Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

All Obama, All The Time

Obama Actions and Initiatives

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

Will limit Fed lending power, grant it more systemic regulatory authority
Will recommend a non-regulatory insurance oversight office
Will allow SEC, CFTC to regulate derivatives

Takes action on food safety(Jul07-
Announces Surgeon General Nominee(Jul13 -
Threatens to veto spending over F22 cost (Jul 13 -
Unveils Education 'Race to the Top' (Jul 30 -
Changes priorities on immigration (Jul 30 -

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

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

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

Multiple Things

We had a guest for lunch today, a person who lives north of here, goes to school south of here, and occasionally commutes past our home, stopping in for that most precious of items on a long commute -- a clean bathroom. We forced food on her, again, and, we suspect, while she was here, she occasionally thought 'those people are nice but a little strange'. (We were doing a lot of teasing, which not every family does, I think. ) I joked that my wife had worked from home today so that I would not be alone with an attractive young woman, but, actually, that was part of the reason -- not that my wife doesn't trust me, but, hey, we don't really know each other that well, misunderstandings do happen, why take the chance? Mostly, though, it was because I'd told my wife that the last time this young woman was here, I got the impression that she was a little uncomfortable being here alone with me, and we wanted to avoid that, this time. It worked out well, and we all had a good time. Well, we did. I hope she did, too!

My daughter's cousin is coming to stay with us for a week. I told my daughter that I'd bet serious money that her parents will have said 'now, if they offer you something to eat that you don't like, don't complain -- eat just a little bit'. There's always a certain sense of 'these people have strange customs', I think , when kids stay over at someone's house.

I've been having a recurring conversation with a person who responded to that Guns post. I have to say, I'm not totally enjoying it, because I find my self repeatedly thinking how can this person think these things....and after I've tried so hard to be accepting, too! And yet, its good for me, because I think this is a basically decent person with a different take on life than me, a different basic set of assumptions. I'm not enjoying it, but I think it's enlarging my world view, and that's good. It reminds me that not all the good ideas come from people like me. Or even people that are mostly like me. Sometimes, the gun lovers/McCain supporters are right. It makes me think a little more deeply about why I think as I do.

We cooked burgers on the grill today. High fat content. High YUM content -- though I do sort of wish I hadn't charred them!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seeing It

I've seen nude photographs, but this woman really shows it all.


There are times when I see liberals as conservatives do. That's when I think Is this guy out of his mind?

This is one of those times.

Ah, Sweet Reason

From an article about a woman who was sued by her apartment's owner due to a comment she made about the apartment:

"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization," Jeffrey Michael told the newspaper.

Oh, charming. Bet that's in all their ads, too.


This is, of course, an XKCD comic.


I came across this in an article about business improvement.

FC: Like the anonymous CEOs, most of the good-to-great companies are unheralded. What does that tell us?

JC: The truth is, few people are working on the most glamorous things in the world. Most of them are doing real work—which means that most of the time they’re doing a heck of a lot of drudgery with only a few moments of excitement. The real work of the economy gets done by people who make cars, who sell real estate, and who run grocery stores or banks. One of the great findings of this study is that you can be in a great company and be doing it in steel, in drug stores, or in grocery stores. No one has the right to whine about their company, their industry, or the kind of business that they're in—ever again.

FC: Let’s say that I’m not running a company. How do the good-to-great lessons apply to me?

JC: The basic message is this: Build your own flywheel. You can do it. You can start to build momentum in something for which you've got responsibility. You can build a great department. You can build a great church community. You can take every one of these ideas and apply them to your own work or your own life.

I don't agree with some of the conclusions in the article. but the underlying message of continuous incremental effort and improvement sounded right to me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The amazing thing about the Colbert show is that conservatives believe he's stating his actual beliefs, and liberals believe he's mocking conservatives.


This is an excellent article on the free Washington Post web site regarding the training of a Secret Service agent. It's awesome, and so are the people who graduate from the course. Just reading the article wiped me out.

In Futher News....

I don't usually focus on accents, usually, but there's something about saying 'futher', accent on the fuh, that I really like. I don't find myself saying it often, but when I do, I think of people down South, warm, sunny days, relaxed, living easy. Hey, y'all, and all that. I know, it's a stereotype, and have I ever tried to navigate I-285 around Atlanta? But I like it. It makes me smile.

As did finding out this morning that my wife's foot is not broken. Heavy bruising in the soft tissue (still don't know what to call that area), but over time the swelling will go down, and she'll be able to wear shoes again. I told her that she could borrow one of my shoes for a while, if she wants. And we've found to our surprise that the part of the waffle iron that we'd given up on still works. I accidentally spilled batter on it the other day and it worked, so this morning I intentionally used it, warning my wife that we might end up eating Rice Krispies. But it did. A little soft (so maybe there is something wrong with the heat), but usable. This is goodness.

We ordered a new surge protector for my MIL's PC the other day -- we're giving her our old router so that when my daughter (and others) come up to the house, they can wirelessly connect to the net; unfortunately, her existing surge protector is too small to handle another plug with a transformer in it, so we're getting her one from APC, plus an extra CAT5 cable we had laying around. Now if we could just get her damn stairs to not be the vertical climb entry in the local Olympics. I slept upstairs there, the other night, and when I got up, I put my sneakers on (traction), and walked very slowly down the stairs -- and still felt a little uneasy. I wonder if I (or my wife) could talk her into putting a handhold at the top of the stairs?

Got to mow today, bummer. But on the upside, there's a possibility that the woman who stops here on occasion on her way to and from school may come by on Thursday. I enjoy when that happens, trying hard not to say So, how's school? I mean, I know that's what she does, but it just sounds so infantile to me. Last time, my wife wasn't here, which, I think, made her a little uneasy -- one of those I'm pretty sure this guy is okay but still, here I am all alone with him.... moments; this time, my wife might be here, depending on whether her foot feels good enough to hobble into work.

What fun!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I've never wanted to go to a ComicCon, as I was sure that it's filled with hypergeeks and prototypical basement dwellers. Looking at the Flickr photostream here, I think "Well, yes, but a whole lot of them seem to be having a whole lot of fun".

Some damn professional looking outfits, there, too. And very interesting looking people!


This is apparently more of an art project than the illustration I had here a bit ago, so it doesn't move me quite as much.

Somewhat, though. I just hate the thought of it.


Important stuff first: my daughter passed her orange belt test. And, truth to tell, it looked like a real test. I was a little afraid that it might be a deal where they implicitly said 'you've been coming here for six months, you're not a klutz, have a new belt'.Not so. It struck me as moderately stressful, moderately losable. Her moves were a little soft, occasionally off. But she passed. She had to get a 70, overall, and she got a 91. Way cool.

One side note -- we brought a girl along, a friend of my daughter's. She pointed out that one of the other students seemed reluctant to 'attack' her. She thinks he has a crush on her. A crush on my daughter? Grumble.....

