Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Planet Earth II

The BBC recently released 10 hours of bonus video from the Earth II series. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Leonard Pitts

45 is wrecking this country as fast as he can. And it appears the Dems, while in the minority, have no one with the guts or brains to take him on.

Let’s not be shy about why Trump is president

by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
So here we are, six months later. How time has trudged.
But the calendar does not lie. On Thursday, we will be half a year through the Trump Era. And, contrary to his signature promise, America seems less great by the day. Nor are his other promises faring particularly well.
There is no sign of progress on that border wall, much less any idea how he is going to make Mexico pay for the thing. His promise to preserve Medicaid and provide health care for everyone has dissolved into a GOP bill that would gut Medicaid and rob millions of their access to health care.
Meantime, the guy who once said he would be working so hard he would seldom leave the White House spends more time on golf courses than a groundskeeper.
But for all that Trump has not achieved, there is, I think, one thing he indisputably has. He has taught us to live in a state of perpetual chaos and continuous crisis. Six months later, the White House commands the same horrified attention as a car wreck or a house fire.
In that sense, last week’s revelation that the Trump campaign, in the person of Donald Trump Jr., did in fact meet with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election was just another Tuesday. Sure, it might have been shocking from the Bush or Obama campaigns. But under Trump, we live in a state of routine calamity.
Besides which, a few days from now, there will be something else. With Trump, there inevitably is. Things can always get worse — and usually do.
And when they do, we can count on the GOP, that inexhaustible fount of righteous outrage, to stand tall and courageously look the other way. For almost 20 years, the party has never seen a minor episode (“Travelgate”), a sheer nothing (Whitewater) or even an international tragedy (Benghazi) it could not turn into Watergate II. Yet, as credible accusations of treason, obstruction, collusion, and corruption swirl about this White House, the GOP has been conspicuous in its acquiescent silence. It seems the elephant has laryngitis.
But the rest of us can’t stop talking.
Indeed, from the studios of CNN to the bar stools of your neighborhood watering hole, amateur psychoanalysis has become America’s favorite pastime in the last six months. Dozens of theories have been floated, all aimed at answering one question:
What is wrong with him?
But I have come to believe that question misses the point. Sixty-three million people voted for this. And make no mistake, they knew what they were getting. It was always obvious that Trump was a not-ready-for-prime-time candidate, but they chose him anyway. And the rest of us need to finally come to grips with the reason why.
It wasn’t economic anxiety. As a study co-sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic reported in May, people who were worried for their jobs voted for Hillary Clinton. But people who dislike Mexicans and Muslims, people who oppose same-sex marriage, people mortally offended at a White House occupied by a black guy with a funny name, they voted for Trump.
That’s the reality, and it’s time we quit dancing around it.
This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question.

What in the world is wrong with us?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Poetry Out Loud

Ever wish to hear poetry recited? Sometimes I get tired of reading, news, or music and like to listen to poems. Poetry Out Loud fills the bill.

Another site for classic poetry is Podomatic.

There are surely more.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

be a shrimper!

Thanks to the general chaos injected into the immigration issue by #45 and his malicious minions, the local shrimp boats are having a hard time finding enough workers. Mexicans who have been coming to Texas for years to work on the shrimp boats are not coming over this year, kept back by all the uncertainty and a reduction in the number of temporary work visas being granted. Damn 45 is going to double the prices on shrimp!

The shrimp boats owners are panicking, as shrimp season is expected to re-open within a few weeks. They are even advertising for shrimpers. Do you want to spend 30-60 days at sea catching shrimp? As usual, these are the jobs that most Americans don't want. But there are Mexicans willing, but not being allowed to.

Mail resumes to: Employer: PURATA TRAWLERS INC 
Contact: Mari or Pedro Purata 
Address: 25470 Ted Hunt Rd Los Fresnos, Texas 78566 
Telephone number: 956-456-9688 
Or email resumes to: 

Work will be performed aboard a commercial shrimp boat up to sixty (60) days in the Gulf of Mexico’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ-federal waters). 

