Saturday, February 28, 2009
I feel guilty about the death of the guinea pig. I'd noticed it moving very slightly, last time I put food in its cage, and thought nothing of it, because it'd done that before. But now I think that I should have wondered why it was sleeping so much, lately. On the other hand, it was eating, so .... I guess it just bothers me that my daughter's going to get to come home to this. I don't look forward to breaking the news.
Picked up a book on Tai Chi. Not as good as an instructor, but better than the nothing this area offers. I was going to get two or three books, but the clerk irritated me by being slow and casual, so I just got the one.
Bought two boxes of Thin Mints from a guy with two little girls and a little boy, and a ton of cookies to sell. I tell myself its because I just can't pass kids selling something, and it might even be the reason. Plus, hey, I didn't buy as many boxes as I wanted....
Last night she called to say that she had dropped her brand new camera, and it didn't seem to work quite right any more.
This morning, we discovered that some time overnight, her pet guinea pig had died.
They get back very late tomorrow night, after a four to five hour bus ride. They'll be tired and cranky.
Oh, yeah, this is going to be quite the homecoming.
Friday, February 27, 2009
I was just reading SusieJ's blog about something called Dance Club -- hmm, sounds interesting -- when I saw a different post about books on tape, and how useful they are for recurring car pool duties. I don't get to listen to books on tape, for two reasons: first, when my daughter's in the car, the radio WILL be set to a country station (I have learned not to hum along to tunes I finally recognize) and second, the library's BOTs suck, as a rule. My local library has a New Books section that about a third things like Your Prostate Exam -- And What It Misses, about a third 'Death and Dying: Do It Right', and a third The American Pomerian Book of Grooming. Occasionally, something good, but not too damned often. Well, take that, intensify it, and thats their BOTs. They are doing audiobook downloads now, and they've managed to make it even worse; they download for a specific period, and if you finish it early, you can't 'check it back in' (I know, silly; its electronic!), so the 'book' is unavailable even though you're done with it. And the selection is pretty dismal. I tend to think that its because the librarians are old and on the crotchety side, though I imagine funding is part of it. They don't have a lot. Course, without the good books, who wants to give them money? Except the lawyer whose name ended up as the library's 'official' name.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
And then I remember: I have a recipe for Thin Mint Clones. Not gizzackly the same, but not at all bad. (You know who makes Thin Mints that I think are even better than Girl Scouts? 4H! A coworker of my wife sells them, and every time, I think that the Thin Mints are the classics, but these are just outstanding -- thicker, tastier.) But anyway -- that recipe....
Hmm... wonder if I've got the ingredients?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
3/4 C milk
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 3/4 C flour [ I increased to about 3 C ]
1/3 C sugar
1/2 t salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter
3 eggs @ room temperature
1 t vanilla
4 oz (4 T) butter
1/2 C cocoa powder
2 t Grand Marnier
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
Generously slather an 8" Kugelhopf mold or tube pan with soft butter.
Gently warm the 3/4 C milk.
Place 1/4 C of the milk in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it along with a pinch of sugar.
Let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
Stir in about 2 – 3 T of the measured flour to make a sticky dough, then cover and set aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Gently re-warm the remaining 1/2 C milk with the 4 oz butter until melted.
Cool to lukewarm.
Beat the eggs together with the vanilla.
Whisk together the remaining flour, sugar and salt in a large wide bowl and make a well in the center.
Place the lukewarm milk/butter mixture, beaten eggs/vanilla and the bit of risen yeast dough to the center of the bowl in the well.
Work all of it together with your hand, first mixing the ingredients in the center and then working in the flour around the edges bit by bit.
The dough should take just a couple of minutes of mixing to form a smooth dough.
If it’s too sticky, keep adding flour a tablespoon at a time until it forms a soft and pliable dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface or piece of parchment and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a large wide bowl that has been generously oiled, turning the dough over so the top surface is oiled.
Cover the top of the bowl with a light cloth or piece of plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 30-40 minutes.
Melt the 2 oz butter and take off the heat.
Whisk in the cocoa and Grand Marnier to make a thin cocoa butter paste.
Whisk until there are no lumps.
In another bowl, stir sugar and cinnamon together
When the dough is ready, divide it into two pieces and roll out one at a time on a lightly floured surface or piece of parchment to about 13" x 8", the length depending on the circumference of the base of your pan.
Spread half the cocoa butter paste on the dough and sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar.
Roll up the dough into a log starting at the longer side.
Lift it gently and place into the buttered kugelhopf or tube pan and pinch the ends together to seal.
Repeat with the second piece of dough and stack it on top of the other piece, forming two rings inside the mold.
Overlap the ends of the log and tuck under.
Set aside in a warm place until the dough has risen to about an inch from the top of the mold, about 30 to 45 minutes or so.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Place the mold on a baking sheet and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s risen and browned.
If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking.
Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then turn the Kuglof out on the rack to cool completely before slicing.
