Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gas Pains

Yesterday there were some reports that gas may go up by as much as 15 cents a gallon by the weekend.


Stations that had been selling regular unleaded for as low as $2.45 yesterday raised their prices to $2.79, although most places went up to $2.99 (Note to European readers: Yes, I know you guys have been living with eight dollar a gallon gas for years. But this isn't about you; it's about me!).

I can understand the supply problems caused by the hurricane damage, and I can certainly comprehend the laws of supply & demand. After all, I majored in economics for six years before flunking out of college.

But how is it that the price of gasoline already in the ground at gasoline stations suddenly went up in price overnight???? That fuel was produced and delivered well before Katrina hit.

Maybe someone who actually graduated from college can explain that one to me.

Refugees? Here?

I, for one, never thought I would live to hear the word "refugees" used to describe residents of the United States. Typically, we're the country that accepts them from elsewhere in the world. But actually producing refugees? No, never. Not us.

But that is exactly how survivors of Katrina's rampage along the Gulf coast are now being described. An estimated 23,000 are now inside the Superdome, and they're about to be kicked out of there. According to the governor of Louisiana, those stuck inside the facility will be sent by bus to Houston, Texas, where they will be put up inside the 40 year old Astrodome.

Meanwhile, the mayor of New Orleans has now said that "thousands" may be dead. He based his estimate on the fact that many bodies remain floating in the water while rescue crews concentrate on saving survivors from rooftops. Meanwhile, with water depths approaching 20 feet in some parts of the city, it is feared that countless others were forced into their attics by the rising waters where they became trapped and drowned.

And that's just the estimate for New Orleans. The death toll in neighboring Mississippi officially stands at 110, but that is likely to rise substantially.

The Pentagon has now responded, sending several ships with rescue supplies and water filtration capability to the area. Additionally, military helicopters are plucking survivors off of rooftops with Navy SEAL rescue teams also assisting. The navy's hospital ship USNS Comfort is also enroute.

Again, this is the United States of America we're talking about here, not Bangladesh.

After taking all this in, I find myself trying to get my head around the fact that this storm actually weakened before hitting land. What the hell would have happened if Katrina had remained at category 5?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


24 hours ago things didn't look all that bad along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, but that was only because communication with the hardest hit areas was completely out. When dawn broke today, and rescue crews began to move in full force, the sheer magnitude of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina became frighteningly apparent. Some are now calling the storm the worst natural disaster in the nation's history.

While everyone had been worried over the weekend about New Orleans, that city missed (at least initially) the worst of what Katrina had to offer. It was the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi in neighboring Mississippi that took the brunt of the storm's fury, and the death toll there may not be known for days. Those were also the communities that were decimated by Camille in 1969.

Damage extends even further to the east into Alabama. As the waters recede in coastal areas there, they are revealing bare concrete slabs where homes once stood.

Of additonal concern for the entire country is that the Gulf of Mexico normally accounts for about one third of our domestic oil production. However, 95% of that capacity has been lost for the time being, and it's unclear how long it will be until everything is back up and running. Even the pipelines that run up to the northeast are shutdown at the moment.

Yesterday Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said "I can't say that I feel that sense that we've escaped the worst, she said. "I think we don't know what the worst is right now."

As it turns out, she was only too right.

This morning two levees holding the waters of Lake Pontchartrain were breached, and the city of New Orleans--which had survived the initial storm relatively intact--began to flood. Authorities have been dropping 3000 pound sandbags into the breach, but that is not expected to much good. With so much of the city located several feet below sea level, this is the worst news possible.

One hospital has already been forced to move its patients to the Superdome, which now holds an estimated 30,000 people. But conditions inside are becoming increasingly more miserable. The air conditioning failed along with the power early yesterday, and now floodwaters have begun covering the playing field.

As a result, Blanco has ordered the city evacuated. But with the rising waters and impassable roads, it's not clear how that will be accomplished. The remaining residents, however, may not be eager to leave since they're busy looting. What they plan to do with their new found wealth is unclear, since most of them no longer have homes in which to store the goodies.

