Tuesday, October 31, 2006
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
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.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
"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....
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
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 won't affect normal comments.
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.
Monday, October 23, 2006
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?
Sunday, October 22, 2006
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.
Bring it on!
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:
Saturday, October 21, 2006
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.
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....
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
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
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
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
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.
Monday, October 16, 2006
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.
Enough to pay for the dental work and almost not notice it.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
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.
That single acceptable guy, incidentally? Here.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Here's the original recipe:
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
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:
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
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.
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....
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.....
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?
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...
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
.. 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.
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
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.
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!
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!