I'm trying that Kuglof recipe this morning, and for once, I did something smart about the eggs. I've heard it said that a cold egg is easier to separate, but a warm one whips up better (greater volume). I broke the eggs, put them into a bowl, and am letting it warm up while the dough rises a bit. The dough isn't the main body of it - more like a poolish, if anything - but it takes a little while, sitting in a warmed oven (actually, its just the warmth of the light), so I figured what better place to let the eggs gently warm, too? In about half an hour, I'll make the first cut at the dough, and we'll see how it goes. This could be a disaster in the making, but it might be fun, too. Odd how the recipes I find that sound like fun are more likely to be desserts than real meals. Saw one for a brioche last night, on the King Arthur site, and thought oh, that might be fun. Just walk away, Bill. Just go to another site, right now.
And thats it for now.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
1 lb Lean ground beef....1 cn (4 oz) chopped green chiles
1 md Onion; chopped.....2 c Shredded cheddar or colby
1/2 ts Salt.........................10 8 8-inch flour tortillas
3/4 c Chunky salsa.. .....Nonstick cooking spray
In a large skillet, brown the gound beef and onion over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Add the salt, salsa and chiles; mix well
Stir in the cheese.
Heat the oven to 450.
Spread 1/4 cup of the mixture over half of each of the tortillas.
Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Fold each in half and place on baking sheet
Coat the tops of the tortillas with nonstick cooking spray
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tortillas are lightly browned and crisp.
NOTE: Eat these as is, or top each with a bit of picante sauce and a dollop of sour cream or guacamole.
From Big Oven.
The tool used to aggregate and classify the voting patterns, Social Action, can be found here. The article also expands a bit on those commonalities of voting patterns.
One day, they put out an email to the effect that the use of personal laptops was forbidden. Only laptops issued by the company could be used. I don't recall if there was a reason for this.
Shortly thereafter, I walked into a conference room where three of the Illuminati were working. They were using a laptop. A personal laptop. I congratulated them on giving their laptops to the company, thus making them company-laptops and eligible for use at work. They just stared at me.
In that moment, I was enlightened, though I'm not sure that it was the kind that they wanted.
Last night, we found that my daughter's having trouble in her Geometry class. We found this because my wife, while spelunking in her room for something, came across a test paper under her bed with a C grade. My daughter had written on it a comment to the effect that she had almost gotten a B on it, and that she was very frustrated. I'm sure that we're a large part of that frustration. We haven't talked to her about it, and, of course, we're not sure what to say. What else is new?
On the other hand, last night I went out of my way to get something for her from the store because she really wanted it -- Nutella! -- and because she'd had a tough evening, with homework, color guard, and more homework. She was working hard. I took the moment of openness afterward to speak quietly with her about stress, and having people to talk to; she said that she did have people... and sometimes that included us. I told her that I understood that there would be times when she did not want to talk to us because she knew we'd get mad, or we'd try to fix whatever the problem was, but that if she told us in advance, we'd try to restrain ourselves. I think she appreciated that. Maybe not -- she was pretty tired.
Also, last night, I got another signature offered for the petition. I'm now at 11, which is good, as one of them is someone who isn't actually a registered voter yet, though she plans to register this week.
This morning, my daughter said her email was acting funny -- dropped her email boxes, for starters. I looked at it, and found she'd picked up a virus -- Anti-Virus-1 -- which, when I looked into it, had 'fixes' that sounded as dodgy as the virus itself. I did a system restore back about a week, and it seems to be okay. I'm running a full Avast scan now.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I thought it was pretty funny.
North Korea, for example, is a 'rogue state'. Sean Connery is 'the rogue with the brogue'. Cops who've turned to the dark side are 'rogue cops'. A Nissan Rogue is a sporty little SUV. Its as if roguishness can be both repulsive (when its bad) and attractive (when its good). Does that mean that it nulls out, overall?
And then, of course, there's roguish good looks, about which, no more need be said.
An unsettling thought. Experience doesn't count? Not as much as I'd have thought, apparently.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I've come to the realization that TurboTax's impression of quick and easy and mine tend to be substantially different. And that doesn't even relate to the idea that my idea does not include a) helpful little reminders that any refunds you get could be handled by their associated investment client, click here for details, or b) when I say 'spreadsheet', I think of a screen full of numbers, not seven rows at a time, which they seem to think more than sufficient. And why don't they accept uploads from an actual Excel spreadsheet, anyway? Or at least a cut and paste?
But the net out appears that we'll likely get a substantial return from the feds, and then we just have to figure out whether to bank it (our strong inclination) or buy something that we were thinking of getting (since we're being told that prices are slashed dramatically). Personally, I'm doubting its all that dramatic, but I suppose we can look. We've been thinking of replacing the refrigerator with something more energy-efficient; we just don't know whats important to us -- where the freezer should be, being the major part of that. I don't think I like the idea of one on bottom; the one on top blocks the view of the first shelf, and a side by side doesn't seem to have much room. Is there another option? No hurry, we have time.....
