Saturday, May 31, 2008
I am amazed that we are still getting excited over clerics with more to say than brains to say it with. These guys don't seem to realize that the sixties were over quite some time ago. The radical priest come to get us released, we was all on the cover of Newsweek. I'm also amazed at the depth of the dislike -- almost said 'hatred'; not quite, but in the ballpark -- some folks have for Obama. I came across a blog today which asked "Does Barrack Hussein Obama know or is friends with anyone who is not an America hating race baiter????" He seriously doesn't like Obama. It doesn't surprise me that people don't like him; it surprises me how deeply they don't. Its not so much verbal as visceral. I don't understand it. I'd like to think that we could talk about it, perhaps come to an understanding, but I think that we're so far apart, we might as well be in different worlds.
Talked to my daughter tonight, and casually mentioned the idea of not going to Guard this summer if she doesn't do well on her grades. She got more than a little agitated. I didn't want to do that, but I did want to get her attention, and at that, I succeeded. Unfortunately, when I told her what they said about 'two hours a night' of homework, she told me that middle school had said there would be two and a half hours per night, and that sure didn't pan out -- leaving me to wonder should it have?
The book I was waiting for, Understanding Baking, finally arrived, and I was pretty disappointed. I had bought the second edition, not realizing that this wasn't the edition I had borrowed from the library (what, Bill, you didn't have a clue that the five dollar price might suggest this is really old?). This edition is, as my wife put it, more of a training guide for kids in a vo-tech baking course, not at all the succinctly written explanations of the third edition. The book's not worthless; every so often it comes across a basic concept that I didn't know, and am glad to find out, but still: I do believe buying the newest edition is in my future. Unless anyone wants to gift me with it. Hello? Hello?
Actually, my wife and I were talking a little about television the other night. I mentioned that I had been surprised to learn, a while back, that the guy who played the main character on the Roc series, Charles Dutton, is not only not the easy-going, affable person that the character is (which isn't all that unusual; that's why they call it acting) but more that he had been something -- consultant, director, I forget -- on a program (HBO, I think) about drug dealers in Baltimore, and that he was pretty hard-nosed about why they wanted him -- in essence, that these white guys wanted to have a black guy obviously with them so that they wouldn't get killed while they were in the tough neighborhoods where the program was shot. He was apparently quite scornful of their attitude -- I don't think he used the phrase 'house nigger', but that was the idea -- and only agreed to participate when it became apparent that they weren't exploiting the neighborhood, but actually showing what it was really like to live in that environment. My wife said that she wasn't all that surprised, as she'd always though that the Roc program was realistic, in a way that other black-family-based programs, such as the Cosby show, never were. The kids on Roc didn't have snappy patter; the adults weren't either brilliant or stupid; everyone didn't always get along, though they usually did. Insofar as the show reflected the style of the main actor, it seemed plausible to her that he wanted 'his' program to be something that didn't reflect the general lets make dad dumb, mom smart, and the kids snappy patter experts ethos. He wanted it to be both funny and real.
The thing for me is, I don't watch TV all that much, but when I do, I want it to be an escape mechanism. I don't watch television to see how life is in the gritty streets, or what its like to be poor. I watch it either to be distracted, or to learn something. Or, of course, to learn that life in California is beautiful all of the time.
Friday, May 30, 2008
After the usual 'it depends' statements, she swagged: about two hours. A night.
I haven't eaten a pound of cookies (lately), but I kind of had something like that happen this morning. Its the last day of the cycle to make Amish Friendship Bread, and I was happily apportioning it. There should have been four cups of output; I put one cup in a bag for a neighbor, two cups in a bag to put in the refrigerator, and where the hell did the rest of it go? Because I was out. I looked at the recipe three or four times, counting the number of cups-o-stuff that went in -- like, three cups of flour, three cups of sugar, three cups of milk -- how could I possibly end up with only three cups of output? Huh?
Then I noticed that, oops, I had not yet put in the 3 total cups-o-stuff for today. My bad. I added it and -- the volume went up to five cups. But I added three cups of stuff! How could it only go up by two cups?
Magic, is what I think.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
This is the recipe I used for the bread that turned out pretty well. It's from the King Arthur Flour site, though I modded it a little bit.
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast (1/10 tsp active dry yeast)
1 teaspoon instant yeast or 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water*
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Unbleached Bread Flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
All of the starter
*If you use bread flour, increase the water to 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces).
The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; overnight is good.
The Dough (once the Starter is ready):
If you're using active dry yeast (rather than instant), mix it with the lukewarm water; if you're using instant yeast, there's no need to do this.
Combine the yeast, 1 cup water, flour, salt, and starter and mix and knead them together -- by hand, mixer or bread machine -- till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough.
Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface.
Divide the dough into two pieces.
Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel or edge of your hand.
Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again.
With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a 10" log .
Place the logs in the folds of a floured couche or floured cotton dish towel, which you've set onto a sheet pan or pans. Or place them directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined).
Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have become quite puffy, but haven't doubled in size; this will take about 60 to 90 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 450°F; if you're using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf.
Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan or onto a peel, if you're baking directly on the stone.
Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust.
Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8" vertical slashes in each baguette.
