Tuesday, October 31, 2006


My goodness.

I didn't think John Kerry had a tongue so long that he could trip on it.

Apparently, that's not the case.

Private blogging

I understand that there is now a product which will allow you to do blogging, but to limit who can see that blog. It is used by people who want to share - - but not too widely. I can understand that. I will sometimes put things here that reflect how I actually feel, at a time when how I feel is not too awfully good; upon reflection, I will go back and take it out. Better not let people see that side of me! At the same time that I am limiting what people can see, I get irritated when I realize that very few people look at this blog. Or, at least, respond to it. Yes, I can, virtually simultaneously, want to limit, to the point of eradication, who can see this, and want to know why more people do not respond to it.

The inanity of this is obvious, even to me.

Fortunately, this being the morning of All Hallow's Eve, there is candy to assuage my soul.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Therapy'd Off

Therapy should improve me.

Having a measurement done that says that my abilities have decreased since last week, and done so markedly, is not a good thing.

Neither is having the therapist say 'I don't know if this means we should work you harder, or back off for a while'.

Not to mention: 'You haven't felt anything pulling away in your shoulder, have you?'

I think I'm going to quit blogging for a while, lay around with a heating pad on my shoulder (what the therapist likes to call 'being in heat'), and sulk.

Back later. An hour, a day, who knows.

Post no, Bill.

What If This Page Did Not Exist?

Then, if you were truly lucky, you might get one of these.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Business Thought

This is from a Washington Post blog:

"A former Sony exec told me that the company has too many silos -- i.e., individual busines units -- that don't talk to each other. So, Sony, the TV-making unit, doesn't talk to Sony, the movie studio, about how to deliver Sony movies to Sony TVs."

This sounds like 'duh' stuff. Of course business units ought to talk to each other, have coordinated strategic goals, all of that. But I wonder: is there a point at which the business unit is SO big that it can't easily do that? Where it takes so much effort to run itself that it can't really communicate with a partner unit, let alone change its actions to make life easier or more effective for that partner unit?

I'm thinking, I'm thinking....

Windy Bluster

No, not me -- the day. Though maybe me, too.

I see by my favorite poll that the likelihood of the Democrats retaking the Senate is presumed to have decreased. No guarantees, of course, until after the election, at which time whatever happens will be shown to have been not only foretold in the cards but clearly inevitable. Taking back one of the two would be a good second place -- but taking both would be better. Lets hope that happens. Sometimes, when I am in a mellow mood, I think about what Bush could do to redeem himself in my eyes. Things do occur to me, and quickly. Then I try to limit it to things that he might plausibly do -- and the list usually drops to zero. I almost -- not quite, but almost -- feel sorry for him. I feel sorrier for us.

It really is windy out there today. My wife said that when you're inside, looking out, it seems like a great day for a walk -- and when you're outside, its a great day to be inside. Not bitingly cold, but if you didn't dress warmly, it feels that way. Last night, we went out to dinner with friends. We thought we'd wait inside for them, but did not reckon with the hordes that had the same idea. I shivered outside the restaurant for about half an hour, and when we left, I walked very quickly to the car -- much faster than my sensibly dressed wife, who happened to have the car keys.
While we were there, our friends told of a long drive they'd taken in the Arizona - Colorado area. One thing they did was talk a lot, on the trip, about two book series that their daughters were reading -- Nancy Drew, and Anne of Green Gables. Eventually, their daughters made a game of it: what would each book's girl say about a specific thing. Their example: Anne, looking out the window: What a luxurious landscape, the green of the lush trees counterpointed against the deep blue, almost azure in its intensity, of the sky, itself dotted with thick, fleecy clouds scudding across it like swans moving quickly across a turbulent pond. Nancy, looking out the same window: It's pretty out.
They said that if 'Carolyn Keene', the author of the Drew series, was still around, they'd send her a thesaurus.

The burritos turned out pretty well, this morning. We did not make the filling in advance, and it proved to be surprisingly hard to keep the package warm (perhaps thats why they suggested using smaller tortillas instead of the dinner-plate size I prefer) but the taste was good enough that we're going to keep the recipe. I doubt we'll keep the chocolate waffle one, though. Oh, and though we're still Ghiradelli Coffee bigots, still buying from First Colony Coffee (I have this image of a small family operation; would that I never find out its a division of Big Gihugic Megafoods), we did pick up a package of coffee from a site called The Coffee Fool (they tricked me, probably unintentionally, but appropriate for a site with that name; I thought the picture of the cute woman was the owner; turns out it was a customer). The coffee was very good -- easily up to Ghiradelli standards. So now we have two sources -- though as long as Ghiradelli makes that Chocolate Orange coffee that we had this morning, there will be no doubt whom our primary coffee fix supplier will be.

Is it just me, or is spell check not working (not even activating) on Blogger?

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Well, I'm bummed.

A friend mentioned this evening that her father had gone to Philadelphia and taken a baking course that enabled him to satisfy his inner need to create really good bread and rolls -- a need that I have, too. (And based on what I see in the book store, a lot of people have.) Not to do it professionally, not to create 'artisan' bread (oh, I'd like to, its just not a goal), but just to reliably create good bread -- bread with good 'crust and crumb' . Bread and rolls that taste good.

She can't remember what the school was. Or if it actually was in Philadelphia.



Why is it desirable for someone to be 'built like a brick outhouse'? I've always wondered about the etymology of that particular phrase. Well, okay, not always... but occasionally, yes.


I found this on the Food Network site. Not bad -- though I think it could stand to be a bit sweeter, or have a sweet topping.

Chocolate Waffles

7 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3 tablespoons
1.5 ounces cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
4 ounces chocolate chips, approximately 3/4 cup
Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl beat together the eggs and melted butter and vanilla, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir in the chocolate chips just until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the center of the iron. Close the iron top and cook until the waffle is crispy on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dil's Dad

I knew that Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, was a creative and funny guy. But until I stumbled across an article about his lost voice, and went to his site, I had no idea how many people go there. According to him, its normally about 25,000. A day.



It's possible that Cheney didn't support water-boarding. Or that he did, under the belief that it was acceptable, and not torture. Or that he did, under the belief that it is torture, but is acceptable under the 'ends justify the means' concept.

The first is unlikely.
The second is possible.
The third sounds like the Dick.

Its slowly beginning to sink into this skull of mine what we've let the George and Dick show do to the character of this country. What we've come to condone. And what it should mean to say that we don't do that kind of thing, even to the reprehensible scum we seek.

Geez, this kind of moralistic thought was a lot easier to handle when it was abstract and in the history books.

Things to Do

I want to make breakfast burritos one of these days. We've made them, but they're a lot of work -- I'd say it took us working together about an hour, possibly more, to make four burritos, and considerably less time to polish them off. What we need to do, perhaps, is make the 'filling' in advance, freeze or refrigerate it, and then just unwrap into tortilla shells when needed. It doesn't really matter how long it takes on a Sunday, but if we were to have it on a weekday, it could not take more than, say, twenty minutes from entry into the kitchen to delivery onto the table. For a long time, we ate Bob Evans sausage breakfast burritos, and what we found over time was that either our taste improved (okay, not likely) or the quality of the food went downhill, because now I can't really contemplate eating them. In fact, we've had a package in the freezer for over a month, and we used to buy them weekly. But not having the frozen ones because their taste went downhill doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to have some homemade ones. These sound good.

