Sunday, January 31, 2010
What is it about fundamentalists? What drives people who adopt those ethics to go nuts, want to reshape the whole damn world to their view? It's like they're those people you see pictures of over the years who've done methamphetimines; first year they look normal, and five years later they're haggard, toothless, and foul. What is it? Are they deranged? Do they have some kind of brain malfunction that makes them feel they're on God's side and can do no wrong, that any action taken in what they see as their God's name is justifiable and right? Yeah, Islam, in this case, but any fundamentalist? Does intense belief drive you crazy, or it is the other way around?
Jeez. It's almost enough to make me think atheists have it right. Though, of course, whether they do or not doesn't matter here. We'd still have this scourge, either way. How can we combat this?
Sorry. Not my most coherent post.
I think this is hogwash.
If the Republicans gain control of Congress (which, I recognize, they will, eventually), they won't feel any sort of collegiate sensibility magically come upon them. So long as they're driven by a rigid, partisan attitude, they'll propose and try to push legislation that isn't what a Democratic President wants to see. If it's unacceptable, he'll veto it. At that point, they'll say 'Well, we did our part, but he blocked us, so now its his fault. We tried'. Or they'll muster the votes to override a veto, at which point it becomes their victory, his loss.
The answer isn't in who has what numbers (though that's part of it). No matter what the political mix, you can find a reason for it to be effective, and you can find a reason for it to generate a stalemate. The only way to have the system work is either for one party to absolutely control the whole thing -- and we saw how well that worked with Clinton and with Bush2 -- or to have two parties that regard compromise as a valued approach to legislation. That hasn't been the case since Gingrich. I think that Obama's trying to bring it back, but he's not being very successful. And a lot of his adherents are saying 'To hell with the Republicans. We'll do it without them.' Only now, they can't. That leads to the feeling of 'Well, what if the Republicans controlled more of the Congress? Maybe then they'll want to cooperate'.
I strongly doubt it. But, who knows. Maybe the horse will learn to sing.
Watching them stagger upstairs for breakfast was funny. And I think my daughter has trouble waking up in the morning. One girl literally had ten second pauses before she would respond; another would stop walking and look around before realizing where she was. None of this could have anything to do with the fact that we heard half of them still awake at 3AM. Oh, no.
One said you have three people and three bathrooms? We have SEVEN people and ONE bathroom! I told her she could come over any time she desperately needed one to herself.
And though teenage girls don't eat as much as teenage boys, they can certainly pack it away. We figured cereal, french toast, and coffee. Um, English muffins? Toast? Orange juice? Eggs? More sausage? My wife's Italian heritage was delighted.
Nice to have them. Nice to see them gone.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
The group downstairs is having a 'color guard intervention', or something like that. They might be making a list of things that they think should change... or something. Eight girls are in the room...two are dancing together in the hall...one's in the bathroom....and one's alone in the storage room. (I hope the neither of the ones that are alone aren't the one girl who came because her mother said she should. She's not particularly popular, and things like that always tug at me.)
We told them they need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. We didn't specify, and they didn't laugh.
Tomorrow, we'll have French Toast and coffee available around nine, and cereal around eight thirty. Anyone who wants to have toast or English muffins is welcome to have at the toaster oven -- we'll point out where the stuff is. I'm going out around 730, ostensibly for church, and I'll pick up the papers and some orange juice - somehow, we ran out of most of it, which is a bit of a bother when the French Toast recipe for tomorrow requires two thirds of a cup of it.
And around ten, they'll be gone, and my daughter will be exhausted. And in a perfect mood to go to church at 11. I can hear her already.
Meanwhile, the cat's here in our bedroom. We'll keep her either in here or in the master bathroom. I hope she doesn't make her displeasure known.
As for the web, there are tons of sites that aren't worth the bandwidth to show their logo. I'm not opposed to sophomoric humor, but there's way, way too much of it. Most web sites are at least worth a glance. I learn something, I pick up a piece of trivia. I don't think I ever -- hardly ever -- find anything substantive on the web (not that it isn't there, just that I don't tend to find it). And that's good, because I don't want to be thinking about battery life when I'm trying to fire up what passes for my intellect. A bright light and a comfortable chair, that's all I ask. For me, the web is light reading. Anything else, give me printed copy.
Some sites, though..... I think 'People like this stuff? Value it?' And I think Yeah, Bill, you're just out of it. Such, I am sure, is the case with an article I - partially - read just a few minutes ago, where the author said that the shouting out by that miserable Congressman at Obama's speech was nothing, a mere bagatelle, while the head-shaking and murmured disagreement by Justice Alito at the SOTU the other day was a travesty that threatens to bring down the halls of jurisprudence. I can't say more about the article because that was the point where I stopped reading. I was so dismayed by the conclusions voiced, I couldn't continue. His statements were so directly contrary to what I thought, to what I could imagine an intelligent person thinking -- even someone whose political philosophy was diametrically opposed to my own -- that I'd have sooner watched a chimp hurl feces. Because though I don't care for Alito, he did nothing wrong, in my book, except that it was caught by what, in another context, is called the Gotcha! Gang. He didn't shout. He didn't flail his arms. He grimaced, and murmured something. That's horrible? Not at all. Not even a bit. So I left that site and went elsewhere, quickly.
But I was left with one lingering thought:
People believe this guy? Seek out his opinion? Value it?
