Monday, November 30, 2009


Just went for a walk with my wife. On the way back, we saw a large dog go bounding past. My wife said that perhaps it was the dog the man was calling. What man, I asked, and she pointed to where a guy was running furiously down the street, two blocks away, screaming for the dog. He took a moment to stop and tell us what he thought of us for not grabbing the dog as it went past. The large dog with correspondingly large teeth. The excited large dog.... He looked like he wanted to take a swing at us, but realized that his dog was now even further away.

When we got back, I thought of getting the van to see if I could help the guy, then thought do you really want this guy, this agitated foul-mouthed guy, in your car? Do you think he'll apologise, thank you for your effort?


Just went to the Comcast office in my suburan neighborhood. You'd think it was tough inner city place -- thick plexiglass between you and them. Must get a lot of aggrieved customers.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nighttime Observations

We paid for my mother's funeral out of her funds. Now we're submitting a claim for her life insurance policy (which is a fairly low number; you couldn't buy a cheap car with it). It occurs to me that this is income (and if I forget, the IRS will be sure to remind me; the insurance company form notes that they'll tell them), and that it is about 60% of the amount I'm going to pay for my dental work. My mother's taking care of me, again. I know that's sappy. Usually, I'm not.

Reading an article about families and food stamps, I had a distinctly non-Republican thought: these are real people. I tend to assume that food stamp recipients are the bottom of the barrel; shiftless, only able to work at the grungiest, cheapest -paying jobs. This despite knowing that there are people in the military who use food stamps. But reading this article, it became clear: for the most part, these are decent people who are in a rough time, laid off from jobs for no reason that they could control, with children or mates who have medical problems, trying to survive. I was going to say 'trying to make it', but they're no where near there. They're just trying to survive. Real people. I wonder if professional Republicans understand that?

I'm getting a little tired of hearing about Obama 'not doing anything'. The complaints tend to come from the people who are making a policy of blocking him, keeping him from doing what he wants to do -- and yet he is getting things done, despite them. Yes, every so often, the Democrats manage to all face the same direction. And every so often, an intelligent Republican joins them. I do believe those people won't be happy till Obama says "You know what? Tax cuts for the rich, that's the ticket." And then they'll bitch that it took him too long to get there.

Nice article about Joe Biden in the Sunday Times magazine.

The A Trek

Actions on a Sunny Day

We went to Mass early this morning. The priest seemed half asleep.

We put out four more, for a total of five, strings of Christmas lights (I resist calling them 'holiday lights') -- two old-style (screw-in bulbs) strings across the tall and currently barren bushes just in front of the front door; two 'mesh light' strings on the tall bush where the front walkway meets the driveway, and the existing one string on the large bush down at the base of the driveway. If we have the time/energy, I might put out one or two more, but these look nice as is.

We went to the military cemetary where my mother and father are buried. It seemed odd, seeing their names together on that slab, but it also seemed right. At my mother's funeral, the registrar had said we could have a phrase put at the bottom of the slab, and we chose 'Loved Honored Remembered'. I liked it then, and I like it now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I just read through a fascinating article about startups. It's all worth reading (it's a quick, succinct read), but I think the best part, overall, is the end:

Unconsciously, everyone expects a startup to be like a job, and that explains most of the surprises. It explains why people are surprised how carefully you have to choose cofounders and how hard you have to work to maintain your relationship. You don't have to do that with coworkers. It explains why the ups and downs are surprisingly extreme. In a job there is much more damping. But it also explains why the good times are surprisingly good: most people can't imagine such freedom. As you go down the list, almost all the surprises are surprising in how much a startup differs from a job.

You probably can't overcome anything so pervasive as the model of work you grew up with. So the best solution is to be consciously aware of that. As you go into a startup, you'll be thinking "everyone says it's really extreme." Your next thought will probably be "but I can't believe it will be that bad." If you want to avoid being surprised, the next thought after that should be: "and the reason I can't believe it will be that bad is that my model of work is a job

For most of us, our model of life is a job. What if it weren't?


My daughter's in a grumpy mood. All of the fun stuff -- road trip, staying in the hotel, meeting relatives -- is done. Now she has three more days off, and they're filled with homework. For some reason, she doesn't regard this as wonderful.

I have a little homework, too. Partially, it's studying so that I can talk with the mento about science, and also math -- his math teacher loaned me a book the other day. Partially, its putting together a menu, and a shopping list, so that I can make a run to the store today. Partially, it's putting out a string of lights. And partially, it's getting started on Christmas cards (last year, we discovered computer-printable clear address labels. Gorgeous!)

Guess I should start, hmm?


I sprayed my beard with a bit of the theatrical white spray this morning, and I'm pleased. The beard is not a pure white, but it is definitely white, with undertones of gray. It looks real. Good stuff.

Kind of wish I'd bought two cans, now....or not loaned it to my daughter's friend for her Hallowe'en costume. Not much left. I'll make a note of the name, though.

Friday, November 27, 2009


From the Geeks Are Sexy site --

TDay + 1

We're home. We're glad we went. And we're glad we're home. Heavy, heavy rain this morning on Long Island, but by the time we hit Pennsylvania, the skies were just cloudy -- which is actually good, as otherwise we'd have had at least an hour of driving while staring at the setting sun.

