Archive for November, 2009

Perspective makes all the difference

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Today Sippican Cottage posted an old video showing the twin towers being built. It makes for some very interesting viewing. Sadly, the clip makes for more interesting viewing now than it did before the towers came down.

Watching those great big pieces of steel being lifted into place, one can’t help but think about how they came down. Hearing the announcer describe how the twin towers were being built with a new type of construction that allowed the building to be supported by the outside frame, you can’t help but think about how that type of construction was instrumental in causing the towers to collapse. And watching the propaganda about how these buildings were bringing people together from all around the world…..

But there is no need to belabor the point. Just about anyone who watches the above clip will come up with a similar set of reactions. What I find really interesting about the above clip is not the immediate reaction that it generates. Rather, I think it is an interesting example of how radically our interpretation of past events can change based on events that happen after the fact.

We generally think that we know how we will look back on events as we are living through them. We think we know what will be happy memories and what will be sad. We think we know what we will value and what we will not. But life has a way of changing how we perceive the events that happened in our past.

And in that context, I can’t but help think of Jesus’ story of the beggar and the rich man.

The Mystery Of UP

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Today I watched Up.

I think the thing that struck me most while I was watching it was how much of the movie was written solely for adults. I mean, how many kids watching that movie would have been able to figure out that the old man’s wife could not have kids?

It makes you wonder why Pixar does such things. Granted, it is common wisdom that for a children’s movie to be successful it should appeal to the adults as well as to the children. But it is hard to think of any other children’s movie that has so much in it that goes completely over a child’s head. The only ones that come close are other Pixar flicks.

To be sure, Shrek had a lot of parody in it that a child would miss. But the parody worked on its own terms for little kids. They did not have to get the parody to enjoy the movie. And maybe I am wrong, but I think that there is an awful lot of stuff in Up that kids just won’t get.

That is not to say that kids won’t enjoy the movie, but it strikes me that it will never become a favorite of the little ones on par with Toy Story or Lion King. And if the people behind Pixar have any brains, they had to realize that it was going to be this way when they were sending it out the door.

So it makes you wonder why they do it. You would think they would make even more money if they geared it more toward little kids. I mean, adults watch Pixar’s stuff. But kids would watch it over and over again if they geared it more toward them. Kids have time and loyalty that most adults lack.

The only thing I can think of is that a lot of people in Pixar would rather be making movies for adults, but don’t feel that they can get away with their anti-modernist streak if they did so.

A whiny thanksgiving

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Today is a day that is supposedly set aside for giving thanks. I suppose that there are worse traditions that one could start.

It certainly seems healthier overall than Christmas. At least Thanksgiving only gets perverted into stuffing one’s face and going hunting or watching football. Overall, it is far healthier for the country as a whole than Christmas is.

But for me, the day is just a reminder that of how hard it is for humans to be satisfied.

As I told my Uncle, I have it all. A good job that has kept me interested this year and one where I rarely hear anything but praise. I have health. All of my family has their health. I have plenty of money.

And yet, I can’t help but think that it is all being wasted on me. I don’t know what I should be doing, but I feel like it should be something more or different from what I am doing know. It just seems like I am just drifting through life wasting everything I have been given. It seems like God ought to come down out of heaven and show me where I should go. After all, he did promise wisdom to those who asked without having a double mind.

But the story of Abram and Ishmael demonstrates what happens when we try to use God’s promise as an excuse to make something happen. So I shall wait for understanding and seek the grace to enjoy what will probably be the best time of my life (in retrospect).

On a different note, all those news junkies out there should read this. I would bet dollars to donuts that it is going to be a big story next week. See here and here for more info.

The Suspense Never Ends

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Today I walked into the control room and I saw my partner in crime looking through the phone book.

Naturally I asked “Whatcha doing?” (Everything is my business.)

He mumble something about maybe going to see his doctor.

Oh. Of course.

Now my only question is “Will an ambulance do or should we call in a helicopter?”

The story that I dragged out of him using methods banned by the Geneva convention (so I exaggerate slightly, sue me) justified that kind of reaction.

It was the same kind of tale that has been told many a time by many a man. Chest pains. Breaking out in a cold sweat and feeling a stabbing pain in the upper back when taking a light object off a shelf. Not very original perhaps, but it was scary just the same.

But I held my peace and left him to call his doctor in private so that the doctor could tell him the obvious. GO TO THE ER.

Then there was more stress for me. My partner in crime really did not like the “GO TO THE ER” even though it was advice given for free and he normally likes free things (and how often do doctors give advice for free anyway?). So at first he was as shifty as a little kid trying to get out of something. He just would not commit to going to the ER.

