"That you may ruminate"

Archive for September, 2008

…On the Redemption of Congress.

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2008

Thanks to the House of Representatives, I forgive the United States Congress for the Senate’s willingness to make a horrible decision. Although, I’m still angry about Division A, Section 129 of Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. Only 12 Senators voted against that legislation (though 8, including Obama and McCain, didn’t vote and 1, Burr, voted “Present” ): 11 Republicans and 1 Democrat – Russ Feingold, the best of them. He’s got some flaws in his positions, primarily that he could stand to be a little stronger on support for private weapons ownership and his stance on capitol and corporal punishment is as wrong as it’s possible to be, but on a great many more issues his stance is far and away the rightest of anyone in the Senate. Had he run for president, I would have voted for him in the primary. Assuming, of course, he hadn’t dropped out by the time my state got to vote – and that’s something that really irks me, candidates dropping out before all the primaries have happened. Either impose a “no dropping out” rule on the candidates or have all the primaries and caucuses on the same day, I say.

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…On The Metro.

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2008

I do, of course, mean the DC subways, not the Berlin song. I rode them last week while I was in DC. ‘Twas nice. I enjoyed riding the bus while I lived in Minneapolis (where I live now, there’s no bus that goes from my apartment to my office, but that’s OK since the walk takes at most 10 minutes – including elevator time), and the light rail was better than the bus. A subway, though, is better than either! So fast, so comfortable, so marvelously deep underground with machinery whisking you about… Mmm, I love it. It has its drawbacks, of course: namely, it’s expensive as all get out and requires, in order to have enough riders to make it worthwhile, a population density most places just don’t have – including at least one city (Atlanta) that somehow finagled its way into getting a (threadbare) subway back in the 70s.

I, of course, went through the Union Station stop, as that’s the closest to the Capitol Building. And is an amazing work of architecture. That old monumental style of building, with the stone and the carving and the massive roofs and the statues and the splendor, we just don’t build like that anymore. Mainly because it’s just too expensive. Which is kind of sad, because places like that really are spectacular to look at in the present and because I think we’re leaving a dreary history.

Anyway, Union Station. Quite spectacular. I actually spent a good bit of time there, eating there twice and even watching a movie in the theater on the bottom floor. One of my times eating there was at a place in the main concourse lobby area, a place called The America Grill, that tried to have items on its menu representing every state’s cuisine. A bit on the pricey side, but a nice theme for a place in DC, and the Texas Spicy Marinated (“barbecue” means pulled pork and pulled pork only, by Crom, to hell with what the menu said!) Brisket sandwich I had (after overcoming the temptation to order the two-foot-long hot dog) was very tasty. Also, I could watch people in Union Station while eating, which was fun.

I went through several other stops as well, where I saw advertising posters. Strangely, I thought – though in hindsight maybe not so strange, as it was DC, several of them were political in nature. One was a series of anti-union ads, another was a series by a group whose agenda I couldn’t figure out, and a third was a group that apparently thinks opposing PETA is somehow associated with enhancing consumer choice in the marketplace and limiting tort lawsuits. I don’t quite understand that third group, perhaps because I agree with them on one of the three things (I think PETA is flat wrong about what is ethical or moral and does a disservice to humanity) oppose them on another (tort lawsuits are good, because punishment is good) and am “meh” on third. But, hey, there you go.

Moral of the story: real cities have mass transit. I miss living in a real city.

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On an All-Bad Decision by Congress

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

The “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” appears likely to pass, and that is a very, very, bad thing. The people of America are being put close to $700 billion further in debt in order to bail out elements of the financial sector that should instead have been hung out to die. Mark my words: there is nothing good about any bailout, including this one. “If you fuck up, you die,” is supposed to be the one iron-clad rule of life: that there is never a second chance, that there is never a margin for error, and if you can’t live your life flawlessly you suffer because any and every mistake you make can mean your ruin. Apparently, that’s not the case if you’re part of Wall Street. Thing is too, there’s no benefit from this. Catastrophic collapse of the financial sector (which isn’t happening – regional banks and financial institutions, which made sound lending decisions, are going gangbusters) is a good thing. The markets are friction loss in the engine of the economy: they drain a resource (money) without doing any productive work. Look at commodities markets: you’ve got oil well people and oil refinery people involved, who have a tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of the oil and thus a legitimate reason for being involved, and then you’ve got commodities investors who have no tie to the procurement, distribution, and use of oil, and thus no legitimate reason for being involved in the market. But they are, anyway, investing in oil futures. They’re nothing but middle-men, driving up the price without producing value. Cut them out of the process and they’re ruined, yes, but things improve for everyone else.

Hell, the touted “limits on executive compensation” don’t actually strip away golden parachutes or institute a salary cap on executives. They’re a sham, a facade of meaningful legislation. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There is nothing good about this legislation. It is all costs and no benefits, and it is likely going to pass.

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…On Donations and Hinderance.

