Friday, October 31, 2008

Reading This, Reading That

This morning, I spent a little bit of time reading the McCain web site. I wasn't surprised to see that their view of the world was different than Obama's, and I took note of how often they held up something as obviously wrong, misleading, or an outright lie that I felt was actually right, not the full story, or in fact true. It made me wonder how much of what I believe is seen by them as lies. Problem is, it's almost impossible to talk about these things quietly -- even with people who are willing to discuss it, much of the discussion comes down to belief -- do I believe that my candidate is the best one. If I do, I'm going to put credence into what he says, I'm going to interpret the words, fill in the gaps, to create a tapestry that looks appealing to me. I suppose it doesn't really matter that my view of what the candidate means and plans isn't exactly the same as the next person's, but when it gets to discussion between people who don't agree on the central premise of who's the candidate, things stop pretty quickly; if they agree, differences are easily spackled over.

I'm sure whole courses have been written on that basic concept.

I also spent some time reading this article on the structure and functioning of the Obama volunteer effort. I believe that win or lose, the Obama effort will be used as a model for future political campaigns. Whether you support him or not, it's an interesting article. At least, this Obama supporter thinks so.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Every year, I do penance for our first Hallowe'en in this house, about two weeks after we were married, when we didn't know that it was scheduled, and for our second one, when we ran out of candy. Every year, I buy a little too much. This year, I bought a lot too much.... and we had three visitors. A teenage girl and her sister, from down the block, and a little girl and her parents, from across the street. And the woman who's husband is having some legal trouble, and her son. The girls were happy and cheerful; the little girl was way beyond the legal limit of cute, and the son -- well, he looked really good, made up as Indiana Jones, but you got the clear feeling that he really didn't want to be doing any of this.

But that was it.

My wife says we should freeze the candy. I'm thinking: hide it, keep it for the January party (January? Just around the corner...), and then pitch it. But not at someone: that tonnage could inflict serious pain.

Next year, one Hershey bar per kid.... I'll buy a six pack, and have some left over.


Now, This Is Dumb

It takes a lot for me to take the side of a McCain supporter. This does the trick, though. Its just flat out dumb behavior. And stupid. And unneighborly. And rude.

And the killer? All those adjectives are referring to Obama people. My side.

Here's the article.


This is an old video that I'd posted back when I just thought 'you know, this is an interesting guy...he could make a useful Vice President in a couple of years'.


Watch it to the end.....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


My daughter likes listening to country music. One of her current favorites has the line 'I can't believe this is happening to me'; another is 'I can't breathe'. Its about someone whose husband was killed in Iraq. Then there's the one about the woman who went out, got drunk, woke up married, and says 'I don't even know my last name'.

Holy hell.


The Star Spangled Banner has four stanzas? Apparently so.


Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Would you rather regret?

In four years, will we feel the regret over this election the way we feel now about the last one? Not if we make the right choice, we won't.

Old News

This is old, but I like it. It's about twelve minutes long. Maybe after the election I'll get tired of seeing him, but not yet. Not yet.

From the Wonkette site. Here's her text:

Here is that remarkable video from last night, just after the debate. The news channels quickly cut to their commentators and spin rooms and such, but the C-SPAN cameras stayed as long as there was a candidate in the room. Here’s what to watch for:

00:00:13 — Cindy McCain walks out to greet her husband, and follows him awkwardly around the room for 25 seconds, until 00:00:39, when McCain finally acknowledges her presence with a quick, one-armed hug and a split-second glance at the side of her head.
00:01:19 — McCain may have patted Obama’s back here. Impossible to tell what exactly he is doing with his left arm. But if it was a pat on the back, however patronizing, it somewhat negates the handshake snub. Somewhat. But not really.
00:01:20 — The snub. Obama reaches out to shake McCain’s hand. McCain makes a weird face and points to Cindy McCain. Nonplussed, Obama smiles and takes her hand, says some pleasantries, and returns to the voters in the audience.
00:01:34 — McCain glances at Cindy, nods towards the exit door, and gives a spastic little bug-eyed wave goodbye to … the exit door he’s approaching?
00:01:35 — That’s it, the McCains are gone.
00:01:36 — Tom Brokaw is in the room, talking to the audience members. Barack and Michelle Obama are in the room, talking to the audience members. It’s almost as if there was an agreed-upon protocol — you know, basic manners.
00:01:36 through 00:11:11 — For the next 10 minutes, Barack and Michelle talk to people, post for pictures, make jokes, have apparently serious conversations with people, sign autographs, shake hands, and otherwise engage with literally everybody in the room, a hundred people or more.

At 00:05:06, a woman slips under Barack’s arm and hugs him. He hugs her back, and she actually dances back to her seat, which makes a bunch of people laugh.

At 00:09:26, Barack starts talking to (we think!) the guy who asked the first question of the debate, the one about everybody losing all their retirement savings in the economic collapse. And he keeps talking to him, and keeps talking to him, and listening to him, for more than a minute.

At 00:10:42, a black guy in glasses and a gray sportscoat asks to have his picture taken with Obama, who motions up to the seats just out of view of the camera, and seems to say he was headed up there, but he’ll come back. At 00:11:15, he comes back to the guy and happily poses for the picture.

And that’s where this C-SPAN clip ends. The live video feed last night went on for another twenty minutes, because that’s how long the Obamas stayed in the little theater, working the room, their “body language” betraying no exhaustion or wish to get out of there and have a beer and relax.

The debate may have been a bore, but what happened afterward was extremely telling.


Apparently, Obama is a Canadian at core. I've always said I like those guys, and now, even more. How about that?


Kid accidentally kills himself with automatic weapon at gun show. Meanwhile, gun owners are stocking up just in case the Apocalype comes, or the election of Obama brings civil unrest, or the financial meltdown destroys society.

The more I see of that kind of thing, the more I think: you know what? We ought to do it. Give the gun owners something they've been clamoring about for years. What they secretly believe Obama's going to do. Let's do it. Let's take all the guns. Hand guns, shot guns, rifles, machine guns. Grab 'em all. Let people prove their right to have lethal weapons in their possession before they get them back. And the more powerful the weapon, the bigger the requirement of proof.

To which the NRA promptly responds Second Amendment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We're real sorry... but, you know, there was a firearms instructor right there! And even the kid's father! The instructor just made a ....little mistake. And did we mention the Second Amendment?

And another kid is dead.

Updated to include link.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Every One?

This is a simple graphic of every presidential election ever held in this country (yes, every one), showing who ran, who lost, what the results were, which states were carried, the whole bit. Pretty impressive.


I hear that riding sluts can be good for the environment. No, really.

(Which makes me wonder: is slut a unisex term? If not, what's the male equivilent?)


One of the nice things about being retired is that I can take a nap whenever I want. As I did, this morning -- I had gotten up to have breakfast, was groggy, and said 'well, I can either take a nap or read that damn election stuff some more'. So....that was an easy choice. Though, as it turns out, perhaps I should have read the election stuff some more. I had a bad dream.

It wasn't the classic scary one -- more weird than anything, including being at some kind of store and seeing young, buff guys walking around as if they worked there, but they were all a) glistening like they'd been sprayed with Pam, b) wearing just baggy white pants and a purple sash, and c) with a tight-fitting purple mesh hood completely over their head. Yeah, right? I don't have any idea where any of those images came from, but I think the underlying un-ease came from my wife telling me last night that she was doing a self-exam, and she Found A Lump. Oh, crap.

So today she's going to see a doc -- not the nurse who we normally see, but an actual doc who's at the same practice -- and she expects that she'll have to go have a mammogram, and possibly a cat scan or MRI. She says she's only a little worried, and I did my best to comfort her. Which is why I got up instead of sleeping in. This morning, I was intermittently thinking Whats The Worst That Could Happen? Which is not a game to play when you're feeling a little down, because you can think of all sorts of things, all of which are in the I hope THAT doesn't happen range.

