Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Busy

Much went on today. Most notably, my daughter and her friend painted my daughter's room, and I must say that they did a decent job of it. I'm a little surprised by that. The room which was a bright yellow is now a powder blue, which has my daughter a little glum, as she's not all that sure, now, that she really likes this color. I have steadfastly refrained from making any of the obvious comments to her. And this evening, we went out to dinner with two friends from my prior job. We've never done that before. We did go on occasion to 'event' dinners, such as Christmas, where multiple people came, but this was the first time that we just got together with people we worked with. I think it went pretty well. The daughter of one woman was a little left out of the conversations, and the college-age daughter of the other was bored, most of the time (I did ask her about her work, and that was an interesting conversation, but after that she dropped pretty quickly into the bored mode again). All in all, I'm glad we did not. Not sure if we'd do it again, but maybe...

Thinking About Politics

I'm a little surprised to find how intensely I've been watching whats been going on in the political area of late. Even given how dismayed (what a nice word) I've been by the performance of Bush and his merry crew (Constitution? We don' need no stinkin' Constitution -- we've got The Decider!), not to mention politicians in general (mostly but by no means entirely Republican; I suspect thats mostly their big-business ties overlapping the tendency to greed that long term politicians of any stripe have), I'm still watching the pack with ferocious interest -- at least, the Leaders of the Pack, plus Ron Paul (who I really like, though much of what he says strikes me as A Good Idea Taken Too Far).

What I want is a triumvirate for president, with Hillary on top (heh) and Barack and John on bottom (and Bill likely off to one side, saying 'Hmmm.....) -- Hillary for her credentials, Barack for his eloquence and plain speech, and John for his intelligence and foresight. I'm still impressed by his health care plan, enough so that I don't care about that expensive haircut. I like what all of them say, and as I mentioned a while back, I'm starting to take notes to summarize whose position is what, about some broad areas. That's the order that I'd vote for them for President, too; H, B, J.

But more than specific politicians, I find myself wondering just what the heck is going on with our governmental system so that Bush could tie it so completely up by his shenanigans. How can he, for example, get away with modifying a bill that he's signed so that its no longer what was passed by Congress -- and yet now its the law? How can he get away with deciding what he wants executive privilege to be, and it becomes a cloak of invisibility to the law for those he's chosen to shield? What can we do about this so that future Presidents, of any political stripe and persuasion, can't get away with running the government as a fiefdom?

As a general statement, I find that I'm really starting to respond to the web sites that are anti-war and anti-government, and that, in itself, shakes me up. I don't like being opposed to my own government -- but I think that what they're doing (bush, in pushing the war, ,congress, in not stopping it, and both of them for the promotion of the general attitude of 'For security reasons...' ) is wrong. I don't like that there does not appear to be any way that the president can be restrained, and I am wondering what that lack leads to, next. I don't want to want until the next election to find out about alternatives. If there are ways to put the brakes on, now, I want to know about them. It shames me that I still think 'well, let someone else do it'... but I am starting to get angry.

ClutterNut

I am not a big fan of clutter . I freely acknowledge that your 'pile of old newspapers' is my 'but I was going to read that' stack. I know that my pile of 'old and treasured Star Trek novels' is your 'dusty books that you don't even look at any more'. I still have a folder in the library of articles that I'm reading; said folder is about eight months old, now. I know that I need to clean that up.

Nevertheless, when I went down to the utility cabinet in the storage room to find some sandpaper, so that I could sand where I'd patched my daughter's room's walls in preparation for the great painting foray (where my fondest dream is simply that paint not get tracked on the carpet or up the hall), I didn't expect to find what I did. I knew there was a lot of stuff in there -- usually, things we bought that we might need again, so we didn't want to throw it away. And as there's only five shelves in that cabinet, but considerably more things that fall into that distinction, they tend to get mixed together. I did know that. And I knew that we had a fair number of brushes, too.

I did not know that we had (estimates only):

twenty thin model-type paintbrushes
four moderately large brushes
three foam edging brushes
three roller covers

all in addition to the one brush and three roller covers that I'd bought when I got the paint. And I didn't know that we had (estimates only):

one roll of painters tape
one roll of mounting tape
two rolls of wrapping tape
two rolls of sealling tape
one roll of strapping tape
two rolls of god-knows-what-but-its-brown tape
three rolls of electrical tape

also in there.

And lets not forget the four or five paint stirrers, and the bag of discarded electrical covers, and the chain bolt, under which - finally- I found the sandpaper.

We really need to clean up that cabinet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Go Knob

I'm not sure when I'd have a use for this design, but I like it.

Betting

Any bets that Jawge will use the upcoming congressional recess to install a new AG without the muss and fuss of congressional review?

PS?

Is this Photoshop?

Doing Science

This is one of the reasons that I'm a fan of Jon Stewart and Comedy Central.

Putting the CON in Economics

My degree's in economics, but that doesn't mean that I necessarily get it, when it comes to understanding or supporting economic theory. Take this quote, from an article on the Knowledge@Wharton site about the current problems in airline capacity:

From a business perspective, reducing capacity is exactly what the airlines should be doing, says Wharton transportation professor W. Bruce Allen.

Flights this summer are booked at historic high levels of nearly 90%. Before the industry was deregulated in 1978, flights typically ran 55% full. "If something happened back then, the airline could easily put you on the next flight because that flight was only half-full, too." He points out that an airline seat is not like canned soup or any other tangible product that can be shelved and sold later if demand is slow. As a result, airlines have honed operations to squeeze the most cash out of every seat they fly, including overbooking to make sure each seat has at least one customer. If airline operations "are running full-cylinder, then it's the most beautiful symphony you've ever heard," Allen notes. "The problem is it's scheduled so tightly that the minute something does go wrong -- wow!"


So, from an economic perspective, if you run an airline (or anything) at maximum output -- every seat full, every flight -- you're generating maximum revenue. If you were to reduce the number of flights, then demand would support raising fares on the remaining flights, so that you would earn more on each of those flights while your costs stayed constant (not allowing for any residual costs from the flights you cancelled). Granted, now people have to accept higher fares, longer waits to get a plane, and equal or greater probability of an unsatisfactory flight -- but from the economic perspective, whats not to like?

Hmmm....

Anybody there?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Talkin' Money

I had an interesting discussion with my mother in law this morning. Actually, it was more a matter of listening to a soliloquy, as she tends to stick to what she wants to say, with little attention to any observations or complementary stories you might want to mention. When we were first married -- for, oh, the first ten or so years -- this used to drive me nuts when it meant that she wasn't listening to what my wife had to say, as I think that my wife is a fascinating person, and I couldn't understand why she wasn't listening. But I gradually got over it, after my wife assured me multiple times that she really didn't mind.

But this morning, it was actually sort of interesting to listen, because she was talking about her finances -- not in detail, but just the general sense that she really can't completely rely on anyone that she deals with, her bank or the fellow selling insurance annuities or whatever, because they don't seem to be looking out for her and her interests. They offer something, and then she finds out that this new plan incurs fees that the old one didn't. She signs up for something, and then she finds that she can't withdraw the money for an extended period. She transfers money, and then she finds that now she has a tax liability that she didn't have before.

This is why you have financial advisors, as we do, now --but you want to believe that they're honest, and knowledgeable, and experienced. I guess thats a lot to expect, sometimes.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Seconding It

I've heard of Second Life, but I haven't 'gotten it'. I still don't, really, but this slideshow does a decent job of explaining the concept.

AG Argh

Isn't it nice when the Attorney General can lie to the Congress and then blithely say that it was because he couldn't reveal classified information? And the White House backs him up? The same White House that sprinkles the 'executive privilege' fairy dust without regard to any limit or reasonability?

How can we stop this continued assault on our liberties, our rights, and our intelligence? At what point do we -- not the professional apologists, the ones who see the worst in everything their opponents do, but us, the great mass of undifferentiated people -- when do we start revolting against the arrogance and disdain that this administration is showing to the Congress and the country in general? When do we express our revulsion in concrete form, as was done in the last federal elections? The Congress is apparently the only path for legal change, but, divided, they can do no more than fume and fulminate - when they aren't defending the indefensible. Do they actually like looking like a pack of impotent fools on one side and mindless tools on the other? Do they enjoy that? Is that how they want to be remembered?