I didn't get the Washington Post this week -- they don't deliver it to the small Pennsylvania town where my MIL lives -- but I was able to get the New York Times. I have to admit, the Times frequently feels more substantive to me than the Post. We read the Post because we like having the comics (for humor, the Times has a summary of what Sarah Palin's done lately, but I guess that'll die down now. At least, I hope it will), and because we agree with their general attitude toward things. Of course, the attitude of the writer and the paper are in no way reflected in how the news is reported -- of course-- but the opinion articles are fun to read, for the most part. (Some are a little too liberal even for me... and, amazingly, there are people who regard them as too conservative).

One of the articles in the Times' Week in Review section was Forget Who Pays, It's Who Sets Costs, about the question of health care costs. It asks whether doctors should be able to determine their own salary by allowing them to determine what services are needed -- services for which they are paid. There's always the assumption that if you ask someone who provides a service whether you need that service, they'll say yes (my father would occasionally say 'Never ask a barber if you need a haircut'). I'm sure everyone has a story about that -- I recall that a dentist I used to see in Dallas started recommending more procedures after he got married. Still, I tend to think (and this is more a guess than thinking; I don't have any substantive knowledge) that the great majority of doctors don't practice medicine for the money. Like anyone else, they're not unaware of it, but they do what they think is right -- sometimes to their own benefit, and sometimes contrary to their own benefit. The article says that people don't tend to blame the doctors, and the tests they order, for the high cost of health care -- they blame insurance companies and malpractice laws, both of which have been found to be less a cause than those tests. I must admit, I'm surprised that there are doctors who are willing to come out and say that the fee-for-service model is wrong. I'd bet that it's not completely wrong -- sort of like when my daughter wanted to switch to a different billing plan for her text messages, and I pointed out that mapping the cost for one billing system versus the other, if she used more than seven minutes a day, her current system was better. (She switched anyway!) I tend to think that clearer costs would make the medical decisions easier -- even though there will be plenty of times when you say Damn the cost, fix this!

Making Rain

"PATNA, India (Reuters) - Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday."

Hmmm..... Sometimes, the old ways are best.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Well, this time it wasn't my foot.

Last night, my wife was being nice to me, up at the mother-in-law's house, by bringing me a TV table to eat a grilled cheese on, instead of making me come to the kitchen table. Holding a heavy wooden table with one hand, it turns out, is not a good idea, as it slipped from her grasp, plummeted straight down, and impacted right on the top of her left foot. I'm damned if I know what the medical term for that part is; looking at a diagram, the closest I can find is the 'extensor hallucis longus tendon sheath'. We're calling it the 'upper arch'. By an hour later, it was swelling quite nicely, and by this morning she was walking with difficulty, totally unable to wear shoe or sandal.

She goes in for an XRay tomorrow. I'm now referring to the MIL's residence as the House of Doom.

Catholics and Protestants

Gates et al

I'm a fan of Obama's, as is easily apparent by the things I say. This time, I think he was in error. Though some say that he effectively transformed the moment into a 'teaching opportunity', I think he showed that politics and friendship count for more with him -- at least this time -- than impartiality.

I admit, I'm seizing on details. That he called Gates first, and then the cop, doesn't matter so much -- somebody's got to be first, after all, barring a conference call. That he then said that he thought the cop overreacted, and then added that he supposed Gates did too, had unpleasant nuances to me. And that he then said that Gates had accepted a visit to the White House, and so did the cop -- well, the message I get from that is that he's inviting his friend, and possibly trying to appease those who expect him to be extra-sensitive to black issues -- and since he can't invite just him, he'll invite the cop along, too.

This is just one episode, and it isn't nearly enough to made me think differently, overall, regarding Obama. I'm still glad he's there, still glad that he has the motivations that he does, the goals. But his impulses, I'm not as sure about. I can see how, if you didn't start off liking him, this would easily be an indication that you were right to be wary of him. I really wish he'd stayed out of it. A simple observation that he didn't know the facts, or the details, should have done it.

Not quite feet of clay, but perhaps the pedestal is now a tad shorter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ah, Ruben


Well, this has been an interesting day.

I found that I'd made the three month appointment three weeks too soon (insurance, doncha know), so I get to go back for that. I usually don't like going to these things, so I thought I was being a good little doobie by getting it done.... um. Well, I guess I can be one in August. I did find out that I've gained weight, though. I'm going to have to work on that. I mentioned that I have difficulty getting my leg over the seat of my bike, and she suggested trading it for a woman's bike. I might just do that. I do like riding.

My wife learned that another person in her group was laid off today -- someone that she particularly liked working with. She'd never met the woman (she works out in Colorado), but her acerbic style and lack of willingness to be a good doobie appealed to my wife. As always, it makes you wonder when they're going to fire you, for no reason other than that they want to save money. There's already rumours that the temporary pay cuts that they made three months ago aren't going to be so temporary, after all. It's difficult for me not to think in terms of us versus them, the individual versus corporate moguls, when this sort of thing happens. I was so flummoxed by this news -- I thought that sort of authoritarian crap was over with -- that I didn't even enjoy her discussion of a technical problem, and I always enjoy that sort of thing.

Picked up a book from the living room bookcase -- Working in a Very Small Place, by Mark Shelton, about Peter Janetta, a neurosurgeon. I'd read it five or six years ago, and really liked it. I don't know much about neurosurgery, but what I know, I find fascinating. Though some parts, describing the nitty-gritty of neurosurgery, boring holes in the skull and whatnot, I elected to skip while eating dinner.

Tonight we're going out to buy a ceiling fan, which will get installed in my mother's living room. Tomorrow, its up to my mother in law's house to attend a wedding. One out of three chances that in the morning my mother will say she's not up for the trip, in which case I'll stay home, too. My daughter said that if I stay home, so will she, until she found out that if she went she'd have about three hours on the house PC with broadband access, not to mention, unfettered access to the high definition TV. She's decided that she's going, no matter what.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I had a lengthy series of back-and-forths with a fellow on my Guns post. It was enjoyable, though it was also sad to realize how far apart we are, and how he mostly likely believed that despite what I said, I really do want to take away his guns. I don't, but with gun people, just one hint of anything like that, and they're baying at the trees...slippery slope! slippery slope! I just wish they'd try to compromise - but they don't. The slope, you see.

Tomorrow, I go for a three month blood test. The actual event is trivial, but I'm always a little apprehensive - how will I do this time? Three times ago, it was really good; the time after that, it was nothing to write home about, and the last time it was okay, but not great. I'm hoping for something between those last two, even though, as I mentioned to my wife, its frustrating to think that I always have to do that. Its not like you hit the numbers once, and bingo, you're done. On the other hand, I've been tracking it very closely, looking four to seven times a day, every day, and taking insulin when I think I need it. Overall, the trend shows that the daily morning peaks are down, last week and a half -- which is when I started trusting my algorithm again as to how much to take at night. Course, it blipped up this morning, so I'm nervous again.

That Gates thing still flummoxes me. So does race. Race and guns -- man, I can pick 'em, can't I?

And on Monday, my daughter goes for her Orange Belt test. Odds are very good she'll make it. She's clearly ready.


From the Newser site:

Online dating sites and jury-selection pools may have a new criterion for determining personality traits: sandwich choice. A new study breaks down the deli line, finding, among other things, that BLT lovers are devoted perfectionists who are best matched with loyal, unselfish seafood-salad lovers...