So we'll see.


Update: the doc's not sure, but she thinks its just a big cyst (she's had them before). Mammo and ultrasound, coming up.....


I was reading the three political polling sites that I look at, last night -- fivethirtyeight, electoral-vote, and presidential electoral forecasts -- when my wife came into the bedroom and asked me if I was seeing anything interesting. I told her that the general trend was consistant, but one thing that really surprised me was that whenever electoral-vote zigged, PEF zagged. In fact -- I brought up the graph and deleted the 538 line, just to be able to see the other two more clearlu -- it was exactly that -- like one was forecasting Obama, the other McCain. I brought up the Methodology section of PEF, and I read this:

This web site presents predictions of the 2008 presidential electoral college outcome (if elections were held today) based on state level polls collected by At least once a day, a script fetches those site's polls table, computes simulations of election outcomes (details below) based on state-level polls and posts them on the front page.

Oh. So one of the three sites that I look at is using base numbers from another of the three. I guess that explains why they're tied so closely together. So much for getting differing views of the same race. But - why inverted? And that, I still don't know.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gripping Picture

Guess what this is!

Answer can be found here.


I am reading the documentation for the election process. I have now gone through the fifty-one pages of instructions and the twenty-six pages of Exhibits about four times, and I'm in the middle of the fifth iteration. I have a spreadsheet with about fifty lines of 'this is what happens, during what block of time', another page for 'this is what the exhibits are and where they are', and another for nagging questions.

My conclusion is that this documentation is what they say they do, what they try to do, but that no one can guarantee it's what they do do. As much as they can, yes. Absolutely? I wouldn't bet on it.

Last run through for tonight.

Sunday Morn

It was wet, last night, and cold -- and again this morning -- but that turned out to be a good thing.

My daughter's color guard routine is called 'Above the Clouds', wherein they move through multiple iterations, eliciting that feeling. This time, the fog had rolled in just before their performance, so that when they were doing it, they literally looked as if they were above the clouds. And when they were done, the fog rolled out again. This was taken as a good sign by the crew, and indeed, they won. This morning, when I headed out to church, it was again foggy, which meant that I got to see the sunrise over the wetlands wreathed in plumes of steam. Quite nice.

Reading the paper, interesting things show up. One's an article wherein some Republicans are warning the people at their rallies that if the Democrats do as well as now appears possible, they'll not only have the majority in both houses as well as the White House (should that be referred to as The Third House? Used to be called The People's House, but last time I was there, they wouldn't even let me in the door), but they'll have a filibuster-proof majority, at which point, the R's can just stay home for the duration. I actually share that fear. I hope that the Democrats do not get a filibuster-proof majority. One protection that they hadn't mentioned: when the R's controlled Congress, back in the Gingrich days, they voted in lockstep, as a block, and effectively shut the Democrats out (its memory of that which makes this so sweet, and weakens my opposition to a filibuster-proof Democratic majority). When the D's are in power, though, they don't herd nearly as well, so it'll be like two or three parties -- and smart Republicans will pick them off to make deals and compromises. We've already seen how good Pelosi isn't at controlling the troops in the House.

I spent about two hours last night reading through the election material again. My feeling is that I'm about halfway to feeling confident about what I need to do, and what I need to do it with -- ie, who does what, what materials are used, etc. As I tend to do, I'm writing a checklist. Once I'm happy with it, I'll offer it to the elections bureau, but I'll bet they reject it. NIH, you see.

There are flocks of crows dive-bombing the cornfield next to our house, and every so often we can see a single bluebird industriously pecking away. Must look like an all-you-can-eat operation, to them. I tend not to notice whats going on in the field -- they run about three cycles of crops through, here and in the fields around our development and along the road that leads to my daughter's school -- but this is the first time I've ever noticed this many birds all at once. Well, except for one time about ten years ago when the field was barren and a whole flock of birds -- looked like about two hundred of them -- was hopping around on the ground when something startled them -- and all at once there was this great WHUMPH as they all lifted off at the same time. Impressive as all get out.

This morning, we had bacon, waffles, peaches, and coffee, all of which turned out well. I derive a slight pleasure from ensuring that the three main components are all ready within about two minutes of each other -- about eight minutes for the coffee, five minutes fifteen seconds for the waffles (cooking time), and between fifteen and twenty minutes for the bacon. Something additional today, though -- we have a stick of butter on the counter, softening -- I'm going to try making buttercream icing. I've done it before, and wasn't too pleased with the result. Ironically, we just ran out of the small amount of whole milk I'd gotten for a recipe. Sometimes my timing isn't so good!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Voice From Missouri

Babies Don't Lie

That's true, they don't. They tell you exactly what they think. Like these little guys....

Talking Politics

I spoke to a woman the other day about the election who said that she still didn't know who to vote for. I told her that she should pick two or three areas that are really important to her, hear what each of the candidates says, and see which one sounded more like what she thinks ought to be done. I also said that you have to temper that with how believeable the candidate is -- ie, are they just saying it to get my vote, or do they really mean it. I was surprised to see that she seemed to be thinking about it. Surely, that'd be obvious? Not always, apparently.


One of the problems that I had last year being a mentor was that I didn't know what exactly I was supposed to do. They had a lot of feel-good phrases, but very little practical advice or guidance. While I was thinking about this new mento that I've got, I decided I needed a Plan that would guide what I would do. I mulled it over before I met him, and then, as part of the getting-to-know-you, I laid it on him.

I told him that I was there for three things:

First, to listen, to whatever he wanted to say. It could be simply how his day was going, it could be a complaint that he couldn't make to his parents, or teachers, it could be pleasure at some accomplishment, or fear about something that was happening. Whatever, I was there first off to just listen, and to talk with him about it if he wanted me to do that.

Second, I was there to be an advocate. I told him that I was there because of him; that he was, effectively, my boss, and my goal was to help him in whatever he needed. If he couldn't quite get a teacher to listen to him, I'd talk with the teacher on his behalf. If he didn't understand the point that a teacher was making, I'd talk to the teacher and find out, then work with him on it as much as I could. If he just wasn't connecting, I'd do what I could to make that happen.

And third, I was there to give structure and feedback on school itself. I told him that this didn't mean I was a snitch; I wouldn't call his parents and say your son is having problems. It meant that I was there to tell him things that I thought he needed to hear, and to help him learn to do things, or do them better, that he needed to be able to do. I'd help him keep track of projects; talk about how to prepare for tests and learn from them; help him be a student. I asked, for example, if he used his agenda book, and he shrugged, saying 'usually'. I told him I knew exactly what he meant -- they gave him the tool, they told him how to use it, and then they figured they were done. I'm going to work on that - touch on it every week. Not to nag, but to keep both of us abreast of how he's doing, what's coming up, all of that. I'm big on structure, on planning; I think it's important.

He seemed surprised by some of it -- particularly the part about me working for him -- but it seemed to help. He knows what to expect of me, what's going to happen when we meet -- what the parameters are, the boundaries, the expectations. And I know what I want to do. Maybe it'll work, maybe not, but I'll have structure, just as he will. I hope that it'll help him. I hope it'll help me.

We'll see.


One of the Hallowe'en costumes I don't expect to see around here. (Its actually from Carnival, apparently...)


I like to bake. I'm an okay baker, nothing special. There are people who are intense bakers -- they're the ones who make cupcakes with an inch of buttercream frosting and delicate shavings of chocolate curls atop.

And then there's Big City Little Kitchen, which combines elegance with simplicity. That's the kind of baker I'd like to be.


