Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Agenda Items

Okay, let's review.

The Bushman is going to stroll into Capitol Hill and push his agenda. Uniter, not divider. (giggle) Check.

The number of cases of avian flu, though still few, are increasing. US making preparations, not. (No oil, right? Right. ) Check.

Alito on the court, court swings to right, gimme dat ole time jurisprudence. Check.

New Orleans (aka The New Atlantis) desperately needs help, but sinks into intragovernmental squabbling. Firm leadership needed. Ah...lets table that one.

Thousands of US military, involuntarily in Iraq, are killed, but the news of the day that we should care about is news people who voluntarily put them selves in harms way, and were harmed. Check.

But on the bright side, there was a mass killing by a disgruntled ex-postal worker. Ah, the good old days....

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday Musings

A couple of interesting articles in todays papers.

One offers the recommendation that the State of the Union address should be eliminated, or scaled back to be simply a written review rather than the media event that it's become since the Clinton years. Apparently (I didn't know this) the requirement is that the president deliver such thoughts as he finds relevant over to the Congress; the method, and even the timing, is not set. (For all their foresight, apparently the forefathers never considered prime time.) The article is lengthy, but what it comes down to is this: the presentation is mostly hoopla and little substance. I have to agree. It's been years since I watched one. The shaking of hands on the way in, the camera shots of reactions, the applause points -- I'd rather a written summary. But I have to admit that it should be tightly written, elegantly phrased, and focused. In other words, Aaron Sorkin should be hired to write it. Wag the Bush, as it were.

Another, a review of a book titled Th!nk, makes the point that instantaneous decisions cannot be effective unless they are based on study, research, and experience. Again, that makes sense. The book that it seems to counteract, Blink, came across with that message, and I wondered how anyone could seriously suggest that snap decisions were more effective than any other. Turns out thats not what they were saying, exactly, but as that is a sexier concept, thats what got promoted. If I have the chance to read Th!ink, I will -- also Linked, a book that I saw recommended on the Geeky Mom blog (she's an excellent writer, incidentally; well worth a visit -- kind of like me, only smarter, more focused, and more literate); the book speaks about social networking, sort of a six degrees of separation concept, or something that James Burke might have written.

But right now I think I'll take a nap.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quote: The Vicar of Christ

Declan Walsh, law school dean, is responding to questions posed by the Senate resulting from his nomination to the Supreme Court:

“(N)o intelligent person can be without strong views on matters like race relations, criminal justice, or freedom of speech. All we can reasonably ask of judges is that they be aware of their views of issues of public policy, be willing to re-examine those views in light of any new evidence, and be sensitive to resist the temptation to read those views into the Constitution.”

-Walter F. Murphy
"The Vicar of Christ"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


From the New York Times:

Stepping up the Bush administration's defense of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today cited a long history of military surveillance conducted without warrants, going back to George Washington's reading of captured mail between the British and Americans during the Revolutionary War.

According to the AG, there are four reasons why this program is just perfectly okay.

First, the president is supposed to protect the country.
Second, the authorization for use of force in Afghanistan and elsewhere implicitly allowed it.
Third, it doesn't conflict with FISA because FISA can't conflict with the president's military powers, and because it allows for conflicts with other statutes (see items 1 and 2, above). Also, even retroactive approval is too cumbersome.
Fourth, it's not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because warrantless actions occur all the time.

The breadth of their ability to practice the big lie, to nitpick, and to just ignore inconvenient laws is breathtaking. I suppose we should consider ourselves fortunate that he lets Congress stay in session -- and the minute that there is a Democratic majority, if he is still around, I suppose that's in jeopardy. You know -- for the good of the country.

Sheesh. Makes me wish for a good sex-with-the-intern scandal.

I thought about this some more last night. I still disagree both with the action and with the glib explanation of why its okay (which seems to boil down to 'because I'm the president and I say its ok) but I have to back off on one thing. The first item of defense -- that one's true.

Okay, thats it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Site Recommendation

I don't know Jeni Mattson for beans. I came across her web site (not a blog) while just meandering around the net. But she's got a cool, sophisticated design style that I like. If you need a graphic designer, I think her work is worth checking out.

Ahhhh.......FREAK OUT !!!

Last night, I freaked out a bit. My wife would possibly say 'more than a bit'. The subject was money.

