Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Turbines

Use regular water pressure to generate power at home? Hmmm.......

Got Milk?

These ladies do.

Wired

It appears that we can do what we wanted to, with the lamp post, and it won't be too difficult. No digging, no punching cable holes, none of that.

We just replace the existing light switch with one of a two-switch set from SmartHome, and then put the second switch anywhere -- we'll likely put it just inside the front door. That switch will wirelessly communicate to the first one, letting us control the lamp post light from the entryway, rather than having to go downstairs to switch it on and off. About the only odd point is that the wireless switch runs on batteries. Course, given that the transmitter will only be used four or six times a week, I'd imagine they'll last for a good long while.

Neat.

Dicky

When I was in high school, I bought what was called 'a dicky'. I put it that way because I have no idea what they're called now, or even if they're still sold. It was, essentially, the top of a soft wool turtleneck -- from about three inches into the 'shirt' part, and up. I got it because I was under the impression that wearing one would render me hip, slick, and totally desirable. I didn't yet understand the concept of a 'lost cause'.

Last night, we were going to go out for a walk when I mentioned to my wife that I hoped it wouldn't be windy. The temperature was cool, but not bad, unless the wind whipped up. I didn't want to layer up or wear a scarf, because it wasn't all that cold, otherwise. What I need, I said, is something that's light and protects my neck, without being particularly bulky. Do you still have that dicky? she asked. I gave her a blank look. I have no idea, I replied, and then went off to finish getting dressed. When I came back, she had it, and I put it on. Throughout the whole walk, I was amazed at how warm it kept my neck. I mentioned more than once how glad I was that she'd thought of it.

And I think I look cool, too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Booked

I like to read, I really do. But there are times...

I've been reading Tales of a Female Nomad; I've been reading The Audacity of Hope; I've been reading a New Yorker article on the Iraq war (thats one of those I'll just print this off and read it later things); I've been reading about the concept of Patient Navigators.

Last night, we went to the local college's book fair, and I picked up six books -- including one that I leafed through, said Huh - I'm surprised I haven't read this one, got home, opened it, and recognized the scene - dammit! I put the books next to the five I've been meaning to get to any day now...

So when the opportunity to read something with dinner comes up, do I take one of these eleven? I do not. I grab an old mystery and read that. It's comfort reading. It makes me feel like I'm keeping up with the stuff I intend to read real soon now.

But not right now. Because, that stack? It's a little overwhelming.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Em...Urrr...

I''m usually up for some casual reading on the subject of Electronic Medical Records. I emphasize the casual; I'm not looking deeply at it, because a) I'm not very good with details unless I work at it, and b) I don't do this for a living - it's just an interest of mine. The current writing in Musings of a Distractible Mind suit that bill (and this Bill!) because there's detail, but not a lot of it. It's more an overview, with thoughts.

He makes the case that implementation of an EMR is not impossible, and that it can be done without impact to the functioning of a practice provided it is done carefully, with an eye toward function rather than implementation : "Probably the main lesson we learned is to put office function ahead of implementation. Since we are a business, we must stay profitable while implementing. Since we are practicing medicine, we must never compromise quality in the process. This meant that we implemented over time, focusing on parts that would either improve our process or at least not bring us down." This is a detail that processes which are driven by software types tend to miss. We like software; we can't imagine that there isn't anything wrong with a process that can't be fixed by the application of mo'bettah software. (Dilbert: "We like databases.") Business types struggled for a very long time to tame this attitude, and subject software to the needs of the business. They're stilll fighting that battle today; likely always will.

Having successfully implemented, though, he now finds his multi-doc practice in an interesting area - they can begin to daydream what else could be done with EMRs. He wants to do two things -- improve the quality of customer care (sorry; I have this thing about calling the people who bring in the business as 'patients') while maintaining or expanding the efficiency of the business. He wonders, for example, if he can expand the access of the customers to digital information, letting them update some of it as needed, passing others to staff or doctors for information and/or resolution. Could he have kiosks in the waiting room where people can, if they wish, write down their medical condition, answering some common diagnostic questions along the way (I immediately think: artificial intelligence?) so that the doctor can scan these prior to entering the examination room, and be already thinking about them.

It's an interesting article.

Tim, The Idiot

Apparently, the Vatican web site doesn't have a Complaints section (I looked). No Customer Service, either. So, I'll put it here, instead.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, recently promoted cleric, thinks that Notre Dame should not have invited the President of the United States to their commencement, because the President does not adhere to Catholic doctrine relative to abortion. Dolan feels that allowing Obama to speak 'sends a mixed message'.

I think most people are brighter than that, and he's an idiot. If you see the Pope, feel free to pass that on.

Patients, And...

I've never particularly cared for the 'position title' of 'patient', as it reminds me that we, the source of funds, usually have to wait to see a medical person. Don't always get a choice, either. However....

I learned this morning that there is a new 'field', for lack of a better word, called 'patient navigator', offered at some cancer centers, who work to facilitate care of people with that disease. By facilitate, I mean that they answer questions, provide care road maps, do reminder followups, and provide general support to those people. I am going to look into it. It's usually a paid position, but thats not why. I'd do it for free. I think that the concept is wonderful, and I'd like to help.

Dissension

My wife had an experience last night that was so troubling to her, she woke me up this morning to talk about it.

She'd been with the color guard crew, coming back from the championships. These are all girls, ranging between fourteen and eighteen years old. One of the girls asked her to give her a ride home once they got back to the high school. This is a not-uncommon event. It's a bit of a pain, of course, but her feeling is that she'd rather do it than take the chance that the kid will be stranded. I totally agree with her on this, and occasionally have gone over to the high school to pick up our daughter while my wife brings the other girl to her home. So, I had no problem with this (though I didn't know about it, at the time).

Once the girl was in the car, though, she said that she didn't actually want to go home; she wanted to go to a hotel. The girl said that she'd arranged to meet someone there. You can imagine what sort of alarm bells this set off. There would have been no way that my wife would do that, but neither would she abandon the girl to her own devices. It turned out that this wasn't exactly what it appeared to be - the girls mother, who'd actually gone to the competition, knew about it, and said that it was okay. The reason was, the girl had been kicked out of her house by her parents! My wife was stunned, as I would have been. We've never known of anyone in that situation; certainly, never known of any parents who could do that. We knew that it could happen, but here, where we live? The shock was as great as when we found out that a neighbor might well end up on a sex-offender list.

My wife called the mother, who agreed that this was in fact okay, and she then brought the girl to the hotel. Along the way, the girl asked her to stop by the side of the road. The girl had had to walk to the high school, carrying not only her color guard equipment, but her books and clothes for school - so much that she couldn't carry it all - so she'd hidden some of it in the underbrush, and needed to get it. (That she had to resort to that stratagem flabbergasts me.) They then continued to the hotel, where the girl checked in.

My wife was (and is) quite distressed, both at the idea of parents who could do that, and about the girl. She wondered if there was anything else she could have done, anyone else she should have involved. She'd actually considered offering to let the girl stay with us -- in fact, my daughter, who was there, made the offer spontaneously, but the girl turned it down. We decided that we'll tell one of the two priests at our church, today, about the event, and tomorrow we'll tell the guidance counselor at the high school, to see if they can do anything. We'll also call the hotel today to check up on her, and to let her know that our church is affiliated with a teen shelter. We'll bring her if she wants.

Getting involved, doing what you think is right, is sticky. You're thinking what if there was a good reason for kicking her out? What if she's a thief, a drug user? What if, what if.... I think my wife did the right thing, and what we're going to do is right. But still, you wonder.

You read about these situations. You don't ever expect to be in them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Solitary

There's always a bit of a what the heck was that when the wind blows a door shut... and you're the only one in the house. Which is whats going on right now. My wife and daughter are still at a color guard event. I wish they were home - somewhat for the companionship, but also because my daughter called me from there in a frenzy, absolutely melting down, saying that she had screwed up big time during their competition, and she needed to talk to her mother, but couldn't find her. For fifteen minutes, I tried, and tried, and tried, and she finally picked up, telling me that in the noise and confusion, she simply had not heard her phone ringing. She did get with my daughter -- apparently, she'd stepped on a flag during the performance, stumbling a bit. My wife says she recovered quickly, but that kind of thing can be devastating, particularly when the competition is very close. My daughter takes them seriously. In fact, it was realizing how important it was to her that made me back off on threatening to reduce her involvement if she doesn't do well in school. She'd be virtually grief-stricken. We did come up with a way to boost her grades, and we'll see in two days how that went. One class we know went up, and one, probably. So, we likely won't pull her from it -- but we will (and have been) require more action and activity, visible activity, in doing studying and preparation. This has the effect of sucking up all of her spare time, but that's not a bad thing. Anyway, I'm looking forward to her being back. I hope she's okay.