I've mentioned that I don't trust the leadership of the GOP, but that I think ordinary Republicans are just as likely as ordinary Democrats to be decent people. I was struck by this, from the Daily Kos site:

My wife and kids were driving home Monday night, when they noticed someone standing in our driveway. As they turned to pull in, they saw it was one of our neighbors from down the street, who ran quickly with his dogs across our lawn and into the woods. That was when my wife noticed that our Obama '08 yard signs, which were right where he had been standing, had been pulled down and torn up. My daughter, who is 5, was especially upset since she was proud to have some of the only Obama signs on the street.

Well, my wife immediately made up a hand-lettered sign to replace the destroyed ones. It stated that we were going to buy another one with the money helping Obama's campaign (thanks to whoever came up with that idea by the way), and described the neighbor who had done it and asked if anybody knew who he was (he was walking a couple of pretty distinctive little fluffy white dogs).

First thing that happened, our next-door neighbors (big McCain/Palin supporters, many yard signs) came by and expressed their outrage over what had happened. They said that everyone has a right to support the candidate they want, and when we got our new sign they'd keep their eyes open to make sure no one bothered it. Well, they are a very nice older couple, so I wasn't at all surprised by this, but it made us feel good all the same.

Here's where it gets kind of shocking. Next thing we know, on Wednesday, somebody is knocking on our front door. My son answered, and it was a couple of neighbors we didn't know. They introduced themselves and said they lived down the street. They explained that were Republicans, but they had gotten so upset about what had happened that they went down to Obama headquarters and bought us a new sign. That's right, they knowingly contributed money to Obama, and they explained that they wanted to make sure we knew that not all McCain supporters are jerks or thugs.

Finally, on Thursday, the guy who had vandalized our signs came and apologized, sort of. He asked us if we could take down the sign describing the damage since, although "he wasn't the guy" who had torn the signs down (he was, by the way), his neighbors thought the description matched him and were giving him a hard time about it. He said he was sorry it had happened, and he'd keep an eye on our signs when he was out walking his little fluffy white dogs. I figure that's a pretty fair apology from somebody crass enough to vandalize someone else's property, so I thanked him and took down the extra sign.

So, now we have our yard sign back. We have a safer situation for the sign, since we're surrounded by people who are keeping an eye on it. We have a lot of respect for our neighbors, who are very decent people willing to do something about bullying and harassment. And I have remembered that, even though I strongly disagree with the political philosophies of my neighbors, they are mostly good people. Sometimes I forget that when I'm all wrapped up in the latest Republican outrage, but I'll try to remember that the hate-filled right-wingers we hear about in the news and on the blogs are exceptions to the rule. At least they are in my neighborhood.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I'm reading through the materials for the judge. And getting nervous. Here's my notes thus far. Some are redundant, and all, I hope, will be answered after I have read through them a couple more times.

Election notes

Where do you get the text to do the swearing in
Where do you note that the swearing in was done
What does 'after the election board is organized' refer to
What are the cards of instruction
Where are the sample ballots and other materials that are to be posted
Where should the sample ballots and other materials be posted
How do you ensure that the voting machine is 'properly prepared'
What are the 'returns' that are to be posted outside of the polling place afterwards
How long must the 'returns' be posted
If one set of returns must be brought back to the county, how are the posted set generated
Do I need to arrange for the voting machine delivery people to get access to the building
Do I need to arrange for the voting machines to be put into a secured room overnight.
Who actually has to come to the building on the day before the election
When does the crew vote
What if people come in the front door right into the voting area (instead of in the back, where the line is)
Is the 'numbered list of voters' the books that the voter signs in on?
When is a provisional ballot used
Where is the 'County Poll Workers Checklist' >>>>in the judges materials
Contents of 'small manila envelope' to go with judge to country is not clear
who physically starts each of the machines?
When and how many zero tapes are printed?
Who actually cancels the vote for the runaway voter

MASKING TAPE NOT DUCT TAPE for holding up signs

how will we get into the building the day before the election, and when
how will we get into the building on election day at 6AM
how will i remember to periodically sum the total voters per machine plus runaway
individual lunch, dinner?

Basically, I'm trying to sort this mess into some kind of coherent order. And I'm glad I've got several days in which to do it.

Don't SuperZap Me, Bro


WASHINGTON - Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.


I just got called by the county voting office. They said that the Minority Inspector said she hadn't heard from me yet. I replied that I didn't know I was supposed to call her. Oh, yeah, they said. Call all of the clerks, let them know when to be there, and what you want them to do when they get there. Oh, and you need to decide how to handle lunch -- do you want to do a pot luck or bag your own or whatever.

Geez, guys, nice of you to mention this in advance.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Ope? Nope.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


I'm not sure if mentioning this is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but I found a part of the Obama web site that doesn't work in a clean, efficient manner. After all the talk of how slick the site is, I'm a little ticked. I mean, good lord - This is the A team we're talking about!!!


Living the plugged-in life......

Campaign Money

I'm a little puzzled by the Obama campaign's attitude toward money.

Apparently, they've raised a gihugic amount, last month, and would like to have raised even more, this month. They've got so much that some people have joked they have a money problem: where to spend it all. I gather that it isn't infinite, or they'd have stayed in North Dakota, but still, its a pretty massive number, and easily outweighs what the McCain campaign has. They want to be able to make life difficult for McCain everyplace where they have even a chance of winning, so he and they cannot take anything for granted. That seems to be working, but its not a knockout.

So they'd like more money. In fact, I got an email saying that they'd noticed there is a gap between the magical $2,300 max that you can give to the campaign (you can give more, but it goes to the national commitment to spend as they see fit) and what I have given, and wouldn't I like to address that? I was startled. Don't you guys realize that this is ten times what I've given in the past? Well, no, they probably don't, but even if they did, so what, they'd likely say. That was then, this is now. I think I'd feel differently if they said they would return what they didn't use, but somehow I can't ever see that happening.

Course, when I look at poll numbers, which are now hovering in the mid 330s (the lowest I see consistently is 264, the highest, about 370), I twitch a bit, and I think well, maybe I could squeeze out a couple bucks more...but not the amount they'd like. For that much, I not only want Barack and Michelle over for dinner, I want them to hang around and help with the dishes afterward. And none of this pawning the work off on the help, or the Secret Service, as McCain likes to do. Okay, I'm guessing about that one -- but it does seem likely.

I guess I'll give them a bit more. Because, seriously, the alternative is just so much worse.


Well, I'm going to try to do it again.

Yesterday, I got a call from the middle school to say that they had a mentoree for me. They told me the kid's first name, and said I could meet him today. My daughter was in the room when the call came. Once we were done, she remarked that the first name was an unusual one, and she thought she might know him. If its the one she's thinking of, he was left back last year.

On one hand, I'm thinking this is a kid who's been around a little while, so he should be more 'formed' than the sixth grader I had last year. We should be able to get right to what we want to do. On the other, I don't know what we want to do, and if he's doing so badly that he was actually left back, thats not an encouraging sign. Of course, it isn't the National Honor kids who show up in this program, either.

Guess we'll see.... again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thinking and Baking

I was thinking about the election, this afternoon. I am apprehensive that something malign will skew the results. Whether its Al Qaeda issuing a warning not to elect McCain (thus driving the unthinking to his arms), or the Rethuglicans issuing nasty tricks (most Republicans don't fit that definition, but the ones at the top, the ones who light candles at the unholy Grotto of Rove, yes, very much so), or something else -- the results could be unpleasant. We could end up with McCain as President (which would not be worse than Bush, what joy) and Palin as Vice President, which thought literally causes the gorge to rise in my throat. Excuse me a moment.

How fucking STUPID can people BE?

