Olympics - Curling Edition

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Posted on : 2/20/2010 04:46:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

What a tremendous performance by the U.S. team beating Sweden by a score of 8 to 7 on 11 ends.  Unfortunately, we have play Canada tonight.  Canada is thus far unbeaten in the round robin portion of the competition.

As a lad we had CBC channel 9 out of Windsor that we could get on our antenna.  When cable finally came through, they included channel 9 in their package of stations.  Not only did we get to see some great hockey, but we also got to see curling tournaments that used to go on for days on end.

Getting to see the Irish Rovers was also a lot of fun....he adds a little sheepishly.

My only problem with today's competition was with my countrymen who seemed to feel that the 3rd end was the most opportune time to begin chanting "U..S..A...", waving the flag, and wearing our flag as a cape....sans shirts.  C'mon folks.  This isn't the medal round.  The Swedes are not the old Soviet Union.

And in an arena where multiple matches are occurring, a bit of restraint is a good thing.

Climategate Continues

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Posted on : 2/19/2010 05:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

A progress report.

Mischaracterizing The Tea Partiers

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Posted on : 2/19/2010 05:01:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

A frequent theme in my regular reading is the serial mischaracterizations of the Tea Party crowd on the part of our friends in the major media and their fellow leftist travellers.  A. Barton Hinkle expresses many of my thoughts on that subject quite well here.

The nut of his rejoinder is quite accurate.


Yet as J.R. Lucas wrote more than three decades ago, equality has more than one dimension, and efforts to tame economic inequalities can produce bureaucratic empires that crystallize "an inequality of power . . . more dangerous than the inequality of wealth to which objection was originally made." Members of Tea Party Nation may simply prefer to tolerate monetary inequalities rather than to hand more power over their lives to progressives who, while purporting to care about the great unwashed, sometimes treat them with casual contempt.


Having witnessed the damage that government mischief can cause from afar as well as up close, I do not trust that they will use the new authority under consideration in a wise and responsible manner.  The vagaries of the market are preferable to the iron fist of bureaucratic authority and politically derived preferences.

The continued trend of disregarding that legitimate perspective and misrepresenting its proponents are not healthy for our country.

Which One Is It

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Posted on : 2/19/2010 05:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Mr. Obama has been complaining recently about the lack of action in Congress.  Specifically....


Look, something you got to understand -- for those who don't believe in government, those who don't believe that we have obligations to each other, it's a lot easier task. If you can gum up the works, if you make things broken, if the Senate doesn't get anything done, well, that's consistent with their philosophy. It's a whole lot easier to say no to everything. It's a whole lot easier to blame somebody else. That politics that feeds on peoples' insecurities, especially during tough political times -- that's the easiest kind of politics. There's a long, storied history of that kind of politics.


If I might briefly demure, it isn't that we don't believe in government.  Quite the opposite.  We believe in a Constitutionally limited government that is dedicated to the preservation of individual liberty.  The sort of government that he [and our many Congresscritters] swore an oath to support and defend.

Of course, such complaints of obstruction are highly selective as Mr. Obama has recently complimented the current Congress as being one of the most productive in recent history.  Apparently the will of the people is being done by Congress....and that includes stopping massive legislative monstrosities that would significantly re-order our economy and our lives.

Tea Party And Race

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Posted on : 2/19/2010 12:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The major media misunderstands almost every aspect of the Tea Party movement.  Their often repeated lie is that Tea Party gatherings are lilly white rallies of borderline klansmen.

Wrong.


Ordinarily, a free market doesn't reward businesses and people that produce valueless goods and services. Oh snap!  So that's why newspaper circulation is down and MSNBC's viewship is in this the toilet!

Carry on.

I Hate The IRS

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Posted on : 2/18/2010 10:28:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

I work very hard not to hate.  Anyone.  Anything.  Sometimes I fail and sometimes I win.

This time it is purposeful.  I hate the IRS.  I consider the IRS to be the most immoral segment of the federal government.

