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:: Saturday, June 26, 2004 ::

Repair jobs from hell...

So that wonderful, amazing, highly competent, does-this-for-a-living, friend of the family's drops by yesterday to fix my leak. At this point, the water is seeping in my living room and the garage is looking more and more like a lake.

His first comment is "You're right. This doesn't have a hot water valve" followed by a "Man, if I knew the leak was going to get this bad, I'd have shut off the cold-water intake before leaving". I'd have done that too, but since I know nothing of water heaters, plumbing, or that fuzzy pink stuff inside my walls, I was afraid it might be "bad". So he turns off the cold water valve (we do have one of those) and cuts into the wall.

We trace the leak not to an elbow join, but to right above it. That's right. The pipe itself had cracked. Good sign, wot? It takes him a good 30 minutes to get the pipes out. They're rusted together, old, corroded, and just generally in bad shape. Luckily, it appears the pipe above the one he removed (hidden somewhere in the ceiling) was in better shape, as the new pipe fit in easily. (And you couldn't even see through the old pipe. My pipes are 25+ years old in places. This was one, I suppose)

Since my pipes were of an odd size (3/4s inch instead of 1/2inch or some such) he had to run to a hardware store and get some pipes of the right length. He also picked up a valve (so I could have a hot water shutoff valve, as required by local home ordinances) and some flexible tubing so he could place the valve.

And that's when the real fun starts. He gets the new pipe in place, and goes to connect the valve and the flexible tubing to the water heater. Where we find the old connector is solidly rusted in place, and the threading has mostly dissolved, so it has to be replaced. We manage -- after disconnected the gas line -- to get that thing out of the water heater. It took a long wrench, a hammer, and a lot of banging. So that comes out, and he goes to replace it, only to find that the tubing won't bend nearly as much as he thought (he was really annoyed at this) and there simply isn't enough room to hook the valve up.

So -- valveless -- he connects the hot water, relights the pilot, and goes to turn the cold water valve back on...and the valve breaks off in his hand. So he manages -- at great effort -- to turn the water back on using a wrench.

Let me tell you, at this point I'd have washed my hands of the whole affair, friend or not. Which just proves this guy is a far better man than myself. When he comes back in a week to replace the drywall (have to let the soaked wood air out a bit) he plans to move the piping so he can actually install the hot water valve, and replace the cold water valve.

And it's an effort to get this man to even accept money for parts. That kind of charity -- it was two or three hours of hard work -- left me with the feeling that my friends -- and family -- are often far better than I deserve.

On the other hand, if you live in the Houston area (especially on the SE side) and are ever looking for a highly competent general contractor for this sort of thing, let me know. I can give one hell of a recommendation (plus I've seen him do it for real. He did an excellent job when my parents finally got around to 25 years worth of home renovation.
:: Morat 11:03 AM :: ::

:: Friday, June 25, 2004 ::

People to be, and jobs to have...

Greg at Planet Swank was happily wandering through Jaquandor's list of "movie quesions" and one of his answers caught my eye:
A movie character you could really relate to, or even wish you could be like?

Easy -- I wanna be Ewan McGregor when I grow up, as a composite of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars Episodes I & II), Christian (Moulin Rouge) and Catcher Block (Down With Love).
First off, I will agree: Ewan McGregor rocks, and all three roles are great.

But, on a tangent, I'd like to reaffirm my geekiness here. Being a Jedi remains the coolest job ever. So, you know, the hours are bad, the benefits aren't all that great, and the pay sucks...and there's a good chance you'll have your head cut off my a sullen and ungrateful teenager.

On the other hand...Lightsaber, deep spirtual knowledge, profound understanding of people and the world around you, nifty spaceship, and it's the kind of job where you get a real sense of making a difference.

Defintely worth it. It's rather sad you're not allowed to have fictional jobs.
:: Morat 12:50 PM :: ::

Arrggghhh!

So last night I notice a large -- and growing -- puddle in my garage. With effort, I trace it back to the area around the water heater. (By effort, I mean "moving all the stuff in the garage"). Since hammering a nail is about the limits of my home repair skills, I called a friend of the family's. He drove over (and this was around 9:00 PM. Very nice guy) and trace it not to the water heater, but to the hot water line right inside the wall.