In the meantime, rescue efforts continue, often with helicopters plucking people from their rooftops. What is not known, and what may tragically not be known for some time, is how many more people remain trapped inside their attics, unable to summon help even as floodwaters continue their relentless rise.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dodging The Bullet

While New Orleans may not have entirely dodged the proverbial bullet with Hurricane Katrina, it did manage to escape with only a flesh wound. The storm, which had been a category five with 175 mph winds yesterday, dropped to category 4 status before hitting land with 145 mph winds. Additionally, the eye wall passed 20 miles further east of the city than originally forecast. While damage was still heavy, it wasn't the absolute worst-case catastrophe that had been feared.

For some 9000 of the city's residents, the Superdome--home of the NFL's New Orleans Saints--was the shelter of last result. No immediate word on whether season ticket holders got the best seats, but everyone became alarmed when the roof of the 77,000 seat stadium began to peel off because of Katrina's relentless winds.

The storm's damage will not confined to the Gulf coast, however. Even now, with Katrina's center over northeastern Mississippi, it remains a strong tropical storm with winds at 65 mph. And what's left of the former hurricane will continue to drop tornadoes and produce massive rainfall totals as it makes its way towards the eastern great lakes and Canada.

And lest the snickering masses on the east and west coasts think they got off scot-free, some experts are warning that the entire country may experience as much as a 15 cent jump in gas prices by the end of the week. The reason is that offshore oil production throughout the Gulf of Mexico has been severely disrupted, and it may take a few days to get everything up and running again.

Of course, one solution to the oil shortage may be Venezuela. If we were to take out its America-hating President, we'd have access to a lot of crude.

I'm surprised no one else has suggested that.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Little Storm That Could

It was only last Wednesday that a tropical depression over the eastern Caribbean intensified enough to become Tropical Storm Katrina. Forecasters predicted it might strengthen enough to briefly become a hurricane before striking southern Florida. But then it would quickly weaken into a soggy rainstorm and make its way up the east coast.

Mother Nature, however, apparently neglected to check the weather forecast.

Katrina did, indeed, hit the Miami area as a puny category one storm with 80 mph, then quickly lost strength. Damage was fairly minimal when compared to some of the storms that struck the Sunshine State last year.

But then the weak storm reemerged into the Gulf of Mexico. Finding itself over water as warm as 90 degrees, Katrina re-formed into a hurricane. But rather than make a quick beeline towards the Florida panhandle, the storm headed further west, giving itself more time to feed off the warm ocean surface. And like a fat woman gorging on a truckload of Twinkies, Katrina kept growing and growing.

At this point, it is important to note that only three category five storms--with winds of 156 mph or greater have hit the US mainland since record keeping began in the 1800's.

At two o'clock this afternoon, a hurricane hunter aircraft flew through the storm and clocked winds at 175 mph. The barometric pressure, which has an inverse relationship to the wind speed and is considered the true measure of a hurricane's strength, was 906 millibars--the second lowest on record for a hurricane.

It is expected to make landfall tomorrow along the Louisiana coast. Even if the center of the storm misses New Orleans, Katrina is large enough that the city is expected to suffer substantial damage. As a result, the mayor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The city has also set up emergency shelters for those unable to get out, including the 77,000 seat Superdome.

Granted, I'm no expert on these things, but this seems to be a helluva time to have a football game.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Pat? Is That You?

Violence erupted in the streets of Caracus, Venezuela earlier today when supporters of President Hugo Chavez clashed with opponents demanding electoral reform. At least six people were injured as demonstrators from both sides threw smoke bombs, bottles, rocks, and even fireworks at one another.

No word on whether Pat Robertson was in the area.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Damn Videotapes

Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to himself, religion in general, and this nation as a whole.