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

I know how to give money (or other things, like time to Rebuilding Together or blood to the Red Cross) to support causes I like. It’s pretty simple: identify who to give to, and give to them. But is there a way to “undonate” to hinder causes I oppose? For instance, there’s elections going on. I know how to give money to the campaign of the candidate I support. Is there a way though to cost a candidate’s campaign money if I don’t support that candidate? Or if, say, there’s a group that I think is fighting to make the world a worse place, is there a way to hinder them in a way that would be equal and opposite to sending them $20 or volunteering with them for an hour?

I’m curious, mainly because I want to do it. There’s ways to contribute to the causes you support, shouldn’t there be ways to interfere with the causes you oppose? I want to give negative donations to those.

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…On Ineffective Protest.

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

A short distance from the Capitol Building, around the corner of Independence and New Jersey, an R1-1 has had two other signs affixed to its back. The first is black with white lettering that reads, “BUSH CAUSED [something]”. I’m not sure what that [something] is, because the word was (when I saw it, and presumably still is) covered by the second sign, which is a red piece of tape with black lettering. The result is the utterly nonsensical “BUSH CAUSED LIFE”.

Yes, the second “sign” only became a sign after it was attached to the other sign on the back of the official R1-1 sign. It began, though, as something a little different. Namely, it began as inept symbolism by an anti-abortion protestor.

See, while I was walking in front of the Supreme Court Building, I saw two people at the bottom of the steps up to the courthouse, facing the building and wearing the same thing: red tape over their mouths, the word “LIFE” in black letters. I recalled seeing the same thing before, in a movie. If you’ve seen the documentary Jesus Camp, you may recall it as well: the scene where the kids line up in front of the Supreme Court Building with their mouths taped shut, the tape red and bearing “LIFE” in black letters. Now, had I not seen that movie before, I’m not sure I would’ve known that those two people standing in front of the Supreme Court were opposed to abortion.

Allow me to explain why.

Here’s the thing: taping someone’s mouth shut is something I associate with hostage-taking. Tape over someone’s mouth gags them, it smothers them, and most of all, it binds them. So, when I see someone with their mouth taped shut, I see a victim. And, of course, when I see a word like “LIFE” on an object like tape over someone’s mouth, I read that as a political cartoon-style label. In short, when I see people standing with tape over their mouths and something written on that tape, I interpret that as those people saying, “Just as this tape binds me, gags me, and smothers me, my people have been bound, gagged, and oppressed by what is written on this tape.”

So, the way I see it, a piece of tape saying “LIFE” put over your mouth is obvious visual symbolism for making a statement to the effect of, “The ‘pro-life’ movement’s cause would so totally oppress and dominate women that it would silence them and hold them in bondage.”

So, doesn’t strike me as effective symbolism for anti-abortion protest. Whatever the intended meaning’s supposed to be, I don’t think it gets across.

Oh, and an R1-1? That’s the

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…On Washington, DC.

Posted by Steve on September 27, 2008

I spent the past week on vacation. This included several days in DC. Expect upcoming ruminations on things I encountered there. In the meantime, let me simply point out that I was a good boy, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t rob the Library of Congress, the National Zoo, or the National Museum of Natural History. Even though I really, really, really want a Gutenberg Bible, a Panda, and pretty much the entirety of the National Gem Collection gallery. Have you seen those gemstones? The colors are exquisite. Seriously, quite beautiful. Of little practical use, but very beautiful.

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…On Victoria’s Secret

Posted by Steve on September 19, 2008

Sometimes when I open my mailbox, I have mail that was destined for the apartment next door (which is currently vacant, but whatever). Most recently when that happened, the piece of mail was a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

I’m told the models therein are sexy, and I’ve heard it said I should want a girlfriend looking like that. What rubbish.

Hipless, curveless, shapeless bodies with only the slightest smattering of cleavage – which is, of course, of dubious veracity – to keep them from being utterly androgynous. That is beauty? Blech. To quote the movie title, “real women have curves.” The Victoria’s Secret models, they’ve got no curves, no flesh – and of course, given the poses and makeup and lighting and so forth, no semblance of personality.

No, that aesthetic doesn’t appeal to me at all. For beauty, I turn to these beauties before I’ll turn to the Victoria’s Secret style.

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…On the Blooddrunk Show.

Posted by Steve on September 18, 2008

The other night, I attended a concert. It was Children of Bodom‘s Blooddrunk tour, with The Black Dahlia Murder and Between the Buried and Me touring as their opener & filler.

Regarding TBDM, who opened, I was still standing out in the rain in line to get my ticket when they started, so I may have missed them playing “This Aint No Fucking Lovesong,” which is my favorite song of theirs. They did a good job of opening, though: got the crowd excited and wanting more. More metal, that is, not necessarily more of them.