I got a response from a person with a physics degree to my earlier comment about superpositions and quantum entanglement. I'd like to say I understood what he said, but I didn't, really. I had to read it a couple of times just to get the gist of it. Still, it was nice of him to write. I appreciated it, and I enjoyed reading what he had to say. Speaking of reading, I was looking at a blog this afternoon wherein a woman spoke about her problems finding bathing suits for her young daughters, not to mention herself. She used a picture of one model and commented that this was what she wanted, though 'no exercise in the world would give her boobs like that again, after nursing two kids'. That made me squirm a bit. If she can't say that, who can? Yet, somehow, it bothered me. I'm not sure why.

And on that note, I think I'll get some sleep.

Chillin, Challah

Well, the bathroom towel loop is up, and the challah's made. The dough came pretty well. I think that the technique I used to braid the dough is defective, as I did just as they said, and as the instructions showed, but I tended to end up with three braids and a lonely strand, every so often. I undid it multiple times, doing it slowly each time, and it still happened. Looking on the net, I found different directions -- mine said to take the left most strand, designated 1, and put it between 2 and 3, then take the right most, designated 4, and put it between 1 and 2, alternating between steps; while the one I found said to take 1, pass it under 2 and 3, then up over 3 and down between 2 and 3 (I don't remember what they said the second step was). Could be that just gives you a tighter braid. After a couple of tries, the dough was looking more than a little battered, so I said the heck with it. But next time, I'll try the other way.

French toast tomorrow!

SEF

Dough!

I mentioned to my wife that I still haven't baked anything. She looked up and said Well, you wanted French toast on Sunday -- what about making some challah?

Challah. Hot diggety.

All My Ex-es....

As I've mentioned on occasion, I used to live in Texas. I didn't really care for it -- I'm just not a heat and bobbycue kind of person -- but I could see why people like it there. There's a certain pleasure in seeing the enthusiasm with which native Texans -- some imports, too, but mostly native -- just enjoy being part of that state. I've never felt that strongly about anyplace I've lived (well, a certain guarded pleasure in being a Nyawker, but even then, not really; I just liked being able to mention 'getting a slice and an egg cream' and have someone know what I meant). Texans, though, just like being Texans. I think they like it just for itself, though I suspect that the bemusement with which other states view them -- particularly the North -- gives them a secret pleasure, too.

Once, I was talking with one of our secretaries, a native, and I said Alice, tell me -- what is it about Yankees that you don't like? What is it that drives you crazy about us? Because she'd made it perfectly obvious how she felt. She wasn't mean, wasn't rude, just let it be known what she thought. She gave me a brilliant smile, and she said Well, Bill -- wayull Biyull -- it's because y'all are assholes! Oh. Can't say that I was too thrilled about hearing that, but, you know, that kind of enthusiasm is invigorating -- as long as you're not the target of it. I was once in a barbecue place there -- a friend had said he was going to show me a real barbecue place - and while we were in line, and I was looking at the place, all greasy and smoky, he asked if I'd ever been in one before. No, I replied, they don't have these where I come from. Where's that? he inquired, and I said that I'd been born in New York City. At that, one of the people at a table looked up from his ribs and said, quite clearly, Well, there's another one. Not hostile, you understand, just -- exasperated. Got another varmint here, dammit.

I don't know as I'd move back to Texas if I had the chance, but I might. There's a lot to like about it. And, of course, there's lots that I don't know about it. Their old advertising slogan - Texas: It's Like A Whole Nother Country -- is true. There's places there I've only heard about, and I've wondered: is it really that rural/desolate/Texan? Take, for example, Lubbock. I know very little about it, because I've only been in its general vicinity, when I was going from Colorado/New Mexico, headed east. But I have this image of it as somewhat of a hardscrabble place, somewhere that has little in the way of amusement for people from the big city - Austin, Dallas, Fut Wuth. And absolutely nothing for Yankees (they said, with a tight smile). I don't think I'd like it there, but I kind of think I'd like people from there. I just think they'd be real people -- not much for fripperies, slick advertising, and such. Worn jeans, weathered faces. In that, they'd be my kind of people. Okay, maybe not the gunrack and NRA sticker/ Bush supporter part, but still: good people. (I can just hear them: whut khan of weed you smokin', boy?)

I have to admit, my opinion's biased: I just got a comment from someone in Lubbock -- someone named Bill, yet! -- and I thought Wow! A comment! And from someone I've never heard of before! That made me feel good.

So, I'm thinking kindly about Lubbock, and Texas, today.

Reading

I haven't been reading a lot lately. I think that when I'm feeling stressed -- and I know, I know: my levels of stress seem to start at a very low level (My socks! I can't find the other SOCK! Dammit!) -- I don't like to learn, don't like to read things that make me think. I want comfort. A big bowl of tomato soup, please, and a nice chocolate brownie. Oh, wait -- I can't chew yet. Dammit!

I've been feeling that way of late, but there are hopeful signs. One of them is that I was happy when I came across this, here:

The measurement problem in quantum mechanics is the unresolved problem of how (or if) wavefunction collapse occurs. The inability to observe this process directly has given rise to different interpretations of quantum mechanics, and poses a key set of questions that each interpretation must answer. The wavefunction in quantum mechanics evolves according to the Schrödinger equation into a linear superposition of different states, but actual measurements always find the physical system in a definite state. Any future evolution is based on the state the system was discovered to be in when the measurement was made, meaning that the measurement “did something” to the process under examination. Whatever that “something” may be does not appear to be explained by the basic theory.

This isn't a scholarly web page -- I'd not understand that -- but the concept is a fascinating one: quantum entanglement, also known to a certain sproing-haired gentleman (no, not Larry of The Three Stooges, and did you hear that they're going to make a T3S movie?) as 'spooky action at a distance'. But here's the thing. When I read ' the measurement did something to the process under examination', I think: No, it didn't . It was what it was. You just didn't know about it until you looked, so you guessed, and one (or more) of the guesses was wrong.

I know that deep physicists (and likely college physics freshmen) have a much better view of this, and understand that this isn't the way it is, at all. But thats the way I think: It is....or it isn't. Superpositional states? Piffle.

Reading it was fun, though.

Sanguinary

There are certain things that you assume are only part of being a child. Adults don't experience them. One of those is having a bloody nose.

Yesterday, I discovered the fallacy of that thought.

I was lying in bed, reading something, and felt liquid on my mustache. How odd, I thought; I must have a cold. I touched my lip, and it came away red, and dripping. Few things would get my attention so quickly - I leapt up, went to the bathroom, and stared into the mirror. My face looked pretty much normal, but - was that a smudge under my nose? How very odd. I cleaned it up, and told my wife, whose thought was that it was somehow related to a very dry house.

Well, thats done, I thought, and went back to reading. Two hours later, it happened again. And six hours after that. Just a little, each time, but still: in the words from one of the Superman movies: Blood. My blood.

Last night, feeling that it might happen again - and how much fun would it be to find bloodstains on the sheets? - I packed some tightly wound tissue up in there. First thing I thought of this morning: wonder if I bled last night? Which is an odd way to start the day. Followed immediately by: I hope that tissue doesn't dissolve when I pull it out!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dancers


Found here.

Choices

The other day, my daughter was talking to the other girl in the car, and mentioned that a person they both knew was mightily irritated by something someone else had said.

"She was really pi - " And then she glanced at me. "Peeved", she continued. "Really peeved."

Ah.

The Dark Night

I just walked out on The Dark Knight. My wife and daughter are still watching it, but after what felt like about 90 minutes, I just got disgusted and left.