When does it end? When does the revolution start? When do rationality and reason and respectability return?

Sorry -- I know I said I wouldn't talk about this. But these people are shaming me, my country, and its history. At this point, I would pay to have the whole damn administration crew ridden out of town on a rail. They sicken me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Peanutty

If Charlie and the crew has been cowritten by John Steinbeck and Mickey Spillane .... this would have been their story.

Airpower

This image, of a USAF C17 Globemaster II, is from the Check6 Aviation Stock Image Agency site. I love images like this!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Loss of Innocence

Well, that didn't take long.

My daughter just popped in and acerbically noted that with the new phone for the kitchen, and its two extensions (the one in the kitchen replaces an old one there, the one for our bedroom replaces a really old one here, and we now have an extension in the living room to keep you from having to sprint for the kitchen when it rings), we now have a phone in every single room in the house except the garage, storage room, the bathrooms, and her room. When I said yes, that's true -- we should put a phone in the bathroom, she was not amused.

Her mother's not too keen on her getting a phone, predominantly because she likes knowing when she's talking to someone on the phone, and who that someone is. I understand that -- but I also understand that she's going into eighth grade. She's getting to be an actual teenager. A little freedom -- trust, but verify -- might not be a bad thing.

Rockin'

This is one of those things that'd be amazing just for being done -- and when you find out that it's being done well....


Somewhat of a Foodie

The Coconut Rice went pretty well; next time, I had said, we might use River Rice (which isn't quick-rice like the Minute Rice), but as I came across the rice they mentioned in the recipe, Jasmine, I bought some and we'll try that. I don't know if thats 'special' rice, or just the people who sponsored the recipe.

And tonight we're trying one of the four recipes for Strawberry Soup that I have. Years ago, a restaurant called the Ground Round would sell basic burger - type food, and in the summer they'd have Strawberry Soup, which was excellent. They folded, and I could not find the recipe. So, this is in the way of an experiment. Here's the recipe we'll be trying tonight:

Strawberry Soup

Ingredients
2 pints pureed strawberries
3 ounces heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 ounce Amaretto Liqueur

Mix all ingredients and serve chilled

Bio-What?

If and when we ever build a house, we're going to want to incorporate a couple of relatively novel designs. Given that the average builder around here has been building the same way for eighty-seven years, it may be difficult to find someone who can do what we want (because, though we want that ability, we don't want to pay heavily for the privilege), so we may find that we're scaling back what we expect to be in the midrange of whats possible.

For example: I heard, years ago, of 'grey water', which is where you reuse water that's not polluted but isn't clean, either -- such as the water from your shower. The idea is that you dump that water into a holding tank, and use that tank for non-potable functions. The stuff that gets polluted -- the water from the toilets, the water with soap residue in it, etc -- gets handled normally. Similarly, I heard of a method of heating water only as needed, rather than having a holding tank. I'm not sure how you do the tradeoff -- the cost of keeping the water hot versus the cost of heating it as needed -- but I like the idea. Pushing the envelope, I'm fond of the idea of a house that will automatically lower shades, switch on fans, and whatnot -- but I am not sure what it would take to do that, and make it work.

That's kind of what I think about this, which isn't a residential design, but is part of a college. The idea of having part of your house being a CO2 exchange area, and attractive to boot, is appealing to me. I doubt we'd ever do it, but I wonder if it'd be possible to incorporate the concept into a residence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Walkin' and Talkin'

We took a walk after dinner (at which we had Coconut Rice for the first time; pretty good, though next time I think we'll try it with River Rice instead of Minute Rice).

Normally, those walks are the venue for desultory conversations -- the house, our daughter, work -- and there was a little bit of that. But for most of it? We talked about the concept and applications of Executive Privilege. As I'd done a bit of reading on it today, and learned some interesting things, I was able to expound at length, and we were able to discuss what I'd learned.

Even for us, that's unusual. But these are unusual times.

Good Thing I'm Not Hungry

...because I just learned that not only does Tucson have a superior pizza place, and a quite nice hamburger place,but now I find that they've got a stellar hamburger place, too.

Damn good thing they don't have any outstanding bookstores (some good ones, yes, but nothing to challenge, say, Elliott Bay Books, or the horde of excellent bookstores in the Boston/Cambridge area), or I'd have to learn how to like the heat...

Looking Up

Well, the ceiling's done. My daughter worked vigorously on it this morning, and this afternoon I applied a second coat. She also dropped the white of the ceiling down about two inches onto the wall -- an effect she'd seen on a design program. Sounds okay to me.

Next step: painting the walls. She and her friend will spend about three hours doing that this coming Tuesday. I really hope we don't end up with a lot of blue paint on her yellow carpet! I also hope, in passing, that she doesn't speculate on what, exactly, those jacks in the corner of her room are for. When we first got a PC, that was going to be the 'pc room', and we ran cabling for the phone and television to it. Were she to discover that she has both a cable tv jack and a phone jack right next to her bed... the consequences boggle the mind.

Cruisin'

So, here's the deal.

Its been seven weeks since I last worked. I've been active (busy seems a bit of an overstatement), running errands, bringing my daughter to events, my mother to appointments. Doing stuff around the house, cooking, cleaning. This is good. Not earning a buck for it, but still, this is good.

I've been on a mailing list for job offers at my former employer, for whom I still have a warm feeling even though they kicked me out. Today, I got a note from one of their recruiters: hey, we think you might be a match for a job opening we have, doing technical support for sales staff. It'd mean traveling about half the time.

And my first reaction? Wah! I don't wanna give up this casual life!

Some people are never satisfied. So I did what I always do when I'm confuzzed -- I asked my wife, from whence conversation emerged the new doctrine. To wit: I don't have to work at all, but if I want to look, its okay for me to limit it to jobs that sound interesting. I can ignore ones that I could do, but which don't sound interesting to me. Said doctrine subject to revision as needed, but still: is she great, or what?

Painting

One of the things thats tough about this painting gig is that I look at things differently than my daughter. I have to keep remembering that its her room; she's getting to paint it, which is what she wanted. Though I need to keep pointing out that she should try to limit drips, and she should check her feet before leaving the room, lest she track paint down the hall -- the white paint on the blue carpet -- it's important for me to remember that she's doing something she's wanted to do for a while. I shouldn't walk all over that with my requirements.

Maybe the occasional tip-toe....

Enthusiasm

My daughter's enthusiasm for the painting has abated significantly, and we haven't even wet the first brush yet. She's dismayed by the sheer volume of things that we're pulling out from behind the large pieces of furniture that are now in the center of the room -- dismayed by how many she had to figure out whether she wants or not; dismayed by how many she can't defend, and which will therefore get thrown away; dismayed by how many she will have to take back out of boxes when we're done and put back on shelves and walls. If we play our cards right, the vast majority of the stuff will remain in boxes after the room is reassembled late next week, to be later migrated to the storage room, and thence to the trash. And that makes us enthusiastic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Food and Chaos

A couple of things:

I found the following recipe on the Dutch Femka site. It's easy, and quite good:

Butterscotch Brownies

Oven 350 degrees
Makes 16 brownies

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter or marg.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the margarine in microwave, pour into mixing bowl and stir in brown sugar, vanilla and egg with a wooden spoon, until mixture looks smooth and glossy. Blend in the flour, baking powder, and salt until all of the ingredients are well combined. Scrape the batter into a 8 or 9" square baking pan. Bake for 25 mins (8") or 20 mins (9"). While warm, cut the brownies into squares.


At this precise moment, my wife and daughter are doing salvage/triage on my daughters bedroom, excavating years of things from corners, under bureaus, behind - oooh, i wondered where that went, thats my FAVORITE -- what is that, anyway? -- bookcases, and the like. You know how they say one test of a marriage is wallpapering a bathroom together? Three people in one destroyed bedroom works pretty well, too. Which is why I'm in here, now.

