Saturday, September 20, 2003

I like precision. I'm not a precise person, but I like it when things add up.

I just took our most recent bank statement and put the numbers into a spreadsheet I've been keeping of expenses for the last 13 months. I take the big numbers -- so much in and out from the ATM account, the deltas on the other accounts -- but I also take the individual ATM entries, categorize them -- books, cleaners, groceries, etc -- and give them a spreadsheet entry all their own. The net out is that I can see, overall and by category, how spending has changed over the last however many months I want to look. Today I added a small bit of sophistication to that. Our bank doesn't supply the ATM transactions in electronic format (at least, I don't think they do), so up to now I've typed them in. Today, I scanned in the statement and lifted the numbers from the scanned file directly into the spreadsheet. Nice. I still have to categorize them, and I did find that the OCR component of the package isn't 100% reliable -- but it was still faster and neater.

I like that. This is the functionality I wanted in Quicken, that accursed product. (The current version, not the vintage one I'm still using.) Now, if I could just automate the charting, and put some intelligence into it....

Friday, September 19, 2003

Some years ago, I recall reading a Doonesbury strip where a guy is talking to his son about getting a job, and the son says that he wants a job where (I'm making this part up from memory) the environment is relaxed, and his coworkers are an interesting, collegial bunch. The father replies 'So you're not getting a job.' and the son says 'I didn't say that'.

The phrase 'collegial' came to mind a bit ago as I was thinking about the people I work with, and the people that we do our work for -- a state organization with lots and lots of bureaucrats. I begin to suspect that their attitude to life is catching. Don't take chances, get approval for everything, take copies of everything. The reason I think its catching is that I see myself starting to adopt that protective attitude. I don't like it. I know that I'm not the free and independent thinker that I'd like to believe I am, and I know that what I call my inability to suffer fools is partially just a way to keep from dealing with stuff I don't want to handle -- but not all of it. Some of it really is an intellectual aversion to people who manifest the bureaucratic virus, and when I think about the idea that I might have caught it, I feel like I need a long, hot shower.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I can hardly see this screen, at the moment, the effect of standing out in the cul-de-sac in the bright sun, watching my daughter and two neighbor's kids ride bikes and scooters round and round and round. Normally, our life being someone on the dull side, this would count as optional entertainment, but this time it was sort-of required, as our daughter breathlessly informed us that the dog's name was Lil Man, and that his owners weren't home. The owners, it turned out, were the family which recently starred in a police report which used words like drugs, gun, and felon (it is such a delight to drive home and notice three police cars in the neighborhood streets, just sitting and watching), and the dog in question, it turns out, is a pit bull. Very friendly, with big jaws and an oversized chest. And what look like mad eyes to me, but what do I know. Anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to stay out and watch the kids, the neighbor thought it would be a good idea to stay out, too, and another neighbor thought it would be a good idea to call the local cops and say hey, come lock this dog up somewhere. Of course, as I pointed out, we have very few cops around here, and right now there must be one saying 'dammed if I'm going after a pit bull by myself; I'm calling the ASPCA'. But right now we're all back inside, so we don't care what the dog is doing. Although what it was more recently doing was chewing on a fist sized rock.

I am probably certifiably crazy. Within a day of thinking occasionally about retirement homes and what they should look like, I have started to mull over have major renovations to this house -- this being the one which we would decamp from upon retirement, but heck, that's years away. I have often said that if we ever put in a pool, it would have to be in a poolhouse so that we could use it more than the two or three months of the year that our climate allows that sort of thing. Well, one of BH&Gs specialty magazines shows this cool little poolhouse cum patio, except that it isn't a pool but rather a hot tub -- southwestern motif, terracotta tiling, quite nice. I have heard some stories about hot tubs that make me a little reluctant to have one put in, but the image alone is enough to make me start mulling over having a wing put on the house, having the bedroom/bathroom bumped out oh, six feet, that sort of thing. Certifiably loony.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

From ABC News web site:

"Not all banned items are passing through security at U.S. airports. Since the TSA took over security at airports in February 2002, more than 8 million prohibited items have been intercepted or voluntarily surrendered. That number includes 51,408 box cutters, 2,453,039 knives and 1,498 firearms."

Okay, the knives, I can see. And maybe even the guns. But 51,408 box cutters? Didn't anyone wonder why these people were carrying these provably murderous tools around? Were they expecting to encounter the need to open a box? Or was it just a test to see if they could get them past security? Or perhaps it should be "security".

As one person said, the TSA is getting good at getting toenail clippers away little old ladies, though.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Would moving jobs offshore in the software industry be more or less prevalent if the people doing it

a) had to publicly announce that they were doing it, and why
b) had their own jobs subject to being moved
c) had thought about the idea that they were training their future competitors?

Didn't think so.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Yesterday, I found myself wondering how an actual light saber would work.

I say this knowing that there are people who can actually put some impressive brain power onto that question and come up with something that might actually have a decent chance of working, with only a couple of 'then a miracle occurs' constructs to power it, whereas my own TAMOs are roughly the size of Albuquerque. And there are probably Star Wars freaks (I mean that in the kindest way, honest) who have given this some thought, and who have written scholarly articles on it. I mean, what the hell -- if there are people who've written about how warp drive must work, surely there are people who've written about how a light saber would work. So, I know my own contribution to the canon would be inconsequential. I do know this, but it doesn't stop me.

Activated, a light saber would have to have a cutting edge on all sides. Though I don't recall ever seeing anyone jab with one (or for that matter, with an actual saber), I would guess that there has to be a point, too. In fact, thinking about it, why a light saber and not, say, a light epee? Or a light foil? Heavy sabers are used for heavy slashing attacks, so they would have to have a lot of power in them, as distinct from lighter-weight weapons. I used to occasionally mull over whether light sabers had swapoutable batteries, or jumper cables.... I know, they're probably powered by the Force, and therefore unlikely to ever wear out, but still...

And there's the question of whether a light saber is tunable, or is it an all-or-nothing thing, either inert, or full furious power? In other words, could you use a light saber as a penlight? A cigar lighter?

I assume that the height of the 'blade' isn't adjustable, so the pulsating 'flame' that you see build when the saber is switched on probably comes from the internal power being translated into the biting edge of, say, an oxyacetylene torch, but controlled by some kind of shield that keeps the blade focused -- though obviously it couldn't be a 'protective' shield, else it'd be like fighting with a sword that is still in its sheath.

Well, that's it. More intro than main act, I guess. But I liked it.