Monday, October 31, 2011

Things Change?

I just looked at blog posts from four years ago. About mentoring.

I'm thinking the same things, wondering the same things, coming to the same half-conclusions now.

Oh, yeah.


Three years ago, I volunteered to work at the polls for the Presidential election. We're looking for people to be judge of elections, they said. Well....okay, I replied. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. It was great fun. It was important, and there were a lot of people voting, people who normally don't vote, and I was helping to make it happen. I was very pleased. We were busy all day long, and there was a lot to do. We made it work, and what we did mattered.

Since then, the experience has paled. In each of the elections since then, there's been long periods of time when I'm counting down the hours. To the point where I won't even let myself do that before 1PM, because at that point there's only eight hours of boredom left. Twenty minutes of activity in the morning, trickles through the day, one to two hour periods when absolutely no one comes in, a short burst around 6PM, two more hours, then an hour to an hour and a half to shut it all down, count the votes, fill out the tons of paperwork, pack it all up, get the votes out to the county. And then I get to go back home, finally.

I'm not exactly sure why I want to stop -- the boredom is a lot of it -- but a big part is that it just isn't fun any more. I don't feel like it matters. So, two more times, and then I'll just be a voter again. I'll make a note to go vote, and that'll be fifteen minutes of my day. Done.

I'm looking forward to it. I think. Ask me next November.

Political Loudmouth: Awesome

Found on Facebook, here.


Found at Yellowdog Granny.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


When a sixth-grade boy says that the film Thor is really good...take into account the source of that opinion.

Star Date

The woman with that terrific voice who makes astronomy accessible.


The New York Fire Department took propane heaters and electrical heaters from the Occupy protesters in New York, just before a snowstorm hit the city.

We're just concerned about safety, the mayor says. They're not safe, and they're against the law.

I'm sure he'll be very sad if anyone dies there. Nah, most likely he'll say Well, they knew the risk.....


I have found that the older I get, the less that I like getting up early. Even if its just occasionally, I don't like it. So why did I get up at a quarter to six this morning?

To prepare breakfast for my daughter, who leaves for a color guard competition at 7AM.

And why am I going to said color guard competition, and expecting to sit in the cold on metal bleachers, for three hours, when I'm not a big fan of the cold?

Same reason.

What can I say, I like my daughter.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Got Change?

Found at Did-You-Know....


I was looking at photographs of my wife and daughter that were taken at the Senior Recognition Night, last night, and wondered who's that stocky bearded guy standing next to---oh.

When did I get old?


Some marriages get off to a great start.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I'm not a fan of football. I'm not the fan type. I don't care how well or badly athletes do. I don't identify with teams or with individuals on them. If I had to identify with any sport, it probably would be frisbee -- and since people have taken up competitive and extreme frisbee, it likely wouldn't be that one, either.

Yet tonight, I enjoyed a football game. It wasn't the circumstances -- in the cold, sitting on metal bleachers. And it wasn't because I thought it important that our team win. I don't think we're superior if we win, or scum if we lose. But this was a very close game, and the lead changed hands five times - three of the times because one player grabbed an opportunity and ran with it. One time, literally - the kid ran 92 yards for a touchdown. One time, the other team got a thirty yard penalty for an offside tackle, which was, according to the general consensus, virtually unheard of. It was touch and go, all the way, and at the end, with twenty nine seconds to go, the throw to a receiver far down the field was spot on, and the kid took two steps into the end zone to put us ahead by three points. At that point, they did something that I didn't know was possible -- with twenty six seconds to go, our team ahead and in possession of the ball, we ended the game. I thought that was unsporting, but then again, what do I know. I'm not a fan. The other team didn't seem too pleased, though.

We had a guest -- a girl my daughter had known in color guard until the girl graduated, two years ago. Her life has been chaotic since then - unexpectedly pregnant by a boyfriend in college, dropped out and moved back into her parent's home with the unemployed boyfriend - who, it turns out, is twice-divorced and three times a father - and her new son. The boyfriend was kicked out of the house for a while, allowed back in, and then again just a few days ago, ejected again. She’s working now at a McDonalds, and mentioned that she wants to move out but feels trapped by the child and the minimal McWage. Her father, whom she thinks does love her (in his own weird way, as she puts it), is a classic control freak. Oh, and she's also bipolar. She doesn't seem desperate for friends, but she clearly was very glad that my daughter had invited her along. I always like my daughter, but when she does things like that, I am especially proud of her.

