Hype I can believe in

What impressed me about Barack Obama tonight, and the Democratic convention this week, is that they all finally stopped apologizing for being Democrats and showed a willingness to take the Republicans to the mat. I am so sick of far-right Republicans acting like they own this country.

I have serious doubts about Barack Obama. There is scant evidence that he can or will deliver the change he promises. But tonight he impressed me. I’ll give John McCain a fair shake when it’s his turn, but he has a lot of living up to do.

Sicko

I finally got around to watching “Sicko”, Michael Moore’s most recent film. It was good. I liked it.

I consider myself a Michael Moore fan (I still miss “TV Nation”) I don’t always agree with him or believe everything he says but he’s brilliant at making his point. Like taking some 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for health care they can’t get at home. That’s pure acid.

There are some real health care horror stories out there. You could probably find them in any health care system, but some of his examples take the cake. One didn’t even make it into the film, but was in the DVD’s special features. A lady needed an operation she couldn’t afford. The insurance company was willing to discount it fifty percent, but she still couldn’t afford it. She got creative and organized a little fund raiser for herself, selling calendars of family pictures to her community. Having raised the money, she presented it to the insurance company, who revoked the discount since she could now “afford” the operation. This is just horrible.

The point, as I see it, is that we have a choice of two types of bureaucracy to deliver our health care: a profiteering bureaucracy or a public bureaucracy. Whatever the weaknesses of the public systems in other countries, their citizens appear well-served by them. There are good reasons to be skeptical about government-run health care, but an essential part of a democracy is the ability of the public to leverage itself against market forces that don’t serve them.

Iowa noir

For all its middle-American normality, Iowa City . Earlier this year a banker accused of embezzlement went berserk and murdered his whole family, then tried to kill himself a variety of ways before crashing into a signpost at high speed on I-80.

This week, a university professor accused of misconduct disappeared and offed himself in a park with a rifle. I figure the temptation to pork co-eds in return for higher grades must be pretty awful, but I also figure that most professors have the gene that keeps them from doing it. Apparently this guy had no such inhibitions.

The park where he killed himself is slightly smaller than the one I work in (about 180 acres, but more heavily wooded), yet it took 40 cops plus dogs two days to find the body. I can’t imagine losing a body at work.

August harvest

I almost overdid it at the farmers’ market this morning. I’ve been dying to buy some melons, since they are in season and are grown nearby. The trick was finding a couple small enough the carry on my bicycle. But even two small melons fill up a lot of basket space.

And sweet corn– that took up a lot of space too. There are truckloads of it at the market. Seven ears for two dollars will keep me busy for a few days.

If I think of it I’ll take some pictures of the abbondanza later this week.

Springfield, Mo.

A baseball batter swings and misses during a night game.I was in Springfield, Missouri this week for a conference. This is the fourth time I’ve been there but only the first when it wasn’t 100 degrees. The weather was quite nice. In fact it was perfect on Monday night, when we all went to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. Springfield is a AA affiliate of the big league Cardinals. AA ball is nice. There are no bad seats. I even went up to the front for a couple of photos. The highlight was the foul ball I almost caught. In a major league stadium I don’t think I’ve even been in the same section as a foul ball. This time, a pop fly foul came right to my seat. I caught it in my ball cap, but it bounced right out like it was a trampoline and right into the hands of a kid a few rows in front of me. I’d say that’s a pretty good cap.

The conference had to do with making the data collected in the parks by scientists accessible and comprehensible by the lay public. I listened to a lot of updates from scientists about water quality and exotic plants, and we practiced some interpretive writing. We were a few blocks from downtown and right next to the Southwest Missouri State campus. In that sense central Springfield is a little like Iowa City, but the “stoonts” weren’t back yet so it was quiet.

Fiber optic lights depict battle lines on a three-dimensional map.We stopped at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. They have a nice visitor center with a new film. They also have a three dimensional fiber-optic light map presentation narrated by James McPherson. It was recently restored with new electronics. They also just acquired a neighboring Civil War museum with an excellent Trans-Mississippi collection. This park seems pretty well-endowed.

Adventures in Colorado

I was with my folks in Colorado last week and part of this. My uncle made it out too.

I decided to drive. For some reason, possibly the approach of the Democratic National Convention, flights to Denver were outrageously expensive, so I drove. Yep, another trip across most of Nebraska, something most people bemoan but I happen to find not so bad. The four hours it takes me to get across Iowa are much more tedious.

A girl in a tight tee shirt walks the aisle of a stadium with a card reading I-20.We went to a Rockies-Nationals game to see some minor league baseball in a major league stadium. My brother got some free tickets through work. We were in the Men’s Club section, which means that a Hooters-type girl raced up and down the aisle with cards so we could play bingo. I didn’t quite understand, except that it was an excuse not to watch the game.

The author riding a horse.We did a little bit of horseback riding. When I say a little bit I mean a little bit around a small corral. My uncle even managed to snap a photo of me that doesn’t make me look like a fat bastard.

My uncle and I went up to Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park. I took him up to Bear Lake, which is good activity for the elevation-unacclimatized. It was so very busy there, though.

A toddle catches a kiss blown to him by his mother.One of my major activities was playing with my nephew. His parents don’t use the television as a babysitter, so having him around is good way to stay occupied. He talks enough that we can have rudimentary conversations. He loves keys for some reason so you have to keep an eye on them.

On the way home I stayed off the Interstate all the way to Grand Island. US-34 in eastern Colorado is a good place to see high-density cattle feed lots, if that interests you. In southwestern Nebraska the attraction is giant grain elevators. I stopped in the little city of McCook, Nebraska, which must be the cleanest city I have ever seen. Their mayor must hate litter because there was none.

A road sign reads Leaving Brand Inspection Area.And just past McCook, I found the holy grail of Great Plains travel: a “Leaving Brand Inspection Area” sign, a convenient tool (according to John) for demarcating the West and the Midwest. Unfortunately I passed the same sign again closer to Hastings, so I’m still a little confused.

Boycott Beijing

I want to have nothing to do with the “second Berlin games”. Our participation does nothing but lend legitimacy to a crooked and repressive totalitarian government which unfit to host even a Tupperware party.

Mostly I won’t be watching. I already avoid purchases of items that say “made in China”. I’m not even sure I want to look at the website to see who the sponsors are so I can avoid them.