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Thu, Dec. 30th, 2004, 12:41 am

I'm in the process of moving. So, though there's still plenty of dust and clutter at the new digs, you can find me over at http://thorg.com/blog/. I'll hopefully have things cleaned up and looking better by the end of the week.

Tue, Dec. 28th, 2004, 10:29 pm
Happy New Year?

Will it be? I don't know. I'll certainly be glad to stick a fork in 2004, which has been a very difficult year. But events, from the international all the way down to the local, are conspiring to make this year end on a sad note. I hope that the end of the week finds something uplifting to offer, so that we can ring in the new year on a positive note.

Tue, Dec. 28th, 2004, 10:09 am
Wonkette's back, xmas is dead and Coulter wallows

Whew. Wonkette is finally back from vacation, rehab, or wherever it is she goes.

We were stuck in the back country of New Hampshire for Christmas, cut off from civilization and decent liquor (no Blackberry and nothing but Gordon's gin...) so we had no idea that, apparently, the liberals succeeded in replacing Christmas with Kwanzaaukka, the official holiday of gay marriage. Conservative activist Paul Weyrich told the Washington Post that, in fact, "the campaign to eliminate Christmas from our society is well underway." Please let us know if the campaign is accepting donations or needs someone to phone bank for them.

I say we shouldn't get rid of Christmas completely, but just replace it with something that wouldn't be so appallingly embarassing if Jesus ever were to show up for his birthday party. We could start by getting rid of the frantic consumption, dead trees and mindless regurgitation of silly christian mythology and replace it with a serious effort to achieve the supposed goals of Jesus.

But back to Wonkette...

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter has shown herself to be a closet evangelist for the Christmas cause, and has used her website to send out a subtle appeal to those who practice a different faith:

        To The People Of Islam:
        Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed
        your leaders and converted you to Christianity
        Merry Christmas

We're thinking this is one reason to convert most Muslim's haven't thought of, but, ironically, "Because we want to give them Christmas gifts" was actually in the first draft of Colin Powell's UN presentation.

Ha. I checked Ann Coulter's web site, and she really did put that up there. Wow -- bitter hate and willful ignorance all at once! That's quite a combo.

Mon, Dec. 27th, 2004, 11:48 pm
More 2004...

I hope you're not getting tired of my look back at the year. Here's a photo from a July trip to New York, for a family gathering upstate and then a quick swing through NYC. This is a picture of one of my very talented brothers, during an exciting evening spent hanging out in Times Square. Our bartender that night was a talkative guy who was afraid he would get fired before the election because of his ourspoken views about the war. He was, briefly, pretty pissed off that evening because he'd been stiffed by some very healthy-looking kids who spent quite a while sitting at the bar -- they were very rah-rah Iraq war, but when the bartender (who was a Desert Storm vet) asked them why they weren't over there fighting, the kids got kind of cranky. There was also a lot of excitement outside the window that evening as a drama unfolded after a bomb scare at the local subway stop. More ambulances, fire trucks and police cars than I've ever seen outside of a Blues Brothers movie converged on the street outside. We ended up having to take an alternate route back to lower Manhattan, as the subway line we'd taken up to Times Square was still shut down when we headed home for the night. In this shot, my brother is checking New York One (local 24-hour news) on the TV for the lowdown about the police drama outside. I'm not sure what kind of drink this was -- some sort of martini, I think -- but its color and the light pleased me. My brother, DH, a very dear and clever cousin and I hatched up a great idea for a screenplay that night, but we still need to get most of it down on paper...

Mon, Dec. 27th, 2004, 05:20 pm
Nebulous week begins

Well, today was a semi-monday. I did a bit of work, but not much (my computer's been giving me a hard time lately, so I keep getting sidetracked). DD had friends over again, which is always nice, and I took the dog to the vet (she has a staph infection and we had to get meds). That's enough for now. I'm not quite ready to deal with the real world yet (I would much prefer this one -- see below), so I'm glad it'll be a slow week. I'm going to go to an HRC meetup tomorrow night and to a friend's wedding on Thursday, but other than that, it'll pretty quiet until 2005...

2004: The Year in Review (from South Knox Bubba)

It's that time of year when we take a look back at the events that shaped our lives during 2004...

