It's like Mardi Gras meets the bombing of Dresden...
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Against All Odds: NASA'a New Policy
Also, two years after the Columbia broke apart, NASA is completing preparations for a new shuttle mission. While I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid too, I have no idea what we are actually trying to accomplish in space, and I don't think NASA does either. As to the purpose of this mission, some supplies will be delivered to the International Space Station, but "the major focus of their mission will be testing and evaluating new Space Shuttle flight safety, which includes new inspection and repair techniques." Correct me if I'm wrong, but apparently we are spending somewhere around $500 million dollars to fly into space just to make sure we still can. While that seems pointless enough to me, NASA appears to be ignoring a critical new report "conclud[ing] that the space agency still does not fully comply with three of the toughest recommendations that accident investigators made in 2003." So in short, NASA is going into space without changing the things that may have led to the accident in 2003. Perhaps a better idea may be to buy a car, put the astronauts in it, blow it up, and save the $499,980,000. Although we wouldn't learn anything about zero-gravity's effects on osteoporosis.
Calvin and Hobbes meets Fight Club
For those of you who share my passion for Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes and the movie Fight Club, I'm sure you'll find this as entertaining as I did.

Monday, June 27, 2005
Extraordinary Rendition: Revisited
While vacuuming the shop, I had this thought regarding the lack of protest to the US program of rendition. While everyone will surely conceed that no one on the political right will go out of their way to bring criticism toward the war or intelligence efforts, is the reason the (generally boisterous) political left pays so little attention to the abuses associated with rendition due to the fact that the program is not directly attributal to G.W. Bush? and if it is, what does that say about how genuine the left is regarding US violations at Abu Grahib and the alleged violations at Guantanomo Bay?

I'm really looking for someone to argue that the left is motivated by some set of principles other than "Bush=Hitler" and has some other political agenda besides Bush-NO, Social Security Reform-NO, Tax Reform-NO, Judicial Confirmation Votes- NO, and Abortion- YES. (that means you CharlesPierce, I'm throwing down the proverbial gauntlet)
Due to the fact that I have to commute roughly a hundred miles every day to work and back, and that I work seven days a week between three jobs, I recently stopped by Jiffy Lube for the inevitable oil change. I don't know about the rest of you, but oil change day is quite possibly the worst day of the entire month for me. I don't have any data to back this up, but I think car mechanics can smell ignorance in the same way that dogs smell fear, or they put some special mark somewhere under the hood that identifies me as an ignoramus. Generally, as if ripping me off isn't enough, they go out of their way to verbally humiliate me too. (The following are excerpts from recent oil changes)

Mechanic: "I noticed your oil is black."
Me: "Uh... isn't it supposed to be?"
Mechanic: "Not this black, we need to flush out your engine."

Mechanic: "See how dirty your air filter is?"
Me: "Uh... yeah... I'm guessing we need to replace it?"
Mechanic: "shaa, you know what else that means, right?"
Me: "Actually, I have no idea..."
( the other workers pretending not to listen laugh)
Mechanic: "means you need a new breather element too."
Me: "How much are those?"
Mechanic: "cheap, like five bucks"
Me: "Ok, yeah, I'll take one of those."
(the mechanic cuts a piece of black foam off of a larger chunk- apparently the markup on a breather element is around 5000%)
Although an oil change was advertised on the sign outside the Jiffy Lube for $18.95, I was able to get my oil changed for just under $50, a personal best. The extra cost was for a special high mileage oil, and a new air filter. For the most part, getting me to buy extra services for my truck is like getting a hypochondriac to purchase medicine, you just gotta tell me I need it. However, I managed to leave without the optional engine flush/transmission flush/pcv valve replacement/blinker fluid refill this time, seeing how I only had fifty dollars in my wallet. For the most part, I've resigned myself to paying for my ignorance...
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Gitmo Torture Methods
According to this story, a bipartisan group of senators have declared that conditions at Gitmo have improved since a few years ago. During their visit, they witnessed a female interrogater attempt to wear down a detainee by reading Harry Potter aloud for hours. Seeing that budget cuts have forced He-who-must-not-be-named's terrorists cells to replace occlumency with an extra period of Monkey Bars, the Ministry of Magic has offered to donate Veritaserum to help US interrogaters.

