Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Okay, first I was delighted. My daughter at the Academy? Outstanding.
Then I remembered that there had been a serious problem with assaults on women cadets at the Academy, a few years ago; I don't know if its still going on, but the thought of my daughter in that situation disturbed me more than a little.
And then I remembered just how tough the Academy is -- I didn't go (my commission was ROTC, thanks very much; can't get much easier than that), but several of my friends in the AF did, and they just about uniformly spoke disparagingly of it. The general concensus was that they were glad to have gone through it, and glad to be done with it. Not at all fun, and most certainly not the citadel of light and justice that I always think of when I see pictures of the Academy chapel. The Terrazzo Gap may not still exist, but the attitudes that gave life to it almost certainly do.
Finally, I remembered how much of a leader and excellent scholastic you have to be in order to get nominated to go, and I thought 'okay, I don't have to worry about that, because my daughter, light of my life though she is, isn't a leader, and isn't a wizard'. I have to admit, I felt a little dejected thinking that.
So we'll see. Got a while yet.... and as someone said to me, even if she doesn't go, this is her chance to start thinking about what a good college looks for, years before her compatriots. And thats a good thing.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I say this because I came across the following on a web page written by someone with that name, and clearly, it's me.
Friends tell me that I will take naturally to blogging because I am in possession of many poorly considered opinions about issues I understand only marginally.
The one that's down, of course, is the weekend party for my daughter, which I think we can safely say was a success. People talked quietly and ate frequently -- the 'Elegant Potatoes' was a particular hit -- and no one left early. So that was goodness. The one to go is the Great Bathroom Remodel, which starts this Thursday and will continue for about three weeks. For at least two days, my mother will be in residence in a local hotel -- she needs frequent and rapid access to a bathroom and the facilities therein -- but for most of it, we won't really know that they're working, as there is an outside door to the laundry room/bathroom that they'll use to get in and out.
And the surprise was a gotcha -- I had looked at one of the three retirement funds we have (from my wife's one job and my two); to my surprise, its value had gone up fairly significantly since the last time we looked. Wow, we thought, and immediately looked at the other two. Which had gone down by a value greater than the first one had gone up. Groan.....
Monday, April 28, 2008
Someone -- I want to say Barbara Mikulski, one of the senators from Maryland, but I'm not sure about that -- once used the phrase 'speaking truth to power' to indicate a willingness to talk about difficult issues, or to bring up things with people that they didn't particularly want to hear. At the time, the phrase sounded majestic and noble to me, but since then I've heard it enough, used by people who seemed to be puffing up their chests and strutting a bit as they spoke, that now it just sounds like someone blowing a cheap tin horn. The other day I read someone describing their own actions as not being so much speaking truth to power as sneaking around behind power's back and laughing at them. That's more my style, I suppose.
Now Miley Cyrus is 'embarrassed' by the ads she did for Vanity Fair. Uh-huh. Join the club, kiddo. Actually, I think the ad itself is mild stuff. The effort to make a young girl seem older, sexier -- I'd make that a castration offense, if I could.
So, do you think Obama and that pastor are hanging out much at the church hall these days? I see where the cleric (soon to be called radical, I wonder?) says that an attack on him is actually an attack on the black churches, which I guess depends on whether what I'd heard about black ministers style -- that it's normally a mix of fire and rage, brimstone with a collection plate, and a healthy dose of criticism of the prevailing social structure -- is true. I don't know. My knowledge of black churches is pretty much limited to knowing about gospel choirs. My sense is that he's better off ignored by Obama -- which means that there will be plenty of people who say that he must speak on on it. Clinton, for one.
Still raining here. That grass -- well, its getting high enough that I'm pretty sure I heard Tarzan swinging through it, the other day....
Given her style there is a fifty percent chance she will completely forget where she stashes the money that she doesn't deposit (she's been known to beg for money because she can't find a small purse that's crammed with dollar bills and coins). She could well evolve into one of those little old ladies with thousand dollar bills stuffed in odd places all over the house.
But for the nonce -- I'm rich!!!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Later, it occurred to me that this presents a problem. The PCs that she uses now both have Cybersitter on them to perform site blocking. A Mac would not. The solution, I thought, would be a router-based blocking package, and so I looked. Yes, apparently they do exist. But what I found interesting in one site was that the discussion veered from 'how can I block my kid using his Mac' to 'why don't you tell them not to use it when you aren't around' or 'well, why doesn't the school promote safe computing' or 'if you had a decent moral foundation installed in the kid, this wouldn't be a concern to you'.
I'm going to guess that those folks have different basic assumptions about life, the universe, and many things than I do.
I'm hiding in the bedroom.
Update: I had some French toast. The bacon, most people like (not crisp enough for me, though). The muffins are great. People are eating and talking, which is what we wanted.
Me, I'm back in the bedroom with the New York Times.
But that wasn't what I wanted to write about. It's mothers in law.
For the longest time, I really didn't get the concept of mothers in law and why guys don't like them. I knew the classic image -- the old battle axe, all of that -- and I didn't understand it. I didn't particularly like mine, but it wasn't because she was an unlikeable person, but because it takes me a very long time to warm up to anyone. (I've gotten better at that. Somewhat. ) But as for the classic dislike, I didn't get that. I'm beginning to, a little, but for what may be an odd reason. I don't think that my MIL respects my wife enough.
I noticed, a few years ago, that if my wife wanted to talk to her mother about something -- anything, the weather, traffic, work -- my MIL would listen for about fifteen seconds and then jump into her take on whatever it was. Weather? Oh, the weather where I live is really bad, I had to go back home to get an umbrella and I almost locked my car keys inside the car when I did it. Traffic? Oh, the main street where I live is really crowded, which is very odd because there are a lot of small stores that are going out of business, I don't understand why they can't just.... Pretty much anything. I know, everyone listens with one ear, thinking about how whats being discussed relates to their own life, but this is my wife. She fascinates me. (Okay, no, I don't go around in a daze when she is there, and I can get mad at her, but still: this is a fascinating, captivating person. I do seriously mean that.) So for someone to not just listen to what she's discussing, but instead wrench whatever into her own path: that irritates me.
