Monday, October 31, 2005

Harriet's Successor

Generally, I like what I see of him. I'm sure this is a great comfort to him, though, I hope, not to the Bushter, who couldn't come up with someone like this first time out of the box.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday Notes

Some interesting reading in today's paper.

The Washington Post lays out a presentation made by Robert Miller of Delphi, the automotive parts company, here. Some key points:

  • Parts will be made where it makes financial sense for them to be made. That determination is a blend of the absolute cost of manufacture and the cost of getting the item to where it's needed. That last phrase is why complex and complete electromechanical assemblies are built near the automotive plants that need them -- until the cost of making them overseas and shipping them here becomes cost competitive; then it becomes a timing question -- can they be gotten here as fast as ones made locally. Long delivery pipelines translate to less market flexibility.
  • He does not intend to declare bankruptcy, but neither does he not intend to declare bankruptcy. He sees it as an option; if it is one that's chosen, it is just one option, and it's a process, not a once and done event. And if you do it, do it in an organized, planned way -- don't surprise anyone, and don't be in denial about what's happening, what's going to happen, what's not going to happen, and what might happen.
  • Merging the assets and liabilities of multiple ailing companies can produce a single successful company -- but not if the process includes formal bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Funding of pension guarantees has to be reflected in current statements of financial position. They are as much an impact to that position as a natural disaster or an explosion at a supplier's plant.
  • The future is in things like hybrids.
Which brings me to a different article, same paper, about hybrids and hummers. People who drive these are used to getting attention, though for different reasons. The person who drives a hybrid exults in seeing the miles per gallon indicator floating at 55 or 60 mph -- and sometimes going to infinity. The person who drives a hummer delights in being up higher than most others, being able to see further, feeling safer, and seeing other cars move out of his way. Neither is morally superior. I do think that hummer drivers ought to be able to get all the gas they want, at a guaranteed price. Twenty bucks a gallon sounds about right... for now.

The New York Times has some excerpts from Putinki: A Short Collection of the President’s Sayings, that are pretty cool. Incidentally, this is President Putin:

In answer to the proposal that Russian troops take part in operations in Iraq, you just want to say, “Right, like we’re that stupid.”

Speaking about Russian’s oligarches, “Everyone has to understand, once and for all, that you’ve got to obey the law all the time, and not just when someone’s got you by the short hairs.”

About what he’d really like to do as president: “I can’t go beyond the framework of the Russian Constitution, although sometimes I’d really like to.”

On contrary opinions: “I don’t want to say that your opinion means absolutely nothing to us and that we want to spit on everything. No, we will listen to your advice...with good will.”

On perfection: “ If a person is satisfied with everything, then he’s a complete idiot. A healthy person with a normal memory can’t always be satisfied with everything.”

On what the future holds: “We’re all going to die out like dinosaurs.”

And an article on the nomination process for the O'Connor seat brings up the concept of 'superprecedents', making the point that there are some decisions, such as Roe vs. Wade, which have become so intregrated into the fabric of the law that it is useless to contemplate changing them -- which is exactly what the strict constructionists would like to do. Their feeling is, nothing is written in stone (with the possible exception of the ten commandments) and everything can be changed -- especially with the right nominee.

Should be interesting.

And finally, one of my favorite subjects: concierge medicine... From an
article in the New York Times:

Despite the drastic decrease in patient load after he changed the way he ran his practice, Dr. Kaminetsky's personal compensation and the salaries of his office staff members increased by about 60 percent.

Must be nice.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Super Superman

I'm not a fan of comics, per se, but I like good illustration. This piece was done by Kevin Nowlan... I think that it conveys the early version of the character very well.

This and other of his works can be found here.


Had the dammnedest dream the other night.

Don't recall most of it, but this part: a person who could walk up to a car that was pretty beaten up -- rust, pieces falling off, the whole disreputable bit -- and, by laying his hands on it, restore it back to its original gleaming state. Heal it.

This person was known as the 'Road Messiah'.

Got to stop eating those jalapenos before bedtime !

Friday, October 28, 2005

Stray Info

A couple of interesting tidbits I've read recently....

According to CNN, a woman in, I believe, Oregon is accused of buying a lottery ticket with a stolen credit card. The ticket is a winner -- one million dollars worth. But Oregon says that if she did use the stolen credit card, she doesn't get to keep the money. I suppose the point is that they don't want you to benefit from theft, so whether you bought a winning lottery ticket or a candy bar, you don't get to keep it. Somehow, that doesn't seem fair, though. Not sure why....

