Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How We Met

Sarah Oleksyk does fifteen variations on How We Met. Delightful.

Boldly Going

Some Star Trek fans go more boldly than others.


Apparently, this isn't a faked picture. What it appears to show, apparently actually happened.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Daughter's starting to get a sense of the grades coming out next week. Of five core courses, two are Bs, one is a likely B, one is unknown, and one is.... not good. We were really hoping for two As, 3 Bs. Drat.


Technology doesn't fix problems. Technology buttressed by infrastructure fixes problems.


It's amazing what sleeping late, awakening to the realization that you're missing a meeting that you didn't want to go to, and then a breakfast of coffee and waffles with ice cream will do for your mood. I feel a lot better.

The meeting was at the Middle School, for the mentors. It was their annual kick-off meeting. Having been to two of them, I knew exactly what they'd say, and I didn't need the platitudes of the principal, the guidance counselor, and possibly the school superindendent. Truthfully, I don't know if I'm going to do that this year -- I've mentioned why, in earlier posts. I suppose I will, but with a different attitude toward what I expect of the mentee -- which, since I've already told him, is likely why he's not responded to any emails from me, other than the very first one, at the beginning of the summer, and one at the end.

I learned years ago, and intermittantly have to be forcibly reminded, that things are not as easy as they appear from the cheap seats. Motivating anyone is difficult; motivating a kid, without even the edge that biology gives, is more so. Though my image of middle school teaching is idealistic, I've come to realise that for most teachers it's a long haul from September to June. I still expect more from them than they're apparently capable of delivering, though, even with that observation. Some make the effort; most don't. I am willing to believe that they want to, but time, environment, and the strictures of a rigid bureaucratic environment make that difficult, to put it mildly.

And I still recall the irritation I felt when the guidance counselor told me that I could not wait for my mentee in the hall, because 'people might not know who I was', despite the cute little MENTOR name tag. Ah, yes.

Various Things

I'm not normally up at this time of night, but tonight, I am. Not sure why. I've been sitting out here in the living room, thinking about various things. One of those times when I'm almost too sleepy to think, but too awake to sleep.

Having a little problem with blood sugar control. Not panicking, yet, but still. It spiked up really high yesterday morning, and I thought, while I was still in bed but half awake, that perhaps I ought to go look, given my body's habits. Glad I did -- took some drugs.

I've been going through the Eureka first season DVDs. I'm enjoying it. Part of it is simply the environment- who wouldn't like to be surrounded by really, really bright people (even if some of them are, to put it mildly, delusional). And what about that technology that's so casually scattered around? Fusion reactors? Personal AIs? Feh, that's so last year. The actors are pretty good, too, particularly the fellow who plays the (comparatively) dim Sheriff. He usually figures out what's going wrong when the technology or one of the techs goes astray -- not so much a I think we need to increase the roentgen scattering to compensate for the supraluminal backscatter as a Well, what if Jim was actually spacing out and thinks that anime characters are real? What would he do then? It's a lot of fun.

I saw an article in the public television magazine about a woman who's set up what they're calling a concierge medical practice, locally. Not sure if I'll read it. On the one hand, she could be doing exactly what the doctors I've read about in This Side of Doctoring say they want to do -- making a practice (literally) of taking the time to care, professionally and personally, for people's health, doing it without going insane or going broke. In that case, it'd be an interesting read. On the other, the intro to the article mentions that her office has quiet taste, elegant artwork, and the like, and the picture of her on the cover shows her to be very well dressed, which plays to the and I want to make a lot of money while doing exactly what I want to do image I've had of concierge medicine for a long time.

We went to make a medical appointment for my mother to see a pulmonary guy, see if we could get anything done for her labored breathing. There's one fellow she particularly likes because he takes the time to carefully explain things to her -- he wasn't available for two months. On the other hand, the other doc in the practice was available Thursday morning. Not sure what to make of that. It could be as simple as the first guy not being in full-time practice here; it could be... otherwise.

We're ready to get the HDTV (even if which one varies from day to day). We were thinking that we could simply use the coffee table which has served as a TV table and general detritus collector for the last dozen years to be the support for it. The table's about thirty years old, and I understand that it has a distinguished provenance; my wife's sister got it out of a dumpster, refinished it, and used it for several years before giving it to her to furnish her apartment. I'd like to do better than that. Not a lot better, though it seems that you go from relatively inexpensive tables and such to oh my god HOW much is that? And that's not even the expensive ones. Thing is, I'd like to improve the quality of what's down there in the den. Better chairs, more comfortable arrangements. Right now, its not bad, but it's pretty messy, and I'm thinking that if we're ever going to improve it, this would be a good time to start. I'm even willing to spend serious money on it -- and I'm never willing to spend serious money. Take audio equipment. I realized the other day, though, that much as I dislike the idea of getting an audiovisual amplifier to go with the television, there's a benefit that would come with the improved sound; it could (if we pick the right one from the confusing options) 'upconvert' the image from our existing VHS tape player so that it would look decent - well, semi-decent, but we have loose standards - on the hi-def screen. We don't actually watch tapes all that much -- we don't even watch our own DVDs all that much -- but it's like still having a turntable even though its been years since we listened to a vinyl record -- we don't like giving up on the technology. That's not sentimentality, by the way: we paid for that stuff, dammit! And yes, I realize how illogical it is to spend serious money so that we can watch/listen to technology that we don't watch/listen to routinely now. I do know that.

Learned the other day that HP plans to eliminate the EDS name -- once the EDS stuff is integrated into HP, it won't be 'EDS, an HP Company', but HP, period. That saddens me, even with the losers that EDS has had for management, lately. I gather that HP is happy they bought the company, from their financial results (though the culture merge isn't going particularly well; no doubt, though, on who's going to win that one). They have a funny way of showing that pleasure.

I spent some time with my daughter last night, helping her review biology questions. She's apprehensive about how she'll do, because she did poorly on a test. (When she's willing to tell me that she did poorly, she really did.) She says that the reason is that she was out for part of the material, which is true; this teacher's my least favorite, not only because he's one of the ones who sees no reason to put any of his material on the web. Part, too, is because it's a tough course; the notes are not labelled Biology but Biochemistry, and the words and concepts that she was reviewing sound to me like they come from a college biology text. ATP? Nucleotides? SPONCH? It would feed my -- well, not ego, but whatever it is when you guiltily admit that you're living through your child's achievements -- for her to do well in this course, and to want to do well, but we suspect that the reason she wants to do well is not yearning for academic achievement as that she has a couple of things riding on how her interim grades do (they come out next Tuesday), ranging from being able to go to an anime convention in Valley Forge to being allowed to continue in color guard for the remainder of the semester. One or two other things, too. I don't like motivating her through pain, but so far, it seems to be working.

Funny how it's frequently reasonable to urge other people to get past their anguish and problems -- think Lockerbie, 9/11, Pearl Harbor -- but when it's your stuff, the standards are a lot more relaxed. I'm thinking the furor over the arrest of Roman Polanski, the jailing of my neighbor, and how I'd feel if it were my daughter in either case.

