Friday, June 30, 2006

The older I get, the more inertia I acquire, and the harder it becomes to pack up my life and head north to get away from my to-do list. Or so it seems. Really, though, most of the prep work this week has been about making sure the house is in decent shape, partly because folks will be staying there while we're away but mostly because there's no buzz-kill like coming home from vacation to a messy, stinky house. So that means doing laundry, cleaning the litterboxes, washing dishes, etc., etc., and so it goes.

Somewhere in there, there's packing, but then there are the birthday parties to attend, a friend who would very likely live the next few weeks without emails from her grandkids if Christie and I don't take time to help her get set up, and the very next thing you know, it's the day before we're supposed to leave for vacation, and I don't at all feel ready, except that in my mind I can already hear the surf and feel the cool wind off Lake Michigan, and it hits me that I don't care if I show up in just the clothes on my back, as long as the road takes me north, where there are people I love and a ramshackle old cottage and a to-do list that's as empty as that long, blue horizon to the west.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Nice poem from Maya Stein on that moment when you're in the process of changing your life, and you step out into the world as naked and terrified as a turtle without its shell: the glance backward
Lot's of folks are upset about this Lee Siegel post, where he calls the Connecticut Democrats lined up against Lieberman "fascistic". Me, I didn't even notice the slur, maybe because I'm used to stupid people saying thoughtless things. No, I got caught up in his analogy of bloggers to mixed martial artists, especially the line: "No wonder the sport flourishes mostly on the Web. It is a precise corollary of most blogospheric commentary, which requires no special training or skills, and which attempts to parlay street-fighting skills into fame and riches."

Um, yeah. Dude, that's just dumb.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I've been looking for a bed-side light, and this is pretty cute, but I don't like that it takes a silver-tipped bulb (which I can't get locally) and isn't compact-fluorescent friendly.

On the bright side, I think I could totally make something like this.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Now that we're finally having a national debate on the war in Iraq, I thought I'd bring up something that's been bugging me since the beginning: The most important part of planning is to define success so that you can recognize it when it comes along, and come up with metrics that allow you to recognize progress toward it so you can correct course if it turns out you're going the wrong direction.

Because they keep revising why we're in Iraq, it's impossible to clearly state our goals, making success in Iraq a logical and practical impossibility.

Friday, June 16, 2006

While fictioning tonight, I ran across this entry in The Columbia Guide to Standard American English:

aerie, aery, eyrie, eyry (n.)

All these are variant spellings of the word for an eagle’s nest (and figuratively any other high habitation). Pronunciations are just as numerous, and include AI-uhr-ee, EE-ree, UHR-ee, and ER-ee. Say it firmly in a loud voice while looking your listeners straight in the eye: most of them will be every bit as unsure as you are.
Because I know not everyone has had positive experiences with Dell technical support, I thought I'd take the time to pat them on the head. Christie just bought me a really nice present (a really, really nice present), and it's beautiful and I love it, except that the wireless card has this habit of dropping connections at annoyingly random intervals. Anyone who's ever done troubleshooting knows that randomly recurring problems are the biggest hassle in the world to fix, but Dell has been very patient, and seems to be taking the problem seriously and working hard to help me resolve it.

They say that a happy customer will tell no one, and an unhappy customer will tell everyone, so this is me saying that I'm happy with Dell. And also that if you're getting a laptop from them, you might consider spending a little coin to get a higher end wireless card, just in case. My bad.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

a beautiful little story about being polite
Salon Comics: Disney's Inferno
Why am I not surprised to hear that FEMA paid out millions in hurricane aid it never should have? After all, the stories out of New Orleans that I'm hearing include a FEMA crew of 4 taking all day to build new steps for a trailer that's no longer being used, while insisting that they don't have the personnel to haul it away and give it to one of the many people who still don't have a trailer, which is what the former occupants have asked for. Why new steps? Because OSHA says the old ones aren't sturdy enough.

Duh. It's a trailer.

Then there's the couple that called FEMA to have them pick up a rootball out of their front yard, only to have a wrecking crew show up, ready and eager to knock down their newly renovated house. The neighbors were just able to stop them, but it was a challenge because "They were on the list."

My favorite, though, is this: Getting your roof done takes months. It's not about money, or insurance companies, or red tape, or any of that. It's a simple equation where the work to be done exceeds the capacity to do it. Some friends of Christie's folks waited their turn, sweating out their blue-tarped roof, hoping they'd get it done in time for hurricane season. The roofers finally got to them, and the finished the new roof last week.

The next day, FEMA came and nailed a new blue tarp to it, so now their back in line for roofwork, but it's too hot to do it, and the hurricane season has arrived.

It'd be so easy, hearing these stories, to "blame the government." And I do. But I'm a little more specific about it. FEMA hasn't always been a clusterfuck, and they haven't always been incompetent. But when you put political appointees in charge, and they're folks who've spent their whole policical careers decrying government and claiming that government is incapable of being a force for good.

What surprise, then, that when they take over the government, they proceed to prove themselves right?

Update: Kevin Drum says it better.

Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup
Went home for lunch today and ended up catching a bit of USA vs. the Czech Republic. Now this isn't an expert opinion or anything, but I really think our team would do a lot better if they would just stop sucking.

I really hope I just caught them on a bad day.
Barefoot shoes: Weird.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This is a pretty good rundown of reasons to support national healthcare. It also covers why people insist on calling it "socialized medicine". As far as I'm concerned, you can call it Willemina Flibbertygibbet if it trips your trigger, as long as you treat this as a serious problem deserving of serious thought. Healthcare is seriously FUBARed in this country right now, to the point where people are too scared to change jobs, start a business, or be self-employed, because they can't afford health care if they do, and they're taking whatever crappy job they can find, as long as it comes with health insurance.

