Monday, January 27, 2014


Maybe I should classify this one as "funny" for Northerners, who think the kind of temperatures we've been having here are normal, but to some extent extreme weather is a question of what you're prepared for. We don't get weather like this every ten years, so we're not prepared for single-digit temperatures, and we really are cold...

Well, the last time I was here, the temperature was in the single digits when I left the computer center. Not a problem, I had my great thick Greensleeves shawl to keep me warm, and the computer center stayed open till 8:30, so my cousin who gets off work at 8 should've met me within half a mile from here, right? Only he didn't; when the weather's really bad he tends to work late. I walked and walked and walked, called my cousin, got no answer (which I took to mean he was working late in Nickelsville), walked some more, finally got a lift with someone else, but not before I was well and truly chilled. 

Next morning the temperature was still in the single digits when I woke up. Not a problem, wait for the sun to thaw things out. Oh, wow, it's 11 a.m., time to hit that road or stay home...wait a minute, it's still only 8 degrees Fahrenheit? (I think that's like -15 Celsius?) Time to stay home. On Friday I took a Big Freeze Day, which is like a snow day only, in this case, more worthwhile.

Saturday was relatively mild with temperatures even above the freezing point, which allowed about an inch of very wet snow to accumulate. I celebrated by spending most of the day sleeping. I hadn't slept during the night because when the outside temperature is below zero it's hard to get the warm room warm enough, and there's not a bed in the room with the wood stove.

Another thing that happens when the outside temperature is below zero is that the thermostat on a dear little Comfort Zone heater, which actually runs on "low" without starting on "high" wattage and jamming your circuits, hurray, becomes confused. On Thursday the heater had overheated and cut itself off twice during the night, so I'd left the heater dialled down to about 25% power during the day, then come in to find the indoor temperature hovering right around the freezing point...hadn't got much sleep that night either. I optimistically thought the thermostat just didn't understand the concept of running just enough to keep the temperature around 40 degrees (refrigerator temperature) so that things moved into the warm room during the Big Freeze, such as canned goods, don't freeze. I didn't want to think about the possibility that the heater might be reaching the end of its "life" expectancy prematurely because it had worked so hard for so long.

Well, around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, the heater announced that that was the case. (It said RRRRR--crunch.) 

I figured I had two options: 

(1) Stand over the wood stove until morning. That way I wouldn't get any sleep, things in the warm room would freeze, and I'd still have to buy another heater. Gate City no longer has taxi service. We have a lot of nice retired people who will drive for people in some kinds of emergencies, but not the kind that involve ice and snow.

(2) Start walking to Kingsport. That way I wouldn't get any sleep, things in the warm room might freeze, but then again I know some people who drive from Gate City to Kingsport in the wee hours of the morning; if any of them was currently working the right shift they could drop me off in time that I might be able to buy a heater at Wal-Mart and get home before anything froze. Temperatures outside were back in the low single digits. I did not feel like walking to Kingsport. I told myself that digging up my dreaded boots would be the worst part, that once I'd put the boots on and started walking I'd keep warm. 

Actually, in terms of effects I'm still feeling on Monday evening, walking in the dreaded boots was the worst part. Dreaded boots were bought to please a client who thought shoes didn't protect my feet; they were very cheap, just thick rubber, so they shouldn't have been too hard to normal weather. Only of course they'd been out in the tool shed in this freezing weather, so they were frozen. Dreaded boots did not thaw out in use. They were stiff as boards, would not bend at the ankles, and left bruises wherever they made contact, which was all over. 

Of course I didn't make very good time in those boots. At 7 a.m. I'd walked only seven of the ten miles to Wal-Mart. No shift workers from Gate City were working on Sunday morning. At that point I thought, "Hey, Mother should be getting off work; she can drive out and meet me here," so as I called to leave her a message I finally saw someone who works at Wal-Mart, who offered me a lift.

I had very nice things to say about Wal-Mart during those three miles. Where I planned to buy the Honeywell heater that was guaranteed to run on "low" without cycling through "high," where half the yarn in the shawl that was keeping me from freezing at this point had come's also where the dreaded boots had come from, but I didn't mention dreaded boots, which are not a pleasant subject. By that time I couldn't wait to peel them off and see whether I was bleeding yet.

So then I got into Wal-Mart and...they didn't have space heaters! They had moved them out to make room for a "seasonal" display of grills, garden gear, and cooling fans! In January! During a record cold wave! I suppose the thinking was "People want to look forward to summertime when they're shivering in a record cold wave," but hear this, Wal-Mart management: when people's hands and feet are beginning to freeze, they do not get into your little summertime fantasy with you, or at least not until they get their hands on the heater they came in to buy. They get into their own fantasies about you being forced to stomp around in frozen rubber boots until you leave a trail of blood on the ice.

The Wal-Mart in Kingsport is right next door to the Lowe's. I limped over to Lowe's. They had the same idiotic summertime fantasy thing going on, too. 

Desperation set in. I knew someone nearby who has central heating and also had a working space heater, strictly a luxury to warm up the bathroom. I went to that person's house and commandeered the heater. Oh, of course the person was home, knew I was coming, had left the door unlocked, and didn't even yell at me about stumbling through the front hall in dreaded boots. But if I'd had to break in and steal the heater I would have rationalized doing that.

That was Sunday. Although another friend took the heater and me home in a heated car, well before Sunday School started, I didn't feel warm. I did know enough not to do the stupid things Southerners typically do upon finding ourselves frostbitten for the first time...shoving our frostbitten extremities right into a fire or a pot of boiling water, e.g. I parked the heater next to the cot in the warm room, changed socks, wrapped up in a warm quilt, and lay down in front of the heater. Since the air in the warm room miraculously wasn't freezing yet, it took me only three or four hours to get warm enough to fall asleep. After that I spent the rest of the day, and the next night, sleeping in front of the heater...I did wake up enough to feed the cats.

It was not easy to motivate myself to come out to work this morning. Temperatures were above freezing, in that nice normal refrigerator range. Trench coat weather, as distinct from Greensleeves shawl weather. I just didn't feel right. The extremities had thawed out, but the stiffness and tension inside are only gradually starting to thaw out today.

So I got to the computer center late and probably won't accomplish what I meant to accomplish here anyway...but at least I've done my daily bit for charity...

How Important are Spelling and Grammar on Bubblews?

English spelling and grammar are difficult even for people who grow up speaking English, so it's easy to understand why some Bubblers from countries where English is a third, fourth, or fifth language don't produce the most professional-looking Bubbles. 

Americans aren't used to publishers who tolerate spelling and grammar errors, so it's easy to understand why an e-friend sounded so grumpy about the error-ridden Bubbles she's seen.

But since I'm a bit of a contrarian, I have to say that I've found a way to like the Bubbles that read like first-year English as a Foreign Language exercises. That may well be what they are.