I've been edgy and mad intermittently, lately, and I don't know why. Part of it is irritation -- muted rage, actually -- at my oral surgeon and his surprise news of the other day. Part of it (though I am a little ashamed to admit it) is irritation with my mother's medical condition; I am not a particularly empathic person, and I find myself thinking how long is this going to go on? I know the unpleasant answer to that, by the way. I'm not sure what else is motivating my emotions. Whatever it is, it's not enjoyable, for me or the people here. I am beginning to think that at sixty I'm no more emotionally mature than I was forty years ago. Perhaps, I never will be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Absolutely The Case

From XKCD:


The whole idea of 'referrals' is so that HMOs can save money by making the primary doc be the gatekeeper (for which read: limiter) for access to more expensive docs. The concept has become discredited, since most primary docs don't like to be the bad guy, and will issue referrals at will. But, as it turns out, that doesn't mean that you still don't have to go through their list of ten million questions to get the referral. Even though the person who will give the referral has already been asked, and said yeah, go see this other doc. Even though the patient has been at both places multiple times Even though....

Argh. Our method of delivering health care sucks. Gosh, what a novel concept.

And here thought I didn't get irrationally mad, any more.


My wife asked how RSS works, and I said that while I kind-of knew, I didn't really. I did some searching, and all of the explanations I found were badly written or excited about using it, but not explaining how it works. So, this is how it works. I think so, anyway.

RSS (the acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication, among other things; that's not important) is a way to get a summary of what's on a web site without having to go to the site.

To use RSS, you need two things: the site's 'RSS Feed', and the second is an 'RSS Reader'. The RSS Feed
is a file that contains summary of all of the material on the site. This file and the summary are created and maintained by the site owner. The file changes whenever what's on the site changes. The RSS reader is a program that displays the contents of that file.

When you find a site that you want to monitor with an RSS reader, you need to get the URL of the site's RSS Feed. This isn't the same as the URL of the site itself.

Note that not all sites support RSS. For the ones that do, you can usuall
y find the the feed URL by clicking on the 'RSS' indicator in the address bar when you've got the site displayed in your browser. The
'RSS indicator' looks like this -

You take the URL for the site's RSS feed and put it into your RSS Reader. (For some readers, this happens automatically; for others, like Google Reader, you have to cut-and-paste it.) Most readers can 'auto-discover' the feed's URL if you give them the URL of the site.

Each time you start your RSS reader, it goes to the URL for the site's RSS feed, gets a current copy of the feed, brings it back to your reader, and displays it. If the information in the summary is all of the new material, that's all you need to do; if it's just a summary, or just the first couple of words, you can click on it to go to the site where it was created and read the rest of it.


Odd dream -- the day after the country's financial collapse announced. Businesses open but nothing happening. People gathering to talk quietly. No cars, trucks, trains moving.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pointed Comment

I don't know if this is true. But I hope so.


I came across the following on a web page:

The word Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the ‘female reproductive organ’. Translated directly into English, it could mean vulva or vagina. It also has a wider meaning in religious and spiritual contexts, where its meaning is ‘creativity’.

I don't find this impossible to believe, but a little difficult? Yeah. It seems like a line that a high school boy would use. Oh, and there were pictures, below it. You can imagine what the pictures were of.


I went to the Post Office this morning to mail the brownies, and other stuff, off to that woman in Iraq whose name I found on her father's web site, here. I'm not in the habit of doing this, but it just seemed like a nice idea, so I did it.

When I got my receipt, it noted that you can go to to do a customer service survey. Sure, I think, good idea. Well, it wasn't a great survey, but it was okay. However, I noticed that on each of the pages, at the bottom, it said this:

Do not print, store, or copy this page.

The survey's hardly a secret, obviously, and the questions were generic. So, why?

SCUBA masks optional

(A roller coaster at Six Flags of Georgia Amusement Park is flooded on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009 in Austell, Ga. Found here.)

Friday, September 25, 2009


Sometimes, I wish that we had a vigorous, intelligent Republican party in this country -- one without blowhards in high places, without schemers to whom it is much more important to be in power than to do something good for the nation with that power. A party of fiscal prudence coupled with integrity. I think that if such a party existed, and if they bested the Democrats in an election, I could think well, the best party won. I really do think that.

Not going to happen, of course. Not the 'besting the Democrats' -- that'll happen, sooner or later -- but the 'best party'. It seems that the Republicans have become known for scheming, power games, and generally being untrustworthy when it comes to the public weal. Their idea of 'the public' all lives on Wall Street and Fifth Avenue, and the rest of the country exists purely to generate wealth for them. That's not how Republicans should be, but it's how they are, these days. So the Democrats winning -- that's a good thing. They're not perfect, either -- but for the moment, they're better. They want power and chauffeured limosuines and close-to-the-gate parking at the airport, too, just like the other guys -- but they want power and wealth for Main Street, not Fifth Avenue. So, I'm for them, because Main's where I live.

I'd like to see us return to a sense of common, shared values, though. I think Obama's trying to do that (I am sure that die hard Republicans would disagree), but I don't know if he can pull it off. In a country where 'teabaggers' is considered political discourse, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.


This is a bit dated, but I like it.


From an article about the talent of Marko Djurdjevic --

I really do see a resemblance.

Dental the Menace

The other day, at what was supposed to be the final visit with the oral surgeon, just a checkup, he expressed shock and dismay that his last iteration of dental wizardry went, as Robert Burns would say, agley -- the dental appliance seems to have pushed the skin on my jaw up, forming a ridge. Oh, he said, we need to fix that or you're going to lose those implants. He didn't seem to want to mention that prior to him doing his stuff, the jaw was just fine, so the odds are, it's something he did. But, okay, now, for the next week or so, I'm not wearing the appliance at all, hoping that things will return to as they should be.

Which is why, with my sudden lack of chewing ability, I'm really frosted about finding this:

Pencilled In

Clay Bennett
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Sep 13, 2009

Take This

Here's my take on a couple of things.

People say that the 'Mayo model' can be successfully applied elsewhere. I believe that it can. But I also believe that one of the reasons it works in one direction - excellence of care - is because multiple other factors are in support of it -- a homogeneous patient base, medical staff working for salary, a general control of their environment. To get the point of the spear where you want it, you need the shaft of the spear all lined up behind it. That's not always possible.

A fellow on NPR this morning, someone who's losing his home, said that the bank lenders got him into a position where he was set up to fail. I felt badly for him, but I made the point to my daughter that no one made him sign the loan. They enticed him, but he chose to do it. Perhaps he desperately needed a home, and that was the only game in town -- but he chose to do it.

Fumbling with my keys and the cell phone, I think why can't cell phones be 'stand alone programmable electronic devices' that can be programmed to unlock cars, change TV channels, and all that? And then I think: you mean, the iPhone?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I've always been fascinated by numerical analysis. I've also always been unable to do it.