I'm back. So, to distract myself, I thought I'd bake something, and here's the recipe I made. I found it here.

Danish pastry apple bars

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 egg yolk
1 cup cornflakes
8-10 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (8 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Egg Wash:
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

sifted powder sugar or whipped cream

Large bowl
2 x small bowls
1-cup glass measuring cup
Pastry blender (optional)
15x10x1-inch baking pan
Rolling pin

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Step 2: In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt.
Step 3: With a pastry blender or knife cut in small pieces of shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Step 4: Place egg yolk in 1-cup glass measuring cup; lightly beat with fork.
Step 5: Add enough milk to egg yolk to make 2/3 cup; mix well.
Step 6: Add egg yolk mixture to flour mixture; mix well.
Step 7: Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll half of dough into an 18x12-inch rectangle.
Step 8: Place dough into bottom of an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan.
Step 9: Sprinkle with cornflakes.
Step 10: Top with apples.
Step 11: Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over apples.
Step 12: Roll remaining dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle. Arrange over apples. Seal top pastry to bottom pastry. Cut slits in top of pastry.
Step 13: In a small bowl, beat egg white and water. Brush mixture over pastry.
Step 14: Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cool. If desired top with powdered sugar or whip

I should note that I made a couple of changes -- mostly, I didn't use nearly as many apples as they suggested -- more like 2 0r 3 -- and even then, I got a thick, stuffed pastry. And, I used a smaller pan -- 9x12, not 10x18. I can only assume that the people who came up with this can roll dough way thinner than I can. Oh, and that combination of juice and sugar makes a hell of a sticky glaze, so next time I'm going to put it on greased aluminum foil -- this time, I had to nuke it to get the cooled pastry out of the tray!

Polling School

Last night, I went to a class on the polling process. It was...instructive, though not always as they had wanted.

Because I'm a judge, I got about a half inch of papers on processes and procedures that I have to be familiar with, from handling absentee ballots to people who aren't registered to people who are but their info has to be verified to disabled people to.... lots of stuff. And lots of forms, from the tally sheet that shows that no votes have been registered (you run it before opening the polls) to the pay sheet (showing who was working there that day) to the runaway voter log (which is a nifty little process all by itself) to what to do if the machine starts beeping (depends if someone is standing there) to....argh! I'm going to be doing some studying for sure. This is like becoming a parent, when you look at this infant and think Do these people realize that I'm virtually clueless here? I can't believe they gave me this job. About the only problem I likely won't have is people coming to the wrong polling place -- mine is one of the new ones, so if you come, its probably because you got a card telling you to do it. Unless, of course, you just happened to be driving by and said Hey, look, I didn't know there was one there, lets just do it here!

The room was pretty full, about sixty or so people, and the overwhelming majority were in their late sixties plus. I get the impression that these are the only people who have the time to do things like this. Kind of reminds me of the old joke about a jury of your peers being composed of the only people who were dumb enough not to have a plausible reason to get out of it. Most of them seemed reasonable -- no lawyers like the last time, bent on showing how this was a lark for them, they knew it all already -- though a couple of people seemed intent on wanting to have everything written down, particularly anything where you might need to challenge someone. It says right here... For example, you can't bring a camera or recorder into the polls. You can't bring an active cell phone (only I can do that, so that I can call for help if needed, or to handle problems). You absolutely cannot wear political buttons or slogans (the state says you can, the local board of commissioners says you can't). That last is particularly bizarre -- if the person cannot or will not take the political stuff off, they have to cover it somehow, and if they won't, they still get to vote, but you have to take their name and send it to the Board of Elections..for some unspecified reason. Me, I think its to intimidate them.

And then at the end of the day, you get to do fun things like add up all of the absentee ballots (writing down on a roster the names that were written in; apparently, you do NOT write down the names that are already on the form, even if someone wrote it in anyway -- doing that effectively invalidates their vote (!) )-- and then sealing it all up, along with all of the other forms and paraphernalia, shut down the machines, and guess who gets to truck it all back to the election office?

And, oh yeah, I get to go to another class just for new judges, next week.

Hoo, boy.


We tend to wake up my daughter around 615. She usually staggers out around 625, eats quickly, and is out of the house by five to seven, perhaps seven. Its about a one minute walk down the hill to where her bus picks up at 7:04. This morning, she didn't come out till 630, ate slowly, and at 7 was wondering where her sneakers had gotten off to. My wife, hearing her go down the stairs, called a good bye, and was briskly informed that she wasn't leaving yet...and when told that it was already seven o'clock, got a snarky why didn't you tell me that before? and a hurried bolt out of the house...followed, three minutes later, by an aggrieved I need a stupid ride in to school!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I understand that people who like chili intensely have a deep and abiding fascination with it. I like it, but I know that the kind I like wouldn't pass muster with a traditionalist -- we make two kinds, Cincinatti chili and honey chili. That's it. Neither is 'serious chili', as they speak it in, say, Dallas. Wimpy Yankee chili, more like.

If a batch of 'serious' chili can be done with ground beef or ground pork (I'm not into meats that must be chewed a lot -- ask me again after I get my dental appliance built), I'd like to give it a try. So, if anyone happens to know of a recipe that meets that standard -- with beans or without, though I know that that is a dividing line, right there -- I'd appreciate learning of it.

A good cornbread recipe would be nice, too. I can make it, no problem, but it always dries out fairly quickly. I'd like something that still edible when I'm having those leftovers. Assuming the chili isn't so good that leftovers are never a problem.

Thank you.

iPhone? SO Old News...

No, the Pomegranate Phone -- thats what you really want.


I've been exchanging the occasional note with one of the people who comments on this blog, and I must say, I like it. Mostly, the notes have had to do with politics, wherein I've tried hard to keep my bias down -- its known, but I try not to write it in flaming letters -- but we've also discussed other things on occasion. I don't know how much more of it will occur, but since I'm not very good at 'making friends', its been a little bit of a surprise to me, and a pleasant one.

Strek? Dreck.

These kids are not Star Trek... are they?

Creating Wealth

I have mentioned on occasion that it never, never, hardly ever occurs to me how to make money. I'm just no good at that. A few minutes ago, I read the following from the NRO site, and I thought, as Obama said at that luncheon, you can DO that?

When I first got to college, back in the last few weeks of the Seventies, I finally got a chance to see an ordinary game of Dungeons and Dragons. My immediate inclination was to play as a Paladin: the pinnacle of Lawful Good, a character required to dash in and fight overwhelmingly powerful evil forces anywhere and at whatever odds. These contests were short, depressing and hilarious, but all D&D really came down to in the end was slaying small monsters, taking their gold, buying slightly better gear and then slaying slightly larger monsters. Why not just save some time and become a Vorpal Sword distributor? Then you get the weapons and the gold, and people bring them both to you. And so a larval conservative was born. And I never played again.

That's the difference, I think. Never would have occurred to me -- and I still wonder how to invoke it.

Judgement Day

Tonight I get to go to a two hour class on how to be a polling place judge. I am apprehensive, and this is just the class. I can't wait to see how the actual day goes. They've been doing this for a long time, so I would like to think that they've got info on anything that could happen, but still -- there's always that something that you've never seen before. The grandmother only spoke Taiwanese? And the brother was in a wheelchair? Neither had ever voted but both were registered? I can only hope that crises only happen one at a time.

I already have two questions - first, if the polls open at 8, when do I vote? I'm guessing, I get to get in line with everyone else. And second, whats up with political buttons, and all -- do we have to tell people not to wear them? Hope not. I think thats stupid. I already know that if someone shows up a hair after closing time, I'm letting them vote. Supposed to be exactly eight is the cutoff, but screw that. Five minutes later, different story.

