Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Do You Care?


I'm not a fan of 'alternate history' novels, because they often seem to me written by people who would rather that history went a different way, and write so as to show that if it did, things would be dramatically different, and frequently better. Though not always; Harry Turtledove seems to have made a career out of showing how it could have been a lot worse.

Nevertheless, I'm enjoying The Peshawar Lancers. It's believable. Not so different as to be alien.... not so familiar as to be predictable. Good stuff.


It is 11:30.

It is sixty nine degrees out!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not 95, like it was for the last two days. Not even 85. or 75.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 69 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm sorry if this sounds vapid. But not much. Because this weather makes me happy.

Getting There

I know nothing about Shake It Fast except one post -- and I really like that post It's about what you do when where you are isn't where you planned on finding yourself. Very good stuff.

Up Off My Ears...

...and tapered in back. That's what I always say to the barber; what I get more depends on how hung over they are, I think.

When I read articles on occasion about getting The Best Haircut, I am usually bemused. I'd like to get one of those some day, where they take care of you, leave you feeling fresh and all that. I'm not looking for the shops that specialize in having ex-Hooters Girls as the barbers, nor do I want the Newest, Edgiest Look. I just want a decent cut, done by someone who knows what they're doing -- which, to be fair, these people usually do -- and who cares about what they do -- which, I kind of doubt.

At the place where I usually go, there's five or so barbers -- the owner, a short Russian who likes to talk at length; a guy who appears to have been a Hells Angel at one point, complete with tattoos and long hair; two women, one of whom also has long hair and tattoos, and a guy who once saw me reading a computer magazine and therefore concluded that I wanted to hear about his prowess in gaming. I leveled up pretty quick, of course. Yeah. Fascinating. I try not to annoy people who are using sharp objects near me.

There are other barbers around. One specializes in Field and Stream magazines, and loves talking about hunting. One takes appointments only, which always strikes me as odd. And another seems to be open only on St. Swithin's Day.

Just once, I'd like to get one of those outstanding haircuts. I bet I'd be surprised how much it costs.... and how much, the next day, it ends up looking like what I usually get.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wakie Wakie

My daughter asked mildly why I woke her up this morning. Well, I said, the longer you keep sleeping on France time, the longer it'll take for you to get back into synch with local time. And I did let you sleep till nine-thirty.

Lyndsey (a color guard associate) has been sleeping till almost one, she replied.

Good god.


Whats In YOUR Bag?

From the Cashierlive web site article on trends in retail technology:

Digital signage shows advertising messages personalized to the shopper. Using RFID tags to identify which items they are carrying through the store or looking at past purchases, the displayed message can suggest other products the shopper might be interested in. Brands whose products are sold at a retailer can advertise on their digital signs, creating another revenue stream for the store.

Just what I need. Big, bright sign. Hey, we see you have the XtraAbsorbent pack of Depends in your cart -- yeah, hidden by the frozen foods and cereal boxes, but we see it! -- and we know you bought the Regular style two weeks ago, so how about checking out the UltraSuck? They're on sale in Aisle 489. And while you're there, looks like its been a while since you bought toilet paper, better pick some up!

Oh, yeah. Exactly what we need.

Monday, June 28, 2010


In the car this afternoon, my daughter asked what the effect would be if the entire world used the same currency.

I love when she asks questions like that.


My daughter just showed me a card trick, involving much laying out and selecting of piles. At the end, she asked me to pick one of two cards. I said 'the one on the left'. She showed me the one on the right. It was mine.

I didn't tell her.


The kiddo is back from the land of milk and honey, and we're back in gotta get the kid there mode.

- Unspent Euros returned to us? Check. (Did she really think we were going to let her keep them? Apparently so. Now she regrets not being a bit more lavish. C'est la vie.)

- Boost in her weekly allowance for making second honors again? Check.

- Water bottle and supplies ready for Color Guard this morning, where, btw, it's already 78 degrees and fairly humid? Check. (EMTs on standby? No...but they ought to be.)

- Scheduled medical visits on the calendar for this afternoon and Wednesday? Check. (New contact lens' for her; new sunglasses for me.)

And this is the slow part of the summer!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting the Business

This is why we can never go entirely to digital business cards.

Expected, I Guess

Last night, on the way down to Dulles, we stopped at a gas station.

While I filled the car, my wife used the bathroom.

It was filthy.

The station was owned by BP.

Where's My Key?

People rightfullly scorn 'bumper sticker dialogues'. They're shallow, with virtually no nuances, and they have no opportunity to have any kind of conversation. Its how I think, I have to admit; though I would like to have a deeper, richer understanding of my fellow man and their motivations, I usually think in short, blunt concepts that would fit easily onto a bumper sticker. I'm not a deep thinker.

Thus, this morning, when I saw a car with a bumper sticker that had the Obama symbol -- Oh, good, I thought -- followed by the phrase 'YOU LIE!", my first thought was -- well, rude, to put it mildly. I saw myself meeting that car's owner, and laying into them. Exactly HOW, I wasn't clear on -- would it be an intimidating and overwhelming array of fact? No, that sort of person wouldn't GET facts, let alone nuances; better go with the classics, such as Fuck you, moron. Which, of course, I knew that I would never do. I'm not confrontational; besides, people don't tend to take that well.

