Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Don't Do It

Once again, James Lileks says it.

Also grateful I’m not flying this weekend, but I would not refuse the scanners. This I do not understand. If everyone was having their groinal departments mauled I would be annoyed, but if you only get the blue-glove love after you’ve turned down the scanners, well, go through the scanners. Underlying the anger – of course – is the idea that everyone has to suffer indignities and suspicion because the TSA refuses to consider some people more likely to kaboom a Boeing than others. Add to that the suspicion that so much of the security check-through is just make-believe, and you have people who view the process of flying with fury and dread – the former because it TAKES SO FARGIN’ LONG, and the latter because you don’t think it works.

From what I've seen, I think that, like many "stories", this one said more about the media herd instinct than anything else. Somehow a reporter somewhere picked up on some one's whining, and through the magic of modern communication, it became something worth reporting on national news, despite the fact that they often mentioned in those reports that there really wasn't anything to it.

This makes me sympathize with the editor of Charles Kane's Inquirer when he said in response to Kane asking about a questionable "murder" story that there wasn't any proof, and they don't report that type of thing. Perhaps it wouldn't be bad to bring back a bit of that editorial discretion.

Urine In, Tobacco Out

I don't know why things like this come to me. I seem capable of developing trains of thought usually only made possible by ingesting chemicals.

Last week I was given the task of delivering a large jug containing urine (not mine) collected over 24 hours to a local clinic to be used for some sort of testing. I had been told that since the container had a properly coded label and accompanying paperwork I would merely have to drop it off with a certain nurse. Instead I got to sit for 20 minutes waiting for a lab tech to come out, and even then I couldn't give it to her; I had to carry it into the lab myself and put it on a table. The joys of bureaucracy. I sat waiting and contemplating the turns my life takes, I thought about a man who was standing outside smoking a cigarette as I came into the building. It occurred to me that, under recently enacted state law supported by public referendum, if the two of us were to go to almost any business open to the public, I and my cargo could go right in, probably without question, while he would have to dispose of his tobacco before being granted entry.

I'm not sure there's an actual point to this, other than to provide another indication of why idle thinking often gets me into trouble.

Monday, November 22, 2010

We've Grown Apart

In his latest blog post, James Lileks makes a reference to something I had not known: he is writing for National Review Online. I haven't been to that website for a long time, and I still don't plan on going back. Something about it makes me itch. I will continue to visit his personal site and read his Star-Tribune column, though, because I like his style and because he rarely mentions politics in those.

That revelation,and my reaction, did bring something about me to mind that I hadn't given much thought. I try to wander a wide spectrum of the web, but my blog's list of sites does have a slightly liberal lean to it. I only consider South Dakota War College, Andrew Sullivan and perhaps Megan McCardle conservative. I'm not really sure how that has come to be, since I've always had a hardheaded, unromantic view of life that would seem more in keeping with conservative traditions. I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and I went to an engineering college, where a roommate described me as very conservative. I'm even still registered as a Republican, although that's more a function of sloth and a general indifference to party politics that has kept me from changing something I did 30 years ago, when Ronald Reagan was just taking office and billion-dollar federal deficits were horrifying.

It may simply be a matter of taste. Internet exploration is a strictly hobby for me. I don't intentionally seek out subjects and sites with a certain ideology in mind; I simply seek entertainment and compelling thoughts. It just happens that the people I have found enjoyable tend to be on the left side of the the political spectrum, which is hardly surprising in a way, since the people who make a living in entertainment tend to frequent that side.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think it's a result of a parting of ways since I filed that party registration. The conservative movement has gotten more and more reactionary, at least to me. I recall Larry Pressler saying more or less the same thing two years ago when he said he voted for Obama - the Republican Party he once knew is gone. I can't say I've ever been a big supporter of any party or ideology, but it would seem that either my philosophical boat has drifted left, the political waters have flowed further right, or both. I'm inclined to think it's the last one.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The First Time

As I clicked by the latest season of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team on CMT, it occurred to me that, not surprisingly, this season looks pretty much like the others. They have their formula, and they're sticking to it. Besides, the testing has to stay pretty much the same as long as the desired results stay the same. Speaking of those desired results, I realized that what they're trying to create with all the various little skills they test for and/or teach (formal dinner etiquette, eloquence, being a good party guest and host) isn't just a cheerleader, but an American Geisha.

No big election surprises. Some people I know were a bit surprised that Kristi Noem beat Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, but being a Democrat here means fighting uphill at the best of times, and these are far from the best. One interesting outcome is that Republicans have unassailable majorities in both houses on the legislature to go with the Governor's office, which means they can pretty much do what they want, but they also don't have anyone else to blame, a fact several legislators acknowledged after the election.

One election-related item did escape my attention until right after my previous post; this was the first election for which my daughter was eligible to vote. She took quite a while to cast her ballot, and told me later that she left a few blank because she really had no idea what/who to pick. I told her that's OK; I often feel that too many elections are decided by people who have no clue but think they have to choose something. Ideally, of course, everyone would carefully research the candidates and issues. But if you don't know what you want, let the people who do know (or least think they do) decide. It's at least honest.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Get a Sugar Buzz and Vote

November....time to be sure the winter utensils are handy, because it's a-comin'. The weather may still be fairly decent, but it's a rearguard action. Best get the grill into the shed before it gets buried in snow.

We didn't get a single non-family trick-or-treater this Halloween, which means I get to finish off the leftover candy. I know what you're thinking, and I did actually have the porch light on to signal availability. (Hmmm....something about that seems a bit off-color.) Our court just doesn't have many kids, and it's so easy to load up at the various sugarfests put on by local organizations. (Including churches, which intrigues me. I know that the original meaning of Halloween has dissolved, but the idea of churches joining in somehow doesn't seem right.) Add in the every one's-a-potential-molester paranoia all too prevalent these days, and the old door-to-door tradition seems doomed.

I noticed that Wal-Mart this year had far more candy types and bag sizes than ever before, as well as a greater variety of Halloween-themed items. Lights and display items in particular have grown massively over the last few years, ever since someone who makes Christmas lights figured out that putting a plastic pumpkin or skull over the bulbs opened up a new market. At least it seemed to keep the Christmas displays in the back rooms a little longer, which gets kudos from me.

Now to the next event, the one hyped longer and louder than Christmas and the passing of which is greeted with even greater relief by most people....Election Day. It says a lot about this state that the incumbent Republican Senator is running unopposed and the Democratic incumbent House member is in a tight race with someone I had never heard of before she ran for office. The Republican Lt. Governor also seems to be cruising to the Governor's office, continuing a tradition since 1978.

There also a number of interesting propositions on the ballot, such as the legalization of medical marijuana (not happening, according to what I've seen. It's a sign of the relative ease with which something can get put to a public vote here that this is even on the ballot.) and expansion of the ban on smoking (apparently going to pass).

I'll be picking up the daughter after work and going to vote. As Jon Carroll says....

If you stay home and mutter that the Democrats and the Republicans are the same and they're all crooks paid off by special interests and things are so bad they can't get any worse, don't worry: They can get worse.

Maybe if you vote, they'll get less worse.