I really am out of it.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Cat just came over and licked my fingers -- she smelled the tuna we had for lunch. Yet when I put a couple of pieces on that damn scratching post, and even drizzled a little of the oil on it, she just walked right by, barely glancing at it.
Five or six girls are sleeping over tomorrow. My daughter invited her entire color guard sub-unit, which is 12 girls. She said 'Nobody likes me, only a couple are coming', then said she was kidding (which I think she actually was). I offered to sleep down there tomorrow night with them, and she said I didn't have to do that. But who will lead the songs? I asked, plaintively. Then again, after having pizza and soda and ice cream and pretzels and potato chips and.....they may not be able to sing. Groan and rub their distended bellies, perhaps.
Wife's working from home today. She was going to go in this morning, come home in mid afternoon so that she could do my daughter's hair for the performance tonight, but when she realized it was twelve degrees out, the wisdom of staying became apparent. I offered to do my daughter's hair, and she informed me that I didn't know how. Sure I do, I said, and she replied that I couldn't do braids. Yep, I said, I learned in college when one of the girls in my ROTC unit wanted someone to do it. Well, she said, you can't do three braids. Sure I can, I said. I've made challah, and that's four braids. She just shook her head. Not gonna happen.
You totally cannot taste the tomato soup. It's excellent!
Now, US corporate and union influence -- yeah, that I think will go through the freakin' roof.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
What I saw -- Republicans sitting on their hands -- I didn't like. But my feeling is, screw them. Go around them. Talk directly to voters. Let them know what their representatives are doing. Be willing to hear hard questions from disaffected voters, and to them give straight, honest answers. But as for the Party of No?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I found that on a forum where I was looking for the text of the recent SCOTUS decision on corporate speech. I don't pretend to be a legal scholar, but after reading a couple of opinions about it from people who are, one of whom I thought reasonable, and one whom I thought was way too liberal, it occurred to me that a little understanding of the document itself would be worth having. Instead, what I came across was the comment cited above, which I found here. It astonished me.
If anything, I'd say that Democrats are quite fond of free speech, and the Bill of Rights, too. We're not particularly fond of the interpretation of some of those Rights -- for example, the Second -- but as a rule, we like them. So, to find that someone thinks that Democrats don't feel that way -- well, as I say, it astonishes me. Such people scare me. Even given that the internet encourages hasty opinions, and ALL CAPS OBSERVATIONS -- well, this seems beyond the pale to me.
Not that they don't make some good points, some of which make me uncomfortable. For example, one person says "I guess in BO's world the labor unions and PAC's that contributed hundreds of millions to his campaign aren't special interests.....Hypocrites." True enough -- well, the special interests part, anyway. Another, responding to a comment about activist judges, says "They are only activist judges if the conservatives don't like their decisions. I have to laugh that the typical right-wing kooks on here think that this is a good thing." That's true, too. Activism is good if it promotes what you like, bad if it doesn't. Yet to require judges to adhere solely to the letter of the law is to assume that the law clearly anticipates every human circumstance. A third comments on something another said - "
Why? Because the labor unions will lose their strangle hold on the US?" And I think Do unions have a strangehold on us? I tend to think no, but then I think of the Service Employees International Union, which supported Obama, and remember how they affected the Nevada elections. Certainly, there, they did.... and I liked it. So, do they have that effect elsewhere? Maybe so. Maybe so.observer wrote:
I am really disappointed in your take on the Supreme Court ruling- can you never put aside politics this is bad for everyone we all know politicians have been bought for ages but they may as well put out a for sale to highest bidder on their backs now.
I am really saddened by this-I will not be alive to see the damage that will come from it but I hurt for my grandchildren .
I guess I need to keep looking for that text.
I'm getting more than a little antsy with this hospital project. They keep saying what a help I am, but I'm not only doing almost nothing, but when I do do something, they thank me and then ignore it. I suppose that's to be expected -- hospital bureaucracies are just like anyone else. I feel sorry for the woman who's this person's sole staff. She gets swamped with things that the person wants to have done. It's not as if she doesn't have other stuff to do. But,hey, I wanted the experience!
The daughteroid's living on tenterhooks. We get her midterm grades this Friday. We know she really tried -- and she knows that we're very unlikely to cut her slack if she didn't make it. About the only slack will be some imprecision in how I stated the bar -- sometimes I say 'A B or better in all your core subjects', and sometimes I said 'A B average or better in your core subjects'. An A in one could offset a C in the other. We wouldn't be happy, but -- well, how high of an A are we talking? How low a C? We don't expect that, incidentally.
I got into the habit of saving the coffee if we don't drink it all. This morning we had unleaded, and afterwards I had a cup of the chocolate orange (leaded) from yesterday at midday. I can taste the diff. Decaf isn't bad, but this is better.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Barack Obama electrified the Democratic convention in 2004 with his speech and his oratory was a significant factor in his winning first the Democratic nomination and then the presidency. Indeed, some of his opponents accused him of being too much about words. How ironic, then, that as I look back at Obama's first year in office, what is most notable is this administration's failure to craft compelling messages frequently repeated--to control or at least significantly influence how the nation views its most pressing issues.
In speaking about the work of building organizational culture, Jack Welch talked about the need for leaders to be relentless and boring--to repeat, more often than a leader felt necessary, a message that would resonate, help people make sense of what was going on and what they needed to do, and remind them of what the overarching vision and objectives were. The importance of language is widely recognized in studies of leadership.