I wished that I was the sort of person who was comfortable with keying someone's car. I wouldn't do that, either, of course. But I wanted to, so badly.

Yesterday I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said Proud to Be A Maryland Democrat. I want something pithy like that.
Democrats Fix the Problems Republicans Cause.
Nah, too wordy.

So I donated money to Harry Reid's Senate campaign.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


If its an Air France flight on a Delta code share with a Delta flight number..... it may never show up on the big arrivals board.

We were twenty feet away, and didn't see her.

Fortunately, she had her phone.


Okay, my daughter's flight just took off. So in about eight hours......

And we sent a note to the French girl, welcoming her here for her July trip..

It's a little hard to say which event delights us more.

Well, okay, not really....

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Not The Heat...

The temperature is quite nice at the moment - about 70 degrees, perhaps a little less. As for the 90% humidity, though, well......

Last night, we went out to dinner to celebrate my wife's birthday, going to a local restaurant that's slightly upscale. Generally, we liked it -- the feeling was of a well-run operation housed in an elegantly appointed building. The staff was friendly without being obtrusive (I dislike when someone says Hey, howya doing, do you guys want....). Service was a little rocky on occasion, but not objectionably so. We'd go again, I think.

I still have a small pile of things to read, here on the table, left over from the trip. Some are things that I wanted to reread more slowly, such as that Smart Money article I referred to earlier. I'm still startled by the range of things that organizations from hospitals to colleges to the ASPCA can easily and legally do to find out if you have sufficient money for them to pursue you (and sufficient means not so much should we bug him for a donation; instead, it's more how MUCH should we bug him). The latest I can't believe that note from the article: organizations can use satellite photography to determine the location of your house (next to a public park? Your house is worth more than others in the neighborhood) or its characteristics (you have a pool, and this is how big it is). It's really quite a surprising article, and more than a little distressing. I am not a big giver, and this makes me want to do it less.

Spoke with the kiddo again yesterday. I was surprised to find that she's used the hotel's facilities to update her friends via Facebook on the status of her trip. She's really glad to be there, and is looking forward to coming home -- not so much to see my loving family again as so I can get together with my friends. Okay, I'll take that. She did mention being slightly irritated that the keyboards in France are different than those she's used to -- extra characters, and (she says) the letters aren't all in the 'traditional' location. Oh, and she bought a beret.

One more day!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I just watched one quick clip on Fox News.

It said "Support for President Tanking", and I thought Well, that's Fox. They Lie. That's Their Thing.

And then I thought What have I done lately to show support? And the answer was, not much.

So tomorrow, I'm sending a couple of checks to organizations that feel as I do. Who don't buy the lies and the distortions of Fox. Who think that Obama may not be always right, but he is by God right a lot more than he's not. Regardless of what the whiners and liars of the other side may say.

I support a vigorous and intelligent debate, but I have no truck with liars.

Checks are (almost) in the mail. I can't do much, but I can do that.


This morning, I watched the young son of a neighbor while she ran some errands.

We baked chocolate chip cookies, heavy on the chips, and we watched TV - first, Doctor Who, then, when that got a little scary (I noticed he was sitting right next to me, and when I put my arm around him, he got even closer), we switched to cartoons. Alas, he didn't like a cartoon that was on when I was a kid, but Kenichi, he liked.

It was cool. I had a good time, and I think he did, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Reading The Unforgiving Minute. The author mentions handing out food and supplies to tribal leaders. As his squad drives away, he sees one leader brain another with a hoe and grab his stuff.

Read that Rolling Stone article.

I wonder, sometimes, what the deep thinkers come up with when they think about options to solve The Afghanistan Problem. Assuming it even can be.

I imagine that they think about:

- nuking the entire country, similar to wide-beam chemo
- isolating the country, nothing gets in or out
- buying off the country(1) - we'll give you money to keep yourselves in check
- buying off the country (2) - we'll give you money to assassinate the Taliban. Lots of money.
- going all Apocalypse Now on the place - look at me funny, you and the guy next to you get blown away
- reshaping it, blowing the hell out of impassable passes and toppling mountains, to make transit easier and hiding harder.

None of which sounds all that good to me, though I do like one of them.

What else do they contemplate?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I just learned that Google Maps does a neat trick -- when it displays the route and the big map, if you click on one of the route steps, it'll highlight on the big map where that step is. And, if Street View is available, it'll show that, too.



My daughter did a couple of nice chinese-style paintings in a class, so we thought we'd have them framed.

Home Depot and Lowes don't sell frames any more. Target does, but they're about $20 each for the size we'd want. And completely forget about custom framing places.

Apparently, the concept of 'cheap frames' has gone significantly upscale.


Daughter calls from France. She has moved from the host family in Paris to a hotel, somewhere south of that.

Us: Where are you?

Her: Best Western.

Us: No, what city?

Her: I think it starts with an A.

Us: Avignon?

Her: Could be. Hey, do you have Liz's phone number?

Cashectomy, Sir?

