Friday, October 23, 2009

Dangerously Dumb Person in the World

Don't have time to talk about three dangerously dumb people this week. Just one.

The winner this week is Senator Jon Kyl (R) from Arizona, who stated on Meet the Press on Sunday that he wasn't sure "it's a fact that more and more people die because they don't have health insurance". Seriously? Did you just forget about the Harvard study that recently came out, which states that 45,000 Americans die every year because they don't have health insurance and that someone without health insurance is 40% more likely to die than someone who does?

Do you have any evidence to rebuke the study? Any at all? Senator Kyl's willful disregard of the facts makes him a dangerously dumb representative in Congress.


I'll be out of town this weekend, so my next note will be on Monday.

Stories from the Road -- The Oregon Coast

Meriwether: Well, I guess this is the end.
William: That's a lot of water.
Meriwether: Want to swim?
William: No way. Did you feel that water? It's cold.
Meriwether: You want to get some sun?
William: I haven't seen the sun in days.
Meriwether: Huh. Let's go back.


It was cloudy, cold, and damp. The ocean was a dreadful gray that mirrored the equally gloomy sky. The water was angry. I could hear the crashes of water long before I saw the beach. The sound is unmistakable in its ominous finality. The road ends here, and there is no need to think about going farther.

I have seen the Atlantic and the Pacific many times now, and there is no doubt that they are different beasts entirely. The warm, relatively quiet waters of the Atlantic almost have a gentle look compared to the ferocious waves of cold striking the West Coast. There are those who prefer the Atlantic for its recreational accessibility, old-style East Coast charm, and commonly blue waters. I prefer the darker blue and gray waters that tease the Pacific Northwest. The ocean is sternly telling any particularly adventurous individual: "Enter at your own risk."

After days of driving and walking through beautiful Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River Valley, and the Columbia River Gorge, Mom and I decided to have our day at the beach. We knew right away that no swimsuits would be necessary.

We departed from Portland early. The sky was overcast and would remain so throughout the day. The air was chilly and would only get chillier as we approached the coast. The wind would pick up, and it felt like it had ventured across the Pacific. The air smelled of salt, and the vibrant colors of the trees and cliffs alongside the ocean were stark contrasts to the monotone grays of the sky and ocean. It was absolutely beautiful.

Our first stop of the day was in Tillamook, a wonderfully rustic, rusty town, battered by constant Pacific breeze and salt. We entered a museum full of kids, and Mom quickly darted for the first penny machine of the day. Her day was already made, but I was hungry for my hobby: lighthouses. I would not be disappointed.

Oregon boasts the Cape Meares Lighthouse as the "shortest lighthouse in the state". Indeed, the lighthouse is minute compared to the stereotypical towers that most people think of. But what it lacks in height it makes up for in beauty. A piercing white color coats the lighthouse, which sticks out dramatically on the cliff it lies on. The alley leading to the lighthouse looks like a scene from a horror film, with trees following the trail and providing an eerily dark canopy. I could hear the water crash into the shore, and glimpses of the ocean were enticing. I frequently stopped on the trail to watch the ocean way below me crash into the tall cliff to my north. It was stunningly beautiful.

The view of the lighthouse itself is a postcard coming to life. The nice people who greeted us inside gave us a detailed history of the structure, and the eerie quiet within the lighthouse made the ocean look even scarier. Yes, the Pacific is for the brave soul.


William: I want to watch just a while longer. Let's set up camp.


We eventually traveled northward on US 101 to Rockaway Beach, with its classic arch-in-the-rock sitting just offshore. We ate lunch here in a wonderful restaurant sitting right on the beach. The seafood was fantastic. Mom and I said little, as we just sat and stared out at the gray sky and water. We could hear the waves in our imagination, and that was enough.

The town is poor and run-down. The buildings look like they could collapse at any time, with the constant weight of salt and water eventually taking its toll on everything. I love the looks of ocean towns. The people are nowhere to be found, inside the buildings they work and live in. The tourists stick out because they are outside, wondering what guidance the ferocious ocean can provide them.

