Next Time… on Dragonballlllll Zeeeeeee!

Normally my Picture This posts are pictures I actually took myself. This is an exception.

This handsome fellow is Vegeta, Prince of a nearly extinct race of space-faring warriors called the Saiyans. He never bothered to have himself crowned king after his father died during the destruction of his home planet.

And this is his son, Trunks. Well, strictly speaking it’s his son from an alternate future, come back to help keep the Earth from being destroyed by androids.

The other day I realized that Trunks is drawn with Vegeta’s face and purple hair. They even have the same charming scowl. Here, the resemblance is easier to see this way:

At least he has his mother’s eyes.

In Closing: Same Old Story; checking my privilege; yeah, that helps; deserving; and painting a 737.

Happy NSAmas!

The Feds took advantage of the fact that nobody was expecting anything newsworthy to happen on Christmas Eve to quietly release a treasure trove of documents (links to source material here!) showing that they have been very very bad stewards of our private information.

And all of you who bought the Elf on the Shelf? You’re teaching your kids to submit to constant surveillance. Hope you’re proud.

In Closing: A few items on the police; air travel; on screwing the nonrich; because clearly the race of fictional characters is newsworthy; what if the terror threats were in fact a brilliant publicity stunt to puff up what is by all accounts a not-very-good comedy?; and wolves are better at math than dogs.

Boobs on a Plane

So apparently Delta Airlines told a breastfeeding mother that she would need to cover up or pump ahead of time. This started a flamestorm on the Twitterverse. Delta quickly backtracked, apparently remembering  that “Breastfeeding without a cover is legal in all 50 states” and that would include over those states. Oh yeah, and remembering that lawsuit from a few years back. But that didn’t stop the controversy from being further ginned up by idiots who think “modesty” has anything to do with this. Breastfeeding: made by nature, endorsed by the Bible.* So you want to call it obscene? Tell it to the hand of nursing Baby Jesus.

Now stay with me on this. Plane trips with a baby are no fun at all for anybody — not the parents, not the other passengers, not even the baby — but sometimes they are necessary. Part of the problem is that the baby’s ears have pressure issues on take off, just like a grown-ups do, but babies can’t chew gum or anything like that to equalize the pressure. But here’s a stroke of genius: a feeding baby is not only making those jaw motions that will soothe the ears; what’s better is that the baby’s mouth is full and therefore not screaming! Sounds to me like everybody ought to be happy with that outcome.

Speaking of boobs on a plane, it looks like that new Liam Neeson movie is just ghastly.

In Closing: aw, let’s just close it out with some NSA, privacy, spying, anticrime/terrorism efforts, and related links.

* Heh, yeah, I know I’m assuming that the people who think OMG TEH BOOBZ WILL DESTROY SOCIETAY UNLESS THEY ARE PROPERLY HOLSTERED are probably Christians. When was the last time you saw an atheist argue that breastfeeding is somehow obscene?

Things I learned


Last night, I completed my first semester of for credit college classes in a couple decades. Over the next few days, I will be sharing a few of the things that I have learned. Let’s start with generalities:

  • This is the sort of college where “admissions requirements” are pretty much “has a valid credit card.” As a result, there is a great variety of students: the fresh out of high school; the “holy crap my parents were right years ago when they told me I needed more education” crowd; more than a few recently discharged Veterans of varying ages; people embarking on an Xth career; etc.. In some ways, the place is remarkably like a less-funny episode of Community.
  • Some have the drive to succeed, and some just don’t. Some have the desire, but not the skill set. Some have the desire, but life gets in the way.
  • An alarming number of my classmates have woefully inadequate reading skills. That is despite the fact that free reading (and math) placement exams are available, and there are plenty of opportunities to improve one’s skills. Without the ability to quickly read and understand things like textbooks, assignments, and tests, a student is doomed.
  • Not surprisingly, the parking lot was much emptier the last week of class than the first week.
  • The irregular attendance of some of my classmates baffles me. They all paid good money for this class; you would think they would at least try to maximize their chance of passing!
  • Not all counseling departments are created equal. Some are there to get you the help you need — this is partly a matter of self-preservation, since that makes the student more likely to continue to pay tuition. Others are there to point out hoops that need to be jumped, come back when you’re done.