Just a few moments ago, she did it again, wrenching a comment about the price of gas into a series of comments about how she really doesn't worry about it, but her car gets great mileage, and ....yeah, yeah, whatever. I know, its not a big deal, and the older you get, the more you think about life as it relates to you, not as it relates to anyone else. And probably (based on my own tendencies), you value what you think a lot more than you value what others think, because their standards and conclusions aren't the same as yours, and therefore are, at best, somewhat suspect. Plus, no matter if they're now adult, your child is always just a kid, a little, in your eyes. But I happen to like my wife a lot, and I could talk to her, and listen to her, forever. It astonishes me when her mother doesn't. Not that she doesn't like her, and value her. I'm sure she does. But she doesn't listen to her. Amazing.
Okay, I'm done now. What did you say?
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Tomorrow, my mother in law will be coming to the house to assist in preparations for the event on Sunday. There's a possibility that my cousin, his wife, and two of his children will arrive, too, though they're not certain about that. As for me, I'm going to be adventurous and try a new recipe with my MIL in attendance. Should be interesting. It's below, if you'd like to try it yourself.
On Sunday, all of my wife's sisters, husbands in tow, will arrive, along with two neighbor families, a friend who bakes (and quite well), as well as a caterer. The event: my daughter's having her Confirmation, which is something of a big deal in the Catholic Church. The caterer is supplying food, our friend, the cake, and us, the venue for a modest celebration, to be followed by the actual event over at the church. From what I gathered, the building will be awash in celebrants and their families. Afterwards, my MIL will come back here, and the rest of the families will disperse to their multiple locations. I feel for two of them -- my cousin's coming from Long Island, which is about a five hour drive, and one of my wife's sisters is coming from eastern Connecticut, which is about eight (though I think she's overnighting somewhere on the way). My contribution to the day will be minimal: possibly making some chocolate chip muffins in the morning, and staying out of the way, otherwise. My wife will be wired.
And then on Monday, my daughter gets to prepare for yet another standardized test. Hoo, boy.
Here's that recipe:
from House Beautiful April 2008
MEATBALLS WITH SPAGHETTI COCO PAZZO
Polpettine Con Spaghetti
Makes 16 to 18 meatballs with sauce, serving 4 to 6
FOR THE MEATBALLS
1 cup day-old sourdough bread cubes (crust removed)
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
8 ounces ground veal
8 ounces ground chuck
8 ounces lean ground pork
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage (about 2), removed from casings and crumbled
3 tablespoons dried oregano, preferably Sicilian
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SAUCE
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with the juice, pureed in a food processor or food mill
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
??? pounds spaghetti or linguine
TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS:
Place the bread and milk in a medium bowl and let soak for 5 minutes.
Heat a 7- to 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, and when it is hot, add the olive oil.
Add the onion and cook until soft and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
Place the veal, beef, pork; and sausage in a large bowl and, using your hands, mix well.
Add the oregano, cheeses, eggs, parsley, and bread one at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined after each addition.
Add the onion and mix until very well combined.
Add the salt and pepper.
TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
Heat a 10-quart casserole over medium heat, and when it is hot, add the olive oil.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until wilted.
Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute.
Add the wine, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste if necessary.
WHILE THE TOMATO SAUCE IS COOKING:
Form the meatballs. To roll nice round meatballs without having the meat stick to your hands, moisten your hands with cold water before you start, and then again as necessary.
Take a piece of meat the size of a golf ball and roll it between the palms into a ball.
Add it to the sauce, and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Return the sauce to a simmer and simmer gently until the meatballs are cooked through, about 90 minutes
Be sure to cook the meatballs at a very gentle simmer; if the sauce boils, the fat will separate from the meat and they will dry out.
When you think they are done, remove one from the pot and cut into it with a paring knife.
If it is still pink in the middle, continue to cook until done, another 10 to 15 minutes.
Just prior to serving, fill a 10-quart stockpot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and spaghetti and cook until al dente.
Drain, add to the pan with the meatballs and sauce, and carefully toss to coat.
Oil prices up on word US ship fired on boats in Persian Gulf
And from a golden oldie:
STORAGE TANKS ARE FILLED TO CAPACITY — Gasoline prices rise. Large inventories have a depressing effect on profit margins. Oil companies make an enormous contribution by volunteering to store such quantities for potential emergency use. It is only natural that consumers bear some of this cost.
STORAGE TANKS ARE DRY — Gasoline prices rise. Huge storage losses were formerly carried as a debit by the oil companies. That is no longer possible.
OPEC INCREASES PRODUCTION — Gasoline prices rise. This is based on a fundamental tenet of our market economy. The heightened demand for tankers disproportionately increases transportation charges.
OPEC DECREASES PRODUCTION — Gasoline prices rise. Again, economics at work. Undiminished demand for a scarcer product means prices go up.
THE MIDEAST IS AT PEACE --gasoline prices rise. Peace has to be illusory, so storage tanks are filled in anticipation of the worst. Heightened demand raises prices.
THE MIDEAST IS AT WAR— Gasoline prices rise. Hoarding increases demand, which means prices go up.
CONSUMERS CONSERVE — Gasoline prices rise. Reduced consumption means the refineries are operating well below capacity. This means the unit cost is raised — an increase that must be passed along.
CONSUMERS SPLURGE— Gasoline prices rise. Oil companies are rendering society a signal service by raising prices in an effort to curb consumption, thereby reducing Western dependence on oil.
CONSUMERS TURN TO GASAHOL — Gasoline prices rise. This proven gasoline substitute disturbs the refining process, which means higher costs for all-distillates.
CONSUMERS REJECT GASAHOL -- Gasoline prices rise. Increased demand has the effect of making each gallon more precious, hence, economic forces increase the price.
THE DOLLAR IS UP — Gasoline prices rise. Most oil prices arc measured in dollars. It doesn't lake long for the impact of a stronger dollar to be felt.
