Tuesday, September 30, 2008
A few days ago, I was 'talking' with a person via Twitter, and she mentioned that she's a database person who works in Australia. Kidding, I said that I was a techie who liked Australia, and I was going to send her my resume. To my surprise, she said that they were looking for people, and I should send it along. Now, I'm not looking for a job. I like being retired. Still - the latest financial news makes me think that maybe I ought to be thinking about alternatives, just in case. So I hauled at the resume, cleaned it up a bit -- I'm not one for self-promotion, so my resume is fairly bland -- and sent it along.
Today, I found out that the company is question is a private company that makes and installs a specialized piece of software for small stores. What? I thought. I don't know anything about that kind of stuff! And its true. All my experience has been in running and supporting big honkin' systems for dozens of customers. Supporting just one -- let alone, working for just one -- I don't know anything about that! Not that it might not be fun -- it'd be a whole different area, with its own pleasures and pains; the company sounds pretty interesting (it'd be a novelty to have one customer to worry about, not dozens); its a new area of technology; there would be the occasional trip to Australia and the environs -- hmm. But I've never done anything like that before!
Bear in mind, I have absolutely NO reason to think they'd be interested in the slightest. Although I'm a good techie, I'm not a retail systems kind of guy, of whom I'm sure there are hundreds, thousands. So I have no reason to think that anything at all will come of this. But still: what am I getting into?
Second guessing is wonderful, when you're good at it.
We'd been giving occasional thought to remodeling this house. The way that it's laid out, our bedroom, and our daughter's, are at the far right end of one floor; below is part of the den, and the storage room (formerly the garage). You get into the current garage by going through the storage room. Our thought had been that we would put a room above the garage, opening the wall from our bedroom into the new room, making that our bedroom, and turning our current one into both a closet area and a terminus for an elevator from the first floor. Now, we're not so sure. Like many people, the current financial instability is making us think that perhaps committing to a radical change -- and around here, putting in an elevator is a radical change -- might limit the sale potential of the house. Probably not, but still. On the other hand, putting a room over the garage is common. (A friend noted that in his new house, the blueprints referred to it as 'Family Room Over Garage'. He thereafter called it 'the FROG room'.) So, we'll ease into it - put the room in as a shell, open the wall. Wire it with sockets, etc, but leave it in construction state -- wood floor, bare framed walls. Use it for storage (that area is currently accessible from within the garage, and there's a fair amount of boxes and luggage stuffed in there; that'd have to be accomodated in any construction) . Then, if we still want to, go ahead with the second phase. Carpet it, paint it, put in lighting, that sort of thing. Make it an actual bedroom. And only then, if we still want to, put in the elevator. If not -- golly, look at all that closet space!
I haven't been doing too much baking of late. I had picked up a copy of Breads from the La Brea Bakery, but so far not too much of it is inspiring me. I think I'll find a couple of recipes that look good, photocopy them, and return the book to the library. It's ironic, I suppose -- I waited a long time for this copy to get here, and now it's been sitting, unread, for three days. Last night, we went to the store to pick up a few things -- one of me had forgotten to get the ground beef we'd need for a recipe, and my daughter needed some stuff. While I was waiting for my wife to come back from an excursion to the far reaches of the store -- it's cold back there; frozen, in fact -- better bring your woolies -- I was looking through the rack of magazines. I had to chuckle when I realized that of all the things they had that might be expected to appeal to guys -- car magazines, a few audio or PC ones, and, of course, about four with cover illustrations of incredibly buff guys, each with a title indicating that this was easily achievable -- the magazine I actually picked up and leafed through was Fine Cooking. Though reality did set in; I realized that however intriguing it sounded, the odds were that I wasn't going to find an occasion to make a Sticky Toffee Pudding or Apple Pan Dowdy any time soon. So, not too much there. I surprised my wife by asking that she not refer to the cookies I baked the other day as 'my cookies' when she gave them to coworkers. They weren't mine; we'd bought a fund raiser pack, and inadvertently left them out to thaw, so it was either bake or toss them. Not that they were bad -- they had a bit of a tang, which I liked, thinking that it might be some kind of spice, but just as likely some fourteen syllable chemical stabilizer -- just that when I say 'I baked', I mean 'start to finish'. They may not be great, but, by god, I did it all. I guess I'm a little bit of a snob, that way.
I'm ready for this election to be over. I really am expecting dirty tricks, this month, last month of the election. I really am. I'm pleased that my candidate is doing better, and I know I'd feel differently if he were on the downslide, but still: lets get this over with. And then there's the bailout. Good god. I learned yesterday that that $700B number doesn't even come from any specific source -- it was intended as a big, attention getting, this - will - cover - everything number. Okay, perhaps it isn't possible to say exactly how much they need (and leaving aside the rightness or wrongness of that concept). But couldn't a little precision have come into play? I've heard it said that this is another 'Shock and Awe' move by the Bushman, and I agree. And we all know how well the last one went.
Winter's coming. The house was chilly last night; for the first time since the weekend, the electrical blanket was comfortable. This is good. I'll miss the warm weather, and there are always times when winter is bleak, but I like the changing seasons. I guess you grow to like what you grew up with, hmm? We had thought, once, that we might try to build a house in one of the classic retirement areas, like North Carolina -- I once heard it called the Halfway State; people from the north move down to Florida, find it too hot or buggy, and decide to return home, getting about halfway before saying 'hey, North Carolina's not bad at all' -- but, as I mentioned, we're just going to mod this house.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The AC is on, the door to the deck is closed. As it turned to night, the evening air became more humid. This is ironic; after three days when it was actively cold at night -- which I like, but only when I'm cocooned -- we got down the electrical blanket (light but still enough for me; my side rarely gets turned on past Low, while my wife's usually at the Parboil setting). It thereupon turned warm last night, and likely will be again tonight. I need a heat pump blanket, I think. One of our recurring jokes is that we married so that I could keep her warm, and she could keep me cool. For right now, though, the chill whispering through the house is enough.