In the early days of movies, there were rules about what could and could not happen in films. One of them was that the people who stood for the rule of law couldn't lose. In the end, they always won, while the evil characters always lost. Film makers found this unduly restrictive, and so they worked out a way around it. The bad guys got the money, the success, all of the trappings of victory, right up to the end. At the very end, they were finally hauled away, and the forces of right were triumphant. Eventually.

I'm sure that TDK will turn out the same way. In the end, Batman will win. This being a modern morality tale, he'll undoubtedly go through great personal angst along the way. The Joker being what he is, many more people will die, many more police cars will get blown up, buildings will be destroyed - but at the end, Batman will win, however equivocally, and the Joker will lose, however equivocally. But the message that will come out -- which is the reason that I left -- is that evil will essentially triumph, and the forces of right, and justice, will die, be destroyed, be tarnished beyond recognition. When they win -- if they win -- it will almost be by accident -- and the film will essentially mock them as saps and not-too-bright rules followers bound by rules and standards. For action -- for forceful action, people making things happen, affecting their world -- the message will be that evil's the way to go. Screw society; do what you want, act as you want, and go for the gusto.

I don't care for that message. So I left.

Bemused

I am fascinated by the current actions of Senate Republicans relative to the budget. Can it be that they truly believe tax cuts are a better solution? Or is their hereditary abhorrence of government spending blinding their thought processes?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rumination

Based on the overall number of comments lately, as well as the number of new ones, I'm wondering: is this blog going downhill? Hmm.....

I Never Metaphor

....I didn't like.

One of the people who occasionally comments here told me about a book she'd read, Metaphors We Live By, that sounded pretty interesting. I haven't looked at it yet -- got it on order from the librarium -- but as I understand it, the idea is that when we think about things -- complex ideas, not 'do we need more milk, should I bring clothes to the cleaners', but 'is the bailout a basically good idea that's well executed, or something less than that' -- we tend to aggregate concepts in our minds, clustering thoughts based on our associations with them. If the idea of a bailout is associated in our minds with 'return to financial health', 'someone's looking out for us', ' they've got it under control', we're more likely to support the concept than if we associate it with 'gamblers lost their money and now someone in Washington is taking mine to give to them', 'lavish lifestyles of bankers when the ordinary guy finds it hard to make ends meet'. In one of the lesser Star Trek episodes, the ever-thoughtful Captain Picard meets an alien who communicates in roughly the same way -- instead of simply saying something, it refers to an event from his history, evoking the attitudes and emotions of that event. We might say 'when Nixon resigned', ' when man walked on the moon', '9/11'. It's the concept that evokes and incorporates a number of linking images and attitudes.

I thought of that this morning while reading an article about the President's upcoming 'town hall', where he will answer questions that have been submitted by people, and voted on for 'best question'. I expect that Obama will cherry-pick from those top questions, answering them in a lecture-style, talking at length in a calm, discursive style. It should be interesting, even if he doesn't come out and say what some of us would like to hear him say. One person in the article said that this would be part campaign-style politics and part American Idol. I'm guessing that image resonated with a fair number of people. When Obama said that everyone gets to be the critical judge from American Idol, the other night, I bet that did, too. Oh, yeah, we know what he's talking about, now.

Relative to that town hall --I used to wonder what I'd say if I ever got the chance to ask a well-known person a question. This was before I realized that the chances of getting a truthful answer from a well-known person was vanishingly slim. I suppose this will be as close as I get.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Second Press Conference

"When you have an economy in which the majority of growth is coming from the financial sector, when AIG selling a derivative is counted as an increase in the gross domestic product, then that's not a model for sustainable economic growth."


Feeling Disconnected

Every so often, we lose wireless connectivity.

I'll look at the wireless icon on the laptop, and it'll be showing the 'seek' indicator. So I'll go into the library, punch the power on the main junction, turn off the cable modem, turn the power back on for the junction, and turn the cable modem back on. Hey presto.

Wish I knew why that happens.

Motivation

I think I've always assumed that there are people who Succeed, and those who don't; further, that for those who don't, the vast majority do 'well enough', and a subset couldn't do well no matter what was given to them -- what I once heard as 'couldn't get laid if he went into a women's prison with a fistful of pardons'. I've usually been in that vast majority, with nice things and bad things happening to me, and I've looked with some bemusement at the people who Succeed, wondering what it was about them that made their success possible.

Bear in mind, I'm not talking about the truly golden ones - the Gatsby's, who move through life with languid ease. I've only known one of them - a fellow with whom I worked as a missile launch guy. This person - well, if there were thirty of us, and one got the job that let him stay on base to work, and twenty nine got to go out into the field, driving hours to get to where we needed to be -- he was the one. When he got engaged, his next door neighbor was a jeweler who sold him a ring at the price that the jeweler'd paid for it. When he went to work for AT&T, he traveled the world, going to interesting places, making lots of money Nice things just happened to him. (Fortunately, it didn't seem to go to his head.) And I'm not talking about the ones who succeed through sheer compentence -- like a woman I knew who was excellent at anything she turned her hand to, from baking the most delicate pastries to photographing a shimmering flower to teaching the intricacies of software. She was, plain and simple, good.

I'm talking about the ones who, while looking like you, get the interesting jobs; get the opportunities that most people don't, but it's not always apparent why. I've had a few of those, and I'm grateful for them, but there were others that I'd have liked to have, and didn't. This happens, of course, and that strife is the basis for lots of fictional conflict - That damn Robbins, he got the Excello account I was working to get, dammit! It seemed over time that when good things happened to me, that was exactly it -- they happened to me. I didn't make them happen, I didn't make them more likely to happen. I didn't know how. From time to time, I wondered what was needed to succeed. Assume a ladder.....

Based on my dream last night, where I was in high school again, quietly watching the others interact, I still do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stray Thoughts of a Tuesday

Yesterday, my daughter was a little tense, asking me to please make sure she was ready for her science test tomorrow, and to remind her to work on her English paper. Tonight, she's remarkably cool about it - I'm going to study science on my own - and casual - Yeah, okay, we can talk about English after dinner. We're going to talk about both. She just doesn't know it yet.

We're back to thinking about a lamp post from the original vendor. My wife says that she thinks the bronze one wouldn't be too bad -- and it turns out that people actually make decorative lamp-post covers, too. I'm a little irritated at not being able to get a different one, but I'd just like this over with. It's taken too much psychic energy!

I'm told that it's possible to make money -- not a living, but some money -- doing what you're good at, when it's something others are frequently not. I'm very good at talking to crowds -- presentations, speeches. No self-conciousness at all. (One on one is a different story.) But I'm damned if I can see how to make money at that.

The appeal of people like Charles Bronson ( in Death Wish) and similar characters is that they can get things done through direct physical means when normal methods fail. In real life, I'd be leery of people like that. But when I read articles like this, about a woman being cyber-harassed, where no one seems to be able to put her tormenter away -- it begins to sound attractive.

Since when do most of the Google image search results not include a clickable URL? Not to mention, that stupid 'click here to remove frame' nonsense?

The List

Gawjus

I think this is a gorgeous car. The 2000 Buick Blackhawk Concept.

Pat, Pat, Pat

That's me, patting myself on the back.

Last night, my daughter, referring to the fact that I resuscitated her PC, said that I was 'awesome'. Sometimes, I replied. Most of the time, she said. We should buy him something!

Ahem.

Course, her idea was that we then rent two movies that she wanted to see, but, hey, it's the concept.

Chilled Bill

It's not as cold as it has been, and that's not as cold as it could be. But it's cold -- about nineteen degrees this morning; about thirty-five now. I was just out, taking my mother to yet another medical appointment -- which is not really fair, as we try to schedule those on the day that her companion comes, so I really don't do all that many. It just feels like it, sometimes.

I've seen snarky comments to the effect that if its the best and brightest who've pulled this financial wool (and different colors, too) over our eyes, maybe we need the least and dumbest. I am sure that no one really thinks that it'd be better getting Elmer, who barely graduated from the county VoTech down the road, instead of Stephen, who studied economics at the Sorbonne -- it's simply that we're irritated beyond belief at how we've gotten taken to the cleaners. In a way, its like those clowns who used to -- and still! - spend their time hacking into computer systems, doing little bits of mischief, malicious and not, and then offer to show you how to prevent people like them from doing it again, for a hefty fee. The AIG people have that ethic, I think: Whatever We Can Get Away With; Whatever The Market Will Bear. That's their ethic -- but what they don't have is ethics in the common sense -- the feeling that tells you when you're about to go too far, step a little or a lot over the line. For them, the line was a movable feast, and they went out of their way to see how far they could move it. Now, they're willing to move it back - for a price. They're surprised and dismayed that the rest of us don't seem taken by that concept.

