Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 7/24/05 - 7/31/05

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Birdie, birdie in the sky...

Back when President Bush was Governor Bush, he was captured on video flipping the bird to a reporter in Texas. The picture to the left is a still from that video.

Last year, there were unconfirmed reports of President Bush flipping off protesters in Pennsylvania.

Last night on Jay Leno, Jay played a very interesting video of President Bush walking past a group of reporters. He gave them a special salute on the right.

So the question is: has this man totally lost his mind?

Interestingly enough, David Almacy from White House Communications actually called John Aravosis at Americablog to assure him that the President was actually giving a "thumbs up" sign regarding the CAFTA vote.


Then how come, during a White House briefing today, Scott McClellan was mum about the incident?

Q Scott, last night on the Tonight Show, Jay Leno, who apparently is subbing for Johnnie, displayed a video of the President at the Capitol yesterday. In that video, the President walking away from the press lifts his hand and raises a finger. Mr. Leno interpreted it as, shall we say, a finger of hostility. Each of our fingers has a special purpose and meaning in life. (Laughter.) Can you tell us what finger it was he held up?

MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I'm not even going to dignify that with much of a response. But if someone is misportraying something, that's unfortunate.

Q Well, it was not a finger of hostility?

MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I was there with him, and I'm just not going to -- I'm not going to dignify that with a response. I mean, I haven't seen the video that you're talking about, but I know the way the President acts. And if someone is misportraying it, that's unfortunate.

But Scott, I thought you guys said it was his thumb?

Yeah, sure, youbetcha...

No more War!!!! It's only a "struggle!"

Thank goodness the war is over!!!!
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, according to senior administration and military officials.

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the country's top military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror,"
which had been the catchphrase of choice.

Administration officials say the earlier phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."

He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremism, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."

Wow...Karl's troubles haven't kept him from his spin-meister duties, have they?

By the way, I LOVE the Daily Show's take on the whole thing last night.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Them's BEARS in that thar creek!!!!

There's no place like Alaska!

Urban Campbell Creek running brown with bears

"Lured by prosperous runs of salmon, bears prowl the dense brush on either side of the narrow creek, pounding down a dirt track. In a single day earlier this month, state wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott walked the creek from the east boundary of Far North Bicentennial Park, at the edge of the mountains, nearly to Lake Otis Parkway a few miles to the west, and he counted the paw prints of at least eight individual brown bears, including a sow with cubs."

I live in a nice Anchorage neighborhood across the street from the grade and middle schools and walking distance from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. It's also walking or biking distance from one of my favorite places for a picnic, Cambell Creek Park (the green square on E. 48th Ave). The red star on the map is where I live. The red arrow shows the creek and area they are talking about that is full of bears.

Cool, huh?

I've had three bear encounters in this state in the 21 years I've lived here - one of them was in Anchorage.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Musings of an Alaska Liberal

When describing myself politically, I tend to call myself an “Alaskan Liberal.” I use it to identify that I separate myself from many of my progressive counterparts on certain key issues.

1) I support fishing and hunting for subsistence reasons. I have several freezers full of salmon and halibut that Josh and I have caught this year. We happily accept donations of moose and caribou from our friends and family who go hunting in the autumn.

2) I oppose gun control that would seriously impact hunters. (But please don’t try to tell me that armor-piercing bullets, automatic weapons and plastic handguns are good hunting equipment.)

3) You can take my fur hat off of my cold, dead body. My PETA challenge: Come to Alaska! We will go winter camping in the Alaskan Interior. You will wear only your modern, state-of-the-art high-tech fibers (many of which are petroleum based, but I digress) and I will wear as much fur as I want. After 24 hours, I’ll be just fine and YOU, my PETA friend, will be crying for mercy. I worked in Prudhoe Bay far, far above the Arctic Circle for 2 years. Fur is the ONLY thing that will keep you warm in a cold climate over the long haul.

