and the people are happy.
We don't like Sweden.

Well, Sweden's actually just fine. What was bothersome was the attitude Bourdain gleaned from the Swedes, and he built the program around it----the attitude of "Lagom"......"You Americans are always thinking you are so great and better and want more and more things, the biggest cars, big refridgerators. Here, we are all about 'Lagom'. Just enough. Just give me enough so I can get by"
Here's the thing---if you want to live a minimalist lifestyle, that's terrific. There are many benefits. If you want to insist others live that way too, I have a problem with that.
Obama ran and won on a platform I saw as anti-American. He has been vocal about not wanting to promote American exceptionalism. If we are the same as the second world contries, no one will want to hurt us. As Americans we should settle for "Just enough" and let the government re-distribute the extra. The Tall Poppy is the first noticed, but when the other poppies start talking, who is it they want to tear down? Do they strive to grow tall too or just want all poppies the same?
Did you know you can throw one crab in a bucket and he'll crawl out and scuttle away---but you can fill a bucket to the brim with live crabs and not lose a single one? They are so set on clawing their way to the top they continually pull each other back in. None escape.
The moral high ground of Lagom is, you are only expending enough resources to get by. For those of us that want to do more with our lives than just 'get by', we are like the crab trying to climb out, or the tallest poppy just trying to do our best. If you want to embrace Lagom, just study Jante's Law. It's a good way to keep everybody down. If, however, you think hard work should be rewarded and applauded, if you think there are distinct advantages to exceptionalism, then do all you can to encourage it.
To me, what makes our nation great and free and the tall poppy is, anybody the works hard and works smart can succeed.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where the levees broke

New Orleans was a working vacation. The DHS User's Working Group meets a few times a year, always a different location. Typically some tours are planned for exposure to local response challenges to help our group understand technology needs...One of our tours this trip was to the very spot the levees failed, and the nearby pumping station. This is a giant sluice gate on the levee built since Katrina.

Bad picture, but I was trying to stand on the barricade and not fall into traffic; the actual spot the levee breached is blocked by the cab of the passing pickup. Note the water level, in a dry month, relative to the neighborhood.

The cemeteries are all crypts. The water table is too high for burial. You can see what levels the floodwaters stained the crypts. These are great, spooky cemeteries.

Looking up the canal. Lake Pontchartrain is just on the other side. The pumping station is to the left, an abandoned (soon to be demolished) condo complex to the right. Here's how it works---New Orleans is in a giant bowl, much of it below sea level. The three main canals normally drain water from the city into the lake. When it rains a lot, the lake rises and the canals flow backwards towards the city. They can close the sluice gates and pump the water away from the city. This station can pump 9,200 cubic feet of water every second, with 12' of head pressure. That's a lot----at that rate you could pump Lake Cuyamaca dry in ten minutes.

Want to buy a house? The levee in the backyard is the one that failed. You can still see lots of the Urban Search and rescue marks on the exterior walls; some were from task force 8 (my team, from San Diego) but I didn't get any pictures of them unfortunately.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Orleans

I couldn't get AnnaMarie away from the crab boil pot....Incredible smells. Mostly good.

Eating on the balcony of Bourbon Street. Every meal we've had has been outstanding

Audubon Park. There are little canals everywhere feeding the tail end of the Mississippi River.

Anne and Gary Are a couple of friends from the User's Working group. They joined us for dinner the first night

"Shotgun houses"..... One theory is the name comes from an African word "Shogun" for the tribal longhouses

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lauren's Thrifty Birthday

It's Lauren's 13th birthday. This idea was such a hit with McKenna's friends years ago we decided to try again with Lauren's crowd. Right after school, loaded them in the car and did the hour drive to the thrift store.
Each girl is given a $7 budget and has to put together the best outfit they can for the money. Lots of trading around, adding up, moving surplus funds from one girl to another.....

Pizza and salad in the car during the trip home then a fashion show for the rest of us. After that, the festivities moved over to the cabin for build-your-own sundaes and girl talk. AnnaMarie chaperoned over there; McKenna, Patrick and I stayed home and watched "Wall-E". Judging by the sleepy eyes the next day, I think the girl talk lasted into the wee hours....

Both our daughters have an exceptional group of friends. Entertaining 5 girls for an overnighter for under $60, complete with a road trip and new oufits is pretty cool.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Big Evil Corporation!

Being a bear of little brain, there are many things I don't understand. It's been pointed out to me quite a few times that my intellect is dull because my beliefs don't match those of the folks that see me that way. Most of them went to college, and are therefore smart. All I have is my powers of observation.
These people tell me they want the Government to have more regulatory power because corporations and the quest for profit is inherently evil.
Here's what I don't understand. All the Federal Government is, is the biggest corporation of all. You can buy stock in the form of treasury bills and bonds. The President and CEO is selected indirectly by the shareholders. More corruption than Enron, more poorly run than General Motors, along with a forced monopoly on all it provides.
Why are the smaller corporations vilified for trying to take your money, but the biggest corporation of all is trusted with more and more of your money and providing your needs?