I picked up a copy of Smart Money while we were at the hotel this past weekend. Apparently, the magazines of choice to put in the rooms at the Ritz are either Smart Money, Veranda (their company magazine showing all of their lovely, lovely locations), or wedding planner magazines. Imagine if that was all you ever read....

Anyway, the SM mag had an article about a hospital fundraising move thats simultaneously slick and slimy. When someone checks in for some sort of medical procedure, they make sure that the person has enough financial resources to pay for it. Makes sense. Usually, that means insurance coverage, but sometimes people have enough money to pay for it, personally. I, myself, might be able to afford a BandAid at hospital prices.

At the same time that they're doing that, the name of the person is passed to their fundraising department, which does an evaluation of the person's net worth. If it's sufficiently large -- I don't know what that level is -- the extra services start to flow. More comfortable pillows. Magazines, newspapers. An attentive person to deal with the hospital staff. The surgeon will wash his hands -- that sort of thing. If you don't meet that bar, its not as if they toss you into the mass ward full of groaning smelly people, but if you do -- well, life is just better. As is frequently the case with money.


Sunday, June 20, 2010


The daughteroid has been in Paris for three days. Been to Versailles, the Louvre, the Tower, and someplace else that I forget. She's called us every day, to our delight -- today, we were in the Air and Space Museum annex when she called; no more will I think that people I overhear saying And how is Paris? What did you do today? are being pretentious -- and she really seems to be having a good time. She apologised for not getting me a Father's Day present -- which a) she did, getting me some truffles two days before she left, and b) if she hadn't , would have been of no consequence, as I don't get Father's Day -- but I told her Of course you did, just now. Took her a minute to get it.
Tomorrow, she takes the TGV down south, I think.

I brought two books to DC, read ten pages in one, and came home with two more. Not to mention, extracts of articles that I wanted to reread and maybe post something about, such as one regarding hospitals, wealthy patients, and fundraising. It rankled me a bit, even though I doubt a hospital will ever call me for a donation.

I had wiped out Microsoft Office 2010 when I did a System Restore, trying to recover my daughter's tunes; to my dismay, it would not reinstall, failing with a cute error (fortunately, the sight of an error message in hex doesn't freak me out, though it is somewhat user hostile). But I searched on it, found one site that mentioned it had something to do with Microsoft .NET, went and applied all the maint that I could find for that. To my astonishment, Office reinstalled successfully. I am so glad.

Thinking, just a bit, about getting an iPad or a clone -- and for the damnedest reason. We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in DC, and wanted to use the phone book to look up restaurants. None in the room, and when we asked the concierge, he said, with barely concealed surprise, that no one used phone books for that any more; their guests always had an iPhone or something to search with. But they would try to 'scrounge one up'. Which, as it happened, they didn't.

Got to go to the store tomorrow. Right now, part of me wants to sleep,and part says what, so soon? Are you out of your mind?

We're back, I'm wiped

But I did learn some things.

One is, I really like the Air and Space Museum annex out by Dulles. I could look at those aircraft for hours. I also noticed, in the on-site McDonalds, a long-legged teenaged babe with eye shadow, sultry pout, cowboy boots and tight, tight short shorts. I mentioned her to my wife, wondering what kind of parent would allow that. She replied You pick your battles. True.

Another is, there are some awesome interns in Congress. We met one -- an intern for a West Virginia representative. She was bright, prettty, personable, and interesting. I wished we could have talked longer. I was going to ask if she was available for adoption, but my wife nixed the idea. Dammit.

Oh, and don't piss off the Capitol Police, aka the Armed Thugs At The Capitol Visitors Center. They do NOT take it well. What it takes to piss them off includes saying that you want to wait for your wife to get through their electronic scanners. Armed Thugs? Well, not most of them. But one specific one....oh, yeah.

Overall, though -- great fun, even in the heat.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


We won't be around for a couple of days, and since I've not yet sprung for a handy little tablet PC, I won't have access to the net, and won't be posting. I know, the horror, the horror.

On the bright side, when we get home, there will be a new edition of Dr. Who, which I am finding to be quite delightful. I'm tempted to buy the DVDs, but some of those older doctors seem almost grim. Don't want that.

See you in a few days.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I don't watch Lost.

This is why.


I flipped over Newt Gingrich today. I'd have liked to flip him off, but he wasn't around, so I flipped over his book. My minor protest against the prominent display in our local Borders of his screed "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine". I know, someone else will simply flip it back, but, with luck, it stayed flipped over for at least long enough for me to get out of the store.

I've never particularly liked Gingrich, ever since he effectively derailed the Clinton presidency's ability to make substantive changes. Bringing the US Government to a shuddering halt didn't endear him to me, either. I know that there are people who do like him, and I was willing to give him another chance when I'd heard that he was trying to reinvent himself as an 'elder statesman', but it seems to me that the only thing that's gotten older is his hair -- not what's underneath it. Reading that he's of the opinion that Obama is the most radical President ever also gave me pause, though for a different reason -- I wondered if any President could be called 'radical'. I know that anyone in that office who thinks that it's the responsibility of the government to watch out for society in general and people in particular will always be regarded with disdain and contempt by the relentlessly conservative, so I suppose that actually doing something that generations have wanted to do -- getting health care reform passed -- likely drove those conservatives right up a tree. The sight of a Democrat who got things done probably chilled them right down to their shorts.

