Friday, November 24, 2006

Waxing Rhapsodic

A funny thing happened to me as I got older - instead of narrowing my music interests to when I was a teen like many do, I've found my interests broadening. Shockingly, even a little country music has wandered into my library. The outlaw branch to be specific, what they have on the radio isn't real country to me. I was always partial to Johnny Cash's early music and from there I've found some Waylon Jennings that I like. My music library (in the form of CD's and digital) has become very eclectic, with many genres represented: bebop, swing, old-time Norwegian, pop, rock, post-grunge, classic rock, new wave, experimental, classical, orchestral soundtracks, motown, funk, Sinatra, Dino, game soundtrack, and oddball.

It is growing thanks to finding a better music service than iTunes. Currently, I'm subscribing to Rhapsody from the folks at Real. It isn't without quirks or bugs, but no show stoppers for me like Apple's product. Once I learned to work around the IE7 problems and hack the registry to force subscription tracks to WMA format, I became a happy camper. The latter is a must do for people using subscription tracks on their compatible players, it saves a second downloading from Rhapsody and cuts down on disk space used. Hopefully, it will be a menu option with the next version. The tracks are better quality than iTunes, using a better bitrate and format as AAC loses its superiority over 128 kps even over MP3.

The best part of the subscription service is being able to listen to the entire tune before downloading it. Napster does the same thing and I think Apple is really missing the boat there since some tracks don't get good until a minute in. The option to buy and burn is there too, at 89 cents a track. I've gotten a few so far due to being impecunious and will buy others over the next year or so. The streaming "stations" and playlists are interesting and I'll get around to playing with them more, but with our ISP I can't count on reliable streaming.

At some point I'll get the code up to show what's playing on my PC. In the meantime, I've got thousands of tracks to rate...

Turkey Induced Thinking

Here it is, the day after Thanksgiving and I'm suffering turkey induced thoughts. They tend to be slow and ponderous thanks to the tryptophan - which is why playing Scrabble right after eating yesterday wasn't the brightest move on my part. I console myself with the fact I finished second, a mere 10 points behind. Not bad since it had been 30 years since I last played it. Well, not good since I only got 99 points and got shut out of every triple word play I had set up. Ah well.

It has been a long and hard year, so I had to work at counting my blessings, which all involve people I know. Or more accurately, it is the blessings of knowing them. I was told by someone that there are no good people, everyone is evil. That's haunted me, because I remember when I thought that way in my youth. It is a corrosive form of cynicism that eats at one's very soul and seeing that in someone else after getting away from that trap was sobering. There are a lot of good people out there and since they usually aren't trouble makers, it takes an effort to find them. Too many run in cynical and hip crowds, desperately searching for something to fill the hollow void in their lives. They accumulate material goods, money, fame, and party like they'll die if they stop moving. I have yet to see any good come from that lifestyle, only bitterness and resentment. I am very grateful that I learned not to be so bitter. I'm also grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father (you too, Holy Ghost), especially for the path that set me on, for it led me to most of the good people I know.

Look for the positive, there are silver, even platinum linings to many a cloud. It is how you deal with the negatives, with the tests and trials that determines how happy you will be. It certainly makes life easier to cope with.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Mitigated Disaster?

Well that was brutal. The American people voted their emotions and the Iraq war, with a smattering of "culture of corruption/throw the bums out" populism being the cause. This certainly wasn't an election of "all politics are local" nature. Only one candidate I predicted as winning actually won, as the center swung over to vote for the Democrats. We lost the US House, probably the US Senate, the Minnesota House, and the bulk of the governor's races. Even sheriff's races over in Wisconsin saw almost all the Republican candidates defeated. This was a total rejection of the GOP and punishment for not having a swift victory in Iraq.

So why aren't I calling it an unmitigated disaster? Look at how the referendums on marriage went. All seven states passed amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. This indicates the growing conservatism of the country as a whole, not a tilt to the left. What we are seeing is a punishment of the GOP from the voters, the equivalent of taking the belt to the child that erred. This debacle means the Republican leadership will have to listen to their base and grassroots, instead of taking them for granted. Fiscal responsibility being a huge issue there.

It was a perfect storm of war fatigue, growing isolationism, the six year itch, and a masterful propaganda campaign by the media against the Right. The growing influence of the Blogosphere was not enough to counter the last and nothing could counter the others. There is going to be a lot of second guessing, but I'm of the opinion nothing could have prevented what just happened. The campaigns were run well for the most part and we simply lost. That's politics!