Well...I think I lost an e-friend here at Bubblews because of this. This person was writing from the U.S. but obviously hadn't been here long. I read the last five of her posts. One was about her life: very short, obviously English as a Foreign Language. The next was a recipe written in standard U.S. recipe format with a comment in English as a Foreign Language as a first paragraph. Then there was another English as a Foreign Language story about her life. Then there was a celebrity funeral piece that sounded downright professional--in fact, without checking, I was 95% sure I'd read it in a local newspaper that legally buys these things from Reuters. Then another recipe with a comment by the Bubbler as a first paragraph, only I was pretty sure I'd seen the recipe before, too.

Squick. Squirble. I promised to read her Bubbles before doing anything else here if she'd write every word herself. I've not seen any more of her work since.

She seemed like a nice, sincere young lady who needed the money and who might have believed that if you just write the first paragraph yourself, then "quote" the rest of your Bubble, you're writing rather than plagiarizing. Unfortunately that's not the way U.S. copyright law works.

Now when I read something that looks as if it were written by one of my husband's E.F.L. students, I think, "At least this is his or her very own writing."

Besides, my husband and I liked our students. So a certain kind of awkward English brings back pleasant memories.

To all the Bubblers for whom English is a foreign language, I say, keep at it. Showing your work to a tutor or copy editor will help you make it more professional, and perhaps obtain those high-paid advertising copy writing jobs some day...oh, well, it's probably more like my French: when they really try and I really try, I can carry on some sort of conversation in French, but I don't really expect my form of French ever to be pleasant for natives of Paris to listen to. The good news is that natives of Paris are just a tiny bit snobbish about these things and once in a while a Haitian, Ivorian, or even French Canadian seems pleased that I know what just one French word means, so my learning French was not a waste of time. And neither is your learning English.

Delicious Daisies

In the midst of a record cold snap, I'm glad I took time to enjoy these e-daisies:

Found growing further south by Donald Pennington:

Christians love atheists...we pray for them...and I think most people who actually read what I write, not merely because it's been labelled "Christian," will like what he writes. (And Bubblews pays per view, and he's another decent person who needs the money.) So, if you've not discovered Donald Pennington already, you might want to check out his Bubbles:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beautiful Elementary Math

In a new series, Peter Flom presents math in ways even adults can read for fun...and they're certainly recommended to elementary math students too!

Snow Days

(Reclaimed from Bubblews. Image credit: Dominiks Photos at Morguefile:

The past two days, when I should've been here, were snow days. I didn't see any snow on the ground. Today is not a snow day. I am looking at snow on the ground (less than an inch, only in the shade). In Virginia it is not always possible to tell by looking whether it's a snow day.

This is because snow days are not always declared as such because the snow is actually in the place that is closed for a snow day. Snow may have fallen on the other side of the mountain, or at a higher elevation. Any snow on the ground may be fifty miles away from where you live and seventy-five miles away from where you work, but if some co-worker or customer feels a need to get home before the weather gets worse or might be called upon to help victims of a snow-related disaster, you may still get a snow day. 

This happens to people in Gate City almost every year, sometimes more than once. Big Stone Gap, thirty miles away, is higher up the mountain and gets more snow than we do. Sometimes the community college and/or the paratransit bus service in Big Stone Gap close due to snow there. Other times even Big Stone Gap doesn't get snow, but some other place even further into the mountains does, so people in Big Stone Gap want to go home from work early, so everything in Big Stone Gap closes. When things in Big Stone Gap are closed, things in Gate City are likely to be closed too. If the weather forecaster makes the storm sound scary enough, things in Kingsport may also close...when the only actual snowfall is in some little place like Clintwood where most people I know have never been.

On Tuesday, when I mentioned coming to Big Stone Gap to work online, someone said, "The weather forecast calls for three inches of snow followed by a big freeze. Nobody with any sense would go out today unless they HAFF to." 

I said, "Well, I posted on the Internet that I'll be back on Tuesday, so I HAFF to." I then started walking, confirmed that this computer center was open on its regular schedule around 12:15 p.m., and sat down at the computer about 12:50 p.m. I later heard that snow started falling in Wise around 12:30 p.m. All I know firsthand is that the computer center closed at 1 p.m. 

I had some extra time. I went into Kingsport, had an interesting adventure, composed a long rant that is stored on a floppy disk that has to be taken to a different computer center before it can be published from this one. I got home around 6 p.m. The ground was dry in Kingsport, it was dry in Gate City, it was dry up at the Cat Sanctuary, and it was dry all day yesterday.

The big freeze did arrive yesterday evening. The afternoon hadn't been terribly cold, so I hadn't lighted a fire in the wood stove. During the night I woke up cold several times. In the morning I went into the kitchen and poured out some bottled water to boil. Luckily the water was stored in a recycled soda bottle instead of those flimsy little things that pass as water jugs and bottles these days, so it hadn't frozen...but when I measured the water, not as much water seemed to come out of the measure as I'd poured in. I looked. Looked again. Within one minute water had frozen to the sides of the measure in my hand. I've read about this kind of thing happening in colder parts of the world, but this is the first time I've ever seen it happen...

Anyway, since bill-reading season in Virginia coincides with snow season, I think, as I've often thought before, that there ought to be a law about these things. People should have the right to take snow days when there is snow where they live or work, or carry on with their business when there is no snow where they live or work, depending on where they live and work. Nobody should have to drive in and out of Clintwood through ice and snow. Nobody in Gate City should lose two days' work because Clintwood gets more ice and snow than the rest of Virginia does, either.

I would like to share a picture of what my snow days looked like...but I'm low on phone minutes, and in any case there's no need. My snow day looked a lot like what you might see in Florida!

Pet Allergies, or Pets and Other Allergies?

[I wrote this last year and e-mailed it to myself in order to have a full-length, non-political piece ready to post on a day like this one...]

Some time ago (January 9, 2013), the Kingsport Times-News printed a letter to an advice column reporting an allergy issue: Someone “has a poodle,and she has not had any allergy symptoms...She just bought another poodle and is highly allergic tothis dog. Why is she allergic to one and not the other when they are the same breed?”

The columnist replied, “The issue...probably has little to do with dog allergies...I have seen so many animals that were put up for adoption be­cause a human... started to sneeze  or cough out of the blue and the pet got the blame without the human member of the family seeking a doc­tor’s advice.”

I’ll go further than that and suggest that the most likely explanation is that this person is allergic to some chemical the kennel used to control fleas, and will stop being allergic to the new dog as soon as its coat has been completely shed and replaced. However, there are other possibilities. So read on.

When I was very young, we spent one summer in a swamp. The moldy basement had been freshly sprayed with chlordane, which was legal in the United States at the time, to kill roaches; across the street, other deadly poisons were regularly sprayed on the ground to control grass. The house was roach-free and looked appealing but within ten hours after going inside I developed asthma. I had asthma all summer.

I had never had asthma before. What could be causing it? The popular wisdom of the time said, “Food, pollen, and animal ‘dander’ trigger asthma.” I was eating the same kind of food I’d been eating all my life. The only animals at the house in the swamp were slugs, which don’t produce “dander.”. The local plant life was nothing new, either. Maybe we were closer to some flower to which I hadn’t been exposed enough to trigger an attack before. My parents looked at the new neighbors’ gardens. Aha! Jane Doe had a magnolia tree. Magnolias are related to gardenias. I’d never had asthma before but I had once sniffed a gardenia and sneezed for several minutes, as an infant.