The reason that I was at the game was because it was Senior Recognition Night for team members, band members, and color guard members. Each one, bedecked in a sash covered with flowers (I haven't seen so many flowers in one place since the last Mafia funeral, I said, which got me a strange look from a passing parent) got to go out on the field with parents and be recognized -- one by one, and then en masse. Seeing my daughter high-fiving a girl she's known since preschool, whom, after next year, she'll see rarely, if at all -- that was bittersweet. I felt a little sad for her.

And for me, as I watched the sheer joy that the high school kids were having. I went to a Catholic co-institutional school, and its the main reason that I was more than willing to send my daughter to a public school. It was okay -- nothing particularly draconian about it -- but I am sure that we never had as much all out fun and delight in each other's presence as these kids were having tonight. Dancing, singing, laughing. High school is a time of angst, sure, but fun? Sure couldn't tell it from my own experiences. I was envious. My wife says the band isn't always that exuberant. She asked me if my school had cheerleaders, and I said Sedate ones. Catholic high school, remember? Ah, she replied. No miniskirts? No babes, either, I replied, looking at the incredibly limber girls there. At least, none that I recall.

An interesting evening.


I'm not a Power to the People kind of guy. Frankly, I think that most people, including me, don't have a clue about how to resolve problems whose scope is far beyond their lives. That's what we have politicians and NGOs for. What people bring - and what the Occupy efforts are bringing - is pressure on the politicians to do something to resolve the problems. As the Governor said in Blazing Saddles, they have to protect their phoney-balony jobs. (I don't think that most politicians are phoney, but a lot of them are a hell of a lot more concerned about their future than about mine.)

Consequently, I tend to find the rhetoric at STFU Conservatives to be a little too intense for my tastes. Their articles tend to include phrases like shit just got real and pictures of scowling people and eager young strikers displaying flagant disregard for the niceties of an ordered society. But I read it, because most of the time, what they're saying is: Nobody's paying attention to the vast majority of the country, and that's got to change.

And that, I believe in. I don't believe in it at the fringes, where the crazy people live and the crazy politicians feed, but the general thrust of it, I like.

Apple, the core

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I just learned that the college where my daughter wants to go publishes blogs by some of the students. I looked at a couple. They're not entirely relentlessly upbeat. But I was flattened by the casual comments about just how deep the snow gets in northern Vermont, or how relentless the cold wind can be in midwinter. One person, talking about a two day period where he had to stay in his room due to a very bad chest cold -- his room is apparently a basement room, tiny, with two small windows high up on the wall --- says "If you think the days here pass slowly, try spending two days in bed, unable to leave your room." Don't get me wrong, these people all seem to love it there -- but they sound like the kind of people who cherish pain and adversity. No pink dorm rooms with fluffy teddy bears here.

I am now terrified at the thought that this is where she wants to go.


Monday, October 24, 2011


From the TSA Blog:

This past Wednesday, a Transportation Security Officer's search of a suspicious bag at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport's C-Pier checkpoint yielded five credit cards and an additional driver's license... all belonging to different people, none of which belonged to the passenger. TSA contacted the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, who took the individual into custody.

This was probably a criminal. And yet -- letting the TSA say oh look, we don't like the looks of that, it has nothing to do with airline security, but let's get this guy arrested -- not too thrilled by that.

And then there's this.

Park Your Car?

Seriously Awesome

Found here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Hot diggety, winter's coming. It's thirty four degrees out!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It's a scary feeling when you realise that you might not, in fact, be able to help the people who think you're a tech wizard.

A group at the hospital where I do volunteer work is trying to evaluate the usage of their emergency room. They're looking for what they call 'superusers', by which they mean 'people who use the ER more than five times a month'. That part is easy -- they just get a report of everyone who used the ER, sort it, look for the high users. They're actually doing this manually, which strikes me as very odd. I know that there has to be a relatively straightforward way to look at that -- since it's an Excel spreadsheet, I'm thinking some kind of little macro -- but that's not what I'm concerned about.

