Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Well, it's over.

It wasn't too bad, especially if you like being half blind and unable to easily walk down a step or over a bump. The kids were mostly excited. One room just stood and watched me, warily; one pretty much entirely burst into tears. One little girl was spazzing out; she'd get some eggs, then swing her basket wildly, flinging them everywhere. Where'd my eggs go? My wife was there at one point; a little boy ran up to her and said The Easter Bunny!! Yes, she said, would you like to go over and say hello to him? NO!!!!

Would I do it again?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rabbit, Feh

Okay, here's two pictures. Guess who ought to be wearing the damn suit tomorrow. Me, or my daughter?

This thing is impossible. It's built for a thin, limber person. It zips up the back, and the flaps for the head go inside the jumpsuit. So you're trying to zip the damn thing up while wearing a papier-mache head that severely limits your vision and mobility. And then just try to get that damn vest on -- it doesn't slide over the fur, and this one, at least, is snug across my shoulders. I swear I heard a seam rip.

Never again. At least, not after tomorrow. Feh. If I ever do it again, I'm wearing this one.

Dough, Baked

Not Much

Thinking about the front lawn, which could stand to be mown. But, you know, it's going to rain soon. And it's way windy.

Thinking about the bread in the oven, which has about 20 minutes to go. Then it cools for two hours.

Thinking about my mento, who failed sixth grade and may be on his way to failing eighth. Boy, am I helping him.

Thinking about the incoherent fury of Tea Party people.



This is fun, particularly with Soul Kitchen.

Monday, March 29, 2010


That would be my daughter, who's moving quite slowly. She woke up with difficulty, saying that she'd woken up multiple times during the night, and at breakfast she was sneezing and coughing. We agreed that this would be a good day to stay home, especially when she didn't flinch when I said this would mean not going to Karate tonight. She likes going, even though she's now starting to get kicked (lightly) in the stomach. I honestly don't think she's ever conned us into letting her stay at home. Stretched the truth a bit about how she's felt, yes -- the classic I don't feel well enough to go to school; I want to stay home; I'll be downstairs watching television . But far away from a classic Ferris Bueller moment. I hope they never remake that film; the original is pure gold.

I'm thinking I might make bread today. It'll be one of the 'no-knead' ones; as the book I'm reading notes, kneading builds gluten, which forms the structure of the bread, but so does a long - loooooong - autolyse, when you let the bread go sit in a corner for eight to twelve hours, if not more. That's what I'm going to do -- form the dough this afternoon, let it rise for about 18 hours, bake it tomorrow. As it's a glum, overcast day, I imagine it's going to take a lot of time to get a rise out of the dough.

No insights today. Trying not to think that the twinge I feel in my left arm is connected to the implant there or the weather. That's a old guy thing. Even if I do feel older at finding out, last night, that a friend who stopped by on her way back to college is actually in her senior year. But she's just a kid!!! Um, no.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Two days till I get the costume. Three days till I do the deed.

And then, likely, this.



I don't have much truck with Valentine or his day -- but this, I like.

We went to church this morning. It was one of the long Masses, for the start of Holy Week. I recall as a kid asking my mother if Friday was Good Friday, was Thursday Pretty-Good Thursday, Wednesday Fairly-Bland Wednesday, and so forth. She didn't think so. Today, the church was so full -- not normally a problem in our church -- they started to run out of hosts. I got half of one. I told my wife that this meant I got to leave when half the mass was done, and she said No, it's still considered the Body of Christ. I told her Maybe, but it looks like he's gotten shorter. She lost it for a couple of minutes.

I suppose the Catholic Church has been losing it for a while. Its sort of like Bill Clinton having to admit that yes, once again, he couldn't keep it zipped. Yet another major part of the church has disclosed that it's had -- and still has -- a serious problem with priests who are child molesters. And once again, the Pope doesn't feel the need to get out in front of it, make major changes, fire and jail these pedophiles. He likes things just as they are. After all, look where it got him!

Keeping with the status quo is working for other people, too. I see where we're now reporting that Iran probably is working on creating nuclear weapons. They just keep cruising along, doing as they damned well please. It's worked so far, though I imagine that at some point Israel will attack Iran, and we'll keep diplomatically silent about it. And send them more aid.

I was looking casually for a blog that's both conservative and intelligent. Then I realized that such a blog won't tell me why people like Sarah Palin and Glen Beck, which is what I really want to know. Of course, I know I'm expecting too much, looking for that, especially when my view of political strategy is kind of at this level. So I read this, instead. Some of it clearly is 'drinking the Kool-Aid' (this is, after all, a consultant's blog), but some is kind of interesting.

And now it's time for a nap.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Waiting With TiVo and the Cat

This is the part that I hate.

It's about 9:30, and I'm starting to think that sleep would be a good idea. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter are at the color guard competition. My wife is coming home around midnight; my daughter will be on the bus, arrived some time between eleven and eleven thirty. She'll call me when the bus is near the school, and I'll go get her. Which means I can't go to sleep unless I'm dressed and ready to go as soon as she calls. Sooner, I think would be her preference.

So I've been downstairs killing time with the cat and TiVo. Cat curled up and went to sleep next to me. I don't know what it is about sitting there, scratching a cats belly, that's so relaxing, but I liked it. She did, too, based on the idea that she didn't react when I started, but opened her eyes when I stopped. Then she stretched, and casually laid her self down right next to me. I know, it's a shared bodily warmth thing.

And I've been watching TV, occasionally recording some for later watching. Sometimes, I think TiVo isn't as smart as they say. Why didn't it know that I would be fascinated with the CSPAN America And The Courts program that had Breyer and Scalia casually tossing barbs at each other about how much you can and should read into the law (I'm surprised that Steven couldn't see that, to me, it's perfectly clear.... Well, Antonin, if I've used a new argument today, perhaps you ought to consider it). I mean, fascinating. Here are these two guys with diametrically opposed views -- doesn't hurt that one looks like an English Lit professor and the other a professional bouncer -- laying out what they think, and why it's so obvious to them. Why didn't TiVo know I'd like that, or at least tell me it was coming? And then about ten minutes of a program about Marines at Parris Island -- I always wonder how much the DIs tone things down for when they're being filmed; certainly, that woman teaching unarmed combat looked lethally competent; even when she was smiling, she was scary. I stopped after 10 minutes. I could never have handled that, I think. And then about an hour of Alaska State Troopers, who are seriously tough of a different nature -- they do surprise drills of their people on back roads in freezing temperatures? Using live ammunition? And then about an hour of a SyFy series called Sanctuary, about which I'd heard but never seen; man, that's good. Why didn't TiVo know I'd like this stuff?

But now I have to go get dressed, and then get some sleep.


I'm not a big fan of prequels. But this fellow has some interesting ideas for them. Xena, huh? Doctor Who, back when? I like the idea.