Another thing I have to work on is getting my blood sugar level back under control. It was good for over a year, and over the summer I got out of the habit of checking it routinely. I got my blood tests back the other day, and it had gone up markedly. I've dusted off the spreadsheet and I'm going to start working on that. Coincidentally with that, I'm going to make an effort to lose five pounds by the beginning of December. I'm told that guys lose weight without thinking about it. That hasn't been my experience. I'm not good with the classic 'diet', but I hope that simply being reasonable, with a reasonable goal, and a spreadsheet to keep track, will help me do this. I have two reasons: one is, simply, that its a good idea, and two is, it helps me with the first goal.

I want to start being well-read again. I used to read a broad range of things. I never went into much depth, for the most part, but I went into a lot of different areas -- anatomy, programming, traffic flow, baking. I quit doing most of that, and I'm not sure why. I think it might have been related to stress about my job. But doing that kind of reading helps me feel good about myself, so I want to start again. Its going to be like a sputtering engine being fired up after sitting in the field through a couple of freeze and thaw cycles, but I want to do it.

I think thats enough, for now. Now I need to work on a plan.

Yo, Stretch

One of the stretches that they showed me at the therapy place which has been pretty effective involves sitting in front of a flat plane, such as a table, and sliding my hand way out to the left, getting my shoulder down as low as I can, doing that a couple of times, then doing the same thing going straight out, a couple of times. A variant is to keep my forearm resting in one place and rotating my trunk down below the level of the table.

That's worked well, but its a real pain hauling that table around, so I've started doing a variant of that, which seems to be as effective, and possibly a bit more. Basically, I slide my hand up a door jamb as high as I can (sliding is easier for me than trying to lift it), then, keeping my hand in one spot, I slowly turn in one direction, then the other -- going for stretch, not pain.

It works so well that this afternoon I was (barely) able to reach to an upper shelf in the kitchen. Couldn't grab squat, but I could touch it -- which I could not, last week. So this is goodness.

Its also, I'm told, fun to watch my expression if I just drop my arm rather than using the other to lower it slowly. My shoulder notices it.

Rice Pudding Recipe

This is quite good, from The Joy of Cooking:

Rice Pudding

3/4 cup medium or long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt, rounded
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Optional: ground cinnamon, whipped cream, or a fruit sauce

Combine rice, water, salt in large, heavy saucepan
Bring to simmer over medium-high heat
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes
Stir in 4 cups whole milk and 1/2 cup sugar
Cook uncovered over medium heat 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently, particularly near end. Pudding is done when mixture resembles a thick porridge.
Remove from heat.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour into bowl or cups. Cover with plastic wrap.
Serve warm or cold.
If desired, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, whipped cream, or a fruit sauce.


It's always easier to forecast things that have already happened. Its the future ones that are a killer.

I was just reading a CBS News article about whether the Democrats are going to take over the House of Representatives. Their conclusion? All signs say yes....so yeah...but then again, maybe not.


Popping Balloons

I learned that it is possible to make Windows XP stop popping up balloon help. The upside is that its pretty easy to do. The downside is, this is ALL Windows balloon help... and every so often, its actually helpful. (Why doesn't Balloon Help come with a Gee Thanks/Knock It Off option?)

This is a succinct summary from CNET. Its very close to what's on the Microsoft knowledge base for the same question.

To disable balloon pop-ups, click Start > Run, type regedit, and hit Enter. In the left column, drill down to HKEY_CURRENT_ USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > Current Version > Explorer > Advanced. Right-click anywhere in the right column, select New > DWORD Value, and rename it EnableBalloonTips. Double-click this new entry, and give it a hexadecimal value of zero. Then close the Registry Editor, and restart your computer. Just be careful; Registry mistakes are irreversible.

Well, not irreversible -- you just have to back up the registry, and know how to retreive it if needed. Not a big, big deal....

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Do I like to read about baking and such?


I just donated money to a Senate campaign based purely on three criteria -- the race is close, the candidate is a Democrat, and the candidate's a woman. They're not great reasons, but they're mine. I like the idea of getting more women into leadership positions.

So, what do you think about this? Is it something that's worth supporting, or are there better, more localized, ways?

I tend to think the latter, but I don't actually know of any.

Comment Alley Voose, Two

Okay, so I don't speak French. (Which gives me a great opening for 'pardon my french'...but I won't take it.)

I am having some kind of problem with comments. If you would like to leave a comment, and Blawggah doesn't seem to want to let you do it, please feel free -- really!! -- to just send them via email.

Thank you.


This is the second version of this. Amazingly, the first garnered a comment. Even more amazing, it was a sexually oriented comment, not related to the topic in the least. To get past the filter, it had to have a way of faking out the word-check software. Oh, joy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Operating Systems and Browsers

Microsoft. Internet Explorer.

Mozilla. Firefox.

Microsoft Firefox 2007 ????

Oh, my goodness.....


Please vote.

Especially if you support Democrats... (Yay!)

Even if you support Republicans... (sigh)

Please vote. Unlike certain heads of state, I believe in the workings of a democracy, even when I don't like the results.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I was talking with a coworker this afternoon about a new tool that's being rolled out -- it's a replacement for multiple contact lists. Let's call it MegaContact. Conceptually, its a marvelous idea. When you want someone, you don't have to know where their contact list is -- you just go to MegaContact, and there they are. In a way, its an extension of the SameTime product which we use quite a lot for instant messages, and also of another product we have that lists people by multiple criteria -- name, phone number, group, specialty, and so on. (Most people don't fill in more than the absolute minimum, but thats still a useful thing to have available.) So, MegaContact makes sense.

But like many of the internal tools that my company produces for its own use, it's poorly designed, and not at all responsive to user needs, let alone whims. It doesn't work the way you might think, and since it took so long to get it operational, they'll be damned if they're going to rewrite it. So, for example, if you currently want to know who Network Support is today for account Bimarcks Wargoods, you find the contact list for Bismarcks, and then you look through four or five support groups until you find Network. In the era of MegaContact, you look through every support group until you find Network (and you hope and pray its called that, and not something else that makes sense once you know it, but isn't intuititively obvious, like Commununcations or Telecommunications or Customer Networking or..), and then, once you find it, you look through all of the customers there till you find Bismarcks -- or is it Wargoods, Bismarck? Perhaps its Commercial -- Bismarcks, or Commercial -- B. Wargds. Hoo, boy.

So after a while you begin to get the picture. The bigger the organization, the more static, buggy, and non-user-friendly the apps are, and the more non-responsive the support groups for those apps tend to be. Thats not how it should be, and its not how small companies succeed. They've got to do it by making their apps nimble, and thats what big companies should do. They can't muscle their way in, by and large, because the other players are all pretty big, too. But how to do that? The challenge for leaders -- not managers, of whom there are a plethora, but leaders, of whom there are damn few -- is to make the groups they lead responsive and 'customer-focused'. They've got to live and die on the excellence of their product.

In other words, exactly the opposite of how most of us at Big Gihugic Software, Inc, actually work.


This is an ad. I really like it.

Slight Change

I've made a slight change to this blog. The address to which emails go if you use the 'send me an email' link now has the word AT where the @ sign normally would go. I read about that as a way to keep from being robot-spammed. I haven't been -- heck, I haven't even gotten very many comments, lately, let alone emails -- but this way, I won't be -- at least, until robots get smarter.

This won't affect normal comments.


I just came across a web site entited The Bekka Effect, which has this terrific subhead: Endowed With Special Powers Since Puberty. I like that. Reminds me of the throwaway line from X Men (and no, I didn't see either of the sequels, though I'd like to) where the kids are playing some game off in the field, and one aggrieved young voice can be heard shouting "Hey, No Powers!"