One of Mother’s friends had sent home a magnolia blossom, another summer. We’d kept it in the house for a day or two. It hadn’t bothered me. “I don’t think I’m allergic to magnolias,” I wheezed.

“Let’s go and find out,” Mother said, marching me to the Does’ front garden. “Go and sniff that big blossom right there.”

So I sniffed it, and I sneezed. Of course, it felt to me that if I’d taken a good sniff at anything, the way my nose felt, I would have sneezed.

Anyway, the adults in my life wanted my allergy trigger to be magnolia pollen. That was a simple solution. It meant I could spend the summer at home, and then live in the house in the swamp during the school term when the magnolia tree would stop blooming, and not have asthma.

This solution would have been so nice from the adults’ point of view that it’s really a pity that it didn’t work. We lived in the house in the swamp until February. Every afternoon my nose started to clog up around 4 or 5 p.m. On school days my nose stopped running around 9:30 a.m. On weekends, if we went home I was fine, and if we stayed in the house in the swamp my nose ran all day. Nobody had any further theories to explain why.

Of course, we now know that although allergies often seem to be triggered by food, pollen, and animal “dander,” and although a person plagued with allergies may seem to react to dozens or hundreds of substances in those categories, the primary causes of allergies are likely to be mold and chemical pollutants.

I am not and have never been allergic to magnolia pollen—which was fortunate a few years later, when that sex-segregated dormitory my parents insisted on, at that church college, turned out to have big magnolia trees growing right up against the windows. Not a sniffle. I am mildly allergic to mold. I am extremely allergic to the poison sprays lazy people use to kill weeds and roaches. (I’m also allergic to common is that, and does it have anything to do with the slang words for marijuana?)

The U.S. government finally wised up about chlordane, which can no longer be legally sold in this country. While living in the swamp I tested positive for the usual three or four dozen minor food allergies, but “outgrew” all those allergies (except gluten and casein intolerance, as distinct from allergies) as people used up their existing supplies of chlordane. I no longer have asthma. What professional exterminators are now most likely to spray for roaches are powders; the active ingredient is borax, which may or may not be cut with cornstarch or sugar. None of these substances bothers me at all, so it’s no longer likely that an exterminator’s visit might kill me. But it’s still possible that an all-out attack on garden weeds might.

What about pets? The group of young people collectively known as The Nephews have been forced to live without a cat—oh, the cruelty of traps! oh, the stench of dead vermin in walls!—because one little rotten-apple-in-the-barrel appeared to be allergic to cats. They weren’t allowed to get out of the car while waiting outside their aunt’s home, either, for that reason. Turns out my allergy-prone nephew is gluten-intolerant, like his sister, his aunt, his grandmother, his great-aunt, his great-grandmother, and so on all the way back into the mists of Irish history. When his diet was corrected, he stopped having serious reactions to cats. One day when he’s old enough that this test can’t be made into a custody issue, I’m going to invite him to sit down on my front porch and pet a cat. Probably he won’t even sneeze.

When I was a child, my parents thought it was ecologically correct not to keep a cat. (In an orchard, this is known as Good Mousekeeping.) I bonded with my aunt’s cats when we visited her in Florida. Mother thought I might be mildly allergic to cats, but it was hard to tell, because I was severely allergic to Florida. At college, after the first year in the dorm with the magnolias, I moved into a boarding house that had cats and dogs. No problem. I bonded with all four animals, especially the younger cat; I wasn’t really keen on the older cat’s habit of plopping down on top of sleeping humans in the middle of the night, but neither did it bother me...until one day in spring. Suddenly petting the cats made me sneeze. It wasn’t the cats, of course; it was their brand-new flea collars. Still, even after the flea collars had been removed, I couldn’t sleep if the cats had been in the room for another month or two, and then I was still likely to sneeze or itch if I petted their fur, all summer long.

Occasionally I still see hives forming where cat hair has stuck to my skin on a damp day, or sneeze while grooming a shedding cat. In the case of Cat Sanctuary cats, it’s definitely not because they’ve been wearing flea collars. The need for flea treatments is greatly reduced when (a) cats are mostly outdoors and (b) things on which they sit or nap often are washed every few weeks and (c) the floor under their favorite cushions on the porch, and under any nest boxes they accept for kittens, is dusted with borax. When I’ve used flea powder, which has been seldom, I’ve been able to find borax-based formulas that don’t seem to bother the cats or me. I know that if I have an allergic reaction to a cat’s hair, it’s because the cat has picked up a few mold spores or a bit of that irritating oil in poison ivy. I know that another hair shed by the same cat, another day, probably won’t be an allergy trigger. I wash hairs off me, vacuum them out of the house if necessary, and cover up when I’m outdoors. 

If you definitely have allergy reactions to one animal and not to another animal of the same kind, you are probably reacting to some other allergy trigger that can be carried by an animal. Mold, pesticides, and soaps or flea treatments are likely to cause respiratory symptoms. Some pesticides are designed to soak into an animal’s fur and make the animal an allergy trigger for a good long time, but eventually your new pet will stop triggering your allergies. If someone else is willing to bathe your new pet and comb or trim its fur, that may help speed the process.

In another scenario that some allergists think may be common, the animal doesn’t cause allergies but may dramatically aggravate them. Most animals mark their territory with body secretions, which contain urea. Stachybotrys mold grows on most organic and some inorganic substances, but it grows much, much faster on anything that harbors traces of urea. Stachybotrys mold has been miscalled “toxic” because it’s more likely to trigger more serious reactions than other fungi...and so, while you’re not really allergic to your pet at all, you may find yourself feeling allergic to everything and generally miserable, because you’re allergic to the consequences of not scrubbing away every trace of your pet’s presence in the house. After scrubbing everything, dehumidifying your home, and moving your pet outdoors, you and your pet can live happily ever after.

Yet another common situation is the one where the allergy sufferer is really reacting so violently to a polluted environment, food s/he can’t tolerate, etc., that the person temporarily seems “allergic to everything.” In this case, although the problem is definitely not “just in the patient’s mind,” there is a psychological component to the patient’s reactions. The more stressed, angry, or depressed the person feels, the higher the level of exposure to the real cause of the problem, and the more intensely the person will seem to react to something s/he might otherwise be able to tolerate. If the predominant allergy reaction is asthma, sniffing anything at all may cause sneezing and wheezing. If it’s hives or skin rashes, prolonged contact with anything at all may make the rash break out. This patient is reacting at least partly to something that’s already inside his or her body, and anything at all can aggravate that reaction. You have to feel sorry for this person, who is obviously miserable, and it is a good idea for that person to separate himself or herself from anything that appears to be a trigger...but don’t send the animal to a shelter! Once the poison has worked its way out of the system, this person will no longer have allergies to harmless, natural things like animals or flowers. 