It is ironic that Barack Obama has yet to truly find his voice--to be able to find themes that engage in the emotions and also have the discipline to, with his cabinet secretaries and the rest of his team, pound those messages home through repetition of the facts and the use of compelling language and images. This weakness has left the Democrats on the defensive and his reform agenda very much at risk.
Couldn't have put it better. (And didn't!)
First vet appointment tomorrow.
Monday, January 25, 2010
My wife's working on a DR drill that will last for about twelve hours. She'll be in at the office for all of it.
My daughter just called home to ask if we saw one of her texts anywhere; we didn't. This afternoon, she has an appointment with a counselor at 4, and color guard at 6.
I have an appointment at the hospital for further training on their software.
And it's raining like hell.
Good time to go back to sleep, I think.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I see where David Plouffe is going to rejoin the messaging team at the White House. I think that's good, and I'm pleased to see it. I was a little surprised to read that he actually never left the OFA staff, because I thought they had gotten stale at the same time that the overall White House message did, but perhaps he was there in name only. Whatever, I'm glad that Obama's going to have the benefit of his drive and focused energy. I'm sure that he'll kick ass and take names -- which, okay, will translate into more frequent and more intense requests for donations, but, you know? That's okay with me. I won't give a lot -- Michelle won't be asking what I'd like in my coffee any time soon -- but I'll give what I can, because I believe in the overall message and mission of the Obama White House. All of it? No, not all of it. I think that they got so wrapped up in the onslaught of problems that they lost, or at least misplaced, the ability to take a deep breath and ask how important is it that we address this problem, right now? And certainly some of the solutions that they pushed weren't the best; though I unreservedly believe that they were better than anything that the Republican leadership would have come up with, they were not as nuanced and well communicated as they should have been. It's going to be hard for them to get people back who feel that they committed heavily and were let down. Even if their expectations were unrealistic (at least, from an outside perspective; your own expectations are, at worst, mildly optimistic), they needed to hear what was going on, and they didn't. I hope that Plouffe can fix that. If along the way he gets to whack some of the extreme Democrats alongside the head, and thereby knock some of their wilder dreams into bite-sized pieces, that would be okay, too.
Just finished reading a book of recipes by two guys who opened a fabulously successful bake shop in Brooklyn. How successful? Oprah raved about it. Martha Stewart, too. So I looked. And my conclusion was that sometimes it's not worth it to make fabulous baked stuff, because sometimes, all you want is A Nice Cookie.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
We let her into the family room for a while. It's still chock-a-block with Christmas stuff, including a pile of Christmas lights to be put away. I assumed that she would gravitate to them, but instead, she walked slowly around the whole room, checking it all out. She didn't mess with anything, just looked. I suspect she thinks that this place is the biggest cat toy in the world.
I'm thinking we'll keep her. Of course, she's got to keep us, too. I do know who the master is, in this relationship.
Friday, January 22, 2010
SoftPaws, so that we don't have to declaw her.
A 'scratching pad', with toy, so that we don't have to declaw her.
Catnip to attract her to the scratching pad, so that....
A collar to which we attached the little metal 'microchip installed' flag.
Flea 'spray' (actually, a drip). My wife said they didn't get a flea collar, and I said Thats good, those damn fleas are so small, those collars are hell to button. Whereupon my daughter said This is why I like having Dad around. I was flattered.
I think that's all. We are Stimulating the Economy, and we've barely started. But, you know? It's okay.
She's awfully skinny for an 'adult cat'; they're guessing she's about a year old. Come to think of it, that was what TC looked like when we got her. And quiet, too.
She's warming up to us. Both I and my daughter each went in and brushed her fur while we talked to her. She liked that, even purring for my daughter. And she gets up and walks around us, rubbing her head on us. Marking us with her scent. As hers. This is goodness.
God help me, I'm thinking of the comment the desk clerk made -- that if we wanted a playmate for her, they've got them. And they do: in the summer, that shelter has, she said, about six hundred cats. Hmmm.....
Not yet, though. Let's ease into this.
At breakfast this morning, we talked about picking up the cat, which is scheduled for early this afternoon. Everyone's looking forward to it. My wife told me about the massive application she had to fill out to get the cat -- none of this 'show up with money and say that one' . Apparently, the application had questions such as 'why do you want a pet' and 'what attracted you to this animal? Be specific'. I said that it was likely a good thing that she was filling it out instead of me, as I'd have said 'Because you can't play Boot The Kitty without a cat', and 'Her come-hither eyes, her recipe for Creme Brulee, and the way she can whistle Dixie while tap-dancing'. My daughter said that had that happened, we likely wouldn't be getting a cat, today. At which point, she'd have made me pay.
This afternoon, she's supposed to work after school, painting the tarp that color guard uses. She was just going to bring the painting clothes in with her this morning, and stay, but she forgot them, so she'll come home at 3:30 and go back in at 4. Curiously, we'll have the cat home by about 3, so she'll be able to see it. She assures me that's just a coincidence.
And she now calls the cat 'Abby'.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
He had to know that propping up Wall Street and the banks would create a political millstone which would come back to bite him. (Mixed metaphor alert!) The only surprise is, so soon. That's why why he's now making statements about 'too big to fail' banks are nothing of the sort - to begin to regain populist credibility and thus deflect some (but certainly not all) of the conservative opposition commentary. An eye toward the next set of elections, not to mention, 2012.