It's a chilly morning, and you know how I feel about that.

We had a simple breakfast -- just coffee and pancakes, or, in the case of the offspring, apple cider and french toast sticks. Sometimes I think that I cater to her a little bit too much -- I recall hearing many times of parents who say 'This is what we're having; eat it or go hungry'. I don't go out of my way to cook something different if that's what she wants, but minor things like this -- putting out cereal, or popping the french toast sticks into the toaster, all this while the pancakes are cooking -- don't feel like catering to me. My wife, who normally cooks dinner, has a similar theory; she won't cook something entirely different, but if she can make something else with what she's using to cook, anyway, she usually will.

And yes, there have been times when one or the other of us has said "okay, go hungry", assuring the other after the offsprings departure that missing one meal isn't going to kill her. And about a third of the time, grumpily, she'll come back and eat, anyway -- though we'll have to act as if she isn't there.

We're going to talk to an architect about redoing this house -- additional storage, elevator, larger (or merged) bath, that kind of thing. I don't know which way we will go. I do know that neither of us wants to move, but how much bending and banging in the structure of this house we're willing to accept, I don't know. Its a tradeoff. We know that if we got a new house, we'd have the cost of the new house, and the psychic irritation of moving. How much that cost and that irritation translates into money we're willing to spend here, I don't know. I also don't know how to quantify the things we'd like to have with a new house that we'd most likely have to forego if we stayed here -- a much smaller yard; an enclosed pool. Not quite problems of the idle rich, but in that ballpark.

Play ball!

Monday, October 23, 2006


Today I listened as a coworker told someone else about a different job that she would be taking, one in a different part of our gihugic company. The primary -- in fact, the sole -- attraction of this job was that she would be able to work from home, which would mean saving about two hours a day in commute time -- a valuable consideration. I heard her say that she had been searching for some other job within the company for a year and a half, and her conclusion was that when they said they would make alternative jobs open, ones for which you could apply, they neglected to mention that all of those jobs -- not many, not most, but all -- would require you to have at least medium skills in multiple areas, and above average or excellent skills in at least two or three. Absolutely no one was interested in doing any training.

This is hardly new. At the other big computer company where I worked, that decades ago prided itself on training its own people from the ground up (which practice started when they found they couldn't hire anyone with the skills they wanted at the salaries they wanted to pay), it has been true for at least ten years that they don't do training. They did, for a while, have a training system where a class would be given in a central location (which was almost always at the corporate headquarters complex); you could dial into it via a television network. Then they started charging for use of the network, and so managers who had to keep an eye on their budget started sending fewer people... at which point the people who were responsible for the television network said well, since we're not earning as much as expected, we want to shut the network down. After a great outcry, and much spreadsheet finagling, they kept it, but in a diminished state.

All of which got me to thinking: if no one wants to train the basic skills, what do the companies do who require those skills? Surely, others have contemplated this. And the only thing I can think of is: they migrate to newer technology as quickly as they can -- not because its better, but because its supportable. And if you happen to be a company known throughout the world for building those massive computers and their associated operating systems, which requires those skills in order to be able to continue running those systems? Well, you might imagine such a company would have a vested interest in keeping its staff well-trained, and, given the inherent unsexiness of the older technology, perhaps well-compensated, too. Because, otherwise, your company might start to wind down, at least in those old-techology sectors. Sectors which provide a large part of your eroding profit base, right?

What was our stock at, again?


My daughter's a bigot.

She came home today and announced that they'd gotten new computers to work on at school. And these computers? They're Macs.

Sshe loves them. Says they're easier to use, fun to use, just generally cooler.

She's now officially a Mac bigot.

What can I say?

Sunday, October 22, 2006


An article I read recently made the point that when you ask people what a house looks like, you usually get the classic triangle over a rectangle. But when you ask what it feels like, you get 'easy access to my garage', 'low noise', 'greenery outside my window'. A company in California put together a high-density housing complex that doesn't feel high-density -- it feels like a house.

Picture a rectangular building, two stories high. The first floor is divided into three garages. The second floor is three apartments -- one stretching the width of the building, and the front half of the depth; the other two split the rear half of the depth, and each two stories. The entrance to the front apartment is on the side; the entrance to each of the two other apartments are on the other two sides. The result is a house that fits together into a high-density square but feels isolated -- you don't see your neighbors, you don't hear them. The garage is right there, and the lawns are just outside your window.

I like ingenuity.

Victorian Equippage

Okay, the Device Patented Process Indicating Apparatus isn't actually Victorian. But it's cool, I think.


I am still slightly jazzed, to borrow a sister-in-law's California phrase, by my system upgrade the other night. Okay, I have to admit, its not a great technological acheivement. I just followed the checklist (actually, I wrote the checklist, from the instructions I got along the way). And even there, I almost missed something, though I caught it before it could have been a problem. But the key point is, this is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and now, by God, I've done it. Next time will be tougher, because next time it won't be as simple a system (this was our simplest one). I don't care. I'm ready. I want to do it. I'm Hot To Trot.

Bring it on!

Three..Two...One...Light On, Light Off

I don't have flashbacks often -- but a moment ago, my wife, speaking on a teleconference for a computer system upgrade, just looked up and said to me 'They just declared a go' -- and the sonic image that came to mind was what it sounded like when I'd be in a Minuteman missile procedures trainer and they'd declare a launch warning. "Three two one...Key Turn... Light On, Light off...Missile away", I murmured ...and she looked at me funny. Ah, the good old days, when all I had to worry about was solid-fuel missiles and targetting instructions.

The Washington Post's Outlook section today has an article headlined Why Should We Care What They Wear, illustrated by three photographs -- a woman with her face mostly obscured by her scarf, another dressed very conservatively but with her face visible... and Miss Afghanistan, wearing a bright red bikini. I think that some of the irritation against wearing the scarf is because when you can't see most of a person's face, you can't see *them*, so you're at a disadvantage (thats the rational reason; there are emotional ones, too). So by that consideration, I like Miss Afghanistan just because she's, um, more accessible. Yeah, thats the ticket.

Its a lot more serious than that, I know. The two articles -- here and here -- under that headline and those pictures lay out some views.

Health care costs: Michelle Singletary's column, also in today's Washington Post, points out that more people can accurately estimate the cost of a new car than the cost of a new knee. She lists some sites that can be useful in estimating your costs: www.familyhealthbudget.com, www.wageworks.com, www.ehealthinsurance.com, www.healthdecisions.org, and www.healthgrades.com.

And finally, from the New York Times Magazine:

Do you know anybody who voted for Kerry in 2004 and wishes he hadn't?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Muslim and Islam

After mentioning in an earlier post that I didn't really know the difference between the two, I posted this question to a search engine called Brainboost: what is the difference between muslim and islam?

To my surprise, I got back some pretty concrete answers. They can be found here.

Oddly enough, the first question happens to come from someone from Pennsylvania. We must be an inquisitive lot.

Stand By

Some time ago, I reinstalled Windows XP Home on this laptop. Immediately thereafter, the Standby function disappeared from the shutdown menu. More accurately, it was 'grayed out'.

I hunted around for an answer, and one that showed up repeatedly was that it 'had something to do with the video drivers; check the device manager (control panel -> System -> Hardware; look both at Display Adapters and devices that show with a yellow question mark)'.

Well, this was patently absurd, but what the heck... and as it happened, I did have a video adaptor showing with a yellow question mark -- and when I double clicked on it, the message said that the driver was not installed. I told it to go find and install it, and it did.