It was too difficult to get to last night (the water heater is partially in the way) and he's hopefully going to be there this afternoon to fix it. Did I note my water heater -- mysteriously -- doesn't have a hot-water cutoff valve? Yes, I'm a bit irked about that too. It was something that should have been caught in the home inspection prior to it's sale.

So it's raining inside my wall. Most of the water is moving into the garage out into the yard, but some is seeping through the interior wall into my house. Right into the area, in fact, where my surge protectors and computer cables run.

I've been having a lovely time dealing with all of this. So if I don't post much, it's because I've got hot water sheeting down the inside of my stupid wall.
:: Morat 11:38 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 24, 2004 ::

Bush interviewed in government CIA leak probe

Bush interviewed in government CIA leak probe:
President Bush was interviewed by government prosecutors Thursday in connection with the federal investigation of who leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative to the news media.

The president was questioned for 70 minutes in the Oval Office by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is heading the Justice Department investigation, and members of his team.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush has hired a private attorney, Jim Sharp, a Washington trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor, and he was present for the questioning.
Bush hired Sharp? Jeez, I just thought Sharp was being consulted in case his services were necessary. Apparently they were.

So, just to be sure we're clear on the facts: Someone outed a CIA operative tasked with dealing with weapons of mass destruction. The investigation into this -- which Bush claimed to fully support -- has gotten to the point where Bush himself is questioned....and felt the need to have a lawyer there.

Now, I realize that despite Bush's "Everyman" persona, he's an old blue blood like his dad, and tends to drag lawyers around the way most people carry cell-phones.

Nonetheless, the lack of outrage is puzzling. I mean, it's not like sitting Presidents are routinely interviewed -- in the company of their outside and highly qualified legal representation -- in a matter of treason.
:: Morat 10:35 AM :: ::

'Fahrenheit 9/11' ban

Whaaaa?:
Michael Moore may be prevented from advertising his controversial new movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," on television or radio after July 30 if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) today accepts the legal advice of its general counsel.

At the same time, a Republican-allied 527 soft-money group is preparing to file a complaint against Moore's film with the FEC for violating campaign-finance law.

In a draft advisory opinion placed on the FEC's agenda for today's meeting, the agency's general counsel states that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.
Let's run through the downsides of this, um, potential decision.
  • Moore gets even more publicity for F9/11, and can -- and will -- promote it as "the film the GOP doesn't want you to see". He would anyways, but this is even more believable.
  • The national news will note, probably many times, that ads for F9/11 can no longer be aired. This will give F9/11 more visibility than the ads themselves (plus adding another surge of interest on the 30th).
  • This will almost certainly end up in court, generating even more publicity
Good lord, it's like the GOP wants everyone to see this film.

In the end, however, this is unlikely to stand. Moore has no right, of course, to advertising. But on the other hand, I sincerely doubt the courts will allow the government to forbid the advertisement of a film solely because it deals with political subjects (or current events). My feeling here is that the Supreme Court looks upon McCain-Feingold as having a very narrow application, not the broad and sweeping powers this Republican 527 is claiming.

Of course, even if the FEC does vote this way, so what? All Moore has to do is reword the ads. Hell, he can write ads that say nothing but: "We're not allowed to tell you what's in this movie. That's how explosive it is. But here's what reviewers are saying...".
:: Morat 8:26 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 ::

"Perverse Polarity" by Paul Glastris

This is a must-read article:
There's something similar about the way the national press has been describing the polarization of our political culture over the last few years. It is a cliche to observe that the parties have drawn further apart, the center no longer holds, and partisans on both sides have withdrawn further into mutual loathing and ever more-homogenous and antagonistic groupings. Where the analysis goes wrong is in its assumption, either explicit or implicit, that both parties bear equal responsibility for this state of affairs. While partisanship may now be deeply entrenched among their voters and their elites, the truth is that the growing polarization of American politics results primarily from the growing radicalism of the Republican Party.
[...]
Broder is of course right that such a realignment has taken place. But the vast majority of truly right-wing Democrats defected to their natural modern home in the GOP years ago. The interesting question is what's driving the process now. Broder didn't venture a guess, but the answer is implicit in the examples he chose. Quinn is retiring from a party that has treated moderates like him with disdain. Specter was almost bumped off by Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a conservative hardliner whose campaign received substantial funding from ideologically-uncompromising right-wing groups such as the Club of Growth.