Earlier in the week the televangelist and former presidential candidate went on his show, The 700 Club, and called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. After his comments ignited a firestorm of outrage among people with an ounce of common sense, Robertson went on his show Wednesday and claimed he never actually used the word "assassinate."

"I didn't say "assassination." I said our special forces should, quote, ' take him out.'" He then went on to explain that the phrase "take him out" can mean any number of things besides assassination, such as kidnapping, removing someone from power, or going out to dinner and a movie. Well, okay, maybe not that last one, since Robertson has in the past condemned homosexuality, and dating between US Army Rangers and male dictators is presumably prohibited by the Bible.

But then some godless pagan media watchdog group, their eternal souls already condemned to the fiery pits of hell for being blasphemers, dared to produce a videotape of Monday's broadcast in which Robertson is specifically heard using the word "assassinate."

Confronted with this new evidence, Robertson later issued a formal apology for Monday's remarks.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bad Habits

Pope Benedict BUNCHOFROMANNUMERALS was in Germany last weekend for world youth day, which is meant to inspire young Catholics to renew their faith, embrace Christ, accept the word of God, and call for the assassination of foreign leaders they don't like. By all accounts, it was a very jubilant and enthusiastic crowd.

So enthusiastic, in fact, that a Belgian nun earned herself an official reprimand from her Mother Superior.

The nun, Johanne Vertommen, was so caught up in the festivities that she began dancing with a missionary who at one point held her up in the air. She then proceeded to cling to "him with her legs wrapped around his body."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

But Only The Glazed Ones

The following is from an email someone forwarded me. I don't know if it's true, nor have I made any effort to verify its authenticity. On the other hand, this is the internet, so facts don't really matter anyway.

The Kane County, Illinois, Sheriff's Department orders plain white patrol units and has the graphics applied locally. In this case, what they ordered was not quite what they got.

This car was driven for 1 week before an officer noticed what the graphics company employee did on the passenger side of the car. The employee did this on his last day working for the graphics company before he retired.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Culture Of Life, Revised

President Bush and his evangelical supporters often cite "The culture of life" when justifying their opposition to stem cell research and abortion. It certainly is a noble sounding phrase, and anyone who seeks to argue about is obviously evil and doomed to burn in the fiery pits of hell for all eternity.

Apparently, however, there are exemptions. Perhaps we should now call it "The culture of life, version 2.0."

Noted televangelist Pat Robertson, who is head of the Christian Broadcasting Network and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, went on his show and openly called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

See, that's the wonderful thing about being an evangelical Christian! Not only do you get to self-righteously claim to follow the Bible and all it teaches, accept the lord Jesus Christ as your savior, and value the sanctity of all human life (including embryonic cells in a Petri dish), but you get to decide when to make exceptions to God's laws!!!

How cool a deal is that!!!

A Note To Other Bloggers

For several years now I've had the domain name, and I've been paying various hosting companies about eight bucks a month to maintain it. The only thing I've ever done with it, however, is to use it for domain forwarding to Even though those deals with hosting companies included varying amounts of storage space, I've never actually taken advantage of that. FTP was an option, but I've never bothered with it because, well, it just seemed too complicated (don't tell anyone I admitted that). Bottom line: That domain name was kind of an expensive luxury.

The other day I discovered that Blogrolling is offering a service geared strictly for domain forwarding, and it's only $19.95 a year. Best of all, it's so simple to set up that even I was able to do it! This was too good an offer to pass up, and I highly recommend it.

New Evidence AGAINST Evolution

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back To School.... And Off To The Poorhouse

It's time for back-to-school shopping, and the typical American family will spend an average of $443.77 per student on essential learning supplies such as notebooks, pencils, glue, clothing, graphing calculators, textbooks, and IPod accessories.

Of course, once you factor in gasoline for the SUV so you can drive to the various stores, that figure quickly rises to $983.47.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's Morphin' Time!

