Thoughts On A Sunday

Here it is, the last day of 2006. It's come too soon. As Deb reminded me the other day, doesn't it seem that Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago? Time flies by so quickly.

So here is the last Thoughts On A Sunday for 2006 as well. I'll try to make it a halfway decent one to close out the year.

Then again, maybe not.


We actually had some snow yesterday. While the Weather Guys™ said we'd receive a dusting to one inch of snow, we got closer to two inches. I'm not complaining. Really. At least with this amount of snow I didn't have to fire up the trusty Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower in order to clear away what we did get.

With this being an El NiƱo year, one of the more prominent local Weather Guys™ said that we can expect to more than make up for the warmer than normal November and December during January and February. He also said we'll make up for the dearth of snow last winter.

Some of us can't wait!


I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but there are a lot of weight loss program/health club ads running on TV. It must be the post-holiday “I gotta lose weight!” blitz. People have got to take off the weight they've been putting on since Thanksgiving.

So far we've seen multiple ads for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Curves for Women, Bally, Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, the South Beach diet, and quite a few ads for local health clubs. They push started the day after Christmas and the volume has been building the closer we get to New Year's.


The New England Patriots played the last game of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The wet weather didn't help things much for either team, making it difficult for the quarterbacks of both teams to control the ball during passes.

The Pats won this one, 40-23, dashing any hope the Titans had of getting a Wild Card slot.

Now it's off to the playoffs


Bruce of mAss Backwards is making the transition from the Massachusetts way of doing things to the New Hampshire way with little trouble.


And so ends another year of news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where New Year's revelers are ready to party, the State Police are ready to take care of the more inebriated amongst them, and where we will stay right where we are and enjoy the festivities on TV.


Masterful Guitarist

It was while watching ABC's 20/20 last night that they showed a little bit of this clip. I will let the video speak for itself...though I have to say that this guy's playing is awesome!

ABC tracked down this anonymous guitarist in New Zealand, a fellow from South Korea. He has no interest in a recording contract or becoming a professional musician. He just wants to practice on his guitar and finish his studies at college.


New York Times Ad Blitz

The New York Times is trying to repair its reputation with PR, running TV ads that tout the “integrity of their reporting.”

Funny, I thought that what's been getting them in trouble in the first place.

The ad campaign has been running since just after Christmas. I've seen it maybe a half dozen times and it becomes more amusing every time I see it.


Housing Market Blues

Yet further evidence that the housing market in New Hampshire is now in a slump appears in today's Union Leader (Manchester,NH). In a report by Gary Rayno (sorry, no link available...yet), it appears that home selling prices have declined 7 percent as compared to last year.

Statistics from the Northern New England Real Estate Network show the number of home sales down about 11 percent from a year ago, but up about 3 percent from October.

The average selling price has decreased 3 percent in the last month to $291,712 and has dropped 7 percent from a year ago when it was $314,077. Housing is also on the market longer, taking an average of 111 days to sell compared to 85 days a year ago.

This article differs from others I've linked in other posts, particularly when it comes to the average length of time a home is on the market. I've seen figures ranging from 182 days now compared to 134 days a year ago. Both of those figures are highest I've seen reported. Regardless, it is now a buyer's market.

The total volume of sales is down almost 20 percent from a year ago.


[Kathy] Corey Fox [president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors] said today's market is a good opportunity for buyers with interest rates still good. A home is still a good investment, she said, it's just not appreciating as fast as it did several years ago.

Some homeowners have pulled their houses off the market because they can't get what they want for their homes. In some cases they need to get their asking price otherwise they'll be upside down on their mortgages, meaning they'll owe more on their mortgage than the house is worth.

“It's a market that's correcting itself” said Corey Fox, “We were spoiled in 2004 and 2005 with double digit increases, but that's abnormal.”

It didn't help that housing prices increased at many times that of wage increases over the same period, which placed many homes out of the reach of potential homeowners. That hasn't helped the housing market, but it's possible that with the demand falling off and prices coming down that the market will rebound. Those locked out of buying a house in the past may now find it possible to afford a home.

There are a few exceptions in this slow market, however.

