Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Monday, July 31, 2006


    Ow!

    I'm writing this on the laptop whilst at the doctor's office getting my weekly allergy shots. There are 2 nurses who give shots. One is swift and efficient, and an absolute pro. I almost never feel the needle as it goes in.

    The other is apparently a genius when it comes to making a tiny needle feel like a harpoon. I've never gotten a shot from her that didn't feel like I was losing chunks of flesh from her efforts to take a "core sample". It's the kind of sharp, stabbing pain that makes your butt cheeks clench.

    Guess which one I had today. See title for a hint.

    I've heard that they initially practice on oranges, and then on each other. In Rachel Remen's book, My Grandfather's Blessings, she tells a story about learning to draw blood. At first, she was horrible at it, and gained a reputation for being one of the most painful interns for a patient to see.

    Then she had a patient who started telling her little tricks for finding veins, how to get the needle in painlessly, and how to manage the whole process for the patient's comfort. With practice, she went from one of the worst to one of the best. She wondered where her impromptu teacher had gotten his skills, and assumed he must have been a medic in the military or something. Then she found out that he had been an intravenous drug user, and learned a little something about assuming things about people or particular types of people.

    So while I'm doing my best to not make any assumptions about the character of Nurse Painful, I do kind of wish she'd make friends with a heroin user and get them to teach her a little something about handling a needle.

    Posted by Tom, 7/31/2006 7:27:24 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Kerry proposes making health care worse

    John Kerry now wants universal health care:

    Sen. John Kerry on Monday proposed requiring all Americans to have health insurance by 2012, "with the federal government guaranteeing that they have the means to afford it."

    And how exactly would this work?

    He did not immediately elaborate on how he would enact his insurance mandate, but one aid said he would do so with a requirement written into the legislation spelling out that the government covers anyone who is uninsured.

    Hmmm... How would the average person paying hundreds of dollars a month in health insurance premiums look at this? "If I just drop my insurance, government will cover me, and I don't have to pay a dime."

    Brilliant plan, butthead.

    How about getting rid of all the regulations that artificially restrict supply of medical care (like medical licensing, AMA monopoly on medical education, the War on Drugs, the FDA, etc.) and thus drive up costs? How about making doctor incomes and all medical costs tax free? How about serious tort reform so doctors aren't eaten alive by malpractice insurance premiums? There's 3 better ideas (in the sense that they reduce government intrusion into the market instead of expanding it), and I'm not even warmed up.

    Posted by Tom, 7/31/2006 6:44:53 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Who doesn't?

    President Bush has stunned the world with his wisdom in calling for a lasting, sustainable peace in the Middle East. As though the rest of us wanted a temporary band-aid style peace.

    President Bush insisted anew Monday that any Mideast cease-fire be conditioned on a wider agreement and said he would look to the United Nations to act to establish "a long-lasting peace, one that is sustainable."

    Hey, here's a thought: try not invading countries in the Middle East. Think that might do something for peace? I'm just sayin'...

    Posted by Tom, 7/31/2006 6:57:47 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    If the Devil had an evangelist, its name would be war.
    --Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.


    Posted by Tom, 7/31/2006 6:41:11 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, July 29, 2006


    Quote of the Day

    Think of whether you have ever met a libertarian who is more a threat to you than is a willing, serving agent of the state. More irritating perhaps. More dangerous? I doubt it. Happily, such libertarians are far more easily ignored than the agents of the state.
    -- Karl Hess


    Posted by Tom, 7/29/2006 8:03:47 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 25, 2006


    This should be good

    The Democrats apparently have a New Deal plan for a Great Society better way to run things, and Hillary Clinton is leading the charge. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

    The American Dream Initiative includes proposals that DLC President Bruce Reed said would cost $450 billion to $500 billion over 10 years.

    Already feeling my skin crawl...

    He said the cost could be offset by...

    ...not spending the money? Is that too much to hope for? Sorry, let's read on...

    ...eliminating corporate subsidies in the tax code...

    Hell yeah, baby!

    ...cutting out 100,000 unnecessary federal contractors...

    ...gettin' out my Democrat flag...

    ...and making a more aggressive effort to identify and collect taxes now going uncollected by the Internal Revenue Service...

    Ya had me, then ya lost me.

