Friday, February 15, 2008

Free Books

Tor has a promotion going on now in which they are giving away free ebooks. Go to their page and sign up and you will receive a link once a week to download an ebook. Now, yes, reading a book on your computer is nothing like holding a real book in your hands, but, still, free books!

I just downloaded my first one, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Who knows when I'll have time to read it, but it is getting some good reviews. Check it out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones Trailer

As skeptical as I have been of the new Trek movie, I have been even more skeptical of the new Indiana Jones movie. How can Indy be 60+ and still doing his thing? Well, Lucasfilms has released the first trailer for the movie and I couldn't help but get a little excited about it.

Seeing the hat, the whip, the grizzled Harrison Ford mug, and especially hearing the awesome John Williams score has me itchin' to see this.

Star Trek XI Pushed Back

It's now coming out in May 2009 because the studio wants to cash in on the big summer crowds.

McCain Okay With Some Torture

The man who was supposed to represent integrity. The man running the "Straight Talk Express." The man who was himself tortured. The man who has been very vocal in his opposition to American-practiced torture. Suddenly, he's not so opposed to it.

It's very sad, but that's what it appears the Republican party is about these days and McCain wants the Presidency so bad, he'll pander even on this issue. What has happened to the moral heart of this country?

More Support Against Torture

Rod Dreher relates a story of torture in Soviet Russia and the administration's move from denying we torture to defending torture, ahem, enhanced interrogation techniques.

Florida Bound

I got a confirmation email two days ago for the class I will be attending in Florida in March. This is the one I was supposed to attend last December. I don't know, yet, if I'll be going by myself or if there will be one other person. Either way, I'm excited. It will be good to get out of town (way out) for a couple of days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"But, his Dad thinks you're a shit."

Ah, ha, ha.

Why is Congress Worried About Steroids?

I have no clue, but I'm in agreement with Matt Yglesias that Congress has much better things to do. I guess they must have taken care of carbon emissions, the economy, and the Iraq war when no one was looking and out of sheer boredom thought, "That whole steroids thing in baseball really sucks. We should check into that."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Potomoc Primaries, Part 2

Obama crushes Clinton in D.C and Maryland. He is now ahead in delegates even counting superdelegates. This is looking worse and worse for Clinton. Her Giuliani strategy seems to be working about as well as it did for the mayor. Don't expect a graceful exit from her, though. She will fight tooth and claw until (past?) the bitter end.

McCain Thinks You're Dumb...

...if you disagree with him on the war. Is this really someone we want in the White House? Disagree with someone? Fine. Think they're dumb for disagreeing? Not so fine. Not that a he has a chance if he runs against Obama. Clinton is another matter.

CNN's Self Promotion

I don't watch a lot of TV, but as far as news stations go, I am partial to CNN. I have to say, though, that it is getting aggravating hearing "the best political team on television" every other sentence. Aren't the people watching CNN most likely to already have a favorable view of the station? Do they need to constantly tell people that they think they're the best? After awhile it sounds like the insecure person who brags a lot to make themselves feel better. Just shut up and tell me the news without all of the self-fellating, CNN.

The Potomoc Primaries

Obama is crushing Clinton in Virginia and is predicted to win handily. Isn't this the state people were saying might be a close race?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tax Season

I e-filed my taxes earlier this evening. We'll see if it gets rejected like it did last year forcing me to do it on paper or if it will go through.

Last year the IRS rejected my return saying that one of my dependents, my oldest daughter, was claimed on someone else's return. When I called to find out what I had to do, I was told to submit it on paper. I did and got my return and forgot about the whole thing.

That is until a few months later when I got a letter from the IRS. Since one of my dependents was claimed on another return, I had to submit proof that I was allowed to claim Erica. I knew exactly who had claimed her, of course. I called her and asked her about it. She told me her tax preparer told her she could her even though our divorce agreement said that I wold claim Erica and she would claim Shaena. I sent a letter back to the IRS and a copy of our divorce agreement. I never heard back from them. I also never heard exactly what happened to my ex over this.

This weekend, the issue of money came up with my daughters and Erica told me something interesting. She said that their mother told them the "guy who did [our] divorce" screwed up. I asked her how and she said that their mother told them she was supposed to be able to claim both of them on her returns. Yeah. She looked it over and signed it. She knew exactly what it said.

Of course, she has also been telling the girls that I have not been paying any of their medical bills which is an outright lie, but that's another post.

Faulty Preparations for the Iraq War

An indepth RAND study has shown a massive lack of coordination and planning by the military and administration leading up to the Iraq war. Unfortunately, the Army is working hard to bury it.

“The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army,” he said.

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. “The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

Disgraceful. The public deserves to know the truth about this.