Nothing remotely like this has occurred on the Democratic side. Sure, a number of moderate-to-conservative Democratic Southerners, such John Breaux (D-La.) and Bob Graham (D-Fla.) are retiring this year. But with the exception of Zell Miller (D-Ga.), none seem to be doing so because of anger at, or pressure from, the liberal wing of their party. Quite the contrary: hand wringing over the loss of moderate Southern Democrats is a party-wide obsession. Indeed, Senate Democrats were so afraid of losing Miller's vote in the Senate that neither his frequent and virulent denunciations of the party leadership nor his decision to endorse Bush for re-election provoked a single public rebuke. (By contrast, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last month questioned the wisdom of cutting taxes during wartime, the GOP Speaker of the House, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) questioned whether McCain understood the meaning of sacrifice.) And it's hard to remember the last time a moderate Democratic senator faced an ugly, well-funded primary challenge by a hardcore left-liberal, the way Specter did from his right.
I've know many independents and third-party supporters in my time, and especially among those who cultivate an aura of superiority for being outside the "two party system" it's an article of faith that both sides are equally bad, and only my partisanship (spoken as a truly dirty word) prevents me from seeing it.

To which my reply has always been: Just because it's partisan doesn't mean it's wrong. Everything in politics is partisan, by it's very nature. And those who deride both parties are just as partisan, if not more so, as they often refuse to admit they see through the same sort of lens more honest partisans do. After all, we admit it.

In any case, just because it's a partisan issue doesn't mean it's "everyone's fault". In fact, I would say those who reflexively blame both parties for all the political sins of America are just as guilty as those who reflexively blame the other party.

At least I admit my bias, and can try to keep that in mind. (Link via Digby)

:: Morat 11:24 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 ::

Texas Tuesdays: The road forward

Texas Tuesdays is taking a break from the Congressional races to take a look at some of the more important State Races.

Of more interest to the non-Texans, TT also compiles a list of blogger reports from the Texas Democratic Convention.

Swing on by, and take a big whiff of unfiltered politics.
:: Morat 8:37 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 21, 2004 ::

Libertarians...so crunchy!

I wandered through Reason's suggested plan for Kerry on taxes. Now, I'll leave the bulk of it to other people, but this bit caught my eye:
Kerry need not even propose a tax overhaul that moves him 'rightward' in the conventional sense. Back a consumed-income tax, with all savings exempt from tax, together with an end to all forms of corporate welfare on both the tax and spending side, and Kerry could frame his proposal as a bottom-up reform of Bush's corporatist leanings.
Now, perhaps I'm a bit slow, but one problem springs to mind here.

Basically put, a giant chunk of my income is devoted to those things necessary for life (Food, shelter, clothing) and those things required to keep that income going (transportation, education). I don't have that much of my income left over to actually save, so "unlimited savings" is going to reduce my tax burden by a fairly tiny amount. I don't even hit the 16% cap now.

But if I'm Bill Gates, I use only the tiniest fraction of my income to pay for the basics of life (even the Bill Gates versions). I could probably sock away 80% of my yearly income and not even notice. I'd have to cut down on the number of Ferrari's I buy each year, but we all have to make sacrifices, right?

So, under Reason's clever plan, the rich -- who can afford to save large fractions of their income -- can easily lower their tax burdens. While the poor and middle-class, who have to scrimp to save even a few percent a year -- if that -- can't really change their tax burden at all.

I'm not sure what the folks at Reason are smoking, but why they'd think Kerry would endorse what would -- in effect -- be a highly regressive tax is beyond me. Maybe they think he's too stupid -- or us poor wage slaves are too stupid -- to note who's getting the shaft here.
:: Morat 1:43 PM :: ::

Private craft soars into space, history

Sweet. Not as sweet as a Space Elevator (yes, even Space Elevators have blogs), but sweet nonetheless.:
SpaceShipOne left the Earth behind on Monday morning and made its indelible entry in the history books as the first private spacecraft to carry humans into space. It touched down safely at Mojave Airport at 11:15 ET.

'It looks great,' said Burt Rutan, chief of Scaled Composites, which built the craft. He gave a thumbs up on the runway as he squinted into the sun at the aircraft he designed.
At 10:51 ET, Mike Melvill ignited the rocket engines and piloted SpaceShipOne into the blackness of space. His trajectory took him more than 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above Earth's atmosphere, according to Scaled Composites flight officials.

:: Morat 9:35 AM :: ::

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