Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yellow Square

This is unreasonably entertaining.

Libertee, Fraternitee, Stupiditee

...and outright police and judicial thuggishness, in France. France? Damn - I knew I should have foregone those Freedom Fries!

Aged to Perfection?

Some different thoughts on various things.

An article in the Post says that a local religious leader tried to assuage the grief of friends and relatives of a woman who'd been stabbed to death by a vicious former boyfriend by saying that she "didn't suffer". I find that hard to believe. But what can you say in such circumstances? A second article says that military officers are guardedly optimistic about being able to work with Obama, who's said that he will ask for their opinions even when he might not take their advice. I am glad about that. The article said that when Clinton came into office, he immediately got into a tussle with them over the question of gays in the military, and that the military viewed him with 'scarcely veiled contempt as a draft dodger'. I can understand that -- I remember how I viewed people like that, back then. And I see where some Republicans are saying that Bobby Jindal's the guy to lead them out of the desert. Nothing like a rush to judgement, is there?

I'd love to hear Obama's thoughts on the Mumbai massacre. Not the event itself, but its origins and what can be done to prevent -- or at least make less likely -- a recurrence. Because you know, as sure as politicians are looking for lobbyist money, there are people looking to do it again.

My daughter came out into the living room a bit ago with a big smile and said 'Are you baking cookies?' No, I said, no plans to, either. "Well, wouldn't you like to bake some cookies?" After a moment's thought, I agreed, and twenty minutes later she literally not only skipped into the kitchen, thanking me profusely, but went over to her mother, held up the cookies she'd grabbed, and said 'Did you know I love Dad a whole lot?' Wow. The power of still-warm dark and white chocolate cookies, in action.

Chaired? More Like Floored.

I was looking through Google Image Search for 'overstuffed chair', when I came across this image. That's no overstuffed chair, I observed astutely. What the heck kind of site would link the two? So I went to the URL, and was -- well, surprised says it best, I suppose. What kind of site is it? One where referring to an RSS feed as Really Simple Stalking is not out of place.

Glad I wasn't looking while at work. And I never did find the 'chair' reference.

Voting for Bush

I wonder sometimes about the people who voted for Bush, and would do so, again. Like these folks, I suspect. Wonder how they would view me?

Philosophy, Santa

"If a computer program is to behave intelligently in the real world, it must be provided with some kind of framework into which to fit particular facts it is told or discovers. This amounts to at least a fragment of some kind of philosophy, however naive." - John McCarthy

I don't think thats a fair assumption. It sounds to me like a 'if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail' statement -- if you're a philosopher, everything looks like philosophy to you. But I do admit that I like the ring of it. It sounds plausible. I just don't think it is. Maybe its like that old joke about the guy who was surprised, upon going to a college literature course, that he'd been speaking prose all his life and didn't realize it. Maybe the computer guys have been coding philosophy into their AIs without realizing it.

If the foregoing doesn't clue you in: I'm in a bit of a weird mood this morning. Its drizzling out, the temperature is just above freezing. A good day for sitting in front of a roaring fire (tended by the staff, of course), sipping hot cocoa (provided by the staff, too). Big overstuffed chairs, footstools. Nice. Actually, one of the things we occasionally contemplate -- though not for too long -- is replacement of our house's wood-burning fireplace with one that'd use natural gas to augment the combustion. I don't think we'd go so far as to get fake logs (though, if they looked really good, who knows). The idea of a zero-clearance fireplace also appeals to me. I think the single biggest thing blocking me -- other than that I tend to call a zero-clearance fireplace a 'zero-tolerance fireplace' , which I guess would be applicable if we were talking about a whole different kind of smoking -- is that once all this was done, we'd end up with: a fireplace. We'd use it more, I think, but not a lot more. Enough to justify a minor cost -- which I would bet is not what it would actually turn out to be.

I wish I knew why Twirl is suddenly asking for my password, every time I sign on. Strange. I'm sure I did something.

The pastor of our church likes to tell droll stories, which is okay unless they go so long that you begin to wonder if you'll get a credit for listening -- hey, can I leave before Mass is over? This morning, he said that when he said the mass last night, he was rushed, so this morning, he came down early, relaxed and mellow -- he actually made the little 'chill' surfer sign, a gliding palm, face down -- and he was doing fairly well until Bob (?) came up to him and said Hey, its getting cold out, we need to do something about ice. So they went hunting through the storage rooms, looking. Is this it? No, thats bird seed. This? Nope, fertilizer. What about sand? No, too heavy. Finally, they found the salt and got it spread -- but then he had to sprint back in and get suited up for mass. "So if this homily is screwed up", he said " blame Bob."

I'm bummed. I did Santa at the church last year, and I kind of wanted to do it again -- but its just when EDS is having theirs, and they did ask first. I suppose, collectively, its better to do the one at EDS -- more people -- but still: at the church, its buckets of small kids. I liked that. I wish I knew a way to find people who'd like to have me come to their kids' events. I wouldn't mind getting paid, but I'd do it for free. I just like it.

Interesting articles in the paper this morning. Apparently 'layaway' is becoming popular again. Since we don't buy gifts on credit (which is to say: we do, but we pay for it completely when the bill comes due), we never incurred the problem of seeing the bills show up weeks later. People got bagged by that, so now stores are offering the concept of 'give us money now, we'll hold onto the item until you pay it off'. To me, thats still a little silly -- why not just save the money until you have enough? -- but I understand the logic when the thing you want is in limited supply. Its easy for me to say, but I like the idea of enforced 'buy only within your means'. Bet somewhere theres a credit card dealer trying to put a spin on it. In fact, come to think of it, I did hear of one layaway plan that was funded by a recurring charge to your credit card. Oh, that's a bright idea.

I liked going up to my mother in laws house with my daughter. We talked -- nothing serious, usually -- on the way up and back. It was nice.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Milcat

I've liked this picture for quite some time. Wish I knew where to get those action figures. I don't collect that sort of thing, but these, I like.

Or is it the cat?

...and pass them around

Programmer? Like beer? Then you might like this.

Conductive

You know how some orchestra conductors seem a little stiff? (Sure you do -- c'mon, work with me here). Well, those guys're the epitome of fluid grace in motion compared to this little guy....

Jonas Jonesing

Last night, my daughter and I tried to watch her grandmother's new digital television. It was not a fun experience.

First off, the hardware and software were both, in my mind, profoundly buggy. The hardware was a Samsung plasma screen which would go bleep-bloop-BLIIP when it turned on, and the reverse when it turned off. Sounded like fun the first time, and the second time, but afterwards.... We figured that since the TV took about three seconds to actually turn on, this was its way of saying okay, okay, I'm coming already! We also found the audio control to be less than awesome -- you'd press the button to change the level, the little audio-level indicator would pop up on the screen, and literally 1 to 2 seconds later, it'd drop off again. You want to change it multiple levels? Push the damn button multiple times -- nothing happens if you just hold it down. So that was not fun, and it was made worse by the Comcast remote control, which has (I counted) 53 separate buttons, including the what the hell is THIS for buttons marked EXIT, PAGE UP, PAGE DOWN ... Look, I just want to watch TV, okay? Not hunt for the MUTE button (hint: its a tiny button in the middle of the remote), or accidentally hit INFO or any of the other cuteness selectors.