Many of the homes for sale in our immediate neighborhood are seasonal homes, meaning the sales demographics are different. Most of the owners of these properties are in no hurry to sell, willing to wait out the market slump. But seasonal/second homes are a small portion of the market and don't have as much influence on the sales figures in the broader market. Also, seasonal homes tend to buck market trends, with sales staying steady regardless of the state of the rest of the market, at least in this area.

No matter how one looks at it, the housing market is in a slump. It is one of those good news/bad news kind of economic news: it's bad for sellers, but good news for buyers.


A Breakthrough In Photovoltaics - Part II

Advances in solar power, specifically photovoltaic technology, come along in dribs and drabs. There are small increases in overall efficiency, with 25% being quite common today. There have been some experimental PV cells that have achieved much higher efficiencies, but the cost of producing them puts them out of the range for use in every day applications. But that may soon change.

As I wrote back in April, the use of nanotechnology might be able to boost efficiencies of photovoltaic cells up to 75%. But they are still in development and not likely to be commercially available any time soon.

But someone else has taken a different approach that has already improved efficiencies to 40%. (Registration required).

A team of engineers at solar cell manufacturer Spectrolab has produced a photovoltaic system with a record-breaking conversion efficiency of 40.7%.

The solar cell, made from gallium arsenide grown on germanium, is said to offer the highest efficiency of any type of solar photovoltaic device yet produced. For comparison, the efficiency of silicon solar cells -- which currently dominate the photovoltaic market -- is typically less than 20%.

The new result is the latest in a series of record-performance cells produced by Spectrolab over the past five years, and was made possible by an improvement in conversion efficiency within the company's metamorphic photovoltaic structures. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has verified the milestone.

The technology doesn't use exotic manufacturing techniques. Instead, these PV cells could be made using existing facilities that already manufacture gallium arsenide semiconductors (photodetectors and low noise microwave transistors and integrated circuits).

If efficiencies and cost per watt can be brought in line, then solar generated electricity will become a more attractive alternative, allowing its use in more places.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind being able to disconnect myself from the grid yet still have plenty of power available when I need it. Even though there are a number of residential solar cell and wind generating solutions out there, they aren't where I want them to be, either efficiency- or cost-wise. These new PV cells are certainly a step in the right direction.


Thoughts On A Sunday

It was a very busy day for this part of the WP clan, with BeezleBub, Deb, and I spending a lot of time on the road attending various functions, most Christmas related. Before all of that I spent some time at the Weekend Pundit Labs, working on the ever present and necessary paperwork needed to see certain projects completed on time.

Thanks goodness today is a day of semi-rest...not that I really got all that much.


I saw a report about this website on the local TV news: a place to vent about bad drivers or to give kudos to good drivers. Rather than letting road rage get the better of you, you can rant about the bad drivers you've seen or had to deal with.

Call me old fashioned because I still prefer the old 'pop-three-rounds-into-their-trunk-to-get-their-attention' method.


Bruce at mAss Backwards is already packing up for his move from the People's Republic of Massachusetts to the Live Free Or Die state of New Hampshire, something he's been working on for quite some time.

Two days and counting.....


I've been an amateur radio operator for 30 years and I thought there was very little that would surprise or please me when it came to rules changes by the FCC. I was wrong.

The FCC has released it's Report & Order doing away with the Morse code requirement for licensing.

While I am definitely an old timer when it comes to one of my favorite hobbies, I've never been one of those “I-had-to-walk-school-through-waist-high-snow-uphill-both-ways-so-you-should-too” types.

The old argument was that having to pass a Morse code test kept the riff-raff out. Unfortunately the so-called riff-raff were just as capable of passing the code test as anyone else, so it was a specious argument.


The New England Patriots played the Huston Texans in Foxboro, beating them 40-7. It's quite a bit different from last week's drubbing by Miami. The last two Pats games will be on the road, against Jacksonville and Tennessee on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, respectively.


Another Democratic Presidential hopeful has pulled the plug on running in 2008.

Senator Evan Bayh (D – IN) announced he would not seek the nomination.


The controversy about the so-called “view tax” here in New Hampshire has risen to new heights, with more and more property owners being hit with large tax increases based upon the fact that their property happens to have a view of lakes or mountains and so on. Many of these properties are working farms, assessed at their development value rather than their current use value, i.e as agricultural land.