Sorry if this was flamingly obvious to everyone else.
After writing that, I found this. I knew I liked Australia.....
So that's part of it. And part of it is a general lassitude that overtakes me whenever I think about politics, which is a lot, lately. I've mentioned my dismay about Massachusetts. I'm amazed that they voted for a Republican. I mean, Massachusetts? They're so Blue that a picture of the stat appears in the dictionary next to the word Blue. How could they possibly like what they hear from a Republican? Which then segues me into, generally, wondering how anyone of any intelligence can like what they hear from a Republican? Not that R's are necessarily wrong; I've said that before. But to prefer any of them, given what their party did to this country in the Bush years? That boggles my mind. And yet I know that people do prefer them, and not just the radical right, or the get government's hands away from Medicare stupids, but reasonable people, bright people. How can that possibly be? Can they really think that the Republican approach is better? Apparently, yes. And that just stuns me. What, other than tight-fistedness, do they offer? Oh, yeah: guns. I forgot that. What else?
The only thing that cheers me is to think about how livid the other side is that my side had the effrontery to spend money to get things moving again. Too much money? I don't know; maybe. How much would have been enough? But things are moving again, and that's good. Progress is being made, and that's good. And yet, I know -- I'll bet serious money -- that in two years, the only questions will be: What have you done for us lately? How dare you spend money to get the economy moving when surely just giving it to the rich would have worked? And why did you do all that work on health care -- if they need it, let them pay for it! And they'll run for office promising to undo the improvements in health care, the environment, and anything else they don't like. Undoing is how they 'do'. They don't make things better, because doing that costs money. They undo. Remember? The Party of No? That's them.
Ah, well, We'll survive. If we survived Bush, we can survive anything.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
and thought well of course he was sad about dying....
Now, I know what they meant. They didn't mean he was sad about dying, or that he was in the process of being sad when he died, they meant that they were sad that he died, and that his death brought them to start thinking about how to memorialize him.
But how do you say that sad?
When Sir Edmund Hillary sadly passed away in January of this year.... implies he was sad.
When Sir Edmund Hillary passed away in January of this year,sadly.... - still implies he was sad.
Sadly, when Sir Edmund Hillary passed away in January of this year,.... implies they're sad about the thinking they're about to mention
How DO you say it? Only thing I can think of is breaking into two sentences -- Sadly, Sir Edmund Hillary passed away in January of this year. We at the Knowledge Gym..... And even that technically implies he was sad, but it's the common way to put it. Without that trailing clause, I don't think 'wait, what?'
Is there no 'one-sentence' way?
- a base unit with radio, CD player, and MP3 player; speakers; alarm clock, and handset-locater function; able to play independently of the remote handset
- a compact hand-held remote handset that displays the time when the handset is moved; sets the alarm time; turns on/turns off the alarm; switches on/off the various input devices
How (cough,cough) hard could this be? Why, I'd do it myself if....um...I had a clue as to how.
Thinking about it, the thought occurred to me: what if that piece had just fallen into the drawer? I had looked, before, but I looked again. What the heck.
Yeah, but what if after falling it had then slid under the shelf liner paper?
Second, the other food processor arrived yesterday. We like it a lot. Even the little tab thing is better designed (though the new design also means that you can't circumvent a broken off one as you can with the older food processor; you're either gluing it back on or buying a new lid). We wanted to be sure that it would fit on the counter, and it does; it's fifteen inches from the counter to the overhanging cabinet, and the FP is just under fourteen inches tall. So, good. But what we didn't realize is that the central spindle on the bigger one is much bigger than on the older, smaller one -- so big that the base/spindle can't fit on the sliding shelf when we have/had the older one. The drawer won't close. Not an insuperable problem, but a bit of a surprise.
Monday, January 18, 2010
A very quiet, reclusive, somewhat timid cat. I like that. Even if I don't get to name it Magic. My daughter's plumping for Rinslett (a manga name). I kind of like Abby, which is the name it has now. Or Abbicat.
--we will likely have a cat. My only requirement is that it has to be a cat that we can name 'Magic'. The thought of calling it Magicat makes me smile. My daughter says "We'll see."
-- I will have attended a presentation on the financial data for a product; I'm not a finance guy, so this should just be fascinating. And I may have heard of the results of the meeting they held on Friday, regarding what to use for categories; we're only on the third iteration of that. Hoo, boy.
-- We will have harangued my daughter some more about studying. Even though, last night, she was in tears because she loves loves loves Color Guard and hates the coach they have, who is untalented in coaching and can't personally do some of the things she's allegedly training them on. Not to mention she's stuck in a section she dislikes, feeling that she's not growing in skill, but she doesn't want to make the jump from flags to rifles, which is what they call 'growing in skill'. This annoys her. So if she has to drop out because her grades aren't good enough, she won't care all that much. So much for that lever.
-- Baking. I'd like to do some, but, maybe not. We'll see what comes up.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Right now, she's doing it, and I just heard her mutter What IS that one subdivision I can't remember!!!!
Ah. I think we did good.
She's done. Several times, she had to stop and think. She didn't get them all, but she did get most. This is goodness.
Nevertheless, I do want to have an informed opinion. I therefore found this article, from today's New York Times Magazine, of interest. So much so that when I'm done, I'm going to go back through it and make notes.
Well, then, I replied, I guess you won't be taking photography next year. But why a special one? You've got a nice digital one.