The tiramisu went over well. I made a point of telling people that it's really easy to make, so that if they ever have a hankering for it, they can whip it up. And it really is -- I'm not being coy. Chocolate, eggs, sugar, coffee, marscapone, crisp ladyfingers, cocoa, optional rum -- really easy. Twenty four hours in the refrigerator, and its ready to rock.

Still amazed by those people who crashed the state dinner. Holy hell. I know, they passed the screenings, but how the hell did they get past the list of names? You can't even get into some nightclubs without that. Secret Service needs to seriously kick ass and take names.

Road trips usally do a number on my blood sugar control. Road trips coupled with TDay desserts, one of which is tiramisu -- oy vey.

Looking to bake some Christmas cookies. I want to make stuff that is harder than I normally make, without being, you know, insanely hard. Difficult to quantify.

Thinking about wierd stuff while driving. Radical Islam. Its not right to profile Muslims just because they're Muslims, but I think it is right to profile likely candidates for crimes and terrorism, and have the Muslim tag be a oh, really? additional weight. I know they won't think thats fair, but ignoring it seems stupid to me. And, Tivo - works by timeshifting, like VCRs, and coupling in intelligence to suggest what you might like to watch based on what you thumbed-up or selected for recurring taping. Where else could that kind of logic be used, commercially?

We need to keep a tight eye on costs and expenses for a while. The general dentist told me what his part is going to cost, and, as I may have mentioned, it stunned me. Add that to our anniversary gift to ourselves (TV, Tivo) and needing to accumulate funds for my daughter's trip to France in the summer, and man: it seriously gets your attention. So, throttle back for a while. The economic recovery will have to stagger alone without us. Check in again in, oh, May.

Man, I'm tired. Need sleep.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Looking through photographs -- some very, very small ones -- playing the game of who the heck is THAT? Some, I know; some, I can guess. But who's that immigrant-looking guy and woman? Who's that burly fireman? and whose picture is that from 1893?

Dental Denial

I went through a great deal of effort, and money, over the past many months to get eight implants inserted into my upper jaw.

Imagine how delighted I was to hear the general dentist say, today, that I probably won't need to use all eight to support the final denture. When I pointed out to him that the health of the bone relies on stimulation transmitted through the implants through chewing, etc, and that I didn't want to hear, in three years, that I was going to lose one of those expensive implants because the bone supporting it wasn't being stimulated, he seemed surprised. Said "That's a good question -- I'll ask the oral surgeon."

Oh my god.


Today I get to make tiramisu. I am very pleased. Been looking forward to this for a long time. And this afternoon, I'll finish off about a dozen of the chocolate truffles. Thinking I might grind up some nuts and lightly coat the outside of a couple, just to see what it looks like. Should be fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Made the cores for 32 truffles tonight. Tomorrow I wrap them in milk chocolate, and for some, dab them with sprinkles or sea salt. Taking 12 as a gift for a relative. T, let me know when you'll be stopping by for yours.

Stray Thoughts

I'm not upset about the fix the mento's gotten himself into, so much as disappointed. I don't know if he'll ever succeed, but I'd rather he didn't fail. I also know that joyriding is a classic American tradition - which doesn't make it right.

Reading A Wind in the Door, which is a Young Adult novel. (Sue me.) One of the characters just announced that he was going directly from a meeting to Brookhaven. I smiled at that, because, in the most minor way, I know Brookhaven.

When I was in high school, we took a field trip out there. I remember almost nothing about it, but I was impressed enough that I talked my parents into letting me go back by myself. A high school kid, no especial yearning for or achievements in, science, going out to Brookhaven National Laboratories. Yup. I don't know why they agreed to let me go. I do know that it would probably have been a good idea to call them before coming out, just to see if one-person tours were even possible. For that matter, it would have been a good idea for someone to figure out that the Long Island Railroad didn't so much go to Brookhaven as go near it. But there I was, all alone on the train station. I called them from the train station, and, somewhat bemused, they sent a car down to get me. I can only imagine what they thought they were getting. Who the hell is this kid? But they gave me a personal tour, I met some smart people, and at the end of the day, they drove me back to the the train station.

I wonder how many other people think of their youth when they think of a government research facility?


Not me, the mento.

Over the weekend, he thought it'd be fun to ride in a car with an unlicensed driver. Who then crashed into a parked car.

For some reason, he wasn't interested in discussing science, today.

Oh, man.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Still finding surprises in my mother's stuff -- like, drawings (very, very bad) that I did for an art class when I was in fifth grade.

And money. Not a lot -- about twenty five dollars in cash, and four cylinders with coins, separated by type. My wife knew, somehow, that when my father was a cab driver, he would come home and dump all of his earnings on the table. My mother would take it, organizing the change and the cash, keeping a running total of how much he'd made. Which also let her know, though I didn't realize it at the time, when he'd not worked a full shift -- likely spending some of it in a friendly tavern. She thinks the cylinders date from those separation actions.

Funny, the memories things like that triggger.


Semi-sweet/bittersweet core, coated in milk chocolate, covered with candy sprinkles.


