February 28, 2006


Roll On, Brother

I received the very tragic news Sunday that my friend and fellow Chattanooga mountain biker Mike Callahan passed away while riding up at the Tanasi Trails near Ducktown, Tennessee.

He was on a ride with some folks from the Chattanooga Bike Club, and while going down Thunder Rock Express he collapsed. There were several people on the ride with various degrees of medical knowledge who bravely did all they could to revive Mike but sadly to no avail. The Polk County coroner has determined the cause as cardiac arrest. It's quite a shock because Mike was only 55 years of age and ostensibly very fit. He used to race bikes competitively.

I sure will miss Mike. I truly count him among my best cycling friends. He was one of the most laid back dudes I've ever known. An awesome technical mountain biker, he would roll over things from the get-go that I would have to stop and inspect thoroughly before I'd dare to try.

I looked all through my photos and couldn't come up with a particularly good head shot, but for the sake of tribute here are a few that I did find:

Here's a shot of him on a ride last winter at Fall Creek Falls State Park up on the Cumberland Plateau. The photo doesn't do his skills justice - it's just a dinky little log pile - but that's an old school fully rigid (no suspension) Schwinn Paramount, one of his fave rides.

Here Mike is crossing the swinging bridge over Cane Creek at Fall Creek Falls S.P.

He was a dedicated trail worker, too - always happy to help out when he could. In fact he had been helping out on this bridge building project on the nearby Clear Creek Trail just the day before his last ride.

Here Mike leads us out to work at Booker T. Washington State Park at last year's IMBA Trail Care Crew visit.

Mike was always so good-natured, and on many a post-ride occasion we enjoyed sharing some laughs and a liquid and/or herbal libation. I'd often run into him downtown at the summer Nightfall concerts on Friday nights, boogying to the music and enjoying a brew or three. Everytime I saw Mike I'd think "I need to get together with him more often," which just adds to the sadness and the reality of how fleeting life is. He was an accomplished guitar player (again, sad I never got to play with him) and had great taste in music - I was steered right by his recommendations of new music several times.

Mountain biking was such a passion in his life and I know so many people who will be at his memorial that will be able to relate to that. It's a shocking loss to our clan, but I think Mike will be happy to have people laughing and smiling when they remember that he was doing what he loved most when he died. The word I got from someone with him on that final ride was at one point he was beaming and said, "This is what I live for!"

Well my friend, I hope when it's my time I can have something as good as you did to die for.

Roll On, Brother...

February 23, 2006


Laughing to orgasm

Just surfin' the blogosphere and I stumbled across this very funny photo at Socialist Swine's house.

I was guffawing with tears, so Jen arrived to inspect the screen and gave a chuckle herself.

Question: how many times did I avoid using the word "came" in the previous sentences? How many "other word for kitty" references can you think of after seeing the photo?

Me - owww.

February 22, 2006


Technology? Humbug !

Per Joe's suggestion in the comments of the last post, I perused a list of NASA spinoff technology to enlighten my crabby Luddite worldview.

Rage Against the MACHINE !

The NASA thing is mostly a "for example" suggestion of how our priorities could be rearranged. I don't believe that NASA is useless and I do not advocate scuttling the whole ball of cosmic dust, but for the sake of the dialectic, and you know how we love our dialectic, a couple of things jumped out at me on this webpage:

One cannot even begin to place a dollar value on the lives saved and improved lifestyles of the less fortunate. Space technology benefits everyone and a rising technological tide does raise all boats.

CAUTION: The language in the above statement contains propaganda.

Does anyone smell the sibling of Reaganomics/trickle down? Technological advancements cost big bucks and they hold very high premiums at their outset (often for years - how much was your first VCR?). And for what, a bunch of really neat stuff sold at the Sharper Image? I know, I'm playing a bit of my own devil's advocate here. The "boats" aphorism is the same old voodoo and is especially repugnant to us liberals. That's the logic used to put forth how a flat income tax is best for everybody. It's interesting how they never speak about who owns the yacht or the dinghy.

VIRTUAL REALITY...yadda yadda yadda...creates a telepresence experience.

Our planet needs more of the good ole regular type of reality. Now, the water purification thing is great, but the aerodynamic golf ball and ribbed swimsuit? Some of the medical stuff is laudable, but wouldn't taxpayer dollars be better utilized toward wiping out famine and AIDS rather than what we'll find out in fifteen years about the uninhabitable planet at the far end of our solar system?