I had been leafing through some articles about retirement planning and hit the statement that you almost certainly don't need the amount of money that financial planners say that you need -- the idea being that financial planners are interested in making money -- your money -- by convincing you to give it to them so that they can nurture it for you. Otherwise, you'll be dining on cat food at 91.

I'm willing to believe that they overstate the case. I have a fair amount of respect for financial planners, but they tend to share the trait of others in the financial industry to the effect that while they see many reasons to put money into the market, they don't tend to see very many reasons why you should ever take it out. For the long haul is their rallying cry, but by that they mean decades. Perhaps centuries. So okay, take what they say with a grain of salt, perhaps a lot of grains of salt.

But then I hit the figure that the author was saying you really don't need.

Four million dollars.

I freaked. Knowing full well that that was an absurd number, I freaked. I immediately questioned all of the financial planning we've done (more of tracking and projecting than planning, actually, but still); questioned whether we're saving enough (we save more than about 70% of the population, from what I read); questioned whether, house prices being what they are, we should buy now even though we don't want to; questioned if we have enough of a buffer for unforeseen expenses; questioned whether I really should be planning to quit in three or four years and instead assume that I'll have to work two or three more than that.

After 9-11, I adopted a policy -- NNIGN. No News Is Good News. I stopped reading about what was happening and just focused on my own little world. All that the external information was doing was freaking me out. It wasn't making me safer, or more prepared, or more of anything good. Just freaking me out.

I'm thinking that for a while, I'd better stop reading boomer retirement articles.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Christmas is Over

Christmas 2005 is over.

I know this because of three things.

First, we just took the ornaments off the tree. We're about two weeks behind the normal date, but we wanted to keep it up until we had our annual neighborhood get together, and that was yesterday. The get together was a success (we don't call it a party because we're not 'party' people; it was intended as a gathering of people who live nearby but who might never meet were it not for the school bus stop), though people came half an hour after we expected, which was in turn forty five minutes after we said it would start. After the first (and for a long while, only) guests showed up, my daughter motioned me to her room and confided that while last year she was ticked off because there were so many people (about 15 at one point), this year she was ticked because there were so few. It turned out well, though the family we invited that we don't know but who have a son in school with our daughter didn't come; too bad. Still, the daughter had a good enough time that I'm not sure she noticed.

Second, my Christmas cold, which started two days before Christmas, is finally gone. (Which was why the get-together was delayed; giving our guests the gift that keeps on giving would have seemed a bit tacky.) Well, okay, I have a bit of a lingering cough, but that's it. Blood readings are edging back down to normal, I don't sneeze and hack as much, all that gross body effluent stuff seems to be gone. Oh boy, just in time to go back to work.

And finally, I just saw my first trailer for a summer movie -- the new Superman. About which, I can only say that I hope he's very good, because the costume needs work.

Speaking of movies, we had a desultory discussion the other night about why there's a pause between the first and second words in the phrase "Bond. James Bond." Apparently, Pierce Brosnan commented in an interview that you have to pause. We concluded that it was because the original vision of the character -- Fleming's -- was an almost anonymous killer who would see it perfectly normal to introduce himself with just his last name, as in the English school tradition (my source for which being "To Sir With Love"). And then, remembering that he was in 'polite company', would have given his full name.

See what we think about?

So That's Why !

From an article in the New York Times about Ideo, a company I intensely admire:

One thing I've learned is that it is important to surround yourself with the kind of people you aspire to be. If you hang around with deadbeats and pessimists, you'll end up with a negative view of the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Does Not Play Well

I don't suffer fools gladly.

That's my wife's observation, and I like it for two reasons. First, it's true. And second, it puts a thick patina of respectability to what might more accurately described as Pouts When He Can't Get It His Way, It Isn't Done The Way He Likes It, or Other Spurious Reason. In other words, the motivation for my lack of fool-suffering isn't always noble. Usually isn't, in fact.

I got an opportunity to be reminded of that yesterday when a coworker informed me that I could not place an order form for my daughter's girl scout troop in an area frequented by people from my company and the company for whom we're a subcontractor. He said that this violated the company's 'non-solicitation' policy.

Pause while I get my breathing back under control.

Let us just say that I didn't take this news with equanimity.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Did I Say That? No, I Just Said It, I Didn't Say It

I wonder.