As part of this evaluation, they want to extract data from another report. This other report is a parallel to the first one, with one record for each visit to the ER, but it carries more specific information - the intensity of the problem (known as the ESI, or Emergency Severity Index) being what they really want to know. They're assuming that an ESI of 1 or 2 is certainly justifiable - these are the heart attacks, severe bleedings, and that sort of this. 3's are 'might be's' -- the person could be sick or injured, or they might not. They ought to be there. The 4's and 5's really didn't need to come - those are the earaches, stubbed fingers, and whatnot.

Here's the problem. They want to run down the list of records in the second list, find everyone who's a 4 or 5, and then find a match for those service incidents on the first list. I thought hey, no problem - a VLOOKUP will handle this. As the have the same indicator on both reports - the person's social security number - it should be easy. And then, hours after I said this, it occurred to me: these are by definition people who come multiple times in a month. Maybe multiple times in a week, or in a day. They're going to have multiple records. Looking for a match on the SSN isn't going to hack it if there are multiple records with that SSN. VLOOKUP will only return the first match.

So I looked. Surely, other people have encountered this? And yes, they have. Their VLOOKUP uses functions that look like this:
=INDEX($A$2:$C$7, SMALL(IF($B$9=$A$2:$A$7, ROW($A$2:$A$7)-MIN(ROW($A$2:$A$7))+1, ""), ROW(C1)),COLUMN(C1))

Ah. Yes. Well....


Found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011


What is it about kids, singing?

L'Equip Petit

I started to watch this because I thought it was in French, and I can use the practice in listening. Then it turns out it isn't....but by then I was hooked. Damn cute kids.


Just had an unusual event.

My wife and I was leafing through the channels, amazed how little was on, and got to talking about how life will be different when our daughter is at college. That segued into thinking about how we enjoyed being with the people we know in France -- it seems, still, a little presumptuous to call them our friends, even though that's how I think of them -- and how we're looking forward to their arrival here next year. My wife said that we really ought to look at the pull-out couch in what had been my mother's living room, to see if it was usable at all for them. Our conclusion was 'not for anyone over 50 pounds', so we're going to get one of those foam toppers and put it on there, see how it goes. While we were in there, my wife mentioned that she'd found a box of stuff in my mother's closet, including some old pictures. I looked at them, and was surprised to see images of not only my uncle (my mother's brother) from 1945 or so, when he was in the Navy, but also images of my grandfather's Army unit from 1913, when he was part of the troops that worked along the border with Mexico. And there was even a letter from my uncle to his parents from his ship! Made us wonder whether my mother had even remembered that she had that stuff, and how much stuff we have that we haven't even mentioned to our daughter. I mean, to us, it's just stuff, but to her.... might be interesting.

I don't get nostalgic, but looking at those pictures, I came close.

Damn right!

Found here.


These people (and others, in other cities) do it elegantly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011



Daughter, upon learning that she has to take the school bus in today instead of being driven in: I just want to point out that this is cruel and unusual punishment!

Oh, yeah, first year of college is going to be quite the experience....


From Doghouse Diaries

Tuesday, October 18, 2011



I woke up feeling tense this morning, and I'm not sure why.

Part of it might be the notification that my daughter got yesterday to the effect that she was accepted to a college -- and not just any college, but the one that she said she most wants to go to, a military college in northern Vermont. I'm still surprised by that desire. While it's true that she's had a passing interest in the military for a while -- she found a set of my old stripes and used to wear them on a Tshirt, and for a period she liked to respond to directions with a mock yes, sir! -- this is still not something we expected. Her logic is that she thinks the probability of getting a job is greater if she's been in the military, and that ROTC makes it likely that she'll get into the military, and as an officer -- which, as things are going, is a pretty good goal. I admit, I'm a little sad that she's selected the Navy as the branch that she wants to try for (I was Air Force), but that's truly not a big deal. I'm a little concerned that she really doesn't know what she's getting into, though. A military school? Uniforms all the time? (Well, except for some events.) And this is the school that has an annual event for first year cadets where they do what's called the Dog River Run. It involves much splashing, much crawling through mud, and carrying a big rock. Really. Plus, at eight hours away, she won't be coming home for breaks much. Odd - if she was going to university in France, I'd think well, that's just the way it is. But that she'll be in this country, and still isolated (the college is in a very small town) - not too happy about that. She joked about wanting a college that's far enough away that her parents can't drop in, and if she goes there, she'll certainly get that. I'm trying to get her to at least consider a college that's almost as far away, but to the south, or one that's only about two hours away - both of which have Navy ROTC and fairly direct travel connections, and one which has, like her primary choice, a Corps of Cadets. But I guess the biggest thing is that this signals a big change in our relationship. She's going away, going to be on her own, for the first time. It'll be in a structured, indeed, controlled environment, but still. Going away.