I just read a review of a book titled Zen and Now, about a fellow -- apparently, the most recent of thousands -- who have traveled the route taken in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance. I really liked that book, and I know many others did, too. He takes the ride for the classic reason - finding himself at middle age, in need of a great quest. Nothing wrong with that, though the concept has been mocked several times (I recall my dentist mentioning that when he had a gazebo built at him home, his son asked why; told that it was a mid-life crisis, the son replied 'How do you know you won't die tomorrow? '), I think its valid. I've never had such a feeling -- gotta do this, climb this mountain, learn to speak Russian. I've never been sure if this makes me a complacent and generally happy person or an underperforming, underdemanding one. Maybe both, hmm?
About five minutes into the preparation for brunch, my wife got a call from a disaster test site saying that they were having a serious problem. Most times, calls from DR sites are serious but easily fixable -- a piece of JCL refers to an esoteric that's not defined on that system, or a person's userid doesn't have the authority it needs, something like that. Sometimes, it's more. This is one of those times. In a nutshell, four mainframe systems which share DASD and tape storage are locked up (in operator speak, 'locked up tighter than a drum'). This isn't quite the case; you can enter commands, and the systems will nod and smile and say just hang on a sec, I'll get to you when I can. This can be disconcerting when the idea of a command is a response, and not go 'way, you bother me. You want the system to snap to. When it doesn't, you get an oh, crap feeling. When its all four machines, you get the same feeling, quadrupled.
We don't know what the problem is, and the odds are that we -- or more accurately they; I'm just an interested observer -- are going to have to punch the systems. They're hoping 'not all of them' (said with a tone of panic on the part of the guy running the drill), but you don't know; the problem could be on any one of the systems, so that your initial odds are 3:1 of picking the bad one, or it could be two systems that aren't playing nice with each other, and the other two are staying around like observers at a knife fight. You know, someone should do...something. Call the cops...something. You really don't like punching a system, particularly when you don't know (or strongly believe) that it's going to fix the problem. And the knowledge that afterward, other people will be second-guessing you (well, heck, I'd have...) doesn't make for joy in Mudville, either.
So I'm glad this isn't my problem. And yet, you know? I almost wish it was. There's just such a joy when you figure it out, you get it to work, you unknot the string without cutting it. Doesn't happen every time, and the weirder a problem gets, the less likely a fix will occur to you. Sometimes, it just unknots all by itself. Hey, did you do something? I didn't do anything, but it looks like its running now. Sometimes, what you do to get ready to do something abruptly fixes it. Hey, I cancelled the active userids so we could punch the system, and suddenly it cleared up. Sometimes, you find the end of the string -- hey, that task has got 60% of the damn storage, that's why all the others are swapping out, let's cancel it. Sometimes, nothing works. Which is, at the moment, where they are.
So I miss it. And I don't.
UPDATE: The problem was that on a regular system, the automation subsystem routinely submits jobs to dump SMF. On this system, that wasn't necessary - but the jobs were submitting anyway. They'd hang looking for the production file name, thus tying up JQEs. Eventually, the system ran out of JQEs, and at that point, new jobs couldn't be started, including TSO signons.
Read the book by Antonia Fraser called "The Warrior Queens". You will see that no woman ruler has been successful if she has been an advocate for women at large. Not one, ever. It's the Thatcher model, which is "All women should stay home and take care of their babies except me."
None? My golly.
But there's also Matthew25. I think it's also biased, but to me, it seems a bit more plausible.
Incidentally, for gentle commentary about life and life styles, you might want to look at The Urban Rebellion. Not bad.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
And how come the Department of Justice works for the President, anyway?
Also, I read Post Secret for the first time in a while. Thats really a remarkable site. Some -- many --- of the secrets shared are emotionally draining. Some are funny. I like the one about the girls bathroom and the post it notes. Since the blog's page doesn't seem to have history, I'm including it here:
Me and 4 of my friends started putting up our own secrets on the girl's bathroom wall anonymously. We left post-its and pens to see if other girls would write up there own secrets. As the day went on we grew more excited as we saw more and more secrets go up.
2- From the One Sentence site -- "What on earth is that?" are not words that inspire confidence when you're undergoing a colonoscopy. And no, its not me, or anyone I know. We're cool for another nine years, easy.
The report is divided into reading, writing, and math. As normal, she was rated in the fourth, or highest, level of proficiency for reading. They don't give a value for that box -- just X and above. Her rating put her comfortably into about the middle, I'd guess, of that highest rating. Her math rating was about the middle of the third box, which is a tad surprising -- she usually does a little better than that. Still, no problem. Her writing, though -- she was rated only a bit into the third box for that. Not borderline, but, as someone once said, she could see it from where she was.. Being me, this alarmed me. I was ready to sign her up for writing courses, tell her she needed to focus on writing ability. I thought about sending a note to her English instructor (who, incidentally, is passionate about understanding a piece of writing; not so much the grammatical structure as the style, the content, why it was written the way it was). Then I thought 'okay, be aware, but calm down a bit.' Besides, she's gone all day today at a color guard event.
But I'll show it to her mother this afternoon. I bet her reaction will be much like mine.
Its funny to read reactions to the debate last night. You sometime wonder: did you see the debate I did? Disregarding the groupies, who are loud in their fervent praises of how incredibly well their candidate did, most commentors seem to feel as I did -- it was a balanced presentation, with slow parts and fast parts, with parts where McCain did well and parts where Obama did well. Some pointed out something that I'd thought -- that Obama had occasionally come off as a disinterested law school professor, and was occasionally deferential to McCain -- while others thought that McCain seemed old, tired (I didn't -- I thought he looked pretty good). I did think it amusing that in the spin party afterward, someone noticed that Biden was there, spinning like crazy, but Palin wasn't there at all.
