Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    As if we needed more evidence...

    ...that government is completely out of control in this country:

    D.C. Ticketing Homeowners for Parking in Their Own Driveways

    It turns out that D.C. has an odd, obscure law stating that the land between the front of your house and the street, otherwise known as your driveway and front yard, falls under a bizarre classification known as ďprivate property set aside for public use.Ē Essentially, though owners have to pay for its maintenance and upkeep (they can be fined if they donít), itís considered public property. Which apparently means that, technically, you canít park your car on it. The city recently dusted off the law, and began writing parking tickets if any part of a residentís car is parked between the front facade of their house and the street, even if itís parked in the driveway.

    When Anderson complained, one D.C. official told her that if she wanted, she could pay the city to lease the land between the front of her house and the street, which would allow her to park her car there legally.

    I wonder if she's one of those lifelong Democrats that D.C. seems to be full of, who's been voting for people who believe government is the answer to everything. If so, I'm not sure how sorry I feel for her, but the situation in the nation's capital is certainly on the way to the crazyhouse.

    Posted by Tom, 4/30/2009 7:55:47 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The Future of Food

    I happened upon this in my net travels, and decided to watch it. There's some good points in there, but there's also some things that were missed, downplayed, or ignored. I think some of the conclusions they came to were a bit off, and the sad female narrator voice really got on my nerves, but overall it was a pretty decent film.

    I am already in opposition to farm subsidies as I am to all subsidies. We need to burn that house to the ground. I also don't agree with patent and copyright law -- the one thing I've "invented" that was worthy of patent, I decided to release into the wild instead, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

    Regardless of that, the patenting of "life" is an incredibly stupid move on the government's part, and I fully agree that we should be worried about the potential dangers highlighted by Michael Crichton's cautionary tale, Next (reviewed here). I highly recommend reading it.

    However, I think one of the film's major flaws is that it did not seriously address the issue of property rights. I figure this is because the producers are of an obviously leftward bent, and as such are likely hostile to the idea that property rights should be the foundation for law in our society. The only nod given to property rights was the farmer early on who talked about introducing cattle farming into a crop farming area, and the cattle farmer's responsibility to keep the cattle out of the crops.

    The same principle applies with regard to GMO crops -- the finding that GMO organisms have wound up in a non-GMO field is not an indication of patent infringement. Rather, it is an indication that the GMO producer owes reparations and restitution to the non-GMO farmer for polluting his crops. Had the Canadian and American governments been protectors of property rights as they should be, Monsanto would have been stopped cold at the first incursion. Unfortunately, one cannot expect the biggest destroyers of property rights to give any serious effort to their defense.

    I'm not sure where I stand on the labeling issue, because I believe that the proper solution to the whole ball of wax lies in property rights, and that if those rules were followed stringently, labeling might cease to be an issue. Organic farmers should certainly be allowed to promote their produce as "non-GMO" and so forth, to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, so long as they don't make libelous allegations about the alternative products.

    Anyway, my 2 cents.

    Posted by Tom, 4/30/2009 7:24:53 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    I have a new hero

    It's this guy:

    ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Fred Glass is 72 years old, stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs only 151 pounds. But he routinely hoists barbells twice as heavy -- 300 pounds, or, on a good day, 400 pounds or moreóinto the air.

    His calves are spindly, but on his small frame are muscles of steel: the backs of his thighs look armor-plated, his triceps are spectacular and when he flexes, the muscles encircling his chest and back are peerless. Younger and taller men may have bulkier muscles, but Glass' strength is world class.

    Last year, Glass set an International Powerlifting Association world record for his weight and age, squatting 400 pounds and dead lifting 380 pounds in a competition at the York Barbell Co. in York. In 1990, Glass was named best power lifter in the world at the World Powerlifting Congress Masters Championship in Italy. He's been competing for 35 years and has a wall of 200 trophies, including 16 world championships, in his garage to show for it.

    I keep getting told to be careful and slow down, but now it looks like I'm on the right track... just going too easy. Based on his comments later in the article though, I seriously need to fix my routine and diet.

    It's good to have goals.

    Update: some awesome quick video clips here. And a longer vid of two of his lifts is here.

    Posted by Tom, 4/27/2009 7:21:41 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    People watching

    This morning I ran out to the local gas station for a Dr. Pepper. This is a pretty busy place, where apparently everyone in the two "towns" congregates before heading off to work. The ladies behind the counter apparently knew quite a few of the customers, as they were joking in a familiar way with many of them.

    The line was pretty long, so as I waited I played a game of "guess what he does for a living" based on what people were wearing. The guys in T-shirts and blue jeans were sort of off limits for this game, because it could literally be anything in this area: electrician, cowboy, farmer, construction, mechanic, etc.

