Monday, August 25, 2008

Rights Trump Life

Tom Brokaw interviewed Nancy Pelosi August 25th 2008.

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

From transcript on MSNBC's website

I don't think I would be wrong to summarize those lines as:
Q: When does life begin?
A: It doesn't matter, It shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose.

I realize that there may be disagreements on when a "human life begins". But I would think that we would respect "that life" at the point at which we believe that it became a human life. If one said, that it becomes a human life at conception, I would expect that they would hold that life sacred from that point forward. If another said that human life begins at birth, I would expect that they would hold that life sacred from that point forward. But what I hear Nancy Pelosi say is that even if we were to come to a consensus on when human life begins, a woman should be able to terminate that life. I believe that crosses the line and that we are not far from justified infanticide as a right.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


When "My Man Mitch" leased out the toll road, I was among the many who didn't particularly like the idea. I'm thinking, "If someone else can make money at it, why can't we?" I'm not all that fond of toll roads. Haven't they recouped the cost of the road by now? I guess "Once a toll road, always a toll road". If anyone knows of a toll road that became a freeway, I'd be interested in hearing it.

It's been awhile since the toll road was leased and I've gotten over it. Then this spring Barb and I took a long weekend and flew out to Phoenix from O'Hare. What was I thinking? Was it really saving me money by driving to Chicago to catch my plane? I need to calculate the cost before I do that again. When we returned, the fares on the Indiana Toll Road had increased by 50%. What previously cost $2 now cost $3. I'm thinking now that it wouldn't take too many trips to recoup the cost of getting an i-Zoom. With the i-Zoom I pay the old rates. The materials though indicated there would be a $1 a month maintenance fee. There went any savings I had hoped to garner. I don't use it that much. Then recently I found out that the fee is waived if you have your account replenished from your checking account. With a trip to Wisconsin coming up, i-Zoom's reduced fare on the toll road and the Zooming through the Illinois tolls became attractive.

We left work that Friday at noon, I dropped off Barb at home and Zoomed over to the i-Zoom Customer Care Center which was a few miles away to get my handy dandy transponder which I would reluctantly attach to my windshield. As I was making the transaction, I heard them say "It will take up to two hours to become active in Indiana, and up to 48 hours in other states." Rats! That meant full tolls heading to Wisconsin and stop and go at the Illinois toll booths. But at least it would be functional when I returned...or so I thought.

On the return trip home I was gleeful as I Zoomed through the special lanes on the Illinois Tollway. I had no idea if it was working or not. Once through Chicago, I had the real test, the Skyway. Here there was a gate that would only lift up if your transponder was working. Bingo! Up it went. I was feeling good. Forty-eight hours and it was working in Illinois. As I approached the Indiana entrance to the toll road I got in the i-Zoom lane following the cars as the gate came down and went up as each car passed through. Finally my turn. I drove up and the gate stared at me. The machine to my left politely told me to "take a ticket". All my previous elation now drained from me. Not only was it more than "two hours" since I obtained my transponder, I wasn't Zooming through the booth. I was beginning to fume. We made an exit at Michigan City to visit the outlet mall. I handed my ticket to the attendant and then handed my transponder to him as well explaining the situation. They attempted to read the transponder to no avail. Full fare in cash please. I fume.

I hope beyond reason that when I return to the toll-road from our interlude at the Lighthouse Mall that my transponder and account would be working. I work with computers. I should know better. You don't keep hitting the submit button if it doesn't work the first time, it won't do any good. I approach the gate and a message appears, "Transponder not read". Well what's up? It knows I have a transponder. It worked fine in Illinois. Why can't it work here? "Take ticket." I'm fuming.

We finally arrive at our exit. Again I hand the ticket and transponder to the attendant. Still no read. Full fare in cash please. Give me a receipt please, I fume.

Monday I contacted the Customer Care Center and told them I was an unhappy customer and explained the situation. The lady on the other end of the phone could see where the transponder had worked between the Skyway and the toll-road west entrance and was perplexed. She said she would ask for an adjustment to my account and have the problem looked into. Saturday Barb used the toll-road and the transponder and the gate are now friends. My account still has not been credited. It's the principal. I guess it's time for another call.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tour de Wisconsin

What was I thinking?
For our 34 anniversary I wanted to go somewhere special. I look at southern Wisconsin revealed a number of rail-to-trail paths. The Elroy-Sparta trail is claimed to be the first of such trails. showed that the trip there would be 5 hours and 44 minutes. I rounded it down to 5 thinking that google was conservative in it's estimation. We didn't get away until 3:15pm Friday and by the time we hit Chicago it was time for the exodus from the city to outlying destinations and we crawled for what seemed to be hours. We finally made the Illinois-Wisconsin border and it was still daylight, but the daylight was dimming. The sun went to bed and we were still driving. Seven hours after our departure we arrived at our destination. Had my calculation been a seven hour drive, I probably wouldn't have planned it. Even at 5 hours 44 minutes, what was I thinking?