Wow. That's exactly me....and exactly whom I married. How about that!


Let's just hope this isn't a gift!


Acting Stupidly

Obama says the cops in Cambridge "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates, whom they thought had just busted into a house. Turned out to be his house. Obama admits he doesn't know the details, but "Skip Gates is a friend, so I could be a little biased".

Jesus, Barack, you think? At least it's clear that you know about acting stupidly, yourself. Maybe next time, you'll want to wait for details?


So, according the Webb of Virginia, since criminals have guns, we have to arm the citizens. Having an armed police force, some of them with military-grade weaponry, isn't enough: now we want The People packing heat, too. That'll show 'em!

The thing is, I'm not entirely sure that the gun freaks are wrong about this. For every time that a maniac who legally got his hands on a gun kills someone, there might be -- might be -- a person who's successfully defended themselves with a weapon. You don't know, because the first kind gets publicity, the second kind doesn't. I don't like the idea of armed civilians, but I almost understand it.

But the idea tha that they should be allowed to legally carry a weapon secretly in my state because the laws in another state allow it - that, I don't get. That, I reject. As I do the weasel politicians who suck at the teat of the NRA and grovel at the feet of their deep pockets. I know that it's easier for me to carp from the sidelines than it is to be in the limelight -- one of the curses of Democrats is that we try to see the other guy's side, unlike Republicans, who frequently can't even conceive of another side -- but that doesn't make it right, or defensible. Hidden weapons? No, thanks. And no, thanks to the senators who supported the concept.

Including you, Casey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


We had three successes tonight. Four, according to my wife.

First, we cooked burgers on the grill, and, unlike the ones I normally create, they were moist, flavorful, and cooked through. The big change: using a higher fat meat (about 28%), making a thicker burger (about a half inch), and (the big one) not flipping them/taking them off until the burger 'released' from the grill - ie, didn't stick when I slid the spatula under the patty. (Took almost six minutes to get to that point on the first side, and four on the other !) With relish and barbecue sauce, on a toasted bun, awesome.

Second, we fixed (well, pretty much) the crackle on the cordless phones, by switching the router from channel 11 to channel 6.

Third, my replacement pillows showed up, and they're definitely thicker and heavier. Me likey.

And fourth, I made Chocolate Brownie Cookies which, as my daughter said, are definitely full of chocolate. Too much, in fact. Hmm.....

Still -- a good evening.


Here's a delightful collection of photographs -- some true, and some PhotoShopped, with the original shown next to the PS version.


I just came across a page of English phrases using instransitive verbs, intended for Spanish speakers. Reading down the phrases, they're occasionally funny, in a strange way. For example:

soy casado/soltero/divorciado I'm married/single/divorced
compra uno que no sea caro buy one that isn't too expensive
es pesimista he's a pessimist
somos seis there are six of us
me es imposible asistir I'm unable to attend, it's impossible for me to attend
¡que seas feliz! I wish you every happiness!
--eres estúpida --no, no lo soy "you're stupid" -- "no I'm not"
¡será posible! I don't believe it!
¡serás burro! you can be so stupid!

Let's put them together --

I'm married - I was single, and I'm going to get divorced. Take my advice -- when you get a bride, you should buy one that isn't too expensive.
Oh, he's a pessiment -- don't believe him. Believe us. After all, there's only one of him, and there are six of us.
I'm unable to attend the wedding, but I wish you every happiness.
Happiness? Where's the gift? No gift? You're stupid!
No, I'm not!
I don't believe it!
Well, you're stupid!


I asked my daughter this morning if she had given thought to what she would do differently next year, and she said vaguely that she would study more. I asked if she would consider doing a study group, and she replied Sure, if I could find someone who would do it. I asked if she'd consider a girl she knows who is a studying freak, doing it all the time, and she got quite agitated. Don't compare me to her!!!!

I told her that I wasn't, and I think she eventually believed me. Mostly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Atul Gawande

I just finished reading Better, by Atul Gawande, and I must say: I'm impressed.

I had picked up the book for reasons that I no longer recall, although it likely had something to do with my ongoing interest in medicine and how it works, how it's administered. I had vaguely heard of this guy before, and thought that perhaps he was the smiling talking head on CNN who specialized in medicine (turns out it wasn't). The idea that he might actually know what he was talking about didn't really occur to me -- I figured he was a lightweight, and that was okay: I am frequently in the mood for lightweight transfusions of knowledge.

As it turns out, he is better than that. He actually comes across as a thoughtful, intelligent person who thinks about medicine a lot, and who is intrigued by the idea of improvement -- generally, but in medicine specifically. He wondered why certain centers for the treatment of cystic fibrosis got markedly better results than others, despite having the same level of training, dedication, and equipment. He wondered why surgeons in rural, dusty hospitals in India can get markedly better results than surgeons in more developed, better equipped countries. He wondered why some people get well, and others don't. He wondered why some surgeons get better results than others. For each of this, he did research - traveling to the places where cystic fibrosis is treated, going to India to observe and participate in medical care there. He talked to people, thought about it, and wrote about it.

If this guy gave a lecture, I'd go to listen. He's worth hearing. He's a doctor I can respect.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Okay, I'm a sucker. This illustration moves me.


What is it about the description "chocolate Lab" that makes it sound like a desirable breed, I wonder?


This morning, my wife and I were commenting about the unfortunate case of her sister's mother in law, who, at 95, had been pronounced 'effectively dead', being kept on life support until her son and daughter could get to the hospital -- and who, upon being removed, continued to live, much to the surprise and chagrin of those involved. No body wants to say 'Die, already!', but that's the sense of it. It's bad news, she said. Yes, I replied, and expensive, too. She agreed, saying that studies repeatedly show that the average per-year cost of health care goes up dramatically in the final years of life. That's why the Republican health care plan makes so much sense, I said. They send out dapper young men and women who would roam the country, looking for elderly, feeble, and relatively indigent people whose whole aspect suggests that they're in those final years -- and kill them. And you know, I can almost believe that. Dick Cheney, say, would say gruffly that it was an elegant and cost-effective solution -- but don't tell anyone, in particular the Congress.

We're having our own version of that, as my mother is having problems with water retention, which means she likely needs to increase her diuretic, which means her blood pressure will go down (dizziness), which means she will likely need to decrease the blood-pressure-dropping drug she takes now, which means that it'll become too high at least until the new level is figured out. I told my wife that our discussing this was like most doctors, who treat the eighty or so percent of standard cases the same way -- you could be getting treated by the receptionist, working from a cheat sheet, I thought. And if if were my mother's cardiologist, I added, he'd be saying 'well, here's what I want to do, what do you think' . Sometimes, he'd cut directly to 'what do you want to do?' Quite exasperating. Medically interesting, but, um, guy? Isn't that why you get the big bucks?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I'm not a big fan of spare, sparse architecture, but I find that I like the Natalie Dionne House, shown here. I'm not sure why. I think it might be that, even though it's on the sterile side, it has a clean-line appearance, and that appeals to me. It suggests restraint and control coupled with elegance.


Ever have a Saturday night/Sunday morning that was so great, you want to just bottle it? This weekend has been like that.

