Friday, September 24, 2010

Food for thought. You are what you eat. If you ever need a reason NOT to eat catfish, go to the Dallas World Aquarium and watch them line up at a manatee's pooter port getting a side of soft serve on the go. Mmmm. Yum.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You must be smarter than the toilet. We'll just leave it at that for now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Easy Compared to What?

According to the newsletter email I received today from my U.S. Congressman, today is the 223RD anniversary of the affirmation and signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. That's something worthy of celebration in my opinion.


And, now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

My Congressman included the following paragraph in the newsletter:

On this Constitution Day, we must again reaffirm our understanding of the founding principles, which include a restrained federal government and state sovereignty. Indeed, the Constitution established a limited, representative government that respects and protects individual liberties and freedoms.

It occurs to me that we have anything but a "restrained federal government" or a "limited, representative government that respects and protects individual liberties and freedoms." We haven't for a long time. 

Restraint? I seem to recall House Minority Leader Boehner mentioning something about rolling back spending levels to 2004 or 2006 levels. That went over well. You would have thought he had three heads and banana sticking out of every bodily orifice the way people were looking at him. The lack of support from his own party was deafening all the way down here in Texas. Seems that thought weren't too popular in our "progressive spend everyone else's money on every conceivable pet project" Congress. Which, to be fair, has been going on far longer than the current crop of thieves have been in office. 

Try listening in on the arguments (if you have a strong stomach) about extending the "Bush tax cuts". Our beloved horse thieves can't seem to agree whether or not to extend the "Bush Tax Cuts". Seems we can't afford to borrow money from foreign nations to finance a tax cut if I heard the quote from Princess Nancy correctly. Hey, Ms. Pelosi, how about you get your hand out of everyone's pocket and cut some programs?
How about a limited government? Try Googling the number of federal government agencies siphoning money out of the budget year after year? I couldn't find a solid number; however, I did find the listing of federal agencies and departments on the website. I tried to upload a screen shot of a small sampling of the over 473 federal agencies and departments I counted in the list NOT including state, local and territorial governments, but it appears that I still have some technological deficiencies to overcome. "

I love the tag line: "Government Made Easy". Oh really? Compared to what?

Do we really need a federal African Development Foundation? That sounds like it should be a private non-profit organization to me. How much money do we waste (I mean spend) on that every year? Or how much do we spend on the Agency for International Development? How about we let taxpayers keep that money and develop our own nation?

And just where in the Constitution does it authorize Congress or the Executive branch to create an Agricultural Marketing Service? Is that an advertising agency or a public relations firm? 

I think the perfect celebration for Constitution day would be to dump the entire Federal Register in the trash can, fire every single government employee and disband every single federal agency and department (with the exception of the military). Do it on a Friday. Today, in fact. Everyone gets the weekend to come up with a Constitutional justification for their job, agency or department. If, on Monday morning, they cannot cite chapter and verse of which article and section in the Constitution gives them the right to exist (or be on the government payroll)…bye-bye…don't let the door hit you on the butt. Good luck in the private sector. 

Ditto for the Federal Register. If a law cannot be reconciled to the Constitution for Authority…off with its head…I mean off the books. 

The Constitution was a great idea. We have managed to screw it by bogging it down with the weight of generations of ignorance and greed. It's time we cleaned up our mess.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Conservative Are You?

Yesterday, in my feeble attempts to think around the splitting headache with which I woke up, I came across someone's blog sporting a link to an "interactive quiz". I very rarely click on these, but I couldn't resist seeing as how the quiz was compiled by the Center for American Progress and it entitled "How Progressive Are You?"

Apparently, not so much.

On my first attempt, when I was actually TRYING to answer the 40 questions honestly, I scored 115 out of a possible 400. 400 being Joseph Stalin (...I meant to say "ultra liberal/progressive") and 0 being the guy that makes Ronald Reagan look like Joseph Stalin. According to the lies (...there I go again, I meant to say "statistics") C.A.P. has put together, I qualify as "very conservative". I was expecting a pop up message that said something like "Are you related to Attila the Hun?" or "Bourgeois Capitalist Pig"; but, apparently, they are trying to keep things civil.