An article I read this morning said that it was too bad we didn't believe in public floggings and show trials. I don't think the author really meant it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ya THINK?

From the Juice Analytics blog:

No offense to the talented individuals who can push around, clean, normalize, and integrate data—but they may not be ideally suited to designing a user interface for non-technical users.

Snacking

I don't tend to eat during the day - at least, not the normal ideas of eating. If I have lunch at all, I'll eat around 2, but frequently I'll skip it. I don't tend to have snacks, either, though I am partial to Ritz crackers -- and I'd have some now, were it not for the fact that they do require opposing teeth, which, thanks to the surgery, I don't currently have. I could ask the surgeon about wearing the appliance, but I know what he'd say: well, sure, but not right away. Say, in a couple of weeks. Normally, that's not a problem, but today, I'm just hungry, a lot. I just had another bowl of cereal, and I took some of the donut dough and baked it (surprisingly good, if only by my standards). I'm nibbling.

I think it's because I'm agitated, and a little irritated. Agitated by the cold: heck, it's only March, in the North, so this weather isn't abnormally cold, but two days ago, it was sixty-five degrees. And irritated, also by the cold, because I can't go out and do something about the lamp post base -- which is, I suspect, the actual cause of my irritation. I brought the lamp post out to a local welder, who allowed that they could repair it, but the repair would exceed the value of the lamp post - aluminum, you see, and it's painted, which clogs the pores -- I'd have to sandblast it by hand, and that'd take about four hours. So I asked the people who made the lamp post, and they said that they don't make it in white any more -- which I knew -- and that they couldn't make it in white, which surprised me. But, they added helpfully, I could look at the pictures on their web site (where you can hardly tell that it's a lamp post, and certainly can not tell the color); looking at the descriptions, the colors appear to be black, brown, bronze, and - my favorite - antique rust. Oh, frabjous day.

And we can't just say the hell with it, go buy a different kind. Well, we can, but then we have to get rid of the concrete base that was put in with this one, to hold the bolts and such. Its not very big, and I doubt its more than a couple of inches deep, but the idea of getting out there with the sledgehammer -- a small one, we've had it for years, and I don't even know where it is now -- and whaling at concrete just sounds like so much fun. Plus, there's a pipe carrying the wires from the garage; we'd have to figure out what to do with that.

Man...... I think I'm hungry again.

Government

From the Ars Technica web site:

Reports from the Government Accountability Office always aspire to a certain bland uniformity. But like the Edwardian courtier who spots a snub in the syllabic stress of a formal introduction, a practiced reader learns to spot all the rich shades of meaning in that sturdy bureaucratic prose. If an agency "needs improvement," you may safely assume that it has been taken over by reptoid aliens plotting to farm humanity like cattle.

Climb To And Maintain...

Weirdness

You know things are weird when you wake up thinking 'collateralized debt obligations'. And, about Microsoft Word's design. Not that I'm saying the two are connected, but.... yeah, in a way.

I'm late to the party on this, I know, and no where near as lucid as others, but I find that I'm quietly angry about what AIG and companies like it have pulled. Last night, I was watching the tube, and saw an animated display of where CDOs came from, and how they worked. I thought Geez, its gotten to the point now where everyone knows about them. Well, okay, not everyone, but still: its pretty common. You expect to see it pop up as a plot line on a Disney flick. Her dad issued CDOs and now she's not going to the prom! I almost, almost think that we're starting to just accept that this happened. I didn't like Obama going on the Leno program -- can't believe I'm saying this, but I didn't think that it was Presidential, at a time when we desperately need to believe in the power and effectiveness of the Presidency -- but one thing I did like was when Leno asked who's going to jail over this? We tend to think -- at least, this is the pushed image -- that we're beyond that sort of punitive action, we're too cool, too slick, too sophisticated, but in my heart, I'm thinking Yeah. Who's going to jail over this? Who's going to do hard time? I would bet, almost no one. It is so intertwined in the culture now, the expectation that this is what the smart boys do, that we're not going to be willing to bust them, send them to the slammer. AIG itself has already said that we can't be mean to them; we need them to unwind these commitments. What you want to do is take them out back and hit them with sticks, not be nice to them. I'm sure, relative to the lavish life that many of them have had, anything less is being mean to them, but I had something a little more vile and direct in mind.

I mentioned that yesterday I did not have a good time with Microsoft Vista, and at the end of the day, had a problem with Microsoft Word 2007. Word's a very powerful tool, but it's not a very smart tool. I don't know if there are any that have that combination -- easy to use but deep in its capabilities -- but MW doesn't. You have to figure it out. Last night, looking at something my daughter wrote, I hunted for about five minutes for the spell checker, and the best I could figure out what that its always on -- which is better than the opposite, I guess -- but still: multiple toolbars, multiple ribbons, multiple capabilities. I just want a damn word processor that takes the words and doesn't offer to translate them to Farsi in simulated intaglio script, then export them to my personal calendar, sorted by weight of the recipient and astrological sign. But no one seems to like the idea of putting out products that are small, tight, and effective. We go for big, lavish, blowsy. Slick.

Like CDOs.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dell-usion

It's never a good thing when my daughter says 'Would you look at my PC?' She's not a geek, and she hates asking me to look at it, because I will ask her geekish questions, and suggest geekish solutions, and offer geekish advice. I usually get about a third of the way into that litany before she decides oh, I'll just live with it. Only this time, she can't.

Vista -- well, died is a little extreme. Let's say went catatonic. Became delusional. Entered a fugue state.

Would it start? Oh, yeah, it'd start -- but it wouldn't allow you to select any of the user ids from its startup screen, or, if it did, wouldn't display the user's desktop, or, if it did, wouldn't allow you to select any of the options on the desktop. I restarted it about a zillion times, and was beginning to have muttered conversations with my wife to the effect of If we have to replace that son-of-a-bitch, I'm getting the cheapest damn laptop I can find and putting XP on the damn thing.

Which might still be what happens, but I did find out about the F8 menu on boot, that'll bring up a raft of somewhat comprehensible Repair Options. We're trying System Restore now. Actually, we're trying Disk Repair, and then, if we're lucky, Restore.

Hoo, boy.

==========
I have the habit of thinking that things which I don't know how to do are impossible, and things which I know how to do are trivial. Well -- I'm not at the 'it was trivial' stage quite yet. But, after several hours, and use of the F8 screen -- it's up.

I may have to back off just a skosh on sliming Vista, after all. Just a skosh.

Doughnuts

I am not a big doughnut eater, particularly the bagged nasties that the local supermarket sells. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the Baked Doughnuts recipe that I found in 101 Cookbooks. We tried it this morning. Takes about two and a half hours to make (mostly rising time), but , you know what? Not bad, not bad at all.

Multiple Bogies

My wife has had worse on-calls, but for sheer impact, this one is going to be hard to beat.

They had a tape drive system go down at about 3AM. That drive system feeds five different complexes. Five mega complexes -- many sub-systems, many customers.

In order to fix the tape drive system, they are looking at having to simultaneously punch all five massive systems, and then bring them all back up, one by one.

There is no job in Mudville, today. What was it Bill Clinton used to say? I feel their pain....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bulletiferous


Manufacturer Recalls Hollow Point Bullets That Fail To Explode Inside Targets

Multiple Things

I have been wanting to write a post about multiple things, and this is it. There is no coherent pattern, other than that these are all things that intrigued me when I came across them.

This article , which says that regulation usually fails, pissed me off, but I read it anyway. I'm pleased to be able to say that I read it in advance of reading the Kristof article I mention below. That still doesn't mean I liked reading it, because I didn't. How can this possibly be true, you bastards are trying to pull yet another fast one. And then I read this:

It was not an absence of regulation, but rather improper regulation that played a major role in fueling the current crisis. Fed officials and administrators don’t want to believe that capitalism without failure is like religion without sin—but it is. It simply doesn’t work, and no amount of increased supervision or regulation will make it work. That is an unpleasant lesson of the current crisis.

