Friday, September 29, 2006

Tired of the Bush Republicans

That's it, I've had it! I've had my fill of George W. Bush trying to whittle away my rights. I'm sick of him ramming legislation down our collective throats under the banner of fighting terrorism, and I'm even more disgusted with how the idiots surrounding him blindly parrot the party line and insinuate that people who disagree with the Bush power grab are somehow unpatriotic and trying to coddle terrorists. The most recent example is an Associated Press article I read today, summed up as follows... (My summary, not the author's)

-The House of Representatives recently approved a bill giving President Bush authority to wiretap without a warrant, but with restrictions.

-Though it wasn't directly stated in the article, I have inferred that this bill was passed very much along party lines, with Republicans voting for the measure and Democrats opposing it.

-After passing the bill, Republicans actually called this a test as to whether the Democrats want to fight, or would rather coddle terrorists.

-One legislator basically said that the Democrats were always coming up with excuses why they couldn't support various pieces of legislation and claimed that this speaks volumes about which party is tougher on terror.

Now, after all of this crap, the whole point is made moot, because the bill the House passed won't become law anyway... at least not until after the November elections. Why? Because the Senate and House do not have a united bill to send to the White House. The whole basis of this article was that the House was patting itself on the back through posturing. The House Republicans were trying to make themselves appear tough on terror, and parroting the party propaganda while actually doing nothing.

I'm tired of being silent about this. If I disappear, you will know that it's because what I said was a little too close to home for the Bush Reich.

-Opposing warrantless wiretapping is NOT coddling terrorists.

-Opposing the status quo in Iraq is NOT cutting and running, and it is not coddling terrorists.

-Speaking out against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and the other Bushies is NOT unpatriotic.

-Trying someone without letting them know what they're being charged with is WRONG.

-Trying someone without letting them see all of the evidence is WRONG.

-Trying someone without letting them face their accusor is WRONG.

-Holding someone indefinitely without reasonable evidence that they did something wrong is WRONG.

-Expecting the people to spend whatever you want on this war, for however long you want, without any justification, cost accounting or fiscal responsibility is WRONG.

Now, by the same token...

-Leaving Iraq now is WRONG. I like Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn" analogy... you break it, you bought it.

-Expecting to fight a war without casualties is WRONG. This is going to sound calloused, but in war there MUST be such a thing as acceptable loss. Our current death toll, while unfortunate, is a very small number.

-Assuming that violence is never the answer, and that negotiations will always yield results is WRONG. That mentality is what allowed the Nazis to march into Paris, and it's why Tibet is now part of China!

-Fighting a war without expecting to have to tighten your belt domestically is WRONG.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Tough Being a Parent

Parenting has got to be the most fulfilling job in the world. When it's good, it's really good, but when it's bad, it's really bad. I guess that's what makes it so rewarding. You take delight in seeing your children grow and evolve, and you know you make mistakes. It's the roller-coaster ride that makes it rewarding. Today was a mistake day.

My kids were fighting, as kids often do. Per my usual routine, I kept tabs on it and allowed them to fight it out on their own. After a quick shower, I discovered my younger daughter laying in my bed sobbing. While I was in the shower, they started hitting and kicking each other. They can yell at each other, call each other names, say they never want to speak to each other again, and I'll let that slide. But I don't allow them to hit and kick each other. Last time they did it, I said I'd punish them next time it happened, and I followed through with my promise this morning.

They both seemed completely unfazed when I told them they'd be grounded, so I upped the stakes and told them it was for a week. After all, it's not really punishment if the punishment doesn't bother them. That got their attention, but it's also where things got bad.

My younger one wisely quieted down. My older one, being a teenager who possesses all of humanity's knowledge and wisdom, decided to challenge my decision. Here are some of the highlights...

Round 1:
"Dad, you said that we can stand up for ourselves at school and with friends and that you'd back us up. Why can't we do that here?"

'Fine, you can't stand up for yourself at school now either."

Round 2:
"Dad, how come you can raise your voice, point, cut me off and yell, but I can't?"

"Because I'm the boss. The boss has privileges that others don't. Get used to it, because that will never change."

Round 3:
"Dad, you can't ground me. I've got a school function."

"You're not going."

"It's for student council." (Ouch, that one hurt me!)

"I don't care, you're still not going. You don't tell me how I can ground you."

"Well you're going to tell the teacher then."