Last night I made a decent pizza, from scratch. Then the two of us went to a local winery, listened to good music, sampled the wine, and ate brownies.

This morning, I heard our church's pastor do a classic thing (for him): During his sermon, he said how we needed to just sometimes get away and be quiet, a little solitude being helpful for reflection, and mentioned that he sometimes wants to do that at the end of mass instead of reading announcements, but didn't because he figured people would wonder what was going on. He then went on with the mass. At the end, when he normally reads the announcements, he sat down, was quiet for a moment, then said "This is when we should be quiet.....which reminds me of a story I heard years ago when I was a young priest...." My daughter and I looked at each other, and she whispered that it would be so cool if a phone went off, just then.

And breakfast was outstanding -- the strawberries (which, last week, were a little firm) had unexpectedly ripened in the refrigerator, so that they were soft and juicy. The coffee, which I'd made more of than normal, was good, and I had enough even though my daughter unexpectedly decided to have a cup. The sausage was outstanding. And even the waffles were great; when I inadvertantly spilled batter on a section of the griddle that I hadn't greased (oh, that's gonna stick!), the waffle came right up, just like the two where I had greased it. This, from the waffle iron that we almost tossed because it was sticking and we couldn't figure out why. I told my wife that breakfast couldn't have been better if we'd have had staff to prepare and serve it.

Awesomeness abounds!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Cronkite on Vietnam:

"It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

Now that's classy. A little sad there, at the end, but still: classy.


Sometimes, I can be quite the sap.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Ice Cube Trays Make Ice, Silently.

Ice Makers Make Ice, Noisily.

And this is an improvement?

Fried Day

Interesting day so far.

Our relatively new remote switch for the outside lights failed in the ON position. We get to have an electrician come out today to try and figure out why. Gah. Technology!
---update: guess what happens when you have about 500 watts of lights controlled by a switch rated at 300? Gah, again. Now we have to find a higher-rated alternative. As my daughter likes to say, have fun with that!

I cooked myself a burrito in a garlic and herb tortilla that was so potent, I damn near needed an emesis basin.

My daughter cooked some crepes that are.... well, I'm not sure what colors are in there. One of them is green, though.

I shipped the pillows back, and they're sending me new, firmer ones. Why isn't there some kind of objective way to measure pillow firmness? And why does UPS cost so much?

Got a request for donations from the Smithsonian. Thing is, its been years since I found Air and Space magazine interesting. On the other hand, it's a worthwhile institution. On the third hand, give them money, they'll come back for more. Organizations are like politicians, that way.

Its muggy and raining.

So, I did the reasonable thing: I ordered a book from the librarium: Sustainment of Army Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Should be fun.


I came across this phrase on a web site:

I will represent how to use an xml file as a data provider of a flex application using Cairngorm, but the benefit of the method I will repesent is toggling between xml and remote service is very easy without any further coding....

....I know what XML is, but as to the rest....hmm.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I like the ability of Firefox to expand and reduce font size, easily.

But Tidy Read is pretty cool, too.


This is from a mass mailing, but I really liked it. Well, most of it.

Dear Friends,

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up the question portion of the hearing on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As I told her at the end of my second round of questions, I think Judge Sotomayor did quite an outstanding job as a witness. She displayed intellect, humor and stamina to match her exemplary academic and professional record.

I thought you would appreciate today's Washington Post story regarding the hearing.

As Questioner, Lawmaker Is Man on Own Mission; Specter Well Prepared to Grill Sotomayor

By Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sen. Arlen Specter is 79, was a Democrat before he was a Republican before he was a Democrat again, and has grilled every Supreme Court nominee since William H. Rehnquist. He has had two bouts of cancer, two brain surgeries and a heart bypass operation. In this political town, where the greatest game of all is survival, Specter plays at the level of a grandmaster.

Yesterday morning, he lifted weights for an hour. Then he was pumped to take Sonia Sotomayor to school -- as well as his fellow panelists on the Judiciary Committee, the current Supreme Court justices, and anybody watching on television or contemplating taking Intro to Constitutional Law.

He pelted the nominee with questions about separation of powers, and wireless wiretaps, and secret CIA programs, and voting rights, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, and abortion rights, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Water Act, and televisions in court, and the Second Amendment -- all in an economical 30 minutes.

Specter spent hours laboriously preparing for yesterday's questioning, and he sent Sotomayor three letters alerting her to his interests so she could study up. When she stalled, he said, abruptly: "Well, I can tell you're not going to answer. Let me move on." He did this five times.

The senior senator from Pennsylvania chaired the confirmation hearings for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.; he interrupted them, too, when they didn't answer. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor "really was the last one who answered questions," Specter said later.

Roberts testified one way during his confirmation hearings, specifically on the issues of deference to Congress and taking on a heavier court caseload, and then did something else, Specter charged.

This frustration was on full display yesterday. "Is there anything the Senate or Congress can do if a nominee says one thing seated at that table and does something exactly the opposite once they walk across the street?" he demanded of Sotomayor.

"That, in fact, is one of the beauties of our constitutional system," she began, "which is we do have a separation of . . ."

"Beauty!" Specter nearly snorted, then chuckled. "Beauty -- beauty in the eyes of the beholder."

He gave a colloquy on the limits of executive power: "The president disregarded that in a secret program called the terrorist surveillance program. Didn't even tell the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which is the required practice, or accepted practice. Didn't tell the intelligence committees, where the law mandates that they be told about such programs."

Would the judge, Specter wanted to know, agree that the Supreme Court should take up such cases?

"I know it must be very frustrating to you to . . ." Sotomayor began.

"It sure is," Specter interrupted. "I was the chairman who wasn't notified!"

What Specter also cares about, deeply, urgently, is getting televisions into the Supreme Court so that Americans can see what the robed ones are doing in there. He has introduced such legislation twice.

"They are unaccountable," he said yesterday in an interview after he questioned Sotomayor. "It's not a kingdom. You're not King George V."

Perry Mason? Arlen Specter is not interested in Perry Mason. He left that for Sen. Al Franken to discuss. Specter is interested in secret courts and secret presidential initiatives and the "irreparable harm" of 100 million people voting in a presidential election that eventually was decided by one vote, in a grand building about two blocks away from the Hart Senate Office Building, where yesterday's session was held.

"I want her to be aware of these issues," Specter said when asked why he was pushing the judge to answer his questions. Wise Latina? He's fine with that. Empathy? He's good with that, too. Her record, he said yesterday, is "exemplary." But that doesn't mean he's necessarily going to vote for her. "That's the conventional wisdom," he said. "But I have not said that."

For a generation, as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state, Specter kept returning to Washington with a combination of mainstream Republican votes, some union support, black votes in Philadelphia and the backing of women's organizations, including NARAL, and other abortion-rights voters. This became an increasingly difficult feat to pull off, and the moment he realized it would no longer work, facing a tough primary fight from the right, Specter called his old buddies Ed Rendell and Joe Biden this spring and accepted their longtime suggestion that he shape-shift back into a Democrat.

When he made his move, he lost his place as ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and most of his staff. He would be the most junior member, had Franken (D-Minn.) not come along last week. While he stormed through his questioning yesterday, only six other panel members were even in the room.