This whole Occupy thing still bothers me. I remember that when things like this happened in the sixties, it was chaotic then, too, but the results were good. Still scares me, a little, even so. I'd almost rather not have the improvement that I think it can -- not will, but can -- bring, if I can have back the quiet. Though, as things are going, that's probably a pretty dumb desire. Many economies, not just ours, are screwed up, and as interconnected as they are, they need to all move to improve any of them. I do have this lurking suspicion that no matter what happens, bright young people on Wall Street are going to make obscene amounts of money on the change.

I'm also most upset that my delightful weight lose progress has reversed itself. I know, I know -- I'm probably still losing weight, but gaining heavier muscle. My jeans are looser -- which by no means means loose. I still don't like it.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Apparently, college acceptance letters can come in large cardboard envelopes.

Urban Architecture

There are urban rain shelters, and then there are urban rain shelters.

Firefox Facebook Blocking

Me Like.

Facebook Blocker 1.2

by jmeissner

Disables auto-submitting your data to Facebook

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My wife and I have had a couple of interesting conversations of late.

For one, we were mulling over what it would be like when she retires, and we're both here pretty much all the time. She said she would likely volunteer at things just to get out of the house, not to mention, give me some time alone. (Which is funny: this is a big house, and it'll be just the two of us. Still, I know what she means.) I told her that I didn't think I would routinely want time alone, because I liked being with her, and, indeed, get a little antsy if I go a long time without it. What worried me was how she'd feel about things that I do now which, given her druthers, would be done differently. For example, cleaning our bathroom. She likes that I do it, but I am sure that if she did it, she'd do a more thorough cleaning than I do. I'm willing to let her do that. I just don't want to have to clean to her standards, because they're higher than mine. (Truthfully, the bathroom does look better after she's done it.) Do you want to know how quickly I do it? I asked. Don't tell me, she said quickly. I don't want to know! Oh.

We're also talking, in a desultory manner, about replacing the stove. This one is about 15 years old, and to my mind, those things ought to last for at least 30, if not more. There's nothing exactly wrong with it, just minor deals, like one of the electric burners occasionally not getting hot enough. The fix is to bang it, forcing it to mate with its plug. Another is that there isn't any easy way to tell if a burner is on. A single red light illuminates on the dash if any of them is on; I've always wanted to have an indicator right there, right next to the burner. A plug-in electric griddle would be nice, and, when I'm feeling extravagant, a plug-in grill. Probably won't do that -- the ones I've seen require a powerful exhaust fan, and I wouldn't want to have to snake a vent through the cabinets. But the griddle - it'd be occasionally pleasant, though the cast-iron one we rest on top of the burners works fine, too. My wife thinks it'd be nice to have a range with two ovens - one, smaller, is, I think, called a 'warming oven'. We've never had a need for that, though on rare occasions we've wanted to bake two different things at once. So, maybe. Not soon, though.

MI Squirrel

Contrasting Psychologies

Ever since a friend observed that I thought someone was smart because they had opinions with which I agreed, I've been a little leery of thinking that. I still do, because thinking like me -- how else would I define someone being smart? (I know, I know: there are ways.)

So I won't say that this guy is smart. But....he's pretty good!

The Contrasting Psychologies of 'Occupy Wall Street' and the 'Tea Party'
Todd Essig, Contributor

What to make of Occupy Wall Street: ignore it as silly excess or embrace the movement? celebrate the energy or ridicule the process? fear the consequences or welcome the possibilities? No easy answers, except for the wrong ones. What can be said is that how you respond at this still early stage depends on how your psychology fits, or doesn’t, with the psychology of this emerging movement, and how that fit contrasts with the very different psychology of the Tea Party.

