Wednesday, March 17, 2010

OK, which is it?

I've always been puzzled and intrigued by what we really are and by that I mean a representative democracy. I think I have the term correct. We get to vote for our elected representatives and they in turn represent us and our views in City Hall, State Capitols and Washington DC.

Now that gets tricky because everybody I vote for doesn't always win. I guess that's the democracy part. We don't always win and get our collective way.

But as I listened to an NPR story on the last big (gasp) push for the Health Care bill I was confused by one thing (well a lot of things but I guess Dennis Kucinich isn't confused anymore since he's changed his mind, but I digress...): The Democrats are not giving up. Even though some polls show that not even a majority of their party favor this massive health care reform bill, they are going to push it through anyway.

So who do those arm-twisting Dems represent? I don't expect Nancy Pelosi (or her Missouri equivalent if we had one) to care about my thoughts. I'm not one of her voters. But if less than half of her voters still think the bill is a bad idea, why is she pushing and who is she pushing for?

I was disappointed to hear Cleveland Dennis changed his mind. I heard he got a limo ride with the Pres. earlier this week. Oh well. I would have told him not to get into the car. I've seen the Godfather movies and you definitely don't want to sit in the front seat when asked to take a ride.

But back to the bigger picture of what we expect from our elected Pols. Obviously we are not always going to agree 100% on everything with anybody on hundreds of issues.

So my philosophical question is: when we vote for someone, are we voting because we think/believe/hope they already agree with us on lots of big (and small) issues and so are likely to vote along our lines when those things come up OR

do we vote for smart, thoughtful people, who when confronted with big choices, will take all the facts into consideration, collect numerous ideas and opinions from experts and those they represent and they make an informed decision based on all this best judgment?

I think there is a clear distinction between my two ideas above. Maybe not.

I think maybe you can have a good mix of both but what the Democrats seem to be doing doesn't fit either one of my profiles.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

not sure I get it yet

For some months now a Missouri family has been in the news for "illegally" selling raw milk (for the uninitiated - the stuff that comes straight from the cow into some sort of cooling tank before it gets pasteurized, processed etc. and makes it way to Wal Mart shelves) Missouri law restricts how and where you may sell such raw milk. I can understand the need for some safety and other regs on anything we eat or drink but I think most people would agree this one went too far. The Missouri Attorney General seems to have taken a personal interest in this case. Apart from my opinion that he could have simply told the family "Stop selling your milk in this way or that way or else", slapped their wrists and went about doing more important AG stuff, I didn't think much about his role or agenda.

Today on a site I've been frequenting The Rural Blog is a link to a Wall St. Journal article that once again mentions our state's AG, Mr. Koster. This time he is involved in a case that originally prohibited a farmer from setting up a large hog farm in a tiny MO town. The locals won the battle to keep the large farm away but Mr. Koster feels the need to appeal the ruling.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed the decision in state court, vowing to roll back a thicket of local obstacles to big farms that largely began in "The Show Me State" and rippled across the Farm Belt in recent years.

"In the eyes of the agricultural community, this is starting to spin out of control," said Mr. Koster, a former state senator whose pending appeal has the backing of the Missouri Farm Bureau, one of the biggest farm groups in the state."

Now I see where he is going. Maybe I'm connecting the wrong dots but here in two very unrelated cases, he is promoting big farms. It is more obvious in the second story about pigs because he says it but in the first milk story, wonder what large dairies (or groups like DFA) are behind any prior (or future) campaigns of his?

On final piggy thought: If this sort of thing interests you I suggest you read Righteous Pork Chop by Nicolette Niman. And interesting look at corporate hog farming and what it can do to small towns and communities.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker

I’m no movie critic but having just fast-forwarded through much of the Academy Awards and strangely enough also just watched the Hurt Locker on Saturday night before, a few comments.

When I was telling my wife about HL, I’m sure I came across as not thinking it was going to win the Oscar. I felt pretty sure Bigelow would win for Director – if for nothing else as the Academy sticking it to Cameron. Wasn’t sure about Avatar and the big one though. I think I said to my wife it was a good movie but not a great one. Guess I was wrong about that!