But seriously, I'm wondering if there is anything specific about Harry Potter that makes it repulsive to detainees, and if torture allegations would be slung if interrogaters chose instead to read either "The Catcher in the Rye" (as comic book guy would say, "worst. book. ever.") or any collection of short stories by David Sedaris.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Extraordinary Rendition
An Italian judge has ordered thirteen people associated with the CIA arrested after the apparent "kidnapping" of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. Nasr was apparently abducted in February and returned to Egypt, where he claims to have been tortured, as part of the "extraordinary rendition" program used by the CIA since the mid-nineties.

With all the uproar over alleged abuses at Gitmo, I'm suprised that so little has been said about the increased use of rendition to deal with the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Rather than plagarize extensively on the reported abuses for this post, I'll post a link here. I think you'll find it more interesting than what either Karl Rove or Turban Durbin has said recently. Speaking of Rove, American Dad had a fairly humorous parody of him last Sunday.

While I don't personally agree with the practice, I'm not calling for an end to rendition or public inquiries into the practices of the CIA. While in no way is it morally defendable, necessary, or in most cases, legal, I find myself unable to get as worked up about it as I do about how much I hate regular season baseball (cut the season down to less than fifty games so each one means something) or the fifteen people that got off I-75 at exit 354 ahead of me. (There is a yield sign and an extra lane for people turning right so they don't have to stop, but it doesn't work if you come to a complete stop at the yield sign- each person who did it wrong got a sustained horn blast.)

Lastly, after posting a 73 in the Saturday morning skins game and not taking money for the first time, it has become apparent to me that I couldn't putt a ball into the ocean were I standing on a dock...
Friday, June 24, 2005
On the lighter side:
No heavy political post today. I spent my afternoon at work commenting on posts over at redhurt and pragmaticism, so I'll stick with some lighter fare.

I now co-host (I'm more of the Ed McMahon to the host's Carson) the number one rated golf show on Espn Radio in Central Florida. Basically, it's one hour every Friday rehasing the latest news and events dealing with professional and amateur golf, although my boss does a good job of keeping it from being esoteric (Think PTI- mostly sports, but some randomness thrown in to keep it interesting and actually- my role is like statboy, only i'm involved during the conversation). Lest you think I got this because I'm somehow qualified, I'll admit I'm the worst co-host on radio today. I'd throw in the face for radio joke, but it isn't funny. I came down to Florida specifically to do an internship with the guy who hosts the show (an excellent teaching professional), and this got lumped in with some other golf stuff.

I'll give you an example of my radio incompetence: today we interviewed Dr. Rick Jensen, a sports psychologist who works with players such as Retief Goosen. My boss did all of the interview (which went well) and I turned off my mike to talk to another guy in the studio. Right when the interview wrapped up, I was asked for my opinion. As I hadn't been paying attention, my opinion went sort of like this:

"Uh, uh. It was really good, Dr. Jensen brought up some really interesting points, um..."

Seeing I was floundering/totally incompetent, my boss segued to a commercial break. However, he lobbed me softballs the rest of the show and I got out with shreds of my self-esteem still intact (I nailed some trivia related to the 2000 British Open and gave some relevant commentary about Jack playing his final Open Championship) However, some people I know who listen have told me I make a good addition to the show. Whether they are genuine or just nice people has yet to be decided...
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Public Apologies Revisited
I meant to post this earlier, but work gets in the way of my blogging. While flipping through channels during the Pistons magnificent win in game six, I stumbled across the tail end of Durbin's apology for this quote:
(After reading FBI operative quote describing Gitmo) "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
While I strongly disagree with the comparison, this post is not about the definition of torture (which can be found at redhurtmachine or standingoutinthecold, it's about the reaction from other congressmen to Durbin's apology. It's about reactions such as this:
"All of us, I believe, who have had the opportunity to serve in public life from time to time have said things that we deeply regret. I know that I have," McCain said. "I would like to say to (Durbin), you did the right thing, the courageous thing, and I believe we can put this issue behind us."
I am tired of hearing these kind of accolades everytime a public official is forced to retract a statement due to negative political fallout. Offering a public apology under duress isn't about doing a courageous, difficult act, it's about saving your own ass- plain and simple. Now if Gary Condit were to come out and finally admit to the whole Chandra Levy incident (assuming he was responsible), that would be a courageous admission. Courage, the "state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution" is about doing something for good while placing yourself at risk, not saying you're sorry because you got caught.