    What this country needs is most definitely NOT a more aggressive IRS.

    *shudder*

    Hey, wait a minute... that was TAX...

    The centerpiece proposal would provide additional support for college costs, with the goal of increasing the number of college graduates by 1 million a year by 2015. The proposal includes $150 billion in block grants for the states to ease rising tuition costs and a consolidated tax credit worth $3,000 for students.

    ...

    Other ideas include "baby bonds" that would create a government-funded savings account of $500 for every child born in the United States; a refundable tax credit to provide the down payment on a new home and universal health care for children.


    ...and there's the SPEND. Guess the Democrats haven't changed.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    Posted by Tom, 7/25/2006 5:41:23 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 24, 2006


    Penal Colonies by Default

    So about those sex offenders... you know, the people who have to be registered and aren't allowed to live next to "decent folk" anymore. Apparently in Iowa, it's gotten so bad with the local ordinances that these people are relegated to living in campgrounds because they can't find places where it's legal for them to live. We've essentially created penal colonies by default, and forced people to live in them who have supposedly "paid their debt to society".

    Is this how we're supposed to treat those who have served their time? Wasn't the whole idea of going to prison to rehabilitate them back into society? Is this the way Christians are supposed to relate to their fellow man?

    If these people are dangerous, keep them in jail. If they're not, stop treating them like crap. You can't treat a person like a subhuman and expect them to like it. You can't be constantly rubbing their noses in the mistakes of their past and expect them to grow beyond those mistakes and become a decent upstanding citizen like the rest of us.

    Posted by Tom, 7/24/2006 5:52:27 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, July 22, 2006


    Christians and Democracy

    (originally posted at Cross and Flame)

    One of my primary missions here, according to the powers that be, is to spur conversation on the topics of religion, politics, Christian living, or various combinations of the three. This being a non-Presidential election year in the United States (all of the House of Representatives, and a third of the Senate), with all the yard signs advocating for various candidates and proposals, it seems like a good time to bring up the topic of voting, and whether Christians have any particular duties thereto.

    The question that has been asked generally is "how would Jesus vote?" Usually the question is intended to evoke either a response for the Republicans or the Democrats, though occasionally the asker acknowledges the possibility that Jesus might vote for a third party. There are plenty of people who claim Jesus as their own in the Republican, Democratic, and Green parties, as well as the occasional "religious right" third party and the very rare Libertarian.

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that God is above our politics, and the question that should be asked is "would Jesus vote?", leaving open the possibility that Jesus would be a conscientious non-voter. If we accept the divinity of Christ, the fact that He could have simply assumed control of the Roman Empire is without question. We should therefore wonder why He didn't. That I can readily recall, His only significant interactions with government were to befriend a tax collector and to allow Himself to be murdered by it.

    I believe that voting is at most times an act of aggression or violence. It is an attempt to force one's will on one's fellow man by virtue of having the State enforce a rule or set of rules of which one approves. That one's fellow man might have good reason to not want those rules is immaterial to the person who wants them, especially if he wins. A practical definition of law is a set of circumstances under which society's collective force will be brought to bear against an individual. As PJ O'Rourke famously observed in his book Parliament of Whores:

    ...all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head. Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay your taxes you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot. Thus, I - in my role as citizen and voter - am going to shoot you - in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck - if you don't pay your share of the national tab. Therefore, every time the govt spends money on anything, I have to ask myself, ‘Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?’

    Looking at what we know of Christ's life, it's difficult to find an instance where He forced His will on someone, even a little bit. Yes, He did drive money changers out of the temple. But He didn't prevent them from setting up shop on the street outside, He just didn't want them doing it in church. He repeatedly told people to "go, and sin no more", but I can't find a single example where He checked up on them later to make sure they weren't sinning, or in the popular practice of today, advocated a new law that would "prevent such sins from happening again". If Jesus was the sort of busybody who obsessively made sure everyone was behaving themselves, the Bible doesn't seem to mention it. And this makes me wonder if that sort of behavior is necessarily "Christlike".