Well, I thought, that might be true. It certainly does appear to be true that the things that were done were usually legal, or the kind of thing that you really can't regulate, until you regulate so much stuff that you've got a nation of auditors. But thats not to say that its right to do those things, just because you can get away with them, which is what I thought that article was saying. Now, I still don't agree with the article, because it concluudes by promoting the idea of government as lender of last resort option (I think thats good, but without oversight before then? No way). But overall, its not bad. It does make decent points along the way, particularly the idea that all financial operations ought to be reflected on the balance sheet -- none of this some on/some off stuff, a la Enron.

===============
I don't like math. I am not as math-phobic as I once was -- but still, not fond of it. Slowly, over time, I've grown to appreciate it, just a bit. So when I came across this site, giving fairly straightforward videos on Trigonometry, Algebra, and Calculus, I was taken by it. Have I watched it all? No way, Jose. But some? Yeah. Some. I still don't get a lot of it, but I'm trying.

===============
I'm not exactly sure what this site is all about. I think it's intended for science instructors, but they also present a science novel that's actually not badly written, assuming you live in the 1950's. Unusual site. I think it's worth messing around with, though.

===============
Saw the Obama on Leno interview, including the comment about Special Olympics. It was okay. You could really see him trying to stay on message, which is hard when you're also going for laughs, as I think he was. I didn't particularly care for the SO observation, but I didn't think he was being the foul bigoted person some have said. (My wife said That was IT?) I guess, to tell the truth, I didn't think he should have done the show at all. It was a bit too glitzy for me. It also reminded me that the rich and powerful get better access to the President than I do, and I didn't care for that.

==============
This is the Kristof article. I don't usually read things by him, because he appears a little too smug, to me, but a blogger I like mentioned it, so I looked. He does make some good points -- though, if you follow what he says, maybe I only think that because he's saying some things I've thought -- and that I've seen in The Audacity of Hope. Its pretty tough, finding those things that you don't actually agree with, but which you're willing to quietly admit, to the right people, might have something to them.

==============
I've mentioned this doctor's site before, I think. I don't usually read doctors blogs, because lots and lots of them are smug, telling me things I don't want to hear, either because I don't believe them or don't want to hear them or, and yeah, I know this is silly, just don't want to give them the satisfaction of agreeing with them. But this guy is different, usually, so I read it. This particular article is about electronic medical records, which is a concept that I think makes a lot of sense. I know that its a killer to implement, an absolute killer, and that you can actually kill your practice if you do it badly. But its still worth doing, and worth encouraging. Some doctors will do it because its the right thing to do, some will do it to make money. I don't care why. Side note: I wish I could be part of making it work. Unfortunately, I'm damned if I see how, since the field is very, very heavily oriented to companies that are founded and run by doctors, as being the only ones whose opinions on the practice of medicine truly matters. Or so they say.

=============
Okay, that's a wrap.

Payback

Well, I'm not exactly sure that it was intended as payback for giving her grief this morning, but that was the effect.

On the way over to pick up the other girl for color guard, I told my daughter that I'd spoken with her instructor to get info about the place she works in the summer, where my daughter wants to work. Find out what it was like, what she'd need, that kind of thing. She did not, shall we say, take it well. This is my life, you're always messing in it, I can take care of it myself.

Did I think of pointing out that I was driving her at the time? Yes.
Did I think of pointing out her tendency to wait to the last minute, and then blame us, God, and the mailman if she can't get what she wants? Yes.
Did I consider pointing out that if she didn't work this summer, she'd be surely doing work around the house, and not for much money, either? You betcha.

Did I do any of those things? Sigh. No, I did not. I spoke quietly, and calmly. Okay, you handle it, I'll let her know that we won't need to get together.

Then neither of us spoke for the remainder of the drive.

Event-Ually

Today is a good day. I have already annoyed my daughter, and the day is young.

It started out well -- my wife was making pancakes, and asked if the daughteroid wanted any. But as I went down the hall, she added that since I didn't have the pudding she'd made, I should offer it to my daughter. Okay, I didn't realize that she meant after she has breakfast, but still. The D was propped up in bed, looking a little glum, and playing with her PC. I gave her the pudding, with a caveat that she still had to come out for breakfast. She agreed -- but when she did, she said that she had a sore throat, and had been coughing all night (which is true; I heard her), so she really didn't want anything. "So the pudding was a good idea?" I asked, and got a mild version of The Look from my wife.

It was quite chilly last night. When we had the ceiling fan installed in the bedroom, we wanted to get the optional remote control, but the vendor (Casablanca, may their tribe decrease) delayed shipping it beyond tolerance, so we said the hell with it. Well, one night we were in bed, and I remarked that it would be nice if someone turned on the fan, and my wife did -- though she didn't appreciate it when I said that gee, I guess we did get a remote control. Proving that I am trainable, I didn't say anything other than to thank her when she closed the window. I wonder: how long will it be before houses can react to the outside weather -- closing the window when it rains or gets cold, lowering the blinds when the sun gets a bit too bright? Are those Problems of the Idle Rich questions?

Today we go to get the replacement lamp for the garden lamp post. I have been trying to find someone locally who does welding, to see if we can just have the base reattached (its a relatively flat plate, nothing ornate); even though I'd have sworn there would be half a dozen in this rural area, I've yet to find one. Quite the annoyance. And I'm bringing the D out to a color guard practice, and doing some errand running. Should be a fun but not draining day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dental Detail

Well, it went okay.

As normal, I wasn't there for it. One minute I'm talking to the anesthesiologist about the styles of anesthesia - ie, paralytic versys hypnotic (I don't know if thats the right term); next I know, they're asking me to slide over to the rolling chair to be brought out to the recovery area. Two implants planted; we'll see how they go. The surgeon called and gave his trademarked cheery assessment coupled with just a soupcon of lets hope this works.

You know that next time, I'll be bright and confident, right? You do? Would you like to add to your collection of major city bridges?

============
Update: My wife says that I recovered amazingly well. The way she puts it, I looked, upon leaving their office, the way I had in the past after having gone home and crashed for a while. And after I slept (cratered!) for 2.5 hours, I was about 95% fine. So, not bad, that part!

AT&T

I've decided that the basic business model for the AT&T GoPhone service is to take whatever they think you would buy, and deliver it in a way that generates the most money for them at the least possible convenience to you. Preferably, get you used to just paying money without actually knowing where its going. You know, the TARP/AIG costing model.

Case in point.

My daughter wanted a Text Messaging plan on her phone. Okay, she's been working hard, we think she's earned a reward. They offer a Messaging200 (and others); two hundred text messages for five bucks. We said we'd buy a month of it for her. Hey, five bucks, right? NBD.

ScrewEmPoint 1: The text messages are charged to this special rate until you reach 200 in one month. At that point, they switch back to the regular charge. No notification of switching. No way to disable texting at that point. What if you don't use all 200? See SEP2.
ScrewEmPoint 2: Only for a month. You make one text message or two hundred in that month, at the end of the month, the money goes away. You're paying for number in a given period, not forever. Unless you've given them more money, they they'll roll it over to the next month, under the same caveats. Neat, huh? Almost as neat as SEP3.
ScrewEmPoint 3: They won't activate the feature unless there's enough money in the existing account to use it. You can't designate money 'for texting only'.

Oh, and their web site? Where it says 'If you can't get the information you want, here's how to contact us'? Brings you right back to that very same page.

Get More Fiber

I don't know squat about Fiber Optics, but I thought this little article about installation in Japan was interesting -- especially the pictures toward the end. What is that hanging in a closet?

Done

Done.

Flaplesss, which they say means less pain; I wouldn't know about that, but this is the first time that I've woken from anesthesia and it hurt. Usually, that doesn't happen for a while. I took some pain meds. They're right about the bleeding -- not much at all. We'll see in a couple of hours, when the anesthetics wear off. They apparently have a constrictive effect on blood vessels; last time, it wasn't for about an hour that we realized we had a problem when the bleeding not only would not stop, but keep soaking the gauze. Nicked an artery, doncha know. Not this time, I hope.

Two implants, which means I am up to four that we want to see if they bond. Osseointegration - sexy word, hmm? Maybe not. But if they all do, I'm up to eight, which was the original plan, lo, these many years ago.