THE DOLLAR IS DOWN — Gasoline prices rise. Not all contracts sealed on the spot market in Rotterdam are in dollars. Furthermore, ii takes a while for wholesale costs to work down to the consumer.
Expensive, absolutely -- which is partially why I haven't done it yet. But I still want to.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
One story you can tell about recessions is that the presence of wage and price stickiness throws relative prices off their optimal paths, and this sends false signals to markets and causing resource misallocations -- some sectors have too many resources flow into them, others not enough. At some point, however, these misallocations correct themselves and as resources become unemployed and move from the sectors where they were in oversupply (e.g. out of housing) and into sectors where they were underutilized, a process that takes time, a recession occurs.
Everything's always so neat, so clean, so rational. At least in this article, they go on to point out that theories don't always match up with reality. Unfortunately, the conclusion is frequently the same as the one found in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy regarding disparities between the Guide and reality: when there's a difference, it's frequently reality that's got it wrong.
I'm sitting in the kitchen nook, looking out through the sliding glass door that gives out onto the vestigial desk which was left once we had the nook built. From where I am, I can see the right side of the house -- the master bathroom and bedroom windows on this level, and below, the top of the storage room (formerly the garage) window, and, wrapping around the far end of the house, the garage. Its not the world's best view, but I like it. And what I'm thinking is, if we go through with building the arcade, we're going to wipe out about seventy percent of it. You'll still be able to see off to the right, and if you look through the windows (there are three on the rightmost end of the octagon that forms the nook), you can still see the farm and its buildings. But the view straight ahead -- the building, the landscaped area beyond it -- could be gone, once we do the deed with the arcade.
So, I'm thinking "I wonder if there's a better way?" One that doesn't decimate the view, while still providing what we need -- elevator access to the second floor in a reasonably convenient manner. And it turns out that we could do it a different way. We could have the elevator structure put at the far end of the garage -- there's enough space there. If we did that, we'd have to build a room on top of the garage, which would mean modifying it to support a new room. Access to the new room would have to be from one of the two bedrooms, which means either a) ours, or b) moving my daughter to one of the downstairs bedrooms (ahem, those other bedrooms are where my mother's currently in residence, though my daughter would be glad to take over the whole den as her room) and using hers as the entry point. Let's assume we'd use ours. That would means that anyone using the elevator would have to come through the master bedroom to do it. And we'd lose the additional storage that the arcade would give on the lower level. Not likely we'd put the lawnmower in the added room, for example! Also, I wouldn't be tempted to do the other things -- enclosing the slab, putting paving stones in where the old tanbarked play area is -- because we wouldn't be working in that area. It'd be just the elevator structure, and the new room. Plus, we'd save the view.
Hmmm..... And I was just getting used to the idea of the arcade, too.
Told you it'd be a PIR post!
But its okay, because I also paid a bill, mailed a letter, made dinner, made breakfast, cleaned up the dining room and kitchen, set the dishwasher to run, finished mowing the lawn (total of about six hours over three days), dethatched a bit of it, and read parts of two books.
Maybe I'll go watch that video again.
But this post started because I was thinking about the elevator and the structure for it. It is amazing to me how easily I can ramp up the costs of doing this. The rough estimate -- very rough -- for the elevator and a structure is about three decent cars-worth (gulp). Mentally, we think (how else?) of it as 'what would it cost us to get a new house'; so long as what we're contemplating can reasonably be expected to be less than 50% of that, its okay to keep dreaming. Well, I think I exceeded that budget.
Extension of the upper and lower floors, making the master bedroom and the storage room (formerly garage) below it about six to ten feet deeper. This is what we call 'the arcade'. No Pac-Man, though, but it'll include storage for the mower, not to mention, the elevator and associated equipment.
Movement of the sliding glass door from the existing kitchen nook to the arcade's outer wall.
Connection of the arcade to where the sliding door used to be, allowing direct passage from the garage, up the elevator, and into the kitchen nook.
A new exterior door for the kitchen nook.
Enclosure of the slab space below the deck, not to be weathertight, but comfortable - screened in, outdoor fan, chairs.
A paved area to wrap around the outside of the slab, extending along the arcade to cover area just behind the garage, Currently, that's filled with tanbark from a failed 'play area' when our daughter was younger.
Ka-CHING!!!! And that doesn't even include the helipad, game room, pool house, or servants' quarters. Time to rein in that imagination, there, boy....
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Well, I found a series of web pages (sorry, they don't have an obvious link from the guy's home page, but they're numbered sequentially) that makes me feel better about not going. Because, though the programs are able to handle from amateur through professional, they really, really sound like they're geared to work better, the more you know. Lots of details, variations, techniques, methods, and such. And those lavish dinners they have every night? They're mandatory, and you have to critique the desserts. (Trivia: the average Boot Camp attendee gains five pounds.)
Too much for me. I'm not that competitive or eager. I just want to know a couple of things that'll help me make decent bread, consistantly; decent cupcakes; decent cookies. That's it. Oh, and maybe the occasional pot de creme....
For example: Towns where one person buys a phone and rents out its use to others as needed.
For example: sending money to someone. Buy a phone card, call the person who owns the phone in the town where you're sending the money, tell them the code on the card; they put the value of it on their phone, then hand the cash (minus a fee) to whomever you're sending the money to.
For example: Got to walk for two hours to see the doctor...who may not be there? Call the town, see if the doctor is in that day before you trudge all that way.
For example: Selling fish in Vietnam? Rather than getting paid the next time you come to town, get paid on your phone right away - then transfer the value of the card out again.
I'm not an anthropologist, and I find even the concept of anthropology to be deathly boring lecture hall dull -- but this is fascinating stuff.
McCain opposes equal pay bill in Senate
By LIBBY QUAID
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns, said Wednesday he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.
A fellow was pulled over in Virginia because the police knew he was driving with a suspended licence. Virginia law says that the treatment for that infraction requires issuing a court summons and letting the person go. Instead, the police arrested him, searched his car, and found cocaine, for which he subsequently went to jail. When this made its way to the Black Robed Nine, Antonin Scalia said that "when officers have probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety". The crime, in this case, was the driving with a suspended licence. (Clearly, driving with a suspended license presents a clear and present danger to the safety of the police. Ahem. ) Even though the cops didn't follow the law (arresting instead of issuing the court summons), they're allowed to do a search, since they did an arrest. And if they find something illegal as part of the search -- they can use it. No taint, even though the initial decision was wrong.