"I don't think so. That's just become part of your punishment. You can now tell your teacher that you won't be able to attend Friday's function, because you got grounded for being a smart-ass."

"Can I say it like that?"

"If you must, but if you get into trouble for saying it that way, that's your problem."

Round 4:
Dad's decided it's time to try to calm things down a bit. My younger daughter was present during this whole argument, but wisely remained silent. The closest she came to getting involved was sighing during round one. I figured I'd hold an olive branch and reduce how long they were grounded (but offset the length of their sentence by making them do extra chores while they were grounded).

"Kids, come here." (The younger one was already in the room.)

"I don't want to," replies the older one.

"I don't care what you want, get in here."


'"Get in here, NOW!" She then opened the door, and came in, but kept her eyes closed, refusing to look at me. I really don't remember what she said immediately after that, but I responded...

"I had planned on saying that you don't need to be grounded for a week, but your behavior is telling me otherwise. Younger kid, you're grounded just for today. Older kid, you're staying grounded for a week."

"What?! Why!?! See, this is why I told you 'No' when you said to come here. How come I have to come when you call? How come you can yell and I can't?" Mind you, she's yelling at me hysterically during this whole thing. That was it. I went drill instructor on her, getting right in her face, hovering over her, pointing at her, and yelling loud enough that she occasionally had to wipe the spit from her face.

"I am the boss! You, not being the boss, have to listen to me! When I say 'Come here!' you come. You don't ask why! You don't say no! You don't talk back! You don't tell me you don't want to! You don't give me smart-ass answers! I am the boss."

"Why don't you fire me?"

"I wish I could." (Oops, wrong thing to say.)

Round 5:
Yeah, that "I wish I could" was the exact wrong thing to say, and I didn't get it right away. By the way, I should mention that during the previous four rounds, she worked her way up from being grounded for a week to being grounded for two weeks.

"I'm leaving."

"If you leave, you're grounded for three weeks."

"No, I'm not coming back. You want to fire me."

"Get back here!"

"NO!" she exclaimed, walking out the door.

I darted after her, still in my bath robe, hoping that I wouldn't have to chase her down the street dressed only in a bathrobe. She didn't run. I caught her, grabbed her arm and said "Get in the house now. If you give me any lip, I will bend you over my knee and spank you in front of God and the neighbors."

Round 6:
This is where I started getting how much I messed up with my little "I wish I could" comment. She got into the house, grabbed the phone ran into the bathroom, locked the door, and called her mom, sobbing. I respected her privacy, but I heard her say "He doesn't want me. He said he wanted to fire me." She was sobbing uncontrollably, and I felt like crap. That's totally not what I intended.

I intended to relay that she was being a pain in the ass. She heard that I didn't want her anymore. I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut, and I suspect my daughter felt the same way. In fact, based on her sobs, I knew it. It was time to calm things down. I waited until she got off of the phone and came out of the bathroom herself. I walked up to her and gave her a hug.

"I don't want to talk to you."

"I understand. You don't have to. I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings. You know I love you. I love you as much as I love your sister, and I love you as much as I love Mrs. Evan. When I said that I wanted to fire you, I was trying to say that you're being a pain in the ass. I get that you heard me say I don't want you, and I understand why you heard that, and I'm sorry. That's not what I wanted you to hear."

After she calmed down a bit, I said that we should talk about cutting back on the grounding a bit, because part of her sentence was due to me grounding her out of anger, not out of punishment. We still need to work that out. I'm thinking either two weeks in her room, or one week of grounding with extra chores.

Yep. It's tough being a parent. I still feel like crap, I still don't know exactly how to punish her adequately. I know she feels like crap too. Ugh. I hate days like this!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Smiling Bob May not be Smiling Much Longer

We've all heard of Smiling Bob, and the alleged product he represents -- "Enzyte, the once a day tablet for natural male enhancement." I've already provided my thoughts on Enzyte, so we won't rehash that one. Imagine my surprise though, when I got a link to this Associated Press (AP) article today.

---Begin Original Article---
CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) -- The maker of dietary supplements that claim to improve everything from sexuality to memory defrauded thousands of customers and banks of at least $100 million, federal authorities say.

A federal indictment names Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, its owner and president, Steven Warshak, and five other individuals, including Warshak's mother, on charges that include conspiracy, money laundering, and mail, wire and bank fraud.

