Sunday, September 26, 2004

C Note World

And not the one in the middle of the eighty-eight keys, either.

For about the last year, I've carried a hundred-dollar bill around in my wallet, tucked away in the small pouch that also has a couple of band-aids. I liked the thought that if something amazing came up, something beyond what I'd normally experience, where a credit card was not available, I could still make a good stab at handling it. I didn't really think I ever would, but I was wrong. Today, I did.

We went to a local city to 'experience' a mass hot-air balloon launch. I can be dreamy about some things, and when it comes to that kind of thing, I most certainly am. I see deferential waiters refilling crystal flutes, chamber music, nicely dressed people, and all around, the whuff and chuff of hot air balloons being slowly, languourously inflated by cheerful, energetic people.

I do not see people selling funnel cake, fried Oreos, hot dogs, apple slices with caramel drizzled on them. I do not smell the droppings of a pony ride, or hear children stampeding anywhere. Nor do I hear a christian-oriented guitarist singing cheerful songs about how good it is to find the Lord above, below, and all around you. Oh, and I don't see price gouging for parking, either.

Guess which reality I found myself in? Hint: the parking was what let the C-note see the light of day.

But there was a tethered balloon (one of the one-and-a-half hot air balloons we saw the whole time that we were there), and the offspring and a friend went up in it, peering over the side at the ground that seemed so far below. They liked that, so that part was good.

And we got lost coming home.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The NRA and Iraq

I know this is a simplistic observation. Sometimes, it's the only kind I make.

The National Rifle Association thinks its perfectly okay for people to have weapons out the wazoo. Hand guns, shot guns, rifles, machine guns, bazookas, tanks, you name it. They say it's part of the culture.

People in Iraq have weapons out the wazoo. Hand guns, rifles, machine guns, mortars, mines, you name it. They say it's part of the culture.

Would the NRA, if asked, say that it was perfectly okay for Iraqis to have all those weapons, despite what it means to our troops and those of other nations? As well as any other stray foreign nationals? And any Iraqis that the weapons wielders take a dislike to?

Silly me. Of course they would. They'd say it proved that the Iraqis were civilized. If under-armed.


Midnight Thoughts

I am not a particularly religious or philosophical person. But over the last week, I've woken up more than once from a sound sleep to some variant of this thought:

No one -- no one at all -- gets to die and not find out if there really is any form of afterlife. And if there is, absolutely no one gets to evade it. If there really is judgement, everyone gets judged. If there really is reincarnation, everyone goes through it. Everyone.
Enough to make you start lighting some candles at your local church. Or paying a little more attention to your moral compass. You know, just in case. I've tried wrapping some rudimentary college-philosophy-course logic around it -- the 'do well, and if there is an afterlife, you'll be better off, but whether or not, the world will be better off ' sort of thing -- but the truth is, it's just a scary concept.

Though the thought that I might see a friend who died last year is comforting. I really miss her.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Wanting of Kerry

In The Wanting Of Levine, a decades-old novel from which most of my political knowledge comes ( before then it was Advise and Consent; at least I've updated my knowledge base by ten or twenty years), Levine comments to an associate that the political convention is stocked with a lot of political amateurs who, thinking that they see a wave of support, can be stampeded into getting on to the bandwagon.

I wonder if that is what is happening with Bush. And, in reverse, to Kerry. Another way to ask that question is, why are Bush’s poll numbers improving, and Kerry’s are decreasing. In The American President, the character of the pollster says that ‘The country has mood swings’, and I agree with that assessment. I think that people are starting to shift their opinions, even though most of them (including, too often, mine) are on the order of what Heinlein once described as 'the process of what they called making up their minds'. Putting it another way, we're usually emotional in how we make up our minds, and so I suspect the reason for any poll movement is predominantly based on emotion -- how we feel.

