Tuesday, October 21, 2008

two weeks and counting

Two weeks and counting. That’s all we have left to endure in this current presidential campaign. It’s highly likely that those citizens who intend to vote have made up their minds and are not going to be swayed from their choice, barring some unforeseen catastrophic blunder by one of the candidates.

For some reason I have confidence that this time we will make the right choice. After all, we have just barely survived eight years of stumbling, bumbling bumpkin in the White House, so anyone other than another Mortimer Snerd would be an improvement. The biggest question then becomes, do we want a real change in the office of the President or do we want a return to the status quo of current policies?
The so-called “leadership” we have experienced under the Republicans for the past few years has shown itself to be largely ineffective and even dangerous to our national health. We can’t keep swallowing the same pill that’s proved ineffective and expect to get better.

On one side we have an elderly curmudgean hothead who insults us by choosing as his running mate the lowest common denominator among a plethora of more worthy and reasonable choices. (Perhaps if you try to put lipstick on a pig, you still have a pig. And if you put lipstick on a pitbull, you still have a vice-presidential candidate.) A candidate whose military background makes him see that avenue as the first choice in handling a crisis. A candidate who sees our military commitment to an illegal war as never ending. A candidate who thinks market forces will straighten out the economy when market forces are what got us into this mess in the first place. A candidate who wants to make sure that Big Business gets lots more tax breaks and incentives to continue its rape of the economy. A candidate who would give us a lousy $5,000 to buy health insurance when the actual cost of that health insurance is likely to be 3 times that much, and then has the audacity to tax us on that 5 grand gift. A candidate who likes to emphasize his honor and integrity and patriotism and then runs a campaign that blurs that honor by offering endless slurs and mud slinging to try to keep the focus off of his inability to address the issues. Honorable? Not hardly. Presidential? Not likely.

On the other side we have a candidate who really does bring something new to the forum. An unashamed intelligence and calm demeanor and studied approach to the problems we face are all attributes that I find refreshing and desirable in my president. While he has been characterized as elitist for that intelligence, isn’t it refreshing after 8 years of excrutiating intellectual mediocrity to know that we have a chance to try a different path? Isn’t it refreshing to have a candidate who really wants to change the status quo and has the viable plans to do so. This candidate had the good sense to choose a running mate who is in fact qualified to step up to the presidency if that should be necessary. He has a workable plan to fix the health care crisis in this country. He has a solid plan to extricate us from the mired down war in Iraq. He has a first reaction that emphasizes diplomacy over guns in foreign relations. He has an economic plan that will reward businesses that stay here and hire American workers instead of chasing after the cheap and exploited labor overseas. He has the common decency to not participate in the negative campaigning of his opponent. All these qualities and proposed solutions to our problems point to a candidate that has the makings of a truly fine President. Honor and integrity? Certainly. Presidential? Absolutely.

I don’t need to name these two candidates. You know who they are. Whether you agree or disagree with my characterizations of them, be sure to make your voice heard when the day comes to cast your vote.

Friday, October 17, 2008

trying times

I certainly don’t have any answers. Hell, I’m not even sure what the questions are. All I know is that the economy is good for crap and that I have lost a shitload (that’s one of those technical terms that economists use) of money from my retirement account. Somebody, no one knows who for sure, is selling stocks but no one else is buying them. Or something like that. And those nasty greedy bankers forced a lot of people to borrow more money than they could afford to buy houses they couldn’t afford and now everyone is in foreclosure and nearing bankruptcy. Big, presumed solid, businesses that were run by experts that we depended on to keep those businesses solvent turned out to be idiots who were simply lining their own pockets at our expense. And now we are expected to drag them out of the deep hole they have dug themselves into using tax money that most of us can’t afford to pay because those greedy bastards squandered our savings in their pyramid schemes of predatory mortgages and ill-advised investments.. It seems that anyway you look at it, we, the careful investors and savers and living-within-our-means average guys are getting screwed.

