Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Experience With The Slice-And-Zap

I just got my eyes sliced and zapped!

If you're like me, you've heard about a lot of people "getting Lasik done," but not about what the actual process involves.  So, I thought I'd share my experience to help de-mystify it for anyone else who might be curious.  Keep in mind that everyone's experience is different, so take what I write with a grain of salt as being representative of all procedures...but hopefully it'll still provide some useful information for anyone who might be considering it themselves.  If this kind of thing bores you, then I wouldn't recommend continuing on.  I won't be offended, I promise.  :)

If you know me, you know I like to research big things like this before pulling the trigger.  Living in Kansas City provides a really unique benefit.  Apparently, some cutting-edge eye surgeon decided to make his home in KC back in the 1980s.  Being one of only four or five surgeons experimenting with lasers at the time, a lot of top-quality talent came here to study and learn from him, and a number of them stayed here.  Now, we have the benefit of several top-notch laser surgery places right here in town, a very unusual scenario for a city our size.

What is Lasik surgery?  When you boil it down, it's a two-part procedure to correct your vision.  First they cut a hinged flap in the front surface of the eyeball (the cornea), then the problem spots in the eye are corrected.  The flap is then put back into place, and you're done.  An over-simplified explanation of the two options I considered would be blade/laser and laser/laser methods.  The blade/laser is where a physical blade is used to cut the hinged flap, the laser/laser uses a laser to cut the hinged flap.  Both methods use a laser to perform the correction down underneath.  You can do a standard correction or a custom correction.  As I understand it, the basic difference between the two is that the standard will use the laser to re-shape the cornea and smooth down the high spots, but the custom will actually go into much more detail to clean up the little junk ("peaks and valleys") that cause little tiny issues like stars around lights at night, or things like that.  Some vision problems can be corrected by lasers, some cannot.  I'll let you figure out your own situation with your eye doctor rather than getting into it here.

I narrowed my search down to DurrieVision and Silverstein, the two places that I thought were the best with their respective technology, though I've got friends who had great experiences with other places, too.  Basically, pick your favorite name brand place here in town and you'll be fine...just don't go with one of the cheap little places that haven't been around a long time.  Silverstein uses the blade/laser method, and DurrieVision uses the laser/laser method.  I had consultations with both Silverstein and DurrieVision and asked lots of questions.  The blade/laser method is older and a very mature technology.  Thousands of these procedures are performed each year with an exceedingly small risk of adverse complications.  However, DurrieVision's laser/laser method is probably the cleaner method, with quicker recovery time and less chance of adverse complications.  Because it's a laser cutting that flap, it's a more precise and controlled cut, with nothing physically contacting the eye.  It was also fully double the cost.  And, from what I could learn, the difference in complication rate between the two was a fraction of 1%, so we're really talking about a statistically meaningless difference in outcome for double the price.

I chose Silverstein.

They told me all the stuff you normally hear - despite a small risk yadda yadda yadda, most people are feeling great and experiencing clear vision within 24 hours of the surgery, sometimes the same day.  You go in, you take a Valium, you get it done, you go home, you take a nap, you eat dinner and go to bed, and then you wake up the next morning to a bright and shiny new world of clear vision.

That's more or less correct, but they left out a few details, and that's really why I wanted to share all this with you.

I got there at 7:15am on Friday morning, paid, and signed a few papers.  No surprises there.  They walked me back to the prep room and I put on a gown and a floppy hat (with a sticker bearing my name on the front) while asking me questions about any medications I'm taking and what I had for breakfast.  They took my blood pressure, which was elevated by about 25% compared to normal (hey, I was nervous! I'll touch more on this in a minute...).  She also asked my name and why I was there.  This is apparently something they do now to make sure they don't accidentally slice and zap someone's eyeballs when they're actually there for something else (I joked with her about the soon-to-be-amputee writing in Sharpie "not this leg" on the leg that wasn't going to be cut off, which she didn't appear to find at all funny).  Anyway, I took some ibuprofen and Valium, and they sat me down.  Then she proceeded to explain about forty-seven different rules that I had to be sure to follow after the surgery - no swimming, no aggressive activity, no face in the shower, no saunas, NO TOUCHING OF THE EYES, and so on.  Right about the time my eyes were glazing over from trying to remember all of it, she mentioned that they were all typed up for me and I would take a copy home.  Whew!  No worries.  She left, and I waited my turn.

And waited...and waited...and waited...