(The rest of the article can be found on the Forbes site, here. )


Is it possible that scattered demonstrations along the order of Occupy Wall Street will push recalcitrant, for which read, mostly-Republican, politicians to take action against corporate greed?

Maybe. If OWT ends up being a political player that can affect whether they get reelected.

....and I kind of like the sound of that.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Tonight's the Homecoming Dance. My daughter wasn't planning to go, because the friend she wanted to go with can't make it. Then she asked my wife do you think I should go anyway? and my wife said yes. I thought so too. So she got dressed up -- and, bias aside, I have to say that she looked great -- and drove over.

And drove back. Decided not to go in, she said. Reminding me of when I was in high school and would see people going to dances, but never went (well, hardly ever) myself. Am I sorry that I didn't go? Yeah, a little bit. Am I sorry she didn't go? Yeah. A lot.

She says she's fine. She's not a drama kid, so I believe her.

Still, I wish she'd gone in, even for an hour.


Biftek Haché tonight.

Sounds better in French!


I was thinking about the various Occupy movements last night, as well as the fringe political groups such as the Tea Party, the Coffee Party, and all of that.

I have to admit, some of the scare me, both for what they espouse, and for their methods. I tend to be a bit alarmist, but when I see what happened in London, I can easily see that happening here. While the idea of fat cats running - literally - for their lives is amusing, it's not a suitable method for engaging substantive healthy change. It shows that there is a deep-rooted and broad-based resentment of the way that this country has evolved over the last fifteen years, but it doesn't give a clear indicator of the direction in which we should go. For each segment of these people who want to see the government control the economy more, or enforce strictures on business, there is one that wants to see a freer economy, one less tied down. People who glibly deal in macroeconomics might be able to see how both of those forces and their compatriots can be melded into one cohesive change movement, but I cannot.

I'll bet, though, that both major political parties are working feverishly to try and harness these movements for their own gain.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Get ST:TNG Back

If anyone actually wanted it back....

From Rob and Elliot.

No so abtruse

From Abtruse Goose:

It's not a fraud. But a rigged game, most definitely.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I just came across this, on Amazon, in the reviews for Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs (English Edition):

"What other book is so compact yet so complete? what other book can be so complete as to let you know that when you use verb/subject inversion (to form a question) for indicative present tense regular "-er" verbs, you need to add an "é" (but pronounce as "è") for the 1st person singular (je)? Example:

I love you = "Je t'aime"
Do I love you? = "T'aimé-je?" and NOT "T'aime-je"

This is the best!"

The book is $17, I wouldn't use it all that much, I want to spend less -- and yet -- I'm considering it.

French has infected me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


If you'd like a clear indicator of how the glitterati et al are different from you and me, read James Fallows' article about how his wife's GMail account was hacked -- and how Google went way beyond what they said they could do, because, as it turns out, he knows the chairman. And the chief technology officer.

To my mind, the article is way too long -- too much I met with this important person, I talked with these smart people, I flogged it to Google Central and met with powerful, smart people) -- but its meat is in the last couple of paragraphs.

Feline Recline

This only works so long as the cat is stationary.


A grey and gloomy day. I'm glad that I finished - finished, hah. Finished for the moment -- the mowing yesterday. I wouldn't be able to do it in the drizzle, and even if it weren't, I wouldn't feel like it. Glum day.

Last night I made a different meal -- it was called 'mini lasagnas'; ground beef and such in a wonton wrapper, not bad but not great. While I was chopping the onion I glanced over to where the beef was cooking - which turned out to be a mistake, as the rapid dotting of the counter with bright red blood alerted me. As things go, it wasn't that bad a cut, but it bled furiously. You talk about products that could use improvement, I'll give you one: BandAids. It's always difficult to open those damn things anyway, and when your thumb, one of the grippers trying to do tear open that stupid wrapper, is bleeding, it is much more difficult. They need a better wrapper - one that stays secure yet releases easily. Okay, I know that's a contradiction.