They are accused by federal authorities of luring customers with free-trial offers and money-back guarantees, then billing their credit cards without authorization.

Warshak, who has 107 counts against him, denies the accusations and will continue to operate the company, his attorney said Thursday.

The company, which recently said it has 5 million customers worldwide, is known for its "Smiling Bob" ads that depict a man whose life gets better after he uses the company's Enzyte for "natural male enhancement."

The company markets nationally a variety of other products claiming to help everything from night vision to memory to female libido.

False advertising alleged

The company, based in suburban Forest Park, Ohio, also used false advertising, the indictment charges.

In one example, Wednesday's indictment cited ads placed in Penthouse and other male-oriented magazines that claimed Enzyte was developed after years of study by two doctors, one at Harvard and the other at Stanford.

"The company president and others made up information in their advertisements, such as endorsements by doctors that did not exist, and results of customer satisfaction surveys that had never been conducted," U.S. Attorney Greg Lockhart said.

Customers with complaints were told to write to a director of customer care who did not exist, the indictment alleges.

The Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Service, postal inspectors and other agencies participated in the investigation.

The indictment says at one point, Berkeley marketed a supplement called Rovicid as a prostate health product for men, but later relabeled old stocks of Rovicid as a cardiac health supplement for men and women.

A court appearance for the defendants was scheduled for September 28. Martin Weinberg, Warshak's attorney, said he will plead not guilty and "vigorously assert his innocence to all charges."

Charges carry 30-year sentence

Several charges, including conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, that Warshak faces each carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison with conviction.

"We believe the government converted what in its essence is a civil and regulatory issue into this broad criminal indictment," said Weinberg, who is based in Boston.

In March, Berkeley agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle allegations brought by the attorneys general in Ohio and other states that the company engaged in deceptive practices in the sale of its herbal products. As part of the settlement, Berkeley and Warshak did not admit any wrongdoing.

Five of the company's former executives have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to defrauding customers through a product giveaway program that led to unauthorized billing of their credit cards.

Federal authorities have frozen $25 million in assets held by Warshak and members of his family, and Lockhart said authorities will continue to try to recover money to give victims.

Berkeley generated about $250 million in sales in 2004, mostly from telephone orders spurred by TV ads.

In a recent advertisement in The Cincinnati Enquirer, Berekley said: "We have invested heavily in major improvements designed to overcome our early growing pains. The net result of these investments is that today we have more than 5 million customers worldwide, and our customer service is better than most of the Fortune 500 companies."

The ad included a coupon for a free 60-day sample of any Berkeley product.

---End Original Article---

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Dread Pirate E-ron

The family celebrated the younger kid's 10th birthday yesterday. Per her request, the party had a pirate theme, with her taking the role of Captain Jack Sparrow. There was a slight variation on this idea, as little 'un decided that she wanted to remain female, so "Jack" was short for "Jackie."

E-ron was definitely ready for the party, especially considering that she and Mrs. Evan started planning and preparing for the party months ago. By the way, thanks to the Oriental Trading Company for providing us with several ideas for the party. We ordered several things from them, and they gave us a lot of additional ideas.

These pics are shots we took before the party. E-ron, Mrs. Evan and I dressed up for the party. Little 'un's older sister dressed up too, but being a teenager, she did so with her own flare.

Some highlights of the party were the treasure hunt, the opportunity for all of the guests to dress up like pirates (with bandannas, eyepatches, scimitars and pirate make-up),

the treasure hunt, eating like heathens (only finger food like chicken nuggets and so forth), and the cake. We had two cakes. One was "delicious dirt," which was cake crumbs, topped with chocolate mousse, covered with crumbled oreos and garnished with gummy worms.The other was a red velvet cake with a black pirate flag for the frosting. The idea was that cutting the cake would reveal blood. It worked out incredibly well.If you're interested in seeing all of the pics from her party, check out the slide show.

Note to Chief Slacker. The stuff I'm wearing is the stuff I bought when we were at the Renaissance Festival this year. You probably remember me buying the tunic and trousers. For the sashes and bandanna, I bought a few strips of cloth at Wal-Mart... a lot cheaper, and a much better selection than the Ren Fest offered.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Of Baubles and Bobbles

I've been trying to NOT prattle incessantly about my new toy, and in all honesty I think I've done pretty well so far. (My wife may disagree with me, but cut me some slack... I've got to discuss my new obsession with someone.) Just because I haven't been talking non-stop about it though, doesn't mean that I haven't been out enjoying my new purchase at every opportunity. (This means double kudos to Mrs. Evan, because I'm around less, and when I am around, I'm talking about the bike.)