While I was waiting, I heard several more Lasik candidates come in and go through the same prep phase I had just completed (though no one else offered up such spectacular Sharpie jokes).  I noticed that blood pressures were consistently way, way above where they should have been.  Of the six or seven I heard, mine was actually the second lowest of the bunch, so that made me feel better.  As the wait dragged on, I started to get impatient.  After about an hour, the lady came around again and told us that they were re-calibrating the laser just to make sure everything was correct before continuing.  Suddenly, I was okay with the delay.  A few minutes later, Lindsey and Hadley came back to say hi.  Linds could have stayed with me, but kids weren't generally allowed back there, so they just popped in for a minute and went back to the waiting room.

I couldn't feel any noticeable effects of the Valium, which was a bit concerning to me.  I have a REALLY strong blink reflex (as the poor optometrist who stood there watching me for 30 minutes trying to put in my first contact a few years ago can confirm), and my eyes have always been extremely sensitive.  I guess I had expected they would give me enough Valium to make me unaware of my surroundings while still being barely awake.  Not so.  I didn't feel a thing, and was getting concerned at how they were going to secure me enough to attach a suction cup onto my eyeball and slice it with a blade without blinding me permanently because I blinked at the wrong moment.  Visions of 15th century torture racks and headgear presented themselves in my overactive imagination...

Eventually, it was my turn.  They walked me into a cold white room with a couple of nurses in purple scrubs and lots of equipment.  No kidding, it was just like in the movies.  Did I mention it was cold?  Because it was really cold.  And this is from a guy who loves cold weather.  It was a good thing I had worn the socks and tennis shoes rather than sandals, or involuntary shivering may have been an issue.  Anyway, I laid down on my back on the table and they asked me again what my name was and why I was there.  Successfully answering both questions correctly (again), my table was scooted under the laser until I was staring up at a pretty red blinking light.  Doctor Silverstein (I'm going to call him "Doc" from this point on, not because I know him personally but because it's much shorter to type than "Dr. Silverstein") walked in and introduced himself.  I have no idea what he looked like because he was all garbed up behind a mask and a hat, but he was very nice.  At this point, things kind of blur together a bit, but I'll try to reconstruct the steps in the correct order.

Doc fiddled with the laser for a minute, and then I found out how they intended to keep my eyes open during this high-tech surgery: low-tech tape.  No, I'm not kidding.  They started on my right eye, taping my eyelids to my forehead and cheek to hold them open, and then it felt like they put some sort of clamp down on the tape to hold things in place.  It wasn't painful, exactly, but I'd certainly call it uncomfortable.  I would imagine that anyone with a normal blink reflex would find it so, but for me it was really unsettling - I desperately wanted to blink, but was completely unable to do so.  At the same time, it was reassuring that I wouldn't be able to blink in the middle of the procedure and mess anything up.  Doc held my head and asked me to shift this way and that way until my eye was lined up properly under the laser, and then he pressed a round circle thingy down on my eyeball briefly (I think it was to mark the center of the pupil or something like that).  I was told to watch the blinking red light the whole time, which I did, but it was still a very...strange...experience to watch this all happen from inside my head.

Doc pressed another round thing down on my eyeball -- did I mention how weird it was to watch something come right down onto your eyeball, feel it press down tight, and then stay there?? -- and this time I think it was the suction cup that would hold the blade in place to slice open the flap.  On the one hand it was really cool to see it happen from the inside, but on the other it was really creepy - it was like watching a movie through a blurry lens, but with the added sensation of feeling strong pressure on a part of my body that had an equally strong conviction that it shouldn't ever be touched like that.  Doc was talking me through what he was doing and what was coming up ("next you'll hear a buzz, don't be startled"), but I was just focused on trying not to move and on watching the blinking red light.  I thought I managed it pretty well, all things considered...and maybe the Valium was helping here more than I thought.  Anyway, that last round thing he pressed down on my eyeball involved a lot of pressure (though again, I wouldn't call it pain) and made everything fade out to black, which was probably just as well since that was the point where the blade sliced open the flap on my cornea.  The next thing I saw was a little paintbrush-looking thing that he used to peel back the slice, and I remember thinking that it had happened quicker than I expected.  When the flap was
peeled back, my vision got just a little bit brighter and a bit more washed out, as if a filter had been removed from my vision.  Knowing that my eye was now exposed, I simply tried to concentrate on the blinking red light.  Next came a rapid series of green flashes and more buzzing as the laser did its reconstructive work.  In just a few seconds, it was done.