Place the baguettes in the oven.
Bake the baguettes for about 25 minutes, until they're a deep, golden brown.
Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.
Or, for the very crispiest baguettes, turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven.
One week until school is out. Its going to be weird, having my daughter here throughout the summer. I am not looking forward to having to come up with ways to keep her from simply watching the tube ten hours a day. I thought about asking her to participate in baking with me, but she's not too much into that. Better think about it now, though -- it'll soon be August, and then school starts again.
I've been dipping into the Ask for It book. Its interesting reading. The message they give again and again, which is applicable to both genders even though the book is aimed at women, is that you can negotiate many things, including a number that you'd have sworn can't be negotiated. I'm given to understand that if you have lived in a culture where its normal to haggle, you find it very difficult to live in a place where it is not normal -- even if the price you pay is acceptable, because there's always that lurking feeling that you could have gotten it down even lower. In the US, the only example I know of people routinely haggling is in buying a car -- and I don't know of anyone who actually likes the experience.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
A highly decorated Green Beret, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth died a painful death in Iraq this year. He died not on the battlefield. He died in what should have been one of the safest spots in Iraq: on a U.S. base, in his bathroom.Ryan Maseth, a 24-year-old Green Beret, died in his shower January 2. The water pump was not properly grounded, and when he turned on the shower, a jolt of electricity shot through his body and electrocuted him ... In a statement to CNN, the U.S. Department of Defense said it "considers this to be a serious issue and has referred it to the DoD Inspector General's office for action."
The Defense Contract Management Agency declined to answer CNN's questions.
Can anyone give me a good reason why trusting the Army on this would be a good idea?
From the Washington Post:
Responding to a request for comment, McClellan wrote in an e-mail: "Like many Americans, I am concerned about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. I wanted to take readers inside the White House and provide them an open and honest look at how things went off course and what can be learned from it. Hopefully in some small way it will contribute to changing Washington for the better and move us beyond the hyper-partisan environment that has permeated Washington over the past 15 years."
Now, he's sorry. Uh-huh. Right.
Oh, on the personal level, probably. The folks you work with, or your neighbor, or your spouse, yeah -- and if you find that you don't, then it suggests that maybe its time to quit, or move, or get out of the relationship. But at a national level, nope. Clinton makes an unfortunate remark, and people jump all over her. Obama gets the name of a Nazi death camp that a relative helped to liberate wrong, and people get all over him. Someone makes a mistake - someone you don't agree with - and its time to go nuclear.
Guys? People make mistakes. Even politicians. Its not always nefarious.
I'll grant that sometimes its no mistake. Sometimes, they were trying to get away with something. Nixon and Bush, at least, have shown us that there are politicians who need to be watched constantly, because they do try to get away with things. Perhaps Clinton is like that. Perhaps Obama is like that. I don't think so, for either, but I guess I can't rule it out. The House votes on a bill, overriding Bush's veto, and it turns out that the bill is missing a section. They have to scramble to figure out what to do, and the White House Press Secretary lets go with a snarky comment about screwing up. What, you folks never made a mistake? A rabid political opponent makes a fair point, and then goes on to make five more while he's on the subject (yeah, Keith, I'm talking about you) -- he doesn't want to stop before every drop of blood is milked? Why not?
Maybe I'm too forgiving. But jeez, you guys - lighten up. Back off. Use those knives you've always got at the ready, and cut each other some slack. And if someone cuts you slack? Appreciate it. Like these folks.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Barack Obama, at a Memorial Day event in Las Cruces, N.M., credited his great-uncle, Charlie Payne, as being among the U.S. troops who liberated the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
The trouble with that bit of history is -- as the Republican National Committee pointed out today -- is that the Soviet Red Army was the military force that liberated the World War II death camp.
The RNC seized the opportunity to fire off a news release, saying that “unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there’s no way Obama’s statement yesterday can be true. Obama’s frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.”
The Obama campaign soon acknowledged that the Democratic candidate made a mistake. It explained that Obama’s great-uncle was in the 89th Infantry Division that helped liberate another notorious death camp, Buchenwald. Obama, the campaign said, “is proud of the service of his grandfather and uncles in World War II -- especially the fact that his great-uncle was part of liberating of one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald.”
All of which raises the question: What's worse, Obama's apparent gaffe or the RNC pouncing on a Holocaust-related historical mistake for political advantage?
Showed him, huh, guys? Guys?
McCain's policy on fundraisers: Close them
By LIZ SIDOTI – 54 minutes ago
PHOENIX (AP) — John McCain prides himself on being a remarkably transparent presidential candidate, with rolling news conferences on his "Straight Talk Express" campaign bus and an open-door policy when it comes to the media.
Yet, the door closes tightly on the Republican's fundraisers.
News organizations for months have pressed McCain's campaign to at least allow a small group of reporters — called "poolers" in media-speak — into events where McCain typically makes a few remarks to the high-rollers donating to his White House bid.
The campaign has resisted with little to no explanation.
Then I read the thing in UB about how butter needs to be in a certain temperature range in order to give maximum volume to what's being beaten, such range being, essentially, room temperature, and I think Oh.......
A little learning.....