When I was growing up in the '90's, I used to enjoy watching the Power Rangers. Sometimes, when I was alone, I would fantasize about the chick Ranger--usually the one in the pink costume--kicking my ass. Oh baby....

Anyway, one thing I definitely never thought about was what a turn on it would be to have a Power Ranger tie me to an anchor and shove me overboard.

Yet that's exactly what Skylar DeLeon--who supposedly starred on the show--allegedly did. I say supposedly, because it's starting to look like this guy may only be pretending to be a celebrity.

This, of course, raises a whole other question: Is the mere act of pretending to be a celebrity so outrageous in and of itself that it automatically makes the perpetrator a celebrity? And before you dismiss that concept as being too absurd to ever happen, keep in mind that Paris Hilton only became famous because she was dumb enough to have her boyfriend videotape her while they were boinking. Until that happened, no one had ever heard of her. She had never appeared on TV, or appeared on a magazine cover, or demonstrated any sort of meaningful talent, or done anything to bring fame upon herself. She was nothing more than a spoiled rich kid.

Anyway, at least I can still look up to the Ninja Turtles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's All In The Name

A Chicago woman who called her cable company to complain about something found her next bill addressed to "Bitch Dog." And in a similar case, Jeffrey Barnes found that his power company had begun addressing its bills to "Jeffrey Scrotum Bag Barnes."

Well, guess that explains why the White House gets electric bills addressed to "Mr. Lying Sack Of Crap Who Misled The American People, Betrayed Their Trust, Invaded The Wrong Freaking Country, And Still Won't Admit He F*cked Up."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005


All too often we are oblivious as to how our words or actions may be misinterpreted by others. Likewise, those around us may sometimes jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts. And if the two scenarios should ever cross paths, someone will likely end up getting hurt.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


CBGB's is a small club in New York city that, for the last 30 years, has been a starting point for a number of bands that would eventually make it big. Many people credit CBGB's for also launching the punk rock scene in the late '70's by showcasing groups such as the Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads. But now, because of rent increases and ongoing disputes with its landlord, the establishment is facing eviction at the end of the month.

Among the individuals and groups that have come to its aid are Deborah Harry, Tommy Ramone, and E Street Band member "Little Stevie" Van Zandt. Little Stevie also happens to play Silvio on The Sopranos, a character who has capped his fair share of wiseguys for Tony.

Hmmmm.... If I were the landlord, I think I'd offer to cut back on that rent increase.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005


An article in today's USAToday explores the declining influence of religion throughout western Europe. Church attendance is plummeting, the percentage of people identifying themselves as religious has dropped, and Spain--a predominantly Catholic country--recently legalized gay marriage. And while the article doesn't specifically say so, I imagine that a sizable majority of these godless heathens believe in Darwin's Theory of Evolution, support stem cell research, and have been seduced by the paganistic allure of science.

The solution is obvious: The world's most powerful Theocracy--the United States--should invade Europe and kill anyone who doesn't immediately agree to have their soul saved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Maybe They Could Apply Foam To The Thing

Scientists have known for a while now that a large asteroid will pass within 25,000 of Earth on April 13, 2029 (I've thoughtfully provided a countdown clock at the bottom of the lefthand column). While close, it's still a miss.

However, further analysis has now alarmed the people who are paid to be alarmed by this kind of stuff. The concern is that the asteroid will pass through a "gravitational sweet spot" which will significantly change the space rock's orbit. Should that happen, the asteroid would smash into the Earth a mere seven years later, possibly leading to the collapse of civilization and perhaps even the extinction of man.

It is unclear what effect this would have on the current housing bubble.

Consequently NASA scientists have begun studying the feasibility of somehow "nudging" the intruder into a different orbit.

Who are they kidding!?!?! Did you see the look on the faces of the mission controllers when Discovery touched down yesterday? They appeared to be genuinely surprised the crew got back in one piece!! I have nothing but respect for the folks at NASA, but if it's going to be up to them to save the world, we're royally f*cked.

