A New Lowe 
I went to Lowe's this morning and, lo and behold, they had Christmas stuff out for sale. Of course, it was really holiday merchandise since the big-box retailers, to quote myself, "like to profit from Christmas, but can't bring themselves to say 'Christmas' in their advertising." I detest the blatant commercialism of Christmas; especially when hidden under the guise of "holidays".

Maybe what every American should do this season is send an email or note to all his or her friends and relatives saying that instead of gifts this year, let's pick a worthy charity and make a donation instead. I am really tempted to do that and have been for years. Of course, I do donate to charity already but a few dollars more to a worthy cause is never a bad thing.

Why is Christmas on my mind so early anyway?

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Quick Thought 
Anyone else notice that as the terms "tolerance" and "diversity" become more common, especially in our schools, the word "Christmas" becomes less common? Heck, who am I kidding, the word "Christmas" is gone from our schools and colleges.

Yes, I know it's September but it was just something on my mind.

As I've said before, America has an unnatural aversion to the word "Christmas."


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Good Column 
...in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Jack Kelly.

From the article, a quote from a Democrat Senator:
No one wants to call (Petraeus) a liar on national TV. The expectation is that outside groups will do this for us.

True colors show through. Leading Democrats are unable to believe anything a four-star general whose decorations on his chest are the size of a tablecloth says about the job he's doing. He knows more about Iraq than any liberal blogger, Congressman, or journalist out there, guaranteed.


Quote from Kelly:
Opening statements at congressional hearings remind us that the egos of our lawmakers often exceed their IQs.

So true; Reid, Schumer, and Lantos have proven they have sub-prime IQ's. They are incapable of being able to deduce that America can do things right and unable to realize that what's bad for Bush can also be bad for America. This is akin to a miscreant child wishing something bad would happen to his parents but not being able to understand the effects of such action.

I cannot, and neither can almost all of the American people, know how accurate Petraeus' report is. However, I will believe a fellow American, especially one who is a distinguished and accomplished professional in his field, who says he's presenting a true and honest report long before I believe any opinion by any members of congress who are openly rooting for special interest groups to call such a distinguished and honorable man a liar.



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WTC  
I have been to the World Trade Center twice in my life. The first time was rainy day in the spring of 1982. The roof viewing platform was closed so we had to settle for the top floor. The second time was on December 26, 2001. Here are two emails fused together that I sent out that day almost immediately after getting home. Having a copy of Time's Person of Year issue would be handy.

____________begin

I just got back from NYC where Pilzer and I had a personal tour of the World Trade Center site. Pilzer's boss, Chris Hillmann, (whose company has been doing work there since September (hillmanngroup.com) took us to the 21st floor of One World Financial Center (not open to the public), which is mostly vacant and somewhat repaired now. Apparently some of the floors like 23 and higher are ready for business again but no one has moved back in yet. Chris said that thousands and thousands of windows in all the nearby buildings were blown out. 1WFC is right next to where the south tower was once located. We looked down into the pit where the cleanup was. All the buildings around had some damage and many were still vacant. It was incredible to see. What was once a hub of business activity was now all vacant and damaged buildings. Outside, we were inside the restricted perimeter but not where the actual digging was being done. We walked over to Moran's (moransnyc.com) for lunch past all the people who were looking at it from ground level a hundred yards away. We saw it from twenty-one stories up and right on top of it. Out of respect I didn't take a camera even though I had a much better view than those with video cameras who were outside past the barricades.

If you look at this week's Time (Person of the Year issue)...

1. The picture of the shirts in the Brooks Brothers store - the store is east of the pit and 1WFC (building I was in) is SW of the pit. I was a little closer (but much higher up) to the scene than the store is.

2. The picture with Kofi Annan (orange crane behind them) and Giuliani is right in front of 1WFC. I viewed the site from the 21st floor of that building. If it appears the building isn't that tall it's because there is a roof on the 10th floor and then the building cuts in a little. We could not gain access to 10th floor roof. The walkway (not in picture) I will talk about is directly behind Giuliani.

3. From 1WFC there is a walkway that used to connect to another building (the hotel that collapsed? - I'm not sure) Now it stands just barely connected to 1WFC. Anyway, the walkway is still standing, which is really amazing. We walked through that and could get a good look from there too. The walkway was probably less than 75 feet from the ground and right on top of where the equipment begins for the pit workers as well as closer with a less obstructed view than the VIP viewing platform.