Next, we talk about my classes.

In Closing: book; or, we could admit that something that needs wheels is by definition not a carry on; or, we could enforce existing law; yeah I remember those days; blood pressure; what?; is this going to be what reins in drones?; 97% of scientists agree; and truth… Truthdogg.

Griswold v. Connecticut

June 7, 1965 was the day that the Supreme Court decided that women had the right to contraception. More precisely, the Supremes ruled that ordinary Americans have a right to privacy, and little is more private than what a married couple do in the privacy of their home. It was later rulings that extended the right of contraception outside marriage.

That was over 40 years ago. Women of my generation have never known a time when you couldn’t get the means to control your whether or not you could get pregnant. We’ve lived all our lives knowing that reliable birth control was a prescription away. Things weren’t so rosy for the generation immediately ahead of us.

Yet despite the fact that birth control is almost universally used by women, despite the fact that it’s good for our health to control the size of our families, and despite the fact that it is good for the economy that we can choose not to get pregnant, this fundamental right is under fire. There are people who want to make sure we can’t get it, people who want to make sure we can’t afford it, and people who want to make sure that we can lose our jobs for getting it. How exactly does that last bit figure into the right to privacy?

None of this is about how wonderful babies are. None of this is actually “pro-life,” because if they thought about it for 5 whole seconds the so-called pro-life movement would realize that contraceptives prevent abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancy. The desire to limit access to something almost all women use is one thing and one thing only: anti-woman.

In Closing: short stories; age gap; Carol Burnett does her best James T. Kirk; couldn’t have to do with dumping underwater houses; and oh hell no you’re not charging me extra for the privilege of sitting with my family.

Stephen King’s Bag of Shorties

Red Meat: Well sure, if you’re willing to call a double cheeseburger “unprocessed red meat,” maybe red meat is bad for you. I also liked the fact that the same questionnaires that “prove” the connection also say that 1/5 of women make do on 1200 calories daily — that would be a bare minimum for somebody trying to lose weight, not something sustainable. Think just maybe some people weren’t quite reporting the whole truth?

It turns out that 100% of rapes are committed by rapists: Don’t rape.

Bruce Wayne: Has a hard time at the psychologist’s office.

Senator Lugar: Well, is he a resident eligible to run for Senate, or is he a non-resident who can’t vote?

His name is disgusting: Mr. Santorum thinks Puerto Rico should learn some darn English already so they can become a state! Ok, he actually said they have to make English and only English the official language, and they need to have a “common language” with us whiteys normal Americans. What makes him think they want to be a state? Pretty blatant example of a conservative expressing the idea that “those brown people would be so much better off if they did things my way!” Now he can’t decide if he wants to stand by the comments or not. mmWaffles.

So you want to be a blogger?: Here.

Deregulation: Doesn’t work (HT).

There’s no point arguing with crazy: Ornery Bastard colorfully and succinctly says what many think about the GOP.

Viva Las Vegas: House sales up. That’s right, I said up. And people are noticing.

Glad I’m not in Arizona: Proposed bill would allow employers to ask women if they use The Pill and fire them if they don’t like the answer. Never mind medical privacy. No word on whether they’ll ask men if they take erectile dysfunction meds. Guess they aren’t expecting a lot of women voters. Maybe the next proposed bill is to disavow the 18th Amendment.

If only just Arizona were the problem: Thankfully we have some uterus-having Legislators helping bring balance and/or silliness to some of the anti-woman bills.

Double-you tee eff: An officer but not a gentleman.

Hail Britannica: Someday kids will look at you funny when you talk about an encyclopedia being a big set of reference books that many middle class families owned.

What??: Hotel pools must close or install wheelchair lifts.

You know there must be candy and rainbows for bankers in the foreclosure fraud settlement: JP Morgan Chase announces a hike in the dividend. The investors go wild.

Crash the system: Refuse a plea bargain. Insist on your Constitutional right to a jury trial.