A situation that’s not common, because it’s so obvious, but I have seen it develop, occurs when animal “dander” in the home reaches levels at which it becomes a mechanical irritant. Everybody coughs when they inhale enough dust to block the intake of air. Everybody itches when they walk around covered in dust. In houses where pets have been lounging on cushioned furniture and carpets for years, any time anything stirs up the thick layer of “dander,” anyone who’s in the room is likely to have these “symptoms,” and full-time residents of the house may even get prescription medication to treat the chronic irritation caused by living in...well, at that point, it has to be called filth. Humans shed “dander” too, more of it than smaller animals do, so decaying human skin and hair may be more to blame than animal skin and hair. These people aren’t allergic to animals as such; they are sick because they live in a sick, dirty environment. Cleaning is the cure.

And there are probably lots of other, less common situations, not mentioned here, some of which a good allergist might be able to recognize if anybody out there happens to be in one of them. It’s definitely worth consulting an allergist before you abandon an animal.

Snow and Freeze Days

(Reclaimed from Bubblews. Image credit: I originally used a photo of the snowy woods near my home, but since Bubblews' system change destroyed that image, here's a snowy woods picture from Jschumacher at

Has it really been a week since I've been online? Yes...on Monday night and Tuesday morning it seemed too cold for much snowfall, but a little powdery stuff kept falling for most of 36 hours. Buildings that had opened on Tuesday morning soon closed, and stayed closed until Friday afternoon or today. 

And it was (by local standards) extremely cold--back down around zero degrees Fahrenheit for most of the work week. Saturday's weather was back to normal. Sunday's was warm, but rainy, around Gate City.

On the way to the computer center I saw that neither the thaw nor the rain had completely removed all the ice and snow around Powell Mountain.

The good news is that nobody reported trees breaking across power lines, so everybody had electric heat during the Big Freeze.

It occurred to me over the weekend that this has been a January without a Thaw. What "the January Thaw" means in Virginia is several days when temperatures stay above freezing even at night, so the apple trees don't get enough freezing weather to produce a good crop, and if the thaw lasts too long other trees start to bud too soon. Most years, the concern is whether the thaw is lasting too long. But this year, although there were two or three days when the afternoon high was warmer than usual, and one day we had a heat record, there weren't two warm days in a row.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Interview with Grandma Bonnie Peters

(Reclaimed from Bubblews.)

Someone recently told me she had heard that my supposed-to-be-partner in blogging, Grandma Bonnie Peters, had died. GBP had seemed quite healthy the last time I saw her, and I thought I would have heard if anything had happened...but you never know. So after taking a snow day on Wednesday, I spent Thursday tracking GBP to her lair in Kingsport, Tennessee.

She is still healthy and well preserved, and in fact, after feeding me a vegan lunch, she made the other comments quoted here during a two-mile walk around her neighborhood. Her idea. (For those who don't know...GBP's 79th birthday is next week, and she's still working as a night nurse.)

She had no official comment about my Bubblews being dedicated to this fund: 

About being hard to reach: "I don't want to set up my voice mail box. It only fills up with sales messages, and then I get impatient and hit 'Erase All'." (We didn't get around to discussing the National Do Not Call List. Let's just say that we agree that "telemarketing" should be outlawed.)

About her rather brief publications list: (Short handwritten manuscripts were lying around her office.) "You know I helped Jeff Goldberg with Steps to Shalom. Ten or twelve of us [at the Messianic Jewish and Seventh-Day Adventist Fellowship in St. Petersburg, Florida] worked with him to make sure it was equally accessible to Jewish and Christian readers."

About Tamera Mowry's quinoa waffles recipe: "I received it in the e-mail. I might try it some time." (Use this link with caution, as the Mowry sisters' web site seems to have been attacked by haters: )

About aging, arthritis, rheumatism, and body shrinkage: "I used to have arthritis. I know not all arthritis is caused by food allergies, but what a blessing that mine was. Doctors said I'd be wheelchair-bound within five years. And even when I started to get osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercise is holding it down to what they call 'osteopinosis', which is less severe."

About walking (she was setting a reasonably good pace): "I need to walk today because there have been some days when I couldn't walk outside. I know about the mall walkers in Kingsport. I'd rather wait for a thaw than walk with them. Facing straight into this wind feels cold...walking uphill, with buildings breaking the wind, is not too bad." (The temperature was above freezing by three or four degrees Fahrenheit.)

About Tennessee law: "Another mutual acquaintance has joined the bandwagon to try to get some relief from the 'Deadbeat Dads' law here. She was unable to send child support to the father of her children, who is earning fifty thousand a year, because she was laid off from a job as a cashier. She is filling out seventeen applications for jobs a week. So far she's only found part-time work with a maid service. One cold day she borrowed a car and drove to work, and was pulled over and told her license had been suspended because she missed a payment. She went to court and got her license restored. She told them it didn't seem reasonable that she's being allowed to keep only about fifty dollars a week while sending payments to a man who's making fifty thousand a year."

While eating lunch we discussed some bills before the Virginia legislature. GBP refused to try reading bills herself but did comment on some that I was reading. At I had supported Delegate O'Quinn's proposal to mandate that Virginia schools offer quiet, private baby care areas that are "shielded from the public view." My position is that baby-friendly workplace policies could reduce the incidence of abortion. GBP is more opposed to abortion than I am, but still felt that trying to make the public schools baby-friendly might be unfair to babies. "All the germs, and mean kids...I think mothers of children less than one year old should stay home with them."

Grandma Bonnie Peters Is Alive and Well

Rumors of Grandma Bonnie Peters' death have been greatly exaggerated. I couldn't reach her by phone and didn't get a reply from her by e-mail either, so I spent Thursday tracking her down in Kingsport. Some of her remarks appear here:

Bill Reading: The Good News

Although I won't have time before Tuesday to post detailed comments on specific bills, the good news for local lurkers is that we don't seem to be heading into another patch of excruciating cognitive dissonance. Delegate Kilgore seems to have focussed mainly on the budget, but found time to propose a mandate for coal companies to pay out "royalties" on coal gas they've trapped, which should come as good news to some local readers.

Lots of fluffy snowflakes are dancing through the air now. The computer center is about to close for the long weekend...but on Tuesday several good things that came in the e-mail this week, along with comments on House Bills, should show up here.

Chick-Phil-A Day

From Grassfire:

""Chick-Phil-A Day" is almost here!

You'll be "happy, happy, happy" on Tuesday, January 21. That's when liberty-loving Americans from all across the country will unite at local Chick-fil-A restaurants for a day-long celebration of free speech and good food.

In the wake of A&E's "Duck Dynasty" debacle and a stunning grassroots victory that saw more than 33 million Americans take action to support Phil Robertson, I came up with the idea of a celebration -- and Chick-fil-A seemed like the most appropriate place to have it.

Although Chick-fil-A isn't endorsing this effort, it makes sense to hold such an event there considering it was the "battlefield" of the last great free-speech skirmish. On August 1 2012, "Chick-fil-A Day" saw millions of Americans rally at their local restaurant to support CEO Dan Cathy, who came under vicious left-wing attacks after saying that the private, family-owned company supports traditional marriage.