I've never played, but.... I suppose I could be persuaded.


Nothing quite so diminishes my desire to be helpful in the morning as being told, after saying 'sure, I'll try making you scrambled eggs, but realize that I don't really know how to do that', as having the daughter peer at the pan and say "That's not how I do it."

Apparently, you're supposed to constantly stir them. Otherwise, it's an omelet. Or something.

Her obvious surprise at my irritation doesn't help the matter. Does make it flamingly less likely that I'll offer to do it again. Though the sheepish um, the eggs tasted really good afterwards was funny. Nice try on manipulating the old man, kiddo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Purchases, Almost

Three times I've gone to Amazon and looked at a $12.00 baking book, which I've checked out of the local library, and which I like.

Three times I've said No, I'm not ready to spend twelve dollars on myself for a book that, having read through, I'll put on the shelf and likely not look at for several weeks.

I need to convince someone to buy it for me.

Ah, Leprechauns


This -- at least some of it -- has got to be illegal.

Everyone Knows Its...

Windy. And, how. I'm sitting in the kitchen, looking at the grill cover billowing furiously. We have a large rock sitting atop the cover, but even thought it masses several times the weight of the cover, I'm not entirely sure that the thing's not going to just get shrugged right off, crashing down to the slab below. Our brief pre-Spring clearly isn't here now.

This is going to be be another chaotic weekend, though likely the last for a while. My wife is getting up at 5:30 tomorrow to gather up two other women and drive down to a town near Gettysburg, where the color guard championships are being held. It's going to be an all day event, and she doesn't expect to be home before midnight. My daughter goes to practice tomorrow morning around 10, and she expects to be home around the same time. Neither one will be coherent on Sunday morning!

In a little bit, some remodelors will be here to create an estimate for redoing our hall bath. It's not as major a deal as downstairs - mostly repainting - but it does have the potential for significant financial impact, as we expect to need repairs to the plumbing -- we think the existing john is slowly leaking, and has been for a while -- and we want to get an estimate for completely replacing the thirty-year-old tub with something a lot nicer, similar to what they did downstairs. We'd really like to make it a bigger tub, but unless we a) gut, in whole or part, the master bath (which is the smallest one in the house), or b) remove our sole closet in the master bedroom, I don't think that's going to happen. We also want to look into having the insulation in our attic reinforced, which is a major hassle because the only way into the attic is through my daughter's bedroom closet, with all of the heaving and hauling that implies. And the 'attic' is more a crawlspace than anything.

Last night, my daughter and I reviewed biology. What do you do when the teacher says something that sort-of but not-exactly contradicts the text?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


We went for a driving lesson tonight.

On the one hand, she did much of it well, including driving on a relatively busy road.

On the other, she scared me three times. And, she's getting just a little cocky.

Pix From The Web

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tooling Around

From a coworker of my wife:


DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the knuckles and flings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part that was set aside to dry

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say, "Ouch..."

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age. Also useful for spinning drill bits in reverse until the tip glows red.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija Board Principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub you want the bearing race out of.

WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older British cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16" or 1/2" socket you've been searching for the last 15 minutes.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new disk brake pads, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG DOUGLAS FIR 2X4: Used for levering an automobile upward off a hydraulic jack handle.

TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood and metal splinters. It is made from a magical material that turns invisible when you need it, and re-appears when you don't.

PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbors to see if he has another hydraulic floor jack. Also useful for calling the parts store and complaining that the moron at the counter gave you what you asked for, and it's not the right one.

SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog poop off your boot.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps off in bolt holes you absolutely have to have.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the tensile strength on everything you forgot to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2" x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.


TROUBLE LIGHT: The home mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the Sunshine Vitamin," which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, it's main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

PHIL LIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last over tightened 58 years ago by someone at Chevrolet, and neatly rounds off their heads.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the expensive metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a .50 cent part. Also used to bend or break expensive, irreplaceable, collector car parts.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to cut hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive e parts not far from the object we are trying to hit.

MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts.

DAMMIT TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling "DAMMIT" at the top of your lungs. It is also the next tool that you will need.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My daughter is 16.

She is, perhaps, eight to twelve years from being married with a young child.

I didn't get married till I was 35. Didn't have a child until I was 45.

Isn't that a good idea? Isn't it?

Where the hell is that stop button?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hop To It

I got a call from the woman who recruited me to be Santa at a local church last year. She wanted to know if I'd be willing to play Peter Rabbit at their annual festival.

I was hesitant. It wasn't so much the sitting with the kids coming up to you for pictures and whatnot. That, I'd have no problem with. It was the costume. I've seen people wear outfits like that at Christmas, and when they took the head off, they were always sopping wet with sweat. Didn't sound like fun. Still.... I said I'd give it a try.

Maybe the costume they're renting will look like this.


This morning, I gave money to two women about whom I know almost nothing. Their names are Ann McLane Kuster and Krystal Ball.

The reason is this: yesterday, every single Republican voted against the health care bill. Not a single one of them -- I'm sorry, I can't finish that sentence. It sickens me.

But along with them, marching in solidarity, were 34 Democrats. Now, Democrats like diversity, sometimes to the point of dementia, so I wouldn't have been too surprised to find that five or ten voted with the heathens. But 34? That's over ten percent of the House Democrats. WTF?

So this morning, when I got one of the mailings I occasionally get from one or two organizations who want a more aggressive, more Big D Democratic attitude toward politics -- I was primed.

I'm not looking for bomb-throwers, and I do know that this organization -- ActBlue, also known as BoldProgressives -- is likely to support exactly that sort of person. But clearly, the official Democratic Party seems to have lost the ability to promote its cause effectively. Well, there are one or two... though Al Franken's the only one that comes to mind. As for the others -- this mailing called them 'corporate Democrats'. I agree. There's more than a few of them out there, and maybe it's time to get them out of there.

So I gave money to Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) and Krystal Ball (VA-01). Two women about whom I know almost nothing.

The President doesn't hold a grudge. That's what he has me for.

-- Josh Lyman
..The West Wing
..Five Votes Down

Sunday, March 21, 2010


At times, when pushing my daughter to do better in biology, I feel like a bit of a fraud. The truth is, I don't think that I could have done the work she is asked to do at the level that she's asked to do it. I only know of two kids who can do it. One is a studying freak, who studies all the time (no kidding; she has been known to take the breaks in band practice to open a book and start studying it). The other is a kid who grew up in a family that cherishes the ecology and has frequently had multiple animals in the house at once (not all of whom were locatable). She's taking college courses in biology while still in second year of high school.