Once again, we've gone to Sunday mass. Once again, I've observed how much more effective and efficient it would be to hold the Mass both as a traditional service and as a WebMass, with streaming video of the service, downloadable MP3s of the homily, on-screen scrolling text for the hymns, and a click here to make a donation. And lets not forget the reduced carbon footprint created by not having to drive there, find parking, clog the streets to and fro. Or how helpful this would be for the ill, the infirm, the elderly. It just makes sense. Once again, the wisdom of this approach was denied by my wife. Oh, these Luddites.

An article in today's Washington Post is about a person who who, ten years ago, would have been on top of the world, but today isn't even on the training slopes - a girl who excelled in high school, got an MBA from a respected college, has met the Dalai Lama and Joe Biden (though not at the same time), and was clearly on the fast track to success -- and who now is living at home again, and can't even get a low-paying job. Can't even get a job interview. What in the world is up with that? Sometimes I look at things like that and think you're so smart, YOU figure out what to do. At least I know what to do about the cover article in Parade magazine, which is about 'charming but shy' Hugh Grant, who's just looking for a lifetime love. Turn the page, that's what.

I think Obama needs Leo McGarry. Or Rahm Emmanuel needs to toughen up and slap some Democrats around. I also think Mary Landrieu is a Republican at heart -- except that if they were in power, and she pulled that stunt, she'd find that all federal funds to Louisiana have mysteriously dried up. Democrats reward her for it.

Why don't laptops have interchangeable hard drives?

An article in the Post is titled "Americans conflicted over Afghanistan war", and in a sub-head "I'm confused. What is our objective?" Good question. If we stay there, it's going to be long and painful, and we're not going to get anything useful out of it until we can stomp out the Al-Quaeda vermin and their clones, there and elsewhere. It's like fumigating your house at great expense, but doing nothing to keep the critters from swarming back in as soon as the exterminator's truck leaves. Next morning, the rats are on the kitchen table, looking up as you enter. "Hey, where'd you guys move the cheese?" So, what's our objective? As clearly and concisely as you can, Barack. No flags, no bugles.

We finally changed the smoke detector batteries today. One of those things that we were thinking about for weeks, finally bought the batteries last week, and actually put them in today. My wife usually does it, but she was busy, so I did it. I am amazed at how inelegant the design of those things is -- or that you actually can put the damn battery in backward, and the holder will close, letting you fight to screw the device back in place, before it starts to beep accusingly. Hey, dummy!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take Note

When I was a kid in grammar school, I would occasionally hear the sound of other students taking notes. They sounded as if they were writing very quickly -- much more quickly than I could write. I thought that perhaps if I could emulate that sound, I would take notes more quickly, too. And so I would occasionally take notes that were nothing more than dots, dashes, and squiggles, all done quickly. I did get the sound done. The content, not so much.

There are times, watching our political process, that I think our politicians work the same way. They know what they're supposed to do; they just can't figure out out to do it. So they make the sounds, and hope that's enough.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Tivo is growing on me.

Not only can I routinely count on one or two episodes of West Wing to be available to distract me when I'm doing the exercise bike, but now I have Dick Tracy, two episodes of NCIS, and The Green Mile available.

The remote's not as good as it should be, the service's interface not as capable as it could be -- but the service itself isn't bad at all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Close Encounter

Close Encounters of the Redneck Kind from Marc Bullard on Vimeo.


This morning, we had fruit with breakfast. The girl who we'd brought to the anime con sent us one of those 'edible arrangements' as a thank-you gift, which I thought was pretty classy of her. It's possible that it was her mother doing it, but either way, I was impressed by it. And I did leave some of the chocolate-dipped strawberries.... after carefully eyeing them to see how they'd done it. We're keeping the 'arrangement' in my mother's refrigerator. As I got up to take it downstairs, my wife mused 'I wonder what people do who don't have a second refrigerator?' "Oh", I drawled, "I imagine they just put it in the one in the servants' quarters."

Today will be a moderately busy day -- exercise bike at 8:30, dentist (again) at 10, grocery store run at noon, and meeting with the mento at 2:30. If I get the chance, I'll bake some stuff and give him a bit.

Been getting automated 'comments' on old posts from someone pushing meds. I always delete them. I don't have to -- they're old posts, and no one is likely to come across them -- but they annoy me. If they ever get to the point of hitting current posts, I will engage some of the other security functions in Blogger. Which I don't really want to do.

No news about my cousin's daughter. My wife and I found that we were both thinking about her.

And it occured to me that if we moved the rocking chair to a different room, we could probably fit that blue chair into the den (from where my daughter stashed it, in my mother's living room). I haven't told my wife this thought, though. It'd be primarily for my daughter. Does she have me wrapped around her little finger? Well....not entirely.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A few days ago, I mentioned that my daughter had to get a B average in all core subjects in order to get to be in Color Guard this time around, and she did. This evening, she told us that she might drop out of this season of CG because she doesn't feel challenged. She's the next to senior member of the group, and she is pretty sure that she won't be learning anything. At the same time, she's not fond of most of the girls in the group - she likes those who do the outdoor guard better -- so she thinks that if she stays, she'll get bored and irritated.

