Memory Eternal

Today is the 5th anniversary of my brother’s repose.

May his memory be eternal.

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Birth Control as Population Control

I was about to go to bed when I saw that Nancy Pelosi said birth control will help the American economy. I had to say something. According to the Daily Telegraph, she has already angered conservatives with this. Clearly this conservative is a little slow in getting the news.

Her reasoning is that cutting back on the number of children will reduce education and health care costs and save the several States money in their cash-flow crises. How short-sighted can you get?

The school children of today are the taxpayers and wealth creators of tomorrow. They will be the ones funding Social Security. It’s not time for a Chinese one-child law.

Perhaps Nancy’s next idea will be to kill off old people. After all, they use far more health care dollars at the State and Federal level than children do. That will immediately free up tax money. It will cut down on Social Security costs as well.

Yes, the Democrats are in charge now.

Seven

It was seven years ago right now that I was in the operating suite of the local county hospital. After 52 hours of labour and an emergency c-section, I was holding my first-born and showing him to my exhausted wife.

When he was first extracted from the womb, he wasn’t looking to good and the paediatrician had to be called up to work on him. Those were nervous minutes as I paced back and forth between the operating table and the table where they were encouraging him to breathe. Soon enough all was well and I carried him in swaddling clothes to meet his mother. While they continued to sew her up, I took him downstairs to the nursery and put his first proper clothes on him and took the first pictures.

He seems all grown up now. He’s into Star Wars and Doctor Who and Bakugan. He’s already getting books as presents that are for him to read, not to be read to him.  He has more growing to do, and may God grant him many years.

One Right Move

In some ways I’m happy that Obama is president. Being a grumpy old man, yet a Republican, it has been difficult to complain about American politics while being loyal to the president and the party. Now that the Democrats control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, it will be much easier.

Before I launch into what will no doubt be at least four years of moaning, I will give credit where credit is due. One of policies of the Bush administration with which I disagreed was the detention of enemy combatants and various others at Guantanamo Bay, using it as a loophole to avoid the usual Constitutional constraints. In one of his first acts, President Obama ordered the closure of Gitmo within a year.

I’m not denying that this will not be an easy thing to do while maintaining the security of the US and avoiding the disclosure of classified information. However, these things must be resolved within the law, something that was wearing thin in the ongoing situation since the overthrow of the Taliban and the installation of the current Christian-hating regime in Afghanistan.

So in this one small way, I think BHO has moved in the right direction. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

The New Gospel

8 Now there were in the same country voters living out in the towns, keeping watch over their wallets by night. 9 And behold, an actor of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.10 But the actor said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is inaugurated to you this day in the city of Washington a Savior, who is Barack the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a capitol wrapped in cloths and bunting, lying about everything.”
13 And suddenly there was with the actor a multitude of the Hollywood host praising Government and saying:
14 “ Glory to Government in the highest,
And on earth peace, free health care to all men (women and transgender individuals)!”

15 So it was, when the actors had gone away from them into Hollywood, that the voters said to one another, “Let us now go to Washington and see this thing that has come to pass, which the celebrities have made known to us.”

The End of Privacy

Once again, just when you think the British Government could not get more intrusive, they prove you wrong.

I have often discussed the ever-increasing Big Brother approach of the Labour Government as each new plan is revealed. Now we learn that any bottom-rung local bureaucrat will be able to access every piece of information on any individual held by any Government or local department, agency, or council.

When you consider that this will include all medical records, every email and phone call made, and all of the biometric data to be stored for the mandatory ID cards, think about local council workers making £12,000 a year. Certainly most of them are completely honest (even if honesty is not a particular plentiful commodity in this country), but think of the profit that can be made from identity fraud. We are assured by the Ministry of Justice that anyone misusing the data could get a prison sentence of up to two years. Two years = one year with good behaviour. Prisons bursting at the seams mean very few people can be sent away for first, second or third offenses. Seems like a pretty light risk for very big gain.

Or to put it more bluntly, it is handing over the data to people who will do terribly things with it. Then after the bureaucrats are done, the criminals will get it.

No News is Old News

I suppose with the economy so bad, everyone too poor to make any real news. That must be the reason why Prince Harry has been at top of the news here.

I have to admit that I have been kind of amused at it all. The News of the World (Britain’s most salacious Sunday tabloid) broke the store, complete with accompanying video coverage, that Prince Harry used the word “Paki”. This is the British equivalent of the “N word”. BBC News picked it up and ran story after story, while at the same time running it blow by blow, over and over, on the tickertape at the botttom of the TV screen.

You would have thought he had been caught making a verbal racist attack. Actually, he used it to refer to a military cadet colleague, calling him “our little Paki friend” in his presence.  It was captured on a home video that someone decided to sell to the paper. You would have thought this was hot off the press – Saturday night’s party turned Sunday’s news. It happened three years ago.

That’s right. Nonetheless, Harry had to issue a very prompt and grovelling apology.  As we know, there are sins, and then there are some things almost unforgiveable, like unintentionally given offense to unrelated third parties by using a remark that someone (who really had no business seeing someone’s home video) three years later could interpret as racist.

Harry’s commanding officer is to give him a formal dressing down and the Prime Minister has had go on national TV and say he believes the Prince’s apology. Of course it isn’t good enough for some people. Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Abbasi, the father of Harry’s friend said, “Prince Harry should apologise to the Pakistani Army and to the Pakistani government for this. I cannot accept his apology unless they first accept his apology.” That’s right. If you insult any Pakistani anywhere in the world (even if they aren’t actually insulted) you need to apologise to the Pakistani government.