I sympathize with Joe Stack.  I've seen what sort of evil the IRS can perform.  I sympathize with his frustration with a system that is inherently unfair.

A friend of mine and their spouse recently had some serious IRS issues.  They got hauled in for an audit.  The spouse in this case worked for a contractor.  They would live in an area for weeks and sometimes months on end working a job.  Their legitimate travel expenses included three meals a day, hotel or an apartment, mileage, tools, work clothes, trips to the laundromat, etc.

The IRS agent that did their audit simply didn't understand how someone could legitmately travel like that as a part of their job.  He was a pencil pusher that failed to understand how the real world operates.  This agent let his ignorance of the larger world color the performance of his duties.  A lot of expenses were disallowed.  These people were average Americans.  They weren't accountants.  They didn't have 52 envelopes stuffed with weekly receipts and travel logs.  And they ended up paying the price.

I sympathize with Joe Stack.  I sympathize with his frustration with a system that is backwards in everyway.

A while back, my beloved bride and I had a relatively minor income tax issue.  They wanted money and we didn't have it.  We filed a late return along with the money owed.  The IRS naturally sent a very polite solicitation for "penalties and interest".  When I spoke with an IRS agent about those penalties and interest, I pointed out that U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-NY, had recently been allowed to pay back taxes on income that he had "forgotten" without being penalized.  I pointed out that Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, had been allowed to pay back taxes without having to pay any additional penalties for his late filings.

I asked to get the same deal that the IRS had offered these fine Americans.  Even though the amount of money we owed was several orders of magnitude less, and even though our filing was far more timely, we were denied equal treatment.

I sympathize with Joe Stack.  I sympathize with his frustration.

The IRS code is published in two volumes with a total of almost 5000 pages.  Those pages contain categorizations of minutea that would cause any insomniac to sleep for a week.  In making the IRS code so complicated, our government essentially compels us to become accountants; gathering receipts, documenting expense, consuming our time with paperwork and filing and all the other trappings of accountery.

How is is that a government that is supposed to do our bidding has become able to dictate that we all become accountants?  Why aren't more people outraged at tail that wags the dog?

How dare they ever dream of making such demands?

I sympathize with Joe Stack.  I sympathize with his frustration.

We are rapidly approaching the point where we will be paying the majority of our income in taxes.  Increasing costs for Social Security and Medicare eat up more and more money each year.  If the current health care proposals become law, we can count on our total debt doubling in record time.  Congress is loathe to close any government office or lay off any government worker.  Private sector workers are expected to suck it up and pony up to cover the ever increasing demands for federal largesse.

I sympathize with Joe Stack.  I sympathize with his frustration.

Right up until the point where he started the engine of his Cessna airplane and flew it into an office building that houses in the IRS in Austin, TX.  At that point we part ways.

There is nothing about the IRS or federal taxation that justifies an attempt on the lives of IRS workers.  There is nothing about the IRS that justifies the destruction of an entire building.

Mr. Stack has not only taken an innocent life, but he has also set back the legitimate cause of protesting confiscatory taxation. There are better ways of dealing with Washington.

Besides, he might have been surprised to find that some of those IRS agents generally agree with those of us when it comes to issues surrounding taxation and tax enforcement.  I know I was.

With any luck, I'll have a little more on this later.  For the moment, I'm playing computer technician for part of my family.

Trust In Science

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Posted on : 2/18/2010 05:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

David Harsanyi has a column where he observes that the tables have turned.  It was formerly the case that those of us skeptical of theories suggesting the climate change was the result of human activities were questioned regarding our commitment to science.  It was alleged that we were uneducated, anti-science and perhaps even anti-intellectual.

With the recent revelations regarding the scientifically unsupported conclusions in the IPCC's 2007 report on climate change.....as well as the discovery of scientific malfeasance at the CRU and other centers of climate study.....we now see that the shoe is on the other foot.

Real science demands transparency.  Yet the people advocating on behalf of human induced climate change hide their data and all of their manipulations of that data.

Real science demands an independent review and verifiable results.  Yet we now know that half a dozen of the most explosive conclusions made by the IPCC were based on non-peer reviewed publications and sources.