The argument goes that if this arbitrary extra valuation continues that many of New Hampshire's values and a way of life will go with it. Only wealthy out-of-staters will be able to afford such homes and properties and many properties that have been in the same hands for generations will be sold off because the owners will no longer be able to afford the onerous and ever less affordable tax increases.


I can safely say that the boating season is truly over, now.

BeezleBub and I performed the last of the pre-storage maintenance on the Official Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Runabout, aka The Boat, erected the storage frame and pulled the storage cover over The Boat and secured it in place.

Other than a few minor tasks to be taken care of, The Boat is put away for the winter.


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where temperatures are still 20 degrees above normal, El Nino will eventually turn on the deep freeze and dump loads of snow, and where preparations for Christmas continue apace.


A Reminder For Republicans

While pondering the situation that Republicans now find themselves, my lovely wife came across something that reminded me about what it was that Republicans used to believe. Specifically, I'm talking about Reagan Republicans, a critter not often seen these days.

I used to be a Republican, but the focus of the party changed in ways I found disturbing and, in some cases, distasteful. Too many Reagan ideas and ideals have fallen by the wayside, to the detriment of us all. I have no idea if the Republican party can find its focus again, become more pragmatic and less ideologically rigid (one of the failings of Neo-cons).

As a reminder, here are a few Reagan words of wit and wisdom, something with which the Republicans should be reacquainted.

“Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

That's one that has been proven with time. After all, the Soviet Union no longer exists. We won. They lost. It's a philosophy that we should keep in mind as we deal with the jihadis/harahabis and all of the other terrorist groups and nations that support them.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

All one needs to do is look how well things went after Katrina to see that this is still true.

“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so.”

I could make this quote the subject of an entire post all by itself.

I cannot count the times I have gotten into something I am reluctant to call a 'discussion' with leftists whose entire argument is the recitation of the same old slogans and half-truths that have been discredited over the decades. It's almost like a form of insanity. They keep mouthing the same platitudes over and over again as if by doing so they can make them come true.

One of the biggest offenders these days has to be John Kerry, followed closely by Al Gore. I've come across so many others at the local level that it has ceased to surprise. What passes for critical thinking these days would have been looked upon as crackpot thinking even 30 years ago.

“Of the four wars of my lifetime none came about because the US was too strong.”

See the quote just before this one. How it is people have come to believe that by weakening ourselves our enemies will leave us alone eludes me. It is so against human nature. By showing weakness in the face of aggression, an individual or a nation only invites even more aggression. If you meet aggression with strength, showing you are more than willing to go toe-to-toe with an enemy, they will back down. It is the nature of bullies to do so. This is something the Left has chosen to ignore and that too many Republicans have forgotten.

“The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.”

No explanation needed here. But it is something that Republicans need to be reminded about. The loony Left doesn't care, despite their assurances to the contrary. They want to roll back the tax breaks for the rich, the 'rich' meaning anyone with a job. It never ceases to amaze me how out of touch they can be with the concept of diminishing returns in regards to taxes, something learned by any student taking Economics 101. But the Republican Congress and its profligate spending over the past 6 years hasn't helped things either. Some progress has been made with pork barrel spending having come under scrutiny, but it is only a start. Members of Congress, regardless of political party, must remember that every dollar spent comes from the pockets of their constituents, dollars that many of those same constituents need far more than Congress does.

So endeth the lesson.


Iranian Insanity?

Kim Priestap has commented upon and quoted/linked a number of articles about the Holocaust deniers conference and Iranian president Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped from the map.

It's easy for someone like Ahmadinejad to say that. It's another to actually pull it off.

Can Iran and its proxies/allies pull something like that off? Maybe, but only if they are willing to risk being wiped off the map in return. After all, Israel has nuclear weapons and has (unofficially) made it known they won't go down alone if it looks like Israel will be destroyed. Iran might win, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory, suffering far more destruction that Israel. It wouldn't be a surprise of Israel also took out Syria and a few other hostile Arab nations, too, should it ever come to that.


New York City - The New Nanny State?

It's bad enough when Michael Bloomberg has been reaching out to mayors in other cities around the US to embrace the oh so successful gun bans that New York has used to drastically reduce violent crime (not!). Now he's making sure that New Yorkers won't eat anything that's bad for them.