• President Al Gore's "Brooklyn Project" to achieve American energy independence bears fruit as the first solar/hydrogen hybrid car, the Ford Sunburst, rolled off the assembly line. The car runs primarily on power generated by its super efficient-solar panels with supplemental power from light-weight hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells run on hydrogen produced at the Pacific Solar Farm, a facility which extracts storable hydrogen fuel from seawater using power generated by a mammoth array of solar panels floating on the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

• In other Brooklyn Project related news, the experimental 100 megawatt Fusion One mini-reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory marked its first anniversary of safe, sustained fusion reaction since startup. In a joint project with ORNL, TVA plans to replace its eleven coal-fired power plants with a network of F1 mini-reactors over the next ten years.

• The third tier of the Brooklyn Project entered its second year of successful operation. More than one hundred thousand homes in Arizona have been outfitted with the new Solaris Residential Power systems. The SRP system, which was developed at the new JFK National Energy Research Laboratory facility at Los Alamos, is comprised of roof mounted super efficient solar panels and light-weight heavy-duty storage batteries. The system provides from thirty up to fifty percent of the average home's energy needs. Nationwide rollout is expected to begin next year. Financing for installation is provided by the Federal Power Utility Trust, a non-profit cooperative of U.S. utility companies which also manufactures the Solaris system units. The system pays for itself in the first two years of operation.

• National Health Services Secretary Hillary Clinton announced yet another reduction in AmeriCare premiums. With this latest reduction, premiums are on the average 50% lower than traditional private insurance premiums. AmeriCare premiums are paid primarily through payroll deductions or Schedule HS-1 payments for self-employed individuals. The unemployed, families making less than the Department of Labor's new Living Wage standard, children, and seniors pay no premiums. The AmeriCare program, which replaced Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance programs, now covers 100% of the U.S. population.

• NHS Secretary Clinton also announced that medical research programs funded by new federal taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis products and reinvestment of savings from AmeriCare are starting to pay off. A new class of pancreas medications has virtually cured diabetes. New gene therapy treatments developed at the state and federally funded Reagan National Health Laboratory in California are showing promise in fighting malignant cancer cells and HIV. The RNHL stem-cell research program is also very close to achieving a cure for spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's Disease.

• Secretary of State Bill Clinton addressed the Iraqi National Congress in recognition of the third anniversary of its formation following Saddam Hussein's removal from power by the U.N. backed Iraqi Revolutionary Council.

• The State Department also announced that negotiations on United Korea are nearing completion. The historic merger of North and South Korea is expected to occur early next year once the U.N. Security Council certifies North Korea's compliance with the International Non-Proliferation Treaty initiated by President Gore and ratified by 190 U.N. member nations in 2001. Secretary Clinton also praised Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Wesley Clark for his role in the negotiations and for his role in sponsoring Russia's membership in NATO.

• Osama bin-Laden, leader of the now defunct al-Qaeda terrorist network, was executed at an undisclosed Federal prison. The execution followed a lengthy trial and conviction for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack in the fall of 2001, which was thwarted when alert FBI agents in Phoenix questioned why Saudi nationals were training to fly commercial jetliners. Testimony of the thirty-four potential hijackers, who were arrested as they attempted to board flights in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston in September 2001, eventually led to the capture and arrest of bin-Laden by U.S. led multi-national forces in Pakistan.

• President Gore announced that the Teachers and Public Education Trust initiative will expand its National Scholarship Program and provide an additional $10 billion in funding for state and local education. Under the Teachers/PET program, ACT and SAT test scores have risen 10% on the average and college enrollment is at an all time high. The Parental Responsibility Act is credited with reducing high school dropout rates by more than 50%. Increased teacher salaries and benefits prompted record enrollment in education degree programs, which are producing an abundance of highly qualified teachers nationwide.

• In economic news, eighty-three Fortune 100 companies have now adopted voluntary compliance with President Gore's America First jobs and economic development initiative, with Wal*Mart leading the way as their board of directors voted unanimously to participate. America First provides tax and other incentives for companies that "buy American" and adopt improved standard wage and benefit programs.

• America First "insourcing" provisions, which offer incentives for companies who buy and sell "made in the U.S.A." products and services, resulted in record low unemployment and record high family income this year. America First and AmeriCare are credited with reducing the number of families living in poverty by another 30% in 2004. America First tariffs on imports from countries that have not adopted the U.S. and E.U. sponsored International Worker's Rights Treaty have spurred investment in the U.S. economy and improved working conditions for millions of workers world wide.