But other than them, I think most kids are doing well just to get a glimmering of what's being asked of them in that course. I come to this conclusion after spending the last two hours reading one chapter in her biology text, including the notes that she's been given. Actually, its more of a 'study guide', but, like a street with missing or burned out streetlights, not all of the notes are clear. Sometimes, you have to guess. At least one phrase from her notes -- adaptive radiation, if you're curious -- doesn't appear in the vocabulary, doesn't appear in the glossary, doesn't appear in the index, and doesn't appear in the text of the notes. Is it in the text of the book? Yeah, possibly. They again, maybe not. My daughter says that this instructor is known for mentioning something once and then putting it on the test. I assume that 'mentioning it once' means ' he spent fifteen minutes on the concept' and not 'he spent thirty seconds on the concept in between two other much longer ones'. Though I suppose that's possible, too. And some of the things he likes to mention - and test on - aren't in the text or the notes. You didn't write it down? You're screwed.

In any event, I Googled the phrase, read the notes in Wikipedia, and thought oh, they're talking about the finches' beaks thing. Okay. But is that clearly stated in the text? Well, I just looked, and I can't find it. Then again, the text isn't what I'd call clearly written. Part of that is because they're trying to weave multiple concepts in and out, but part is because they seem to like to tease you with a little info, and then go back to it pages later. So just because you found a reference to the concept doesn't mean you found all of the references to the concept. And sometimes they like to say that you really need to understand a concept first that, to my eye, you only need to understand a little bit. Tell me again why knowing how gene sequencing works helps in understanding natural selection? (I didn't make that example up, by the way.)

So maybe she really is trying. No, that's not fair. I believe she is; I believed it before starting this little odyssey. But now I think that trying harder won't hack it, because I'm doing that right now -- and, myself, I noticed that the deeper I got into the text, the thinner and more sporadic my notes got. I was getting overwhelmed. Is this part key? Is this phrase important? And I'm not under any pressure to know it. I can forget it all tomorrow and that's cool. But she can't. She has to be able to regurgitate it for a test, and not just the stuff that's obviously important, but the stray stuff that, you know, he just mentioned once.


Saturday, March 20, 2010


My daughter's color guard instructor possibly thinks that I am a Bad Dad. My daughters color guard compatriots -- at least the ones riding in the van with her today -- probably think I'm pretty cool.

The reason: yesterday, I made some brownies so I could give a couple to my mento. I didn't want any of the rest, though, so I told my daughter they could take them on the road trip. This would be the road trip where the instructor said that they had to bring Healthy Snacks.

Well, we think they're healthy. And apparently, so do those girls. Oh, and if you ask your daughter to cut the brownies, you will get really big pieces.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Tomorrow, my wife, daughter, and four other girls take a two hour trip to a color guard competition. They don't get back until eight, Sunday night.



I don't understand eggs. I've eaten them, but not with relish (or mustard, though I hear ketchup is good). I've had scrambled eggs, which I've liberally coated with seasonings, and it was barely palatable. But eggs per se, I don't get.

So when I found that my daughter liked fried egg, I learned how to make it -- but not how to enjoy it. I looked up recipes for them, to see if perhaps there was a way that I could make one that I'd like, but, other than the references to Use a hell of a lot of butter... no, more than that! , I haven't found any. So I look at this thing I've cooked, and I think And she'll EAT that? And then she does.

I even know the joke about why the French only eat one egg at a time, but I don't get eggs.

Speaking Out

It's not much, but I sent this to my Congressman, using (and substantially rewriting) a form letter at the site.

I am using a letter form that's supplied by the site, but that's not why I'm here. I'm here because telling you how I feel about health care is the right thing to do.

I'm a Democrat, but I vote for Republicans when they're the best person, or when what they say makes sense to me. I figure that voting the party ticket just because I'm in that party is a way of saying 'I like other people thinking for me'. I don't like that, and I suspect you don't, either.

This health care bill isn't what anyone wants, totally. It costs way too much. It has gihugic loopholes. Theres a lot more politics and a lot less health than there ought to be. And did I mention it costs a ton of money, at a time when we're deep in the hole?

But I'm for it anyway. For the same reason that I vote for the best person, regardless of party affiliation.

Because it's the right thing to do.

Please see my message to you, along with the stories and photos of other Americans from your district and across the nation, at

Thank you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Got Portable Stuff

aka GPS.

Which we now have - Garmin 1300T.

We like it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


In her color guard show, my daughter (and others) are supposed to appear to be very sad. One of the judges at the most recent competition said my daughter was so good at it, she actually brought the judge to tears. And to ask why the others couldn't do it that well. The coach ended up asking my daughter to dial it down a bit.


At my college, the students were informally known as Jaspers, after, I think, a beloved teacher early in the school's history. The school was all-male at the time, though when I went, both sexes were allowed. Both were known as Jaspers.

A friend went to the Stevens Institute of Technology, also all male, and their students were known as Techs. Once women were allowed in, the question arose: what to call them?

The winning answer was:


Better If Read By....

I trace the fall of Western civilization to the first time that the phrase "Use Before This Date" was replaced by "Better If Used By".

No longer did things go bad; they just were, perhaps, just quite as tasty as they otherwise would have been had they been consumed earlier. While some of this might be attributable to the increased use of preservatives, some of which will likely keep food marginally edible long after life as we know it has vanished from the planet, I believe that most of it is someone -- in Marketing, most likely, with the connivance of someone from Legal -- thinking that this implies the product is eternally usable. But, some likely protested, if we take off the Use Before, then people won't look at it, toss the product, and go buy more! Profits will go down! Glumness all 'round the boardroom table. No, dammit, the CEO says, striking a bold stance, we'll do it -- Better If Used By will be the new corporate byword! Damn the vagueness! And so it was.

No longer did people apologise for doing something wrong; now they were sorry if you were offended. No longer did sports figures try to hide their transgressions; now they were wrestling with their personal demons. No longer were kids lazy or stupid; now they were not sufficiently motivated, less-than-optimally matched to the curriculum.

This post better if read


Last night, my daughter asked if, instead of coming straight home from karate, she could hang out with a friend who also takes karate. A male friend. "His sister will be there", she added helpfully.

This struck fear into my heart. I said no.

On the way home, she asked, casually, how much of this was due to him being a guy. I said About a third. Yoe still have homework to finish tonight. And we don't know if his parents will be there.

But, thinking about it? About half.


There's a school in Mississippi that's cancelling the prom rather than let a girl wear a tuxedo and bring another girl. The ACLU is on the case!

That would be the organization which prides itself on defending the Constitution.

Where does it say in the Constitution that you're entitled to a prom? The withholding of which requires firing up the lawsuit machine?

Granted the school's being stupid, and feeding every hush-puppy eating mush-mouth speaking bigot stereotype around, but - so? Is this truly a Constitutional question?

I guess it's clear what I think.