The spaghetti sauce is cooling now. Looks pretty good.
Friday, September 26, 2008
First Nail Ceremony? When will they hold the Last Straw ceremony?
That's never happened. Every time I've had occasion to look, it turns out that Autosave has saved it as it looked after the catastrophe. Just now, for example; I had written three paragraphs, was happy with the way it looked, and then inadvertantly did a control-A (which selected everything) and a single letter (which replaced everything with that letter). Oh, hell, I thought, and immediately got out and back in. Since I did not hit 'save now' , and it had not done so automatically, the text should still (mostly) be there, right? Right?
But you get what you pay for. Blogger's free.
Can't imagine John McCain being too happy about the result, though.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I've been spending a fair amount of time on the Twitter service, reading what others have to say about the candidates, and occasionally replying. I've actually got 'followers', and though I know it means very little, I'm still surprised by it. In fact, one person contacted me this evening to say that they liked what I wrote, which startled me. What I put there is very brief, for obvious reasons, and though I try (not always successfully) to keep from simply making snarky comments, or saying 'yeah, me too', what I write is hardly deep thinking. I'm not a deep thinker, for one thing. It hurts my head to have to focus, and, as Spock would say, my logic is faulty. Assuming you can call my calcified prejudices and snap judgements 'logic'.
I had a bit of a surprise this evening, listening to Obama talk about the debates (which at the moment are still theoretical) and the bailout. He said a couple of things that were interesting -- I like listening to a bright person speak -- and then he casually segued into a description of the sort of things that he thought a Treasury Secretary ought to be sensitive to, chief among which were awareness of the impact on lower and middle class people of financial instability and general economic uncertainties. I didn't agree -- it doesn't hurt for the TS to be not someone with their 'head in the clouds', as he put it, but the job of that position is to ensure the integrity of the financial system, not to administer social justice. Its reasonable for the TS to care more about how a bank is doing than how I'm doing because if I go bankrupt, I'm not likely to affect the system, whereas if a bank does, it very well might. So, in thinking this, I became abruptly aware that in that casual segue, Obama had moved from straightforward statements of planning and of response and gone into campaign mode. I realize that you don't miss an opportunity: when the lights are on and the cameras are there, you push your position. I don't think he was doing anything wrong. But just a little, I wished that he had not done it.
Then I look at the poll numbers (at least, the couple that I look at), and I remember why.
So I found this New York Times article on the bailout to be of interest. Even if the McCain campaign says that the Times isn't really a news organization any more.
At a particularly congested intersection, the driver of one of the press vans leaned out the window to issue a friendly reminder to one pedestrian who tried to break the integrity of the motorcade. “I’ll run you over!” she told the man in a tone of voice that was quintessentially New York.
*Update:* En route to Newark Airport, the same driver sideswiped a Cadillac, causing minor damage to the car. The Secret Service agent sitting beside the driver told her to keep going, but the NYPD had other ideas. A police officer instructed the press van driver to pull over on 12th Avenue, and insurance information is currently being exchanged.
"The Secret Service agent...told her to keep going." Kind of dims their luster, doesn't it?
While we were out for a walk this morning - really nice, about 55 degrees, so that my wife had jeans and a sweater, and I had shorts and a T shirt -- I found myself thinking about the Imperial Walkers, in Star Wars. There's a scene where a guy is seen driving one -- flipping switches, looking all haughty and scornful. Rebel scum! One of the rebel fighters loops a cable around the walker's legs, and down it goes. Thats the last you see of him. I wondered: what happens to him? Does he get out? Is there an escape pod in one of those things, or does he have to cut himself out somehow, and stagger along until a rescue craft can pick him up? Does he end up in a retirement home, where people learn quickly not to ask him how he lost that leg, got that scar? Those rebel scum, they didn't attack in a noble manner, they TRIPPED us!
It reminded me of an episode that occurred when I was in high school. I went to school on the east side of the Bronx, at a private denominational school. As part of a writing project, I thought I would create something about the United Nations, which at the time still felt like a magical place to me. I wrote to their public affairs office, and they agreed to let me come down and talk with some of their interpreters. (Now, I imagine, like so many other things, that just doesn't happen.) As it turned out, the day that I went down, access to the UN was blocked off for some dignitary, with police and blockade barriers. Crowds of people moved through the barrier chutes, but across the street, the UN was quiet and apparently vacant. I told a cop that I had an appointment there, and he directed me to another one, who called across, found that I actually did, and gestured for the barrier to be opened so that I could cross the street. Odd feeling, doing that; I was the only person out there, and I felt as if people were watching me, thinking who the heck is that? I spent the day with the interpreters, saw their offices, ate with them, walked around on the floor of the vacant General Assembly forum, looking up at the rows of empty delegate seats, and then later went into one of the little booths that they used when the assembly was in session, peering down, seeing the chamber from their view. I asked what they did if they felt a sneeze or cough coming on while they were working, and the interpreter stared at me. "We .... don't." Ah.
Colorguard is a sport not many people know about and some who do don’t really care. But the (school) colorguard is something to be proud of. They have won many first place trophies, are the current group three champions for the past three years and hold the record score of 98.8. But pride is not always good since it can lead you to slack off and be lazy.