I have a problem with that. I know, you hear about people who get off on the damnedest technicalities, and you say What??? But this goes too far the other way. This says that any path to a desirable outcome is okay. Break a law on the way? No problem, SCOTUS has your back. Thats just some little state law, anyway.
Ruth Ginsberg pointed out that if the police had acted correctly, the presence of the cocaine would not have been admissible; as they did not, it was. Whats the logic there, she asked -- only, she didn't mean 'why should we admit the cocaine when legally we should never have known about it'; instead, she meant, 'why should we let this guy off the hook just because the police screwed up?' Because we used to be a nation of laws, Ruth. Perhaps you remember? Perhaps she does -- she suggested a good solution would be just to make the offense an arrestable one - then, the search is legal. Problem solved!
In a nutshell, he says that he and his students are attempting to build the neuroengineering discipline, figuring out as they go along what exactly that means. This isn't neuro as in medicine -- though a familiarity with the structure of the brain is unquestionably part of the underpinnings of their area -- its treating the brain, its sensory and cognitive functions, like a machine -- taking it apart, understanding how it works, and trying to see how improvements can be made to the way it works and to its interfaces. Yeah, I admit it; this came to mind -- but its a fascinating topic, and I'm in awe of the people who will be working in this area. They're brilliant.
Thinking about rakes reminds me of that video I saw on YouTube about 'Garden Implements' and 'Immoral Pleasure Seekers'.
I'm really disappointed by the results, yesterday, of the Pennsylvania primaries. I really thought Obama would do better -- not necessarily win, but be closer. To me, a ten percentage point difference is pretty significant. The tendency is to do what the Clinton campaign has done when they've lost -- oh, its her family's home state, lots of blue collar folks that support them, and, of course, that infamous remark of Obama's. I don't know if its possible to have an intelligent conversation about why people voted as they did without slicing and dicing -- which is not to say such analysis isn't necessary, just that when you do it, I think its not helpful to get into the practice of segmenting the population fourteen different ways. But I'd like to know why. For that matter, I'd like to know why some of the people surveyed (on both the Clinton and Obama sides) say that if their person doesn't win, they'd vote for McCain. On what scale is McCain next to either of them?
This weekend's the party for my daughter, which she doesn't really want. Truth to tell, I think she does, but only for about an hour, and it'll go on longer than that. This is a Big Deal to her mother, which I wish it wasn't. I don't think she's living her life through her daughter, but a little bit, yeah, I guess I do.
I feel like baking something. Those cupcakes came out okay but they were a little dry. I may have overbaked. I'm tempted to make them again. Or cookies, that might be fun. And I want to read -- I picked up a book from the libe called Learning to Eat Soup With A Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. I saw it mentioned in an article about Iraq, and it looked interesting. I should give more money to the library, I think. I wonder if its possible to say 'You can have this if you promise not to buy more of those damn lame books you seem to like so much'. How do librarians pick what to buy, anyway? Not by asking me... and I'll bet, not by demographics, either....
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Miley Cyrus is going to earn over a million dollars for her autobiography of her life, thus far. Isn't that special?
I am amazed by Clinton's comment about obliterating Iran. I suppose she is trying to show how tough she can be. Personally, I've thought of as tough ever since I read a summary of how she likes to tell defenseless underlings, like guards, secret service, and the like, to get the fuck out of her way. But I thought she was bright, too. I guess that fades with stress -- though not so remarkably as it does with John McCain, who seems to have a real problem with his temper. For sure, let's give him control of nuclear weapons.
I can be fascinated by articles about people who trek the poorest, most rugged parts of the world, and wish that I could do that. This from someone who considers roughing it to mean 'slow room service'.
I wonder if there is a consensus as to what the effects of NAFTA have been.
More later. Maybe. I want to write about a New York Times article but I'm not sure that I have anything useful to say.
I voted, of course. And I spent some time as a doorstop. I was not enthralled by the experience. I don't think it did any good (is anyone really affected by the handouts they give just as you are entering the building?). I didn't like the style of some of the other people also door-stopping (one in particular struck me as a paranoiac huckster). I got so bored that after two hours, I just flamed out. If its possible to fail at the least challenging job you can have in a political organization, I think I did. How delightful.
This afternoon, I mowed. Its April, and the grass is as thick as I have ever seen it. It is so thick, it took me fifty minutes to mow a swatch about six feet wide and twenty feet long. This is going to take me a very long time. And, of course, during that period, the mown grass will be growing.
And I spoke to the elevator installation guy. It sounds like installation is, in fact, doable for what we spit-balled as our budget. So, true to my normal form, I am now wondering if this is really such a good idea. Its possible that doing this will make this the most expensive house in the area.
I am surprised how irritated I am that my candidate is expected to lose this state.
Now I see that there are shortages here on rice, oil, and flour, as a result of difficulty in getting them to market.
Good thing we have the gummint looking out for us.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Wonder if I can parley this into a cabinet position?
First, I got an email from Barack his own self. I am quite pleased by that. Its not as personal as I guess I would have hoped -- you know, no asking if he could crash at our house, no offering to let us stop by the Chicago manse some time, nothing about how he's bearing up under all of this, or how his daughters are handling it -- but still, it was nice to hear from him. I admit, I thought that perhaps it might have been machine generated -- it's addressed to bill, not Bill -- but heck, the return email address is 'Barack Obama', so it must have come from him. Right? I mean, politicians aren't allowed to lie, cheat, or steal... so emails that say they're from him MUST be.
Second, I found a page of 'feel-good' photographs, here. Actually, some of them aren't so much feel-good as strange, and those, I wondered about, but a couple are pretty neat.
Third, I'm going to bake some cupcakes, I think. I don't know if there is a 'recipe' for cupcakes, but I thought I'd give it a try. I just feel like baking something. Ever get that way? I've made some in the past, and they were okay... but, I don't know, they were missing something. So I thought I'd give it another shot. Come by, I'll give you some.