I continue to think (though, I suppose I should admit, with slowly waning belief that it will ever happen) that conservatism can bring value to the political debate, because I know that liberals would have government do more than it ought to, would try to institute legislative defenses against things that fall into the same category as acts of nature. Some of those things can't be stopped -- at least, not in any cost-effective way. Some, you just have to live with. I believe that, and so I think that when conservatives worry about the increasing role of government, they have something worthwhile to say.

But when they choose people like Gingrich as their spokesman -- not to mention the You Betcha lady (sorry, I prefer not to say her name -- just thinking it makes me want to puke, just a little) - well, then they're asking not to be taken seriously. And so I don't.

Flip 'em.

D minus One

One day until the kiddo leaves for France, and we leave for a short vacation in Washington. Actually, it's going to be in Tyson's Corners, Virginia. That's pretty close to a metro line into DC, and it's next to a couple of large shopping areas. And if we have to stay at a nice hotel the whole time, never budging from its air-conditioned precincts, well....

Speaking of air conditioners, we have ours cranked up way high this morning -- high enough so that I'm thinking its a bit chilly. Reason is not the heat but the humidity -- I think it rained again over night. We likely will not build a replacement house, or even buy one, but one of the criteria for either is a built in humidifier/dehumidifier system. We've already assumed that the next time we have to replace the water heater -- which could be any time now; it's not failing, but we're pretty sure that we're outside of the warranty period, and those things don't seem to last much past that -- we're going to get one of those 'tankless' systems, either as the replacement or as an auxiliary one for the showers upstairs. Can't wait to see what this would cost.

Today she and I go to a bookstore -- we promised to get her something to read on the place, so long as she swore she would not read it before the flight (about a 50% chance of that, we think). I'm going to swing by to pick up her report card, though we won't look at it until she's on her way. And we'll push her to do that last bit of packing. The cry of I can't fit that in! has already been heard. (Then don't bring five pairs of pajamas, my wife says. But I'll be gone for ten days!) Yeah, rough it, kid.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


My daughter's having a meltdown. She swears its not the impending trip. We think it likely is.

She is supposed to master a triple flip of the saber over the next three weeks, ten days of which she'll be gone. Is she practicing at all? Only briefly, and under duress. My wife says that she has failed the daughter, for not forcibly inculcating the idea that practice is needed. Maybe when she was in third grade. Now? I don't think so.

Tonight she forgot her short staff for karate practice, and insisted on coming back home. Would she had been using the short staff at practice? No. If it did come up, could she have borrowed one? Yes.

My wife asked if I wanted anything. I told her "A stick. A big, heavy stick. "


I don't really care for Microsoft Office. But this morning, my wife downloaded the whole suite as part of a promotion that her company had with Microsoft.

It cost ten dollars. For the whole, fully functional thing.

Suddenly, I like it a lot more.


This morning I did chest presses, hammer curls, bicep curls, and mower pushes. The last ones were the worst, thanks to the humidity, but the others were no joy, either. This is where, when the trainer is here, she'd make me keep going with exercises for other muscle groups, but since she's not....

I'll do some more later. Not the mower push, though.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Another reason to live in California.

Porn Guy

There was a time when I was addicted to porn. And not just the normal whip me- whip me, wait, is that strawberry jello? kind, either. I was into the rough stuff. Management Porn. You know the kind. In Search of Excellence. Quality Management. Six Sigma. Those guys. I really thought it was possible, I really thought it could happen in my lifetime. Oh, I cold-turkeyed, over time. I learned that there are nuggets of good ideas but vast festering slagheaps of bad ones. Actually, the bad ones are easy to spot. It's the ones that sound like good ones, but really aren't unless you know the reasoning behind them, the logic that informs them, unless you have the time and care and insight to know why they work, when they work, and what to do when they don't work -- and they, guaranteed, won't work, all the time, sometimes, even, most of the time. People keep getting in the way, you see. Damned people. Don't they read the script?

So over time I stopped thinking that such things were possible. It was, oh, something like the awareness of people now that despite his brilliance and dogged determination in multiple areas, Barack Obama's not going to solve all of our problems. Not even all of our big problems. Sometimes, not even small ones. Management as a tool for bettering life? Get a life.

Yet the core contagion, like something lurking in a scriptwriters heart for a remake of Alien, or Predator, must still be there. Because this morning, I was reading the On Leadership column in the Washington Post, where I came across this quote in their analysis of the actions and inaction of the people running Facebook:

Consider a moment of decision for Union General George Meade during the Civil War. On June 28, 1863, he commanded a corps of some 10,000 soldiers in the Army of the Potomac as it pursued the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during its move northward toward Pennsylvania.

And I thought Yes, I can see that. Though the actions of a Union general one hundred and fifty years ago might seem irrelevant to this question, the underlying concepts of management, of managing people and events, are constant: people live and die, but their core nature doesn't change; if you understand them there, and why they acted as they did, you're well on the way to understanding them now....