As some people know the (school) colorguard is a very good organization. They work at least eight hours a week to improve but that doesn’t mean that during the eight hours a week that they should be practicing, they are. Last out door season in (school) colorguard two others and my self had approximately five sets of work in the whole show while almost everyone else had at least thirty set of work, even the other people who were just as new as I was. So while the other people were working on the many sets of work they had the two others and myself stand in the back near my prop. We would just talk or sing songs, our pride told us that after all the time and practice that we had on our one part we were so much better at it than all of the other people. In reality we were just as good and maybe a little bit worse than them.
So as some may now get from reading this pride can be a bad thing. It is the plant that bears two seeds. In this case it blinded our judgement. So pride can be good just don’t let it blind you.
I compared it to her first draft, and I was impressed.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We have a president who actually used the Recession word, saying that we could be in terrible trouble, might even enter a recession. Nice of him to notice. I imagine he liked being at the UN and listening to all those other countries sliming his country in general and his economic policies in particular. We've got someone from his party trying to take that office who seems to be running out of steam (not supporters, though), who even gets slimed for not showing up on a talk show, and whose Vice Presidential pick seems to be losing her political appeal - not overwhelmingly, particularly with the faithful, but certainly with the media, who look to be paying her back for her (or the McCain campaign) refusing to let her take questions in an open forum. And we have another candidate who sounds and looks like he has the job already -- though thats still up for grabs. And of course we have the gihugic bailout -- I heard it called Bush's latest Shock and Awe/Trust Me -- where the Secretary of the Treasury, an old Wall Street guy, reluctantly agreed to cap the salaries of Wall Street CEOs at companies getting bailed out, and the Federal Reserve chairman was careful to point out to Congress that he, personally, came from academe, not Wall Street.
I'm ready for some non-interesting, nay, downright dull times now.
Actually, that was the plan yesterday -- I made the dough for some of those great soft pretzels whose recipe I found, I think, on Sugarlaws. The dough didn't feel right, though -- you know how it's supposed to be smooth, relatively supple? This wasn't. I had trouble mixing it; not sure why -- and ran out of time, so I thought 'well, I'll refrigerate it, warm it up tomorrow, and then bake'. Um, no. The dough warmed up okay, but it just didn't look right. So, this morning, I made a new batch, and let it rise while I did some mowing. (It's September. Isn't the grass supposed to have stopped by now?)
And now we'll see what comes of it. At least this, its okay to tie in knots, and even to be a little salty!
The first makes a little bit of sense to me,because after a while you think 'these bozos have screwed us royally, lets try somebody else'. My comment about having the brightest being the ones who got us into this mess goes equally well toward the people in power being the ones who got us into it, too. New brooms, etc. Bring a fresh face in. But I think that new face needs to be coupled with intelligence and a deep world view. Obama's a new face (as McCain likes to point out) but he's provably bright (as a doctorate in law from Harvard shows). She's bright, I think, but not as bright as he is. Despite her mocking of his past, I like it. I think that people who can couple deep theoretical knowledge of the law with a practical awareness of how the law affects people on the street are valuable, and trumps small-town mayor and two year Governor.
The second, I don't care about, but I know that there are a lot of conservatives out there, and for many of them, political faith trumps all. Its how Bush got elected, and reelected.
The third is, I think, why she's on the ticket. There's a massive number of women who want to see a woman on the ticket, and within some degree of reason, they don't care who. Well, here she is. I don't think most women are dumb enough to vote for a person just because of gender, though I can see that being a tie-breaker. However, McCain thinks they are, and so far, he's right. I see a fair number of women saying Palin for President. Given McCain's age and medical history, they may get it if he gets elected.
I'm surprised that the McCain campaign severely limits the opportunity for the press to talk to her. It's odd: I'm willing to believe that she can be as feisty as the next guy in a dust-up, so why are they doing that? What's she got to hide? Inexperience? Shallowness? Put another way: if all you see of her is scripted performances, all you get is all they want you to see. That scares me, a lot.
Oh, and one other thing. Why is it that we don't hear much about McCain says this, offers that, suggests the other? Why is it always about Palin? My thought is: for whatever her qualities, she's there to be a distraction, a novelty. And you know what? It's working.
As I've mentioned in the past (if I was a hot-shot blogger, I'd have a link here back to when I said it before, but I'm doing good to say 'it was probably this year'), when I used to read performance or capacity planning articles, I noticed that a lot of them used words like 'simple' or 'three-step' or 'back of the envelope' to suggest that their article would give you a method to do whatever it was in a straightforward, quick manner. Sometimes they'd pan out; usually they'd have steps like 1. Gently mix two eggs into the batter which you've previously arranged according to fenq shui principles and placed in a refigerator for a week after baking at 450 degrees for one hour and then cooled overnight in an ice water and glycerin bath thats been..... Un huh.
So simple doesn't always mean simple.
That thought is coming back now as I read articles about this massive bailout. This morning, for example, I came across an article on the Wall Street Journal website titled "Taking Revenge on the Rich Will Not Bring Recovery". The tenor of the article is that while this problem might have been caused or exacerbated by people doing legal but extra-clever things, we shouldn't limit their ability to do that, because that won't fix this, so whats the point? Move on, move on, don't think about it, we'll handle it. Whereas I sort of think that its like saying that putting a stop sign up at the intersection won't fix the wreck thats just occurred, so obviously, one's not needed. The same page has an article titled "Let's Get The Bank Bailout Right", which brings to mind old Eb sitting at the stove in the country market, puffing on his pipe and offering down-home, plain-sense solutions to complex problems. Waal, that there whatchamacallit, that Large Hadron Collider, you can just dump some WD-40 in there, it'll cool down that overheating magnet array, no problem.