It is correct to say that there plenty of other areas of federal spending needing overhaul or elimination far ahead of NASA. But I can't escape my perhaps prejudiced vision of pencilnecks getting their jollies from investigating the vast mysteries of the universe on our dime.

February 18, 2006



Today’s acronym is brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture. Normally USFS stands for the United States Forest Service, which has been under the USDA’s aegis since it was transferred by Congress from the Department of the Interior (aka the Department of Everything Else) under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in 1905.

But every now and then, based usually on the whim of political expediency or under the guise of best management practices, it seems that USFS actually stands for United States For Sale. The Bush administration's proposal to sell our national forests to pay for rural schools and roads would be devastating to say the least. It calls for the sale of 309,121 acres among 2,930 parcels in 34 states to raise $800 million over the next five years. The cause for this funding need is stated as a decline in timber sales. Rural schools had been guaranteed funds in the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000, of which some came from timber. The Bureau of Land Management also is working on selling off federal lands to raise about $182 million during the next five years.

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, begins with the lame deflection that fewer than 200,000 of the 309,000 acres identified are likely to be sold. He then rationalizes the land sale by pointing to acquisition that in recent years has boosted the USFS holdings by two million acres. That is good Mr. Rey, let’s keep going in that direction ALL the time. Since Teddy Roosevelt’s time our forest reserves have tripled. Laudable yes, but let’s remember that it’s taken place over a century.

Rey says the parcels to be sold are "isolated (and) expensive to manage.” Just how did it get this way? Well, perhaps they were purchased with the typical prescience of real estate values, the intent always having been to sell them off when the budget was strapped. Still, selling public land has short term positive and long term negative economic impacts. But Americans should oppose this not so much for the asset liquidation aspect of the proposal (which casts a shadow upon USFS management philosophy) but for how it would head the Forest Service in the opposite direction of what Americans want. What should concern every altruistic conservationist is the USDA’s assessment that these parcels, according to Rey, “no longer meet the needs of the 193 million-acre national forest system.”

What exactly are the needs of the national forest system? The Forest Service motto is "Caring for the Land and Serving People," and while that is certainly subject to wide interpretation it should be noted that since 1905 the desires of the people have shifted toward preservation and recreation and away from the commercial management philosophy of the early Forest Service. In a recent USFS poll respondents indicated the following forest use issues were important to them:

Protect streams and other sources of clean water (95%)
Maintain National Forests for future generations (94%)
Protect habitat for wildlife and fish (89%)
Use and manage to leave forests natural in appearance (87%)
Protect rare and endangered species (86%)
Provide information and education about forests (80%)
Plant and manage for an abundant timber supply (79%)
Provide quiet, natural places for personal renewal (76%)
Provide access, services and information for recreation (74%)
Provide roads, accommodations and services to support local tourism businesses (57%)
Provide permits for grazing livestock (52%)
Produce raw materials to support local industries (47%)

Great Smoky Mountains view from Tsali (Nantahala National Forest)

California would lose the most acreage (85,000) of any state under the plan. Such a loss of public, quasi-protected land in an already crowded state is unconscionable to say the least. Idaho comes in second with 25,000 acres and 21,000 acres in Colorado. The parcels range in size from less than an acre to about 900 acres in Virginia. How is 900 acres “isolated?”

Thankfully many politicians have decried the plan, saying we can't afford to lose more public land, particularly in crowded metropolitan areas.

"The idea that you would start selling off parcels and have people build residences and industrial uses in areas that aren't getting enough protection right now is just wrong," said Alan Sanders of the Los Padres, California Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said the proposal is a terrible idea based on a misguided sense of priorities. "California's remaining wildlands are diminishing at a rapid rate, and we need, at the very least, to keep what we have, not to sell them off to the highest bidder," she said in a statement.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) is also against the proposal, and told the Helena Independent Register that he has co-sponsored legislation that would reauthorize and fully fund the Secure Rural Schools program without selling off our public lands. Montana has nearly 14,000 acres of its National Forests on the for sale list.

As for what’s on the list in the South:

Alabama - 3,220 acres
Georgia - 4,522 acres
North Carolina - 9,828 acres
South Carolina - 4,665 acres
Tennessee - 2,996 acres

For a five state total of 25,231 acres

Here's a thought: we could sell OUR timber up near reasonable market prices and put the increased revenue toward retraining loggers for other good jobs in our expanding global economy (or they could work for the Border Patrol). Then we would not need to sell off OUR land for an average price of $320 an acre like the Bureau of Land Management did with 13,160 acres from 2000 to 2004 (source: The Wilderness Society).