I will occasionally P&M about how Blogger isn't always as stable as I'd like (come to think of it, neither am I). I'll want to post, and it'll be giving me bogus errors that don't go away until I sign out and back in. Whats needed, I'd muse, is some way to write the post on the PC, and then just ship it. (Yeah, I know, the Performancer platform does that, but for some reason I never quite warmed up to it.)
Whats that? You say that Blogger can accept emails to an address you've cited in Settings, and post them? Like, say, this one?
Well, I said I was slow....
Monday, May 26, 2008
That last phrase is key. Lots of people work at physically distant locations from other team members; usually those other team members are more-or-less in one place, and the others are at satellite locations -- sometimes as groups, sometimes from solo locations. What they tend to find is that people who work alone, or in small, remote groups, tend to be forgotten in the day to day affairs of the organization. Oh, yeah, we know about Bill working up in Pennsylvania; we see him on the IM system, we get his emails, we hear him on teleconferences. But when we have a group meeting, we don't always remember to tell him about it -- and when we do, listening over a telephone line is a poor second to being physically in the room where the meeting's being held. And when we're looking for someone to take on a project, try out a challenge, move up -- we remember the people we see.
This fellow's robot does that. He's not just a voice, but an actual face that you can look at while he's talking. And he's not limited to direct conversations on video links -- his avatar can cruise the halls and stop people for casual conversation. If people want to talk to him, they can call, email -- or stop the robot. He's virtually there.
Now, this sounds pretty nifty, but also pretty geeky. I can't honestly think of an environment where multiple people would need it. But I can foresee a sudden increase in interest about telepresence-enabling technology over the next few months and years -- directly in proportion to the costs of fuel - and this sort of thing could well be a start. Think, for example, of the efforts (somewhat successful, but you gotta believe) to run extensions of real-world businesses in virtual environments, such as Second Life.
McCain "sick at heart" over mistakes in Iraq war
By Tim Gaynor ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain sought on Monday to distance himself from President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war, telling veterans on Memorial Day he was "sick at heart" at ...
Bush pays tribute to troops at Arlington
The Associated Press -
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - President Bush paid tribute Monday to America's fighting men and women who died in battle, saying national leaders must have "the courage and character to follow their lead" in preserving peace and freedom.
She'd told my wife that she wanted to get something called 'watercolor pencils', because the only sketch she'd done that her art teacher had kept had been done with those. My wife came into the bedroom and asked if I'd be willing for us to get them for her, and I said no; I'd just bought her a brand new sketch book about two weeks ago. My daughter said she'd be willing to pay for them herself, and my wife said she'd go out with her in about half an hour to get the pencils. Better call to see if they're open today, I said, and my wife thought that was a good idea, asking my daughter to call. She didn't want to - and when my wife asked why, she said that she was, after all, paying for them. My wife said that she was taking her, but if she wasn't willing to make the call, she wouldn't go at all.
So they're not. Problem solved. Gas saved. Money saved. And another piece of art equipment, used once or twice, then lost, not acquired.
Transportation -- I have a Google alert set up for the words railroad and capacity. Lo and behold, I'm seeing headlines like Gas Prices Drive Up Rail Ridership, and Suddenly, Freight Trains Are The Way To Go. I'll bet there are people in the industry who are more than a little amazed at how sexy they've become -- and people who are recasting themselves as Instant Experts. Why, I personally have said for years that we need to improve our intermodal transfer capacity. Harrumph.
Hair -- I never understand how hairdressers figure out what kind of hairstyle looks best on a given face. My assumption is, they don't; they just do what you asked them to do, more or less. But I also assume that the better ones do, and they do it in a way that is intuitive rather than explainable. I came across this blog where a woman has been taking a picture of her face for multiple days, and one of the things you can do is see how her 'face' changes as she changes her hairstyle. I still don't understand it, but its interesting nonetheless.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I was just leafing through some web pages when I came across this one, wherein the author speaks bitterly of events that took place while he was at Keesler Technical Training Center, at Keesler AFB, in 1984. I was astonished -- twenty years ago, and he's still pissed? And then I thought about it.
As it happens, I went to Keesler, too, though much earlier -- around 1969. I went to learn how to repair aircraft radios (which I got competent but never particularly good at). The structure of the student environment was simultaneously relaxed and rigid. Relaxed, relative to Air Force basic training, which we'd individually just escaped; though basic wasn't difficult, objectively (certainly not as difficult as other branches), it wasn't a lot of fun to have all of your life regimented. At Keesler, there was much less of that -- you were there to learn technical material, not to learn to march, the code of conduct, or how to salute. But it was also rigid: you didn't walk to class, you marched; you had to clean your room to inspection standards, even though the inspections were for the most part infrequent and casual (except for the people in the drill team barracks, which was a whole different environment). And then there were the ropes.
Each group of airmen was a flight, and each flight was assigned a 'rope' -- an airman selected to be responsible for the flight. This airman was distinguished by wearing a green aiguillette (here's a page with a sample, from a completely different organization). A group of flights was directed, overall, by an airman of some seniority who would wear a yellow aiguillette, and the group of yellow wearers all reported to one wearer of a red aiguillette, who reported to the squadron commander (I think; I never hung around that rarefied atmosphere). These worthies were called the green ropes, yellow ropes, and red ropes.