The more you hear about the movie HL, the more impressed you have to be. Low budget (I’ve read as low as $11 mil and as high as $16) Were it not for her deal on The Blind Side that will net her many millions more – Sandra Bullock’s normal per movie fee would have taken up most of that budget; craft service the rest!

I also heard Bigelow got paid $100,000 for directing. I hope the studio does something special for her now since the movie is going to take off and make them all lots of money. Probably not Cameron/Avatar money but something substantial.

I checked out Bigelow’s resume. Nothing wrong with it, but she has only done a few small films and a few episodes of TV. Somehow she managed to pull this one off. She’s one year older than me!

What really struck me most was how much I felt like this was real. I knew I was watching a fictional movie but one that felt (most of the time) like this is really happening.

One thing that was sort of missing – not much back-story on the main character. All we get to see is one small scene at home with his child and then back he goes to where he really lives. It could have slowed the movie down but I wanted to find out why he wanted to take the risks.

MINI-SPOILER ALERT BELOW – IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT – SKIP NEXT GRAF

Only one segment didn’t ring true or realistic for me – when he went off-base to track down who he thought had killed the little boy. That seemed in-character but outside the realm of something he could really do. I just can’t imagine it was that easy for a soldier to get off base. Obviously tough for him to get back onto the base.

Most years I don’t see many Oscar nominees. This year I managed to see two: HL and Up. What a contrast huh?

The image that will stick with me is where he starts tracing down a wire to a bomb that leads to more wires and then when he starts pulling on them, a whole cluster of bombs starts to appear. A great moment and an apt analogy for the whole mess in Iraq. The whole thing over there is one big spider web we can probably never unravel (OK mixing my metaphors but hopefully you get it.)

So my chance to play movie critic. Watch The Hurt Locker. Be prepared for a volley of f-words. But if you can handle that, the movie is well worth it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Digital ears round three and What a drag it is getting old!

No secret to my family members and co-workers that I have some hearing loss. Really, really planned on getting some hearing aids last summer but then a nasty root canal came and took all my money set aside for health care so had to wait until 2010 to try again.

So last week I bit the bullet and went back to a place for some testing etc. I walked out with a demo pair to try for a few days. So far, not so good.

I do hear better but I also hear stuff out of sync. Things are delayed. Music sounds awful. Anything with a ring or tone to it is just odd.

So back to the aid place. They hooked me up to a computer at the manufacturer in Minnesota and they made adjustments right in my ear while I sat here in Springburg. Seems that most people just lose their hearing so any type of assistance sounds great so they are happy to get what they can get. Me on the other hand may have become the high maintenance customer they wished had never walked in their door!

I hear low frequencies just fine (that would be lots of noise, traffic, HVAC - you'd be amazed at how much happens in low freqs!) Seems that stuff hits my real ears on time while the super fast digital hearing aids take that same sound and process it in 5ms (that is 5 milliseconds). Well that 5 milliseconds can be an eternity when you've already heard the sound! Think Taylor Swift with Stevie Nicks!

Another adjustment to dial out some low frequencies. This does make things better but then this morning I woke up, put them on and everything was delayed again.

Back in for another adjustment this afternoon. They have no idea how a digitally programmed digital device "drifted" overnight but there are no consumer adjustments I can make that can affect this.

They did more adjusting on the low end of things, put a smaller ear bud on the wire (seems there is something called "occlusion"), tweaked my own voice a little - actually they are tweaking what I sound like to myself. Maybe my voice already is annoying but I told the guy today if I really sounded like my hearing aids made me sound, I'm way more than annoying.

For now I have these tiny little things hanging off the back of my ears and a little wire snaking around my ear into my ear canal.

The AID guy says a lot of this is retraining my brain since I'm hearing stuff I haven't been hearing so it has to figure things out. But let me tell you the process gives me a headache! I never dreamed it would be this hard.