Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Unexpected Shotgun Marriage-for-Life to an Evil Corporate Strumpet Named Sallie Mae

Second updated 1:11AM 5/30/2014: Noting the removal of content (two paragraphs) - see below.

Updated 7:05PM 2/28/2013: See below for more info.

Today (or rather, Wednesday/yesterday) I received a major shock that is probably going to send my life on a much more difficult and turbulent path: My massive student loan debt that has been with the Direct Loan program of the U.S. Department of Education (in the form of two giant consolidated loans that contain all the loans I ever took out through my undergraduate and multiple graduate degrees) has been abruptly and with no notice given to the Sallie Mae she-devil to "service" until the end of time, or rather, until I'm dead.

All $236,000+ was abruptly transferred over and my balance was $0.02 to Sallie Mae, to which I am now eternally indebted.

Sallie Mae.

The Not-So-Mystery Whore of American Corporate Oligarchical and Rentier Class Babylon.

Sallie Mae.

The She-Devil by which millions of young Americans become indentured servants to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for the "privilege" of taking part in the giant scam that is higher education at the basic undergraduate level (as though it was some rare and great thing RATHER THAN what it is -- a simple and necessary extension of high school).

At first, I thought the e-mail was spam / phishing scam of some sort, if only because the internet is a disgusting and diseased sewer of scams, sexual pornography, endless frickin' Chinese espionage, and corporate oligarchical greed enforced by the likes of Carmen Ortiz (talk about Mystery Babylon) and her ugly ilk of corporate legal henchmen.

But, nope, it turns out it is real ...

As I found in this article on ProPublica from April 23, 2012: Student Loan Borrowers Dazed and Confused by Servicer Shuffle (link embedded in title).

Here is the key point:

"The switch, which has been going on for months and will ultimately include millions of loans, is mandated by a little-known provision tucked into the 2010 health care overhaul. Pushed by a consortium of nonprofit student loan companies, the provision forces the DOE to use nonprofit loan servicers. But at least in the short run, the switch has caused problems."

In my case, I was "randomly" assigned to Sallie Mae.

One of the "One Love" signs made out of the "One Way" signs -- this one at T and 16th Streets NW, Washington, D.C., 11:25PM Feb. 26, 2013 that I saw walking home from No. 9 (see below). Apparently, someone is putting these up all over the city. Alas, this is more in the style of BORF than Cool "Disco" Dan to me.


I called up both the Direct Loan number AND Sallie Mae and was told the same thing: All the rules will be the same including -- it was implied -- forbearances, deferments, and sundry payment plans such as income contingent ones. But this strains credulity that these Federal loans will be properly and consistently serviced by a farrago of ostensibly "non-profit" loan service companies including some weird appendage of Sallie Mae.

In turn, this means I am forever unwillingly wedded to the hydra of Sallie Mae in a horrible and abusive marriage. And of course, as the years roll by, I've no idea how many more companies will "service" the loan.

As it is, my most immediate concern is whether I'll be able to take out another general forbearance in May or (in a worst case scenario) a payment of no more than $571 per month (based on an ICR IBR plan calculator for my AGI).

If it turns out it is in the $1200 per month range, then it just makes sense for me to default and let it play out.

There are many things I still don't know -- Sallie Mae hasn't yet contacted me.

But this may very well ruin my life.

It turns out that Obamacare really had death panels, just not the sort I thought.

Yes, I realize there are many Americans of the moralistic and self-righteous but ultimately incredibly foolish sort -- useful idiots for the forces of corporate oligarchy -- that will wax indignant about the need for me to pay off all of this crushing and pointless debt REGARDLESS the difficulty, duration, or daunting quality of it.

Of course, these people are mostly dolts who are barely above lumpen-proletariat status themselves, wholly unaware that they are tools of the rentier class for which "paying debts" is something reserved for the very little people.

