Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Iraq. Prisons. Torture. Us.

I hate being on this side of the torture question. I hate thinking that maybe its okay.

Is any action, any attitude all right as long as it destroys a despised and hated foulness? What if it just weakens the foulness? Do we back off? Or do we then say that we need to kick it up a notch, because the level of intensity we were at was not good enough, not meeting its desired purpose?

Who gets to decide? The instruments of the action? Or someone else?

And if we truly got material from what we did that could not have been gotten any other way, and if that material was truly worth it -- was the action ok?

Why isn't this obvious to me?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


They're animals. Pure and simple. Rabid, frothing at the mouth, animals. They dishonor their heritage, their religion, and their nation. This foul act begs for revenge.

I hope we don't do it. Justice, absolutely. Revenge -- I don't think so. My gut says yes, smash them, smash them all, they, in fact, the whole region, responds to strength, not mercy. My brain says 'The cycle has to stop somewhere.'

Want to bet they didn't have this discussion?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Gas prices and the stock market

Let me see if I've got this straight.

Gas prices are going up because demand is up, reserves are down, and the base cost is up.

Because gas prices are going up (among other things), the feeling is that 'inflation is back'.

Because inflation is a bad thing, the cost of loans is expected to go up as an anti-inflationary measure.

Because the cost of loans is expected to go up, corporate profits are expected to go down.

Because corporate profits are expected to go down, people sell stocks now.

Because people sell stocks now, the value of the stock market goes down.

Because the value of the stock market goes down, the value of stocks, overall, goes down, and the net wealth of the country is less (barring direct and cost free transfers into other financial instruments).

Ok, I think I've got it.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

I've heard that the reason grown-ups like to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up is that the grown-ups are still trying to figure that one out, and are looking for ideas.

I think that's true.
I had a bit of a pleasant surprise in the reading department this week.

I have a running list of books that I want to read. I've been keeping the list for years, ever since I realized that I would buy a book and then not get around to reading it for months, by which time it would frequently be out in paperback. Adding insult to injury, I was finding that a lot of the books that I bought weren't as good as I had thought they would be. I seemed to have developed the gift of hitting the best part when I was skimming it in the bookstore, and finding out only at home that the rest was not up to that standard. So I started my list. When I took a year off, I promised myself that I would get the list down. At its peak, it was up around 75 books, and I did get it down -- to about 68; hardly as many as I wanted to have read during that hiatus.

About two weeks ago, I realized that the list was pretty big again, and since I was looking for something to read that wasn't technical (or at least not intensely so), I thought to order some books through my local library's interlibrary loan system. My library has a somewhat cumbersome process for doing that. It's manual, and it uses a different ILL order card depending on whether the book is being reserved within the library, ordered from the library system of which they're a part, or ordered from another system entirely. That might make sense to a librarian, but it makes no sense to me. On a couple of occasions, I was halfway through a card before realizing it was the wrong one. What joy! What made all of this particularly irritating is that I had the info on the book -- title, author, ISBN - already keyed into spreadsheet that I had made while searching the library system through the Internet. To then take the digital information and hand write it so that someone else could key it into another computer system was offensive to my sense of How Things Should Be (which, admittedly, is sometimes much sterner than it ought to be). Plus, I notice that the more I have to write, the less legible my writing becomes. I'm sure the librarians really enjoy that.

So this week, I thought to ask the librarians if I could do it digitally -- fill out a form on line, or send them an email with my requests. To my surprise, they said yes. Its clearly something that, if lots of people asked for it, they'd not do, but I gather that this is an unusual request for them, and they were willing to honor it. I even told them that I'd be willing to pay a premium for this additional service. I think a buck a book would be reasonable. I suggested that they consider adding this feature to their web site. Doubt that will happen, though -- I get the impression they are part of The Official Library Computer System, and changes are not made to that lightly.

Still, I'm pleased. Now I just want to see if the books ordered this way actually do come. I hope so -- I just added two books (The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice, and The Working Poor) to the list. Gotta read, gotta read.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Two words I like.



Solid, substantial words. I like 'em.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Sitting in the car at a light, I did the math.

I use twenty gallons of gas every two weeks, mostly going to work and back. That works out to 520 gallons a year. That ignores long trips, of course.

Gas is now about 50 cents a gallon more than it was three months ago. Assuming it stays that way -- and Dick Cheney's pals will make sure of that, and then some, I bet -- that works out to $260 more a year out of my pocket.

That $260, at the current gas price, would pay for about 138 gallons of gas, or 69 round trips to work. That's about 6 round trips a month. So, if I worked from home 6 days a month, I'd break even. More if -- and when -- the price goes up, of course.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I just went outside and took about fifteen pictures.

It's been a long time since I've done any photography, and I had forgotten how much fun it can be to look for the right angle, look for something to frame, something to make the picture come alive. I'm not a stylistic photographer, but I like to think that what I take is worth keeping -- which I suppose makes it odd that I routinely throw away seventy percent of the pictures that I take. That'll likely happen this time, too. The motivation for the shoot was that someday -- not soon -- we'll be selling this house, and we wanted a photograph showing the house with the landscaping in bloom. Got some nice ones. I wandered around in the street with a ladder, stepping up on occasion for a better angle (the house is on a very slight rise), and occasionally kneeling to get some up-close photographs of some of the more striking flowers. I thought to invite the family out to the landing, and took some shots of them, too, at the conclusion of which, the daughter borrowed the camera and took some shots, herself. She said she really loves doing it, and me, I love that she loves it.

Hope they come out.