In my experience, real science thrives on conflict.  It is only through a process of public vetting, testing, and review that we eventually arrive at theories that accurately describe our world.  Inaccurate theories are of little use to almost everyone except those that promote them.

These people have abandoned science.  We need them to return to science and leave the politics and public policy to the public.

A parallel thought that I've seen expressed elsewhere is that given that all these people considered anthropogenic climate change to be such a crisis, why aren't they relieved to learn that the data doesn't support that conclusion?  You would think that avoiding the dire circumstances they described would bring relief rather than frustration.

This Is Stimulating

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Posted on : 2/18/2010 12:30:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Megan McArdle has a brief piece on administration claims regarding the efficacy of last year's stimulus bill that is worth a read.  Her take on the question of whether or not the stimulus helped?  Sure.  Some.

But nearly as much as the administration is claiming.

I was never a big fan of the stimulus bill for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a recovery in the second half of 2009 without spending a dime of stimulus money.

The second reason is that it seemed that someone had calculated a dollar value to be spent to cause a certain amount of recovery.  After that, the administration and Congress were hell bent to spend that amount of money regardless of what it was actually purchasing.  Some of the things the stimulus purchased....like the spiffy new main road that I use to get to and from my neighborhood....created jobs and resulted in something of value.  Some of the other things the stimulus purchased.....not so much.  They should have spent more time focusing on what was being bought and less time worrying about how much was being spent.  If there were only $300billion in worthwhile projects, then that is all they should have spent.

The third reason for my skepticism over the stimulus is that I don't think a real economic recovery was ever going to be caused by government spending.  I have the good fortune to speak with business owners and managers during the regular course of my employment.  These people almost uniformly say that there is business out there to be done.  They need to hire more people.  They need new equipment.  There is money to be made and they want to make it.

What is keeping them from doing so?

A Congress and an administration that demonizes corporations and denigrates profit.  A Congress and an administration that continue to promote increasing income taxes for those same business owners and managers.  A Congress and an administration that continues to push for health care reforms that these same business owners cannot afford.  A Congress and an administration that continues deficit spending at rates unseen in 70 years.

These business owners and managers know that such spending isn't sustainable.  If it isn't checked soon, then interest rates are going to climb.  Inflation will return.  And as a result, they will lose whatever they have invested to expand their operations.

The government has spent $287 billion of the $787 billion in stimulus money.  The modest good that it has done is well and good.

But if the administration wants to truly set the country back on the course of economic progress and prosperity, then they would be well advised to cancel the unspent funds, forswear tax increases, and get serious about cutting the federal budget until it is balanced.

Automobile Design

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Posted on : 2/18/2010 12:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

One of Megan McArdle's commenters offers some thoughts on automobile design, costs, safety factors, and fuel efficiency.  He points out that engineers do have to live within the laws of physics.

We have experimental data here: the Smart Car.

Here was a car that was large enough for two people, or one person and a fair amount of groceries. It was driveable, if just, at highway speeds.

And it got relatively horrible mileage because physics is physics.

The Honda Fit seats four and has room - even with 4 people in it - for some decent cargo. Yet it gets much better mileage than the Smart, and is generally considered more fun to drive.
 He concludes by observing that eventually all the fun things will be illegal courtesy of Orwellian government.  Of course, making fun things illegal does nothing to ensure that they won't be enjoyed nonetheless.

Walmart Rescues Rural Agriculture?

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Posted on : 2/18/2010 12:15:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I found this piece in The Atlantic regarding Walmart and their attempts to improve the quality of their fresh food offering to be quite interesting.  It seems that they have been making an effort to get fresher food to their customers by using locally grown food. 

The author did a side by side comparison with food from Whole Foods.  He included a number of people that know a thing or two about food.  Suprise!

As I had been in my own kitchen, the tasters were surprised when the results were unblinded at the end of the meal and they learned that in a number of instances they had adamantly preferred Walmart produce. And they weren’t entirely happy.