I asked her if there was any way for her to increase her level of activity in the organization. For example, do they involve members of the group in writing the scripts for their routines, or in training newer members of the organization. She said that they didn't. The woman who directs it, and two guys, do all of that. Occasionally, they'll have subgroups that are run by people who graduated already, but they never have the opportunity for experienced people to do more.

I thought of that meeting that I left early, a while back, where the color guard director was proclaiming how important it was that everyone who wanted to be in color guard get the opportunity -- and how my wife told me of a woman whose daughter really wanted to be in it, but who really wasn't very good, so she'd be in a routine lasting about fifteen seconds out of the total routine running about five minutes; the woman said her daughter would come home and cry because she got so little to do. I told my wife that that sort of thing bothered me a lot; I don't think that any kid should be so distraught that they come home and cry, and if they are, then the person running the thing isn't doing a good job. They're focusing more on the organization than on the kids, and that's wrong, in my book. Don't give the kid more to do because you feel sorry for them, but give them the change to learn, to grow. Work with them. After all that's what they implied that they did, right? Help kids grow and mature? Maybe its just not as easy as I think.
And I thought of when, at the same meeting, they stressed how much kids learn about working together, organization, teamwork; at the time, I'd thought that it was true, they did. But now I think that they didn't say how the kids ability to organize and teach and train grew, because the leaders of the organization didn't pass those opportunities on. My daughter would likely say that keeping the reins in the hands of the leader meant that the organization would continue to be driven by that leader's fierce commitment and standards, and they would continue to be winners. She's likely right.

But what about the kids?

So I'm a little pleased that my daughter might not do it this season, after all. More time for school work, and I hope, more focus. But I'm disappointed that she might not get the chance to be challenged in a way that she wants to be. Because it means a lot to her.

Moving Experiences

We've moved a few things around, and it must be a success, because everyone's unhappy about something.

My wife's not happy because I tied up the metal frame and lugged it to the point where we could get it into the storage room. I then asked her for help moving it, because she gets apprehensive when I do heavy lifting by myself, and she got irritated to find that I'd done any of it. Pointing out that the carcass of the couch still needed to be moved didn't help.

My daughter's not happy because we replaced the couch which has been in the living room since she was a kid, and the large blue chair, with a smaller couch - a love seat - and an overstuffed red chair. She liked the couch; she liked the blue chair. Like me, she's not fond of change, or of discarding things that still work. As it happens, we still have the couch, just downstairs now. She was so unhappy about the blue chair, she dragged it back in from the garage and insisted that we had to keep it.

And I'm not happy because I really don't like asking others for help, especially when it makes me feel old and feeble -- and asking the healthy young teenaged boy next door for help moving things does that quite nicely. My wife doesn't get that logic at all. Granted, I haven't told her, but I sort of hoped it'd be obvious. Apparently not.

Dumb, I know. Sometimes, I can be.


Well, this is inexplicable.

My cousin just called to say that the daughter of my cousin Katherine, who died a couple of years ago, and who came to our home when my mother died, is in the hospital after waking yesterday with severe chest pains and pain radiating down her arm. She's in ICU. In the last twenty-four hours, she's been resuscitated once.

She has three young kids, one so young it can't even hold up its head. She's twenty-seven.

Good lord.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I am not a fan of cooking where you 'kick it up a notch' or 'make it really POP' or any of that. I'm a pretty plain cook.

However: tomorrow, I'm going to make chocolate truffles. They're easy enough to make, somewhat difficult to enhance with coatings. But that's what I'm going to try to do. I'm thinking something simple, like sprinkles. Or maybe melted white chocolate.

Wish me luck. And then wish me someone to eat these things.

Monday, November 16, 2009

EMR Uh-Huh

I like it when smart people agree with me. Even if the conclusion seemed perfectly obvious.

I Don't Want A Mobile Home

But if I did, I'd go see this guy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Baking for the Troops

I saw a post on a blog where the guy said 'Send food to the Army group my daughter's with; they really appreciate it, and they will all thank you." So I did. After a while, I dropped him an email, and he said why yes, they did get it, and they appreciated it. But to me, directly? Not a word.

I'll do it again, but maybe not with quite so much enthusiasm. I suspect that's childish of me.

I don't subscribe to his blog any more.

Popcorn and Telephones

Okay, this is a little weird. I came out to the living room after taking a short nap, saw my daughter's laptop, and thought that I'd use it to write a post on the blog. As soon as I started it, I received a warning that there were multiple security problems, including, apparently, that her antivirus program was not running. So, instead of writing a post, I got to sit here while Avast does a sweep of her machine. I started reading the papers again -- it was a couple of articles that had suggestions something to write about -- until my wife came out and wondered why I was sitting er with the laptop open and some kind of program whipping up displays faster than the human eye could read them. At which point, she said that she'd bring ours out, and did. Ours is heavier than hers, incidentally.

