Monday, August 31, 2009


The Legend of Neil is sort of like....well, I'm thinking Elfquest done by a hung over Mel Brooks. Only, coarser.

So, of course, I liked it. And, it has multiple chapters!


I suspect this picture, which I found on this site, is old... but I like it.

As the creator says, it's a powerful idea that stands the test of time.


If I were this guy, odds are, I'd be smiling, too.


Well, the deed is done.

She got up at 5:30 (my wife murmurs, wistfully, couldn't she do this ALL the time?), took a shower, got dressed, put on makeup and jewelry. Came out to breakfast, asked my wife can you get makeup out of a shirt? The one I want to wear's got this STAIN.... while I sat there thinking even I know that you put makeup on after you're dressed, not before. But my wife found a stain remover, dabbed furiously at it, and now the daughter's wearing it. She looks good. Apprehensive, but good. I made sure to tell her that with all of the grief, I mean, guidance that we've been giving her, she ought to remember that we love her and believe in her. As we do. She shrugged it off, but I feel better for having said it. She even allowed her mother's obligatory pre-departure photograph. I know we can't come down to the bus stop, but can we at least take one picture? Sigh. One, then I've gotta go.

And so it begins.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Tomorrow, my daughter just announced, she is getting up at five thirty. She will wash her hair, put on makeup, put on jewelry, and dress carefully. Three of the four, easily, are things that she does not routinely do. Tomorrow, she says, she wants to make a good impression, right off the bat.

I suspect that she's focusing on this so intently because we've been so intent (perhaps a bit too much) on the importance of getting decent grades from the get-go. She probably realizes by now that we heard her tell someone that she slacks off for a few weeks, then does damage control. We've told her that isn't acceptable, and her continued attendance at color guard and karate depend on seeing acceptable grades. (I've read that withholding socialization activities, such as CG, from a teen is not good. Perhaps so. Getting lousy grades is worse, in my opinion.) Additionally, going to an anime con in November also depends on those grades.

We're going to be leaning on her. Gently, but consistently. I've already warned her that there will likely be times when she feels pressured. We'll certainly be asking her to do things that, for the first year, we didn't. Homework every night at home -- if done already, or none that day, then a review, with me or my wife. Core topic review every week, with us or a friend. Showing us the notes she's taken in class for those courses, and doing a spot quiz from them. Oh, yeah, she'll feel pressure. And so will we.

Tomorrow, it begins.

Maybe I Will....

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he might refuse to speak with a prosecutor investigating suspected CIA prisoner abuses, a probe he branded as political and bad for national security.

I suppose sizing him now for an orange jumpsuit is out of the question?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Rainy Day Activity

Baking English Muffins. Easy, and good!

English Muffins

* 1 cup milk * 2 tablespoons white sugar
* 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast * 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 1/4 cup melted shortening 6 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon salt

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat.
2. Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
3. Let cool until lukewarm.
4. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
5. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
6. In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast mixture, shortening and 3 cups flour.
7. Beat until smooth.
8. Add salt and rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough.
9. Knead.
10. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour.

11. Punch down.
12. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick.
13. Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can.

14. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise.
15. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also.
16. Cover and let rise 1/2 hour.

17. Heat greased griddle.
18. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat.
19. Keep baked muffins in a warm oven until all have been cooked.
20. Allow to cool and place in plastic bags for storage.
21. To use, split and toast. Great with orange butter, or cream cheese and jam.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We made Chili Quesadillas tonight. Awesome.

Chili Quesadilla

3/4 lb Lean ground beef 1 cn (4 oz) chopped green chiles;
1 md Onion; chopped 2 c Shredded cheddar or colby
1/2 tsp Salt 8-inch flour tortillas
3/4 c Chunky salsa Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 450° F.
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.
Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Place some tortillas on the sheet.
Spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture over half of each of the tortillas.
Fold each in half and place on 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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

See Loop, Infinite

I will not admit how long I watched this.


How does a German senior center stop alzheimer’s patients from wandering off? It builds a phony bus stop outside its entrance.

The nursing home was continuously relying on police to find wayward patients who left the site in search of old homes and families (that sometimes did not exist).

“It sounds funny,” said Old Lions Chairman Franz-Josef Goebel, “but (the fake bus stop) helps. Our members are 84 years-old on average. Their short-term memory hardly works at all, but the long-term memory is still active. They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home.” The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.

Nursing home staff members then approach them and invite them inside for coffee.

Found here.


This didn't happen to me, last time I spoke with Dell tech support. As I mentioned, that exercise in fun actually turned out well.

But still, it's a damn good story, and entirely indicative of how contacts with those worthies usually turns out.

Where They Write

A web site I came across, Where I Write, is a series of photographs of professional fantasy and science fiction authors, each shown in the space where they write. I was charmed by it, both because the photographs are very good, and because (for the writers that I knew) the working spaces are not at all what I would have imagined them to be. Several are elegant, or luxurious, one or two are cluttered, and a few are almost as plain and undecorated as one might imagine.

The photographer, listing the sorts of things he's done, says that he's photographed "Goths, Punks, Cutters, Politicians, Metalheads, Dominatrices, Scholars, and Alternative Fashion". I tend to think that listing the politicians after the Goths, Punks, and Cutters, and in the vicinity of Dominatrices, is entirely appropriate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have never spanked or hit my daughter. I rarely have been mad enough to do that. My feeling was, and is, that once you've done that, you don't really have any recourse past it-- so why not stop short of it. I know that some people would say that kids need to be physically disciplined on occasion, and there have been times that I've thought about it, but somehow it never seemed right to me. Now, of course, she's old enough that it wouldn't really be right in any case.

I do raise my voice to her on occasion, tonight being one of them. She was displaying what felt, and feels, like a callous disregard for her future. I think I was right to do so. Still, later, I apologised for doing it. I guess its important to me that she knows I still love her even after being mad at her. I know she knows.... but I figure it doesn't hurt to mention it. I suspect that there are people who would say that apologising makes me a weak parent. Fortunately, my wife isn't one of them.


Got a call from the doc today. My blood sugar numbers, not to mention cholesterol, were so good, she said that they looked like a non-diabetic in perfect health.

Sure wish I knew why!


This morning, as I was mowing, I was thinking about lawn tractors (again!) Basically, we have two requirements and one NTH. The requirements are that it would have to handle a snow-blower/snow-thrower, and it would have to be able to handle minor hills. The Nice To Have would be the ability to mulch.