I told my daughter it'd be a long day - up at 5 to get to the polls by 6 to set up the machinery and check it out, there till 8PM, then half an hour to shut everything down and bundle it up (where are the seals? Who's got the checklist?), then half an hour out, half an hour back to drop off the vote tabulators in their special super sealed box to the county board of elections -- and she said Oh, thats just like a long day at band camp. Thanks for the sympathy, kid.


Our house phone just rang, I answered. Got a burst of mechanical-sounding music, then silence.

Weird. Perhaps there was more, but I'd hung up by then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Papers, Please

Taking the bus in Denver? Denver PD might arrest you.... just because they can.

I'm not a fan of the ACLU, and this actually happened about four years ago, with the charges ultimately dropped....but just that it happened at all makes me think that dropping them some bucks might not be a bad idea.


Doing their bit for stablity in perilous times, the fine folks at Electronic Data Systems, where my wife works, have announced they're laying off more people. Today.

Not her. Another lightening strike dodged.... this time. She's guessing that if they do this two more times, she'll be ejected. Someone else at my wife's location was laid off - someone who's been there a very long time, just like her. Which means that its only a matter of time... Someone who was proactive and energetic would say that this means its time to get out there, network like hell, figure out a job you can sell yourself with...

Unfortunately, neither of us has those genes.


As if proof were needed --

Two boys just came to the door and asked if we needed our grass mown. As it happens, we do, but I'm going to do it real soon now. So I told them no, but we talked a while. Apparently, they just got their mower fixed, and they have to get a wheel on a trailer (?) fixed, so they're out trying to earn some money. I asked how business was, and they said not all that good. They looked pretty downcast.

They got about halfway down the driveway, and I called them back. "Here's five bucks", I said. "I don't need anything -- this is just because you're out there, making the effort."

Yeah. That's what liberal Democrats do. Even if it makes us look like suckers.


Several weeks ago, we were walking through the neighborhood, passing over the bridge that covers the wetlands stream, and into the housing development there. On one side, the ground is undeveloped -- it's a swale -- except for some paths that have been cut out of the tall grass by the Audubon Society. As we went by, my wife glanced down the path and stopped dead. Look, she whispered, so I did. It was worth stopping for. Halfway down the path, a great blue heron was standing, head cocked towards us. Abruptly, it spread its massive wings, flapped two or three times, and soared into the sky.

Since then, every time we go by, we glance down that path....just in case.

...and counting.

Twenty-four years, today. How about that?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Freeze warnings tonight.

Alfred E.....

I think the thing that I found funniest was the guy who kept stolidly eating, back in the rear row....

Black, White

This is me. No, really. I have a shirt just like that.


I have no idea how the pizza itself will turn out, but the dough itself is delightful. I chilled it overnight, and this afternoon rolled it out to a six-inch disk, let it rise a bit, and just did my version of the 'rotate it on your knuckles'. I wanted a thin dough? This stuff came so thin, I can actually see through it. Awesome.

I don't recall where I found the original reference to the recipe (its actually from Peter Reinhart), but here is a blog that refers to it, too.
Update: The dough turned out well -- read-throughable is apparentlyh a little too thin, but its in the ballpark, and the crust was excellent. I'll be baking one of the two remaining, unfrozen balls of dough tomorrow, and we'll see about making it not quite so thin. The anal-retentive part of me wants to measure the thickness of the dough in the center, but I think that'd be a bit much. Maybe.

Beijing, We Have A Problem

(found here)

China's leading Xinhua news agency reported the successful flight of the Shenzhou VII - complete with detailed dialogue between the astronauts - hours before the nation's third-ever manned space mission had even lifted off.

On Thursday morning, Xinhua posted a story on its website saying the Shenzhou capsule had been successfully tracked flying over the Pacific Ocean even though the rocket and its three astronauts had not yet been launched.

The article, dated September 27, described the rocket in flight, complete with a sharply detailed dialogue between the three astronauts.


One of the things that people who support Obama have noticed is that his campaign is very good about asking for money, repeatedly. You don't get an email from them without either a large red DONATE button (pressing it brings you to a page on their web site), or a comment about how critically important it is for you to give money NOW, because the forces of darkness are doing such a good job shoveling out monies of their own. I admit, these emails have been effective in prying money loose from our bank account; we haven't given at the level that would be considered significant, but we've given about ten times what we'd normally give to a campaign.

About two weeks ago, I started seeing the occasional news article about how the Obama campaign had enough money so that they could spend a fair amount in states where McCain had pretty much, but not entirely, a lock on it; the idea being that at the least, they'd force him to spend money there against them, and, who knows, possibly change the color of the state from red to purple, or beyond. This struck me as a pretty nice idea -- not the way I'd like to see campaigns operate, but, after decades of belonging to the party with moral purity and empty cash coffers, a delightful change. When I read articles about how ads for Obama are showing up in Xbox games, I thought it creative (though if I was a gamer, I might get a little annoyed). One article said that whatever else it did, this showed that Obama had more money than he knew what to do with.

So when I got a note about then asking for money, I thought Nah, I'll pass on this. I had the same reaction to the next one. Then I saw the polls dip a bit, about three days ago, going from an average projection of about 350 electoral votes to about 340. This made me slightly uneasy, and I thought that if they continued to slip, I might give them more money anyway. Then, this morning, I saw an interesting headline.

Last month, the Obama campaign raised one hundred and fifty million dollars.

I think maybe I'll keep the checkbook shut. Think they'll mind?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Grievance Form

For those who may occasionally be offended by what they read here, this form may be of use:

The Return

Found here.

Deja Vu

Friday, October 17, 2008


I like crickets. I like the sound that they make, late at night. Okay, I'm not too thrilled when we go into the garage, and the cricket who's taken up residence in the far corner abruptly stops chirping upon our entry, then fires it back up again a second later when its obvious that we're not a threat. I'm not sure what it says about us when even a cricket doesn't think we're much of a threat, though I suppose thats a good assessment. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not a particularly combative guy, so though I would imagine I could handle things if the cricket abruptly jumped out, gave me the eye, and said 'You want a piece of me?', its just as likely that I'd say no, and walk quietly away. To the sound of mocking chirps, of course.

I really don't like controversy, or people getting agitated. I'll usually just shut down when that happens, wait for them to calm down, and then start talking again. People who talk very, very fast, particularly in a rising tone, tend to not get much of a response from me, because I'm not one to start jabbing my finger, interjecting, and all of that. Reasoned conversations are more my forte, all of which means that you likely won't be seeing me on any of the talk shows any time soon. Thats not to say I can't get agitated on my own, but as a rule, not in conversation with other people, unless I really, really trust them. And I don't really, really trust very many people.

Political conversations, lately, seem to be nothing but agitated people speaking quickly and loudly, though, and they quickly become emotional. People cannot admit that their candidate is anything less than perfect, or that the opposing candidate is anything less than a demon. I'm not sure if this might not be a defensive mechanism. I don't like John McCain, but there are things about him I do like. I prefer Barack Obama, but there are things about him that I do not like. Even sitting quietly, though, I have to stop and think: what are things I like about McCain? What are things I don't like about Obama? In a sense, I suppose it doesn't matter -- its a binary choice, and whether I like 50.001 percent of what I know about Obama or 100.000 percent, the result is the same -- he's my choice. So, why not just assume he's perfect, which of course means the other side is a demon?

Well, for one, because I think that doing assessments that way is wrong, and polarizing, which is one of the last things we need in this country. But I don't want to get into an argument about it.

[sound of crickets in the night....and one in the garage, laughing]

West Wing

In an early episode of The West Wing, Leo McGarry has just fired the only political advisors that Jed Bartlett, running for President, has ever known. Bartlett is stunned. He doesn't know why McGarry, who is a bigger player in the Democrat party than he is, wants to be involved with his campaign.