A book I'm reading, Structures, in a section about stresses and strains (which turn out not to be the same thing) describes how stress can focus at a point. The example is a sheet of metal where the lines of stress are evenly spread as they propagate across the sheet. When a hole is placed in the sheet, as with a door or window, the lines diverge, concentrating at the corners and along the edges of the hole until they can spread out again. When the forces are concentrated, the effect is greater -- to the point that the material can tear even though, overall, the stress is below the breaking point of the material. I wonder if thats why you can open a bag more easily by snipping (or biting) a small tear first?

Last night I was rereading sections of The Vicar of Christ, a novel by Walter F. Murray, and came across this:

The dignity of man rests at the core of the galaxy of American constitutional values. Its spirit suffuses every clause. Government's duty to protect and cherish is the moral and political motive force of the whole constitutional system.

Wow, I thought. Suffuses every clause? I liked the way that was put, and found myself wondering if the character of the fictional Chief Justice had had words lifted from an actual justice. So, I google'd it -- and found this --

The Supreme Court Historical SocietyIts spirit suffuses every clause. Government's duty to protect and cherish that dignity is the moral and political motive force of the whole constitutional ... 04_library/subs_volumes/04_c09_l.html - 77k -

I was right, I thought, smiling, and went to the page -- where I found the full reference:

For anyone interested in the history and practices of the Court, these works--and especially the novels -- offer a body of well-researched background information, coupled with a soap opera plot that includes some painful romantic entanglement for the susceptible protagonist. But the most valuable lesson they impart is that the adjudication of constitutional rights involves a continuing dialogue between the Justices and the public over the meaning of the national experience and the democratic ideals that have shaped it. "The dignity of man rests at the core of the galaxy of American constitutional values," comments the Chief Justice in The Vicar of Christ.

Its spirit suffuses every clause. Government's duty to protect and cherish that dignity is the moral and political motive force of the whole constitutional system.[35]

In such imagery one may also glimpse the literary legacy of the Warren Court.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Its just about the end of the month, which means that Hallowe'en is coming. According to the offspring, there is the possibility of two official recognitions of the event, which would mean two opportunities to go and scavenge candy. Personally, I doubt it, but I told her that if they have two, I'll go out with her both times. You do things for kids that as an adult don't always make sense.

The girl scout troop led by my wife is down to four girls. They had merged with another troop for about a year, and my wife was given to understand that the members of that troop didn't want to be merged any more. We don't know why. Now one of the remaining girls in this troop has moved to another one because she's become close friends with a girl in that troop; that girl's mother is the troop leader, and is known for having a lavish approach to what that troop does. That wasn't the reason for the kid moving, though it was probably a consideration. In any event, my wife now has to decide if she wants to go through all of the hassle of being a troop leader for a troop of only four kids. She feels like a bit of a failure. I thought she was doing fine -- nothing flashy, just basic small town America girl scout activities. She agrees, but it bothers her.

Its silly to let this be a big deal, but in a way, it is. You draw your self image from how other people react to you and what you do, even when its just a bunch of kids. And when they say that they don't want to be associated with you or your organization any more, you wonder why.

Insecurity is an amazingly powerful emotion.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I've been thinking off and off, this morning, about my comments regarding Iraq and how the only likely solution is to kill everyone in sight. I recognize that's not a viable option, and not just because the borders are so porous. So I've been reframing it in my mind, thinking of it as 'what would make the Iraq experience worthwhile'. I call it the experience because it doesn't seem like a war. Wars get won. Then again, if we're not winning, and we're not keeping the enemy in check, then we must be losing. Maybe it is a war.

There are a couple of things that would make it worthwhile. One is permanent and easy access to oil. Another is a provable and serious impact to the people orchestrating terroristic activities. Thought of in that light -- without regard to the human costs, and more specifically to the American costs -- it would be worthwhile. But I still feel that it would not, could not be worth the life of my child. So while I might be willing to say it's worth the life of someone elses child, I wouldn't take it further than that. I realize thats a lousy way to look at things.

And I doubt either of those outcomes will occur, either.

Society or Pestilence?