Every time we think about this (okay: every time I think about it), I think wide cutting swath - wider the better. But, where to store it? I thought about trying to fit it in between the two vehicles in the garage, and then I thought about the first time I scratched one of the cars with it. Ah, no. We could put it in what we call our storage room, which is the old garage; we walk through it to get to the actual garage. The problem would be a) getting it in and out -- we'd have to move one of the cars to do it; a bother but not that big a deal), and b) getting past it -- I don't find a lot of information about the width of these things, but I'm guessing that they're fairly wide, to get that big cutting swath, which would be a sizable chunk of the width of the storage room. Then it occurred to me: our lot isn’t that big – we don’t need something with a wide swath. Some mowers are (relatively) narrow – on the order of 36 inches or so. We might be able to make something like that work in the space we have, and still get the mowing job done fairly easily.

So I went to the Cub Cadet web site, picking one at random, just to see. I wanted to know: what's the smallest width lawn tractor you have, and does it have the capabilities I want? I'd think that a reasonable question. They don't. Not only doesn't the site allow you to ask that question, it makes it hard just to display the information it does have. Its as if the site was designed for people who already know that the Series xxxx tractor is this width, with this capability, and so forth. Well, sure, doesn't everyone know that?

I'll keep looking.


It's always nice when surprise visitors come to the house.

Found at Yay Everyday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Soft Answers

I was reading an article over dinner tonight about people working in the Organizing for America movement, which is the follow-on organization to Obama for America. They're trying to generate grass-roots support for the changes in health care that Obama is advocating. The article says that it's tough going, partially because these people worked hard for a long time for the Obama campaign, and so they're tired, even a year later, and partially it's because they're facing a lot of vocal -- very vocal -- opposition from people who would rather not see change occur. I've seen this before, and thought 'yeah, I hope they're successful, god knows we need it', but one line caught my attention.

The article was talking about the intensity of some of the opposition, and that some of the workers are beginning to feel physically threatened. One said that he was told 'Why should I be afraid of a liberal when I have a .357?' That sort of response brings to mind the proud boast of Charlton Heston, when he was leader of the NRA, to the effect that he knew they'd be successful because 'they had the guns'. Quiet lawyers would likely demur, but to me that message is 'If you oppose us, you're opposing angry people with guns..... how lucky do you feel?' My first reaction is to retort angrily, and to go find a reason to disarm such a person -- after all, they're threatening me. Which, in a way, is an indication of why armed angry people isn't a good idea. But after a moment, I think No, you need to separate the concepts. Though I don't support the idea of being able to go armed to public events, others do, and part of the game plan for this country is that we go by what the majority wants. I can work to change that, but until it's changed, I have to play by those rules. The question of whether they should be allowed to be armed is settled. For the moment, anyway.

What's not settled is whether we are willing to let the loud-shouters have their way based purely on the volume of their arguments. That there are people with legitimate reasons not to like what they're hearing -- reasons that I would regard as legitimate, I suppose I should say -- I don't doubt. But even they are being drowned out by the drumbeat of the people who prefer to have things stay the same, not willing to even look to see if things could be better. Better the evil you their motto. That's not good enough, anymore. There may well be legitimate rage on that side of the argument -- it's gone beyond a debate -- but there damned well ought to be some fire and rage on our side, too. This side is normally quiet, peaceful, and conciliatory, but when facing all-or-nothing types, I think we do ourselves a disservice.

In other words, I'll listen, and gladly, to those who can make coherent arguments. But the shouters, the gun-packers, the placard-toters?

Screw 'em. Soft enough, do you think?

Post Post Title Here

Slow day. Signed onto my bank to see if any charges had shown up, and found that they had improved their site. I suppose it is -- there' s a lot more information now -- but the net out was that my little Excel macro that I use to read the screen-scraped data stopped working. I eventually got it going again, but I can't screen-scrape any more -- I have to download their file and open it. Sigh.

Saw part of Oceans 12 last night. Oh, god, am I glad I didn't pay to see that.

I've got some dough warming in the oven (it's off). I'm going to try making English Muffins. I have been thinking about it for quite some time -- months ago, I thought about buying some muffin rings from King Arthur Flour, but they were too expensive, so I did the cut-a - can deal. We'll see if it works.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


My daughter likes to go for a bike ride in the evening. She says that it clears her mind.

This evening, for the first time, I thought "Is she meeting a boyfriend?" No, of course not, I thought immediately.... and then well, probably not.



Ah, The Classics

American Health Care: The Melange

From the Washington Post:

In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really "foreign" to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


A week to go till school starts, and we're still trying to work out how to handle the contradictory requirements of motivation, support, and hands-off. My notes thus far (comments welcome):

High school is a time for taking responsibility, and not being treated like a young child.

School is her job
She earns color guard and karate through school performance

If there is no tracking, interim/final grades can be an unpleasant surprise.
It is difficult to tell on a weekly basis how performance is going, because school does not supply this information, and there might be a reluctance to give bad news, or it might be believed that the news isn't so bad, therefore not worth mentioning.
Question: how to handle bad news (failed test/missed assignment, etc)
Question: how to handle when news wasn't given that turned out to be worse than thought

Review has been shown to work. It doesn't have to take a lot of time per subject.
Question: how to do this? Daily, weekly? Flash cards, list of questions, book itself? Inhouse or with 'smart people'?

Weaponry, Pro and Con

"Firearm enthusiasts -- the vast majority of whom use weapons responsibly -- believe the Constitution protects their right to bear arms. Gun control advocates counter that the Constitution doesn't give anyone the inalienable right to wield automatic weapons that can kill scores of people in seconds."

from Salon - What it means to wear a gun in public

Changing Software

It is possible that there are people who can change software in a way that is either transparent to the user, of minor note, or actually regarded as an improvement. I'm willing to posit that it has happened, and possibly even to me. Not lately, though.

The latest evidence of this is the Feed Demon product, which is owned by NewsGator, and which has apparently sold its corporate soul to Google. As of the end of the month, the FD product will no longer synchonize with NewsGator; instead, it will do so with Google Reader. I really don't care about that too much, as I rarely went to the NewsGator site, using it only as a backup for the OPML file that powered FD. But along with this change, they've improved Feed Demon, most notably by making it much slower, and by adding a non-removable ad on the main page. Imagine my delight. Oh, and this upgrade? You can't back it off. Sort of their way of giving you the finger, I think.

People speak glowingly of Google Reader. I suppose I'm going to have to get used to using it. Initial impressions are not favorable.

Conclusion: Upgrading Feed Demon was a bad idea. Synchronizing it with Google Reader was worse.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Or Maybe Not

I was going to send this to my cardiologist friend, then thought she won't I'll post it here. I know it's not funny funny, but I like it.

From the Agraphia: Medical Tragicomedy blog

While consulting on a morbidly obese, congestive heart failure patient who goes into fluid overload at the slightest hint of salt in his diet, I was treated to this gem written by another doctor in the chart:

Patient is currently in an acute exacerbation of chronic CHF, precipitated by accidental dietary indiscretion this afternoon.