** Updated 1:11AM 5/30/2014: Content removed **

Updated 7:05PM 2/28/2013: OK, I now have a sh!t-ton more info including the particular law that allowed for this new servicing arrangement (HR 3221 as wrapped up into HR 4872, so not the PPACA/"Obamacare" (HR 3590) directly, and all passed in the 111th Congress) that makes me realize it isn't nearly as dire as a I thought AND that I apparently still have a considerable amount of time remaining on the 3-year limit of general forbearances, according to the info remaining on the Direct Loan computer system. This info should soon be with Sallie Mae and I can deal with it then. Oh, and I do qualify for the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan, which based on my current particulars works out to about $590 per month when I do go into repayment. So as of now, that's what it seems to be.


Speaking of Chris's I know, I saw Chris T. last night. He was in D.C., briefly, for some corporate legal whoring event (he would wholeheartedly concur with that assessment). We met for about 90 minutes at No. 9. However, I am going to refrain from discussing this or my other planned topics.

Just as teasers, topics include:

*The ECMWF ("Euro") model showing a possible major East Coast storm next week that could possibly bring snow here.

The 12Z 2/27/2013 Euro four-panel valid on 3/7/2013 at 12Z. Sterling even has at present a 30pop for snow on Tuesday night and Wednesday for D.C. As Gary said, this is a huge nod to the accuracy of the Euro models. The forecasters would NEVER do that if the GFS showed it at Day 8 (even if in three consecutive runs).

Updated 7:05PM 2/28/2013: It now looks like a "strong low" will easily bypass the mid-Atlantic region to the south, so the threat / promise of a late season heavy snowfall is pretty much off.


*Discovery of Bryan Wright's new and wonderful website with its Big Band / jazz / ragtime-themed podcasts. I also had an email exchange with him. He is the fellow I saw in June 2011 in Rockhill Furnace, Pa., with Gary.

*Refinement of what I wrote in an earlier entry and would like to rename my Grand Unified Theory of Beltway Centrist Pundits and Neo-Confederate Radicals in Congress Who Together Are Responsible for Our Current National Political Dysfunction. As before, it is based on the collective writings of Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, and Michael Lind.

OK, that's all for now. I will probably not update this blog until Friday (although I may be doing a Friday evening happy hour that may nix my weekly Friday Night Musical Interlude).


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Escarpe-Diem: Fronts, Ridges, Knobs, and Other Delights of the Alleghanian Orogeny Zone

A sweeping vista from the top of Blue Knob looking eastward across Pavia Township, Pa., and east toward the Allegheny Front escarpment (right side) as seen in January 2007. Source of image here.


I brought the computer home tonight, so I guess I should post a (very) brief entry.

A (welcome) rainy spell is forecasted for tomorrow afternoon into early Wednesday. There is actually a flood watch up for the Baltimore / Washington area, although Sterling LWX seems to have already lowered by a tad the "1 to 2 inches" that was forecasted earlier this evening for the event.

Sterling (LWX) CWA advisories in effect as of 12:24AM Feb. 26, 2013.


Well west of here, there are winter weather advisories, winter storm warnings, and even ice storm warnings well west of D.C. from the Potomac highlands to the Allegheny Front. Here in D.C., it will be just rain.

As it is, there really is no longer any chance of snow / wintry precipitation in the immediate D.C. area this season, so 1.5" at KDCA will be the final pathetic seasonal total or -12.2" from the current (1981 - 2010) 30-year average of 13.7" (the overall seasonal total is 15.4" so if we stay at 1.5", the departure will be -13.9").

A spring east-looking view from the Allegheny Front (possibly on the Pennsylvania side) on a tender spring day in May 2005. Source of image here.


The Allegheny Front is an escarpment (I love that word) that runs from Pennsylvania into Maryland. In Maryland, it is in Allegany County. Yes, the spelling is different, i.e., "Allegany" versus "Allegheny." The Allegheny Front is the front edge (escarpment) of the Allegheny Mountains and it includes Dans Mountain, one of the many extended ridges running more or less north-south for many miles (though with an overall NE-SW arc). Here is a list of mountains that are in the Alleghenies.

