Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Salute to Station 7

Yesterday we got a real treat. Our home teacher from church is a fireman. We mentioned to him once that the kids would love to visit a fire station some time. He invited us to come visit his. We finally had time to take him up on it yesterday, and made the arrangements.

The first thing we learned was that our friend is not just a fireman. He's a battalion chief. The second thing we learned is that firefighters are very good hosts. They bent over backward to show us anything we wanted to see.

For example, they were more than happy to run out their big truck (we also learned the difference between a "truck" and an "engine") and give us a ride in the basket. They didn't take it up to its full height at all, I'm sure, but we were above the power lines. I was amazed at how sturdy it was. Other than minor jolts when it started to move, it was nearly as stable as being on the ground.

Our friend also gave us a tour of all their trucks and engines and a look at all their equipment. He let us try on his equipment as well. I tried the entire outfit, and I'm glad I don't have to be a fireman in my current shape. It was all I could do to move around, let alone run up several flights of stairs, hack down a door, and drag out a 200-pound person.

Emma wanted to try the outfit, too, though she could only handle the turnout coat and helmet.

E.T. phone home!

Everyone, including we parents, found it all fascinating. There is so much behind the scenes that you never think about. For example, all of their stoves and ovens are connected to the alarm. If a call comes in it automatically shuts everything down so that nothing burns while they're away.

They also have ventilation hoses attached to the exhaust pipes of each vehicle that turns on automatically to vent the exhaust outside when they start up the vehicles and get them rolling. They can just drive off, and it's rigged in such a way that the hose comes off automatically as they leave. It also triggers the door to close after they leave.

The kids also got to try running one of their smaller hoses, one they use for brush-fires. What kid doesn't dream of getting to use a fire hose? What parent wouldn't also like to get their hands on one, even if they wouldn't admit it openly?

Anyway, we had a great time and learned a lot! Thanks again to John and the men of Station 7! We appreciate everything you do to help keep our city safe. We definitely appreciate a lot more just what a complex job it can be. Thank you for your service!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hindsight is not always 20/20

Bill Whittle continues his interview with WWII veteran Leon Cooper, who admits that before the war he was an isolationist, during the war didn't think it was justifiable, but afterward came to realize that it was absolutely necessary. And he gets mad at people who sit back with 60 years of removal and second-guess it all.

Well worth watching.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obama wants to fix the economy, really!

According to the White House, in order to fix the economy we need to fix health care:

In excerprts released by the White House, Obama says that health insurance reform is central "as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis."

“This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance," Obama said. "Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It's about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it's about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

"So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we're having right now."

That's fine, but isn't this also the president that misread the economy before creating his stimulus plan, had incomplete information in creating the stimulus, but can't think of anything he'd do to fix it? And even though he's not familiar with what's in the health bill, he's absolutely certain it'll fix the economy. But even assuming his guesses are correct, since most of the provisions in the bill wouldn't take effect until 2013, isn't it safe to say we can't wait that long?

We owe it to ourselves to defeat this health bill and force the administration to get serious about fixing the economy before they bankrupt the country. Not in 2013, but now. If the stimulus bill isn't working correctly, then cancel it and come up with a new plan. No more money for you, Mr. Obama, until you prove you really know what to do with.

It seems that 53% of Americans agree with me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remembering WWII

Bill Whittle on PJTV has the first of series of interviews with Leon Cooper, a navy Ensign in command of a landing craft during the War in the Pacific. We need to remember these people and their stories. Before long they'll be gone, and our reminder of what America can do gone with them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thanks to all heroes

A hero came to my house today. My son's friend from kindergarten came to play this afternoon, and his dad came to pick him up. The man has put in 24 years in the Army as a front-line soldier. He served a year in Iraq, where he permanently damaged his hearing. He now serves in the National Guard and with the Sheriff's department.

We told him we were grateful for his service. Somehow that doesn't seem adequate.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The demise of dignity

David Brooks has an interesting editorial on the New York Times site concerning dignity and the loss thereof from our culture:
Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems have to be created to balance and restrain their desires.

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

He has me right up until he holds up Barak Obama as a modern example of dignity. But then perhaps when he lists a trait of dignity as putting national interests above personal interests he equates party interest with national interest. Certainly Obama has done much for his party, his followers, and his supporters. I don't see much sign of him doing what is best for the national interest.

Why Americans don't understand the Middle-East

Michael Totten has an interesting interview with Jeffrey Goldberg about the Middle-East, and especially about Israel, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Well worth the read, as usual. Michael is the first blogger I've sent regular money to (at least before I lost my job), he's just that good.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Palin going all "Obi Wan Kenobi"

So what do I make of Sarah Palin's resignation as Alaska governor? I didn't know you even cared! ;-)

I think she's decided that both the Republicans and the Democrats aren't going to leave her alone. I don't doubt she's got operatives from both sides scrutinizing her every move in Alaska looking for something to discredit her. Like it or not, they're forcing her to be something larger than she is--or probably even wanted to be.

By resigning as governor she can return Alaska to something more normal while putting herself in a position where she can choose who she surrounds herself with. She'll have a much easier time watching her back.

