September 30, 2007
Since 1990, the H2B program has allowed foreign workers into the country on a temporary visa that allows them to work in seasonal industries, such as landscaping, fisheries and hotels. For most of those years, the program worked smoothly -- workers were happy to come because they made far more than what they could earn at home, and employers were happy to have them as it became increasingly difficult to find American workers for the jobs.
But the program appeared to be heading for trouble in 2004, when the national cap of 66,000 workers was reached in March. Employers can't apply for the visas any earlier than 120 days before they need their workers. Most seafood processors -- who use the workers to pick the meat from steamed crabs, then put it in small plastic tubs -- got their workers that year, but several other industries that have later starts were shut out.
Then, in 2005, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, which is now under the Department of Homeland Security, announced that the cap had been filled by January 4 -- so early that most of Maryland's seafood processors weren't even allowed to apply yet -- their season runs from about April to Thanksgiving.
The processors went to Capitol Hill, where they had found an ally in U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski. The Maryland Democrat pushed for an expansion to the H2B limits, but the issue kept getting mired in the larger national debate on immigration.
Undeterred, Mikulski led efforts to slip emergency legislation into an unrelated Iraq-spending bill so that workers who had held seasonal jobs in the U.S. in the past, such as most of the Shore's crab pickers, could return to those jobs in 2005 and 2006 regardless of the national cap. Last year, she again got language included in a defense bill to extend the provision one more year.
Now, there are some reasonable arguments against the program (follow that link to see the whole thing), but truthfully, I discount all the grousing by organized labor. Unions care about unions, that's all. The real bottom line is that if the program isn't extended again, several things will happen for sure, and I'm not even going to talk about the H2B workers themselves. First, the packing companies will go out of business, which includes their drivers, warehouse workers, and admin staff. This in turn will impact the local economies, and also affect their suppliers. The price of crab will skyrocket in the stores, which will likely reduce demand, meaning the watermen who depend on Blue Crab fishing will be hurt.
All because Congress cannot get it together enough to extend a federal program that actually works.
September 29, 2007
No spoilers for you, but I will say that it has one of the most infuriating endings I've ever seen, so original that it blindsides you like a truck despite the foreshadowing (clear in hindsight, as it should be).
This one is being added to my personal library. See Ginger Snaps first, and then definitely see this one.
September 28, 2007
Spiders freak me out, as long time readers know. Today while googling around semi-randomly, I learned the following:
Jumping spiders, the largest spider family, with some 5,000 species described so far, have six to eight eyes and unusually good vision. They don't hunt with webs but sneak to within a few centimeters of their quarry and then pounce. It's "very catlike," says Nelson. The strike takes less than 0.04 second. Some of the jumpers specialize in hunting ants or even the dangerous challenge of bagging other spiders.
Notice the word in bold above: Some.
The jumping spider of East Africa doesn't have the mouthparts to get vertebrate blood directly, says Ximena J. Nelson of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. But it often catches female mosquitoes bloated with a recent blood meal.
Now, laboratory tests show that this spider (Evarcha culicivora) actually prefers the engorged mosquitoes to other prey such as midges.
Here's a clue: You and I are vertebrates. These eagle-eyed, cat-quick, eight legged paooki from hell prefer blood!!!!! Our blood!!!!! And as for that "doesn't have the mouthparts..." bit. Does it creep anyone else out that they didn't say "mouth" or "lips" or "teeth"? Spiders have "mouthparts". *shudder* And you know damn well that evolution is working to correct that little deficiency, because with mouthparts that can open our veins directly, they can eliminate the middleman and we'll have even more mosquitoes buzzing around contributing to mankind's collective anemia.
Spiders eat midges. Spiders eat midgets. It's not that far a climb up the ol' evolutionary ladder. Nature is a Mother.
September 27, 2007
Expansion of the nearby Metro station is almost two months behind schedule. Right now, it can barely handle the crowds that pass through it during a normal work day.
As for parking, why, they'd just borrow parking from all the nearby government agencies! Why plan or build when you can use existing, right? Wrong. The local agencies have denied permission to use their parking lots for security reasons. I completely agree with that. I can't think of an easier way to disrupt (for instance) the Department of Transportation than to take a car bomb (or a fake one) and abandoning it in their parking lot under the guise of going to the baseball game.
When Marion Barry was Mayor, we knew for sure that the boss in DC were on drugs. Now we have to rely on anecdotal evidence.
September 26, 2007
September 25, 2007
Go read the Rocket Jones take on Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, and yes indeedy, Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter.
Just all kinds of fangy, cheesy, holy, blood-dripping goodness at the other end of that link.
September 23, 2007
"I'm sorry I'm late," the girl said once more, in a voice that seemed to blend the best parts of honey and heresy together.