First they want your guns. Then it was banning smoking. Now they want your transfat-bearing foods, too.

Will the madness never end? I've heard of the Nanny State, but who'd figure that it would be New York City? Where's the outrage? Where's the “Screw you, buddy!” that only New Yorkers can pull off so well?


Thoughts On A Sunday

The first taste of winter is quickly melting away, with temperatures in the mid to upper 40's, plenty of sunshine, and the possibility of rain later in the week. At least it's cold enough at night for the ski areas in New Hampshire to make snow. A number of them have already opened for the season, though a little bit later than some had planned.

Despite this late start into winter weather, I have a feeling that we'll see a lot more snow this winter as compared to last. At least I hope so.


The New England Patriots played the Miami Dolphins down in Miami. One of our favorite waitresses from the Paugus Diner accompanied members of the local Elks club to the game. As she told the WP Parents “Look for a woman in pink among 156 'horny' men. That'll be me!”

But it sucks that the Patriots didn't bring their 'A' game to Miami. Hell, they didn't even bring their 'B' game. They were shut out for the first time in four seasons by a Miami that isn't all that good this year.

You better believe that Bill Belichick will be giving them one hell of a talking to after the game. It also didn't help that they may have lost yet another offense player in Ben Watson due to injury.

The Patriots can't seem to get a break this season.


The next cycle of the political silly season is already in full swing, with an ever growing number of Presidential wannabes visiting New Hampshire for an ever increasing number of events. As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Senator Barak Obama of Illinois was here to speak to Granite State Democrats in Manchester and Portsmouth. Senator Evan Bayh has also been here, as has Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. Hillary Clinton has visited yet, but I believe that will only be a matter of time.

The number of Republican hopefuls visiting New Hampshire hasn't quite equaled that of the Democrats, but they've still been making the trek. George Pataki, Mitt Romney (who also has a summer place on Lake Winnipesaukee), Rudi Giuliani, and Senator John McCain have all made visits over the past month to support the state Republican party and to 'press the flesh' with possible future supporters.

The New Hampshire Primary is still just over a year away but already the candidate field is starting to fill.

It's going to be interesting around here for the next year or so. It looks like it will soon be time to resurrect the ever more obscure Paugus Diner Poll©.


It was while Deb was preparing her wonderful lasagna for tonight's repast with Submarine Tim, his boss, Dawn, and their two boys that the subject of kitchens, and particularly stoves, came to mind.

I have always liked gas stoves, particularly their fine and instant heat control. Deb prefers the glass topped electric stoves, particularly for the ease of clean up after cooking. It was with the subject of gas stoves in my thoughts that I came across an article about stoves in the local Sunday paper. The article talks about how many kitchens today have stoves that are too much for the intended use. Some folks look more at the aesthetics rather than how it is they actually will use it.

It's the norm for top-shelf kitchens to feature the biggest and baddest of mega-BTU (British thermal unit) behemoths. Often the stoves are commercial-grade gas models with enough combustion to prepare presidential banquets. But it's like igniting a blast furnace to brown a grilled-cheese sandwich.

How many of you out there have watched ABC's Extreme Makeover – Home Edition? How many times have we seen the kitchens in these new homes include top of the line commercial grade gas stoves? Far too many. People remodeling their kitchens also make the same mistake – too much stove.

It also doesn't help that gas stoves are less efficient than electric or induction stoves.


If you think that you'll never have enough storage on your computer, think again. 3-D optical storage will allow unheard of data densities, the equivalent of storing 500 movies on a single disk.

Not bad.

(H/T Dean's World)


And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter is trying to make its way here, firewood stacks are large, and where every (relatively) warm day is seen as one less day we have to run the furnace.

Housing Market Now Belongs To Buyers

If there was any doubt that the housing market has cooled considerably, one of the latest reports from the AP shows that it has changed from a seller's to a buyer's market, particularly here in New England.

Hardest hit in New Hampshire were condo sales, down 19 percent as compared to a year ago. In general prices for residential properties have declined between 1% and 3% compared to this time last year.

Surprisingly, contracts for residential construction were up almost 17% in southern New Hampshire as compared to last year. It is the sale of existing homes that appears to have taken the biggest hit. In any case, what was once a hot seller's market has flipped over to a buyers market, helping potential homeowners wield more control over how far their housing dollars will go.

