Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Rally Report: More Like “Soak My Bones.”

Interesting, Local | Posted by admin
Aug 19 2007

As things stand, the 2007 Rattle My Bones Scooter Rally in the Twin Cities, is wrapping up. Visitors from out-of-town, including someone from Kansas City and a couple from Winnipeg, are motoring home. At last count, the rally had one-hundred and seventy registrants. That was with full knowledge that a lot of (300 accessories) rain would try to dampen spirits. Far from it, however. The numbers were on the high-side of rally attendees over the past eight years running. Some of us speculated how many more would have come out had the forecast been for clear skies and mid-70ºs.

I rode to the Friday night shindig, whacked-out back and all, on a newly-decorated Stella, courtesy of a fine artist who had experience painting an “art-car” or two… that’s Michelle. I went with a partial racing stripe upwards from the ground to the name badge, with retro-1950s stars, the kind that look similar to jacks, filling out the top of the legshield. Some fellow scooterists commented that they thought the work consisted of stick-on vinyl decals. They were surpirsed and impressed that she had done it, by hand, just the night before.

While Friday was dry, Saturday and Sunday alternated between rain and drizzle. Instead of falling back on the wimp-out excuse of my fear of getting wet, I had a novel, equally lame, wimp-out excuse courtesy of my back muscles. Friday morning I did the totally freaky “sneeze while bending over to pick up my boots” act and hit the floor like a bug caught under a shoe. My back muscles snapped like a rubber band in that moment. Whoa… That was painful. I’m still nursing it back to health and have even resorted to opening the medicine cabinet. All is well if I a) sit up, b) lie down, or c) stand up, but any angle that is between one and eighty-nine generated a lot of low-volume “ow… ow… ows” from me.

Since going to work was out of the question, I rested up for Friday night and rode there on my scooter, only to experience another freaky problem: My headlight kept going out when I shifted into third and fourth gear. It’s a common problem on scoots with gear shifters on the left-hand side of the handlebars, because that’s where the low-high beam switch also happens to sit. Periodically, a wire will work itself out after a certain number of twists up and down the gears. With a little electrical tape, a tiny swiss-army knife screwdriver, and five or ten others watching or assisting, we fixed the problem… mostly… it still flickers a little in fourth gear. Hey, it’s better than driving in the dark with no lights.

Someone commented on the Saturday ride (a.k.a. “The Big Ride”) that there were two kinds of scooterists out there in the driving rain: Scooterists with rain pants, who were happy, and scooterists without rain pants, who were not happy.

Seven or eight bands played each evening over the course of events. We had both kinds of music… no, not “country and western”… more like punk and ska. Michelle and I made it to those.

Overall, a good weekend was had by all… even with bad backs, mechanical problems, and weather-related inconveniences.

Do you feel it? A scooter rally approaches.

Interesting, Local | Posted by admin
Aug 16 2007

It must explain why I am wandering into the strange-yet-oh-so-cool offerings on the web.

It’s either that or the results of Michelle’s foray into the art of painting up scooters… particularly mine… with kick-butt, 1950s-jazz-lounge-era stars on the legshield. Pics will be forthcoming.

Who gives a furry rat’s gluteous maximus about fishing openers or deer season. Scooter rally season is where it’s at. Rattle My Bones is its name. Three days of Pabst, Bloody Maries, and two-stroke fumes (especially if you find yourself behind one of those vintage Lambrettas, which can create a heat-island effect without ever leaving first gear.

Check it out. Heck, come on out Saturday morning before The Big Ride and walk among the scooterista. Most hail from our fine Twin Cities, but there are plenty of out-of-towners who make their pilgrimage up here. Most of those come from Chicago (those would be the ones who ride in slouched positions, wearing worn-out Chuckies, and managing to keep their cigarettes in their mouths while at cruising speed) and from Denver (those would be the ones who put their seats up to either air out their gas tanks or keep the sun from baking their black vinyl seats; I haven’t figured out which it is, yet).

(Thanks to Clunkyrobot.com for finding that “rad for so many reasons” video. Enjoy all those hits you’ll get… from all three of my readers.)

When “Spring Break” becomes “Catch-up Week.”

Local | Posted by admin
Apr 02 2007

To my more serious readers (yes, all three of you): It is Spring Break in Minneapolis’ public school system. Rather than high-tail it with Michelle to the Gulf Coast of Florida to visit my mother-in-law, and the beach she just happens to live near, hop on the old scooter (which blew the crankshaft for a second time in four years), or do anything that might be loosely defined as “fun,” I have decided to use this so-called “free” time to try to tackle the long list of things I have wanted to do but had to shelve to address more immediate concerns.

Take today, for instance. I went into the office to meet with a few others — who have also transmogrified their “free” time into “working” time — and draw up a Top Ten of projects I hope to get done by the end of the week before the show gets on the road again seven days from now.