Doc pushed the flap back in place, then used the paintbrush to squeegie out all the air pockets (I don't know if that's what he was actually doing, but that's what it appeared to be and felt like), and then he may have spread something else on there, too, I don't quite remember.  They disassembled the apparatus, and my right eye was done.  A bit sore around the eye socket and feeling a little scratchy on the eye itself, but otherwise fine.

The left was essentially the same, but they didn't get a solid suction on the eyeball the first time, so they had to take the cup off and try again.  This one actually did hurt a bit, partly because they managed to grab part of my eyebrow with the tape, so every tug and twitch from that point on pulled just a little bit, and I'm mildly surprised I still have that eyebrow intact.  I had to really focus on that red blinking light for the left eye!  At the end of it, they had to put a contact lens on my left eye to help keep things in place.  I assume that the second attempt at clamping down with the suction cup meant things were a little more loosey-goosey than normal, and Doc didn't want to take any chances of something shifting around.  He was very nice, and thanked me for allowing him the privilege of trusting him with such an important thing.  I didn't really respond at the time, being a bit concerned at what happened with my left eye.  Assuming all goes well, I'll have to write him a note and drop it off at my next visit.

After that they walked me back to the recovery room.

I could see out of both eyes, but everything looked kind of foggy, like looking through a slightly tinted window or a misty early morning day, or maybe a smoky room (without being able to distinguish the individual curls of smoke).  No pain to speak of, just a little bit sore from the tape/clamp setup.  I was walked out to Lindsey and Hadley almost immediately, and we went upstairs to have a quick check-up before we left.  Everything looked good, so we headed home.  It was VERY bright outside!

They told me to go home, take some drops of two kinds of medicine (one antibiotic and one anti-inflammatory), and then take a nap. 
I hadn't brought sunglasses with me because my only pair were my prescription ones, and I was expecting them to provide a 3D-glasses kind of thing for my trip home.  Instead, I spent most of it with my eyes closed.  I dutifully followed instructions, deviating only to eat some lunch before the nap.  My lovely wife put up with me through lunch -- since I was still largely unable to open my eyes, she had to help me a bit -- then got me situated in the basement where it was blessedly dark, and I promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours.

One thing they neglect to mention in the Lasik marketing brochure is the idiotic "shields" you have to wear when you sleep.  They're ridiculous, bug-eye looking things that you tape over your eyes when you nap or go to bed.  They're supposed to prevent you from rubbing your eyes while unconscious or semi-conscious, but they're really not comfortable and they look absolutely retarded.  The tape also leaves sticky residue on your skin, and by the way you're not supposed to wash the skin around your eyes because that would risk getting soap in your eyes.  I felt like a rabid insect.  As for the look...well, it's a good thing sleep occurs in darkness, is all I can say!

When I woke up my right eye was feeling great.  No dryness, no itchiness, and very clear vision.  Success!  My left eye, on the other hand, was still a wreck.  Almost completely blurry, it was constantly watering and it felt like I had a painful scratch on it.  It was driving me nuts, especially because I wasn't supposed to touch my eyes at all - the closest I was supposed to get was a light brush of a Kleenex to wipe away liquid, but NO PRESSURE.  Well, that sounds nice, but it worked about as well as drying off the sand on a beach.  It wasn't long before my eyelids were matted from residual liquid build-up, and that only increased the irritation and general misery.  Unable to do anything else -- no reading, no computer, etc. -- I went to bed a little after 10pm.  I can't remember the last time I went to bed at 10pm.  It's been years, probably since before Connor was born.  I put on a movie but it was too bright and blurry to watch -- and my left eye continued to rebel against me -- so I just taped on my bug eyes and listened to it until I fell asleep.  This wasn't exactly the first-day resolution they had promised, but I was hopeful that the second part of the promise would hold true, and that the next morning would be the jackpot.

Nope.  My left eye still bothered me a lot.  In addition, I must have slept wrong on my neck somehow, because I had a horrendous headache!  It was one of those headaches that was so bad that it made me nauseous every time I moved.  I staggered my way through getting dressed and taking some ibuprofen, and my dear, dear wife gave me a gentle scalp massage.  At this point, I wasn't really feelin' the love toward Doc & Co. at Silverstein.

Still, once I was up and around, had some caffeine, and we were on the way to the follow-up visit, things were better.  I was pretty sure (or at least really hopeful) that the blurriness and the irritation in my left eye would be alleviated once that cursed contact had been removed.  That was the first thing they did when I sat back down in the chair.  It took the doctor (different one, not Silverstein) a couple of attempts to get it off my eye, and he finally had to resort to a quick grab with some tiny tweezers (did I mention I have a really strong blink reflex?), but within minutes I was feeling much better.