The Allegheny Mountains contain the startlingly and controversially named Negro Mountain* and efforts in MD and PA to change the name regularly fail.

 *Negro Mountain is a 30-mile long ridge running from Garrett Co., Md., into Somerset Co., Pa. Furthermore, the highest point on it is Mount Davis -- the highest mountain in Pennsylvania (3,213' elevation).

And a second east-looking view from the Allegheny Front in southern Pennsylvania again on a lovely spring day in May 2005; image source same as above.


I had a decent gym workout tonight at the YMCA and also went swimming. I also had a helpful conversation with my personal trainer, who reappeared after a two week disappearance because of a flu followed by a nasty stomach virus. (I had though my time working with him was over.) At this point, it's all confusing because he really isn't charging me anything for meeting twice a week, and I don't know what to do. In addition, the amount I've been giving him -- $200 per month -- is far too low for a service like that, yet I can't keep giving even this amount because between the payroll tax increase of about $50 per check and my upcoming rent increase of $60 per month, that's a loss of $160 per month. (I reailze M. WADE Tipamillyun and his D.C. gay bar Brahmin caste make that before 8PM on a Friday night.)

It's all confusing and vexing.

The view from atop Spruce Knob, the highest spot (at 4,863') in West Virginia and the highest peak in the Alleghenies, taken in Oct. 2006. Spruce Knob is the highest spot on Spruce Mountain, which is yet another extended ridge that make up the range. Image source here.


Anyway, that's all for now. I'm watching reruns of The Golden Girls on Hallmark. I'm going to bed now. My next blog update probably will not be until Thursday. Oh, yes, my new bedding is quite comfortable and nice.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Proceedings of a February Weekend, Photo Recap-Style, and My DC Dusty Grotto Bedding Upgrade

A corridor in one of the buildings in the 1500 block of P Street NW, Washington, D.C., 12:26AM February 23, 2013.


The first group of pictures in this entry were taken on Friday night, or rather shortly after midnight on Saturday as I was walking to No. 9 from Dupont Circle, where I had spent about 90 minutes with my new friend Nick.

Drizzly night at Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C., 12:21AM February 23, 2013.

There was lingering drizzle into the wee hours of Saturday but the precip. didn't amount to much (and our chances of ANY appreciable snowfall this winter in D.C. are just about over).


Nick is just 24 years old -- but quite accomplished professionally (a lawyer for now two different Federal agencies) even as he retains a kind of innocent earnestness about him. We met around 1045PM at the Front Page -- which on weekend nights on the 19th Street side has turned into a raucous straight bar / dance club -- and had a beer and shot each. The place was crowded with a young, straight, D.C. multi-racial crowd including a drunk young woman on her bachlorette party (complete with bridal veil) dancing wildly on a small dance floor, a crazed look on her face. 

A Metrobus tears along Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C., 12:21AM February 23, 2013.


Nick and I were going to go to Big Hunt but instead went to James Hoban (where Jamie used to work) and had some drinks at the back bar. We had a fun conversation and I got to be the 40-something guy who could impart (a bit of) wisdom and experience. (I guess I feel sorta protective of him at those times, though he hardly needs that).

Drizzly night at the corner of 16th and P Streets NW, Washington, D.C., 12:31AM February 23, 2013.


Alas, the night with Nick didn't last too long as he was a bit far gone liquor-wise and had to leave (before falling asleep) and he took a cab home. (It was early enough that he could find a taxi easily and didn't have to use that Uber application.) This was around 12:15AM, and so I walked over to No. 9 and my weekend late night gay bar universe, transforming from 40-something borderline distinguished to 40-something gay old bar troll.

Silhouetted tree trunk on a drizzly and chilly (but not really cold) night in the 1500 block of P Street NW, Washington, D.C., 12:26AM February 23, 2013.


After No. 9, I took a cab to Nellie's, where I had two more drinks and the night sort of ended in its usual haziness. I recall walking home down U Street, which was in its usual weekend wee hours sh!t show mode. The picture directly below was taken on the talk.

