Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Your Vote Doesn't Count

Ok. This is a little out of date, but I still wanted to comment on it. Last summer there was a lawsuit here in North County San Diego regarding the special runoff election for Duke Cunningham's disgraced seat. The contest was between Democrat Francine Busby, a member of the Cardiff School Board, and Brian Bilbray, an immigration and gambling lobbyist with ties to Jack Abramoff. Polls leading up to the election showed Busby with a small lead, but one that was within the margin of error...
Bilbray ended being declared the winner by the various organizations that call these things. On the say so of the Republican Secretary of State, Bilbray was whisked away to DC and sworn in before the election was certified. Some constituents of the 50th district wanted a hand recount and were given an unreasonable price tag ($150,000) by the Republican election commissioner. You see where this is going?

Lacking other alternatives, the constituents sued the San Diego commissioner and Bilbray in an attempt to get a hand recount. Their basis for the suit included the following points:

  • Some polls showed Busby up 7% just before the election
  • The outcome was close (Bilbray 49.57% , Busby 45.02% according to the Registrar’s certified result)
  • Some absentee ballots were lumped into mega-precincts that listed total ballot numbers that were “thousands of percentages” above the total number of voters
  • Diebold voting machines (the easily hackable ones) were sent home with precinct workers up to 2 WEEKS before the election

As you can guess from the title of this article, they lost. That isn't the troubling part. The troubling part is the precedent set by the text of the ruling. You can read the summary in the North County Times or Sign On San Diego, but I'll give you the high points.

Once Bilbray was sworn in, the state no longer had jurisdiction. This conclusion arose from Article 1, section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that each House is responsible for the elections of its own members. Bilbray asserted, throguh his attorney, that only the House can now challenge the election. Of course, if you accept the assertion that once he was sworn in, the state had no jurisdiction to challenge, then you also have to logically conclude that the state had no jurisdiction to certify the election. So, it never actually happened. Ergo, your vote does not count. Welcom to George Bush's Amerika. Enjoy your stay.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

You Got Hockey In My Baseball

Busy day, but wanted to send along this funny courtesy of net friend barbie2be.

Now, thaht's what ahm tahkin aboot!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

One Movie to Watch and Another to Miss

I actually watched some semi-recent movies. I didn't catch them in the theater. That's why they are only semi-recent. I'm giving a thumbs up to The Good Shepherd and a thumbs down to The Pursuit of Happyness. Go below the fold if you want to know why.
The Good Shepherd stars Matt Damon as Edward Wilson. The movies uses flashbacks Wilson's life to chronicle in a fictionalized retelling of the early days of the CIA. Some of the jumps are a little confusing, but overall, the movie flows well. There are more than enough plot twists to keep you guessing. I may see it again just to fill in some of the blanks I missed. That said, the feel of the movie is very good as is the supporting cast. William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Robert DeNiro and more all play supporting roles. The supporting standout, though, is Angelina Jolie as Wilson's long suffering wife. She gives a strong performance that is aided by the makeup people who did a nice job of aging her through the movie.

By contrast, The Pursuit of Happyness stars Wil Smith as Chris Gardner. It also features his real life son Jaden as Gardner's son Christopher. This one is also based on a true story. Unlike Good Shepherd, though, this one is entirely predictable. Smith turns in a very good performance, but the movie is too angsty throughout. They really drive home all the obstacles he needs to overcome as they railroad the story from misery to misery and try to create suspense. "What is going to happen to Gardner and his son?" But the ending is never really in doubt and the emotional uplift is too little, too late to make this worth watching.

We also did a nostalgia turn and watched The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye, a young (and surprisingly attractive) Angela Lansbury, and Basil Rathbone. I've been on a Danny Kaye kick lately as I prep to portray him in an Andrew's sisters tribute show. So, I've been working on his mannerisms and voice. The kids have been enjoying him greatly. His movies aren't great cinema compared to the movies of today, but his comedy is wonderful. Josh watched this and he watched the recent Dreamworks flick Flushed Away. Afterwards, he told me, "Danny Kaye is better than Flushed Away. Kids today just don't know it." That's my boy.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why Is It Called...?