The best analogy from my own life involves a rest stop incident in fourth grade. A couple of my friends and I were traveling to some kind of competition (athletic or otherwise) and decided to create some mayhem in a rest stop bathroom. While flushing, we discovered that pulling the handle many times would cause the urinals to overflow, so we proceeded to pump every toilet until the floor was covered in stinking, brackish water. While fleeing laughing, we were busted by a disabled janitor who saw the mess and told my mom. She was obviously pissed and made us go apologize to the janitor, while he cleaned up the mess. After we stuttered through our apologies, we left. There was no tearful reconciliation with the janitor, no John McCain-esque state employee to congratulate us on our humility and bravery, and no Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, or Joe Liebermans to compete for the final tambourine spot in the inevetible drum-circle Kum-by-ya, just a couple of kids embarassed because they got caught, and a janitor up to his ankles in shit.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
The daily dirt...
A word of advice, never trust furniture that most likely retailed at Walmart. I currently have my computer set up on a desk that I found abandoned in my duplex, and I can only assume that it was made my a small, malnourished child of Indo-Asian descent twisting screws with throbbing fingers, and accordingly- it is a complete piece of crap. It recently boasted a convienent, slide-out keyboard tray which worked perfectly until I placed upon it said keyboard. The child laborer was clever, carefully adjusting the tensile strength of the tray to allow it to hold the weight of a keyboard, but no more. As I placed my hands on the keyboard, the combined weight proved too much for the tray, which tore asunder from the desk and smote the hardwood floor, along with my toe. It is here that the devilish cleverness of Anhari Punjab or Xing Huang-shu (as his nationality is currently undetermined) became most apparent, as the keyboard fell in such a way as to not only render it inoperable, but also to smash my favorite part- the carpal tunnel ramp, which will no longer snap onto the bottom. Hopefully his genius (or her genius- either way I'm not sure what gender those names are so they remain the same) will not go unrewarded, and someday a lucrative customer support job for Dell or Partypoker will be awarded him, or he will be crushed by a tank while attempting to free Tibet (once again depending on his nationality).

In other happenings, I made a kid throw up at junior golf camp today. As you may know, I teach junior golf for a city in Central Florida. However, this camp is basically daycare at a golf course, and I abuse my authority accordingly. The kids vary in ages from 7-12, with the occasional 14 year old who hasn't reached social maturity and has yet to realize that the cool kids no longer attend a city run golf camp filled with pre-pubescents. Anyway, to make a long story short, most of the kids have way too much energy and eventually tire of hitting balls at the senior citizen driving the range picker. When this happens, my favorite tactic is to have races and award the fastest kids a worthless prize, like being first in line for lunch (making sure the kids most desperate to eat have to wait the longest- *laughs evilly*) or a golf ball that I just picked out of a range bucket. I also make the races somewhat longer in length, such as running to the two hundred yard marker and back (which is a good quarter mile). Usually it works well, but somehow the combination of two races within half an hour and a heat index well over a hundred spelled doom for one of my fluffier contestants today. Here is the paraphrased conversation:

Me- "C'mon Dude! You're almost done! Let's pick it up!" (somehow every single parent decided to name their kid "dude" or "buddy", which works out perfectly for me)
Porker- "*wheeze* I'm just going to walk the rest, ok coach?"
Me- "If you walk, you won't get a prize..." (somewhere in the race I start channeling the marquis de sade)
Porker (running across the finish line, face flushed)- "Coach... I don't think I feel so go...."

A torrent of what I can only assume to be half digested eggo waffles, balogna, and ketchup (isn't that what kids eat?) erupts out of Porker's mouth, spattering my recently laundered, white sneakers and instantly killing a large section of impeccably manicured grass.

Me- "Uh.... uh... are you ok? ... maybe you should take a break... and drink some water? ok buddy?"

Porker appeared to be fine the rest of the day, but I'm praying there isn't an irate parent waiting for me when I arrive at work in the morning...

Some postscript- I switched the broken keyboard with the keyboard of one my computer illiterate, female roommates in order to post this. The keyboards are fairly similar (in that they have the same standard layout) so hopefully she will either not use her computer before I move, or just not notice...
Monday, June 20, 2005
War on Terror
I really didn't intend to do multiple postings today but I can't resist. If anyone has glanced over the headlines you'll see how I couldn't refrain from posting my opinion on a couple of stories.