Given that Justice Department lawyers are now stoutly defending warrantless internal surveillance, will some of them in later years -- perhaps, when they are being nominated for the Supreme Court -- say that while they may have defended the program, they didn't really mean it, they had their fingers crossed, and besides, they were just doing their job?

In other words, can you believe anyone will, in later years, stand by what they say?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Do Dah Do Dah

I wrote an email to the editor of a magazine I occasionally read, asking about his statement that, as a young writer, he'd been told that one way to tell if a headline had the right number of syllables was if you could see someone singing it to the tune of the Camptown Races.

His example: "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"

Hit it.

"Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"
"Do Dah Do Dah"
"Makes me run screaming for the nearest car"
"Getting myself far away"

Oh, yeah, it scans.

This guy, incidentally, was also the source of the tagline I'm currently using for my work emails. He said "I'm a boomer. That means that everything I do and everything I say is by definition cool."

Well, of course!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Intelligent Design, Dumb Conclusion

From CNN:

FRESNO, California (AP) -- Under legal pressure, a rural school district agreed Tuesday to stop offering high school students an elective philosophy course on "intelligent design," an advocacy group said.

A group of parents had sued the El Tejon school district in federal court last week, saying it violated the constitutional separation of church and state by offering "Philosophy of Design," a course taught by a minister's wife that advanced the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence.

I disagree with that. The argument was that teaching it in a publicly funded school broke the barrier between church and state, but following that logic leads to not teaching anything about any religion. You can teach about religion without 'teaching religion'.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I like to read. And I like to quote from what I'm reading.

Why, just a moment ago, I turned to my wife and said "Galactica's in deep shit. Only five Vipers are operational. And there's a Cylon base star coming."

Hey, it can't all be serious stuff.


A lot about death in the news, of late. Yesterday, it was the execution of the elderly man in California, for murder. Today, it is the Supreme Court decision on the Oregon Assisted Suicide law.

The viewpoints in the Supreme Court were, on one side, that the existence of a controlled substances act indicates the desire of the government to control the use of certain materials so that they are not used in a way that is counter to health and safety, which is counter to the way that they are being used in Oregon; on the other, it was that the existence of the act indicates the desire to ensure that certain materials are not used in an illegal manner - to wit, drug trafficking, but not to interfere with their use in medical care. Neither side appears to address the question of whether death should be a legitimate medical concern.

I'm always fascinated by decisions such as this because they both seem to be right. You certainly do not want medicines to be used in a way that could make you sick, or kill you, as a rule. And you certainly do not want people trafficking in drugs, any more than you want people using nuclear materials to play music. (Thats a Cordwainer Smith reference, if you're curious.) For the longest time, keeping people alive was the role of medicine. The only reason why you would want to control the drugs is to be sure they're used correctly, but the goal is still health.

But now we're looking at the reality where the goal of medicine is to kill people, to put it bluntly; people who have expressed a desire to die. The Oregon law was to control that action, in order to be sure that it was done carefully and with safeguards. It wasn't to keep people healthy. It wasn't to keep drug traffickers from getting their hands on drugs. It was a third purpose, unacknowledged by either side; one which is probably anathema to many people of conservative bent.

I wish there had been more discussion on the topic, even though it would likely have ended in a red state/blue state division. (Did you hear? One poll on whether the president is a uniter or a divider came up 49% for each side.) I think its a worthwhile thing to discuss.

I am pleased with the decision. I doubt it will be the last on the topic.

Death Penalty

I believe, weakly, in the death penalty. I think that there are crimes so heinous that the death penalty is appropriate. I recognize that it is possible that people are executed who are not guilty, despite the best efforts of the legal system to ensure that only the guilty are executed. I recognize that the best efforts are not always present. I recognize that the likelihood is greater that the best efforts will not be present the further you go down the socioeconomic scale.

When I heard about the elderly man being executed in California, I wondered what the benefit of the execution was to society. The possibly apocryphal store of hanging horse thieves came to mind. Then I heard that this person had been in prison for one murder and while in prison directed the murder of others. I thought yes, based on that, this qualifies. The thought of a partially blind person having to be helped to the execution chamber troubled me. Then I thought of that terrorist who is partially blind and crippled, and had no problem at all with the image of that person being helped to an execution chamber. So why not this person?