Since I was not much of a military type, I had no chance in the world of being a red rope; even yellow was pretty far beyond my grasp. But green, though -- that seemed possible. Unfortunately for me, I made the mistake of mentioning to someone that I'd like to do that, and after a bit they decided it would be fun to tell me that I had, in fact, been selected, and held a little ceremony to pin it on. I didn't know what to make of it, but I was totally unsuspicious. Which, as it turned out, I should have been. I still remember how I felt when I found out that I'd been the butt of the joke.
So yeah, I can understand why people might remember something like that, decades later.
About two hours
* Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 4 slices of white sandwich bread
* 4 large eggs, beaten
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 1 teaspoon minced marjoram
* 2 pounds ground beef chuck
* 1/2 cup dried currants
* 1/4 cup pine nuts
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
* 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
* 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1. Pour the tomatoes into a large enameled cast-iron casserole and crush them.
2. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Rduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a bowl, soak the bread in water until saturated.
6. Squeeze out the water and transfer the bread to a large bowl.
7. Mash the bread to a paste and stir in the eggs, garlic, parsley, marjoram, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
8. Mash until smooth.
9. Add the chuck, currants, pine nuts and cheese and mix until combined.
10. Add the bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until the mixture is firm enough to roll.
11. Form the mixture into 36 meatballs (about 3 tablespoons each), tucking in the currants and pine nuts.
12. In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering.
13. Add the meatballs in 2 batches and fry over moderate heat, turning, until browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes per batch.
14. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate.
15. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 30 minutes.
16. Serve in bowls, passing more cheese at the table.
Art market analyst and commentator Michael Reid said the naked bodies of young women had been the subject of art for thousands of years. Mr Reid viewed the exhibition on Wednesday morning before the photographs were seized. "I have noticed people are prepared to give their opinion without actually seeing the photographs," he said. "I find this quite disturbing because this debate is very important."
Mr Reid said he judged the artistic merit of the work to be valid and not pornographic. "The main photograph in question is in the style of the Old Masters," he said. "The model is enveloped in a black velvety shroud and she is backlit. She is very still. There is not any sexual charge about the image. It is quite restful and contemplative. She is demure. I was aware of the child sexualisation issue but that does not exist here in my opinion. Bill Henson had done a huge body of work that goes across a whole range of areas . . . this is a debate that has to happen - but rationally."
It seems that there's always a reason found to allow this sort of thing. There's always someone who says that they don't think it's sexual at all, or whether it is or not, it's art, and so the rules are off. At what point do we say 'enough's enough?' Ever?
When I see people on their blog, I judge what kind of people they are -- interesting, insightful, stodgy, dull-- by what they look like. I assume they're more likely to be interesting if they're younger. Its an added bonus if the picture on the blog makes me think its an attractive young woman (yes, I'm still trying to get a date for the high school dance). Yet a couple of times, I've been startled by bloggers who are much older than I thought, because there was no picture, and the way they think, the things that they say, their insights, their style is fresh, innovative, and flexible, making me think that they must be fairly young. I realized once that if people judged me the way that I judge them, they might never want to get to know me. I suppose I'm fortunate that other people are not as rigid as I can be. I try to change that, but man, ingrained habits....
Today is day four of the 'friendship bread' process. On the second through fourth days, I just mixed the batter once -- and went back several times just to smell it. My daughter can't understand why the yeasty aroma delights me so -- or why I am so pleased that today I get to add flour, water, and sugar.
Socks should come in Velcro wrap-around versions for the times when you can just not bend over far enough.
I ordered a used copy of the Understanding Baking book -- and afterwards discovered that although the copy I'm reading is edition three, the one I ordered is edition two. Rats. On the other hand, its only $5, with free shipping -- and baking can't have changed that much in fifteen years. I hope.
There's an article in the Washington Post magazine about companies doing mass firings. I couldn't read it. Its been a year, I really wasn't that upset -- well, pretty much -- but I couldn't read it.
I'm glad we went to the Pennsylvania Food Fest yesterday. It was interesting. Low key, but interesting.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
What a mind-full for a Saturday morning, huh?
I'm still reading Dune (I'd forgotten what a dark novel it can be). I'm also dipping into the Understanding Baking book (its not casual reading) and into the book about women and negotiation (not bad). I read a brief column, this morning, by Tom Davenport, a business guru I respect for his common-sense attitude to what works and what doesn't, talking about someone who thinks that the use of wikis is a transformational act that will alter the way government does business -- and how he thinks it's a useful tool, but not the tsunami of change that this fellow seems to think it is. It reminded me -- as so much of management literature does -- of how we're always looking for the easy fix, the silver bullet. Then a miracle occurs.... in that moment, the plant staff was enlightened.
Friday, May 23, 2008
For specs, the TV features a native resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p), ATSC, NTSC, and QAM tuners, 8ms response time, 550 cd/m² brightness, 1,000:1 contrast ratio (not so good), and four HDMI, VGA, component, S-Video, and RCA video inputs. It has automatic source detection and switching, which in my experience is both a blessing and curse. The rear ports are conveniently placed in a sideways formation, making wall-mounting a snap.