For some time, I have felt more comfortable thinking of my political affiliation as Democratic rather than Republican, even though Republican is how I’m registered, because, generally speaking, I believe more of how Democrats view the role of government. No one’s ever asked me to explain why I maintain the affiliation that I do, but if they did, I’d say that its more likely that I would agree with most of what any Democratic candidate held than any Republican; therefore, since my vote counts for very little, it makes more sense to me to cast that pittance for the best possible Republican running in any primary than for any Democrat. In that way, when the final matchup comes in the general election, I’m doing my small bit to ensure that it can be a Democrat versus the best Republican, thus improving the odds that I’ll find the candidate acceptable. Still, the idea of being registered one way, and voting another, has struck me as odd - not to mention, getting fund raising letters from both parties – until the other day, when I realized that there’s a label for people like me: Liberal Republican. I like that.

Given my liberal bias, therefore, it was quite surprising to find myself saying, this morning at the breakfast table, that we ‘should kill everyone in that country; kill everyone in sight, whether they are just passers-by, or actively malicious; given that they were all sub-human, as demonstrated by how they act, and how no amount of effort seems to be moving them more than an iota toward community in the league of humans. We should just give it up, and kill them all. Send them all to Allah.’ The country in question, of course, is Iraq, and the trigger for my vehement outburst was in reading an account of a mob that killed four contractors who had gotten lost, including this grisly description, from the Post’s article:

Two contractors who were not killed in the initial firing were dragged from their vehicle, and one was shot in the back of the head, the newspaper said. The crowd "doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man's body to stoke the flames," according to the report.

Yelping in delight? Is this a description of a country with which we want to be associated? Is this a description of a society which is more good than not, more worth saving than not? Or is it a description of a society that has since medieval times changed its weaponry but not its mores? Because for every image I see and story I hear of the fine, decent, basic humanity of these people, it seems that I hear five or ten of their viciousness. It may only be one of a hundred who does that; only one child yelping, not a thousand, and one deranged, or yelping in paranoid fear of what would happen if he did not ape his masters -- but the image is there: these people are not yet ready for contact with Western civilization. Their values are too different, their acceptance of violence too casual, their leaders too thuggish, their concept of justice too barbaric.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Damp Thoughts

A beautiful fall day here to inflict severe homesickness in travelling natives of Seattle or Atlantis.

This morning we went through another rite of passage -- we bought the offspring an actual desk, similar to the one we have but, apparently, nicer (I haven't seen it). What is it about parents that makes us think that buying the kiddo a desk will make them better students? I lean more to the excruciatingly-patient review of the kid's homework as the way to induce that. I did it so well the other night, I reduced the kid to tears, which of course was my goal, reducing a young girl to tears proving my testosterone level. Harrumph. But afterwards, we talked quietly, and I explained why I was being so hard nosed --When it asks if a land mass of a given size is about 55% of a second land mass of a given size, you can't just multiply the first by two and swag the results -- math teachers don't think that way!!! -- and the result was, she bombed through the last four exactly right. And in fact was smiling and laughing by the end of it.

The other parental unit and the offspring are off buying a pumpkin for the traditional defacement of the fruits. While they are out, I am amusing myself by reading a manual on QMF for Windows, because I'd like to do a little bit of analysis on some numbers I've cranked from our two busiest systems -- not a lot of analysis, just a little, but more than Excel can easily do. Thiscoming Monday I make the long trek up to one of the many complexes of my company, the Biggest Little Software Company In the World. I am not looking forward to the trip, for three reasons -- first, its a lot of driving, and I have to get up way early to do it, much earlier than I like to do. Second, because while I am there, I have to participate in a Team Meeting for the group, and while those meetings are usually a blend of excruciatingly dull and agonizingly stupid, I can usually just put the phone on mute and do others things; this, however, is not an option when I am physically there. And third, because I have to meet with the manager of the group that I want to transfer to, and that means I have to Make A Good Impression, and I despise having to do that. I'm within four years of retirement, dammit! Though they, of course, don't know that. At least, I don't think they do. And I do want to make the change, because analysis -- even casual, non-rigorous analysis, which is the only kind I do -- is way more fun than what my group routinely does. The possibility of doing that is why I'm brushing up on my QMF. And yet-- and yet ---

I was reading an internal blog -- one written by one of the members of my company, intended for internal reading and not customers -- which I do on occasion for amusement, and because I do like reading about different technical items. I came across this string of pearls:

It is useful to think of Logical Channel Subsystems (LCSS's) as "containers for LPARs" as each LPAR can only use one LCSS. z9 extends the LCSS concept so that each LCSS can have two "Subchannel Sets": CS1 can only (as of z/OSR.7) have PAV Alias subchannels. CS0 can mix Base and PAV Alias subchannels.