Here's an example. I keep a spreadsheet of my blood sugar readings -- at least first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, and frequently what it was during the day. (I take measurements during the middle of the day, and take drugs if needed, but I don't always record those numbers.) At night, I take a long-acting insulin. The quantity varies by what the nighttime reading has been. If the number's low, I take a low dose (low as determined by my track record); high, and I take a high one. I found out the hard way that taking a very high dose was counterproductive; it would drive my blood sugar down during the night, and I'd get up, get something to eat - sometimes, a great deal of something to eat -- and in the morning, the number would be through the roof. If I really have a high number at night, I'll take a skosh of fast-acting insulin to move the number down to an acceptable range, and then the normal amount of long-acting insulin.

As part of the spreadsheet, I have a note for what I think the correct amounts of those insulins should be, based on the night time number. I do this by sorting a range of days by the night time number, graphing it, and then eyeballing what the average morning number was, and how much insulin I took. Sometimes, the numbers cluster nicely together; sometimes, they're all over the map. I don't mind doing the graph, but each time I do, I think: there must be an algorithm to track the effect on one number of variations in two other numbers. There MUST be.

I'm thinking -- regression? Linear, multiple, something? It could fall on me, and I wouldn't recognize or remember how to use it. Wish I did. And I call myself smart!


There are violins. There are fiddles. And then there's these women. This one, too.

Now Arriving

I just ordered a box of checks -- less than I normally get, because the primary bills now get paid either automatically from my checking account/credit card, or because I can sign on and do it electronically. When it arrived, I noticed a little note on the box asking me to call and tell them when the box arrived. There was a long number next to the phone number. Okay, I thought, and called.

"Thank you for calling Harland-Clarke to let us know when your shipment arrived. Please enter the twenty-two digit customer number."


It's so hard for them to say 'give us your zip code? And if there were more sent to that zip code in a short period than they could easily handle, some other identifying information, too? Sheesh.)


I drove my daughter to school this morning. She'd gotten up late, and was moving slowly. She could have made the bus, but I don't mind.

When we got there, a girl was slowly getting out of a van. The girl was using two canes, moving awkwardly. She wasn't cute.

My daughter looked up, jumped out of the car, and ran over to walk with her.

Like I needed another reason to love her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Mad

Found on the Cafe Mom web site -

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when.. when... wait for it... when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all ok with you but helping other Americans... well f*ck that. That about right? You know it is.

Pool? Yeah, I Gotcha Pool Right Here!

Bright Ideas

I used to have a Quoizel brand lantern on my lamp post, before I went tobogganing down the driveway and whacked it with the van. A structure made predominantly of glass and brass doesn't fair too well when smashing down from seven feet high. We liked it a lot, so we ordered a replacement. Turns out the replacement wasn't exactly the same, but it was pretty close. Cool.

Now one of the three bulbs has burned out, so I trudged out there with the ladder. What the -- the other one had a little door that would open, so you could reach in and replace the bulbs. This one, you have to unscrew the entire lantern case -- what they call the 'cage assembly - lift it completely off the post, and then replace the bulbs. And then put the entire lantern cage assembly back. Seven feet off the ground. Two people, twenty minutes easily, to replace one fleepin' light bulb.

Apparently, elegance and practicality don't mesh in their world.

Wake Up Call

I asked my daughter to spend ten minutes last night, reviewing notes from the day's classes. She could pick which class, which notes. She grumbled but agreed. Five minutes later, it became apparent that she wouldn't have time to do that while still getting to Color Guard practice, which was being held early so that they could watch a video of their last performance. Fine, I said, you can read in the car on the way over. I saw her put a book on her lap.... and spend most of the ride fiddling with one of the performance flags. Okay, I said, I'll get you up fifteen minutes early tomorrow and you can do it then. Which I did.

Four minutes after I woke her up, I heard her moving around in the bathroom, so I let her be. And three minutes later, I saw her in one of the chairs in the living room, so I figured she was reading. Three minutes after that, I went into the living room to see if she wanted coffee -- which is when I saw that she was in the chair, but without any books. And dozing. I spoke to her, and she moved to her desk -- where, so far as I could tell, she sat, dozing.

Boy, this is fun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I think so

Then again, I've been known to be a sap. If there's anyone there, what do you think about this?


I'm not a Brittany Spears fan. But, this surprised me.

What it was, was football

I thought about football this morning. This is unusual for me, because I'm not a football fan. I'm doing good to know what a down is, and the whole idea seems vaguely silly to me. I wouldn't tell one of the lumbering mastodons that play the game that, you understand, but the idea that people watch with fascination -- that's always been beyond me. It still is. But it's a little closer, now.

The reason is an article that appears in this past Sunday's Washington Post -- Leaps and Bounds, about the similarities between professional football players and ballet performers. I didn't intend to read it, but was caught by an illustration -- a photograph of Lynn Swann, football player, Peter Martins, ballet dancer, and Twyla Tharp, choreographer, in the middle of a dance move from a 1980 program she'd done, Dance is a Man's Sport, Too. I can always be stopped by a photograph of an attractive woman, and that, she was - slim, graceful, and limber. Still is, too, as this Annie Liebovitz photograph shows. Not in my most flexible days....

So I read the article. And what I found out was that aside from the tactics of the game, and the thunder of heavily armored guys smashing into each other, there's a grace involved. The best, more graceful players have a precision, a body awareness that rivals that of a professional dancer. In fact, during the Dance program, George Balanchine, who was Martin's company's choreographer and boss, told the ballet dancer that he ought to leap higher, because the football player was getting more air time than he was. Those players take that grace and precision and turn it into the ability to leap, grab, drop, and dart, knowing in three dimensions where they are and where they want to go. If the normal football player's a tank, these guys are javelins. Teams win because they have that ability of thinking and moving, instantly. As one coach remarked, they take a very difficult task, and they make it look easy.

I read it all the way to the end, and thought huh. Football. Who'd have guessed?

Monday, September 21, 2009


My daughter was groaning about a paragraph that she has to write for her English class. I asked if she was given a checklist of things to look for, and she handed me a sheet of paper. Hmmm, I said, she says to use the techniques of an 'analytical paragraph'. What's that? She shrugged.

Of course, they never mentioned that in class. Of course, I didn't find three different examples of one with a google search for that phrase. Of course the instructor doesn't have an example on her web page.

Oh, her life is so tough.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Driver!

Lot of driving today -- two hours each way up to Bloomsburg University to see my daughter's cousin. It's her first year there, and my daughter wanted to see her, so, sure. Typical college town, with a lot of cops, both town and college, a fair number of restaurants and bars, and a fairly major hospital right next to the college. Starbucks directly connected to the college library. No commercial bookstores that I could see, though. Pretty girls studying on the quad lawn -- though, since they would occasionally pivot when guys walked past, I'm not sure what they were studying. Clearly, not me!

My wife said her college qualified as a good place to go -- close enough so that her parents could get there easily if they needed to; far enough away so that they wouldn't just drop in. This qualified, too. The cousin's dorm room was pretty nice- with two bunks, a small amount of storage, lots of power outlets, a WiFi signal as well as Ethernet connections, and pretty quiet -- at least on the weekend; the school's what they call a 'suitcase school', a lot of kids have family close enough to go home for the weekend, so they do.