    Though there was one guy who intrigued me... his jeans and boots had some kind of beige grime permanently attached... he wasn't dirty or unshowered himself, but his clothes were starting the day with something on them that apparently doesn't come out in the wash. Oil well maintenance? Roughneck?

    The big guy who probably played football in high school, wearing the pink polo shirt, khaki slacks and silver-studded belt? Hmmm... short haircut, dark sunglasses, smile just a little too wide. I'm going to say car salesman or youth pastor.

    The skinny guy in a more conservative navy polo, with the iPhone on his belt... foreman? Check the shoes... dressy and shined. Middle management. He gets into a shiny red pickup truck that looks like it's never hauled a load of anything. Definitely middle management.

    The middle-aged woman in slacks and a comfortable shirt, was going to say administrative assistant, but there's something too casual about her. Dispatcher.

    Then I wonder what someone playing the game would think of me: sneakers, jeans, gray t-shirt under a green short-sleeve button-down shirt that's hanging open, hair a mess and a month overdue for a cut. Of course, my accessories are conflicting... Leatherman on the belt, iPhone in the shirt pocket, bluetooth headset on one ear. Does it say "computer programmer"?

    Or just "slacker"?

    Posted by Tom, 4/22/2009 7:57:18 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Settling down

    Like many people, I'm a creature of habit and ritual. I do things a certain way, in a certain order, at certain intervals, and it keeps me on-track, focused, and generally agreeable. I can handle disruptions to my schedule, but when things get really out of whack, I get "lost". I don't what to do next... I think I'm supposed to be doing one thing, and I get stuck feeling like if it doesn't get done, something seriously bad is going to happen. Part of my "life ritual" includes paying the bills, for example, and if I don't get into the sequence of activities that leads me to paying the bills, I start to worry that the bills aren't getting paid on time and we're in for a world of hurt.

    Moving into the new house suspended ALL of my rituals. Bill paying, exercising, various projects, etc. all went out the window. The banks, realtors, utilities, and other people involved were not cooperating in any reasonable fashion (some still aren't). The stress was eating me alive, and correspondingly I spent a lot of time eating crappy food as a way to assuage my stress. I also started reverting to a lot of old, bad habits... losing my temper, swearing a lot, and just generally being disagreeable.

    The internet situation was fixed, and that made me momentarily happy, but it didn't last very long. Our mortgage lender is truly driving me bananas (I'm thinking seriously about restarting the process with another lender if they don't get their act together right quick), and that had me losing my mind over the weekend.

    Yesterday, I finally got the time to do a workout in the new gym. I've done something to my left shoulder in the course of the move, so I had to skip a few exercises, but I still managed to work up a good sweat. After the workout I had that lovely rubbery feeling in all my limbs, which I've come to interpret as pleasurable, and it is absolutely amazing how good I felt. All the stress and worry and headaches just kind of melted away. I easily held my diet under 1500 calories for the day, and really wasn't anxious for more.

    When the mortgage lender wrote to harass me about even more stuff, I just found it and faxed it, with no fuss at all, even though I know I've faxed that same information to them in the past. (They can't seem to keep track of anything over there.) When I went to town to look for some materials to get the dog shed squared away, I was fine with not being able to find all that I was looking for.

    I guess it turns out that my drug of choice is a good sweaty workout. I got some exercise, and even though everything in the house is still a godawful mess, I feel calm and in control and capable of tackling the tasks in front of me. I no longer feel like I'm constantly forgetting something or needing to do something that I can't get to. After two years of doing this, I'm surprised that I didn't really understand how much I needed it. Today I'll get on the elliptical and do some cardio, and hopefully that will extend and expand the generally peaceful, easy feeling I've got going on.

    On a sad note, the Powertec machine I've been wanting for the gym was recently offered on craigslist for less than half its retail price, but because I didn't have internet I didn't know about it and therefore couldn't jump on it. It sold 2 days ago. It's kind of funny because 2 days ago I hadn't had a workout in about a month, and would have been throwing a giant fit because I lost out on a stellar deal. Today I'm recognizing that there's plenty of time to find one, and besides, it was the wrong color. I'm sure I'll find another one for just as good a deal, that's the right color, somewhere in a 500-mile radius of the new house. Or I'll find one in Ohio and sweet-talk my in-laws into bringing it down in their monster truck when they come for Thanksgiving. Or something.

    Serenity now? I haz it.

    Posted by Tom, 4/21/2009 7:17:20 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    I can haz Internet!

    Finally! It's cobbled together with tissue paper and spit at this point, with cables running up and down the hall, but it works.

    Posted by Tom, 4/18/2009 7:57:16 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, April 16, 2009


    Previous house successfully closed. Blood pressure beginning to return to normal.

    Posted by Tom, 4/16/2009 5:15:59 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Updates all around

    Closing on the old house is scheduled for today at 11:30. With any luck, this will actually happen and I'll momentarily be several thousand dollars richer.