While his fellow Democrats have divvied up their tasks -- one asked about Sotomayor's prosecutorial days, another covered her role as a commercial litigator -- no one tried to rein in Specter.

"No, no one said anything to me," he said, with some satisfaction. His eyes brightened. "And I have more questions for her tomorrow."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Silver Bears

My wife has three sisters. There is a tradition in their family that on the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the others will chip in for some sort of silver gift, usually a tray. My feeling is, we don't need it, and if we got it, it'd sit, unused, for months, perhaps years on end. Nevertheless, it's a tradition, so we're trying to find something in the line of silver table ware that we'd actually use. The closest I've found is this:

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I may have mentioned that I'm retired. I don't expect to ever work formally, for a paycheck, ever again. So it might seem odd that whenever I see an article about how to land a job, or how to keep from getting fired, or how to advance in your career, I read it. The reason is simple. I'm never sure how to go about those things. I wasn't sure about it when I did it before, and I'm not sure now. It's not that I don't know the buzzwords; it's that I don't know how to apply them. I no more believe in their efficacy than I believe that if I pull really hard on my Rockports (preferred footwear of the retired), I will fly. It seems impractical, improbable, and just not gonna happen. But I still read them. When I come across an article in the Sunday paper, I give it a quick scan, and if it looks promising -- which is very easy to do -- I put the section aside for later reading.

Thus it came to pass that this week, in addition to the sections I always read -- Business, because it's interesting, and World Affairs, because it's perplexing -- I put aside the Jobs section ("The Unpaid Payoff of a Between-Jobs Job") and ("Preoccupations: Finding a Job of His Own Dreaming"). The latter was particularly seductive, as it details the experience of a fellow who was out of work for six months, did all of the right things, and then, somewhat through happenstance, made a connection, pitched a concept, and, almost to his own surprise, was hired. Gee, I think, reading that, why can't I do that? That I don't have to doesn't remove the question. I don't think that anything short of discovering that I'm Bill Gates sole heir, and he's feeling poorly, would do that.

This is a long standing problem of mine, but over the years I've gotten a couple of insights into how people get employed, stay employed, and get promoted. (By this rate, I should have it figured out by the time I'm 125... or so.) If you're willing to hear them from someone who freely admits that he, personally, isn't very good at them -

One is that you don't have to love what you do. It helps, surely it does, but you don't have to feel that the sun rises and sets on it. In fact, you can despise it. Despising it makes it harder to do the things you do need to do, but it doesn't make them impossible. If you can do the job, do it competently and thoroughly, that's enough.

Another is that you have to have a pretty good sense of how what you do contributes to the success of the company. That part gets exponentially harder, the bigger the company. I worked for EDS and I worked for IBM, both big companies, and I rarely had the sense of how what I did affected them. For the longest time (for which read: still, a little), I blamed my managers for this, and you know what? It doesn't matter. It probably was their fault, but it was my problem. That second part, I never got. I was going to say here 'until I got the sense of how I mattered...', but the truth is, I never did. Nevertheless, I can say that it's important, for two reasons. One, it helps you survive the nasty days when you really don't want to go do it, if you think: but they need me, and this is why. I'm not going to say it makes you want to spring out of bed, but it helps. And Two (the important one), it allows you to identify your 'selling proposition'. "Here's why you guys have me; here's why you need me. " Okay, that second part is a little tough when you're one of hundreds of cubicle drones - but if you've done the first part, it's a little easier for you than it is for others. And if you've got that selling proposition, what you've got is what makes you unique, and desirable. Its the raw material that can become, directly or indirectly, part of what you present when you decide (or it gets decided for you) that its time to look somewhere else. It is the what of who you are, the thing that identifies you to people who could care less about you, personally, but do care about what you can do for them.

A side comment. I read once of a salesman who figured out that for every $100,000 in sales that he sold, he made twenty cold calls that went nowhere. He talked himself into thinking that every one of those calls was worth a $5,000 sale -- so when he did make that big sale, it was expected -- but if he didn't make the cold calls, he couldn't expect it. Now, I think 'how silly is that' -- but for him, it worked.

Is there more? Oh, yeah. For one, attitude. I used to work, while I was in the Air Force, with a captain who was known as General Jim, because our feeling was that this guy was going places. Not because he was bright, or energetic (though he was, much as I didn't want to admit it), but because he exuded the sense that he was going to go someplace. Some of that was a certain smarminess -- he never met a colonel or general that he didn't like -- but most of it was this projected sense of inevitability. I'm the person you need, he seemed to say, and most times, people agreed with him. He was there, he was smart, he was eager, and he was ambitious. People liked that. I hated it... but even hating it, I recognized it. I don't think it's key to advancement, but people like having subordinates who are upbeat. (Fortunately, this can be faked.)

Another useful skill is the ability to publicize yourself. I never particuarly cared for the idea of blowing your own horn -- it seemed silly to me; after all, knowing what I was doing was the job of the group's manager -- but I have to admit that part of that feeling was because I wasn't very good at it. That had two components -- I didn't know how to bring myself to people's attention who needed (from my perspective) to hear about me, and I didn't know how to flag things so that when they did hear about me, they heard good things. Sometimes, I lucked into those opportunities -- I was invited/commanded to attend a recurring meeting with my manager's manager's manager, so he got to know who I was -- but usually, I didn't. And part of that was that I scorned people who volunteered for things that I considered a big waste of time. What I never did was think about the idea that maybe those further up the organization thought them a waste of time, too -- but they pushed them, which mean that if I wanted those people to think kindly of me, I should push them, too. How to do that without losing my soul was something I never figured out, but I think it's a skill you need when you're in an environment where your future can be affected by the actions of people who have no idea who you are.

And then theres the question of figuring out whats important to those people. Maybe next time. Enough for now.


I think that she meant what she said, and in her heart still means it, but now regrets having said it. I think that she wasn't saying that people of her ethnicity or gender were necessarily better -- but she suspected that there were times, maybe a lot of times, when yes, they were.

Unfortunately, talking to a bunch of white guys wouldn't have been a good time to make that point.

Baking Bummed

I'm sitting in the kitchen, looking at a bouquet our neighbor gave us in appreciation for looking after their house while they were away, feeling the gentle breeze coming in through the sliding glass door, and being just a little bummed. Today's little baking experiment is not going at all well.

I had found a recipe where a woman said she'd been trying out a recipe for butter cookies, and didn't care for them, so she used them as the basis for a Milanos clone, which turned out pretty well. Such is not the case here. I made four batches (by the third time, the 'batches' were just one round of dough), and they were all very dry, very bland. They're supposed to brown, just a bit, around the edges, and it took me until the fourth try to get that. The dough, I've decided, is actually pie crust dough -- very, very soft, very, very buttery. So I think I'm going to save the rest of it and see about making a pie. But these cookies?

Pepperide Farm has nothing to worry about from me.