Oh, god. The contagion lingers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Big storm. Much rain. Socket in the garden has a loose cover. Socket gets power from same line as the garage. Line has a breaker on it. Guess what happened to power in the garage? The input box for the Verizon internet, tv, and phone resides in the garage. Guess whether that connectivity is working? Hint: There is now a long thick orange power cable running from said box into a socket in another room.

Daughter's taking a 'Japanese painting course'. Really likes it. Wants to get an 'ink stone and brush'. Uh, okay. They're about $25. Uh, what? But I figured I would wait and save my money until I get back from France. Good idea. Reduces the odds of actually remembering to get this to, oh, one out of three.

Just watched Doctor Who for the first time in decades. Nobody else could make marauding statues plausible. Quantum lock, you see. Beat that with a stick, Star Trek.


This is an abbreviated version of the comic found at Wondermark. I liked the terser point better, though the other way is funnier.


I occasionally think it'd be nice to have an iPad, but I'm skittish about it, a sensation that gets stronger each time I hear of someone cracking the glass (which is apparently not uncommon, and even more likely with the newer iPhones that are glass on both sides). Odds are, I won't get one , at least till the concept of pads is a lot more common. As a general planning tool, though, I found The True Cost of iPad Ownership - Oy, Vey to be pretty interesting.


Like, I suspect, most kids, my daughter's idea of how long it will take her to get out of bed is seriously out of whack. She'll say, sleepily, that she'll be out in three minutes, and we know that means that we'll need to go call her again in ten. This tendency runs in the family -- we have the concept of 'mom minutes', as in when my wife says she'll be up in ten minutes, and we'll ask 'Is that ten real minutes, or ten Mom Minutes?', which is more like twenty, or more. It's one of the ways my wife and I differ -- I tend to be a bug about time; if I say I'll do something at a given time, I am ready. (Well, usually.) But my wife does try, which I appreciate. And even if she takes longer than she says she will, she doesn't take an arbitrary amount -- on time today, two hours late tomorrow. She'll be working towards completion, and rarely adds things in along the way. She told me once that one of her sisters, comparing her to another sister, said that while both of them were rarely ready when they said they would be, my wife, when she said she was ready, really was -- unlike the other sister, who 'just has to go balance my checkbook and paint the bathroom'.

This morning, my daughter asked for just a slice of toast for breakfast. When she stumbled out fifteen minutes after she said she'd be out, I was eating a slice of toast. I just looked at her and said " I didn't want the toast to get cold, so I ate it. " She looked at me. You made two, I'm sure you did.

Which, of course, I had.


It's a lovely day here. I can hear some birds in the nearby trees, and the cat is sitting contentedly in the window, undoubtedly thinking If those birds were here, I'd be having a snack right now.

Last night, we collectively watched The Red Mass, which was, I think, one of the better West Wing episodes. I love that my daughter likes the series -- it leads to some interesting discussions on politics and motivation, which delights me. I had thought, seeing the show, that the concept of TRM was created for the show; turns out, it's real . Quite elegantly done. Now, if someone could explain why the Charlie presidential aide character was gradually transformed from a sober, serious character into a prankster and someone who feels free to advise the others on their love lifes....Aaron? What were you thinking?

In about an hour, I'll be bringing my daughter over to an all-day art class, where she's sketching -- I tend to be a little unsure what to think of those sketches, because though she's clearly skilled, it's not always obvious to me what they're of, and you hate to say Very Nice -- what is it? The French teacher is stopping by for a moment to pick up something relative to the trip, which is, mirabile dictu, this Thursday -- the daughter's off to France, we're taking three days off down in DC, and the cat will roam the house virtually unimpeded. We have a swap going -- the neighbor's daughter will come over to check on the cat while we're gone, and in three weeks, our daughter will go over to their house to perform the same service.

I'm still reading Unforgiving Day, also Amazing Victory, a very soft description of the Battle of Midway (damn, but we were fortunate -- the Japanese really, really should have won that one). And it seems to me that we have something else to do today, though for the moment, I don't recall.

So that's it. A quiet day.
Update: The French teacher has been here and gone. She mentioned that after I jokingly asked her, at the last meeting, what we'd have to pay for her to leave our daughter in France, she mentioned the comment to her class. All of the class was certain it was their parent.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Saddle Up

I'm not a biker,not a gun freak, but I've got to say -- this is cool.

Found here.

For Eyes

Well, I learned a couple of things this evening about glasses.

One is, the OS and OD on the prescription stands for Oculus Sinister, or Left Eye, and Oculus Dexter, or Right Eye.

The two columns of numbers refer to corrections for refractive error and astigmatic refractic error.

And...apparently my vision, which I thought might have gotten a little better, is actually a little worse. Rats.

Looking at all this stuff because I'm going to try ordering a pair of sunglasses from one of those online services. We'll see how it goes.


I'm still reading The Unforgiving Minute. I am secretly delighted that I've been to England and my daughter's going to France; this guy's been to half the planet by the time he's 22. Different world.....

He's extraordinarily bright, too, which isn't what I expected. He not only believes in Duty, Honor, Country, but he can explain why, lucidly, at length, and with historical backing. I don't think I've ever met anyone with that much intellectual firepower.

I suggested to my daughter that she read the book. "It's unlike anything you normally read." She shrugged. "I figured you liked it," she replied, "since you talk about it all the time." Well, yeah. It really brings to light how constrained most of our lives are.