Why are you doing this?

Because I'm tired of it. Year after year after year after year, having to choose between the lesser of Who Cares? Of trying to get myself excited about a candidate who can speak in complete sentences. Of setting the bar so low, I can hardly look at it. They say a good man can't get elected President. I don't believe that, do you?

As it happens, I don't. But I do think that it's damned unlikely.

Joe's Wiki

Joe is now even more famous than before.


HAL ? He's kind of fun....

Contra - What?

As a rule, I don't feel the need to read articles which require me to gaze thoughtfully upon some guy's butt. But in this case.....

Meshugganah? Me Likey

From the Washington Post:

I attended a briefing at the CI [Counterintelligence] Center a year ago and one of the speakers was a former British SAS officer who worked Belfast for 10 years. He provided some fascinating insights into their operations and, specifically, some of the "out-of-the-box" methods they utilized to collect and target the IRA, PIRA [Provisional Irish Republican Army], Gerry Adams and their sympathizers.

One of the most interesting operations was the laundry mat [sic]. Having lost many troops and civilians to bombings, the Brits decided they needed to determine who was making the bombs and where they were being manufactured. One bright fellow recommended they operate a laundry and when asked "what the hell he was talking about," he explained the plan and it was incorporated -- to much success.

The plan was simple: Build a laundry and staff it with locals and a few of their own. The laundry would then send out "color coded" special discount tickets, to the effect of "get two loads for the price of one," etc. The color coding was matched to specific streets and thus when someone brought in their laundry, it was easy to determine the general location from which a city map was coded.

While the laundry was indeed being washed, pressed and dry cleaned, it had one additional cycle -- every garment, sheet, glove, pair of pants, was first sent through an analyzer, located in the basement, that checked for bomb-making residue. The analyzer was disguised as just another piece of the laundry equipment; good OPSEC [operational security]. Within a few weeks, multiple positives had shown up, indicating the ingredients of bomb residue, and intelligence had determined which areas of the city were involved. To narrow their target list, [the laundry] simply sent out more specific coupons [numbered] to all houses in the area, and before long they had good addresses. After confirming addresses, authorities with the SAS teams swooped down on the multiple homes and arrested multiple personnel and confiscated numerous assembled bombs, weapons and ingredients. During the entire operation, no one was injured or killed.

By the way, the gentleman also told the story of how [the British] also bugged every new car going into Northern Ireland, and thus knew everything [Sinn Fein leader] Gerry Adams was discussing. They did this because Adams always conducted mobile meetings and always used new cars.

The Israelis have a term for this type of thinking, "Embracing the Meshugganah," which literally translated means, embrace the craziness, because the crazier the plan, the less likely the adversary will have thought about it, and thus, not have implemented a counter-measure.

The Candidates and Science

From a New York Times article:

Both presidential candidates, in their careers and in their campaigns, have made detailed arguments for how the nation should deal with technology rivals, sharpen its competitive edge and improve what experts call its "ecology of innovation." Yet their visions are strikingly different. They diverge mainly on the appropriate role for the federal government in education, in spending on research, and in building, maintaining and regulating the complex infrastructure on which innovation depends. The visions both face tough questions on their viability amid the nation’s deepening financial crisis. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, seeks to encourage innovation by cutting corporate taxes and ending what he calls "burdensome regulations" that he says inhibit corporate investment. But Mr. McCain has also repeatedly gone up against business if he sees a conflict with national security, for instance, in seeking to limit sensitive exports. In Senator Barack Obama’s view, the United States must compete far more effectively against an array of international rivals who are growing more technically adept. Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, looks to the federal government to finance science, math and engineering education and the kind of basic research that can produce valuable industrial spinoffs.

The personal styles of the candidates also contrast. Mr. McCain says his leadership of the Senate commerce committee has versed him in technology issues, but he also jokes about his ignorance of personal computers and e-mail. Mr. Obama, an avid BlackBerry user, commenced an aggressive drive for campaign donations over the Internet. Mr. Obama embraces the theory of evolution and argues that the teaching of intelligent design and other creationist ideas "cloud" a student’s understanding of science. While Mr. McCain says he personally believes in evolution, he has also said children should be taught "all points of view." Mr. McCain has written five books, starting in 1999, but none discuss in any detail how the nation might respond to technical rivals — a central theme of Mr. Obama’s second book, published in 2006. Mr. Obama posted a detailed set of technology proposals on his Web site late last year; Mr. McCain did so in recent months.

It remains to be seen how the candidates would pay for their proposals.


One of the things that I like to do is watch the Twitter feed for the keywords Obama, Biden, or McCain. I stopped watching for the fourth name about two weeks ago, when it began to be obvious that only two kinds of people were talking about her on that medium: rabid Republicans, and rabid Democrats. Neither, as a rule, had anything useful to say. Granted, Twitter is not the place to have a reasoned, reasonable discussion about politics unless you and your correspondent are both good at succinct statements. Even so, I've had brief discussions with people about topics relative to the election and the participants -- they'd say something that I agreed or disagreed with, they'd respond, and we'd go back and forth for two or three iterations. Such discussions did not occur, as a rule, when that fourth name came up. People who commented tended to either believe strongly in her, or projectile-vomit at the name. I wasn't learning anything new, I had nothing to add, and I'm not interested in getting flamed.

I believe in reasonable, quiet conversations.. For example, I spoke via Twitter with someone once who asked how I could possibly support Obama when McCain clearly had way more experience. I agreed that McCain did; even factoring in Obama's other experience, McCain has more -- as a missile launch officer I once knew said, putting down a newbie, 'I have more time in the elevator going down to the capsule than you have on alert'. McCain's got more time in the Senate men's room than Obama's got on the Senate floor. So I agreed -- I said that if it were just a question of experience, that'd be a no-brainer. I then said that what swayed me toward Obama was his attitudes -- I felt that he understood me more, cared about me more. My correspondent said that he did not agree that this was a reason to support him, but he understood why I did. And that, to me, is a decent conversation. I'm not looking to convert anyone -- if it happens, fine, in either direction -- I'm simply making my case, for you to accept or not as you will.

That doesn't seem to be a common view, these days. I find that sad. (I admit: that's wimpy of me. Guess I'm just not all that combative a guy, huh?)


I read an article this morning, from Vanity Fair's December 2007 issue, about Michelle Obama. If you don't like her, him, or them, you likely won't care for the article but if you do, you just might.

I never wanted to be President (think of it as doing my bit for my country; my sister in law, who works for the Feds, once asked me how much retirement income I got from my eight years in the military, and was astonished to learn Nothing - just the thanks of a grateful nation). I have, however, wondered how I'd feel when the first President was elected who was younger than me. Now I know. I liked the feeling before having read the article; now, I really like the feeling. These are bright, interesting, insightful, committed people -- the kind I always wished that I could be. I'll be glad to have them running things. I know that not everyone agrees, but I think that over time, they'll come around. Well, mostly.


Some slogans from an article about women's TShirts -

Real Boobs Bounce
Small Boobs, Big Heart
I am not a Bitch (I'm THE bitch!)
Don't Call Me A Cowgirl Until You've Ridden
Not Everything Is Flat in Florida
Damn, It's Freezing In Here
We Could Mate, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
I Make Milk - What's
Your Super Power?
I Seem To Have Misplaced My Boyfriend
Ah, I See That You've Met The Twins

...none of which I've ever seen in person. All things considered, probably a good thing.

Organizational Insight

I've always been fascinated by organizations. I believe that a good organization focuses and multiplies the abilities of its participants; though that can mean the ability screw up massively, it can also mean the ability to do magical, amazing things. I don't have the theoretical underpinnings to understand what makes a good organization work, though I suspect that there are very few absolutes in that regard -- the absolute for one organization is counteracted and counterbalanced by the style of another one, and yet both work. Perhaps it all comes down to What I Learned In Kindergarden.