See, the crowd was an odd mix: a ton of BTBAM fans, and a veritable horde of the Hate Crew’s people, but not so many TBDM fans. And, strangely, a ton of young people. I was seeing green “under-21” wristbands with X-ed hands left and right, along with kids who couldn’t have been older than 15 and at least two middle/high school kids who were there with their parents tagging along to chaperone them! My guess, judging by the correlation of BTBAM t-shirts to green wristbands (my “I’m over 21, I can booze it up all I want” wristband was blue), is that they drew a lot of the kids. At least, when I was in high school (which corresponded to their magnum opii of Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper) there wasn’t a huge CoB following, or much of any metal following. There was, however, a plethora of fans of Phish and Government Mule and OAR and The Grateful Dead and all that hippie stoner jam band style, and I thought Between The Buried And Me had that style, just, you know, as metal. They reminded me of Opeth in that regard. Granted, they reminded me of Opeth the way a couple of stoner high school kids playing in the school talent show remind me of the Grateful Dead: they’re trying to sound like them, but they aren’t anywhere near that good. I mean, honestly, are Between The Buried And Me – who I’d never even heard of before I saw the listing for this concert, to tell the truth – ever going to put out something a tenth as legendary as Blackwater Park? I doubt it.

So, the show… it was at The NorVa, where I’d never been before. Very cool found space sort of venue. Not sure what it used to be, perhaps a church? There were, after all, stained glass windows visible way up high. Very open space, which is nice – complete with a horseshoe balcony around the space. From which, if you were lucky, you could be above and parallel to the band while they were playing. Extremely awesome view – and it put you close enough that there was no question the band could hear you when you shouted requests to them between songs. Which they granted (when our request was “Drum Solo! Drum Solo!”).

Children of Bodom, I love their music, that groundbreaking melodic blend of power and death metal. I love that they dug deep into their old stuff for the setlist. I love that they played with all the energy and vitality those arpeggios call for. I wasn’t actually as excited as most everyone else that Randy from Lamb of God joined Alexi in singing “In Your Face”, but I’m just not a big Lamb of God fan. Nor was I one of the people he (Randy) landed on when he dove into the crowd, since I was up on that balcony, next to a very energetically headbanging young lady who had her hair dyed that intriguing burgundy color. So, when he dove into the crowd, I was watching from above. Above. Seriously, the coolness of this venue’s layout cannot be overstated.

Look, I realize this is rambling. I had more of a point when I started this post, but that was on Sunday. It’s been a long week at work – I cleared the 40 hour mark before lunch, and that’s not including time I worked on Saturday and Sunday. So, I wanted to ramble about a concert I enjoyed, by a band whose music I like, at a venue I plan to revisit.

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…On Today’s Victory.

Posted by Steve on September 13, 2008

When I was your age, we never started the season 3-0 – certainly not with a win over South Carolina in the mix.

And certainly not by shutting someone out the whole second half! That, more than anything, was always Vandy’s undoing while I was there: just not having the roster depth to keep from crumbling in the fourth quarter.

Of course, trying to actually field a team of amateur student-athletes in a conference that’s openly a professional league treating itself as being to the NFL what AAA-ball is to the Major Leagues doesn’t help, and with schools that instead of doing their duty and taking the Boston University approach to cheating, get caught about once every decade facilitating it doesn’t help with that whole winning record thing.

Anyway. Rice 21, Vanderbilt 38. Nice and undefeated so far.

Who ya with?

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…On Some Awesome Shit.

Posted by Steve on September 9, 2008

The City of San Antonio, Texas, has just given the world yet another reminder of how much unadulterated awesomeness engineers impart to the world. In this case, it looks like it was mainly environmental engineers:

“The citizens of San Antonio produce about 140,000 tons of biosolids each year,” said SAWS Chief Operating Officer Steve Clouse. “Treating these biosolids generates an average of 1.5 million cubic feet of gas a day – that’s enough gas to fill seven commercial blimps or 1,250 tanker trucks each day.”

That’s right. The San Antonio Water Service has signed a contract with a company in Massachusetts giving the company 20 years of access to the sewer treatment facility, and more importantly to a certain raw material there. The company gets to install processing equipment on-site to collect the methane, and the water service gets a 12% cut of the methane sales.

They’re collecting and selling natural gas that’s been refined from human excrement! Take that, biodiesel! In your face, cellulosic ethanol! Your appointment’s been scheduled with Dr. Kevorkian, corn-based ethanol!* This is awesome!

Seriously. Sewage is about to be, at least in one city in Texas, nigh unto 100% recycled. How cool is that? Very cool, that’s how cool. They’re turning shit into something useful!

*Corn-based ethanol (more specifically, mandates and subsidies for its production and distribution) really does need to be taken out back and shot. The only way I can think of for one policy to do a more thoroughly destructive job of simultaneously harming the environment, the economy, and the U.S. and world fuel, water, and food supplies would be to pump petroleum directly onto cropland and light it up. Subsidizing corn to the detriment of other foods’ production and pricing is harmful enough, but subsidizing corn that – after it’s grown through the extensive use of land, water, and fertilizer – is going to get refined – at high energy cost – into a fuel that burns less energetically than gasoline, so you can use it to cut gasoline… can you even do a cost-benefit analysis for something that has no benefits? It’s bad energy policy, bad environmental policy, bad economic policy, and bad food policy.

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