So thats the deal.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Marc Albert: Down, but not out
Computer support technician, 43, Beaverton, Ore.
I was laid off from the IT department of a large law firm in Portland, Ore., in December 2007 after working there seven years. The severance package I received lasted me three months. I was very thankful for it, as I have two children.
Every month I pay $765 in rent, over $500 in child support and $500 on very old credit cards, which I have worked diligently to pay down. I receive no federal tax credit for my kids, even though I co-parent them. Losing individual health insurance has been the biggest impact of job loss. To save money, I'm going without it.
Unemployment benefits are very helpful, but obviously that money is not enough to get by on. I am about to liquidate my profit-sharing plan in order to pay bills for another three to four months, as I continue to look for work in a very competitive job market. I am thankful that my last employer at least had a profit sharing plan and a 401(k), and that I left them alone for a rainy day.
I feel lucky. The Portland, Ore., metro job market has not been hit quite as hard by the housing crisis as have other places and is showing some signs of picking up again. The unemployment system here, although not perfect, offers valuable resources that I am actively using, such as career resource centers and free access to networking groups. When I wake up every morning, my boys and I are healthy, and I know they are heading off to good schools.
You just want to send him money.....
ROME (AP) — OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah el al-Badri said Sunday oil prices would likely go higher and that the group was ready to raise production if the price pressure was due to a shortage of supply — something he doubted.
"Oil prices, there is a common understanding that has nothing to do with supply and demand," al-Badri said on the sidelines of an energy conference in Rome. Oil prices reached a new high Friday at $117 a barrel. A host of supply and demand concerns in the U.S. and abroad, along with the dollar's weakness, have served to support prices, even as record retail gasoline prices in the U.S. appear to be dampening demand. Crude prices have risen as much as 4 percent last week. The OPEC chief said the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries "will not hesitate" to increase production if the group thought the higher prices were due to shortages. But he said more oil will not solve the high prices. OPEC's production levels were just one of many factors, he said. "But how much higher it will go, of course it depends on a number of things: the political situation, whether there is a natural catastrophe, whether there are speculations in the market, whether there are strikes in certain producing countries. So there are many other factors other than OPEC production," al-Badri said.
( My emphasis. )
Here's the recipe. It comes, I believe, from a box of corn muffin mix.
Corn Topped Beef Pie - 6 servings
1 pound ground beef 1/2 cup (2 T) chopped celery
12 oz chili sauce 1/2 cup chopped unpeeled apple
1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 pkg (8.5 oz) cornbread/muffin mix 1 egg
1/3 cup of milk 1 can (7 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
Heat oven to 400 degrees
Brown beef and celery in large skillet; drain
Stir in chili sauce, apple, pepper, rosemary.
Remove from heat.
Pour beef mixture into 8 inch pie dish
Prepare cornbread mix (use 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk)
Stir corn into cornbread mix
Pour evenly over meat mixture, spreading to edges of dish
Bake in 400 degree oven, 35 min or until cornbread is golden
I'd forgotten about the idea of idealism, you see. He's vigorous about the need to change the way we do political business. I like the idea of that, even though I doubt it'll happen. Its a surprising thing, at least to me; the current president, setting the bar low on ability and ethics, can run things down, but one who sets it high can't automatically run things up. I guess thats the law of entropy as it relates to politics.
But what really got me was that with all of this reading, and watching, I couldn't clearly state differences between the two candidates. To be fair, I can't even clearly state differences between either of them and McCain, though I do have a visceral sense of where they're different. (Its that difference that made me wonder, a few days ago, how anyone can support McCain. That people - normal people - do, I know, and lots of them. I just don't understand why. I'm hoping its not reflex; I'm afraid it is, which is how we got the present occupant.) But between Obama and Clinton, I can't clearly state the differences. No Child Left Behind? Both say its a good idea that has been implemented poorly. Iraq? Both say we should get out, slowly; their timetables differ, but not by a lot. The need for comprehensive health care? Both support that, with variances about how they'd pay for it, whether it'd be required, and what to do if you can't afford it. The need for increased attention to creativity and entrepreneurial spirit? Both. The equal need for increased attention to federal regulation of the financial markets? Both. Where are they different?
I don't really know. I can't really say. It comes down to gut feelings, hunches. My feeling -- and the way I intend to vote -- is that Obama is better. I wish my vote were based on something more substantial -- perhaps I'm asking too much -- but thats how I'm going, come Tuesday. Hope I'm in the majority.
There were about a hundred fifty people in the large room, which let us swirl around, uncrowded. The walls were lined with tons of pictures of the people and events from the last thirty (!) years. I have to admit, seeing the pictures was a combined delight and astonishment. Did I ever really wear three piece suits, and look that grim? Were there ever really that many serious people in one place? Did we really use big clunky terminals like that, send out multiple paper notes, have many many things sternly marked EDS PRIVATE that now are just curiosities, like seeing copies of US Army plans for the invasion of France in World War II? My golly.
There were some surprises in the people, too. At least one woman seriously looked as young now as she did when I last saw her, fifteen years ago. And one fellow, who'd had a series of devastating medical problems, looked forty years older -- spoke slowly, haltingly, and given to abruptly stopping and looking confused. One guy, who was always serious and clean cut, is now serious and shaggy haired; he donates the hair to Locks of Love. He said that its interesting to see that people treat him one way with cropped hair, and another with long hair. Short, and the guys in the plant are cold to him. Long, and he gets watched when he goes into a convenience store. One guy, who used to write code to maintain an automation system, is now a fish buyer for a local grocery store; he says he's much happier, and no one calls him in the middle of the night with a problem. (I offered to call if he'd give me his number; he declined.) Several of the attendees told me I hadn't changed.