There is an interesting article about telephone plan pricing in the Times. It boils down to two points: people like predictability in their cell phone bill, and will willingly pay more per minute if it means that the actual bill will be relatively consistent, month to month, and people aren't particularly interested in getting the cheapest, or even a cheap, telephone service plan. When phone companies offer free deals that cost them little, customers are willing to upgrade their plans, buying more minutes per month, even if they're not using them all, now. A different way to put it is that consumers don't buy the plans that economists would advise. I do, though. Just the other night, my daughter asked why we don't have a 'family' plan. I told her that we spend about five hundred dollars a year for the GoPhone service for our three phones (the phones get recharged when they run out of funds); that works out to about forty dollars a month. Family Plans usually run about a third more for the same service. I told her that I don't see the point of paying more if I'm not getting something better. Of course, better is as better is perceived; a friend who has a family plan will regularly get a new telephone for one of her family members, at a cost that's a fraction of what the phone actually costs outright. We don't. My daughter would like a new phone, and we're thinking about it; when we do, those 'free' or 'cheap' phones seem a lot more attractive.

An article in the Times magazine talks about that Army major who thought it'd be fun to kill people right here at home, no need to go overseas. Okay, that's trivializing it. It says that among other things, he thought that Muslim military members should be able to get conscientious objector status, and out of the military, if they're going to be sent to a war zone and have to fight/kill other Muslims. I think that's preposterous. That a Muslim wouldn't want to fight another Muslim (this is true of anyone of any religion, of course), I can see; that they might want a 'this far and no further' personal exclusion, I find astonishing. And yet this fellow is supposed to be a bright, insightful guy.

Nice little article in the same Magazine about a recipe for caramel corn, incidentally. It uses cayenne pepper, of all things.

The Obama administration is proposing that the Department of Transportation take over oversight of the nations subways and light rail systems. I think that's preposterous, too. What expertise and ability could they bring that isn't available to the states now? What's particularly interesting is that they didn't start thinking about it until a rail accident, with fatalities, occurred with the DC Metro, right in their back yard. How about you look into re-regulating the damn airlines, instead, guys?


This is strange. I like it.


Normally, when we have sausage, we have it from a package that's commercially made. Each patty is about an inch and a half across, a little less than half an inch thick. They're the ones that never, ever cook evenly -- the edges always cook faster than the center, sometimes dramatically faster. I found by accident that nuking them first will cook the center a bit, which seems to help the process, but still, you have to keep an eye on them. And they go from just barely cooked to charred very quickly.

This morning, we had sausage that we bought at an area butcher shop. Hand-mixed, hand-made. Each patty was more like a hamburger patty -- about four inches across, about an inch thick. Massive. When we cooked it, we figured it would take a while, but even after cooking a long time, we had to nuke it to turn the center from pink to cooked. Still, it was worth it. The taste was phenomenal. I don't know what kind of meat was in there, but I know that it was mixed in with bits of apple. Cooked, it didn't so much char as caramelize -- sweet and flavorful, all the way through.

I don't think we'll go routinely -- the butcher's a fair distance from here -- but, wow.

What I Did Yesterday

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Up in Smoke


I just paid the bill from the funeral home for my mother's funeral. I used her checkbook. She had the habit of writing the next-up check number, which meant that I wrote the check on a line that she started.

Feels odd, picking up the pieces of someone's life, when they were expecting to come back, and never did.

Moving Experience

We just moved the couch from the living room (upstairs) to the den (downstairs). My, oh, my.

Then when we were done, and contemplating how we'll get the sofa down there (with the hidden bed) into the storage room, we thought: hire someone. Because I tried to just rock it backwards, and it wouldn't even budge.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Watch it!

I need to watch it. I just spent $35 to send a box of nice chocolates to that person who I realized - finally - wasn't, and didn't want to be, a friend of mine. I did it because I was 'doing Christmas stuff - the jewelry I mentioned earlier - and why not, it's not that expensive....' -- which is a bad idea. I even told myself hey, you're buying the chocolates from a small company, that helps them, that's a good thing. Yeah, it is. But the original logic is seriously wrong.

Got to watch it. This is going to be a bit of a rocky Christmas -- the TV, the Tivo, the anime convention -- and stupidity like that doesn't help. Clamp down on that checkbook!

Various Concepts

We've just paid the first installment for my daughter's trip to France, next summer. We're looking forward to it, as it'll be a combination of vacation for her, and learning. She'll stay in several French cities, dip into Monaco and the south of France, and spend at least a week with a French family, during which she'll be required to speak nothing but French. (Do they speak any English? Probably. But they won't go out of their way -- she'll have to learn to do the basics, from 'where's the bathroom' to 'another of those, please'.) We think it'll be a great trip, and we think she'll learn more than she would have with the People to People effort.

I was quite surprised to find that the person for whom I'll be doing some work at the hospital asked for a copy of my resume. I heard unofficially that she's somewhat of a micromanager, which means, if it ever did happen that I got offered a job (and that's extremely unlikely), I'd turn it down, as I despise micromanagers. Still, it was a little surprising to me to read my own resume. Over the years, I've done some interesting things. Nothing that would gain me major league attention, but still: not bad. I was sort of pleased to read it.

I've been going through the recent copy of Technology Review. It arrived a few weeks ago, but events sort of got in the way of reading it. One article is about the concept of electronic medical records, which is something near and dear to my heart. (That fondness was damaged, a little, when, upon scheduling another routine appointment with the local docs, I was informed that since they're converting to EMRs, I'd have to fill out another form. I guess customer friendliness isn't big on their conversion's priority list.) I do get a little antsy, though, reading about politicians talking about EMRs, because they tend to discuss them as if they're the panacea -- implement them and all health system ills will be eliminated. Of course, that's not at all the case. I suspect that most health system ills won't be affected by the adoption of EMRs, and of those that will, some will actually become worse, while the others will only slowly get better. It's an infrastructural improvement -- and as generations of civil engineers know, infrastructure is one of the least sexy things around, when it comes to politicians.