    On the right (Republican) side of our politics, we have a whole bunch of people who are obsessed with making sure that people are only having sex with the right other people. On the left (Democrat) side, we have an equal number of people who are obsessed with making sure that people are doing their part to care of the poor and downtrodden. In John 8, Jesus forgives and frees the woman caught in adultery. In Matthew 25, He makes it clear that caring for the poor is a personal mission. And He persistently went after the Pharisees for doing their good works for personal glory and for condemning those who were imperfect in the law. So I believe that Jesus would simply tell both sides to mind their own business, do the work, and stop worrying about what everyone else was doing.

    As for participation in politics, I will not argue that Jesus would vote libertarian (like me). First, though there is no real mention of democracy in the Bible, I see it as sinfully presumptuous conceit to state that just because I think a certain way, Jesus must agree with me. Second, Jesus probably wouldn't approve of some of the things libertarians advocate tolerance for, though it might be interesting to ask him what should be done about them. And third, I believe it's highly likely He would hate being used as a poster boy for any side of contentious politics, and would probably abstain from voting altogether. Of course, I could be wrong. It's happened before.


    Posted by Tom, 7/22/2006 7:06:22 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, July 20, 2006


    Watching the odometer tick over...

    ...to my 10 thousandth visitor! Woohoo! Whoever you are, thanks in advance.

    Posted by Tom, 7/20/2006 8:13:27 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    This is interesting...

    Apparently, when the energy costs of production are figured in, hybrids are less green than Hummers.

    Posted by Tom, 7/20/2006 6:47:21 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006


    More biking

    107 degrees. 5 miles. I invited a friend to go with me, he called me crazy.

    Afterwards, I was chatting with some friends online, and told them about how I was trying to lose weight, which is why I'm doing this. Instantly this huge discussion began where everyone complained about his weight and started giving out numbers. The fact that I've got 50 pounds on any of them did not do great things for my self esteem. I even interrupted at one point and suggested that we stop talking about it (yeah, I know, I started it), but nobody paid any attention. God this sucks.

    Last I heard, it's supposed to be 110 degrees tomorrow. I can't wait.

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2006 8:31:42 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Philanthropy for the rest of us

    Andrew Carnegie. Bill Gates. Warren Buffet. Oprah Winfrey. To many, names like these signify wealth and philanthropy. These are people with giant piles of money, who have decided to give goodly portions of it away. The news lately has been abuzz with talk of Buffet's pending multibillion-dollar donation to the Gates Foundation. A while ago, actress Angelina Jolie was in the spotlight for her work in Africa, and the nifty little fact that she gives a third of her income to third-world charities. And I recently ran across an article about the top 25 corporate givers, according to the Foundation Center. Who knew Wal-Mart would be at the top of it? Certainly not its legions of critics, I'd wager.

    Even as philanthropy rises a bit in our national conversation, I note with a little sadness that the focus tends to be on the millions and billions being given away, as though there is no room for giving if you're just an average workin' stiff. So I want to take this opportunity to remember another name: Thomas Cannon.

    Thomas Cannon was a postal worker in Richmond, Virginia. He died just short of his 80th birthday last year, and was mildly famous in his local area for his habit of giving $1000 checks to complete strangers he had read about in the local paper. From the time he started in 1972 until his death in 2005, Mr. Cannon gave away $156,000, an average of $4700 a year. Compared to the lavish and almost unimaginable wealth of those we celebrate, that is but a pittance. But compared to the average salary of the average person, it is a small fortune -- enough to buy a house in most places.

    Mr. Cannon lived simply and humbly, some would say in poverty, eschewing many of the finer things in life so that he could continue his mission. Though he refused to subscribe to any organized religion, his life serves as an example to people who venerate many different traditions, especially my own Christian faith. Instead of talking about good works, he did some. Rather than organize fundraisers for this or that, he rolled up his sleeves and got involved personally, making sure that every cent he donated went to those he wanted to have it.

    When he was diagnosed with colon cancer, Thomas Cannon set himself about the business of dying well. Though he enjoyed local celebrity status, had been featured on Oprah Winfrey's television show, and had published an autobiography (Poor Man's Philanthropist: The Thomas Cannon Story), he made it clear that he wanted no monuments, bridges, buildings, trust funds, foundations, or anything of the sort named after him. He only wanted people to take up the cause of personal, individual philanthropy. In his eulogy, which he recorded himself, he reads a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar:

    I am no priest of crooks nor creeds,
    For human wants and human needs
    Are more to me than prophets' deeds;
    And human tears and human cares
    Affect me more than human prayers.
    Go, cease your wail, lugubrious saint!
    You fret high Heaven with your plaint.
    Is this the "Christian's joy" you paint?
    Is this the Christian's boasted bliss?
    Avails your faith no more than this?