Oh, she said, it has to use film. 35mm film. And it has to be an SLR.
I handed her my Canon AE1. Like that?
She was astounded.
So it frosts me to read articles about how people are questioning the approaches that he is taking in the administration of government. Some opinions cited in such articles, of course, are from poorly informed people -- the kind who say Get Government's Hands Off Medicare-- while others are simply trash, listed only because the givers are well-known. I'd ask the milkman, if I had one, before I'd give credence to anything that Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, or any of their ilk thinks. I do honestly believe that if any of them saw a building on fire, the likelihood of them reporting it depends on whether anyone they cared for was in it. Poor folks? Well, heck, they were likely squatters anyway. That's not to say that I am inherently opposed to Republicans, or classic Republican values. Some of those values, such as fiscal sobriety, appeal to me a great deal. Not to the exclusion of compassion, which is how the current Republican vanguard sees it, but otherwise, sure. Good idea. But fiscal conservatism isn't always the best approach to a problem. The staggering amount of money that Obama threw at the financial crisis was likely warranted. I don't see any way that it could have been resolved as effectively as it has been otherwise. There are likely people who are saying Yes, but smaller, targeted sums would have been more effective, less wasteful, and I think those people are correct. But, as Bruce Wayne said in one of the Batman films "People are dying. What would you have me do?" The Republican answer would have been Cut Taxes Some More, Especially On The Wealthy. The Democratic answer was Fire Up The Money Machine, Even If It Means Undeserving People Get Much Of It. That's what they did, and it's working. I believe that without that approach, the recession would still be hugely with us.
Of course, that was then, and this is now. People have selective memories. They remember that AIG made huge amounts, got bailed out, and promptly spent some of it on themselves. When the average person thinks about that, the idea that any of that money eventually made it back into the lending pool, and then to companies that then hired them -- well, that's a long stretch. All they see are fat cats gorging on government funds, and they know who gave them the money.
It doesn't help Obama's case that he's lost his voice. He seems unable to speak clearly, movingly these days. He sounds less like the man who joked that he'd never had a helicopter before, but Marine One certainly seemed fine to him, and more like a man who doesn't even notice that he has a 747 sitting and waiting on his pleasure while the TSA is still harassing ordinary passengers trying to get to their crowded, underserved, tiny seats in coach. He seems out of touch. Given that I cut him slack all the time, I think well, he's been pretty busy, lots on his plate, and more than one plate, too. Still, I think, I miss Obama. I miss the guy that was smart, obviously brighter, more compassionate, more insightful than the rest. The guy who has poetry in his words, cadence in his voice.
I'd like to see him, hear from him, again. I want him to make his case, to show why he's right. (And not to 'be clear', so much; as an article in today's Washington Post points out, it's not only a long-time crutch, it's a signal that what he's about to say isn't going to be all that clear. Need to work on that, Barack.)
And, as regards the Republicans: I'm thinking: maybe its time to donate more money to OFA.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
So now we're thinking about a new clock for either the den or the kitchen, and maybe one for my side of the bed. Which of course starts me thinking Why does the clock have to take up so much space? I don't have all that much bedside real estate. Why can't the thing be just a thin clock display, with the bulk of the thing somewhere else? And why's it so bulky, anyway -- its just a radio with alarm and clock; can't it be smaller? How about something where the 'guts' are hidden, or over on a shelf, and the display/controls are over here, talking to it via Bluetooth? Maybe a hand held display? And then I read about a clock with a WiFi link that you can use to talk to your PC. Hello, Pandora audio? Or streaming audio from a radio station?
Of course, this technologically slick stuff will be locally available. Of course.
About a week ago, the little tab snapped off again. (I think this is a design flaw, but Kitchen Aid doesn't seem to have felt the need to retrofit a solution - perhaps something in gleaming titanium?) I put the tab down on the cluttered counter, thinking I'll glue that on later.... you know how this ends. Now, we can still make it work but we have to manually hold the locking tab down to do it. This is not intolerable, but it's a pain. And somewhere, deep in the part of my brain that figures these things out, that was enough to say Okay, It's Time.
We're getting a new one. Which leaves me with a question: do we pitch the old one (it's the American way, after all), or save it? And if we save it, do we try to make it work, which, if successful, would make me think we wasted the money on the new one?
.....all for the want of a horseshoe nail. Or a little bitty piece of plastic.
In response to my post titled Underground, about subways, one person provided me with this link showing more excellence in subway stations. You have to understand that I grew up in New York City; for me, the subway is something that's crowded, occasionally dirty, occasionally hot, occasionally smelly. It does the job that it was built and cobbled together to do, but it's not pretty. When I first saw parts of the Boston subway -- especially the Green Line (I think) Park Street Station, which had bright colors, and was clean, I was amazed. Similarly, first time that I saw BART, or the DC Metro. Good lord. No wonder visitors to New York are startled and dismayed by the New York City subway system. Someone who grew up with those subways might not even recognize this as a subway, at all. It's not elegant.