Monday, August 08, 2005


This past Friday my mother passed away at the age of 83. She had been in declining health for sometime, so it was not unexpected. On the other hand, that doesn't make it any easier to accept.

Since then I've wondered what to say, if anything. Personal matters are not something I usually talk about here. But at the funeral service today my nephew delivered an eloquent summary of my mother's life and times that I could only have hoped to equal, so with his permission I'm posting his words here....


Hungary was rebuilding itself after World War I. In the small farming village of Bate, Hungary, Rose Gyurko, my grandmother, was born on March 6, 1922.

In 1938 she married my grandfather, a young man from the next town, Eugene Cseplo. A year after they married, World War II broke out in Europe when Germany invaded Poland. Hungary tried to stay out of the conflict but reluctantly became part of the Axis for fear of invasion by the Nazis.

Grandpa was eventually drafted into the German army. He was stationed in a nearby town. It was during this period that my mother, Margaret, was born. As the Russians advanced west, grandpa was able to avoid being sent to the front by having himself conveniently captured by the British. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

Without grandpa, my grandmother was left to plow the fields, milk the cows, and raise her daughter alone.

When the Soviet army swept through Hungary pushing out the Germans, the Russians used grandma's house as their local command center. Grandma and my mother had to live with relatives while Marshall Zukov, Stalin's right hand man, slept in her bed.

Grandma had a story about how the Russians used the local Hungarian women to bail water all day from the bomb craters on the airfield, thus creating a human shield to protect the local airstrip from German bombing. In protest my grandmother and the other women did this while wearing all black. Grandma always took pride in her little rebellion against the Russians.

Eventually the war ended and grandpa was freed. He returned home to his family after a year or two of separation. He entered politics during a period of free elections and became head of the Small Farmers Party in Hungary. Then in 1947 the Communist Party under Stalin took over the Hungarian government. My grandfather was given an ultimatum: Join the Communist Party as Secretary of Agriculture or go to prison for being anti-communist.

Due to his strong principles his only option was to flee Hungary immediately and cross the border into Austria, saying goodbye to Rose and his daughter without knowing if they would ever be together again. And once again, Rose was again alone to tend the farm and raise a child.

During this time the KGB would periodically raid the house looking for any correspondence from my grandfather to her. They never discovered grandpa's letters from Paris hidden under the attic floorboards.

Then came three years without any correspondence at all from grandpa. His whereabouts were unknown to grandma. My grandmother and mom eventually heard him speaking on Voice of America. He was alive and in the United States, but it was unclear if they would ever be together again.

Every time grandma tried legal means to leave Hungary she was turned down. Then in 1956 the Hungarian Revolution broke out. While it did not succeed, grandma saw an opportunity in all the chaos. With help, she and my mother were able to travel to a town near the border. One night they were led across the border into Yugoslavia. Thus began their journey to America to reunite with my grandfather.

They were reunited in New York after ten years of separation. My grandmother and mother joined my grandfather on his farm in Herndon, Virginia. Finally my grandparents' lives together could begin, and soon after my uncle Andrew was born.

In the early 1960's they moved to Catlett in Fauquier County. My grandparents ran the dairy farm there by themselves. I never saw grandma sit and relax. There was always work to be on the farm. Most of my earliest memories are from there. I loved being on the farm with my protective grandmother watching over me. The world of the farm, with the cows, the trains, the dogs, Andrew's matchbox cars, and especially the smell of grandma's Hungarian Goulash are the best memories I have from my childhood.

In the late 1970's they retired from farming and moved to a small house in Manassas. They still worked side by side as the custodians at the Knights of Columbus hall on the grounds of All Saints School and church. I attended school there and still remember seeing my them almost every day. Grandma and grandpa would come out of the Knights' hall at the start of recess to say hello to me on the playground.

Eventually grandpa's health began to deteriorate, and grandma took care of him. He died in 1991, just after they celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. Now, after 14 more years of separation, grandma has reunited with grandpa yet again. And this time they will be inseparable for all of eternity.