____________end

Another thing I remember from that day was watching fireman retrieve some remains. There was some activity and Chris said that looks like they found something. Sure enough, in the next day's NY Daily News (or Post) there was a picture of the activity I saw. More remains were found.

I also remember being able to see damage from New Jersey before we even got on the ferry. There was a building with visible damage of a lobby atrium.

Now that I think about it, I am surprised we were allowed on the walkway. It was really damaged and we could only go part way as rubble blocked the rest of it.

Also, I could still see the steel from the parking decks below the towers and I remember seeing a large (several feet in diameter) pipe or two that no longer connected to anything and just left a big round hole at the box wall of the pit.

It was just eerie to look at the Manhattan skyline from New Jersey that day and just stunning to really see what happened up close.


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An Invention I'd like to see 
With video cameras pervading our society and, more often than not, these cameras aren't deterring crime but rather functioning as a means to spy on average people, I would like to see someone invent a product that would obscure one's face, or whole body, when being videotaped.

I envision a small ring or necklace, nothing that can be implanted, of course, that would transmit a signal around a person and the signal would distort the live and recorded image. I have seen that there are products that search for video cameras in a small area but this product would work seamlessly and give the recording nothing but garble or static where your body appears in the video and on the monitor. Also, it would be important not to effect the human eye when in the physical presence of others.

The same inventor could also develop a countermeasure that can be sold to PRIVATE entities that detects when the device is on and denies entry to someone wearing it who is entering a bank or convenience store or other private business.

Now that I think about, distorting the whole body would be a nice feature as the technology is being developed that can identify people by their gait. So, perhaps two models can be made; one for Just blocking the face which would defeat facial recognition systems and then the deluxe edition that blurs the whole body and should defeat both facial and gait recognition.

I wish I would have studied how this kind of stuff works when I was in school so I could develop this product on my own. All I have to offer is an idea with no training or skill to engineer one.



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I know a guy who knows a guy 
...who is the subject of this story. When I first saw it come down Slashdot's RSS feed, I gave it a casual read at the time. Slashdot's stories are usually interesting but I find that most of the time the comments that people post turn into a bash Bush and bash America fest. Constructive criticism posted by mature minds is sometimes found in the comments but the kiddies at Slashdot usually drown those out.

Anyway, that's enough Slashdot bashing. After all, I don't have to read it, much like if someone doesn't like Fox News, they don't have to watch it. Anyway, it turns out a friend of mine is an acquaintance of Michael. You can follow Michael's commentary on the progress at his blog.

I have long been critical of police because they seem to be taking the path of least resistance. They target the easy catch - like using night vision goggles to enforce seat belt usage or set up 'safety checkpoints' to do this; so instead of fighting crime, they camp out on a busy road and harass granny. In Micheal's case it's the same thing. Instead of telling Micheal to beat it and that he has real crime to fight, the officer decided to use his training and the powers granted to him, to arrest a man who did nothing wrong. That blanket CYA "obstructing official business" sounds like a vague charge that can be used to justify arresting anyone the officer sees fit; anyone, that is, who isn't doing anything illegal.

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Muck the Fets 
Before this week's series versus the Mets, I was ready to write the Phillies off as contenders in the NL East but I thought I'd wait until the series with the Mets was complete. Last year, I had them written of by the end of July but optimism this year got the best of me so I figured I'd wait.

Surprisingly, they swept the Mets! There's still hope! I enjoy September baseball so hopefully the Phillies will stay in this race and, gasp, maybe even make the playoffs. Go Phils Go!

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Worst Congress, ever! 
The latest Gallup Poll puts Congress at the lowest approval rating since Gallup began polling such opinions. After years of bleating and panting and reminding us with trumpets blaring and horns-a-blowin' how low President Bush's approval rating has been, the MSM doesn't seem so quick to point this one out. The poll shows Congress's approval rating is at 18% whereas Dubya's is a whopping 32%. Yes, 32 is nothing to brag about - unless you're comparing it to 18.