Busy Work

Year 11 reports are finally done. I thought the exam marking and report writing would never end.

I would say normal service will resume, but there are books and folders to mark that have backed up while the exams and reports have been done.

I am not deluded into believing there is any intrinsic value in any of this. Most of the parents will not care one bit about my report as they value my subject about the same as their children. The books and folders will never be looked at again by pupils after the end of the year – they are hardly looked at now. The paper is only there to prove to other people that some sort of learning has been going on in my lessons.

Errors

I have been marking exams and writing Year 11 report comments almost non-stop, but I saw something in the news that I thought would be helpful to those of you looking forward to healthcare in the Obamanation.

The Liberal Democrats, our third largest political party, have published data showing that patient deaths due to errors by medical staff have increased by 60% over the last two years. There are two ways of seeing everything of course. As you might imagine, Government experts see it that other way. They say the higher figures are due to better reporting rather than worsening care.

No one outside the governing Labour Party is actually buying that argument, but even Labour’s excuse is frightening. It means either more people are dying, or the National Health Service has heretofore been hiding the true cause of a huge number of deaths under the rug. Given that they have shoved more up there than we ever want to know, it would not be surprising.

And speaking of shoving things, after my dad had surgery for asymptomatic Stage 3 colon cancer, the doctors at MD Anderson suggested that especially since I already had the kind of polyps removed that were benign but could turn cancerous nearly three years ago, I should let my doctor know so I could have another colonoscopy ahead of my scheduled scoping in 2011 (only scheduled because I had the polyps, because the NHS does not allow for any preventative colonoscopies at any age). My GP contacted my specialist with my concerns and I was flatly turned down. I hope I don’t turn out to be another “error”.

Back to Work

The last moments of freedom are slipping away. The Spring term begins in 18 hours.

On the other hand, the freedom of term break is very limited. I have been marking exams for the last couple of days. I would have started marking them as soon as we got home from Texas, but I couldn’t find them. The problems is that they were exactly where I’d left them. Unfortunately, The Woman had been clean out the car before we left, so I put a big plastic bag of rarely used school resources on top of them.

The bag draped over the sides of the box with the exams and it appeared that the bag was the only thing there. Then the terrier decided this bag full of papers and notebooks was her new bed, as she will sleep on anything however uncomfortable just to be off the floor. It is only because she got up yesterday afternoon and moved the bag slightly in the process that I saw the box of exams underneath.

Now I am furiously marking. The first set doesn’t need to be done for a couple of days, but I’ve got others to follow on that. I will hit the ground running on Monday.  I am starting new units with every year group at the beginning of the term.

I’m trying to do this while I am installing software on my Christmas present. I haven’t had a computer to call my own for quite a while. The second time I spilt tea on the computer I got during my teacher training year, it gave up the ghost. I have otherwise used by school laptop. With my first laptop in this job, it wasn’t such a problem. It was one of the better machines in the school. I installed some extra RAM and it did well. Until this screen died.

The cost of replacing the screen exceeded the value of the laptop, so I was issued an older laptop that had been used by a retiring member of staff. I’m sure it was a great machine in its day. I upgraded the RAM as best I could, but between that an the processor speed, it could not handle having a lot of browser tabs open, especially if they were running scripts like the Daily Telegraph or memory hogs like YouTube. If I was doing lots of online research, it would have trouble running Word at the same time.

I shopped online for several days and picked the machine that seemed to suit me best. A fast processor with lots of RAM and hard drive space. As it ended up, I got almost the same machine my dad bought my mother for Christmas (and that I set up over the holidays), but with twice the RAM.

Home Again

The journey home was much less eventful than the outbound leg. I realise even more just how bad Heathrow Terminal 5 is.

At Houston, the Fast Bag Drop was actually a fast bag drop. There were about five parties in front of us, but it took us seven minutes to get served rather than ninety. The actual process at the counter was much faster and more efficient. Security was faster, even though they had a drill and shut everything down in the middle of our x-ray experience. Boarding the plane was simple and straightforward. We even left slightly ahead of schedule.

The food was marginally better this time, thanks to the lack of turkey and stuffing and mushy vegetables. I’m not saying it was great or anywhere near the standard we used to expect from British Airways, but better than the westbound flight.

The only bad thing was the woman sitting in front of The Woman. She insisted on reclining her seat back the whole time, even when she was actually sitting up, away from the back of the chair. This put her seat and The Woman’s knees in constant contact. The Woman did kick her hard enough to get her to sit up during the meal, but before the lights were off for the overnight flight,  she had fully relined again back into The Woman’s lap, and as she had a bulkhead seat, she stretched out with her feet halfway up the wall. First-class leisure at cattle class prices. She intended to stay that way for breakfast in the morning, until the flight attendant made her sit up so The Woman could eat without her tray table pressing against her spine.

Terminal 5 is much better for arrivals than departures, though not necessarily for the distance to be covered before it’s all over. After a long walk on various different levels, it is then necessary to take a train to another part of the building, then walk long distances on various levels to get to passport control. The actual immigration process was quite quick and the bags were already on the conveyer belt by the time we got there.

Now comes the jetlag recovery.