I know that this guy is smarter than me. Whats humbling is to think of how much smarter he is than me. We're talking lightyears. I know about half of those words and concepts, but there is no way in the world I could put them together into a coherent sentence. It is awareness of what a really smart person sounds like that makes me think I am being an idiot for trying to move over to this other group, which may not be stocked with people of that caliber, but which, on the whole, has much more of them than the group I'm with now.

I have always thought of myself of as 'being on the bright side'. I qualified for Mensa, and I like to think about hard things. I still believe that given enough time, I can understand any concept that I really want to understand. But I am beginning to realize that 'enough time' is taking longer, these days. Maybe those concept are getting harder -- or maybe I'm not as bright as I think I am.

This is a scary thought. And a humbling one.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pennsylvania Libraries - No IM Here, Thank You!

from AccessPA --

Since libraries have their own policies and procedures for requesting items on interlibrary loan, please contact them by phone or in person to obtain the details. While there are no immediate plans for allowing the public to request materials online directly through the Access Pennsylvania Database, your local library may have systems in place to communicate with you electronically. Please contact them for additional information.

Electronic book ordering? What do you think this is, Amazon? If you want an inter-library loan, sonny, you'll schlep down here to the library and fill out a paper form just like your grandpa did -- and like it!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Twenty One Years Today.

And we still delight in each other's company, still can make each other laugh.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I Wish...

...I knew more about the dynamics of motivating an organization.

Thinking about the FEMA debacle (now their erstwhile El Leader Supremo says that they're dysfunctional and should be reorganized) makes me wonder how you can effectively keep track of how an organization's doing.... let alone, how its doing within the constraints of budget, auditors, and god knows what else. I gravitate to simple fixes and quick solutions, and those don't seem applicable here. Though I'll bet that they could be summarized simply.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cooperate and Graduate

I don’t think that anyone will ever challenge me for being too with-it (or whatever the current phrase is; ‘down with it?’; ‘ashamble’? Don’t know, and yes, I made that last one up). But I realized that we have made a couple of minor steps into the current environment when I suggested, without thinking ‘aha!’, that my wife and daughter take the laptop over to the library, where they would be going to garner the last answers for the project from hell (about which, more later). I didn’t even have the reflexive thought that ‘when I was a kid, we did this with index cards’, although I did tell that story to my daughter as a form of a ‘aren’t you lucky’ statement; she nodded, accepted it, and, as they say, got on with her life. But the concept of bringing the PC along (and where, I now wonder, was the WiFi access hotspot?) seemed so natural, and convenient, that we dropped right into it.

About the PFH: the Language Arts teacher (that seems to be what the English teacher is now called, though whether that’s intended to reflect a blending of conceptual areas or just a new phrase for the old job, I’m not sure; I think mostly the first, a bit of the second) came up with a project wherein the kids had to take fifty questions and research them. They had, I believe, three weeks to do this. Strictures were placed: they had to use multiple sources; they could not rely predominantly on one source; each source had to documented to an excruciating level of detail – sufficient so that the teacher, should she desire, could go find the book/web page/whatever and return the same information.

Most of the questions were reasonable, and some were even interesting (for which read: I learned something I hadn’t known, and which I found intriguing). The goal was to train them in doing research, but what I think it taught them that there are multiple sources for answering a question, that those sources occasionally are missing, incomplete, contradictory, or obscure (who knew that a ‘watershed’ was a ‘hydraulic device’? Not I, scoffing –but a web search for ‘watershed’ and ‘hydraulic device’ did in fact turn up pages with those words, though I think that they meant ‘device’ as shorthand for ‘a method of doing something or causing something to occur’, not a physical device), that questions can't always be answered by yes or no, and to read the question carefully and completely. Useful general knowledge, but fifty questions was overkill, by far. And it was a killer, time wise, too: the offspring spent about ten hours on it, and at the end, we were all working on it; spreadsheet, laptop, let’s Google it and just say you found it in the dictionary, you read/I’ll type, and all.

My conclusion, shared with the offspring and the partner, was: next time, if there is a next time, cooperate and graduate. Divvy up the work with kids you trust, split up the research effort, share the results. Which I will just bet is not what the teacher had in mind, but, which, I understand is how it's done in the best law schools, medical schools, and similar areas of intense and rapid learning. Which apparently includes middle school.

There are more arts to success than just Language, teach.