As I've mentioned in the past, many homes for sale in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire have been price reduced in an effort to sell them. Some of those homes have been on the market for well over six months. The only part of the market that has not seen such reductions has been vacation properties. Quite often the owners of such homes can afford to wait out the real estate slump.

One downside to the fall off in homes sales has been the revenue the state collects in real estate transfer fees. One report pegs the shortfall in New Hampshire at 13 percent as compared to last year and 21 percent below the state's budget projections.

The rest of New England has also taken a beating in the housing market, though Connecticut and Vermont are expected to see housing prices rise above the national average through 2010. Massachusetts housing prices are expected to fall 1.8%. The demand for construction permits throughout New England are also expected to fall off over the next 4 years, despite the spike in demand seen in southern New Hampshire.

If you've been waiting to buy a home but were scared off by the ever increasing prices then, now may be the time you've been waiting for. Buyers are now in control of the housing market and that's always good for those looking for a bargain.

Obama Visits New Hampshire

Senator Barak Obama (D – IL) makes his first visit to New Hampshire today. While he has not said that he will run for the Democratic nomination for President, he's certainly making moves as if he is a contender.

The popular freshman Senator will be speaking in Manchester today to the state's Democrats.

Should Obama decide to run, it is expected to weaken Senator Hillary Clinton's (D- NY) bid for the White House. Though neither Obama or Clinton have said they will run in the 2008 race, many political insiders say the chances are better than even that one or both will declare soon.

In this blogger's opinion, Obama's chances for the 2008 nomination may not be as strong as many think, particularly with the front-loaded primary/caucus schedule. Unless he can raise a large amount of funds for a campaign, he will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to Hillary Clinton due to her large campaign fund. The front-loaded schedule gives any underfunded candidate a huge disadvantage because retail face-to-face campaigning will be impossible due to the tight schedule. Such campaigning has always helped candidates that may have been at a financial disadvantage, giving them more face recognition and a chance to let the voters know where they stand on the issues of the day. With campaigning being reduced to sound bites and ad blitzes, the candidate with the most money will be the one the voters will hear from. The other candidates will be drowned out, even if they have a better message and better ideas.


Mow The Grass For Energy

In the past I have been a skeptic when it comes to some of the alternative energy schemes, but developments have erased some of that skepticism over time.

One of the more promising alternative fuels has been ethanol, which can be produced through a number of means. Brazil uses its abundant supply of sugar cane and has weaned itself entirely of foreign oil. I believe it's time that the US does likewise.

While the US has been moving towards the use of more and more ethanol, I believe we've taken a wrong turn when it comes to the types of plants being used to produce it. It's been mostly corn and soybeans that have been processed into ethanol, both crops which are also used as food. Both also require a considerable amount of energy to grow and process. But there's a lot of money to be made growing corn and soybeans for energy, a lot of government money, meaning our money. Uncle Sam subsidizes a lot of the biomass fuel business, something that in the long run will cause the biomass business down the wrong road. Instead, farmers wishing to cash in on the ethanol bandwagon should be growing switchgrass and other related prairie grasses.

The advantages of switchgrass are numerous, including much higher yields of ethanol in terms of gallons per acre, lower growing costs (no need to plant seed or fertilize year after year), and lower processing costs.

Grass can be turned into a liquid fuel or burned in a power plant to make electricity. But it's an expensive process. Corn is the biofuel of choice instead. But ecologist David Tilman at the University of Minnesota says he's found a way to make prairie grasses more attractive than corn.

"We actually get more energy from an acre of land growing prairie grasses [and] mixtures of prairie grasses and converting them into ethanol or into synthetic gas and diesel than you would by growing corn and soybeans and converting them into ethanol or biodiesel," he says.

Tilman's team grew plots mixing 16 types of prairie grasses, including lupine, turkey foot, blazing star, and prairie clover. The plots with the most varieties produced the most biomass and produced more potential energy than corn and soybeans.

Like all plants, grasses capture and use carbon dioxide from the air. When a plant or a plant-fuel is burned, the CO2 goes back into the air. That's not good if you're worried about climate change.

But Tilman's prairie grasses bury much of that CO2 in the soil and in their deep, permanent roots. So a good deal of the CO2 stays in the ground after the harvest.