First, CIA director Porter Goss claims to have an excellent idea where OSB is currently hiding. However, we can't just rush in and get him because of the US respect for sovereign nations. Now I'm totally for the war in Iraq, but for some reason I don't remember the US having this much trouble with sovereign nation status when we decided to remove Saddam. If this story is legit, then either the Bush administration has changed its stance on the War on Terror in the face of the most prevalent public opinion (I'm not sure if a majority of the population is against the war yet, but the vocal minority sure is) or OSB is hiding in a country we can't bully such as China, or maybe even North Korea. However, this story strikes me as odd for a few reasons, and I'll give you my theories in no particular order-
1) He is in China, North Korea, or Iran etc...- A military analyst I'm not, but the statement would make sense in that kind of context. Publicizing that we know where he is without revealing the country would pressure either into the chance to hand him up freely- improving their reputation in the world without looking like they are being coerced. Actually, the more I think about it, the more Iran seems like a logical probability- especially if their nuclear program is more advanced than reported...
2) We have no idea where he is- Once again I could see some rationale for the statement as this could be an attempt to get him to move- revealing his position possibly and giving us some actual leads. However, this could be a future public relations backfire as the questions will eventually turn to "You claimed to know where he was, how come we have yet to make any progress?"
3) We already have him in custody- This seems unlikely to me as it implies massive government control of leaks. I don't think there is anyway for a story this big to be kept secret and the political fallout would be disastrous for both Republicans and the military. However, the political advantage of revealing OSB before the next elections could swell the Republican ranks enough to pass some of Dub's initiatives...
4) The story is exactly as it seems- I can't think of any reason or political advantage to be gained from putting us in position to fail... again... especially when there won't be Afghani Troops to blame.

The other story relates to the upcoming book "Tuesday's with Saddam", the effort of GQ journalist Lisa Depaulo (hopefully she has better material than Nick DiPaulo). This book is based on interviews with five soldiers who guarded Saddam for something like 300 days. Some nuggets of joy from the book:
· Hussein says that he is still president of Iraq and is absolutely certain that he will someday return to power.
· He is proud that his sons died for their country.
· While having little positive to say about either President George W. Bush or his father, George H. W. Bush, he expresses a desire to be “friends” with them.
· He also expresses a longing for the days when Ronald Reagan was still president.
· He says that he never had an association with Osama bin Laden.
· Hussein is a “clean freak,” afraid of germs, obsessively washing his hands and carefully wiping his plate and utensils before eating.
· He gave the soldiers advice on how to handle women (“You gotta find a good woman,” he told them. “Not too smart, not too dumb, not too old, not too young. In the middle.”)
· He thinks Dan Rather is “a good guy.”
· He loves Doritos chips and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal…but he won’t touch Froot Loops.

I don't think I have to add a whole lot, it pretty much speaks for itself. However, I for one don't believe that Saddam is as cuddly, incompetent, or harmless as the book seems to make him out to be. For instance, had he wanted to be friends with Bush 41, he could have gone about it another way than an assassination attempt. I don't doubt for a second though that he loved Reagan or the eighties, in the same way American idyllizes (not sure if thats a word) the fifties. I'm sure enjoying the height of my power while America funneled me weapons to fight the Iranians would make me nostalgic also. As for his advice on handling women, I wasn't aware you needed any game in the Middle East other than the back of your hand...

Sunday, June 19, 2005
The Difference
While giving a desperate man a ride yesterday in order to purchase him some gas for his truck, the topic of occupations came up during our forced small talk. It pretty much went like this-
Me: So Clayton, what do you do?
Clayton: I drive a front end loader for a construction company, you?
Me: I'm a golf professional...
Clayton: Holy Shit! You ever play Tiger Woods?! (some subtext here- Clayton, being poor and black, has no a priori knowledge of the game or profession and I'm assuming loves Tiger Woods for being the only competitive black golfer- Vijay is Pacific Islander, so I'm not counting him- assumes I'm rich, forgetting I just walked out of a crappy duplex)
Me: No no, I'm a golf pro- not a touring pro.

I can't even begin to explain how often I have this conversation. While I'm sometimes deliberately vague at parties with the details on what I do in order to impress girls (and even if you try to explain, it still works... much more than "I'm studying electrical engineering"... which got me nowhere), it is very different than the players you see on tv. Being a PGA professional, also called a club professional, means that you jumped through x amount of hoops (filled some binders with crap, went to some seminars, did 16 months of internships, shot 155 or better over 36 holes of golf) in order to get your certification. A tour pro, or PGA player, either went through tour school or made enough money playing on sponsor exemptions, to get his card allowing him to enter PGA events. This card identifies him as one of a few hundred players in the world who are really good at golf. My professional status (which isn't really needed to obtain a job as a golf professional at a course) proves that I can play better than 99% of the population (it seems impressive except that 1% of the people who play golf in America is around 270,000 people) and qualifies me to run the business end of a golf course, giving lessons, and play in limited club pro events for purses generally in the low thousands of dollars. Tour pro status allows you to play in tournaments with purses in the millions. Basically, the only reason to get the certification is to make getting a job running a course easier and to give you some kind of certification to make people believe that they should pay you for golf lessons.