This is the kind of thing that drives me to go find a good book to read.
But there is a green arrow that I've been looking for quite some time -- its where you go to make a left turn in the local town to get to the library. The main road that you're turning off happens to take a left dogleg right at that intersection, which means that you can't easily tell how many vehicles are coming -- its either 'none' or 'some number greater than zero', which makes it hard to figure if you should punch it through the turn in front of oncoming traffic or be a Good Citizen and wait -- one or two cars, sure; twenty, let's punch it.
Well, about a year ago, they announced that they were going to fix that intersection by putting up traffic lights. I was mightily delighted -- finally, something to stop oncoming traffic so I can turn without having to hope I don't end up with someone T-Boning my car - but to my astonishment, thats all they did -- just lights. No arrows. What this meant was that for the three lanes of traffic that come to that intersection, only one benefited from the light -- the ones on the intersecting road who were turning left. The other traffic was mostly unaffected -- not better, not worse. Argh!!!
Well, this just appeared in the local paper:
The offset intersection of Walnut Street and Shepherdstown Road at Simpson Street will soon get a new look and, borough council hopes, a little relief from traffic. Borough council unanimously approved Thursday night to install left turn arrows from Simpson Street onto both Walnut and Shepherdstown. The vote was a necessity for Councilman Charlie Ryder, though he felt that the effort was a little late.“ When the project was originally designed, didn’t anyone realize (left turn arrows) were going to be needed?” Ryder asked the council. Borough Engineer Steven Barber cited that the original plans didn’t account for the amount of traffic that ended up flooding the intersection when the traffic lights went up.
Additional traffic, like hell. Has anyone ever seen more traffic come to an intersection because there's a traffic light there now? Hey, Clem, I hear they got the new traffical light up, down to the libarry... lets go see! I know we're a small town, but not that small.
But it got me to thinking again about the paradigm that we use, especially when on a witch hunt (if you're an investigative reporter, that means that you are simply waving the sword of Justice, aka digging for the truth) involving political figures. If someone says that they support the candidate, the press (at least) immediately imbues the candidate with any negative quality that the new supporter happens to have. This is not entirely a one way street; if the supporter has good qualities, that resounds to the credit of the candidate (look what good people support him); this is especially true if the supporter is an actor (Hot damn, Angelina Jolie thinks Obama is hot, I GOTTA vote for him). But it does tend to work more on the negative side; if the supporter has fifty-eight unpaid parking tickets, obviously the candidate is in favor of not paying parking tickets, and, by extension, probably molests children, too. Blind children. Blind crippled children.
(Of course, this is even better if it's the candidate himself (itself?) who did it. )
Put that way, its silly, but at what point should the attribution of qualities stop? Why should I think well of someone because someone that I think well of supports them? A little bleedover, sure. A wholesale usurpation of my own thoughts, I don't think so. I'll think for myself, thanks.
I knew that it was customary for people to bail out early on the last working day before such an event, but I didn't know if it was something that they did as they felt the need, or something that had to be ordained from above. I learned which it was when one of my coworkers, who worked for a different manager than I (IBM being fond of the matrixed organization) announced that she was leaving for the weekend, having been 'dismissed'. Frankly, the phrase took me by surprise. Dismissed? As in, what occurs in the lives of children and school? Yes, that was exactly what she meant. It was considered inappropriate, at the least, for people to leave before the end of the working day unless the group manager had dismissed you -- and one time out of four, that would be done late (Sorry guys, I was working on something, you can leave now) and/or with a snarky little codicil (make sure that you fill out time sheets/clear off your desk/set your status message to AWAY). I was startled.
For most of the time that I worked there, I usually stayed past the dismissal anyway. I had things to do; some of which were just for my own pleasure. I learned after a while (I'm slow this way) that it was a two edged sword to keep your status as Active in the Sametime instant messaging system. If you did, then your manager could see that By god, Bill's still working, what a trooper... but it also meant that your manager could see that By god, Bill's still working, lets give HIM this problem. The longer I was there, the more likely I'd sign out of the system as soon as I could, and, after a while, the more likely that I'd leave right at -- and sometimes before -- the designated dismissal time. If I stayed, I'd still sign out of the IM system... and I wouldn't answer the phone. I simply didn't want to take the chance of letting people know I was around. IBM was -- and still is -- very enamored of the Attaboy/Awshit management paradigm, and while it was difficult to get the former, it was depressingly easy to get the latter. One time, I was harassed because I'd told people that I would be in to do a system change while I was still on vacation... and they couldn't believe that, so they scheduled someone else to come in, who was then quite surprised and irritated to see me on the system. But you're on vacation! he expostulated. But I said I'd do it, and here I am! I replied. That conversation, and the ensuing ones with the group manager, did not go well for me.
Okay, you're dismissed.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I learned that just because there's usually a rush at McDonalds (a local chain that sells Hamburgers) at 5PM, which is when we were there, does not necessarily mean that when you lay your money down, they'll have any. "Oh, we just ran out...but we're making more, they'll be ready in a minute, Next?" They weren't.