In an ideal world, people would buy their food directly from the people who grew or caught it, or grow and catch it themselves. But most people can’t do that. If there were a Walmart closer to where I live, I would probably shop there.
I have to confess, I still don't understand the continued demonizing of Walmart and their employees.  From the article:
 The service people I could find (it wasn’t hard) were unfailingly enthusiastic, though I did wonder whether they got let out at night.
These folks work hard...and apparently enthusiastically...for a living.  Is it too much to ask that the media treat Walmart workers with a modicum of respect?  Sam Walton's corporate progeny have provided gainful employment for many people.

In particular, they employed someone from my high school graduating class that continues to live with significant physical disabilities.  In fact, they gave her a transfer to Walmart so that she wouldn't get so cold greeting people at Sam's Club in the winter.

A lady I know left industrial sales to work for Walmart.  She worked her way up to running one of their departments.  It paid the bills and gave her an immense feeling of satisfaction in her work.

Walmart is a lot of things, but the precursor to the coming of Satan is definitely not one of them.  Too bad the major media is so clue resistant.

Read the whole thing as it offers many surprises.

Cleaning Up From The Old Blog

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Posted on : 2/17/2010 09:18:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

One of my last serious entries over at the old blog had to do with the recent news of Canadian Premier Danny Williams coming to the U.S. to have heart surgery.  It went a little something like this:


Over at Glenn Reynolds' place, he's talking about the news that Premier Danny Williams of Canada is visiting the U.S. for the purpose of having heart surgery. One of Glenn's Canadian readers writes:


I’m a Canadian in Australia, and a great fan of your blog.

The premier heading south is not new. The Canadian political elite has long headed to the US for medical services while - with straight faces - extolling the virtues of socialized medicine for everyone else. And US hospitals are always used to back up a system in Canada that can’t meet demand.

It prompts the question: If the US adopts Obamacare, how will the Canadian health care system survive?


Given that the U.S. currently produces a disproportionate number of medical innovations and given that the proposed health care "reforms" currently in Congress will kill those innovations, it isn't just our friends to the north that will suffer if those reforms get passed. It will be the whole world.

One of the more frustrating aspects of watching the health care reform debates is seeing that none of the Democrats and damned few Republicans seem to recognize that a very large part of the health care cost problem is that the rest of the world isn't paying its fair share of the research and development costs of new medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, etc. Profit is a good thing. Sadly, education regarding economics has fallen into disrepute.


Shortly thereafter, the impending Haloscan implosion was announced.  So the doors closed there and opened here.  Unfortunately, the timing was bad as my frequent interlocutor, Ruth, stopped by to leave the following bon mot.


This post looks to me like two different -- and barely connected -- posts. The issue of whether the rest of the world is paying its fair share for our innovations doesn't have a lot to do with a Big Shot in any other country choosing a surgeon in the US. Patients, especially those in the Upper Crust, do sometimes go international to see someone particularly renowned in a delicate procedure.

If that US surgeon to whom the Premier is going is here because he moved his practice to the US from Canada it might say something about the merits of the two systems. Maybe. Did he? I didn't research it that far. But it doesn't say anything about delivery of your basic care in which knowledge and competence, but not rare SuperDoctor skills are needed. Which is most of it.

I'd be a lot more interested in the issue of "fair share" payment for US innovations. When i've said "fair prices!" elsewhere various people have asked who determines what's fair. And how.


I really dislike letting something like that go without a fair response.  And here we go.....

First off, I understand about the "barely connected" thing.  Part of that perception is the result of my taking a few shortcuts.  I assumed things about my readers that I probably shouldn't assume.

Here in Michigan, we are used to news stories about Canadians visiting our fair state to take advantage of the speedy and generally high quality level of care provided south of the border.  Hospitals located within an hour or two the border are known to have included serving Canadians as part of their business plan.  Such is the number of our northerly neighbors making their way south to resolve heath issues.

As Ruth suggested, there are many other reasons why a Canadian might come to the U.S. for medical services.  But the smart money is that they can't get what they want in the time frame they desire.