Nixon in Love: Turns out he was a bit of a romantic. Who knew.

I see it around here: More people using public transportation. And as a result, more people walking, at least locally. I think it’s a good thing.

Eastern Germany: Check out the before and after pictures by clicking the pic at top.

ShortWoman’s Musings on Travel

Last week, I was out of town. Having grand adventures. You know, the usual. I’m home, and things are back to normal, so let me tell you what I think about travel.

On Packing: Pick your battles when it comes to your quart zip-top bag of liquids. Would it kill you to use the shampoo you’ll find in the hotel? Don’t forget to pack sunscreen. Really.

If it’s big enough or heavy enough to need wheels, it is by definition not a carry-on.

Rolling pants and most other garments takes up less room and means fewer wrinkles.

Think carefully about how long you’ll be gone and what you’ll really need. After all, you’re going to have to carry it.

On Airports and Airlines: Do everyone a favor and have your ID and boarding pass ready to go when you get in the security line. Already be prepared to go through the probe-u-later. Be polite as long as feasible. And seriously, don’t even joke about terrorism or bombs.

No, U.S. Air, I am not paying for your overpriced food.

The Airbus A321 has the worst overhead storage I have ever seen. Somebody decided that it’s more important for a 6′ tall man to be able to stand than for anybody to have a carry-on bag. The more I travel, the more I like Boeing.

The only thing I like about Phoenix Sky Harbor is that it’s called “Sky Harbor.”

Cancun, on the other hand, has a very nice airport. Clean, well laid out, plenty of room near the gates, huge duty free shop, decent food. Oh yeah, and a Margaritaville.

On Mexico: I understood Montezuma’s Revenge before I even made it through customs. The sink in the airport bathroom was labeled “NON-POTABLE WATER. DO NOT DRINK.” In English, I might add. If a sink is not labeled “POTABLE,” don’t drink that water. It’s simple.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are willing to stick to areas frequented by English speaking tourists, you will need very little Spanish. This may hold up in other countries as well.

The Cancun Hotel District looks a lot like the Las Vegas Strip: lots of luxury resorts, lots of palm trees, high end malls, the occasional convenience store that looks like it’s been there for decades. However, the big difference is that Cancun has more pyramids.

Lots of shopping, yes. I think the only things I could have bought there that I can’t get here are Cuban cigars and Cuban rum (which is yummy stuff). And since I can’t bring either one home, not worth bothering.

Going out to Isla Mujeres was much more like visiting a foreign country. Be aware, the shopkeepers will see you getting off the boat.

Step out of your comfort zone and eat what the locals do. You’ll be glad you did.

Tip well around your resort and you will be remembered for it.

And one last thing: You never know who you will run into when you travel. Be aware of opportunities to meet people, or at least say hello to people you know.

In Closing: hilarious; small Mercedes coming soon; must read explanation of “not in the labor force”; Occupy Ports; a battle that was lost by 1978; and Jesus approves this message.

It’s Book Review Time!

Yes, once more it’s that time! My latest BlogHer Book Club review is here! If you want to read yet more about Tana French’s Faithful Place — rather than, say, just reading the book, go ahead and read some other reviews too.

In Closing: Being Green; the fallacy of school choice; scrap the TSA; stupid snarky arguments on unemployment rebutted; the new GOP; your orange carrots are a 17th century political statement; this can’t be good; I don’t know where to begin; we need more rulings like this, please; weather; clueless egghead can’t understand why nobody will implement his stupid plan that ignores reality; and please remember that Whitney Elementary is still a place that desperately needs donations just to keep its students clothed and fed.

Bikini Bloodbath Shorties

Where the heck does Hollywood keep coming up with absurd titles for horror movies? Anyways, on to the shorties.

It wouldn’t be Shorties without the Economy:  Yeah, turns out it is a recession if you stop playing games with inflation. Gee, really? Maybe that’s why the stock market is picking up their money and going home. Maybe if somebody were, oh, I don’t know, creating jobs.

Is it a coincidence that I’ve been invited to 2 protests that they won’t even tell me where it is until I RSVP?: Maybe, Maybe not.