Job requires worker to prepare boat for fishing activities; putting nets into water and retrieving them; sorting and heading of catch; return undesirable and illegal catch to sea; place shrimp in baskets, rinse, dip in preservatives; cleaning boat, storing, preserving and offloading of catch; help rigger as needed and get nets back into water to resume trawling and retrieve them again. 

Assist captain and rigger as required; mop deck as needed or required. 

Worker is required to carry and at times continue to lift an average of sixty (60) pounds or more of headed shrimp to/from the boat’s freezer. 

Pays $14.41 per hour, $21.62 overtime or a range of $15.00 per box (100# headed shrimp) whichever is greater. Overtime, if applicable will be available to the worker at a rate of $21.62. 

Contact your local employment office for guidance regarding hourly pay. 

Worker will be paid every two weeks or according to the prevailing practice in the area of intended employment whichever is more frequent. 

Employer will use a single work week as its standard for wages due. 

The employer will make all deductions from the worker’s paycheck required by law. 

Employer will deduct any and all advances requested by the worker and which are not required by law and will be included in crew settlement sheet provided to each worker at the time worker is paid. 
Each worker will be paid on a trip basis, upon completion of work, completion of trip or until shrimp production is sold or every two weeks whichever is more frequent. 

Employer ensures that the wage offer (including H2B workers) equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage or the Federal, State or local minimum wage to other employees with similar experience and qualifications for such positions in the same location. 

Education minimum required: none 

Applicants must have one month (30 days) of continuous experience on a shrimp boat as a deckhand/header. Work days will depend on weather and/or catch per drag. 

Weather conditions could affect the working days while out at sea and trip could be shortened due to unforeseen circumstances. 

Usual work schedule is 8:00 pm to 4:00 am, but may vary depending on amount of catch per drag. 

Worker may experience lack of sleep and tiredness at times especially during the opening of the Texas Coast on or about July 15, 2017. 

Worker is guaranteed employment for at least two-thirds of fishing season. 

Working conditions may include excessive heat and or cold, rainy days and cold weather on deck. 

Employer will provide to the worker, without charge or deposit charge, all tools, supplies and equipment to perform the duties assigned. 

Employer provides food and lodging on the shrimp boat free of charge. 

Employer will reimburse worker for the initial transportation to the job site once the worker completes 50 percent of the work contract period. 

Employer will provide or pay the worker’s cost of return transportation and daily subsistence from the place of employment from which the worker, disregarding intervening employment, departed to work for the employer, if the worker completes the certified period of employment or is dismissed from employment for any reason by the employer before the end of the period. 

Employer will reimburse related costs associated with employment at the end of the first full trip. Amount for transportation will be calculated using the most economical common carrier. 

Subsistence costs will be paid to workers that complete their contract or are dismissed early by the employer, except when the employer has appropriately reported a worker’s voluntary abandonment of employment. 

Employer will reimburse the H2B worker in the first workweek for all visa, visa processing, border crossing and other related fees, including those mandated by the government, incurred by the H2B worker (but need not include passport expenses or other charges primarily for the benefit of the worker) subsistence is calculated at a minimum of $12.09 and up to a maximum of $51.00 per 24-hour period of travel to/from the place of employment with receipts. 

Apply or inquire about the job opportunities or send applications and/or resumes directly to the nearest office of the Texas State Workforce Agency, 851 Old Alice Road, Brownsville, Texas 78521. Phone number 956-546-3141 

Workers needed from 05/01/2017 through 02/01/2018 

Job Posting Tx#6564525 
Ad paid by an Equal Opportunity Employer 

Two (2) workers positions available

Are you ready for a new adventure? Not me. Not this one. Here's a short video that demonstrates how shrimp boats work, somewhat.

Friday, July 14, 2017

we deserve better

No telling where this insane Trump saga is going to end.