Obama's Charge Continues

Obama won Maine today meaning he won all five contests (quite handily) this weekend including Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, and the Virgin Islands. Clinton seems to be taking a play from the Guiliani playbook and is counting on the March contests to get her back in the race while playing down expectations for all of the contests this month. We saw how well that worked for Guiliani, didn't we?

Whether or not Clinton does blunt some of Obama's momentum come March, it is not likely that either of them is going to pull significantly ahead in delegates. He leads now in pledged delegates. Counting superdelegates, however, gives her a slight advantage. I think it would be very damaging for the party if it comes down to the superdelegates and they end up giving the nomination to the person (whichever of the two) who did not get as many pledged delegates. They can, of course, do that, but that would be seen by most as very un-democratic and could be very problematic for the Democrats should it occur.

Weekly Music Video

Coldplay performing "White Shadows" live in Glastonbury.

Weekly Secret


Clinton and the Republicans

Remember Ari Fleischer's comment on CNN last Tuesday?

"There is no doubt ... we hope and pray every night to run against Hillary Clinton."

President Bush is getting in on the act as well.

The president weighed in on the Democratic race, saying it "seems far from over to me." And he rejected criticism of former President Clinton's work on the campaign trail for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"I can understand why President Clinton wants to campaign hard for his wife. And those accusations that Bill Clinton's a racist, I think is just wrong. I just don't agree with it."

As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Bush said, "I certainly don't know what he believes in."

The only way the GOP has a chance of keeping the White House this November is if Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee. Clinton is a very divisive figure. The vitriol she generates may be unfair, but it is there. And even if she does get the nomination and does win in November, it won't be a majority. It will be the 50%+1 victory and our country will be very divided in a time when we need to be united to solve some of the big problems our nation faces - Iraq, terrorism, healthcare, the economy, nuclear proliferation, failed states, and many others.

Of course, Obama is not some wizard who will cast a spell and have everyone holding hands and singing "Kum Bah Ya." What he does have, though, is the respect of many on the right as well as the charisma to bring people together. He offers a chance to move beyond the old Baby Boomer fights and into the future. That's what I want for America. That's what we need.

Improving America's Schools

The Atlantic has an article about our public school system and what should be done to fix it. It boils down to removing local control and nationalizing our schools because that is how some of the most successful nations have done it.

I don't think that is a good idea. Giant bureaucracies are not efficient or adept at dealing with small issues like little Jimmie struggling with his math. Here are a couple things that I think we need to improve our school systems.

1) Teacher accountability. It is asinine that teacher's can get tenured and then only be fired for "gross misconduct" or something else. Tenure is good, but it should only cover things such as what the teacher publishes or talks about and the like. Teachers should most certainly be held accountable for student performance. If a teacher's students continually fall short then the he or she needs to be held accountable. What other industry can you get into where you are virtually immune to termination even if you don't do your job?

2) More teacher autonomy. Teachers need more free reign within their classroom. Yes, their students still need to be taught certain things, but the teachers need more latitude in how it's done. This would better allow them to target individual students who are ahead or behind in certain areas.

3) Students as individuals. We need to develop plans for individual students and not for masses of students. Every student is unique in learning style, likes/dislikes, temperament, and abilities. Schools need to treat them as such and create plans for individual students. Yes, this will create more work for schools, but that's why I think we need to recruit more teachers in order to shrink classroom size. We should also have more teacher's aides to assist them in this effort.

I don't think we need to make a big effort to increase teacher pay. Do teacher's deserve it? Probably, but they already typically make higher than average salaries. We need to spend money hiring more teachers as I mentioned previously, but also making sure that we provide teachers and students the tools they need. Schools should not be crumbling and falling apart. Teachers should not have to buy their own supplies - paper, pencils, and other basic materials - for their classrooms. Schools should have heat and air conditioning. Schools should have large, safe playgrounds. These things are where we need to be spending more money.

In short, I believe we do need to make changes in our schools. Bureaucracy is not the answer, though. We've all seen how well the Department of Homeland Security functions.


A Canadian study shows that homework offers no benefit to kids before junior high and, in fact, may be doing some harm in terms of stress and marital stress.

Homework is of little benefit to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, say the authors of a just-released Canadian study, who also found it is often the source of stress and burnout in children, as well the cause of conflict – even marital stress – for many families.

This sounds about right to me. Kids that age need to be kids. Even going into junior high and high school, while I think there should be homework, it should be somewhat limited. Even high school kids shouldn't be doing three or four hours every night.

My favorite part of the article was at the end, though.

But He said her daughter doesn't enjoy the schoolwork. "To be honest," she said, "she prefers to play."

Ya, think?