Monday, July 13, 2009

All Obama, All The Time

Obama Actions and Initiatives

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

Will limit Fed lending power, grant it more systemic regulatory authority
Will recommend a non-regulatory insurance oversight office
Will allow SEC, CFTC to regulate derivatives

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

Health Care:
Lobbies doctors for support of changes
Consults experts on 1976 swine flu outbreak (Jul1 -

Urges Congress not to put off immigration reform(Jun25-
Takes action on food safety(Jul07-
Announces Surgeon General Nominee(Jul13 -
Threatens to veto spending over F22 cost (Jul 13 -

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


Interesting time at dinner tonight. As my wife was working, I made dinner. My MIL watched me cook the beef, make the salad, add the condiments. At the table, having eaten a bit, she turned toward my wife and remarked that it was quite a tasty meal.

I'm not reading anything much into it, but I do think it's funny.


I wonder if my daughter realizes that when I was talking to her about what I'd read regarding how a Cystic Fibrosis program increased its success rate through dogged persistance and manic devotion to detail, never accepting the status quo, but always striving to find a way to do better, what I was really talking about was how to succeed in school?

Where's my Visor?

Though I suppose the Trekkers would insist that I call it a V.I.S.O.R....

I thought of this while reading the Sunday New York Times Bright Ideas article titled Kicking Reality Up A Notch, by Leslie Berlin, about a concept called Augmented Reality. Essentially, it's a method for infusing what you see (or hear, I would suppose) by using your normal tools -- glasses, binoculars, phone screen images -- with information from other sources. The article calls it "(T)he real world is overlaid with virtual information." Here's an illustration from the article, showing a display from a European system called Layar:
I'd like to say that it works through what an instructor of mine in radio school called FM (Fuckin' Magic), but the tools are almost pedestrian -- location-aware software coupled with geotagged information, and, in the future, possibly image-recogition software. Is it easy? Not for me, no, but these people surely do make it look that way.

Maybe it is FM!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

This is Not Me



The other night, I had two interesting experiences.

First off, I heard a report on NPR that oil speculators were losing money because the price of oil had not gone up as much as they wanted, and now they were running out of capacity for the oil they'd contracted -- and so were having to dump it on the market, with the result that they lost money and the price went down some more. I laughed out loud.

And second, waiting at a light, I saw a police car go back with NOT IN SERVICE taped across its light bar. Odd car, though -- it was all white, with a big gold star on the door, and a county name below it. Only thing was, the name of the county was Hazzard. Huh?


Two stories:
When I was first married, my wife used to tell the story of cooking, and how we'd share it -- one day she'd cook, and the next day I'd cook. Then she'd cook, and then we'd have pizza. Then she'd cook, and they we'd have leftovers. Then she'd cook, and then we'd go out to eat. She cooked, she would say, fifty percent of the time, which was what she wanted.

Before we were married, I asked her if it mattered who was the 'head of the family'. I didn't particularly want to be, because I didn't see myself as commanding or all-knowing, but I wondered what we would do if we ever got to a point where somebody had to make a choice. She said we'd just figure it out then, which is what we've done. Or will, if we ever just flat don't agree, and can't work it out.

The impetus for these thoughts: an article in today's Times - an interview with Justice Ginsberg. At the end, the woman doing the interview asked, essentially, if men will ever achieve equality in marriage; her answer was, essentially, probably not. She used her daughter's marriage as an example that change is possible, saying that her daughter's husband 'carries his fair share of the load' as she travels around the world, saying that their arrangement works for them because her daughter is a great cook; later, though, she says that the court can never order a man to do more than simply take out the garbage.

I think that's a snide observation, but I don't know if the underlying implication - that women usually do the heavy lifting in making a relationship work - is true. Years ago, I came across an observation that marriage is an asymmetrical arrangement - sometimes one partner is seventy percent, sometimes the other, usually based on what they're doing at the time. My feeling is that whatever works for the couple is what it ought to be -- there isn't any external right or wrong. For example, to use a pretty common reference: Fairly early in our marriage, I asked my wife if it mattered to her whether the toilet seat was left up, and she said that it did not. I still wondered about it, because I thought it possible that this was the kind of thing that did matter -- all the articles said so -- so that perhaps she was just being nice -- or even, saving it up to use against me later. Nothing she said or did bred this suspicion; it was the articles that would have me believe that this was the way life really was. I do believe that for some, it is. Just, not for me. Not for us.

So I'd say that just as a court can never order a man to do more than simply take out the garbage, it can't order a couple to figure out what makes sense for them, and quit living by what Cosmopolitian thinks. Which is bad news, I guess, for Justice Ginsburg.


Well, I'm not as grumpy as I was yesterday, but I'm not particularly pleased with myself for having been grumpy. Its not the kind of person I think of myself as being. Does that seem weird?

From an article about a guy on MSNBC: "Hoff was charged with disorderly conduct, public indecency and failure to comply with fingerprinting." I always think it's a cheap hit when you get charged with something that is, itself, not a crime, or when its ancillary. Fingerprinting? Same thing for when you get charged with 'evading arrest'. Hey, I think that if you don't want to be arrested, its the same thing when you boogie to avoid it as when you refuse to say something that will incriminate yourself. I guess this means that me and most of the legal establishment see things a little differently. Or the DMV, which I think is more than a little anal: from a different story - Division of Motor Vehicles, which blocked her plan because they thought the combination of letters could be interpreted as profane. Her suggestion for the plate on her Suzuki: "ILVTOFU." I just don't get people who are offended by things like that. Though, to be honest, if the plate had flat out said what they said it implied, I'd have thought it was funny. Unless I had to explain it to a kid...

My daughter is refusing to go see her cousin perform at a dance recital. I pointed out to her that she likes it when the cousin comes to see her perform. No, I don't, she said indignantly. Yeah, right.


I am not a major fan of cute animal pictures, but these seem to me to be exceptionally good.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I am in a serious funk at the moment.

My wife's mother is visiting, and I thought it would be nice if I made a decent dinner that she would appreciate. So, though it wasn't a big deal, I did put some effort into making both a spaghetti sauce from scratch, and meatballs. I didn't do it for kudos, but - well, I expected some gratitude.

My wife did appreciate it.

She also informed me that tomrrow, when I go to church (which I only do to bring my daughter, because it's important to my wife), I'll be bringing my mother along, too.My mother didn't feel up to it, today, when my wife and her mother went. And my wife is doing something with her mother tomorrow, so she doesn't particularly want to take her to church. But, being an Irish Catholic, my mother, of course, has to go. Can't just skip it. Oh, no. So, guess what?

I am not in a good mood. I feel taken.


Everyone knows Waldo, but very few know how he started.


An extract from a New York Times article --

"As soon as the Obama administration-in-waiting announced its stimulus plan — this was before Inauguration Day — some of us worried that the...."

Always, always -- someone worries. Always. Jump right on the concept, and worry. And they're frequently the ones who get the headlines. Right, Fox?


I live in Pennsylvania.

Most people pronounce that as Pencil - Vane - Yah. A young reporter for a local radio station, though, says it all the way out - Penn-Sill-Vane-Ee-Aa. When I first heard her, I thought it odd and a bit affected -- too much elocution school, my dear! -- but over time, its grown on me. It reminds me of how I like the name 'Australia' more when they say it as 'Aus-Trail-Ee-Ah' and not 'Aus-Trail-Yah'. In one of the songs from the musical 1776, a character, proclaiming his refusal to create the Declaration of Independence, says ' So I refuse, to use the Pen, in Pennsylvania!' And he says it all the way out.