I learned that just because my daughter said she absolutely knew when Color Guard practice was did not necessarily mean that she actually did.... and when she said that she absolutely knew the phone number of the girl we were supposed to pick up, that did not necessarily mean her home phone...and her cell phone was off.
I learned that just because a salt shaker top, as seen on a website, looks just like the unfortunately-corroded ones that you have had on your elegant crystal shakers since getting married does not necessarily mean that it will fit your crystal shakers. One less ridge inside, doncha know.
I learned that just because your daughter's color guard sessions usually run to at least the designated time, and frequently later, sometimes substantially later, does not necessarily mean that on a night when things are already chaotic they will not end early. Just as your pizza arrives.
I do believe I'm ready to be through learning, today. Kthxbye.
I couldn't help it. I was leafing through some sites and came across this one, shown below, part of the 'Bitten Blogs' of the New York Times. Pretty simple recipe, no suprises. I even melted the butter, instead of microwaving it as I normally do, and it still got done in about thirty minutes. So now its cooling out there in the kitchen, and I am steadfastly ignoring it.
For a while.
Here's that recipe:
Yield About 1 dozen brownies
Time 40 minutes
As long as you keep the flour to a minimum and don't add chemical leavening like baking powder, you will produce a true and beautiful brownie.
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted or unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch salt if you use unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is just about melted, remove from heat, and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Meanwhile, grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. If you like, also line it with waxed or parchment paper and grease that.
- 2. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and stir in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour (and salt and vanilla if you are using them), and stir to incorporate. Stop stirring when no traces of flour remain.
- 3. Pour into pan, and bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until set and barely firm in the middle. Cool on a rack before cutting.
Source: The New York Times
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Take a number and get in line, would be the proper response; I know that. As things go, we're not really affected badly, with the bulk of our driving being done in the Prius, and the van getting decent mileage (though no where near what will be considered decent). There are thousands, millions of people worse off. But, I hate to admit it, thats not what angers me. What churns me is that this is happening and the government doesn't seem to be doing a damn thing about it. They're giving the cool impression that except for the 'gas tax holiday' idea, which was offered purely for political gain, regardless of its scanty merits, they haven't noticed whats going on. The people that I think of as those dapper young men in their crisp white shirts and rep ties are out there bidding up the price of oil with gay abandon, and we're all paying the costs of their derring-do. And my government doesn't seem to care, not a bit. Starting with the Oil Man In Chief and rolling downhill. What do I expect them to do? Fix it, would be nice. But even just commiserating; acknowledging that fuel prices are making things grim for a lot of people -- yeah, even that would be nice. Have they? Other than in campaign rhetoric, no. Not so's I've noticed. Have you?
Now I know that the price is not all the result of the bidding up, and to be honest, I don't even have more than the roughest idea of how much of it is. I suppose I could look at the testimony of the oil magnates before Congress; my, that was instructive. Further, I know that the classic answer is well, thats just the way the market works, supply and demand, futures markets, and so on. Its nothing personal, its just -- bidness. But the image I get is of those dapper young men, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars of year, contributing mightily to the misery of millions, with no one putting a brake on them, saying thats by god enough, and I thought "I'd like to just castrate those bastards". And realized, to my surprise, that I wasn't entirely kidding. Which bastards? The government, the oil companies, the dapper young men?
Take your pick.
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
1 large onions, diced
2 cups cold water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
3/4 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoons chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3/4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
salt & pepper, to taste
1. In a deep pan, brown beef until brown
2. Add onions and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer and add tomato paste and remaining ingredients.
4. Simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
5. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
6. Remove bay leaves before serving.
To serve, (1) eat plain (2) chili on spaghetti (3) chili on spaghetti with cheddar cheese (4) chili, spaghetti, cheddar, and onions or (5) chili, spaghetti, cheddar, onions, and kidney beans
The ripple effect will mean that things that are shipped by air -- like vacationers -- will cost more, either directly (tickets) or indirectly (prices at the store). Since these things usually have to be moved anyway, we can expect an increase in use of other forms, with a preference for ones that aren't as sensitive to the cost of fuel. I would suppose they all are, but I've had the suspicion for a while that you can move a ton of cargo more efficiently via rail than via truck - ie, with less expenditure of fuel. Of course, the rail requires substantial infrastructure that the truck doesn't, and the truck's a lot more flexible - it can go here today, and a brand new there tomorrow. Possibly we'll see the return of those other forms of transportation that usually only show up in the pages of Popular Mechanics, such as: dirigibles. Nuclear -powered ships. SuperBus. Okay, likely not the last one. But I'll bet a lot of speculative papers, theses and such, are going to get another look by the bespectacled minions of the Secretary of Transportation. (Who is: who? Oh, boy....) Of course, this sort of research has been going on in the background in academia for quite some time, but now our government's going to Spring Into Action.
I tell you, if it wasn't such a pain, this would be damn interesting stuff.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What is a Radical in Algebra?
An ideal N of an algebra A is called radical of A if it is the unique maximal nilideal of A.
That is the maximal ideal consisting entirely of nilpotent elements.
By nilpotent we mean that there exist a positive integer t with a property that any product z1.z2....zt of t elements from N is zero.
