Tuesday, October 23, 2007

American Excess

This is just disgusting. I may not be able to actually write this one, but I'll certainly try. People cry and moan about rising fuel costs, and continue to buy bigger vehicles (for individual use, I might add), and they will continue to justify it by saying that they cannot achieve comfort in a smaller vehicle. I have a couple of crackpot theories that I'd like to share with you, and a couple of solutions to this problem and others. NOTE: Please pardon my lack of slick HTML'n, but I'm just not gifted with coding. We shall try to address this issue, but just bear with me for the time being.

I'm sure that everyone who reads this is familiar with the concept of "Supply and Demand." It's not such a difficult concept. When there is a finite supply of a commodity, and people consume more of it than they used to, the price goes up. It is a true, proven, fact that vehicles are getting bigger and more fuel hungry. I will use this reference to illustrate this: "article" The bottom line is this: If you people keep on buying cars (trucks) that are gas-gusslers, and keep on driving them many miles per year, the cost of fuel will keep rising. If we could reduce gasoline consumption by 20%, as per CAFE standards (click here) of the EPA, we could operate on domestic oil only, and artificially drive down the price of fuel by not consuming expensive, foreign oil. So, according to this, all we have to do is drive smaller, more efficient vehicles in order to pay less for gasoline. And, let's pretend for a minute that everyone is on board with this idea, and we are all striving for more fuel-efficient vehicles, car-pooling, and shorter daily commutes. What we discover is that our savings is disproportionately high in comparison to the difference in our actual fuel consumption. That's because the demand has gone down, oil importation has gone down, and gas is cheaper. Now, I understand that some people need to drive a truck to support their livelihood. Work trucks should not be included in this equation, if there is no way to avoid driving a truck. As to many others, "But, I just can't get comfortable in a small car," you say...

Next, I will submit for your approval, my crackpot theory that links car sales with fitness. People can't get comfortable in a little car because they are fat. Ideal BMI (Body Mass Index) for an adult is between 18.5 and 24.9 (see how fat you should be), versus the national average in the US of 26+ (see how fat people actully are). Apparently, 63% of Americans are overweight with a BMI of 25+, and 31% are technically obese with a BMI in excess of 30 (click here, if you want to. You know you want to, you dirty freak!). I mean, holy crap! No wonder we can't drive little cars! Our big, fat butts won't fit in the little seats! Ouch! That kind of stings! According to the data on that last link, this is a rapidly increasing problem (seems to be proportional to the number of larger-car sales). I actually looked up my ideal BMI at this website: see how fat you are, and it turns out that I am in fact 3-lbs overweight. Most people that I know thinks I'm really skinny. What does that say about them?

Now, the next question is this: Why are we getting fatter as a society? Could it be because of the lack of exercise, or the unrealistic proportions of our food? When was the last time you went into a restaurant and bought a human-sized meal? If there was too much food, did you still eat it all? How many hours a week do you spend sleeping, sitting at a desk, or watching TV? By comparison, how many hours did you spend exercising? There's nothing wrong with going for a bike ride, swim, walk, etc. Or is it because of the quality of food? In a two-income household, it's usually just easier to warm up some frozen dinners or hit McD's instead of cooking food made from ingredients. Please pause to reflect on that last sentence for a moment.
In fact, I believe that it's all of these things.

Now, for my crackpot twist. I think that the terrorists hate us to the degree that they do because of our gross excess. Sure, they may dislike us because we're a predominantly Christian country, and we control such a huge chunk of the world's wealth. But to wave it in their faces with our gigantic portions of food which we store on our thighs and guts, and then accommodate by getting larger, less efficient vehicles, out of convenience, and let's face it, laziness; I believe that this is what infuriates them. Well, that and our ridiculous "celebrities."

Now for my unprecedented solution: Let's gather up everyone who drives a long commute solo, in a large vehicle, because they think it's "cool," or it makes them feel "safe." I'm not even going to go into the fact that they are deliberately sacrificing the safety of others for their false sense of security. We're gathering these people up, so it's not really an issue anymore. Along with these people, let's bring in Paris Hilton, Kato Kaelin, and everyone else who is famous for no apparent reason, or by no talent of their own. Let's take this group of people and send them to the terrorists. Come on! They are the reason that we are getting bugged by these terrorists! Let's give them what they want! It will reduce the cost of fuel by taking so many inefficient vehicles off the road, inspire domestic economic growth by lowering the price of fuel, reduce the cost of health care, by taking the obesity load off of the medical industy, and make it safer to be an American!