C.A.P. says that the mean score for conservative Republicans is 160.9, and the mean score for all Americans is 209.5. Setting aside for the moment that all Americans haven't taken their little quiz, I am encouraged by the fact that "all Americans" are mostly moderate. Which is something I've believed for a long time.

This quiz reminded me of a quiz my college government professor had the class take. The quiz purported to tell you where you fell on a four axis political spectrum (liberal, conservative, populist and libertarian). After taking the test once, it was pretty obvious to me how to manipulate the test to get a particular outcome based on the way the questions were written. I bet the professor I could put the dot dead center in the middle of the the axis. He didn't believe me until I did it in front of him. He didn't like that.

So, I couldn't leave the C.A.P. quiz well enough alone either. If you decide to take it, you will notice that some of the questions are written in a decidedly slanted way. You will also note that the 0 to 10 agree/disagree rating scale makes it easy to "tip the scale" one way or the other.

On my second attempt to take the test, I went all out ultra conservative and came back with a score of 30 out of 400. Obviously, I "missed" on three questions. I'm pretty sure I know which ones they were, but it's time for me to stop messing with it and move on to other things.

Y'all go have some fun and screw with their percentages.

Special Advertising Section: Dallas vs. Houston

A friend of The Queen's and mine sent us a somewhat cryptic email this morning with "Houston vs. Dallas" in the subject line. He lives in Houston and is currently in thrall with a young lady in the Dallas area whom The Queen and I have known from church for many a year.  I assumed from his email that he was seeking advice on which city is better. So, of course, I had to give him my opinion which I offer up to you, my readership, now as a public service and special advertisement:

Now then, I assume from the subject line that you are referring to the age old argument of which city is better (for whatever purpose); and, naturally, you seek out the honest opinion of someone who has lived in both cities. I'm happy to oblige.

First, my qualifications. I was born in Dallas, raised in the greater DFW area, educated in the greater DFW area, and the majority of my family still lives in the greater DFW area. DFW is and always will be home for me no matter where I go. My father lived in Houston for about 10 years ( from '89 to '98) giving me reason to visit often, I've spent at least one day a month in Houston my entire 15 year career in handling claims, and I lived in Houston for 3 years. Houston (along with Austin) is a second home for me.

Now, let's look at some important issues and compare the respective venues.

Houston and Dallas people always argue about which city has the worst traffic. Houston says Dallas is worse and vice versa. Based on my personal experience commuting in both cities, Houston has worse traffic. Regardless of which city you're in, traffic is a fact of life to be dealt with. I prefer to avoid it altogether.

Dallas wins this one hands down in my opinion. Dallas is 10 years ahead of Houston on public transportation. The DART light rail system will take you from the southeast and southwest corners of the city through downtown to the north and northeast. The line heading to Las Colinas in the northwest is due to be finished next year. There is even a connection to take you from Downtown Dallas to DFW airport and downtown Ft. Worth. The bus service is good and spreads through many of the suburbs

Depending on where you look and what you want, I'd say Houston and Dallas are about evenly matched with respect to price and selection.

I have to give the nod to Houston on this one. [The Queen] and I have visited a lot of congregations around the country and met quite a few people in the church from around the world, Houston has the most loving, sincere, open, welcoming, [insert your favorite descriptive adjective here] I've come across. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with the Dallas congregation because I know many good people there as well. [ed. note: These two are a part of the same church group with congregations in both cities.]

Job Market:
I don't know much about the respective job markets outside of my field; however, I can tell you that, in my field, the Dallas job market is growing slowly while the Houston market is dying quickly. L., I know you mentioned you work in IT. The best man at our wedding is an IT guy here in Dallas. If you'd like, I can put the two of you in touch so you can ask someone in the business what he thinks of the job market. C., you mentioned customer service and I talked with you about insurance. There are still workers comp claim jobs in Houston as well as personal auto claim jobs, but the industry as a whole is moving away from Houston as a claims center. However, every insurance agent in the world is looking for good customer service reps, and Houston has its fair share of those.