I have been reading The Unforgiving Minute, subtitled A Soldier's Education.

Every so often, the History Channel will have a retrospective of World War II and they'll include interviews and first-person narratives of the men who participated in the aerial conflicts. Frequently, they are old, and feeble, speaking in halting gasps, or from the confines of a wheelchair, and I find myself a little surprised that people who are in that bad a shape now could ever have been able to do the sorts of things they did. Sometimes, they are still quite hale and hearty, and it's a little easier to believe, but still, I think that while their endeavors could not have been easy, perhaps they were more a matter of gumption and spirit than pure physical prowess. The thing is, I don't really know what it takes to perform at that level. I can read, for example, of one epic air duel in Vietnam that to the participants felt as if it went on for ten or fifteen minutes, but which was actually a much shorter period of time, the intensity forcing a dilation of the perceived time, and I think wow, that must really have been something. But even there, I think But that's an exception; most times, it probably wasn't that intense -- dangerous, yes, but not intense. I bet I could have done it.

And then I read Minute, and come to realize just what intense can come to mean, and the level of performance that that sort of person considers routine. I've read before of the rites of passage of going through West Point, and I suppose I tend to think of it as a somewhat more focused and physical version of my own college, or my basic training, or summer camp at ROTC. Then I read this, and think Bill, you have no earthly idea. None. Zip. At the moment, I'm reading about how this guy, who's just graduated from the Point, and who has earned a Rhodes scholarship, is now face down in thick, reeking mud at Ranger school, clawing to get through the slime, his back inches from barbed wire netting. He's been awake for two or three days, with nothing but the briefest of naps caught in five minute bursts, if that. He's climbed, slithered, jumped, hauled, and staggered. He looks like hell and he smells worse. Through it all, he knows that he can give everything he's got, more, and still be found: unacceptable. Not good enough. Not fast, agile, tough enough. Not Ranger material.

And this is just one guy of all the people who have trained and fought to do that sort of work. In that crowd, he's slightly better than average, but not truly awesome. He knows people there who are awesome, and he is, appropropriately, awed by them.

And I am amazed. What manner of beings ARE these guys?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP Spill



Well, I don't have glaucoma, my vision is fine, and there's just a hint of a possible of cataracts, down the road. So other than how flamingly long it took, not bad.


Another cardio session today, this one somewhat longer than the other. As I'm not into it, I really noticed the extra minutes!

I continue to be amazed at how weak I am -- I've never thought of myself as a strong person, but strong enough, yes. Lift a five pound weight ten times? Piffle. Yet after a couple of times doing that, my arm's starting to quiver, and I'm thinking good god, will this ever end? Five MORE? Are you kidding me? Yet those 'extra' ones are what I want to get out of a trainer -- someone who's aware of what I want to do, the results that I want to see, and can bring me there. It's going to take a long time, and I will have to be constantly on guard against my tendency to stop when it gets hard -- surely that's enough?-- but I believe I will get results. Even if I don't see results -- I said that I don't ever expect to be in a Speedo! -- I believe it's a good thing, that it's improving my health.

Still glad when it's done, though!


Dreamt I was in a high school math class, and was virtually clueless. Many stacks of papers, references to unknown concepts, quick explanations that left me further adrift.

No idea where that came from.

More flex training today, then annual eye exam, then grocery shopping. Gotta make a list.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I declined to renew my AAA membership a couple of months ago. It no longer made financial sense.

Today I get a bright yellow form letter with my name scrawled on the first line, saying that they have 'enjoyed the privilege of my membership, and before they lose me as a loyal member, they want to remind me that my membership is now overdue'. They then have all sorts of spaces for here's more stuff you can buy, here's the name and employee number of the person sending this cheery note, here's her phone number. They don't even offer to pay the postage for the renewal.

Dudes, what part of not-renewing do you not get? Why don't you even ask why you haven't heard from me? Not to mention, if it was such a privilege, why did you keep charging me more each year? And,btw, loyal? There was no loyalty there, guys. Straight commercial transaction.

I'm thinking that the guys (I'm picturing old pot-bellied guys in doubleknit pants) running AAA have some serious management issues.


Perhaps it's not technically the first day of summer, but for my daughter it is, and as any parent knows, your life tends to revolve around your kid's expectations. Not always wise, I know, but that's the way it is around here.

As it happens, it's a bit overcast and drizzly, which puts me into a minor glum mood -- one not helped by an article in today's Post about difficulties that liberals are having with our own lunatic fringe. Perhaps lunatic is an overstatement -- they are people who thought that the election of a Democrat after years of the Bush disaster would bring peace, joy, and prosperity, and they're angry that such hasn't happened. In their own way, they're as idiotic as the tea party people, because they believe that the President can do anything, so why hasn't he (fill in the blank). Some of their anger is justifiable, much is not. They're doing the GOPs work, though, and if they're successful, and the GOP wins in the 2010 elections, I'm sure they'll be unhappy with those results, too. I don't really want to get into calling people and mailing petitions and all. I thought thats what the official Democratic party was for.