(I like this better.)
a) Wow. Bummer. Even if you don't care for him, this is a real punch to the brain. In more ways than one.
b) Heard a guy, retired brickworker, passing the State House and seeing all the media types, asked what was up. Upon hearing the news, he said ' Ted? Is he okay? ' Ted?
c) Bet the politicians are mouthing sincerities out of one side of their mouths, and dealing for his office with the other....
For one, I learned that a blog that I actually read is a) written by someone who occasionally comments here, but I didn't know it was theirs (apparently, thats how I originally found it), and b) lost, and then found -- Feed Demon knew about it, but was showing it as inactive even though there was a post that's only a day or so old on it. I deleted and readded it to FD's queue, and now it shows up again, but thats strange.
For another, I went to an optometrist's to get a pair of replacement glasses, and found that the style I wear is no longer in style -- which may explain why there are so many people wearing these rimless or square styles. I am not happy about this. I like the ones I have.
For a third, its raining like hell out there... and every so often, it just ... stops. And then starts again.
We'd had lunch at her office -- I stopped by McD's and picked up some things -- and on the way out, we talked a bit about the proposed sale of the company to Hewlett-Packard. We wondered what kinds of changes would result. Almost certainly, HP would lay off people, and if there is justice in the world (which there isn't), they'd be mostly EDS people. We've all seen instances where one company buys another that does something that the first one does, and the first one decides to lay off its own people because the new acquisition can do it cheaper. The CEOs and such like to say that this makes good business sense, and I suppose it does, as long as you're willing to posit that good business sense does not imply, and in fact can be the direct antithesis of, common sense, human sense, all of that. The conversation led us to talk about the plans for Pennsylvania, and also for Harrisburg (the state capital) to lease out some facilities to investment organizat\ions. Both political entities like to say that this makes good business sense, win-win, and all of that. And I suppose that its possible that a private entity can operate something more effectively than a public one. But I would bet serious money that someone's going to lose out on the deal, and the chances are good that its going to be someone at the peon level. Folks who were counting on a retirement package aren't going to have one. Or perhaps the profit will come the way that New York City balanced its budget, years ago; by deferring recurring maintenance on bridges, tunnels, and roadways. They're seeing what the effect of that is, now, just as the organizations that take financial steps which end up screwing peons see the effect is of doing so -- loss of organizational integrity, for one; loss of talent, skills, and support, for another.
Why are we here? Because we don't see a profitable alternative. We don't seem to be able to make money the way we used to do it, and we're scraping the edges for pennies where dollars used to be easy to get.
Thats not to see that we're at the bedrock, across the board -- but I think that in a lot of ways, we are. We've pared and lopped and trimmed and right-sized and all of that, and we're pretty much at the point where this is the cheapest that we can do certain things without making serious structural changes -- whether thats not having flights between here and there on weekends or getting out of the line of business altogether. We're doing it as well as it can be done, and now we need to start thinking: whats it worth to us to continue? Are we willing to accept lower pay, lower profit, lower standard of living?
I know what the answer of the good people on Wall Street would be. I'd like to believe that there is a more palatable -- more human-- answer.
Update: I realized upon rereading this that I had gotten off the track, not saying something that I wanted to, which is: now that we've done all this paring and stuff, I am looking for people to say 'hey, you know what? I bet there are people out there who don't necessarily want the cheapest airline flight, the cheapest bookseller, all of that'. I'm not saying there are people to whom money is no object (though there are, and wouldn't it be nice to be one of them?), and I'm not saying that people don't like saving money. But there are times when the difference between the cheapest and some other price is life-and-death to the people doing the selling -- and I would bet that its not that big a deal to the people doing the buying. If I can get what I want, and I think the price is fair -- not the cheapest, but fair -- and along the way, I think I'm helping a business I like to survive -- hey, not bad. I'll take that.
Around 830, I got really sleepy. I crashed, with the result that at 10, I was wide awake. Didn't help that the room was warm, and my feet were really warm (they do that; one of the nice things about our marriage is that my wife's feet get cold; sometimes in the middle of the night, I'll warm her feet, or she'll cool mine down). I finally got up, had something to drink, ate a couple of Ritz crackers, and came back to bed. The room's cool, too, which helps.
Now I've been websurfing for about an hour, and I'm starting to get a little sleepy.
So let's see....
I just found a site, kind of interesting, so I thought 'hmm, maybe I'll leave a comment'. It required that I register. Gah. But okay, what the hell, middle of the night, I have the time.
It generated a password of 7DX5VWOJnzM4, which, call me weird, I found just a tad hard to remember. So I changed it. Or I TRIED to change it.
Your password does not meet requirements for...
At that point, I stopped reading, and chucked the site. No one is worth that much grief.
Monday, May 19, 2008
So I was delighted to read this article via the Weary Parent blog about Fords Driving Skills for Life program, and, along the way, about a woman named Sue Cischke, who works for Ford as their Vice-President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. She sounds like quite the sharp cookie, and just reading about her in that article made me think well of the company. And the program.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
On the other hand, I think that she should be held accountable, which is to say that what she did should be adjudicated and evaluated. But on what charge?