But with luck, tomorrow morning we do patching and sanding, and by mid-day, we paint !

Library Thing

I'm a reader, though not voracious, not omnivorous, and sometimes not even all that willing to take a chance on a new author. But every so often, I'd like a recommendation, one that I can trust. Well, I don't know if I can trust these guys, but their site's a nifty one, and when I tried it, I did get some interesting suggestions.

Weirdness


Okay, I admit this is weird in a data-processing kind of way. Which, I know, are two phrases you hardly ever see together.

I was leafing through web sites, and came across this picture. For those zillions of people who don't know (or care!), its a rack of cartridge tapes, possibly IBM 3480s or 3490s. I used to see them every so often when I worked. Whats odd is that I miss seeing them around. Of course, I know that what I miss is the sense of purpose that being in that environment gave me, even when it was irritating and frustrating.

Still -- strange, eh?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Move It!

I found a neat and simple little Windows Registry hack, here, at the How-To Geek site, that lets you create the ability to move a file with a right-click. Pretty neat. The hack as shown worked on XP, and a version for Vista is at the bottom of the page.

George's Order

I've seen a lot of furor lately over George's executive order blocking the transfer of property by people who threaten the stability of Iraq. I don't get it.

This is how I read that order (summarizing, obviously): Property in the US thats owned or controlled by people who have or probably will commit violence in Iraq, or will try to screw up the economic recovery of the country, can't be "transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in".

So if you want to cause harm to Iraq, and you own assets here, we're going to freeze them. I'm not a big fan of freezing assets, as a rule, but it does have its purposes, and this does seem to be one of them. I'm as willing as the next guy to not trust George and his cronies, but I don't see this as all that big a deal. Of course, I know that George likes to rewrite the rules he can, and ignore the rules he can't, so its not out of the question that 'commiting violence or screwing up the recovery' could be expanded to mean 'whispering doubts in the dead of night to your cat about the effectiveness of this whole endeavor'. But at the moment, what's the problem?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Happy

For someone who can become morose almost at the drop of a hat, this is an unusual sensation: I'm happy, for a couple of reasons.

One is that we just had stromboli, which my wife makes exceptionally well, and it was delightful.

Another is that I just heard that while he was the resident president, Cheney was visible at all times -- the reason being that the 'undisclosed location' where he likes to hide out was unavailable while it was being examined for polyps.

Plus, we just bought a replacement phone with two plug-in extensions, so that we'll be able to a) have a mute-able phone in the kitchen that still has a speaker, answering machine, and cordless handset, b) replace the ageing telephone in our bedroom with a smaller handset, and c) be able to put an extension in the living room, so that we won't have to sprint into the kitchen when the phone rings. We're ordering it through Amazon, so not only is the price decent, but we can return it if it turns out not to be what we want, after all.

And, finally, I just read in an old Microsoft Access database into my free copy of Open Office Base, which means I can modify it and play around without having to ship Mr. Gates and his cronies any money. I got the latest version from the Open Office free download site, here. It's really an excellent product.

Overall, pretty cool.

What if?

Wonder what the world would be like if this was real? More interesting, I'd bet. Scarier, but more interesting. Is that a good tradeoff?

Yum Inducing

I just made these:



from this:

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Bites

4 squares Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted.
Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Pour mixture into mixer bowl (optional)
Stir in sugar
Blend in eggs and vanilla.
Add flour; mix well.
Refrigerate 1 hour, or until dough is easy to handle.
PREHEAT oven to 350°F.
SHAPE dough into 1-inch balls; place, 2 inches apart, on greased baking sheets.
BAKE 8 min. or just until set. (Do not overbake.) Let stand on baking sheet 1 min.; transfer to wire racks. Cool completely.



I rolled them in powdered sugar. Wanted to use sprinkles, but someone had eaten all of them, so.... I also tried putting dried coconut on a couple (not good), and burying some chocolate chips inside a couple (not bad at all).

The Temporary President

And, now, the actual story about what happened during The Temporary Presidency.

Attention Deficit? Me?

I'd like to know more about Islam, I thought. There isn't enough info out there, I thought, and whats there is really aimed at people who are already true believers. Isn't there anything that I can trust to tell me what its actually like, what they actually believe?

Well, now there appear to be dozens of sites that talk about Islam, and though lots of them are oriented heavily to the true believers, and as such like to use Islamic phrases, some of which I know and most of which I don't, a goodly number are written to be accessible to people who are simply curious about the religion.

And I find that I flick right past most of them. In the vernacular: WTF?

Mine

On the one hand, I don't think my vote matters. I intend to vote, I always vote, but I don't think it matters. Only collectively does it matter. But because I want to feel as if I know what the hell I'm doing, I want my vote to be an informed one. I want to know that when I vote for the one person whom the Machine has belched forth, its the best candidate for me.

Almost certainly, that will be a Democrat, in the next federal election. We have at least three candidates of whom I can truthfully say that I'd be comfortable with two, and satisfied with one. And there's also that Republican outlier; though I wouldn't vote for him, I like much of what he says; if his ideas and observations flavor the environment, thats all to the good. We could do a lot worse.

The mainstream Republicans: well, I haven't seen anything out of them. I mean, nothing. I'm not sure that I could even name all of them. Lets see. Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani. Mike Huckabee. Bill Richardson. Um... I think there's one or two more. But when I think of them, they collectively feel grey and bland to me. I don't doubt that could I meet them individually, I'd like them, find them engaging and intelligent. But collectively, on the stump? Nope, nothing -- no spark, no interest. They regurgitate the party line.

So when I think of the three that I'd vote for with pleasure, I think: okay, what differentiates them?

Well, Hillary's married to Bill, of sainted memory. OMG! Rewrite the front page! And Barack's middle name is Hussein! And John pays for haircuts out of campaign funds, and the cost is four hundred dollars! Mmm...I think I need more substance than that.

So what I'm going to try to do -- because, I have to admit it, my ability is often outstripped by my desire in things like this -- is make personal notes for a couple of key areas, and try to summarize what each of the candidates thinks, and what differentiates them. I'm sure -- I would bet serious money -- that there are web sites where people are doing that now. But you know, I don't trust them -- certainly, not the ones where they use many exclamation points, and remind us of things that are off-topic, and like ad hominem attacks. But I would bet also that there are web sites that are smarter, better at twisting what they say, so while they don't lie, they're not always telling the truth, either. I'm not talking in every detail...unless the details actually matter. I can't trust people I don't know to make that distinction, so, as least for now, I'll do it for myself. Or I'll at least try.

For now, the categories are:
  1. Iraq
  2. Defense
  3. Health Care
  4. Education
  5. Corporate Oversight .....
We'll see what happens. It may be just my vote. But its my vote.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Probably Not

It's probably not the fault of either the Bushman or the President of Cheneystan when every single stupid thing happens in the federal government. But some things do seem to have their greasy fingerprints all over them. This kind of thing happens so often lately that I think I'm going to have to forcibly limit myself from talking about them. It's really getting old... in more than one way.

Impeach. Now. One at a time or all at once. Impeach.

Lifted

On RustCat Blog, I found a video from Pixar called Lifted. Its short, and worth watching.

CDCDs?

I am not an anal guy. I do not sort by socks by type, color, density, and wear condition. I do not sort my shirts by type, color, and whether they smell funny. When I wore ties, I did not...well, you get the idea.

But I do like order. I like knowing where things are. They don't have to be exactly where they were, last time I saw them, but they ought to be in the vicinity. In our refrigerator, the milk goes on the lower right shelf; the meats go on the second left shelf, the eggs are right next to them and against the wall. When we buy vegetables, they go into the vegetable drawer, which is also where the unopened soft butter is. And if I find the occasional tomato or celery or whatever lying around in the refrigerator, pop, into that drawer it goes. Leftovers are on the second right shelf. Coffee's in the bottom left. Order.

Its not that big a deal to my wife. Her parent's refrigerator is, well, chaotic. Could be on the door, could be behind the milk, might be on the bottom. On cold, cold days, some stuff is out on the unheated patio. So she learned, growing up, to be creative in where she put things, and she doesn't mind looking in odd places. Not me. I like predictability. Standards. Order.