So here we have a type of grass that sequesters carbon dioxide, cycles the CO2 in and out of the atmosphere, grows naturally without the need for annual tilling the soil or planting seed, needs no fertilizer or pesticides, and can yield more ethanol per acre than either corn or soy.

These guys may be on to something.


Not A Suicide Pact

How many times have we heard, in one form or another, that the U.S. Constitution is not a suicide pact? Now let us add the voice of Newt Gingrich, explaining why the First Amendment is not a license to commit murder, acts of terror, or treason.

The fact is not all speech is permitted under the Constitution. The 1st Amendment does not protect lewd and libelous speech, and it should not -- and cannot in 2006 -- be used as a shield for murderers.

Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy put it best: "With an enemy committed to terrorism, the advocacy of terrorism -- the threats, the words -- are not mere dogma, or even calls to 'action.' They are themselves weapons -- weapons of incitement and intimidation, often as effective in achieving their ends as would be firearms and explosives brandished openly."

We need a serious dialogue -- not knee-jerk hysteria -- about the 1st Amendment, what it protects and what it should not protect.

It's about time that those believing that the First Amendment allows all kinds of speech wake up, study a little history and law, and figure out that not all speech is protected speech. There are plenty of laws on the books that have passed constitutional muster, such as those that make it illegal to incite a riot through one's actions or one's speech. Folks out there must realize that one's words can have consequences and that the First Amendment doesn't absolve them from being held accountable for them.


WalMart Blows A Big One

While I am a fan of WalMart, I find I must take issue with the retail giant in one area – online shopping.

While the missus and I have both used WalMart.com to purchase a number of items over the past few months, it looks like the company dropped the ball when it came to Black Friday and Cyber Saturday. WalMart's IT folks grossly underestimated the load caused by online shoppers. This, after a major upgrade of their systems. I'm not the only one that noticed. Information Week's Rob Preston had these words about WalMart's stumble.

You could forgive Average Joe Retailer for abiding by that industry-standard practice. But Wal-Mart--by virtue of its size, profile, and reputation for IT excellence--must far exceed industry standards. While the sites of Macy's, Zappos, and Foot Locker also performed poorly during the post-Thanksgiving rush, they aren't in Wal-Mart's league.

Wal-Mart made a name for itself by using information technology not only to run a more efficient operation, but also to anticipate customer buying patterns and demand. Yet with its vast business intelligence gathering, and after promoting the Walmart.com relaunch and various product specials to the hilt, it had no way of knowing that customers would trample its Web infrastructure? It's one thing to run out of T.M.X. Elmo or Tap Dancing Mumble; it's another to hang a "closed for business" sign on a critical sales channel on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, especially when your overall sales already were on pace to be disappointingly flat for the month.

Wal-Mart's Black Friday debacle smacks of the rampant site outages and slowdowns circa 2000. Remember how eBay, Victoria's Secret, Ellis Island, and scores of other sites folded under a crush of unanticipated traffic?

C'mon, guys! It's time to get it right. This isn't something that a business with the kind of money that WalMart has to have its web portal fold like a cheap suitcase in the rain. If they can't get it squared away soon then it will be time to fire some people and get someone in there that can get one of the greatest retailing opportunities up and running like it should be.


Thoughts On A Sunday

BeezleBub and I met up with Submarine Tim today and headed down to the WP In-Laws to pick up a load of firewood. We used Tim's restored 1952 GMC M-135 deuce-and-a-half (in Navy Seabee colors) to move the wood between the In-Laws' place and The Manse in one trip.

BeezleBub was in heaven, using his video camera to shoot our experience with the deuce-and-a-half, affectionately named Clifford. He likes big machinery, as does his grandfather.

We made it back to the Manse by 6PM, but it was too dark to do more than park the deuce-and-a-half and take Submarine Tim back home to his missus.


It looks like our bit of unseasonably warm weather has run its course. After the heavy rains on Friday night the temps have dropped over 20 degrees from the 60's we experienced last week. The Weather Guys™ have forecast much colder and windier conditions starting Monday, with a touch of snow to the south.

It looks like we timed our trip for firewood just right.


