Canada intervenes

I just finished reading a hilarious book called America, But Better: The Canada Party Manifesto.  The idea that Canada, which has been watching America go to the dogs, decides to stage an intervention.  As the book puts it:
We’re offering you the chance to kick back for a while and let a trusted friend cook your meals and fluff your pillows, giving you time to do some healing and generally reevaluate your place in the universe. So this is not an invasion; it’s an intervention ... Sure, we’ve had a few rough patches. The War of 1812. Vietnam. Celine Dion. [Again, we are really, really sorry about that.] But we’ve weathered these storms to develop the largest trading partnership, most integrated militaries, and weakest beers in the known universe. Both of our Constitutions are based on the personal liberties outlined in Mom’s Magna Carta, and it is this—our mutual status as beacons of freedom to the rest of the world—that unites us in cause and makes us continental BFFs. Which is why it has been with great sadness, and more than a little nausea, that we’ve witnessed our American brothers and sisters betrayed over the past decade by privately owned politicians who have created franchises out of persecuting the disenfranchised, fetishized ignorance at the expense of reason, deprived citizens of their civil liberties in the name of a very profitable notion of security, and driven up taxpayer debt
Don't worry.  The book is not as serious as all that.  Seriously funny one-liners litter the book.  Here's a sampling:

Exxon and WalMart are now the largest people in the United States. But the average American is catching up.

It’s not like we don’t have our own faults. Our prime minister makes Dick Cheney look like a human-rights crusader. Our oil program is so apocalyptic it was given a “Special Thanks” credit in the book of Revelations.

1789: Pennsylvania ends its prohibition of theatrical performances, allowing the signing of the Constitution and the centuries of drama it would incur. [Although drafted while medicine was theoretical and man-tights all the rage, it is still referenced literally in modern American law.]

1941: America and Canada cooperate to send 133,000 of their citizens to internment camps as part of a Japanese Community Outreach Program.

1972: Canada realizes Richard Nixon is a Dick. 1974: America realizes Richard Nixon is a dick, pretend they noticed first.

Quebec and Boston, two cities where visitors can’t understand the locals

We understand that diabetes affects the eyes, but if you are going to televise our games, we beg you not to add a streaking fireball indicating the puck’s location. It hurts our tummies.

[on not getting on board with the metric system] America is shooting itself in the foot by sitting on its perch, stone-faced, chained to its furlongs and miles, in league with no one, not an ounce of unity, ignoring their backyard neighbors by the pound for reasons we can’t fathom.

Terminally ill patients will have the right to end their lives on their own terms. Religious groups opposing this policy have the right to heal said patients.

Irish views

Storms over Galway
It has taken me a long time to sort out and arrange pictures from my Ireland trip.  Because I was there on work, most of my pictures are from around the time of sunset.
Galway city center and docks

This place in the pedestrian-only city-center area claimed to serve the best fish and chips in Ireland. I liked it, but my colleague who is English was not so impressed.
"Best fish and chips in Ireland"
Fortunately, I did a have a weekend in between, had a rental car, and the weather sort-of-cooperated (it only rained half the time), so I was able to drive out to the Cliffs of Moher and to the Connemara mountains.

Cliffs of Moher

Dunguaire Castle

Driving was interesting to say the least. The stick shift and the mirrors are all on the "other" side, so my instincts were all wrong. Within town, driving on the left was not a problem, because there were cars on the other side keeping me constantly aware of this. Out in the country, it was not quite so trouble-free. I scraped the car on a few stone walls. Stone walls! Apparently, because the area is so rocky, the way to make the land halfway-useful was to physically move the stones to the periphery of the plots. This explains why the country is dotted with lovely stone walls. But so are the roads. On both sides of most roads were 3 foot high stone walls. The roads were about as wide as the shoulder on an American interstate, and the speed limits were 100 kmph (about 60 mph), so yes, driving was quite interesting.

An Irish highway.

View of the Atlantic Ocean


Totally worth it though.

Oklahoma state questions: my thoughts

I'm sure there have been TV ads and such regarding the state questions this year, but I haven't watched TV in a while.  So, based on my reading of the state questions for my precint, this is what I am thinking.  I'm quite open to suggestions and corrections, so feel free to chime in.  Unlike say, a certain election for commander-in-chief, my mind's not made up on any of these topics.

(758/358) Changes the cap on increases in real-estate taxes from 5% to 3% on property.

I am inclined to vote "No".  Capping property taxes is why California's excellent education system unraveled.  We already have a 5% cap. Let's not make it worse.