This country deserves much better than Trump
by Eugene Robinson
It’s exhausting, I know, but don’t let outrage fatigue numb you to the moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Trump administration. This ugly departure from American norms and values must be opposed with sustained passion — and with the knowledge that things will probably get worse before they get better.
Heaven help us, look where we are. We have a president — commander in chief of the armed forces, ostensibly the leader of the free world — whose every word is suspect. President Trump is an inveterate liar. He dismisses provable facts as “fake news” and invents faux facts of his own that bear no relationship to the truth. He simply cannot be trusted.
We have a president whose North Star is naked self-interest, not the good of the country. Trump cares about his family, his company and little else. He dishonors the high office he holds, then reportedly spends hours each day railing against cable-news coverage that he finds insufficiently respectful. His ego is a kind of psychic black hole that devours all who come into its orbit.
We have a president whose eldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman met with emissaries purportedly sent by the Russian government to deliver dirt on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed on Twitter that “most politicians” would have gone to such a meeting, which is another lie. Try to find politicians who say they would have attended.
We have a president who fired the director of the FBI for continuing to investigate “this Russia thing” — a sophisticated effort by the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials, to tip the election in Trump’s favor. Will he also try to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? If he does, will Congress let him get away with it?
We have a president — was he made in Russia? — who has declared this to be “Made in America” week, despite the fact that so many of the retail products that bear his name or that of his daughter Ivanka are made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. When asked about this irony by Politico, a White House spokeswoman responded, “We’ll get back to you on that.” They won’t.
Trump has broken his promise to help the struggling middle class. After pledging health insurance “for everybody,” he supported legislation that would strip more than 20 million people of coverage. His approval rating, according to a new Post-ABC News poll, has fallen to 36 percent — a historic low for a president at this point in his tenure. Yet Trump continues to enjoy strong support from self-identified Republicans, whose resentment against liberal “elites” he plays like a violin.
His administration is in shambles. Members of his inner circle snipe at one another via anonymous quotes to reporters. They compete for the president’s favor not by doing their jobs well but by showing a willingness to defend anything he says and does, no matter how ridiculous. In the space of a week, his surrogates went from “the campaign had no meetings with Russians” to “there was a meeting but no collusion” to “collusion is not actually a crime.” One wonders how they sleep at night.
Trump presents the world with something new: In place of American leadership, there is a vacuum. In keeping with the pattern set at the Group of 20 summit, adversaries will try to use Trump’s ignorance to their advantage while allies try to nudge him into doing the right thing. The “madman theory” of foreign relations can only be employed effectively by a leader who is actually steadfast and serious; Trump is neither.
There is no point in looking to Republicans for salvation. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) still hope to get Trump to sign into law massive cuts in taxes and entitlements. Many rank-and-file members fear Trump’s loyal support among the base. The former “party of Lincoln” has adopted the moral code of the Oakland Raiders’ late owner Al Davis: “Just win, baby.”
So that is what Democrats and independents have to do — win. As long as there are pro-Trump majorities in the House and Senate, there will be no real congressional oversight and no brake on an out-of-control president’s excesses. Incumbency and gerrymandered districts mean that winning anti-Trump majorities in 2018 will be difficult. But not impossible.
The Democratic Party needs a plan, a message and a sense of urgency. Trump hopes to bully critics into submission, but the country is bigger than this one president. And much better.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

skydive O'ahu!

When I looked at the calendar back in April, I realized that I would be in Hawaii on vacation over my birthday. That seemed like a perfectly good time to finally fulfill a wish I'd had over the last several years: to skydive! Heck, if old man Bush can do it multiple times, so could I.

Sure enough, there was an outfit on O'ahu called Pacific Skydiving, and it wasn't too far from where we would be staying on the North Shore of O'ahu. CLICK. I signed up for a jump on my birthday. For a first-time jumper, Pacific insists on a tandem jump. That is, you are harnessed to an experienced jumper for your first jump. (And second jump. You can jump solo on your third jump). Your tandem partner pulls the parachute cord and navigates down to the landing zone.

There was no advance paperwork to complete, so on my birthday I arrived at the site for my jump. You have to watch a 15-minute film about all the risks of skydiving and sign papers claiming that, yeah, I acknowledge that I could die or get seriously hurt doing this, and if I DO die or get hurt, neither I nor anyone else in my family would hold Pacific Skydiving responsible, etc, etc.

Yeah, yeah, as expected.

But then I came across a spot on the form where I was supposed to state that I was not currently taking any medications for anything, and if I WAS taking any medications, my doctor had OK'd my skydiving anyway.