I assumed that my readers were familiar with those issues.

Good, Fast, Cheap; pick any two.

That is the rule for any good or service.  You can have a crappy product right away for little expense.  You can have an excellent product for little expense, but you will have to wait.   Of course, you can also have an excellent product right away, but it is going to cost an arm and a leg to get it.

Health care is not immune to this dynamic.  After watching and reading stories about Canadian health care, it is my opinion that they have decided to sacrifice speed....and some quality....in order to lower expenses enough that they can offer "universal" coverage to every Canadian.

Canada isn't alone.  Most of Europe has made the same choice with varying results.

Speed is not a simple measurement of service.  It is also the measure of the progress towards new treatments and technologies.

New technology is always expensive.  Consider the PC, flat screen TVs, cell phones, washing machines, refrigerators, or any other modern convenience.  When they were first introduced, it was always the affluent that could afford the latest and greatest products.  Eventually, mass manufacturing, further technological developments, and the experiences of early customers caused the price to drop until almost anyone with a job could afford to acquire some level of technological advancement.

The same holds true for medical technology.  The United States currently leads the world in the area of medical technology.  That isn't because we are such brilliant people.  It isn't because we have any unique natural resources that give us a medical advantage.

We lead the world in the area of medical technology because innovators are largely free to innovate, and health care customers are largely free to purchase those innovations, and those activities are largely governed by the actual costs involved rather than based on an arbitrary value imposed by a government body.

As is the case with any other product or service, early adopters pay more than those that buy in later on.  Some new technologies work better than expected.  Others don't really pan out or are replaced by later developing technology.  That process of figuring out what works and what doesn't is expensive.  And we are paying those development expenses on behalf of the rest of the world.

When countries limit reimbursements based on production costs, they automagically exclude themselves from paying for the cost of developing new medical technologies.  Those countries with a free market for health care are left with the responsibility of paying those R&D costs.

Back to our friend, Canadian Premier Danny Williams, and others like him.  What happens to those people if we enact a health care reform that dramatically slows medical innovation?  What happens to those people in Europe waiting for the next generation drug from some serious condition when research slows to a crawl?  Do they have to suddenly make do with what they have right now?  Do they have to live with months long delays where they formerly had the ability to be treated in a few weeks by traveling to the U.S.?  What happens if that next step in life saving medical technology doesn't take place within their lifetime?

How will the changes that we make today affect future generations?  Is it possible that the march of progress could be slowed to the point where a real cure for cancer might never be found?  How many people will continue to suffer and die as the result of slowing...or halting...the march of progress?

As we continue to consider the options with respect to health care reform, I believe that we have to keep in mind that some reforms will lead to less health care for everyone; now and in the future.  Sensible reforms that expand health insurance coverage are certainly worth pursuing.  Those reforms that hobble the technological engines of medical progress, and thereby cause everyone to have a lower standard of care, are not.

I don't have a quick definition for fair.  And having rambled on for so long, I'm not sure I can come up with a good one.  Here is one attempt at it.

Take the private cost of development, plus a small percent for profit.  Divide that by the number of people that will need the medical widget, pill, treatment, etc. over patent period.  The result is the fair distribution of cost across the people that will make the most of new product, service, etc.

Excluding large number of patients from the above is exceedingly unfair to those that are left footing the bill for the cost of development.  Excluding all patients will result in a dramatic reduction in the amount of money that is spent researching new solutions to old problems.

I'll close by admitting that I was having a bit of fun at Mr. Williams' expense.  More seriously, shouldn't politicians have an obligation to live under the rules as their fellow citizens?

One of the more frustrating aspects of the proposals for a "public option" to provide health care is that only the poor would be subject to it.  Our Congress critters get insurance by purchasing it in the same manner as all other federal employees.  Wouldn't we be better served by enabling individuals and businesses to buy into that federal insurance pool and get coverage that is identical to our Congress critters?  Isn't that a better option than creating an insurance ghetto for ordinary citizens while leaving our public servants with much better coverage?