• The Dow Jones Industrials Average broke 20,000 for the first time. Wall Street analysts credited President Gore's America First program and massive federal investments in energy, biotech, and education which continue to transform the US. economy and attract record foreign investment.

• President Gore won reelection in a landslide victory, receiving 81% of the popular vote and a record 534 electoral votes, winning every state except Idaho. The GOP offered only token opposition. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Bill Frist admitted that even he voted for Gore, a fellow Tennessean.

Mon, Dec. 27th, 2004, 10:06 am
Yushchenko won

Viktor Yuschenko won the election in the Ukraine. The opposition poisoned him with dioxin and committed election fraud, but he persevered and it looks like this rerun result might stick.

In other news...

Sun, Dec. 26th, 2004, 02:54 pm
More 2004

Here's another image from the year. This one is from the trip we took to France at the beginning of June. One of the highlights of the trip for DD was our serpentine stroll through the catacombs far below the streets of Paris.

Sat, Dec. 25th, 2004, 11:28 am
Chrismahanakwanzaka Bird

Here's a bonus bird for Hanakwanzasolstivalimas. It's another tufted titmouse, but this one's an action shot!

We've been having a lovely weekend. We spent yesterday evening at the home of some awesome family friends. The dinner and conversation were wonderful and the dog provided bonus entertainment. We slept in a bit today and opened a few presents this morning. We'll be cooking a dinner with yorkshire pudding later, but are mostly planning on a lazy day with relaxing fun and movies and books and naps and whatever.

I'm very pleased with the way this xmas is turning out. While ignoring the more annoying aspects of this, the shrillest of all American holidays, we've been enjoying the fellowship of friends and family and are finding the time off from the work/school grind to be restorative. As DD's friends continue to come and go, I appreciate seeing them even more than ever as the current flurry of college planning reminds me that many of them will be leaving Chattanooga in the coming year. And I'm enjoying catching up with more remote loved ones on the phone. All this, and we still have the rest of the break to enjoy! I think this nebulous week between xmas and the new year is one of the coolest weeks on the calendar. The consumer-fest is over, but many of us won't have to swing fully back into gear until January, so the rest and fellowship can continue without the all the stress and noise of recent weeks. I hope that you are finding satisfaction in this holiday season as well.

Peace on Earth.

Fri, Dec. 24th, 2004, 03:25 pm
Et tu, NPR?

Has everyone gone completely off their rockers? The democrats are thinking of abandoning women and their right to control their own bodies, people are trying to redefine marriage as an institution that's sole purpose is to produce children (does this mean that Bob and Elizabeth Dole will have their marriage license revoked?), Bush is renominiating judges who have already been rejected, and now this from NPR:

National Public Radio, the last bastion of the so-called liberal media, former ground zero of liberal commentary on the airwaves, and target of wingnut abuse for more than thirty years, has finally caved and gone to the dark side. The "moral values" voters, and perhaps Michael Powell, have invaded NPR's Mass Ave offices and have censored a Christmas classic - David Sedaris reading from his Santaland Diaries which describes a month Sedaris spent as a Christmas elf for Macy's.

That's bad enough, right? But there's more.

When Santaland Diaries was first aired 12 years ago, it was more than a little daring because of its description of a flirtation with Snowball, another male elf.

That's right. They've been airing this for twelve years. What was kosher in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and in 2003 is now too much for our tender ears. And the offending exerpt? Brace yourselves!

The overall cutest elf is a fellow from Queens named Snowball. Snowball tends to ham it up with the children, sometime literally tumbling down the path to Santa's house. I tend to frown on that sort of behavior but Snowball is hands down adorable -- you want to put him in your pocket. Yesterday we worked together as Santa Elves and I became excited when he started saying things like, "I'd follow you to Santa's house any day, Crumpet!"

It made me dizzy, this flirtation.

By mid-afternoon I was running into walls. At the end of our shift we were in the bathroom, changing clothes, when suddenly we were surrounded by three Santas and five other elves -- all of them were guys that Snowball was flirting with.

Snowball just leads elves on, elves and Santas. He is playing a dangerous game.

I fear for America in 2005.

Fri, Dec. 24th, 2004, 10:02 am
Friday Creature

I took a lot of pictures of birds in the past week and have been having a hard time trying to decide which one to put up here. But since this is the top choice of my daughter, and because she deserves far better than she's been getting from someone she thought was a friend, without further ado, I give you the tufted titmouse. Small consolation, but there ya go.

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