I looked at the Shutdown options. No Standby.

I rebooted. Looked again. And the Standby option was back.

Yeah, I knew it all along....


There are times that I think "Why don't I just get a site of my own, put some kind of blogging software on it,like RocketPost (or others; here's a detailed list of some alternatives) , and use that' -- usually when Blogger is being unconscionably slow. ("This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified...." Yeah. Right.) Then I muse: And that way, I could write this off line, and upload when I was ready... maybe even have something that would do that upload for me, so I wouldn't have to sit, tapping my fingers irritably, waiting for it to connect' (forgetting that of course if that were true, then I'd have to leave the laptop on till it happened, oh, the problems of the idle rich). But the key point is, of course, that Blogger is Free...and other solutions are, usually, not. Oh. Yeah. Right.

Sure would be nice, though.

We're thinking of doing a large amount of furnishings replacement. The couch and chairs in the living room are aging; though I kind of like them, particularly the blue chair with footstool, I understand the feelin that my wife has about replacement. We haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, but, generally, we're thinking high quality, whatever we replace-- something like this.

I baked rolls again today, but, sad to say, they didn't really come out all that well. I left them in the oven overnight to rise, and man, when I opened the oven door, the aroma of yeast made the kitchen immediately smell like a distillery. But when they baked, they weren't all that great, so I am now actually pitching that recipe, and I'm going to try the Hard Rolls recipe again. Man. If I can't get this right, how can I even hope to do decent bread? And don't tell me that rolls have the same relationship to baking bread as writing short stories is to writing long ones: more difficult because more concentrated. Okay, no one ever actually did tell me that, but heck, it sounds good.

What is it about French-baiting? I just came across a cartoon of two knives -- One, the Swiss Army Knife, with all sorts of gadgets popping out of it, and the other, the French Army Knife, which had just two: a corkscrew, and a white flag. I am not a francophile, but it seems like they get beat up a lot for no good reason. Anyone who can do what they do for elegance and for food has to have something going for them... even if they do go overboard on both, every so often.

I'd love to ask Muslims (okay, not every single one) if it bothers them that there are murderous fanatics doing their evil in the name of their religion. Can't, though. I get the feeling that they're very, very sensitive to -- well, I'm not sure exactly what, but whatever it is, I don't think I'd get a straight answer to that question. It'd be like asking the NRA about school shootings. We're sorry that these atrocities occur, but they in no way reflect.... I know that there are people who think that the Muslim religion tolerates that kind of fanaticism, and I suspect that at one time, it did, but now? I can't believe that. I don't want to believe that.

Then again, I don't even know the difference between 'Muslim' and 'Islam'. Shows the level of my knowledge.

One of the GPs has an injured paw, again. I told my daughter, with what was obviously some level of disgust, that this animal was costing us a lot of money -- and she looked at me with shock. I think it never occurred to her that vet services are not cheap. She went and asked my wife how much we spent on the animal, last time..and then offered, humbly, to give up her allowance if that was what it took. Or to do more around the house, or something. I told her that I wasn't thinking of giving the animal away, or terminating its existence. (Yet, I added, internally.)

My wife and I are possibly weird in that we actually like to talk about things like standards and ISO9000, and why it doesn't work for software (at least, in our experience; perhaps somewhere, in the land of dreams and perfection, it does). We did that this morning, segueing into a discussion of kitchen design, and I really enjoyed the conversation. As I do with most of our conversations. This being married (twenty years, yesterday; imagine) is pretty cool stuff.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I really ought to be working now, but I'm not, because I'm still enjoying the reflected glow of having my system upgrade work, last night. Looked shaky there for a while, due to a problem with a subsystem, but we got around it. Finally got out of there around 12:30 this morning, and all the way home, I smiled.

Winter's making practice runs out there. Its rainy/foggy out, the leaves are dropping en masse (doing wonderful things for traction, and making the radio accident reports fairly lengthy), and the temperature is undulating wildly -- warm enough for shorts yesterday, long-jeans weather today. Not that that stopped me -- I wore shorts when I went out to get my hair cut. I like wearing shorts. I liked it even before I proved I'm not safe in baggy pajamas.

FinnBounce. Doesn't that sound like fun? And if you're a photographer, it's a nifty trick.

The politicians are still milling around. Now the Senate race is even tighter, with a projected split right down the middle. I'm sure that the Vice President will exercise his normal caution and prudence, should he be called upon to exercise his mighty tie-breaking vote.

Next week, three dentists are meeting to discuss my mouth.

Want to do some baking. Made cookies the other night, which disappeared quickly. Not quite up to making bread. Rolls again? Maybe.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Got daughters? Young ones? Check this.

Religious Ranters

I heard something a little distressing on the radio today, on the way home. One of the people running for the Senate from my state was asked how he squared his support for same-sex marriages with his being a Catholic. He said, after some dancing around, that he believed that a public official should be guided but not ruled by religious beliefs. This did not go over well with the mostly religious group listening to him, some of whom said that if a politician did not promise to return the country to adherence with biblical precepts, they'd find it hard to support them. Good riddance, I thought, even if they are Catholics (which I am). But it was distressing, all the same, to find the same kind of fanaticism (if not so wildeyed) in my corner as I've seen in others. Okay, my side doesnt march in the streets, let alone proclaim a jihad, take hostages, and kill the innocents while proclaiming the wonderfulness of our deity, but even this is too much. Good riddance, I say, to all of that ilk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I'm not big on inspirational writing, but this is short -- and sweet.


If you prefer the Democrats, please vote when the opportunity arises, and encourage all of your like-minded friends to do the same. This election is no time for stay-at-homes. If you do nothing else to show your anger and disgust about what's happened to our country, do this. Vote. Don't let this, or any, election be lost by default, by politics (remember Dade County?), or by lies and innuendo.

Count on it, the Karl Rove tsunami of dirty tricks and last-minute smears is on the way. He'll be betting he can treat you like simplistic inobservant boobs, and get away with it. He'll be betting that bombast and emotion will overwhelm your sensibilities, and your sense. He'll try to persuade you that not supporting the president is just about the same as being unAmerican; the same as giving aid and comfort to our enemies; as spitting on the graves of the men and women who've died in this war. Support the president? Support your country. Look above party lines, look around, think about what you see, and then do what your heart and brain tell you to do. I think it'll be pretty clear that a change is needed, and where that change should start.

Of course, if you like the course this country has taken, feel free to vote in favor of that, too.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hamburg and Houses

Last night, while we were waiting for our daughter to finish up with a Girl Scout event, we had dinner at a local branch of the Ruby Tuesday's chain. I generally like their food, though I find their burgers to be way too big for me (a characteristic of other places, too). At home, we've gotten into the habit of buying relatively low-fat ground beef, and cooking them on a Foreman grill. They're good. But the burgers I had last night -- Ruby's Minis, four burgers about two inches across each - - were phenomenal -- to the point that I stopped eating at one point and handed it to my wife to taste. It was fresh, tasty, and with a good, solid flavor -- and the bun was toasted just the way I like it. I was amazed. I even wrote to the chain to ask if they use a special beef! I'm guessing it was NOT low-fat beef, or perhaps it was some kind of blend -- but whatever it was, it was really, really good.

Tonight, my wife and I took the time to take a slow walk around the neighborhood. Its damp out -- been raining all day, and you can see winter in the clouds -- but we liked it. One thing we talked about was remodeling the house (I know: aren't we planning on leaving this house in five or six years?) and she came up with a great idea. Instead of adding a room over the garage, what if we added a large closet area there? Minimal disruption to the house, but a vast improvement in storage. I like that idea.