I am still hoping to connect the DVR from Tivo to one of the other TVs, so that we can at least watch recorded non-HD programs in the other room. (Most of our recordings are of non-HD shows, actually. I do like watching Enterprise in high def, though.) Not sure how to do it -- I really don't want to run cables. And I still want to connect the DVD player/VCR to the LCD tv -- not to record (the Tivo unit can handle that) but just to play back DVDs on the big screen. Alas, the people who built this very nice cabinet for the TV put in one two inch hole to pass cables through. Not nearly enough. My wife tells me that she thinks we have a hole bit for the drill here somewhere. I kind of don't want to -- that's nice wood, and it's thick -- but I don't see an alternative.

We were watching the tube tonight and I thought man, how quickly we got used to this big TV! Tivo is nice, too, but, you know, its not as nice as people make it seem. The remote's not that well designed -- yes, it fits better in the hand than most, but it's also easily possible to hold upside down, and it doesn't have a light-up-the-keys function like the TV's remote does. And the service itself -- well, it records well enough, but why isn't there a skip 30 seconds/10 minutes/whatever function? That seems pretty basic to me. The search function, too, seems awfully primitive -- the service talks to the home network, so why isn't there a PC app to set up programming searches? The best single thing has been that it gets me downstairs to do the exercise bike again -- which, granted, is goodness -- but overall, it's not as wonderful as I thought it would be. Just, you know, better than the alternatives. Didn't Franklin say that about the US model of democracy?


I'm not reading a lot into this, but -- we just took a container of cereal from my mother's cupboard, and we'll be eating it. It's almost like -- well, I guess that's obvious.

Self Congratulations

I just bought two Christmas gifts -- and at a craft fair, yet. A lovely sterling silver piece for my wife, and a set of earrings for my daughter (who keeps saying she's going to get her ears pierced).

I am very pleased.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

By the Kin's Skin

We told our daughter that she had to get a B or better in every subject in order to participate in color guard, next season. A B is 85-92 out of 100.

Five core subjects. 85, 86, 87, 88, 91. Average: 87.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mento, Demento

We had a pretty good session today. His science teacher had given me some material that he's working on, including a project he has to have for Monday -- a really simple one -- so we talked for about half an hour about it, and then segued to general banter. It was fun.

I am gradually getting used to the idea that I guilted myself into doing the homeless shelter Santa thing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"At this point, the Homeless Shelter Christmas Party does not have anyone else to play Santa and no leads for someone. They are going to wait to see if Bill is available."

Guilted myself into it.


For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a causal relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory behavior forms." If you can keep this up for 50 or 60 pages, you will get a large government grant.

Found here.

Mondays, Huh?

Well, yesterday was a bit of a downer.

In no special order --

- the temporary secretary at the guidance office hadn't scheduled the mento, so he was off at a study hall. By the time I realized he wasn't coming, it was too late to call him down. When I mentioned to one of the guidance people that the parents never got in touch with me about meeting regularly with the kid on weekends, he said, effectively, Yeah, they're like that.

- the hospital called to tell me that since they didn't know if they were going to do the annual employee event, due to concerns about swine flu, they were just going to have an employee on standby to be Santa. (This really frosted me, because I really like doing it.)

- my sudden availablility for Santa-ing means I actually could be Santa at an office party where I used to work, or at the homeless shelter. Neither of those is something I want to do. Realizing that, particularly the last, makes me feel pretty cheap.

- I went to a meeting about color guard to see what my daughter might be getting into, and it turned out to be for people new to it, full of lavish praise for the wonderfulness that is the program director. Memories of what was said makes me ill, twelve hours later. After forty five minutes of what was supposed to be a thirty minute meeting, when they got to the point of saying that kids in CG love it (true, usually) to the point where if they are not doing well in school, threatening to pull them out will motivate them to boost their grades (not true), I had to leave. I felt less than mature at not being able to handle that kind of thing. My wife can, I can't. And less than honest for not pointing out the time committment that they ask -- but, I tell myself, nobody there wanted to hear that. Probably. After I got home, thinking about that motivation thing made me wonder if its just me -- that the comment is true, I just am not up to the task of motivating the kiddo.

- A kid at the high school killed himself. Nothing to do with me, but it horrified and chunked me. Yes, I know thats not a word. Neither were my inchoate feelings of despair at learning that.


Monday, November 09, 2009


When I worked at EDS, we would occasionally go for lunch at a small motel not too far from the office. It wasn't a particularly classy place, but what make it unique was that it had an attached 'convention center' which could hold several moderately large events. Once, when we were there, a Star Trek convention was in progress. We looked with some bemusement at the throngs pressing in to get to the various rooms where talks and presentations were going on, their eyes alight with eagerness. I liked Star Trek, and still do, but these people -- teens, for the most part, loved it. I didn't understand that level of captivation. What completely astounded me, though, was when one minivan disgorged a portly fellow in complete Klingon uniform. He knew that every eye was upon him, and he strutted as he entered the building. He glowed.