With the turn in the weather, thoughts have turned towards the upcoming Christmas holiday. Goodness knows it's been on BeezleBub's mind. Starting on Friday he pulled out the Christmas decorations and started setting up his snowy village, our manger scene, the artificial Christmas tree, and all of the lights and decorations that go with it.

I don't know about you, but it seems a little early to me.

As I recall, when we were growing up we never started decorating until a week before Christmas. But then again, artificial trees weren't very common, meaning we used real trees. Real trees dried out over a period of two weeks, so it wasn't practical to set one up the first weekend of December and expect it to last until New Year's.

Then again, maybe it's just me being old fashioned.


The Patriots beat the Detroit Lions, but at the cost of having Mike Vrabel carted off the field. As far as I'm concerned it wasn't a good trade off.


One of the more pleasant side effects of Submarine Tim's help today was being able to avail ourselves of a bowl of delicious bear stew made by his boss, Dawn. It's been a while since I had any of Dawn's bear stew, but it was a delicious as the last time I was fortunate enough to have some.

Mmmm. Bear stew.....


And that's the truncated version of the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter is finally closing in, ski resorts are starting to make snow, and where The Manse has a enough fire wood to last the next few months...we hope.


Some Democrats Displeased With DNC

You know it's getting bad when even staunch Democrats are criticizing the DNC for its decisions in regards to the upcoming 2008 Presidential Primary schedule.

Changes in the process made by the DNC has forced more front loading of the primary schedule, which in turn will seriously cripple that process by giving an even bigger advantage to the wealthier, more well financed candidates.

"If the DNC had any real courage, if (DNC Chairman) Howard Dean really wanted to solve the problem, he would stand up to Michigan, he would stand up to California, he would stand up to Florida and say, 'No, you've got to go further back in the process so that all states are important,'" [New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy] Sullivan said. "He hasn't done that, the DNC hasn't done that. Frankly, I'm a little bit fed up with the DNC at this point and how they've addressed this."

Incentives offered by the DNC to larger states in an effort to get the larger states to push back their primaries may not work, according to New Hampshire State Republicans.

"We had a rule like that in the (Republican National Committee) maybe three cycles ago," New Hampshire RNC committee member Tom Rath said. "Everybody said, 'We don't need the delegates. What we want is to participate in a meaningful way in the process.'"

I'm not sure how the DNC will be able to promote something that has been proven not to work, unless somehow they've taken up an attitude of “Just because they couldn't make it work doesn't mean that we can't.” They are intent on proving the saying “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting the results to be different this time.”

It seems that far too often the DNC chooses to overlook a major factor when making some of their policies, that factor being human nature. (I'm not saying the RNC doesn't do that, too. But they aren't doing it this time.) The various states will do what is to their advantage, regardless of the incentives to do otherwise.

Unless the DNC decides to step up and tell the larger states 'Back off!', the primary schedule will become skewed and there will be a huge gap between the last primary and the party convention. That rarely works well under any circumstances. All one needs to do is look at the 2004 campaign as an example – John Kerry ended up with the nomination when he was the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have chosen. Kerry's advantage was the large campaign war chest he had, much of it his wife's money. He bought his way into the nomination, something made possible by the front loaded primary schedule. Better candidates were crushed by his financial superiority. That's no way to choose a possible president.


A Christmas Story

Political correctness has gone too damn far.

Since when does Christmas have nothing to do with Christ? When the local Chamber of Commerce says so.

The Chamber of Commerce in Hillsborough, NH decided that a Bible reading about the birth of Christ during the annual Old Fashioned Christmas was too much, turning a non-sectarian celebration of Christmas into a religious event.

Come again?

I could have sworn that Christmas was supposed to be about the birth of Christ. After all, it is called Christ-mas. It isn't Non-Sectarian-Celebration-Of-Yet-Another-Winter-Retail-Season-mas, is it?

The hew and cry raised by those hearing the story flooded the Chamber of Commerce with angry phone calls and e-mails. The outpouring of support for the local minister wishing to read the appropriate Bible passages about Christ's birth and the bad publicity garnered by the Chamber's unthinking action have caused the Chamber of Commerce to reverse its decision. The Bible reading will be allowed.

For once, the forces of ever more ridiculous Political Correctness have been shown the door and the will of those who actually remember the meaning of Christmas have prevailed.

Merry Christmas!