Oh, and it looks like I'll have ten signatures for that petition, so my name will actually be on the ballot (assuming I get it in on time). How about that.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I dreamt that it was vitally important that I not use the word 'middle' in anything that I was writing. I didn't know why; I didn't know what would happen if I did, I just knew that it was vital that I not do that. So, of course, every time I'd look down at what I was writing, there it was, sitting innocuously with all of the other words. If I deleted it, the word would pop up where it hadn't been a moment before. I woke up and went back to sleep twice, and - I think - each time I had the same dream. I finally got completely up, went out to the kitchen and had a snack, then came back to bed. No more middle.
Friday, February 20, 2009
In tonight's case, my wife had said that she wanted to go out, just the two of us, and do something. It didn't really matter what -- a serious play, a local theater company's spoof of Shakespeare, a piano recital, or a jazz trio at a local bar were the options -- just that we did something to get out of the rut. And so we did -- spent about two hours in The Bar at the Harriburg Hilton, listening to a trio perform -- a pianist, a bassist, and a vocalist, also known as Baltimore vocalist Sara Jone, Paul Langosch & Steve Rudolph. And you know what? We had a decent time. Food was good, music was good, just getting out was good.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Reason being, the local Board of Elections tells me that if I want to be a Judge of Elections next year and the year after, I need to run for the position, which means I need to be on the ballot this year. Which, I think, would be a hoot, even if I don't get the position. My wife says that if I do get on the ballot, I should save a copy, for grins.
I have to find ten people of my political party, in my precinct, to sign a petition to say that they support me doing this. So far, I have one. My wife says that she's willing to think about it, too.
Vote for Me!
Monday, February 16, 2009
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled .............................2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder ............................................................ 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar................................................................ 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs.................................................................................... 1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 package (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder; and salt; set aside.
2. Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted and smooth.
3. Remove from heat; whisk in sugars, then eggs, until smooth.
4. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined (do not overmix).
5. Fold in chocolate chunks and dried cherries; press plastic wrap directly onto surface of dough,
6. Refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
7. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. Drop mounds of dough (equal to 2 level tablespoons) about 2 inches apart onto prepared sheets.
9. Bake just until edges are firm (but not darkening), 11 to 13 minutes.
10. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I rarely bake anything that requires or could benefit from chocolate shavings and curls. Part of that is because the few times I've tried, it didn't work very well. Which is why seeing the technique here got my attention. (It's at the bottom of the page, after the pie recipe.)
It's possible that performance evaluations can be a useful tool, both for the people who want to improve and the people responsible for managing them. It's possible that a cyclic review, normally held on a one to two year basis, provides both checkpoints (what should I be working on, trying to achieve) and feedback(how'd I do in the prior cycle, how can I do it better, this time around). I've seen it happen. Let's see -- I worked about thirty years, give or take, and during that period I got an evaluation about every year, sometimes twice a year. I seem to recall getting what I'd call a useful evaluation - three times. Round it up to five, it's still not a big number. I managed a group for about ten years, doing three to eight evaluations each of those years; I can recall doing what I'd call a useful evaluation perhaps five or six times during that period.
Yet during that period I did have many times when I wondered how I was doing, both because I wanted to do it better -- I wanted to be regarded as really good at what I did, the go-to guy for certain abilities and methods -- and because I wanted to advance in my career -- get paid more, get a more challenging or more interesting job. At the very least, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't regarded poorly, one of those people who got lopped off, next time budgetary cuts came (or, as the year passed, just because that was what we did every year). When I was a manager, I had people who I wanted to tell that they were doing well, or not, and in either case I wanted to give them the tools to improve. So the concept about needing feedback and evaluations, I buy.
What I don't buy is the idea that everyone of a certain age, or culture, wants the frequent feedback, or wants it the same way, or is comfortable sharing this with others. (My financial status, sexual daydreams, secret barbecue recipe? Sure, you can have it. My last performance evaluation rating? Take a hike. ) I think that it varies by person, and by environment. I'd have happily gone for years without an evaluation. I'd have been willing to just ask how I was doing as needed -- more often when I was feeling bored or insecure, less often when I was happy or challenged. Otherwise, skip it. Others might, probably would feel differently. Do what works for them, same as you do what works for me.
Organizations, though, don't respond well to custom performance evaluation schedules and styles (or anything else), so the way it was done for one was the way it was done for all. Fads would sweep through the organization -- I recall two years when, as the manager, I had to draw a circle and segment it into quadrants, where each Q was a desired characteristic, then color it in to show how much of that characteristic the person manifested; it'd take me fifteen minutes a person, and they'd barely glance at it -- but woe if my manager found out I'd blown one off! -- and you had to do it whatever the current way was. Certainly, doing it that one way does make it easier in some respects -- managers can't as easily blow off doing the evaluation because its hard or makes you face an Inconvenient Truth about someone. I recall one manager of mine telling someone who wanted specific things he had to do to get promoted simply telling him to 'keep on keeping on', because the truth was, promotion was a combination of specific skills and how the manager felt about the person -- but the evaluation booklet didn't allow for that. Neither do big, structured organizations. Insight, we don't got. Forms, methods, procedures, we got out the wazoo. Methods tailored to work specifically with you? Fudgeddaboutit.