I imagine we'll be doing this once or twice more, as time passes. I told my daughter she'd effectively just gone on her first college trip, but she wasn't too moved by that observation.

Nice Stuff

I'm in a good mood, which doesn't actually happen -- or at least, occur to me -- all that often.

Part of it is the weather. It is forty six degrees out. 46! It is absolutely gorgeous out, and there's a chill in the air. I wish that every morning could be like this.

Part of it is making a discovery with food the other day. I'd said that I am not an experimenter when it comes to food (or really, much of anything), but the other day, I was having a dinner that included dunking some bread I'd baked in the Boyajian dipping sauce, and I thought you know, this stuff smells like a pizza! Now, you have to understand, I was a little -- okay, a lot -- disappointed in the 'pizza spices' that I'd bought from King Arthur. They smelled really good, but when I mixed them in with the dough, I didn't get hardly any tang at all. This dipping oil, though -- it smelled right, and it's got olive oil, too. So I'm thinking, next time I bake some bread, I'm going to mix in the oil, see what happens. I may have discovered something. How about that?

So that's it!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Apparently, these aren't actual cars. Too bad. I rather liked them, particularly the last one.


I will occasionally read blogs that are oriented toward the readers of comic books. I'm not personally a reader of them, though I may occasionally leaf through a graphic novel at the bookstore, but I'm usually intrigued by the intensity of what people people write about -- how seriously they take all of this. It's clearly lightyears beyond the casual assumptions and plot lines (if you can even call them that, in retrospect) of my youth. Now, the good guys aren't always good, by any means, and they don't always win, either. Comics still talk about majestically powerful villains with supremely evil plots, and all of that, but they also talk about things that, frankly, would never have occurred to me. One of the topics that I've seen come up from time to time, lately is: what exactly does Supergirl wear under that cute little skirt?

Apparently, some of the people who draw for DC comics have been trying out different looks for her over the years, and one question that they've never satisfactorily resolved, past the color of the outfit, whether she should have gloves, even if she has a navel, is: why doesn't the skirt fly up when she's landing? It's as if the thing is made -- well, of steel; nicely pleated, but not subject to winds, gusts, or anything else. One or two artists have suggested that there's something frilly under there, but what? Tired of this question, one editor apparently said Oh, the hell with this, and had her drawn with what appears to be a pair of red bike shorts -- with just a suggestion of a skirt. People were aghast and titillated. Was this legal? Wasn't part of the image supposed to be this sexy yet demure blonde who could bend steel but still had to watch it when she crossed her legs?

It's been quite some time since the thought of Supergirl's panties struck me as erotic -- heck, even the word 'panties', when I was a kid, was, ah, exciting -- but these people aren't (most of them) approaching the question from an erotic perspective. The writers who really wanted to write Supergirl stories -- ones that were the equivalent in heft with the Superman and other stories -- seem to like the idea of just ditching the fourteen-year-old boy fantasy model. The artists seem to feel that the way it was is the way it should be, steel skirt and all. There are discussions on the subject. There are polls. There are even petitions .

No word on what the fourteen year old boys think.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I didn't exactly intend to make brownies for us, but it's okay, because I don't know how they'll taste.

I had seen a comment on a fellow's blog to the extent that he occasionally sends chocolate chip cookies to his daughter in Iraq, and her Army company (which apparently gloms onto and divvies them up immediately) really appreciates it. So, as he included her address, I thought, that might be fun -- but instead of chocolate chip cookies, I'd make brownies. And not just any brownies, but the kind I made the other day, which were really good. Good enough so that I kind of regretted sending half of them in with my wife to work, especially when I found that the day I did that, someone else had brought in cookies, and there weren't all that many people in, so the odds are, they're still there, getting stale.

I was two steps into the recipe (just dumped a whole mess of sugar into some melted butter, and cracked four eggs, when I hit the point of adding the cocoa. Ah, dammit. I have plenty of cocoa, but not all that much dutch process cocoa, which is what this recipe needed. In fact, I had none. Now, it's possible to substitute unsweetened cocoa for dutch process -- its something like three tablespoons of unsweetened, plus one eight teaspoon of baking soda, for every ounce of dutch process. Three difference units of measure in one statement. Ah, great. Why not throw in some furlongs per fortnight, too? So, by the time I was done ( and a quarter cups dutch process equals one and a quarter teaspoons baking soda plus one point eight seven five cups unsweetened? Okay, we're going to eyeball that one...), I was getting a little irritated. I dumped the flour in, and the vanilla, and the other stuff, and slammed it into the oven, where it is now.

I'm still going to send some brownies to that person, but I think I'll wait until my order for more DP cocoa arrives, next week, and do it from scratch, with the right stuff. Or maybe just make a recipe that doesn't require the DP cocoa, period. As for this batch, maybe I can find a college student to pawn it off on.... or I could just eat it, myself. Hmm?

BTW, turns out my daughter has a garden variety pharyngeal infection. They thought it was strep - it looks nasty in there ! - but, the culture said nope. And its not H1N1, either. At least, they didn't say so -- though their intrusive as all hell television system, that they make you listen to in the waiting room, says that for all intents and purposes, they're not testing for H1N1 unless the kid's really small or frail. We're assuming she doesn't have it. So she can go to the game tonight. Yay.

Oh, and that thermometer? On the top shelf of her bookcase, of course. Silly me.

Snipe Hunt

We can't find the thermometer.

It's not that big -- about the size of a large orange -- and it's a pleasant, rounded shape, all blue and green. Nothing to stick in your memory, should your eye slide across it. We last saw it at the dining room table, where my daughter was again taking her temperature, wincing in dismay at a number starting with One rather than Nine. She wasn't happy. This morning, she had no idea - I wonder where I left that? - so each of us went around looking for it. We found lots of things -- oh, look, a cup, a glass, a spoon, and a jar of Nutella, none of which are supposed to be in her room -- and as for the downstairs room, my wife said, succinctly, If the sight of her stuff all over the place bothers you, don't look there. But I did, and I picked up and/or moved one or two things. It's what we call the It's Good to be The King effect; she'll have something in her hand, and then, when her mind moves on to something else, her hand opens, and that's where it stays until one of the courtiers finds it. My daughter actually told me last night that she doesn't like to put things in drawers because then she can't find them, and as for her closet, she really doesn't see the point. Really doesn't see the POINT? I obviously looked startled when she said that, and in return she gave me this little shoulder shrug. That's just the way it is, Dad. Deal with it. I made the mistake of mentioning that attitude to her mother.

When I called the school to say she'd be out again today, they asked if she had a fever, and we said yes. Why would they care? I wondered, and my wife said that a local college is tracking confirmed cases of swine flu, and they've got three. One of the symptoms is a fever. We looked at each other. Surely that's not this, though, we said. She doesn't have the fever all the time, and she doesn't have muscle aches, and fatigue, or a cough. She does have the fever sometimes, though, and a sore throat, and the occasional chills. And she did puke once, yesterday morning. Probably not. Still.... We're bringing her in for a checkup this morning. Unfortunately, it's the nurse practicitioner. I tend to think of her as good for things she's seen before, but not for anything, you know, serious.