As we said it where I spent my first eighteen years....

One of our recurring indulgences is Ghiradelli Coffees. They're all good, and many are great. We buy them from First Colony Coffee. ..This morning we had Chocolate Cinnamon, along with our first attempt to make apple crepes, as part of a Sunday brunch of coffee, bacon, crepes, and waffles. .. Awesome, in whole or in part.

You can also buy Ghiradelli's coffee from Amazon, which gets them from First Colony. You pay the same from each site. I tend to go to FCC's own site since I assume they make a fraction more that way (not having to pay whatever Amazon charges to host them). Course, if I'm in a hurry, I 'zon it.

Wherever you get it, it's good stuff.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Picture This

I don't recall where I found this picture, but I like it.

Serious Reading

The primary reason that I read The Economist cover to cover is that doing so gives me the opportunity to think about things that are distant from my daily routine. In fact, since they rarely, if ever, talk about going to the grocery store, wondering if we’ll ever get those curtains rehung in the dining room, or looking for clean socks, it would be fair to say that everything they talk about is distant from my daily routine. Its an enjoyable process, particularly if I can bring myself to stop and actually think about what I’m reading, rather than simply nodding to myself and moving on to the next article. In the current issue, two articles caught my eye and made me slow down and think.

The first is about the woman who is Mr. Bush’s choice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. It is easy to take pot shots at this choice, and I’m as willing as the next person (possibly more) to denigrate Mr. Bush’s abilities and motivations. Nevertheless, I assume that she is not a casual choice, but the result of serious analysis. Considering that he wants to pick someone who is politically acceptable to him, and attitudinally acceptable to the conservatives, yet not so conservative that it would automatically trigger anger and obstruction from the Democrats, I think that he found himself weeding out a number of people who were qualified for the position. This candidate, though probably not the sole one with this distinction, is still likely one of the few who met the litmus test – conservative, acceptable, not likely to trigger a fuss. Yet because apparently one of the requirements was not ability, a fuss has been generated. I find myself doing the same calculus now that I did when Roberts was being considered – if this one isn’t approved, which way will the President go on the next? Will he pick someone who is more qualified for the position, and more politically acceptable to the Democrats, knowing that this will anger his supporters, or will he pick someone who is qualified for the position while being more conservatively rigorous, relying on numerical superiority in the Senate to achieve success? Given that choice, is the nominee the best of a bad deal?

The second is a series of articles on the politics of euthanasia. One starts with what they call ‘the policeman’s dilemma’ – a policeman comes upon someone who is grievously injured in a car wreck, the car is on fire, and the person will likely be burned alive before he can be extricated. He begs the policeman to shoot him. What should the policeman do? The article goes on to less dramatic but equally compelling incidents – a person is terminally ill, no hope of recovery, and in serious, agonizing pain. They beg for someone to end their life. Do they have the right to make that request, and does anyone have the right to honor it? There are good arguments on both sides of that issue. We do not countenance keeping someone in agony if we can provide medical relief; it is a logical step further to say that we should not countenance keeping someone in agony if medicine cannot provide relief, but other actions can. Yet it can also be said that agreeing to the death of a person at their request can easily be perverted into granting death for lesser reasons, and not always at the wish of the person involved. Grandpa is a pain, we want him gone. No one would agree to killing him because he is a bother, but if we can make the case that he is in pain, that no surcease is available, and that only euthanasia will suffice, should he not be euthanised?

Worthwhile reading.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Startling News

My group's manager called me today to tell me that as a result of a planned reorganization of his and other departments, there would be some merging going on of functions performed elsewhere. I immediately tensed, as this usually precedes a statement such as 'and therefore we want you to pick up these additional responsibilities'. And that's what happened -- but not in the manner I expected.

Instead, he told me that it is possible -- not a given -- that they would ask me to pick up the responsibilities of a person who does some low-level performance work at my location, and that if that happened, I would begin doing performance full-time, as my primary job, instead of part-time, as a surreptitious, don't-tell-anyone sort of thing. Apparently, the combination of being a good doobie and continually saying that technical work is what I really want to do may be about to pay off. Its a maybe, not a given, but its a hell of a lot more than I've had in the past.

Cross your fingers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I can be a coarse person.