Entrepeneurship is the single most effective path to wealth in this country, and the one that also creates the most wealth for other people. And lack of health care coverage is the single biggest barrier to entrepeneurship. We've got to fix this.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I just finished Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and it's not just well written, but it's got the kind of staggering imagination behind it that's actually kind of demoralizing for somebody like me with aspirations to the production of novels. Or at least novel. On the other hand, this is a novel that's truly worthy of the name, and Cory Doctorow has kicked the gates a bit wider in terms of what's possible with the written word.

In other words, it's good.

Friday, June 09, 2006

So I popped into the Tribune's web forums for a little look see. Somebody asked a general "what should we do about the estate tax?" kind of question, and there were about thirty different flavors of "TAX BAD!" in response. I thought I'd pop up to dissent and sort of got smacked down. Sort of, in that they flamed me, and I don't see the point of arguing. I mean, when somebody asks, "How would you feel if they took thirty percent of your money away?" How are you supposed to argue? If I'm dead, I won't care.

But the fact is that the government does take about thirty percent of my money every year, and I'm more or less cool with it. That money goes to maintain the kickass parks in my neighborhood, the streets I drive on, the interstate highways that can get me into Kansas City in under two hours, the scenic riverways I dearly love, keeps up our economic system, provides for relative peace and security, secures that I won't be eating monkey chow in retirement, etc., etc., etc. If the federal government hadn't created and nurtured the Internet, my career as it currently exists, well, wouldn't.

I walked away. I have better things to do than get into a flame war with people who have no interest in reason, economics, or anything more complex than "what's mine is mine."

So why do I have this knot in my gut? Why am I surprised after all the flame wars I've seen to see once again this style of conversation that is really just screaming across a divide inpenetrable to argument? I suppose I expect better from my hometown. I can console myself, though, that the people with time to post repeated screeds to a web forum are, by nature, not the folks running things.

Unlike, you know, bloggers. That's completely different. Ahem.
Well, the Trib printed my letter.
Something to think about for the next time we go to Chicago with my parents: Alinea's most exciting food -- megnut.com.

The only problem is that there are several items on the tasting menu that could possibly put me in the emergency room. Okay, that's one problem. The other problem is that I'm not sure that would stop me from wanting to try it. Can anyone recommend a good hotel in Chicago that's close to Alinea and close to a good hospital?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Very funny post from Heather Piper on assembling a dollhouse "kit". Now I just have to imagine doing it all from scratch to know what Christie's dad must have gone through building hers!
Words of wisdom from Garrison Keillor:
"You might not have always liked Republicans, but you could count on them to manage the bank. They might be lousy tippers, act snooty, talk through their noses, wear spats and splash mud on you as they race their Pierce-Arrows through the village, but you knew they could do the math. To see them produce a ninny and then follow him loyally into the swamp for five years is disconcerting, like seeing the Rolling Stones take up lite jazz. So here we are at an uneasy point in our history, mired in a costly war and getting nowhere, a supine Congress granting absolute power to a president who seems to get smaller and dimmer, and the best the Republicans can offer is San Franciscophobia? This is beyond pitiful. This is violently stupid."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This article in the Tribune does a pretty good job of pretending to be balanced about the "Marriage Protection Amendment" while showing its proponents to be morons. Or nuts. I'm not sure on that one, really. How are we supposed to interpret this:

"Allowing gays to marry could lead to 'eventual extinction,' Kline said. 'It might sound crazy, and people don’t like to hear this, but gay couples cannot reproduce. Ultimately they - not in all cases, but in many cases - they don’t reproduce, so they have to recruit others to live their lifestyles.'"

So if gay marriage is legal, then everyone is going to want one? Actually, I can see that. Christie and I totally have a gay marriage, and take it from me, that's the only way to go. We've both tried grim marriage, and it sucks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

What I want to know is how some Brit I've never met knows exactly what's in the back of my kitchen cabinets. Well, except the Eggstractor. Nobody could have seen that coming.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Okay, look. I feel really bad about thinking this is funny. A woman trying to poison her husband is not funny. It's even less funny when her husband is in a hospital bed at the time. But when she uses "Oops All-Purpose Remover? That's kinda funny.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Macs
I'm torn when I read articles like this one, about a guy who's building a magic wand to control his Mac entirely with gestures. That is absolutely awesome, and I love the way cool things people are doing out there with Macs. And I love the interface. It's amazing.

But what good is all that if it doesn't fricking work? Christie got a MacBook Pro for work, and we're going on a week of virtually no productive time with it. It recognizes some of the files on the network, but not all of them. No idea why. When she first brought it home, it froze every five minutes or so when we were online, and if I hadn't had a PC on which to search the Internet for a solution, I'd probably still be wondering what the problem was. As it is, I just had to spend six hours trying different things. I never did get the wireless mouse to work, and I had to take the batteries in and out of the wireless keyboard five times before the damn thing would turn on.

And now it's freezing up again, and again we have no idea why. So the techies are working on it, reinstalling the operating system to see if that fixes it. The wonderful Mac operating system goes to such lengths to keep us at arm's length from the actual workings of the computer that it's a huge pain in the ass to diagnose and fix problems. Not to mention that Apple is so attached to the supposed wondrousness of their products that their support pages don't talk about any of the problems you might encounter.

Don't get me started about trying to run a simple relational database on it. Filemaker Pro claims to be able to handle multiple tables, but it does so only grudgingly. The documentation for it has more information on how to use the software to print invitations to a garden party than on how to use it to extract useful data.

First thing out of the box, I was seduced by the shininess, and started thinking that when I make the leap to laptop, maybe I'd get a Mac. Now I'm thinking I'll settle for something less shiny that actually works.