But the deal that made me glad I'd brought a book along was that my daughter really wanted to watch Camp Rock, the plot of which is, essentially, poor girl gets to go to a 'rock music camp' (the phrase 'so hip they can't see over their pelvis' comes to mind) where she meets rich rock star (one of the fabled Jonas Brothers playing, gasp, a member of a boy band... the other members being his actual brothers in the actual Jonas Brothers group). Mistaken identities, intense hipness exhibited by all, ditto intense stage presence and performance skills (think High School Musical In The Canadian Woods), teen bitches in training getting slapped up side the head by their former mind slaves, all of this ending with a hunt by the aforementioned Jonas through the camp for the one girl who can sing his new song to perfection.... only to give up in despair, when, guess who it turns out to be? Aw....true love. I could not believe how thin the plot was, or how dumb the show. Or that not only did my daughter like it, but when I called home to say hi to my wife, and I mentioned that the daughter was watching 'this dumb TV show', my wife said 'Oh, Camp Rock? Yeah, I was watching that.' Sigh. I guess guys weren't meant to understand.

Though, hey, I did get her to watch some of a CSPAN talk show with Obama voters, post election, talking about why they voted as they did, and other matters. She was interested, and we talked about some of the topics they brought up, which is why I let her watch the other stuff. Camp Barack earns you Camp Rock, kiddo.

Leather Lather

I know that it's been quite some time since I've seen Stargate Atlantis, but - when did they get the cool leather jackets? If I got one like that, would I be cool too?

I know. I could wear the whole damn cow, and I wouldn't be cool. Ah, well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

CeruleanBillie?

According to Gender Analyzer:

We guess http://ceruleanbill.blogspot.com/ is written by a woman (57%), however it's quite gender neutral.

Networking Notworking

The other day, I told Windows to do an update to itself on my mother's PC. Given what happened then, I clearly should have told it to do something else to itself.

In a nutshell, the update completely hosed the video drivers. The machine went to ultralow resolution, and no amount of fiddling with drivers, graphics, video, resolution, or anything else that came to mind would make it go back to its prior state. At last, in desperation, I reloaded the operating system (which itself took three tries; Windows didn't like being told to overlay itself with an older copy). But finally, three hours later (or about fifty 'XP minutes'), it was up and running. And not talking to anyone. Further, it wouldn't talk to anyone until the wireless connection was established. Poking around, it appeared that the driver for the wireless card was - gone. Hmm, I thought, that damn thing was likely in the Windows directory that I just overlaid. (Pause for many bad words). It didn't help that we could not find the CD with the driver (or even remember if we'd gotten a CD). I brought the laptop out, and after about an hour of searching (my, this is fun), I found the site for Level One (the maker of the card and its driver), downloaded it to a CD on my laptop, put the CD into the drive on the other machine, ran it, and, hey presto, communications was up. Well, once I told the firewall that yeah, it was okay for that particular bit of software to pierce the firewall.

Afterwards, I wondered: is it possible to 'jump start' the networking by running a cable from a PC with a working Internet connection over to one without one, letting the ill one communicate through it? Seems like it ought to be...in my perfect imaginary world. Wonder how it is in reality? For some reason, I'm loathe to experiment.

Oh, and that driver? I saved a copy outside of Windows.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Riddled

Course, since DC comics says they're going to kill off Bruce Wayne, maybe it just doesn't matter any more....

Image found here.

Only Wimps Use Wheelbarrows

Shocking

I don't think that basic electrical work around a house is all that tough. I've done some - and by basic, I mean basic - and its usually turned out okay. Replacing a failed electrical socket, light switch, that sort of thing. In the one case where we had an electrician come out to figure why my replacement of a combination switch -- one for the light, one for the fan -- in our master bath didn't work, he said it was because each switch was wired to a separate circuit, which he thought unusual. Hearing that, it occurred to me that I could have figured that out. I didn't, and without a tester, I likely never would have, but I could have, if that doesn't sound like sophistry.

Speaking of which: I heard today that some people are upset. They feared that Obama had a hidden reactionary side. Now, watching who he's picking for the cabinet, he's turning out to be worse than that. It seems that for all his talk of change, he's picking people of competence and experience for his staff. He's not focusing on ideology as the primary sort criterion - only the second, or possibly third. Good god. He's a hidden moderate.

Anyway, I was thinking about the electrical side of things after I was through talking to the electricians. I had mentioned to the oral surgeon that we weren't going to use a local electrical company because, though they were very good, they were also very expensive. He recommended another company, saying he thought their work was always good. (Interestingly, for those of me who like to think about the effect of reputation, he said another company had been the people who wired his (palatial) offices; they're 'sometimes good, sometimes bad', he said. Its my opinion that people who get that kind of reputation don't seem to care very much abut reputation -- or their boss does, but that worthy doesn't know how to keep track of it, or fix it.) So, I called the other electrician, told him what we had in mind, and he said that worrying about whether we should get a two line or four line thermostat didn't really matter. (I know: two line what? four line what?) The first guy we'd talked to was saying it didn't matter, either, but then he'd say 'if you have the one kind, you just break one leg, but if you have the other, you just break both, so it really doesn't matter'. Although I knew he meant 'leg' as in 'an electrical feed', this inability to talk my language disturbed me. It was a bit too glib. (I know: me, a computer guy? Talking about people being too glib?) Well, the second electrician was pretty easy going, until he started saying 'the only problem with the two line is that it doesn't have a true Off; it doesn't shut completely off'. If that's not a problem, he went on, you can use either two or four. Well, heck. I don't know -- is that a problem? Since he's the most recent, and I don't feel like talking to every electrician in the area, we're going with him, but my feeling is gee, why can't these guys speak in normal sentences?

And then I thought: well, when you used to be a lot more comfortable with electricity than you are now, you'd have thought that casual talk of two line and four line, and breaking one of the legs, was perfectly clear, right? So do these guys. They just don't know that to you, it really doesn't matter. You just want it to work, and not burn the house down.

=============
Update: This is interesting. It seems to say 'just about any electrical configuration can be made to work, if you know what you're doing'

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-TDay

Things have been a little on the chaotic side, but not too bad.

We're having a simple Thanksgiving dinner -- some things to make me happy, some to make my wife happy, and some things to make my daughter happy. Fortunately, those three groupings are not completely exclusive. We're going to have my mother come upstairs for the meal, so that she can eat in the dining room; she's been very reluctant to travel the stairs as she's become more frail, but we're going to make it (relatively) easy by having someone walk up and down stairs with her, and by putting a chair on the landing so that she can rest for several minutes in each direction. It should be okay.

The plan for Friday had been to hang around until mid-day, so that my wife would be off call, and then sprint up to her mother's house, staying there overnight. When she heard this, my daughter went absolutely bonkers, since for some reason she really, really wants to see that grandmother (or possibly that grandmother's new television, not sure which). She was therefore less than delighted to learn that my wife had misread the calendar, and she is actually on call for two days... and working on Saturday night, so we couldn't go up then, either. Therefore, being somewhat of a wimp, father-wise, I offered to bring her up and back myself. I don't expect the drive to be too much of a bother, so long as we don't get any slimy weather. I-81 over the mountains is absolutely no fun in snow, or fog, or even heavy rain. It doesn't slow down the truckers, either, who take it as a personal affront if they have to shift gears from one hilltop crest to the next.

Went to sent the oral surgeon, who was surprised to learn that one of the implant posts is making a quite determined little gouge in the topside of the dental appliance I've been wearing. Well, he said, I know you don't want to hear this, but I think that its time to extract the tooth on the bottom -- that's pressing pretty firmly against the appliance, and .... but actually, it was okay, because I've been expecting it for quite some time. (I think this attitude is part of why he keeps saying I'm a Good Patient. Could also be another manifestation of my essential wimpiness, doing whatever he says without complaint.) So, in about a week, out it comes, and maybe the one next to it, too. I am not sure what will replace it, but I'm betting some kind of non-implant work. To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of how long this implant stuff is taking. This morning, he said it'd be fairly quick to check out the new implants he just did...and then not ten minutes later he said 'about six months' -- which doesn't fit my definition of 'fairly quick', any way you look at it. Then again, doing some quick reading, it appears that implants are considered more stable in the lower jaw than appliances. Oh, great.