Even better, let's gut NASA and its $700 million Pluto space probes. Three of those babies and we'd have enough for the schools, the roads AND the real estate to connect most of the "isolated, expensive to manage" land.

Check out the full list of your potential property sales on the USFS Lands and Realty Management page.

This rant made possible by a contribution from the Associated Press

February 07, 2006


In this corner...

Thomas Sowell, stalwart conservative columnist/author, has in a recent piece of work pointed his head at yet another American injustice – greenspace. And amazingly enough, Sowell says it’s the wealthy causing all the trouble. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Sowell cause without the ever-scapegoatable “media elites” and his opinion that they are among the wealthy more likely to be living in the highest-priced housing markets of our country. He blames them for sticking to their agenda of keeping out other people in the name of preservation while decrying developers as selfish and greedy.

Sowell cites a study from the Journal of Law and Economics that concluded, “In the sprawling cities of the American heartland, land remains cheap, real construction costs are falling and expanding supply keeps housing costs low.” Please note the use of the word sprawling. Why then, Mr. Sowell asks, are there parts of the U.S. where housing costs have skyrocketed? I am amazed that a supply-sider like him points the “ah-ha!” finger so quickly at... land-use restrictions?

Oh, they are disguised by names like “open space” and “greenbelt” laws, or “whatever will sell politically,” he says. “People who already own their homes don’t worry about whether such laws will drive housing prices sky high. Somebody else will have to pay those prices...” Or not, Mr. Sowell – welcome to free market America. Not everybody can afford to have the (second?) house on the lake or coastal beach. But Sowell wants to cynically paint an elitist conspiracy against the laws of supply and demand, when the fact is there’s simply not enough room for many more people to live in America's most desirable places if they are to remain desirable. He feigns concern that there are those in California who have to smash the old rule of thumb that your housing costs should be about one fourth of your income (a dire situation that is more likely to be exploited by the mainstream media because, he says, "bad news sells"). Hey, I’m no economist, and I am baffled by how California can maintain full employment in the service occupations, but people live where they can afford and if not they are making an unwise choice that will eventually be corrected through tragic financial hardship or a simple skeedaddle to someplace else.

Sowell says that protected open space “that might otherwise provide homes for others becomes in effect free parkland for (the existing homeowners), while such upscale communities use ‘open space’ laws to keep out the masses.” Be still, my bleeding heart! Parkland is parkland, so I would not consider it selfish until a resident adjacent to it would rise up and say “Not in my taxpayer-funded viewshed!” to passing birdwatchers and mountain bikers before I had a problem with more of less housing.

From there Sowell incredibly points out that “green liars” and “environmental zealots” overlook the fact that forested land in the U.S. is more than three times as large as what is covered by urbania, and that somehow belies their concern for preservation. A three-to-one ratio is a good thing, Tom, and in my opinion could be improved upon. More incredible still is his assertion that surplus crop production shows that there is “too much farmland producing more than the market can absorb,” and then adds to his feigned concern all the chemicals in the soil, etc. that the green liars don’t mention. I think they do mention it, Mr. Sowell, and are certainly more sincere than you. But how does this relate to say, the price of housing in China Grove, N.C.?

I’m not going to say there has never been an abuse of preservation laws, and I generally disagree with the overbearing green philosophy that our wild places should be roped off. But on the list of “evil things produced by capitalism” I don't think greenspace is an issue worth complaining about, unless you’re trying to stir up class resentment with a specious argument about the “cost” of open space (Sowell must have learned it from those damned liberals). When it comes to acquiring more land for the public and preserving it “down to the seventh generation” as the saying goes, there is no better time than yesterday to get started as far as I’m concerned. May the world we leave them be a better one than was left to us.

February 04, 2006


Equal time


This is Ballou. She is Brisbane's 9-year-old "sister" and was named after the Jane Fonda character Cat Ballou. She was a stray, so we have no papers for her but have it on good authority that she is a pure bred miniature Australian Shepherd. It's hard for us to believe that someone let her loose. She is not the sharpest tack in the box, but makes up for that with her affection and generally obedient nature. She is affectionate like a friendly cat - she cannot get close enough to you even if she just met you two minutes ago. Too much affection is usually not possible (we say she gets horrible "love mileage"), but she occasionally likes to have alone time in one of several of her "small places" around the house. She knows no stranger, which worries us sometimes. She plays very fierce with her brother and with the neighborhood cats and squirrels (she boxes her paws through the fence at them in a frantic manner). She feigns incorrigible sibling rivalry with her brother, but deep down she loves him.