The “accidental dietary indiscretion” was 3 quarter pounders, a large order of fries, and a liter of cola.


This is a still from the new (no idea when) Iron Man movie. Isn't that a great PC monitor screen? Wonder how plausible it would be.....


I found a comment to one of my posts saying that the author liked what they saw, and would continue to read. I replied, pleased, but thought, after a bit, that some of the phrasing was a little -- general. So I picked part of the reply - " I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. " - and Googled it.

27,900 ???

Still Crazy After All These Years

"Gun-lovers still argue that the slightest curb on their right to bear arms will make America vulnerable to tyranny."

- The Economist

All Wet

They're predicting rain again, today. The air is already pretty humid, and the sky is overcast. Oh, joy.

I brought my daughter over to band camp. When we arrived, a whole bunch of kids were milling around with various degrees of enthusiasm; just about all were lanky or wiry. I asked who they were, and was informed That would be the TRACK team....with a certain air of superciliousness. Parents are so ill-informed. I guess she was still pissed because she asked me, this morning, what I meant by the term 'process improvement', and in particular my opinion regarding the ineffectiveness of it, generally, and as an example I used people saying just work harder when a student has trouble with math. I said 'that's not very helpful, is it?' I think she believes I was aiming that at her, which I wasn't. Well, not entirely.

I really don't believe in 'process improvement', as it is practiced in the software industry, but I do believe in it when it comes to concrete items. Whenever I see an article about people using it in nebulous areas, I scoff. But I read it, anyway, just on the off chance that they actually are using it in a useful manner. In this case, I'm reading about an episode at the Cleveland Clinic, working on reducing cycle time for surgical instrument sterilization. It sounds pretty obvious to me, but I'm not through reading, yet. I think of what a friend of mine once said relative to process improvement; she knew that her group had improved, and they'd done it because they had made a number of changes, but they couldn't say which of them were effective, and in fact suspected that it was more that people were looking than any one thing. Of course, such talk would be anathema for the Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Master Black Belts of the world. And no, I'm not making that title up.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


We just got back from the culmination show of band camp. BC still has another half day to go, but they 'put on a show' the Thursday before the end, so that the parents can marvel at it. However, the 'show' comes after the band has practiced a specific piece over and over and over again, for intervals ranging from about fifteen seconds to about forty five seconds, over the course of two hours; sometimes the color guard is part of it, and sometimes not. The only way that you know that the 'show' is happening is that they do the piece all the way through, which is about ninety seconds, and then stop. And that's it. No explanations, no comments, no 'here's what we're trying to do', none of that. Good luck, that's our show. So the thrill, you might say, is somewhat muted. By the time they get to it, you just want to get the hell out of there.

On the way home, our daughter informed us that perhaps she will want to perform in indoor color guard next year. What about karate, we asked, and she said she'd probably be able to squeeze that in once a week. Pause while both parents think we're paying for the chance to go three times a week, and now you're saying that MAYBE you'll go once a week? What will I say, my wife asked, in a neutral tone; exasperated, the daughter replied School, and karate, and color guard. I can balance them! Pause while both parents think of how well she balanced school and color guard last year, also, how well the school keeps us in the loop regarding how she's doing. This isn't decided yet, my wife said. Goddamn right, I thought.

I am starting to see an upswing in the blood sugar numbers. Remember I said that I wouldn't be able to explain it, but I knew it was going to happen? Well, here it is.... and I can't.

I went to the hospital volunteer office today. As I expected, the woman who runs it, who is somewhat of a flibbertigibbet, thought that 'experience in computer systems' meant that I was volunteering to do word processing for them. Fortunately, the fellow she asked in turn asked me what it was I'd done at IBM and EDS; when I said 'mainframe systems programmer', he looked surprised and said Oh, then you're not looking to do data entry, are you? Ah, no. The volunteer woman was quite surprised. She asked if I'd be interested in occasionally teaching a class to hospital people on some PC software -- Word, Excel, that kind of thing -- and I said sure, I could do that on occasion. But let me help you out -- if its got something to do with technical work relative to computer systems, or medicine, I'm interested. If it's administrative, or word processing, I'm not. She seemed puzzled. Maybe I should get to you to meet the IS people, she mused. Gee, you think? I get the feeling they don't get very many people like me, in the volunteer ranks.


A gloomy, humid day. Last night, it rained fiercely, washing out several roads in the area. Somewhere, we got water somewhere it ought not to be, likely one of the external sockets, and now the GFI breaker won't reset. We're waiting for things to dry out. This morning, I brought my daughter and a friend over to color guard; they told me that they were glad it was overcast, because on a hot day, the blacktop upon which they practice starts to melt.

And I just ran out of chocolate, which is going to make the second batch of brownies interesting. Course, I could make blondies.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recursion to the Max, I mean Mean

Now this is cool. Found at Recursive Tees.

Happy Box

Why does this image delight me so?


"All true wealth is biological" -- Aral Vorkosigan.

I grew up in New York City (not the tough, gritty part, though the area of my youth now is on the tough, gritty side; we drove through there several years ago, and I was reluctant to even roll down the windows, let alone stop). Playland at Rye Beach was the preferred destination for the annual outing of altar boys at our church. This was a Big Deal, as it was much nicer than anything I would routinely see. My father once delighted me by taking us us there, much to my surprise. Years later, I mentioned to my mother how astonished I was when I found out that that was where we were going, and she was surprised, since, apparently, I was so quiet on the trip, they thought I knew that's where we were going, and just wasn't particularly moved. Kids.

Playland is in Westchester County, just north of New York City, and is famous for being the home of moderately wealthy people. Nannies are common, Beamers and Jaguars not exceptional, and trophy wives abound. ( I wonder: if we ever get to the point of having women routinely in the executive suite, will 'trophy husbands' become common?) I didn't realize any of this at the time, though I knew that there was something different about that area; for one thing, it was so damn green! (Shortly after we bought our house here, I heard a local ad for 'the Fresh Air Fund', and realized to my surprise that I was now living where the FAF used to ship inner city New York kids every summer. How about that!)

This past weekend, the Washington Post had an article titled Squeaking By On $300,000 a year. I read the first paragraph, and thought I'm not going to read this, it's just people moaning about not being able to afford the finer things in life quite so easily. But, as it turns out, I did read it, swearing to stop the moment I hit complaints about diminished self-indulgence ability, and it turned out to be a pretty interesting article. The woman who's squeaking by and I have nothing in common - she's a divorced mother living with her children and a live-in nanny in a large (4,000 square feet) house on several acres of manicured land. She earns $150,000 a year, and has access to that much more, from alimony and investments. Still, there's spilled milk on the carpet, and she has to personally sew the scouting patches onto her son's shirt. Her surroundings are more elegant than mine, but she doesn't have an easy life. , The message of the article is, primarily, that what's true for her is true for many of the people in those huge houses. They're not suffering; some may not even be aware of the recession, or only mildly so -- but not all. Some are selling their homes, their possessions, simply to pay bills. Some truly are squeaking by.