4) I support dog mushing. Groups like PETA contend that it is “cruel.” (Can you tell that I hate PETA?) I worked as a dog-handler when a friend ran the Iditarod 10 years ago. I regularly attend the start of the Iditarod. I also have several co-workers and good friends who are mushers. They are the most responsible dog-lovers I know, as is every musher I have ever met. Sled dogs are bred to run…they aren’t happy unless they are running and will whine unmercifully if they are not getting enough exercise. Dog mushers that do mistreat their dogs don’t win races and are shunned from the mushing community. Some of the cruelest folks I’ve seen are every-day pet-owners.

4) While I'm not a fan of the oil industry, I also can't abide the “OMG...don't hurt the bunnies!" psuedo-science. While I was in Prudhoe for 2 years, I was able to see a lot more of the area than just where I was working. (There aren’t many women up there so I occasionally got special privileges…don’t ask…) There are extensive, very rigid environmental and safety regulations in place specifically so that, when they leave, there will be little evidence left of the work that was done. (That’s why; by the way, most exploration for oil has occurred overseas in the last 20 years…it’s much cheaper when other countries cater to the oil companies and don’t bother to employ such regulations.)

However, off-shore drilling is another animal entirely. This brings me to the motivation for this post: President Bush is proposing to lift the moratorium on drilling in Bristol Bay.

Bristol Bay has the world’s largest red salmon fishery. It is located in the Bering Sea; home of the largest crab fishery in the world. Spills are relatively easy to control and contain for land-based drilling – not true for off-shore. The environmental impact of an off-shore oil spill is impossible to predict as it is tied to more than just quantity. Wind direction, tides etc…could make even a smaller spill devastating to the fishing industry. And let's not forget to mention that the area has some of the roughest seas in the world.

This is such a bad idea, the office of Republican Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, is stating that even in light of the President’s proposal, she is still against lifting the ban on drilling.

I’ve worked in the oil industry; I worked for Environmental Engineers for 6 years; I’ve worked in construction for longer. I am a reasonable person when it comes to development. The Bush Administration has gone beyond all reason.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why I love Canada!

The World Stupidity Awards were given out last week in Canada, and they had a beautiful opportunity to totally rip on the U.S.

They took the award themselves for The Dumbest Government of the Year! Now THAT'S a true friend and ally!

Some of the winners:

Stupidest Statement of the Year:
"They never stop thinking of ways to harm America. Neither do we." George W. Bush to a news conference

Paris Hilton double whammy:
Stupidest Woman of the Year,
Stupidest Show of the Year
("The Simple Life")

And my personal favorite...

Stupidest Man of the Year: Ann Coulter

Someone ask her when she's having the operation...

Climate change - it's not a "myth" above Latitude 55

While surfing through various blogs today, I discovered that Global Warming seems to be a popular topic this week – or should I say, the naive claim of Global Warming as a "myth."

The human mind’s ability to negate information that it doesn’t want to believe always fascinates me.

Some guy over at Art of the Blog even uses an article where the anti-global warming "expert" is an economist, not a climatologist, and the "proof" is a paper funded by the International Policy Network, an organization funded by Exxon:
Established in 2001, the North American branch of the UK-based International Policy Network works closely with groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and Competitive Enterprise Institute.

(The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute receive funding from Exxon. Funding for Competitive Enterprise Institute comes from a variety of oil sources, including Exxon.)

The guy over at a blog called The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler travelled in the way-back machine to trot out the tired old "Oregon Petition" from 1998 - information that has long been misrepresented and was long ago discredited, along with the wing-nut organization funding it, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. (Pay special attention to their "Nuclear War Survival Manual." While you're reading it, make sure you play the theme to the "Twilight Zone" in the background.)

I'd like to introduce you to NOAA's Paleoclimatology Site:

On it, you will find research from over 1,500 Climatology scientists all over the world. Their data is derived through the analysis of tree-rings, pollen, paleoceanic studies, etc... This analysis has given an excellent picture of the Earth's climate history as far back as 1,000 years.
Although each of the temperature reconstructions are different (due to differing calibration methods and data used), they all show some similar patterns of temperature change over the last several centuries. Most striking is the fact that each record reveals that the 20th century is the warmest of the entire record, and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.
To summarize from the "Final Word" page in the Global Warming section:
There were significant climate changes before humans were around and there will be non-human causes of climate change in the future.