And we got the fake tree up, in the kitchen nook. I found it quite cheering, last year, to come into the darkened kitchen and see it glowing in the corner. Stop by, why don't you? You might enjoy it, too.

Oh, and we went to see the new Bond flick. Not at all bad. Hard to hear the dialogue, sometimes, but certainly a fast moving action flick. I liked it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Switched

Technical trivia:

My daughter said that her Inspiron 1525 laptop wasn't connecting to the net. "It does that sometimes", she said. I checked -- my laptop connected, so the PC to router to net connection was fine. I hard-wire connected her laptop to the router, and it worked -- so it was the radio. Went to Help for 'wireless', and found 'Many laptops have a function key switch, or a switch on the side of the laptop...' Looked at the function keys. No function key switch. Looked at the laptop edges. Right where your hand might drop, brushing against the side, a stubby black switch with a clever black on black antenna symbol. Click! Wireless connection.

Thanks, Dell. Great design.

Post Prandial

Just got back from having lunch with my wife. As always, it was fun, though the joy flickered for a few moments when she mentioned that there's a rumour of more layoffs at EDS come the beginning of December. Not sure exactly what we'd do if she got laid off. Not a lot of Christmas shopping, for starters, which hardly makes us unique. When will this insanity end? And why do you never hear the people who boast of creating jobs ever take responsibility when they eliminate them?

It looks like Barack's decided somebody has to be President right now, and since George is still mumbling and fumbling, he'd better step up and provide some issue leadership. I like that. I was a little queasy about it initially -- uh, Barack? Didn't you say you wouldn't want to give conflicting messages? -- but I'm okay with it now.

It'd be nice if Blogger recognized Barack as a real word. Obama, too. How come there's no PC-level customizable dictionary for this jewel?

We finally decided to replace four of our thermostats -- three of which are twenty-five plus years old. We've had two electricians comment that 'this house is wired funny', and we had a bad experience when we tried to replace a thermostat once ourselves (it ought to be easy, but, you know, this house is wired funny), so we're going to order them through the local utility company and then hire an electrician to put them in. We're getting TH115-A-240D's, which is to say a Honeywell programmable 7 day interval model. Its got a big LCD screen, which we like more, these days, plus a power backup (my mother's thermostat is electronic but if we lose power, or she turns it off, it forgets the old setting), and an 'early-start' feature, so that we can say we want it to be a given temperature at a given time. I'm looking forward to this. Honeywell's web site could use some work, though. Course, I guess that's true across the board for technology at the user level -- I pointed out to the clerk at the drugstore that their cute little 'swipe your credit card' device was positioned perfectly to reflect the light behind me, and she said 'oh, it turns -- yeah, but then I can't see it anymore. Not to mention, they need your little key fob to identify you as a member of their cash-back program, but they need the credit card to charge for the purchase. And these two technologies can't come together - why? At least, at the bank, after asking each time 'what language do you want to use' at the ATM, they finally set it up to remember it, showing the selection and letting you change it if you want. Yeah, I used English last time, but this time, let's try, oh, Greek!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The H Team

In 1979 a crack commando historian was sent to prison by a military court for a library book she didn't return. This woman promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Edinburgh underground. Today, still wanted by the government, she survives as a soldier of history. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find her, maybe you can have a cup of tea & a chat about the French Wars of Religion.


Now that's cool. Found here.

Net Notes

An interesting graphic showing, for any search, the comparative breadth of responses from Google and from Yahoo search can be found here.

Speaking of searching, a Firefox addon called TrackMeNot obscures your true history on the net, making outside identification of your actual searches more difficult.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pack Behavior

Now, here's something that I think Dick Cheney would like, which gives a pretty good indicator of what I think about it. Though I do have to admit -- the technology is intriguing....

Phoney

From an article about Verizon employees peeking at Obama's phone records without cause:

While this appears to be little more than a case of bad behavior, it does highlight again the issue of telecom spying –and sharing with the NSA – on customer data. Obama supported legislation giving telecom companies immunity from lawsuits for such transfers

Ouch!

RoboKid


This article is two years old -- but still, pretty neat. Things like this fascinate me.

Nix Nix? Not So Fast

Microfinance is a fascinating concept. You take someone who has a little extra money, and you arrange for them to loan it to someone who just needs a little extra, charge them a fairly low interest rate (possibly higher than an established bank would, to compensate for the risk, but possibly not, because people don't get into microfinance to make money), and both sides are happy (assuming that the loan's paid back).

Nix is microfinance, too, but not that kind. Nix, which was featured in an article in the New York Times Magazine, runs a chain of payday paycheck cashing stores. They charge a lot of money for their services - sometimes usurious rates, in fact. But - and like someone who eats fast food all the time, this is a big but -- they're clean, honest, upfront about exactly what they're going to charge you, and friendly. They'll cash checks for you that others might not, and they accept post-dated checks. Their customers tend to be low-income people, but they're not stupid. They know that they're paying a lot. Perhaps they've not done the math, but when you talk to them about it, they display a realization of the difference between doing their banking at Nix rather than a conventional bank. This realization does not lead them to the conventional bank, though. They like Nix, and they trust them. That 'upfront' about the charges and fees, that willingness to accept nontraditional checks -- it counts for a lot.

When I was growing up, one of the neighborhoods where we lived was populated by low-income people (including us). Not poor, as a rule, but paycheck to paycheck types. Over time, I saw the neighborhood gradually deteriorate. It was when I saw some 'Cash Checks' storefronts arrive, though, that I thought 'this area is going downhill'. Those places aren't good news. The truth is, neither is Nix. They really are taking advantage of the people who use their services. Yet those people, most of them, do so willingly, and continue to do it even when alternatives exist. They know what to expect from Nix, and they can live with it.

It's not a pretty financial case study, but you know what? It works. Its the real world, not an HBR case study, and it works.

Readings

Reading is a little bit unsettling, today.

It started with the thermometer, which read about 28 degrees. It'll get colder, but 28? Thats late December, early January temperatures. I bundled up going out, which was fine for while we were in the car, but then in church, I got almost dizzy from the warmth. They need coat hooks.

Then the reading of the homily was very depressing -- about a child, lying in the dirt of a destroyed village, whimpering in pain, trying to crawl for food, surrounded by dead and dying villagers. It ended well, but the imagery, coupled with the warmth -- shaky.

After we got home, I read the Sunday Post, where I read about a woman who's a third year medical student, who supports the 'right to choose'. She's not sure she'd be willing to perform abortions, though. At first I thought 'well, what kind of belief is that? If you support it, you should do them' -- and then I thought about the concepts that I support where I don't actually do anything to support them. More uncomfortable feelings.

And finally, an article about a decommissioned Minuteman Launch Control Center in North Dakota, much like the one I used to work in, with this phrase " The floor on which you stand, gazing at the desks full of ancient electronics...." and I think Well, it was old stuff, even when we used it -- but ancient? Gag me with a .... cane.

Maybe I ought to just quit reading for a while, hmmm?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reckless

Apparently, the Dalai Lama didn't say "Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." Pity. I kind of like the image.