I don't like it, but I think its warranted.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Good News - You're Fired!

An article in today's Washington Post again made the point that being fired can be a salubrious event. The underlying concept is that firing provides the opportunity to reposition yourself -- at the least to get away from an environment which didn't work out, and at best to find yourself in a new career, one which is presumably better for you in some significant way -- if not financially (as we usually value that most), then emotionally.

I find such logic seductive. It whispers 'Gee, I coulda been a contender, if only someone had cared enough about me to fire me!' And though its an illogical statement, it draws its strength from the fact that most of us tend to stay where we are comfortable (or at least not painfully uncomfortable) because we regard the process of change as an acutely unsettling one. We see with some envy the people who can move from one job to another with apparently little effort; see the people who bound from one position to another, gaining in the move, and we think how nice it could be if we could do either of those, let alone both. But we don't do it -- Better the devil you know..., A bird in the hand is worth.... -- ringing through out minds.

Ah, but if someone would just fire us, then we'd have to make that jump.

Which makes me wonder: what if there were a way that you could better evaluate yourself against a job (before you have it, while you have it) against some subjective 'best fit', and then look at your same characteristics for other achievable positions? Everyone's seen the articles, manuals, and so forth that purport to evaluate you and tell you the 'job that you're best suited for' (I'm always surprised; I don't regard the accuracy of these things highly, but Traffic Light Coordinator for East Chepeepee, Arkansas? Really?), but my sense is that they're barely better than when an adult, seeing a child industriously building sand castles, says That child clearly has a future in heavy construction.

I'm sure we can do better than that -- I'm sure that we do do better than that -- but I wonder; How much better is possible? What would the threshold of accuracy have to be before most of us would make the leap? And could we make that leap easier, by combining a 'characteristics evaluation' between us and potential positions with a resume and interview service?

As someone who'd need something in the area of 95% probability of not just finding the job, but getting and liking the job, I think that'd be dandy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Flagrant Disregard

I found a reference to this site in a small article in the current Popular Science. The service which it offers is interesting and fun. But the site itself is worth reading, even without it.

Levine (2)

"President Bush declared Friday that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose "a grave threat to the security of the world."

He's probably right.... but how long until he mentions WMDs?

Paper Cuts

Three years ago, for our annual January post Christmas pre spring get-together, we bought a packet of Crane's notecards to use as invitations. They are quite nice, and too expensive -- but we thought, what the heck, they're worth it for this. Plus, I have a thing for high-quality paper. Don't usually use it, always like it. Two years ago, we found them again, and bought more, and last year, I went to their web site and ordered directly from them, using them this year. Each time we typed up the invitation, ran the cards through the printer, sent them out looking good.

Okay, good deal.Time to order again. I looked at the box, found the part number, went to their site, got a 'not found'. Huh? No PC3296 notecards? So I searched for the characteristics -- stiff notecard, hunter green border, ecru background. Oh, good, found them. Different part number, roughly the same description -- and hey, they're 100 to a box. This is good. Hit 'buy'. Then, before I confirmed the order, I thought 'perhaps they have envelopes that match' -- went back to that page, found that they did -- and my eye fell on this phrase at the end of the description of the notecards:

"These cards are too stiff to use in your computer printer."


Friday, January 13, 2006

Calendar Thoughts

We have multiple scheduling calendars. There's the big one on the wall at home, the one thats in my work email and the one thats in my wife's work email, and the one thats on my wall at work. The first is for local events, school, and girl scouts (pretty much); the next two are work events (pretty much), and the last is for work events where I need to do something (as distinct from things I just need to be aware of). Invariably, conflicts arise. We scheduled the car for an inspection that day? But I'm working from home -- I won't have a car! The Girl Scouts meeting is next Tuesday? But thats the day I have a dental appointment -- I can't get home in time to do it.

So here's the deal. Calendars that automatically transfer scheduled events to email, and send them in 'the other direction' -- home to work, work to home -- so you will see them and think "oh, yeah, got to put that one on the home calendar". Okay, you still might not, but the odds are better -- and you'll have an email to look at if you remember 'something', but can't remember what.

Take care of that.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

OGO Mojo

I'm about a fifth of the way through Odd Girl Out, and all I can think is Man, I'm glad that's not my daughter.