Well, reluctantly (Oh, god, this is gonna take a long time), I opened up the Census envelope and took out the form. Oh, hell, its six or eight pages long! I filled out the first part -- my name, age (why do they ask both my age and my date of birth?), sex (I thought of putting Yes, Please), and race (for which I always want to put 440 meter or something equally helpful). Guess that's why it's a checkbox question, and not fill-in-the-blank.

Then I did it again for my wife, and then for my daughter.

And that was it.

That was IT ???

I feel lost. Trivialized. Ignored by my government. A once-in-ten-years survey, and they can't find anything else to ask? Okay, okay, I know, only a few get the three inch thick Manhattan Unabridged Phone Book Version, and I wasn't one of them. But still -- I feel cheated. Where's the detail? The drama? The Subsection Four Paragraph Two Options One, Two and Four? The listing of pets? The sense upon completion of a Job Well Done?

Fortunately, I have the hypercomplex tax forms to give me solace. Because I know that the IRS cares so much, if I don't do it all, and do it right, they'll put me in jail. Now that's caring.

The census guys? Piffle.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Step Off

My goodness.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crisis Mapping

There's a fascinating article in the Sunday New York Times on a software tool called Ushahidi.

The tool, which was developed to track instances of misbehavior (to put it mildly) after Kenya's disputed 2007 election, allows real-time tracking of events. They're reported via multiple methods (but mostly cellphone) to a central nexus where a person takes the information -- what happened, where, how bad -- and keys it in. The tool is used to generate a Mapquest-like map of the area, showing the cumulative reports - how many, what type, where, what details. Over time, you build up a picture of what's truly going on -- where are the false or mistaken reports, where are the intense hot spots. And it's done virtually instantaneously, powered by the people most affected.

Even my opaque mind is boggled by the concept. Okay, I do think you could game that system, something like a DDOS attack? But even so -- wow. A terrific concept.


On the way in to Color Guard, NPR had an article about Chinese trade and fiscal policy, mentioning that some people thought the yuan was undervalued. What does that mean, my daughter asked. So I talked with her for five minutes on the valuation of currencies, what punitive tariffs are and why people like them, and how it ties into the idea of global trade. I told her that economics can be deathly dull, but when you tie it back, it's real life.

I had a good time.


I like being able to make a decent burger, and I've mentioned in an earlier post that I was pleased to find some basic concepts on how to cook one that really do make a difference.

But this far, I'll never go. Those people are insane.


One of the less-fun parts of being in the military was participating in annual readiness inspections. In the Strategic Air Command, that meant Operational Readiness Inspections. For missile guys, it was relatively minor - it wasn't as if we could launch the missile!

One year, my deputy got sick, and I was assigned a deputy from another squadron. The missile checkout -- you had to send simulated commands to each missile, then record the results on a computer tape -- took a long time to do, so we split it. I did the first half of the flight, he did the second half. Only it turned out that the very last missile I did sent back an extra response, which he thought was from his first one. He didn't send the interrogation, so there was no valid response, so the missile failed.

Many, many people were unhappy with me.

On the other hand, if I hadn't decided to get out of the Air Force, I wouldn't have gone to EDS, and therefore wouldn't have met my future wife. Maybe I'd have met A future wife, but not one as good as this one.

So, okay.


I've come to the realization that the combination of stairs and my mother in law can be hazardous to your health.

I've already mentioned the results of my coming down her steep stairs, a year or so ago. Now I find that my brother in law, coming down his stairs while she was visiting, had the same effect -- he tripped, broke his leg, and might need surgery.

Clearly, a trend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Back when I worked for EDS, I had a period when I didn't react well to pressure.

It was shortly after the new data center manager had correctly observed that when it came to pushing people, I wasn't very good. I didn't like doing it, and I would look for ways to avoid doing it. I liked to think that I was simply giving them the opportunity to do the job their way, but his feeling was that I was there to get the job done, and if I couldn't do that, or wouldn't, then I ought not to be doing it. So I went from being a first-level manager to being a grunt technician again. There had been things that I liked about being a manager - mostly, the office, and participating in 'management discussions' (they were mostly him telling us what we were going to do; they'd be sprinkled with requests for our opinions, but we noticed that he didn't care for opinions that weren't supportive), and one or two other things. On the other hand, I hated doing evaluations, and feeling as if I had no way to help people along their careers. I couldn't get them training, I couldn't swap jobs for them with someone else. I couldn't even give them a day off without getting some grief for it from my direct manager. So, not being a manager wasn't terrible. And it did get to mean that I worked entirely on tech stuff, which was (and is) my preference.

But what I didn't realize was that inside, I was simmering. I wasn't happy about the change, mostly because the guy that they picked to replace me was someone that I viewed as a crude bozo. He'd been an Operations manager, and he really didn't understand tech types, so he treated them as if they were brand-new tape operations people, not too bright and requiring direction without latitude. He inadvertently did me a favor, refusing to let me take two Fridays off a month so that I could attend a Masters program in system analysis (it was a favor because I'd never have used the knowledge, and it would have cost me $50,000, with absolutely no financial support from EDS), but that favor at the time rubbed me the wrong way.

I didn't know that I was having a -- well, I won't call it a 'rage' problem, because it doesn't feel that way, even now, but I suppose it's as good a description as any -- a rage problem until one of the technicians from another area came to ask me a question when I was feeling more put-upon than normal. He wanted an answer right away; I told him that I had no time for it or him then, and that he should come back in an hour or so. He pushed; I said Come. Back. Later. And I stared at him, apparently so fiercely that he went away and told one of my coworkers that he wasn't coming back to my cubicle unless he had a stick.

I had an extended conversation with his manager, where words like 'fire' were used. The upshot was that I got to spend some time talking with a local psychologist service about anger and the workplace. The psychologist was a nice enough person, but here's the only thing I got out of it: at one point, she asked me what I did to relax, and I had to think about it. Well, I said, I like to read. Oh, she replied dryly, I can just hear the joy in your voice. Which is pretty much when I realized that I didn't know how to relax. Even now, I don't know. For me, it's like falling asleep. I put myself in a position where I have been known to feel relaxed, afterward, and I hope that I become relaxed. I can't do something -- can't, for example, start building a model or talking a walk or counting stars -- because those are all doing, and once done, they're done. They don't bring relaxation.

But sometimes, without warning, relaxation falls upon me, anyway.

I think that this, in a way, is why I don't get Facebook. Like 'relaxing', I understand the concept, but it's theory. I don't see how to put it into practice. The idea of social networks intended to link people together makes me feel the way that I did when I was a kid and came across an apple corer in my grandmother's kitchen. I knew that it had a purpose, I knew that it was useful in some way, but I couldn't see how it might be useful to or used by me. That's not to say that I haven't joined Facebook; I have. But if it's supposed to assist me in hooking up with others, finding people of similar tastes, predilections, interests, friends of my friends with whom I will find surprising connections - then it's not working. I'm not entirely sure why. Other people like it, apparently quite a lot. Me, not so much. Got about 19 friends, mostly people I've worked with or my family. I hear of people who make extended connections,got hundreds of people they've friended. I can't imagine how. Are they simply way more social than me? Perhaps the 'ability to make friends on Facebook' is contained in a gene that skipped my generation. I should start a group on Facebook for people who don't get much out of Facebook. We could be like those London clubs composed of people so solitary that they never come to the club. Want to join?