Somehow, I don't think life is that simple, but the people who are running things hope that we are.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I say that I'll just look once...or twice...at the Twitter feed for searches on the candidates names. Resolutely, having done it, I turn to something else, or turn the laptop off entirely. I feel good, proud, noble even. I can beat this thing! And then -- well, I'm on the net anyway, let's just take a glance at fivethirtyeight.com...darn, the number hasn't improved...though it hasn't dropped, either, thats a good thing. Huh. Wonder what evote2008 says. And PEF. PEF shows a drop? What the heck? 538 must be the one, the factual one, this one site is a false messiah, I cannot stay here, they lie!
And then I turn off the laptop and go do something. Until the next time.
I can quit smoking whenever I want -- I've done it hundreds of times. --Groucho Marx
Monday, September 22, 2008
Colorguard is a sport not many people know about and some who do don’t really care. But the (school) colorguard is something to be proud of. They have won many first place trophies, are the current group three champions for the past three years and hold the record score of 98.8. But pride is not always good since it can lead you to slack off and be lazy.
As you now know from the first paragraph the (school) colorguard is a very good organization. They work at least eight hours a week to improve but that doesn’t mean that during the eight hours a week that they should be practicing, they are. Last out door season in (school) colorguard me and two other people had approximately five sets of work in the whole show while almost everyone else had at least thirty set of work even the other people who were just as new as I was. So while the other people were working on the many sets of work they had me and the other two people would stand in the back near where my prop was just talking or singing songs our pride told us that after all the time and practice that we had on our one part we were so much better at it than all of the other people while in reality we were just as good may be a little bit worse than them.
I am usually slightly irritated to read things that she's written and find how badly she writes. Good lord, I think, this sounds like an eight year old wrote it. What are they teaching in these schools?
This time, though, I thought: I think she's developing a sense of awareness about herself, and about the results of her efforts. I was particularly taken by the last part --"our pride told us that after all the time and practice that we had on our one part we were so much better at it than all of the other people while in reality we were just as good may be a little bit worse than them. "
Sunday, September 21, 2008
And I'm not alone. Most parents don't care for math. Even if they liked it as a kid, or even majored in it while in college (like my wife), they usually don't like it, later on. Its not as bad as in Peggy Sue Got Married (I happen to know that in the future I will not have the slightest use for algebra, and I speak from experience); we do recognize that the concepts might be of use, but not very often, and certainly not beyond the absolute basics, such as measurement of an area, or -- well, thats about it. Calculus? Irrational Numbers? Forget it. Get lost. Man, I'm glad I don't have to do that any more.
In my case, I came to a moderate appreciate of math late in life. I can't do calculus, but I understand what you're doing, and why you might want to be able to do it. I understand the idea of imaginary numbers, though they seem weird to me. But I get the feeling that such awareness puts me ahead of many parents, yet behind lots of high school students. And that number is going to get bigger, if the math teachers have their way. Of course, I view 'math teachers having their way' with the same (almost) lack of enthusiasm as I view Cindy McCain getting to chose the drapes for the oval office. After all, those are the people who inflicted New Math on us (and some still say that was a good idea, badly executed).
But according to the Washington Post, there's a new awareness that math should be regarded as something that's for the masses, not the nerds. And the people who teach it (who like it, for some ungodly reason) are ramping up to make it happen.
If they can.
"And in my view, there's no need to look beyond Wall Street -- and the halls of power in Washington. The former has created the nightmare by chasing obscene profits, and the latter have allowed it to spread by not practicing the oversight that is the federal government's responsibility."
Because, lord knows, it'd be foolish to assume that the industry could police itself.
And when Jed advises Barack, I like him even more.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
These are end of day (or pretty close) values of projected Obama electoral votes. The entries are FiveThirtyEight.Com, Electoral-Vote.Com, Presidential Election Forecasts, Real Clear Politics, CNN Electoral Map, and CQ Politics. That double-arrowed line across the middle is at 270 -- the number of electoral votes needed to win.
The first thing that leaps out at me is that these guys sometimes seem to be off in their own little orbit -- particularly the CNN and CQ entries (which is why I moved them to the bottom of the legend; I'm thinking of dropping them). CQ hasn't budged since I began looking (wondering if somehow I'm telling it not to show current values), while CNN goes down, down down. Real Clear Politics has at least moved - once.
If you ignore those three, the remainders -- 538, EV, and PEF tracked roughly the same until the 16th -- which is when the financial market went ker-blooey. At that point, they all started showing gains, but they couldn't figure how much -- 538 jumped right up there to about 303, while EV and PEF jumped to about 273. I know this isn't a science, but that seems like a big spread to me -- even given that 538 makes a fetish of looking at lots of polls, and averaging/weighting them. So I'm guessing that the 'real' number is probably closer to 275, 280. Of course, I'll take anything over 270.
My conclusion, so far -- don't just believe one poll, but track it with others, and see when they vary. Undoubtedly, some of them will have a good reason, while others might just be sampling people in the grocery store parking lot.
I have to admit that I only generally understand them, so perhaps I am totally off base here. But what it sounds like is that the people who run those companies that collapsed or came damn close made bets that did not pan out, and that rather than having to pay the price, we're covering those bets for them. I can accept the idea that these guys were/are so big that they couldn't be allowed to collapse; I can accept that people honestly didn't think they would collapse. But here we are.
Since financial Armageddon has hit them, and we're on the hook (CNN: Bailout proposal sent to Congress seeks authorization to spend as much as $700 billion to buy troubled mortgage-related assets) , what are we going to get out of it? Like the Iraq war, which was of course not for oil, but hey, it'd be surprising if we didn't get cheap oil for five years as a result, what are we going to get for forking over this money?
My guess is, about a quarter back on the dollar. Then again, I'm in a cynical mood.