This morning, I was making breakfast, slicing up some bread for French Toast, taking out cantaloupe, starting the coffee maker, and I stopped between tasks to look at the green fields visible from the kitchen nook's windows, seeing the early morning light reflecting on the polished wood of the room's cabinets, hearing the soft sounds of jazz from the CD player in the living room. For just a moment, I thought I have a pretty good life, too.

An article from the Wall Street Journal blogs about the phenomenon of diminishment in the quality of life for the monied classes of Westchester and elsewhere, which includes a link to the WaPo article, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Resolution of a Sort

My daughter is happy again.

Apparently, at the color guard practice tonight, she learned that the reason she was told that there was no part for her in the performances this year is because the supervisor was still writing them -- and in the material she just wrote, there is a part. I, being the manipulative type (actually, I'm not, though not from lack of desire; I would like to be able to be devious, but I'm just not good at it), would prefer that this had occurred after my daughter had made her case with the supervisor. That never happened, so she can't draw the conclusion that such things work. Ah, well. Perhaps she'll remember anyway.

Tonight, I made French Chocolate Brownies. They're remarkably like other brownies I've made, save that they are softer, more cakelike, and don't have a crackle glaze on top. Not bad. We'll be making at least one more batch for the band dinner, this coming Thursday night. Here's the recipe:

French Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from “Baking: From My Home to Yours,” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
Time: 1 1/4 hours

12 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 teaspoon melted butter for brushing pan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, in pieces
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts or hazelnuts (optional).

1. Place a rack just below center of oven and preheat to 300 degrees.

2. Line an 8-inch-square pan with foil and brush with melted butter.

3. In a bowl, whisk flour and salt together.

4. In top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave, melt remaining butter and chocolate together.

5. Stir often and remove from heat when a few lumps remain. Stir until smooth.

6. In a mixer, beat eggs and sugar together until thick and pale yellow.
7. Add chocolate mixture and vanilla and mix at low speed until smooth.
8. Add dry ingredients and mix 30 seconds, then finish mixing by hand, adding nuts if using.
9. Pour into prepared pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until top is dry.
10. Let cool in pan, then lift out and cut into bars or wrap in foil.

Yield: 12 to 16 brownies.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Which in our home could stand for Highly Doubtful, though, since we didn't get it for my milestone birthday. I did get a 'wanted but wouldn't buy' gift -- a KitchenAid hand mixer -- even though, as it turned out, it was me that ordered it (g). Still, every so often, we think wouldn't it be nice to have ..... Sort of like Obama saying wouldn't it have been nice if Bush had had just a little regulatory enforcement in place? Then you sigh and get back to reality.

But we do have this milestone anniversary coming up in a couple of months, so the question's not entirely gone from our minds. So when I saw an article on the How Things Work site about 5 accessories you need with an HDTV, and knowing that HTW tends to be a fairly practical site, I thought well, heck. Let's take a look.

The first seemed reasonable -- make sure you have an antenna, satellite, or cable feed. They point out that so long as your TV's got an HDTV tuner in it, you can get HD programming with an antenna, but not much of it. And they also note that even with those other options, you may find that you want to upgrade the service package, since normal cable programming (or the others) don't normally have HD content. KaChing as they say.

The second was just slightly unreasonable -- remember that people like to record programs for time shifting and other purposes, so if you have a recorder, you need to be sure it's HD-capable. Ah, heck. Well, okay. Though I could have done without the plug for Tivo, much as I like the concept of the service.

The third points out that even with a zillion high-def channels, there's times when there's just nothing on -- so of course you'll want a Blu-Ray recorded content player, or something to upconvert images from a DVD player. Yes, just exactly what I need to be reminded of -- spend all this money and there's still nothing on. Oh and if you can't decide whether to get the BluRay or DVD upconverter? They have an answer. Get both!

The fourth flicks on my now wait just a damn minute switch -- an HDMI-capable audiovisual amplifier, complete with ten thousand plugs and jacks. Because with just the set itself, though it does have speakers (said with a curl to the lip), you don't get the total experience unless you have the high-density audio technology that comes with ten thousand pounds of HDMI AV receiver -- painted, of course, in Darth Vader Gloss Black. And don't forget the premium connecting cables -- though some say you don't need them, others swear you do. Don't want to get caught short at those high frequency spots, do you? Good god.

The fifth? Why, look at all this gear you bought! Oh, what a bother, all those remotes! Clearly you need -- a universal remote control so that you can command all of this technology 'with as little effort as possible'. Oh, of course.

AM radio, anyone?

Guess Which is Mine?

Found at I Love Blocks.


I went for a bike ride. I did the lay-the-bike-completely-down to get on, and it worked.

It was a very short bike ride. Even so, I was surprised at how winded I got, coming up the gentle hill to our street -- and I found that it's really not a good idea to stop three quarters of the way up a sloped driveway. But I didn't fall. I did find that laying the bike down to get off is a little trickier. Not bad, if you do it slowly, with a fair amount of paranoia, as I did.

So, this is good.


Band camp is having 'switch day' today. Girls dress as boys, and the reverse. The girls think it's fun. The boys...nope.

I like to say to my wife that a woman wearing guy's clothes is considered stylish and edgy; the reverse (sorry, CA), much less so.

Why is that?


One of the web comics I read, Least I Could Do (an excellent strip, by the way), had a sequence recently about saving and reinvigorating newspapers. (An illustrative episode can be found here; the story arc starts here.)

I've seen some concepts like that, lately, and they're intriguing. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times, for example, offer an electronic replica of their paper; the Washington Post goes further, offering eReplica, a searchable picture image of the paper (think 'print preview' in any word processor), and something called Washington Post Reader, which (I think) is more of an RSS reader feed. Neither offers what I'd really like -- the ability to indicate an article and say 'show me just this article, beginning to end, with hyperlinks for related and historical articles'. I'd pay for that.

The solution that is presented in the strip, incidentally, to the problem is to decouple the news gathering and editing function from the news printing function, and alter the distribution from hardcopy to electronic. Flip the hardware from the Kindle (in the strip) to something like an iPhone, and I can seriously see it working. It makes sense. Couple it with the ability to pull the articles into a personal database, compressed and keyworded, and now I start to get excited. It sounds good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Rahm Emmanuel would doubtless be pleased to know that I'm delighted by him. The idea of someone as bright and focused as he appears to be, backstopping and invigorating the actions of the President I voted for, thrills me. I can't imagine any supporter of Obama not liking him. I admit, being subjected to him would be something else again, and not a happy experience. I imagine he leaves deep cleatmarks on your soul. But from here in the hinterlands, he looks just fine to me.