And then, for the second wave in my attack on terrorism: If the above method proves to not work on the terrorists, let's gather up all the Bush-haters who want to pull our troops out, and give them what they want. Let's bring all the U. S. troops home, and replace them with the liberals. That way, they can go on some kind of creepy "Love Campaign" against the terrorists and see how well that works. Then, we'll be able to do away with excessive welfare, and avoid becoming a communist country, effectively control our borders, and continue in our war on terrorism. Besides that, those guys are practically volunteering for a job like this. It's not that I want to see them slaughtered. Quite the contrary, I will wish them the best of luck! If they make friends with the terrorists, and come back safely, I will tip my hat to them and regard their crackpot theories a little more closely.

You know, I should probably expound on that last paragraph. This has been one rant that has just drifted into another one completely. Maybe that can be my next blog entry...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Socialist Healthcare

You know, I have been thinking about this whole S-CHIPS deal. I think it's a really good idea, and I'll tell you why. If they passed the expansion on it, it would do three great things.
1) Children who are not covered by government-funded health care, because their parents make enough money to pay for insurance, or medical care out of pocket will be able to get government-funded healthcare.
2) Taxes would increase dramatically. We all like paying taxes, don't we? Yay!
3) It would provide a "foot in the door" towards "Universal," or "Socialized," or as I like to call it, Socialist Health Care.
I'm all about supporting children. There are a lot of good programs out there for poor people. Someone who does not make enough money to support their child-spouting loins has every opportunity in this country to get free housing, free groceries, and free medical care. This is a good thing, apparently. In fact, the more kids an unwed mother can squeeze out, the more money she'll get. I like to call this "Urban Entrepreneurship." In fact, there are a lot of people who most of us would consider well-to-do, that can't afford health care for their kids, because of the three Lexuses in the garage next to the boat, the big-screen plasma, the 4,000-sq ft house, and all the other toys that they have to buy. If the expansion to S-CHIPS would pass, despite the best efforts of that eeeeeeevvvvvvviiiiiiiilllllll G. W. B., some of these Lexus-SUV-driving, heated-pool-swimming, Summer-lake-cabin-owning, "poor" people could have the comfort and convenience of knowing that their little private-school-attending, latest-video-game-playing brats would have the best medical care that the government has to offer.
If I'm not mistaken, the initial proposal is that the expansion to S-CHIPS could be funded out of raised taxes on tobacco. This is a really good idea. I, as a recreational tobacco user would love to pay more money for my tobacco. I do see one tiny little problem, though. I, like many other smokers, might be tempted to quit smoking for two reasons. Firstly, I might decide that it's not worth paying extra money for my cigs so that these "poor" people don't have to directly pay for doctor visits and meds for their "underprivileged" children. Secondly, it's pretty clear that smoking will be illegal eventually. The laws on tobacco use have been getting more and more strict, starting at the West Coast and spreading Eastward, like some pompous, self-righteous, health-bred, propaganda-fed epidemic. At this point, it is illegal for an individual to smoke in his own apartment in some areas of California. Even here in Oklahoma, where we are more laid-back about such things, most restaurants are strictly smoke-free, or "Breath Easy." Honestly, that sounds like a plays that sells oral favors, doesn't it? What I'm getting to here is that the tobacco tax money will inevitably run out when (not if) the sales of tobacco stop. The tax money will have to be replaced elsewhere. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.
The third, and probably the best reason that this is a great idea, is that it will be a foothold for the democrats to institute true, Socialist Health Care ala Canada or Cuba. This will be wonderful! Just imagine each trip to the doctor having all the comfort and convenience of a trip to the post office or DMV! Instead of the nice little receptionist having you sign in to see the doctor and verify your insurance information, you'll have to yell at the bitch behind the counter after you stand in line for two hours. There will be a six-week wait on all routine check-ups, and your doctor will have NO bedside manner. Yes, indeed; if there's anything that our medical industry needs, it's a touch of government charm.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are definitely some improvements to be made between health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. That being said, the government has as much business in medicine as it does in religion. Our medical industry is actually pretty good when you compare it against countries with Socialist Health Care. If we only applied and enforced some of the laws that we already have against monopolies, trusts, and price-gouging, it would be a nice system. Much like illegal immigration, but that's another can of worms altogether! Let the flames begin!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jenni's Granddad