Yup




You Belong in the Baby Boomer Generation



You fit in best with people born between 1943 and 1960.

You are optimistic, rebellious, and even a little self centered.

You still believe that you will change the world.

You detest authority and rules. Deep down, you're a non conformist.

Sky Phenomena

If I saw skies like these in my neighborhood, I'd give serious thought to evacuating the neighborhood, post-haste -- or at least reading up right quick about the End Of Days.

Expectations of Government

I thought this brief article about Obama and the media was interesting.

I was thinking the other day about what a transparent government would look like, feel like -- or even what is meant by 'a transparent government'. For example: Principles of This Government. What would be the result of having an unambiguous statement that says The United States Does Not Do XXXXX..... and then having it turn out that actually, we do do it - broadly, or once in a while, or by someone who decided to do it anyway, or by someone who was 'doing it on our behalf'. Would the broad, clear statements be believed any past that point? That suggests that the broad, clear statements might be better phrased with qualifications - The United States Does Not Do XXXXX Except When...- but then, would that mean that people would think they're just giving themselves an out for when they WANT to do it. That's the problem with unambiguous, even qualified unambiguous, statements. They're either flat-out true, or they're weasel-worded. Even flat-out true ones can be disregarded, as Bush showed. Damn principles.

So what about things we know are problems? For example: Health Care. (Ah, but does everyone think thats a problem? Most people? And most people, or 'most people whose opinion we care about'? Um. Okay, then: The Economy. Everything agrees, thats a problem. Hell, even John McCain agrees (or at least he did; lord knows what he thinks now). But lets say that the government says This is a problem, and here's what we're going to do. Well, unless its just pabulum - we're gonna do really neat stuff, you bet -- then they're taking the chance of just putting a target out there for special interests and lobbyists to take shots at. Unless they can simultaneously energise the people who care, so as to generate support, at the same time that they're energising the opposition to fight the specific actions -- well, the feeling might well be 'keep it at the pabulum level'. Which wouldn't be very transparent, to my mind.

Am I expecting too much?

Logo

I came across this page offering 'dorm room furniture' which includes the logos of professional teams, always a good design statement. Got to wondering: what would a non-sports freak adult find desirable as a logo for furniture? It'd have to be something motivational (makes you feel good), without being stupid or hokey (not that the person who felt good would think it was stupid or hokey, but others might).

Something like - this?

The Prince Of Pumpkinshire

This is worth reading.

Titles

I'm sitting at the desktop PC, making backups of the photo files that are on the external hard drive. It used to be that we thought of that site as inviolate, but since my daughter asked to look at it so that she could find photos for her Facebook...well, when its gone, its gone. Better make a backup.

While the backups are running, I'm using Stumbleupon to cruise through various sites. Every so often, you come across one with a title that makes you stop and say Did I Read That Right? Usually, not -- sometimes, though.... Like this one, found here -

Turn Your Vagina Into A Vice Grip

Friday, November 21, 2008

Analyze THIS

I love 'analysts'. From CNN:

As the United States writhes in a collapsing economy, analysts and observers are wondering: Who's skippering the ship?

Neither Barack Obama nor President Bush has been visible in efforts to save the sinking economy. President Bush has been noticeably absent from the machinations aimed at righting the nation's financial course. Analysts and key players differ over whether President-elect Barack Obama should get his economic team in place and take charge, or sit back and await his turn at the helm.

As Andrew Shepherd said, the view's pretty good from the cheap seats.

Homeless

Well, it looks like I'm going to be Santa at a Christmas celebration for homeless kids. Got to say, the picture of the kids, from last year's event, won me over. Who couldn't like kids like that?

Update: I learned that some of these kids... don't speak English. They have an interpreter come along. Not sure how I'm going to communicate with them, so I asked if there are any useful phrases I can learn to say. We'll see.

Image

I in no way look like this - well, except for the gender, thats about it -- but I'd like to.

Found here.

Credit Me This

I was just reading an article from last week's Washington Post about whats going on with credit cards. In a nutshell, it comes down to 'the card companies are looking for any reason to charge you more money. Any reason at all.' Reasons include the ones you'd consider reasonable, and then theres ones like 'you shop at a store where people frequently don't pay their bills on time', 'you live in an area where there have been multiple home foreclosures', 'you refused to pay for something on one credit card, so a different credit card is going to charge you more interest'.

We don't pay interest. Each month, we look at the bill that's coming (we go to the credit card company's site to see it before its even mailed out), checking how much its for and when it will be due. We mark on a calendar on the laptop when it's due, and then we back up a week and pay it then, transferring it electronically from my checking account. (That last bit came after we came this close to missing a payment once, when we used to mail in the payments, thought 'well, we can just pay electronically', and found that there's a fairly big fee to do that on the due date.) We use the card for routine purchases, and also to automatically pay some recurring bills -- utilities, cable, that sort of thing - but we don't use the credit card for anything else -- no cash transfers, none of that. We don't pay any fees, either. We'd actually be willing to pay one, because the convenience is helpful. We're not going to volunteer to do it, but if we learn that we're going to have to pay a fee because we use their service and never pay interest, that'd be okay. I figure, the way things are going, we're due.

I understand that for years Democrats have wanted to impose more stringent regulations on credit card companies, so that they cannot increase interest rates when someone misses a payment -- missing is bad, I agree, but the logic of you couldn't pay that so we're going to charge you more has never made sense to me. The vigorous Congressional Interface Service Agents (aka lobbyists) for the card issuers have successfully fought that off, thus far. I'd actually like to hear someone defend that practice -- I could use a laugh.

Now, with a Democratic administration coming in -- we'll see how that goes. My guess is, not too well.

Snowberries

Newsweek

"Barack Obama had a gift, and he knew it. He had a way of making very smart, very accomplished people feel virtuous just by wanting to help Barack Obama."

-- from part 1 of Newsweek 7 part article on the campaign and the election.

Friday Notes

First off -- there's snow on the deck! Not a lot, it'll be gone soon, but still -- snow! And did I immediately go see if there was a snow delay? You know it.

Second, when I went to see if the snow was on the front of the house too, I noticed that when I turned on the Christmas lights last night to show my wife and get her opinion, I forgot to turn them off. So this year WE are the idiots who had Christmas lights up and on before Thanksgiving. (But they do look nice...)

And third, if you like Darth Vader, odds are, you'll really like this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Say Tomato

I say two million cheese pizzas a week.... Let's hear it for UK ingenuity!

Passwords

When I configured my daughter's new PC, I told her that I had created two IDs on it -- mine and hers -- as administrators. I said that the PC was her responsibility, and that I would not maintain it -- this id was just for me to use in configuring it, and once that was done, she could do what she wanted with it.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to look at the Cybersitter product, which isn't blocking anything but is doing logging of her activities. I didn't find it. Thats odd, I thought, but what the heck -- I ran the install again, and this time I remembered to put a password on the signon screen. This morning, I went to fix a problem she'd had yesterday -- and my ID wasn't on the PC any more. Hmm....okay, thats fine with me. I told her that its her PC, and that if there are problems, she gets to fix them. I won't be able to because she deleted my ID, and likely I won't want to, for the same reason.

I didn't tell her that I know another way to get in. Let it be a learning experience for her.

DaNooz

I'm starting to feel as if reading the news is just an exercise in depression.

If its not people expressing alarm that a terrorist called our President-elect a dirty name, its the financial market saying Thats not enough, we need more, and faster, too. And the automakers, too, and their own chorus of Too Big To Fail! Too Big To Fail! If its not pirates hijacking oil tankers, its other countries being unhappy with something we did or didn't do, or did but didn't do enough of, or did but not fast enough, or too fast. You know: just generally unhappy with us. And then there's the recurring article about the astronaut who lost a tool bag -- guess the idea of tie it with a cord or something hasn't made it to the checklists yet.