Ben's Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C., in the wee hours of Saturday morning, 2:30AM February 23, 2013.

Ben's -- where I've only gone once -- is located about three blocks from where I live.


On Saturday night, I went to a dinner party at Gloria's new condo on Rhode Island Avenue NW by Logan Circle. Gary, Kristof, and Dilshan were also there.

The dinner party, Washington, D.C., 12:43AM February 24, 2013.


Music Choice 80s Channel as a Blondie song ("Call Me") was played.


We had a big roast and vegetables and a lot of white wine, except Kristof, who also had Corona beers.

Yours truly hitting the bottle at the dinner party, Washington, D.C., 1:11AM February 24, 2013.


The dinner party wrapped up around quarter to one in the morning, and the four of left at the same time.

Here we all are in the freight elevator (yes, I was sitting on the elevator's weird tiled floor) at 1441 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 12:18AM February 24, 2013.


Another elevator view.


For the remaining pictures in this entry, I am going to intersperse the content of a few pieces I think worth reading ...

Alex Pareene wrote on the content of this weekend's unwatchable and worthless Sunday talk shows (to wit, Meet the Whore, Face the Whore, and This Whore) that remain -- as Pareene himself said here -- the principle way by which far too many Americans get their information ("it's still the case that a significant portion of the American people are learning the contours of the great public debates of our time from David Gregory interviewing Lindsey Graham").

The wee hours of Nellie's, Washington, D.C., 2:26AM February 24, 2013. (Yes, I went to Nellie's a second night in a row.)


And here is Paul Krugman in his New York Times op-ed column today (2/25/2013): Austerity, Italian-Style.

I just thought this pink package on the secretary's desk was pretty.


Krugman makes the case that the turn in Italian politics to comical, unprepared, and fringe candidates in the upcoming elections is a symptom of the vicious austerity that has been imposed upon these countries basically at the behest of German bankers through the Euorpean Commission, and to expect a further radicalization of national politics in EU member countries. He also argues -- as he so frequently does on his blog, most recently here, here, and here -- that the austerity is utterly self-defeating (as in debt-to-GDP ratios that are not improving owing to ongoing economic contraction) but ultimately the refusal of political elites to admit any error on their part, if only for career reasons. That is also the case of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The DOE cafeteria, Washington, D.C., 2:35PM February 22, 2013.


Speaking of austerity, in what is the stupidest of the now-monthly GOP manufactured crises, the sequestration bomb is set to go off on March 1st with severe effects. (I'm unsure whether or how it will affect me personally at my job.) Rightwing neo-Confederate radicals are thrilled because it means more nullification of everything good. (I'm unsure about the corporate oligarchs, since in this case, massive austerity on the military/industrial side could hurt their interests.) Meanwhile, the Beltway Professional Centrist crowd yammers on endlessly for Obama to show "leadership" -- this is media whorespeak for "Obama caving to the GOP crazies on everything."

Yours truly and Flippo, late at night, Washington, D.C., 12:32AM February 21, 2013.


I would like to mention that as a result of the writings of Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, and Michael Lind, I'm on my way of developing a Grand Unified Theory of Amoral Professional Centrist Pundits and Neo-Confederate Nullification-Crazed Radicals.

Yours truly watching TV -- an episode of The King of Queens -- in my threadbare apartment, Washington, D.C., 11:35PM February 21, 2013.


As for my Sunday, Quill came over around 230PM and we first went to the Columbia Heights Target (it was the usual mad house) and I bought a new quilt, foam cushion, and pillow cases. Later on, we went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on Connecticut Ave. for the 5PM - 7PM bar happy hour with the $7 wine and appetizer menu (it's a really good deal the place does nightly except Saturdays). We then took a cab to Nellie's, where we stayed for a bit. I introduced her to Brett, who was there but about to head to an Oscar party. Quill and I then went to 1905 -- the place Brett introduced me to last week -- and then we called it a night. Quill headed back to suburban Maryland and I came home and did my laundry and wrote this blog entry while watching the usual TV Land and Hallmark Channel sitcom reruns.