I was thinking a little about him as a result of scanning through an article in today's New York Times. In it, someone notes that other chiefs of staff have husbanded their power, wanting to dispense it guardedly, and thereby guarding that power itself. In contrast, the article says that his opinion is that 'power is as power does' -- the more you use it, the more you have. I was bemused by this, because the last person I heard manifesting that sort of belief system was Dick Cheney. Though I was infuriated by his actions, I think the underlying attitude -- that power is there to be used, and that you to an extent create your own -- is true. I don't think that you arrive in a political office with a bucket of power, and you have to dole it out carefully over time lest you run out. Instead, I think its more of a self-regenerating thing -- the more things that you think you can affect, and act as if you can affect, the more you actually can affect.

There's a caveat in there: your use of power has to appear to be effective in meeting your goals. If you arm-twist twenty reluctant senators, and only one or two bend your way, you've wasted your power, vitiated yourself, diminished your appearance of power. That guy -- he couldn't get laid if he walked into a women's prison with a fistful of pardons! I think you've got to be careful in where you apply it, limiting yourself to places where it can be effective. But overall -- the more you use, the more you have.

Now, if I could just get my checkbook to work that way....


We had a lengthy conversation with our daughter about school work.

She started out being fairly hostile, but over time mellowed somewhat. We kept our voices calm and level, and she responded to that. It was work, but she's worth it. Speaking of work, part of what we're going to do is review her progress on a weekly basis in each major subject -- what she's doing, what tests are coming up, what projects she has. Part of that will be review of the actual material, and that means that I'll get to spend some time learning it well enough to talk with her about it. Should be interesting. Towards the end, we offered some carefully muted suggestions as to what she could do to resolve a problem she is having at color guard. I told her that one of the secrets of success is making it possible for others to succeed -- if you can help them get what they want, they're more receptive to helping you get what you want. I suggested that she talk with the color guard supervisor in a way that made the supervisor aware that by helping her, she'd be helping herself. She seemed mildly intrigued by the idea.

I was delighted when after I said that motivational people always say that teachers love helping you, supervisors love helping you -- but before I could finish -- she said No they don't! -- and I said 'but the truth is, they don't -- they have their own lives. They'll help when asked, but they won't go out of their way to solve your problems.' I thought it was so cool that she'd already discerned that. I'm sure that won't stop the smiling faces at the high school's guidance office from peddling that same line next years, though.


Exclusive - Austan Goolsbee Extended Interview Pt. 1
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Saturday, August 15, 2009


I still occasionally engage people on Twitter about political topics. Not too often, and not too successfully. But I do. I have this need to make them understand that not all liberals are idiots. That's of course assuming I'm not an idiot!

I mentioned to my daughter that a doc had suggested I try riding a girl's bike, since I have so much difficulty rotating my hip to hike a leg over the seat, but, trying it with hers, I found I couldn't even do that. Oh, I have an answer for that, she said, and taking her bike she laid it completely down on its side. I was able to step (gingerly) into it, and then just pick it up. Not as elegant as I'd like, but it works.

Blood sugars in the mornings have been amazingly low. I even dropped the long-acting insulin, one night, by about 10%, and it was still way low the next morning. The key seems to be getting the night time number pretty low, too. Its a balancing act. Too low at night and I'll bottom out some time during the early morning hours, which is not a good thing.

Today, we made these. Not bad. They'd have been better had I remembered to put the Dijon and cheese on!


Pastry Dough
5 cups flour 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 eggs 1/2 cup sugar
11/2 cups milk 8 tablespoons melted butter

1 lb ground beef 1 medium onion, chopped
2cups cabbage, chopped 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces cheddar cheese 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place 5 cups of flour, sugar, and 1 package dry active yeast in a bowl.
Heat milk till lukewarm
Add the milk, melted butter and eggs.
Stir until stiff.
Knead the dough, put in lightly greased bowl, let rise 1 hour.
Meanwhile chop cabbage, onion. Set aside.
Punch down dough, knead again, punch down. Set aside.

Brown chopped onion, ground beef, and cabbage on medium heat until cooked through.
Take off heat.
Add salt and pepper, dijon mustard, and cheddar cheese.
Stir until cheese melts.

Divide dough into 12 pieces.

Roll pieces into balls, flatten each piece into a circle and fill with 1/4 cup of the filling.

Close each bieroch by pulling the corners together and then place seam down on baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bread is golden brown



When I was growing up, there were two choices of pizza at the local places. Plain, flat pizza, cut into triangles, and Sicilian, cut into thick squares. When you 'wanted a slice', you got the first kind, but if you were really hungry, you either got two or three of the first, or you got a Sicilian. Rare was the person who could eat more than one Sicilian slice. Having a Sicilian was almost a meal in itself.

Over the years, I forgot about Sicilians. I encountered variations of the plain, flat pizza -- most notably, the pineapple and pepperoni's that we got at Magpie's, in Tucson, or the thick pizza at Pizzeria Uno (of Chicago origin, but found elsewhere), or the pizza at places like Bertucci's, near Fanueil Hall in Boston. All were good. Lots of bad ones, too -- for some reason, people seem to think that throwing sauce on dough automatically makes a decent pizza; even around here, where the pizza pickings are slim, its obvious who those places are. Not so obvious why they're still in business. But no Sicilian.

The other night, we had a Sicilian.

We were out for some reason, and thought we might as well eat at a restaurant. Heading for one, my wife mentioned that we would be passing the site where a car wash event will be held. "It's at that restaurant across from the Dairy Queen, near the post office", she said, but I couldn't bring one to mind. Slowing to look at it, I realized I had seen this place before, but never gone in. But it was a 'ristorante', which usually means 'pizza and some spaghetti', so we went. And, seeing Sicilian on the menu, I thought 'what the hell. Bring back my childhood'.

Whereupon they delivered a Sicilian pie to us of eight slices, each about three times the size of the ones from my youth. It was pretty good, but, even being hungry, and pausing, we couldn't eat more than about a quarter of it. No way would we abandon this masterpiece, though. We boxed up the rest and brought it home. It now resides in the downstairs freezer, where the box is so big, it dominates a shelf.

Sicilian. Good stuff. Even if, as it turns out, my daughter doesn't like it because it's not like the ones we get at Grandma's house.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Hug A Developer

Found on The Blomsma Code.


I was precipitate in assuming that my daughter had gotten over being dissed by her activity's supervisor. She's apparently still as raw as a new sunburn. My attempt to sympathize was vigorously and almost viciously rejected. It takes a lot for me to become enraged at her, but she managed it nicely. I have to remember that I'm the adult.