So when I was lying on the couch today, reading, and my wife said 'Where are those blank CDs we bought?', I said, instantly, that they were either in the tall cabinet next to the envelopes and the white metal tray that holds the numerous small things that had been cluttering the cabinet (order...ahhh) or they were on the closet shelf next to the other PC materials, the file folders, and the spare mouse. Only....they weren't.

Twenty minutes later, I had gone through the entire cabinet, and the entire shelf, including moving several folders (muttering Why the hell do we still have these things here?), and I did not find them. And I still haven't found them. But thats okay. Well, kind of. Because it lead to a mildly intense conversation where I emphasized that when I swear and complain about things like that, I really, really, really am not thinking that its my wife's responsibility to keep things neat, and why isn't she doing that? Which is apparently how it came across. I really don't think that, and now -- I think -- she believes it. She knows I like neatness, but now I hope she knows that this doesn't mean that if things aren't neat, I think it's her fault. Sometimes, it is; sometimes, it's me. And sometimes, its my daughter. But she's not the Keeper of Neat, and she's not responsible for keeping things neat, orderly, or clean.

Now, if I could just find those damn blank CDs.....

Architecting

We occasionally think about things we'd like to do to improve the house. I just found what might be a nice change to the garage roof. What do you think?

Taking a Chance


I realize that with Cheney as temporary president, I'm taking a chance by posting this, as he may already have burned the Constitution, declared martial law, and instituted Rove-ing Truth Squads....

Friday, July 20, 2007

How Much More?

The Bush League now says that the invocation of executive privilege trumps anything else, and provides a legal shield for anyone working for the executive branch.

How much more can the Republicans swallow before admitting that their party leader has gone off the rails? And what price will they require before they're willing to join efforts to impeach/censure/rein in/put into a loony bin that same party leader? "Price" because I think that the Republicans are still willing to support him even as they try to distance themselves, and they're going to need a politically palatable reason to desert. And no, I don't think the Democrats are immune to this disease... just temporarily innoculated.

And, finally: how can we keep this from happening again? (My guess is: so long as we have politicians, we can't.)

Recipe Thief

Quite some time ago, I mentioned that we have recipes in multiple places. Over the last week or so, I've been working on consolidating those. There's two reasons for that: one is that I like when things are neat (I'm not a classic neat guy, but I do think that having things in a consistent place makes life simpler; at work (back when I did) a coworker came over to ask me for something, and when I opened a drawer, pulled out a folder, and read it to her, she said, startled "You're the most organized person I know!"); the other is that I've been working on expanding the menu of things that we routinely make, and this makes it possible to see what we have, and what we'd like to have. We had created a 'standard menu list' some time ago of about ten 'quick make' items (including the ever-popular Leftovers and Pizza) and about ten 'long make' items -- things we'd make only on the weekend because they took a while to prepare. Since I now have the time, and have this organizational compulsion, I've been redoing that.

The methodology is two fold. First, all of the dinner recipes that we've jotted down, copied, torn from magazines, etc all went into one folder. Well, all of the big paper recipes. I didn't touch the ones in the index card container - yet. So that meant taking the ones from the red folder (recipes we'd found and not tried), the tattered white folder (recipes we'd tried, personally or at a relatives house; in two cases, at work (hot cranberry salad, yum)), and the white binder (the binder is labelled as Frequent And Do Not Lose), and sticking them all in one folder. Then I went through all of them, segregating. If we'd only made the recipe a couple of times (or less), I put it aside to pitch (which meant: asking my wife if she had any reason to want to keep them). If we'd made the recipe fairly often but it wasn't a 'family classic', I made sure we had a digital copy, and then I put it aside to pitch (in a separate stack, and with the same conference). And if it was one of the few that we like a lot and make a lot, it went into the white folder (assuming it was printed).

I was amazed at how many recipes we had that I put aside. Also at how many dessert recipes we had. But what really surprised me was how many of the printed 'where in the world did we get this' recipes came from published sources. After typing in one or two, I started just doing a Google search for what sounded like 'unique phrases' (I think Amazon calls them 'statistically improbable phrases'); saying, for example "10 inch skillet" as distinct from "ten inch skillet". In every case, I found it on the web. About a third were from makers sites, like Campbells and Bisquick and whatnot; about a quarter were from people's blogs and such, and the remainder were from recipe sites like Epicurious, Recipezaar, and so forth. I knew these weren't our recipes -- obviously; after all, they'd been torn from magazines and such -- but I was still surprised to see how many of 'our' recipes came from someplace else. Modified, sure (someone here likes to cross out any place where a recipe says to use mushrooms), but still: from someplace else.

The organized Recipe Thief, that's me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wanna Get High?

I mean, really high?

Foodie Porn

Oh, my goodness. Emphasis on the goodness.

Stray Thought

I will occasionally see a news article stating that Bush has directed something or other of an administrative nature, like (I'm making these up, because I don't recall any at the moment) a review of current payment policies for unwed mothers medical fees, or the admission limits to national parks during periods of severe weather, or airliner stacking at densely used airports. They're rarely objectionable, and they're usually issued shortly after some politicall sensitive event (ie, an unwed mother goes bankrupt because the local food bank won't accept her checks anymore because she had to spend her money on expensive meds; a schoolbus crashes into a ravine during an abrupt snowstorm in Yellowstone; there are massive complaints about travel delays at peak periods at O'Hare International.

When I see these things, I usually assume that someone, somewhere, was already looking at this, or thinking about it, or planning to get around to it, and the effect is to rejigger their priorities, rather than to suggest something that hadn't been contemplated, and ought to be. And thats okay; the role of an administrator should be to set priorities. But it makes me wonder: why is it needed only when something visibly went wrong? Or is it more that this rejiggering happens all the time because there aren't enough resources to support all of the initiatives, goals, programs, and so forth that we have; its just that I only hear about it when something went visibly wrong?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hummer Bummer

I don't like Hummers, and I doubt I'd like people who do. But I don't like violence, either.

So, what should I feel about this?

Pencil Me In

If anyone knows how to make Blogger's Quick Edit icon come back, I'd appreciate knowing about it. Doesn't appear to be a Firefox thing, as its not there in IE, either. The switch is set, but nobody's home. And, as usual, the Blogger Help function is useless...

Thanks.

Eating Out

Tonight, we got to eat out. That wasn't actually the plan.

The plan was that I would bring my daughter to her color guard practice at 4:30, and retrieve her at 6:30; meanwhile, my wife would go get a haircut. As she was leaving, she offered to just kill half an hour reading and then retrieve the daughteroid, which I accepted, figuring that I'd start dinner around the time that she was doing the pickup. At about 6:15, the offspring called to say that the practice had been extended to 7:30, and oh by the way, would I bring her her practice rifle? Fortunately, the school's not too far away, so I loaded it into the van and went off. When I got there, I saw my wife, sitting in the grass near her car. I clued her in, and we decided that we'd just go out, rather than go back home, make dinner, and then have one of us dash back.

The place we went to is pretty new around here, though it's been in the Washington DC and points south area for a while. It's called Five Guys Famous Hamburgers. I must say, they're pretty good. The burgers on the menu are regular and small, only, as it turns out, the 'regular' means two burgers in one bun. Same thing with the fries; we got a large, thinking they'd be these dinky little string fries, and what they were was quite a bit larger than that, so we ended up with almost all of them left. Its probably an indicator of what a Burg this area is to note that this restaurant opening up is a Good Deal, but what the heck: it is. I like it. About the only thing wrong with it is their location -- fairly small parking lot -- but thats about it. I think we'll be back.

Wrappee

When my daughter was younger, people would see me playing with her and occasionally remark that she had me wrapped around her little finger, to which I would usually reply that doing so was her job, and she was damn good at it. There might have been a speck of truth in their comments, but the underlying fact was that I delighted in being with my daughter, and, of course, playing with her Barbies.

Today, I picked her up from the summer camp, and she asked, dramatically, if we could puh-leez get some ice cream because she was very hot! The bus, you see, had had them sitting three to a seat for the ten minute ride from the park to the school, and its not an air-conditioned bus. I said sure.