Reading that Iran is working out ways around sanctions makes me unhappy, too. And the progress on the oil spill. And.... there just doesn't seem to be much good news around, these days.

We're in the home stretch for getting our daughter off to France (already talking about what happens when she gets back). I have to find out how much it'll cost to convert dollars to euros -- more than I expect, I'm sure -- and we have to get a copy of her passport off to the teacher who's escorting them (we'd already done that, but apparently it had to be a copy of the signed passport). And today I get to start messing intensively with the dough starter, feeding it routinely. It's ironic, in a way -- the day that it'll likely be ready to be used to bake, we'll be in DC, taking a 3 day vacation. Wonder if the starter will even be alive when we get back.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Write, Right?

I like to write. I'm not a great writer, and I'm certainly not a professional writer, but I like to write, and I like to read about writing. Not the English teacher asking what was the author trying to say here?, which can drive me crazy, or you should use the present pluperfect; it adds dynamic realism, which I regard as pompous, but real writers talking about how they do what they do, what works, what doesn't. And when you add in that they're writing for a recurring television show, it can be pretty amazing reading to find out that they are, in fact, bright, involved, and seriously creative people. I enjoy reading about things like that.

As in this case.


This week, my trainer said we would work on limberness and flexibility.

I'm here to tell you that such does not mean you won't be sweating at the end. I was actively tired.

Glad we did it.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Every so often, you come across an account of someone doing something, and think: Damn, I wish I'd done that!

Like this.


Found here, in article about 'Best Fake Signs At A Teabagger Convention'


Apparently, that Dale Peterson guy isn't going to be Alabama's next Agriculture Commissioner. Damn. And he was all set to go ride the range, too, shotgun and all.

Mild Astonishment

Kids have interesting, and sometimes hard to understand, takes on what's important.

Last night, for unknown reasons, my daughter had some severe intestinal problems. This morning, she insisted- with tears in her eyes - that she had to, HAD TO, go to school to take the two tests, otherwise she'd have to stay a whole extra day, just to do that. Well, perhaps a whole extra four hours. But still.

Okay, I said, reluctantly. But don't try to be a hero. Call us to come get you if you need to. Remember this. Its a pain to have to stay. Its much more of a pain to be remembered as the kid who had diarrhea in the middle of a test.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


At the get-together at my cousin's house, there were about five little kids, three under, oh, four years old. Really cute kids - as I said to my daughter, they remind me of you, back when you were cute. Turns out my daughter can hit really hard. Anyway, one of them, walking carefully with a bowl, had some slop over onto her. She put it down and ran to her mother. Mommy! My vagina is all wet! Ever see multiple adults abruptly stop talking, all at once? Me, I thought What a smart little girl! Good for her.

And on the drive back, my daughter informed us that while her group was in Manhattan, waiting for their tour bus to move (it had been in an accident), she noticed that there was a sex shop right across the street. My wife was dismayed. I said Bus driver, would you mind if we went across the street for a minute? We want to buy a toy as a souvenir..... Huh, this toy needs WD-40...and raspberry-flavored whipped cream. Do we have that? Oh, and about five, no, six batteries!

My wife was even more dismayed.

Today IS a Good Day To Be Knighted

Unfortunately, it appears to not be a real picture. Too bad.

...and the Return

Okay, we're home. We didn't use the GPS to get home, so we got home quickly.

Got to see, but fortunately, not participate in, two significant accidents while in N'yawk. For one, a car two ahead on me on the Long Island Expressway dropped a big chunk of its engine, causing all around to have to slow from about 75 very quickly. Great fun. My wife said she was impressed that I was aiming for the lane next to me as an escape route, and was only a little dismayed when I told her that I had no idea if there was anyone in that lane at the time. And for two, traffic on the Belt Parkway slowed way down to look at two things -- a car with about a third of its engine compressed into a couple of inches, and a car with essentially nothing past the rear window, save some dangling metal. Quite impressive, too. I did have one pickup truck do a high speed whip from my left across my and another lane to get all the way to the right, turning so sharply that I could see the cab rocking back and forth. Alas, they didn't roll and burst into flame.

I now have a picture of my mother's father when he was about ten months old. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with this. It was one of the pictures that my cousin stole -- no other word suffices -- from my mother when he moved out. Why he wanted it, I've no idea. Hell, I've no idea why he took pictures that I had snapped when I was about thirteen, of planes at LaGuardia and buildings in Washington DC. Or pictures of unidentifiable people standing behind cars, swimming in an unknown lake, or getting married. A total mystery, all of it.

Sourdough starter is doing well. At least, I think it is. A person whom I communicate with via Twitter expressed interest in the recipe, so I said give me your email address; I'll mail it to you. I scanned the pages and mailed it. Turns out the email address is a dummy one, and you're supposed to apply to have permission to send it emails. Ah, no. Doing a favor, sure. Delighted, in fact. Jumping through hoops, though, no way. But on the other hand, now I have scans of those pages, so that's goodness for when I have to return the library book.

My daughter is still watching the CDs of West Wing. She says she knows that it's an unrealistic portrayal of how government works, but, even so, she may start reading the newspaper -- at least, the Politics parts.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Well, using the GPS to get from there to here didn't work too well.