People came mostly from the immediate area, but some came from as far as Utah, Florida, and (of course) Texas. We were lucky enough to arrive at the same time as two people we've always liked -- we ended up eating at the same table, and talking about getting together for dinner at a local restaurant. (They seemed surprised that I like to bake; on the way home, I mused that perhaps I'd make some brownies for them and ask my wife to transfer them at the office. She said 'Only if we get some, too'. Seems fair. ) Only one person came I really didn't care to see, while several came whose presence delighted me, and only a few whom I'd have liked to see didn't make it.
All in all, a pretty successful evening. Didn't hurt that I got to leave with the most attractive woman there. Maybe there's something to this reunion thing.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
As I listened to his speech -- and I've heard enough of his to recognize his recurring themes -- I was noting, casually, when what he would say sounded a lot like what Hillary Clinton would say. The problems that needed to be addressed; the situations that needed to be resolved. I remembered what Harry Truman said about Dwight Eisenhower, who had been Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe in World War Two. Truman said that Eisenhower's experience as a general would be a problem for him when he became President, as he would sit there and say do this, do that -- and nothing would happen, because that's not how the Presidency works. It has intrinsic power, but much of what it can do, it does through the manipulation of people, getting the Congress to do what he wants them to do. I also thought of the observation that I've heard, to the effect that Obama represents a desire to improve the way we do politics, while Clinton represents a desire to be very good at politics as we do them, and it occurred to me that Obama, if elected, might well be in the same position as Eisenhower. He might want to change the way business is conducted, and certainly he would be able to effectuate some, perhaps a great deal, under his own authority. But unless the people in the political environment change the way they do business, much of what he says he wants to change -- the way we do politics -- won't change. He might be forced to deal with people on the terms that they demand, even if those terms are contrary to his desires and his promises. He can't change politics by himself. If he tries -- and I believe he would try -- he might become a Jimmy Carter, whose micromanagement style burned him out and ultimately made him ineffectual.
And if he can't do that, can't be completely successful in doing that -- why vote for him rather than someone who says that she wants to do substantially the same things, and is comfortable dealing in that environment?
Austin police said Thursday that they are leaning toward a ruling of suicide in the death of a middle school teacher and activist whose body was found Wednesday in Lady Bird Lake with his hands and legs bound and tape over his eyes.Police identified Riad Hamad, 55, at a news conference Thursday and said the binding of his limbs and the placement of the tape was consistent with Hamad having done it himself. Austin police homicide Sgt. Joe Chacon said family members told investigators that the Clint Small Jr. Middle School teacher had "several stressors" in his life and had talked about possibly killing himself. Police said that they think Hamad walked from his car to the lake, based on evidence they gathered at the scene.
So, if you wondered where Deputy Barney Fife went to work after Mayberry, RFD went off the air.... now you know.
I think I approve. I don't like it -- I want my daughter to wait to have sex until, oh, I'm dead -- but I know it does happen. I understand that some folks think that this will encourage sexual activity; it probably will. Further, though that sexual activity will probably be protected, other bouts might not be, and then what? I don't think you can just toss the condoms in the bag and say 'we're done'. You need to communicate it to the parents, and to be prepared for the ones who say that they're outraged.
But overall, a good idea. A queasy-feeling-inducing one, but a good idea.
Friday, April 18, 2008
On the other hand, there really are PIR people. Take this, for example, from an article in SFGate on a guy who has a business recycling expensive kitchen accoutrements that simply don't hack it any more.
Ellen Peskin, a housewife who is renovating her Upper West Side Manhattan apartment kitchen for the second time in eight years, is donating her $25,000 custom-made glazed, cream-colored kitchen cabinets and her $5,000 four-burner Viking range to Green Demolitions. She is opening her narrow kitchen to the living and dining area, and is installing a six-burner Viking range and new teal-stained wood cabinets. Her current kitchen, she said, which will soon be removed by Green Demolitions, is an uncomfortable place to cook. "Only one person could fit in the kitchen," she said. "I would have to open the refrigerator a certain way."
I'm sure that to this sort of person, it really is intolerable, and worth the money to redo. But to me? PIR. Seriously PIR.
I'm glad that this fellow can not only make a living on such excess, but, as the article points out, do such wonderful things with his profits. Good going.
On one occasion, I was in a meeting where we were trying to decide whether to move a given workload. I noticed after a while that the people who wanted to move it were trying to say that it would 'fit right in, no problem', and those who didn't want to move it would say 'its too big, it won't fit'. The initial rating for the workload was 5 MIPS (a computer rating). But the people who wanted to move it would say it was 3-5 MIPS, and the ones who didn't would say it was 5-8 MIPS. After a while, I asked everyone to agree that the best estimate of the workload was 5 MIPS, and they did. After all, that was what we had started with! I went up to the blackboard and wrote FIVE MIPS in block letters. When anyone would say anything else, I'd point to the board, and they would change what they said. It helped a lot.
Today I heard some political commentators making the point that Hillary Clinton has to win 'significantly' in Pennsylvania to be considered a viable candidate. How much is significant? Would it be by five percent or more? Well, one hedged, I don't know if you can say that.... certainly, more than one or two percent... and ten percent would definitely be a significant win... They never did decide what the lowest number would be that could be considered significant. They needed someone to do that -- and then write a block letters number on the board. Committing is hard, though.
But you know what? I bet that even if she loses -- which I think unlikely -- she'll keep going. She wants this so badly, she'd have to lose, and lose significantly, before she'd drop out. What's significantly?
Well... you know.
Sure, makes perfect sense. After all, that damn CEO bonus has to come from somewhere....
Toes sucked? Do people actually do that? Footrubs, sure, but toe sucking? Really? I know, there are kinkier things (I shudder to think of some of them, and those are just the ones I know about). This is relatively innocuous. But still - wow.
I really am out of it.
Attitudinally, we're Democrats, so we both want the same thing, we're just diverging, sometimes substantially, on how to achieve it, and what we're willing to spend to get it. Only difference is, this is our money, not some anonymous tax fund to be tapped.