Of course, there are place names that don't have that penultimate syllable, and should -- Canada/Canadia comes to mind -- but for now, I'll stick with this. EE-AH!


I like a lot of pillows on a bed. I have two that I use regularly -- one's queen size, one a bit smaller -- that have gotten matted down over time. I have a third that is pretty small, which I use for an odd reason -- before I hurt my shoulder, I used to sleep on my side, with one arm under the pillow; now, I can't quite make the arm lie flat, and I miss that -- so the small pillow is there for me to hang onto. It's not a teddy bear... even if that analogy has occurred to me.

We're looking at new mattresses, for ourselves and our daughter. We tried a couple at a local store, and were surprised to find that what they called their 'top of the line' seemed way too firm for me. I did like another; my wife asked if we could wait until they got a slightly firmer version in so that she could try it and I could see if it was acceptable to me. Along with that, I'd like new pillows. These were bought at Linens N' Things, of sainted memory -- well, not so sainted, as I went there once to try to replace them with exactly the same kind, and they no longer had them. Turkeys. So now I have ordered two from a pillow company. At this price, they ought to be not only comfortable, but wake me up with a cup of coffee, a croissant, and fresh orange juice. I'll settle for the comfort, though.


I'm using Bing as my home page for a while, for two reasons: first, to see if I like it (Like? Something from Microsoft? Argh...), and second, because lately, for reasons unknown, Google keeps forgetting the preferences I've set, and that's irritating. So, we'll see.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hey, Cupcake!

Baked these this afternoon. My, oh, my. Creamy in the middle and on top. Way too many for us to eat, so we froze some for my wife to take into work on Monday.

8 ounces cream cheese,at room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat the oven to 350°F.
Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
Prepare the filling:
Mix the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and chocolate chips together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Set the filling aside.
Prepare the cake batter:
Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the oil, vanilla, vinegar, and 2 cups water.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined, about 1 minute.
Increase the speed by one level and mix until the batter is lump-free, about 3 minutes.
Scoop the batter into the lined muffin cups, filling them approximately three-fourths full.
Drop a small spoonful of filling on top of the batter in each cup.
Bake untl the tops of the cakes are firm when pressed, 18 to 20 minutes. Let them cool slightly, and serve warm

Elderly Folks

This August, I'll turn 60. My daughter says that this is the cutoff for mid-life crises. I can have one up to then. What about afterward? I asked her. We'll put it down to senility, she replied. We do tease about that. She told me that she told some friends that she teases me about being old and being a crip. They were astonished, and she was astonished by their astonishment. I guess most Dads don't tease like that, she concluded. I guess not.

My imminent entry into the ranks of elderhood has affected how I think about old people, a little, even though I still maintain that the older I get, the older old gets. (Currently, it's about 75). I get somewhat exasperated when my mother does some things, as when she threw out all of her Tylenol, because she'd heard of people damaging their kidneys or livers through excessive use; it took a call from her family doc to assure her that taking up to four thousand milligrams per day (which works out to eight extra-strength Tylenols) would be okay. Or when she agreed that I could take her to the library on our way back from her medical appointment; after going significantly out of the way from home, she said as we were pulling into the lot, that she didn't really think she wanted to go in; she would wait in the car while I got some books for her. Then why the hell... I thought. I didn't say it, but I think it was fairly obvious what I thought. I have to remember that this is a fairly old -- 85 -- woman who's somewhat frail and apprehensive; she doesn't like new things, or exerting herself, or challenging authority (and she has a wide range of what she considers to be 'authority'; her once a week companion, for example, carries the same weight as her doctor). I will occasionally say to my wife If I ever get like that, just shoot me. I just don't have much patience for it.

And yet this afternoon, when she looked really frail and sounded really tired, I thought I know she's going to die, probably in the next five years, and maybe less, but I hope it isn't today. Because though I can handle the idea intellectually, I don't think I could do it emotionally. And because she asks so little now, it's more than a little cheap of me not to give it willingly, while I have the time.


Actually, PC -- Thinkpads now have an app that can receive a coded message and be shut down remotely -- for use when your laptop's missing and possibly stolen. Though not quite as cool as this, it's pretty nice.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mr. Roboto

What is that? Why.... only a seriously cool Japanese thing....

Old Tires

Apparently, tires have an expiration date -- and it's not at all obvious when that is. What can happen when they get past that date? The tire can self-destruct, and you could die.

Another win for the FTC!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Garage Door Opener


AM Result

This morning's number was outstanding -- in fact, it was within the range that even I think is somewhat too low. So, I'm pleased.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


About two weeks ago, I started having some serious problems in maintaining the blood sugar level that I want -- and it seemed as if the more insulin I took, the worse the morning numbers were! This is pretty irritating, since for a long time I had great control, then I blew it, then I got it mostly (not entirely) back... and this looked like it was starting to slip again. Of course, I thought about the usual stuff, looking for causes (eating out, for example, will almost always cause me a problem; along the same lines, if the number is borderline before dinner, and I don't take some drugs then, I'm almost certainly going to regret it later). This time, though, there were no obvious culprits.

I didn't like increasing the night-time number without good cause (and, to be honest, without good effect). I've found that if I do that, it seems to backfire on me. I mayget a good number the next morning, but the day after that, it rebounds and is high again. I don't know why. I've never seen anyone write up any good explanation, or even a statement that yeah, this does happen. Of course, I don't tend to read about this kind of thing, anyway. I think if I saw theories that seemed reasonable, I'd listen, but most times, its always something that seems to say that no matter what I do, no matter how good I do, its not enough, not good enough. Doctors are like that.

So we'll see what tomorrow morning looks like....and I'll try really hard to not get up in the middle of the night and have something to eat!

Hey, Jude?


Confluence of Events

This evening, I dropped my daughter off for her karate class, and rather than going home, I went to the library and picked up a book that I'd heard of on a blog that's dedicated to comics.

I'm not a comic reader in any but the Sunday Washington Post style, so this is atypical for me, but the blogger said that this particular book, "Identity Crisis", by Brad Meltzer, was exceptionally good, so I'd thought what the heck, let me see what passes for GOOD these days. Frankly, having seen main stream comics referenced in that blog over time, I wasn't expecting much; they. like. to. talkreallyfast and be mysterious. Which is sort of how this book is, too, but it does have a style that gets you, mostly because it starts with one of the characters saying how much he likes his wife of thirty years.... who is then killed.

When we got home, my daughter immediately flipped on the tube, which was showing one of the Inspector Gadget movies, just as IG says to the bad guy that he'll never get away with his plot; the bad guy laughs and says that in the real world, evil is very often the victor. Which made me think of that comic.

An interesting confluence. And these comics, they're what people read for escape?

The Fourth Plinth

Yes, I know. The Fourth what? But this is cool. Go London!

Mikey, Redux

And to quote my daughter, talking about other things:

And I care about this why?

Monday, July 06, 2009


This is from an article about sequels. But -- wouldn't these two together make a great film?