When I was in the military, it was routine for me to use the common vulgarities. I haven't been in the military for more than twenty years, but the memory lingers on. Sometimes, it comes up when no other phrase will do. For example: when describing a situation where multiple people are working on the same thing, but independent of each other, unaware of each other, and not communicating with each other, the phrase that comes to mind is Clusterfuck. To my mind, no word, no combination of words says it better. I occasionally wonder why that is; the best I've ever heard (and I admit that I haven't done more than just a little reading on the subject) is that there is a visceral pleasure in words with an explosive, guttural sound. I think that the word 'fricative' is an omonotopeic (sp?) way of saying it. Whatever the reason, when things are bollixed up, and people are running in circles or working at cross purposes, clusterfuck -- sometimes, goddamned clusterfuck -- is the phrase that comes to mind.

What brings this to mind is a page I found wherein a person describes a PDF that he's created to assist in taking notes using the Cornell method. I admit, I'd not heard of that phrase prior to seeing the page, but I've seen the concept -- that being, that notes are taken quickly, and then summarized in a wide margin along one side, so that you can easily scan content without having to reread all of the notes. In the page, the person refers to 'help my cheap ass....' That jarred me. I am sure that to him it was a casual phrase, and its possible that he meant it as a witty, albeit true, comment: he is unwilling to spend money on something that he wants, and the way he describes that state is 'my cheap ass'.

What I don't really understand -- don't have a good feeling for -- is why people do that. Why do they denigrate themselves like that? Or is it possible that they don't see it as denigrating, any more than describing their hair color or the length of their nose? Is it possible that they would regard saying that concept in a more socially acceptable way - ' help me purchase something that I don't want to spend money to get' - as pompous and fake?

I don't know. But I wonder about it.

Friday, October 07, 2005


One of my co-workers yesterday apparently gave me the gift that keeps on giving. I'd noticed him walking around, coughing loudly, and thought in passing several uncharitable comments, and then this morning, several more, as I realized that I was more than normally unwilling to wake up. One of those mornings when you walk into the kitchen and peer uncertainly around, thinking 'I know there was a reason I came in here...what was it?' Moving slow, thinking slow.

As it happens, Friday is one of the days when I routinely work from home, so it wasn't a bit deal to spend pretty much the whole day in my pajamas. Like the cartoon dog and the internet, on SameTime and email, no one can tell that you're in your pajamas. But by two PM I was starting to feel a little tired, and actually laid down for a bit half an hour later, drifting off to sleep fairly quickly. Tough to do that at the office.

We didn't have much planned for this weekend, though; another good thing, as it is raining now, off and on, and predicted to continue that way for the next two days. My wife and daughter were thinking of going to a Renaissance Faire (is that a copyrighted organization, I wonder? Is there a RenFaire Central? Wouldn't be surprised. I remember when I learned that the reason people announcing ball games talked about licensing from 'Major League Baseball' is that there actually is a corporation with that name, complete and separate from baseball itself. I bet RF has one, too.) If the rain keeps them from it, they'll just go next weekend.

As for me, I'm going to be a little bit adventurous and making chorizo, a form of spicy sausage (patties, not in links). I had found the recipe in a Culinary Institute of America book that I got from the library, and it looks good. Its one of the ingredients in a Breakfast Burrito recipe, and I'd like to make that -- we've been getting pre-made BBs for a while, and though we like them, we've started to feel that they aren't as good as when we first started. Making our own sounds like it could be fun. Not this weekend, though, as it calls for more organizational skills than we tend to have to do that and the chorizo all at once. We'll make that this weekend, and if we make enough, and we like it, we'll make the BBs next weekend. I want to bake something this weekend; not sure what. There are some muffin recipes that look good. (Well, of course; big glossy books like that don't put in recipes that look awful (g); they put in the ones that make you say Hey, I can do that, when in fact they are something that would be easy for a good cook, and somewhat of a challenge for someone like me. ) And we're going to make what I call 'overnight hot chocolate'; you make the chocolate mixture at night, chill it overnight, and then blend and heat it in the morning. And that will be Sunday brunch. I think we can do that.

Looking forward to it. And to being rid of this cold.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Thematically Speaking

I don't give much thought to TV themes, and would likely say with at least a hint of snobbishness that I don't know any television show themes. Which might even be true if you limit the selection to current television -- I have no clue what the theme from House sounds like, or even if it has one, and as for West Wing, I know that I like the sound of it, but I can't hum it.

But I've just been looking through a site that collects that kind of thing, and I found several that bring back memories. Sounds from my youth. Sounds that make me smile.

George of the Jungle.... Star Trek.... Taxi.

Hawaii Five - O.... Mission: Impossible..... Batman.