Followed a moment later by Man, I hope that's not my daughter.

Scary stuff.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kirk's Windmill

I have a cartoon at home that I used to have posted on my wall when I worked for a former employer. It showed Mikhail Gorbachev talking with a corporate recruiter after the 'fall' of Russia. The recruiter says something like 'This job would involve running multiple competing organizations without a clear purpose and with a large number of customer organizations with conflicting requirements'. Gorbachev says "I can do this. What is the position?" And the recruiter replies "Chairman of General Motors."

A different reference is also applicable: an article which I read at least a decade ago, about Boeing and its process of deciding what kinds of aircraft it wanted to build, juggling the competing requirements of customers and users, referred to the entire environment as 'the sporting life' -- the idea being that there was as much guesswork as science in what they did.

Kirk Kerkorian, notorious for slash and burn evisceration of companies, wants to ignore all that and simply have GM slash prices and salaries across the board so as to improve shareholder payout. His motivation is not a better organization or a better process or a better product. It's greed.

What enduring organization has Kirk Kerkorian built?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And the successor would be....?

An article about Cheney having shortness of breath again, in addition to raising the horrible specter that if he died or was incapacitated, then Bush would become President, also raised this thought:

Who's next in line of succession after the Vice President?

(Tick tock...tick tock...tick tock)

I blush to admit that I had to look it up. My hunch was right -- but it was just a hunch.

"The most powerful Republican outside the White House is also the most anonymous. Few seem to notice the existence let alone the large and growing influence of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
-David S. Broder , Washington Post"

Sunday, January 08, 2006


This is an interesting search site. No great theories as to why, and maybe it won't pan out, but still - an interesting site.


This morning, as I dumped out the Sunday paper sections and started to paw through them, tossing the irrelevant ones, I had an odd thought that I’ve occasionally had before. It doesn’t matter what they say about ‘Looking for a career...’ or ‘Join the High Tech Information.....’ or ‘Interested in Health Care...’ anything. I’m past that. My plan, such as it is, is that I’m going to retire in just a tad less than three years. And that will most likely be it.

That date is an assumption, based on a financial spreadsheet that projects our net worth over time. It says that, all financial assumptions being correct, we’ll reach a specific milestone in just about three years from this past December. As I was hired into this job in December, leaving then puts a nice edge on things. I like neatness and symmetry, and it would do that. No guarantees that this will happen as planned, of course. I could get in a snit and quit before then, my wife could decide to quit early, one of us or both could get sick, or the horse could learn to sing. But that’s the plan. All things being equal, three years from now, I’m out of here and out of working, period. I must say, I like the sound of that.

Of course, there are reasons to think otherwise, too. For one, I need to figure out what I’m going to do with all that free time. I’m sure that the daily press of events will take up a surprising amount of it. When I took a year off after retiring from my first employer (other than the military), I was startled to find how much time it took to take care of the things that we used to squeeze into lunch times and weekends. There were other things going on – some substantial modifications to the house, plus my mother was seriously ill – but still, the other time was usually taken up with things. I didn’t have much time to just stand at the window and watch the leaves blow by. I didn’t get much reading done, either – perhaps three or four books when I thought I’d read ten or twelve, easily.

Another thing to think about is the idea of working while not working – not for the money, but for the satisfaction that working can give. I know, that’s an ephemeral delight at best. I don’t plan on getting a job at Wal-Mart so that I can delight in giving their great customer service, nor do I plan on hooking up with Barnes and Noble or Borders because they sell books and I like books. But something is out there, I think, that could captivate me, and I’d like to give it a chance to do exactly that. Plus, I know that I will still - still! - want to Improve Things, still think that things could be better, and wouldn’t it be nice if I could do it. I will continue to read and be tickled by articles such as the one in todays Washington Post about women starting their own companies – in a way, I think that what applies to them can substantially apply to me, looking for work that is meaningful and compatible with having a life while accepting that it will almost certainly not pay particularly well. If I’m doing it for the pleasure of it, cash won’t matter. It’ll be because its something I want to do, something that fulfills me.

