Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Last Call

It's been a long two years since Haiti's devastating earthquake, and the country is still in shambles despite billions of dollars in aid from around the world...a world that has largely forgotten Port-au-Prince's ongoing humanitarian disaster and still has yet to deliver on billions more in promised assistance.

Two years after Haiti's most horrifying 35 seconds, seeds of progress are evident across this battered nation where a devastating earthquake left 300,000 dead and some 1.5 million homeless in its capital and surrounding cities.

But with more than a half-million people still living in squalid camps, and billions of dollars in promised aid still to arrive, much remains to be done for the changes to take root. And some Haiti experts and Haitians worry that the country could still slide backwards without major efforts to create jobs and economic reforms.

"After two years, what can I say? We're still here," said Yvrose Mongerard, who lives in Corail-Cesselesse, a post-quake planned community north of the capital where tens of thousands of people have since set up makeshift camps. "We are not asking for a handout, but if we were working, we would be able to help ourselves. We are not doing anything here, just looking."

Faius Adonis, 56, who lives in a tarp-covered shack with his wife and five children in the southern city of Leogane, agreed that times remain brutally tough, regardless of the reconstruction that is occurring.
"Hard times are killing us," he said. "The tarp doesn't do anything. Two years after the quake, we're still in the streets."

Even as some worry about the slow progress, the country's new president points to positive steps.
"We're moving into bettering the lives of the Haitian people," President Michel Martelly said in an interview with The Miami Herald. "We're moving into getting them out of the tents."

Read more here:

Then again, given our track record on the cleanup after Katrina, it's not like the US has much room to criticize Haiti on the speed of relocating millions who lost their homes to a natural disaster.  We're pretty damn bad at that sort of thing too.  Replace Port-au-Prince with New Orleans, and America fares as a lousy example.  Parts of the Lower Ninth Ward are still a wreck, and it's been three times as long.

Areas of the Crescent City may never get repaired.  Pretty awful to think about that in America, but we're all told that the time for further sacrifice is upon us as we bravely fight to give more tax breaks to the fabulously wealthy.

How much of America will soon look like the aftermath of Katrina given the rate that Republicans in power at the state level are gutting infrastructure?

Safety Drills For Kids Are Important

Until relatively recently, kids bore as much responsibility as the world could heap on them.  They were raised fast and hard, and were mature at much younger ages.  I'm not about to launch into an argument for why that is detrimental, but it's important that we not coddle our kids too much and actually cripple their ability to act with confidence.  Safety drills are a perfect example of something that is often overlooked and leaves kids helpless when they could have been instrumental in helping during a crisis.

HuffPo ran a great article about a doctor whose nine-year-old was able to call 911 while mom performed emergency treatment.  She was calm, as was her son.  The three-year-old who stopped breathing was fine in the long run, but thanks to drills from dad and a mother who was able to take control, the situation went as smoothly as it could have for involving a blue-faced toddler.

Planning for emergencies is important.  For example, my husband and I are rarely together, so we have plans for where to meet and how, in case of emergency.  We even known if it's a major disaster (like a bombing) to meet at X location, if it's something smaller but communication is down we meet at Y.  Our nieces and nephews know how to find each other in case of emergency, as well as how to find us and what to do in case they are at school when the emergency happens.  They all know how to call 911 and perform basic first aid.  When we travel, we always point out the stairs and exit routes and what to do in case of fire.

Just a couple of minutes here and there can do so much to give kids confidence when things go wrong.  They deserve that confidence, and we deserve the peace of mind in knowing we have taught them some basics that could save a life, including theirs.

Crazy Beyond Fixing

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Alyssa Bustamante looked down, her long brown hair covering her teenage eyes, as a judge read the charges against her: murder and armed criminal action, for knowingly strangling, cutting and stabbing her 9-year-old neighbor.

For more than two years after she was arrested as a high school sophomore, Bustamante had been publicly silent about the gruesome crime, which a patrol officer testified she confessed to committing because "she wanted to know what it felt like." On Tuesday, it was her time to talk.
Describe what you did, a judge instructed Bustamante, as she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing Elizabeth Olten.

"I strangled her and stabbed her in the chest," Bustamante said in a clear voice, looking straight at the judge.

"Did you cut her throat too?" the judge asked.

"Yes," Bustamante responded.

A lesser charge means she may serve as little as ten years for killing an innocent child. Considering the nature of the crime, the planning and the utter lack of remorse, that is not enough. The horror of the torture and murder is not the only reason we need to keep this young woman out of society. With someone like her free to roam, we are not safe. What if she wondered what it was like to kill someone else?

Common sense says she is dangerous, science says she may repeat her crime. This is the exception to the rule. Lock her up and throw away the key. Her victim and the family deserve it, and so do the rest of us.

Short And Sweet: Freaking Awesome Guitarist Breaks Bumblebee Record

I can't even imagine hands this fast. That slow-motion had to get involved should say enough. The world's fastest guitarist has set a new record, and we have video goodness courtesy of

Thrashers, shredders, and heshers, lend me your tinnitus-damaged ears! The Great Question has been settled. The fastest guitar player alive is not Eddie Van Halen nor Yngwie Malmsteen nor that guy from Morbid Angel. Nope, it’s John Taylor, a 28-year-old music teacher in Westminster, Colorado, who last spring claimed the official Guinness-certified title by blazing through Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Flight of the Bumblebee” at a fret-melting 600 beats per minute.