I wish we could find that thermometer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


My daughter was ill today, and missed school. She was a little frantic about that, but we figured it was mostly that she was missing color guard practice, and getting their new uniforms.

Now it turns out that they aren't getting the uniforms until tomorrow.... but she may still be ill then (my wife is taking a hard line of 'you can be contagious for twenty four hours after you're sick'). She's frantic again -- only, the funny thing is, what she's frantic about is missing class. She's very much aware of missing material, and she doesn't want to do that.

This is a new attitude for her. Not that she was a slacker, last year, but I don't think she got tense about it if she missed a class. This time....maybe so. I think she's taking things more seriously. Not sure why, but it's an attitude to watch. Funny -- I don't want her going too far in the other direction.

As for the back-to-school night, it was mostly impressive. All but one of the teachers sounded sincere and committed (the one who didn't, knew his stuff; he just wasn't particularly into touchy-feeling -- to get a sense of the guy, all you need to know is that he's also a high school basketball coach). One was funny, saying that she'd been teaching for twenty years, and knew sophomores; they say things like 'My paragraph has to have structure? has a title! Doesn't that mean I'm done, and I have no homework?' To which one parent said "Oh, you've met my child!"


Margaret and Helen -- for old people, they're pretty bright.

Actually, for anyone, they're pretty bright.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well, guess who's daughter is alternately shivering and hot, and won't be going to school tomorrow?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sinead's Hand

Wet Stuff

Imagine if the floor of the poor was transparent, too!

Reading and Learning

I'm not one to be able to mess around in the pantry, find a bunch of ingredients, and come up with something. When I want to bake something, I work from recipes. Over time, I will redo a recipe -- I think the one we use for home made mac and cheese is on its fifth or sixth iteration -- to make it easier for me to use; since when I use a recipe, I tend to skip over the casual references to things you really should have done before -- place in pre-heated oven, or pour drained and washed beans into pot -- so my solution is either to bold face those items, or, more often, to put them up front in the recipe. (A minor quirk that I picked up from listening to a routine by George Carlin: I now will occasionally change Preheat the oven to .... to Heat the oven to... As he said, being hot is what an oven's all about; it's not as if you're just heating it so that you can do something else with it.)

As I'm reading Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, I find myself wanting to try this stuff out right away. I don't want to read it, memorize it; I want to glance at it and then try it. And then later, go back and say oh, I guess I was supposed to chill the dough first....oh, I guess the oven should be heated longer before I put the dough in. Because though I hear about concepts by reading, I learn about them by doing. It's that learning that gets translated into the alterations in the recipe, the places where I explicitly say things that a better baker or cook would just know. So, in a way, Ratio is very seductive to me, because the basic idea behind the book is that you don't have to follow recipes; you can use a simple ratio for the basic ingredients, and then go with what seems right to you. Want to make some bread? Measure out five parts of flour to three parts of water. Want to make some pastry dough? Three parts flour to two parts fat to one part water. That's it. And so I would try that, and then be surprised when the bread dough doesn't rise, or the pastry dough isn't particularly firm, or not at all flaky. Because, it turns out, that it's not quite 5:3 for the bread, it's more like 5:3:.2:.1 for the addition of some yeast and some salt -- and it might help to chill that dough overnight; if you want it to rise faster, put more yeast in, but realize that speed is the opposite of taste; chilling lets the flavors develop. And the salt is a nice thing to have, too.

But I don't have the skill to think that, so if I see 5:3, I think really? okay, lets try that. A better baker would know that though it's going to work, it's not going to work -- you're not going to bite into it and say Yum! Instead, you'll say Yeah, this is...okay, but not very good. I think that what has to happen -- and I bet this is part of the magic of a culinary school -- is that first you have to make the really ultrabasic dough -- the 5:3, for example -- just so you can see what it's like. And then you make the 5:3:.2:.1 version, to see what the yeast and salt do. And then you make the version with something added (which of course implies that you have a clue as to what can be successfully added; more info from the instructor, to be scribbled down hastily in the notebook).

I want to learn this stuff, but I want to learn it -- to develop the reflexes, the well of course you know that knowledge. Which means not only that I'd have to buy this book, just to have it long enough so that I could go through this learning process, but I'd actually have to do the experiments. I'm not much of an experimenter in the kitchen. That thing I did the other day, with the pizza dough, baking it in three chunks that were rolled out differently, just to see? First time I've done that in a long time. Usually, when I bake, I want to get it done. Leave the experimentation to others.

Ratio says No, do the experimenting: you'll waste a lot of time, but if you keep at it, you'll like the result. And I think: Huh. Maybe. Because, after all: the author did go to the Culinary Institute of America, and that counts for something, n'est pas?

Monday, September 14, 2009

If All They Did

If all these people did was piss off rabid conservatives, I think I'd still like them. That they in fact spend their days, nights, and weekends trying to fix, clean up, and generally repair the mess that the prior occupant left -- and not just the prior one, but that's the major offender -- well, heck, that raises most of them to damn near sainthood, in my book.

But that mirror has to go. Who are they expecting, the Jolly Green Giant?

From the White House Photo Stream on Flickr:

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pose with the full Cabinet for an official group photo in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 10, 2009.

Seated from left: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Standing second row, from left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Back row, from left: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


I'm not particularly good at getting people. I get -- well, nervous overstates it; I don't shiver or shake at the prospect of meeting someone new, but neither am I particularly delighted by the prospect. I know that there are people who are, but I'm not one of them. I wish people came with a checklist- Here's what's important to me, here's how I feel about the following major issues. Come to think of it, I could use that checklist for myself, sometimes.

I was thinking about that a little bit ago while eating dinner. I made home made mac and cheese, and it was very good. We also had some bread that I had baked; I had found a recipe for pizza dough, and though I have two or three, I thought I'd try it. I am usually not happy with the dough that I make. It's not that it's bad, or that the taste isn't good, but it's not what I think pizza dough should be -- which is to say, the dough that I grew up with. Pizza slices should be firm, but not so firm that they will stand out if held by the crust; you have to fold them to give that longitudinal strength. My dough is usually thicker, so the strength is there. When you bite into it, you hear a crunch. I wanted it softer than that. So I made the dough, and then took one quarter of it, dividing that into three little ovals; one was rolling-pinned out, and was pretty flat; one was finger-pressed out to about 3/4's the size of the first, and one was just slightly flattened, not really stretched at all. I baked them all at 500 degrees for about five minutes, on a baking sheet. I didn't get what I wanted, but I did end up with a soft bread that's pretty good for dipping -- so we did, with the Boyjian Italian dipping oil, along with the mac and cheese. Not bad.