I think I'll take a little nap....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Politics

I wonder if some of the Obama Administration folks are surprised that having their hand on the money spigot doesn't cure all problems?

Semi-Day

It's nine-thirty at night. By nine-thirty tomorrow morning, I should be out of surgery - groggy, possibly with a mouthful of gauze (depending on a) whether the surgery is successful, which I'm guessing is about 50% likely, and b) whether it was done with the minimally intrusive 'flapless' method, which I'm now thinking he might not use, since the few articles I've glanced at mention having a 'computer template' to guide the surgeon, and I don't think he has the technology for that, yet). I am not anticipating the gushing crimson flow of last time, which, my wife told me later, freaked her right out.

So, worst case, nothing will happen. He won't do the implant. Medium case, he'll do what he planned to do. Best case, he'll do it and there won't be much exsanguination. So, any way you look at it, I ought not to be apprehensive about the outcome -- it'll either be what I want (implant bases installed) or it'll be what I'm doing now (using a denture, not an implant). I therefore ought not to be apprehensive. Didn't I just say that?

I need to work on my Jedi mind control. Or my Bene Gesserit skills.

Thursday Angst

Thursday. Blah. Rainy and chilly outside.

Took the daughteroid in to school early so that she could talk with a teacher. Ran a bunch of errands. Picked up propane for the grill (do we use it often? Well....last refill was 2005. You do the math), looked into replacing the lamp post that I'd whacked when the van slid down the driveway. Thought for a little while about web site design (the lamp post maker's site sucked -- no other word says it better -- so badly that I decided to look into getting the lamp post repaired (a little welding action, anyone?) rather than buying one from them). Read that Harvard did a study showing that ambulance drivers tend to be fat, which they say has 'implications for public safety', and a different one saying that religious people tend to get more aggressive care at end of life, which results in lower quality of life for them. Huh? Course, they also said that they're 'more likely to receive aggressive care when they die'; personally, I'd think it'd be better before they die. But what do I know?

I am really lethargic today - can't even bring myself to read. Its the angst about tomorrow. My wife says I should assume that tomorrow will have the desired results. I suppose she's right. I just want it to be over!

Cheating

I watched an interesting video here on the subject of cheating, why and when we think it's okay, and what the color of your shirt has to do with whether you're likely to cheat. The video's about fifteen minutes long, and the speaker's decent.

If you want the Cliff's Notes version, its: we cheat when we want an advantage; we cheat up to the point where we can still like what we see in the mirror; we cheat more when we don't think that what we're cheating for is all that valuable; we cheat more when we think people just like us cheat, and less when we think people not like us cheat. Whether someone's watching or not doesn't seem to affect whether we cheat, but being reminded of honor codes and religious strictures -- even when there's no 'honor code' in existence, or when you don't subscribe to a particular morality -- makes it less likely.

There's also a brief commentary about whether it's better to yank off the BandAid or peel it slowly.

Digital Delight

This will mark me as a digiprole, I know. Hell with it.

I sent an email to the people who made our lamp post, asking if it could be repaired, or, if not, how I'd be sure that the replacement post fit onto the base that's there -- the concrete, bolts-inserted, base. They asked me for a picture of the post, and this morning I took several, played with them a bit to reduce size, increase contrast, and whatnot, and emailed them back. As I did it, I thought of how much, much longer it would have taken before email, digital cameras, and the like. There is much to be not fond of, these days, but some of it is just delightful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Further Evidence

As if it needed: further evidence of Microsoft's perfidy.

My daughter's PC would not print to the printer. It said 'no printers are installed'. This, despite having, oh, four printers (two physical, two logical) right there on the frasckin' Printers display.

I know, I know: it means 'No Printers Are Usable Because...well, just Because. YOU figure it out." Likely, somewhere something, you know, forgot that it could use this printer. Hey, it happens.

Fleepin' Microshaft.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

User Interface

One thing that Apple's got generally right is that the user interface isn't the guts of the machine. Microsoft tries redoing their user interface with each release, and each time people like me get pissed because it doesn't look the way that it used to. Granted, there are likely times, maybe even a lot of times, when it just can't; an old function has been removed, or changed significantly, so, sorry, it works differently now. Ditto, a new function, unlike anything before. But I'm of the opinion that even there, its possible to emulate the old look and feel, if you want to. This is what the directory structure looked like before, here you go. You like clustering apps by type? Here's something that will do it for you -- just tell it what to put in there. It's possible. Microsoft just doesn't want to. The new interface is Fun! Kicky! Outrageously wonderful! Sux! whoops.....

Why, yes, I did just come from trying to figure out where the fleeping hell a file went to on my daughter's Vista PC -- how did you know?

ISB

Three years ago, my wife made Irish Soda Bread for my mother, who is of Irish ancestry. Two years ago, she bought for my mother. Last year my mother brought it for her "because I know you like it." This year, we neither bought nor made it.

I like the way this trend is going.

Fried

We went out for lunch today, and I got a small surprise.

The restaurant is called Arroogas -- I think it's a chain -- and one of their offerings was what they called 'loaded fries', which turned out to be french fries, crumbled bacon, and cheese. I tried one of the fries, and it was okay, nothing great, but at least the bacon was crisp. Then I inadvertantly took a mouthful of all three at once -- and was startled. It was good. Classic bar food, I'm sure, but -- wow!

The food's on the expensive side, so we'll want to watch that, next time, but this was quite a pleasant surprise, even so.

Why AIG Angst ?

I listened to a bit of the President's comments regarding the AIG bonuses while I was driving my daughter in to school this morning. I thought it was nice of him to time them so that I could listen.

He said that the intent to give bonuses indicated that financial controls were needed that involved them as well as banks. I've heard it said that AIG (and presumably others) have as much an impact on the financial system as do banks, yet they have much less regulatory oversight. (Pause while I contemplate how well the regulatory oversight on banks has worked. Presumably, he meant 'effective oversight'; he just had to cut it short to get all his words in before the commute ended). I mulled over whether, if things were better, we'd have even known of them. We've gotten used to hearing about, and being unable to do anything about, the massive -- massive seems a curiously weak and pallid term, here -- bonuses that the Wall Street companies like to give themselves. Lookin' sharp, today, Wally -- nice tie! Have a bonus... so it comes as not too much of a surprise that these folks, playing in the same sandpile, do, too. And though I greet with skepticism the idea that they need to give these bones to people in order to retain them -- in this market? And later, you really think that money now will keep them around if someone else shows up later, slows down, rolls down their window, dangles candy out the window? -- I don't think that that's the underlying reason why people are irritated by them, or why Obama is.

I'm a Democrat, and I like Democrat attitudes. I really do believe that Democrats made this country a safe place to live, a place where you can trust that the prescribed drugs won't have nasty side effects, a place where we have safe work environments. I know, not universally -- but that's what I think Democrats stand for. But I also think that we stand for not entirely trusting people with a lot of money. I know that there are wealthy Democrats, and I'm not sure how they resolve this in their minds; likely, they think well, we're not WEALTHY wealthy, just comfortable. I suspect that most Democrats think, at a visceral level, that there's a certain level of money thats 'right' for a job, and that the really best people in that job can get more -- but not tons more. So when they see people getting tons more, it irks them. It irritates their feeling of fair play. And, to be honest, it ticks them off that they can be the absolute best in the world at whatever it is they do, but no one's going to say 'Hey, Wally, nice tie....have a bonus'. Not even close.

So while I think it's wrong for AIG to grab money with one hand, while with the other sprinkling money around, begging people to stay who appear to have been instrumental in causing this financial meltdown, and ought to be excoriated, not rewarded -- I don't think that's why Obama's against it. I think it just offends his basic sense of what's right...and what's not.

And now he has a chance to do something about it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Going Dental, Going Mental

This Friday morning, I am going to have what I'm told are the "last" set of dental implants. I'd be more confident if I hadn't been told this before, and if they hadn't attempted to put implants exactly in the same place once before, only to find that there was no bone there. I can still recall the surprise in the dentist's voice. But this time, oh, yeah, for sure, it'll gonna work.