In all fairness to myself though, I think I've been pretty good. I haven't quit my job and ditched my family for a life on the road, and I haven't blown my life savings on chrome accessories. In fact, I've only put about 1300 miles on it in just about two months, and I bought my first bauble only yesterday. This means that I've done some riding for pleasure, but only when the rest of the family is gone, and I've been incredibly responsible in my accessorizing.

But like I said, I finally broke down yesterday and bought something non-functional for the bike. I got a chrome and gold-colored medallion cap for my gas cap, as shown in this picture. Since the bike is black with a few chrome accessories, I think that the gold and chrome accessories will go a long way in adding some color and individualization to my new ride.

Speaking of baubles, I also had my first close-call bobble today, and it was reminiscent of when I dropped my first bike almost 20 years ago. I am proud to announce though, that today's close call had a much more favorable outcome.

While going around a corner, I hit a patch of gravel, causing the front wheel to momentarily lose traction. Fortunately, I was being cautious, traveling at a reasonably slow pace, and had recently taken my motorcycle safety course. I sincerely believe that it was the combination of all three aspects that kept me from dropping my bike. Unlike twenty years ago, I realize that I'm not invincible and therefore take a little more care in my riding.

Speaking of the bike... I usually don't make a habit of naming my vehicles, but I'm thinking of naming my Harley. It's generally accepted that boats and cars are given female names, so I think my Sportster should be named accordingly. I'm thinking Sophia. Any input?

Monday, September 11, 2006

What Do You Remember?

I’m a little reluctant to write about 9/11, but I’m going to anyway. My reluctance comes from the belief that nothing I write could adequately express the importance of that day or those events, and from the knowledge that everyone else will spend a lot of energy reading and writing about that life-altering day. I’m doing it anyway because I feel that I must honor and observe the significance of that day, inadequate as my attempt may be.

Some of the events are indelibly seared in to my mind; others have undoubtedly faded with time. I remember getting to work and settling in to my chair for the day’s work, when one of my co-workers asked if I had heard the news.

“We’re at war,” he said. “Someone just flew a plane into one of the twin towers.”

“Are you sure it was deliberate? Maybe it was an accident,” I answered hopefully. I somehow knew that he was right, but wasn’t quite ready to accept the fact. We had a TV in the general area and decided to power it on. The reception was poor, but after a few minutes, we got a static-filled reception. The signal cleared up just in time for me to see the second plane hit the other tower. “Oh God,” I said, dumbstruck.


“You’re right, we’re at war. Another plane just hit the other tower.” We stared at each other, speechless. It felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, and we both knew that everything had changed. After standing there dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity, we agreed to move the TV so a location where everyone could watch. We knew that no work would be accomplished that day.

From that point on, I don’t recall very many specifics. I remember talking to certain people, and I know the conversation was about the day’s events, but I don’t know what was said. I remember sitting in a restricted-access room in my office building, listening to the radio, watching streaming internet media, and reading articles. I remember being so numb that I had no reaction when I heard about the third plane hitting the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashing in the field. I remember watching the lines form at the gas station across the street, and seeing the prices rise as the lines grew progressively longer. I remember deciding that I’d go ahead and pay the higher prices the next day rather than stay in that line.

I remember the subsequent outrage at the price gouging over gas and other emergency supplies. I remember all planes in the nation being immediately grounded and thinking that was a great idea. I remember finding out that some of my friends were stuck at a conference because of the planes being grounded, but my company got them home by chartering a bus.

I distinctly remember being numb, and noticing that everyone else appeared to feel the same way. I remember the worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy, exemplified by candlelight vigils. I remember our collective sorrow, and the global outpouring of love.

I remember watching the firefighters raising the American flag above the rubble of the towers, and seeing the irony in the flag being flown upside-down (a sign of distress). I remember how well Giuliani handled the situation, and how united we were behind our Commander in Chief. I vividly remember President Bush’s “sage” advice, telling us to fight terrorism by supporting our economy and rolling my eyes thinking “This is the best he’s got? Fight terrorism by spending money?” For the most part though, I remember instantly knowing that everything had changed. I remember America being united like I have never experienced before and probably will never experience again.

What do you remember?