The single biggest thing continues to be the question of mobility: if we're to stay here, we've got to have the ability to go up and downstairs when the concept of stairs, itself, scares and intimidates us. Sort of like what I was like when we first got me home from the hospital. (Now, I look at stairs warily, but I don't actively delay having to use them, which I did when I was first back.) An elevator is an absolute. The practicality of that, and the cost, are the initial considerations. If it can be done for a price we can accept -- including whatever has to be done to make the house usable -- and keeping in mind that this is money out the door; we'd not expect to get a tenth of its cost back -- then okay, lets see what else is needed. If it can't, we go build.
That may be the simplest part of the discussion.
We talked about how to fix things that we do now without thinking (much) that would be difficult to do later. Predominantly, that means mowing the grass and shoveling snow. For both of those, the answer appears to be some kind of tractor, though we're not sure exactly what. I had thought it was possible to buy a riding mower that had a snow blade attachment; looking at the John Deere site, though, I didn't see any. My wife says it is possible. If so, that addresses both of those considerations. It adds the ones about maintenance of the device itself -- keeping it in good repair, fueling it, and so forth -- but as people have been living with those for years, I guess its not that big a deal. I tend to overestimate the difficulty of things like that.
Next up is things that we really don't like about this house, but have grown used to. It will come as no surprise that the biggest of these is storage. We've got one closet in the bedroom. We use all of it; we also use the closet in the library as auxiliary storage, though thats mostly office stuff -- software, paper for the printers, that kind of thing. We also want a bigger linen closet -- not that we have all that much stuff, but we have enough to fill it handily. Structurally, the linen closet is in the hall, and the closet in our bedroom is just next to it. One possibility is simply to eliminate the closet entirely, moving its functions elsewhere, and take the space for the bedroom closet, but we've been seduced by images; we don't want something lavish, but we do want something really nice. One possibility is to eliminate the end bedroom, merging it with our bedroom. This of course would require alternative living arrangements for our daughter, who's currently in that bedroom. We did think of asking her if she had a flag, (if not, she doesn't get to keep it), but as she's in color guard, she might, better not risk it. Another possibility is to extend the bedroom out over the garage, using that to be the massive storage area, complete with whirlpool, sauna, and helipad. Ahem.
So, something to fix storage in the bedroom and in the linen closet. Well, shucks, we're talking about a structure to house the elevator, mmm, wonder what kind of storage we could pry out of that? Its an amazing thing; the more I think of this amorphous structure to house the elevator, the more I like to imagine being put in there; the damn thing would have to be a Tardis to hold it all.
And there's things we'd like, but they're not that big a deal. For example: a gas range (ours is electric). Hmm... And a quieter (way quieter) dishwasher. New carpets in many places. Quality of life things, in other words. Rich people's problems, I think they're also called.
But if we could address those items -- accessibility, storage, general niceness improvement -- and not go oh my bloody hell when it comes to the cost and practicality -- then yeah, we'd stay here.
Or, you know, not.
Speaking of whom, last night she went out to dinner with people from EDS to celebrate the thirtieth (!) anniversary of one of her co-workers. The person in question has had a tough life - divorced, then lived with someone who died, then lived with someone who ditched her - and she's come up through the ranks from a computer operator to systems engineer (which is what EDS still calls its technical specialists who install and maintain the software; screw what the real engineers think about the use of the name). She can be bitter -- apparently, she feels that in any layoff, she'd be the first to go, which is what everyone there feels, even their universally acknowledged technical guru; but in her case, she's probably right. Not because she ought to go, just because the feeling is that layoffs are done without rhyme or reason, and as she would be the selectee in a corporate game of Which Of These Is Not Like The Others, she'd probably be the one.
I baked those brownies last night. Turns out if you chill them, they're considerably easier to eat -- though correspondingly harder to cut. The recipe had said to cut while warm, and I tried, but they were literally molten in the middle -- and if you wait for the molten magma to solidify into lava, the edges are like rock. Yet another technique that I'll likely not learn because I won't be going to the CIA course. Ah, me.
I am amazed to discover that there are people who really don't like Obama -- not just prefer Clinton -- that, I can undersand -- but actively don't like. And I'm even more amazed to find that there are people -- a great many of them -- who'd vote for McCain, despite his stated eagerness to carry on the policies of the Bushman. I am amazed by that. What are these people thinking? I'd really like to know. Not so much the we gotta sport the presdent, you betcha, folks, and not the Deep Thinkers, who could make a case for supporting anyone, but the real people -- why do they support him? What do they see there that they like? What do they see that I'd like? I have to admit, I probably couldn't sell them on Obama, so why do I assume that if they can't convince me, they must be intellectually weak? I also wonder: you see candidates at rallies, and they're always talking to people who support them. Why aren't there rallies for people who don't support you, just so they can hear what you have to say? I know, thats expecting too much. After all, did I go to the Chelsea Clinton deal? No, I did not. Would I go to a McCain one? No way -- but all of that is because there's no substance there, its usually fluff and how wonderful life would be if everyone just went along with me. Obama doesn't do that -- though as things continue, I think he's starting to.
My wife's working from home today. I always like that, even though I grouse that while she's working in the library, I can't use the desktop PC to autodownload porn -- and as the House character occasionally says, it won't download itself. Still, having her around is worth any manner of inconvenience -- and besides, they'll make more!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I liked that conversation for a couple of reasons. One is, I try to have non-stress conversations with her as a way to continue the baseline of communications we've had for years. I think that there are and will be plenty of times when we just don't agree, and maybe don't even understand each other, so its important to me to at least try to keep the quiet times, too. Was it actually one brownie? As far as she was concerned, it certainly was -- and thats good enough for me.