Just the same, with each year, more and more climate scientists are coming to the conclusion that human activity is also causing the climate of the Earth to change. First on the list of likely human influences is greenhouse warming due to human-caused increases in atmospheric trace-gases. Other human activities are thought to drive climate as well. As this web document points out, there is no doubt that humans are causing the level of atmospheric trace-gases to increase dramatically -- the measurements match the predictions. There is also no doubt that these gases will contribute to global warming (since they warmed the Earth before humans). However, there is uncertainty about some issues. For example, these questions remain to be answered with complete confidence:

- How much warming has occurred due to anthropogenic increases in atmospheric trace-gas levels?

- How much warming will occur in the future?

- How fast will this warming take place?

- What other kinds of climatic change will be associated with future warming?

Paleoclimatology offers to help answer each of these questions. Several of the paleoclimate studies reported on in this web document (Briffa et al., Mann et al., Overpeck et al.) have begun efforts to attribute past climate change to both natural and human causes, and to use this information to estimate how much of the current warming is due to humans (i.e., greenhouse warming). The best estimate is that about 50% of the observed global warming is now due to greenhouse gas increases. Although this number will continue to be refined, it indicates that the climate modeling community is on target with their estimates that the earth may warm an additional 2 to 7 degrees F in the next century.

What future global warming means to society is beyond the scope of these www pages. However, the paper by Overpeck et al. also includes an analysis of what the unprecedented 20th century warming has meant so far to the Arctic environment. Because the warming already seems to be causing unprecedented changes in glaciers, permafrost, lakes, ecosystems and the oceans, it is likely that future changes will be even more dramatic as the warming continues.
Just a reminder: this is a government website under the Bush Administration stating that each year, it becomes apparent to more climatology scientists that the Earth's climate is being effected by HUMAN ACTIVITY.

There is NO QUESTION as to whether the Earth is in a warming trend. There is NO QUESTION that these changes will have significant impact on multiple ecosystems. There is NO QUESTION that human activity is effecting this change.

The ONLY question is "how much?"

I've lived in Alaska the last 21 years and have witnessed amazing changes in the weather in a comparatively short amount of time. While some of it can be viewed as pleasant on the surface, it could ultimately be devastating to our fragile ecosystem.

- We now have summers in South Central Alaska, all coastal communities, where the temperature is hitting in the mid to high 70s with greater frequency. This was unheard of 20 years ago.

- The increased heat is causing a phenomenon that we used to see in South Central Alaska maybe once every two years - thunderstorms. The unfortunate result of this is a jump in lightning-strike wildfires. Several years ago, when we were just starting to get more thunderstorms, there were a total of 20 lightning strike wildfires during the season. So far this summmer (and it's only half over), there have been close to 200.

- We are experiencing a decrease in permafrost, especially damaging for the Arctic.

- The oceans have warmed several degrees and it is no longer unheard of for salmon trawlers to end up with tuna in the nets. Warming sea water is a threat to a small organism called "krill," the only food source of the Humpback Whales that migrate up here every summer to feed.

- Glaciers are melting at a rapid rate, decreasing the salinity of the oceans near the poles.

- Pack ice is melting, which polar bears require to survive.

I am not claiming that the Kyoto Treaty would be a solution to any of these issues. Its vast economic impact could negate any gains. I'm also not claiming to have the solution. I just want folks to stop the "LA, LA, LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU" anytime the term "Global Warming" comes up - whether or not its happening is not in question.

What, if anything, can we do anything about it? THAT is the question.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Great Adventure West

As I think you all know, Kim and I have moved to Denver, CO. Kim earned a promotion to Tier 2.5 (beating out 48 other candidates apparently) and I’m making a lateral move, keeping the same pay and getting video training apparently. Needless to say, we had to pack up everything we own, including two cats, and move 2,000 miles.