My apartment and (Japanese-style??) bed with new quilt, Washington, D.C., 12:58AM February 23, 2013.


OK, that's all fow now. My next planned update will be in a day or two. I need to go to the gym tomorrow night.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Night Musical Interlude Feb. 22nd, 2013 "Tax Refund, Yes; Oscars, No" Edition

**Updated 12:45AM 6/6/2014: See below.**

"Night Move" by The V.I.P. Club on release Coconut Kiss (2001)


This is my Friday night musical interlude.

I'm home now after a regular work day (albeit a Friday so there is the anticipation of leaving and of the weekend). I then went to the Macy's at Metro Center, where I purchased about half of my planned $500 in new clothing (or a bit less if it is $600 I spend). This includes a new pair of Rockport shoes, two new pairs of Cargo pants (I went down a size to 34*), a 3-pack of Ralph Lauren boxer briefs (still large -- I prefer large), and a 6-pack of white socks. Oh, yes, and a Nautica fleece jacket with hood. It came to $258 including the $10 ticket discount that Andrea gave me earlier in the day.

It was nice to get my tax refunds (both on the same day).

As it is, I still need to buy some more bedding -- new quilts and pillows and another egg crate cushion. (I don't have an actual bed or even a mattress. I don't mind that and it's easier, but I had to toss out two quilts last year and so it has been a threadbare and somewhat less-than-comfortable experience in which I've nearly been sleep on the floor of late.)  

My apartment with the quilts / blankets piled up neatly (and all the stuff animals in one area) after some cleaning, Washington, D.C., 11:17PM, February 22, 2013.


Tonight is a cold, drizzly, damp one following a day that featured a nanosecond of light snow followed by a microsecond of sleet followed by a bit of light rain (just 0.05" at crappy KDCA) and tonight just cold drizzle. However, it's still right around freezing (32F) at KBWI and KIAD and in general in the Maryland and northern Virginia suburbs, so there is a tad of sleet / freezing drizzle, but no big deal. I think it's 34F at KDCA right now with a light easterly flow.

"Take Me There" by Bob James (and Kim Waters) on the release Joy Ride (1999)

OK, that's all for now. I'm not sure what to do tonight though it will likely involve some combination of No. 9 and Nellie's. However, I'd like to go to a few other places just to stop in for a drink. Gary and Kristof are not around. There might be a dinner party at Gloria's tomorrow night. (Actually, at this point, I think I'm meeting up with Nick first at a straight bar.)

I'm skipping doing my laundry tonight. I'll do it either tomorrow or Sunday evening. As it is, Sunday night is the frickin' Oscars. There are two pop cultural events that I hate more than anything: the Superbowl and the Oscars. While I just hate football outright, in the case of the Oscars ("Academy Awards"), it's more complicated since, obviously, some a few movies can be transcendent.

**Updated 12:45AM 6/6/2014: Content removed.**

And now for something a little more Friday night energetic:

"With My Own Eyes" by SASH! on the Trilenium release (2000)


The music is a'90's-style rapid Euro-dance beat that rises and falls in crashing waves. The video is set in the wee hours of some wildly pulsating dance club in some unknown city. The main action involves an inter-racial duo of hot, muscular, wet, and shirtless young men who perform a "Matrix"-style space-and-time-bending, hyper-acrobatic, ritualized martial arts fighting routine in a large puddle (or baby pool) of water that surrounds the central dias where the DJ "spins." There is the pretty main female singer and the more androgynous women with hypnotic eyes who is somehow involved in the stylized combat routine between the men (until she herself gets involved in it). The lyrics are quite haunting and melancholy as a counterpoint to the beat.

It's all kinda fun but you have to be in the mood for it.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Financial and D.C. Winter Forecast: Suddenly briefly flush; Long-term, maybe a bit of slush

My IRS tax refund AND my D.C. tax refund arrived electronically today basically simultaneously.