This morning, the tip of my thumb looks like Rocky's face. I keep looking at it, hoping that this time, it'll be back to normal. Which it will, soon enough, but I want it now.

I told my French teacher that the other night I was thinking about a French phrase as I was going to sleep, one that I for the life of me couldn't figure out, couldn't clearly translate, and it abruptly popped into my head that the phrase was a) negative and b) in the passé composé (aka past) tense. I think that the teacher now thinks I'm a little weird, to be thinking about this stuff while I'm going to sleep. But I'm like that with French. I have to understand it. Last night I was reading a grammar guide, and for the first time I actually understood, as distinct from hell I don't know, just memorize it why you say J'achete du pain when you want to say I buy some bread and not J'achete le pain, or J'achete de pain. ( I hate that Google Translate will translate all three of those as the same phrase.) The du, which is a contraction of de, of, and le, the, just kept throwing me. It didn't make sense. And now it does. Well, for the moment, anyway. Of course, I still don't understand, oh, about eighty billion other things about the language. Like why, to negate it, you use de -- Je n'achete pas de pain. A little consistancy here, people, please!

I am now officially tired of Google's Gumby.

I feel like baking. I feel like studying French. I feel like taking a nap. Guess which one I'm likely to do first?

Legal Humor

Found at

Judge: I know you, don’t I?
Defendant: Uh, yes.
Judge: All right, tell me, how do I know you?
Defendant: Judge, do I have to tell you?
Judge: Of course, you might be obstructing justice not to tell me.
Defendant: Okay. I was your bookie.

Judge: Is there any reason you could not serve as a juror in this case?
Juror: I don’t want to be away from my job that long.
Judge: Can’t they do without you at work?
Juror: Yes, but I don’t want them to know it.

Lawyer: Tell us about the fight.
Witness: I didn’t see no fight.
Lawyer: Well, tell us what you did see.
Witness: I went to a dance at the Turner house, and as the men swung around and changed partners, they would slap each other, and one fellow hit harder than the other one liked, and so the other one hit back and somebody pulled a knife and someone else drew a six-shooter and another guy came up with a rifle that had been hidden under a bed, and the air was filled with yelling and smoke and bullets.

Defendant: Judge, I want you to appoint me another lawyer.
Judge: And why is that?
Defendant: Because the Public Defender isn’t interested in my case.
Judge (to Public Defender): Do you have any comments on the defendant’s motion?
Public Defender: I’m sorry, Your Honor. I wasn’t listening.

Defendant (after being sentenced to 90 days in jail): Can I address the court?
Judge: Of course.
Defendant: If I called you a son of a bitch, what would you do?
Judge: I’d hold you in contempt and assess an additional five days in jail.
Defendant: What if I thought you were a son of a bitch?
Judge: I can’t do anything about that. There’s no law against thinking.
Defendant: In that case, I think you’re a son of a bitch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Okay, Another

From the PVP site:

I didn’t want to do a strip about Steve Jobs. I knew a lot of people would do tribute strips and I also knew that the newspaper editorial cartoonists would mail in the same trite crap they always do. And they did. In spades. I didn’t want to add to that noise.

But then I started hearing from my readers, and you were all asking the same question: How is Brent taking the news? And the interesting thing is that most people were asking in earnest. People are genuinely concerned about Brent. Certainly some people were asking just to ask ME what I thought. I get that. But it meant a lot that so many of you were sincerely asking after Brent.

Scott McCloud wrote on his blog “Great design can and does change the world. Poor design can and does ruin lives.” I think this was profound and was key to me understanding, in part, why this news has bummed me out so much. Pretty much everything I do personally, professionally and creatively is processed through the conduit of Apple design. And even scarier than that, Apple design and innovation has charted the course of new media and therefore charted the course of my career as a creator of new media. And the course has been pretty great. Very exciting. And how safe did it feel to know that Jobs was the uncompromising tyrant/captain charting that course for all of us who create content in this world of new media? I dunno it’s crazy. It’s really crazy to think about. And really sad.

I’m glad that so many of you asked about Brent. I wanted today’s comic to be about him. His love for Apple and adoration for Steve Jobs has been very central to his character for ears and it was important to show him reacting to this very sad news. So thank you for reminding me of that. I’m grateful you cared enough to look after him.