Just after (north) of Rockaway Beach is beautiful Manzanita and an overlook on the highway that I only thought dreams were made of. The angry ocean we had witnessed all day looked like glass from the high bluff we stood on. The ocean eventually turns into the rocks that almost vertically climb to the highway above. The infinite horizon beautifully merged with the sky into a gray haze. Only imagination could take me farther.


Meriwether: Which side? North or south?
William: I don't know, but I just have a feeling south would be better. Call it instinct.


We drove north to Cannon Beach, with beautiful craft shops lining the downtown streets. Mom was like a kid in a candy store, stopping at every open door to look at anything that would remind her of her day here. We were not close to the ocean here, but now the sound of the waves crashing was like a permanent soundtrack. You could feel the ocean in the air just the same. The buildings were just as run-down here. The Pacific Ocean needn't hide from the visitor. It gives itself away unabashedly long before you see it.

We stop at Seaside and watch kite fliers and screaming kids inundate the beach. The town is touristy. I see a statue of two men looking outward. Their imaginations had to have been on hyperdrive.


Meriwether: I wish there was more to see.
William: There is, my friend. There is. Just look out. The whole world is before us.

Cape Meares
"I can see the light!"
A view from the lighthouse path.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
Lighthouse and ocean. Nothing better.
Rockaway Beach
Viewpoint near Manzanita.
My stamp of approval.
Cannon Beach
Seaside. Two men who look out and dream.
Seaside Beach.
Meriwether and William.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pictures from the Road -- San Francisco, CA

Some photos of our trek to the Golden Gate Bridge starting from Pier 37 in San Francisco. A classic cool, overcast day late in May 2009.

Tomorrow: Stories from the Road takes on the Oregon Coast.


Fisherman's Wharf. Touristy, but pretty good food.
A boat takes off to Alcatraz, seen in the background.
A typical pier in San Francisco.
An absolutely wonderful stop on the walk to Golden Gate Bridge is the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park -- a dock of vintage boats full of history. A must-see while in this city.
An example of the gorgeous boats docked in the NHP.
A cypress tree overlooking Fort Mason.
A typical view on the walk/bike path to Golden Gate.
A typical view of Golden Gate, complete with low clouds!
Mr. Toad's "Wild Ride"?

Chad's Takes

Is it possible that health insurance companies think of rape as a "preexisting condition"? Well, sort of, according to the enlightening Huffington Post article linked above. A rape victim was denied insurance because she took anti-AIDS drugs for a short period of time after the rape. When this was disclosed during the application process, she was denied any care because of the complicating factors arising from the drug use. She was promised a look-see, of sorts, after three years to ensure that she does not have AIDS.

As a result of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, it was quickly discovered that health insurance companies are not required to disclose how often "claims are denied and for what reasons". Thus, it is possible, by direct and indirect means, that health insurance companies are discriminating against particular people. In particular, health insurance company practices may deny coverage because of a preexisting condition that is physical (e.g., sexually transmitted disease) or mental (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder; PTSD) that commonly afflicts victims of rape.

The ACLU believes this is a form of discrimination:

"I think it's important to point out that health plans are not denying coverage based on the fact that someone was raped," said Pisano of the insurance trade group. "But PTSD could be a factor in denied coverage."

"That might not be a discriminatory action, but it certainly would seem to have a discriminatory impact," said Sandra Park, staff attorney at the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Insurance discrimination against rape victims will only further discourage them from coming forward to law enforcement and seeking medical help."

Yet another reason the thought of "preexisting conditions" precluding one's ability to obtain health insurance is mind-bogglingly immoral and deranged.


The inane response to the notorious "Balloon Boy" incident is reason to be concerned about today's media. I happened to be at a car dealership at the time of the event, and TV coverage was playing in the dealer's lobby. A group of people huddled around the television while the "dramatic" footage of a silver flying saucer breezed across the sky. The coverage of the landing was particularly intense, as most crash-balloon landings are.

In this age of 24/7 "news", events like these are covered in voyeuristic, "no-news" flavor. The incomprehensibly employed and idiotic Rick Sanchez said at one point just after the crash landing: "This is one of those stories that really will tell itself shortly here." Dude, profound. For me, it was already quite telling.