At Zenkaikan, he'd have been noticed, but only for a moment. The range and depth of the costumes there astounded me. About a quarter of the attendees didn't have a costume at all; another ten percent had a minimal costume -- cut-out symbols pinned to a shirt, or a rakish hat. Fully half had a costume over which they'd clearly spent many hours, sewing, painting, even welding, and they were easily as good as that Klingon warrior. The remaining fifteen percent -- well, they could have just come from a professional, Broadway-level presentation. Their outfits awed the others, and they knew it. Every eye was on them, and as they walked, they glowed.

Most of the costumes were references to Japanese comics; some, like the one that looked like a British Revolutionary War musketman, or the one in World War II German officer's cap (complete with death's head insignia), uniform jacket, glistening jackboots, and pink hot pants were harder to understand. So I asked. The first said that she was a Prussian musketman, while the second told me, helpfully, that she was a German officer, part of the same 'world' theme as the first.

That got me. Not what the costumes were, but their attitudes. They weren't dismissive -- what, you don't know what a otaku is? -- which I'd have expected from a bunch of teens talking to someone like me who clearly didn't fit in. They were happy to talk about who they 'were', how they fit in with each other, what the symbols meant, how they'd made their costumes. They were enthusiasts, in the best sense of the word. When I was their age, I'd have blown off someone forty years older who was asking about their passion, but they didn't. I liked that.

I am not a fan of anime, but this weekend I learned something about them. And, you know? I kind of liked that these kids -- I don't say that pejoratively -- have something that they believe in so strongly, so intently. I suppose they could go too far, but in this little con, nobody seemed to do that. There were just having a damn good time.

Very cool.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sudden Realization

I was goofing off downstairs, flipping through channels, and thinking man, with this many channels, you could be here for really need some kind of 'content manager' so you can say 'this is the kind of thing I like, tell me when some becomes available'.

And then I thought Bill, what the hell do you think Tivo is?

Oh. Yeah.

Still think it needs a 'remember this channel' function, though.


As soon as I heard the name of the Army major who shot people at Fort Hood, I thought Oh, boy. Because anyone could predict what was coming -- and indeed, this morning, flipping on the radio, I heard the tail end of comments from one person, apparently a relative, saying that they were horrified and stunned, because their family loves America, followed by a comment from the Council on American Islamic Relations, saying that they deplored it and many Muslims serve loyally in all branches of the military. All of which I believe. Still: not a good day to be a Muslim in this country. Just a little bit of weight's been given to the viewpoint that they're not entirely to be trusted. Could be he's just a whacko, or a man under severe stress. Could be the NRA member who shoots up a McDonalds or a high school is, too. But you build beliefs out of what you see, and the explanations that make sense to you. Can't wait to see what people build out of this. No, on second thought, I can wait.

Looking at the Washington Post from this past weekend, and reading an article about a diary that a man kept during the Depression. Noting the attitudes of people and businesses (small banks closing, or being merged into large banks; existing large banks being reluctant to save smaller ones), he says:

"Again and again I am forced to the conclusion that in prosperous times a man must be cautious and preserve his capital and be careful not to overexpand his business or to go too deeply in debt relying on a continuation of good business to pay the debt. In time of depression, a man can be brave and if the depression is nearing an end he can invest his money or expand his business or open a new business with confidence that he is facing five or 10 years of prosperity. He can feel sure that the road ahead will be up -- not down. Many great, prosperous businesses were founded on the ruins of depression. This may be why so many Federal Street merchants are now beginning to put in a new storefront, etc.

A great many losses and failures in business and in investment are due to the reversal of this policy. At the height of prosperity, they rush in to buy stocks or real estate or businesses at boom prices and assume enormous indebtedness that can be liquidated only if the boom spiral mounts higher and higher. Then comes an abrupt end to prosperity -- a crash -- and down go these businesses and investments purchased at top prices. If the purchase was made mostly with borrowed capital, as so often happens -- then you can write finis to the chapter.
--- Bejamin Roth
......The Great Depression: A Diary

Eerie how familiar it sounds. Of course, we're much smarter now.

I know these pictures are sentimental claptrap. I like them anyway.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Here's what's tacky.

To write a book about a fierce gladiator, build it up to a point where it narrows down to a murderous death-match against a hated enemy, sprawling and clawing in the dirt and the sand of the arena before a screaming crowd of thousands of blood-thirsty spectators, each warrior scarred, bleeding, gasping for air, vision blurring, limbs drained of energy, yet still reaching blindly to kill, destroy, devastate their mortal foe --

and then - the match is over. Done. The arena is virtually silent.

And they both live.

I read all the way to the end for that?


So I see that Blogger's come out with a new, improved editor. It does have one nice feature -- how it handles images -- but as for the rest, I'm not thrilled. Plus, the Greasemonkey Large Post Editor script doesn't work with it. So, feh.

A short period of intense rain this afternoon -- I glanced out at the deck, saw to my dismay that the cover for the grill had blown off, and was astonished upon going out there to note that not only was it rain, there was ice!