So I guess she's still doin' that job, hey?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Raw Squid

I don't like most fish. But I like Raw Squid.

The Next Big Thing

When I was relatively new to the field of data processing, I would occasionally come across articles that would talk about how difficult it was to get old-timers to change the way they did things. These fogeys would tell you it couldn't be done, had already been done and didn't work, worked but it caused lots of problems. I would wonder, a bit, why these people were like this. I didn't really believe that they were simply set against change, but I couldn't figure out what their motivation was, if not that.

Since then, I've sort of become one of those people whose seen, if not it all, then enough of it to recognize when it comes around again. I wouldn't say that everything old is new again, but it does seem that these management concepts are something like a bride: they always have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Ideas that are simply flat-out new -- excuse me, New! -- sometimes work, as long as you have lots of caveats and accommodations. Something old, though it has lots of problems, is comfortable -- even when it hurts, we know how it works and who to call -- who to really call -- when it doesn't. Sometimes you get something borrowed, too -- concepts that worked over there which must, therefore, easily work over here. And sometimes they do. And something blue -- well, if you've heard the comments about the new processes made by the people who have to make them work, you've heard the something blue.

Over the next couple of days, I will be proctoring two exams for a technique of improving the delivery of technical services thats called ITIL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library. I volunteered, just for the novelty of it. I don't know much about ITIL, but what I do know sounds like another concept that was supposed to save the industry -- in fact, a couple, ranging from the Deming Quality concept through other sellers of that method up to ISO9000. Each of them works in some locations, and if you're generous with your definition of 'works', in a few more. They're not bad, and they're not snake oil. But they do take an awful lot more effort, time, and thought than is generally recognized by the high concept-big picture guys in the boardroom (its my belief that these management fads get started by one CEO talking to another in the country club locker room, glossing over the details and pumping up how successful the process has made them). So its a little discouraging to see another parade starting, knowing that someone down the road, someone's going to have to make it work -- do the scut work thats the equivilent of having to clean up after the elephants. Glad its not going to be me.

Its not that these things can't work -- they can, and they do. But they can't be done cheaply except at the lowest level, and they can't be done without thought, and planning, and effort, at all. They don't work quickly, and they don't always work obviously. They're not magic.

I think I just lost whatever CEOs were reading this post!

Obviously

My daughter just came into the kitchen, wearing a bathrobe and carrying a phone. Teasing, I said "You haven't been soaking in the tub and making long distance calls, have you?" Without missing a beat, she said, as she replaced the phone, "Not since last Friday!"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Being Rational

I realized some time ago that when my gut wants to be irrational, there is very little chance that I'll be able to overrule it. I'm doing good just to recognize this.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with the oral surgeon who's going to do the implants. The next step in this process is to have a bone graft done. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that he'll come to the conclusion that he can't do the graft. This is a pretty conservative guy, and he likes to express concern about things that he's previously said would be no problem, so I think there's a one in ten, perhaps two in ten chance that he'll do this. If he really does decide that he can't do it, then thats it -- the process stops, there's no surgery, and I live with a dental plate. Although its not desirable, I can live with it.

The second worst thing that can happen is that he does the surgery, and it doesn't take -- the graft doesn't bond with the existing bone. In that case, there's one, maybe two outcomes. One is the same as the first; the other is that he can do implants on the ends of my jaw, but not in the middle. I assume that in that case they can give me a fake center piece that would be removable, and hooks into the implants.

Either way, I know what the worst is, and its livable. But I still have this fear that there is something else, something I didn't think about, something that will turn out to have been my fault. I have a track record of medical people telling me things I didn't want to hear, frequently with that cause, and I fear that this is going to happen again. I have no rational reason for thinking this; I do, anyway.

I do like being irrational, but not this way.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Getting the Business

If I were to start a business, I'd want it to be just like HuhCorp.

Bush Comments

There is an interesting article about Bush on the US News and World Report site, here. Its an interesting and worthwhile read. Some extracts from it, with my comments:

He said that nothing will change his belief in the universality of the desire for freedom, that Muslims, like Methodists, want to be free.
No problem there.

He says the most useful argument to make in support of his policy is to show what failure would mean.
Minor problem there. He needs to show that failure is worse that what we have now.

His overall goal, he says, is to leave us in a position to sustain long-term troop presence in Iraq. The ideal would be a bipartisan consensus that we would be there for a while.
Big, big problem there. Caustic and vulgar phrases describing him, his 'surge', and his personal trustworthiness come to mind.

"You don't know what it's like to be commander-in-chief until you are one."
Well, sure. Don't know what its like to be pregnant, either.

Americans must never lose faith in the ability of government to transform a region.
Yup. Has theirs? Not much. On the other hand, look what ours has done to us.

He seems to see himself in a position similar to that of Harry Truman in 1951-52, who had job approval ratings lower than Bush's are today but whose determination to stick it out in Korea and prosecute the Cold War are now seen as wise.
Don't doubt that's his worldview in the least.

Stray Thought

If the Iraq war is a failure, and we get out, how, exactly, do we do that? I want us to, but how? Everybody pack up one day and whoosh gone? And, if we do it in stages, and an area collapes -- the usual manic dancing in the streets by bearded fanatics with guns, coupled with the usual scenes of mass roundups of people not belonging to the group with the guns, and varying by sector -- what then?

Surely someone is thinking about this.

Sermon

Our local priest gave an interesting sermon today. Stripped of a short story, it was:

Do the right thing.

That was it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Games

There are games that are described as massively addictive. Some of them are, but they take a lot of system knowledge -- whats possible under what conditions with what characters, and so forth.

And then there's Bloxorz.

Thinking

I've been trying, without much luck, to get my mind around the idea of those professional people in England being terrorists. I know it hasn't been proven, but I'm assuming its true. I would have as easily assumed that the priest on the altar would whip out a weapon and start shooting as I would have expected that people who were in professional positions would want to commit acts of carnage and mayhem. It doesn't match up with my image of the people who can be expected to want to do this. It weakens, somewhat, my understanding of what drives people like this -- and that understanding was not all that substantial to begin with.

An article on the International Herald Tribune web site makes the point that this is the result of two intersecting attitudes - one, that there are Muslims who are professionals who believe that either a substantial amount of or all knowledge can be derived from the Koran, and, to that end, they will disregard or gainsay anything that does not come from that source, particularly if it contradicts the findings that they develop using it, and two, that there are Muslims who have a deep distrust of the West, which they believe has taken over or polluted their culture, and they fiercely resent that alteration. When these attitudes merge, it generates the belief that, essentially, 'If its not in or from the Koran, I don't accept it, and if you don't accept it, you're either an apostate or an enemy'. In most cases, this stays at the 'attitude' level, encouraging a rigid Islamic-oriented orthodoxy of thought. In others, it goes further, to the belief that they must act to eliminate these enemies because their existence and their society is a threat to what they believe. This is, apparently, the source of the attitudes in these two men.

If this is true, what should be done about it, and what can be done about it?

I don't believe that we should discourage people who want to find their scientific underpinnings in the Koran. I don't agree with that approach, just as I don't agree with Christian fundamentalists who say that if it isn't in the Bible, they don't believe it, but, if they want to use that as their basis, fine. They may be on to something.

But we need to become aware when that attitude of constrained inquiry mutates into the second part of the equation - ' If you don't accept it, you're ... an enemy'. Is it possible to generate that awareness without becoming the kind of police state that Bush and company advocate?

Minor Comments

A couple of minor things.