It varies with the nature of the event, and the effect, and whether you're part of it. I don't worry particularly about the people in New Orleans who still haven't gotten back to their homes; it was an act of nature, the effect on me was zilch, and I'm up here in the northeast, with no relatives or friends down there. I'm sorry for them, and angered at the inept response of our government, at multiple levels -- but thats it. I don't continue to dwell on it. The Holocaust is greater than that. It was man-made; the effect was the decimation of a major part of two generations, and to the people who were involved, even tangentially, the effect was long lasting. Still -- I'm not Jewish, and the effect on my family was zilch. So, I'm sorry it happened, I wouldn't have wished it on anyone -- but I don't agonize over it. It happened; its done. Effects linger on, but at some point, they trail off. People stop having the event as a touchstone of their lives.
It's been sixty years since that part of our history. Nations have risen and fallen; people have lived their whole lives. For Katrina, its been a couple of years, and attention moves on to more immediate things. Even 9/11 is drifting into vague memory -- I understand that the thought now is that memorial services will no longer be held every year. The more immediate the effect, as I say, the more likely you are to remember it -- I still recall falling and breaking my hip, but I doubt anyone else does unless they think of it -- and you can maintain the thought as part of your core as long as you want. But how long can you reasonably expect that other people will care?
Here's my guess, and it comes from politics. John McCain was a POW in the Vietnam war. He was treated horribly, brutally, viciously. He didn't choose to be in that state, but when he was, he acquitted himself honorably, and he deserves lifelong recognition for it. Yet when I noticed that in the current political arguments, his time as a POW was becoming part of the common jokes -- Aide: Senator, I think you're in danger of playing the POW card too often ... McCain: Well, you know, in my 5 1/2 years as a POW, I wasn't allowed to play cards -- I realized that for most people, the Vietnam war, and all of it, is history. We're aware of it (generally), but we've continued on with our lives. The war was a touchstone of our lives, but no longer. Now, its just the tagline of a joke.
When people joke about simply renaming New Orleans 'Atlantis'; when they joke 'Hey, why should I wait for a cab, my people have been waiting six thousand years!' -- the grief timer has run out.
Friday, September 19, 2008
The process for doing basic stuff wasn't too bad -- setting up the machines, printing doc to show (!) that they hadn't been hacked, shutting them down at the end of the day, that kind of thing. And the things they said for which you're kidding, right? was the only plausible answer sort-of made sense, since, distilled, they boiled down to You can't say anything to a voter that implies there is something that they have to do; you can only answer their questions, show them how to do what they ask about. And even that, carefully; the last thing you say to a voter is that they're done when they see the Thank You For Voting screen, but you can't say 'do this to get to that screen', they have to ask you 'how do I get to that screen'.
But what I really liked was when one of the trainers said that we couldn't break the machine.... and then we broke it.
At first, I was mildly incensed, but then I thought that, though I did not share their conclusion, their premise was right -- he did say that, he was wrong. In fact, I remembered, he admitted later that he had been wrong, and that he was pleased, if surprised, by the results. So, I wondered, does that mean as a prominent politician, you have to be right on everything? On just the big things? Or do you learn quickly to only make unequivocal statements on the undeniable things - Apple Pie Is Good- (and even there, you have to be ready for the hey, our stuff is good, too! voices) -- and, for everything else, make guarded comments, or none at all? Because if you admit you were wrong, particularly, wrong about something major, well, then obviously you aren't trustworthy, let alone, worthy of being elected. Maybe, also, thats why politicians say as I said before, when, in fact, they said nothing of the sort.
On the way over, I mentioned to her that I'm going to one of two classes on the voting process, as part of being a judge at a local polling place. I told her that I thought I'd walk around in a black robe chanting 'here comes the judge', but I had reconsidered because most people under thirty wouldn't get it. Would you get it, I asked. She thought a minute, and said Yeah, thats like when I saw some of my friends walking down the hall, and I ran up right behind them and said Josh! And he turned around and said my name, and I said Josh!, and he said my name. We did that all the way down the hall. It was pretty funny. Yes, I said, staring off into some vision of decrepitude, thats exactly the same.
Here comes the judge!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
They put in the card and said it works, but they didn't attach the antenna, so when I got home I wasted half an hour trying to figure out why the wireless couldn't even see the network, let alone connect. Not to mention, the card has a dippy external antenna, which, okay, might be because the PC's case is metal, but why does it have three antennae?
They said that hard drive made a clicking sound, which wasn't good, and did I want to replace it. When I said no, they said they weren't sure if the hard drive would 'accept' the driver for the wireless card, which I thought wierd.
And they said that they couldn't hear an unusual amount of noise from the PC, though, sitting here now, I sure do.
Don't think I'll be going back there.
The article said a couple of non-remarkable things, but what I found most interesting was a response by a woman named Kimberly Peacock. I didn't agree with all of it, but I thought what she was was worthwhile because she made some good points. Here's a bit of her response:
What we need is more small business, not more big business, and big government. While you (Obama) and McCain are right in calling for government oversight, what needs to be done by government is set standards and develop investment incentives for small business investment, while reducing the cost of small business developing and producing innovative products. This is possible by creating something of a co-op for each particular industry, with shared labs and equipment. We as a country need to move towards fabrication labs, and move manufacturing from vertical large corporations, to distributed regional manufacturing companies, which produce a multitude of products based upon IP.
This approach will provide diversity much like living organisms and create a much more robust economy. This in turn will create more small businesses, and more jobs, which will lead to a higher standard of living for all Americans.
I understand her feelings, and I think she's substantially right. I prefer the idea of vigorous small businesses -- big enough to compete, big as they need be to get certain classes of jobs done, not so big that they overwhelm the competition just through size. I think that people who believe in small business tend to have a view of a nation of happy yeomen, each doing his little thing, and I doubt that's practical. But the concept, I like a lot -- and if I had to err one way or the other in terms of whom to give governmental resources to, my inclination would be to go her way.