(759/359) No affirmative action programs in employment, education and contracting.

In general, I am for anything that helps guarantee equality of opportunity and against anything that seeks to enforce equality of outcomes. So, I agree completely with avoiding affirmative action in contracting and employment. But I am torn about affirmative action in education. It can and should be about equality of opportunity but it now mostly favors affluent minority kids at the expense of everyone else.  On the grounds that 2.5/3 is a pretty good ratio for a state question, I will vote "Yes".

(762/360) Remove governor from parole process, leaving it to a board.

I agree. We need to reduce the prison population in this state, and since politicians are reluctant to do anything that could conceivably cause blowback, a technocratic solution might be best

(764/361) Allow Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds.

This is an organization that makes loans to towns within the state, and these bonds are a way to finance these projects.  Since the individual bonds will be voted on by the communities who take on the projects and loans, there is nothing to see here.  Vote yes.

(765/362) Abolish Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services.  Instead, create a new agency to do the job that DHS currently does.

This is a bipartisan reform effort headed by Republican Greg Treat and supported by minority leader Sean Burrage.  So, give them the benefit of the doubt. Vote yes.

(766/363) Exempt all intangible personal property (patents, land leases, licenses, trademarks, etc.) from taxation based on the value of property.

How is the revenue lost here going to be made up?  The "land lease" seems ot imply that this is something inserted by oil special interests. Vote no.

What's the matter with Indian-Americans?

It's an interesting political question.  Why do 69% of Indian-Americans identify as Democrats (second only to blacks)? On one hand, they are a minority, and minorities in the US tend to support the party that keeps talking about tolerance and fairness. But on the other hand, Indians are the richest minority in the United States, with a median income nearly twice the national median income. We have one of the fastest assimilation rates. More than 90% of our children live in two-parent households. Large numbers of us are entrepreneurs and small business owners. For us, America has been the land of opportunity. We do not like it when the Democrats take potshots at outsourcing low-skill service jobs to Bangalore. George W. Bush, for all his faults, really improved the US-India relationship bringing it back from the disastrous state it was during the Cold War. All these should argue for at least half of Indian Americans plumping for the Republicans. But no ... 84% of Indian Americans voted for Obama the last time around.

Two articles, one from the right and another from the left, examine this conundrum. Both articles identify one key factor: encounters with any proselytizing faith creeps Hindus out. We are just not used to people who assume their religion is better than ours, and tell us we are going to burn for eternity if we don't come around to their beliefs. So:
when the Republican Party loudly touts its allegiance to “Christian values” and insists that Christianity is inextricably interwoven into the DNA of this country, it doesn’t anger Indians, it nonplusses them. It effectively signals to them that they don’t fully belong in America or their party. And the sight of Haley and Jindal on the Republican convention stage, both of whom rejected their faith and embraced Christianity, doesn’t reassure Indians -- it creeps them out!
So, yes, religious intolerance is a key factor.  As far as I am concerned, the GOP can not shake off the extreme right wing intolerant faction soon enough.

But both articles leave out two other factors. A group consisting of highly educated engineers and doctors does not react well to fact-free, expertise-dissing rhetoric, and the Republicans increasingly do this on climate change, evolution, efficacy of tax cuts and other matters that most Indian-Americans would consider purely empirical, non-ideological matters.

To understand the third factor, take the minority community that was, until recently, the richest minority in the United States. Jews also vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and the reason is that views of social justice are part of the fabric of that community's makeup. In spite of intermarriage, in spite of reduced observance of Kosher and other religious laws, that tendency has not changed. Similarly, the cultural makeup of Indians arcs towards non-violence.  No matter how much we assimilate into America, that affinity towards non-violence defines Indian-American culture. When one of the parties in America is excessively militaristic, it drives us towards the other party.

Third-grade dilemma

The daughter came home with a math review test.

One of the problems read: Jean did a survey of ages of children in her block. She created this frequency table. Find the maximum, minimum, and range of the ages.


S2's answers were: min=1, range=5 and max=6, but there was evidence that she had first written down 2, 6, 8, then erased them and wrote down 1,5 and 6.

"These are not correct, S2," I told her, "you had it right the first time and it looks you erased the right answers and wrote these wrong answers."

"No," she protested, "the teacher said we always had to do things with the data that she collected, not with the first numbers."

"If that's what your teacher wants you to do, then her question is wrong. Because she asked for ages."

My third-grader then got down to the key issue at hand.

"I know that these answers are not right," she said, "but this is what my teacher said we have to do. When she gives these questions on the test, I have to do things her way. Otherwise, she will take points off."