I just came back from a local farmers market where we had gone to buy cheese for our little wine and cheese outing tonight. This isn't the kind of thing that we normally do, but we stumbled into it through some folks at my wife's job who were aware that a local winery is offering a package deal of some kind of concert with their products. We're not at all big wine drinkers -- we may drink part of three different bottles of wine over the course of a year, and its rare for us to finish one -- but the idea of actually getting out together was attractive. My wife being more gregarious that I, she was ready to make this an Event, complete with picnic baskets, food and desserts, strolling minstrels -- okay,perhaps not them -- but it turns out that there will be less people there that we know, so we decided not to be that expansive -- we're simply bringing a couple of different kinds of cheese along with some crackers. My wife asked me what kind of cheeses I'd like, and I pointed out that to me there are three kinds of cheese; American, Swiss, and everything else. Do they call it American cheese in Canada, I wonder? Intellectually, I know that there's a wide variety of them, with broad variations in taste, and texture, but emotionally, thats the Big Three. Left up to me, we'd bring Ritz crackers and spray bottles of Cheeze-wiz, but fortunately, it wasn't left up to me. Hey, I'm a plebian kind of guy.

While we were there, we went to a used book store thats in the same building. They were having a hell of a sale -- 2/3s off their entire stock -- so I pored it over. Its a little disconcerting to realize how many different kinds of books, to say nothing of numbers of books, I have no interest in reading. I saw some books that I recall reading in high school -- one was Kon Tiki, for example -- which brought to mind what it was like to read books then, when I would frequently get a sense of adventure in what I read. Granted, much of this reading was due to the dreaded Summer Reading List that our school would foist upon us; three to five closely typed pages of books, where we'd have to read at least some number in each category, and you would scramble to find the smallest, shortest, most digestible of them. That's where I encountered A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Yankee from Olympus, and, of course, Kon-Tiki. I think that when I look at books now, I don't get that sense of wonder and adventure, normally. I see people recommending books that are almost always Great Books, or books that push the boundaries in new, exciting ways -- but those ways are only exciting to book critics, and people who are Really Into It. Very rarely do I find a book thats a Good Read, all by myself, and even less often through these official and officious recommendations.
So I did get some -- but you will not be surprised to learn that at least one was a Star Trek novel, and all four are fiction.

I feel like baking something.

An article in Jane Galt's blog on the availability of doctors in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain (one of these days I'm going to get it straight as to which is Britain, Great Britain, and England... at least now I know what is meant by the Commonwealth) is interesting, particularly the comments. I want to think it sparks thought in my mind, but as I'm feeling lazy at the moment -- my other two just went out for a couple of hours, and I'm thinking of taking a nap -- I'll just point it out.

What Every Guy Wishes He Could Do

Sandy

If the name Arrakis means something to you, then you might like this site.

Victoryette

Last night, I had a small victory.

A neighbor was having a problem with his PC. It had connected fine to the net through a direct USB connection from the PC to his cable modem. When he added a wireless router, connecting it to the cable modem with that USB cable, and then running a CAT5 Ethernet connection from the router to the PC, it could not connect to the net.

The reason he had added the wireless router was so that his wife's laptop could use the net connection. At first, it wouldn't connect to the net either, but after he plugged the CAT5 cable into it, it 'recognized' the router, and from then on it would connect wirelessly.

(There's no security on his personal network, and so no MAC addresses needed to be defined to it for access. Yeah, thats a hole.)

But his desktop PC would not connect. He was advised by his Internet Service Provider that there was likely something wrong with the CAT5 card in the PC, and so he replaced it. When he did that, he realized that he had not been plugging the router into the original card's CAT5 plug, but into another one on that same PC. (Makes me wonder what else would have a CAT5 jack on it) He tried plugging into the new one, but the PC still would not connect to the net. He defined a new personal network ( I assume he'd created the first one when he installed the routrer), and the desktop still wouldn't connect. The laptop was able to connect to the new network, and from there to the internet, but the desktop could not.

At that point he asked if my wife and I might take a look at it.

We asked a lot of questions. We disabled his firewall. We rebooted in diagnostic (but not safe) mode. We deselected the original personal network, so that only the new personal network was available. We connected directly from the modem to the PC (don't recall if that was a USB connection or a CAT 5; think it was CAT 5). Still nada.

Finally, we had given up and were about to leave. We reconnected the router to the modem, and the PC to the router, and rebooted into normal startup. After it came up, I tried one other thing. I went into Internet Explorer's internet options, Connections, and told it to create a new connection. It went through its jiggery pokery, and then asked if I wanted to join his network. I gave the obvious answer, and then it asked if I wanted create a network definition for other PCs, or exit. I said exit, and we tried it again.

And it worked. The laptop could still connect to the net, but now the desktop could, too.

I'm guessing that when he created his original network, as part of the installation of the router, he never told IE to use that network. If he had, it might have worked -- ie, the desktop might have connected to the net. I am not sure about that, though, since he said he found out later that he was using the wrong CAT5 jack. To tell IE to use a network, it has to be able to find it, and if you're not connected to the router (which he wouldn't have been if he was using the wrong CAT5 jack), IE wouldn't have known about the original network. When he created the new network, he apparently didn't tell IE to use it, and so he still wouldn't have been able to connect. To make life more confusing, the network connections showed 'connected' when the PC was connected to the correct CAT5 jack, and from there to the router, but it never established the logical connection - it didn't connect to the net - because it didn't know that it was supposed to be part of that personal network. So even though it said connected, it really wasn't. A network guy would say 'oh yes it was', but non network people, like me, would say 'oh no it wasn't'.

But it works now!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wine and Cheese

I've never been able to quite get into the concept of wine and cheese parties, but after seeing this article, I may have to rethink that.

That Was Then...This Is Now

A headline on the Reddit.Com site said "President Denied Executive Privilege!" I figured it was one of two things: either Bush had denied something about executive privilege, such as that it could be limited or constrained by anything so trivial as another branch of government, or it was an article about some other President, possibly not even a US president.

And I was right. Nice to think about, though. And good to remember that its not just this President, let alone this Republican President, who would prefer to keep things secret that others want to know.

Flights of Stupidity

Once again, organizational arrogance and stupidity raise their slimy heads, this time in a case of an airline flight crew abusing their authority and responsibilities. The airline is Continental's ExpressJet service (from Bush International Airport, no less, but that probably isn't relevant to this instance of stupidity), and a story about it is here.

The only good news, and its pretty meager, is that the airline did not quote the loathsome phrase 'For Security Reasons...' to defend their actions, though they did say, in a message to ABC's Good Morning America, this: " "Customer service and safety are our top priorities and we take any complaints about these issues seriously."

Yeah, right. I'm sure thats right up top of the list...

If the kid was being obsteperous, that'd be a plausible reason for the action, though not the way it was done. But this sounds like a clear case of ' Don't make me turn this plane around! ' on the part of the FA, and either a similar attitude on the part of the pilot, or a simple lack of reason, period. Makes Greyhound and Amtrak look pretty good...

Man With One Watch

One of the phrases I used to use at work, which almost no one ever seemed to get, was 'Man with one watch always knows what time it is; man with two watches is never sure". The logic is apparently not as obvious as I liked to think.

My wife and I tended to have the same problem with calendars, as things would get written on my work desk calendar, my work PC electronic calendar, my wife's work desk calendar, her work PC calendar, and our kitchen wall calendar. A recurring complaint (oh, the problems of the idle rich) was that we missed a conflict because event A was written over here and event B was written over there.

I don't have part of that problem now, what with not working, but in the summer I tend to have more events, almost all of them related to my daughter -- pick her up here, bring her there. To that end I've been poking around for a reminder program that I could use to keep track of that stuff. I found two that I like. Both are evaluation copies, so that I can see how they run; both are from a company named Duality Software, which, as it turns out, is a Russian company. I have to admit, this gives me pause --Russian hackers on my PC? -- but it didn't stop me from looking at the software anyway.

The first product is xReminder Pro, which is a basic calendar; you give it the event, time/date, whether it recurs, and any other info. The product will pop up a reminder when needed, as far in advance as you say. It also incorporates a cute little clock with optional chimes or alert sound; the first time it clicked over an hour, and my PC started to kick out Westminster Chimes, I though Cool! After a bit, though, it got a little old, and I changed it to a simple ping!