I’ll spare you the nasty details, but suffice it to say that I finished my Top Ten list in about ten minutes. Mostly, it involves software updates, database preparations and updates, reorganizing certain areas, writing a bunch of e-mails to people, getting cost estimates, and planning the next quarter of my class for a new bunch of students. Whee!

No, seriously… Whee! Almost every morning when I arrive on the campus, I hit the ground running and don’t stop until the class dismissal bell. Some days, I don’t even get a chance to drop my coat off in my office because something requiring my attention has come up. Because of all the budget cutbacks and reductions, most of us — teachers, administrators, and staff — are conducting the educational and administrative equivalent of meatball surgery. Granted, it’s not pretty and it leaves a lot of rough edges, but we get the job done quickly and effectively.

You probably know how many critics of education argue that public schools should be run like a business, right? Well, if schools were run in such a manner, the employees would go on strike in a heartbeat due to the arduous working demands, the rough conditions, and the less-than-adequate compensation for their expertise. As I indicated in my previous post, if my school contracted out for the technical support I provide, it would be in a financial hole five to six times greater than what I receive…

… Of course, I did happen to crash the school’s network last week. Hey, it could have happened to anybody. Besides, I fixed it in less than an hour (it should have been less, but I didn’t ask the important starting question, “Okay, what did I do that caused this?”) and finished re-wiring the third floor lab all at the same time.

God, I wish I had George W. Bush’s job. All he does is tell people to do things or not to do things. He’s not a “details” person, by his own admission. He never has to accept blame for his failures. He just passes them off to his underlings’ underlings, or his underlings themselves if the failing issue is too hot. He doesn’t even do e-mails, or so he says, anyway. Most importantly, he works nine to five, takes super-long vacations that are truly vacations and not some demented version of free time to address the as-yet-unaddressed tasks, browbeats and bullies others without a care in the world, and is chauffeured all over the place. All that, a six-digit annual income, and no calls for accountability from the Right Wing Nut House, too.

Another “Black Friday” to note.

Local | Posted by admin
Nov 24 2006

Today is the American retailers’ day where they hope their financial dreams come true. Millions, for some strange reason I still haven’t comprehended, rush out to crowd malls and shops to buy, buy, buy. Tonight’s news programs — local, national, and cable — will have reporters camped out all over the place to “report” on this phenomenon of consumer craziness following a nice, quiet, day of dinner with friends and family.

Many call today “Black Friday.”

For once, I agree with the labeling of this day, but not for the reasons that have just been outlined. No, today’s Black Friday should not be about wild and unhinged American consumerism. Rather, it should note the increasingly wild and unhinged problems that have been developing in Iraq since March of 2003 and have steadily grown worse.

Iraq Toll Rises; Shiite Militia Retaliates (New York Times):

Defying a government-imposed curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in central Iraq today, shot guards and burned down several buildings in apparent retaliation for a series of devastating car bombs that killed hundreds of people the previous day in a Shiite slum.

As the death toll from those bombings rose above 200, gunmen drove through neighborhoods in Baghdad and the nearby provincial capital of Baquba, shooting at mosques with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the Muslim holy day, when many Iraqis attend a weekly sermon.

From morning until afternoon, at least seven mosques were attacked in a single mixed neighborhood in the capital. Three were destroyed completely, and at least three guards were killed, an Interior Ministry official said. Iraqi security forces were either absent or unable to stop the gunmen. Residents blamed the attacks on the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia based in Sadr City, the area ravaged by the explosions on Thursday.

“I live near Akbar al-Mustafa Mosque, which came under attack by gunmen around 7 this morning,” said a man who gave his name as Abu Ruqaiya and lives in Hurriya, the neighborhood where violence raged all day. “Around 3 in the afternoon, those gunmen bombed this mosque and destroyed part of it. They left only after American and Iraqi soldiers arrived.”

The wave of revenge attacks came despite a traffic ban the Iraqi government had imposed across the capital starting Thursday evening, underscoring the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi security forces in tamping down on violence that is widening the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide and pushing the country toward full-scale civil war. The assaults against Sunnis on Friday evoked the rampages by Shiite gunmen that took place in the hours after a revered Shiite shrine was bombed by insurgents last February in Samarra.

American troops stepped up patrols across Baghdad, setting up checkpoints and rolling down mostly deserted avenues in armored Humvees. In the far north, a suicide car bomber and a suicide belt bomber detonated their explosives in crowded areas in the insurgent-rife city of Tal Afar, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 42.

The bloodletting over the 24-hour period amounted to one of the worst spasms of violence since the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. It comes before a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki scheduled for Wednesday in Jordan. Both men face increasing pressure from their respective publics to come up with a successful strategy for stemming the growing carnage in Iraq, and both are navigating rising tensions between their two governments as they try to agree on a viable path forward.