I give the nod to Dallas. Mold is an issue in Houston. Almost every house [The Queen] and I looked at to buy had mold in it. Houston is the heart of the petrochem industry. Air pollution is a fact of life and a cause for concern especially if you have a weak immune system. Ask [The Queen]. Dallas has its issues with air pollution, but not to the same level as Houston. Houston is more humid than Dallas due to its proximity to the coast. Heat levels are about the same. If anything, Dallas gets a little hotter than Houston, but Houston feels hotter because of the humidity.

Toss up. I have no experience with public schools in either Houston or Dallas proper. I was educated in a suburb with a highly rated public school system. I can't say I got a bad education, but I didn't apply myself as much as I should have either. Based on news reports I've heard in both cities, stick to home schooling, private schools or suburban school districts if you are blessed with kids. Both cities have multiple public and private university and community college options for furthering ones education as necessary.

Toss up. Houston and DFW are both major metropolitan areas. Houston is the fourth largest city in the US. Dallas is in the top 10. You've got airports in both cities that will take you anywhere in the world. There is major industry and business in both cities. Both cities individually have more choices for entertainment and activities than some small STATES have. Both cities have former presidents in residence (Houston has Daddy Bush, and Dallas has W). It's a one hour flight on Southwest from Dallas to Houston or a four hour drive (plus or minus) on I-45 making family and friends close at hand for regular visits.
You experience may vary. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brief Reflections of a Deranged Mind

If horizontal stripes are supposed to make you look fat and vertical stripes are supposed to make you look thin, what is plaid supposed to do for you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

The media seems to have been in a tizzy lately touting that we are in a “post racial” America since the election of the first “black” president in Barack Obama (even though Bill Clinton tried to lay claim to that honor based on his slightly colorful ancestry). While I do not disagree that American has made great progress in overcoming its discriminatory past since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, I still have to question the accuracy of the assertion that we are in a “post racial” culture for a couple of reasons not the least of which are my own beliefs, thoughts and expectations.

First, let me tattle on myself. When you make your living dealing with people primarily over the phone, you tend to develop mental pictures of what the folks on the other end of the line look like based on the tone of their voice and the way they speak. Sometimes those mental pictures are basically accurate. Sometimes not.

For example, I attended a mediation on Wednesday in Houston. This was my first opportunity to meet my insured’s representative, as well as the plaintiff, in person. I had spoken with my insured’s representative on the phone a couple of times and had, as most of us do, formed a mental picture of him. When I met him Wednesday, for the first time, at mediation, his appearance conformed in basic details to my mental picture. Mid 40s, athletic, educated male with pale skin. In other words…someone more or less like me.

As tends to happen at mediations, after the basic details of the case have been hammered into the ground, conversation tends to switch over to cover a wide range of subjects from small talk to sports to politics. My insured’s representative mentioned at one point in the conversation that he was recently divorced.

The case we were mediating involved a business dispute in which the plaintiff, who started the business my company insured, claimed that he was wrongfully removed from his position as president and CEO by the other shareholders. This is a family owned business. So, the other shareholders were related to the plaintiff by blood and marriage. The insured representative attending mediation was one of the other shareholders as was the plaintiff’s brother. The plaintiff’s brother also happened to be the insured representative’s now former father in law.

Here is where I have to tell on myself and admit that I was completely surprised by the fact that the plaintiff/insured rep’s former uncle in law was a tall, 350+ pound man with skin the color of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. I wasn’t expecting that.

50 years after Sammy Davis, Jr. married a woman with skin paler than his, 47 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 43 years after movie goers were shown a “mixed” couple in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, 35 years after The Jeffersons showed America’s TV viewing audience an interracial couple (Tom & Helen) on a prime time sitcom, me growing up never having seen any direct indications of societal discrimination, etc., etc. and my mind’s eye still puts two and two together and assumes that a pale skinned guy is going to marry a pale skinned girl. And I have to ask myself why I was surprised by that unexpected development and why it matters or if it matters at all.

