September 30, 2007

As Usual, Congress Screws It Up

Maryland crab processors have been relying on *legal* temporary immigrants to pick steamed crabs and put the meat into plastic tubs for sale at the market. You can't pick crabs by machine, and there aren't enough local citizens willing to do the work for the pay that's offered. So the industry fills the workplace with people working under H2B temporary visas, which allow them to come for the season to work. Now problems with that process are putting those Maryland businesses in jeopardy.

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.

Posted by: Ted at 10:02 AM | category: Politics
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Coming Attractions

Mookie will be posting a review soon of our theater experience last night.

Posted by: Ted at 09:35 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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September 29, 2007

Quickie Movie Review

Mookie and I watched the sequel Ginger Snaps: Unleashed last night (here's the Rocket Jones review of the original movie).

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.

Posted by: Ted at 09:16 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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September 28, 2007

Sweet Dreams

I swear, having a naturally curious mind can be a curse sometimes...

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.

Posted by: Ted at 04:51 PM | category: SciTech
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September 27, 2007

A Higher Form of Stupid

Washington DC is building a new stadium for the Washington Nationals major league baseball team. What was ignored during the planning stages is that there are only 1,300 parking spaces available for the stadium. This isn't a surprise, it was pointed out, but city officials pushed ahead anyways. Part of their reasoning was that people would take Metro. Yay, Metro!

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.

Posted by: Ted at 04:52 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 26, 2007

Mookie and I Go to the Theater

Saturday night, Mookie and I will be attending Synetic Theater's production of "The Fall of the House of Usher". The last time I saw one of their productions, it was "Dracula" (I talked about it here). I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by: Ted at 04:57 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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Before I Go Screw It All Up

The new Rocket Jones is up, all pristine and defaultish and ready for me to move in. Once I give the say so, Pixy will finalize the move and then it'll become the permanent place under this URL. So don't adjust your links, because we're going to do it all for you. We're nice like that. Well, Pixy is.

Posted by: Ted at 04:59 AM | category: Links
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September 25, 2007

All Shapes and Sizes

This week at Joe Horror, I review two, count 'em, TWO vampire hunter flicks.

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.

Posted by: Ted at 03:02 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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September 23, 2007

A Line I Wish I'd Have Written

From "The Curious Education of Epitome Quirkstandard":

"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!

Posted by: Ted at 01:56 PM | category: Square Pegs
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National Novel Writing Month 2007

November is fast approaching, and that means dusting off the ol' inkpot, sharpening your quills and neatening your stack of parchment. Or just clicking [File][New]. Whatever floats yer boat.

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.




The end

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.

Posted by: Ted at 08:20 AM | category: NaNoWriMo2006
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September 22, 2007

Tinkering Before the "Big Move"

Cleaned up the blogroll some. Pruned away some dead or long unread links. Nothing personal, believe me. Also added some long overdue such as my daughter Robyn's blog and Joan's exceptional Primordial Slack. Re-added the Universal Church of Cosmic Certainty, who had been absent for a while but has made a triumphant return. Also, way down at the bottom, I added links to, Come, Let Me Whisper, and a couple other online resources that I frequently use.

Bet you're just thrilled to have read all that, eh?

Posted by: Ted at 05:01 PM | category: Square Pegs
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History and Hockey

You know I'm a hockey fan. You know I'm a fan of history. This story tickles both of those interests.

Courtesy of Off Wing Opinion: The Colored Hockey League.

Plenty of links to follow. Fascinating stuff.

Posted by: Ted at 02:42 PM | category: Balls and Ice
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Aaargh (No, I'm Not Stuck On "Talk Like A Pirate Day")

Last Monday evening I pulled an abdominal muscle. As you can imagine, pretty much everything you do involves your abs to some degree. Walking, breathing, standing, sitting... I've been pretty miserable this week, but since it wouldn't feel better if I stayed at home instead of going to work, I still put in a full week. It's getting better every day, slowly but surely.

Point is, I haven't felt much like blogging this week, hence the light posting.

Posted by: Ted at 07:39 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 21, 2007

Hang On Kiddies, This May Be A Wild Ride

Some of you may have noticed that Rocket Jones got hacked last night by some cyber-jihadist. Chief bit-Wizard Pixy fixed things up in short order, and things are back to as normal as they get around here.

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.

Posted by: Ted at 05:04 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 19, 2007

Aye Matey, 'tis That Time o' Year Again

Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Arggh, pirates and rockets, shiver's me timbers, it does!

Any further bloggin' done today will be done with one o' these.

Posted by: Ted at 05:26 AM | category: Links
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September 17, 2007

New Movie Review

This week at Joe Horror is my review of Gwendoline, the movie version of the classic 1940's comic strip "Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline". Complete with mondo boobage, bondage galore and Tawny Kitaen in the title role! Woot!

Posted by: Ted at 07:36 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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September 16, 2007

How Do You Spell A Self-Satisfied Sound?

So far today, I've installed an underground downspout extender on the corner of the house, set in a small stone patio, filled in some low spots in the yard with topsoil and put new grass seed and fertilizer down to get established before fall comes on.

It's not even noon yet, I've showered and right now breakfast is sounding pretty good.

Posted by: Ted at 11:42 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 15, 2007

Too Good to Not Pass Along

I saw this thanks to Dustbury, from Writer Chick, on the subject of Assclowns:

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.


Posted by: Ted at 06:02 PM | category: Links
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Is There Something About the Northeast That Sucks the Class from Your Soul?

Besides the Yankees, it's a given that they have no class.

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.

Posted by: Ted at 11:32 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Meaningless Factoid That Pleases Me To No End

Rocket Jones is number 5 on Google for "I hate the Denver Broncos" and number 3 on Yahoo for the same.

Posted by: Ted at 07:34 AM | category: Square Pegs
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