More perspective.

Local | Posted by admin
Nov 01 2006

This is what the right-wingers would have you believe:

* A Democrat, even one who has honorably served this country, should not say anything critical about our Dear Leader and his underlings — most of whom have not served or ducked out of service. Anyone who does should be shouted down, made to lick the president’s jackboots, and beg for a forgiveness that will never be granted.

* It is okay, however, if you are a Republican, to beat down people who have served this country.

Case in point:

Letter from Mike Stark (posted with a video clip over at AlterNet):
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Oct 31, 2006

The following is a letter to NBC29 from Mike Stark, the man who was tackled for a comment he made at Senator Allen’s campaign stop in Charlottesville on Tuesday.

My name is Mike Stark. I am a law student at the University of Virginia, a marine, and a citizen journalist. Earlier today at a public event, I was attempting to ask Senator Allen a question about his sealed divorce record and his arrest in the 1970s, both of which are in the public domain. His people assaulted me, put me in a headlock, and wrestled me to the ground. Video footage is available here, from an NBC affiliate.

I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government. I also want to know why Senator Allen would want his staffers to assault someone asking questions about matters of public record in the heat of a political campaign. Why are his divorce records sealed? Why was he arrested in the 1970s? And why did his campaign batter me when I asked him about these questions.

George Allen defends his support of the Iraq war by saying that our troops are defending the ideals America stands for. Indeed, he says our troops are defending our very freedom. What kind of country is it when a Senator’s constituent is assaulted for asking difficult and uncomfortable questions? What freedoms do we have left? Maybe we need to bring the troops home so that they can fight for freedom at George Allen’s campaign events. Demanding accountability should not be an offense worthy of assault.

I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today. George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, “This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man.” He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I’ll be damned if I’ll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves.

It just isn’t the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.

W. Michael Stark

Again, you do the math.

Faster than a speeding bullet….

Local | Posted by admin
Oct 16 2006

….with just about as much usable information. That’s our AAA (Andy Aplikowski) manning the phone banks for Mark Kennedy. Despite having been on the job for the entire evening – a whopping 1.5 hours as of when he posted – he claims to have made “almost 1000 phone calls.” That works out to about 11 phone calls per minute! The only solace we can take home from this is that in the 5.4 seconds for each of these 1000 phone calls, he likely pursuaded no one of anything. Not even I can talk that fast.

Gay-bashing, presidential style.

Local | Posted by admin
Jun 07 2006

I just can’t get used to Bush’s thinly veiled gay bashing.

President’s Statement on the Senate’s Marriage Protection Amendment Vote (White House):

Today’s Senate vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment marks the start of a new chapter in this important national debate. I thank the Senators who supported this Amendment, but I am disappointed the Senate did not achieve the necessary number of votes to move the amendment process forward. Our Nation’s founders set a high bar for amending our Constitution – and history has shown us that it can take several tries before an Amendment builds the two-thirds support it needs in both houses of Congress. My position on this issue is clear: marriage is the most fundamental institution of our society, and it should not be redefined by activist judges. The people must be heard on this issue. And as this debate continues, each American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity.

Let’s review:

First, how does the Gay and Lesbian Discrimination Marriage Protection Amendment protect marriage? Neither Michelle or I feel as if two men or women deciding to make a lifelong commitment to each other will undercut our relationship. A note to Bush and Company: Go “protect” someone else’s marriage. You don’t speak for us.

Second, what is this “national debate” Bush cites? If it is a debate between one group of people who are homophobic and itching to write discrimination into the Constitution and another group who think that the first group consists of a bunch of ignorant jerks who want to deny a group of people basic legal rights because two people who want to establish a life-long commitment with each other just happen to have the same biological plumbing, then okay, maybe there is a national debate.

Third, will Bush and his gang of homophobes please, please, please publicly and specifically name those ethereal, wicked “activist judges” they fear so much? My guess is that they would not name such names as Alito, Scalia, or Thomas. No, those are “activist judges.” They are “doormat judges” for the neo-conservative movement.

Fourth, if marriage is so flippin’ “fundamental” an institution, why not “protect” it by doing away with divorce? I never get an answer to this from people who worry that a marriage between Steve and Luke or Cindy and Mary will do far greater harm to the institution than a Mark or Susan divorcing.

Lastly, I am going to call bullfeathers (I’d call it something more crude, but I want my grandmothers to continue reading this blog without blushing too much) on Bush’s last line: “And as this debate continues, each American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity.” Forget that he just spent the last few sentences outlining a prescription for intolerance, disrespect, and heaping indignities on a group of people. Forget that our Dear Sniveling Leader does not mention gays or lesbians in the “national debate” he wants us to have when he knows full well that this is at the core of his “Marriage Protection Amendment.” No, what is truly insulting is that Mr. “Is our children learning?” Bush begins a sentence with “and!” This president isn’t simply a bigot. He is an ignorant bigot.