I did not expect that (especially with the delay in the former that I thought was occurring). I'm rich. Well, sort of. I can at least get a decent dinner tonight if I want to do so.*

I'm also getting my next paycheck on Monday (though in these cases it often arrives two days "early" on Saturday because of how the funds are submitted and my bank has Saturday hours).

In short, I will be temporarily be a wealthy man (at least by my standards). We're talking around $3,000. Of course, that will vanish quickly with rent and bills and groceries. In addition, I REALLY need to buy about $500 (maybe $600) worth of new clothing and $200 worth of new bedding (quilts) and maybe a new pot, pan, fork, dish, knife, and spoon for my little kitchen.

And then next month in March are the next two wholly contrived crises -- the sequester (I think I should be OK) and a possible Federal Government shut down (which could very much affect me). As such, this temporary "stimulus" to my bank account may not last long. Plus there is a great deal of impending uncertainty.

*I went to the gym Tuesday and Wednesday nights and I'm skipping tonight. Both nights were fairly strenuous workouts and I also made it into the swimming pool last night.

OK, that's all for now. This is an early update since I am not taking the computer home tonight.

NWS grid icon forecast for Washington, D.C., valid Feb. 21 - 25, 2013.


It is a gusty, blustery cold night again (it's been surprisingly cold and breezy the past few days). The next precip. event looks to be a mix turning to rain (typical for here).  As it is, we are just about out of time "climatologically" for measurable snowfall in Washington -- and the year ends way below "normal." Again.

The Capital Weather Gang has had a series of intricate and detailed entries on D.C. snow trends during the past century and in the context of climate change. Above is the 30-year average back to 1918.

The two images including the one directly above of D.C. seasonal snowfall and a trend line were from an entry yesterday concerning less average snowfall yet larger extreme events in D.C., which is what we expect in a warming world. (That outlier in winter 2009/2010 should have been much higher considering what KBWI and KIAD received, but KDCA really sucks as as climate station spot to measure snowfall. Also, the switch to KDCA as climate station for D.C. apparently occurred in 1946.) But I'll save this for another time.

My next planned entry will be tomorrow night (FNMI).


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Passageways, Journeys, and Destinations Unreached and Unknown

Here is a picture of the door to Apartment A at 7785 New York Lane, Colonial Square Apartments, Glen Burnie, Md., taken at 3:24PM December 25, 2012.

This is the first place I lived at the start of my "Maryland life" in 1982 -- excluding the late 1981 and early 1982 stint at Bristol Avenue in Baltimore, Md. I showed Gary this place as we were heading down to Annapolis to dinner at the Chart House with my mom and Ray.


I was going to post a fuller entry tonight but it is already 11:08PM as I start this entry AND I have to be at work at 930AM tomorrow, not my usual 1030AM (though I stay to 630 to 7PM) for an impromptu meeting at L'Enfant Plaza hotel.

So in lieu of that, I would just like to post some ready made items including an e-mail I sent out and the replies I received concerning these two stories:

Higgs Boson Particle May Spell Doom For the Universe by Clara Moskowitz | and

Here is what I wrote to a few people:

It appears that the Universe, if indeed the Higgs Boson has this particular mass (and its existence was only strongly inferred last year, not definitively confirmed), it means that the Universe (or rather "this" Universe) ultimately exists in a long-term unstable state that will reverse the Big Bang itself on the order of tens of billions of years from now.

Kristof wrote back the following:

All I can imagine is that the potential associated with the Higgs field can develop a sort of "cliff" far in the future. The field will then fall over (potential energy always tries to minimize itself) and rapidly slide down the cliff and turning its potential energy into a flood of new particles and radiation while at the same time rapidly slowing down the (then exponential) expansion. This is pretty much the definition of the Big Bang as it is now understood within the framework of inflationary cosmology.

