Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine." -- John Adams

A few years back, I was walking across the food court at the mall when a couple of military recruiters offered to buy me lunch. I didn't have time to eat, but I did take a little time to chat. Long story short, I said no thanks to their offers of professional training and my student loans paid off, and they had a good laugh when they found out I was over 30. Not quite their demographic. Because they asked, I also said I didn't much like the way Bush was eyeing Iraq, and that I would no more join the military right now than I would get in a car with a drunk behind the wheel. And then I thanked them for their service.

There was definitely a moral element to my refusal, but I had selfish motives as well. I had a house, a good paying and interesting job, a burgeoning relationship, and all sorts of comfortable reasons not to uproot myself in service of my country. That's probably the main reason they target guys in their teens and twenties, not their thirties. Well, that and the fact that we're creaky, old, and out of shape.

But I owe a great deal of that comfort to military service. If my dad hadn't learned computers in the Army, lord knows what he'd have ended up doing with his life, but he certainly wouldn't have met my Mom, a fellow geek, studying them in college once he got out. On the flip side, though, if my grandfather's family hadn't convinced him to stay home during World War Two (they needed him on the farm), who knows what might have happened?

This was meant to be a quick "Thanks for serving" shout out to the friends, family, and strangers who've served in the military, but it got complicated, didn't it? Damn.

Still, isn't that the way it ought to be? A boy leaves home and comes back a man. A man goes off to war and comes back changed, or doesn't come back at all. We all treasure our freedom, but those who protect it have given theirs up. And then there are those whose values preclude war, and for whom refusing to serve requires the same strength of character. This is complicated stuff, and not to be dealt with lightly.

But yesterday was Memorial Day, when we as a nation celebrate the warriors (peaceful and otherwise) who made us what we are. Granted, we typically celebrate them by grilling hot dogs and buying half-price electronics, but that's just part of the wonderful silliness that is America.

So, to my Dad, my uncles, Billie, and a whole damn bunch of other people with serious guts: Thanks.
Have I ever told you about the crap Theron catches when he talks about Yoga to parents looking to sign their kids up for martial arts class? Yeah. The phrase "devil worship" has actually come up on a couple of occasions. Anyway, this may help.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In a recent Columbia Tribune article, the local head of the Salvation Army was quoted as saying first that a secular charity that provides free furniture to families in need was a bad idea because the Salvation Army depends on revenue from the sale of furniture to maintain their organization, and second that he didn't know why the number and quality of donations they receive has gone down.

I suspect there is a strong correlation between the arrogance of the first and the cluelessness of the second. Add to that the Salvation Army's recent choice to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for the right to fire people based purely on their religious beliefs, and you have all the reason I need to restrict my giving to secular charities.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

I love the smell of new data in the morning
Ah, to come in on a Monday morning and find a much needed answer sitting in my mailbox. To have the address of the tables I need. To open it up and find that, yes, I have the access I need, and don't need to wait for someone to unlock it. To select the fields, set the criteria, and watch the download begin. It's like going to hang a new ceiling fan and finding that the wiring is simple and straightforward. It's like finding an extra can of chicken broth in the cupboard when you desperately need it.

There's just nothing quite like watching those numbers stack up as you download a 73 records, then 352, then 1,743, then 358,921, and then 1,354,215 and the doubt begins to set in, and sometime after the counter passes 10,317,246 records and it sets in that this could be a very long day after all.

Friday, May 19, 2006

It's been 3 days since Bush gave his little speech on immigration, so I guess it's a good time to share my thoughts on the issue.

First of all, there's the purely practical side. How much are you willing to pay for chicken? Or the food in your favorite restaurant? Because prices will go up if we eliminate illegal immigration. Personally, I think it's worth paying a little more to know that the people doing the work are making a living wage, but our country is full of people just barely getting by, and chicken going up by, say, $0.50 a pound could be a real problem for them. On the bright side, most of what we're paying for is the processing, and it might be a good thing if more people learned how to cut up a chicken.