One Down

First hour of driving practice done. Went surprisingly well. Most of the victims will recover, and the fire is mostly out.

Seriously, not bad, not bad at all.

Pi Day?

So....should I make a pie? The thought is intriguing. And I don't make nearly enough of them to feel comfortable with it. The experience would do me good.

Which is likely more than I could say for my waistline!

Sit On It, And...

Canon, you nimwits.

The Canon Power Shot has a rotate option. You take a picture, and if the image isn't straight ahead, it rotates it ninety degrees. Okay, good.

Unless you took a movie on an angle. That, it won't rotate. You get to crook your head to watch it.

I'm sure this is trivial to people who do it for a living. Just use XXXX package and rotate it, dude!

Canon, you nimits. Do a Gsearch on "canon powershot movie rotate" and see how many entries come up!

(Fortunately, Picassa handles it just fine.)


FBs been on my mind, this morning. Must be the time change.

First, my daughter asked me last night how to defriend someone -- she'd friended him, and then he started asking some questions, so that she decided she didn't really want to 'know' this guy. Creep, I thought, and walked her through the process (which, though easy, is harder than it ought to be.)

And then I sent a FB note to someone I somewhat-knew from email conversations a while back, just to say Hi. The emails had stopped when she decided that she didn't actually know me well enough to continue. I could understand that, even as I thought at the time Wait, I'm normal, honest!

Um. Yeah. Kind of strange, seeing both sides so close together.

I don't know if this person will respond to my note, but if not? I think I understand why. (But I'm normal! Honest!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

No, Not Mine

This is actually an ad for Postbank.... but it's quite good.

Snore and Guzzle

I just came across the Snore and Guzzle site. Odd name. Delightful feel, though.


This is one of those huh! sites.

Wooly Headed Thoughts

If it's really possible for the gummint to tell us what they think we owe, since they take what we say and check it against what they know, why don't they? Yeah, I know the answer to that. Part of it is reasonable (their estimate of what I owe makes certain assumptions; I might not agree, and want to restructure my finances to change it. ) But part is politics and deep-pocket donors. That part sucks.

I am really tired of this roaring wind and occasional rain. If I'd wanted to live this way, I'd have moved to Oregon and camped on a mountain.

Getting up from a nap and feeling so cold that you put on jeans and a warm sweater -- it makes me feel old.

That thing where the school penalized the kid for doing something stupid, and then publicizing it? I don't think it was the school's place to do that. I think they should have notified the parents and left it at that. Does that mark me as a liberal?

Was this guy wrong? I don't think so, but --

Wonder what an actual professionally-done lapdance is like? And if my heart would stand it? Let alone, my marriage? (Yeah, I know the answer to the last one!)

...and no, I'm not planning on one. Just curious.

Why isn't it possible to get advice on exercise and diet that doesn't sound like someone tut-tutting you? Even the best of them slip in some nagging... and they usually like to say start with eating artichokes and rutabagas fourteen times a day, or something like that. Give me simple things that I might actually do. Anything.

Well, okay, except: don't eat chocolate chip cookies. I mean, c'mon....

Just a Sip

One of the color guard girls was someplace where she had two sips of beer (her statement; more or less, who knows?) That was dumb but understandable. Or maybe its understandable but dumb. It's why we will occasionally let our daughter taste wine, on the few times that we have it. This was, likely, just a lark.

Putting it on Facebook, where the school could find out -- that was seriously dumb. She dearly loves color guard. She's now suspended from all non-academic activities for 45 days -- including the big finale of color guard for the year.

When I asked my daughter if the kids thought a different punishment would have been fairer, she said they couldn't think of one. Me, neither. The kid has to know how seriously its taken -- and this isn't the school being rigid about silly things; this kind of screwup really does have the potential for disaster -- but still.

It was dumb, and stupid, but I feel sorry for her.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chilly Night

Its about ten PM, Friday, and the wind's blowing cold out there. I just tried locking up the cat, but she was having none of it. Usually, I can trick her into it by filling her dish, then vacating while she's eating, but this time, no go; she looked at it, looked at me, and went to stand in the doorway. Part might be that wind; I think the sound spooks her, a bit.

My wife and I were talking about how our daughter's doing in school. French grade is back up, thanks to retaking a test (I do NOT remember having that as an option in school); History and English are both good, and Biology is, for the moment, better than good. Which mean, we realized together and independently, that she hasn't mentioned Math lately. Hmm....So we both asked. She's going to talk to the teacher.

All day color guard for her and the mother tomorrow. Me? I think I'll get the taxes polished off. Well, except for the state. The great and wonderful company for whom my wife now works screwed up the state returns. Their solution? "We'll reissue them, but you might want to consider applying for an extension." Good thing they bought a computer company, huh?

I know, I know. Chill.

Permit THIS

So, guess who's all giddy this afternoon?


My daughter asked me to drive her to school this morning. I told her that I would be glad to, as this might be the last day for a while when a departure doesn't result in a Can I drive????

My wife asked me to bake cookies for the color guard's home show tomorrow. And I have to go get gas (it would be really cool to run out of gas on the way to the driver's licence bureau this afternoon), drop off a video for the daughter at the library, and pick up a prescription for her.

But, given the rain, what I WANT to do is .... go back to sleep.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My daughter is now officially a sparring karate student.

Tomorrow, she tries for her driver's learners permit.

What's next?


I don't normally drink soda. But if I do, I prefer the can to look like this.

Two Things

Her stress test was fine, so now they want to try some other stuff to figure out where this tightness in the chest -- they seemed to like the word 'fleeting' -- comes from.

And I actually made a call to my Representatives office in support of the health care bill. I'm sure it will matter not a bit, but -- I did it.

Blogger gives ads based on the content of the post. After I posted the above, I got this:

Pennsylvania Health Plans
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Hair on Fire

I read some time ago of a guy who said that when he worked from home, his kids had a hard time telling when he could be interrupted, and when not. He eventually said If I'm wearing my baseball cap, I'm working. If I'm not, you can interrupt me. Which wasn't as descriptive as a woman who said Don't interrupt me unless it involves fire or blood. Today's not quite that bad, but when my wife bolted out the door, she said I'm leaving you, goodbye!

Ahem. Let me rephrase that.

