Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gun Rights Ruling

By now you have probably heard that the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 decision, struck down the DC law banning hand gun ownership. It's pretty big news and has potential ramifications nationwide - the NRA is already preparing lawsuits in Chicago, San Fran, and elsewhere to challenge gun restrictions based on this ruling.

I have only read the AP report and a few taglines on the blogosphere, so I won't claim any great scholarship or wisdom on this issue. Frankly, it's not an issue that is "close to my heart" although maybe it should be.

That being said, I think it's pretty incredible that my country finds it permissible to illegally spy on its citizens for their "protection" - something that clearly violates the constitution - and yet people are more "up in arms" about their alleged gun rights than their right to privacy, due process, etc. Considering that the vast majority of Americans are more likely to be illegally monitored by the nanny state of George Bush than they are to own a gun, I find that troubling.

Further, I see nothing in the following text that suggests that regulation or restriction of arms is unconstitutional:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Frankly, Scalia et al are just making sh*t up if they think that gun restrictions are unconstitutional. It's pure politics because their is no intelligent argument to suggest that say, an assault rifle ban would infringe on the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms". The only potential argument they have is a slippery slope that doesn't exist.

Now, as challenges to gun laws spread across the country, we face the very real risk that much of the work of the last 30 years to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drunks, and idiots is going to be undone. And I, personally, find myself out of step with the majority once again. I would find it extremely difficult to agree with anyone who thinks that there should not be background checks, waiting periods, registries, and restrictions. And the logical implication of this ruling is that all of those things are "infringements" on the right to bear arms.

This ruling touches on two other factors. One, I think it shows, yet again, why we can't risk employing John McCain or any other Republican in the White House over the next 8 years. The Supreme Court will soon be facing turnover and anyone who values individual freedom, privacy rights, and more would be wise to preference Obama. Because as Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas show, GOP appointees tend to be partisan hacks with an extreme view of America.

The second point relates more generally to the country of my birth. It's a country that I love and will live in again someday soon. But I increasingly find myself out of tune with what the majority of Americans believe, want, or value. All things being equal, the last 8 years have shown that in America, the only common value is economics. Gun rights are supported by a powerful lobby because the gun industry has huge financial resources that they flex to win that support. Wall Street faces troubles for their own gambling speculation and they immediately get bailed out by the Federal Government while individual Americans who either took the same gamble or were duped into thinking they could afford that mortgage are left to suffer. International human rights concerns are only as important as our trading partner (wouldn't want to upset China with any condemnation of Sudan now would we?). Voluntary wars are waged to secure American oil and security interests in a region of the world where we have few friends and many enemies. And so on. America would sell its soul to the Devil for a 1Q profit that exceeded Wall Street expectations.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Defeating a mysterious jungle virus, laziness, and other bits

The last few days I've been quite the sluggard. Those mysterious Colombian viruses are all new to the gringo antibodies that I carry. Fortunately this time around it was milder than the previous time. I suppose that my antibodies are getting better at kicking ass and taking names. Either way, I lost a few days there but I'm back to an adequate level of strength today.

Of course, I'm not in the office. No, that would be too much to ask right? Well, actually, I was going to the office but was stymied by an unexpected protest which completely shut down transit to the southern end of the city. So instead, I'm working at home.

Working at home is normally a great thing except that I have yet to repair my computer. I'm currently running in Safe Mode at the moment which provides minimal functionality. The lack of a reliable computer for the last month partially explains the dearth of posts. Other reasons include: laziness, GRE study, laziness, work obligations, laziness, and laziness. Maybe I shall begin to post more regularly when I get the new hard drive.

Good news for the wife (and me). She got promoted again and as of July 15th will be the Latin American manager for HIV and pain products. It's an excellent step forward for her and for us and likely will smooth our eventual transition to the US. Of course, it's going to mean more travel for her which is generally not so good for me but the flip side is that she'll rack up miles and go to exotic places which means I'll probably be traveling abroad at some point in the relatively near future. Can't complain about that.

Other than those tidbits, things are very much the same here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Computer is fried

And slightly crispy. And HP Colombia won't fix it because it appears to be a hardware problem and they don't fix hardware problems for HP's that were "made in America - China". So, it looks like I have to send it back to the US. Fortunately it is still under warrenty. It appears to be the hard drive which really pisses me off since a hard drive shouldn't fail after 8 months and I'm seriously considering never buying HP again after this experience. Love the tech but it's no good if it breaks down and I hate all the pre-loaded crap that HP saw fit to put on the laptop.

Anyway, it looks like I'll have a surrogate computer for the meantime which will serve. Because I can't live without a computer. That would just be...uncivilized.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Never mind about being free of computer problems...

