About Me

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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Friday, April 29, 2011

This "Birther" Business

I'm following this bullshit via the New York times and many of my Facebook friends. Now President Obama has felt compelled to post his birth certificate online so the world will know that being born in Hawaii makes you an American citizen.

Still, the howling mob of idiots scream "Fake! Fake! Fake!"

And I'm wondering just what is really going on here. No one can seriously doubt that Barack Obama is a natural born Amurikan. This goes deeper. Almost beyond race. But not quite.

Then it came to me in the night. "Our" world is passing away. What do I mean by "Our" world. I'm a 61 year old white guy. From my earliest years I was taught the history of the world through Caucasian eyes. Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, George Armstrong Custer, Teddy Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, George Patton, John Glenn. All white. Mostly men. No doubt, like you, that was my frame of reference.

For almost all of American history our story has been dominated by white folks. Oh sure, there were the likes of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, even Muhammad Ali. But they fit into the story because they were "homegrown" so to speak.

But now the story is shifting. It's been shifting for some time, but the rise to the White House of a black man has brought it into sharper focus, especially since he is the son of a non-US-born father. That's key.

For years we've known the fastest growing minority in the US is among Spanish speaking people. There's that whole movement to have English declared the "official language" of the United States. Bet you find a lot of Birthers are involved in that.
You can declare all you want. People are still going to speak what they're comfortable with.

The east and west coasts teem with people of Asian descent. Pockets of various ethnicities exist in what seem like the most unlikely places. Somalis in New Marshfield, Ohio? Who'd a thunk it in 1968?

We always like to claim America is a melting pot. But that seems to work only if the ingredients come from Europe. If you're from east of Istanbul or south of Cairo the welcome mat isn't always so welcoming.

Doesn't matter. People are still drawn to America because our economic, social and political potential is still the best in the world. We are inexorably linked to the world outside our borders. And the world is linked to "us."

The sooner we quit thinking about "Them" and "Us" the better off we'll all be. It's ALL US! The face of America is changing every day. The America of 2111 is going to look a WHOLE lot different than the America of 2011. Get used to it. Better yet, embrace it. We are a better people and a better country when we realize this.

The Birthers don't get this. Probably they'll never get it. They'll be swept away by history.

Good riddance!

Friday, April 15, 2011

World’s Oldest Man Dies at 114

Walter Breuning of Great Falls, Montana was the world's oldest man. Not person. Apparently there's a woman in Georgia who is 26 days older. But Walt passed on a couple days ago. In a recent interview he laid out some some interesting advice for living a long life:

Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.

"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.

And so it came to Walter Breuning. All in all he sounded pretty Buddhist.

We could do worse...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wishing Good Fortune to Purple Heaven Temple

Some pilgrims from Taiwan laid out this message today. I took the picture from a terrace above the courtyard so it's actually upside down. Odds are you can't read the Chinese characters anyway. After almost eight months here I recognize maybe five characters...out of the three thousand (or is it six thousand?) total.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hooray! Hooray! The Federal Budget has passed!

This bit of political theatre only served to remind me that "We the people..." are totally irrelevant to the whole process. It was just a show. Not even a good one.

It's a sorry example of American life.

The 2010 Federal budget was $3,456,000,000 so we can assume the new one is in that neighborhood. The talking heads are saying they cut $38 billion. So basically they cut one percent.

A pox on all their houses!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Climate Change and "Experts" Who Deny it's Existence

"It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

OK I cribbed this from a NYTimes Paul Krugman Op-Ed. But it pretty much nails it.

Of ebooks, China, and the internet

Oh how I love living in the 21st century! In the brief hiatus between Peace Corps and coming to China I got myself an ebook. Amazon's Kindle seems to be the most popular model, but I had to order it via mail. Maybe after two years in Botswana I was untrusting of postal services in general, but I never got around to placing the order. Instead, while visiting my buddy Mark in Toledo, I picked up a couple Barnes & Noble "nooks" at a local store. Mark, nice guy that he is, even bought me covers to protect them.

And I must say they are fantastic. Purchasing books was never so easy! But it turns out B&N will only allow online purchases from a computer located in the United States. This was a problem since I was on my way to China for a year.

A Barnes & Noble rep in New York suggested I get a Virtual Private Network or VPN. A VPN, through the magic of the interweb, allows your computer to "appear" to be in the continental US. My VPN runs around $80 a year and makes my laptop appear to be in Oakland, California. Ergo I now have 90+ books on my nook and never have to leave behind favorites in my travels because my backpack is too full and I'm over the 20 kilogram airline weight limit for checked bags.

Many people say they prefer an actual book, that they like the feel of the pages, etc. Fair point. I do too. But ebooks are the wave of the future for those who still read. In fact I predict young folks will be more inclined to read on these gadgets. Time will tell. Fact is the growing sales of ebooks (now an official category on the New york Times best seller lists) bodes well for the technology.

It turns out there is another advantage to a VPN. It is a well known fact the government of China blocks such internet sites as facebook, Youtube and many blogs (doubt if they've picked up on this one). Of the 500 million registered facebook users in the world only something like 14,000 are in the People's Republic of China. that's an incredible number considering China has 1.4 billion people. Yet I have many friends here in-country, foreigners and Chinese alike who regularly post on facebook and Youtube. The reason? VPNs and other software that allows this.

Except for dissidents and some attempts at protests against government policies, the Chinese rulers seem to take a fairly light-handed approach to life online. It's true they employ official hackers to try to counter the potential deleterious effects of the web against them. But I suspect ultimately it will be to no avail. Regular citizens can read about the 1989 Tienanmen uprising and arrests, beatings and jailings of well-known dissidents, including Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. The lid is off this Pandora's box and it will be very difficult to put it back on.

This is a big country with a LOT of people. Much of it still rural and still developing. The critical mass for political change may still be decades off. Or it may not. Six months ago who saw the uprisings in the Arab world coming? No one. Not even them.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Why Is It...?

If someone is against gun control, is for increased defense spending and thinks Ronald Reagan was a great president you can bet money they think man-made global warming is bullshit.

But if they are for same-sex marriage, increased spending on education and thinks George Bush was a tool of Dick Cheney you can wager that same bet they think man-made global warming is real.

None of the mentioned beliefs have anything to do with global warming. I wonder what that says about us.