In an hour I go to the hospital to work with someone on the software package. Afterwards, I have lunch with my wife, we hope. Then I come back and make a grocery list and go shopping. When my daughter comes home I take her to the doctors for a checkup for the drivers licence. Tonight I take her to karate. Somewhere in there, I tell her that we decided to take her for the damn test tomorrow anyway. As my wife put it, at our age, what's a couple of days delay? But to a teen....

Driving Ambition

And boy, is she ready. She's keenly aware that her classmates have learner's permits -- some have their licences! We were going to take her for the written test tomorrow afternoon, but we're reluctant, as she has a very long extra color guard practice that night, plus, she'll be tied up all day Saturday with a competition, so when will she do homework? Oh, there's a lot of empty time at the competition, I'll do it then. Dash it off, more than likely. Tuesday, I said. But I'll take you out on Sunday and try a couple of things. She was delighted by that -- for a day. Now she's back to Can't we go for the test on Friday? We pay for one, I said. Are you ready? Sure...and if not, I'll pay for the retest. If you fail, we don't go out until you pass. WHAT???

What fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jihad Jane

Yet another Muslim (real or fake, I don't know) saying she (in this case) wants to help the brotherhood by blowing things up.

Yet another brain-dead person who'd like to kill because, you know, that's the way of peace.


I like having things to read, but it's a funny thing: I have to be in the mood to read them. The other day, I brought a book back to the library that had a lot of potential -- it was The Bakers Manual, and it's a really good volume; not quite a theory book, not quite a collection of recipes -- but I just couldn't get started on it. I made some cookies from it (which I liked; they were denser than normal, mostly because they used a skosh of shortening, and grittier, because they used a goodly amount of both white and brown sugar), but looking at the rest of the book - Do I want to make some yeast breads? A pie? Different kind of cookie? - I just couldn't get started. So I went to the library to bring it back, last night, and while I was there, I used their bathroom.

This is significant only because of the layout of the library: the bathrooms are near the Large Print section, so I idled there, thinking about when I would pick up large print books for my mother. It usually wasn't too hard to find one that she'd like, as most of them were mild romance. They're not, as a rule, my taste, which is why I was surprised to find one mixed in with them that intrigued me. And since I've since read 84 pages of Storm Cycle (remember, this is large print), and want to know what happens next? , I'm thinking: maybe I'm in the mood for it.

Or for The Baking Answer Book, which I started leafing through while waiting for my daughter to exit karate, last night. You know you've read, perhaps, too much about baking when you read that 'Most chefs agree that pure vanilla extract gives a more intense flavor' and find yourself looking in the glove box for a pencil so that you can note that the people at Cooks Illustrated don't agree -- they think that imitation is just as good, and they were so surprised, they did the test twice more, with the same results. Or that when you come home, having read that 'a large egg weighs about two ounces; an extra-large, two and a quarter ounces', and immediately get out the digital scale and weigh one of the 'large' eggs in the carton. (Which, to my surprise, turned out to be: two point three ounces. Extra-large? Surprising.)

I'm still reading, and enjoying, Mindfulness, of course. But it's a book that you can't rush through -- you almost have to read a little, let it percolate through your brain, and then go back and reread it a bit before moving on. And there's this article about a magician, in the Sunday Times, that I want to get back to, too. I usually get irked when people make a million dollars a year -- but this guy, I think Yeah, okay, he's worth it. So I want to read that. And there's an article about David Axelrod, in the Washington Post....

In the meantime -- what did the Answer Book say about buttermilk?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


a) She redid a test, and got a grade up from a C to a B. This is half-good news. The other half is, of course, why the heck did she get a C to begin with.

b) She's going to take the drivers permit test on Tuesday. Thirty three bucks to take the test. How do they come up with these fees? But we told her: we pay for the first one. She pays for any retests. She's suddenly a lot more interested in passing, first time.

c) On Sunday, we're going to find a large, empty parking lot and noodle around a little bit. Not much, just starting, getting it moving, big looping turns, panic stops. I'll try not to be the one panicking.


Lookig at the PennDot site for driver's licenses. These guys haven't yet encountered the phrase 'user friendly'. Though it is amazing to see all the things that drivers have to remember and do. I'm not sure that I do all of them!

Monday, March 08, 2010


From The Washington Times:

Someone who is drunk shouldn't be handling a gun, but that doesn't justify a ban on concealed carrying in all places that serve alcohol.

I firmly disagree. Fortunately for the gun freaks, I'm in the minority. Which, adopting their tactics, means that I should be for seizing all the guns. Legal and not. Responsible and not. Self protection and not. All the guns.



A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever

Found on CRACKED.

Elegance in Aqua

I sometimes think about getting an aquarium. But even in my more creative moments, I never thought of this.

Found here.



Warmer weather is coming. I just took a short walk through the neighborhood (and we won't talk about how even that little bit tired me out). Chilly, but when the wind let up, nice enough for TShirt and shorts. And I saw about ten ducks paddling languidly in the stream. Next time, I'll bring a camera.

Yo, Taxi!

I mentioned the other day that I had been mulling over what you could do with knowledge of the average transit time of the morning school bus. I'm not a deep thinker -- wait, was that a jelly doughnut? -- but it does seem to me that such tracking can yield useful information. (And thank you, CA, for your insights on that. I liked them.)

This morning, I came across an article on a Financial Times page regarding a London-based minicab company that uses GPS and other technologies to determine what the fastest routes are at any time of day. Not directly applicable to the school bus (okay, today we're going up the hill; you people over there, sorry, you need to find a different route) but doesn't it at least suggest that a canned 'this many buses going these pre-set routes at these times' process is a little antediluvian? Just a little?


I didn't do anything remarkable yesterday, but last night, I cratered.

We've been pushing to get our daughter to bed earlier -- she'd been going in to take a shower around 9:50, with all the delay that that implies -- and now she does it around nine. I know this in theory because last night I fell asleep to the sound of her starting it. This morning, I was aware that my wife had gotten up, but I didn't want to move. I finally got up about twenty minutes later, and I still feel groggy (does that word come from the word 'grog', I wonder?) two hours later. It's as if I'd had a heavy cold.

Today I get to spend some time with the mento, then take my daughter to two appointments. Along the way, I have to remind her that she owes me French material (already, she's backing off a bit on the solemn committments she made in the French teacher's classroom when we met there on Friday). Tomorrow, I go down to the hospital offices to meet the VP so she can tell me in person what numbers she wants from a spreadsheet (I've already guessed, but it seems pretty clear that initiative alarms her slightly). And I get to go back on Thursday to meet a different person, one who would like help with using the product. Sure, I'll do that - happy to.

But right now, I'm thinking about going back to sleep.


From the Tivo Community blog:

" All I want to do is play my Canon HF100 originated AVCHD (AVC@4.0, AC3 audio) content by converting it to MP4 and pushing it."