If you ever meet someone who claims to be a golf professional, keep this in mind before asking him why you haven't seen him on TV lately- chances are he isn't one of the less than 1% who actually plays golf for a living. Furthermore (if you want to impress him) don't use the word golf as a verb. It makes as much linguistic sense to go "golfing" as it does to go "footballing" or "tennising" ... and please-PLEASE- refrain from saying anything along the lines of "I golfed a...".

Golf aside, I've come to the conclusion that Cap'n Crunch's crunchberries (while delicious) should carry some kind of warning from the surgeon general on the box. Besides slashing your gums, I think the crunchberry dye is seriously affecting the color of my poop. Either that or I'm deathly ill...
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The Life
Being a golf professional in Florida during the summer is tough. I've been sitting in the shop for six hours now and I've sold one visor and had one member go out to play. Not much to do besides play Kitten Cannon on the internet and work on the golf swing in the mirror. The only other thing that captures my attention is the weather. I'm fascinated by the fact that in a forty minute drive I can drive through two thunderstorms and see sunshine in between, or that I can look out the front window and see it rain and walk out back and the grass will be dry. Seeing the ten day weather forecast contain ten solid days of thunderstorms is like watching Greg Louganis dive... gay.
Give a man a fish...
Tony Blair has recently been focusing on drumming up financial support for Africa in the form of debt relief and economic aid. Apparently this push has proved successful, as a recent meeting of the G8 has agreed to forgive $40 billion owed by 18 countries, a majority of which are in sub-saharan Africa.

It seems to me that this is symbolic in nature, being roughly equivalent of the common accounting practice of writing off bad debt. However, many proponents of the plan believe that this will somehow reduce third world conditions in Africa or do something to put Africa on even ground with the rest of the world. This logic is ridiculous. First off, there isn't any real money to put to work. Forgiving a starving crackhead of the money he owes you doesn't leave him any money to buy food, and even if you give him money, he's going to buy crack... not food. If you can't see how that analogy relates to Africa, then you probably don't understand how tax cuts spur economic growth either.

Africa aside, I've been seeing trailers for a movie version of the War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise. In case you've never read the book, I'll explain it to you in three short sentences. Martians build ships to land on earth. Martians kick human ass. Earth bacteria kills Martians. The main character is more of an observer than a participant, so unless Steven Spielberg decided to change a good pit of the original plot, its basically a movie where Tom Cruise runs around for a few days until the Martians get sick and die. Who knows, maybe all that scientology focus on survival has prepared him for this role. Anyway, the last summer movie with a plot that didn't involve the protagonist doing anything worthwhile was Pearl Harbor. In case you missed it, the plot goes like this- Japan builds navy, Japan kicks US ass, Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck run train on Kate Beckinsale... sort of. Assuming War of the Worlds does run parallel to its original plot, both of these movies lack one thing- a point.
Friday, June 10, 2005
The Prelude

Officially, this is my second legitimate attempt to get a blog going. The first one ( was a joint effort with a college roommate after we were inspired by one of the random scenes in Family Guy. I believe the scene consists of two FBI agents pitching a TV show as a fastidious conservative and a slovenly liberal, a sort of reversed Hannity and Colmes, and we decided to bring this concept to bloggerspace (me being the conservative and him the liberal). We even kicked around a host of topics ranging from modern political and policy issues to our theory on masturbation (a topic that will surely receive its own post here shortly) However, the blog quickly succumbed due to its lofty goals and our limited attention span. (Within days of its creation we moved on to developing a flash game in which you drove a boat through the everglades littering and maiming manitees with your prop. This also died... as of today we have only a flash book stolen from the library and a pirated macromedia suite.)

All this behind me now, I'm branching out into a solo effort for two reasons. First off, being a golf professional in Florida in the summer consists of working a lot of shifts where you have absolutely nothing to do and secondly, I always seem to end up doing whatever redhurtmachine is, although I run a couple of years behind.

Anyway, this post was basically just written to ward off the paralyzing emptiness that awaits me every time I sit down at the computer with the intent to post something interesting. Hopefully, now that there is something up here I can sit back and channel the muses...