First of all, I want to say that I don’t think we could have gotten nearly as much of our stuff packed and certainly not any anywhere near the time if we had not had a huge amount of help from both our families. My Mom and sister (my brother offered, but I insisted he work instead of call in), Kim’s Dad, Mom, Stepdad and brother all gave us an enormous amount of assistance in getting things loaded. Even though Budget “lied” about how much a 16’ truck could hold (2 bedrooms… I think not!), we were still able to pack nearly everything we owned up. By the time we had loaded everything, even the front seat of the Honda CRV was crammed full. As is, we ended up leaving both computer chairs and my computer desk due to lack of room. We scooped up the cats, had an all too brief emotional goodbye and hit the road.

We had originally planned on driving to my grandparents the first night, but between leaving after 3pm on Sunday and the exhaustion of loading the truck, we decided to instead spend the night in Tallahassee. Kim and I had discussed trying to see some of our friends there before we left, though after a shower we came to the conclusion that we wanted to spend more time with my family and we were entirely too tired to go out anywhere that night. Instead, we had a very enjoyable evening chatting with my family before we collapsed into bed before midnight. Both cats spent half the night hiding under my mom’s bed.

Despite every mapping program telling us that visiting Foley, AL was out of the way, Kim and I both felt they could take a long walk off of a short cliff; my grandparents have never been and never will be out of my way to visit. We stopped by and had a short visit with them. My grandparents treated us to lunch at this great restaurant called The Shrimp Basket where everyone but grandmom had delicious fried oysters (fried in cornbread) and she enjoyed the shrimp. After an all too brief visit, we rescued the cats from my grandparents’ guest bedroom and pressed on to try to get as many miles behind us as possible. We survived the “state road that never ends” thru Alabama and overcame poorly marked interstate signs in Mississippi to get as far as Forest, Mississippi the second night. The cats behaved well and were most happy to crash for the evening and surprisingly left us alone while exploring the hotel room.

Tuesday, day three of our journey, brought one expected and one unexpected change to our traveling routine. We had previously discussed the possibility of stopping in Little Rock and visiting a friend there. Fortunately nothing was set in stone and she’d stressed that it was okay with her if we needed to simply drive thru, which is what we had to do since we were running somewhat behind on our time schedule. This was also the day that our trailer started acting up. Partly wind and mainly road, I found that we had to drive no faster than 60 mph and frequently slower or we would get too much sway out of the trailer. Once it starts to rock, the only thing you can do is slow down and hold the vehicle as straight as possible until it gets back under control. It was somewhat unnerving but manageable experience thru Arkansas. This was also the first state we went thru that had some lovely scenery; unfortunately for us we found it right as sundown so it was just a brief glimpse. We spent the night in Oklahoma, where our cell phone met an untimely demise. Kim got out of the Budget truck to rent the room and didn’t realize the phone fell out when she got out. When she motioned for me to pull around the phone got smashed so we ended up having to pick up a pay as you go phone the next day.

Oklahoma, demon state. If we never go back to Oklahoma again, it will be too soon. The roads there are so rough that I thought they’d shipped up road workers from Louisiana to pave the interstate; at least Louisiana has the excuse of being below sea level and doing the best they can. I’d estimate that about 1/10th of the interstate were under construction, resulting in us having to drive in a single lane, usually uneven, for 10 to 20 miles at a stretch. There were patches of good interstate, but at least half of what was not under construction was so bumpy that we were experiencing much more sway on the trailer. The winds were whipping bad enough that the truck rocked some even while parked. When it was all said and done, I had driven over halfway thru Oklahoma at no faster than 50 mph due to driving and weather conditions. Kansas was a welcome sight indeed.

Kansas is nearly exactly what everyone thinks it is, except that it has hills and is not completely flat. There is a gas station company called Sinclair that seems to be throughout Kansas that uses a dinosaur for their emblem. While you’d think it would infer to fossil fuels, I personally feel that it has more to do with their business plan of driving themselves to extinction. Sinclair stations apparently close shop at 5pm, since of course no one in the towns they are located in or driving along the interstate would ever need gas after 5pm. Oddly enough, in one of the towns we stopped and tried to get gas, the Auto Parts store was open and the gas station was locked up. Fortunately I considered a ¼ tank time to fill up so we were able to get gas. We also got our last major surprise in Mingo, Kansas, where we got a flat tire that I fortunately noticed right after sunset. Mingo had an unmanned gas station with a credit card reader, four pumps and a shack with a way too small fire extinguisher and a pay phone. While I was annoyed that Budget gave us a trailer with tires too threadbare for the trip, but they had someone out to replace the tire and the one next to it that looked ready to go within 45 minutes.