In the military, there's a concept known as 'conduct unbecoming an officer', which we would sometimes call 'you didn't do anything we can charge you with, but we believe you should have been chargeable, so we're charging you with this'. Hence, my suggestion. She ought to be chargeable under the concept of 'conduct unbecoming a human being', for generally acting in a way that a decent person would not act.
Is that too radical or narrow-minded of me?
But when I bake bread, and I can't eat it because the crust is crisp -- that fries me.
"Dad, I said I can take care of it myself!"
Didn't see her for the remainder of the day.
A series of small disasters, starting with the weather -- cold, overcast, drizzling -- and continuing with the Sunday paper (the lead article in the Washington Post was about teenage obesity; while thats a serious deal, I doubt strongly its the most important article to be written about today), the range (one of the electric elements wasn't completely plugged in, so when the bacon on one end of the griddle was half done, the bacon on that end was barely cooking). And the strata looked like a major mistake, sitting limply in the baking dish, having been taken out of the refrigerator from its overnight stay, and waiting for the oven to heat. Even the music was bad -- the Best of the Fifth Dimension was way too sprightly for a morning like this.
But things got better. We moved the griddle to the other set of burners, one of which had been on for the pan with the french toast - and the french toast, made with challah, was excellent. The coffee came out strong, as I like it. And the strata was a surprise hit -- what was egg-and-milk-soaked bread puffed up to look -- well, to look like the illustration, all browned and quite tasty. Plus, we changed the CD to one of quiet instrumental and piano music. We even have a little bit of a solution for the newspaper problem, though its one the WashPost likely won't like.
Still drizzling, though. Guess you can't have everything....
Saturday, May 17, 2008
That is all I wish to know.
Elusive thing, that breast supporter,
Which gave my bosom warmth and quarter.
Where hath it gone, where could it be?
This thing which still doth hide from me!
My wits are gone, my patience spent,
I curse my bra's abandonment!
The cold outside will banish doubt
That nipples frigid, doth stick out!
My breasts will sag, will hang, will bounce,
As, bosom unfettered, I flounce;
With breast exceeding size of ounce,
All hope of dignity they trounce!
This goddamned bra, I curse thy name!
My breasts shall never be the same!
Is this a test, some mamm'ry quiz,
To try my - wait, now, there it is!
What sweet triumph, I clasp it now
Around my trunk. I shall avow
My love for straps over my shoulder,
My love for precious bosom-holder!
My bra, I found you, O what glee,
That article returns to me!
O undergarment of my heart,
No longer shall I seem a tart.
All other clothing, say au revoir,
In light of shining, perfect bra!
Easy Sausage Strata - 9 hours!!!
* 1/2 pound pork sausage
* 3 (1 ounce) slices bread, cubed
* 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
Place sausage in a large, deep skillet.
Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown.
Drain, and set aside.
Layer bread cubes, sausage, and Cheddar cheese in a lightly greased 7x11 inch baking dish.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, salt, and mustard.
Pour the egg mixture over the bread cube mixture.
>>>Cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.<<<
Remove the casserole from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Bake 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
But since that clearly isn't enough web sites to look at -- or not -- on a routine basis, I'll poke through StumbleUpon. And every so often, I come across a really nice food-related one.
Such as: Everybody Likes Sandwiches.
I liked him when he was in office, and I like him now -- yet I have to admit that the overall impression of him was a bright, focused guy who wasn't very effective in getting things done. His image is forever blurred in my mind with the Iranian hostage-taking (not his fault, though as they say, it, and the failure to respond effectively, happened on his watch) and with the first series of gasoline crunches. I think of him sitting in the Oval Office, wearing a sweater, talking earnestly about the need for conservation, and the Moral Equivalent of War (I was delighted when people pointed out what acronym that made). The image was of someone who was hobbling along, stiff upper lip and all that, doing their best while being beset by the calamities of life rather than doing what we expect out of a president, which is to make things happen -- preferably good things, but sometimes, just things. (I do truly believe that we're more likely to support a president who seems to us to be someone who a) can't be pushed around and b) is willing to push others around. We like that, and we usually don't care too terribly much about any associated moral judgements. Don't tread on us. ) Carter didn't give that impression. Instead, he 'felt like' a nice guy who cared a lot about how things looked, worried about details, was overwhelmed by events, and was unable to deal with duplicitous people on the one hand and demanding politicians on the other (sometimes, those were the same people).
I think that a willingness to drop civility and be the eight hundred pound gorilla is what McCain brings to the table as his personal style. The lack of that as a routine style is what I like about Obama. I also like finding out that maybe he can push people around, won't necessarily take whatever slime people want to deliver - for example, his reaction to Bush's nasty comments while in Israel. (I've heard this forceful reaction cited as an example of how the Democrats will react rapidly to any swift-boat attempts in the coming election.) Blending intelligence and civility with the occasional muscular and even brutal response is something that Carter apparently found difficult to do -- and its part of what people don't trust, I think, about Obama - at least, those who aren't just reacting viscerally. They're not sure he can make things happen, push people around. To be honest, I think it more likely that McCain, or even Clinton, will kick ass and take names, when needed, than Obama will. I think its his single biggest weakness.
But I suspect he's working on it.