...It's back in the shop. Who knows what's going on with it.

Anyway, here's a handy link about the "true" John McCain. The womanizer who came back from Vietnam to find his wife disfigured from a horrid car accident, went on a spree of extramarital affairs, before settling in with an extremely wealthy woman 20 years his younger.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The end to computer problems (hopefully)

Those would be my computer problems, not yours. And I finally had it yesterday and broke down and took it to an HP store. Two very helpful and enterprising chaps stated that they were well qualified to fix it but it would be an "unofficial" repair job. I.E. HP doesn't pay them to fix stuff. HP pays them to sell stuff. But they're experts in the HP system and they fix stuff as a way to make extra money. I decided to trust them (they earned some instant cred by diagnosing the problem right away) and although it took about 7 hours to do the job (and about $75), we're back in action.

Anyway, I must apologize to Microsoft for all the hatred that has spewed forth from my soul in anger at Windows Vista. There is no doubt that Vista deserves some of the hatred and criticism leveled, but this time (at least) the problem wasn't Vista. This doesn't excuse Microsoft from releasing a power hogging, unfinished product, but at the least, they don't share the direct blame.

No, the direct blame has to be leveled on me or some other user of my computer (of which there were 2, one of whom is not a likely culprit, the other is) because I had a virus. A truly nasty virus that had infected Norton and was causing the computer to freeze. Once they uninstalled Norton, the freezing problem cleared up right away. I don't know how the virus got on the pc. I know that I didn't install or access any files which were unknown (just Skype, google taskbar, etc) but who knows. Those virus producing bastards are wiley.

At any rate, the virus was only part of the problem. The other part was more serious in some ways. HP has a hard drive partition of about 8 gigs (on this laptop). It's intended to be used for system restore purposes. Well, at some point over the last month, I backed up the hard drive on the partition (as I was automatically directed to do, directions I followed like a lemming) and that caused two problems. One, it backed up the virus. And two, it used up all but 10 megabytes of the partition. These were particularly bad occurences. With the virus backed up, any system restore would just propel the virus back into total infection stage. And, HP's partition is not particularly clever in that to delete a backup, you have to back up the files anew and with only 10 megs of space, that was impossible.

The solution was to completely restart. The techies tried to create windows disks from my hard drive but that proved impossible. The virus worked its way into those files and would have just replicated itself on the new system. So, they reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled windows from untainted discs. Now I have to ensure that my external hard drive is not infected.

In the end, I learned two things. The internets is like a $2 whore and has the diseases to prove it. And two, never, ever use the HP backup feature for anything. Plus, if anyone ever needs some reliable HP guys to fix their computer (and install Office etc gratis) I can hook you up.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Fun in hospitals

I had another fainting incident. That would be the fifth in my lifetime if the count is correct and the first in the last 10 years. Fortunately, there appears to be nothing wrong with me, although we’re still doing tests to be sure. (In fact, the attending doctor said that based on the EKG it was obvious that I have a very strong heart which is the only significant concern. Plus my blood pressure was perfect.)

Anyway, the cardiologist, in addition to showing me several techniques to use when I feel lightheaded, explained that a full 3% of all emergency room visits are for fainting. And of that percent, somewhere around 90% are totally unexplainable incidents (i.e. have no medical diagnosis). I had no idea that Colombia was experiencing a fainting epidemic (and I wonder if the altitude is a relevant factor).

My official diagnosis, as of this moment, is that I have syncope which is a fancy doctor way of saying “tendency to faint for unexplained reasons” (or more officially “temporary loss of consciousness and posture, described as "fainting" or "passing out." It's usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain.”) I know all about this from reading on the Internets and, more usefully, religiously watching Dr. House. The cardiologist was very calm about it all and told me not to worry. Assuming the initial round of tests comes back normal we still may do more (my wife will insist) and if so, I kinda hope they make me do the tilt test so I can see what that’s really like. And, of course, I remain opposed to any and all invasive tests that involve large needles.

Really though, I’m not particularly worried about all this. I’ve been through the basics before and everything turned out fine. But it’s good to do another round of tests just to confirm that I’m healthy as an ox. At any rate, for people with syncope there are two things in particular they need to do. One is to drink plenty of fluids. Sounds good to me. The other is to have a high salt diet. Again, no complaints. The reason for the salt is that most patients with syncope suffer from hypotension (low blood pressure) and I know that a doctor somewhere once told me that I have a tendency for lower than normal blood pressure (although within a safe range). So, next time I go eat a very large piece of perfectly cooked meat, I’m salting it down. Speaking of which…


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