Well, at least the president and Congress can get back to the real priorities and address poverty alleviation, improving our public infrastructure, and putting together a universal health care package, reducing the deficit (with a nod to Ellen T. who added this comment to a recent post), cleaning up the mess that has become Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan… *scree-ee-ee-ee-eech-ch-ch!!!*

Oh, wait a dog-gone minute. The government of Haves need to make sure that our nation institutes a system of anti-democratic, hereditary wealth by doing away with the Estate Tax. Sorry, everyone, the demands of the nouveau-riche need to be placated as Congress and the White House seek to elevate a select group of people to the status of becoming our nation’s aristocracy.

Today’s DSM-IV Moment

Local | Posted by admin
May 24 2006

Oh, goodie… not.
What gift can you give a federal department that has damn near everything (such as V-22 Ospreys that can’t stay aloft, or “missile defense” systems that can’t hit their targets, or control the Central Intelligence Agency)? How about giving them a new bomb to play with?

Boeing unveils lightweight bomb for urban combat (Crain’s Chicago Business):
Company’s defense unit will make 24,000 for Air Force

Boeing Co. on Monday unveiled a line of small, lightweight bombs that the U.S. Air Force will use in urban combat situations like the war in Iraq.

The small-diameter bombs weigh 250 pounds and can be used by all Air Force bombers, according to Boeing. By using the smaller bombs, planes can carry about four times as many bombs and fire them from farther away. A B-2 Stealth bomber can carry as many as 80 of the small-diameter bombs.

The bombs also will help limit civilian casualties during airstrikes in urban areas, Air Force Col. Richard Justice said at an unveiling ceremony. Boeing said its own tests show the bombs hit within 4 feet of their target.

Justice said Boeing’s development of the bomb was one of the speediest and most successful weapons development in Air Force history. He said the bomb should be used in combat as early as this summer.

Boeing, based in Chicago but whose defense operations are based in the St. Louis area, said it will make 24,000 small-diameter bombs for the Air Force, which has contracted to buy them through 2015.

The small-diameter bomb contract is valued at about $2.5 billion, but Boeing has only won the first phase of the whole project.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office – the investigative arm of Congress – found that Boeing’s contract for the bombs had been influenced by an Air Force official who was sentenced to nine months in prison for giving Boeing preferential treatment.

You have to love this. Bombs “designed” for urban combat, corrupt companies and government officials, and a couple of billions more to inflict death and destruction.

War is, indeed, a racket.

As funny as a crutch.

Local | Posted by admin
Apr 13 2006

Wow. Tracy and his conservative posse of comment writers know how to pick the perfect targets. If they put half the effort toward tackling wasteful military spending, the federal budget would be in surplus.

Moses has us listed for an April Fool’s Joke. Unfortunately, Minneapolis schools are the real joke.

[Full post here. Take a gander at the comments, too. Truly compassionate conservatism at work… not.]

The joke isn’t the Minneapolis public schools, or suburban public schools, or public schools in general. The really sad joke is that too many critics of public education do not direct the same critiques towards other, truly wasteful spending in the public sector or the private sector. The Pentagon and the Robb Report get a free pass while teachers and service sector workers (SEIU members mentioned here) get trounced constantly. If the Anti-Strib was a school playground, these people would be the bullies.

As an argument, “support our troops” goes unquestioned in the land of right-wing criticism. “Support our children” and their future, however, gets scrutinized, criticized and yelled down without much hesitation.

RIP – NYT’s David Rosenbaum.

Local | Posted by admin
Jan 08 2006

I can’t recall any specific articles I have read with David Rosenbaum’s byline attached, but I am certain that in the decade or more of “my morning coffee” (what I call my copy of the New York Times) I relied on his reporting. This political junkie will miss his presence.

David Rosenbaum, Reporter for Times Who Covered Politics, Dies at 63 (New York Times):

David E. Rosenbaum, a retired reporter and editor for The New York Times who for more than 35 years wrote about the intersection of politics, economics and government policy with uncommon depth, clarity and a keen eye for the story behind the story, died Sunday. He was 63.

His death was caused by a brain injury suffered when he was struck in the head and robbed Friday night while walking near his home in Northwest Washington, police officials and his family members said.

Mr. Rosenbaum served at various times as chief Congressional correspondent, chief domestic policy correspondent, chief economics correspondent, assistant news editor and business editor in the Washington bureau of The Times.

My sympathies go out to Mr. Rosenbaum’s family, friends and colleagues.