Evaluations are about people, not schedules, or forms, or fads. People.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
A while ago, though, I discovered Musings of a Distractible Mind, written by a practicing general practice doc, and I've found it to be quite worth reading. He sounds like a real person -- doesn't lecture, knows what it looks like when the rich doctor rails about Medicare, wonders about the image of medicine, thinks about how it could be done better for all concerned. His blog is well worth reading.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Tomorrow, though: BLTs and apple dumplings for brunch! (Yum).
Friday, February 13, 2009
Part of that is that being retired is what old people do, and, my earlier comments about codgerism notwithstanding, I don't think of myself as old. Granted, I'll soon -- in about 6 months -- be in the age bracket that I used to think definitely signified old. I don't subscribe to the AARP view of aging -- which seems to be one third You're just as virile/feminine as you ever were...and now you have the time and money to put it all into play!!! and two thirds Bladder control -- it can so be a fun part of your life! (is this print big enough for you?) -- but I do think that aging is mostly how you view yourself. Not entirely, but substantially. I suspect that when I'm 80 (if I ever am), I'll still have a sense of humor that borders on the infantile at times, and I'll still find certain, ahem, photographs intriguing -- even if I'm no longer sure exactly why. At some point, I really will be old enough to be retired -- but not yet.
And part of it is that 'retired' implies 'I don't earn money', which isn't an image I'm ready to embrace, either. I don't like the idea that I can't earn money, and not just Walmart greeter money, but actual salary earnings. I do like not working, but I don't particularly care for the thought that I can't work. It does seem that everything I really know how to do well requires a massive structured environment -- not too many people have their own mainframe computer for use as a home business -- which tends to seriously limit what I can contemplate doing to earn money -- lemonade, mister? -- but it doesn't rule out the possibility. Just limits it. A lot.
We're learned that there are things that we ought not to do together, or do them only with clearly defined areas of expectation -- I'm going to do this, why don't you do that. This morning, we kind of crossed that boundary when I had made a menu list for next week, asked her for opinions, and then started getting the grocery list together. When she said, halfway through that process, that she wanted to make something that wasn't on the menu, it bothered me. It shouldn't have, of course, but it did - and it took me a while to say you're being stupid, get over it. I want to be sure that when we're both retired, that isn't a problem. I've seen old people squabble about the silliest things. Thats not for me.
Retired? Not quite -- yet. But I'm working on it.
But I have to say, I've never seen it put quite as creatively as this guy.
I know it must be there. Preferably, in the less-than-exorbitantly-priced range. Is that rude?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I'm also a little irritated at the good Senator from New Hampshire who abruptly decided that, why, no, he didn't feel that he could support the policies of the White House, thank you very much. I know that many (note that I am not saying all, though I am for sure thinking it) Republicans would rather sing the party line than save their mother from a tiger, and I know that their leadership is, by and large, a set of brain dead reactionaries who think that My Way Or The Highway ought to be the national anthem, but still: this takes the cake. Hell, it takes the whole bakery. What a tool.
Speaking of baking: this Saturday, I'm making this.
And maybe, some time in the near future, this.
And possibly, though likely not, this.
It also makes me think longingly of data retrieval and display technologies that I don’t think exist, but I won’t go into that.
I see where the bloom is starting to come off the rose for Barack's efforts. It appears to be a combination of people truthfully saying that they're not sure that the fiscal stimulus is the way to go, or constructed appropriately (both 'I don't think that's effective' and 'what's in it for me'), as well as Republicans generally being ornery. I am always dismayed when I realize that Republicans tend to be very good at toeing the party line and voting as a bloc, while Democrats tend to prefer thinking and voting for themselves; consequently, Republicans can block efforts even though they're in the minority, but Democrats frequently cannot. I try not to think of Republicans as collectively evil in this regard, but it's tough. I want to think of at least some of them as reasonable, intelligent people of morals, but all it takes is seeing people like Boehner and McConnell to keep me from getting very far down the road with that. I truly believe that they subscribe to Limbaugh's credo that Obama ought to fail. It does help that Barack's personal popularity continues to be high, but we're fickle; if we don't see some improvements soon, that's going to fade. Geithners's performance didn't help.
I started reading Tell Me How This Ends, again. I'm reading it slowly, trying to remember who's who and what's going on. I would be embarassed if anyone saw the notes that I've been writing, as they are very, very simple -- 'Maliki, PM, Shia (majority of country)'. But whatever it takes....
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
We had a lamp post at the end of the drive way, and we intend to have one again. When that gets reinstalled, we want to put in a power socket, unswitched, at its base. We have one now that's up in the corner of the front landscaping next to the house, so this would be just a matter of extending that power line down to where the lamp post is. At the same time, we want to extend the power line along the sidewalk and install an unswitched power socket somewhere about half to three quarters of the way along the front of the house. Both of the new sockets would be used to power garden tools, and also Christmas lighting.