They did another quick evaluation, determined that everything looked good, and gave me a few more instructions.  Then we were off.  My left eye was still a bit blurry, but it was more of a minor nuisance at this point than anything else, and I was able to drive home without any problems.

In terms of ongoing treatment, I'm supposed to take two kinds of eye drops four times a day, plus artificial tears every hour or two all day long, and of course I have to wear the bug eyes at night.  But, as I'm typing this about 36 hours after getting up off the table, things are looking much, much better than they have in years.  If a good night's sleep provides as marked an improvement in my left eye as it did for my right eye last night, tomorrow should be fantastic.

Oh, and I bought some normal (and stylish) sunglasses today.  Sweet...

I'll post another update after things settle down a bit more, but that's the bulk of the story.  I hope it's useful to someone out there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

It Sucks Being At The Mercy Of Lazy/Old/Stupid HR Systems

If you've applied for any job in the past few years, you know what I'm talking about.

First you painstakingly craft your resume, choosing the proper format to best highlight your skills and the stage in your career, weighing and discarding words that don't seem exactly right in favor of words with even a slightly better nuance, arranging the information in a way that is quick and easy to read while still maximizing how much information you're able to present, and babying details like margin widths (small enough to let you fit all your info on just one or two pages, but not so small that it looks like you're crowding the page), font (too informal? too difficult to read? too boring and won't catch the recruiter's notice?), and whether or not to include that one last key word that may or may not make or break your chances of landing a job.  If you're doing a completely new resume or a ground-up re-work of an old one, this can take quite some time.  If you're really diligent you might show it to your spouse or send it to some friends to get feedback and suggestions, and then you go back over the whole thing again to incorporate those suggestions.  It's not unnecessary - research shows that the average resume gets about six seconds of visual examination by most recruiters, and especially during these tough economic times most recruiters probably have enough resumes to rebuild the tree for every position and have no problem ejecting yours from the stack.  If you can't succeed in those six seconds, you're completely sunk.  Of course, that's assuming you got through their filtering software to begin with.  Still, after finally completing the polish on the masterpiece, you're ready to apply.

And that's when the aggravation factor really skyrockets.

Pretty much every job application is done online now.  That's great - it's a fast, efficient way to give and receive job applications and resumes.  Unfortunately, I think most HR systems are running the same software that they used back in the late 1990s.  They're out of date, they're slow, they're disorganized, and they're generally very unuserfriendly.  You know how this works:
- you go to the company's website and hit the Careers section
- you have to create a login (it's free, they tell you, as if that helps make up for the fact that you already have a list of one-time-use logins longer than your arm to manage)
- you login and search through their jobs, finding the one to which you want to apply
- you upload your resume in Word format

It is at this point that my blood usually starts boiling.  Never mind the fact that you've just uploaded your painstakingly crafted resume, and thus communicated 100% of the information the company needs to know about you...they invariably direct you next to a series of screens where you have to manually enter all of that information again.  Are you kidding me?!  It's hard to envision any bigger insult to my time than to make me do all this twice (and this is coming from someone who types very fast and knows how to use keyboard shortcuts to jump from one empty text box to another), as if I'm so desperate to get their advertised job that I have literally nothing better to do than spend another 30 minutes typing in the same name and address that I just gave them.  Let's also consider some of the absolutely idiotic things they ask for.  In the past few months, I've had to supply things like my high school GPA or the phone number and mailing address of my elementary school.  Really??  Why would any of those details be necessary -- much less relevant -- for any job application?  Waste of my time, waste of my time, disrespectful...and a waste of my time.

Occasionally, I've found an application process that makes a half-hearted attempt to auto-populate those manual data entry screens from the Word document you uploaded, but I have yet to see one actually get more than about half of the information correct (and, for the record, the format of my resume has been deliberately simplified precisely to avoid as much auto-populate confusion as possible).  I appreciate the gesture, but it really doesn't save me time or aggravation.

Don't even get me started on companies (like mine) that force you to repeat the entire process every time you apply!  Uh...didn't I create a free login so you would remember my information??  Nope, guess not.  That's not just wasteful and disrespectful, that's a nasty combination of arrogance, belligerence, and obnoxiousness that can only come from a self-absorbed HR department that considers itself a gatekeeper holding back a horde of riffraff from gaining entry into the promised land.