Now we're calling on folks to don their camoflauge and Duck Commander gear to be a part of history. "Chick-Phil-A Day" will take place this Tuesday, January 21!

+ + 68,000 Patriots Have Already RSVP'd

Chick-Phil-A graphicSince making the announcement in late December, multiple news outlets and social-media websites have propelled "Chick-Phil-A Day" into the national spotlight. Nearly 68,000 Americans have signed up to say they'll be there!

Priscilla, if you plan to particpate, please RSVP here now to let me know you'll stand with us at your local restaurant.

Once you've registered on our official Chick-Phil-A Facebook page, you can receive event updates and interact with friends from across the nation. I look forward seeing photos and reading stories about your Chick-Phil-A experience!

Mark your calendar and be sure to attend this nationwide celebration of free speech and good food. Join with tens of thousands of grassroots Americans and Duck Dynasty fans across the country.

I'll certainly be at my local Chick-fil-A, where I look forward to meeting many other fellow patriots!


P.S. Show your support for Phil Robertson, Chick-fil-A and free speech by attending a "Chick-Phil-A Day" celebration in your area on Tuesday, January 21. Click here to RSVP now."

Personally, I don't do Facebook, and I don't eat sandwiches, but some readers may want to turn out for this.

Crime Out of Hand Lately

Although I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, I receive newspapers, plural: I recycle newspapers for people who do subscribe to them. Half a page of a recent Kingsport Times-News consisted of police and court records. Above this half page someone had written “Have you noticed how out of hand crime is, lately?”

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in a big city, but I read this as almost sarcastic. A little statistical analysis of the half-page of reports may explain why. First of all I’d like to mention that the incidents reported went back for as far as five months before the date of publication.

Now, how many of what kind of “crime” was reported:

Kingsport Police Department: 7 drug busts, all on one day, and 1 disorderly conduct.

Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department: 5 traffic violations (including one “driving under the influence,” which this web site agrees is a violent crime).

Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department: 4 failures to appear in court; 5 probation violations; 1 driving under the influence; 1 charge with “introduc­tion in a penal institution, simple possession or casual exchange” of something convicts aren’t supposed to have, which, the object not being identified, might have been a sandwich bag; 2 “statutory rape” cases, in which teenaged girls’ parents complain about the girls’ relationships with slightly older guys; 1 theft.

Scott County Sheriff’s Department: 2 traffic violations, 1 violation of a restraining order.

Wise County Sheriff’s Department: 1 outstanding warrant against a visitor from Ohio, 1 “larceny with intent to sell,” 3 “capias," 1 child neglect by a mother “inhaling drugs,” 1 driving under the influence, 1 property damage.

Lee County Sheriff’s Department: 1 probation violation, 1 shoplifting, 1 assault.

Sullivan County Courts: 4 probation violations, 1 case dismissed.

Hawkins County Courts: 1 “fugitive from justice,” 1 public drunkenness, 1 probation violation, 2 domestic assault cases (apparently one  incident), 1 violation of business regulations, 1 petty theft.

Scott County Court: 1 possession of marijuana, 2 sale of hard drugs, 3 cases where charges of “attempted robbery and property destruction”  were dropped, 1 Kingsport driver found guilty of having an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle, 1 possession of drugs, 2 underage drinkers, 1 charge of “assault amended to disorderly conduct” that got a young man fined $150, 22 violations of motor vehicle regulations, and 2 moving traffic violations.

Wise County Court: 1 failure to perform community service, 1 driving under the influence, 4 traffic violations, 1 failure to appear in court, l charge of property destruction that was dismissed, 1 “breach of the peace” charge dismissed, 4 cases where charges of assault were dismissed (two of those charged appear to be brothers living in the same home), and 1 unlicensed dog running at large.

Lee County Court: 15 violations of motor vehicle regulations and 3 moving traffic violations.

This is indeed a serious indictment of our society. For any society to tax and regulate itself to the point where this kind of time is wasted on victimless offenses is indeed a problem.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Seeking the Highest Good for All

Yes, this is the post where I plead for more page views for someone else's benefit...or is it?

Think for a minute of the youngest generation in your family. Don't you love seeing their eyes light up?

Is it possible that you enjoy making a child smile even more than the child enjoys smiling? My mother used to like snapping pictures, trying to capture family moments of joy. Recently she and I were sorting out the most hopelessly faded pictures in a box. We came to an old yellowed snapshot showing a little girl holding out a spoon for a toddler to lick. Mother's eyes lighted up. "That's the cutest..." I could still see smiles on my brother's and my grayed-out baby faces, but this was only a mildly pleasant memory for me. Having captured the image of two spontaneous smiles in one picture was still an outstandingly pleasant memory for Mother. In my mind, we might say, eating ice cream was "nice." In her mind, photographing us smiling as we ate ice cream was "TRIUMPH!!!"

Think of someone you know slightly, perhaps a co-worker. Is it possible that you enjoy doing something nice for that person even more than that person...

Years ago, I had a job that I loved because it was a challenge, working with another writer. She rented one room as both home and office because she had done volunteer work overseas and adopted several "brothers and sisters" to whom she enjoyed sending money. We worked in sufficiently close quarters, at the one desk in this room, when there was not a sleeping bag on the floor. One day the owner of a sleeping bag that was on the floor kept popping in and out of the door. "Would you like a slice of pizza? No? Can I get you drinks? No? Can I..." The writer kept accepting these annoying offers and I kept turning them down.

After she'd gone away for the fourth time I said something like, "Isn't she going to do any sightseeing at all while she's in Washington?"

The writer said, "Well, actually she's here because she's having problems back home, so she's trying to do nice things for other people to cheer herself up."

If the visitor had told me that at first, I could have recommended a charitable mission that could have put her to work and kept her out of my hair...

I am, as you now see, a selfish, impatient, even irascible person; most writers are, although the one mentioned above deals with it better than most. I have, however, observed that doing good things is a source of pleasure...actually, sometimes even vindictive pleasure.

Humankind seems to be almost evenly divided about the quality of this pleasure. Extroverts, like that wretched visitor, seem to get their emotional reward only when others notice and tell them that they're doing the right thing. Introverts, like me, get it when our own perceptions of what we're doing match our perceptions of what we ought to do; it feels a bit like getting a guitar string into tune, only more "meaningful."

I've dedicated my Bubbling to the family discussed at ...for the usual nitpicky complex of selfish reasons. Because my family don't let people go to homeless shelters when we have rooms where those people could stay, and I happen to have the three big rooms--leaks, water damage, and non-functional electricity being separate issues. Because I enjoyed being in my ancestral territory, and hated moving from place to place, as a child. Because I believe everyone is better off when people own their homes and land than when people are crowded into slums. Because rebuilding houses is fun, and having housemates may become the right thing to do but it's not nearly so much fun. Because I want local people to know that I found a way to help people who were even worse off than I am; because I want them to be motivated to contribute their share to this fund; because, if you get right down to the blight at the heart of the rose, I want them to be ashamed of what they've not done on my behalf, too. And so on.