While I ate, I was leafing through This Side Of Doctoring, which is all articles written by women about the experience of being a doctor. I got the book because I like bright women, and I figured these people would qualify. I didn't have expectations of great insights from it -- mostly, I figured, it would be stories -- what my first on-call was like, how I felt about being called Doctor when I sure didn't feel like one; getting past the petty harassment of the hospital. And that's mostly what was there. But along the way I got some pretty honest -- they sound honest, anyway -- commentary about the state of medicine; what it's like to deliver the service in the current economic and legal climate. These people really do care about how they do that. See, I've heard a number of doctors complain about the environment, and they all say the same thing: I just want to practice medicine the way that I think best. To me, it comes across as I just want to do whatever I want to do, no rules or prohibitions, no auditors or constraints. Oh, and I want to make a decent living, too. Decent by MY standards. Hearing that, I always think Well, everyone else has rules and prohibitions; everyone else has to accommodate bosses and auditors, why shouldn't you? You want it all? So do I. I weep for you. Greedheads.

But reading this book, I found that not all of them do. When they give that classic phrase, they're saying I just want to help people get better; maintain their dignity when I can't, and I don't want to go broke doing it. They really care. They don't want to kill themselves or have to take a second job, just to manifest that caring. Not all of them, I'm sure, but some? Maybe even, more than a few? Apparently so.

Some people do come with a checklist.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Ever find something that is so damn interesting, you want to read it right away, but it feels so intellectually dense, you're reluctant even to start?

This course, from Stanford, on Machine Learning, feels that way to me. I want to have read it.


People usually like it when you buy pizza for them, but sometimes they react oddly. I think it depends on why they think you're doing it.

A few years ago, I bought pizza for a shift meeting of our township cops, because I suspected that nobody probably ever did anything like that, and I thought it'd be fun. They seemed pretty pleased. About three weeks ago, I bought pizza for the staff at my oral surgeon's office, because most of them are nice people, and they make the experience as close to pleasant as possible. When I went in two days ago, three different people made a point to thank me, and I got the impression that it didn't happen that often.

On the other hand, I offered to buy pizza for people at the office where I used to work at IBM, and they never replied. I don't know why, but I suspect they thought I was trying to get a job there again. Which, okay, I'd think about, but truthfully, I wasn't trying -- I just like most of the people there, and, again, most people don't do stuff like that.

I really don't know why it's not common. It's certainly easy enough. Not to make, surely -- at least, not for me; the ones I make are never as flavorful as I'd like, or as supple (I still yearn for the Bronx standard -- a crust thick enough to hold its shape while you fold a slice in half, with a fair amount of sauce, and some tasty spices) -- but to buy? And then to give? Piece of cake. Not at all expensive, either.

So why don't more people do it?

Topical Reference

I'm not fond of the descriptive phrase here, but the general sense -- yes, I agree.

A West Side Story Line

Another strange, though not particularly unpleasant, dream last night.

I was an assistant director breaking up a group of semi-talented people to form two casts for a production of A Chorus Line. The people were rough, not polished dancers or actors -- more like real-world people from West Side Story -- and fights frequently broke out in the rehearsal hall, on the stage, and other places. A sense of competition fueled that, and a willingness to demonstrate the ability to smash the members of the other crew -- but over time, they began to show the rudiments of ability and cohesiveness.

An interesting dream.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Morning Thoughts

I woke up thinking about prison.

Two days ago, I had the opportunity to watch the son of our neighbor who's in prison. It was a hand-off; the van driver for his school gave him to me, I watched him for an hour, and then his grandmother came to pick him up and keep him until his mother came home. I gather that they usually have someone available at home, but this day did not.

He's a very serious little boy. While he played with Legos, and I occasionally read a book, we talked about how Legos work, about whether Santa is real (his take is: Probably not), and what it's like to own a dwarf hamster (don't ever let them get away from you; you will not find them until they're ready to be found). I don't know if he was always serious; I suspect his somewhat chaotic home life might be contributing to that, though I don't know. I was glad for the chance to help our neighbor, but it did give me time to think about what it's like for the son, too -- and for the father. He's barely through the first year in jail, and the way the law works, he is not eligible for parole. Four more years, easily.

Somber thoughts on a rainy Saturday morning.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It almost might as well be -- a rainy, chilly day, the kind of day that you expect to see in the middle of November. I went out and mowed two days ago, just because I thought I might as well, and now I'm really glad that I did. We're at home; our daughter is off on a road trip with the color guard - a football game about half an hour from here. It's outdoors, so they're wearing their warmup suits. I suspect they're going to perform in them, too. I don't quite see the thrill of sitting on chilly, wet metal bleachers, but I know that many others would say but it's football!

Made some chocolate pudding from scratch this afternoon. The gods didn't come together. It has a nice flavor, but it took a very long time to solidify. Not that that's going to stop us from eating it. I did promise my daughter that if she gave her math test today her best effort, I would bake whatever she wanted, this weekend. Can't wait to see if she remembers that, when I'm pushing her to do reviews of material. They're already two weeks into the school year -- unbelievable.


From the B3TA site, by The Great Architect.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I went to the oral surgeon so he could look at the last two implants, in preparation for finishing them in two weeks. To my surprise, he whipped out the novocaine, did some slicing and dicing, a little suturing, and said: You're done. Implants are strong, solid, and ready. Go get the dental plate made.

Okay, he then casually mentioned that I'd have to see a general dentist every four months, forever, to keep them in shape, which I kind of doubt, but still. Ready.

Wow. How many years have I waited for that statement?


There are times that I just don't get politics. When the party which hasn't been in power in eight years gets into power on the wave of revulsion for the prior occupant and the prior occupant's policies, and then almost immediately starts to throw away that advantage by squabbling within itself, giving aid and comfort to the rejected party, I just don't get that. I know that the President can apply enormous pressures to force recalcitrant legislators in line, and I know that both Obama and Emmanuel are from Chicago, known for rough politics, which means they know how to apply such pressure. Given that, I don't understand how the Democrat party can be fragmenting as it does. I like very much that Democrats tend to like to think for themselves, and seek change, just as Republicans don't, and don't, but when the price you pay for that independence of thought is the inability for the party in power to exercise that power -- well, you know, it almost makes me wish for the attitudes of Cheney and Bush, to wit: we're in power, we're in charge, and the hell with the other party, this is how it's going to be.

I just don't get it.

Not Listening

I had to give up on a web site today. So long, Neo-Neocon.

I liked that site. I usually didn't like what they had to say, but it seemed that what the woman who writes it would say was delivered with intelligence and a good writing style. Since I've felt for some time that its a good idea to listen to people with whom you disagree, in the hope of finding flaws in your own thoughts and assumptions, I thought this was a good place to listen.

Over the last month, though, I found that even there, the rhetoric (if I can call it that) of the conservative opposition to the Obama health care plan has penetrated. There's little that Obama can do that those folks don't object to, it seems; as I like to say, he could be offering sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, and they'd not be happy. Its too much, not enough, too expensive, aimed at the wrong people....just not the way we'd have done it. I don't think Obama's perfect; I do think he's done things that he shouldn't have done. He might agree with that. But, overall, I like him, and I trust him. They don't, and it shows. Oh, baby, does it show.

So, the heck with them. It's my loss, I think, but I'll bear it, somehow.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Speech

I loved that speech. Obama came through, big time.

He wouldn't have convinced the lunatic fringe, either side, but the center? I think so. He struck strong notes, and he obviously was willing to piss off the one-issue crowd for the overall measure.