I would like to integrate events with personal events from my wife's work PC calendar, though, and this doesn't do that, so I looked around some more, and found their Calendarscope product. It incorporates all of the functionality (so far as I can see) of the xReminder Pro product, except the clock, and it can do other things, such as import/export files. You get a display that looks a lot like Outlook's (a little cleaner, I think, but not overwhelmingly so), so the interface is fairly obvious. As with the other, you can categorize the event (appointment, birthday, etc), and you can create your own type of event (I made one called Daughter Event, and another called Library). I'm not sure how easy it will be to do the import/export, but when we have a moment, my wife will create a category Personal event on her work file, and we'll export it (just that, if we can; the whole shooting match, if we can't) and see about getting it into this one, and the reverse.

Oh, and even though Calendarscope doesn't incorporate the clock, they have a freebie called DSClock that sounds like it performs the same function, and says that it integrates with Calendarscope.

So we'll see. No idea how to tackle the wall calendar thing, though. Not only do we have events written all over it, about sixty percent of which relate to my daughter, but we have stickies on there as well. Hmmm....

What time is it?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

For Obvious Reasons..


I chose not to resist posting this. Wish I'd taken it.

Story

I was forwarded this story today. I'm not normally a fan of forwarding internet effluvia, but this one..well....

Come with me to a third grade classroom..... There is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and all of a sudden, there is a puddle between his feet and the front of his pants are wet. He thinks his heart is going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how this has happened. It's never happened before, and he knows that when the boys find out he will never hear the end of it. When the girls find out, they'll never speak to him again as long as he lives.. The boy believes his heart is going to stop; he puts his head down and prays this prayer, "Dear God, this is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes from now I'm dead meat." He looks up from his prayer and here comes the teacher with a look in her eyes that says he has been discovered. As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled with water. Susie trips in front of the teacher and inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the boy's lap. The boy pretends to be angry, but all the while is saying to himself, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!" Now all of a sudden, instead of being the object of ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy. The teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All the other children are on their hands and knees cleaning up around his desk. The sympathy is wonderful. But as life would have it, the ridicule that should have been his has been transferred to someone else - Susie. She tries to help, but they tell her to get out. You've done enough, you klutz!" Finally, at the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and whispers, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Susie whispers back, "I wet my pants once too."

May God help us see the opportunities that are always around us to do good Remember.....Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car. Each and everyone one of us are going through tough times right now, but God is getting ready to bless you in a way that only He can Keep the faith. My instructions were to pick four people that I wanted God to bless, and I picked you. Please, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO, pass this to at least four people you want to be blessed and a copy back to me. This prayer is powerful, and prayer is one of the best gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards. Let's continue to pray for one another. > The prayer: Father, I ask You to bless my friends, relatives and those that I care deeply for, who are reading this right now. Show them a new revelation of Your love and power. Holy Spirit, I ask You to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy.Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence through Your grace. Where there is need, I ask you to fulfill their needs. Bless their homes, families, finances, their goings and their comings. Amen. >

Librarians

I think libraries would be a lot more fun without librarians.

Not all librarians. Not even most librarians. Just the ones who have been there a really long time... or act as if they've been there a really long time....and who have the same pursed lip were you aware that you have a fine due? style that I remember from when I was a kid. Those librarians, you can drop onto the nearest ice floe and let drift quietly out to sea.

Not that I've met any recently....

Step Over....Here

According to an article on the BBC News web site (why, again, don't we have material like this from US news organizations?), a device known as Runbot has been created that can walk autonomously. Runbot is an a bipedal device, meaning that it has two legs, and it can move at someone less than the speed of a quickly walking human.

Whats particularly interesting is that this is controlled by local circuitry, not a central 'brain'. Thats much the same as the way that we learn to walk -- the brain controls it at first, but then the knowledge of how to do it moves down the autonomic food chain, and we just don't have to think about it any more unless something changes radically about the environment -- say, a rocky terrain or slippery slope. For everything else, our lower-order processes handle movement without conscious thought.

Can the Terminator be far behind?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Finances

Doing finances can be a scary thing.

I just updating the spreadsheet I use to track our financial health -- where the money comes from, in round numbers, and where it goes, in round numbers. The spreadsheet isn't particularly sophisticated, but it does things like apply an assumed inflationary rate, an assumed average return on investments and savings, and assumed Social Security Administration COLA rate. That last one is one of the two changes that I just made, the other being to move the final year of the spreadsheet out about ten years. I did that because Lady Bird Johnson died, and she was 94. My spreadsheet ended with my wife being 85, and that death made me think 'well, my wife's grandmother lived till she was 93, and her mother is 82 and in good health... better bump it out'. So I did.

The good news is, it doesn't make me immediately panic. The bad news is, it doesn't make me whistle for joy, either.

Waffling

This morning, our CuisineArt waffle iron died. Actually, it didn't so much die as transform itself into a zombie, going from a normal waffle iron to one that lightly toasted one side of a waffle and deeply charred the other side. Me being an American husband, I thought that perhaps I could fix it. I couldn't. I heard arcing inside it, and the inside of the top cover was discolored, as though there'd been high heat there (granted, nothing odd about that with a waffle iron). But I had no idea what was wrong. Since the device was about six years old, we pitched it. I bought a new one today, different brand, same style.

Herewith, some observations.

  • If a device has a red and a green light, one would expect that the red means 'not ready' and the green means 'ready'. With the CA iron, that was the case -- red while heating, green when usable, cycling between the two. With this new one (Krups), red means 'not ready', and both red and green means 'ready', with the green cycling on and off. This strikes me as odd.
  • The reason I chose this brand was that the CA one on display seemed shoddy, with a loose handle and a weak clip. By contrast, the Krups had a broad, easily grasped handle. This is good. But -- it also has a clip to hold the halves together when the device is not in use. This clip is exactly in the right spot to engage the handles when you put the top down -- but their documentation clearly says not to use the clip while the device is in use, lest the waffles not expand. This strikes me as poor design. Think they'll get a tiger team together and fix it if I point it out to them?
  • Some models of waffle iron are huge -- a massive flat section that you manually rotate to cook the waffle. I didn't get it, and I can't imagine why in the world would you want to have to do that. It looks like the kind of thing that the cook in a short-order restaurant would use.

Thats it for now. But tomorrow, we try it out.

Noted

I just came across this post on the Buzzing Reed blog. Its a description of the territorial impulse in this fellow's orchestra. I liked it.

Censuring, Impeaching...Lets Call The Whole Thing Off?

This appeared on the Reddit site, here. Although I don't like the conclusion, I can understand it. Unlike the fellow who got this as a response, I think it's distasteful but reasonable.

Dear Mr. Welch,

Thank you for contacting me with your deep concerns about the behavior of this administration. I have heard from a number of people who are ready for this president, to be censured, even impeached. Recently, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced legislation calling for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney. Certainly having endured the travesty of the Republican impeachment of Clinton, I can understand and sympathize with the drive to impeach the President and Vice President.

I believe that an impeachment process on an administration that is already on its way out the door would hinder the time and efforts of our slim Democratic majority in congress. The practical matter is that given the rules of the Senate, there is no way that an impeachment process would lead to the removal of the President or Vice President. Instead, it would create a media circus that would detract from our mission of reversing the policies (both domestic and international) of what the public continues to see as a failing presidency. With Democratic control of both houses of Congress, the legislative branch is already exercising its oversight and investigations role into many areas of the Bush Administration. We are conducting investigations into pre-Iraq war intelligence, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firings of US attorneys, the Valerie Plame leak, and the way the Iraq War is being conducted.

While there is a part of me that would love to see this President and Vice President publicly admonished by Congress, I feel the American people have done that through their votes in the 2006 elections. If I were Karl Rove I would like nothing better than an impeachment process that wouldn't go anywhere, and would distract people from the very real failures of this administration on the important issues our country faces.

I would never discourage anybody from pursuing their passion. My passion is to hold this administration accountable and to enact progressive legislation, while we lay the foundation for a new administration in less than two years. Thank you again for sharing your opinion with me.

Sincerely,
Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Baking (Fin)

Here's the final result of the great cake experiment. The cake is noticeably smaller than that which AG produced; also, I'm guessing, noticeably denser as well -- very, very thick. I don't know enough about cakes to know if its that batter, or technique in making it, or what. So, I doubt we'll make it again -- but I'm glad that we did.