Doing what? Nothing major, I’m sure. A niche market, most likely. I read a short story years ago of a fellow who was the assistant rector of a prosperous church in London - Saint Swithan’s, or somesuch – who was told that he would be promoted to rector. He was delighted, but when he admitted that he could not read or write, he was fired – can’t have an illiterate rector, can we? Disconsolate, he eventually starts a small business selling newspapers and cigarettes, and, prospering, opens another, then another, just walking the streets, looking for places that look like you’d expect a store like that to be there, and opening them. Eventually, a wealthy person, he’s asked for the secret of his success, and he tells the story of not having been able to read or write, years earlier. Imagine if you had! The interviewer exclaims. I know exactly what would have happened, he replies, smiling. I’d be the rector of St. Swithans.

I believe – no reason at all to believe this, but I do – that satisfaction can be found by discovering those niches, and filling them.


This morning, in church, my daughter held the bank note that I'd just given her to place into the collection plate and peered at it, holding it up to the light. After the usher had left, I asked her what she had been doing. She told me that she was looking at the image embedded in the pager. I told her that was called a 'watermark', and she asked why it had that name. I didn't know, and just a few minutes ago I looked it up. Interesting stuff, and once again Google came through. Like lots of others, I use it all the time for stray nits of information.

For example, on my benighted work laptop I'd trying to install a new telecom package. Not going well. I noticed that one of the meaningless detailed error messages was 'Failed Rule 1'. Sure, I thought, 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia'... No, wait.....so I looked it up... As it happened, I didn't find it, but I found lots of sites which used that phrase, including one on a web page for something called 'Project Euclid' listing an article from the Advances in Applied Probability journal . The article, written by Kalyan Chatterjee and Susan H. Xu, details the actions of ' myopic, memoryless agents'... I didn't read it -- a) they charge $6 if you're not a member of the publishing society, and b) I'm not all that conversant with more than the very basic concepts of probability -- but doesn't that sound fascinating? 'Myopic, memoryless ' - man, I know people like that!

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Well, the offspring's not happy, at the moment. She just found out that a friend who's been unavailable the last few times she called has told her mother, who passed it on, that she's planning to be unavailable for the foreseeable future.

This would not be great news in any event, but as the offspring's best friend is going to be moving out of state this coming summer, she's feeling pretty desolate.

Wish I could help, but I never really learned how to make friends, either.

After I wrote that, I gave her some things that I think of as 'How to Pass For a Human" . I will say up front that they sound manipulative. They are, but I don't mean them in a bad way.

-- Pretend that you're interested in what other people are interested in. You might become interested, but even if you don't, they appreciate it, and might pretend interest in what you like.

-- Call people up for play dates even when you don't feel like it. You might have fun, but even if you don't, they appreciate it, and might be a bit more likely to call you up.

-- If you want to be remembered by people who've moved away, you have to make the effort to keep in touch yourself, because they might not. Probably won't, in fact, because most people are more interested in people they see every day, than people they used to know. Even making the effort won't guarantee they return it, but not making the effort guarantees they won't.

-- Be nice to people you don't like.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Yesterday, I wrote a fairly lengthy screed about how my company, MegaGihugic Software Peddlars, spends a great deal of time and energy making sure that auditors are kept happy. I said that the goal was admirable when it was focused on ensuring that our code was as clean and vandal-proof as could be, but when the goal was equally 'keep the code pure' and 'keep the auditors happy', it became less admirable. The more 'auditor' and less 'code' it became, the less admirable it became. Politically defensible, yes. Admirable, no.

I said that the reason that it was less and less admirable was that auditors have a basically jaundiced view of life. Their goal is to find problems, and then to find problem with the fixes for the problems. They usually don't differentiate between big problems and little problems, and they aren't paid to care how long the problems take to fix, or how much energy that would be devoted to productive work is taken up with doing it. To them, doing this is productive work. Its why they get paid.

I deleted the piece because it didn't say anything I haven't said before. But this time, I'm adding something.

I think it is more important to create than to repair problems; more important to repair problems than to look for problems, and more important to look for important problems than to look for any problems, period. That last, just barely.

If things need fixing, fix them. But do it intelligently.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I've been doing some reading. One is a new book that I'm kind of squeezing into spare moments, and the other is a book I've had for years and read several times. I like both of them, though they're wildly different.