Up, Up, and Away: in my beautiful 1940s aircraft.

People with Idiotic Ideas Aren’t News: You tell em, Senator.

From the Top: The Secretary of Education says that No Child Left Behind is a **** piece of **** and urges states to opt out of the money associated with implementing it. Gee, maybe “better” isn’t a standard.

Bloody Socialists: Turns out they have a few good ideas about the practice of medicine.

Speaking of medicine: The Duhpartment of Research is at it again.

Interest Rates Must Go Up

Just about 5 years ago, I wrote this:

It is my theory that beneath certain levels, low interest rates do not stimulate the economy. There are several factors which combine to this result: First, when rates are very low, there is no incentive for lenders to extend credit to individuals and companies. Since the available rate of return is so low, they would rather take the sure thing on government bonds. Housing lending has continued partly because there is a real asset involved, and partly because such loans can be sold to aggregators such as Fannie Mae. [edit: this was before the housing bubble burst; the last sentence isn’t entirely true any more.]

Second, when interest rates are very low, corporate borrowers — who are supposed to be goaded into action by super low rates — are mindful that the Powers That Be feel the economy is lousy. It is a bad idea to incur debts and invest in infrastructure when the economy is lousy. What will the stockholders say? What cash they do have they will sit on until the moment is right [edit: leaving them in a position to, say, buy out a competitor who imprudently overspent]. After all, if the economy is lousy, they may well need the cash cushion. As for loans, they will wait for some kind of signal that things are improving — an increase in interest rates, maybe — before calling for cash.

Finally, the third leg of the economic table, Joe and Jane Average do not experience added liquidity. While the banks are more than happy to lend them money for concrete things like houses and cars, the banks are reluctant to lend them cash for things that have a lasting impact on the economy. They can’t get cash to start a business (or to help along their existing business) because it’s too risky — for the bank, that is.

Here we are, 5 years later. The Fed Funds Rate has been 0-0.25% for two years. That means banks are able to borrow essentially free money, and have been for two years! Mortgage rates did rise this week, after 12 weeks of declines and record lows, including the lowest rates since this data has been tracked. Under traditional economic theory, all kinds of growth should be stimulated!

So where’s the jobs that should be created by all this stimulation? Oh, right.

The truth is that monetary policy can’t fix what’s really wrong with our economy: banks and businesses we won’t admit are really failing; a workforce that can neither take advantage of job opportunities in other regions nor start small businesses because their houses have lost so much value as to leave them underwater; businesses that pay millions upon millions to executives and stockholders while paying as little as possible to laborers here, overseas, and/or illegal; tax and regulatory policies that encourage bad corporate behavior; a still-broken health insurance system that discourages hiring and will soon force all of us to pay tribute to profitable insurance companies; a failure to manufacture much of anything that somebody somewhere in the world would want.

But it gets worse. Those super low interest rates create one more problem for our economy. It punishes people who are trying to prudently save money for retirement, college, or just a rainy day. A side effect of this is that the Social Security Trust Fund is also getting low rates on their investments — which directly impacts the future of the system and gives future seniors a double-whammy even if they do everything “right.” Further, the low interest rates encourage people (and the government) to borrow money they might have a hard time paying back. While this might boost the economy in the short run, in the long run it’s just a longer bit of rope with which to hang.

Interest rates must rise. Bernanke must stop hiding the fact that some banks are already busted without effectively no-interest loans from the Fed. Institutions that are not solvent or are “too big to fail” must be broken up and turned into organizations that serve their customers. Investors must own up to the fact that their Mortgage Based Securities are worth no more than 70% of the face value and allow homes to be properly valued. Tax code must encourage corporations to spend money instead of hoarding it. And there must be incentives to hiring people here for decent wages, and better yet making something here that can be sold and exported. Let’s stop pretending we can build an economy on cheap credit and lattes.

In Closing: pants; T-shirts; it’s more intellectually honest than Megan’s Law; school reform hasn’t done much for learning; people with a prescription for painkillers might have painkillers in the house; and am I the only person with a tape measure in her bag?