He was being so bad that in blackest corner of my black heart I contemplated doing one of the worst things one man can do to another (namely get a woman involved without his consent). Furthermore, I and others were not keen on the idea of him driving himself to the ER.

In the end, it all ended happily. He went to ER like a good boy and he was given a clean bill of health. Probably related to his back, they said.

But that did not stop me from worrying.

Are the doctors quacks?

If they are not quacks, does this mean that he has a vertebrae getting ready to blow and leaving him lying on the floor somewhere where nobody will find him for hours and hours?

And will he take the wrong lesson from this and not go to the ER the next time he feels bad chest pains?

Truth Or Fiction

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Today I was faced with the age old question: Is this guy lying, exaggerating, or telling the truth?

You see, I went to an asbestos awareness training. I have gone through this training a number of times before. Normally my biggest challenge is staying awake.

This time it was different. The presenter was good at his job and he knew how to connect with a blue collar male audience (although I heard the big boss did not approve of his methods). But in addition to the same old information that we have all heard countless times, this trainer went on to tell us some things that I never heard before. And truth be told, I have a hard time believing what he told us.

He started the unorthodox part of his training by bad mouthing Canada for its asbestos policy. He talked about Asbestos, Quebec and the alleged unsafe conditions were going on there. He lead people to believe that laws regarding Asbestos were a lot different then they were here in the states.

Now I know that parts of the above are true and parts of the above are false or misleading and parts of it I have no idea. As you can see from the links above, Canada does export asbestos like it is going out of style. But its domestic laws regarding asbestos are not much different then they are here in the states. It just that they have no problem with exporting the stuff to third world countries. And I have no way of knowing if his stories about Asbestos, Quebec are true or not (he claimed that an associate of his had actually gone there on business).

So while he was talking about things that I can verify he was reasonably honest. Even in the case where he was wrong, it was probably just a case of honest mis-extrapolation by a blue collar type dude. It probably did not cross his mind that they were just hypocrites.

So what should I make of his allegations that he had first hand knowledge that big box retailers sometimes sold imported Sheetrock and other construction products with asbestos in them? What should I make of his story of a general contractor who put more asbestos back into a remodel building then was taken out because he used cheap imported products?

I could not find much supporting information using Google, but he seemed to be an honest guy.

Me trying to sound reasonable

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Today I wrote this comment on one of Felix’s blog posts….


Are you comparing apples to oranges?

As I understand it, you are comparing the federal debt in the US to the average national debt in the EU. On the face of it, this would seem to be a fair comparison. But I am under the impression that EU countries have far less municipal and province level debt than the US. As I understand it, this is due to the fact that the average EU nation has a stronger central government. Am I misinformed?

If I am correct, it would seem to me that comparing US federal debt to average EU national debt is an unfair comparison. In the US a lot of public services are funded at the state level where as they would be provided at a national level in other countries. Education would be a prime example of this.

Thus, after America has paid out 3% of GDP by paying interest on national debt, they still have to pay out a hefty portion of GDP on municipal and state debt that other nations don’t have to worry about (at least not to the same degree). See New York, California, New Jersey, and Michigan just for starters.

By just focusing on sovereign debt, I think you are painting a misleading picture of the debt servicing cost that the American taxpayer is going to have to carry relative to the EU taxpayer.

That was me trying to be reasonable. The part of me that is a jerk wanted to say “What part of being like Belgium or Italy sounds okay to you?”

Never Ending Battle

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Yesterday was not a good day. I supposed it does not quite qualify as a really bad day. But all sorts of things happened that I would really rather had not happened.

For starters I found out that removing the broken valve did not fix the problems we were having with the hot water in the particular riser in question. This did not surprise me. I already sort of knew that it was going to turn out like this.

You see, after we installed the new valve I put my hands on the pipes and found that the re-circulation line was cool. At the time, I hoped that this was just because we were running so much hot water in an effort to get the water to clear up that there was no hot water to re-circulate. But I did fully believe that even then.

The question I am now faced with is figuring out why is the hot water not recirculating? I figured out that hot water valve that we replaced was broke in part because the re-circulation line was warm where as the hot water line was stone cold. Thus, I knew that hot water was being forced up the re-circulation line. And that would only happen if the hot water valve was broken. After that the only challenge was finding which valve was broken.

Now the situation is reversed. The hot water line is hot, but the re-circulation line is cold.