I'm about halfway through the book on Strengths, and I'm thinking about communications, and insight. I'm not a particularly insightful guy, which ties in with my not really feeling as if I need other people. I do, I know that, but in a weird way I don't want to acknowledge that, for most people. Some, certainly. Not many. I read books like this because I need all the help I can get, in that regard; I'm also reading it because SusieJ recommended it, and I find her to be an insightful and interesting writer who's got a lot on the ball when it comes to dealing with kids and families. So when I hit a part where the author's talking about listening to kids, and really listening, not being Um-hmm..., it makes sense to me. Then she goes into some New Age stuff (she says its not, but you tell me: when you ask a kid questions and your answers are all 'I hear you saying that you're unhappy' ' Why do you think you like doing that?', is that New Age? I think so. It may be valid, but its NA) which tended to lose me -- but right now she's talking about putting pieces together from multiple conversations with the same kid, concluding from one conversation about the kid's fort when she was young, and another about liking to work on a sailboat, restoring it, and wondering about the ocean, that perhaps this kid would like to be an astronaut. And I think Damn, I wish I could do that kind of thing!!! While at the same time I wonder: is this one conversation out of ten that worked, or out of a thousand? Because everyone can hit the ball sometimes.... the people who can hit it more often, they're the ones I want to listen to.
But I'll keep reading.
I'm trying to take a positive view of last nights meeting between Clinton and Obama, but I'm having a bit of a hard time doing it.
What appears to have happened is two parallel performances: a focused and confident Clinton doing very well against a defensive and weak Obama, with audiences complaining afterward that little attention had been paid to substantial issues on the part of the two program hosts. All the sides involved in the performance were outshone by those watching -- Clinton, for pandering and playing old-style politics; Obama, for failing to grasp how effective such pandering can be, and not pushing the conversation to substantial issues; and the moderators, for choosing to focus on fluff rather than substance.
From the Washington Post blog:
*The choice between the candidates crystallized tonight. It is not, fundamentally, a choice about issues or even ideology -- it is a choice about approach. Obama is an idealist, using nearly every question to appeal to the better angels in people; Obama sees the world as he wants it to be and believes he can make it. Clinton, on the other hand, is an unapologetic pragmatist; she has been through the wringer that is national politics before and knows how to play the game."
Clearly, Clinton wins this round. Don't much like saying that.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I just hooked up and did initial configuration on my mother's PC -- setting up a unique desktop for us, connecting it to the printers, things like that. My golly. This PC is about three minutes faster in booting -- 45 seconds from power start to login screen, just about the same as the laptop -- and its quiet, the way the other desktop used to be. I am seriously tickled by this.
Went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned, which I hate to do because they usually lecture me. Not this time. I've been going so often, I think they almost regard me as staff now. And I went to the oral surgeon for a checkout of how healing is going, and he's pleased. Not so pleased that he'll let me chew with them -- nothing like that for at least another three months (!), but hey, after all this time and money, I'm not taking any chances. Well, not too many, anyway. We'll see what July brings. If there's one thing I've learned through this whole process, its that time flies faster than I'd have thought possible.
My wife really enjoyed listening to Chelsea. She asked if CC would consider being First Lady, should her mother get elected, and the reply was no, she's got a private life that she wants to get back to. Eh, why don't I entirely believe that?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I tried very hard not to note how everything she liked about what she heard, Obama's been saying for a while. I did not entirely succeed.
She came home with an Obama sticker from some supporters. That sticker is now in my daughter's possession.
Badly enough to have a pit stop at a baseball field in downtown Mechanicsburg.
But not so badly that they send the candidate, personally. We get a relative -- the one who 'doesn't talk to reporters'.
Wonder if the bus will come to a complete stop?
She was talking with her mother about getting a haircut, and I said that if she wanted, I would drive her over. The only condition, I added, was that she would have to know what she wanted, as I couldn't offer suggestions. (My perennial suggestion, Buzzcut, gets continually rejected.) She and her mother agreed that she wanted enough cut off to look healthy, while still being below her shoulders. Is it now? I asked. I guess I never noticed. With a little moue of disgust, she loosed her ponytail and let it drop down. See? she said, scooping it back up. You know, I said, thoughtfully, I'm impressed by how full your hair is. When you had it down, it looked a lot like the hair you see in ads for -- Dad! She exclaimed. I like my hair the way it is! Yes, I know, I said, I was just --Dad! You're not going to win this argument!
But I wasn't arguing.....
The source can be found here.
Monday, April 14, 2008
There ought to be wireless access along major highways, accessible from moving vehicles. And, I bet there is software that automatically seeks out unlocked networks. I don't know how to find it, though, nor do I know if doing so makes you vulnerable to virii and such.
Seeing people whom you've known all your life having grandchildren makes you feel old. The grandchildren themselves can make you feel young, but their grandparents have the opposite effect.
Getting old and feeble really sucks. (Not me -- my mother. ) I honestly don't know, if I had to choose between that and death, which I'd choose. I imagine as I get older, I may feel differently.
If its possible (okay, feasible), I want to have our next van-type vehicle modded to include high-intensity gooseneck lighting for the passengers. I don't know how to get that done, either.
It'd be nice to have a good restaurant in this area. I was startled by how much I liked that little one where we had Italian food. Golly.
Fuel prices are scary. I know its going to get worse. I don't see anyone doing anything to help people without the resources to handle it. I wonder if its going to lead to the effective death of airlines. I would bet serious money it does NOT lead to electric cars, improved mass transit, including inter-city rail, and the like.
We just took a 1.1 mile walk and I hardly used the cane at all. Amazing what being distracted by a pretty woman can do for you.
Saw an article about how insurers are now charging co-pays that are proportionate to the cost of the drug, not a flat rate. That makes economic sense to me, because people tend to view insurance as a pool of money from which they can draw as if its their own, but it sucks from a human sense. Fortunately, most practicing economists and more insurers aren't human. At the corporate level, in the insurers' case.
Hillary is getting pretty irritating. I don't say that because I'm an Obama supporter, but because it's true. Her 'guns are great and so is religion' spiel sickens me. I know, this is the big leagues, if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen, Obama's a big boy and can take care of himself; if not, he ought not to be in the running for the job. It still sickens me. It helps that the general take seems to be that its the politicians who are spitting at each other, but still -- grow up, you people! And knock off the pious crap, H!
Sometimes, when I contemplate taking a long drive, I wonder what it would cost to hire someone to do all the driving. I'd bet its pretty damned expensive. I'd also bet that its worthwhile. Rent one of those twenty-passenger buses with built in TVs and the like. Not that this drive to Nyawk and back was all that bad -- it was actually pretty painless. But still....
K, thats it for now.