    Take up your arms, come out with me,
    Let Heav'n alone; humanity
    Needs more and Heaven less from thee.
    With pity for mankind look 'round;
    Help them to rise and Heaven is found.


    In that vein, I've picked out 3 websites -- I'm sure there are more -- that focus on individuals giving to other individuals, at a grassroots, person-to-person level. It is my intent to participate with each of them, following Thomas Cannon's sterling example, and it is my hope that others will be similarly inspired.

    Donors Choose . org
    Modest Needs . org
    A Hundred Bucks . com

    Here also is an excellent article about the internet's potential for changing the face of philanthropy by encouraging more grassroots efforts:

    Web lets donors find specific needs and fill them

    As we celebrate the philanthropy of the mega-rich, let's also engage in some ourselves, with whatever resources we have. I'm not asking anyone to do what I'm doing, but please do something. And if you already are, thanks.

    (originally posted at Cross and Flame)

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2006 5:42:33 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Goin' pro!

    Well, sort of. I'm still a long way from Glenn Reynolds, but I've been invited to participate in the front-page blog over at Cross and Flame. In the agreement I've made with them, I will be cross-posting the articles I write for them at this site as well. Any entries so posted will be marked as such.

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2006 6:15:04 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Heat cycle

    104 degrees out... 5 miles of blacktop... no shade to speak of... mostly uphill. By the time I get home, I'm usually drenched in sweat, with little welts from where the "sweat bees" have been stinging me. The water in my bottle, ice cold when I left 20 minutes ago, is now hot enough to shower in.

    The hardest part is not that last, 3/4 mile uphill.

    The hardest part is repeatedly telling myself I'm having fun.

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2006 6:08:18 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006


    Get yer freak on




    You Are 48% Control Freak



    Generally, you are in control but not a control freak. You life is usually in order.

    However, sometimes you get too obsessed with making everything in your life picture perfect.



    Posted by Tom, 7/18/2006 6:56:26 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 17, 2006


    Ever get a song stuck in your head?

    With election time rolling around, this is as good a choice as any to put in the play list:

    We'll be fighting in the streets
    With our children at our feet
    And the morals that they worship will be gone
    And the men who spurred us on
    Sit in judgement of all wrong
    They decide and the shotgun sings the song

    I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I'll get on my knees and pray
    We don't get fooled again

    The change, it had to come
    We knew it all along
    We were liberated from the fold, that's all
    And the world looks just the same
    And history ain't changed
    'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

    I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I'll get on my knees and pray
    We don't get fooled again
    No, no!

    I'll move myself and my family aside
    If we happen to be left half alive
    I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
    For I know that the hypnotized never lie

    Do ya?

    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    There's nothing in the street
    Looks any different to me
    And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
    And the party on the left
    Is now the party on the right
    And the beards have all grown longer overnight

    I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I'll get on my knees and pray
    We don't get fooled again
    Don't get fooled again
    No, no!

    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

    -- The Who


    Posted by Tom, 7/17/2006 6:17:05 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, July 15, 2006


    What does this mean?

    I keep having this recurring flash in my head... a scene from an old black & white horror movie, where "the girl" says something like "it's horrible!" and hides her face in "the hero's" chest while he faces down "the monster".

    Problem is, every single time I see that scene in my mind's eye, I'm playing the role of "the monster".

    What's up with that?

    Posted by Tom, 7/15/2006 7:59:42 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, July 14, 2006


    What was he thinking?

    This guy wrote an article about the venerable 1911 pistol, so of course I was interested. He writes specifically about the Kimber Custom, which of course made me even more interested. I was loving the article until I got to this line:

    My ammunition for test purposes was Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ .45 ACP...