I totally don't get Verizon's problem with Thunderbird. I set up two ids for my daughter on her laptop, three on this one for me -- and on hers, they all use the same SMTP output pointer; on mine, if I do that, two of them fail -- I have to give them unique names. W, as they say, TF? Not to mention that I just looked at the Thunderbird mail handling rules for this id, which are supposed to lob comments from that mailbox to my primary one -- and I cannot see how it might possibly have been working before. There's no rule at all to say 'forward these'. So if I don't respond to a comment -- that's why. No, really.

But we're weathering all this stuff, slowly getting back into the groove, and amazed at how long it's taking to do it.

Mail Maul

TO: Anyone who cares

RE: Verizon SMTP mail failure

When we switched to Verizon, we kept our Comcast mail active. Hey, presto -- suddenly outbound Comcast mail fails with a 'user address' error -- the server has rejected it. This is, of course, the same email address we've had since we started.

Turns out Verizon is hot to trot on not letting email use the port it normally uses -- 25. Something about evil things tend to happen there. So, they block it, probably with that nifty new router they gave us (its a combo router/modem - roudem?) and say 'use port 587 instead of 25' (like, if this is public info, how's that going to stop the evility?) So we do. Nada.

Finally, after seeing occasional references to '...and tell the server you want to be authenticated' , I went to Outlooks Accounts/Properties/Servers and checked Outgoing Mail Server: My server requires authentication. (Did I give it any credentials with which to do such authenication? No, because I had no idea what they might be -- so I left it at Use same settings as my incoming mail server -- whatever that means.) I left the port at 587.

And it worked.

I think Verizon needs to work on its mail-changeover methods.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Out the Other Side

I survived, somewhat to my surprise.

The day was as long as ever. We had fewer staff than ever, so it took longer to close everything up than I thought, making me one of the last ones to show up at the election center. Once again, I found that my dandy checklist had some errors in it -- sometimes, I feel like Doctor Claw, swearing that next time, I will be victorious -- but not too bad. We sent out for pizza, which was fun - yeah, this is my home number, but I'm not there; we're actually at a church, only, not the CHURCH church part. Not too much strangeness, overall, from the voters -- one woman was so old and slow moving, I walked out to her car with her. One guy tried to vote using the dummy-ballot display screen that's supposed to just show you what the ballot will look like. His wife thought that was pretty funny.

But we survived. Oh, and now the house is FiOS-ized, too.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

Tomorrow we're having Verizon out to do the FiOS thing. A week ago, I had my credit card cancelled and a new one issued. I told Verizon, among others, about it. Today they informed me that my last credit card payment auto-pay had been declined. What timing!

Tomorrow's the long day -- up at about 4:45, to the polling place by 5:45 to post the signs outside, then sitting around until 8PM when we close up shop, taking about an hour to do all of the forms-writing, materials-securing, etc, then another half hour to drive the ballots and materials out to the elections office. I like doing this job when it's busy, but I despise it when it's slow -- in the primaries, we literally had stretches of two hours when nobody came in. I wish I could just tell workers to leave and come back when it's busy, but that's against the rules, doncha know.

I can't believe that Tivo doesn't let me delete channels from their 'live tv' -- ie, not recorded -- feed. My 24 year old tv can do that, but they can't? (Not talking 'blocking'; that, they can do. I just don't want to see certain channels at all.) On the other hand, as one thing I just read put it, live tv really isn't that good -- you need to tell Tivo to go find things for you to watch when you feel like it. After a while, the thought of watching live tv just to see whats there will seem.... odd. Have to admit, they have a point.

Looking forward to doing some work for that hospital. I think it'll be grunt work, but, you know? It's nice to be wanted.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

One Down

We got the TV. Not bad. The screen is quite large (by our standards, not those of someone who's really into it) -- about 2.5 times the size we're used to. Takes about ten seconds to power up, and three to shut down. Each time, it plays a little tone (wish I could get rid of that). Lots of tunable options, most of which we didn't mess with.

Tomorrow, just to distract myself from fixating on the election Tuesday (up at 5AM, yay), I'll likely try energizing the Tivo service. Then on Tuesday, the Verizon guy comes out to do their magic. Hope it all works.


Well, today's the day. Unless, you know, it's not.

We bought the gift cards at the local supermarket, so that we could immediately buy the gift cards for the Best Buy (the convoluted scheme is so that this major purchase gets a portion credited to my daughter's account at school; don't ask). Last night, we went and looked, and found first, to our dismay, that Best Buy had just about completely moved out all of their LCD TVs -- LED TVs are their new love -- but then found that they still had the one we want -- in fact, had about five of them left. So...

This morning, talking about connections, I wondered how, exactly, are we going to connect our four-year-old DVD/VCR player to this thing? Come to find out there is a cable/satellite jack on it, so we should be able to make the same kind of connection to the new TV as we have now --- ie, the DVD/VCR will connect to the TV's cable jack; the Tivo will connect to the TV's HDMI input.

So then I wondered: right now, with one device, the TV just sits on channel 3 and we tune with the tuner on the DVD/VCR player. How will this work with the Tivo? Probably the same, I thought. Probably. Guess we'll know this afternoon. Unless, of course, we don't.