Now she does also say things like Obama, the problem with you; is that you really believe in big government and big business,which I don't think is true (though I can see how it sure would look that way from the viewpoint of an ardent small-business advocate) and The government by creating standards and incentives through the tax code can provide both carrot and stick, and force the people who have monies to invest in small business by making it detrimental not to do so, which scares me a little bit; it seems like I tend to see a lot more of the stick and not so much of the carrot. Not to mention that it seems to saddle the happy yeomen with a stern overseer.
But overall, I like what she said.
Normally, I'd say yes -- spinners are people who put the best possible image on something which isn't actually as pleasant as they'd like you to believe. (Oh, we're just stopping for ice -- the Titanic always has ice, you know) You can't trust spinners.
So when I read a comment that said "Computers analyze presidential speeches: Obama "spins" most, McCain least -- but McCain is depressed" , I was reluctant to believe it. Obama and spin, no way. He's not that kind of guy. Is he?
Well, it turns out, he can be. This fellow gives a fair look at the question, and he says that sometimes Obama's spin is sometimes exactly that kind of smarmy goop I think of, glossing over and distracting from the objective realities. Ugh. But sometimes its also the 'stirring rhetoric' that he's known for.
I don't like the first, I do like the second. Its not the be-all and end-all -- as people fairly point out, you can't just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk -- but the ability to deliver a stirring oration can be worth quite a lot, particularly to a country that's looking for guidance and hope. Ask not what your country can do for you... Remember that?
I dropped a note to a woman who'd posted an interesting comment on Twitter, and, since there's no 'mail' facility on Twitter, I went to her blog to leave the comment. (Do other people have the great difficulty of getting a response from Twitter, and, when it comes, thinking Who is this person? What did I say to them, anyway?) She is a writer, and is apparently an ebuillent person, to boot (so now she's got two out of two things that I'd like to be); on her blog, she thanked me for the comment, and then said how great my blog was, and that she recommended it. I was astonished. You know the sort of thing I write; it frequently sounds like solipistic rambling, with crickets chirping in the silent background. So, though I'm sure she was just being a nice person, I was flattered. But that Twitter linkback -- why hasn't anyone fixed that? (Likely they have; I just don't know about it).
This morning, my wife came in, said that they were having breakfast, and asked if I wanted to eat with them. I said I'd pass, and went back to sleep, staggering out about fifteen minutes later. Hey, I said, I didn't know you were making waffles! Sure, she replied, don't you remember? I said we were having breakfast, I'd made coffee and waffles, and did you want to eat with us? I shook my head. That phrase just completely dropped from my level of comprehension. But, even reheated, homemade waffles are good.
Today I am making brownies -- partially for a local fund-raiser, and partially to give to the woman who's married to the guy I mentioned earlier. I don't know what we can do for her (to be honest, what we would do for her; she's a nice person, we like her, she's in a bad spot, but still....we're not people who feel it easy to intrude into other people's lives( Hi, we know your husband was arrested for sex with a minor, would you like some muffins?) even with the best of intentions). But I wanted to do something, so - brownies. And if I can think of a way to do it, invite her and her son over for dinner some night.
And, today, I'm going to make political phone calls. I so am not looking forward to that. I have said that if my guy (can you guess who it is?) doesn't win, I'm going to feel terrible, but I'll feel even worse if I didn't do everything I could to help it happen. SO......Hi, I'm calling on behalf of this campaign, can I talk to you for...hello? hello?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I really feel badly for her.
So there I am, watching the cars show up, and the girls start to come out. As they spread out, I'm watching them, looking for my daughter, when my eye gets grabbed by this one person. What the heck, I think -- is someone's mother taking this same course? Because there is no way this is a kid -- for starters, she's halfway overflowing the top of her leotard. Plus, she goes to a car, gets in, and drives away. So, when my daughter comes out , I asked her, casually - who was that? Oh, she replied, buckling her seat belt, that's Stacy. She's a senior.
A senior? Senior as in three years older than my daughter?
And suddenly, teen pregnancy sounds a little more immediate to me.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So when I saw this article about how to get more benefits from it, I thought I'd point it out. Even if John Mc Cain, spouse of a multimillionaire, but taking SocSec benefits anyway, gets some value from it. Sometimes, you have to be nice even to those who don't deserve it. You know: sociable.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I go to their Preferences, I check "Do not provide query suggestions in the search box", I click "Save Preferences", I go back to the main page, and its not functional. Good. And then the next time I come in, its working again. Its like that damn animated paper clip. But I have a workaround.
If I use this as the home page -- www.google.com/webhp?complete=0 -- somehow it disables that option. If I go into Preferences, the damn thing is still selected, but when I'm actually on the main page, its non-functional. Which is how I want it.
Just thought I'd mention that.
The reason I mention this is that I just had a thought which will prove I shouldn't be in Mensa.
It just occurred to me that following Twitter, searching on Obama OR McCain OR Palin OR Biden, is driving me crazy. I get really excited, thinking Man, things are happening, we're going to make it after all, and then I look at the polls or see the news, and I crash, I just crash. I mean, geez: one article said that this latest financial bad news is Good News For McCain, because he wants to give tax cuts!!! Huh? I mean, Huh, before, but now WTF Huh? And so I get very depressed. Which, on top of the unsettling news we got today, I don't need.
So, yeah, I'm going to do some political stuff, some local calling, which is for Obama, and some voter registration, which is for anyone (though, apparently, the integrity of that is not universally believed, and apparently ONE of the major parties, I ain't saying which, has been sending out voter registrations to Democrats that appear to be, shall we say, invalid as all hell... but not me, I don't do that). But anyway, that'll be it. I'm not going to follow politics for a while.
Well.... I'll try.