Sunday, March 07, 2010

This is SPAR....ring

Tonight, my daughter picked up the equipment that she needs for sparring at her karate studio. Padded helmet, mouthguard, ring shoes, gloves.

She looked excited.


Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine says that the problem isn't lobbyists, it's politicians. I'm sure he's a smart guy, but -- really? Ya think?

My laptop's long-duration battery appears to have died. Worked yesterday, not today. Won't accept a charge. The short-duration one, which hasn't been used since I got the long one last July, is slowly, grudgingly charging. (I do not want to hear Oh yass, you should have been swapping batteries.) But I do want to know why a battery that's eight months old died. Isn't that a little - abrupt?

Some commentors think Obama and the Democrats can't get their mojo back, can't rekindle the fierce energy of now. Others are amazed - amazed - that people thought electing both a President and a Congress that was Democratic was enough. Didn't they know that the people had to remain involved? Um...isn't that the job of politicians? Other than taking bribes and junkets?

Had huevos rancheros this morning. Not too bad. Spicier than I remember.

Daughter wants to go to the karate studio today to pick up sparring gear. Oh, she added casually, and it costs about a hundred dollars. What???? Can't we just pay like fifty and let you get banged around a little bit?

We did get her passport application in, though. Kind of tough to leave the country without one, I hear. Unless you're on Air Force One -- ie, a politician or a lobbyist.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Ok, we've seen Avatar.

You know how it tends to be a bad idea to sit close to the screen in the movies?

When it's a 3D movie, its much worse. And we were ten rows back! Several times, I had to close my eyes to keep from getting dizzy.

Not a bad flick, by the way.


We bought some Chicago Metallic baking pans the other day -- the ones we've had for years are rusting, which doesn't add all that much to the taste, though perhaps a little crunch.... They're heavy; about twice the weight of the ones we got locally. So of course I had to try them out, and what better recipe than chocolate chip cookies? Well, how about 'using the recipe from The Bakers Manual'?

Delightful. That combo makes good cookies.

Chocolate Chip -- The Bakers Manual

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (optional)

Beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth.
Add the sugars; beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Beat on low speed just until dough forms, adding the semisweet pieces and nuts before the flour is fully incorporated.
Using a scoop with a capacity of 2 tablespoons, drop the dough onto ungreased half-sheet pans.
Bake the cookies at 350°F until the edges are golden and centers are puffed and almost set, 12 to 14 minutes. (Increase the baking time for crisper cookies.)
Let cookies cool 5 minutes on pans to set before transferring them to wire racks.

I'm The Goddamn....Um...

This list of places to 'use the Batman voice' is funny. Oh, for the ability to do such.....

(Title Reference Here)

Friday, March 05, 2010


I just took a shower, and while I did, I was thinking about creativity. And bit decay.

I mentioned in an earlier post how I thought it would be most excellent to be able to see the possibilities inherent in data. I referenced the fellow who used data from multiple ships to conclude what the fastest transit path across the Pacific for sailing ships might be. I didn't mention the comment about how WalMart's data analysis showed that not only did they have higher than normal sales of flashlights and survival equipment, when a hurricane loomed -- that's to be expected -- but also Poptarts; reflection makes that a 'well, of course' observation, but the trick is doing it up front. Holmes might have scorned reasoning in advance of data; this is reasoning in advance of analysis. Is it possible to teach this ability? I want to say that I think it must be. To rely purely on the corp of deep thinkers seems -- well, not silly, perhaps, but wasteful. We don't expect that only the people at Frog Design can come up with elegant solutions to design problems (real world design problems, not art-for-the-sake-of-art design problems) any more than we say that only Warhol or Picasso can create pleasing images. Certainly, only that caliber of person can create capital-A Art, but anyone with a decent eye can snap a pleasing photo. If you train that person in techniques of photography, just the mechanics can improve the output. Don't shoot into the sun; take a breath and hold it before releasing the shutter. And more: the rule of thirds will lead to more pleasing photographs; knowing about Rembrandt lighting will result in better tonal quality. None of this is Capital-C Creativity; its more like 'enhancing the likelihood of creativity in daily activity'. Can this be trained? Can we suggest to people situations where they might find it of use, and a general idea of how to do it? I want to believe that it can.

Bit decay. It's a phrase that computer people use, and though I suspect that the deep thinkers there mean something different, for me it means the likelihood that a file which was perfect yesterday has something happen to it in the last twenty four hours. That something might be a stray electron here, a solar flare there -- but the ones and zeroes are no longer exactly as they were. In many, perhaps most cases it doesn't matter -- the image is essentially the same; the checksum corrects the values. But what about when the image isn't the same -- suddenly, a JPEG is unusable because it's shifted, somehow; the checksum couldn't tell me what the value should have been. What then? It's that unsureness that leads us to make redundant backups. And leads others to just not want to trust their data to computers. We've got an estate plan from our lawyer; he's given it to us on CD, and on paper. Guess which one we trust more to be usable in five, ten, thirty years?

Slow Bus

At ten minutes after seven this morning, I asked my daughter if she needed a ride into school. She said that she didn't need one, but she would appreciate it, so we did. My wife asked me to find out what she'd been doing that kept her around so long, as she knows that the bus comes at about five minutes after the hour. She told me that on Friday the bus comes later -- in fact, that the only time it's 'on time' is the first day of the week; every day after that, it's successively later. But why, I asked. Because the bus driver is lazy, she replied. Doesn't make sense, I said. Being lazy should lead to the same amount of delay each day, or even a varying amount, not a successively increasing amount. She shrugged and continued to put on makeup (which is something I've yet to adjust to).

The reason I was intrigued was that I was was reading an article this morning from the Economist, whose topic d'semaine is the massive data glut. (They notice this about once every five or ten years, I think.) The specific article that I was reading was on data visualization, but it was preceded by ones on data extraction and cleansing and on data mining. I told her about the fellow who used what the Economist called 'an early social network' to scan multiple ship's logs for their transits across the Pacific, searching them for the routes that consistently gave the fastest transit. I wondered if her observation -- and the likely similar ones that other kids make -- could be used to chart the progress of the buses, and could something useful be made of that? She asked me why the ship's captains were willing to give up their logs, and I told her that they were promised a copy of the resulting maps, but it was also likely that they simply didn't see value in what, to them, was just a history of what happened to their ship. A history of when the bus shows up where -- of what use could that be? Well, I mused, you could use it as a rough way of tracking traffic patterns... what else?

Damned if I know. And I wish I did. Not that I care so much about this incidence, but wouldn't it be marvelous to be able to see that kind of connections?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Monty Monte

Great. Pigeons are better at solving the classic Monty Hall problem than I am.


