Jillian’s Choice

Ever see the 1982 film Sophie's Choice? Try this real life account: For Australian mother-of-two Jillian Searle, who let go of her older son Lachie, 5, in a life-or-death decision as the wall of water struck, there was a happy ending. Lachie was found alive about two hours later clinging to a door and, though traumatized by his ordeal, looked uninjured as his mother spoke to reporters on arrival back in Australia. "I knew I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I'd better let go of the one that's the oldest," said Searle, who had then held on to two-year-old Blake in the Thai resort island of Phuket. "And I was screaming, trying to find him, and we thought he was dead." I wonder how many similar incidents, among survivors and the now 125,000 dead (can you comprehend the magnitude of that?), did not turn out so well.


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A Welcome Word

I received an email from my cousin George, still on the scene in Phuket. Ok, here's the scoop. All is not well. The coastal areas are smashed, including our little ton sai beach. Beth & Annie were in hammocks at Freedom bar and I was 200 yards down the beach warming up on an easy climb. The tide was at max high, so we had to skip around to climb, if ya know what I mean (all you beach climbers!). Then we noticed that the waterline was dropping FAST; we looked out to sea, and saw a huge wave coming. Everyone stared open mouthed and then ran like heck. I made it to a ladder and made it up. I was frantic about Beth and Annie but could do nothing except watch the waves hit Freedom Bar. They made it up the hill fine; I found out later. Then I went down the ladder in a daze; I don't remember much except picking up a little dog, when the next, and biggest one hit. I ran for my life, and made it! That's all there is. We helped with the cleanup and now wait to see what happens.


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Real and Sobering

I’ve not much to say about the horrific disaster in southeast Asia. It’s all been said. What makes it real for me is that I’ve been to a lot of those places. I spent months in Thailand in the late 80’s and have vacationed in Phuket twice (note to media talking heads: it’s pronounced “p-hoo-ket,” not “fooket”). I’ve sunbathed and swam the waters of Patong Beach. I was even there over a Christmas holiday, 1990. I once enjoyed a delightful stay of a few days in Penang, Malaysia. Passed through Bangladesh a couple of times. Not so great, that. Spent several days in Jakarta, Indonesia in about 1988. It’s on Java, not Sumatra, but you get some sense of the country and its people. While transiting the The Malacca Straits by ship between Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, I recall standing on the bridge wing watching the eastern coastline of the enormous jungle island of Sumatra go slowly by. Later, on our way to the Persian Gulf, we stopped briefly in Sri Lanka to refuel. It also turns out that a cousin of mine, an expert rock climber and mountaineer, with whom I just visited two weeks ago at our Christmas...


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Rotor Merry Christmas

Here's the photo on the Christmas card my wife sent out this year (to those who know Rotor, anyway). So, Rotor (and Beatrice and I) wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. I also offer you a sincere hope that you endeavor to make of 2005 something more than you made of 2004, along with a wish for the prosperity on all levels that's sure to follow.


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Merry CHRISTmas

That's right, it's Christmas, not "Xmas" and all that other rot. If you're telling people "Happy Holidays" because you're embarrassed to say "Merry Christmas," or paralyzed by over-sensitivity, just get over it and let yourself go. Trust me. You'll feel much better. Go. With. Christmas. Christmas is such an event in Western Civilization because it's a recognition and celebration of a set of core values and beliefs at the very root of this great civilization, whether Christ is to you a literal being, or to me a great metaphor. An atheist, such as myself, who can't appreciate the splendor* of Christmas and all that it represents (religiously, commercially, and all that) is just hopelessly materialist to the point were we are left to wonder how these people manage to care about anything. If you can't care about Christmas, for Christ's sake, what on Earth can you care about? I just hope Kim is right about all this misdirected energy swinging the other way. *(Not a word I've ever used much, but my friend Greg Swann has gone and got me hooked on it, so hat tip to him.)


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Be Afraid

Since I respect the individual freedom morally implicit in the recognition of individual rights, I have little problem with most "values" people choose for themselves, to include the pursuit of almost no value other than basic subsistence. I'll condemn them as stupid, having no class or sense of splendor, but as the one says whom I credit below, "everyone gets to go to hell in their own go-cart." I agree, and I often have to remind myself because I'm impatient, intolerant, and have great difficulty suffering fools. On the other hand, if someone wishes to be a know-nothing in life, isn't it fitting if such person is never charged with any great responsibility? If only. The world of private interests, free association, and free markets tends to work that stuff out pretty well, with the general exception that ignoramuses are too dumb to know that they have no business charging themselves with the upbringing of a child. And in the public sphere, these people are all too happy to vote. See what sort of people I'm talking about here. Full article here. Do you grasp this? After the human animal has taken himself so, so far, we have come to...


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All Very “Interesting”

This is all so very "interesting." Here, too. This is just sure to be one big nightmare over the next few years. Count on it. If any “reform” does come out of it, you can be sure that it will be so convoluted and full of qualifications, exceptions, safe havens, minimum return guarantees, and compromises that it will be no real “improvement” over what’s currently in place. So, stand by. The democratic political process is about the worst vehicle imaginable for producing a result consonant with reality. It never has. It never will. I can just hear the talking heads with all their “facts” and “figures” now, on both sides, and the plain truth of the matter is that not a goddamned one of them has the slightest clue about what he or she is talking about. They’ll all talk as though they know and understand what future results a particular course of action will produce, but they’re all full of shit—down to the last man. And the hidden, never-acknowledged premise at the bottom of the whole putrid mess is that those now on “social security” are forcibly extracting a livelihood, to the tune of 15% off the top, from...