Speaking of lighting, we want to put some in the front of the house, in the landscaped area. We've wanted to do something out there for quite some time. The landscaped area is roughly oval, bisected by a walkway, with a large tree in one half and an almost-as-large tree in the other. We'd like to do something to pick out the prominent growing features, and to provide some security of a sort. The current idea is to put two small floodlights in at the far corners of each half, aimed at the tree in that half, as well as the house behind it, and to put six or so perimeter lights around the curve of each half, both to illuminate the greenery when it's in season and to outline the area, generally. This new lighting would be controlled by a switch that's currently unused, down in the garage, on an array that controls the garage interior and exterior lights, as well as the lamppost.
What would really be nice is some kind of remote that could operate, and show the status of, all of the outside lights, so that we wouldn't have to hike down to the garage to do it, but I suspect that's far beyond any of the local people.
I'd say 'that's the plan', but it's much too nebulous for that!
And to think I got to pay for him to be able to make this upgrade - lucky me!
Valentine's Day soon. Never been much of a believer in that, as I think it's just another manufactured gifting opportunity. If you love someone, you show it all the time; if you have to have a special day to note it, choose one that's meaningful to them, not the American Florists Association.
Another visit with the oral surgeon today. Oh, joy. Can't wait for him to make another well, everything looks great... I think this will probably work comment. Hmmm... come to think of it, that's how I feel about the things the Fed et al have been saying lately!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 09, 2009
Our library system has installed a self-serve checkout for books. You scan the bar code on your library card, the code on the book, and you're done. That's assuming you can get the scanner to read your card. Up to today, I wasn't able to do that, either at the local library or at the much-better-stocked branch in the next borough. There is nothing like being unable to make a basic piece of technology work to make you feel stupid - somebody who just doesn't get it. You know, a codger. You look around, hoping nobody is watching as you try for the fourth time to get the damn thing to do its magic -- it's just a scanner, for god's sake, what the hell is the problem here? -- before stomping off in disgust to the checkout clerk -- who, incidentally, can scan it just fine with her scanner. What the hell is the deal, anyway?
Trying not to snarl, I told the librarian about it, and she said Oh, the scanner prefers to have you hold the book down low. It prefers? As in, Don't anthropomorphize the PC, it hates when you do that? Well, okay, I know what they mean; I've said that kind of thing lots of times myself. I don't know, it feels like the computer's trying to do this, it wants to do that, it doesn't like this. You're not really attributing intelligence to it, that's just a catch phrase. So, okay, I held the book down on the platform instead of just under the scanning laser's nozzle -- and it worked.
Still feel like a codger though, dagnabbit.
Actually, I know exactly why it disturbed me so much. I just didn't want to put it into words. It's because the vile act implies -- hell, says right out -- that a basic social construct - that the good guys win - had been violated. And in a country right next door, too. One with easy access to this country.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
While I was looking at our camera this morning, comparing it to the one we gave our daughter (not quite as powerful, but substantially the same), I noticed a button on the switch that turns the camera on. I'd never noticed the button before, so I went looking through the relatively thick users manual, all full of tiny print and pointing arrows. I could not find it. So, my thought on that is: why can't I have an interactive file on the camera that is invoked by and displayed on my PC, so I can walk through what I'm looking for? It's got to be possible. Okay, at least the storage part -- the 'invoked by', maybe not so much. (Turns out that the button unlocks the Mode Lever, which I'd have called the Mode Dial, so that you can select either Shooting or Playback. I must have been pressing it all the time with my big fingers and never realized it.)
Articles continue to laugh at Daschle and his withdrawal. Some says that Americans are tired of a dual standard, which I think is true. The articles tend to give the impression of a mighty unrest in the country relative to the concept of the idea of separate rules for the powerful and for the rest of us. I don't think that exists. I suspect that though most people don't care for the idea of such duality, they don't usually care so long as they're reasonably content about their future. I think it's the general feeling of uncertainty with their future prospects that leads to the sense of discontent , and when (!) the economy recovers, I suspect the general feeling of discontent will abate. Not disappear, but become much less noticeable. At which point, the lobbyists and their ilk will feel freer to raise their heads up over the horizon again.
An article in the Washington Post says that the President intends to expand the functions of the National Security Council, which will be headed by a retired Marine general, James Jones. That worthy is quoted as saying that 'he will run the process and be the primary conduit of national security advice to Obama, eliminating the "back channels" that at times in the Bush administration allowed Cabinet secretaries and the vice president's office to unilaterally influence and make policy out of view of the others'. Eliminating, huh? That'll be a neat trick. But it did make me wonder. Other than open and frequent multi-participant communication, how do you eliminate back channel maneuvering? I'm thinking it's got to come from the President -- he's got to ensure that information coming to him comes only -- or substantially -- from the approved channels, and everything knows what those are. Oh, god, do I HAVE to talk to Rahm the Destroyer?