Years ago, I read a science fiction story about aliens coming to Earth long after the last inhabitant had left. Some sort of cosmic catastrophe was about to occur, and the aliens wanted one last look at the fabled birthplace before it was utterly destroyed. Actually, as I think of it, the aliens might have been human descendants. Doesn't matter. At one point, they discover a hidden subway that ran from Washington DC, under the Atlantic, to England, for the personal and private use of the President. They board it, and the doors close quietly, the air blowers kick up a muted notch, and the car begins to move -- down, down, down, until it's well below the city and all of it's contents. The tunnel walls blur by; a display shows them deep below the Atlantic. Halfway through the trip, the aliens get a message from the orbiting ship. Things are suddenly worse; you'd better get out of there. Still two hours till they make landfall. No problem. They stop the car and get out. Deathly quiet but for the humming of the car's power. The tunnel stretches out to either side, the walls curving up in both directions in the muted light. They wait. After a moment a beam weapon bores down to their location, blocking out the water and allowing the aliens to safely return to their ship. The beam is withdrawn, and the water rushes in.
Occasionally, when I think of subways, I think of the almost ethereal simplicity of that stopped subway car and that quiet tunnel stretching coolly up and out of sight. It's an elegant image.
I'd love to have seen it.
Some time ago, my mother put my name on her checking and savings accounts.The intent was two fold: so that we could see if she was making unusual withdrawals -- suggesting someone was scamming her -- and so that if she became incompetent, we'd have access to her funds if we needed them. The lawyer told me that this, though not unusual, counted as a 'gift' of half of the each account's value, and that she should have reflected that gift as a deduction on her taxes the year that it occurred. As it happens, it hardly matters; it was well within the lifetime exclusion for gifts, but still: it came as a surprise. And it did reduce her taxable assets by fifty percent. (My mother frequently would tell me that she didn't want people to know exactly what she had, lest it be taxed. I'd say No, No, you have it already, it's not income, it's not taxable. Apparently, I was wrong. ) The lawyer told us that he knew of a part of Pennsylvania where the tradition was to add a child's name to the deed of ownership for the family farm when the child reached twenty five. This, too, was a gift, though the farmers "didn't know this". In fact, he said, they did know; they just acted as if they didn't. This year, the IRS found out about it. Good times for my profession, he said, laughing.
We get a newsletter called Consumer Reports Money Advisor. It's got the kinds of pieces of advice that we liked in the Kiplinger Newsletter, without the articles aimed at people with a lot more money than us. The current issue has an editorial titled Be Kind To Your Executor, saying, among other things, that you ought to have a single source of information that lists every financial asset you own, with contact information. I thought of our lawyer, and smiled.
Friday, January 15, 2010
-- going to the lawyers office to finish initial planning for our estate
-- talking to a second lawyer about my mother's estate
-- baking some dark chocolate cookies
-- shaping a piece of dough and baking it into a focaccia for lunch
-- reading about the periodic table (I still don't really understand it)
-- reading some more of that science fiction novel
-- seeing the mento, asking him about molecular bonding, and giving him some cookies
-- making stromboli for dinner tonight
I think that's enough.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
To put it mildly, the apartment was a sty -- a combination of intense and profound neglect and a pack-rat squirreling-away mentality akin to dementia. From the time he was hospitalized to now has been about three months, but the apartment looked as if it hadn't been cleaned in any way for years. The sheet - not sheets, sheet - on his bed was filthy; the pillow so encrusted with dirt that it was stiff. Papers, both significant and trivial, were found crammed into old cereal boxes in cupboards, or under piles of clothing on the floor of closets. Hundreds of photographs, both of his family - my family - and he, himself, alone and with his wife, were found similarly crammed into cardboard boxes, in envelopes, and lying scattered around. He had LPs, but no turntable; CDs, but no CD player. He had a ten year old PC which they couldn't bring themselves to touch because it was covered in mouse droppings. He had suits, some apparently unworn, but no socks, no underwear, no laundry. He had soap, but no shampoo, no combs, no toothpaste or toothbrush. No towels!
And more: they found that he owed various organizations a very large sum of money. There's no financial liability to survivors -- his debts were his alone. But no one understands why. Why did he need the money? Where did it go? Who else might there be, holding a note or a loan?
His surviving immediate family is in a state of severe apoplexy over all of this -- combinations of guilt - though they have nothing to feel guilty about, there's still the feeling of we should have done something -- anger - why didn't he ever respond to any of our notes or cards? - and even a certain amount of fear - what OTHER horrendous pieces of news are we going to come across?
It's a mess, to put it mildly. I told them that they might want to hire a private investigator who could do a public records search, just to see if they could piece together anything more of his life. We said we'd help if they needed it, and we will; I remember him as a friendly, amiable kid, and I'm saddened by his descent into whatever hell his home suggests. Right now, though? Everyone's just hoping it'll just go away.
No one's ready for this.
Last night, I was teasing my wife, and I told her that she obviously didn't appreciate me, so I was going to go find that accident woman, and see what developed. After all, I said, she's young, sexy, wears perfume, and gives great hugs. "You'll never find her", my wife replied. I disagreed. "She said she's only here for a couple of months, so she's either staying in a hotel or renting a furnished apartment. There aren't that many hotels in Camp Hill, and I could just go see if her car is there." My wife laughed. "What, you're going to go hang out in hotel parking lots, looking for a white car with New York plates and a cracked right headlight fairing?" "Got to do something with my days," I said. "Besides, she had really nice perfume. You know, like you used to wear." And then we moved onto other things.
Except that this morning, she wore perfume. Thank you, accident lady!