As (co-author Zahara Heckscher observed, main author Joe Collins agreeing) in How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas," the people who do the most to help others tend to have a mix of "selfish" and "altruistic" reasons...and some people who fail to complete their missions have an imbalance of one over the other.

But if there's a cosmic Good Principle (which I call God, but you may read what you please) at work in all the good-and-bad of our lives, then the whole dichotomy of "selfish" and "altruistic" might be considered false. If God, in whatever sense you understand it, made you and me alike, then what's good for me is as important (even to me) as what's good for you after all. If goodness consists of acting according to the Good Principle, or doing the Will of God, then if I'm in any confusion about what is really good for me, I may find some clarification in considering what's really good for you--and vice versa.

The Highest Good is not my good at your expense, neither is it your good at my expense. The Highest Good is good for all concerned.

Tia, Tamera, Hate, and Waffles

Unfortunately it was only after reading a gross-out report about the hatespews Tamera Mowry has received that I learned that Tia & Tamera Mowry have a web site. I'm sure this is so not news to serious TV-star followers. Readers who watch prime-time TV have probably been following the sisters' site for years.

What's news is that when I tried to show support by adding their site to the list of web sites I follow, I got a message that "the site's security certificate has expired" and the site may have been hacked. Which happens to a lot of TV and movie stars' web sites, because they're so popular, and is especially likely to have happened to Tamera Mowry's, because of the hate.

Well...the computer didn't report a problem with the really interesting post here:

...and the quinoa waffles sound delicious...but I recommend setting your computer for maximum security before using this link.

What I hate is the way lousy creeps systematically try to hack into nice people's web sites. Like the scugs who tried to link Grandma Bonnie Peters' e-mail to a porn site. Porn viewers would probably be angrier about that than GBP was!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Morgan Griffith on Obamacare and the Economy

From Congressman Morgan Griffith's E-Newsletter:


Promises, Promises

On Friday, January 10, the U.S. Department of Labor released a disappointing jobs report – only 74,000 jobs were added in December.  This is far short of the 197,000 jobs that economists had predicted, and more importantly, is far less than the American people deserve.

The nationwide unemployment number did drop to 6.7 percent, but this decrease is due to a drop in the labor participation rate.  Our economy is not creating enough jobs to meet the needs of the American people, so many are calling off their job searches and dropping out of the workforce altogether.

Among other bad policies, unreasonable regulations I would argue are one of the causes for this continued slow economic recovery.

In his State of the Union Address in February 2013, President Obama announced his “Promise Zones” initiative in which the Administration would “…begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.”  Thus far, no new funds have been promised to these regions.  But the program is supposed to help these targeted areas cut through red tape and use existing resources to grow their economies.

Nearly a year later, President Obama finally named the first five Promise Zones on Thursday, January 9, 2014.  He now promises his Promise Zones in the following areas: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.  Our region in the Ninth District of Virginia has been very hard-hit by current policies and regulations in the war on coal, as has the Third District of West Virginia.  However, neither are currently being targeted for extra assistance as part of the Promise Zone initiative.

The Administration hopes to assist 20 of these Promise Zones over the next three years.  Will the Ninth District of Virginia or the Third District of West Virginia be named Promise Zones in the future?  Will the Promise Zone initiative be effective?  Or like this president’s past promises, is it just “promises, promises” and no real relief?

The House of Representatives recently passed the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act (H.R. 3811), which would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promptly notify people if their personal data provided to the Obamacare website is breached.  Despite objections from the Administration, 67 Democrats joined Republicans in passing this change to the health care law, making a veto-proof majority.

Among those who voted in favor of the bill was a Democrat leader, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), Chairman of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee.  It has been reported by The Associated Press that Rep. Israel said in a statement, “I voted for this bill because I want to make sure confidential information is protected.  That’s just common sense.”

Common sense it is.  But Washington doesn’t always operate on common sense or keep its promises.  How else can you explain the Administration’s opposition to this common sense protection of the American people?

President Obama and others told the American people regarding Obamacare, “If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”  Promises made, promises broken.  They also said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  Promises made, and it looks like this promise may also be broken.  Promises, promises.  Especially after seeing so many promises broken, many people are concerned about the security of their personal information.  Rightfully so.

Seven different bills have been signed into law that repeal or rescind funding from different provisions of Obamacare.  The Supreme Court ruled the forced Medicaid expansion on the States unconstitutional.  This is in addition to changes to the law that the Administration has made without an affirmative vote of the United States Congress.

This common sense bill now heads to the Senate.  I hope Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring it to a vote.  If you agree, call him at 202-224-3542.

2014 Congressional Issues Survey
If you have not yet filled out our annual congressional issues survey and shared your views with me, I encourage you to do so.  The survey can be found at, or you may contact my offices to request a physical copy.

HB 57: Sales Tax Exemptions

Virginia House Bill #57 would, if enacted, exempt certain kinds of merchandise from sales and use taxes, at least at certain times:

Note the proposed tax holiday for all Energy Star-rated appliances bought and sold during the first weekend of October, and for all substantial amounts of gold, silver, or platinum bullion. Some members and sponsors of this web site particularly need to read HB 57.

HB 947: Baby Care Space

This web site is not sure why Virginia House Bill #947 would, if enacted, limit the benefits described only to school board employees:

This web site would like to see all workplaces designate areas, shielded from public view and noise and traffic and germs and so forth to the fullest extent possible, where working mothers can tend their babies.

HB 592: Training Centers for the Intellectually Impaired

Virginia House Bill #592 is another one-paragraph beauty:

The way to balance the budget is not by slashing the programs that actually work for some people, but by repealing all those nasty new provisions for all those unelected boards and committees.

HB 51: Minimum Speed Limits

Virginia House Bill #51 would, if enacted, establish a "minimum speed limit to be set forth on signs posted" on highways:

I don't like it. I'm a slow driver myself; I've also ridden in slow vehicles, typically cars with automatic transmissions that were sticking in a low gear, and I don't think there's any need to add to the hassle we get from impatient drivers behind us.

Virginians are not too nice to remind people whose transmissions are dying that the left lane is traditionally for passing slower vehicles, who are traditionally expected to stay on the right. I see no need to waste money on signs about this.

Most of all I see no need to make people feel that, when they're not sure what their car is doing or what they need to be doing with it, they should feel pressured to careen blindly forward until they hear something go crash. The last time I owned and drove a car, I didn't understand what it was doing, barely missed a head-on collision, then rolled the car. One reason why nobody was hurt was that I did at least understand the importance of moving very, very slowly until I'd recovered complete control of the car. (It would have been better if I'd been able to act on my first instinct and just not move that car until someone else had figured out what was wrong with it, but unfortunately people qualified to do that didn't want to do it.) I would hate to be on the road with people who didn't feel free to use their brakes when in doubt or trouble.