Making Choices

An article in the Sunday New York Times talks about an Obama Administration move to make mortgages more intelligible to the common person. I like the idea, but I think the approach is somewhat off base.

The idea, basically, is that when mortgages were all pretty much the same -- thirty years, standard rates -- it was easy to make intelligent financial decisions. Once they became more complex, with teaser rates, balloon payments, and all of the gimcrackery that the financial industry could think up to push the product, it became a lot harder. People got into financial trouble -- sometimes because they didn't understand what they were getting into, and the potential liability; sometimes because they did understand, and the loan went sour on them as their personal economic position went south.

The proposed solution is to let mortgage issuers do as they have been doing, but require them to also offer old-style mortgages. The thought is that new consumers, or consumers who are not certain that their economic situation will always be sufficient to meet their debt, would be steered toward the old-style offerings. Experienced or flush consumers could choose as they wish. Well, both types could, but the first would be encouraged to 'go simple'; the other type would be on their own.

I see two problems with that approach. First, I assume that mortgage issuers can make more money pushing the complex and esoteric mortgages, so that's what they'd continue to do. If they were legally required to offer the vanilla ones, they would -- but they'd be at the back of the glossy prospectus, with wording that made them sound strange, dull, if you're not very bright, perhaps this type would be more to your liking. And second, you can't stop people from making dumb choices. You're over 21, you're on your own. Just because the simpler mortgage offering is there doesn't mean you won't pick the complex one. What you're getting is a better range of choices, but what you don't have is a better ability to make the choice. You can't do the math. No shame to you in that -- some of the offerings are written in a way that make it very tough to do. So you follow what the brightly printed brochure suggests, which leads you to the complex, money-making offerings. Good luck.

I'm not saying that they ought not to be required to make that offering -- I think they should, just as I think that cellular phone companies ought to be required to offer a simple, straightforward plan with no hidden oh, didn't we mention that charges or methods. But they also need to offer a way to make that analysis comprehensible to the average person. A way for the non-math-freak to get a good gut feeling (or better) for what they're choosing, the benefits, and the risks.

I won't hold my breath.


This guy has the right attitude towards iPhones, I think.


One of the blogs I look at occasionally appears to be written by a guy who's primarily identification in life is that he's slick, cool, with-it. I'd link to it here, but it's got one of those title's that's so cool, it doesn't give a clue regarding what it's about -- so when I look down the list of feeds in my Feed Demon application, I can't easily find it. Sorry about that.

I was looking at it yesterday. The topic d'jour was 'how to pick up girls'. I of course am not looking for information on how to do that -- but I've always been curious about how people do do it. Where do they get the confidence, the 'sellable package'? I think that it revolves around two things -- a sense of confidence in your own winsomeness, and a sense that rejection doesn't mean anything. Okay, three things: a sense of audacity, too - a willingness to go for it, to take the leap that common sense might say wouldn't work. I am reluctant to say that you should always go for it; that, I think, leads to being the first guy to try bungee jumping. But those three together might well lead to success -- in picking up members of the opposite sex, and in life. I recall a job evaluation once where the manager said that I had 'much to offer', and I thought 'really? What?' Because from the inside, it aways seemed to me that I wasn't anything special. That I could do things that others couldn't do, that I could achieve things that others couldn't achieve, always seemed ephemeral to me -- it's not worth that much, and, anyway, they could do it if they wanted to. Might have helped (and still could) if I could have realized that no, actually, they couldn't. And that it really was worthwhile.

Confidence. Resilience. Audacity.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


This October, we'll be married twenty-five years. This also means that we'll have owned this house for twenty-five years (actually, a bit more, as we bought it in June, I moved in, and my partner moved in four months later). In turn, that means that things are wearing out.

We just replaced the refrigerator. It's not better than the one we had (in fact, in some ways, it's worse), but it's acceptable, the price was good, and the cost of operation will be less. My wife had said she was afraid that the old one would break soon, which I would pooh-pooh; based on a comment from the installer of the new one, she was right -- a stain on the flooring was oil from the compressor, which was failing, which was why it ran so often. It was going to fail.

I'm damned if I know if we ever replaced the stove. You'd think I would know that, but I can't recall ever getting one. It still works, and well, so I doubt we'll be doing it soon (you don't have a fridge, things go bad; you don't have a stove, you order out). When we do, I have my eye on those that offer a 'warming drawer' or second oven that can be used as such. Probably find out that it wouldn't fit in our floorspace.

The dishwasher was replaced about twenty years ago, and this one is starting to fail, in small ways. Having me fall on the door once didn't exactly help it. We replaced the lower rack once, and we've lost two tines on the upper rack. If and when we replace that, I want a quiet one. A very, very quiet one. My wife would like one that comes in two drawers, which I don't see the logic of, but then again, I didn't see the logic of the refrigerator.

We had the electrical panel replaced once, because an electrician whom we trusted told us that we ought to do that. We still don't know if that was true, but it's done.

When my wife moved in, she brought her massive console television, a gift from her family. Two months later, it died, and we replaced it. Now, we're thinking about replacing the replacement.... maybe.

I suppose I ought to be pleased that I'm not up for replacement quite yet!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009


Yesterday, I was looking with some bemusement at the books I'd just gotten out of the library -- a collection of thoughts by women on adversity, a collection of cake recipes, and a collection of chili recipes -- which was sitting next to a book I was reading -- Swordpoint -- which was, in turn, next to a book that I'd started twice, liked each time, and then put down because I had so much else to read -- An Army at Dawn -- and thought you know, there's that book on the Bush Administration and terror by the head of DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel; I ought to finish that, because it's due back to the libe soon. So, last night, I stayed up for about an hour, reading that, and I'm glad that I did.

I didn't learn anything new, but it reinforced the idea that the people who did the things which which I disagree in that administration relation to the action formerly known as the War on Terror didn't necessarily do them because they were evil people. Cheney, for example, really believed that the authority of the Presidency ought to supercede that of the Congress, let alone the Supreme Court; it could not, should not, and ought not to be abrogated or limited in any way, and even suggesting that getting the support of the Congress would be a good idea was, to him, the equivilent of voting to diminish the power of the Presidency. I was of the opinion that he would say those things because he was, effectively, the President, and didn't want to limit his own authority because of his own personal lust and greed for power. Now I begin to think that he said those things because he truly believed them; if he was a general store operator in West Chepeapod, he'd still firmly believe them. Circumstance put him in a position where he could act on those beliefs, and he surrounded himself with people who believed it as strongly -- perhaps with less intellectual underpinnings, but as strongly -- who in turn surrounded themselves with similar acolytes. I think that they were wrong in so believing, but I am beginning to reluctantly realize that my thinking that has the same intellectual rigor relative to their thinking that a five year old explaining earnestly why Santa Claus is real has to the thinking of the amused adult patiently listening. Which is to say, not even in the same universe. Makes me wonder where I've been all my life.

I am really enjoying reading this, and it irritates the hell out of me that it's taking me so long to do it. Not to mention writing about it. Why does writing take me so much time, these days? Why is it so tough to put together coherent thoughts? I've even, god help me, contemplated sketching out drafts on yellow paper!