The technology exists today to not only parse a resume and auto-populate every conceivable field correctly, but also to do so in such a way that the system can even make educated guesses about the context of the information on that resume to prioritize skills according to how important they were to previous positions held.  It can deliver this information neatly into the hands of a recruiter who has had 80% of the work done for him/her and can take more than six seconds to look at it.  As an IT professional, it's hard to think well of a company that obviously puts so little effort into the application process, even to the extent of making it actively hostile.  This is a personal axe to grind for me, sure, but I'd bet money I'm not alone.  And here's the bottom line - successful and productive people are busy and know how to prioritize their time and resources.  If a company wants to attract those people, an ineffective and hostile application system would go a long way toward discouraging those people from applying.

The icing on this festering cake is, of course, the complete lack of response and respect from the company to the applicant.  No, the canned email saying your application was received doesn't count.  I mean an actual response issued by a living human being.  It just doesn't happen.  Believe me, I've submitted dozens (if not hundreds) of applications over the past few years to many different companies of all different sizes and in a vast array of industries, and I can't recall the last time I got an actual response from a real person.  I know, they get hundreds of resumes for every posted job, yadda yadda yadda.  But if a personal interaction is just too difficult, then how about at least a cold and impersonal one?  You can't tell me that it's terribly burdensome for a list of names that get rejected by the automated system to be sent a polite automated thank you/rejection email rather than simply get discarded.  But no, in my experience it's pretty rare to even get that - after the application it's just a giant black hole of nothingness, and that's just rude and insulting.  In the unlikely event that a manager or recruiter actually lays eyes on a resume, there's no reason they shouldn't provide at least a quick personal thank you/rejection note.  The applicant is expected to grovel and scrape through this entire process, so the least a recruiter can do is politely tell them they can get up off their wounded knees.

Get a clue, HR executives who make these decisions: get a real application system, and stop being evil.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Videos That Hurt

'Cause they're painfully close to the truth...

Yep.  Ouch it is.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Skiing + Skydiving = Pure Awesome

Load the highest resolution of this video, open it up to full screen, crank up the music, and savor...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Anecdotal Doses Of Truth

A collection from various sources...enjoy!

California vs. Arizona

The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out, bites the Governor and attacks his dog. Here's what happens next:

1. The Governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie "Bambi" and then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2. He calls animal control. Animal Control captures coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3. He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.

4. The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5. The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is free of dangerous animals.

6. The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a "coyote awareness" program for residents of the area.

7. The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8. The Governor's security agent is fired for not stopping the attack somehow and for letting the Governor attempt to intervene.

9. Additional cost to State of California : $75,000 to hire and train a new security agent with additional special training re: the nature of coyotes.

10. PETA protests the coyote's relocation and files suit against the State.

The Governor of Arizona is jogging with her dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks her dog. Here's what happens next:

1. The Governor shoots the coyote with her State-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The Buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that's why California is broke.


Recently, while I was working in the flower beds in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog. During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?"

She replied... "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents beamed with pride!

"Wow...what a worthy goal!" I said. "But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" I told her.

"What do you mean?" she replied.

So I told her, "You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I'll pay you $50. Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Her parents still aren't speaking to me.


Bar Stool Economics
Suppose that every day ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. He said, "Since you are all such good customers, I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80."
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men -- the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share"? They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay! And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before, and the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!"shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2 ? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up any more. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Author unknown

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.  For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Serious About Leadership? Hardly.

What's the biggest issue of the current day, and is almost certain to be the biggest issue of the next election?

The economy.

It's no surprise.  That's the biggest one most of the time.  Pretty much every other major policy somehow swerves its way into the economic realm, and it's only when the economy is humming along that other things rise to the top in a big obvious way.

Now, for a bit harder question: when was the last time the United States government operated under a lawfully enacted budget?  Got a guess? Here, this should help:

And that was from back in January.  That's right, the U.S. has been operating outside a budget for almost 1,100 days now.

Of course, it's not like there haven't been any opportunities for the Democrats -- and yes, this one lies solely at the feet of the Democrats because Republicans have passed multiple budget resolutions in the House, but the Democrat-controlled Senate refuses to do anything with them -- to get this done.  Not only is it a Constitutional requirement that Congress pass a budget every year, but it's also a process that the House has initiated every year since the GOP has been in charge.  But, for some inexplicable reason, this keeps happening:

In case you were wondering, this is the most recent attempt (earlier this week) to work on a formal budget proposal.  The far side of the table is where the Republicans sit, and the near side of the table is where the Democrats sit would have been if they'd bothered to show up.  Thus:

For the third year in a row, the Democrats didn't even show up.  Kind of hard to take them seriously, huh?

Why, you ask?  What could they hope to accomplish with such irresponsibility?  Well, it's pretty simple.