It’s not like I was raised by white supremacists or anything…with the possible exception of my maternal grandfather. I have my suspicions about him. Well, they’re not so much suspicions as they are well founded conclusions supported by significant circumstantial evidence. One of these days, I know I’m going to come across an old photo of a Klan rally from the 1950s and see his goofy lookin’ mug poking out of a white robe next to a burning cross. But, I digress.

I was born in 1970 to a middle class family living in a suburb of Dallas. I did not suffer the injustices of racial prejudice growing up. I have no direct memory of the struggle some people went through to fight for Civil Rights. I never had to drink from a color coded water fountain. I never had to be in a color coded school or be bussed to a school across town so that there was greater integration of “minorities” into the student population to satisfy some judge’s court order. I’ve never (to my knowledge) been discriminated against because of the color of my skin.

So, why should I give a flying flip about racial prejudice in the first place? That’s going to take some explaining. I’ll do my best. Here goes.

According to the Declaration of Independence, America’s founding fathers stated that “We hold these truths to be self evidence, that all men are created equal,…” For the moment, I want to set aside the obvious argument that slavery was alive and well at the time that sentence was written leading to the inevitable conclusion that some men were more equal than others. We’ll try to come back to that later.

Scientifically speaking, race is a meaningless term. You are either a member of a given species or you are not. If you were born from a set of parents who are of the same species and you share the same certain number of chromosomes as your parents and are capable of reproducing and giving birth to fertile offspring, you are generally considered to be a member of the same species as your parents. Individuals do not magically mutate into a new species. Evolution doesn’t work that way. Seems pretty straightforward so far, right?

Now, let’s try an analogy for a moment. Take the humble crocodile for a moment. Ugly as sin and just about as hospitable as an IRS agent with bad gas. You know what they look like. Green-ish, scaly, bad breath, sharp teeth, etc (I’m talking about the crocs…not the IRS agents). But, they mate and produce other little crocodiles (not IRS agents). However, every once in a while, there is an aberration in the genetic code resulting in an almost cute little bugger known as an albino crocodile. Instead of being green-ish, albinos are mostly white. To my knowledge, no one considers an albino croc to be of a different species than its green-ish parents.

Anthropologically speaking, race is still meaningless. Culture and language are what matter. Even though you’d be hard pressed to differentiate between a pale skinned American and a pale skinned European at a glance, there is a significant difference between the two culturally and linguistically.

What about the Bible? America’s founding fathers seem to be making a thinly veiled reference to God in the Declaration of Independence with the “created equal” bit. The book of Genesis says that God created Adam and Eve in HIS image. It doesn’t say whether they were pale skinned, dark skinned or purple. There is no indication anywhere in the Bible that someone of one skin color is superior or inferior to another.

Once you pull off the outer layer of skin, we are all pretty much look the same when you get right down to it (setting aside the obvious differences between genders). So, why do humans persist in thinking that skin color (or religion, or sexual orientation, or national origin, etc.) makes any difference at all when it comes to our species? If a human is a human is a human, why do we perpetuate prejudice in all its forms (including affirmative action, quotas, little check boxes for ethnicity on applications and forms, etc.) through the use of something as scientifically meaningless as “race”?

In my opinion, it is because of the US vs. THEM mentality. We, as humans, want to take care of those close to us. Our family. Our friends. Those people who are like US. Not those crazy people in the other trailer park. Not those…eeekkk…northerners. Not….THEM.

Blood is thicker than water as the old saying goes.

Perhaps that is why European monarchies inbred so much as a means of diplomacy. Oh no, we can’t invade England. That’s Uncle Buckie’s family. How about France? No, no. That won’t do. Aunt Marie would have a fit. Hey, we don’t have no kin in Israel. Let’s go kick some butt down there and call it a crusade to reclaim the holy land or some such.

Perhaps that is also why slaves in almost every culture were “not from around here.” Need a cheap source of labor and you can’t use your own kids (…they may be lazy but they’re family). Hey, how about the neighbor kids? No, that won’t work. Their folks will want us to pay them the going rate plus extra benefits. Here’s an idea, let’s purchase some of them funny lookin' fellers from that other country over t’ yonder and….