Apparently nobody was watching the bankers as they hung themselves by their fancy silk ties. That’s what the lack of government regulation and oversight will do. Thank you very much, Republicans. When left to their own devices, most bigtime CEOs and their toadies will opt for more and more profit regardless of how they acquire it. Take a bunch of dollar bills and stand them on edge leaning against each other and you will have a more solid foundation on which to build your future than those greedy manipulative assholes in their thousand dollar suits could provide. So now we are faced with a multi-billion dollar bailout scheme that is headed for nationalization of the banking industry. And, since our country can’t afford to save those morons from themselves and propagate a war that drains billions of dollars a month from our budget and meet the obligations of medicare and social security and invest in the infrastructure that is crumbling around us and provide health care for everyone and provide educational opportunities that will help keep us in the vanguard of world wide research and development and find new sources of energy that will free us from the dependence on foreign oil, we are forced by the world economy to borrow more and more money from the Chinese to meet all those obligations. Start brushing up on your Mandarin and get used to a diet of rice and chop suey because the way things are going we are all going to be wearing cone shaped hats before the dust settles.

And, oh yeah, there’s this little thing of a presidential election coming up in a couple weeks. Don’t get me started…

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the intrepid wandering vet

My daughter, Carrie, is again on the loose, wandering the world. She is a veterinarian involved in some research dealing with anthrax which takes her to Namibia, Africa where she chases Zebras and darts them and takes their blood samples and does lab type things with it. Just getting to Namibia from Berkeley (where she is pursuing a Phd) is an adventure. This trip she had to stop in London first to get accreditation to practice as a vet in Namibia. I'm not sure what the British have do do with veterinary accreditation in Africa (maybe it goes back to the days of the Empire and its contol of that part of the world), but she made the trip to Namibia through London this time. I thought I could share with you her emails while on her latest adventure:

I'm here in London now. Which sounds very exciting, but really I'm just sitting in a hotel room with a view of the arse end of the airport, wondering how in the world I will afford to eat here when one US dollar is worth two raisins and a button.

My flight was rather dull. They didn't feed us until about 9:30PM, by which point I had eaten the fat man next to me. He gave me indigestion. Then they brought round a plate that consisted of a lettuce salad (apparently even green, watery tomatoes cost too much now), beef fat, and water potatoes (a new species of tuber that mashes up into a runny paste). My "breakfast" consisted of a few pieces of tree bark and an oleo sandwich. Thank goodness I brought along some instant oatmeal.

I got slapped with huge baggage fees in SFO - about $127 for one extra bag (other people's lab supplies) and a too-heavy bag (also full of lab supplies - the London bus driver asked me if I didn't have a stow-away in there). I can't wait until I check them in again tomorrow and they charge me in Brit dollars.

I'm going to go figure out where the gym is in this hotel monstrosity - it's a very nice place, and my room is great, but so far they've charged me for almost everything extra they can think of (though the gym is supposed to be the one free thing). They've got everything rigged in the room so if you touch a button, open the minibar, or change the channel, you accrue fees. I'm loathe to turn on the hot water tap for fear I'll be charged per cup. Or per stone, or per fortnight, or per king's ransom on the hoptoad.

I'm told by the telly that I might see a wee bit of sunshine tomorrow if I'm lucky, otherwise it will be gusty and damp and will make me talk in a silly accent. I will try to email again tomorrow, but I have to check out early so I can get to my appointment with the queen in the morning (alright, it's not with the queen). My flight leaves at 8:25PM tomorrow, so I will wander about a bit in the rain and then eventually head to the airport, where I may or may not purchase internets for the equivalent of a week's worth of groceries in Oakland.

love, carrie

Here is the followup email now that she is finally in South Africa getting set for othe next step that will take her to Windhoek, Namibia and then on to Etosha, Namibia, and the research center that will be her home for the next six weeks:

Hi all! I made it here to South Africa, and now it's onto Windhoek soon, where Kelvin (Wendy's Namibian Afrikaaner boyfriend) will pick me up (or so he says - otherwise he tells me I will have to wander down the highway, showing a bit of leg). London was great fun yesterday - I managed to bus, tube, and walk to the RCVS alright (other than the crazy mish mosh of streets - I got quite lost on foot - London is pretty easy to get around). I got all sworn in as an MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons), and got a nice certificate (looks like a diploma) and everything. As long as I keep paying my dues I get to continue being an MRCVS. And now I get to call myself that as well (see signature below). I feel very official and important now. And then afterward I wandered around the Westminster area for about 3.5 hours - got some food, wandered through some parks and by the Thames, hobnobbed with some royals, etc. It was a little rainy, but pretty warm out, which was nice with all the leaves crunching underfoot. Then I made it back to the hotel (it does seem to take a long time to get around there - it took me about an hour and a half to go about 15 miles). I made friends with the concierge, who let me store my bags, repack them, and even take a last minute shower in the hotel's fitness center even though I had been checked out for hours. He also had helped me out that morning, alerting me to the free bus that goes to and from the airport (if you don't have bags), so I got to save 8 pounds there round trip. And then on my way to the airport I made friends with a South African who helped me load and unload my bags from the bus (no small feat, given the number and size of them). And at the airport I made friends with the desk clerk who gave me a discount on the exra bag fee (it was still another $125 or so!). I'm apparently just a very friendly person.