Operating from a budget enshrines both the priorities and the discipline of our elected representatives.  What they formally choose to spend money on shows us what they value.  Their ability to adhere to the budget shows us how responsible they are in the stewardship of the American government.

Look at the past three years.  I know, the problems go back much longer, but for the purposes of this next election, it's all about what the current crop has done.  Unemployment has doubled since Bush was in office, and even the 8.X% rate we see today is purely the result of gimmicking the numbers.  The economy has dropped from a fabulous 5-7% growth rate to an anemic 1-2% growth rate.  Housing sucks.  Manufacturing sucks.  Small businesses are suffering due to vast new regulations that penalize growth and achievement.  Obamacare is a wrecking ball poised to drop onto the heads of every man, woman, and child in America...two thirds of whom didn't want it and would like to see it repealed.

This is hardly a record to be proud of, much less useful for winning an election, so they had to come up with a different tactic.

The Dems have adopted a strategy of refusing to take responsibility (see this previous post on liberal responsibility). They deliberately refuse to establish a budget so they can't be held accountable for the dangerously reckless overspending that they've done over the past three years.  They also can't be held accountable for who got how much money.  Not much formal record of companies like Solyndra -- one of many 'green' energy companies that went bankrupt after accepting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the Obama administration -- or the Fast and Furious debacle, where the Obama administration appears to have sold guns to drug dealers (who used them to kill American border patrol agents) with the intent of attacking the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  It's only in drips and drops that the American people hear about these things, and only when the liberal media fails to completely squelch the truth.  Remember, Barack Obama's policies over just the past three years have increased the national debt by $5 trillion.  But without a formal budget, they can distract Americans with other, less consequen...HEY LOOK SOMETHING SHINY OVER THERE IT MUST BE AN EEEEEVIL RICH WHITE GUY DON'T YOU JUST HATE EEEEEVIL RICH WHITE GUYS!!!

They also get the added benefit (ironic and deceitful though it may be) of accusing Republicans of obstructing their process.

That's the plan, plus a gratuitous helping of race-baiting, class warfare, and personal assaults.

I personally believe the American people have finally awakened to the truth, or at least enough of it.  I think that this election will be about Barack Obama and his actions, and a rebellion of the common man against the blatantly liberal media.  Will it be enough to kick out the socialists currently trying to tear down America from within?  Only time will tell, but the facts are pretty clear.

Now it's simply a matter of educating the uninformed, and rallying the electoral army of the Right to wipe away the liberal destruction we're currently witnessing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Great Thoughts On Income Inequality

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. at the Wall Street Journal has a great article today about income inequality that should be contemplated as we start seeing a lot of accusations and policy ideas flying around about 'the rich' again.  Here are some key excerpts:

If it were learned that the car driven by the average American is 10 times more likely to burst into flames than the car driven by the richest 1%, what should the policy response be? Should it be to mandate that cars driven by the rich burst into flames more often?

Income inequality is a strange obsession, at least to the extent the obsessives focus their policy responses on trying to adjust the condition of the top 1% rather than improving the opportunities of everyone else.

Personally, I think this is how a lot of liberal thought plays out in the arena of policy.  Rather than seeking to bring everyone up to the highest level possible, liberal policies generally seek to bring everyone down until the misery is equally spread to everyone.

There's a misconception of inequality in America today that's brought about by a number of factors like this:

[the] result comes from choosing to look at income that leaves out transfers. Unlike the 1920s, Americans today have the opportunity partly to live off Social Security and Medicare. They can decide to do without reportable income. Also left out of the calculation is the large share of compensation accounted for by untaxed health insurance.

Too, the tax code has changed. Income is realized under today's code that wouldn't have been realized under previous tax codes. Owners of capital buy and sell much more easily, and the tax system creates much less incentive for them to sit on their holdings and report less income.

For the record, so sensitive are the inequality generalizations to how you define income, and whether household size is taken into account, that the claimed shift toward greater inequality can be made easily to disappear, especially when consumption rather than income is measured.

Numbers are just numbers, but they can be tinkered with to appear different than they really are.  A little omission here, and small fudge there, and you can make data say pretty much anything you want.  Just ask a pollster.  Or a billionaire:

As CNBC's John Carney has shown, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could avoid ever reporting any income simply by borrowing against his assets to meet his living expenses. "Perhaps most bizarrely, Zuckerberg might be eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit if he keeps his personal income under $13,000," writes Mr. Carney.