We were on vacation a couple weeks ago and decided to try to do a couple of days at Disney before our passes expired. We were forced to change this to one day as our passes were blacked out for Good Friday. It's just as well as the place was obscenely crowded. As I was explaining all this to the kids, Maya asked what Good Friday was. So, I decided to explain it the best my Jewish upbringing would allow. "Christians believe that Good Friday represents the day that Jesus was crucified. Easter Sunday is the day he rose from the dead." She thought about that for a moment. "That's the day he was crucified?", she asked. "That's what the believe," I answered. "Then why do they call it GOOD Friday?" "That's a very good question," was all I could come back with. Anyone?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

More Car Nonsense

Ok. Perhaps I shouldn't have jinxed myself. We all know how fickle the fates are. Granted, all I said was I wanted to wrap it up. I wasn't asking for St. Christopher to come down and lay hands on my car, making it new. I was just looking for closure. Which is why I shouldn't be surprised that I was rear-ended on my way to the dentist...
I was about fifth or sixth back in a column of cars. As each car in front of me stopped for the red light ahead of us, the gap between cars for stopping naturally shrank. I had just enough space to stop. The woman behind me, less so. WHAM! I bounced forward and then back. No airbag deployment. No shattered glass flying. Just your basic impact, lurch forward, and lurch back. However, the sudden throw did cause me some pain in my shoulders, neck, and lower back. And what are you not supposed to do if you think you have a back or neck injury? That's right. No moving allowed. So, I used my cell phone to dial 911. I didn't even get out to look at the damamge. The other motorist did not get out either. From what I could see in my rear view, she looked like a young woman in her twenties. She seemed unhurt, but upset.

I got through to 911 and was placed on hold. No operators available. I'm not kidding. All I could think was, good thing nobody is bleeding. I hung up and tried the local police department, since that was who I needed anyway. While I was in their menu system, a police car drove by. It didn't stop. It just drove by. I was unsuccessful in signalling them, so I went back to the phone tree. I couldn't get through the menu to a person. The automated message said to call 911. I called them back and this time got a person. He took all my info and said the fire department was on the way.

Huh? Not the police? Well, I was in no position to argue. Apparently the EMTs ride with the fire engines. So, the EMTs arrived in short order and did their assessment. The other woman was unhurt, but since I was complaining of back and neck pain, they decided to put a collar on me and strap me to a back board. Even though I wzas fairly certain I had no spinal damage, that is not something you want to take risks with. So, I was strapped down nice and tight and whisked away in an ambulance. (Special kudos to the fire fighters at Escondido Station No. 4 - They drove my car to the station so I didn't have to worry anbout towing or security or anything like that.)

The ride to the ER was nice and bumpy and made me more than a little motion sick. This is actually a more significant concern when you are strapped on your back and immobile. I told the EMT I'd try to hold it in so she didn't have to spray down the rig and she told me not to worry. She'd just roll the board on its side. Several bumps and a fortunate lack of vomit later, I was rolled into the ER and swapped to an ER bed. The nurse informed me that I couldn't come off the board until the doctor checked me and left.

Fortunately, there was a TV. Unfortunately, it was on Dr. Phil. And I was strapped to a board. Add some toothpicks to my eyes and we'd have Clockwork Orange. Dr. Phil was very sensitively ripping apart Anna Nicole's half-sister for trying to cash in on her sister's death. I was trying to gnaw through the back board restraints. The doctor came in and undid the collar for my first test. He poked at various spots along my upper spine and said "does this hurt?" It didn't, so he told me he'd check back again in 10 minutes and put the collar back on. As I lay there, Phil dissolved into Oprah, who wanted us all to take a test to determine how happy we were. I was pretty sure I was not happy to be in the ER and strapped to a board. No quiz needed.