Teasing

One of the things that you teach kids pretty early in life is that its not nice to tease other people about the way they look. And there's a good reason for that. If you don't, these guys might pay you a little visit...

Baking, Cont'd

Yesterday my daughter and I tried to make a cake based on a recipe in American Girl, whose motto is apparently You Can Do Wonderful Things With Three Toothpicks and a Gazebo! Actually, its not a bad magazine. Though the girls in there are almost always pretty, well-attired, and well-made-up, its not as bad as reading, say, Cosmo for Girls, which we almost got for her before seeing an issue in the bookstore and leafing through it. My daughter likes AG, though even she noticed that a girl could be slightly overweight (for which read: not slender), or wear glasses, or have one or two skin blemishes, and still be in the magazine -- but never more than one of those, and usually just one girl like that per issue.

But I digress.

After we used Duncan Hines White Cake Mix yesterday, the cakes were a disaster. I don't blame the mix; I think our procedure was faulty. For example, they said to wait five minutes after pulling the cake out of the oven before flipping it out of the pan; that left us with lumpy pieces of cake, some of which didn't appear to have actually cooked. So today I mixed up this batter, which I found on the web:

3 LAYER CAKE BATTER


3 eggs, separate egg whites
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. milk
2 1/2 c. flour

Beat egg whites and add 1/2 cup sugar. Sit aside. Then cream together 1 cup sugar and butter. Add egg yolks. Then add egg whites, flour and milk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.


That made about a third more actual batter than the mix did. I had a heck of a time apportioning it into pieces, though. I poured the whole shebang into a measuring cup; turns out it made about 4.5 cups of batter. Then I tried pouring it into four one-cup increments, but that didn't work very well. I ended up with, about, 1.8 cups, 1.2 cups, and .9 cups (the rest being the sludge that gets left behind). I baked them for the fifteen minutes (at 350; the recipe says 375, but I was going with what AG said), and then I let them cool for at least twenty minutes. I mean, that cake pan had to be absolutely cold to the touch. And it worked (at least on on the first two; I haven't decanted the third yet). But they came out pretty easily, and they seem to have cooked through. Each one is about half an inch thick, more or less, which is certainly not what AG showed.



And here's what I produced --



So I'm thinking I'd need at least twice the batter I made. I don't intend to do that, but I Made Notes On The Recipe.

I'm leaving it for my daughter to ice, assuming she doesn't just come home, glance at it, and say 'What, only three?'

Cupped

Now, this is ingenious -- shown on the Thorsten Van Elten web site:

Stamp Cups by Valeria Miglioli & Barnaby Barford

Those irritating ringmarks that mugs and cups leave..... well, you can turn them into a nice floral pattern now with a set of Stamp Cups. The pattern on the base of the cup match up so you can join as many marks as you want.



When Pigs... you know..


I've seen other image versions of this concept, as well as the great slogan "With Sufficient Thrust, Pigs Fly Just Fine", but I think that this one, which I found at Boshka.Com, is positively graceful.

Monday, July 09, 2007

InPat

Which does not stand for InPatient, much as I should probably be one, but is a coy reference to a blog I found the other day -- Expatriate Games. Its RSS feed is a bit hosed at the moment, but don't let that stop you -- its worth reading.

And, oh yes -- its not about being an expatriate.

Baking

If you find a bunch of batter, four boxes of Jello gelatin, and assorted spoons, measuring cups, bowls, eggs, and so forth littering the kitchen, you know that only one thing could have happened: my daughter found another ever-so-wonderful recipe in one of her magazines. American Girl Magazine has much to answer for.

In this case, you take white cake batter, pour a cup into each of four bowls, mix each bowl with a tablespoon of differently colored Jello, and bake each cake. Then, after they cool, you stack them, putting frosting between each, as well as on top, for a multi-colored cake. The first two are cooling now, and then it'll be time for the second pair. When we do stuff like this (and I insisted that she do most of it, though I did the egg-separating), I just use a cake mix. I'm not a purist!

I got a response to my letter to the local federal senator about how the removal of habeus corpus was a sleazy thing to do. My response was, so far as I could tell, canned, but heck, I Participated In The Process.

Feeding Cats

Our neighbors, a pleasant family that moved here from Kansas about five years ago, are on vacation this week. They asked if our daughter would feed their cat; also, give it some medicine. They said that the medicine shouldn't be difficult, though one, a pill that you have to get the cat to swallow, could be tricky.

My daughter knew, but neither I nor my wife knew, that this cat is about twenty pounds and not declawed.

We all are thinking of getting T Shirts that say I Gave Blood At The Neighbors House... and my wife, the most amenable of people, muttered darkly Never again.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Drilling and Blasting

Next week, I get to visit with the oral surgeon to make plans to have the bone graft done so as to provide the under-structure for my dental implant. I'm guessing the actual graft surgery will be done about two weeks after that, putting it around the end of the month. I have to be sure that it doesn't come right before the vacation that we're taking, first full week of August. Then I get to wait about four months to see if the graft 'takes'. If it does, then we schedule the first of two sessions to do the implants themselves, which I'm guessing will take about three months, and then about a four month delay for them to heal. So, if I am fortunate, by the early part of next year, I'll have the implants in. Thats not the end of the song -- there's still the attachment of the 'track' that gets screwed into the implants, and then afterward, the actual dental appliance which clips onto the 'track', and is removable -- but its the dicey part.

At some point, whether all of that works or not, I get to look into having another implant done, not as wide ranging, but also involving a graft, in a different part of my mouth. Oh, boy. Do I know how to have fun, or what?

Getting Married

No, not me. I did that about 23 years ago, and I've been reliably informed that I won't be doing it again, if I know whats good for me. I point out that we need to, since this marriage does expire (after all, people renew marriages all the time, and how can you renew a marriage unless the old one expired?), but I am informed by the same person that this is not true.

So what I did this weekend was, I went to the wedding reception of a relative of my wife. I suppose, if its a relative of my wife, then its a relative of me, too, but I never quite think of it that way. The people I'm related to are the people that I was related to before I got married. All of these other people -- well, I suppose 'technically related' is how I think of them. Whomever they are, given as my wife's of Italian heritage, there's a lot of them. My wife has fun, meeting her twelve thousand different relatives again, and I have fun standing around with a ginger ale, nodding and smiling as if I have a clue who these people might be. Some of them, I at least remember having seen before, but most of the time, nope. I just remember not to shout 'Who the hell was that?' while they still might be in hearing range. Those receptions get noisy, but they do have the occasional suprisingly quiet moment. And I haven't completely lost the lurking feeling, that somewhere, somehow, I'm now related to The Godfather, so I try not to tick people off, particularly the big ones. Mostly, I just sit quietly, eat what they have, and wait for it to be over, which is usually when they do the great garter toss. I'm not all that motivated to watch that stuff. Participate, yeah, that might be fun, but watch, hooting? No, thanks -- though from what my wife says, this time might have been worthwhile, as the second iteration involved the guy who caught the garter putting it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet; apparently, she was quite cute, and the guy edged the garter up to her thigh by using his teeth. Oh, my. Talk about an ad for good dental hygiene.

When we got married, the reception was quiet -- about thirty people in a moderately small room. The music was one guy playing classical guitar. No conga lines, no hokey pokey, no garter follies, no clinking of glasses. Well, maybe a little clinking, but then they made me stop. My only complaint from the reception was that I didn't get enough of the Swedish meatballs, which were not only quite good, but were the best I've ever had. What happened was that they called me away to take yet another group shot, and when I came back, the buffet was no more. (They tricked me, by saying that my wife's family was having a group shot; I, not being part of their family, went out of the room. They tracked me down in the men's room. And afterwards, no meatballs.) At least the wedding cake, Italian Rum Cake, was still around. Excellent stuff, IRC. We still have it from time to time when we want to Celebrate something. No, not the original, squirreled away in a freezer -- new ones. Though we did actually do the 'squirrel a piece away, have it later' thing. It was awful. One bite and chuck it. Like the Great Fruitcake Disaster.

The marriage, though, has worked much better, and I highly recommend the state. With the right person, it's delightful.