I know that Ms. Dewey is a computer-based animation, but I'd swear that she was flirting with me -- except that no body who looks like that ever flirted with me !

Canadian Elegance

I've not seen anything like this before.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Flip Side

I complain here, on occasion, so I thought I would mention that something good happened today.

Here's the deal. Due to how much fun I had this summer, we were several months behind in putting our bank statements into Quicken. I just put one in that was four months old! But, as I was doing it, I saw that we'd gotten a statement from the savings plan at The Best Little Software Company in the World -- and to my astonishment, I found that a combination of being several months behind in updating Q with its numbers, plus some decent growth in the stock market, had inflated its value significantly.

How significant?

Enough to pay for the dental work and almost not notice it.



I don't know whats more impressive -- that this guy actually cooks this stuff, that people actually eat it, or that the accompanying ad is (at least when I saw it) for a cholesterol-lowering medication (which I assume you'd have to take by the vat if you are one of that guys customers).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Request for Software

I'd like a package that can scan the Startup folders for all ids and find whats there, so that when I'm trying to locate a program I don't use too often (Where's that damn Calculator? Is it under Accessories? Office? ), I could just type in the name and let it find it -- or, failing that, generate a visual map of every entry and all of its subentries. Easy? You bet. By me? No way.

Understanding Myself and my Computer

This is not quite a navel-gazer, but its in that vicinity.

I was at the dinner table (comfort food, tonight: meat loaf, macaroni salad, and regular salad). The offspring had sprinted downstairs to do some reading, and we were sitting there, leafing through the remains of the Sunday paper. I mentioned casually to my wife that I occasionally ask myself a question, the nature of which doesn't change, and to which I've never found an answer. The question - Why is it that I can be sitting quietly, reading, or looking out the window, whatever, and suddenly feel a sense of gloom? Not suicidal gloom, not even close, but 'You've screwed up, boy, and now its time to pay the piper' gloom -- usually tied in to thoughts of my teeth, or my health. And then, usually, after about ten or twenty minutes -- sooner if I'm interrupted by having to do something -- the mood lifts, and though I may still be concerned, I'm not actively gloomy. Why is that?

You will not be surprised to learn that we didn't come up with an answer. No luck on a technique for avoidance, mitigation, or elimination, either.


Different subject: If you want to know what your computer runs automatically, check this, mentioned in a computer column in today's Washington Post: SysInternal's AutoRun (free). Microsoft's Windows Defender (also free) has a somewhat slicker interface (though it insists you have pass the Windows Genuine Advantage (gak) hurdle before it will download), but, personally, I prefer Autorun. Now, what I'd really like is one that showed me all that good stuff and let me vary the startup software by user (I did find one shareware that did that, but its operation was a tad flakey). If you're really into understanding how the computer is running, SysInternals has got some powerful tools that they'll sell you, too, but AutoRun is a great free start.


This morning, while I was up way-too-early for a system upgrade, I realized to my surprise that there is at least one Republican I'd vote for. He's a congressman, which means he runs every two years. I met him one time, for ten seconds, and I liked him. So, extending that, I realized (and this was not new news) that there are Republicans I'd vote for, and I'd even be willing to see a continuation of Republican domination -- but, it would have to be Republicans like this guy -- bright, energetic, someone that I feel comfortable about. (I know: 'feeling comfortable' is a lousy reason for voting for someone.) I won't automatically vote for 'Any Democrat' -- rather, I'll pause, look to see if I recognize and like any of the Republicans (or 'others'); then, I'll choose between them and the Democrats for those slots, voting Democrat for the slots still open. Because I do truly despise the actions of the Republipigs in power now, and its the pigs that I want out. Their affiliation doesn't matter so much as that does. They turn my stomach.

That single acceptable guy, incidentally? Here.

The Rings, Revisited

This site presents snippets of Lord of the Rings, as written by multiple other authors. Several of them are quite good.

This is pretty good, too, though if you're a guy, you might find some of it hard to watch.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bring the Rolls Around, Charles

The rolls turned out surprisingly well. So well, in fact, that I undeleted the recipe and am going to modify it to reflect what I actually did. I'm not saying its right, just that it wasn't bad.

Here's the original recipe:

Crusty Rolls

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening (I use butter)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
corn meal
melted butter

Soften yeast in 1/2 cup water. Put other 1/2 cup in a bowl with the sugar, salt & shortening. Add 1 cup flour, beating well. Add the softened yeast and another 1/2 cup flour, beating well again. Fold in egg whites. Add enough more flour to make a soft dough, about 2 cups. Knead on floured board until smooth, satiny & very elastic. Put in a clean, greased bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rise until doubled again. Knead down lightly. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Form into rolls (your choice) Place on greased cookie sheets that have been dusted with corn meal. Slash tops of rolls with a sharp knife. Brush with butter, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at 450 degrees f. for 20 mins. with a large, flat pan of boiling water on lower shelf or floor of oven to give crustiness. (Alternatively you can spray water every 5 minutes or so in the oven; pan works better for me.) I form fairly large rolls, so get about 15-24 with this recipe.

And here's what I actually did:

Crusty Rolls

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening (I use butter)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
corn meal

Soften yeast in 1 cup water. Put the sugar and salt into a bowl. Add the yeast water. Add 2 cup flour, beating well. Fold in eggs. Add enough more flour to make a soft dough, about 2 cups. Knead on floured board until smooth, satiny & very elastic. Melt butter (shortening). Put dough in a clean, greased bowl. Pour melted shortening over dough and work it in with your fingers. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rise until doubled again. Knead down lightly. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Form into rolls (your choice) Place on greased cookie sheets that have been dusted with corn meal. Slash tops of rolls with a sharp knife. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at 450 degrees f. for 20 mins. Toss ice cubes into hot oven to form steam. I form fairly large rolls, and get about 12 - 15.

Fakin Bakin

I was going to bake and cook today, but it isn't quite working out that way.

First mistake: mentioning to the daughteroid that I was going to bake cookies. Yay! she said. What kind? A new recipe, I replied: peanut butter sandwich cookies. Her face fell. I hate those, she announced. Have you ever had any? No-- but I don't like them. Hmm.... still, I intended to press on, but first I wanted to make the dough for crusty rolls. First batch of dough was a nightmare -- took me four eggs to get two egg whites, and when I was done it was way too dry. Hell with this, I said, and tossed the dough, starting again from scratch. The whole damn egg goes in this time, I muttered, and while I'm at it, the yeast gets 'softened' (whatever the heck that means) in all the water, not just half. After much addition of flour, it started to come together -- not great, but not bad. I finally had it in the bowl to start rising when I glanced over and saw the butter still out. Butter! Dammit, I forgot the butter! Heck with it -- I melted it, worked it in by hand (a curiously sensual experience). If it rises, fine; if not, pitch it.

I haven't even tried the rice pudding, though there's still tomorrow. Some days, the kitchen gods are saying Yo, give it a rest....


I said I wanted a chilly night, and I got it. This morning, I got up at 5:30 for a system change, and as soon as I slid out from under the cover, I knew that the temperature had dropped. Going from our bedroom into the warmer hall was like putting on a pair of warm slippers. I reached back into the room and flicked the thermostat up so that it would be warm by the time that my wife got out of bed. She's not as big a fan of chill as I am.