I don't feel good, about the passage of this bill, but I feel better.

I Like Canada

Here's another reason, from the Springwise site --

Mix-ins have been a staple in many ice cream shops for years already, allowing customers near infinite possibilities in designing their own creamy confection. Now bringing comparable potential to the world of cookies is Toronto's Sweet Flour Bake Shop, which lets patrons design their own baked treats and eat them fresh from the oven just two minutes later.

More than 15,000 possible combinations face Sweet Flour customers, who begin by choosing the cookie dough base they'd like: original, peanut butter or oatmeal. From there they can choose from among more than 20 mix-ins, including chocolate chunks, dried blueberries and toffee pieces. Little patience is required after that, for Sweet Flour's baking process requires only two minutes before the customised goodies are ready to devour. Cookies are CDN 2.50 each, or CDN 19 by the dozen. Also available at Sweet Flour are customised muffin tops, cookie sandwiches and a signature homemade granola with mix-ins and fresh fruit.

Here's their site.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


On a neighbor's fence -

A Simple View

Reading Fund

Okay, I still like this.

Be Safe!

Apparently, in Canada, even the geese are cognizant of safety.

Giving an Inch

My daughter has said that she'd really like to have a pet, and so my wife and I were kicking around the idea of getting an adult cat. Yesterday, she said that a friend of her's has a pregnant hamster, and could we take one? Well, yeah, we said, we could. Got to check cage size and such,but yeah. Because, she said, I know you've talked about a cat, and Dad says it'd be okay at some point. My wife nodded, saying Not while color guard is in session, but in October, we could start looking.

On a walk yestrerday, she said that while a hamster or cat would be okay, what she really wants is a dog. How do you feel about walking them on cold days, cleaning up droppings, and the like, I said, and she cheerfully said Oh, I'd do that, no problem! Kiddo, I replied, you didn't like cleaning up after the guinea pigs, and they're in a cage right there in your room! Yeah, but.......


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Backing Off

I may have to stop reading about politics for a while. I think that it's beginning to affect my general view of life.

I've been reading quite a lot about health care, and about the tempest in a teapot regarding Obama's planned speech to children. I persuade very few -- very few -- people when I bring the subject up on Twitter, and I get mad when people blindly chant slogans back at me. But when I get mad because my wife and daughter went shopping for clothes, and came back with some really nice things -- well, that's a bit much. Because it wasn't the clothes; it was residual irritation from the politics. Need to back off. I have to remember that for all intents and purposes, what I think doesn't matter.

So what else is going on?

An article in, I believe, the Post says that a number of families now use texting for quick messages, anything from a question about whether a room's been cleaned -- one father says he told his daughter to 'take a picture of the cleaned room and send it to me ' -- to updates on child location or statements about the status of dinner. Some have said that it's easier to text from upstairs to down than it is to make the trek. I'm intrigued by this, though I think it's more a function of families that are constantly flying in multiple directions. We're not likely to use it. For one thing, I'd need to have my phone -- my camera-less phone, if you can imagine such a thing -- on, and with me, which I don't usually do. Imagine!

A week and a half ago, the volunteer coordinator at the local hospital, having discovered that I wasn't volunteering to be a typist, said she'd call me in a week. I wasn't surprised not to hear from her -- like other things, I don't seem to fit what they think of or expect. Still, I'm disappointed by that. I suppose I'll give them some time, and call again. And yesterday two of the five people in my group for the local polling place called to tell me that they'd completely forgotten about the election, and wouldn't be able to be there -- so we have to find two more people. Argh. It wasn't fun doing that the last time.

Spent some time getting boned up on things that my daughter is studying. Some was fun, some interesting, and some of it stunned me. I'm doing it to encourage her, to help keep her on track. And to keep myself from musing about the three girls she knows who are doing advanced work -- one's a freshman in high school taking one college course. I have to remember that this stuff can be hard. Harder than I had to do, I think.

Veni, Etc

Veni Vidi Vici - 3D Animation @ University Of Hertfordshire 2008 from Digital Animation Herts Uni UK on Vimeo.

I'm You

Or at least, I could be.....


I've rarely been as furious as I was the other day, which might have been deduced by - well, anyone - from the tenor of what I wrote about the nature and motives of those who are objecting to the public option in health care. I removed it, but even now, I'm a little surprised by it. I get mad, but I rarely get that mad. What was it that triggered such vitriol?

I think it was that I see it as my country slipping into a morass - the sort of morass of blindness and stupidity that resulted in Bush being elected twice, and Palin regarded as the future of Republicanism. The reasonability of the public option seems so clear to me that to learn that that there are people who oppose it is like finding out that there are people who object to drinking gasoline. I know that, in actuality, the question isn't that black and white, but it feels that way to me. It's not the best answer in the world, but its a good one.

I exchanged Twitter comments once with a person who told me that he did not trust the bill, and so I made a determined effort to read it -- which was not fun -- only to discover that one phrase which I'd gone right past was the source of his discontent. It was Title One, Section 102, subsection a(2) -- the Title is PROTECTIONS AND STANDARDS FOR QUALIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS PLANS, the Section is PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE, and the subsection is GRANDFATHERED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DEFINED - LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS, which reads:

Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

I read that as saying that one of the criteria for an insurance policy to be defined as 'grandfathered' is that the terms of the policy have to remain the same. Any changes, and it's no longer the same policy, so no longer considered 'grandfathered'. This seemed perfectly reasonable and fair to me, but to the man I spoke with, it implied that he could not change the amount of deductible on his policy if he wanted to do so as a mechanism for changing (and presumably reducing) its premium. Well, I had to admit, that could be read in there. I think it's unreasonable, but without knowing what we like to call, referring to the Constitution, the 'intent of the Founders' -- I didn't know. And that leaves aside what a bright lawyer could interpret that phrase to mean. So, I saw his concern. Even with that, though, I thought it a minor point. Not for him. For him, it was a reason to reject the whole damn bill.

I don't think that kind of attitude is compatible with a society of compromise and adjustment, and I fear that we're becoming a society of My Way Or Nothing. I fear what that means. If I were more alarmist, I'd wonder if it could lead to dissolution of the Union, or at least a militant States Rights movement, with National Guard people erecting checkpoints at the border of interstate highways. I feel silly, even saying that -- but others would not. And that scares me.

So - stupidity, or dissolution? Gee, I think I feel the rage coming back!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bang. I Mean, Ooops!


A Powell woman with a valid handgun carry permit allegedly pulled her gun on an off-duty Knoxville Police Department official this afternoon in an incident that may have been sparked by road rage, authorities say.

Luann Keller, 55, was charged with aggravated assault, a felony, according to KPD Lt. Kenny Miller.

The incident happened about 5 p.m. when KPD Lt. Dusty Lane, who was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle, was going northbound on Clinton Highway, Miller said.

Keller, who was behind the wheel of a Dodge Dakota pickup truck, was driving behind Lane when she began acting aggressively, Miller said.

"She started blowing her horn and then pulled up beside him and pulled a firearm," Miller said. "She points it at him and keeps on going."