Oddly enough, this has led me to re-evaluate the leadership who didn't prevent WWII. Neville Chamberlain now appears less the fool than an elected official truly representing the will of his people. We are in a time that has certain analogues to the world situation of the 1930's (maybe even the 1830's domestically) and I now know that the unavoidable is unpreventable as well. We think our governments and officials have the power to do just about anything, but they are as subject to the movements of history as the rest of us. So, Neville, I forgive you for "peace in our time" as you were doing what the British populace wanted.

I still like Winston Churchill better, but he was constantly getting thrown out of office. Heh, usually for speaking truth to power.

Well, I was going to post why Brenda Johnson won, but that turned into a rout and not in our favor. We ran a tight, focused campaign that did everything right and with an exceptional candidate. The other candidates made terrible tactical and strategic decisions, allowing us to control the overall campaign. It just turned out this was never our race to win, the DFL won everywhere in the area except for Steve Swiggum's district. Even the environmentalist independent candidate, Kevin Kelleher, didn't have a prayer in the face of what was happening. I really expected him to do better than he did in certain areas, but the DFL got the angry vote.

The same anger at those in power tilted the local sheriff's race toward the outsider who ran simply as an outsider. My favored candidate had concrete ideas and plans, but is considered part of the establishment so he didn't have a real chance either.

This really was an angry populist election and things usually go bad after one. Our foreign policy will be hamstrung now and I fear whatever chances we had at success in Iraq will be erased. Iran and Islamic extremists will correctly view this election as proof of American weakness, which will entice them to get even bolder. Very dark times are ahead for us and I can safely say most of the American people don't understand just how bad it will be. Weakness is always rewarded with pain and going isolationist means a world of pain will come knocking on our doors.

My consolation is that the Democrats ran a lot of conservative candidates who will be shut out of power by the far left leadership. We'll see some schisms in the next two years and the infighting will be brutal. Hopefully, a purging of the free spenders in the Republican ranks will occur as well. Adversity breeds character and we need some character building in the GOP. Another thing is that the voters may be opting for gridlock, as I don't see a mandate on left wing social issues. For instance, here in Minnesota Governor Pawlenty narrowly won re-election while the House was given to the DFL and their majority increased in the Senate. That means that a Republican president is a likely outcome in 2008.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Predictions

I meant to post this last night, but forgot to as a result of watching Heroes instead. Much has been made of the idea that the Democrats will sweep to power in this mid-term election, with phrases such as "tidal wave of blue" being bandied about. I've never believed that would happen and have been a lone voice of optimism in some of the circles I run in. This election will not be a great success story for the Democrats as they are truly out of touch with the majority of America. They've spent a great deal of time avoiding the issues, refusing to put forth any kind of serious plans for even their pet causes, such as ending the war in Iraq. That's not going to get the independent swing vote, in my opinion. I am going to stick my neck out and say that both the House and Senate will remain in GOP control -- due to the Republican base being a lot more motivated this year. It is apparent that the base will call due on this favor as well, so it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Locally, I'm very happy with how things are going, with only Mark Kennedy's US Senate bid being in trouble. Governor Pawlenty will win and was always going to win, but Mike Hatch's meltdown with the MSM in Minnesota clinches it beyond a doubt. Gil Gutknecht will beat his very liberal opponent, Tim Waltz, by possibly double digits. Mary Kiffmeyer and Pat Anderson look solid and I'm hoping Jeff Johnson can squeak out the win for Attorney General over Hatch's hand picked and forced upon the DFL candidate Lori Swanson. Our local State Representative, Greg Davids looks to have an easy victory over Ken Tschumper (calling corn farmers who invested in ethanol "Dairy Queens" is a bad, bad move). The State Senate race is much tighter, but everything has gone according to plan for Brenda Johnson's campaign. I fully expect her to win and will go into the details of why after today.

Local voter turnout will be high due to a hotly contested county sheriff's race and county commissioner's seats being fought over. There is a great deal of anger at the local officials and primary turnout was nearly twice as much as usual. It is no lie that the higher a turnout in an election, the more often Republicans win -- so election night results are going to be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, the Democratic machine apparently is back to their same old tricks in Philadelphia.

And the Diebold voting machines are looking bad in Tennessee, surprise, surprise.