Reading articles about travel experiences. I dread the next time that we go to Tucson -- not because of the destination, per se, but because the airline flight experience sounds so incredibly awful. I am actually willing to think about the cost of chartering a plane to do it -- though I am sure, as I am with other spending opportunities, that I'd back off when presented with the potential bill, from this temporal distance it almost sounds worth it. Airlines sound wretched. Wretched.

I am reading a piece of fan fiction with a surprising blend -- House, MD meets Nero Wolfe. Though not great, it's surprisingly good. Well above the standard for most fan fiction. I understand that Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe, disliked when people would adopt his character for their own novels; I'm sure he wouldn't like this one, either. Too bad. For me, I'm glad to have found it.

We still have ants in the damn kitchen. I swear that they come in waves. There is little more distressing than looking down into your cereal and seeing an ant doing the back peddle.


Turns out she's still pretty broken up about things, about being screwed by the activity supervisor. Just learning to hide it.

Dammit. It tears my heart out - and that's not the bad part.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Le Flic

Went to see Julie and Julia tonight with my wife. Pleasant film. Definitely a chick flick, though. Nothing blows up.

Revised and Extended Remarks

I support the idea of the public health care option, but I recognize that Obama's using hyperbole when he talks about it. So, I thought it would be interesting to quote what he said, and what he might have said if he was being completely honest. The quote comes from the White House Blog.

Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts -- not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan.
They'll be able to raise your costs, though, if you start costing them more than they estimated you would, up front.

Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick.
That difference between the more that you're costing them and what they're earning will be paid by your employer. If you're paying for the insurance yourself, it'll be paid by you. That's not out-of-pocket, exactly.

And finally -- this is important -- we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies -- -- because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money -- and we need to save money in this health care system. Doctors will charge for that, and the insurance companies will pay for it. Well, most of it. The rest goes to that out-of-pocket.

So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthier. Right. You can have quality, all you can afford. The more you can afford, the more quality you'll get. We'll ensure a basic level, but past that is up to you. As for the bureaucrat, it'll likely be a hospital bureaucrat. And we won't add to our deficit, but, hey, somebody's gonna pay for it. Just, not us.

Now, none of this means I don't agree. I do. I just would like it a lot better if politics allowed people to tell the truth. Last I looked, we're all adults. We can handle it. Just be straight with us.


On a whim, I just reread a couple of blog entries from four years ago.

Holy hell. Did I really think that? Was I really that grimly disgruntled?

Light Thought

Sometimes, I'd like to do something really snappy with our house. Landscaping is what usually comes to mind, but what I'd really like to do is put up outside lighting. Oh, we've got the usual -- lamp post (nice one, too), four lights on the outside of the garage, one over the entryway -- but what I'd really like is lighting.

Lighting to illuminate the trees with a moody glow at night.

Lighting to pick out the flagstone walkway with tiny brilliant fireflies.

Lighting to change the color of the house on Hallowe'en.

Lighting to make an outdoor grotto of the yard, or an intimate nook.


Around here, they think that CFLs are the height of style. I imagine that the truly expensive houses, over on Lawyer Lane and Doctor Drive, have great lighting (actually, I've only seen one, but I want to believe, as they used to say in the X-Files), but for Bill's Bilevel? Nah.


All Obama, All The Time

Obama Actions and Initiatives

Foreign Policy:
Condemns the Iranian government's crackdown (Jun23)
Voices qualified support for Colombia trade deal(Jul02-
Pressed African countries to be more open and honest(Jul 13 -

Proposes Rules on Trading in Derivatives (Aug12-

Unveils Education 'Race to the Top' (Jul 30 -
Changes priorities on immigration (Jul 30 -
Sets Immigration Changes for 2010 (Aug 13 -

Health Care:
Consults experts on 1976 swine flu outbreak (Jul1 -
Reshapes health care pull as 'anti-insurer' (Jul30 -
Seeks small business support for health care (Jul30 -

Human Services:
Federal benefits to be extended to gay/unmarried partners
Calls for a public service plan for individuals

Urges action on global warming
Urges fast work on climate-change bill (jun24)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


There are lies that parents tell children. Most are to ease things along. Some are because the parents believe them to be true. Some of them actually are. Others, maybe not. One of the latter is that if you have a problem with something that an authority figure has done, you should make your case to the person, who will listen to you and possibly rethink their decision. I suppose its possible, but my experience is, not too often. Got one of those this evening.

In a nutshell, at a color guard practice today, my daughter got screwed by the color guard supervisor. Partially, it was because she'd been told that she would have a part that she wanted, and then, when the supervisor arbitrarily decided that she wanted to have an audition, my daughter choked on one part. She can do it -- not great, not bad -- but she choked. To add insult to injury, the supervisor picked a person who hadn't been there for the whole practice, and who left early, to do the coveted routine. Finally, my daughter elected to spend some down time working with a different group, who was practicing some very basic things, instead of simply standing around, as her group was doing; as a result, she was designated to perform with the basic group, because she could do it. The ones who chose to simply stand around weren't penalized.

I told her that she should bring it up to the supervisor, and she implored me not to say anything at all, to anyone. She knows I would. She said she doubted the supervisor would even listen -- this person is known for a my-way-or-the-highway attitude; she doubted the supervisor would care what she thinks. As it is, she's thinking about giving it up entirely - as she put it, if she feels like crying in the middle of a routine, and comes home crying, it doesn't sound like something she wants to continue to do -- even though she's done it for years, and likes it. Liked it. Shes even willing to give up large amounts of karate practice time, which she loves, in order to do it.

Yeah, supervisors will listen. You just keep believing that, kiddo.

I know, teenage girl, things blow over, all of that. I told her to give it a day or so, think about it. Still. This is my daughter, you creep.


Two xrays and one MRI later, the verdict is in: my wife's foot is not broken. Still got a fairly large blister, though, as well as a big honkin' hematoma inside. Gonna take another week, easily, to subside - and that only if she'll continue to stay off her feet.

CNN has an interesting and succinct summary of competing health plans as part of an article about a Specter town hall.

Baking a devils food cake, just for the heck of it.


I heard a phrase, long ago: where you stand depends on where you sit. What you think about something is influenced by what's going on in your world at the moment.

Had occasion to think of it this morning when listening to an article on NPR.

The article was about the cost of building and maintaining prisons, and how states, already in financial trouble, can't sustain the growth that they're experiencing in that sector. Yet one state is able to slow the growth, they said, and it's the one that you wouldn't expect: Texas. They didn't soften any laws, or let people out early. What they did is make it less likely for a person to go back to jail, by installing programs to train them, change their lives, change their prospects. Drug addicts are forced to go through rehab treatments that address not only the addiction but the lifestyle and attitudes that got them addicted. A gruff-sounding Texas state legislator said that this wasn't softening -- it's tough for the inmates, real tough. But it works.