I remember being surprised when my wife told me, years ago, that the ingredients for a recipe were written in the order that you use them; while it made sense, it also contradicted my feeling that ingredients ought to be in alphabetical order. Why alphabetical? No special reason, other than a desire for orderliness and structure. I tend to rewrite recipes for the same reason. It mildly irritates me when a recipe has three steps, but each of the steps is a major category with about seven actions. I rewrite those into individual lines. And if I see something like 'put the dough into the preheated oven', I stick a note up top to say 'Heat the oven'. Not preheat. Thank you, George Carlin.
Still, there are things that I don't get, and I'd like to understand. For example, the first ingredient of this recipe:
Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe
4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
Why is either dough okay? If you need high-gluten for structure, then why is all-purpose, which is lower in gluten, okay, too? Is it 'this one is okay but that one is preferred?' Is there actually a 'high-gluten all-purpose'? I wouldn't think so -- then it's not all-purpose, right? And why chilled? This is just flour. Does the chilling do something to the structure of the flour? Or is it a cute way of trying to do something to the moisture level of the flour? And if so, why? I mean, you don't want soggy flour, but other than that, what's the point? After all, I'm going to be adding water - cold water - to it later. So what's up with that?
My flour -- all purpose -- is in the refrigerator now. Chillin'.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I'm currently reading a book that my daughter recommended. She said that she'd given it to her mother to read, and they both thought it was pretty funny. Well, I'm not at all of that opinion. It's got funny spots, but what it really does is give a great picture of someone just trying to get through the teen years without getting beaten up in the process. Not always successfully. I can easily see myself doing these things, wondering about these things. It feels right.
The book is Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher. I recommend it. I think Holden'd approve.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Christmas is barely behind us, and already there’s a lot of hype about the latest high-tech stuff. The gadget world is abuzz about what new product Apple might release this month. Some are saying it will be called the iSlate, a tablet computer (whatever that is). To this, I say ho-hum. So To Speak’s sources, all of whom asked to remain fictitious, provided information on Apple devices far more interesting than a tablet computer. Here are a few products just over the horizon:
What it is: a pancake with 1 gigabyte of memory.
Why you should want it: Experts are calling it the first in a line of edible electronics. As you consume the product, information is stored in your body, eliminating the need for hardware.
Drawbacks: Syrup tends to slow down the processor. It could inspire imitators — BlackBerry is already said to be developing a blackberry.
What it is: makeup with light-emitting diodes.
Why you should want it: Instead of buying eye shadow in different shades, the user can change the color by pressing a button on a remote control. The product is also capable of displaying provocative eyelid messages, such as “wink, wink,” or “call me.”
“I call it wishful blinking,” said one industry source. “It could be huge in a few years.”
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It would not be an exaggeration to say that that interaction scared me. I know now that I was overreacting, but at the time, I thought what if this means that I'm not such a good guy, faithful husband, all of that? What if it means, like our neighbor who was a schoolteacher for years, I was just waiting for the opportunity to go off the reservation? And in a somewhat less tense but still scary thought Is this what a midlife crisis feels like? Because I never had one, never felt the need to buy a bright red sportscar or get divorced and marry someone thirty years younger, any of that. I wondered if my surprising reaction -- surprising to me, anyway -- was an indicator that I was primed to go nutty. I mean, I was even thinking that if I drive in that area again, I ought to keep an eye out for her car. White car. New York plates. Cracked right headlight housing. Though what I'd do if I actually saw her again, I don't know. It was the source of some daydreams, though. And those made me wonder about my motivations, all over again.
Now, I'm thinking don't sweat it. I suppose problems are possible, but it's unlikely. Got a long, solid track record, and I'm just not the kind of person to wig out, toss it all away. Though, you know? Much as I hate to say it, I'm thinking that next time an attractive you woman asks for a hug, maybe we ought to just shake hands. I'm clearly not emotionally ready for more.
To be fair, they do need to plan -- the approach being taken by the person running it is pretty loose. But now I think I understand a little better why things take so long, there.
I told him that most mentors are stricter about checking up on homework and such, and they don't bake, either.
You mean I won? he asked.
Yes, I replied. You're a real winner.
Took him a minute to get it.
Loud Jewish grandmother: Nobody ever wants to come here to celebrate the holidays.
Louder Jewish son: What are you talking about, ma? We're all here!
(family sits in silence around table)
11-year-old granddaughter, softly singing: When you wish upon a star... Makes no difference who you are.
Okay, I like the image. Sue me.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
We had a good time. Quiet music, much too much to eat, and conversations. My neighbor's three children are still amazingly cute. Both daughters - around eight and six, I think - came up to me afterwards and solemnly said Thank you for inviting us. Another neighbor's son is growing like the proverbial weed (and he's only seven!) Three friends of my daughter's did not come, which was disappointing, not to mention one neighbor to whom we'd hand-delivered an invitation. Their loss. Ours, too.
Lots to clean up, now, but: I'm glad we did it.