Still, a liberal will always come back to the idea of penalizing the rich rather than lifting up the poor.  As Jenkins asks, how does this help the rest of America?  It's also interesting to note how those who often denigrate 'the rich' are simultaneously improved by such denigration:

One factor is a certain human soul-sickness that's impossible to put a constructive gloss on. Why is the New York Times disproportionately given over to cataloging the consumption of the rich in a tone even more cringing for its pretending to be snarky? Why do some of our dreariest journalists spend all their time writing about Goldman Sachs, except to associate themselves with the status object they attack in order to raise their own status?

That goes doubly for the inequality obsessives.

Jenkins finishes with a perfect quote that encapsulates how a liberal views the subject:

As Freud put it, "Everyone must be the same and have the same. Social justice means we deny ourselves many things so that others may have to do without them as well."

Isn't that the truth?  And isn't that precisely the problem?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Liberal Revealed

It's one thing to put up a facade of civility and professionalism.  It's quite another to be civil and professional, even when people aren't looking.  One 'respectable' liberal who appears regularly on Fox as an analyst, Bob Beckel, just revealed what a typical liberal is like when he thinks no one is watching.  I wouldn't normally post this due to the F-bomb right there at the beginning (so yes, this is your NSFW language warning!), but I think that the entire thing is indicative of the political reality in this country today.  Watch the whole thing:

There's so much to learn here.  Witness how Beckel so easily and casually descended into personal attacks, to the point where he completely missed the countdown to go back on the air as well as Hannity saying "we're back".  He refuses to apologize until he realizes he's on the air live, and even then it's only a begrudging apology (and he more or less dismisses Hannity's offer to defend him).  After that, he sulks and refuses to engage.  I have no idea who the blond lady is, but she's dead on correct at 2:15 - why do liberals resort to personal attacks rather than the agenda, the issues, and the facts?

It's because their positions are bankrupt, they fail, and they cannot be defended in the realm of ideas, logic, and reality.  But, since they can't admit to that, they instead shoot for below-the-belt personal attacks.

My favorite part is where Beckel, busted live and on national TV, absolutely refuses to take responsibility for his own words.  It's not his fault, it's Hannity's for not using a bullhorn to shout over his own profanity-laced gutterspeak to 'let him know' he's on the air.

Oh yes, there's a lot to learn here...

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Tax Day Again!

This video is a couple years old, but it's still as applicable today as it was then.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Distraction

You have have heard all this nonsense about the so-called Buffett Rule.  I'll have more on that in the near future, but for now, Michael Ramirez sums it up best:


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Attacking Family Members Is Okay...Depending On Who You Are

As a quick follow-up to the last message, here's something to keep in mind in the light of the Obama administration's opening attack on Ann Romney.  Recall back in 2008 when Michelle claimed that her husband's nomination was the first time in her life that she'd been proud of America.  The GOP used that statement to question Obama's intentions toward this nation.  At the time, Obama said this (emphasis mine)...

"The GOP, should I be the nominee, I think can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record," Obama said. "I've been in public life for 20 years. I expect them to pore through everything that I've said, every utterance, every statement. And to paint it in the most undesirable light possible. That's what they do."

"But I do want to say this to the GOP. If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. Because that I find unacceptable," he said.

Obama praised his wife's patriotism and said that for Republicans "to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her I think is just low class ... and especially for people who purport to be promoters of family values, who claim that they are protectors of the values and ideals and the decency of the American people to start attacking my wife in a political campaign I think is detestable."

Obama later added, "I think that the American people also would like to see some restoration of decency to this process. And when you start attacking family members, there's a lack of decency there."

And this was addressing a response to a statement that was clearly uttered in a political setting for a political purpose.  The attack on Ann Romney was completely unjustified, unsolicited, and unwarranted.


Like I said, it's going to get ugly and dirty.  Maybe it's a good thing Romney was practicing his scorched-earth campaigning on the other GOP candidates.  He may need those skills (whether or not he chooses to use them is another question entirely)...

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Thus far, Obama has been pretty quiet in terms of attacking the GOP candidates.  Now that Santorum has bowed out and Romney faces essentially smooth sailing to the nomination, it took less than 24 hours for the first attack to come.  That may not be surprising, but the attack itself seems...well, you take a look and decide:

"[Ann Romney] has never worked a day in her life.  She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why we worry about their future..." 
(video here)

Um...really?  I'm no pundit, but this seems like a really foolish, clumsy and stupid attack.  They're attacking his wife, not him.  They're not attacking his policies, they're launching a personal attack.  They're trying to paint her as a spoiled rich white lady of leisure, but in fact they've more or less just insulted every stay at home mom in the country by minimizing the amount of effort and work it takes.  Not only that, but they've also insulted every working mom who wants to be a stay at home mom.  And this is a wise move?