My guess is, a fifty percent chance of success. I'm not holding my breath. Only question is, if it fails, what then. I'm about ready to just say You know what? Screw it. Which I am betting will guarantee that they'll say Oh, you can't stop now, otherwise we have to take all that hardware back out.

Gah.

Apparel

I wonder if the idea of 'dressing up', being stylishly colorful, will ever come back in style for guys?



I like to think I could look like Tom Wolfe, but I fear I'm closer to Nero.

Monday

I think that when Windows has 'accepted' a mouse-click to start an application via an icon, that icon should change color to show you that it really did happen, so that you don't think 'well, maybe it wasn't ready/threw it away', and click it again....and again, and again.

============
I think that knowing a learning style helps in learning new things. I think this despite the fact that having a pretty strong hunch about my own learning style hasn't helped a whit in that regard. I've always thought 'well, yeah, but if I knew what way was best, I could use it', ignoring that this assumes the best way was actually available to me. (And maybe it is, but I just don't recognize it?) I was thinking about this this morning while reading a column in the Sunday Washington Post magazine about a woman who'd started a business doing tool sharpening. She said that she knew that she learned best from hands-on, so she paid for an apprenticeship at a tool-sharpener. Wow, I thought, smart lady.

So I hunted around a bit for information on styles, and came across this, which resulted in this:

I know that's a bit tough to read; what it says is that based on the downloaded questionnaire, my strongest methods of learning are verbal and logical, which I interpret as 'I learn best by reading, and thinking about what I've read', usually working alone; my weakest are anything where I have to do things physically, and, somewhat, where I have to learn by watching and listening. I can learn in groups, though I prefer not to do so.

Okay. Apparently, RNA drip or Matrix-style upload is out, so now what? Read a lot? Isn't that so -- twentieth century? Okay, I'm joking ( a little), but what I'm really asking is 'Given that reading is such a linear activity, is there a better way? A way to augment the experience, involve more parts of the brain...speed it up, and still have something useful?

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Brought my daughter home this morning. She sounded pretty tired on the phone. Her guess is that she got to sleep -- around 5AM.

WhoKu

I came across this, from the archives of a web site called The Moderate Voice. It's more than a year old, but still relevant.

the morning paper
harbinger of good and ill
- - I step over it

- Dave McCroskey

Awake? Awake.

So I'm awake. Dammit.

My wife's in the library, sitting on the floor with her laptop, curled up in a throw blanket. She's on a teleconference with people from Australia -- I wanna go!!! -- doing a Disaster Recovery drill. When I was at EDS, we called it a DRA drill -- Disaster Recovery Activity -- while at IBM, it was just a DR Drill, to the point where, when I would reflexively add the A, they'd say What's that? , whereupon we'd go into a five minute song and dance about it, and they'd look at me funny, like you look at people who insist on pointing out that calling it an 'ATM Machine' is redundant, because of course the last letter of ATM is....yeah, yeah, I get it. And now it appears that HP calls it that, too, so....I guess I do.

Speaking of HP: they announced that in addition to the five percent pay cut, they're also doing a ten percent one time special in March, thanks for volunteering. I've also seen some of the expected grousing about the CEO's taking a 20% cut, but of course thats just base pay, and if you figure against his actual compensation, its more like one percent, meanwhile for us, it truly is the amount we said, no fair. I am sure that there are cold-eyed people in Accounting here and elsewhere thinking we could cut salaries a lot and still have people stay, because, hell, where are they gonna go? Been a long time since the turn of the century when companies were being earnestly advised to be good to your employees, because otherwise they'll up and leave when things get better. Which I think they would, generally speaking. Us? No, not us. We no longer believe in company loyalty, but we also don't believe in leaving just because you can. Course, we also believe in the boiling water/frog metaphor. And thats enough of that for right now.

So anyway I woke up and she wasn't here, and that was enough to get out of bed and go get a snack. I don't have any of the brownies I baked for the youth group meeting that my daughter didn't even go to; I'm not mad about that...much. Well, okay, a little. She's at that color guard sleepover, and since its almost two AM I figure there is about a thirty percent chance she actually is asleep by now. We'll be retrieving her around ten, and she'll be grumpy from lack of sleep, and then one of us -- one of me, because my wife will be at work, whether here or actually in at the office -- will get to say hey, remember you were going to work on your science project today, and finish your homew -- which is as far as I expect to get before she snaps at me.

Enjoying Audacity of Hope. Damn, but he has a way with words.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Survival

My wife just told me that a friend of hers says that her deeply conservative husband has started stockpiling weapons, just in case Obama tries to take them all. He is also planning on stockpiling food, and is eyeing some remote property.

Now that's scary.

Notes on a Foggy Morning

There are times that I have to remind myself why I write this blog.

On a different note -- elderly man is in a nursing home for the first day. He's in a chair, in a room that overlooks the garden and a small pond. Nurses stop by every so often to check on him, and notice that he is starting to tilt to one side. They straighten him, but when it happens again, they prop him up with a pillow. Then he starts to tilt to the other side, and so they prop him up there, too. That evening, his family comes to visit. "How do you like it, Dad?" they ask. "It's okay", the old man says, thoughtfully, "but they don't let you fart."

I'm cheered by articles like the one in the Washington Post about young entrepreneurs working to create LGBT-friendly environments. I'm not sure why. I'm also cheered by an article there about a local judge, a Muslim, who takes into account family structure when handing out sentencing. I'm not sure why there, either.

I've now got two serious books going - Army at Dawn and Audacity of Hope. That's about one and a half more than I can handle at any time. Sometimes I just need something light to read. Good guys, bad guys, that sort of thing. Not to say I'm not enjoying them -- I am. I have to read them slowly, particularly Obama's, but they're worth it. They're just a bit more of a simultaneous commitment than I normally make.

My daughter sort-of conned me into making a pie for her yesterday, for Pi Day. The first crust, made with Crisco, was awful -- like a brick -- but the second, made with butter, turned out pretty well. I made notes on the recipe, should there be a next time. Today she's going to a sleepover at a color-guard-girl's house. There's a mother with more stamina than me. Its not absolutely sure she's going -- we still need to talk to the mother -- but its likely.

And with luck, today we finish our taxes.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Neo!

This article, on the subject of the SEC's change to regulatory requirements which had the effect of allowing several Wall Street firms to increase their exposure to risk, said firms subsequently tanking, is excellent. It makes good points on the source of the problem, and does so in a reasonable, dogma-free manner.

The source of the article is The Neo-Neocon. I don't always agree with the author (and certainly, not with the commenters; see an earlier post about that) but the articles are consistently written in an intelligent and forthright manner. I like it, and I recommend it.

Believer

I'm a believer. I think that Barack Obama was the right choice in the past election, for lots of reasons. I want him to succeed, more urgently than I have ever, I think, wanted a President to succeed before. I'm not willing to say that every major conclusion he reaches is right. Certainly, the ones that I hear about sound right to me, at least in outline. I may question the details, or the execution, but not to a great degree. And there are times that I think C'mon, Barack, level with me here. For example, his comments about earmarks. I believe that he went with the earmarks on that last bill because he had to; it was much, much more important to him to get the bill moving than it was to make it morally pure. He knew, better than I, that doing so would make it more difficult to deny earmarks next time, but it was a price he was willing to pay. Not eager, perhaps, but willing. Overall, I like what he's doing, and I want him to continue.

If it pisses off the hard-core Republicans, so much the better.

But I haven't given up on Republicans, because I think that their core attitude -- one of limited government and fiscal restraint -- is a worthwhile one. Freed of the crazies who dominate the headlines and energise the base (what does that phrase really mean? I think its 'appeal to the fanatics'), such as a bloviating radio pundit or a helicopter-riding moose shooter, I think that there are core Republicans who have worthwhile,useful ideas. Some of them have only those ideas -- my way or the highway folks -- and they're not going to be much help. Others see the worth of other approaches. They're the ones I want to hear more from, to counteract the wild-eyed crazies on our side. I know we've got some. A couple. One or two. What we don't have is the One True Answer. Tricky thing, that, because it changes. To find it, we need bright people from both sides, willing to give their all in a common effort.

Any takers?

Saucy

What is it about reading an article about making great homemade pizza that makes me want to leap up and do that?