We had people scheduled to help us unload the truck on Thursday at noon, so we pressed on thru Kansas and into Colorado. There are not the major switchbacks you’d think there would be to get into the mountains, just a constant gradual climb. I’d planned on trying to find a place to stay for the night about 50 miles outside of Denver but we were not able to find a place that both had room and accepted cats until after we got into Denver proper. The cats were very restless at this point and telling us all about how unhappy they were; not that we were happy to still be driving at 4am EST either. We finally found a dive and crashed for the night.

I must say that the movers who helped us unload on Thursday were worth every penny we paid them. Kim and I were helping them initially, but we quickly ran out of steam. They were not kidding when they said breathing was more difficult here, though you usually don’t notice it until you attempt something strenuous. You tend to get out of breath faster, and can get altitude headaches and even lightheadedness. We Florida natives can even be cheap drunks without the alcohol at times. Luckily we had help getting everything unpacked, otherwise I think it would have taken us a full day to unload I’m sure.

For a sight unseen apartment, Kim choose a great place. It only costs $15 more a month than we were paying before, but the house itself is roomier for the most part (guest bathroom and kitchen are smaller). We have a scenic view from our back porch of 2 different small manmade ponds with fountains, a nice community area and a fitness center on site. Each apartment building has its own laundry facility too, making up for the fact they have no rooms with laundry hookup. Right across the street we have a host of restaurants, including Chinese (2, one of them kosher), Italian, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, a sports bar and others. We also have 2 movie theatres within easy walking distance; one is a first run while the other is a $1.25 second run. I’m just shy of 2 miles from work and it looks like a nice relaxing walk. The neighbors are very nice, with James in particular was most helpful in giving us directions and telling us all about Denver. We even have a Wal-mart (with a parking garage no less) within a mile and a half from us.

I have to admit that I’m very happy with Denver. The people are nice, the city is beautiful and the humidity nonexistent. While I most certainly will miss friends and family, this does seem like a great city to work on expanding both Kim’s career and mine. We’ll be starting classes again at University of Phoenix in about a month or two, giving us some time to become accustomed to our new surroundings. I must say that I think we’ll definitely like it here.


"Blue" Job Opportunities in Alaska

From Alaskademocrat.org:
ANCHORAGE -- As part of Democratic National Committee’s (DNC’s) fifty-state strategy to revitalize the Democratic Party, Chairman Howard Dean has selected Alaska as one of the first states to receive funding that will triple the paid state party staff.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity and a vote of confidence for the Alaska Democratic Party,” said Jake Metcalfe, ADP State Chair. “Governor Dean has put his money where his mouth is – this is the first time in the history of the state party that the DNC has contributed to our operating budget.”
Before everyone gets TOO excited picturing scores of new jobs, the Democrats presently employ one (1) full-time employee. Doing the math, that means the staff will increase to three.

I guess "hiring two more employees" doesn't sound quite as good as having "triple the staff." No matter, it's definitely a step in the right direction!

UPDATED: Curse you, Evelyn Wood! (Harry Potter Book 6 Discussion)

-July 24 Update-

Since the discussion is still going on, I decided to move this up to the top.

Have at it!

OK, I never took her speed-reading course but reading fast has always come naturally to me.

I finished "Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince" about 1/2 hour ago...in about 5 - 6 hours of total reading time. NOW I must wait TWO MORE FRIGGIN' YEARS for the next one!

I won't print any spoilers in the main body of this post. However, I'd like to have a good discussion in comments about the book. I really liked it - though "The Goblet of Fire" is still my favorite. It also looks like some of my suspicions may turn out to be correct in the end, based on the events in the book!

What did everyone think? What or who will turn out to either aid or hinder Harry? What do you think is coming at the end? Who do you think we'll be the new...Oh wait, that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it? *grin*

Anyway, let me know what ya'll think!