None of this makes me happier. I'd love to hear more about what Obama's up to, but the determined will she won't she can she should she about Hillary and Secretary of Statehood -- that gives me nothing. Heck, I could offer opinions, too, and they'd be worth about as much.

So I think that, for a while, I'm swearing off the news. Hope this doesn't distress anyone.

This Isn't Me


....but I know the feeling.

From the Everyday People site --

Getting a Leg Up

In the midst of this angst and general ticked-off-ness of my dental problems, it's nice to have something go well. In fact, its damned nice. It reminds me that not everything is bleak or grim.

About two weeks ago, I decided to try, again, to get to my feet from a kneeling position without leaning on anything. And for the first time in months, I did it. In fact, I did it three times in a row, that day. Since then, just about every day, I've made a point to get down and get back up again. It isn't always graceful (okay, hardly ever), but I can do it. Not being able to was helping me feel old and decrepit; being able to makes me feel like things do get better. I don't expect much from my body, and sometimes I think I expect too little, but being able to get to a standing position on my own -- well, yeah, thats one of the things I do expect.

A side benefit is that I find I can put my socks on easier. I'd had to resort to stratagems to get my left sock on -- sometimes stretching for five minutes, sometimes using a grabber device to hold the sock while I wriggled my foot into it, sometimes just saying ah, the hell with it, and going sockless. Now, most times, I can just do it -- with a little effort, but I can do it. I have no idea what the physiology is such that a stronger muscle to lift myself from a kneeling position translates into being more limber when getting dressed, but its a nice side benefit.

Maybe there is hope in the world, hmmm? Just a little bit?

Musing.

It's a little after midnight, and I'm wide awake. I had gone to sleep very early, which is my usual response to feeling put upon and much abused - its an extension of 'if you are under the sheets, the monster can't get you'; in this case, its 'if you are under the sheets, then when you come out again, the Bad Things will have gone away'. Usually, they haven't, but sleeping puts me in a better frame of mind. Usually. I still feel like a sucker for this dental thing. I know that's not completely logical, but when have I ever been?

It may come as a surprise to the few people who read this blog, but I was never particularly good at meeting girls. I could speculate on why, but I'm going to skip that and instead point to a nifty article I came upon here with this great title: The principles of nuclear weapon safety and meeting girls are remarkably similar. I suspect theres a lot to that. Warning protocols, strict procedures, the possibility of devastation -- yes, it sounds much like teen dating. That article is the only place where I've seen funny references to the Two Man Rule and Permissive Action Links.

Some years ago, I was reading a political novel -- I don't recall the name of it, but it had been highly praised for its style and use of language; I got through about a third of it before giving up, deciding that the author was very good at being arch and condescending, but that wasn't what I was looking for at the time. Actually, my view of what political novels should be has been cast in stone for some time: Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury, was the first one I ever read (I was about 13, I think), and I was fascinated to learn what politics and statesmen were really like behind the closed doors and in the smoke-filled rooms. It wasn't until much later that I found out how much Drury slanted attitudes and images, so that a blind man facing the other way uphill could still tell who he thought were the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. In any event -- that short-lived novel had a sequence wherein the solons (that was the kind of word the book would use; nobody in the real world except William F. Buckley would use it, but I was supposed to believe this was how the leaderships spoke casually) were discussing how to promote a cause so that there appeared to be a groundswell of support for it. One said that he'd get their pet columnists to write articles about it, from varying perspectives that nonetheless lead to the same conclusion. I thought of that when I came across the third article today about how whether the automakers get a bailout ought to be affected by how much they pay their workers: the more they pay, the less they're worthy of having one. Multiple people from different perspectives saying the same thing. Gee, I thought: solons at work?

I do get the sense of people bellying up to the trough, though.

Thank You For Voting

Now that I've got all this experience in being a polls judge, I am of course at least as qualified as anyone else to comment about and rule on the status of disputed ballots -- which is why I found this short quiz on the subject, using actual submitted ballots from the Minnesota Senate race, to be of interest. They have images of eleven cast ballots, with the question: who gets the vote?

Incidentally, wise people can disagree - my conclusion was the same as the majority in 9, not in 2. Apparently, there are people who ought not to be trusted with a number 2 pencil and an oval -- though I do like the guy who persistently voted for The Lizard People.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Four Things I Want. No, Five.

Recovery options in Blogger, in particular their Autosave, suck. I think if there was one thing that would drive me to a different platform, that would be it. Speaking as someone who has once again lost most of a post because something I was typing got interpreted as Select All/ Delete/ Save!!! I wish I could just turn that stupid option off.

Today was Christmas for my daughter -- she is now the prime owner of a shiny new Dell Inspiron 1525 widescreen laptop. We promised her one for highschool, and this week, the old one essentially gave up the ghost. I spent the last hour configuring the new one -- thinking wistfully of the article I read today which said, essentially, yes, Apple's cost more -- but look what you get for it. It just works. I don't have current familiarity with a Mac, but seeing the Vista layout -- they really don't want you messing with the innards -- I think that their designers know exactly what a Mac looks like. To be fair, they did some things well -- and others, not too terribly well. Would it kill you guys to have user-customizable program menus? I keep saying next one's a Mac...

Tomorrow I see the oral surgeon again. He'll be taking out the emergency stitches he put in yesterday ( he didn't call it an emergency, but his nurse's eyes widened when she saw how much blood flowed from my mouth when I pulled out the most recent blood-soaked pack of gauze). He'll also be carving holes into my temporary upper plate so that it will fit around the four implants with abutments, and over the two that are just the implant. I hope this will mean I can eat with the damn thing. It seems like every time we reach a stage in this process, there's A Problem, and I lose whatever I was just able to do, for a while. For the last seven months, I could eat most things -- no hotdogs, nothing that required serious chewing, but just about anything else -- I wasn't supposed to eat with the thing in (here's something they don't tell you up front: when a dentist says 'you'll be able to use that temporary plate, ask if you can EAT with it. Odds are, the answer will be Oh, No.) but with it out, I could. Now, with four posts sticking out of my gum, I can't do either one. Dammit, I just want this the hell done.

I see where Bush is taking senior appointees and turning them into senior Civil Servants -- which means they can't be fired. Bastard. I think they all ought to become parking lot attendants and coffee-cart pushers.
Oh, do I want him and his scurvy crew gone.

And Lieberman, too. That worm.


Blip!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Look

Want to bet Sasha and Malia know it?

Dumbness and Compensation

I feel like buying something expensive to compensate for the flaming fandango that this implant thing is becoming.

I won't, because a) its a stupid idea, and b) I'm not a person who buys expensive things.

But I'd like to. Plasma TV (that I'd rarely watch). Very nice suit (that I'd rarely wear). Replacement stereo equipment for the den (that I'd rarely use).

Something like that.

Well, Heck

The good news is, of the eight implants, four worked. The bad news is, four didn't. The oral surgeon expected one, possibly two, would fail. Four struck him as quite unusual. Lucky me.

For all four implants that failed, the bone was augmented by bovine bone. Apparently, my body doesn't like that. Two were immediately replaced with human bone; for the other two, apparently that wasn't an option, though I'm not sure why. The device can work with six implants -- but its going to be another six or eight months until the new ones fuse with the bone, and the damn device can be installed. At least, until the next damn problem surfaces.