The older book is Warriors, by Barrett Tillman. Its a fictional account of a retired Navy pilot who is persuaded to come to Saudi Arabia in order to form a unique air force, separate from the existing Saudi air force, whose purpose is to show what can be done with a purely Arabian environment. I like it because it makes me think about the Middle East, and how not all the good guys are on one side. There are no answers in the book -- in fact, it's pretty simplistic -- but it's an enjoyable read, even if you have read it several times.

The other book is Crust and Crumb, by Peter Reinhart. It's a bakers book -- specifically, a bread baker. He is a master baker, and he uses much of the same concepts and terminology that I've seen in other books. I'm on my second 'serious bread' book. The first, I bought, read, and after some time realized that however true the material in it was, I'd never be able to do it. I saved one page from the book -- the cross reference of yeast types and weights -- and gave the book away. The second, which I dip into now, is a bit more accessible, but it, too, tends to have the tone of speaking from the throne -- this is the way to do it; thou shalt not vary one iota. C&C has the same level of authority, but - somehow - it projects the feeling that I can do this -- I can make these breads. That with sufficient care (and we're talking reasonable care, not Julia Child levels), excellence in bread baking is possible. I haven't actually made any of the breads yet, so perhaps I'll feel differently after I try, but right now, I'm enjoying it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Almost Adult Time

It's almost adult time. I've spent the last ten days in a sort of holiday haze, the vagueness of which has been enhanced by this lingering cold (on the worst days, I'm told, I slept over 14 hours -- could be in training to be a cat!), and today, though my company, the MegaGihugic Software Peddlars, is open, my little bitty piece of it is, remarkably, closed -- so I have one more day of sloth. But tomorrow I get to go back in and pretend interest. Tomorrow I get to be an adult again.

But not yet.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Stone Trek

This is so weird.....

This, too.....


I considered starting this by saying that my brain’s been in free fall, the last couple of days, but then I reconsidered, given that free fall doesn’t usually imply the kind of directed activity that I’d like to project. On the other hand, free fall does have the advantage that you do end up where you wanted to go, more or less.

I haven’t been actually giving it all that much focused thought, but the subject that I’ve been mulling over has been ‘what do I want to do with the rest of my life, and when do I want to start’. I don’t have a particularly disciplined laser-like approach to questions like that, so I suppose that’s another reason why free fall might be a good analogy. As distinct, from, say, falling like a rock.

I realized some time ago that when I do think about this kind of thing, I tend to think of the constructs of working, and not the process or the goal. That is, I tend to think of Well gee if I had a new computer....or worked in a more physically appealing office...or had a good sound system providing background music – then work would be better. Don’t worry, I know that’s silly – relevant, perhaps, but still, silly. But I am pretty poor at thinking about the process of working. I don’t seem able to think about what it is that I want to be better about work, or what I want to achieve from it that I don’t get now. The best that I can do is talk vaguely about wanting to work with bright people who value me. That’s true, I do, but in a way I think its pathetic, because what its saying is that I want someone else to validate me, to tell me that I'm worthwhile and valued. I can’t seem to generate that validation, myself. You'd think I could, by now!

Still working on it.

Two Thousand and Six

Has a nice ring, doesn't it? No nasty surprises (yet). We haven't invaded any more countries. No one's gotten indicted (but either a) pledges that when all the truth is known, they'll be exonerated, or b) issues a 'nolo contendere' plea, promising not to do in the future that which they don't admit to having done in the past, for which they paid a big honkin' fine). Most people who want to be employed, still are; most people who want to quit working, still can.

In our home, we had French Toast, coffee, and bacon. The French Toast was via a recipe that involved simmering a lot of orange juice with sugar and cinnamon, then putting some whipped cream on the FT along with some sugar and broiling it so that it caramelized, after which the OJ et al was ladled on top. A bit more work than anticipated, but still quite good.

A quiet jazz CD is playing (George Winston plays The Music of the Doors). The table is awash in newspaper segments (and the New York Times hasn't even been unbundled yet). The daughter (alas, hacking and sneezing), is downstairs, where our New Years Eve moment occurred (she insisted on staying awake, and for the golden moment she taped string to a beach ball, attached a '2006' note to it, and let it fall); the wife is at church, along with my mother. And I'm here, being a little mellow, sturdily ignoring thoughts of resolutions and plans. Well, mostly ignoring.

Welcome to the new year, folks.