The only real question is what she means about influencing politics from the outside. I suspect she's already given up on a run for president in 2012. But other than that I don't know what she's got in mind. She may be hoping to help rebuild the Republican Party before 2010. I'm not sure I'd even be surprised if she went Libertarian and became a thorn in both parties' sides. But I highly doubt she's going to disappear quietly from public life.

You see, it was one thing to attack her during the presidential campaign. But they've continued to attack her long after that particular dance was over. By continuing to attack her they've shown her at least one important thing: She's on to something. Both parties fear her, but especially the party in power. The sheer hatred and meanness from the left indicates that she has the ability to hurt them. They hate that, and they feel they have to destroy her before she can hurt them.

It's like one of those myriad of movies where some tough-but-quiet guy who is just trying to mind his own business get pushed too far by the local heavies and kicks some serious butt.

But first she's got to pull an Obi Wan Kenobi and appear to give up her power in order to become "more powerful than you can imagine". I wish her all the luck in the world.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

State Department, Twitter, and the Iran Protests

I had heard nothing about this until yesterday in an interview with the president of a new internet startup.

Twitter, as most know by now, has become a critical link to the outside world for the protest movement in Iran. When the State Department found out that Twitter had a maintenance outage scheduled for the middle of the day Tehran time, they asked the company to reschedule so as not to disrupt service in Iran. Twitter agreed, and the outage occurred during the day in America instead.

However, over all, the administration gets a mixed grade for protecting internet freedom of speech abroad:
The week before supporters of Mousavi were Tweeting and coming together in the streets, China announced it would require the installation of a Web-blocking program called “Green Dam Youth Escort” on all new computers in the country. While ostensibly meant to block pornography and violent images, many technology experts pointed to its ability to block sites that are politically distasteful to the communist government. Chinese lawyers, academics, and even many in Silicon Valley were up in arms and vocal with their criticism, but Washington stayed silent. The Chinese government ultimately relaxed the requirement, but battles still loom, especially in Iran.

McDonalds and restaurants, Lithuanians, Cap and Trade

Another potpourri day! First up...

McDonalds takes over France!
From Slate:
As reprehensible as BovĂ©'s tactics were, it was difficult for a food-loving Francophile not to feel a little solidarity with him. If you believed that McDonald's was a blight on the American landscape, seeing it on French soil was like finding a peep show at the Vatican, and in a contest between Roquefort and Chicken McNuggets, I knew which side I was on. But implicit in this attitude was a belief that McDonald's had somehow been foisted on the French; that slick American marketing had lured them away from the bistro and into the arms of Ronald McDonald. However, that just wasn't true. The French came to McDonald's and la malbouffe (or fast-food) willingly, and in vast and steadily rising numbers. Indeed, the quarter-pounded conquest of France was not the result of some fiendish American plot to subvert French food culture. It was an inside job, and not merely in the sense that the French public was lovin' it—the architects of McDonald's strategy in France were French.

Just as a prophet is without honor in his own country, not even the French are willing to pay more to preserve their national cuisine. Let the bourgeois tourists pay for it! Give us a quick, cheap meal.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I've never been one to hate McDonalds, even though I haven't eaten there in years.

And speaking of food, I'll have what he's having...or else!
Here's an interesting insight into the world of high cuisine...which I'll probably never experience first hand:
When I talk to people in the kitchen after their meal, people frequently tell me they made a special trip to Chicago just to eat at Alinea. Of course I find this completely flattering. They call two months before to the date they want to dine and plan their trip around the event. One can hardly blame them for expecting the maximum experience, given the commitment that they have vested.

But what does the maximum experience require? As it turns out, this was the main reason we created the Tour menu to begin with. When I was at the French Laundry it was common for the kitchen to give selected guests extra courses. Perhaps they were repeat diners, people in the industry, or friends of the chef. Of the 12 meals I had there, nine were in the 17- to 20-course range, and they ranked as the best I had ever had. Not that the typical nine-course menu they offer is lesser, but it is...after all...less.

Evidently people have been known to burst into tears to find out that someone else gets special treatment they didn't know was available. Silly me. I probably just would have thought I'd missed something on the menu, decided whatever it was probably wasn't worth the extra they were probably paying, and go on with my meal. But then I am a barbarian.

Michael Yon reports on our Lithuanian allies in Afghanistan:
The base itself is an international potpourri with soldiers and civilians from Croatia, Denmark, Georgia, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Romania, the USA, and probably a few more countries. And today there are Italian pilots whose helicopter is having difficulty. From above, this base is just a sesame seed on the body of Afghanistan, but down here it’s a little Starship Enterprise. When I met the Lithuanian base commander, Colonel Alvydas Siuparis, I wanted to call him Captain Kirk, but he’s pretty big so I didn’t push my luck.

Read the whole thing here. It's the typically high-quality background piece we've come to take for granted from Michael Yon.

Waxman-Markey will cost much more than we're told
Robert Zubrin reports in Roll Call:
On June 25, the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate stabilization act, which would institute a cap-and-trade system to restrict Americans’ carbon emissions. While proponents of the bill have sought to argue that the costs of such a system would be negligible, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the bill proposes a massive and highly regressive tax on the U.S. economy, and could potentially cause not only extensive business failures, unemployment and privation within our borders, but starvation among poorer populations elsewhere.

It really distresses me to see how quick the administration is to mess with complex systems. They seem to have no idea what they're doing..and they don't seem to care.