Is this the worst Congress ever? Maybe not, but give them time and if the media gave more press to the miscreants of Democratic leaders like Harry Reid or Dianne Feinstein, it would be a slam-dunk. Instead, the MSM memory hole filter traps as much negative news it can about the misdeeds of Democrats but even that filter can't stop the volume of this flow.

Of course, how much faith can we put in polls? Democrats were quite befuddled in 2004 when many polls, especially the exit polls, showed John Kerry leading Bush but when the votes were tallied, the people were reminded that polls are not a science.

Polls aren't news unless, of course, they show John Kerry leading or they show how disapproving the people are of Dubya.


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New Records 
There doesn't seem to be a lot of press about this but I have found at least two areas where the high temperature yesterday was the lowest on record for August:

New York City: 59
Allentown, PA: 61

I find it hard to believe that only two cities hit records.

Allentown's was a new low and New York's tied a new low.

State College, PA reported a high of 60 which ranked 112 out of 112 for lowest high temperature for the date.

Before the front moved east, St. Cloud, MN, set the lowest high of 59 for August 18.

Sacramento hit a new low high on August 5 and 6 (74). [Link]


Brrrr.


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20 
Well it's finally here, my 20 year high school reunion is this weekend and it's a three-day whoopdeedoo with a Friday happy hour, Saturday golf outing, school tour, and sit-down dinner at the hotel, and then a Sunday family picnic.

Many consider this our first official reunion, too. We supposedly had a five year but it was very small and I, along with others I have spoken with, didn't hear about the five year until after it happened. There must not have been a real effort to get the word out. After all, five years out and most of the class would have probably still been living at home and certainly a large percentage (I would say >95%) the parents would have still been the same address, or, at most, a graduate might have moved once or twice. It's pretty easy to locate people after five years of little contact than it is after 20. But, that's in the past and the important thing is that we are having a big event to commemorate this milestone. I also helped plan this thing and my biggest contributions were helping to locate people (through phone calls and emails and gleaning the yearbook; 141 graduates' parents were still at the same address) and procuring, through a family connection, a good part of the food for the picnic. Many other people helped find people too and collectively we found about 75% of the class. Considering we had 451 graduates, that's pretty good and about 20% of the located are coming to the sit-down dinner. It will be a lot of fun catching up with old friends and seeing the hard work of all who contributed in the planning pay off in the form of a good time for everybody.

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Yes, we have no bananas 
...but I am up to my ears in tomatoes! I planted 12 tomato plants in May and you can't believe the yield! Each of the last three days I have picked at least 40 tomatoes. I've been busy making salsa, spaghetti sauce, and giving them away. All told, I have probably picked at least 250 since they began bearing fruit and that's 250 edible ones. As always, some, although red, were no good.

I've never had so many tomatoes before and I have planted 12 plants several times. I moved the garden to a sunnier spot last year but many tomatoes suffered from blossom-end rot; I estimate I tossed out about 40% of the tomatoes I had. This year, I am throwing out much less, probably fewer than 10%. To say I've found the right spot for the garden is an understatement and there's still a lot of red out there!



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Unwrapped 
Well, I knew this was inevitable, this morning I took the winterizing plastic off the main air conditioner in our house. By the way, it was here when we moved in; I take pride in the fact that I've never purchased an air conditioner. We've been using a small room air conditioner (free) for the twins' room but the rest of the house had not been subject to air conditioning. I hold out as long as I can because I do not like air conditioning. Once it was on, I made sure to spend the day outside on our screened-in, non-A/C porch. 92 degrees, no problem, that's just barely the low-end of hot.

And, no, I don't use it in my truck either. It's been broken for five years and what irks me is that I'll have to fix the A/C in order to sell the vehicle. At one time I thought that A/C in cars was the worst feature ever but it was bumped to number two when some brain-dead marketing executive (excuse the redundancy) decided to put DVD players in them.

It used to be that people only used A/C when it got hot. Nowadays, it seems like people have lowered what 'hot' is from say, 90 to 80 and, thus, the A/C runs every day from mid-June to early September.

Cutting back on our A/C usage would be an easy way for everyone to chip in and reduce our energy consumption. I wonder why no one ever proposes this? I'll admit I do it for personal reasons but what about all the blowhards out there who are always lecturing us on our habits and yet never change their own? Brian: 1, loudmouth hypocrite: 0.



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