    What the hell? You bought a KIMBER CUSTOM (stainless, no less) and fed that FIOCCHI CRAP through it? Are you out of your mind? Why not just buy a Corvette and fill 'er up with kerosene? Not even that Russian "Wolf" brand ammunition sucks as hard as Fiocchi, in my experience. I've had Fiocchi jam up my pump shotgun, for Pete's sake.

    Now, to its credit, the Kimber handled the ammo fine. But it seems to me that it deserved better.

    Posted by Tom, 7/14/2006 6:48:21 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006


    Is anyone really surprised by this?

    I mean, honestly. The signs have been there all along that Boston's "Big Dig" project was going to eventually be a very real disaster. And now it's happened. Let the finger-pointing begin.

    Oh wait, it already has.

    I can hear it now... "without government, we wouldn't have roads!" Maybe without government, we'd have safer ones.

    Posted by Tom, 7/11/2006 5:54:09 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, July 5, 2006


    Bicycling

    So I've been at it for a few days now, and I'm loving it. A nice 5-mile ride every evening is just the thing I need to unwind. Right now the only fly in the ointment is flat tires. The tubes that come with these bikes were obviously not designed with Oklahoma in mind. See, we have these things here that the locals call "sand burrs". Basically it's a little seed-looking thing with quarter-inch thorns sticking out in all directions. Nasty little buggers, especially when you get one in your foot.

    Well, apparently they are attracted to bicycle tires, because they've flattened 3 so far. Fortunately, Wal-Mart sells self-sealing inner tubes, filled with some kind of gunk that seals punctures. The first tube I replaced seems to be doing well, so I'm just going to go ahead and do all of the tires on both bikes. I note with some amusement that this is the only sort of inner tube that the Wal-Mart here stocks. Apparently they've also heard of sand burrs.

    Posted by Tom, 7/5/2006 9:37:56 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 4, 2006


    Windows Genuine (dis)Advantage

    The reports and anecdotes keep rolling in about how Microsoft's latest anti-piracy scheme is causing all sorts of trouble for legitimate users. All the more reason for me to be looking forward to my eventual TMC (Total Mac Conversion).

    Posted by Tom, 7/4/2006 12:11:21 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 3, 2006


    Wireless is Awesome

    I'm writing this entry from one of my favorite spots in the house... the "throne room".

    Why?

    Because I can.

    Posted by Tom, 7/3/2006 8:30:36 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Juggling

    Life seems to be a juggling act with 4 balls: Physical, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Emotional. When I was a kid, I learned to juggle 3 balls, but never could get the hang of 4. This seems to be the case today in the metaphorical sense as well. I can keep 3 of the 4 in the air, but as soon as I try to add the 4th, it all seems to come crashing down, and I have to run around picking them all up again.

    I tend to keep the Intellectual ball up instinctively. I'm a voracious reader, and my obsession with economics is just one way in which this manifests itself. Sometimes I get burned out, and drop the ball, but it's usually the first one I pick up again.

    The Spiritual and Emotional balls are a real challenge for me. I know the drill on the Emotional one, and have posted here many times my thoughts and activities to keep it aloft. The problem is that deep down in the core of my being, I don't have a great sense of self-worth. It takes time and effort to re-establish that firm foundation that says, a la Stuart Smalley, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

    The Spiritual ball also has its problems. Keeping after my Bible reading, truly getting something out of church, and participating in activities which are spiritually uplifting (while avoiding those that break it down) takes effort. I know what to do, but like so many things, I just don't want to do it most times.

    The Physical ball is my worst enemy. It takes a good long time for me to develop good physical habits like diet and exercise. And then when I have them, they are very easily broken. All it takes is a bad weekend or a vacation or something that throws me off my game.

    Since we moved, all the balls have been scattered and rolling around on the floor. I finally got it in my head to start doing something about it (after a long period of rest), and this time I started with the worst one -- the Physical. We went and bought some bicycles to ride around on the section roads near our new house. It took exactly one ride for mine to get a flat. So now today I have to make up my mind to run to the store, buy a new tube, install it, and get back on that horse. And I'm going to do it. I'm tired of being a fat, out-of-shape slob who can barely muster the energy to walk down to the corner store during the afternoon break at work. And maybe that will help get the Emotional ball in the air as well. Then it'll just be two that I have to worry about, and one of them is easy.

    Posted by Tom, 7/3/2006 7:58:20 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...