    Closing on the new house is now "hopefully by the end of the month". The bank or the bank's mortgage insurer, can't figure out which, is dragging their feet on something, and there appears to be nothing I can do to fix it. They have every document they've asked for, they're just slower than snail snot.

    We're currently living in the new house as renters, so I've got to send off a rent check now that we're past the 15th of the month and I know that the new mortgage's first payment won't be until June 1. At least I won't have to pay twice.

    My internet woes may finally be coming to an end. Previous owner has abandoned his Quixotic quest to migrate his old phone number, after reportedly spending 20 hours on the phone with AT&T, arguing over it. Supposedly I will be online Friday.

    Zeus is doing much better with his medication, though he walks funny... kind of a rolling gait like a sailor or something, and he looks like he's trying to walk while crouching. Still, he's eating most of the time (he's always been rather nonchalant about food), and he seems basically happy. He's also managed to make it up and down the stairs at the new house a couple of times, but it wears him out.

    It's been almost a month since my last workout, and I am hurting really bad on that front. I can't find my workout log, so this weekend I'm going to start tearing apart boxes looking for it. On the good side of things, the gym is shaping up nicely:

    With internet coming on and the re-discovery of my log in the works, I should be able to get back to it soon. That will be a major relief.

    Also, this weekend marks the beginning of yet another fence project: fencing in the back yard for the dogs. I'm looking at probably the biggest fence I've ever built, currently estimated at about 500 linear feet. With any luck, Mrs. Curmudgeon will be good enough to photo-document it for me.

    Posted by Tom, 4/16/2009 7:27:38 AM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Easter with O-Dawg

    Just got back from seeing the family for my Gramps' birthday and Easter. The little rascal was there and his dad got some great pics of me horsing around with him. So of course, as soon as he posted them on his website, I totally thiefed them for posting here.

    His shirt says "Cookie Inspector". Uncle Tom got it for him.

    He seems to like his Uncle Tom.

    Posted by Tom, 4/13/2009 6:54:07 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.
    -- H. L. Mencken

    Posted by Tom, 4/13/2009 6:03:56 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    If you want to make God laugh...

    ...tell Him your plans.

    The beginning of the whole house process went so smoothly it was like a dream. Offers and counter-offers were done very quickly. Our house went under contract 3 days after being listed, before the broker's open, and before the realtor even got the key box on the door.

    The house we decided to buy was to be closed May 1, but the buyers of our house wanted a closing no later than April 8. We scrambled to get moved, and pushed the sellers of the new house out of their house long before they were ready. Still, everything was working out, so I didn't worry about it.

    The buyers had a surprise house inspection, which fortunately didn't turn up anything too major. It was just a little irritating, as we were expecting to be given 24 hours' notice so we could wrangle the dogs out of their way. Nobody got bitten (and nobody would have), but I don't think it would have been my fault if they had.

    Moving day came, with relatives coming in from out of town to help. There were some mixups and confusions over what went where, but it was all minor, really. I was just flipping out because my mind had envisioned a hyper-organized, clockwork move that instead turned into a mad scramble to get stuff packed up and on the truck. But we managed to make it all happen in one day instead of two, and the only major catastrophe was the temporary loss of my cell phone charger.

    The real trouble started with the banks.

    The buyer's bank didn't get their appraisal done until a week before closing. It came in a thousand dollars low, so their entire loan had to be rewritten, pushing the closing back 2 days. I don't know what that means for the buyers' hard date of April 8, but apparently they're managing.

    In the meantime, our bank was apparently never notified of the moved-up closing date. I honestly believe I mentioned it to the loan officer very early on, but she had no record of it. Our previous home purchases had largely been handled by the realtors in terms of information wrangling, so I was simply waiting on the current set of realtors to tell me who to call and when. I'm beginning to appreciate the commissions paid to the previous realtors... as well as to one of the current ones involved. The others... not so much. It seems to me that if the customer is not an expert in the real estate process, and the salesman is, it's kind of the salesman's responsibility to help the customer through the process. Let's just say that if I ever do this again (God forbid), I'm going to be very careful about picking a realtor.

    The next set of foibles happened with the seller. I realize that I pushed the guy out of the house a good 3 weeks before he was planning to be out, so some of it is just the situation. However, the house has a workshop on the property that's about the size of a 3 or 4 car garage. Part of the agreement I made with the seller was to let him have the use of the workshop for storage until June 1. This way, all he had to do was empty the house, garage, and tool shed into the workshop (or onto a truck) and then we'd be out of each others' way. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up in the big Ryder truck and the garage was still full.

    We worked around it, got our stuff off the truck(s), and got enough set up that we could handle the basics (pee, sleep, and eat). The next day was spent taking care of immediate needs such as getting TV's set up for the satellite guy (coming the following day) and computers set up for the phone/internet guy (ditto). We thanked our fly-in helpers, got them to their planes, and stared at the mountain of boxes waiting to be unpacked.