And I thought: isn't this the sort of program that liberals pushed, years ago, and were scoffed at by places like Texa as weak, mollycoddling? Toss 'em in jail and let 'em rot, wasn't that their response?

Where you stand....

Monday, August 10, 2009



I don't know if this is real. Could be an urban myth. Probably is an urban myth.

But if it isn't.....

Recession Advisory

The recession is now officially over. I bought the Kitchen Aid hand mixer.

Let the celebrations commence.

I am not a GI Joe Fan

But.... this, I liked.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Various Things

The wind abruptly whipped up, a few moments ago, with whirling leaves and bending tree limbs, the whole bit -- and then just as abruptly died down. God saying 'hey, just messing with you."

My daughter's on the downward slide now -- two weeks of band camp, nine to twelve hours, five days a week (except the last day), then one week off, then school starts -- and a week later, they get a three day holiday. She just loves being reminded of this.

Multiple interesting articles in today's Post. One is about a company called the Five O'clock Club, which assists companies in doing terminations. They're doing very well. It doesn't sound like a fun job. I made the minor mistake of mentioning it to my wife, who's still paranoid about keeping her job. Who isn't, these days? Skill and dedication count for very little, these days. Haven't for years.
A different article talks about a man and woman's wedding. They look quite happy, as people do -- but what's unusual (to me, anyway), is that the man is white and the woman's black. It doesn't happen that way too often. I have a hunch that the reverse -- black man, white woman -- happens more frequently than I think, and both happen because our society still tends to show white people as successful and professional, or successful and blue collar, while it shows black people as occasionally the former, more frequently the latter, and almost as frequently as criminals. In other words, white is desirable, black, not so much. That isn't right. I don't know how they can do better in showing black reality (not all black kids like hip-hop, for example, or are joking jivesters, but tell that to the network programmers), but clearly it's needed. They could start by reading this.
Another article talks about how, now that the recovery is starting, it might be too late to join into the tech recovery -- which reminds me of one I read the other day about banks already pushing complex financial instruments again. I am not often one for 'bring out the torches and the hot pitch', but for those guys, I think it warranted.

Which reminds me of the joke I heard the other day: these days, what's the difference between a sparrow and an investment banker? Only the sparrow can make a deposit on a Lamborghini.

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, about the NRA: The problem is that the NRA isn't willing to look at reasonable things. Yes!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

RT, Redux

Another road trip to my mother in law's home, though this one was relatively straightforward -- left here at 920 this morning, got back home around 830. Not too bad. I once again found proof that whenever anyone writes a history of great roadside food, they'll be skipping most of US 81 in Pennsylvania. I'm sure there's some out there, somewhere, but none found on my journeys.

We installed the router on her PC, so now anyone coming with a wireless-equipped laptop can connect up. I didn't put in encryption, since I couldn't recall if the client had to have it, too -- I think so, not sure -- but I did install MAC address filtering, along with instructions for how to add another PC, should one show up. Since spoofing a MAC address requires knowing a working MAC address, which she would not routinely have in use, I figured the risk is small.

And we got to visit with my wife's niece and nephew -- the nephew there with his wife of three plus years, the niece alone and newly divorced; still hard to believe how short her marriage was, especially given that they'd lived together for a couple of years. She seemed a little glum; I guess getting divorced can do that to you. She was compensating, possibly, by wearing a sundress with a very loose top. Startling.

Usual way-too-much food, including birthday cake, and two birthday pies. My stomach is distended, and I hardly partook -- well, except for the strawberry pie. That was pretty good.

Internal Pressure

I had occasion this morning to think about the physiology of irritation. For this, I can thank McDonalds.

As some may have heard, McDonalds is an American (and international) hamburger chain. Hamburgers are how they made their reputation. Hamburgers are what they advertise. Hamburgers are what they have posters for, in their windows.

Hamburgers are what they don't sell you if you arrive before 11AM. And if you order sweet tea, what you might get is regular tea. This irritated me. I wanted to yell at someone -- but as the clerk was your prototypical fast-food clerk (where do they get those bright, cheerful people in the ads?), I know it would be less satisfying than yelling at a wall. Less productive, too.

But it got me to thinking about irritation. Why do we feel tense, full-of-ire? What's happening, inside? I'm going to bet that part of it is the hypothalamus, flight-or-fight syndrome. But what else?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Changes, Generally Good

For a while -- feels like a long while, but probably not that long -- I had a problem where the blood sugar measurements I'd do were always high. Not terribly high, but certainly way higher than they ought to be, even by my relaxed standards. I had no idea why. Now, for about the last two - three weeks, I've been getting readings that are lower than normal; even when I reduce the amount of insulin that I take, they're still lower than normal. Again, no idea why. Obviously, the second delights me as much as the first puzzled me. As I said to my wife this morning, this must be God saying 'hey, sorry for messing with you before, here, have some slack'.

A moment ago, my daughter came dancing out into the living room -- literally, dancing -- holding a black belt and squealing in delight. I knew that this was a big deal, but I had no idea why. Turns out it was the belt to a skirt she wanted to wear, and couldn't find for days, so she's delighted. I told her my little story, and said that perhaps this was God saying 'hey, sorry you had some stress with your cousin's visit, so here, have your belt back'. She thought there might be something to that. She then told me all of the prep work she'd done for this luncheon she's going to -- its with the girl, and her mother, that she'd wanted to visit with this past Wednesday; she's really pleased, and really excited. I did the Caring Dad Thing, listening with apparent understanding as she talked about the four or five things she'd done with her hair (it was the classic guy reaction; I looked and thought 'oh, her hair looks nice....different, somehow', without having a clue how much effort it had taken), not to mention the effort she'd put into makeup -- this from a girl who flat doesn't like to wear makeup, period. She wants to shine at this luncheon, and I was very pleased for her, and just a little pleased that she said, in passing, that she'd certainly never want to put this much effort into every-day attire and looks, and didn't understand how other girls could do that; good, she's not morphing into a mirror queen. But she is growing up, becoming more assured, more polished. Pang.

In a bit, I'm going out for a haircut, putting up some drugs for my mother at the local pharmacy, picking up some Ace Bandages for my wife (her foot is better, but still in a bad way). This afternoon, I get to take my daughter and two other girls to a Harry Potter showing at a local IMAX theater (they're dressing up for it, capes and all). And I got the lawn mower to run enough so that I could do the front and back yards -- there's nothing my mower likes less than long, wet grass, so that was mucho fun. Still don't know what we're going to do about that. I think if we could just get a riding mower, I would --- but where would we store the damn thing? Problems of the Idle Rich, a little bit.

