Monday, March 20, 2006

I Owe, I Owe, It's Off To Work I Go...

We got our new Toyota Sienna last week (finally). It's beautiful and our garage has that new car (i.e., chemical) smell in the morning. It's amazing to see the differences in design eight years have made from our original Sienna. This one handles better, supposedly has better gas mileage despite having a bigger engine and a lot more cupholders and assorted gewgaws thrown in for our convenience. Of course, now we've got to start paying for the remaining two-thirds that the insurance didn't cover.

Youngest Blue is on Spring Break with the family of one of her school friends. She left Friday and won't be back until the end of this week. She's staying at a Marriott time-share community down in Orlando that we had to sit through a ninety minute (and more) sales pitch years ago in order to get free tickets to Universal's theme park. Nice place; we just didn't have the money all those years ago to fund our "vacation lifestyle" in the manner they wanted us to.

Speaking of vacations, we're thinking about going to Montreal this year. I've started looking at websites and books about the cultural center of French-speaking Quebec. When I was very young my parents took my brother and I up there one summer on vacation--there was a family they'd known shortly after their wedding who'd been nice to them, so we went to visit. I vaguely remember some things, mainly the cathedral, wooden slides at a playground and a very cold swimming pool. Maybe this trip, if we go, will be a bit more memorable.

Mrs. Blue and I talked this weekend about what we're going to do with all the pictures and memorabilia we (mostly I) have in the hopefully distant future. It's unlikely our daughters will want to inherit and lug stuff around from place to place in their futures, which begs the question of why take photos of vacations anyway, if they are just going to be tossed someday into the trash heap post-funeral? Some stuff is undeniably historical and will get donated to a deserving museum or university, but most of it is of people and places that my girls have no memory or interest in, except to see their old man when he had hair and their grandparents when they were young. A photograph does freeze a moment in time, but I suppose all moments in time must melt eventually into the liquid of the past.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Boiled Down

The current political debate (if you can really call it that) in this country has stagnated to the point that nothing is really being discussed.

On the one hand you have the Republicans who, because of Karl Rove, have both a great strength and a great weakness in their present style of distilling everything into a literal "Good/Bad" terminology. For example, Taxes BAD! Small Government GOOD! Abortion BAD! Iraq War GOOD! Gays BAD! Well, you get the idea. It's a strong technique because it simplifies the discussion for those folks out there who really don't want to think much about anything. It's also a great weakness because it has reduced the discussion to the lowest level, a level that doesn't allow any real expansion of thought or maturity in dealing with the very real problems this society faces.

Do I like paying taxes? No more than then next guy. But taxes pay for the military, for the infrastructure (roads, sewage systems, etc.) and services that we've all come to depend upon. Get rid of all taxes and yes, we'll all be the richer for it for a short time, then we'll be complaining about having to pay a patchwork of private companies to do all the things that local, State and Federal governments do now (of course, maybe that's the real goal--privatize EVERYTHING!). Abortion also isn't my preferred way of keeping down the population and preventing unwanted pregnancies, but to simply say that no woman should ever have the right to abort a pregnancy for any reason is unrealistic and will simply create the same back-alley trade that existed before Roe v. Wade. The Iraq War did get rid of a brutal dictator, but it also created a power vacuum in Iraq that has allowed the growth of sectarian violence that will probably lead to a civil war, the way things are going lately. And NO, giving gays some rights in society to common ownership of property, among other things, will not cause the traditional family structure to fall apart.

But our Big Elephant friends will usually call anyone saying anything different either a LIBERAL or will say someone dissenting from the party line a "coward" or a "traitor". Our country was built on vigorous and lively debate, both verbal and in print, and any attempt to stifle that kind of discussion is both foolish and short-sighted. Rove and his disciples (and believe me, even in local elections, his style is being used by Republican candidates) have only succeeded in keeping Republicans, particularly the moderates, from presenting common-sense approaches to problems that might be acceptable to all sides.

But again, has my party, the Democrats, got anything better to present? Not lately, given the level of rhetoric. As most commentators point out, who knows exactly what the Democrats stand for? It's simple; they don't, because they are really two or three parties disguised as one that no longer has a single direction. You've got the traditional Northern Liberals with their positions, the Southern Conservatives with their positions and then the slightly muddle-headed Moderates like me who'd love to have a seperate party to run to if there was a chance in hell that someone with any national reputation would lead it. Nope, until the Dems either kiss and make up and let new leadership move the Party in one direction or split up and let the various factions go their own way, nothing much will happen.