Delegate O'Quinn is relatively new to the General Assembly, hasn't sponsored many bills before this one, and has voted the right way on bills of interest to this web site. This web site urges his constituents to be polite when explaining to him why HB 51 is a bad bill. Although we have some readers who rush to condemn a legislator on the basis of one bad bill, no matter how commendable his or her other work, this web site encourages O'Quinn constituents to review his other collected works ( and commend him for HB 592, HB 947, and others as they think fit.

HB 49: Unlawful Images

Virginia House Bill 49 is a rerun of other bills that this web site liked, but didn't think went far enough.

Once again, the bill only makes it "unlawful...with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress" (as opposed to, say, the intent to stalk and harass the person?) "to disseminate or sell any videotape, photograph, film...that depicts another person who is totally nude" or depicts the parts of the person's body that would be covered by a bathing suit.

I would like to see legislation making it unlawful to disseminate or sell any image that depicts any recognizable person without the person's consent. Again I remind everybody: A photo of your boss beaming and shaking hands with the President of the United States can easily be digitally modified into a photo of your boss beaming and shaking hands with Public Enemy #1, whoever that may be in any future year. A photo of your ex's face can easily be spliced into a pornographic video. A photo of a quaint Amish family walking beside the road, even if it's only stored in a family photo album and displayed to visiting relatives as a souvenir of a visit to a town that has an Amish community, causes distress to strict Amish people who believe God doesn't want us to take photographs. When will we get laws that recognize that it's just plain obnoxious to snap a photo of anybody who has not consented to be photographed in that time and place, whatever it may be.

Someone recently reviewed the published volume of Sylvia Plath's sketches by lamenting that there were hardly any people in them. But this is as it should be. People have a right not to want images of them even drawn, much less photographed or videotaped. Plath, knowing that she was far from being a professional portrait painter, dabbled in drawings of places she'd been and wildlife she'd studied, but didn't annoy people by trying to draw them. Other decisions she made should only have been as intelligent and public-spirited as that decision was.

HB 48: Possession of Weapons a Felony?

Virginia House Bill #48 would, if enacted, make it a felony for anyone convicted of a violent crime to have or "knowingly transport" "any firearm, stun weapon...or any weapon concealed." The penalty for this felony would "assign a minimum fiscal impact of $50,000."

HB 47: Reducing Annual Tax on Hybrid Vehicles

Virginia House Bill #47 has a summary that may reflect a formality required by law, but it looks weaselly to me. The summary says this bill would "repeal the annual tax" on hybrid motor vehicles. The full text ( repeals the $64 tax on hybrids enacted last year, but immediately replaces it with a $50 tax.

HB 45: Who's Your Legislator?

Virginia House Bill 45 will, if enacted, redraw the boundaries of many House of Delegates districts.

Regular readers of this web site already know the numbers of their districts and the names of their Delegates. If you're not one, you can find that information here:

And if you live in House of Delegates district 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 55, 59, 60, 64, 67, 75, 87, 93, 94, 95, 96, or 99, the text of HB 45 could be important to you.

HB 43: Preparing to Fight the Gun Grabbers

Virginia House Bill #43 would, if enacted, ban the Virginia police from cooperating with federal agents to enforce any new federal restrictions on firearms.

Seems like something similar, only with more grassroots support, made it through the General Assembly and died on the Governor's desk a few years ago. This web site wishes HB 43 luck.

HB 40: Fuel Tax

Virginia House Bill #40 will, if passed, repeal last year's very unpopular gas tax:

HR 56: Scuba Record Set by Gate City Man

Virginia House Resolution #56 is one of those pleasing bits of fluff that are almost always passed without debate, but I found it a fun read that made me smile, so perhaps you'll enjoy it too. (Every legislator does a few of these, every year...usually the achievements of the people formally commended are less entertaining than Jerry Hall's.) This is the text of the bill:

Offered January 8, 2014
Prefiled January 6, 2014
Commending Jerry Hall.
Patron-- Kilgore
WHEREAS, Jerry Hall, a native of Gate City in Scott County, broke the world record for the longest scuba dive in open fresh water by remaining underwater at South Holston Lake in Bristol, Tennessee, for 145 hours, 31 minutes, and 23 seconds; and
WHEREAS, Jerry Hall, a graduate of Gate City High School and a chemical operator for Eastman Chemical Company, had set two previous world records in the same category, once in 2002 and once in 2004; and
WHEREAS, for his 2013 attempt, Jerry Hall prepared physically and mentally for the challenging event that would also raise money for Speedway Children’s Charities; and
WHEREAS, on July 27, 2013, Jerry Hall went into the water at the Laurel Marina and Yacht Club, where a 12 x 12 underwater platform at a depth of approximately 25 feet became his home for the next six days and a weighted vest helped keep him underwater; and
WHEREAS, Jerry Hall kept busy during his underwater time, riding an underwater bike for exercise, playing checkers, watching DVDs on an underwater television, listening to music via an underwater speaker, helping people earn their diving certificates, and even eating and sleeping; and
WHEREAS, Jerry Hall enjoyed the skilled assistance of a volunteer crew of divers and land-based support personnel who helped him prepare for and plan the dive and switched out oxygen tanks, brought him food, and watched him while he slept; and
WHEREAS, on August 2, 2013, Jerry Hall emerged at the Laurel Marina and Yacht Club—several pounds lighter and with shriveled skin—having smashed his previous record; and
WHEREAS, Jerry Hall demonstrated great mental focus and determination as well as physical stamina throughout his underwater experience; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend Jerry Hall on establishing a world record for the longest scuba dive in open fresh water; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Jerry Hall as an expression of the General Assembly’s congratulations and admiration for his remarkable achievement."

HB 1022: Hospital for Pennington Gap?

Fellow Virginians, I apologize for jumping out of order here...I printed off a batch of random bills for home perusal over the weekend, and I perused and am posting reactions to the bills that seem to call for citizen input. Meanwhile, in another window I had opened bills sponsored by my own legislators with the intention of reading them at home tonight...and I came across one so short and sweet that it's worth posting here in its entirety, House Bill #1022.

"Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. § 1. That, notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 32.1-102.3 and 32.1-102.3:2 of the Code of Virginia, any regulations of the Board of Health, or any provisions of any current Request for Applications issued pursuant to § 32.1-102.3:2 of the Code of Virginia, the Commissioner of Health shall accept and review applications and may issue a certificate of public need for the establishment of a new hospital with up to 70 beds to be located in Planning District 1."

Where there's a "1.," I was taught in school, there needs to be a "2.," but we weren't being taught to write legislative bills...Seriously, so far as I can tell, that means a hospital for Pennington Gap, which most of Virginia may not realize how badly our Commonwealth needs. Not only does this hospital mean that it's reasonable to speak of rushing sick or wounded residents of Lee County to hospital (which would not be the case if they had to be taken to Pikeville, Norton, or Kingsport). It means jobs for all those medical personnel. It means an economic hub that's not dependent on played-out coal mines and that's big enough to keep the town of Pennington Gap alive. This is an excellent and much needed bill.

Thank you, Delegate Kilgore.