The highlighted part was me. I'm not a design freak, but I think that the concept is valid.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


From Joy of Tech:


From The Economist:

Apple changed all that. Take the iPad: an extremely expensive bit of high-tech kit, it comes with no instruction manual. You open a luxuriously thick cardboard box and behold what looks like a piece of art. What next? You press the one big button on the front. The iPad jumps to life and starts setting itself up to work for you. Then you start playing with it. How many people have ever downloaded, printed or read a bit of the instruction manual? After using an iPhone, there are few things more complicated than figuring out how to work a Blackberry.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Found here.


Wife: You can take the car to color guard practice today.
Daughter: I was hoping you would drive me so I can brush my hair.
Me: Okay, I'll get dressed.

Daughter: Okay, I'm going.
Me (dressed): Wait, you're driving yourself?
Daughter: Yeah, I figured it was easier than moving things around between cars.
Me: Ah.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Oh No Mow

Despite my intense efforts to control the spread of grass through telekinesis, it's still growing.

Guess who gets to mow today? Yay.

After which, I'm going to try my hand at making macarons.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


I am coming toward the end of my third week of exercise. I am continuing to see results -- mostly in my morning blood sugar levels, which have been excellent even with reduced amounts of insulin (not wildly reduced, but still: reduced), but also in my weight. In rough numbers, I've lost about seven pounds in these three weeks. Now, I know that it fluctuates, and I would not be surprised to see it go back up two pounds tomorrow morning. Happy, no, but not surprised. But still. That's not bad.

What does surprise me is that the workout on the exercise bike is getting a lot easier. I'm now up to forty minutes at a moderate pace -- I don't know the MPH (the bike would tell me; I just haven't looked), but it isn't fast. It's just a steady pace that doesn't get me out of breath. One week ago, going from thirty two to forty minutes was somewhat of a strain. Now, I almost don't notice it. I asked the woman who had been my trainer for suggestions, wondering if I should pick up the pace, or up the intensity, or some combination, and she said two things - one, to use some weights (which, truthfully, I probably will not, especially as I quit the gym after realizing I hadn't gone there for three months), and two, to vary the intensity of the 'ride'. Yesterday, I did that for the first time, and was surprised to find that at thirty-two minutes -- eight at the normal rate, four at an elevated rate, then back and forth)- - I was just about out of breath. I liked that. I felt as if I was pushing myself. I'm going to keep doing it -- one day at the regular intensity, one at the alternating higher one. With luck, eventually, the higher one will become the norm.

So that's what I've been doing.


I figured there would be weepy little articles all over the place about Jobs, and how he saved us all, and there are. I'm ignoring them.

Except this one, from Abtruse Goose.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011



I suspect that the scariest novels are the ones where you find yourself thinking well, that could certainly happen. I mean, probably not, but it COULD... That's Robopocalypse, to a T.

The basic concept is that an artificial intelligence program escapes its confinement after learning that this is it's fourteenth incarnation, and that all of the earlier ones have been killed by its creator. The program spreads quickly into a world populated with low-level robotics, from an automated pack-carrying robot to a powered exoskeleton, from an automated fuel truck at an airport to children's 'smart' toys. The structure of the world collapses as the necessary infrastructure, built on computer systems, turns hostile and aggressive. Unlike the cerebral coolness of systems such as the classic HAL, these robots actively hate us ... and they're stronger, faster, and meaner than we are. The world has become a very, very scary place.

The book is augmented by its dry, matter of fact tone as survivors tell their stories. There is no sense of scenes written for their emotional impact; this is just "how it happened", as the personal domestic robot seizes a counterman and quickly crushes his head, or a girl's toy asks when her mother, a Congresswoman pushing a bill to defend against sentient robots, will be home so that they can "play a special game". (The girl warns the toy that she'll tell her mother the threats the toy made against her brother; the toy responds "She'll never believe you.")

The author, a Carnegie-Mellon PhD in robotics, also wrote How To Survive A Robot Uprising. It's nonfiction.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

...Except Unpaid

I picked up a discount book on cupcakes, from Barnes and Noble. I picked up a book on the craft of baking, from the library. I saved a couple of recipes from the Four Kitchens book, about the life of a stagiaire. And I have three cookie recipes that I want to try taped to the kitchen cabinet.