Ann Romney knocked the hanging softball out of the park just moments later via Twitter with exactly the right response:

"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," 


Several other Obama advisers -- undoubtedly recognizing the mistake -- immediately jumped out and apologized for the faux pas, but this was still a pretty bad start.  Obama may have accomplished in one day what Romney's campaign has failed to do in several months: make Romney relate-able to the American people.

If nothing else, this should underscore what we can expect from the Obama campaign.  Personal attacks, and no one is off limits.  This shouldn't come as a surprise, though, since his policies have tanked the U.S. economy, overseen the biggest expansion of government in American history, exploded the welfare state to record levels, and weakened America's standing throughout the world.  Not much to brag about there.

It's going to get ugly and dirty.  Prepare yourself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's Obama Vs. Romney

Well, that makes it more or less official:

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Tuesday he is suspending his campaign. 

He made the announcement at the Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg, Pa., talking about his young daughter's illness and reflecting on the campaign.

His 3-year-old daughter Bella was taken to a Virginia hospital Friday with pneumonia. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, left the campaign trail until this afternoon. The child has a life-threatening genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18.

"She's a fighter," said Santorum, standing beside his wife and children. "She's doing exceptionally well."

As those of you who know us may recall, we've got our own experience with Trisomy 18, so my hat is off to the Santorum family for persevering through the most difficult job application process in the world while dealing with this extremely difficult family situation, all with exceptional grace.  Thoughts and prayers are with them.

Regarding the political calculus here, though, given that Gingrich and Ron Paul are waaaaaaay behind in the polls this makes it pretty much a lock for a Romney nomination.

I've read a bunch of analysis on this already and it's all mushing together so I'm not certain who said it, but the point should be made that Santorum, with little money and never considered a 'serious' candidate, ran a heckuva campaign and ended up as the last 'serious' competitor to the self-funded Romney.  Despite these things, he won 11 state primaries/caucuses, proving he was a legitimate contender.  I've seen in more than one corner that the most likely explanation is that Santorum couldn't persuade Gingrich, Paul, and other key GOPers to form a coalition to take down Romney, it was only a matter of time until Romney won out, anyway.

In my opinion, Santorum was the least-worst remaining candidate in the race.  Ironically, that's exactly how I felt about Romney in 2008, when McCain finally won out.  Egad, are we really doing this again?

Leave it to the Republican establishment to follow up an historic conservative-driven, grass-roots ground swell of Republican support in 2010 tied directly to demands for fiscal responsibility and the repeal of Obamacare with the successful nomination of a big-government liberal Republican who implemented the little brother of Obamacare and bankrupted the state of Massachusetts.  Nice work, geniuses.  If there was anyone who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it's these people.


We'll see.  Yes, Romney is an awful candidate.  Yes, he's a (let's be generous here) lukewarm conservative at best.  Yes, he's the architect of the model for the single most destructive, expensive, and government-enabling legislation in American history.  But it looks like he's our guy, and he's still less awful than Barack Obama.  Like I said when McCain became the nominee in 2008: who would you rather have, the guy you agree with 50% of the time, or the guy you agree with 1% of the time?  If this is the stage that is set, then we have to deal with it, so it's time to rally around our awful guy in order to maximize the chances of beating the abysmally awful other guy.  I'm guessing the VP pick will be key here - if it's someone like Chris Christy or Paul Ryan, or another person with really high favorables and a willingness to pick a fight, then that would certainly help.  With Romney being the top of the ticket, though, we should expect a revivial of the class warfare of the Occupy movement, lots of accusations of paying 'fair shares', and idiotic lectures about 'the rich'.  Don't buy any of it, and don't fall prey to it.  Most of all, don't allow other people to get away with talking about it unchallenged - the facts are on our side, they've only got propaganda.

Who knows?  Barack Obama's record is so bad, and the economic condition of this country is in such trouble that people may kick him out regardless of who goes up against him.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ant And The Grasshopper

Via Patriot Post:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.
Be responsible for yourself!
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.
CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on MSNBC with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green." Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We shall overcome." Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake.
Democrat leaders, in every media outlet they can find, exclaim that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper and call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer! The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.
Hillary Clinton gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges that Barack Obama appointed from a list of single-parent welfare recipients. The ant loses the case.
The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it.
The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.
Be careful how you vote in 2012.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Einstein, Energy, And A Cat

I thought this was both amusing and informative:

So now you know...and you can finally sleep at night!