Somehow, someway, the debate has got to move from the Republican side of the board.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'd Give My Right Arm To Be Ambidextrous

It's Monday. No van yet

My brother-in-law (actually, Mrs. Blue's brother-in-law, since he's married to her sister; I guess that makes him my brother-in-law-in-law?) and I went to a local "pub" last week for a beer. He's back in town, working for a State agency as a lawyer after a private practice in the Orlando area, and living with the in-laws for a while before my sister-in-law and one of the nieces move back up here in the summer. He's been into beer quite a bit longer than I have and I can truthfully say that I've learned a lot about both the beer world and that of stronger spirits by having known him.

Anyway, this place is quite literally a hole in the wall. Apparently it shares business space with a used car lot (well, not exactly a lot, more like a postage-stamped sized parking lot in front of the pub, so there isn't a lot of parking for us patrons). You wouldn't be going there for the ambiance, as there is none to speak of, unless you call the odd mix of bar and used car parts ambiance. Most of it has been there for quite a while and not well maintained. But, it does have a huge selection of beers and ales, probably about as big as anyone in town and more than most. Anyway, we ended up having one of his favorites, Fuller's ESB, an English ale. It was quite good and had quite a bit more flavor than most of what Americans settle for in such things. One glass was quite enough for me.

I noticed that Ann Coulter was coming to speak to some campus organization at the local big university sometime soon. I've half a mind to go just to feel my blood pressure go up. She is one of those uber-cons (folks way to the right of the Neo-Cons) who are making money out of polarizing the political landscape with their intense hypocrisy. There was a big deal in South Florida a few weeks ago when they found out that she'd put her realtor's address on her voter's registration (which just happens to be in a different district than her house) and she ended up voting in a local election in the wrong district. Oddly enough, the Republican Election Supervisor for the area decided that Coulter didn't break the law, so he didn't file any complaint against her with law enforcement. I noticed our friends at FOX News didn't bother to pick up THAT little news item. So much for fair and balanced...

Yup, the Republicans are running scared these days, since George W. is a lame duck and very unpopular outside of the lunatic "base" of right-wing church goers and their well-paid preacher parasites. They are terrified of the November mid-term elections and fear that their stranglehold on the Congress might be lost. I'm not sure, however, that they should be afraid, since the Democrats apparently cannot punch their way out of a wet paper-bag these days. All they have any more is "Screamin'" Howard Dean, "Alky" Teddy Kennedy and "I'm Really a Conservative" Hiliary Clinton doing their talking for them and, believe me, even I'm not impressed. The Big Elephants have done such a good job of leaving the Donkeys punch drunk over the last few years that the Northern Liberal side and the Conservative Southerners cannot communicate any more and, therefore, cannot put out any kind of coherent message to the masses (who are apparently more scared of gay marraige and Arabs blowing up the local City Hall than they are of losing their basic constitutional rights, their dignity on an international scale and essential services that only a government can provide, so they've been siding with the Elephants).

Me? I just keep doing my job (and pretty well, lately), keep my head down and post the occasional anti-Republican jibe on the men's bathroom wall in our office. Someone's gotta let them know us Dems are still around...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Same-O, Same-O

I haven't posted for about a month; things are generally the same except for the fact that our beloved 1998 Toyota Sienna got totalled in a wreck with a 90-year old lady driving a Ford Focus wagon. Mrs. Blue got a little black-n-blue over it and littlest Blue got sorta-kinda traumatized by it (kept telling me over the telephone that "It wasn't that bad" and "We were able to pull over to the side of the road" when, in actuality, the van was literally pushed over into a culvert!).

My insurance company paid out roughly $9,000 for our pristeen eight-year old van, that had kept us safe to Washington D.C., Colorado and Chicago. We've got a new one on order, which should be quite nice, though I'm having to start paying for it a little bit ahead of schedule (of when I wanted to be paying for a new car). Well, at least about a third of it is already paid for.

The Legislature's in session and, of course, any consideration of guys like me getting a pay increase to make up for the lower-end guys getting bumped up a few years back is already DOA, according to the Speaker of the House (who managed to get HIS local boy a bump-up in budget outside of our Organization's pay plan, making him the 2nd-highest overbudgeted agency in the bunch). Politics as usual. Ain't America great?