You get the idea.

We’re not living in a “post racial world”. If anything, we are still living in the age of racism. Our society and our culture remain obsessed with “race”.

Black or White? Caucasian or Hispanic? In a truly post racial world, these terms have no meaning.

If we were living in a post racial world, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would not have a national audience.

If we were living in a post racial world, it would be possible for a “white” person to criticize the “black” President without being labeled a racist.

If we were living in a post racial world, groups like the KKK or the NAACP would no longer exist as they would no longer serve any purpose.

If we were living in a post racial world, companies like the one I work for would not need to provide “Diversity and Inclusion” training to avoid discrimination lawsuits.

If we were truly living in a post racial world, I would not have been surprised at a “mixed race” couple.

Does it matter? I think it does.

We are all the same. We are all humans. God does not see white people and black people. He sees only people that He made in His image. His creations which He really did make equal, and He loves them all equally.

We are all the same. We share the same planet. Our communications, our travels and our economies are global and almost instantaneous in nature. What happens over there has effects over here.

So, what do we do? For starters, stop.

Stop and think about how you think about yourself. How you think about others. How do you describe yourself or someone else to others? Have you ever really seen someone with white or black skin? I haven’t. How about we try for a little greater accuracy in how we describe physical attributes? To use The Queen’s favorite phrase…”Use Your Words.”

Stop asking for or providing meaningless and irrelevant information. A person’s skin color or ancestry has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they are fit to obtain a loan or capable of performing a job.

Stop supporting organizations that perpetuate “racism” through membership criteria or ideology.

Stop asking me to feel guilty for something in which I never participated.

Stop using something that never happened to you as an excuse for failing to achieve.

Stop assuming that he or she is just like THEM and see if they might be like you.

If you believe what The Bible teaches, we are all related at one point or another.

Which means that there really is no THEM. There is only US.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wanted - Dead or Alive...Preferably Dead

To the insensitive, inconsiderate, degenerate walking turd that boarded Southwest Airlines flight 15 out of Dallas Love Field for Houston Hobby Airport this morning and cracked off not one but three extremely noxious farts in the presence of a captive audience of over 90 fellow travelers, I wish to warn you that you have been marked for death for your crimes against humanity and my nasal passages since you are clearly an Al-Qaeda operative engaged in terrorist activities on American soil.

I mean, seriously, do you not understand the physics and chemistry of life aboard a pressurized aluminum can traveling at an altitude of over 30,000 feet above sea level moving at a speed of approximately 75% of the speed of sound. Under those conditions, it is not possible to escape your foul stench. There is no place for it to go but into the nostrils of your cabin mates.

Could you not wait 50 short minutes to unleash your gas attack in the terminal building where the air is not trapped and recirculated? Are you so out of shape that you can’t clench your anal muscles enough to pinch off that air biscuit before it makes a break for it? Was it too much trouble to stop off at the restrooms before the flight to drop the load that was so desperately trying to escape your body? Or were you self conscious about making use of the two conveniently located aircraft lavatories? I can certainly understand bashful bowels; butt, please, have some common courtesy. If you don’t want to hover over the flying port-a-potty for fear of contracting some unknown microbes with a serious stash of frequent flier miles, at least have the human decency to step in, close the door and allow your aroma the freedom it so richly deserves in a place where it’s expected to smell foul.

Be it known, that you will be tortured extensively before being summarily executed. We will find the most lactose intolerant, bean burrito freaks there are and lock you in a small room whose only air source is  a room full of those freaks eating from an extensive Mexican food buffet. There will only be milk to drink in that room.

You will tell us who the other members of your cell are and what plans you have made for gassing unsuspecting travelers. You will tell us who is financing your organization, and who is supplying you with the ingredients for your weapons of mass nausea. Then you will be slathered in barbeque sauce and staked in a pen of hungry pigs to be eaten alive in a fit of irony that would surely be struck down by the Supreme Court as cruel and unusual punishment if anyone where to consult them before carrying out your sentence. Which we won’t. ‘Cause your appeal has been summarily denied…dirt bag. Go bust a fluffy somewhere else.