This morning, reading an article about the McCain and Obama campaigns, I came across this phrase: "It's a disciplined, well-funded campaign against an unfocused, cash-strapped one." For a moment, I had a burst of deja vu, where the first described the Republican campaign and the second, the Democratic one. That's been the tradition. This time out, it isn't working that way, which, regardless of who wins, means that the next Presidential campaign will look very much like the Democratic one, this time. There will be massive Internet presence. Massive use of email, texting, IMs. Electronic meetups, mashups, and mapping. Plus, technologies and methodologies that don't exist now, or are in the prototype stage. The medium may not become the message, but it will certainly be a large part of it.

It brings me back to the idea of bureaucracies. Those much - cursed organizations started as a method of institutionalizing knowledge, allowing the use of relatively unskilled people to produce a repeatable, skilled result. Several years ago, I saw different articles -- one, on the building of Boulder Dam, the other, the design of the SR-71 -- which made the same point - that the key concept in each was the vision and energy of the drivers. They didn't have the sleek, sophisticated technology of today (soon to be the old mode, weary technology of yesterday); instead, they had bright people with a commitment to excellence, and an organizational structure that allowed them to focus that commitment to bring into existence something that none of them could have done alone, something greater than themselves.

I think thats how the next Presidential campaign -- the next successful one -- will work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I'm pleased with myself. Hey, its a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Listening to an NPR article about the neurological underpinnings of obesity, and hearing them say that some people never seem quite satisfied no matter how much they anticipate a meal, I thought: dopamine. Yup, that was their point... three minutes later.


Commenting is turned off, for a bit.


We got the mower back. I'm more than a little surprised --the starter system's been changed, which we were told to expect, and the nameplate now says the newer mower -- the one that, had we bought a new one, we would have gotten. I haven't lifted it to see if there is any grass clipping stains underneath, but if you told me this was a new mower, I'd believe you. Odd.

I tend to think that Republicans and Democrats (real people, not politicians) don't demonize each other. However, I now think that I might be naive in that assumption. Guess I ought not to be surprised. Speaking of which, I'm surprised at the number of people weighing in on Joe The Plumber, some with information that alters the image a bit. No, I'm not going to link to it. I don't need to fan the firestorm. I'm just - surprised.

A local town tore down a Sunoco A+ convenience store/gas station. In its place, they will build: a Sunoco A+ convenience store/gas station. Um.

Tonight we go to a seminar on funding college. Should be interesting, given the current fiscal climate.

I get nervous when the forces of law and order get to play Army with this kind of thing. I don't trust them to use it wisely.
Found here, with this caption: The vehicle will be used by the SWAT unit to aid in the rescue and evacuation of people in dangerous situations.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Local Delights

I just dropped my daughter off for her part in the local Halloween Parade. It's a madhouse down there, and the rent-a-cops (why are so many of them really, really, fat?) aren't helping. My wife's going down to watch the parade tonight, but I'm copping out.

A local woman has a concealed weapon permit. She brought the gun to a soccer game. Yet another gun owner I'd like to see get a mental checkup.

Summer's back -- its 80 out there right now -- but the trees are a brilliant red and green and orange.

We brought the mower in. Oh, thats going to be about $150, they said, hoping we'd buy a new one ($400). We'll fix it. Once. And if I find out its just a battery replacement, I'm going to be highly ticked.


This morning, I played a bit with a site called Cleverbot, which is an AI prototype. Here's what I gave, and what I got:

Me: Talk to me about John McCain

CL: I know very little about God.



It's getting to be winter -- 45 degrees out there right now, though you couldn't tell it from me; I have shorts and a T shirt on -- and so its time for me to sing the song I sing every year around this time: why aren't thermostats programmable?

Oh, I know that there are thermostats that are called programmable, usually with a little bitty screen to set days, temps, and such. They're nice - though the three that we have downstairs (our home has zoned heat) have a flaw; if the power goes out, they reset to their coldest setting (which I found out about one day when walking into my mother's room and feeling the chill). But they do work. Not snappy enough for me, though.

I want ones that are smart enough to figure out for me when I tend to turn the heat up in the mornng, and down at night, and just do it. I want them to know when its colder outside than normal, or warmer, and adjust the inside heat accordingly. And I'd like them to be network-addressable, so that I can do it from this laptop, rather than peering at that little screen.

Take cae of that, will you?

Monday, October 13, 2008


"Surely this must be the greatest headline for a BBC News story ever: Banjo Used in Brain Surgery."

4 Days

This is old news, but I kind of liked it --


A concise graphic elucidation of the source of the current fiscal crisis appears here.

Yeah, baby.


The last time that the local college held a book sale, my daughter picked up a copy of a literature text, printed in 1952. I was more than a little surprised, but I thought 'heck, its her money, she wants to, and there's no harm'. The other night she walked into the bedroom where I was reading and asked me if I wanted to read the text. I demurred, and she said that it was really good, and I should. I thought I would pacify her by leaving it on my nightstand for a while, and then quietly disposing of it. Just now, I started reading the first piece -- a translation of The Illiad.

My golly. This is good stuff!


This morning I happened to take a short drive to a hairdresser to pick up my mother. The hairdresser's is in a small shopping plaza next to a supermarket which sells gas. Yesterday morning, I filled up the tank on the van. The price was $2.99 a gallon, which I thought to be pretty good, verging on excellent. This morning, I glanced at it, and was startled to see that it was now twenty cents a gallon less.

I'm still reading Bob Schieffer's America. The book is a collection of short pieces, none more than two pages long, pieces which he had given as a coda to a news program over the years. I like it enough that when it comes out in paperback, I'll likely get it. The reason I like it is that these are snapshots of America past, yet some of it - much, even - sounds remarkably like current news - more than once I've glanced at the top of a piece to be sure it didn't say 2008 in the date. Other parts invoke nostalgia - gee, remember when that was a problem? I just read a piece about Monica Lewinsky which did something that nothing else I've ever read about that tawdry affair has done - it made me a little sorry for her.

Our lawnmower is dying, and I don't know why. It's an electric cordless one - Black and Decker CMM1000. The CMM stands for Cordless Mulching Mower. Its worked well for the two and a half years we've had it -- about the worst we can say is that their estimate of how much it would mow on a charge assumes that the grass was recently mown, and the ground is flat. Neither of those is usually true here, and so there are times when I have to break the mowing up into two sessions. Hey, if I have to stop before I wanted to, thats usually not a problem. But this is different. The mower will run well when it starts. If I take it slowly -- the grass is a little on the shaggy side -- it'll make one or two passes down the long dimension of wherever I'm mowing. And then, it'll die -- sound just like a gas mower running out of gas. Wait thirty seconds, and it'll fire right back up. Now, its done this when it was getting clogged with grass, so that was the first thing we checked, but it isn't. So, I'm thinking, there's two possibilities. One is that the battery is failing -- I said it's been two and a half years? The warranty is for two years -- and we just need to replace it. The other is that it is the dreaded something else -- and we can't figure out what that might be. This is not the LHC, for goodness sakes!

Time to go read again. Oh, for McCain supporters -- there's an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal (also in The Economist) on Obama vs McCain, specifically as related to their tax plans. I don't want to give aid and comfort to that group, but if you like McCain, you might like the articles.


I saw this in a recent article:

Gov. Sarah Palin was in downtown Pittsburgh Friday night for a private fundraiser. It cost $1,000 just to get in the door, $10,000 for a photo with Palin, and $25,000 to sit at a table with her.