My first clue that this might not be a seamless activity was when we backed out of the driveway, using the GPS's Favorites item titled Home to Cousins House, and the GPS said, cheerily Now arriving at destination Home. Um.... So we programmed in the address, and it was good....right up to the point where it wanted us to go straight and we wanted to take a different route. Well, okay, fine. But then it started doing its Recalculating bit, and next thing we knew, it was pointing toward Staten Island (which was good; that was the way we wanted to go).

And past it, pointing now to the Holland Tunnel. And then the Lincoln Tunnel. And then the George Washington Bridge. By that time, we figured out that it had wanted to drive us through downtown Manhattan -- which is the most direct route to get to the Long Island Expressway from New Jersey. But, okay, I knew where we were going, and though I don't like driving on the Cross Bronx Expressway, I can do it. And then the bridge over to Queens, okay, thats good. And then the Cross Island Parkway. And then get off the CIP and go onto a city street. And one block later get on the CIP and go south. And then Get off and go on Northern Boulevard (which is a majorly congested city street). And then awk! As we turned it off, looked at the map, and found out how to get where we wanted to go.

I think GPS is good, I really do. But perhaps, in cities, not so much.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Just learned something kind of cute.

You can create a map showing the route of a proposed trip in Google Maps, save it under a descriptive name to their MyMaps function, get the URL of the page that shows that map, and then go to TakItWithMe to create an uploadable file for your GPS to use when mapping the route. Essentially, Google becomes the mapping software's brain. Afterward, you can delete the entry from Google, if you want.

Nice. Tomorrow, we'll see if it works!


Editorial Cartoon

Found here.


Well, we've taken care of the neighbor's dog.

Big dog -- I think he's a German Shepherd. Quiet, though, which adds to a certain feeling of menace when he looms out of the gloom. He did bark a couple of times when another dog kicked it off, but after I spoke sharply to him, he stopped (much to my surprise). Otherwise, he just followed me around, or sat, panting, watching me. Licked my hand a couple of times. I wasn't sure if he was getting ready for a snack. I thought our cat ate a lot, but this dog had two bags of food sitting ready, each of which was about 25 pounds. I wonder if he can be counted as a dependent?

It's a little bit of an odd feeling, being in someone else's home when they're not there. Didn't help that I couldn't find any stray cash.

It wasn't any trouble, but I don't think we'll be getting one any time soon.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


The mentor program is over for the year.

My mento is going to just barely graduate. He has to take a summer remedial course in math, but then he's on to high school. I'm pleased for him, but I cannot take any credit for it.

I talked with two girls who were at our table, asking them what they thought of the program, and how they would make it better. They said that they thought a lot less talking and discussion, and a lot more hands-on work with their subjects, would be the best way. I'm inclined to agree. If I do it next year, that's how I'll do it.

I got into an interesting discussion about writing with one of the girls. She was lively and spoke well. Made me wish that I'd had her as a mento. Then I looked around, and noticed that most of the kids there were like mine -- nice enough, but not especially outgoing or insightful. On the low-key side. I guess that's par for the course. Be nice to get a smart kid, but a smart kid wouldn't be in the program.

Ah, well. Done for the year.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Final Meeting

We had the final meeting for the French trip that my daughter's going on. It appears that, though they've done this before, organization isn't one of the teacher's skills. She kept remembering things that weren't on her list....

They're going to have two hours in the Louvre. The teacher said it was a pity. I said Not to worry, they'll say "Well, what do you expect? They're Americans!" She didn't appear comforted by this. Possibly because she's French.

This Morning

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Stray Thoughts

I just brought my daughter over to have her hair trimmed. Women's haircuts cost too much. Though, as things progress, my own haircuts might reach that range, some day. I suspect that's why my father used to have his hair cut really short. I urged my daughter to consider a buzz cut, but she's not in favor of that.

A blog I like to read mentioned that sometimes buying a dress is better than therapy. I'm not contemplating that, but I can recall when I'd put on a nice-fitting suit and be pleased with the textures. I don't get much of that pleasure these days, as a rule, except for really old, really soft T shirts. Wouldn't mind more of it. Texture that soothes is a good thing.

We're going to 'hire' the eight year old son of a friend to clean out our cats box and do a couple of minor things for us while we're away this weekend. He's the son of the guy who went to jail last year, and I sometimes feel a little sorry for his wife and son, her especially. Not that the woman ever gives any indication of being under stress, but I assume she is. Just being a single parent with a young child can do that. So - occasionally - when I can do something for her, I do. We had her and her son over for brunch once, for example, and now this. I don't think we'll make a habit of it -- she has family in the area, both hers and his, and they help her a lot -- but occasionally, yes.

We got an EZ Pass today. Now our Galactic Overlords can track us more easily.

Went to the gym today. Felt really awkward without my trainer. What weight do I use? What exercise am I trying to do? The presence of some really big guys there casually working out with weights that I regard as massive didn't help. Not that they were obnoxious at all -- just, I felt like a little kid with my 10 pound weights next to their, oh, 40 pounders. Still, I did it, and that's something.

Chili tonight, I think. Leftover, but that's okay. I might bake tomorrow, though. Day 2 of the sourdough starter.