I guess I should have realized that they would ask these questions but I hadn't. I wish they had fucking told me about it in advance. I take some meds, and I had not talked to my doctor about skydiving. 

I realized that I could easily lie on the form and say I was either not taking any meds, or I could lie and say my doctor was OK with it. But I didn't want to lie. I do tell little white lies now and then (who doesn't?) but I didn't want to lie about this, and so I postponed the jump until Monday. I'm sure everyone on vacation with me was thinking I was just using this as an excuse not to jump. Fuck 'em.

I tried to reach my doctor while still at the facility but couldn't. Because of the time change between Hawaii and Texas (5 hours - because Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time), the doctors office had just closed. He'd probably say OK anyway, but I didn't want to jump before touching base with him. Come Monday morning, I called my doc again and he OK'd my jump, as long as my blood pressure had been good. And it has been good. Moving to South Padre Island (or retiring in general) has been beneficial to my blood pressure. 

So I finished the pre-jump forms and got the OK to jump. They have a large waiting area where you wait to get called to get suited up with the harness. My tandem-mate was Chrissy, a French-born daredevil. I opted for the videographer, and her name was Kelly. The whole suit-up time takes only about 10 minutes, and before I knew it, we were being herded out onto the runway to meet the plane that would take us up. 

One complaint here. Chrissy had my goggles in her hand and said she would put them on me just before we jumped. Well, ok. Turns out she ended up tightening them so much my glasses were smushed against my face. It was too tight, but it was also too loud to complain about it. If you go, insist that you try on your goggles BEFORE you board the plane. 

And it's a tiny plane. Single engine. Modified for skydiving. We taxied down the runway to the far end, turned around, and the pilot gunned it. Fucking LOUD as shit! And nothing to hold onto!

It took only about 15 minutes to reach our jumping altitude of 14,000 feet. 

This is about as high as you can go before you need an oxygen mask to jump. And it was cold as shit up there. There are no real doors on the sides of the plane, so the cold air was rushing over us. Felt pretty good, actually.

Before I knew it, Chrissy was nudging me towards the door. It's kinda hard to move when you are strapped tight to someone, but we made it.

Hanging on tight, she pushed us out the door, and yikes! 

Immediately we started to tumble, backwards, but just chill out! 

Chrissy quickly released the guide chute, which allows the jumpers to right themselves, to an extent. 

My left eye was pretty smooshed and I can't say I saw a lot of stuff during the freefall. We were promised about 60 seconds of freefall, and Kelly navigated up close to us for some pictures.

At one point, she held out her hand to me and I took it, but we started spinning, so I let that shit go. Fuck you! I ain't ready for spinning!

The freefall was pretty cool. I might get used to that kind of feeling, but soon enough, Chrissy held three fingers in front of me, then two, then one, and then, whoosh, she pulled our main parachute and Kelly continued to plummet on at high speed. She would pull her chute further down and land before us so she could take pictures of our landing.

When the chute opened, it felt great. No more plunging downward, now we were floating.

Chrissy said something about needing to navigate towards the landing zone, and she pulled one of the main chute cords and we went into a fast swirling downward. Wild swings back and forth, feeling totally out of control.

After just a couple more of these maneuvers, I began to feel queasy. I told her I thought I might hurl, but she had to do a few more swings down towards the earth to get to the right spot for landing. After one tight curl, I turned my head to the right and hurled. I wondered about the homes below us that were growing larger and what kinds of things might occasionally rain down upon them. Haha!

We finally landed. I pulled up my legs horizontal to the ground as instructed, came to a non-jarring stop and immediately got on all fours to throw up a couple more times. Kelly didn't bother to record that. I guess I'm glad, but it obscures the truth, and I don't think that's good. I'm not proud of getting sick but as I hear it, I'm certainly not the first.

I loved the thrill of the jump and the freefall. The main chute portion and swinging wildly to navigate was pretty much sheer hell. If I could be guaranteed that the main chute portion of the jump would not be so violent in its swings, I would skydive again. Hey! I see they have an outfit that skydives over South Padre Island!!