..and it made me wonder: what would I pay to be in the same room as someone I admired? The photo, who cares, but being at the same table - yeah, that would be nice. What would I pay?

Not those prices, I suspect. Not even for Obama. But - anyone? Anyone at all? Hmm....

Genetic Predispositions

There's a scene in a movie -- I believe it's The Money Trap, though, as I've not seen it, I'm not sure -- where the somewhat exasperated lead female character says to the lead male 'You were very nearly late!' To which he replies 'There's a phrase for that -- it's called on time' .

My wife has a tendency to slip on guesses of when something will occur. If she thinks it'll happen at 10AM -- for example, today, when she guessed that her sister would stop by around 10AM -- it'll likely happen at 10:30. Left to her own devices, it'll be earlier -- say, 10:10 or so -- but this particular sister is notoriously bad in her time estimates. If she says she'll leave her home at 9 and be at your home by 10, she'll leave her home about 9:30, stop three places, and be at yours around 11. Or perhaps a bit later. My wife told me once that once of the nicest things another sister said to her was the observation that while she might not make it when she said she would, when she said that she was ready, she really was -- unlike the sister who's coming today, who has been known to say 'I'm ready - I just have to take a shower and get dressed. And put a stamp on those envelopes. And...'

I'm more in the other direction. If I have to be somewhere at 10, and I know that in anything short of a maelstorm I will take 30 minutes to get there, I'll leave about twenty five after nine. Well, perhaps twenty after. And if its really important that I be there, I might leave at 9. The number of times I've sat in the parking lot, waiting for the doors to open, is legion.

There's a phrase for that. It's called Being A Little Early.


When I was a kid, I read an article which said that people tend to hide away the nice things in their home, saving them for 'special occasions'. The article urged that they not do that, but rather take them out, enjoy them, get pleasure from them. The article made a lot of sense to me, and I repeated it to my mother - who was nice enough not to laugh out loud. What we had was the nice things, you see. There was no crystal hidden away, no china, no elegant porcelain figures.

Well, now we have some of that, and we do the same thing. We did the obligatory china purchase when we got married -- a very plain, simple pattern -- which is currently in a wooden cabinet, along with some crystal classes and pewter bowls. We used to use them fairly often, but when our daughter was born, we stopped. Now that she's significantly older, we occasionally think that we ought to do that again. Sometimes we get out the silver candle holders, and occasionally even the thin glass covers that give them an air of elegance - but usually not. When we think of the china, we like the idea, but we remember that we don't usually wash the china in the dishwasher -- its got a thin gold stripe which we think would get worn off fairly quickly -- so we just don't use it.

I admit, if those thin glass covers ever broke, I'd be quite unhappy, because I doubt we could or would replace them. I know that its silly -- we're effectively without them now, because we rarely take them out from that wooden cabinet -- but that's how we feel. We ought to use the china this weekend, we'll say, but we don't do it.

Someday, we should do that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Road Trip

Apparently Obama's in Ohio. Knocking on doors. Really.

Makes me want to move to Ohio.


I save pictures I've come across on the net. This is one.

Choose Better

This morning, as soon as I woke up, I started thinking about politics, and about the economy. I think I had been dreaming about them.

On the way to the store this morning to pick up the Sunday paper, I was thinking about how we've come to expect that politicians are going to lie to us. We expect that there will be differences of honest opinion, yes, but we expect that they're going to flat-out lie, too. Its usually okay if its our side doing it, and its usually reprehensible and vile if the other side does it.

When I was leaving the store, I passed two old men who work there doing odd jobs -- bagging, retrieving carts, and so forth. One was saying to the other 'Well, when I was laid off, they were laying off a whole bunch of people..."

At home, I thought that I haven't been doing much reading lately, so I picked up the copy of Bob Schieffer's America that I'd gotten from the library, and read about the Clinton push to reform campaign financing - but they wouldn't unilaterally do the right thing; they said they'd do it only if the other side did. I felt a little glow of pleasure about Obama's saying that the Democrats would not take lobbyist funds, and then I thought that he's not perfect, either - just a little bit better. I thought of how hard that must have been, turning down money - and then I thought about how he turned down federal money, too, breaking his word in the process, and opening the door to getting staggering amounts from other sources. I tried not to think about how much of those staggering amounts really is from lobbyists, just cunningly rerouted, and instead thought about how one person doing the right thing -- even if its not that right, compared to the way it ought to be -- can make a difference.

I wondered if we will turn over a country to our children who will look back at our time and think 'how simple it was, then'.

Incidentally, the book is pretty good.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I was looking for some amusement this evening, but what I found was substantially different.

My wife and daughter have gone to see a play -- not sure which one -- in Lancaster, which is about fifty minutes from here. I didn't care to go (partially because its going to be four women and their daughters; didn't quite think that I would fit in). I spent some time reading, and then I went downstairs to watch TV. Nothing was on, but I came across a short squib of Bush and the international finance ministers all sidling grimly into the White House. I thought about him trying to give them guidance and direction, and I was not cheered by the image. So, I put in a CD of West Wing, Season 2, and found myself watching Josiah Bartlett as he came to realize that he had not just a problem on his hands, when people started to learn that he had MS and didn't tell anyone, but a full blown crisis, with lawyers and disbarment and possibly impeachment on the horizon. His acting is good, unlike Bush, so I watched it to the end, but after all of it, I felt pretty gloomy. This is not what amusement is supposed to do for you.

I've said that we're in pretty good financial shape, and I truly believe it. We own our house, and we have no debt. The last time I looked -- and like most people who don't have their own executive jet, I am trying very hard not to look -- we had enough money in a combination of cash and stocks to be the equivalent of our income for about ten years. My guess is that that's down to about eight years now, with the current level of the market. Additionally, we've both got a retirement package (I've actually got two, though one is pretty small), and Social Security. I could invoke my retirement payouts now, if I wanted to. I believe (using the definition of 'belief' as something you act on as if it were real, though you cannot prove that it is) that this crisis will go on depressing the stock market for about two years. In a sense, I'm making that up; I don't know, don't have any specific knowledge, and certainly don't have any special expertise. But thats what I think. I'm assuming that in two years, the stock market will have staggered back to where it was about three months ago. That means that any income or gains we would have made for two years -- not just stock, but cash, too -- won't occur. Thats not an insubstantial amount, but it wouldn't kill us. We might have to forgo major elective expenses, like a vacation trip, but that would be about it. We've been telling our daughter that she'll have to pay for her own college time, as we did; we don't intend to skip on helping her, though she doesn't know that, so if it turns out that we have to, she won't be disappointed. Its also possible that my wife's company may decide to terminate her; they were planning on layoffs before all of this started, and I can easily see them accelerating that timetable. That would mean that the eight years I mentioned might shrink to six, but again, we ought to be okay. We won't be destitute. Many people will be, and not just in six or eight years, but now. We won't. I have to remember that. The net effect will be debilitating, but we should come out of it okay. Not as good as we would have been, of course, even if Bush does say that the economy will be stronger afterward. I think he's talking through his hat on that one, incidentally. He does that, as you've likely noticed. But still: okay.

All of this means that though I can't be cheerful, I should not be pessimistic. We'll be okay. I believe this, intellectually. Emotionally is another matter. In that, I don't think I'm alone. I watched a chipper person on the tube say that people with marketable and moveable skills should look into fields where they don't work now; for example, a finance person might look for a auto company that needs a finance person. It seems that these things are always easier in theory than in practice. I trust 'employment counselors' -- not at all. I think very, very few of them know what the heck they're doing, and even less have actual insights and helpful information. For the rest, you might as well read Wikipedia. I say all of this because, I've started thinking about working again - for obvious reasons. Don't need to, but doing so - even if nothing comes of it - makes me feel better.