The sedative, that I was concerned about, turned out to be a total non-issue. I was awake, but in a different plane of existence.

Oh, and afterwards I learned -- don't let the dentist nick your palatal artery. It won't show up as an immediate problem, because epinephrine will effectively constrict it, and blood won't flow (who knew?), but afterwards, when the drug wears off, the artery will not stop bleeding on its own, no matter how much gauze you stuff in your mouth. Though the resulting muffled voice is good for doing Marlon Brando impressions.

Two stitches later, I'm okay, though, for some reason, rather grumpy.

Wheelin'

I'm not a user of the iGoogle interface....but for this, I'd almost consider it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Medical Reading

The other day, I was talking with my daughter while we were going to color guard. She mentioned coming across a television program about surgery. I winced. I don't like to watch that kind of stuff, I admitted. She was surprised. "You read about anatomy and stuff all the time", she said. I demurred. "Only if its someone else. I don't want to know what someone is doing if they're doing it to my personal body. I don't even want to be in the room when they're doing it." She was doubtful.

Which is why, though I just spent the last half hour reading articles about Dental Implants and Abutments, including looking at pictures of jaws with little tiny pieces of metal sticking up from the tissue atop the jaw (ugh) so that I now can sound fairly knowledgeable about the process, I'm not going to tell her about it. It'll just be a secret.

I know what they're going to do, and I can see why it's likely not that big a deal. Still freaking out just a bit about it, though.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Loneliness

I've been enlarging the scope of the sites that I look at with the StumbleUpon tool. One that I just found is Vervephoto. This is one of the photographs on that site, and part of its caption.

Chad Stevens

“For my final project as an undergraduate photojournalism student, I worked on a photo essay on loneliness, trying to define it, see it, and, in the end, feel it.... Victoria, a resident of a nursing home in rural Kentucky, found the cure to her loneliness in a child’s doll. In this moment I saw the parallels of the beginning of life and the end of life, between death and birth.”

Seeing Victoria, I thought of the little girl she once was, and I felt sad. I wanted to do something for her.

Fascinating

Okay, geekishly fascinating, but still...

Expectations and Ruminations

My daughter's friend's mother said her daughter freaks if she doesn't get an A in everything, every time. Whereas my daughter.....

(sigh)

Walking and Talking

I just got back from a short walk with my wife. On the walk, we talked about an article I'm reading - finally - that was published in the New Yorker in September of this year, on the topic of General Petraeus and our strategy in Iraq -- the assumptions and calculations that drove and drive it. Towards the end, we segued into talking about the election, and the debates, mulling over the actions and statements of each of the contenders.

It was a most enjoyable walk.

Wimpin'

Proof of my essential wimpiness:

On Monday, I'm having some dental surgery done. This is the last step with the surgeon (though not the last in the process). He'll be opening my gums over where the implant sockets were installed, suturing down around the sockets, and installing a 'healing cap' into each socket to cover it while the gums heal from the cutting and suturing. Okay, fine, I've had worse done. NBD. Except for one detail.

This time, I'll be awake.

I'll be sedated, and they swear I won't feel anything, but I'll be able to tell when they're having at me. Any stray comments they make, I'll hear. What I'm hoping is that they're planning on giving me not just pain medicine, but actual I don't care, I'm not even here meds. The kind of thing when you really don't care what they're doing. Oh, look, they're coming at me with a huge knife! What a pretty knife! But I doubt it. I think I'll be very much aware of whats happening, and my hyperactive imagination will supply the pain that my body can't actually feel.

What a wimp.

Going for a Spin

Good Cop, Bad Cop

I learned years ago that when my daughter was seriously upset about something -- say, at the crying stage, or just before -- the best thing I could do would be to sit there, next to her, speaking quietly but not provocatively. After she stopped actively crying, I would try to get her to laugh, which eased her transition from the depression. When she got old enough to realize that I would do this, she'd refuse to let me into her room when she was unhappy, and I'd respect that -- but when it sounded like she was calming, I'd ask her innocuous questions through the door, and simply the effort of answering -- even Go Away! - would start her back toward normality.

I thought about that this morning when -- after a breakfast in which she was in a great mood, teasing and laughing -- she abruptly melted down because a) she could only find one pink Tshirt, and she knew she had put two others in the wash, and b) she could not find the pants-- you know, the grey ones! -- that she wanted. My wife tends to take the rational approach -- did you look in the pile of clothes I put on your pillow? how about downstairs? -- which only works if she's already calm. I stay out of it, but once she's already had the meltdown, I offer alternatives, all of which will -- I can count on this -- be rejected, but once again, will get her into the mode of thinking and responding rationally -- well, semi-rationally.

Just now, she's informed me that there was no way she could get to the school, where she needs to be by twelve, in time unless we left at eleven (its ten minutes from here to the house of the girl we pick up, ten minutes there to get her into the van, and fifteen minutes from there to the school). Once she'd expressed her amazement that we couldn't do the math, I quietly offered to pick up the girl first, then stop by our house, pick up my presumably-pants-wearing daughter, and get to the school. Grudgingly, she accepted that this might work. Meanwhile, my wife hunted through her room for the pants - which she didn't find, but two Sharpies we'd lost, as well as a scotch-tape dispenser, did turn up. Oh, and in there, calm again, she told us that she found one of the missing shirts. We didn't ask where.

Good parent, bad parent.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ah, Capella

Comments

I think we leave comments to articles we care about to say 'I agree', or 'here is something you forgot', or 'I disagree, and this is why'. Sometimes, its just to say 'I was here', and sometimes, its to say something thats irrelevant to the topic but relevant in your own eyes.

I wish you could filter comments -- don't show me ones that have a high percentage of words like pitiful, failed, lame. And 'fucking'. That really doesn't add anything, guys. Or let me tag comments as 'don't show', with software to do a neural-net analysis of the post, and scrubbing ones that look a lot like it. Though I'd think that every so often it should show them anyway -- maybe a (64 similar comments) trailer after the first one?

Most personal sites, including this one, aren't able to be consistently interesting, let alone, worthy of comments.

Mean Santa

I've mentioned on occasion that I play Santa at a local hospital each year. Its not a big deal -- about three hours at a Christmas party for the staff and their kids. I used to do it at EDS, but stopped when I felt like they were using me -- they stopped thanking me for coming, and at the end of the session, they'd troop over for their own personal photos, and assumed I'd be willing to hang around for as long as those took to do. Multiple shots, too.

Yesterday, I was at EDS, having lunch with my wife, when the woman who organizes this (and was the prime offender in not thanking and such) saw me. She said that the guy who had been doing it for the last six or seven years had hurt his foot, and would I be willing to do it. Well, I still sulk a little about that, but what the heck -- I said I'd check my calendar at home to make sure it wasn't the same day as the hospital one. It wasn't, so I said I would do it. Then, in the reply, she said that she passed my name to someone else organizing a different event that had used the same guy. I didn't like that. I know, its unreasonable, but I felt that I was volunteering for one, not multiple. It would have been better to tell me, and ask if I would be willing, before passing it on.

Now I find that this other event is for kids in middle school who are homeless. And (I hate saying this) that creeps me out. Homeless kids? Part of it is, the idea of homeless people creeps me out, period. I hate that we've died so much as a society that this is considered normal. And then, kids being homeless -- holy crap, how is that even possible? Well, this is how: the idea of homeless kids creeps me out so much that I just don't want to do it. Oh, if they call and ask, I probably will -- I'll wimp out -- but the idea of it just -- argh. I don't even want to acknowledge that homeless kids is possible.