My grandmother's life spanned from the Old World to the New World and from horse drawn carts in her early days to seeing men walk on the moon. She survived the Third Reich, and saw the fall of the iron curtain and the breakup of the Soviet Union. She lived to see the dawn of the 21st century and a new millennium.

Most importantly, she lived to see the birth of her two great-grandchildren, Alexandra and Robert. She was a little upset, pointing out that Alexandra was a Russian name.

We could see the joy these two brought her in the end, and how she would light up upon seeing them. Her great-grandchildren--her little chickens, as she called them--gave her comfort in knowing that all her life's hardships had served a purpose.

Grandma, you will not be forgotten.

---------Delivered by Thomas Leal, August 8, 2005

Rose Cseplo
March 6, 1922-August 5, 2005

Sunday, August 07, 2005

President George W. Bonehead

Many of Bush's harshest critics have long insulted his intelligence, which is unfortunate. The man has twice--well, maybe one and a half times--gotten himself elected President. And he managed to accomplish this even after he invaded the wrong freakin' country!! That says a lot for him, and I've actually been starting to develop a grudging respect for the lying sack of crap.

But then he goes and says something so incredibly stupid that it can only serve to remove all doubt that the man is a total, absolute, consummate, utterly indisputable, complete, one hundred per cent, out-and out, unadulterated imbecile.

The other day, in an interview with some Texas reporters, Bush actually said that intelligent design should be taught in public schools as an alternative to evolution. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," said the President, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Debate? What debate? There is no debate in the scientific community about evolution. There has never been a shred of evidence to dispute it. The only thing the proponents of creationism have to go on is that the development of humanity is so complicated that some "unseen force" must be guiding it.

That statement is really nothing more than an admission of stupidity. Most people can't grasp the concept of infinity, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Nor can the average person understand how splitting a tiny little atom can generate enough energy to power an entire city--or level it--but that doesn't mean it's magic. And I can't fathom why something as heavy as the moon doesn't fall on us, but that doesn't mean it's filled with helium.

Besides, look at what's happening in the world today. If there is indeed some sort of "unseen force" out there guiding us, it's got one hell of a twisted sense of humor.

If you want to teach intelligent design, fine. Include it as part of an elective religion course. But to suggest that it should be taught in science classes as some sort of reasonable alternative to evolution is beyond the pale.

What's next? Exuming Darwin's body and trying his remains on charges of heresy? What the hell.... Let's also dig up Galileo, Copernicus, Ptolemy, Kepler, and anyone else who dared challenge the church and bring western civilization out of the dark ages.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No Guilt

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. This is one of those days where much of the world likes to blame the horror of what happened in Hiroshima on the United States. The Japanese, especially, like to talk about they were the victims of what happened on this date in 1945.

Well, okay. All those candle light vigils in Japan held on August 6th of every year are quite moving. But I'm just curious: Do the Japanese ever shed tears over the 370,000 Chinese they slaughtered in the rape of Nanking? Or the thousands of POW's that died during the Bataan Death March? Or the tens of thousands of women in captured territories that the Japanese forced into sexual slavery? Or Japan's experiments with germ warfare using prisoners as human guinea pigs?

War is a horrible thing, and unfortunately people die. But when one considers how many deaths Japan's belligerence caused, and how many more would have died if the fighting had gone on longer, there's no reason for Americans to feel guilt over what happened at Hiroshima.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sticking To The Earth

Last weekend I finally made the leap to satellite radio and ended up landing with something of a thud. The whole experience has been a disappointment.

First of all, both XM and Sirius offer plans at $12.95 a month, and I actually had decided to go with XM only because they're based here in DC. But then upon closer inspection I started finding differences in their online services.

If you want to listen to XM through your computer, the service is an additional $4.99 for subscribers (or $7.99 for non-radio customers). That's not too bad, but here's the kicker: They will sign you out after two hours for inactivity if you don't periodically click onto the player and bring it into the foreground. That really irritated me.