I am not unalterably opposed to voting for Bush, but it is unlikely that I would do so. His approach to life is too corporate, too politically motivated, too ‘old Texas mentality’ for me to feel comfortable with him. And yet, if he managed to do the right thing most of the time, handling the big issues as I think they ought to be handled, I’d be willing to go his way. Because I do agree that the idea of regime change is an unsettling one, and because I know that my side is no more morally correct than his. For every instance where I see hidden agendas, I am sure that my side has them, too. Being Democratic does not automatically mean being better.

Basically, I could vote for him if I thought that I could trust him -- to do the right things, to be a trustworthy person. But I don’t. I think he is steered by polar stars with which I do not agree.

I don’t think that Kerry is a ‘nice guy’, but now I want to see him kick ass and take names. I want him to punch the Republicans in the areas where they're soft - on the rationale for staying in Iraq, on the stuttering economy, on the war on terror (and while we're at it, how exactly do you have a war on something so nebulous? I think a better name would be The Effort to Create a Climate Which is Generally Iminical to Terroristic Activities, but I guess TECCWGITA -- Tech Wuh Jitta -- does lack a certain ring.) But focus on the broad issues, not simply on the Republican issues, because that's how you engage the public, which isn't happening now. Drop the talk about swift boats and whether Bush cheated to get out of the draft -- it’s not relevant now. Talk about what’s happening now, and what is expected to happen. Don’t get limited to the sexy items or the ones that only one side wants. One of Bush's great strengths has been his ability to talk and talk and talk only about what he and his handlers want to talk about, so that the debate devolves to only what he wants to discuss. Kerry cannot wait for George to agree to discuss the broader spectrum of issues, because George -- and more specifically, those who do the heavy thinking for him -- isn't going to do that. He won't touch them unless he doesn't have a choice.

The time to punch hard is now.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Timing is Everything

A few days ago, we decided that our daughter should stop taking piano lessons. She enjoys it, but just didn't have the time for practicing during the week, due to heavy homework pressures, and resented giving up half an hour on the weekend to do it.

We felt badly about the decision -- visions of 'lifelong pleasure through piano' fading in our minds -- but it seemed reasonable. Plus, we would save money on the piano rental, and on the insurance for value of the rented piano.

Today we found that a neighbor is selling their piano for a decent price.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Art of Politics.

From today's New York Times--

"...(T)he recent Democrats...believe in the old Progressive view that if you give the public the facts they'll see through the lies. Republicans have more of a sense that the public likes to be entertained and that issues are essentially dull."

- Lewis Gould

By criminy, I think he's got something there.

Paging Doctor Fashion

From today's Sunday Times 'Sunday Styles' section:

What I'm Wearing Now
In a workplace where scrubs and sensible shoes are always in fasion, Dr. Teena Shetty violates the dress code with flair. Dr. Shetty, 30, typically wears high heels, flowing skirts and fine jewelry (along with a white doctor's coat) while seeing patients....

Do patients assume that since their doctor is fashionably dressed, the doctor is successful, and therefore good?

Or do they resent the idea that their illness paid for it?

I think the latter.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Object of Desire

Cameras are sexy. For me, they are objects of desire.

I was just at the Noah Grey photography site, admiring his work once again, and noted that one page had an image of a Leica in the corner. Matte black.

I wanted it.

I don't need it. I don't do any photography to speak of, any more.

I still wanted it.

I still want it.


Friday, September 10, 2004

The Redmond Has Landed

Well, according to Windows Update (motto: We're not tracking private information about you, honest), I have SuckerPunch2 now installed on my PC.

I'm not all that impressed by the Security Center -- I particularly liked their suggestion about how to find out if you have a software firewall installed -- 'Look for programs with names that suggest a firewall' -- but it is nice to have, since it lets me turn off the Tiny Personal Firewall, with which I had gotten increasingly irritated. I know, the Windows Firewall is not as slick, but thats okay. At least, till I find out what holes it left open.

But one thing that does please me is that IE now has a pop-up blocker built-in, and you can customize it to allow pop-ups on certain sites, or of a certain intensity. I like that.

So, on the whole, not bad. So far, anyway.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Well, this has been a fairly putrid week.