But the rest of the day will be quiet and serene. At least, I think it will. This is goodness.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Post Post

Well, the lengthy visit is over, and the visitor has departed. We're just about out of milk, we are out of flavored water, the refrigerator is in disarray, and we've got to make a shopping list and hit the grocery store.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Now, we sleep.


My wife apologised for not getting me lavish gifties, but the truth is, I don't really care -- and, as it happens, she got me things that I would not have gotten for myself, but which I like. To me, that's an excellent criterion for gifts.

She got me --

Three notepads from Levengers which use the thick paper I like.

A stack of notecards, also from Levengers, also thick; ditto.

A set of pen/pencil holders that clip to books for ease in taking notes.

Several years ago, she gave me a packet of computer paper (actually, I guess, typing paper, but it can be used in a printer) which was so nice, I was reluctant to use it. Its a funny thing: I see it, I hold it, I smile, I put it back. I like just having it.

These, though -- they're not staying in the cabinet. Stealing a phrase from my daughter, I held them and said Mine!

Birthday Surprise

I am not much one for birthday surprises. When the surprise is that the handle for my Black and Decker CMM1200 cordless mower snaps loose, its little pivot pin skittering away into the grass, so that the fully-charged mower stops dead, the surprise is particularly unwelcome. Another failure of design, I think.

This is where you think 'these things always break just when you need them', the illogic of that statement not only not occurring to you, but being particularly repellent when it does occur to you.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Don't read this if you're not delighted in where you work.


Well, it looks like tortes come out better if you did have a power whisk to beat volume into the eggs. Ah, well. It's still chocolate.

As for tomorrow, things will likely be quiet. I'm going to try to keep my wife off her feet, which rules out going out to lunch. Burgers at home will be fine with me. I, personally, will be going out to bring the daughteroid and visitor to a local amusement park. I'll bring a book.

And at the end of the day, the visitor's family will stop by to pick them up, bringing along their hyperactive son and hypershy daughter, among others. Should be -- interesting.


Well, the baking of the birthday cake is underway.

I have never made a torte, so when I came across a recipe for Chocolate and Ginger Torte, I thought this would be a good time to try it. If it comes out well, I'll make a ganache tomorrow to coat it. Of course, this being me, the cake isn't being made to the highest of standards. For one thing, I couldn't find 'stem ginger' to save myself; I put in an arbitrary amount of ground ginger. The eggs never did make peaks; that only happens, in my experience, with a power whisk, and my only bowl for the stand beater was holding the chocolate, flour, and butter. C'est la vie -- I did it by hand, sue me. The final batter is pretty tasty, though -- could almost be brownie batter.

chocolate & ginger torte

5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 stick butter
3 extra-large eggs, separated
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, chopped
generous 1/4 cup superfine sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder, to dust
heavy cream, to serve

Heat oven to 325°F
Grease an 8-in round springform cake pan and line its base with waxed paper.
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.
Heat until melted.
Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes.
Beat in the egg yolks, then sift the flour over the top and fold in, along with the chopped ginger.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy, then whisk in the sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time, until peaks are formed.
Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then pour into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes until firm to the touch, but still slightly soft in the center.
Let cool completely in the pan.

To serve, remove the cake from the pan, and dust with cocoa powder.
Serve in wedges with heavy cream poured on top.


Well, I'm a little down, at the moment. Nothing major, just a few things.

My wife's foot is better, but not great. They did another xray, and it still doesn't look broken, but we're told that xrays of feet are chancy things, difficult to read. If the swelling isn't substantially down by Friday, she'll need to get an MRI. She's finding it hard to stay off her feet, particularly with the visitor. I spent part of yesterday bringing them to two local attractions, just so she could do that. The result is promising -- a blister that had formed is now down by about a quarter -- but she needs to continue that. What a wonderful way to spend a vacation.

The visitor thought it'd be fun to download a toolbar to my daughter's PC. The toolbar possibly had a virus. At the least, it was laden with junkware. I did a search for it on Google and found a lot of badly written, foul comments about it, both saying it was junk and saying it was not. I think I got rid of it by doing a System Restore back two days. I mentioned to her that I was surprised that her anti-virus didn't catch it, if it was a virus, and she replied that the antivirus had been broken and she'd meant to tell me about that.

Today's my last full day at this age. Tomorrow is the milestone birthday. I'm not thrilled. I think I'd prefer to spend it quietly, but with the visitor here, we'll likely go out to eat. I really don't enjoy that. We're still talking about getting Le Gift Grand, and I'm not too happy about that, either. I don't like spending money frivolously.

I am not happy with the health care debate. Especially the Republicans, but the Democrats, too.

Plus, the grass has to be mown. And I need to bug my daughter to do some cleaning.

Blech. On the other day, my daughter did refer to me as awesome, even if she did it to annoy her cousin. So, hey, that's something.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I was telling my daughter the other day about the experience of getting commissioned while at ROTC summer camp, and mentioned that probably the best part of getting it done there was getting kissed by the blonde girl, a fellow cadet, who pinned on my bars. She was astonished. Her father, getting kissed by someone cute she'd never even heard of?

Still got some secrets, kiddo!

Handling Children

I imagine everyone thinks that the way they handle children is the best.

I tend to treat kids over the age of 10 as small adults. I tease them as I do with younger ones, but I also talk seriously -- well, quasi-seriously -- with them, asking them what they think about various things. All of this comes into play with my daughter, through the years and now. Though I am loathe to admit it, there is something to the idea that she has me wrapped around her finger; I'm more likely to cut her slack than is her mother. Not completely, though; I've learned, in watching her with her mother, that there are times for laxity and times for strictness, and though I am not as strict as her mother, there are times when, were it up to me, I'd cut her slack, but I don't. I am sure my daughter appreciates this.

One of those periods is happening right now. My daughter has her cousin visiting, and they're usually getting along okay. But, my daughter has a friend who is having a small get together of kids who've been together since middle school. The gathering is tonight. Our feeling is that she shouldn't abandon her cousin for this. When I say 'our', I mean 'her mother, and me, somewhat'. Part of why I can accept this is that my daughter is going to be away three nights, partially, for color guard and for karate; the idea of leaving again to have fun with others seems a bit much. On the other hand, I know how she feels. That's usually when you push your parents to let you do what you want, devil take the consequences. It's my wife who's better at pointing out the consequences; I try to moderate that, though not always. And we never, ever undercut each other. I have heard that kids will play one parent against the other, given the chance, and though I think not MY daughter, we don't intend to give her the chance. United front, and all that.

Kids are more of an intellectual exercise than I'd expected, but also an instinctive one. I had always thought that you sort-of planned out how you would handle them, but it seems now that its partially that -- here's what we're going to do, generally -- but its also what you're comfortable doing -- what seems right to you, without thought. It's who you are, distilled.