In about three weeks, I go see the ortho surgeon again. I'm hoping he'll say I can do without the brace. He'll likely say I need to go to therapy, though, which - eh. I'm not thrilled, but, okay. And I went to church this morning for the first time in a month. That wasn't particularly moving, but the brief discussion on the way back with my daughter on the subject of belief and religion, that was pretty neat.
We had waffles with ice cream, strawberries, bacon, and coffee. Then we baked the four molten-chocolate cakes with strawberry filling, about which, I can just say this: they were so chocolate, none of the three of us could finish them. Not for lack of trying, though.
And then we gave her the birthday gift: a digital camera. She freaked.
Sometimes, you do exactly the right thing. I think this was one of those times.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
The plot was, basically, that a murderer was going to be executed, and his defense team was trying last minute efforts to delay or stop that. The President's senior staff each become involved, each coming to the conclusion that capital punishment is wrong, and that the President should commute the sentence. In the end, the President does not, the man is executed, and in the last scene, a Catholic priest from the President's home town, called down to provide comfort, solace, and insight, hears the President's confession in the Oval Office.
I don't have strong feelings about the legitimacy of capital punishment. I'd just as soon we did not do it, but I don't feel strongly about it. When I hear of someone freed from death row after DNA analysis conclusively shows that the person was not guilty of murder, it doesn't drive me to think that we ought not to do it at all. Even when I contemplate the image of Texas as the execution factory that it apparently is, and shudder at it, I don't think that we should not do it at all. In my soft way, I think that there are people who are so foul that they should not be allowed to pollute society. I wish that we could lock them away and forget about them, as they did in Superman's Phantom Zone, but that's not practical; when I compare the idea of paying for them to be guarded, fed, and housed for the rest of their lives, versus executing them, I usually come down on the latter side. It doesn't tend to be a matter of philosophy so much as economics.
I think that its the desire for the ability to be able to just fix these people, catch-and-release them back into society, that drives intensely liberal people to support rehabilitation programs. I believe that in many cases these programs do work, though I suspect that they work more for lesser crimes than for this. People who kill accidentally can be rehabilitated. People who kill with purpose, probably not. For those people, the death penalty is our solution.
I wish we didn't have to have it, but I don't see a plausible alternative.
Friday, February 06, 2009
She had one of her 'shadowing' days today -- spent the day with her aunt down at a federal operation. From what I gather, she had a great time. A lot more fun than the poor kids who used to come to EDS to do shadowing there -- we mostly had them go to meetings and sit around; pretty boring stuff. From what she says, the people today were pretty interesting.
Seems like as soon as the sun goes down, the house gets chilly, and I end up bumping up the thermostat setting. I never understand that. If its adequate during the day, why not when it gets dark?
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Girl brings home her new boyfriend. The parents are not impressed. After he leaves, the mother says 'He doesn't really seem very nice, does he?' To which the daughter replies 'Of course he's nice - why else would he be doing a hundred hours of community service?'
According to an article in the New York Times, Daschle tried to have it both ways -- to be pure enough to be acceptable as a public figure, and to be lobbyist enough to be rich. He spent unpaid time working for noble causes, and he didn't cross the line into active solicitation, which would have required being registered as a lobbyist. At the same time, he did maintain an elegant office in a lobbying firm, and he sold himself as someone who would be a rainmaker for the firm, facilitating the later lobbying efforts by others.
He didn't inhale, but he sold the drugs. He was personally pure, but he pimped.
I like the idea that -- at least for a while, because I know it's not going to last -- the impression is being given that lobbying is not the act of noble public servants, not the acts of people who want to be considered ethical or respectable.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
So, at the moment, having taken the nighttime drugs (and less than I did yesterday; if tomorrow's morning number is higher than normal, I can live with that for a bit), I'm lying in bed, reading some fan fiction. (If you had a dinner for people who wrote such things, and they were arguing, and you wrote a story about that argument, would it be called fan fiction function faction fiction?) I don't tend to read fanfic too often, but every so often I do. I am amazed at how bad much of it is. I know why, too. Its because its not exactly the way I'd have written it. The author emphasizes things that I think shouldn't have been mentioned, or only lightly; has characters saying things that of course they wouldn't say. I'd do it better.
At the moment, I'm looking at Man From UNCLE fiction. There's some surprisingly good things there; one, which I would never have guessed I'd like, is a crossover story about the time that the agents from UNCLE came to Mayberry. Its actually not bad.
And thats what I'm doing, tonight. Hoping for a quiet night.
It brought to mind, as you may have guessed by the title of this post, the old Six Million Dollar Man series, where that kind of prosthetic uber-technology worked so incredibly well. Thank god for freeze-frame and motion camera work! In the real world, it's a lot sloppier and slower, and it costs a hell of a lot more. Which is actually where I was heading with all of this. I wonder, sometimes, how and where the decision is made as to whether money should be spent on technologies like this when alternatives do exist -- not nearly as sexy, of course, and with concomitant difficulties, but they do exist. Why should money be spent on alternatives? I know, no one's making them do it, and the people who first use it will be people who pay for it themselves. But at some point, probably a lot closer than we like to think, someone somewhere who has medical insurance and needs that repair will say 'Why should I go through this painful harvesting, when the alternative exists?' To which the insurance company will reply that its way expensive (they won't say that, but that'll be the driving reason) and experimental; they don't fund things like that. Eventually, though -- maybe not that case, but eventually -- they will start paying for it, because its new, it's sexy, and it's effective. And health care costs will go up.