At that velocity, the famously complex century-old composition is more like a videogame sound effect than music. Taylor filmed himself performing the feat (in front of witnesses), and the Guinness judges verified his musicianship using slo-mo. The fastest-guitarist record used to be based on the simpler criterion of notes played per second, but Guinness officials lost patience with wannabes trilling away on a single note, so they changed the standard to “Bumblebee” a few years ago.

In Which Bon Eats A Little Microsoft Crow

Listen up, kids.  I don't do this often.  My fingers bleed and my heart weeps at what I'm about to say: Microsoft impressed me.

Every time I utter the word Microsoft, I spit.  I make a satisfying "puh-tooie" sound to indicate my disdain.  Regulars know of my complete disgust, but I always try to establish a little context before I go on a Microsoft rant so my bias is clear.  I hate their business practices, I despise their ethics and I would love nothing more than to go the rest of my life without seeing that obnoxious logo.  Gates has earned my respect as an innovator and humanitarian, but the company is the epitome of greed and arrogance, and they have failed to deliver for more than a decade.  They have coasted for years on an advantage that was ill-begotten.  Puh-tooie, I say.

However, they finally did something right.  In a big way.  In fact, the inevitable death of the Windows grip on everyday computer users has forced the tech giant to explore new directions.  And by golly folks, I think they hit pay dirt with the Nokia Lumia.  I work in the industry, and I got a chance to test it for myself.  It takes slick to exciting new levels.  It runs smooth and fast, and is intuitive.  I loved the light-on-black color scheme, it was readable and sharp.  Nokia makes a hell of a phone, and they did themselves proud with this one.  It feels sturdy, the screen is liquid perfection, and it is a promising beginning.  It's not there yet but you can see the groundwork and if they develop it right we have a contender.  It maximizes GPS, merges accounts and services smoothly and is a simple, super-organized phone.  If you are an app junkie who likes to customize every aspect of your phone, move on.  If you believe simplicity trumps flash and you favor fuss-free efficiency, this is likely the device for you.

There are a few opportunities for improvement.  All cell phone performance degrades over time, so it won't always be this pretty.  Microsoft forces Bing, which is understandable but annoying for those who prefer a choice.  It lacks the variety and free options of the Android app market, which is a major negative for someone who is set in their ways (this is what ultimately kept me with my current phone).  Microsoft still shoots itself in the foot through an attempt to control the customer.  They still don't quite realize that people resent being forced to choose between one thing they like at the expense of having to accept something they hate.  

Considering Blackberry is floundering and iPhone is fast approaching market saturation, this is a good time for a major player to step in and shake things up.  Microsoft has had plenty of stinkers hit the shelves, but my first experience with the Lumia was good.  With work and a few lucky breaks, Microsoft may finally take a spot and do something new.  Nokia has a good reputation, and both bring their best to this treat.

LinuxAndroidOpenSourceTux.  There, I feel like myself again.

Hotel New Hampshire: Winners And Losers

So Mitt Romney got his 40%, which is about the bare minimum he needed to have a "good" night in New Hampshire's primary.    Ron Paul came in second with 23% of the vote, an admittedly strong showing.  Jon Huntsman got 17% of the vote...not what he was looking for.  Gingrich edged out Santorum, 10% to 9%, with Perry accounting for the remaining 1%.

Three things stand out here.  First, the real story of the night is like Iowa, the GOP turnout in New Hampshire was less than in 2008, although not by much.  If the Tea Party in 2010 represents a major enthusiasm boost for the GOP, why are they still putting up 2008 numbers?  Half the voters in the primary were independents, not Republicans.

Second, Mitt Romney's victory speech was loaded with attacks on President Obama and accusing him of the "politics of envy".  He's clearly not worried about the rest of the GOP field anymore.  But his general election style appears to no longer be the moderate, but a full-blown Tea Party Republican.  The exit polls shows his tack to the right did not hurt him among independent voters in the state.  They still think he's a moderate, even though he's come out to the far right on many social positions.  And the exit polls showed the wealthier you were, the more likely you voted for Mitt in New Hampshire.

Third,  nobody's dropping out yet.  They all know that it's South Carolina or bust now.  Santorum has a chance, but all the polls have Romney with a 10 point lead or so on average.  A Romney win here puts it all but away.

Romney's got the money and the support.  The rest of the GOP will fall in line behind him...but he's still trailing President Obama in the polls.  The question at this point is will there be a third party challenge?  If it's from Ron Paul, things could get very interesting.

Commission Of Pat-ricide, Part 2

Pat Buchanan triples down on his racism, complaining that evil brown gay people cost him his job at MSNBC.

“Look, for a long period of time the hard left, militant gay rights groups, militant — they call themselves civil rights groups, but I’m not sure they’re concerned about civil rights — people of color, Van Jones, these folks and others have been out to get Pat Buchanan off T.V., deny him speeches, get his column canceled,” Buchanan said during a radio interview with Sean Hannity this afternoon. “This has been done for years and years and years and it’s the usual suspects doing the same thing again. But my view is, you write what you believe to be the truth.”

Right, because it's a well-known fact that LGBT people of color control the airwaves and the majority of hiring/firing decisions in corporate America. They just put up with all of Buchanan's bigotry prior to this as a test of character and to fool racist homophobes.

Asshat. Time for our first "Tools of 2012" entry.


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