Were I Canadian, I would be absolutely furious that Mr. Williams exempted himself from the problems that plague their health care system.  As a leader, he had an obligation to accept whatever his country had to offer.

[OK...this really is the end.  I'm terribly disappointed.  I ran the above through MSWord to use the grammar checker.  It said the above was written at the 10th grade level.  I usually do better.  Sigh]

Disrespecting The Presidency

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Posted on : 2/17/2010 12:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I was listening to an NPR program over the weekend.  They were talking about how Mr. Obama and his financial advisors were apparently promoting annuities as good investment vehicles.  The host of the show repeatedly referred to those advisors as being Mr. Obama's "crew".  Or perhaps the correct spelling is "crue".  I have no idea.

In any case, I believe the use of the word "crew" is meant to bring to mind the thoughts of rappers surrounded by their supports and other sycophants.   It is nothing more than another example of how a obsessed the major media is with regards to race.

The correct reference should have been to President Obama and his advisors; perhaps his "team of advisors" or "advisory team".  Anything less is disrespectful of the Presidency and of Mr. Obama personally.

It does remind me of another episode that I blogged about a while back....




Isn't it funny that the one group that is having such a hard time living in the post-racial era is the same group that advocated the advent of that era?

The worst part of all this is that Mr. Obama has [mostly] been a class act on the subject of race.  He has acknowledged his unique position as the first black person to win the Presidency.  At the same time, he has played down race as a factor in his election.  He has recognized that there were a number of factors in play and that racism wasn't even close to being in the lead.  I think his take on that is pretty accurate.

Even though I disagree with a large part of his agenda, I perceive based on his words and his actions that he wants to be "an American President" rather than "the first black American President".  Regardless of any policy disagreements, he is my American President.

But the major media loves conflict and they love Mr. Obama's agenda.  And so the race baiting and mongering continue.

Sucked In By The Olympics

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Posted on : 2/16/2010 07:39:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

After that refreshing burst of activity.....nothing.  Erg.  I blame the Olympics.

After an impressive opening ceremony, and the tragic loss of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia, the games have been most interesting.  As a side note, I wish someone would let Bob Costas know that every moment of silence is not a missed opportunity for his "stellar" commentary.  The most frustrating portion of the opening ceremony was his moment by moment narration/critique.

We watched biathlon over the weekend.  Unfortunately, the cameras stayed fixed almost entirely on the shooting platforms.  It seems that NBC has decided not to invest as much in the lesser known sports.

Snowcross was exciting as well.  Almost as good as some of the speed skating short track events.

And hockey is just getting started.  Canada's woman's hockey team just mauled the Swiss 10 to 1.  If they can figure out how to not pass through traffic, they are going to be tough to beat this year.

Administration

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Posted on : 2/15/2010 07:21:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

Sherwood left me a note via Facebook.  It was impossible to post messages using the format for the comments that I was using.  I changed the comments format and now everything should work just fine.  Feel free to respond.

I also left a comment over at CustomBlogDesigner.com This is one of their free templates. While I like it very much, I thought they should know about this glitch.

A Good Chuckle

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Posted on : 2/15/2010 07:18:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

How much time do you spend Googling your own name?  I don't ego search very often, but when I do it is more than a little frustrating.  You see my name means something else in German.

The word "dann" in German means "then".  So an ego search usually returns a few German sites that include the phrase "dann Todd", which I assume is the phrase "then Todd" that is part of a larger sentence about Todd.  Whoever that is.

Sometimes I get racing results.  I have no idea if feet or wheels are involved.

I sent notices out to the few people that have had my site in their blog roll.  And I noticed over the weekend that Sherwood had updated his site.  Here is how he references my new site:


Give me liberty or give me Todd. On second thought, give me both, since it's a double-d and not in German anyway.


I have the sneaking suspicion that he knows about my particular Googling issue!

As a bonus, there is a double entendre.  I had not known it up until now, but the German word "tod" means "death".  Re-read the above for a bonus chuckle!

Thanks for the chuckle, Sherwood.  And thanks for updating your blogroll.