As feelings behind the scenes began to emerge that the boy probably was never on the balloon, obvious to me from the get-go given the behavior/design of the balloon, anchors were uncomfortable suggesting the idea that the event was a hoax. CNN later credited itself, specifically the actually ignorant Wolf Blitzer, with exposing the event as a hoax. When the child's startlingly truthful words cried out "I thought we did this for the show," the jig was up...except maybe to Blitzer, who inexplicably didn't immediately follow up with "Oh, really?"

But the sensationalism that is today's journalism had a story that engaged everyone, huddling around the TVs like dogs at feeding time. The "no-information" news cycle that became a laughingstock for a family also exposed today's media for what it is: a tabloid.

Matt Roush, TV Guide critic, put it best:

No one is served by fact-free reporting, and the resulting tabloid crush that kept this ridiculous family in the spotlight into the next morning was the sort of spectacle that was worthy of little Falcon puking on air. I know how he feels.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy 600!

Welcome to my 600th note on Facebook, and a number much larger for various blogs I write for.

I am still occasionally asked why I try to write a blog entry every day (which I commonly fail to do -- see yesterday, e.g.). Well, simply stated, I like writing.

A lot of people play sports to unwind. A lot more sit in front of the television to watch their favorite show. I sit down, staring at a computer screen, and type away until I feel better. As a pure stress reliever, I have found no hobby that approaches the ease with which writing calms me down.

I like speaking my mind, too. This is why I write about "dangerously dumb people in the world". I like exposing frauds and people who willfully ignore the facts. I enjoy the debates that commonly occur, whether by comments, personal messages, or actual run-ins, after I finish a particularly controversial essay.

It is no secret that I am a socially distant person. Writing allows me to counteract this to a degree. Slightly impersonal in the sense that I am not actively conversing with others, but very personal with respect to publicizing my personal opinions and stories.

I love traveling, and I like telling people about places to go and things to see. To some degree, I've always wanted to be a travel writer. (Personally, I don't think I have the chops, but maybe some practice will help. Also some money, so I can actually travel.) On my blogs, the travel notes are the most read, which means I will emphasize these for the foreseeable future.

I actually keep all of the travel entries I have (recently) written on a separate website:

I haven't really told anybody I know about the website, so few people actually read it. (Because of the ease of Facebook and the habits for people who read my main blog page, I expect this to continue.)

I have had a few people ask about the occasional Lucinda entries. Those are written for a specific reader.

I have had a few requests to return to the weekly ratings entry. I will begin to do this every other Monday as soon as my schedule settles down. Those entries take a particularly long time to write, so I phased that out a few months ago.

For your information, most entries take between 15 and 30 minutes to write. The travel entries take between 30 and 45 minutes, usually. The "dangerously dumb" entries take about 15 minutes, since I typically collect candidates throughout the week through perusal of the interwebs. If I'm writing over an hour, I'm wasting time.

I hope you enjoy the notes. I certainly enjoy writing them. I won't write everyday because of travel, particularly busy work days, etc., but I'll continue to write as frequently as I do now.


Tomorrow: Chad's Takes and Pictures from the Road

The Movie, er, Weather Channel

For many of us, the fact that the Weather Channel has jumped the cable shark is old news. Of course, you can jump the metaphorical shark as many times as you want. I present to you the latest evidence of repeated jumping of said shark:

That's right. The Weather Channel will begin showing movies, starting with The Perfect Storm and going all the way down to the ironically named Misery.

The weather angle is pretty clear in "The Perfect Storm," but "Misery"? [Weather Channel chief programmer Geoffrey] Darby noted the nightmare endured by James Caan's character begins with a blinding snowstorm.

Ooh, a snowstorm! That's weather. So is the rain in Road to Perdition! Or the sunshine in Under the Tuscan Sun.

"It's a way to respond to at least a significant portion of our audience that says, `Let's expand the definition of weather,'" he said.

Expanding or destroying?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pictures from the Road -- Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY

Tomorrow, I'll have a two-note special, because of my absence on Friday.

Enjoy some photos during my trip to northwest Wyoming in May 2008.
Common site on US 189 and US 191 northwest of Pinedale.
Hey, Mom!
Mom is in serious contemplation.
The Arch of Elkhorns in Jackson, WY.