Which I'll bet is much of why we can consider homelessness to be normal.

Extending the Brand

An article in the Chicago Tribune addresses the issue of integration -- this time, of merging the Obama campaign network into the Democratic Party. As they put it, "(I)t is no simple task to convert an insurgency into a standing army."

The problem arises from the extraordinary allegiance and devotion that the crew of Obama supporters gave to Barack Obama and his candidacy. They likely would have voted Democratic anyway, most of them, but out of habit rather than enthusiasm. It was Obama who brought them out of their chairs, applauding, whistling, and stomping their feet, and thats who they admire and support, not the Democrats as a whole. Now the DNC wants to capture that magic for itself. They want people to view"Democrat" with the same adulation as they see "Obama"; they want to tap the extraordinary fundraising network that Obama built, and use it to fund DNC needs, including paying back debts that the DNC incurred on behalf of the Obama and other campaigns. The grassroots is not buying it; intellectually, they realize that its probably a defensible idea, but emotionally, it was and is 'Obama' that's the star, not 'Democratic Party'.

Its an interesting article, and an interesting problem. Make a good Harvard Business Review article, I'd say - and a good opportunity to see the Obama style of management in action.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coffee

I'm not a big coffee drinker. I have more of it now than when I worked -- partially because, with only one of us hustling to get out in the morning, its easier for the other to make it. Partially, because the new coffee maker does it faster than the old one -- we can get two cups of coffee from zero to done in about six minutes, and since it also has a timer, we can set up the night before and have it ready when we come out.

When I worked, I almost never drank it at the office. I liked to say that I never did because it kept me awake there, which, unfortunately for me, was one of those jokes where the recipient knows that you're telling a joke, and they should laugh, but they don't see whats funny about what you said. Every so often, you'd see them think 'ooohhh...he said Keeps him awake AT THE OFFICE, I get it now', and then they really WOULD laugh, but not usually. Didn't help that the coffee at the office usually wasn't that good. Some of my wife's coworkers will bring in their own coffee, brew it in a separate pot, and just drink that, and they'll even have discussions about it -- So, what did you think? Ah, it was okay, but it was a little too acidic for me, know what I mean? That was about it. I know that coffee freaks can get way more intense than that.

With our old home coffee maker, we had a note taped to the machine about how much grounds and water to use to get two cups; this one, we usually have luck just doing what they said to do -- four cups of water plus three tablespoons of coffee will make two plus cups of coffee. (My cups are bigger than my wife's; plus, she likes to dump a lot of milk into hers.) The taste varies -- the 'mouth feel' is different, batch to batch, though we'd swear we made it the same way as the last time. If I believed in ISO9000 (which I don't), I'd think this would be a good test case for that process. As it is, we just do the ritual 'Coffee taste okay?' question each morning, and leave it at that.

Whoops, gotta go, its getting cold.

Sitting

Andy Kauffman used to do a comedy routine where he would talk about being really, really poor. His family took pride in the fact that they didn't have much, but they did have - a chair. "And then later", he'd say, "we got to go inside, and that was pretty good. Inside, and a chair too, imagine!"

We have four people living in this house, and we have a mess of chairs -- three at the kitchen table, four at the dining room table, two extras in the dining room, one in our bedroom, two in the spare bedroom (one of which is a repository for clothes to be mended), two in the den (one rocker, one pull-out couch), two in my mother's living room, plus a couch, and one in her bedroom. Plus three canvas-back fold out chairs that usually are in a hall closet. And this is just for four people.

I've been in two wealthy people's homes -- one, a local resident, and the other, my wife's uncle. Both of those had chairs all over the place, frequently arranged in artistic groupings, as if you'd be walking along with two or three other people and suddenly get the urge to just sit. In commercial settings, there's nothing so mind-numbing to me as the sight of a ballroom full of chairs that's set up for a presentation or conference. Where do they keep all those chairs, normally, I wonder. I think of some mammoth Cave of Abandoned Chairs, somewhere under the building.

Life will be different when we're genetically modified so that we can 'lock' ourselves into a stable position, and not need chairs any more, I think. Or when holographic load-bearing chairs are invented.

Until then - have a seat. Take a load off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Choices

Okay, I'm weird. I think this is funny.

Contact Juggling?

I'd pay to see this in person.

Knelt

A little bit ago, I knelt on the carpet in the bedroom, and then stood up. A minute later I did it again. And five minutes afterward, again...though I did stagger, the last time. At no time -- well, except the third, at the very end -- did I lean on anything.

This is a moderately big deal. I have not been able to do that - get up from floor level without leaning on something - since last December, when I broke my hip. This afternoon, I thought Dammit, I'm going to try...again.

And this time, I did.

Spending

We have a small food processor -- a Kitchen Aid KFP350. It'll hold five cups, which is enough for about 90% of the things we want to do. Yesterday, while I was mixing the dough for the biscuits (turned out I could have just done it in the mixer, I think, or even by hand), I heard a little clink sound, and the machine wouldn't turn on. The little tab on the bowl that pushes down the interlock when the bowl's cover is on had snapped off. I was able to make the machine work by just holding down the interlock with my finger. Afterwards, I did a little bit of looking for replacement parts.

Well, first off, it looks like they don't make that thing any more. Hardly a surprise; we tend to keep things for a while. When something breaks, we try to fix it rather than get a new one. I checked out some sites that offered parts for it, and was surprised to find that the bowl was twenty dollars -- and a similar new model was only sixty! My wife was willing to spend that, but I wasn't. Twenty dollars, just to get a little bitty piece of plastic? (And how come its plastic, anyway -- why wasn't that reinforced?) So this morning, I got out the superglue (always dangerous, with me), and carefully glued the piece on, taping it in place. We'll see this afternoon if it holds up.

While I was looking, I glanced at some newer ones. Gee, I thought, that seven cup one for $110 is neat -- and the twelve cup one, for $200, that would be even better. This, for a family that normally needs no more than 5 cups? And isn't willing to spend $20 to fix it?

Sometimes, my economic motivations don't make sense to me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Elegance

Achieving a balance between functionality and elegance can be done, but it's difficult. Most times, we err on the side of well, if one button is good, ten would be better... as this illustration, found here, shows quite nicely.

Biscuits

I was in the mood to bake today, so I tried a 'quick recipe' that I'd come across, which can be found here.

It's pretty simple, and overall takes about an hour. Basically, you mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cold butter cubes in a food processer, then mix in cold buttermilk to form a somewhat soupy dough that you then form into biscuits, coating them lightly with flour as you go. They bake for about twenty minutes at a high temperature. I've had better, but I've never made better.

I'd show you a picture, but they're all, um, gone.Expanding...

VDay

Today is Veteran's Day in the US -- or as a bumper sticker I saw said "If you can read this, thank a teacher...and if you can read it in English, thank a veteran". I wonder if the people who excel at communications via Twitter write bumper stickers in their spare time?

An article mentions that tickets to the inauguration, which are supposed to be free to the public, and are still locked up, are nevertheless being sold by brokers -- or as the article put it, 'the promise of a ticket' is being sold. For up to ten thousand dollars a pop. Selling something that's supposed to be free...that you don't actually have... for a huge amount of money -- now I know what the Wall Streeters are doing while they wait for their chunk of the bail-out money. I'm sure they regard this as just the market, baby!