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The Nature of the Thing

Things exist in accordance with their natures, and to the extent they act, they act in accordance with their natures. So... We have a generation of politicians, of both parties and of whom Thompson is symbolic, who want to say "yes" to voters: Yes, you can have what you want, and you can have it now. The solution to this problem requires leaders to say "no" to voters: No, you cannot have all the retirement benefits you've been promised or desire, because we can't afford them. Americans reject that message, and our leaders don't dare deliver it. ... In wealthy democracies -- welfare states all -- individual benefits once conferred are considered sacrosanct, but when their total costs threaten the collective good, they must somehow be controlled. There's the paralyzing contradiction. The politics of "yes" must ultimately yield to the politics of "no" -- and the longer it's delayed, the more painful it will be. That's Robert Samuelson in the WaPo. So, as I was saying, things exist in accordance with their natures. To wit, McDonald's sells burgers and fries and not cucumber & watercress sandwiches because it's a burgers and fries fast-food joint. Duh. Babies cry, rub their food...


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Busybodies

I hate busybodies. I suppose it’s because that of all the hypocrisies we’re guilty of at times throughout our lives, being a busybody has never been one of them, for me. I loathe them so because I can do so guiltlessly; because the farthest thing from my substantial sphere of interests are those ridiculous values and actions of others that cause me no harm. Most laws are a product of busybodyism, designed to make people stupid. Don’t think about what you’re doing and its effect on yourself and others. Don’t exercise reason. Just recall the law—and behave. At about 7 a.m. this morning, I was on the last 200 yards of a 3-mile walk with Rotor, my 16 lb. rat terrier. Now, because a good portion of that walk is along avenues of varying activity in the morning, I have Rotor on a leash. It’s not that he doesn’t mind well, and he’s never aggressive with other people. It’s that he’s a dog, after all—a man-created, selectively bread derivative of the wolf—and wolves didn’t evolve in concrete jungles with 2-ton vehicles whizzing by. Rotor loves other dogs—virtually all other dogs—and when he sees them, he loses himself in excitement. So,...


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The Sky is Falling

I wonder if we'll ever learn. (link: McQ)


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Dropped Context

The difference was that everyone was aware the bloggers were biased, while the Argus Leader pretended otherwise This is known as the dropped context in all the rot you've ever heard about talk radio and the blogosphere. (link: Keith Burgess-Jackson)


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Of the People

For all you who went out and voted last November, here's the government "of the people" your participation sanctioned. Do those look like any people you know?


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On Genuine Charity

Google's notion is a truly amazingly wonderful thing, a true milestone in the ascent of man. I deeply despise the kind of indiscriminate charity undertaken by the likes of people like Bill Gates, a niggardly largesse devised to bribe away the resentments of the vicious. But this is the kind of great achievement only great wealth can achieve, and this is the kind of irreplaceable gift to all of humanity that only great-spirited men of merit can grant. The best gift of Google is Google itself, and it does so much for me and you and everyone because they are doing it for money. They are doing this much more for us for money, too, and that is so much more valuable than anything anyone could do in mere charity. Greg Swann, on Google's worthy and gracious project to create a global virtual library, evokes a generalized rational view of true charity.


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Think YOU had a bad day?

Check out this series of images. Now, for those who think the photo series is real, and those who think it's fake--you're both wrong. Actually, the first ten images are real. The last one is doctored . See here, under the sub-heading "End of Season." See also here.


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Fiction

After 15 years of reading almost nothing but non-fiction, I've delved into a few novels lately. A few months ago, I jumped on the popular bandwagon to see what all the fuss over The Da Vinci Code was about and, frankly, enjoyed the hell out of it. Then, I plowed through Dan Brown's 500 pages of Angels & Demons in a day and a half over Thanksgiving. Though written before The Da Vinci Code, it's even better. I picked up a copy of this new book by Michael Crichton at the Borders on Union Square in San Francisco this weekend. I suspect I'll enjoy it.


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Married for Money

Since sports analysis bores me to tears (no offense, Chris; chocolate & vanilla, eh?), I'm left only with political analysis to satisfy that...whatever. Anyway, Peter Mulhern is a guest every now and then on a local talk show I listen to sometimes. He blogs now, and some of his analysis is pretty keen. Check out why he thinks the Dems are a bit stuck, just now.


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Wimps and Victims

A big thanks to John Venlet for pointing the way to this Psychology Today article, A Nation of Wimps. Everyone should take time to read it. Though I'm not a parent, I do observe a lot of these things, so it rings true to me. Also, I was a kid once, and I appreciate the environment I grew up in more than ever. I grew up outside the city of Reno, Nevada on a 10 acre greenbelt stretch along the Trukee River owned by my maternal grandfather, Clarence Goodsell, an artist who had been in the sign-painting business for many years. All those Plexiglas signs you see today in casinos were once hand painted, and in the 60's and 70's, nearly all of them in Reno were painted by my grandfather and the one or two guys he would employ from time-to-time when things were busy. A 1/3 acre field separated our house from my grandparents' house and grandpa's shop. As kids, we roamed free from as early as I can remember. We had vast areas to explore, all on our own, and in the summertime, all summer, we were out either modifying our bikes and doing "dangerous" stunts like...


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I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Keith Burgess-Jackson renders an interesting and fairly comprehensive view of the importance of labels in the context of "liberal" and "conservative."


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Sir Winston

Sir Winston Churchill on Islam, and war: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. "Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and...


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Oh, Joy!

Hey, I just found out that if I'm "lucky enough," exercising my freedom to ride my Indian Chief motorcycle and fly my two hang gliders will automatically deny the freedom of anyone who sells health insurance to choose not to sell it to me and create for them an obligation to pay for any injuries that may ensue, whether they want to or not. Isn't "freedom" grand!?


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