A couple of articles in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, delivered to me courtesy of Feed Demon, caught my attention, insofar as they both offered advice as to the 'key' point that the Democrats ought to keep in mind for the elections. One said that the most important thing was not necessarily to be in line with what most people thought, but to be in line with what most people think about a topic who feel strongly about the topic, and intend to vote. The other said that the most important thing was to be warm and charismatic; all else would follow if the people trust you. Why does the old joke come to mind about the need for sincerity?

Both seem shallow and calculating, to me. Of course, as both were written by political consultants, that's to be expected.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Don't Jump!

This image, which I found here, scares me.

Cognac and Firewood

I'm of a mind to sit in the big leather chair before the crackling fire, sipping aged cognac and thinking deep thoughts. I don't have a big leather chair, we don't have any firewood, I don't actually care for cognac -- but you get the idea. I'm in the mood to just think. I get that way sometimes. I wish I could say that out of this comes great thoughts -- usually, they're pretty pedestrian, and not worth remembering -- but I like the feeling, anyway. It makes me feel somehow classier than I actually am.

Not that I handle 'classy' all that well. Years ago, we went to Toronto, where I took advantage of the availability of Cuban cigars to buy some. I told the shop owner that I'd never had any, and was of the impression that they were quite good. He sold me three, assuring me that my impression was true, and I went back to the hotel, where we sat in our very nice room at the Four Seasons, and I drank some of their cognac and smoked one cigar. I wanted the experience, you see, and to see if it was all that it was cracked up to be. After about ten minutes of this, I said something to my wife about how this was quite the classy experience, though I didn't think it was really for me, and - and - and then I bolted for the bathroom, where I promptly heaved vigorously. Pale, a bit wobbly, I came slowly back, poured out the remainder of the cognac, stubbed out the cigar, placed the other two carefully onto the desk for the maid to take, and went to bed.

Months later, I told that story to a cigar - loving friend, who laughed and told me that everybody knows that Cuban cigars are quite strong. But good, he added.

So the classic langourous life is probably not for me. But sometimes, I like to fake it.

Oriana Fallaci

Oriana Fallaci died this year.

I don't know much about her -- she was an Italian journalist and writer, and was known for her punchy style -- but years ago, she wrote a book about the Apollo missions which was the first one that I read that talked about the people, not the program. I gather the buttoned-down people at NASA weren't exactly sure how to handle this Italian person, so she was able to push the envelope in getting her story. There was plenty in there about Apollo, and NASA, and the whole space culture, but this was the first one that made me feel as if I had the inside scoop on the people who were the reason that the program worked. The people who had the right stuff, back when you could say that, and mean it.

To tell the truth, I don't know how good her book actually was. But forty years later, I still remember it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Tonight, the temp is going down to just above freezing. Hot diggity, winter's coming. This is just about my favorite time of the year. Hot cider, a bite in the air, colorful trees --- all good stuff. Time to plug in the electric blanket (my side on off, hers on medium roast), open up the window. Nothing like a cool bedroom! We'll pay for this great interlude in winter's drabness, but its okay -- makes spring all that more delightful.

Bit of a tough day at work -- I got to listen to managers talk about a technical problem -- more specifically, a problem that a technician had had, which caused them some organizational grief. Managers don't think the way that I do, I'm afraid. They worry about auditors, and what its safe to tell their managers. I've found that the rule of thumb for managers in my company is that everything their manager wants to do is good, and if they wanted your opinion, they'd have told it to you. Its not an environment that encourages or appreciates free-form input. Its not out of the question -- its just unusual, a barely-tolerated quirk. The attitude toward it is like their attitude toward spontaneity -- fine, in its scheduled time and place.

I'm trying to get back to reading, insofar as I now have two books in actual progress -- one's science fiction, and one is one that I'd read years ago, saw at a used-book shop, and picked up again. So I know whats going to happen -- I'm just reading it for the pleasure of the writers style. My daughter has picked up that tendency -- we just went to Amazon to get her the next in a new series she's found, the "Charlie Bone" series -- which is partially why she has more books on her bookcase than I do on mine ! (Amazon makes it so easy....)

Found two recipes I'm going to try this weekend -- one is for Swedish Rice Pudding, and the other is for Beignets. But tonight, we're going out !

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wednesday Already?

This week is going fast. Not sure why. Might be a function of the number of emails that I've gotten lately. Seems like they've been coming in waves. One of the people I'm associated with is known to send and respond to emails at outrageous hours, like 2AM. I know that she gets three and four times the amount that I do, and whats more, she actually keeps track of them. Me, if I don't respond to it in a couple of days, its gone, dropped below the event horizon.

Therapy didn't go all that well today -- a function of being really tired. I woke up thinking that I wanted to go back to sleep. I'd asked my wife to wake me up early, if she was awake, so that I could cook breakfast, but I'm afraid that when she did, I was a bit - abrupt- with her. I did end up making it, which is good, but the abruptness isn't. Then again, I've never been much of a morning person. Given my druthers, I usually sleep till about eight or eight thirty -- though lately, the flip side isn't true. The older I get, the earlier I seem to want to get to sleep. Pretty soon, I'll have the sleep habits of a cat.

I was pleased to fire up email and see that I had five messages == that usually means that at least one or two are comments from this blog, and I always like to see what people think. Ahem. Two from Comcast telling me that they now have on-demand hockey, one from a medical organization headling the question 'could disaster conditions ever justify euthanasia?', one from my backup package vendor, acknowledging my payment, and one that I'd forwarded from work. Hmm.... Hey, how about that hockey, huh?

I was listening to an account of a Senate race in Tennessee. The reporters all agreed that it was a very close race (seems about two thirds are), and that it had very quickly become a very personal race, with the contendors trading jibes and slander about each other. The reporters also said that people seemed to be getting tired of that, and that it doesn't seem to convince many people.... which doesn't seem to stop the politicians. As the old lawyer joke goes, when neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound on the table.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Start Time

Well, we have a dental start time. In a manner of speaking.

Next Wednesday, I get to meet with the primary dentist, who will tell me interesting things, probably along the lines of 'and this is how much I'll charge you'. And I will nod and smile and think 'Lets get ON with it, already!"

Monday, October 09, 2006


A post on a site that I like to read on occasion quoted a New York Times reporter as asking whether Muslims would ever feel assimilated. Challenged on her logic, she pointed to the headscarf many Muslim women wear as an indication that they are not assimilated. The site rightly poked fun at that assumption, but it got me to thinking.

Is assimilation a good thing? Certainly, the Borg thought so, and having multiple divergent strains seems to me to be a recipe for disaster (and there are a lot of reciples for disaster; have you noticed?), but surely there is some way to say that both individualism and collective unity are desirable? That the things which make us unique make us special, and the things which make us indistinguishable make us one? Does it have to be all or nothing? I doubt it.

Some groups, I know, take pride in their out-of-the-mainstream style (and then again, which mainstream? New York? Dubuque? Flagstaff?), and some refuse to give up any of their individuality. I think thats unfortunate, and I hope they reconsider, because, all in all, we're stronger together. Be proud, be pleased, but -- be part, too. Its what made this country what it is -- or at least, what it had the potential to be, and is, on occasion. Can we have some more of that?

Dammit, there's my liberal streak showing again. Sorry.


Numbers are a funny thing. They have a weight far in excess of their actual value. Take freedom of movement.

I went to my therapy this morning, and, after stretching, had my freedom of movement measured. This is a measure of how far I can lift my arm, unaided. I've been telling people that I have about 60 or 70 percent motion. The total range of motion should be about 160 degrees. When the guy measured it, it came out to 105 degrees. This is good; last week it was 95 degrees, so thats a substantial jump. As it turns out, 105/160 works out to be just about 65% -- so my guess was pretty good. The thing is, I was lowballing it. I actually thought it was more like 70%, or maybe a bit more. Seeing that, I thought: Only 65%?