Last night I dreamt that for reasons unknown, I had to answer four questions as part of a Jewish ritual; all four questions were answered by one word, same for each question, but for the first four letters of the word. I had no clue, so of course I went to do research in the Room of Bad Ideas, which was in a building that looking remarkably like the central branch of the New York Public Library, but was actually a combination temple, yeshiva, and sleeping area; the ROBI was where everybody documented things they'd done that wasn't a good idea. I was in particular looking for the ideas left by my friend who died a few years ago, since she knew what the words were -- only they'd rearranged the building, and I couldn't find it. Uh....

Got to stop eating those anchovies before sleeping.


Monday, November 10, 2008

You've Got Mail!!!

According to an article in today's Washington Post, the Obama campaign, whose email network exceeds ten million people, is working on a number of plans to change their web presence into an ongoing tool to inform as well as persuade. I found two comments in the article particularly interesting --

" The (email) list is considered so valuable that the Obama camp briefly offered it as collateral during a cash-flow crunch late in the campaign..."

I don't believe I'd have liked finding out that my contributions to and support of the Obama campaign made my contact information a commodity to be sold at will. I can get that kind of callous treatment anywhere.

"Accordingly, the president-elect's http://www.change.gov transition Web site features a blog and a suggestion form, signaling the kinds of direct and instantaneous interaction that the Obama administration will encourage, perhaps with an eye toward turning its following into the biggest special-interest group in Washington. Once Obama is sworn in, those backers may be summoned to push reluctant members of Congress to support legislation, to offer feedback on initiatives and to enlist in administration-supported causes in local communities. Obama would also be positioned to ask his supporters to back his favored candidates with fundraising and turnout support in the 2010 midterm elections."

I don't care too much for that idea, either. If they're using it to inform me about things that I've said I care about, or tell me generally what they're doing; cool. It's when it becomes the Voice of the Government that it sounds... scary. (I put it to my Bush filter: How would I feel if Bush did this? And the instant result was: Pissed off as all hell.")

Ding!

Hmmm......

Monday: Chill, Bill

Some minor events, minor thoughts.

I see where AIG is going to get yet another bailout -- apparently, they've managed to make a serious dent in the money they've already gotten. You've got to wonder how much of that is going to the lavish lifestyle their executives think is normal. As they used to say (decades ago) about Castro: If only Barack knew about this! I'd echo the comment made by one of the late-night comedians to the effect that it would be okay with me if Obama started work now. Which is unfair, in so many ways, to him; I do know that.

I see where Barack is abruptly a popular name for new children. Barack Timothy McShaughnessy, get in here and eat your pork and beans! It amazes me, how much faith we're putting into this guy -- and I'm a true believer in the cult of O. If he can pull it off -- if he can pull even a substantial portion of it off -- we ought to look into doing something really, really nice for him. I thought 'well, what about repealing the twenty-second amendment', but that'd likely not be a gift he'd want. First prize, two terms as President. Second prize, three terms as President. But really -- he's given us so much already -- has any other new President in recent memory given this sense of possibility?

Speaking of being Presidential (which used to be a good thing), I see where there's been a secret executive order for years saying that the military can attack Al Qaeda where ever they are, whether or not the local government says its okay. I have to so, thats okay with me. I am as un-fond of secret executive this and that as the next person; eight years of Bush's attitude have rubbed that raw. But in this case -- sure, go right ahead.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Partially Submerged, Somewhat Deranged.

If someone could tell me what the heck this picture is trying to convey, I would appreciate it. This one, too.

Flars


My wife liked what I did as a judge, and how seriously I took it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Questionable Content


I like the QC strip, but this one, I really liked.

Are We There Yet?

So, its been four days.

I've seen articles saying that this is great, the millennium has come, peace and joy shall spread through the world. I've seen articles saying this is great, but it should have happened decades ago, and anyway there's still lots of intolerance and injustice in the world; what's Obama going to do about that? I've seen articles that say that Sarah Palin is clearly the future of the Republican party, and others that say she's the reason McCain lost. I just saw one that says Gingrich is the only one who can unite the party.

We surely do love our fast fixes, in this country.
From The Pain Comics:

I am now called on to experience emotions that have become unfamiliar and confusing from disuse, like pride in my country, and faith in my fellow man. My colleague Sarah Glidden told me she was thrilled to see a spontaneous crowd in the streets of Brooklyn unfurl a giant American flag and chant, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”--a spectacle that has previously only repelled her, since for the last eight years it’s generally meant that someone, somewhere in the world, was getting killed. Last night I was walking through a rain-sheened Union Square and found myself thinking, I’m pretty sure for the first time ever: “This really is the greatest country in the world.” Watching Obama’s speech Tuesday night, hearing him talk about America as a beacon of hope, an example to the world—and knowing that the rest of the world really was watching, and that maybe just this once, it was really true--I realized that some part of me never stopped believing in all that crap. I am reminded, embarrassingly, of the one scene I found moving in the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the Pevensie children meet the earliest and greatest of childhood myths, Father Christmas himself, looking like some splendid medieval lord, and Lucy, the youngest, smiles with quiet vindication and says: “I told you he was real.”

Slick

I came across an interesting piece of trivia on the New Scientist web site.

According to this article, mako sharks, which can move very quickly, can raise welts on their skin, creating a rough sandpaper-like finish. When the shark is moving, these welts cause small vortices to be created in the spaces between the welts; the vortices, in turn, create a small 'buffer layer' of water between the shark and the great body of water, reducing the amount of turbulence between the moving shark and the mass of water. Since wake turbulence has a lower pressure than the rest of the water, it tends to slow the moving shark down; reducing the turbulence removes that drag, so that the shark can move faster.

Who knew sharks were so smart?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bang, You're It

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An 8-year-boy is accused of fatally shooting his father and another man in eastern Arizona.

St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick says the boy is charged with two counts of premeditated murder after the shootings Wednesday.

Melnick says the boy initially denied involvement but later confessed.

Now, you know the constitutional amendment that immediately comes to my mind, but I think hey. Cut them some slack. This is Arizona, where guns are more common than in other places. Having a gun, out there - well, it's just part of the culture. Hunting varmints, all of that. No big deal.

But why did an eight year old kid have access to it?

...and the results are in.

After a first interim report card where my daughter got a C in one course, and a second where she got a very low B, she managed to squeak by and get Second Honors for the actual marking period. And when I say squeak by, I mean it -- two As, and three B's that were at the absolute bottom for a B - one point less and they'd have been Cs. So, she still needs to improve. But she did do it, when I feared she wouldn't, and that pleases me. I know she was nervous about it, and I know I contributed to that nervousness.

I don't like scaring her, but I don't know what else to do. It seems to me (still) that in our schools, the kids and the parents are basically on their own to figure out what works, and what doesn't. Okay, all kids are different. But still. Why do you have to figure this stuff out (when you can) for yourself? Why aren't the 'guidance' counselors offering sage, time-tested advice based on their experience and knowledge of the school environment?

Bueller? Bueller?

Life? I have a Life?

Electoral Map

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Futile ITIL

I used to get quite annoyed with things like this. In the current financial catastrophe, that I no longer have to even pretend to care is one of the few saving graces of not working.

From the ITIL Syllabus Site:

"The syllabus will guide the design, development and use of training materials as well as training aimed at raising individual’s understanding of, and competence in, IT Service Management as described in the ITIL® Service Strategy, ITIL® Service Design, ITIL® Service Transition, ITIL® Service Operation, ITIL® Continual Service Improvement, ITIL® Introduction and ITIL® Glossary publications. The syllabus has been designed with ease of reference, extensibility and ease of maintenance in mind."

ITIL. For people who like being anal retentive.... and think everyone should be.

Lachrymose

Okay, I admit it. I watched the Obama victory speech, and tears came to my eyes.