Her nicknames include:

Baby Cheeks - for her huge inner jowls that make her "click" when she pants
Menehune - for the mythical Hawaiian little people
Wiggle-butted Badgerskunk

Additional facts:

Her small ways cannot be discerned
Her snufflability averages 102-116 percent
She is the foot-chewinest dog ever
She has cottony softnesses unparalleled
She does not like to go out in the dewey wet grasses
She is the total package of a princess

February 03, 2006


Whatcha got against pirates?


I need to start this post off with an out-of-context slice from my comments page (I don't want to get into it, if for some reason you do it's under "Anyone?...")

Joe writes about "...CLASSIC 'correlation as causality' logic. In fact it is identical in form to the Pastafarian argument that global warming is inversely proportional to the number of pirates in the world. They choose to believe in it, though, because they NEED to. It makes them feel better."

Slanderous words toward the devoted and innocent worshippers of The Flying Spaghetti Monster ! Why, I can personally attest to the FACT that it always much cooler in our house, thanks be to pirates!

So take your "correlation as causality" and stick it in your eye! ARRRR !

More on The Pirate Boy

February 02, 2006


Tongue-tied by a yellow ribbon

People are going apeshit over Joel Stein's recent article on Iraq and the troops.

It was ballsy for sure, but I thought the article was quite insightful; a good mix of righteous indignation for the sheeple and some sarcasm. That it's weighted more with the former is uncharacteristic for Stein, but he gets his usual snarky digs in, which is why I can see sensitive types getting all huffy over it.

The likes of Stein and Michael Moore do tend to go over the top, but I think the reaction from the right wingnuts is akin to slapping a blind person (a physical, not a moral simile).

My soapbox/.02 - until there is a clear exit strategy for Iraq (the point of my righteous jones for an entrance strategy is practically moot, so we won't go there), then war supporters need to give up the notion that the dissenters are the dangerous ones. Go see Why We Fight, and fly your flag with me on July 4 (and any other day we please, hallelujah). Mine will be up for those Americans in harm's way, it'll also be up for the dad who protests the military recruiters being in his son's high school, and the 19-year-old widow who told a reporter, "I just feel that enough is enough."

February 01, 2006


Anyone? Anyone? Mark?

Well it's been nearly two weeks with no reply from Mark at Knockin' on the Golden Door. I didn't mention it before but the other main reason I engaged him (besides that he's a Deadhead, seems intelligent, and likes to talk politics) was because of this post on KOTGD:

Bloggers Wanted
I would like to add some more Left-leaning bloggers to my blogroll, and I don't mean raving lunatic, anti-Israel, pro-Bin Laden types like the little old lady from Tallahassee.

And they have to be able to take some criticism without whining and crying and getting all pushed out of shape because of a "snarky" remark.

And they have to be able to take some licks back when they tell me where to get off without emailing all my other links and telling them what an absolute ogre I am. I mean, I know I can be an asshole, but I have some redeeming qualities too.

Anyone lurking out there that cares to step up to the challenge?

E-mail me. I don't bite. At least, not very hard.

Those ground rules sound OK, and I continued to lurk at his blog after his last email on Jan. 18 and still after my "breakout" post here (see Thursday, January 26 post: Opposition - For your health!). I've commented several times to a number of his posts and received but two acknowledgements from him, brief and specifically germain to those two posts (can you find them?). No "Hey what's up?" or "I'm planning to get back to our conversation."

You can see from my blog links to the left that KOTGD is listed. Mark stated on his blog about not linking anyone unless they linked him, which I took to be a bit childish, but hell, it's his blog. FWIW I gave him "permission" to put me on his blogroll, though I don't percieve myself in the same league of serious everyday bloggers that make the bulk of his list.

Anyway Mark, I'm here to say don't sweat it. I've decided that you and most of your pals aren't worth losing sleep over (hey, I'm usually up past midnight anyway). Besides, I seem to be something of a thread killer on your comments pages. It's been fun, sorta. You're welcome here anytime.

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