The doctor came back and we repeated the test. Still no pain. So, he released me from the board and the collar. No X-Rays needed. Ahhhhhhh. Relief. Then he made sure I could move my extremities and had me lay still for a while again. He said that if I was still doing all right in a while, he'd let me go. It was at this time that She-Who-Occasionally-Shows-Sympathy arrived to take care of me. She fed me nacho chips and lemonade while we waited for me to be discharged. They told me that if I thought I felt bad now, I'd be worse tomorrow. Lovely. They offered me painkillers, but I'm not a fan of how that stuff makes me feel and I wasn't in THAT much pain. So, I passed. I was sore and miserable, but I could live with it. That plus the fact that SWOSS has a mini pharmacy of her own for joint and muscle pain.

The next morning, we went to get the car. At least, I thought, I would be able to get the damage fixed on someone else's nickel. When we got to the fire station, we saw the extent of the damage. I'd post the picture, but the zoom level I'd need to be at for you to see the scratch she left would be hard to achieve. That's right. My car can't handle rolling into a fire hydrant at 2 mph, but a read ending from another car? No sweat.

End result? Stupid car is still broken and not likely to get fixed, I missed a couple days work, and I have a stiff and sore back for a couple weeks. My weight loss was going pretty well, too. But now I have to take a break from basketball. Crap.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Car Saga Update

Well, I am back from vacation and mostly caught up at work and at home. I'll post about the vacation and other assorted happenings later. First, I'd like to wrap up the car saga insofar as it can be wrapped up for now...
As you may recall, the first estimate I got for the repair work was $2800. That was not a promising start at all. So, I shared the saga with Jeff, a car savvy buddy at work. He felt the total was a little high so he suggested a couple other body shops in the area. I offered to treat him to lunch if he'd come along. Free lunch to go to a car place? I didn't have to ask him twice. We grabbed Sal because mischief is more fun with three and off we went.

We headed south of the office and took our business to El Dorado Collision Center in Poway. We made small talk with the office manager while one of the service technicians was paged. John came right out and we walked out to the vehicle. He looked at it and gave an off the cuff estimate that was even higher than my first estimate. I'm sure if he sat down and did the detail work it would have come out closer to the $2800 number, but his overall point was that it was likely not worth it for me to do it. He wanted, instead, to focus on the problem of getting the trunk functional.

After a careful examination, he told me there was no reason the trunk could not be opened. The damage was not sgnificant enough to wedge it closed. Therefore, the mechanism was the likely culprit. He got me a flashlight and a screwdriver so I could crawl into the trunk from the inside and jimmy the mechanism. I figured out how to get it to pop open with a little help from Jeff and Sal. They flipped the release repeatedly so that I could see the device attempting to act. My keen mechanical eye combined with the flashlight and screwdriver to do the rest. Clunk! The trunk popped open and in flowed sweet, cool air. Inside the trunk was rather hot given that it was around 85 degrees outside.

Once it was open, John carefully removed the carpeted lining around the mechanism and examined it while we tried to work the release. He showed me how I could take it apart with some pretty basic tools and said that the release wire either just came loose or the wire was stretched and needed to be repaired. Based on this, I was able to see (without even removing the bolts) that the release wire just came out of its groove. I put it back and and we did a little testing. Trunk victory!

John basically served as a service consultant. He diagnosed the problem and guided me through fixing it. He spent about 15 minutes with us and didn't charge me a thing! I told him if I ever needed vehicle body work again, I'd definitely head in his direction. And you should too! If you are interested, I can recommend them for their integrity and Jeff can recommend them for quality of work.

El Dorado Collison Center
12502 Poway Road
Poway, CA 92064

My story didn't exactly have a happy ending. I still have an ugly dent in the trunk and bumper. The big dent needs to be sanded out and painted over as it is already starting to rust. But John managed to make it a less miserable ending. The car still functions and was never terribly lovely to begin with. All things considered, it was about as good as I could expect.

With that taken care of, it was off to lunch!

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