Lane called for on-duty marked units, and Keller was taken into custody without incident at the intersection of Clinton Highway and West Emory Road."

Cleaning the Refrigerator

I know, I had this before. I still like it. It makes me smile.

Early Shuttlecraft


I made a brioche loaf the other day, and was quite disappointed in the result. It baked up well, browned nicely, but it was totally useless for French toast -- almost no taste to it at all. I tried it this morning for toast, and it was better -- almost a sweet taste to it. Next time -- if there is a next time -- I think I'll try it with powdered sugar.


This is a very, very powerful video about texting and what can happen. So powerful, I'm not going to directly link to it here. So bloody, you have to promise YouTube you're old enough to watch it. It scared the hell out of me.

And I pointed my daughter, with warnings, to it.



Sometimes, the technology in cameras is just amazing. Sometimes, a little too amazing.

Warm and Dead

That's one of the aphorisms from Every Patient Tells a Story -- guy is brought into the ER after falling asleep in a snowbank. No life signs, and they think he's dead. The attending says 'You're not dead until you're warm and dead' -- so they warm him up slowly, and as he warms up, they begin to hear life signs. The guy recovers and walks out of the hospital under his own power.

The book's about the science and art of medical diagnosis, and though it lumbers a bit from time to time, it's pretty well done. I always thought that diagnosis was just a matter of knowing enough -- that if you could have access to enough data sources, coming to a diagnosis would be easy. Now I'm seeing that knowing isn't enough; you need to be able to pick up on the things that don't seem significant -- a particular trick when part of creating a diagnosis is stripping away the details that don't matter -- or string together the things that do matter -- which came first, which was the result -- and then draw the correct conclusions from that series. One fellow who came in with severe chest pains died because the medical student taking his blood pressure couldn't get a reading in one arm, and thought it was his inexperience -- when in fact it was a known indicator of aortic dissection (the thing that killed John Ritter).

The author quotes the stats about communication -- that doctors are eager to cut to the chase and start making a diagnosis, often cutting off a patient's story flow after fifteen or twenty seconds. But it's not until they've talked for a while that many people feel comfortable relating why they really came, what's really bothering them. Every doctor's heard of 'doorknob questions', the ones that come just as they're leaving the examining room. Hey, doc, while you're here, I've got this bump on my neck....

It's an interesting book.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chilly Daze

This is the time of year when the grass is normally dormant, after getting blasted by the August heat. I am therefore delighted beyond measure that the grass is not only long but getting actively shaggy.... and that I have to wait until the dew has baked off before I can mow. The electric mower really doesn't like wet grass, you see. There are very few things that make me wish we had a gas-powered mower, but that's one of them. Bad enough to have to go out and do it twice a week when you didn't expect it. Worse when the tools require you to do it for a max of forty five minutes at a time, and, in damp grass, less. I want to just get it done.

Reading Every Patient Tells A Story, about the art of diagnosis. One doctor talks about being thrilled to find the answer to a condition that had eluded many others. She used a sophisticated tool, in keeping with today's technology. It's called Google. Her patient refused to believe the diagnosis, though -- persistent vomiting due to excessive marijuana use. Said it was implausible as all hell. Wonder if she'd have believed it if she'd seen it on Google? Our predecessors believed things more if they were on TV; we believe them more if they're on Google.

Interesting article about, of all things, vacuum cleaners. Yeah, I know: vacuum cleaners suck!

My wife says that in a year or so she'd like to paint our bedroom, which was last painted twenty or so years ago. Looks fine to me, but... okay. Then she said she'd like to change from a pale blue now to a pale yellow. Um, that, I'm not at all sure about. Oh, and get a new carpet, too. Carpet feels fine to me. I murmured something about doing it when we have the extension to the bedroom done (which is by no means certain), and she didn't care for that much.

I need to go to the store today. Why can't they just send the stuff home to me? (I'm sure, somewhere in Redmond, they're working on that.)


When I read a list of funny observations, I usually agree with about a third, but these are so good, I not only agreed with most, I thought Well, of course! For example --

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car
keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the
Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze
button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time
every time...

If you know the comic Dimitri Martin (and why did 'Dimitri Shostakovich' come to mind?), it sounds like his kind of material. Dry but funny.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


One of the numbers that anyone with diabetes -- or as the woman who writes DiabetesMine (a very good blog) puts it, 'betes -- learns is their A1C level. That stands for Hemoglobin A1c, and it's a measure of what percentage of your blood has glucose in it. The measurement covers about the three months prior to when the test is taken. Opinions vary, but the reading for someone without 'betes tends to be in the low four percent range. For someone with it, various people say it ought to be around 6.5; certainly, no more than seven.

Last time I got the test, it was 5.9, which I thought was pretty good. I was therefore astonished when the person giving me the results said that the result might actually be too low, because it meant that I was forcing my blood sugar numbers low enough to have the danger of going hypoglycemic -- which, if you go low enough, can actually lead to being in a coma. I've had that happen on occasion -- the hypo, not the coma -- and it's a disorienting experience. Once or twice, its felt as if I've run my head against a wall -- in fact, the time that I fell and fractured my shoulder, I think now that I was actually hypoglycemic -- the feeling was of dizziness, being only generally sure of where I was, that kind of thing. So, I can understand why you'd want to watch out for that. But to be told that a reading of 5.9 was bad -- well, that was disappointing. I expected praise, not finger-waving.

Of course, then again, I wonder why they're not asking me for a number in the low fours, too. I'm glad about that, at least.


Yes, Latvia.

Inexplicable Event

I don't know what's going on in this little room, and I think that I don't want to know.

White Rabbit

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hot Stuff

I am not a mustard gourmand, but I do like it. Pretty much all kinds. But -- Hawaiian Pineapple Mustard? Not too sure about that.

If I could just get that without having to pay shipping, though, I do believe I'd give it a try.


Some months ago, I read an interesting article about the use of civilian experts in Afghanistan to 'map' the sociological environment - what they called 'human terrain mapping'. Neat, I thought; it reminded me of articles about people who hired professional anthropologists to map the culture of companies, with an eye toward improving how the companies function. Later, I read another article about how some people -- there's always critics -- were saying that human terrain mapping wasn't all that effective, and could actually promote the kind of results that the mapping was supposed to forestall. Last Sunday, there was an article in the Washington Post magazine about the practice; I didn't read it. Yeah, yeah, I thought. This is old news.

When I thought that a certain medical person was a friend of mind, I would occasionally send her articles that I'd come across about medical research, thinking that since I found them interesting, she might, too. Then one day she informed me that the things I read were old news; she'd read about them in JAMA and the like, months, sometimes years, before. Sort of like when I lived in Boston and thought it'd be a dandy idea to supplement my working with EDS by going over to MIT and taking the occasional class in 'computers' from them. They gently told me that the things that I was working with then, their freshmen students had known about three or four years before. They didn't say it was out of the question that I could take courses there, but any thoughts that I could just drop in and pick up some knowledge were quickly dashed.

So now I read a lot. And every so often, I come across something that's novel, and interesting, and I wonder: is this new? Or just new to me?