Saturday morning we drove from our accommodations in Hillsboro to Elroy. As we hung around waiting for the Trail Shop to open, I noticed all the other bikers were wearing their helmets. I began to feel the peer pressure to wear a helmet and I applied that pressure on Barb who eventually conceded to wear the helmet. I believe that in wearing the helmet we advanced our standing among serious bikers.

What was she thinking?
Finally we were on the Elroy-Sparta trail, a 32 mile trail from Elroy to Sparta. My plans were to bike midway to Wilton (15 miles) and then back to Elroy. Maybe even to Norwalk (21 miles). Round trip to Wilton and back would have been a 30 mile ride. Norwalk would have been 42 miles and the longest ride we would have ever done. The Elroy-Sparta trail had 3 tunnels. Two of them were a quarter mile in length and the third was three quarters of a mile long. Lights were recommended. I had planned to buy some lights but never got around to it. The trip to Wilton went well. We even made it through the first tunnel without lights. Bikers must walk bikes through the tunnels. Inside the tunnel the path was crowned and water dripping from the walls fed streams of water on either side of the path that were designed to take the water out of the tunnel. Barb's odometer turned 1,000 as we approached Wilton we lunched at Pies Are Square. Also a visit to the hardware store enabled me to purchase a flashlight. I now had determined we would go through the second tunnel and then on to Norwalk. Truthfully I had planned to go to the third tunnel (24 miles) and halfway into the tunnel before heading back to Elroy. Sparta was 8 more miles beyond the third tunnel. Barb thought, "What's another 8 miles?" (actually 16 round trip). I conceded thinking that we could do it with a break in Sparta and nourishment from perhaps some ice cream. The trip from the third tunnel to the Sparta end of the trail was all down hill. Unfortunately, the Sparta end of the trail did not end in Sparta, but short of Sparta. We had now biked at least 32 miles, more with the side trip into Wilton. No ice cream. Not even clean drinking water. What was she thinking? We now had an 8 mile climb back to the third tunnel where we would then get a little relief down hill. It was gruelling. Now we had envisioned Wilton where we would be assured of ice cream.

Left for dead
Barb's strength and her desire for ice cream soon put her out of my sight. With a mile left to go to reach the tunnel, I welcomed a small descent under a bridge, but something was amiss. Instead of being able to coast, I actually had to pedal. Something was not right. In the shade of the tunnel I examined my bike. I picked each wheel off the ground and spun it to find out where the drag on it was and to see what I might be able to do to fix it. I knew that I could not bike the remaining 25 miles in this condition. To my amazement, each wheel spun freely. The descent had been an optical illusion. I continued my trek. For all Barb knew, I could have been dead alongside the trail. I then heard her voice call my name. There she was, sitting in the shaded grass near a little hut that sold all the amenities bikers would desire on a long ride. Even ice cream. But our ice cream awaited us yet another 9 miles. We needed the incentive to continue.

We eventually made it to Wilton and enjoyed our ice cream. We were now a mere 15 miles from the end of the trail. Another 6 miles and we were going back through the first tunnel. This time we decided to ride the tunnel instead of walking it. This required my holding the flashlight with my left hand and peddling slowly while trying to light the path. Barb kept beckoning for me to slow down and warned that she thought I was too far left in the tunnel. I made an exclamation of surprise and warning. She took it to mean that I had definitely strayed too far left and was endanger of ending up in the stream. She countered by going to the right. Unfortunately she had been in the center of the trail. By the time she realized she had strayed to far right and attempted to put her right foot down to balance herself, there was nothing there for her foot to keep her upright. She had an encounter with the rough hewn wall and the stream. Her right arm was now almost totally incapacitated due to an injury to her elbow. Fortunately the three miles from the tunnel to Kendall were downhill. In Kendall she was able to clean her injury while I obtained antibiotic cream from the gas station, the only establishment in the town to sell such an item. The remaining 6 miles were unpleasant. But now we have the bragging rights for completing the Elroy-Sparta trail from one end to the other and back. My trip odometer read 69 miles as we approached our car. Never did we intend such a ride. Aside from the injury we suffered no other adverse side effects.