Nine years ago, when I met Jenni's family, if someone had told me how upsetting it would be to lose her Granddad, I would have not believed them. But, as it turns out, it was quite an emotional experience. He was an extraordinary gentleman.
Granddad accepted me as part of the family far earlier than anyone else in Jenni's family, save perhaps his wife, Nana. In fact, there are other members of her family whom I still don't believe consider me to be part of the family yet. When we told Nana and Granddad that we were getting married, he seemed particularly pleased by the idea that I was a permanent fixture. He was never scared to crack a joke to me, or to tell me what he was thinking at any given time.
I have never been tempted to call them anything but "Nana and Granddad." That's how welcoming these two have been to me. In a lot of ways, Granddad reminded me of my own Grandpa, who died well over ten years ago. They were both conglomerates of the archetypal cowboy movie hero. Granted, they were very different people, but it was like they represented different aspects of this ideal personality.
I have to imagine that at this point, they are riding around together in the old pickup truck in heaven, looking for a new place to shoot their guns for a while. Granddad has his sharp-shooter rifle, and Grandpa has his gunslinger revolvers. They're telling each other dirty jokes and waiting for the rest of us. They'll be there when I get there, ready to show me the best places to shoot.
Then again, it's difficult to put one's mind around the idea of the lack of a time line. Since in this world, we are completely bound by our one-way time line, knowing nothing but the past as fact, since we cannot even truly perceive the present except technically through memory, it is extremely difficult to imagine not being bound to a time line. I believe that our heavenly lifetime has no beginning and no end, and the passage of time does not exist. We have a start and a finish in this world, but when we get there, so will everyone else that winds up there, even at the same time. So, by that rational, although we are missing them, they don't miss us because they have never been separated from us. When we get to heaven, we will have always been there, and always will be.
On his death bed, Granddad called me by name and said, "I love you, Michael."
I was really tempted to say, "I know," because as long as I knew him, I never had any doubt. I don't know whether it was because he knew from the start that I would do everything I could to take care of his granddaughter, or if it was because I reminded him of himself in some way, or something else completely, or a combination of all aforementioned thoughts. I suppose that I really will know someday, but the knowledge that I have is that this man was overflowing with love, and I was in his circle.
Granddad was always the one with the witty one-liner. With the exception of his love of people, the only thing that he appreciated as much as pulling the joke, was having the joke pulled on him.
When Jenni and I had gone to her family reunion, we met Nana and Granddad at one location and proceeded to the site of the reunion. Granddad rode with us to provide navigation. We were traveling down a road at about 35 miles per hour when Granddad quietly said to turn right here. "Here at this street?" I clarified, as we were on top of the right turn already. When he answered yes, I slung our tight-suspensioned import car around the hard corner.
Not missing a beat, with quiet laughter in his voice, "Well," Granddad said, "I was going to tell you that you could take the next right, because it goes to the same place."
He tried to pull a fast one on me, but my reaction was "if you tell me to turn right, I'm going to turn right!" The intent of the joke was that I would miss my turn, but there was a convenient alternative. He didn't even take into account that I might not miss the turn anyway, and he liked the irony of the situation.
He was one of the most positive people that I have ever known. Even when he was staring death in the eyes, he was always pleased to see his family, and always quick to share his wit. Even in the last few days, when asked how he felt, the standard response was "pretty good," or "not too bad," although all of us knew that the three stress fractures in his spinal column and the cancer in many major organs belied his positivity. But, I don't think that he was telling sweet lies, either. I believe that he was just that optimistic. I think that to him, it could always be worse, so that meant that he was feeling pretty good.
In the last week, his wit was very alive, as he didn't miss an opportunity to crack a joke. He asked me how I was, and when I told him that I was pretty good, he said that I might be good, but he disagreed with the "pretty" part. He just didn't think that I was very pretty. And, that was Granddad. He was the unapologetic smart-alec, and he reveled in it. Still, he would not do anything to hurt anyone's feelings, and wanted to show nothing short of reverent respect to all other people.
Yes, he will be missed. But, he doesn't miss us because we are already there as far as he's concerned. I'm proud to have him go before me, because I hope that people have at least half the nice things to say about me, and half the wonderful memories of me, as they do of him. Each of us only gets one go at this life, and he did a heck of a job at his.