Understanding

I mentioned in an earlier post that there are concepts, such as bestiality, that I just don't get. I admit, things like that, I don't try very hard to get. I'm not sure I want to understand them, or the people who are taken by them. On the other hand, there are areas that I also don't understand at more than the most superficial of levels that I am trying to understand. That's why I read the Tell Me How This Ends book about the Iraq War, and why I'm waiting for Baghdad At Dawn. The general topic of war, how it's executed and managed, is interesting to me, though my knowledge is all second hand and more at the GI Joe than the Army War College level of knowledge. For that reason, I've started reading An Army At Dawn, about the North African campaign in World War II. Coincidentally, that lead to an interesting discussion this morning.

I was driving my daughter and another girl over to a color guard practice when my daughter looked down at the center console and saw the Army At Dawn book. She asked what it was about, and I told her, saying that I didn't understand much about how wars worked, or how they came about, and I was trying to learn more. She said that it was easy - get guns, shoot people - and I said well, sure, but how do you decide who to shoot? How do you get guns to them, and make sure they have training on how to use them? She thought about that a minute, and said that if the other guys shot back, you run away, so I said maybe; if you do decide to do that, how do you know that there will be a way to do that, that you'll know which way to go, that you're get your equipment out of there, too, so that the enemy doesn't capture it. Like in the Battle of the Bulge, I said; the Germans were trying furiously to break through an Allied line, and if they had, they might have won the war -- but they couldn't because, among other things, they ran out of gas for their tanks. What if they'd had enough, or if they'd been able to capture Allied fuel? Logistics isn't sexy, but its as important as knowing who to attack, and how to do it. The other girl said that she was studying that war, and knew that it started because Hitler was smart and a good manipulator of people. Yes, I said, but remember, he was lucky in his timing -- things in Germany were very, very bad, and the German people wanted someone to give them back the pride they'd lost, and the prosperity they'd lost. They would have done just about anything, supported anyone, to get that. Like us, after 9/11, when we said we didn't want that to ever happen again, and we would have done about anything to keep it from happening again. It took us years to say that while some of what we did was good, some was not. Like what, my daughter said, and I said Like warrantless wiretapping, and limiting habeas corpus. What's that, she asked.

It was fun.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Acceptance

Echoing The Donald (no, the other one): There are things I can accept, and do; there are things I can't accept, and don't; and there are things that I do accept, but don't understand. Fortunately for me, I'm not a deep thinker; I don't have to understand something to accept it. It helps a lot if I like the person involved. (Isn't that the logic the Republicans used when decided what was ethical? Hmm....)

The other night, we were watching a current (current? I guess) episode of Boston Legal. One of the defendants was saying that he really didn't mean anything by his affection -- capital A no kidding Affection -- for cows; beastiality was just part of his nature. I turned to my wife and said that since she had this thing about dating while married (she says it like its a bad thing), perhaps I ought to consider -- Don't even JOKE about that, she replied quickly. I grinned. Not in twelve zillion years, kiddo. There are things that people do that I just don't get, but I could understand all of them and still not get that one. Perhaps that just marks me as basically a hick, but there are things that I just...don't...get. Likely, never will.

Though, I said wistfully, I do miss having the dairy farm next door.... I then had to duck!

Training

For the last week, I have spent about ten to fifteen minutes a day with my daughter reviewing basic terms from her science class. She is slowly -- slowly -- getting more fluent with them. She still much, much prefers the terms from the class -- you said 'a sinuous rock formation' but the teacher says 'an irregularly shaped line of rock' -- but she is getting to be more familiar with them. This is a good thing.

Next Time,Gadget

I passed a minor milestone this week. I now do not routinely use the reacher, which I refer to as 'the gadget', to put on my left sock.

I do have to go through a small fandango to do it -- I gather up the sock in my right hand, allowing the outside of the hem to nestle around my fingers, and then haul my foot up with my left hand while cupping myright hand's fingers and the sock around the toes of my left foot, sliding it up about half way -- but I don't need the gadget.

Given my track record, I am not throwing it away -- next time -- but still: this is nice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Socks and Barney


Found here.

Frigid

Interesting post here about Frigidaire customer service. Apparently, those three words are a contradiction.

Stoved In

My wife and I looked over kitchen equipment this evening.

I had been at Lowe's the other day, and took some time to look at things. We're thinking of replacing the refrigerator -- it's about twenty-four years old, which apparently is old, so my wife wants to replace it. I've said that I wouldn't mind one without the freezer on top (the freezer on side is nice; don't know if we have the space for it, though). I definitely don't want one with water access from the front -- we don't tend to drink water or dispense ice cubes from there. In fact, I wouldn't even really want an ice-cube maker -- what, ice cube trays aren't good? -- but I may get overruled on that.

But while we were looking, we came up with an idea that makes a lot of sense, we think, and that we've never seen anywhere. Power-lift ovens.

There are units that contain one small oven and one moderately large one. It gives a certain amount of flexibility, and if you're only heating one, you're (presumably) using less heat than if you were heating a larger one. I don't particularly care, though I do sort-of like the dual idea. My wife pointed out, though, that with one of the ovens effectively at floor level, you have to bend way down to get stuff out-- which would be a pain no matter what, and if you were cooking something big, like a turkey, would be an especial pain. Our thought: a power lift tray for the lowest oven. Open the door, hit the button, and the rack slides out and up.

Take care of that, will you?

POTUS

I was reading a blog written by and for conservatives, and noted that one commenter referred to the president as Obonga.

/flame on/

That would be 'President of the United States Obama' to you, fucking jackass.

/flame off/

Just wanted to mention that.

Cook Ease

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe found on The Houndstooth Gourmet.

    Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1 cup raisins

Preparation

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Air Rush

I have never had a desire to have my vehicle airbrushed. Until now.

Wonder what this artist can do with a van? or a Prius?

Made Off

I was thinking, a bit, about Bernie Madoff. Specifically, what punishment he ought to get.

His lawyers point out that this is not the French Revolution, with the howling mob outside the gates chanting for blood, and likely to get it. They are confident that he will be judged fairly, on the merits of the case, no emotional appeals from now-destitute widows and orphans. Others say that as a result of the tumult that he has brought, no punishment is too extreme for him ; some want him executed, others want him confined to a dank cell with a constantly playing television showing the people he has ruined.

I'm not much of a philosopher -- I always thought that the Allegory of the Cave was that you shouldn't go in there because that's where bears hang out -- but it seems to me that this sort of crime suggests a different order of punishment entirely. It would be one thing if those who lost money could be made whole, substantially or entirely; if that were so, recompense plus fines would do it. Incarceration, too, but only because otherwise it'd seem as if we were saying that so long as you have enough funds to pay people back, you can do as you like. (In fact, where did the money go? Reminds me of the comment I heard years ago about an embezzler who, asked the same question, said "Women. Horses. The women were fast, the horses weren't.")

But that's not the case here. He doesn't have nearly enough to do that, or even make a substantial stab at it. So: what punishment? What are we looking for? Recompense, sure. Retribution. Can't do the time, don't do the crime. Vengeance? He's finished, and vengeance visited on him -- a curse on your house! -- won't stop others of equal malicious intent, though it might serve as a warning sign to potential victims. What else?

I think of the tradition in the old British navy (my source for this is the Aubrey/Maturin novels) of 'flogging round the fleet'. From the Nelson's Navy site: "The severest form of flogging was a flogging round the fleet. The number of lashes was divided by the number of ships in port and the offender was rowed between ships for each ships company to witness the punishment." I'm not suggesting that he be flogged -- purely from a physical standpoint, that wouldn't last very long, and in a post-Gitmo atmosphere (well, okay, we're almost there), it'd be right up there with waterboarding. From an emotional standpoint, some would be satisfied; others would still want to see him lashed to four horses aimed at the cardinal points, and then spurred.

It would be almost enough (I know I'd feel differently if I'd lost money with him) if our society practiced shunning, as a rule. Wherever he went, none would speak to him save for minimal requirements; we would show our revulsion and contempt for someone who did what he did (and, I'd hope, by extension anyone of similar style but lesser scope). Even then, I find myself thinking well, okay, but he can't be living comfortably; a life of daytime TV -- no cable! -- and bean soup, for him. In a hovel. A drafty, ragged hovel.

Perhaps, for some crimes, there is no effective punishment.