Speaking of numbers, the Democrats are calculating like crazy. A site that I look at on occasion has been forecasting that the Senate will be 50% Democrat, 49% Republican, and 1% independent (and how popular do you think that person will be?), while the House will be 219 Democrats, 215 Republicans, and one they're not sure about. To me, thats a clean sweep; happy days are here again. (That is, if you assume having to clean up the sludge left by the current administration is 'happy'. Not everyone would think it has to be cleaned up, for one thing; some probably simply want a bigger share.) But according to the New York Times, thats not really true. Although they would be numerically in control, they wouldn't have overwhelming control -- the kind that the Republicans had, six years ago. They'd have enough to be blamable, but not enough to ensure having everything their way -- assuming the Democrats could all agree on what that even meant. (Thus you see the worth of the Republican hive mind.) And, therefore, perhaps they ought to back off a little, try to almost have superiority, but not quite -- so that the roles are reversed. How much is enough? Apparently, more than you can count on, no matter what that value might be.

On the work side, they're restarting the project I bailed from, and they want me involved -- this after I ran from it, telling them I was burned out, ayudame, no mas. And the scary part is: it sounded attractive to me. C'mon, just one line of cocaine, one toke -- how bad could it be?

Oh, and my system IPLd. Second try. This is a good thing.

Responding to Violence

From the Christian Science Monitor:

The Amish of Lancaster County, often seen as living in an idyllic but archaic past, have given a powerful example for the future. Their actions since the school shootings that killed five Amish girls provide one of many ways to prevent such tragedies.

Previous school shootings, notably the 1999 murders at Columbine High School, have led to calls for any number of useful, preventive measures, such as tighter security, more federal gun control, antibullying training for young children, more parental vigilance in communities, and closer screening of wayward students. And perhaps, as a result, many shootings have been prevented.

Those Old Order Amish who live a secluded life near the school at Nickel Mines, Pa., have a different idea.

Their faith in the power of forgiveness led them to invite the widow of the nonAmish killer, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to the funeral for four of the slain girls. One Amish woman told a reporter, "It's our Christian love to show to her we have not any grudges against her

Boy. I sure couldn't do that. And for sure, I know of at least two religions whose adherents would endorse doing exactly the opposite.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Up and Back

We went up to my mother in laws house yesterday, and came back today. In the grand scheme of things, thats not a lot of driving -- about two hours each way -- but I'm fairly whacked. And I didn't do most of the driving! The trip was worth it, though -- it's her eightieth birthday, so they reserved a room at a fairly decent hotel and her immediate family got together for Sunday brunch -- daughters, sons - in - law, nieces, and granddaughters. That may not sound like a working definition of 'immediate family', but for an Italian family, it'll do. Getting up at 6AM to dial into the system upgrade wasn't too bad -- I didn't stay on the line, just gave them a cell number to call me on and then checked in periodically.

I haven't been doing too much reading lately -- in fact, I've been behind in several things, from mowing the lawn to getting bills paid. I don't like it when that happens, because being on-time with things usually gives me pleasure. I made a specific point to get the bills paid tonight -- even though thats kind of a moot point, because tomorrow is a federal holiday, hence, no mail service. Doesn't matter, I still get points.

No word from the dental fraternity yet. I'm really eager to get this show on the road.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Why I'm Not A Diplomat

One of the things that my company, the Biggest Little Software Company in the World, has been doing lately is moving workload from computer centers in the United States to ones in other countries. As a result of that, there have been people calling in to meetings from Brazil. They're treated just like anyone else, but there is one big difference: some of them don't speak English very well. Horribly, in fact: its almost impossible to figure out what they're saying.

That bothered me. Not that they didn't speak it well, but that we weren't doing anything to make it easier for them. I wasn't sure exactly what we could do, though, so I dropped an email to one of the people in Brazil, to get her opinion.

Bad move.

She said that this was their only opportunity to speak English, that doing so was a requirement of their jobs, and that if I would identify who was particularly difficult to understand, she would inform their manager that that person needed additional English training. She didn't care for the thought that perhaps some of us ought to be trying to learn their language, just to be able to understand how tough it was, not to mention, to learn some phrases that might help the conversational flow.

Me no speaka engrish, you bet.

Fried Day

Actually, its not that bad. I am a little irritated by the delay in getting my system up -- mostly due to a coworker neglecting to tell me something key, but also due to me not realizing that some tasks were necessary -- but its not a big deal. Its more of an irritant to realize how many emails showed up while I was carefully going through the material for my system. There are way too many emails being tossed around, and way too many people who beleive that the world deserves to see their responses. I'm sure that I'm not the first to make that observation, even today.

Yesterday, we brought the van in to have the left headlight replaced; today, on the way home, I noticed that one of the dash lights was out. (Why do we call it a dashboard, I wonder?) But it got me thinking about the dials and digits there. My dash has four dials -- a speedometer (analog) incorporating an odometer (digital), a tach (analog), a gas gauge (analog), and a temperature gauge (analog). I wondered why those are analog -- why there isn't simply a digital representation of the needle, or, for that matter, why a needle at all -- why not a simple number or bar graph gauge? I would guess that the reason is mostly economic, but if so I wonder for how long that will be true. Maybe we'll get dashboards where you can rearrange it -- I like the speedometer over here and the gas gauge down there, you like the reverse. To be followed quickly by people learning how to remotely hack into those displays from passing cars and from people on overpasses....

And I noticed that I had lifted my left hand up to the wheel without noticing it. A very slight strain, but only if I focus on it. This is a a good thing.

Now, if I only had Monday off.....

Straw Man

Perhaps Jack Straw should wear a veil for a while....if not over his face, then in his mouth.

I understand the idea that talking to someone who is wearing a veil can be disconcerting (remember the Lone Ranger?) , but it's not that big a deal. In the case where you need to see someone's face to identify them, its a different story (though even there, to my astonishment, some states apparently let people be veiled for their drivers license photograph). But as a rule of thumb, who cares?

Jack, apparently.


I found out this morning that although our customer is closed on Monday, we're not.

Here I was thinking that well, its not too great that I have to get up early on Sunday to support this system upgrade, but at least I'll be off on Monday -- and now I find that no, I won't. Granted, I'll be working from home, like much of our staff, but still...


Keeping Track

Every so often I have a problem with keeping track. Usually, it comes about when I have something scheduled, but didn't note it on the calendar I'm using at the moment. I have two -- one that's integrated with Loutus Notes, and one that hangs on my wall at work -- and a third at home. Generally, the Notes one is used to track changes that I'm doing on systems other than the ones I normally work on (the ones that are on systems located in other states), as well as corporate events that I have to keep aware of; the paper one is for changes that I'm doing on local systems, and the one at home is for family or personal events -- school functions, dental appointments, and the like.

The system usually works pretty well, but every so often things overlap, or the calendar in question isn't readily available. Occasionally, none of them are quite right -- for example, I have a system upgrade that I absolutely, positively have to be signed in to on Sunday morning at 6AM. The home calendar wouldn't have it because its a remote system (not to mention, its not a family event); the one on my wall wouldn't have it, also because its a remote system, and the Notes one wouldn't have it because I'm not going to have Notes up at that ungodly hour. For things like that, I need something to ping me and say 'heres an event you need to remember', and that something needs to be completely independent of the other three (yet integrated into them, maybe), as well as both portable and something likely to be remembered (ie, a device or something that I'll always have).