Is that how it ought to be? I know I'd feel differently if it was me or my family under the knife, but, that not being the case, I have to say that I think: no, it shouldn't. I don't think that mainstream health care should be used to pay for solutions that aren't mainstream. I realize that the way that they become mainstream is through this process, but I don't care for it. I think that if people want a new technology - one for which older equivilents exist - they should pay for it. Insurance companies shouldn't be regarded as Scrooge McDuck (though they often are exactly that warm and loving) with a pile of cash that they don't want to hand out (ditto). They're there for emergencies, for coverage when you couldn't cover it yourself. The coverage that you need doesn't have to be a cashmere blanket when a wool one is ready to hand.
I know I sound as if I'm advocating a return to asylums and leeches. Sorry about that.
So, neither of us wanted to get up this morning, but we did. The daughteroid was very quiet. She's thinking about something -- last night, she was very quiet, and writing furiously in her journal. She'll tell us when and if she wants. Perhaps its my imagination, but I think we have a pretty good communication going -- not perfect, but not snarling and carping, as I've heard some teen relationships are. This weekend is her birthday -- she'll be 15, which none of us can believe -- and I'm making a recipe I found for Chocolate Molten Cakes -- essentially, a big cupcake with chocolate ganache icing and a center of either strawberry jam, marshmallow, or peanut butter. Should be interesting.
Last night, we were talking about that cheese bread that I'd made the other day. I reminded them that I said I would make some from scratch when I had the time and desire, and my wife pointed out that there was a cheese bread recipe in her family's cookbook that they'd handed out at the last reunion. I looked it over, and it didn't look too bad, so this morning I made the dough. It's rising now. I think we'll reserve half of it and bake it at another time, else my daughter will scarf it all down, leaving only the scraps for her mother. Luckily for them, I'm not too fond of cheesebread.
Lets hope Barack doesn't lose anyone today!
I found a couple of pictures of the Oval Office -- there are a lot on the web, but not so many from the perspective from behind the desk -- and spent some time last night just looking at them. I was surprised to see how different they looked over time. It appears that the doors to either side of the fireplace were dramatically de-emphasized, so that you can barely see them, and they took out the chandelier. Looks like a window might have been added, too. I didn't realize that the office wasn't originally built into the White House as the President's office -- it was added much later, when the wings were put on -- and that the shape echoes that of the Blue Room, above it. Heck, for years I didn't know that the OO was in one of the wings -- I thought it was in the main body of the building. I think I watched West Wing for almost a season before I began to wonder why the series was called that.
Kind of wonder what it'll look like in fifty years.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Made me feel old, I'll tell ya.
“A heartfelt ‘sorry’ is more than sufficient when you’re a former Senate majority leader, have loads of friends on both sides in the Senate and played a critical role in the president’s nomination victory, thereby securing his undying loyalty. Besides, when are average people going to learn that the powerful are too busy doing great things to obey the laws that apply to the peons? The good news for non-elites is that when the IRS contacts us about tax questions, we can just cite the cases of Tom Daschle and Tim Geithner, and the agency will be patient and understanding. Right?”
This, from a Los Angeles Times blog's not bad, either:
Obama backs Daschle, who apologizes to a public that hates tax cheats...He used what's come to be known as the GID tactic, the Geithner Inadvertency Defense. It was all an accident. "No excuse," he says. But inadvertent. Which makes it OK. Let's all try that on April 15.
Ironically, I actually can believe that Daschle didn't know that the use of the car and driver was taxable income, or, if he did, that he assumed that it was taken care of in his taxes by his accountant. What I can't forgive is that he didn't mention any of this until after he was nominated. Sloppy at best, sleazy at worst. I think that what really makes it stick in my craw, though, is the sense that he'll pay a fine that he can easily afford and get away with it, because of the money he has and the friends he has - courtesies that I'd never get from the IRS. That's not right. I guess I can't say chuck him if he really is the best person available -- but it's what I want to say.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Got a letter from the country the other day which informed me that my term was up at the end of this year, and if I wanted to do it again, I would need to run for the office. Even though I had simply been appointed, first time, that wasn't good enough -- need to run for the position. Which means I need to get ten people to sign a petition to let me be on the ballot, and then, of course, I need to get people to actually vote for me. I told my wife that I'd be lucky to get five votes, and I'm not kidding. Who the heck ever looks to see who's running for the position of Judge of Elections?
I don't know if I'll do it, but if I do - vote for me!