Read of a guy who said on a 'I'm a nerd' forum that he figured out where to put his coffee cup on the microwave platter so that when he heated it for a certain amount of time, the platter rotation would bring it around to the front. Makes sense to me.

The Infinite Cat Project is awesome. Just sayin'.

I picked up my Santa suit from the cleaners. It had been right at the end of the rack, easily visible. The cleaner said that several kids would be sorry I did that, since when they came in with their parents and saw it, they asked if Santa had his stuff cleaned there, and were delighted to find that it was apparently so. (The cleaner, incidentally, cleaned the suit for free. I thought that was rather nice.)

I'm not a sake drinker. Never had it at all, in fact. But I'm intrigued by this.

My wife's occasionally felt a tightness in her chest. I encouraged her to get it checked, so today she went to a cardiologist. No initial findings, but she goes back for a stress test in a week. God forbid it should occur to them to do it all at once. She's going to the same place my mother did; I regard them, generally, as essentially incompetent. I suppose it's callousness from seeing nine million elderly people.

But she's okay, so far.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Yes, But...

Well, apparently the sleepover will be at Emily's father's house, which is much bigger than ours. Oh. Okay. I can handle that. Peace. Quiet.

But not cost-free. One of us appears to have volunteered to buy pizza, as Emily's father says he won't.

Oh, and he lives fairly far out in the country. About half an hour from the closest pizza place.

How nice.


Our local representative is a Republican, but I've liked him, and voted for him. He's seemed like a decent guy.

I just got his most current news flyer, and the first two articles contained boilerplate by god I'm fighting to keep the Administration's hands off your health care type comments. Boilerplate.

Guess I won't be voting for Todd Platts any more.


Again, we're thinking about motivation.

And education.

And grades.


And still no usable answers.

Will It Help? Will Anything?


I'm not sure if it was a reaction to the realization that we're having another sleepover (though now, apparently, it's possible, but not definite), but last night I dreamt that I was on a tour bus full of kids, stuck in Manhattan midtown traffic for hours. I had pizza delivered to all of them, and was delighted by my ingenuity, when I abruptly realized: There's no bathroom on this bus.

This is Exactly Right

Found at Doghouse.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


We're having another sleepover this weekend.

Democrats, You Say?

Palin's Kids

I came across this just a bit ago. Ah, Sarah. Such memories.

Except, apparently, that's not the way it was. So, much as I dislike Sarah Palin, I should point out that her daughter actually wasn't giving the finger.

Um, I Forgot

I don't think I zoned out when in the sight of a pretty girl, in high school. Our high school was co-institutional , with the guys over HERE and the girls over THERE; only merging in the sterile confines of the lunchroom. Catholic high school, doncha know. And they wore -- and still wear -- uniforms; demure skirts and jackets, high buttoned blouses. No fooling around here. Just your basic teen-age male heated imagination.

Although now, years later, it occurs to me that things might well have been going on in the dimly lit recesses of the practice rooms back behind the Little Theater, or in the dim areas high above the stage where only the mixed members of the stage crew could go, and adults never went -- climb that ladder? Are you crazy? More opportunities than I thought of to be alone with the other gender. Not that I'd have known what to do with those opportunities, you understand. There was this general lack of awareness that I think inhibited my emotional growth -- it's one of the reasons that I look askance at full-press boys-only or girls-only school. Isolation on occasion -- say, for the first year or two -- that sounds good to me. But not all four.

But that's not what I wanted to mention.

I read an interesting if all-too-brief article about teenage brains (yeah, I know: isn't that a contradiction?) on the NPR site the other day. Here's the nub of it: teens and twenties act irresponsibly because their brain's not fully wired yet. Or, as they put it: (A) crucial part of the brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. Really."It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' " Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly. So when a kid just doesn't think -- maybe that's literally true.

I also passed this, from there, to my daughter.

There were other advantages to having a neuroscientist mom, Will says. Like when he was tempted to pull an all-nighter.

"She would say, 'read it tonight and then go to sleep,'" he says. "And what she explained to me is that it will take [what you've been reading] from your short-term memory and while you sleep you will consolidate it. And actually you will know it better in the morning than right before you went to sleep."

It worked every time, he says.


I drove my daughter in to school this morning. We don't really like doing that, but she was up pretty late last night, working on a school project, so we figured, what the heck. On the way, I listened to a bit of NPR doing an article about retirement savings, and how people are doing. I didn't learn much -- and for part of it, I thought that old saw -- but I did hear two interesting bits of trivia.

One was, when you're investing in a mix of stocks and bonds == stocks for returns, bonds for safety == keep the percentage of bonds roughly equivilent to your age. Huh, I thought. That sounds about right.
The other was, diversify your risk by investing across the board -- and, said the guy who founded Vanguard, our index funds, that allow you to own pieces of securities across the board, is great for that. Pieces? I thought. As in, slice n'dice, tranches, credit default swaps? THAT kind of thing?

Ah, investor advisors. If they knew, they'd be rich. Oh, wait. They are. With MY money.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Cats are either a) a walking, stalking bundle of neuroses, or b) the three-dimensional manifestation of a hyperintelligent pandimensional uber-being. Or both.

Our cat has decided that every so often, for fun, it'll park it's tail just about where the edge of her litter box is, so that some of the donations go inside the box, and some do not. We're trying to figure out whether this is just an accident (Once is happenstance, Mr Bond. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action.) or that the cat is trying to tell us something.

One of the possibilities, according to a web site that speaks wisely on these things, is that the cat isn't fond of the current brand of cat litter. And, in fact, we did switch to a more expensive brand, complete with 'clumping' properties. We'd been using a cheaper brand. So this weekend, we're going back to a cheaper one. A cheaper one. We don't actually recall which one we had had.

Another possibility is that the cat doesn't enjoy being locked up at night, and, since Amnesty International isn't around, she's protesting this way. She does use the box during the day, when the door's open, and hasn't missed yet. So we're letting her roam free tonight, as we do on occasion, and tomorrow we'll inspect the evidence. We actually don't mind letting her roam free, though it does mean that we have to turn off the chime on the clock -- with our door open, we can hear it, and it keeps my wife awake; if we close the door, the cat gets out its drilling and blasting tools, a gentle rap and clearing of the throat apparently not being to its liking.

My, this is fun. It's not a big deal -- when our old cat, distressed at being left alone for ten hours a day, took to issuing a pointed statement by excreting on the hallway carpet, now that was a big deal. But still. Got to keep on this stuff or, as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers' cat used to say, I think I'll go shit in his shoe.

The Coffee Party

Perhaps this is what OFA ought to be. Also, see this Washington Post article.

The Next Element

I just posted on someone's blog, and the 'verification' word that came up was 'unmetium'. Sounds like it ought to be a word, itself, doesn't it?

Unmetium (Adj) The quality manifest by the 'right one' searched for by unmarried hordes