And one that I like so much, I will stop what I'm doing, just to listen to it, all the way through.

Saint Elsewhere.

(The only song I know of that will make me crank up the sound on the car radio -- to the astonishment of my wife, one time - is this one. But Saint Elsewhere comes close.)

Scrambled Egg Medicine

We were talking a bit at dinner tonight about an article in the Washington Post which said that certain doctors are now charging on-going fees in addition to their normal schedule of fees. The article called this 'caviar medicine', which is a bit of a misnomer. Later in the article, it spoke of doctors charging large fees, on the order of hundreds or thousands of dollars, per year, in addition to the normal fees. That's caviar medicine. Call this.... scrambled egg medicine.

For some time, I have thought that doctors earned too much money. I find it difficult to think that what a family practice doctor normally does can be worth the going rate, which around here is about one hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. I don't know if that's before they pay malpractice premiums, and I don't know any doctors well enough to ask. I know one who might tell me, but probably wouldn't, as she tends to be fairly secretive about the business side of what she does. I know that doctors go through a lot to get where they are, and I know that their job can contain a lot of stress and scrutiny that I'd find intolerable. So perhaps one hundred fifty thousand a year isn't unreasonable.

Caviar medicine is a different story. The point of high-additional-fee medicine, as I see it, is to practice medicine the way that the practitioner wants, while maintaining or perhaps increasing income. Its that last clause that usually gets me. I think it smacks of gouging, even if it is only gouging those who 'choose' to be gouged. When your alternative is hunting for another doctor, it might not be much of a choice. But the scrambled egg medicine people aren't doing it to be able to work thirty hour weeks while still jetting to St. Barts or Chiang Mei for the casual vacation. According to the article, the doctors who are tacking on additional fees, of anywhere from twenty dollars a year to a couple of hundred dollars a year, are doing it in an attempt to replace the income that they've lost from declining insurance payouts, and to compensate for additional costs they've encountered in taking time to fill out forms, answer phoned-in questions, and having staff just to deal with insurance companies and maintain HIPAA-compliant records. I think that's reasonable. Good docs are worth saving. I'd pay that fee, if asked.

No, I'm not volunteering.

Monday Morning

We seem to have arrived at Monday morning. It is both better and worse than I thought it would be.

The better is that I slept pretty well last night, even managing to get up in time to cook breakfast. I like doing that. Granted, I was a little shaky on what happens when -- its generally a better idea to add hot water to the waffle mix, not mix in the water and then microwave the whole damn thing -- and we did run out of sausage, but those were minor things. I doubt anyone's Monday arrives looking like a beautiful day unless a) they don't work, b) they work on weekends, or c) they love what they do. I'm going to assume those people are insane, and let them be.

The worse has multiple components.

I got up at about 4:50AM on Saturday, by the table alarm clock, and noted almost immediately that my watch said it was a little after 12AM. Nothing good can come of finding this out at that time. Fortunately, I do have another watch (its my 'classy' watch, black with no numbers, which I wear on the rare occasions that we go out, and I want to signify that I am 'dressed up'.) so I was able to survive. What is it about having a watch that, if you're not wearing it, and you turn your wrist and look at where the watch should be, somehow satisfies the need to look at it?

My suspicions about the need for me to be at the customer site yesterday were if anything understated. Not only didn't they have anything to discuss, there was a great deal of initial confusion because a power hit had taken out their local LAN, knocking out the first step in their linkage to our mainframe system, not to mention, the voice response units that they used for automated customer inquiries. Turned out that they didn't have connectivity to the internet, either -- they'd said they did, but what they meant to say was If you have our firewall software on your PC then you can connect to the internet. This meant that I could not connect to my company's network, hence the instant messaging system, which was the whole reason I'd brought the laptop along. (At least I didn't bring the work laptop, which is heavier, had a battery good for about thirty minutes, takes literally five minutes to boot up, and runs slowly.) So I got to sit there in a warm state office, staring into space, for about five hours, including time waiting for the guy who was on call for the voice response units to sprint right into the office to restart the servers. Took him about an hour to get in, and about five minutes to do the restart. Guess the concept of 'remote restart' is beyond them. I shouldn't be surprised -- the level of technolgy here would make a marketing guy weep. Their parking garage, incidentally, charges seven dollars for five hours or less. Fourteen dollars for more than five hours. I was there for five hours and twenty three minutes. Thanks, server guy.