I also wrote this to DD and Jeremy:

Regardless, I actually view this as a more "hopeful" ending to our Universe since it implies another will basically take its place – though the physics will likely be different). This ending is "better" than the traditional one whereby in Deep Time – after 10^33 years, when any remaining stars have either become black dwarf lumps of hydrogen ice or black holes, protons start to decay; and then after googols of years, even the black holes evaporate through Hawking radiation.

That's a far, far longer and slower death than what this article posits, and what I gather from the articles is that it is likely there is indeed a "multi-verse" through an inflationary self-replicating process. That is, bubble universes may in fact be real, and a piece of a future new bubble will destroy / replace this bubble (in the cosmologically far future).

When I worked at APS years ago, I actually interviewed that guy Joseph Lykken quoted in the article. Cosmology is a sort of small field with an even smaller subset of charismatic scientist-philosopher types, though they would never admit to the philosopher part.

DD replied jokingly it was all "leftwing rubbish" and Jeremy said I should use the term "a 'hopeful' ending to our Universe" as a chapter title within my planned book to be titled All This Hideous Sunshine.

"Also sprach Zarathustra..."


A few other items ....

This is an extremely said item. Here is the embedded link to their blog Two on Four Wheels):

Globe-trotting British cyclists killed in road accident in Thailand

Husband and wife cyclist team Peter Root and Mary Thompson in an undated photo provided by a family member.

Full story here.


A British couple's round-the-world cycling odyssey ended in tragedy when both of them were killed in a road accident in Thailand.

Peter Root and Mary Thompson, who had been chronicling their journey in a blog, died Wednesday when they were hit by a pickup truck in a province east of Bangkok, Thai police said Monday.

The couple, both 34 and from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, left Britain in July 2011 and had cycled through Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China.

The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the couple, who met in art school and spent six years saving money and planning their journey, Peter's father Jerry Root told the Associated Press in an interview.

"They were both inspirational," Jerry Root said. "They didn't just talk about it, they did it. I couldn't be prouder of them."

The route as it appears on their blog that they had followed from the start of their trek to its untimely and tragic end in Thailand.

Thai Police Lt. Col. Supachai Luangsukcharoen said Monday that investigators found their bodies, their bicycles and their belongings scattered along a roadside, along with a pickup truck that crashed between some trees.

Supachai said the truck driver, 25-year-old Worapong Sangkhawat, was seriously injured in the crash. He told police his truck hit the cyclists as he was reaching down to pick up a cap from the vehicle's floor, Supachai said.


Mindy McCready in a happy moment.

Here is an article on the terribly sad and tumultuous life of country singer Mindy McCready, who committed suicide at her home in Heber Springs, Ark., on Sunday. She was 37 and a mother of two young boys, a 6-year old and a 10-month old, who had just been removed from her custody.


More Michael Lind on that "Peculiar" Oligarchical Southern Way of Life

And here is some vintage Michael Lind on why the Southern oligarchical elites -- vestigial Democrats and all those crazy Republicans -- are so hostile to any kind of social insurance or welfare programs: It screws up their system of a low-wage, powerless laboring class (if its black, all the better) that is kept in its place. The piece is Southern poverty pimps:

"It is all a system, you see. Southern conservative policies toward immigration, labor unions, the minimum wage and social insurance don’t reflect supposed conservative or libertarian ideologies or values, even if conservative or libertarian intellectuals are paid to dream up after-the-fact rationalizations.

"These policies are reinforcing components of a well-thought-out economic grand strategy to permit the South, as a nation-within-a-nation in the U.S., to pimp its cheap, dependent labor for the benefit of local and foreign (non-Southern) corporations and investors ...

Ha ha

"The defeat of Southernomics is therefore in the interest of most Southerners and most non-Southerners alike. And the defeat of Southernomics requires the radical empowerment of Southern workers -- white, black and brown alike. No American workers anywhere in the nation can ever be secure until the wage earners of the South are powerful and prosperous. And uppity."


OK, that's all for now. My next planned update will be Thursday night, though potentially not until Friday night (the musical interlude thing).