The above is from an audiobook I'm listening to, which is very much in the whimsically absurd style of Wodehouse. So far, so great!
Yes, it's almost time for this year's edition of National Novel Writing Month! The purpose: to motivate you to finally get started on that book you've always wanted to write. The goal: 50,000 words. Don't worry about editing or proofreading or revising or the details. Those can come later. In November, just churn out the words to your story. Get the framework in place, you can patch the plaster later. The prize: fawning adulation from millions of fawning, adulating fans. And self-satisfaction for achieving a difficult goal. One of those.
Now in 2005, yours truly wrote "Zombies of Autumn". It remains, alas, three-fourths completed. You can read it on Rocket Jones, even though I've cleverly hidden it behind the sidebar link labeled "Zombies of Autumn".
Last year, I assembled a group of over a dozen people. The idea was to each write one or more pieces that involved, however peripherally, a grand, central, unifying theme. That theme was: Giant Evil Space Robots. All those works would be collected into an anthology and we could whup ass on the 50,000 word goal and all be proud and bask in glory and such.
Ahem. Didn't happen. In fact, our word count was... let me check my notes... ah yes, the total word count was zero. But that's ok, because we had a cool group banner, which I'm going to post here again so that I can provide another link to the artist who so graciously granted permission to use it.
Special thanks to Webster Colcord for permission to use his graphics.
Rambling on, here is the first and only story to emerge from last year's group debacle:
Hercules and the Giant Evil Space Robots
Hercules stood in the hot sun, facing the metallic invader. His muscles rippled as he hefted his bronze shield and tightened his grip on his mighty club.
This year, I don't know if I'm going to go for it again. November is such a lousy month for me. Set right between the end of the fiscal year and the end of the calendar year, it's one of our two crazy-busy times at work.
I have a story in mind, and it's been simmering in my mind for several years. Problem is, I don't have any real details beyond the vaguest partial outline. So I don't know. But that doesn't mean *you* shouldn't go for it! It's your chance to feel superior to me! Go ahead, make me your bitch. Set pen to paper, or electron to whatever electrons set against, and give it a try. Why not? What have you got to lose?
Do it for Hercules.
September 22, 2007
Bet you're just thrilled to have read all that, eh?
Courtesy of Off Wing Opinion: The Colored Hockey League.
Plenty of links to follow. Fascinating stuff.
Point is, I haven't felt much like blogging this week, hence the light posting.
September 21, 2007
I've also given him the go-ahead to migrate Rocket Jones from Movable Type to Minx. Same bat-channel, but the default templates are clean and basic and, well, default. Expect a very different look for a while as I tinker with things under the hood to bring you a new and exciting version of Rocket Jones.
Yep. Dazzle 'em with presentation if the content sucks. It works for Power Point.
September 19, 2007
Arggh, pirates and rockets, shiver's me timbers, it does!
Any further bloggin' done today will be done with one o' these.
September 17, 2007
September 16, 2007
It's not even noon yet, I've showered and right now breakfast is sounding pretty good.
September 15, 2007
Personally, I blame the schools. Back in the day when I was in school, you werenÂ’t taught about sexuality and multiculturism, you were taught math, english, history and economics. You were expected to use your brain and be aware of the fact that there were actually other people in the world, who also had opinions. And said opinions were expected to make sense by using facts and critical thinking. Can you say, debate club? You were expected to actually earn your grades through study, hard work and turning in legible papers, reports and passing tests. You werenÂ’t graded on a curve - you were graded on what you got right and what you got wrong.
Seems like these days you donÂ’t need facts, the ability to think or even a valid argument of any kind. Having an opionion is more than enough. And since weÂ’ve leveled the playing field, we are supposed to be willing to listen to anybody about anything, lest we show our racist, bigoted or intolerant selves. Hey, just because is a convicted serial killer and rapist doesnÂ’t mean he doesnÂ’t have a right to an opinion. Charles Manson is just a grossly misunderstood guy. Suddam wasnÂ’t hurting us, why did we hurt him? That five year old who kissed the little girl in the playground awaits trial for sexual harrassment. If heÂ’s lucky, heÂ’ll get counseling and some mind altering drugs that will set him straight.
First, the Patriots get busted for cheating, to the tune of a half-mil fine for the coach, a quarter-mil for the team itself, and the loss of either a first round or second and third round pick in the next draft. In other words, this wasn't a slap on the wrist. So then Patriots fans throw a huge collective tantrum because life is so unfair and the cheating bastards were nailed for it. No class.
Next up, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen will be undergoing open-heart surgery next week to repair a valve. He's known for years that he would eventually need it, and doctors decided that now is the time. He could conceivably rejoin the team by December. So what does the team do? The oh-so-supportively suspend him without pay. What scumbags. Utterly without class.
At least when I do it, it's cute.
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