    Yeah, the internet guy? Didn't show. I called the company. They said that the existing service in the house had not yet been canceled, and they couldn't do anything until it was. Called the realtor. Next day, I called the company again. Still no disconnect order. Called the realtor.

    Wednesday, April 8, the day we were supposed to close on the old house: not happening. Pushed to Friday. Called the internet company. No disconnect order. Called the realtor. Played email tag with the bank to figure out whether our April 9 close was actually going to happen. No definite answer on that front.

    After work, the seller showed up and changed the lock on the tool shed so that I could finally get into it. His stuff is everywhere, so it doesn't look good for having the tool shed set up as a doghouse any time soon. I did talk to him about the internet thing. He apparently spent all kinds of time trying to work with both this company and the company at his new place... why? Finally the crucial bit of info comes out: he wanted to keep his phone number despite moving 2 towns away. Yeah, that's not going to happen -- I moved from one side of Norman to the other side of Norman and wasn't allowed to keep my number. Apparently, he's pretty stubborn about it, so he's still fighting with the two companies to get them to do it. That would be fine and dandy of course, if it weren't holding up my phone and internet service until he gets what he wants.

    The phone company helpfully suggested that I could provide them with a copy of my closing papers to prove possession of the house, and they would gladly force a disconnect. Given our lender troubles, this did not settle me down in the least.

    And of course, just to add the last bit of insult, all of the issues have me stress-eating a lot of crappy food, so I feel like a stuffed sausage and am really hating myself right now.

    I am very ready for this whole thing to be over.

    PS: If you leave a comment that is not helpful, hopeful, or encouraging, I'm pretty sure we can't be friends.

    Posted by Tom, 4/9/2009 6:04:42 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    This is alien to me

    As I was reading about this thing going on in Binghamton, New York, I ran across this line:

    One of the goals of negotiators, particularly when there have already been killings, is to prevent the shooter from taking his or her own life.

    This utterly baffles me. Why? If the guy kills himself, society is spared the expense of a trial, of incarceration, of an execution, and all of the drama that goes along with it. Of course, I've never understood intervening in a suicide from the legal sense anyway -- a person's life is their own property, and they must be free to do with it as they wish. For government to prevent suicide as a matter of policy is for government to claim at least partial ownership of the life of the individual, and that is wrong on every level. (At the same time, I am completely in favor of intervening in a social or compassionate sense, caring for the suicidal person and attempting to get them to see what they might have to live for, but government is neither social nor compassionate.)

    What I don't understand is why government, as a matter of policy, would try to prevent a person such as a mass shooter from killing themselves, when government is simply going to turn around and probably kill them or at least cage them for life. The only explanation I can imagine is that government needs him to live so that government can justify its own existence to the rest of us. And that seems incredibly cynical, even for me.

    Posted by Tom, 4/3/2009 5:11:56 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Oddly reassuring

    This article is not strange for the incident it describes; rather, what I find fascinating is my reaction to it:

    Landshut, Germany - A man who climbed a spruce tree, tied himself to the trunk and shot himself dead has been discovered 29 years after the suicide, German police said Thursday. "It looks as if he meant to never be found again," said a police spokesman in Landshut, north-east of Munich, where a man exploring steep forest discovered human bones on the ground.

    Police then found the rest of the skeleton tied in a thicket of branches 11 metres above ground level with a gun next to it. The victim was 69 when he vanished in the summer of 1980.

    My first thought was one of relief -- "he got what he wanted... to disappear and be off the record. He's not a 'victim' or a 'case file' or even a 'statistic'. He didn't have to suffer the indignities of being just another piece of meat for the local coroner's office. He's now essentially an artifact, a curiosity."

    I guess it's the fact that the life of the modern-day individual is so regimented, assigned a number, tracked by various organizations, de-personalized and de-privatized to such an extent that it can feel like you're always being watched. And yet somehow, this guy managed to find a way to escape the data-trackers and perform his final act beyond the scope of the ever-watching eyes of government and society. He died free, in the most primal sense of the term, and that somehow gives me comfort.

    Is that weird?

    Posted by Tom, 4/3/2009 7:36:06 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, April 2, 2009


    In this post I speculated that the government may be on the hook for bailouts totaling $7.4 trillion. It turns out I was way off:

    The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.

    And as if that were not enough to make sphincters clench nationwide, there's this lovely, dramatic, and very nearly heartstopping graph from, showing the inflation that looms over us:

    Welcome to the United States of Zimbabwe.

    Granted, the later explanation and other graphs are slightly less seizure-inducing, but I'm still not exactly feeling encouraged.

    Posted by Tom, 4/2/2009 5:10:45 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...