I think they call that 'a secretary'.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spooky Morning

This morning, my wife pointed out that with the dim light of early sunrise, and the wind blowing against the trees and the cornstalks in the field, it looked like a classic Hallowe'en poster.

And my daugher was talking about what name she wants for her Confirmation (a religious rite). She was leafing through a book that talks about saints, looking for one that was the patron saint of her birthday, when I told her that she could stop, as I remembered it clearly: it was Saint Thundercat, often known in conjunction with his sidekick, Saint Bugfire.

For some reason, she kept leafing through the book.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dental, cont'd

So what happened?

Well, it wasn't as bad as I feared, but it is certainly more wide-ranging and aggressive than I'd thought of. Given my dental history, it's a good solution.

In a nutshell, he wants to remove the currently good teeth on either end of my upper jaw. When I say 'good', thats a careful word; they've been rebuilt, patched, and capped; his estimate is that I will have serious problems with one or both sides within three years -- and when I do, any reconstructive work in the middle would be imperiled. His solution: an implant hybrid, where they put the implant sockets into my jaw, but fit into it a removable 'dental appliance' -- I'd call it a denture. It would not ordinarily be removed, but it could be, for cleaning on occasion.

He did surprise and trouble me a couple of times -- the last time I was in his examining chair, he spoke disparagingly of the thickness of my bone in front, top; now he said that actually it was thicker than he remembered, and dense, too (well, certainly my head is!) ; last time, he spoke glowingly of how good implants would be, once the bone graft was done; now he said that bone grafts can lead to flat surfaces that don't merge believably with the implant's root -- structurally fine, aesthetically not. Where did this come from, I wondered?

But overall, I think its a good plan. Less expensive, too. Not cheap, but not as expensive -- and covered by insurance.

Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music

An interesting problem, documented in the Microsoft help files.....


When an oral surgeon starts a conversation by saying that what he's going to propose is going to sound strange, I worry.

But by half an hour later, I thought that what he was proposing made sense. I was a little uneasy at what I perceived as a tendency to slant what he was saying to buttress the point he wanted to make -- at one point, I had 'a lot of bone' in an area where he wants to do an implant; at another, that same point was 'pretty thin' -- but I do trust him, and I had actually worried about what he said was a potential down-the-road failure, so overall this was a good session. Not great, but much better than expected.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Every so often I like to change the tagline on my work email. To that end, I was looking at a collection of them, the other day, and I came across one that got my attention. It read:

Dip Me In Honey And Throw Me To The Lesbians

Um, no, I don't think I'll be using that one. Interesting image, though. Maybe I'll see if I can use one of these, instead.

Cyber...what, again?

I found this on a page for the Cornell University Cornell Theory Center. I've read it three times and I'm still not sure what it means.

The Cornell Theory Center (CTC) enables our research partners to solve their largest and most exciting problems by providing access to the leading edge of all aspects of cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure includes high-performance computing, data archiving and mining resources, high-speed networking, Web-based computing, visualization and applications expertise. CTC also provides a wellspring of unique educational opportunities for the next generation of computational scientists and engineers. Built on an underpinning of Service Units and Institutes, CTC's dedicated staff offer support to more than 1200 researchers from a wide range of disciplines in academia, government, and industry.

Sounds good, though.

So What's New?

Well, we have...

.. a disgraced federal representative, coming on to teen-age boys, then, when found out, checking himself into an alcohol rehab center

.. a maniac killing little kids, then himself, for something that happened 20 years ago

.. a war without end, funded by a deficit without limit, pushed by a president without oversight

.......Nah, not much new.


I'm not sure what this is intended to illustrate, but I like it.


I started the workday in the office, but now I'm at home. I noticed that I was freaking out over things that didn't deserve it. My too slow work PC. Slow network conections. A guy having a loud teleconfererence. People talking loudly over cubicle walls. People sending me IMs while I was on the phone while I was reading emails. Because my left thumbnail was jagged. (Yes, even that!)

Much of this is anticipatory freaking out for the oral surgeon tomorrow. Keeps coming back to me.

I came home. I'm in the kitchen. Its quiet. Well, except for the large white thing that I can't remember the name of because I'm still stressed.

Getting better, though.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Religious Inclinations

If you agree to do a job, can you limit how you do it so that it meets your religious standards?

The question came to mind when I saw an article about cab drivers in Minneapolis who refuse to take passengers who are transporting alcohol, because carrying alcohol, they say, is contrary to their personal religious beliefs. Note that they aren't talking about drunk passengers; they're talking about drunk or sober people carrying alcohol. In response, the authority controlling the taxis is arranging for cabs to have a special light on their roof; this light would mean that the driver has these beliefs, and intends to act in accordance with them.

It startled me, and then I thought of the pharmacists for major stores who refuse to dispense the morning-after pill because the use of the pill is contrary to their religious beliefs. I thought that was pretty wacky, at the time, and I still do -- but it brings me to realize that religious intensity might have a way of affecting us more than just through the 'conventionally fanatical', if I can put it that way.

Should we condone this sort of behavior? Is it reasonable for a person to accept a job knowing that part of the job will be to do things they don't want to do? I think that it revolves around the ease of an alternative. If I can simply bypass one cab for the next, no problem, but if you're the only easily available cab, thats a problem. I'll take you someplace not terribly out of your way where you can quickly get a different cab? Similarly, if the pharmacist who won't dispense has an alternate dispenser easily available -- not on call from home, not at our other store four miles from here, but right here, right now -- no problem. But if those conditions don't apply, then it's a problem. We'll ask you to go elsewhere but we'll give you a discount on the price of the drug?

Alternatives. As people get rigid in their positions, we need them.

Mail It Back !

I've heard variants of this, and though I never do it, I always like the concept. This one, I found here.

When you get ads in your phone or utility bill, include them with the payment -- let the companies throw them away. When you get those pre approved letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and junk like that, most of them come with postage paid return envelopes, right? Well, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little envelopes!

Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send the pizza coupon to Citibank.

If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their own application back! If you want to remain anonymous, make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. You can send the postage paid envelope back empty if you want to, just to keep them guessing! Eventually, the banks and credit card companies will begin getting their junk back in the mail. Let's let them know what it's like to get junk mail, and the best part of it is that they're paying for it! Twice!

Let's help keep our postal service busy since they say e-mail is cutting into their business, and that's why they need to increase postage again!

Massively Intellectual

I'm not. I mentioned that I picked up light reading, the other day? One of them is a collection of Star Trek stories (where the captains are all strong, the women are all good looking, and all the villains can be defeated in twenty-four television minutes), and another is Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates (but hey, it was written by Martin Caiden, who is, no kidding, a well known aviation author).

At the moment I am stumbling through the Sunday paper. The usual outrages.

I like those cupcakes I made, but they're a little too moist -- they stick to your hands when you're peeling them from the wrapper. I know, problems of the idle rich. Not sure what we're having tonight -- I think Corn Topped Beef Pie, one of my favorites. I admit, if you don't like it, it sounds gross, but its pretty good. Then again, people have said that about Vegemite.

I am Trying To Be Strong, or at least not be so obviously a wimp, about going to the oral surgeon on Tuesday. The idea of the surgery doesn't bother me (okay, the bone graft does, a little.) The idea that the cost may be higher than anticipated doesn't really bother me. Its the uncertainty. I dislike uncertainty.

In a little while, I get to go out and mow. Yowsah!


I'm still a little spaced from only three hours sleep -- was up for about six hours last night -- but how about this picture? I found it here.