Now I'm in the Joburg airport and should fly out in less than an hour to Windhoek (it's a two hour flight). I didn't sleep much on the last flight - we were in a new plane, which should have made it nicer except for the fact that they made all the seats even smaller and closer together. So the rather large, extremely talkative and fidgety woman next to me was essentially sitting in my lap. Instead of sleeping, I made the mistake of watching the Sex and the City movie (I was curious - think of it as a sociological experiment) - man, that's 2+ hours of my life I wish I had back. Yeesh. I blame the jet lag for letting me keep watching it when I should have just turned it off and stared at said large woman in my lap.

Anyhow, that's that. Time to board soon.

love, carrie

Carrie Cizauskas, DVM, MRCVS

So there goes my little girl. Who would have thought back when she had her pockets stuffed with treasures she found around her, when her curiosity led her to examine things around her with a peculiar intensity, that she would harness that enthusiastic curiosity and use it to initiate some astonishing adventures? She is living a life of amazing accomplishment (as both a scientist and an artist) that she takes with a ho hum attitude that makes it all so much more incredible. How did we ever raise such a creature? I'm sure glad we did.

Monday, October 06, 2008


This was a tough weekend for sports fans in Wisconsin. The UW Badgers found a way to turn a win against Ohio State into a loss. The Packers stumbled and bumbled their way to a loss against the Falcons. And the Brewers wimpy hitting finally brought an end to their season against the Phillies.

The Badgers weren’t much of a surprise losing to Ohio State. After their monumental collapse last week against Michigan, I had little hope that they would even be competitive against the Buckeyes. That they made it a game, and even had the lead late in the fourth quarter, was a victory of sorts. Just not the kind of victory that counts in the official record. The Badgers are pretty much out of the hunt for the Big Ten conference title and will be relegated to another minor bowl game this year if they can put together a few more wins. This season that is not a given. But at least the pressure and anxiety I always feel at game time will be lessoned now that they are pretty much out of it. And we will still go to the homecoming game and cheer like fools and enjoy the college football atmosphere once again.

The Packers, in this first post Favre season, started off winning their first two games, giving hope to us all that the team would roll along unscathed by the turmoil of separation anxiety that the Favre fiasco created last summer. But, alas, they have come crashing down to the level of also-rans now that the reality of the season has arrived. While they look good on paper, they still have to play the games and there’s the rub. The Pack has demonstrated a decided lack of talent on the field despite the lofty expectations. It looks like the beginning to another long draught of winning much like we suffered through back in the 70’s and 80’s. I hate being so pessimistic about their prospects, but I just don’t see them winning a lot with the team as it is now. The one good thing about their descent into mediocrity is that my blood pressure will stay normal on Sunday afternoons and my television will suffer fewer bruises during the season now that my expectations for them are so much lower.

That the Brewers were in over their heads in the playoffs was evident from the start. Why the fans around these parts got so excited about their making the playoffs as the wild card team was lost on me. I’ve always considered the wild card team in the playoffs like the little brother who is allowed to play with the big boys just because they needed someone to fill out the roster. The little brother is never expected to play well or certainly not win anything. He’s just there to take up space and even out the sides. The Brewers filled that role quite well. The one consolation in their brief playoff appearance was that they had a better playoff record this year than the division winning Cubs had. The Cubs were swept out of the playoffs in three games against the Dodgers while the brewers managed to win one game against the Philllies. So the Brewers at least have the bragging rights within the division until next year.

Why all this emphasis on sports? It is pretty obvious that we need some healthy diversion from the avalanche of problems besetting us nowadays. The economy, the war, the health care crisis, and the onslaught of the presidential political campaign with its posturing, voting record misrepresentations, innuendos, perceived insults, and outright lies all weigh us down to the point where any diversion is welcome, even if that diversion is a losing sports team. At least with sports there is always another game, another season to look forward to. Redemption is just as close as the next game. I’m not so sure that the same thing applies to politics and those who operate in that arena. It seems that there is a never-ending losing season in pollitics. Where is the redemption? Where is the winning?