Labor Day, we cancelled plans to go out to a local festival because my daughter had what looked like chicken pox, but which turned out to be a severe allergy reaction, though from what, we don't know. She's hoping its hamburger, which she hates.

Yesterday, I came down with a hacking cold and had to take both aspirin and Nyquil before I could get to sleep. Woke up feeling loggy and denser than normal.

And today, it's raining.

What's tomorrow,surprise audits?

Monday, September 06, 2004

Labor Day, Labor, and Laborious Thoughts

A cool Labor Day morning. As we do every Labor Day, one of us recalls the comedian's line from several years ago, about how odd it is to celebrate labor by taking the day off. I seem to recall that the celebration is actually in recognition of the solidarity of labor rather than the function itself, but whatever -- its a funny juxtaposition.

The older I get, the more I find that I am reluctant to do labor that I don't particularly enjoy. I like to think that I have an independence of spirit about that, but what I actually have, I think, is more of a willingness to slack off -- to not give my all to something where I don't think that it's a worthwhile use of my talents. Or isn't particularly interesting. Not that I think my talents are all that great, but they're there, and work that doesn't take them into account doesn't get my devoted attention. Which puts me in mind of an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show wherein the newsroom manager is trying to decide who to give a bonus to. The obnoxious announcer says that while he has been giving his all, if he got more money he would give more than 100%. The manager replies that he doesn't think he wants to see this guy giving more than 100%, given what he knows 100% is like now.

Classic management theory -- by which I mean "the management theory that I've read in the last ten years, and with which I agree" -- holds that managers look out for the health and effectiveness of their organization by looking out for the happiness and productivity of their employees. I don't know if that was ever widely true (I'd like to think there were places where it was ) but it's certainly not true now, particularly in large organizations. Now, managers have to hustle just to survive, and the good feelings of their employees are at the bottom of their list of things to worry about -- when they're on the list at all. I have believed for some time that you are responsible for your own happiness in business, now more than ever. That I haven't been happy means that I have myself to ultimately blame. Part of that unhappiness comes from actually believing those management articles, I realize.

I've got to stop believing what I read.

Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Just for Fun, Linus?

I've just been reading Linus Torvald's autobiography, Just For Fun, which is a mistake, all things considered.

Not that it isn't interesting reading -- it is. He comes across as a real person, who isn't the altruistic hero that I thought he would be. Got the book because I've been curious for some time about how Linux got started, and how one person could do all of that, and the book lays it right out. It's a thin book, and I'm about three quarters of the way through it, and I'm having a good time with it. So thats not which it's a mistake.

The reason that its a mistake is that I have this character flaw that when I read something about someone whose achievements I admire, I start to get the feeling that maybe I could do something like that, too. This completely ignores the fact that the people with the admirable traits usually have something, and sometimes several somethings, that I don't have, most notably a combination of brains -- which he is very modest about -- and a goal. I've got brains, sure, but no where in that league. And as for a goal, my most challenging goal seems to be surviving the crap that I've been getting in the way of work at my job. In no significant way does this make me different than tons of other folks, but somehow when I read these things, I start to think that maybe I could do it, too. Not write an operating system, but -- something. Something worthwhile, something notable, something -- satisfying.

It usually takes about three to five days for the feeling to go away, and then I'm back to normal. But for a while, there...

Spending Money

Probably the worst time in the world to be thinking about spending money for things that you don't need is right after you've transferred money into your checking account to pay bills related to both taxes and vacations....and found that you didn't transfer enough.

Its not a major deal -- our theory is that while taxes are considered routine expenses (and therefore have to be paid out of routine income; failure to be able to do so means that we need to rethink how much money is going into savings versus checking), vacations are capital expenses which can be paid for out of savings -- money fund, savings accounts, things like that.

You can't do that all the time, of course, which realization has given me a very small appreciation of the mental gymnastics that professionals go through when they decide if corporate expenses can legitimately be charged to available funds, or if they have to be met through recurring earnings (its one of the places, I bet, where the jiggery-pokery happens when the CEO wants earnings to look good). But it makes doing the transfer a little more soothing, emotionally.

Still an unsettling experience, though.