Sirius, on the other hand, offers online listening to its subscribers at no additional charge. And--more importantly--they don't sign you out. That actually tipped the scales for me, so that's why I bought a Sirius receiver. But after activating it, I couldn't access the online player any more! For some reason it kept trying log me into the now expired three day trial player. An exchange of several emails with their support people proved fruitless. The morons would end up answering questions I didn't ask, or giving me solutions to problems I wasn't experiencing. At one point they even changed my username for some reason.

I'm guessing their customer support people are in freakin' India and can't read English. I suppose moving such operations overseas saves payroll, but what good does that do if you end up pissing off your customers?

But the most disappointing aspect of satellite radio is the reception itself. And the ugly truth is that reception is an integral part of listening to radio.

While its surprisingly great in downtown DC, working in even some long tunnels, that's only because they use terrestrial 'repeaters' in urban areas. Once you get about 20 miles outside of town, it quickly goes downhill.

All kinds of obstructions can interfere with the signal, the most common being highway overpasses and trees.

With the overpasses, the break in the signal actually occurs a few seconds after you're back in the open. This delay is presumably because the radios have a buffer built in which is specifically supposed to prevent such interruptions. I had heard this buffer was ten seconds long, which would prevent most such breaks in coverage. Turns out that's a crock. It's barely two seconds, if that. I would guess that well over half the overpasses I encountered (outside the range of the repeaters) caused problems, and these occurred even at 65 mph.

The other issue, surprisingly, is trees. And since a sizable portion of my driving is on rural two lane roads lined with evil trees, this is quite annoying. Worst of all, it doesn't even have to be a heavily wooded area with a 'canopy' of leaves over head. Just having a few trees close together on one side of the road can pose problems if they happen to be between you and the satellite. Guess maybe I should be more careful about mapping out my routes.

On the other hand, all those damn trees are enough to make me rethink my opposition to Bush's environmental policies.

So is satellite radio worth it? Well, I suppose if you do a lot of cross-country interstate highway travel, then the answer is yes, provided you're willing to put up with the occasional overpass induced interruption. It does prevent having to hunt for a new station every hour or so.

But at 13 bucks a month, it's not for me. Call me cheap, but for that kind of money I expect much more consistent service.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Bittersweet Ending.... And Beginning

Back on May 7, 26 year old Susan Torres of Arlington, Virginia suffered a massive stroke brought on by an undiagnosed tumor. By the time she got to the hospital, she was brain dead.

Already the mother of a two year old, Susan was 15 weeks pregnant with a second child when she fell ill . Unfortunately, fetuses are generally not able to survive outside the womb until the 24th week.

It was under those dire circumstances that family members and doctors decided to take the longest of long shots: Keeping her on life support until the baby could be safely delivered.

And so it was that yesterday at 8:18 AM, Susan Anne Catherine Torres--weighing all of 1 pound, 13 ounces--came into the world. While she will remain in the neonatal unit for the foreseeable future, doctors have pronounced little Susan healthy.

Remarkably, trained medical professionals were able to accomplish all this without the help of George W. Bush and the United States Congress.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ten's A Crowd

Astronomers have announced the discovery of what is likely to be classified as the tenth planet of our solar system. It has tentatively been given the terribly imaginative name of 2003 UB313.... And some people say scientists are unromantic geeks.

NASA is expected to launch an unsuccessful mission to our new neighbor any day now.

Meanwhile, astronauts on board Discovery will soon be conducting another spacewalk, this time to correct a potential problem with the shuttle's heat shield. Officials at the space agency emphasize that this new development is not a result of the foam that broke off during launch.

Um, okay. Is that supposed to be somehow reassuring? Whatever the cause of the problem, if I were on board Discovery I'd be grabbing a parachute right about now and heading out the airlock.... After changing my shorts, of course.