But the thieves and brigands I'm thinking about is (are?) the Taliban and their thugs-in-partnership. It seems that we assume they're swift, sleek, and effective, and therefore scary. They are scary. They're killers, assassins, and just plain horrible people. They're the Mafia in turbans, only not the American Mafia, whom we've more or less come to accept as part of the criminal landscape, but the Sicilian Mafia, the one that that holds to the eye for a eye theory of justice. And then they go further, killing or maiming not just specific targets of their ire, but anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. We are stunned by the ferocity of the Taliban and their goons because we can't imagine people who hate so much that if the object of their hate suddenly disappeared, they'd wither up and die. We don't hate that much. We reason, talk, judge. In an early episode of West Wing, the newly-elected President wants to devastate a country where Americans have been killed. He rages that in Roman times, a citizen could walk without fear across the empire because he knew that if anything happened to him, the full might of the Roman Empire would come thundering down on that land, and decimate it - from the Latin Decem, referring to every tenth man who would be killed in furious retribution for that act. He finds out that such isn't the way of a great power, these days, and so do we. We could send a fleet of bombers to destroy the country and everyone in it, and promise to do the same to any other country that dared give free rein to people like that. We don't. We think, and reason, and communicate. Because that's what we call civilized, these days. We don't drop to their level. We try to bring them up to ours. And we frequently fail, spectacularly. It almost makes you understand the attraction that torture had to Cheney. Not that it worked -- I don't know if it did or not, though I suspect not. But because it was punishment. We got one of the criminal bastards.
Because that's what they are. Criminals. Not glorious freedom fighters, not defenders of the faith. Criminals. Pure and nasty.
That doesn't make them easier to combat. They've got a snug hiding spot, and they live in an environment which is much more interested in surviving to tomorrow than doing the morally right thing. Morals are for people with power, or people with nothing left to lose. Stomping out this infection isn't helped by the unwillingness of many other countries to get involved. Being involved means paying a high price for something that seems at times to be not much worth it, because like many nasty, foul things, they always come back. There's always someone wiling to proclaim jihad this, jihad that, and there's always someone willing to follow him, to die gloriously. It's hard to stop them all, and the power of explosives and biological agents multiplies the effectiveness of that one follower. What do they have to lose?
So - what do they have to lose? Does anyone know? Certainly, no one I know. I don't think that going for what they need, and we can take, is the answer. But it's an answer. I wonder if we're pursuing it. Want to bet no one would answer that?
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Part of it is emotional aftermath from that fender-bender I was involved with, the other day, about which I've spoken elsewhere (and said too much, I suspect).
Part of it is concern about my daughter - I know it's traditional to feel this way, but dammit I wish she were doing better in school. She tells me she's trying, and I believe it. I just want so much for her to have a successful life, and....(any parent can fill in the rest here).
Part of it is, I'm just glum. Feh.
The cost of going would be four hundred fifty dollars. We said no. She seemed disappointed, but not surprised.
Why do I feel guilty?
Friday, January 08, 2010
The hospital project that I've been working on (I use the term with tongue in cheek, because it's not been much work at all; I do more work baking), is actually starting to move. People are actually starting to try to use the product (and finding it confusing and contradictory). I actually got the okay to do some updates (which I burned through before they changed their minds). And I answered some user questions (and got confuzzed, myself, along the way).
So I'm pleased.
Part of it, I admit, is the hug. I don't get the opportunity to do that with someone like that very often. I liked it. I guess that sounds a little creepy, but it's true. It was an odd circumstance in which to find myself doing that, but still.
But part is that I really feel sorry for her. She was so shaken up. And now she has this repair to get done to her car. I'm not sure what it'll cost, but I'll bet enough to be noticable, not enough to be covered by insurance. I felt badly for her then, and I feel badly for her now. Not my fault, but still.
Both feelings mix together.
I slowed for a turn from one street to another, started to go, then stopped when traffic seemed to be starting again. The woman in the car behind me hit me, not hard. We both pulled over and did the obligatory checkout. Me and the van were fine, her car had a crack next to a headlight, and some damage to her bumper. She was actively quivering, to the point where she asked if I would hold her for just a minute. No heterosexual guy could resist a request for a hug from a slender, young, blond woman who had a scent of perfume, and I didn't, either. After a moment, she calmed down a little, and we got in my van to talk. I just wanted to calm her down a little more, because she was still agitated, still apologizing. She told me she was from Buffalo, down here for a couple of months to attend a training class. She was amazed at how freaked local people got with an inch of snow -- it wouldn't even register, in Buffalo. At one point, she asked if we should exchange insurance info, and I said no, because I wasn't planning on filing a claim. I did give her my name and number in case she wanted to contact me later if she did.
Driving away, I thought you should have gotten her name, dummy....just in case. But that perfume was so nice...and the hug was pretty good, too.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
I didn't mind the "Is the parking brake on?" comment, either. Slick.
So when I saw this article about what if they rebooted the Star Trek TV series, I thought hmmm....interesting idea. I wouldn't have cared for the idea, two years ago, for the same reasons as I cited above. But when I saw what could be done with Battlestar Galactica (truthfully, I wasn't a fan of the remake, but I very much liked the intelligence and energy and integrity that went into it; this was real -- or as real as something totally fictional could be), I was primed to think that maybe, just maybe, a remake of Star Trek would be worth watching. What would it be like to be aboard the Enterprise, doing discovery, first contacts, all of that? What would it be like to encounter totally alien species? To deal with life on a starship, away from other humans for months at a time? Yeah....I could get behind something like that.
Only: no tribbles, okay?
Monday, January 04, 2010
Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, 'I love you, and I wish you enough.'
The daughter replied, 'Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.'
They kissed and the daughter left. The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?'
'Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?'.
'I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral,' he said.
'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?'
He began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone..' He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. 'When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.' Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.
He then began to cry and walked away.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.
To all my friends and loved ones ... I wish you enough, and a very healthy, happy and awesome 2010!!