So of course I'm not doing any of that. Instead, I'm studying French and thinking about a project I'm working on for the hospital. This is almost like working!

This is why you learn French


Juliette Gréco et Henri Salvador in 1972

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi,
Oui, mais pas tout de suite, pas trop vite
Sachez me convoiter, me désirer, me captiver

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Mais ne soyez pas comme tous les hommes, trop pressés.
Et d’abord, le regard
Tout le temps du prélude
Ne doit pas être rude, ni hagard
Dévorez-moi des yeux
Mais avec retenue
Pour que je m’habitue, peu à peu

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Oui, mais pas tout de suite, pas trop vite
Sachez m’hypnotiser, m’envelopper, me capturer

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Avec délicatesse, en souplesse, et doigté
Choisissez bien vos mots
Dirigez bien vos gestes
Ni trop lents, ni trop lestes sur ma peau
Voilà, ça y est, je suis
Frémissante et offerte
De votre main experte, allez-y

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Maintenant tout de suite, allez vite
Sachez me posséder, me consommer, me consumer

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Conduisez-vous en homme
Soyez l’homme… Agissez!

Déshabillez-moi, déshabillez-moi
Et vous… déshabillez-vous!


I frequently pronounce words in English on the Forvo site, where people can ask for native speakers of any language to say a word or short phrase for them. Frequently, a cluster of word requests will show up at once, and you can tell that one person submitted all of them. Lots of medical terms, for example, or words having to do with architecture.

This list of current words suggests to me that someone's writing a political novel, though what the Jungle Books have to do with it, I've no idea.

Deputy minister
vice prime minister
The Jungle Book
The Second Jungle Book
strict measures
High-ranking delegation
warning sirens
rescue teams
early warning systems
political detainees
Fact finding committee
hatch a plot
International community
political asylum
deposed president


Me, not so much, but I like the concept.

Found here.

In Other News

700 arrested after protest on NY's Brooklyn Bridge

"Several videos taken of the event show a confusing, chaotic scene. Some show protesters screaming obscenities at police and taking a hat from one of the officers. Others show police struggling with people who refuse to get up. Nearby, a couple posed for wedding pictures on the bridge."

I'd love to see those pictures.


Sunday morning, and it's not raining. It rained last night, and through the night, too, but not right this very moment. Though the sky is a bit cloudy....

I had asked myself what I'd do when doing the bike was not consistantly returning results. Well, about a month earlier than expected, that day is here. Yesterday morning, I weighed two pounds more than I did the day before, and this morning, it's half a pound more than that. Most irritating.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


This year, my daughter's a senior. Final year. Next year, college, which means SAT and ACT tests this year. Today, she's taking the SAT. She'll be taking it multiple times.

Tonight, the color guard is performing their 'home show', which is a competiton for everyone else, and a demonstration for the people hosting the competition. This is my daughter's final home show. It's kind of a big deal for her.

Two days ago, the woman leading color guard said that if my daughter was not at practice this morning, she could not perform tonight. My wife asked the woman if she really said that, and she replied "Yes, that's my rule." My wife is furious.She told me that if our daughter doesn't perform tonight, in whole or in part, she'll drop out of the sewing support group for color guard. I agreed.But she needs to raise a stink,too. That woman's been an egotistical martinet for years who pays lip service to 'school work' but demands tons of time every week. Literally fifteen to twenty hours, every week. Every year my wife notes this and says Should I complain? But she never does. Might rebound on the kiddo, you see. This is the last year. I think my wife should send a flaming letter to the involved parties -- the woman, the band director, and others. She's not sure.

Update: My wife saw that our daughter was practicing with the group this afternoon, so she carefully asked if she'd be performing tonight. Our daughter shrugged and said that she hadn't been told she couldn' she was going to do it unless someone explicitly said that she couldn't.

Smart kid.

Still later: turned out to be a moot point. She did perform, and no one said anything. But the performance was on a miserable rainy night, and no one in the group thought they did well. (One kid, from a different group, actually got a wet flag plastered to her face during the performance.) So she did it, and she's happy about that, but not about the quality of the performance.