The cheating: last night, my daughter mentioned as how she'd really like some of that cheese bread that Panera sells, and wouldn't it be a great idea if we rocketed up there to get some? No, I said, slowly, but I can make some focaccia tomorrow; you told me you like that as much. Which she did, and agreed to. This morning, I noticed, in the back of the pantry, a box of foccacia mix that I had gotten months ago, just to try out. Hmmm....mix, let rise, bake. Vs, get out the flour, the baking sheet, the herbs, the cheese.... Okay, we'll compromise and put a bunch of Parmesan on this just before it goes into the oven. Question is, will it still be around when she comes home from school?
The waiting: I've mentioned that there is a person with whom I'd like to be friends, but concluded some time ago that to her, I'm of no use, so not worth the time; the only time she responds to email is to mention how she's off to Paris again, or speaking at a conference in Italy, or....yeah, fine. So two days ago I got a response from her to a question. I know that somewhere in that response will be the kind of content I expect, so I'm letting the response just ....sit. I'm weaning myself off thinking of this person as a friend, at all. Which I don't really want to do, but, you know? Get disappointed one hundred and forty three or so times, you begin to wonder if its a trend.
And thats it!
Sunday, February 01, 2009
About two months ago, we found a crack in our Corian countertop, right next to the stove. We couldn't figure out -- still can't -- where it came from, as we've never noticed heat from the stove affecting the Corian. That is where the waffle iron sits when it's in use, but we're talking five - six minutes, two or three times a week, max, which hardly seems like it'd be a problem. I sanded it, and it got better, but didn't go away -- looked like a faint pencil line.
Today, we ran the slow cooker for a long while, and the surface of the Corian got actively hot -- which we wouldn't have noticed, except that the crack was suddenly much longer, and actually wider -- you could see into it, just a bit. Argh. Now that it's cooled the crack has narrowed, but still. We'll likely sand it again, but I think we're looking at either repairing it -- possibly shifting the counter over a bit, and putting something in to take up the slack -- or replacing it. I've heard nice things about heat-resistant tiles, so possibly that, or maybe something like a cuttable-surface like butcher block. Whatever it is has to look decent with the existing cabinets, though.
Argh. Man, what a pain!
DON'T ask for a raise or a promotion. Be patient, and be grateful for now that you've got a job.
DO volunteer for more work.
DO arrive early and stay late.
DON'T be eccentric. Now's the time to fit in completely.
DO feel your boss's pain.
DON'T be high maintenance.
That's not to say that there aren't good tips there, but why do so many boil down to Sit Down, Shut Up, Do More, Accept Less, and Be Grateful?
Like when someone decides to fly a helicopter past the house at a fairly low level -- not roof-top low, but low enough so that the sound is thud-a-thud-THUD-THUD-THUD-THUDTHUDTHUDTHUDTHUD. That's when I daydream about flipping open the laptop, accessing the Home Defense System, the camouflaged shutters at the top of the roof whispering open, nose of the missile coming into view as the targetting heads comes active, and, WHAM! flinging one skyward, startling the birds, singeing the leaves as it roars past. Or, if the weather's nice, just stepping out onto the deck for a moment, resting one foot on the wooden barrel, hoisting the launcher up on my shoulder, and letting fly with a flaming arrow. WHOOSH! followed closely by panicky radio calls he shot my goddam tail off, I'm going down! Followed by the ker-WHUMP!!! as the fuselage hits the ground, and the occupants scurry from the burning wreckage. I don't want to hurt anyone; I just want them to keep from interrupting my life. Fly higher, you bastards -- that's all I want. Lifeflight, medical evacuation, fine, any altitude you need, but some local yokel choppering to the house at the lake? No special emergency? Ignition set, targeting mode selected......
Apparently, Barack's got another cabinet appointee who thought that the - makes whisking motion with hands - staff was handling his taxes, who had no idea that he owed money at all, let alone that much, but hey, here's a check, lets move on with our lives. I'm thinking that the chances are one in three that the IRS will decide to audit me just because they have a thing about TurboTax users, never mind the puny amount we have on which to pay taxes, but this guy has so much money he can just write a check for more than a hundred thousand dollars, and now he wants to just keep on truckin' toward being a Cabinet member? I think not. I think that if you're found to be a scofflaw -- which is what he is, and a damned egregious one -- you shouldn't be in line for a Cabinet job. Hell, you shouldn't be in line for any government job except, perhaps, dog catcher. Can him. That kind of behavior, he might as well be a Republican. That's most assuredly not change that we can believe in.
I see where the cops have discovered a new toy. Now, they want the ability to shut down cell phone networks at will, because evil people have used them to do evil things, and so what if you've just inconvenienced ten thousand people, so what if you've just kept people in an emergency from calling home, telling family that they're all right? I have a real problem with that. It comes down to level of paranoia, and level of trust. I don't have the level of paranoia that these people have -- truth to tell, if I knew what they knew, I likely would -- and I don't trust them to use the ability wisely. It's like all those little towns that now have a gleaming SWAT truck, just in case Miss Milly gets a little uppity when her cats in a tree and the local fire department isn't responding fast enough for her. Cuff her! And, Sorry about burning down the tree, but hey, we got the cat! Well, what's left of it... Older I get, the more I don't trust people in authority. Weird.