There is a number of reason why this might be so. All I need to do is go through the system in a systematic way and I should be able to figure out what I need to do.

But I never did this because of all the other things that happened that I didn’t want to happen.

One day I will get it licked.

But by that point I might have the whole building re-plumbed.

The Things That Did Not Go Wrong

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Today was a good day.

They don’t seem to happen very often and most time we forget about them so fast that we think they never happen.

But sometimes they do.

Things got done today. Funding for projects was approved(this was a shock to me). I may have found a supplier for parts that will keep us from having to change 1,000+ (yes one thousand) valves out. The day was beautiful weather wise.

I guess there was nothing in particular that made the day special. But then, a day does not have to be special to be good. Often times the things that make a day good are the things that did not happen.

For example, an acetylene torch was being used to braze a pipe within a foot of a sprinkler head that had 130 psi behind it. Those sprinkler heads are set off by heat. But we did not get wet.

A lot of work and and disruption to services and the cramming of an old man who is 6 foot plus in into a space so tight that I hurt myself trying to get into it. And it was all caused because I claimed that one valve was broken shut. If I had been wrong the list of people who want to kill me would have got some new names.

I was sure I was right. But I have been sure I was right and been wrong. And when the building is 80 years old and 7 stories high and the prints are not reliable because of all the mods and when things are cross connected that should not be cross connected……

Well, let us just say there was a reason I got the job of finding the problem.

When I looked into the valve that I said was broke, one of the plumbers must have misread my face. Because as soon as I looked up he said, “it wasn’t broke was it” and there was no sound of a question in his voice. But the big old plumber in effect said “it sure was broke”.

Only when he said it his voice was filled with wonder and excitement. And he added in a lot of swear words.

And that was pretty much how I felt as well.

A double standard

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Today I read another “poor men” post. This particular post struck me as a bad example for all sorts of reasons. But it got me to thinking about how I react to these types of arguments even when they are better done.

I have a double standard for these types of arguments even when they are well done. I tend to have a strong negative reaction to them when they are written by men for reasons that I explained here. But when woman write them, I am more tolerant. This double standard stems from my personal gut reaction rather then logical reason.

I personally don’t have any use for the idea that the anti-masculine ideals held by America’s intelligentsia are harming America’s men. To my mind, the damage done by the woman who enable men and the men who fail to be proper fathers makes the opinions of the chattering classes moot. So I think that crying about how poorly men are being treated is to detract from the real issues. And when me men are doing the crying it really disgusts me.

But at the same time, one common trait of females that really bothers me is their peculiar brand of hypocrisy. So I can’t help but enjoy it when a woman is willing to take aim at this hypocrisy.

In my opinion, woman tend to have a greater desire then men to appear virtuous. Because of this, they are far more prone to passing off their selfish desires as being some kind virtue then men are. This is particularly true when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

A woman will tend to define virtue in interpersonal relationships as being anything that makes them feel comfortable, loved, and valued. Anything that impedes on such feelings is by definition evil in their book. A man is more prone to saying “I am such a pig” and then giggle and snort like it is such a joke.

I would not claim that the pride men are prone to show in their failings is a good thing. But I find in more bearable then listening to a woman pass off her selfish desires as being the standard for what is right and good.

Random Musings

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Today I read about a man who got away with murder on account of the fact that the world ended.

The world did not really end, of course. But some 28,000 people on the island were killed. There were only two survivors. And one of them was this guy who was in prison for committing murder.

He was let go even though he had served almost no time in jail. I guess they figured that having lived through the destruction of everyone on the island was punishment enough.

Myself, I don’t quite get the logic. It was a known fact that all 28,000 of those people were going to die when they sentenced the man to life in prison for murder. The only surprising thing was that they all died at once. But in the long term, does that really matter?

I mean, all of those deaths did not happen very long ago. But I bet that nobody reading this knows what I am talking about or where it happened. Nor does it really matter to you. Everybody who lived back then has died by now, so who cares about a volcano that killed 28,000 of them all at once?

If it happened today, it would be a different story. Especially given the location of the volcano. Prime place for TV coverage—for the North American market in particular.

But why should it be a different story? Logically, it does not make any more sense to me that people should care more about 28,000 people who died today they 28,000 who died a couple of hundred years ago.

I mean, if we can help then we ought to do something. But why should it shake us up? We know that everybody is going to die. Why should it bother us more that deaths happen in our own time instead of the past?

I sometimes think that the main reason is that we are always suprised by reminders that our world can end. Sure, it all ended for those in the past. But their world was fake and unknowable.

And our world is real.