On Saturday morning I'd applied software license keys for a product used by one of our customers, feeling a little bit pleased because I'd gotten them. Turns out, though, that the format of the keys had changed, so they actually had problems till Sunday evening. They did try to page me, during the period when I was in at the customer's office, but I never got squat -- which was a double fluke, as I don't normally wear the pager on the weekend anyway. Apparently the other people in my group wear it all the time, which I think is bizarre -- and in this case, useless. Once I found the problem, I fixed it, but now its Monday Morning, and all of the MM Quarterbacks will be suiting up.

My wife and daughter got home safely last night, after taking an hour longer than the trip should have due to multiple delays. Somehow my daughter got a really bad sore throat, to the point that she can barely talk this morning. I gave her a note to give to her teachers, saying that she had a sore throat and was hoarse (I had to keep myself from writing the note to say a 'soar throat and a horse voice', so maybe I am still tired) which she appreciated. Not sure if she'll use it, though.

I have a meeting at 9AM to talk about the weekend, and one at 1PM to talk about some incomprehensible audit stuff, with people who Really Care about that sort of thing.

And the day is young !

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What if.....

Let's assume, purely for the purpose of thinking about it, that the Republican engine is starting to run out of steam. Let's also assume that in the next elections, both the Congressional and the Presidential ones, that the Democrats can put together a coherent strategy and message that's effective in acquiring votes. Finally, let's assume that the result of all of this is that the Democrats sweep back into power.

How will they ensure that they are not nailed by the same kind of missteps, bad decisions, and ethical chasms that are bedeviling the Republicans right now? Because now is the time to think about it. Now is the time to say what rules you're going to play by, possibly (probably) even to say, if only to yourself, what rules you're going to bend. Or shatter -- once you're in office again. Because its going to happen, eventually. Got to. No party stays in power forever.

I would bet that no one on the Democratic side is doing that. I would bet that the Democratic view is, whatever it takes to get back in office. We'll be pure then, you betcha. But first, we gotta get back in office.


Looks like my Blog's map is having some problems. Either that, or my perpetual fog has transmuted itself to a digital version.

If you click on the numbers for local blogs or events, it does show the right general area, so Feedmap (the source of the map) knows where I am. It just doesn't seem to want to show it. Whats also interesting is that when you click through on the local blogs, and you try to select the option to send feedback to FM, the options not selectable. In fact, none of them are. You have to refresh that page to make the options selectable. Its like it's pointing to an inert copy.

Strange. I'll give it a few days, because I do like the map. If it doesn't get resolved, I'll pull the graphic and put something like an image of my smiling face. ARRGHH!!!!!.


I’m going to be really tired on Monday.

Today is Saturday. Last night, I slept alone, because my wife is away attending a wedding. I was supposed to be with her, but last week one of my company’s customers asked if I would come into their office tomorrow morning while we are doing a system upgrade. Efforts to persuade them otherwise were fruitless, and so yesterday afternoon my wife and daughter left without me for the drive up to eastern Connecticut. It’s about a six hour drive, a seven or seven and a half hour trip what with stopping along the way.

When I sleep alone, the first night is always rocky. For the longest time, I thought that that was because it took me a while to get used to hotel beds – travel for business being the usual reason that I slept alone – but I finally realized that it was simply the process of sleeping alone that did it. I am apparently used to the feeling of someone else next to me. I suggested to my wife that I engage a ‘sleeping partner’ purely for the purposes of sleeping better, but that didn’t go over too well.

Tomorrow morning I am getting up at around 4:30 or 5. I will most likely wake up before the alarm – I almost always do, when I need to get up early – and after I stagger around for a bit, I’ll get dressed and drive into the city. The good news, such as it is, is that the trip should be quick. I don’t expect much traffic on the local roads at that hour. I’ll then spend about five hours hanging out with customer people, watching them test the system upgrade, and possibly handling problems – I don’t expect any, but you never know. With luck, I'll get some reading done. I have the book on Python that I'd like to go through, and I picked up a couple at the library this morning -- a thriller, some science fiction, and a massive Culinary Institute of America collection of brunch-related recipes. Somehow, I don't think it'll the one that makes the trip, enticing as it looks.

Around ten AM, they’ll decide whether it’s a success or not, and around eleven, we’ll get to leave. I’ll stop at the store for the Sunday papers, come home, and crash. That in turn will screw up my sleep pattern for Sunday night, making Monday morning alertness problematic.

I’m going to be really tired on Monday.