HB 39: Donate Four Hours. Kill a Patient. Walk.

Virginia House Bill #39 seems to have been written with the intention of encouraging doctors and dentists to donate a reasonable amount of free service to poor people, thus mitigating the harm done by Obamacare. This web site officially salutes Delegates Hope's and Marshall's good intentions.

However, the way it's written... looks to me as if what this bill would actually do is encourage all sorts of incompetence. We're not just talking about the kind of dental work I got at one of those "free clinics," years ago, when an admittedly frazzled dentist removed a loose filling, enlarged the cavity to replace the filling, and then failed to replace the filling before sending me home. Nor are we talking about the fact that this dentist's fellow "volunteers" had given me a double dose of Lidocaine, which I don't tolerate well, and sent me home without any attempt to find out whether I was likely to kill anybody by passing out while trying to drive myself home (I didn't try to drive myself home, and I did pass out). Those things are alarming enough, but HB 39 actually specifies that "volunteer health care providers," not only while volunteering but while working for paying customers, "shall be exempt from civil liability for any injury or wrongful death...absent gross negligence or willful misconduct."

Unless the definition of "gross negligence" has been expanded to include mere gross-outs like what that volunteer dentist did for me, this is a very bad bill.

We do need more health care providers working free of charge for poor people, and we do need more legal provisions to encourage them, but exemption from liability for killing patients outright is not the kind of encouragement I want them given. I'm thinking more about making competent volunteer work a requirement to maintain certification, or to attain a higher tier of certification than doctors and dentists who don't work as volunteers or for sliding-scale fees.

HB 32: Raising the Minimum Wage

Virginia House Bill #32 will, if enacted, make it even harder for Virginians to create jobs, or keep existing jobs open, for unskilled and semiskilled labor:

Raising the minimum wage is always a shortcut to the support of stupid people, and unfortunately the United States allow stupid people to vote, so I can see why Delegate Morrissey is sponsoring this bill. And it's hard to blame anyone for wanting to keep his job...especially since the steadily increased minimum wage has made it so difficult for anyone to find another job these days.

Does anyone out there know whether Delegate Morrissey is related to any employers in other states who want to close down stores and restaurants in Virginia's border counties? Because, otherwise, HB 32 is just too stupid. Feh.

HB 31: Limiting the Primaries

Virginia House Bill #31 will, if enacted, make Virginia's primary elections a little less conducive to cheating and sabotage. Voters will be limited to voting in one primary election, and will have to pick a party and work with it. This will discourage the well-known practice (not my practice, she adds indignantly) of trying to double down on support for your candidates by also voting in the opposing party's primary for the candidates you consider least competent to run against yours.

Thank you, Delegate Lingamfelter.

Many Shortcomings of Obamacare

Check out Ezra Klein's "Wonkbook" discussion of the many shortcomings of Obamacare:

HB 25: Foreign-Owned Utility Companies?

According to Virginia's House Bill #25, foreign-owned utility companies are not only legal in the United States, they've actually received "certain exemptions" to encourage them to compete with locally-owned utility companies...what Delegate Habeeb seems to be trying to do with this bill is equalizing the opportunity.

Do. Not. Ever. Tell. A. Utility. Company. The. Social. Security. Number. Of. Any. Living. Person. 

A Book Someone Should Buy for Me

A new book, Climate Coup by Patrick Michaels, sounds as if it will be interesting to several readers...but it's available only in the dreaded "e-book" form. I can't read it that way. If you can, kindly buy it here:

or here:

Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001-5403

...and if you print it out and send us a copy, I'm sure the members and sponsors of this site will appreciate it enough to be able to send the Cato Institute even more than $1.99.

I actually think it sounds like the kind of book that needs to be in libraries.


For a limited time, only $1.99 

"Michaels and his distinguished authors pull back the curtains on Climategate, cap-and-trade, the scientific review process, and motives for various policies. What they expose will keep you reading page after page."
—Robert C. Balling, Jr., Professor, School of Geographic Science and Urban Planning, Arizona State University

"Climate Coup should be required reading, as it sounds the alarm that the fight is far from over. Those who have been profiting from the huge sums of money spent predicting disasters continue unfazed by the scientific truth."
—David H. Douglass, Professor of Physics, University of Rochester; Fellow,
American Physical Society

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How High Is the U.S. Unemployment Rate?

Bart DePalma has charts:

HB 17: Cell Phone Tracking

Virginia House Bill #17 will, if enacted, require a warrant for using cell phones to track people:

It would even make attempting to track a cell phone user without a warrant a crime.

The position of this web site is that HB 17 is long overdue, and if there's any debate about it, the debate should be whether HB 17 goes far enough. Thank you, Delegate Marshall.

HB 13: Telephone Company Should Warn Customers

Virginia House Bill #13 would, if enacted, require telephone companies to include with the monthly bill a statement about the kind of information the company was required to disclose to the federal government.

Personally, I've assumed for a long time that various people can and do "monitor" telephone calls, and other "telecommunication," if and whenever they find it interesting to do so.

For example...when I've used computers at public computer centers funded by the Gates Foundation, I've noticed that an extra printer icon sometimes pops up while a document is printing. I've noticed that for the first year or so, when I went to computer centers just to print, didn't have much of an Internet identity, and wasn't logged on to the Internet while printing, the appearance of the extra icon seemed to be random. Then I started printing while connected to the Internet, and the behavior of the extra icon stabilized--it popped up whenever I was printing documents with certain names. And those documents happened to be the ones that appeared to contain the most personal information...not necessarily about me, the list includes documents ganked from an e-friend's public blog and some pieces of fiction, but they were the documents that seemed to disclose the most information about individuals that those individuals would be unlikely to disclose if someone walked up and asked for the information. I've been observing this strange behavior of Gates Foundation computers for several years now. I don't know whether it's local telephone company workers, Gates Foundation employees, or who (or who-all) else that's been trying to read what they probably believe to be private diaries, but somebody out there is definitely interested in anything that appears to be a day-to-day account of anybody's private life...however public, uninteresting, or fictitious the person's day-to-day account may be. The extra printer icon is triggered by the combination of dates in order and chunks of prose.

Then I remember how, in college, some friends got hold of a list of words for which the FBI were supposedly listening in telephone conversations. Supposedly, if your conversation used several of these words, your call would be mysteriously disconnected. Some of the guys tried reading the list to each other on the phone and reported that their calls were indeed disconnected. I didn't ask to see or hear the list, and, considering that the experiment was made by college boys, I wouldn't be surprised if it had been a prank. But the rumor that our government either pays low-level workers, or uses machines, to listen for trigger words on the telephone, refuses to die. Mike Royko once suggested, in a different context, that people experiment by reciting the seven words that come to an English-speaking mind when we think about death threats against the President. In these days of instant panics, I don't want to recommend that anybody recite a list of words that would constitute a death threat against anybody.

I don't think it should be a problem for most of us to avoid committing, or threatening, crimes. I don't think it should be a problem for the federal government to admit or deny the extent to which it's spying on private citizens, either.