And it took me almost a week to realize this. Oh, yeah. Real Mensa material, you betcha.
The action comes as no surprise. Companies always lay off worker bees when the leaders can't hack it. The mealy-mouthed words they used to describe the action --"we undertake it with gravity and deliberation" -- weren't a surprise, either. The volume, though -- that's pretty amazing. It's roughly eight percent of the combined company. I'd expect that the bulk of the yeah, it was nice, bye people will be from EDS. We don't know if we'll be affected.
First Palin, and now this. Holy hell.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
2 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in large bowl.
Mix well and roll into golf-ball sized meatballs
Place on edged cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven, drain and set aside.
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 14 oz can beef broth (undiluted)
1 cup sour cream
Brown onion in butter, add flour, mix well.
Add ketchup and broth cooking slowly until thickened.
Add sour cream, then meat balls.
Place in casserole and heat in 300 degree oven until serving time.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
It was fun.
The reason I'm a little down is not, for once, the election: my daughter woke up this morning with a really bad sore throat, to the point where she came in and woke us up at five to six. She could barely eat breakfast, and now she's off to a Color Guard practice. I told her that if she felt ill, she could come home, and she gave me the Hairy Eyeball, reminding me that She Who Must Be Obeyed, the color guard director, doesn't let people leave for trivial reasons. Personally, I think someone who's as down as she was this morning isn't leaving for trivial reasons, but we've had that discussion before. She knows how I feel about the director, and I know how she feels. Still, you've got to make the effort.
I suppose a little of my mood is the election. I don't like being this intense (and I can feel my rhetorical muscles tensing to leap But what about...), and I don't like getting into heated discussions about it. I'm normally a pretty quiet, easy-going person (Another tensing just felt!) I hope it's over soon, and I hope that when it is, I'll be happy. I know that won't happen, though. I remember someone -- was it Nixon? -- who was greeted with signs that said Bring Us Together. We need that. We desperately need that.
In theory, we're going to do some garden stuff today. Mostly some trimming, and putting down some edging on one area. I've been half-thinking of getting a riding mower. It'd really be overkill -- our property isn't that big, even if there are a couple of spots where mowing isn't that easy -- hillocks on the back and one side, bumpy terrain in another. We wanted to get a tractor that could pull a mowing attachment and have a hook-on snow-shoveling attachment, but that'd be way too much firepower. Still...the dream lingers on, particularly on mornings like this, when I'm thinking that I really ought to mow that side yard again. Gah. Winters coming, why do it now?
I'm still a little shaken by finding out about that neighbor. We weren't friends, but we liked them, particularly the wife and son. We'd like to do something, but we don't know what. I always have this image of people in small towns who just DO something. We're not that open, I'm afraid. My wife said that perhaps I could bake something for them. Seems trivial, but - yeah, maybe.
So thats the plan. And I'm going to try not to look - much - at political news.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Today we brought our old PC over to a shop to have a wireless card installed. I know that I could have bought one, but I wasn't confident of my ability to get it in and make it work. If it comes out okay, we will give that PC to my mother (though she most likely will not ever try to get out to the net) for use in games and whatnot. She used to use the other one fairly often, but was in the middle of one when she had her stroke. For a long time, she didn't even want to think about PCs. I'm not all that sure that she wants to, even now, but we want her to have one. We feel a little guilty taking the other one, once she said she didn't want it.
I haven't baked anything lately. I kind of miss that. Well, I did make a brioche bread, but it didn't turn out all that well. I'm in the mood to bake something. I'm always amazed by the 'baking blogs' that I come across. These people either have incredible talent or incredible luck. I'm just happy when the damn things don't burn. When I was a kid, my mother's cookies -- not that there were all that many -- burned all the time. I thought that was how they were supposed to taste.
Not reading much at the moment. I need some decent escapist literature.
If this country falls for it... if they believe McCain's lies, Palin's lies.... if they ignore the similarities between Bush and McCain and vote him in anyway.... I will, for the first time in my life, be ashamed of my country. Ashamed for its passiveness. Ashamed for its blindness. Ashamed.
That stuns me.
Some say that he should continue on his current mode of reacting calmly, thoughtfully. They note that that served him well when he was down twenty points in the Clinton Wars. Others say that being cerebral is how Dukakis and Kerry lost.
Some say that he should swat those lies when they come up. Others say he should ignore them for the trash-talking that they are.
Some simply say Don't react - reacting is for losers, and lets the other side set the agenda. Focus on 'new, unprovoked, original attacks' that force the other side to react to him.
One article says, cheerfully, that if he loses, it won't be because he didn't hit back.
I guess, no matter what he does, someone will object...unless it works.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I just learned that a neighbor of ours, lives about six houses away, who is a high school math teacher and runs a karate studio, was arrested for having sex with one of his young karate students. He has a young son, and his wife is pregnant. We'd offered to have our daughter babysit for them if needed.
Sometimes, politics doesn't seem relevant at all.
I am really worried about the upcoming election. I fear that we're going to tapdance into yet another Republican administration, and that in one or two years, people will say Oh, we shouldn't have done that, things are worse now than they were before - and at that point, God Himself won't be able to run and get elected, because most people will just be burned out on politics.
I wouldn't be so worried if I knew that at least the people who want this Republican in office are thinking about it, but I don't believe that they are. I believe they're sleepwalking into a catastrophe, and taking the rest of the country in with them. I recall that people in Ohio said, about two years ago, Oh, we shouldn't have done that, we made a mistake -- but then it was too late. It wasn't just Ohio that elected Bush again, and if the Republican gets elected, it won't be just them this time -- but thats how it feels -- like we're hostage to people who are so scared, they aren't willing to change. They'd rather believe the pretty lies than the grim truths.
I feel for them, but I feel for me, too. And I'm worried.