Then there's the cultural side. Once upon a time, immigration from Asia was the bogeyman under the bed, and before that it was the Italians, and before them, the Irish. In all cases, American culture has been richer for the infusion of fresh ideas, flavors, words, etc. Well, okay, Irish cuisine was kind of a non-starter, but hey, Guinness! Maybe it's shallow to judge immigration purely by it's effect on local restaurants, but the last 5 years have brought an influx of kick-ass Mexican restaurants into Columbia, and it's a very good thing.

What about language? Will our grandkids be speaking Spanish? First of all, so what if they do? In a whole lot of ways, the language my generation speaks is completely different from the one my grandparents spoke. Most of the words are the same, but the meaning has often completely shifted. That's what languages do. But Yglesias is kind enough to point out that second generation immigrants almost always have English as their first language, and the data shows that Hispanic immigrants are no different from previous waves in this respect.

I think about my friends whose grandparents speak little to no English, not to mention all the wonderful writers and artists I know of in the same situation. Would America be better off or worse if they'd been kicked out or kept out of the country back in their day? No.

And then there are the small towns. Missouri is filled with tiny little towns that have been dying slow deaths for decades as the money and the kids fled to the big cities. Now they're filling up with agricultural workers who are finding that life is better for them there than in the big cities where gangs are waiting to recruit their kids. There's a viable small town economy in Missouri now thanks to immigration from Mexico.

Obviously, I come down on the "immigration is good" side of the fence, but it's worth looking at Bush's proposal on the merits. Luckily,
Yglesias has already done it. If you're too lazy to click the link, consider this the takeaway: Like everything else Bush has done, his immigration proposal is all politics and no policy, and we'll be lucky if it doesn't actually make things worse. It'd be a miracle if it actually did any good.

But is that really a surprise at this point?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

An Oklahoma builder has built a 3 bedroom, two bath house that generates as much energy as it consumes for around $200,000.
On the dark side, callers are claiming American Idol mishandled their votes. On the bright side, the NSA should be able to clear this up with a single database query.

In fact, knowing this crowd, I'd be willing to bet that President Bush knows the American Idol winner before Fox does.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Moreena's turned pro: The Wait and the Wonder
This weekend, my Dad and I made brunch together while the ladies, still in pajamas, looked on and offered critiques, compliments, and witticisms. Dunno if it was everything Mom was hoping for, but I had a great time.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Two things are scary about this Reuters article: Russian press - Cheney speech spurs new Cold War. First of all, there's the idea that Cheney's out there trying to drum up more enemies for us. And secondly, there's the correction that heads up the article. Apparently when it was first issued, it read "President Cheney" instead of "Vice President Cheney".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sometimes it's easier just to work around myself. I popped home for lunch yesterday, and put my cellphone on the charger while I was there. Because I was feeling tired and stupid, I could all too easily see myself leaving my phone at home when I went back to the office. So, I put my car keys on top of my phone.

Sure enough, I was actually in the garage, ready to leave, when I realized that I didn't have my keys or my phone.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Christie and I were lying in bed the other night reading, when suddenly:

C: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

M: What?

C: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

M: What?

C: Ahhhhhhhhh!

M: What?

C: Spider! (breath) Crawling! (breath) On my leg! (breath) Under the covers!

I pull back the covers, and reveal a firefly. After it's been disposed of:

M: Did you know that more people die of heart attacks from their wives screaming suddenly than die from spider bites?

C: Shut up.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Colbert at the White House Correspondent's dinner. Very worth watching.

No doubt about it, Colbert has giant, giant balls.
When we first bought the house, the kitchen sink had a faucet that was probably cutting edge (and we certainly high quality) twenty years ago, but had some serious design flaws, like too low a spout and dual handles that were too hard to turn and situated poorly.

So we replaced it with a faucet that looked okay, had easy to turn faucets, and a nice gooseneck that let us fill large pots. Unfortunately, it was sort of the dictionary definition of "low-end" and had an annoying tendency to start dripping just when I most wanted to be doing something other than fixing the damn faucet. Again.

Friday night it started dripping, and I fixed it. Saturday when we got home from Lowe's, it was dripping again. So back to Lowe's it was, and then to Home Depot, where we chucked "low-end" and went straight for "will never drip again".

We didn't go for crazy high-end expensive, of course, but that was the section that inspired the crack, "Well, now we know why they call it Price-Pfister!"